The Colors Of Winter

I sat looking out my studio window watching the robins gobble the last remaining red berries from my yard, wondering why I placed a Peanut Blossom, such a sunny cookie,  in a decidedly cool background. But watching the last speck of red in my yard disappear down the gullet of one happy robin, it dawned on me: it’s the color of winter.

And when I visit the market in the winter, both the farmers outdoor markets and my local co-op, doing my best to support our local farmers by passing by the bright red hydroponic tomatoes from North of the border, and the bright green scallions from South of the Border, what remains is a very muted winter palette of color. There are the root vegetables such as  carrots, potatoes,  parsnips  and beets. These earthy colors are punctuated here and there by onions, squash, and apples.

But what I was really dreaming about in the middle of continual gray, was a nice bright salad. That left me one choice. Construct a salad with all the colors that winter has to offer, and brighten the taste with a vinaigrette. Its ‘The Colors Of Winter Salad’!

The Colors Of Winter Salad

Use any root vegetable that appeals to you. In this salad I used red, russet, and purple potatoes; golden beets; parsnips; onions; carrots; and squash. I also used apples in the dressing and as a finish to the salad for added crunch!

Roasting veggies: use the veggies of your choice,  just cut them all approximately the same size for even roasting.

Preheat oven to 400°

1 lb.  each purple, russet, and red potatoes scrubbed and cut into 1 inch pieces.
1 1/2 lb. carrots  scrubbed, cut into 1″ pieces on the diagonal
1 1/2 lbs parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 lb. beets, whole (I used golden beets to avoid staining the other veggies)
1 small onion, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
1 lb.  hard winter squash (Butternut, Delicata, Danish etc.) peeled and cut into 1-1/2″ pieces
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh Rosemary coarsely chopped.

Toss all ingredients, in a medium bowl.

Place all ingredients, except beets, in a half or baking sheet, and roast until barely fork tender, 20-30 min.

Wrap whole beets separately in foil, and roast approx 40-50 min.

To assemble:

1  large apple, large diced skin on
Apple dressing: recipe follows ( uses an additional 1/2 apple)
Crumbled gorgonzola as garnish optional.


Cut cooled, peeled beets into 1″ pieces.

Toss all veggies  and diced apple in a medium bowl.

Add dressing to taste: I like this ‘lightly’ dressed, adding about 2 tablespoons.

Serve at room temp.

Apple Dressing:

Makes 1 cup.

You won’t use all of this in the salad, but it’s so good you will use up in no time!

2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons grated shallot
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup finely chopped apple ( approx 1/2 medium apple)

Pulse a few times in cuisinart or with immersion blender.

Stores for 5 days in fridge.

Loving Agnes Martin And Other Favorite Things

I never do resolutions for the New Year. I do have a New Year tradition however, that I call ‘Reviewing’. Reviewing is a visit to the past year’s favorites. ‘Favorites’ can be places; people; things;  or events. And favorites can be new or old!

I  just sit down and make a list. In very short order I have filled a legal sized sheet of paper. With so many memorable ‘Favorites’, I can’t help but look forward to what’s in store for the New Year!

Here are four of my ‘Favorites’ from this years list. Three are repeats, and one is new.

Grandma Goldie’s Snack Mix:


It just wouldn’t be the holidays without this one of a kind, stellar snack! It is a yearly gift from our friend Linda.  Without a doubt this is the best snack mix recipe I have ever tasted. It has the perfect spice, salt, sweet and texture balance. It has been passed down to Linda so that she may carry on Grandma Goldie’s very secret recipe!

Diva Tool:

I love this new favorite gift I received from friends this year. It’s 5 tools in one, WITH rhinestones!

The handle contains 4 different attachments. I am already using this one one in The Cardboard Kitchen. And guess what?  It does make you feel like a Diva!

Agnes Martin:

Agnes Martin makes my list every year. I find her life and work inspirational. I absolutely love getting lost in her fields of color and line.

Several times a year I revisit her work and writing. One of my favorite text’s is a 1979 lecture she prepared for the University Of New Mexico that was then revised and published in Artspace, entitled  “The Current Of The River Of Life Moves Us”.

Pierre (Bonnard) And Henri (Matisse):

Affectionately referred to as ‘my boys’, Pierre and Henri  definitely make me happy every day, and they make my list every year!

And they are so artistic. Look how they  arrange themselves to form their own graphic patterns of blacks, grays and whites. I think they discuss the artistic merits of how to position themselves before they get comfortable.

