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!

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

2017 – Keep It Simple

Happy 2017, my friends. Yesterday was a day of relaxation, getting outdoors, and reflecting. The last day of the year was a thoroughly enjoyable day. I did some prep for today’s eating but I also took time to get outside with my daughter and two of my grandchildren. I’m feeling it today, believe me!

I did get on the ice, too. Yeah, I fell and, yeah, I’m feeling it today. Trust me, I will not be putting the skates back on today.

As I said, it was also a day of reflection. One of the things I dislike about our suite is the clutter, especially in the spare/craft room. I look around some times and am completely overwhelmed as to where to start. I know it’s something that I just need to do and it’s me that needs to do it but I’m just not even sure where to start. Well, this is the year for simplifying my life, getting rid of the clutter.

This is the time of year for resolutions but I don’t see this as being a resolution. It’s a goal, something I’ve been wanting for a long time.

I know what needs to be done; I just have to start doing it. What about you? Do you have any goals, resolutions, desires for 2017? What about suggestions? Do you have any suggestions that might help me out?

Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

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

Odds & Ends

It’s Saturday again. Why does it feel that the weekdays crawl by but the weekends fly? It isn’t just me, is it? Anyway, today is a day of odds and ends.

First, over the course of the last two weeks, John’s had cataract surgery on both eyes. His eyesight had been diminishing rapidly and his ophthalmologist decided it was time. The first eye was done October 25 and seemed to go well but, with only his regular glasses, his eyes had to work pretty hard and he was often uncomfortable – tired and headachy. Not unexpected. This past Thursday, the second eye was done. Now, he has to get used to seeing the world in a whole new way and it’s shaken him up a bit. He will still need glasses for distance but he can see very well (perhaps too well) close up. He’s suddenly seeing all the dust and grime that, unfortunately, has built up around here.  Hmmm… with his time at work (gardening) coming to an end for this season, perhaps that’s not a bad thing??

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Last weekend, we decided to have roast beef for Sunday dinner. Normally, when we have a roast beef dinner, one of our staple sides is, of course, Yorkshire puddings. However, recognizing that Kristen is gluten intolerant, I wanted to try something different. I’d also picked up a beautiful head of cauliflower on my trip to the market. I went hunting on Pinterest and found what looked like an interesting recipe… for cauliflower cake. The recipe incorporated one whole head of cauliflower and three eggs.

The recipe is one from Yotam Ottolenghi, an Israeli born British chef and I can heartily recommend it. John has been talking about that cake all week! Leftovers warm up beautifully and, with a bit of gravy, you’ll never miss the Yorkshire puddings.

It does call for one cup of flour but I substituted a cup of gf flour and it worked just fine.

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The photo is not mine; it comes from the blog I found through Pinterest. Mine looked very similar though (I thought I had taken a picture of it; I didn’t). The recipe can be found on Ciao Chow Bambina‘s lovely blog.

This past week was also a week of surprises in the mail. I came home from work Tuesday to find two small packages on my computer desk. It isn’t that I wasn’t expecting anything, I was. I was involved in a soap swap on Ravelry so I knew there would be a couple of packets coming. My son had also let me know that a couple of bottles of essential oils were coming my way by mail so I knew there were parcels on the way. It’s still a nice little surprise to walk in the back door and see parcels waiting for me. Another parcel was waiting for me when I got home on Thursday!

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This one was the first to arrive, from a Ravelry friend in Pennsylvania. The white flower bar of soap is a brine soap; the bar is a citrus soap; both have been aged for more than a year and, so, should be really good soaps. I’ll put them into rotation once the current bars in use are finished.

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The second parcel came to me from Michigan and included some Peeps chocolates. John had never heard of Peeps before; I had but I wasn’t aware that Peeps also made chocolates. I’ve had to hide the chocolates as there’s a chocoholic in our house… and it isn’t me. The bar at the left is scented with Honey & Leather and the bar on the right is made with powdered peanut butter and Peanut Stout scented.

It’s always nice to try someone else’s hand made soaps and I’m very much looking forward to trying all of these.

There, I’ve rambled on long enough. I could go on and tell you what’s on my needles (yes, there has been knitting) but I’ll leave that for another day.

Categories: Baking, Health, Just stuff, Knitting, Making Soap, Soap | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dessert!

Before I even start this post, let me make it clear that I rarely eat dessert. I love making yummy things but, after one piece, I rarely have any more. Seriously. You know that apple pie and the lemon meringue pie I made for Thanksgiving? One piece of each. All those cookies? Maybe 4 of each….total.

I love baking. I just don’t eat much of it.

I think tonight might be different.

A couple of weeks ago (Thanksgiving weekend, to be precise), in order to make the Lemon Meringue Pie, I bought a bunch of lemons including a bag of Meyer lemons. I still had quite a few left. Then, this week, John came  home with apples. Not just a bag of apples, but four boxes! I was told I could make as many pies as I wanted.

Today, I decided I didn’t want to bake pies so I went on the hunt for apple cake recipes and found a recipe for a French Apple Cake. It looked simple enough. It’s basically apples held together with a bit of batter.

Oh my!

