Monday, June 22, 2009

A Passion for Beads

I have always loved jewelry and the idea of decorating myself with accessories, which only naturally brought me to the discovery of beading and making beaded jewelry. I blogged in the past about a five part documentary series called World on a String, that I found to be fascinating on so many levels, because it really brought history, world cultures, art, and beading all together in one forum that gave it a much more rich meaning to me than ever before. My intrigue has been growing ever since and I have purchased (some in person, but mostly via internet) beads now from villages and towns all around the world: from China, Africa, the Philippines, Europe, and America. It is truly amazing what is being done with beads now adays and how important they are to so many people. So to further my understanding of the Art I am currently working on setting up a Lampworking studio, for making and creating my own beads. It is a beautiful art form, that is laced with mysticism. Why for so long, dating back to neanderthal man with bone and natural beads, have people adorned themselves with beads? So as I go through my trials and tribulations I will try and keep you all updated and hopefully I will be able to create some wonderful things, like these below.

Wined, Dined, and Swined this weekend in Des Moines

So this weekend we headed to Des Moines's Swine Fest. We packed up the car, truck, and trailor with six petite smoked suckling pigs, a smoker, bbq pit, chopping table, and all of our other ingredients and accoutrement's and headed to the self proclaimed greatest city in Iowa for a little cooking and fun. Swine fest is held at the Iowa Culinary Institute in Ankeny, Iowa, just 10 miles north of Des Moines and is a beautiful campus set right on a local lake. Everyone there was so pleasant and helpful, it hardly seemed like work at all, the wine drinking did help that too. We served smoked petite suckling pigs atop Jamaican festival cakes, topped with a banana chutney and a cilantro and green onion drizzle. The crowds seemed to like it, considering we did not stop serving food the entire time. Above is a picture from desmoine's where you can see me frying the festival cakes and Christian behind me serving up some swine. All in all it was a great experience (Iowa wines are much better than I expected) and we got to explore a little of Des Moines on Sunday, where I would highly recommend going to the original Miller High Life Lounge, fantastic dive bar decor that made me miss my old haunts of home.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Swine Fest... Where Cork Meets Pork... and I can't wait.

If you live in the midwest and don't have plans this weekend, maybe you might like to consider attending Swine Fest in Des Moines. The premier event where only ten Iowa restaurants and the best Iowa wineries put out a spread that represents two of the best things the midwest has going for them, great Pork and an immergent group of great wine makers. The midwest seems to just be catching on to the fact that they can grow about anything so you may not have heard of many of these wines yet, but just wait. I will personally be at the fest this weekend (working the Blue Mountain tent) and hope to meet and talk with lots of midwesterners about two of my favorite things, wine and food. If you are interested check out the website for swine fest to get more information about the location and what will be offered. Hope to see you there. Salut

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Answer to What's for Dinner

Recently my friend Mary, from the Yellow Door Paperie, asked me to submit a recipe for her new weekly post, "Dinnertime Again.'

I really like the idea, because I get to view recipes from other people with differing tastes and also learn a little something about the chef. If you would like to contribute a recipe you can click on this link to the yellow door paperie and view the details. Otherwise, just enjoy the recipes.

Monday, June 8, 2009

I'm A Winner

It's official. In the first Annual Blue Mountain Rhubarb festival, yours truly swept second place in two of the four categories, (I only entered two). In the savory dish competition I presented my pork and rhubarb egg rolls with rhubarb sweet and sour sauce. I really think the sauce was the winner. However, my favorite of the two categories was my drink. I am very proud to present to you winning recipe for

Strawberry-Rhubarb Ginger Lime-Aid


1 cup Strawberries
2 cups rhubarb stems- -peeled
1/2 cup and 4 tbs raw sugar- separated
5 limes
Ginger Ale


Juice in a juicer the strawberries and the peeled rhubarb stems. Pour the juices into a pot and add the sugar, bring to a boil and let reduce to more than half, at least until the liquid can coat the back of a spoon. Let cool and set aside. Next make the lime-aid by first creating a simple syrup by combining a 1/2 cup of sugar to 1/2 cup plus two tbs. of water in a pot and heating until the sugar dissolves in the water. After that transfer the simple syrup to a pitcher and add the lime juice to it. Next fill the pitcher with 6 cups of water and stir the mixture.

To assemble the drink. Get a tumbler or other cocktail glass and fill it with ice. Place 2 tbs of the strawberry-rhubarb syrup in the glass and then fill 3/4 with the lime-aid over that. Finish the drink with a topper of ginger ale and garnish with a strawberry and mint. Super refreshing and delicious. If you want to make this alcoholic, put a shot and a half of vodka in the glass after the syrup and proceed with the rest of the steps. Enjoy.

