28 January 2011

Report on the bread machine experiment...

I must say I was very pleased with the results of my bread machine experiment! I was dubious as to whether or not the "French" setting would make a difference, but it really does! For one, even though I used the setting for the smaller loaf, it turned out MASSIVE!

here's a view of it inside the bread machine...see how close it is to the window on the top?

I put my travel mug next to it here for scale

and this is so you can see just how big it turned out! Now that's tall!

Besides being a big, gi-normous loaf of bread, it's also very light and fluffy with lots of nooks & crannies for butter to melt into

...and then it just melts in your mouth ~ EXCELLENT!

The lasagna was also pretty darn good, if I may say so myself. I also made a giant pan of this, but on purpose so I'd have leftovers to freeze...

I mean, really....who wouldn't want more of this meaty, cheesy goodness?

26 January 2011

Bread Machine experiment # 1

Ok, so I'm not one to go wild and try new things with my bread machine...I've always just used it to make quick & basic stuff, but today I'm going wild! I'm actually trying the "French" setting to see what happens. I've been on a French bread kick lately and have made it the old fashioned way (almost) but instead of kneading the dough by hand I've been using my food processor for that part - hey, I've got a bum shoulder and it hurts after a minute or two of kneading so I do what I gotta!

But I digress...I'm making a simple herb bread recipe using the French setting to see how it turns out **fingers crossed**
It should go nicely with the lasagna I'm finally getting around to making for dinner! Everything is baking now and the house smells wonderful, so I'll be sure and post again in a bit with pics and a report on how the bread turned out.

Stay tuned!

25 January 2011


We went out for a late lunch so I didn't cook dinner.....
but I finally finished Mike's scarf today!

He's so damn cute it's worth every second it took to make it, don't ya think?!

24 January 2011

It's official

Sometimes I really am a complete idiot! I've had a pack of ground beef in the fridge that was going to go bad if I didn't cook it soon - the spoil date on it was Jan 24 - today - so today was the day I'd decided that, no matter what, I was gonna get off my arse and make that lasagna!

My first mistake was to forget to go to the store to buy onions and tomatoes...I knew I needed them and had every intention of stopping off on my way home, but by the time I left work I'd completely forgotten! Being a "purist" and morally opposed to using jars of pre-made pasta sauce, those are not only key ingredients, but ones that I absolutely cannot do without.

but...there are shortcuts that, while I'm loathe to take them, sometimes you've just gotta do what you gotta do, so I used canned tomatoes for my sauce instead of fresh! There, I said it! I'm so ashamed! BUT in my defense, I did use fresh garlic, peppers & herbs - it was only the tomatoes I cheated with.

You may start throwing real tomatoes at me now if you wish...

So anyway, sauce on the simmer, I turned to start on the meat, and wouldn't you know it, it had spoiled! One would think I'd have had the sense to get out all my ingredients before I started cooking, but I was so thrown off already I didn't even bother to check! Oh yeah, and I'd already cooked the lasagna noodles too, so here I had noodles and sauce, but no meat and no veggies with which to make a nice vegetable lasagna.

I felt like a complete idiot! Anyway, I decided to save the lasagna noodles for tomorrow and just make spaghetti tonight instead, so I went to the pantry to get out my trusty anglehair pasta, and lo and behold, for perhaps the first time in my adult life, I was OUT! Really?!?!

This dinner was not going well AT ALL! I found a box of linguine and dumped it into the boiling water only to realize that there wasn't enough there for two servings, so I took out another package (of a different kind of pasta, of course) and thought to add just a bit, but then I couldn't think what use I'd have for a half pack of random noodles so I dumped the whole thing in...

Mike likes meat with his pasta dishes and I had some kielbasa in the freezer, so I just took off a couple of links of that and cooked it up while the noodles boiled, so what we ended up with for dinner was a thrown together assortment of mixed noodles, spicy sausages and "almost" homemade pasta sauce - all of which took about the same amount of time I would have needed to make the lasagna, including the baking period - in other words, about twice as long as it should have taken!

Boy, am I glad dinner's over tonight! Now where's my wine?

23 January 2011

A surprising twist?

It may come as a surprise to some of you, but when I'm not living ~ or at least imitating ~ the life of a domestic goddess, I love to play in the dirt! I'm not talking about gardening here, although I do have a container herb garden...I'm talking about getting outdoors and getting really dirty!

We don't actually own one of these - Razors, they're called - Mike and I have dirt bikes, but our friend does and what a blast I had today!

