Monday, March 29, 2010

Maker Monday: week 13

This week I made a lot of progress on my sock. It is not likely I'll finish the sock this week, but it sure has been fun making something I'll be able to wear a lot.

It's far to nice out to be sitting inside knitting or blogging, so I'm keeping this post short and heading outside.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cornbread: Bread of the Week 13

John and I have started making dinner on Sunday nights. We take turns cooking, and usually we have fresh bread with whatever we're cooking. Last Sunday it was cornbread from the Bread Baker's Apprentice. It felt like cheating to make a quick bread. It did take two days to make, as you soak the cornmeal in buttermilk overnight to develop the flavor of the grain. Well, that's what you do if you remember to buy buttermilk. If you're me you just get up early and go to the store to buy it. I soaked it for over 8 hours and it tasted find.

I usually make cornbread from Baking Illustrated, and I actually prefer that recipe. I am not a big fan of bacon on cornbread. I also like it to taste sweeter, like a corn muffin. I did like using polenta instead of cornmeal; the texture was heartier. All in all I would say it was good cornbread, but I'll be sticking with the folks at Cooks Illustrated on this one.

The star of the dinner was not the bread. The star was the butternut squash apple cheddar soup that John made. It was so filling I couldn't finish a bowl. It had a lot of flavor and we'll be making it again. He never used to use recipes to cook, and now he's starting to follow them. It's nice to not be the only one cooking.

St. Patrick's Day

I had a wonderful time on St. Patrick's Day this year. I was a little worried because I knew that by staying in Des Moines I would be missing out on marching with my cousins in the parade in St. Paul. It has been three years since Captain Potato made an appearance, and I hope to be up there next year.

For me, St. Patrick's Day has always been more about spending time with family than drinking. Don't get me wrong, we will tip some back, but really it's a time to catch up each other. If I wasn't going to be with my family this year I decided that I should make some cinnamon rolls like my Grandpa McCarty used to. Instead of using his recipe I used one from The Bread Bakers Apprentice. I made the stick roll version, as that is what Grandpa always made. They ended up with a candy shell that was almost crunchy. They were really good, but not nearly as good as Grandpa McCarty's.

After having cinnamon rolls for breakfast we went to an early lunch/late brunch with Allyson, Ryan, and Sarah. We tried Baby Boomer's because none of us had been there before. I'm glad we tried it, as I've already been back. They have the best pancakes I've ever had. They taste like yellow cake batter.
After brunch we walked a few blocks to the parade. I was looking forward to the parade, as I have always had a wonderful time in the St. Paul at the parade. There was one key difference: half of the parade in Des Moines was made up of people walking Basset hounds. After 15 minutes we decided we would head to Shorty's for some Smithwick's and Guinness.

Proof that John had a good time:

Actually, he did have a good time. His BFF Ryan Seymour was there.

Allyson and I picked up matching "Kiss Me I'm Iowish" shirts between brunch and the parade. I have been wearing mine constantly since St. Patrick's Day.

After having a few beers we headed to Fong's for some fruity drinks and crab rangoon pizza. As I am typing this post I now realize that we basically spent the entire day eating.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sweet 16!

Last Saturday we headed out to help our friend Seymour celebrate his birthday. It was nice to get out and help him celebrate. He's a really nice guy who has the most awesome girlfriend ever (my dear friend Allyson).

Allyson is part of my UNI game watching group. For us Saturday was about more than Ryan celebrating a birthday. It was the day that UNI beat Kansas! It was an amazing game to watch and I am so excited to be a part of Panther Nation.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Maker Monday: week 12

This week was all about small projects and using up stash yarn. After the baby blanket I was ready for a project I could hammer out in an hour or two. I also wanted to knit down my stash. I always have bits of dishcloth cotton hanging around. I just can't bring myself to throw away the golf ball sized bit of yarn that is left at the end of a dishcloth. So I put it in my cotton drawer and there it sits. At least until last weekend. Then it became part of my new potholders.

