Sunday, March 18, 2012

Fancy Painted Bookmarks!

I've been dreaming of spring all week, gazing longingly at my garden, imagining the colorful wonders that will be emerging in only a few short weeks. Even though it's been rather balmy outside, I've been resisting the temptation to start scattering seeds about so early, mostly by painting these lovely little summery bookmarks. As much as I love my garden, I'm also a bit of a magpie and I love shiny little treasures to play with too.

Though I went a bit cross-eyed making such tiny little paintings (20mm!), it was utterly worth it. I'm thoroughly in love with these bookmarks. I admit to keeping several for myself and a couple as presents for my favorite people. But, I did leave a few of the prettiest in the bunch to sit on the shelf of my shop. I can't imagine how I didn't think of making these sooner! I shall never again have to disgrace my novels with bits of crumpled receipts to keep my place!

If you'd like to make your own, I found the most beautiful settings at a little Etsy jewelry supply shop called Bunnysundries -- they were so helpful and nice and they have an amazing selection for all of your bauble making needs. I'm now dreaming of painting my own necklaces too. Ahh, the pure joy of possibility.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sesame Chicken Recipe

I'm always amazed when any Chinese food recipe turns out anything like it ought to. Most of the recipes I've found end up being simply meat and vegetables covered in soy sauce posing as the delicious concoctions I devour lustily at the Golden Plate II (the best Chinese restaurant in the world, or at least in Denver).

I have nothing against stir fry, but dang it, stir fry is not kung pao! And adding minced garlic to stir fry does not make chicken in garlic sauce!

This recipe though? This is legit sesame chicken. Well, I don't know if it's made like this in China, but I mean American-Chinese-Restaurant-legit. It's magical and amazing. It will delight your taste buds and impress your friends or significant other pretty dang thoroughly. And, surprisingly, it doesn't require any super expensive or obscure ingredients. Sesame oil is about as exotic as this thing gets. So, give it a go!

Sesame Chicken for Two

(for the crispy chicken/marinade)
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons soysauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry (cooking wine)
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 Chicken breasts

Plus vegetable or peanut oil for frying

(for the sauce)

1/2 cup chicken broth/stock
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sriracha sauce (or 1/2 tsp. chili paste)
1 clove garlic, minced (or, 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup water
Plus sesame seeds for sprinkling

In a mixing bowl, whisk together all marinade ingredients except chicken until well blended. Cut up chicken into strips, add to mixture, and set aside for about 20 minutes. Put 2-3" oil in a non-coated pot and heat to medium high. Fry chicken strips in batches, cooking until golden brown on the outside and no longer pink inside. Let drain on a paper towel while you make the sauce.

In a small sauce pan, bring all sauce ingredients except cornstarch and water mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. The sauce will be thin. This is OK. Once it begins boiling, add cornstarch mixture and stir constantly until the sauce clears and becomes gelatinous (about 1-2 minutes). Remove from heat.

Toss crispy chicken in sauce, sprinkle with sesame seeds and crushed red pepper (if you like yours a bit spicy), and serve with rice and perhaps some broccoli.

Just Sticky Rice

If you're ready to move beyond Minute Rice or instant-rice-in-a-bag but you don't want to invest your time and space in a rice cooker, never fear! Real sticky rice on the stove top is so easy you'll want to punch yourself in the face for never having made it before!

Sticky Rice for Two

1/2 cup rice
3/4 to 1 cup water

Measure rice into a strainer and rinse until the water is no longer cloudy. Put rice in pot on stove and add water. Turn stove on to high. When water begins to boil, stir rice then put a lid on the pot and reduce heat to medium low. After 10 minutes, turn the stove off but do not remove the lid. Let sit for 15-20 minutes. Remove lid, fluff and serve.

N.B. If your rice is a little too firm, add 1/4 cup more water next time and extend simmer time by 2 minutes. I've used two different brands of rice that require slightly different water amounts/cooking time for perfect texture. Sometimes cooking is an art, not a science.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Portrait of a Girl Reading

I've been hiding away from the world these last few weeks, scheming and painting (and reading too much George Martin). I've pulled my drapes closed, taken the phone off the hook, and locked myself away, only occasionally checking the radio and peeking through the blinds to ensure the rest of the world still in fact exists. It's always a comfort to know that the wide world can spin along perfectly well without my attendance or assistance.  

But, even introverts can become bored of their own company occasionally. So, I made myself a new friend: this is my newest painting, "Portrait of a Girl Reading." If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that's a book of poetry she's holding on to -- probably Emerson or Yeats. Coincidentally, those are two of my favorite poets as well. Happily, she's so immersed in her own book, that she's perfectly content to let me continue on with reading Game of Thrones in peace now that I'm done painting her.

3/23/12 Happy announcement! The archival prints of Portrait of a Girl Reading have arrived! I've just posted them for sale in the shop! - C.P.S.C