Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mushroom, MUSHROOM

I have the nicest neighbors in the world.

We recently came in to a new clothes dryer (thanks Mom!), leaving us with an older, yet still functional dryer that needed a home.  The easiest solution was of course the neighbors, whose laundry room is about 2 feet away from ours and who hadn't acquired a dryer yet.  The change out was pretty quick, and after letting them know about the dryer earlier in the week, we slipped it in to their laundry room when they weren't home for the sake of taking advantage of what precious little daylight we have.

The next day, I got a knock on the door while I was cooking dinner, and was greeted by my neighbors, holding a big bowl of orange mushrooms.  They looked vaguely familiar, and quite fancy.  They explained that they had spent the earlier part of the day collecting these from the surrounding woods as they've done for the last 10 years, and they were chanterelles.  Had I heard of them?

Being that I obsessively watch Food Network, and that I spend a remarkable amount of time at the grocery store, I had heard of these, and knew that they are quite not cheap when you're not scavenging for them yourself.  Here I was easily holding $50 worth of mushrooms, one of the most beautiful in-kind payments I had ever received.  I thanked them profusely and started brainstorming.

Dinner was already on, and my husband doesn't like mushrooms anyway.  Not to mention, a holiday weekend was fast approaching and I knew if I didn't cook and preserve them TONIGHT, it wasn't going to happen.  Scouring the internet, I stumbled on some very easy cooking methods (simple is best when you get such amazing ingredients) and got to work!

I roughly chopped my chanterelle mushrooms and dumped them all in a big pyrex, adding an entire container of chicken stock, half an onion, minced garlic, salt, pepper, and a splash of truffle oil that I had also been given earlier that day (my day was a Chopped basket).  I let them sit in my already-hot-oven (I think it was at about 350) for 20 minutes, and after cooling moved the lot to a ziploc bag for freezer storage. 

As I was in this process, my husband came home and asked what it was.  I gushed about our amazing neighbors, and offered him a bite that I knew he would decline.  In my head, I planned for solo meals with the reheated mushrooms over some pasta or rice, and was quite pleased at how awesomely easy and delicious that would be.  I can't believe what a wonderful treat I have waiting for me in cold storage!  I'll be sure to follow up when I actually get to enjoy it!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Animals are Cool

I still love going to our awesome Monterey Bay Aquarium and watching these cute little guys.

They're so interesting and I could watch them for days.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A New Take on Crescent Rolls

I've been eating those addictive Pillsbury crescent rolls for years (not IN A ROW), and it never even occurred to me to do anything different than the package tells me to do - pop the container, roll in to an oddly shaped crescent, bake, and eat.

That is, until Pinterest started giving me ideas!

No longer a side, they're now part of the meal!  These are the easiest thing to do and are delicious and fun to eat.  I cook all the time and my husband was impressed with the ingenuity - it's something so simple, who would think of it, right?  Of course, being the dork I am, instead of saying "why yes, I am a kitchen genius" as a wind from an unknown source blew my beautiful hair, I instead said "I SAW IT ON PINTEREST AND YOU CAN PUT STUFF IN THE ROLLS AND COOK 'EM HERE HAVE SOME."

On this particular day, I chose cheddar cheese, sundried tomatoes, and peppers.  Honestly, it comes in a second to the ones where I put cream cheese and jalapenos in with the eggs.  Those I scarfed down before I could take a picture.  But I think the real point is: you can put whatever the heck you want in these.  If you can think of 2 or 3 things that go together, you have a tasty meal.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Chop any ingredients that you're adding to your crescent roll noms.  Peppers, veggies, cheese, cooked meats, etc.  If you're adding meat, you could probably use only 3 eggs, rather than 4, since you have another source of protein.  It's up to you.

Pop open your crescent roll container, and lay out the individual triangles on a baking sheet.  Layer your ingredients toward the wider base of the triangle, leaving the narrow part of the triangle empty.

Scramble your eggs, being sure not to over cook them.  In general, remember that if they're done in the pan, they're overdone on the plate.  In this case, you'll be putting them in the oven for another 10ish minutes, so you actually want to aim for a bit "wet".  If you want to do them like me, do this:

Put a nonstick pan over medium heat on the stove top, with just shy of a tablespoon of butter (per 4 eggs) in the pan to melt.  Crack 4 eggs in a bowl and rapidly whisk with either a whisk (duh) or a fork until a good amount of air has been incorporated and the eggs are not as vibrant yellow as the yolk would be.  Add salt and pepper to the bowl and pour the eggs in to the hot pan when the butter has melted and started to bubble.  Keep the eggs moving with a flat spatula and when you would normally take them off the heat a minute later, take them off now.  There shouldn't be liquid per se, but the eggs should be glossy.

Layer your eggs on the same spot where you've layered your other ingredients, splitting it up as evenly as possible.  Now comes the fun part - rolling these bad boys up.  I haven't discovered a particularly easy way to do it, but regardless it's fun and a little messy, so do your best and feel free to tuck any straggling ingredients back in to a roll if they escape!

