Monthly Archives: January 2010

Confronting My Fears, One Chicken At A Time

If I had to list my top five least favorite foods, I think it would end up lining up like this:

1. Banana
2. Seafood
3. Coconut
4. Dill
5. Cooked-fruit pie

I do a pretty good job of avoiding all of these foodstuffs, but tonight I had no choice but to collide head-on with one of my most reviled nemeses.

A Culinary Nemesis

Ew.

How did it come to this? How did I end up with a refrigerator full of reeking, vile dill since Monday? What was I thinking??

Well, it all started with perfecting the method for roasting a whole chicken in Cook’s Illustrated big book of poultry. I love roast chicken, and love how Cook’s Illustrated has you learn a master method, and then gives a zillion different variations on that. And I love having a roasted chicken carcass left over to make stock with, rather than buying chicken parts (or a whole one, as I’m often wont to do) just for stock-making purposes. But I’m lazy, and don’t often make whole chickens for dinner, so after a recent especially delicious meal of one, I vowed to try each and every variation on the recipe in the cookbook, in the order they’re printed. I made the master recipe magnificently. I made the one with garlic croutons and swooned over its deliciousness. And then the whole experiment screeched to a horrifying stop with recipe #3.

Herb-crusted roasted chicken.

In other words, a chicken crusted with, among other things, scads and scads of fresh dill.

Yaaarrrrrffff.

But I couldn’t abandon the project practically before it even started, so I girded myself. I psyched myself up. I soldiered on. I could be brave and make one meal with dill, if just to reassure myself that I hate the stuff.

My weekly grocery run happens on Mondays, and this week’s Monday was a doozy. I had to walk all over tarnation in the torrential rain, then spent my entire wildly hectic day at work with cold, damp socks, then had to go to the store, and then, when I finally got home, exhausted and wearing clammy socks, I accidentally crushed the grocery bag with the produce in it against the doorjamb while staggering into the front hall. The capper to my terrible day was getting the full-on blast o’ dill smell from the bag. ::Shudder:: It smelled just as bad as I remembered.

Chicken night was going to be Thursday, so that meant having to smell that horrible stench of dill every time I opened the fridge between Monday and then. It just kept getting worse. It seemed impossible that this was going to be an even remotely sensible culinary adventure. But, in for a penny, in for a pound. I had purchased the chicken and the dill, as well as a bunch of fresh parsley. And who knew — I might like it.

Here’s the deal:

1 3.5- to 4-lb whole chicken, giblets removed, rinsed and patted dry
2 tbsp butter, softened
2 cups loosely packed tarragon leaves
2 cups loosely packed dill leaves
2 cups loosely packed parsley leaves
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (F), and set a V-rack in a pan (I have used both a roasting pan and a regular baking pan, and both worked fine).

Put the herbs into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until they are finely chopped and combined. Mash up the butter with a fork. Gently loosen the skin on the breasts of the chicken with your fingers, and work the butter underneath the skin onto the meat. Brush the outside of the chicken with the egg yolks and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the herbs over the chicken and gently pat onto the chicken so it is uniformly covered.

Place the chicken wing side up on the V-rack, pour 1/2 cup water into the bottom of the pan (to keep drippings from burning), and put in the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the chicken from the oven, flip it over so the other wing side is up, and return to the oven for another 20 minutes. Then remove the chicken from the oven and rotate so it is breast side up. Return to the oven and roast for 25-30 minutes, or until the chicken reaches 165 degrees on a meat thermometer.

Remove the chicken from the oven and pan, setting it on a cutting board. Let it rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Herb Crusted Roast Chicken

So, other than that I was so freaked out about the dill that I neglected to buy fresh tarragon, I followed the recipe to a T. (I added a few tablespoons of dried tarragon to the chopped herb mix before patting it onto the chicken.) It didn’t seem too redolent of dill at all while it was baking. It just smelled kind of nice and herb-y. And it had a nice look to it when it came out of the oven. And, if I’m being really honest, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you there was dill involved if someone made me take a blind taste test of the meat. But it also wasn’t lights-out awesome. It was just kind of fresh-tasting. Sort of a nice roasted chicken with overtones of vegetal greenness. So, while not dreadful, it probably wasn’t worth the copious clean-up involved (that herb stuff was messy, yo), and it definitely hasn’t swayed me on the dill front. That stuff just smells rank.

[Posted by Schnookie.]

