Monday, February 28, 2011

Cucumber Dill Bread

You may know by now that I am a big fan of fancy food and interesting recipes, but sometimes you just want something simple and tasty and nice for dinner.

So I spread some cream cheese on some cucumber dill bread, and put smoked salmon on top of that, with just a sprinkle of dill.  Not pictured - the piece of salmon that has about 2 whole tablespoons of dill on it because I forgot my dried dill doesn't have a shaker top before sprinkling.  headdesk

Make bread!

3/4 cup peeled and shredded cucumber (this is essentially 1 cucumber)
1/3 cup sour cream (drain any extra water that has separated out)
3 cups bread flour
2 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp dried dill (or 2 tsp fresh dill, snipped)
1 tsp active dry yeast

 *between 1 tbsp and 1/4 cup water  (I'll explain shortly)

 Add all ingredients to the machine in the order listed except the water.  In shredding the cucumber, you may have noticed that it has lots of water in it already.  The original recipe called for me to drain all cucumber liquid and to add 1/2 cup of water, but I would much rather keep the fresh flavorful water that just came from the fresh cucumber!  Why would I replace that with unflavored boring water?

OK!  I'm getting distracted.  You've added your ingredients, yes?  Turn on your basic white cycle for the 1.5 lb loaf, and WAIT.  Wait until it all starts to mix together, with your extra water nearby, and wait to see what it needs from you.  If the dough stays dry and won't stick to itself, won't make a nice smooth ball (which it probably won't, unless that cucumber was packing a lot of water), slowly add water, a tablespoon at a time, until you get the right texture.  Try not to get overambitious and add a whole bunch of water at once, that's how I ended up with a soggy, doughy loaf the first time around.

Now wait some more  - wait for your bread to bake, and enjoy!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

New Technique: Entrelac

I can finally post this on my blog, since it was a gift I had to keep it "under wraps" for a bit.  Here is a Kindle Cozy that I made for my mom's birthday.

Entrelac!  This technique is SO COOL!  Basically, instead of working a row, you work a whole square at a time, picking up stitches from the previous square, working back and forth in a little 6-stitch area, until it's time to move on to the next square!  Each "row" takes a while, but when you finish that row, you've actually completed about an inch of work.  I love that entrelac, in addition to the Noro yarn, makes it look very rustic and "homey", and at some point I would love to make a larger project for myself that plays on these qualities!

A few days after I finished this I learned about knitting backwards, which I could not wrap my mind around on Day 1, because "TOO MUCH TEKNEEKS, IZ CONFUZD!"  But I've got it down now, and it's definitely a nifty tidbit for entrelac or bobbles or places that have you constantly turning the work.

Friday, February 25, 2011

It's HERE: Continued Some More

So on Monday I received 2 packages, my spices, and THIS:
Wine shipment, hooray!!!  I ordered 6 bottles from Wine Library (I don't know why there are only 5 there, that's weird, isn't it weird??!  OhwaitIdrankone.) and after going to the FedEx/Kinkos and showing my ID to the SuperSerious guy working the counter, I was able to bring my new acquisition hooooome!

I found this website by desperately Googling for "Paolo Bea San Valentino Umbria Rosso" after reading a particularly deliciously written review on's Eatocracy blog, and I quote: "...a wine that tastes like black cherry pie, bacon fat and mushroom jus..."  WHOA, WHERE TO BUY PLZKTHX??!  You had me at "bacon fat".  And I can confirm that this tastes like a mushroom sauce over a beautifully cooked steak (now you know what the missing 6th bottle was).  I had never ordered wine online before so I started reading reviews, with many commenting on the depth, flavor, the need to decant, and the great value of this bottle - as this winery normally sells for a much higher price point.  Additionally, the blend of grapes here should have given it a particular title: Montefalco Rosso (I could say that all day) and a $60 price tag.  I did more research, and was struck by a particular review, one that translated the Italian label in to English, that I found incredibly interesing: "in Italian at the very top of the label, it states 'and they say it lacks color and is slightly oxidized.'"  First of all, I love any time I see "they say".  You can almost hear that they crossed out the original "those idiots that don't know anything about my product say..."  Secondly, that mysterious regulatory body, "they", managed to singlehandedly knock this bottle in to the $25 price range, a price I could actually afford!!!  Dear Paolo Bea, I'm sorry "they" said your wine wasn't quite right, I shall take 3 bottles off your hands and send hugs.

Wine Library has an impressive catalogue of wines and took great care in shipping me my relatively small order.  My biggest problem so far is that I want to keep it all!  Between not knowing what to try next, and wanting to save it for just the right occasion, I only had one choice for my beverage tonight.
Ooh, it has a snack inside!

