Archive for November, 2008

When stored in ziploc bags, powdered sugar looks like cocaine for giants.

Here we go, Thanksgiving is here and, God help us, we are plummeting toward Christmas at an alarming speed.  I am officially in a panic over all the projects I’ve started and now must finish by the big day, and DID I MENTION THAT IT’S ALREADY THANKSGIVING FOR PETE’S SAKE?  Holy crap.

So, what’s a girl to do?  Make homemade marshmallows and pumpkin souffle, of course!  Now, I know, that’s probably not the best use of our time, but I needed to reward myself for finishing a produce bag!  Yes, that’s right, one completed bag, only 3 more to go to meet my newly lowered goal of one per couple.  Here’s a pic:

apple-bag

So, now that I’m done with that, on to the SWEETS!  First, the marshmallows, which were so ridiculously easy and came out so freaking cute that a Jet Puff will never pass through my lips again (lies, I will definitely eat Jet Puff again, but these were better). 

I got my recipe from here (thanks Angry Chicken!) and made it just like they said, except that I do not now, and most likely never will, have a candy thermometer, so I boiled it for about a minute or so to make sure it was hot enough (approximately the temperature of the surface of the sun, I think is right for any candy-making activities).  Hot, molten sugar stuff always freaks me out a little, but we made it through with 0 visits to the burn unit, so I feel pretty successful on that front.  Anyway, so you boil the sugar, water and cornstarch, mix it with some gelatin and whip it for A LONG TIME, until it starts flinging strands of marshmallow fluff all over your sweater.  Then you spread it in a buttered and powdered sugared 9×13 pan and leave it out overnight.  I was too impatient to wait until after work today to turn them out and cut them, so I went home at lunch and did it.  Everyone needs to make these.  Next time, I will double the recipe and put it all into the pan so that I can have thicker mallows, but these are just fine.  And, a magical thing happens to homemade marshmallows on hot chocolate.  They melt into an inch of thick marshmallowy foam.  I know. 

You better wipe up that drool before your keyboard shorts out.

marshmallows1

So the last recipe we tried out last night was a Pumpkin Souffle that we saw on a Martha Stewart Podcast.  We’ve now watched every single one of these and are thoroughly impressed (as always) at Martha’s mad skills.  The Pumpkin Souffle was a recipe from Todd English and it was extremely complicated.  This one was definitely David’s project because it had way to many steps for me to handle.  It was crazy.  The usual magic occurred in the oven and the souffles just popped right up like those cartoon top-hats.  They came out beautifully and may be the prettiest dish ever made in our kitchen.  Dusted with a bit of powdered sugar, they were picture perfect, see?

pumpkin-souffle

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Attend the tale of produce bags…

Here I am!  Gosh, I haven’t really done anything blog-worthy lately, but last night, I did start a project: produce bags for the family Christmas gifts.  I thought to myself, “With all those holes and these gigantic size 13 needles, I’ll be able to make 1 bag every night!”  Oh how very wrong I was.  I’m using a fishnet stocking stitch pattern (increased sex appeal) with natural cotton yarn and it is seriously taking FOREVER.  I think I might try my hand at crocheting the next one—that seems faster.  My plan was to put 2 produce bags in each large grocery bag, but, in the light of recent events, that plan has been amended until further notice or significant fishnet improvement on my part. 

 

The stitch pattern is so simple that I’m embarrassed to even write it since it’s only 2 rows long, but whatever, here it is: Cast on an odd number (in the pattern I saw, by the way, they said “an even number +1.”  That is an ODD NUMBER, PEOPLE!).  Knit a few rows to get started, then K2tog, YO across one row and knit the last stitch, purl the next row.  That’s it!  The resulting pattern is surprising because it looks pretty complex to me.  I think it’s just the big needles, though, since you can see every stitch.  I’m pretty much doing a rectangle, then seaming up the long sides and adding a I-cord drawstring at the top.  Sounds simple, right?  That’s what I thought, too; see above for annoying reality check. 

Also,  in the non-crafting, but still awesome category, guess who scored free tickets to see Sweeny Todd on Friday?  Me and David!  So I had to go out and buy a new ruffly purple skirt just for the occasion!  Will post pictures the next time I smuggle the camera to work.

