Friday, January 30, 2015

The Cookbook Project - 4/52


So you know how I talked about being sick over the course of the last several posts? Well, I got over it.

Briefly.

Then I got sick again.

Seriously, daycare crud is no joke. This time it skipped Audra, but since literally nobody I ever saw in the past six days was sick except a few kids at daycare, I think I can pinpoint it. It's because Audra's best little friend is this adorable boy who is always there before her in the mornings, and he's learning words and he had a runny nose and he told me hello and handed me his ball.

I should not have taken the ball.

I have the Baby-Spit Plague.

It's like the Black Death, except that it's not at all like it in any way.

In any case, I have a feeling the next year or so of my life will be spent learning all about the many interesting diseases children pass amongst themselves. I'm hopeful that means we'll have all that out of the way by kindergarten and I'll have the healthiest six year old there!

(Don't tell me otherwise. I need to believe this in order to deal with the fact that I have had a sore throat for approximately three weeks over the course of two separate colds. Let me live in my wonderful dream world.)

In any case, during those magical few days where I wasn't sick, I whipped up Cookbook Project 4 - Orange Anise-Glazed Carrots!

I've mentioned before that the Farmer's Cookbook (for those of you new to the project, I am cooking one recipe from that cookbook per week for the year of 2015) is all about the basics. It's not about the fanciest desserts or weirdest ingredients. It's about showing you ways to cook some really good standbys - the kind of food you can get on the table at six o'clock when someone comes in covered in dirt and ready to shovel food into his mouth and get back out in the field.

This recipe, though, is one of their fancier tasting ones, I think.


Ingredients - Amounts Omitted

sliced carrot rounds
water
butter
salt
anise seed
grated orange rind
dark brown sugar
orange juice

It has the easiest ingredients list, though, right? Like, how much of that does the average person even need to buy? Probably not that much. We received a huge pile of rainbow-colored carrots in our veggie delivery from Mother Earth Produce for the week, so I went out and got a chicken to roast to eat with them.

I completely forgot, until the day I bought groceries, that anise seed tastes like licorice, though. I don't actually like black licorice all that much. Well, I shrugged that off and figured I would try it at least once. Maybe I would have suddenly started liking licorice in the past couple of years - tastebuds change, right?

Right.

So this is an easy one. Heat up the water in a big cooking pan, cook the carrots until just tender. Drain water, stir in the rest of ingredients. Cook over medium, stirring pretty regularly, until liquid is basically absorbed and the carrots are glazed. Eat.

You may notice from the photos that I didn't use carrot rounds. Well... I don't actually like cooked carrots, either.

I know, I know; who would cook a recipe whose two major flavors are things they don't like?

This lady, that's who.

 

I just cut the carrots into long sticks, larger, and didn't cook them as long. This meant the glaze hadn't quite settled when we ate dinner, but it kept the carrots crisp and crunchy - it's the smushy soft cooked carrots I don't like. At first, I wondered if maybe the glaze wouldn't even come together.

No, all it needed was a few minutes to settle without the heat on, and they glazed perfectly. The orange was the strongest flavor, followed by the barest hint of the anise seed. And yes, it turns out I don't hate the flavor - at least not if it's combined with carrots and roasted chicken. This is actually something where I would double or even triple the recipe and take it to a potluck or over to someone's house for a dinner party. These taste a lot fancier than they are, and I feel like they'd pair really well with just about anything.

Honestly, whipping together the glaze would create a great sauce for chicken, I think, all by itself. It seemed like it would be a great catch-all glaze for vegetables or meats.

So, that makes us four for four with no epic screw-ups.

I'm... kind of disappointed.

I figured I'd have a really funny screwing-up story by now.

Oh, well.

We'll just have to see what happens next week, when for our first February recipe I take on a mysterious breakfast entitled Scandinavian Sunrise, which I am not entirely sure actually comes from Scandinavia!





 P.S. the links to Amazon in this post are affiliate links - if you click through and purchase after reading this post, I may receive a small commission in return. All commission monies will go towards either the redesign/domain name buyout of this site, or... a lot of new books for Katie. Either way, everyone wins, right?

Please. I want new books.

I waaaaaaaant them.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

I Did Something Kind of Impulsive



A couple of months ago, Jason and I were sitting in the living room. I was clicking through a series of business listings on a site called SCIway. At that point, what I was clicking through were some marketing and design sites. It was basically just to see what the companies were like, what they did, things like that.

I landed on a particular site and saw they had a job opening. I read the description. I looked at it for a while longer. "Hey," I said over my shoulder. "I could do this."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah." I read the description out loud to him, start to finish.

Jason thought about it for a second. "You really could do that," he said. "You should apply for it."

I hemmed and hawed, tried to talk myself out of the idea, but it was just too enticing a job; too full of all the things I find really interesting about marketing and the internet. So, in the end, I sent an email with an inquiry, my resume, and some writing samples. "I probably won't get a reply," I said, "but it'll definitely be good experience on applying, right?"

