Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Casual Dinners and a Fabric Fest

I missed my usual post on Monday, but I didn't want to let a week go by without a fresh post. Although I'm short on time and not feeling particularly inspired this evening to do much writing, I have been cooking and sewing a great deal and couldn't resist popping in to show you what I've been up to.

Last holiday season, I was in a big baking mood and ordered specialty baking ingredients online. I almost never buy ingredients or food online so this was quite exceptional. Let's just say the King Arthur catalog sucked me in. Well, one of the things I bought was Italian-style flour- perfect, they said, for making pizzas and focaccia and such. As it often happens, special ingredients sit there waiting for a special occasion that may or may not ever arrive.

So last Sunday, on a very ordinary non-special kind of evening, when I had a friend and her little daughters coming over for a casual play date and supper, I broke into the flour and finally used some of it. But special flour called for a new recipe at the very least, so I tried this no-knead cornmeal crust from the authors of those 5 minutes a day bread books.

I made the dough in the mid-morning and it truly took about 5 minutes and minimal effort to put together. I halved the recipe for the cornmeal olive oil dough, and used 50:50 all purpose flour and that special Italian pizza flour. Making the dough meant mixing a bunch of ingredients and leaving it on the counter-top for a couple of hours, then sticking the covered bowl in the fridge. Couldn't be easier.

Then I made a simple pizza sauce with canned crushed tomatoes, some olive oil and Italian herbs and plenty of garlic, of course.

When the time came to bake the pizza, I generously buttered a large baking sheet (preferring that to a cast iron pan because I needed a large pizza for 3 adults and 3 hungry pizza-loving kids). The recipe called for rolling out the crust on the counter top and then laying it on the baking sheet. Well, that did not work for me at all. What did work was just plopping a lump of dough into the baking sheet and patting it into place.

Then I layered the toppings: going with Chicago-style pizza tradition, I first layered mozzarella cheese, then the sauce, followed by a light sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. The pizza was baked according to the recipe, then I topped it with some freshly snipped basil after it came out of the oven.

We enjoyed the pizza with a salad of spinach, red peppers and shredded carrots with a balsamic vinegar-mustard dressing. I adore the combination of pizza and this particular salad. Cornmeal is a magical ingredient in pizza crust. It truly makes the crust so tender and light. Here's a picture of leftovers that I happily devoured for lunch the next day:


Then a couple of days ago, I was again in the mood to try a new recipe. Mind you, a new recipe but with familiar ingredients that I already had on hand. Enter this recipe for Snobby Joe's, a take on Sloppy Joe's but using lentils. Just our good old masoor/ brown lentils, but with a different flavor profile from mustard and maple syrup.

Among the many reasons lentils are wonderful is this one: they cook readily and quickly. I did soak them for a few hours which sped up the cooking even more. Then I followed the recipe, but added the lentils and some water to the sauteed onions and peppers and let it all simmer together instead of cooking the lentils separately. One less pot to wash, plus the lentils absorb flavor beautifully as they cook. I used grainy Dijon mustard instead of yellow mustard. And do note that the chili powder called for in the recipe is American chili powder which is a blend of mild chillies, garlic, salt etc. and can be found in supermarkets. If you use Indian chili powder, you won't want to use 3 tbsp as the recipe calls for!

This is one tasty recipe- I absolutely loved the way these favors worked together. I've been piling on these snobby joe's on buttered bread with a bit of cheese and melting it together into one delicious grilled sandwich.


So, anyway, those are two bookmarked recipes that I'm glad I tried and that I highly recommend.

Meanwhile, my sewing has finally taken off. Now that I know how to do basic stuff like changing the bobbin, sewing is not such an uphill battle any more. I'm sewing more seams than I'm ripping apart. Of course, it is all possible because kind crafters share free patterns and advice and tutorials on their blogs and websites- I'm much obliged to them!

I got so carried away with enthusiasm one evening that I even made a pillowcase dress for Lila. The inspiration for the watermelon look came from a pic I saw online and the helpful pattern is from here.


Another favorite little project from recent weeks has been this tea wallet. I've made several to give as gifts. Once I made one I just could not stop. The excellent tutorial is from here. I don't know- there's something ridiculously cute about a tiny wallet for carrying around little tea bags. And this wallet fits business cards and credit cards perfectly too.


