Thursday, February 25, 2010
Turns out that didn't matter, but I'd still like to know how they got theirs so much darker than mine. The Mister and I did a taste test in plain milk today, homemade vs. store-bought, and both liked the homemade better. The store-bought flavor was overwhelmed by alcohol, whereas I could barely detect it in the homemade. Not sure why that would be—maybe the grain alcohol in the store-bought is higher proof than the vodka I used in mine? I went with organic vodka, by the way, which I was so happy to find even existed. Turns out there are actually a number of brands of it available. I chose one called "Rain" because it was the least expensive.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
I usually only cook with butter or coconut oil, sometimes olive oil, because those fats are what I understand to be safest for heating (most of my reasoning is covered in a book I've mentioned before). But I encounter different limitations with each of those things: Butter burns easily, coconut oil often imparts a kind of coconutty flavor (which can be good sometimes, but only sometimes), and olive oil they say is okay to use with moderate heat, but I just don't really like flirting with that line, so I only rarely cook with it. But all those problems are solved with ghee! I haven't personally confirmed anything yet, as this is my first batch and I haven't done any cooking with it yet to speak of. It keeps finding it's way elsewhere besides the kitchen, like on my face and hands (it's good for the skin, too, and it has this exceptional soft silkiness to it), but I'm planning on it being my new go-to oil for frying/sauteing. And I'm curious about baking with it, too...wondering if it will act more like an oil than butter or coconut oil would. What I mean is, like a liquid-y unsaturated oil like canola or vegetable. I just read in Cook's Illustrated (Mar./Apr. 2010) this in-depth analysis of brownie recipes and oil vs. butter, and, to my dismay, it matters more than I'd fully realized. I almost always just sub butter for other oils when baking, but after reading that I'm thinking twice and hoping, hoping, hoping ghee might be the answer (coincidentally, one of my favorite bloggers is discussing basically this same issue right now). If only I weren't doing this stinkin' gluten-free diet, I'd bake something with it right now! Sorry, gluten-free-ers, no offense meant at all, I've actually thought for a long time that wheat was a bit evil, and suspected I might be sensitive to it. But I have to say, experiencing being off of gluten totally combined with how I felt after I had a wheat-filled slip-up (no different) has pretty much confirmed otherwise, atleast as far as me being sensitive to it in a definite, consistent way. At this point, the avoidance just feels unnecessary and because I have no intentions of sticking with it after my resolution period is up, it's like this little buzzing fly of mild annoyance following me around whenever I cook, eat, grocery shop, etc. And driving me to consume massive amounts of tortilla chips. But back to the ghee—yes, I know, I can bake without gluten, but I've heard it can be tricky and I'm just not up to it. So, later will come the ghee baking trials.
Friday, February 19, 2010
I was able to find a section of the cashmere that was not holey, but it occured to me that had there been a hole I could have strategically placed the embellishment to hide it. The hat I modeled it after actually had three little flower shapes hanging like tassels off each top corner, which was adorable, but I opted instead for a single star anchored in place by a button. I realize now that I'm pretty sure I screwed up the seams compared with the one I was trying to copy. Mine has a side seam, but I think there's an easy way that I could've made it have a back seam instead, and I'm pretty sure that's how the other one was. But that's just me being nit-picky. I will try it with a back seam next time because it seems ideal, but I'm really happy with this one and it was just as easy as I thought it'd be. It left me instantly wanting to make more of them. I was planning on this one being my donation (finally) to the Craft Hope for Haiti Etsy shop, as promised, but it looks like I am too late. I just learned they are not taking any more donations and are soon closing shop (but only after great success!). Lame on my part. It is too small for Zoë, but I actually have three pregnant friends right now, so this hat will not be without a head for long. According to my measurements it is just about newborn+ sized. There is the small issue of what's going to happen if it's washed, and I would like it to be machine-washable. The cashmere I cut it from I already put through a hot wash cycle and machine dried it on high, so I think the hat will keep its shape fine, but the star might curl and fray a bit. I will probably run it through the wash myself just to see, and maybe stitch down the star a bit more if need be, before giving it away. One more consideration: I meant it as a boy's hat, but after a certain comment to the contrary now I am not so sure. Any thoughts?
