Monday, January 30, 2012

A kind-of recipe for Vegetarian Haggis

Each year, I host a Burns Supper, and that means one thing... haggis. But authentic haggis is not something that will be prepared in any kitchen of mine. First off, it is made with all sorts of ingredients that are not to be found at my local supermarket. Second, it is a difficult process filled with terms like 'render', 'suture', 'pluck' (as a noun) and 'ox bung'... all way beyond my skill level and interest. Oh, and third, I am a vegetarian, so... yeah.

But, it's possible to make an animal-free version of Scotland's national dish. I imagine it doesn't resemble the real deal at all, and it's likely offending some to even call my concoction haggis, but to quote Ricky Gervais, "offense is taken, but not given". OK, now I've really gone and upset you all with a Ricky Gervais quote... I better get on with the recipe.

What I end up with is a hearty veggie loaf, heavily spiced and made mostly of beans, oats and grains. Here's how its done-

Oh, and I don't much have measurements. Or times. Or temperatures. This is really just a theory-based recipe. My apologies, but I realize its the only way I can actually cook anything. You've just got to do what seems right. Again, sorry.

**Before you start, cook a pot of pearl barley according to the packaging and set aside.

1. In a big sauce pot, melt butter (or oil if you are vegan). Add chopped onion, celery, carrot & garlic. I think the cool people would call this "sweating" the veggies, yes?

2. Add chopped mushrooms. I used a bunch of baby bellas. yum.

3. Add dry spices. I used allspice, nutmeg, ground cloves, white pepper, black pepper, salt & sage.

4. Add water to cover all the veggies by a couple of inches.

5. Add bay leaf

6. Add a dry lentils. I used red. Any will probably do.

7. While this is simmering, toast a cup or two of steel cut oats in the oven, and a cup or two of nuts as well. I used pecans. Hazelnuts work, as do walnuts.

8. Pulse toasted nuts in food processor until coarse.

9. Add can or two of kidney beans. Aduki beans will work too. If you want to use dry beans, cook them up separate before you get going and add them in at this point.

10. Add barley, oats & coarse nuts to the pot and stir.

11. Season more if you think you need to. After a few minutes, take off heat. The lentils should be soft.

12. Mix in fresh chopped herbs. I used rosemary and thyme.

13. Mix in an egg or two as a binding ingredient (you can skip this part if you are egg-free)

14. Put into a casserole dish (I greased mine with a little butter first, not sure if its necessary)- be sure to take out the bay leaves!

15. Bake until done. I think my oven was around 325-350 and it took about an hour or so. I just tested it with a knife. When the knife sounded like it was cutting through something solid and "loaf-like" I took it out to cool.

16. Enjoy! We had ours with Scotch. Oh, and mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes and roasted turnips (which were tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and molasses and roasted in the oven at high heat for about 20 minutes)

**This might be my first post to not have a photo attached! While haggis is a tasty, stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal, it is not too photogenic. In fact, at times in this process, you may be thinking that your creation looks a bit like dog food... at least I thought that. When it's all baked and finished, it is a nice, humble loaf- textured by grains and oats and colored with bits of carrot and beans- but we ate it so quickly that I didn't have a chance to take a proper photo

Our Burns Supper

Saturday evening Matt and I hosted our second annual Burns Supper, and it was a damn guid time. In classic fashion, we failed to take many photos- too busy talking and eating and reading and all... But here are a few to share the essence of the evening!

Good people.

Good drinks.

Good food (although, we did not get a picture of the main course- which was vegetarian haggis*, tatties & neeps)

and plenty of Burns!

And the morning after, Alex made us a delicious breakfast of pan-fried haggis leftovers, topped with fresh tomatoes and an egg, sunny-side-up. 

(* I might post my recipe for vegetarian haggis, as I made up my own this year and it turned out better than I expected)

OK, I did post it. Here it is- my version of vegetarian haggis.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

and the winner of The Filigree's Mermaid Extravaganza is....

It's time to pick the winner for The Filigree giveaway!

