25 November, 2009

Kitchen Confidential, Part 3

If you're looking for knitting content, there isn't any. My Salina is in time out due to having to rip half of the front out and having no inclination to do so. Maybe tomorrow under the influence of turkey and cranberry sauce...

Today I spent the bulk of my day in the kitchen prepping for Thanksgiving tomorrow. It's our first year in THB's new house, and he wanted to break it in holiday-style, so we politely refused any and all invitations to Thanksgiving Elsewhere and chose to have Thanksgiving at Home.

People, by the way, are unsurprisingly invitational when they find out that we - two well-loved children with a huge family - are planning to have dinner with just the 3 of us (THB, Roomie and I). I say unsurprisingly because I have a theory that Thanksgiving turns even the whitest of white people into ethnic grandmothers who are alarmed at how little you've eaten despite the fact that you've cleared your plate three times and polished off three-quarters of a pumpkin pie all by yourself. Small wonder that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday - no gifts to worry about, no trees to decorate, no dressing up to do (you'll just get gravy on it anyway!) - just hours in the kitchen making delicious food and an entire day devoted to eating it and watching anythingbutfootball.

Also, have I mentioned that my family is directly descended from Mayflower people on my Mother's side? As a matter of fact, there's a story there, but I'll leave it for another time. It's probably novel-worthy, and this is a post about cook(e)ing!

So. Five-ish hours in the kitchen today and three recipes I'd never tried before knocked out of the park. Here's what I made:

I substituted rosemary for mint and used half andouille, half homemade moose (but all spicy!) sausage. The bread is still drying, but the rest of the recipe is made and ready to go according to the directions. NTS: this would also make excellent omelette fixings.

THB bought the pie crusts, which were sold in sets of 2, so of course I made 2 pies. Actually, 2 and a half pies - there was enough filling left over to make a third pie, so I buttered a 9" pan really well and tossed it in the oven to make pumpkin custard (and so we could try the pie before the Big Day!). Excellent stuff, this pie. Oh! Also, I added 1/8 t nutmeg per pie, so 1/4 total, and I subbed in half hazelnuts, half walnuts just for kicks.

In addition to extra filling, I had extra pie topping as well. I decided that since I know the theory behind making brittle candy, I'd give it a shot. So I dumped in a bit more brown sugar, some extra chopped walnuts and a few cashews, a bunch of butter and popped it all into the oven. This was... less of a success, although for not following any sort of recipe it turned out pretty edible. Just nothing at all like brittle. We mixed it into the 3rd crustless pie and it was delicious.

Lastly, I tried to make Shortcut Turkey Stock from the giblets in our turkey, only to discover that the turkey was still really, really frozen on the inside. So off to the store I went for a package of turkey giblets and necks. Organ meats smell really, really weird, by the way. I suppose that makes sense, but as a person who generally avoids any sort of organ meat, I was surprised. Anywho. I managed to forget to put celery on my list for like the five millionth time ever, so I subbed in garlic and called it good. My family is more Spanish and Italian than French anyway, and I seem to remember Alton Brown saying something about an Italian (or Spanish) mirepoix consisting of carrots, onions and garlic instead of celery. Also I hate the texture of cooked celery and the taste it gives food, so there's that.

Oh! And the other day I made cranberry sauce from scratch. My friend Dinah made this killer orange-ginger-cranberry sauce one year and I've been craving it annually ever since, so this year I begged her for the recipe. It was totally simple and I've been stealing spoonfuls of it here and there.

So that's 4 recipes down! And a couple to go tomorrow, including cooking the turkey itself, gravy, and special whipped cream. Yay!

101 in 1001 Countdown:
#18 Try 100 fruits/vegetables (8/100) cranberry, orange, pumpkin, artichoke, celery (ew)
#21 Try 100 new recipes (9/100) Stuffing, Pie, Stock, Sauce
#24 Try 100 new foods (2/100) turkey stock (not so good on its own)

23 November, 2009

Maybe This Time....

Went to the gym today. Let's see if it sticks this time...

21 November, 2009

A Feminist-y Question

So here's a scenario that might or might not be familiar, followed by my general reaction and then by the reaction to MY reaction by a male of my acquaintance.