Monday, February 15, 2010
Sunday, February 14, 2010
And now I'll leave you with a handy kitchen tip: Never eat cooled caramel you find on a stove knob, especially if, when you think about it, you're not really one hundred percent sure it's caramel, and it might in fact be old barbecue sauce that dripped off a pork rib days ago. Just stop eating things off the stove knobs period.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
This little mushroom is now sitting in a spot previously occupied by a similar one which recently got broken (but is being glued). This newer one is my favorite anyway; I love the crackled top and ruffled edge. It has been wet and gray for days and days, not too unlike this day almost a year ago, but without the spring greenery that brightened up the landscape then. At that time I talked about plans to eventually move back to Oregon. Well guess what? I don't think that's going to happen anymore (sorry Oregon peeps : ( ). As cool of a city as Portland is, I just don't want to commit myself (and a little girl) to that many cloudy days. But that doesn't mean we're staying here in Austin, either. We'd still really like to move, but probably won't know where for sure until we're closer to actually making it happen. But topping the list right now is Sebastopol, California (shhh, don't tell! I want it all to myself!), which is a small town about 50 miles north of San Francisco and 15 miles from the coast and, per Wikipedia, is "known for its liberal politics and small-town charm." Sounds good to me! (Just for the record, I don't necessarily take the liberal stance on every issue across the board, but regardless I know that these types are kind of my kinfolk.)
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Canon PowerShot S90 ($399)
Leica D-Lux 4 ($779)
D-Lux 4 carrying case ($129) I just had to include this because it's so nice to look at.
Olympus Stylus 6000 ($212) Shoots underwater!
Panasonic DMC-LX3 ($391) I've read that this is almost the same camera as the Leica D-Lux 4—same lens, same sensor, etc. Not nearly as pretty as the Leica, but significanly cheaper.
And then there's the second category, which includes slightly larger cameras with larger digital sensors than the first bunch, but still made with compactness in mind. The first one here is a Leica that's not actually available yet but should be soon. Way beyond my pocketbook, but I'm so impressed with it's looks! At first glance, I'd likely assume it's a much older camera. And the flash! So cute!
Leica X1 (~$2000, rumored)
(Above photo borrowed from here)
Sigma DP2 ($570)
I have to admit, I feel kind of dumb/intimidated shopping for a digital camera. I think because of my stint at photography school I feel like I should know these things—the digital terms and jargon—but I really don't barely at all. I never got a stitch of experience with digital the whole time I was at school (it wasn't part of the first-year curriculum), and have done little since to educate myself in that field. But I do feel like that's gradually changing, and this latest camera quest has really helped bring a little more clarity to some things for me.
Unrelated P.S. Ok, so the caramel does not look so ugly after all and it probably would have been dark like that regardless because of the sucanat. But it really didn't taste right.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
The result was a complete success! I have a preference for milk chocolate so would like to try to incorporate even more cream next time, but they really are very good as is, and I think most chocolate lovers would like the cacao content just where it's at.
8 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sucanat
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or orange, peppermint, etc.)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Unsweetened cocoa powder, for rolling
Put chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, gently heat cream, sucanat, and vanilla, stirring frequently until sucanat granules are dissolved and mixture is just at a simmer. Tip: I forgot to do this when I made these, but you can easily grind the sucanat granules to a fine powder in a coffee grinder, which will greatly help them dissolve more readily in the cream. Once simmering, immediatly remove from heat and pour over chopped chocolate. Let stand 2 minutes, then stir until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, atleast 30 minutes. Once chilled and firm, spoon out chocolate and form into balls with hands, then roll in unsweetened cocoa powder. Store in the refrigerator and serve at room temperature. I'll let you be the judge of how long they're good for—Martha's recipe stated 3 days, but I think they could easily last way longer, just depending on the length of life of the cream.
The cream mixture, before added to the chocolate, is quite reminiscent of caramel and got me wanting to make caramel candies, too. My dad and I went on a candy-making jag one winter, experimenting with caramels, toffees, and brittles, and I'm pretty sure I remember one toffee recipe we tried that was nothing but equal parts butter and sugar. The simplicity of that really appeals to me, and in my search for something similar in a caramel recipe I found this, which I might try but with the addition of salt. This tempting recipe is another candidate that a friend pointed me towards. I'd opt for brown rice syrup in this case, and I am curious how that would turn out. The recipe choice and outcome will likely be posted here soon enough.