Friday, February 26, 2010

Proper Snow.

This morning I woke up at 6:15 and looked out the window. There was so much snow! It honestly felt a little like Christmas did when I was small. Not that snow reminds me of Christmas (I've never celebrated Christmas in a place that had average winter temperatures below 40 degrees), but just the excitement of waking up to such a pleasant anticipated treat. I wanted to wake Ryan up and show him, but I thought better of it. He woke up a little anyway, looked out the window and then curled up and went back to sleep. 

This is the kind of snow I was expecting when I first heard about the supposed enormous amounts of snow that Ithaca gets. This is let's-get-out-the-snowshoes-and-go-to-the-woods kind of weather. Let's-get-really-cold-doing-fun-things-outside-and-then-come-in-for-hot-chocolate-kind-of-weather.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Thing A Week and The Supersizers

My Thing A Week plan is going well.

Last week I made this Chocolate Black Tea cake for Ryan's birthday. I substituted walnuts for the hazelnuts (because I had walnuts but no hazelnuts) and made a cocoa frosting for it. I also made a leek and potato pie, but I don't think that counts for Thing A Week because I make vegetable pies all the time. I'm ammending the original stipulations: baking only counts when it's something that I need more practice at (cakes and bread, basically).

Despite it not counting, I'd like to mention the fabulous crust I made with olive oil, water, a little baking soda and vinegar. We already typically make oil crusts instead of butter crusts, but I thought that olive oil might add some nice flavour to complement the potatoes and leeks. The trick was olive oil in the freezer for several hours, following a suggestion I read in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. This makes an excellent butter/fat substitute, if you're interested. I don't like using packaged butter substitutes because most of them are mostly water. You can watch an extreme version of what happens when you try and cook things with fake butter on one of my favourite television shows, The Supersizers* (1:17 is where the point of interest starts and yes, that's real horse that they're cooking):

I think I'd rather go with the full flavour of olive oil than bland, processed "butterine" if I'm not going to use butter itself) Substitute the frozen olive oil into your recipe 1:1 for your normal fat ingredient, and when you are adding that and the water (ice water!) to your flour, bring it together so that it is just barely on the side of incorporated. Mine had this beautiful marbley look to it. Then it goes back in the fridge for an hour before rolling out between two pieces of wax paper (it will stick to counters).

This week's Thing A Week:

A paper mache box to store chopsticks and other kitchen utensils as part of my Organise/Decorate the House on a Budget of Next to Nil plan. I also came across the interesting idea of using contact paper to cover up ugly kitchen cabinet doors when you rent and can't do anything about your hideous dark crappy kitchen cupboards So I'm going to inspect contact paper to see if a) it looks like crap and then b) I can make our kitchen a little cheerier. Only if it's cheap though.

*it's worth watching the whole 2 seasons of this show. Two journalists (Giles Coren and Sue Perkins) spend a week each episode living as if they were in another time in history, wearing the clothes and most importantly, eating the food. My favourite episode is the Supersizers Go Wartime. Giles makes a cake using paraffin and gives American servicemen diarrhea and Sue paints her legs with gravy and eats a pair of stockings.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


We chose seeds! We ordered from TomatoGrowers: purple jalapenos, carbon tomatoes, sweet baby girl tomatoes and a kind of sweet pepper that's name escapes me at the moment. It was really, really hard to choose. It took 4 hours. Because we have no space and no sun, so we can't really be too ambitious but we wanted the essentials and we didn't want to overlap with our CSA too much. We figured, you can never have too many tomatoes and peppers are nice too.

We're also going to sprout some of our dried beans and put in a herb window box in the bedroom (that window gets the most sun).

I thing I'm really looking forward to spring: today I made Lemonade For One (one lemon, 1tbsp sugar, 1 cup water, mix. Add gin if needed). It's not the same when you're wrapped up in cashmere, wool socks and slippers.

Although I still find the snow a bit of a novelty, I'm a little tired of my activities being so beholden to the weather. By activities, I mean "ability to fall asleep outside". Last summer, I fell asleep in the yard, I fell asleep on the balcony and I fell asleep in the woods. I'm looking forward to finding new and exciting places to fall asleep. Oh and the riding. I'm looking forward to that too.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Really Craftzine? Really? Normally I love your blog. I forward entries all around, post them to Facebook and Twitter, and recommend it to my friends in person. I go to your site everyday and am possibly a better (at least more organised, possibly more creative) person for it.

This entry makes it seem like you've run out of ideas. 

Who hasn't figured out how to make a pasta dish by the time they've moved out of their parents home?  And if they haven't, they probably have no interest in cooking anyway and wouldn't be reading Craftzine for cooking tips.

