Nori's Stuff - Gardening, quilting, cooking and dogs

Pioneer Spirit,Recipes

July 22, 2014

Portable crisper

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Portable crisper

Portable crisper

I eat a lot of vegetables. Because I am a fuss-less person I’ve come up with a way to get my veges out of the fridge without spending forever pulling them out of a drawer, stacking them on the counter, whack off what I need only to stick them back in the fridge again every time I cook. This portable crisper sits on top the glass shelf that is the cover for the existing crisper in my fridge and, with the handy handle molded into the front of the drawer, allows me to pull it out of the fridge with one hand.  It contains most if not all of the veges I need.

This crisper is the drawer and glass shelf from a small portable fridge. With the addition of a brass piano hinge and some aquarium sealer, a piece of washable non-skid shelf liner for the inside and very little effort, I have streamlined and shortened my prep time.  The lid fits flush against the top preserving the moisture in the veges.

The paper sack is cut down from a large grocery sack and holds mushrooms at the perfect humidity to keep them fresh.  Strong smelling veges like onion are zipped in plastic but everything else is pre-cleaned, unwrapped and ready to use.  A cut-to-fit non-skid shelf liner keeps the veges up off the plastic bottom to avoid accumulation of moisture where veg and plastic meet.

Current content of the crisper include zucchini, yellow squash, onion, celery, mushroom, red and green pepper.  The larger build-in crisper contains overflow and backup stock.

Gardening,Hydro/Aquaponics,Plant Wall

July 9, 2014

New media with a twist

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Leaves showing signs of chemical imbalance

Leaves showing signs of chemical imbalance

I noticed some chemical burning on the tomato plant leaves and tested the water.  8.0 ph when I need 7.3.  Ouch.  Burn baby burn.  While all three tomato plants have blossoms, only one is producing fruit and shows no sign of the chem burn.

PH is totally busted.  Ouch.

PH is totally busted. Ouch.

I didn’t just test the PH, I tested nitrate, nitrite and ammonia. All were perfect for the system. For those readings, I couldn’t be happier.

PH after 2/3 water change

PH after 2/3 water change

Our well water is 6.0. For the house I “condition” it by running it through oyster shell to bring the PH up to 7.3 naturally. For a quick and very un-permanent fix to the problem I did a 2/3 water change in the fish tank and got what I expected, close to perfect PH. This, however, is a really poor solution. I flushed my nutrients (okay, I lied. I dumped the water in outside planters) and added kelp to compensate for the loss.

The whole point is to have a system I don’t have to think about or fuss
about or test or monitor or . . . you get my point. I cannot keep doing
water changes. I don’t want to have to add anything to the water to
keep the water at 7.3. Which means I’ve got to find a different media.
This media, as suspected, spikes the PH.

Gardening,Hydro/Aquaponics

June 10, 2014

The trial

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6" pvc with survey end caps.

6″ pvc with survey end caps.

For a couple years my brother Dan was a maintenance engineer at a produce processing plant. He did a system retrofit and brought me some of the stuff being thrown away. This flood and drain planter is a piece of 6″ schedule 40 pvc pipe. The ends are survey caps purchased at a local plumbing supply warehouse.

The really sick looking plants are the result of neglect on my part . . . pulling one system apart and putting another together with too long a span between stressed the plants. They’re recovering. The tomato plants are purchased and are my test subjects. The tank holds two goldfish, not quite enough to supply this many plants with nutrient.

One of my concerns with media this light is its ability to hold the plants in place as they grow and produce fruit. I will have to run retaining lines between the support ropes.

Gardening,Hydro/Aquaponics,Plant Wall

Looking at PH

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Crushed at 6.0, system water and 7.4

Crushed at 6.0, system water and 7.4


When the new media is crushed and ph tested, it drops the ph of the water to 6.0. The system water hovers between 7.2 and 7.4.

Gardening,Hydro/Aquaponics

A question of media

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Ugh, it floats

The failed floaty stuff, the new light clay-like stuff and hydroton.

In planning my next plant wall I’ve been testing hydroponic planting medium.  In the past I’ve used hydroton but there are currently two issues with this media.  Because it’s heavy in iron it eventually trashes the magnetic pump.  I replace pumps about once a year.  At about $50 a pop that’s not horribly expensive but it is inconvenient.  Secondly, it’s no longer available.  That makes the inherent equipment-related problems with the media moot.

Leftmost is the floaty stuff, middle is the light slippery-clay feeling media.  Rightmost is hydroton.

Leftmost is the floaty stuff, middle is the light slippery-clay feeling media. Rightmost is hydroton.

I bought two bags of a product that was supposed to be a replacement for hydroton.  It felt like sandpaper, very garnet/scratchy expanded glass feeling.  The pieces were quite large for hydroponic media, didn’t break when whacked with a hammer and very light.  Other than the roughness and overly large size, I thought it would work fine.  Wrong.  The stuff floats.  Using it in a flood and drain system allows all the plantings to shift every watering cycle.  When working with seeds, the media used to hold the seeds vanishes into the mix.  Ugh.  When planting cuttings they sink a bit into the mix every cycle eventually drowning.  Double ugh.

