Monday, December 31, 2012

Last post in 2012

As you all know, the world did not end in 2012 like it was supposed to.  That means it's time to write another post, as requested.

So what have I been up to since my last post, way way back in probably October?

Well there was Thanksgiving:

In which I made a turkey using a dry-brine method (which turned out quite nicely) but forgot to take any pictures of it before it was eaten.

Then there was our wreath-making party, orchestrated mainly by my Jewish friend Anika (pictured above at the end of the table) who naturally has more Christmas spirit than I do.  

The wreaths turned out pretty well, in fact:

 If you want to make your own wreaths at some point in the future, it is apparently very easy to go to Christmas tree lots and ask for their trimmings.  I didn't participate in this part of the wreath process, but they will give you some branches for free since they need to get rid of them.  You're on your own for the decorations, though.

There were some awesome Christmas presents like this sweatshirt from Threadless that the Roskos sent to me:

I've also been knitting and crocheting (and hiking past the snow line):

A Christmas miracle:  I finally got a haircut from someone who didn't ruin my hair!

This pattern is the second version of a headband I made way back in 2010 that didn't work out too well back then:  Maner Headband.  It's pretty easy for a beginner. I used some Plymouth Boku and a size 8 16" circular needle to complete it this time.  If I had to guess, I'd say I used color number 08. This yarn is pretty, but really, really itchy.  I would only recommend using Boku if you are making something that won't touch your skin, like the knitted bag I'm currently working on in color number 11(maybe. it's so hard to tell from the pictures).

I also completed an entire semester of pottery class, working on throwing, but this time also focusing more on hand-building items and being slightly more adventurous  in the things I made.

A present I made for Zach.  Don't ask me why those skeleton stamps even exist.

Favorite moments from 2012:

Terrariums with friends.

Falling in love with giant sunflowers.

Kale Chips

This tasty meal.

Balloon's most gorgeous photo shoot.

Spending time in the tropics with my husband!

So what's my New Year's Resolution?  I am going to knit as much as I currently use the internet, which is a lot.  On Ravelry, I have almost 300 items in my queue (which, if you don't know, is a list of patterns you intend to make) some of them have been there since 2010 or earlier.  I really want to get knitting and make as many of them as possible before my wrists give out.

Have a happy 2013 everyone.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday dinner

Originally, I intended to make this: Roasted Butternut Squash Curry Soup.  After I was done roasting all the vegetables together, however, I couldn't bring myself to cover up all that flavor with curry powder and ginger.   They were just. too. delicious. Normally, I love to make a curried butternut squash creation in the fall, but this time I went original. Here are my changes, which resulted in what was ACTUALLY the best soup I've ever made.

cons:  It takes all. damn. day.  pros:  You're not actually in the kitchen all damn day.  The soup also tastes amazing and is totally worth the effort.

Step One:  Roast the vegetables.  I left out the yucky celery because I hate it.  Instead, I put an entire head of garlic in to roast with the vegetables.  I also left out the ginger and curry powder.

Step Two:  I did not blend the soup in any way.  Added the roasted veggies to the soup pot, then added the beans and Trader Joe's chicken broth packets because they make an amazing stock.  I have used the veggie packets in the past, and they do also taste amazing.  I peeled the head of garlic that was roasted with the vegetables and added the whole cloves to the soup.  I also added nutritional yeast because it makes a very delicious broth.  Oregano and rosemary were added in place of ginger and curry powder.

Step Three:  I actually did add some mustard seeds.  A friend gave me a whole jar of them from her supply a few weeks ago, and I wanted to give them a shot.  Fried them a bit in oil as the recipe states.  I didn't taste too much flavor from them, but I think I need more experience with using them to know for sure if I love or hate them.

I made a very easy breadstick to go with the soup as well.

Dessert was vanilla ice cream topped with this amazing stuff:

Savory just opened down the street from us.  It's like a Penzey's competitor.  This sugar is insanely good, but I feel like I could make some of it myself.  I think I'll give it a try sometime.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Healthy in a flash.

Don't feel like cooking?  What if you knew you'd only be in the kitchen for 15-20 minutes?(minus clean-up time, which hopefully you can pawn off on someone else in your house) With a tiny bit of planning, that's almost faster than take out...and a lot healthier!  I will admit that some of the recipes in here take a little more than 15 minutes the first time you try them, but they are so easy!