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Filed under Hearty Meals, Meats Meats Meats

Another Week In The Life

January 18, 2010

January 18 2010

The sugargum balls are wreaking havoc on our deck, taking over everything. They’re like Tribbles, but pricklier. –Schn

January 19, 2010

January 19 2010

We’ve been dancing around the Sixty-Four Colors group since elizabetht first mentioned it, but it’s a pretty intimidating project! Seriously, "sea green"?! Where would we find that?! Well, that all changed when we realized there were two sea green bowls on display in our kitchen (one serves as a drying vessel for some beans we grew this summer). So while the project is still really scary, we’re looking forward to it encouraging us to be a little more aware of the colors lurking around us at any given time.

Now we just need to find ourselves a box of 64 crayons…

January 20, 2010

January 20 2010

I participated in my first-ever fabric swap last week! In addition to sending me some beautiful fabrics, my swap partner, burnabrenna, included these awesome buttons! I knew they’d make a fun photo subject when I saw them. I’ve been totally bitten by the 64 Colors bug, though, because before taking the picture I thought, "I wonder if I should hold off on taking this picture until emerald green comes up…" — Pookie

January 21, 2010

January 21 2010

Today we found ourselves wondering if sometimes we might be too happy. The reason why? We had a long, intense conversation about how we were having spaghetti for dinner tonight, and spaghetti is the happiest food we know of. Not necessarily the best, but the happiest. And we spent all day eagerly anticipating our happy dinner.

Of course, we might also be happy because we don’t have to go to the office tomorrow, because it’s photo excursion time again!

January 22, 2010

January 22 2010

Proof from the Metropolitan Museum of Art‘s Oceanic Arts gallery that the googly eye is timeless. — Pookie

January 23, 2010

January 23 2010

Today we met up in Princeton with Elizabeth and several of her friends. We’re not very social animals, so we were so afraid of meeting people for the first time, especially because we were feeling intimidated by their mad photo skillz. But they ended up not being scary at all — in fact, they were tons of fun to hang out with. We strolled the campus in the cold, then had some coffee, then did a little shopping, then made our waitress at Triumph carry a staggering number of beer sampler glasses up to our table on the upper level, and then we got ice cream at Bent Spoon. It was a fabulous day!

In the dead of winter there’s not much to photograph at Prospect Garden except the cantilevered roof of the restaurant. — Pookie

January 24, 2010

January 24 2010

Somewhat unexpectedly, I finished Blodd Money City today! WOO HOO!!! I love it, and can’t wait to get it quilted!! Also, I can’t wait to make thousands more housetop quilts. My Meadowsweet version of this exact pattern is waiting in the wings, and I’ve got some modifications on it for another quilt up my sleeve. I love this look! –Schn.

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Filed under Pictures Worth A Thousand Words

Hunting Season Is Now Open

We’ve waxed poetic on this site about how much we love Project 365, but sometimes, you need a little extra inspiration for what to take pictures of. Enter “Scavenger Hunt 101“! I stumbled upon this Flickr project when some random stranger mentioned it on a picture I posted, and the project just screamed, “this is a great way to beat the January-March 365 doldrums!” The deal is, someone posted a list of 101 items to find, ranging from “your favorite color” to “Winter” to “a waterfall”, and you just post them when you find them. There’s no time limit, and no pressure. There’s a really nice mix of things that will be super-easy to find (“your bed”, “construction equipment”), things that will get you thinking (“an interesting view”, “a boat without a motor”) and things that seem nigh on impossible (“someone praying”, did I mention “a waterfall”?). So we all signed up (Boomer included) and, boy has it been a shot in the arm! Suddenly, all of us are constantly fixating on what we can find where. The other day I had to go to an off-site meeting and instead of resenting having to drive somewhere new, I instead used it as a scouting mission for “a billboard/sign” or “a locally owned store”. Boomer found herself driving all over town after her volunteering session this week because she’d had ideas about “an abandoned building” and “a flying machine“. Schnookie turned the irksome chore of taking down the Christmas tree into a fun photo-shoot when she remembered “your broom” was one of the list items. We’re Scavenger Hunt fiends!

We thought we’d share some of our pictures as we cross the items off our lists. (Unlike Project 365, Schnookie and I are each doing our own Scavenger Hunts. So it’s totally a competition. And I’m totally losing because I’ve only taken two pictures!)

January 5 2010

#14: A Locally Owned Store, by Schnookie

Winter

#6: Winter, by Schnookie

Sweeping Needles

Item #35: Your Broom or Vacuum, by Schnookie

January 2 2009

#72: A Fire Engine; by Pookie

Green Light Sunlight

#73: A Sunrise; by Schnookie

Construction Equipment With The Crazy Lens Flare

#70: Construction Equipment; by Schnookie

Hell Toupee

#59: A Billboard/Sign; by Pookie

Sugargum Puddle

#7: A Puddle; by Schnookie

Rusty Hinge

#68: Something Rusty; by Schnookie

Three weeks into this open-ended project, we’re both having a great time. You’ll notice neither of us has found that waterfall yet, but I’m confident I will soon. In fact, I’ve pretty much decided that I’ll find everything I’m looking for when we go to Columbus later this year. Because Columbus is totally known for it’s waterfalls, right? Right?

