Monday, April 21, 2014

Cubicle kitchen: Lemon Poppyseed Pound Chicks

Did anyone hunt for Easter eggs yesterday?  We had a mini-hunt in the living room for four Cadbury Cream Eggs and eight Lindt Chocolate Carrots.  All the fun without the dirt or the actual eggs.

And no Peeps.  Ever since I figured out how to make my own marshmallows, they just don't hold the same mystique they used to.  And to be honest, they were always sort of like candy corn to me.  One was festive, but I didn't really crave more than that.  But they still look darned cute, so when I found a Chicago Metallic Chick Silicone Mold in Target, I kind of had to.

You could probably half this recipe to just make a dozen chicks, but I made the full batch with cupcakes and mini baked donuts for the remainder to make sure I had enough to bring into the office.  I'll have to think of an excuse to make more bird baked goods, because the only problem I had with these was people's reluctance to eat something so cute!


Lemon Poppyseed Pound Chicks
Adapted from Sweet Pea's Kitchen: Lemon Poppyseed Pound Cake
Makes 12 Peep cakes and 12 cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar 
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup poppy seeds, plus additional for sprinkling
  • A few cups powdered sugar and a few tablespoons lemon juice for glaze (your needs will vary)


Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In a bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Mix in eggs, zest, juice, and extracts.
  3. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add to wet ingredients, mixing until combined.  Mix in poppy seeds.
  4. Fill cake mold according to directions.  I filled a plastic bag with batter and cut the tip off to pipe it in 3/4 of the way.  If desired, remaining batter can be used to fill about a dozen cupcakes and be baked at the same time.
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes (the cupcakes will take less time).  Allow to cool before attempting to remove from mold.
  6. When cakes have been released from the mold, place them on a wire rack set on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Mix powdered sugar with lemon juice to get a glaze consistency.  Drip and spread the glaze over the entire top of each cake, sprinkling with additional poppy seeds.  Allow glaze to harden before serving.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Inspiration Saturday: A day with friends

I'm slipping this post in right at the it's-still-Saturday deadline because I spent all of it out with friends having a sort of Easter get-together.  I say sort of because the holiday was just an excuse that we didn't really need to cover the countertop of the kitchen with a spread of fruits and vegetables to nosh on and spend the day knitting.

Even though knitting is an individual craft, I don't feel like it's really meant to be done alone.  No, it's meant to be done while lounging on a sofa with other knitters, watching Billy Connelly and 'To the Manor Born' on DVD.  It's meant to be fueled by baked eggs with spinach and mushrooms a la Smitten Kitchen and Reese's.

So I hope everyone has a happy Easter, and that if you're a knitter, you have some fellow knitters to craft with.  For more inspiration, go to Woolen Diversions.

Friday, April 18, 2014

FO Friday: It's a great Friday

As I teased on Wednesday, I have two projects to share with you today.  Good Friday?  Pshaw, it's a great Friday!

First, let's take a look at my Affection-ite.  With as many stitches as there were in those last few rows, it's not surprising that it ended up so long.  It took four large squares to block it, and taking pictures of it that capture the entire length is a little tough.  I draped it around the Wildflower Center:




I'm not sure why Color Affection seemed so daunting to me before I started knitting it.  I had already tried every technique in it at least once: knit lots of shawls, done stripes, and short rows.  Maybe it was the sheer popularity of it, like each knitter that had completed it before me would somehow make it take longer.  But it was actually a pretty easy knit.  My mom may hate garter stitch, but I love it.  This is definitely not going to be my last Color Affection.

Now, my cardigan, that project definitely took as long as I thought it would!  But I think it was worth it, because I sure do like wearing it:



Especially in the wildflowers, because the buttons are so appropriate:


The buttons are a little fiddly, so I haven't been undoing them when I take the cardigan off, I've been taking it off more like a sweater  But other than that, it's been very easy to wear, so far with three different outfits, so the color was definitely a good, versatile choice.  And the beading adds a little something extra to the ruffles.