You are walking to the door of a restaurant/bar/etc., when a guy dashes in front of you, opens the door for you, and while you walk up to the door, gives you the semi-lecherous once-over and a sunny, cheerful smile.

Think about your reaction for a minute. I want to know what it would be.

Do you know yet? You should tell me in the comments.

Here's mine:
I walk up, open the other side of the door for myself, give the guy a sunny smile while I walk through and say, still smiling, "thanks anyway!"

A Male of My Acquaintance thinks this is a bitchy response. He thinks this is bitchy because, as he says, "good luck finding someone who won't objectify you in the first 5 minutes of your relationship. Nice high standards you have; I'm glad you make it so hard for guys to appreciate you." When I told him that I don't see anything wrong with having high standards for treatment, he replied that high standards are good, but a little objectification doesn't hurt anyone.

I would like to know how on earth I'm supposed to meet a man who is planning to treat me like a person with real ideas and real thoughts - as opposed to a set of breasts and holes with an occasional flash of intelligence - if I allow him to be a lecherous ass in the first 30 seconds of our acquaintance, and (here's the kicker) act like I think that kind of behavior is cute.

So, dear reader, tell me in the comments: How do you deal with the constant double standard? Do you ignore it? I mean, let's be honest, we all do at times, both men and women. Do you think about it occasionally and just give it up as too hard to be a capital-B Bitch all the time? What do you do? I'd love to know, especially because I'm getting tired of regularly stand up to the ridiculous objectification, despite the fact that I have no intentions to stop doing so.

20 November, 2009

Kitchen Confidential, Part 2

The other day, my brother came home with 2 cans of organic cream of chicken soup. He works for a company that acts as the middleman between farmers and places like Whole Foods, so he has access to a fairly amazing range of organic and healthful foods. Anyway, he bought these 2 cans of cream of chicken because Thanksgiving is coming up (he gets an organic free-range turkey as a T'giving present from work - score!) and he remembered that one of our old family recipes requires a can of cream of mushroom soup. But Tika, you say, cream of chicken and cream of mushroom are not the same! Well, YOU know that, and I know that, and actually THB knows that too, but he saw "cream of something" and bought it. It wasn't until he got back to his desk all proud of himself that he realized the "something" he'd bought was the wrong food. Best intentions and all that.

He suggested that I try to use these cans - which were otherwise destined to languish in our cupboards for who knows HOW long - in one of his favorite dishes: Crock Pot Sumac Chicken. Next time I make it the regular way, I'll give you the recipe. For now, here's what I did:

2-3 frozen chicken breasts
1 can cream of chicken soup
3/4 to 1 c. white wine
1/2 white onion
4-5 cloves garlic
a little bit (1/2 t?) of fresh thyme (not really necessary - did I mention it's been in the fridge for a long... thyme?)

Turn Crock Pot to low if you've got more than 4 hours and high if you've got less. I'd never cooked with or even tried cream of chicken soup before, so I decided to stay simple this time around. I mixed the soup and the white wine together and started sautéing the onions/garlic/thyme. Then I realized I only had 1 chicken breast, had used all the garlic and we had no more white onions. The lack of chicken was the deal-breaker; I turned off the burner and headed to the store, where all the usual frozen chicken real estate was taken over by turkeys. Bought chicken tenderloins instead. Came home, finished sauteing the now-glassy onions (yay new trick!), put the chicken in the crock pot, covered with soup/wine mixture, topped with onions, and let cook for 4-ish hours. When ready to serve, reduce some of the cooking liquid in a pot with a bit of butter and a splash more wine to make a sauce.

The beautiful thing about a crock pot is that starting with frozen food is perfectly acceptable because it cooks at such a low temperature the outside doesn't burn before the inside thaws. I don't know if I'd try this with big stuff, but chicken breasts and stew meat seem to turn out just fine.

Next time I try this, I think I'll jazz it up a bit. More onion (it was a scanty 1/2, after all), more garlic, definitely pepper. Maybe some jalapenos? (By the way, Blogger's spell-check thinks that jalapenos is supposed to be Galapagos. ::eyeroll::) Cream of chicken soup hails from the halcyon days of cream-of soups back in the 1950's, and tastes like it. There's only one can of it left, however, so I won't have to deliberate over it more than once.

