Saturday, April 28, 2012

{Sponsor Love} Clementine Art

I'm really excited to bring to you another 'Sponsor Love' interview, highlighting Clementine Art - a company that's been a wonderful supporter of The Parsley Thief. These Sponsor Love posts are a way to give my readers a more in depth look into some great companies who's products help beautify the world we live in. I hope you'll enjoy learning more about Diana, the founder of Clementine Art and what helped spark her desire to make a difference.

Company Name: Clementine Art
Owner: Diana Mercer
Company Location: Boulder, CO

I've been a fan of Clementine Art for a long time now. But for anyone reading that may not be familiar with your company, can you tell me more about it?
I'd be delighted! In 2003, I opened Clementine Studio, a mixed-media art studio for children in Boulder, Colorado. After a year or so of watching children smear themselves from head to toe with paint, glue, marker ink, and crayon rubbings as part of the creative process, nagging questions about the ingredients and long-term safety of these art supplies lingered. I started mixing up simple, wholesome art products in my kitchen with ingredients I could be sure of, like flour, salt and oil, and colors from spinach and turmeric. Clementine was born from the idea that we can do better for children when it comes to art products.

What is the significance behind the name "Clementine Art"?
I chose the name Clementine for my studio and our art products because it has a fresh and wholesome ring to it, and it reminds me of the old folk song "My Darlin' Clementine". It's sweet and simple without being contrived. That's also my philosophy for children's art.

How did you discover that there was a market and a need for eco-friendly, all natural art supplies?
The need for all natural art products became crystal clear to me after opening my studio. When a toddler would surprise us by putting a paintbrush in her mouth or somewhere unexpected, the parent would inevitably ask, "Is this ok?". I didn't feel comfortable with the status quo answer, "Yes, they're non-toxic" - since I didn't know what was in the products. I had questions about health issues related to the chemical preservatives and dyes I suspected were in there. Since natural products are available for children in almost every other category {organic clothing, organic and naturally dyed stuffed toys, natural wooden toys}, I realized that the world needed a natural alternative in art supplies as well.

What have some of your past occupations been? Anything in particular that lead you down the path to starting your own company?
Since 1992, I've been a teacher to small children. After teaching kindergarten for 10 years, I became very interested in the creative process, and opened Clementine Studio. That was a great leap for me into the world of owning a small business. I learned a lot, worked really hard, and finally sold the studio to a local non-profit to continue the mission, leaving me free to start Clementine Art with two incredible, and experienced partners.

How would you define your own personal aesthetic, and how does that translate into the products you create at Clementine Art?
I am drawn to things that are simple, fresh, lovely and unique. I also believe that, for children, getting back to the simple basics is developmentally best, as it allows them to do their own work inventing and innovating. When children's products are too complicated - with lots of bells and whistles - children aren't left with much to do. The focus of Clementine products is on the inspiration and creative opportunities that are made available with simple, beautiful and unique materials.

I know first hand that running a business can be stressful and time consuming work - What does your life outside Clementine Art look like?
I have more time on my hands than most, since I'm single. I've recently been working toward creating a wee family. I'm in the process of adopting a child right now!

What are some of your favorite hobbies or things to do in your free time?
Yoga, cooking, singing French Jazz with my band, hiking, painting, reading, and combing flea markets and yard sales for treasures.

Any suggestions on how parents can create an all-natural art supply collection for their kids? What are some of the products you'd recommend to get them started?
You don't need to toss everything you've got and go for it all at once. If you add a thing or two here and there, you'll be more natural before you know it.
Here's a list of basic supplies you can try in your transition to more natural art products:
Drawing | crayons, colored pencils, markers, charcoal pencils, oil or chalk pastels - {I love Clementine Art, Eco Kids, Lyra and Stockmar Brands}
Recycled Paper | assorted sizes, textures, and weights of watercolor paper, tempera paper, card stock, construction paper, cardboard, finger paint paper. Make sure to have some oversized paper available {18x24} or a large roll. I also save shirt cardboards, styrofoam trays {for printmaking}, aluminum foil, mat board, and newspaper.
Paint | tempera paint {at least 6 colors} and heavyweight chunky brushes to match. Clementine makes great natural tempera paint. Liquid watercolor paint and soft watercolor brushes to match {I love Colorations Liquid Watercolors even though they're not technically natural}.
Playdough | Clementine Art of Eco Kids
Collage Materials | Baskets or jars filled with any clean and interesting item from your personal recycle bin, community recycling/up-cycling area, or back yard. Here are some ideas for items to save/collect/recycle {in the photo below}

