Sunday, November 25, 2012

Creative Inspiration in Philadelphia

Bread at Di Bruno Bros House of Cheese

I love getting out to visit places to spark my creativity.  We took a little trip to Philadelphia the weekend after Thanksgiving and here are some photos of my old favorite places and a few new ones that have me itching to do some creating.  I love to visit the Italian Market to gather ingredients and equipment for culinary exploration.  Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese is an experience not to be missed.  The aroma is intoxicating, and every ingredient you need to create an Italian culinary masterpiece can be found here.  They will give you a sample of any cheese or cured meat you like.  It's crowded but orderly as people shout their orders to the staff and it's a delight to walk out with your treasure wrapped in butcher paper just like I remember when shopping with my grandmother years ago.

Cheeses, pickled vegetables and olives on display at Di Bruno Bros.

Outside on the streets of the market, you will find every kind of produce you could want.   I also always make a stop at Fante's Kitchen Store for any kitchen gadget or equipment one might ever need or not even know you need until you see it there.  It's worth battling the crowds just to stare at the displays of gadgets and cookware which gets me daydreaming about whipping up something tasty.

 Produce for sale at the Italian Market

My trips to Philly always include a stop to browse in the quirky boutiques along South Street with a visit to the Philly AIDS Thrift Shop a must. There are always unique treasures to be discovered and the proceeds go to a good cause.  I scored these practical, but funky ballet flats for $4.

Thrift tore find

Also in the South Street area is the Magic Garden which, at this time, is the largest public mosaic installation in the world. The longer you look, the more interesting things you find embedded in the artwork.  Maybe I can make something for my garden with the fun colored bottles I've collected.

 Magic Garden entrance

Mosaic detail in the Magic Garden 

A great place to get a bite to eat is the Reading Terminal Market.  You will also find produce, teas, an olive oil and balsamic vinegar bar and other culinary related items packed into this historic market.

 French bakery display at Reading Terminal Market

Nothing but cookbooks at this stall in the Reading Terminal Market

And finally, I discovered that Philadelphia has many more healthy options for dining out than I remember from my previous visits.  We had an excellent veggie burger and salad at HipCityVeg and for brunch we found a cute vegan cafe called Miss Rachel's Pantry where the food was delicious and the decor got the wheels turning in my head about some thrifty decor to add to my own kitchen and some recipes to experiment with later.  

Farmhouse table made of 2x6 lumber at Miss Rachel's Pantry

Creative chandelier made from a produce crate, canning jars and off the shelf pendant lights

BBQ seitan with slaw and fresh lettuce

Vegan breakfast burrito

The Thanksgiving holiday weekend was full of inspiration, and I am looking forward to working on some new projects over the cold, dark winter months.

Thanks for reading!

Fall sunset

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Save the Tuna Salad and fall colors

Save the Tuna Salad Stuffed Tomato

We just had a few warm days of Indian Summer and that had me craving something light and fresh before we head into the warm soups and stews of the cold weather.  So I took advantage of some of the last of my summer tomato harvest.  I only made a couple of changes to this recipe for Save The Tuna Salad on Rye from Kris Carr's website. (While you are there, check out some of the other recipes and information on eating healthy.)  I omitted the agave nectar and substituted a heaping tablespoon of sweet relish, added some chopped pickled banana peppers and radishes and a large dollop of vegan mayonnaise.  I placed a large scoop of the salad in cored tomato and served on a bed of baby spinach with some pita wedges for scooping up the salad. This recipe made enough to fill 2 large tomatoes and   3 large tortillas along with spinach, tomato and avocado wedges for sandwich wraps for lunches.

Just a few days later, the weather has turned cooler, but there are a few trees still providing some fall color when I'm out on walks with the dog in the neighborhood.

I can't believe that Thanksgiving is already upon us...this year has just flown by.  I had to share this image of a Thanksgiving tablescape that is bursting with color and creativity.  It may be a little wild, but it just made me smile.

Thanks for reading!

