Pantry Raid

I was bragging a couple weeks ago about my superhero power in this blog post so I thought I’d better demonstrate said powers.

This recipe is in heavy rotation March thru September at Chez Vee*. It’s simple, fresh, protein packed and bright. The ingredients are flexible, not only to your preferences, but to what you have on hand.

Also, I guess this is really two very simple recipes.

Tuna & Chickpea Salad

5 oz chunk white albacore tuna (chunky is best, but any tuna will work)
15 oz can chick peas or cannellini beans (drained)
1/2 of a red onion (chopped)
extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1-2 lemons (bottled is fine)
Chopped Parsley (curly or flat-leaf, also fresh arugula or spinach are great)
Salt & Pepper

Directions

I a bowl, mix the chick peas, tuna, red onion and parsley with a glug or two of extra virgin olive oil and as much of the lemon juice your heart desires. Salt and pepper to taste. If serving with a salad with feta, you may want to go easy on the salt.

Serve with toasted pita, naan, flatbread, crackers, or whatever you have on hand. Or nothing, if you’re into that kinda thing,

This salad is also great as a pasta salad… just add cooked pasta (orecchiette and cavatappi are perfect) and adjust oil, lemon and seasoning. Arugula and spinach make this version even better.

Greek Tomato Cucumber Salad

1 cucumber (peeled, I sometimes leave a little stripe of skin, and sometimes scoop out seeds)
Fresh tomatoes (any kind, just sliced close to size of cucumber if not cherry)
1/4 red onion (chopped)
feta cheese (crumbled or chunks, cotija will work too)
chopped parsley (see above)

Directions

Toss all of this lightly in a bowl with either store bought greek dressing or a homemade vinaigrette. This can be as simple as some extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar or lemon juice shaken in a jar.

Rule of thumb 1:4 1 part vinegar; 3-4 parts oil

You may add fresh or dried herbs and maybe a smidgen of dijon mustard. You just want it to taste bright.

Note: I’d like to make it clear that while the Greek dressing pictured above is just fine, John the Greek Original Salad Dressing is better… but requires a 42 mile round trip. Full disclosure, I usually use store bought dressing for this salad.

Lagniappe

My friend Rachel gave me a Zyliss Herb Mill for a wedding gift and I love using it for this recipe because just hold it over the bowl, cram leaves and stems into the little hooper, give it a few cranks and it comes out just perfect for this, or for a gremolata or chimichurri. I’m not a fan of one hit wonders in the kitchen, but this tool is a favorite.

Note: Zyliss does not make this model fashioned after a french mouli anymore, but there are similar new products out there.

Norpro Deluxe Garden Parsley Chive Herb Mill 
Stainless Steel Herb Mill

Or you can treat yourself and find a beautiful vintage Mouli Parsmint on eBay or Etsy.

* Chez Vee is the nickname we gave our home. We’re dorks.

Joy of Missing Out

If you know me at all, you know I am happiest at home. But even a self-proclaimed homebody can get a little squirrelly when home becomes both work place and sanctuary for an indefinite amount of time.

I have always been good at entertaining myself, and these days I’ve been happily starting new knitting projects, cooking, and hope to get my vegetable garden ready for transplants.

When this is all over and we all return to at least a bit of normalcy, I hope to report that my garden has been started, I’m halfway finished with the shawl I just started, and I’ve finally finished the plaid shawl that’s been on my loom for a year. Yes, a year. Maybe longer. Definitely longer.

It will come as no surprise that I’m spending a fair amount of time knitting. I’m knitting up all these sock yarn ends into a mash up of a Find Your Fade and the semi circle shawl recipe on this PDF.

I am loving the comforting garter stitch of this simple 4 row pattern. I love watching a project grow from 3-4 stitches and become massive wraps. It’s so satisfying.

Here are a couple ideas for keeping your hands busy and your spirit light these days.

Watch (or Rewatch) Lighthearted TV

Rewatching all three seasons of The Detectorists last week was just the sweet, slow moving non-action I needed at the end of each day while I knit.

Learn to Fold a Fitted Sheet

I’ve always just balled them up and stuffed them in the linen closet, and felt it must be some sort of witchery that gave people the power to fold these nicely. This video makes it seem so simple.

