Saturday, November 21, 2009

Here Comes the Sun

Back in September I had some kind of flu that had me down for several days and I really haven't felt right since. I've been kind of tired and a little achy all over, but I kept attributing it to my sporadic workout schedule, since I've been traveling (where all I did was walk but no yoga or anything else) and then coming back and hitting classes to make up for it.

Last week I went for my yearly checkup and all was great except for one thing: my Vitamin D levels. Now, the one thing I try to be really good about is applying sunscreen and mainly staying out of the sun. Living here it's easy to get too much and while I'm trying to avoid getting skin cancer my real fear is of turning into Godzilla. Turns out all that sunscreen can actually be too much of a good thing...unless there's some other crazy reason for it, I'm not getting enough Vit D from our friendly UV source.

Vitamin D deficiency can make you achy and sore, depressed (SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder), lead to bone loss, osteoporosis, diabetes, give you insomnia (which I already have in spades), etc. Basically a big list of all the things I'm trying to prevent with all the stuff I am doing. Now I'm taking a supplement every day for six months and making an effort to get my Vitamin D the natural way, too. The natural way is better, I think. And after I sunbathe a little I can knit a little.

The Pi Are Squared shawl I was working so diligently on turned out to have a major flaw, all because I don't follow directions. I was periodically doubling ALL the stitches between the diagonal increases instead of just the middle stitches. I'm not sure if it speaks to my idiocy that I thought that was right for as long as I did or to my brilliance that I realized that made no sense, geometrically speaking. Anyway, I frogged the whole damned thing. It was cursed, and I do know better than to work against the curse. I started from scratch instead.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie - Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies

I was finally able to get a couple of photos of these cookies after baking off three previous batches on other days - that's how much my family liked them. I made the dough a couple of weeks ago, doubling it as a go-to in case any cookie emergencies might arise this month. Little did I know that the emergency would be keeping up with the demand.

The dough is super sticky and it spreads like crazy in the oven, but the resulting cookies are simultaneously crisp and chewy, with a very interesting note added by the black pepper in the recipe. We tried them rolled in raw sugar and also in regular cane sugar, and I think the cane sugar held up better. We also tried them after refrigerating the dough, which made it easier to handle, and after freezing, which was easier still since I made logs and just slice-and-baked.

Despite rave reviews on the taste, I'm not sure I'll make these again. I didn't like handling the dough and I didn't like how much they spread - you can't get that many cookies on a sheet. Instead, I might add a little pepper to another ginger/molasses cookie recipe and see how that goes.

Thank you Pam of Cookies with Boys (Make sure to go look at her cookies - they are perfect.) for suggesting this recipe. This is the second sweet TWD recipe in the last couple of months that called for black pepper - fantastic taste, and a great way to expand the palate!

Temptation on a Plate

WARNING. The contents of this post may be extremely dangerous in the wrong hands. If you are susceptible to the aroma of fresh donuts, frying dough, sugar puffs of warm sweetness, or anything of the like, you have been warned. Don't come crying to me about your potential episode of excess, abuse, or waistline expansion - blame this guy.

It turns out you can take a can of ordinary pop-n-fresh biscuit dough and turn it into fresh donuts in a maneuver that is so easy it's scary. Ordinarily, I wouldn't even consider making donuts. (I'm not from the South; I'm from So Cal - we don't deep-fry, we stir-fry.) And I wouldn't buy biscuits in a can anymore, either. (I'm not from the South; I'm from So Cal - but I do like mixing me up a batch of some of them biscuits.)

But then one morning I was perusing my bloglines and I came across this little video at the Amateur Gourmet where they were talking about how easy it is to make donuts, and I was thinking, "Yeaaaah, once I'm making yeasted dough it's not going into donuts," when bam - they showed the instant donut method and it made me get in the car and go buy a can of biscuits.

