Tag Archives: good stuff

2 + 2 = 5

Standard

I’m not sure when or how I decided to major in accounting. I remember chatting with one of the many medical technicians I came into contact with at Fox Chase who was telling me used to be an accountant but changed careers. I also remember driving by a billboard that was featuring a local junior college’s accounting program. And I didn’t take any career evaluations that are supposed to point you towards the right field of study based on whether or not you chose chicken or salmon when asked what you’d order for dinner at a restaurant.

I do know that, despite having some of the worst math teachers in history while I was growing up, I somehow ended up being good with numbers. Thanks to a wonderful (and incredibly patient) precalculus professor, I discovered that if I took my time and worked out the problems I could actually be a bit of a “numbers person”. I’ll admit I was way out of my league when Linear Algebra proved to be too much to handle, but I figured getting through Calc 2 was enough of an accomplishment for someone well into her late 30s who still didn’t quite know what she wanted to be when she eventually grew up.

When I decided to go back and really, really, for the love of everything that’s good on this Earth, finish college, I had a more than a few things to consider. The first item on the agenda was time. As much as I would have loved to have majored in art history and forged a new career as an art historian at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I had to seriously think about how many productive years I might have left. No kidding; this is something you have to come to grips with when you’re doing a complete career change in your early 50s. This isn’t something you have to give much thought to when you’re 18 and just starting out.

The next brain wave to consider was how to leverage twenty years of business experience into something I could build a new career out of, which is why accounting made sense. The problem was, I’d never taken an accounting course. Not that not being sure about something had ever stopped me from jumping into the deep end of the pool before (see the previous fifty-one years of my life for starters), but I just wanted to be sure I’d be good at it and, more importantly, that I liked it. I like to think I’m a pretty good executive assistant, but I do know this isn’t what I want to be doing in twenty-five years.

alma mater number one

Delaware County Community College – Alma Mater #1

Financial Accounting is required for all Business Administration majors at Delaware County Community College, so I took that as my first class. It was my first dip into college since The Great Linear Algebra Disaster Of 2000. And I aced it. Not only did I pass with flying colors, I was good at it and I loved it.

But this was only for the two-year associate’s degree, not the four-year bachelor’s. Which meant I also had to figure out where to go after DC3.

Stay tuned.

Advertisements

Standard

Now, where was I?

Oh, yes. It was March of last year, the last time I wrote and posted anything into this space, in my little corner of WordPress.  I was on the tail end of recovering from my aneurysm repair surgery, taking macroeconomics and managerial accounting at school and hitting the “Reset” button on my job hunt. I was planning on teaching a few spring crochet classes at Hidden River Yarn and I believe I was working on a store sample that was making me crazy. I seem to think there was something else going on too, and for the life of me I can’t remember what it was right now. I’m sure it’ll come to me.

Things were moving along just fine and I stopped writing about it all. Not that I’d fallen out of love with it, but I felt that I’d ran out of things to write about. Last spring I was still a recovering cancer patient. I was only a year removed from the end of my treatment and even though I was writing about experiences other than cancer, I was still framing them around my recovery process. I recently realized I didn’t become bored with writing; I’d gotten tired of writing about my cancer.

This was never meant to be a blog about my cancer fight, which is why it’s refreshing to come back to this a year or so later with a pair of fresh eyes and a renewed spirit. I’ve had some wonderful things happen to me over the past few months or so. I’m in good health and I just had a great checkup at Fox Chase. I started a full-time job at a very large financial services firm and I’m graduating from my local community college with my associates degree in May. My boyfriend and I (and Frogger, of course) are moving to a really nice little town in a few months.

And starting in September, I’m going to be a part-time college student at Villanova University. A 52-year-old college sophomore.

This is the stuff that’s worth writing about. This is going to be fun again.

Spuds MacKenski

Standard

I was the typical latch-key kid when I was growing up. My parents divorced when I was three, so I spent most of my childhood with a length of blue yarn dangling around my neck that held my key to the front door of our house.

I spent the holidays being shuttled in between my mom’s house in central New Jersey and my father’s apartment in the northern part of the state. The holiday routine meant I’d have dinner with my mom, stepfather and other family members early in the afternoon, usually around one or so. Then my dad would pick me up about three and we’d drive to wherever it was the second holiday dinner of the day was going to be.was being held. Sometimes it was my paternal grandmother’s house or her stepsister’s-daughter-in-law.

Yeah, I know. I used to get very confused, too.

