Sunday, October 31, 2010

Broken Cookies!

I got assigned to make 120 cookies for the school's Halloween festival. The 7th grade teacher (a baker in a former life) was responsible for finding the recipe and then each of the three middle school classes were assigned 120 cookies for a total of 360. It's a great recipe and they end up soft and almost cake-like. I don't know where it came from but here it is...

Glazed Pumpkin Cookies (makes 30 large cookies)

Mix together in a bowl and set aside:
  • 5 c. flour
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 2 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1 t. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 t. ground allspice
  • 1/4 t. ground cloves
  • 1 t. salt
Cream together with a mixer until fluffy:
  • 3 c. sugar
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, softened
Mix in:
  • 2 eggs
  • 15 oz. pumpkin puree
  • 2 t. vanilla
Add the flour mixture and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Measure out 1/4 cups of dough onto a greased cookie sheet and gently shape and flatten with damp hands to make 1/2" thick disks. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 minutes, rotate pans, bake 8 minutes more. Remove from oven and cool.

When the cookies are cool, drizzle glaze (see below) over them and allow it to set.

2 c. powdered sugar
1 T. melted butter
3 T. milk
1/2 t. vanilla

I started the cookies at school on Friday and gave my class some as a Halloween treat. I brought the rest home to add to what I was making Saturday morning. When I unpacked them I was irritated to learn that I had packed some up while they were still slightly warm and they had fused together. I had to make an additional batch, but what to do with pieces from about 8 large broken cookies?

And so Pumpkin Spice Tiramisu was born!

We used this recipe and replaced the ladyfingers with cookie pieces. The only other change was sprinkling the top with cinnamon, sugar, and nutmeg instead of cocoa powder. We had dinner guests last night and it was delicious then. It was even more delicious this afternoon after the flavors had more time to blend.

Now it began feeling like some nonsense children's story. In using up the broken cookies (and solving what to serve for dessert at our dinner party) we had created 6 egg whites that currently had no use. Back to the internet and...

Meringue ghosts
finished up the baking triathlon!
One of my students at the party I took them to pointed out that my devil meringue...
doubled as a Dracula meringue..
Although he looks a bit like Cthulhu in this picture.

I should have whipped the meringue even more because the first few had good body but then they got a little droopy. The eyes were some Halloween bat shaped sprinkles from the bulk foods section of the grocery store. There was enough meringue left over after making the pan of ghosts that I spread the rest out flat and made a pavlova-like crust. Add some vanilla yogurt and defrost some strawberries and it's a pretty good treat in and of itself. (Not as cute as the ghosts though.)

Pixie Hat Pattern

Thank you to my hot chocolate, oatmeal, and flour jars for being models. I don't have any toddler or child heads around here for modeling. The friend I gave one to says her toddler is adorable in it. :)

The Pixie Hat
Caron Simply Soft doubled on size 13 needles to get 3 st/inch.
Sizes: baby/toddler - 16" (small child - 18")
Color changes happen at the beginnings of rows according to the knitter's preferences.
Cast on 48 (54) stitches and join in the round.
Work 3 rounds of garter stitch.

Work 12 (15) rounds of stockinette stitch.

Next row: K 10 (11), k2tog, k 24 (28), ssk, k 10 (11)
Repeat this decrease row 11 (12) times (the middle set of knit stitches decreases by 2 every row) until there are 2 (4) stitches left between the decreases.

Remaining rows -
K 8 (10), k2tog, k2tog, ssk, ssk, k 8 (10)
K 6 (8), k2tog, k2tog, ssk, ssk, k 6 (8)
(For 18" only - K 6, k2tog, k2tog, ssk, ssk, k 6)
Both sizes:
K 4, ssk, ssk, k2tog, k2tog, k 4
K 2, ssk, ssk, k2tog, k2tog, k 2
ssk, ssk, k2tog, k2tog

Cut yarn and pull through all remaining stitches.
Weave in ends.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Food Flexibility and Latest Projects

This is tonight's dinner...
It was originally going to be biscuits topped with ham, eggs and melted cheddar cheese. We've been slowly working our way through a ham we cooked after buying it from Biancalana at the market last Saturday.

