Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Chocolate again

I ran to the drug store today to pick up a few last items for my candyswap pal and couldn't pass this up:

I've never seen this brand before. It appears to be German, and in addition to the raspberry and blueberry varieties, I saw orange, strawberry and cherry. The verdict? Not so good. The packaging had me convinced I was going to get a fruity filling, like with actual fruit or jelly or something, but instead it's got a sort of liquid, white filing. It's the stuff that's inside the chocolates you take a bite out of and then secretly put back in the box when you're a kid. The filling does have a decent, authentic fruit flavor (I've only tried the blueberry so far), but it's too sugary for my taste, and both it and the milk chocolate covering are kind of grainy. That I'm not a milk chocolate fan doesn't help. Oh well. It was an excuse to eat some chocolate, anyway.
I did also manage to get my swap treats into the mail, and hopefully they'll arrive in something other than a melted puddle.
And yes, I have eaten actual food this week, too. I did a Pad Thai last night that turned out suprisingly well.

I had given up cooking anything in the wok at my old house because the range just didn't get hot enough to produce good results, and so far I've refrained from using the wok burner in our new house because we haven't gotten around to ducting my super-sucker range hood yet. But a girl can only go without stir fry for so long, so last night I decided I'd try the wok on the stovetop. The results were definitely better than what I could get from my old, crappy range, but still SO not as good as if I had all 130,000BTU of the wok burner at my fingertips (and that, friends, will be a seriously blogged about event!). The finished dish was missing that slightly toasty, oily dryness that really makes Pad Thai yum, but it was still acceptable enough that I'd make it again in the same manner.
I won't bore you with the recipe although it was very good. I used the one off the back of the noodle package this time, but I've also enjoyed the one from Joy of Cooking in the past.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Have you tried this?

It's yummy! I'm a dark chocolate lover, and it's hard to find a good piece of dark chocolate in the grocery store check out line, or at the grocery store at all, for that matter. Now, while I am not typically a Ghiradelli fan, I grabbed a couple of these the other day and they made me happy. They're nothing like my dreamy dark chocolate favorites, but they're not $6 or $8 a bar, either. Pretty good for an everyday fix, and there's an orange and an espresso version as well.
Check out another quick review here.
And then:
In the name of research and goodie gathering for candyswap loot to send to my designated pal in Japan, I've been poking around into the far corners of candydom and become something of a connoisseur of gas station candy aisles. Anyway, I haven't had any experience with online chocolate buying, but Chocosphere looks like someplace I'd like to give some bucks to. All those interesting chocolate varieties are so exciting! Wouldn't it be fun to do a chocolate tasting party? I'll have to keep that idea on my back burner...

Friday, May 26, 2006

Speaking of Food

It's been a long, long time since Boy and I stepped out for something other than bar food or takeout, but last night we hit Origami Sushi at Ridgedale, aka Origami West.
While I have enjoyed lunching and dining at Origami Minneapolis on numerous occasions, this was the first time I had ever been to the mall for sushi.
We both ordered the sushi platter entree, which is basically a slightly larger version of their sushi lunch, comprised of salad, miso soup, seven pieces of nigiri, two types of roll and some tamago, for $18.95.
The salad, as ususal, was simple and delicious. The miso soup was much better than I remember, delicately flavored but satisfying in a way that only Japanese soups seem to be able to be. The sushi was better than I was expecting, really, and probably better than a lot of what I've had at the original Origami location. I was a little dissapointed that our plates included tuna roll and nigiri tuna, as I would have liked to have had something different. And the shrimp? I have almost never had a well-cooked shrimp at any sushi bar and this one was no exception. It was rubbery and sad, reminding me of the plastic stand-in sushi in those displays they sometimes they sometimes put in restaurant windows. Not worth the rice it sat on, IMO.
On the other hand, the jasmine iced tea was delicious enough to make me forget about feeling sorry for myself that I wasn't having wine or a cocktail. (I'm wearing a few too many lemon drops and gin and tonics these days which causes certain very important clothing items to not fit and the only other thing I'm going to say about that is BOO!)
The restaurant itself is nice, and a real improvement over most of what you find in mall restaurant ambience. I would have forgotten I was in the mall entirely if it weren't for the obnoxious shopping-is-my-day-job-and-I'm-a-stripper-at-night girls on the banquette next to us abusing both their own dignity and that of the man who was sad enough to be their dining partner and, apparently, financier, and the couple behind us with the fussy infant. But hey, people gotta get their sushi fix, right? Besides, the fact that we could go in in jeans and flip flops for dinner and not feel underdressed (because hey, it IS the mall) makes up for a lot.

Overall, it was a nice impromptu weeknight dine out. I'd definitely go back.