Once they're rolled, put the baking pan in to the oven and come back to check them after 8-10 minutes.  The rolls should be golden brown and delicious (just like they would be without the other stuff in them).  Serve them hot, and be sure to bask in your ingenuity!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bacon Makes Everything Better


That says "Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale". Oh yes it does.
I bought this beer.

Let me back up a couple days.  My Facebook page was starting to fill up with photos of this VERY pink bottle and with the intriguing trifecta of words - Bacon Maple Ale.  Perhaps 3 of the best words in the English language, and a very odd, but not unfathomable, combo.  You got my attention, Rogue!

Fortunately, I spend more time at grocery stores than anyone else I know.  I probably spend more time in one than you do, too.  Today while I was spending time at the grocery store, I was approached by the Beer Specialist, who happened to be holding an unmistakably pink bottle.  "WE HAVE IT", she declared, and pointed out something I had not noticed initially - Rogue had partnered with Portland favorite Voodoo Donuts to create this brew.  Um, WOW.

I've been to Voodoo Donuts!  And I've HAD their bacon maple donut!  And I had some beer in me at the time!  I spent several more hours at the grocery store, and grabbed a bottle on my way out.

Initial pre-opening impressions

The bottle is SO PINK.   And BEST IDEA EVER.

I opened it

Actually smells like bacon!  looks at ingredients  It actually CONTAINS bacon.  OMG.

Poured it, and drank it

Wow.  Delightful flavor.  Slightly sweet, but not a sugary way.  A hint of smoky flavor.  A bit of a bitter aftertaste, as you would expect from an ale.  Overall, complex, interesting, and DELICIOUS with the pepperoni pizza I was eating with it.  It allegedly also pairs nicely with doughnuts. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011


It's one of the words in the blog title, and looking at my content, you would think I'm not knitting anymore!  Well, you would be wrong!

I've just been doing much more secret knitting that I can't really show off until the recipient sees it first!  Luckily, these lovely Hedera socks (pattern by Cookie A) were received today, so I can finally share them with the world!  These were done in Squoosh Fat Sock in the Froggy colorway (which had been languishing in my stash for way too long, not knowing what it wanted to be!) and they were a pleasure to knit and even more of a joy to give to a good friend!  As an added bonus, the knitting on these went pretty quickly, and Cookie A makes such beautiful, interesting patterns, even when they're pretty simple like this one was!

One Christmas gift down, a few more to go!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Honey Mustard Bread

Not too long ago, I told you all about my red beans and rice adventures, and how after a few days, I craved replacing the rice with something a little more interesting and dynamic.  I (unsurprisingly) decided on bread (I'm so predictable sometimes) and wanted something a little sweet and savory!  Honey sounded like just the thing to add sweetness, and dijon mustard is the perfect compliment!

Round up your ingredients!
1 cup water
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 cups bread flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry Colman's mustard
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp active dry yeast

This 1.5 pound loaf does it's thing on the white bread cycle, and is delicious when fresh!

I would like to briefly talk about honey.  I admit to being a little bit of a food snob, but I would like to recommend buying the best quality honey that you can.  There has been more and more information coming to light that a surprising amount of grocery store honey is not actually honey, and due to the lack of laws and regulation around it, can be labeled "honey" when it's little more than sugar water.  The flavor difference between "honey" and real honey is remarkable, and will add something special to your honeyed treats!  Support local beekeepers and honey makers when you can, and they'll reward you with a delicious product.  For a little extra fun, get varieties like orange blossom or clover, which imparts the flavor of the plant the pollen was collected from!  So very cool.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I Can't Be Good at Everything, I Guess

What a fail night.

It started out promising.  I came home, turned the heat on, and was excited about trying a new recipe.  Blueberry lemon cake, what's not to be excited about!?  It even looked so pretty as I poured it in to my Bundt pan which is hilariously shaped like the tops of pineapples!

Ooh, pretty!
And that concludes the fun, upbeat part of this post.  It's allllll downhill from here.

I checked my cake after the recommend 35 minutes on the box.  Still soaking wet.  I was alarmed.  My friend Amber reminded me that bundts take longer, so I thought, "oh!  Another 10-15 minutes should do it!"

I checked after 10 minutes.  After another 20.  Another 15.  ANOTHER 15.  After an HOUR AND A HALF, and still pulling the knife out very wet, I thought "well crap, I need to cook dinner".  Fish!  I went to grab my piece of salmon, and remembered that "nooo, I wanted to mix it up, and bought seabass steak!"  Which means...I had to use the oven.  Checked the cake AGAIN, nope, still not ready.  Fine, I'm putting this piece of fish IN the oven WITH the cake, otherwise I'm not eating until tomorrow.  Stupid cake.

I removed my piece of fish from the wrapping paper, and managed to get fish juice on my sleeve.  Great.  I put my seabass in to the oven under the cake.  After a short period, it started to fall apart beautifully, so I took it from the oven.  First bite - GIANT fish bone.  Second bite - MORE GIANT GROSS fish bone.  It didn't even taste good.  It was just on the verge of still slimy.  Normally fish does a bit well right at the edge, but not this fish.  I ate about half my piece.  My husband ate only about half of his.  Stupid fish.

