Wednesday, July 31, 2013

oven caramelized onions

Usually, I caramelize my onions the long way (the normal way) taking almost an hour over the stovetop, stirring carefully as things get browned and crispy. Last time I made a caramelized onion and mushroom casserole, though, I just couldn't fathom the idea of spending an hour in sweltering heat over the stove on top of the rest of the work I needed to do.

I'd had enough. Last time I made these, though, Morgan gave me several suggestions that there might be some shortcuts available. I checked out the links she gave me and became determined that I would find a caramelizing onions method that worked comfortably for my needs. In light of the fact that recipes for which I caramelize onions tend to require lots of pots and pans I became determined to find a way that worked in the oven.

Technically these take longer than a traditional method of caramelizing the onions but most of the time is hands off. Turn the oven on high, chuck them in, and just check in on them every half hour or so. Which makes them a perfect choice for a slow afternoon, or for preparing the day before. These keep really well in the fridge for a day or two, and if they're just a component in a dish that's how I use this recipe. It also makes it somewhat of a breeze to caramelize large amounts of onion all at once ... and now that I've got that nifty mandolin it's even easier because most of the chopping is done for me.

This method yields lovely, mushy deep brown caramelized onions with just minimal effort. It's my new go to, at least on cool days.

Ingredients
  • 8 medium yellow onions, sliced
  • cooking spray
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • water, probably about a cup
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400*.
  2. Take a large cooking dish, either a dutch oven or a 9x13 baking dish (I've used both with equal success) and liberally apply cooking spray. Spread your onions evenly about the dish and sprinkle with salt. Pop the onions into the oven.
  3. After 30 minutes, remove the dish from the oven and stir the onions. At this point they are going to be very unevenly cooked - some bits may look burnt, some will look barely translucent. That's ok. Stir them up and pop them back in the oven. Regular stirring and a long cooking time will even everything out.
  4. Cook the onions for another half an hour, then remove, stir and pop them back in the oven.
  5. Once the onions have been in the oven for 1 1/2 hours total, remove and stir once more. At this point there will be browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Grab your water, and taking about 1/4 cup deglaze the pan, getting all the little bits to release from the bottom and dissolve into the onion mixture. The water will evaporate very quickly, probably before the onions are even back in the oven, but it will release the yumminess from the bottom.
  6. Put the onions back in the oven for another 30 minutes to 1 hour, stopping to stir and deglaze every 15 to 20 minutes.
  7. The onions are done when they have shrunk to about a third of the original volume, are evenly soft and have a nice deep brown colour all around.
  8. Serve as is. Alternately, use in a caramelized onion dish or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Monday, July 29, 2013

what a weekend

This past weekend was one that was a bit too rough, and too busy for my liking. I like my weekends quiet and relaxing, full of plenty of time to sew and bake and run around and get errands done with Bunny. There was none of that this weekend, and while a lot of the stuff was good there was really just too much going on.

It also doesn't help that Bunny and I both threw hissy fits on two separate days, because that's just exhausting for both of us. I had a bit of a crying jag Friday night about how we were talking about handling more school for Bunny. The school bit is totally necessary and while I'm not thrilled with it, I knew it was coming. Very suddenly I realized that I wasn't ok with our original plan for how we were planning on handling the whole process and the next thing you know, boom crying and freaking out. Sunday while we were on the road out of town one of Bunny's electric cigarettes started acting up and he followed up with a temper tantrum of his own. The combination of the two tells you a lot about how long and stressful our weekend was, actually.

Other than that? We had a family picnic and a wedding shower to attend. The picnic was nice enough - I like Bunny's family. I started feeling sick part way through, though, and ended up lying down in the truck the last couple hours. And as much as I like Bunny's family its always a little weird and overwhelming for me, probably because my mom's side of the family is tiny (like, three people tiny) and I haven't had a relationship with the other side of my family in years and years. It was good, though, and apparently there is a wedding coming up in the future.

