Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Homemade paneer

Much like baking your own bread, there is a huge sense of accomplishment to making your own cheese. Even one as simple as paneer.


Paneer is the fresh cheese used in many Indian recipes. It takes two ingredients that you can purchase at any minimart, virtually no skills, and very little time in the kitchen. If you serve it to people, they are almost universally awed.

curds, whey
{curds, whey}

You need: whole milk + lime juice. For every half gallon of milk you need the juice from one lime. Easy to remember, right?
Basic* directions: Boil the milk, turn the heat down slightly and add the acid, then stir and wait until large curds form and separate out. Pour it into a cheesecloth (I used a lightweight dish towel, because I don't have cheesecloth) and let it drip for half an hour. Stick in the fridge for a few hours to chill and solidify.

paneer hanging
{paneer hanging}

We were having company, so I used a full gallon of milk and got a ball of paneer that I could cup with two hands, enough to make six good sized servings. Yes, it takes a lot of milk for not a huge amount of cheese. And it's totally worth it. We used it to make paneer curry with peas. It was delicious.

paneer, cut
{paneer, cut}

Generally, I like my cheese salty, but paneer seems to be traditionally unsalted. And this is fine, really, because it's mostly used in dishes with tons of spice and their own dose of salt. But if I were to want to snack on it, I think I would add a bit of salt.

*For a wonderfully detailed description of the process, hop over here.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Shopping hiatus, week six

So, if you happen to be smack dab in the middle of a shopping hiatus, and you run out of toothpaste, please just go to the drugstore. Or maybe even order it online.

Do not go to Target, especially when you have spent the last few months studiously avoiding every ad and blog post where someone mentions the Liberty of London collaboration. Because they hide the toothpaste in the back of the store and put the Liberty pieces on every endcap of every aisle.

{liberty of london at target}

You start thinking that you might actually want kids, if only to put them in smocked floral dresses. And about how a ceramic canister (surprisingly good quality in person, btw) would really be very useful. And a summerweight scarf would be perfect, even if you are not really a person who ever remembers to wear a scarf unless you are freezing. And, in a truly sad show of desperation, you attempt to convince your boyfriend that he would really love wearing a floral tie. But you'll settle for him wearing the tie with cars on it. (I received an unequivocal no on both counts)

I did not purchase anything (except toothpaste). But I did go home and lovingly caress my actual Liberty fabrics, which are still waiting to be made into something special. I think loving Liberty prints is an individual thing - you are either obsessed or pretty indifferent. Clearly, you know which camp I fall into. It doesn't matter how overplayed they get, I'll always love them.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Easter, last year

Quick bonus post!

I just realized I don't have any Easter content planned this week (um, it snuck up on me and I'm not ready and we're going to be forced to go low key) but if you're gearing up for it you might want to take a look at last year's posts.

There's an idea for an alternative to the usual Easter basket (read the comments for amazing reader suggestions on non-crappy things to put in baskets), a look at my Easter tree (which is up again this year) and some pretty pictures of dyed eggs.

The weekend, briefly

Another busy weekend, helping out with a few renovations at the family home. Or, Dustin helped renovate. I cooked and stocked the fridge, mostly because I am afraid of power tools (which is completely rational when you grow up with two woodworkers in the family - if you'd spent as much time as I have in the ER, watching hands get stitched up, you'd be wary too). And food always comes in handy.

circe, waiting
{circe, waiting}

brick + stuff
{brick + stuff}

pendant light
{pendant light}

cacti, unpotted
{cacti, unpotted}

cauliflower prep
{cauliflower prep}

circe, tired
{circe, tired}

It should be noted that Circe is far more fond of the kitchen than the woodshop so we got to spend quite a bit of time together this weekend. And she does in fact eat cauliflower, but only once it's roasted.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday flowers

Tulips, three ways.

