December 28, 2009

The Menagerie

Oy, my hands hurt. For the last month I've been fervently crocheting Amigurumi for Christmas, Birthdays and baby gifts.

The crochet patterns that I used are from many sources, most of which don't want you to post their patterns or sell any products that you make with the patterns. I understand the former, but am surprised by the latter. It's like saying, "I'll sell you this butter, if you use it to make cookies, then you better not take those cookies to the bake sale, dammit!"

Luckily for me, none of the Ami will be sold, but will be lovingly handed out to family and friends (albeit, with very sore hands).

For your viewing pleasure, in no particular order:

A little rabbit for my niece, Leaira. This pattern is free from the Lion Brand® Yarn Website, though I did not use Lion Brand® yarn (shhh).

This little penguin has yet to find a home, but he just may stick around with me. His free pattern is also from the Lion Brand® Yarn website.

The heart ornament is one of my favorites - in no small part due to the fact that there is no sewing-on of body parts and nor embroidering of faces. The free pattern is for three sizes, and was created by Owlishly. The little bird was also quite simple to make, and I took a few liberties with the overall design. The free pattern is available Lion Brand® Yarn. I hope that they look good in their new California homes.

The monkeys... Both monkey patterns are from Ana Paula Rimoli's book Amigurumi World. I changed up the faces from those shown in the book, and in place of a skirt on the little monkey, I went for the orange tutu (and gave her some modest white undies). This little monkey is for my 5-month-old neighbor Lilly, while the big ol' monkey hangs out on my bookshelf.

The peeled banana is one of 3 that I've made so far, and with each one I keep getting better. I would say this is my favorite pattern to make, with the exception of having to embroider the faces. I made two into rattles for two new baby boys; one born, one to be born soon. The free pattern is from Amigurumi Paradise.

This little pear is also from Amigurumi World, and is made from a bamboo yarn. It's very soft and squishy. This is a gift for my nephew, who when asked which one he'd like, paged through the book, looked thoughtful for a moment, then announced that it was between the penguin and the pear, and that he'd like to go with the pear. So random, but very Aidan.

And since I adore my nephew, I also made him the penguin.

This little owl has a bottom weighted with pinto beans so that he doesn't fall over. The bottom also has a cool "starfish" pattern, which is sadly only visible when it is lying on it's side (which of course it doesn't do because I weighted the bottom). I also forgot to embroider his feet on - just noticed that now. This free pattern is from Coats & Clark.

A sweet little snail turned into an ornament, from Amigurumi World. This should look good year-round hanging in my mother's house.

More hearts from Owlishly, joined together with a large jump ring.

A fuzzy wool and acrylic owl ornament for my Uncle - fastest pattern to make, hands down. The free pattern is from Roman Sock and at first glance looks very detailed with lots of photos. However, it's not actually a pattern, just some guidelines to follow. But after making a dozen Amigurumi, the "guidelines" were all that was needed. And as soon as I meet more people with a thing for Owls, I'll be making plenty more of these.

December 13, 2009

Chicken Pot Pie

Last Sunday I tried out a new recipe from Real Simple: Chicken Pot Pie. I've never made a pot pie before, but I do have fond memories of the ones from the frozen food section that my sisters and I occasionally picked out when we had a babysitter. This recipe promised to have all the taste, but fewer calories than traditional pot pie. I think that it holds true, but there are a few things I'd do differently when I make it again.

1) One issue I ran into was that when we cut into the baked dish, we found that the insides were very runny. I don't know if that has anything to do with the 1% milk used, the frozen peas or if the recipe just needs more flour. But next time I will add more flour and defrost the peas first, in the hopes that it will be a little "firmer" inside.

2) The second issue was that the dish only uses one 9-inch pie crust. This greatly helps to reduce the calorie count, but it left the top a little thin. I think next time I'll use a deeper dish with a smaller circumference, or I'll actually use two crusts on top.

All in all, this dish turned out really tasty, and I will definitely make it again.

Serves 6

Hands-On Time: 35m

Total Time: 1hr 10m


1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, chopped
4 carrots, diced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups 1 percent milk
1 10-ounce package frozen peas

1 tablespoon fresh thyme
(my grocery store didn't have any in, so I had to use dried thyme - still tasty)
kosher salt and black pepper

1 9-inch store-bought piecrust, thawed if frozen


Heat oven to 400° F. Cook the chicken in a pot of simmering water until cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes; let cool, then shred.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots and cook, stir-ring, until they begin to soften, 6 to 8 minutes (do not let them darken). Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add the wine and cook until evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the milk and simmer until the sauce thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the chicken, peas, thyme, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Transfer to a shallow 1 1/2- to 2-quart baking dish.

