Monday, June 15, 2009

Food: Steel Cut Oats Quick Method Update!

As an update to my previous post on the wonders of steel cut oats, there IS an easy and fast method!
Simply measure out your oats and water the night before, and let them soak in a covered pot. (This should be about a 3 to 1 ratio of liquid to oats) This is very European - it's what my grandma taught me to do to my muesli (the real kind with the uncooked oats and nuts from Germany)!
The result: Your morning cooking time should be cut from 30 minutes to only ten minutes! Whoohoo!
Note: I found this method to yield a less creamy, more watery porridge, and I ended up cooking it longer than ten minutes to get it as thick as I like it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I Think You'll Like This Site

Check out this fantastic site for daily style inspiration:
(Sorry for the extremely brief post, but my internet went down, and I lost the 'real' one! More tomorrow!)

Design/Food/Gardening: Lavender-A-Go-Go

Sometimes, (okay, maybe 'very often') inspiration appears in the strangest ways.
We live in the city, in one of the best 'little Italy' neighborhoods in the states, but still, the city. For the past several nights, I have smelled lavender from our front stoop. Our neighbors are not by any broad stretch of the word, 'gardeners', and, though I try to cultivate a green thumb, I have yet to plant any lavender at this house. The emanation of that smell is a mystery, but not one I mind. I have gone out there several times just to inhale that wonderful scent.
I love, love, LOVE lavender.
It reminds me of spending summers in Europe with my grandparents, and it reminds me of wandering in my mother's garden as a child, but there is also something so sweetly calming and indescribable about it that I get kind of misty eyed and dreamy after I huff a bunch of it. I'm not a big time girly girl, but this is a flower that I am gah-gah over.

For some great information on (successfully) growing this divine plant, visit these links:
Mountain Valley Growers

I love lavender so much that I fantasize about little hedges of it along stone walls on the land where we build our dream home. Then, being pretty much independently wealthy at this point of the fantasy, we are free to keep an apiary, sell small batches of artisan lavender honey, and
hopefully do our part to keep the honeybees from disappearing.
Here's some medical proof that lavender is fantastic:

From University or Maryland Medical Center
Medicinal Uses and Indications:
Human clinical studies have reported that lavender essential oil may be beneficial in a variety of conditions, including insomnia, alopecia (hair loss), anxiety, stress, postoperative pain, and as an antibacterial and antiviral agent. Lavender oil is also used together with other forms of integrative medicine, such as massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic manipulation.

In folklore, pillows were filled with lavender flowers to help the restless fall sleep. There is now scientific evidence to suggest that aromatherapy with lavender may slow the activity of the nervous system, improves sleep quality, promote relaxation, and lift mood in people suffering from sleep disorders. Studies also suggest that massage with essential oils, particularly lavender, may result in improved sleep quality, more stable mood, increased mental capacity, and reduced anxiety. In one recent study, participants who received massage with lavender felt less anxious and more positive than participants who received massage alone. Lavender flowers have also been approved in Germany as a tea for insomnia, restlessness, and nervous stomach irritations.

In one study of 86 people with alopecia areata (a disease of unknown cause characterized by significant hair loss, generally in patches), those who massaged their scalps with lavender and other essential oils daily for 7 months experienced significant hair re-growth compared to those who massaged their scalps without the essential oils. It is not entirely clear from this study whether lavender (or a combination of lavender and other essential oils) was responsible for the beneficial effects.
Other uses
Aromatherapists also use lavender as a tonic in inhalation therapy to treat headaches, nervous disorders, and exhaustion. Herbalists treat skin ailments, such as fungal infections (like candidiasis), wounds, eczema, and acne, with lavender oil. It is also used externally in a healing bath for circulatory disorders and as a rub for rheumatic ailments (conditions affecting the muscles and joints). One study evaluating essential oils, including lavender, for treating children with eczema concluded that the oils added no benefit to therapeutic touch from the mother; in other words massage with and without essential oils was equally effective in improving the dry, scaly skin lesion. A recent study found that the use of lavender oil may improve postoperative pain control. Fifty patients undergoing breast biopsy surgery received either oxygen supplemented with lavender oil or oxygen alone. Patients in the lavender group reported a higher satisfaction rate with pain control than patients in the control group.

