Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Oops, late again!

I missed posting on Kitty Day! On April 17, we celebrated (with tuna!) our 5th anniversary of adopting our kitties from the Humane Society. This is last year's photo retrospective. I'm not going to try to top it, but here are the guys on the porch:

Check out our lovely clovered lawn. Once Spring hits, stuff grows like mad. Mostly weeds. I'm calling the clover endearing, however. Matt mowed the next day.

And we have irises! Not through any effort of our own, but this is our first spring here, so we were very happy to see these bloom.

Knitting: Still plugging along on the first tiger sock. I turned the heel and am knitting the leg. It's sort of weird to be going toe-up. And there's no gusset shaping to do, which makes me feel like I'm missing something. The short-row heel was pretty easy, though, and it looks pretty nice. Unfortunately, I'm going to be out of town when I finish sock #1, so I won't be able to have Matt try it on before I start #2. Hmmm. Hope they work. I thought the foot seemed a bit long, but holding it up to his foot, I don't think so. Anyway, I hope to finish these for April and then start my Henley Perfected. I also want to bust out one of these (or several to give out to friends) fantastic coffee cup cozies. I have some Simple Knitted Bodice photos, but I'm really not happy with them. I'm in shadow, the camisole underneath doesn't really go, I'm not sucking in my stomach, and you can't see the stitch pattern that well. So I'm going to block and then do photos. You know, someday.

Reading: I have been enjoying the Hannah Swenson mysteries from Joanne Fluke. The first is A Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder. These take place in tiny Lake Eden, Minnesota and feature Hannah, who owns The Cookie Jar, a bakery/cafe. Lake Eden is fun, Hannah is likeable, and the mysteries are well-done. Recipes are included, and I've made a couple with great success. A frequent complain in amazon reviews is that the love triangle (Hannah has two love interests) is unbelievable, and this is true to an extent. Hannah's mother always seats her between Norman and Mike at dinners, etc., and they don't seem to mind. There is some jealousy, but not as much as you might expect. But whatever, it's not the only part of the books, and it doesn't annoy me that much. I also zipped through How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author by Janet Evanovich. She co-wrote this with a creative writing professor, to make it more credible, I guess. Anyway, the poor professor's parts are fairly dry, but useful and well-organized. The book is mainly Q&A with Evanovich, based on questions asked by fans on her website. It's often interesting to read how a writer writes, and Evanovich is funny and entertaining. As a writing book, it doesn't hold a candle to Stephen King's On Writing, but it was interesting, and samples of query letters and manuscript pages, and advice on joining groups and attending conferences, is worthwhile. All in all, not an essential read for writers, but a fun one for Evanovich fans.

Writing: Still opening the file every day. Lilah slept 9 uninterrupted hours last night. If this keeps up, I can start getting up early to write! Knock on wood for me, would you?

Cooking: I made the Spring Tabbouleh from 101 Cookbooks, and we all loved it, even Lilah. Especially Lilah! So funny to see her scoop bulgar wheat into her mouth with her fingers and then give a huge smile! I also made Penne With Ricotta and Zucchini from Cooking Light (available in the 2001 cookbook), a quick favorite. I also did a crazy Indian feast. I made the samosa recipe (baked, not fried) from The New Moosewood Cookbook. I made Eggplant Rice, Saag (Spinach) Paneer, and Hot Chana (Spicy Chickpeas) from Indian Vegetarian Cooking At Your House. Instead of the ricotta, I made paneer from this recipe and it didn't work as well as it did the last time I made it. The curds just didn't develop that well, and I ended up with less than a cup of paneer. I probably should have added more lemon juice, but I had Lilah climbing up my leg, so I decided to just see how it turned out without extra effort. Everything was lovely. I really like this little cookbook, which makes Indian cooking very approachable and even gives nutritional info.

I made blue cheese dressing, based on a Cooking Light recipe:
3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
2/3 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup light mayo
2 tsp red wine vinegar (more to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 TBL finely chopped chives (depending on how much you like them)
1/4 cup milk (add more to desired consistency)

Mix everything together and refrigerate. Yum! Good on salads or as a dip for almost anything.

We had low turnout to our Playground Committee yard sale/bake sale due to rain, so we reprised the following weekend. We had company coming into town, so I didn't bake as many things. I made the Blue Blueberry Muffins from Blueberry Muffin Murder by Joanne Fluke, and they were awesome! I need to work on lowering the butter content in future, but the taste was fantastic. I also was seized by the urge to make Black and White Cookies (you remember that Seinfeld episode? He says to "look to the cookie" for racial harmony) and set out to google a recipe. There was one from an actual New York bakery, but comments from people who'd made the recipe were iffy, so I ended up adapting a recipe from Gourmet. When restaurants and bakeries post recipes for beloved items, I'm always a little wary, for two reasons: 1. They cook in huge quantities, and even though it defies logic, reducing the yield can change the product, and 2. They have commercial mixers, ovens, etc., which makes a big difference. Anyway, here's what I came up with. I thought the icing (my own recipe) was delightful, and the cookies were almost sponge-cakey.

Black and White Cookies
Makes 30 BIG cookies


5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/3 cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs

White icing (make twice):
2 cups powdered sugar
1 TBL light corn syrup
1/2 tsp lemon extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 TBL milk

Black icing (make twice):
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 TBL light corn syrup
3 TBL cocoa
1/2 tsp vanilla
2-3 TBL milk

Make cookies:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter a cookie sheet.
2. Stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
3. In a stand mixer, beat together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Alternate adding flour and buttermilk until all combined.
4. Scoop out batter with a 1/4 cup measure and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. Bake 13-15 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Repeat until all cookies are baked (I baked them 6 at a time).
5. Cool completely on wire racks upside down.

Make white icing:
1. Combine all ingredients, adding more milk or powdered sugar as needed. Brush onto half of flat bottom of each cookie. I made half the icing, then mixed again, to prevent icing from hardening before I could finish. Ingredients are for HALF the total white icing needed.

Make black icing:
1. Combine all ingredients, adding more milk or powdered sugar as needed. Brush onto other half of flat bottom of each cookie, slightly overlapping the white icing.. I made half the icing, then mixed again, to prevent icing from hardening before I could finish. Ingredients are for HALF the total black icing needed.

Let stand until icing has hardened,


YarnThrower said...

Congrats on your five-year Kitty Day milestone! Your Irises look really nice! The only "flowers" we had blooming the first year after we moved into our house were dandelions, and what we lacked in "quality" we made up for in "quantity."

Can't wait to see your socks! I love going toe up, because it seems like I get all of the "hard work" out of the way early. I want to try one with a flap, though, because the short rows, even with adapting to use 60% of the stitches for the heel, fit "okay" but not as well as socks with a gusset. I might have odd feet...

String Bean said...

Oh my god! I was wondering who that kid in your yard was! Lilah's gotten so big!
I remember the way things grew in Virginia. I think there's crack in the soil.

I'm not sure if I like toe-up or cuff-down better. I don't really like binding off around the ankle and I haven't mastered EZ's sewn bind off, but I love being able to knit the cuff to my heart's content without worrying about running out of yarn.

Annie said...

The photos of Lilah are adorable! How quickly they grow, eh? The weeds, too. :-) Thanks for linking to my cozy. I'm glad you like it!