Posted by Pookie

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Filed under Pictures Worth A Thousand Words

A Week Of 365

We are, as you may have noticed from our sidebar, deeply devoted users of Flickr. And one of the projects we’ve fallen into over there, thanks to our friend Elizabeth’s own Flickr obsession, is Project 365. We’ve been diligently 365ing over at Flickr for about a year and a half now, and even diligently 365ed at IPB this past summer when we were finishing up our first year. This all seemed fine, right up until Sarah started her own Flickr-less 365 over at The Fair View. Now we’re all like, “Dude, even though we’re posting at Flickr, it’s not like everyone in the world is looking at our pictures. And everyone probably wants to see them, so let’s get all bloggy about it!” Because everyone in the world totally reads IPB Living. Anyway, we’re planning now to post a weekly update of 365s, so you can revel in the photographic evidence of every week in our lives. Consider it our gift to you, reader.

January 11, 2010

January 11 2010

The reason for all our bread baking of late? A concerted effort to become more sandwichy. Here, Pookie takes a stab at enjoying a PB&J. It went pretty well, all things considered.

January 12, 2010

January 12 2010

I didn’t find ribbon at the sewing center, but I did find some too-orange trim. — Pk.

January 13, 2010

January 13 2010

Matsui: "Can’t catch me!"

January 14, 2010

January 14 2010

I’ve been on the lookout for signs or billboards to take pictures of for Scavenger Hunt 101. I’ve seen some good choices, but I decided "Men’s Undetectable Hairpieces Sold and Serviced" was the winner. This sign isn’t in the world’s greatest location so I got up super early so I could get there before things got too busy. I freaked out the whole drive there and then freaked out even more when I got there because there were other cars in the tiny parking lot. But being the brave soul I am (riiiight) I got right out and snapped some shots.

Then I hightailed it out of there, sweating bullets! — Pookie

January 15, 2010

January 15 2010

I vowed this morning that I wouldn’t take pictures of the sunrise on my walk to work, because that’s all I ever take pictures of anymore. But then the sunrise stymied me by being utterly gorgeous. Joke’s on me. –Schn.

January 16, 2010

January 16 2010

Last weekend I finished "Deer City" but it was only today that I was able to get a nice sunshine-y photo shoot of it. It’s not a very imaginative project, since I just used the pattern that was designed to sell Joel Dewberry’s "Deer Valley" line. I had seen it in pictures from Spring Market and had fallen into deep smit with it. Piecing the circles was fun (it’s probably a lot less fun if you’re using a machine instead of hand-piecing) and the entire project was shockingly easy and quick. — Pookie

January 17, 2010

January 17 2010


Today we made a prototype of a top-secret project for IPB. Here’s a sneak peek!

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Filed under Pictures Worth A Thousand Words, Project 365

Deer City

A few years ago, KtG considered what would be the proper term for what we are as stitchers (and now quilters). We’re not “artists”, because while we make a certain number of design choices such as linens and substituting colors, we never make our own designs. But given the amount of time we spend on any given project, the care we take to use the finest materials, and the standards we hold our work to, we’re also not “crafters”. KtG decided that we must be somewhere in the middle, and the term she suggested was “artisan”. I liked the sound of that. It implies I might occasionally strive for that mythical “museum-quality work” but clearly announces I hold no misconceptions of my own (non-existent) artistic ability. So keeping this “artisan” thing in mind, I present to you my latest finished quilt, “Deer City”:

Deer City 1

I had seen pictures of this quilt in all the blogger reports from Spring Market and with every picture I saw, I feel deeper and deeper in love with the muted colors and the sophisticated circle pattern. It seemed like a sign from the quilting gods when the pattern turned out to be a free download from Free Spirit Fabrics, but I was still a little trepidatious about the circular piecing. So it seemed like a bigger, badder sign from the quilting gods when one of our quilting magazines arrived in the mail with a picture tutorial of piecing quarter circles. At that point I had to order the fabric, right?