Chocolate Moose Cookies, omnomnomnom

Last night was KNIT NIGHT!  So as I stood in the grocery store, overwhelmed and questioning what to bring, I thought "oh screw it, I'll just go home and bake cookies".  (No, it doesn't make sense to me either.)  I considered calling these "Calamity Cookies", as me trying to complete cookies in a half hour resulted in a whole lot of racket and general destruction in my kitchen, but figured that "Chocolate Moose Cookies" was more descriptive and easier to recall when you file it away, and really any thing I make could have the "calamity" modifier.  Ahem.

Note:  These do not contain moose.  They contain muesli, which I just sound like an idiot when I try to say that so we're substituting with "moose".  Try saying muesli 5 times in a row.  It doesn't even sound like a word any more, does it?!  You'll ask yourself "is muesli a delicious blend of oats, nuts, and dried fruits?  Or is it not even real??!"  Then you'll find something better to do.

OK!  It is tim to be series.  (that would make my husband laugh, but he doesn't read my blog - so that is truly a joke with no audience)

Let's preheat to 375 and get our ingredients working: 

It looks like darkness has befallen my cookie dough, LOL.

1/2 cup softened butter (that's a whole stick)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla (or 1/2 tsp of double-strength vanilla)
1 egg - removed completely from the shell (terrible Worst Cooks in America joke)

You're going to cream these things together with your mixer.  Then you'll beat in the dry ingredients:

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking SODA
1/2 tsp salt

I mixed the dry ingredients together first and added them sloooowly so as not to create a whole wheat flour cloud in my kitchen.

Then turn off your mixer, add:

6 oz chocolate chips
1 cup muesli

It will look like there are too many "additional goods" for the dough, and that's probably true, but you can get it all in there!  Stir in until you have a nice, even mixture.  Now, put your thumb and your pointer finger together like you're making the "ok" sign - the dough that you put on the cookie sheet should be in balls about that size.  Be sure to space them well - those balls will flatten out and spread during baking.  This recipe made approximately 18 cookies so you can do 9 on a cookie sheet twice (I'm not going in to more math than that).

Get your cookies in the oven and bake for 10-13 minutes (at least be sure to check them at 10).  Remove and put on a wire rack to cool.
Wrap them in foil and rush them to Knit Night as quickly as you can, forgetting to pick up your mom in the process.

Monday, February 21, 2011

It's HERE!

It's funny how today is a government holiday and therefore no mail, but I still had the best mail day EVER!  Thanks UPS and FedEx!  Let's talk about what UPS brought me in this post, and we'll save my other delivery for a different day (gotta keep the content coming, you know?).

About a month ago I discovered a website called Penzeys Spices, that had a fantastic selection of all different kinds of spices and rave reviews from the loyal customers.  Those same customers claimed these spices were higher quality than what you would find at a supermarket and at comparable and sometimes lower prices.  I love high quality ingredients and was very intrigued, so I ordered a catalogue to get a better look at everything (since there aren't really photos on the website).  3 days later, I got impatient and had been drooling over their amazing descriptions, so I broke down and ordered.  And today it's HERE!

I busted almost all the seals to smell everything immediately, LOL.  For starters, the Vietnamese cinnamon is incredible.  It is like no other cinnamon I have ever tasted.  You know how normally it's really overspiced and if you get a little too much you start to choke on the air around you?  This stuff is NOTHING like that.  When I opened the jar to smell it I was greeted by a fragrant, aromatic spice, and I tasted a bit and was delighted at a touch of sweetness.  Not like sugar, not quite so bold.  The other flavors around it were much bolder.  But I was thrilled to try a complex, real cinnamon that will add some interest to whatever I use it in.  Must find a cinnamon bread recipe ASAP!

Alton Brown would be pleased at these; whole nutmeg!  You grind what you need as you need it, and the flavors and oils are maintained much longer than if you ground the whole thing and stuck it in a jar.  The Penzeys website recommends using it in just about everything, from grilling to baking to sausage making to mac n cheese, which I fully intend to do!  :D

I also got some big bags of caraway seeds and yellow mustard seeds as I tend to go through those quickly with my bread making.  I actually did not think that I ordered big bags, but it turns out 4 ounces each of mustard seeds and caraway seeds is quite a large amount, LOL.  I put the Girl Scout cookies in for a scale comparison, because everyone knows how big Girl Scout cookie boxes are - some of us too well. 

Finally, perhaps the thing I'm MOST excited about, is this little tiny baggy with a single gram (28 grams = 1 ounce - this is ONE GRAM) of goodness. 
I have never, in my life, had saffron in my spice cabinet.  Actually, I don't think that I've ever seen it in real life.  I always thought it was yellow for some reason.  Anyway, saffron is the most expensive of all the spices as an acre of land will only yield 7 pounds of saffron (at most!), not to mention all the labor goes in to it.  Luckily, most dishes that call for saffron only require a pinch of it (including BREAD, eeee!), so my little gram will last me a while before I have to break down and get more.  Just a whiff of this stuff, and I realize that this could end up being a very expensive habit...