The next morning I poured canola oil into the bottom of a pot, heated it up to 325F and punched holes out of the individual biscuits. A couple of minutes later, we had fresh, hot, light, and crispy donuts (and their holes) for breakfast. They fried up easily, were not greasy at all, and they were delicious - so delicious that I might actually make them again using the real yeasted dough - but these were really good for being so incredibly easy. As a bonus, check out the relatively small mess:

FYI, we decided that the ones coated in regular sugar were better than the powdered sugar ones.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie - Cran-Apple Crisp

This Tuesday's entry for TWD is the Cran-Apple Crisp, chosen by Em at The Repressed Pastry Chef. Let me preface by saying that much as I don't like cherries in anything cooked, I'm not all that fond of dried cranberries. I tolerate them, but just barely. I do love cranberry juice (including any permutation with vodka - which sounds so bad; my friends will tell you I'm not really a drinker, really, but I seem to keep referencing cocktails here. Must be indicative of my state of mind but I assure you I rarely imbibe.) and I like cranberry sauce (as long as it's the kind that slides out of a can - is that so bad? I don't like actual cooked cranberry sauce.), but that sour aspect of dried cranberries, coupled with the fact that they stick to your teeth, bugs me.

Luckily, this crisp has plenty of sweetness to counteract the sour. The apples were sweet on their own, and then there was the topping - more of that crumbage I love - and I added golden raisins to mine as Dorie suggests as a variation.

I ended up taking the crisp to Sunday dinner at my sister's where it was served up after a wonderful fall dinner of pot roast, mashed potatoes (which I'd gladly eat every day), and parsnips. It was fantastic, warm from the oven with homemade vanilla ice cream - can you think of a single thing that wouldn't be improved by a scoop a la mode?

Friday, November 06, 2009

November is for Pie

I'm till working on my red shawl, but yesterday I justified casting on a new project because I needed a nice piece of non-thinking knitting to take out on the town. Sometimes I'm in a meeting where people persist in actually talking to me, or where they truly expect me to pay attention...It's just not always compatible with lace knitting. Yesterday I knit four rows on the Gaenor shawl before realizing I'd left out the kfb increase called for on all the right-side rows - i.e. not even in the lace portion - on the first row I touched. I'm still hoping it is magically correcting itself in my knitting bag so I won't have to rip it back.

This is my big fat piece of comfort knitting, no thought required: Pie Are Squared from EZ's Knitting Around, on relatively big needles (10) with pretty fat yarn (Cascade Eco-Wool left over from Bella's Mittens).

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Something Red

Now that my little bout of bitterness toward my local supermarket is over, shall we see what's happening with the knitting? I'm still on a shawl jag, this time working on Gaenor in Red Rocks Fiber Aspen Sock, colorway Ruby Slippers. It's knit from corner to corner so the lace border is knitted on as you go.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Fage Yogurt, Ronzoni Pastina, White Pepper - Shall I Go On?

Dear Vons La Jolla, despite the fact that you don't sell most of the things I want anymore and that the meat department looks like we live in Odessa (not the one in Texas), thank you for the reminder that now that we're two days past Halloween, Christmas is right around the corner.

PS You can stop asking me if I found everything I need now. You don't really want to know, and I really don't have the time to invest that much in you emotionally.

Tuesdays with Dorie - All in One Holiday Cake

Very festive care packages!

A few times during the year a bunch of us moms get together and make care packages for our collegiate daughters. It's a nice surprise for the girls, especially since they're sophomores now and their expectations of what we'll do for them are probably dimming by the minute.

There was even homemade apple jelly...

And it's nice for us, because we get together and socialize...and this year we barely even talk about those girls! Not that we don't miss them, of course!

...and homegrown walnuts...

This time there were 15 of us, so we each brought 15 items, ranging from cute socks and gloves to a spooky cd to walnuts from someone's farm. I think we were all on the same wavelength this year because there wasn't nearly as much sugar on the table as there was last year.

...and a light dinner for the moms.

We all share appetizers and salad a little wine. And of course, there's always dessert! I used this as an excuse to get on with my November TWD assignments and busted out the All-in-One Holiday Cake. I've made this before when I've had to take something for a crowd, and it's a definite pleaser. It contains every flavor of the season, all in one cake. I think the only thing it's missing is actual turkey.

I think I could've been a little more generous with the maple glaze, don't you?

I also brought the leftovers from last week's offering: the infamous flaming cherry cake. Both these cakes improve with time as the flavors blend so we all enjoyed a little bite of each.

Cherry-Fudge Brownie Torte

The next day the packages were in the mail via Priority, so two days later Fiona sent me this picture of her feet - so see? It must be genetic.

Thank you, Britin of The Nitty Britty, for picking the All-in-One Holiday Cake. It's a great choice for this time of year!

Monday, November 02, 2009

It's Done!

I decided on a picot bind-off, and I believe I might like it even a little better than the original.

Now I only have to decide whether it's a gift or if it's a keeper.