The shower ended up being a lot more fun than anticipated. It was still a bridal shower with all the awkwardness that entails but it was (thankfully) smaller than I'm used to, which made it significantly less overwhelming. Plus, I already knew the whole friends-of-the-bride contingent, and we all get along well so I had a good time. Then Bunny surprised me by picking me up at the end, which was a lovely treat.

Friday night we also had a decent night out, trying an Indian place in town. It's hard too find too much in the way of ethnic cuisine here - my city, while having over 100,000, has the demographic makeup of a tiny rural town. The food was really good, and quality wise would have stood against pretty much any Indian place in Toronto. Way overpriced, though, which is a product of just how hard it is to find any of this variety here - there's no competition. It wasn't an expensive meal out, exactly, but most of the dishes were double what they cost at almost any other decent Indian place I've been to. But oh the aloo mattar was good, and that's my favourite. So I was happy, really.

And just like that, the weekend's over and it's the start of a whole brand new week at work. How does that happen?

Friday, July 26, 2013

kitchen tool love

When I casually mention that there's a kitchen tool I like, or when I do something regularly by hand that can be done by tool, my mom has a tendency to buy the tool. Or somehow my great aunt in law will send a care package and bam, there's a tool I've been wanting. This is how I end up with collections of things like vinaigrette bottles (though a fork is faster) and multiple candy thermometers, or other oddities.

Right along these lines, there's a new tool in my kitchen right now and I'm just a little bit in love. A few weeks ago my mom brought a mandoline home and though three quarters of the time I'd rather just use a chef's knife for some things this is amazing. Blow through chopping onions to caramelize half a dozen at a time with nary a tear? Done. Slice sweet potatoes in minutes to make an amazing casserole? Done.

Which reminds me, once I stop being lazy and distracted I do have delicious recipes to share. Delicious, amazing recipes. Veggie recipes, even.

It's not always a good solution. If I just need a cucumber sliced it's a lot quicker to just chop but when I'm doing a large quantity of something, like prepping for a stir fry or doing a week's worth of chopping, it's an amazing tool. When we move this might be the first thing I buy because clearly I need this in my life.

How did I live without this?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

review: a wise man's fear

In books there's good and then there's good. After reading The Name of the Wind I was sure Patrick Rothfuss was a good writer, and I was certain I was going to like the sequel. Boy was I wrong. I'd barely finished book two, A Wise Man's Fear before picking up both books again and re-reading bits of them. Rothfuss is that kind of good.

The writing gets markedly stronger. Where The Name of the Wind had funny part, A Wise Man's Fear was laugh out loud funny at points. When The Name of the Wind dropped hints of plotlines to come, A Wise Man's Fear picks those pieces up and weaves them into a beautiful story. Names that are brought up in dirty rhymes, or dropped in other tiny ways come back up again, and somehow become important parts of the story. Throw away characters from book one, who help Kvothe but really don't add to the story come back to create problems, when really they are just trying to help. Elodin meets Auri, in one of the most compelling odd character driven scenes. Thumbs are threatened.

There are parts that I didn't love, sure. The scene in fae (with Felurian) felt as though it lasted for far too long. Reading it did in some ways illustrate how it must feel to step into and out of the fae, and certainly some very important things happened there, and other important things were revealed. It maybe didn't need to span a hundred pages is all I'm saying. Parts that might have been interesting were glossed over, as Kvothe the narrator didn't think they were relevant and argued that they were documented well elsewhere. In some ways it thought like the book took far too long to start, as more action and interest felt like it was packed in the last third of the book than anywhere else.

Questions are both answered and unanswered. I have a nagging, unconfirmed suspicion about Meluan Lackless, owing to a smattering of remarks she makes and some facts from the first book. Who exactly is Denna? Certainly the chase for the Chandrian progresses slightly, though comes nowhere towards being solved.

