Monday, December 31, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
The good news, if you can call it that, is that 27% of the people who took the quiz are also dishcloth cotton. I will agree with some of the statements above, but born to clean I was definitely not (though when I do clean, I really go all out).
In other knitting-related news, I started a new project last night. It's a hat for D. I'm using the "hot head" pattern from Stitch 'n' Bitch, but with 2 strands of Lamb's Pride Worsted instead of the Lambs Pride Bulky which was suggested (I'm using blue flannel, blue boy, and brite blue). I cast on using a 2 needle technique taught to me by the leader of my new knitting group. The project requires 10.5 needles, so I cast on (using long-tail cast on) to 2 needles held together--my 10.5, plus a 7 dpn. The cast on edge ended up being perfect--not too tight and not too loose.
Update: So that blue hat I was making for D? Well, I only cast on 56 stitches instead of 64 (this is what happens when I knit and watch TV at the same time). So, the hat was tiny, but it looks really cute on my 3 1/2 year old nephew Matthew!
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
The ribbon I bought is cream-colored with gold trim and pinecones on it. Thus, I decided to decorate my wreath with pinecones. Anina over at Twiddletails had pinecones on her wreaths and they are beautiful.On Saturday, while I was planting my daffodils on the coldest day of the year, 1 day before our first snow was expected, I picked up some pinecones in the yard and some off of the tree at the end of our driveway.
So, I gathered my materials, plus some tacky glue, wire cutters, and scissors and I was ready to start. The first thing I did was place the large pinecones around the wreath so I could get the spacing right (I had to leave a gap where the bow would go). Then, I wired each pinecone to the wreath by wrapping wire around the bottom-most part of the pinecone and wrapping that wire around the wreath. I then wrapped a piece of wire around the middle-to-top part of the pinecone, securing it to the wreath.Then, I glued 3 small pinecones together by first gluing 2 together, letting it dry enough so they stayed in place, and then gluing the third pinecone on. While I waited for them to dry I made my bow.
My mom is an expert at making bows with wired ribbon, but I wasn't able to get her help this time, so I consulted the web. I figured Martha must have instructions, but the best I could fine through her site was how to make a rossette bow using satin (non wired) ribbon. I started out this way (but didn't cut the notches).Then, I needed to add the little "knot" in the center. I made a small loop of ribbon and secured it with wire. Then I used more wire to attach it to the bow.The last step was to make the "tails". I cut a piece of ribbon, notched the ends, folded it in half, and wired it to the back of the bow. Voila! For better instructions on wired-ribbon bow making, check out this site.Here's the finished wreath with the little pinecones glued on. I stuck some single ones on randomly too, trying to make it look like they actually grew on the wreath.And here it is hung on our house!
The cake in the magazine was actually covered in black rolled fondant with pink icing detail. I knew I wanted mine to be chocolate ganache finish instead--tastes much better than rolled fondant, and it matched my color scheme. I called a few bakeries in RI to see who would do the poured ganache. The bakery my sister used for her cake, Fatulli's, couldn't do it, and neither could my caterer. I had seen many advertisements for Scrumptions and figured they would be able to do it. I called and they could!
D and I met with Anna at Scrumptions in December 2006. My goal was to see what they had to offer, and the price, and then go try some cakes at other places too (because who doesn't love tasting cake). Well, after sitting down with Anna and seeing and tasting what they had to offer, I knew I didn't need to try another bakery!
We showed Anna the picture from the magazine and asked her what she thought about doing it in ganache. She loved the idea. Once we had settled that she could do it, we were on to the tasting. For the tasting, she brought us a plate with 6 or 7 different kinds of cake (I remember there was vanilla, lemon, carrot, spice, chocolate, and almond), plus 6 or 7 different icings and fillings (vanilla buttercream, chocolate buttercream, cream cheese, German chocolate, lemon curd, chocolate ganache, and raspberry). D and I had a blast putting all of the different flavors together. I knew I wanted the chocolate ganache finish, so we had to narrow down our choices to fit with that. That meant vanilla, almond, or chocolate cake. And for the filling I was leaning heavily toward raspberry, which D liked too. D suggested lemon cake with raspberry filling and chocolate ganache, but Anna and I talked him out of that. We settled on vanilla cake with raspberry filling, chocolate buttercream icing, and poured chocolate ganache finish! Here's what the inside of the cake looked like after we cut our first piece!
