Yarn Along: June 19, 2014

From small things:

Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs. I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading?

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Project I’m working on: A wedding shawl

Books just finished: Dark Season, The complete First Series

Currently Reading: Practical Paleo, Eat Like a Dinosaur, It Starts With Food, and Wicked Appetite

I’m not a fan of vampires novels, period.  I yet to read Dracula and I heard that would totally change my mind, but I just don’t have any desire to read it.  Well, while at SnB two weeks ago, we were talking about the Kindle First program.  I pulled up my Kindle app and was looking, when Val exclaimed, “Oh Look!  This book looks awesomely horrible!  Let’s read it!”  I should note, we often discuss books that we read that were awesome and recommend the group to read, and of course, when we come across some horribly written books, we also discuss.  So I read it, and Val didn’t even finish!  Yes, it’s that exciting…  The book was written in a way that it’s like someone read a book and is summarizing it.  There is no depth to the characters and there isn’t any character building at all.  On top of that, it’s about vampires.  UGH.  Needless to say, I will not be paying and reading the complete second or third season of the books, even though there were a lot of unanswered questions.

To combat that horrible writing, my bitches told me that Janet Evanovich is a great writer who is also pretty funny.  I can’t wait to start that!

As for the Paleo books, well, recently I noticed that I haven’t been able to get up.  I know that having a infant/toddler is exhausting, and I’m not getting younger, so my body needs more rest.  However, we are talking going to bed at 10 and can’t wake up at 7 here!  Even though I am not an early riser, I usually only need about 8 hours of sleep and it is alarming that I couldn’t get up.  And just a few weeks ago, I went to a Holistic Moms Network group meet up at the Y.  I met a health coach there who is planning a seasonal detox in July.  I started reading more about detox, which led to a website called Balanced Bites by Diane Sanfilipo, who created the 21 day sugar detox, designed to kick the sugar habits to the curb.  She wrote the book Practical Paleo and it is an amazing book!  It explained things simply and I was ready to change my eating habits and lifestyle right then and there.

I got talking with a co-worker, who recommended the “It Starts With Foods”, which talks about the Whole30 Program.  She’s been on it and she lost 12 lbs and reduced a bunch of her chronic health issues just by changing the way she eats and cut out dairy, sugar, grains and legumes!  So I decided to give it a shot but modify it, since I’m not sure I want to go cold turkey in it.  I ended up having whole milk yogurt with fresh fruit in the morning, salad with spinach, lettuce, mushroom, chicken or sausage, quinoa, hard boiled eggs, olive oil and vinegar.  I did this for a whole week, and I magically was waking up at 5:30am without alarm!!!  I felt better, I noticed that I’m not hungry between meals so I’m not constantly looking for snacks, and I even picked up walking during lunch!

Needless to say, I am sold about this type of eating and lifestyle.  I borrowed Eat like a Dinasour so I can figure out how to get the Little Lady to eat this way.  So far, so good!  I’m sure there will be experimenting on the recipes later here!

As for my project, I am slowly working on the wedding shawl for a friend’s future wife. I’m really hoping it comes along quick, fater and easier!

So what are you reading or what are you working on?

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Five Years… At The Place

I think I say this EVERY YEAR. But the time real DOES fly!0330

To celebrate, we decided to try “The Place“. 

We’ve never been to it before, but drove by many times.  It always looked very interesting, and we had heard good things about it.  So why not?

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The food was good, but I wouldn’t classify it as to die for.  We are definitely paying more for the ambiance and experience.  We had fun, and it reminds us camping, except someone else is doing all the cooking and serving us food.  And yes, the Little Lady tried clams and like it, and it looks like the Little Miss would love to get in on some of that steak herself.  Would I come back?  Hard to say.  I guess we’ll see.

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Happy Five Years, Babe.

Baking

I’ve always enjoyed baking, more than cooking, i think.  So after one of the forum I belong to started a get healthy thread, I’ve been trying to eat healthier and bake more.

