I'm jealous of those people who know what they want to be when they grow up. Even more so if they've always known. At age 6, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was "a horse." By the time I finished high school, I wasn't much better prepared for the world.
I took the scenic route through college, so it took me a bit longer than most to graduate. I was 25 when I graduated with a BS in Physics, and still I had zero idea what I wanted to do with my life. I sort of fell into a job as a network administrator for a small security company. I stayed there for a couple of years and then started working for local government. Over the years, my responsibilities here have changed.
During my tenure here, I've had some times when I detested my job so much that it made me depressed. As part of our employee assistance program, I was able to see a career counselor. She gave me a litany of tests in order to determine what field might be proper for me.
After several weeks of tests and exercises, the results came back. According to my personality and temperament, I should be an artist. I do like to make things. I've always considered myself more of a "crafter" than an "artist". I didn't make anything that I considered "art". I knitted a bit, sewed, and did other general "crafty" things. I believed that there was no way that I could support myself as an artist. I declared that I was entirely too addicted to eating and having a roof over my head to consider a career as an artist.
My counselor told me something that has come to be my motto. If I couldn't be an artist as my career, I needed to create things in my spare time to feed that need or else I would forever be unhappy. It's absolutely true. When I get super depressed, I can look back at the last few weeks and will realize that I've not made anything. All I have to do is pick up a project and make a little progress on it and my happiness returns. Or I can take an art class. I just have to give my brain something creative to work on.
These days, I call myself "craftmaster" of my own tiny label. I still dabble with many different mediums, expert at none, but I am beginning to see myself as an artist. I am not an "Artist", but definitely an "artist".
I still don't know what I want to be "when I grow up". But I know more about myself and what it takes to make me happy. That matters more than what I do to pay the bills.
Back in the mid to late 80s, there was an Italian restaurant in town called Enza's. I never set foot in the place, but every so often my Pop would bring home a loaf of their stuffed bread for dinner. Enza's has existed in Lexington at various times over the years, most recently they were in Eastland Shopping Center, but they're gone from there now too. Internet research tells me the owner was Enza Morris. The stuffed bread is a loaf of white bread containing 3 meats (at least when my Dad picked them up) and some cheese. You eat it with their marinara sauce.
For the last week or two, stuffed bread has been on my mind. I used to make it back in the mid nineties, and I think I did a fairly good job. I don't think I've made it for the last 20ish years though. I probably burned myself out on it at some point, and then it just disappeared from my brain. I got to the point on friday that I was totally obsessing about it, so I knew for sure that I'd have to make it this weekend. Turns out, I had to make it twice.
The biggest problem with stuffed bread is that you have to know several hours ahead that you want it. It's not hard to make, just time intensive.
It's more method than recipe. So, I'm going to give you the step by step. Some of my pics are sideways, and some of them out of focus, but you're getting them anyway. I'm sure you'll get the drift.
Recently, on some cooking show or other, (I watch a lot of them) we saw salt crusted potatoes. On friday, we attempted them. Super easy and very yummy.
Start with some small potatoes. I think that the recipe I found called for fingerlings. I used some sort of small golden potato that Kroger had. Put them in a saucepan with enough water to cover and a handful of kosher salt. Boil until done, then pour off most of the water and return to heat. Continue cooking (but watch so they don't burn) until the water has all evaporated and the salt is sticking to the potatoes. Scrumptious!
The recipe I found called for brushing off most of the salt. We didn't do that. We also didn't make up any sort of weird sauce to go with. We just ate them with a little butter.
I will definitely have to remember this one, it was so easy.
My favorite cake is a wonderful thing. I adore it so. My auntie who is such a great cook came up with the recipe one million years ago when dinosaurs walked the earth and I was maybe a teen. She's not a restaurant style cook, she is one of those fabulous church ladies who show their love through food. I've been told that she makes the best chicken n' dumplings on the planet, but I don't much care for chicken and dumpllngs, so I don't have much frame of reference.