What have I made out of this cook book so far?  Tonight's dinner was the "Better Broccoli Pizza Potatoes" found on page 144.  It's the best of both worlds:  A cheesy baked potato that is also filled with garlic-y red sauce and good-for you broccoli.  Like many of the recipes, there is room for adding your preferred protein (meat or beans) or adding a salad for a more complete nutrition.  To be honest, we just had two each, one medium and one smaller.

Last Wednesday I made the "Quick Energy Coconut-Lime Salmon and Couscous" on page 93.  The Salmon took more time than I thought it would, simply because the recipe requires you to grill them.  I don't own a grill, so I decided to bake the salmon, which tasted good but took more than 8 minutes total.  The 'sauce' (which is more like a gross-looking paste) tasted better than I thought it would, and the entire meal exceeded my expectations, even reheated two days later.

Friday's dinner, and my favorite, was the "Anytime Fast Fruity Skillet Cake" from page 162.  Breakfast for dinner isn't something I do often, but this was a nice change of pace. I love the ingenious way it's made in the oven instead of on top of the stove.  No splattering mess like frying pancakes, and since I made it with oat flour, I didn't feel bad about eating half of it as a meal.  The batter has no sugar or butter, so you're mostly eating egg, whole wheat (or oat) flour, and the milk of your choice (see, very versatile!).  Using coconut oil to cook it adds a nice flavor, too. Syrup is unnecessary, but should you choose to add it, you're in for a decadent treat.  Next time I might think about whipped cream, too.

There is an entire meatless section I haven't even tried yet.  Right now I have this from the library, but it's definitely a keeper.  Ordering from Amazon soon.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Late summer blooms

Orange Chrysanthemums.

Multicolored pansies are freaking gorgeous...
"Russian Giant" sunflower.  I was never very into sunflowers, but they are so massive and interesting I think I'm hooked.
This one is truly giant...over six feet tall.  Honeybees for scale.
My "Thomas Edison" dinnerplate dahlia finally bloomed!  It's really huge.  I ended up loving dahlias because they are very zero maintenance.  Will be growing more next year.

Monday, August 20, 2012


Yesterday, a few friends and I got together to make some terrariums.  It was my first time, and I'm always amazed at the ideas that other ladies get to make your house or apartment or whatever a 'home'.  I am, believe it or not, really not that way.  If my husband didn't like to buy decorations and stuff, we would probably sleep on a mattress on a floor with bare walls.

Their ideas were pretty advanced in the 'theme' terrarium department, and I wish I had some pictures of the ones they made.  One was a 'graveyard' theme complete with some creepy looking succulents and a tombstone.  At least mine incorporated some of the tiny buildings I collect.  Normally they are used for bonsai, but I can assume this small pavilion is equally at home in a terrarium as well.  So what do you need to make one?  It's actually pretty cheap.

I took about 25 pictures of this, an used the first one.  As usual.

This terrarium is made with a small fishbowl from the Dollar Tree.  It was actually made in the USA, which was surprising from DT.  Fill it with some regular potting soil mixed with sand, rocks from outside (also sold at craft stores for some reason), decorative moss, and small succulent plants.  I bought the little building from an Asian decor store down the street, but they also sell them at Powell's Home and Garden store on Hawthorne.  All this stuff here is sold in small flower shops around Portland.

When I was done with this one, they decided I should probably make one in one of their wine glasses, also from the dollar store.  The wine glass is pretty enormous, I'm guessing you would probably drink maybe a pina colada out of it instead of actual wine.

I need a manicure pretty desperately.

This one I find to be a bit awkward...It's hard to photograph but pretty cute in person.  This was the easiest to transport of the two;  I wedged it into the cup holder in our Hyundai and that kept it pretty secure.  That's an aloe plant in there, but I'm wondering how long it will last before it outgrows the mini environment it's in.  All in all, a good Saturday/Sunday activity I wouldn't have really thought of, but which turned out fairly worthwhile.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

New Dishes!

I finally decided on some grown-up dishes.  I found these classic Blue Willow dishes at Fred Meyer's last night.  Not too expensive, with many options like a matching tea pot, gravy boat (which I didn't buy, because when was the last time I made gravy?) and a sugar and creamer set.  They are made in England and seem very solid and sturdy.