And How 'Bout Some Delicious Recipes?
When I was fifteen and visiting my grandparents in Holland, my grandmother and I sampled a delicious goat cheese and lavender spread (on fresh rusks, of course!) at the market in Amsterdam. Since then, I have been secretly intrigued with the eating of lavender -- something that Americans don't do much of. Here are a few approachable recipes (keep reading, there's alcohol!) to get you started.

Lavender Sorbet
3 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
9-10 stem heads of fresh lavender flowers
(or 2 tablespoons of dried lavender)
Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon If using fresh lavender:
With thumb and forefinger, pull the flowers from the stems (discarding stems). If using dried lavender you won't need this step. Combine lavender flowers and sugar in a food processor and pulverize completely, about 1 minute. Bring the water to a boil, remove pan from heat and add the sugar/lavender mixture, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cover with a lid and let cool for at least 30 minutes. Strain out flowers through a sieve, pressing flowers to get out any remaining liquid. Add the lemon juice and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, then freeze in sorbet or ice cream mixer.
(From Fabulous Herb & Flower Sorbets Jim Long, 2002)

These cookies are probably better classified as shortbread.

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp. dried lavender flowers
1 cup self-rising flour

Cream butter and sugar; add egg. Mix in lavender and flour. Place small heaps on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes or till golden brown in color.

Lavender Gin Sour
1 1/2 oz gin
1 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz Lavender syrup
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
To make lavender syrup:
3 1/2 cups of granulated sugar and 1/2 cup of corn syrup dissolved in 2 cups of water
add a tablespoon of lemon juice
Add about 2 cups of lavender flowers
Bring to a boil, turn off heat and let it sit for about an hour.
Strain through a very fine sieve or cheesecloth and discard flowers.
I've also seen this drink made with muddled cucumber in addition to the lavender. I want
one. Now.

Grilled Lamb With Lavender Orange Marinade

From Cafe Nilson


  • 2 lbs lamb breast (or lamb chops)

For marinade/rub:

  • 2 tsp dried lavender buds
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 small shallots
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • salt and pepper


  1. Ground or mash garlic, lavender and shallots (using a mortar and pestle works well) .
  2. In a bowl, mix mashed spices and orange juice. Stir.
  3. Season lamb riblets with salt and pepper. Use half of the marinade and rub all over the ribs. Let sit for at least one hour.
  4. Grill or broil in your broiler, five minutes on each side on high to sear and then about 2o minutes to cook medium.
  5. Pour Orange-Lavender Vinaigrette and serve with lavender risotto.
He serves this with a lavender risotto, which made my little faux-Italian heart go pitter-pat.
You can grab the risotto recipe here.

Some beautiful lavender and purple things:

cake stand and hippo from

I'm actually not a huge fan of purple (probably because my first 'big girl' room was painted a warm lavender -- I hated the color for years after that!), but it's growing on me. I think it would be nice to use as a pseudo neutral like sage green, or as an accent color in a grey/silver room. Could you live with a lavender room?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Gearing Up For Father's Day

This year is my man's first 'real' Father's Day, and it has been fun to think up unexpected gifts for him (he reads this, so I'm not giving it away here!)
Here are some great gift and DIY gift ideas I found:

Take a creative photo of the kids that captures their spirit, and frame it simply (or let the kids decorate the frame) for his desk. I especially like the whimsy in Jan Van Holleben's 'Dreams of Flying' photos:

From Jan Van Holleben

Here's another cool idea for a minimalist dad
From PamperingBeki
Glorify the Manliness With Classic Tool Accoutrements
Awesome fauxbois tool apron
From PollyDanger
Cater to His (Possibly Fantasy) Wild Side
For the tattooed rockabilly daddy (or the wannabe)
From Waste Of Talent
Check out this vintage hubcap clock!
From 8milecreekdesigns. They have several different car model hubcaps, so if your man had a favorite dream car growing up, you might be able to find the original hubcap from it - doubly cool.
Embrace the Classic Tie
I love the idea of the classic tie for Father's Day. I think most daddies would see it as a right of passage, just make it something that he'd actually want to wear. I'm in love with these, and other ties from Cyberoptix Tie Lab

Let The Kids Help (But Forget the Macaroni and Glitter)
An easy, cheap craft (though you could step it up a notch with a really nice pen), good for little hands to help with, and actually useful
From Martha
An extremely cute way for dad to organize his nuts and bolts, though a tiny bit labor intensive, this craft post also has a variation for younger 'helpers' (plus, it's Altoids boxes! I love the upcycling):
from AlphaMom
Get Super Crafty (Or Support Those Who Do)
If you were so inclined (I like to imagine I am, but will forever put off assembling the parts needed), you could make these yourself. As it is (you're running out of time), they're not too expensive, extremely cool, and a good excuse for you to finally convince your man to wear those handsome French cuffs:
Gr0glmann's Retro Classy Cufflinks on Etsy