You complete me.

I am now complete. My one, lonely leg warmer has a friend, thanks to my totally not passive-aggressive darling friend Jillian. According to Donnie, I am enjoying the leg warmers a little too much. I still don’t think there is anything weird about wearing leg warmers all day and sleeping in them at night…That seems completely normal to me.

Yes! They are finished.

Yes! They are finished.

Although we have had many conversations weighing the pros and cons (are there any cons?) of leg warmers, I am still steadfast in my opinion that they are totally cool and totally functional and necessary for someone who hates the cold as much as I do.

So, thank you, Jillian, from the bottom of my heart (Just don’t expect any thanks from Donnie).

Our Perfect Bread: Pt. 1

Baking bread was not a common activity in my house while I was growing up.  Baking in general was pretty rare, except for Christmas cookies and box mixes for birthday cakes (burning childhood question: what is funfetti made of and why is it so freaking good??), so most of the things that I bake from scratch turn out slightly amiss.  Understandably, getting into the habit of making our own bread has been a huge learning experience for both of us and, while we have soundly botched one recipe, we’ve had surprisingly great results with the rest!  It is such a magical process-just when you think that little lump of dough cannot possibly get any larger, you put it in the oven and it doubles again!  Maxwell and I just sit in front of the oven door and stare at it. Maybe I should be more embarrassed about that…

I don’t think we have quite made the perfect loaf yet, but Raven’s dad says that it’s all about tweaking a single recipe until you get Your Perfect Bread.  I think last weekend’s recipe will be the one we stick with for a while.  David found it in a cookbook we purchased at the half-price bookstore (same place we got the Children’s Classics), but I can’t find it on Amazon, so I may update this post with the recipe this weekend. 

 

I say all this because I think we are committing to becoming homemade bread people.  Because we are making this commitment, I will probably be blogging about it pretty regularly and it’s my responsibility to prepare you for that.  Hopefully I will not be tagging these entries as “Mistake.” 

 

I leave you with very homey and comforting images of David, kneading the dough.  (I can’t knead for very long because my arms get too tired, so I punk out and start taking pictures instead). 

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In-which-the-hyphen-is-grossly-over-used

Okay, I know I said we were doing an all hand-made Christmas, but did you really think that included my delightful baby niece, Ellie?  Of course not!  She is brand new to this world and is therefore in need of startling amounts of store-bought goods which I will not deny her.  I will grant you that most of said goods will be purchased by the Rich-in-Comparison-to-Us grandparents, who I am sure will lavish many Brand Name (not from Target) items on her tiny self.  Lucky girl!  Anyway, I’m suffering from the buy-stuff-for-Ellie-fever in the worst way, so I had to take action last weekend.  Here’s what I bought:

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I realize that she is only 2 ½ months old and that is too young for chapter books, but how could I resist?? They are in 1950’s RAINBOW COLORS, for pete’s sake, and included in this set are HEIDI (not in picture-already being read) and BLACK BEAUTY!  And, as if price matters when faced with such perfection, the entire set was only $10!  If only I could capitalize those numbers so that they could communicate my unreasonable and manic joy!  You are now realizing that if my genes traveled to Ellie in any way, she is going to be slightly messed up.   Oh, and that other rings-on-the-stick-thing?  A total impulse buy for which I stood in a 10 minute line.  But it’s cute and wooden and I hadn’t found the Children’s Classics yet, so I was feeling desperate.

 

Luckily, Christmas is sort of a long way off, so I get to read through some of my favorites before I have to part with them.  That’s the beauty of vintage, friends: they’ve already been used, so I can enjoy them guilt-free until I pass them on!

Distance learning

Winter is upon us.  I know this because: (1) my coworker saw a snowflake, (2) I am now driving to and from work in the dark, (3) the car keeps telling me that the roads might be icy.  These are sure signs that winter is here, but how can this be??  We were just complaining about the heat!  We were just bitter about sweating through our new fall cardigans!  Now, it’s time to put away all cotton skirts and tank tops and replace them with wool sweaters and corduroys.  Oh well, it was bound to happen sooner or later, and I suppose that winter has more to offer than just gray misery and the occasional holiday.  Like soup, for example.  Soup is a healing balm to my seasonal depressive disorder.  For some reason, it tastes so much better to me when it’s cold out than in the heat of the summer months.   So I made the first chicken noodle soup of the season last night and it was the best we’ve had in months. 