I checked my cake again.  It was starting to turn very dark on the top, and the knife still wasn't coming out clean.  I told myself that I was taking it out of the oven as soon as I finished opening my bottle of wine, and a full 2 hours later, I removed my very dark, yet still sadly undercooked, bundt cake.  I tempted fate, and dumped it on to a cooling rack.

At least the wine is good.  Stupid cake.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Crockpot Red Beans and Awesome

I am seriously loving my crockpot.  More and more, I love the smell when I come in the house after 8 hours, I love the ease of putting all my ingredients in and walking away, and I just love the feeling of knowing dinner is cooking itself while I toil away at work.  I also love how quickly my go-to recipes are expanding, and these red beans are another one that I'll be making again and again!

Shown here over Honey Dijon Bread - you'll get the recipe soon!
I will note, this recipe made a TON of beans.  I would probably scale this back a bit the next time around because there are only 2 of us, and we had about 8 full servings - and these are big servings since we eat a lot.  Also, my husband doesn't like to eat leftovers more than once, so if you do the math, he ate 2 of those servings, and I got the other 6.  Yay for bringing my own lunch!  I switched away from eating it with rice after about 4 meals out of the desire for something different, hence the bread.  Plus, making bread gives me something else to blog about.  :D

Collect your ingredients:
2 and 1/2 cups red beans
12 oz package of bacon, cut in to 1/4 inch pieces (sausage would also be great in this) 
1/2 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
salt and pepper

You'll also eventually need: Rice.

Rather than starting this right before you go to work, you'll actually want to start it the night before by giving the beans a soak.  I simply threw them in to the crock (no heat overnight) with enough water to cover and then a bit extra, and let them sit.  The next morning, drain any remaining water, add the rest of your ingredients (except the rice), stir it all together, set to low and ignore it for the next 8-9 hours.  When you approach the end of your cooking time, make your rice and serve the beans over it.

As you may know, beans and rice are a complete protein when consumed together, and are incredibly filling.  I very often make a piece of meat to be the centerpiece of my meals, but it was not at all required here.  And sure there was meat in this recipe, but I could also see making this without (but substituting lots of spices to ensure lots of flavor).  Makes my belly happy.  :)

Friday, October 28, 2011

And Then I Fried Some Pickles

The one on the left is having a sexy wardrobe malfunction.
Pinterest has struck again.

As I was goofing around on Pinterest and trying to plan this weeks menu, I stumbled on a recipe for one of my guiltiest pleasures - fried dill pickles.  Now, I'm no connoisseur in the world of fried pickles - my entire experience with them starts and ends at Hooters - but I know two of my favorite ingredients, pickles and fried, are invited to the party.

Since this is me we're talking about, I all but disregarded the recipe, and did pretty much whatever I wanted.  XD

I used:
16 oz jar of dill pickle slices (I didn't use them all, I still have some marinating in my fridge!)
1 tsp dried garlic
1 tbsp hot sauce
1/2 pint buttermilk
16 oz peanut oil (or more, which is probably better.  I'm just cheap)

What I dredged it in:
1 cup AP flour (despite being told "SELF-RISING IS EVERYTHING" from my Southern friend, Amber)
1/4 cup cornmeal

Dump out a little more than half your pickle juice, and add the garlic, hot sauce, and buttermilk to the jar.  Shake it up to evenly distribute, and plonk that back in to the fridge for at least half an hour.  In the mean time mix up your dredge mix.  I do this on a plate because I find it easier to mix and add all my dredge-worthy food in (and find afterwards).  Next, mix up your favorite beverage.  This is not part of the recipe.  ;)  Start heating your peanut oil in a pan.  This is a point when I wished I had used a heavier pan that retained heat better, but all my heavy pans are too large in diameter, and my meager peanut oil would have been too shallow.  I heated the oil to 350 degrees (yay food thermometer), turned the heat to low to maintain, and retrieved my pickles from the fridge.

I retrieved 6 of the pickle slices and placed them in my dredge mix.  Shuffled them around a bit to evenly coat, and started by putting 2 of them in to the oil.  This will cool your oil down, so don't overload your fry pan!  Too many pickles will cool it so much that it won't fry - you can do more pickles at once by using more oil.  Leave the pickles to fry for a few minutes - they should start to turn that delicious-looking golden brown.  Remove from the oil and place on a paper towel-lined plate to cool and allow the excess oil to drain.  Your oil should be back up to temp at this point, so put in your next couple pickles slices.  I admit, I overlapped a bit and added new pickles before the first ones were done.  And nothing bad happened at all!  :D

When your pickles are done draining and won't burn your face off, plate them up with a side of blue cheese dressing and enjoy!  I considered making some chicken wings with these, but really I'd rather just eat a double order of pickles, if I'm honest.  :D  And really, these are WAY better than Hooters' pickles.  Really.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Crockpot Macaroni & Cheese

Oh, macaroni & cheese (going forward referred to as "macncheez"), I love you so.  You bring me memories of childhood, of warm food on cold days, on being one of the few things I was comfortably able to cook when I was first on my own.  There are so many options, and whether you prefer stovetop, oven, from a box, or using only all-natural ingredients, none of them are wrong.  Ever.

Enter my crockpot obsession!  I originally found this recipe on Pinterest, but I changed quite a bit of it, so I don't know if you really want to call it the same recipe.  I'm linking to it anyway, since it was my original inspiration to try this. 

