The Brellis House

 

[Failed] Experiments with Natural Dyes: Pokeweed

Last year I successfully died fabric with black walnut, which was my first try at dying fabrics with natural plant material. My end goal is to have about 10 or so colors so that I can make a quilt similar to this beauty. This year I decided to try my hand at pokeweed. I had read that it can be difficult, but we have so much pokeweed around our neighborhood I couldn’t help but try. A 25:1 ratio is recommended, 25 pokeweed weight to 1 fabric weight. I ended up with about a 35:1 ratio. Then I picked all the berries off the stems. This part took FOREVER.  pokeweedAnd it made my hands look like this. It’s a bad sign for dying fabric that this washes right off your hands with soap and water.

pokeweed handsUsing two books from the library (one of which is a really beautiful book called Harvesting Color) and the internet, I read that a vinegar mordant helps the fabric hold the dye, so I pre-mordanted the fabric in vinegar, which was done by simmering (160 degrees) the fabric in water with about 1 cup of water. To prepare the berries for the dye bath, I mashed them in the dye pot, filled the pot with water and 1/2 cup vinegar for every gallon of water for a pH of 3.5. I heated this for 1 hour over low-medium heat, then strained the berries out. The pre-wetted/mordanted fabric went right into this dyebath and soaked on medium heat for 2 hours. I turned the heat off after 2 hours and let it soak for about 30 hours.

I ended up with fabric that looked like this. Needless to say I was pretty ecstatic, but worried it would all wash out like it did on my hands.

pokeweed fabricWhich is exactly what it did. I let it sit and dry for over an hour, then brought it to the sink. The color immediately started to rinse out, and I was basically left with a piece of dirty looking fabric, with a SLIGHT pink hue if you squint (or just pretend). Oh well! Maybe I’ll try again. There are a few things I think I could possibly do better, such as being more precise with measuring exactly how much vinegar should be added to the dyebath and using pH strips to get to exactly a pH of 3.5 in the dyebath. Also, using a thermometer because the dye is very temperature sensitive and the color will be destroyed at temperatures too high.

pokeweed fabric

Here are the three fabrics I have so far. Pokeweed on the left, black walnut method #1 in middle, and black walnut method #2 (soaked overnight) on the right.

natural dyes fabric

 

 

 

Vegetable Pasta with Kale

Penne Pasta with Vegetables and Kale | The Brellis House

Summer’s bounty can be overwhelming sometimes. This dish is a great way to use up the last of summer’s vegetables. Feel free to get creative with the types of vegetables and seasonings. If you plan to switch things up, remember to cook your various vegetables appropriately:

Roast the more hardy ones (potatoes, cauliflower or squash)
Steam (broccoli or asparagus) or briefly boil (peas) the greener ones
Sauté – high heat and quick time – the tender ones (mushrooms, Swiss chard, cherry tomatoes, or green onions)

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1/2 zucchini (peeled, seeded and cut into wedges)
  • 1 onion (sliced)
  • 1 carrot (sliced diagonally)
  • 1 half bell pepper (sliced)
  • 1/4 pound green beans (edges trimmed and cut into 2″ pieces)
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 2 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes in oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 ears of corn (cut off cob)
  • 2 big handfuls of kale (stems removed & chopped)
  • 1 tbsp Italian herbs (dried or fresh parsley, basil, thyme, rosemary, etc- you get to be creative here)

Methods

  1. On a baking sheet, combine the zucchini, onion, carrot and bell pepper. Toss with enough olive oil to coat and about 1/4 tsp of salt. Bake at 350*F until everything is tender, approx 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil. Once boiling, add the green beans in for no more than 1 minute and then transfer then with a slotted spoon to an ice water bath. Add the pasta to the boiling water and boil until al dente. Strain the pasta and cover.
  3. In a large pot (possibly the same as our pasta cooker), heat up some olive oil (~ 2 tbsp) on low and add the crushed garlic along with a pinch of salt. Cook until fragrant (30 seconds), add the tomatoes, cook another minute then add the corn (if the garlic stars to brown before you add the corn, turn the heat down). Cook the corn for 1-2 minutes, then add the strained green beans, roasted vegetables and cooked pasta. Add more olive oil coat everything, stirring really well. Season with additional salt, if necessary, and mix in the black pepper and Italian herbs and warm throughout. Turn off the heat, add the chopped kale on top, put the lid on the pot and let sit to soften the kale for 1-2 minutes. Once the kale is just barely wilted and a brighter green, mix everything and serve.

Growing Arugula Microgreens | The Brellis House

Also, we accidentally grew microgreens. All our arugula went to seed apparently and after I weeded away the dead cucumber vines and lettuce, these adorable little guys immediately sprouted up. They are so delicious, it’s hard to describe.

