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Time to catch up

Apparently I haven’t felt the need to blog. Believe it isn’t because of a lack of projects or stuff going on, mostly by the time I try to write down what happened and take photos the desire to share has passed me by.  Here is a quick rundown of what’s been going on since my last update.

Food:
Discovered that the 5 min artisan bread recipe makes tasty naan, especially if you pan fry it in ghee. Yeah that was a good AND bad discovery.
Tossed my first attempt at blue cheese. The Fourme d’Ambert was just scary, I don’t have enough cheese mold skills to recognize ‘mmm tasty’ from ‘have fun at the ER’ mold. The cheese was tossed and the waxed wheels of farmhouse cheddar and the cooler were sanitized just to be sure.
Found a recipe for Sticky Toffee Pudding Bars and then promptly made it 3 times within a week with minor modifications each time. Second attempt was the best but the third attempt with cupcakes was pretty good.
Made a couple batches of a Chinese pork jerky (Long Kok) which is pretty damn close to the stuff I ate as a kid in HK. It’s a little time consuming but way cheaper than the $20+/lb price you can expect to pay in the US.

Knitting:
I finished the Honey Cowl in Malabrigo, somehow managing to not only make it a mobius but a double one at that by twisting the first row twice. Cast off just as temps in Seattle warmed up of course.
Took a break from knitting in order to save my hands from permanent damage. Managed to knit 1 dishcloth @ Madrona but have put the rest of the yarn away for the foreseeable future.

Spinning:
Finished the old bobbin of grey sweater yarn leftover from 2011 TdF. 8 down, 5 more to go.

Sewing:
LTQ ready for quilting. Am hoping to get estimates on longarm quilting services before I admit I’m too cheap to do anything but try do it myself on the Singer. Will post about this in detail later.

Garden:
2 raised planter boxes have been built using pine crates from the craft store and 15″ table legs from the nearest building supply store. A few coats of sealant, some old burlap coffee bags as liners and I have some raised beds for my balcony. I’m still keeping my plots of the community garden so these boxes are mostly for herbs and pretties.

General:
Sammy is slowly adjusting to being an only kitty, he is more affectionate and more needy than before but we are muddling through the loss of Nicki together. If and when the time is right we might become a family of 3 again but for now I’m taking advantage of the chance to bond more closely with Sammy than I had before.

I’ll miss you.

Nicki.

July 1st 1995 – December 31st 2011

Sleep well my baby.

London Tube Quilt – update

Bet you thought I forgot about this project right?

Looks like the last time I blogged about the LTQ was back in February. I set aside the quilt blocks when I found out I would be moving in the summer and then spent months settling into the new place and taking my sweet time unpacking/cleaning/organizing. The craft room was my ground zero for all the boxes to sort through so using it was off limits until I had gone through over 15 years of accumulated ‘stuff’.

Realizing that the end of the year was rapidly approaching and I had barely finished 9 of the 48 blocks to make up the top I knuckled down and reacquainted myself with the trusty sewing machine.

What you see there are 48 finished blocks. Yup I worked my way through the remaining 39 blocks in 10 days.

Now I just need to assemble the blocks into a finished top and figure out how I am going to tackle the backing.

Tis the season

I don’t think I ever had an Advent calendar as a kid so the only one that I remember having was one my Sis gave me a few years ago. It was from the ‘local’ coffee chain that has taken over every street corner in the world (this is not a negative IMO since it means I have even more places to get my caffeine fix). It was a cute cardboard tree with drawers and she had filled it with assorted candy but I think we only used it for that one year.

Well this year I decided to make 2 Advent calendars. The first was sent to the Sis down in LA and made it there just in time.


I made stockings out of cream wool felt, trimmed them with 6 different holiday fabrics and hung them from a wide ribbon. I even included sticky velcro tabs so she could hang it up without destroying her walls. While many of the stockings were filled with candy I also included some homemade shortbread, some cake decorating gadgets (the Sis who used to hate cooking has been on a cupcake baking kick) and what I think might get her through the holiday season since she works retail; baby bottles of booze.

