Slumming With the Food Mags

Let’s be clear: I hate Food & Wine Magazine, okay? There was never such a useless, flashy, pretentious piece of tripe on newsstands just begging my ‘good-life’ aspiring, faux Gucci wearing, “The Valley” name dropping, hipster chic-addicted, soul-deprived friends to buy it. One such dear one actually brought me one, and I am still completely bewildered as to… why. Oh. Yeah. For the article on tomatoes. Which the woman grows with the help of her Latino staff and has her caterer prepare for her party guests at her fabulousa Valley estates. WHATever.

But for all that it’s just another empty, soul-starving, glossy, yawn-inducing, read-in-the-dentist’s-office magazine, I did find an interesting tidbit I might have to …improve upon. It’s an eggplant dish.

Now, I’m not fond of eggplants. Frankly, they just don’t have enough nutritional value to me to bother wanting to deal with their inherent… sliminess. So sorry, but there you have it. I’ve done them in stir-fry, but since we’re keeping fat and carbs on the down-low, there hasn’t been any parmesan happening… and it’s just as well, since you kind of have to fry the eggplants first… And, since our garden seems content to produce six pounds of eggplants a WEEK, I’ve got to do something. So, I am slumming with the depressingly chirpy and wealthy foodies, and hoping to improve upon their August featured Thai Vegetable and Smoky Eggplant Salad. Almost nothing could be easier than this salad. Unbelievably, I have almost all of the ingredients just sitting around at home, growing on the deck, or fresh in the garden right now, and we’ve got a beach picnic this weekend!

  • 2 long purple eggplants (1 1/2 pounds each)
  • 8 fresh makrut lime leaves, minced, or 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 red Thai chile, minced
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 Hass avocado—halved, pitted and thinly sliced (have to buy that!)
  • 1 large carrot, cut into thin julienne strips
  • 1 medium English cucumber, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • Snipped chives, for garnishing
  • 3 tablespoons chopped mint
  • 1/2 cup roasted cashews, coarsely chopped


Directions

Light a grill. Using a fork, prick the eggplants in a few places. Grill over high heat, turning occasionally, until the eggplants are very soft and blackened all over, about 35 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet and let cool slightly. Cut the stems off the eggplants and scrape off the charred skin. Tear the eggplants into long strips and discard the seeds. Transfer to a bowl.

In a small bowl, mix the lime leaves with the lime juice, soy sauce, chile, brown sugar, garlic and lemon zest. Stir 3 tablespoons of the dressing into the eggplant. Arrange the eggplant, avocado, carrot, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and red onion on a platter. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the vegetables. Sprinkle the chives, mint and cashews over the salad and serve.

MAKE AHEAD: The smoky eggplant salad can be prepared through Step 1 and refrigerated overnight.

One Serving= 314 Calories, 16 gm Total Fat, 2.6 gm Saturated Fat, 41 gm Carbohydrates, 13 gm Fiber.

Now there is NOTHING like flavor in a salad, and this sounds really flavorful and unusual, even with the slimy squash-stuff… I may give it a shot. It seems like it needs something crunchy… here is possibly where a good salad goes bad, but oh well.

T-1 Day until Baking Commences! A sugar-free zucchini bread is planned; quick breads are notoriously gummy and deeply soggy if not baked slowly and thoroughly. Hard to believe we’ll be testing the oven soon! Hopefully this won’t be the last of our small purchases for home improvement…

Christmas Already?

It’ll certainly feel like it this afternoon, as I unpack 5 or 6 skeins of yarn and can get back to working on my aran-esque sweater, and can gift TadMack with some lovely plush, chunky chenille yarn. So, this week will be a week of gifts, perhaps, as the new oven comes in on Wednesday!

That said, I should be able to work for a bit, right? To concentrate upon the inanities known as writing a specification? Unfortunately, hibernation-brain cometh early this year … along with lack of enthusiasm. Sigh.

An update as to pricing of the Cool Wool: The U.S. site bumped up their prices to $80 for 10 balls (1/2 a kilogram). The E.U. site still has their individual balls for €3.95 ($5.09), and their 1 KG boxes (of 20 balls) for €79.00 ($101.81). So … let’s see … that’d make the U.S. price $160, for an equivalent to the E.U. site’s price at $101.81. Guess which site (which raised its prices in the last two days!) is NOT going to get my business?

Waiting for Yarn…

So, as I wait for my yarn to arrive from whatever alternate dimension it’s in, I’ve started a project using the forlorn greenish yarn purchased in a fit of “let’s make a shawl for this lady who likes green.” The yarn’s been sitting (three large balls of it) for about a year. We’ve cast it onto various things, and given up because it turns out to be a bit of a pain to work with: it’s cotton, and seems to be made up of a series of loosely associated strings, rather than anything so wholesome as a yarn.

