Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sock Spike

Spike, originally uploaded by Chinkypin.
Now that Susan has actually received this little guy, I can put up some pictures. I'm pretty happy about how he turned out, overall. I'm really not up on my Buffy, and I think the last time I regularly tried to watch the show was before this character was introduced. But now I feel a little peculiar about it, since the request for this went something like "can you make a blah-blah?" and I said "uh, is there pictures? I likes pictures..."

He is made out of a pair of beige socks, sock-monkey style. I got through about half his head of hair by sewing down bits of yarn until I realized that I could just knot it into his scalp like a hooked rug. He's a tad poofy-haired, all the photos I've seen have him kinda slicked up, but oh well. I didn't want his scalp showing. Patchy headed vampires are so not sexy.

The clothing was all made from a slightly altered commercial pattern. The envelope is for some girly thing including bathrobe, pj's, slippers and a party dress. The bathrobe made a great trench coat by cutting a notch in the collar, and by adding a false fly and pockets, the jammies became jeans and a t-shirt. The slipper pattern became boots with the addition of a couple extra bits of pleather.

There are a whole bunch of pictures on my photostream, including a couple of him in semi-completed state.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ok, maybe I'm starting to get it

This is probably the acme of third-grade comfort foods. Maybe without the mushrooms, I can't remember if my niece likes mushrooms. The only reason I mention it is that it is an admirable use for the tomato sauce I was so unenthusiastic about. I put it on some papardelle a couple days ago, with some sausage, and thought, well, that was ok... And then I decided that I wanted some mozzarella sticks with marinara. I know. Shaddup. But the mozzarella did its magic and then I looked at my leftover crumpets. Hmmm.


leftover crumpets
some of the tomato sauce from my other post
slices of mozzarella
mushrooms, if you want. I wish I had some pepperoni.
a pinch of oregano- yes it really is oregano...god!

Heat the oven to 475.

Split the crumpets, unless you're hungrier than that, in which case use whole ones. Spread a generous gloop of sauce on each one, sprinkle with some oregano or other herbs of choice, top with cheese and whatnot. Takes about 10 minutes to cook, if your oven light is busted and you keep popping the oven open to check on things.

Dude! Remember frozen pizza bagels?!? Those things were totally awesome and these taste just like that! But without being full of shit that'll kill ya faster than plain cholesterol will! That tomato sauce is so going to become a staple in my fridge.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Excuse to eat Hollandaise

Don't worry, I'm not going to pretend that I made my own crabcakes. I bet I could, but not for breakfast, or at any rate, not on the day I wanted to eat them. I did make the crumpets, but I did that last night, so all I did this morning was make everything hot and assemble the sauce. And anyway, you can buy perfectly good crumpets or english muffins. I just happen to like my recipe.

Hollandaise is lots easier to make than you might think. Certainly it it easy enough that it should never cross your mind to buy it in a can. I've seen it in the store, and it scares me. Once you read the instructions for making it, it ought to become perfectly clear that Hollandaise is a substance which was never intended to be shelf-stable.

Hollandaise Sauce

For each person you will need:

1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon cold water (or milk, or cream, or half and half. My half and half had gone off, so I used water, and it was just fine)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, more or less
a sprinkle of salt and a dash of cayenne

Put the egg yolks and the water in the top of a double boiler and whisk them together. Drop in the butter, and keep stirring gently as the water underneath heats up. Whisk faster as the sauce thickens, and when it is is about as thick as very soft butter, remove the top of the boiler from the heat and slowly whisk in the lemon juice. Add a dash of salt & cayenne, and that's it! It all takes less than 5 minutes.

The amount of lemon you put in is up to you. I like mine quite tart and lemony, so I put in a lot. There is lots of butter in this recipe, and the acid balances out the fat. If your sauce gets too thick, you can rescue it in one of 2 ways: Whisk in a couple teaspoons of hot water, or another little pat of butter (guess which one I did). If your sauce is too thin, as it was the time I made this at Jej's house, let the sauce cool, and whisk in a tablespoon of the egg white. Return it to the double boiler and keep whisking until the sauce thickens. Admittedly, this will give a slightly more pronounced egg flavor to the sauce, but I don't mind that. You're just going to put it on eggs anyway, right?

If you want to replicate the breakfast in the picture, here is a rough outline-

5 mushrooms
6 frozen asparagus spears
a sprig of fresh rosemary, optional but very tasty
1 frozen crabcake
1 crumpet
a poached egg
1 serving of hollandaise as described above

Slice the mushrooms and break the asparagus into 1-2 inch bits. Butter a heavy skillet and turn the heat up to about medium. Put in the mushrooms, rosemary, and asparagus in a single layer. My skillet is pretty big, so there was room for the crabcake at the same time. Cover the pan. After a few minutes, turn everything over to brown the other sides.

Start a small pot of water to poach the egg.

Assemble the hollandaise. If it gets finished before everything else is ready to go, don't panic. Take it off the heat and cover it up until you want it.

