Saturday, October 24, 2009

Rustic Pear Tart

While I have put off the daily art for the time being, I have not put off baking. Today's specialty: Rustic Pear Tart. The original recipe came from Sunset (my favorite) magazine, but I've altered it a bit, leaving out the egg wash and the creme fraiche, and making a few other changes. I'll include the original and my alteration recipe.

Original Rustic Pear Tart

1 sheet (about 10-12 inch) frozen puff pastry (14 oz package), thawed
2-3 firm-ripe pears, like Bosc or Comice
About 1/3 cup orange marmalade
1 large egg, beaten to blend
About 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
6 tablespoons creme fraiche
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly butter 2 large baking sheets. Roll out pastry, on a floured surface, to 16x18 inches. Cut into thirds lengthwise and in half crosswise - you'll have 6 pieces. Transfer them to the baking sheets. Core the pears and cut into thin wedges. Arrange them, overlapping them slightly, on the pastry rectangles, leaving a 1 1/2 inch border clear. Warm the marmalade in the microwave to melt, then brush over the pears. Fold border over edge of pears, stretching slightly and pressing down to hold. Brush new edges the egg, then sprinkle turbinado sugar over the tarts, especially the edges. Bake until pastries are richly browned, 25-30 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk creme fraiche and sugar until slightly thickened. Serve warm or cool, with creme fraiche.

The Unfarm's Rustic Pear Tart

1 sheet (about 10-12 inch) frozen puff pastry (14 oz package), thawed
2-3 firm-ripe pears, like Bosc or Comice
About 1/3 cup orange marmalade, heated in the microwave
About 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
Whipped cream, optional

Option one: family style: Preheat oven to 375. Grease a baking sheet. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface, to 16x18 inches. Transfer it to the baking sheet. Core the pears (and peel if you want) then cut into small chunks and drop them into a bowl. Measure out the marmalade into another bowl and melt it in the microwave, then add it to the pears. Toss the pears until they are evenly coated. Spoon them out onto the pastry, leaving a 1 inch border. Fold the pastry edge over and secure (press) against pears. Sprinkle the sugar over the tart, especially on the edges. Bake until tart is golden brown, 25-30 minutes. Cut into 6 pieces and serve (best warm) plain, or with whipped cream.

Option 2: individual tarts: Lightly butter 2 large baking sheets. Roll out pastry, on a floured surface, to 16x18 inches. Cut into thirds lengthwise and in half crosswise - you'll have 6 pieces. Transfer them to the baking sheets. Core the pears and cut into small chunks. Toss them with the marmalade in a large bowl, then spoon them onto the pastry sheets, leaving a 1 inch border. Fold the pastry edge over and secure (press) against pears. Sprinkle the sugar over the tart, especially on the edges. Bake until tart is golden brown, 25-30 minutes. Serve plain, or with whipped cream. (Tastes best warm)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Got daily art?

Umm... nope. At least, not right now. I have decided, for the time being anyway, that I'm going to put the daily art on hold for an as-yet-undetermined length of time. Partly because I'm sick of my giant printer/scanner taking up space on my desk, and partly because I need to get some serious art done soon and having the daily art hanging over me every single day is making me avoid the art I need to do.

My main concern now, after announcing the hold on the daily art, is that this exposes me as not a real artist. I feel like a real artist would be happy to do art every day. Would be excited to do art every day. Would not run out of ideas of something to draw after only a few weeks and have to resort to drawing every fruit I can lay hands on in the kitchen.

On top of everything, I feel a vague sort of anxiety starting to settle in, which I hate. It comes out of nowhere and settles in like it knows that it will be here a while so it might as well get comfortable. I hate battling off a funk. Especially when I don't know exactly what brought it on. (Not knowing where your enemy is coming from greatly reduces how well you can plan your battle, I find.) So I guess I'll stick to the old standby of reading organization books and watching TV in an effort to forget my anxiety until it - hopefully - goes away on its own. (Probably not the method most mental health professionals would recommend, but I'd rather do that than sit around analyzing my anxiety. I prefer to ignore it, whenever possible.)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Daily art

It's October 18 and another daily art - a cow this time. It turned out ok, I guess.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What's new on the unfarm?

I realize there hasn't been an unfarm update in a while so here's a quick briefing.