Then of course there are the present day mysteries. Exactly what and who is Bast? What are his intentions, and how did he come to study under Kvothe. Why is there a bounty on Kvothe's head, and what has he achieved in his life that he is so willing Why does Kvothe not have his old powers of sympathy and naming - is taking his new name and identity truly that powerful (as might be suggested by an offhand remark from Elodin), or is it something more sinister than that. Who are the Amyr? The Chandrian?

I can barely contain myself waiting for the next book.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

one year

I forgot to book today off work, even though I knew I'd be better being off at home. Luckily I ended up being scheduled off, because I would probably flip out if I were working today. I let a customer make me cry on Monday (he was being a twat) and I got really worked up after two nasty, yelling, swearing customers yesterday (though in large part I was offended that one of them used "queer" as an insult - that got right under my skin there).

These are usually things that roll of my back. Oh, I might give my computer screen the finger, but no one can see that. Customer service means that sometimes dealing with people who are intent on being rude is part of the job, the smallest part but still a part of it. Mostly I can handle it. Maybe I'm feeling a little burnt out lately.

My mind is also a little pre-occupied this week. This time last year I was in the ER in so much pain I could barely breathe, having my miscarriage. It was a long time before I could properly talk about it.

So it's on my mind right now. Not in that terrible, all encompassing way it used to bother me, but it's an awareness that's there poking from the background of my consciousness and it's got my tolerance for other people's crap wearing a little thin. It's an odd feeling, and there's a detached sense about how I'm feeling. It's like a local anaesthetic, where I don't feel much pain around the injury itself, but on the edges everything is raw and oversensitive. Does that make any sense? It's like when I'm so tired and agitated that someone touching me is physically painful, or when my stomach hurts so much that sound feels like being stabbed. Maybe I'm just odd. I am pretty odd.

It's an odd day. But I'm at home today, and I'll enjoy a nice long puppy cuddle in bed, and sit up having a drink (a stiff one!) watching Rossi race back in his heyday and doing some sewing. Maybe I'll make cookies, and I'll probably go visit my little cutie pie nephew next door. Today's designed to be a quiet day.

Monday, July 15, 2013

what I'm working lately


It's been awhile since there's been an update on my sewing projects. I've got a couple more things on the go than usual - finishing up my Scrappy Trip (the end is finally in sight), turning some test pieces I'd made with fabric scraps into pillows, and the start of my newest project - the quilt for my niece is underway.

Since I've got all these things on the go, I'm also going to do something I haven't before and link up with the 2013 Finish-A-Long. I've been following this the first half of the year, and figured that since I have a few projects on the go I'd join in this round myself.


First, the Scrappy Trip. I've been working on this since late January-ish, when I started piecing the blocks. Finally a month or so ago I finished up my quilting and just the other week I got the binding cut and pinned on. The binding is half on the front, and I'm just working on stitching it on now. This should be an easy finish in the next month or so.


I don't really want to show too much because I'm so close to being done and can't wait to give you a big reveal. So far I'm adoring this quilt and I can't wait to get it in our living room and eventually have it on our couches. I'm also scheming the specifics of the co-ordinating quilt, which is the next start on my list.



Next up, and this should also be a fairly easy finish, is to make a couple of pillow covers for some blocks I made up as testers for the next quilt. I'd completely gummed up my math on making a square in a square, so I'm glad I did. It took no less than four tries to get the block right. Luckily I had scraps left over from the Scrappy Trip quilt, so I'd done the samples up with those. They already co-ordinate and I'm going to do them up into pillow covers, so they don't go to waste.

Finally - and I think I'm most excited about this - I've started the next quilt on my list. This is for my niece, and has the most delicious fabrics in it. I'm keeping the colour palette very limited, at the moment I'm only using four. Because of that bad math I might end up needing to pick up some more, and if I do that I'll probably throw a twist in with the fabrics. This is the first time I've used proper quilting cottons, and compared to the fabric I was buying before they've been a dream to sew with.

