Monthly Archives: September 2008

Cooking A New Recipe! WOO HOO!

Regular readers of IPB Living will know that, while I claim to like to cook, I have a pretty narrow scope, and tend to fall into ruts. This is probably a result of my doing all my grocery shopping on Mondays after work, and often doing my weekly menu planning on the fly while I’m in the store. I am not at my cognitive best after a Monday at work. And so we end up eating lots of Schnookie Tacos and chili. You can imagine, then, how excited I was to discover a new recipe in the month’s Food & Wine at just the right time of the week that I was able to plan ahead to make it on Saturday night (our traditional pasta night). I’m so put-together! Heh.

The recipe in question is Baked Orecchiette With Pork Sugo, something totally unlike anything I’ve ever made before.

September 27 2008

It was a time-consuming venture, as is anything that involves slow-cooking pork shoulder, but other than thinking to get everything started a few hours ahead of dinnertime, it was a nice, leisurely cooking adventure. There was only moderate chopping involved, to which I added a bit by peeling and chopping some fresh tomatoes rather than using canned, and other than that, it was just a question of gradually adding each new layer of flavor. First the pork, then the onions, garlic, celery and carrots, then the tomatoes, the wine and thyme, the chicken stock, and then simmering it all until it’s falling-apart tender. Then came the odd (to me) step of pulsing the cooked pork in a food processor until it’s all pulled apart — I was terrified I was going to end up making a smooth pork puree rather than a chunky pulled-pork sort of texture. But a light touch on the “pulse” button was all I needed (along with a fortifying swig of wine), and I ended up with a sauce that was just insane. I could have stopped right then and just eaten that as a soup. But adding pasta? And cheese? And baking it? That’s like taking “delicious” and ratcheting it up by a factor of a thousand.

Baked Orecchiette With Pork Sugo

This tasted like something you’d get at a nice restaurant, not like something I cooked at home on a lazy Saturday spent playing MarioKart Wii. It was one of those dinners where we all just eat in total silence, focusing hard on savoring every phenomenal bite. My plan for this recipe is to make it a bunch more times in rapid succession, so I memorize how to make it. And then I can include it in my routine of the mundane and everyday. Because every day should be this scrumptious.

(Post by Schnookie)

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Filed under Carbo Loading, Hearty Meals

How Does Our Garden Grow?: Fall Edition

It’s been a while since we’ve taken the time to sit down and write an update about the overall state of our garden. Part of the reason for that is because it’s been on autopilot for the last couple of months, since taking out the potatoes. We harvest a few pounds (sometimes as much as seven pounds) of sauce tomatoes a week, have picked about 15 total Nardello peppers (they’re profoundly delicious), a couple of habanero peppers, and have harvested all the kaleidescope and red dragon carrots (all of which were scrumptious, and yielded probably close to five pounds total). Other than that, it’s been cool and damp, so we haven’t had to water much, and the fall crops have either grown happily (carrots and beets) or were eaten by pests before they ever had a chance (turnips and rutabegas).

So here’s a little photo tour of what’s going on at Maple Hoo Gardens these days.

Sad Pear Tomatoes

The yellow pear tomatoes reminded us again why, in January when we’re picking our seeds, we don’t think, “Oooh! Be sure to save room for cherry and/or pear tomatoes!” We never think to keep up on picking them, and they end up overgrown, laden with unpicked fruits, and kind of sad. To make matters worse this year, we had a really cool August followed by some heavy humidity from a variety of tropical storms, so now they have late blight, a mildew that makes the leaves spotty, then yellowed, and will potentially overwinter in the soil. Excellent! We’ll be taking those plants out this week.

Sad Tomatoes

Meanwhile, the Black Plums are less blighted, but just as end-of-summery. They still have a lot of fruits on them, but they’re eensy-weensy and we leave them too long on the plant so they end up split and unpleasant. I’m not sure we’re going to take all the plants out just yet, but the one in that barrel there is goners.

