Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Another Day, Another Attempt

I've pretty much eaten my way through the last of the CSA produce. I do, however, still have onions and potatoes. I've been saving these lovely fingering potatoes for various things, one of which was another attempt to reproduce those Indian-style potatoes that I ate at a friend's house a couple of years ago. This time I followed a recipe from Lord Krishna's Cuisine. Having learnt from my experience with her palak paneer recipe, I added some garlic and increased the amount of spices a bit.
This time it seemed a little closer to the flavour I remember. I have one more recipe I'm going to try. It's from a south Indian cookbook (my friend is south Indian). Maybe some combination of these recipes will reproduce it. This was tonight's dinner, by the way. Spicy potatoes, chicken with whole spices in a yogurt sauce, and some saag paneer I had made for the biology graduate student Turk'y (not real turkey) party.

New Shower Curtain

At last, I found time to finish the shower curtain, which has been sitting around half-complete for months now (that's why there are all those wrinkles). W and I picked out the brown brocade to go with our 1950's style, pink formica sink counter. The previous tenants had gone for a pink and green colour scheme (I still need to replace those green blinds!), but we decided on brown and pink. It reminds me of chocolate sundaes and other chocolaty delights.

See the date on that photo? It was September when I was sewing it up and pinking the raw edges. For many weeks I was trying to find the right shade of metal grommet, buying and returning several times. After an aborted attempt to actually put in the grommets (not enough layers of fabric, or fabric too thin), I let it sit a couple more weeks before I finally went with simple buttonholes.

I had to stick some pink satin at the top, because they were don't to the last few yards of the bolt of fabric, and I didn't have enough for the curtain. I think it turned out rather well, though, don't you?

Seeing What the Fuss is About

I was browsing magazines at the bookstore when it happened for the first time. I picked up a copy of that little publication put out by the Martha Stewart franchise, Everyday Food, and I was curious. Now, I've heard that MS's regular recipes can be very involved, and the idea is cooking for entertaining. Since I don't really have the time, or space, to entertain in great numbers, her recipes have never really interested me. But the recipes in Everyday Food did, indeed, look more like something I would attempt for less exalted occasions.

Of course, she has her own home furnishing, kitchenware and bakeware lines at Macy's and Kmart, she has numerous books and periodicals to her name, and she has become rather notorious. But I just wanted to see what the hype is all about. Do her recipes work, do they taste good, and are they worth the time? Of course, I know it's her Everyday Food team that actually works on the recipes for that little magazine, but I've managed to collect three issues now: one for October, one for Thanksgiving/November, and one special holiday issue with a lot of baked goods.

I had leftover pumpkin puree from making the pumpkin pie, so I decided to try the Penne with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce. It was just me, so I quartered the portions. I also had to substitute fresh rosemary for thyme, because my rosemary just hasn't been growing since I brought it indoors. And I may have substituted light cream for heavy cream. So maybe that accounts for the less than amazing results. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't wonderful. I guess I'll have to find another use for unused pumpkin puree!


It's been about a month since I decided to start experimenting with whole grains. Chinese people eat a lot of white rice, which really isn't that good for you. I borrowed Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way, by Lorna Sass, from the library, and I'm going to try out different whole grains to see what they taste like and whether they're easy to prepare. If all goes well, when I go visit my parents over New Year's, I will introduce them to whole grains.

I took W on her first trip to the local co-op, and I stocked up on some quinoa, amaranth, wheat berries and steel cut oats. It's always fun going to the co-op. Quinoa [keen-wa] looked relatively easy to prepare, so I chose a recipe for which I had most of the ingredients, which happened to be the chile-scented pork chops with roasted red pepper dressing.

I overcooked the quinoa, I think, and I didn't have a strainer with sufficiently fine mesh (which may have been part of the overcooking problem), so I had some runaways. You have to be sure to rinse the quinoa thoroughly before you cook it (I forgot, and dumped it into my pot of boiling water, so I had to drain it and start again) because it has natural saponins in its bran layer, which taste bitter. After it's cooked, quinoa has a faintly vegetal aroma (it reminds me a bit of some Chinese herbs), but I didn't find it unpleasant.

I got a whole lot of quinoa, though, so I'm going to continue experimenting. There's even a recipe for a ginger quinoa cake in the book!

Taking Care of (Leek) Business

What does one do with bags of leeks? I like them, otherwise I wouldn't have taken so many at the CSA, but I wanted to try something different from what I had been doing so far, which was potato leek soup (though I did make some of that, too) or lemon-dill fish fillets with leek greens.
I bought some gruyere cheese and a frozen pie crust, and whipped up this leek pie in short order. But it tasted really good; it must be all the cheese! And, since I was feeling a little guilty about said cheese, I paired it up with a healthy basil (from my little windowsill basil plant) and cherry tomato salad.
And, because it was so good, I made shepherd's pie again.
It went into the fridge, so I could eat it throughout the week. I gave some of the leek pie and shepherd's pie to a coworker at the Japanese restaurant. He's a rather notorious for being, if not a picky eater, than something of a gourmet. Perhaps he was being polite, but it was all compliments from him! Ah, the magic of cheese and butter!
And, as I've said before, I see nothing wrong with eating the green portion of the leek. In fact, I believe the French (great leek eaters) do so regularly.
This time, I just stir-fried them into some fried rice, instead of onions or scallions. They weren't tough or fibrous at all.