Don’t you agree this is a much better tradition than resolutions? May you all look forward to 2011!

Peace In A Cookie?

While pondering my last post of the year, I decided to explore the “Peace” cookie. Oh, if only baking would make it so. But, what if we ALL made Peace cookies around holiday time?

After a busy holiday season when we are all through with this:

(Cooking and baking in The Cardboard Kitchen!)

and this:

(Painting ‘Seafood” in The Cardboard Kitchen!)

let’s say we all bake for Peace.

The Peace cookie has many variations. As I began to research all the recipes that came up during my web searches, I reduced it down to four distinct recipe themes.  These range from a Croatian filled pastry; the Dorie Greenspan Chocolate version including a vegan recipe of this now famous cookie; a cookie that uses healthy ingredients; and a sugar cookie with a lovely royal icing Peace decoration.

But really, Peace cookies do not have to be any one of these ‘sanctioned’ cookies. I believe if you think Peace while baking, than whatever you are baking magically becomes an ambassador of Peace. I shall try one of the following recipes in the coming month, and let you all know how it went! Until then, here are the links to the cookies described above.

Croatian Peace Cookies

Dorie Greenspan’s World Peace Cookies

World Peace Cookies For Vegans by Cinnamon Quill

Healthy Ingredients Peace Cookies

Decorated Sugar Cookie

So choose a recipe, and bake for Peace!

Wishing you a Peaceful 2011!

Have A Happy Red, White And Chocolate Holiday!

At Art On The Menu it’s been holiday baking time for the past 6 weeks. My approach is eclectic a best.  I look through my books, cookie magazines, and recipes. What jumps out, goes on the list.

This year it was 2 bar cookies; one sliced cookie; one rolled  cut out cookie, and the peppermint and chocolate graham cracker cookie bar my niece and nephew love. Because I make this cookie every year for them, it almost defines my holiday baking.

I am also crazy about the way this cookie looks. Dark chocolate is the perfect backdrop for red and white peppermint. And since I love everything vintage, to my eye these bars are reminiscent of a 40’s cocktail dress: dark brown velvet worn with red and white rhinestones that sparkle against the velvety chocolate color!

This cookie is easy, elegant, and everybody loves them. If you don’t already have a version of this recipe, it’s my holiday gift to you!

Happy Holidays!

Chocolate Peppermint Cookie Bars

Makes 48

Preheat oven to 350°

Line a regular cookie sheet (11″ wide, not a  1/2 sheet), with foil and coat lightly with cooking spray.

12-16 graham crackers
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 package chocolate chips
1 package Peppermint Star Lights, unwrapped, crushed

Line  baking sheet with Graham crackers, breaking as needed to fill gaps. Approx 12 – 16 graham crackers.

Boil butter and brown sugar, stirring constantly, for 2 min.

Add 1/2 tsp salt.

Stir in salt.

Immediately pour over graham crackers, spread to cover.

Bake for 7 min. only.

Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips.

Wait 5 min until chips soften.

Spread chocolate.

Sprinkle with crushed peppermint.

Cut into bars.

Freezes well.

An Artful Tradition

Look at this gorgeous Tree!

Most of us have a seasonal decorating tradition, but let me introduce you to Danielle. She is not only an accomplished artist, but also a dedicated art collector.

Since 2003 Danielle has been collecting art for her 12′ Tree, and she spends months carefully  placing and arranging the art on the branches. I think you’ll agree, this creative conifer really is an ever changing work of art!

Danielle graciously told me about the process of creating this visionary Tree in the interview that follows.

aotm: I see your spectacular Tree as an ongoing work of art! How long have you been creating your ” Tree Of Art”?

D: “I’ve been putting up a Christmas tree with the most interesting store bought ornaments I could find since I was sixteen.  Even then, arranging the ornaments always felt like an Art project to me.  I started the “Artist” tree in 2003 when I first learned to use the computer at age thirty-eight (I KNOW!!!!) and discovered Ebay and it’s Artists, followed by Etsy and it’s Artists in 2005.”

aotm: What inspired this vision?

D: “I LOVE ART!!!!  Especially sculpture of any medium. But I like to live in simple, clean lines without a lot of stuff ( think gallery space).  So I thought “how can I enjoy hordes of art at once within my simple space?” And I came up with using our 12′ Christmas tree where there’s plenty of space for art and it stays up for 3 or 4 months for everyones enjoyment:):)”

aotm: Tell us how you choose the pieces in your collection.