Last week, I received a home grown zucchini from a co-worker who had too many in his garden.  It was perfect timing, because one of the ladies in the forum posted the mini zucchini quiche as a quick breakfast/appertizer.  I had all the ingredients, so why not?

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Let me tell you, these are mini decadent nom nom you do not want to miss!  The Little Lady ate FIVE of them in one sitting, Yes, I said FIVE.  One batch made 48 of these mini quiches, and they stay in the fridge very well, and I’m sure it freezes well too, but they didn’t last long enough for me to find out.

Another lady had suggested baked pumpkin pie oatmeal for quick breakfast.  I happen to have all the ingredients on hand, although I modified it to use quick oats, since that’s what I have, and also I used the suggested Greek yogurt.  Oh, and I made a mistake in measuring.  I put in more oatmeals than what it called for.  The result made my house smell like Thanksgiving.  It was delicious and satisfying.  Sadly, I forgot to take a photo of it.  When I have it for breakfast, I pour some milk and maple syrup on top, mix well.  YUM.

Since I already had my oven going, I made a batch of brownies for the party we were going to the next day.  But then I ended up making another batch for trading.  I didn’t make the icing, and frankly, I don’t think it needs it.  It is moist and fudgey.  No pictures either.  Those things don’t last at all!

Fast forward to this weekend.  Autumn has shown its face around this part of the world.  It was chilly in the morning.  So after taking the Little Lady from her swim and soccer class, I rolled up my sleeves and turned on my oven again.  This time, I went with scones.  I found this recipe while tooling around on budgetbytes.com.  I didn’t have ground cardomom or cloves, so I changed it up and used 2 teaspoons of pumpkin spice instead of the spices listed on the recipe.  And I was lazy, so I made the whole thing in my food processor, so besides measuring, I spent a grand total of 1 minutes on mixing. When they were baked up, well, let’s just say that my house smells like autumn.

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It was sweet but not overwhelming, the slight crumbly texture is perfect for a cup of tea or coffee.

Making the scones wasn’t enough, as proven by the two lonely scones left in the tupperware (the recipe made 16 mini scones).  I decided to make the honey oatmeal sandwich bread.  Now, I have two teaspoons of expired yeast left in fridge, so I left it to proof a little longer than usual.  It was super cool to see the yeast in action!  I showed it to the Little Lady and she thought it was the weirdest and coolest thing all at the same time.

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I think waiting for this to cool down was the hardest thing I did all day.  But I resisted, and man, the flavor is superb.  And it wasn’t too much work at all!  Although, I think the next time I’ll employ my KitchenAid dough hook to help with the initial kneading.

I am so excited to get back in the groove of baking.  And finding budgetbytes totally helped.  I also made the sesame chicken, twice, from there.  So good.

I start school tomorrow.  I’m hoping I will be able to keep the baking up on weekends, and keep the blogging going as well.  I miss it.  And if you are still reading here, please comment and say hello!

Yummy in My Tummy

Pinterest.  It is my new love affair and my worst enemy.  My friends told me about it and I was super addicted at first, then I gave it all up due to school.  Now that school is not in session yet, I’ve been pinning up a storm.  Originally I used it to pin for craft room and home organization, but then right before Christmas, all I did was look for ideas to decorate my house.  Now, it’s all about food.
I came to a realization that we eat out way too much in 2012.  Between the new job which requires travel and school, I just don’t seem to have the time to cook as much.  I’ve decided that I need to figure out a way to cook more so David and the Little Lady don’t eat out so much.
 
Right before Christmas, I found the Oreo Truffle recipe.  It looked super simple to make, and super yummy.  I follow the recipe exactly, but instead of warm up the cream cheese and hand do it, I leave the cream cheese cold, and dump it into the food processor after I have made the Oreo crumbs.  I find it much easier and it’s probably much quicker.  In about 20 seconds, the cream cheese is bind together with the Oreo crumbs in pie crust consistency, and all I do is take out enough for a one inch ball at the time.  I also find that I don’t need to let it freeze as long.  The amount of time I melt the dipping chocolate is the perfect timing.  And I put them back in the freezer for as long as I can stand and viola!  Oh, and one cup of the Baker’s dipping chocolate is perfect for one recipe! (I of course have no idea where the pictures I took went.  But rest assured, they were gone pretty quickly!)
 
