Monday, December 27, 2010

AMY & REE: Linguine with Clam Sauce

I believe that PW's sister, Betsy, makes this pasta for girls' night. PW lives on a ranch with cowboys who call this girl food and prefer much beefier business. Luckily, my man loves him all kinds of food, so he's always willing to try what I make. This was very good, but I also love clams, which I know are an acquired taste for some people, my kids included.

AMY & REE: My Favorite Meatloaf

I made PW's favorite meatloaf with her creamy rosemary potato recipe (posted above) one night for dinner. It is a big hamburger loaf made the traditional way, except it's covered with bacon and a spicy ketchup topping. We thought it was pretty good, but, like all meatloaf, much better the next day. I almost love meatloaf sandwiches better than the warm night-before dinner version. This meatloaf was fine, but my favorite version of this classic is still my mozzarella turkey one.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

AMY & REE: Flat Apple Pie

This flat apple pie recipe actually makes two pies, but I cheated a bit and used premade pie dough because, friends, I'm on a deadline here, with just a few days to so. It's pretty small, but boy is it delicious. And easy. I took PW's advice and drizzled caramel topping on the top. Add to that some homemade whipped cream and OMG, people. I took this to the BSU bowl game party and those folks couldn't stop raving about it. Highly recommended.

AMY & REE: Creamy Rosemary Potatoes

These are listed as 'Creamy Herbed Potatoes' on PW's website, but in the book they are Creamy Rosemary Potatoes. Regardless of the name change, the recipe is the same. It's a really fattening, fancy version of scalloped potatoes using fresh rosemary and parmesan cheese. They were a yummy change of pace, but not something I'd probably really make again.

Friday, December 24, 2010

AMY & REE: Chicken Pot Pie

This recipe for turkey pot pie on PW's website is exactly the same as the chicken pot pie recipe in her cookbook, just substituting chicken for turkey. I made this last night for dinner for the inlaws who just got in for the holiday. It was a perfect winter night recipe. The addition of thyme is perfect and she's right about salting it to taste. Again, I cheated with the pie crust, and used pre-made since I'm short on time. Give it a shot, it's worth it! Would be a perfect use for Christmas dinner turkey leftovers.

AMY & REE: Basic Breakfast Potatoes & Breakfast Burritos

PW's Basic Breakfast Potatoes are a super easy way to make homemade hashbrowns and are basic enough to make a huge batch of and use in other recipes, like her Breakfast Burritos which I made with them. (The potatoes are also a perfect use for a few leftover baked potatoes from another dinner, by the way.) Anyhow, they are good alone, but are great with the breakfast burritos, which are really basic - salsa, sausage, cheese, egg and potatoes. The recipe makes a big batch, enough for a Saturday morning family breakfast and leaving you with 8-10 to freeze for later. Microwave for about 3 minutes (probably less if you don't have a 20 year old microwave oven like I do) and take them on the go. I love them.

Friday, December 17, 2010

AMY & REE: Olive Cheese Bread

Okay, ladies, PW calls her Olive Cheese Bread 'cowgirl food' and I couldn't agree more. While Eric didn't love it, I did. And Alice did. While we all had a slice or two with our dinner that night, the next day she and I ate a half loaf of the stuff. It is rich and yummy and olive-y goodness. Perfect for noshing all day and is especially complimentary to wine. So, of course, there wasn't enough time to take a picture of it between shoving it's melty, salty crispiness into my mouth.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

AMY & REE: Beans and Cornbread

Sometimes we're just too busy eating to take pictures of the food. I always remember afterwards, though, and think, "I'll get pics of the leftovers tomorrow." Then Eric eats the leftovers as an almost-midnight-snack well before tomorrow comes, or we pack them into lunch sacks and I totally forget. This was one of those meals.

I grew up on beans and cornbread - it was a staple in my mom's kitchen repertoire and her childhood as well, which she imparted on us. I have fond memories of those pinto beans soaking for what seemed like days, and the salty, smoky hamhock falling to pieces once they were finally done. While my childhood cornbread usually came from a box (and, honestly, mine often still does), it was delicious with the meal and later with dark Karo syrup on top as a sweet treat.

