Saturday, January 30, 2010


All that snow the forecasters have been suggesting we might get here in SE Virginia? We're getting it this time. Every time I look out the window, which has been frequently over the past few hours, I'm struck by how very white it is. And really it's more like shades of gray, but my brain goes "whoa, white." This is a stay-home-and-not-feel-guilty-about-doing-absolutely-nothing kind of Saturday. Nothing, that is, except for knitting, spinning, computing, blogging, drawing beads on little pieces of sterling wire, charging our respective portable media devices, watching movies, making soup, napping, reading, and paying the neighbor kids to shovel the walk every six hours so the mailman has a route to the mailbox up on the porch. $2 per boy (three boys) plus a cup of hot chocolate. Such a deal.

Through the back door to the back yard. The first view of the snow the dogs had.

I must tell you that the Camellia on the left looks like it's slightly taller than the Camellia in the center, but it really reaches as high up as the 2nd-story eve of the house behind it, and for perspective the fence there is about four feet tall.

The view from the front porch, and I admit that my first thought when I saw this car motoring along without it's lights on was "you dumb-ass, why are you out driving in this weather?"

View from the back porch to the back yard.

My cast iron rooster bell. I bought this years ago in New Mexico at a junktique store and I have a fondness for it whose origin is unknown and I can't shake. We took it down from it's post when the porch was rebuilt and haven't put it back up yet. The photo isn't turned the wrong way; the rooster is lying on the porch rail.

Them's the photos for now. More to come if I can find my boots to go wandering around the neighborhood.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Soupy Sunday

Not only the weather but in the kitchen, too. There's only one thing better than tomato soup and artisan bread for lunch on a blustery winter day. Today certainly qualifies as blustery. Windy, rainy, gray, and cool. I can't say cold because it's in the mid-50's.

What one thing is better, you ask? Homemade tomato soup and homemade artisan bread. And I haven't taken food pictures in a while. It is time.

I've really Martha'd myself. No, wait, to do that I'd have had to grow the tomatoes and sow the wheat. Never mind. I think I could probably do both these recipes in my sleep. I've made the tomato soup two or three times and it is simple. On the America's test Kitchen website, it's the "Creamy Creamless Tomato Soup."

The bread was even simpler, ingredient-wise, but sneaky. I tossed the first batch because it never rose. I'm almost certain that my yeast was old and dead. The second batch didn't rise as much as I'd hoped, but both times I felt the dough was just a teensy weensy bit too dry. The second batch rose (enough) after I let it sit overnight so I baked it this morning. Hmmmmm...the smell of fresh baked bread in the morning? There's no word for it, just a sound of drool.

Let's be clear: I do not have a professional oven with steam injection. My oven runs 100 degrees too hot, is a piece of crap, and I got this result anyway. It tastes as good as it looks. I started another one tonight. I can do this from memory. Well, mainly because I've prepared three in the last three days. A scale is very handy, and I added an ounce more water because I am convinced that the house is so dry the flour just needs that extra bit. Unlike the summer, Virginia does not have a high humidity problem and, because we have forced air everything, our abode is pretty dry. Nor-easter's not withstanding.

Both recipes (and the one for the croutons) are from the guys at America's Test Kitchen, aka Cook's Illustrated aka Cook's Country. I don't get what the difference is but the food is so good that I don't care. The soup is a little involved. It helps justify what we spend on kitchen equipment. In this case, dutch oven and blender. We simplified by using the stick blender which does a perfectly adequate job of whizzing the soup into smooth tomato-y perfection. I can't recommend the KitchenAid stick blender highly enough. There's a place for blenders, and a place for sticks. This recipe suggests using a blender, but using the stick leaves you with fewer dishes to clean, and I don't think it took any more time to get achieve soup smoothie.

Canned whole tomatoes (shocking, I know), white bread, onion, garlic, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, brown sugar (just a tiny bit), olive oil, chicken stock. That's it. We've used plain canned tomatoes, we've used tomatoes canned from a friends garden, and we've used a combination of canned whole and diced tomatoes. Someone had a hankering and we had what we had in the pantry. All of them were fine. In fact, in the first version all I had on hand were whole toms with basil. I plucked the whole basil leaves out but there was still a tiny bit of basil flavor and it was nice. We've used Pepperidge Farm country white, sourdough bread, and Inn Keeper's Whole Grain bread. I thought the whole grain bread would leave lots of seeds but they got whizzed, too. If you tasted them all side by side you could probably tell the difference, but I think it's probably marginal.

I cut the crusts from the bread thickly and used them for croutons. Toss with oil, season with salt and pepper, bake them at 400 for a few minutes until they look good and golden or dark golden, let them cool, serve with soup.

Almost No-Knead Bread
Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup

This looks like a fun project: Macaroon Knitted Purse

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Have some fun

I love this. Siraz: Is it a cheese? or a font? While everyone else is playing Bedazzled, I'll be over here playing this game:

And here's DH in his new extra-long stocking cap in Norview colors to keep you busy in case Cheese or Font is boring...