I made a souffle

I’m not even going to bother with the niceties regarding how long it’s been.

I’m posting now because I made a souffle. Like an honest-to-god-bechamel-and-meringue-powdered-sugar-on-top souffle. And it was delicious. Because I was the one behind the wheel, though, I did have to start over on the meringue, and the best part was that I got the souffle right – easily the hardest thing I’ve ever had to make – but the custard didn’t come out right. Typical.

I start a new job on Monday. It’s a big girl job, with a set schedule and a salary, and I’m really excited about it. Maybe that’s why I’ve been feeling adventurous. So adventurous that I went out and bought a yellow sweater. Me, the girl whose closet has consistent of fifty shades of black since middle school. So adventurous that I made chickpea curry for dinner the other night from scratch, eschewing the easy way out (read: jar of butter chicken sauce).

Dinner tonight was mashed root vegetables. That was it. Just potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, and carrots mashed and cooked in an onion-garlic-rosemary oil. So why not go beyond that for dessert?

Of course, as mentioned, the night was filled with irony. The first being that my initial goal was to find a dessert without a lot of sugar – something with the semblance of being healthy. The second, again, being that I couldn’t make the freaking sauce to go on top. I was frantically whipping it, trying to get it to set, and I look over and my gorgeous souffles are falling. I practically screamed at Eric: No! Eat it now! Forget the sauce!

But they were good.

I haven’t really been doing NaNo this year, so this was a much-needed success in the right side of my brain. I’ll take it.

Idea: craft vacations

I hopped on a jet plane to Florida last Friday, came down to visit my amazing grandma. When I decided to come here for a week, it was a multifaceted thought  process. I wanted to get away before the ridiculous rush of the holidays starts, and I wanted to get away from…well…everything. I could have gone anywhere, I guess, but I realized it had been a while since I saw my grandma, and I thought the sunny weather would do me some good. Not only that, but my grandma is skilled in the kitchen and the craft room. What a perfect time for a craft polymath that has slipped too far off target.

Today is my last day here. I do feel lighter in a way. And I did some cooking, and I did some crafting.

First thing, grandma and I made butternut squash ravioli. She didn’t want to make the dough, and she found a recipe that called for the use of wanton wrappers. We baked the squash, then mashed it, mixed it with ricotta and Parmesan cheese, then put tiny amounts in each  wrapper and folded it. Boil those for about two minutes (until they float), and then serve in a sage butter sauce. I didn’t take pictures of them, alas. I was too busy, you know, making them.

Ravioli I’ve made, and while the wanton wrapper idea is a new one, the basic idea is one that I’ve written about.

The new thing, the exciting thing, was that I finally learned how to crochet! Knitting and I are not on speaking terms and haven’t been in some time. Sure, we’ve had an on-again-off-again relationship for a few years now, but I think it’s time to call this what it is. So move over knitting. Hello crocheting!

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Hip to knee so far

I learned a single crochet, a double crochet, a triple crochet, and a shell pattern. I started a scarf, and it’s now past my knee! I seem to have found the needle craft that was waiting for me this whole time.

Next up is camping, and I’m hoping to get creative with some camp food.

Now, as much as I would love to go on and on about all of this cooking and crafting, I kind of need to get back to it. I’m running out of time.

So tomorrow I’m off. In the meantime, keep it crafty.

Time to get creative

In reading my blog lately, you may have noticed I talk a lot about changes and changing and things going downhill and all that. Without going into details, I’ll just say that, after buying the house, I moved into an apartment. I think that sentence is enough to express the heaviness and sadness and confusion and everything else in my life right now without the need to expand at all. Let’s just say that life lately has not been exactly ideal.

If I thought I didn’t feel like creating before, that was a joke. Daily life is at times a struggle. My kitchen wallows in a state of half-cleaned and half-used. I’m living primarily on frozen dinners and uninspired leftovers, and my craft room (one of the three rooms in my apartment…total) is in a state of disarray that makes a hurricane-stricken town look put-together.

But today I made a brownie.

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Brownie in a cup

I got the recipe here.

I made a brownie because what I wanted was a chocolate chip cookie, but all of my chocolate chips are at the house. So I got creative.

Yes, things are changing, and yes, things are hard right now, but I feel confident that there will come a day in the future when I’m able to brush the dust off the sewing machine and get back to making things.

Twofer Tuesday 1: Guest Post!