The chickens spent most of this morning in a miserable huddle under the redwood, trying to stay dry. It poured here all morning - dark, grey clouds and thunder, making it seem like it was dusk at only 11 am. The chickens, in general, do not appreciate the rain. Light rain they will tolerate but this was far from light. Even the ducks took cover during the heavy rain.

Speaking of the ducks, Minna continues to lay an egg every day, and she continues to manage to wiggle out of her diaper after only a couple of hours of wearing it. Maggie keeps hers (or rather his) on all night most of the time but Minna is always out of hers by the morning. I'm not entirely sure why this happens - the only thing I can think of is that Minna's significantly larger chest results in the diaper strap sliding to one side or the other, which then eventually pulls the diaper off completely. I think her chest has gotten larger since she started laying. This means I'll have to try reworking her diaper - again - to account for her new... bustiness. I am really not looking forward to another session with the sewing machine - each diaper takes at least an hour to make. If I don't screw up and sew the velcro on the wrong side or stitch the back strap on backwards. But there's no avoiding it - I need to get her diapers to stay on all night, their sleeping area is always a mess in the morning and as it gets colder it's going to get more and more troublesome to do the cleanup with the hose when we have to shut of the outside water.

The cats have now officially moved into their fall routine. This means that Mynx will not be going outside again until (in all likelihood) sometime next June, and Aspen has finally decided that he will come in (most nights) at a decent hour, as opposed to his summer routine of making me wait up until midnight when he finally deigns to grace me with his presence. He also will start rubbing up against our legs again when he comes in. This - in other cats - is a sign of affection. In Aspen's case, he only does this when he is wet. Aspen is a Norwegian forest cat and the rain doesn't actually soak into his fur, it just sits on top until he wipes it on something - or, most often, on someone.

The rabbits still aren't getting along. And on top of that, I think that TJ has finally given up on Suki becoming a mate. By mate I don't mean a husband/wife type situation so much as a best friend sort of thing. In rabbits a bonded pair spend most or all of their time together, keeping each other company and grooming one another. When one half of a bonded pair dies (as is the case with TJ, in which his mate Tajha died) the remaining rabbit can get depressed and mopey until they have a new mate. That was supposed to be Suki, but Suki doesn't seem to want to participate. So, from what I can tell, TJ has decided that I will be a sort of substitute mate. What this entails is the requirement that I pet him and massage his ears whenever he is out of his cage. If I do not pet him, he reminds me of my job requirements by biting me. Not the most pleasant situation - I'm still holding out hope that somehow I can get all three rabbits to get along.

It's getting pretty late and I'm tired so the last one will be very brief (as opposed to the rest of this, which was supposed to be brief but ended up rather long and rambling...) The dogs: Buddy is improving in his behavior on walks, but I suspect that this is only because I continue to carry a water bottle and threaten to squirt him whenever he misbehaves. Maia: she remains the most well behaved on walks and around the house, but she is starting to show her age a bit in the trouble she has jumping onto and off of my bed (which is, admittedly, ridiculously high.) Kita: he is also showing his age a bit by slowing down a bit on walks and having some trouble hearing at times. In general I hate seeing evidence of old age or illness in any of the animals, but I guiltily admit that this morning it was kind of nice to see Kita sleeping through the thunderstorm which usually sends him into a full blown panic.

Daily art

Here's today's daily art: a peach. I have decided that my favorite mediums to work with are watercolor, colored pencil, and chalk pastels. I like the way watercolor has so many effects you can do with it, I like the way colored pencil and pastels can be blended and built up gradually to get the look you want.

Daily.... art?

This is (sort of) October 16th's daily art: a blind drawing of a flower which is, even though it's sideways here, definitely not my best work. But it was the daily art so I am obliged to post it. I am only slightly consoled by the fact that it is a blind drawing. I really don't like it very much.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Another dose of daily art

October 15. A tiny pear thing - yet another kitchen find. I'm hoping this creativity block is temporary - I am feeling extremely dull and uncreative.
October 14. Still suffering from artist's block I am resorting to drawing whatever I can find in the kitchen.
October 13th's daily art: Mouse in a teacup. He's kinda cute, I think.

