baby shower

I hosted a baby shower for my sister-in-law recently, and it was pretty fun. It was an afternoon tea, complete with homemade clotted cream. No specified colors, but she wanted owls, so I did yellow and lavender (and owls, of course). Decorations included paper and tissue paper decorations, an owl mobile, and foam balls covered in fresh flowers (purple carnations and yellow daisies)

Food: four types of tea sandwiches cut into owl shapes (mango chutney chicken salad, cream cheese and cucumber, radish and butter with sea salt, and bacon tomato); three hors d’ouevre (bacon-wrapped dates (stuffed with blue cheese), mini caprese salads on toothpicks, crispy salmon bites with a yogurt-dill sauce); homemade scones (regular and blueberry) with clotted cream and sliced strawberries; and four desserts (berry tartlets, homemade petits fours, sugar cookies, and chocolates shaped like owls and baby feet… and dinosaurs, because why not?). Drinks: four hot teas (black, green, herbal, chai), coffee, three iced teas (unsweetened, sweetened, and herbal), and homemade lemonade with smashed strawberries. Everything was gluten free (Canyon Bakehouse bread), and I had some dairy-free options as well.

We played three games and had two activities. One of the games was guessing the contents of a diaper bag by touch. I bought a diaper bag with owls on it, and the contents of it included ten items: diaper, burp cloth, nasal aspirator, baby powder, wipes, sunbonnet (which I made according to this pattern), changing pad, rattle, pacifier, and bottle. The mother of a ten-month-old baby guessed nine out of the ten correctly. Another game was putting a paper plate on your head and drawing a baby on it with a crayon. Silly but fun. And the third game was guessing the baby animals based on the adult. The prizes for the games were pedicures in a jar (sadly, no pictures). I had labels on them, and each jar contained two colors of nail polish and the five-piece pedicure set from the Dollar Store (heck yeah). Our activities were writing messages to be opened at each month of the baby’s life and writing messages on diapers for midnight diaper changes.

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Update on slow cooking

I have three days left for my month-long challenge, and while I’ve had a blast, I’ll be glad to start using my slow cooker only a few times a week instead of every day. It’s produced SO MUCH FOOD. I did get a 1970s-era 3 1/2 quart Crock-Pot, so that will be nice for smaller quantities of food. Here’s the list of things I’ve made since my last post:

  • creme caramel
  • pomegranate pork
  • fallen cheese souffle
  • chicken pot pie
  • sausage and vegetables medley
  • butternut bisque
  • honeyed pears with goat cheese and thyme
  • halibut with Maitre d’Hotel butter
  • Alsatian lentil soup with bratwurst
  • hot buttered rum

I’ve been making notes after each recipe so I know how long the prep took, any modifications I made, how long it cooked, how it tasted, and whether it’s worth making again. Oh, I also roasted cauliflower, but not in the slow cooker. That was super delicious.

As I said, I have three days left, but five recipes I still want to make. They are:

  • crustless vegetable quiche
  • lamb with artichokes and olives
  • acorn squash
  • lemon pots de creme
  • ginger creme brulee

It’s hard to choose a favorite from the month, though Carl seemed to rave most about the Rousillon meatballs, the pomegranate pork, and the two recipes with whole chickens. I have learned a few things – it is indeed possible to overcook things, namely fish; the spiciness in chili will intensify over time; and I can make so many more dishes than I ever thought in the slow cooker. It’s been a pretty delicious month.

I don’t know why, but this post feels like a book report. Maybe it’s because of the lists… you know, a recitation of the main points without much judgment. Hmm.

slow cooking month

Merry Christmas! I thought it was time for another post after such a very long radio silence. I wanted to let y’all know about my month of slow cooking. I’m over halfway through and having a blast. I’ve used it every day except the first two Wednesdays (because we were rather overloaded with leftovers). I’m working from three sources – Michele Scicolone’s The French Slow Cooker, Cook’s Illustrated The Best Slow and Easy Recipes, and Stephanie O’Dea’s blog. So far, I’ve made:

  • garbure (cabbage and bean soup)
  • roast chicken with potatoes, lemon, and thyme
  • chicken in the pot with aioli
  • Povencal spinach meatballs
  • Rousillon meatballs
  • bouillabaisse
  • salmon with tomatoes and mint (not awesome)
  • bacon and Gruyere pain perdu
  • cauliflower and potatoes Catalan
  • bittersweet chocolate creams
  • rice pudding
  • barbecued brisket
  • salsa chicken and black bean soup
  • stuffed peppers
  • 21-ingredient chili
  • chicken broth (today’s task)
  • mulled wine

And then not in the slow cooker but cooked slowly: baked bananas and slow-braised carrots. The French book is wonderful and has turned out the best results, I think.

