Sunday, January 25, 2009

Manic Sunday

Feeling grumpy and sick. Sick of being positive. I don't really like it, you know. I woke up and stretched and something happened to my neck/shoulder and it really hurts. Been in bed all day long. The good thing is I went through all my depressing bills and paperwork yesterday. Two big bags of shredded crap you don't need is something that makes me smile everytime I walk past. My asshole upstairs neighbor is pissing me off with loud music night and day. I don't need to know about "White Lies" and how they go away. Ugh. I'm going back to bed. Oh wait, I can't. The fucking music is too damn loud!

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Amish Friendship Bread

What a scam! I've been doing research on this topic all morning and have found myself laughing in disbelief. To be fair, I am a trained pastry chef. Fermented foods are not magic to me. Starters are not mysterious. Though I don't have an in-depth knowledge of starters, I know where to find reliable information to answer immediate questions I have. (I was never a baker. There is a BIG difference!) So, J gave me a mini-loaf of Amish Friendship bread, a bag of starter and an instruction sheet. The first thing I noticed was that there is a "box of instant vanilla pudding" on the recipe list for the finished bread. What the hell? Since when do the Amish recommend using a box of instant pudding. "Pa, hitch up the buggy. I ran out of instant pudding. Go on out to the fields and see if you can dig up any instant pudding tubers from last year!" I cannot take it. The whole purpose of making something at home is so you can use simpler ingredients. The only time I use FD&C yellow no.5 is when I'm coloring icing. What is the point of adding that to my baked bread. None. Next, the whole "Day 5/Day 10" thing. If a starter has been going for a while, then there is no day 1 or day 10. It's every 5 days or so. Logistically, what's the difference if you bake on day 5 or day 10, besides the fact that you are using up more starter when you bake? It seems silly to me.
Step 1: Find a recipe that doesn't use that vile concoction.
Step 2: Figure out how to keep the starter alive while also not making a gallon at a time.
Step 3: Eat my loaf!

Well, I've found a few pudding-free recipes that I will try, and after researching starters, have decided to feed my starter every 7 days, and bake on Saturdays. I don't believe that the starter needs to be fed in between using it. Once you add new stuff to it, you've just diluted the flavor of lactic and acetic acid created by the lactobacilli who are feeding on the metabolism products of the yeast. Another thing that bugs me is why would I feed it when I'm about to use it? It is, in essence, a flavoring. More than one person has come to the conclusion that the starter in this recipe could be replaced by buttermilk, another acidic liquid. I will try my new strategy, using up all my starter from today, save for 1 cup to give to a co-worker who is interested, and 1 cup to perpetuate in my lab, er, kitchen. Lastly, for those who wonder about the baking soda vs. baking powder thing; the baking soda is effective at leavening acidic mixtures containing such ingredients as buttermilk, molasses, lemon juice, yogurt, and cocoa. Baking powder is used when the base is more neutral, such as a pound cake, yellow cake, banana bread, etc. Keep this in mind when looking over prospective recipes.

Oh my goodness! I'm still going on about this damn bread! I read somewhere that the baking soda would neutralize the acid, thus making it flavorless. I had my doubts, so I tried a simple experiment. I put some vinegar in a cup, and added baking soda, a pinch at a time. After the first pinch, the acid flavor was definitely reduced. After a while, all I could taste was baking soda (salty) flavor, not acid at all. There must be a fine line between optimal leavening power and flavor reduction. I will look into that...

She is finished! A shining, scented, bundt cake of an Amish Friendship Bread. The finished product surpassed my expectations! (To be fair, I haven't tasted it yet.) The cake was level when I took it out. It did not sink, like many have experienced. It smells so #*@&!^% good, I want to stick my nose in it and breathe it in all day long! Can't wait to eat!