...each entrant's name was written on a piece of paper...

papers folded...

thrown in a bowl, and mixed about...

the winner is drawn...

who could it be...?

looks like...

the lucky winner is OLIVER!

I'll contact you for your mailing address and you'll get your prizes in the mail.

Thanks to The Filigree for providing the wonderful prize for this giveaway and for being my guinea pig (This was the first interview and giveaway for Dream & Happy Things- hopefully there will be many more in the future!)

 And Thanks to everyone for participating. And I hope you shop The Filigree and check back in to Dreams & Happy Things whole bunches in the future!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Den Lille Havfrue (The Little Mermaid)

Since we're in the middle of a giveaway from the Filigree... a Mermaid Extravaganza, actually, I thought it is only appropriate that I post a few pictures from my recent visit to the Little Mermaid sculpture in Copenhagen.

As my guide said before we approached her, "she's just a little thing'. I guess many American tourists expect her to be on par with the Statue of Liberty, size wise, and that she is not. Her smaller stature makes her seem more life-like, more vulnerable, more little- which is a better fit with the original story.

The title character from Hans Christian Andersen's beloved tale has seen many representations since she swam into the world in 1837, the most popular in recent years being Disney's Ariel. Ah, Ariel. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of this version, and I love that everyone is happy in the end, but of course, that's not what Andersen intended. If you don't know the real story, or if you need a refresher, the original in it's entirety can be found here.

One of my favorite things as a child was my set of Superscope Story Teller books and cassettes. This version of The Little Mermaid was abridged, but it still stuck to Andersen's plot line- the Grandmother, the sister's hair, the knife in the heart, the sea foam, the sorrowful end.... I can still hear the sister's voices encouraging the Little Mermaid to come back to them under the sea. 

The statue in Copenhagen captures the old story wonderfully. She is a little sad, sitting there on that rock. She is beautiful and exposed and without defenses. She enchants visitors, some of whom just pose next to her to snap a quick photo, and others who sit for a while and gaze at the rocks as she does. She thrills the little ones, especially the girls, who know some version of her tale... and I know of at least one visitor who saw her and pitied her for wanting to be something she was not, but admired her anyway, for trying.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Birthday of Robert Burns

Today is the day of Robert Burns! People all over the world are gathering to raise a glass and feast on haggis, tatties & neeps in honor of the Scottish Bard (although, it is perfectly acceptable to wait until the weekend, right?)

I shall post again about ol' Rabbie Burns, to share the highlights from our celebration, but for now, I say Happy Birthday, Mr. Burns!

And if you don't much have a clue about Burns, or the tradition of the Burns supper, you can watch this little video. It's only a few minutes and it summarizes nicely, although there is some concern over the authenticity of the Scottish accent of the voice over.

And if you really want a treat, listen and watch this version of Tam O'Shanter- one of Burns' most loved poems. It's a bit longer- about 10 minutes- but it just might raise the hairs on yer arms!

Until Saturday!

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Filigree- Interview and Giveaway!

As if I needed another reason to love Etsy... A few months ago, while shopping for some fantastical prints to decorate my new apartment, I found The Filigree. I fell in love with the beauty and style of just about everything in this shop. I ended up with these two beauties-

These are the kinds of images I get lost in-- looking at them is like reading a great story! (You can order yours too, by going here and here). In my ordering process, I exchanged a few emails with Celena, half of the creative team behind The Filigree. We got talking and she and her husband Martin agreed to an online interview- a first for Dreams & Happy Things

Martin Øbakke, a native of Denmark (home of the Little Mermaid), met Celena Cavala, ballerina and Nashville native in Florence, Italy- last century. They started making Fairy Tales and haven't stopped since. In their work, you'll find elements of old world Europe to Southern Gothic charm. Martin does the illustrating and sculptures while Celena sews and writes the world they live in, in their Nonsense News, the Filigree. They currently live on a small town square outside Nashville in an old Victorian loft, where all of their works are created and sent off to admirers from around the world. 

They're inspired by the Invisible world and Imagination and the points in between that they refer to as 'the Filigree'; thin gossamer strands that connect everything...                   