A friend of mine at work is always pinning recipes.  One day I was browsing and came upon a crockpot recipe.  It isn’t exactly what I wanted, so I decided to google some crockpot chicken recipes anyways.  I found the Bacon Wrapped Chicken.  I know, it isn’t crockpot.  Now, I already make something similar on my own, but this uses one less pan, and adds the cream cheese to the filling, so I decided to give it a try.
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Well, David and the Little Lady seemed to like it.  I find that because the whole thing is done in the oven, the chicken is a bit dry.  Maybe I overcooked it, but this recipe has less flavor than the ones I’ve already made.  If I were to make this again, I would definitely season the chicken first prior to wrapping for the cheese.  And I don’t find the cream cheese adds anything, so I’ll probably skip it all together, since cream cheese isn’t something I have on hand all the time.
  
And now let me introduce you to Bacon Ranch Chicken.  I found this recipe the same time I found the Bacon Wrapped Chicken.  Now, I know there are a ton of negative comments on this, and honestly, I didn’t read the review prior to commit making this.  Since none of us are on weight watcher, I modified the recipe based on what I have.
3 chicken breasts (straight from the fridge)
4 slices of bacon, cut up into strips, cooked and drained
½ cup of buttermilk ranch dressing (not the powder mix)
½ cup of chicken stock
1 container of non-fat Greek style yogurt (I got mine from Trader Joe’s)
Olive oil to spray the bottom of the crockpot
 
  1. Spray the buttom of the crockpot with olive oil, and place chicken into the crockpot (I used a 2 qt size)
  2. Mix the ranch dressing and chicken stock well, pour it over chicken
  3. Cook on low for 6-8 hours
  4. About an hour before eating time, cook the bacon and put it into the crockpot.  At the same time, mix the yogurt with some hot broth from the corckpot.  I usually do this when I add flour or corn starch, so I tried it to prevent the yogurt from curdling.  Once the yogurt is warm and mixed well with the broth, dump the whole thing into the crockpot.  Cook on high for 10 minutes.
  5. Shred the chicken.  Juices will mostly be absorbed by the shredded chicken.
  6. Serve over a bed of white rice.
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It was very very yummy.  It doesn’t have very strong ranch or bacon flavor, so I definitely wouldn’t claim that this will curb your craving for bacon or ranch, but the flavor is nice, the chicken is tender and the food overall is very yummy.  David and the Little Lady approve.
Then I was out of chicken.  (David at this point says Thanks Goodness! LOL).  So I had him raid the freezer to see what we have on hand.  All we got were ground pork, ground turkey and pork tenderloin.  I happen to be browsing through this book that I checked out from the library, and one of the recipe was meatloaf.  Now, I don’t make meatloaf often, partly because I really dislike the taste of ketchup and most of the meatloaf recipe calls for that.  Although I like the book I was reading, I went online and did a quick google search, can I came upon this recipe from Ree Drummond.  Still, it called for ketchup AND mustard.  Me being me, I had to modify this recipe.  Instead of ground beef, I used a package of ground turkey and a package of ground pork, which resulted to almost 3lbs of meat, but I used the same amount of milk to soak the same amount of bread and put those into the meat mixture.  I also added 4 beated eggs.  The seasoning is where that’s really different.  Instead of using what the recipe called for, I used some of this seasoning from Taiwan that my dad brought me when he came to visit.  It is very different from what I ever had here in the US.  It’s part salt, part pepper (although I think it is white pepper, not regular black pepper), and part some herb seasoning that were grind super fine.  I mixed it all together by hand and shaped it into a loaf on a 9 by 13 pan, then I wrap the whole thing in bacon, and mixed up the sauce/glaze that go on top.  I used equal part of Worcestershire sauce and maple syrup, mixed well and brushed on top.  I baked it in 350 degree F oven for 40 minutes, took it out, brushed more glaze, and put an aluminum foil on top to prevent the bacon from completely burned, baked for another 20 minutes.  Let sit on the counter for 10 minutes then serve with a bed of white rice.
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The resulted meatloaf was tender and melts in your mouth.  I can easily see this recipe being made again and again here at chez jennsquared.  Although next time I would make two smaller loaves and freeze one for later.
So have you tried some new recipes lately?  Are you on pinterest and saw something irresistible that you must try now?  And definitely stay tuned as there are plenty more things I would love to try from Pinterest, whether it be carbon copy or modified.

