The Big D

January 20, 2012 § 1 Comment

I’m in Dallas for the week, so the bloggy blog is pretty much hiatused. I had intended to set up a bunch of posts to be pre-scheduled to go up while I was away, but decided to get my submission for next year’s Jane Austen Knits ready to go early instead so I don’t have to panic about it when I get back. Look at me being all adult and stuff.

Speaking of submitting to magazines, there was a post from Rock’n’Purl’s blog last week (I will try to find it and link it but I’m writing this on my phone so we’ll see Hey! Lookee! I did it!) that made me realize that my litmus test for whether something is good enough to submit is whether I would be comfortable self-publishing it. I like to think this is a pretty high standard, and also, this means there are probably going to start being some more stand alone patterns available directly from me (and one of my goals for the next couple of seems is to get the patterned I already have available linked up here so y’all can get to them a little easier).

There may be another post or two from me this week, since I found this handy-dandy phone app, but mostly I’m just going to be hanging out and enjoying some quality time with my daddy.

We Have No Banana Today

January 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

It's so good I failed to take a picture until we'd already eaten most of it. I was busy stuffing my face.

Even Wikipedia doesn’t know why it’s called Monkey Bread. It’s not made of monkeys and doesn’t contain bananas or anything else monkey-related, but it’s definitely delicious. Also, it’s kinda fun to make and totally fun to eat. I used to not make it often, because it’s a yeast dough so it takes a couple hours to make the dough and then another hour or so to prep and bake the bread. And it’s really best fresh out of the oven. So it’s really not particularly convenient to have for breakfast, though it’ll do for second breakfast or elevenses, if you get up early enough. I discovered a few years ago, though, that you can actually bake it the day before, leave it in the pan, then heat it back up for 10 minutes or so (long enough to make the sugar gooey again) in the morning. Everybody wins! Except for the monkeys, because I’m not sharing.

Recipe

(adapted from AllRecipes.com)

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 3 c all-purpose flour
  • 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon, to taste
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 c water
  • 1/2 c butter
  • 1 c packed brown sugar

Set bread machine to Dough. Put yeast, flour, cinnamon, salt, sugar, butter, and water in machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. When dough is complete, turn out onto well-floured board and knead 10-20 times.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter bundt pan. In a small saucepan, melt together butter and brown sugar. Cut dough into 1″ cubes. Dredge cubes in butter/sugar mixture (Yes, it’s hot. Be careful.) and drop evenly into prepared bundt pan. Bake at  375°F for 20-25 minutes (until golden brown).

To serve immediately, place a plate over the top of the pan and invert them together. You may need to give the bottom of the pan a thump after you’ve got them flipped.

To serve the next morning, leave in pan and reheat at 375°F for 10-15 minutes (until butter/sugar mixture is gooey again). Serve as directed above.

Found It on the Internet Friday #11

January 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

Look at my pretty fairy lights!

They make me so happy!

I came across this on Pinterest and decided it would be a great project to do with the kids. I was not wrong. They did all the painting, and I did the cutting and hole-poking. One tip: paint first, cut the egg cartons apart later, especially if you’re working with small children. These were super easy and now I want them all over my house.

I gave the kids free rein with the colors -- no two are alike.

 

Some of them are even sparkly!

It Finally Happened

January 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

This is one of those posts I mentioned that’s been hanging around for awhile, just waiting to be finished. Here it is, finally, and you can look forward to a recipe (mostly) every Tuesday as part of a new feature called “Tasty Tuesdays”. I haven’t forgotten about Found It on the Internet Fridays — I’ve just gotten behind on taking pictures, but it will be coming back this week as well.

I have been wanting to make a turducken for years, and been wanting to eat one for even longer than that. This year was finally The Year of the Turbaducken (the “ba” is for “bacon”, obviously).