So, it’s sitting there, and it looked to be the best of the bunch, as far as the leftovers go (still sulking about the expense, yes).

I cast it onto a set of single-point size 4 needles, intending to work something flat-ish like a shawl or a shrug or whatever the “in” term is for something you throw over your shoulders to keep warm. I cast and cast, up to 134 stitches. So, the thing will end up being about 36 inches wide if you don’t stretch it out at all. A goodly width.

I’m working as follows:

  1. s1, k1, *k*, k2
  2. s1, k1, *k2tog*, k2
  3. s1, k1, *k into front and back of each stitch*, k2
  4. s1, k1, *p*, k2

Or, translated into something more reasonably understood:

To give ourselves a nice edging, we’re going to use 4 extra stitches (called a selvage). These first and last two stitches on each row will be treated the same, no matter what row we’re on. They’re worked like this: slip the first stitch of the row, as if to knit. Knit the second stitch. Do whatever you’ve got to do with the row, all the way up to the last two stitches. Knit these last two stitches.
Apart from the selvage, we’re going to:

  1. Knit a row
  2. Knit two stitches together, across the entire row
  3. Knit into front and back of each stitch before slipping it off the needle, across the entire row
  4. Purl the whole row
  5. Repeat

Now is also the time to realize that at the speed you knit and with the number of stitches you’ve cast on you’re doing about an inch every two hours; at this rate, you will have to knit for about 72 hours in order to get something just square-shaped.

I hope that I will get faster. I’ve read Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitting Without Tears, and thought I had taken her advice to heart: I gave up holding the yarn in my right hand & switched to the left, and I knit very loosely. Now I’m beginning to see the wisdom in another of her pieces of advice: unless you like fussing over a piece forever, knit using huge yarn. If I’d used nice chunky yarn, I’d have an afghan by now. Instead, I have a lovely horizontally-ridged, lacy piece … of about 4 inches in length.

But, I must say that I do enjoy just being able to zone out until the last couple of stitches of a row. It’d be easier if the yarn weren’t so multi-stranded-string-like, but it’s still much more relaxing than the Aran-esque sweater project which is awaiting the next installment of yarn. Perhaps not as rewarding, and definitely more boring, but … more of a sedative. As The Yarn Harlot says, “Knitting has this reliable rhythm that comforts a freaked out obsessive compulsive….

Still with the yarn…

About a year ago – when it was last cold and dark and the urge to knit hit hard – I purchased a few balls of Lana Grossa’s “Cool Wool” Merino 2000 Superfein. No, I don’t know which part of that’s the product name, thank you. It’s 100% Merino wool, and, yes, super fine. It appears to have been ringspun or something (not the textile expert), and was a joy to work with, although, being really … fine, it took all of three balls to knit up a hat. While the hat’s beautiful (and monstrously huge), I don’t know that I’d go through that again just to have a hat which will be worn in front of the computer & nowhere else.

All that said, I’ve still lusted after this yarn, and thought that maybe I’d be able to find it online for … well, cheaper than the little yarn store in my neighborhood. Yes, local business, etc., but the stuff is expensive, and I’m feeling frugal with my habit at the moment. It’s probably the coming dark or something, so leave it alone! It’s a disability. When it starts to get light again, I’ll splurge and buy all of their lovely silk ribbon yarns and knit up some ruinously expensive scarves.

So, I went and did a search, and ended up at the manufacturer / importer’s site, which wasn’t much of a help as they’re in Germany & the yarn’s manufactured in Italy. So, I went searching some more, and found a site in the U.S. which sells the stuff for pretty close to a fortune. And then, with a little digging & poking, found a site in the E.U. (search for “Cool Wool”) which appears to sell it for about half of the U.S. price (my Euro / USD conversion being iffy). So, if I were in Europe, I could get a ball of the stuff for €3.95, whereas in the U.S. I’ve got to pay $7.75 if I buy it online, or I’ve got to kick down somewhere on order of $12 if I subsidize the nice grandmotherly Dutch lady a mile down the road.

If it wouldn’t make me feel like I was turning into my father, I’d contact the manufacturer and buy a huge box of the stuff. And then, someday, some relative would wonder at my sanity, as I did at the box of square Ray-Ban eyeglasses frames I happened upon in the garage one day as a kid. I mean, why buy so much yarn / many glasses frames? Creepy.

More Knitting Thoughts

So, I’m going through my various bookmarks, looking for someplace that’ll tell me how to knit a horseshoe cable (basically: cable to the back & then immediately cable to the front – no big deal). So, I end up just googling for it, and end up on DIYNetwork. And, if I want to get a good look at the pictures (which I do, ’cause the descriptions suck, as usual with anything to do with knitting), I have to turn off my popup blocker. And of course, upon refreshing the page I get a pop-up ad. From the University of Phoenix.

