21 September 2008

I thig I'b gettig a code

So I skipped yoga today, in favor of a nap, hoping that if I baby myself I can prevent the cold from becoming full blown. Although what I ended up doing was a ton of housework in the morning - litterbox, vacuuming, cleaning someone's shitty paw prints off the couch, starting laundry, changing the sheets, yadda yadda. And I drank like a gallon of orange juice, for the vitamin C. Now I'm all full of juice and sloshing around.

Then after the chores in the morning I napped, and if there's anything nicer than snuggling under a quilt for a nap on a Sunday afternoon with a clean conscience, clean sheets, sunlight streaming in through the windows and a purring cat, I don't know what it is. Dave was at band practice so I had total peace and quiet. Woke up around 5:30, showered and started some bread. Man, I love that KitchenAid so much. Thank you again, Mr. and Mrs. Lynch. The dough came together in about 5 minutes.

I adapted a James Beard recipe (which is itself an adaptation of a Jane Grigson recipe) to suit the ingredients I had on hand. In a funny coincidence, I own the Jane Grigson book that Beard talks about, too. There were so many good people writing cookbooks in the 50s and 60s - James Beard, Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson - that that's what my cookbook collection is based on. I have Julia Child but I confess I've never cooked out of her. The modern writers I turn to most are Mark Bittman, Nigel Slater and Nigella Lawson. Oh, and my friend Anne Bramley's Eat Feed Autumn Winter arrived from Amazon yesterday and I've already read most of it (I inhaled it like a novel) and given my mother a recipe from it (for roasted vegetables.) It has actually made me excited about the squash and root vegetables that I know we'll soon be inundated with from Boston Organics, our CSA.

Anyway, the bread is in the oven now so I can't report yet on whether it's good or not, but so far it seems to be acting normally. I've never made so many drastic alterations to a recipe so I'm a little nervous about the outcome. I will update this post if it turns out gross, otherwise you can assume it was delicious.

Here's Beard's original recipe:

5 cups of all-purpose flour (preferably unbleached)
1 tbl salt
2 tbl sugar
2 pkgs active dry yeast
2 c. warm milk
1/2 c. walnut oil or 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
1/2 c walnuts, roughly chopped
3/4 c. onions, finely chopped

Sift flour, salt and sugar into a warm bowl. Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 c. warm milk and pour into the middle of the flour, together with the walnut oil (or butter) and the rest of the milk. Knead well until the dough is firm and blended into a smooth, springy ball (about 10 minutes.) Leave in a warm place to rise for two hours (or in a cool place overnight.) Punch down the dough, mix in the walnuts and onion, shape into 4 rounds and leave on a greased baking tray to rise for 45 minutes. Bake at 400F for 45 minutes, or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped underneath.

Here's what I made:

Pesto Bread

5 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tbl salt
2 tbl sugar
4 1/2 tsp. bread machine yeast (bought the wrong yeast by mistake)
2 c. warm milk, between 120F and 130F
about 1/4 c. pesto topped off with 1/4 c. olive oil (to keep the right proportion of fat.)

I put all the dry ingredients together in the bowl of the kitchen aid and gave it a few stirs. Then I added the milk (apparently bread machine yeast requires a higher temperature than regular yeast, or so the sides of the jar say. Anyway the higher temp thing was handy since I accidentally let the milk get a little hotter than I planned and I didn't have to wait too long for it to cool enough.) Once the milk was in, I dumped in the pesto and olive oil and let the whole thing come together. I stuck a towel over the bread dough just as it was, in the kitchen aid bowl, and let it rise on the stove top (where it got a bunch of residual heat from the pre-heating oven.) Technically I should have washed and greased another bowl and turned the bread to oil it all over and let the bread rise in that, since mine stuck a little. But who cares when you're skipping a whole pain-in-the-ass step? The sides of the bread machine yeast jar said to let the dough rise for 10 minutes, but I waited until it doubled in size and that took about 30 minutes, which is still faster than the two hours in the original recipe.

Then I peeled it off the sides of the bowl - like I said, it stuck a bit but not terribly - and punched it down and shaped it into two loaves on a non-stick cookie sheet (instead of 4 loaves like in the original recipe. That would have made four elf-sized loaves.) I've made this bread before and not only were the walnuts and onions a pain in the ass to incorporate at that stage, I didn't think they added that much to the bread - not like essential moisture or anything - so I didn't even add pine nuts (though that would probably have been pretty good.) I did brush it with olive oil to prevent it from cracking as it rose, which I guess worked since it didn't crack. I nearly sprinkled it with coarse salt at that point, thinking of foccacia, but decided that salty bread might be strange in sandwiches, which is probably the fate of this bread. My hope was for it to be tasty enough that just smearing cream cheese in between slices would make a good, and easy, lunch.