I ate a lot on holidays. Even as a kid I loved and appreciated good food and it was always great fun to have two holiday meals. I jokingly call myself an “Eastern European mutt”, but both of my grandmothers came over from Poland. There was always lots of roasted pork and ham, gawumpki (stuffed cabbage rolls), kielbasa and kapusta (Polish sauerkraut), kishka (blood sausage). Soup with duck blood (yep) for Easter at my babchi’s, kruschiki (deep-fried pastry cookies with confectioner’s sugar) for snacking at the other’s. And babka for breakfast or anytime, really.

And pierogi. Pierogi are, of course, the pockets of boiled or fried (or both) dough, usually filled with potatoes and cheese or wild mushrooms and sauerkraut or other tasty things. They’re delicious and wonderful and people of Polish descent (yours truly included) have been known to stuff themselves silly with them.

In fact, I’d have these for dinner a lot more than I do if it weren’t for two things: the frozen ones are just plain, flat-out awful and they’re a bit of a bother to make from scratch. Okay, they’re a huge bother to make. First you make the dough and then the filling. Then you roll and cut out the dough, fill the pierogi, boil and/or fry them. Then you finally get to eat them.

It’s a lot of work and it’s no wonder that it’s a group activity for some families, some of who crank out hundreds of these babies. And having made these from scratch a few times I can honestly tell you that, unlike big cooking projects that tell you “it’s not as big as a project as it seems”, well. I’ll tell you upfront it is a huge deal and that you’re probably better off finding an Eastern European shop or deli in your area that makes their own and buying them there.

So a few years ago, my mom and her boyfriend went to the Christmas party at the local VFW and she came back raving about something called “pierogi stuffed shells”. “It’s a pierogi without the work!” and she went on (and on and on) about these pasta shells stuffed with mashed potatoes and cheese and topped with sautéed onions in butter. She even bought a plate back with her for me to try. They were good. Not “homemade pierogi” good, but really tasty. I thought the filling was lacking, but I loved the idea.

I made them a few times and tinkered with the potato and cheese filling. More butter, less butter, less milk, more cream, Cheddar, sour cream, smoked Gouda. The traditional cheese to put into pierogies (despite what Mrs. T. puts into hers) is farmer cheese or dry curd cottage cheese, neither of which seems to be made any longer. I When I decided to make these last weekend for the Super Bowl, I thought that goat cheese might be a reasonably good substitute for The Cheese That No Longer Exists.

I was right.

So, here’s the recipe for them. I don’t have exact measurements, only approximations, so you’ll have to make a few judgement calls. They’re little carb bombs, but they’re great for family gatherings since you can make them ahead of time.

Pierogi Stuffed Shells (makes about 24)

20160207_174703.jpg

Yeah, baby.

  • Unsalted butter, about 1 ½ cups worth
  • Chopped onions, about 3 or 4 large ones
  • 1 box of stuffing shells (I used Barilla). Cook the whole box because some of them might be broken and some will stick to the bottom of the pot and some will rip and…
  • About 1 – 1 ½ lbs. of starchy potatoes (baking potatoes will do nicely), peeled and diced.
  • Splash of milk or cream
  • Dried thyme
  • 2 – 4 ounces of a soft goat cheese, something not too…goaty. A mild chevre should do it. If you don’t like goat cheese, try a really mild Monterey Jack.
  • Freshly chopped parsley
  • Lots of salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Melt 2 sticks of the butter in a sauté pan over a medium head and add the onions. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and cook over a low heat until they’re golden and almost caramelized, about 20 to 25 minutes or so. Don’t burn them.
  2. Cook the pasta shells in boiling salted water until they’re not even al dente, about 7 minutes or so. Don’t overcook these, or they’ll be really hard to stuff. Besides, they’re going to cook in the oven. When they’re done, drain them and place them on a sheet of foil so they don’t stick together.
  3. Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until they’re done. Drain them, add some butter, a splash of cream, salt and pepper (a good amount of both), a healthy pinch of dried thyme and mash until smooth. Stir in the cheese and about 1/3 of the sautéed onions. Taste to see if they need anything else. When you’re happy with the filling, stir in the parsley and set it aside. Try not to eat it all.
  4. Very lightly oil a 9 x 13 baking dish. Fill each shell with a heaping soup spoon of the filling and start lining them up in the baking dish. You should end up with around 24 shells.
  5. Spoon the rest of the sautéed onions over the shells. If you’re making them ahead of time, cover the baking dish with foil and put it in the fridge until you’re ready to bake them.
  6. When you’re ready to bake them, preheat the oven to 375°. Bake them, covered, for about 30 minutes or so. Take the foil off and give them about another 15 more.
  7. And, done. Serve with rye or pumpernickel bread with butter and applesauce. Salad would be good, so would pickled beets. Kapusta, too.
  8. Enjoy!