Lay the crust on top, pressing to seal. Cut several vents in the crust. Place the pot pie on a baking sheet and bake until bubbling and the crust is golden, 30 to 35 minutes.

December 6, 2009

Thanksgiving Projects

This Thanksgiving everybody arrived at Pop and Sharon's house with food in one hand and a project in the other.

Adrianne worked on her syllabus for her next class.

Susanna came prepared to make felt Christmas stockings for the family.

Savannah's goal was to spend 2 days in the blue room rereading the Twilight books.

Pop and Sharon opened the doors to the shop and studio for multiple projects:

Mike worked on planing the reclaimed Fir for our mantle.

Pop taught Vanessa and Aidan how to make a birdhouse.

And Alexis focused her attention on the Monster Book.

Thanksgiving Food

Thanksgiving 2009 was spent at Pop and Sharon's house again this year, and it's wonderful to see how far it's come along since last year.

Everybody contributed a dish to the feast, and many of the vegetables were harvested from Pop and Sharon's garden.

Mike and I made two dishes for the table: Mike's favorite, Sweet Yam Bake, and a new one from Martha Stewart, Marinated Cauliflower Salad.

Sweet Yam Bake

3 cups mashed yams
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup coconut

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white flour
1/3 cup soft butter
1 cup chopped pecans


Peel, boil and mash the yams. Mix them with all the other ingredients (except the ones for the topping) and pour the mixture into a butter 9" x 13" baking dish.
For the topping, mix together all the ingredients and sprinkle it on top of the yam mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Marinated Cauliflower Salad

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
1/4 cup white-wine vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons brine-packed capers, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Working in batches, blanch cauliflower until just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain; transfer to a bowl.

Whisk together vinegar, onion and mustard in a small bowl. Pour oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle vinaigrette over warm cauliflower and add capers and parsley. Stir to combine.

Cover, and refrigerate overnight or up to 1 day. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

November 18, 2009

Pizza Dough

While I love baking cookies, and have tried my hand at cakes and pies, my experience with baking bread has been limited to quick breads (banana bread is my specialty), a 4-H competition when I was 10, in which my finished bread had little doughy lumps scattered throughout it, and one loaf of Harvest Bread that I made last year (which generally turned out pretty well, with only a few doughy lumps).

I think I would have tried harder in the bread baking arena if my father wasn't such a pro at it (why bake my own when I can just eat the fruits of his labor). I have been meaning to make my own pizza dough though, as I've heard that it's incredibly easy. After making the following recipe last weekend, I can confirm - it's incredibly easy.

Pizza Dough (Bon Appetit, March 2007, by Giada DeLaurentiis)


3/4 cup warm water (105 degrees to 115 degrees, F)
1 envelope active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil


Pour 3/4 cup warm water into small bowl; stir in yeast. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Brush large bowl lightly with olive oil.

Mix 2 cups flour, sugar, and salt in mixer.

Add yeast mixture and 3 tablespoons oil; mix until dough forms a sticky ball.

Transfer to lightly floured surface. KNEAD dough until smooth, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if dough is very sticky, about 1 minute.

Transfer to prepared bowl; turn dough in bowl to coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

PUNCH down dough.

Can be made 1 day ahead. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

ROLL out dough according to recipe instructions. (Start in center of dough, working outward toward edges but not rolling over them.)

I rolled out the dough, then broiled it on the pan for 2 minutes. I added pizza sauce, veggies, turkey pepperoni and cheese, then baked it at 475 degrees for 14 minutes.

November 15, 2009

Amigurumi Sexto-Pus!

My latest craft obsession is Amigurumi - the crocheting of little animals. I came across Rimoli's book on, Amazon and after reading the reviews I figured that it was a good place to start. I have been crocheting for 10 years, after learning during my Montana summer job as a way to kill time, and I have generallly only made hats and scarves (except for a very brief adventure with some fuzzy hot-pink mittens and a stuffed train engine). I've never followed a pattern, and it shows.

Rimoli's patterns are easy to follow, and her descriptions/drawings of stitches are very clear. I can actually follow them!

My crafting plans are to make a bunch of Amigurumi for all the little babies that my friends keep having. My first attempt this weekend was the Octopus, which I call my little learning experiment (for a while it was going to be a sexto-pus, as I didn't leave room for all 8 legs). I was going to ditch it, but Mike has taken a fancy to it, so it remains on the shelf, flaws and all.

November 11, 2009

Ginger Molasses Cookies

My favorite cookies to eat.

