Monday, July 30, 2007

Higher Math

In honor of Lilah starting on Cheerios (actually a generic wheat-free version, since Cheerios contains wheat starch, which she's not supposed to have yet for allergy reasons), I present a word problem that illustrates the amazing powers of Baby Math:

I put 10 Cheerios on Lilah's high chair tray to give me time to clean up the kitchen. By the time I'm done, there are no Cheerios left on the tray. I have been watching her, and 2 Cheerios have actually made it into her mouth. I find 1 in the pocket of her bib, 3 on her seat, and 1 stuck to her cheek. How many Cheerios are on the floor?

You guessed 3, right? Ha! The answer is 7. I cannot explain this.


Knitting: I've now done 4 repeats of the lace pattern! This is out of 14, and the shawl is only about 4 inches long, so there's a long way to go. I have a shrug to start soon as an instant gratification project to raise morale. The slow growth of the Irish Diamond means I need a kick-start.

Writing: Still nothing to report here.

Reading: Ooh, lots!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: I will not ruin anyone else's enjoyment by saying too much, but I loved it. I must read it again soon!

Thursday Next: First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde: I love these books! This one was excellent, and it's obvious at the end of the book that more sequels are coming. The first is The Eyre Affair, in case you're interested--I wouldn't jump into the series in a later book. I have to reread this one as well.

I also read a mystery novel called Crime Brulee by Nancy Fairbanks. It wasn't great. The protagonist was not all that sympathetic, and she was the best of the bunch. It was so promising, too. Maybe I'll try a later book and see if they get less tedious.

Cooking: I actually baked on a cool evening. I wanted to make pumpkin muffins with a random can of pumpkin in the pantry, and pumpkin chocolate chip sounded yummy. Anyway, the muffins were fantastic. They started as an adaptation of a random recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins that I'd found somewhere on the internet, but I subbed some whole wheat flour and added pecans (we ARE in Georgia, after all). I used my Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Chips (now they're labeled 60% Bittersweet or something, but they're the extra big ones). Substitute any other chocolate chip. If you want to make mini muffins, use mini chips and chopped pecans. At the last minute, I realized I had no cinnamon, which the recipe called for. Oops. I was afraid they'd need a bit more oomph, so on a whim, I subbed cardamon. Yum! Even better than with cinnamon, I think. I'd like to play with this a bit to make it lower in fat. I'm sure I could use less oil and add some applesauce or something. Anyway, here they are:

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pecan Muffins

4 eggs
1 can pumpkin (16 ounce)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup canola oil
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cardamon
1 tsp salt
1 12-oz bag Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Chips (or any other chips)
1 cup pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 350. Spray 24 muffin cups with nonstick spray or line with paper liners. Beat together eggs, pumpkin, vanill, and oil until smooth. Stir together dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add to the wet ingredients and stir until blended. Fold in chips and pecans. Divide evenly among muffin cups. Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown (check for doneness with a toothpick). Makes 24.

A couple other recipes I've been meaning to post:

Marinara Sauce

1 TBL olive oil
6 cloves garlic
1 small onion, finely diced
1/4 cup red wine
28 oz. crushed tomatoes
1 carrot, finely grated
1/4 tsp chili flakes (more to taste)
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup parsley, chopped

Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion, saute 2 minutes. Add wine, simmer 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and simmer 20 minutes. Serve over pasta with parmesan or goat cheese.

Cheater's Non-Dairy Baklava

This is adapted from a Cooking Light recipe. I served this a couple of times before moving, and no one guessed it was a non-butter version. Traditional baklava uses melted butter brushed over each sheet of phyllo instead of cooking spray. It's a pain and also insanely fat-laden. But good. Resist the temptation to cut into bigger pieces. It's good, but if you eat too much, you WILL get sick!

1 1/2 cups wildflower honey
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 whole cloves
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick

1 lb. walnuts
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon salt

Remaining ingredients:
Cooking spray
20 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed (I used Athenos brand)
1 tablespoon water

To prepare syrup, combine honey, 1/2 cup water, juice, cloves, and cinnamon in a medium saucepan over low heat; stir until honey is completely dissolved (about 2 minutes). Increase heat to medium; cook, without stirring, until thick and syrupy, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat; keep warm. Remove solids with a slotted spoon; discard.

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare filling, combine all filling ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until combined and walnuts are well-chopped.

Lightly coat a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Working with 1 phyllo sheet at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), place 1 phyllo sheet lengthwise in bottom of prepared pan, allowing end of sheet to extend over edges of dish; lightly coat with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with 4 phyllo sheets and cooking spray for a total of 5 layers. Sprinkle phyllo evenly with one-third of nut mixture. Repeat procedure with phyllo, cooking spray, and nut mixture 2 more times. Top last layer of nut mixture with remaining 5 sheets phyllo, each one lightly coated with cooking spray. Lightly coat top phyllo sheet with cooking spray; press baklava gently into pan. Sprinkle baklava surface with 1 tablespoon water.

Make 3 even lengthwise cuts and 7 even crosswise cuts to form 32 portions using a sharp knife. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until the phyllo is golden brown. Remove from oven. Drizzle honey mixture evenly over baklava. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Store covered at room temperature.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Waiting for UPS!

