Thursday, November 03, 2011
raisin bread & apple butter
Our CSA box this year has been bountiful. Paul I and kind of play Iron Chef with it, seeing what we can concoct in new and wonderful ways. Some weeks, when we go out more or eat over at friends' houses, we end up having leftover produce that spills into the next week or two. So last night, I was looking at our overabundance of apples and squash and assorted greens and decided to do a clean out. The results were as follows:

1. A delicious Swiss Chard and Butternut Squash Stew with Navy Beans

OK, this was less liquidy than a stew - more like a stir fry. I roasted the squash chunks while I sauteed some onions and garlic with the chard stems. Then added some chicken stock and salsa and the beans. Then I wilted in the chard leaves and tossed in the roasted squash. Nice and spicy and earthy, and we scooped it up with tortillas.

2. Apple butter in the crock pot.

Awesome, and better than store bought or even farmers market! I love eating tart apples raw, but the sweeter, more mealy kinds I've gotten to be less a fan of. So I've been slow to eat the local selection that's been in the last couple of boxes. So I peeled, cored, and quartered four large Rome apples, plus a Golden Delicious a little past it's prime, and a Granny Smith just to give a tart kick. Dumped them in the crock pot with a bit of vanilla, and cooked them on low for about 6 hours. Then I mushed them all up and added some brown sugar, cinnamon, & allspice, and left the crock pot on all night. This morning, there was a beautiful pot of brown goodness to smear all over the raisin bread I baked last night.

3. Steak with beets and potatoes

This is not really an experiment, as we are all about the roasted beets in our house. The way they taste a little sweet and a little like dirt (but in a good way). And the way they pair perfectly with crispy roasted potatoes and a nice hunk of grilled meast. I'm salivating as I type.

All in all, not too shabby!


Sunday, September 25, 2011
tied up...
A few of months ago, Paul asked me if I could knit him a tie. I don't force my knitting on other people (except, perhaps, those of the small and newborn variety), so of course I was thrilled. We talked specs and I ordered the yarns (a luxurious merino/silk blend with a hint of sheen). And they were backordered, of course, so it was a full month before they arrived. And then the tiny needles and the skinny yarn and the moss stitch happened in tiny bits while watching Dr. Who and Veronica Mars and all the Harry Potter movies. I finished the length about a week and a half ago and finally got around to the final touches yesterday. I inserted a bias-cut strip of cotton to stabilize things, and grafted the end closed. Then a thorough blocking to bring out the stitch pattern and flow in the increases and decreases. Ladies and Gents, I now present...

...just in time for fall.


Saturday, September 17, 2011
I didn't like tomatoes as a kid. Sauces, ok. Raw, not ok. My southern genes came into question as I wouldn't touch a mater sandwich (or okra, but that is another story). Peanut butter would be fine for me, thank you very much.

As an adult, I realize that what I don't like are the seeds. Or the slimy bits around the seeds. Other than that, I quite like them. I'll eat the tiny tart ones in salad, and the big heirlooms with basil and mozzarella on pizza. And the thing that has taken hold of my tastebuds lately...roasted tomatoes!

Not the sundried ones (or at least not the artificially/mass produced "sun"dried ones), but the slow roasted in a low oven ones. The tomato bounty has been good this summer, even though the torrential rain threatened to cut it short. My personal plant (a Black Russian paste) hasn't been very prolific, but the neighbors and coworkers and CSA boxes have been overflowing with lovely Grapes, Mr. Stripeys, Big Boys, Cherokee Purples, and Romas. I've been roasting for soups, salads, pastas, scones and snacking. And kind of making myself sick off of them. The key, I find, is to cut them in half (or into chunks) and de-seed them first. Then roast in a 250F oven for about 4 hours with some garlic & basil and a drizzle of olive oil. Heaven! In fact, only 1 small batch made it to the freezer for later. And there was the one batch that I forgot about and roasted for about 12 hours (this is far to long unless you want them to be Cajun style/charcoal). It'll be a while before Paul let's me live that one down...

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Sunday, August 14, 2011
bikes and baguettes...
We went for a glorious bike ride this afternoon with friends. Our aim was to bike to the velodrome and end up at The Hop for ice cream. The park around the velodrome was cool and shady, and perfect for a sunny afternoon ride. The we hopped the barrier and raced a few laps around the track. The adrenaline came in handy when it was time to bike back up the hill...not a small feat for the single-speed I chose to ride today. Whew! After the necessary pit stop for beer, we deemed that the ice cream would be better after dinner, and picked up a pint of Thai Curry ice cream to take home (Fabulous and delicious, btw...all cardamom and gingery).

I had left a pot roast in the crock pot, so we were all set for an impromptu dinner party, complete with the baguettes I tested this morning, using this recipe from Not Without Salt (my new favorite food blog). Not bad for a first try. Here's the before...

And the after...


