Archive for August, 2011

pupusas with refried black beans and curtido (spicy slaw)

My brother and I made pupusas from this Saveur recipe last summer with our CSA veggies.  Pupusas are El Salvadoran stuffed masa cakes, typically served with a vinegary slaw and tomato sauce.  The Saveur recipe was my first encounter with pupusas, and I really liked the cheesy masa cakes paired with the tangy slaw, called curtido.  I wanted to make them again this summer, but was not eating dairy at the time, so I decided to try a black bean version that is vegan.  It turns out that beans are a traditional filling for pupusas, along with cheese and meat.  Alas, I failed at stuffing the black beans into the masa cakes, but, undaunted, I just decided to spread them on top of plain masa cakes and top with the curtido.  They turned out quite tasty, though since they weren’t stuffed with anything they probably aren’t technically pupusas. They are pretty simple to make, so you should give them a try if you want to add a Latin American dish to your arsenal.

I doubled the amounts of the slaw ingredients, because we can all use more veggies in our diet, and I had a lot of vegetables that needed to be used from the CSA.

veggies for slaw

I used half of a medium head of cabbage, two carrots, one daikon radish (not in the original recipe), one onion, a scallion (another addition, mostly because I wanted some green in the slaw), and a dried guajillo chile (a substitution for the chiles de arbol.) These all got thinly sliced or shredded and tossed in a big bowl with vinegar, sugar, salt, and oregano.


You may notice I used the seeds from the chile – guajillos are a pretty mild chile, so keeping the seeds added just a touch of heat. While the slaw marinated in the fridge, I made the masa dough, which is ridiculously easy, just masa and water.

masa + water = masa cake dough

I was talking to someone at work the other day who is way more experienced in making pupusas than I. She told me that you need to use hot water (not boiling, just hot from the tap) and work the dough a bit, so that it becomes soft. Not having these directions may have been the reason I wasn’t able to stuff the beans into the pupusas. The dough wasn’t elastic enough to encase such a soft filling. Anyway, after giving up on the stuffing attempts, I just took balls of masa dough and patted them into discs.

formed masa cakes

Then I browned them on each side in a skillet. Another tip the woman at work gave me was to put a little oil on your hands when you are forming the masa cakes, so there is just a touch of oil on them for cooking.

masa cakes getting golden

Then all I had to do was slather some black beans on the cakes and top them with curtido. Yum! To be honest, I tend to be pretty skeptical of vegan food. I love dairy, and cooking without it or eggs just sounds like deprivation to me. But these were really tasty. The refried black beans were rich and salty enough to add flavor to the masa cakes, and played off the crunch, tangy flavor, and slight heat of the slaw. I think they were as good as the original cheese version. That said, I think the next time I make them I will use beans and cheese. 🙂

Vegan Pupusas with Refried Black Beans and Curtido adapted from Saveur

1⁄2 cup cider vinegar
3 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. oregano
1 guajillo chile (or other chile you like), chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
1 medium-large daikon radish (or several small radishes), peeled and shredded
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1⁄2 head green cabbage, shredded
Kosher salt, to taste
1 can refried black beans
2 cups masa harina
1 3/4 cups hot water
vegetable oil

Combine vinegar, sugar, oregano, vegetables, and chile in a large bowl and add salt to taste. Refrigerate while you prepare the masa cakes.

Stir together masa harina and water until a dough forms. Knead dough a bit. If dough is dry and cracks when you handle it, add a bit more water. Put a little vegetable oil on your hands and form golfball sized balls of dough. Pat each ball into a disc shape. Cook the cakes in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until lightly browned on each side, approximately 10-12 minutes. Depending on the size of your skillet, you may need to do this in several batches. Keep finished cakes warm in a low oven until the others are ready. To serve, spread each cake with a generous layer of black beans (you can warm the beans if you like, but I didn’t bother) and top with plenty of curtido.


