Friday, February 29, 2008

Dang! I think our lab assistant was just fired. I better go wash some dishes to make up for the lack of lab assistant.

Daring Bakers: Julia Child's French Bread

I was nervous about this challenge. First of all, it is my first Daring Bakers challenge, and second, the sheer length of time needed was a bit daunting. I set aside my Saturday for bread making. I started around 11:00am and pulled the loaves out of the oven a little before 7:00pm.

The dough is simple enough. Comprised of flour, water, salt and yeast, I had all the ingredients needed in my pantry, but the recipe, when printed, was over 10 pages long. The techniques for making a beautiful loaf of French bread were mostly new too me. I have very little experience with yeast breads and had avoided using yeast for quite awhile until No-Knead Bread came along. I had several loaves made in my mom's bread machine not rise when I was a kid and was leery of using yeast for many years. After a few successful loaves of the No-Knead variety, I went for yeasted cinnamon rolls for my family and Josh's for Christmas morning. They turned out beautifully and some of my confidence in yeast doughs was restored. I even had fun making them. Bread dough is like Play-Doh for big kids, and you can eat it later.

For this bread, I went for the electric mixer method rather than the hand method because I have a mixer and love it to death. I had also used my mixer for the cinnamon rolls and had some idea of what the dough was supposed to look like in the mixer. The dough came together as it should and I started to feel good about this challenge.

During the first rise, I placed my marked container with the dough in my slightly warmed oven because my apartment doesn't usually get above 65F in the winter. The dough rose well, if a little faster than specified, to it's volume of 10 1/2 cups. My oven was a bit warmer the the specified 70F. The second rise went well too.

The shaping was the trickiest part for me. I wasn't quite sure how to go about it. I went with three small round loaves for ease's sake. My first one was a bit sloppy, but by the second I had an idea of what I was doing and it and my third one looked even with a nice tightness to the dough. They looked kinda cute wrapped in towels in the warmed oven.

They didn't rise as well as I had hoped, but were obviously bigger. Josh wanted dinner and so did I, so I got them out of the oven. A couple slashes across the top with the knife I received from the cooking competition and the loaves were ready for the oven.

I baked them on unglazed quarry tiles I picked up at Lowe's. The only problem, with the tiles was I couldn't fit all the loaves on one rack because only 4 tiles would fit on each rack which wasn't enough area for all three loaves. The bottoms of the two loaves on the lowest rack got a little burnt but they turned out pretty well otherwise.

As for the taste, the bread is salty. Saltier than I expected but should have due to the amount of salt in the dough. Normally, I don't like my bread that salty but I don't think I have ever had a loaf of "real" French bread so I do not know how it compares. I was hoping for a more rustic and crisper crust, not unlike what I can achieve with a loaf of No-Knead Bread, but either my technique or the recipe itself, didn't produce such a crust. The texture of the bread itself is nice; just what I was hoping for.

The first loaf made some excellent garlic bread to go with pasta and the second loaf was used to sop up creamy chicken and wild rice soup. The third loaf is still in the freezer, but may make an appearance during some cheese fondue this weekend or become garlic bread again since Josh was a huge fan of that. I doubt this is a recipe I will make on a regular basis, but it was a good experience. I enjoy a challenge and one that results in bread is not a bad thing.

ETA: Ok, I have now looked at other DBers' breads and many of them got a nice crusty loaf, so it must be me. Maybe I will have to try it again, but start a little earlier in the day.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Crap! I think I have a cold. It started last night during the youth tae kwon do tournament our club hosts on a yearly basis. I was judging forms and really wished I had my water bottle with me because my throat was scratchy and dry. I was fine during the subsequent tournament shortened class we had, probably due to all my concentration being used to make my limbs do the combinations of kicks. After class my throat got progressively scratchier, and I started coughing. It's no better today, and I doubt teaching three tae kwon do classes tonight is going to help. Actually I don't usually do much for the third class since Josh likes to take that one.

I wish I could sit at home tonight with a mug of tea in front of the TV and knit. I have joined a couple knitting related groups the Sock Knitter's Pentathalon 2008 and Sock Wars III. Luckily they don't happen at the same time.

