Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A wet Memorial Day

I just came off of a three day weekend, and didn't do much.  This wasn't an option.

Starting on Saturday, a line of storms swept through the Texas Hill Country. Pflugerville was relatively safe, with some flooding and strong winds.  There was a break on Sunday, and more downpours on Monday.  Over the entire weekend, we got around 7-8 inches of rain.  Our home faired the storms well, and there's no damage. We're lucky.  About a mile from our house, a tornado touched down in Pflugerville and damaged several trees, fences and some homes.  Fortunately, no one was hurt.  The same can't be said for the rest of the state.  A dam in Bastrop failed, and San Marcus and Wimberley are devastated.

My heart goes out to our neighbors in Wimberley.  The flooding there is tragic, and people are still missing.  Several homes have been destroyed.

I was going to post about knitting, because essentially what I did all weekend, but it doesn't feel right.
My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by these storms.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Knit, purl, knit, ukulele, knit

I realized something this morning:  I haven't updated my blog in nearly a year.  Bad blogger!!

So, what's been going on?

Ukulele! After taking time off due to vitamin D deficiency pains, I'm back to it, and the great news is my hands remember.  Challenging songs are now a pleasure to play, and I'm looking forward to getting better. My goal over the remainder of the year is to improve my strumming and picking skills.

Knitting!  I've had a ravelry account for 7 years and not done much with it.  My guest room closet is also loaded with yarn, and I've decided to begin working through my stash.  That yarn stash of mine is actually organized on ravelry now, all 60 yarns!  I've also used the needle chart to record all my knitting and crochet needles/hooks, and it turns out that I have duplicate sets in some sizes.  Big surprise there. :-)  This weekend includes a girly day with friends, cookies, and knitting, and I'll take my extra needles in case any friends want them.  On the yarn front, I've made some headway, but also bought some new yarn.  My thought is to keep my interest peaked by buying new, exciting yarns periodically...as a reward for using some of the existing yarns.  Here are some items I've made recently...and some projects that are in my queue, or find me on ravelry, http://www.ravelry.com/people/dawnner.

Beaded wrist warmers.  This I Dream in Color sock yarn is super soft and feels nice on the hands.  I added some bright yellow beads to accent the yellow variegation in the yarn.

Years ago, Sean's mom gave me several balls of crochet thread, which has been sitting in a closet untouched.  I've decided to use it for bookmarks, some lace gloves and doilies.  Here are the bookmarks I've done so far:

A unicorn chapstick cozy.  Yes, it's odd, but it's also a little bit awesome.

A pretty, Irish tea cozy.  This pattern is a challenge, but the result is worth it.  I plan on making more Celtic tea cozy with Aran knitting, using a pattern available on ravelry (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/little-and-large-aran-tea-cosy).

May 12th is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day, and for a friend who suffers this illness, I made a snuggly purple hippo.

My first lace project.  I had never made lace or blocked a finished product for that matter, and this was my first adventure.  It came out lovely.

I'm now working on some eyelet wrist warmers and a matching eyelet cowl, made with bamboo silk. Then, gansey socks, and some scarves.  Pictures soon...

Friday, June 20, 2014

Vitamin D, Summer Solstice, Buttermilk Pie and other things

--- Vitamin D - we need it, more than most know. ---

I've recently been diagnosed as being vitamin D deficient, which doesn't sound too bad.  However, this came after going to the doctor for severe joint pain, and I don't mean achy joints from too exercise.  This was sharp pains in my hands, wrists, ankles and knees.  It was horrible, and I'm glad the blood work came back to show something simple.

My dad had rheumatoid arthritis.  I saw him endure pain that incapacitated him.  Here was this big, strong guy who was used to be able to do yard work and carpentry, and in his latter years, he was confined to his recliner.  Tai Chi helped him, but he was never quite the same.  It was hard on him physically and spiritually.  I could see the sadness in his eyes, over the loss of being able to do what he loved.

