Sunday, June 24, 2007


So, if you are a member of my immediate know that Oatmeal is Grossmeal. But it's good for you, and it's been on the list of must-learn-to-like foods for a while. (I love Oatmeal Creme Pies, but for obvious reasons, they don't really count.) Others: eggplant, okra, Brussels sprouts, and lima beans. I've successfully "conquered" basil, miso, red peppers, and butternut squash. And beer. :)

But yeah. Oatmeal, ew. But I was browsing Craftster's cooking section a couple of weeks ago and found these recipes for baked oatmeal. Hmm, I thought, sounds like a cake recipe. Mmmm, cake. I veganized the banana version, and it was good but not fantastic (mostly due to my changes). Had potential though. So today I made the "regular" version, drastically modified. Not perfect, but closer.

First, I made applesauce. I took 6 small MacIntosh apples (about 4 regular ones) and peeled and sliced them thinly into a plastic bowl. (Do NOT use plastic! Or your bowl will smell like cinnamon forever! Just a warning/reminder to me for the next time I make this...of course, I now have a cinnamon-bowl so I guess it doesn't really matter.) I added 2 T brown sugar, 1 T cinnamon (I love cinnamon), 1/4 t powdered ginger, a pinch of cloves, a pinch of nutmeg, and a little salt. I added about 3/4 c water, stirred, covered, and microwaved for about 7 minutes. I pureed a cup of the applesauce, and then added about 1/2 cup of the applesauce without pureeing it. I used only 3 T of oil and didn't use the raisins. I omitted the extra sugar and cinnamon (though I'll use them next time), left out the baking powder, and cut the salt to about 1/2 t. Great texture, a little lacking in flavor. So I may use half apple juice and half soymilk, and I'll definitely use the sugar and cinnamon. Oatmeal City, here I come.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Loaf of Perfection

So I'm a little late getting to the table on this one (ha) but I just made the perfect bread. This recipe (free registration required) was printed in the New York Times last November, but my previous attempts at no-knead bread had convinced me that no effort = no bread worth eating. However, a good 47 billion people have made -- and loved -- the recipe (this website called it "the food bloggers' clapotis" and you totally get Martha points if you've made both) and I've been craving bread recently. I'm still not sure why I decided to try this one, probably because my last attempt at breadmaking was a bit of a disappointment. (It turned out edible...but not in proportion to the amount of fuss and work that it required.) I was a little surprised that the recipe required neither sugar nor oil, but fine, so be it. I planned on following the recipe exactly, as anyone that calls for 1 and 5/8 cups water intends for their recipe to be followed exactly. But following a recipe exactly requires willpower and ability to blindly follow directions, both of which I lack. (In this case, it would have also required cotton towels, an 8 quart-oven safe pot, A/C, and cornmeal. I don't have those either.) So I changed the following: added 2 T wheat gluten (probably not necessary, but I like it); rose the bread for about 2 hours in a 90F kitchen, then the fridge overnight (about 12 hours), then about 3 more hours in a 90F kitchen (all for the first rise -- the recipe calls for a 70F kitchen and if I hadn't refrigerated the dough it would have over-risen and collapsed); and did the second rise in a floured metal bowl, covered with floured plastic wrap. I baked it in a 3.5 qt pot, which worked very well.

So here is the final beauty:

And a closeup of the crumb.

I may never knead again.

Tourist in the Forest

There's a technical term for an almost-rhyme, which I cannot unfortunately remember right now. But hey, it's a damn good title anyways.

As part of my quest to not (only) sit in my house and do nothing, I've joined a knitting listserv and a hiking listserv. The knitters are supernice, but up until now, the hikers have been a little more about "Hey! Look at what we did last weekend!" than "Hey! Anyone want to do anything next weekend?" But someone posted about a short hike, less than a half-hour's drive away, and I decided to go. I'm sure that I looked like a total urban moron using my Saturday Market Bag as a trail bag, but I couldn't find a suitable backpack amongst my boxes. (And, the meshiness of the bag keeps it from gluing itself to you uncomfortably.) The only downside to that decision is that my poor bag is starting to look a little tired -- the yarn doesn't wear too well, but I knew that when I made it. I think that I'll make a trail bag (kinda like those tacky mini-backpacks) using the Market Bag lace pattern and a more trail-suitable yarn. Like camo acrylic. Ah, the fashion horribleness that awaits.

It was a pretty easy hike (3.25 miles, minimal hills, surrounded by trees). Not too photogenic, but here are a couple of decent shots.