PW's beans were great and easy and made a ton, so much that I still have a carton in my freezer. The skillet cornbread had a weird taste to me - I think it was the use of Crisco - so I didn't like it that much. My vote? Beans - yep. Cornbread - pass.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

AMY & REE: Pineapple Upside-Down Cake (in an iron skillet)

I had never made cake in an iron skillet nor had I ever made pineapple upside-down cake before, so this was new to me on two levels. It was easy and fun, but a bit stressful at the flipping the cake out stage, as it always is for me. But look how beautiful! And vintage! In my cake carrier! (I could've upped the kitsch quotient if I'd added maraschino cherries, but I dislike them so.) I took this to the ladies with babies at playgroup and we enjoyed it with coffee. I think pineapple upside-down cake is something you either love or hate, but think it was a good recipe.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

AMY & REE: French Breakfast Puffs

So, I just sent out our Christmas e-greeting, which captures some fun accomplishments from each of our family members throughout the year, like Lucy losing three teeth, Alice eating too many eggs, Eric watching the sun set over the Tetons and my successfully completing my Pioneer Woman cookbook challenge. Only, I lied. About myself. I'm not done with the cooking, not even close. You guys, don't judge. It was more of a 'publish a dream and it will become your reality' sort of idea. You see, I'm not going to be made a fool or a liar. I will get 'er done. Because I'm obsessive and a procrastinator and my husband will help me and I plan to cheat. Just a little teeny tiny bit.

But not yet. You see, I've been baking and broiling and beating for months now, and am just finally getting around to posting about some of the recipes. So beware, the rest of my posts for 2010 are likely to be a flurry of frantic kitchen tidbits about all the cooking that's bein' done up in here.

I made these muffins that are dipped in butter and rolled in sugar and cinnamon after baking them a while back, but they didn't last long. I've said it before, but PW sure knows her sweet stuff and I think baking is really her strong suit. These things are yummy and tasted a bit like donuts so, duh, um, I LOVE THEM. And you will, too.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Where I've Been = Manic Art/Work Mode

So, I've been a pretty shitty blogger lately, but I have been writing like crazy elsewhere. My new gig as a freelance arts writer for our local indy newsweekly, the Boise Weekly, has been fun and demands lots of evening interviews and late night sessions with my laptop. I've been producing 1-2 stories a month for them this fall, writing about anything from Iraqi refugees to improv comedy.

I'm also thrilled that my first pieces came out in Treasure Valley Family magazine, our local family publication, in the December issue. My regular monthly columns include "Shop & Tell" (a local gift/purchasing guide based on different themes), "Park Playtime" (highlighting different outdoor wonderlands in the area), and "Somewhere Over the Laundry Pile" (a sort of end of the day personal story about motherhood as I see it). I also occasionally write specialty pieces, like this one about local kids theatre auditions. Soon, I'm to be the featured mommyblogger on TVF's revamped website, so stay tuned.

Right after my layoff at the Boise Art Museum, the city of Boise Department of Arts & History snatched me up to consult with them on a pretty regular basis. I work on a number of projects devoted both to public art projects and history related ones, in addition to serving on two different committees for the organization. Lately, I've been tasked with working with local signmakers on getting appropriate labels and signage made for quite a few projects, like this one by Stephanie Bacon, a collaged installation making the Collister Branch of the Boise Public Library a really cool place:

Since June, I've been organizing an exhibition with 21 different local artists for the Trey McIntyre Project (TMP), a world-renowned contemporary dance troupe based here in Boise. Each year, Trey, the artistic director, asks a group of artists to create artworks inspired by each of the 9 dancers + 1 artistic director as a fundraiser. This year, I was asked to come on board as the project manager/curator of the event and exhibition. There was much to be coordinated, and the work load more than tripled as our opening date, December 2nd, quickly approached. Not to mention that Trey asked me to participate as an artist as well. Here's a peek at my artist webpage as well as the piece I created for the show:

Amy Pence-Brown, What you see is not all you get., found fabric, thread, frames, shelf, 2010. SOLD!

