Risotto-Spinach Salad (or with orzo)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I love spinach. In almost any form, in [almost] any dish.

So when I was researching the other day WHAT to do with the half-container of orzo that made the move with us, and found this recipe--ding ding ding!

this recipe not only sounded perfect for summer, but contains the blessed SPINACH.

I made this for a get-together the other night with orzo, and it was wonderful. Our neighborhood Kroger did not carry orzo, and being in a hurry, I picked up this Arborio Rice instead (risotto practically...right?).

I found it to be tasty and really easy to assemble, so here ya go:

All of the basic ingredients:

A word on pine nuts: yes, they aren't the cheapest nut on the block. But boy howdy, are they a good complement to this dish. Don't skimp. The small package was on sale at Kroger.

Dice up the whole bag o' spinach and half an onion:

Pour half the container of Arborio rice into boiling salted water and cook for 20 minutes, al dente (orzo takes about 10 minutes).

Then you drain and rinse with cool water.

[action shot!]

Top the spinach with the warm risotto and stir, which will cook/wilt the spinach a little.

Then top with the fixins: feta and pine nuts.


Next comes everyone's favorite couple, oil & vinegar:


C'est tout!

Let it chill in the fridge.

Spinach and Orzo-or-Risotto Salad


1 (16 ounce) package uncooked orzo pasta (or risotto)
1 (10 ounce) package baby spinach leaves, finely chopped
1/2 pound crumbled feta cheese (I used the whole container pictured)
1/2 red onion, finely chopped (had 1/2 a vidalia onion left, worked fine)
3/4 cup pine nuts (small package from Kroger worked great)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add orzo and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente [risotto takes 20 minutes]; drain and rinse with cold water. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in spinach, feta, onion, pine nuts, basil and white pepper. Toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Refrigerate and serve cold.

A word on orzo vs. risotto: the risotto is heartier. sometimes I like that. you know? Depends on what's available/what you're in the mood for.

*Another note: I think I prefer the risotto version lukewarm/warm, not chilled. Orzo is better chilled/lukewarm.

Food is what makes summer a little more bearable.

And the fact that Eclipse comes out soon.

I don't believe in ESP...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

but this is weird.

Yesterday, I went to my Granny's to pick up a pillow she made for me.

I picked out/bought the fabric and took it to her with the pillow insert and cording.

[At two months shy of 90 years old, she's still tearing it up with projects: sewing, knitting, etc.]

LOVED how it turned out (in fact, she said there's enough fabric left for another one):

[crummy phone pic I sent to my sissy after picking it up]

Then, lo and behold, look what pops up on design*sponge today, the holy grail of design blogs:

THE VERY NEXT DAY! Same fabric! Weird, right?

I got this fabric at Jo-Ann...I think it's their own brand, can't remember the name.


stationery vs. stationary: apparently i was onto something...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Remember this post?

Now this clarification is available in tote bag form:

for purchase here, found via here.



Friday, June 18, 2010

When I saw these little cucumbers at the Farmers Market this past Saturday, it was destiny.

Darby had just posted about making pickles, so when I saw these little darlings at the Market, they were too cute to pass up.

Plus, I had plenty of little Ball jars left over from the Christmas Butter Bonanza of '09.

With only four cucumbers, I was nervous it was going to be a challenge to figure out the proportions of everything correctly.

So here goes.

Sliced these guys up nice 'n thin (especially since this was all I had).

Here's the ole "workstation" if you will, with peonies leftover from a catering event I worked:

[What's prettier than peonies? ...not much.]

Then I sliced half a vidalia onion, and tried to make the slices very thin and nice.

You put the onions in the bottom of the jars first, then pack the top with the cucumber slices.

After this, you start cooking the juices on the stove.

[This is the part where I momentarily forgot we now have a gas stove, and I forgot to actually light it with the little clicks, so I stirred this pot for a good four minutes before realizing there was no heat. Nice.]

After you pack in the cucumbers and onions, but before you cover with the liquid, top with dill (I didn't have fresh, just dried, oops).

Ladle over the juices once the sugar has dissolved, and let em sit in the fridge for 24 hours, uncovered (I took the grapes out of the refrigerator so they wouldn't smell like vinegar, don't worry).

After 24 hours, you can cover them.