The cake turned out beautifully and I received lots of compliments on it based on the way it look. Then people tasted it and the compliments really took off! There were no extra pieces of cake lying on tables at the end of the reception--every slice was eaten! It was so rich and delicious! And, because we only ended up with 125 guests, the caterers didn't need to cut the top of the cake afterall. We were able to enjoy some of that the day after the wedding and more when we returned from our honeymoon.
The only thing I wasn't 100% happy with about my cake was the flowers on top. Don't get me wrong, they're beautiful and my florist did a terrific job, but what I really wanted was a single peony or tuberose so it wouldn't overwhelm the design of the cake.
So, if you're looking for a bakery in Rhode Island for a wedding cake (or other special occasion cake), I very highly recommend Scrumptions. Incidentally, if you're looking for a special occasion cake in the Boston area, I recommend Party Favors in Brookline--their buttercream icing is to die for (and they decorate beautifully). Rosie's Bakery is also very good.
Photographs in this post are by Krzystyna Harber Photography. She's fabulous!
Saturday, December 1, 2007
I bit off more than I could chew in November. First, I signed on to do a blog challenge of organizing my office. Well, that wasn't so successful (though it's much better than it was). Then we celebrated my grandmother's 90th birthday and a week later celebrated by husband's grandmother's 90th birthday. Then it was Thanksgiving! By Thanksgiving night I was totally pooped! But, I still needed to complete my November Daring Bakers challenge!
I started the recipe at about 5pm on Saturday evening (not the best time to start a yeast bread, especially when you hosted 12 people for dinner 2 days earlier). I cooked the potatoes and kind of forgot about them on the stove (I'm a space cadet), so by the time I got to them they had largely become one with the cooking water. Now, I don't have a baking scale (maybe Santa will bring me one?) so I used 3 big potatoes--perhaps that was too many. I measured my potato water and I just about had 3 cups so just added a little extra water to it.
I followed the recipe, adding yeast, all purpose flour, and wheat flour and floured by counter top (I have a beautiful board given to me by D's cousins, but I hadn't used it yet so needed to oil it before the first use and I just didn't have time for that). The dough was extremely sticky, but I figured this was how it was supposed to be. I kept kneading in flour until I ran out of all purpose flour (I hadn't measured before I started, I just assumed I had enough). The dough was still extremely sticky, so I kneaded in some whole wheat flour--not sure how much. Then I put the dough into a bowl, covered it with a towel, and set it on the mantel of our gas fireplace to rise. Then...I fell asleep!
Yes, in the midst of my bread-making, I fell asleep on the sofa. I woke up around 10 and realized I had to finish the bread! So, back to kneading, and it was still soooo sticky. I definitely think I over kneaded though. It was sticky and I was tired, so I buttered up 2 pans and a muffin tin and threw the dough in them (it was so sticky there was no "shaping" my loaf). Then I stuck the bread in the oven and set the timer for 10 minutes. When the timer dinged I stuck the muffin tin in the oven.
When the bread was done it looked nice, but man did it feel dense! I cut open one of the "rolls" to see what it was like. Okay, but dense. I ate it with some honey.On Sunday I was re-reading the recipe and that's when I saw it: "Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 35 to 45 minutes, until puffy and almost doubled in volume." Oops! I forgot to let it rise in the pans before baking!!! So a combination of using more whole wheat flour than called for, over-kneading, and not doing the second rise made the bread very dense. But, I am pleased to report it still tasted very good. perfect with jam or honey on it, or to dunk in soup. I also made a very good "Pilgrim Sandwich" with it. Yum!
1) Measure all ingredients before starting in case you need to run out to the market
2) When instructions are given my weight, use a scale. Don't guess
3) Don't make a new recipe when you're tired, and don't start so late that you won't finish until past your bedtime
4) Read the entire recipe and make sure you understand the instructions before you begin
Oh, and the "Mrs." apron I'm wearing? That was a gift from my wedding caterer, Fine Catering by Russell Morin. If you need a caterer in Rhode Island or Massachusetts I very highly recommend them!
Here's the recipe if anyone would like to try it:
Tender Potato Bread
From Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour & Tradition Around the World
Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
Makes 1 large tender-crumbed pan loaf and something more (I made 2 8x4 loaves and 1 dozen muffin-tin rolls).
Potatoes and potato water give this bread wonderful flavor and texture. The dough is very soft and moist and might feel a little scary if you’ve never handled soft dough before. But don’t worry: Leaving it on parchment or wax paper to proof and to bake makes it easy to handle.
