Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Slurpee Cold

It is cold. The kind of cold that gives you a brain freeze from the outside of your head and without having to eat anything cold. PupCake does NOT approve, since this kind of cold puts a serious damper on our daily walks, nifty new sweater or no. Despite this fact, I do anticipate that I will have met the 100 mile goal in the Run Yourself Ugly challenge by the end of the week. Heck, I might even have it now, but I' m too lazy to plug in my Ipod and download my last few workouts to know for sure. Anyway, having begun and met this challenge in the middle of winter is something of an accomplishment for me because I used to absolutely refuse to exercise outdoors in the winter, like, at all, and now I actually enjoy it on an almost daily basis. That it has been a reasonably mild winter to this point has helped, of course. And as an added bonus, I really think I am not minding winter as much as I used to in my non-winter-outdoor exercise days. So yay for getting outside!

I don't have much to show you, really. I've been plugging away on a scarf to add to my collection since I am now finding them such great assets in the dog walking apparel wardrobe. After being undecided for ages and starting and then tinking various patterns about four times, I think I've finally settled on a scarf-size version of the Clapotis, but I'll believe it when it's finished and around my neck because I'm still not crazy about the yarn/pattern combo. I've also been putting some final tweaks on the dog sweater by way of sewing a fabric lining for it to make to warmer and less stretchy. And still no progress on cuteifying the Costco dog bed but that project is on deck and I think it's going to be a huge improvement when I finally get around to making it over.
Knit-Whit and I are off tonight to relax and enjoy a cooking class and I'll be thinking hard on the What's For Dinner Wednesday question while I drive around and run some errands this afternoon.
Meanwhile, stay warm and think spring!


Friday, January 26, 2007

Popover vs. The Puffy Pancake

It occurred to me today that the puffy pancake:

is really the same thing as:
The popover!

No really, the recipes are nearly identical, and I never realized how similar the two finished products are until today. I shall keep this in mind for when I want a puffy pancake AND eggs for breakfast now that I have discovered the secret of using a ramekin to make a trial sized version.
A while back I acquired a matched set of 7" cast iron skillets that I love for making two individual puffy pancakes at once, but these still make quite a large pancake to serve in combination with other breakfast items.

This little guy is hot from the oven and unfortunately looking a little sad with it's warty skin. I haven't made popovers in years and I can't recall what recipe I would have used in the past, but part of the allure of the popover is that shiny, dry and chewy-crisp skin that you get (or not, in this case) on the tops that you can peel away to reveal the hollow eggy goodness inside.
Today I chose the popover recipe in Joy of Cooking and I hold it responsible for this warty sadness. It says to just fold the flour into the milk and egg mixture which leaves the batter pretty lumpy. Although the recipe tells you this is OK and to be expected, I assume it's also what led to the unattractive wartyness. So while I get the point that we are trying to prevent the flour from developing a gluten network, next time I will go the puffy pancake recipe route and zizz everything together in the blender for a sec.

For experimentation's sake, I baked most of the batter in my jumbo muffin pan and did the rest in ramekins. I have made popovers before with great success in a regular muffin pan (as Alton would say, who needs a uni-tasker that would be the popover pan when there is a perfectly acceptable multipurpose substitute?), but today I was looking to get a jumbo sized product so I figured the giant muffin cups would be just the ticket. So although they held more batter to begin with, they didn't turn out nearly as nice or as puffy as the ramekin batch. I think this is because of the heat holding capability of the ceramic vs. the thin metal of the muffin pan, much like the heat-holding cast iron skillet helps the magic of the puffy pancake happen.

BTW, does anyone know if popovers come out better with regular or convection baking?

