Steamed Fish & Veggies

Fresh ginger. Who knew?

I decided to do more cooking this year – especially trying out new recipes, new spices, and new methods. I’ve tried a few things thus far, but just haven’t taken the time to share them with you.

I’m working from two cookbooks right now – The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, and the Grit Vegetarian Cookbook. There are limitations to both of these, but they are good places to start I think. Sojo recommended I purchase the All Vegetarian Cookbook, so I’ll be getting that one soon.

Summary/Highlights/Lowlights

This dish comes from BH&G. It’s a recipe for steamed fish and veggies. It called for ginger (of which I’m not a huge fan) and basil as its signature items. I was to find and purchase fresh ginger (which I’d never seen), peel it, and then grate it. I had to make do with a parer. I’m still low on serious cooking utensils until I A) get a bigger kitchen and B) show myself I’m serious about cooking things that need more than the basics I do own.

Salmon with fresh basil.

Anyway, ginger scraped, or whatever, I made bias slices across my filets (I chose salmon, my favorite!), and stuffed each slit with fresh basil.

The next step was to rub the ginger atop the fish. So far so good, but that’s all there was to it! As in, there was nothing else to add. No salt, no pepper, no garlic, no butter. Nothing. Basil and ginger. The end.

Having never cooked with ginger or basil I didn’t know what to expect from them. BH&G seemed pretty sure they were enough to carry this whole meal. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to not add anything, so I did sprinkle a bit of sea salt atop (thank goodness). Basil and ginger are known to be dominant tastes. But ginger and basil aside, barely seasoned fish and veggies are still barely seasoned; and they taste that way.

Thank goodness for post-cooking flavoring!

In addition to the fish, this recipe also called for asparagus and sweet pepers. The veggies on the bottom, the fish on the top, everything went into a steamer basket. I haven’t steamed much – usually preferring to bake or sauté. I have to admit I was shocked it only took 8 minutes (and that was about a minute too long for my tastes).

Asparagus and sweet peppers on the bottom.
Preparing to steam everything.

Will I make it again?

Now that I’ve made a few things from this cookbook, I know they rely on supposedly strong flavorings to carry through. I have learned (finally) to be very heavy handed with my spices. Will I make this recipe again? Not as is, no. I will definitely mix and match parts of this recipe (minus the ginger, plus MORE seasoning for instance). But it was quick and healthful, and with the right flavoring, it’ll be delicious too.

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Measure Twice, Cut Once

I’ve always understood what that phrase meant, but it leapt from the recesses of my mind and into full consciousness yesterday as I spent 45 minutes measuring and cutting pieces for my first sewing project. I had no accidents of cutting, although my adventures were not without mishaps. More on that in a moment.

For reasons I no longer understand, I forwent the sleeping mask in favor of the apron as my initial task. I spent the first 30 minutes watching and following the directions on the instructional DVD that came with my Singer. Threading bobbins and upper parts of the machine are not easy the first time, but I got it done. Then I was ready to tackle the pattern.

I used the apron card from Amy Butler’s Sew-It Kit. It’s pictured below along with my materials of choice.

Pattern Ease

By no stretch of the imagination was this a pattern for beginners. Any time you see the word “pleats” beginners should run very quickly in the opposite direction.

Seriously, this pattern is probably easy for intermediate sewers, and would’ve been easier for me if it were my 2nd or 3rd project. I underestimated the effort it takes to translate the language of patterns into embodied actions: (wrong side up, right sides together, adjoin neighboring pleats, machine basting, etc.). That, plus having to stop for thread that mysteriously unthreaded itself (multiple times), jammed bobbins, and other trouble shooting, made for a day full of learning.

It took me 6 1/2 hours all told, although a more experienced sewer could definitely do it faster. I can probably make that sleeping mask with my eyes closed now. (We’ll see…)

High Notes

I did it! I jest, but this was a great victory for me. My last experience sewing was a couple of decades ago. I took a sewing class in high school that shall forever remain a blip on my transcript. Moving on…

In other news, the quilter’s ruler is awesome. It’s a little weird to use effectively at first, but it once you get the hang of it, it’s a definite time saver.

The salesperson at the fabric store was right – it’s really nice to be able to see through the ruler to make your markings. But don’t pay full price! Mine was on clearance for less than $6.

Trouble Spots

Despite how slowly things went, I was doing quite well until I got to the trim bands. The apron has a top band and a bottom band. I diligently followed directions (or so I thought) until I realized I had expertly sewn the top band when it should’ve been on the bottom. I tried to ignore this – after all, both parts had the trim! Eventually, I had to face facts. My seam ripper and I became best friends as I spent 45 minutes undoing the (tiny, tight) stitches on both sides of the apron.

I was amazed to learn that whatever directions I followed had no bearing on the reality of the pattern and the bottom trim did not turn out at all like my first version of the top trim. I don’t know how I mixed up top and bottom and how I totally messed up the directions for that step, but I’ll take responsibility and embrace my new found understandings of pattern lingo.

Would You Make This Pattern Again?