Blue and Red Circle

The fabrics are probably a bit trendier than what I’m usually drawn to, but I’ll worry about them going out of style later. For right now I love the how the super-trendy red/aqua combo is broken up by silvery grays, mustard yellows, and deep greens. And for right now I love how the super-trendy deer silhouette is balanced by the geometric patterns, and the little flowers. When it goes out of style, I’ll just have to put in the linen-closet for ten years, and then it’ll be retro cool. Or something.

Blue and Gray Circle

Starting the project was the hardest part. I’m not used to using templates, and it took a little trial and error to realize the convex half of the quarter-circle had one arm that was wider than the other. And pinning and sewing the first seam was like trying to speak a foreign language. The whole time I thought, “this will never work” and “I must be doing this wrong”, but then magically it popped into shape and was a perfect quarter-circle! Who knew!

The rest of the project was the very easy part. Being an artisan and not an artist, I just followed the picture, knowing it looked exactly how I wanted my quilt to look. (There was one exception to that — the pattern included some striped and dotted fabrics I wasn’t wild about, so I did actually substitute on a few blocks.) The entire top took just a few weeks to piece by hand. I suspect it’s actually easier to piece circular seams by hand than on a machine. Score one for hand-piecing!

Deer City 2

As much as I love hand-piecing, I’m all about the convenience of machine-quilting, so this puppy was handed off to Mary, The Long-Arm Quilter. I trust her artist’s eye implicitly, so I just told her to pick whatever pattern she wanted. She went with this big, loopy curlicue pattern that echoes the circles in the pattern and the flowers in the fabrics.

Green and Yellow Circle

Deer City Backing

I followed my cardinal rule of backing the quilt with my favorite fabric from the line, so I chose the dusty blue with brick red flowers for the backing. I loved the red geometric border that the sample quilt had, so I went with that on my quit. I went with the blue and red geometric for the binding, knowing it would look great with the border. It took a few hours of invisible-stitching to fully accept how the binding was looking with the backing, but in the end, I’m very, very pleased with the finished project!

Deer City Binding

So there we go, one artisan quilt! I did only the teeniest, tiniest bit of artistic thinking, but put the utmost of care into making sure the work was quality. In fact, this quilt top was that first that prompted this reaction from one of the staff at the local quilt store: “That’s your quilt? Hm. May I look at the back? [studies stitching from the back] Oh, this is very well done! Great job!” Hooray! I knew I’d arrived in the cool kid’s club in the cross-stitching community back in AZ when the framer would look at the back of the piece before the front, so I’m feeling very, very good about my quilting now!

Also, while on an artisan quilting run, I took a stab at artisan bread baking and check it out — it looks like crusty whole wheat bread!

January 10 2010

Here’s the thing about being an artisan — it’s so easy. The quilt and the bread were ridiculously easy. All either of them required were good materials, patience, care, and time. If you have those things but no artistic talent, the world can still be your oyster! (Provided someone else harvests the oyster. Heh.)

Posted by Pookie

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Filed under Baked Goods, Quilting

The Dog Days, Photography-Wise

We’re now neck-deep in our second Project 365, and what we’ve learned conclusively is that the stretch from January through March is rough for taking pictures. There’s nothing easy around the house like a Christmas tree for reeling off quick, pretty pictures, and there’s nothing growing in the yard, and there’s barely any sunlight when we’re home, so lighting is a major issue. We end up relying on shots on our ways home from work taken with our point-and-shoot cameras more often than not. This is the doldrums. I mean, from January 6 through January 11, we took five pictures of food, two of them sandwiches! Pickin’s are slim this time of year.

So how do we address this problem? By posing a mini photo challenge, of course! Periodically through the year, we stage “work challenges”, where we spend a week taking pictures walking to or around work with a rotation of lenses, to shake ourselves out of our ruts and start looking at the everyday world with different perspectives. (Here’s Work Challenge I, and here’s Work Challenge II.) This past Thursday, the challenge was a little smaller: our respective parking lots at work. Or, more specifically, what we could see from the driver’s seats of our cars. Sometimes you just have to give yourself an assignment, however dumb, and see what happens.

Red Dumpster And Parking Lot

By Pookie

Parking Lot

By Schnookie

Begloved iPod

By Pookie

Parking Lot Tree

By Schnookie

Filthy Windshield

By Pookie

Object In Mirror

By Schnookie

I Call This "Here's Looking At You"

By Pookie

Parking Lot Snowpile

By Schnookie

Parking Lot View

By Schnookie

They might not be photos for the ages, but at least there’s some sunlight in our photostream now! And we had fun using the nice cameras for a change, instead of our point-and-shoots. Success!

Even better than the parking lot challenge, though, was Pookie mustering up the courage to pull over on her way to work to get a shot of this:

Hell Toupee

Fantastic!

