Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Favorite Thing of the Week - Cumin

Yesterday I went north and visited my college roommate, whom I don't get to see often enough. We had nice time catching up, shopping and eating Thai food. One of our stops was at the Penzey's spice mother-ship store. I love Penzey's Spices, and I frequently order from the catalog. Going to the store, was a new experience though, because I could smell and sample the spices and spice mixes.

One of my all time favorite spices is Cumin. I bought a whole bunch of it, and my girlfriend was wondering, what am I going to do with all that cumin? So for her - and my other readers (hello, Mom!) here is the deal on cumin, and why it is my favorite thing of the week.

According to Penzey's Spices, cumin is one of the most popular spices in the world, second to black pepper. It is used in Mexican, Indian, Thai, and Latin American cooking. It has a strong, pungent smell and a distinctive taste which blends wonderfully with a lot of other flavors, because it enhances and draws out the natural sweetness in other foods. It can be used either as whole seeds and in a ground form. (I've used both, but mostly the ground type.)

So what do I use cumin in?
Black Bean Soup
Chicken Curry
Scrambled Eggs
Cornbread Muffins

Here is my Black Bean Soup recipe to get you started with your personal love of cumin. It is low-fat, delicious, and really cheap to make:

Simple Black Bean Soup

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon cumin
pinch red pepper flakes
2 cans chicken broth
2 cans black beans, drained
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. In a soup pot, heat oil over medium-high heat and add onion and bell pepper. Cook until peppers are wilted and onion is translucent. Add the garlic and the spices. Saute for just a minute more, don't let the garlic brown. Add the chicken broth; bring to a boil.

2. Add the beans, bring back to a boil, salt and pepper to taste.

3. In a blender, puree half the soup. (You can also mash the beans in the pot as they cook). Add the puree back to the pot, reheat and serve.

This is good with corn muffins (add the cumin to the batter) or just some crusty bread and a nice salad. Make it totally vegetarian by substituting vegetable stock for the chicken stock.

Here are some other recipes that feature cumin as a starring ingredient:
Quinoa with Grilled Zucchini, Garbanzo Beans and Cumin
Three Bean Salad with Cumin, Cilantro and Oranges
Muhammara Dip with Cumin and Cayenne
Lentil Soup with Lemon
Good, Basic Chili
Steak Tacos
Whole Enchalada Bake
Indian Style Scrambled Eggs
Potatoes with Cumin - Substitute hot pepper sause for the Harissa.
Spicy Lentil Nachos
Breakfast in a Cup - Make a head and freezable!
Black Bean Breakfast Burrito

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Making Stuff

I've been busy making stuff today. First, I made this for my dear friend who lives in Florida:

Pretty cute, huh? Just the thing for slipping on with a pair of jeans, and a cute top and being warm!

Then, I made these for me.

Which, if you've been to my house would totally make sense, since I have this thing about elephants.

Lastly, but not leastly, I made these yummy things!

They're super easy, and really delish! Plus they look like they took some work (which they so didn't.)

White Chocolate-Pecan Candies

1 1/2 bags white chocolate chips
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
Some pecan halves (about 30)

Empty the white chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl. I used my Pampered Chef Classic Batter Bowl (love it!). Microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir. Microwave it for another minute. The chips should be melty by now. Mix in the butter and oil. Mix in the chopped pecans.

Use a small scoop (about 1 Tablespoon) and drop by scoops onto a sheet of waxed paper on a cookie sheet. Press a pecan half into each while it is still soft. Put in the fridge (or cold garage!) until firm.

Makes about 30.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Its beginning to look a lot like.....

Well, it's beginning to look a lot like something, anyway.

We're less than two weeks away from Christmas, and still have no tree. The decorations are all still snug in their boxes yet from last year. I still have the halloween door decoration hanging on our front door. The hubby hung up the lights outside over Thanksgiving, so we aren't completely ignoring the holidays, but it just feels so... unChristmassy.

I suppose part of the problem is I'm doing no holiday baking this year. Now don't get all over me. Look at the ticker at the top of the page. I'm close to losing 25 pounds! I've been walking between 4 to 5 miles at least 3 times a week, and I'm working very hard at regaining my pre-children shape. Baking mountains of cookies runs counter to that goal. Besides, I can't help but eat them. My self-control around them is nil. So no baking.

