04 July 2010

And They're off!


Right up there in the world of fiber/sport mashup events is the Tour de Fleece! Started in 2006 on the blog Keep on Kitting in the Free World with only 16 members it's now become an annual spin-along where you set a goal and spin every day that the tour rides (July 3 - July 25) with days of rest on the 12th and the 21st (just like the tour).

Guidelines (NOT RULES):

1. Spin every day the Tour rides, if possible. Saturday July 4th through Sunday July 25th. Days of rest: Monday July 12th, Wednesday July 21st. (Just like the actual tour)

2. Spin something challenging Thursday July 22nd. (The Tour’s toughest mountain stage from Pau up the legendary Col du Tourmalet)

3. Take a button if you want one. Then we can use the button on our blogs in show of solidarity. Take it from here or grab a clean one from the flickr pool.

4. Wear yellow on Sunday July 25th to announce victory. Why not wear yellow on any day you feel particularly successful? (Yellow is the color of the race leader in the Tour - but here we are all ‘race leaders’)

5. Other colors if desired: Green (sprinter - think FAST), Polka-dot (climber - as in uphill), and white (rookie)

I've set out to spin this:


Hopefully into a nice squishy sock yarn to knit up a pair for this winter. Soooo excited! Wish me luck!

03 July 2010

Pesto Love

My basil in the front garden is going crazy. I thinned it out, but it still looks nice and bushy. I made a fresh pesto pasta with chicken and tomatoes for a most delicious dinner. I always have a bag of boneless skinless chicken thighs in the freezer, it's one of my few quick-fix meal solutions these days. They add a kick of protein and they are done in about 1/2 an hour on my countertop grill. Minimum of heat added to the house, or this can be made at night when it's cooler and just heated up or eaten cold.

Fresh Pesto

2 cups packed fresh basil
1/4 cup parsley
1-2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
1/4 cup parmigano reggiano
3/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Put all ingredients except olive oil into a food processor or blender. Pulse briefly to chop the basil and then run on low as you drizzle the olive oil in until you get a smooth sauce.

Chicken Pesto Pasta

1# short pasta (penne or rotini work well)
1 recipe fresh pesto (about 1 cup)
1# cooked chicken, chopped
1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces
1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
Parmigano reggiano to taste

Toss all the ingredients in a large bowl. Eat, enjoy.

09 June 2010

CSA Goodness

It's that time of year again! The abundance of fresh veggies and other surprises in a big box every week. Last year we got a 1/2 share from Valley Family Farm in Milan. This year we decided to upgrade to a full share so that we had more to play with for preserving and putting up in addition to the weekly numnums (yes, that is a technical term people.). At the very beginning of the season our box is heavy with greens. The first week we had a couple of kinds of lettuce, green onions, garlic scapes, and assorted herbs. This week the box was overflowing with even more goodness. We added broccoli, red potatoes, collard greens, lemon balm, garlic chives, and kale to the list from the first week. With the abundance of lettuces it seemed like a good time to turn to the "salads" section of my cookbook (my preferred book is the America's Test Kitchen Cookbook as it has great technique sections in addition to pretty fail-proof recipes). Last week it was pretty straightforward with Caesar salads (we had a whole head of romaine). And this week it was Cobb salads. Nothing dramatic, nothing too in depth. Just simple, wonderful salads. I can't wait until next week to find another one I love!


27 May 2010


I am a huge fan of asparagus. Mostly any way that you prepare it (with the exception of commercially canned asparagus - it's the texture) I am in love with this vegetable. We are in the middle of the very brief season for asparagus here in Michigan and so I went about taking advantage of it. I got 10 pounds of asparagus and pickled most of it. As my father is quick to point out, it just isn't a really great Bloody Mary without a great pickled vegetable, and pickled asparagus is always a winner. I did 5 pints of spicy, 5 pints of plain pickled, and I canned a quart of pieces that was just plain - not pickled. Overall I am pretty pleased with my effort and am looking forward to those Bloody Marys this summer as a great cooler.




And a bonus just in case you don't have a good bar book handy (but you really should) - a recipe for a basic Bloody Mary. Feel free to tweek to taste!

