Friday, December 24, 2010

Look at this awesome tea strainer!

From Limbo in Portland, Oregon, but you can buy one here.  Nice price for a lovely little item like this.  You can use it to brew tea or to strain out tea leaves when you pour from your pot.  A great gift, maybe?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Eat Like an Egyptian

While watching TV late at night I came across an episode of No Reservations where Anthony Bourdain was in Egypt.  I have to say that when I was a young child, studying ancient cultures was a hobby of mine.  Religion, myths and legends, fashion and food and drink of the ancient Greeks, Chinese, Romans and Egyptians continue to fascinate me today.  That is why when I saw Tony Bourdain eating Ful Medames, Egypt's ancient national dish, I decided that I need to find a recipe and make it for myself.

Recipes for this food vary greatly, but mostly involve simmering fava beans (also called 'broad beans'), onions, garlic, tomatoes, and various herbs and spices together in a pan.  While fava beans are a staple in the Middle East as well as Ethiopia and Greece, they are nearly impossible to find here.  I found canned fava beans at Whole Foods...but you know how I feel about canned beans.  Well, maybe you don't.  They're like cheating.  They're like telling your blind grandmother you have a royal flush in poker when you don't.  She won't know the difference, but its still wrong.  Also they don't taste as good (except for in chili where you're using 5 kinds of beans anyway, I don't expect you to cook all those beans yourself).

But I digress.  In Egypt, everyone, rich or poor eats Ful Medames (according to Wikipedia and Tony Bourdain and the recipe book), and there it is mostly a hearty breakfast dish served with a hard-boiled egg and pita.  But I'm from America, and I like to eat Lucky Charms for breakfast.  That's okay, Ful Medames makes a great dinner, too.

Links used in this post:
The recipe I used. This book seems excellent and I want to peruse it more!
Nutrition Data for Fava Beans
Wikipedia article for ful medames.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Food from a real cookbook...

The other day I bought a cookbook.  An actual hard-copy cookbook.The Borders' location nearest to us was going out of business and I don't know what came over me...Especially since the recipes can all be found online. For what its worth, if you know a vegetarian (or someone who is trying to eat healthier) who doesn't love using the internet, I'd recommend this cookbook:  Easy Everyday Vegetarian.

The first recipe I chose to cook out of this new book is Tempeh Stir-Fry with yogurt peanut sauce.  It looked and tasted lovely.  I don't cook with soy too often because sometimes it doesn't agree with me in general, but I wanted to try tempeh just this once. I didn't make any alterations to the recipe, but I think that if tempeh is too odd for you or is unavailable, tofu, chicken, peanuts, mushrooms, or shrimp would all be delicious substitutes.

An easy recipe for a healthy 2011.

What is tempeh?  Read about it over at Wikipedia.
Want to make this?  You don't really need a cookbook at all!  Tempeh Stir-Fry

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Edible Geometry.

Now you can have your Fibonacci sequence and eat it, too.
This is Romanesco.  Its a type of cauliflower that looks like it's from another planet.  I first saw it at the Portland Farmer's market a few weeks ago, but I didn't buy any because I had no idea what it was or how to cook it.  I ran into Romanesco again at Trader Joe's the last time I went shopping.  Trader Joe's version comes in a bag with regular cauliflower and in general is foolproof to prepare...And a perfect example of golden section geometry.

How's it taste?   Its a cruciferous vegetable, so its flavor is about halfway between broccoli and cauliflower (as you might guess).  Next time I'll get some to steam myself!

Getting steamy in the pan.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Gobble it up.

Turkey is a strange animal.  If done correctly, it is also a tasty animal.  I was commissioned to prepare a turkey for my neighbor this Thanksgiving, but I hardly ever cook meat.  At first I was definitely apprehensive, but after some recipe research I was ready to give this traditional holiday bird a go.  The bird turned out great, but I still have plenty of improvements to make before I'm a turkey pro.