"Why wouldn't you get a reply?" Jason asked.

"Well, I've never worked in the industry, I don't know how good my resume looks... I don't know. I just probably won't."

Then I got a phone call and was asked to come in for an interview.

The interview went really well, I thought, but at the same time I wondered if thinking the interview had gone well would somehow mean it really hadn't. I told Jason I probably wouldn't hear anything. He disagreed.

I came home, went through the holidays, and the deadline for when I had been told I might be called back in was approaching. "I really think I probably won't hear back," I told Jason. He asked me why I thought that, and I couldn't think of any particular reason. The interview had gone really well, actually. I had done a really good job, I thought. We had gotten along very well. Still, I convinced myself I wouldn't get a call back.

Then I got a call back.

I came in for a second in-person interview, with a couple members of the company's team that I would be working with if I were hired. It was a pretty short interview, and when I left I said to Jason, "I probably won't be offered the job."

He asked me why I thought that.

I couldn't think of any particular reason.

This interview had gone really well, too. I just wasn't sure.

Then I was offered a job.

All of this was my roundabout way of telling you that I gave two weeks' notice at my current job today, and I'm starting the new one soon. I'm terribly excited, although you'll understand if I keep the details at a minimum, for privacy reasons. I'm already daydreaming about the return of Saturdays to my life, of being able to visit the Farmers' Market in downtown Greenville more than once or twice during the season, of running up to the weekly market in Travelers Rest, of lunches with friends and family that I have always had to miss out on before.

I'm dreaming of working so close to a Starbucks I could very nearly touch it.

I'm thrilled to my bones.

Not even just to my bones. Even my bones are thrilled.

So I need to get started on the Training Packet for my replacement.

I can't even tell you how happy it made me to type those words.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Currently


Reading: Motherhood Smotherhood by JJ Keith. I've picked up a serious weakness for "mommy humor" books, especially when that humor isn't exactly Leave it to Beaver. JJ Keith takes on all that weird pressure (much of it internet driven) that has popped up in parenthood it seems just within the last few years. I'm also reading The Whole-Brain Child, because I am also totally one of those parents she kind of lampoons. Or at least I think I'm probably going to be.

Doing: Cleaning up after dinner. I threw together a really quick green-chilis-and-pinto-bean soup with herbed biscuit dumplings because Audra just absolutely refused her late nap today. She would not sleep. I tried all the tricks, and they did not work. Luckily for us, she's pretty cheerful and snuggly right now. I'm very worried about what's going to happen when we try to get her to sleep tonight, though.

Watching: We're watching through Friends on Netflix. I've been really surprised by how much I just completely memorized of that show without realizing it. Whole scenes I can recite verbatim of a show I haven't seen since I was going into college. I suppose now we know why it is I can't do math. All the 'Friends' quotes pushed calculus out.

Working On: letting the universe remind me that optimism isn't always the same as being naive.

Loving: I think we all know the answer to this one.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Cookbook Project - 3/52


The third dish in the Cookbook Project is Beef Paprikash, or Goulash. I learned something about goulash, my friends; I learned that it does not photograph well.

Well, okay, I learned two things; I also learned that beef is insanely expensive.

Neither of those things kept me from achieving my objective, and the paprikash was made! And consumed. And um... consumed rather quickly, actually.

This just seems like the perfect winter food - its almost a hearty stew. We ate it with a side salad and big hunks of the basic Farmhouse Bread from my last post (yes, I already made two more loaves. I'm eyeballing using up my last yeast packet and making yet two more) but I think it honestly would have been Farmers Cookbook, and I kind of wish in retrospect that I had taken them.

Oh well.

It was still delicious.


Ingredients - Amounts Omitted
Steak tips or stew beef (I ended up using stir fry beef because it was cheaper. Still delicious.)
onion, sliced
olive oil
salt
paprika
thyme
pepper
garlic
Tomatoes, cut in chunks (canned is fine)
Sour cream

This is easy. Heat up the olive oil in a heavy pot. Brown meat on one side, then turn over. At that point, add the onions and seasoning while the meat is still browning, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes and water, bring to boil, then simmer for about an hour. You want the liquid to reduce and become basically a thick sauce. Stir in the sour cream, serve.

You may have noticed something in the photos above - the absence of sour cream. I totally forgot the sour cream. I failed. Three weeks in and I've already failed the "I will use the ingredients as listed" part of the project.

Woe is me.

Woe to Katie.

It was still delicious, especially when the read soaked up the liquid and we were munching on deliciously paprika-heavy bread. But make sure you don't forget the sour cream, because that would definitely have been the finishing touch on the dish.

The book states that it serves "four hungry people", but even with a side salad and bread, Jason and I found that it was more like three people who are feeling somewhat peckish. For a good family dinner, I'd double the recipe and just plan for a serving or so leftover at the end.

