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Mushroom Butternut Squash Barley Risotto

Mushroom Butternut Squash Barley Risotto

It is FINALLY getting warmer. Snow is melting. I have left my puffy coat at home for a few days, and I actually thought about NOT wearing tights this morning (I thought about it, but I’m not crazy – I still wore tights).  But, it’s still chilly enough for some hearty warm winter time comfort foods. And yet, since spring is coming, it’s best if that comfort food is also super healthy and crazy delicious.  Enter, Mushroom Butternut Squash Barley risotto.

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By cutting the arborio rice and using pearl barley, you can make a hearty whole grain risotto that tastes amazing, even if it is slightly less creamy than a traditional risotto.  The best part is that it doesn’t taste healthy but that can be our secret.

Do yourself a favor and just try it.  This is one of my new faves.

Love,
Rachel

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Mushroom Butternut Squash Barley Risotto

Makes about 5 servings for me (but 3 or 4 servings if feeding my boyfriend too).  I used my 14″ cast iron – if it had been any smaller it might be necessary to combine all the ingredients at the end in a bigger bowl/pan once the barley was completely cooked through.

Ingredients:

8 oz pearl barley (I bought a bag from Trader Joe’s)

1 large onion, finely chopped
1 butternut squash, diced into 1/2″ pieces
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil (approx)
1 or 2 tablespoons butter (2 is more delicious, but 1 is a little healthier)
1 tablespoon cornstarch.
1 tsp dried parsley
4 cups vegetable stock
3/4 cup apple juice, or sweet white wine (but I used apple juice, if using wine, reduce to 1/2 C, use water for rest)
2/3 C grated Parmesan reggiano
salt
pepper
Spread squash on baking pan and toss with a little olive oil to coat. Put in oven to roast at 400F for about 15 minutes, until it starts to sizzle and brown, but is not cooked completely through.
In a large cast iron skillet (or any large skillet, or sauce pan with low sides – the sides should be low to allow the liquid to evaporate), saute onion in a bit of olive oil until translucent (5 minutes). Remove from pan and set aside. Put mushrooms in pan with additional olive oil and sautee until golden. Remove from pan and set aside with onions.
Put uncooked barley into hot skillet and let brown for about a minute or two over medium heat. Add 1/2 C broth. Stir frequently until broth is absorbed, then add more broth in 1/2 cup increments and stir until absorbed. After about 15 or 20 minutes, you should have added 2 to 3 cups of the broth. Stir in one tablespoon cornstarch and about a teaspoon of dried parsley. At this point, add the butternut squash and continue stirring, adding more liquid (broth and juice/wine) until absorbed. This will take another 20 minutes or so of frequent stirring.  Occasionally taste the barley to see if it’s tender. If all the liquid has been added but the barley is not yet tender, add a little water.
When barley is tender, or just about, add the onions and mushrooms back in. Stir frequently until all liquid is absorbed and barley and squash are completely cooked. Before serving, stir in 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter and grated parmesan until thoroughly incorporated and melted.  At this point, season with salt and lots of pepper.  You do not want to add much salt before adding the cheese, because the cheese itself is very salty.  But lots of pepper is yummy.  Serve with additional grating of parmesan on top, if desired.

 

How to Iron Velvet – sorta

OK. I have no pictures for this one, but I have some advice on wrinkles and velvet.

I have this large piece of velvet that’s been sitting around, in a box, folded and super wrinkled. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with this velvet, but it was destined for something good. So when I finally decided what I was going to use it on (coming later), I had to figure out if I could get out the horrible wrinkles.

OK, I lied.  This post has one picture. Here is a picture of a chair I reupholstered with this same velvet (before I knew how to get rid of wrinkles).  IMG_0090

Apparently, one is not really supposed to iron velvet because it will RUIN IT! So here is my PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Every velvet may be different, so you MUST TEST THIS PROCESS ON AN EDGE OR SMALL SCRAP OF VELVET. Do not – do NOT – dive right in on the middle of an expensive piece of velvet – it might get ruined. So always test this.  Got it? Test on a scrap first.

First, I spread the velvet out on the carpet. I wanted to work on a carpet, because it’s softer than an ironing board and would reduce the risk that I would crush the nap of the velvet.

Second, I folded the velvet over on top of itself. The bottom layer was facing up, and the top layer was facing down (good side to good side, nap to nap).  Set the iron on the coolest setting that produces steam. Very lightly – barely putting any pressure on the fabric, run the iron lightly over the BACKSIDE (the side should be facing up) to get the wrinkles out.