Ginger Molasses Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar, plus more for rolling
1/2 cup molasses
2 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp ground cloves
3/4 tsp ground ginger
2 eggs, beaten
chopped candy ginger (optional - as much, or as little you like - I usually use 1/2 - 3/4 oz)
3 1/2 cup unbleached flour

Part 1
1) Cream butter & sugar, then add molasses slowly (is there any other way to add molasses?)
2) Add dry ingredients (except flour), then add beaten eggs a little at a time.
3) Add the flour.
4) Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Part 2
5) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
6) Roll dough into 1 1/2" balls, then roll in white sugar.
7) Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes until puffy.
8) Cool on pan for 10 minutes, then cool completely on racks.

makes about 40 - 48 cookies, depending on how carefully you measure the diameter of your dough balls.

November 8, 2009

A is for...

In September, Susanna and Mom came to Portland to attend the Bead Fest and take some classes. The three of us took one class together: riveted pendants. It was a pretty good class - I learned some things I did not know, we spent 3 hours together being creative, and I walked away with a nearly finished necklace. As of this afternoon, it's finished.

November 3, 2009

Chunky Beef Chili

Southern Living, OCTOBER 2005

I am not a fan of the word chunky, but I am a big fan of this chili recipe. Chili is one of our common dinner recipes; right up there with spaghetti and Mrs. T's Perogies (which we're having for dinner tonight). I'd never made it with anything but ground meat however, and last week I was in the mood for a heartier meat dish. This recipe uses chuck roast in place of ground beef; it takes longer to cook than ground meat, but is far tastier. Since I can't imagine chili without beans, I included several cans of red kidney and pinto beans, which worked out doubly well since I ended up using slightly less meat than was called for (Safeway only had a 3 pound pack of meat). We served it with cornbread and pretended that was a vegetable.

Chunky Beef Chili from Southern Living

Prep: 25 min.; Cook: 1 hr., 45 min.

Yield: Makes 9 cups


  • 4 pounds boneless chuck roast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste
  • 1 (32-ounce) container beef broth
  • 2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • Cornbread sticks (optional)
  • Toppings: crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped onion


Brown meat, in batches, in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Remove meat, reserving drippings in Dutch oven. Add chili powder to Dutch oven; cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste; cook 5 minutes.

Return beef to Dutch oven. Stir in beef broth and next 9 ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 1 1/2 hours or until beef is tender. Serve with cornbread sticks, if desired, and desired toppings.

October 29, 2009


Last month I was contacted by a representative of Schmap!! Guides regarding a photo I had taken while in Philadelphia last May. Though I had never heard of them, Schmap!! Guides are free online city guides, and use photos from Flickr to supplement their maps. They asked permission to use the above photo in their listing of Temple University on their Schmap Philadelphia Guide. I just wish they had asked to use one of my better photos... perhaps the one below of a recent Temple Grad...

October 27, 2009

Planting pumpkin seeds... in my tummy

This evening I roasted all those lovely seeds from our recent pumpkin carving adventure. I decided to try a new approach/recipe, which involved boiling the seeds in salted water before roasting them. I think the idea is to get the salt to soak into the seeds, and while they don't taste too different from the non-boiled variety, I do believe they're a bit saltier. Regardless, they're quite tasty.

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds (from Simply Recipes)
  • One medium sized pumpkin
  • Salt
  • Olive oil

1 Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut open the pumpkin and use a strong metal spoon to scoop out the insides. Separate the seeds from the stringy core. Rinse the seeds.

2 In a small saucepan, add the seeds to water, about 2 cups of water to every half cup of seeds. Add a half tablespoon of salt for every cup of water (more if you like your seeds saltier). Bring to a boil. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and drain.

3 Spread about a tablespoon of olive oil over the bottom of a roasting pan. Spread the seeds out over the roasting pan, all in one layer. Bake on the top rack until the seeds begin to brown, 10-20 minutes. When browned to your satisfaction, remove from the oven and let the pan cool on a rack. Let the seeds cool all the way down before eating. Either crack to remove the inner seed (a lot of work and in my opinion, unnecessary) or eat whole.

October 26, 2009

An Idle Mind meets Ichabod's Fate

Mike and I enjoy celebrating the fall festivities. We aren't much for costumes, but we do love jack-o-lantern carving and any excuse to eat candy. Because we've been so busy on the house this fall, and the end of October really snuck up on us, we didn't get a chance to drive up the gorge and pick our pumpkins from the pumpkin patch. We did try to pretend though, as we pulled our pumpkins from the bins at Fred Meyer.
This evening we broke out the old, trusty Pumpkin Masters® carving tools and templates and went to work.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...