Washed Arugula Microgreens | The Brellis House

Refinishing the Staircase

Refinishing our staircase has been on our to-do list for years and we finally got to it! Particularly after we refinished our wood floors, the orangey wood with paint splatters was really bothering us (probably really just me). Plus I had been lusting over the painted riser-dark wood stained tread look on pinterest. So one weekend we tackled it and wonder why it took us so long to get to it. Here’s what it looked like before, although we didn’t really get very good photos of how bad the wood really looked up close.

stairbase before

All we had to do was sand down the treads (sounds easy but it took HOURS), vacuum, and spread on two coats of stain and two coats of a clear coat.staining staircase

Then I painted the risers with one coat of primer and two coats of white paint and voilà! They are so beautiful.staircase after

Happy 4th Anniversary To Us!

The fourth anniversary materials are either flowers and/or fruit. We chose flowers.

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Dan cut out a 4 from some cardboard, I gathered flowers from our yard and we attached them to the cardboard with hot glue. There was a moment when it was cheesy and very hippy-like, but I’m fairly pleased with how it turned out. There are black-eyed susans, white wood aster, goldenrod, rose hips, and purple coneflower, among others. #mostlynatives

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If you can’t get enough of our silly cheesyness, check out our Year 1 and Year 2 and Year 3 photos!

Kitchen Updates

One thing that has been on our kitchen to-do list for years is to build a pull out trash can to replace the empty space where a dish washer should be. Dan finally finished it and it makes our kitchen renovation one giant step closer to actually being finished!

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To keep the cabinet consistent, we decided to reuse the original cabinet that held the sink. We took inspiration and some guidance from tutorials from Makely and Young House Love. First, Dan had to cut a section out of it and then splice it back together to get it to be the right size.

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After that, we puttied the seams and painted the front. Since the cabinet is pretty old, we reinforced the side walls with 1/4″ plywood and installed sliding arms on either side. To utilize the cabinet’s height, we removed the center front plate.

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We bought the trash cans from simplehuman and made a box the width of the sliding arms that would fit them snugly.

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Just like the cabinet, Dan took the doors and decorative top plate and cut them to size. He used metal brackets to secure them together and a 1/8″ board of  plywood to replicate the center block that we removed from the cabinet.

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All that was left for building it was to screw the trash can box to the sliding arms and secure the door to the box.

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Although the whole building of the cabinet took extremely long of on-and-off work, the hardest part was wedging it into place- under a concrete counter top and on slightly uneven tiles.

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After two coats of primer, I put on a final coat of paint and added the door knob. Fairly seamless one first blush! A simple kick plate across the cabinets and sink helps tie everything together.

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Kitchen pull out trash can. The Brellis House

Kitchen pull out trash can. The Brellis House

Cooking Is Like Love

cooking-is-like-love

I love this quote as much as I love cooking.

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.

– Harriet van Horne

Allez cuisine!

Baby Quilt

Dan’s sister is having a baby! We are very excited for her! I was especially excited to try my hand at a baby quilt. This was my first baby quilt and my goodness it was quick to make compared to the full sized quilts I’ve made previously!

baby quiltbaby quiltbaby quilt

Penne with Acorn Squash

Many times it’s hard to see pasta past a red sauce, but many of the best pasta dishes I’ve had get an extraordinary amount of flavor and complexity from subtle ingredients that would be otherwise masked by the robustness of a tomato. Such pasta dishes often have an oil based ‘dressing’, if you will, like spaghetti with white beans and garlic.

Penne pasta with roasted acorn squash and caramelized onions

Here I’ve taken a late season fall gourd, acorn squash, and roasted it along with spinach and caramelized onions. The roasted squash and sweet onions go really well together, offering a sweet and savory infused oil that lingers in your mouth.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound dry penne pasta
  • 1 medium acorn squash
  • 2 onions
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup vegetable stock (or just plain water)
  • 1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (either packed in oil or dry)
  • 1/2 pound washed baby spinach (or regular spinach, chopped)

Methods

*If you are using the tomatoes that are dried (not packed in oil), place them in the wine to allow them to soften.

  1. First we roast the squash by peeling it, cutting it in half (lengthwise) and scooping the seeds out. Cut into 3/4″ cubes and put on a baking sheet. Slice the onions and add to the squash. Toss it all with the 1/4 cup olive oil, big pinch of salt, paprika, cayenne and black pepper (might be easier to mix everything in a bowl first then place on the baking sheet). Bake at 400*F until the squash is able to be pierced by a fork (about 20 minutes), stirring everything 2-3 times to prevent the onions from burning.
  2. Cook the penne in salted water per the package directions until al dente. Drain, toss with some oil to prevent sticking and set aside.
  3. While the squash is baking and penne is cooking, heat some oil in a heavy bottom pan over med/low heat and add the garlic. Cook until just lightly browned and fragrant (1 minute). Turn the heat to high and then deglaze with the wine (remove the tomatoes if you were soaking them). Let the wine reduce for a bit (30 secs) over the high heat, then add the stock, tomatoes and spinach. Add the penne and mix thoroughly. Cook until the spinach wilts.
  4. Combine the squash with the garlic-spinach mixture. Season with additional salt or spices and add some extra olive oil as needed (for me I added an additional 1/8 cup) to make a nice mixture that isn’t overly oily.
  5. Serve with some red pepper flakes for garnish.