Anyway, she brought this cake to some family function or other and ever since then it has been my favorite cake, I sometimes make it for my birthday. I thought I'd share with you. I'm guessing the recipe probably originally came from Kraft foods, due to how many of their products are included.
Pig Pickin' Cake
1 box yellow cake mix
1/2 cup oil (I use vegetable)
1 can mandarin oranges
1 cup coconut
1 cup pecans
Mix all of these ingredients together (including juice from mandarin oranges!) and spread between 3 cake pans. Bake @ 350F for 30-35 minutes. Let layers cool. Then frost with:
1 large container of cool whip
2 boxes instant vanilla pudding
1 can crushed pineapple
Throw all of these ingredients into a bowl and mix (including pineapple juice) then spread on cooled cake. Refrigerate cake.
I managed to give most of my cake away, so I didn't have to eat it until I was sick of it. Since Sparks doesn't like it, that leaves a lot for me to eat.
A couple of weeks ago, while watching The Worst Cooks In America, I saw them make pizza dough from scratch. Surely the recipe they gave them was foolproof, right? I decided to try it out myself.
I tried for the first time last week. My crust was rock hard. I think that is due to rolling it out.
I tried that same recipe this week, adding a bit more moisture (I had trouble getting all of the flour mixed in last week) and not rolling it, just forming it by hand. I decided to forgo the pre-bake this week, thinking that may have contributed to the hardness. This time the crust was a bit doughy in the middle, but overall much better. I probably should have given it a pre-bake this time. *laughs*
My facebook friends have been full of suggestions and links to recipes. This morning, my pal Charley showed up at my desk with his wife's pizza crust recipe. I'll definitely give it a shot next. It doesn't even require rise time! It does, however require "pizza yeast". I didn't know such a thing existed.
Last week, post rock hard pizza, I wanted something chocolatey. Really, I wanted a chocolate souffle, but that was just way too much effort for 9pm on a tuesday when I'd already spent the last 4 hours cleaning the kitchen. Plus, I didn't want to make something huge that would hang around for days. I ended up settling on a recipe for chocolate lava cakes that made exactly two. I used this recipe. It took all of about 3 minutes to mix up and was great. While it was baking, I threw some freezerburned raspberries into a pot with some sugar and turned them into a nice sauce (they were only a little freezer burned) and whooped up some sweetened cream. The recipe was so awesome that I repeated it the next night. I need to repeat it once more, I've got just enough raspberry sauce left for about one more round.
If next week's pizza crust is a winner, I'll post the recipe. Until then, here's the text of the recipe for those fine lava cakes.
Chocolate molten lava cakes for two
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 TBSP butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus extra for garnish
3 TBSP all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 TBSP Nutella (optional)
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Generously grease 2 ramekins with non-stick cooking spray. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and set aside.
In a medium, microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips and butter in the microwave for about 1 and 1/2 minutes. Stir every 30 seconds until smooth.
Add the powdered sugar and mix until incorporated. Then add the egg and whisk until smooth.
Stir in flour and vanilla extract and mix until no lumps remain.
Evenly distribute the batter into the two prepared ramekins and put the baking pan into oven.
Bake the cakes for 12 minutes.
Remove the cakes from the oven and let them rest for 1 minute before inverting onto a plate.
Dust with powdered sugar and a dollop of Nutella if desired. You can also garnish with berries, ice cream or chocolate sauce for a super indulgent treat!
Yield: Two servings
A livejournal friend asked me how I go about spinning wire. I took photos of the whole process from wire to bracelet. There are a million pics under the cut.
A few weeks ago, I saw a very lovely bracelet in one of the fiber/spinning communities on facebook. I loved it and thought that surely I could replicate it. I watched a couple of videos on youtube about spinning fiber onto a wire core. That was my project for the last Second Saturday Spin-In. Spinning onto a wire core isn't really as tough as I thought. The only snag is getting the fiber to catch as you start spinning. But once it's started, it goes pretty easily. I used a "demented batt" from my local yarn seller/dyer, Lunabud Knits. It has lots of colors and sparkles in it so it makes for a crazy yarn.