Light with a slippery-clay feel

Light with a slippery-clay feel

I reported the failure to the excellent staff at our local hydroponic shop and got a sample of another product to try. It had a light silky clay feel, sank when dropped into water and could be crushed.  The product is a little big, roughly 2-3 times the size of the hydroton beads.

PH is one of the most important items to monitor in a hydroponic system.  I’m not a fan of chemicals and like to handle this as naturally as possible which makes the ph of the media very important.  With that in mind I crushed a piece of the new media and tested the ph.  It tested lower than I expected at 6.0 which means it’s not inert.  Because our water has a very low ph which I moderate with oyster shell, I’m keeping an eye on my test system. Time will tell.

Gardening,Hydro/Aquaponics,Plant Wall

Moving on

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I’m the type of person who continually tweaks and adjusts.  Some of the stuff I try is a bust and some is inspired.  I have a rack hanging over the back of my kitchen sink with a drip tray under it where dishes are set to dry.  It keeps my counter space clear and allows all the drips to fall into the sink.  Brilliant.  And I’ve done other things with far less stellar outcomes, they’ve inevitably led to ideas about other things so it’s all good.

Here's the plant wall winter 2013

Here’s the plant wall winter 2013

There are a lot things I like about my current plant wall, and few things I don’t care for. Because the plant wall surface isn’t covered with plastic ala P. Blanc, the rate of evaporation is significant.  Wadly adds roughly 6 gallons of water twice a week.  I’d like to reduce the evaporation.

Dying foliage allows pathways for water to drip onto the floor.  A change to prevent that in future is a must.

Slow growing smaller plants get crowded out by the bigger, faster growing plants.  They just can’t compete.  I’d like something that nutures both the big and bushy and the smaller, more delicate plants.

As this plant wall is a single piece, it’s heavy and difficult to move.  Repositioning plants and editing is difficult.  I’d like something a little more modular that takes up less vertical space for the same number of plants that allows the fish to be as much of a focal point.  At this point I can’t tell you what’s in the tank, other than healthy reproducing guppies and at least one fresh water shrimp.  I’m sure there are algae eaters and plecko in there as well but I haven’t seen them in . . . a really long time.

So, on to the new plan, something modular with less exposed surface area that will allow for planting a few seasonal edibles and allow us to see the fish.

Recipes

October 4, 2013

Breakfast Frittata

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Shrimp frittata with peppers, onion, zuccini, chevre and fried baked potatoes on top

If you’ve never had a frittata, I’m going to recommend you try one. They’re very easy to make and delightfully flexible. I go through periods where I want seafood, other times when my preference is for breakfast-y stuff.

Today my frittata had sausage, bacon, Danish Havarti, chevre, zucchini, onion and asparagus. Oh, and hash browns on top though next time I might try potatoes O’Brien instead. The pictured frittata has rounds of baked potato

Frittatas aren’t fast food, but they are quality food and can be as simple or complicated as you choose with everything you need in a single dish.

To make a frittata, prepare the filling. For delicate seafood you can choose to lightly precook or not as you choose. If you don’t precook the seafood, make sure you bake it long enough to completely cook it and expect the result to be a little moister than using precooked seafood (drain it before you put it on the plate).

Prepare your meat. If you’re using anything except seafood, precook. If I’m having both sausage and bacon I will cut them up reasonably small and cook them in the same pan until done. Saute the vegetables in butter until tender. I cut my zuccini in small (smaller than 1/4″) cubes, fine-dice the onions and cut the asparagus in small rounds (1/8″ cuts). If you find you like bigger pieces of vegetables, you have the freedom to make it your style. I’ve used peppers (I didn’t today because I’m out), broccoli, cauliflower, carrots (not the best), red and green peppers and mushrooms (not today, I’m out).

If you’re making a single serving frittata, use one or two eggs. Beat them a bit and add your cheese and sauteed meat and veges. Pour the mixture into a small (6″) frying pan that’s been heated and buttered. If you’re adding hash brown, sprinkle the cooked hash browns over the top. Pop it in your over (or toaster over) at between 325 and 350. How done you would like it is totally up to you. You can cook it just until the egg is set or you can cook it until it’s brown on top. Instead of hashbrowns you can add cheese. Or tomato. Or . . . This is a dish that never has to be the same twice and it’s easily delicious.

I think I’d better go shopping. I’m out of a lot of things . . .

Dogs/Pets

August 24, 2013

Bella is . . . well, Bella

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We’ve got a new rescue dog. She’s pretty much blind as a bat and is now a bit over a year old. She’s the toughest dog I’ve ever had. She spent the first 8 months of her life either tied or kenneled outside, we don’t know which, but she knew nothing about manners or proper behavior when she came.  She was frantic for people’s attention but to a lesser level of obnoxiousness now though she is still finding people and pack-mates by running into them. She’s getting better but it’s going to take time.  Everything she does is brim full of enthusiasm.  She has her full share and more, maybe six dogs worth.