101 in 1001 Count:
#18 Try 100 fruits/vegetables (3/100) garlic
#21 Try 100 new recipes (5/100) Cream of Crock Pot Chicken
#24 Try 100 new foods (1/100) Cream of Chicken Soup

18 November, 2009

Kitchen Confidential, Part 1

I have to write a book report today. A BOOK REPORT.

So instead, I'm going to tell you about the recipes I've been toying with lately. This last few weeks have been cuh-razy. Between the 29th of October and the 14th of November I spent a total of 11 nights away from my own bed, flitting like the social butterfly I used to be from one exciting thing to another. But in between times, I managed to try three new recipes that I'll be using again - or at the very least using as a jumping-off point for more kitchen shenanigans.

The first recipe I tried was a delicious Quick Black Bean Soup from Epicurious.com. Can I just pause here to mention how much I love that website? All amazing recipes, all the time. It's a vortex of hungry-making, and it's going to make my Thanksgiving dinner the talk of all three people who are coming. It may also get me to try making turkey stuffing, but let's not get all excited. There's not a lot on this earth that could change my mind about cooking soggy bread into the body cavity of a turkey and calling it palatable.

But anyway, back to the soup! It was, as advertised, delicious. I did make a few changes, mostly because I hate measuring things (hence why you won't see a whole lot of baking going on in my kitchen...)

My changes were:
1. Use fire-roasted diced tomatoes instead of the plain kind
2. Estimate that 1 1/4 c. chopped onion is roughly 1 white onion and thus no need to measure!
3. Drop in enough fresh thyme to make the onions smell pretty (or at least differently pretty; cooking onions/garlic smells pretty pretty all on its own). Apparently thyme is thyme-less in the fridge, 'cause ours has been there for at least a month and is still fine. My puns, however, are terrible.
4. Discover that there is no chili sauce in the house, nor is there chili powder. Substitute cayenne.
5. Cook for an hour and a half instead of 20 minutes. Didn't seem to hurt anything, and the onions were pretty much dissolved by this time, making blending easier.
5. Salt to taste after blending.

I also learned that my hand-held immersion blender works best when held about an inch above the bottom of the bowl. I think next time I'll cook the onions a little longer to get them glassy and golden - I learned yesterday that turning off the pan and just leaving them in the oil for about 15 minutes works well and keeps my impatience at bay. I might also add some sriracha sauce to the grocery list and try that instead of cayenne next time 'round. This soup would also work well with some fresh corn kernels or maybe shredded chicken in it (after blending) if that's your thing. The chicken I intend to try; let me know how the corn thing goes.

Overall, this is a fantastic and simple base recipe for black bean soup - or with less liquid at the outset, probably black bean dip. I imagine it would work well for white beans too; some comments at Epicurious mention subbing in a can of white beans or black-eyed peas for a can of black. I'll probably switch over to dried beans next time, since they're cheaper. According to the comments, the beans must be soaked overnight and then the cooking time needs to be increased to about 3 hours to make up for the hardness of the beans.

Coming soon: Cream of Crock Pot Chicken - Not as Gross as It Sounds!, and Gitcher Guac. Also, I'm going to start counting things like regular tomatoes, broccoli and such in my "try 300 fruits/vegetables" list because eventually I will run out of my usual fruits and veggies, and then I'll have to start branching out (::shudder::).

101 in 1001 Count:
#18 Try 100 fruits/vegetables (2/100) Fire-roasted tomatoes (canned), white onions
#21 Try 100 new recipes (4/100) Quick Black Bean Soup

17 November, 2009

Let's Talk Twist

The CBEST is OVER! My unofficial scores give me a pass in the reading/math sections, so I'm just waiting until Nov. 30 for my essay scores. I'm fairly certain I did just fine; I stayed on topic, used relevant examples, and exercised my skillz at spelling and big words, which is really all one can expect from a canned essay on what life skills I've learned from being in school.

But enough about the CBEST! Standardized tests deserve no more of my attention, as I won't have to take any more of them ever (famous last words).

Let's talk about the Twist Collective in general and the new issue in particular. I am currently enamored of lists, lists, and more lists, so this will take the form of... a list. Predictable, thy name is Tika.