So there they are!  A quicker-than-I-thought shawl and a not-so-quick cardigan.  One for a swap and one for me.  How about you?  Are you doing anything fun for Easter?  I know I don't usually respond to comments, because I generally assume that people won't realize whether I've replied or not, but I promise I read all of the comments and I love hearing what you think!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Empty your mind and think pink

I went to yoga again this week before meeting my dad for the usual Indian dinner.  I'm liking it as a compromise between working out and worrying about everyone that I'm working out with.  In most strength training classes, there's always the fear of being the one that completes the reps last and holds everyone back.  But with yoga everyone is very inwardly focused and encouraged to do whatever their body allows.  And it ends with a few minutes of just lying on the ground and breathing.  It's as close to nap time as I think I'm going to get post-Kindergarten.  I know I'm supposed to be clearing my mind during it, but I find it difficult to not think about whether I want Channa Saag or Aloo Ghobi.  Or planning my blog post.  Speaking of which...

This Friday's FO post will be chock-full of finished objects because I finished Affection-ite last week.  I also finished my Lexe-Me cardigan before last Friday, but waited until my trip to the wildflower center on Saturday to take photos.  So stay tuned for floral FOs.

Until then, I have a WIP to share with you.  In fact, I think I only really have one WIP going on.  The only in-progress knits I can think of are in deep hibernation.  It's a strange feeling.  It made me very anxious to cast something on.  So I turned to my trusty queue in Ravelry and picked something relatively quick.  You know, so I can be anxious again in a very short time.  My logic there wasn't the best.  But maybe after I finish this I'll have decided on something else to knit for my long-term swap. Either that or I might start another cardigan.  I have the yarn stashed and pattern selected for at least two others.

This project started with the buttons.  I found them half-off in Gauge and had to have them, especially when I found the perfect yarn to go with them at the same time:


The yarn is bamboo, so it's got a nice shine as well as being a bright pink.  To show it and the buttons off, I found this pattern on Ravelry for a cabled cowl.  Although it doesn't originally have buttons, I saw that some people had used the holes behind the cables as buttonholes.  All I needed to do was add a third braid so that I could use all three of my buttons.  Like lace, cables always take a few rounds to really show their true colors, but I'm starting to see how this is going to turn out, and I like it:


I'm calling it Pretty Pink Plaits, because when I can't think of anything witty to name my projects, I go with alliteration.

How do you name your projects?  For more WIP Wednesday posts, go to Tami's Amis.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Cubicle kitchen: Citrus Mint Slice and Bake Cookies

How did orange juice become the go-to breakfast beverage, despite the pretty much universal agreement that nothing tastes worse than that first sip right after you've brushed your teeth?  That toothpaste mint and super-sweet citrus is just...not a good start to the day.  And yet, it's become a cliche part of 'this complete breakfast.'

Now, that being said, the combination of fresh mint and fresh citrus zest in this cookie is a totally different story.  The mint was care of one of my mom's coworkers who had some growing in her garden, and the zest came from the extra large grapefruits that have been my go-to dessert fruit since pomegranates have gone out of season.  Rather than clashing, they complement each other to create a totally light and refreshing cookie.  The citrus comes first, thanks to the lemon extract backing up the zest, but the mint leaves your mouth feeling clean and ready for another cookie.

Most of my treats are eaten with coffee, but I think these were made for an elegant tea.  Pinky out!


Citrus Mint Slice and Bake Cookies
Adapted from smitten kitchen: a slice-and-bake cookie palette
Made about 5 dozen

Ingredients
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons grapefruit zest
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2-1 cup granulated sugar, for rolling
Directions
  1. Cream together butter and sugar until smooth.  
  2. Add egg yolks one at a time and combine.
  3. Add salt, extracts, zest, and mint and combine.
  4. Mix in flour 1/2 cup at a time, just until combined.
  5. Gather dough into a ball, divide in half, place in plastic bags or wrap in plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for half an hour.
  6. On a smooth surface, roll each half of dough into logs about 1" in diameter.  Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least two hours, or up to a few days (can also be frozen for longer).
  7. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°.
  8. Roll the logs in sugar, and slice cookies about 1/3" thick.  Coat both sides of cookies in sugar before placing on parchment-lined cookie sheets.
  9. Bake for about 12 minutes.  The cookies should be set, but not necessarily golden.  Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Inspiration Saturday: Wildflowers

I hope that those of you living in more Northerly climes are starting to experience the thawing powers of spring, because otherwise this post might be a bit provoking.  Here in Texas, spring has announced itself not just in the sunny warmth of the afternoons, but in the glorious color that speckles all of the highways and byways.