“Mind Your Own Biscuits And Life Will Be Gravy”

Standard

So one week from today I’ll be in my hospital bed at Temple University Hospital, recovering from my aneurysm clipping surgery. And, touching wood and turning around three times and spitting for good luck, I may even be back home by now. Hopefully this will be my last big surgery for a very, very long time, if not forever.

Since this really is brain surgery, I’m going to be hanging around the house for quite awhile. The Brain Guy said recovery time for a craniotomy is about a month and that I should be taking it easy for at least that, if not longer. If you’re a regular reader of this little blog o’ mine, you already know “me” and “taking it easy” don’t really belong in the same sentence. I adore a really good afternoon nap and there’s not too much I love more than hanging around the house in a flannel shirt and some yoga pants, but I’m an antsy little thing.

So I thought (ha!) it would be a fine idea to pull out some of the knitting I put aside when I started learning how to tote up debits and credits back in September. It seems that I’ve got half of one sock done, another sock that needs its mate, a fingerless mitt that needs its partner as well as its thumb, a ridiculous amount of yarn for two sweaters and a duster as well as a pullover I started in June with high hopes of wearing it in, umm, October.

Which was two months ago. Hey, yarn doesn’t go bad.

And it was in that spirit that I decided (ha!) I needed two more projects to keep me amused while my noggin’s healing. I’ve been doing a fair amount of yapping about crocheting and knitting afghans for awhile now, so I figured it would be a good time to put up or shut up and get started, already.

My other justification for buying more yarn…I mean, starting two new projects is this: I need simple stuff to work on. None of my current projects really qualify as “simple”. I love the complicated cables and colorwork and little tiny DPNs and skinny sock yarn. I mean, love. In reality, what I’m really going to need are things that I don’t really have to think about too much.

So here’s the crocheted afghan pattern and it’s a beauty. I’m using Berroco Vintage worsted in all the colors since I think I’m going for a millefiore inspiration with this. I have a vague memory of someone in my family collecting millefiore paperweights when I was a kid and I was fascinated with them. This is going to be for our queen-sized bed and each triangle motif is about six inches across, so I’m going to need a whole boatload of these. I have no idea how many exactly or what colors I’ll be using yet. I’m making this up as I go along.

Why, no, I haven’t really thought about putting them all together yet. One challenge at a time, ‘kay?

And here’s the knitted afghan project for the couch. In my knitting world, this qualifies as “simple” because that sucker’s 20 pattern repeats across. I can live with a few “purl through the back loop” every fifteen rows or so, even though those words usually make me twitch.

I’m also going to get some special, luxe yarn to take with to the hospital with me so I can start a pair of very simple socks. If the yarn is beautiful, you don’t need to do much with it to bring out the best in it. I’m going to be recovering from big, icky surgery and I have every intention of being very, very, good to myself.


 

img_-2radz2.jpg

Pass the butter, please.

So here’s something I’ve been making for ages. They’re from one of my favorite cookbooks of all time (“Moosewood Restaurant New Classics“). They’re great with a bowl of soup or stew and the kitchens smells like heaven while they’re in the oven. The only drawback with these beauties? They’re scones, so they only last for one day. That problem is easily solved, though. Just eat two.

Rosemary Garlic Scones 

  • 2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary (you can use 1/2 tsp of dried, but they’re so, so much better if you use the fresh)
  • 2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Line the bottom of a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly oil it.
  2. In a small skillet, heat 2 Tbsp of the oil. Add the garlic, pepper and rosemary. Simmer for about 1 minute (do not let the garlic burn) and remove from the heat.
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Using a pastry cutter, two knives or your fingers (which is what I do), quickly cut the butter into the flour until it’s evenly distributed. Add the seasoned oil mixture and mix well. Quickly stir in the buttermilk to form a a soft (but sticky) dough.
  4. On a lightly floured board, lightly knead the dough so it holds together. Lightly pat it into a 6″ circle and cut it into 6 wedges. Place them on the prepared baking sheet and lightly brush the tops of the scones with the remaining 1/2 tsp of olive oil. I always forget this step.
  5. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the scones are golden brown. Don’t over bake these suckers or they’ll be dense and dry.
  6. Enjoy!