Crap! I think I have a cold. It started last night during the youth tae kwon do tournament our club hosts on a yearly basis. I was judging forms and really wished I had my water bottle with me because my throat was scratchy and dry. I was fine during the subsequent tournament shortened class we had, probably due to all my concentration being used to make my limbs do the combinations of kicks. After class my throat got progressively scratchier, and I started coughing. It's no better today, and I doubt teaching three tae kwon do classes tonight is going to help. Actually I don't usually do much for the third class since Josh likes to take that one.

I wish I could sit at home tonight with a mug of tea in front of the TV and knit. I have joined a couple knitting related groups the Sock Knitter's Pentathalon 2008 and Sock Wars III. Luckily they don't happen at the same time.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Notes: If I am using an unseasoned wild rice blend I cook it in broth to give it flavor. A boxed blend with a seasoning packet will have more salt and other seasonings which makes the seasoning portion of the soup very simple. If you make this using a boxed and seasoned wild rice mix you can follow the directions for the boxed mix and use less broth, around 6 cups instead of 8.

I suggested the use of evaporated milk for those of you interested in a lower fat version. You can also use corn starch instead of the roux to cut down on the fat as well. The evaporated milk doesn't taste the same as the cream or half and half, but it isn't bad.

I am writing this from memory and since I tend to improvise and never make this soup the same way twice, feel free to make adjustments or if you have questions leave a comment.


  • 6-8 cups low-sodium chicken or veggie broth
  • 3 chicken breasts, I prefer bone-in, trimmed of excess fat and skin
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic pressed through garlic press or diced finely
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 3 celery ribs, diced
  • mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 1 tbl olive oil or other oil
  • 1 box of wild rice blend, cooked with seasoning packet
  • 12oz evaporated milk or 0.5 cup heavy cream or half and half, I leave it up to you
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 4 tbl butter
  • 4 tbl flour
  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a medium sauce pan cook the rice following the instructions on the box or bring 3-4 cups of broth to a boil and add 1.5 cups rice blend and cook until done, 30-40 minutes.
  2. In 5-6qt Dutch oven heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, garlic, carrot, celery and mushrooms, if using. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft; about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add remaining broth, bay leaf, parsley and tarragon. Bring to a simmer then add the chicken breasts. Simmer for another 20 minutes or until chicken breasts are cooked through and have reached an internal temperature of 165F. Remove chicken from the pot and set aside to cool.
  4. When rice is cooked add to the rest of the soup along with any cooking liquid. Chop or shred cooked chicken into bite-sized pieces and return to the pot.
  5. Add evaporated milk, half and half or cream. In a small sauce pan melt butter over medium heat. When the butter as stopped foaming (all water has evaporated) add the flour and whisk for another 30 seconds.
  6. Add the roux to the soup and bring to a simmer. Cook stirring occasionally until thickened to desired consistency. If too thick add more broth or water. Season with salt and pepper to taste and don't forget to remove the bay leaf.
  7. Enjoy with some good bread and a salad if you feel the need to be healthy.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I really want a cookie or cake...maybe a brownie or blondie.

I am making creamy chicken and wild rice soup for dinner tonight so the oven will be free for a dessert of some kind. I don't usually make dessert, but I think I need one. Maybe I will write down my recipe for the soup tonight.

I thought I messed up my Pomatomous sock, but alas that was not the case. I, of course, didn't realize my stupidity until I had tinked back to the point where I knew it was correct. I decided I was wrong even though every time I looked at it I couldn't figure out where I had gone wrong. I am a doofus. At least it was only about 5 rows.

Monday, February 25, 2008

"Spring" cleaning

Yesterday was a balmy 35F. It seemed Spring-like compared to what we have had lately.

So yesterday was pretty lazy at least for the morning. We finished off all six cinnamon rolls and played some video games until around 2:30 when I decided to start the laundry. I used my homemade laundry detergent (1c washing soda, 1c Borax, 1 bar Fels Naptha grated) for the first time and was quite happy with the results. I am not sure if it was wishful thinking, but I thought our tae kwon do doboks looked less off-white than normal.

Well, once I started the laundry Josh went after the kitchen. The next thing I knew he had pulled the stove and refrigerator away from the wall and was attacking the grease and grime accumulated on the sides of the refrigerator. The amount of crap that falls between the appliances and the cabinets is disgusting. He did most of that cleaning while I took care of folding and re-folding laundry. I did have the pleasure of cleaning the stove top and the inside of the oven as well as the outside. Once most of the laundry was out of the living room and onto the bed (so you have to put it away before going to bed), we vacuumed the living room. The amount of dirt and sand in the carpet was amazing. I went over areas several times before the majority of the sand was gone.