Bella, after about three months of being free, learned not to run everywhere at full speed.  She’s now sitting to get treats and petting (not very still and not very long) and I’m marking it as progress. In the beginning she plowed into rocks, vehicles, people, other dogs (which Chloe absolutely cannot abide), buildings . . . she continues to get better though she sports rotating patches of missing hair from her “finds” and has a constant bare neck and chest from running through unmown grass and weeds at absolute full tilt. With 12 acres in which to run she spends little time doing anything as mundane as walking. So far she hasn’t split herself open on anything though yesterday she showed up with a new mondo scratch on her face.

At some point I’m going to have to make a decision about her eyes.  She has some vision, though mostly just shadows.  She’s pretty much completely blind in full sunlight or dark but she can see enough to get around and I’d like her to be able to retain that ability.  Because her eyes are undeveloped her upper eyelashes poke the inside of her lower eyelids which causes irritation.  So the decision is, do I stick with the status quo and leave her what little eyesight she has and figure some other solution for the poking eyelashes or do I have her eyelids sewn shut to prevent the irritation and remove what little sight she has.  I cannot decide.  Maybe not deciding is deciding.  You know us. Life is ALWAYS interesting.

Recipes

July 30, 2013

Basil carrots

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Wadly’s not a fan of vegetables.  He’s tall and thin and lives on meat and starch.  Getting him to eat and enjoy vegetables not loaded with starch is a personal quest.

My latest shot at Wadly-edible vegetables is basil carrots.  He thinks they’re okay (not high praise but close) and I love them.

Saute onions, carrots and a very light sprinkling of basil (it’s strong and can easily overpower the carrots so take care) in butter.  Reduce the heat after the onions become transparent to finish the carrots.

That’s it.  Did you think I’d make it more complicated?  Nope.  It’s so tasty and so sweet it’s almost like dessert.

Recipes

Flavorful and healthy

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I’m on a new kick.  We all know I wander from one focus to the next like a hobo with no home but at least I’m not bored . . . or boring.  I’m always experimenting, learning new things, TRYING new things . . . and I like it.  Testing ideas is a good way to keep your brain in shape.

My latest is crock pot meat.  My first foray into “cook it slow” was chuck roast.  It was wonderful . . . and here’s what I did.

Add the meat to the bottom of the crock pot.  DO NOT add any water.  Trust me, you won’t need it.  Crush a garlic clove and toss that in.  Cut up a carrot and toss that in.  Add some chopped celery, onion, a tomato, red and green pepper . . . sprinkle in some rosemary and some thyme, add 2 tbsp cream sherry, 2 tbsp dry sherry and put the lid on.  Turn it on low and walk away.  This needs to go for about 8 hours.  Lift the lid every so often and poke the veges in around the meat.

When it’s done the meat will be tender and the vegetables will be worthless.  Pull out the meat, dump the rest through a strainer and toss the veges (I feed them to my chickens).  Chop the meat and put it away for later.  Put the juice (there will be surprising amount of liquid) in a separate container and refrigerate both.  When the juice has cooled completely you’ll be able to peel the fat off the top.

This is a great start for stew, soup . . . or eat it just the way it is!  It’s delicious.

If the sherry adds too much flavor, try using two tablespoons of sherry and half a cup of creme soda instead.  Both ways are absolutely delicious.  I haven’t tried it with root beer yet.  I bet that would be good as well.  I added a bay leaf to one batch.

To turn this into wonderful vegetable beef soup dice your veggies (all of the above plus one small potato and anything else you have in your veggie drawer – the latest batch also has cauliflower).  Saute all but the potato in butter, add the potato, the juice and the diced beef and simmer until the veggies are done.

I don’t add salt and I don’t add bullion cubes (mostly beef flavored salt) though you can if you must.  It’s flavorful and healthy and a good eat and it’s a really chunky soup, not mostly broth and few goodies.

Recipes

April 10, 2013

Updated almond chicken

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I’ve updated my almond chicken recipe.  There’s a lot of in-the-pan, out-of-the-pan, drain this, strain that going on and I’ve tweaked the ingredients just a bit (more flavor).

If you’re going to try the recipe, you’ll need; small frying pan, big frying pan, sauce pan, marinade bowl, paper towel for the fried amonds, wire strainer big enough to hold all the cooked veges, bowl to catch the oil when the veges are drained, something to hold the extra oil after the almonds are fried (I use a wide mouth half-pint canning jar so I can reuse the oil), a bowl to hold the raw veges until time to cook them, cutting boards (1 for chicken, 1 for veges), a good and sharp chef’s knife, a fork to stir the cooking stuff . . . I can see this is a recipe I’m going to have to video at some point.

The first step in the prep is hot soapy water so I can clean up as I go . . . hands, knife and cutting board after dissecting the chicken, veges cutting board, bowls as I’m done with them, pans as I’m done with them.  I’ve done this recipe enough times that when I sit down to eat, the only thing left to wash is what I’m eating out of and with.  Sweet.