So much nom. Not shown: cranberry sauce, because I like it out of a can as opposed to homemade. Though it occurs to me that I would be just as happy with homemade raspberry jam, like with a Monte Cristo, so I might do that next time.

Let’s start with the easy/boring stuff: the green salad is just a bag of Romaine mixed with a bag of “spring greens” and topped with some grape tomatoes. I buy bagged salad because I hate making salad, and if I have to make it myself, it won’t get done. And really, I should eat more salad since it’s one of the few ways I actually like veggies. The bread sticks were easy but blah — I shan’t be making them again.

Now on to the good stuff (recipes below): first up, let’s talk about the Mustard Glazed Green Beans and Potatoes.

Seriously, are those not the cutest little potatoes you ever saw?

I had this idea just last week to toss some beans and potatoes with butter and mustard, and it is the easiest, most deliciously appetizing way I’ve ever had green beans. Even Becky agrees that they are not the most inedible vegetable she has ever tried, which from her is high praise indeed. Trader Joe’s sells these wee little potatoes that work perfectly in this recipe, but you could use fingerlings or new potatoes as well — if you use larger potatoes, you might want to cut them into 1″-ish chunks before serving.

Next, the Mac’n’Cheese.

Yes, those are penne noodles. I forgot to get elbow mac at the store and sure as hell wasn't going Wednesday night when I remembered I needed them.

It’s a no-bake, which makes it a great recipe for a big dinner like this — anything you can put together on the stovetop makes it a little easier to coordinate things. When I got my first apartment, my Aunt Valda gave me one of my very first cookbooks: Best Recipes, which is a collection of label recipes. I made either Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner (it’s been more years than I care to say so memory’s a bit foggy there) in that apartment for myself and my boyfriend that year, almost entirely out of that cookbook. There were cornish game hens, stuffing, rolls, two types of pie, and this mac’n’cheese, which was really the only keeper in the bunch. It’s also how I learned to make a roux, long before I knew what a roux was. To this day, following the instructions given in this recipe is the only way I can successfully make a roux.

I'll admit, there's a lot more "pie" than "sweet potato" to these.

The Sweet Potato Pie was always on the table of the Thanksgivings of my childhood, courtesy of the aforementioned Aunt Valda. I’ve simplified the recipe a tad (and actually screwed it up this year, due to an epic inability to count to three), but it’s still the same rich delicious dish it’s always been.

The stuffing was one I found online…I needed a stuffing for the turducken, and I thought a cornbread stuffing would hold up best to a couple of hours of having meat juices soaking into it. I decided to add sausage to the stuffing because, well, I like sausage in my stuffing. I went with plain ol’ breakfast sausage patties instead of the more traditional Italian sausage because again, I like the one better than the other. I ended up with a bunch left over after putting the turbaducken together, so I decided to serve the extra as a “dry” stuffing on the side. Delish.

So yummy, both in and out of the bird(s).

A couple of quick notes on the recipe itself: the cornbread you will get out of this recipe is blah, so don’t get excited about using just that part of the recipe. The version below has my modifications; the original recipe calls for a bunch of veggies, which I left out, and I only ended up using maybe half of the broth called for. Definitely pay more attention to the moistness of your dish than the measurements called for in the recipe.

Finally, the pièce de résistance: The Mighty Mighty Turbaducken!

Aw, yeah.

A couple years ago I had this genius thought: what if I made a turducken only with just breasts, thus avoiding the whole poultry boning issue. (I boned a chicken once, because I figured I should know how. Now I know how, and I also know I’d like to avoid doing it again if possible.)  It turns out I am not the only person to have had this genius thought: there are quite a few recipes out there, which worked out well for me, as I was able to gather some ideas about how long and at what temp I should cook it (as for the temp you should cook it to, it’s the same as any other poultry: internal temp of 165°F, taken at the thickest point, which in this case is dead center).

