Darcy Lewis Design

Adventures in "Good Enough" Design

Archive for the month “December, 2016”

Sugared Cranberries

I wrote about the various eggnog cakes with sugared cranberries last year, but the berries have been incredibly popular (and festive!) that I’ve taken to plopping them on top of just about everything!  Since everyone keeps asking for the recipe, I thought I’d present it again.  Remember, this works not only for things like cranberries (which are so incredibly delicious prepared this way that I call them ‘crackberries’), but many other berries and edible flowers (like pansies and violets) as well!

The cranberries will only keep about a week, so I make a lot and SMOTHER a cake with them, which will be fine because your guests will scoop extra onto their plates!

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Ingredients:
2 cups fresh cranberries (places like Costco are generally much cheaper than the grocery store)
2+ cups sugar, divided
1 cup water
Directions:
1. Make simple syrup by bringing 1 cup sugar and water to a simmer in a saucepan. Simmer until sugar is completely dissolved, stirring often.
2. Pour simple syrup into a heatproof bowl and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
3. Add cranberries and stir to coat.
4. Refrigerate cranberries in syrup overnight, stir periodically.
5. Using a slotted spoon, remove cranberries from syrup and let sit for a few minutes to dry a little (you want them moist and tacky, but not soggy).  Put about 1/2 cup of sugar in a large flat-bottomed bowl, and roll the cranberries in it – a few at a time – until they look frosted.  You may need to periodically scrape out the damp sugar in the bowl and replace it with fresh sugar, because it will get damp and clumpy and uncooperative. (I like to put the clumpy sugar in a tupperware container and save it for my tea/coffee or use it for the cake or whatever.  I hate throwing out perfectly good food.)
6. Set cranberries aside to dry a little more.
Here they are, jazzing up a cake.  I love baking the cakes in a bundt pan if I’m going to be using the berries, because then you have a really nice hole in the middle to stuff with berries!

On Failing and Dreaming…

I’ve spent the day sitting on the couch watching the snow fall in endless drifts, working on my computer, and thinking about what the past year has brought and what I want for my future.

This year has been one of incredible growth for my little textile shop – we’ve smashed milestone after milestone, and I have had so many challenges and opportunities both personal and professional.  I would love for my shop to growth to be linear (well, at least for a little bit), and to fling myself with abandon into the many new things that await me, but I find myself mentally hesitating and sometimes even sabotaging myself by being unfocused and not actually taking the steps needed to pursue my dreams.  In trying to figure this out, I keep coming back to one of Amazon’s mantras – Think Big.  This is a specific trait they look for in candidates – the ability to think way beyond the current reality and imagine a much bigger, better, reality.  My husband, who helped interview candidates during his tenure there, said that was the single trait that most sunk otherwise-promising candidates.  I, too, am struggling to Think Big.  My personal and professional dreams are accessible, all I have to do is reach out and grab them.  But apparently I’m afraid to.  And what really kills me about this is that THERE IS NO CONSEQUENCE!  If I try and fail I will be in literally the exact same position I am now – which is pretty damn good, honestly!  If I try and succeed, then that would be AH-MAZING.  Really, there is no possible way to screw this up, and yet, I’m refusing to jump.

Do secret fears of being unworthy hold me back? Am I afraid that if I try and fail than I will consider myself an utter failure so am trying to protect my self-image? I don’t have answers, but I’m going to try to get an early start on my New Year’s resolution: JUMP, DAMMIT!

I’d love to hear from you: What’s holding you back? What dreams are you still reaching for? What is your resolution? And especially, what are you going to do to actualize it?

Amazing Armenian Stuffed Pumpkin

When my Armenian husband and I were first dating, he made this much-beloved traditional stuffed pumpkin filled with rice, dried fruits, nuts, and spices, (called “Ghapama” – which means ‘cooked in a covered pot’) and brought it to an Armenian party…. which caused all the mothers to swoon with delight and pull him aside to tell him about their daughters.  This dish basically has legend status, there is even a popular song about this dish! (“Hey jan ghapama, hamov hodov ghapama” – which means ‘Dear Ghapama, tasty, fragrant ghapama’.)  The song claims that when ghapama is made, over 100 guests will come – judging by the response every time we bring it, I can totally understand that!!

I just made this for a holiday party, and was asked for the recipe, so am posting it here for everyone.  Please note that I didn’t measure things, so quantities are approximate at best.  Also note that there is no ‘standard’ recipe for this dish – it’s a pumpkin stuffed with rice, fruit, and nuts – beyond that, the details depend on the individual cook.  So feel free to substitute any fruits, nuts, and spices you personally like (can even use an acorn squash instead of a pumpkin)!  This is my personal twist on the traditional version – with more of a Middle-Eastern/Fall Harvest flavor.  This is such an easy recipe, but makes a dramatic and delicious presentation for any fall/holiday party!

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Darcy’s Version of Ghapama!

Ingredients:
1 medium regular pumpkin, or 2 smaller pie pumpkins
2 cups basmati rice
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter, melted
½ cup each: chopped dates, pomegranate-flavored dried cranberries (Craisins), mixed raisins
½ cup glazed pecans – pieces or coarse-chopped
1 cup walnuts – pieces or coarse-chopped
1-2 Tbsp. each: brown sugar, molasses, pomegranate molasses, date molasses
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup candied orange peels in syrup (both the syrup and the peels) (I love the Italian ‘Toschi’ brand!!)
½ – 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ginger powder
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of salt
¼ cup hot water

Directions:

1. Wash and dry the pumpkin(s). Cut off the top in a circle  – it will be the lid.
2. Scrape out all the guts.  Rinse and save the seeds for roasting if you want
3. In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add rice, stir, cover the pot and reduce heat to low. Cook rice for about 15 minutes. Rice should NOT be completely cooked. Drain any excess liquid.
4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the partially cooked rice, fruit, nuts, spices, and sweeteners.
5. Loosely stuff the rice mix into the pumpkin; pour the ¼ cup hot water over the top of the filling.
6. Line a baking pan with heavy duty aluminium foil.  Put the pumpkin in the pan, put the top of the pumpkin back on and bake at 350°F for about 2 hours or until soft. Insert a toothpick into the pumpkin to determine tenderness.

You can either plate this as a whole pumpkin and let guests scoop everything out (you eat the soft pumpkin flesh with the rice) or you can cut the pumpkin into starburst-like wedges when you serve.

* A final note: The more ‘exotic’ ingredients can usually be found at your local Middle-Eastern market.

 

 

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