Sunday, February 23, 2014

2014 is not going well.

I'm here today to tell you why I may not be here as often as I'd like over the next year or so and why I haven't been here much this month.  To start with I developed a nasty tendon problem with my thumb at the beginning of the month so I've had a hard time crafting or cooking which is most of what I blog about.  I got a cortisone shot on Friday which usually cures 80% of the people with this problem so I hope to get back to the cooking and crafting within the next week or so.

The other thing that happened this month is my beloved dog Freya was diagnosed with cancer in her bladder.  My vet says that on average with the only treatment option she has this means she has 6-12 months.  Of course the hope is that she'll be one of the above average dogs and make it another 2 years, but there is no way to know.  Because of this I'll be spending a lot of spare time and money doing medical stuff with her and making the most of what time we have left together.  Which also means my posting will come when I can, but not as often as I'd like to.  Hopefully you will all bear with me.  And if anyone has any recommendations for things that have helped them cope with the loss of a beloved pet or a terminal illness please share.  I could use all the help I can get.




Sunday, February 02, 2014

Cooking Challenge Week 5: Vanilla Buttermilk Pound Cake

This week's theme is vanilla.  I use vanilla in a lot of my baking but rarely do I bake anything that's primary flavor is vanilla.  I've always been more of a chocolate girl.  Or Coconut.  Or both.  But a few of the things I love do have a stronger vanilla flavor.  I briefly debated shortbread, but that's nothing new so I quickly dismissed it and went searching through my binder of magazine recipes.  What I found was a page from an old cooking light for Vanilla Buttermilk Pound Cake and promptly decided that was what I would make.

I love the simplicity of pound cake, but I've only made it once and didn't have good luck with that recipe.  This one was better although I made a few minor adjustments.

1.  I made it in two big loaf pans instead of a few small.
2.  I saw it only called for 1 teaspoon of vanilla and thought that couldn't possibly be enough so I added closer to 2.5 tsp.
3.  I used the emergency substitution of milk and lemon juice in place of the buttermilk.  If I make it again I'd like to use real buttermilk but the cold and snow discouraged me from running out to buy it.



It is an easy recipe and a sweet, simple deliciousness.  Try it!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cooking Challenge Weeks 3 and 4

So I missed week 2- Polish food.  I went through the trouble of getting my mother's pierogi recipe but then got too lazy to make them.  I may still do them sometime soonish because I do love pierogi and its not something I've ever made.

I also didn't manage week 3 or 4 in time- and combined them when I did.  I guess I'm not so great at this thing :)  For the One Pot (week 3) and Ingredient You Hated As A Kid (week 4) I decided to make French Onion Soup.  I despised onions as a kid and now French Onion is my favorite soup- with or without the hefty coating of cheese.  Unfortunately for me, I still can't seem to master it.

I found a recipe that involved caramelizing the onions in a slow cooker all day then adding the broth and cooking another 30 minutes.



It looks okay.  French Onion-y.  But something was off with the flavor and I can't figure out what.  I got a different recipe recommended to me, so I'll probably be borrowing my mom's dutch oven and trying again soon.

Stay tuned for week 5- Vanilla and some pictures of my newest creation for my etsy shop!  I'm super excited about it!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Christmas: The third and final installment

So here they are finally.  My Christmas knitting projects.

I made 4 cowls.  Each in a different color.  One was already wrapped and given before I could take a picture, but here are the other 3.






I found the pattern through ravelry (did you guys know about this site?  It's awesome!)  You have to create an account but its way worth it.  I found this pattern on it and got knitting.  It was my first time ever knitting from a pattern and required some help from a coworker in figuring it out.  I made mistakes and none of them are perfect, but overall I'm pretty happy with the turnout.  I did one big button on three of them and the three smaller on just the one.  Just because.  :)

Most of them came paired with hot chocolate truffles.  No pictures of them because mine didn't come out looking pretty, but if you'd like the recipe you can find it here.  They taste good- mine just don't look nice.

I paired the one I had to mail with homemade cheese crackers instead.  They came out looking nice and tasting delicious.  Check out full instructions here.  My additions/changes are that I did all butter instead of a T. of shortening and I salted before they went in the oven.  My other note is that they taste better fresh out of the oven when rolled thicker and taste better the next day when they are thinner rolled.





Anyone have any recipes/patterns/ideas to share that they used for Christmas?  Or something that you got that you absolutely loved?

Saturday, January 04, 2014

52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge

If you've stuck through my on again off again blogging attempts (or read the archives) you may remember the 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge I did a few years ago.  Well it's still going on and I've decided to give it another go this year.  I figure it works well with this month's eating in challenge and since I'm only doing the cooking challenge this time and not also the baking challenge I may make it just a little bit farther into the year.  I also have no major plans for the year (no move or huge vacation) so hopefully I can manage.

