Thursday, May 29, 2008

Treats for Everyone!

Summertime means to me a time to enjoy good food, picnics, and lazy days and what better way to start off summer than to bake a cherry pie!

I don't know how many of you are fortunate enough to live near a cherry orchard. But I did, for a time. My home in South Bend, Indiana was 10 minutes from the Lehman Orchard in Niles Michigan which had a grove of tart cherry trees. Every summer around the 4th of July holiday I picked cherries at the Lehman Orchard and used them to bake a fresh cherry pie.

I really loved picking cherries and it was something I looked forward to every year. It's fun to pick cherries. You are sent out into the orchard with a bucket and the trees that are ready for harvest have ladders placed against their trunks . The cherries look like rubies hanging from the branches and warmed by the sun they are fairly bursting with the taste of summer. I know this because occasionally I would pop one into my mouth! Most of the time I would be completely by myself except for the occasional family that had come to make a day of it. I loved hearing the distant sound of children laughing and the overall lazy pace of slowly filling my bucket with the juicy cherries.

Generally a couple of hours was enough time to pick enough for a pie and I would then report to the pitting shed where they dumped my cherries into a machine that pitted the cherries within a matter of seconds! The machine is very archaic in appearance and rather what I imagine it must have been like to see a cotton gin at work.


I am no longer fortunate enough to live near a cherry orchard, but I still love a baked cherry pie. Being the soul of flexibility that I am, I now simply use canned cherries and, even though there is no comparison with using fresh cherries, I still love it.

Here's the recipe that they give out at Lehman's Orchard - along with my notes for using canned cherries.

Cherry Pie Recipe

Basic 9" Pie Crust (this is my basic pie crust recipe)

2 ½ C. all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt (scant)
1 Tbs. sugar
1 C. Crisco vegetable shortening (buying it in the premeasured cubes makes measuring a lot easier)
Approx. 5-6 Tbs. ice cold water/white vinegar mixture (fill a small bowl with ice water and splash in some white vinegar into the mixture - you will be adding the water/vinegar mixture 1 Tbs. at a time when mixing the dough)
1 egg white (for brushing pie crust top)
Sugar for garnish

Cherry Pie Filling

4 C. Tart Pie Cherries (fresh preferred - but you can substitute canned tart cherries in natural juice - just don't use canned "pie filling" or sweet cherries)
3 Tbsp. Tapioca
1 1/3 C Sugar (Note: you will have to adjust the sugar if you are using canned cherries. If the cherries already have sugar added then only use 1/2 C sugar but if they don't have sugar added then taste them and depending on how sour they are go ahead and use up the full amount of sugar)
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 Tbs. unsalted butter (to dot on top of filling once it is in the pie shell)

Steps:

Make Pie Crust

1. Combine flour, salt, and sugar.
2. Cut in shortening.
3. Add water/vinegar mixture 1 Tbs. at a time. Use a fork to blend/mix just until the mixture forms a dough.
4. Divide dough in half and wrap each portion in wax paper – let rest in refrigerator while you prepare filling.

Prepare Filling

1. Drain Cherries (Note: reserve 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the juice if using canned cherries - if you are using fresh cherries they have enough natural juices so that you don't have to reserve any juice)
2. Toss cherries with tapioca, sugar, almond extract (and reserved juice if using canned cherries). Let stand 15 minutes.

Roll out Pie Crusts

1. Flour your work space. Roll out bottom pie crust. I like to roll out the dough on floured wax paper as this helps prevent sticking. Wrap the crust around your rolling pin to transfer crust to the pie pan as this seems to help prevent tearing of the dough.
2. Fill crust with cherry filling and dot mixture with 1 Tbs. unsalted butter.
3. Roll out top pie crust. Cover cherry mixture and decorate crust with leftover dough. Make 4 slits to release steam.
4. Brush pie crust with egg white and sprinkle generously with white sugar.

Baking

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2. After 20-30 minutes check to see if pie crust is golden brown – if it is – or when it becomes so – cover pie loosely with aluminum foil to prevent over browning/burning.
3. Continue baking for another 35-45 minutes and juice is bubbling. Total baking time is generally 65-75 minutes.

Mr Puffy's Special Day

Poor Mr Puffy has been sadly neglected lately as we have been so busy with work. Not that he would complain. To make it up to him we gave him a little extra spoiling this past weekend. He began his special day with a relaxing massage. Only his daddy knows how to give a massage just the way he likes it! He also enjoys the male bonding time.



And since Mr Puffy also enjoys special treats - it wouldn't be a special day without a special treat! For his special treat I made him the brownie mix for dogs that he received as a Christmas gift from his good friend Ralph (a german shephard who lives next door). He's also anxious to try some of the treats from The Ultimate Dog Treat Cookbook a surpise gift from his pals Mosby and Roscoe who have the most generous mommy in the whole world (Rosanne at Firefly Nights) who knows a thing or two about tea, tea goodies, and tea etiquette!

