Monday, 28 December 2009

Sweet Potato Bread

Yes, I DID get out of my jammies and into clothes today. Even took myself out for a short walk.It was a pleasant minus fifteen degrees and slightly overcast. I also got caught up to date with Coronation Street ...... and did a little quilting.

Aside from that, I spent the rest of the day in the kitchen. I cleaned out the fridge ... which, for the record, I seriously hate doing way more than any other yukky household chore! ... and simmered up a giant pot of soup stock from the turkey carcass (which I had put in the freezer the morning after the Big Day) and assorted wilted / accumulated / leftover vegetables.

Erm, that doesn't sound all that tasty, does it? Trust me ... it tastes better than it sounds!

I also cooked some beets that have been living in the fridge a bit too long ... cold beet salad tomorrow, yum! ... and made BOTH Sweet Potato Bread and Sweet Potato Biscuits as I had one gigantic baked sweet potato left from the Big Day.
So here's the deal ... when a recipe makes it to a little index card in my recipe box, that means I've made that recipe a number of times and "worked out the kinks". This recipe for Sweet Potato Bread is done in a bread machine, and ... sorry ... I don't recall where the original came from, only that I made a few "un-kinking" adjustments along the way to the index card.

Shall we make it together?

Let's shall!

First, put your bread machine bowl on the counter (NEVER measure stuff into the bowl while it's in the machine ... let's just say I learned this lesson the smokey way!) and measure in 1/2 cup warm water, 6 tablespoons cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 egg and 1 cup mashed sweet potato:

I think I forgot the vanilla. Oh well!

Second, add 4 cups of flour.I used Whole Wheat bread machine flour because that's what I had. Usually, I use Unbleached flour, so I don't think this is a "fussy" recipe.

Third, add 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.I didn't have any nutmeg, so I added a pinch of allspice. I'm very versatile, me! (However, I was seriously having a difficult time measuring and posing and taking photos all at the same time today! Some days I'm ambidextrous, and some days not so much.)

Fourth, add 2 (generous) Tablespoons butter.This is also one of those occasions in life when margarine just won't do. Okay, I admit it ... in my world, there is NEVER an occasion when margarine is suitable ... I seriously hate the stuff! The Creator did not say "thou shalt consume whipped plastic" instead of Divine Real Cream and Butter!

Fifth, add 1/3 cup dark brown sugar.Hmm. That cane sugar looks a tad pale. No problemo ... I added a tablespoon of molasses ...... to darken it up! Sweet taters and molasses ... sounds like a logical combo, don`tcha know!

Sixth, toss in one and a half teaspoons saltfollowed by 2 teaspoons bread machine yeast.

Seventh, put the bowl into the machine, and set it for REGULAR (or basic) and light crust ...... then close the lid and let your bread machine do its magic!If your sweet potato is a little on the dry side (smaller ones sometimes are), you might need to add a few more tablespoons of water or cream so that it all mixes up into a smooth dough. I didn`t have to add more liquid ...... I had baked a gigantic sweet tater in its own skin, and it was moist enough.

About 3 hours later, you should have a Heavenly loaf of finished Sweet Potato Bread:

This loaf raised so well, it hit the bread machine lid before it finished baking! I LOVE this stuff toasted and spread with butter (of course) and some tart blackberry jam ... PURE BLISS I tell you! Not too darned shabby toasted with bacon and fresh tomatoes either ...

Since I had a bit of mashed sweet potato left, I also made Sweet Potato Biscuits:

My biscuit recipe makes about 10 large biscuits.

I suspect you`re wondering WHO is going to eat all this baking, considering I live by myself. The answer is simple: ME! But not all at once! I freeze things in small batches ...

... like two sweet potato biscuits separated by a square of parchment paper ... or loaves already sliced so I can take out a me-sized portion when I want it. Otherwise, half the biscuits or half the loaf of bread would get stale before I managed to eat them all. I'm very versatile, me!


Sunday, 27 December 2009

watching movies and quilting

I'm definately still on holiday (AKA spent the day in my jammies) mode, and spent another relaxing day ... well ... relaxing! I finished piecing a table-topper ...
... and discovered, or perhaps remembered, how much I enjoy sitting and piecing bits of fabric together by hand. I tried an English paper-piecing project some thirty or thirty-five years ago, and wasn't terribly enamoured with the technique at the time. However, piecing together these "daisies" was quite relaxing.
I used a variety of red scraps already residing in my fabric bins in order to go with those nice red suede chair pads I bought recently for my dining room chairs. This table topper is my own invention ... no pattern. I was envisioning these appliqued "daisies" opposite quilted "echoes" of daisies ...
... if you can see the faint blue lines marked on the lighter fabric to the right (above), you might get my drift. Sort of. It's hard to explain one's mental vision!

Anyway, tomorrow I shall tackle sandwiching backing and batting to this top layer and start the actual quilting. I had originally planned to machine quilt (as it would be faster) but considering how much I've enjoyed hand-piecing, I might carry on with that theme.