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I finally have a free Thursday evening and can watch Project Runway when it actually airs. Woo hoo! I’ve had rehearsals on Thursday for several weeks running (and several more ahead), so this is a rare treat. Why not take full advantage and liveblog this week’s episode? I’ve never liveblogged before, so we’ll see how this goes.

An athletic challenge?  I confess to not having high expectations for this challenge.

Interesting suit, Heidi.

I want to shoot Bert and Cecilia.  At least Cecilia has figured out this competition is not for her.  And Tim trots out his we can’t want you to succeed more than you do line.

It’s kind of dumb to have a race for team leader, but I loved Heidi running with Bert in her heels.  And I never expected to hear Danielle utter the phrase “hauling ass”.

Argh!  Our cable just went out.  Really?  Curse you, Murphy, and your stupid Law.

And we’re back!  And I am a bit confused because of what I missed.  It appears that maybe they are designing for Heidi’s activewear line, since she’s in the workroom?  And bald Josh is back – presumably because Cecilia left.

It looks like at least some of the fabrics were determined for the designers.  I like the prints.

The comments about whether the looks will work with sneakers highlight the difficulties of this sort of challenge.  How creative can you be with workout clothes?   I definitely prefer challenges that allow the competitors more range.

Laura and Anthony Ryan are basically telling Bert that they’ll lay the blame on him if the judges hate their stuff.  That sounds awful, but I actually think it is the right thing to do if your teammate is digging in his heels and not listening to reason.

Becky’s falling apart a bit and Joshua actually apologizes.  It wasn’t really his problem, as far as I can tell, that she didn’t have a voice in the design, but he was totally being a jerk to her.

Runway time!

Team Viktor: Colors aren’t bad.  That first look doesn’t make sense with sneakers, and the third doesn’t either.  Maxi dress with sneakers?  Overall, their team didn’t seem to want to make activewear.  Could be a good thing.  Could be a bad thing.

Ack, I can’t keep up!  Guess I will give my thoughts on the designs as they are judged.

Team Anthony Ryan:   Anthony Ryan’s design is a disaster – a messy patchwork of shapes and fabrics with no direction. I hate to say it, but Bert’s look isn’t bad, but it would have been better with shorts or pants instead of a skirt.  Isn’t that exactly what his team members said to him?  Laura’s look was nice, except that the vest fabric didn’t make sense with the rest of the outfit.

And despite their warnings, Bert claims he had no idea they disagreed with his look.  Oh god, stop showing closeups of Anthony Ryan’s shorts!  Ew!  I don’t think Laura’s look is as bad as the judges think, but they are right that the three outfits don’t make sense together.

Team Joshua: Becky’s look gave her a voice, but it is clearly last minute.  Joshua’s design is sloppy looking and has been done.  I kind of like the dress Anya made – the stripe of red was a great addition – but it looks messy.  And again, a maxi dress with sneakers?

And we get another catfight.  Sheesh!

Team Viktor again:  Viktor’s dress looks like it was crumpled in a suitcase for three weeks.  Why do they love it so much?  Olivier’s dress is just weird.  I agree with the judges that the t-shirt was kind of cool – was that bald Josh’s?

Team Bryce:  Thank you Heidi for pointing out that Danielle’s blouse is yet another predictably Danielle blouse.  Kimberly’s (or was it Danielle’s) jacket is, as they said, great but not with those shorts.  Bryce’s design was cool, if you didn’t know what the challenge was – not a look for sneakers.  And this team also had the problem of their set of designs not looking coherent.

I am happy to see Bryce getting some love, but did they really just say that these are the kind of clothes you wear with sneakers???

I have no idea who will be out.  Sadly I think Bert is safe.  Danielle is clearly in danger.

I think I like Bryce’s design best, but I bet the judges will pick Viktor’s team for the win.  They clearly had different expetcations for the challenge than I.  In fact, I expect Viktor to be the winning designer.

I was right about Viktor!   Oh, and that’s the twist – two winners!  Joshua wins, too?  Not so keen on that.

Bert lives.  Gah!

Yeah, that’s the right bottom two.  Ooh, and they kept Anthony Ryan in.  Based on all the work so far, that would be my call.  But if you just look at this challenge, his was the worst by far.