Speaking of Tea Etiquette....

It is not proper tea etiquette to allow your tongue to loll out in anticipation of a treat while you wait for tea to be served. Parenthetically, do we occasionally have to speak with Mr Puffy about this.



On the other hand, it is proper tea etiquette (and perfectly understandable) to smile broadly as one patiently waits to be served a special treat that is still warm from the oven!



I think he liked the brownies. He certainly ate them enthusiastically.



I hope this is the start of a wonderful summer for everyone (and includes at least one picnic).

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Toys and Games oh my!

Starting with the toy, here's my bunny. Well, not my bunny anymore. But I did breath life into him! And now I've sent him on to fulfill his mission to love and be loved by a beautiful baby boy.


This is the Lola Bunny designed by Beth Skwarecki ( free pattern download here ) and it is the first toy I've ever knit and it won't be the last. I can say that with some certainty because I've already had a request for another one! From Steve (giggle). When he saw this little bunny finished he was so impressed and liked him so well he asked me to make one for him - or perhaps a dog or a lion. So, a big shout out to anyone who knows a great pattern for a knit dog or lion to please hook me up.

This is a good sized bunny - approximately 12 to 13 inches from the top his head to the bottom of his legs. Unfortunately I forgot to measure him before he was sent, but he's a nice size. Not too small and would work for a child of almost any age (giggle).


While I was knitting this bunny I got to thinking about children's toys and in particular the toy in the story The Steadfast Tin-Soldier. The Steadfast Tin-Soldier is a fairy tale written by Hans Christian Anderson. You are probably familiar with H.C. Anderson's more popular fairy tales such as The Princess and the Pea or The Little Mermaid but he wrote quite a few fairy tales most of which are incredibly sad - guaranteed to traumatize any child of sensitivity. Anywho, the beauty to be gleaned from the story of The Steadfast Tin-Soldier comes from revealing that no matter what our outward appearance or how we are treated in life we can still have a beautiful heart and, in the end, that's all that really matters.

Specs: Pattern Lola Bunny Love; 1 skein Schaefer Yarn - Little Lola - 100% superwash merino 280 yrds; US3 double pointed needles; finished dimensions approximately 12-13 inches. The only modification I made was to close the bum segment more rapidly to create a flatter bottom so that the bunny would sit up more easily. To do this I simply made my decreases all the way around each row rather than just once on each needle. I have to say this is a really well written pattern and was a pleasure to knit.

Bye bye Bunny.

On to Tagging Games......

Do you ever get the impression that my maturity level might be a little lagging behind my chronological age. Maybe that's why Steve and I get along so well. Hum, something to think about. Kidding aside, these games are a fun way to share a little about yourself and in turn learn a little about the bloggers that you read. I was favored with a tag by both Denise at The Knitting Den and Bridget at The Ravell'd Sleave, both of whom have really interesting things to share.

Here are the rules for this MEME:

"The rules of the game get posted at the beginning. Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer."

1) What was I doing 10 years ago?

Practicing law and living in South Bend, Indiana in a house situationed on the St. Joseph river in the middle of a beautiful wooded area. I still miss that home and the beauty of the changing seasons.

2) What are 5 things on my to-do list for today?
Since it's late in the day this is my to-do list for tomorrow. Morning: meet a legal colleague for coffee and give him the exhibit I worked on today and then I'm off to grocery shop at Whole Foods Market. I love this market - everything is organic and tastes so much better than conventionally grown/raised food. I know they say you can't taste the difference - but I can. I know I can so don't try and convince me otherwise. As an aside, you know you are working too hard when the highlight of your week is a trip to the grocery store. Afternoon: (1) draft corporate resolutions; (2) research a tax issue; and Evening: manicure finger nails and play with Mr Puffy (not necessarily in this order).


3) Snacks I enjoy: Good for me snacks: carrot sticks dipped in hummus or wasabi peas. Bad for me snacks: Chocolates or potato chips. Unfortunately, and truthfully, I eat way more of the bad for me snacks.

4) Things I would do if I were a billionaire: For myself, I would travel to all parts of the world focusing on the best beaches (my personal favorite so far is on Eleuthera Island which has incredible pink sand beaches). For others, I would fund education and medical research programs.

5) Places I have lived:

I was born and raised in Santa Barbara, California. After graduating from the University of California, Santa Barbara, I left Santa Barbara to live in Los Angeles, California until I moved back to the Midwest to go to law school at the University of Notre Dame . After about ten years in South Bend, Indiana I moved back to California and now live in Topanga (a suburb of Los Angeles) and have for the last three years split my time between Topanga and San Clemente (a small surf town located between San Diego and Los Angeles).

6) Jobs I have had: As a teenager one of the jobs I had was selling flowers on the street corner (not a job I would recommend but the tips were good). After college I have worked as a certified public accountant and as a lawyer.

7) Bloggers I am tagging who you will enjoy getting to know better:

Jillian at Sknitty (a fellow LA girl);
Hilary at The Yarnaid (check out her beautiful Safire bolero Ravelry Link she designed it herself);
Theresa at T Does Wool (a fun new blogger);
Amanda at FancyPants Knits (she really knows how to knit that perfect fit sweater);
Marie at Knitted Gems (a knitter who knows no pattern limitations).

Have a wonderful and relaxing Memorial Day Holiday!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Lemon Pound Cake Recipe with Lemon Glaze


With my tea today I'm enjoying my favorite lemon pound cake. The recipe is slightly adapted from The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. I have both her Moosewood cookbooks and have enjoyed many of the recipes.

Since I don't like to make a huge bunt cake I simply half the recipe and bake it in a loaf pan for 1 hour. In addition to using lemon extract I like to add the zest of 1 lemon to give it a little extra zing. I also add a lemon glaze once the cake is cooled because otherwise a pound cake can seem a bit plain.

Lemon Pound Cake;


All of the following ingredients should be at room temperature:
1/2 lb. unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 & 1/2 cups white sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tsp. lemon extract
1 & 1/2 tsps. baking powder
zest from fresh lemon
2 cups all purpose white flour

Steps:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a loaf pan (butter and flour) to prevent sticking.

2.  Using electric mixer beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Remove mixture from electric mixer and continue using a wooden spoon.

3.  Sift together flour and baking powder.  Set aside.  Mix together milk and lemon extract and lemon zest and set aside.

4.  Alternately add flour and then milk mixture, mixing thoroughly with wooden spoon after each addition.  Both begin and end with flour.  Mix thoroughly but don't over mix and/or beat mixture.

5.  Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.  Bake for approximately 1 hour or until tester comes away clean.  Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto wire rack to cool completely before glazing or slicing.   

Lemon Glaze:

1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 tbs. lemon Juice
1 tbs. whole milk

Combine ingredients and drizzle over cooled pound cake.



By the way, although I don't often drink wine, I do enjoy an occasional glass and would love to hear any of your recommendations!

And I have been knitting too....Just when I decided that I didn't like variegated yarns anymore I discovered the perfect pattern. I can't stop admiring how nice these gauntlets look with a variegated yarn.  Which just goes to show that there really is a pattern for every yarn!

Specs: Pattern: Basic Gauntlets from Capistrano Fiber Studio; US 3 needles; 1 skein hand painted Capistrano Fiber Studio (150 yrds. superwash fingering merino). I bought this yarn and pattern at a LYS that has since gone out of business. The pattern was written by Lori Lawson owner of Capistrano Fiber Studio (who dyed the yarn). I must say her yarns are some of the prettiest yarns I've ever knit with - she also wrote the pattern and and dyed the yarn I used for my Lace Scarf With Ruffle - Ravelry Link).

Have a great weekend everyone!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Finally Flo


Well, I've certainly talked about it enough already and now, at last, it's finally done. Whoo Hoo! Here's Flo......

I love it. I'm totally psyched to start my next kit. My only problem is trying to choose among so many designs. I particularly like Kim Hargreaves' designs because they are really well written and have nice finishing details. Plus, they don't look like something you can find in just any old department store.

I pretty much followed the pattern exactly as written. The only changes I made were to eliminate the side shaping as I wanted more of a slouchy cardigan rather than a fitted sweater that I might not wear as much in a few years. Yes, I'm a woman of certain age and considerations of this nature do cross my mind! I also inversely shaped the sleeves. In other words I knit more traditionally shaped 3/4 sleeves rather than the gathered bell shape as designed. Again, the goal was to create more of a classic cardigan style that better suited my age and personality. Lastly, I only added 2 rows of ruffles on each side rather than 3. I thought one more ruffle row was just one ruffle row too many. I can always add another ruffle later but, for now, I'm happy with just 2 ruffle rows.

Come to think of it, it was Mr Puffy who strongly recommended against having 3 rows of ruffles. Hum. Puffy???? I would hate to think he had an ulterior motive..... such as keeping that extra ruffle for himself. Nah. Impossible. He looks way too angelic to be capable of that!


The last little design change I made relates to the buttons. I chose not to use the buttons that came with the kit. I thought they were rather pedestrian for such a fun cardigan and I wanted something with a little more razzle dazzle ~ so I kicked it up a notch ~ with these sparkly little buttons. They catch the light and look really pretty in the sunlight. Here's photo comparison of the kit buttons with the ones I chose instead. Here in Los Angeles we have a totally rocking button shop in West Los Angeles called F&S Fabrics. If you can't find buttons there, you simply aren't in the mood to be pleased.



Specs: Kim Hargreaves Kit - Flo (Thrown Together Collection); size XXS, US 3 & 1 needles; CYC Cashsoft 4 ply and Rowan Kidsilk Haze.


Lastly, I wish all of you who are mothers a very very happy Mother's Day - and that includes my mom too!