Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ten on Tuesday

Today's Ten on Tuesday is 10 things you like to do outside.  This one's pretty easy - with over 300 sunny days a year in Colorado, outside is kind of our default.

10 Things I Like To Do Outside

  1. Hiking.  We live in an amazing place for hiking and the pace is slow enough that you can actually see stuff.
  2. Snowshoeing.  The best way to hike in the winter!
  3. Snowboarding.  It hasn't been something I've been able to do much in the last couple of years, but it's exciting and challenging.
  4. Playing.  The best thing to do with a little kid is to follow them around outside.  They look at every rock and bug and stick and puddle and notice all the stuff you forgot about.
  5. Drinking.  I like to enjoy a glass of something nice out on the deck when the weather is nice.
  6. Dining.  Boulder has a ton of wonderful restaurants, and it's always a pleasure to have a relaxing meal on a patio (and not have to prepare it or clean it up).
  7. Reading.  A good book in the sun makes me feel like I'm on vacation.
  8. Sightseeing.  I don't really get to travel now, but in pre-kid days Mike and I would go to a new place and cover many miles on foot.  Now I just pretend to be a tourist and explore Boulder.  
  9. Socializing.  Parties and get-togethers are so much less confining when they can be out of doors.  Good for an introvert like me.
  10. Nothing.  Just being quiet and enjoying nature is my favorite.  Not much opportunity for this anymore because it turns into #4!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Simple fast paleo pancakes

Okay, so I don't usually make this kind of food.  But here's the story.  Recently I ordered a set of Curious George books for Alek, and he loves them, which means I read them several times a day.  One of them is about a pancake breakfast, and for the life of me, I couldn't stop thinking about pancakes.  I was never much of a pancake fiend, so this was weird, but I had pancakes on the brain.  Then I heard a couple of people I knew talking about gluten free pancakes at various local restaurants, and I really think the universe wanted me to have pancakes.  But I didn't want to do the gluten-free junk food thing.  And I didn't want to make one of the 500 hyper-palatable "paleo pancake" recipes that have 12 ingredients in proportions that you'd never eat, resulting in a regret-inducing binge.  So I figured I'd do a little experimenting.

I heated up some butter in a pan and started beating 1 egg (small-scale experiment).  I beat in a pinch of salt, a tiny amount of vanilla and a drizzle of honey (no more than I'd put in a cup of tea).  Okay, that's just desserty-scrambled eggs, time to make it look more like a batter.  So I sprinkled in a little almond flour (maybe a teaspoon?), stirred it up, then sprinkled in some coconut flour (maybe a tablespoon?), and finally poured in a little of the melted butter from the pan.  It looked a bit thicker than pancake batter, but thinner than cookie dough:

I carefully poured the batter into two circles in the pan.

When the bottom started to set, I added some blueberries.  Not nearly enough - please add more than this.

Flipped them.  Mmm, nice and brown from the butter.

Then I tried to arrange them artfully on a tiny plate and shoot at an angle to make up for my atrocious out-of-focus poor lighting kitchen photos.  

Yum!  Not hyperpalatable, not exactly like regular pancakes, but they were good, they tasted like real food, and they looked and felt enough like pancakes to satisfy my craving.  Being mostly egg, the flavor and texture were like a thick crepe.  I had more butter and a tiny bit of maple syrup on them.  It was a small serving - I think I'd plan on at least twice this per person for anything more than a dainty treat.  So simple, with no fancy steps and only using ingredients I have on hand all the time.  Try them!  I think I might make them for Alek (and sub fruit for the syrup).  I might need to call them fancy egg circles so he doesn't think I'm getting soft and letting him have pancakes.

Friday, April 11, 2014

My recipe confession

I can't follow a recipe.

Really.  I sort of believe that I can  follow a recipe, but I have probably never made something according to a recipe without making at least three changes.

Sometimes I post something on the blog that looks like a recipe, but it's not.  It's an attempt to record what I happened to do in the kitchen on one particular day.

There are days when I envy people who can follow recipes.  They can flip through a cookbook, pick something out, buy the ingredients, and make it!  Crazy.  They don't say, well, my husband won't eat those three ingredients, and I don't feel like searching the store for the other one, and no, I don't have a food processor and I can't find my blender, and it's just weird to put cashews in that, and seriously that's like four steps too many, and... forget it.  I read 30 recipes, try to extract the relevant features, then just do something different anyway.

I don't know why I can't follow a recipe.  I'm a reasonably intelligent person, I can follow directions in other contexts, and I appreciate expertise - I know that most people who write cookbooks know more than I do.  I've even thought a few times about writing a cookbook - after all, I do make up most of my own food - but I'm 90 percent sure no one would find it useful.

I think I have two major impediments to following recipes.  First, the way I think about cooking is very intuitive.  I don't think, I want to make this dish, so I'll see what ingredients I have to buy and what I have to do to them to make it.  I think, maybe I'll make chicken today.  What else do I have?  Onions?  What kind of fat should I use?  Do I want to do it in the oven or on the stove top?   How about that weird spice blend I bought on impulse?  This way of thinking about food does not mesh at all with following recipes.