Tim is exceptionally supportive this season.  Is he getting all warm and fuzzy as he ages, or is there something about this group of designers that he just loves?  And, oh, the subtext of his comments about being honest on the runway.  Hee!

Next week, it’s a challenge having to do with kids.  I think I spotted some artwork in the workroom.  Please, tell me they have to base their designs on kids artwork!  That would be cool.

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Wow, I think I would have pooped my pants if I were one of the designers this week.  PR has had many design-for-a-celebrity challenges.  Contestants have even had to design for Heidi.  But designing for Nina Garcia just strikes me as rather intimidating.  She’s stylish and almost always looks impeccable, but her style is pretty narrowly defined, and you know she’s gonna tell you what she thinks.  Between the silhouettes Nina tends to wear – sleek and short, usually, with little or no sleeve – and her wariness of color and pattern, the designers didn’t have much room for creativity.  Unfortunately, that means the runway wasn’t all that interesting – nothing breathtaking or atrocious.  And the brief to make the look work for day and evening just didn’t add anything to the challenge.  Ah well, let’s take a look at the individual entries.

Anthony Ryan That fabric that he and Becky both chose was an odd choice. I can kind of see how the spotty ombre effect would be appealing, but in white and charcoal, it didn’t look polished. Not good for Nina. I also feel like his pieces, which were okay on their own, didn’t make sense together.

Anya The judges really liked this, and I don’t really get it. The fit was funky, and the color was odd, albeit better than the original mustard color. Perhaps the judges thought the jumpsuit was on trend (aren’t we done with jumpsuits, yet?), and I do think this look toed the day/night line better than many. But I can’t really picture Nina in this, and it just wasn’t interesting. Can you tell that I am not a big Anya fan?

Becky Despite my reservations about the fabric, this was one of my favorites. It’s impressive that this early in the game I could tell this was a Becky design, and I can just about picture Nina wearing it, maybe without the splatter print. I love the pop of color in the piping.

Bert Just go home. A little black dress for this kind of challenge was a total copout. Is he even trying?

Bryce The idea was cute, but a little too young and almost sporty for Nina. It would be more fitting on Blake Lively. Plus the execution was very problematic.

Cecilia Cecilia’s dress was messy, boring, and totally not for Nina. She had the same problem Fallene had last week: she just couldn’t recover from a setback. Honestly, she would’ve been my pick for aufing.

Danielle Next time she better make something other than pants and a sheer blouse. It’s funny that she’s already seeming like a one trick pony, even though the structure of her outfits from last week and this challenge were quite different. She seems to be one of those designers who has a hard time adapting her point of view to the varied challenges – how do you make remotely similar outfits for Nina and a stilt walker? I think she has survived thus far because she can sew and has a point of view. That’s not going to last her very long, though.

Joshua This was another look that was cute but not quite Nina’s style. I wonder if he was consciously using the color Nina was wearing during the consultations.

Julie I can see why Julie got sent home – her look was not appropriate for a day to night transition and it sure as heck wasn’t suited for Nina – but she at least made something interesting. While Becky and Anthony Ryan shared a fabric, Julie and Joshua shared a color palette.

Kimberly I think this deserved the win, and Kimberly is really growing on me. She made something that wasn’t predictably Nina (like a sheath dress with some sort of large scale, angular detail) but looked like something Nina would wear. The shimmery gold top and more casual pants fit the day to night stipulation very well. And there was just the right amount of interest in the top to stand out in the sea of simple silhouettes.

Laura She was so close to having something good. It was the fabric that threw off the design. The shape of the outfit was a bit of an 80s homage, but that could have worked if not for being a mass of shiny green. There were probably too many details, as well, but overall it made sense to me that this landed in the middle.

Olivier Yeah, Nina would totally wear a drab, rumpled, ugly costume for a Star Trek extra! There were worse designs, but to me this was definitely on the low end of the middle designs.