I've been trying to come up with other holiday traditions that don't center around eating. Like playing and singing music, and the children made and decorated gingerbread houses. I think this year we might go to the "Winter Wonderland" at the Cuneo. Very cool lights!

So if you have any neat ideas to help get into the Christmas spirit, pass them along. I need a little Christmas NOW!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

IP Tuesday

It's Independent Project Tuesday again. Three is working on one of her Try-its, the "Stitch it Together" badge. All morning long she's been sewing buttons to a piece of fabric to make a button collage. When she's done, we're going to mount it to cardboard, so she can hang it. Naturally, the button project looked neat to Jack O'Hearts, and so he did his own button collage as well. He actually sewed 4 buttons onto a piece of cloth. Way to go kids!

Ace and Deuce are busy making gingerbread houses. They mixed up the dough this morning, and are now busy cutting out the pieces and getting them ready to bake. You can find the directions they are using here.

I've been doing my own independent project as well. I've completed the first chapter of my book. I finished last night about 11:00 p.m. It seems to go better late at night, maybe because it is a mystery novel. Who knows. Anyway, I've not been to bed before midnight all week. (poor hubby.)

It is a good feeling to finally have some forward progress on the novel. yay!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Creating Jewelry today

I spent the day putting some beads on wires for some special gals in my life.

For Mia, my eldest niece. How old is she? Sheesh! 20 or something like that. I've blocked it out, it makes me feel too old.This necklace is made from a bunch of lovely leftover beads that I had from another project that I made for my sister-in-law. The disk ones are actually in two different colors - you don't really get that from the picture, and the whole thing is tied together with the iridescent fire wash on the beads.

For Ava, Mia's lovely youngest sister. Happy sweet fifteen kiddo!With this one, I used some vintage wooden disk beads, alternating with red jasper. The round beads are also jasper, and then the little ones at the top are khaki glass cubes. The whole thing went together really easily and looks so harmonious. I need to leave out milk and cookies to the beading gods for this one.

For Christie, who has filled a hole in our lives, we love you!These are turquoise dyed howlite nuggets that have a really neat shape and feel to them. They are alternated with Swarovski crystals in a deep blue-black, and with little silver rings with clusters of 4mm glass cubes. The little rings were really a pain in the fingers to make. By about the second little ring I was ready to alter the project significantly, but I stuck to it, and it looks really nice.

and for Sweet Lily who is also celebrating her birthday, happy happy day!This simple strand is made of glass pearls, crystals, some gold filled disks, and some vintage gold cylindar beads. I probably strung and re-strung this one five times trying to get the right balance of gold to glass to pearls. I think its pretty nice, and simple for a little girl. I had Deuce wear it for a while, and it looked so sweet on her, I'm tempted to make another one so that she has one like it. The gold disks are pricey, though, so we'll see...

Friday, December 4, 2009

December is here

I woke up last night to a familiar and very unwelcome sound.

A horrifying sound.

I get chills even now as I think upon it. It is that awful.

It was the low, rumbling, grating sound of a snowplow going down my street.

December is here for real.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Independent Work Tuesday

Time for my kids' favorite day of the week, Tuesday. Independent Project Tuesday has been a smashing success so far.

Today: Ace discovered a re-use of a dog food bag by designing and sewing up a letterbox sit-upon. It has a pocket for a logbook, and a strap, so it is easy to carry. But the main benefit is that it makes a nice, clean place to sit when letterboxing, so you don't get all muddy or dirty.

Deuce created a recipe (and tested it out!) for chocolate-mint cupcakes. Right now they are filling the house with a really yummy aroma, while they wait to cool, and she can frost them with some buttercream frosting.

Three began working on a Brownie Try-it, a sewing badge, by making sewing/lacing cards of animals. She cut them out of a Your Big Backyard magazine, stuck them to cardboard, laminated them, and then punched holes so they could be laced with yarn.

Jack O'Hearts and Little Four have been testing the cupcake batter and the lacing cards. But now they are out side playing in a big puddle.

Additionally, Deuce and I played a game of Wholes: The Game to practice adding fractions. You can find directions to make it here.