Moscow, Idaho, ceramic artist Marilyn Lysohir's plates and cups

Rachel Linquist made these fantastic fabric dancer dolls. Check out her Etsy shop for more cuteness. Plus, she's a helluva a gal.

E.J. Pettinger writes this quirky cartoon called Mild Abandon and did these paintings of the dancers holding a fundraising carwash. He turned the paintings into calendars, that sold like hotcakes.

Amy O'Brien + Kerry Tullis make up Unit Eleven Design. They use reclaimed wood and steel and made stools with heights based on each dancer's inseam.

Susan Valiquette is a photographer who mounted her photos of each dancer after rehearsal, sweat and all, to really cool lucite boxes.

BSU printmaking professor Jill Fitterer made tiny etchings with chine colle on wood for each dancer.
The exhibition is still up and, in fact, I'm hosting a recycled arts project for kids this Saturday in their warehouse space. Whew. So far, this holiday season has been fun, but a bit exhausting, and not with the normal stuff like shipping packages and hanging holiday lights, but with work/art madness. While it's been interesting and fulfilling, managing these four part-time gigs with full-time motherhood has been a bit challenging lately. I've missed too many dinners with my family and Lucy's totally out of clean pants as I type. I'm looking forward to more nights by the fire reading books with my girls, digging my way out of the mountains of laundry, and baking up some goodies for my neighbors. Oh yeah, and a little sleep might be nice, too.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

AMY & REE: Chicken Spaghetti

So, while my mad cooking skillz are on a roll, my photography ones seem to be lacking. Not to mention that the girls (read: probably Alice) destroyed our good digital camera. Like, ripped-the-pop-up-screen-off-the-hinges destroyed. So, we are now using an old one that uses batteries and sucks the juice out of them like crazy, leaving us, most days, with a dead camera. Therefore, no photos of this dish because everyone ate it so fast I wasn't able to recharge the batteries in time!

PW's Chicken Spaghetti is basically a creamy chicken casserole with spaghetti, a very yummy comfort food dish. While PW calls for boiling a whole chicken and cutting it up and using it, we used a store bought rotisserie chicken instead. (TIP: saving the carcass to boil down with some fresh herbs into chicken stock for soup is highly recommended!) Eric's conclusion: delish. Mine: just okay. Kinda reminds me of a casserole a church might provide for a funeral service.

AMY & REE: Patsy's Blackberry Cobbler

I made PW's blackberry cobbler last week to take over to a friend's house. I was feeling bad that the dinner portion I brought was take-out Papa Murphy's pizzas, and I'm on a Pioneer Woman roll here lately. The deadline looms in my future to finish out my new year's resolution to make every recipe in the book. Plus, it's fall and I always love to cuddle inside next to a warm stove in this weather. Anyhow, I had frozen blueberries my inlaws picked in the freezer and used those instead. This dish came together so quickly and easily, but it has to bake one hour, so be sure to allow for that time. I whipped some heavy cream with agave nectar for a quick and easy sweet homemade topping. By far, this is the best cobbler I've ever made. Can't wait to try it again with our frozen huckleberries from Idaho Falls!

AMY & REE: Sherried Tomato Soup

This is the perfect fall soup to make for a fancy ladies lunch. Or, who am I kidding, any lunch really, as my girls loved it, too. It is so easy and the sherry just makes it too die for. I got all silly in the head and thought I needed (much more expensive) real sherry from the liquor store, but really, you can use cooking sherry as well. It gives it an extra punch of loveliness. Paired with a fresh baguette and a simple salad, it could be lunch or dinner any day of the week in my book!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