I passengered, of course, as it wasn't mine and I was entirely too intimidated by the staggering amount of MUD at the place we went to - I could almost open a day spa there and.....ok, that may be a topic for a future blog....but having never been there or driven one of these things before I was perfectly happy letting Bloke do all the work.

It was one of those rides where at times I thought my brain would be rattled right out of my skull, and the next I was smiling until my face hurt ~ it was spectacular!

I did have an amusing "domestic moment" when we stopped into the lodge for a bite of lunch...a man walked in with four boys, all probably between 12 and, say, 17, and all I could think was 'Boy am I glad I don't have to do their laundry!' They were all muddied from head to toe!

Suffice it to say that, apart from a bit of light reading today, I did nothing domestic whatsoever...but I don't feel bad about it...I've heard tell that even "you know-who" took Sundays off...

22 January 2011

Miracle of Miracles!

I did it! I managed to find a way to cook kale that Mike will eat! I've been threatening him with leafy greens for some time now, but haven't put up much of a fight against his objections, so when I told him we were having kale with dinner I only made him agree to try it - just a little bit - and guess what? He ate all that I put on his plate without (much) complaint at all!

Believe me, it tastes better than it looks! The trick, you see, is to disguise it with butter. First I sauteed some shallots and garlic in a bit of olive oil, then I added the greens and some chicken broth and let that simmer for about a half an hour. Once it was nice and tender, I drained out the broth, melted butter in the pan, and sauteed the cooked kale in the butter...genius! I only hope I didn't completely kill the nutritional value in the process.

It went very nicely, I think, with the rest of dinner too, which was broiled salmon and roasted winter vegetables.

I pretty much emptied the fridge of all the veggies that didn't get cooked this week and roasted them together for about an hour and a half, and they were delicious! There's onions, garlic, fennel, beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes, russet potatoes, shallots, and big chunks of elephant garlic in here.

All I did was toss them in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, a bit of kosher salt and several grinds of black pepper - oh, how I love my pepper mills - and popped it in the oven - that was it! Easy as can be.

I put the salmon in the broiler just as I was sauteeing the kale in butter and it worked out to where everything was done at pretty much the same time...no waiting around for bread to bake tonight.

Besides this one meal, I've been almost completely useless today, though. I meant to run some errands, do some housework, and finish knitting Mike's scarf, but as I was a bit hung over from all that wine last night, I read and napped this afternoon and that's about it! I did work on the scarf for a little while, but I found myself losing place in the pattern and decided to leave it for another time...I've come too far to completely screw it up now!

Ok ~ back to the sofa now ~ bonsoir!

A not-so-fantastic dinner adventure...

So...it's now close to midnight, and after spending about 6 hours in the kitchen - basically from the minute I walked in the door from work until after our guests arrived (and then some) - I discovered that I didn't much like what I cooked...Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon...

I would take full responsibility for not liking it had I not followed the recipe to the letter, cooking the beef exactly this way and the sauce exactly that - but as luck would have it, the recipe is designed for those who actually like their meat cooked, whereas I prefer mine to put up a fight when I cut it! Everyone else raved about it, but I'll never know if they were sincere or just being polite - it's hard to tell with the English...

Good thing there was plenty of wine!

Fortunately for me, I also made a couple of loaves of French bread, which (if I do say so myself), were the BEST I've ever made...and this being only my second time actually making baguettes from scratch, I think the odds are in my favor...but anyway, that's irrelevant! The bread was AWESOME and definitely worth the few extra minutes wait for them to bake before dinner was served...

I also made Pancetta Brussel Sprouts as a side dish, which was my second favorite part of the meal. It's a Gordon Ramsay recipe that we first tried this past Christmas, and it's just too delicious to save for only holiday meals!

I suppose the worst part of the evening wasn't that I didn't personally like the main course, but that our guest Sheila, whom I'd never met, had carried on beforehand about how she'd heard what a fantastic cook I am and how much she was looking forward to being fed by me...once I learned her expectations were so high, there's no way I could live up to them - especially with a dish I wouldn't even make for myself a second time...oh the horror!!!

Did I already mention there was plenty of wine?

Every good story needs a saving grace, does it not?

It made what might have been an absoultely embarrassing evening into a somewhat acceptable one instead, which is highly preferable to this foodie.

This is NO reflection on the company, mind you...it's only my own vanity that protests the evening at all. Our guests were perfectly delightful and I'm looking forward to seeing them again very soon.

