Saturday, November 08, 2008

A Tale of Two Kitties (and Caramels!) (and Truffles!)

Lots of duos in today's post!

It's getting cold, so Geronimo and Mirando frequently nap together. They're so cute.

Knitting: Thank you for all your kind comments on my placket-neck sweaters! I really enjoy knitting them, and I was pleased with the latest crop. Yes, the Kitchener stitch is only on the underarms. That's the only finishing, aside from weaving in ends, and since I hate finishing, it's perfect for me. Onto the next knitting project, it's the GREEN toddler blanket I'm winging. I think I'm going to need one more skein of yarn. I'm using Cascade 220, which in my experience, is tough, but softens up with washing. I decided to keep it super simple, with a seed stitch border surrounding a 5x5 array of alternating stockinette and reverse stockinette squares. It's simple, but I like it so far.

And what's that you see in the photo? Can it be that I've abandoned my plastic pastel stitch markers for something...pretty?

Yes, yes, I have. I snagged a lovely set of stitchmarkers at Dainty Loop, the store where KnitPastis sells her bags, stitch markers, and earrings. I love these! They bring a smile to my face every time I slip a marker. I innocently inquired whether she had any March colors, and as I'd hoped, she whipped up a batch for me!

Reading: I read the new Kate Atkinson novel, When Will There Be Good News? As expected, it was wonderful. She is one of my absolute favorite writers. She wrote three novels before beginning a series about former cop, sometime P.I. Jackson Brodie. The first in the series is Case Histories, and while these are mysteries in a sense, they're much, much more. My review is here. Anyway, I also read some children's books and the knitting mystery I mentioned last post. It was fantastic! It's called Death By Cashmere, by Sally Goldenbaum and my review of it is here. If a knitting mystery intrigues you, stay tuned, because I will be posting an author interview/book giveaway over at On My Bookshelf soon.

Writing: My Novel Writing Month never got off the ground :( We all got colds, and Lilah's molars are taking forever to come in, so I don't remember my last decent night of sleep.

Cooking: Here are the rest of the twos! I made two different caramels, Espresso Caramels from 101 Cookbooks and Lavender Honey Vanilla Fleur de Sel Caramels from Wallflour. I usually love 101 Cookbooks, so I was disappointed in this caramel recipe. I ignored my instincts and took the temperature up to the 260 degrees called for in the recipe. I made the version without nuts, and maybe the nut version is good at hard-crack stage, but to me, these tasted just a smidge burnt, and they were unpleasant to chew--a real jaw workout, not the softer caramel I'd envisioned. I liked the espresso flavor (but wished it were more than a one-note candy, maybe with some vanilla) and the honey (though, to be honest, the honey was a bit much and I wished I'd used some sugar to temper it), but this recipe just didn't do it for me. The Lavender, etc. Caramels, on the other! This is my new go-to recipe for caramels. I want to try this recipe with espresso powder to see how I like it. Not to be overly modest, but these were the best freaking caramels I've ever had. And I didn't even have fleur de sel, just plain old sea salt. They made the house smell amazing, too, with the vanilla and lavender. In the hopes that partially-chewed caramel isn't revolting, I actually did a photo. I love the way the caramels look wrapped in a rectangle of parchment paper.

I also made truffles, finally. I've been talking about it for ages, but I was hosting book club this month and decided to make caramels and truffles. I made my usual peach-amaretto truffles rolled in chopped pecans, then I played around a bit and made what I'm calling Chocolate Coyote truffles in honor of a now-defunct ice cream shop in Madison, Wisconsin whose signature flavor was chocolate with cayenne. I flavored them with cinnamon and cayenne, then rolled them in cocoa powder mixed with cinnamon, sugar, and another dash of cayenne. They were awesome, I must say. I have more playing around to do (I want to try more of an infusion approach, steeping the cream with jalapeno and cinnamon stick instead of powdered spices) but I'll eventually post the recipe. My peach-amaretto truffles tasted great, but the ganache didn't set properly. No idea what happened there, since this is my standard truffle recipe. But you really could have frosted cupcakes with this, it was so soft. The truffles firmed up in the fridge, enough to serve, but they looked kind of flattened. Yummy, though.

And I've been apple buttering all over the place. I didn't realize the sheer amount of apple required--it takes ONE POUND of apples to produce a single half-pint jar! I've made three batches, one of Rome apples with no sugar added, one of an heirloom apple called Black Arkansas with no sugar, and a sweetened Granny Smith batch. Each batch made 5-7 jars. I really like all of them. The no-sugar ones are more apple-y (technical term) but the Granny Smith has its own charm. I've gotten some more apples to make a couple more batches.

We've been making soup lately, with the cold. Baked Potato Soup and Cuban Black Bean Soup, both from the Cooking Light archives. I must not have been the only vegetarian to complain to Cooking Light, too, because December's issue turned up with the Inspired Vegetarian section restored...hmmmm.


Stefaneener said...

Man, I want to join your book club! You had me at the second caramel recipe. Terrific!

YarnThrower said...

Perhaps you *were* the only vegetarian to complain to Cooking Light, and you are just unaware of the power you have there!

I wish I had even an eighth of your passion for cooking...though if I lived at your house, I think I'd weigh a lot more than I do !

Anonymous said...

Silly Amy, I'd read this post previously but only just discovered in re-reading for giggles that I didn't comment before.

Well, you've outdid yerself here. Your talent is so abundant! Even if all you could do was write about your creations and not actually accomplish anything in the way of yumminess, you'd still run circles around me in confection-land.

I'm liking the Chocolate Coyote. Did I know you had a Madison link? Not that I have one - my ears just perk up with any Midwest reference.

Hope y'all are back in the pink and that Lilah's molars are good and in so that you can sleep!

Mary said...

The blanket looks cute!
And the lavender caramels sound very tempting, I'll have to start exercising again before I desrve those :)

KnitPastis said...

For the past month or so I have been looking in stores for salted carmels and here you made a batch. Thanks for the links. I saved those sites if I ever get a chance to make them instead.

That's a really cute blanket!
So happy you are enjoying your stitch markers. Jewelry for your knitting" as folks are telling me.LOL