Sunday, July 12, 2009

Blueberry Barbeque Tofu

July 13th is the Eastern Orthodox feast day for Saint Margaret of Antioch, the patron saint of child birth, pregnant women, dying people, kidney disease, peasants, exiles, and against dragons. Seriously.

(a 15th century German reliquary for a piece of Saint Margaret's body, attributed to Nicolaus Gerhaert)

Most of Margaret's story is pretty standard for a saint. The pagan authorities in her home town of Antioch (in present day Turkey) tried to execute her for refusing to sacrifice to their gods; first they burned her at the stake, then they tried to boil her in a huge pot. T
hey finally got it right by beheading her.
The really fascinating part, though, happened sometime before all this when Margaret was swallowed by a dragon, only to be saved when her ever-present crucifix irritated the dragon's belly and it spit her back up. The Catholic church has even since the middle ages called bullshit on this story, but that did not stop St. Margaret's cult from being one of the most important - she was even one of the saints said to have appeared to Joan of Arc.

This recipe for Blueberry Barbeque Sauce accomplishes several things:

1. the coffee and spices definitely lend a very Turkish flare to the sauce

2. the habanero gets you pretty damn close to dragon-fire levels of heat (Be really careful when chopping it up! And do nooooot touch your face for awhile! Seriously!)

3. Its a really excellent way to use up seasonal blueberries that are probably just going to go to waste in the fridge.

The recipe is for the sauce only - it is enough to smother 2lbs of tofu. I dry fried and then marinated (using this technique) and stir fried my tofu with some onion and sweet peppers. You could also easily use this sauce to make some baked tofu, though baking things in the middle of July is not super high on my list.

Dragon-Fire Blueberry Barbeque Sauce, used to marinate tofu:

  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1/3 habanero pepper
  • 1/3 c. dark beer (guess you'll just have to drink the rest of it!)
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tso ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coffee
  • 1 tsp Durango chili or chipotle powder
Put everything in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer for about 45 minutes. Put it all in a blender (you may want to add 1/4 cup water) and blend it up!
(adapted from The Food Network's Michael Symon's sauce recipe)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

New Feature: Saintly Feasts

Sometimes things that you love in your life fall by the wayside - be it too little time or maybe too many self-defeating habits, sometimes it just takes a little effort to get back into the swing of things. Our little blog has languished in purgatory for too long, and I am hereby resurrecting it with a new bi-weekly, or possibly monthly, or possibly just whenever-I-feel-like-it recipe feature I'm calling Saintly Feasts.

While I'm a pretty strident atheist, I've always had a huge fascination with catholic saints - the strange and mystical powers so many claimed to have, the gruesome deaths, the veneration of relics from pieces of cloth to pieces of foreskin that are housed in tremendously elaborate, beautiful, and mystifying shrines. I just love these guys and what better way to put that love to use than resurrecting the centuries-old tradition of the catholic feast days.

Essentially, every saint has a specific day where those who follow them feast in their remembrance. Most days have more than one saint to venerate, but I'm just choosing the most personally interesting to me. For each of these feast days I will be featuring a recipe that ties in to the saint's story and history - learn some cool cocktail party quips about some fascinating dead people, make some yummy food in their honor, and eat! That's really what all this is about, anyway.

So, Saintly Feasts feature the first: May 18, Saint Venantius of Camerino
Patron of: Camerino, Umbria, Italy
usually portrayed: hanging upside down with smoke/flames coming from his head

In 250 CE at the age of 15 after being accused of the crime of preaching, Saint Venantius was whipped within an inch of his life, his head was set on fire, he was tossed into a pit of lions, tossed off a cliff, beaten so that all his teeth fell from his head, and was then beheaded. At some point he died and a basilica was built outside of Camerino, Umbria where he was buried. Waters from a spring near this basilica could supposedly cure lepers. Which is cool, but not really as cool as this simple, raw Umbrian anchovy sauce or salsa d'acciughe which takes 5 seconds to throw together, turns into the prettiest pale yellow color, and can be used it for nearly anything - use it as a marinade, a baste for some grilled summer vegetables, or toss it with some pasta (this should cover about half a pound) and top with peccorino cheese. I added a roasted tomato to mine for a litlte extra umph. This recipe is adapted from Mary Ann Esposito's Ciao Italia in Umbria.

Salsa d'Ancciughe, Umbrian Anchovy Sauce (makes about 2/3 of a cup)

4 anchovy fillets packed in olive oil, drained

1 tablespoon capers in salt, rinsed and dried

2 large garlic cloves, crushed

2/3 extra virgin olive oil

juice of 1 large lemon

4 mint leaves

sea salt to taste

freshly ground black pepper to taste

Food-process this stuff up (not too much - you don't want to obliterare everything, just process a few seconds to mix and get everything minced) and then let it sit at room temperature for a few hours to marinate.

Now eat it up and don't forget to think of poor Saint Venantius' burning head while doing so!