In addition, I managed to NOT nap through two excellent movies today. First was Arn the Knight Templar:
This 2007 movie was in Swedish with (extremely poor) English subtitles. However, I found myself so caught up in the excellence of the movie that I kept forgetting to read the subtitles! Arn is the son of Swedish nobility who is raised by monks, then later banished to a monastery for 20 years for making whoopee with an innocent village maiden (who totally came on to him, but that's okay as she also got banished to a nunnery for 20 years ... apparently those medieval Swedes were quite opposed to pre-marital whoopee). The head monk gets Arn's sentence transmuted to a trip to the Holy Lands to fight with the Knights Templar. Once in the Holy Lands, Arn meets the infamous Muslim (enemy) leader Saladin, and the action really heats up from there. I LOVE well-done medieval movies, and this one probably ranks right up there with a 9 out of 10 despite the poor subtitles.

The second movie, Avatar ...
... was truly a delight to the senses. I can only imagine how fabulous this nearly 3 hour long movie would be on a big theatre screen instead of my little laptop screen! I loved the message that we only "borrow energy" and that eventually it must be returned. As this movie is currently playing in local theatres, I won't spoil it for anyone by revealing the story. However, I think I shall take myself out on a movie date tomorrow! Anyone care to join me?

Saturday, 26 December 2009


Merry Christmas everyone! And now that the BIG DAY is finally over, I'm going to share something with the bloggy world. This used to be a secret pleasure ... a sneaky treat, if you will ... but at my age I'm finally long past sneaking and guilt over little moments of pleasure (and DIVINE pleasure at that). So I'm going to share with y'all MY personal definition of

First, there are some essential pre-conditions:

Cold and snow outside (minus 15 at the moment), and toasty warm inside. CHECK.

Second, there are some necessary PRE-preparations to complete:

One, comfy attire. Elastic waistbands are suggested. I've chosen my favourite and well-worn "the cow jumped over the moon" purple jammies. CHECK.

Two, festive music to set the mood. Andrea Bocelli's CHRISTMAS CD is an excellent choice. This man does things with Jingle Bells (with the able assistance of The Muppets) that simply makes my heart happy! The rest of the CD is pretty darned good too.CHECK.

Three, a festive beverage. Think Christmas dinner here, people. What do YOU feel goes well with turkey and all the trimmings? I chose a lovely Gehringer Brothers Auxerrois for this occasion. Superb flavour! CHECK!

Once these pre-conditions and initial preparations are in place, it's time to get on with the actual preparations. PLEASE NOTE, what I am about to share with you has been perfected over fifty-some years. For maximum pleasure, it is ESSENTIAL to follow the instructions I'm about to share VERY CAREFULLY! If you choose to mess with fifty-some years of wise experience ... well, you do so at your own peril!

Shall we begin?

Let's shall.

One, take two slices of bread ... white, brown, whole-grain, this choice is immaterial ... and BUTTER generously.Yes, I did say BUTTER. This is one of those important moments in life when margarine simply will NOT do! Butter both slices of bread generously, and make sure you spread that butter right to the very edges. No skimping!

Two, spread a THIN layer of cranberry sauce (I prefer the wholeberry kind ... in fact, I make it myself every year from fresh cranberries just before the turkey is cooked) on ONE slice.Spread that cranberry sauce right to the very edges, same as you did with the butter.

Three, spoon a THICK layer of leftover turkey stuffing on top of the cranberry sauce.
The thickness of it will be inversely related to the amount of Christmas dinner guests who helped themselves to an extra helping of stuffing at the table on the Big Day. As you can see, MY dinner guests made piggies of themselves, so my layer of stuffing is a wee bit sparse. (NOTE TO SELF: remember to hide the bowl of stuffing after everyone has ONE serving!)

Three, gently place a teaspoon of leftover turkey gravy on top of the stuffing layer.
Don't be alarmed if your leftover gravy has thickened and congealed. After a night in the fridge, it SHOULD be thickened and congealed! (You DID put it away in the fridge, didn't you? Remember FOOD SAFE!) With the back of the teaspoon, gently and lovingly spread this spoonful of leftover gravy over the layer of stuffing.
Again, work right out to the edges.

Four, dust gravied-stuffing generously with freshly ground black pepper. I like LOTS of pepper! Mm mmm!!

Five, firmly place sandwich halves together and cut into two triangles.

Serve with a dill pickle.


Not only did my dinner guests help themselves to seconds of the stuffing, but they also ATE THE LAST OF THE DILL PICKLES!!! (NOTE TO SELF: edit guest list before next Christmas!)

Oh well. T'is the season of peace and goodwill and all that. I guess I can forgive and forget.

Six, enjoy!Pardon the blurry photo ... I just bit into PURE BLISS!

PS: leftover slices of turkey are optional. I'm not personally a big fan of the bird ... so long as I get ample stuffing and gravy.