There's lots to do, and it's a stretch that I'd even be finished the quilt top (or all the blocks) by the time the Finish-A-Long deadline comes up, but the bit I've sewn so far I've been loving this sewing. This is only the first bit done - cutting for a few of the blocks and just barely starting on the piecing, but I'm enjoy the process.





she can quilt

Edit: I'm also linking this back to the Season by Hand series. This quilt has been entirely handmade, from piecing to quilting to binding and luckily enough the timing seems to overlap just right.

Friday, July 12, 2013

happies!

I've been in a much better mood this past week or so but I've been busy in my regular, non-internet life and so things here have been a little neglected. Other than the obvious (work), most things are going pretty swimmingly here. I've got posts planned - some updates on crafting, and some recipes, and I'm working on a breakfast-y recipe for Amanda as well (at this point I mostly just need to write it up, and make the two components at the same time so I can take a photo or two of it) but I'm more being drawn to my other activities lately.

Life's been good. A small sampling of recent and coming events:

  • Amazing, can't put them down, make me laugh out loud books. I'm just sad that in 500 pages I'm out of reading material (so, Sunday, maybe)
  • Binding the Scrappy Trip quilt. I mean, I don't like binding by any means, at least not the first part, but my blanket is practically a blanket. I feel like that wins at life.
  • Baby nephew cuddles. He's so cute I'd even change a poopy diaper for the chance to hold him. I've changed a few diapers already, but none of them poopy.
  • My niece's quilt is underway. Just barely started, but I began doing some of the piecing this week. This will be a long haul, really, and some of my math may have been a little short so I might need to order more fabric. Which is an excuse to get a few more things "for me", right? Or at least some basics?
  • BBQ that doesn't suck. I'm not a fan of BBQ, really, but Bunny and my mom love it. Bunny's had a few things the last few weeks that aren't hamburgers/hot dogs/chicken wings though which makes summer eating more manageable for me.
  • Odd visits with friends. Yes, I will come meet your great aunt if it means I have a chance to hang out with you.
  • Rossi won Assen! Even after having the results spoiled this is still a huge thing to have been able to see. Rossi! Winning! For the first time in over two years.
  • Cooking for other people. I've taken to making doubles of dinner and bringing them over next door, because I figure new parents need a break on the cooking, and it's always so rewarding to cook for other people. Especially when they rave about my cooking.
What's putting a smile on your face this weekend?

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

review: the name of the wind

When people tell me "you have to read this" I can be a terrible hold-out. My preferred readings can be so specific, and sometimes I'm a bit of a snob thinking that my taste in books must be so much better than yours. Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind is one of those books I'm kicking myself over holding out on for so long. If I'd have been smart I would have just trusted the source, when it was first recommended, instead of waiting for half a dozen random people to tell me I needed to read this. My co-worker and I share pretty similar sci-fi/fantasy pop culture interests and when he says read this or watch this I would do well to heed that, in the future.

The Name of the Wind is just flat out pleasure reading, start to end. The story of a hero, told in his own words, this book is the first in a trilogy (of which the second is sitting on my side table and the third is yet to be released). It's a story within a story, or perhaps a story that jumps from now, as it is being told, to then, when it happened.

Rothfuss plays with storytelling itself and the usual archetypes, making a point of subverting them and part of the charm of the story is pointing out exactly when he does. It's an interesting plot device, used to make the events propelling the story forward seem that much more realistic, though if I poked too hard at that the holes in his narrative device would become apparent.

It's a story about heroes, and mythic worlds and magic. About the difference between true magic and simply advanced knowledge and science. The two types of magic in the book are exquisite, and I adore the contrast between that and the exploration of what magic actually is in the book.

This is one of those books where I just want to get on to the sequel instead of sitting here and analyzing it, actually. It's that good. I want more.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Alphabets

Tania Elizabeth over at Varekai tagged me here, and I had to play along. Anyone else remember when the internet was new and email "surveys" were constantly passed around between friends? Or was that just me? Either way, nostalgia demands I participate.

