29 October 2008

Cinnamon-Salsa Chicken with Rice and Cauliflower

Another of Sandi Richard's sloppy mess dinners that taste very good. I don't really have anything else to say about it, except that it was good. There was nothing special about it, and I'd probably not serve it to guests, but it was good.

I used leftover rice that got really sticky when I thawed it, so I mashed it into the bottom of a bowl until it stuck in the shape of the bowl and turned it out onto the plate. It sort of looks silly like that, really. Still tasted okay, though.

27 October 2008

Goaty McGoaterson Goat Cheese-Stuffed Pasta

All I can really say about this is that it's a good thing I made a salad because I didn't really eat so much of the pasta. I tried. But that was the goatiest goat cheese I've ever tasted.

This, actually, is a five-cheese stuffed pasta shell: Feta, Parmesan, Mozzarella, Ricotta, and Cottage cheese. Talk about a heart attack in a cute little pasta shell. Well, really, I made a four-cheese stuffed pasta shell. I didn't want to buy ricotta, so I used low-fat cottage cheese in it's place, and I had low-fat everything, really. Extra spinach, less cheese, lower fat cheese. But the feta that I had, I didn't notice when I bought it, but it was actually a goat feta. Feta style chèvre.

I'm pretty hit and miss with goat cheeses. Sometimes I like it. It's particularly nice (I find) if you bake it until it's all melty and then serve it on a salad. But I really, really prefer it in small doses and if it's quite mild.

This was not mild. This was full-on goat. All I could taste was goat. You wouldn't think the one thing that I used the least of would be so very over-powering. But.

I need to go scrub my tongue with a wire brush and some bleach because the taste still hasn't gone away.

ETA: I saved four of these and took them to work for lunch - I work in a grocery store so if I still couldn't stomach them, I'd have options. They were much less goaty the second day, somehow. I ate them mostly cold (just barely warmed in the microwave) and they weren't so bad. In the future, I shall try this with regular feta and see what happens.

25 October 2008

California BLTC

Way back when I used to go to school in Nova Scotia, there were these ridiculously delicious little wraps they'd make in the Cafeteria quite often. They called them California BLTs, which I think had to do with them containing salsa rather than just tomato. Or maybe it had to do with the wrap part. I don't know. In any case, this is probably the only thing I really remember from that cafeteria and probably the only thing worth remembering.

Okay. It's not the only thing I remember, but the other things I remember are everyone stealing milk and the line-ups when they served deep-fried clams. I'm rather scared of seafood, but I let myself get talked into eating a piece of deep-fried clam once and I felt like I had little squirmy clams squirming around in my stomach the rest of the day. Yuck.

Anyway, I'm not terribly sold on bacon. I know some people sort of thing bacon is the one thing you can add to anything and it'll always taste better, but I'm not really a fan of it. It's okay. Maybe twice a year. I'm not sure what my issue with it is because it does taste okay, but I really hate the smell and it's so greasy and... meh.

It's really nice with these, though. Here's a quick recipe:

1 wrap, any flavour
2 or 3 slices of bacon, cooked
1-2 tbsp salsa and/or chopped tomato with hot sauce
1-2 tbsp shredded cheese
1 leaf of lettuce, torn

I usually use both salsa and tomato, though I'm not really sure why. I just like it that way, I guess. So I layered this with lettuce first, then cheese, then salsa, then grape tomatoes, then bacon. I used about half to one teaspoon of Caesar salad dressing smeared along the top edge to help hold it together for the photo, but it's not necessary (and didn't really add much taste). Actually, this would probably be nice with ranch or Caesar dressing inside. Hmm.

Anyway, a tasty, easy supper, which is probably more suited to summer than fall and to lunch rather than dinner.

22 October 2008

Cherry Tomato Lasagna with Ground Bison

Is there anything to be said about a good lasagna? Yum.

I think lasagna recipes are a dime a dozen; everyone's got one and none of them are quite the same. I don't think I've ever made a lasagna the same way twice. (And usually I don't use a recipe, I just do them the way my mom did - meat sauce, cottage cheese, lasagna noodles, and grated cheese layered, then baked, the end.) I've made white lasagnas, I've made lasagnas with spinach, broccoli, ricotta, turkey, chicken, vegetables only. I've made individual rolled up lasagnas. I've made them in bulk and froze them. I haven't made one in ages, though. I can't even remember the last time I had lasagna that didn't come out of a box in the freezer aisle of the grocery store. (And they're never that good.)

