Still Life, With Cats

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Kitchen Adventures


Technically I am off work this entire week, except that yesterday I had a conference call and some stuff I had to send out, and some updates to do, and this morning I had another conference call and so on, but I made it very clear that after 10am, I was going to be out of reach. I suspect my inbox will be in a mild state of panic by the time I return, but oh well.

I picked up my little sister and her family at the airport this morning, by doing my usual double-loop around the airport, because ever since they put in the new parking garage and reconfigured the parking, I get confused every single time I go there. The signs do not help, as they point to the different terminals, and thus make it seem as if there is different parking for each terminal, when in reality there isn’t and would it kill them to put up a sign saying ALL parking?

Anyway. I am at least smart enough to give myself extra time for the inevitable ‘how do I get to the damn parking garage’ kerfluffle, and was there waiting for them at the bottom of the escalators as they came down to get their luggage. Then we headed home, after making a brief stop to get coffee for my sister (who likes a little blood in her caffeine system).

When we got home, my sister and I (okay, primarily it was her, while I occasionally handed her things and shooed the cats off the kitchen island, where technically they are allowed to be because we gave up years ago when it became clear that allowing them on the island meant they were less likely to then try to get onto the counters, except that they aren’t helpful when one is trying to roll out dough) made several batches of gingerbread while my brother-in-law cut templates out of cardboard and then cut out all the pieces. We also made chocolate crinkles and here is where I have to giggle because when I travel, I make sure to always bring yarn with me, while when she travels, apparently she likes to bring baking paraphernalia with her, like her favorite cookie scoop, and pastry bags and tips, and so on. I did manage to appall my sister (heh) by the fact that I only own one whisk (because most of the time I don’t ever need more than one at a time).

By the time Richard got home from work the house smelled delightfully of gingerbread and chocolate and yummy things. We ate lasagna for dinner stuffed with veggies, and ate cookies for dessert. Everyone camped out in the living room with the cats and various laptops and Kindles and so on and we chatted and laughed and oh, I wish they lived closer so we could do this more often. Sigh.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.


Yesterday was technically my Friday off, which is of course why I ended up working anyway, except while sitting in my sweats at the dining room table. Ah well. I suppose I could be upset about it except that I really do like the project that’s been sucking up so much of my time, and also if one is working from home in sweats, one can also zip into the kitchen from time to time and whip up some cookies.

For the last few years I’ve made a huge batch of gingerbread men for the annual cookie swap, but this year I pondered the fact that the Meyer lemon tree in the backyard is once again determined to blow us away with the sheer volume of fruit (for a tree that is barely four feet tall, it is disturbingly prolific), and so instead I made Almendrados, because hello recipe that calls for 4 teaspoons of lemon zest per batch! As an aside, grinding almonds in the food processor is really, really loud and the cats do *not* approve.

Of course the downside to requiring a vast amount of lemon zest is that then one is left with a lot of naked lemons lying about on one’s kitchen counter, and so this morning I decided to ask Google what to do about it. Google obligingly provided a recipe for Lemon Pancakes, although it also required lemon zest which meant that I *still* have naked lemons on the kitchen counter (but fewer than before, so hooray for that).

I am…ambivalent about the recipe. They were okay, but I prefer a thicker, more cake-like pancake and these were a thinner, floppier sort of affair. So this one isn’t going into my ‘to keep’ pile, but hey, if you are the thin, floppy sort of pancake lover, I can highly recommend it.

In the meantime, all this cookie baking and pancake making means I have now made it through roughly 1/100th of the lemons on the damn tree. Okay. Perhaps I exaggerate. Maybe it’s really closer to 1/99th.


Today’s amusement is the 2015 Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog. For some reason I was not aware of this annual tradition until now. How could I live with myself if any of you readers were also similarly unspoiled? #BARKYEAH.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

Don’t blink

Somehow it is nearly Halloween, a fact which didn’t quite hit me until a day or two ago. Yes, yes, people have been decorating their yards with various graveyard paraphernalia, and giant spiders have been popping up all over the place, and there are pumpkins everywhere we go, but still, wow. Almost Halloween. Where did October go?