And oh yes, they were delicious, warty skin and all :)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What's For Dinner Wednesday

It's a Boy's choice week. He's always got something great up his sleeve and he continues to prove himself a true player in in the WFDW adventure by choosing recipes I would never give a second look to, which I'm absolutely thrilled about. His pick this week was no exception:
Norwegian-Style Poached Salmon with Anchovy Butter

In general, I am a big flavor kind of person, so this recipe was a little underwhelming at first but by the time I finished eating, I had decided that I really enjoyed it. Having the happy accident of a nice wine paring certainly helped :)
It's light and simple and was easy to prepare, so I can't complain, but I think that it would be better suited to a really great, flavorful piece of salmon, rather than the farm-raised fillets I happened to pull out of the freezer. So if you're lucky enough to have fresh Copper River or Sockeye or one of those great wild caught varieties, or if you happen to live in Norway and catch salmon in the fjord down the block, consider this an ideal preparation method.
The recipe instructs you to strain the poaching liquid before pouring it over the fish, and I found this step unnecessary. I left all the chunky bits in and took the advice of one of the reviewers on the Epicurious site and served the onions along with the fish. Turns out they were pretty tasty and provided an interesting contrast in texture. I also rather liked the little tart little explosions of coriander and mustard seeds gone all nice and soft during cooking so overall the not straining thing ended up definite plus. And if it's freaking you out, don't let that anchovy word deter you. That little dollop of compound butter was the perfect compliment and I promise, it didn't taste of stinky little fishies at all.

In craftyness, did y'all see Caro demonstrate making her craft bucket on HGTV's Uncommon Threads today? HOW COOL! Congrats Caro! You were fantastic and what a cute and clever project!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Last Nights' Dinner

A combination exclusive to Casa Splatgirl:
Chicken Caesar Salad....and....


Mmmmmmmmmmmm. Homemade potstickers. It's something I get a crazy craving for once in a while, along with steamed red bean buns and scallion pancakes. But since it was late by the time I even got started cooking and I wanted to be finished before Desperate Housewives and Battlestar Galactica (is anyone else bummed they switched it to Sunday?), I had to shut away my fantasy of a home cooked dim sum bonanza and just go with the potstickers. Do I need to tell you I ate *many*?

I've found it's suprisingly hard to find a good potsticker around here. Our town has three restaurants, Chinese, Chinese and Chinese, and you'd think that at least one of them would have an angle on them but, sadly, no. I've tried them all and none were worth ordering again.

I made these using a recipe I've had for ages,but if you look around, you'll find that they are all pretty much the same (and fairly simple) as far as the ingredients go. I used wonton wrappers for this batch because it's all my local grocery store had, but I really prefer them with the round Japanese Goyza wrappers that are a little thicker and more toothsome.

As your Chinese grandmother can tell you, they are sort of labor intensive, but they're well worth it and at our house, one big batch makes enough to freeze and enjoy over the next couple of months. I serve them with seasoned rice vinegar spiked with minced fresh ginger and some thick, sweet soy sauce. Yum!

Friday, January 19, 2007

It's Finshed, Dog!

May I present Mast The Dog, better known as PupCake, modeling his fabulous new sweater:

Can you tell I am much more excited about this debut than him? (And no, I don't beat him, despite what that look on his face may be suggesting.)

Certainly this assures his position as the most fashion forward hound in our city, wouldn't you think? Given that the other hound around town wears....gasp...camouflage...this is probably not much of a contest, but we'll take it :)

I am considering adding some ribbed banding around the leg holes to close them in a bit (the whole sweater seems to have grown bigger somehow...?) and I think it needs some kind of anti-roll edging along the butt flaps, but I figured we'd give it a shakedown test walk or two before starting to tweak. I made the turtleneck long enough that I can put it up over his ears when it's really cold instead of having to wear a separate snood, or, in the case of what we have been making due with, a neck gaiter pinned at the top that makes him look like the canine version of the Virgin Mary.

Anyway, yay! The first FO of the new year!

