04/13/14

Trooper’s Turtleneck

I knit Trooper the Wonder Puppy a little sweater!

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Yes, I know that it is now April, and that the inclement weather is on the way out. (We can see grass in our front yard!) But I had the original version knit up just past Christmas. The thing about streamlined little dachshund bodies is that they are well designed for sweater Houdini action. One minute the wonder pup is looking dashing in his little red sweater, and the next he’s got his front feet through the neck and he’s wearing it like a tube top. It is not quite the look this dapper little guy is going for. 

Luckily, I was able to dismantle and reverse engineer it a bit, and now with some modifications to the collar and the part that goes over his proud little chest the sweater is a much better fit!

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To be honest, he doesn’t seem to be particularly fond of a sweater.

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You would think for a little guy who spends so much of his time seeking to be warmer, a sweater would be right up his alley. But that’s just isn’t so.

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I guess the sweater is going to have to be relegated to when the weather gets cold again in the fall.

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I just love this tiny dog so much!

Quintessential Quinoa Cakes

1 Cup red quinoa

1 1/2 Cups stock

3 cloves of garlic

1 shallot

1/3 Cup parsley

1/3 Cup grated parmesan

1/3 Cup grated gruyere

1/3 Cup breadcrumbs

3 eggs

1 Tbsp cooking oil

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Directions

  • Rinse your quinoa! Quinoa has a coating of saponins on its outside, and they can taste pretty soapy and bitter. Luckily saponins are water soluble, if you give your quinoa a rinse, you can do away with that potential yuck factor!
  • Put a small pot that has a tight fitting lid over medium heat, and add the quinoa to the pot. Toast the seeds for a few minutes, stirring as you go, until they start to smell a bit nutty.
  • Add the stock to the toasted quinoa, and bring everything up to a boil. Then pop the lid onto the pot, decrease the heat to a simmer, and set your timer for 15 minutes. No peeking at the quinoa until the timer goes off! After the 15 minutes has passed, all of the liquid should be absorbed and the quinoa will be ready! Set it aside to cool.
  • While the quinoa is cooling, mince the garlic cloves and the shallot and chop up the parsley.
  • Once the quinoa is cool enough that it’s around body temperature, stir in the garlic, shallot, parsley, and cheeses.
  • Next, add in the breadcrumbs. They’re going to make your mixture quite stiff and crumbly, but it’s important to get them distributed throughout the quinoa before the eggs get added or else you are liable to find pockets of eggy quinoa and eggy breadcrumbs that will not be prone to combining together.

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  • As you may have guessed, the eggs go into the mix next. Compared to the breadcrumb addition, this will be much easier to stir!
  • Voila! You now have the mixture the quinoa cakes are made of!
  • Form flattened patties, slightly smaller than your palm, using your hands.
  • Heat the oil in a pan set over medium high heat, and then brown the quinoa cakes in batches on both sides until they are crispy and brown.

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  • Devour!

Quinoa cakes make for a fun supper along some lightly dressed greens! They are crispy, cheesy, savory, herby delicious and they’re just waiting to be a vehicle for an equally delicious dip.

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I like my quinoa a little chewier than often results from following the package directions, so I use less liquid in the cooking. You can use up to 2 Cups of stock to cook the quinoa if you like it to be more squidgy than toothsome.

As you can see from the pictures, I used red quinoa in this recipe. It’s a little bit nuttier in flavor than the yellow-white variety, and I also just find the color visually appealing. Toasting the quinoa in the pot post-rinse but pre-cooking liquid addition also helps to bring out the nuttiness.

What is your favorite thing to do with quinoa?

 

03/24/14

The White Stuff

Well folks, we’re currently three days into spring and it is still quite disappointingly wintery out.

The white stuff is still hanging around in a rather stalwart fashion.  In our back yard the snow is between 5 and 6 Wonder Puppies high.

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See Trooper the Wonder Puppy there? His feelings on the snow are very similar to mine currently: “Seriously?!? Let’s just go inside please.”

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He’s also feeling pretty exasperated that it is still sweater season.

Because the cold has been so resolute and steady this year, a number of houses have had their water lines freeze. Though we have been lucky enough not to lose our running water (knock on wood), we have had a letter from the city asking us to run the tap at a trickle to hopefully prevent the pipes from freezing. They estimate that we’ll be doing so until May or June, judging by the current depth of the frost in the ground. May or June!

The plinking of the water in the sink was making us a little crazy, so we developed a sink silencer. Just in case you ever run into a situation where you need to keep your water running, here is our set up so that the sound doesn’t become bothersome for you either!

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Wrap a string around the end of your tap, draping part of the loop through the running water. Secure the string with a rubber band (or a roasting band like I’m using, or even just more string) so that the string doesn’t slip off of the tap. Drape the rest of the string down into the sink. The trickle of water will run down the string and into the sink almost silently.

To those of you already writing about what you’re planting in your gardens: Would you like a house guest or two? We’re tired of the cold. And we will bring snacks!

Here’s some other white stuff that’s more delicious!