Fall Is In The Air

This morning, my weather app on my phone told me that it was 50 degrees.  BUUURRRRR…  Considering not too long ago, we were all still basking in the close to 100 degree weather, it is quite a change.  And honestly, I would love to have days like this everyday!  The crisp air in the morning is turning the leaves a bit but the warm days still let us enjoy the outdoors.

Needless to say, I seized the moment and took the Little Lady to the park in the afternoon, after a great swim lesson at the Y and a brief nap in the car.

Can you tell she loves the swing?  And making faces also!

This morning, she woke up bright and early like always.  We hung out a bit and decided that we will go apple picking after breakfast.  We weren’t sure where we wanted to go but ultimately decided to go to Lyman’s since they have lots of varieties of apples, plus pears, peaches and pumpkins currently.  They also have a corn maze, in case we were up to it.  Plus you can’t beat their farm market and outdoor picnic area!

After arriving, we spent quite a bit of time looking for Asian pear, but we were too late in the season.  We only picked three the entire time we were there!  By then, the Little Lady was hungry again for lunch, so we decided to skip the apples and go straight to the farm market for lunch.  But before we depart, we all agreed that we need to at least go look at the pumpkins.  Well, I think we got a winner.

 

We enjoyed some lunch along with apple cider out in the picnic area by the pond.  We watched the ducks in the water and bought some cider, apples, fudge and apple pie from the farm market.  After sitting on the couch for awhile, the baker in me decided to look up some apple muffins recipe, since David mentioned it while we were in the market.  I was surprised that of all the apple related things they have, the one thing they don’t have are apple muffins!  I did some research and decided to go with the Ellie Krieger’s Apple Muffins.  She is known for substituting items to make the food healthier.  Plus I have all the ingredients on hand – minus the Whole Wheat Pastry Flour.  I had to look up the difference between that and regular Whole Wheat Flour.  Turns out that it was different enough to make baked goods taste different!  Hmmm…  Well, all I have is whole wheat flour, so I decided to go with 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour and 1/2 all purpose flour along with the original 1 cup of all purpose, just so the muffins won’t taste too dense.  And instead of the Golden Delicious apples, I subbed it with a Jonamac.  Jonamac is a bit tart, but I think it is great for baked goods since sugars are usually added anyways.

Yup, my Little Lady is big enough to help me cut things!  The first time she helped me cut hot dogs to make dinner.  It was just the two of us home so I was busy watching her than taking pictures, but this time, David was home, so we now have photo evidence of an almost three year old with a knife!  No worries, it is a special kid’s knife I bought just for her, and used only when adult supervision is available.  She is so excited when she can help me in the kitchen.  I think I need to make this baking business a regular activity so she can get used to it.

Our muffins turned out to be pretty large.  We shall see how it taste after when they are cooled down a bit.

So how have you enjoyed the nice weather?

Will You Be My Friend?

Have you ever gotten those chain emails that says if you don’t distribute to 10 people in the next 10 minutes, you will have bad luck for 10 years?  Or something like that?

Well, Amish Friendship Bread is like the chain emails, but without the consequences!  (Just so you know, I don’t think I’ve gotten bad luck because I didn’t forward those emails.  Just sayin’.)

My friend WifeMomKnitter gave me a starter 11 days ago.  I forgot to follow the instruction on Day 6, so ended up adding the ingredients on Day 7, hence the bake date of Day 11.  I’ve decided to split the two loaves up so I can make two different breads.