Learn to Knit

I seriously don’t know why everyone does not knit. Aside from all the lovely hats, shawls, sweaters, and blankets, it is meditative and calming. Even for those that are nearby.

I love having a project with me when waiting for an oil change, an appointment, or a flight, or just need a break from staring at my computer screen. Ask any knitter how much they love airport and in flight knitting. It’s the best.

Don’t wait, knit.

I taught myself to knit with the modern knitter’s bible Stitch ‘n Bitch: The Knitter’s Handbook before there were thousands of YouTube how to videos. Search there for help or sign up for a free two week trial of Bluprint, and learn from one of their many classes.

Learn Anything

I’ve been a longtime fan of Skillshare. I’ve taken classes on everything from email marketing to hand lettering.

Social Distancing… Now We’re All Cottage Core

Image by Kerstin Riemer from Pixabay

This article caught my eye last week, and at the time I found it a bit twee. Today, the reality of working mostly from home for the next couple weeks has my mind just reeling with all the knitting, gardening, and cooking that is possible between emails, Slacks, conference calls and production work.

Really, the biggest gain are the 2+ hours of commuting every day. I’m excited to have time to cook weekday meals, which have become a rarity at Chez Vee.

Years ago, a fellow waiter asked me what my superpower would be if I had one. I proudly replied, “The ability to create tasty and nutritious meals with barely anything in the cupboard.”

He blinked at me and said, “How sad.”

I disagree. After all, an apron is just a cape on backward.

I have a lot of great stuff to cook, but am also excited to dust off my cape and use my super power.

Stay healthy y’all!

Read the article here

Ceramic Christmas Trees

One of my favorite things to pull out every year is this lovely painted ceramic tree that my mother-in-law Edna sent to us years ago. I beleive she painted it in the 70’s but not really sure. I love how pearly white it is, somehow kitcshy and elegant at the same time. It’s a Christmas miracle!

Obviously you can buy these ready made and just plug it in, but if you want to get your hands on an original vintage tree, you’ll need to search eBay and thrift stores. Better yet, ask your aunts and grandmothers if they may have one tucked away.

Read about the history of these DIY gems here

Getting Warm & Fuzzy with Rowan yarns

Mason-Dixon Knitting Field Guide No.13

In all my excitement about the new MDK Field Guide, I remembered I have another Kaffe Fassett knitting project on the some needles… buried somewhere deep in WIP purgatory.

Earth Stripe Wrap | free pattern link below.

What is not to love about the yummy soft fuzzy color blends of the Earth Stripe Wrap? I need to unearth this ASAP.

This pattern calls for one of my all time favorite yarns, Rowan Kidsilk Haze. I’m always amazed at how something so light an airy knits up into such a warm and substantial fabric.

Rowan Felted Tweed
Earth Stripe Wrap
Rowan Kidsilk Haze
Kaffe Fassett
Mason-Dixon Knitting Field Guides

PS. Pie Wagon, Squad Mitts & Afterthought Buttons and Summer Sock Knitting

“Now listen…”

Now Listen…

This is how our neighbor Julia began her sentences when she was making a point. She was usually pointing a finger at me too.

When we first bought our home we had a lot of work to do, we installed central air, pulled up carpeting, refinished the hardwoods and seemed to have a paintrush in my hand Friday-Sunday. We stayed in our rental in Austin for a month, and drove out here every night after work and on the weekends to work. I would leave work, go by and grab Roscoe and head out to the “new house”in Elgin. Our meals were mostly of the drive-thru variety. 

One Sunday morning during that month Julia invited us to come by for lunch at noon. We cleaned ourselves up and head on over at noon. She had been cooking all morning for us. She’d made fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn pudding, green beans, rolls, and chocolate pie. We were blown away at such hospitality and knew we’d made the right move to this small town. We love telling that story to people who wonder why the hell we moved from Austin to a small town who’s claim to fame is sausage and bricks.