D&HT:  Thanks for being the first interview on this blog! I am such a fan of what you both create--your work is amazing and interesting! How do you come up with the things you write about, paint, sculpt...?
C&M: By working together throughout a day-- we'll chit chat and these ideas will form. It's enormously satisfying to chase an inspiration and see it materialize.

D&HT: If you were not creating the world of Filigree,  what do you see yourself doing?

Celena: I was a classically trained ballet dancer so I would probably be teaching and perhaps choreographing.

Martin: I would probably be involved in some furniture design/construction.

D&HT: Describe your "dream" day... what, for you, is the perfect day?
C&M: We love our lives so basically everyday is exactly what we want to do~  love interacting with customers online, finish projects, create more art and pack things to be shipped out all over the world and ideally, do some yoga and always eat well.

D&HT: Ok... At a beautiful garden luncheon, who are the other 4 sitting at your table?

C&M: Hmm, difficult question! Joyce Carol Oates, (an enthralling and very prolific american author) & Oscar Wilde,  Edgar Allen Poe, & Sherlock Holmes.

D&HT: Where is your Happy place?
C&M: Not a particular material place as rather a quiet room in our mind where we Imagine.

The Giveaway!!!

Not only is this Dreams & Happy Things first interview, but the lovely duo at The Filigree has agreed to a giveaway! One lucky reader will win a trio of prizes- Mermaid cards, a Mermaid paper doll, and an issue of The Filigree Newspaper featuring articles about all sorts of goings on in the invisible world, including a headline about our favorite underwater hybrids- It's truly a Mermaid Extravaganza!!!   

I am already jealous of the winner...!

How to enter:

First, make sure you are a follower of Dreams & Happy Things, so that you can comment on this post. Think of every comment to this post as a raffle ticket. At the end of the week, I will put each comment into a 'hat' and pull out a winner at random. You can have lots of chances to win- its as easy as 1,2,3 (4,5)! 

1. Go to The Filigree and browse around. Come back here and tell us about one thing that caught your eye. (anything from the Gallery, Shops, Studio Journal, etc...)

2. Like The Filigree on Facebook (come back here and leave a comment saying you did so)

3. Like Dreams & Happy Things on Facebook (come back here and leave a comment saying you did so)

4. Follow The Filigree on Twitter (come back here and leave a comment saying you did so... see a theme?)

5. Follow Dreams & Happy Things on Twitter (come back here and leave a comment saying you did so)

*Already following/liking? Leave comments saying so and you get counted too!

**Want even more entries?? Retweet or share this post on your Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook accounts and write two more comments! That means you could have 8 chances of getting chosen! Those are darn good odds!

Remember to leave your email address or some way of contacting you if you are the lucky winner! (Or else, check back on Saturday,  Jan. 28th to see the winner announced)

Good Luck!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Today is Poe's Day


Happy Birthday to Edgar Allan Poe, who would be 203 years old today if he didn't mysteriously die at the age of 40... It's days like today (and only today, really,) that I wish I were in Baltimore, where Poe fans will gather at nightfall around his grave for readings and an honorary processional. We'll have to come up with our own way of celebrating the macabre author... perhaps a late-night reading of Spirits of the Dead and a controversial toast of absinthe.

Read a lovely and thorough biography of the man from the Poe Museum's website. And visit Poe Stories for a online resource of his complete works.  

I made English toffee without knowing a thing- and you can too!

I am on a candy-making kick, which is counter-productive to many of my New Year's resolutions... That aside, it is fun and a lot easier than I thought it would be. Yesterday, I made English toffee for the first time and it came out pretty much perfect, if I do say so myself. There are only 5 ingredients, things I usually have on hand in the fridge or pantry, so I might keep this in my recipe arsenal if I ever need to whip up something sweet.

So here is my recipe/tutorial. Let me know if you try it and how yours turns out!

You'll need:

Chocolate chips

In a mid-sized pot add equal parts butter and sugar (I never said this was going to be healthy). I used 2 cups each.

Add 1/4 tsp. salt- more if you are doubling the recipe.