I had also heard tell of people replacing the traditional stuffing between birds with bacon. Now, we all know I dig on bacon, but I figured why replace when you can add? Also, a lot of the breast-only turduckens had bacon just on the outside. In fact, the main recipe I referenced for construction/cook time suggested that after cooking, you should remove the bacon layer before serving (emphasis mine). What the –? Are these people insane?!?! I decided to go ahead with my breast-only plan, putting both bacon and stuffing between each layer, and wrapping the whole thing up with a bacon lattice.

Look! Weaving *and* bacon. Maybe next year I should knit it.

Issues I encountered: I spent A Good Long While(tm) searching for a duck breast (I was originally going to do this as a birthday present for myself. My birthday is in February. You do the math.) with no luck. Finally, I could wait no longer and decided to just buy a damn duck and filet the breasts off. I got two nice size filets that way, but even together they were much smaller than the mutant chicken breast I had.

The duck is in the upper right hand corner (two breasts); the chicken is at the bottom right (a single breast). The turkey has been flattened and rolled up in this photo.

So I had to switch up the order a little there, but since it all gets rolled up like a jelly roll (in theory; keep reading), it’s really 6 of one, half a dozen of the other.  Also, the turkey I got was a “breast roast”. This apparently means large bits of it are dark meat, which I actually didn’t mind. What I did mind was that the whole thing was so lacerated by the string net they put around it to hold the different bits of meat together that it was practically falling apart.

See the scoring the arrow's pointing to (click to embiggen)? The whole damn turkey "breast roast" was like that.

This caused most of the lack of structural integrity you see in the final picture.  I will absolutely be doing this again, but I think next time I’ll consult with an actual butcher and see if I can get a whole turkey breast…or I could just filet it like I did the duck.

The biggest problem I had was that I couldn’t actually “roll” the whole thing once I got it together, in spite of having pounded all of the breasts to a 1/2″ thickness as directed. I just barely got it to fold in half.

I stuck some skewers into it to hold it together while I contemplated what to do next.

But I slapped some more bacon on it and maneuvered it onto the parchment, at which point I was able to roll that around the whole thing and hold it together.

"What to do next" = "more bacon" of course.

After that, I rolled it up in some foil, slapped it in a pan and threw it in the oven for a few hours (deets in the recipe).

Least exciting turbaducken pic EVAH.

Once it was within about five degrees of done, I ripped open the parchment/foil and let the bacon crisp up for half an hour or so (which was long enough to come all the way up to temp).

I cannot even begin to describe how delectable this smelled.

I let it rest for 20 minutes (It wasn’t long enough. Give it a little more time, hard as it is. Trust me.), then sliced me off a piece. And then I had a mouthgasm. Because O. M. G. So. Freaking. Good.

Turducken

(Based on the instructions here and here)

Ingredients:

  • 1 Turkey breast
  • 1 Duck breast
  • 1 Chicken breast
  • 2-3 lbs bacon
  • 1-2 c Cornbread-sausage stuffing (see recipe, below)

Pre-heat oven to 350°. Line a 9×13 baking pan with foil, then parchment, leaving enough of both hanging over the sides to completely cover your meat. Pound breasts to 1/2″ thick (each, not total). On top of a piece of plastic wrap, make a lattice from strips of bacon (see above). Lay turkey breast on top of lattice. Cover with a thin layer of stuffing, then a layer of bacon strips (you do not need to lattice the interior bacon layers). Repeat layering with duck/stuffing/bacon, then chicken/stuffing/bacon (NB: I had a huge chicken breast and a relatively small duck breast, so I reversed this order. It’s okay to use common sense here.). Roll/fold everything up as tightly as possible: this is why I built my original lattice on plastic wrap — it’s a lot easier to maneuver everything into position when you have that outer layer that cover everything and keeps it in place. If necessary, add more bacon to cover exposed meat/stuffing. Skewer as needed for stability. Move into prepared pan and remove skewers. Close foil and paper, making sure turbaducken is completely enclosed. Bake for 1 1/2- 3 hours, until internal temperature reached 160°. Open foil/paper and bake for another 30-45 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165°. Let rest for 30-40 minutes. Slice and serve.

