Friday, May 24, 2013


today is a double-post day, it seems.  the only reason for that is as i was looking back on my blog posts i found this one.  it had an awesome title, but nothing else in it at all so i had to figure out what i had intended for it to be.  i think that i meant to post my spaghetti sauce recipe.  amd i also need to try and think about what story i had to segue into the recipe.  i did come up with one-probably not the one i had intended to use, but interesting anyway. 

when i was a kid, i hated my mom's spaghetti.  hated it with a passion.  if that was what we were having for dinner, i would do my best to beg and cry for just plain noodles with no sauce please mom please if i eat this i am gonna throw up.  (this never worked, and often resulted in eating spaghetti for a lot of days in a row.)  i came up with a lot of reasons why i couldn't eat it: i didn't like tomatoes, it didn't have meatballs, it was too lumpy, it had too much seasoning, etc, etc, etc.  what i really meant, however, was that it wasn't ragu from a can.  all my other friends ate their spaghetti sauce from a can, and i was the only weirdo who's mom made it from scratch and then froze it in batches to use later.  why couldn't we just be a normal family, for pete's sake? 

this mindset of mine didn't just involve spaghetti sauce, but a whole range of food items from macaroni and cheese to mashed potatoes.  my mom was a health nut before it was cool, and made all these items from scratch to increase nutritional value and to save on cost.  (remember, she was feeding an army.) i didn't understand that when i was eight, and simply pined for boxed mac n cheese and instant potatoes, along with that ragu spaghetti sauce.  i was pretty sure that velveeta was also awesome.  and ya know- if i could just eat normal foods, maybe the cool kids would like me more. 

then my mom got a sams club membership, and found out that easy could be cheap, and the army was getting older and eating vast quantities of food, so she started buying the easy stuff.  and for a while, i was in heaven.  but then, slowly but surely, i started missing the good stuff.  i missed spaghetti. and two years later, when i was sixteen, i started to take over cooking the family meals.  and this was the first recipe i asked for.  because there's nothing as wonderful as a homemade spaghetti sauce.  it just took me a while to realise it. 

mom's spaghetti sauce (with only a couple of modifications... a la me.)

2 lbs italian sausage
1 med. onion, diced
6-8 garlic cloves, diced
1 very large can diced tomatoes
2 small cans tomato paste (8oz or 1 16 oz)
Basil- fresh if you can, but dried works well too
Oregano- see above
Red pepper flake
Salt and pepper

brown the sausage together with the onion and garlic.  when everything is browned and softened, add in the tomatoes.  then take the cans the tomatoes came in, and fill them all with water.  add in the water!  (it's so nice that that's all the measuring i do.)  mix it all up, and then add the seasonings.  i usually add the basil and oregano at a 1:1 ratio, about a tablespoon of each.  i think.  add red pepper flake to taste, or don't add it at all.  we like it spicey, so we even get the hot italian sausage.  it's your preference, though.  add about 2 teaspoons of suge- this gets rid of the acidic harshness of the tomatoes.  and don't forget about the salt and pepper.  then bring to a very low simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2-3 hours.  yup.  it's a long time.  i do this in the crockpot sometimes, but if you do that cut the water in half.  when it thickens, it's ready.  it's even better if you cook it the night before, cool it in the fridge, and reheat it.  it also freezes well and is very easy to double, triple, or whatever you can fit in your biggest pot. 


hi there my ducklings.  again, I have to apologise for not writing for so long.  it has been a difficult and strange couple of months.  there has been more than my fair share or sadness and stress, but then again there has been so much joy.  hard adventures have turned into happiness, and stressful situations are now exciting.  i know that i am being pretty vague, but i have to be.  all i can say is that i have cried along with close friends and laughed with them too.  i've worried and stressed about my life situations, only to have them turn out wonderfully.  i got to visit an incredibly beautiful place for a really hard reason.  and yet, like all things, the sun has come out, trees are green, and summer is coming.  i am so happy today, the sky is blue, and the birds are singing.  but....

i found out happy/sad news this wednesday.  happy- beacuse i have a new job!!!  i finally have been promoted to a higher position with the library district, and i couldn't be more thrilled.  i will be doing things i love- working with kids and teens, serving the public by helping with reference questions, and hopefully getting to use my spanish skills to help the community.  it doesn't hurt that it pays more, either- and i am not driving an hundred and fifty miles (yup, that's what i have been doing) every day.  i am excited.  but i found out this wednesday (two days ago) and will be starting my new job on tuesday (six day notice).  which means that today is my last day here.  i haven't even really had time to process what that means. 

