Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Four Years of Kitty Fun: A Retrospective

April 17 is Kitty Day in our house, the anniversary of the day we brought our guys home from the Dane County Humane Society.

Our guys were brought in as a bonded pair, and they were a package deal. Matt and I had decided we wanted two adult cats, and we were delighted when we discovered they had pairs of kitty friends. We met several pairs on April 16.

The Humane Society staff were all very helpful and patient, and we came home the next day with Geronimo and Mirando.

Because Mirando is blind, the adoption counselor suggested we keep them in one room and let him get used to that for the night before introducing him slowly to the rest of the apartment. After about an hour, he had explored our bedroom and was ready to go out the door. Geronimo hid under the bed for a while, but eventually, both cats slept up on the bed with us.

We can't imagine our home without them!

Happy Fourth Kitty Day, guys!

Knitting: The sock just isn't doing it for me. I have to take some time to go through my stash and patterns and find something really perfect. Maybe I need a more summery knit to do as the weather finally gets warm. I will have to also go through the blogs I read and see what you guys are making. After seeing Rain's Simple Knitted Bodice I really want to make one! I hadn't liked the sample yarn--the photos never screamed "You must knit this pattern!" to me, but I love Rain's, and could see a light summery variation. The only problem is that I have no yarn for it. However, I do have some birthday money...any suggestions for yarn that would make this a nice summer layering piece?

Reading: I finished About A Boy by Nick Hornby, and really liked it. The film is a very good adaptation, and Hugh Grant is perfect casting in it. The ending is different, which bothers some people, but I feel both were good. Sometimes in a film, you need a different scene than the one that was written. It doesn't make the written one bad, just less suitable for film. At any rate, I've been quite enjoying Nick Hornby. I'm rereading the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde, some of my favorite books ever, because he's coming out with a new one in July! The first is The Eyre Affair, if you're looking for it, and I love these. They are so much fun, and really speak to my inner English/Literature Nerd. Lilah and I are reading Book 6 of Harry Potter aloud.

Writing: A bit of mapmaking and timeline work. I tend to be lazy about such details, but I really need to give myself some of this stuff so I don't have to keep going back and skimming 120 pages to figure out what street something should be on.

Cooking: It's been like Iron Chef: Tahini Battle over here lately. Except without anyone competing against me, I guess. I made the most amazing hummus, from a recipe that my dad cut out of my parents' local paper. It was a neat article that laid out how to achieve different elements, and ended with the best hummus recipe. It's very involved and kind of a pain, but wow. It is so good. This is on par with the hummus at our favorite Middle Eastern restaurant. I couldn't find it online, so I will reprint with credit to the author and hope no one cares. I actually multiplied this by 2.5 because that uses a pound of chickpeas and is the amount that I can cram into my cuisinart, and we can really go through hummus in this house. I don't have a mortar and pestle (an oversight that must be corrected), so I forced the garlic through a press and sort of mashed it with a spoon in a bowl. Follow the instructions carefully, down to the temperature of the chickpeas when you puree--the article goes into the science behind it, but I'm too lazy to type all that out, so take my word for it :)

Classic Hummus
From The Bakersfield Californian, March 3, 2007

1 cup dried chickpeas
1 1/2 tsp baking soda, divided
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 medium cloves garlic, mashed until smooth with a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle
1/2 cup tahini
2 TBL extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving

The night before you make the hummus, place the chickpeas in a pot and cover with 4 cups cold water. Add 1 tsp of baking soda and stir gently. Cover pot and refrigerate overnight, about 12 hours.

Drain chickpeas and rinse well. Cover again with 4 cups cold water. Stir in remaining 1/2 tsp baking soda. Bring to a boil, uncovered, over medium-high heat. Immediately reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook, skimming the foam and stirring occasionally 45 minutes. Spoon out a few chickpeas and cut in half. If the center of the bean reveals a hard, white node of starch, continue cooking another 15-30 minutes. Cooked chickpeas should be uniformly yellow inside.

Drain the chickpeas, retaining cooking water. Let the beans and water cool to room temperature, then refrigerate both until well chilled, about 2 hours.

Place chickpeas in food processor. Add salt and lemon juice. Process until smooth and light in color. The puree should be thick, but not so thick it rides up on the processor blade. To thin the puree, add cooking liquid 1 TBL at a time until the puree moves freely.

Transfer the puree to a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl. With a rubber spatula, force the puree through the sieve. The skins of the chickpeas will be left behind in the sieve. Discard skins.

Rinse and dry the food processor bowl and blade. Return the pureed chickpeas to the processor bowl. With the blade running, add garlic and tahini. Scrape down sides once or twice and adjust salt and lemon to taste.

When the mixture is smooth, and again with the blade running, drizzle olive oil and process very well. If mixture is too thick, add cooking liquid 1 TBL at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

Serve drizzled with olive oil. Makes 3 cups.

I also made enough changes to Sesame Noodles With Broccoli from the April Cooking Light that I feel I can post my version.