Tablescape courtesy of Maxwell Tielman of Design*Sponge

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Late fall garden harvest and iced chai tea

Late fall harvest of cilantro, mixed greens and lemongrass

We are having a few days of warm weather after a preview of the cold weather to come this week. I took the opportunity to check on the plants I put in for the fall/winter garden under hoop tunnels.  The spinach is coming in a little slower than I hoped, but overall things are looking pretty good.  After watering, weeding, and harvesting a bit, I tucked them all back under their protective fabric covers in hopes that we will continue to have some fresh produce until there is a sustained hard freeze.

Carrots, broccoli, arugula and radishes 

Cilantro, savory, mint, spinach and kale 

Fennel, leeks, garlic and onions

The final tomato harvest of the season ripening in the window

Before I switch to warmer drinks for the cold winter months, I enjoyed a refreshing glass of iced chai tea. A prefect treat after an afternoon in the sunshine.

Iced Chai Tea

makes 3 servings

4 chai tea bags
2 cups of boiling water
2 cups of milk (I used almond milk)
1/2 cup of heavy cream or the white layer of coconut cream (optional)
sweetener to taste (I used agave nectar)
splash of vanilla extract
ice cubes

Pour the boiling water over the tea bags in a heatproof container or teapot.  Let steep for 15 minutes.  Remove the teabags and into a blender add the brewed tea, 2 cups of milk, heavy cream, sweetener, vanilla extract and about 4-6 ice cubes.  Process on high until the ice cubes are crushed and there is a frothy head of whipped cream on top.  Pour over a few more ice cubes in a glass and garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg.     

Flowers at the Eastern Market in DC

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fried egg and greens sandwich and mixed media meetup

Open-faced fried egg sandwich with greens 

One of my favorite quick meals, is an open-faced fried egg sandwich with greens.  It comes together in about 5 minutes using just one skillet.  It is a perfect combination of warm comfort, crunchiness and healthy ingredients and is filling enough to get you through many hours of activity.  This is a meal I often have before a high energy dance or exercise class or spending an afternoon working in the garden.

Fried Egg and Greens Open Faced Sandwhich

1 slice of bread (I used a country olive bread)
1 egg 
small slice of cheese (this one has smoked gouda) 
handful of greens, washed and dried (spinach, chard, kale or arugula like this one)
olive oil
fresh tomato or salsa 
avocado slices or chunks (optional - darn! I forgot to add some)
salt, pepper and red wine vinegar to taste

Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and spread around.  Put slice of bread into hot pan to start toasting.  Break the egg into the pan and cook as desired (this one is over easy).  Place the slices of cheese on top during the last minute of cooking to melt slightly. Wilt greens in the pan during the last minute of the egg cooking time tossing around to coat with the olive oil in the pan.  To serve, layer the greens on the toast and sprinkle with a few drops of vinegar if desired.  Next layer the egg and tomato or salsa and avocado.  Salt and pepper to taste.  

Open-faced sandwich ingredients all cooking together in a single pan

After I had my sandwich, I headed over to the Pyramid Art Center for a Meetup event that I found for collage artists in my local area.  This group of artists meets every few weeks for 3 hours, each member working on their own projects, sharing tips and ideas and creative energy while getting to know fellow artists.  The only cost was the rental of the studio and we all chipped in so it was only a few dollars each to be able to create in a beautiful studio with lots of windows and space.  For this meeting, the organizer shared a technique for printing using gel plates that she learned at a recent workshop.  She was nice enough to bring extra supplies for us to all try it out.  There are meetups for every interest, so I highly recommend exploring to find a group that might spark your creativity.

My work space for the meetup at the art center

Some of my experiments with the gel printing technique

I hope you found a little inspiration this week.  As the days grow shorter and cooler and we spend more time indoors, this is the perfect time to curl up with a good book or explore one of the creative projects that you might have been contemplating (perhaps a knitting or sewing project, exploring your neighborhood and taking a few photographs or trying your hand at baking some fresh bread).

Thanks for reading!

 Fall decorations on a stoop in Washington, DC