I am glad the afternoon of cleaning was impromptu rather than planned. We didn't have to dread it for long. It's nice to have the kitchen clean and shiny and the sand out of the carpet. We didn't want to ruin the clean kitchen right away so we ordered a pizza. I don't think cinnamon rolls and taco pizza count as health food, but that's what weekend are for. We are having salads for dinner tonight.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Cimanum rolls

From a ball of dough...

to swirls of dough and cinnamon..

to gooey spirals of cinnamony goodness.

Perfect for a Sunday morning. Yesterday, I decided since I was already covering the kitchen with flour and yeast for the Daring Baker's February challenge I might as well bake another yeasty delight. I have the other half of the batch sitting in the freezer for next weekend. I used a recipe from America's Test Kitchen, which produces a lovely dough, but I wish I had added a bit more cinnamon. I made these for Josh's family and mine for Christmas morning and all approved of the extra cinnamon I added that time. If only I remembered to write down the things I change...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I woke up this morning with an awful headache. I blame the nadobans(a jump spin roundhouse kick) we did at tae kwon do last night. My cervical vertebrae are prone to getting out of alignment and giving me some lovely headaches.

I took two naproxen sodium right away this morning, but the headache is still hanging on. I hope my coffee helps a bit. I guess it could make it worse if the caffeine just makes me more tense. Oh well!

ETA: Speaking of tae kwon do, last night it took me about 25 minutes to get from my apartment to the Field House. Normally this is a 15 minute drive, which made me glad I got bored at home and left early. I am not sure why traffic was moving so slowly, but by the time I reached the Field House my feet were numb. I took off my shoes in the dojang and noticed several of my toes were rather white and others verging on purple. It took at least 10 minutes before I could feel any of my toes. My feet are usually cold, especially my toes, but I don't remember them being that numb in quite a long time. I guess sitting in a cold car with one foot on the clutch and the other hovering near the break and accelerator is not good for circulation.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

New coat, new info and a new sock

Love the new coat! It's a little big in the waist but fits my shoulders perfectly which is always a problem for me since my shoulders are wider than my hips. It kept me much warmer than my other coat and my legs weren't numb when I got on the bus. Of course the bus driver had to pull up to the curb instead of stopping at the driveway 10 feet further forward, which mean we had to navigate an icy pile of snow then figure out how to get from there through the door of the bus. I made it without too much trouble, but I am more graceful than most.

The home buyers seminar was shorter than I expected but helpful nonetheless. I understand the terminology a bit better and had some of my guesses about things confirmed. Thank you for all your helpful comments. I appreciate them.

I started a new sock in TOFUtsies last night because I thought I may need some simply knitting for the seminar and the bus ride as my firs of the Pomotomus' is at the heel and won't be good for public transit knitting until I get passed it and memorize the foot chart.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The iPod shuffle is now $49 instead of $79! I have contemplated purchasing one for awhile now. It would be perfect for working out. The one I currently own pulls down my shorts when I clip it to them, and I am not a fan of wearing it on my arm.

We would like to purchase a house when we move.Josh and I are going to a home buyers' seminar tonight organize by a local realtor. I am looking forward to understanding the whole process a little better. We know that may not be possible initially, but we would prefer it. We want a house that needs a bit of work but is move-in ready. I am really excited about the whole process of buying a home, but I am also nervous due to the amount of money involved and my lack of knowledge.

We have been saving for a down payment on a house for awhile now and have a decent amount. We have been staring at listings to determine what we are looking for in a house (basement, garage, big kitchen!) and what we can live with for awhile (ugly counter tops, fake wood paneling, pink bathrooms). Josh plans to work at Lowe's part-time so we can take advantage of his discount and the knowledge of the people there.

Do you, my faithful readers, have any knowledge you would be willing to pass on to me?

Monday, February 18, 2008

I started Pomatomus Friday night. We skipped tae kwon do because I wasn't feeling well and Josh was half asleep. I made some chicken tortilla soup, and we relaxed for the evening. The yarn is Dream in Color Smooshy in Gothic Rose which I purchased at Simply Socks Yarn Company several months ago. The yarn is lovely. The color in reality is more purple than the brownish tone of the picture.