Quilting and other needlework

Life and aspiration

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The edge matches the Maples carving.

The edge matches the carved Maples quilt.

Life’s been a bit chaotic lately.  I managed to sprain my right wrist and ignored it for the first week which of course made it worse.  It’s so hard to be good when I have to be doing something and it’s doubly hard when it’s the right hand that’s out of commission.  I haven’t rowed in two weeks and I’m going nuts.  Yoga.  Must do more yoga.

I ran across a picture of a Fraser Smith piece somewhere this morning.  Something on Facebook led to something that led to something . . . I ate the breadcrumbs as I went so can’t find my way back to the start.

Because Smith’s work fascinates me, I popped into his site again today to look. His work is food for my soul. I noticed his “If I am quiet . . . ?” is carved as if it’s done on the back of “Maples”.  I am going to have to make this quilt.  I don’t do arty stuff, I don’t spend time on stuff that isn’t usable for pretty much every day and I prefer working in batiks to anything else, but this quilt is one I’m going to have to do.  I just can’t help myself.  And I’m going to have to hand quilt it.  This one’s a double whammy.

The six zillion dollar question is . . . how closely do I replicate the work?  The quilting doesn’t go through the applique worked on the back.  Does that mean I have to applique the back after the quilting’s done?  It’s got to be done before the binding . . . Hm.

It took me over a year to work out how to sew the “30″ quilt.  I wonder if this one will set a record for active planning time.

Gardening

March 27, 2013

The monster rises

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Gunnera, up and looking threatening

Gunnera, up and looking threatening

The gunnera was obviously warm enough to get a head start on the season.  Maybe a horse blanket, folded poly tarp, spare tire cover and bathroom rug was a layer or two too many.  I removed the protective layers today.  The hump of growing stalks was just a little too obvious.

We should have enough overcast weather to get the foliage acclimated so it doesn’t burn.

Quilting and other needlework

March 21, 2013

New yarn

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I bought some on-sale yarn.  I am so tight I have a really hard time paying full price for anything.  It’s just not the way I’m made, I guess.  Reuse, recycle, re-purpose . . . and buy on sale or at a discount.  Maybe that’s why we have no consumer debt other than our almost-paid-off mortgage.  We still do all the stuff we want to do, we just squeak a lot while doing it.

So the beauty of the yarn is it’s recycled denim jeans AND on sale. How could I pass that up?  Yeah, I agree, there’s just no way.  It was a must buy.

Lattice pattern

Lattice pattern

So, on to my story . . . I bought this yarn.  And then I saw a picture of a sweater in a print ‘zine where the top was done in a lattice pattern.  And I have a jacket pattern I really like.  Can you see where this is going?  The plan is to knit a sweater using the jacket pattern as my inspiration.  I’m ‘hemming’ it in the lattice pattern.  Up the front, around the neck, around the bottom of sleeves and body.  The trick will be to get the stitch pattern to curve around the neck.

If you like this stitch and want to try it, it’s fairly easy.  There are few and fairly simple repeats and mine is just a tiny bit different than the mag pattern.

Cast on multiples of 8 stitches then add 6 more.  For four rows (this is your first repeat), purl 6 and knit 2 for the right side row, then knit 6, purl 2 for the wrong side row.  Click and the image above so you can see how those first four rows look.  On the right side you’ll see two knit then six purl repeated across the work.

Next create the holes where the lattice cross.  This is a two row repeat and it’s done between every set of lattice repeats.  The idea is to use knit two together and a yarn over to create the hole.  Every stitch except those two are knit.  So, for the first set of lattice, knit 4, *k2tog (knit 2 stitches together), yo (yarn over), k2 (knit 2), yo, k2tog, k2, repeat from * until last 4 which are knit.  Just so I’m really clear, each side of the column of knit stitches has a yarn over.  The next stitch outside that is knit two together.  All other stitches are knit.  The reverse of the row is purl all the way across.  I’m explaining this rather than just telling you what to do so you can look at the work and see that, other than the number of knit stitches at the beginning of the row, this “make a hole” row just has to match where the lattice knit rows are placed.

Now we do the shifted lattice.  Purl 2, *k2, p6 (purl 6), repeat from * until the last 2 which are purl.  Once you’ve done four rows of the shifted lattice, do your two rows that make the holes and start with the first set again.  Chart it like this.

oooooovvoooooovvoooooovvoooooovvoooooo (do this four times)
vvvvx/vv\xvvx/vv\xvvx/vv\xvvx/vv\xvvvv (do this once)
vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv (do this once)
oovvoooooovvoooooovvoooooovvoooooovvoo (do this four times)

Then repeat from the top.  No, you may not throw rocks at me.  This is the way my brain works!

The lattice on my hem will be two sets of lattice for a total of 4 horizontal bands.  That’s the plan.  It may never gain a grip in reality, but it’s a plan.