And I’m back, with a vengeance! Not quite that bad. I was gone for the weekend, visiting friends up in Traverse City. Had a great time, but did not get to writing or crafting so much. No worries, though! My mom, who is an actual, professional writer, was telling me about the cobbler she’s been making, and I thought “oh man! That would make a great blog post!” So here it is. Thanks to her for writing something entertaining and informative – enjoy!

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My daughter Sam (your favorite Polymath and mine) share many things, including a love of cooking and crafting. This may have started when, in an effort to keep my little girl’s active curiosity alive and stave off summer boredom, we would make projects and cook stuff. Thanks to the wonders of technology, the fact that she lives in Michigan and I live in Georgia doesn’t keep us from sharing projects.
Here is one we shared. In Georgia, the blackberry crop is in, the black bears are out and foraging and it is the best local fruit option at the local farmers market at the moment. That is always a priority for me cookingwise… finding local sources and supporting local growers so menu planning is often determined by seasonal finds. So with berries on the brain, I started searching for recipes for a big gathering we were planning.  My husband (and official recipe tester) begged me to make this new recipe that I discovered recently… berry cobbler.
I wish I were in Georgia….
The picture is Jerry’s hand, showing off the pre-party cobblers. And yes, I did make one just for him to stow away.
I love this cobbler recipe so much I asked Sam to let me share it on her page. First, it is easy to remember the amounts and ingredients. For someone as innumerate as I am, this is very important. Second, the ingredients are simple. Everyone who cooks has the ingredients without a last minute trip to the store. Third, you can change it around a little and it won’t mess it up.
I declare this the summer of cobbler!
Here is the link to the site. Love this blogger too. http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2007/08/the_great_cobbl/
Have fun.

Twofer Tuesday 1: Dinner for two

I had the day off today, and with so much time on my hands, I have to admit I was not as productive as I would have liked. Sure, I could blame Netflix and X-Men or Janet Evanovich (guilty, fast food reading pleasure, anyone?), but the truth is, I was just feeling lazy.

Until about 2pm. Maybe the key for me to take away here is that, since most days I get home around 11, go through a normal morning routine, and start doing stuff (technical term) in the afternoon, my new start time is just after noon. I can make peace with that. I can work with it. And I did. In the past 3 and a half hours, I have been a busy polymath.

First, I spent some time in my craft room, which will be the highlight of my second post today, after everything is done. Between drying layers, I still managed to get some reading in, too.

And then I got it in my head that I should just go ahead and make homemade macaroni and cheese. Now, usually this entails just mixing some cheese in with the cooked pasta and baking it. That alone is more exhilarating, not to mention fancy, than the usual mac&cheese from a box. Relax, we buy Annie’s, so it’s not that bad. It’s not like I keep a box of Kraft macaroni around…all you foodie types eying me like that. 😉

So, onto my actual point here. I got it in my head to make a cheese sauce, yes, a roux, followed by a saucy béchamel, if you can believe it. Because I can’t. It actually worked, even. First try and everything.

Honestly, now I’m a little concerned. I have this blister on my toe that is unnervingly large and a little painful, and then this comes out well. Am I trading culinary success for a strange foot disease? If I am, I’ll take a tough, discolored and unworkable roux over the disease any day.

But that’s not appetizing at all, and I apologize.

So here are some pictures of the sauce, the baking, and the final product with a few pinches of a paprika on top. Mmm mmm mmm! It’s the cheesiest…

A healthy dinner (?) and healthy distraction

Argh. Right now my mind probably looks something akin to an urban war zone. For TFA folk, it’s Institute season, and it shows all over my Facebook feed. During the last few days of school, I deactivated my account temporarily to avoid the sense of soul-crushing defeat, watching all of these (not much) younger people accomplishing something great. I see this as improvement: rather than being stubborn, I just avoid what I know will be a reason to belittle myself.

The point here is that, while trying to swallow this bitter pill of failing at the TFA model and teaching in general, I am happy to say that crafting will make a suitable distraction, and a productive one at that. This week on the docket: finish my frame project, repaint the miniature mentioned in my previous post, read a freakin’ book, and start working on Eric’s birthday gift, since he is in Chicago for a few days.

That being said, today, for some reason, I am feeling particularly wounded about teaching. Maybe it’s because I spoke to a former student this weekend? Either way, my mind keeps wandering to Patton Oswalt (we want a failure pile in a sadness bowl!).

Short post today, admittedly, but tomorrow is Twofer Tuesday, so I have to get to work to ensure I have something to showcase.