The Advent calendar I made for myself is far less crafty and far less ‘fun’. It’s an exercise ‘Advent’. Each day leading up to Christmas I will open my little calendar and whatever exercise is written down I have to do it. It’s my hope that if I can make it through 24 days of little fitness goals then maybe just maybe it can become a habit. I reached out to a couple fitness savvy friends for suggestions and with some basic parameters I had a good variety of goals ranging from easy to slightly challenging. The only stipulation was that none of my days say “Run 10 miles” because the idea of being able to do that right now is laughable.

Here is hoping both my Sis and I enjoy our new calendars.

Will Bake for Food 2011

I was lucky enough to take part in Will Bake for Food again this year thanks to the invite from Jenny and got to learn about the Emergency Feeding Program. From what I’ve heard we raised almost 3k and filled several big barrels of canned goods with the bake sale. I love the idea of food bloggers getting together and helping out the community. It’s weird to think a creamsicle marshmallow or a jar of chorizo caramel confit can help keep someone from starving but it was great to see so many people taking part this year.

I opted to make something a little fun so I brought some homemade pop-tarts. It was a good excuse to open up one of my freshly canned jars of Caramel Apple Butter :-)

Recipes for the pop-tarts are linked below:

Apple Butter Pop-tarts (also includes the recipe for the apple butter)

Spinach & Goat Cheese Pop-Tarts

I mixed up a batch of Citrus shortbread at the last minute but haven’t written up the recipe yet. One day.

Now that WBFF2011 has passed I might need to start thinking about what I’d like to do for next year if I get to join in with the fun.

Adventures in bacon

“Hi my name is Emma and I like bacon*…”

I’m not really sure when I started liking bacon so much and I find it fascinating that about 3-4 years ago it was suddenly the ‘cool’ food to eat. I grew up eating some big US corp brand of bacon that we could get in Hong Kong. Odds are it was Hormel or Oscar Mayer or something along those lines. They were fatty salty slices that my Mom would portion out for our Sunday breakfasts along with our pancakes or french toast.

All through college and honestly until recently I didn’t put that much thought into bacon quality. I grew up with it being a certain low quality breakfast meat so whatever was on sale at the grocery store when I went shopping would work. I just didn’t care. Then during my bakery days I got to try some applewood smoked bacon and OMG I was in heaven. This was also when I learned about ovenbaking my bacon and I don’t think I’ve panfried a slice since then. This bacon was hearty and packed full of flavor without being overly salty or fatty.

Over the years I’ve tried different brands, some I’ve liked, some I’ve relegated to flavoring soups or stews but more recently I’ve been toying with making my own. I blame PurpleHouseDirt and the plethora of amazing books and blogs out there that keep inspiring me.

I will stop blabbering on about bacon for now but I will be posting soon about my bacon results. I’m now the proud owner of the Manual of the Traditional Bacon Curer cookbook by Maynard Davies (best ordered from the Book Depository in UK since it is scarce and expensive in the US).

Oh and soon I will have to tell you about my adventures with cheesemaking.

* as much as I like bacon I feel no need to own bacon perfume/vodka/beer/soap etc. Ick.

July Daring Bakers

I almost forgot to post about the July Daring Bakers challenge.

Candy!

We had to make 2 different kinds of candy and one of them had to be a tempered chocolate. I knew right off the bat I wanted to try out one of my many chocolate molds, at some point I think I went on a shopping spree and now have about 15-20 molds of varying shapes and sizes. For this challenge I went pretty simple.

I brushed the mold with a little Aztec Gold luster dust (leftover from my wedding cake making days) and tempered some 72% bittersweet chocolate for the shells.

I made the Salted Caramel Ganache filling by caramelizing some sugar, then added enough cream and a hefty pinch of sea salt to pour over the chopped chocolate.  I admit I didn’t really measure this part out and mostly eyeballed the proportions. I must have done something right because when I took the truffles into work they got compared to crack. I’m assuming that is good :-)

For my second candy I decided to go with something simple since Seattle was finally experiencing a bit of summer.

Ginger Marshmallows.

I grated up some fresh ginger and steeped it in hot water till room temp before finally straining it and using the liquid to soften the gelatin. I wanted the fresh ginger flavor rather than a cooked one so I didn’t use any ginger to flavor the sugar syrup. While the flavor was subtle (I was afraid of going overboard with ginger so I was conservative in the amount I used) it was definitely a nice undertone. I can see making ginger marshmallows again and can imagine that small intense pieces dipped in dark chocolate might be amazing.

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