Hydro/Aquaponics

March 2, 2013

Supervising the grooming of the flock and errata

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Grooming in progress

Grooming in progress

13-03BogFilter

Post winter depression with promise of spring.

 

The tire holds my gunnera which, at our elevation, will only winter over if mulched and covered. It’s still a bit soon to uncover it . . . maybe in a couple weeks. I want to make sure it isn’t frost bitten. We had hail a couple days ago.

I got the bog filter trimmed up a bit and all last year’s triangular reed foliage trimmed away.

As of yesterday the pump has been cleaned and water is circulating. Having both bog filters full of hydroton takes much less water out of the main tank when the pump starts running.

I haven’t pulled out last year’s hyacinths as the roots are doing funny things and I want to see what happens.

I have no idea if the penny royal in the upper filter survived. I can’t see anything on the surface.

The water beans are growing and the stems are getting thicker each year. Go beans! I’m hoping to get some winter hardy water irises in the big filter this year.

Quilting and other needlework

Slippered

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Slippers, warm and comfy

Slippers, warm and comfy

13-03Slippers2

Bottom in perl, seed stitch cuff, hole-less decrease at heel.

 

I’ve been wearing my slippers for a while but it wasn’t until a week ago I got the laces added.  I couldn’t share them without the laces in place!

The bottom (part I stand on) has the perl out so they’re comfortable to stand on.  I used my standard toe up sock with afterthought heel and revised heel decrease that produces zero holes.  The yarn is worsted weight Red Heart Black Fleck.  I got a super saver skein to use for testing stuff.  I have no idea where the slipper idea came from.   It must have been an aberrant moment.

The next step is to add waterproof leather soles and a felt cushion.

Quilting and other needlework

March 1, 2013

i-cord me

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Bamboo/cotton with copper lined beads

Bamboo/cotton with copper lined beads

Duster Scarf

Duster Scarf

I finished my scarf for Jennifer and it’s inspired me to do a repeat with a twist.  Jennifer’s scarf is a pull-on no fuss no fasten designed to keep the neck warm tucked inside a jacket or heavy shirt.  It’s got a natural rolled edge out of which beads peak.  The beads are #6 copper lined crystal seed beads and the whole feel is casual elegance.

This next scarf is going to be a bit bigger half-square triangle (240+16+8 stitches instead of 160) with an i-cord edge at the top ending in tassels or dingle balls.

I’ve used my own version of provisional cast on (Artisan square 2.5s paired with a long interchangeable needles cable with the yarn wound around both until the stitch count is met) and am using small DPNs (double pointed needles) to work the i-cord.  I’ve got stitch markers set to mark the decrease and the first row of bead work.  When those two markers meet, I work my first row of beads.  The decrease occurs at the start of each row 4 stitches off the edge.  This gives a lovely bound effect to the scarf.

The yarn is bamboo/cotton I bought from a vendor on Ebay.  He sells yarn from Asian manufacturers where the labels have been misprinted (my guess based on how the labels look).  It’s very good quality yarn and lovely to work with.  Bamboo/cotton makes it wash and wear.

Since I started this scarf I’ve found a video for an i-cord cast on.  Duh.  That would have been SO much faster.

Recipes

February 27, 2013

Healthy and easy casserole

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Tomato, onion, green and red pepper, broccoli and carrot.

Tomato, onion, green and red pepper, broccoli and carrot.

This is an easy and delicious way to get a mess of vegetables in an easy potentially low fat prepare-ahead meal. This recipe can easily be multiplied to feed more people. It’s an awesomely delicious and healthy lunch or dinner that I can prepare way ahead of time.

I don’t know if it’s fair to call this dish a casserole as it’s just veggies and a frank. You could make this with any kind of sausage or hot dog. I use Painted Hill’s Natural Beef Franks but it would be lovely with other types of commercial cured sausage.

Rough chop half a tomato and put it in the bottom of an individual casserole dish. Make sure you use the tomato. It provides the moisture and the acidity that will balance the dish and make it delicious.  You can use a couple tablespoons of tomato paste.  If you do, add a half-cup of water for the moisture.

Layer a selection of vegetables on top. I’ve used onion, potato, broccoli, green and red peppers, carrot, celery, zuccini and use a different variety as the mood strikes.  You can even use potato, just cut it in smaller cubes so it cooks thoroughly.

Whatever vegetables you add should equal four or five times the volume of the meat.  Place your choice of vegetables on top of the tomato. Cut the sausage or frank up and put it on top and put the cover on.  This is the absolute perfect dish for a toaster oven, which is what I’ve got.  Bake at 350° for 45 to 50 minutes.  Once the dish has cooled enough to eat, pull the lid and enjoy!

Recipes

February 25, 2013

Korean beef

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This is an adaptation of a Korean rice bowl recipe I found online. The first time I made it I followed the directions which called for cooking the meat first, then adding the veges but the very lovely beef I used came out so overcooked and tough I never did it that way again.

The original recipe called for a lot of stuff and I like fairly simple but great tasting food so I made some . . . uh . . . adjustments.