1. Freshly arranged, in just home from work light.

tulips, map
{tulips, map}

2. Same day, 28 minutes later, in sharp shadows of early evening light.

tulips, map
{tulips, map}

3. After three days, minus four minutes, drooping but still beautiful.

tulips, map
{tulips, map}

*edited to add sources of various things - the footed glass vase is from the thrift store (probably not really vintage, but one of my faves), the clock was a lucky flea market find (even though it picks up time quickly and we have to adjust it every couple weeks), the various ceramics are all made by D, including the awesome faux-styrofoam cup you can just barely see in the last picture, holding pencils, the map was purchased at a vintage store in Prague.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dinner time

The new rule in our house - no distractions during dinner. The TV is off, no work is allowed. We sit and eat our dinner like civilized people (even if we are on the couch or the floor). We catch up on our days, we talk about things that are coming up. For such a little step, it's amazingly refreshing.


This was always supposed to be the rule in our house, but we'd gotten busy and lazy and tired and let ourselves slip out of it. You know how sometimes you come home and you're just too worn out from your day to even want to talk about it? That was happening too often.

wine + cheese + olives
{wine + cheese + olives}

It's a good reminder that nothing just happens. D and I have been together for years, so it's easy to take our closeness for granted and sometimes that's just fine and even exactly what we need. But we have to remember that relationships (including friendships) aren't static - they constantly change and evolve and that's the best part. We have to stay active and interested in the process. I have friends from all stages of my life, which is wonderful, but it takes effort. Fun effort that I wouldn't trade for anything else, but effort nonetheless.


When it comes to the most important things, you just can't afford to be lazy. At least, not all the time.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Coconut lime revenge cake

or ... the post in which I apologize and eat my words.

D and I had a conversation in the car over the weekend and he mentioned that he wanted to make a boulder cake at which point, instead of asking the logical question (um, what is a boulder cake?*), I made the mistake of scoffing at him and stating you can't make a cake. Yes, I said it. I'm not proud of it. It just came out somehow. I think I meant you've never made a cake or maybe I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen you eat cake because you don't even really like it.

And so, solely to prove me wrong, he produced this ...

coconut lime cake
{coconut lime cake}

It's Deb's coconut lime cake, but with the added benefit of cream cheese frosting. We served it last night for an impartial jury (aka, mutual friends) and we all agreed it was amazing. Revenge is very, very sweet.

lime coconut cake
{lime coconut cake}

So, I admit I was completely wrong. I will never again tell Dustin he can't do something (unless I'm secretly hoping that he'll do it just to prove me wrong - maybe I can leverage this system to get more desserts).

*Turns out a boulder cake is exactly what it sounds like - a cake carved into the approximate shape of a boulder and decorated to look like a rock. And no, it's not a thing. Dustin just came up with it on the spur of the moment. And don't worry - it's coming, probably in the near future.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Shopping hiatus, week 5

Shopping hiatus continues as scheduled. Mild to moderate temptations have appeared - new super strappy green sandals from the amazingly cheap shoe outlet near my bus stop, lightweight skirts for spring weather, a grey duvet cover for the bed.

I've resisted all of them (although I'm still kind of thinking about those sandals - they're marked down to $9!) but I did have a couple of thrift store finds.

enamelled bangles
{enameled bangles}

These enameled bangles were $2 each and I'm in love with them. I don't wear a lot of jewelry on a daily basis, but simple bracelets and extra long necklaces are easy for me to throw on quickly without feeling fussy.


The set of three dessert plates was marked down to 98 cents, somehow. They're beautiful English china and I haven't seen anything quite like this pattern. I have some ideas for using the chains - if anything works out I'll share.

Completely non-fun, non-personal shopping - shelves and storage bins for my Ikea closets in the workroom. Trying to do my taxes reminded me that I need a more organized system for storing and inventorying my fabric. I'd given myself four weeks to find an alternative on Craigslist or at the thrift store and I struck out. On the plus side, we managed to make it through Ikea without purchasing a single thing that wasn't on my short (boring) list. That's a test of will power.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The weekend, briefly

It was an overly busy weekend, but we managed to make some time for the little things.