Daily art for October 12, 2009. A blind drawing of a sleeve and hand. I was desperate for ideas of something to draw, having developed a sort of artist's block.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Daily art

Brown bear, brown bear: October 11th's daily art

Duck, duck, GOOSE: the daily art for October 10.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Recipe special notes

Apple pie notes:
To make fun, cute individual apple pies: using ramekins, place a ramekin on the rolled out pastry crust dough and cut out circles that are about 1/2 an inch larger than the ramekins all the way around. Cut out enough circles for all your ramekins. Spoon the sugared apple mix into the ramekins and fill them up to slightly heaping. Place the dough circle on top and seal the edges, then prick with a fork or knife a few times. Place the ramekins on a cookie sheet and place them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 - 25 minutes. Check them occasionally for apple tenderness and a golden crust.

Pizza notes:
You can skip the parmesan cheese if you don't have any/don't want the extra calories/can't find any good vegan option. This pizza is also really good when made with vegan mozzarella - buy a block of the melty kind and grate it yourself - Jenny has tested and approved it :)

Double crust pie pastry

2 1/2 cups flour plus extra for rolling
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chilled vegetable shortening or margarine
1/3 cup (more or less) ice cold water
1 tablespoon milk

Stir together salt and flour. Using pastry cutter, blend shortening into flour until it is the size of small grains of rice. Pour ice water over dough and toss with a fork until it can be shaped into a ball. Add more water if needed. Cut ball of dough in half and set one piece aside. Roll dough out, adding flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Transfer it to the pie plate by rolling the dough up around the rolling pin and then unrolling it over the pie plate. Make the pie as directed then roll out the second piece and top the pie with it.

Apple pie

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 pounds (about 5) tart cooking apples
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 Double-crust Pie Pastry

Combine sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Stir together. Peel and core the apples. Cut the apples into quarters, and then cut each quarter into 8 long pieces, and finally cut the pieces in half. Drop the apples into the sugar mixture and toss them to coat all the pieces evenly. Preheat oven to 450. Line the pie plate with the bottom crust, then spoon the apples into the pie plate. Cut the butter into bits and sprinkle them over the apples. Lay the top crust over the top, trim and seal the edges, prick with a fork in several places, and paint the crust with milk. Place the pie on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 and bake for another 40 minutes, or until the top is browned and the apples are tender when pricked with a fork or knife.

Pizza Margherita

Simple pizza dough recipe
2 tablespoons olive oil
6-8 roma (plum) tomatoes, seeded and minced
1-4 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
1/2 to 1 cup grated low-moisture part skim mozzarella
15 to 20 basil leaves, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spread the dough into a circle onto a lightly greased pizza sheet. Heat some olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) in a medium sized skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and tomatoes and saute 5 minutes or until tomatoes have softened. Season with salt and pepper and let cool. Spread the tomatoes evenly all over the pizza dough. Sprinkle the basil over the tomatoes. Spread the cheeses on top. Bake 12 -15 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the crust is golden. Slice and serve immediately. Delicious.

Simple Pizza Dough

This is a simple but very good pizza dough recipe.

1 cup warm water, divided
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Put 1/4 cup warm water in a small bowl (check the temperature required by the yeast - it's probably around 110 -115 degrees, I check the temperature with a candy or meat thermometer) and add the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Sprinkle the yeast on top, let it sit for one minute, and then stir it into the water. Check that the yeast is active - it should get bubbly - and then add the remaining ingredients. Mix together with a wooden spoon until it comes together into a ball. Sprinkle some flour onto a work surface and turn the dough out onto it. Knead it about ten minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Keep adding flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Grease a large bowl and put the dough inside. Spray a little grease onto some plastic wrap and cover the bowl, greased side down. Place the dough in a warm place to rise until it has doubled in size (about 1 1/2 hours). Punch down the dough and knead a few times, then spread it out onto a greased pizza sheet.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Daily art

Lion on the savanna: the daily art for today - October 9. He turned out rather cute, I think.

Daily art and an update

A rowboat for October 8.

Unfarm update: Jojo is currently bored of being out and is sitting in the corner, licking the carpet. (Weird behavior though it is, because he is a rabbit, and because almost everything a rabbit does is cute, it is very cute to see him grooming the flooring.) He has exhausted all his energy on vainly trying to move the gate that blocks off the base of the table. He remains convinced that he will be able to move it if only he works on it long enough. What he doesn't realize is that the gate is now locked to the edge of my desk, thereby preventing any movement. I resorted to the lock after getting tired of constantly putting the gate back into place while the rabbits were out as they love nothing more than getting into things that they shouldn't - and they seem especially tempted by areas that I have blocked off.