 

 

 

“If I Only Had A Brain…”

Standard

So as of this past Wednesday, I have three weeks left on my work contract. And six weeks until I have my surgery to fix that brain thing of mine, for those of you playing along at home.

And I’d be lying if I said all of it wasn’t starting to affect me just a little bit. Okay, a lot. I’m exhausted, tired, and more than a little bit cranky, in constant need of a cup of tea and a long nap. I went through something very similar right before my cancer surgery last year. It’s a combination of the anticipation (if it can be called that), a good old-fashioned case of the jitters (Brain surgery! Eep!) and keeping overly busy to avoid dealing with both of them.

Clearly, I’m very well-versed in avoidance techniques.

In three weeks the work will be over and it’ll be Thanksgiving and then I’ll have some time to catch my breath. I’ll finish up my accounting class and get some knitting in. I’ll fill up the freezer with soups and stews and pasta sauce and some lasagna so my wonderful P won’t have to worry about cooking anything while I’m on the mend.

Man and woman can’t live on pizza alone. I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, you understand.

But if I’ve learned anything from the whole cancer recovery experience, it’s that it’s much, much better to be over prepared than under-prepared. Especially when one half of the couple is snoozing away on the couch, drooling into her mug of Darjeeling, stomach growling.  And the other half hates to cook.

Of course, I’m also stocking up on yarn for the afghan, since the plan is to get as much crocheting in as possible. I’m not counting on getting a whole afghan done, but hey, you never know.

I’ll have things to read, but I’m not sure if I’ll want to get a jump on my spring semester reading or not. Macroeconomics doesn’t exactly sound like a lightweight subject, so I think I’ll stick to something that I don’t have to think about. A co-worker gave me a whole box full of knitting books and patterns and magazines she no longer wants.

Which will be absolutely perfect, especially if all I feel like doing is looking at the pretty pictures.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Last weekend I made a loaf (okay, two small loaves) of three grain bread. I put the pictures out on the Intertubes and my Twitter friend Roy asked me for the recipe. So I sent the poor guy over here on a wild goose chase because I was pretty sure that I’d shared it at one point last year and was really surprised to discover that nope, I hadn’t. And then I remembered (or conveniently…forgot) that this time last year I was still on the semi-liquid diet and wasn’t able to eat anything that wasn’t tapioca pudding or instant breakfast. 

Voila!

Voila!

Shudder.

Anyways, I’m making up for lost time this year. This comes from “Love Soup” and is one of those great wet-dough-no-knead-technique bread recipes which are pretty perfect to start with if you’re new to baking bread. There’s a lot of liquid and a whole lot of yeast and what you end up with is a very heavy, wet dough that, ta-daah!, doesn’t have to be kneaded. At all. You just mix it and let it rise. Then you shape it and let it rise again. You bake it and you have bread.

See? That’s about as easy as it gets.

This is a very rustic loaf of bread; it’s not fine-grained and it’s even a bit crumbly. But it’s delicious.


Three Grain Bread for Roy

  • 1 ½ cups very warm water (about 100° F or so; it should feel like very warm bathwater)
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp dry active yeast (do not use fast-rising yeast)
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup rye flour
  • 2 Tbsp cornmeal, plus more for the baking sheet
  • 2 Tbsp neutral-tasting oil (I use sunflower)
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the water, honey, salt and the yeast. Let it sit until the yeast dissolves and gets foamy, about 10 to 15 minutes or so. If the mixture doesn’t get foamy, you’ll have to start over.
  2. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the flours and the cornmeal to mix them.
  3. Whisk in half of the flour mixture into the yeast mixture and give it a really good stir until it’s all dissolved. Whisk in the oil. Now, with a good, heavy wooden or hotel spoon, add the rest of the flour mixture. It’s going to be heavy and thick and really tough to stir. Keep at it until it’s all mixed.
  4. Now put a towel over it and let it rise until it’s doubled and collapses on itself. This will take a good couple of hours, so just be patient. Go and knit something or make some soup. The bread doesn’t need you right now.
  5. When it’s ready to be shaped, preheat your oven to 375° F. Take some cornmeal and cover the bottom of a baking sheet with it. Not a lot; you don’t want it to burn. Just enough so the bread doesn’t stick to the bottom. It’ll give you a nice, crunchy crust.
  6. Now, wet your hands and take the dough out of the bowl. Very quickly (it’s going to be very, very sticky) shape it into a ball. Place it, seam side down, on the baking sheet. Flatten it just a bit and cover it. Let it rise again until it’s about doubled.
  7. The recipe says that you should put a roasted pan of water in right about now to make the oven all steamy and to help create a crust. Since I always manage to spill the water all over the place, I never do this but you can if you like.
  8. When your loaf has risen, put it in the oven and let it bake for about an hour. You know your oven better than anyone, so you’ll have to adjust the time accordingly. I like to turn the bread around about halfway through just so it bakes evenly.
  9. About 5 minutes before your timer goes off (you are timing this, right?), take it out and off the baking sheet. Tap the bottom and see if it sounds hollow. If it does, it’s done. If not, give it another few minutes and then place it on a baking rack to cool. I like to take it out a few minutes short of when I think it’ll be done so it doesn’t overbake. Don’t forget, it’s still baking when it first comes out of the oven.
  10. Let it cool a bit and dig in. This also freezes really well. Just let it cool completely, put it in a freezer bag, get all the air out of it and toss it in there.
  11. Enjoy!