My first choice would probably have been the classic English "Botanic Garden" set, but at 40 dollars per dinner plate, I can't afford that and a very clumsy husband.  That is, I can't afford to be very attached to my dishes.  These plates ring up at only $7 for the dinner plates, though the special dishes, like this large serving platter sold for about $35.  Again, still cheaper than the aforementioned set with its $80 oval platter.

So far I only got a service for 4, plus the platter, which was only about $100.  I'll probably go back and add to my set whenever I can.  For now, they're looking great in my cabinets.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Indian summer lazy Sunday dinner.

Strawberries from the front slope!

Nail Lacquer from butter LONDON in "Lovely Jubbly".  Nordstrom's $14.  In case you were wondering.



(My 1st )Vegetarian Lasagna with Zucchini.  Very cheap and easy.

Pickled sweet peppers stuffed with Chevre and drizzled with a balsamic glaze.  I stole the idea from Romano's Macaroni Grill.

A fluffy cat in 90 degree heat.  Sprawled out is the way to be.

Zach has been wearing his new hat everywhere!
Nothing is very new on our end, just enjoying (enduring) the hotter weather we've been getting.  Only one or two nights so far have even been warm, but daytime temperatures in the high 80's and 90's far exceed anything Portlanders are used to.  I'm still very interested in the growing seasons here.  June-bearing strawberries are just now coming into their own.  Our neighbors have some what I'd call "Easter" Lillies blooming in her front yard.  My tomatoes are still very green, except one or two very tiny ones.

Playing games on the porch with friends to beat the heat is very fashionable.  It's true, we really do live in the 1890's here.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Fig Galette. Is it good? Oh yeah, it's good.

I recently discovered figs grow pretty well around here.  I plan on getting a tree next year, but in the mean time I bought a pound of black figs last night from Trader Joe's.  I ate a few of them, but being from TJ's, they weren't excellent produce.  (There are a lot of things I like about that place, but their produce is often not great.  You know this to be true.)  When you have non-excellent produce, a good solution is to just put that into a recipe of some kind.  This often is true with dry-ish apples, which I like to put into a pie.

I recalled seeing some kind of fig dessert in a Martha Stewart book I browsed recently.  (Don't worry, friends, I'm not getting the urge to declare my crafts 'A good thing' or serve brunch in Maine or whatever) In the spirit of adventure, I looked up recipes for galettes, which is basically an easier version of a pie.  Very non-intimidating.

Do you have a pound of figs and some ambition?  The recipe, which is a blend of a bunch of online recipes, is after the lovely pictures.

Instagram?  Nope, steam on my lens.

Delicious served with a helping of chevre. 

Fig Galette

1 single pie crust
1 1/4 c flour
1/4 c vegan margarine (this makes it very easy to roll out, as I learned)
1/4 c. butter
2-3 tbs water
Add the flour, margarine, and butter into a stand mixer with a flat blade or food processor.  Mix until crumbly, then add the water until it's doughy.  More flour can be added for rolling.  Now you have a pie crust.  

-2 tbs Orange or Lemon Marmalade
-1lb of figs, sliced.  I only used about half a pound, but next time I will add more.
-Sliced blanched almonds
-Coarse Sugar
-Egg Glaze (I just used some eggwhite and water mixed)
-plain goat cheese

Roll out the pie crust.  Roughly 14 inches in diameter is good.  Mine are never very round, but try hard.

Spread the marmalade around the center, but leave a border for folding, about two inches.  If you're afraid of marmalade, don't worry.  The strength of it mellows during baking, and the flavor blends right into this recipe.

Arrange your sliced figs in a circle as close to one another as possible.  They're going to shrink and melt into a delicious figgy layer, so overlapping them slightly is a good idea.  Some people quarter them rather than slicing, but it's up to you.

Sprinkle the almonds around.  You can add as many or as few as you like, or leave them out.

Squeeze the honey to your taste on top of everything.  The marmalade will already make this pretty sweet, so honey is really for flavor.  We're also adding sugar to the crust so keep that in mind.

Now, fold the border towards the center, pleating it as you go around.  Use the egg glaze on the top of the crust, then sprinkle with the big sugar.  I like sugar in the raw a whole bunch.