 

When I first got married, I would call my mom, name off every item in my fridge, freezer and pantry and then ask, “So what can I make with that?”  She would then walk me through the process of cooking dinner.  And that’s how I learned to cook.  Would it have been easier had I paid attention to what she was doing while I still lived at home? Probably, but these cell phone cooking classes gave me a concrete way to stay connected to my home and family, even though they were hundreds of miles away.  Over the years, Mom has taught me to make spaghetti sauce, lasagna, burgers, baked apples, meatloaf, alfredo sauce, chili, every chicken dish under the sun and dozens more quick throw-together meals, but the one that reminds me of my mom the most is chicken soup.  My mom usually made it with tortellini and I think she’d throw in some spinach and stir in a scrambled egg. 

 

So, just in case your mom never taught you to make chicken noodle soup, here’s our basic recipe.

 

dsc009432 boxes of chicken stock (I use Swanson Organic)

1lb of chicken breasts (boneless, skinless, of course)

4 or 5 stalks of celery (cut into smiles)

4 or 5 carrots, cut into rounds

1 onion (roughly chopped)

1 or 2 cloves of garlic (minced)

Some pasta (egg noodles, tortellini, alphabets, whatever) I usually use ½ of a box, or a whole bag of the Barilla tortellini.

1 bay leaf

More salt and pepper than you’d think

Seasonings and Spices to fix up your stock (parsley, onion powder, celery salt, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, whatever else you think it needs—experiment!)

Little bit of olive oil or butter, for sautéing your veggies

 

Cut up all your vegetables, small enough so they’ll fit into a spoon with other stuff.  Cover the bottom of your soup pot with olive oil on medium heat and sauté your onions and garlic until the onions are translucent.  Add in your carrots and celery and sauté for a little while, until they’ve softened a bit (add some salt, it will speed up the process), then dump in all your stock, add your bay leaf and any other seasonings your stock needs to make it taste homemade.  Bring this to a boil and let it go for about 15 minutes.

 

Turn it down until it is no longer boiling and add your chicken breasts.  I have tried dicing them up before adding them to save time, but it really is better if you add them whole, then break them up later—they don’t dry out and they look more chicken-y, if you know what I mean.  The chicken hardly takes any time at all to cook through—less than 10 minutes usually, but once they’re cooked, take them out with a slotted spoon and put them to the side.  Bring the soup back up to a boil and add your pasta.  Let that boil for as long as the package says.

 

While that is boiling, break up your chicken with your hands (if you have bionic, heat resistant hands like my mom) or with a fork.  Once the pasta is done, reduce the temp so the water is no longer boiling and add the chicken.  Season it up and serve it with some crusty bread for dipping!

 

This will make enough to feed an army, but it freezes so perfectly that you’ll swear it’s better the second (or third, or fourth) time around. 

 

Oh, and if you have any problems at all, just call my mom, she has all the answers!

One leg is still freezing.

This is what Wikipedia (oh, I love you) tells me about passive-aggressive behavior. I have added some thoughts in bold.

One leg warmer

One leg warmer

Passive-aggressive behavior refers to passive, sometimes obstructionist resistance to following through with expectations in interpersonal or occupational situations. It can manifest itself as learned helplessness, procrastination, stubbornness, resentment, sullenness, or deliberate/repeated failure to accomplish requested tasks for which one is (often explicitly) responsible. It is a defense mechanism, and (more often than not) only partly conscious. For example, suppose someone does not wish to attend a party (OR NOT COMPLETING A PAIR OF LEG WARMERS). A passive-aggressive response in that situation might involve taking so long to get ready that the party is nearly over by the time they arrive (OR NOT FINISHING THE LEG WARMERS UNTIL THE SPRING).

Just some food for thought.