AMY & REE: Chicken Fried Steak with Gravy and Creamy Mashed Potatoes

I got all antsy to make these two dishes from PW's cookbook once the weather started cooling off. And, trust me, I know they are a heart attack waiting to happen. But a delicious one, if I do say so. We just happen to have some cubed elk steak in the freezer, a gift from last hunting season, which worked perfectly for her Chicken Fried Steak. The roux gravy was easy and yummy as well. Her Creamy Mashed Potatoes, though, are really time consuming, as you basically make traditional mashed potatoes then mix in a lot of butter, cream cheese, and cream and bake them again. All extra steps which take too much time and don't really enliven the flavor all that much, in my opinion. And I'm back on a roll with baking and cooking, my friends, since we just celebrated the 2nd Annual Food Network Cookoff, where I spent the last several months all about the Barefoot Contessa. And, as the weather makes my bones ache for comfort food and indoors, you can be expecting more PW cookbook posts soon. Also, I'd better get my ass in gear if I'm to make my December 31st deadline!

Friday, October 15, 2010

CRAFTY: Making Old Stuff New Again

It's finally fall in Idaho, as it seems the 90 degree days are now gone for good. It was a little disconcerting, even as a sun worshipper, to be spreading our cotton spider webs around the rose bush and putting out our 'TRICK OR TREAT' doormat in shorts and tanks. And I couldn't be more happy to welcome the 60 degree overcast mornings, pull our sweaters out of storage, and cuddle up in my Snuggie with morning coffee. It's time.

Along with the change in seasons and weather comes the inside time after a long summer spent under the blue skies. I like that shift indoors, even though with it comes bigger messes and the occasional bouts of cabin fever. Luckily, we've got things we love to keep us busy this time of year - our overflowing bookshelves and my trusty Singer sewing machine. As always, I'm really big on recycling old things into new and love the challenge an overlooked object presents. Over the past few months I've discovered a really great way to use the girls tattered, torn, or stained clothes and make them into something new and usable.

I've been cutting out patterns or appliques from undamaged parts of their old t-shirts and making them into 'patches' to cover up small stains or tears on perfectly good wear. You can see here I covered the bum in a pair of Alice's blue shorts with a pink ballerina and cut some hearts from another tee for her little turtleneck. I've been using whatever fun color of thread is currently in my machine to add to the funkability factor of these patchwork items and I love the way cotton jersey rolls a little when you stitch it on.

Another great idea (which I stole from this blog) was to cut off the girls' pants into shorts when they still fit everywhere but the length. We did this all summer with jeans and 'jama pants and it's a great way to prolong the life of clothes, especially with wee ones that grow so fast. (We did the same with Alice's onesies, making them into little t-shirts.) I discovered that Alice's tiny pant legs, when cut off and turned upside down, looked like the perfect doll skirts, with the elastic waists already in place.

So one night Lucy cut out patches and picked cute stitches on my machine and we whipped up four skirts in no time flat! We could've cut some shorter for baby dolls like this one (or even added straps!) but thought it looked cute as a strapless dress, even though it's a wee bit inappropriate for a baby her age.

We also could've easily hemmed the skirts, but thought the ragged denim look was hip. It would be fun to pick up some infant pants at thrift shops and add other iron on patches and the like for little girls' birthday or Christmas gifts as well.

My friend Kristyn gave me this cute idea the other day for the month of October: gather all your Halloween books into a basket for a special seasonal reading nook. This is especially great for those parents, like me, who are a little too unorganized to put away holiday books and only pull them out once a year.

Alice and I had fun rummaging through our numerous bookshelves in search of books, and came up with more than I even knew we had. We took liberties with the theme and included books on fall, monsters, and spiders, too, and put them all in one of our apple buckets. We are avid readers here and my kids (like yours, I'm sure) get hooked on one book and want us to read it TEN THOUSAND TIMES IN A ROW. So this is a fun way to rethink about books you already own and celebrate the season. I love this idea so much that I'm continuing it into the winter. So, what about you? Any hobbies you reintroduce in the fall? What are your favorite ways to make old stuff new again to your kids?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

My Mighty Life List: 75 at 35

I just celebrated my 35th birthday. It was a pretty mellow day, really, as all I wanted was some alone time with my hubby, a breakfast with an adult beverage in a smoky bar, uninterrupted by food being thrown or screaming, and a quiet day exploring downtown Nampa. Now I know some might cringe that this idea appeals to anyone, but when you've been with your kids 24/7 going on 18 months straight now, it's the littlest most mundane things that you sometimes miss about being an adult. Like the fact that I can actually casually explore a fruit stand at a farmers market without chucking some peaches in my bag before losing a child in the madness, or liberally covering my scrambled eggs with Tabasco without worrying about having to share them with my 2-year-old. Even though I love my girls so much that my heart explodes every night as I kiss them goodnight, I need a break. I needed to do something for myself on my birthday.