All in all, this is three for three - all delicious recipes so far, and I haven't screwed any of them up enough to affect the taste badly! Yay!

Next week - orange  anise-glazed carrots!

I've never used anise seed in cooking before. This should be fun!





 P.S. the links to Amazon in this post are affiliate links - if you click through and purchase after reading this post, I may receive a small commission in return. All commission monies will go towards either the redesign/domain name buyout of this site, or... a lot of new books for Katie. Either way, everyone wins, right?

Please. I want new books.

I waaaaaaaant them.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Those Days


... When you and your baby have been passing a nasty cold back and forth for two weeks, your throat is raw from coughing, the baby isn't sleeping because recovering from an illness apparently removed all her memory of how to sleep at night, you've had something like ninety-two cups of tea in three days... on those days you take what help you can get. Even one small bucket can help bail out a sinking ship, right?

I may have conflicted feelings about daycare some days when I hardly see Audra except when she's doing her bedtime routine at night, but today I could kiss those brightly painted walls. Audra has barely slept at night for the last two days, and we're back to trading sleeping-shifts. I took over last night at 2 a.m. and was able to manage a nice doze-off around 5 a.m., but that was the best I could do. Jason dropped Audra off with the daycare ladies so I was able to go back to bed, and I fell asleep at 8 and woke up an hour later. That one extra hour did magic things. I took my sweet time getting out of bed and felt like a human being for the first time in a week. I still have a nasty itch in my throat and a dry cough, but my throat no longer feels like razorblades are inside of it, so I'm calling this "healing".

I wore pajamas right up until I went to go pick the baby back up. Honestly, I thought about doing the Soccer Mom Uniform and just wearing yoga pants and a loose t-shirt and pretending I'd just come from the gym, but... I probably couldn't pull that off.

Audra and I both seem to be solidly on the mend - the only thing is that she and I both are still wrestling with is a nasty, frequent dry cough. She's wanting to snuggle most of the time and I am definitely willing to help her out with that. I just feel terrible because Jason, also wretchedly sleep deprived, is getting a ton of "honey, would you's" from my place on the couch sipping tea and trying not to speak loudly enough to wake up the sleeping baby on my chest and it's a little like her first days in this world all over again. Only with a lot more coughing and Jason having to go to work.

... and we're out of my favorite whiskey, so hot toddies are just not the same.

Motherhood is something I would never, ever trade but I have a new appreciation for the idea of being able to take a break from life and sleep, as sleeping is the easiest and quickest way for me to feel better when I'm sick. Mothers all over may go back and forth about daycare and sometimes I'm one of those worriers, but today daycare is the reason you are reading this heartfelt treatise on illness and not just a series of random syllables because sleep deprivation has removed my understanding of human language.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Cookbook Project - 2/52


Okay, so my plan had been to post my newest Cookbook Project item each week on Friday. Two weeks in and I'm already posting a day late. I have a good excuse, though!

I got pretty sick yesterday.

Really, really, really sick.

I woke up with a sore throat, which made sense, honestly; one of my coworkers had been battling something that involved a sore throat and random respiratory weirdness, and Audra had picked up her latest cold as well. So I just shrugged it off and went to work. I had these really deep bone-aches; I couldn't sit still or my leg-bones began to hurt, deep down.

Around noon, I realized my throat was really, really hurting. The bone-aches were way, way worse. I drank nothing but herbal teas designed just for this (I swear by the Traditional Medicinals Seasonal Sampler Pack, Throat Coat especially) all day and that was the only thing that kept it bearable, and even that soon failed me. I felt listless; I looked glassy-eyed.

Eventually I was able to leave, picked Audra up from day care, came home and checked my own temperature - 102 degrees.

"Oh, great," I said out loud to myself. I settled in to feed the baby, who promptly spit up all over both of us after just a couple of ounces and managed to get some in her own eye somehow, and we cried together while I changed and redressed her. Then she napped for a bit. She woke up hungry - which made sense considering how much she'd spit up. She ate a couple more ounces, then spit up on just me. That time I took a bath and she played happily in her chair next to me. Then we napped together again. One more time, she made hungry signals, and one more time she spit up on herself. That time she got a bath, I cried some more, then we curled up together on the couch and settled in with gritted teeth to watch Friends on Netflix and wait for Jason to come home.

Jason brought delicious broth-y soup and took over baby time, covered me in blankets and let me just chill and relax and try to pull myself together. I made a whiskey-heavy hot toddy, which is my favorite cold remedy (and works like a charm, I promise). After a while I finally warmed back up. I took a half-dose of Tylenol before bed, went to sleep, and woke up with only a dull ache in my throat and no bone-aches at all.

So.

Now you know why I'm a day late on posting about this week's project, which I am actually pretty proud of. And those of you who do not have children have probably been entirely scared off of ever, ever having one.