Since I'll probably be using all my non-Lilah time over the next couple of days reading Harry Potter 7, I thought I'd post while waiting for UPS to bring my copy. Speaking of Lilah, thank you to everyone who pointed out that I neglected to post a photo! Here's an action shot, chasing after one of the cats in her walker. She loves this thing. Don't feel bad for the cats--they retreat up a couple of stairs and watch her curiously.

Besides Harry Potter anticipation, what else is going on? My mom was here for two weeks, so I got lots of boxes unpacked. The house still needs lots of help (hanging pictures, ugh), but it's pretty liveable now.

Knitting: Still plugging along on Irish Diamond. I still love the Zephyr Wool Silk, and I still like the pattern. It's just creeping along slowly since I can sometimes only manage a row or two in between unpacking, Lilah entertaining, and other commitments. So this is going to be pretty boring as a knitting blog for a while. Perhaps I'll pick a quickie project to bust out just for morale.

Reading: I read Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin, a YA novel. It was really quite extraordinary. It starts out with 15-year-old Liz waking up on a boat with no memory of how she got there. She soon discovers that she's dead and on her way to the afterlife. It's funny and poignant and just a wonderful read. It's a quick read, too, and I recommend it to anyone intrigued by the premise. I also read Antiques Roadkill by Barbara Allan, an okay mystery. I liked it quite a bit in some ways, but constant asides and parenthetical comments were tiresome, and the first-person narrator is strangely silent on some important autobiographical stuff that she just throws out there without comment, so she's not all that sympathetic. There's something there, though, so maybe the next one is better. I also read No Nest for the Wicket by Donna Andrews and laughed a lot. Her Meg Langslow mysteries are lots of fun. This one centers on the society ladies of Caerphilly playing eXtreme croquet, so it's pretty funny. The first in the series in Murder With Peacocks.

Writing: Nothing here due to unpacking. After I read Harry Potter, perhaps!

Cooking: Nothing too exciting. It's too hot, really, and it's been so busy.

Well, I hope my next post is more exciting than this one!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Home again, home again

I can't believe I missed posting the entire month of June! Moving was a pretty big ordeal, but it's done now. Except for unpacking all the boxes piled around the house. The cats sort of enjoyed the moving process, at least the packing up part, as they continually had new hiding places and new exploration possibilities. Yes, that's Geronimo on top of a mattress stacked on its end. He climbed a tower of boxes and was happy as can be up there. And Mirando always loves boxes.

We got settled in a bit before the guys joined us, but they seemed to know pretty quickly that this was home. I'm sure the familiar furniture helps with that. They're very happy to be back with us, and they're finding favorite spots in the new house.

Getting internet access from BellSouth was quite the trial, but we are now happily wireless, so I can actually post and comment on blogs in between boxes to unpack! As usual (at least lately) I am way behind on my blog reading, and I'm looking forward to getting caught up now that we have some semblance of routine and normalcy around here!

Knitting: I've been working on the Irish Diamond Shawl from Folk Shawls. I love that book, and I've made several shawls from it already. I had a couple of setbacks (I've knit the collar part three times due to not paying enough attention), but now I'm on the second repeat of the first lace pattern. Here's a progress photo. It looks awful, as lace in progress often does. And black lace is really hard to photograph. But it's a nice knit so far, and I love the Zephyr Wool Silk, which has a nice hand and some good flexibility. Black is not the most fun to knit, to be honest, but I think the recipient will really like it. We'll see if it's done by Christmas. Hmmm. Could happen. String Bean pointed out that it can be fun to respond "black lace" when someone asks what I'm knitting, and it's true!

Reading: Oh, lots, but not much interesting. It's summer, and hot and humid, so I've mainly been re-reading Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels. Lame, I know, but a good break from packing. I have started Susan Wittig Albert's first "Cottage Tales" mystery, The Tale of Hilltop Farm. These are semi-biographical mysteries with Beatrix Potter as the sleuth. She had an interesting life, and the mystery is charming. I kind of stopped reading her China Bayles mysteries, but I had enjoyed them. Not sure why I stopped. I do enjoy her writing, and she clearly did lots of research on Beatrix Potter's life. She crams in maybe a few too many facts and trivia, but whatever. It's cute and charming and a perfect cozy mystery so far. I finished reading Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next books aloud to Lilah while nursing, and I can't wait for the next one near the end of the month. After reading the fourth, I had thought he was done with them, as he had tied up a lot of loose ends, but I'll really enjoy reading another. I love these books. The next one comes out a couple days after Harry Potter 7, so I'll have a great few days!

Writing: I've picked out a writing nook in the new house, and we're desk shopping soon. Unpacking has taken over much of my free time lately. I have had a few brainstorms that I've jotted in my notebook on changes I'd like to make, so at least I'm thinking about it.

Cooking: The kitchen boxes were the first I unpacked! I adore my new kitchen. Except for the lack of a gas stove :( But it has tons of storage space and more counter space and a cute island that fits two barstools. I've been cooking, just not anything to write home about.