While I was putting together the biscuits, I decided to cube the paneer I made earlier this week, fry it, and take it as part of my lunch tomorrow.

For anyone who has never made paneer before, it is an Indian "cheese". If you're a cheese nerd it's not a "real" cheese because the curdling is caused by an acid rather than by enzymatic action. Basically, you heat the milk to boiling, stir in enough lemon juice to make it curdle, drain the whey from the curds, rinse, and press until solid. I've tended to press out too much liquid before I formed it into a patty and it's been a little crumbly the two times I've made it. This last time, I added lemon juice a little at a time to see exactly how much it took and formed it while there was still a fair amount of liquid left. It turned out beautifully creamy and uniform with a smooth texture. It's never melted before as I fried it for saag paneer. This time, when I looked over at the pan, it was turning into a gooey melted mess. New plan...

Cheese sauce!

I made a roux with flour and butter, whisked in milk, cooked until thickened into a white sauce and then stirred in the cheese bits that had been partially melted and then rechopped apart. I knew the resulting sauce would be super bland so I started salting it. I also added some dried parsley, pepper, and garlic powder. By that time it was palatable but was missing a certain zing so I threw in a few tablespoons of white wine. That did it. It became rather good.

And that's the story of how we had "eggs benedict" for dinner...with ham instead of Canadian bacon, biscuits instead of English muffins, and cheese sauce instead of Hollandaise. Q says that that's about on par for my usual substitution habits. ;)

Over the weekend we went to the inaugural Fill Your Pantry Market and stocked up on pinto beans, red and white wheat, rolled oats, honey, squash, potatoes, and onions. It was successful beyond their wildest dreams, they ran out of a bunch of items and the lines were absurdly long. They said they'll work out some of the kinks before next year. It was great getting to buy direct from the farmer and pay slightly less than retail.

Here are our purchases along with those we picked up for friends.

Here's the first batch of flour ground from our new wheat. We got a new Kitchen Aid Grain Mill attachment on sale a few months ago and so far (based on its first trial today) I like it better than the old Magic Mill grinder we'd gotten from Q's mom. It's way less dusty, quieter, and seems to do the job just as well.

I've been super busy but have been failing at getting pictures of the projects. In the last two weeks, I/We've...

1. knit and designed three hats as gifts for friends
  • a Mario Mushroom beanie (knit replacement for a crocheted one that was left at an airport and perhaps a new design for the shop as well)
  • a chunky brown hat inspired by this hat as a friend's birthday gift (looked at the picture and then recreated the look in a much bigger gauge - 3 st/in?)
  • a funky toddler "pixie" hat, which I'll hopefully be debuting the pattern for in a couple of days
2. Got about 4" of the Hawthorn Sweater completed. I'm adapting the pattern to make a cardigan using some dark brown sock yarn I bought several years ago because I needed a brown cardigan. (I still need the sweater...I can just feel that this is the year!)

3. Made progress on the bedside tables we're making at the University Craft Center wood shop. We have class on Tuesday nights but have gone in a little between classes since we're adding a shelf and a drawer to the basic table that was the purpose of the class.
Here are the scraps, enough to do something else cool. They're black walnut so they will match the cedar chest we were given this summer. So far we've got the aprons and legs milled, the legs have mortises cut, and the tops and shelves are almost milled and glued up. Hopefully, I'll be able to do a full post on the completed projects around Thanksgiving.

4. Started the next laundry room upgrade (really Q's project that I'll just benefit from)
We got this table top at Bring that matches the '50s feel of the cabinets I inherited from my grandmother's house. Q has now stacked the washer and dryer. He's going to cut the table top down and make it into a counter. There's going to be a huge laundry sink set into it, the litter boxes will live below and the trimmed edge will hopefully be repurposed as a backsplash to give the whole thing a finished look. Sooooo excited... :)

5. Made cold cream (seems more like body butter to me) and lipstick with my class as part of Organic Chemistry. We're going to make them each a tube of peppermint lip balm tomorrow. Considering how super cheap ingredients (mineral oil, beeswax, paraffin) can be transformed into body products, I'm pretty sure I'll never buy lotion or lip balm ever again. It's also made me want to finally dive in and make soap. (Although that's a whole other layer of complexity.) I'll do a proper post on the lotion and balms as soon as I get pictures taken.