Daily art

October 7, 2009 daily art: opposites (as in opposites on the color wheel: purple is opposite yellow, blue opposite orange, and green opposite red.)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Daily art

And, finally, October 6: Pomegranate. Today's art and yesterday's (the coneflower) are done using watercolor and (for the black lines) calligraphy pen and ink. It's a fun way to draw, using the calligraphy pen, but the downside to it is that the ink isn't permanent and it will bleed when you add the watercolor on top.

Daily art

The art for October 5: Coneflower

Daily art

Oh, sunflower: the October 4th daily art.

Daily art

Daily art from October 3rd.

Daily art

I'm a little behind in uploading the daily art so here's October 2nd's drawing.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A comment on rabbits

In the bunny room/my office I have a large desk along one wall and a table along the adjacent wall so that I end up with an L shaped work surface. The table is used as a work surface for cutting fabric, doing art projects, or working on puzzles and underneath the table I have two large storage containers and two smaller containers that hold my art supplies. Between these four containers are gaps that are the perfect size for rabbits to squeeze into. This would not be a problem if the rabbits behaved themselves - as TJ tends to do lately (he prefers to hop on top of on the the containers and sit on the pile of blankets after he's finished exploring.)

Suki and Jojo are another matter. They tend to be more rambunctious during their time out. (TJ has been kind of low ever since his mate Tajha died and I have been through four rabbits so far in an attempt to find him a new mate but none have been the right one for TJ so far... losing one half of a bonded pair is very hard on rabbits and TJ is still battling some depression and loneliness I think.)

Were it just the containers under the table I would not be concerned, but there is also carpeting and electrical cords - both of which rabbits can wreck havoc on in very little time. Very little time. You would be surprised how fast a rabbit can bite through the cord of a $120 iron or an $800 vacuum cleaner. (What may not be surprising is how much trouble I get into when they do this.) Thus, the gate. I buy several packs of those metal grids that can be assembled into cubes for storage and zip tie them together into gates of assorted sizes and lengths, as well as large rabbit cages.

Suki and Jojo, however, are very determined and a mere gate is not going to deter them. The gate does prevent them from getting under the table, but it doesn't stop them from trying. For the past two hours they have been biting the gate and tossing their heads (thus tossing the gate far enough to create a gap where they can scoot through.) While they were making progress with the gate they kept at it but they have finally given up since I tied the gate shut. Suki was the most determined, even going after the zip ties themselves when the gate wouldn't budge but even she has finally given up (but not without looking over the gate rather forlornly when she realized that hopping over was not an option either.)

I might be tempted to give in if I didn't know that they were bent on some kind of mischief, but I do know what they're after (the cord to my lamp and the carpet in the corner.) As it is, they get two hours time out to run around the room and they will leave bunny berries all over the floor that I will have to clean up or Maia will eat them. (Dogs don't have the most discriminating of tastes, I have noticed.)

Daily art

Daily art for October 1st. And now I'm caught up. It's a bit different from the previous daily arts, but I was getting tired of coming up with ideas of things to draw and decided to just draw something that already existed - hence one of the tomatoes that we harvested from our garden today.

Daily art

Daily art for September 30: All Tied Up. The cat is orange because I didn't want to try and do a spotty cat like Mynx (who, by the way, I need to get a picture of...) and I used to have a large, orange cat named Milo. Milo didn't play with string, though - his favorite things to play with were twisty-ties and acorns. He was a very unique cat.

Daily art

I know what you're thinking: she's only been doing daily art for, like, a week and she's already slacking off: tsk, tsk. But I have been doing the art, I just haven't been uploading it because I didn't have my printer/scanner set up. The printer/scanner sits on my desk and takes up a HUGE amount of space and with only two cords to plug in I often unplug it and store it on top of my filing cabinet, out of the way. (I like to keep my environment tidy and having a printer the size of a small pony sitting on my desk is less than ideal for me.)

So: September 29th's daily art - Knot Too Shabby