This recipe was a little different because it uses fresh cherry tomatoes as a layer, and lamb for the meat sauce. The photo was gorgeous. It intrigued me.

I used bison because it is much easier (and cheaper) to get fresh ground bison here than it is to get fresh ground lamb. In fact, the only place I know of that sells fresh lamb is the market, and I'm not sure that the lamb people man their booth during the week. Fresh bison, on the other hand, can be bought at plenty of large grocery store chains nearby.

In this dish, the bison didn't stand out at all. I found the flavour much more of a background thing, rather hidden by all the cheese and the gorgeous tomato. It's not such a meaty lasagna as some that I've had, but it doesn't taste or have the mouthfeel of a vegetarian lasagna either. It was a much more creamy lasagna than I've probably had before, soft and smooth. And delicious, really.

As I said, I don't typically use a recipe for lasagna, but I might revisit this one anyway.

20 October 2008

Roasted Pork Loin Chop with Salsa-topped Baked Potato, Buttery Carrots and Salad

I've had nearly a week of nothing for dinner but nothing, fast food, beans on toast, or pizza from a box. So I went a little bit all out tonight with lots of sides and delicious things.

Some sad carrots in the bottom of the vegetable drawer, cooked, with a bit of a butter and parsley. Tomatoes and cucumbers with the most delicious lemony, garlicky dressing ever. A small baked potato with slightly spicy salsa. In other words: Vegetables! Just what I've been missing this past week.

I mean... my last photo was on the 14th, when I did have vegetables. But then after that was at least a day or two of nothing at all, one McDonald's chicken nuggets and fries dinner, a meal at Nicastros (potato skins - hold the vegetables! no onions or peppers - and chicken fingers), canned beans on toast (the kind with tomato sauce, but no meat products), and pizza, which did have spinach and mushrooms on it.

It's good that I was eating fruit and salad at work for lunch, but still. That's just kind of ridiculous. It's no wonder I've been feeling so rundown. It's no wonder I kept piling more of the salsa on my potato.

Anyway, the pork part of tonight's dinner was ever-so-slightly overcooked, but was based off a recipe in Sandi Richard's newest book, which might maybe be called Dinner Survival. It's actually a recipe for an all-day pork roast, but I don't need a roast that serves 8-9 people, and I don't think a single pork loin chop would do terribly well in the oven all-day, even at low low temperatures. So I gave this a quick browning on the stove top and then finished it in the oven. I left it a bit too long as I based the cooking time on a recipe I made half an age ago that had a much thicker chop. It was pretty tasty, even over-cooked, and of course the vegetables were divine, so I'm happy anyway.

16 October 2008

Ghosties and Bats and Pumpkins

My most recent crafting has been dealing with felt, rather than my usual quilting cotton. I don't particularly like felt, but it's good for projects like this one. Projects, that is, that look like they were designed and executed by 8 year olds! Yay!

I don't usually decorate for Halloween, but somehow I got the urge this year and I thought... garlands. A garland would be nice. Then I whittled down potential images to these three - bats, ghosts, and pumpkins.

Altogether there are three full strands of them - ghost, bat, pumpkin, ghost - plus a fourth smaller one. (I messed up one of the pumpkins and threw it away, so the fourth string only has a bat and two ghosts - I had a lot more white felt than black or orange.) The third strand isn't visible in the picture, and the fourth isn't hanging up right now. I want to put it in the skinny window beside the front door, but I haven't figured out how to attach it yet.

I sort of think they look like drawings a kid in elementary school would come up with, but that's okay. It's Halloween! And also, less morbid than the decorations in front of this one house on the way home from work: they've got toddler sized chalk outlines of bodies on their sidewalk.

I think the bats are my favourite. I stitched their eyes on with orange embroidery thread, which I borrowed from my sister's collection of scraps leftover from cross-stitch projects.

More stitching with embroidery thread. I don't like that you can see my strings inside the ghost, but what can you do? (Other than use more layers..)

Sperm ghosties?

Please do not look at my crappy machine stitching :D These were meant to have leaves beside the stem, but I got lazy. (They were going to have proper stems, too, but I got lazy and decided the tab to hang them would be stem enough. It's not, but until I figure out a way to attach leaves, it'll have to do.)

14 October 2008

Ginger Lime Chicken with Sauteed Zucchini and Mushrooms

It's too bad really that this isn't a more impressive looking dinner, because it did taste very good. The lime is a nice bright taste with a spark of chili (sweet chili sauce and I also added some red pepper flakes) and of course the ginger.

