Category Archives: cooking

Other things to make with your hands

If I wasn’t knitting, I would probably be cooking or baking. I sometimes watch the Food Network (Hi Alton! Call me!), and often spend a chunk of time on the weekend in the kitchen the same way I would put in a weekend warrior attempt at finishing a piece of knitting. I am generally a big fan of making stuff, and the triumph of getting to actually wear, use, or eat the things I make is sort of the side bonus. The downside to cooking or baking is that it’s really hard to do that while you’re sitting on a subway or at a streetcorner cafe. But there are few knitting projects that result in chocolate cakes or loaves of bread, so I think the benefits are probably on par for each.

So, a month ago when there was a lull in the knitting books that were coming through the publishing world, I asked to look at a couple of cookbooks instead, and Random House happily obliged me. This one is from popular television chef Giada DiLaurentis, appropriately named Giada’s Kitchen.

Photobucket

Now, all skepticism aside about how Giada actually manages to eat all the food she makes and still remain the cute pocket-sized television personality that she is, I have to give this book major props. I’m the sort of person who has flirted with taking Italian cooking seriously enough to have actually made my own pasta (and without a pasta maker, too…and you thought knitting was rough on the hands, HAH), attempted those almond-egg-white cakes that never seem to rise properly, and generally started to wonder what the big deal was about pasta because it is everywhere and seems kind of boring when you make it yourself.

Last night I tried two recipes from this collection; the White Bean and Garlic soup and Linguine with Green Beans and Ricotta, with some garlicy Calabrese bread on the side. It took less than an hour to get both dishes on the table from start to finish, and it is a crying shame only two of us were eating them because it was so good. I was left with a pleasant combination of flavours in my mouth afterwards, not to mention a nice fridge full of leftovers to get me through a few lunches this week.

Photobucket

Giada’s recipes are, I have to say, an excellent set of everyday recipes. Most of the ingredients she uses are familar and will not have you scouring specialty markets (Naked Chef, I’m looking at you), and they are simple enough not to take up more than a page each of the book (Martha Stewart, I’m looking at YOU). There is also enough variety in here to take you through an entire multi-course meal if you want, right from cocktails to dessert, and also uses a lot of vegetarian recipes as well as meat courses. I’m flirting with the Appetizer Red Pepper Cheesecake and the Lamb Ragu for next attempts, I think.

Thankfully a lot of her recipes are available on the Food Network website (as the recipe I link to above), so you can try some before committing to the whole book. For me though, I don’t think this book is going to gather a whole lot of dust any time soon.

Next up in reviewing over the next couple of months: The Canadian Living Baking Book, Shear Spirit, and Mason-Dixon: Knitting Outside the Lines. Can’t wait!

15 Comments

Filed under book review, cooking

Just pictures

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

(Winter has arrived.)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

(Everyone knows radiators are for sitting on.)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

(The beginnings of an SWS hat.)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

(Crunchy Cabbage Salad)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

(Carrot & Potato Soup)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

(Hello Dolly bars. Next time: need higher nut/coconut to butterscotch ratio.)

And one more thing…

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

It’s 98% done, but the last 2% won’t get done until after my supervisor returns from a trip, so I am giving myself a couple of days permission to not think about the Thesis and return to it with (hopefully) fresh thoughts. I’m at a point where I need to do big “what does it all mean” statements and by Friday last week my brain was resisting. At this point, the draft is done enough that I’m giving myself permission to start Venezia…just as soon as I can get the last swatch or two done for confirmation. Of course, now, the knitting ennui strikes again ;) Maybe after the weekend is done I’ll get it back.

18 Comments

Filed under cats, cooking, real life miscellaney

Inching along

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

The trouble with insecurity (wait, there’s just one?) is that it starts with one thing and then quickly spills out over into the rest of your life. For my psyche, it’s a short trip from the formidable obstacle of my dissertation and all accompanying fretting (what if it all sucks? What if I’m not cut out for academia but what if I’m overqualified for any other job?) to other things that usually wouldn’t take a hit. (What if my knitting sucks? What if my designs are all crap? What if nobody likes me? What if I’ve forgotten how to make new friends? What if I become a twitchy crazy hermit surrounded by yarn cackling to herself over cold cups of tea?)

I think part of my twitchiness this week is coming from the fact (Well, other than the Real Source of All My Woe Which I Have To Write and Just Deal With) that I let myself get frustrated and impatient over things that shouldn’t have been frustrating. I made it out to Lettuce Knit on Wednesday night, but hockey game traffic clogged up the roads and the bus arrived late, then the subway got delayed and I still hadn’t found dinner yet, so by the time I actually made it there it was almost dark and I was feeling flustered and stressed underneath it all. It was lovely to knit and chat with people though, I miss the knitting friends I made while I was in Toronto! I wish I had a knit night nearby again…But for some reason I just couldn’t make myself completely relax and then on the way back I just missed the bus back to Hamilton and had to wait another half hour (I don’t know why public transit makes me this frustrated, it is irrational yet piercingly effective as a stress-inducer), and by the time I got home all I could do was add up the number of hours spent in transit versus the number of hours I actually got to spend talking with knitters…It made me realize I have to do a better job of incorporating Toronto knitting visits with other things in the city, otherwise my fretting will get the better of me. And then that realization made me fret some more, because geez, shouldn’t knit night itself be a reason to come in and have a good time?