I'm all out of leeks from the CSA now. I guess it's back to buying vegetables from the supermarket for me.

Sock Saviour Revealed

Was there ever a more undeserving sock pal than I? I was so disappointed when my Sockapalooza sock pal went AWOL, but Aunti MiMi become my sock saviour and has e-mailed me and kept me apprised of her progress. Then what do I do? It's been a couple of days since I received the incredible package my sock saviour sent me, exams (Remote Sensing - it's quite a challenge trying to identify man made structures and natural phenomena from satellite images), problem sets (remote sensing and statistics) grading, grading and more grading (I never though I'd be pulling all-nighters to get grading completed!) have sapped me of a lot of energy. I wanted to take some nice pictures and write a decent post to do these socks justice because they are simply gorgeous!

My sock saviour, Aunti MiMi, who lives in Minnesota, knit these socks from Fleece Artist Merino. It's hard to believe that there isn't even a smidgen of silk in the yarn, it's so silky and soft. It even has a beautiful sheen to it. And I couldn't have chosen a better colourway myself! It's a subtly variegated red, and red socks are so snazzy!

But MiMi didn't stop there! She sent me something else guaranteed to take my breath away! The cutest little bowl (I'm thinking condiments, tiny dishes of Japanese-style appetizers, and stitch markers) made by a potter/knitter in Minnesota, Jennie E. Lanners. Now that I've seen - and touched - her work, I'm not sure how I will control myself. Did you see the ball of pink yarn unraveling at the bottom of the bowl?

A lovely card, with a picture of some seriously sexy yarn, two delicious-smelling almond oatmeal soaps, and some hand-dyed yarn from Minnesota. It has all the colours that I've been especially fond of recently: powder pink, baby pink, pistachio, apple cream, sea foam green. It's too much! So much more than I had been expecting, and I love it all. You're the most wonderful sock saviour, and your socks were more than worth waiting for. Thank you, Michelle!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Sewing Inspiration

First Kea sews some spectacular, spontaneous quilted cushion covers. Then, I come across a wonderful sewing blog, Sew, Mama, Sew!, that is currently doing a 30-day series on little sewing gifts, with links to fabulous tutorials and other crafty sewing blogs. I'm sure Moocow will be interested in the lunch bags, and there is an excellent tutorial for a quilted fabric wallet that I would really like to try my hand at.

So, if you like sewing, crafts, cute things, or just superb craftsmanship, head on over!

Cake decorating week

We had Colette Peters, a well-known cake decorator, come spend two days with us and show us a few of her tricks. We got to decorate one cake each, using styrofoam as a base in place of real cake. Here's my cake.
I think it looks like it could be from a Dr. Seuss on Easter book. Everything, even down to the candle, is made of icing fondant. And before you go, "Ewww, fondant!" we used a high-quality fondant that actually tasted very good. I used to hate the very mention of fondant. When I came across it on wedding cakes, I would invariably peel off the stuff before taking a timid bite of the cake, which usually tasted equally gross. Turns out that all those cakes had been made with poor quality fondant. It guess it shouldn't have been a surprise then that the cake itself never tasted too good either. In any case, there is delicious fondant out there, so keep an open mind next time you see it on your plate!

This was my favorite cake from the class, again from the person who made the avocado chicken egg. Her pineapple-themed cake was topped with a ring of fondant that was torched to create what looked like a slice of roasted pineapple. Even Colette was impressed; she'd never seen or heard of fondant being torched. So if you guys see torched fondant somewhere in the future, remember you saw it here first!
Colette also taught us how to make various flowers using gum paste. Here's a peony I made out of gum paste. The aluminum foil is there to hold up the petals so the flower dries in the right shape.
Some dogwood flowers....
And a little gum paste bouquet...

Scrap cushion covers

These maddeningly cheerful couch cushion covers are patchwork in the old sense, in that they're actually made of recycled scraps. The lining and backing are old Boyfriend t-shirts, the floral patterned squares are leftovers from one of my mom's sewing projects, and the plaid - well, you probably don't want to know.

I know it's just squares and rectangles, it's still the most complicated thing I've done in terms of quilting so far. I've always found that one of the most enjoyable aspects of sewing is the geometry, one of the few things I actually liked about high school maths. I think curved lines would be too fiddly for me, but next time I might tackle triangles. It'll be an excuse for me to re-learn my trigonometry.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Donut Muffins Revisited

(Hopefully I get this right this time...)

You gals are on such a roll with all your amazing home-cooked (or school-cooked?) dishes! I'm going to backtrack a bit back to one of Moocow's posts from this summer when she shared her donut muffin experience. Soon after she sent me the recipe (which I have since found online, so I think it's okay to link: muffin recipe and interesting accompanying article), I bought a muffin baking pan. Months pass without it being used. Then a couple of weeks ago at the farmer's market, a bakery stall was selling something similar, which reminded me of the recipe. Cinnamon, fall, baking... those just kind of go together, don't you think? It was time to make the muffins.

Filling the muffin cups with batter

Baked and ready to be dipped



Now, this was the largest recipe I've ever followed. I mean, six cups of flour?! I've never had to deal with more than three. And all that butter, whoa. But instead of halving everything, I prepared the muffin batter to the fullest and chilled half for later. The muffin was very dense, but cakey and crumbly and could still hold up to a fork cutting through it. I brought some over to a pumpking carving party the next day and was instantly asked for the recipe. This is one for my recipe library.