I was going to make a pea pilaf, with cumin and onion, but I forgot the cumin and it turned out I had no peas. Huh. I could have sworn... Anyway, it was fine with just the onion in the rice, even if it was more boring that way. Peas probably wouldn't have suited the ginger-lime anyway.

This is another recipe from that new cookbook I've got by Sandi Richard. It's still in the kitchen (and I'm still not) and I still can't remember what it's called. But one of these days I'll remember to make a note of it so I can mention it here.

I'm sort of slowly working my way through the first week of recipes, this and the potato soup and a chili sauce to serve on pasta, which I ate on a baked potato and didn't photograph because... it's chili. Tomorrow will be pork, though I'm going to do a pork loin chop rather than a proper pork roast, and then after that another of her ugly (but usually tasty) chicken dishes of indeterminate origin containing dried fruit and condiments like salsa. With any luck, it'll be interesting, anyway.

11 October 2008

Baked Potato-Cheddar Cheese Soup

This is a sort of... slightly lighter version of baked potato-cheddar cheese soup, with more broth than cream, skim milk, and low-fat cheddar cheese. It tasted nice, if a bit too cheesy, but even without all the extra cream and full-fat cheese, I found it too rich. It didn't take long for it to upset my stomach. (I'm usually okay with dairy, but I eat so little of it that it doesn't generally have a chance to bother me. When I eat too much or eat it in combination, then I tend to react to it. )

I think I would have preferred a soup that was more potato based, a bit more like a chowder, maybe, with just a touch of cheese instead of a cheese soup with baked potato in it, if that makes sense? I suppose I just need to keep looking for different recipes.

Tonight my brother-in-law is making Sour Cream Chicken, which is this slightly nasty looking dish made of chicken legs (skin on, bone in) and cut up potatoes cooked in a whole lot of sour cream and hot sauce/soy sauce/Worcestershire sauce. It tastes ridiculously good and I half wish I'd skipped my soup and stole some of his and my sister's dinner instead.

10 October 2008

Varga Girl Postcards, Pt. 2

These are the last six Varga Girl cards that I created for my Art2Mail exchange. These cards taught me a lot, by the end, about what sorts of shapes and movements work well in silhouette and what doesn't. I think I didn't really think about how shapes translate without the shading that you get in a normal photograph and the loss of detail.

This card is a pretty good example of that, I think. In the original artwork, what you see is a woman with her arm bent back, as if she's scratching her shoulder, but here it looks almost as if she's got an arm amputated at the elbow. She's also wearing a skirt, but her legs look awkward because you don't see anything to define that big blob below her waist. I maybe should have treated her as if she were nude or in a bathing suit and cut in a gap to show the shape of her folded in leg. This one was also a good object lesson in colour - I should have given her a hat that would stand out more against the background, rather than making the flower stand out against the hat. It would have had more impact if she'd worn, for instance, a white hat with a purple flower. Still, I like it. The more I look at some of these cards I'm not totally sold on, the more I like them and am less bothered by these flaws that I can mention.

The thing that I was most scared of with these cards was that they'd come out looking tacky. Like the silhouettes you sometimes see on mudflaps for trucks, all massive chests and tiny waists and not much artistry. This card most reminds me of the mudflap girls because of her position, but I love this card too much to see too strong of a comparison.

This girl is the most plain Jane of my Vargas girls, which a little bit funny because I remember the original being quite saucy. I fought with this fabric for a long while, getting the girl's body to follow the line of flowers. She originally had a white flower in her hair, but it blended too much with the background, so I pulled it off. She needs some sort of spark to make her more visually interesting, so it's a shame about the flower.

Another girl who lost her floral embellishments. I should have put a ribbon in her hair or a flower. Ah well, she's lovely anyway.

Another of the awkwardly shaped girls who taught me about silhouettes. She also taught me that in some respects, Varga didn't have a terribly clear idea about how bodies bend, because I've never managed to recreate that particular arm movement. Her bent back arm looks almost like a large brimmed hat, rather than an arm, and I think I like that explanation. I so love thte fabric in the background of this. Gorgeous.

Here is another of my very subdued, quiet seeming cards. Like in the other card with a floral background, I had to fight to get my girl to stand/sit in just the right position. I didn't want either girl to look as if she were farting flowers. For all its quietness, I've loved this card since i first got a good look at it.