Halloween means parties – the neighborhood one, and then the ones at work – and parties means I have to come up with some kind of appropriately themed food. In years past we’ve done Litter Box Cake for Richard’s work party, but it’s kind of a pain to make and one recipe makes a LOT of cake, so we always have a ton of it leftover. I’ve also done ‘finger’ cookies (cute and tasty) and cat poop cookies (disturbingly realistic, and not really tasty enough for the effort) and so on, but this year I was pondering ideas and then remembered that I now possessed a set of food color pens, and then I figured out immediately what I was going to make: Monster Eyes.

I started with a basic almond cookie. I have been making almond cookies for years and years (it’s something my mom used to make). If you do a Google search for ‘Chinese almond cookie’ you’ll find a bazillion versions of the recipe so I’m not going to bother posting all the details here (although if you really want to know, I used this recipe primarily because the recipe I normally use uses shortening and I didn’t have any in the house). Also, although most of the recipes online don’t call for it, I rolled the dough into logs and tossed them into the fridge to chill for a couple hours, because it is then *so* much easier to slice them evenly so you end up with exactly the number of cookies you need.

Usually I do not bother to use blanched almonds because we pretty much always have a giant bag of raw almonds in the freezer (handy for baking / snacking), but if one is to decorate cookies, one needs blanched almonds. After consulting Google (all hail Google), I discovered that it is stupidly easy to blanch almonds yourself, so armed with 120 almonds (because yes, that’s how many cookies I churned out in one day – three dozen per party, plus a couple extra for….uh…quality control testing), and some boiling water, and two huge batches of cookie dough, I baked up a huge batch of Monster Eyes.

I am quite pleased with how they turned out. Decorating them was extremely simple (which is good because my artistic skills when it comes to food decorating are pretty much nonexistent), and consisted of waiting for the cookies to cool and then drawing a little black oval ‘pupil’ onto the middle of the almond. Poof. Monster Eye.


In retrospect, I could have really had fun and stirred in some food coloring, but I didn’t actually think about that until after the third batch was in the oven, so ah well, maybe next time.

Posting for Horrordailies. Boo.

N is for Noodles

Most of the time no one ever comments on anyone else’s lunch at work. People just tend to prep and stir and microwave whatever they’ve brought or picked up at a local shop, and eat without even noticing what anyone else has. But today as I pulled my lunch out of the fridge, a couple coworkers stopped what they were doing commented. Ooh, that’s so pretty. What is it?

That’s because my lunch was one of these, which we prepped yesterday afternoon. Layered all together in a jar, especially if you try to pick the more colorful veggies, it’s definitely an eyecatching lunch. And more importantly, it’s extremely tasty.

We’ve made them a number of times before – or perhaps I should say that we’ve made something similar to them. Pretty much the only part of the recipe we follow consistently is the peanut sauce (except for the sesame seeds because those just seem unnecessarily fussy). The rest – eh. Totally up to interpretation. Whole wheat noodles instead of soba. A sprinkle of peanuts instead of the edamame or the crunchy noodles. Skip the raw onions because neither of us is a fan. Whatever’s in season at the farmer’s market, instead of sticking to just the veggies listed in the actual recipe.

This week’s version includes shredded carrots, peanuts, chopped yellow bell pepper, and chunks of sugar snap peas. During the winter, sometimes I add shredded cabbage, or even some lightly steamed broccoli, and then heat it up before eating. But when the temperature is soaring over 90 degrees outside, and the farmers market has new things popping up on the tables every weekend, I prefer to eat it cold.

The letter N is brought to you by the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

W is for Waylaid

I often make a lot of plans for what I am going to accomplish in an evening after work, or on a weekend.

And then I come home and I sit down at the computer to do a quick catch-up on my email, or on the couch to do a few rows of knitting and…I am waylaid.

Sometimes it is only one cat.Waylaid5

Usually it is two.
2015-04-25 Waylaid1
2015-04-25 Waylaid2

And every so often, it is three.