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With some whipped cream, this cake is amazing! It isn’t super sweet, even with the icing sugar dusted on it. As I said, it’s more apple than batter. It’s also flavoured with rum, not so much that it’s boozy but just a flavour. If you do decide to try it, I strongly suggest that you leave the rum in it; honestly, it’s really good! Oh, we decided to make it a little more decadent by drizzling the cake with salted caramel sauce. It didn’t need it, though. Both John and I agreed that, though it’s great as it is, this is a basic recipe that could easily be modified. What goes with apple? John suggested, believe it or not, lavender. I thought, perhaps, almond. It’s a recipe that invites experimentation. And I just happen to have a few more apples.

Then there were the lemons. Sure, I could have made another lemon meringue pie, or two. I know Trinity would have been thrilled. It just happens, however, that I bought a new bundt pan today (something I didn’t have until now) so I started looking at bundt cake recipes today. A number of the recipes I found start out with a boxed cake mix but if you know me at all, you will know that there are no boxed cake mixes in my house nor are there ever likely to be. I kept looking until I found this one.

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With lemon juice in the cake, lemon juice in the glaze, and a sprinkling of lemon sugar on top of it all, this is one lemony treat. The cake is a hot milk cake and is so moist and flavourful, John was pretty much moaning with pleasure. I made on very small alteration to the recipe; when the cake came out of the pan (cleanly, I might add), I brushed the entire cake with lemon juice, giving it even more lemony flavour. I think Trinity will like it.

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Dinner was amazing. Sorry you weren’t here to enjoy it with us.

Categories: Baking, Blogging, No Knitting | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Happy Thanksgiving!

Even though today is our Canadian Thanksgiving, we decided it would be nice to have a do-nothing kind of day before going back to work and school tomorrow so we had our dinner yesterday.

Normally, I wouldn’t post about what we ate for dinner but I’m really proud of the meal we had. I mean, the dinner itself wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. We had a roasted chicken, slathered with Dijon mustard, liberally sprinkled with my seasoned salt for chicken, and stuffed with a blend of sweet onion, rosemary, sage, and thyme. We had a cheesy cauliflower casserole, boiled carrots, brussels sprouts, and mashed potatoes with gravy. I didn’t buy enough brussels sprouts, apparently. We all love them and I think, had there been more, Ethan would happily have had a meal of nothing but chicken and brussels sprouts. For the kids, I picked up a bottle of Martinelli’s sparkly crisp apple juice (served in wine glasses). Everything was perfectly done. That, in itself, made me happy.

The best part of the meal, though, the part everyone was eagerly anticipating was dessert. You saw the Lemon Meringue Pie I posted yesterday. Well, after posting, I thought about the other half of the pie dough in the fridge and decided to run out to pick up a few things. Like Jonagold apples. And whipping cream. And brown sugar.

The first thing I made was a Salted Caramel sauce. Oh my, so good I could eat it by the spoonful. I didn’t. But I could.

Then, I made a gluten free Dutch Apple Pie.

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There are one or two things I would do differently next time but they’re minor. For instance, next time I would make more of the topping and use more butter in it. I’d sprinkle a bit of lemon juice over the apples just to brighten the flavour a little more. As I said, minor things.

I did do something a little different with this pie, other than making it gluten free. Instead of using cinnamon and nutmeg, I used Speculaas seasoning, a wonderful warm and aromatic blend of spices.

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It came out beautifully! The only critique I had was that the bottom crust didn’t bake properly (I should have baked it in the lower third of the oven, not the middle). No one else cared. We served it with freshly whipped sweetened cream, drizzled with salted caramel sauce.

I think Trinity had at least two pieces of the Lemon Meringue Pie (lemon is her favourite flavour!) and we all left the table feeling rather stuffed.

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We had a wonderful dinner and we all shared some of the things we were thankful for… family, friends, a bountiful supply of food, a safe place to live…. from the big things to the little things.

I hope that you all have a very happy Thanksgiving. Remember, there’s always something to be happy for. We are, truly, blessed.

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Gluten Free Experimentation

Let’s get things out in the open right from the start… I am not gluten intolerant. So, why am I experimenting with gluten free baking? Well, I happen to have people in my family who ARE gluten intolerant. Because I do a fair bit of baking, I’ve been challenged by my daughter to change at least some of my recipes to gluten free. Ok, challenge accepted.

With Thanksgiving on Monday, I decided it was time to try making a gf dessert – Lemon Meringue Pie. This morning was spent looking up gluten free baking and recipes for pie pastry. I’ve got the filling down pat; I’m using a recipe I’ve been making since high school (a very long time ago!). The recipe I settled on was this one, from Gluten Free Girl.

I’m following the directions from a Serious Eats recipe, one that worked very well for me last week when I baked an apple pie. One thing I noticed right away is that the dough is much whiter than my regular pie dough. That may be the result of the flour blend I’m using, I suppose. This particular blend is a mixture of  white rice flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, and guar gum. The directions say to substitute 1 cup of wheat flour for 1 cup gf flour mix so that’s what I went with. The slip of paper that came with the gf flour reads “This Gluten Free Flour blend is good for breads, cookies, cakes & most general gluten free baking”.

