Kitchen

It’s Been a Busy Weekend!

There are times my weekends are so busy that I look forward to my work week. Right now, at about 4:30 on Monday evening, I’m almost feeling that way. I said almost, okay? I’ve had a very productive weekend, though it didn’t feel that way at times. It was relaxing but, in looking back, I managed to get a lot done.

Just today, I finished knitting the pieces for one of another pair of slippers; this time it’s The Options Slipper pattern, not a freebie but a comfy looking slipper, another one of Kris Basta’s designs. The pieces knit up quickly and I like how the finished slipper looks. I’ll knit all the pieces before I sew mine together.

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This weekend, I managed to finish two pairs of slippers, knitted one of a pair, and almost finished knitting John’s felted clogs. I was hoping to have them finished today but won’t quite make it. I have one more sole to knit then seam together before I can felt them. I could finish them tonight but I have a little bit of a headache and don’t want to push it. Besides, the weather’s turned mild again and slippers aren’t quite as important as they were last weekend, when the temperatures were well below freezing.

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In addition to all the knitting, I put together a beef stew for tonight’s dinner and for leftovers this week. Leftover stew, with dumplings, makes a great workday lunch…. tasty and filling. I also made a loaf of Sourdough Whole Wheat and Rye bread, made with some of the discard starter that’s been waiting to be used. It turned out amazingly well, considering I didn’t have some of the ingredients the recipe called for. Seriously, I KNOW I have caraway and anise seeds somewhere in this house. Do you think I could find them? Anyway, the bread turned out really well, very tasty and should make some good sandwiches this week (if John doesn’t eat it all while I’m at work). I’ll definitely make this bread again.

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The stew turned out really well this time, too, better than my usual stew. I don’t use a recipe but this time I did things a little differently than I usually do, added a few ingredients I don’t normally add. Like what, you ask? Well, I threw in a little of my homemade apple cider vinegar and some tomato sauce. I don’t normally add those but I know that vinegar can help to break down the connective tissue in beef. There isn’t enough there that you can taste it, just a tablespoon or two. I thought the tomato might boost the beef flavour (again, just a tablespoon or two) and I was right. I can taste the tomato but it isn’t overwhelming, just an accent. All that’s left is to make the dumplings.

I had planned on making some body butter to help combat dry winter skin but, when I looked at what the ingredients were going to cost, I decided to buy a ready made, locally produced body butter. Once I got home, I indulged in a lovely, hot, candle lit bath. It was so relaxing, so enjoyable, and the scent of the new body butter so relaxing (it contains jasmine and ylang ylang in addition to a few other essential oils)… I might just have to have another bath tonight.

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Categories: Baking, Blogging, bread, Cooking, Finished, Kitchen, Knitting, Slippers | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sick Day

I dislike being sick; I dislike (sort of) taking days off work because I’m sick. However, this cold is lingering and today, I woke up with a bit of an earache and a bit of a fever. I’m hoping it isn’t an infection, whether ear or sinus. That would really suck. That said, it’s definitely a stay at home and look after myself day.

This past weekend, Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, was spent looking after everyone else. Saturday was spent finalizing the menu and making as much ahead of time as I could. In this case, that was a batch of Smokey Pumpkin Soup (a recipe that came from my sister, Grace), two pies (a gluten free Dutch Apple Pie and a gluten free Pumpkin Pie… an afterthought), and mashed potatoes, in addition to getting the chicken into a brining solution. I think that’s it. Oh… also a batch of slow cooker stuffing (dressing). By Sunday morning, all that was left to do were the vegetables and the chicken.

After making the soup, I had a full quart of puree left so I decided to bake a pumpkin pie. I’ve never made Pumpkin Pie. I remember my mother made it once and no one liked it. I’m pretty sure the filling was out of a can so that may have had something to do with it. It may have been the texture. After all, I’m definitely not a custard person and, basically, the filling is nothing more than a baked custard. It wasn’t bad, not something I’d swoon over but not bad. With the remaining cup or so, I made a batch of Pumpkin muffins, which really turned out well.