Drop the crumpet in the toaster. Poach the egg. Stack everything up, warm up the hollandaise over hot water if needed, and drizzle over the plate.  For extra Ta-Da! factor, mince up a pinch of fresh rosemary and sprinkle on top. Also a little black pepper, if you like.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Much Ballyhoo

I tried this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. It looked too simple to live up to the hype, and I think it is. Tomato, onion, butter. Well, that's a good start, and I will definitely use it for assorted other things, maybe with some mushrooms, or a little sausage added. Or some fresh herbs. Maybe a clove of garlic, because garlic and tomatoes were born for each other. Maybe next time I will mince the onion and caramelize it in the butter first, then cook in the tomatoes, something.

Now, there is nothing wrong with this recipe. It's just a little meh. I read the recipe and the commentary led me to expect a ravishing experience. I expected to swoon, and did not. It's true, I can think of several reasons why this sauce might not have lived up to expectation. I used the cheapest tomatoes in the store, for one, and some canned tomatoes are actually better than others. My onion was a little old, for another. I will try this recipe again, because beyond the fact that I just want to be sure that it really is the recipe, and not me, which is at fault, the sauce does have a very nice texture.

For the record, here's what I did:

1 28-oz can of Fred Meyer crushed tomatoes
2 small yellow onions
5 tablespoons salted butter

Since the original instructions say to use whole tomatoes and cook them down, rather than using crushed, I added about half a can of water to the tomatoes. The idea was to increase the water content to counteract the tendency of crushed tomatoes to start out nearly as thick as you want them to end up. More water = more cooking time. More cooking time = more flavor. Anyway, I put the tomatoes, the butter, and the peeled, halved onions in a sauce pot and simmered them for an hour or so, until the sauce had reduced to an appealing consistency. It is what it is.

Maybe I should have put in a bit more salt? Maybe I need better tomatoes? Garlic? Who knows.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

This is why men do not sew

"The Apache Shirt" ?!?   W. T. F.

Ok, let's set aside the 40-odd years since this thing was printed. Let's even set aside, for a moment, as difficult as it is, the fact that this thing just screams GAAAYYYY, and why it is just wrong that gayness should be stigmatized.

That guy looks mortally embarrassed. And he should be. You know why? Because he looks stupid. Because he does not look cool. Who looked cool in 1965? This guy looked cool. Check him out, dude's a badass. He ain't wearin no 'apache' shirt.
Ok, ok, apples and oranges you say. This is a hippy aesthetic we're striving for, not a greaser thing, or whatever this fella has going on. Fine. Look at this guy then. He's not wearing a dopey ass shirt either, because he's a real hippy hanging out at woodstock, and he isn't wearing any shirt at all, son!

Men do not want to look stupid. The options for sewing dude stuff will almost invariably make you look positively imbecillic. This is a damned shame. Lots of things about sewing are manly, even by the most neanderthal, archaic, family-values, poo-smelling standards. Sewing itself requires good hand-eye coordination, and a knack for geometry don't come amiss. It takes stamina. Trust me, once you've spent 4 hours wrestling 2 layers of canvas, 2 layers of fabric and 14 yards each of boning and bone casing through a machine about 150 times, you begin to understand why corsetmaking guilds in the 16th century were exclusively male: upper body strength. (Well, and trade monopolies, but you know.) Traditionally, all tailors were men. But there is much in sewing for the modern man as well! Sewing machines are manly. There are moving parts, greasy pistons, immanent danger of serious bodily harm by electric shock, blunt force and sharp objects moving at astonishing speed. There is engineering history, metallurgy, and industrial design.

And here's the kicker: sewing offers the potential ability for an otherwise unimpressive individual to slay the object of his desire by demonstrating competence on a daily basis.

Gentlemen, start your machines.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

An Old Chicken Recipe

This is good if you like sweet-and-salty things. I make a lot of snarky comments about the deli I used to work at when I was in my 20's, and indeed they were in the vanguard of Ann Arbor foodie hipsteremia, but they had some good recipes. They called this "venetian" chicken, but what a chicken ever had to do with Venice more than any other place I can't tell you.

Venetian Chicken

Chicken. I used some frozen thigh meat, which is cheap, but this would actually be better with skin-on birds. The skin browns better.

Marinate the chicken. If it's frozen, put on some salt, pepper & olive oil, and let it thaw in the fridge for a few days. The night before you want to cook it, mix equal parts cider & sherry vinegar with a teaspoon of dried marjoram and a couple cloves of crushed garlic and coat the meat with it.

The next day, assemble some prunes, yellow dried figs, and mixed olives. Do get some half decent olives, but try not to have them be the kind that have a lot of herbs and things on them, it'll throw off the flavor of the dish. Don't be tempted to get dry cured olives either, they're way too salty!

Pour off most of the marinade and put the chicken in a baking pan. Cut the prunes & figs in half and throw them in along with the olives. The amounts are up to you. I used about 8 or 10 each of the fruits, and about 1/2 a container of TJ's mixed greek olives, the ones from the refrigerator case. Just the olives, not the brine. Try to get about half the fruit and olives under the meat and half on top.