Like freshly picked sweet peas. Perfect for burying your face in.

sweet peas
{sweet peas}

And admiring my mom's glass collection (entirely thrifted).


Doing a bit of thrifting myself.


Trying to get the little terrier to cooperate with the camera (she has avocado blossoms all over her fur).

circe face
{circe face}

Not pictured - driving (lots), making lists, TAXES, more driving (in traffic).

Friday, March 19, 2010


I saved my favorite topic for my last guest post on 100 Layer Cake. Make sure to read the comments as well, for a discussion of toxic vs. edible flowers. I totally used toxic flowers on my sister's cake and didn't realize it until a week after the wedding. Whoops. But no one died (or even got sick), so I don't feel too guilty about it.

Friday flowers

Some greenery seemed appropriate this week, what with St. Patrick's Day and all.

pom poms
{pom poms}

I picked out a green and white mixed bunch. I don't usually go for pre-made bouquets because I like the simplicity of having a single type of flower each week. But I do fall for the weedy mixes sometimes.

greenery + flowers
{greenery + flowers}

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Guest post - DIY details over at 100LC

For those of you with a thing for DIY details, I'm offering up some tips over at 100 Layer Cake today. Realistic, type A scheduling advice included.

Granola bars from Summer

We needed a replacement for snack bars. Neither of us is in love with protein bars, because we'd pretty much always rather have an actual snack, but D needs them for his long rides. It's tough to peel an orange while riding a bicycle.

granola prep
{granola prep}

A while ago Summer posted her mother in law's granola bar recipe, and people, these are genius. These are easy to make (the ingredients list is long, but I swear the work is minimal) and so soft and chewy and delicious. They aren't low calorie, but neither are protein bars and these don't have any sketchy ingredients. And they're a million times cheaper. I'm not an expert, but they look like they're gluten free (if you make sure to buy gluten free oats).

granola bars
{granola bars}

I added cranberries to ours. I'm going to have to figure out how to put chocolate chips in there without melting them. These made my whole week. Hop over to Summer's post to see the recipe.

granola bars
{granola bars}

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Invitation eye candy

Pretty, pretty invitations, plus a bit of advice about going the DIY route, over on 100 Layer Cake.

Shopping hiatus, week four

Going strong. But I have to admit that I'm amassing a list of things I would like to buy when the hiatus is over.

Like new sunglasses. The sun arrived abruptly yesterday and I was reminded once again that new shades must be purchased. Easy, right? No, no, no. I wear glasses. Incredibly strong glasses with thick lenses because I pretty much only see vague blobs of color when I take them off. The last time I shelled out for prescription sunglasses (5 years ago) it cost me $400 and I haven't been willing to do it again, despite the fact that those glasses are now worn to shreds.

Until now. I think I could happily live with any of these options, even if they aren't necessarily meant to be sunglasses.

zenni optical choices
{1, 2, 3, 4, 5}

The best part is that they are all under $30, even when you throw in the tinting. Genius. I really do love Zenni Optical.* Just make sure that you ALWAYS click to see the larger image. Some pairs that look like solid colors in thumbnail view actually have crazy patterns on them.

If I were purchasing right now I'd probably get click happy and end up with all of them. Instead, I have until the end of the hiatus to mull over my options, and I'll probably end up selecting two pairs, so that I have a back up.

*Back in December my regular glasses broke, well before my insurance was willing to cough up for a new pair. Luckily, I remembered a post that Caroline had put up a few months earlier about Zenni Optical. I went to my optometrist, got a print out of my prescription and then jumped online and browsed. I ended up purchasing four pairs for less than I usually spend on one. They arrived within 2 weeks. It was fabulous.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Guest posting, this week

Guys, I'm guest posting over at 100 Layer Cake this week. I was a wee bit intimidated because, well, everything they post is lovely and I'm not a wedding expert. Repeat, not a wedding expert. Not even married yet.