“On Top Of Spaghetti, All Covered With Cheese…”

Standard

I recently discovered the love of my life. They’re soft and a bit spicy and ever so good with a mug of coffee or tea. Wawa Pumpkin Spice Muffins, you are my destiny.

My gawd, these are tasty things. They’re sweet and there’s a nice little cinnamon and streusel swirl that goes through them and they’re moist and delicious and I just about died when I looked up the calorie count (630!), grams of sugar (45 grams!!) and let’s not even look at the fat content.

Okay, I did. 35 grams, or 54% of your daily requirement, for those of you keeping score at home. I’m not, and never have been, one of those people who eat a lot of junk. I keep some candy in my desk at work (Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups), ice cream in the freezer (I really love a good vanilla with the flecks of bean in it) and if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I think cookies are a food group unto themselves. But to sit down and mindlessly munch my way through a whole bag of sour cream potato chips or Haribos? Not my bag.

But every once in a while I take a look at what I’ve been eating and see if I can do better and lately I’ve become a little alarmed with all the sugar I’ve been scarfing down lately. When I was recovering from the surgery and the treatment, my sense of taste went out the window and all I could really taste was anything that was sweet. My taste buds are still coming around (it takes over a year, believe it or not), but it turns out the experts aren’t too far off when they say that sugar is addictive. Or, at the very least, it’s pretty easy to become dependant on the stuff.

And you don’t need me to tell you that it’s in everything. Everything. You can’t pick up anything that isn’t full of it and the amounts are alarming, to say the least. I mean, there’s 20 grams of it in a container of yogurt (which is at the lower end of the scale), and that’s just the fruit-flavored kind and not that…crap…that comes with mini chocolate chips.

So, time to do better. I bought a few cups of my favorite yogurt for my work breakfasts next week, but that’s going to get swapped out for some hot cereal or homemade muffins. I can give up my glass of chocolate milk before I go to bed and be happy with a plain glass of milk and a not-too-sweet cookie or two. I don’t need to go completely down a sugar-free road; I just want to be a little more mindful of how much I’m eating.

Which brings me to this recipe for homemade tomato sauce. Pasta’s on the menu at chez littleredyarn a lot and if I’m making some kind of baked pasta dish, I will grab a jar of sauce at the market. Some of them (Newman’s comes to mind) are actually pretty good and reasonably priced. So just for fun I checked the sugar content (I had an open jar in the fridge) and it turns out there’s 7 grams of the stuff per half a cup. Which doesn’t sound all that terrible, but just for kicks I weighed how many grams a tablespoon of sugar is since I’m a geek and that’s what we do. Anyway, that comes in at 10 grams, which means there’s almost a full tablespoon of sugar in a half cup of sauce. That’s kind of a lot.

Mamma mia!

Mamma mia!

So, without getting all preachy, here’s my go-to recipe for homemade tomato sauce. It’s the kind you can make a lot of since it’s really quick to make and it freezes beautifully. It uses canned plum tomatoes and dried herbs, so it’s perfect for the winter. It’s totally vegetarian and best of all? There’s only 2 teaspoons of honey in 2 quarts of sauce and if your canned tomatoes aren’t too acidic, you could even leave that out.

I like my sauce on the chunkier side, so I just chop up the tomatoes a little bit. If you prefer a smoother sauce, give the tomatoes a whirl in your blender before you put them in the pot.