The letter W is brought to you by the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Soup weather

We are, according to the media, right smack dab in the middle of one of the worst winter storms to hit our area in a long time. Dire warnings have been popping up all over the news over the past few days, and I have received countless emails from various city departments and sites reminding me to avoid downed power lines, telling me where I might be able to purchase sand bags (yes, really), and imploring me to please stay off the road and avoid the deluge.

Alas, Stormageddon, as I have affectionately nicknamed this particular burst of weather, has so far been a big bust in my city. There’s been rain, yes, and wind, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, and nothing at all like what we were expecting.  Although to be fair, it has wreaked havoc all over the San Francisco region, so I suppose there was reason for *some* people to have a teensy amount of panic. Just…not as much as the media would really, really like us to believe. Yes, I know.

Lack of actual storminess of the storm aside, it’s definitely been a cold and dreary day – the perfect day for soup. Potato Cheese Soup, to be exact.

This is not a complicated recipe. Really, it’s more of a rough guideline to making soup, suitable for tweaking to meet anyone’s specific palette.

You start with a bunch of potatoes. The number depends on how many people you’re trying to feed, and/or how much soup you want to have as leftovers (it reheats well, so we always, always aim for leftovers). Peel them and chop them into large chunks and toss them into a big pot. Then do the same with some carrots. Again, the number is up to you, although the dominant focus of this soup is the specific texture and flavor of the potato, so you don’t want your non-potato parts to overwhelm the potato parts.

Toss in one onion (peeled and cut into quarters). No matter how big a batch, I always use only one onion, although if  you’ve a mind to, feel free to use more.

At this point I usually stop, although now would be a good time to also throw in any other random root vegetables of the sort that are not going to overwhelm the soup. This is a perfect place to hide leftover sweet potatoes, or turnips, or rutabagas. You can also add celery, but I recommend chopping it up small, as no one wants to be pulling nasty celery strings from their teeth. I add it, or not, depending on whether there’s any in the fridge.

Add in some water – not enough to cover all the chopped up veggies, but enough so that they won’t burn. I usually start with 2 cups and then add more depending on how full my pot is. If you prefer broth, you can use that instead, but it’ll taste just fine with plain water if you’ve no broth at hand.

Cover the pot, bring to a boil, and then simmer about half an hour, or until everything is nice and soft.  Remove it from the heat, and then blend everything together until it’s silky smooth. If it’s too thick, feel free to add a little additional water to thin things out.

Now comes the fun part. Stir in some cheddar cheese. This is where, if you are a parent with picky children, you can get sneaky, and blame the orange color of the soup on the cheese and not on the carrots (since once it’s all blended up, you shouldn’t be able to taste the carrots anyway). Start with 2-4 ounces of cheese, but feel free to add as much or as little as you want. I suppose you could also have fun with different varieties of cheese, should you so desire. We are purists, however, and stick to the cheddar.

Stir the soup until the cheese is completely melted. Salt and pepper to taste. Scoop up a big bowl and eat it while curled up on the sofa under a blanket, listening to the rain outside.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

The scent of ginger; the screams of the damned

Today, according to the days-of-the-year calendar I found when I was, once again, scrambling to throw together enough prompts for Holidailies for the whole month of December, is Cookie Day. I have no idea who designated it Cookie Day, but hey, I’m not going to fuss. This is a yearly event I think we all can stand behind. Especially based on the nifty little present Richard’s mom got for him and his two sisters this past weekend.

She says, when she saw this in the store, that she thought immediately of her children. I cannot imagine why.


Okay, maybe I can imagine why. Just a teensy weensy bit.

Anyway. In honor of it being Cookie Day, we decided to make ourselves a tiny little army of Walking Gingerdead cookies. The first thing I noticed, upon turning the box over to read the instructions, is the chirpy, happy little box of text at the top of the box (click the picture to make it larger). Clearly this is something they probably put on every single box of cookie mix, but it seemed a wee bit more amusing considering that we were about to whip up some zombies.

