Friday, April 29, 2011

Pear Vanilla Jam, Oh My!

It is not too much to say that I have been a bit obsessed with jams, preserves and marmalades lately. I have been reading recipes on blogs, special ordering books from the library and hunting down specific ingredients. The next recipe that I could not wait to make after I got the blood orange marmalade monkey off my back is this Pear Vanilla Jam.

I am glad that I honored the suggestion that the vanilla beans were essential, because they totally make this recipe. I have been thoroughly enjoying this sweet, vanilla, pear goodness on bread. It is so good that way that I haven't ventured beyond that yet, but I can imagine it would also be good on ice cream or mixed into yogurt.

I am noticing that the more batches of preserves and jams I make, the less tiresome the process is for me. I managed to make this batch on a work night while my dad chatted with me in the kitchen. I think most of the labor is spent on the sterilization process for the hot water bath canning. I'm getting a system down for that, too.

Now, I have to decide what is next. I think it might depend on what the next round of in-season, affordable fruit is...maybe rhubarb!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

What the heck, April?

April has been a wacky weather month. We have not had much sun, but when we have, Tchazo has wanted to soak up every minute of it.

Jack still prefers the softer, indoor option.

This month has brought us a few warm days, but mostly grey, rainy and cold ones. We have even had a bit of a snow and a few hail showers. The deluge of hail in this photo came on really suddenly one evening. I was grateful to have skipped the gym that night or else I would have been walking home in it!

Every ounce of me is antsy to be out in the warmth, planting my garden, knitting on the back deck, taking the dogs on long walks and rejoicing in the comfort that the winter is behind us. Come on, Spring! The door is open, please come in!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Scenes from a Dinner

Over the weekend, we had some new-to-Minneapolis and new-to-us friends over for dinner. Jessica and Scott said they would eat anything so Paul and I had fun coming up with the menu.

We slow roasted one of the last of my dad's squash from the fall. To the roasted squash we added Farmdog Blue, a local, raw blue cheese and maple syrup.

The salad included carrots, green apples and shredded beets which we mixed with spring greens and a homemade honey mustard balsamic dressing.

The bread from above went with this cheese and some olives for starters. The middle cheese is a mango and candied ginger stilton. Paul put this on his burger the next night and he swooned.

The entree was Orange Pan Glazed Tempeh, which we served over sauted chard.

For dessert we doubled this Figs in Honeyed Wine with Mascarpone recipe.

We had this meal the night after our dinner at Spoonriver and the night before our first grilled dinner of the season. It was a weekend of good eats!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Free Easter Peep Show

Last weekend Paul and I went to see a film that was in town with the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival. We made a full-on date out of it, with a movie, dinner, dessert and a little shopping in Northeast Minneapolis. Nearby the theater we spotted a free peep show.

We had to take a look...

and when you peep, you see peeps!

Happy Easter to those that celebrate the holiday. May you eat peeps and cadbury creme eggs until your stomach hurts.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Nine Years Later

On April 22nd 9 years ago, Paul and I went on our first date. Since then we have pretty much been happily ever after. We are a great match, with him slowing me down when I need to chill and me giving him a kick in the butt when he needs to get moving. He is the person I most like to talk to at the end of the day and the person I most like to see when I wake up. Together we laugh, we challenge each other and we grow. We both value how our relationship allows us to be our independent selves, yet still feel connected and close to each other. Wherever he is feels like home to me. I feel very fortunate to have found someone that is such a great match.

We have a wedding anniversary too, but our relationship anniversary is what we honor each year. This year we celebrated with a fantastic dinner at Spoonriver. We had eaten at the defunct Cafe Brenda many times in the past and enjoyed the food. We had high expectations of Brenda Langton's newer restaurant and were delighted that our expectations were met and exceeded!

Ever since we attended the CSA fair at Seward Coop last weekend, Paul has been considering ordering meat or a meat CSA from Sunshine Harvest Farm. When he saw that the farm is featured on Spoonriver's menu, he was sold on going there for our dinner out. There were a couple Sunshine Harvest Farm options last night, but the one he could not pass up was the grassfed NY strip steak with rosemary potatoes and vegetables. I can tell he really enjoyed it because he ate it very slowly. He might have even groaned in delight.

I was torn between the Udon noodle salad with mock duck and the vegetarian special. I ended up going with the special. There was so much on the plate that the server's description (given twice) was not enough for me to really understand what I was going to get. I am glad I trusted in the specialness of the special. The flavors were excellent and the risotto and wheatberry croquette was something I had never eaten before. Everything on my plate was prepared perfectly. The asparagus was grilled and dusted with just the right amount of salt. The croquette was on a bed of spiced tomato sauce and topped with pesto ricotta, both of which were plated in exactly perfect portions. The salad was dressed just right with the toppings mixed in evenly. I guess sometimes you get what you pay for! At least, in Spoonriver's case that is the truth. The prices are high but so is the quality, the food sourcing and the technique.

We tried to get a photo of us together at the restaurant but the hostess was really unsure about my camera and took some wacky pictures. We'll have to settle for this arm's length one instead.

Happy Anniversary, Paul!