Perhaps. It was a little weird because there wasn’t a pattern per se – there were just directions on how much material to cut and how to put it together. There were also a few illustrations, but I’m not convinced they were that helpful for a newbie. Now that I know what I’m doing I’d do it again if I thought someone wanted or needed an apron. I would like to find a full body apron pattern though. I’m not sure I find the skirt-only pattern that useful.

xoxo

Step One: Purchase a Machine

The Domestic LadyBuddha has already cooked a few new recipes, ala The Grit vegetarian cookbook and the Better Home and Gardens famous cookbook. Those happened a few weeks ago and I didn’t have the tools or foresight to document my process. But now, thanks to HoneySnaps, I have an iPhone. That means finally, a working camera! Yes!

And with that, feast your eyes on this:

Meet my new Singer 2263. I can’t say I did a great deal of research to pick this machine. It was a happy marriage of convenience, price, and brand loyalty. I seem to remember my mother sewing with Singer, and I’m pretty fierce about sticking with childhood brands (marketing gurus, take heart).

This little number (handpicked by Martha Stewart and labeled for beginners) came to her new home last night. I have two projects in mind to start. They are both courtesy of my cousin Avis, who maintains the familial tradition of sewing.

She heard of my interest to sew and sent me Amy Butler’s Sew-It Kit to encourage me. After many days of mulling, I picked out the sleeping mask and the apron as my first two projects.

I’m not convinced of their ease. I’m a *beginner’s beginner* and the directions say this kit is for beginner or intermediate sewers. o_O

Anyhoo…

I spent quite a bit of time finding all the materials any beginner sewer needs: hand needles, threaders, thread, straight pins, pin cushion, scissors…

But more than halfway through my shopping list, I found a handy beginner’s kit. I added a pack of safety pins for good measure, as well as a yardstick and some fabric pencils. I also needed a quilter’s ruler (specifically for the sleeping mask project). Quilter’s supplies are expensive (!!!), but thankfully I found one on clearance for only $5.

I’ll show you the fabrics I got now, although you’re definitely going to see them again when I blog about actually making something. Here’s what I’ll need for the sleeping mask.

And here’s the apron. I think the colors I chose for both are appropriately safe yet cute. It was actually pretty difficult to find stuff that grabbed me. But I was also a little overwhelmed trying to find the right materials (cotton, polyester, satin) in addition to the colors and styles. I decided to keep it simple as I get used to how fabrics even behave! I’ll be more adventurous next time, although, shopping in a store full of “Calico” and “Country Favorites” may not be the move either. Just sayin. But I was showing you what I got for my apron:

Totals

My Singer was $89 plus tax. The materials for both projects came to $16 (including thread since I had none, and an extra spool of ribbon since I was unsure about colors). My misc beginner’s materials (yardstick, the quilter’s ruler, safety pins, chalk pencils, and the sewing kit), came to another $43 bucks.

Grand total with taxes = $153.77. Your start up may be more or less, but there you go.

I’m excited and a little nervous about my first project. Because the sleeping mask requires quilting stitches, I’m thinking I may start with the apron. I should’ve bought a scrap of material to just play with. Surely there’s something in the closet I can use.

Until next time…

The LadyBuddha Goes Domestic

I threatened to cook more while I was working on my dissertation, teaching a new class, and simultaneously working on a huge research project. Suffice it to say, that didn’t happen. I stuck to the things I was comfortable with cooking, drank plenty of green smoothies (worth its own blog), and tried to buy organic or otherwise healthy food when I ate out.

Once I moved back to my home state I found myself nesting. My apartment has the same stuff overall, but some of it’s warmer. There are even pictures of tulips up. lol. Still not the perfect place I’d like, but hey, I was still working on the dissertation and ANOTHER new class.

Well, now I’m done and I’m feeling the pull to increase my creative and feminine energies. Although some of this translates into “traditional, woman’s work” I don’t have those hang ups about it. I want to cook delicious and healthful dishes. It feels creative and life-affirming, and I like the combination of art and science it entails. I also want to sew (how about that) for the same reasons. Both of these things are inherently useful and engage both sides of my mind. (As an aside, I genuinely think sewing is in my blood, but more on that another time).

In addition to cooking and sewing, I’ve been working on expressing my feminine charms more outwardly. In short, I’ve been dressing and simply BEing sexier (Shout to Sojo). It’s a little harder to pull off in the winter (and with my pathetic wardrobe), but it’s fun learning to express my inner diva. I play with essential oils, engage in temple building (exercise) and general kicking it up a notch-ness. This is me heading out to a holiday party a few days ago:

It feels wonderful. I only wish I could go back to warm weather and sundresses. (Sexy AND easy!)

But I digress.

I think I spent so many years birthing my dissertation and expanding my intellect that it’s nice to shift energies to manifesting, creating, and loving. I was already a damn good catch before, but now that the LadyBuddha is going domestic? Well…let’s just say you’ve been warned.

So in addition to miscellaneous posts about life, love, spirituality, and the like, expect some pointed tweets on my adventures in sewing, cooking, and learning to up my shoe game.

xoxo