21 January 2011

Morning Blog

Good morning, all. I thought I'd try something different today and write in the morning, although since my day has barely begun I'm not sure I'll have as much to share as I will later on.

Maybe this will be a double dose day, who knows, but we're having some of Mike's friends over for dinner tonight so I'm not sure I'll have the time.

Speaking of dinner guests, it's probably a bad idea to serve people you've never met a dish you've never made before, but that's the plan and come hell or high water I'm sticking to it! This "working late" thing has thrown my whole week off and there are things in the fridge that MUST be cooked! :-)

Besides, how hard can it be to make Boeuf Bourguignon? There aren't that many ingredients and it looks pretty straightforward...and if I can eat something once and then recreate it at home from taste memory, I should be able to pull this off, right?

I'll let you all know ow it works out...until then, have a beautiful day!

20 January 2011

Day three....curry round two

Greetings, gentle readers! I trust you all had a fabulous day today.

I wound up working much later than usual again today - funny how that works - as soon as you commit to a project interruptions seem to spontaneously arise almost immediately!

SO....once again, instead of my planned dinner - tonight's menu was to be salmon with roasted winter veggies and wilted greens - we had something else...left over curry from last night.

It actually worked out ok since we had company over for dinner - after almost everyone had seconds we still have some left.

The "real" good news, though, is that Kat brought over some very nicely ripened bananas and we've now got three loaves of banana pound cake in the oven - hooray for teamwork!

So as I sit at my computer typing, Mike is in the kitchen playing with the dogs, Kat is picking out notes on the piano, and her daughter Glenna is playing on the PS3...its actually very nice!

Ok - time to pay attention to my guests now ~ more tomorrow!

19 January 2011

Day two...still struggling with the discipline

Ok, so it's day two of my "blog experience" and I find myself wandering...looking for a good reason - or at least a half-assed excuse - not to write, but having come up with none, here I am.  Today was actually pretty productive and I've got plenty to share, so why is this difficult? 

They say that after 28 days things become habit, which means 2 down, 26 to go, right?  It's amazing to me how easy it is to develop bad habits and how hard it is to develop good ones....and on the flip side of that, how hard it is to break bad habits and how effortless falling out of good ones can be.

Anyway, I had to work 3 extra hours today so I didn't have time to make my planned dinner and instead improvised.  Not that Hungarian Chicken Paprikash requires an insane amount of time to prepare, but I wanted to serve it over egg noodles, which meant a trip to the supermarket.  I opted instead to make a nice chicken curry... 

I always just throw in whatever I feel like when making curries.....they're forgiving in that respect.  A few chicken breasts, whatever random fresh veggies I've got, a pinch of this, dash of that, and a few spoonfuls of the other and Voila!  Easy and delicious served over rice, and Mike cleaned the kitchen when we were done eating....for those of you who don't know, Mike is my very awesome beau...

After dinner I worked on my latest knitting project.  I started making a scarf for Mike a couple of weeks ago, and after a slow start (I'm noticing a pattern here!) I'm seeing some very good progress.  It's a pattern I've not tried before and fairly detailed,

which translates into "easy to lose your place" so I'm keeping a chart and trying to stay true to the pattern, but (don't tell him) I think I've messed up a time or two.  I don't think he'll ever notice, though, and if he does, I can just tell him it "adds character"...think he'll buy it?

Actually, in looking at this pic again, I realize how bad a job I'm doing on mine!

Oh well....it's a gift from the heart made by the hands so I suppose there's merit in its making, yes?

18 January 2011

Why is the first one the hardest to write?

Is it really that difficult to put thoughts into words and hit "publish?"  Apparently so!  I created this page ages ago and this is my first post.  I've been meaning to, mind you, but there are always SO many other things to do...or I find myself procrastinating...or I forget...and before I know it, WOW...months have passed and my poor neglected blog is still empty of words! 

My intention here is to get back into the habit of writing, and since I spend most of my days in front of a computer it only seems natural that I use some of that time working on a writing project, so here goes nothing.  Maybe this is some kind of delayed New Years resolution...I would like to be more creative, more productive, and generally more active this year, so what the heck - let's call it that.

My main topics - at least at first - are sure to be about various experiments in the kitchen, with my knitting needles, and on the yoga mat, and some various other crafting adventures thrown in when I actually get around to accomplishing them...oh, and I also want to learn to play the piano I bought 3 years ago.  Anybody know a good piano tuner?