Sesame Noodles With Broccoli

2 TBL tahini
2 TBL water
2 TBL rice wine vinegar
2 TBL low sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 TBL dark sesame oil
2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and forced through a garlic press
2 cloves garlic, forced through a press
1 TBL chili garlic sauce

8 ounces soba noodles
12 oz. broccoli florets
1 red bell pepper, seeds and membranes removed, cut into strips
2 cups carrots, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 TBL sesame seeds, toasted
1/4 tsp salt

Combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Stir with a whisk.

Cook soba noodles in a large pot of boiling water 4 minutes (or 2 minutes less than cooking time on package). Add broccoli, carrots, and red pepper. Cook 2 minutes. Drain and place in a serving bowl. Drizzle with sauce and remaining ingredients. Toss well. Serves 4.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Darn That Groundhog

We are currently on Winter Storm Warning, and it is snowing sideways outside our window. What was that about an early spring, stupid groundhog???

Anyway...Thank you for all your suggestions, String Bean! I know there's a vendor at our farmer's market with sheep's milk cheese (though it's a bit of a dangerous stall since he also has yarn...)!

Thank you, everyone, for your comments on the bear suit! Changes I would make now that I have a baby:
1. Add feet. (Ooh, how cute would little bear feet with claws be)
2. And maybe attached mittens that could flip open.
3. Two words: Crotch snaps. Baby clothes that don't have these mystify me.

Knitting: Here is my sock progress on Hedera:

I can hear you all now: "Surely you've finished sock #1, and this is #2?" Er...no. I have just finished the twisted rib cuff and barely started the lace. Part of this is some indecision. I keep wondering if this yarn would rather be a scarf, or a baby sweater. But I want something for me, and I wouldn't wear these colors except on my feet, and they're cheery and fun, and they're mine! Mine, I tell you!
Partly it's because of this:

That fun little accessory is the result of deQuervain's Tenosynovitis. Most commonly seen in piano players, bricklayers, and...women with new babies. It's apparently overuse of the tendon from hauling the baby around! I ignored the increasingly painful twinge in my wrist for weeks before I went to the doctor. I finally went when I was unable to use scissors in the normal way because my range of motion was so limited. It doesn't hurt to knit with the brace off, but it's really awkward with the brace on, which makes me think I shouldn't be doing it. I'll ask when I start PT.

Reading: I finished A Charmed Death by Madelyn Alt, and it was resoundingly...okay. It was a fine, fairly well-written mystery, nothing special. I also read High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. If you've seen the John Cusack film, you've basically read the book, although it was fun to see how the movie moved the story from London to Chicago. It was quite enjoyable, and I'm reading his About A Boy now. Lilah and I are around page 500 of the fifth Harry Potter, well on track to finish before the 7th book comes out.

Writing: Finished current revisions, though I still hate my opening. Eventually, something will come to me. Now working on chapter 9. I also mapped out some things I need to work in, because I've decided the exact motive/method of the killer(s). I had known whodunit, but I figured out exactly why, how, and if anyone else was involved, which I think is fun. I also need to figure out a map of my town it's set in because I think I've contradicted myself somewhere.

Cooking: I made Gallo Pinto, a Costa Rican breakfast dish. We had this every morning while on our honeymoon there, and it's delightful. We found a vague recipe and this is my adaptation:

Gallo Pinto (Allison version)

1 pound dried black beans (You can substitute canned black beans, rinsed well in a colander and drained.  You need 5 cups, which is about 3 small cans.  Just skip steps 1 and 2.)
4 TBL olive oil, divided
2 small onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
2 cups white rice (I like Basmati a lot, but any white rice will do)
1/2 cup Salsa Lizano, or to taste (if you can't find this, there's really no substitute, but you can order it online right herewith free shipping)

1.  Place the beans in a large pot and pick out any twigs or broken beans.  Cover with cold water two inches above the surface of the beans.  Soak overnight.
2.  The next day, drain the beans in a colander and rinse well. Return to pot and cover with cold water two inches above the surface of the beans.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until beans are tender, but not mushy.  This usually takes 45 minutes to an hour - check every 5-10 minutes after about 40 minutes of cooking.  Drain and rinse.  Set aside.
3.  Heat 2 TBL oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add half the onion and half the garlic.  Saute about 2 minutes, until onion is translucent.  Add rice, saute 1 minute.  Cover with 3 cups water, add 1 tsp salt (optional), and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes.  Fluff gently.
4.  Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 TBL oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan.  Add remaining onion and garlic; saute until onion is translucent.  Add beans, tomatoes, and cilantro.  Heat through.
5.  Combine rice and beans.  Stir in Salsa Lizano.  Serve with sour cream and corn tortillas.  Alternatively, scramble or fry eggs and serve alongside.

Serves a whole bunch as a side dish, or 8 as a main dish.

I'm trying a new hummus recipe, so I will post about that later (I'm in the middle of the process right now). I have high hopes for a good result, since the recipe is a HUGE pain. I made baba ghanosh already. For those of you who were wondering what would happen if you put an eggplant under the broiler and skipped the step where you prick it with a fork, here's your answer:

As my husband said, "Whoa, it shot its guts out!" True, true.