Vegan Croissants: An Adventure

Friend: What do you know about making croissants?

Me: Hm, I don’t know. Not much. They’re hard.

This conversation between a friend and myself took place a few months ago. I knew croissants were layers of fat and dough and I had added them to my vegan bucket list after seeing VeganDad play around with puff pastry. But, at the time, I didn’t even know they were a yeasted dough, and certainly didn’t think I was ready for it.

Well, I’m here to tell you, croissants aren’t that difficult to make. Yes, even vegan ones. Like most breads (and food), they take patience and dedication to detail. If you try to rush croissants, you’ll end up with a flat, oily mess.

Vegan Croissants :: The Brellis House

I don’t feel a need to post step-by-step instructions, because the methods for making vegan croissants aren’t any different than non-vegan ones. I will share some tips that helped me and the recipes I used.

I learned more from baking several batches of croissants than I did from research or reading recipes. For starters, there seems to be two types of croissants: 1) sweet, buttery, chewy/gooey desserts or 2) fluffy, bready, robust, roll-like croissants. The former makes sense to serve with chocolate and fruit while the latter can hold it’s own being cut open and stuffed for sandwiches. I made batches of each.

For the dessert croissants, I relied on VeganBaking.net. I adapted the recipe (based on my research) and came up with a nice result, which I think would have been improved by a longer proofing after shaping. This recipe uses sugar, milk (non-dairy) and fat in the dough so it’s more enriched (softer) and sweeter.

Vegan Croissants :: The Brellis House

For the bready croissants, I used the recipe from Tartine Bread. I love this recipe because it utilizes overnight rests, uses a poolish and a sourdough leaven, has less sugar and no fat in the dough. I gave these plenty of time to proof before baking and so they were oversized and lovely.

Vegan Croissants :: The Brellis House

In both recipes I employed some chocolate layering in half. Though I haven’t looked into it, I have a hunch that the chocolate should be added during the folds of laminating the dough. However, due to lack of foresight, I simply slathered some melted chocolate onto the croissant before I rolled it up.

Recipe Adaptations

Adapted from VeganBaking.net for a half batch. For the dessert croissants:

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Tbl active dry yeast
  • 5 oz warm soy milk
  • 4oz (approx 3/4 cup) bread flour
  • 2.8 oz (approx 1/2 cup) all purpose flour
  • 1 oz (approx 1/8 cup) white sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 14 grams butter

I made the dough and butter block (5in square block) in the afternoon, did two turns in the evening and then refrigerated overnight. The next morning, I rolled out the dough and did two more turns then refrigerated for 5 hours. I then rolled it out again, cut and shaped them, let them rose for an hour and then baked for 15 mins at 375ºF.

For the bready croissants:

I used the recipe for the dough laid out in Tartine Bread, only substituting soy milk for the milk and again made a half batch.

As for the butter block, I had perfect success with using 100% Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, though I dabbled with various ratios of coconut oil and shortening and they worked equally well. For the egg wash, I had best success with using orange marmalade mixed with a little soy milk to thin it out.

Sweet Potato Kamut Soup

The ancient grains have been gaining popularity lately. It started with quinoa, but now farro, bulgur, amaranth and kamut can be fairly easily found at most major grocery stores. What I love most about these grains, as opposed to rice, is their inherent nutty flavor (like in my bulgur-asparagus recipe) and toothy texture.

sweet potato kamut soup

This soup has a nice comfort food feel with onions, carrots, sweet potato and lentils with the added kamut grains for a unique chewiness. Kamut can take some time to cook, and the package I have suggests soaking them overnight.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw kamut (soaked overnight and drained)
  • 1 cup brown or green lentils, washed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and 1/2″ diced
  • 1/8 cup dry white wine
  • 15 oz can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup green onions/celery leaves/parsley for garnish

Methods

  1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, add the kamut and bay leaf and simmer for 10 minutes, then add the lentils. When both the kamut and lentils are tender (after about an additional 20 minutes) remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. While the lentils and kamut are simmering, bring some oil in a dutch oven over medium heat and add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic. Season with some salt and cook. Meanwhile, peel and chop the sweet potato. After about 15 minutes, add the ground cumin, black pepper and sweet potato; cover; and cook until the potato is just able to be pierced by a fork.
  3. Boost the heat on the veggies to high, deglaze with the wine for about 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes and 1-2 cups of vegetable stock.
  4. Bring to a boil and add the cooked farro and lentils (and any additional cooking water left over). Simmer until the sweet potatoes are soft.
  5. Serve in a soup bowl and garnish with parsley, celery leaves and/or green onions.
Raw kamut grains

Kamut grains (raw). Kamut is popular in many Northeast African cuisines and offer a chewy/toothy texture that compliments the soft vegetables in this soup.