Anyway.

 BREAD.

I MADE BREAD.

I was pretty excited about this. The recipe for Farmhouse White Bread in the Farmers' Cookbook is great. It's simple, just a few ingredients, and the recipe itself is written out really well so you know exactly what you're doing. It's probably only an hour altogether of actual work, but counting all those times to let things rise it definitely took me about four hours.

Still.



Ingredients - Amounts Omitted
Whey, or water with milk
Butter
Honey
Salt
Dry yeast
Bread Flour



See? Easy, right? It barely made a dent in our grocery budget. Everything but yeast and bread flour we keep as basic staples anyway. For something like six dollars altogether, I have the ability to bake six loaves of bread. Delicious, delicious bread.

Honestly, this was just absurdly easy. I don't even know why I was so worried about it. I did not have 'whey', so I did the milk-and-water mix. Mixing the yeast and flour was easy, then I just had to wait for it to start doing its thing. Then more flour, which I moved into a mixing bowl to put together. I actually think I made a mistake here - I should have put it in a warm mixing bowl when it was just water, milk, and yeast and THEN added the first two cups of flour. Moving it from a cooking pot into a mixing bowl when I did definitely created a bigger mess.

Then again, I make a pretty big mess every time I touch anything remotely resembling cooking utensils, so it's not like I was surprised.

I took the advice the author gives in the book and went ahead and just did the first round of kneading in the giant mixing bowl. Normally, you're advised to take a wet dishcloth and lay it over. I didn't want to risk it getting stuck to the lump of bread-to-be while it rose, so instead I put it inside the oven with a bowl of hot, steamy water and closed the door and left it alone for an hour.

I took it out when it had roughly doubled in size.

Then I floured up a my cutting board, and I started punching.

Bread is awesome because it doubles as stress relief during the kneading process. I shaped it into two loaf-shaped blobs, which I transferred into bread-pans I had sprayed with Pam, because I spray everything with Pam. (the book suggests buttering them. Pam is easier, I'm lazy). Then back into the oven for another hour, until they doubled again.

At which point I pulled 'em out, preheated the oven, stuck 'em back in, and baked 'em for something like thirty or forty minutes.


They came out absolutely beautiful. One did not rise quite so much as the other and so was a bit more dense and chewy (and, as you can see in the close-up shot above, had some obvious bubbles in the crust), but they both tasted lovely. Big thick slices immediately went into our curried chickpea soup we had for dinner that night but we also ate them alongside eggs with breakfast and I am excited to make more bread and try them as ends of a sandwich.

I've never made my own bread before!

I am just irrationally proud of myself.

Look at me, I mastered a skill that my foremothers did every single day of their lives and probably knew how to do when they were three!






 P.S. the links to Amazon in this post are affiliate links - if you click through and purchase after reading this post, I may receive a small commission in return. All commission monies will go towards either the redesign/domain name buyout of this site, or... a lot of new books for Katie. Either way, everyone wins, right?

Please. I want new books.

I waaaaaaaant them.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Not the Brightest Button on the Espresso Machine


I have this strange delusion that I like hazelnut flavor more than I actually do.

I have no idea why it is impossible for me to remember I don't actually like it. I don't get it. I could list to you all the foods and flavors I don't like right here and now, and I would probably forget to list hazelnut but I would remember everything else.

Although mostly, I suppose, because the list of foods I don't like is pretty short. I am an equal-opportunity eater of delicious things. Except raw tomatoes, which are gross.

But... I'm missing my own point here.

Let's try again.

I routinely order hazelnut lattes or pour hazelnut creamer (most recently a dairy-free coconut hazelnut creamer I bought for funsies to use at work) into my coffees. I get hazelnut iced coffees. When I get coffee at the gas station, I inevitably end up pouring the hazelnut kind into my cup. I mean, this is a serious, somewhat constant habit of mine.

Then I take a drink and I think, oh wait, I don't actually like this at all.

That doesn't stop me, mind you. I finish it, because I'm a grown-up and I know what money means and how you have to work for it and if I spend money on a coffee drink I am going to finish that drink and get my money out of it, even if I spend the whole time asking, "Why did I do this to myself?"

Then I immediately forget about the whole thing just long enough to order another one.

I like Panera's hazelnut coffee, lots of milk only a little sugar. I drink that whenever I'm there. Maybe that is where the delusion comes from, because I do like this one particular location's hazelnut coffee.

But I don't like hazelnut lattes.

I continue to order them.

I don't like hazelnut creamer, not even the coconut kind.

I continue to pick a carton up to use at work.

This is probably the third time I've bought hazelnut creamer in the past two years.

I think there might be a reason I never made valedictorian in high school...

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Tea Equivalent of an Afternoon With Mary Poppins (Tea Box Express, January Box!)


You know where I'm going with that title, right? When I say that this month's box is like going on an adventure with Mary Poppins, I'm really saying...

