Saturday, November 30, 2013

the first thing

The first thing I like to do when Advent begins

is put the lights in the window. Because Somebody's coming.

Friday, November 29, 2013

how to make apple crisp

if you've never done it before.

The first thing you need to know is what you're going to bake it in. Get it ready, and as you cut up your apples, put them in there. This is so you know how much cutting to do. 

Where I shop, they have a reduced produce section and I've been getting lots of apples every week. So I usually have an assortment for my apple crisp. I don't even always know what types I'm using - that shouldn't matter too much as long as you pay attention to the apples as you cut them. 

Unless you really want to, you don't need to peel them. This was a revelation to me when I realized it. I'd never leave the peels on for a pie, but a crisp is a more casual affair than a pie. So, wash your apples well, and cut them in good bite-sized pieces, removing the cores. 

I dislike pies and crisps with large chunks of fruit - it may look artsy but it's awkward to eat. And if you make them too small, the whole thing will be mushy, so pay attention. You'll get it.

When you think enough apples are in there, cut one or two more; apples cook down, but even if you don't use the extras, they will be a tasty snack for you.

 If your apples are from the reduced section, they may be less than perfect. If they're not really crisp, they may not be real juicy. Keep this in mind as you proceed. So now, if you think you have cut enough, dump them into a large bowl. You're going to add sugar and spices. Cinnamon is always important for cooked apple dishes. You could also put in some nutmeg. I added some allspice to this - there's something about allspice which I find hard to resist, at this time of year especially. How much spices depends on how big your crisp will be. A teaspoon of cinnamon won't hurt, no matter what size, but you can experiment because you'll probably be making this again.

Now, the sugar. Taste a piece or two of apple - the sweetness or tartness will determine how much you use. I like light brown sugar, although I ran out so I also used some dark. When you add sugar to fruit, the juices start to flow, and you'll see this happening. Two or three tablespoons will be enough, really. Fruit has natural sugars in it; you want it to taste natural, right? If you know you are using all tart apples, I will allow you to put in a quarter cup of sugar, but no more!  :) This is supposed to be good for you.

Now, if your apples are looking quite juicy, you may want to add a tablespoon of flour. This will prevent it from being too runny when it's done. But if the fruit is maybe a little older, it'll be less juicy and you'll be sorry about the flour - you don't want anything gummy like that stuff you get at the supermarket.

So, next dump those apples back into your pie plate or whatever you're using. This one is a heavy, red-outside and ivory-inside ceramic pie dish, and you've probably seen them at the supermarket for ten or fifteen dollars. It makes a nice big crisp. But now you have to make the topping mixture. Start melting a half stick of butter, meanwhile mixing into a smallish bowl two-thirds cup of quick-cooking oats, six tablespoons of flour, one quarter cup of brown sugar and some cinnamon if you like.

Stir it up to mix, then pour in the butter. Use your fingers to mix it thoroughly; it will "wet" your flour mixture and enable the topping to brown nicely without any floury parts. I want to say here that in most other recipes, you will see twice as much butter called for, but it isn't necessary! Half the amount is adequate, and I learned that from Cooking Light magazine, which is where I got this topping recipe that I've adapted here. If you're using a nine-inch pie plate for this, you may want to mix up half this amount.

Now, still with your fingers, sprinkle it all over the top of the fruit. When it's all there, bake it in a preheated oven set at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.

You have just made yourself an apple crisp! The first of many.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

with thanks

with thanks to God:

for the beauty and fruitfulness of the earth,
     and the mystery and wonder of all creation

for the love of family and friends,
     and the blessings of a community of faith and worship

for health and strength,
     and the courage to bear ill health and weakness

for the gift of work,
     and for the opportunities of creative leisure

 -   from Magnificat, November 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

more about cats

cute pink ears

"In addition to...sensitivity to ultrasound, cats can hear the same full range of frequencies that we can, from the lowest bass notes to the highest treble. Almost no other mammal exhibits such a wide range, about eleven octaves in total.

Cats' hearing is therefore superior to ours in many ways, but inferior in one respect: the ability to distinguish minor differences between sounds, both in pitch and intensity. If it was possible to train a cat to sing, it couldn't sing in tune (bad news for Andrew Lloyd Webber)."