Making the tea wallet opened up a world of projects for me because they had several steps in common. One was this crayon tote. A tote that a child can carry around to restaurants, car rides etc. and then open up to reveal crayons and coloring books. Art on the go!


Here's another one: a car roll that opens up to reveal garages where one can tuck little cars and then when the mood strikes, zoom zoom, they can hit the build-in roads.
I'll be back next week with the results of my fridge and freezer cleaning. Have a great week!

49 comments:

  1. Wow! I have to say that is pretty amazing work for someone who didn't sew before. And really cute prints too! It is impressive that you put in so much time and effort into learning new things.
    As a fan, I say do keep giving us weekly posts. You are definitely my source for great recipes!

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    1. Well, you learn step by step :) The cute prints definitely make sewing fun!

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  2. You are such a creative genius!!!! Such cute fabric projects!inspired by this post, I am going to get my portable machine outside tomorrow.

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    1. Please do! Keeping the machine out on a table front and center (not hidden out of sight) was a prime motivation for me to actually use it.

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  3. The lentil recipe looks very interesting and I'm glad you clarified which kind of chili you used as I would have wondered.

    Isn't sewing fun!? You can also use the same premise as the crayon and car totes to make tool kits/rolls for cars. Tool rolls help you know if you have mislaid a tool when you are putting things away after use. This fall you can put a long sleeved shirt under the dress and Lila can wear it as a jumper.

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    1. Judy- yes! So many possibilities for similar projects. I have friends who sewed me rolls for knitting and crochet needles and I love using them.

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  4. That pizza is on my list now. The cornmeal gives it a slight crunch too, right?

    Your sewing projects are so adorable! The fabrics you have used are playful and fun. Makes me want to go on a sewing spree :)
    Maybe one day, if I have my own home and a tn of space, 'll get me a sewing machine and indulge ( or make a mess of it...)

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    1. Hi Manasi- yes, the cornmeal adds crunch and flavor and it just delicious. You can indulge in your machine and make a mess starting right now, space or no space ;)

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  5. wow wow wow... I am so impressed with all your sewing projects Nupur. So beautiful and cute ones. Keep them coming. One of these days, I will bring our my sewing machine and sew something!

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    1. Please do sew something and show us pics :)

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  6. Awww, that watermelon dress is soooooo cute! :-) I coo-chi-coo'd the screen imagining Lila in it. Please give her lots of sweet kisses from me when she wears it. How I wish I could give them to her myself. :-) She would make the sweetest watermelon slice, so hard to resist!

    Your sewing projects seem so much fun, it's a joy to see the finished work. Both the recipes you tried look really tempting, Thanks for sharing it.

    - Priti

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    1. LOL thanks! She does look cute in that dress, a bit halloween costumish but oh well, almost anything looks cute on kids.

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  7. wow -those sewing projects look so good! I know my son would love the car case! he loves cars and loves having tracks and roads to run them on.. now only if I could sew :)

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    1. Archana- Let someone else do the sewing for you! You can buy this on Etsy (and other sites, I'm sure). Just search for "car caddy" and "car roll".

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    2. good idea :) I happen to be on Etsy right now.

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  8. Wow, I am so in awe of the totes and pouches!! you have talent!

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    1. Enthusiasm much more than talent but it sure is fun :)

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  9. Glad to see a new post. First, congratulations on Duncan! What a lovely conincidence that your new dog's name starts with a D too. You are right - the Universe did want you to have that cutie pie :)
    Another coincidence - cornmeal. We went out for brunch a while back and my daughter loved the cornmeal blueberry pancakes that we ordered. I have made them a few times since then to use up the ginormous amount of blueberries we picked at the patch.
    Your sewing projects look great. We received the crayon kit in a goody bag at a birthday party and I was so impressed. Super useful and cute. Keep up the good work!
    -Ashwini

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    1. Yup- another "D" dog, isn't that a coincidence? And he has an uncanny resemblance to Dalu.

      OMG blueberry cornmeal pancakes are so good. You reminded me to make some.

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  10. That pizza looks delicious! And thanks for sharing that lentil recipe. I love masoor and this looks like a fabulous, new way to try them.