Heat and stir regularly (the hotter it gets, the more you have to stir, by the end, you are stirring constantly).

As it heats, it gets thicker and darker (don't forget to stir or else it will burn!). It's going to bubble and boil a little. You'll know it is done when it becomes amber in color. (It should be about 280 degrees- if you've got a candy thermometer handy then it's worth checking, but I think you can go by color if you don't have that particular kitchen gadget).

Then pour it on to a baking sheet lined with foil-

And sprinkle it with your favorite type of chocolate chip. I used semi-sweet, since it was what I had on hand, and because with that much sugar in it already, I thought the candy was sweet enough. (I bet dark chocolate would be great- you could even use your favorite chocolate bar- chopped up)

Let the chocolate chips sit on top of the toffee and melt. Then, spread it evenly across the top-

And sprinkle on some chopped nuts. I used almonds. Classic. (and also, what I had in the house:) You can obviously skip this step if you don't like nuts, or have an allergy...

Let it cool for a few hours. While the chocolate is still soft, but not totally melted, press in the almonds to make sure they don't fall off too easily. Waiting for it to harden and cool was the hardest part. I think I lasted about two and a half hours before I cheated and threw the whole thing in the freezer for about 10 minutes. In my defense, it worked!

Break it into pieces, share and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

pretty looks for rain or shine

I am so in love with these looks-- they mix casual boots and traditional tweeds with flirty, feminine touches, and the end result is something smart, fun and functional! 

Monday, January 16, 2012

urban farmers

I just stumbled across an article about some local "homesteaders". The way this couple lives is pretty admirable-- they waste little, grow a lot and aim to be self-sustaining-- but the fact that they are doing it all on 1/12th acre in the middle of Los Angels makes them incredible. Read about them here.

Not just for today


"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

- Martin Luther King, Jr. 

♥ Bogs

This is the love story, between a girl and her Bogs...

Once, when in a barefoot pinch
a daughter donned her mother's boots
and found each task she did a cinch
and at day's end ached not her foots.

The daughter's father could not bear
to hear the girl praise mother's boots-
 to town went he to buy a pair
to place upon the daughter's foots.

Soon returned he with a box so large
within it lay two paisley boots,
and when the daughter put them on
deeply in love feel her two foots.

Inseparable they then became,
 --her feet were ever shod
in insulated, weather-proofed,
blue, shock-absorbing Bogs.

They trekked with her through grit and mud
and mountains high with snow,
for where 'er the girl adventured
her Bogs were sure to go.

Folks near and far would marvel
"nice boots!", they'd cry, "Oh, my!"
And with a smile she'd thank them,
and add, "No animal did die!"

For the girl was tender-hearted,
from her head down to her feet.
And not for style nor comfort
would she make dead cow or sheep.

The bogs did warm her to her sole
and tickle the girl pink.
For never would she find a boot
so suitable, she did think.

Each day the girl marched onward
ne'er worried about her foots
for'er they lie tucked deep inside
those clunky, kind, Bog boots.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Aspire to travel


"Whereas the tourist generally hurries back home at the end of a few weeks or months, the traveler, belonging no more to one place than to the next, moves slowly, over periods of years, from one part of the Earth to another."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sailing away with Twain

“20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the one’s you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover”
 ~ Mark Twain

The ones that got left behind...

Linus watches as Matthew opens a Norwegian beer with a Norwegian beer opener and puts it into a Norwegian beer mug.  Its a Juløg from Mack Brewery in Tromsø- the northern most brewery in the world.

I wonder around my hood

Linus shows off his newly cleaned teeth!

Matthew plays in Amhurst, Massachusetts

The Homestead of Emily Dickenson

Morning dew in spiders webs in reedy grass in the petrified forest in Napa California

boy smells girl

We see deer. Deer see us. Lake Mendocino

Bee on herb

Greta pulls, I float

Bud and bloom in my Uncle Pat's flower garden

Pre-show treat at the Castro Theater sing-a-long of the Little Mermaid

Putting together the Knight Bus

OB enjoys the bed all to himself.

This is how Matt watches the game at home...