Second, I like my food simple.  I love to eat other people's elaborate food, I love going out to restaurants and trying new things.  But at home, when I look at a recipe, my first step is to start subtracting ingredients and steps.  I love a whole chicken basted with bacon fat and sprinkled with salt, slow-roasted in the oven.  No garlic, no spices, no lemon.  No braising, no marinating, no sauce or complicated side dish.  One of my go-to meal is hamburgers cooked on the stove top.  Throw some sliced avocado or tomatoes on them, done.  My ingredients often don't get past the ingredient stage.  I bought some nice olives?  They don't make it in the meal because I ate them out of the package.  Why would I put nuts in a curry when I could just eat them?

I never measure.  I rarely plan.  Maybe I'm boring.  I didn't spend a lot of time after I went paleo trying to recreate old favorites.  I just ate meat and vegetables and didn't worry about it.  I did experiment a little at the beginning with muffins (actually my most popular post ever on this blog!), but now I just have one go-to muffin/cookie recipe that I make very infrequently because it's so damn addictive that I just want to eat the whole pan.  Alek never gets "paleo treats".  It's mostly because I'm so lazy I don't bother to make them, but it's also because they are hyper-palatable and one bite turns him into a crazy person.  The grain-free banana cake I made him for his second birthday?  He asked for Special Treat Birthday Cake every day for the next three months (to no avail).  I sort of feel like that justifies my lazy approach to food.  If I make elaborate, delicious food that I know will turn out amazing because it's tested and published in recipes, I'll go crazy and eat way too much and screw up my appetite signals.  I guess I'd rather make simple, easy-to-cook, easy-to-eat comfort food at home and save the fancy stuff for the rare night out at a restaurant.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

On a mission

Oops, that week kind of got away from me.  Oh well.

I've been on a mission lately - to knit up my stash of yarn.  I'll occasionally buy some new yarn for a specific project, but for the most part, I'm trying to use what I have.  2 moves in 2 years (actually 4 if you count moving a ton of stuff twice for the flood, and 5 if you count moving the last of the stuff out of the mountain house when we sold it) have made me want to live with less...everything.  I love yarn, but storing it, organizing it, finding it - it's a pain.  I can always buy more.

I've actually been working on knitting up the stash for a while, but I finally feel like I'm making some progress on it.  Case in point: a bunch of acrylic yarn was shoved in a plastic tote and forgotten about until I moved stuff out of the mountain house.  I decided to use it all up on charity hats, and guess what?

I got through all of it.  8 little hats, free pattern Barley.  I'll turn them in next week.  They'd be more useful if it weren't 70 degrees out today!  But winters in Colorado are long, and I know they'll be needed eventually.

I got a little obsessive about these little hats.  I think I was knitting about one a day.  I highly recommend the pattern.  It's even nicer in wool (Alek's favorite hat is Green Beanie knit in this pattern).

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Photo shoot

I finally blocked a shawl that I finished a long time ago: Multnomah.  I think the yarn was Dream in Color Starry - it has small flecks of silver in it.  It's a small shawl, not the most complicated thing I've ever knit, but it is so pretty!  So I tried to take a bunch of photos to see if I could do it justice.

Eh, not really.  My photos are only so-so.  It looks really nice in person though, and it's a fun knit.  Highly recommended.  And it looks like there's plenty of Colorado spring (e.g. More Winter) to enjoy wearing it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Still alive

Don't worry (Mom), I'm still alive.  Just didn't feel like writing the past few days.  A couple of short nights in a row and my brain kind of turned off.

I've been knitting (and blocking), reading, lifting, and I even got a couple of climbs in the other day.  I'm glad to be training again, and I'm determined not to miss a day.  It's a four-week program, three days a week.  It does take more effort to get in to the gym and manage trading off Alek with Mike now that I don't have any childcare.  I hope to be coaching again soon, though it makes my head hurt just to think about how I'm going to manage that with no toddler-free time.  Maybe weekend hours?  A super-flexible sitter who only needs a few hours per week but wants more later?  We'll see.  Plans are progressing on the gym, but commercial real estate - gahhhh.  Glad we have a good agent to go to bat for us.  Just taking it a day at a time and seeing what opportunities open up.  I did sign up for the next level USAW course.  Looking forward to it - the first one was so great.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Guilty as charged

A  recent smackdown from the Yarn Harlot has me feeling super guilty.  I almost never block my knitting.  I do block lace and baby sweaters, but that's about it.  Aside from the occasional lace thing or blanket, I usually only knit small accessories: scarves, hats, socks, a mitten here or there, and plenty of dishcloths.  And I usually talk myself out of the need to block them.  I know it would look better if I do.  I know better!  But I'm such a process knitter, I don't think that much about the finished product, unless it's a gift.  And I rarely block gifts either.  Oh, and as for that lace?  I currently have 3 lace scarves that I have knit over the last year or so just sitting in a basket because I haven't gotten around to blocking them.  Oops!

But I can change!  The arguments YH laid out are very compelling, and I would like my finished products to look better.  Plus I'm trying to make more sweaters, and I know blocking is critical for those, so I should practice on smaller/simpler things.

Today I'm blocking an undyed alpaca garter stitch triangle scarf/shawl thing I made a few months ago.  I was already wearing it unblocked, but hopefully I'll like it even better now.  I'll spare you the awful basement laundry room blocking picture I took and get some after pics in daylight.  Look for a parade of blocked, finished, new lease-on-life knits in my next couple of posts!

On another note, I'm training again!  I'm on a program!  I have a coach!  And people to lift with!  Can you tell I'm excited?  All I can say is, sometimes things work out the way they should, even if it takes a while.