I'll try to get better at posting more regularly again. It's not that I don't have things to say (as if I ever run out of things to say). :)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mushroom Madness

We joined a Mushroom CSA this year! The forager happens to be a parent at the school so we get delivery straight to my box at school each week for 10 weeks. Yay! I love mushrooms.

It's created a delightful challenge though - using 1 - 2 pounds of fantastic mushrooms each week. For the first three weeks we have gotten golden chanterelles (like the ones pictured above). Can you believe the size of them?

Week 1 - sauteed mushrooms/onion/garlic/olive oil mixed with pasta

Week 2 - zucchini pancakes with mushroom gravy (remarkably like a hippie version of egg foo yung) (Note: I didn't actually follow the gravy recipe. The most important difference being that I didn't put in summer savory and used Better Than Bouillion rather than defrosting stock)

Week 3 - Surprise Biscuits (my name) or Biscuit Pasties (Q's name)
This recipe was my own brain storm tonight and used only about 1/2 lb. of this week's 2 pounds so we'll probably have sauteed mushrooms mixed into tomorrow night's pesto.

3 c whole wheat flour
1 1/2 T sugar
1 1/2 T baking powder
1 1/2 t salt
3/4 c shortening
1 c milk

1/2 c. diced onion
1/2 lb. diced mushrooms (we used chanterelles)
5 strips of bacon, cut into pieces (ours was thick sliced from a local farm so probably about 8 slices normal commercial bacon)
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix all of the biscuit dry ingredients together, cut in the shortening and mix in the milk to form dough. Set aside.

Sautee the onion in olive oil until it starts to soften. Add the mushrooms and cook until most of the liquid is gone. Put aside in a bowl. Cook the bacon in the pan, drain, and add to the mushroom/onion mixture. Scramble the eggs and add to the rest of the filling.

Divide the biscuit dough into six parts. Shape each part into a deep bowl in your hands, add filling, then close the top so it looks like an extra large round biscuit.

Place the biscuits on a pan and bake for about 10 minutes or until done.

Sorry I don't have pictures. I was in a hurry when they came out of the oven and by the time we were back home they had all been eaten in the car. Q informed me that they need to get added to "The List" - tried and true recipes that need to be made over and over again.

Monday, October 11, 2010

International Commerce

In a weird turn of events, the last several hats I've sold on Etsy have been to foreign countries - Japan, Canada, Australia, Israel, and Norway. It's funny to picture the Space Invaders keeping heads warm in all those corners of the world. Q wants me to get a world map and put pins in it for where I've shipped to. At this rate it's sounding like a better and better idea. :)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Scandinavian Inspired Hat Design

When we were in Colorado this summer, Mom pulled this sweater out one day...
She had made it in the seventies (note the orange/brown color scheme) for one of my aunts. When my parents had visited Scandinavia (Norway?) they purchased a sweater for my dad and mom charted the sweater on the flight home. Several aunts and a couple of cousins all received these sweaters.

Mom had brought it out to show me her knitting at my age but I asked to take it home and have been wearing it. If I want to keep wearing it, I'm going to have to knit myself a new one though. Every time I pick it up I have to tie another knot in yarn that was broken by an apparent moth infestation. It lives in the cedar chest now so it hopefully won't get any worse.

I've rather fallen in love with the decorative patterns and had a couple of skeins of "Truffle" Cotton Fleece from Brown Sheep. I combined it with some "Wild Sage" and got a modern color scheme to combine with a traditional pattern.

The hat's construction is the same pattern as my Space Invaders and four repeats fit exactly to create a 22" medium hat. Hopefully, some people will want to buy them on Etsy because I really enjoy knitting the pattern.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Squirrel Sweater

Let me start by saying that I know this sweater is totally silly. That said, I'm going to simply refer to it as "whimsical" and enjoy it anyway.