This is a limestone kiln from the 1800s. Not very pro-environmental because it required tons of trees to provide enough heat to burn limestone, and then some pretty unfriendly methods of acquiring said limestone. Looks cool these days though.

A little ledge of rock. My further-away view didn't turn out too well.

And it's hard to tell from this shot -- the stuff in the top half of the picture is wet and the stuff in the bottom half is dry. The stream goes underground for a while and I thought it was nifty.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I suck at being frugal

Yep. I do. Really badly. I've never been good at saying "no" to things I want; I've just been lucky that I rarely want expensive things. But recently my life expenses have been sky-high (what with the move and all: rental truck and buying gas for 2 vehicles for a 7 hour drive, first month's rent and security deposit, renter's insurance, old and new utilities, and a bunch of miscellany, the pets' yearly checkups/meds, and then pet food) and then I found out that there had been a screw-up (totally my own fault) with my cable bill, and that I owed 3 months' back payments to them. Crap. So I decided to buckle down. I bailed on the $21 challenge because I still had a bunch of fresh food in the house, which I didn't want to spoil while I ate only from the "$21 stash", but I decided to see what I could get for $21. And I certainly didn't make the wisest choices.

I got: 3 lb kale, 1 lb tomatoes, 4 lemons ($4.50, farmers' market)
2 lb uncooked brown rice, 2 1-lb boxes pasta, 1 head garlic ($5.05, grocery store)
apples, Luna Bar ($4.70, Trader Joe's)
1 veggie burrito ($5.90, Chipotle)

I was doing well for a while there...and I still think that in theory, I could do it. The rice and pasta, plus the veggies (I'd probably skip the lemons, and buy some...hmm, carrots I guess, or an onion), minus the Luna Bar, and with some canned beans/dried lentils instead of the burrito, would get me through the week under budget. I'll have to try that...because despite my brokeness (broke-osity? what in the world is the noun for being broke?) I bought yarn. Eleven hundred yards of beautiful baby alpaca. (I only need about 300 yards for my lovely lovely soulmate of a scarf, but I needed 2 colors, and it comes in 550-yard skeins.) And yeah...the yarn was more than 3 weeks' worth of $21 groceries. But it is soft and wonderful. And not itchy, yay! And could make, uh, 4 scarves. (NOT that I plan on making 4 scarves, I'm just sayin'.) Yet I have no appropriate needles. (I'm thinking -- ugh -- 4s.) I'll buy my needles at Wal-Mart. And pretend that I am being frugal.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Another Totally Cool DNA Scarf

So, ages and ages and ages ago (surprisingly early in my knitting days), I made the Double Helix Cabled Scarf. I'd actually like to make it again someday -- cabling is very most definitely my favorite knitting technique. (Dropping stitches is a close second. But cables are like ninjas: all stealth and show up when you least expect them. And you have to watch them super-carefully or they'll kick your ass. In other words, they're easy to screw up and I love turning cables, don't ask me why.)

But...there is another DNA scarf on the horizon: Rosalind. And I am so making this scarf, because it's totally freaking amazing. As in damn, how did this not psychically broadcast itself to me the instant that it was published? We are soulmates. Tomorrow I journey to the yarn store (whee!) despite my overflowing stash. (I've also got plans for a few more bags...the Saturday Market Bag was a Tuesday Library Bag, and performed marvelously.)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Bag? What Bag?

Why, this bag! (Thanks to Kabs for the title.)

And while I know that you thought that you'd never see another knit FO on these pages again...and to be honest, I'm not sure what (or when) the last posted FO was. The last few things I've made have been unphotographed and therefore unposted. :( But anyway, here are the details.

Yarn: Rowan Linen Print in Blush, about 160 yd (slightly less than 3 balls of yarn). This yarn has been discontinued.

Pattern: Saturday Market Bag, with disdressed's mods. Instead of the garter stitch edging, I crocheted 1 rnd of sc and 2 rnds of dc, then picked up stitches for the garter stitch straps. And I crocheted a flower using this tutorial. (Slightly modified, of course, and she notes that her "dc" is really an "sc".)

My bag is smaller: about 9" tall and 12" wide, unstretched, not counting the handles. It stretches like crazy but I haven't put anything heavy in it yet to see just how much. I'm going to take it to the library this afternoon and stuff it full of books.

I actually really enjoyed this pattern -- it was a really simple pattern for lace (4 rows over 2n plus 3 stitches) and the first lace that I've successfully completed. (Booya for size 15 needles.) The seams were a bitch and I effed up the join on the handles (uh, hence the crocheted flower) -- next time I'll probably do the 3 needle bindoff at the top of the handles where it's not noticeable, or sew them to the bag (ugh), or learn kitchener stitch.