Nearly everything has turned out deliciously. And I’m having a great time. So great a time that we decided to get a 1970s-era one as well (they cook slower and have great reputations) so that I can cook smaller amounts of food (efficiently) instead of the very large amounts I am currently producing. Carl has also been enjoying it for obvious reasons. 🙂

I’m also working on perfecting a gluten-free French bread recipe. It had quite a bit of millet flour in the original recipe (from one of my GF cookbooks), and I think it’s the millet that has just a little bit of a strange taste. The texture of it is absolutely fantastic though. I’ve tried substituting buckwheat flour for the millet, but that didn’t work out. Today, I’m going to substitute almond flour and perhaps coconut flour for the millet. We’ll see how it goes. I thought of substituting quinoa flour, but a friend of mine who cooks tons of GF stuff recommended against it. She’s also working on perfecting the same recipe. I think between us, we’ll figure it out. And then I’ll post the recipe because it will be AWESOME.

On another but related note, I do have the best husband ever. He is supportive of me and kind and smart and just absolutely wonderful. He came to two church services last night (out of three) at two different churches and said he would rather be there for/with me than be home alone. I definitely got the best husband.

And now off to do laundry and other domestic-y things. Merry Christmas!

gardening excitement

Carl and I have been weeding the garden like mad the last few days. Out of the 500 square feet, a good 150 (if not more) of it had weeds. I assume it’s because we brought in a bunch of topsoil last year, but all the same, it’s quite annoying. I think most all of it is clear of weeds now, thank goodness. And we have vegetables growing! Some tomatoes on about half the plants, a few bell peppers on a couple of the plants, butternut squash, some melons (I don’t remember which kind I planted there, so we’ll just guess when they’re ripe), zucchini, cucumbers, and artichokes! One of the squash plants has started annexing the schoolyard behind our house, which is quite fun. Squash extended about ten feet into the schoolyard a couple years ago, causing the mowers to mow around it. The butternut squash plant in question is growing out of the compost, so it’s terrifically happy and producing lots of squash. The lettuce has just about gone to seed, as has the arugula. I don’t know what’s going on with the kale – it’s nearly inedible from being so tough, so if anyone has suggestions on what to do with it, let me know. I think that about covers what we are growing – a few more types of squash and melons, and then the asparagus is nice and bushy, so lots of nutrients are getting to the roots. And the potatoes and sweet potatoes are coming along nicely.

Last night, we had lambchops from our meat CSA in a marinade of lemon juice, garlic, and oregano, and we had roasted beets. The beets are better when they’re wrapped in foil and roasted that way, but these were okay. It was our first time having lambchops – they were absolutely delicious, and I look forward to having them again. I made GF crepes for breakfast – also delicious.

All in all, life is good, and I’m happy with how things are going. I haven’t done much sewing recently, but I’ll get back to that.

another long absence

I’m sure you’ve all been dying to know what I’ve been doing for the last six months, so here’s the update. I left my job and started my own firm, so that’s cool. I’m doing estate planning, though right now, I’m doing pretty much anything. In February, I started a bunch of seeds, and this year, I decided to do better than last year, where all my seedlings either died or ended up really leggy. I got a grow light and some heating pads, and we set up a table in the basement as my grow station. I know what it sounds like, but I promise it’s legit. I’ve planted 5 types of lettuce, spinach (which didn’t germinate, oddly), 5 types of carrots, kohlrabi, arugula, lots of different pepper, dill, parsley, cilantro, basil (a bunch of different kinds), mustard, chives, eggplant (including an African variety – yum), lots of tomatoes, thyme, little strawberries, cucumber, a few different squashes, and other things. I’m SO excited. Some of them have made it into the garden, but a lot of things are still waiting downstairs. I’ve been surprised at how much water they need, but considering the light and the heating pads, I guess I shouldn’t be. Outside, everything seems to be doing really well. Our grapes and (female) kiwi came back (we got a new male kiwi yesterday), the agastache is really happy, we’ve had asparagus, coming up, the raspberries and blueberries are turning into something recognizable, my herb boxes are doing well, and the strawberry patch is blooming. We built another raised bed and planted a bunch of flowers in it. I think Carl is going to build me a basil box to add on to the raised bed. That will be exciting.

I’ve been baking quite a bit as well. I made eggplant parmesan a few weeks ago, which was delicious. And I still make my sourdough bread about once every other week. I’ve progressed to adding rosemary and olive oil or cheese to it. I want to try adding lemon thyme to it as well. I think I’m going to make a double chocolate crumb cake this week, so I’ll keep you all updated.

I have the best husband ever, the dogs are great, and I have independence in my career. Things are going well!