                                           -   Cat Sense,  John Bradshaw

Monday, November 25, 2013

rising tides

We've been in a dry spell, but not for long. The forecast is for two to four inches of rain.

My activity level is also rising; I've been baking bread all day for the stuffing, which I've never yet made from scratch. When I come home from work Wednesday (a half day) I'll make the sweet potato pie, do the cranberry sauce, and roast the turkey breast. Trying to make sure everything sails along smoothly.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Tuscan Sky hand warmers

Back to knitting, and the simple wristlets again. This yarn is too pricey for a large project, but eleven dollars for hand-made wool hand warmers?  Not to mention the pleasure I have in making them. The yarn's been discontinued, but I am so tempted to just buy up every color they have left and make a bunch of these.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

a new book about cats

"The first pet cat I ever got to know was...a neurotic Burmese by the name of Kelly. Kelly belonged to a friend of my mother's who had bouts of illness, and no neighbor to feed her cat while she was hospitalized. Kelly boarded with us; he could not be let out in case he tried to run back home, he yowled incessantly, he would eat only boiled cod, and he was evidently used to receiving the undivided attention of his besotted owner. While he was with us, he spent most of his time hiding behind the couch, but within a few seconds of the telephone ringing, he would emerge, make sure that my mother's attention was occupied by the person on the other end of the line, and then sink his long Burmese canines deep into her calf. Regular callers became accustomed to the idea that twenty seconds in, the conversation would be interrupted by a scream and then a muttered curse."

                                                        -  Cat Sense  -  John Bradshaw

Henry, not Kelly

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

looking out

My brother found this article about cats' vision. I was amazed at how poorly they actually see; nothing at all like I'd supposed. It's no wonder that movement is what best catches their attention. A lot of what they are seeing is a blur, so they manage pretty well, considering. Their night vision is much brighter than ours, but I find myself feeling rather sorry for them. As for their not seeing colors brightly - that's probably just as well - I think it would just be a distraction to them.

Monday, November 18, 2013

the Saladmaster

Today I had to grate two bars of cheddar cheese for dinner. Yes, I have an electric food processor, but I've been wanting to use this old Saladmaster. It worked like a charm.

I remember when my mother bought it. It was back in the seventies; we were on a Main Street a couple of towns over. She'd always been interested in health food and things like that, even then when it was definitely considered kooky. There appeared a small store that sold vitamins, etc., and we went in. They were demonstrating the Saladmaster.

My childhood memories are pretty dim, but I remember this for some reason. The man grated some carrot very fine (like the cheese, above) and made a dressing with cider vinegar and honey. We liked it. I have no idea what this cost her, but she bought it.

Unfortunately, it takes up a lot of space and storing it was awkward - she rarely used it. 

I came across it recently in my kitchen cleaning/purging and have so been wanting to use it.  It has a three-legged base with suction cups to keep it stable. A top section which neatly fits down over the base, six of these cup-looking things with various styles of sharp openings. And a thin curved piece which you hold over your food item against the "cup", which you've slid into place. You turn a handle clockwise and your food gets grated, pickle-sliced, or whatever! All stainless steel.

Right now I've got it in a perfect sized box in a corner of the living room, and I'm really hoping that when the cabinets are purged there will be a space for this treasure.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

too many recipes

is that possible? How many recipes does one need?

My purging of unwanted items has not extended to the recipes: the box which should only contain the keepers, a ziploc bag positively stuffed with umpteen torn-out pages, a few cookbooks and two or three years worth of Everyday Food magazine given to me by Beth, who would rather copy the ones she likes than accumulate whole magazines (such a smart girl).

Not to mention that at work we're getting new cookbooks in daily.

 like this delight which came in yesterday!

It has occurred to me more than once that if I just threw the whole thing out I would breathe a sigh of relief and be able to (gradually, I hope) begin anew; this is very tempting.  But that seems a bit extreme. I know I'd especially regret the ones I tore out of old Gourmets - they aren't around anymore. 