DSCN1302 The Sweet Dumpling Squashes will be dinner another day; I’m still exploring recipes. If you know a good way of doing them, let me know! For now, they’re part of my table/Thanksgiving decor (a fancy word for centerpiece, in this case.

We decided to have our dinner on Sunday, the day before Thanksgiving, because Kristen had to work on Monday. The company she works also has outlets in the US and someone needs to be in the local office on days when we have holidays but they don’t. I didn’t mind as that gave me  Monday to “destress”. So, what do I do to destress? Yup, did more cooking.

The leftover Brussels sprouts (for once, they didn’t all get eaten) were turned into Brussels Sprouts Gratin…. delicious! Basically, it’s just the sprouts with heavy cream, cheese, and a panko topping. What’s NOT to like, right? They tasted much better than plain old reheated Brussels Sprouts.

Some of the leftover mashed potatoes (to which I added half a head of cauliflower that really needed to be used up) went into a batch of potato bread. The chicken carcass was transformed into a delicious chicken noodle soup with dumplings, my new favourite comfort food. I was in bed by 8:30 p.m.

Maybe I overdid it a bit but, I must say, everything turned out extremely well. We had a wonderful dinner, with good company (Kristen and the kids) and no one went to bed hungry. DSCN1306

Categories: Baking, Blogging, bread, Cooking, Health, Holidays, Kitchen, Thanksgiving | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Result?

Well, it was a very successful baking day. Everything turned out great. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

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Sourdough Bread, just out of the oven and looking good!

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Oh the smell… heavenly!!

And by this morning?

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Ok, a few slices went to my daughter so she can try it to see if she reacts to it like she does to regular bread.

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I think this one speaks for itself. I’m glad I made two pies, rather than one large pie.

Categories: Baking, bread, Cooking, Fermentation, Kitchen | Leave a comment

Experimental Sourdough

Yeah, I’ve made sourdough bread before. I’ve been baking it since I was first married, in 1975 (yes, I know, I’m old). That recipe, though wonderful, technically might not qualify as a “true” sourdough as it uses yeast to get the process started and uses more yeast in the bread dough. It never explained how to maintain the starter and keep it going for years and years. Mine always went bad after a couple of weeks.

Recently, I came across the King Arthur Flour website and their recipe for a true, totally from scratch (as in no added yeast) sourdough starter. I decided it was time for some experimentation. There’s only one small problem. Well, maybe two. First, the seasons have turned from summer, and its heat, to autumn and its chilliness. The second problem, when it comes to encouraging sourdough to get growing, is that we rarely turn any heat on until we don’t want to add any more layers of clothing to keep us warm. We never have the heat on during the day unless it’s just to take the chill off in the morning and the evening. That’s not terribly conducive to sourdough health; it likes warmth, preferably around 20ºC.

It took a while but I finally did start a healthy, vigorous sourdough starter, one that doesn’t seem to mind a bit of chilliness. I keep it above the stove so, when we’re doing any kind of cooking or have the stove light on, it does get warmth and it’s thriving.

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Today, is bread day… Well, at least it’s the start of the process. The intention is that I will be making a true sourdough bread without any added yeast. It’s a two day process. Today, I’ll be making the dough; tomorrow, it will be baked.

Stay tuned!

Categories: Baking, bread, Fermentation, Kitchen | 2 Comments

Flying Time

No, I won’t be flying anywhere any time soon. It’s time that’s flying. Far too quickly. Do you realize it’s almost February?? How the heck did that happen? That endless spiral of hour following hour, day following day, week following week just seems to suck us all in, doesn’t it? Before we even realize it, another month has gone by. And what do I have to show for this past month? Not much.

Knitting has been sporadic at best. To be honest, I’m not even missing the needles. Yes, I pick up the Loop shawl occasionally, finish a row or two but, honestly, the satisfaction level I usually feel while knitting just isn’t there right now. I know the urge will return. It always does. Right now just doesn’t seem to be the time for knitting.

