Ask Poops, Please

Putting my two cents in.

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Location: Belmont, New Hampshire, United States

Born and bred in a small New England town, I am convinced that I know something about everything, and that my opinion matters. If only to me. Well, you'll see what I mean. And I love to knit, so you'll see what kind of things I'm doing when I should be vacuuming the living room.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How Much Wood Could a Woodchuck Chuck?

From the sounds of it, the one we have living in the field could probably get a couple of cord in without much effort.

He likes broccoli and cabbage...
... and from the looks of his little hidey-hole where he eats his snacks, a nice Natural Light beer. In the can. This is a Belmont woodchuck, after all.One does want something to wash down two full rows of salad. Allegedly (I say allegedly because I've only heard tell of this beast and not seen it first hand), it's HUGE. Sistah though it was a beaver. Fr. Albert maintains he thought it was a small bear until he got close enough to get a look at it. He claims it was sitting atop one of his cabbages with a cappuccino in one hand, scratching his belly with the other, and belching demurely at him. He further states, for the record, that he walked right up to it and it wasn't scared of him. Little wonder. From the sounds of it, the woodchuck's got him outweighed by at least 10 pounds.

On the other hand, this little woodchuck just came in from the living room chewing on something green too.
It's Play-Doh.

I'm gonna go get him a beer to wash it down.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Totally Worth It

Worth the scraped knuckles from the grater and heating the kitchen up on a July day...
Crazed Monk Zucchini Bread

In a large bowl, combine:
--3 large eggs
--2 c. sugar
--3 tsp. vanilla extract
--1 c. oil
--2 c. shredded zucchini
Mix well until completely combined, then add:
--3 c. all-purpose flour
--1 tsp. salt
--1 tsp. baking soda
--1/4 tsp. baking powder
--3 tsp. cinnamon
Stir until combined. Don't over mix.Put into greased loaf pans and bake at 350F for 40 minutes (for mini-loafs) or 50-60 minutes (for full-sized loaves). Loaves are done when a toothpick or skewer inserted near the center comes out with just a few crumbs clinging to it.

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove to cooling racks. Makes 2 full-sized loaves or 5 mini-loaves. Doubles easily and freezes like a dream.

Now, please don't look at this recipe and go "Holy shit! That's a lot of oil" and do something stupid like replacing half of it with applesauce. We all know that it will make the bread tougher, less flaky, and all-around not as good. It's not health food. It's quick bread. Don't go screwing around with the ingredients and then tell me it's not a very good recipe. I promise, it's an excellent recipe if you make it as directed.

Plus, if you're thinking to yourself, "Hey, it's too hot to bake right now, but I'll shred up the zucchini, portion it out in baggies and thaw it this winter to make bread," you're going to be disappointed. Freezing the zucchini alters the water content and throws off the moisture ratio of the bread. You've been warned.

So out of the 6 big zucchini Father Albert dropped off, the first big one made a double batch of bread (10 mini-loaves) and the second made a double batch of zucchini whoopie pies. I used two smaller ones to make a double batch of bread today (10 more mini-loaves) and now I'm down to two left.

I'm taking tomorrow off since I'm out of flour, finally.


So, in other non-zucchini news, I had a pattern brainstorm and submitted it to Knitty.
I'm not sure why. I mean, I read every issue and look at every pattern and have been moved to make exactly one pattern. Not my style, I guess. But one day I was just sitting there in my chair knitting a string bag and an idea for a hat popped into my head. I grabbed a skein of Plymouth Encore that was just sitting there by my chair and whipped out a prototype, which was cute, but smaller than what I wanted and the band just wasn't quite...right. I knew just what mods to make, though, and I gave the hat to Bobo (since she loved it) and with two new yarns in hand I set to bringing the visualization to life.
The first one came out just like I wanted, so I used the most "Knitty-friendly" yarn of the three and wrote out my notes as I went along.

The deadline was July 15. I finished it on July 14. Made Sister put on a sweater (so it looked like cold weather) and pose with it on, while trying not to get too much of her face in it per her stipulation to signing the modeling contract. I call the pattern "Hot Cuppa Joe." Check out the pic...squint at her computer screen and see where she's surfin'...the Knitty Coffeeshop, baybeh!
Despite the shameless Knitty plug right in the pattern, I got a nice rejection e-mail from Amy thanking me for my submission. She did say she likes my style, and that she liked the cabled band.
So, while Hot Cuppa Joe didn't get me into Knitty--this time!--my pattern store on Ravelry has a new addition. This one is free too, so go'head and knit one up. You can find it on Ravelry here, provided you're a member. And why not join? Make yourself a Hot Cuppa Joe, and then make some zucchini bread while you're at it.