It's practically perfect in every way.

(Please, Disney, don't sue me.)

We'd been given a bit of a hint that this month would be a bit of a Brit theme, and it definitely did not disappoint. Those of you who have picked up the subscription, you are in for a serious treat. Anyone who didn't? Give some serious thought to snagging a box later this month when they go up for single-sale in the shop on Tea Box Express's website.

Those of you who have ordered will receive your box pretty soon, but let me give you a peek at what you're are in for. Because it's wonderful.


Time for a cuppa, indeed.

I know that normally I take a nice photo of everything still in the box, but that simply didn't happen this time, because as soon as I realized what was in there I ripped everything out before I remembered to even try to take a photo. Then it was too late, and I was already scheduling when we would actually test everything out, then I was reading ingredients, then... well.


The tea for this month was exactly what I had hoped it would be from the hints Andrea was giving out; it's an Earl Grey from teapigs! Earl Grey is one of Jason's favorite teas. It has such an exceptionally perfect smell, all bergamot and happiness. The box said this would be an exceptionally strong earl grey, since it has an Assam (which you may remember from previous reviews is Jason's favorite kind of tea) as a base instead of the milder Ceylon or Darjeeling that you normally get.

Jason let his bag continue to steep throughout drinking his cup, and I took mine out after a short brew time. I still got a definite mild kick from the caffeine, so if you like to start your day with a serious strong black tea, teapig's earl grey strong is a good choice. We really liked it - perfect with milk, honey, and the best British breakfast food item...

 

SCONES.

I love scones. I won't even try to pretend I don't just unabashedly love scones. I love British scones, where all the sweetness comes from the add-ons and they are crumbly and biscuit-y. I love American scones, that are basically cookies. I love savory scones like the spinach & cheese scones from the Swamp Rabbit Cafe down the street from our house, I love baking scones, I just love scones.

I am a huge carb fan, though, so I think you just sort of have to assume I'm going to like anything that is similar to bread in any fashion.

We went ahead and baked these Saturday morning to have for breakfast before we began our weekend trip up to Asheville. We spent Saturday night and Sunday morning eating like kings (or, um, queens, in my case) and I still say the scones were one of the best items we had in those two days. This scone mix just needs a little water and it comes together perfectly. We chose to bake it with the spoon-drop method instead of as a round, so that they'd have lots of little points and flakes.

They're a bit on the sweet side, and they go perfect with two other add-ons in this month's box:


Clotted cream and strawberry jam.

Clotted cream is one of the recipes I have lined up as part of the Cookbook Project I'm doing this year (although it won't be until April I think) and I have been trying to convince myself to try it for a couple of years now. The words 'clotted' and 'cream' do not actually sound all that appetizing next to each other for this American, but on the other hand it's such a mainstay of the British tea experience that I wanted to try it at least once.

Andrea, who is apparently psychic, knew that and now I have tried clotted cream and I am here to say that it is so, so good.

It's a bit like a thick, slightly sweeter butter. It spreads and melts like butter, but has a stronger taste. It has a bit of a yogurt-y tang to my tongue, but pairs perfectly with the sweet strawberry jam that was also included. The scones, plus clotted cream and jam, plus a nice sweet, milky cup of Earl Grey? It was the perfect way to start a Saturday.

 

I mean, look at that. Tell me that doesn't look delicious. Well, you can't tell me that, because I ate it and I know it was delicious. I won't even tell you how many of those scones I ate. It... It was a shameful amount of scones.

(Jason ate that many too, so he should also be ashamed.) 

(he's not though.)

Now, every box has tea and food items as well as something that isn't food, but has to do with sort of the idea of drinking tea. I am deeply in love this this month's "tea accessory", because it's something I've been trying to convince myself to pick up for when I have company over for a long time.

 

It's a beautiful little pitcher for pouring cream, with a little stirring spoon that has a teapot on the end of it. Seriously. In love. This is exactly what I've been looking for, one of those little extras that I'm never sure if I want to spend the money on but sort of daydream about. I'd like to believe I'm the sort of person who might have people over for tea and need a pitcher for them to pour their cream out of.

I'm... not that person, but I'd like to be.

Until then, I'll just use it to pour my own cream into my own mug of my very own tea.

And I will feel delightfully British while I do.

Maybe Julie Andrews will even come by and sing a song.

She probably won't, though, because if she did I would faint dead away, but only after shrieking and chasing her around the house and there would be a lot of yelling and panic.

Overall, I'd give this box a very high rating. This is actually my favorite of the three I've tried as far as the overall box itself (although the masala chai from November is still my favorite tea so far!). It's essentially the perfect morning date in a box - tea, scones, jam and clotted cream, and a pitcher for pouring your milk. Jason even remarked on how wonderfully the box appeared like it had been planned for a date - a platonic one with a friend who also loves tea or a romantic one.

