Monday, September 20, 2010

Sukkah Decorating Inspirations

I am celebrating Sukkot this year and would love some Freelance Muse suggestions for how to decorate a Sukkah! Some friends that are coming have a lot of leftover paint from when they painted their apartment that they are happy to donate to the cause, and I have a whole bunch of awesome African cloth that we can hang. I'm still trying to figure out the lighting situation. My architect friend camps a lot, so I know she has at least two camping lanterns (I know, because I gave them to her for her birthday!). Any other inspiration? Still not sure how to get my hands on branches, since my town isn't exactly replete with trees.. Maybe bamboo mats instead.... Hmm....

Let's explain first what Sukkot is (besides a favorite Muse-y holiday!) This is so not a kosher description but we're going to go with it anyway - Sukkot is basically Jewish Thanksgiving. It's a seven dayfeast where people celebrate the harvest. Like any Jewish holiday, you eat and drink a lot. Wait wait, we missed a key step. You eat and drink a lot in a SUKKAH.

Now what is a sukkah you ask? Families build small huts in their back yards (enclosed on three sides and topped with branches) and they enjoy their feasts there. Some people even sleep in the sukkahs.

So how does one decorate such a place?

Lighting: You are totally right, girl. Lighting is key, especially if you are celebrating at night. Globe lights would be fantastic and easy to find. You could pick those up at a local hardware or party supply store.

Or, like you suggested, lanterns. Terrain (the home goods store run by Anthropologie) has some great and fairly inexpensive lanterns. Marshall's and Ross also always have great items like this.

Linens: You can decorate sooo easily with some great napkins. One option is to grab some great fall fabric and make your own napkins. That is a fairly simple project -
check out some DIY instructions from Skip to My Lou.

OR, if you are going to buy, World Market always has fabulous table linens and then, of course, there is Williams-Sonoma.

Wandering Vines Napkins

Frouffy Extras
: Ok the Mu
ses do NOT like stupid knick-knacks that clutter your house a
nd overflow your storage bins but seriously, Terrain has some awesome, classy extras that the M
uses can't get enough of.

How fantastic are these pumpkins?

Another great idea is to make some decorations out of things that are edible (read: reusable, not wasteful, or space consuming).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

LEFTOVER HELP: Cottage Cheese

Dear Muses,

I have 1/2 of a 16 oz container of cottage cheese that I don't know what to do with. Used the first 8 oz for a broccoli cheese cornbread, but I digress.

I tasted a little bit plain and it was OK, but hoping you muses could help me out with something to liven it up a bit.

Confounded by Cottage Cheese in California

Firstly, are you talking about the Broccoli Cheese Cornbread from Down Home with the Neelys? Was that good? Looked Delish! Pat and Gina so know what they are doing, but I digress.

Sister there is soooo much you can do with cottage cheese. It is one of our FAVES. One little Muses has been known to eat it straight out of the container (that actually happened yesterday morning when the granola ran out). One option is to totally transform it into something else. Check out savory Cottage Cheese Pancakes. Or the cinnamon buns we’ve talked about before.

But cottage cheese is also pretty good in it’s normal form.

Some things to try

  • Cottage Cheese drizzled with honey. Top with toasted almonds* for a healthy (quick) breakfast.
*Please toast the almonds. Don’t just go throwing raw almonds on things people!

  • Make a piece of whole grain toast, top with some cottage cheese, sprinkle with salt, some tomatoes slices, more salt, and a little pepper. Voila!

  • You can also make pretty good smoothies with cottage cheese, fruit (fresh or frozen), and a touch of honey. Throw it in the blender...or give it a zip with an immersion blender and you are good to go.

Your Muses.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Oat Bran Brownies: a nutritionally neutral snack

Recently, one little muse has been eating a lot of chocolate... A LOT of chocolate! When the jeans start to get a little snug and one resigns oneself to wearing only dresses, you know you have a problem - the chocolate eating has gotten a little out of hand.

One solution might be to just eat apples and carrots every time a craving hits. However, the Muses aren't about to tell you to abandon yourself to eating tofu salad everyday for lunch. No, no, when all you want to eat are Peanut M&Ms, but all you should eat is dry whole grain toast, the best thing to do is SYNERGIZE.

Welcome - whole grain brownies.

Chocolate - good for the soul. Whole grains - good for the waist line. Now, the Muses don't have any scientific proof to back up our claims here. But basic logic would say that if whole grains quicken the digestion process then eating whole grain chocolate would give you the experience of savoring delectable chocolate without making it stick. Right? Right. Our science-y friends that can disprove this theory can go read another blog and keep eating grass. The rest of you, stay with us. The Muses have created a whole grain brownie recipe that will not disappoint your discerning palates.

Oat bran in this recipe gives the brownies a really great texture that is a little meatier. These are really fantastic, a little sweet with the perfect bite, and a pinch of salt. Mmmm, give 'em a try!

Oat Bran - Almond Brownies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened + 2 tablespoons (divided)
2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup dutch-process cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 cup oat bran
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup slivered almonds
2-3 teaspoons sea salt


Line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper

Melt butter and sugar together in microwave until sugar is mainly dissolved (do not allow to bubble).

Add cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso powder and vanilla, stir to combine. Add eggs, one at a time, until combined.

Mix in oat bran and flour mixing until incorporated, then fold in chocolate chips. Spread batter into prepared pan.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Sprinkle batter with slivered almonds, then brush the top with melted butter and sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake brownies for 25-35 minutes.

Let cool - enjoy without regret.