Yeah, fun times in my head right now, right? Le sigh. But it’s Thanksgiving this weekend, which is as good a time as any to re-sort out my brain and prioritize. And lest I start taking this blog on a permanent ticket to Cynical Town (stops in Apathy Junction and Mopesville), I can promise there will be at least 1 if not 2 FO posts soon, and that will be soothing to my tattered psyche if nothing else will. It’s not the same as a finished thesis, but hey, FOs are a boost and I’ll take it.

Also, I haven’t forgotten about comfort food, thank goodness. I got a head start last night:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Parsnip soup and chevre biscuits from a past issue of the LCBO Food & Drink, and then an extra-fun treat which I have more plans for…

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Because sometimes you just want to dip some pretzels in chocolate and then eat them, yanno?
Best weekend wishes to all, and Happy Thanksgiving to fellow Canucks.

13 Comments

Filed under cooking, real life miscellaney

Wednesday random

This sock pattern is making me look at the striping yarn in my stash with interest and relief.

Kitty cat now helps me check email in the morning.

Beatrice2

There is a cupcake roundup challenge afoot, and I have plans.

And I now have accumulated an eggplant, 2 red peppers, 2 3 watermelons, a bunch of radishes, and a bunch of parsnips. Help?

Oh, and did I mention that my thesis is sucking the life out of me and I have decided it is not at all a good plan to have 4 big WIPs on the go at once and my confidence level is at an all time low and I don’t know what I want to do with my life? Oh, my willpower and work ethic, please come back for I miss you so…

9 Comments

Filed under cats, cooking, real life miscellaney

Productivity (sort of.)

There is baking in this post, (it’s been far too long!) but since this does still remain a knitting blog, I’ll start off with the Ribby Cardi. I’m onto the 2nd front piece, fuelled by a sort of escape-velocity speed of knitting wherein I hope that if I knit fast enough I’ll still have enough red left for both the fronts and the buttonband. I think it’ll be okay. I think. But if I have to place a Knit Picks order and try to only order 1 ball of yarn? Shee-yeah, right, that’s likely to happen.

Ribby2

Before I get to the baking, lemme tells ya about the food. The veggies this week have once again been met with my full force. The swiss chard subbed in for escarole in this skillet recipe, the butternut squash became this fantastically awesome pasta recipe which I’d forgotten about, the tomatoes got sliced up with some basil and vinaigrette, and some potatoes and carrots became this yummy soup. If I can stagger back to the kitchen this evening, more of the tomatoes will be turned into some pizza with olives. YUM. It’s a lot of cooking particularly on the weekend, these last few weeks, but it’s worth it to have leftovers for the rest of the week. There are sadly no pics of any of this – I don’t seem to have as much patience to stop and take pictures before devouring my dinner – but I’ll personally vouch for all of those recipes. MMM.

And I did say there was baking. Oh yes. I’ve started taking cupcake requests. My friend E who works in the same office as me on campus, requested something in chocolate-mint. This isn’t my favourite flavour combo, but I am a big fan of Junior Mints candies, so essentially I tried to approach this by trying to make a cupcake version of a Junior Mint. I think it worked. I can’t say that I’ve tasted one yet (waiting until after dinner), although I have tasted all of the constituent parts and those tasted darned good to me. Also, my sister and our friend C stopped by post-baking and there was a lot of this going on:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Mint-Chocolate Cupcakes

I know this is horribly unseasonal – in the markets there are apples and pears and pumpkins for crying out loud! and I’m sitting here making chocolate mint cupcakes? – but hey, whatever. This prep will come in handy come the holiday season. For this adventure, I combined a sour cream chocolate cupcake recipe with a mint creme filling and a simple chocolate glaze. My sour cream chocolate cupcake recipe came from Cupcakes Year-Round, but this recipe is pretty close. I like the way it turned out, just smack dab between cake and brownie texture.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

For the mint creme filling, I started with 1 can sweetened condensed milk, added 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract (add more in very small increments to increase the flavour), and kept on mixing in more powdered sugar until it got to a nice spoonable consistency. You fill the cupcakes by cutting a little cone shape out of each cupcake, slicing off the pointy end of the cone, spooning (or piping) in the filling in the little hole, and then putting the top back on. Now, it’s ready for glaze.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

For the glaze, I warmed 1 cup of heavy cream to just-bubbling, and poured over 200g of chopped dark chocolate. (Dark chocolate for that nice Junior-Minty flavour, mmm…) Let it stand for a few minutes and then stir it up until it’s a good drizzly consistency, but not so thick that it needs spreading. Drizzle it over the cupcake tops until smooth, then let stand. (it will harden up.) Garnish with some crushed up peppermint candies for easy identification purposes. Mmm.