D: “I choose what I feel are the most interesting and well made of every medium ( glass, paper, wood, clay, fabric etc.). I have a thing for kooky expressions, creepy/cute & I’m currently obsessed with food sculpture.  Also, if I see a larger piece of Artwork that I like, I’ll ask the Artist if they’d like to recreate it smaller for the tree.”

aotm: I know you are an artist yourself, and create Art Dolls. Are any of your own pieces on your tree?

D: “I’ve been working on a series of “sideshow” figures since 2003.  Since I do them in my spare time, they may never be complete, LOL, so until then I’ve displayed a couple of the finished pieces on the tree.  So far, the “large” lady, the “little” lady, the “upper torso only” lady, the armless lady, the pinhead guy and the gender confused “half man, half woman” have all made an appearance on the tree.”

aotm: You have told me it takes months of careful arranging and modifying before your Tree is ready for viewing. Can you describe this process?

D: “Hmm, do I want people to know how crazy and anal I really am (LOL!)??  In a nutshell, it takes four days to assemble the 12′ artificial tree, spread the branches and lift each branch into place with a small piece of plastic.  Fifteen minutes to move the living room furniture to the perimeter of the room.  Three hours to set up two 8′, two 6′ and two 4′ tables, tape cardboard around the edges ( so the Art can’t fall off ), and cover with acid free tissue paper.  One hour to bring out the 15 boxes of Art.  Two days to unpack all the art & place on the tables according to medium.  And six to eight weeks (depending on the amount of time I can devote to it per day) to stand 3 to 5′ away from the tree holding a piece of art at arms length, deciding where it would look the best.  I try to mix up the mediums and colors to make the overall effect fun and pleasing to the eye!!!”

aotm: Wow! That really is dedication to art! As one of the many artists represented on this creative Tree Of Art, I can only say I am very honored to be a part of this fantastic and beautiful vision Danielle! Thank You!

All photographs courtesy of Danielle S.

Mock Salmon

We’ve had enough turkey talk, so lets talk salmon. This amazing fish has quite a place in history. Salmon lore crosses cultures from Native American to Druids, with the traditions of preparing this fish spanning from grilled to gravlax.  And of course, there is the color.

No matter what we are describing, umbrellas or dishes, if it’s this color we refer to it as ‘salmon’ colored.

I am in the ‘oh so early’ process of preparing salmon in The Cardboard Kitchen. No grilling or gravlax with this version. This salmon will be baked whole.

Part of this early process includes painting subjects before I construct them in cardboard. This gives me a feel for the form.

So how do I plan to translate this intricate, beautiful and complicated fish form from this pile of cardboard:

into this fluid, shimmering shape?

I couldn’t guess right now!

Are Pumpkins Edible?

It’s beloved, but not for eating.  Although it’s delicious roasted; pureed; baked in

bread and pastries or stuffed in ravioli; mostly it’s a centerpiece.  And the final

degradation is on Halloween, when it’s carved and left to slowly sag as it rots away

on porches around the country.  Where the pumpkin is concerned, few people are.

So,  for my November recipe  I decided I would lift this squash out of it’s lowly

position.  I envisioned a cookie that was as round, beautiful, and stand alone as the

pumpkin. No drop cookies here.

I went to work mining my ‘too’ vast collections of  filed recipes, cookie magazines,

and cookbooks.

I was so excited when I finally found one. It was called Pumpkin-Spiced Balls. But

carrying on the tradition of the pumpkin as decoration, the pumpkin in the name of

this cookie did not refer to the squash. This cookie is beautiful and round, but no

pumpkin. How appropriate!

Oh well, there is always next year’s pumpkin cookie blog at Thanksgiving.  Until

then, I will keep looking.

Pumpkin-Spiced Balls

Preheat oven to 325°

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped, toasted pecans

Pumpkin-Spiced Glaze ( follows)

Beat butter on medium to high for 30 seconds.

Beat in powdered sugar and vanilla until combined, scraping down the bowl if

necessary.

Beat in pumpkin pie spice and as much flour as you can with the stand  or electric

mixer. Stir in any remaining flour, and pecans.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place 2″ apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 16-20 min or until bottoms are lightly browned. (If using parchment, bake longer).

Transfer to wire rack and cool completely.

Pumpkin-Spiced Glaze

3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp cinnamon
3-4 tsps cream or milk

Combine powdered sugar, and spices in a bowl.

Stir in enough milk to make the glaze the desired consistency.

Dip the tops of the cooled cookies, place on wire rack, and let stand until set.

Makes about 48.

To freeze: place cookies in layers separated by waxed paper in an airtight container. Freeze up to 3 months.