Now, I don’t know about you, but would you want to go get a degree from a place which advertised via pop-up ads?

My new red-heart yarn is on its way … from someplace called Wyoming, MI. I believe that this is the place which maintains that alternate dimension in which everything from the 1970’s is kept, alongside of the as-seen-on-TV warehouses. Billy-the-bearded-buffoon who sells everything seen on TV probably lives there. Be afraid.

To work with me, I suppose. Sigh.

Knitting thoughts

So, I’m thinking of doing an Aran pattern for this sweater, and have been researching stitches. I’ve found a site with descriptions of what some of the stitches mean, and another site which debunks the myth of Arans being used to identify families (or claims to). I’m particularly attracted to the Honeycomb Stitch (to the left) and to the Horseshoe Cable (to the right). We’ll see what ends up happening, though, as it appears that the company I started with (Red Heart) has discontinued the color I’ve been using … so I’m having to switch mid-way. That’s OK, I suppose, as I’ve not really been following any particular pattern, but just going intuitively. I did figure out how big around I wanted it, and how long, and have been sticking to that, but I’ve started with a varied series of stitches in a long panel for the back, and have been knitting back-and-forth joining the back panel together for the round.

At some point I’m going to have to worry about attaching arms, and making a neck, but that’s a ways off yet (using size 8 needles, with a fairly heavy yarn).

Feeling the cold on its way.

Things I Should Avoid for my Own Good

Do the lovely people at Apartment Therapy know just how much time they make me waste asking myself pointless rhetorical questions? Questions that start like, “Of course I don’t need these bloody overpriced Italian faucets. Of course not. Does that make them any less cool? Should my bathroom faucets really resemble microscopes? Of course not. Is there extraneous metal used in this design? Of course. Will it make it stupendously more expensive. Of course.”

Sigh

Design websites are EVIL.

It’s kind of like the idea that watching too much TV really screws with your psyche because everyone looks so flawless and airbrushed and pancake made-up and well-lit? Well, I’m of the opinion that there’s a truth close to that regarding the concept of design websites… too many things come together so neatly and nicely that they give you hives when you think about your own place. And don’t get me started on home transformation shows: why can’t I ever find that perfect ticky-tacky chandelier and spray paint it for immediate classy gorgeousness at MY house? Anyone else that tries that stuff, well, it looks… a bit more crafty than artsy, perhaps? Plain tacky? I dunno… Well, I’m about to get my chance to try some ‘junky to funky’ magic … my mother just informed me that she’s doing a big flea market thing on September 3… now let’s see if we can’t LEAVE more stuff there than we take away. Yeah, that would be good…

Geese A’Flyin Means Furnace A’Buyin. And other bad couplets.

This weekend I saw a record number of Canadian geese.

Because of our proximity to Bay and wetlands, that shouldn’t have made me think twice, but the oddly long rains, horrifying heat wave and deeply foggy spells, coupled with the garden going into early flower have had me wondering just what kind of a winter we’re going to have. While I’m dying to get my hands on some beautiful cabinets, if we have to burn them in a metal barrel for heat this winter (since we won’t be able to afford our electric bill) it will lessen their beauty… so it’s time for a more energy-efficient heater. I love summer power bills. They never go above $50, and this is with humidifiers and fans running practically nonstop. With a place this small, our bill should NEVER go above $50, no matter how prices swing. So! I’m going to a.) buy new blankets (maybe even a new electric throw or two for downstairs, so it’s still usable space when it gets cold) b.) price and buy a new heater.

Heaters, schneeters. The things you can’t really show off in your home remodel are nonetheless also sometimes the most expensive things you’ve done to your home. Love our new windows? WHAT? You didn’t notice them!? I guess one cannot expect to have people traipse up and look lovingly with us at our new furnace, but if the geese gatherings are any clue, we need to get on this one, and soon…

Consumer Reports did the usual piece last December about how best to heat without losing all your cash, and last year we did the first big project to cut costs, which was to insulate everything that didn’t move, and seal or caulk everything a breeze might sneak through. We programmed our thermostat. We changed our air filters. Now we need to replace our lighting with either LED’s or compact fluorescents, and get a more efficient forced air heating system and air cleaner. The ‘and air cleaner’ bit is probably important, as we’re getting rid of the carpet and the old dust, and although the air will be cleaner, forced air is still dusty and dry and we need to clean out of it what we can.