A: Attached or Single: Firmly attached. My husband is the best.
B: Best Friend: Different friends for different things, and the levels of closeness wax and wane. I'd probably say my university roommate is my best friend though, excepting Bunny.
C: Cake or Pie: If they're just average, cake. Middling pie is always disappointing, but even average cake is delightful. Properly made pie, though, is a work of edible art.
D: Day of Choice: I'm a fan of Thursdays. The was enrichment "classes" (or, goof off in the library time) in elementary school/ In high school that was band and orchestra practice. My favourite classes were Thursday nights in university. And then I did get married on a Thursday.
E: Essential Item: My glasses. I'm useless without them. Anything else I can get by without, even though I might not like it.
F: Favorite Color: I'm indecisive. Different colours interest me at different times.
G: Gummy  Bears or Worms: Gummy cola bottles, actually. Although right now they make my teeth hurt.
H: Hometown: I was born in Toronto and lived there the first few years of life. It's where my soul sings. But I currently live where I grew up.
I: Favorite Indulgence: Hazelnut lattes. They're expensive and utterly delightful. I can't wait to get my espresso machine back in business when we move.
J: January or July: I'm not a fan of either, really. January in central Ontario is disgustingly cold and snowy, and July is awful and muggy.
K: Kids: I adore my nephew and am trying to give any other thought to children this month. But man is he cute.
L: Life Isn’t Complete Without: Death. I'm morbid, but that's what signals that your life is, literally, complete.
M: Marriage Date: August 23.
N: Number of Handbags: I have about half a dozen, two of which are really good ones. I'm hoping to pick up a nice tan or white one this year, actually.
O: Oranges or Apples: I'm not actually a fan of fruit. But apples can be delightful when I'm in  the mood, and make scrumptious desserts. I don't like the membranes of citrus.
P: Phobias: All of them? Not being able to breathe. Being trapped in anything (a turtleneck can make me cry, and I've been known to throw a panic attack over a too-small ring) and alternative spaces that are too large and empty.
Q: Quote: "Reach for the moon, even if you miss you will land among the stars" Les Brown
R: Reason to Smile: Puppy cuddles
S: Season of Choice: Autumn
T: Tag 5 People: If you'd like to play consider yourself tagged
U: Unknown Fact About Me: I'm not convinced that the physical world actually exists.
V: Vegetable: I'm a fan of cruciferous greens. Broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
W: Worst Habit: Little nervous habit? That would be nail biting. Other than that, I'm not sure though there are many things I do that are objectively worse, I'm just not sure what exactly would be my worst.
X: X-ray or Ultrasound: I'm radioactive.
Y: Your Favorite Food: See the letter V. Seriously.
Z: Zodiac Sign: Taurus.

Friday, July 05, 2013

roasted brussel sprouts for the sprout-hater

Everyone has that one food that they're just grossed out beyond words by, right? For me it's tomatoes (you can't even get me in the room if someone's cooking with them, they smell so bad). For Bunny? Brussels sprouts. Clearly he's the more normal of the two, because only weirdos don't like tomatoes and do like Brussels sprouts.

Bunny's hatred of the sprout runs pretty deep, and the last time he had one he would have been a kid. He promptly threw up all over the dinner table, apparently, and that was it for Brussels sprouts for him. I mean the man gets a pass, because that's some pretty intense food reaction right there.

Except I love me some sprouts. And there was maybe a half a pound of fresh Brussels sprouts in the crisper and damn if I wasn't going to cook them. This is the recipe that turned Bunny into a sprout lover, and he's since requested I make them again. So yeah, this is good. I also know his tastes in food, so this was tailored to his likings.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts in Bacon

