Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Back at it...

When I came home from the farmers' market, Jacob was ensconced in his studio with artichokes on his easel.

Love how his edible flowers just jump off the canvas!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Not Just for Spinach...

I modified my spanikopita recipe to include artichokes!

Line a pie pan or tart dish with 6 layers of phyllo dough, brushing each sheet with a mixture of melted butter and olive oil. Mix chopped, blanched spinach and chopped artichoke hearts. Add 2 C lowfat cottage cheese and 1 C shredded parmesan. Season with cinnamon and sea salt. Stir in 2 beaten eggs and pour into the baking dish lined with phyllo dough. Top with two more sheets of phyllo, brushing each sheet with the butter-olive oil mix. Roll the dough edges to form a seal and brush the crust with the butter-oil mixture. Bake at 375 , covered for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes. Let set for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Carciofi Cake

After the Artichoke Festival mixer last week, I decided to try my hand at an artichoke cake. Why not, right? Carrots and zucchini make great cakes. So, here you go...and, naturally, there are marzipan artichokes on top.

Camilla's Spiced Artichoke Cake with Ginger-Scented Cream Cheese Frosting (this makes 2 large rectangular layers, halve the recipe for a smaller cake)

4C white whole wheat flour
4t baking soda
4t cinnamon
1t all-spice
a splash of vanilla
8 eggs
2C packed brown sugar
1C raw sugar
1C canola oil
2C whole milk yogurt
4C chopped artichoke hearts
1/2C pumpkin puree
1C white chocolate chips

Mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add wet ingredients (oil, yogurt, pumpkin) and moisten. Stir in artichokes and chocolate chips. Split between two baking pans. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Frosting -
8oz cream cheese
8oz marscarpone
16T softened butter
splash of vanilla
1/2C ginger syrup
2C powdered sugar

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Two words that are undeniably compelling for me: 'jewelry' and 'artichoke.' Add to those 'unique' and 'handmade' and whatever it is becomes virtually irresistable.

So, when I came across a jewelry maker who had hand-formed an artichoke ring out of soft wax and cast it in solid sterling silver, using the lost wax casting method, I knew I had to have it...and it was the perfect size!

I did exercise some restraint by telling myself that I wouldn't buy the ring until I had sold enough of my own jewelry to pay for it. When Jenn bought a pair of my carciofi cairns, it sent me over the edge and I kept my fingers crossed that the ring was still for sale.

It was. And now it's mine! Read more about the artist, Ann Drewing, at her website http://dreamspiralart.com/. Or visit her etsy store for some truly stunning pieces http://www.etsy.com/shop/dreamspiralart

Innovative Artichoke Treats

I like to think that I'm fairly creative in the kitchen, but never in my wildest dreams would I have thought to put artichokes in cupcakes. Why not, right? I put carrots and zucchini in cupcakes.

I tried some at the Artichoke Festival mixer last night; they were delicate and delicious. I'll try my hand at them this weekend...topped with a cream cheese-marscarpone frosting.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Grateful for Friends and Family

Thanks to all our friends who made an appearance to support Jacob at the Artichoke Festival Mixer tonight: great food, great friends, and a great time. You know who you are and you know we love you.

The Unveiling

Tonight was the great reveal of Jacob's painting for the 51st Annual Artichoke Festival.

And if this mixer was any indication of what is to come, we're in for a real treat - artichoke cupcakes, artichoke dips, artichoke taquitos, artichoke frittata... .

Thanks, especially, to Denice, Lionel, and the rest of the Artichoke Festival crew who made the event so spectacular. That was a wonderful kick-off.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

From the Monterey County Weekly

In the Monterey County Weekly, for Tuesday, January 19th, 5-7pm: Artichoke Festival Mixer. Take a peek at the 2010 festival poster, meet the artist, and enjoy artichoke snacks, wine, raffles and family fun in preparation for the main event in May. The painting, by Seaside artist Jacob Mann, is of a little boy in an artichoke field accompanied by the words "thistle be fun". Come mingle and network at the Artichoke Festival Office (didn't know there was one, did you).

Celery on Steroids

Have you ever wandered through the farmers' market, seen something resembling celery on steroids, and wondered: what the heck is that?!? Cardoons, or cardi, as the Italians call it. They are actually close cousins of artichokes and a classic Italian winter vegetable.

I've only seen them cooked two ways, this is my favorite - Cardi Nella Beciamela (Cardoons in Bechamel Sauce)...
Clean and prep the cardi by stripping the ribs, cutting them into inch-long piece, and boiling them in salted water until half cooked. Make a bechamel (cream) sauce and stir the cardi into it. Turn the mixture into a baking dish and sprinkle with grated parmigiano. Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the cardi fork-tender.

I usually serve this - when I can find it at the markets - with a roast of some kind. Squisito...pronto al tavolo!

Orange-You-Glad-We're Friends Dinner

We had a lovely, lovely dinner with the Novaks last night...so much so that I hardly took any photos!

Ever fond of cheesy word-play, I did an "ORANGE-You-Glad-We're-Friends" Dinner for a belated birthday celebration for Ulla. And even though the menu was chock-full of citrus, artichokes made an appearance in the salad!