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Gold Glitter Spray Paint for Life

A few weeks ago, I found this wooden horse wall-art at Savers:

I loved it, but it was the most boring color! So out came the trusty gold glitter spray paint:

I am convinced that gold glitter spray paint is the solution to most problems. Ugly piece of furniture? Spray glitter it! Ugly pair of shoes? Spray 'em! (Though, a note for the wise: Whatever shoes you are wearing when you use glitter spray will probably also be dusted with the stuff. My black oxfords now have a strange gold sheen. Actually, pretty much anything in the area will be a target for this stuff, so make sure to spray outside!)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Big-Ass Crafting

A new Christmas toy: The Big-Ass Book of Crafts by Mark Montano
We are suckers for slightly cheesy craft books and that's totally what was expected judging from this thing's 13-year-old-girl-themed cover:

Buuuut, there are tons of pretty bad-ass (and cheap!) projects in this thing that we cannot wait to whip up, including vintage kitchen utensil lamps, design-them-yourself foam stamps (oh, how we love stamps!), lots of seashell projects (again, love!), paper trees made from vintage books, and papier-mache flapper heads. Yes!
Stay tuned: with this thing in hand, this year promises to be a crafting extravaganza.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tomorrow is Halloween and you know what that means: time to have a seance! According to one of our favorite films of all time, Hocus Pocus, Halloween is the one night of the year where spirits can easily enter our world. Halloween is also the one night of the year where its ok to dress like a crazy and chant in your living room, so take advantage and follow our guide to having your own mystical seance!

Pre-Séance Check List:

- Who are you planning on summoning? This is really one of the most important things to know before hand. We recommend starting small and friendly – a nice, loving grandma would make an excellent first subject.

- What are you going to offer your Grandma’s spirit? Be sure to have an offering of something the person liked, to lure them in.

- Supplies: In addition to the offering, make sure you have the following things on hand: plenty of candles, incense, a Ouija board, tarot cards or runes, some atmospheric music (try finding some Aleister Crowley chants to play in the background), and any other spooky additions you might think of.

Séance Set Up:

- Arrange your candles in a circle. Some say this is good “protection” from evil spirits. We like to do our séances on the floor for extra spookiness, but feel free to use a table, too. The candles should be your only light source.

- Place your Ouija board, tarot spread or rune in the center of your circle/table, along with your offering.

- Light up your incense, turn on the music, and sit your guests in a circle. They should all holds hand initially.

Séance Procedure:

If you google "séance," you will get about 5,000 methods for holding a successful séance. We've boiled all this down into a few important reminders because we don't think the process is really what matters, but rather your frame of mind. Just have fun, people!

- A designated séance-leader should ask aloud for the spirit to make an appearance. You might mention the nice offering you have for them, or give them some solid reasons for stopping by.

- Now you can all stop holding hands and start using the Ouija board or whatever else you have. Ask specific questions and don't get frustrated if it doesn't seem to be working! Keep going, and if it really seems that you aren't getting anything, just try again. We don't "actually" believe you will summon any spirits, but séances are definitely an interesting exercise in the power of suggestion.

We'd like to leave you with this word of caution from a geocities website about the art of the séance: "If you wind up with a ghost or multiple ghosts haunting your house after your séance, you will have to learn to live with them, read up on how to perform an exorcism on your house, or move." Here’s to a spooky, séance-filled Halloween! Don’t summon anybody we wouldn’t!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Nine Simple Reasons Why MakerFaire Made Our Weekend

What do you call a person who spends 90% of their time and expendable income building a battlebot? Or how about a harp made of lasers, or tesla coil electronic music? The easy answer for a lot of people would be ‘nerds.’ But this weekend at MakerFaire, we found out that they’re actually some of the best people on the planet. This week the Simple Sisters highlight nine things we learned at MakerFaire that we hope will inspire you to start making!

1.) Swap-O-Rama: A seamstress’ dream come true was found at the MakerFaire Swap-O-Rama. Imagine a big tent full of free clothes, sewing machines and sewing accessories. The best thing about this is that with the right mindset, it doesn’t matter if the thing you picked up was 3 sizes too large. Two hems up the side later, and it fits like a glove! If you’re a fan of thrifting, you know some of the best things come only in XXL. Sidestep this pickle by learning how to alter your own clothes and you’ll have sassy threads in no time.

2.) Austin Bike Zoo: You may have seen some of these around: tricked out bikes that require a double-take, or just plain drop your jaw and drool at how cool these things are. Like the one that’s 5 bikes hooked together with boning on the outside so that it looks like a gigantic snake is riding past your house? (This one’s especially hard to process after a late night out.)

Side-by-side tandems, giant butterfly bikes and 8 ft. giants were all a part of the MakerFaire Bike Zoo parade. While this is difficult to incorporate into student life, it’s still a great inspiration for incorporating artistry into things you use every day. Slap some LED lights on your Schwinn, or attach a light generator for more practical use. In a city full of bikes, there’s no reason yours shouldn’t be special!

