Wednesday, April 1, 2009

March 31, the end of the month in food

Just an update from my last post, the blanket washed just fine, and the fabric softener made it smell great. I got the cheapest fabric softener whose smell didn't make me want to barf, and I figure I won't have to use it too often, anyway. I refrained from spending two extra dollars and getting the Downy Ball to go with it, so I just stood in the laundry room and knit on a new blanket until the final rinse cycle. I didn't even have to dry it in the dryer, it was practically dry after the spin cycle. And it's so pretty! I'm very pleased.

 Anyway, onto the food which is theoretically what I came to talk about. The end of March has been a pleasant embarrassment of riches, where the big difficulty has been deciding what, of many possible choices, we're going to eat. I haven't even made a food plan yet, because it's harder to wrap my mind around plenty than paucity. But hey, if I'm gonna have a problem, that's the one to have! A lot of what I've made this week has been using up stuff we already had, and snacking on new stuff. I haven't had this much fresh produce in many, many months. It's amazing to have berries and grapes and pineapples and apples all available. That's been a big part of breakfast and snacking for the past week, along with the Lean Pockets M picked up at Sam's. Those used to be a big part of our diet, but they're just too expensive for their size and nutritional value.  One is an okay breakfast, but it's certainly not a lunch or dinner. 

In playing catch-up in the last week of March, I used up cheese, chicken breasts, rice, and some other stuff I'd gotten replaced, but managed to make everything taste quite good. One big step was M's first pizza. I was going to make tomato-sauce chicken again (I know, repetetive, but I love it now), and he got the notion that what he really wanted was pizza. I told him that he should make a pizza. He said he didn't know how. I told him it was easy. He said he would mess it up. I told him not to. Finally I said I would help him, but by then he'd decided he was going to do it himself. Chicken bacon artichoke pizza is the pizza of choice around here, and it is not difficult. Somehow, though, M managed to add about twice as much water to the dough mix as was recommended, making a batter instead of a pizza dough. I was called in to consult. I ended up tossing in a lot more flour, some sugar, and some baking powder, then letting it rest awhile. M insisted on doing "the fun part" and made me grate cheese while he decorated the pizza. It turned out better than it had any right to. 

We did make one buying trip to fill out our food supply, picking up milk, cream cheese and a ham at Meijer. It may be hard to believe, but I did finally start running low on ham after freezing it all in portions and putting it into recipes and soups as needed.What's worse, though, is that I ran out of pork fat. I didn't even know how much I need pork fat until I had it available. This time I was much more careful in conserving and melting off the fat, and got a considerable amount of it to use in my cooking. It doesn't look appetizing, I know, but as Emeril says, it's the essence of pure flavor. Unless that's LSD, of course. 

I also made a good chicken fried rice and remembered to take a picture for once, so I'll toss that in here as well. This was an easy one, just plain cooked white rice, some chopped onion, frozen peas, fried rice seasoning, and a couple of leftover chicken breasts.I find that it is possible to cook everything in one pan, not counting the rice cooker, if you first heat the rice in the wok pan, then brown the chicken and remove it, then cook the onions and shove them to one side, then scramble the egg, then, when everything's getting hot enough to burn and the rice isn't quite ready, toss in the frozen peas. That cools it down just long enough. Then you toss in the rice, the chicken, the seasoning and the soy sauce, and mix it all up. Yum! 

March 31, an accomplishment

I'm very excited today, because I finished a major project, always a good feeling. Knitters have a term called "stash yarn," yarn that has sat around the house long enough to escape inclusion in any number of knitting projects, sometimes yarn that's never going to see the light of day. This is a stash yarn project, getting rid of a skein of plain white acrylic and purple vareigated mystery yarn (I think also acrylic) that I balled up in Champaign three years ago and promptly forgot about. I love, love, love the color of the purple, but I just wasn't wild about the texture or the way it would feel against skin. I made a funky scarf and hat for M's mom with a bit of it, but it was a very large skein. 

So I made a baby blanket with it, striping white and purple, and using a very simple pattern that's often used to make dishcloths. It's 32 inches on a side, knitted diagonally, and though I had to cheat my head off at the end to get the second white corner to match the first, it ended up really looking nice. Today I'll be putting it in the wash for the first time, to make sure it holds up. Acrylic is both good and bad for baby blankets, bad because it is not as flame retardant as wool and can have a texture that it a bit rough. I would not use it for, say, pajamas. But it can be machine washed, which is essential for a mostly-white baby blanket. I considered washing in a net bag or something like that, but when I am totally honest with myself, no person who actually needs a baby blanket (to wit: the parent of a small child) is going to have time to hunt out a net bag when the baby's just barfed. If the blanket can't take the heat, it needs to stay out of the layette. But I'm pretty confident it will do well.