Make a marinade –

  • 1 or 2 crushed/minced/finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar (I use tubinado instead – healthier)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce (I use coconut aminos instead)
  • 1 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp corn starch (leave this out if you want – it’s a make-you-fat thickener)
  • 1 tbsp fresh ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp cooking sherry (optional but tasty)

Chop the beef in relatively small pieces and stir into the marinade until well coated.

Prep whatever veges you want. Cut the denser veges in smaller slices/pieces to even out the cooking. Use a carrot or two, a stalk of celery or two, some red pepper, some green pepper, a zuccini if you’ve got one, some broccoli if you’ve got some, half an onion. Pea pods would be good as would bean sprouts but add the bean sprouts right at the end when the veges are added back to the pan with the meat or they will overcook.

If you’re a minimalist, feel free to just use onion and peppers.

Stir fry the veges in a bit of olive oil. When the veges are not quite done, lift them out and add the meat reserving the marinade for later. When the meat’s is almost done, add the marinade sauce and layer the veges over the top.  Wait a bit to stir it all together. When the marinade has finished thickening and the meat is done, the dish is done.

Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds on the top. Serve over rice if you like.

Recipes

February 24, 2013

Easy and tasty almond chicken for two

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This is my go-to recipe for just-for-me food.  It’s not super-quick to fix (about 20 minutes) but it’s delicious, packed with flavor and veges and, for the nutritional value in the meal, it’s uber-healthy.

I buy chicken thighs in the family pack size and zip them into sandwich bags, put them into a gallon zip bag and chuck them in the freezer.  I pull a thigh out in the morning and toss it on the counter.  By lunch it’s thawed and ready to use.

Skin and debone one chicken thigh per person. Slice the skin in strips and put the skin and bone in a small sauce pan with 1/2 to 3/4 cup water per thigh to make the required chicken broth.  This chicken broth is healthy and a zero dollar addition to the recipe from something you would have thrown away.  If you’re a broth purist, chop some celery and onion and toss it in as well.  I don’t see the need.  This dish is already max tasty, full of texture and flavor and excellent nutrition.

Slap on a lid and start it cooking. You want to bring it to a boil and turn it down to simmer while you’re prepping the rest of the stuff. Flip the bones over a couple times as it cooks to get as much flavor out as possible.  Because you’ve sliced the skin into strips, it needs zero attention.

Dice the chicken in 1/2 to 3/4″ cubes. Stick it into a marinade of (measurement is per chicken thigh) 2 tbsp soy sauce (or coconut aminos if you’re soy adverse), 2 tbsp Lee & Perrins Worchestershire sauce, 2 tbsp sherry (I use Sheffield’s creme sherry), 1 crushed clove a garlic and (optional and fattening so leave it out if you prefer) 1 tbsp corn starch.  The Worchestershire sauce adds a layer of very complimentary flavor and is not standard to the recipe.  One day I was short on coconut aminos and use the worchestershire to make up the difference.  I was so caught by the flavor combo I adjusted the recipe and haven’t looked back.

While the skin and bone are simmering, prepare these veges.  The measurements are per thigh so double for two, triple for three . . . 1 carrot peeled, cut in half lengthwise and slice in less than 1/4″ thick slices on the diagonal. Slice 1/2 a medium onion thinly. Slice a celery stalk on the diagonal.  (Because I mostly cook this recipe for just me and don’t need to impress anyone, I pull the celery bundle out of the vege drawer and cut the top of the bundle off  in thinnish slices until I have the amount I want, usually 3 or 4 cuts.)  Add some mushroom.  I like mine cut in sticks but do what makes you happy.  Add a little sliced pepper (both red and green).  I like pepper in almost everything.  If you’re not a pepper fan, leave it out. Slice a handful of water chestnut slices (canned) into sticks. Cut a handful of bamboo shoots (canned) in half lengthwise.  Once I’ve opened the cans I process everything in the cans and put them in zippies in the freezer so they stay good until I’m ready to use them.  You can break them into portions (1 snack zippy with both water chestnut and bamboo shoots) and pull the right number of portions out of the freezer when you pull out the chicken.

In a small frying pan, pour 1/2″ peanut oil and start it heating. When the oil is hot (add a single almond slice – when it starts to sizzle, the oil’s hot) throw in 1/4 cup of sliced almonds per thigh.  If you’re making more than two servings, use a bigger pan so the almonds have room to brown. Stir and shake until the almonds just start to change color. If you wait any longer they will rapidly turn brown and taste a bit burnt so be ready to pull them out of the oil just as they start to turn color.  I’ve eaten them that way and it isn’t bad, just not great so keep a close eye as you’re cooking them.

Pour the almonds and oil through a metal mesh (screen) strainer so the oil drains into a bigger frying pan. Drain the almonds really well (shake and wiggle) and spread them on a paper towel to stop the cooking and finish draining.