I followed the recipe that came with the starter (with only 1 box of instant pudding vanilla flavor), but didn’t add the cinnamon.  After I split the batter into two bowls, in one batter, I added the following:

  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup of white chocolate chip

The other batter I added the following:

  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon of milk
  • 1/3 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chip
  • 1/4 cup of white chocolate chip

While baking, the house smelled divine!  The bread really “puffed” up.  I made the cinnamon white chocolate in a 8×4 loaf pan and the chocolate bread in a 9×5 loaf pan.  And they are both metal pans as I don’t have any glass or ceramic bread pans.  I also mixed my dough in the stainless steel KitchenAid mixing bowls, so I’m not exactly following the directions.  But seriously, does the Amish uses instant pudding mix in their cooking?  But maybe that’s why my breads are more puffy.  Who knows?

And if the yummy breads couldn’t convince you to be my friend, then how about a yummy stuffed pork chop recipe?

I made up this recipe trying to figure out what to make dinner tonight.  We went grocery shopping today and the giant pork loin was on sale and the nice butcher cut it for us, but I wasn’t in the mood for any of my stand by, so I went searching on the internet.  Although not finding what I wanted, but the name stuffed pork chop got me thinking.  And here is my version…  I hope you will try it and if you do, please let me know how you like it!

Jennsquared’s Stuffed Pork Chop

  • 3 pork chops, about 1 in thick (could be thicker, but you may need to leave it in the oven longer)
  • 1 apples, peeled and chopped in small chunks
  • 1 small onions, diced
  • Shredded chedder cheese (I used pre-shredded taco blend cheese, but you can use whatever you got)
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp of dried thyme, or 1 tbsp of fresh thyme
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Sautee the onions and apples with olive oil  in a sautee pan that can go into the oven.  Season them with thyme, salt and pepper.  When the mixture is soften, about 5 min, turned the heat all the way down so the cooking is minimal.
  3. Butterfly the pork chops so you can fold it back in half.  Season both inside and out with salt and pepper.  Then put 1/3 of mixture to each pork chop.  Put a handful of shredded chedder cheese on top of the mixture, then fold the pork chop in half.  Make sure the pan where the mixture came out of has enough oil, then sear each side of the pork chop for 3 minutes. 
  4. Put the whole pan into the oven for 10 minutes.  It may need to be longer if your pork chop is thicker.
  5. When your timer beeps, take out the pork chops, let it rest for 5 minutes, and serve with any veggie and starch to your liking!

Parmesan Chicken

Oh. My. God.

These chicken were really good.

And I don’t usually like chicken breasts.

I had some chicken breasts defrosted in the fridge, and I was running out of ideas on what to make, since we just recently had a chicken cheese wrapped in bacon, which I cannot believe that I didn’t document this invention of mine…  Note to self:  Need to make it again and post the recipe!

I turned to few of my cookbooks for inspirations, but to no avil as I didn’t want to go out and buy more ingredients.  So I turned to my trusty friend:  Foodnetwork.com and started searching.  Couple of the recipes jumped out at me, but again, missing a few ingredients, until Ina’s Parmesan Chicken showed up.  I know, you are probably thinking:  What’s the big freaking deal?  It’s just a chicken parm recipe!

Well, let me assure you, this isn’t just any chicken parm.  The chicken itself is very close to a lot of chicken parm recipe, but it’s the pairing of the salad, with the lemon vinegrette dressing.  That itself, is amazing.

My lemons were super sour, so after following the recipe (although I didn’t measure, but use the juice of 2 lemons), I added about a teaspoon of simple syrup to tone down the sour-ness.  On top of that, I also zested the lemons and added into the dressing.  The dressing was really good, and I used some to dressed the pasta as well.  Pasta was not called for in the recipe, but I was feeding my brother and a friend, and not having starch for a meal just seems incomplete.   The dressing on the salad, then seeping into the hot chicken, along with a little bit of it on the pasta, it was just devine.

If I would to make this again, I think I will zest the lemons and put half of the zests in the bread crumb/cheese mixture.  I think that will give a refreshing take on the chicken.

Happy Chinese New Year & Happy Valentine’s Day

To you, and you, and you.

