Super Quick Italian Bean Salad

Italian Bean Salad

This is my weeknightified version of a Foster’s Market recipe. It’s super simple and really hits the spot when I want a tasty deli-style salad with next to no work. You could dress it up as much as you like with fresh veggie add-ins. The original recipe is lovely, though not super fast (you cook the beans yourself and make their delicious dressing from scratch, among other things). Again, this is more a list of ideas than a real recipe, but it’s not hard to eye the proportions.

Ingredients:

Rinsed and drained canned white beans (I like navy beans)

Italian dressing—-I like the Penzey’s mix

Capers

Sundried tomatoes

Chopped fresh parsley

Mix beans with enough dressing to coat and enough capers and tomatoes to give it a little color. Let marinate a few hours if you have time. Add parsley. Enjoy!

Got some more feedback on my nonfiction manuscript this week. Things are finally moving forward. So excited.

And in other news this week, I’ve been talking to 4th and 5th graders about writing an early reader (i.e. Slowpoke). Fun times! Love getting their questions.

For more food-related posts, click here. Have a great rest of your week.

 

Mixed Pattern Tank Top

Mixed Pattern Tank Top

This was another little experiment playing around with pattern mashups. I traced a favorite T-shirt to make a pattern, then played around with the shoulder width (the original shirt had sleeves) until it felt right. I finished the arm and neck holes with a banded treatment. I especially like the floral edging with the stripey part.

I’m pretty happy with the results, though there are plenty of imperfections. I’d like to try another using a walking foot on my machine. I think I can get a smoother finish that way.

Unfortunately the color didn’t come out so great on these photos, so I don’t think they quite do it justice, but what can I say? There are only so many hours in a day a girl can spend on modeling, am I right?

My nine-year-old wants to steal this shirt, so that makes me feel pretty successful. The fabrics are once again from Girl Charlee, and I love their softness and fun prints, but I’d also love to see more fabrics that are over 90% natural fibers and am willing to pay. It gets too hot so quickly around here to be wearing fabrics with a fair amount of poly. My two cents.

Okay, back to work. I have to prepare a presentation I’m doing with some fifth graders next week about writing an early reader.

Hope you have a great weekend. I finally have plans to see The Grand Budapest Hotel. Yippeee!

If you want to see more of my sewing adventures/ experiments, click here.

Colorblock Tank Top

Chicken and Rice Soup with Lemon, Tomato, and Oregano

Chopped Chicken  How about a final soup to say good-bye to cold-weather? Am I jinxing us just writing that?

I was going to call this a Greek chicken soup, but it’s really just Greek-inspired. I like to make it when I’m feeling a little tired of our usual chicken noodle with carrot and onion version.

This is less a recipe and more an idea for flavors.

You need:

–chopped cooked chicken (I usually poach* some breasts. Roasting bone-in is probably the most flavorful way you could go, but poaching is quick and painless)

–chicken broth (I use chicken base and water)

–cooked rice

–pre-cooked or drained and rinsed canned white beans. I like navy beans.

Assemble and heat gently until hot. Then add:

–chopped tomatoes (I used cherry ones since they’re always available and good)

–oregano (I grow it in the back yard, but dried is also ok—-as I look at my photo I see what appears to be parsley. hmmm…well, that will work, too and is also growing in the back yard)

–juice from 1/4 to 1/2 lemon

Enjoy! For more of my cooking and eating adventures, click here.

Chicken and Rice Soup

Hoping the weather is sunny and warm wherever you are.

Things making me happy this week (besides the lovely weather): I discovered the NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. Smart people talking about tv and movies. A dream!

Speaking of dreaming, I’ve been tweeting what my imaginary personal chef would make me for lunch if she existed. If you want to dream-eat with me, find me @emilysmithpearc on Twitter.

Also, Call the Midwife is back! And, I finished a draft of my nonfiction manuscript and sent it off for comment. Wahoo!