Once the peanut oil is again up to temp, toss in all the prepped veges and stir/shake a bit longer than it takes to turn the onions transparent. None of the other raw veges will be completely done yet but close.  The dish won’t be horrible if you slightly overcook or undercook the veges, and you’ll prefect this with practice.  You’re going to cook them again so don’t over-cook them now.

While the veges are cooking, use the screen to strain the chicken out of the marinade.   I dump the drained chicken into the small frying pan so the residual heat will start to bring the chicken up to temp.

Dump the broth from the chicken skin/bones into the marinade.  The hot broth will help bring the marinade up to temp.

Dump the veges out of the frying pan into the strainer over a bowl to drain off the remaining oil.  

Dump the chicken into the big frying pan. Stir until cooked nearly cooked through.  Don’t overcook.  Add the marinade/broth.  If you’re using a thickener, wait until it gets up to temp and starts to thicken before adding the veges back to the pan.  Don’t stir them in just yet. Dump in the almonds and cook the whole thing just a bit longer.  You don’t want limp veges but you do want thickened sauce and done meat.  This dish is better if they still have just a bit of a crunch.

If you like bean spouts, they would be a good addition. Add them when you add the veges into the pan with the chicken. Any sooner and they’ll be overcooked.

Enjoy!

Quilting and other needlework

February 16, 2013

New and loving it

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301A in a trapezoid table.

The picture my friend sent me.  It’s lovely!

 

Enough lint for three machines, packed in so tight it took extraordinary measures to get it all out.

Cleaning up.  Enough lint for three machines packed in so tight it took extraordinary measures to get it all out.

A friend, knowing I love Singer 301As and trapezoid cabinets, found one for me.  The cabinet’s a lovely thing, mahogany veneer with just a tiny chip on the right end of the under-table.  The 301 is a black short-bed that’s in really lovely shape, just needing a good cleaning and lube and new wiring.  The cleaned machine is very quiet and smooth and I had the necessary wiring in my stash of parts.

This machine came with three bobbins.  Two of the bobbins had four separate colors/lengths of thread each.  The remaining bobbin had seven different pieces/colors of thread wound on.  There was so much lint, packed in so tightly, I had to disassemble the bobbin carrier to get all the lint out.

If you’re wondering what makes a trapezoid table so special, it’s for two very nice reasons.  The left end of the table is hinged and the swings out to support the table extension when it’s open.  Secondly, because the shape of the table is shorter on the front than the back, the table extension wraps to the front just a bit making it easier to keep things on the table.

I’ve already sewing a bunch of quilt bindings and today I’ll use this lovely machine to put borders on a quilt top.  Color me happy.

Quilting and other needlework

January 31, 2013

Busy work knitting

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Self-striping merino blend mobius

Self-striping merino blend mobius

Caron Simply Soft - mobius with 3/9 silver lined seed beads

Caron Simply Soft – mobius with 3/9 silver lined seed beads

Caron Simply Soft - mobius with 1/0 silver lined seed beads.

Caron Simply Soft – mobius with 1/0 silver lined seed beads.

Nascent mobius, Lion Amazing

Lion Amazing – nascent mobius with amethyst 1/0 seed beads

 

Life’s been fairly busy for me the last four months.  I’m caring for a bed-bound family member and haven’t had a lot of time for the crafty stuff that feeds my soul.  Because I’ve been sitting bound to one spot I’ve been doing a lot of knitting.  Most of the knitting I’ve done is fairly mindless stuff I can do while watching and thinking.

I finally finished the knitting on a pair of sock slippers out of Red Heart acrylic worsted.  I’m intending to put soles on them but that’s a future project.  Until then, I’ll wear them without.  They do keep my feet toasty.

I’ve knitted two cowls, a bunch of mobius scarves and a few hats.

I knit a cowl in Caron Simply Soft Oceana to try out reversible cables on a seed stitch background.  That was lovely.  My sister-in-law got that one for Christmas and loves it.  I knitted a cowl for myself out of pink and green self-striping merino wool blend but it was a bit girly for me (cute ruffly edges and beads).  My SIL coveted it so I passed it on.

I got a gimmee skein of KnitPicks Biggo which I knit into a hat for my bed-bound friend.  That’s some wonderful yarn!

Close fitting cowls and hats are quick and fairly boring, but mobius scarves are interesting.  To knit a mobius scarf, you either have to join the ends (fairly obvious) or use a provisional cast on which is significantly less obvious.  Any time you can knit something without having to sew it together saves time.

Provisional cast on produces a shift in the columns of stitches at the point of cast on.  Because I like mobius in 2×2 rib, the provisional cast on is really obvious to me.  Seed stitch would hide the point of cast on but the stitch isn’t as stretchy and the point of this scarf is to stay close and keep the neck warm.  Because I’m fairly anal, I find the cast on shift unattractive.  By incorporating beads at the point of cast on, I minimize the obviousness of the shift.

The green and purple mobius is the first I made and is being worn by my niece.  It’s bright and smart and so is she.