On the menu:
Chopped Salad (endives, watercress, fresh mint, kalamata olives, caperberries, artichoke hearts, shredded carrots) in an ORANGE-champagne vinaigrette

Forbidden Rice Pilaf steamed with CLEMENTINE juice

Citrus-Stuffed Roasted Chicken with a Blood ORANGE-Shallot Glaze

Torta di Cioccolata with Candied MINNEOLA

Friday, January 15, 2010

Around Town

Let the Year of the Artichoke officially commence...here are some dates and times where Jacob's painting will be featured as the official artwork and theme for the 51st Annual Artichoke Festival: THISTLE BE FUN! The official unveiling is this coming Tuesday. We're practicing our smile-and-wave.

Float Debut

We just received a call from Lionel, the Artichoke Man, requesting that we be on the Artichoke Festival parade float during the Good Ol' Days Parade in Pacific Grove on April 10th. 10 am.

Thistle Be REALLY Fun...the boys will be so excited. They always loved being in the 4th of July parades with their preschool. I guess I should start practicing my wave.

The Unveiling

Jacob's "Thistle Be Fun" poster will be officially unveiled at a Artichoke Festival mixer on Tuesday, January 19th. If you're in the area, stop on by.

5-7pm. North Monterey County Chamber of Commerce. 10683 Merritt St., Castroville, California 95012 (831) 633-2465

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Piggy Paints

Eureka! Having no little girls in my household, it might seem strange for me to be so enthusiastic for these products. Piggy Paints are nail polishes that are specifically marketed to little kids, or rather moms of little girls.


But I have searched high and low for nail polishes free from formaldehyde, toluene, phthalates, Bisphenol A, ethyl acetate and acetone. I didn't paint my nails for over four years - the entire time I was pregnant, nursing, and pregnant and nursing again.

I am, admittedly, slightly freakish about things like this; even my OB assured me that I didn't have to be "quite that hardcore in avoiding chemicals." Still my fingers and toes stayed au naturale for years.

And to sweeten the deal, there is an "artichoke-y" color called Dragon's Tears.

I can't click "ADD TO CART" fast enough... Now the question remains: how many bottles do I need?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Flowering Thistle

For a dinner party I had tonight, my flower arrangement featured - what else? - an artichoke...along with some vibrant pink roses, carmine amaryllis, fragrant stargazer lilies, wispy snapdragons, waxy lemon leaves, and piquant rosemary. It's been a long time since I was a florist, but I still love working with flowers. The scents. The colors. All the texures.

I try to cook a different cuisine every month, just to expand my culinary repertoire and have some fun. Tonight was a South African Soiree to celebrate Brian's 37th birthday. It was a wild success!

Here's what was on the menu...Boontjiesop, Bobotie, Geelrys, Apple Sambal, Carrot Sambal, Cucumber Sambal, Candied Kumquats, Preserved Lemons and Melktert for dessert.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Carciofi Cairn Earrings

Completely serendipitously, I became a fan of the Mendocino Botanical Gardens on facebook, another fan saw my name and - because we share a surname though aren't related - clicked through to my website (www.ecochicdesigns.etsy.com), and ordered two pairs of Cariciofi Cairns. One pair was this set: thickly veined labradorite rounds are handwired with green recycled glass onto sterling silver and hang from sterling silver French wires.

Gotta love the internet!

CAIRN, noun, 15th century. Pronunciation: \╦łkern\Etymology: Middle English (Scots) carne; Scottish Gaelic carn; akin to Old Irish & Welsh carn.

Definition: a heap of stones piled or stacked up as a memorial, acknowledgement, or as a landmark.

"I CARCIOFI" is Italian for Artichokes.

Gorgeous, heavyweight stationery from LETTERkissed.com

I just received my order of "Thistle Be Fun" stationery from a great local company: LETTERkissed.

So, if you're ever in need of gorgeous, heavyweight stationery, Ashley Gamble is your gal.

Check out www.letterkissed.com and buy local.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Silk Painting

Last trimester I taught a silk painting class for 1st-3rd graders. We learned about the life cycle of the silk worm, the process from worm to fabric, and complementary colors; we used a salt technique and a water-based resist; we read legends from the Silk Road. When I was creating examples, I painted - what else? - artichokes.

Dylan was watching me one afternoon, prepping for class, while I was painting an artichoke and asked, "Mommy, what are you doing?"

I answered that I was getting ready for my silk painting class.

He nodded his head, "I get it. You're teaching a class about artichokes."

No, maybe that will be another trimester.

Here are some of the pieces the kids did - on display at the reception and exhibit we held on the last day of class. They did a great job!

Ode to a Thistle

When I was sorting through some paperwork, I stumbled across a menu from an artichoke brunch I hosted a couple of years ago. Apparently my love affair with the yummy thistle persists. Here's what I served... PRONTO AL TAVOLO!

ODE TO A THISTLE: An Artichoke-Infused Brunch

Sparkling Pinot Grigio
Artichoke-Parmesan Dip with Pita Chips
Bruschetta Topped with Chevre and Artichoke Caponata

Sauvignon Blanc
Cream of Artichoke Heart Soup
A Trio of Artichoke Salads

Herb Frittata with Artichoke Salsa
Stuffed Artichoke Halves

Amaretto Cordials
Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread Cake
Coffees and Teas