The Twist Collective In General:
1. Has interesting patterns
2. Uses pretty photography
3. Explores a wide range of yarns, styles, and abilities
4. Does good things for the industry in regards to paying designers/charging/etc.
5. Is not intuitively set up, and thus I click on ads when I want to know more about patterns
6. Actually makes me not want to buy patterns because of the layout
7. Makes me sad because of the combination of nice patterns and crap website
8. Overcharges for their contents.

Now, let me qualify #8. I fully believe that designers and magazine people (whether that magazine is online or not) deserve to make money from their creations. I don't believe that all knitting patterns should be free just because we're all combining knits, purls, yarn overs and decreases like everyone else. For a paper magazine, I am willing to pay $7 or $8 bucks as long as I like at least 2-3 things in said issue. Even if everything else is made of Muppet skin and peacock feathers, I figure that those 2-3 items I would make justify the cost of the entire product, perhaps in combination with a Strongly Worded Letter regarding the ethical ramifications of Muppet skin. Some of you may have noticed me reference my collection of Anne Hanson patterns, for which I gladly shelled out ~$7 each for shawls and ~$5 for socks. I also have a whole folder dedicated to Cookie A's patterns, which are also not cheap. Thus am I perfectly suited as a consumer of knitting patterns and also an opinionated loudmouth to express my displeasure at paying $6-7 each - regardless of scope of project, expertise, or volume - for the often-amazing patterns from Twist Collective.

So really, I guess what annoys me is that there's no volume discount from Twist. Most of their patterns are $7 (shawls, sweaters, bags) or $6 (gloves, hats, scarves). But here's the twist (ahahhaha! I kill me!): this hat is $6, and this neckwarmer/hat/mitten combination is also $6. Here's what ends up happening in my brian:

Spendthrift Me: Both are super-cute!
Cheap-o Me: But.. but.. it's just a cleverly constructed hat with piping!
Spendthrift Me: But still cute!
Cheap-o Me: Adorable, I agree. But $6-adorable? Maybe 4. Not six. I could reverse-engineer that in a couple of hours.
Spendthrift Me: It's a negligible $2. And then you wouldn't be spending your hours.
Cheap-o Me: The three-piece set is also $6. That's $2 each, and more for your money.
Spendthrift Me: Do you think the designers spent the same amount of time designing those pieces?
Cheap-o Me: Maybe. We're not designers.
Spendthrift Me: Hmmm. Both? Or just one? If you had to pick just one, which would you pick?
Cheap-o Me and Spendthrift Me: The combo.

Thus does my mind judge things, and the Piper Hat, while admittedly adorable, gets removed from cart. Here's how it would go if the Piper Hat were $2 less, or if there were a 4-for-$23 deal from Twist:

Spendthrift Me: Both are super-cute!
Cheap-o Me: But.. but.. twelve bucks for both?
Spendthrift Me: Yup. But if we get this sweater and this one, both of which I would TOTALLY WEAR as a teacher, it's only $23! That's less than a movie ticket plus popcorn!
Cheap-o Me: Sold. But the Twist Collective is getting a Mildly Worded Letter regarding the navigability of their website. Part of what my $24 is paying for is an accessible venue for designer's work, after all!
Spendthrift Me: Indeed.

Are you listening, Twist Collective? After all my ranting, I humbly suggest a volume discount. I submit to you as an example the vast number of knitters on the internet who bemoan the Knitpicks $50-free-shipping incentive as a reason that they always, ALWAYS spend $50 at that website instead of the mere $10-$15 they would have otherwise.

Also, I hate the set-up of your online magazine. It's difficult to navigate and confusing to access.

But let's talk about the Winter '09 issue In Particular:
1. I love this.
2. And this.
3. And these.
4. The articles were lovely, but would be better if they were separated more from the pattern stories. I keep skimming when I should be reading, and reading what I'd rather be skimming. This is a layout issue, see above re. navigation.
5. I would like to have a chat with your photographers and sample knitters, please.