Let me tell you: furnace research is boring, deadly dull, but necessary. I have, however, come up with a wonderful find from American Standard (the same happy people who made the toilet!) and let’s just hope it doesn’t cost everything we have:

  1. Multispeed blower motor – Operates quietly and efficiently, gently warming and maintaining comfort. Handles all central air conditioning needs, too.
  2. Induced draft venting – Quietly draws hot gases through the heat exchanger, maximizing the heat transfer efficiencies of the exchanger design.
  3. Multi-port in-shot burners – Perfectly shape the flame cone for the maximum heat possible while using less fuel.
  4. Adaptive hot surface silicon nitride igniter – Starts burners electrically for safe, efficient operation. There’s no pilot light constantly burning fuel.
  5. Aluminized steel heat exchanger – Crimped, not welded, to prevent cracks from heat stress. Stamped serpentine channel offers the greatest efficiency in less space. Backed by our lifetime limited warranty.
  6. Stainless steel secondary heat exchanger – Captures more of the heat you pay for.
  7. Heavy steel insulated cabinet -Holds more heat in the furnace to better warm your home. Also assures greater durability and quieter operation.
  8. Self-diagnostic controls – Manage every function with digital accuracy. Include safety features and a built-in troubleshooting system.
  9. Sound-insulated blower compartment – Assures the quietest possible operation.
  10. 100% fresh air option – Uses 100% outdoor air for combustion for increased equipment life and cleaner air.
  11. Dual door latches allow easy access to the filter for cleaning or changing.
  12. Cleanable filter means you can rinse or vacuum it without buying replacements each time.
  13. Spring-loaded filter rack automatically adjusts for standard off-the-shelf filters.

Does anyone else know the difference between a single-stage and two-stage heating system? Does anyone else keep this kind of information in their brain for the five minutes it takes them to do a price comparison like I do? Gone, gone the way of quadratic equations, I flush this bit of knowledge down my mental drain…and now, onward to LED bulbs.

Cabinets…

For those of you playing along at home, you might want to check out Jeanette Pavini’s Best of Bay Area Bargains with special regards to Cabinets. Basically, we’ve been told that we could revamp our kitchen (cabinets, countertops, sinks) for under $1,000. While it’s true that our kitchen is miniscule (condo, after all), that’s still quite a bit less than we’d feared. So, the place to go for this fabulous bargain? It’s called KWW Kitchen Cabinets, and they’ve got several locations around the bay:

  • Kww Kitchen Cabinets
    Address: 901 King St, Oakland, CA 94606
    Phone: (510) 533-7888
  • Kww Kitchen Cabinets & Bath
    Address: 3832 Bayshore Blvd, Brisbane, CA 94005
    Phone: (415) 643-3338
  • Kww Kitchen Cabinets N Bath
    Address: 1090 N 7th St, San Jose, CA 95112
    Phone: (408) 289-8838

So, this means that we’ve got the stove on its way, and will probably be making a pilgrimage to Oaktown this weekend to investigate. Of course, everybody else who watched the show (all of 1/2 an hour ago) will probably be there as well, but we can wait a while ’til the furor dies down.

Now I’ve just got to work on a bit of marketing for the consultancy, and bring in some higher-paying clients!

(I see a white door and I want it painted black…)

I thought after the stove, we should work on the microwave… I checked on the Consumer Reports microwave comparisons, and frankly, I think we may as well simply build a sturdy shelf for the microwave in the garage, and use it. It has a turntable, it’s new-ish, and it’ll work until it doesn’t… at which time, we’ll invest in another one. AND, it’s black…

You know, I think I’m painting the fridge black.

Don’t be scared. I might not. But appliance paint is easy enough to come by… I might just do the sides and leave the doors white. Or, just do the doors…

The mind boggles with the things they come up with on Trading Spaces. And while we admit that it isn’t always something that works for long, I have been reading the “chatter” again, and, after checking with the hivemind, and looking at the chalkboard paint in DA’s house, I’m a believer… some paints do work. On the other hand, we could always take the doors to a body shop, and get them done quickly there. Or we could use contact paper. OR, we could live with a glaring white fridge and black stove and dishwasher. Worse things have happened… Much worse. And besides, if the floor is going to be blonde, natural bamboo, it’ll be very pale and yellowish.

Unless that’s not the color we choose. Unless we go with one of the two shades of carbonized.
And I guess that’s what’s left to decide about the floor. Lemony pale, or carbonized sugary brown? Straight lines or narrow planks? Should we check out stains? I guess my biggest concern is that the dark floors and dark appliances will make the kitchen… dark. When I think, though, of the kitchen banquette seating, with perhaps a bamboo veneer or a pale stained base and a brightly colored (but not light colored — can’t have light colored cushions where we’re sitting and eating, since we’re unashamedly shlobs) cushion cover, maybe something stripey to match the drapes (that company does sell fabric, methinks, if you want the same colors — after all the trouble we took to get the @#$%^&*! things we should keep them, maybe?), the whole little kitchen/dining area might not be half bad. Add to it the half wall if we cut down the pantry, adding in more light, and it might be a really nice addition… IF we can cut down the pantry wall without it impacting the electrical or the beams in the house…

Ah, decisions, decisions…