Friday, January 23, 2009

National Pie Day

Happy National Pie Day! It's a little depressing that the s'MACdown kind of sidetracked me and I was not prepared for the email reminder from my calendar that today is Pie Day. In years past, my family has gathered to join in the revelry of pie eating and original pie literature. (No, you cannot eat until you say some words about pie!) It's always been a smashing success, when I can pull it off, but it's a lot of hard work and takes about three days of preparation. Most times, there are about 9 different pies involved, just from my kitchen! The goal is to have appetizer pies, main course pies, and dessert pies. Pies can be made of filo dough, puff pastry, and pie dough. We use the term "pie" loosely, but not so loosely to say that pizza is a pie. It is not. Turnovers can be pies; they are more like the original pies. Also, I try to make an assortment of dessert pies. Fruit pies, cream pies, custard pies, chocolate pies, nut pies; all are represented. This year, Pie Day is a tad overlooked in my house. :( If I don't babysit tonight, I will have a mini pie day. And I might add, DH HATES pie. There are only two pies he will eat, pot pie and shepherd's pie, lite on the veg. What spirit mocks me so to give me a husband who abhors pie and dessert and vegetables? Ahh, such is the mystery of life. We've been working on muffins, though, and he's becoming more flexible about them. It makes me happy.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

All Mac'd out

So, we didn't win, but that's OK! We looked good, ate well, and met new people. What more is there? The place was a bit of mayhem, and I never really go to Brooklyn, but the impression I got was the general attitude is everybody has come from somewhere else in the country and now that they are New Yorkers, they're too cool to talk to people. There was a trend of having a blank, forlorn expression when looking out into the crowd. J and I are SO the opposite. We smile, are friendly and like to talk to everyone. We felt like we stuck out like sore thumbs with our corsets and macaroni earrings! I guess pink mohair and green reptile are not in fashion at this time in that section of Williamsburg. To be fair, there were some people who were friendly and commented on J's fabulous macaroni jewelery, and I do have phobia of not looking cool and being an outsider when I go to new places, so some of it may have been in my head, but no matter. It's just not the type of place I'm used to going. Had there been drag queens...

Anyway, there was a ton of great macaroni to eat and some bland macaroni. To be fair, ours wasn't the best. We did like the one that ultimately won, a concoction called "Sweet Cheezus." Our most fav, though, had Gruyere cheese in it. The two main problems I had with our entry were that the color was not as appetizing as it could have been. Next time, I'm reaching for the annatto. The other thing is we were so unsure of how many people would be there that we overestimated the amount of macaroni to use, and because we are broke, underestimated the amount of cheese sauce we would need. To make it clear, our macaroni and cheese was on the dry side, not hot and gooey and bubbly, like I had envisioned it. Everything else worked, though, and it had a nice bite to it from the mustard and the cayenne pepper. We only went through one tray, so we took the other one home, divied it up and will have it for lunch. This is not the last time the s'MACdown will hear from us!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Competition Time!

So...I'm very excited! J and I are going to be in a Mac and Cheese cook off on Wednesday called, get this, the s'MACdown! We are competing with Welsh Rarebit Mac and Cheese. (Note: This is a dish I scarcely heard of, never mind cooked in my years on this earth. I hear people eat it in bars, and found it when I was looking up fondue mac and cheese, another variation I'd be happy to chow down on.) I've been debating what shape pasta is best for mac and cheese, but have come up empty handed. I saw some campanula-shaped pasta (bells) that looked good. I am very picky when it comes to pasta shapes. I absolutely do not like shells, despising the way that they cup each other to become thick, toothy pasta blobs. Bowties are ok, but I don't like the way they lay flat on one another. Elbows are good, but i don't like small pasta for mac and cheese. I feel like they should be bigger. I will be looking for larger elbows and frilly bell thingys. Good luck to me. (I really wanted to find rabbit-shaped pasta so I could call it "Welsh Rabbit" and it would be funny, but it's short notice to find rabbit pasta before Valentine's Day, locally.) They will be cooked tomorrow, and kept in the fridge to cut down on prep time on Wednesday. J is coming over so we can prep everything, so Wednesday, all I have to do is throw it all together and put it in the oven. I know there will be dry mustard and sweet Hungarian paprika, and I never put paprika in anything without a generous dash of cayenne pepper, to spice it up a bit. There will be bacon, too. Not fancy bacon, but crispy crunchy well-done bacon. There will also be beer, however, the jury is out on which kind, though Guinness is probably a no go, since it will affect the color of the dish in a not-so-positive way. Lastly is cheese. Oh the cheese. There are a zillion different cheeses I can go with. My criteria is pretty simple. It must be easy to find, affordable and taste good. Having something to do with the motherland would be nice, too.