Again, I shall elucidate on #5, but not at as much length. This is a knitting magazine for knitters who knit. As such, we (the knitters) are not so much interested in ANTM-style poses or smizing as you might think. There are some general suggestions for photographing knitwear that are based firmly in color theory and/or Photography 101 of which I would like to remind you. Please note that the following has nothing - I repeat, NOTHING - to do with how such items should be knitted by the knitter. Knitters are clever and experimentative and can knit however they like. But in order to maximize the purchases of some items, I suggest the following things:

5a. Stranded colorwork should be shown in contrasting colors so as to make the pattern pop. If we cannot see the actual pattern, we are not as likely to knit it.
5b. A sweater that contains a cable should probably be shown in a distinct color so that said cable is visible.
5c. A savvy knitter will be frustrated that this sweater is not shown straight on in any shot. It's beautiful, the model is beautiful, the pose is quirky, but please for the love of all that's holy, if you want me to buy that pattern, also show me how it FITS HER. Otherwise, I wonder what's wrong with the pattern, and I'm sure that the designer did a bang-up job.

Thus ends my rant. You may return to your regularly scheduled knitting.

16 November, 2009

In Which We Procrastinate

Tomorrow is the CBEST, which might as well be called the SAT for Aspiring Teachers. I have reviewed the Princeton Review book on the subject, taken the reading portion of the test, and am now settling myself down to aspire my way to a "pass." I am assured by everyone I know who has taken the CBEST - which is a much larger number since I started grad school a month ago - that I will pass easily. While this is probably true (almost my entire undergraduate GPA was based on test scores - none of that "homework" for me!), I am still a smidge nervous. Therefore I spent today watching the latest episode of Glee, playing a very little bit of World of Warcraft, and sorting through my Portland pictures to place here for your viewing enjoyment. Sadly, by the time I realized that I should have taken daylight photos of some things, the daylight was waning. Curse you, Daylight Savings Time!

Anyway. My trip to Portland was great fun. Shannon was quite pleased with her gift, it went beautifully with her face (as intended ::cough::), and I got to see lots of friends who are doing very well indeed. I have a couple of dear friends living in high Bohemian style on top of a parking garage across from the Crystal Ballroom who have turned out to be quite brilliant businessmen - or have at least chosen to surround themselves with people who make them LOOK like brilliant businessmen (probably more the case). I am currently mocking up a monogram of "fake it till you make it" that we may or may not be tattooing on our arms for future reference.

I made a morning trip to Mecca:

where I purchased three (3) trashy historical romances and one (1) Russian classic, and where I also came upon this gem of a judgement:
I do love it when a bookstore doesn't sugar coat things. I also love the variable meanings of words. I do not love Jane Austen pastiche, though, and so my three (3) THR's were not of the JA variety. Just so you know.

A hop, skip, jump, and 2 traffic lights down the street from Powells is Knit/Purl, the Portland knitting store of which I have heard so much. Here's a shot of the inside:
That's pretty much the whole store, although there is a basement level that I believe is for teaching classes. I didn't go down there, so I don't know. What I DO know is that the same person who owns Knit/Purl is also responsible for Shibui Knits, and that I love her color sense. I also know that while I left footprints and took pictures, they weren't the only thing to come home with me; I also managed to escape with an Ivy League Vest and Anemoi mittens-worth of Shibui sock yarn and a copy of Alice Starmore's Book of Fair Isle Knitting, all of which I justified by using many logical fallacies but am still quite pleased by. I've decided that if I am to be a teacher, I'd rather wear stranded vests than blazers, and since I have never been a big fan of vests, I should probably start working on my collection. And if I am going to attempt another stranded project, I should probably start with something small. Thus, the mittens. See how I'm not just jumping in the deep end of fair isle knitting here? Acknowledge and appreciate my growth, reader.

Unfortunately, I managed to get a sore throat and headache the day I was supposed to go see Malia and her gorgeous boys, and while I desperately want to see Liam while he's just a little guy, I also don't want to do it at the expense of my friend's health - especially when she's got a 5-month-old baby who would likely also get sick. So instead I stayed in Shannon's apartment, reading books and watching TV and bemoaning my cruel, cruel fate.

Speaking of bemoaning, I think I'll toddle off and do some more homework. This accelerated teaching program is awesome because it's so fast, but shit in terms of how much stuff I have to do all the time! I guess it's good training for being an English teacher, though...

