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!

GF communion bread

Another thing: I’m working on a recipe for gluten-free communion bread, preferably unleavened. I’ll post a recipe if I find one I like, but I would love suggestions!

a productive weekend

So I accomplished quite a bit this weekend. Figured out how to sew with Ultrex (a Gore-tex type material), got the guest room ready for a friend (quite a feat, I assure you, as it is also my sewing room), and did a fair amount of cooking. So here it is, in order of increasing good-ness:

salsa: I had a lot of tomatillos and cherry tomatoes from the garden, so I decided to make salsa. I put in about a half-dozen tomatillos, four handfuls of cherry tomatoes, a shallot, two cloves of garlic, a jalapeno, and some lime juice. It is definitely spicy, a little watery (I probably just processed it too long though), but it is okay. I think it will be really good with chicken or fish, so we’ll try that tomorrow night. Mmm.

dog treats: My husband made me breakfast on Saturday, and we had some leftover bacon. I made dog treats with bacon, peanut butter, shredded carrot, honey, and a mixture of oat flour and brown rice flour. I had to make my own oat flour using GF rolled oats (seriously, make sure the oats are GF), which I put in the blender until they turned to powder. The dogs seem to love them. I found the recipe at http://tidymom.net/2011/homemade-dog-treats/. I followed the recipe exactly, and it turned out well.

bread: Sad news – my sourdough starter died. Good news – I got to make beer bread instead. I used this recipe, though I cut out the dill. I used Green beer, partly because we had it around the house and my husband won’t drink it, but also because it is a nice dark beer (even if it doesn’t taste great). It made the bread really delicious. My husband said he liked it even better than the sourdough. Because it isn’t a yeast bread, though, it didn’t rise, and so it was just a really really flat loaf. However, like I said, delicious. If you know the beer is there, you can taste it, but it just tastes good. The texture was really light and the beer makes nice holes in the bread the way yeast does in yeast bread.

and the best thing this weekend:

chocolate chip cookies: I didn’t even try the recipe I have in a book, because my experimentation worked out so well. I adapted an old Toll House recipe that my grandmother had altered years and years ago. I wanted to try millet flour, and I’m glad I did. I think it added a flavor that just tasted substantial, if that makes sense. One thing I have done in the past that I wish I had done here is add some cinnamon. But anyway, here is my GF chocolate chip cookie recipe:

  • 3/4 c millet flour
  • 1/4 c tapioca flour (tapioca starch)
  • 1/2 c white rice flour
  • 4 T potato flour (not potato starch)
  • 2 t xantham gum
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t hot water
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1 pkg chocolate chips
  • 2 c oatmeal
  • 1 c shortening
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 t cinnamon (optional)

Sift flours with soda and salt (and cinnamon). Cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time. Add hot water and vanilla. Add sifted dry ingredients. Mix well. Add chocolate chips and oatmeal and mix only until blended. Bake at 375 for about 10 minutes (my grandma said 8, I think it’s closer to 10, just keep an eye on them).

So there’s my follow-up from yesterday. Now it’s time for another busy week – week 2 of my new job!