What are some of Clementine Art's hottest selling items?
Definitely our all-natural play-dough colored with Turmeric, Spinach and Carmine and scented with natural fruity scents. Our paint is wildy popular, as are our crayons and crayons rocks.

To help get you started with creating an all-natural art supply collection at home, Diana is generously offering one of Clementine Art's Gift Sets {a $43 value} to one lucky winner! To enter for a chance to win simply leave a comment below. 
As usual, you can enter multiple times by sharing this giveaway on Twitter or Facebook. Leave an additional comment here {not on my Facebook or Twitter pages please!} letting me know how you shared it for a maximum of three entries per person. A winner will be selected at random on Friday May 4th @ noon.
To learn more about Diana and Clementine Art you can visit their website, follow Clementine Art on Facebook or Twitter, and be sure to check out her blog, Darling Clementine, for some great art project ideas and inspiration! Thank you Diana and Congrats on all the new and exciting things going on in your life!
For companies, blogs, or businesses interested in advertising on The Parsley Thief - my contact information can be found in the 'About Me' section above.
UPDATE: The winner of the Clementine Art Set is Comment #14 - Billy B. Congrats!!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Moroccan Preserved Lemons

For those of you who may not be familiar with Moroccan cuisine, or cooking with a tagine - which is popular throughout North Africa in general - the idea of preserving your own lemons has likely never crossed your mind. I must say, although allured while browsing the pages of my glossy William Sonoma catalog I've been intrigued in the past, but never quite taken the plunge...other than an odd Moroccan Chicken Stew via the slow-cooker here, or an exotic Tunisian couscous dish there. However, as stands true with most things in life, once you're introduced to something new it somehow seems to stare you in the face everywhere you go. Such is the case with preserved lemons and me.
Once the spark was lit, the desire to learn more about this important ingredient in many regions of the world, was suddenly stimulated. Although not always referred to by the same name, versions of what I'm calling preserved lemons here are prevalent in many cuisines. In India, they have something called 'lemon pickle', in which the lemons are diced and mixed with various ground spices. In some cultures, preserved lemons have uses beyond food and are considered helpful with medical ailments. Although most commonly considered a North African culinary ingredient, as is the case with many foods, it's crossed borders and made it's way into dishes from Italy to Cambodia and everywhere in between. I read up on the subject using many sources, but if you'd like to learn more, this post by Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook is really helpful.
Beyond using preserved lemons in tagine recipes, you might wonder what these little gems can be used for? With Summer on it's way, it's not necessarily an ideal time for thick, hearty Moroccan stews either. Personally, I'm looking forward to making this Grilled Salmon with Preserved Lemon and Green Olives and this recipe for Tomato, Feta & Preserved Lemon Salad very soon. I've always been a fan of polenta, or anything on the planet made with cornmeal, so I'm also planning to try this recipe for Preserved Lemon Polenta. Another Moroccan ingredient that sticks out in my mind, other than lamb, or chickpeas. When Fall comes around again, I'd love to make a pot of this Chickpea Tomato Stew with Moroccan Flavors.
In addition to those ideas, preserved lemons are also great in salad dressings or work beautifully in marinades for grilled chicken, lamb or fish. Try using minced preserved lemon rind in any savory recipe that calls for grated lemon zest. Or - if you'd like to get gourmet, make a gremolata - an herb condiment typically made with lemon rind, garlic and parsley and substitute some preserved lemon for the standard lemon rind.
In Morocco, preserved lemons are made using 'citron beldi' - meaning the traditional Moroccan doqq or boussera lemon varieties. But because it's highly unlikely you'll find either of those here, I recommend using Meyer Lemons, which are available in my part of the U.S. in Late Winter/Early Spring. They're a deeper, almost orange color because they're actually a cross between a lemon and an orange (or mandarin). Because of this, they're also less acidic than standard supermarket lemons and have a thinner rind.
If you can't get your hands on some you can substitute regular lemons, but it may take longer for the thicker rind to soften. Regardless of which lemon variety you use, I highly recommend using exclusively organic for this purpose - mainly because the rind is the part you'll eventually be consuming.
If you'd like to try some other canning, or preserving recipes these might interest you - Giardiniera {Italian Pickled Vegetables} | Pickled Tomatoes | Fire Roasted Heirloom Salsa | Dill Pickles.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Some Things I Just Love...