Adapted from Better Homes And Gardens Christmas Cookies.

A Morning At Art On The Menu

9 Am:

It’s cold today, and pouring rain, but I have to get to the post office to ship commissions.  Living in the city has advantages. I live within close proximity to several post offices. But I do have a favorite: it has a large tree lined parking lot. Here, I can juggle as many boxes as I like without having to worry about opening my car door into traffic or dodging cars with my arms full.  I could have the packages picked up as a time saver, but I prefer to personally “see them off”.

9:30 AM

After leaving the post office, I visit one of my regular recycle bins. It’s parked outside of an art supply store. I choose my cardboard carefully, and it has to be clean (no food containers in the bins). The cardboard from the art supply recycle is clean and sturdy since it’s used to ship delicate supplies. Because it’s strong, I like it for armatures, and monochromatic cardboard colored pieces like this  cupcake.

10 AM

Back at the studio. Immediately I cut up the boxes, keeping only the cleanest pieces. I then pencil the source of the box ( ie: Random House) on the sections, so I can accurately inform buyers of the ‘ingredients’ included in their purchase. All of the pieces from ‘The Cardboard Kitchen’ include an ingredients tag which lists the major sources of cardboard in each sculpture.

10:30 AM

At last I return to the organized chaos of the studio, and begin all over again. At least it’s warm and dry!

Oysters

Why do I find oysters attractive as a subject. I have no doubt it is all the multi- hued layers of shell they build up throughout their lives. Layering is definitely a theme:  in the studio I layer paint; in ‘The Cardboard Kitchen’ I layer cardboard such as this Napoleon I constructed;  and in the ‘real’ kitchen as in this layered  strudel.

In ‘The Cardboard Kitchen’ I am still working out the construction details of the outer shell and the oyster inside. Although these are my first 100% recycled cardboard oysters, I know that as long as I have just the right cardboard box to complete the process, oysters will  soon be on the menu in ‘The Cardboard Kitchen’.

Mushroom Madness

My recipe this month had to include mushrooms as the star ingredient. We had a spectacular mushroom season in the PNW. Remember the Caterpillar’s advice to Alice in “Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland”.  I concluded he was referring to the ‘heightening’ powers of all that flavor, color and texture!

I decided to share one of my favorite Fall recipes: Mushroom and Butternut Squash Strudel.

I’m sure I love making strudel’s and working with Fillo dough because it’s similar to constructing with cardboard. There are parts to assemble, gluing with butter is always fun (!), and there is great satisfaction when you complete the process. Only in this case, it’s edible.

The sweetness and orange gold color of the squash is a perfect counterpoint to the muted earthy palette and flavor of the sauteed mushrooms. And, it’s all wrapped up in the magic of Fillo. I am sure the Caterpillar would have mentioned the magical properties of Fillo if he was not only a Hooka smoker, but also a cook.

Mushroom and Butternut Squash Strudel

3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onions

1 pound fresh mushrooms ( cremini, shitkake, porcini, chanterelle, or white button or a mix) cleaned, and any tough stems removed, sliced
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 cloves minced garlic

1 pound butternut squash,  roasted ( olive oil, salt, pepper, a little brown sugar),  and medium diced.* ( You can do this days ahead)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried thyme
2 Tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup grated mozzarella
1/4 cup panko ( or plain bread crumbs)

Salt and pepper to taste
8 sheets Fillo thawed
1/4-1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

Pour the olive oil into a large saute pan over medium heat. When hot add the onions and celery, and stir until limp.

Add the mushrooms and garlic, and saute until mushrooms are brown and any liquid is evaporated.  Remove from heat and stir in  butter until melted, and butternut squash.

Stir in remaining 5 ingredients, and salt and pepper to taste.

On a 12 x 24″ piece of plastic, lay one Fillo sheet flat ( cover remaining sheets with  plastic wrap to prevent drying).

Brush lightly with melted butter. Top with another sheet . Brush lightly with more butter. Repeat to stack all sheets.

Spread mushroom mixture in a 3″ wide band along one long side of the dough, keeping 2″ from the edges. Fold the  long edge, and the short edges of the dough over the filling. Gently lift the plastic wrap over the filled side, guiding it forward to form a roll. End with the seam side down.

Gently transfer the roll, seam side down, to a buttered baking sheet.

Brush top with melted butter. (I decorate with Fillo triangles, and brush with more

butter.)

Bake on the center rack  until golden brown 25 – 35 min. Cool to warm. Cut into 2″ slices.

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