As for the cheese part, my greatest fear (when making cheese sauce) is that the cheese will break. There is not much that can break my heart deeper than broken cheese. I can fix cake, improvise, improve, adapt. I can make gravy, roast chicken, barbeque a turkey, but to date, have NEVER been able to make a velvety smooth cheese sauce. Once it breaks, there is not much to fix it. I'd rather break a custard than break a cheese sauce! There is much research to do these next two days...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Still Going Strong

Well, it's day three of my cleaning up weekend, and I'm still going strong. All the dishes are clean, the refrigerator is cleaned up and out, and I made dinner AND dessert. (2nd attempt at pork-fried-rice, better than first, but must use day-old rice. Made Chocolate Bundt Cake with a tad bit of ginger that was barely detectable to DH. I just kept smiling when he asked me what was in it. Oh, and I bought a plastic cake saver container, so I don't have to wrap up my cakes in loads of plastic wrap and have forsaken paper plates, even though my DH isn't aware, yet.) J and I went to BJs and stocked up on essentials. Yes, chocolate chips are essentials in my household, as well as cocoa and 8 pounds of butter. Also, I made two meatloaves and a gallon ziploc of meatballs to freeze as well as a bunch of breakfast sausage patties from the log of Jimmy Dean sausage. I can't wait to eat sausage omelettes! My mom helped me (through a three-hour conversation) to figure out what to do with the stack of papers and junk in my bedroom, I clipped three magazines and organized the clippings (which, to be fair, was easy because I already started a fancy plastic accordion file folder a few months ago), sorted through important papers that I have no idea about, printed out my yearly free credit reports, and am meeting with my stepmom next week to go over my financial mess of a life. Still haven't finished my paper, though. Today is do or die. I will try to do laundry, clean the kitchen and write my paper, so I can finally knit the sleeves on my sweater. Bye for now!

Here is the view from my window. It's snowy out there!

Well, I have citrus chicken in the Romertopf and I can't wait to eat it! I looked into visualization as a method for healing myself and think I should try. After all, when all is said and done it's pretty much free and you do it to yourself. I don't necessarily believe that you can do it wrong; people have been doing it since the dawn of civilization. I don't need technology, ok, maybe a tape recorder, but I don't think I need a CD or pay for someone to prescribe a method to me.

Tonight I worked a little bit on a visualization sequence to record for myself. I'm prescribing twice a day, once upon awakening and once when I lay down for bed. I will also add in 5 minutes of breathing meditation when I get home from work. I believe this will fix me up. I know everyone believes it's in my head, and if I created it, I can destroy it! I based it on the one I found on this website, but modified it to fit me better. I know little about the human body and how it works, so I've decided to invent my own picture of how it works.

Basically, the oxygen will act like scrubbing bubbles in my body and clean out whatever it is that is hurting, like inflammation or arthritis or whatever. Then, when it has come all the way around, it will be expelled along with carbon dioxide through my mouth. It will also help me remember that each day is new, and each night is time for rest, and that the days before do not matter. (Almost like what the Dog Whisperer says!)

So, I'm not the "type" of person who is spiritual or believes in anything except that I will never know what lies ahead until I get there, and when I get there, I won't be me like I am now so me, as in the ME who is writing this, will never know, and I don't care to know because I still have to go to work tomorrow and I still have to eat dinner and feed the cats and pay my bills, but because it doesn't seem like anyone has the resources or inclination to help me who is covered by my health plan, self-guided visualization imagery therapy seems to be what I really think will finally work for me. I just better be careful not to think about babies! (Gasp!)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Let's Get the Ball Rolling!