I've had this sweater on the needles since last winter. I'd finished it but had kept the brown running behind everything, which had made yoke lose its stretch. After ripping out the entire yoke, I used bobbins of brown, carried only the oatmeal and worked the yoke back and forth (joining as I went). I think my squirrel chart ended up working out well. I'm wondering if I should have incorporated some of the brown in the lower part (like a row of small acorns above the rib?) but I do like it overall. Opinions?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Slanting Gretel Tee

I have written previously about this pattern and I finally used some super soft baby suri alpaca/wool blend yarn that I'd gotten on clearance to knit it up. It's possibly the softest yarn I've ever touched. Yay for using from the stash!

I changed the sleeves from caps to being short sleeves. It was wonderfully easy to modify the sleeve length. I stopped because I ran out of yarn. I'm always cold, wearing a sweater over a sweater seems like a less than ideal option, and I don't wear long sleeved t-shirts so using it as a second layer doesn't fit my style.

My gauge swatch was somehow misleading and it turned out larger than I'd wanted. The one in the magazine was modeled with some slight negative ease. I estimate that I've to about 2" of positive ease in the final creation.

The pattern has lots of potential in my opinion. It's well written and easy to follow although the specific instructions look more complicated than the goal they're trying to achieve. It's not the pattern creators fault though. There's no good way to just verbalize what is being accomplished in a way that would allow knitters of all abilities to follow the pattern.

My favorite parts - I love the neckline and the cables. (Note: if you knit this, make sure you cast the neck off a little tightly or it will look puckery.)

What I would change - I want to knit it again and add a couple of inches to the bottom and take a couple of inches from the circumference, maybe even putting in some gentle waist shaping as I work the back. That said, I think it would work better even if it was just a size smaller. Its current dimensions manage to work together to be extremely unflattering on my body type - I can manage to look chubby and short waisted on my own without additional help from my clothes. :)

Q, thanks for taking the pictures!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Good Fall Eating

On Sunday, we got into the kitchen and tried to use up some of the veggies that have been accumulating. We had our favorite quiche recipe for breakfast, complete with homegrown onion, tomatoes, and shredded zucchini.

The chicken stock also got started. We cooked two chickens last Sunday to follow this plan for the week's meals and I had saved the carcasses. (We didn't follow the roast chicken recipe but did make the picadillo, curry in a hurry, and sesame noodles - all delicious and easy.)

This stock is notable because it's the first stock where the vegetables are entirely from our garden - celery, carrot, and onion. We just need to raise some meat chickens so we'll have totally homegrown stock. :)
We had also been given a few Jonagold apples that weren't getting any younger. Here's last night's dessert experiment. I made caramel then stirred in apples and oatmeal and baked the whole thing for about 30 minutes. It is evil good. The portion I brought to school also got the stamp of approval from all of the 8th graders and it made delicious breakfast this morning too!

And we bought "Frankenpumpkin" (Q's title) at the Spencer Creek Grange Harvest Festival this weekend so pie making has now made it onto the "to-do" list.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Newest Family Member

After we got back from Colorado we put in an adoption application for one of the kittens we had fostered for 2 months over the summer. Marbles is now part of the family. While we had him, he developed a limp which was eventually identified as femoral head necrosis. Greenhill Humane decided to operate because he is such a delightful cat. He still limps but it doesn't seem to slow him down.

The only side effect seems to be that he is pretty willing to be in whatever position he happens to land in or get put in. This includes being snuggled like a teddy bear.

Clearly, he is not easily upset and has a huge purr.

He also loves being between us. The picture was taken from above; my red shirt and black pants are on the left, Q's brown shirt and jeans are on the right.

Digit and Isabel are adjusting quite well to a spunky new kitten. He's kept well-groomed by the fastidious Digit and he gets plenty of exercise as he and Isabel race through the house. I'm sure there will be documentation of this photogenic kitten quite often from here on out.

The Mayflower

It's not a great picture but not bad for less than 1/2 hour. I also was drawing without anything to look at and found the angle I'd chosen more tricky than I first envisioned. Oh well. I've added the words "Early English Colonies" to the sky since this picture was taken and they're copying it for the cover of their first history block.