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I’ve started doing a little sketching again; and when I say a little, I really do mean that. Doodles have been popping up on my desk calendar at work. Little scribbles have been showing up on my desk at home. Apparently, my pencils have been calling and I’ve been hearing the siren call, picking up a pencil. It’s a start. And it’s about time.

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I’ve also been a little obsessed with macarons for the last couple of weeks. These little French delicacies are so yummy and so finicky, especially when you have an oven that’s way hotter than the dial shows and bakes unevenly.

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Lemon Macarons – These look pretty good but they’re hollow inside.

I’ve been trying to bake THE perfect batch and, after three or four batches, I haven’t done it yet. Maybe today, right? It’s definitely been an enjoyable, and tasty, learning experience. Even a “failed” batch tastes amazing. If you’d like to read more about my “experiments”, check out my cooking/baking blog here.

Around the yard, the kids have been skating more and getting much more comfortable. Ethan no longer needs, or wants, something to hold on to. He’s even been practicing with a hockey stick and puck! Trinity has finally gotten over her disgust of the figure skates (and the “pickers”) and was trying some “moves” last weekend (until she fell hard on her hip). Temperatures right now are hovering around the freezing mark and the ice is still great. It would be nice to see it used a little more often but, in the meantime, we’re having fun. And, no, I have not gotten back on to the ice.

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Apparently, John DID get on the ice this past week, with Ethan and his friend, but there’s no photographic evidence to support his claim. I’ll have to verify it with Ethan.

To be honest, I’m making it sound like January’s been a downer. It really hasn’t been. It’s just been a quiet month and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s a time for quiet, a time for rest, a time for restoration. It’s just going by far too quickly!

Categories: Baking, Just stuff, Kitchen, Knitting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Practicing

Now that November 11 (Happy Birthday, Gloria!) is past, it’s time to start thinking about Christmas. The operative word there is “thinking”. I’m not big on decorating for the holidays, really. When we were growing up, the tree didn’t go up until just days before Christmas. When we had our children, the tree didn’t go up until school let out for the holidays and came down when they went back to school in January. It’s a day, not a season.

However, all that said, when it comes to Christmas baking, a little bit of time and preparation is required. This year, with the discovery that Kristen is gluten intolerant, it also means practice runs of promising recipes. That’s what this weekend has been about.

This is going to seem like a digression, but it really isn’t. When it comes to cookie baking, I’ve always wanted a cookie press. Each year, I check out Amazon.ca for their prices. I wander over to Michael’s to see what they have; and each year, I don’t buy one. My mother had an aluminum one years and years ago but it was never really used and I have no idea where it ended up. This year, I decided it was time to just get one. I went to my favourite kitchen store (Chef’s Edge in Kelowna, if you must know) and bought one. The price was reasonable, very much in line with buying it online, and taking into account the delivery costs. Plus, I didn’t have to wait for it to arrive.

With new toy, er… tool, in hand, I set about to finding some recipes to play with. I came across one that looked really good – Vanilla Cardamon Spritz. The recipe I used is from Serious Eats, one of my favourite food websites. The only thing I did differently was to use a 1:1 gluten free flour.

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The cookies are crisp, buttery, perfectly flavoured. The cardamon doesn’t overpower the vanilla but gives the cookies a depth of flavour that’s really nice. With a cup of tea or coffee, these are perfect.

I didn’t do much in the way of decoration, as you can see. I wanted to try out the recipe gluten free. However, I did play a little bit later.

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A little melted dark chocolate, some sprinkles… it doesn’t take a lot to make these little cookies look festive and cheery.

Then, because I’m not super big on sweets, I decided to try my hand at some savoury biscuits. During my hunt for the spritz recipes, I came across a cheesy spritz recipe. It seems this recipe is all over the internet – how have I never come across it?

This time, I inadvertently used wheat flour, even though the gluten free flour was already on the counter beside the mixer. Doh!

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These call for a pound of aged, sharp cheddar so they’re not an inexpensive treat but, my oh my…. they are addictive! They go very well with a glass or two of white wine. VERY well. Don’t ask how many I ate, ok?

