Thursday, December 31, 2009

holiday obsession: cranberries

this year's holiday theme for me has been cranberries. from cooking to crafting to fashion, i'm obsessed with the little buggers and their delightful color.
it started with cranberry relish. well, truth be told it started with a sale on cranberries at the korean market. but then that led to my favorite holiday dish - one that always has people asking for the recipe, so i'll give it to you now. it's the easiest dish to prepare for a big payoff in taste and compliments.

2 cups washed raw cranberries
2 peeled and cored apples (tart kind)
1 large, whole (as in peel and everything) seedless orange, cut into sections
1/3 to 1/2 jalepeno (veined and seeded), chopped fine
1/4 (or more to taste) cup sugar

fill a bowl with cold water and your cranberries - if you're buying a bag you'll have a little left over once you use two cups. wash them around and pick out any soft or wrinkled ones. then you're basically going to add all the fruit chunks above into a food processor - this is way better if you have one of those old school meat grinders and then you can feed everything through that and when you crank it the cranberries make a really satisfying popping sound. if you're using the food processor method you can pulse them until they're chopped into smaller chunks, but you want to be careful not to overblend, otherwise it'll just be mushy - you want the fruits to still maintain their structure. i find it works best for my little cuisinart to do it in batches. when you've chopped up all the fruit you sprinkle the sugar on and mix it around, then let it sit at room temperature for 45 minutes so the sugar melts (this makes a big difference), and then you can keep in in the fridge after that. we started adding jalepeno last year and i love the way it opens up the flavors with a little kick without being noticibly hot.
so there was that.
and then we still had a couple bags of cranberries, so i decided to freeze them. while i was considering what to do with frozen cranberries i made about 5 batches of these viennese crescent (aka russian tea cake, aka mexican wedding) cookies. i use pecans because walnuts make my tongue swell up, but if you can handle walnuts they're a cheaper alternative. this recipe comes from my mom:

½ pound butter
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup ground nuts (walnuts, pecans, etc)
1 teaspoon vanilla
powdered sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Cream the butter, then add the granulated sugar, flour, nuts and vanilla and mix thoroughly.  Shape with your fingers into delicate crescents, about 2 inches long and ½ inch wide and thick.  Roll them in the confectioners’ sugar and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for about 30 minutes, until just faintly browned.  Cool, then roll in more confectioners’ sugar before serving.

one thing i noticed in my many iterations of this recipe over the course of the week before christmas (we consumed a lot of butter and nuts!) was that i really prefer sweet cream butter in this recipe over unsalted. in fact, i added a sprinkle of salt in with the powdered sugar in that batch to compensate for the lack of saltiness.

these cookies are crazy good. i recommend making them for a party so that you don't just eat them all week and then make more when you run out. ahem.
just to satisfy my cranberry craving, i served the cookies with a little cranberry centerpiece and a few springs of thyme for holiday cheer.
we also discovered that frozen cranberries are a nice compliment to a glass of champagne - and if you muddle them up a bit they turn your toasting glass a nice shade of pink.

and finally, on christmas i had a craving for truffles, and - you guessed it - cranberries. so i followed this basic recipe for bittersweet chocholate ganache truffles, and then added chopped frozen cranberries to the ganache and rolled them around in cocoa powder and nibs with a little salt. they're spectacular. a little on the goey side because i think the cranberries added too much liquid to the mixture, but they hold their shape and the bittersweet chocolate and tartness of the berries goes really nicely together.

to top it off, i've been eyeing this sleaveless turtleneck sweater for a while that i'd gotten from someone and had in the "might be useful for future craft project" bin - and its cranberry color spoke to me recently. i had seen this tutorial on turning old sweaters into a shrug (or "caplet" as they call it), and i'm really into drapey shawls and shrugs these days, so i tried it out with the cranberry sweater.
you basically turn the sweater sideways, pick out the side seams so it opens on the top and bottom, and then cut off the top (and bottom, depending on the sweater) and sew those together. it worked like a charm. i had to pick up the stitches on the top when i cut off from the sleaves and neck portion of the sweater because it's such a chunky knit, but then I stiched it together, and also stitched the bottom of the sweater (where it's ribbed) together and then gathered it for a little flair. i'm really excited about this shrug right now. hannah and i got our nails done the other day and i later realized i'd chosen a sparkle cranberry color, so going out tonight for new years eve is going to continue the theme: cranberry and cocktail dress, here i come!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

cultivating domesticity is in business

cultivating domesticity has entered into a whole new crafty realm. in the past two weeks we have:
  • conceptualized and designed a new logo and visioning statement for the cultivating domesticity brand
  • had that logo and statement made into two custom rubber stamps for use in business cards and labels
  • started mass production of measuring tape wallets and fused plastic bag pouches
  • set up as a vendor at a craft fair
  • sold some stuff.
  • installed paypal on the blog - check it out on the sidebar
  • and i'm on the way to opening an etsy shop

most of the credit for these efforts goes to my amazing fiance, marty, for supporting and seeing this process through, especially as i'm preoccupied with simultaneously finishing one job and starting another.
also thanks to the help of many friends and family - mom for prepping all the wallets, adrionna and sonny for assisting with shopping, hannah for setting us up at the craft fair and sharing her wisdom, aryn, megan, and katy for their support and visioning with branding language, and all the friends and fam who have been avid readers of the blog and who came out to the first craft fair to support - thank you!

it's been a good learning experience. my sewing machine broke down the night before the craft fair - right when i was counting on pumping out a bunch of last minute wallets.
for one, i learned that "heavy duty thread" is actually for hand quilting, not machine stitching - oops. thanks to the ladies of sew images for teaching me that lesson and fixing the timing issues on my poor machine.  secondly, i only sold two wallets and three pouches during the course of the craft fair, so i didn't have need to be stressing the night before about not having enough products. thirdly, i picked up a lot of good ideas and inspiration for display from other crafters who came to the fair, and our brilliant idea to bring lamps and christmas lights was affirmed when our table was the warmest, most luminous booth in the joint.

lastly, i learned a ton from hannah, who has been doing this kind of thing a while and picked up the slack in terms of things i never thought of, such as: money for change, receipt books, and display. i also learned that if, at the end of the night you haven't really made a profit (as seemed to be the case for most vendors) it's a great idea to go around and trade with other people whose stuff you like. i got a great necklace made out of the little vinyl circle cutouts from the centers of old records from sarah at glitzfritz.

here's the new logo and visioning statement:

i love the rubber stamp aesthetic, and the cost effectiveness and reusability. thanks, marty.

i've already had several orders for measuring tape wallets - if you're interested shoot me an email: cultivatingdomesticity [at] gmail [dot] com
i'm relishing the process of packaging and sending them out. i love gifts. if you're looking for holiday gifts you can order now and have them in time for the holidays... i'm just saying.