Dee’s Tomato Sauce

  • 3-4 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 cups of finely diced yellow onions
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 28 oz. cans plum tomatoes, chopped
  • ⅓ cup red wine (I usually have little airplane bottles of Pinot Noir on hand)
  • 1 6 oz can of tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf, broken in half
  • ½ tsp each of dried basil, oregano and thyme
  • ¼ tsp of dried rosemary
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • handful of chopped Italian parsley
  • more salt and pepper to taste
  1. Warm up the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy sauce pot. Add the onions and the salt. Let the onions cook until they soften and begin to color, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and give everything a good stir. Let it cook for another 2-3 minutes or so.
  3. Add the tomatoes, wine and tomato paste. Stir and bring it sauce up to a boil. Lower the heat and add the basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary. Give it a stir, partially cover the pot and let it simmer for about a half hour or so.
  4. Add the parsley and let it cook for another 10 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper. Done.
  5. Enjoy!

“I Sure Do Like Those Christmas Cookies, Sugar”

Standard

When my boyfriend and I got together ten years ago, we thought it would be a fun idea to make a whole bunch of cookies for Christmas.

It made sense. We both liked to bake and since we weren’t going to spend the holiday together (sob!), we could “share the wealth” with our families and friends. Besides, everyone likes cookies.

So we bought butter and sugar and chocolate and I brought down my food processor. We ground nuts and creamed butter and dipped and spooned and flattened balls of dough. We both dug out recipes we loved and it seemed every time we turned around one of us was saying, “Oh! We have to make these. They’re just too good.”

And we baked and baked and baked some more. We had cooling racks on every empty horizontal spot in the apartment. We bought way, way too many zippered storage bags.

Finally, after a couple of weekends of doing this, we took a count of how many cookies we had.

536.

Yes, you read that right. 536 cookies, And that’s not counting the ones we ate along the way.

We gave away a lot of cookies that year. We had our own stash of cookies until March. Let me repeat that. March.

We had cookies until Easter. Easter, people.

And we still love cookies. I don’t eat a lot of sweets, but I will never, ever turn down a homemade cookie. One of the many (ahem) cookies we made that Christmas were these linzer torte bars. Bar cookies are great for when you want cookies but don’t feel like futzing around too much. And these are basically thumbprint cookies without all that faffing around.

Cuppa?

Cuppa?

Two things, though. The recipe doesn’t call for salt and the dough definitely needs a pinch of it. I know, you don’t think about salt in cookies, but most recipes do call for a tiny smidge of it. You could probably go all hipster and add a very small sprinkle of Himalayan pink salt to the top, but it’s just easier to add maybe an eighth of a teaspoon to the dough itself and not get that huge salt hit on your tongue, which I don’t particularly care for.

And it goes without saying that they’ll only be as good as your jam or fruit spread is. I used Bonne Maman’s apricot preserves in this and it worked beautifully. They’re perfect with a cup of tea.

And I had a stubborn craving for these almond cookies this week, which are also great with a brew. I haven’t made them in forever and once I pulled the recipe out, I remembered why. The recipe, as written, calls for “solid vegetable shortening”, or Crisco.

Eww. I don’t use Crisco. Actually, most almond cookie recipes call for lard, which as you can figure out, has no place in my vegetarian kitchen. So I’ll hold off on making these until I can find a substitute for the solid vegetable shortening. Yes, I can use butter, but butter isn’t used in Asian cooking. Hmm.

Clearly more research is needed. Time to fire up the Kitchen Aid.


Almond Cookies (from Martin Yan’s “Chinese Cooking For Dummies”)

  • 1 ¾ cups of all-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • ½ cup chopped blanched almonds
  • 32 almond halves
  1. Sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda into a bowl.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the shortening, sugar, brown sugar and salt with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and almond extracts; beat until blended. Add the flour mixture and beat until fully incorporated.
  3. Add the chopped almonds and stir to mix well. Shape the dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to two days.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°. Roll about a tablespoon of the dough into a ball and place the balls (ahem) 2 to 3 inches apart on a baking sheet. Press and almond half into the center of each ball.
  5. Bake until golden brown, 14 – 16 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 7 minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  6. Enjoy!

“We’re Sailing On The Wide Accountancy!”

Standard

So the new semester’s three weeks old and I’m settling into the old rhythm of being a student again.

It’s work-and-doing-the-reading-at-lunch-and-back-home-and-homework-after-dinner. It’s a Saturday where after we come home after running around with errands, I’m doing problem sets. And then on Sunday morning it’s time to submit the problem sets and listen to the lecture for the next chapter.

Taking excellent notes, of course. I’m such a swot.