Seriously, my only regret is that I didn't have enough stuff to invite my friends Sarah and Liz over to have some, too.

I definitely think if you've been waffling or holding out and waiting to see if there was a box you really wanted before ordering, this is probably going to be that box. I loved everything in it.

So... what are you waiting for?

Go get some! Or I'll sing songs from Julie Andrew's entire ouevre at you! 

Let's start at the very beginning...









* This post was done in partnership with Tea Box Express - they give me a nice discount on my monthly box, I share the goodies and my feelings about it with all of you! All opinions are 100% my own - if I sound enthusiastic, it's because I really am. If I seem mope-y, well, that's authentic, too... although tea very rarely makes me mope-y. If you have any questions, feel free to comment here (or my the blog's FB, or wherever you may see me a-wanderin') and just ask! You'll get my honest answer. If you do decide to pick up a box, either by signing up for a subscription, buying it as a one-time gift, or purchasing it from the shop after-the-fact, please please please let the good folks at Tea Box Express know that it was me who sent you!

November's Review
December's Review

This post was done in partnership with Tea Box Express - they give me a nifty discount and monthly box a bit early, I show you what's in it and tell you what I think about it. - See more at: http://stressandstars.blogspot.com/2014/12/if-i-cant-have-white-christmas-i-can-at.html#sthash.vFNHF6sU.dpuf
This post was done in partnership with Tea Box Express - they give me a nifty discount and monthly box a bit early, I show you what's in it and tell you what I think about it. - See more at: http://stressandstars.blogspot.com/2014/12/if-i-cant-have-white-christmas-i-can-at.html#sthash.vFNHF6sU.dpuf

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Cookbook Project - 1/52

So, in my post about the near year, I mentioned that I was taking on a project this year of trying to cook my way through the Farmers' Cookbook, a great back-to-basics recipe book I received for Christmas a couple of years ago. Now, there are two or three recipes in there I use all the time; their herbed biscuits are a perennial favorite in our house (and make delicious dumplings for chicken-and-dumpling soup), and their brine for corned beef and cabbage seriously is the best I have ever tasted.

I knew I wanted to do a cookbook project this year. The top three in the running were the Farmers Cookbook, my Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook, or the Southern Living 1001 Ways to Cook Southern. Unfortunately, the last two contained a few too many recipes that involve buying some pricey ingredients (or just things we don't really keep in the house), which we really just cannot afford to do right now. So, I decided on the cookbook I actually use the most anyway, the Farmers' Cookbook. It's essentially a guide to making a lot of the foods we otherwise buy processed at the supermarket - corned beef for sandwiches, for instance, or queso blanco or mozzarella cheese. This book shows you, separated by months of the year, how to make a lot of those basic foods that we kind of take for granted.

I've challenged myself to do one recipe out of the book per week for the year of 2015, so 52 recipes in all. For the first week of January, I chose one of the very first recipes in her "January" section - Orange Date Bran Muffins.

I'm not going to include the entire recipe itself, since I don't think that's fair to do to someone who writes for a living, but I definitely suggest you go check the book out if it's at your local library, or flip through it at Barnes & Noble, or just pick it up on Amazon. You seriously will not regret it, if you're someone who would like to make more of their own basic foods.



Now, first things first.

I... didn't actually make muffins.

I don't own a muffin tin.

I didn't know that, of course, until after I had bought all the ingredients and was preparing to put everything together. So I decided to improvise. What I actually baked as an Orange Date Bran Cake. I used a 9 x 13 pan, which made it a thin cake. I think next time, if I'm still working without muffin tins, I would instead take a loaf pan and bake it into that, to make it more of a coffee-cake. As it was, it worked perfectly as a dessert after dinner, especially warm out of the oven.

This recipe is much better warm and fresh than it is after sitting in the fridge overnight, so I heavily suggest making it for a party or a brunch where you know it'll all be eaten shortly afterward.



Basic Ingredients List - Amounts Omitted
bran cereal
corn oil (I used vegetable oil, but same difference)
milk
grated orange zest
orange juice
egg
baking powder
baking soda
sugar
flour
salt
chopped dates

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.

Then take bran cereal - just any old bran cereal. I bought store-brand bran flakes, and it worked just fine. You soak that in orange juice and milk for around five minutes. Yes, both at the same time. While Jason and I worried the milk would curdle, and it did seem like it did a bit, it didn't affect the recipe and it may be the intended effect, essentially creating a kind of buttermilk. Once you've done that, whisk in the eggs and oil.

In a separate bowl, combine your dry ingredients - sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. I only keep whole wheat flour in the house, so my recipe turned out quite dense and filling. If you have white flour on hand, it'll make a much lighter and fluffier set of muffins, especially if you sift first (I also don't own a sifter, go figure. This is the point where my friend Sarah smacks me upside the head).