My old potholders were so old and raggedy I had to be careful how I grabbed them. Some parts were so thread bare I would burn myself. I found a few patterns I liked on Ravelry and adjusted them to my liking (I don't really see the need for a 14" square potholder - that just seems to be a bit much). So I used up 6 - 8 small balls at a time holding two strands of yarn together at a time and using size 8 needles. I think they are cute, and they work well. Because they are cotton they will shrink a little bit and become even more effective.

I also made a few dishcloths. I made two Dalek dishcloths and a circular dishcloth. The circular dishcloth is from a pattern Mom got from the knitting basket from one of her friend's mother's. It's written on a note card. I made it the first time just to see what it would look like. I like using something that looks like a doily to scrub dishes.

Last night I started working on socks again. I think after finishing a half dozen quick knits in a week I'm ready to tackle a larger project again.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread: Bread of the Week 12

This week I made cinnamon raisin bread. I was going to make cinnamon raisin pecan bread (as I hate walnuts), but when I reached into the freezer to pull out the pecans I realized I used them in granola the week before.

I opted for the cinnamon swirl and crunchy cinnamon sugar top (wouldn't you?). There is great cinnamon flavor in every bite. This is great toasted, and I plan to keep a loaf in the freezer just in case any unexpected brunches pop up.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

I've been craving chocolate peanut butter cookies lately. I think it has something to do with the case of peanut butter patties John got from the Girl Scout Cookie sale earlier this month. He's willing to share, but I have to wait until Easter to indulge in prepackaged treats.

I decided to try making sandwich cookies to approximate the flavor. I used the icebox cookie and peanut butter filling recipes from Baking Illustrated (from Cooks Illustrated). Like every other item I've tried from that cookbook they turned out beautifully.

I'm having dinner at John's house tonight. I suppose if he is willing to share his Girl Scout Cookies I should be willing to share my sandwich cookies. The UNI over Kansas win on Saturday as me in such a good mood I just might be willing to part with the peanut butter chocolate deliciousness that is this cookie.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Maker Monday: week 11

The baby blanket is done! Stacey loved it.

I love how it turned out. The blanket has alternating blocks of basket-weave, stripes, and popcorn blocks. It makes for a cute blanket without seams to sew. I have enough yarn left over to make a second blanket, so I'm hoping for another friend to have a boy and use brown in the nursery.

I'm going to work on small projects this week. I'll finish up Mary-Claire's mitten and make a dishcloth or two. I'm looking forward to working on portable projects again.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ciabatta: Bread of the Week 11

This week I made ciabatta. This is a bread that has been around Italy for years, but just got the name ciabatta in the mid-twentieth century when a baker decided the loaves look like the slippers of a dancer. He named the loaf ciabatta and now everyone wants a piece.

This is the first bread where I've simulated a steam oven by spraying the sides of the oven with water every 30 seconds for the first two minutes the bread is in the oven. It makes for a nice chewy crust. It actually looks like real bread.

One of the traits of ciabatta is large holes in the bread. Mine failed in that department. The crumb was more like a dinner roll than a traditional ciabatta. Luckily it tasted great so I just dunked it in my 44-clove garlic soup and pretended not to mind.

I normally love making bread, but this weekend I really had to work to fit it in. I couldn't make it on Saturday because the baby shower led to hanging out with my good friend Sarah (and I wasn't about to give up martinis and shopping just to make bread). So today I pulled the poolish out of the refrigerator about nine to get started. I didn't finish up until a little after 2. I am hopefully the next bread won't suck up as much of my Sunday.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I Ain't No Challah Back Girl: Bonus Bread of the Week

I decided to make a bread that I could use for sandwiches this week. I loved how the Cook's Illustrated Challah turned out, so I decided to try the Bread Baker's Apprentice version.

It was even easier to make than CI version. Unfortunately, I was a little obsessed with finishing a row on Stacey's baby blanket, so it a little dry. Not burnt exactly, just not the right crumb.

In order to cover up my mistakes I whipped up some cashew almond butter (1 c cashews, glug of vegetable oil, glug of honey: process it looks like nut butter). The bread and the cashew butter go together beautifully.

I sliced the challah and put it in a freezer bag. I had such good luck with freezing bagels I decided to try freezing sandwich bread. So far defrosting it for 15 seconds in the microwave and then toasting it makes for a pretty good breakfast. I'm hoping it holds up well.

Maker Monday: week 10

So if you really want to get technical about it this isn't a Maker Monday post, as it's Tuesday. I would feel ashamed and embarrassed if I actually had anything to say. I worked on Stacey's baby blanket all weekend. I have 21 rows to go. I hope I make it by Saturday, but the truth is it is looking like I may be up all Friday night to get it done.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My Casatiello or yours?: Bread of the Week 10

This week for the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge I made Casatiello. Casatiello is an Italian version of brioche. It's usually made with salami and provolone. I'm not much of a fan of either so I decided to make another version suggested: bacon and cheddar.

Using bacon allowed me to cut down on the amount of butter used. I was able to replace 8 or the needed 12 tablespoons with bacon drippings. It made for a very flavorful bread. The bread is delicious on its own, but when used as the bread for an egg in a hole it becomes a breakfast dreams are made of.

Ice Skating

It's finally warming up here in Iowa. It's possible to go outside without a heavy coat on. The snow is slowly disappearing. It will be spring before we know it.

Before winter fades completely into spring I wanted to get out and enjoy the cold one last time. The skating rink is still open, so Jamie and I took her kids skating.

Sebastian took to skating immediately. He even picked up a date and was skating without us.

After skating with his date he skated with me for a while. He was not impressed with my ability to sing along to the High School Musical soundtrack that was playing over the loudspeakers.

Violet decided skating wasn't for her. Jamie spent most of the morning sitting with her and trying to convince her to get on the ice.

Jamie did get out to skate a little bit.

I'm going to miss ice skating, but I am ready for spring. It is supposed to be in the 40s all week. If the sidewalks clear off I'm going for my first outdoor run of the season. I'm actually looking forward to it.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Egg Day

Today was a bright day in my world. Not only was it sunny and warm (I actually left the building to buy coffee for the first time in months!), it was also an egg day. On egg day I meet Matt from Coyote Run Farm and pick up eggs fresh from the farm in Lacona.
Buying eggs from a parking lot is my new favorite part about eating local. They people at Coyote Run Farm are friendly and put out a good product; the shells are thicker, they taste fresher, and I know who is producing my food. Every week or two I get an e mail from them saying they will be in town with eggs. If I want eggs I e mail them and let them know how many dozen I want. When I pick them up I drop off the cartons and they are reused (if I remember....I have 5 egg cartons on top of my fridge right now).

They usually have meat and vegetables available too (although now they are down to just fingerling potatoes). It's just what I need to tide me over until the Downtown Farmer's Market starts up again (58 days, not that I'm counting).

Monday, March 1, 2010

Maker Monday: week 9

This week I worked on Stacey's baby blanket. I'm happy to say it is now halfway done. I'm looking forward to the day that I can work on something else.

I got a lot of knitting done last weekend. My cousin Deirdre (also a contributor at Crafty Cousins) came down to visit me. We knitted, had basil martinis, ate sushi, and had brunch. It was pretty much the perfect weekend.

Let them eat brioche: Bread of the week 9

This week I made Middle Class Brioche from the Bread Baker's Apprentice. I went with middle class because rich man's brioche uses a pound of butter, and even though the recipe makes more than one loaf of bread I couldn't bring myself to make it. I am not one to shy away from butter, but four sticks was a bit too much. The two sticks in middle class brioche was more my speed.

It was good, and I would have loved it had I made it before the America's Test Kitchen version. That bread was so amazing everything else pales in comparison.

A few weeks ago I spent a week with my family in Cancun. After coming back I've been really hungry for Mexican food (who am I kidding? When am I not hungry for Mexican food?). One of my favorite breads to use at lunch is tortillas. Tortillas from the grocery store are usually in my cupboard, but due to lent I'm shunning them. That meant that when I had tacos last night I needed to make my own tortillas. They are easy to make and taste much better than any tortilla I've found at the store. The recipe is from the Homesick Texan which is a blog I've been loving lately. If you're a Tex Mex fan I highly recommend it.