The brown/gray/emerald/navy mobius is off to a friend in California.  She wanted me to make her a mobius when she was here visiting but I’m really bad at reading hints.  Once she got more pointed and said “I want a mobius”, I got it.  This color combo is perfect for her. Because she likes touches of sparkle, I added the beads.  This was my second knitted project with beads.

The blue mobius is for my friend and sister of my heart.  I originally made the striped one for her but she’s too sensitive to the merino wool.  She’ll have no problem with the Caron Simply Soft acrylic.  I used the beads to mask the cast on, adding beads at the edge to give it that ultimate “girly” touch.  Can we ever get enough sparkle?  I ran short of beads to finish the cast off so it’s on hold until I get more beads.

The blue/pink one might be for me.  The challenge will be to see if I can resist the temptation to give it away if someone admires it.  This mobius is smaller around than the others I’ve done.  I only have a partial skein of Lion Amazing left.  Of the three matching dye lot skeins I bought, I’ve already made two hats and a mobius.  This mobius gets what’s left.  Beads prevent it from being the ugly step child.

Gardening,Hydro/Aquaponics

December 29, 2012

Greening the desert

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I caught this off a permaculture site.  It’s amazing.  Take a couple minutes and watch.

Gardening

December 20, 2012

Broken pot garden

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Broken pot garden

Broken pot garden

I saw this on Facebook this morning.  It is beyond cool!  What a clever use for a broken pot!

Gardening,Hydro/Aquaponics

November 20, 2012

Getting your toes wet

Self-contained counter top herb garden using airlift technology.

On Facebook today Homestead had a post featuring a new Kickstart project, a self-contained aquaponic garden.  This is really neat!  I’ve supported other projects on Kickstart and this one is definitely worthy of support!

Cordwaining

November 3, 2012

Silicone molding

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The molding clay stop in place with the register dents.

The resulting silicone cast. See where the silicone cast is separating from the last at heel and toe?

I’ve got the first batch of silicone on my last and here are my observations.

First is that I shouldn’t put off until another day the continuation of the project.

Second is that I should put on a lot more silicone in the first coat.  I can work with what I’ve got, I just think it would have been better to keep at it.  When mixed 1:1:1, the combination is spreadable and sets up to the point additional layers could be added in under 2 hours.

Third, I should have used plaster instead of molding clay to build up the ankle and toe of my test last shape.  The silicone and molding clay separate beautifully . . . . but a little too eagerly.  Where the plaster will absorb the water the silicone puts off as it cures, the molding clay cannot and this creates hydraulic pressure which separates the silicone from the clay.  Despite that, I think I can work with this.  It’s just a test and the important bit is neither the top of the ankle OR the toe.  I’ll coat the silicone with a couple layers of mold release and then add the remaining layers of silicone.  I may have to pin the bits that are separating, but I don’t see that as a game changer.

Cordwaining,Pioneer Spirit

November 1, 2012

Testing the molding

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Materials

Molding clay with silicone mix pasted on.

End result after about 2 hours.

Let the games begin!  I’m testing molding.  After lots of research, I’m actually testing!  Woohoo!

  • Modeling clay (doesn’t dry out)
  • Something to use as a base (glossy scrap cardboard)
  • Pure silicone caulk
  • Xylene
  • Corn starch
  • Stir sticks (old plastic spatulas)
  • Mixing container

I used the modeling clay to make something to mold against.  I cut a piece, stuck it down to the glossy card stock, mixed equal parts corn starch and silicone caulk, then added xylene to get a spreadable consistency.

I then plastered the silicone mix onto the clay.  Not pretty, but pretty really isnt’ necessary.

The third picture is the result after two hours.  The silicone was largely set.  I didn’t do a good enough job getting the silicone into the register holes.  I’ll know to watch for that when starting the actual mold making.

Quilting and other needlework

October 20, 2012

Broken promise

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Harmony wood needle tips, size six.

I ordered a Try It pack of needle tips from KnitPicks.  I really like the concept, one set of cables and one set of needle tips.  Sadly, the Harmony wood needle tips didn’t hold up.  I had just started another mobius scarf and the wood separated where it entered the metal portion of the tip.  If I’d bent the needle, it would make sense, but I was pulling the stitches along the cable while holding the tip.

I think the wood needles would be fine in a bigger diameter, but in something as small as a six, they just aren’t going to hold up.  I’ve switched to size seven nickel plated tips.  I’m fairly confident they’ll hold up to the task at hand.

Quilting and other needlework

The joy of giving

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Third batch

I’m on my third batch of stitch markers.  I’m not losing them, I find myself giving them away to people who have the same complaints I do about the commercial stitch markers.  I have the same policy with earrings I make, so it’s a natural extension of something I’m already doing.  Fun!

Plant Wall

October 7, 2012

What fish?

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Aquarium obscured by Ricinifolia Immense, strawberry begonia and creeping philodendron.

The wall has really grown this summer.  I mean REALLY grown.  It’s now a struggle to see the fish.  Somebody remind me . . . wasn’t this project for the fish?  That’s a 50 gallon aquarium hiding back there!