Once baked, the crumb is tender and airy, with ting soft pieces of potato in it and a fine flecking of whole wheat. The loaves have a fabulous crisp texture on the outside and a slightly flat-topped shape. They make great toast and tender yet strong sliced bread for sandwiches.
4 medium to large floury (baking) potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks variety of potatoes you might want to use would include Idaho, Russet & Yukon gold
For the beginner I suggest no more than 8 ounces of potato; for the more advanced no more than 16 ounces.
4 cups water (See Note)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
6 ½ cups to 8 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 cup whole wheat flour
For Loaves and Rolls: melted butter (optional)
Put the potatoes and 4 cups water in a sauce pan and bring to boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and cook, half covered, until the potatoes are very tender.
Drain the potatoes, SAVE THE POTATO WATER, and mash the potatoes well.
Measure out 3 cups of the reserved potato water (add extra water if needed to make 3 cups). Place the water and mashed potatoes in the bowl you plan to mix the bread in and let cool to lukewarm – stir well before testing the temperature – it should feel barely warm to your hand. You should be able to submerge you hand in the mix and not be uncomfortable.
Add yeast one of two ways:
Mix & stir yeast into cooled water and mashed potatoes & water and let stand 5 minutes. Then mix in 2 cups of all-purpose flour and mix. Allow to rest several minutes.
Add yeast to 2 cups all-purpose flour and whisk. Add yeast and flour to the cooled mashed potatoes & water and mix well. Allow to rest/sit 5 minutes.
Sprinkle on the remaining 1 tablespoon salt and the softened butter; mix well. Add the 1 cup whole wheat flour, stir briefly.
Add 2 cups of the unbleached all-purpose flour and stir until all the flour has been incorporated.
At this point you have used 4 cups of the possible 8 ½ cups suggested by the recipe.
Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, incorporating flour as needed to prevent sticking. The dough will be very sticky to begin with, but as it takes up more flour from the kneading surface, it will become easier to handle; use a dough scraper to keep your surface clean. The kneaded dough will still be very soft.
As a beginner, you may be tempted to add more flour than needed. Most/many bread recipes give a range of flour needed. This is going to be a soft dough. At this point, add flour to the counter slowly, say a ¼ cup at a time. Do not feel you must use all of the suggested flour. When the dough is soft and smooth and not too sticky, it’s probably ready.
Place the dough in a large clean bowl or your rising container of choice, cover with plastic wrap or lid, and let rise about 2 hours or until doubled in volume.
Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently several minutes. It will be moist and a little sticky.
Divide the dough into 2 unequal pieces in a proportion of one-third and two-thirds (one will be twice as large as the other). Place the smaller piece to one side and cover loosely.
To shape the large loaf:
Butter a 9X5 inch loaf/bread pan.
Flatten the larger piece of dough on the floured surface to an approximate 12 x 8 inch oval, then roll it up from a narrow end to form a loaf. Pinch the seam closed and gently place seam side down in the buttered pan. The dough should come about three-quarters of the way up the sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 35 to 45 minutes, until puffy and almost doubled in volume.
To make a small loaf with the remainder:
Butter an 8 x 4 inch bread pan. Shape and proof the loaf the same way as the large loaf.
Dust risen loaves and rolls with a little all-purpose flour or lightly brush the tops with a little melted butter. Slash loaves crosswise two or three times with a razor blade or very sharp knife and immediately place on the stone, tiles or baking sheet in the oven. Place the rolls next to the loaf in the oven.
Bake rolls until golden, about 30 minutes.
Bake the small loaf for about 40 minutes.
Bake the large loaf for about 50 minutes.
Transfer the rolls to a rack when done to cool. When the loaf or loaves have baked for the specified time, remove from the pans and place back on the stone, tiles or baking sheet for another 5 to 10 minutes. The corners should be firm when pinched and the bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Let breads cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Rolls can be served warm or at room temperature.
Interested in being a Daring Baker? Check out the blogroll site for information on joining the group, and check out all of the other Daring Bakers' blogs!