It was a little bit sad to leave my Varga girls behind when I moved on to my final collection of cards. I think they turned out amazingly well. I've had more requests for the woman in the polka dot sweater than I quite know what to do. If only they didn't take so long to sew.

05 October 2008

Meat Feast (BBQ Pork Ribs)

We had a meat feast at my house today.

I had never made ribs before, but a good friend of mine has this recipe for ribs that she (and her mom) swears by, and so I got it off her this summer to try out when, someday, I finally got around to buying ribs.

I think I must have got scared about the end of barbecue season because I finally bought a package of ribs a couple weeks back when my work had them on sale, even though it was raining and it clearly wasn't going to happen just then. Fortunately, we've had some ridiculously good fall weather and I did manage to get them in.

Anyway, here is the recipe. Honestly, I can't explain just how good these were - the rub kind of tastes a lot like salt and pepper wings from the pub and the barbecue sauce, which tastes far too sweet before you cook it, complements it perfectly. So. Good.

Faye's Mom's Ribs Recipe

2 racks back ribs (~2-2 1/2 lbs or 1kg)
2 oz. rib spice (~60g) (About half of the following recipe, but I used about 3/4)
2 cups water (500ml)

Spice ribs liberally on both sides with the rib spice. Place ribs in shallow pan, bone side down. Add water to the pan, cover with foil tightly, and place in a preheated (300F/150C/Gas Mark 2) oven and bake 2 hours.

Let ribs cool for 10-15 min and sauce both sides. Wrap tightly with wrap or store in a container and place in the fridge until you're ready to grill them or barbecue on medium heat until re-heated through, adding more of the barbecue sauce as you go.

Rib Spice:
2 tbsp salt (30ml)
1 tsp cumin (5ml)
2 tbsp packed brown sugar (30ml)
1 tsp onion powder (5ml)
2 tbsp sugar (30ml)
1 tsp garlic powder (5ml)
2 tsp paprika (10ml)
1/2 tsp cayenne (2ml)
2 tsp black pepper (10ml)

Stir ingredients together until well blended.

BBQ Sauce:
3/4 cup ketchup (175ml)
1/2 cup maple syrup (125ml)
1/4 cup oil (50ml)
3 tsp bourbon (15ml)
2 tbsp cider vinegar (30ml)
3 tbsp dijon mustard (45ml)
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp pepper (5ml)

Whisk together ingredients until well blended.

So my changes. I notice as I'm typing this up that I forgot to include the paprika. I didn't notice anything off about the taste, so I guess if you haven't got any, I wouldn't rush out to get it. It certainly did well without it. I skipped the bourbon because we had none and I didn't want to drive over to the liquor store to see if they had any tiny bottles of it, just for this. Again, I wouldn't rush out to get it. It probably adds a nice flavour, but I don't think it's hurting anything without it. And we didn't have any cider vinegar, so I used rice wine vinegar instead. I don't know why I used that, rather than any of the other vinegars we've got (two different balsamics, white wine, rice wine, sherry wine), but it did work well.


04 October 2008

String Theory postcards

So this is my last series of postcards for my Art2Mail fabric postcard exchange. I had planned to do another series of silhouettes over solid backgrounds, but none of my ideas were working out as I'd hoped and I was getting frustrated so I decided instead just to go in completely the opposite direction.

This last grouping is called 'String Theory' for two reasons. First, this is string quilting - strips (or strings) of fabric sewn one onto the next. Quite typically, they're made of squares where the strings are on the diagonal, and then you sew them into boxes. (Like in this example.) The second reason they're called String Theory is that I was watching Season One of Criminal Minds as I worked on these cards and I happened to be watching... Derailed, which is an episode with a schizophrenic unsub, and Reid starts talking to him about String Theory. So there the name was.

In any case, one of my favourite string quilts that I've ever seen online, well, I can't find now, but it was done in long strips with horizontal strings, so this first postcard is kind of an homage to the gorgeous quilt. Someday I'll do a full-size quilt the same way, but probably far off in the future.

As I was making this card out of primaries, I got stuck on the idea of grouping my colours together, so I had one stack of red scraps, one of blues, one of yellows, greens, purples, browns, black/whites, oranges. Which is more or less what you'll see in the following cards.

This card makes me think of spring with so much green. Everyone who has seen this card remarked on how it looks like a row of fields or maybe lawns.

I really love this card. I know so many quilters who don't like to use browns but I'm such a fan of them. Of course, I nearly never use them either - who knew I had so many brown scraps? Some of these though I'd bought for particular projects - one I think was part of a lion's body in a Griffindor pillow I'd made, and the one with the slightly reddish/coppery spirals was definitely used as the lion's mane.