I mean, it might be 90 degrees out there right now, but it won't be forever...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ovarian Ambush

Did y'all know that the zucchini is a fruit? According to Wikipedia (and if you can't believe Wiki, who can you trust?), "In a culinary context, zucchini is treated as a vegetable, which means it is usually cooked and presented as a savory dish or accompaniment. Botanically, however, the zucchini is an immature fruit, being the swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower."

Zucchini's are swollen ovaries. I wish I'd known that before I named my recipe "Crazed Monk Zucchini Bread." Though I don't know if anyone would actually eat Swollen Ovary Bread. It'd be a select group of gourmands, I'm thinkin'.

Anyway, here's today's spoils hand-delivered by the Crazed Monk himself. Six big zucchinis, not to mention a nice haul of fresh cucumbers to boot. There was a ton of yellow squash but I find that's just naaaasty. I think it's going to be a really good year for the garden. It's dryer than I can ever remember out there, and while the lawn is looking really sad and thirsty and crispy, the gardens are lush and green.

I'm salivating thinking of tomatoes already. Though I mustn't count my chickens...

Can I tell you one of the coolest parts of having a blog? I was just wondering to myself if I ever posted the recipe for Crazed Monk Zucchini bread (I haven't, and I will, shortly) and I found myself going back and reading some old entries.

I've had some good thoughts, I tell you whut. And it was fun to read about the things that have happened to me over the past four years. I find I'm better at writing for an audience, albeit a small one, than I am at writing for just me, like in a journal. The only time I've ever kept a journal and gone back and reread what I wrote I blushed with embarrassment for myself. It seemed like so much self-indulgent crap. But the blog...I don't know what's different, but I like it.

I hope you do too. If not, just back away and close the door quietly. I probably won't even notice...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Another Fail?

Not this time, baby!

I was planning on making some homemade black raspberry ice cream today with my homemade black raspberries. We have them growing wild all over the place. There are a ton of them right behind my house between our house and the neighbors' and there's a good sized patch of them up behind the woodpile just past the clothesline. Unfortunately we can't get to all of those because of an errant sapling and said woodpile. We left them as a treat for the birds this year, but I'm thinking I could get Grandpa Ernee and his love of All Things Chainsaw to take care of those for me before the next berrying season hits. Maybe if I bribe him with a dish or two of this:Homemade black raspberry ice cream! (With a drizzle of Magic Shell...)

I was sure it was going to be a fail of some sort since the black hole has eaten the ice cream recipes that I so painstakingly wrote out after a whole summer and much trial and error in my kitchen.

No worries. The hole can keep them. Here's the recipe for the BEST ice cream EVER.

Black Raspberry Ice Cream--Poops-Style

First, send your kids out every day in the pouring rain or the scorching heat or the stifling humidity to scratch their arms and legs to ribbons picking wee sweet nuggets of black raspberry goodness.

Every day, put the days gleanings in the freezer, because it's going to take awhile to collect enough for ice cream.
When you have at least a cup and half of berries, here's what you do:

In a bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of ripe black raspberries and 3/4 cup sugar and allow to macerate. (That means let them combine and get all soft and juicy.) I find overnight in the fridge is just perfect. When they're soft and juicy, dump them juice and all into the blender or food processor with three tablespoons of lemon juice and whip them into a thick puree. Put the puree in a sieve to separate out the wee seeds. While it's straining into a thick, purple-pink deliciousness, set it aside and get the base ready.

In a medium saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups each whole milk and heavy cream and heat it slowly over medium-low heat. Don't boil it!

While you're warming the milk, combine 4 egg yolks and 1/4 cup of sugar in a mixing bowl and beat the hell out of them with an electric mixer until they are thick and creamy and very pale yellow, about 4 minutes.

Now take a cup or so of the hot milk and add it slowly to the egg mixture a quarter cup at a time while you continue to beat them. Don't rush this part or skip this step because you'll cook the eggs. This is called "tempering" the eggs and it's crucial. Trust me.

Now that the eggs are tempered, you can dump them into the hot milk in the saucepan without fear of cooking them. Do so now, and lower the heat a bit. Cook the egg/milk/cream mixture until it gets thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, stirring constantly--about 10 minutes. Again, keep your heat low and don't boil it.

Bring your berry puree over with the strainer and pour the cooked ice cream base through the strainer with the seeds and puree. This will allow any bits of egg that might have cooked despite your most fastidious tempering efforts to stay behind, and it rinses the last bits of the puree off the pips as well.