3.) Sublime Stitching Embroidery: I know what you’re going to say. Embroidery is for grandmas. But would a grandma embroider a flaming skull on her tea-towel? I didn’t think so. (Unless she would, in which case congratulations. You have world’s best Grandma.) Local Austinite Jenny Hart has been making embroidery patterns and kits since 2001. With how-to’s and materials included, buying a kit from Sublime Stitching will get you closer to having that embroidered robot you always wished was on your T-shirt pocket. A crafty skill like embroidery is a way to add a personal touch to anything you want. Sublime Stitching patterns just make it easier!

4.) Urban Roots & Green Corn Project: Do you know what a carrot seed looks like? How about a spinach seed? When we approached the Urban Roots table, we didn’t either. After playing a game of “Guess the seed,” we realized how out of touch we were with the food we eat every day. Urban Roots is a program held at an East Austin farm used for developing self-sustainable ideals in youth participants. While they always need volunteers, and we hear the farm is beautiful (we’ll visit soon!), the Green Corn Project of Austin is also helping to get us closer to our roots by planting gardens in impoverished Austinite’s yards for better self-sustainability. Apply for a garden to be built in your backyard, or volunteer to build one while learning the basics of growing your own food! (This one may be a particularly good idea to prepare yourself for the pending economic apocalypse. Would you rather live off of Kraft singles or homegrown veggies?)

5.) Arc Attack and their singing Tesla Coils: We weren’t expecting to walk into the Tesla theater to find an electronic DJ setup hooked up to 7 ft. tall Tesla coils playing the Doctor Who theme song, (Andrea’s personal favorite moment of the day. Don’t laugh!) Singing tesla coils weren’t the only things on the floor though. A midi-controlled drum kit started off the show. This was basically a drum kit playing on it’s own, controlled only by a laptop. A PVC pipe organ was off to the side, doing the same thing. It was easily the most innovative musical performance we’d ever seen. Hacking and creating electronics was a big part of MakerFaire this year. If you’re interested in electronics, the best bet would be to start small. Buy some cheap toy instruments and play with circuit-bending. Or buy a soldering iron and some beginner’s electronic kits online. Think of how proud you’ll be when you wake up via your own hand-soldered alarm clock!

6.) DIY Jewelry a la The Naughty Secretary Club: Naughty Secretary Club's design maven Jennifer Perkins is one of our favorite craftsters in all of Austin. She turns vintage bits and pieces into adorable, one-of-a-kind accessories and even has a book out that will show you how to do the same. Info on jewelry making on a budget as well as on a schedule can be found at her blog!

7.) Laser Harps: Youtube it. They will change your life. There are some particularly nice videos around of French musician Jean Michel Jarre playing one. They are beautiful and if you make us one, we might just marry you. This is another electronic piece that’s simple in design and heavy on the creativity. It was a Faire favorite and very inspirational!

8.) Locally Made Fine Chocolates: There is something uniquely satisfying about a piece of quality chocolate, and several Austin chocolatiers were on hand sampling their blissful wares. Some of our favorites were Cocoa Puro's chocolate covered cocoa beans – layers upon layers of milk, dark, and white chocolate heaven. They won our hearts by keeping it simple and sweet.

9.) Maker Kits: Maker Faire is founded and sponsored by Make magazine which features amazing and weird how-to projects. They also sell incredible little all-inclusive project kits that can be purchased on their website, many between $15 and $20, giving you the power to make solar-powered Theremins and mini cars, animated ghosts, LED hula hoops, and much more. Hula hoop and Theremin party anyone?

So here you have our top picks of MakerFaire 2008. If you didn’t get a chance to check it out this year, be sure to go next time around! There are always new and exciting things popping up in the DIY world. Subscribing to Make or Craft magazine is also a great way to stay in touch and get inspired. Now stop sitting there and go make something!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Getting Down to Business

In lieu of going to Maker Faire, we thought it would be appropriate to get some business cards together for all of the lovely people we would meet today. So we rushed home after the press party to get our act together.

Personally, I'm a photoshop retard, so I opted for the blur effect on this image that I hurriedly drew in mspaint, added some info, personalized said info, printed and tah-dah! I was suddenly more official than I was before.

As much as I don't like doing 'business,' having a business card is a good idea for a lot of reasons. 1.) It's an entirely personalized way to share your contact information. 2.) No more writing your name/number on scraps of paper so that people can just lose them two seconds later and 3.) People usually keep these suckers around - especially the creative ones. (I know I have a wad of them in my wallet.) People keeping your contact information around is a good thing, especially if you have a skill or trade to share.

I'm reminded of a clip from the movie American Psycho where the business-boys are discussing the crisp minimalism of their boring business cards. Black centered times new roman font with no pizazz. If you work in office furniture retail or accounting, perhaps this approach is for you. For everybody else, give it a little more gusto.

You can keep a business card simple and readable while at the same time giving the person a better idea of what you're about. Fonts, colors, pictures and design of your card can clue a person in to the little things about you that are memorable and unique.

Send us your business card designs, and we'll post them up!