The whole idea of cooking is that if you do it long enough, you won't need a recipe - you'll just know what to do without one. But you need to practice, practice, practice. So, I guess I'll keep them and just try to go through 'em faster.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

baby afghan, almost done

I've been using up all the wool-blend chunky yarn I had and then bought more. A mixture of pumpkin, creams, gray and oatmeal with a walnut border (there are dark brown strands in the oatmeal yarn). So, not just for baby but anyone could use it - more sensible for a fourth child, I think.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

argyle skirt

hemmed last night and worn today, with an orange sweater.

Monday, November 11, 2013

with gratitude

found on Pinterest:

"What is a veteran? A veteran - whether active duty, discharged, retired or reserve - is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to the United States of America for an amount of up to and including his life."

Thank you.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pumpkin Frozen Yogurt; or, What You Will*

I made up my own recipe after looking around at other ideas. Here's what I did, exactly:

Into the blender I put two 7-oz. containers of Fage low-fat Greek yogurt, with a cup of canned pumpkin*, a half cup of maple syrup and a half teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice. After tasting it, I added some leftover Cabot Greek yogurt, and maybe three soup spoonfuls of light brown sugar, because it was still tart. And another dash of the spice, with a bit of vanilla. Oh, and I poured in a bit of heavy cream. Sorry, it wasn't very exact, was it?  It could have used at least another third cup of sugar, but I was deliberately trying to avoid too much of that, so if you're okay with the tartness, it was very nice. I also mixed in a good amount of mini semisweet chocolate chips at the end. We had it on top of brownies. For somebody's birthday.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

making crumbs

I'm not sure where I heard it (Leila, maybe), but you can use a canning jar screwed  onto your blender. So I tried it for grinding up ginger snaps and it was much better and neater than the large "pitcher" which comes with blenders!

Friday, November 8, 2013

pumpkin deceit

I thought I might try a pumpkin frozen yogurt, and was looking up recipes at work today when I saw this:

"Canned pumpkin sold in the United States is usually not pumpkin at all. The U.S. Department of Agriculture allows the more durable blue hubbard squash to be labeled as pumpkin, so most of us grew up eating squash pie, not pumpkin pie."   from The Ultimate Frozen Dessert Book, by Bruce Weinstein.  What?!

Did you know this? I sure didn't.  It's not that I mind the fact that I've been eating squash all these many years - it has always tasted good - but why oh why oh why oh why  - well, you know what I'm getting at.  

Anyway, I found some recipes online and I think I'm going to try it. 

Blue Hubbard Squash frozen yogurt. sigh.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

the social eater

That's what my brother calls her.

The cats had eaten their lunch - Dolly didn't seem to want any more. After a while, I sat down to have mine and there she was. The Social Eater. She wants to eat when we're eating, to be sociable.

So, I got her dish, and we ate together.

Monday, November 4, 2013

easy November dinner

I have a memory from years ago, coming home from work with a nauseous headache, and my mother had made a sauerkraut dish for supper. It was just what I needed to settle my stomach - a real blessing.

Sauerkraut is just right for cold November days, isn't it?  And this recipe is pretty quick.

I used a whole kielbasa - I wanted a higher meat-to-sauerkraut ratio - and added some water left from steaming the carrots we had with it to make it a bit more juicy, and then just a dash of powdered savory. I buy a locally made sausage, cut it in chunks and boil it ten minutes beforehand to get some of the fat out, but it was still a very fast and satisfying meal.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

prayer for souls

From a prayer for All Souls' Day, which was yesterday -

"O God, in the death of your only Son, you gave life to the world. Raise up in joy all those who have died in peace or in terror, in confidence or in despair, through the mercy you have shown us in Jesus Christ our Lord... Amen"

                                                                 -  Magnificat,  November 2013

Saturday, November 2, 2013

cat eats webs, and leaves

I haven't joined Leila in a long time, but today I am.


My {happy} was the Red Sox winning the World Series. However, no one was there to photograph me (quietly) jumping up and down in my stocking feet.

{funny} and {real} 

Even though typical of cats, it was funny to see Henry jump into the cupboard after I'd emptied it to clean. The real part is that Henry, who thinks only of food and can sometimes be seen eating cobwebs (is that pica?)  found something in there of interest.   Handsome is as handsome does, Henry.

round button chicken
thanks to Leila and Rosie