Mr. Bean Counter

Mr. Bean Counter

At the risk of sounding like an middle-aged(ish) lady, the last time I did this I was hauling my ass off to a precalculus class on Saturday morning for four hours with textbook, notebook and my TI-82 calculator. This time around I’m connected with the laptop, an e-book and my TI-BA II calculator. I’m yapping with my classmates via posts on the school’s website and getting my class materials from an online platform called WileyPlus, which I’ve developed a real love/hate relationship with.

It’s all very convenient and wonderful and totally accessible, which is the whole point of taking an online class, of course. And for me, who’s up at the quarter-to-dark in the morning (and in bed at quarter-past), this is a godsend. I start turning into a pumpkin around eight o’clock. I’m not sure if this is because I’m an middle-aged(ish) lady or if it’s the hours I keep, but I don’t know how I’d do if I were still in a lecture at eight with a twenty-five minute drive home from campus.

But like most things, I’ll figure it out. One thing I do know is that I’ll have to pick up the pace a bit, or I’ll be sitting here doing problem sets when I’m in my 60s.

And that can’t happen.

But one of the casualties of going back to school is that I’ve basically given up any kind of free time I might have had before doing this. I knew that was going to happen (really) and I knew that this first accounting class was going to be content-heavy (really), but what I didn’t exactly realize was that I’d have, like, no free time at all.

So I’m thrilled that fall’s here since with the cooler weather comes that time of year when it’s finally cool enough to break out the Dutch oven and baking dishes for soups and stews and casseroles. Big, hearty dishes that you can make in advance and then just heat up throughout the week. I’m pretty sure whoever baked the first dino-noodle casserole was a busy person.

Oh, yeah.

Oh, yeah.

I found this recipe for cauliflower macaroni and cheese on the BBC’s Good Food website ages and ages ago; I’ve been making it for at least ten years. I’m only giving you the link here since you can print it out from their website (not sure if you have to register or not), but I’ll give you a couple of tips.

First off, make sure your cheese is a good, tangy, sharp one. There isn’t a lot of cheese sauce in this (if you want more, you can always double up on the sauce), so make sure you choose one that won’t get lost. I made this last night and I used a “melange” of Gruyere and mild Cheddar that I got at Trader Joe’s. Good, but an extra-sharp cheese really is the way to go. And a good, gutsy, pasta is a must, too. Think imported rigatoni or mostaccioli. I bought armoniche and it was perfect.

The recipe also calls for creme fraiche for the cheese sauce. Yes, you can buy creme fraiche at some supermarkets, but you’re better off making your own. Why? Supermarket creme fraiche is, like, $5 for a dinky little container, and you’ll need two for the recipe. That’s 10 bucks, which is ridiculous. So, here you go:

Take 1 half pint container of heavy cream. Pour it into a clean, glass jar with a lid. Add about ⅓ of a cup of buttermilk. Put the lid on and give it a good shake. Leave it on the counter, lid on, for about 24 hours to thicken up. If you’re going to double the sauce in the recipe, use 1 pint of heavy cream and 2/3 cup of buttermilk. Whichever amount you decide to make, you’ll use all of it.

Done. And you’re welcome.

Bake it at 375° in a 9” x 13” pan for about 15 minutes. And don’t forget the sliced tomatoes on top. They’re the best part.

I made Giada’s Green Beans to go with it, but I sprinkle some Parm on top of the beans instead of faffing around with the crisps, as tasty as they are. These are seriously good; I make these for holidays when we have to bring a veggie along. I cook the green beans until they’re nice and soft, though. Hard, crunchy green beans are awful. 

Enjoy!

“She Puts The Sun And Rain In With Her Green Beans”

Standard

It’s hot.

I know. It’s late July and it’s steamy and icky. It’s Philadelphia in July and this is how it is. I’m dreaming of fall while the air conditioning is cranked up to high.

Part of the farmer's market haul.

Part of the farmer’s market haul.

Time to not get all hot and bothered with cooking. There’s macaroni salad left over from last night and since there’s shrimp in the freezer, peel-and-eat shrimp sounds really good. Heirloom tomato salad? Check. And peach, nectarine and blueberry cobbler from yesterday for dessert. With vanilla ice cream, of course.

And honey mustard green bean salad. I bought a pound of beautiful green beans at the farmer’s market yesterday and in the dog days of summer, this is the highest use for them. You can make the dressing while the beans cook and the whole recipe takes no time at all to put together. Then it goes in the fridge, happily, for a couple of days. This makes a whole pound of salad, but the longer it sits, the better it gets.