Now you've got a fabulously-colored, thick custard-y type mixture in a bowl. Toss in a teaspoon of vanilla and a dash of salt, stir it up really well so that everything is evenly combined and put it in the fridge to chill. This takes hours. Overnight is good, but three or four hours will get it cold enough to put in the ice cream maker. (You can't put warm ice cream base into the ice cream machine or it won't get cold enough to become ice cream. Again, take my word for this.)

Put it in your ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturers instructions.

How can I describe the result? Somewhere between ice cream and sherbet. Not too sweet, not too creamy, not too tart.

What I've done, aside from that first bowl that simply could not wait to be eaten, is spread that out in a 9-by-13 inch baking pan lined with plastic and popped it in the freezer to harden. Later I'm going to cut it into bars which I'll coat with chocolate and refreeze, making our own homemade Berrylicious Klondike Bars.

Mmmm, purple.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Flattery Will Get You Everywhere

And clearly, flattery will get you a new blog post!

Mind you, I realize I haven't updated since April. Do you ever get that Winnie-the-Pooh feeling (I think I've mentioned it before) about your Things being not-so-Thingish outside your head? Don't know what I mean?

"When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it."

That's from The House at Pooh Corner.

But it sums up that feeling one gets when one realizes what one has to say is really only important or entertaining or informative to oneself. So it comes as a surprise to me when someone (Like Auntie Meal--hey, Auntie Meal! *waves madly*) mentions that they miss my blog posts...perhaps my Things are more Thingish than I thought...anyway, what's been going on since April. Well, let's see.

First of all, let's get it on the table that summer has arrived suddenly and full force. True story: on July 1 it was so chilly out with a high around 61F that I had to put a sweater on. It's now July 9 and for the last three or so days we've been oppressed by 90+ degree temps and 187% humidity. Have I mentioned how much I hate summer? I had to put the AC in because poor old Lilith cat started puking and drooling and I knew that wasn't so good. So I dipped her in the tub (a process I do not recommend for anyone whose cats still have their front claws and are younger than 15 years old) and Larry and I rassled the AC unit into the window. It's managing to keep the living room anywhere between 72 and 80 degrees most days. Pathetic. But Lil is feeling much better.

Larry did point out the irony that I was happy to let the family sit and baste in our own juices day after sweltering day, but I'll put the AC in for the cat. Trust me, it didn't escape my notice.

So, needless to say my wooly projects have been temporarily shelved for the time being. But I have finished knitting Dave's little winter jacket/sweater: and Larry's big winter jacket/sweater: and they are reading for finishing as soon as I can bear the thought of touching it. It was bad enough snapping these pics just to show you them in their unfinished states. You'll get the deets when they're done, okay? Know this: Larry's sweater is Lopi. If you are a knitter, you know just what I mean...

In the meantime I've been contemplating a "greener" existence. Not because I think global warming is responsible for this heat wave, and you can bet your butt I'm not doing anything that costs me a lot of money or effort, but I figure I can whip up some reusable shopping bags and maybe give recycling a whirl if it doesn't turn out to be too big a pain in the ass. To that end, while I still haven't acquired my recycling bin from the recycling folks over on 140, I have created a pattern for an easy peasy string shopping bag and...drumroll please...posted it on Ravelry! Now I'm on there as a Designer and hopefully will be able to sell some patterns there as well. It's my first baby step and it's taken me literally hours to figure out how to do it, but there you go!

Oh, and if you'd like to download a truly simple shopping bag pattern to have for your very own, just follow the link to Ravelry and the It's So Easy Being Green pattern. Whee! I have a couple of other patterns here on the blog that I think I'll post over there as freebies too, now that I know how.

And speaking of "greens", in non-knitting news, my cousin Bean is expecting her first behbeh in August and we had a lovely shower for her. I made the centerpieces. To say she's an "avid golfer" is like saying I'm an avid knitter. So the theme was "golf" and here's what I came up with for the centerpieces. There was a lovely buffet and she got enough stuff to outfit three newborns, so now all we have to do is sit back and wait for baby Cole to arrive. *taps foot impatiently* And yeah, she's going into her ninth month and still swinging a club. I don't know how, honestly. I was so uncomfortable and hot and cranky by my ninth month that everyone I know thought it best to keep potential weapons (like a 9-iron or a sand wedge) out of my reach.

Old Home Day is fast upon me again and I'm nowhere near as ready for it as I was last year at this time. Having trouble lining up crafters this year, which is a switch since they nearly bombarded me last year. I'm afraid they didn't do very well and maybe rethought it this year. If I don't get many, I'm not sure what to do. Perhaps push the bake sale harder. I don't know, really. I'm open to suggestions!

Okay, that's all I can think of at the moment. I need some more iced tea and a spell in front of the AC. Because as Pooh's friend Eeyore once pointed out, "This writing business, pencils and what-not. Overrated if you ask me."

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