For the past week my boys have been home from school on April break. Which has meant I haven't had much time for blog related activities...other than the cooking part. Surprisingly, I've had some time for that because they love assisting in the kitchen and if it helps keep the "I'm bored..." comments at bay, I'm all for it. We've also spent many hours working in the yard - getting the gardens cleaned up and ready for edible plants, planted grass seed, trimmed shrubs and cleaned up the perennials. Now I can look out the windows of my house, onto my yard, and not shutter at the sight of it. Between the gardening and the celebration of Earth Day this weekend I've got bright sunny yellow on my mind. Hope you enjoy these yellow finds! Happy Earth Day!
1. | yellow striped turkish bath towel 2. | yellow postalco notebooks 3. | mz wallace ava tote 4. | yellow chevron striped throw pillow covers 5. | mustard strip rustic linen pillow case 6. | deborah lippmann yellow brick road polish 7. | kahler omaggio yellow striped vase 8. | striped ruffle dress 9. | lemon yellow watering can 10. | stackable hee dining chair

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sesame Chicken Cutlets

Of all the meals I make on a fairly regular basis, this is the one that produces the most smiles and exclamations of - "Yay!!" There's lots of ways to flavor breaded chicken cutlets - you can make them plain {simply seasoned with salt and pepper}, with fresh herbs {rosemary and/or thyme work very well}, or studded with flecks of freshly grated Parmesan {as I did here}...a little Dijon mustard mixed in with the egg mixture adds a great tang. Really, I could go on and on. 
Yet - with all the experimenting I've done in the past, I keep coming back to my old standby of sesame seeds. The first time I had these {or a version thereof} was when my husband made some for me many years ago. He learned the technique from his mother - who I mentioned in the Parmesan cutlet post, is the master of making the best chicken cutlets ever.
To this day I still don't know exactly how she makes hers. But one thing I have learned is that getting the chicken as thin as possible is really the key. Even if you think the chicken is as thin as it needs to be when raw, go thinner - because as the chicken cooks it will constrict and thicken up quite a bit.
One way to prepare the chicken is to filet it with a sharp knife, running parallel to your cutting board. This is how my mother-in-law does it, but the technique requires some pretty impressive knife skills in order to get the cutlets to be an even thickness. What I do, if either buy prepared chicken cutlets from the grocery store and pound them a bit thinner, or I butterfly the chicken breast and then pound to an even thickness. The first method is the easiest and fastest, but buying chicken cutlets is also more expensive.
The dredging process is flour, egg, then a sesame seed/breadcrumb mixture. One thing I've also learned through experience is that I like to leave the flour unseasoned. I find any salt added before cooking will just cook away and make the chicken lose moisture. Therefore, I like to season the cutlets as they come out of the frying pan, while they're still piping hot.
For the breadcrumb mixture, I use a combination of regular store-bought breadcrumbs {I love Jason brand} and panko. The fine crumbs stick better than panko, but the panko adds a great crunch - so together they work very well. Both black and white sesame seeds are mixed into the breadcrumbs. I love the multi-colored seeds sprinkled over the surface of the cutlets, but you certainly don't need to make a special trip to the store for both! Use whichever you have on hand.
As simple as chicken cutlets are to make...not to mention how much better they taste than store-bought frozen chicken fingers, nuggets, tenders, etc...there's only one thing I don't like about making them. And that would be, the mess!
But a valuable lesson my experience with catering has taught me is - making them ahead of time is just as delicious as eating them right away. You can bread them hours before frying them and stack them in an airtight container. Or, you can pre-cook them, keep them chilled in the fridge or frozen - then re-heat in a 400 degree oven until hot. Since you're going through the trouble, make a bunch!
Some other chicken recipes you might like...Parmesan Chicken Cutlets, Grilled Chicken with Honeydew Salsa or Chicken Valdostana.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Happy Weekend //