Origami Sushi West
Ridgedale Mall, Minnetonka, MN

FYI: This post has been brought to you by the fact that I stayed up WAY too late last night reading Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires. If you're like me and the other five people who haven't already read it, this book is a fabulous, calorie-free dining adventure with Ruth and her alter egos, all on an expense account. It makes me want to dress up and experience life through a different set of eyes. Or to become more adept at experiencing life through a different set of eyes without dressing up.
And the eating. Oh man. I cannot even fathom the dining obscenity that must be the life of a restaurant critic. It kind of made me thankful I don't get to extravagantly dine out on a regular basis, actually.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Having a Glass Floor in Your House is a Little Like Doing Drugs

Cause you get a little rush every time you set foot onto it. Cause you just never know what might happen, ya know?

Likewise, you need to be a little bit of an addict to keep the thing clean...which I am not. Have they invented Swiffer socks yet?

Who's idea was this again?

Thanks to Carrie for the crotch shots of a couple of boys we know :)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Does This Yarn Match My Motorcycle?

Long ago, in old house days, I used to host a bi-monthly gathering of friends we called CraftyChix that involved eating and creating and all sorts of good girlie stuff. Fast forward to two years later, and I'm looking forward to the return of CHIX to my new house, just as soon as I have something for y'all to sit on and that ordeal, friends, is coming along a bit slow.
Anyway, last fall, with winter bearing down upon us and an absence of suitable locale for CraftyCHIX, we decided it would be fun to re-invent the event and give ourselves something to look forward to for the long winter ahead. We also wanted to support a local coffee shop we like, Betty's Bikes and Buns.
Now, being that many of us CHIX are also motorcyclists, and that Betty's happens to be a moto-centric kind of place, we named our new event Moto-Knitters, and we've been having a grand old time knitting, sipping and noshing (on Betty's great* cookies) ever since.
A week or so ago I got a bug up my butt and decided we needed a logo and some T shirts, being that we've been steadily moto-knitting now for quite some time.

Of course, the next obvious thing to do was to make a couple of t-shirts.
Coolness, eh?
So, moto-knitters unite, I say, and if you're interested in joining us, come on over to Betty's on any second Thursday!!

*I'm only giving the oatmeal raisin a rating of great. The chocolate chip are SO not as good as my 'you've never eaten a good chocolate chip cookie until you've had one of mine' cookies, but that's a topic for another day.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Feel the Power

In honor of this post here , I just had to post a photo of our baby, proudly installed in it's place of honor in the new house living room:

We've got it parked in the corner right next to the bike room, so that it and our other favorite babies can snuggle, and boy am I glad we won't have to move that beast again for awhile. Very. Very. Heavy.
We've been busy relaxing, kicking back and enjoying the view from the -ahem- comfort? of the kitchen chairs we dragged with us from our old house (take your pick, there's four, all uncomfortable) instead of playing pinball, but rest assured, there will be plenty of Addams Family play in our future.
While we are thankful for the return to normalcy following our effort of housebuilding, Popcorn, coctails and movie night at home lose just just a little bit for me when it's happening at the dinner table and the DVD is playing on the kitchen TV. Have I mentioned how desperately I need to buy some furniture?

Anyway, go check out Splityarn. It looks like our lives are oddly parallel in other ways besides pinball. I'm definitely getting a whif of a modernism, no?, and I see an IKEA kitchen in there ...mines Hallarum, hers looks like Abstrakt black, but both with Lansa handles (the coolest, duh!). And don't you just love the old magazine ads-as-art idea? Those are fabulous, Splityarn!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Sip, Stitch and Pitch...YAY!

Knitting + outdoor baseball=fun+ a few confused baseball fans.
This past Friday night, Borealis Yarns and Ginko Coffee sponsored Sip, Stitch and Pitch night with the St. Paul Saints. Blogless April, myself and Ms. Knit-Whit were all in attendance and we had a BLAST! Check out some pics here and here.
Borealis Yarn also sponsored a pre-game yarn swap, so I swapped a couple of skeins of stuff from my stash for two skeins of this:

and three skeins plus some leftovers of some lovely gray Cleckheaton Merino Supreme, which, I'm told by the previous owner, was carried by hand all the way from Australia.
A major windfall, IMO. I feel like I won the yarn lottery. And as if that wasn't enough, we knitters were gifted with a free skein of Plymouth Encore in St. Paul Saints blue just for walking through the gates. Can you believe it?!?

My game night knitting consisted of work on a sock that I had cast on for a few days ago using some Lana Grossa Meilenweit Cotton Fun that I had previously knit and ripped. I'm a little happier with the results this time, but still not thrilled. And now that I've got that insanely cool Schoeller cotton colori calling my name, I'm tempted to abort and start work on something I know I'll love.

You may notice I'm all about the cotton sock yarn these days. That would be because two pairs of my hand knit sockies, both made by me with my favorite Lana Grossa merino yarn, got shrunk into kidsize while we were staying with boy's mom. There is nothing more boo than a ruined pair of hand knit socks, and I've decided I'm apparently not enough of a grown up to knit socks with anything wool anymore. So bring on the cotton I say.