Bake at 425 F for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 375 and bake for 10 more minutes.  The crust will be brown, and some, if not all of the figs will look browned and caramelized.

Cool and serve with chevre, if that's your thing.  If not, it's still really delicious on it's own.  But do cool it, I can't be held responsible for your mouth.

Some of the galette recipes I looked at:

Simply Recipes.  They also have a recipe for a peach galette I'm going to try soon.

Fig and Raspberry Galette.  Sounds really good. I didn't make this because raspberry season is over.  I guess I forgot I have about four pounds of red raspberries in my freezer.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Things we eat in the future: Kale Chips.

Ms. T's recent post about store-bought kale chips inspired me to make some of my own.  I read a little bit about them a few months ago, but was too scared that I would hate them so I never bothered.  I keep reading posts and articles about how people love kale chips, so I needed to make them.

Good news:  I have a garden full of purple kale that I have no idea what to do with.  

And you're like, "LOL, hippie, why would I eat a kale chip?"  It's like flat, green popcorn, that's why.  Crunchy, low-cal, high in Calcium (which all of us ladies need).  


Preheat your oven to 300F.

Kut up your kale (1 bunch to start) into bite-sized pieces.  Remove the center rib.  Or don't.  Whatever. Toss with olive oil and salt, or add some more things (garlic powder?  seasoning salt?)

Place in a single layer on a baking sheet like so:

This tray is ready to go into the oven.  Check them after 10 minutes.  Should be crisp, but not burned.  If they're still flexible, put them back in and check again.  


Better news:  you can crumble them and use them as a topping for other munchies. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Life on 8th and Sherrett...

Summer is finally here.  I can't say we've been doing nothing but gardening, but it's high up on our list of hobbies.  Here are the latest pictures.
The view from our gable room .  Notice the dirt road and the  "Oregon dream" truck.
That would be a bio diesel-converted Isuzu Pup.  Other variations would include a an ancient tan Datsun or a Toyota. 

Cosmos.  These strange flowers have been good to me...I am pretty bad with annuals because they are so fragile...

A stay-on from the last owners

Hungarian Blue poppies...I. am. so. excited.

Red Honeysuckle...It's planted in a really unfortunate area so it doesn't grow much...

Hydrangeas from the last owner...or maybe several past.  These bushes are huge
and get bunches of flowers as big as a basketball.

Pink lavender...I am more into the purple variety but this bush was huge
and we didn't want to kill it.  Once the blooms are past I'll cut it all and made moth-repellent sachets.

Purple sage and Hidcote

Lavender "Edelweiss"

Blueberries, also in an unfortunate location.

Our strawberry patch is pretty immature at this point.

Still blooming..."June-bearing"?  I desperately don't understand the growing season here.

one of a few...

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

French food, take one.

Lots of people who go vegetarian are sad to give up their former favorite foods in order to achieve a healthier lifestyle, have less impact on the planet, or be kinder to animals.  Thought french onion soup had to be made with beef broth?  Nope.  I got the idea for this from my friends who let me try some of their soup at a french restaurant we went to a few weeks ago.  Their soup was so, so good and they suggested a vegetarian version would be easy.

They were right! Making vegetarian french onion soup couldn't be easier.  Or tastier. I have plenty of onions growing in my garden that need to be eaten.  Right. Now.

If you, too, have half a dozen or more onions, I highly recommend this recipe or one like it:

Vegetarian French Onion Soup

For the "beef broth" I recommend this:  Better Than Bullion No Beef Base.  One jar lasts possibly forever.  It usually takes me 6 months or more to use the 9 quarts or so of broth one of these jars makes.  I didn't add as much wine as they list in the recipe, but I don't recommend leaving it out entirely, considering we are using a pre-packaged (though very quality) base for the soup.

The oniony soup portion stores very well in the refrigerator. Adding a slice of toast and a combination of cheese slices and then broiling it makes an extremely tasty lunch or dinner that you can whip up pretty quickly after the initial work is done.

As far as being healthful, this recipe does use a lot of butter and cheese.  I love it and it's pretty great for helping to use up onions, leftover wine and bread; however I'm going to leave this one for the occasional dinner because of all that saturated fat!