Once it was shaped into loaves, I let it rise again until it was doubled in size, which seemed to take about half an hour - the kitchen was pretty warm by this time, which I think helped the bread's rise along - and then stuck it in the oven. I set the timer for 45 minutes, figuring that if anything, it would take longer than the original recipe but either my oven timer is messed up (possible) or the bread machine yeast does something crazy, because it was only in there 25 minutes (according to the oven timer) before it was all brown and hollow-sounding when rapped on the bottom. I dunno. I think it's the oven timer, because bread usually takes more than 25 minutes to bake. I didn't look at my watch, either, which means we'll have to wait until it's cool to cut in and see if it's raw in the middle or anything horrible like that. Oh, the suspense! I really know how to live, huh? Probably no pictures even if I do update this post because I still don't have the right memory for the new camera and I don't really want another dachshund fetus incident.

update three seconds later: it is delicious. Om nom nom. The milk made it super fluffy and light, and you get just the right amount of pesto taste, distinct but not overwhelming

20 September 2008

I learned it by watching you!

Dave and I quote this one a lot at each other. Heh.

14 September 2008

Fresh Apple Cookies

I decided to make cookies yesterday, kind of on a whim (as opposed to a crumble from a couple of weeks ago that I considered a chore, since I had to make it that night or the peaches would have gone off.) I looked through a few cookbooks - really just looking for a recipe that I had all the ingredients for.

James Beard's Fresh Apple Cookies fit the bill. (From American Cookery, which Lysne kindly sent me, since she knows how much I love Beard on Bread.) I was thinking I wanted crisp and spicy and these are more tender and cake-y than crisp, but still delicious. Plus since they are crammed full of apples and raisins and pecans, I have been pretending that they are health food. Yeah fucking right - the recipe calls for a stick of butter. At least the KitchenAid makes creaming butter super easy even if you haven't bothered to let the butter sit out and soften. Next time I might mix up the spices a little with some cardamom and fresh ground black pepper, but these are pretty good as is. I'm bringing some into the office tomorrow as part of my quest to win friends and influence people.

fresh apple cookies 002
They won't be winning any beauty pageants any time soon.

Fresh Apple Cookies

1/2 c. butter
1 1/3 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 c. sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 c. apple juice, pineapple juice, orange juice, or milk
1 c. chopped, unpeeled raw apple
1/2 - 1 c. chopped walnuts, filberts, or pecans
1 c. raisins

Cream the butter, cream in the sugar, and beat in the egg. Sift the dry ingredients (I totally didn't bother, just combined the dry ingredients in a bowl and stirred 'em with a fork) and add to the creamed mixture along with the juice or milk. Stir in the apples, nuts and raisins. Push the dough from the tip of a teaspoon with the back of another onto a buttered cookie sheet (I used nonstick), leaving about 1 1/2 inches between each cookie. (I found that they didn't spread very much.) Bake in a preheated 375F degree oven for 10-12 minutes or until a light brown. Yields about 4 dozen cookies. (I had exactly 4 dozen.)

13 September 2008

Caturday etc

Immediately after taking this picture Pip let out the most heinous fart. I had to turn the fan on, the air is practically brown.

matches, vanilla, pip sleeping 022

He is still nursing from Simone, they had a session this morning. I'm not sure my regular vet believed me when I told her about it - she thought maybe the milk production would be gone in two weeks because Simone's hormones left over from the spaying would be all done. But she was spayed on July 13th, so those hormones ought to have been out of her system long ago (unless she was in heat when they spayed her, which I guess is possible.) Anyway, neither of the cats cares that they are participating in a medical mystery, they both just purr and get squinty happy eyes.

I pulled the trigger on a new camera, a digital SLR. I have wanted one for a couple of years now but haven't been able to justify the expense, since I am such an amateur. But since I'm working really hard at my new job (and also really enjoying the work, yay!), I wanted to reward myself.

My other big reward purchase will probably be a vacuum cleaner - currently we've got an Electrolux that I think I remember from my childhood. It works fine, but it's stinky from years of dog and cat hair, and it's cumbersome - we have it stored in a teeny closet off the kitchen and it has to be taken apart into three pieces to fit into the closet, so it's a pain to haul it out, and then when you do have it out, it's heavy and louder than a fucking jet engine.

