Tuesday, April 28, 2015

10 on Tuesday: 10 Things I Did Last Week

Some days, I feel like I've nothing to say when I update my journal, but I actually did manage to do quite a bit last week.

1) I've started helping to teach an Irish dance class, focusing on the ceili dancing. It was my first dance form, but I haven't had to break it down to teach before. I'm slowly discovering the vocabulary I need.

2) I posted a poem on my Facebook page every single day for National Poetry Month. Some have personal resonance for me, some don't. I have enjoyed them all.

3) I drank a deliciously chilled retsina; a mojito; and many, many hard ciders, one of which was a locally brewed raspberry. This week I may rest my liver a bit.

4) I cooked several palatable meals for vegan houseguests. Vegetarian is easy. Vegan is much, much harder.

5) I napped, probably an average of two a day, sometimes more, sometimes less. I'm starting to think my current insomnia jag is age-related. We'll see. I'm feeling surprisingly functional and sane for so little sleep, which is odd for me.

6) I met a friend to walk our dogs in the park. I need to do that much more often than I do.

7) The dog and I finished up our final tricks class with a private lesson from the trainer. After a month, I came away with 3 or 4 new tricks to work on and a renewed love of working with my boy.

8) I'm not saying. A girl gets to have a few secrets here and there.

9) I took apart and cleaned a 1910s banjo.

10) I was a rock star.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Ten on Tuesday: 10 Favorite Sandwiches

I'm so glad the Ten on Tuesdays have been all about food of late. I always have something to say about food.

Ten Favorite Sandwiches: I'm not actually much of a sandwich eater. I'm more likely to eat lunch meat with cheese and hold the bread, even since childhood. I was hard pressed to come up with ten, but one forges onward:

  1. Subway's 6" Veggie: I get it without cheese and on whole wheat when I'm feeling virtuous. I load it with briny stuff (banana peppers, tomatoes, vinegar, salt & pepper, herb mix). It's essentially just a lettuce sandwich, but I don't care.
  2. Bahn Mi:  I could eat a bahn mi twice a day every single day and still wake up in the night wanting more. Actually, I'd probably wake up in the middle of the night because I have the bad habit of adding extra fish sauce to my bahn mi.
  3. Egg White Delight McMuffin: I cheered when McDonald's created these. They actually don't taste that great, but I still seem to eat them on a regular basis. There's the added benefit of feeling somewhat healthy when I eat them.
  4. Fried Egg with Ketchup: Apparently some people eat their fried egg sandwiches with mayonnaise. I choose not to associate myself with such cretins.
  5. Peanut Butter and Bacon: I've been eating these since childhood and would rather have one of these than a BLT any day. I don't know if it was just something my family ate, but it's a great flavor combination.
  6. Lebanon Bologna: Lebanon bologna is a Pennsylvania lunch meat, a sort of vinegary salami, that I used to splurge and mail order. The Boar's Head brand now available here isn't as good as the real stuff, but it'll do.
  7. Grilled Pimento Cheese on Pumpernickel: I began ordering these in college at a local restaurant and now make them whenever I get a chance or excuse. Add a slice of ripe tomato and try not to let the hot cheese burn your chin as it squeezes out of the toasted bread.
  8. Watercress: Peppery and delicious and great on whole wheat.
  9. Cucumber: Slather some extra-thin Pepperidge Farm white bread with softened butter, run the cucumber through a mandoline, raise your pinkie finger, and dig in.
  10. Soft-shelled crab: My all-time favorite sandwich. Squishy white bread, plenty of mayonnaise, and what looks like a breaded, deep-fried spider. What's not to love?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Obligatory Knitting Content

I actually have been knitting and knitting a lot. I need to reach a certain income threshold due to Missouri's butt-headed insistence on turning down Medicaid expansion, and knitting is helping me do that.

Commission after commission has flowed from my fingers, the latest being the Katniss vest/cowl from The Hunger Games. My sister now wants one, and I do too. One of my friends said I looked badass in it, a good thing to be now and then. This one is going off to live with one of Steu's trainers.

I've got two more commissions in the pipeline, but am taking a break to knit for myself for a bit.

I picked the Revel Modular Kerchief, for which I picked up some souvenir yarn in Warrenton, VA this past Christmas. In many ways, it's a very simple pattern: just a garter-stitch triangle with a knitted-on garter border, all designed to make the best use of the long color repeats.

The pattern is so simple, however, that I have managed to mess it up three times, accidentally skewing the center increase. Hours of work down the drain. I'm finally back on track, but may stick with the fiddly stuff in the future. Harder is somehow easier.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ten on Tuesday: 10 Favorite Kinds of Cheese.