Yum.

Yum.


Honey Mustard Green Bean Salad (from “Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special”)

  • 8 cups of water
  • 1 tsp. of salt
  • 1 lb. of green beans
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil (I use sunflower)
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Combine the water and the salt in a large saucepan. Bring it to a boil.
  2. Add the green beans and cook until they’re the way you like them. I like these on the softer side of done.
  3. Whisk togeter the lemon juice, oil, honey and mustard in a large bowl.
  4. When the beans are done, drain them. Do not run cold water over them; they’ll absorb the dressing better if they’re still warm. Add them to the bowl with the dressing.
  5. Give them a good toss and add salt and pepper to taste. You’re done.
  6. You can serve these warm, at room temp or cold. I’ve never monkeyed around with the recipe, but slivers of roasted red peppers might be really good. Fresh basil would probably work, too. Hmm.
  7. Enjoy!

“Maroon, yellow, blue, gold and gray”

Standard

I have too much yarn.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I still probably have way too much yarn, but today I have a lot less than I did yesterday. Like, four giant Ziploc bags’ worth.

I’d been meaning to go through the yarn closet for a long time now, but if you’re a regular reader of this little blog o’ mine, you know that the past couple of months have been just a wee bit challenging. And the last thing I felt like doing was pulling out all of the bags and sorting through everything I’ve accumulated over the past couple of years.

Not because of the physical work, mind you. It was just the whole idea of sorting through every skein of yarn because, to be honest, there was a lot of poor yarn purchases on my part and I know I’m not alone in this. I also know that you can’t keep everything. Or that you would want to knit or crochet everything in your stash, either. We all have clunkers in there, buried at the bottom of the bag, just underneath the skeins of the merino and silk blend.

You know, that bag of red eyelash yarn that you bought eons ago because you didn’t know what you were buying? Yeah. That’s what I’m talking about here.

So I decided before I go and pick up my 12 skeins of Osprey for this sweater, before any more cute little skeins of sock yarn come to live in my house, I needed to do a little housekeeping. And here’s how I went about it.

Pick a time when you can devote a couple of uninterrupted hours to go through every bag and box of yarn you have. You don’t have to do it all in one shot, but you really do need to go through all of them.

Find an organization or a person who’s going to take the yarn you no longer want. My local Goodwill was thrilled to get five bags of clean yarn in almost-perfect shape. Please remember that anything you donate must be in good condition. If it’s not, see if you can recycle it. And of course you can always sell it.

And if you were thinking about doing a spreadsheet or perhaps using the “Stash” feature on Rav, right about now would be a good time to start doing exactly that.

Next, figure out what you’re going to keep and what’s going to get donated. And please be honest with yourself. You know what you like to knit and what you like to knit with, right? If you don’t knit lace and you have ten skeins of laceweight, do you really want to hang on to it? Or do you have a friend who would love it and make something beautiful with it? That’s what I’m talking about.

Oh, and I only had three piles: keep, donate and pitch. That’s because I’m a ruthless bitch when it comes to this organizing stuff. And I refuse to hang on to one half of one third of a ball of Sugar and Cream cotton. In barf pink, no less. Out it goes.

I wouldn’t be so cavalier if that was Tosh Sock, of course. You know what I mean.

As you go through your yarn, put aside the yarn you’ve already bought for specific projects. And I will guarantee you that you’ll find yarn for projects that you’d forgotten about.

If you want to, sort it by weight. I have a ton of sock yarn, so once the projects were put aside, I stored the rest of the sock yarn together. And I discovered a couple of neat colorwork possibilities, too.

Once you’ve gone through it all, it has to go back to wherever it was being stored. If you weren’t happy about that situation, here’s a good chance to change that, too.

I’d love to have a huge, open LYS-style storage system, but I don’t have the room for that. So I picked up a few of those closet organizers that hang from the rail and they work perfectly for me. I put the wool in generic ziplocs and write the project name on the outside if it’s earmarked for anything special. If I wanted to get really wild and crazy, I’d slip in the patterns so I’d have a kit ready to go.

Because you never know when you’ll need a knitting kit, right?

I stored the acrylic and cotton in those humongous zipper bags. If you decide to go that route, make sure you get the clear ones so you can see what’s in there, because that’s really the purpose of this whole thing, right?

Sigh.

Sigh.

Sit back and gloat and take pictures of your new stash. Share with other people and make them jealous. Gloat some more.

Now go knit!