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September 2015

Three Heads are Better than One

Today I roasted three heads of garlic and then did things with them.  When I put the garlic in the oven, I also put in whole wheat pita cut into eights, and tossed with olive oil, and salt and pepper. The pita cooked for about ten minutes, the garlic for...45 or thereabouts, at 400º.

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I chopped onion, basil, and parsley from the garden for bruschetta. But I had to use canned tomatoes. The trade-off is that it will last a few days in the refrigerator, whereas fresh tomato bruschetta wouldn't really be good after tomorrow. DSC_3883

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After the garlic roasted awhile, I squooshed some into the bowl with the tomatoes, and added lemon juice, olive oil, and s&p. And also drained a can of cannellini beans. DSC_3887

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I mixed the white beans with the remaining garlic from that head, and added a lot of lemon juice and olive oil, and s&p. There is a pattern here, and it pays off. :-)

The remaining cloves of garlic were deskinned and added to a jar with olive oil. They'll stay good for several weeks in the refrigerator, and then there will be nice garlicky olive oil to use after they're gone.

So then I wanted to share this in a really twee fashion, like you would pin to the page of party foods you'll never get around to making. But my photo isn't very good because of how I didn't do it right. DSC_3890

Anyway, as good as the bean dip and bruschetta are separately, when eaten together, they are fantastic. DSC_3891

You can find recipes here and there, but mostly, it's just something you do as you like. When I make white bean dip I like it really basic but really strong. I probably use twice as much lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic as anyone calls for. And sometimes people add a lot of thing to fancy it up. Personally, I do not care for that. I just take things I like that I tend to always have around, and mix them together for my own taste. That's why I'm sharing these pictures; you should do this, too. Have some pantry play.

Tomorrow I'm cutting up a couple of late eggplants.


Time to Make the Biscotti

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I make biscotti every few weeks. I have a basic recipe I put together that can be modified to suit my taste for the day. Then I add them to my cookie jar and enjoy them for six weeks or so, because they take a very long time to grow stale.

Yesterday I decided to try a different recipe altogether. Well, the proportions are largely the same, but the instructions for making them were unique to me. Also, I used white whole wheat flour, which I hadn't done before; usually I use it for quick breads, things like that. If you want to bake with more whole wheat flour, you can use more or less in the recipe depending on the texture of the final result. Delicate foods require more delicate flour. Here's a good post about that from King Arthur Flour, which is the brand I buy.

I didn't realize I was nearly out of all-purpose flour until I opened the new bag of whole wheat flour. So instead of putting it in its separate container, I mixed it all in a bowl, and now the container is about 10% unbleached all-purpose, 90% white whole wheat. DSC_3867

The recipe called for lemon zest, lemon juice, and almond extract. That suited me perfectly. If I'd had almonds I would have added some, but I am economizing. DSC_3866

Don't cracked eggs look nice in a bowl? That must be why everyone always includes a photo of them. CameraZOOM-20150921130639511

Usually I'd make two smaller logs to make smaller cookies, but I was following instructions. DSC_3868

After it baked for 25 minutes, I let it cool for a few minutes, then cut it in half, then in half again, then again, then each piece into three, making 24. This was my one departure from the recipe, which wanted me to cool the log completely, spray it with water, then commence to cutting.

The newer technique I did follow was in the second baking. Instead of laying the cookies flat and turning them over after ten minutes or so of baking, the recipe said to stand them on their sides and cook for 30-35 minutes at the lower temperature. For me, 25 minutes was enough. It's a neat trick, though, and I'm going to use it in future. DSC_3870

The cookies do not have a strong lemon or almond flavor, though I used 2 tbs lemon juice plus the zest, and 1.5 tsp almond extract. This will be partly due to the flour I used. But what they have is a lovely cookie taste, and a very nice texture. You could finish them with the lemon glaze or (my choice would be) almond glaze. But I am economizing on the sugar I eat as well as the money I spend, so I left it off.


Gentle End of Summer

Summer wasn't much of one, at least not in the usual way. We had subtropical rain throughout the second half of June and all of July, and August was never hot. Early September was hot like July. Now, though, Summer is bowing out gently and gracefully, and though the light is shorter and sharper, I still feel hugged by nature during my daily wander through the messy garden remains.

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Saturday Sewing Project: new bedside bag

Sound like an odd thing to have or use? I started making these little bags by hand awhile back during a bout with bronchitis or something. The one I hung on my bedpost held remote controls and a flashlight, but I decided it needed to be replaced with an upgrade. I wanted to work on attaching straps with a liner or reversible side today, so that's what I did.

First, here are some other bags I've made this summer. DSC_3715
The ones on either end are made from thrift store skirts that I just shortened and squared off. The extra fabric has been used for quilt piecing. The bag on the left still has the button and zipper on the other side, and the one on the right has a drawstring I made work by cutting the existing one in two pieces and attaching them together. Second from left is a bag I plan to use for used book shopping. Next, a gift bag made from one fat quarter, but I might add a liner. The next two are made from instructions for reuseable produce bags, also each from a fat quarter. I like the tab closure, but might make more that are a little wider and a little shorter.

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I had a look at the fabric and future contents to see how big to make the new bag. I decided to start ten and a half inches high, and cut the fabric while it was folded in half.

DSC_3720The fold is at the bottom for strength. I pressed it inside out and folded the top down twice, then sewed along each side.

DSC_3721Then I measured eight inches down from the top and drew a line to sew the corners, and then trimmed them.