Ingredients
  • 1/2 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 strips of bacon
  • 2 tbsp bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350*F.
  2. Trim off ends of sprouts and then cut into quarters. Toss bits in a baking dish. Some of the leaves will probably fall off, just put those in the baking dish as well. They'll be good.
  3. In a sauté pan over medium heat, cook bacon until just barely cooked. The bacon will cook further in the oven so you don't want to let it get crispy, but you do want to get the bacon to release most of it's fat. This should take about five minutes, and you'll probably want to flip the bacon strips once or twice during that time.
  4. Remove bacon from pan, set aside.
  5. Drizzle bacon grease over the sprouts, trying to get things evenly coated. Toss the sprouts around a bit if you find some areas are greasier than others.
  6. Put the pan back over heat, add the onions. Cook until just translucent, about five more minutes. The onions will soak up any bits of bacon grease that didn't pour over the sprouts.
  7. Remove onions from the heat, add to the dish with your Brussels sprouts.
  8. Roughly chop the bacon and sprinkle over the sprouts.
  9. Mix your salt and Italian seasoning in with your breadcrumbs, then sprinkle that over your sprouts. Sprinkle your cheese.
  10. Put the whole mess in the oven, bake for about 30 minutes. These are done when the edges of your sprouts are starting to brown.
  11. Eat. Watch your avowed sprout-hating husband devour his portion and ask for more.
  12. Then, go see your mother in law and tell her that you win at life. Do a victory dance. (This step is optional.) 

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Assen (racing break)

This last weekend hosted one of my favourite MotoGP races, at Assen in the Netherlands. June is probably my favourite month in racing as the Catalunya circuit, which is my hands down favourite, is quickly followed up with the Dutch race.

Bunny's facebook spoiled the race for us (I was working, so we streamed the race later that evening) in that he follows a lot of the racers so they told him who won. Then he, in turn, bitched about facebook and told me who won without saying his name.

Even for all that, watching the race was magic. It's not that I've never seen Valentino Rossi win a race, because I watch old seasons when Bunny works for the pleasure of seeing this man ride. He is a master, and one of the great motorcycle racers of all time. Definitely the greatest of his generation. But in the two and a half years since we began following the league, he has been having a rough time. Riding an uncompetitive Ducati. Struggling to regain his rhythm back on the Yamaha this year. We've watched documentaries about the league that in reality are mostly about him. He's won races from 14 places back as if it was easy

I've watched these seasons somewhat woefully, wishing he would perform. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I have a bit of a fan-girl crush on him (and Bunny won't let me put him on my elevator list, which makes me sad).

Instead we have watched Stoner and Lorenzo dominate the league, often riding as if they were the only men on the track. We've watched Marquez's star rise so quickly I would not be surprised if he challenges some of Rossi's records. We have heard the Spanish national anthem more times than we can count. (I can hum it, without even thinking I know it so well now.)

This weekend, though, Rossi won. At the Cathedral in Assen and oh it was magic. He's not the best starter, but he makes up for it. His passes are breathtaking, as if the other riders aren't there at all, and you don't get back in front of him after he takes your spot. And then, he won.

Do you watch any sporting events? Have there ever been instances that have taken your breath away?

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

still around

I've been a bit of a bad updater lately, and I think I finally figured out why. At first I thought maybe I'd run out of things to say. Then I thought I'd gotten lazy and quiet. Then, that my sewing time has been sucking up more of my energy than usual (and it has, but that's not why).

Finally I realized it's all my nephew's fault. Well, not his fault, but certainly because of him. It just so happens that I am totally enamoured with this little guy, and he sucks up gobs of my time. Whether it's holding him, or cooing over him while he's sleeping, or watching Bunny turn into a  giant marshmallow and fall in love with little baby feet it just so happens that tons of my time is taken up loving on him. Or his parents, because I figure one of the best gifts I can give to new parents are a couple of casseroles that just need to be popped in the oven, or someone else to give the baby his bottle while they eat their own dinner.

I probably spend about an hour with baby in my arms every other day. And oh man is that time well spent. Seeing the cute little dimple in his ear. Changing his little bum, which they didn't think I'd actually do. Watching his expressions while he sleeps. Seeing his arms careen out of control. Listening to the angry cry in the bath. Yeah he's pretty awesome.