Since we're not talking about a huge hunk of meat, this is not an ideal recipe to put in a slow cooker and leave for 8-10 hours.  Mine was pretty happily done in 3, 3.5 hours.

Collect your ingredients!
2 and 1/2 cup of whole milk (plus a little more for any "extras")
2 tbsp butter, softened (room temperature, or melted)
1 egg
pinch of salt
2 and 1/2 cups of shredded cheese (whatever YOU want, pick your faves! I picked cheddar and Monterey Jack, and wish I had played it a little bit bolder. Next time)
8 oz elbow macaroni
Spices (Pepper, and I also used Penzeys Northwood Seasoning)
Other? (here's your chance to add tomato, or bacon, or broccoli, or ham, or...)
Parmesan cheese to cover the top

Before we go much further, let's talk about par cooking your noodles.  I decided to be REALLY CRAZY and dumped 8 oz of raw, dry macaroni into my crockpot, and it came out great.  Not quite al dente, but certainly not gooey.  It seemed odd to boil my pasta before I cooked it for 3 hours, so I didn't.  And yes, I'm one of those Americans that uses "pasta" and "noodles" interchangeably.  I just think they're both really fantastic words.  ;)  Anyway, if you prefer your noodles to be really soft, feel free to par cook.  If you're lazy like me, or like a less squishy noodle, save washing the extra pot and throw them in raw.

OK!  Add your milk, butter, egg, and salt to the crock (no heat at this point) and whisk that until it's all completely combined.  If you used room temperature (non-melted) butter, you'll have to whisk a little more vigorously, but you can do it!  Next, add in you cheese and macaroni, stirring everything together.  When you add your pepper and/or any other spices, it'll look like this:

Also, look how pretty my new crockpot is!
Try to push as much of that macaroni to be as level with the liquid level as possible, especially if you're working with raw mac.  If that's proving to be impossible, add a little more milk, but it shouldn't be drowning in liquid.  Remember with crockpots, the liquid doesn't go anywhere!

I then shaved some parmesan to create a thin layer over the top, and started off by turning my heat to high for about 20 minutes - just until I heard the pot start to rumble, and I then turned it to low for another 3 hours.  I was rewarded with a very flavorful version of one of my all time favorite meals.


I Bought Chocolate Frosting Vodka

Look at all these posts about food - what do you say we change it up?  Here's Johnny! alcohol!  After becoming a big fan of Cupcake Vineyards (must be 21 to enter their site), I became obsessed with tracking down some of their Cupcake Vodka (you still 21? Good).  After a bit of research and a bit of dumb luck I found it, and while trying to Google cocktails while in Bevmo on my ridiculously ancient phone, I just bought a bottle of Devil's Food and figured I would get creative at home.

As luck would have it, I had just recently bought 3 pints of strawberries at a farmer's market, and de-topped and frozen 2 of them.

I tried the vodka (it's like liquid frosting, no lie), and let it chill in the freezer while I attempted to find my blender.  Remember how I told you about my Crockpot being banished to the deepest, darkest corner of my under-the-counter storage?  Well, the only thing behind it was the blender.  I just don't blend things!  I drink margaritas on the rocks!  I buy creamy soups in cans!  I don't know what else you do with a blender!

So I got out the blender.  It was so far back there, it would have been easier to just have Narnia mail it to me.

I told my husband "try this vodka, and we have frozen strawberries! and I'm going to throw some stuff in the blender and it'll kinda be like chocolate-strawberry daiquiris, but maybe not, because I think daiquiris are a tequila based drink?  Whatever, it has chocolate AND strawberries."

To which he replied "...we have a blender?"  I declared "Funnay!" in my best Fozzie Bear voice and started to put things in the mysterious blending contraption.

Honestly, I had sampled quite a bit of the chocolate vodka by this point (just because I PUT it in the freezer doesn't mean it STAYED there), and the husband was being a laugh riot, so the only thing I measured was the vodka (hilariously).

4 oz vodka (this is for 2 drinks, as pictured)
1 pint frozen strawberries (I had 2 pints, and used half my strawberries)
2ish oz of agave syrup (you can also use simple syrup. I also wished I had used a bit more)
some dashes of lime juice (prevents scurvy)
a small handful of ice (I like that it breaks up the drink and introduces some water, but it's definitely not necessary with frozen strawberries)

As you can see from the photo, what resulted was not so much a drink, but a thick sorbet-like dessert that we had to eat with spoons and which was pretty tasty and refreshing.  Of course, you may find it even better if you don't have to go on a recon mission to get to your blender.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


When we need comfort, we often turn to food.  For me, nothing can beat a grilled cheese sandwich.  Well, make that a grilled cheese sandwich on fresh white bread that I made earlier in the day.

My secret technique: butter the bread, not the pan.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Get Ready for My Crockpot Obsession

I recently developed an overwhelming obsession with slow cooked food.  I've owned a crockpot for several years, and for most of those it's lived in the darkest corner of the deepest cabinet.  It just...wasn't how I cooked.  People would share their amazing recipes that had been passed down for generations, and I would shrug and try to think of a way to cook it without disturbing all the appliances that lived in front of the crockpot.