Bloody Mary (From the Mr. Boston Bartender's Guide)
1 1/2 oz Vodka
3 oz Tomato Juice
1 dash Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
2-3 drops Tabasco Sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste

Shake with ice and strain into ice-filled old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a lime wedge, celery, or pickled veg. Drink and Enjoy!

25 May 2010

Spin me right 'round baby

I've been having fun spinning lately. As I have been airing out the stash in anticipation of spring and summer knitting I found a whole bunch of half finished fiber projects that I've been playing with. I found 4oz of Falkland roving that I got a couple of years ago with the intention of spinning it up and giving it as a Christmas present to a friend. Well, Christmas has come and gone two times now and it didn't happen.. but I found it about a month ago and it spun up like butter. The beautiful blues greens and purples were inspired by the area around where this particular friend grew up. It spun up beautifully to a sport/DK weight. So later this week it will wing it's way off to her :)

The second is a exercise in procrastination. The roving is 4 oz of Louet Northern Lights pencil roving that I bought at Lettuce Knit in Toronto during my honeymoon. I spun the singles over a year ago on my little antique wheel, wound them off onto toilet paper cores and put them in a box and promptly forgot about them. I was going through a box and found the singles and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with them. If I did a regular 2ply I would have ended up with roughly a worsted weight yarn enough for a hat or something along those lines. Instead I decided to ply it with a black thread. It set off the colors nicely, over doubled my yardage, and gave the yarn a nice texture. I think it will eventually turn into a Skinny Ruffles Shawlette by Linden Heflin (whom by the way, I am in love with). Her patterns are always so well written, timeless, and just darn cute!

My next summer spinning project is probably going to involve a pound of Shetland roving that I got at a previous Fiber Expo in Ann Arbor. It's soft and smooshy and I think I'm going to aim for a DK or Worsted weight to combine with a commercial yarn for a sweater when the weather gets cooler.


"Rainbow Sherbet"

24 April 2010

A tired cheesemonger eats dinner.

I know, it doesn't seem that exciting to hear. But I get asked every day that I'm at work how on earth I work behind the cheese counter and not be flipping huge!? It generally boggles my mind that these people think so little of their own self control that they think I just gorge myself everyday. Truth be told, I eat very little cheese outside of work. When it comes to eating, it's almost work overload to have cheese at home, because I do eat a fair bit as a part of my job (how else would I know what fab suggestions to make when you people come in, pick out a cheese to taste and then hate what you picked?). But I do find ways to sneak it in here and there.


Pasta with Tuna and Veggies

1# small pasta (I used a Sardinian pasta that looks like little grubs, avoid spaghetti unless it is the only pasta you can find at the store. Rigatoni work well)
1 can San Marzano tomatoes diced
1/2# fire-roasted artichokes, chopped (regular will work, but the fire-roasted give a nice depth of flavor)
6 oz jar Spanish Tuna in olive oil
1/4 cup capers
1/4# feta cheese, crumbled
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup agradolche or muscatel vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Start the pasta in a large pot with plenty of salted boiling water. In a bowl large enough to contain the finished pasta mix the garlic, capers, artichokes, tomatoes, and the vinegar in the bottom of the bowl, mixing so the vinegar coats all of the veggies. When the pasta is done cooking, add to the vegetables and mix well. Add in the tuna, feta, and olive oil, tossing to coat. Crack fresh pepper over the top and enjoy!

Thing are Springing Up!

I am very pleased to introduce the newest members of the homestead. 27 darling little peeping chicks have taken up residence in a brooding box in my shed. For those of you who know what my house and yard look like, no, we are not keeping all 27. Some of them are roosters and such and will become delicious dinner once they are big enough (about September..) We ordered a mixed batch of heritage breeds from Sand Hill Preservation and recieved: 4 Black Australorp, 6 Buff Minorca, 6 Exchequer (Scottish) Leghorn, 4 Golden Polis, 4 White Crested Black Polish, 3 White Cubalaya. I'm super excited about my little babies!


14 April 2010

I might have a green problem...

Everything I find myself knitting lately has been shades of green. Green hats, green socks, green sweaters. Green just about everything. Lovely grassy shades, bright almost lime colors, and the soft mossy shades have taken over my knitting. I'm not sure where this little obsession came from..


And don't get me wrong. I love green (damn good thing, otherwise I would REALLY have a problem). But I'm beginning to realize that I may have a bit of a hangup. Someone might need to stage an intervention. Or just send more green yarn.. I'll get sick of it eventually right?

12 April 2010


Every year for Easter my family gathers on Good Friday and celebrates. The day starts at around 9am with all of my aunts and my grandmother in the kitchen, making pierogi. The finished dumplings are so delicious, when I make them for myself I usually make a couple of batches and freeze them so I have them for a while. We usually do just a potato filling. This year I did 5 pounds of potatoes mixed with 1/2 a pound of cheddar, finely grated. That amount of potatoes filled 2 recipes of dough. Alternately you can use the same dough and put a spoonful of your favorite pie filling inside and serve with ice cream or just powdered sugar for a fun desert. Other filling options traditionally include meat, and sauerkraut, but the sky is really the limit.

Pierogi Dough
Makes about 70 pierogi.

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs
5 tablespoons dairy sour cream
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
pinch of salt
about 3/4 cup water

Sift flour into a large bowl or onto a flat working surface; make a well in the center.
Break eggs into well.
Add sour cream, 3 tablespoons oil and salt.
Blend ingredients with your fingertips.
Gradually add water, working and kneading mixture into a smooth, pliable dough.
Divide dough into quarters.

Roll to 1/16 inch thick
Cut into 3-1/2 to 4 inch circles.
Place 1 heaping tablespoon filling -- fold over -- crimp edges. (crimp very tightly, if there are any holes all of the filling will leak out when you boil them)
Boil in salted water (1/2 teaspoon salt per 2 quarts water)
Cook 4 to 5 minutes or until pierogi float.

At this point you can freeze the pierogi, or if you want to eat them right away, you can either pan fry, deep fry, or bake them until they are golden brown and lightly crispy. If you want to freeze them, I recommend laying them out on a greased sheet pan and putting them in the freezer until they are solid, then put them in gallon zip-lock bags to store them. If you put them in before they are frozen, they will freeze together into a solid mass and be impossible to separate without tearing the dough.


07 April 2010

Tunisian Addiction

The last few weeks I've been getting really, really excited about food with the fresh produce and such coming back to the Farmer's Market. I had my very first salad of the season this last weekend with mixed spicy greens, pea shoots, handmade croutons, walnuts, and currents all drizzled over with a raspberry vinaigrette. No real recipe for this one, simply great ingredients tossed together in a big bowl and happily consumed. One thing in my fridge that sometimes gets forgotten about (and tragically so) is the jar of Tunisian harissa paste that lives toward the back. I made a squash soup that was liberally laced with it back in October that was delicious. But then the jar got pushed to the back of my fridge and largely forgotten about for a while. Then I got inspired by a couscous salad at work. And I was off into the kitchen to see what I could do to replicate deliciousness.

2 cups couscous (you really want the larger Tunisian style, or Israeli will do in a pinch), cooked and cooled
1 cup black olives, pitted and halved (do not use "California black olives" from the supermarket for this, I recommend a pitted kalamata or sahli olive)
1 bunch scallions, chopped
3 med ripe tomatoes, diced (you can use canned, just make sure to drain well)
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 carrot, grated
1 lemon, zest

Harissa paste
lemon juice
Olive oil
couscous water

In a large bowl mix cooked couscous (the larger style is actually more like a pasta, cook accordingly and reserve about a 1/3 cup of the cooking liquid for the dressing), scallions, olives, tomatoes, most of the parsley, and carrot. Reserve about 2 tablespoons of parsley for serving.
In a smaller bowl, mix the dressing ingredients. I haven't given exact measurements for any of the dressing because I just kind of winged it, tasting as I went along. I started with about a tablespoon of the harissa and added the juice of one lemon (I only had one, more might be nice). I added the olive oil and reserved couscous water until I had a consistency I was happy with and what looked like about a cup of dressing total. Salt to taste.
Pour the dressing over the couscous and veg mixture and toss to coat. Sprinkle reserved parsley and lemon zest over the top when you serve. This is a pretty versatile salad, I had it warm, room temp, and cool and it was excellent all ways.

I am using the last jar of tomato sauce that I made this summer for dinner tonight. I am now waiting (probably not so patiently) for tomatoes to come back into season.

04 March 2010

Sloppy Jalopy

Everyone should have an easy dinner now and then to fall back on. I actually tend to use the easy ones on my days off of work, so that I have more time to get things done around the house or out in the world. I can't unfortunately take all the credit, but the original recipe is posted in a private forum, and I've heavily modified to make use of ingredients I generally have on hand. If you don't like things really spicy, cut the paprika by half, an omit the jalapenos all together. You could also replace the jalapenos with sweet bell peppers (I'm not a fan of the sweet, so I don't use them almost ever). Pair this with a great onion roll or kaiser roll from a local bakery if you can get them (I used the New Yorker rolls from Zingerman's Deli). I also pulled a package of corn on the cob that I froze last summer from our CSA and heated that up for along side. Expect around 15 minutes for prep (including browning the meat).

Venison Joe:

3 lb ground venison, cooked
2 c. onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 1/2 c. ketchup (about 16-18 oz)
1/2 c. water
3 med. jalapenos, minced
1/2 T. horseradish
4 T. brown sugar
4 T. mustard
4 T. cider vinegar
4 T. worcestershire
4 T. spicy paprika (if you can't find spicy, use chili powder instead, but don't just use the bland red powder most grocery stores stock as "paprika")

Put all ingredients in crock pot, stir and forget about it (6-8 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high).

A few final notes: the sauce is rather liquid when it first goes in, but cooks down to a great thick consistency. If you are pressed for time or don't want to use the crockpot, omit the water in the recipe to achieve similar results and mix together in a regular sauce pot on the stove. Add the venison, and cook for 10 minutes or so until everything is heated through.
Alternately if you are going to be gone longer then 8 hours, add more water to the sauce so that it does not burn. Another 1/4 cup should give you about 2 to 3 more hours.

08 February 2010

Green Beans Even Kids Love

Tonight's dinner was so typical of the dinners that happen around here on weeknights. Meat, potatoes, and something green. I have a pretty all purpose way of cooking the something green, but tonight it was green beans and turned out kind of awesome. So when you read this keep in mind that the "green" part of this is pretty flexible. I like it with beans or mixed greens (collards & mustard usually), but you could use it with a range of vegetables as long as they have a little heft to them. This is not what you want to do with your delicate greens. Save those for the salads and such people!

Green Beans for Everyone

2# fresh green beans - trimmed and cut to about 1" lenght (you can use frozen here if you are in a hurry)
8oz bacon - diced
1 medium onion - chopped

In a large skillet (I use my wok so there is enough room for everything) cook the bacon until it has given up most of it's fat and is starting to crisp up. Add the onion and cook until slightly soft. Add the beans, stir to coat with the bacon fat and saute until the beans are slightly soft and warmed through. Be careful not to overcook, if they start to turn "army green" they are close to being over done. Take out of the pan with a slotted spoon so you leave most of the fat in the pan (you can pour this into a container and put in the fridge for later use). Serve warm.

06 February 2010

Holidays Interruptus

I have neglected this blog for the last couple of months, largely because I didn't have any time! I have been cooking and of course eating and I might get a chance to go back and catch up on some of those, but probably not.

Tonight for dinner was one of my favorites though. It's so dead simple I'm not even going to really write out the recipe, and feel free to riff on it to your hearts desire. In a cast iron skillet (a regular baking dish will work if you don't have cast iron, but everyone should really have some and know how to keep it happy!) set out some pierogi (thawed if they were frozen) and bratwurst (also thawed if frozen). Brush a little bit of olive oil over the top of the pierogi so they brown up nicely. Add around a pound of sauerkraut and bake in the oven until the sausages are cooked through and the pierogi browned on top. I usually flip the sausage half way through(ish) so they also brown on both sides. Serve with a little bit of sour cream on the side and enjoy!