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    1. I think you'll really enjoy the lentil recipe! Familiar yet different, ya know?

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  11. Oh my goodness your projects turned out so cute!
    I've never tried my hand at sewing but, this is inspiring.
    The lentil recipe looks interesting.

    -Anu

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  12. Love the little melon dress, its so cute. My son would love that car roll...Every time we step out of the house, he carries his cars and transformers and sets up a mini battlefield wherever we go ! That teabag wallet is something my mom would love, she is a total tea person and carries her sachets everywhere. I wish I had the patience to see my projects thru. I start with a bang and then it lies forever :( The only one I managed was a little cupcake quilt for a friend's new born. I actually embroidered the cupcake and her name on it !!

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    1. So cute! Do you have any pics of your cupcake quilt?

      The car roll and tea wallet are both quick projects. I'm also short on patience so the instant gratification projects are the ones I choose.

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  13. I love the watermelon pillowcase dress. Where do you buy your fabric from? I have been trying to work on my sewing machine a little more, these days. Seams seem a little easier now. But I still have to attempt quilting though. Thanks for all the inspiration, Nupur.

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    1. The fabric is all from the big box fabric store, Jo Ann fabrics.

      In so many ways, quilting is easier than sewing! I'd love to see your projects :)

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  14. very creative patchworks...adorable :-)

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  15. Loved your projects! They look really cute :) And the pizza looks to-die-for! yummm

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    1. Try the pizza recipe if you get a chance- it is delish!

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  16. so cute and thoughtful things...your daughter is really lucky to have a mom like you!

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    1. Well, she's a good kid and I'm the lucky one :)

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  17. Pizza and lentils look fantastic Nupur -- don't you love it when you finally get to make those bookmarked recipes? The watermelon dress is adorable! Lucky little L is going to grow up with a sewing needle in one hand and a wooden spoon in the other ;)

    I won't make the fridge deadline, too much time at my real jobs -- but it is in progress; -- thanks for that nudge!

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    1. Oh yeah, so much fun to actually try a new recipe and mix up the dinner rotation a little.

      I'm glad you made the fridge deadline after all :)

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  18. Loved your projects! They look really cute :) And the pizza looks to-die-for! yummm

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  19. A general message: this week is turning out to be too busy for me, so the next post will be on Monday July 12.

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  20. KAF catalogs suck me in everytime they have 'free shipping' offer. I end buying way too many special ingredients than I truly need.
    I'm going to try that lentil joe recipe. Sounds delicious.
    You are on a sewing spree.. very good!!
    Hope you are enjoying Summer.. Hope to see your Monday (or any other day) post soon..

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    1. Do try the lentil joe's- I have a feeling kids will enjoy it too. My toddler ate a whole bowl just like that.

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  21. I am so impressed with your sewing projects! Just love the idea of the art tote. Care to share some of your time management tips now that you are also juggling with a toddler? I would love to hear them.

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    1. Thanks! I don't know that I have any great tips. I've chosen to work part time and that opens up free time for me. Toddler goes to a preschool that she loves so I have excellent child care on weekdays. We live in a small town where commute times are 10 minutes or so. These things help a lot.

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  22. I love your fabric fest!!! I am a sucker for cloth bags and wallets so I am loving your projects. I did see something similar to the roll up car holder on etsy. It seems like a great option to make your own.

    And I made the snobby Joe's (with masoor dal) and they were a big hit at home. Planning to try them again but using a single pot. They seemed to cook surprisingly fast even without soaking.

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    1. Hi Lavanya- sewing gifts is lots of fun and of course much cheaper than buying things on Etsy. I'm so glad I can finally sew. So glad the snobby joe's worked for you :) yeah, lentils cook super fast.

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  23. I can vouch for how cute the tea wallet is in person! :) thanks again! The dress is adorable and pizza looks great - will have to try it and let you know.

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    1. I think you and your kids will really enjoy the pizza, Nisha! They can make their own toppings :)

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  24. let's have a look at Lila in the pillowcase dress when she wears it next.You Nupur, is one person who is brimming with ideas!

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  25. Have you read Jigyasa & Pratibha at pritya.com.

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  26. Ooo! I love alll your little sewn dresses and wallets/clutches! The fabric is adorable and the way you sewed them looks very nice! I would soooo love one!

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