Every year around this time, some of the most gorgeous scenery can be found by driving along the interstate, where thick patches of bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes, Indian blankets, pink evening primroses, and other native wildflowers cover swaths of land.  Driving out to Yarnorama the other week for their anniversary party, we saw some amazing color combinations, but even just between leaving my house and exiting the neighborhood there are little bursts of blooms.  You'll see people stopped by the side of the road with their kids (or their dogs) taking annual portraits in the bigger areas, the same way my mom took me out every year to sit and smile in the bluebonnets.

Visually, the wildflowers are stunning.  But there's something else that I love about them as well.  For one thing, they reappear every year all by themselves.  Yes, the seeds had to be spread initially using a tiny percentage of roadway budget thanks in large part to Lady Bird Johnson, and the success of their blooming depends on the weather each year.  But otherwise, nothing really has to be done to cultivate this garden show.  And it's not some manicured exhibit that you walk through once and then leave, or a beautiful bouquet you put on your dining room table for a week before it wilts.  You pass it every day on the way to work, along with everyone else.  It's something you all share each day in the midst of your mundane commute for a few weeks.  It makes me smile not just because it makes me smile, but because I know it makes other people smile, that it makes us smile year after year.  It's a communal experience even as you're alone in your car.

Of course, it's also great to go visit places like the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, which we went to today, to take a leisurely stroll through the flowers and get information about them.  It also gives you a chance to take lots of photos without cars speeding past.  Here's a little montage:


I have a few other shots I'm saving for next week's FO Friday post, because aside from being an inspirational starting point for knitting, wildflowers also make a great backdrop for photos of finished knitting.

Do wildflowers blanket the sides of the road where you live this time of year?  For more inspiration, go to Woolen Diversions.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Cubicle kitchen: PB&J Hand Pies

Yesterday I would normally have run a few miles on the treadmill and then gone to dinner at Tarka with my dad.  But he's out of town this week at a work conference, so despite still dreaming of the food in 'The Lunchbox', no Tarka for me, just a couple of miles on the treadmill and a yoga class.  Hopefully that will just make the aloo gobi taste that much better next week.

I still envy those hot, delicious lunches being delivered to the office workers in the film.  My lunches are most certainly not anything a coworker would trade me an apple and a banana for a share of.  But maybe Saajan would offer me a spoonful in exchange for a baked good?

While the complex dabbawala system is norm in India, on this side of the world, I feel like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are one of the staples of the American lunch, at least for kids.  I'm not sure I actually ever had one for lunch, I'm more of a savory lunch person.  But I have had my fair share as afternoon snacks or dessert.  So when I was putting these tiny little hand pies together, I decided to go with this traditional flavor combination.  They look so cute, and are just the right size for dunking in a mug, whether it's a mug of coffee at the klatch or a mug of cold milk.


PB&J Hand Pies
Makes about a dozen

Ingredients

  • Jiffy Pie Crust Mix, plus water*
  • About 1/8 cup jam (I mixed grape and blackberry)
  • About 1/8 cup creamy peanut butter
  • Egg wash or water (for sealing edges)
  • Optional: sugar for sprinkling on top

You can, of course, use your favorite recipe for crust from scratch, or buy a refrigerated crust that's already rolled out.  This recipe uses the same amount of crust meant to make a double-crusted pie (top and bottom).

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Prepare pie crust dough as directed.  Divide in half and roll out on a floured surface to about 1/8-1/4" inch thickness, a little thinner than a normal pie crust.  Using a 2 1/2" cookie cutter, cut out as many circles (or another shape) as possible.  Repeat on the other ball of dough.  Gently re-roll the scraps and repeat.  Remember: you need to have an even number of circles.
  3. On half of the circles, place 1/2 a teaspoon of peanut butter and 1/2 a teaspoon of jam in the center.  Resist the urge to add too much, or it will make a mess when baking.
  4. For each hand pie, brush an egg wash around the edges and place an un-filled circle on top, pressing to seal.  Use a fork to crimp the edges further.  Make a small slit on top for hot air to escape while baking.
  5. Place the hand pies on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  If desired, brush the tops with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
  6. Bake for about 20 minutes, when the crust starts to turn golden at the edges.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.