Stir your dry ingredients into the wet, along with the chopped dates and orange zest, until totally mixed. Don't overstir, though - with baked goods you have to be careful to just get things totally mix and not keep going until you've got a paperweight in your bowl.

Now, if you actually own a muffin tin, pour an equal amount into each little muffin cup, which you have hopefully sprayed with Pam or something first. Bake on the upper rack for 15 - 20 minutes. Since I didn't have a muffin tin, mine needed an extra few minutes, so I baked my 'cake' for about 25 minutes to ensure it was completely baked through.

With muffins, turn out of the tin onto a serving platter afterward and allow to cool for five minutes. For the cake, we immediately sliced it and let it cool on plates. Well, until we ate it.


It was delicious.

It was actually a little too sweet. The point of this project is to follow the recipe as closely as humanly possible, but next time we bake this I would like to replace some of the oil and sugar with applesauce and tone down the sweetness. I also think adding some chopped walnuts would have been great, too, and maybe even some grated carrot to make 'breakfast muffins' (or in our case, breakfast cake). This is a recipe made for Sunday mornings in my mind, but with a few additions I think it would be a good weekday grab-and-go breakfast.

As starting recipes go, this was a nice and easy one, to get me really involved.

The fun part starts next week, because I'm going to try and take on bread.

Wish me luck.









P.S. the links to Amazon in this post are affiliate links - if you click through and purchase after reading this post, I may receive a small commission in return. All commission monies will go towards either the redesign/domain name buyout of this site, or... a lot of new books for Katie. Either way, everyone wins, right?

Please. I want new books.

I waaaaaaaant them.

Monday, January 5, 2015

5 Months


Some things about Audra at five months' old:

- She can definitely roll all the way over by herself now. She just doesn't like to do it if I'm watching her. I'll routinely lay her on her play mat only to come back in after a minute spent folding laundry or something, only to find her on her stomach and happily scratching at the play mat. Then she'll fuss and pretend she doesn't know how to roll back over until I come and help her, but I'm rapidly beginning to think it's all part of her plan.

-We are one hundred percent into babble-talking now. There isn't a moment she's awake she isn't trying to communicate with us in one way or another. Her favorite sound is making raspberry noises with her tongue, which she just recently managed to start doing on purpose and now it's the only sound she ever really wants to make. I'm currently on a mission to get her to say "ma-ma", but right now when I start trying to get her to do it, she just laughs at me. She thinks I am the funniest person in the world when I try to get her to say "mama". Then she makes raspberry noises at me and rolls the other way.


- We haven't really introduced solids. We're planning to go with Baby Led Weaning, so right now we've started handing her baby-hand-sized pieces of whatever we're eating - like a piece of bread or last night, a couple of steamed green beans. She takes them in her hands very readily, puts them up to her mouth, gums on them for a while, then lets them drop and when she's lost interest, I take them away. Baby Led Weaning starts off by letting them just figure out that food is interesting, first - eating it comes when they're actually ready for it. What we're learning is that babies aren't really ready to start eating solids at four or five months, they really need to hit a specific developmental point for it to 'take'. I have this incredible dream of skipping the spoon-fed food-battle stage. Plus, there's some evidence that babies introduced to food this way are less likely to be picky eaters later on. I will do whatever it takes to not have to deal with picky eating, considering my household is routinely full of sushi, shrimp, collard greens, and coconut milk.

- Her hair... has done essentially no growing since her last set of photos. I'm okay with it. She is routinely mistaken for a boy, thanks to my unwillingness to froof her out. This seems to bother the people who makes the mistake far more than it does me.

- We are no closer to figuring out what we did to deserve such an exceptionally good baby. Even when she's overtired in a room full of noisy people, she's not a screamer. We're able to pick up on her fussiness early and get her somewhere dark and quiet. It helps when we're in the houses of people who have had children, who usually have somewhere nice set aside where we can lay her down and let her sleep.


 - She is becoming increasingly frustrated when something is just out of her reach. She'll swing her arms wildly trying to grab it if it's above her head, or she'll try to roll over and sort of gently wriggle towards it if she's on the floor. I've caught her on her stomach scrabbling at her playmat. I think it's only a matter of time before she figures out that her legs would be of some use. At which point we will need to seriously childproof this house.

- We had a scare yesterday. Jason and I laid her down for a nap, and she did her usual "I don't wanna" fussing, and then suddenly we heard it ratchet up to full on shrieking. He and I both basically leaped OVER the couch to get to her nursery, opened the door, and found her on her stomach, bawling. Her foot had made it between the slats of the crib, and she hasn't gotten used to being on her stomach enough yet to realize all she had to do to free it was lift the foot and then move it slightly to the right. We pulled her out and hugged her and then I let her nap on me for an hour because I couldn't bear to put her back down after hearing her cry like that.

- I had a girlier outfit planned for photos today. She ruined that one (and also ruined a diaper). I put a second girlier outfit on her. She ruined that one with spit-up. I put this on her, and she hasn't messed it up at all. So... whatever that tells you.