DSC_3722These are called box corners. They give the bag a bottom, allowing it to stand square. More or less. If you can't see how it's folded, and would like more details, you can ask me or look for a tutorial.

DSC_3719So I made one of each piece of fabric, then remembered I'd intended to include pockets! While thinking that over, I made the strap.

DSC_3724The strap is cut from a quarter folded piece of fabric so when it was opened it was about 2 3/4 by 21 inches.

DSC_3726A couple of photos are missing. My phone camera app is being a bit tiresome. I folded in the sides toward the center, then folded it in half, and pressed it closed.

DSC_3728Then sewed a scant 1/4 seam down each side. It looks better than with just one.

And then I made pockets. I cut two squares the same size, but attached one horizontally and one vertically, for reasons.  DSC_3730


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I decided to hand sew them on since the sides were already stitched, and I used big fat straight stitches so it would look crafty. In another photo.

DSC_3723Here I've tested out how the bags fit together before attaching the strap. I attached the strap at the sides, then sewed on the pockets, and then went all the way around the folds at the top to finish the bags together. Awhile back, I made the neatest charm square reversible purse, but the instructions for attaching the straps had me addled, and I couldn't figure out how to not have them sewn inside the bag. Doing it this simpler way was a relief.

DSC_3734The pockets face each other so my hand can go right where it wants to. The inside pocket is for pens, the outside one for the tiny soundbar remote.

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Nesting for Winter

Last winter I re-took up embroidery and made a crazy quilt, to while away time being unwell. In June I got a new sewing machine and I've spent the summer learning to use it well, and to gain some technique beyond sewing pillows and hems.

I've made two small quilts to give away, and another just wants binding for me to use it myself. I'm working on a big one for my son, and I made a very simple quilt top in order to learn what I'd need to know to make his.

I collected scraps that can still be used, and some remnant pieces, and also bought some fabric, charm squares and fat quarters when they were on sale. As well, I bought clothes and linens on half price days at Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul, to use in projects. I've made several bags out of skirts, fat quarters, and charm squares.

Today I took inventory to see what I would need to hibernate and have plenty to do. I'm embroidering a six block crazy quilt piece, but I want to use the machine, as well.

My squirrel basket has all the large pieces of fabric. DSC_3702

I keep the scraps in a large shopping bag, but here they are all dumped out. DSC_3703

I buy fat quarters (18x21 inch pieces) only when they are half price. 1.49 each makes them 5.96 a yard, which is an ordinary price. I can buy fabric by the yard for less sometimes, but these are fun pieces I probably wouldn't buy otherwise. DSC_3704

This is the large quilt top to finish sometime; it won't sit unusable for long. DSC_3706

This one is lap-sized. It just needs binding to finish. I'm still not great at binding, but I've come a long way in a short time. DSC_3705

These are the blocks for my son's quilt. There are 9 of 32. I work on them in between other things so it doesn't grow boring. There'll be strips of fabric between the rows, a border of fabric squares, and a dark blue binding. DSC_3709

All I need to get through the winter is some more thin batting, more thread and machine needles, and cutter blades, which are much less expensive online. But I have a couple of paintings I want to get back to, as well.


Slow food or convenient food? No. Both.

You probably know I generally have the time and inclination to take the long slow path toward dinner. I will spend all day making stock for sauce and soup. I don't mind making a thing to make another thing. Sometimes I roast heads of garlic, separate them, and put them in a jar with oil to use later. Etcetera.

Also, I have cookbooks from several eras, and I like to try the baking recipes. But that doesn't mean I don't buy Duncan Hines cake mixes several at a time when they're on sale, to use once in a while when I'm in the mood.

I don't like making cake with them just straight according to the recipe on the back. The cake is fluffy, but doesn't have much depth. You can do all sorts of things to them, though, and the company which produces them knows that, always offering new recipes to encourage people to buy them.

Mom, who cooked from scratch more than most moms in the 70s, sometimes made cookies with them, and this is a week I'm thinking about Mom, so I did, too.

But before I did that, I pounded some roasted garlic cloves in the mortar with oregano and thyme I picked a few weeks ago, and some sea salt, and smeared it over split chicken breasts to cook for dinner later on. After several hours, I roasted them at 400 degrees for about 50 minutes. We ate those with roasted (15 minutes at 400) zucchini and yellow squash, and then also strawberries and raw baby carrots because my son finished dinner for me. He will steam a vegetable, but not if it doesn't have to be.

DSC_3671I keep the herbs in a bag like this, then just shake some out or crumble a bit of stem to get what I want.

DSC_3672These chilled in the refrigerator all afternoon, then I took them out to start warming while I preheated the oven.

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I buy big packages of semi-sweet chocolate chips at Costco, but stock up on these other varieties, plus nuts and coconut when they're on sale before and after holidays. I just keep them all together in a big storage container. I put 1/2 cup of each of these chips in with the cake mix.

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The cake mixes generally want two eggs and 1/2 cup melted butter or oil to make cookies, and you can add a little flavoring. Some come out sweeter than others. They take a little longer to bake than most cookie recipes, at 350º.

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The garlic mush, with the addition of a little olive oil before roasting, made a nice bit of crust over the chicken.

There is a little chicken left. One of my sons and I both cut a portion from our chicken breasts before eating, then he bagged the remainder for me to use for soup stock. This, and also cost per portion, and also better flavor, is why I buy chicken parts that have not had their bones removed.

PS: When I roast a whole chicken, I freeze the neck to use later. There is my special tip for you; chicken stock or soup tastes better if you simmer it with the neck.