Cornbread-Sausage Stuffing

(adapted from Allrecipes.com Cornbread Stuffing Southern Style)

Ingredients:

  • 2 (8.5 ounce) packages dry corn muffin mix
  • 1 (8 ounce) can cream-style corn
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 c plain yogurt
  • 1/4 c milk
  • 8-10 sausage patties
  • 1/2 c butter, melted
  • 1 – 3 c chicken broth

Pre-heat oven to 400°. Grease a 9×13 baking pan. Combine muffin mix, corn, eggs, yogurt, and milk; stir just enough to moisten. Pour batter into prepared pan(s). Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly brown. While the cornbread is baking, brown and crumble the sausage patties. After cornbread cools, crumble it into a large bowl. Add sausage and butter, mix thoroughly. Add broth slowly, stopping when you have reached the desired texture. (NB: For layering in turducken, you want the stuffing to be pretty moist.)

At-Ease Macaroni & Cheese

(from Best Recipes)

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 1/2 c shredded extra sharp cheddar
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 2 c cooked macaroni (1 c uncooked)

In medium saucepan, melt butter. Blend flour and salt into butter. Stir in milk, then cheese. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring gently, until thick and smooth. Stir in sour cream and combine thoroughly. Add macaroni, toss until completely coated and heated through.

Mustard Glazed Green Beans and Baby Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 1 pt snap beans
  • 1 pt wee little potatoes (you can use new potatoes or fingerlings, but you should cut them into 1″ chunks before tossing)
  • 1/4 c butter
  • 2 Tbsp honey mustard

Bring 2 2qt saucepans of water to a boil. Cook potatoes in one for 7 minutes until fork tender

Sweet Potato Pie

Ingredients:

 Er, I seem to have misplaced my only copy of this recipe, but I promise I’ll find it (or get it from Aunt Valda or my mom again) and post it up soon. But this has been hanging around too long and needs to be published already.

Laura Is a Punk Rocker!

January 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

I need a haircut. Not a trim, a cut. About three inches needs to be just whacked right off the bottom of my hair (don’t worry — it’ll still be quite long). See, I sort of won the genetic hair lottery…it grows in lovely and thick and straight, and I take care not to damage it by not using any product on it and not blow-drying or using hot curlers on it except for special occasions. This means I can get away with only getting a trim every 6 – 9 months or so…but occasionally I lose track and go even longer between. This is usually not a problem, but last time I got it trimmed I didn’t have them take enough off, so now my hair is just way, way too long. The ends are getting a little frizzy, but mostly? It’s just too damn long for me to do anything with. Unfortunately, for the next few weeks I’m going to have neither the time nor the inclination to get a cut.

Also, I’ve been thinking about dyeing my hair blue. Not all of it, but like a big strak of it. I’ve been holding off because I didn’t know if I’d like it and if I didn’t, well, I’d either be stuck with it or have to get a short cut to get rid of it, or overdye it so I’d have a streak of hair that didn’t quite match my real hair (because it never does), and I wasn’t really excited about any of those options (and even if I did like it, I’d be facing one of those options eventually as it grew out). But I came across this on Pinterest the other day and decided instead of growing increasingly annoyed with the extra inches, I’d do something fun with it instead. So now, there’s a rainbow on my head!

Contrary to the advice in the article, I did do the bleaching myself (because remember, worst case scenario, I go and get a haircut that I need anyhow). Kit put the color on for me — twice. See, I also came across some stuff on the intarwubs about dying hair with Kool-Aid. It worked, but after I shampooed it looked as if I’d done it weeks ago and it was just barely hanging on. So I got some proper hair dye (had to go to the beauty supply store) and we did it all over again. It’s still not as vibrant as I’d expected, I suspect because I used over-the-counter 30 volume peroxide (L’Oreal, I think, but I wouldn’t swear to it) instead of waiting and getting 40 volume at the beauty supply store. My hair is both dark and reddish, so it just didn’t come up particularly light, which means the color put on top of it was sitting on a dark base rather than a light base.