Then, I went to my local bead shop, Dandelion Bead Connection, and asked the owner of the shop for some help on what to use as a core and how to attach my hardware. He helped me out immensely. I sat down on Sunday and attacked the project. It was surprisingly simple!
For starters, I created my "core". The guy at the bead shop had given me a giant black rubber o-ring, like 8 mm diameter and 4 feet long. I cut off enough to go around my wrist. Then, I used the dremel to drill some tiny holes though the rubber about 1/4 inch from each end. I secured my wire into these holes and created small rings on each end. it didn't matter that they were ugly, the fiber wire covers them up! Once each end had a loop, I started wrapping the bracelet with the fiber covered wire. This process is a bit tedious and gives me a cramp in my hand but isn't difficult. I just had to be sure to wrap it tightly. As you can probably see, my "yarn" was a bit thicker in some spots than others. That just adds to the beauty, I think. Once the bracelet was wrapped, I put a wee bit of glue on each end just to keep it from unraveling. Then I used split rings to attach a clasp. I like the toggle clasps best for bracelets. I find them easier to connect one handed than the others.
My only regret(?) about this bracelet is that the o-ring is a bit more rigid than I would like. It is kind of stiff feeling on my wrist. I think that once I've used up all of my o-ring supply (I have enough to make a half dozen or so bracelets) then I will try flexible tubing.
I enjoyed this project so much that I may make a handful of these in the coming weeks.
I totally and completely adore PF Chang. I could eat there weekly. I don't think that I've had anything there that I didn't like. The local one went through a phase for a while where the spring rolls were overly greasy, but the last couple of times I've been there they'd corrected that.
It wasn't until recently that I tried their lettuce wraps. I'd had them other places and didn't care for them, but theirs were terrific.
Last night, I was hungry (skipped lunch, I do that a lot) and decided to stop by the Kroger and just let inspiration hit. I walked directly in to the produce section and looked around. I was kind of having an urge for a vegetable of some sort. I've been eating a lot of crap this week. There was a lovely little head of bibb lettuce and it told me that it wanted to be a lettuce wrap. I tend to like leafy lettuces more than iceberg. So, I popped on the intertubes and found this recipe. I liked the face that I had all of the ingredients for the sauce, so all I had to pick up were the chicken, mushrooms, and water chestnuts. I used ground chicken instead of chicken breasts and doubled the veggies since I had what I thought was double the meat. I also fried up a few rice noodles, those are scrumdiddlyumptious! Our lettuce wraps were great, Sparks says maybe even better than the ones at PF Chang. We have quite a bit left over, so I'm thinking that I may make some rice this afternoon and have it with the leftover chicken mixture for dinner.
Yesterday, I spent the whole time at work knitting and watching vidoes on the YouTubes since I've figured out how to get there through the fire wall. I finished the first of the January projects. I started the next one while watching The Hobbit (first part) with Sparks last night.
We slept in today until about 12:30 and I've cleaned the kitchen. I'm feelilng pretty good about that. Of course, maybe I shouldn't since I had left all of those dishes sitting for a week. For the rest of the day, maybe I'll play some WoW, I haven't gotten to do that in almost 2 weeks! I was so busy with party prep, the giftmas prep, then giftmas itself and knitting and such that I haven't played since before they connected our realm to another.
There's nothing amazing going on in Yshaville today, I just wanted to share that recipe with you guys. *grins*
I've got a chicken in the crockpot, it's been going for a couple of hours, still needs a couple. For the first time I am trying it without adding a lot of liquid to it. My friend Mari is the one who told me that I could do a whole chicken in the crockpot. We just didn't use one when I was a kid. But a few years ago, just after she'd told me about cooking a whole chicken in one I was at Meijer and they had this crockpot on sale for $10 and whole chickens were on sale that week too! Kismet!
