Well it's winter in Ohio again and no one is really happy about it. January lows can dive under the ZERO degree Fahrenheit mark and just looking outside makes you feel frozen over. Usually this time of year it's easy for me, people leave me alone and I'm want for stuff to do and that means one thing....more painting.
The last few years have been very unusual tho, I have a toddler now and that never goes to plan, the small flat we live in doesn't have the space to paint, so the big canvases I reserve for the summer when the studio is open. The next months of my life now are going to be concentrating on small works - things on paper and board, mostly realistic-styled landscapes as I find that I miss that genre quite often.
I started something in yellow today, I think I will call it "Forsythias" since it meets the level of yellow color saturation that is particular to that spring flower.
January is warm this year and I'm not unhappy about it, either.
There's a solace in the quiet, serene landscape of winter. The world is tucked away and asleep for a few more months and me and my tot - along with my paintbrush at my kitchen counter is the perfect combination. I'm loving the depth of the creativity of it all.....
But I think I will keep painting the Spring.
When I cannot be in the studio painting I become desperate to find a creative outlet. I have to say, some days I'm really thankful for cooking - because it can be just the right outlet to experiment.
Well experiment I did the other day when I decided to dabble in some British national dishes...because my 1/2 British self can't resist the occasional roast beast with Yorkshire pudding - or better yet, a fantastic curry.
So I dove in not thinking about the availability of the ingredients in the house. On the menu was Steak and Ale pie, roasted sweet potatoes, with green beans and a nicely prepared Sticky Toffee Pudding.....because sticky toffee pudding - that's why.
I pulled a beef shank out of the fridge and added some stew meat to the mix. I used a combination of Jamie Oliver's recipe (see link) and uh...one other (see link) and as I began I suddenly realized that I didn't have everything I needed to get the job done.
So I did a bodge job on the silly thing. I added carrots to the "pie" to make up for the lack of meat I had on hand, but that's not a big deal - it's a stew with a crust so, why not? Right?
And it didn't stop there. Reaching into the fridge I grabbed a pint of good British Ale....ummmm - no, sorry, ------ sorry sorry sorry.....
I grabbed the only thing I had in the fridge close to ale: A German Lager....
did I say sorry? Don't be writing me with your comments, please - at least I didn't use a Miller Light. Yes, it truly could have been that desperate.
What was I to do? I have a 3yo and there's no such thing as just running an errand when the little one is sound asleep at nap time. I was stuck - and stuck HARD. I grabbed the can gave the tab a pull and dumped it into the pot. Put the pot in the oven and forgot about it for two hours.
I had to say, it smelled fantastic coming out of the oven. That 1/4 teaspoon of MARMITE for additional flavoring I used really upped it's British street "cred" and gave those Germans another big fat "what for" kind of thing. This baby had flavor. Serious flavor.
So into the pie dish it went and when I looked at the clock - it was late. Way too late to concoct the proper pie crust and dinner was to be in a quick 30 minutes. The pudding had just come out of the oven and the oven itself was complaining about having to work all day so I needed a quick solution.
And there it is. American biscuits in a can.
Or as the Brits might call it: scones in a tin.
Yes, Im sure Elizabeth WAS NOT AMUSED, but there I was taking the down and dirty Yankee way out of the situation and making do.
Keep calm and carry on, mate, lets get that thing back in the oven.
So if you make this Steak and Lager (ummmm Ale) pie I recommend that you cook the biscuits 1/2 way before putting them on top of the pie or they will not cook on the bottom and you just get soupy yuck bread slime underneath the biscuits - which will ruin that delicious rich filling. Do try to class it up as best as you can, if you're going to bandage it up with a lot of American style, at least do it some justice.
So there it was, cooked and beautiful.
On to the finishing of the Sticky Toffee Pudding and golly look at the time. People are sitting down at the table and digging into the pie and there's no time for a proper toffee sauce. So, one last insult to my English half cousins out there and I whipped out a jar of Smucker's Butterscotch Ice cream topping.
Yessss, problem solved.