Saturday we visited Josh's parents for lunch and some shopping. I was looking for unglazed quarry tile to place in my oven and they were also in need of a few things. Afterwards we went to Famous Dave's for lunch. I love their corn muffins. Some of his parents' friends are moving to a different house in the area and needed some help moving as well as the use of their trailer. Josh and I were recruited and ended up doing most of the heavy lifting. I have several bruises and my arms are rather sore.

I didn't bake my bread this weekend due to our inability to find any unglazed quarry tiles in Davenport and several inches of snow discouraged any more searching on Sunday. Luckily Lowe's does have them, so Josh can pick some up for me. I was really hoping to find some larger than the 9"x9" they carry, but no luck. I am getting unglazed tiles rather than a pizza stone because spending $20-$30 on something I could easily see myself breaking is not too appealing. For less than $5 I can get enough to cover my oven and have a few backups.

I really could have used my new brown coat this morning as the temp was in the single digits and the bus 10 minutes late. I don't think it has even shipped yet.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Snow Monkey Socks

I took a quick picture this morning after kitchenering the toe.

Pattern: Monkey by Cookie A
Yarn: Fearless Fibers Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn in Sloth
Needles: 2.5mm Knit Picks Harmony dpns
Mods: eye of partridge heel, 7 repeats for the leg instead of 6 because the skein of yarn is huge!


I bought a new coat! I have wanted this coat in Spice Brown all winter. I like to use public transportation as much as possible, but standing in the cold waiting for the bus is not fun. I wanted something a little longer, and currently all of my long coats are dressy and not particularly warm.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Death by Malabrigo

Not the worst way to die.

I love being greeted with "you're dead" when I come home from work.

I am not even going to mention that it's Valentine's Day...wait, does that count as mentioning? (ETA: At 1:45pm today it was pointed at to me that I am wearing an appropriately red shirt. My first thought was "Crap, I didn't mean to be festive!")

Anyway, my Monkeys are almost done and my boss approves of them. She said they were the coolest socks ever, or something to that effect. I will hopefully finish them today. Speaking of Cookie A patterns, she mentioned on her blog the need for test knitters, so I of course offered my knitting services. She wanted to see pictures of our knitted objects to help her decide who her test knitters would be. Well, she picked me to be part of her test knitting group, and I am rather excited. I do get a bit of compensation in the form of yarn and a copy of the book when it is published. I am not sure what the policy will be for posting pictures of the test knits. I plan to CO Thelonius or Poms when the Monkeys are done to get some more practice in.

My weapon for Hat Attack has been received by my target. It fits her well, so my second attempt must have been much closer to gauge. I think my knitting may have tightened up as I went. I knit it using the combined method which seemed most natural to me for carrying the yarn in my left hand and must have gotten better as I knitted. First project, other than color work, where I knit carrying the yarn in my left hand. It went rather well. The knitterly instrument of my demise will most likely arrive tomorrow or Friday depending on my assassin's chosen shipping method

This is to show you the actual size while I make a weird face. Sadly this was the best pic I could manage to take of myself.

A closeup to see the detail. (ETA: Ok, not sure why it isn't showing up, but if you are really curious, just click.)

I have joined the Daring Bakers. They are a group of food bloggers that are given a recipe, which must be followed exactly with few exceptions, which post on the same day about the month's challenge. I am not officially a member until I complete my first challenge. I will be purchasing some unglazed tiles to line the bottom of my oven and baking my bread this weekend. Wish me luck!

another edit:

When I have downtime at the lab I browse food and knitting blogs and save recipes and patterns to Google Docs so I can access them at home. Google dressed up for VD. It made me laugh.
google docs VD

...and weiner dogs!!!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Prepare to die!

Ok, not really die, but as in no longer an active participant in Hat Attack. Kspeak(Ravelry) is my assigned target. Her hat is in the mail and should arrive in 2-3 days. Of course, I looked at my assassin's projects and noticed my hat is done as well. Considering I knit two of these hats in as many days (other than weaving in the ends this morning) I figured the "weapon" would be arriving in the mail shortly, along with my demise. But I am not complaining as the hat(Ravelry) I am to be slain with is gorgeous! I used this as a stash busting opportunity and killed a whole ball of yarn with the two hats.