This is probably least like a string quilt, since it really wound up a bit more like a free-form log cabin. Anyway, I think it's quite pretty.

And then finally this, my least favourite of the series. I'd had an idea about working in a rainbow, but I'm not at all happy with the execution. I'd sort of planned to alternate with all blacks on one side and all whites on the other, but then I didn't have enough black scraps and I wound up combining them, but meh. Should have stuck with a single colour. I guess.

03 October 2008

Varga Girl Postcards

My second series of postcards for my Art2Mail exchange was of 1940s pin-ups, in particular Alberto Vargas pin-ups. I think his pin-ups are such iconic images. For many people, I think he's what people think of when they think of old pin-ups. Beautiful, coy women who are sexy but not in an especially overt way. Of course Vargas did do nudes as well and there is definitely a range from baring very little to baring everything. I didn't use any of his nudes, but even if I had, I don't think you'd be able to tell, with these silhouettes.

I found this particular image of a woman sunbathing surprisingly difficult to execute. Somehow I made my template too large, so I had to resize her feet. I completely flubbed her fingers. And then, too, my attempt to stitch on the bathing suit (if you click through the photo, you can see a larger version of the image which shows more detail) was only somewhat successful. I thought this very basic shape would be so easy, but... not so much. I love, still, the blue background because it looks almost like water, like she could be lying at the beach or beside a pool and thinking about something cold and sweet to drink.

This is another card where my attempts to stitch a bit more form into her body came out only so so. It's not bad at all, I don't think, but a bit awkward around her bum and the size/shape of her left leg. Anyway, I liked the fabric I found in my stash for her hair. I'm not sure anyone else I showed this too was very fond of the brown, but I thought the kind of variance in colour was nice for giving her hair more depth.

Oh, this one is so lovely, I think. I just love how sort of delicate everything is - the fine stripes on the background, the bouquet of flowers, even her pose.

One of my favourites. I love the bright background colour on this one and her pose. In the original, she's holding a very large feathered pen, but I didn't want to try to recreate the shape or texture so I just left it out. Her fingers are a bit awkward with nothing to hold, but I think it works anyway.

This is my favourite of the bunch; I think she's gorgeous. The white pops so beautifully off the red, and I think there's something old-school and perfect about her wearing (taking off? or putting on?) a polka-dot sweater; it seems for me to reflect the time-period these images came from, even if polka dots weren't really in fashion then.

For this card, I wanted something in sort of light and breezy colours, like a windy spring day. I liked the yellow and green together up until I actually fused the hat on and I find it a little bit... meh. The hat, unfortunately, didn't take shape terribly well. (It really needed the depth of shadows.) It doesn't have quite the same pop that the pink and red cards have, but I love her shape and the implied movement of the wind.

01 October 2008

Mac and Cheese with Turkey Sausage

I've been a really lazy cook lately. I have a drawer in the fridge full to the brim with vegetables, but I just don't feel like eating any of them. Normally I eat a lot of vegetables and fruits, but it doesn't seem like so much lately. I've been cooking lazy and I've been cooking comfort.

I've talked before about how my mom didn't really like to cook, and so I don't remember a lot of what she made when I was a kid. I remember tuna casserole and breaded chicken cutlets and sometimes fish and chips from a box and I remember roasts, sometimes, and stew and chili. I also remember macaroni and cheese with fried sliced hotdogs or fried bologna.

I think a little bit that my mom's aversion to cooking, and getting so much of the same thing so often, is part of what really drives me to keep trying new things. I hate the thought of just rotating the same 10 or 12 meals. I'd rather have 10 failures in a row than the same 5 things twice over.

But comfort food seems often to mean things from childhood. Roasts and stews and chili are comforting, but so is that sort of generic fake cheese taste of macaroni and cheese from a box. I so rarely eat the stuff because I really do think it's quite disgusting, but a couple times a year I'll think, yeah, mac and cheese sounds good.

I think the only way to eat a hotdog is either to singe it over a fire or to fry up slices of it. I don't eat hotdogs anymore, at least not the ones made of the crap scrapped up off the killing room floor, so I had to make a bit of an adjustment to the standard "recipe." Instead, I fished a spinach and feta turkey sausage out of the freezer and fried that up instead.

It wasn't at all delicious, but it sort of tasted good anyway. Not that I'm likely to eat it again for, oh, ages, but...