-People she loves: Us (obviously), her grandparents, her great-grandparents, her great-aunts and 2nd cousins, her aunts and uncle, my friend Sarah, Sarah's mom Linda, my friend Sherrie, NOT that guy that held her at Sherrie's party, her cousin Delainey.


- If there is ever an explorer famous for discovering the whole world entirely by mouth, it will be my baby.

- Audra is better-dressed than I am.

- I am already planning her first birthday party. Thanks, Pinterest.

- I love her more than life itself.

- She is just now five months old, and has already beaten the average length and weight for a six month old baby girl. I'm pretty sure she's going to tower over me when she hits puberty.



Friday, January 2, 2015

2015


Well, that kind of sneaked up on me.

I'm pretty sure I blinked and 2014 was suddenly over with.

This day last year I was pregnant but hadn't told anyone except Jason, my friend Sarah (I, uh, needed some help deciphering pregnancy tests), and my sister. Being pregnant with only a few people knowing is kind of this intense secret to keep - it bubbles up behind your mouth every time you say hello to someone, but we had had some problems before and I was worried about making it public before the end of the first trimester.

Then I got bigger.

... and bigger...

... and bigger.

Holy Mother of Velociraptors, I got huge.

I had simply never noticed how big pregnant women could get until I was one of them. Then my six-pound baby showed up and I was like, wait, how were you that small and my stomach looked (and felt) like I had a whole three-ring circus in there?

In 2014, my whole life basically ended up revolving around this new universe of parenthood, something I knew nothing about and was wholly unprepared to enter into. It wasn't on purpose. Some of my favorite posts of this last year were those that had nothing to do with my pregnancy or the baby; I strive to continue writing about, um, anything else whenever I can.

It's just that 'whenever I can' has become... less often than I would like.

My favorite posts of 2014 were...


January: Gloves
February: In Which I Am the Cow Whisperer and Did Someone Say Bacon?
March: In Which I Almost Slap a Doctor: Those Sweet Childhood Memories
April: Rustbucket and Tomboy Style, Plus One: 24 Weeks
May: I've Seen Juries Accept Crazier Reasons Than This, Special Yankee Tea, and Tomboy Style, Plus One: 28 Weeks (It was a good month, apparently)
June: I'm Sure She'll Bring This Up in Therapy in Thirty Years and tomatoes and jalapenos
July: He Wears His Sunglasses at Night
August: You Were Going to Meet Her Eventually (yeah, you all knew what my favorite post for August would be)
September: The Perils of Being Good and Lo Siento, Little One
October: Tomboy Style, of a Sort: My Last Saturday
November: It Was Totally Fine and Are Goats Especially Impatient? (Tea Box Express Review)
December: Adventures in Childcare

If you have a minute, check some of 'em out. Often when I really like something I wrote, I get kind of sad to hit 'publish' thinking that not as many people will see it as I would like. I want to put together a Best Of post that would encompass all my years blogging. But I'm pretty lazy, so we'll see if that ever happens.

Oh, speaking of lazy!

Let's go ahead and talk about my Blog Goals for 2015.

I'm not much of one for personal resolutions, although I do have a few for this year. I would like to get more in shape, successfully keep the baby alive (and manage to keep my own sanity), work more on artwork, and try to get at least one good night of sleep per month.

I've decided to make three resolutions for the blog this year as well.


1. I'll be cooking my way through the Farmer's Cookbook. I received it for Christmas a couple of years ago and I've used it more than any other cookbook I own. It's full of basic recipes for really good food. I'm hoping to do one recipe per week from the cookbook, sticking roughly to the book's schedule (it's done monthly). I'll post the recipe, how it turned out, photos, etc. We'll be starting next week with Orange Date Bran Muffins! Wooo! Let's see if I can keep this up!

2. I would like to post more often, and less overall about Audra. Don't get me wrong - I'd like my posts about Audra to be about the same amount of posts as they are now, but I'd like to get back into more regular posting and work on having my baby-postsend up a lower percentage of my total posts. This one may be a pipe dream, but hey, we all build castles in the sky on January 1st, right? I mean, look at my personal resolutions up there, I want to get good sleep one night per month. That's a pipe dream if ever you saw one.

3. I would like to redesign the blog layout. I'm thinking something brighter, more colorful, more in line with my way of dressing and personality. My current look is a little too subdued, I think. You may see some things shifting around over time as I work towards this goal. As part of the redesign, my by-the-end-of-this-year goal is to buy my own domain name out, either here or on Wordpress. I'll let you know if things progress that far.

My goal for today, though?

I just want to get dinner on the table without falling asleep face first into it.

That's more difficult to accomplishment than you think.

(this post was brought to you by a baby who woke up four times last night and a mother who gave up trying to sleep at 4:30.)