Monday, August 23, 2010

Tropical Salsa and Gourmet Fun

As I write this I'm munching on the last little bit of a tropical salsa I threw together recently for a friends birthday party.  It seemed pretty popular and there wasn't much left for the requisite food photo!

This salsa was simple compared to the effort that went into the central player of the party, home made piña coladas, and I mean home made from scratch, all the way!  Well, they didn't make the rum, but if they could they probably would!  The coconut cream that usually goes into piña coladas is full of all sorts of sickly ingredients and tastes and smells like cheap coconut scented tanning lotion.  This stuff, on the other hand had a natural coconut flavor with a toasty nuttiness to it that made drinking only a little very difficult!  I can't really share a recipe since there really never was a recipe followed.  There were mad scientists in the kitchen with power tools, yes power tools, and lots of pouring this and brewing that and tasting - lots of tasting.  The base was made from fresh mature coconuts, the meat scraped out chopped up then simmered in the coconut water and a mixture of half and half and cream.  It was cooled and then fresh pineapple was added along with a combination of different rums.  It was poured into our glasses and enjoyed by all!

And then there was the cake.  Power tools were once again put to use and coconut was shredded and shaved from the fresh coconuts to incorporated into a light layered sponge like cake and frosted with the silkiest smoothest frosting ever.  I heard it might be some southern thang.  The cake was cheered for upon entering the house and then again when we all had the lovely slices of goodness!

So, as you can see, my contribution really isn't all that impressive in comparison, but one thing it has going for it is that I can tell you how I made it!  It was inspired by two things - a recipe in The Tropical Vegan Kitchen and a salsa made by a local favorite restaurant called Agua Verde.  As usual I didn't follow any particular recipe, but combined the ideas of the two salsas and then added a little Maurie flare.

Maurie's Tropical Salsa

One small fresh ripe pineapple, outer parts cut off and finely diced
2 medium ripe mangoes, pealed, cut from the pit and finely diced
1 medium to large jicama, peeled and finely diced
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely diced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped fine
1 can black beans, rinsed well
3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon agave syrup
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
pinch of salt

Toss the pineapple, mangoes, jicama, jalapeños, cilantro and black beans in a medium to large bowl.  Combine the lime juice, red wine vinegar, agave syrup and olive oil, blending well.  Pour over the other ingredients, sprinkle on the cayenne pepper and slat and mix to coat well.  Serve with corn chips and enjoy!

* After posting this and linking it on my Facebook page I had a few comments about if this could be made with peaches, which are at their peek here in the northwest right now.  I almost threw a peach into this salsa when I was making it, but greedily saved it for fresh eating later.  I think peaches would be an excellent local/seasonal substitute for the mangoes.  I think I would add a bit more lime juice a tablespoon or two, to keep the balance of flavors.  If you do happen to make it with peaches or any other variation, please let me know - I would love to hear how it turns out!

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Eclectic Artist

I've been messing about with different art mediums and seeing what sort of art comes from it.  I have been reminded again of how eclectic I am.  The piece pictured below is one I worked on today.  It is absolutely unlike anything I have done before.  Though I have dabbled here and there in the art world I often come back to working in pen and ink that has a distinctive style to it no matter how much I mess with it.  But I can only do so much pen and ink.  It is very hard on my hands.  So I occasionally make myself take a break and try something different.  

This time around I started messing with altered art, paper art, and collage.  Collage has the potential for me to do larger pieces while still utilizing smaller pieces of my pen and ink work.  Though there is none in this piece, I hope to try integrating the two in the future.

Another tendency for my art (and creative writing) is for it to take on a life of it's own.  If I fight it, trying to make something look a certain preconceived (by me) way the flow stops and I can't continue.  When I give in to the stubborn spirit of the art piece and go with the flow things usually work out - but I never know what I'm going to end up with when I start out.  

For this piece, I had a stretched canvas that I had at some point in the past given a streaky gray acrylic wash
to.  I had gotten interrupted shortly after painting it and never got back to it.  So it was sitting there, waiting.  Last night, just before drifting off to sleep I had the idea of using buttons and scrap paper to do flowers on canvas.  That was all I had in my head when I started out today. And this is what I ended up with.

I used colored backgrounds of magazine pages to create the flower stalks, bird shapes, and clouds.

The leaves I created from cutting out text from the same magazine, searching for words that turned out to have a positive theme.

The clouds were three different colors from magazine pages that I layered and used some colored pencil on the white layer to tone it down a bit.  I found whole individual words to apply to the clouds as well.

I also took some stamp pad ink in a frosty blue on my finger and brushed it across the surface of the canvas and around the edges of the cloud.

The teal blue highlights were prompted by one bright button that insisted on being included, no matter how hard I tried to stay with the grey scale theme.  And I ended up carrying that over into the birds, which I cut out, free style, from a teal colored page in the magazine.