My RA factors in the blood work were normal - a huge relief.  Now, to deal with the vitamin D.  This deficiency might be related to perimenopause.  I am 42, and as women reach menopause, our bodies are less efficient at processing vitamin D.  So, it's not that I'm not getting enough sun.  This can contribute to osteoporosis, dental issues, heart disease and some cancers.  All things no one wants.  So, I have my vitamin D supplements and am anxiously awaiting the results of my most recent blood work.  For now, I'm just happy that it doesn't hurt to type.  :-)

--- Summer Solstice - how I celebrate ---

To me, there's nothing that says summer like BBQ or chili.  Yes, I know.  Chili is cold weather food, but I love a bowl of chili in the summer.  That spice.  The peppers.  The cornbread.  Mmmmm.  Finished with a cold beer, it's the best.  So, I'm going to celebrate the summer solstice by making chili this weekend, with a 100 year old recipe that belonged to my great grandfather.  My goal is to eventually make it my own with a little modernization and use that in the upcoming Pflugerville Chili Pfest.  That'll be fun.

--- Buttermilk Pie -  the Goldilocks way ---

I've done this before with lemon meringue, and am doing it again with buttermilk.  There are lots of recipes out there, and not all are very good.  For lemon meringue, I set out to create my own, perfect recipe, and did.  It was a process of starting with a generic recipe, making it, determining what when wrong...and trying again with corrections until it was just right.  It's the Goldilocks approach.  I'm going to attempt this again with buttermilk pie and am looking forward to the results.  There will be pictures.  :-)

Other things...

We might be going to Ireland this fall!  Woohoo!!!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

It's been some time since I posted

Everything is going swimmingly.  Last year, I started taking ukulele lessons, and in that time, I've really fallen in love with the instrument.  It was rough at first, like with anything new.  It took time to build callouses on my fingers and become comfortable with chord changes, but...

I can play several songs now and just signed up for a blues course.  Also, my skills leveled up and so did my uke.


I'll keep posting here with songs I've learned, and songs I want to learn...maybe even a video of me playing.

Monday, May 20, 2013

8 eggs - 2 cakes

It's been awhile since my last post, but I took a bit of a break from cooking after having a tumor removed from my parotid gland.  I'm nearly fully recovered now and back to slinging yums in the kitchen. Woohoo!

Last Friday, I baked a cake for a friend's birthday.  It was a yellow cake, this recipe in fact http://allrecipes.com/recipe/davids-yellow-cake/.  It's a nice recipe.  The cake is moist, has a smooth texture and flavor, and there was none left at the end of the night.  That's always a good sign.  There was only one problem -- the recipe calls for 8 egg yolks which left me with 8 egg whites.

After the success of the yellow cake, I decided to try my hand at another cake with the leftover whites.  In my opinion, it came out pretty damned well.  I just tweaked the yellow recipe, and for prosperity, my recipe for the white cake is below. (if I don't write this out and save it, I WILL forget)

White Cake Recipe


1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 cups white sugar
8 egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup milk minus 2 tablespoons
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
lemon juice from one large lemon
zest from the lemon

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour 2 - 8 inch round pans. I use a baking spray that has flour in it.  Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whip the egg whites to the stiff peak stage.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the vanilla and lemon zest. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk, mixing just until incorporated.  Mix in lemon juice, and then fold in the egg whites.  Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean or with only a few crumbs. Cool 15 minutes before turning out onto cooling racks.

I used this frosting, from http://www.grouprecipes.com/61740/fluffy-lemon-buttercream-frosting.html.

Lemon buttercream frosting

3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup of butter softened
1/4 cup of milk
1 t vanilla
1 T lemon zest (the rind of a lemon)
2 T lemon juice

Mix the butter, lemon zest and vanilla together, making sure all the lumps are gone.  Add the milk, and quickly cream it into the butter mixture.  One 1/2 cup at a time, mix in the sugar.  Once all the sugar is mixed in, cream on "high" for two minutes. Mix in lemon juice.

The above cake has so many options.  Instead of lemon, you can do orange, lime or grapefruit.  You can also exchange the vanilla for another flavored extract, and increase the milk to a full 3/4 cup and take out the citrus.  It will also make a dreamy coconut cake by taking out the lemon and substituting coconut milk for the milk.  The coconut cake is my next project.

Here's the lemon cake:

Friday, December 28, 2012

Nothing boring about these leftovers

This Christmas marked the first holiday celebration in our new house, and rightly so, we insisted on having family over.  For the dinner, I did a full spread including turkey, cornbread dressing, cranberry sauce, spinach gratin, and mashed potatoes.  Yum...  Here's Sean's dad, daydreaming about carving the turkey.