i will miss it.  i will miss driving to these beautiful places and coming to these awesome schools.  i will miss my kids- especially the one i'm teaching to knit, and who i help with finding all the classics on her reading list.  i will miss gossiping with teachers and community members who stop in for a book and a chat.  i will miss kindergarten hugs.  i will not miss the middleschoolers all that much, but such is the nature of the age.  i was thinking this morning as i was driving to the mountains, "this is the last time!  how can this be the last time i drive here and see this amazing place?" 

honestly, i shouldn't be so sad- this would have been my last day for the summer anyway, as the school is undergoing construction and we wouldn't have been in there anyway.  i was going to be doing storytimes though, and one of my awesome coworkers has volunteered to do them.  i know my kiddos will be in good hands.  i just hope that i will be able to drive out just once and see them again.  i'll have to make a point of visiting. 

bittersweet.  that has been my life this spring.  as much as i look forward to my future, i am sad about what i am leaving.  it's a hard thing, this change.  i will be happy- all the way happy- soon.  and hopefully, it will mean that i am back to writing about my silly life, the food i make, and the things i knit.  i have missed it. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

squah soup and good behavior

so, at christmas santa gave me a cuisinart immersion blender, because i had been very good.  sadly, this particular santa was not my husband, who instead gave me a really fancy yarn bag- also because i had been very good.  (i think the real explanation is that i am incredibly sneaky and fooled em.)  i have really taken to my lovely silver blender, and i can tell you that it makes really amazing guacamole, and with its attachments whisks like a pro and makes hummus.  i am pleased.  the best thing it does- the very very best thing, is to make me blended soups like i had never dreamed possible. 

i had been sitting on cloud nine, my blender and me, when i stumbled across yet another wonderful thing, this time at costco.  in case you're wondering, all good things come from costco.  i found, in the produce section, prepackaged butternut squash cubes.  i have always wanted to make butternut squash soup, but have been too daunted by the work involved in cooking, peeling, and cubing the squash that i never attempted it.  and now?  now, costco has done the work for me, and all i have to do is cook it up and blend it.  i even only have to dirty one pan, and that is the best news for everybody in my house.  (i think it is the job of the person who enjoyed the meal but didn't cook it to clean up, and my boys think that i intentionally dirty every pan in the house to make them suffer.  they're on to me.)

so i made this recipe.  it's gluten free, and in its original state dairy free as well.  you could sub out the chicken stock and put in veggie, and it would be vegan.  takes about thirty minutes, which is really nice when you just want to eat and not mess with fancy.  tastes good, too.  serve with whatever you personally think goes with soup- i liked sesame rice crackers and a nice cheese. 

1 package butternut squash from costco- i would guess about 2 lbs
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic or to taste, diced
6-8 cups chicken stock  (i used water and chicken base- 2 tablespoons of base)

brown the onion and garlic in oil til tender.  add the squash and stock, and cook for about 30 minutes or until the squash is really soft.  this time varys.  check on it occasionally!  once the squash is tender, puree using an immersion blender, or blend in batches.  then season with:

2-3 tablespoons curry powder (or to taste, kids don't always like this taste)
1-2 tablespoons honey or real maple syrup
1 teaspoon thyme
salt and pepper

let cook for another little bit to thicken up if you added too much broth (this does happen, just cook it down) and then serve with whatever you think is tasty.  i think plain greek yogurt would be the best thing in the world to top this soup, but it's darn tasty by itself too.  enjoy!  and if you haven't got one yet, be very good and have santa send you an immersion blender.  it's worth the sacrifice.

Monday, February 4, 2013

quinoa is good for the soul

hey there ducklings!  this one will be just a quick post with a recipe.  folks were clamoring for this, so here it is:  quinoa with broccoli, sausage, and feta cheese.  (I have to admit that I can't take credit for this recipe in it's entirety.  my D&D pal made something similar the other night, and i liked it and thought that i could make it even better, so i tried.  he takes the credit for the inspiration, and i'll take the credit for adding the lemon and feta.  i think that's fair.  i also think that in a pinch, you could use brown rice, or leftover white rice, or couscous if you can have gluten in this, and it would be just as good.)