Monday, April 11, 2011

April Cooking Frenzy

The gardening season is just around the corner and I am looking forward to all of the fantastic things I will have to eat from my urban plot. In stark contrast to those bountiful gardening months, we are currently at a low point when it comes to local food. This is the point in the year where the foods that were stored over the winter are getting rubbery and/or rotten yet it is too early for the spring treats. As I plan the garden, I find that it feels like forever until we are eating out of it.

So, the main way to satisfy the crazy preserving/baking/making urges I have been having recently is through non-local goods. I've been spending a lot of time in the kitchen over the past 2 weeks. Here are a few of the things I have to show for it.
After a night of chopping, stirring, sanitizing and simmering, I have these jars of blood orange marmalade.

I have a big jar of these preserved lemons aging in the fridge.

I have a cupboard of small jars of olive oil, slowly infusing. Some of these are destined for the upcoming food swap.

I used to have this carrot cake, although that is almost gone already.

I have a jar of this cocoa hazelnut granola, to which I added toasted sesame seeds and dried cranberries.
We also have a loaf of Peasant Bread, but that isn't unusual around our house since we discovered this artisan bread book. And, we are also taste testing a jar of homemade ginger syrup to see if that would make for a good swapping option.

There is still so much more I have been wanting to make, but there just isn't enough time!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Beginning Kumihimo

I have started my foray into kumihimo braiding. And, so far so good. It takes way more time to do the setup than it takes to actually braid it. So, this is only a technique for someone who doesn't mind stringing lots and lots of beads.

For those who have not seen kumihimo before, it is done using this disk. You move the threads from one place to another, placing beads each time to create the beaded cord. Here is a video I found that explains the basic movements:

It is pretty fun to see how the beads all line up by each other and how the threads all overlap to hold them into place.

The bobbins are really helpful as they help keep the process tidy. I'm noticing that the cord has a natural tendency to swirl. Making this cord has helped me visualize how I might make color patterns through stringing different colored beads in different sequences.

So far I have not made anything out of the cord that I finished, but when I do, I will show you that, too.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Blue Thuja

These socks were originally meant for my dad's Christmas present, but they didn't get done. I started having swollen itchy eyes and I suspected the yarn was possibly the irritant that was causing it. So, I set them aside, bought him a pair of smartwools and figured I'd pick them up again later if I felt like I could handle it. And, eventually I could and I did.

Is it weird to give your dad wool socks for his birthday at the end of May? I just might, because I would have a really hard time saving this for next Christmas. When I make something for somebody, it is SO hard to not just give it to them immediately.

Pattern is Thuja
Ravelry project is here

Sunday, April 3, 2011


This marks the second purple sweater I've completed in a few weeks! (link to post about 1st onehere) Although, this one has been on the needles since Christmas and set aside for other projects numerous times.

The pattern is Folded by Veera Valimaki. Link to my Ravelry project here.

This pattern caught my eye due to the fun detail above the bust line and because it just happened to match the gauge of yarn I have had in my stash for a long, long time. The yarn is Jaeger Siena and it has been in my stash for so long that it is now discontinued. It wasn't the perfect match for this pattern as it doesn't have quite the right drape, but it was about darned time that I used it.

The pattern is named Folded after this little folds above the bust line. As my friend Sally would say, they are enboobening. I am not particularly large in the chest area but this shirt gives the illusion that I am.

This is knit from the bottom up and in one piece. The front is larger than the back to allow for the folds. I was worried it was going to be too big all the way from the bottom up to where the folds were. After I made the folds, I was pretty sure it was not going to be a potato sack sweater, which was a huge relief after knitting many inches of fingering weight yarn in stockinette stitch. The thought of ripping that all out was worrisome, to say the least.

Cotton yarn sure does like to hold on to wrinkles! I tend to be attracted to patterns that are simple with an interested design element or two. So, this fit the bill for me and I'm counting on those wrinkles working themselves out as I wear the fiber in more.

Also, I finally got around to setting up a tripod and figuring out the timer on my camera. That means I can take my own photos instead of trying to corral Paul into taking my picture! It is actually quite a challenge to find a time where we are both at home, the weather is bright enough, my hair is clean and we have time to futz with picture taking. I am glad to have found a workaround for at least one of those barriers. Although, taking many many pictures of oneself does feel a bit odd. Many thanks to Paul for being willing to take close ups of raglan shaping, cables, cuffs and the many other requests a non-knitter might find odd. I'm sure I will still need his help from time to time.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Librarian Beth and the Sample Room

Luckily for us, our friend Beth's professional art librarian conference just happened to be held in our fair city last weekend. We whisked her away for a brunch/lunch and a catch-up session. We had a lot to catch up as she had recently gone on a Costa Rica adventure and, of course, we wanted updates on her life out east. Besides bring thrilled that we got to see Beth, Paul was thrilled by the amount of pickled garnish on his Bloody Mary.

We were all pleased with The Sample Room and appreciated the "from scratch" kitchen. Beth and I were both glad we had upgraded to the roasted potatoes if not just for the homemade ketchup. Yum! I definitely want to go back and try more of their offerings as there were so many appealing vegetarian dishes. The only bummer was that we had to bring Beth back to the conference far too quickly for my taste.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...