I did have a bit of an issue in getting these on to the cookie sheets – they wouldn’t stick very well, even after I washed, dried, and cooled the cookie sheets in the freezer. In the end, I rolled out the last bit of dough and cut cookies out with a small square cookie cutter, kind of like Cheez-Its.

I followed the recipe on the TGIF (This Grandma Is Fun) blog but I’ve noticed that the same recipe appears on numerous other blogs. Some bakers add a little dry mustard to their mix but I found that the addition of a little hot sauce (I used Franks’s) works well. Seriously, these are good!

If you do bake them, whether with wheat flour or gluten free (that will happen at some point), I’ll offer one tip: beat the heck out of the butter and cheese mixture. Seriously, you can’t underbeat it. The longer you beat that mix, the easier it will be to put it through your cookie press.

Categories: Baking, Christmas, Just stuff, Kitchen | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Still Knitting… and More

Yesterday, I ended by writing that, yes, there has been knitting. I wish I could say that John’s cardigan is finished but that just wouldn’t be true. I’ll be picking it up again soon, though, now that sweater weather is really here; it just isn’t the kind of project I can work on in the summer (at least, that’s what I keep telling myself).

However, I did come across an interesting shawl pattern that I just couldn’t resist. The pattern is called “Loop” by Casapinka. It’s a simple shawl with an interesting stitch, almost mindless knitting. It is constructed mainly of stocking stitch with a textured stitch row every 8 rows.

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I’m using KnitPicks’ Chroma Fingering weight yarn in two colourways; the main yarn is Fogbank, shades of grey and a little bit of brown and the coloured one is Carnival. I’m loving the yarn (70% superwash wool, 30% nylon); it’s soft and squishy and will, I’m sure, make a shawl that will be an instant favourite.

Right now, I’m just over half way and I’ve only been working on it for about a week and a half. As I said, the body of the shawl is almost mindless knitting. I can work on it while watching tv. The coloured rows take a little more concentration, especially on the wrong side but, if you’re looking for a relatively simple knitting project, this would definitely fit the bill. One bonus about the pattern? The designer has included a row and stitch chart to help you keep your place, including a column to check off completed rows.

Knitting isn’t all I’ve been doing, obviously. A few months ago, I decided that it’s time to start replacing some of my aging baking and cooking supplies…. baking tins, kitchen implements…. that kind of thing. As you may remember, I now have new muffin tins, cake pans and a few other things. There are still a few things I’ll be replacing (as I come across things that have passed their best before date… so to speak).

Over the past couple of weeks, there have been two things that I’ve wanted to have back in my kitchen or have in my kitchen… period. One thing I’ve never had but have wanted is a cookie press. As you know if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, I love to bake. A cookie press has never been in my kitchen but my mother had one years and years ago; I’ve been looking for one but I’m being picky. Yesterday, I went to my favourite kitchen store and looked at their (very meagre) selection. They had two; both looked and felt rather flimsy. If I’m going to get one, I want a good one. I’m keeping my eyes open.

Years ago, I had a krumkake iron, a Nordicware product that would be heated over an element on the stove. Krumkake is a Norwegian waffle cookie, very delicate but very tasty cookie. They can be served flat, rolled into a cigar shape, or formed into a cone and filled with cream. In Holland, they’re called “kniepertjes” (translated? Clothes pegs) (pronounced knee-pert-yes) and were a favourite of everyone in my family. When I left, I didn’t take it with me for some reason. I’ve always wanted another one.

I now have one.

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This is a Chef’s Choice Krumkake Express iron and I love it! It’s so much easier to use than the old, manual iron I had before.

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These are, believe it or not, gluten free. I tried two recipes and decided my first try would be gluten free because, of course, Kristen is gluten intolerant. It worked very well and, honestly, you cannot tell that there’s anything different about these.

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The kids loved these, especially when filled with vanilla whipped cream! For that matter, so did the adults. I also made a batch with white flour, following a Sons of Norway recipe; I was told to bring them to work because there are enough baked goods in this house already and we don’t need the added weight. The people at work thank you, John.

Categories: Baking, Cooking, John's Sweater, Kitchen, Knitting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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