Vanilla Sugar

(quite possibly the simplest thing ever)

vanilla bean pods

sugar

a resealable container

Directions

  • Generally, when you use a vanilla bean in baking, you scrape the seeds out from the inside of the bean, use those, and discard the pod. The pods, generally banged into the bin or the compost bucket, still have use!
  • Fill a jar most of the way with sugar. Whenever you have a vanilla bean pod, pop it into the sugar. The bean pods infuse the sugar over the next few days with lovely vanilla flavor and scent.
  • Use your vanilla sugar as you would just plain old sugar in your baking. It’s especially nice to have on hand when you want vanilla flavor to be present in what you are making, but don’t want to add extra moisture like you would have to if using extract.
  • As you run out of vanilla sugar in your container, just top it up with more plain sugar. As you use more vanilla beans, add them to the mix too and the vanilla sugar with be more strongly vanilla flavored at a quicker rate.

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Mr’s been saying to me for a long while now to share this pantry staple here. It’s really nice to have a jar sitting among the chocolate chips and the dried cranberries ready to be whipped with egg whites into meringue, added to cookies, or stirred into a cup of coffee. Waste not want not!

 

02/27/14

I Will Sing You Songs

For the last few months, I have been working my way through listening to my entire collection of music. (Well, I can’t say entire. I have CD’s that I don’t have on my computer, we have records that aren’t also on my computer, but I digress.)

I listen to music over iTunes on my computer, on my mp3 player, and in the car I tend to listen to music selections of my choice rather than the radio. Thank goodness for auxiliary jacks and/or FM transmitters! You get to hear what you want to hear and don’t need to listen to commercials.

The vast majority of the time I listen to everything on random, I like to press play and see where it takes me. If there’s something I’m wanting to hear, I’ll pull it up. There’s always this idea in my head that I’m going to sit down one day and make myself some awesome playlists, DJ my own car trips and kitchen dance parties, but I never seem to get to it. All songs on shuffle is my radio station.

But I noticed that, even on random, some songs seem to get played over and over again (Heavy Metal Drummer by Wilco is one such culprit, shuffle seems to love that one) and some songs, even artists, never seem to go on the rotation. Also, there were certain albums or songs that would come up, and I would find myself getting frustrated because I didn’t want to listen to that. I never wanted to listen to it.

So I set forth, starting at A and ending this morning at 100th Window. 576 albums. I think the true audiophiles have said it a number of times, but there is something to listen to music in album form. An album is  a look into the place the musician(s) were at at the time of recording, it can have thematic elements and interrelatedness between it’s songs. If a song is a sentence, an album can be a paragraph; sometimes this is more obvious than other times, but I do think that it is true. Spending the majority of the time listening to songs in isolation from the respective albums from which they came, going through my music this way really had a different feel to it.

There were the albums that I hadn’t had a good listen to in years that brought back old memories and nostalgic smiles. There were albums that I hadn’t listened to all of the songs on yet, and the sucker for B-sides that I am, there were some new discoveries that I’m going to have to pull up more often. Those irking few, the ones that make me wonder how they even found their way into my music folder, were weeded out of the collection.

Mr jokes, “You get to listen to what you want to listen to now.”  I guess I can see where he is coming from, listening through album by album alphabetically could be seen as a folly. It’s not as though I’ve been driving to and from work, or cooking away in the kitchen, or listening and knitting and thinking “I wish I was done with the J’s. Albums that start with J are no fun.” Aside from my weird completion sense of accomplishment, I quite enjoyed the process and am happy that I undertook it.

Maybe I’m silly. Does anyone else do anything like this?

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Strawberry Pear Hand Pies

1 Cup strawberries, hulled and diced

1 pear, cored and diced

2 Tbsp vanilla sugar

1 Tbsp corn starch

1 tsp lemon juice

pastry (I used puff pastry, because I had a sheet of it in the freezer. Use what you like!)

Directions

  • In a mixing bowl, combine the diced strawberries and pear with the sugar, corn starch and lemon juice. Set aside to macerate, the strawberries will let out a lot of moisture in the time it takes to roll out the pastry.
  • Roll the pastry out, and cut out an even number of shapes. I used a round cookie cutter, but feel free to get creative with the shapes.(Heart shaped hand pies are pretty darn cute!)

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  • Cut vents into half of your pastry cut outs, so that when your hand pies are sealed up, the steam from the fruit has an escape route so they don’t get soggy during baking.
  • Using a slotted spoon, or just letting the juice run away at the side of the bowl while you scoop, portion out the filling onto the pastry bottoms.
  • Cover each hand pie with the top piece of pastry, and then seal closed the edges with the tines of a fork.
  • Bake in a 375º oven until the pastry is burnished and golden (~35 minutes).
  • Let cool before eating!

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If you’ve read here before, you’ll know I have a soft spot in my heart for small bites. So hand pies speak to me. I had used a teensy tiny heat shaped cutter to cut the steam vents in the pastry, but the cute little heart shapes got distorted while I sealed the top and bottom edges of the pastry together. So, I put the little heart cut outs in the windows. Precious!

If you have a taste for sweeter things, you may want to add a little more sugar. I erred on the side of scant because I wanted to taste the fruit more than the sweetener, and mostly wanted the sugar present so that the extra moisture would come out of the strawberries. I found the flavor quite satisfactory, and Mr says, “They are awesome! The perfect lunch sized pie!” And he’s right, they are just right to pack into a lunch for work!

This time last year: Granny’s Chocolate Cobbler

And the year before: Black Pepper Cookies

And the year before that: Tangy Pomegranate Vinaigrette