After covering them (and because I couldn't wait any longer) I gave the little jars a nice little shake and a nice little pep talk--then opened 'em up...

It worked!


Now that they've sat in the fridge covered for another day, they've REALLY absorbed the flavor.


Slightly-But-Not-Too-Sweet Refrigerator Pickles

adapted from Darby's recipe

4 cute cucumbers (from a local farmer to boot!)
1/2 small vidalia onion
1/4 tsp dried dill on top of each jar (before liquid poured on top)
1 tsp dry yellow mustard
1 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 c apple cider vinegar (or a splash more)
1/2 c water
1/2 c sugar
1 1/2 T kosher salt
1 t dill seeds

Divide sliced onion between jars and pack cucumbers on top. Sprinkle dried dill on each jar.

Place crushed spices in medium saucepan. Add vinegar, water, sugar, salt, dill seeds. Bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.

Ladle mixture evenly over cucumbers. Leave jars uncovered and chill 24 hours. Cover with lids, keep refrigerated.

So easy and SO delish. If you try them yourself, I wouldn't stress too much about the amounts of everything, just as long as you have enough liquid to cover them.

Next time, I'll use bigger jars!

A little of this...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

In the midst of the mess...

Been actually studying [gasp]:

[I passed today! I'm gonna have my real estate license!]

Last night: Sister & I hung up some stuff on the walls (it feels like we really live here!).

And you can see our yellow-painted kitchen (Good Vibrations by Benjamin Moore).

I'm still not sold on it. Maybe it's the cabinet color (DEF not sold on that one, eesh), or the crazy lighting (at night, it's terrible). Blerg. What's a girl to do? [hang stuff on the walls and shut up, I guess?]

Some English geekery for you: while unpacking, I found this poem I typed and framed right after we got married... one of my very favorites, "Pied Beauty" by Gerard Manley Hopkins. [full poem here]

Thank you Mrs Ray and senior English...it currently resides in my tiny bathroom and I read it while drying my hair. Read it. C'mon, you can do it. You'll have happy thoughts.

to come: pickles!

It's Hot so I Made a Smoothie

Sunday, June 13, 2010

My life right now can be summed up by this photo:

and this:

It seems that no matter how much progress we make, it's still just a blessed mess.

And it's blessed HOT. Which is why I took those pictures walking around the house in a sports bra drinking a smoothie the size of my head.

I know I just wrote about not wanting to want things.

Which is definitely still true. And thank you for the solid feedback and accountability from that post.

...[sheepishly] But can I just tell you one thing that would be nice to have someday?

Some rugs, or even one rug, a rug. A nice, big, pretty, cushy rug.

Hardwood floors are definitely nice (nice to look at mostly?) but they're probably nicer when you have some rugs over 'em, right? Can I get an amen?

It has never been a secret that hot weather makes me crazy.

Thoughts on Home

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

As the entire world now knows, we moved about a month ago.

Like any human/American/female, I find myself very driven to have a "cute" house, decorated in good taste, while still being comfortable, current, and creative (those 3 Cs were an accident).

When you move from a modest-sized townhome into a house with a yard, there seem to be a never-ending list of things that one must acquire. Like a good/better broom. A garden hose. More window cleaner. A sturdy and good-looking kitchen trash can. These kinds of less-glamorous things.

Then there's the fun stuff: picking paint colors, window treatments, daydreaming about new furniture, kitchen accessories, a (hopefully) potential laundry room creation. I've been all abuzz in my head: "Oh, we gotta look for a grill...we gotta plan our landscaping...we gotta do this, this, this."

Please understand that not all of these projects/acquisitions have we nor do we expect to conquer right off the bat...ie, our landscape plan (currently) is long-term at best. Our home has nary a window treatment or framed item yet hung on the wall.

I'm just saying that my mind has been going a mile a minute.

While this is fun, no doubt, it has gotten me thinking about the kind of home I want to create with Jonathan.

Do I want to constantly feel that my home is "unfinished" ?

No. (Homes never are, right?)

Do I want to always be on the hunt for the next thing that will really take our house "there"---wherever the nebulous [and lame-sounding] "there" is?

No. That kind of rush for the next-best-thing is of this world and is not of God.

I do think that the Lord gives people a joy in working with His creation...some people really have a knack for picking out dining room furniture, refinishing side tables, or designing fabric. I don't think that it's wrong to have fun with those types of projects.