All this self-centered talk makes me feel guilty, though. Especially since I'm trying to balance four jobs on top of being a radical homemaker and a stay-at-home-mom. And I feel like I'm not on the top of my game with any of them. There's dried up cat puke next to my bed that's been there for days and Alice has watched too much Sid the Science Kid this past week. Not to mention that I've missed several of those bedtime kisses because I've been out conducting interviews for stories or meeting with artists or at historic preservation hearings lately. I'm trying desperately to work on balance, on what my family needs and what I need and be able to do it all with a little less grouchiness and a little more fun. It's hard.

As my birthday gift to myself, though, I decided to write and publish my Mighty Life List. I've been reading Maggie Mason's blog, Mighty Girl, for several years now. The Mighty Life List is an idea she came up with, writing down a 'bucket list' of sorts, laying out things she'd like to do in her lifetime. The idea is that by publishing them, she's utilizing her online community of friends to help, support, and encourage her to cross items off. Recently, she was lucky (and famous) enough to have Intel and Verizon financially sponsor some items on her list, like take tap dancing lessons and swim with bioluminescent plankton in Puerto Rico. She also hosted a weekend in northern California wine country recently for some of her friends to get together and offer each other guidance and assistance with their life lists. She's invited others in the blogosphere to join the challenge and I've been working on my list for several months now with Lucy, who's been compiling her own. So, here it is:

1. Hand churn ice cream.
2. Go to the Oscars.
3. Walk a marathon.
4. Stomp on grapes to make wine.
5. Host a dressy, adults only dinner party.
6. Sew myself a garment that I would wear in public.
7. Take a train ride.
8. Milk a cow.
9. Learn to make pasta from scratch.
10. Raise backyard pet chickens.
11. Have my hands painted in henna.
12. Get another tattoo.
13. Visit Paris.
14. Eat
poutine in Quebec.
15. Take my daughters shopping for a prom dress.
16. Take Eric to a Broadway show in New York City.
17. Visit Ellis Island.
18. Own a small cabin in the mountains.
19. Take ballroom dance lessons.
20. Be in a movie.
21. Own a convertible.
22. Complete a paint-by-numbers painting.
23. Be a contestant on
Wheel of Fortune.
24. Take piano lessons (again).
25. Learn Spanish.
26. Snorkel in Hawaii.
27. Rent a house in Mexico.
28. Take a painting class.
29. Have a girls-only spa day.
30. Host an under the stars movie night in my backyard.
31. Learn astronomy.
32. Have a birthday party for my house.
33. Restore a vintage travel trailer.
34. Grill salmon on a cedar plank.
35. Build a tipi.
36. Wallpaper a room.
37. Stay at the
Horizon Hotel in Palm Springs.
38. Visit Bisbee, AZ just to stay at
The Shady Dell.
39. Take a roadtrip along
historic route 66.
40. Teach a
Jazzercise class.
41. Obtain literary recognition for something I wrote.
42. Go clamming.
43. Stand inside the Taj Mahal.
44. Throw a block party.
45. Catch up on our family scrapbooks.
46. Deep fry doughnuts.
47. Try 100 cheeses.
48. Host an Oscars cocktail party.
49. Create a Halloween haunted house.
50. Own a
three-wheeled bicycle.
51. Help deliver a baby.
52. Drive a bus.
53. Own a hearse.
54. Make corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day.
55. See the
Watts Towers.
56. Take a class from Richard Simmons at
SLIMMONS Studio in LA.
57. Visit Graceland during
Elvis Week in August.
58. Watch a twilight film at
Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
59. Take a week and shop the
World’s Longest Garage Sale.
60. Make a parade float.
Go kayaking.
62. Take a hot air balloon ride.
63. Enter something to be judged in the fair.
Own a pearl necklace.
65. Mosaic a piece of furniture.
66. Attend a
Broncos football game at Taco Bell Arena.
67. Have sleepovers with my grandbabies.
68. Cook through an entire cookbook.
69. Visit the
American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.
70. Rent a house for a week in Vermont at Christmastime.
71. Learn to make really good jalapeno poppers from scratch.
72. Brew my own beer with my husband.
73. Take a dip in a new Idaho hot spring each year.
74. Re-learn how to be silly.
75. Start a ladies golf league.