Sunday, February 20, 2011


And not the lousy kind you get after you get a nasty cut, either.  The BEST kind of Stitches where they put you in a room full of yarn and other yarn fanatics, and you all battle it out to get the best haul!

Note: I am tall - and this wall-o'-yarn extends higher than my eye level.

My husband and I got in the car on a rainy morning and made the hour and a half trip to Santa Clara, though there were people there that had traveled from all over the country - actually, all over the world!  The very first thing I bought was a ball of Australian cashmere from Belisa Cashmere, and the gentleman running the booth had come all the way from Australia to be at the show.  He left his Summer behind to be in rainy California, and share his cashmere with us!

Pigeonroof Silk Lace - Orbit

Before we left I had printed out a map of the layout of all the boothes, and circled the ones I absolutely could not miss.  My goal was to buy things that I couldn't easily get somewhere else, so I focused on the vendors that often sell out within minutes of updating their online shop. 

Now, instead of blindly dumping things in my cart and hitting "CHECKOUT!!1!" as fast as I could, I was able to stare at a wall of different colors, pick them up, mix and match with other colors, fondle, consider, put things down and pick them up again.  This was especially wonderful at the Pigeonroof and Sunshine Yarns booths. 

Sunshine - the name matches the bright colors AND their personalities!

I have friends that are too far away to make the trek to Stitches West, and in their attempt to live vicariously through me, they suggested a couple boothes that I didn't have marked that I had to visit.  The bright colors of Liza Souza and the variation at Miss Babs made those 2 of my favorite booths, and I easily spent a good 30 minutes just at the Miss Babs booth comparing colors and finding 2 perfectly complimentary colors to make a larger project - perhaps another Daybreak or something similar.

Sanguine Gryphon's booth, complete with period costumes!

It was very cool seeing all these amazing vendors put up their wonderfully creative booths, and I was so thrilled to be amongst like-minded people who all had a passion for the craft.  I suddenly understood why people got on planes to come all the way out here, and why those that weren't able to go kept telling me how jealous they were of me ("it's just a yarn show, what's the big deal?").  I get it now.  It's hard to explain, but the show, along with the energy that comes with it, is so distinctive and can't be duplicated.  We're a year out from Stitches 2012, but you had better believe that I'm already itching to go again!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tax hilarity

I've been spending the last hour hanging out with my wine and my H&R Block TaxCut (TM) (C) (R) (etc) software, and as I'm filing my state return, it asks me about my California state lottery winnings.


Here is my free tax advice to you:

If you won the lotto in 2010, do better than $35 on tax software.  Get a real accountant to do your serious business taxes!  If you're me, pay $35 for tax software and $14 for wine.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Is Marrying Bread Allowed?

This is the pretty thing that leapt forth from the machine last night.  You're probably thinking "yes, that's nice looking bread, I guess.  Would you like a high five?"  First of all, yes I WOULD like a high five thankyouverymuch, and secondly, THIS BREAD HAS NUTELLA IN IT.  If you're not familiar, Nutella is a hazelnut chocolate spread that would probably go really well with Marshmallow Fluff on a day where you want to bounce off the walls like a 5 year old.  It is candy in spread form.  You can not buy it at your natural food market, which should give you an idea of how artificially delightful it is.

So I made a little 1 pound loaf out of:

1/3 cup milk
1/6 cup water
1/6 cup Nutella
1 egg
2 cups bread flour
1.5 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup (or extra ;P) of toasted hazelnuts, chopped - I just stuck them in a ziplock bag and went to work with a rolling pin

This all does its thing on the white bread cycle.  My machine has a 1 pound loaf capability, but I know 1.5 and 2 pounds are much more common.  Do the math as needed but leave the measurement at 1 egg regardless, and increase the yeast by 1/4 tsp for each half a pound you're adding to the loaf.  I know 1/6 cup measuring cups don't likely exist - just fill a 1/3 cup halfway.

For the record, I DID eat a piece with more Nutella on it, and actually found it to be too sweet to be enjoyable.  Perhaps Marshmallow Fluff would have been better!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Meet the Meow

Here's the reason my lap is warm and I don't get anything done around the house:

This is Sundae.  Though she won't answer to that name.  She prefers Kitten!, KittyKat, Meow, the Meow, Meowf (don't judge me), Beasty, and anything that rhymes with the word "treat".

She picked us from her shelter when she was 8 weeks old, and quickly shed her "quiet, nap-loving kitten" disguise to become "I can climb you with my CLAWS!" kitten.  She calmed down a bit now that she's almost 4, but she still has a sassy streak, which usually ends in me declaring "me and the cat aren't talking!" (yes I know, it should be "the cat and I"), and my husband stepping in and trying to talk sense in to the cat in meows.

I figured I would introduce you, since you'll be seeing her a lot.  Here's one more.