So I have convinced myself that being at home less (because of longer working hours and a longer commute, both of which, incidentally, are responsible for my blogging less) means I have to have a lighter, easier and more efficient vacuum, because when I do get home from work I don't really feel like cleaning the litterboxes and vacuuming at all. It needs to be done, though, or else we end up with snowdrifts of litter accumulating in the corners of the room. Which, yeah, gag me with a spoon. Anyway, I looked at the Dyson Animal but we've mostly got hardwood, so I think it might be overkill - I want something light and nimble that I can use without much trouble. I'm thinking Dyson slimline or Miele, and I'd love to hear from anyone who has experience or a recommendation.

So those are my wild and crazy purchases! Woohoo! A camera and a small appliance! And I'm also plotting to get the couch re-covered and we are thinking about a component stereo system at Christmas. We'll have to see about the couch, I think. I'm not making THAT much more at the new job.

11 September 2008

Pip's fall from grace

So Pip fell off the second story porch tonight. It's easily fifteen feet. He probably jumped, the little booger. A neighbor knocked on the door and asked Dave if this was our kitten. Poor little Pip had a bloody, scratched nose and curled up around himself, very still. He was breathing fine but he seemed so lethargic we took him to the emergency vet in Woburn. It's a terrific, if expensive, facility, as we have reason to know. It's where we took Inty for her endoscopy.

pip's aftermath 001
With flash.

He's totally fine, and in fact perked up at the vet's (of course.) Now he's back home, sleeping on the bed. Apparently he had the naughtiness knocked right out of him this evening.

pip's aftermath 011
Without flash. This is closer to the real colors. I need a fucking new camera. I think I will buy one soon, actually. I can't stand it. Plus it would make a good reward for getting a new job. Wow, this is a long aside. Sorry, everyone.

06 September 2008

Wait 'til I tell the other martians about this!

I think this commercial trying to convince kids that fruit was more delicious than candy bars might have been local to the Boston area, Dave doesn't remember it at all. I'm pretty sure my sisters will, though.


It totally backfired for me - I used to dream about how great it would be to live on Mars and eat candy bars all the time.

05 September 2008

slice of life

So last night while everyone else was watching McCain's speech, I was out at a club watching Dave's band and then Leon Rich, the act that followed them. I was pretty tired by then (as usual) but since there were about 7 people in the club and they were all our friends, I felt like it would be really obvious if I left in the middle of the set so I stayed and half-assedly tried to hide my yawns. I was glad I stayed, though, when Leon Rich started playing a song about dead squirrels that involved some kind of United Nations conspiracy theory. The chorus was "dead squirrel, yeah". Tell me that didn't beat the GOP convention speeches!

And then after Leon Rich I took off. The nice thing about local shows is that I don't have to wait for the boys to load in their gear, I can just take a cab home. Fifteen minutes (and fifteen dollars) later, I'm walking in the front door. It makes going out on a weeknight much more feasible - I was in bed by like 12:30 and so when the alarm went off at 7 I wasn't exactly thrilled but I don't feel too awful this morning. I also stuck to beer all night, which was a deliberate choice - that club pours REALLY strong drinks, which I found out the hard way the last time Dave's band played there. So beer drinking + control top panty hose = physically unable to consume a lot of beer. The elastic in those control tops will beat beer in an arm wrestling match every time.

I think the other reason I'm tired, besides the exciting stress of a job change and the fact that I've had after-work commitments every night this week (except for Monday, which was Labor Day, but I actually spent it in the office) - ANYWAY, as I was saying before I got sidetracked by my parentheticals, I think the reason I'm so tired might be related to the fact that I've had my period for NINE DAYS. Motherfucker! It's extra ironic because if I didn't take hormonal birth control, I would likely not get any period at all, so I wouldn't have to deal with it. I am also most likely infertile so the whole birth control shebang is probably a big waste of time, not that I am interested in testing this theory the hard way. (Also I might be fucked up a different way because of not having the correct hormones swirling around. Plus amenorrhea is really bad for future bone density, and since I recently learned that both my parents are two inches shorter than they used to be, I am all about bone density. Bring on the calcium-enriched OJ!) But still, it sucks to bleed for nine days and not know when (if) it'll end.

So that's my life. Also last night I rashly promised to go out again tonight for dinner and to see another local band, the Russians, who I haven't heard of before but they sound pretty good. I think I might need a nap in between work and going out, though.

04 September 2008

It's been busy

For one thing, I am starting a new job on Monday. So instead of a real post, here's a picture of Dave under a waterfall on our honeymoon in Puerto Rico.

honeymoon in puerto rico 049

Yes, I'm pretty happy about that six-pack. My husband is hot.