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Sunday, August 07, 2011
homegrown pizza...
I'm feeling very homesteader tonight as we prep for dinner. Pizza is on the menu, and as the homemade crust rises, we're chopping up toppings...

Caramelized onions are from our CSA box from last week.

The pesto is made from the first garlic scapes of the year (also from our CSA box back in May) and almonds. Love this stuff! We didn't freeze nearly enough.

Basil is from our fire-escape garden.

Fresh Mozzarella was free from Earth Fare (but I have plans in the works for making my own...).

And the lovely yellow plum tomatoes are from our friends' garden. I think I'll grow some of these next year. The color is gorgeous!

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Saturday, July 16, 2011
ikea musings...
Paul and I went down to Charlotte yesterday for his Biometrics appointment for his green card renewal. It's kind of a no-big-deal thing, but I think it's been weighing heavily on him as the last hurdle before his conditional green card becomes permanent. We know we're all legit and above board (read: ridiculously in love as much as ever and very solidly and happily married), but anything that our being together depends on is a little bit nerve-wracking. So having that all taken care of felt very liberating. We left the government office with much hand-dusting-off and a sense of a field opening up in front of us. So we celebrated by going to Ikea...

It seems a bit silly, but there in the midst of bins of light fixtures, cushions, and storage boxes, we spent three hours browsing and reveling in our life together and the promises it holds. We tried out every sofa and mattress (OK, so we were tired after our previous night of midnight Harry Potter, and any excuse to lay down was welcomed), discussing their merits and deciding which to hypothetically choose, mentally planned out a future kitchen, and almost bought a chandelier. I think we left there with a toilet brush, a casserole dish, coffee pots and some bread pans, but inside, we had put together a whole new step in our life.


Friday, July 15, 2011
the end of an era...
We figured if we're going to see the midnight showing of Harry Potter 7.2, we might as well go full out and dress up...

Too bad you can't see my knee socks. Hmmm...strange that Paul already owns a Slytherin tie.

Thanks to Kate for hosting the pre-party and to everyone for the awesome snacks. We might have leftover pumpkin pasties for dinner tomorrow...


Sunday, June 26, 2011
test kitchen...
This weekend was another of nesting and de-stressing. Which seems to mean that I spend half of it experimenting in the kitchen. The results:

1. Homemade bread & butter - I love the baking thing. Rising dough is still kind of magical, as I used to have the hardest time with yeast (the key, according to my friend Alex, is to keep trying and give the yeast time to get into your environment...the longer you bake in a place, the better your baking will be). So today was a basic yeast bread done on the baking stone. The new oven cooks faster on the stone, which I think is an airflow/temp regulation issue, and need to keep adjusting for it. I also had some heavy whipping cream left over from a recipe this week, so that got shaken into butter. I love homemade butter. Love.

2. Marmalade - this time it was Valencia oranges (thanks in heaps to my great-uncle Skipper for sending us some of the last ones of this season from his grove) and a lemon thrown in for good measure. A bit more tart than Paul likes normally (I love the tartness) and not quite bitter enough (the Valencia's don't have much pith), but altogether pretty tasty. We'll keep tweaking it.

3. Bok choy stir fry - got the bok choy in our CSA box (have I mentioned how much I'm in love with our CSA?) and added it to the usual recipe for mongolian beef. Delish!

4. Best coleslaw ever - I forget where I saw the recipe this was based on (it was for a chicken salad slaw), but it's essentially a mayo, garlic, lemon juice and lemon zest dressing with shredded cabbage. I also made homemade mayo for the first time today. This is mostly because I generally dislike mayo except when it's an ingredient, so I don't keep it around the house. (Our friend Paul the Fifth thinks we're the only household in the south without a jar of mayo in the fridge. This may be true, but then I am married to a foreigner.) The process of making mayo wasn't as scary as I thought, and actually tastes better that the premade stuff. Anyway, the slaw is amazing!


Friday, May 06, 2011
at long last... wait has come to and end.

My wool arrived today.

This has been about six weeks in the waiting. Paul's been wearing ties to work lately (yes, a bit unusual for a metalsmith, but he does like to class things up a bit), as well as out and about. And he's a big fan of knit ties. He has a couple of nice ones that were his dad's, and another couple of wool ones that we try to keep away from the hungry mouths of moths with mixed success. With all the knit ties coming out lately, you would think it would be easy to find a gray one and a black one. But no. They're all sort of wrong. Or completely synthetic. So he requested a gray knit tie. After a bit of research and rejection of existing patterns (I love that people out there are knitting ties, but I've found most of the results to be a bit naff for what he's looking for), I decided it wasn't that hard to draft my own pattern based on one of the ties in Paul's collection. The yarn was found (merino/silk blend laceweight), ordered, and backordered. And backordered again. The wait was interminable and I tried to spend some of the time drafting the pattern details, but that didn't take long. More waiting. And finally today the wait was over.

