Monday, December 22, 2008

Cookie production line

On Saturday I went into full-scale Christmas cookie production. Most of them are now being enjoyed in sunny Florida -- the rest of them are being devoured by Ricardo's office.

I set up my dining room table with all my cooling racks, and here's the 1st batch fresh out of the oven.

In a few hours time I had the whole table filled.

I made 3 kinds of cookies: spicy molasses (my personal favorite -- they're REALLY good)...

... key lime thumbprints -- hopefully the Florida natives will appreciate these (and YES, I used real key limes)...

... and finally my famous chocolate chip cookies, back by popular demand!

French bread a la KitchenAid

On Sunday, my baking weekend continued with french bread. I used the recipe in the KitchenAid cookbook.

Here's the dough kneading in the mixer -- I love to watch the dough hook at work.

Here it is after the 1st rising -- it was really nice and smooth.

Then I formed into a loaf, to get it ready for the 2nd rising.

After the 2nd rising I made slashes in the dough, and it was ready for the oven.

And here it is cooling on the rack... it came out picture-perfect, if I do say so myself. Pass the butter!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bolognese sauce in photos

Last weekend I decided to test out my new enameled cast iron pot with an Italian classic: bolognese sauce. I photographed each step as it simmered on the stove for over 6 hours. The recipe is from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. Basically the process is adding liquids and cooking them down, then adding more liquids.

You start with cooking chopped onions in butter and olive oil.

Add chopped carrots and celery to complete the Mirepoix.

Add a combination of ground beef, veal, and pork.

Cook until no longer pink.

Add milk.

Cook it down.

Add white wine.

Cook it down.

Add chopped tomatoes.

Cook it down.

Simmer for 3 hours.

And there you go -- 6 hours on the stove and we're finally ready to eat. I served the sauce on homemade fresh pasta (see post a few below this one).

Low-budget Christmas decorations

Our theme for Christmas this year is "low-budget." We're hardly buying any presents (none for each other), and I'm doing my best to spend as little as possible. For these projects all I bought was a spool of ribbon and a can of spray paint, and some floral wire. All the other supplies were found outside or in one of the many boxes in my studio.

Here's the window in our entryway...

And the door of the mudroom, decorated with sprigs of pine (free from the place we got our Christmas tree), pinecones (found on our street), a sprig of berries (I used the ones I bought for Halloween and added red glitter to them), and a ribbon (bought many moons ago from Michaels when they had the holiday ribbon on sale for 50% off). I made 4 of these and placed them around the house.

These are my planters transformed for Christmas. I found the branches and pinecones on our street, then spray painted the branches silver and glittered the pinecones. I used old snowflake ornaments to decorate the tree.

And here's the other planter by the stairs.

Lastly, here's the porch decorated with lights and garland we bought last year. I just layered pinecones in the windowboxes and added some pine sprigs.
I estimate that I spent less than 20 bucks for all these decorations -- not bad, huh?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Fun with attachments

This weekend I tried out one of my new Kitchenaid attachments, the pasta roller. It was super-easy to use, and made the pasta-making process so much enjoyable.

Here's the pasta going through the rollers for the first pass.

It keeps getting bigger...

and bigger...

until it gets to be an almost unmanagable size...

then I cut it up...

and put the noodles on the dryer.
Next stop: my plate!

Monday, December 8, 2008

I confess, there's a new love in my life...

Here he is -- in all of his shiny pearl metallic beauty. We didn't waste any time getting to know each other... we went straight to the bread kneading.

Oh yeah baby -- there's the money shot! Look at that dough!

That's HOT! (literally) -- the first loafs of bread fresh out of the oven.

Here's what I've been waiting for -- fresh bread slathered in butter. Sorry hon' -- I'll try not to spend too much time with my new love (not that I think you'll mind).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

We're ready for Halloween!

Our porch is now totally ready for trick-or-treaters. The forecast is for great (kinda warmish) weather -- and we bought about 10 bags of candy -- let the madness begin!

Our porch from the street -- the black & white cat on the railing is real -- Clyde is ready to scare some kiddies.

Here's our scarecrow -- he looks spookier by the day as his pumpkin head ages.

The giant webs and spiders. I can barely stand this, and can't wait to take it down on Nov. 1.

Here's a close-up of Clyde and his friend the plastic rat.

Hey kids! We've got candddyyyyyy!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pinecone wreath

I haven't made a pinecone wreath in years -- it's very messy (pine sap is impossible to get rid of), and pinecones aren't plentiful in the District like they are in New Hampshire.

A few weeks ago I spotted a tree dropping pinecones on our street, so I started collecting them as they fell on my way home from work each day. Finally I had a full box, so I headed to Michaels for a wire form, floral wire and a spool of ribbon.

I didn't start with a plan, I just started wiring, and this is how it looked after the first row. (Unfortunetly I forgot to take a photo of the second row.)

I finished it outside on the grass because the sap was out of control. The third inner row was pretty tricky -- I went through almost a whole spool of wire.

And here it is on our front door -- I was really happy with the way it turned out. All I have to do is switch up the ribbon and I'll be ready for Christmas!