Anyhow, whenever I make chicken in the crockpot, I will throw in a few cloves of sliced garlic. We love garlic around here! Today, I was reminded of the first time I made "garlic chicken".
I was either 18 or 19. Mom and Dad hadn't been split up for too long, so I hadn't been the chief cook for very long. I was still feeling my way through things and learning. Heck, I'm STILL learning, I always will be. I like learning new stuff, especially about food.
It was Christmas day and it had snowed something like 12 inches overnight. The roads were a nightmare. So, instead of making the traditional trip to my Gran's house (90 minutes each way over very curvy mountain roads) I decided to stay home. This was an unheard of luxury for me. It might have been the very first time I'd ever missed Christmas with the whole famn-damily.
I looked through the cookbook for something that I could do with a couple of chicken breasts for dinner since I had a bag full in the freezer. I found a recipe for something along the lines of "40 garlic chicken". In those days I had not yet discovered fresh garlic. The only garlic I'd ever used was the dried/powdered kind. You see where this is going, don't you?
I read on the bottle that blah blah teaspoons equals a clove of garlic. I used enough of the dried crap to be 40 cloves worth and covered the chicken with it and put in the oven. I have to say, that was pretty gross. We didn't eat very much of it, that's for sure. *laughs*
I've come pretty far since then. Now I'm almost never without a bulb or three of fresh garlic in the house and I only use powdered garlic when I'm making a seasoned flour for coating something. I don't even keep the pre-chopped stuff in the fridge anymore. (it has a slightly pickled flavor that I don't care for)
My chicken smells great, I am looking forward to it being done.
Often, when I have an awful, no good, terribly bad day I want comfort food. For me that means snooty cheeses. Sometimes with a little fruit on the side, sometimes not. If I'd remembered that I had grapes in the fridge last night I totally would have eaten those, but I forgot.
Our Kroger is in the midst of expanding into a Super-Mega-Kroger that can be seen from space. They've finished the first section of the renovations and have added a Murray's cheese shop. Last night, I finally gave them a proper perusal instead of just glancing as I walked past.
The first thing I found that caught my eye was a Fromager d'Affinois. While I was reading the sign, the fromagiere (ok, I might have made that word up, like a sommelier but for cheese) offered to give me a sample. It was a Prima Donna gouda with a tiny bit of strawberry basil jelly. I was immediately in love!
Prima Donna gouda is drier and sharper than a regular gouda. It's reminiscent of a parmesan, only not quite that sharp. I got a wedge of that and a wedge of the fromager d'Affinois and a jar of that strawberry basil jelly and headed home.
I think that a good cheese plate will always have three cheeses. Any more and you start getting confused, any less and you don't have enough variety. Each cheese should be of a different type, too. One needs to be creamy, one stinky, and one somewhere in the middle. So, I dug in the bottom of the fridge and found a chunk of stilton that had been there for at least a year. No worries, it was still vacuum packed, so it hadn't even molded. Well, it had no more mold than stilton usually does. I added these rosemary crackers from Kroger that I've been grooving on for quite a while.
Lo' back in the stone ages, when I was but a girl, I loved a TV show called Twin Peaks. If you haven't seen it, check it out. In one of the very first episodes, Jerry (who has been overseas) introduces his brother Ben to a butter and brie sandwich on a baguette. It sounded so good at the time, that I just had to try it. I'd never even had brie at that point. It was the most amazing thing I'd ever put in my plebeian mouth. I still love that combination and it's another of my comfort foods.
Fromager d'Affinois is like butter and brie already mixed together. It's creamy and mild and buttery and scrumptious. It is absolutely wonderful. This will definitely become one of my favorite cheeses, and I do lurves me some cheese.
After partaking of my cheese plate and a couple of cans of the "house wine" (otherwise known as Pepsi for me or Mountain Dew for Sparks) I felt a lot less frazzled. I went to bed and read for the next few hours until it was time for sleep. A very relaxing evening indeed!