So...it was a wholelotta food, and as hard as I tried, Sean's parents wouldn't take any home.  In all fairness, they had another dinner the day they left, and they'd end up with leftovers from that one.  What do we do with all the leftovers then?

Freeze them?  That's an option, but boring.  Donate them?  As nice as this sounds, you can't donate prepared food unless it's been prepared in a professional kitchen, for obvious reasons.  How about soup, chili, or enchiladas?  I considered it but have used these recipes for holidays passed, and it takes care of the turkey but does nothing for the leftover sides.

With a little research, I came across two recipes that used all the turkey, potatoes, and spinach.

First, I made these turkey turnovers.  It calls for broccoli, which I bought, but if I'd done a broccoli casserole, I could have subbed that for the broccoli and cheese.  They're really good, and I froze several without cooking them.  Now, we can have a quick lunch or dinner for the next few weeks.  All we have to do is take some out and bake them for about 25 minutes. Then, lunch!  This recipe used about half the leftover turkey and some of the cheese left over from making the gratin.  Huzzah!

Next, I made samosas.  The original recipe was from Real Simple, and in my opinion, it's too simple.  If you look at the recipe, you'll see that they don't add any spices or veggies, and I don't need much spice.  But give me a dash of something! When I think of samosas, I also think of delicious pastry dumplings filled with potato and VEGGIES.  Where are the veggies in this recipe?  Exactly.  The general idea is nice, but I had to make several changes.  So, here's my leftover turkey samosa recipe:

Leftover Turkey Samosas


1 cup of chopped leftover roasted turkey (I made sure to use a mix of white and dark meat)
1 cup of any green veggie dish (I used spinach gratin, but you can use creamed spinach, green peas, green beans, or any other green veggie dish)
1 cup mash potatoes
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon yellow curry powder
salt to taste

refrigerated pie crust (usually a 2 pack of 9" crust)

Cut the rolled out pie crust into 8 segments and roll each segment out into a triangle.  Set aside.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl and taste to make sure it's seasoned to your liking.  Spoon mixture onto triangles of dough.  Bring edges up and pinch together to form a dumpling.  Bake at 375 for about 25 minutes.  These can also be frozen and baked later.  If freezing, don't thaw to bake.  You'll bake them straight from the freezer but for about 40-45 minutes instead.  Here's a picture of the samosas I baked today.  They came out perfectly and go well with that leftover cranberry sauce.

It was a good holiday, and we'll be eating well in 2013.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Adventures in Healthy Cooking: Quinoa Salad

With the new running and yoga regimen, I'm looking into cooking healthier as well. That doesn't mean that I'm abandoning baking altogether. Oh, no! I'll never give up my homemade cookies and pies, but I can dilute that fatty cooking with some healthy fair once in awhile. Like, quinoa.

I've never cooked with this grain, but from what I've read and heard, it's a super food. Also, it's versatile and tasty -- two things I adore in ingredients. This past weekend, I made a quinoa salad inspired by a friend who offered that salad at a recent camping trip. It's simple, and here's the recipe that I created. If you go to Whole Foods, this might look familiar. My friend based her salad off of theirs, and I tweaked the ingredients to get a better consistency.

Cranberry-Orange Quinoa Salad


2 cup dry quinoa
1 cup orange juice
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup mandarin orange slices, drained
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1 tspn salt
3 Tbspn extra virgin olive oil

Rinse the quinoa with cold water and strain. In a pot, add the quinoa, water and salt. Bring to a boil and turn the heat down to simmer. Cook for 15 minutes or till the liquid is absorbed. When done, fluff with a fork and then lay out in a thin layer on a baking sheet to cool.

While the quinoa is cooking, reduce the orange juice to half by simmering in a non-reactive sauce pan for approximately 10 minutes. Set in the freezer for 5 mintues to cool. Once cooled, whisk in olive oil to make a vinaigrette.

In a large bowl, combine the cranberries, raisins, nuts, orange slices and cooked quinoa. Pour vinaigrette over the mixure and stir together. If desired, add fresh chopped mint. Serve cold. Great with a side of whole grain toast or leafy greens...or by itself. Makes approx 8 servings, 350 Calories per serving.