Stay tuned. I've got some MAJOR coolness in the blog pipeline...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Breakfast fixation

Breakfast for me lately has been all about the puffy pancake. I just can't get enough of this perfect combination of simple, fast and yum. Here is the one I ate (all of) this morning:

Not my most photogenic of specimens due to the fact that I was rather impatient with the "preheat the oven" step, but you get the idea. Today I went the maple syrup and butter route, but they're also great with jam, fresh fruit and whipped cream, or the traditional powdered sugar and lemon.
Puffy pancake magic is all about the pan. You need something heavy that will hold a lot of heat, and it's also got to be ovenproof. I've made the puffy pancake with OK success in an All-Clad skillet, but good old (or newish, in my case, meaning that I'm the first owner) cast iron is the best candidate and really gives the best results. If you don't have a cast iron skillet, do consider getting one. I know they're heavy, but they're very inexpensive and one of the best all-purpose cooking tools ever. It's one of those things I wish I would have learned to use and love sooner than I did.
Anyway, the real secret is to get the pan hot, hot, hot before pouring in the ingredients and popping the whole thing into the oven. For this reason, I wouldn't recommend non-stick, as it's not good to heat them "naked" as Sara Moulton would say.

Recipes abound for the puffy pancake, also known as a Pannekoeken or Maine pancake. Here's the one I use:
1/2c. all purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2c. milk
a dribble of vanilla or, traditionally, some fresh grated nutmeg
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 425. Place a well seasoned 10"-12" cast iron skillet over medium-high heat on the stovetop while you whisk together the ingredients, or zizz them in the blender for a few seconds if you prefer.
When skillet is very hot, melt a tablespoon or two of butter, oil or bacon grease in the bottom. The skillet should be hot enough that the fat would smoke if allowed to sit for any length of time. Pour in the batter. It should bubble and give you a good, loud sizzle when it hits the pan. Place immediately into oven and bake for 10-12 minutes until puffy and golden brown.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with butter and your choice of toppings or maple syrup (only the real thing please!)

Aside from the whole preheat the oven thing, these take about two whole seconds to throw together. A since they only bake for 10 minutes, it's pretty much instant breakfast gratification.

I've got my eye on a few 6 1/2" cast-iron skillets over at the Lodge e-store that I could use to make little individual puffy pancakes. Now would that be fun or what?

Monday, May 15, 2006

There has been knitting!

A long, long time ago in a far away place, I started working on Teva Durham's Turtleneck Shrug from Scarf style. I think I started in the summer with the intent to have it finished and wearable by winter. Then life and house building got in the way and I only managed to work on it a couple of hours a month, and what should have been a relatively quick knit turned into a long, long knit.

Anyway, it's finished, and just in time for summer!
Here's me and the FO, modeled on the fly at our monthly knit-in at Betty's Bikes and Buns.

Thanks to Knit-Whit for the pic.

Suprisingly, I really like it! I'm thinking of playing around with the pattern a bit and making another, non-ribbed version in something really, really soft (can you hear that cashmere whispering "buy me, buy me"?). While the Galway I used is decently soft, it is a little annoying on bare neck skin...

Has anyone done any garment knitting with Malabrigo to know how it wears?

My latest project is the Noni Bobbles Bag, the one with all the different colored bobbles on it. The pattern calls for sixteen different colors of Cascade 220, so I guess I'll be saving my knitting pennies for that for a while. I'm nearly done with the plain black body, and although the pattern neglects to say how many rows are to be knit, I managed to find out that it's 55 after digging through their great looking but not very user friendly website. (Yes, there is an errata page if you've got enough patience to find it). I also notice that there's a couple of errors in the color numbers for the bobbles that dont' appear to be documented, but this I can guess at.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Almost back to normal

After six months of camping* with boy's mom while we finished our new house, we're finally homeowners again and things have started to get back to something like normal. My first clue:
our first official mowmow of the new house

Perhaps you'll recall that this is the ritual of one of our kitties where she wanders around the house with the yellow mousie in her mouth howling. It's crazy.
She never gave us a single mowmow at our temporary home. I guess she knew it just wasn't right, or maybe she decided to mind her manners with grandma. Either way, we were starting to think that mowmow was forgotten. But then, last night...mowmow!!
It was a little frighening, actually. It shocked us both awake in the middle of the night, plus the concert hall-like acoustics of our still 95% unfurnished house made it really, really loud.
Still, we can't help but feel that it's a sign that all is well in new home land.

*Ok, so it wasn't really camping. We swapped the tent and air matress for a matress on the floor in an attic. Besides, at a campground someone (besides me, that is) actually cleans the bathrooms once in a while.

In other news:
Unpacking my cooking equipment from storage was like the best Christmas ever. Better really, since everything that came out was EXACTLY what I would have wanted :) So, cooking has resumed with a vengance but I've been a little lax in documenting due to the fact that I REALLY, REALLY need a new camera. So much for the idea that I would begin a chronological photo record of new kitchen meals starting from the first...

I had been craving a really good bowl of French onion soup and I figured that was the perfect reason to try making some at home, something I hadn't done before.
The onions:

the onions following about 50 minutes of slow carmelizing:

the delicious bowl of onion soup, complete with freshly toasted croutons and melted gruyere:

Yes, it was yummy, but I cheated a bit and didn't make my own beef stock so I know it could be better. Next time I'll do it properly, I promise.

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