But it was so much fun (and I have a new appreciation for all the work those girls do on a daily basis). I'll be posting about DIY related stuff, naturally.

My first post is up now. You can download my DIY reality check flowchart, which I have to admit I'm massively in love with, even if I am the one who created it.

And if anyone has wandered over here from 100 LC, welcome! Come browse through the DIY index or the food index, depending on what you feel like. Or just check out some pretty flowers.

The weekend, briefly

The weekend somehow managed to be incredibly quiet and furiously busy. It just sort of slipped right by and before I knew it I was sitting on the couch, still sewing up orders and it was Sunday at midnight and I had watched all of She's All That on TV even though I swore to Dustin that of course I was turning it off, or at least changing the channel and who did he think I was anyways, that I would watch a silly movie like that (when I've probably already seen it 5 times)?

Whew. But there were nice moments leading up to that.

I was glad to see a reappearance of afternoon light - my very favorite kind.

quiet afternoon, jalousie window
{quiet afternoon, jalousie window}

We had old friends over for dinner and I made a berry crostata for dessert (which is a fancy way of saying that I piled a bunch of berries on some pastry dough and folded the edges over).

berry crostata
{berry crostata}

I went shopping for spring fabrics (not breaking the hiatus, because everything is for the shop).

spring fabrics
{spring fabrics}

And then I worked.


D amused himself in the kitchen, with great results (sundried tomato + prosciutto + burrata on baguette for lunch, Deb's tomato-butter sauce on pasta for dinner).

fancy tomatoes
{fancy tomatoes}

And I snacked on an ungodly amount of pickles. It's a terrible addiction that I mostly fight by rarely purchasing pickles of any sort. This weekend I just gave up and gave in.

pickles, jar
{pickles, jar}

Monday, March 15, 2010

Behind schedule...

Whoops! The weekend got away from me and I forgot about daylight savings time and now I'm behind on everything. If I manage to make it through the morning without spilling coffee all over myself, things will start looking up.

Taking a sanity day - back tomorrow.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday flowers

You'll notice that you don't see roses on here often. I'm not very fond of them - I joke with D that if he ever brings home a dozen red roses I'll know that we have to break up immediately, because they are so not me.

But frilly garden roses with actual scent and non-uniform shapes? Those get me. They are real roses, heavy with full blown, droopy petals, perfect for gathering by the armful and carrying in from the garden, treacherous with thorns and spiky dark green leaves.

garden roses, counter
{garden roses, counter}

They're hard to find (unless you are blessed with space for your own rose garden) so when I saw a small bucket of these sitting off in a corner at the farmer's market this weekend, I quickly snatched them up. I could only afford three, but the saleslady nodded knowingly, said, I'd take quality over quantity any day. We exchanged sage smiles. I left the neat bundles of roses by the dozen, buds tightly shaped, each one identical, without a second glance, clutching my precious paper wrapped trio with gnarled, thorny stems, inhaling deeply.

garden roses, trio
{garden roses, trio}

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Reading, lately

Loved, loved, loved The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.

reading, lately
{reading, lately}

I fully admit that I picked it off the shelf because of the title. I was a teensy bit unsure of where the book was going in the beginning, but I fell into it fairly quickly. It's sweet and funny and unusual. The ending wallops you out of nowhere, which I always love.

I also love that the people who gave it bad reviews on Amazon almost universally mention that they found it pretentious. I found the pretension purposeful and intentionally hilarious - I guess we all read things differently.

Do you ever go to Amazon and read other people's reviews after you've finished a book? I try to never do it before I read something, because I like to come to it without any idea of what I'm getting into.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lemon-ginger muffins

I have issues with muffins. I think they're sneaky - masquerading around as health food when they're usually nothing more than cupcakes without frosting. Don't get me wrong - I love cake in the morning, but I like it straight up and honest and fully frosted. If you're waiting in the line for coffee, agonizing over the donut you really want and the lowfat muffin you feel like you should order, go ahead and buy the donut. Nine times out of ten you'll find that it has fewer calories, I kid you not.