Then, we got our Winter.  Well, more specifically, we finally got our Summer, and then 2 days later it got cold and rained.  We turned on the heater, we shook our fists at our jobs for dragging us out of bed at 6 am, and I CRAVED the smell of meat stews being cooked for hours.  I crave this smell sometimes, but this was different.  I actually wanted to do something about this.  And the more I thought, the more I fantasized about coming home from a long day of work and a cold drive home, and having the smell of pot roast greet me at the door, and of stew with flavors that have been mingling all day, and of doing no work after 5 PM and enjoying my dinner and my night.

I reached out to friends, family, and the internet in search of recipes.  Insert another obsession - Pinterest.  Those that aren't familiar with Pinterest may not be aware of how addictive it is to stare at beautiful art installments, interesting photography, and outright food pr0n that they'll encounter as they flip through their friends' boards.  I had a specific quest, so I had to try not to get too distracted.

I discovered this yummy site, and found myself licking the screen at the Zesty Slow Cooker Chicken BBQ.  So, it was decided.  That would by my first foray in to slow cooking in years.  I followed the recipe and only substituted a vinaigrette for the Italian dressing (Italian dressing is not very Italian to me), and was thrilled at how delicious the results where.  I would probably shorten the cooking time just a bit - 8 hours on low turned out to be too much, and much of the liquid had dried.  But at the same time, there was just enough to coat my beautifully shredded chicken, and I definitely would eat this over and over exactly as it.

I coated one side of a sourdough roll (not homemade, not this time) with avocado, and put some mozzarella on top of the steaming hot chicken to let it melt over.  I served up the last of the leftover mashed potatoes to go with it, and didn't even wait for my husband to get home!  (Don't worry, I left some for him!)

I'm liking this new obsession.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Change: It's Actually Good

I don't do well with change.

I think I do.  I pretend I do.  I openly tell people "change is inevitable!  Embrace it and you'll be so much happier!" and then I grumble when I discover someone has moved the coffee machine and it doesn't work the same way the last one did and why did we buy this new brand of coffee?  The last one was the same!

I bring this up because for the last couple years we've had the same neighbor in our duplex.  It's important to know your duplex neighbor, because you're sharing a wall, you need to communicate when you're temporarily taking over a shared space, you share the same plumbing so need to coordinate calls to RotoRooter.  It's a symbiotic relationship, and a fine balance, as you want to know them and trust them, but at the same time you don't want to hear or see each other all that much!  ;P

We had a good symbiotic relationship.  That is, until he selfishly decided to move!  All of a sudden, I saw MY world being turned on its head.  Everything would no longer be the same.  Our old neighbor was so quiet - so surely new neighbors would be ridiculously loud.  Old neighbor would handle our stupid plumbing issues.  With new neighbors we'll have to do EVERYTHING.  Old neighbor would quietly come home and make his dinner.  New neighbors, I know you're going to come home and set stuff on fire on my porch!

Do you think I overreact to change much?

Today, I worked up all my bravery and went to introduce myself.  I was greeted by the sweetest young lady, who apologized for the mess (which was cleaner than my house, and I don't have an awesome excuse like "I just moved here 1 day ago"), and introduced me to her adorable toddler, Tenoch.  "You have a toddler?  I would have never known...it's been so...quiet."  She let me know that the plumber was coming back on Monday due to some drainage issues ("you're already handling that stuff?"), and didn't set anything on fire the whole time I was there.  I was disappointed that my husband was still asleep - I wanted to show him how awesome this new person was!  I also felt very silly, for putting together such a negative image in my head of someone I had no experience of whatsoever.

I really like the new neighbors.  I hope that never changes.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Starting Christmas Knitting!

But this recipient doesn't read my blog (surprising, when you consider the high quality and entertainment value), so I can show you!

This is only one night of progress so far, so hopefully I can knock this one out quickly (not least of all because you know pink is not my favorite color!).  The pattern is remarkably easy, it is called the Tipsy Rib Scarf by Pamela Wynne, and by the time I got to the 5th row I had it memorized.  Also, it's reversible!  That's a nice quality for scarves to have!

The yarn is one of my favorites - Stonehedge Fiber Shepherd's Wool (Ravelry link).  It has a rustic look, but unlike a lot of rustic wools it is delightfully soft and is comfortable to wear around the neck, even for us sensitive folks!  The first project I made with this yarn, I gave away.  This project, I'm giving away.  I have some more of this yarn in navy blue for my third project with the stuff, and it's MINE.  ALL MINE!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Some Things Aren't as Awesome as They Seem

Recently, I was asked to identify a knitting project that I was well-admired by others, but that I found disappointing.  It took a little thought - for the most part, the projects that get admiration are well-loved by me, too.  I'm probably even saying "LOOK HOW AWESOME MY SCARF IS!"  But they haven't all been successes, and some projects are surprisingly sneaky in how evil the really are.

Old pic is old.  Sriuz face is sriuz.
I already know what you're thinking.  No you can't have it.  If I gave it to you you would wonder what you did to make me punish you so badly, plus it's not mine to give away, since I threw it at the back of a donation truck and jumped in the bushes so they couldn't find me to give it back (they probably could have recognized me by my He-Man haircut, which is why I hid).  I dare not speak its name 3 times, lest it appear.