A friend nudged me to blog again, I'd been having strong writing urges anyway, and today's 10 on Tuesday was perfect for me.

So here I am. Again.

I had a long talk this weekend about food choices with a friend who has recently gone vegan. I've actually been eating fairly healthy for me, but find that I do best with a high-protein, low-carb diet.

I generally give up cheese and all dairy products for the month of December to save my voice, but I probably think about cheese during that time the way a smoker trying to kick the habit thinks about cigarettes. I don't think I could ever go vegan.

  1. Raclette: All the accoutrements! The grill, the little trays, the side dishes! The melty, gooey goodness! The conversation! 
  2. Stilton: I love all blue cheeses, and probably could have written a list of my top 10 blue cheeses alone, but I settled for only three, all ridiculously expensive. Beyond the taste, and the semi-dry crumbly texture, I love the color of Stilton. There's no other cheese that has quite that shade of yellow. I also love tracing the puncture veins and nibbling out the blue.
  3. Cabrales: A Spanish blue, not for the faint hearted. I love it best warmed and melted with a filet, but it's also good in mashed potatoes, or cold with endive or just in chunks. It's definitely the most intense cheese on this list.
  4. Roquefort: This one combines two of my loves: blue veining and a high cream content that just coats the mouth. 
  5. St. Andres: Speaking of high cream content. Brie is for newbies; you can buy brie at Walmart, for pete's sake. Go with a triple creme every chance you get.
  6. Brillat Savarin: Another triple creme. I love it also for its namesake, who said "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are."
  7. Bulgarian Feta: Not French. Definitely not Greek. Always pick Bulgarian feta. Something about it has the perfect degree of brininess and intensity.
  8. Kefalotiri: The Greek cheese used in saganaki. Enough said.
  9. Cabecou: My favorite illegal cheese. It's a tiny little thing, but so full of complex flavors from the rind to the puddling center. Plus, you're left with a handy terracotta dish at the end.
  10. Pimento: I bet you thought this list would be all gourmet. Nope. Homemade pimento cheese is cheese nirvana for me.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Outstanding Barters

I love to barter, but it's occurred to me that I've got quite a few outstanding ones right now and wanted to note them down lest I forget.

  • TL--norwegian cap for some madder yarn
  • CV--sortie cap for something lovely
  • NG--undersleeves for pasteboard box
  • BL--undersleeves for wheel cap/cart
I'm not in a huge hurry, but didn't want to totally lose track.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly, Challenge 10: Let Them Eat Cake (plus bonus grub!)

This semester is kicking my butt, so I've had to let fun stuff slide--fun stuff like eating home-cooked food.  I did actually make three historic dishes for my book club last month, to go with Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood.  I can't really figure out where they would fit into the challenges, so here they are all at once.


Year/Region: 1855; Hartford, CT

How Did You Make It: I had noticed this recipe in The Improved Housewife: Or, Book of Receipts; with Engravings for Marketing and Carving by Mrs. A.L. Webster, a married lady, when I was looking for "foreign" names. The recipe jumped out at me because it's the name of a nearby road.

I followed the recipe faithfully, although if you notice, the recipe doesn't say at what temperature or for how long to cook the cake (which is actually more like a cookie). In fact, it doesn't mention cooking at all. I ended up baking at 350 for about 12-15 minutes. I sprinkled the cakes with powdered sugar both before and after baking.

Time to Complete: Because I had 3 dishes to make, I spent a big chunk of the morning cooking and worked on multiple dishes simultaneously. This one probably took about an hour from start to finish.

Total Cost: I had all the ingredients on hand.

How Successful Was It?: The large number of eggs make for a cake-like, slightly dense crumb. I loved the delicate flavor of the rose-water, but didn't love the texture as much. I have a feeling my book club members were slightly less than enthusiastic about any of these dishes, but they really weren't designed for a modern palate. There were plenty of leftovers, which surprisingly never seemed to go stale. I feel they're kind of a generic cookie/cake.

How Accurate Is It? I used an electric mixer and a convection oven. I also used silpats instead of buttering the cookie sheet. Otherwise, it's an authentic recipe. The eggs were from our birds.


Year/Region: 1855; Hartford, CT

How Did You Make It: I wanted a protein for my book club spread, but didn't want anything too heavy, hot, or messy. I've had this chicken salad before and quite like it. Again, it's from The Improved Housewife.