So…last night, I made chicken parmigiana. Funny thing is, I didn’t have any mozzarella. No worries! I had string cheese, so I shredded that a bit and used it instead. It was kind of authentic Italian meets hillbilly Flatlander. It came out tasting just fine, and I’m telling myself and you, dear reader, that it was perfect healthy.

Throwback Thursday: Paczki Day 2012

Disclaimer: I am not Polish. But my husband is, so there’s that.

For those of you unfamiliar with Paczki, they are a delicious tradition of Polish Mardi Gras. Since the season of Lent requires a lot of bland eating, Paczki were a way to use up all of the ingredients that would shortly become (more) sinful. They are essentially donuts – bready treats filled with fruit or custard and cooked in lard. I myself did not become aware of Paczki until I was living in Seattle and met Eric. We found them for sale at Met Market on the other side of Queen Anne, and he was so excited! We bought a couple to share with our friends, and we brought them home.

Now, here I must point out that I am a donut fanatic. While in the Pacific Northwest, I made multiple trips to try donut shops that had any sort of reputation. Bonus points if they had cutesy names. We even took a road trip to Portland, OR one weekend to visit Voodoo Donuts. So when I speak of fried dough, I have a pretty good idea what I’m talking about.

The Paczki were amazing! Delicious. Everything you’d want in a donut and more. My favorite was the lemon curd.

So now let’s fast forward to living in Arkansas, where culture is not the most highly-esteemed part of life. The Kroger in Little Rock said they would have Paczki, but when I went in to ask, the lady in the bakery had no idea what I was talking about. Thus it fell on me to provide the Mardi Gras treat.

I found a great recipe that allowed me to bake them, instead of fry them. Sure, I have a Dutch oven, and I could have fried them, but I wanted a modicum of decency, so that meant healthier options and, likely, safer ones. Grease burns are one of those life experiences I’d like to skip, thank you. Whipped up the dough, bought some prefab lemon curd, and doused in powdered sugar.

They came out okay. They were absolutely at their best when they were fresh and still warm. The batch made more than two people could eat in a day, so we enjoyed them for another day and a half after, but they had lost some of the doughiness.

Anyway…here are pictures! Oh, and if I look exhausted in the pictures, it’s because I was teaching at the time, and I was.

A New Recipe, and I Want to Scream

Life really likes to throw curve balls. No. That’s not right. Life likes to throw knuckle balls and spit balls, then follow up with a fast ball, and finally throw a curve that swings in low and knocks you on your ass. That is what life likes to do.

And normally, I am standing at the plate, bat at the ready, my eyes focused on the prize.

Lately, though…lately, it has been too demanding. I cannot continue to juggle all of these required, important, necessary things. Not everything can be so required, important, and necessary. Not everything can take priority.

At work, my boss is consistently unaware of what is going on, preferring to let me do the work for the department. Then he asks for an update and plays boss for a while. When he is unhappy with a decision I have made or work I have done, I suggest ways for us to combat the issue -perhaps I should direct such decisions to him? But the minute I suggest that, he says “no, no, I want you to learn and make the decisions”. Translate: I like it that you do all the work, and I can just play boss when I am bored.

Fine. Whatever.

At home, E and I talk about work. And we spiral down the “whose position in the company is worse” road, until we both have nothing but one word answers for each other. We answer questions with “nothing” and “okay”. We don’t find peace or comfort because we just feed into each other. And then we end up resenting one another because we don’t feel heard, and awkward, silent nights pass by with nothing good brewing between us.

Today it was even worse because, due to winter conditions, we both worked from home, so our frustration of work that is usually confined to the office spilled out into our living and dining rooms. Now not only are we unable to be supportive of each other, but we’re having our work frustrations right out in the open. There’s no screen between the work and our slightly-less-frustrated time at home. To borrow a line from Frodo, we’re “naked in the dark.” This has resulted in a lot of angry, short responses from both of us. “I wasn’t paying attention, what did you say?” “Nothing.” “Okay, fine.”

I am so frustrated, and I am so unhappy.

But then just now I received a call from an unknown number, and it was a woman calling me about my resume on Career Builder. She said she thought I would be a perfect fit for the job, and I regretfully declined, since I am hoping to move back East. It meant so much to me just that she wanted me…it made me feel more confident.

So I decided it was time to write a post!

Earlier this week, I decided to make something with some frozen tortellini that I had bought on sale. I didn’t want a lot of sodium, so I opted out of a traditional sauce, choosing instead to just saute some vegetables for a light sauce.