Third, turn the velvet right side up. This step is just for problem areas because it could damage the fabric if you are not very careful. Do NOT touch the velvet nap with the iron at all – it will ruin it. Hold the iron just above the surface of the velvet, close enough so that the steam is hitting the nap, but the iron is not touching. After an area is steamed, let cool for a bit so that it’s not going to burn your hands, and then use your hands to smooth the nap and smooth out the wrinkles.

You may have to repeat these steps a few times. The key is patience so you don’t ruin your expensive velvet. But after a few goes, the fabric should be looking much better. Now, when you do your upholstery job, the wrinkles will smooth themselves out with enough stretching and time.

I cannot wait to share my next project with you.

Love,

Rachel

Valentine’s Cookie: Super Yummy Butter Cookie

Valentine’s Cookie: Super Yummy Butter Cookie

I have talked before about my love of Alice Waters and her lovely cookcook, The Art of Simple Food. No recipe in it has yet let me down. So why, oh why, did I wait so long to try her butter cookie recipe? What is wrong with me?

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This simple recipe will knock your socks off with its perfect buttery saltiness. And then you can change it up and add some raspberry jam, or a light powdered sugar glaze to decorate them. They will make your Valentine’s Day extra yummy.

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PS. This realization that everything in this cookbook is amazing means that I am now going to start cooking almost exclusively from this book, because YUM.


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Butter Cookie Recipe: Adapted from Alice Waters,’ The Art of Simple Food.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

2/3 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg, at room temperature

2 tsps milk

2.5 cups unbleached flour

Preheat over to 350F. Cream together butter and sugar. Then add vanilla, salt and egg.  Gradually add the flour, mixing until just combined. Divide into thirds, and shape into logs. Wrap in saran wrap, and chill until firm. Then slice into 1/4 inch slices, and place two inches apart on baking sheet.  (Even though the dough has no levening agent, the cookies do spread).  Or, instead of logs, divide the dough in half, and form round disks, wrap in saran warp and put in fridge until firm. Roll dough out to 1/4 thick and cut with cookie cutters. Place spaced out on cookie sheet.  Bake at 350F for 10 minutes, or until lightly golden.  Let cool on sheet for a bit. Feel free to frost or make jam-filled cookie sandwiches (my favorite).

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Rachel

 

 

Being Happy with Where I Am

Being Happy with Where I Am

January is definitely the month of self-improvement, or at least affirmations of self-improvement. I guess I’ve jumped on the bandwagon. This post will, therefore, be rather self-indulgent and fairly meander-y (because after a long day at work fighting bad guys, the last thing I want to do is write up an outline for a blog post).

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Something that I’ve been struggling with lately is feeling dissatisfied with what my apartment looks like, and letting that make me really depressed.  Yeah, it doesn’t look like a picture out of HGTV. And yeah, it’s a work in progress. And no, I still don’t have art for over the TV.  But what I want to focus on is not what is wrong with my apartment or what I want to change. Rather, I want to focus on what is working and try to find more ways to make moments that are working.

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On step I am taking in this direction is participating in Apartment Therapy’s January Cure.  So far, I am really digging it. It’s a realistic way for me to make progress on getting my apartment in shape, but not in a picture perfect way. Just in a normal people, with normal lives, trying to make their homes a little more beautiful.  After just scrubbing the crap out of my floors and vacuuming behind and underneath furniture I don’t usually move, plus adding fresh flowers, my apartment already feels a million times better. Who’d have thunk?

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Sort of in the vein of being happy with what I’ve done instead of focusing on what I want to do, I am sharing pictures of my bar area. I’m happy with how this “moment” in my apartment looks.  Everything in it was either thrifted, DIY, or is an heirloom.

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My GREAT GRANDMOTHER made that charcoal horse drawing. I’m obsessed. It’s still in the frame I got it in, because I’m scared that if I change the frame, the picture will disintegrate. This came into my life just at a time when I was really wanting more horse art, and the fact that it’s an heirloom (I have only one other real heirlooms), well that was awesome.

I painted the little owl painting, and blogged about it here.

I found the small deer antlers at Brooklyn Flea for $20.

I MADE both the deer and moose taxidermy. It’s papier mache, and I’m pretty stoked with how it came out. I will try to post a tutorial soon.