What's wrong with it?

1) It's riddled with errors, very few of which are my fault.  The pattern does a lot of assuming.  I don't mean that it assumes you know what you're doing.  That's a moot point.  It assumes IT knows what's it's doing as it has you "continue in pattern" even though things have CHANGED.  An obvious example of this is the cable - at the top it just stopped crossing, because I had decreased a lot of stitches and the cable was that entire panel.  Also note the yarn overs next to the button band.  They just end like a critically acclaimed yet poorly rated show on Fox (but I still wanted to watch that).

2) Bulky yarn and bulky sweaters don't hide ANYTHING.  The easiest way to make a bulky sweater even bulkier?  Seams.  Which this sweater totally has.  Please be sure to look at the seam around the sleeve and observe the bulk.  One smart decision I made?  Not putting on the front pockets, which sit right at your hips and make you look swollen.  This thing was also warmer than my Winter coat.  I live in California.

3) The yarn choice is at least partially my fault.  First of all it's pink (what was I thinking?), it's single ply so was one big rubby disaster waiting to happen, and it shed like a cat in Summer.  Due to my terrible color choice, this sweater looked best with a black shirt, which was officially a pink shirt by the end of the day, even if I just sat in the same room as the damn thing.  I don't want to think about how much of this sweater I inhaled.  I keep waiting for the daytime lawyer commercials to address it - "Do you, or someone you know, suffer from symptoms of sheddy bulky wooly sweaters?  Don't wait!  We can help!  Not valid in New York State."

I could go on, but I've gotten to a point where I really don't want to talk about it anymore; it's making my blood pressure rise and my teeth itchy.  Suffice it to say, all my projects haven't been perfect and bragworthy, all that sheds all over your stuff is not gold, and I hope some day I can forget this monstrosity.  To the person that picked it up in a charity shop - I'm so sorry.

Friday, September 30, 2011

My Husband Keeps Bringing Home Bananas

They're not even bunches - they're just random, single bananas, that he's not going to eat because they're already too brown, and that I'm not going to eat because GROSS, BANANAS.

Sooo, banana bread!  I gave away this particular loaf because I'm not going to eat bucketloads of banana bread, plus we had a friend going through a rough time with his wife in the hospital, so homemade bread sounded like something he needed.

1/3 cup milk
1 very ripe banana (peel 'em mash 'em)
1 egg
2 tbsp butter, softened
3 cups bread flour
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup walnuts (chop 'em)

Spread your walnuts on a baking sheet and put them in a 350 degree over, giving them a good flip (I just shimmy the baking sheet) at least once during the cooking.  Keep an eye on them, they burn very fast.  They should start to smell toasty, and that's all you need.  Put all the ingredients in your machine with the walnuts on top and let the white cycle do it's thing on this 1.5 pound loaf.

Warning: it makes your house smell like bananas.  EWW.

This is pretty tasty with strawberry jam spread all over it.  Plus, it's a substantial breakfast!  It really makes you happy for the rest of the day.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Most Interesting Socks in the World

Skew Socks!!!  These were surprisingly simple, despite being totally different from any other sock pattern out there.  What's very obvious is the diagonals, made even more obvious by the fantastic self-striping yarn by RosyRetro.  Commonly, the stripes would look like they do in the ribbing of the socks, but these put the toe essentially on the side of your foot, "skewing" the stripes.

I was amazed enough by the stripes, but then I got to the heel and was wowed.  Another thing that pops up quite a bit in striped socks is that as you work the heel, you stop working the top part of the sock, so while the stripey pattern continues on to the heel, joining the yarn across the front again usually leads to stripes getting out of sequence.  I know, it might seem minor (and really, it is), but now it can still be a bummer when you have some cool striping going, and then you don't.  BUT, with Skew, you never stop working the front of the sock, but instead have a neat "origami moment" where you sew a few stitches together and suddenly you have a heel!  It causes the socks to be pretty snug, being the one downfall of the sock, but when they look so cool, WHO CARES if you can't get them off?!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

So Delicious, and So Easy

This is one of my favorite side dishes, which actually doubles up pretty well as a dessert.  Fresh figs really shine when they're in season, and enhancing the flavor just a bit more can make you wonder why you bothered with the rice and pork chops!  The ones above are too easy.  Cut fresh figs in half, drizzle with local honey, and top with some very finely chopped (or dried) basil.

What more do I need to say?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I'm Playfully Famous!

I woke up this morning to discover my voice was part of A Playful Day's most recent podcast, from when she recently came to visit in California!  Chances are that you're already a listener, but for those that aren't, check her out on her blog or on iTunes.  Not least of all because you get to hear me.  ;)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Never Forget

10 years ago today, history, perceptions, and the world were all changed forever.  We stood by, in shock, and watched the most horrific images we had ever seen, and they were real.  We remind ourselves to Never Forget, though I know I couldn't forget even if I wanted to.