It's still before 10, and I've actually accomplished a lot already. I know what you're thinking, that's not like me at all! Seriously. I'm trying very hard to adhere to the Nike slogan in life. It's time for a short break, and I'm happy to report, I'm spending it here, updating. I don't like working. It interferes with my life. In any case, it's been so busy, I haven't had time to do anything, never mind, blog about it. Unless you want to hear about autism. But this isn't an autism blog, it's a knitting blog, and I have called off the entire sweater project until I get my ass is gear with all the responsibilities that have been piling up on the back burner and are ready to boil over. Since this is primarily a knitting blog, we won't go into details; suffice to say that I will know in the coming week if I am going to school this semester. My life has been laissez-faire lately, and the trust that everything will work out without my intervention has bottomed out. I don't expect this pro-active change in outlook to last, but if I can keep it up for another week, I'll be in a good place. I wrote a list, and those of you who know me know I'm infamous for writing lists, but I'm actually crossing things off of it! It's a miracle!

I only have a few minutes until I have to go back to work, however, I think it important to talk about cha-cha. One cannot think about cha-cha and not think abou cocktails. I WILL have a retro cocktail party one day, complete with cheesy cha-cha renditions of old standbys. I LOVE my cha-cha records! It's like I am Holly Golightly, except I am not married to an old guy, and don't have a cat named Cat anymore, and I never was a hillbilly. Oh well. 10 o'clock, baby. Time to get back to work...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

That New Old Album Smell

I just got my cha-cha records that I won on eBay. I love the smell of old records. That musty, thrify-shoppy, smell reminds me of good times. I'll probably listen to them while cleaning up tomorrow. I've been grumpy all week, though I heard on the radio that the first week after the Christmas holiday can be the most stressful of the year. In any case, I survived. Today it snowed, and I deemed it a pajama day. I'm almost done with the body of my sweater; row 70 right now. It probably needs another 3 inches or so. I'm very excited!

I've been so snacky all day. That's what happens on pajama day. I made a coconut custard pie today, and last night, I made hubby marble cake from a (gasp) box mix. I know, I know, but he was going to get an Entenmann's cake, until he saw it was almost 6 bucks! The box mix has the same crap in it, but costs about 2/3 less. I don't mind baking it. We've been doing good team work lately, so I was happy to do it with him. (Also, the pie crust is from a Jiffy mix. I just adore the blue box and the price. AND, it has lard in it. Lard=good, it's only one step away from bacon!)Tomorrow, I might make a peach brown betty. I'm trying to clean out the cabinets and the freezer of all the bizzare items I indulge in through the year. Ghee, tahini, frozen bananas, dried blueberries, candied ginger, granola, banilla yogurt. You get the idea.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Where's that Damn Fat Lady!

It's still Thursday. Maybe she will sing tomorrow. I'm tired of working. I'm just tired. Been knitting my sweater. It's probably 35% done. I did the yoke and about 1/2 of the body. I'm using Russian joins to join new thread. It's awesome! You just thread a sharp needle, and sew each end of yarn back on itself to create one strand. You can hardly see it! I've been knitting until it's almost done and joining wherever it ends up. (I have a secret fear of running out of yarn for this project. If it has 3/4 length bell sleeves, tears will be shed.) Almost finished with my kitty blankie, but one ear looks smaller than the other, and I'm completely out of yarn. I can't handle it and there's no solution in sight. It's waiting for divine intervention.

My drum carder has arrived. She is beautiful, shiny and ready to roll. I feel like I have post-partum depression, except I haven't given birth. I have a new addition to my tool arsenal, and my expectations of it and myself have exceeded reality. I want to love it and hug it and kiss it and tell everyone about it, but I'm deeply ashamed and embarrassed that I have no idea what to do with it. It's loaded up with mohair that won't come off in a batt and will have to be picked out in tiny pieces. What have I done? I'm going to try to play with it this weekend and see if I can be even mildly successful. It's possible I should have used wool instead of a luxury fiber to start with. Always running before I walk. Ain't that the story of my life?

