Thursday, November 13, 2014

Getting my bobbins in order

Fall is a time of rich colors and of preparation for the winter.

In the spirit of both, I recently reorganized my sewing supplies. There's something satisfying about seeing a jumble of colors slowly transform into an orderly rainbow.

As they say, joy shared is joy multiplied, so enjoy these snapshots from my project.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Secrets of the scarlet runner bean

During a trip to Salzburg in the summer of 2012, I acquired a taste for an Austrian delicacy known as Käferbohnensalat: boiled scarlet runner beans with fresh onion served with a dressing made of salt, pepper, apple cider vinegar, and oil made from the the seeds of naked-seeded pumpkins (Kürbiskernöl). What a treat!

While Austrians may call these delicious legumes Käferbohnen (literally "beetle beans"), Germans call them either Feuerbohnen ("fire beans") or bunte Riesenbohnen ("colorful giant beans"). The Latin name is Phaseolus coccineus.

The English term, scarlet runner bean, describes both the unforgettable color of the blossoms—favored by hummingbirds—and the plant's penchant for climbing up high.

For recipes that call for scarlet runner beans, this ingredient can't be easily replaced by other varieties as the flavorful beans themselves impart a unique taste of chestnut to whatever dish they're added to.
Unfortunately, though, these beans are hard to get in large quantities in the United States. Most are sold in small packages for planting but in Germany and Austria they're plentiful. My last time in Germany I brought back some packages of dried beans bought at a Reformhaus and an organic grocery store (Bioladen).

Austrian purists swear by the pre-cooked canned variety, but by soaking the dried beans for a full day  and cooking them with a little salt in a pressure cooker, you can achieve an even more delicious result.

You can eliminate some of the complex sugars with…um…odor-producing effects by such a long soak and changing the water afterwards. The Austrians may be famous for their music, but let's make sure it's for the likes of Mozart and Haydn.
 This summer I decided to grow some myself. The beans came from Thomas Jefferson's estate Monticello. (Check out their fantastic seed options while you're there). The picture at the top of this post shows the fantastic variation in colors that the beans go through as they mature.

Next time you or someone you know decides to grow scarlet runner beans, remember that these plants aren't only valuable as ornaments but also offer a delectable fall treat!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter is better with miniature eggs...

Happy Easter, everybody!

I've been enjoying the lovely spring weather, especially the fresh breezes and bright sunshine.

Traditionally my family would dye eggs the day before Easter Sunday. Today I introduced a little twist to the usual by dying the tiny eggs my birds laid over the past year. What do you think?

(Pssst — don't miss the bonus pictures at the end of this post!)

They sure turned out well! Hopefully they'll last a couple years, because I'm trying not to let my birds nest anymore since it's hard on their little bodies.

And here are the bonus posts. First a chocolate bar I picked up from my latest trip to eastern Germany:

And finally some gorgeous vintage reproduction salt and pepper shakers in the form of white rabbits:

My sincerest wishes for a happy holiday to you all!

Monday, February 3, 2014

February greetings

Happy February, dear readers! Just wanted say that I look forward to posting more frequently in the future once my schedule opens up. Keep the comments coming in the meantime!