The ones in red were completed this summer. It gives me confidence that I'm already well on my way to making these happen. Some are more ordinary things and some are grand. And what I need from you, dear readers, is support, both moral and real. If you have any experience with anything on my life list and would like to offer me help in crossing it off, I'd love it. Have a fantastic jalapeno popper recipe? Send it my way, or, better yet, let's make them together! Have some old beer brewing equipment you no longer use? I'd love to inherit it! Own a farm? Teach me to milk your cow! I plan to write blog posts each time I complete something. I'd also love to see your Life Lists, and they don't necessarily have to contain mighty things, as you can see from mine. Nor do they have to be long. It would be great to aid one another in living to the fullest.

61. Go kayaking. I went kayaking twice this summer by myself. The first time was on Redfish Lake outside Stanley and the second was on the Payette River in McCall. It was less scary than I thought (I'm afraid of water) and was kind of peaceful. I'd surely do it again!

64. Own a pearl necklace. I've been wanting a real one for several years now and my stepsister, Angie, caught wind of it. She gave me a long, natural, cream-colored strand hand-strung by an Oregon jeweler as a thank you gift for officiating her wedding in July. I wore it to the ceremony. It's lovely and precious.

Monday, September 20, 2010

STYLE: 1970s Terrarium

Yes, this is the corner of my living room. Yes, that is the arm of one of my fabulous Breuer chairs in the corner. And, yes, I know how lucky I am. I inherited this vintage 1970s white plastic terrarium from my in-laws. The tulip base and the dome are in near perfect condition and this thing has been in their southeast Idaho barn since the late 80s, I'd guess.

A terrarium is basically a miniature landscape with tiny plants and often small animals, like lizards. I opted to plant a desert garden minus the creatures. The little drift wood, plastic deer and rock painted with yellow flowers were in the terrarium when I got it, leftover from my husband's childhood. He has such fond memories of peeking into this miniscule world (much like this girl) and really wanted to share that fun with our girls.

There are lots of fantastic websites devoted to building your own terrarium out of whiskey bottles and other recycled objects. I have to admit, it was fun to landscape on such a miniature scale and I love bringing the outside world inside with something a bit more unusual than potted plants (which we already have plenty of). Plus, again, doesn't it compliment my chairs so well?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

SUMMER: 2010 Wrap Up

I think I mentioned this before, but this was seriously the best summer I can remember. We spent most of our time away from home, celebrating Idaho from north to south and the natural beauty of Wyoming's grand national parks. I just went through the hundreds of photos we've taken since June and was overcome with happiness of good times spent together outside, mainly, taking in the pine-scented air and the warm sun. We were in a wedding and swung sparklers, captured frogs and hiked to hot springs, caught up with cousins and started first grade. Our faces look browned and relaxed and the girls look dirty and happy. Now, as I sit on my couch drinking coffee to keep warm, my windows are open and I feel the crisp fall air seeping in. My mind is filled with tasks like cleaning and putting away camping gear and beach toys, harvesting our garden and mini orchard, and getting homework done. While I'm ready to don sweaters and bake bread and pull out the Halloween decorations, the first weeks of September are always a transitional time, filled with excitement for BSU's football season tinged with a longing for those long, hot days of the past. Here's our summer story, in photos: