Eating on the edge

My pantry is generally well stocked and we are eating our way through it. This week was a little iffy. I opened a can of sweetened condensed milk that expired in 2017. It was tanner than usual but seemed fine in my coffee. I froze some with a batch of yogurt that had failed and called it ice cream.

Today I opened a jar of peach jam from 2018. Lid was sealed, delicious.

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I have been making all sorts of bread; I may have recreated the soy linseed bread that is sold as a mix in Australia but is impossible to buy here. White bread, english muffins and yesterday, no knead bread.
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Soil sprouts are doing well indoors and I added some to lunch.
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Polenta in the instant pot, is easy, creamy, cheesy, and delicious! This recipe alone makes the instant pot worth its weight.

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Yesterday was a trifecta. The aforementioned bread, apricot almond scones and apple pie.

Since I have a lot of root vegetables, potatoes and carrots are often on the menu. The other night was gnocchi in a butter herb sauce. Made half a batch and froze half of that batch. Well worth it and only used 2 potatoes. Plus they are fun to shape over your thumb with a fork.

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I have an old mixmaster from the 1970’s ( I found the same one we used on Deal Island on eBay) and have souped it up with many accessories. I use it to bake cakes and cookies, juice oranges and for the first time I made a batch of chicken sausages with the grinder. I was intimidated before I started but it was easy and fast. What I did not have was a sausage stuffer, although I had the the casing from a local grocery that sells it during hunting season. A stuffer is on the shopping list. I spiced it up for breakfast patties and they were great.

Tim has a mouth full of sweet teeth, which takes a lot of baking to satisfy. I made cinnamon buns for easter, 8BA1C499-C93F-41A3-ABF1-C7245F4579CBchocolate chip cookies, coffee cake (again from a less than satisfactory batch of yogurt), stovetop vanilla custard ( a recipe from my daughter who is the newest cook in the family since she has been home – in DC).

Dinner sometimes suffers when I have exhausted my cooking mojo with desserts and the like. This weekend it was hotdogs (uncured, thank you very much) and last night French toast. Latvian piragis have been requested, maybe tonight.

On a more serious note, I am grateful for what we have and worry about the long term economic effect for others. So far I have contributed to two local food banks, and if you are able, I encourage you to do the same in your community.

Stranded

At my darling daughter’s request, I’m back to knitting hats. Stranded  hats.  She wore one of my hats to a party and ended up requesting 4 more, including 2 moose hats, which I had to design.  I got out my punch cards and away I went.  They appear to be frolicking or playing leapfrog though.

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Frolicking moose

I’m going to sew these on my machine to try to speed up the assembly.  Right now it takes me almost as much time to finish them by hand as it does to knit them on the machine.

Our good friend is heading way north to volunteer for the Yukon Quest.  She is an avid dog lover, skijoerer (yup I spelled that right.  Skijoring (in Wikipedia) which is defined as:  sport where a person on skis is pulled by a horse, a dog (or dogs) or a motor vehicle. It is derived from the Norwegian word skikjøring meaning ski driving. So she wants to see the pros at work with their sleds and  beautiful dogs.   I made her a hat of course.

It’s not my pattern; I bought the knitting chart and made my own punch card for my knitting machine.  I’m quite pleased with it.  Everyone at the dog shelter coveted one too.  A good endorsement.  The pattern is Husky Sledding Chart and its graphics are perfect.

Next up are panda hats I am still designing and punching cards for.  Three color punch card is keeping my brain fresh. My machine is older and relies on punch cards instead of the computer.  This means a lot of up front work before a pattern may be knit.

Loki looked stranded in the snow yesterday when he was stalking something in the bushes.

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So handsome.  Then he came in and cuddled with the rambunctious, hyper, mildly annoying, but so sweet, kitten, Elli. They were even touching for warmth.

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We had a small dinner party the other night and I made the American version of a self saucing pudding and I have to say it was delicious and easy.  The recipe is from King Arthur Flour.  They call it a self saucing chocolate cake.  Our chocolate loving, skijoerer loved it too.  A good testament.  Here’s how pretty the table looked before dinner.  I won’t show you the aftermath but a good time was had by all.

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Here’s the link to the King Arthur recipe.  Try it!

 

The genius of munchkins

I’ve had a hankering to try to make donuts. We were sick a few weeks ago and my first food was a cinnamon sugar donut. And it was the best thing I ever tasted. But they are not always available and the nearest bakery is thirty minutes away.

I actually never fry anything. I even tried a <a href="http://<a href="http://www.lidiasitaly.com/recipes/detail/443″>eggplant parmigiana recipe from Lidia, “>recipe from Lidia’s Italy where the eggplant slices were cooked directly in the sauce (no breading, no frying) and it was good.

But alas, I had that hankering so I invested in shortening and oil. I found a recipe for buttermilk donuts at Cook’s Illustrated and away I went. I thought my little linzer tart cookie cutters would work but they were too small so I improvised with a drinking glass and a shot glass from the Royal Caribbean cruise line.

As with all my dishes, there’s a story behind that shot glass. When I took my first cruise with my kids, I forgot my contact lens case. So the first night I had at least two shooters and earned my containers for the rest of the trip.

Next missing equipment was an oil thermometer so the first batch was scorched. But by the last batch I had it.

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Now I just have to figure out what to do with my leftover oil. Maybe I need an oil consuming car.

And back to the munchkins. The waste from every donut is the hole. For some reason, I never really thought about it. Bagels don’t have munchkins. If only I could figure out how to sell my trash! Or is that what eBay is for.

No idle hands here

I seem to have a lot more time now that I am no longer running a cat hospice. Sad but true. I wallowed for a day, maybe it was just a cold coming on, then got back to work.

Who wouldn’t be cheered up by three little fair isle hats knit for my friend’s daughters?
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I played around with twined braids, stranded colorwork and thoroughly enjoyed the design process. I was surprised to find how well small fair isle motifs work up in worsted weight – and fast too.

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Then I decided to finally knit something for me again. It’s a hat made with combination of tumbling blocks stranded and twined knitting made in super soft, smooshy Malabrigo worsted yarn.

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The optical illusion didn’t really work though. The shadows seem off, I think I have to swap out my lights and darks. I tried flipping it upside down and they still don’t really look like blocks. But the stranded color work keeps it warm and even pretty on the inside as well.

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The yarn was so soft, I had some leftover and I’m tired of my old mittens so I designed a non-delusional mitten to match, with the palm lined in alpaca. Luscious.

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Conditions have been good for skiing, skating and playing indoors. I finally tried a no-knead bread recipe. It couldn’t have been easier and made a country style, hard crust bread, sturdy enough for sandwiches. I had to stir it once and fold it once! Hoo boy. I highly recommend it for a day when you are hanging around the house.

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My digital VHS movie conversion was a huge success. I laughed, I cried, while watching them all. Plus I found inspiration. Tim’s been looking for comfortable skates, since the ice is so good this year, to no avail. Then I saw a movie with my brother at 4 or 5, at Christmas, wearing an army helmet and strap on skates, skating around the basement. So I looked up strap on skates for adults and they exist! There are two types, shown here. One can be latched onto any hiking boot and the other uses cross country ski bindings. Just like Hans Brinker. He ordered a set of the cross country ski type. I just have to find him an army helmet.

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Kitchen produce

This photo shows why I must exercise.

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On the left, is my latest loaf of sourdough bread. The recipe is loosely based on a PBS episode with Julia Child and the owner of La Brea Bakery, Nancy Silverton. .

From the episode, I learned three important facts about bread baking. I made my own sourdough starter with red grapes, flour and water, which sits on my counter and ferments away; keep one hand clean while kneading dough; and taste the raw dough and adjust.

I’ve made several delicious loaves and hope to keep the starter happy. This was my best one yet.

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Next to the bread is a fruit pie, not really one of my vices but dear Tim loves them and I go along for the ride. Any fruit will do. I only like pie the day it is baked. After that, I’m only interested in the filling.

Next up is white bread, albeit a bit overdone. I make two loaves a week (whether we need them or not). This is definitely not a gluten-free household.

Finally, pasta. I received an Atlas pasta maker for Christmas and love it. I roll out a batch of fresh pasta a week. Semolina flour, salt and water. Run it through the machine several times to get the right thickness, then put it through the cutting blades. Because it cooks so quickly, the whole process doesn’t take longer than boiling boxed pasta. And clean up is a snap.

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Other kitchen additions include an old fashioned, metal bread box with holes and a magnetic knife rack. Aah, domestic bliss.

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I’m waiting for my new hula hoop and jump rope to arrive so I’ll be able to exercise on that tiny rock of an island in Alaska.

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Back to the recipe

Sometimes you have to follow the rules.

The first batch of pignolli cookies I made, from this recipe turned out perfectly. I followed the instructions to the tee.

As I cook more and more, almost 3/7 (that’s three meals, seven days a week) I take liberties, improvise, create. Not with these babies. When I didn’t make the correct size they sunk in the middle. I tried beating the egg whites first – no good; tried lowering the oven temperature, nope. They have sunk in the middle for 5 years.

Not today though. I followed the recipe closely and it worked.

This

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Became these.

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The trick is to make them the right size! With pignolli cookies, and so many things in life, big isn’t better.

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I just have to find a baby!

Those were the exact words of the subject line in a recent email I sent to my son. Why do I have to find a baby? Good question.

He asked me to bake a King Cake for my upcoming visit. I never made or ate one before. I checked the recipe online. It’s basically a frosted sweet bread, filled with a cinnamon nut mixture. Raisins are not kosher in a king cake. Sounds easy enough, a piece of cake!

The only ingredient I don’t have in the cupboard is a little plastic baby, which is either baked in the cake, so the unsuspecting lucky person can choke on it, or placed under or on the cake. Hence the email.

King cakes are served around Christmas (named for the three kings) and Mardi Gras. The carnival version has gaudy purple and yellow frosting. I have that in the cupboard. Time to find a plastic baby.

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My most important kitchen gadget

My kitchen is 36 square feet and I have to be very discerning about equipment I bring into it. Generally I am not a fan of single use gadgets because they have to earn their storage space. Presently my bread maker, pasta maker and soda machine reside outside of the kitchen! I rely mainly on manual labor. I don’t own an electric mixer, dough hook, fryer or toaster oven.

I’m a fan of, the critically acclaimed, Downton Abbey and am keeping current with the episodes as they are aired here. (My daughter has already finished Season 3 on the British Network.) Anyway, no spoilers here, but in this week’s episode, Mrs. Patmar advised Ethel to set timers while she prepared a meal. That got me to thinking. When did they invent timers? The hourglass had been in use since possibly the 8th century and was downsized to be used in the kitchen as an egg timer. But it was entirely visual and required the cook’s attention to realize time had run out. The only egg timers in my house are associated with board games.
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They wouldn’t work for me in the kitchen. I’m sure I would miss the end. I would look at the timer and wonder how much time had passed since the last grain of sand fell to the bottom. I rely entirely on bells and whistles. Is that a function of the our lifestyle? I generally multitask and get easily distracted by shiny things. I need multiple types of stimuli to follow time and this seems to be common. Bells ring, buzzers buzz and my iPhone does both. Even with timers, I forget things in the kitchen.

Mechanical timers were invented in 1926 by Thomas Norman Hicks and I think this is later than the third season of Downton Abbey. I don’t want to read too much about the season because I might find spoilers. This means Ethel prepared her delicious meal while watching sand fall. I couldn’t do it. Despite the gadgets and quality cookware I do own, without multiple timers ringing, my kitchen endeavors would be a disaster.

Timers 001Yesterday my timers were set to help me make a curried butternut squash apple soup and to roast a bunch of butternut squash in the oven. I wonder what I will have time for today?

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Cooking with fire

My forays into the chipmaking world continue. I narrowly averted a disaster yesterday though. Chips taste nice with spices on them. But since the chips are cooked without oil, spices don’t stick to them after they’ve been cooked.

So, why not add the spices before cooking. I tried turmeric on celeriac chips. Luckily I stuck around while they were getting zapped. I heard a strange buzzing once and when it happened a second time I turned to look at the microwave. There was a Star Wars like beam of light radiating from the chips to the top of the microwave. May the force be with you.

Last night’s dinner was an interesting combination of cooking technologies and speed. Pulled pork simmered in the slow cooker all day, soaked beans cooked in no time in the pressure cooker and baked potatoes were safely zapped. Slow food?