Uncle C.Q. and Time Couriers are featured on the Writing Porch

My favorite Uncle/ non Uncle C.Q. (Quint) was recently featured on the popular blog the writing porch after he was the recipient of the AmazonClicks Authors’ Choice Award for March 2009. In the interview J. Louise Larson asked C.Q. questions about his book, "Time Couriers", but mostly how he actually goes about writing and implementing his creative process. He gives great advice to emergent authors and also entails some of his favorite reading, which I am sure took some narrowing down. Click on the above link to read the interview in it's entirety and discover a little more about the fascinating and wonderful, C.Q. Scafidi.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Monk's House of Ale, Sioux Falls

I just want to keep my friends and family updated that I do, in fact, do more with my life than work, eat, sleep, and do yoga. Yesterday, Christian and I ventured to Sioux Falls to check out Monk's House of Ale, located at 420 E. 8th Street. Monk's was voted one of the top 100 places to have a beer in the country by Imbibe magazine and it did not disapoint. Besides, having what seems to be an endless supply of beers on tap and in the bottle, they have a great decked patio for enjoying the weather and a cold brew. An added plus, one of the bartenders has the most beautiful Great Danes ever that seems to be a steady patron, providing endless attention for those who love to pet. I tried the Mikkeller IPA in the bottle and I seriously think it is my new favorite beer. Great Find all around.

Bagels, Bagels, and more Bagels

So I know I live in a small town in Northwest Iowa now and have had to give up most, if not all, of the urban luxuries that I was used to, but I didn't think that that would mean giving up some of the simplest comforts. So I obviously knew that I would be giving up eating sushi, crawfish, poboys,crabs, etc... on a regular basis when moving to a small rural town in Iowa (which has been very difficult), but I never imagined that you wouldn't be able to find a good bagel. Now I am no New Yorker, but I love a good bagel and when I am craving a little breakfast with my coffee, that was always what I would get. We do have two coffee shops in town, no Starbucks for 60 miles, but decent coffee shops, however the breakfast items on their menus just have not met the mark. And None of them, not a one, offers bagels, and since our Bakery in town thinks that Doughnuts and cookies are the only things that constitute as a baked good, I have pretty much been out of luck.

So the number one thing that I have learned since I moved here, if you want and miss a comfort from home you are either going to have to make it or create or yourself, because you aren't going to find it around here. This lead me to the great Bagel recipe hunt. I have tried now five different recipes for bagels, endlessly forcing my boyfriend, friends and coworkers to try them and tell me their thoughts. Their consensus- "They are all good"- just was not going to cut it for me. So this last recipe I tried finally met my expectations and I think I have discovered Bagel gold. The Key or the missing link from the rest of the bagel recipes, Barley Malt Syrup. I don't know what it is about the Barley Malt Syrup, but it gives the outside of the bagel the perfect tough chewy crust, but keeps the inside light, dense, and delicious (perfect saltiness too). I am not going to stop making bagels, but I am now going to stop looking for recipes, because I have found the one. Grab some Schmear and try making these for yourself.

Game plan
: The bagels are best when eaten within an hour but are pretty darn good for 2 or 3 days. They’ll keep well in a cotton or paper bag, and will need a quick warming or toasting before being consumed. They also freeze well: Once they’ve cooled completely, slice them and store them in a freezer bag for up to a month.



* 1 1/2 cups tepid water (105°F to 110°F) plus 1 tablespoon for the egg wash
* 1 (1/4-ounce) packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
* 4 cups bread flour
* 2 tablespoons malt syrup
* 2 tablespoons kosher salt
* 4 teaspoons granulated sugar
* 1 large egg white
* Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or coarse salt for topping


1. Place 1 1/2 cups of the tepid water in a bowl and dissolve the yeast completely; set aside. Combine flour, malt syrup, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Add yeast mixture, scraping any undissolved yeast out of the bowl with a spatula.
2. Mix on low until most of the loose flour has been worked into the dough and the dough looks shredded, about 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium low and continue mixing until the dough is stiff, smooth, and elastic, about 8 to 9 minutes more. (If the dough gets stuck on the hook or splits into 2 pieces, stop the machine, scrape off the hook, and mash the dough back into the bottom of the bowl.) The dough should be dry, not tacky or sticky, and somewhat stiff.
3. Shape the dough into a ball, place it in a large oiled bowl, and turn it to coat in oil. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let the dough rise in a warm place, until it is noticeably puffy and springs back when you poke it, about 20 minutes. (The dough will not double in size.)
4. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 425°F and arrange the rack in the middle. Fill a large, wide, shallow pan (about 3 to 6 quarts) with water, bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium low and let simmer. Cover until you’re ready to boil the bagels. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper greased with oil or cooking spray. Place a metal rack inside of a second baking sheet and set aside.
5. Turn the risen dough out onto a dry surface. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces, about 3 ounces each. (While you work, keep the dough you’re not handling covered with a damp towel to prevent drying.) Roll each piece into a 9-inch-long rope, lightly moisten the ends with water, overlap the ends by about 1 inch, and press to join so you’ve created a bagel. As necessary, widen the hole in the middle so it is approximately the size of a quarter. Cover the shaped bagels with a damp towel and let rest 10 minutes.
6. After resting, stretch the dough to retain the quarter-size hole (the dough will have risen a bit) and boil the bagels 3 or 4 at a time, making sure they have room to bob around. Cook for about 30 seconds on each side until the bagels have a shriveled look, then remove to the baking sheet with the rack in it. Adjust heat as necessary so the water stays at a simmer.
7. Whisk together the remaining 1 tablespoon water and the egg white until evenly combined. Brush the egg wash all over the bagels, then sprinkle as desired with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, or coarse salt. Arrange the bagels on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper about 1 inch apart and bake. Rotate the pan after 15 minutes and bake until the bagels are a deep caramel color and have formed a crust on the bottom and top, about 10 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes so the interiors finish cooking and the crusts form a chewy exterior.