I really love it, and will probably do it again even after I finally get my hair cut. I’m lucky that I work in a creative industry for a pretty easy-going company, but even if I didn’t, since the color is only on the ends I could always hide it in a bun for work.

I Can’t Think of a Clever Title for This Post

January 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

As I mentioned a few days ago (and you already know if you have a calendar/access to the internet/contact with other people), ’tis the season for resolutions (or not), and reflections on the year gone past,  and goal-setting for the coming year and beyond. I had an interesting conversation about this last point the other day. An article came across my interwebs that suggested that if one wanted to be a serious writer, one needed to make that a top priority in one’s life.  Conversation ensued about whether that was realistic for someone who isn’t — and can’t be — a full-time writer.

The conversation isn’t really important — this isn’t a blog about being an author, after all — but as we were having the conversation, I realized that much of what we were talking about pertained to the design career I’m working so hard on launching, and I needed to think about what “prioritizing” that actually meant to me. I have a full-time job (that I actually quite like and don’t want to give up, even if I do become a successful designer), a family that requires quite a bit of my time and attention, and a number of hobbies that I quite enjoy. I don’t believe that I should — or do — have to undermine any of those things to be successful with knitting design. That’s not prioritizing; that’s just unhealthy.

What I do have to do is make sure that I have concrete (small) goals set out every month, every week, every day. For instance, the other day my goal was to establish the stitch patterns and choose the yarn I want to use in a couple of submissions that are done at the end of the month. There’s a ton of other stuff that needs to be done for those submissions: sketches need to be drawn, swatches need to be knit, descriptions need to be written, etc. But that night, the goal was to figure out the stitch patterns and pick the yarn. And I got that done. Meeting that small goal has done a number of things for me: It has moved me forward on the list o’ things to do for those submissions…now I’m ready to start making those swatches. It has given me a feeling of accomplishment — I got something done! And it has put me in a position to feel comfortable enough with where I am on those deadlines that I can take some time and work on other stuff, like writing up a one-off pattern for a friend, and knit a little on my current “relaxing” project: Rock and Purl’s Vitamin C Cowl.

Mmmmm...zen

I am truly enjoying working this pattern up. I chose to do it in Lion Brand Wool-Ease Chunky in the Pumpkin colorway, because orange seemed like an appropriate color for this pattern (I considered Tweed Stripes in the Wildfire colorway, but I was afraid the striping would obscure the lovely stitch patterns). There is just enough going on with the stitching to keep me from feeling that “oh dear god how am I not done with this already” feeling that I get with miles of stockinette/seed/ribbing, but not nearly enough that I feel the need to constantly check the pattern. Just a few minutes of working gets me to that very relaxed, zen place that really good knitting can deliver you to. I’m enjoying it enough that I’m going to be a little sad when I’m done with it, I think. For now, though, I’ll just enjoy the moments.

30-Second Upcycled Vase

January 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

The other day I was at Trader Joe’s, as I am wont to be (though I did find this exhaustingly long article today that kinda creeped me out, so we’ll see), and I decided to splurge a little on a pretty little bouquet of flowers. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized I didn’t have a vase that would work for these. I looked around the kitchen and considered just cutting them down and putting them in a water glass, but then I noticed an empty red sauce jar that was just about the right size and shape.

Unfortunately, although it was clean, I hadn’t had a chance to take the label off yet. What I did have was a room full of fabric and ribbon and who knows what else…I grabbed a nice length of grosgrain, wrapped it a few times over the label, tied a quick bow, and added some water and my pretty flowers. Voila!

Cute, easy, and fast.

Where Am I?

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