We lived through the awful images of that day, but I remember the positivity that came afterward, too.  I remember Congress, suddenly devoid of party lines, spontaneously standing up and singing "God Bless America".  I remember going to work, and having customers start a transaction with "I just can't believe it."  I remember standing in line for coffee, and striking up conversations with anyone wearing a flag pin, which would turn in to a conversation on how much we loved this country.  Everyone suddenly became instant family, we all knew each other through our shared experience and all had the same opinion on it.  We were doing different things and were in different places when it happened, but we all lived through it together.

God Bless America.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Flat Fishes

These guys crack me up.

I recently got to spend some time at the Monterey Bay Aquarium (which I LOVE because it's the best aquarium EVER), and I was reminded how many cool things our oceans are populated with.  Unfortunately, some of the coolest things are very hard to get pictures of - deep sea jellyfish are nearly invisible to avoid being eaten in the open waters, grumpy-looking eels spend much of their time in caves and crevices while waiting for the next meal, and octopi and great white sharks hate the camera flashes that interrupt their darkened environments (so don't flash them, okeedoke?).

But just because there aren't the best photo opportunities at every tank, doesn't mean you won't see cool things!  Check out the flounder up top again.  These guys are an amazing nod to evolution.  They start out as quite normal fish, and even when you see one not laying on the bottom, it looks quite normal.  And then you see the face.  Both eyes have somewhat shifted to one side of their faces, but have left the mouth behind, making an appropriate flounder emoticon something like :u  They're like the Picassos of the sea.  They can also change color right before your eyes, to look even more like the sand underneath and around them, because if you're just going to lay there when a predator comes by, you have the best odds if you're invisible!


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

'Tato Bread! I Think It's Probably Healthy!

OK.  This weekend I was craving something hearty and substantial.  Something that was "healthier" than regular white bread (which is healthier if you make it yourself, really).  Something to use up some left over mini potatoes before they turned evil.

OMG they're even pretty colors
In to my life came (Po)Tato Bread.  It seems so many recipes call for you to use box/flake/fake potatoes for the sake of not having lumps or nutrition or potato in your bread, but box mashed potatoes are something I gave up not long after I finished college (right around the time I gave up Top Ramen and ironing board grilled cheese sandwiches, I might add).  Potatoes are hearty and delicious and just make you feel good - I was going to use real ones.

Obviously, this meant more work than my standard "chuck things in bread machine and nap for 3 hours" style of baking.  Let's get the unbearably difficult part out of the way:

3/4 cup water, brought to a boil in a saucepan (that water boils FAST, watch it!)
3/4 cup chopped potatoes - I didn't peel mine because peels have vitamins, and also the potatoes were tiny.  I would have laughed at myself peeling such tiny potatoes.

Boil your water, and put your potatoes in the boiling water.  Reduce heat, cover, simmer until you have tender potatoes.  Don't drain, and get to mashing.  When your tatoes are thoroughly mashed, add another 1/4 cup water, and enough milk to make a total of 1 and 1/2 cups milky mashed potato mix.  Some of your water has boiled off, so no, my math isn't crazy.  ;)

NOW BACK TO THE GOOD PART - chucking things in to the bread machine pre-nap!

To your machine, add
1 and 1/2 cup milky mashed potato
4 tsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups bread flour
1 cup wheat flour (healthy!)
3/4 tsp salt
1 and 1/2 tsp assorted dried spices - I used oregano, rosemary, and basilUse your favorites!
1 tsp active dry yeast

Stretch in anticipation of your nap, set the machine to the whole wheat cycle for your 1.5 pound loaf, and try to resist smelling the kitchen once all those spices and potatoes get going.

If you use the tricolor potatoes, be sure to admire those pretty purple and red flecks throughout the loaf!  I found this bread was hearty and tasty enough to stand alone, but my absolute favorite topping was a very seedy beer mustard straight from a brewery in England.  I actually had to stop myself before going through this precious jar in one loaf!  Man, THAT is a good combo!

Sunday, September 4, 2011


I've sat here staring at my blog for the last 30 minutes and realize that despite the action packed 2 weeks, I don't have a single train of thought that I can put together in to a decent blog post!  At least, not yet.  I think I'm still at a point where I'm trying to get back in to "real" life after entertaining my friend for a week, part of me is still grieving that she's not visiting anymore (you should have seen the meltdown yesterday when my husband declined breakfast and I declared "I have NO ONE to cook breakfast for" and ate a tortilla out of the fridge while wallowing in self-pity), and with too many exciting, diverging thoughts, this is all leading me to having a hard time putting words on here.  So, while I ease myself in to rediscovering how to write my own blog, I figured I could bombard you with my yarn haul over the last week instead.  No, I didn't think there would be any objections.  ;)

Koigu KPPPM - picked up at Imagiknit in San Francisco and will be SOCKS
The Uncommon Thread Heavenly Fingering - my friend gives the best gifts
Cascade Epiphany - this is no workhorse yarn. Total luxury in a skein.
Colinette Jitterbug - a big, bright skein of it!  I have an awesome LYS.
The impossible-to-get Twisted Limone self-striping.  My friend REALLY loves me.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cheesy Bread

While waiting to see what my sourdough was going to do (and since that loaf was going to take a couple days anyway), I put something else in the bread machine because NEED BREAD RITE NAO.  It's not too complex but is packing plenty of flavor, and is very customizable depending on what kind of cheese you like/have/want.