I started with this recipe from allrecipes, which suggests brining the turkey in a saltwater solution overnight before cooking it.  The brining process allows the turkey to absorb water and results in a perfect, juicy turkey.  In an ideal world, you have a stock pot large enough to submerge the turkey, but instead I had to do half at a time.  Each side probably only got about 6 hours of brining time, but in the end it seemed like enough. Next year maybe I'll have a bigger pot.  

15 pound turkey brining.
For the stuffing, the recipe suggests stuffing the turkey with chopped carrots, celery and onion.  I found that even after cooking the turkey for 4 hours, the stuffing didn't get next year for stuffing I would probably prepare an oven-style stuffing separate from the bird.  I have heard that simply putting a halved lemon or orange inside the turkey will also keep it moist, and I'd definitely like to try that.  Cutting up all those vegetables was too much work for something I couldn't eat, even if I used the Vidalia chopper.

The prepared stuffing mix.

I made a few more changes to the recipe.  Instead of fresh thyme, I used fresh rosemary because its growing outside and it was readily available.  I also already know that I like rosemary and turkey together.  I'm not sure about thyme though I'd like to try it someday.

Cooking the turkey breast-down definitely helps keep it moist, however the recipe suggests turning the bird 3/4 of the way through.  Be prepared for this to be incredibly difficult, as turkeys tend to be heavy.  We accomplished it somehow.  I also removed the stuffing and  turned the oven up to 400 for the last 20 minutes of cooking to make sure the inside was done. (I decided to do that because once I discovered the stuffing wasn't done, I was worried about the inside of the turkey may also have been undone.  I hope next year to have both a meat thermometer and a turkey baster.)

The finished bird!  I don't have any pictures of it carved, sadly.  It was very
very juicy though! 
Unfortunately I turned down the carcass at the end...I just don't have enough time right now to make turkey stock.  I did bring home a lot of extra meat, so turkey chili is in order for later this week.

Monday, November 22, 2010

New hat...and a new cat!

My latest knitting project is Super Cupcake.  Its one of the first non-free patterns I have actually finished.  The price tag for this pattern and two neckwarmer-type scarves is $5 $4.  Honestly, I think that's a little pricey for the simplicity of this pattern, which only consists of 1x1 rib and "shaker rib" which has a bunch of other names, but is also a very simple stitch to do. That being said, I do recommend putting a safety line every inch or so while knitting, because if a stitch is dropped in this pattern, it is nearly impossible to fix. I am pleased with the hat, but if I were doing it over, I would just have tried to find a similar free pattern.
At least I finished it just in time to lose my other hat...
We'd also like to welcome a gorgeous  new member to our family!  Balloon is 2 1/2 year old tortoiseshell domestic shorthair.  She's so much different from our first cat.  All cuddle and no play!  She's from Washington State, so we can forgive her for being a little weird.

No, she's not stuck in a Tron-style video game environment... she's hiding under the bed from Furball!
Balloon is a little bit of a pushover, so she's afraid of Furball, who is still hissing at her every time he passes by.  Luckily for us, she's too laid back and aloof to escalate the drama between the two in any way, so we've had no fighting or caterwauling.  She's been hiding though, which means that if we want to see her, we have to lock Furball up for a few hours so she'll come out from underneath the furniture.  Its going to take some adjustment, but we hope the two will be friends someday.

She may look chunky, but her jowls are pure fur!  

We know she's found the furrlosipher's stone...she's turning half of herself into gold!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

November comfort foods...

Last night's acorn squash was a complete improvisation -- er, I mean success.  I was certainly inspired by this:

Pioneer Woman Cooks - Sweet-Roasted Rosemary Acorn Squash
and this:  Uggh, Martha.

