Wednesday, May 07, 2008

I Made a Sock, and, Random Stuff From the Internet

Here is the first of Matt's birthday socks. It does not fit Matt. It does almost fit me, though it's a bit big. Hmmm. I definitely have to unpick the bindoff, which is too tight (Gah, I always do that! Even when I bind off over two needles and make sure not to pull tight, I still have a tight bindoff.) and maybe try washing? I'm not sure how much they will stretch. And if they don't, will I rip out the entire sock, which took me forever, and cast on with more stitches, or will I finish this pair for me, and get another ball for Matt's socks? The suspense continues! Tune in...erm, sometime later, as I have no set blogging schedule. We're halfway through May, and Mission Possible is going okay, but not great.

Have you ever been to The Comics Curmudgeon? We don't get the newspaper, and I don't follow the comics anymore since Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side left (although I love Get Fuzzy and we always get the treasuries and one-a-day calendar), but I LOVE Josh's comics commentary on this site. He posts the day's noteworthy comics and pillories the bad ones while chuckling at the good ones. As a bonus, the comments are hysterical, but I usually don't read them all, just the Comments of the Week meta-posts. I'm now familiar with characters and strips I've never actually read, like Apartment 3-G and Hi and Lois, which have hilarious trends and really funny quirks to mock. Anyway, head over if you need a laugh. Start with the archives to get acclimated.

I know this isn't cooking-related, but it's food-related. A food blog (metablog, really) that I read linked to a Men's Health article about secrets the restaurant industry doesn't want you to know. They're annoyed the Gov. Schwarzenegger didn't sign legislation requiring chain restaurants to post nutritional information on their menus. The "secrets" seemed pretty obvious to me, and I wondered if the average American is really so nutritionally uneducated that he thinks anything deep-fried is healthy, or that something called a One Pound Burder could possibly be anything less than a calorie and saturated fat disaster. Maybe it's that Matt and I don't eat out frequently, but while it's nice when a restaurant does offer healthy options and tell you what they are on the menu, I just make the best choice I can or splurge for that one meal. Usually I splurge, because we eat out maybe once a week. If I really want to guarantee a healthy choice, I get a salad with no cheese or croutons and the dressing on the side. I also feel it's sort of unfair that New York is making chain restaurants post their calorie counts, but the law doesn't apply to local restaurants. Also, many chains already post their nutritional info online. When I'm counting my Weight Watchers points, I just look it up ahead of time. Any thoughts on this? I guess anything that makes it easier for people to eat healthy is good, but do people actually want to eat healthy when they go out? Would they order something else if they saw the calorie count on their favorite dish in black and white? Is this more likely to help or hurt chain restaurants, the only ones required to post?

Now that you're totally bored and your eyes have glazed over, I'll post fun book reviews, kitties snuggling, and a recipe!

Reading: A negative reviewer on Amazon gave Savannah Blues by Mary Kay Andrews a single star and lambasted it with, "If you're craving a Southern fried version of Nancy Drew and her pals, then carry on." Well, obviously my taste is not as refined as this reviewers because while I agreed with her assessment, I thought this book was great fun, even with some flaws, but I love Nancy Drew, too! I would characterize it as Southern Chick Lit With Mystery. Anyway, the story is about Weezie, a divorcee who won the carriage house behind her carefully renovated once-home (which her husband and his new fiancee, the atrocious Caroline, now live). Weezie is a "picker," scouring yard sales and dumpsters for hidden treasures that she can fix up and sell to antiques dealers. Sneaking into an estate sale early to answer a call of nature, she stumbles over Caroline's body and is promptly arrested for the murder. The story is slowed a bit by chapters from the point of view of Uncle James, Weezie's attorney, which were really unnecessary and I can't believe they weren't edited out. Weezie, her best friend Bebe, and Daniel, the attractive chef at Bebe's restaurant, set out to solve the murder themselves and clear Weezie's name. There really wasn't much suspense in this one, but the bumbling crime-solving trio, Southern charm, and insight into the antiques business made it a lot of fun. I recommend this as an excellent beach read.

After reading Savannah Blues, I picked up Savannah Breeze, the sequel, which details Bebe's life following her financial ruin at the hands of a handsome con man (she's distracted by family issues at the time). Apparently, Ms. Andrews has trouble deciding which story she's telling, because in this one, too, there are chapters from a secondary character's point of view--this time, Weezie's. I found this distracting and didn't think it added to the story at all, but other than that, I thought this was even more fun than the first book. Bebe discovers that she is now owner of the Breeze Motel on Tybee Beach (the con man, Reddy, hadn't had time to unload it before splitting), and she decides to make a go of renovating and running the Breeze. With the help of Weezie and the Breeze's on-site manager, the handsome and unrefined Harry, Bebe sets out to get back what Reddy has stolen from her when the police decline to pursue him. Another fun beach read.

Deep Dish by Mary Kay Andrews: Okay, after three books, I have to say I quite like Mary Kay Andrews. I think I actually liked Savannah Blues and Savannah Breeze a bit better than Deep Dish because I enjoy the mystery component, which is absent from Deep Dish, but Deep Dish was fun Southern chick lit. This one is set partially in Atlanta, too, which is fun when Gina is stuck in traffic on I-285. Hahaha! I'm always stuck in traffic on I-285! Gina has a regional cooking show produced by her boyfriend, Scott, that is canceled when Scott is found sleeping with the show's sponsor's wife. Oops. But it turns out that Food Network...erm, I mean The Cooking looking for a Southern cooking show to add to their lineup. They're in town to look at Tate's kill 'em and grill 'em show (which is called Vittles, a really lame name--Kill 'Em and Grill 'Em would have been better) and decide to take a look at Gina. Soon Gina and Tate are in competition for the time slot in an Iron Chef kind of battle out on an island (yes, really). Tate and Gina go between attraction to each other and competitive dislike, and there's little suspense--if you can't tell they're going to end up together, you've probably never read chick lit before. There's also little suspense on the outcome of the cooking show, though Andrews throws in some unexpected challenges that bring in some laughs. The development of Tate and Gina's relationship from competitors to ready to get married isn't all that fleshed out, but I'm used to that in chick lit. All of a sudden, the man and woman are in love...whatever. I thought this was a cute, breezy summer read, but I'd wait until it's in paperback (it was lent to me, or I wouldn't have read it yet!).

Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan: The fourth installment of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series is action-packed, funny, clever, and original, with character and plot developments we've been waiting for since Book 1, The Lightning Thief. Percy is a clever boy (I think he's 12 in book 1) who's been kicked out of multiple schools, has ADHD and dyslexia, and a knack for trouble. In The Lightning Thief, he learns he's a half-blood, the son of a Greek god, and discovers there are others like him at Camp Half Blood. If you haven't read the series, I don't want to give away too many details of the plot of Book 4. Battle of the Labyrinth opens with Percy's orientation at his new school, which is equipped with monster cheerleaders (yes, that's literal) before heading off to Camp Half-Blood, which is in danger like never before. A chunk of this installment takes place in the Labyrinth, the monster-infested, ever-changing maze underneath the U.S. Any juvenile fantasy is compared to Harry Potter these days, and I have to say, I love both series. Percy Jackson is not derivative of Harry Potter, and Riordan manages a fresh and funny take on ancient stories (the Greek myths). I can't recommend this series and this installment highly enough, and I can't wait for Book 5 (and it's very clear there will be a Book 5, though I believe that will be the last).

Writing: Yeah, I wish. A little while traveling, and some good subplot thinking-about, but not much in the way of page count.

Cooking: I made Penne Puttanesca adapted from this recipe. Of course, I made changes. I used a can of Muir Glen Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes instead of the whole tomatoes. I added some dried basil and oregano. And I used the olive brine--I don't care if it tastes the same, I'm not putting soy sauce in pasta. It was delish! Even Lilah loved it.

I made these amazing scones! I hosted a Playground Committee meeting, and I like to feed them. I made one scone with blackberry preserves and the other with apricot, and both were amazing.

I haven't ever posted my fried rice recipe, apparently. I adapted it from a side dish recipe in Gourmet, and I make it all the time. It's less greasy and unhealthy than restaurant versions, and it's endlessly variable. Add any of your favorite vegetables. I sometimes use frozen edamame instead of the peas for a higher protein dish. I often stir fry chopped carrots and/or mushrooms with the onions, and I sometimes use a pound of firm tofu, drained and cubed, in place of the eggs. If using tofu, just add along with the onions and stir fry until slightly browned. Mushroom-broccoli fried rice is great, too, just cook the broccoli for a couple of minutes before adding the onions and mushrooms. I like the serve the basic version with stir fry, like the sesame-soy version here, made with tofu, broccoli, baby corn, carrot, and bean sprouts. Obviously, I use veggie broth instead of chicken.

Easy, Lightened Fried Rice

1 TBL + 1 tsp vegetable or peanut oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 bunch green onions, white and light green parts sliced thinly
1/2 cup bamboo shoots (I use half a can of sliced bamboo shoots, yummy julienne pieces)
4 cups cold cooked rice (I use jasmine, but I should use brown rice or try another grain like millet sometime)
1 cup green peas, thawed
1 tsp salt
2 tsp dark sesame oil

Heat 1 tsp oil over medium high heat and add eggs. Cook until, well, cooked, then remove to a plate lined with paper towels.

Heat 1 TBL oil over medium high heat. Add onions and cook 2 minutes. Add bamboo shoots and rice and stir fry until heated through. Add peas, salt, and sesame oil and stir well. Stir in eggs. Serve with soy sauce. Serves 4.


Stefaneener said...

Hey, looks like there's a LOT going on! You're so sweet with your comments and I don't have an email for you so I have to say Hey! in comments. So Hey!

Have you seen the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes? I'm trying it tonight for the first time . . . we'll see. I'll try to review later.

Socks. Eh. Socks. They're tricky beasties. Unlike your cats, who are adorable.

YarnThrower said...

YAY! Is that your first ever toe-up sock? It looks GREAT! I had similar issues with the bind off being tight, until I started binding off this way: *P2tog; transfer new stitch back to left needle loosely.* Repeat between *'s. The first time I tried this, I was amazed by how stretchy it was (without being too loose).

Just a thought about the nutrition info -- My dh is a type I diabetic, which means that his pancreas no longer makes insulin. Insulin is required to digest carbohydrates, so he must "count" the grams of carbs he eats to medicate accordingly at each meal. When I cook dinner, I always give him the carb count per serving to facilitate this. When we eat out, it is very difficult to guess how many carbs are in something. Sauces may or may not have a bunch of sugar added to them, etc. (The carb difference between the Neumann spaghetti sauce (low) and some of the others (high) is eye-opening.) It is frustrating when they publish the fat and calorie content, but don't say how many carbs are in something. I've been thinking about going on an e-mail campaign to write to various establishments to "educate" them about there being folks in the general population who need the information just so they don't mess up their meds... Anyway, I didn't mean to get on a soapbox... We don't eat out more than once a week, either. I just really like sitting around our own kitchen table!

GBK Gwyneth said...

Did you go meet Rick Riordan? He was at little shop of stories last week:

Percy Jackson Release Party with Rick Riordan
Wednesday * May 7th * 4:00

Socks? Wow. I'm impressed! I've been working on the same scarf for months now ...