And now, trying very hard to focus on finishing this draft of my novel. Nose to grindstone.

*Poaching is like allllmost boiling something, but don’t let it come to a boil. Cook slowly at the almost boiling point until done, and you’ll have tender chicken. Boiling will give you a rubbery mess.

See you again soon!

Supper Smorgasbord

Muffin Tin Smorgasbord

I got this idea from the Instagram feed of Meg of Elsie Marley (one of my blog faves).  I’ve done it twice now, each time it’s been a big hit with the kids. It’s just a way of dressing up a simple meal made out of odds and ends. I realize it’s not a true smorgasbord, but that’s what we call it.

Full disclosure: I served GF boxed mac and cheese as a side with this supper. It’s all my kids would eat if I let them, but I serve it very rarely. I’m trying to establish mac and cheese as “just a side dish that we eat on a very occasional basis.” Good luck to me, eh?

My cooking mojo has been kind of depleted lately, maybe because I’m sick of soup season but it’s been too cold and wet for grilling and salads. That and the fact that my little one grumbles about complex flavors (curries, etc.) and I haven’t felt like fighting that battle in the last few weeks.

My writing mojo has been a bit down as well though I’m still plugging away. This week I’ve been making spreadsheets of my works-in-progress to chart how certain elements are working out. It’s a way of seeing the forest rather than the trees, which were all I was seeing.

For the novel I’ve made a column for each chapter, and for the nonfiction piece I’ve made a timeline-spreadsheet. Soooo revealing on both counts, though I have to admit sometimes it feels like it’s not “real” writing and like I should be doing that instead. Still, I think it’s essential to take a step back now and then so you can see what needs adjusting.

What about you? Discovered any good recipes lately? Read anything good lately?

I can’t wait to see Wes Anderson’s new flick, The Grand Budapest Hotel. Currently reading One Summer by Bill Bryson (about the summer of 1927) and on deck: Kids These Days by Drew Perry and Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart.

For more food posts, click here. For more on books, here, and for writing stuff, here.

Mixed Pattern Playdress

Mixed Pattern Playdress

This is one of my favorite sewing projects ever. It’s simple, was really fun to sew, and my daughter’s face just glowed when she put it on the first time. It’s just so her, but I love it, too.

As I’ve mentioned before, she pretty much refuses to wear anything but knits. I’m always trying to find knit play dresses, and I fell in love with some from a certain British catalog that rhymes with Odin. I’m sure they would rather me write “catalogue,” am I right? Their prices are pretty steep for such simple dresses, though, and I thought, hey, I could make that! I’m kind of famous for saying that, but in this case, I actually did it.

From the catalog, we borrowed the idea of mixing patterns (which is also a big part of my daughter’s style) and went to the half-yard clearance section on Girl Charlee. Little Miss picked out the fabrics. I tried to get her to go with a contrasting color mix, but that was a non-starter. She specified no sleeves and a higher waistline with a full skirt.

For the bodice I traced another dress’s bodice. The skirt part is just a gathered rectangle. I used to be so scared of sewing with knits, but really, it’s not so bad once you get the hang of it. I definitely do better with slightly weightier knits. I used a regular machine (not a serger) and used zig zag, serger-ish-like, and triple stitches, depending on the seam/ application.

For some great tutorials on knit finishes, check this and this out.

This time, there are no booty issues (like here).

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For more of my sewing adventures, click here.

Gluten-Free Crepes

Gluten Free Crepe

My friend Jamie first introduced homemade crepes to me when we used to do Thanksgiving together in Boston. Oh, those were fun times! We’d make crepes in the morning and just cook, cook, cook all day and listen to “Alice’s Restaurant,” that classic Thanksgiving tale.

Before that crepes had seemed so mysterious and fancy, but really, once you do them a couple of times, they’re no more difficult than pancakes. You just have to get the knack of how thick the batter should be (not very) and when to flip them (when the first inch or two of the edges are dry). Turns out it’s super easy to make gluten-free crepes, and they’re quite a bit faster than waffles.