But in the end I mixed butter(nobody will be upset if you sub vegan margarine or olive oil) and brown sugar, used a bit of dried rosemary (I'm too lazy to go downstairs and grab the rosemary growing by the pool), salt, pepper and 1 shallot chopped coarsely.  The last time I roasted acorn squash, I only used brown sugar and butter and it was certainly delicious.  This time, however I wanted a little more flavor, and I was pleased with the results.
Note about roasting squash: A lot of recipes will have the acorn squash just cut in half so that a delicious pool of brown sugar and butter forms in the middle...that's what I did last time, and its great for dipping, but we found the process of eating it just too messy.  Its really up to you.

As a side, my own favorite quinoa with walnuts and onions.

Speaking of quinoa, this morning I made something different for breakfast:  Quinoa Porridge.  Its very good, but I never add any extras until the end of my cooking.  Heat can destroy vanilla especially.  I have heard that adding sugar affects the way grains cook(no idea if its true), so just to be safe I left that out until the end, too.  Besides, it's always better to sweeten something after you've tasted it.  Its really hearty, and great topped with thawed frozen berries.  One recipe equals about one serving, or two small ones.
Yes, I made the bowl, too.
Hey I think both of these are gluten-free, too...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fall Favorites...

Whoever told me fall isn't as nice in the Pacific Northwest as back east must have been confused...It's just as nice and much, much longer.  Up until yesterday it has been in the 60's and partly cloudy.  Its grey now but the leaves have been colorful on the trees for weeks now,and it doesn't look like they're going anywhere anytime soon.

So of course, its time for a great sweater and some fall favorite recipes.  Disclaimer:  Cooking with fresh pumpkin is not for the faint of heart.  It takes all day and gets pretty messy, even if you cheat and roast it in the microwave instead of the oven.  That being said, I definitely recommend getting the small, flavorful pie-type pumpkins rather than cooking with a large jack-o-lantern type pumpkin.  I always like to cook with my jack-o-lantern, but cooking with smaller ones bred for pies makes an incredible difference.

Last week I made one of my favorite soups:  Creamy Thai Pumpkin Soup.

This soup is great, especially if you're a fan of tom kha gai or other thai food.  Some advice, however:  If you put all the ingredients in at the beginning as the recipe suggests, it ends up rather bland.  What I will do next time is actually cook the pumpkin in the broth, then later add some crushed garlic, lemongrass, coconut milk and other ingredients (its really good if you add fresh ginger, too) right before its done cooking.  While it cools, the ingredients will flavor the soup, and you won't lose any of the boldness. Also, please try to avoid the problem I always have:  missing some of the lemongrass before I puree it, which leaves it really stringy (a note about lemongrass:  even though the recipe doesn't really mention this, you do have to remove it. It won't puree smoothly no matter how long you try).

My second favorite pumpkin recipe is the best one to share.  These Easy Pumpkin Muffins are great to take to fall potlucks, family Thanksgiving dinners, classes, meetings, or work.  People will love you, just don't tell them they take almost no effort to make.
I love the orange color that it turns when you add the pumpkin!

Follow the recipe exactly.  The batter will be thick, but don't add eggs or oil.  They don't actually need it, and if you do your muffins will end up too wet.  I've tried this with Trader Joe's baking mix as well with limited results.  I know its bad for you and blah blah blah but it is just best with a Duncan Hines mix.  Add walnuts and top them with brown sugar for a crunch.

I also made mine mini, they're better for sharing.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

October...a memorable month.

The month started of well with the discovery of  this delicious cabbage salad.
I learned how to crochet!
Tess and I made wedding cookies!
In front of the Stephen Foster Memorial.
Zach and I got married at the Zenith Vegetarian Cafe in Pittsburgh!
Halloween is my favorite holiday.  Happy birthday Dad!

Right now I'm cooking up my favorite pumpkin recipes just in time for Thanksgiving.  That, of course, means TONS OF PUMPKIN!  Today, I turned my lovely jack-o-lantern into a delicious soup.  (You have to keep it wrapped up in the fridge after Halloween if you want to cook with it.  Don't cook with one that's been on the porch for days)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I've been busy! (cookie preview)...