But I don't want to turn my home into it's-never-enough-so-I-lust-after-the-next-best-thing project. Because that is NOT right.

So when does it turn into an idol? (And is that what I'm trying to say?)

I guess this is just an attempt at accountability---not that the blogosphere has necessarily created this uber-comparing-each-other's-home-design culture, but blogs definitely have enhanced the accessibility of comparing yourself and your stuff to other people. At least for me. And I don't want to be like that.

And I want to apologize if this blog ever has or ever does turn into a "look at my stuff" blog. Yuck.

Because, at the [literal] end of the day, it's me and my husband (and kitty) in our home, enjoying each other's company and striving to learn more about Jesus in our little corner of the world. That is home, right? Preparing for the future one?

How do you strike this delicate balance and not get carried away?

Blackberry Muffins

Monday, June 07, 2010

I have a historical bad habit of trying to bake recipes "healthier" ; ie, egg beaters, low-fat butter (one time I even used fat-free spray butter in chocolate chip cookies--yikes!), all whole-wheat flour, skim milk, etc. One would think after all the mishaps that I'd learn my lesson.

Well. No.

But this time, it was largely successful.

Saw this Joy the Baker recipe for Black Raspberry Muffins, and I had to give it the ole "healthy" adaptation try.

Also, I was drawn to this recipe because it makes exactly 12 standard muffins. The one pan-ness was intriguing.

Blackberry Muffins
adapted from Joy the Baker

makes 12 standard-size muffins

1/4 stick (6 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, 1/2 stick I Can't Believe It's Not Butter (the baking stick)

1/3 cup whole milk

Egg Beaters, equivalent of 2 eggs

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups blackberries (got mine at the Memphis Farmer's Market, fresh from the orchard!)

Put a rack in the upper third of oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Spray muffin cups (but if using paper cupcake liners, you don’t have to grease the muffin pan).

Melt butter in a small saucepan over moderately low heat; remove from heat. Whisk in milk, egg, yolk, and vanilla until well combined.

Combine together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add milk mixture and stir until just combined. Gently but thoroughly fold in the berries.

Divide the batter among muffin cups and spread evenly. Bake until golden and toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 18-20 minutes. Cool in pan of a rack for 15 minutes, then run a knife around edges of muffin tops and carefully remove from cups. (I used paper cupcake liners, and didn’t have to grease the pan.)

Good served warm with butter, or room temp.

When I make these again, I will probably sprinkle some sugar on the tops before baking to give them a little more sweetness.

Also, I need to do some research on the I Can't Believe It's Not Butter baking sticks...probably a little suspect. Will probably suck it up and use real butter next time because you really can't fake butter.

I wouldn't skimp on the whole milk either. Pie Week definitely taught me that whole milk in baking is pretty crucial. [Also if you spend any time looking at PW's baking recipes, she's a big whole milk user too. Make you feel more validated?]

Overall review:
they're a good summertime/post-Farmer's Market/Saturday morning/doesn't-make-you-feel-too-terrible-about-yourself-after-you-eat-a-couple-(or more)-of-them baked good.

Painted Dresser, Numero Deux

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Last summer, we painted this thrift-store dresser for the guest room.

It is admittedly girly. I will not tell a lie.

So, when we procured this dresser from our friends, the Reasons, and were planning its makeover, we decided to go down little manlier road.

[this is the best before shot I've got, sorry]

Enter glossy black paint, with some grey accents (Behr's "Anonymous" also used on the other dresser).

Red likes to watch Jonny paint:

Thankfully, we found the hardware at Ikea this past weekend in Texas. The drill holes are spaced a little over 5" apart, which are not easy to come by at Lowe's/HD.

Not styled/in use yet, but here ya go:

Look at that shine! We're gonna get a piece of glass cut for the top. I'll give you the whole shebang when that room is done (which, most likely, won't be for a while).

Yay! Another project [sorta] finished.

And, a parting gift for you:
[term courtesy of my clever spouse]

"Owl-oe Vera"

you're welcome.

We're Back

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

We went to Texas over Memorial Day to visit family and had a marvelous time.

Alas, we're glad to be home with this little guy...

I think he is too (look at that tail wagging).

TWO completed projects coming atcha soon...
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