Week One's challenge is eggs so I decided to try a new method of poaching eggs (I love me a good poached egg)



This one was not so good a poached egg.  (okay these two were not good poached eggs)

I used the method from my new cookbook purchased with Christmas Amazon funds:



I love the cookbook.  It's my new best friend.  I think, however, I'm not listening to it like I should be in a good relationship.

The recipe calls for 2 T. vingear and 1 t. salt in the water in a saucepan.  I got that right.  See?



Well okay you can't see as vinegar is clear and the salt dissolved.  But trust me.  It's there.

Where I think I failed is bringing it to a rolling boil.  I thought it was a rolling boil.  It had been cooking long enough and it looked rolling boil-y to me.  I tipped my eggs in from a teacup (okay coffee cup we don't do tea in this house), covered the pan with a lid and removed it from the heat to cook for 3.5 minutes.



After checking the eggs they were decidedly not done and I continued to cook them for another minute and a half.  Then I gave up and ate them anyway.  They were okay.  But they were also probably the worst eggs I've ever poached.  The whites were not set right and the yolks were more done than I prefer and the only conclusion I can come to is the water wasn't hot enough when I put the eggs in.  

I also think now that I'm looking back at it- I should have left it on the same burner just turned it off.  Could that have made enough of a difference?  Mayhaps its poached eggs again for dinner.  I'll report back if I can get them right with this method.  Otherwise its back to my old simmer in a saucepan method.  Those cooked right, but never looked pretty.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas Part 2 and Resolutions

Ah Resolutions. I seem to make them every year and they seem to be round about the same every year as well. With the all the moving I did and the holidays both my budget and my health are way out of whack and I need to do something about it. So this year I'm committing to The Chic Life's Eat In Month challenge for January!  She leaves a lot of the rules up to you so you can tailor it to what you want your challenge to be.  Click the banner below to read more about it on her site.

For me anything from the grocery store is okay and I'm going to allow myself 1 cheat meal a week.  Even with one meal out a week I'm going to have a tough time.  I'm also going to allow coffees out but only until my Starbucks and Dunkin Gift Cards are spent. Wish me luck and join me in the challenge!

I also hope to be posting some of my home cooked meals here.  You won't be seeing the meal-in-a-bag PF Changs of course (which are totally delicious and AWESOME for those days when you don't feel like cooking) but I hope to experiment with some more recipes and show them off here.  Who knows, maybe I'll even join the 52 weeks of cooking again.

 

Now back to Christmas.  I still can't share my knitting or the mailed package so expect a part 3 to Christmas to show up in the middle of January, but I wanted to show off the gift my sister made me:



And close up:



She said she got the idea from pinterest but I don't know exactly where to cite it. :)  She definitely knows me well- 2 of my favorite things reading and travelling.  I absolutely love them!  Anyone else have cool things that they are dying to share?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas Part 1

I have been running around like a crazy person for the last month or so frantically trying to get everything done in time for Christmas.  Like usual, I totally failed.  It never seems to matter how early I start, life gets in the way and I perpetually overbook myself for Christmas.  

You may remember the quilt I was working on.  I thought starting as early as I did I'd totally have it done for Christmas Eve when I was supposed to give it.  I didn't.  I came SO close.  So very close.  But I wound up giving the mostly finished quilt and then taking it back to give back to the recipient once I fully finished it.  I had 2/4 edges left finish come Christmas Eve, but ran out of time and fabric (AGAIN!  I'm really bad about figuring out how much I need ahead of time!).  I finally finished it on Friday and should be seeing the recipient again on New Years Day to give it to him.  I forgot to take a picture of the quilt in its full glory, but here it is nice and pretty all tied up with ribbon and ready to give.



I'm also still working on some knitting projects that I cannot yet share on here.  Thankfully though I still haven't seen those recipients for Christmas so I'm not really late.  It doesn't count if I haven't had the opportunity to give the gifts yet :)  

Oh and then there's the mailed gift that really should have been done a week before Christmas so I could post it but I haven't even started yet.  Thankfully shes a forgiving friend and won't mind a belated gift.  

One of the gifts I put together this year for some people was mulling spices.  I do a lot of cookies usually so I found this on pinterest and thought it might make a nice change of pace.  I bought some bottles of 3 buck chuck at Trader Joes to package it with for a frugal gift.  My recommendation if you try it is to get spices from bulk bins for the best price.  In my case this meant that Whole Foods was the cheapest source of spices (who would have ever guessed!?).



Stay tuned for Christmas Parts 2 and 3 where I'll share some of the other things I made and some of the gifts I received from people (my sister made a fabulous crafty thing for my craft room that I have to share!).