BTW, if anyone happens to be interested in the pattern for this, let me know. I intend to at least attempt to write down the pattern for my own reference and knowing it would benefit someone else would provide some motivation.
I used six balls of Lion Brand Wool Ease Chunky, so it was pretty cheap, and duh, it was super easy and fast, because: a. I'm lazy, and b. it's a dog sweater. It's knit mostly in the round and is all one piece and it only has to be stepped into with the back feet so it's easy to put on.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Little Sewing, a Little Rambling

So, I can't show you the finished dog sweater because I need some buttons for it and I was too lazy to go driving about in the snow today to buy some. Perhaps tomorrow.
In the mean time, here's what I whipped up today as potential donations to the GPA-MN Art and Craft sale

I lovelovelove the first one, so much so that I have to make another one asap to keep for PupCake. The second one was just for fun because I couldn't go on without buying some of the pink weiner dog fabric. I am not really a cutesy holiday theme kind of girl so it isn't really my style but I know there are lots of peeps out there who like that kind of thing. Plus it was fun to make, so there ya go.

I have several other fun new fabrics on deck for collars plus a bunch of stuff that's been sitting on my worktable waiting to get whipped up into a new warm winter coat (hound coat, that is) but I haven't been able to get motivated to really get sewing lately. And that is more than likely related to the state of insane disarray that is my studio. Imagine the detonation of a craft bomb and you'll have a pretty accurate visual. So although I have plenty of work space, most of it is non-functional at present which makes for a not so nice to be in kind of room.
Gotta do something about the organization problem in there one of these days...

What I really need to work on is making new covers for the Costco dog beds. Do you know about those? They're cheap as heck compared with the pet store ones, big enough for The Hound, nice and cedar-y smelling and with a zippered, removable cover. And while the under $20 price tag is great, the fabric styles are not and I am about at my limit for looking at beige jaquard with gold rope trim.
Maybe I shall gather for this project tomorrow...while I am out fetching buttons!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

What's For Dinner Wednesday

Tonights' story: a bag of scallops that was hanging around in my freezer becomes yet another WFDW recipe success!

Seared Scallops on Spinach with Apple Brandy Cream Sauce

This is one of those great recipes that looks and tastes much more complex than it is. It was fast and easy, it uses simple and readily available ingredients and it was yummy as heck....a home run as far as I'm concerned and good enough to earn a permanent spot in my "entertaining" recipe file.
At first thought, the combination of scallops and spinach sounded sort of weird but really, the spinach was the perfect foil to the rich sauce and the sweetness of the scallops. Just for the heck of it, I served the whole thing over some orzo that I cooked risotto style in seafood stock but I think it would work well with rice or potatoes, or just as-is for a starter course.

On the needles:
The dog sweater is done (and really quite fabulous)! It turned out much better than I was expecting given that I've never really designed a knitted object bigger or more complex than say, a mitten. You'll have to wait for the big reveal though because I'm still weaving in ends...

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Dog Sweater KAL: More Progress!

Please pardon my less than enthusiastic model. He was a little worried about the fact that a yarn ball kept following him around the house, and evidently he likes trying on clothes as much as his dad:

It's coming along nicely, doncha think? I'm generally making it up as I go, but also according to a haphazardly laid out advance plan of attack based on some probably-not-so-accurate measurements. Because... "get measured?" Did I just hear you say "whip me, starve me and make me live outside in the cold, muther?"
You'd think it's THE WORST thing that could EVER happen to a hound dog, besides being chased by yarn balls that is.

So the most complex part, figuring out how to incorporate a turtleneck, chest front and leg holes, and then making the whole thing put on-able, is still on the horizon. But I haven't had to rip yet and it's fitting reasonably well, so I'll call it a win thus far.

How is everyone else doing?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What's For Dinner Wednesday

That, my friends, is a nice bowl of borscht. More specifically, Beet and Cabbage Borscht
Just what you were craving, right?

Well, me neither and frankly, the idea of it yesterday was turning me a little green, but it was Boy's week to pick a recipe and I was trying to be a good sport. When I questioned him..."borscht? Are you serious?"...his reply was "it's the food of an entire culture, how bad can it be?" And really, he was totally right.