11 November, 2009

Love Fest

Quick update before I crash gratefully into my own bed with my own cat, who takes up almost as much room as Shannon despite weighing at LEAST 15 pounds less than she does:

Eleven Things I Love:
1. Portland.
2. Shannon loved her scarf enough to wear it the entire time I was in town. Also, it looks awesome on her. I am a color-choosing genius.
3. The Ivy League Vest-worth of Shibui Knits sock yarn I bought at Knit/Purl.
4. Knit/Purl is about a 2-minute walk from Powell's Books.
5. My bed.
6. Friends who are grateful instead of offended if I can't come baby-snuggling because I am developing a cold.
7. Friends who go out of their way to see me, even unto taking my sorry ass to the airport so we can gab on the car ride.
8. Suphedrine. The good kind from behind the pharmacy counter, weighing in at 120mg.
9. Breathing.
10. Old friends who just KNOW me.
11. My bed.

Pictures, stories, etc. are coming. Depending on how much procrastinating I do tomorrow, perhaps sooner than later. Did I say that out loud if I just typed it?

05 November, 2009

Still On The Run

If your name begins with an S and ends with -hannon, you need to stop reading this RIGHT NOW. Come back after you've received your birthday present which is pictured here and would thus spoil the surprise I have worked so hard to create. Also, happy birthday!

Okay, now that she's gone, I can tell the rest of you about what's been going on lately. I finished the Vanilla Rib Socks and then plowed through Anne Hanson's Elm Row scarf for the above-mentioned birthday girl. Apparently I am one of those knitters who likes to give things away because I'm constantly putting off my own projects in favor of those for someone else. This is not, however, a bad thing. I have wonderful friends who deserve to be wrapped in beautiful things, and if those things come from my hands, all the better.

For Shann's scarf, I pulled out the Panda Wool that I got from Jasmin and Gigi's very first goodie bag back at Stitches '09. Yes, you heard me right - I didn't even go buy anything! In fact, to tangentialize for a minute, I haven't bought yarn since the game-changing trip to Babetta's with my mom back in September. Well, I did buy an extra skein of Malabrigo Lace so I can finish up the Very Happy Scarf, but that's because I didn't have enough yarn to finish the project. And I'd like to point out tangentially (of course) that I started the project originally with what should have been plenty of yarn. Damn those inaccurate yardage requirements in VLT!! But anyway, I haven't bought yarn since mid-September. That's nearly 8 weeks, people! And in that time I've been to Lambtown, the CogKNITive Fiber Retreat and sundry other yarny places. Obviously I am awesome and have the proverbial Will of Iron.

Okay, back to the real point. The yarn I used is Crystal Palace Panda Wool in Ultramarine, and while I like the pattern - it was interesting to knit and I never got bored, which is a good thing for a scarf! - it is really the color that just makes this piece. The yarn is 51% bamboo, which adds sheen in addition to drape, and I am in lurve with the whole thing. Feast your eyes on this fairly color-accurate and also fairly artistic blocking shot:

Yep. It's a great color.
Underwater Trees Scarf, "Elm Row" pattern by Anne Hanson Panda Wool "Ultramarine" - 386 yds.

Currently I'm finishing up a Pretty Thing for another friend, and also working feverishly on a scarf for myself - having been informed today that the weather in Portland is not 70 degrees and sunny with a slight breeze like it is in Roseville. And also having left my favorite purple scarf at Crazy Sarah's last... was it New Years? Dang! But yea, I haven't needed one since then, and I obviously need one now. I'm using the same pattern as the purple one (Rav link), but I think I will crochet chain the edges so the scarf doesn't stretch as much as the last one. For this project I broke out the Noro Cash Iroha that I bought at the Commuknity closing sale last year. This is the only Noro I've ever encountered that feels like its price point to me, and I'm liking it immensely. Now I just have to finish about 3 more feet before the end of the day...

I spent Halloween weekend with my mom up in Penn Valley and we had a lovely time watching Firefly and crafting. I took the opportunity to photograph Violet nee Jezebel, whose recovery from her former abusive situation is, as previously titled, progressing apace.
I love the China blue of her eyes, especially against the quilt my mom made. Doesn't she look less... vacant than last time? I do think, however, that she's progressed about as far as she will be able to without being in a one-cat household. Poor dear is still afraid of the other kitties and slinks around as if she's about to be kicked. But when I picked her up and put her on my bed, she purred next to my face all night and followed me around for the rest of my time up there. If I weren't certain that she'd be bullied by my own precious feline, I would have brought her home with me, especially after she chased another one of our cats away from me in a fit of ownership. Honestly, who could resist that little face?

Here's another little face for you to not resist: