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October 2005

October 16, 2005

WCB: the nameless furling

If it's Sunday, it must be time for the oodles of cute known as Weekend Cat Blogging!

My entry is simple--one kitten, one basket, one camera. The hard part is deciding which of the many faces of adorableness to post. Let's start with this.
Basketofcuteness5The still-nameless furling (or the carefully enunciated "the little kitten" as she's known 'round here) has the most amazing eyes. She stares right at you and holds eye contact forever--which is about 10 seconds in kitten time--as if to say, "Am I not the most adorbale thing you've ever seen? Is that not worth some salmon? How will you turn me into a good foodie-cat if you don't serve me fresh wild salmon?" I fear this sweet little thing will turn to threats to tell my secrets to the world of floggers if I don't acquiesce soon.

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October 13, 2005

Apple Nut Spice Muffin recipe

Applenutmuffins2

Ahhh, fall. Here in Washington state, where even the intra-college football rivalry pays homage to fall fruit with the Apple Cup, autumn means apples. As the berries fade to memory, apples step into the void, offering one last chance to capture that ineffable summerness of local fresh fruit before the edge in the air get seriously cold.

One of my favorite fall appleThings is muffins. Quick and simple to make, they are multi-purpose, fitting for everything from breakfast pastry to late-night snack for munching during the Daily Show. Sprinkle a little extra cinnamon sugar on them and it's almost dessert; add a bit of ice cream or a drizzle of liqueur--or both--and it truly is.

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Artichoke porn

Choke2Any other day I'd have something to say about the jewel-tones of fall and enjoying the fleeting show. But it's been a rough week at the end of a rough month and I just wanted to post this because it's really pretty. And it reminds me that even the end of a season can be quite lovely, full of rich memories even if not burgeoning with immediate promise.

Life goes on. I tell myself that. Even at times when the lifecycle seems to be more about cycle than life. Say it again. Life goes on.

And the leaves that were green turn to brown. And fall, to reveal the cycle part--the tiny leaf buds, and the fatter ones that will, in the spring, become the rose...and the magnolia..and maybe even the artichoke. (okay, that's two bits from songs, someone stop me now)

And the artichoke that was green turns to purple. And it's still darned pretty. Tasty, too.

While the magic happens

Let's call this the meme, part two.

Time for the truth in advertising--and the actual homage to Belly-Timber and their messy kitchen. This is what my kitchen usually looks like. I snapped these one day just before we had out-of-town company 6 out of 8 days. It was, needless to say, crash time and a much more realistic example of what things look like when the mage starts casting multiple spells.

Messykitchen2_1

Let's take a quick tour starting on the left. Sourdough starter, broom because I was cleaning "between other things," canaloupe to be sliced and munched while I worked (or maybe it was for lunch), ice water for cold fermented bread, high-gluten flour for the sourdough, the blue pitcher had some tea thing steeping, and I think the mason jar has chocolate to be grated. The baking corner is mostly covered with an accumulation of flotsam (or is that jetsam?) from every time I needed space on some other surface, with the exception of the chopping block, which has habeneros to be chopped. In the distance, the two stockpots hold blueberry chutney that has not yet been habeneroed and something else I can't remember--maybe it was a second strength of chutney--we made warm and hot.

So what does that add up to? Two kinds of bread, something with chocolate, chutney to be cooked and canned, and whatever's in that other stockpot because, come to think of it, this wasn't that batch of chutney. Sounds pretty exhausting, huh?

Messykitchen1
On to the other side of the counter. Again, from the left. The cookbook is neither the Herbfarm nor Crust and Crumb, although it might be Breadbaker's Apprentice (which would be the pain la ancienne, the cold fermentation bread), and there is already bread rising in the basket under that blue patterned cloth, which I suppose explains the floured countertop...and brings me to three kinds of bread. That might help explain the three empty gallon containers strewn about.

The springform pan is buttered and wrapped for the water bath that is used to bake a mint truffle torte from the Herbfarm cookbook, and that pyrex bowl with the spoon on top has a butter and fresh chocolate mint infusion steeping--also destined for the torte--along with that bowlful of eggs. And the dishes are the clean half with a corresponding dirty pile on the other side of the sink. I believe that both of those cups had tea in them--one hot, one lukewarm and mostly undrunk--and the yogurt was probably lunch.

Three kinds of bread, one torte, one batch of chutney, one unknown pot of something, a messy kitchen, and I remember that clean 9x13 pan had brownies. And you know what? This is a moderate day, it seems to be mostly about baking, and I know there was another day when I did other prep work. There have been times that made this look like those oh-so-Sunset magazine shots in the last post. Those are fun.

Between the last post and this one, I feel so schizophrenic. Dr. Jekyll and Chef Hyde, perhaps?

Oh, one more thing while I have your attention. I failed to point out one of the best kitchen accessories a cook can have. Look at this picture and see if you can pick it out.

Bakingarea

See it? Way back there in the background. Okay, so it's not exactly an accessory, but that's live music, boys and girls. Isn't that the best? I'm quite sure it makes me a better cook. I know it makes me a happier one.

October 12, 2005

Where the magic happens

I think we should call this a "clean your kitchen" meme--or am I the only one who looked at her kitchen and thought, "There is NO WAY I am putting pictures of this mess on the Internet!" and spent an hour or three making it clean enough to get the phots? I suppose I could have gone the Belly-Timber route and embraced my inner too-busy-to-clean person, but I've been needing decent photos of the house so that's my excuse. (I must admit that it's odd to have the place so shiny clean, as I'll demonstrate at the end of the pretty pictures. Kitchenbigpicture2 

Here's the realtor (i.e., boring) shot of my kitchen. The lights are still truly lame, but I still haven't found anything I really like. That's okay because there are many things I do like--lots of counter space, open to most of the house, a convection oven, and did I mention the counter space?

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October 08, 2005

WCB: The Usurper

My weekend has pretty much looked like this.
StandoffWe brought home the kitten we had laidaway a couple of weeks ago last Thursday and there's been a bit of contention here on the homefront. Nothing serious mind you, just the usual "getting to know the usurper" rituals.
More cuteness after the jump.

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October 07, 2005

The hot and steamy object of my desire

Bestill my baker's heart, there's a new contender for the top of my list of things I covet. Sure it's only big enough to bake one loaf at a time, but check out this baby. I've checked my pockets and between the couch cushions but I seem to be about $1287 short of the $1300 list price, darn it!
 

This gleaming hunk of stainless is Sharp's AX-700S Superheated Steam Oven, which is pretty and all that but has one feature that sets it high on my lust list. Steam! Steam that they say is superheated to 550 degrees. Imagine the bagels, the beautifully bloomed bread slashes, the sauna in your kitchen. Well, maybe that last isn't such a great selling point, but the steam is. No more hovering and spritzing the oven, just gorgeous bread.

Someone at Sharp needs to put "bread" in the ad copy, however, which currently reads like it's designed purely for the microwave loving crowd. And I have to wonder about presets that include "fresh vegetables, crisp" and "fresh vegetables, tender" but no differentation between types of vegetables other than potatoes, which have their own setting. Do their product designers think all other vegetables are created equal?

But who cares about advertising? Back to the bread baking.
I wonder if you can fit a pizza stone in it.
I wonder if Sharp wants a bread baking blogger to try.
Probably not, but a mage can dream, can't she?

This is why I call it a fog valley

Just back from a few days doing a lot of driving in and around biggerThanILikeCity and  I have determined two things:

  • I really love it out here in my quiet little corner of the world.
  • I need new stops for road food along I-5 in Washington state. Particularly between Centralia and Tacoma. The floor is open to suggestions.

In honor of my newly refreshed appreciation for my fog valley, I offer the following.
Smfoggyhills1
Smfoggyhills2
I like to say that we have our own private weather systems, and in many ways we do. Tucked in a long finger of a valley that undulates up from a large river, banked with multi-layered hills, and etched with dozens of streams, the valley floor exudes fog at the cusps of the day. A friend, who recently got his pilot's license and thus has related facts handy, explained one day that it's advection fog--coming up from the ground rather than down from the sky. (who says food blogs aren't educational?)

You know that saying about waiting a minute for the weather to change? Well, here you actually can watch it. I love to wander outside at dusk with a cup of tea and watch the last shards of sunlight peeking through the trees while baby cloudlets coalesce to scamper and dance before dissolving into mist and vanishing. It's not an every night affair in summer, but once we hit fall it's a nightly thing. I like fall.

Dusk has other magical aspects, the deer, especially does with young, come out to snack before dark. One such pair spent the year in our woods and we got the delight of watching this tiny fawn with a spotted butt who never left mommy's side, grow into a half-sized, and maturely unspotted, deer who only occasionally looks up to see how far away mom has wandered and almost never follows. In winter it is so quiet that you can hear the deer eating the grass, even when it's not frozen. It's amazing! On starless nights, when it is too dark to see anything, a small crunch, crunch from the seemingly empty yard is often the only sign there are such animals mere feet from where I stand.

What does this have to do with food? Not much. Except that, for me, food is all about connections: to people, to place, to personal rituals, and, ultimately, to home--however you define it. This is part of mine.

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