Pumpkin Bed & Empty Bed

The Caspar pumpkin vine, though, it looking perky and happy in the erstwhile garlic bed. We’re not sure it’s going to give us any actual pumpkins, but at least it’s been something green to look at in that bed. Filling out the bed there is the volunteer yellow pear tomato, from the original yellow pear that was there two years ago. It hasn’t yielded really any tomatoes to speak of, so I guess there’s a statute of limitations on how long those volunteer seeds will still give you anything worth keeping in the garden. You can see behind the pumpkin bed where the San Marzanos used to be. We took them out a few weeks ago, and planted last week some braising mix, our first foray into the exciting world of cold-weather greens.

Braising Mix

Just four days after planting, our little braising greens were poking their seedling heads up out of the soil. It’s a really fun reminder to see these seedlings here, in these “taking the garden for granted” days of September, of the joy the first seedlings bring to the “yearning for garden” days in March.

Carrot Bed

Meanwhile, another fall crop that’s coming along swimmingly is our second wave of carrots. We made a complicated chevron design planting them with the beets, but it was a sweltering, awful day when those seeds went in, and it turned out they didn’t really follow the lines in the soil that we’d envisioned. I guess that’s what happens when you’re hot, muggy, and cranky and are just tossing seeds blindly into the bed. Boomer and I pulled up one of the Oxheart carrots on Wednesday, and while it was still itsy-bitsy, it was also delicious. I am so excited that we planted so many carrots this year!

Beans

I think our beans are doing fantastic; all five varieties grew big and bushy, and now all of them are starting to yellow and have gazillions of pods fat with heirloom soup beans. I think we’re probably going to be able to make a nice big pot of mixed-bean soup of some kind this winter!

Herb Pots

Our herb pots are looking almost more November than September, but what can I say? The only herbs I use much of fresh during the summer are oregano and basil, and our oregano died in May. These herbs were kind of more ornamental than anything else, and I think they served that purpose swimmingly.

Basil

Speaking of basil, we had a bunch of it in the small bed next to the tomatoes on the east end of the garden, and it was miserably pathetic. None of the other plants in that bed took, and the basil ended up fried-looking and awful. We transplanted it all about a month ago to a bed with the tiger’s eye beans, after discovering the basils in with our tomatoes and peppers were much happier for the added humidity of companion plants. Sure enough, the transplanted basil has been resplendent. Lessons learned, people! Lessons learned.

Bean Drops

And so that’s our garden on this very humid, sometimes rainy September 28. All in all, we’re pretty pleased.

(Post by Schnookie)

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Filed under 9. September, Garden

Progress Report: When Witches Go Riding

One week of working on “When Witches Go Riding” has passed, and I have quite a bit to show for it:

When Witches Go Riding Week 1

In the past, I’ve struggled with what fibers to use on Prairie Schooler charts. I always did Christmas charts in DMC because of the need for a true Santa Claus red. But for others I’ve used Au Ver Au Soie to mostly fabulous results. Just last year, though, Boomer stitched up a Fall piece using a Belle Soie conversion put together by the fine folks at the Attic. It turned out stunning.

Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves Details

When the time came to pick threads for this chart, I couldn’t get the vivid Autumn orange from that piece out of my mind. I thought, “A Halloween orange needs to glow. It can’t be flat at all or else the spirit of the season just will not convey!” The Belle Soie is variegated dyed silk, and it’s super soft and luxurious. I’d been using Belle Soie on another project, but had gotten frustrated with it. The black threads kept disintegrating while I stitched. Not cool! I decided to chalk it up to a lemon batch of silk, because Belle Soie Lasagne was the perfect Halloween orange and was simply too good to pass up.

Using the Lasagne as a starting point, I then identified that I’d need a moon yellow, a spooky black for the outlines and the cats, and a nice dark red for leaves and the house. Check, check, and check. Belle Soie had perfect colors for each of them — Butterscotch, Noir, and Cranberry. Then I found the perfect linen, a nice piece of 36 count Edinboro in a colorway called “Dirty”. (No, it’s not blue, but as we established in comments the other day, it would have been pretty cool if I had chosen a medium blue linen for this. Next time. Heh.) I was all set to leave it at that when I realized, “Oops! The chart calls for green and brown, too!” For some reason that I can’t remember, I pulled Au Ver Au Soie for those. Anyway, I was committed, at that point, to taking Belle Soie for another spin.