This is the first year in quite some time that I will not be hosting Easter festivities at my house. Instead, we'll be going to my husband's parents with the kids {of course}, my brother-in-law and my two nephews. It's strange not being in the throws of cleaning the house and planning the menu - especially since Easter is my favorite holiday to host. Although the strangeness of it was soon replaced with relief that we can sit back, plant some pansies and dye some eggs this weekend!
This Food Blog Love post is inspired not only by Easter, but also by Spring in general - my most favorite of the seasons. When asparagus, bitter greens, fava and cranberry beans, citrus, morels and strawberries are beginning to appear. Whatever you're weekend plans are, I hope these gorgeous recipes inspire you to get cooking...
{1.} italian easter bread | bunkycooks {2.} homemade marshmallow peeps | the kitchn {3.} bird's nest macaroons | the faux martha {4.} arugula salad with marcona almonds, avocado + fennel slivers | yummy supper {5.} fruit crepes with orange whipped cream | the flourishing foodie {6.} homemade gravlax | love & olive oil {7.} grapefruit cake | princess in the kitchen {8.} meyer lemon pistachio rice pudding | see you in the morning {9.} hot cross buns | three to one {10.} spring coleslaw | a sweet spoonful {11.} naturally dyed easter eggs | brooklyn supper {12.} vibrant eggs, dyed naturally | the kitchn
{photo credit: the background image of blooming magnolias above was taken by my sister, elizabeth}

Monday, April 2, 2012

Coconut Brigadeiros

I made this recipe immediately after I saw it in the pages of Fine Cooking magazine...but that was three years ago. Since then it's sat in my 'blog posts in the works' archive - just waiting to find it's way here now. Why so long? I can't say really. I guess I was waiting for the right moment - when a recipe like this might fit in with a season, or a theme?
Seeing as I just recently published a post highlighting my son's 10th birthday party and Brigadeiros just happen to be very popular children's birthday party treats in Brazil...I thought now would be a good time.
I'm assuming that many of you are probably unfamiliar with the term, 'Brigadeiros' - and rightfully so, being that they're a Brazilian candy. Basically, they're bite-sized fudgy bonbons made with sweetened condensed milk and are most commonly flavored with powdered chocolate and decorated with chocolate sprinkles. Although less frequently seen, they are also made with coconut milk and shredded coconut, as seen here - or nuts, such as pistachio. Quite like a truffle chocolate here in America - these can be adapted and experimented with, using any number of flavorings or coatings. The texture inside, however, leans much more towards the creamy side than a truffle would.
The recipe itself is very simple and requires only a few ingredients - all of which I happen to commonly have in my pantry. The only area of this recipe I found a bit tricky was cooking the brigadeiro batter. The recipe said it should cook, on medium-low, for about 8 minutes - but when 8 minutes passed, the mixture didn't look near ready. So I cooked it longer, until it reached the consistency described in the recipe - which is thick enough that when you stir it the mixture stays together and you can see the bottom of the pan.
It must have been kismet that I waited so long to bring this recipe out from the closet, because in the time that's passed the recipe author has made a video describing how to make Brigadeiros. Watching it will help you determine when to stop cooking the batter. Note: In the video she's making chocolate brigadeiros, so the ingredients are slightly different - but the cooking method is the same.
Many of the recipes I've seen for coconut brigadeiros call for using unsweetened shredded coconut, just as is. But I love the flavor and slight crunch of toasted coconut - so I opted to toast mine. You can do the same by heating the shredded coconut in a 350 degree oven until golden brown.
Now that this recipe has risen from the archives, I'm eager to try making some using chocolate - especially after watching that video! They would definitely be more popular with my kids than coconut - but these babies were made strictly for my benefit. Enjoy!
If you love coconut as much as I do, you might enjoy these recipes - Coconut Cream-Filled Macaroons | Mango Coconut Milk Smoothie | Key Lime Bar with Toasted Coconut.