WGD-back panel

We mixed up the dough and rolled them out and tossed them into the oven to bake. Then later, once they had cooled sufficiently, we decorated them. Or perhaps I should say we tried to decorate them. Let’s just say that there’s a reason neither of us has ever attempted a career in the bakery arts.

So here are our Walking Gingerdead cookies. The 3 in the middle are from a regular gingerbread man cookie cutter. When one has a zombie horde, it is crucial that one also provide them with victims.


Shortly after this picture was taken, two of the zombies were promptly eaten. Because even gingerbread victims need to have a fighting chance when faced with the gingerdead.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies!

As one does

Here is what you do when you come home from a very long of day work, followed by a an intense rehearsal, and your feet are killing you and there is something disturbingly sticky on the kitchen counters that has been there since the previous night, and the collection of ‘rescued’ jingle bell ornaments underneath the sofa is significantly larger than it was when you left the house, and you really ought to be spending every single extra waking moment doing more productive things.

You make fudge. You go get a can of sweetened condensed milk and some peanut butter and a bag of chocolate chips and a slug of corn syrup and then you dump it all into a pan and turn the heat on low and stir it all around until everything is nicely melted together. And then you take it off the heat and you stir in some vanilla extract and then you pour the whole mess into a greased pan and you cover that up and stick it in the fridge to cool, and then. Then.

Then you get to lick the spoon, because it is late and no one else is awake to see you, and most importantly, because it has been a very, very long day.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

Cookie math

Cookie swap and upcoming charity thing at work for which we are to bring cookies.

Calculation: six cookies + one dozen people + extra cookies for nibbling beforehand / after + cookies for charity thing at work later this week = bazillion cookies.

Butter + sugar + sour cream + molasses + ginger + baking powder + flour + more flour + even more flour + dump more flour on counter and roll them out + cutting out a bazillion cookies + inhale dinner + raisins  + red hots + baking + huh, these aren’t turning out quite like I remember them.

Subtotal cookies (not quite enough)

Subtotal cookies – subtotal cookies after discovery I used baking powder instead of baking soda in first batch and that’s why they are all dense and look kind of weird.


Butter + sugar + sour cream + molasses + ginger + baking soda + flour + more flour + even more flour + dump more flour on counter and roll them out + cutting out a bazillion cookies + cat for the love of all that is holy, please STOP WHINING I cannot hold you right now + raisins  + red hots  – red hots because what do you MEAN they are out of them at the store how can they be out of red hots? is this the end times?  + tiny little flower things as poor nose substitutes but at this point I no longer care + Sherman get OFF the counter right now + this is insane next year I am making drop cookies + baking.

Cookies + bags + containers= done.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.



I got up this morning and was full of plans for being super productive. But then I got sidetracked by Plants vs Zombies 2, which sort of killed most of the morning. So really, all I managed to do today was scrub down the shower stall (because hoo boy did it need it), go to the library to turn in books and pay my fine (the result of being sick / too busy to go drop stuff off or pick stuff up), and swing by the grocery store to get sour cream and elbow noodles. And then I came home and I spent a couple hours knitting, all the while telling myself that this wasn’t going to work, this really wasn’t going to work. But we knitters, we are a perverse bunch and sometimes it takes a while for us to finally grasp reality. Eventually, though, I finally hit that point where I accepted the inevitable with no small amount of muttered swearing under my breath, so I set it down in disgust and distracted myself by making this Carroty Mac & Cheese for dinner (primarily because we seem to have acquired a rather startlingly large volume of carrots over the past few weekend trips to the farmers market), and oh by the way, you should go to your kitchen right now and make it and then do your best to avoid standing at the counter and shoveling the entire pot into your mouth with a spoon because it is really that good.

Thus fortified with cheese and noodles and enough carrots to surely counteract the rest of it (shut up, leave me my delusions) and having postponed the inevitable as long as I could, I finally sat down and proceeded to rip out exactly 15,680 stitches (yes, that really is an accurate number) and started over again from scratch.

Thankfully there was leftover lemon cake and ice cream to tide me over. Leftover cake and ice cream can soothe a lot of ills, especially when it involves ripping out vast quantities of knitting.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.