So, when was the last time you made borscht? Never, if you're me. In fact, I don't think I've ever eaten or cooked with beets at all. But I think I'm a changed girl as of now, because this was a darn good soup and peeling and chopping the raw beets was completely enchanting. The color that is revealed just under that grimy, sad looking skin is just amazing. It leaks out and covers everything just like watercolor paint and turns the sink water the most gorgeous shade of ruby. It's like vegetable trimming art. Fortunately I had the sense to prep on a plastic board rather than my Boos block, or there's a fair chance I'd be cursing all that enchantment about now.
I really have no idea if the recipe is at all authentic, but it was tasty and super fast and easy, and I now I'm curious about the whole Borscht thing. Enough to want to hunt for another recipe and make it again sometime, anyway.

So, success, and yay for Boy for reeeally stepping me outside the box tonight.

P.S. Here's hoping this post shows up. Yesterday's seems to have gone off to some kind of Blogger neverland despite the fact that I KNOW it published and was showing up fine last night. Boo. I am SO at the end of my rope with you Blogger!!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Last Nights' Dinner

Chicken burrito, enchilada style. Washed down with a beer, of course!

I sort of made this up on the fly, and I've never made enchiladas before which didn't help. It didn't matter though because the end result was fantastic and rest assured it will be even better next time now that I have consulted Ms. Knit-Whit about her enchilada-making tactics. The best news is that there are plenty of yummy leftovers.

Ok, then.
I have to warn you that tomorrows' What's For Dinner Wednesday might be a little frightening. Boy has chosen the recipe, the thought of which, as of this afternoon, was turning my stomach. But in the spirit of the event, I'm going to go with it and see what happens. But I'm not going to tell you what it is until the reveal so as not to corrupt you with my possibly misguided initial opinion. I did have to make sure he was aware that he was going to have to be the designated fetcher should we have to scrap the meal and go get takeout.
We'll see...

Monday, January 08, 2007

This One's for Dumbshit Jon

Anyone who has known me for any length of time has probably heard my toaster rant. It's one of those wrongs I was dealt that I've just never been able to get over and that I can't seem to quit bitching about.
As the story goes, I had this boyfriend back in the eighties. Not just any old boyfriend, but a rather serious one whom I had been dating for several years when "the incident" occurred.

My role in "the incident" was that I asked for a toaster for Christmas one year. Because I really needed a toaster, and that was back in the day when I was working and supporting myself, by myself, and I didn't have the kind of spare change that allowed me to go out buying toasters all willy nilly. Or at least not the kind of toasters that would be worth trying to make toast with. Or the kind that would make nice gifts.

Now, in the interest of understanding just how wronged I really was that year, I'll say that he was he was making excellent money at the time and would have been more than able to afford to purchase a nice gift. Also keep in mind that in addition to a toaster, I made other gift suggestions as well, because even given my strong desire to be capable of making toast, a toaster certainly wasn't my idea of the ideal gift to recieve from a serious boyfriend at Christmas. Or ever. And I was still at the age where relationships actually contained an element of romance. Or at least I imagined they did.

Anyway, to make a long story short, the day rolled around and I had the fabulous pleasure of opening gifts on Christmas Eve with his entire family, and the even greater pleasure of pretending to be thrilled beyond belief by the ONE, SINGLE gift I had received from my "boyfriend": a crappy-ass, $10, plastic Kmart toaster. I seriously thought it was some kind of family-safe, PC kind of move, and that his real gift was going to be something really, really good, to be given in the throes of a private, romantic moment....

But no.

I got that one sorry gift from my "boyfriend" of several years. A POS toaster, that, for the record, didn't make edible toast, EVER, and I know this because I was stuck with that damn thing for at least ten years.
And I wanted to throw it out the window, or, better yet, at his head, every time it burnt something, which was every time.
And I've been pissed about it ever since.

Until today, that is.