1 pound chicken sausage links (I got the feta and spinach links that are available at my local health food store.  i know whole foods has em too.  you should get these.. they're amazing, and when you cook them up are more like meatballs than sausage), sliced

1/2 white onion, diced

1-2 cups quinoa (depends on how starchy you want it)

2-4 cups chicken broth

2 heads broccoli, chopped, or a bag of florets

juice and zest of one lemon

feta cheese crumbles

salt and pepper

Prepare your quinoa as instructed, using the chicken broth as the liquid.  i cheat and cook it in my rice cooker.  my rice cooker also doubles as a steamer, so i make the broccoli while the grain is cooking, but you can throw it in the cooker if you don't mind mushy, or steam it or microwave it as you see fit to get it cooked the way you want it.  while that's cooking, sautee the sausage and onions in olive oil.  i put the sausage in first to get a bit of a sear on it, and so that it would stay together.  once you put the onions in, turn the heat down a bit and let them cook slowly.  you want them to really get sweet and soft, so it's worth the wait.  plus, you have to wait for the quinoa to finish cooking.  once that's done, throw it and the broccoli in with the sausage and onions.  zest up the lemon, and add it and the juice to the party.  heat til all the way warm, which should only take a minute.  then throw on the feta cheese and serve.  i didn't salt this at all, but if that's what you feel it needs, season to taste. 

there ya go!  healthy, easy quick weeknight dinner full of protein and veggies, and completely gluten free.  and very versatile!  mix it up and add different veggies, meats, cheeses.... endless possibilities.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

what i wanted to post

this is what i wanted to post today: lovely pictures of all my christmas knitting, beautifully posed by my silly little tinsel christmas tree, and happy pictures of various family members wearing said knitting.  i wanted to post pictures of my epic peppermint bark making adventure, inspired by that most famous of knitting bloggers, yarnharlot.  i also wanted to post some pictures of my new year's eve party and its ensuing madness too.  why haven't i posted such things, you ask?  because the pictures are on my stupid smartphone, and i can't get em off of it, because i am here in the middle of nowhere working and there's no signal.  poop on my smartphone, i say.  it slices, it dices, it takes better photos than my actual camera- then holds them hostage when i really want them.  maybe it wants a present?  i could knit it a cozy.  so anyways.... i will attempt to paint word pictures instead, so that you can have some idea of my nice little holiday. 

#1: peppermint bark.  i spent way too much money on peppermint bark, by the way.  i took my little self and my husbot over to whole foods to get the chocolate and white chocolate and peppermint for the bark, and i found the chocolate just fine.  i then spent a very grumpy half an hour searching a very busy gourmet food store three days before christmas for peppermint candies.  any peppermint candies.  i found candy canes, but they were in such "creative" flavors as pomegranite (why?) and butterscotch, and would not do.  turns out that the entire store had no peppermint candies at all- three days before christmas.  so then i yelled at the cashier lady.  i'm ashamed about that.  i fumed a bit, and then went to a different, non-gourmet food store and found my candies in about two seconds.  of course.  the bark making, though, was easy and amazingly good.  if you could see the pictures, you would want some- white chocolate and crushed peppermints on the bottom, dark chocolate ganache in the middle, more white chocolate and peppermints on top.... and no, i didn't eat it all.  i gave a good bit to a dear friend who's just started eating gluten free due to an auto-immune disease, and shared with the fam... but you do have to understand, i can't eat a lot of christmas goodies.  i didn't feel all that ashamed about the bark.

#2: christmas knitting.  so here's the rundown on the stuff- i'll post pictures if my smartphone ever wises up.  mom = purple handwarmers.  i think she likes them, but i don't know.  dad = blue cabled handwarmers.  again with the thinking he likes them.  both of my parents are sensitive to wool, so i had to make em out of acrylic.  sigh.  sisters = blue and green colorwork hats in three different patterns.  they really like them, and like that they match without copying each other.  i didn't think that it would be such a big deal when you're 22, 16, and 11, but apparently it is.  huh.  my special brother = stripey socks.  he loves them, and is currently pairing them with overalls and bright green rubber clogs from ikea.  i love that kid.  my hip brother = dude beanie.  he says it's warm.  my friends got an assortment of socks, and they like them too.  my MIL = slipper socks, and hopefully they're something she likes.  they're also my first toe-up socks, so they were an adventure that nobody cared about but me.  but it's really fun to learn a new knitting thing, so i kept on calling the husbot over to show him.  i know he thought it was at least as important as i did, and didn't resent me at all for interrupting his video games.  i also made my oldest little sister convertable mittens and a cowl out of some crazy sparkly cotton yarn that she will use for running.  whew.  i think i'll go make myself a sweater now.

#3: new years party.  not a whole lot to say about that one, except that to get the full effect you have to imagine a bunch of nerds, a bunch of alcohol, and the game apples to apples.  extrapolate at will- and then add falling down, fajitas, and fireworks.  yup.  a great evening.  (the pics are very blurry.  i think my smartphone was feeling its cups a little by that point.)

next post will have the really good sugar cookie recipe i came up with to satisfy my cravings without getting all wheat bellied out.  and hopefully pictures, even if they're of a broken telephone.