So that pretty much brings me up to speed on the weekend. Miss Beatrice the cat has had a long hard weekend of defending the backyard against her evil arch nemesis, Skinny Orange Cat (as opposed to Fluffy Orange Cat), so she’s been a bit restless. I on the other hand, have some resting up to do before dinner begins. Off I go to clutch the knitting and pretend tomorrow isn’t Monday… ;)

8 Comments

Filed under baking, chocolate, cooking, ribbi cardi

Fuel for the fire

Having a weekly vegetable box to work with is, I am discovering, the opposite of how I am used to cooking. I generally come up with a few recipes to cook throughout the week, then buy the ingredients. This is the reverse – I am being given some key ingredients and then run off to figure out how to use them. I am also realizing that the best approach is to have a few staples on hand in the pantry and refrigerator and then plan for a shopping trip mid-week instead of on the weekend to get anything else that I need. This week, I had a lot of fun finding new recipes to work with.

For the mizuna, I used one bunch as a substitute for escarole in this recipe, which was YUM. Perfect on a chilly weekend like the one we’ve been having.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

The beets and beet greens were a different challenge, though. I see now that the default recipe for any green leaf vegetable besides lettuce is, “fry it up with bacon and garlic!” But since I knew I was doing that with one of the mizunas, I kept on lookin’. I found this recipe for beet green gratin from Alton Brown (I love you Alton! Call me!), which did not disappoint, particularly with the beets roasted up on the side.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I also roasted up the acorn squash last night as part of dinner with friends, based on this recipe I found at Smitten Kitchen (that blog is fast becoming a must-read for me). It’s a really, really good way to eat a squash. The other head of mizuna found its way to this stir fry recipe which was also darned tasty. I’m eating as much as I can (woe, such a problem to have, right?), but I do think I’ll be getting into the habit of having people over for dinner more often or passing on a few of these to my sister who is close by.

But really, it’s just as well that I have this new deal of having a set of vegetables to work with every week, because my appetite has just skyrocketed the past couple of weeks. And then it occurred to me that, in the past month, I have:
a) switched my average rising time to 6-6:30am as opposed to the leisurely ::mumblemumble:: o’clock I was used to as a grad student living a short walk from campus
b) increased my running from 3 runs to 4 runs in a week
c) increased my long Sunday run to 50 minutes and now to 60 minutes
d) started using my bike as transportation for running errands.

Oh, right. THAT’s why I’m so hungry. Bring on the vegetables. (Um. And maybe some cupcakes too.)

Sept16 011

But lest ye think knitting content has forsaken this blog, I can report that I finally caved and cast on something new today. It’s the start of another Ribby Cardi, for me and with the faint hope of making it to the Rhinebeck wool festival in late October. Heh. It’s Swish Superwash from Knit Picks in the colourway ‘fired brick’, a brilliantly cheerful red which will be joined by sleeves knit in – wait for it – ballerina pink. I will surely not get lost in a crowd wearing this, right? All the more reason to bring it to Rhinebeck, so’s I don’t get lost from my partner in crime. And I’m all prepped to add length and various mods thanks to using this yarn the last time around.

In other news, Beatrice the cat has accepted me. And my lap. (She even lets me knit at the same time. I knew she had some intelligence about her.)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Happy weekend!

7 Comments

Filed under cats, cooking, ribbi cardi, sweaters

Flux

Not only am I a little perturbed that it is already Wednesday, but I am most distressed to discover that it almost the middle of September. I mean, I’m trying to make friends with September since, let’s face it, August was pretty sucktastic in case I haven’t mentioned it (stress of moving, anxiety over dissertation, rejection of several things, that sort of sums it up), but I somehow thought it would progress a bit more slowly than this. It’s fall, right? Fall is leisurely and soothing? Isn’t it? Quick! Start smelling the roses! Or, smelling the fall produce, as it were…The house-sitting house also comes with a weekly local vegetable box, and now I am in possession of not only several tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, beets, and mushrooms, but two bunches of this:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

It’s mizuna, a Japanese green similar to mustard greens and which can be used relatively interchangeably with things like kale or swiss chard. Apparently this gets snuck into our salad mixes all the time, which means I must like it. This is the first time I’ve been presented with a bunch (or two) of it on its own. I am investigating stir-fry and stew recipes as we speak. Mizuna goodness shall be mine. (Then I will conquer the beet greens.)

My knitting this week is progressing slowly. I hope that one day soon I will be able to show you pictures of something besides this Moderne Log Cabin…but on the other hand, I am happy to report that the blanket does receive the seal of approval from Miss Beatrice the Cat:

Moderne3

She rolled around on it as if to say, ‘this is for me, yes?’ She also reports that, despite all visual evidence to the contrary, it is very, very, very hard work being a cat all day.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I’m a little jealous. (But I am comforted by the knitting and the leafy greens.)

10 Comments

Filed under cats, cooking, mason-dixon