Viktor The more I look at this, the more I disagree with the judges praise of it. It at least showed some mild creativity, but it was awfully unflattering. I don’t like the weird T-shaped seaming. And the proportions were weird, especially in the shoulders and neckline, which made the model look virtually neckless.

So that’s what I thought of the designs. Which did you like? Which ones did you hate?

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Folks in the blogosphere seem to have been almost universally disappointed in this episode. Design outfits for stilt-walkers, huh? That, in and of itself, didn’t seem like a bad idea. Adding stilts obviously changes a woman’s proportions, and proportion is a huge part of successful clothing design. And when you are thinking of stilts, you generally think circus or carnival, so there seemed to be potential for some fun, creativity, and drama. Problem was the challenge was awfully vague and the judging (also lambasted online) was bizarre. Tim, at one point, urged the designers to think couture, but that didn’t seem to happen. Ah well, I guess 9 seasons into a show like this it’s too much to expect that every challenge will be fabulous.

Anthony Ryan and Laura Hmm. This outfit, and the fact that it won the challenge, illustrates the problems with this episode. If you chopped off the extra length, you could put this on a model and there is absolutely nothing to indicate there was anything unusual about the challenge. It’s a pretty outfit, and it is well made, but the style elements aren’t even original. I liked the subtly different shades of red, and I am a sucker for flirty, feminine elements like the feathery shoulder treatment. Laura and Anthony Ryan worked well together and made a pretty garment, but it certainly wasn’t anything special, so I cannot understand why it won.

Anya and Olivier I kind of expected them to be the dream team, and they clearly had some interesting ideas, but the final product was a mess. I liked the fabric choices – the print was interesting without being overly dramatic. Olivier’s top showed some creativity but ended up looking like it was slapped together from scraps. And their design shows what I mean about proportions: that small, fussy top just gets lost compared to the huge expanse of skirt. And their model’s hair! The hair stylists were clearly feeling the hair spray fumes that week!

Becky and Kimberly This! This is what I was hoping for with this challenge! Why didn’t it win?? I am going to harp on proportions again. The puffy sleeve, big collar, wide sleeve cuff, flared pants, pant trim, and the extra length on the sleeveless side of the jacket all helped balance the proportions of this look. It wasn’t overly flashy, so it didn’t scream circus, but it was dramatic and eye-catching. And it highlighted their model’s tattoo, which was genius.

Bert and Viktor Good grief, I think I made better outfits for my Barbies when I was 7 than this monstrosity. Maybe they were envisioning their stilt walker as part of the cast of an avant garde, high-rise production of Gone with the Wind and their design was for the scene where Scarlet makes a dress out of curtains. It was painful to look at their design, but not quite as painful as watching their interactions. Bert is looking more and more like a jerk with each episode.

Bryce and Fallene This was one outfit about which I agree with the judges. It was a hot mess. Fallene was clearly in over her head with that bodice, but I don’t think Bryce should be let off the hook. If one member of the team is relatively untrained, why is that designer working on a technically demanding bustier, while the more experienced sewer is working on an overgrown tutu? Even if their original vision had been perfectly executed, I think it still would’ve been a mess. A small, fitted top with a huge tulle skirt over loose stilt pants? It sounds awful. And I think it was the right decision to send Fallene home. Not only was she struggling with the execution, but she let that totally get to her.

Cecilia and Danielle The judges adored this, and I don’t get it. Like Laura and Anthony Ryan’s design, you could have hemmed the pants and sent it down the runway on a regular model. There was a little added volume in the sleeves and pants, but nothing really dramatic. The bedazzled collar looked like something out of Dynasty, and we got more hideous hair on their poor stilt-walker. The outfit was at least well made – I love the back of the blouse – but that’s faint praise.

Joshua and Julie I actually kind of liked their design. Bear with me here. They played with the proportions, using that vertical pattern on the pants and making the look high-waisted. They used a bold fabric that wouldn’t work in a normally scaled design. They were creative. And that’s where they ran into trouble. There was just way too much going on up top, and it didn’t make sense. I don’t think their design should have been in the bottom three, though.