And a gratuitous closeup of the stitch pattern and my flower.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Party Food

So my neighbor had a party last night, and being the supernice person that she is, she invited me. It was a potluck and book-swapping, which sounds a lot more boring than it actually was. The invitation was for 730, and when I showed up at 745, I was told that they were on "European time", which apparently (and I am not kidding at all) means 2 to 3 hours late. So I went home, watched a few more people show up early (but only a few -- apparently most people were able to decode the secret arrival time properly) and knit for a while. (FO bag is almost done and I'm excited!) And then went back over, got happily tipsy (on a Brazilian drink called a caipirinha: ice cubes, lime juice, brown sugar, and lots of rum), and met a bunch of people, including a six-degrees-of-separation fellow Ohioan. And a random person who promised to go to the zoo with me. When it's not 10 billion degrees outside.

But anyhow, the point of this post is the food :) I'm a little potluck-shy, being a vegetarian and all, but most people brought stuff that I could eat. (Or brought wine.) And here's what I made.

Strawberry Cheesecake (I got the cheesecake recipe from a woman in my new SnB -- she got it from the Kraft website. The strawberries are all me.)

1 8-oz package cream cheese (low fat or fat free is fine)
1/3 cup of sugar
1 8-oz container of cool whip (low fat or fat free is fine), thawed (I microwaved it for 15 seconds)
1 premade graham cracker crust
1 lb strawberries, sliced very thinly (about 1/8" thick)

Let the cream cheese soften (mine sat on the counter for about 30 minutes in summer weather), and place in bowl with sugar. Using a hand mixer, beat for 3 -4 minutes, making sure that the cream cheese is whipped (you do not want "chunks" of cream cheese). (I left my hand mixer at home when I moved -- I did it in a food processor and it took about 30 seconds to mix.)

Add the container of cool whip and mix for a few minutes until everything is fluffy. (Again, about 30 seconds in the food processor.)

Spread a small amount of the cream cheese mixture onto the pie crust. Add one layer of sliced strawberries. Alternate cream cheese and strawberries, ending with cream cheese. Decorate the top with strawberries and refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours. (This is really good, but it tends to ooze a little once it's cut -- and it also doesn't cut cleanly. So have a spoon nearby...)

Basil Bean Dip (modified from this recipe)

1 head garlic
1 15 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
3 T oil (preferably olive, but I used canola)
2 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (this is spicy, you can use less if you'd like)
1/4 cup fresh basil (I never actually measure this)

Peel the garlic and slice the end off of each clove. Place the garlic into a saucepan of boiling water for 5 minutes, then remove from heat and drain. Place all ingredients except basil into a food processor and process until smooth. Adjust seasoning as desired. Slice the basil into strips as thin as possible and stir into the dip. (You can put the basil into the food processor with the other ingredients but then you often get big uneven pieces of basil.) Serve with chopped vegetables (carrots, red and yellow peppers, broccoli, cauliflower) and pita chips or bagel chips.

Schwubbie in Camo

It's perfect -- she can't see you, and now you can't see her either :)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Over the course of my lifetime, I've learned that whenever I get enough sleep, I gradually lose my ability to sleep well. As I am currently "on vacation" and regularly sleeping in, I have turned into an insomniac. This will change at some point, I am sure. However, at the moment, I am currently working on a modified version of this modified version of the Saturday Market Bag. In this very ugly yarn, recovered from the Lana debacle.

And in a completely unrelated note, I bought a Club for my car today. Someone -- I thought it was FDR but I am apparently mistaken -- once said, "If one person calls you a horse's ass, ignore it. If a second person says it, consider the possibility. If a third person agrees, buy a saddle." When one of the other students in my program was like, "Don't walk there at night; I've heard bad things about that neighborhood," I was thinking, OK, yeah, fine, heard it before. When my next-door neighbor suggested that I be careful because the neighborhood was "in transition", I said thank you (I am courteous after all) while thinking, OK, I'm not stupid. But then my other next-door neighbor mentioned that her car had been stolen twice in the past 5 years, and my across-the-street neighbor flagged me down while I was walking the dog to inform me that "some young men around here like to steal cars, and the [make and model of the Bekmobile] is really easy to get into." And she was then kind enough to direct me to the nearest K-Mart. I'll consider The Club my modern-day equivalent of the horse's saddle, and hope that it works. Though honestly, I still don't understand HOW it works...except to make it really obvious that the car that you're driving doesn't belong to you. Anyone?