Fortunately, it’s turning out perfectly. The black thread is nice and strong and doesn’t pull apart at the slightest touch. Deborah at the Attic had suggested I might have had a nick in the needle that was pulling on it to make it fall apart. I think I got defective thread. In any event, this time the stuff works like a charm (provided I don’t have to rip out more than three half-stitches). It floats through the air it’s so fine and light. The color tones are subtle but striking (provided I’m careful about ending the thread when the variegation gets too wild, but more on that in a future post). The thread lies perfectly flat and even without much effort (thanks in part to the Edinboro linen).

When Witches Go Riding Detail

As awesome as the fibers, colors, and design are, though, I think my favorite part of working on this project so far is that my Sanjou tortoiseshell scissors match perfectly!

Tortoiseshell Scissors

Written by Pookie

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Filed under Pins and Needles, Progress Reports, Stitching

The Youngier, Prettier Project

There was a request in the comments today (uh, from my co-blogger, but we’ll just pretend it’s coming from one of the zillions of people who read IPB Living with their morning coffee) for a picture of “When Witches Go Riding”, the Prairie Schooler Halloween project I just started. Normally, I’d wait until Sunday to take in-progress pictures (as my highly scientific progress report system requires) but I’m willing to bend the rules this once. Why? Because my every expectation for this project — all of which were sky-high — has been blown out of the water. The colors and the linen and the design are just simply wonderful.

When Witches Go Riding

I had promised myself I’d wait until the hockey season starts (roughly mid-way through October) to embark on this project, but I just couldn’t wait another day! I was itching to start it and then I was served up the perfect September Sunday and a day of doing nothing but watching football. How was I supposed to resist? The idea behind working a project like this well past the time of year that I could get it framed in time for the holiday is to be celebrating the season as it passes. If I’m going to be eating candy corn, I might as well be stitching black cats, pumpkins, and witches not boring old trees.

Do I feel guilty that I put MFBville down before reaching my goal of finishing half of the squares before moving on to another project? Not one iota! Did you see these colors?!

When Witches Go Riding Detail

Anyway, MFBville will be there for me when I finish this one. And it wil be there for me when I finish whatever Christmas thing I start working on in Mid-November! Good thing for the citizens of MFBville, there should be at least two months after Christmas before I’ll want to work on a Spring piece.

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Filed under Pins and Needles, Stitching

Progress Report: MFBville Week 11

No, Gentle Reader, I didn’t skip a week of progress — I merely omitted a week wherein I did almost zero stitching. Sigh. It was terrible. I just hit one of those crazy weeks where looking at a chart, let alone threading a needle and figuring out where it needs to go, is just waaaaay too much to handle. Only that week lasted about a week and a half. So all I have to show for the last two weeks of working on “MFBville” (aka “The Village of Hawk Run Hollow”) is this:

MFBville Week 11

One half of one square that could not be easier. When I started this project I targeted this square as being the one that would go up the quickest. When I saw it was the next one up when I finished the last square, I was like, “Woo-hoo! Freebie square!” It was all text! And easily-countable trees! It should’ve taken me a week tops! And here it is, two weeks later, and I’m not finished. I’m a sorry excuse for a stitcher!

Fortunately, the overall piece is still looking good.

MFBville Week 11

The previous four squares all had little fun details to focus on. Fireplaces, bird’s nests, snakes. This one? Not so much. It’s pretty dull. So it was only understandable that the project looks like this now:

Threaded Needle

That’s right, I put it down and picked up something else instead. Something that’s choc-a-bloc with fun details. Something that has some kick-ass colors. Something that I had pretty much promised myself I wouldn’t start until the hockey season starts.

When Witches Go Riding

Something Prairie Schooler Halloween! I finally decided I couldn’t wait any longer! Can you blame me? Look at these threads!

Belle Soie Threads

I wasn’t totally sold on the Belle Soie the first time I used it, so it remains to be seen what I’ll think of it this time around. This officially means I’ve failed already on my goal to have two more Squaresville squares done before the hockey season starts, a mere two weeks after I set that totally-achievable goal. But… Look at that orange! Have you ever seen a more exciting Halloween orange?!

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Filed under Pins and Needles, Progress Reports, Stitching