Obviously I am a bit behind with Project Runway posts. Hopefully I can have post up on this week’s episode tomorrow or Tuesday. And if we’re really lucky, the next episode will be inspiring enough that I can’t wait to post about it.

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Paddling away

Last weekend, a friend of mine invited me to go canoeing on a nearby river.  I have only gone canoeing a couple times, and not in years and years, but I associate canoeing with frustration.  I think it is a combination of not being very good at paddling a canoe and the communication and coordination required with another person to propel and steer a canoe.  I am generally cooperative and personable, but something about canoeing just hasn’t worked for me.  Perhaps I should have been a big girl and given it another try, but I decided to go with kayaking instead.  I love kayaking, so that seemed like a much more pleasant way to explore the river.

kicking back on  the kayak

My friends, A, J, and M, piled into a canoe, and we headed off down the river.


I should note that the canoers didn’t seem to have any trouble or conflict the whole trip, so if you may have been inclined to try out canoeing, don’t let my aversion sway you!

We were in the Concord area and started on the Sudbury River, which flows into the Concord River. The Concord River is spanned by the Old North Bridge, site of one of the first battles of the Revolutionary War.

Old North Bridge

Unfortunately, I may also now remember it as the site where I accidentally dunked myself in the river. We had stopped briefly at the historic park that surrounds the bridge, and when we returned to our boats, I lost my footing while trying to get back in the kayak. Oops! Luckily, it was a warm day, so I wasn’t too uncomfortable while we made our way back to the boathouse.

Despite the dunking, our afternoon on the river was lovely. The banks were lush and green, with patches of brilliantly red salvia.


layers of color

We saw a grey heron, a deep yellow, fuzzy caterpillar that wanted to join our picnic lunch, and so many turtles.

basking turtles

It was a lovely, relaxing way to spend a Saturday with friends. And we topped it off by going out for ice cream after.

As a parting gift, I will share a blurry photo that I actually like!


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Warning: this post contains spoilers for the most recent episode of Project Runway.

The unconventional materials challenges are my absolute favorites. I value creativity and problem-solving quite highly in my reality tv contestants, so I always look forward to seeing how the designers perform with wacky materials. At first I thought the pet store venue would be really challenging, but it turns out that there were a lot of colorful, textural elements to choose from, not to mention plenty of actual fabric. This version of the unconventional materials challenge wasn’t nearly as challenging as making an outfit out of car parts.

I had thought I would just touch on some highlights of the episode, since we are still in the early weeks of the show when there are SO many designers.  But it turns out I have something to say about pretty much every design.  Let’s see if you agree.

Anthony He made a dress out of birdseed that I would wear. But that’s not entirely a good thing. I love the way he used the different colors and textures of seeds, and the overall effect was lovely, but it wasn’t particularly high fashion. Still, it was definitely a contender.

Anya I hadn’t noticed until TLo pointed it out, but this top was awfully similar to the one she made last week. That said, it was a pretty stylish top made out of rope toys. A little raggedy for my taste, though. And the skirt was boring, albeit way better than the patchwork monstrosity she seemed to initially be making.

Becky I rather liked this one. It wasn’t the most creative style or use of materials (did it remind anyone else of Austin’s corn husk dress from Season 1?) The colors were great, though, except for those silly red wings at the top. It was in the middle of the pack, exactly where it should have been.

Bert Oh, I wanted to punch Bert all through this episode. Respect the show, Bert! You trash talked my favorite kind of challenge and basically acted like a 5 year-old. If you don’t want to deal with wacky challenges, why the hell are you on the show? And your design was just as childish as your behavior. I may never forgive you, which is a shame, because I liked your design a lot last week.

Bryce Given that Bert had immunity, I think this design should have resulted in Bryce getting sent home. It didn’t look like clothes; it looked like his model climbed out of a recycling bin. I could have sworn that in the workroom he had a much more pleasing stripey look started. What the heck happened?

Cecilia Blech. Drab, unflattering, incoherent, ugly. Should’ve been in the bottom three.