I think my boss' daughter or a small of stature coworker may end up with the small hat. I blame the gauge swatch. maybe knitting a gauge swatch while drinking a beer is not the best plan. I think the beer made me knit looser. I didn't get a picture of the hat I sent, but I will take one of the too small hat. They look exactly the same except one is on a smaller scale, so you will get the idea.

In other news, it is really freakin' cold again and here are more birds!

ETA: I just noticed it got to -40F in International Falls, MN, which makes our 2F not look so bad. Funny thing is, when I was in International Falls this summer it was about 135F degrees warmer.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

My army grows every day. In the left you can see another taking shape, the green blob, and also the body and head of a friendly snow dragon. I don't think the dragon will be staying with me though. I just love looking at them!

Saturday is the start of Hat Attack, so you know I will be knitting on Saturday without interruption. My birds will have to wait for a little while. I would like to think I could finish my weapon on Sunday and get it in the mail Monday morning, but I am just not sure. Our internet is being wonky so I may have to run in to work to get the pattern. I should swatch tonight.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Canceled?!?!?! They canceled classes again. Twice in one year! Only the second time in my 6+ years at the UI. Weird.

Here, look at my too small mittens while I recover from the shock.


Snowy Little Birds!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

My Happy Little Bird Army

Sorry, again, for the crappy picture. My camera is very picky about light and apparently a cloudy 8:00am is not what it likes. You may not be able to tell, but the Purplebird does not yet have it's wings or tail. I will remedy that tonight and probably start another one. I am creating an army after all.

I have changed my mind. I still want a new camera, but I also don't want to spend a ton of money. I have been thinking about how I want to use my camera. I essentially want to take pictures like I currently do, but I want them to be a better quality. I want to be able to take close-ups and have accurate representations of the colors. I want the details to shine. Most of my pictures are yarn related or food and my 4.0MP, 3+ year old camera isn't doing what I want anymore.

I think I will get the Canon PowerShot SX100 instead of the Canon S5. It's about $100 cheaper and should do what I want it to do. I played with it at Best Buy over the weekend and liked it.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Happy Little Bluebird

Pattern: Birds of Feather
Yarn: Cascade 200 Heathers, 9456 sapphire heather
Hook: F, 3.75mm
Time: about 2 hours, maybe a little more with the finishing work

I love my little bird! I had an intense desire to crochet something cute and small yesterday. I blame the several inches of snow (ETA: I just read it was 8 inches of snow)we got yesterday along with Josh's incessant grumbling at Paper Mario. I made another green one, which I finished this morning while listening to the thunder. I need some good light so I can take a picture of them together. I took this picture last night in my rather dark living room. I could easily see a little purple one joining them soon. Maybe teal...

Friday, February 01, 2008

Work has been terribly frustrating lately. I can't seem to get the simplest reactions to work. My cloning projects are stalled at one step or another because I either planned it poorly or something didn't work for whatever reason. I haven't gotten anything accomplished in the last two weeks!

Knitting on the other hand has been going well. My Inga Hat has performed beautifully during the last few days of below zero wind chills and sideways snow. It was a little tight initially, but it has stretched a bit and fits nicely now. I have started some Pirate Mittens in purple and white, but the first one is sooooo tiny. I guess the problem could lie with my gigantic hands, but I am going with the pattern on this one. I think I will be adding a total of eight stitches, going up a needle size and adding an extra skull and cross-bones so they will fit me. Now I need to find someone who wants purple pirate mittens and has small hands. Of course they will have to wait a bit as I stopped at the thumb of the first small mitten. Oh, and Hat Attack starts soon! It's like Sock Wars but with hats.

My second Sockapalooza 4 pal received her package. Along with the socks, I included two skeins of sock yarn, a little bead like the one I use for my stitch markers and other stuff, a pencil box, a candle and some soap as well as the yarn remaining from her socks in case repairs are needed.

In other Chelsea Knitting News, I have volunteered to teach some Girl Scouts to knit next Friday night for TPP's Craft-A-Thon. I have yet to ever donate anything to TPP, but I have made stuff. I am forgetful and often lazy. I do love teaching people to knit though. If you are in the area, go check it out. It's an all day even and details are in the link above.

Ok, I think I have decided on the camera I will get. In the interest of saving some money,instead of the Canon PowerShot Pro S5 I will get the Canon PowerShot SS100 IS It's $100 cheaper and still has many of the features I want in new camera.