Once again I used Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking with great results. A similar recipe is here on their blog (I didn’t use cinnamon). The one thing I would say is that the batter was a little bit thick, so I had to add a little more milk (I think I used almond milk). You want the batter to be just a bit thinner than regular pancake batter. The photo above is of the very first crepe, before I thinned the batter, so the shape is kinda crazy. But normally the crepes look and taste the same as regular ones. They were a big hit with the family.

Lately I’ve been making blueberry syrup with a big handful of frozen berries and just a tablespoon or so of maple syrup. I put them together in a microwaveable container, heat for a little bit (30 seconds?) and voila!

I’ve been slogging away at my novel, revising and adding new material. Also reading One Summer by Bill Bryson, a history of the summer of 1927. Very interesting. Crazy times!

Also, Wes Anderson’s new movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is now on my must-see list. Not sure if it’s related, but I’ve been dreaming about weird European hotels lately. Hmmmm…

Coming soon: pics of a recently finished sewing project. Hope you’re having a good week!

Marco Polo and the Explorer Book

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At the recommendation of a friend (thanks, Catherine!) I bought Into the Unknown: How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea, and Air for my six-year-old boy for Christmas. It’s a beauty of a book, written by Stewart Ross and illustrated by Stephen Biesty (of Incredible Cross-Sections fame). Each chapter follows a different explorer and includes a gorgeous fold out map and diagram of the explorer’s route and travel style.

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 I highly, highly recommend it. Reading it straight through from beginning to end isn’t something my son is ready for (the text is geared toward a slightly older audience), but he likes to pick a small section for me to read at a time, and he always chooses a fold-out to study. He wants to read every label for all the parts (not unlike his fascination with Richard Scarry’s books).

I love that feeling of just sort of soaking in the book, meandering through and getting to know it bit by bit, landing on favorite parts and coming back to them again and again on a nonlinear journey. It reminds me of my own love for the Oxford University Press story collections as a kid. Beautifully illustrated by Victor Ambrus, they were these great kid-friendly versions of the Canterbury Tales, the great ballets, and King Arthur’s tales, among others. Sadly, they look to be out of print now, but I think I’ll have to chase down some copies to have as our own. Click here for a few cover images from Victor Ambrus’s website.

I didn’t understand everything about those tales at the time, but when I re-encountered them later in school, it was thrilling to realize I already had a framework in place. The stories were familiar and felt like they were already mine. I’m always hoping to give my kids some experiences like that, and I hope Into the Unknown will be one of them.

The elementary school had its book character parade last week, and my son wanted to dress like Marco Polo. We didn’t find a picture of him in the book, but we found an 18th century illustration online:

 We found a silk jacket at the thrift store (100% real! reversible!), along with a faux fur shrug we could use for the hat. I made the hat (two U-shaped pieces sewn along the curve) from an old T-shirt with a double-thickness of sweatshirt underneath for body. I tacked the fur band around the bottom.

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Marco Polo costume

Since I’m working on a nonfiction children’s book myself, I have a new appreciation for just how much research goes into something like this. I can’t imagine how long it must’ve taken Mr. Ross and Mr. Biesty to create this handsome book. Bravo!

Speaking of nonfiction for children, I just ordered a couple from my favorite local indie, Park Road Books. Amy Karol of angry chicken recommended two comic-type books, one about the presidents and another about the Greek myths: Amazing Greek Myths of Wonder and Blunder, and Where Do Presidents Come From? They sounded so good that I called up Park Road right away. I’ll be there tonight for the spring author line up, sponsored by the local chapter of the Women’s National Book Association.

For more posts about books, click here. For more posts about costumes, click here. (Boy! I seem to make/ assemble a lot!)

P.S. Family: I’d like to get this book (Into the Unknown) for the oldest nephews, so I’m calling dibs now. Sorry!