Thursday, November 29, 2007
In the meantime, check the blogroll for others experiences:
The Daring Bakers Blogroll
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Friday, November 23, 2007
So, on Tuesday I went to Stop and Shop and picked up a bunch of bunches of their "3 for $12" flowers. The selection of flowers in fall colors was largely limited to mums which aren't a favorite of mine, but they do say "fall". I bought 1 bunch of big orange mums, i bunch of little yellow button mums, and some medium-sized red mums. In addition, I picked up a bunch of red hypericum berries, some yellow alstromeria (Peruvian lillies), and a bunch of yellow carnations (one of my absolute least favorite flowers). I also bought 2 blocks of oasis floral foam. The grand total of my purchase: $29.00. The flowers don't look very impressive when popped into a vase for storage (I cut the ends off each one and places them in a vase with floral preservative). But they will look good in the finished arrangements.The key to many flower arrangements is having lots of greens. The greens you find at the supermarket are extremely disappointing, and even at a florist they can be pretty disappointing, but I have a secret place to get greens--my backyard! Even in November there are still lots of green leaves--and not just pines! I took my pruners and went for a walk around the yard where I cut leafy branches off of my rhododendron, azalea, forsythia, and euonymous. I also cut some bare branches off of other bushes, some budding branches from the dogwood tree, a bunch of the spiky leaves from my summer container gardens, and a ton of vinca leaves that grows under my dogwood tree. Armed with the greens, I was ready to start my flower arrangements.
The first step is to soak the floral foam in a big pot of water so it's fully saturated. Then, select containers. I selected a white footed salad bowl from Williams Sonoma that my sister-in-law had given to me. It's pretty low, and it's elliptical shape is great for a centerpiece. I wasn't sure what to use for the 2nd container, but I decided on a basket that my friend Wendy had packaged my shower gift in. I found a bowl that fit into the basket just perfectly so it could hold water. Once the floral foam was saturated, I cut it to fit into the bowl and basket. I kept most of it in 2 big blocks, but cut a little off the ends and wedged it into the empty spots in my bowls.
Now comes the trick, cover the entire block of foam with greens before you place any flowers. I started by putting rhododendron leaves all around the edge.Then I added in some azalea, also near the edges, and filled most of the top with vinca. I added some other leaves here and there for interest and color (the azalea was a pretty reddish color while the forsythia was a chartreuse green).Once the whole block of foam was covered with greens, I added my biggest flowers to anchor the arrangement. I put 3 big mums in an arch across the top of the white bowl, and a big mum on either side of the basket. Next I filled in with all of the other flowers, cutting then to length as I went and re-cutting them if they ended up being too tall. I tried to use half of the flowers in each arrangement.
Once all of the flowers were in, I went back and filled any gaps with remaining leaves. As the final touch, I added some spiky branches and grasses.
Here are the 2 final products:
And here they are on the Thanksgiving tables:I was pretty impressed with my centerpieces. They weren't professional, but I think they look pretty good, especially for the grand total of $29.00 that I spent!
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Pan drippings from a turkey cooked on the bottom of the pan (not on a rack)
flour--about 3 tablespoons
chicken or turkey stock--about 2 cups
water--about a cup or so
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
skin from the turkey you just cooked
herbs and bacon from under the skin of the turkey you just cooked
Start by putting the roasting pan containing the drippings on the stove over low heat. Skim off some of the fat so you have maybe 3 tablespoons left (no need to be precise). Add flour a tablespoon at a time as if you were making a roux (which is what you're doing, only with turkey fat instead of butter). Stir the turkey fat, browned bits from the bottom of the an, and flour together until smooth. Turn the heat to medium and add the chicken stock. Stir until smooth and there are no lumps of flour/roux. Add some water to thin it out a little. Add some skin from the turkey for more flavor (remember the turkey skin was covered with bacon grease and salt and pepper). Scrape the herbs and diced bacon off of the turkey and add that too. Simmer until very fragrant and of a good gravy consistency. If it gets too thick, add some water. Strain the gravy through a sieve into a container or gravy boat. Enjoy!!!
Gravy is one of the major reasons people gain an average of 7 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years!!!
After I made the gravy on Sunday, D and I sat down to a great lunch of turkey, corn muffin stuffin', gravy, and cranberry sauce. He came in from raking the leaves and was really happy to have a hot home cooked meal--a great pre-cursor to Thanksgiving dinner!