Monday, January 7, 2013

C is for Curry

so a wee bit ago (like the beginning of the week, or the end of last week, or something... days tend to run together when you're me), i happened to mention on facebook that i was going to try and make a chicken curry stew for dinner, and make it in the crock pot for maximun laziness.  i didn't really think anything of this mention, i mean- it was on facebook.  if i'm mentioning something on facebook, i usually don't think too much of it. it's not like i'm sixteen and am concerned that the boy i like might read all of my posts, so i make sure that all my posts are pictures of myself taken from way up high and slightly to the right.  nope, i'm an adult, thanks.  so when i had a large response asking me about my curry stew and if it was good, i was a little surprised.  it was good, in fact.  quite good, and really really easy.  i guess a lot of folks are a bit burned out from the holidays and needs something simple and filling for dinner, not to mention cheap.  this fits the bill nicely.  so i've decided to write up the recipe that i used here, and feel free to take, use, and change as you see fit.  after all, it's crock pot stew. the potential for variations are endless.

Coconut Chicken Curry Stew (almost alliteration... sigh.)

3 chicken breasts
1 can of coconut milk
1 can of chicken broth
1/2 onion, diced
4 russet potatoes, peeled and diced large
2 red bell peppers, diced
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 T garam masala (this is imperitve for good flavor)
1T curry powder
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1 t garlic power
salt to taste

put the chicken breasts in the crockpot.  add the can of coconut milk, the broth, onions, potatoes, and spices (execpt salt. do that later, because you really shouldn't taste stuff with raw chicken.)  cook on high for 4 hours or so.  at that point, add the rest of the veggies and cook another two hours.  take out the chicken, and shred with two forks, then add back in.  salt to taste, and serve with yogurt and basmati rice, or naans, or crackers, or nothing.  it's good by itself too.  i figure you could add cauliflower, which i would have if i had any, or any other veggie that stands up to slow cooking.  don't forget to use the garam masala though.  it's what gives the stew it's clove-y cinnamon-y flavor.  you can get it pretty much anywhere in the spice aisle, but i get mine at the indian grocery store if i can.

so there you facebook folks go.  my stew.  it's lovely- so lovely i think i'll make it again next week.  it's so good i actually ate leftovers.  need i go on?

ps- i finished all the christmas knitting before christmas.  it was a holiday miracle.  everybody liked it too.

Friday, December 7, 2012

it's time for crazy!!

sorry, ducklings- i feel awful that it's been so long since we chatted.  i've had to focus on some personal stuff, like work being hard, and helping out friends, and dealing with my usual and complete breakdowns in the face of change.  so anyways.  hopefully, i've gotten all my kinks worked out at my job (me + new boss sometimes = corrective action for me.  i should be used to it by now, but i still am ashamed that it happens.  i'm blaming it on this job being the first new one i've had in five years, and it being so close to the previous job that i get cocky and make stupid mistakes.  lesson learned.  i'm moving on now.) and at home (new job also = new pay schedule, which means that i've been broke as a joke for the last three months.  hopefully, lesson learned there too... plus it helps one's marital status if one can in fact pay the bills.  sigh.  thankfully, i'm not single, so i guess my husband does in fact love me.) and with my friends (change is good, even for them.. accept it and move on!  be happy!) so i can now focus on the holidays.  and the holiday knitting. 

the broke as a joke situation means that i'm doing stash-diving knitting for christmas this year, which is fine.  i have a bunch of really lovely odds and ends stored aways from previous projects- from mercerized cotton to alpaca to actually nice acrylic (although the price you pay to get really nice acrylic is high enough that i should have just bought natural fiber... i'm occasionally a dummy) so everybody is getting one-skein wonders for christmas.  the crazy thing- the nuts thing- the thing that makes me rethink medication, is that i'm making 14 projects this year.  dear lord- shoot me now.  i do have seven of them done, but seven still to go, and i'm wondering if they're just not gonna happen.  plus the stuff i get for folks that hate knitting (they're big jerks).  it's nuts-making.  thankfully i have plenty of downtime at work.  i have to date made three pairs of socks, three hats, and a covertable glove/cowl set.  i have to go: fingerless gloves, a small scarf, and five hats.  the hats may not be hats by the end... it depends on my mood.  the plus side?  not having to go the mall for any christmas presents this year.  (my "too cool" brothers might just be "too cool" for gifts, is all i say.) 

so keep tuned for crazy!  it's bound to happen, as i'm just a few inches away from the edge to begin with.  i'll also maybe have a recipe for you in the near future.  who knows?  it could all happen.  i'm staying positive, right up until i'm not any more.