[Posted by Schnookie.]

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DamGoodLemon Icebox Pie

Our extended family is not in the practice of exchanging Christmas gifts now that all of us kids have reached varying degrees of functional adulthood, so we were very pleasantly surprised when a package arrived in the mail right before Christmas from our Uncle Paul and Aunt Anna in New Orleans. It turned out to be DamGoodSweet by David Guas, an absolutely gorgeous book of New Orleans-style desserts. It ground our Christmas morning to a halt, as we got completely sidetracked from present opening by the mouthwatering photography in the book.

Now, I have been in a strange cooking malaise in the last few months, totally uninspired by both the prospect of making food and of eating it. (Not that I’ve eaten less or anything — please. That would be ridiculous. I’ve just been kind of underwhelmed by culinary pursuits recently.) Also I’m not really a huge fan of New Orleans-style cuisine, what with not liking seafood and all. But this book was the cure for both of those problems. As soon as we cracked it open, I was immediately thrilled at the prospect of making literally every singe recipe in it (except the coconut cream pie) — it’s just that gorgeous a book.

It took some serious deliberations to figure out where to start, and in the end, the Lemon Icebox Pie won out.

Zesty

What seemed appealing about this recipe was that it was simple. Last weekend I spent hours and hours and hours making a buche de noel, and I was not interested in anything that would require more than about 30 minutes of effort at a time. This fit the bill. I kind of wasn’t even thinking at all about what it would taste like, so I was in for a surprise.

Assembled Pie

So here’s how you make it:

Ingredients:

For the crust
14 whole graham crackers
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and still warm

For the filling
2 (14-ounce) cans condensed sweetened milk
1 1/4 cups strained lemon juice (from the 2 zested lemons below plus an additional 4-6 lemons)
Zest of 2 lemons
8 large egg yolks

For the chantilly cream
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

To make the crust:
Heat the oven to 325 degrees (F). Break the graham crackers into small pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor along with the sugar and salt. Pulse 8 times, until the cracker crumbs are semi-fine (they shouldn’t be powdery but not in large shards either) and the crackers and sugar are combined. Pour in the butter and pulse until the butter is blended in and the mixture isn’t crumbly and holds its shape when you squeeze it, about twelve 1-second pulses. Transfer the crust to a 9-inch springform pan and push and press the crumb mixture into the bottom and two-thirds of the way up the sides of the pan. Use the bottom of a measuring cup to press the crust into place. Set aside.

Pie Crust

To make the filling:
Whisk the condensed milk with the lemon juice and set aside. Whisk the zest with the egg yolks in a medium bowl until pale, 30 to 60 seconds, and then whisk in the lemon juice-condensed milk mixture.

Place the springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet, pour the mixture into the crust, and carefully transfer the baking sheet to the oven. Bake until the center jiggles slightly, like a soft-setting custard, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 1 hour on a cooling rack. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap (be careful to to let the plastic wrap touch the top of the pie) and freeze for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Pouring The Filling

To make the chantilly cream:
Pour the heavy cream into the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer). Add the vanilla and sift in the confectioners’ sugar. Whip on low speed to combine and then increase the speed to medium-high and whip until medium-stiff peaks form, about 1 1/2 minutes.

Before serving, wrap a wet, warm kitchen towel around the edges of the springform pan to release the pie from the pan’s sides. Unclasp the pan and remove the pie. Fill a pitcher with hot water, dunk your knife in, wipe off the blade, and slice. Top with a dollop of chantilly cream and serve immediately, or keep in the freezer for up to 1 week.

Icebox Pie Overhead

Now, I only have a 10-inch springform pan, so I made this in a pie dish, which made it difficult to follow the “don’t let the plastic wrap touch the surface of the pie” instructions, but it didn’t matter at all. When the frozen pie emerged from the dead-body freezer, the wrap peeled right off and left a gorgeous yellow pie behind.

And what a surprise that pie ended up being — tart and sweet and fresh and creamy and custardy and smooth and frozen and light and rich and utterly delicious. Spectacularly delicious. Pookie’s gasped response after her first bite was, “This doesn’t taste homemade at all. It tastes like a restaurant dessert!” Boomer’s response was, “I have finally found what I want to ask for as my birthday dessert.” To which Pookie added, “Me too.” I think I might do the same. This is just outrageously good. I think this is the highest deliciousness-to-effort ratio of any foodstuff I’ve ever made. If none of the other recipes in this book turn out well (highly unlikely), it’s still one of the best gifts we got at Christmas!

The Beauty Shot

[Posted by Schnookie.]

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Filed under Fancy Dessert