1 package of tortellini, 3 roma tomatoes (diced), 2 zucchini (sliced), 1 can of white beans, 1/2 cup of cheese

While the water boiled, I threw the zucchini in a tbsp of olive oil and another tbsp of balsamic vinegar to cook for a while. Just before the rolling boil, I threw in the tomatoes and beans and some minced garlic. These were heated in the pan while the tortellini started to cook, and the tomatoes made a nice watery base. Once the tortellini was cooked and drained, I tossed it in the pan with the veggies, mixed it all together, sprinkled on some cheese, and took it off the heat.

It was a simple and filling meal, with a little bit of everything. E was happy with it; I was happy with it, and the ultimate calorie count (since I’m counting those things now!) was not too high.

Some days I wish I could just cook and craft. But I am grateful to have a job, and I’m even more grateful that that job makes me an ideal candidate for jobs just like it! Ha ha. Here’s to new recipes, and the ability to refrain from screaming. And to be wanted!

Forgot to mention: pair this recipe with a nice Cab Sauvignon, and you’re all set.

The final outcome of tortellini stuff

 

Not Quite as Bleu

A healthier take on a cordon bleu

I joined Spark People recently, and I’ve been nabbing a lot of recipes from there. They’re already put into the nutrition tracker, so it makes counting calories, etc a lot easier.

That’s where I found this recipe for “Chicken Cordon Bleu, California Style”. Traditional cordon bleu is chicken, ham, and swiss cheese breaded and sauteed to a rich, creamy, calorically heavy delicacy. This version takes a chicken breast, one slice of deli ham, a slice of swiss cheese, tomato, and avocado.

It’s amazingly simple, but I managed to screw it up, anyway.

To prepare the chicken, you’re supposed to pan fry it in a little bit of oil with some salt and pepper for seasoning. Then, when it’s cooked, pile the other ingredients on top and bake on 450 for about 10 or 12 minutes.

I oven-roasted the chicken.

It still came out pretty tasty, though, and I suppose a bit healthier. The avocado kept it smooth and creamy, the tomato added some freshness, and the cheese added some tang.

I served the breasts on small spinach and tomato salads for presentation. I guess being so close to V-day, I thought I should do something a little fancy.

I would rate it a 6 on a 10 scale. It was extremely filling, and according to the recipe, it packs in about 585 calories. Considering the cup of risotto at 700, I’d say it’s worth it. I would be curious to see how well I could imitate with vegetarian options…

In other news, I have to learn how to thread my machine by next weekend.

Also, GO PACK GO! Packers won the Super Bowl. I dedicate my dinner to them.

I’ve Mustered a Flatline

Welcome to Seattle winter, ladies and gentlemen. If you’ve ever contemplated the consequences of stepping just a tad over the edge of a cliff, you know what every day in Seattle during the winter is like. It’s a constant battle between your self-preservation instinct and your other self-preservation instinct, which realizes that if you have to endure one more day of half-assed rain at a steady 45 to 50 degrees, you will kill someone and be put in jail.

The drive for any sort of endeavor, even simply be an active and contributing member of society, dies with the first week of clouds rolling in off the Sound. With the exception of the holidays, when the city is brighter for all of the lights on display, it is dreary and painstakingly boring time of year.

So it is that the best crafting project I can think to mention is fixing the increasingly large hole in the couch with some thread made for denim because I have been unmotivated to find some real, heavy-duty thread. I didn’t bother taking a picture. Suffice it to say, it looks like a couch that had a hole and was fixed with denim thread.

As for cooking, I’ve been as lazy as possible for the past week. E made dinner on Sunday night, after we had a large meal at a friend’s house to watch the Packers game (NFC Champions!!!). Last night I made an old favorite, “cheesy rice and beans” –I will freely confide that the recipe is from an ex. *GASP*

This was a standard in my apartment with said ex. It’s easy and sticks to your ribs. You make the rice, and towards the end of the rice’s cook time, you add beans and whatever else you want, then add the cheese right at the end. The secret is to use a tablespoon of cream cheese to make it ultra-creamy, and voila –calories!

The version I made is my personal favorite: a Mediterranean styled dish. I use garbanzos, tomatoes, and black olives, with Italian blend cheese and Feta. I have also had versions with a Mexican twist, including black beans and some spices, and a rather bland version with just beans and cheese. The great thing about it is that it is a blank canvas that can be covered with just about anything and still be good.

And, like I said, it’s filling.

Tonight we’re having hotdogs. Because, really, the thought of doing anything other than the very basic necessities at this point is like drilling through my skull to scoop my brains out with a spatula. Think about it.