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Been blah today. Blah days usually end up in some cleaning, which is good. I took the sheep off the floor in my bedroom and was surprised there is still a rug there! I can see the light! Mostly obsessively knitting my sweater and doing some plotting and planning with my Rav friends. That's about all. Just posted to keep this updated. Oh, and I dyed some roving. Speaking of which, what color did it turn out? Food coloring is so mysterious!

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Final Days Are Here...

Here is the before of Lamb's Pride Bulky: Here is the after:
Left to Right: Gray fleece, Merino roving, Mohair fleece
Good Morning!  It's a lovely thing to wake up to an exhausted dyebath.  Whew!  I was wondering how much more fiber I was going to have to  put in the damn thing.  The Lamb's Pride Bulky dried OK.  It's more emerald than turquoise.  Maybe it wants to be a hat or a neckwarmer.  I don't know-if I don't use it up, it will get destashed.  What I learned is that a color that saturated is not worth messing around with. It was hard to destash it, though, because it's wool! The gray fleece dried nicely, save for the fact there so much dirt and VM in it.  The picture isn't so good. It's still a winey-burgundy. I think I call it "Bordeaux Stain." It's like someone spilled wine on it. I might have to comb it to get it to submit.  Merino roving, STUPENDOUS!  I'm loving it!  It's almost identical to a favorite mohair roving of mine.   The dyes separated and made lilac and blue.  Maybe "Arucana," after the "Easter Egg Chicken." I love a nice surprise.  Lastly, the mohair fleece took up the leftover blue nicely, though it, also, is very dirty. I will call it "SnowDrift" Here Kitty Kitty Kitty Kitty.  Come and play with mommy!

Vacation is winding down.  I really do have to finish my paper before Monday.  Blech.
Here's my Baby Cables and Big Ones, Too. She's coming along well, though I'm not completely sold on the variegated yarn. I'll have to see what it looks like when finished, in some good light. Worst case scenario, I'll overdye gray. No biggie. It still is yarn from my stash, any way you slice it! I've made a few minor mistakes that I know of so far, but nothing catastrophic. I'm on Round 48 and it's been two days. Of course I've been knitting obsessively, seeing as I only have two more days left until vacation ends. We'll see what happens. I'd like to at least separate the sleeves and work on the body by Monday. Besides, that's when Kitten is supposed to arrive. Wouldn't want her to get lonely the first few days here, now would we?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Lazy and ambitious.  Can those things go together?  Today I stayed home and started on my New Year's Sweater.  I'm very excited.  It's Baby Cables and Big Ones, too.  It's a top down yoked sweater with disappearing cabled.  The yoke is in garter stitch and the body is stockingette.  It was so awesome to finish the first cable in one day!  I have a loooong way to go, but am off to a great start.   I also dyed some stuff today.   I had some Lamb's Pride Bulky (no wonder I liked it, the mohair was calling to me!)  in a tuquoise color.  Not my fave.  I overdyed in the kettle with royal blue food coloring and yellow food coloring to mix it up a little bit.  I can't do the solid color thing anymore!  I want to paint the world!!!  Well, I wasn't too satisfied with the Lion's Pride, so I was toying with the idea of mixing up some serious blue and trying again, or saddening the color with a little orange.  We'll see when it dries.  It's very close to the original color to me.  I should have saved a piece to compare, but I took a picture.  (You know how great my pictures are!)  Before I messed with the dyebath, which was not exhausted,  I decided to throw some gray fleece in.  The color didn't show up, and the yellowed tips turned green.  Then I threw caution to the wind and added most of the leftover fuschia Lanaset mix from the other day, hoping to get a burgundy color.  Success!  I got a purpley-winey color that will ply nicely with the grey/multicolor roving I'm spinning right now!  I'd like to make a cabled or fair isle vest with it.  Next on my list will be hunter green.  Lastly, because the dyebath STILL wasn't exhausted, I grabbed a length of merino roving, twisted it lightly into a "skein" and plopped that in.  The color that it started out was a variegated blue/lilac.  Very nice.  I'm going to let that cool overnight in the dyebath and check it out in the morning.  So even though I didn't leave the house, I still got a lot of stuff done!

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