Behold, the new toaster:

I haven't actually used it to toast anything yet because it just arrived this afternoon, but I did mess around with it a little so I can tell you that it RAISES AND LOWERS THE TOAST AUTOMATICALLY, and it's got a nifty little blue LED that tells you that it's doing it's toasty business. And the best part is the pleasant, civilized little electronic chime that tells you when it's finished and your toast is ready.
But truth be told, I really bought it because it looked cool. So even if it makes mediocre toast, at least it has great style. Which is something that neither Mr. Dumbshit, nor his gift toaster had.

The moral to this story, you ask?
First, for the guys: Never, ever, EVER give only a practical gift to a female "interest". Yes, practical gifts are OK if they have been requested or are a to-die-for kind of indulgent practial thing that you know she'll really love, but you must also give a something personal and romantic and girly. If you want be spoken to ever again, that is.
And ladies? Never underestimate the cluelessness of men, and never put up with a crappy toaster or a crappy man for a minute longer than you have to.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Dog Sweater Knit Along, Episode One

I have procured yarn:
(Ghetto yarn, most definitely, but hey, I don't knit myself $200 sweaters, so I'm sure the heck not going to knit one for the dog, despite the fact that he is deservingly handsome.)
I have swatched:

Now I just need a pattern, or I need to decide to take the plunge and design something myself. Or I just need to start knitting and see what happens...

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

What's For Dinner Wednesday

Grilled swordfish with lime ginger glaze, steamed rice, and szechuan green beans with bacon:

Swordfish is Boy's favorite, so of course it made him happy. I thought this recipe was just OK. Definitely quick, easy and flavorful and something I'm likely to have all the ingredients on hand for on any given day, but next time I'm going to cut down on the lime because I found it overtly lime-y. The green beans I basically made up after being inspired by those at a local bar/restaurant where they are one of the house specialties. I just threw some finely chopped bacon into a saute pan with the trimmed beans and let that go for a few minutes until the beans were bright green and the bacon was just starting to crisp. Chase that with some bottled spicy szechuan sauce and cook everything until the beans are tender and there you have it; a delicious change of pace in the veg catgeory.

In knitting news:
Have you heard that Ms. Knit-Whit and I are hosting a knit-along? Swing on over to her place and check it out, for the sake of that special pup in your life...

We're so exicted, and it looks like we've got a number of participants already!

And in health news:
Have you heard of the 100 Miles by April 1st challenge?
I'm SO in! Actually, since the arrival of the PupCake, I've been a veritable walking machine, averaging 6 or so miles a day, and a little math reveals I will likely have about 450 miles under my belt my April 1st! As I said, I have become primarily a power walker rather than a runner these last few months, but in order that there be some challenge aspect to this exercize-along, I will aim to log at least 100 of those 450 miles running...howzdat? The coolest part is that I just bought one of those Nike+iPod thingies for my Nano which makes the whole miles logging thing much, much easier.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Last Nights' Dinner, New Years' Eve!

Lobster and Mango Cocktail:

Boy: "Ohhh, I get it. When you said lobster cocktail I didn't think that sounded like it would be a very good drink, but figured I'd go with along with it anyway."
Me: "You seriously thought it was going to be a drink?"
Boy: "Um, yea, as in cocktail."
Me: "Um, yea, as in shrimp cocktail, only with lobster?"
Boy: "ohhhhhhhhhh... yea."

A little salad with a vanilla-chive vinagrette I invented after being inspired by another lobster recipe:

Lobster, recently disassociated from it's body to provide for a slightly less carnal dining experience:

You know, as much as I like the stuff, I think I'm going to have to be done serving it in the shell. It makes for a lot of messy work and I'm really not into all that anymore. But it was very good none the less.

Dessert was one of our absolute favorites...a recipe that I have made more times than I can count: White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake with a raspberry coulis and fresh raspberries.

Along with some rather inexpensive but decent sparkling wine.

It was a simple, lovely meal and and a relaxing evening at home. We ended up getting about a foot of snow, so we took a time out before dessert to snow blow and shovel ourselves out from under it all which I would have been cursing had it not been for the fact that it was absolutely gorgeous outside with snow stuck to everything.

Cheers to 2007!!

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