Danielle This one was a mixed bag. I think her design was more creative than most, but it ended up looking dingy, and the styling was bad. I liked the way she dyed the pee pads for the skirt, kind of creating an almost snakeskin print. So far I am not a fan of Danielle’s color choices. I know I dwell solidly in matchy-matchy land, but both her designs so far used color combos that just don’t make sense to me.

Fallene I may be biased because I enjoy Fallene’s quirkiness, but I strongly disagreed with the judges on this one. It wasn’t fantastic, but I don’t think it belonged in the bottom 3, either. The effect she created on the skirt was nifty, and the proportions were good. Yes, it was yet another basic, strapless dress, but it was far from awful. It’s another look that I might wear.

Joshua I don’t think he should have gone home for this. The outfit wasn’t great, for sure, but it had some interesting elements. I liked the pleating of the top and how he disguised the photographic puppy print. In the workroom, he was working on some sort of sisal sash, and I wish he’d kept that. It added some much needed textural interest and would have at least not been conventional fabric.

The other Joshua At first I wanted Anthony to win, but the more I think about it, the more I think Joshua deserved the win. His design’s silhouette was more interesting than most, and I loved the pattern he made out of the aquarium rocks on the top. This look had color, movement, sparkle, and life, and it looked current. The styling was way too much, though.

Julie Other viewers seem to have hated this outfit, but I thought it had some great points and some serious flaws. If Becky’s dress is reminiscent of Austin’s corn husk dress, this one calls Korto’s seat belt kimono to mind, especially before Julie took the sleeves off. I liked that, instead of using a fabric or gluing doodads to her muslin, she basically wove her own textile. I liked the idea of using both sides of the food bags to add color interest, but I don’t think it worked very well, especially with so many design elements going on. But at least it had design elements.

Kimberly And this one reminded me of Jillian’s licorice dress. Maybe I have been watching this show for too long. 🙂 This one was rightly in the middle. There was definitely some creativity and design there, but it just didn’t quite work. A symmetrical bodice would have been less interesting, but the messy treatment she did instead just made that side look like it had gotten snagged in a door or something.

Laura I wish she could have made the Cone of Shame look work! I actually thought the fish scale effect she had started with the cones was nifty, but she was right to scrap that obscenely short skirt. Given that she had to change course, this was a pretty solid offering. The skirt was stiff and boring, but the top was interesting, if bunchy.

Olivier This was a good attempt, but I don’t think it deserved the win. The colors were bland, and the fit was off. I loved the idea of making an ombre effect on the skirt, but he didn’t execute it well. Overall, I think the dress was overpraised.

Viktor Another basic strapless design, though again the effect of the dyed pee pads was pretty. But as a whole the look was lumpy and uninspired. I really want that aquarium gravel collar necklace, though.

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Web gems

If, like me, you are chilling at home on a rainy Sunday, you might enjoy some of these links that caught my eye recently:

These Steampunk Softies are just about the cutest, geekiest craft project I have ever seen.

I’ve got a Project Runway post in the works (those who know me in real life know that I have long been a huge fan.) This season, I am also following Project Project Runway, also from Craftzine, where folks play along with the PR challenges by making outfits for dolls. Maybe next season I will join in, though it would be a big time commitment.

I am also a huge Boston Red Sox fan (Jason Varitek and Dustin Pedroia being my particular favorites.)  A friend recently sent me the link to Bill Simmons’ entertaining take on this season’s Sox.

WanderMonster is a blog where a dad chronicles the creative collaboration between himself and his son. Dad gives the kid a paper with a drawing prompt with his lunch and posts the prompts and the subsequent drawings. I love this blog so much, and I especially loved the recent post about an imagined argument.

I adore these stunning National Park posters by Charley Harper. And some are available for a steal at the U. S. Government Bookstore.

I only recently discovered the style blog, Closet Confections, but she definitely had me with her Sassy sundress that is evocative of a Dr. Seuss book. Sounds silly, but it’s actually fabulous.

Let me know if you’ve stumbled upon any fabulous links lately.

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