I've been so busy!  Right now I'm in Pittsburgh getting ready for the biggest day of my life.  I haven't had time to take pictures or post anything, but Ms. T has.  Here's her blog post, I hope you find it interesting!

The Silver Linings Saga

Monday, October 4, 2010

I'm hooked...

So many people have tried to teach me...For years I put off learning it....but here it is:  The other day, I learned how to crochet.  Sorry guys, its way, way way way way way way way way more fun than knitting.  It doesn't make me want to pull my hair out, and it goes way faster.  I still don't think its as pretty, but it has lots of advantages that I am looking forward to.

Just like my knitting, all of my crochet will probably be made out of giant yarn.   Yes, I eat a lot of Thai food.  

Using Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick that I purchased from Goodwill and a GIANT size P crochet hook, I created this scarf using the pattern 200 by John Brinegar as a guide, I made this scarf in a little over 5 hours (mostly while watching South Park).  

I've also been trying to make some dishcloths as presents for when I come home.  But they are knit, and that is dragging.  I think there was a reason I needed to branch out, and that is that I think after 5 or so years of knitting straight I've lost my mojo.  Maybe after a hiatus I'll be ready to dive back in.

Next up:  Hats.  

Friday, October 1, 2010

This salad is amazing...and cheap.

This napa cabbage salad is so amazing I just had to share it with the world immediately.  I couldn't believe how these ingredients combined to create such a fantastic, cheap, gourmet-tasting dish...and its vegan so all of your friends can enjoy.  Its not gluten-free but nothing is perfect.  Maybe if you found a crunchy replacement for the ramen?

Some changes I made:  Instead of balsamic vinegar I used red wine vinegar and a dash of rice wine vinegar.  I cut the sugar in the dressing down to about 4 tbs. For me, it was enough. I added a quick squirt of agave nectar, but I love experimenting with that stuff, just for flavor.  I added more soy sauce than it suggests, and I used the reduced-salt kind from Yamasa.  I also added a touch of black pepper to the dressing.

A lot of people in the recipe page comments section said that the napa cabbage was yucky but I disagree so I used it.  Some people said they used regular green cabbage.  I suspect that once the dressing is on, both will taste similar so if you only have access to one over the other, don't let that stop you.

For dessert:  Gas-X would be nice.

Monday, September 27, 2010

above the timberline...

One of my lifelong goals has to been to travel to the timberline, where trees will not grow.  Last Saturday, I beat the trees.  
Mt. Hood, up close and personal.
Even more personal....And approximately 7, 000 feet above sea level.

The Timberline Lodge.  Like 7 Springs + 10.
 What's it like up there?  The air is very v e r y thin.  Everything is really quiet because sound doesn't travel very well, and doing anything made me out of breath.

I don't look very happy.  Its more like I probably couldn't breathe.
The walk from the lodge to the timberline is straight up.  Do you want to recreate my experience?  Turn up your air conditioner and get on a stair stepper for about an hour and a half. Breathe into a plastic bag. 90's style clothing optional.

The photo does it no justice.  In the background you can see the high desert beyond the cascades.  The snow in the foreground is down in an enormous trench.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

You've heard of a rooftop garden...

but have you heard of an elevator garden?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The view from here...

pretty frickin' sweet.
To the East

To the North...
To the ground...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A tribute to Finland

According to my flag counter, someone Finnish has been visiting my blog. Whoever is visiting my page from Finland, come back, especially if you're a knitter!

Finnish knitting patterns are by far the best!  Here are some of my favorites:

Aili's Mittens.  A few lucky people might get these as holiday gifts!
Basilika. Somebody finally translated this into English.  If i didn't have a million other sweaters planned I'd love to make it!
Kainuun kukkalapaset.  I'm told Finnish is a hard language to learn.  No kidding. Look at all those double consonants.

Then again, with the title of this blog, maybe the Finnish person was looking for these guys:

I <3 the Bassist.