This goes in the same category as the article I read in the Palo Alto Weekly several years ago that recommended using "heavy objects" such as rocks or bookends to keep books in place on shelves. Rocks, along with cowboy boots filled with rocks and doorstops, can also be used to keep doors open. Another article in the Palo Alto Weekly that recommended stacking smaller pots inside larger pots to save kitchen storage space*

*although I don't have copies of the articles in question, I assure you both of those were real articles.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ludgate Farms

Today we went to Ludgate Farms and I was disappointed. I think I was hoping for another Milk Pail, which is this awesome grocery in Mountain View that is always unbelievably crowded for a very good reason: cheap, fresh produce, an amazing cheese selection and a substantial bulk department. It's where you go to buy ingredients for delicious meals that you are making from scratch . I've bought a weeks worth of groceries there, for two people, for under $20 and that included food for having people over for dinner one night.

Ludgate Farms was not Milk Pail. While the produce itself was fine, there wasn't very much of it, which I will forgive because it's the middle of winter. Produce aside, the products that they did have were all covered in dust and not only that, a lot of the available items were either close to or actually passed their expiry date. The ones passed the expiry date were usually offered at a discount. My feeling on this is that I don't really want to pay anything for rancid olive oil, so discounts aren't really going to help. That and everything was unbelievably overpriced - $16.00 for a box of Emergen C? That's twice what it costs elsewhere. Believe me, I'd rather shop local and I understand the plight of the small business but I do not have unlimited funds and I can't afford to pay double. What was most frustrating was their "bulk" section, which wasn't "bulk" in the sense that you bag it yourself or that it's cheaper than the prepackaged version. You buy what they've bagged and tagged for you, already (read: no bins) and then you pay more than you would at Greenstar (for example), which up until going to Ludgate Farms, I thought was expensive.

What they should do is get rid of those millions of bottles of olive oil and premade pasta sauces and preserves and just focus on selling good fresh produce and install bulk bins and offer competitive prices.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Thing A Week

Last year, I tried to participate in Thing-A-Day 2009. It did not go well. Sometimes I make several things a day, sometimes nothing at all. I think it might work if I were completing pieces for a larger project, like, for example hexagons for an afghan - something very small, quick and simple but still working towards a larger, more useful project. Part of my problem is that my main "chosen medium" - that is my "craft of choice" is knitting, and even the simplest of quickest knits can take hours. Not suited to banging out a thing a day. Additionally, functional elegance is really important to me, so I was discouraged by the round trivet I was >trying< to make, that ended up a useless flower that lies around my house annoying me - I can't throw it out because I made it, I can't frog it because I felted it, but there isn't much of a point to it.  I tried to include cooking as part of my creative sprint, but I cook almost every day, pretty much from scratch and not every meal is a feat of amazing, complicated, creativity, it seemed like cheating to count a simple broth with chopped vegetables and udon noodles as a "thing" but if I added home made dumplings to that meal then it did count? I guess it just didn't seem like I was stretching myself enough to count meals. 

 So I've decided to make my own challenge. Thing A Week. Starting at the beginning of this month (February) I am going to complete at least one thing a week. Meals don't count, but baking, preserves and pickles do as do "ingredients" things like dumplings, fresh pasta and large batches of curry paste. And I'm going to do it for a year. The project doesn't necessarily have to be started and finished in one week, I just have to complete at least one thing a week, hopefully this will encourage me to finish projects.

So. I've finished Casey's neck warmer and Ryan's hat. I have some other knitting projects started. And I'm going to attempt a cake this morning. After cleaning the kitchen and bathroom and possibly doing some laundry. Do those things count?

EDIT: Drinks like the barley water I made two weeks ago (delicious but I failed to document it in any form other than a chat with Miss Margobee) and this great idea for Lavender Lemonade totally and utterly count.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Huge storm and neck warmer

The huge storm I mentioned in the last post is apparently happening at the moment. Except, it's not as big it was threatened: I think we are getting the edge rather than the middle.

Ithaca is not as snowy as people who you tell you are moving there would like you to believe. Sure, it's snowier than Palo Alto, but a lot of places are. Everyone who had heard of Ithaca gave us the, "Better get used to winter! It's really snowy there! Snow all winter! Snow, snow, snow!" upon hearing we were moving here.

But it's no where near as snowy as Tahoe, which was what we thought about when we thought "lots of snow".

So right now, it's snowing, it's been snowing all day. Outside is very quiet - the noise is dampened by the snow. And to be fair, there is quite a bit of it. But in a few days it will melt and outside will be wet and grey and ugly.
Anyway. I'm glad of the opportunity to experience several "real winters".

Here's what I've been up to, when not working:

It's a birthday present for my friend Casey, who hopefully doesn't read this blog.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Spring flower preserve plan.