2/3 cup milk
1/4 cup water
1 egg
3 cups bread flour
1 and 1/3 cup shredded cheese (I like cheddar, but pick your favorite!)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp active dry yeast

Use the white bread cycle on your machine and select the 1.5 pound loaf.  And of course I'm sitting here typing this in front of Food Network, and the sight of fresh jalapenos being sliced makes me think they would be so delicious in this loaf.  I'm actually sad I didn't think about it until just now.  Remind me for next time!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lazy Sunday

Not to be confused with Lazy Sundae.

There are some days when I am really excited to be staying indoors and not getting out of my pajamas.  This is especially true today as this is my last "free" day in the foreseeable future.  I have 5 workdays following this, and on Saturday, I have my best friend flying in from England to visit and play with me around California!  I've packed the itinerary to keep us busy and having fun, and especially as I only have 6 days to show her how awesome Monterey and San Francisco are, there are a couple days when we are booked up to our eyeballs!  I won't go too much in to all of our plans here, because there are surprises I don't want to share yet, and things are always subject to change, but after she heads home I will want to reminisce and share our exciting adventures.  :)

So that's the next 11 days.  However, since I'll probably be shunning my husband while my friend is here (I'm glad he's an understanding guy!), he's already itching to do something fun after she leaves.  Since that will coincide with Labor Day weekend anyway, he's also considering us spending some time up in San Francisco with the long weekend.  Wyatt Cenac is performing at Cobb's that weekend, and there's just so much to do in the city anyway.  This is beginning to sound expensive, and we're now looking at 14 days of busy.  That's not even considering that I'll be stumbling back in to (albeit, a shortened) workweek after that.

And now I'm thinking too hard about having to do stuff.  Back to today.

I've gotten halfway through my second sleeve on my cardigan, and I am now running my bread machine for the second time today (the first was to test my reanimated sourdough starter - more on that once I see some results).  I'm thoroughly ignoring any cleaning that needs to be done, except for the laundry, which really washes itself when you think about it.  There's an empty coffee cup in front of me, and a sleepy kitty on my right, who is content with her recent cheese snack (since I was grating cheese anyway for that second loaf of bread).  At some point I'll figure out what to eat for lunch.  Actually, my stomach just told me that I should do that sooner rather than later.

Maybe not as lazy as I originally thought?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fail Issue: Identified

So, I've figured out why my loaf of bread was such a fail yesterday.  Last night I attempted a loaf of my usual sourdough - the one that works every single time.  It seems my sourdough starter has gone comatose.  I don't think it's dead, as it still smells right, and it still forms small bubbles when new flour and water is added, but it's not reacting and growing at the correct rate.

I'm a bit bummed at the moment, but I suppose this means that now I'll learn how to revive my starter, and then I can pass that info on to you all!  Off to do some research...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fail Bread

Yesterday, I set out to do something NEW and EXCITING.  "Sourdough whole wheat bread sounds super-awesome!", I thought.


OMG so sad.
I don't know what happened, but the stupid thing didn't rise.  The recipe (which I'm not going to post, because LOOK AT THE PHOTO) told me to be patient, for it may take up to 4 hours for it to double, and 12 hours later I finally stuck it in the oven to see if it at least tasted good and if I should bother to try again.

Yeah.  We're not trying this one again.  Maybe I'll give the rest to someone I particularly dislike.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Project that is STEALING My Life!

My time has suddenly gone missing.

I've had hardly any time to cook, and have only done so because it's impossible for me to stop eating.  I have 5 WIPs that have suddenly gone from "active" to "ignored".  When my husband recently asked if we had any bread, the answer was no.

What happened?!, you ask.  I very suddenly and urgently fell in love with Hannah Fettig's Effortless Cardigan, and decided "OMG need it right now can't wait ONE MORE MOMENT."  9 days later (and only that long because I'm still going to work - I couldn't stop doing EVERYTHING), I have the body completed!

I'll be using the last day of my weekend to get started on the sleeves, and at this rate I'm hoping I can have a finished, blocked sweater by the end of next weekend.  I have set sort of a deadline for myself on this, because in less than 2 weeks my best friend is coming to play with me in California, and I seem to really like having new cardigans whenever I'm playing with her (I did the same thing when I visited her in England).  Can you imagine how cute this sweater will be waiting in arrivals at San Francisco Airport?  And traipsing off to a hidden speakeasy in the middle of the night?  Now you surely see where my desperate urgency comes from!

I can't continue to ignore everything else in life, so there will be more from me before this cardigan is done, but I still can hopefully show you a finished sweater very soon!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Monday, August 1, 2011

Weekend Cake

I baked a cake this weekend!  Admittedly it was from a box, and the frosting was from a can, but still!  Fresh cake!

One time, someone asked me how you're supposed to get the sprinkles on the side of the cake.  I told them that I threw the sprinkles at the sides, and it was bonus points if it bounced off the plate and then stuck on the side.  That person looked at me like I was crazy.  But it works!  And it's FUN!

Yes, I am still 7 years old when it comes to desired cake flavors!