While we were getting excited for our first Christmas in our new home, I’d noticed she had all the candied fruits and nuts to make fruit cake, but she’d recently taken a fall and said she wasn’t up to the task that year. I’d never made one so volunteered to help her. Once the fruit cake was baked, she covered it with cheesecloth and pulled a plastic wrapped bottle of Mogen David from her deep freeze, unscrewed the cap and drizzled it over the top. Julia was a good Baptist woman so I assume this bottle had been in her home since I graduated high school in 1983.

The next morning, I walked next door to give her the molasses I’d picked up for her at HEB, so she can make her rolls. Mind you she was moving in a week and was hell bent on baking rolls for her family’s holiday meals. She’d tried to substitute with the sorghum she had, but she said they tasted nasty. She told me that she started baking her rolls every October, and just put them up in the freezer until they came by to fetch her to spend the holidays with them. She was really sad that she wouldn’t be able to do this anymore.

Julia gave us the buffet that is now the work table in my print studio. She gave me her yarn tote too, though it fell apart years ago. She crocheted, she said it was her constant companion and reached for it beside her chair every night when she was watching TV, much the way I do with my knitting.

In September of 2007 Julia was beginning to pack up her to move into assisted living close to her son and his family. She was a few months shy of her 90th birthday and had been living alone since her husband Roscoe died in 1993. She was a pistol, and lived in that house since before ours was moved from San Marcos and plunked down next hers in 1950.

As we were getting closer to actually inhabiting each room of our home, and hanging artwork and family photos, Julia was next door taking hers down. 

We miss her being next door, but luckily the new owners are great neighbors and renovating the old house to reveal its original beauty, they love it as much as Julia did. 

I only wish I’d remembered to ask her for the recipe for those rolls…

Spa by Tractor Supply

A cool dip with a cold Topo Chico

Last year I finally got around to filling up this galvanized stock tank pool, and it may have been one of the best things I did all summer.

The water is always cool and the tank is deep enough for the water to reach our shoulders and long enough that we can both sit in it, or I can just float if I want to. I always want to. I love nothing better than jumping in after yard work and then drying off in the warm hammock. We originally set it in the sun and the tank itslelf was too hot to touch after a day in the sun and the water felt like bath water. Not the refreshing dip I’d envisioned. We moved it to the courtyard and found the perfect palce between the pines against our neighbor’s garage.

We decided to keep it simple and not add a pump or chlorine, but we hooked up a hose to the spout to drain the water for the Oak Leaf Hydrangea and trees in our courtyard.

Read this article for tips on setting up a hillbilly soaking tub of your own.

With Apologies to William Styron & Guy Clark

Would you sacrifice your summer squash to allow heirloom tomatoes to live long and ripen? I encountered this ‘Sophie’s Choice’ dilemma this weekend. Tomatoes won. For obvious reasons.

It’s simply much easier to find a nice zucchini or yellow squash than an heirloom tomato at the HEB.

I am leaving this post here mostly as a note to myself for next year when I want to plant squash. While I love butternut, spaghetti, and acorn, I feel kinda ‘meh’ about summer squash. I mean I like it, just not as much as it thinks I like it.

I know these are fighting words in the Lone Star state, but I don’t love this song, but can get behind it’s ode to one of life’s simple plaeasures.

In the legendary words of Guy Clark;

“Wha’d life be without homegrown tomatoes
Only two things money can’t buy
That’s true love and homegrown tomatoes”

You Might be A Maximalist if…

One glance at my Instagram feed (and our home) and it’s pretty obvious that I don’t fall in the minimalist camp. Clean white backgrounds, rose gold and millennial pink seem to be the norm. I just I feel happiest surrounded by a lot of color, a room full of books, and small collections of things I love, like snow globes and vintage ephemera. Here is a small sample of my collection of vintage recipe booklets. I wonder if the booklets I received with my Vitamix and Instant Pot will appeal to someone’s sense of nostalgia decades from now. Doubtful, but perhaps these once seemed like everyday design to the consumer.

I just love the images in “I can’t believe it’s not clutter: maximalism hits our homes” from The Guardian

I’m sure some see these images and are overwhelmed by all the color and stuff, but where I find them cozy. I love them.

What about you? Are you more of a minimalist or maximalist? Or somewhere in between?

Read “10 Signs You Might Be a Maximalist

I definitely worry less about whether things match than if they’ll fit.