Bake covered at 350 for about 30 minutes if, like mine, there's no skin on your bird. You can leave the cover off if it's skin-on, since the meat won't dehydrate as much. After the first 30 min, uncover the dish and bake another 15 minutes. For my 3 thighs, that was enough to get the chicken actually cooked, but there was still a lot of liquid in the pan. So I pulled it out and poured the drippings into a saucepan and set it on medium-hot to reduce into a glaze. Then I cranked the oven heat to 500, got all the fruit piled on top of the meat, sprinkled a light dusting of white sugar over the dish and browned it for another 10 minutes or so. Once there were little crispy looking spots on the olives and figs, I dumped the glaze back on the chicken and said the hell with it. If you get to the point where your birds are cooked and you don't feel that there is too much juice in the pan, just skip the part about making a reduction. I do wish I'd had some parsley to go with this, I'm having that midwinter craving for green crunchy bitter things.

When I worked at the deli, I made this with whole birds. The procedure is roughly the same, but you need to loosely stuff the cavity with some of the fruit, and adjust the cooking time to account for the thickness of a whole carcass. It makes a neato looking presentation, especially if you put some rosemary branches under it  when you serve it, but having the chicken cut up already both speeds cooking and gets the meat more evenly seasoned. I bet it would be fun to do with cornish hens!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hoppin John

I have no idea why you're supposed to eat blackeyed peas on new years day. Fortunately, I happen to like them, so I made up a bunch. Technically, 'Hoppin John' is a version of beans & rice made with  blackeyed peas, but I'm pretty sure that it's the peas, not the rice, which are the luck-inducing factor. I was feeling a trifle disorganized on the first of the year, and didn't get this post up that day, but I don't guess anybody else will care either.

Cook these the same way you would green beans, with bacon, onion, and salt. They take about an hour and a half, if you use the frozen fresh ones that you can get in little baggies at Fred Meyer.

They are supposed to be eaten with collard greens and cornbread, and although I like cornbread, I can do without collards. Nothing against collards, but they are a bit fiddly, and I would just as soon eat some other green.

I seem to remember saying on new year's eve that, during January, it's totally valid to feel that  it is a worthy goal to a) eat breakfast before noon, and b) wear pants before breakfast. I just want you all to know that today, I have done those things. Barely.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Chocolate Hazelnut Macaroon Cobbler

This is one of the least photogenic foods I have ever made, which is unfortunate because it is also one of the most sumptuously decadent things I can remember having eaten. I got the idea from a recipe I saw online for a chocolate peanut butter thing. I think the original has about 3 too many things going on at once. 2 kinds of chocolate, peanut butter, coffee, cinnamon... So I pared it down a little. Also, the original recipe makes a zillion of these guys, and even a half recipe is more than I know what to do with. Alas. Here's my version:

for the topping:

1 scant cup packed brown sugar
2 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped pretty small
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

for the dough:

1 1/4 cups AP flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
about 1/2 cup half & half
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

for the pans:

about 6 oz semisweet chocolate, broken or chopped up
about 3/4 cup hazelnut butter
about 1 to 1 1/2 cups half & half

I recommend using 8, 4 or 6-oz ramekins or oven safe teacups to cook these in. The original instructions say to use 8-oz ramekins, and I think that makes them larger than one person can reasonably eat. Not saying that I don't want to, but...sigh. Go for half-cup size servings. You can always have another if one is not enough. Also, teacups would make them look fancier.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Oil the baking dishes and set them on a cookie sheet, because the contents will overflow a bit.

Combine the topping ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Put about 1 oz broken chocolate and a generous tablespoon of hazelnut butter in each baking dish.

In a mixing bowl, sift the dry ingredients for the dough together. Add the liquid ingredients and mix the dough quickly until all the dry ingredients are fully incorporated. It should make a very stiff dough, about twice as thick as cake batter. Spoon even portions into each ramekin. Don't worry about pushing the dough down too much or covering the pan evenly. It's actually better if the dough has holes in it and sticks up a bit. Divide the topping over the cobblers, and add enough half & half to each one to fill the dish to within about 1/4 inch from the top.

The original recipe said to cook them for 45 minutes, but if you make them smaller like this, 30 minutes should be sufficient. They should still be a little bubbly around the edges when they're done. Let them cool for a bit before you serve them with some ice cream.


I used these things from Trader Joe's called semi-sweet callets. They come in little ziploc baggies and very helpfully have a thing on the label that says "6 disks = 1oz". I put about 5 or 6 broken ones in the bottom of each 8 oz dish, you may have to adjust the quantity if you use smaller ramekins.

I also made my own hazelnut butter, because I couldn't find any at the store, and in any case, I suspect that if I had, it would have cost an arm and a leg to buy more than I could use. So I got a little baggie of toasted, unsalted hazelnuts from the nut man at the farmer's market, and put them in the mini-prep. Use the grind setting and process them until they achieve the texture you want. You'll probably have to stir it up a few times, and add a touch of salt. I made mine weeks ago, around the time of the spinach apple salad, and kept the hazelnut butter in the fridge.