Last night, Chinese New Year’s Eve, we had the hot pot for a celebratory dinner with dear friends.

Today, we celebrate the Year of Tiger with some dumplings, which shapes like old Chinese gold.  “They” say that brings you money…  to eat the dumplings first thing in the morning on New Years Day.

Then we have a little festive outfit for the Valentine’s Day.

Hope you all had a happy day, regardless of what you are celebrating.

ps.  The Little Lady is out growing her 3 month outfits!!!!!!!!!!  Holy Crap!

Week 5

And mama is playing Susie Homemaker, with our little lady hanging out!

Yup.  She’s just hanging out in the wrap.  She loves that thing once she’s in it.  She will sleep like 3 or 4 hours in the thing!  Although the trick is getting her in it!

Since I got my hands back with the usage of the wrap, I decided to try out something I’ve been wanting to do for the past year:  Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day!

I first heard about them through Gale.  All of us went to Ann and Mike’s Holiday Party and she brought a loaf of bread.  Then she told us she didn’t knead it and it really take like 2 minutes to put together.  I was curious.  I love bread, but I really hate paying a lot of money for a good loaf of bread because I can’t eat it all myself, and it gets rock hard the next day and gets thrown away.  I checked the book out from the library this past summer, but we were moving so I didn’t get to bake anything from it.  Finally, couple of weeks ago, I bite the bullet and bought the books.  Of course, baking bread require good equipment, so David and I went up to William Sonoma and bought a baking stone.  (William Sonoma has a lifetime guarantee on baking stones.  If it breaks, just bring it to any William Sonoma, no questions asked!)  But of course, our lovely european oven is small and the stone sticks out an inch because of the way the racks are set up!!!  DOH!  But no fear, the engineer is thinking!  And here is my new contraption for baking breads in our extra small oven:

I took the racks out and put in a pizza stand, and put the stone on top!  HA!  And I even purchased a thermometer to make sure the oven temp.  To my surprise, our oven is RIGHT ON TARGET!  Most of home ovens varies up to 75 degrees, and mine is right on!  I guess I can’t really make fun of my extra small oven anymore.  (It turned out the oven we got costs like 1000 bucks retail – I looked it up on google.  Who knew?)

It took me a minute to get the bread out and shape it.  Rest, then stick it in the oven for half an hour, out comes this:

Nice hard crust on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside – just how I like my bread!  Although, I have to say, this first batch of dough didn’t rise much when baked.  I later noticed a hole on my saran wrap for my makeshift container.  So I fixed it buy purchasing real food storage containers:

One is regular boule dough from the original book, and the other container has gluten free boule dough from the second book.

Besides baking bread, I had been cooking up a storm.  But no photos!!!  I know!!!!  Weird, huh?  I made these awesome cheese filled chicken, based on this recipe, but instead of blue cheese, pecan and scallions, I stuffed it with asiago, Mexican blend and Parmesan cheese, and I wrap each breast with two slices of bacon.  It is YUMMY!  Even David, who DOES NOT like chicken, comment how good it is and that I can make it again, which I did, but added cream cheese to the mix as well.  (cream cheese was a good addition, in case you want to make it)

I’ve also saw the maple cookies recipe while going through my long list of blogs, and couldn’t resist trying them out.  And let me tell ya, they are AMAZING!

I didn’t have Grade B maple syrup, so I used what I had on hand, which is VT Grade A.  I also skipped the walnuts, since Paul is allergic to them, and I just dislike nuts (or fruit) in my cookies.  The cookies has just a little crunch on the outside by the edge, and soft and chewy with every bite.  SOOO GOOOOOOD!

So on the knitting front, I got nothing.  But!  I’ve sewn a diaper!!!  LOOKIE!!

Christmas Ooga Booga!!!  Ooga Boogas are just little monsters. Samantha from Little Comet Tail was looking for pattern testers and since I needed some more diapers, I volunteered for the new born size.  And they are quite fun to sew actually!

Oh, all the talk of food…  Our little lady is hungry NOW.  Time to go!