So to all my Finnish friends, enjoy your saunas, beers, and hockey.  Because I love those things, too.


It was my original desire to have a metal knitting blog.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What's good?

What a series of amazing, bizarre good luck.  Its a great week I've been having.  The best one in two years maybe?

Saturday morning our neighbor made us these:

Monte Cristo...It could probably tunnel out of prison?
The Monte Cristo is a Double-decker French toast sandwich containing ham, turkey, smoked Gouda and Swiss cheeses, fried then crisped in the oven.  Normally I avoid foods like this due to the amount of treadmill time it takes to work off the calories, but when someone offers to brunch you, it is unwise to say no.

Jesse hard at work in my kitchen working his sandwich magic.

...And yesterday I received a package.  And I'm pleased to say that this is all that is left of it:

Tart Nenas for my wedding?  

It took me 10 minutes to devour exaclty half of Ms. T's cookies and all my strength to save the other half for Zach.  

...And in case you were worried that all my great times revolve around junk food: tomorrow I have a test and an interview to work for the US Census bureau doing ongoing survey work.  And then an interview to be a volunteer at OMSI.  And then next week an interview with H&M.  And if those don't work...Walgreens?  Tomorrow I move into a new apartment.  This should be good.  I should also mention that it is one month exactly until I leave for Pittsburgh to visit friends, family, and to get legally married, and see four other people get legally married!  I can't wait, the third week in October is the best all year in Pittsburgh!  Then there's hockey season, sweater season, I could go on.................

Turn of luck?  Maybe, but I'd love to pin it on this free coffee I've been drinking from the leasing office....

Sunday, September 12, 2010

First Fall...

This month I actually finished a knitting project!  Here are the "I Love You, Chuck Taylor" Legwarmers.  I started them in green before I realized I was going to buy red boots.  But thankfully, at least my rain boots are plaid and should match nicely.  They look easy but the mini cables every four rows were MADDENING by the end.  I might make them again, as soon as I forget how much I hate to cable.  I just have one more sweater to finish (I've been working on it since July!) until X-mas knitting begins.  What does everyone want?

For lack of better things to do, I have started collecting teacups.  My collection has a few criteria:  they must be "bone china", they must be made in either England or Japan (though I have considered ones from the US before) and they must have gilded edges. Each cup with matching saucer is about 5 dollars at the Powell St. Goodwill, but they bring endless joy during tea time.  Here they wait anxiously for a future tea time with friends.  I think I'll look for some fancy little spoons to go with them...they should have something like that at Marshall's...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Sand Dune is a Real Thing....The best time you've ever had at a Fred Meyer.

This weekend we went to the coast.  While the Oregon Coast is pretty amazing, there was one part that we found quite unbelievable.  We pulled up to Fred Meyer to find this behind it:

Sand dunes.  Really, we parked in the parking lot and there they were.  Here's a picture in case you don't believe me:

 There I am for scale, and there's Fred Meyer in the background.  Walking on them was incredibly surreal...We couldn't believe there was a small part of the Sahara just behind a department store....but just as a reality check, what was on the other side of the massive dunes? A golf course.  sigh.

Where's a dune buggy when you need one?

 Just for reference:

View Larger Map

Monday, August 23, 2010

Handmade Pendants

I've been experimenting a bit with making ceramic pendants...I got a few back today so here is one I strung up already....

I have more to get back yet, and I also have other ones like this one so I was thinking of selling them. Not this one though, its mine mine mine!

Any Thoughts?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Pictures: Portland's Rose Test Garden

Lady of Megginch

"Honey Perfume"

"Honey Perfume"

"Rosie O' Donnell"



"Strike it Rich"






"Black Baracca"  It does really look black!


"Julia Child"
"Julia Child"

2010 Winner "Easy Does It"

2010 Winner "Easy Does It"

Rhapsody in Blue
Rhapsody in Blue

a little break...
"Rouge Royale" (My Favorite!)
"Rouge Royale"