Of course, there are exceptions. Muffins are handy for grabbing on the way out the door early in the morning, so I'll often make these uber-healthy ones. This weekend I wanted something a bit more decadent but not as toothachingly sweet as your average muffin. I had a large chunk of fresh ginger in the fridge, so I started searching around for a good recipe.


I know you don't frequently see me lighten up recipes, but there are occasions where it's justified. You won't even miss the extra butter and sugar in these babies, I promise. They have a tender crumb and the most perfect balance of fresh lemon and ginger flavors. I added extra yogurt to make up for the lost butter and subbed half the all purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour. We gobbled them up. The ginger plays especially well with homemade apricot jam.

lemon-ginger muffin, with jam
{lemon-ginger muffin, with apricot jam}

Fresh lemon-ginger muffins (makes 16, heavily adapted from this recipe)
  • A 2-ounce piece unpeeled ginger root
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest with some pith
  • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line (or grease) 16 muffin tins.

:: If you have a food processor, process the ginger until it is in tiny pieces. And yes, 2 ounces of ginger is a pretty substantial hunk. In my picture above, I used the entire piece of ginger. I was skeptical about leaving it unpeeled, but it was fine. Or, hand chop it into fine pieces. You should have about 1/4 cup. It is better to have too much ginger than too little.

:: Put the ginger and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a small skillet and cook over medium heat until the sugar has melted and the mixture is hot. Do not walk away from the pan - the sugar will melt quite quickly. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool completely.

:: Put the lemon zest (because the recipe calls for zest with a bit of pith, I didn't use my zester but instead sliced off pieces of the lemon peel, leaving a bit of pith on, as seen here) and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in the food processor and process until the peel is in small bits. Or, sprinkle the sugar over the zest and chop by hand. Add the zest and sugar mix to the ginger mixture and set aside.

:: In a mixing bowl, beat the butter slightly, then add the lemon and ginger mixture. Add the eggs and beat well. Add the yogurt and mix until blended. Add the flour, salt and baking soda and mix until just combined and relatively smooth.

:: Spoon the batter into the muffin cups so that each cup is about 3/4 full. Bake 15-20 minutes. Serve warm.

Nutrition facts - 129 calories per muffin, 4 grams of fat (2.2 grams saturated), 19.9 grams carbs, 1.1 grams fiber, 7.8 grams sugar, 3.4 grams protein

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Shopping hiatus, week three

We had a couple bumps this last week, but we pulled through.

Some could be justifiable. Dustin is in desperate need of a new wet suit, so an exception will probably be granted in that case. When you surf three mornings a week, a worn out wet suit is a serious inconvenience.

Sadly, no such exception could be granted to my main temptation this week - new yellow TOMS in spring-y linen.
I've found that during the first few weeks of the shopping hiatus, it's best to go cold turkey on the usual sources of temptation. Avoid stores, recycle catalogs immediately, and never, ever open a sale email. After you get over the shopping habit, I find that I can go back to looking at pictures for inspiration, without feeling the immediate need to purchase something.

Unfortunately, TOMS are sold in my local Whole Foods, so I have to face down a whole wall of them every time I need to pick up a carton of milk. I tell myself it's a good exercise in self restraint.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The weekend, briefly

Saturday started off with a deluge.

rain, freeway
{rain, freeway}

Perfect for tea.

tea pouring
{tea pouring}

And my favorite cozy socks.

cozy socks
{cozy socks}

And a bit of baking.


We poked through a pile of vintage hardware that my mom snagged for us.

thrifted hardware
{thrifted hardware}

And did some general lounging around.

reading nook
{reading nook}

The sun peeked out on Sunday and we managed a quick early evening trip to Malibu pick up our wine club shipment.


*Not pictured - grooming a highly reluctant (and now terribly angry) terrier.