I decided to double the recipe since I was cooking for a crowd. I boiled some boneless, skinless chicken breasts. It's nearly impossible these days to buy a chicken of that size; roasting chickens today are just massive.  I used cider vinegar and prepared yellow mustard. Instead of essence of celery, I used celery seed, which was suggested as a substitute in another recipe in the same book. I also opted to serve it on a bed of lettuce and tomato for color and put a basket of dinner rolls nearby for anyone who preferred a sandwich.

Essence of celery seems like a fascinating foodstuff we've completely lost:

Time to Complete: Maybe an hour, the bulk of which was waiting for the water to come to a boil.

Total Cost: It's been a few weeks, but I do recall that I winced at the price of chicken. I had everything else on hand.

How Successful Was It?: I've always liked boiling chicken. It's so fast and easy and not messy in the way that frying is. Today, we expect to have mayonnaise-based chicken salad, but this was lovely, if a bit dry. As my DH and I worked away at the leftovers, I tended to mix in a bit of mayo.

How Accurate Is It? Fairly accurate. I used chicken breasts only instead of a whole bird. The eggs were from our chickens. The one substitute I made was a period one.


Year/Region: 1870; Oxford, NC

How Did You Make It:  I wanted a third dish and recalled I had a lot of persimmons on hand that I could put to good use. I cast about and came up with this recipe from Mrs. Elliott's Housewife: Containing Practical Receipts in Cookery by Sarah A. Elliott.

I had harvested local persimmons last fall and was able to raid the freezer. The day we harvested, a friend and I gathered all we could and tried several labor-intensive methods before finally settling on a chinois, those cone-shaped strainers you sometimes see in junk stores. We each ended up with three gallons of pulp and I've been gradually trying different recipes. I opted for the cornmeal option and baked in a pyrex 9x13 baking pan.

Time to Complete: Well, if you count the persimmon bit, for-freaking-evah! Otherwise, I ended up looking up a more modern pudding recipe and baking for about 40 minutes.

Total Cost: I had everything on hand. At this point, if you've done the math, you'll notice that I have used 17 eggs in just these three dishes!

How Successful Was It?: Moderately. I found that I don't really love persimmon and have a feeling the book club members didn't either. It has a distinct taste that lingers. The texture of this is also something modern eaters aren't used to--dense and quite moist. That said, I generally love puddings. It transported and held up well. I took to serving very small pieces at breakfast time. The chickens eventually enjoyed the last of the leftovers.

How Accurate Is It? As far as I can tell, very. I hand-harvested and hand-processed the persimmons, and they were a local variety from a nature reserve nearby. I followed the recipe faithfully.

There you go. Lord knows when I'll get a chance to cook again.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly, Challenge 5: Pies

I honestly thought I would not be able to do this challenge. I'm pushing up on a zillion deadlines and had three out-of-town trips in less than two weeks. Then last night, our neighbor brought us over a massive bowl of peaches from his tree, and I found myself doing what I always do--reaching for my grandmother's Fannie Farmer Cookbook to find what I could make with on-hand ingredients. Voila, peach pie!

Date/Year and Region: 1939, Boston

How did you make it?: I went with the peach crumble pie. Over the past few years, I've been making a peach cobbler from Cooking from Quilt Country, which is delicious. We've gotten a bit bored with it, however, and this one seemed like a fun possibility. Plus, even though the recipe title says "pie," there's no actual crust. Given my time constraints, there was a lot about this recipe I found appealing.

First, I did a 30-second boiling water/ice water plunge to help with peeling the peaches. This step wasn't mentioned in the recipe, but it's what I've always done with tomatoes and peaches.

Then I sliced them and put them in my pie pan. The recipe calls for the glass pan, but I wanted to use my stoneware one as it holds more. I had a LOT of peaches to use up. In fact, I've got some peach jam cooking away right now as well and still have nine more peaches. Fortunately, they're freestone peaches, which makes them easy to slice. Look how gorgeous!

The recipe called for creaming the butter, but for some reason I chose to cut it in with a pastry cutter. 

I sprinkled the crumble over the peaches and popped it in the the oven for 35 minutes. We have a commercial convection oven, so I generally cook for less time than any printed recipe.

Time to Complete: Less than one hour. The most time consuming bit was preparing the peaches.

Total Cost: Zero out of pocket. I had all the ingredients on hand, and the peaches were free.

How Successful Was It?: I've discovered I like a little more complexity of flavor in my peach pie. It's good, but I would probably add some salt to the crumble and perhaps some brandy or almond extract to the peaches. A little nutmeg wouldn't hurt either. That said, as soon as I'm done typing, I'm going back for seconds.

How Accurate Is It?: Very. I followed the recipe faithfully. I did use a modern oven.