This is the first time I have ever posted any of my art.  It has taken me a while to get brave enough to do so.  Now that I have though, I plan on getting some decent pictures of other things I have done and get them up here as well, that way, when I call myself  'The Eclectic Artist', you'll understand why.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Treasure Already Taken

Strolling along the beach near my home this morning I happened upon a wonderful and rare piece of sea glass.  A rich brown multi-ridged bottle neck, frosted beautifully from constant contact with its sandy, rocky, watery environs, but still some how unbroken - complete.  I eagerly picked it up, starting to brush the bits of shell and seaweed from inside it, but they were stuck in place.  Upon closer observation I discovered a mussel, not much larger than my thumb nail, in the midst of the seaweed and shells, its long coarse byssus threads attaching it to the inside of the bottle neck.  I could have been disappointed  that I would have to leave this treasure behind, having a standing agreement with myself and mother nature to never knowingly take something that has become somethings home, but I found myself smiling as I set it back down, discovering the greater treasure was that someone else had already, ingeniously and wondrously, claimed it as its own.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Summer, Swimmingly

Summer is not summer without a dabble of feet in a cool creek, a dash through a sprinkler or a plunge in a cool body of water on a hot day.  I love long slogs up creeks, crawling over and under logs, watching for crawdads who might nibble on my toes.  I love rope swings and flying out into the air and splashing deep into the coolness of the dark pool.  I love wading along the shore of the sound, looking for pretty rocks shimmering under the water and the cold splash as a large wave crashes into me just as I dip down to pick up a particularly pretty one, sea weed clinging to me, making me laugh.  I love a lake, a cool refreshing freshwater swim, where eagles and osprey fly over head, swallows and swifts dive through the air and skim over the water.  Kingfishers call out their raucous call and herons perch on old posts or along the shore, their still patience a calming presence.  Turtles peek at me, just a little striped head barely above the waters surface before diving down to watery depths.  Necklaces made from lake weeds and dragonflies zipping past.  I love not being the only full bodied woman wearing a bikini, not afraid of her goddess curves, feeling sexy in the water despite all those extra pounds.  I love that black bikini, letting more water move over my skin, cool and refreshing silkiness.  The comfortable ache of muscles well used and a growing hunger as I linger on the shores edge after a long swim.  I love the feeling of my soft skin warmed in the sun, cooled in the water and warmed in the sun once again.  That feeling of relaxation that only comes from times like these.  I love summer, swimmingly.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Sugar Scrub By Any Other Name

What do you get when you take, lavender, fair trade organic sugar, cold pressed apricot kernel oil, lavender essential oil and a little creative energy?  Why a Lovely Lavender Sugar Scrub, of course!

This project was inspired by my love for a particular Suki Product, that I haven't been able to purchase for a while due to budget woes. It's full of lemon lusciousness and I miss it!

I always called it a lemon sugar facial scrub.  So when Domestic Witch posted the recipe for the lavender sugar scrub I was excited to give it a try.  I didn't realize the difference between the two until after I had made and used the scrub for the first time.  The Suki Product uses saponified oil and thus is a cleansing scrub where as the lavender sugar scrub is more of an exfoliating moisturizer.  Great for summer sandal feet and silky soft legs, but not for washing your face!

Now I'm wondering if I can get my hands on saponified oil.  In the mean time I have a nice squat pint jar of great smelling lavender sugar scrub sitting ready.  My feet will be so happy!  There was enough to make a couple small jars for family too... happy feet all around!

This project was inspired by a post over at Domestic Witch and made possible by a generous offering of lavender from my mother-in-law.  If you happen to be so lucky as to have a bit of lavender on hand (or a nice mother-in-law who has a bit of lavender) then I encourage you to visit the link above to find out how to make your own Lavender Sugar Scrub.

To Happy Feet and Learning!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Celebrating the Harvest

First Harvest, Lammas, Loaf Mass, Lughnasadh, Cornucopia, County Fair Time - whatever you call it, it's all about the celebration of the harvest.  This time each year over the centuries and around the northern hemisphere of planet earth, people have been finding ways to celebrate the harvest of fruits and grains, and their own hard labor.  Every culture approaches it a little differently, each with its own customs.  Bonfires, gatherings, offerings to the gods, giving formal thanks to the earth for its fruits and so much more goes into these celebrations.  Mark and I came up with our own way of celebrating, and today marked  our second annual blueberry picking "ritual", complete with picnic and other August time treats.  This year our gala event for two was held at the Mercer Slough U-pick Blueberry Farm in Bellevue - a beautiful setting filled with wildlife, blueberries and a good number of happy berry pickers.  There was even a surprise visit by a coyote. I learned today that coyotes howl over sirens just like dogs do!  It was howling and yipping just a few yards from us and was spotted by some fellow pickers!

This young robin was one of the fellow blueberry pickers present today.  I think he's giving me the territorial eye here, don't you think?  

Obviously there was enough for everyone, though.  We brought home over four pounds of blueberries.

Another berry delight was the handful of ripe blackberries we managed to find and quickly gobble down.  Only a sampling of what's to come from the wonderful month of August!

There were a few tomatoes ready for harvest today too!

And what better way to eat them than with a little fresh mozzarella and basil. Yum!

And what August outing wouldn't be complete without a little ice cream?

A large part of the Lammas/ Lughnasadh celebration is the focus on the grain harvest.  So to celebrate this aspect I baked a Rosemary Olive Oil Cake.  I had never combined rosemary with sweet before, but when I saw a recipe for this in the latest Yoga Journal Magazine, I was quite intrigued and decided to give it a try.  Boy, am I glad I did!  This recipe is a keeper!  I altered the original recipe to try and bring at least a little whole grain into it.  Here's my version:

Rosemary Olive Oil Cake

4 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup olive oil
2 heaping tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
1 1/4 cup unbleached white flour
1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Oil a 10-inch loaf pan and preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium bowl beat the eggs with a mixer for 30 seconds on 
high speed.  Add the sugar and beat on high till very frothy and pale.
While the beaters are going, slowly drizzle the olive oil in.  
Gently fold the rosemary in.

In another bowl, blend the flours, baking powder and salt.
Gently fold the dry mixture into the egg mixture.
Pour the batter into the pan.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.
Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then tip the cake out
onto a rack to continue cooling.  

Happy Lammas/Lughnasadh/First Harvest!

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