Oh, but I wasn't done yet. After making the turkey breast, stuffing, and gravy, there was still more to do! I had a beautiful turkey carcass just screaming to be made into stock. In my opinion, the slow cooker was invented for making stock! I picked all of the bits of meat off of the turkey and put them into a bowl in the fridge for later. Then, I broke the carcass apart and loaded the whole thing into the slow cooker along with a very coarsely chopped onion, about 1/2 a heart of celery (including leaves), the 10 or so baby carrots I had in the fridge, 2 cloves of garlic I peeled but didn't use for the turkey, and enough water to cover the whole thing. Then I set the slow cooker on low for the next 12 hours (and had it automatically switch to "keep warm" at 4am until 8 when I got up). Then, in the morning, I strained it all into a tupperware container. When I strain it, I like to pull out the veggies first and use the back of a spoon to smush them through the sieve. Then I pour the rest of the liquid through and strain out all of the bones.
Today I'm working from home, so for lunch I pulled out the turkey stock and leftover turkey bits for some soup. I used a spoon to remove the layer of fat from the top of the broth. Then I spooned the broth into a bowl. Well, more accurately I spooned the "turkey jell-o" into my bowl. I know that gelatin comes from animal bones and so this wasn't that surprising, but it was funny to see.
Turkey "Jell-o" with turkey on top (after I microwaved it, it turned into delicious trukey soup!)
Since I'm home, I just pulled out one of my favorite books about cooking "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen" by Harold McGee to find out more about the gelatinization process. Here's what he says:
"Collagen is the major structural component of the simplest of many-celled animals, the sponges, and accounts for some 30% of the protein in the human body. It is found in the skin and tendons as well as in between muscle cells and muscles, and it is a large part of the matrix in young bones that is later filled with hard minerals. The name comes from the Greek for "glue producing," referring to the fact that when it is heated in water, insoluble collagen is transformed into gelatin, a soluble, gummy solution that can be used for glue as well as a thickener for soups and desserts."
Pretty cool stuff. If you don't have this book and you like to cook (or like science and eating), I highly recommend buying it or getting it out of the local library. It was recommended to me by Rich Herzfeld of Chef's Table in Westport, CT. I took my very first "real" cooking class from him and learned a tremendous amount (including adding brown sugar to food that is too spicy, making large amounts of roux and freezing it in small portions, and wilting cabbage leaves by sticking them in the freezer).
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Here's the ingredient list for the stuffings I made (this makes LOTS of stuffing--a baking dish full of regular bread stuffing and 16 corn muffin stuffin's).
Monday, November 19, 2007
Emeril's Bacon and Herb Roasted Turkey Breast
5.67 lb fresh hotel style turkey breast (bone-in)
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
Then, on Saturday morning after taking the cat to the vet for her vaccinations, I added a few more things to the shelf and labeled the boxes. It's very handy having boxes that are actually labeled--it means you know what's in them without having to open them (novel concept, isn't it?)In all of this organizing, I found a bag of refrigerator magnets from my old apartment, so I stuck them all to the ugly filing cabinet, because, why not?! This corner of the room still doesn't look great, but it's better than this. While D was out buying a snowblower (we had our first flakes this morning), I pulled out the trusty drill/screwdriver and installed a shoebag in the closet to hold our hats, gloves, and scarves. Much better than the cardboard box!
And, I found some old plant hooks in my toolbox (leftover from 4 or 5 apartments ago) and hung them on the window. you'll notice they are upside down--this is on purpose because the hangers wouldn't stay on if they were upside right. Incidentally, the spider plants are descended from a plant my friend Wendy had in her very first apartment in Cambridge 10 years ago. I love plants with a story!
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
I went to the Crate and Barrel Outlet at lunch and picked out a book shelf with adjustable shelves that I thought would be perfect for my office/craft room. Perfect for holding books and supplies...and I found cute fabric covered boxes to go with! unfortunately the bookcase didn't fit in my car. Hoping I can pick it up tomorrow--not sure how just yet!
Thursday, November 8, 2007
"I will send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange. I don’t know what that gift will be yet and you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it within 365 days, which is my promise! The only thing you have to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog."
So, leave me a comment if you'd like me to Pay It Forward. I will try my very best to send you something before Christmas.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
In addition to these, I sent Jess some honey I bought at Idylwilde Farms and a flour sack dish towel that I stamped using a carved wooden block I bought in Coolidge Corner. When I was doing the dish towel, I also did some onesies that came out really cute (I just gave one to my friend Chelsea's daughter on Monday). These block printing things came out so well that I went back to Brookline and bought 2 more stamps. I've also found an online source for buying onesies, etc. in bulk, so I may just start an Etsy store one of these days!