Now it begins...

(side note: Yes, I am completely boring. I am fully aware of this.)


Sunday, May 01, 2011
this weekend in the test kitchen...
We ended the weekend with a success rate of about 2 for 4. Luckily the two that turned out well were the two biggies. (Really I should know better than to multitask in the kitchen while trying out new things.)

1. Marmalade

Meyer Lemon and Blood Orange. I ran across a recipe online and had to try. It was actually really easy, you just have to pay attention to the temperature. Ours got a bit hot, which made it extra thick, especially once it spent a few moments in the fridge. But I love the beautiful purple bits and the more-tart-than-usual taste. And with an Aussie in the house, we are particular about our marmalade.

2. Kale Chips

These seem to be the biggest new fad in crunchy snacks among my health-nut friends, and I keep seeing them pop up on websites this spring. Sadly, with all the other cooking going on, mine ended up spending too much time in the oven and came out more like Cajun Kale Chips (aka, blackened). Not sure if I'm really a fan anyway. They seem either too salty (can that even BE such a thing?) or too chewy. I think I'll stick with potatoes for chips, and save the kale for other goodies.

3. Calzone

I decided to try out a new dough (the Jamie Oliver pizza dough), and made a double batch, planning to bake half and freeze the other half. But while it was rising, we made impromptu dinner-party plans and ended up with a half-dozen people over for a casual meal. We ended up cooking all of it, and it was perfect! The chicken sausage and feta one might have been my favorite. I can't taste it again to give a definite answer because it's all gone. The answer should be right there, shouldn't it?

4. Juniper berries

Paul was experimenting with the idea of steeping dried juniper berries in water to create a kind of tea, so that our abstaining friends could have all the flavor of gin in a refreshing beverage without the kick. Yes, we feel sorry for those that must be denied the goodness of gin. No, we do not recommend this particular method, as it may drive away even the most faithful friend. No one wants a drink that tastes like you soaked twigs in it. And so the experiments continue...


Friday, April 22, 2011
Yesterday I bought a walkman. Yes, that's right, a personal AM/FM Radio/Cassette player, complete with belt clip. It took going to half a dozen stores to find one in stock (most of the employees looked at us like we were crazy when we asked for a cassette player). I felt deliciously rebellious as the 18-year-old cashier looked at it curiously, then me, shrugged, and rang it up. I'm not sure he knew what it was. :)

See, I'm an avid book-on-tape listener. (Showing my age there...yes, they are still books-on-tape to me, even if they are e-downloads. "Audiobooks" just sounds pretentious.) I groove around town on work-errands while someone reads me stories. And I like to knit while listening as well. But not all the books I want to listen to are available on disc or to download to my ipod. My last car still had a tape player, but the new one, alas, was built this century and scoffs at cassette as if it were an olde tyme wringer washer. So I've now got the walkman and an input cable, and I'm all set to go with my next book. But there's a part of me that wants to don leg-warmers and a belted leotard (gotta have a belt to clip the walkman on!) and jazzercize around the house. Don't look at me like I'm crazy...


Thursday, April 14, 2011
4 weeks in...
Lent. I decided to give up sweets for Lent this year. After past habit-breaking success in previous years, involving potato chips and Web MD (Nemesis!), I've come to appreciate the 6-week season of self-discipline. I grew up in a family where you had dessert on special occasions, not everyday. We are salt-fiends that would rather forgo dessert and have a bowl of popcorn later. But lately I've been feeling unsatisfied after meals without a little sweet somethin-somethin. Paul and I can plow through a pack of chocolate biscuits or lemon cookies like a couple of champs. Definitely a habit to break for the sake of my waistband and for my tooth enamel. Enter the Lenten Challenge...

The rules were set as follows:

1. No dessert. Or desserts masquerading as a snack.
2. Oatmeal cookies still count as dessert, even though oatmeal is a breakfast food
3. I'm allowed a small slice of Wedding Cake, since it's bad form not to eat cake at a wedding and we had friends getting married in March.
4. I'm allowed something sweet with my bubbly on our March 30th anniversary.
5. I'm allowed dark chocolate in moderation. As in, 1 oz square from a bar of chocolate.. Not as in chocolate covered anything.

And I've got to say I've done well. In the face of our friends' new tradition of getting a slice of cake from the local bakery on Fridays (I will be with you after Easter!). And in the face of the box of donuts at work (I get so hungry at 4:30!). And in the face of strawberry rhubarb crumble.

I did, however have some key lime pie when we were visiting friends in Georgia. Key lime pie is my weakness. However, I didn't actually have dessert on our anniversary (due to the luscious cheese board), and it was only a week later, so I'm going to let that one squeak by.

Other than that, it hasn't been too difficult. I'm craving salt again, which is my normal. And then I found this...

homemade twix bars!

Wow. I'm going to go ahead and put this on the baking schedule for after Easter.



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