Friday, June 5, 2009

Food: Massaman For My Man

My family was vegetarian for about ten years, which coincided with the years during which I began to learn to cook. Back then, faux-meat in all its presently abundant forms was difficult to come by, expensive, and not all that tasty. EurAmerican as can be, my cooking foundation was made up almost entirely of Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Thai and Middle Eastern culinary styles. I don't think I actually cooked a piece of beef or roasted any kind of fowl until I was well into my twenties.
As a result of all this, I have many bastardized curries in my repetoire, and they change with the ingredients I have available. Tonight, my man was begging for one of them, so I did my best to transcribe our dinner into a 'recipe' for Thai Massaman Curry, a rich, somewhat sweet red curry paste and coconut milk based dish. It has a fair amount of ingredients, but it is super easy!

3 Tbsp Vegetable Oil, preferably Peanut
2 Tbsp Red Curry Paste (check your Asian market, or the Thai section in your grocery store)
2 Tbsp Peanut Butter (natural)
1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
2 Tsp. Thai Fish Sauce
1 Tbsp. Dark Brown Sugar
1 Tsp. Ground Cumin
1 Tsp. Ground Coriander
1 Can (14oz) Coconut Milk
1 C. Chicken or Vegetable Stock
1/2 Lb. Chicken Tenderloin (or Fried Tofu)
1/2 Lg Yellow Onion, Roughly Chopped
4 Red Potatoes (approx.), washed, skin on, cut into 1/4 or 1/8ths
2 Carrots (approx), washed, cut into 'stew size' chunks
2 Cups Frozen Cauliflower Florets (approx.)
Optional: Fresh Avocado, Cashews (approx 1/4 C, whole)

yes, I know the recipe called for yellow onion, but all I had were these spring onions. Yellow onion is what you should use. I am just a slacker when it comes to making thorough grocery lists

In a large pot over medium high heat, add oil, curry paste, peanut butter, fish sauce, brown sugar and soy sauce. Stir until it heats through and blends, add onions. Cook onions until they begin to glisten, but not until they clear. Add add cumin and coriander and mix. Add all other ingredients except coconut milk, stock, and avocado if you are using it, and stir to coat. Add coconut milk, and stock. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Before serving, stir in avocado and about a 1/4 cup of whole cashews.
Serve over rice (or whole wheat couscous if you are my man)

Food: Steel Cut Oats Are My New BFF

Yesterday, we went to our favorite farmer's market, where a container of ripe, sweet strawberries cost me a whole dollar. I needed to use them as soon as possible, so this morning, I stirred them into my oatmeal, and it was a revelation! "This is what that sticky-sweet sugarfest of 'Strawberries and Cream' Quaker oatmeal wants to be when it grows up!" I told the baby, who answered with a 'mama' and an open mouth like a baby bird. Delicious.

Shown with a dollop of plain yogurt and a little brown sugar
I have been trying to eat only whole grains for the past several months (and achieved lower than my pre-baby weight only seven months after her birth! Yippee!), and, I'll admit, I was always smitten with the retro styling of the McCann's Irish Oatmeal tin, but was loath to spend six bucks for oatmeal, so I always held back before. One day, my man insisted that I should have that oatmeal, and my breakfast world changed forever.
Steel cut oats are basically whole oats that have been, yes, steel cut. They are not processed or rolled, and when one first sees them, one wonders if she is about to eat livestock feed. But after the cooking, these oats are creamy, toothy, chewy, and utterly delicious.
The basic directions are on the tin or box, but this morning, I substituted some skim milk for the water, and added a spoon of sugar (I was feeling saucy, and I was out of Splenda), and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
After letting the oatmeal cook for 25 minutes, I stirred in about half a cup of coarse chopped strawberries, and let the porridge cool for a little while.
There are several good brands of steel cut oats out there (most much less than six dollars, but having that gorgeous McCann's tin on top of my stove in my retro kitchen makes me happy every time I see it, and was totally worth the one-time splurge). Even our local grocery store has its own version under their store label organic brand, so look for it -- you will not be sorry.

I've heard a rumor that there is a 'quick' way to cook these, so I'm off to track that down, and I'll test it tomorrow.


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