We're due for a huge storm on Wednesday. 90% chance of snow all day long. Right now, it's 18 degrees F.

I'm looking forward to spring. 

With that in mind, I've started to think about the jellies and jams and tasty preserves that I want to make. Last summer, Ryan and I made pots and pots of Cornelian cherry jelly, from Cornelian cherries, scrumped from Cornell Campus. 

In Northern California, spring comes for a couple of weeks. I used to mentally remind myself to enjoy the daffodils, naked ladies and tulips while the lasted, because they only lasted 2 or 3 weeks at most. I did the same thing this last spring, here in Ithaca. I kept reminding myself to enjoy the spring bulbs because they wouldn't last. But they did! For weeks and weeks! I've never seen so many blooming flowers all at once. Snowdrops, tulips, narcissus, daffodils and best of all thousands of violets. So I've decided to try violet jelly this year. There is also an abundance of crab apples at the airport that we didn't manage to get to last year, so I'm thinking crab apple lavender jelly and I've recently found out that people make jelly out of geraniums!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Pomegranate Molasses

I bought some pomegranate molasses yesterday. I found a recipe for it in one of my cookbooks and then visualised making it myself. Spending all that time separating the little garnets from their little honeycombs of protective skins and then...not eating them by the handful?

Clearly, that wasn't going to be possible. It's like pomegranate jelly or other preserves - I'm sure they're delicious but how to you make it without just eating the pomegranate?

(also: it's much cheaper to buy a 10.5 oz bottle of molasses than to buy enough pomegranates to make 10.5 oz of molasses)

You also can't always buy pomegranates, because they are a fruit that you have no choice but to eat seasonally - although, one could argue the same for a lot of other fruit, despite the fact that they are available in the store year round - who wants to eat a yucky, bland, dry, out of season orange?- but pomegranates aren't even available when they aren't in season.  

As much as we try and buy local (the CSA really helped with this one), I am an Arab, and Arabs crave things like tomatoes, lemons and most importantly, with regards to this blog entry, pomegranates. All things that are somewhat readily available in a Mediterranean climate, but not so readily available locally here in upstate New York. So about once a year, I crack and buy a pomegranate. One of the ideas of slow food living, so if you can't buy local then at least buy from the region that is known for the particular ingredient/food. So I bought Lebanese pomegranate molasses.

Yesterday, driving home from buying the above mentioned molasses, we saw that Pancho Villa's is taking down its sign. It looked like this:


Which reminded me of this sketch, from about 2:00 onwards:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Knitting and Bananas

I've been watching a lot of these videos recently - brought to my attention by my father in law. I think they're great. Mainly I've been watching the "Why people laugh at creationists" series, although I did try and sit through Thunderf00t's discussion with Ray "The Bananaman*" Comfort. What struck me as interesting was Comfort's inability to get his head around the fact that people who aren't religious do not have an "origin story". He asked Thunderf00t how the earth began and Thunderf00t starts discussing the scientific concept of the unknown. This became Comfort's "aha" moment and he claimed (repeatedly) "You don't know, but I do know". As if having any kind of answer trumps not having an answer. Nevermind the millions of people who share this planet who have a completely different answer. He says some (mostly) other ridiculously inane things (like "Where I'm from, in New Zealand, up is down!") and then I turned it off. I'll try again later. But back to the "can't get his head around the fact that people who aren't religious don't have an origin story" - that is a fundamental problem with discussing religion with a lot of religious people. They can't even begin to put themselves in the shoes of someone who doesn't have any belief in a supernatural being - the question: "Do you want to be an atheist and go to hell?" seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to ask if you can't get your mind around the fact that atheists aren't choosing hell, because they don't believe there is a hell. 


I've also been knitting again. I'm about halfway done with a new hat for Ryan:

I want to attempt something bigger next but I'm concerned that I'll not finish it and buying all that yarn is expensive! I feel like I ought to use up my stash before I get going on anything large like a sweater. Or this sweater dress that I'd like to make, but I'd change the cable pattern to be just one cable up the left hand side so it goes all the way up the dress and make the rest of it ribbed. I also think I'd prefer it in a warmer colour, like a beige or brown or even the light olive.

*If you only click on one link in this blog entry and you haven't seen Ray Comfort talk about the Banana being the atheists nightmare (I can't do that phrase justice, not have a kiwi accent), click on this one. And remember, it is not a tutorial for masturbation, which is what my mother thought it was.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mystery ingredients.

It's been too long since I posted here. So, here's a picture of some ingredients. I'm trying to remember what I made with them.

Whatever it was, I bet it was delicious.

[Edit: I remembered! Curry paste! and it was delicious]