I got the dresser for $35 on craigslist and the distressing you see is REAL distressing because that’s exactly how the paint chipped just from being old. No faux distressing for me. I’m currently debating repainting it, but part of me loves the original paint finish.

Here’s this area all dolled up for the holidays, with a garland of pom poms and bells that I made (tutorial from A Beautiful Mess). IMG_0519

So I guess what I am trying to say is this: I’m going to be proud of myself when I am awesome, and go easier on myself for things that aren’t perfect. And keep my floors clean. ;)

Happy New Year, my dear readers! I am so glad you are on this journey with me.

Love,

Rachel

Painter’s Crush: Leila Jeffreys

Painter’s Crush: Leila Jeffreys

OK. She is technically not a painter, but since I have started this new bit on my blog called “Painter’s Crush” it just seemed easier to call this another part of that segment, even though she’s a photographer. Disclaimer over.
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I have another new painter’s crush: Leila Jeffreys. And yes, her artwork also features birds. Yes, I know I have a weird thing for animal art as shown by giraffe, blue rhino, and recent painter’s crush on Matt Adrian.

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Leila Jeffreys takes incredible photographs of birds up-close – mostly parrots. Then she makes them huge (like almost 3 by 4 feet). These birds are then basically human size, and are just stunning.  Jonathan Adler carries some of her work. Again, I cannot afford any of it, but I can covet it from afar (or from the safety of the internet).  What I wouldn’t give to hang that giant pink/white cockatoo (Matilda) in my apartment…

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To provide some context, here is one of her photos in a lovely Australian home. The scale is just perfect.

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So if anyone wants to get me a Christmas present, a really really nice extravagant Christmas present, you now know what I want. ;)

For the love of birds,

Rachel

 

 

DIY Christmas Ornaments

DIY Christmas Ornaments

I’m a little behind the rest of the blogosphere (but that’s nothing new) on Christmas decorations.  But, I made some new Christmas tree ornaments this year to supplement dinosaur Christmas from last year.

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These are super easy to make, and you could still make some this year before Christmas gets here. And you could probably take better pictures than I.

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I rolled out some sculpy to about 1/4 inch thick, cut it into desired shapes with cookie cutters. I made holes in the top to hang the ornaments by using a straw. Bake according to sculpy directions.  Once the ornaments were cooled, I spray painted the sculpy white and then decorated the ornaments with a gold paint pen and sharpies.

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So if you are feeling creative, place an order on amazon prime for sculpy and get out your favorite cookie cutter shapes.  Go to town!


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Merry Dinosaurus Christmas Redux!

Love,

Rachel

How to Make Your Own Menorah!

How to Make Your Own Menorah!

OK, I doubt I am the only Jew who is seriously disappointed by the Hanukah decor market.  I mean, TJ Maxx has had Christmas stuff since before Halloween, and has NOT ONE HANUKAH thing. Never mind that Hanukah is like a whole month earlier than Christmas. But I couldn’t even find some ugly blue and white cupcake liners, let alone a cool menorah (or any menorah for that matter).  Even on the interwebz, the selection of good, modern, interesting Hanukah stuff is really limited. With the exception of Jonathan Adler, who is making some rockin’ menorahs that I seriously cannot afford, the selection of stylish Jew-holiday decor is seriously lacking.

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Whining over.  I made my own menorahs. I found some inspiration on the internets and came up with a pretty cool idea. Some of you may remember Dinosaur Christmas from last year (I’m half Jewish, half Episcopalian). This is along those lines.

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I bought a set of jumbo plastic jungle animals on Amazon. Then, I drilled 9 holes in them, in the places where I would want the candles to go. I used Sculpy to make the little candle-cuppy things. I tried to buy the ones for birthday cakes, but I could not find them. My cuppies  are not very uniform, but they work well-enough and I didn’t have to spend any money because I already had the sculpy.

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Here’s a close up of the little cuppy things stuck into the holes that I drilled. I used some gorilla glue to help the cuppies stay in place.

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Then I spray painted these bad boys. Silver elephant. Gold giraffe. Awesome.

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I am so happy with how these turned out.  But, the candle wax pulls off the paint, so these may only be useful for one year. That’s OK though, because I am sure next year I will have another idea for making some DIY menorahs (and there are three more plastic animals that I haven’t spray painted yet. Gorilla menorah, anybody?).

IMG_0458More pictures.

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There is still time to whip up one of these bad boys before Hanukah this year.  So go get yourself from plastic animals. Do it.

Happy Hanukah!

Love,

Rachel

 

 

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