Reviving an Old Tradition

The booty-fruity returns! This isn't a great example (nor, unfortunately a great photograph) but I've got to represent the gluteal produce in the STL. So here you go...

It's about the only produce that's survived the recent cooking storm in my kitchen. (Well, survived until recently -- I ate it for lunch.) I froze the basil, roasted the aparagus and green beans, boiled the kale and made half of it into a kale-potato casserole based on this recipe, and made apricot sauce inspired by this recipe. I still have a bunch of asparagus, some blueberries, some strawberries, some apricots, and some green onions. (And some cooked kale and cooked gai lan and leftover roasted beans and asparagus.) And I am sure that there's more that I'm forgetting -- I've been to the grocery stores a lot this past week.
Which leads me to my next thought: the $21 challenge. $21 is apparently the average amount that someone receiving food stamps is given each week. The governor of Oregon tried to see what you could buy with it, and encouraged other people to do the same. This conservative website makes a decent case that $21 is a huge underestimate of what most food stamp recipients actually spend, but $21 is the story, and we're sticking to it. I've been spending money rather thoughtlessly this past month -- moving is expensive, and now that I'm living without roommates (whee! yippee! hallelujah!) my expenses have approximately tripled. And not that I'll need to live on $3 a day, but I think that I need to step back and actually examine how I spend money for a few days. So $21 it is...starting on Saturday with a trip to the farmers' market. (In the spirit of full disclosure -- that may be cheating. I don't believe that the farmers' market accepts food stamps, and I'm fairly certain that it was part of the original "rules" to shop only where food stamps are accepted.) And anything that I use that I already own will be marked with a "P" for pantry. I'm actually kind of excited about this...we'll see how I feel a few days into it.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Tasty Tomato Salad

So...I've moved. I've got (most of) the furniture where it goes and (most of) the boxes unpacked. I've found the grocery store(s), the Trader Joe's, the farmer's market (more on that later), the local SnB, and about a billion other necessary things. (Like the library -- not as cool as the one back home -- and the only vegan restaurant in the STL.) Still getting lost every time that I turn around, but whatever, it happens. Oh, and I "found" Forest Park (pdf map) -- it is huge and gorgeous and I know that I'm going to miss it a lot when I go back to Ohio.

But yeah, the farmer's market. I bought 3 lb of kale, 3 lb of apricots, 2 pints of blueberries, 1 lb of green beans, and 2 big bunches of lovely asparagus. And a kale plant and a basil plant. And a weakness. All of this on top of the strawberries and cherries and basil and gai lan and tomatoes that I'd bought recently. And it's superwarm (eleventybillion degrees according to the local free paper) so I haven't wanted to turn on the stove. (Gas stove, yay!) So today's recipe (with the exception of one step) is stove-free.

There's 2 versions of this recipe -- the lazy one (which I make) and the prettier-looking one reserved for special guests. Lazy version first (so that all of us lazy people don't have to read extra words) and then the complicated steps if you so choose.
Step 1: (This one's a pain, but it's necessary, and makes leftovers for next time. Idea courtesy of Mollie Katzen.) Pour 1 cup of balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan. Open kitchen window, and bring the vinegar to a boil. (Boiling vinegar gives off nasty fumes.) Reduce heat, and simmer uncovered until volume of vinegar is reduced by about half, between 20 and 30 minutes. Pour into a small glass bowl or bottle -- vinegar will thicken and become syrupy as it cools.
Step 2: Chop a few Roma tomatoes and put them on a plate. Sprinkle very lightly with salt.
Step 3: Take about a half a package of water-packed firm tofu and cube it. Put the cubes on top of the chopped tomato.
Step 4: Rip up some fresh basil leaves and sprinkle them over the tofu.
Step 5: Drizzle with a little bit of the balsamic syrup (maybe a tablespoon?) and grind some black pepper over the top.
You can substitute thinly sliced green onions for the basil -- it'll be a totally different flavor but it will still be wonderful.
If you want to make it more complicated, you can slice the tomatoes (rather than chopping them), press the tofu (line a rimmed baking sheet with cotton towels or paper towels, slice the tofu about 1/2" thick and place the slices on the baking sheet, cover with a second baking sheet and then place a weight on top -- a book or some cans -- then wait about an hour), and chiffonade the basil (stack the leaves on top of one another, roll them lengthwise, and slice the roll thinly to get basil confetti). And then do nifty overlapping layers of tofu and tomato, drizzled with balsamic syrup and sprinkled with the chiffonade. And it will be beautiful.