Despite my half-hearted attempt at honest English cuisine, I have to say it was really tasty. I'd make it again this way if I need to, tho the real miss on the flavors was the lack of a good Guiness Stout in the stew filling, but I got by and enjoyed it tremendously. Nobody complained - but they're American, so there ya go.
Here are the links to the recipes I almost followed.
Jamie Oliver: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6BHiiuyXCs
America's Test Kitchen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVZCQeynCmU
Till next time – Cheers.
Artist Laura Swink lives in a little flat with her hubby, her 3yo and a crazy dog. Her daytime job is usually mother of one and when she can she is painting large canvases into abstract landscapes and posting them all over social media. Sometimes, she actually sells one.
Visit her online via the links above. Thanks for stopping by.
How to create a Glass Menagerie Spice Rack
It’s not like me to do meal preparation from boxed dinners. I’m convinced it’s just not the best food for my growing boy, so I cook. A lot. Many of the ingredients I do use, however, are in glass jars: from honey and capers, to jarred mustards, I find that I recycle a ton of glass and then one day I realized that some of these grocery store bought jars were quite attractive.
Then the idea happened upon me: I should just up-cycle these jars to hold all my herbs and spices, because there’s something I have a lot of as well: spices! From garam masala, smoked paprika, to garlic powder, cumin seed the list goes on. There is just nothing more irritating than plastic containers littered all over the inside of my cabinets, often times spilled of their contents. I needed another solution and here it is.
Follow along, this is an super easy project:
here’s what you will need:
#1. A Collection of Glass Jars (shown above):
This can be anything, but preferably something that is small to medium sized (depending what you will put in it. Star Anise doesn't typically need a larger jar but I've found that dried onions or chili powder does, so choose accordingly) I like to find things that have some character to them, if you notice, the capers have this wonderful tall and thin jar, while my go-to spice jar is the Pesto Sauce. I've recycled a number of these.
#2: Here's What you Need (shown above):
Glass Jars, small to medium, dish soap (any will do) warm water, razor blade (not pictured) 320+ grit wet sanding paper, a lint free towel (not pictured), matte finish spray paint and chalk paint ready to stick labels.
Once your jar is empty, go ahead and clean it out with soapy water and let the jar sit in a warm soapy bath for at least 1/2 hour. Some jars will be easy to get the labels off, some will require you to work - that’s what the razor blade is for. Proceed carefully.
Once the label is soft, most of the time they come off really easily. You will want to make sure that you get all of the label off, as well as any sticky little goobers that are sometimes left behind. Dry the jar completely and check it for sticky debris. Remove using rubbing alcohol if you need to.
Give the lid a good wash, too. remove any labels and use a super-fine grit (320 and above) sand paper to give it a quick rough up. This allows you to scrub off any sticky stuff and paint coverage will be better.
Here are the steps, simple and easy:
Applying the labels is much easier when contents are in the jar. This lessens any reflection on the bottle.
Below is a sample of some of the jars I've found over the last few months: A simple craft store jar with a latch (.47 cents), jar filled with capers, a beautiful jar repurposed to hold cardamom and one of the best jars ever: The Aldi Pesto jar. We use the pesto so often, I have a number of these now repurposed as spice jars.
These jars don’t need much: just a good wash, a quick spray of paint on the lid and they are ready. Some Jars already have black lids, but I paint them anyway because it makes the finish for each jar consistent.
Below is a snapshot of some of my collection and newly finished jars: The Dijon Mustard and Caper Jars are just waiting until their contents are gone before I flip them into my storing my spices. Both products were bought at Big Lots. The Aldi Pesto Jar is now complete with label and tightly sealed chilli powder and my greatest find ever was the Himalayan Salt which actually came in this beautiful jar...all I needed to do was remove the label and put a new one on it.
I’m not past buying some odd thing in a jar just to get have the jar at the end of it’s contents. It’s a new game now, I go anywhere I can to see if I can find something unique.
As of the writing of this blog entry, I'm waiting to get the shelving part of the spice rack up on the wall. I am designing not only what I need, but something that will measure up to the charming part of the project - that will be part two of the process. So stay tuned, always have fun and post some of your picts.
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