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Right now, my pie shell has been baking for about 10 minutes; I’ve just removed the parchment and baking beads and it’s back in the oven at a lower temperature to finish baking.

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Ok, I let the bottom get a little dark. At least I know it’s baked through! In my reading, I read a few posts that said that an all butter crust doesn’t always hold its shape well. Many suggested freezing the pastry for about 15 minutes to half an hour before baking so I did. I must say it held its shape quite well. I’m pretty happy with it, all in all.

As I’m writing this post, I’m also baking this pie. This is real time blogging! At this very moment, the pie is back in the oven. The lemon filling is in, the meringue on top and it’s baking for a few more minutes, until the meringue is lightly browned, just the way we like it.

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Unfortunately, I can’t tell you… .yet… how it turned out. I’m really happy with the appearance. There were some bits of pastry stuck to the parchment and they were pretty flaky and tender but the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. It needs to cool; it needs to set. Thanksgiving dinner must be eaten. Only then will dessert be presented.

If we can wait that long. I’ll let you know.

Categories: Baking, No Knitting | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Further Adventures in Fermentation

So, a couple of posts ago, I told you about my first forays into the art of fermentation. Let’s see, I’ve made sauerkraut (not bad), pickles (nobody likes them… I’ve disposed of them), picked beans (um… also not a major success), pickled cauliflower (won’t ANYBODY try them??), water kefir, and kombucha.

Notice that those last two have no comments? Well, that’s because the kombucha has been going strong. I had one batch that went very wrong (smelled suspiciously like a sewage tank.. not very palatable) and started fresh. I was able to purchase a scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast… look it up but be prepared – it looks like slime… see below) as well as starting another one from a bottle of purchased unflavoured and raw kombucha. A few months in, my kombucha is pretty darned tasty, if I do say so myself.

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The beginnings of a new scoby on the surface of a batch of kombucha. The larger blob is the original scoby, used to ferment this batch.

If you’re not familiar with kombucha, it’s a fermented beverage made with tea, sugar, and a scoby, a bacteria/yeast culture that feeds on the sugar and the caffeine in the tea. When the process is complete (or to one’s satisfaction), the resulting beverage is kind of tangy/sour/sweet and slightly fizzy. Flavourings like juice, berries, herbs, syrups, etc. can be added in a second ferment in a sealed bottle and the resulting drink can become quite fizzy. The batch I bottled earlier today (pictured below) is seasoned with blackberries and lavender and is one of my favourite combos.

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It’s a drink that has been around for a long time (possible thousands of years) and there are many reported, but largely unproven, health benefits. For myself, I can say that some developing hip pains have pretty much gone. Is is from the kombucha? I don’t know. Thing is, I like this stuff. It’s easy to make. It tastes good. I’m drinking something that’s filled with probiotics and that can’t be bad for my body.

The water kefir, on the other hand, seemed to be going very well. Unfortunately, it was so sickly sweet that I was concerned that it wasn’t fermenting properly. I threw it all out. I do, however, have a couple of bottles that turned out so well that I’m tempted to try again. Tempted. I haven’t broken down yet and purchased more water kefir grains. I have a bar fridge filled with kombucha that will need to be consumed before I seriously consider it.

As for other fermented foods? I like the idea of fermentation but, around here, if no one’s going to like or eat them, why make them?

Categories: Blogging, Fermentation, Health, Just stuff, kefir, kombucha, No Knitting, water kefir | 1 Comment

It’s Been HOW Long?

Yeah, you probably think I’ve fallen off the face of the earth or are out and about doing something so exciting and time-consuming that I have no time for anything, let alone blogging. Well, you’d be wrong on both counts although it has been busy, just not with anything terribly exciting. I guess it’s called life.

Truth be told, I’ve simply been too tired and uninspired. Every time the thought of blogging has entered my mind, so have thoughts of other things that really should be done first. Or, something’s come along to take up my time or distract me from the thought of writing anything.

So, now that I have time and I’ve actually sat down and started typing, where to I start? It’s been a fairly busy summer, one that has flown by. My mother and one of my grandsons came for a (short, very short) visit. It was good to see them both. John and I did manage to get away for a week, just after my birthday. We traveled around southern British Columbia, through the Kootenays. It was a much needed getaway from our daily routines and, even though it was a lot of driving, it was relaxing, a time of simply enjoying the scenery and each other’s company. Even our old car (1993 Mazda 626) behaved and gave us no real concern. Now, the days are beginning to shorten and cool; the kids are back in school and life is settling down into something resembling normalcy.

If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll know that I’m still cooking, still knitting, still making the occasional batch of soap, and I’ve started making more fermented foods and beverages. If you follow me on Ravelry, you’ll know that I’ve started a small knitting project that I won’t be blogging about until it’s finished and in the hands of its recipient. (Ha! how’s that for a teaser, huh?)

So, now we’re at the end of summer. Life is settling back into a regular routine. Now that we’re “back to normal”, I’m hoping to spend more time doing the things I enjoy, which includes blogging… well… writing. It’s been too long a break.

For now, I’ll leave you with a few photos taken this summer…

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