PPS: potato chips are also optional. Sometimes a little extra CRUNCH of plain old potatoe chips in this blissful sandwich is just what the doctor ordered!

PPPS: Happy Holidays!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Frosty the Snowman

Considering THIS ...... is the view from my balcony, Frosty the Snowman would be an appropriate ear worm. However, the song that's been running through my head all day ... damn CBC Radio and Daybreak North! ... is I'll Be There With Bells On by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. Most annoying!

Seriously though ... 'tis the season! Our office has been busy receiving donations for our Christmas Hampers program, and I find myself brought to tears by the generosity of this community. Things like this ...... handmade mini Christmas stockings for our Meals on Wheels clients ... really brings the message home that this is a CARING community! I guess that's why I stuck around here after finishing my degree even though I had only planned on a brief two-year visit.

So how was YOUR weekend?

I took myself shopping on Friday night ... NOT a good thing to do this time of year, but I was on a mission. First, I wanted some new chair pads for the dining room chairs ...
... RED of course. Well, actually more of a burgundy. Suede. From Jysk (the local equivalent of Ikea), naturally. I also bought myself a bookcase and these three little cutesie moose (mooses? sometimes English baffles me) ...... because they are entertaining and one can never have too many candle holders.

On Saturday, I put together my new bookcase (haven't got to unpacking books yet) ...... which pretty much matches the Jysk china cabinet ...... that I bought and put together last summer. It's a good place from which Plum Blossom (the ceramic cat) can keep an eye on things. (The weird object sprouting upright branches on the left is a lamp ... what can I say? ... it was a housewarming gift!) Little by little, I'm turning this place into home instead of poor-student-with-no-belongings-digs! I've even got things on the walls, such as these little shelves ...
In my last couple of spaces, I never got around to putting things on the walls. I guess I knew I wasn't going to stay there very long.

One thing I miss in this place is lack of a kitchen window. Couldn't very well have a kitchen window in an apartment block ... it would look into the neighbour's bathroom, and ... well ... NO THANKS! On Sunday, I put up a little faux kitchen curtain ...
... over my sink. It's on one of those spring rods so it doesn't require screws or nails in the cupboards. It gives me the feeling of a country kitchen, and I can wash dishes and let my imagination conjure up country fields on the other side of my illusionary window. Don't laugh! It works!

Funny story ... I moved into this apartment last July, and have moved my sewing machine back and forth between livingroom, bedroom, dining room, back to bedroom, back to livingroom, etc. No corner in the place felt right for it! Eventually, I settled for a spot under my bedroom window ... which I'm now seriously regretting as I keep my bedroom window open a bit year round, even in minus twenty weather, and now it's too COLD to sit and sew under my bedroom window!

That's NOT the funny part of the story (but you can laugh if you want)! In the process of all that moving back and forth, I lost the foot pedal for my sewing machine! I knew perfectly well that it was SOMEWHERE in this apartment, that I had put it somewhere perfectly SAFE ... I just couldn't figure out where! So I sewed my little faux kitchen curtain BY HAND. Really not such a big deal ... a quick hem on both sides, a rod pocket on the top, and a nice deep hem along the bottom. Took all of half an hour. Would have taken five minutes or less had I been able to find the foot pedal for my sewing machine!

Sunday evening, I checked the weather report (minus 18) and decided I'd better dig a winter hat out for the next morning's commute to work. Guess what I found hanging right inside my storage room ... in a plastic bag marked SEWING MACHINE PARTS - DO NOT THROW OUT! Yes, the missing foot pedal! It was certainly safe!

My last little burst of creativity on Sunday was arranging a few pine cones and cinnamon sticks in this glass bowl for the little half-table in my entrance hallway ...
... the cinnamon smells so nice and homey when you walk in!



Saturday, 28 November 2009

finished coffee table and christmas decorating

Our receptionist dragged me out to the Dollar Store today. She said we needed Christmas decorations for our office. I'm pretty sure we have BOXES of the stuff in our back room storage closet, but she was adamant, and we must keep our receptionist happy (she's the real brains of our office operation most days ... but don't tell her I said so)!

Did you know Dollar Stores are positively EVIL places? They are full of cheap stuff ... which is good 'cuz everyone likes a bargain ... but is bad 'cuz all that cheap stuff does naughty things to everyone's spontaneous purchasing desires. Well, maybe everyone but me. I came away with one package of paper baking cups because I needed them. I kept thinking about all those poor foreign factory workers being paid pennies or less to make all that cheap stuff. It was interesting to note the source of a couple of birthday gifts I received this year though.

The Dollar Store did NOT do anything to improve my festive spirit. I did do my Christmas decorating this evening ... but I had ALREADY planned to do so. Honest!

Before I share my Christmas decorating evening with y'all, I want to update you on my new / old coffee table. The project started like this ...... painting 4 inch squares / diamonds on its surface. I painted three coats on each square / diamond. Once they were completely dry, I added one final THIN coat over all resulting in ...... very subtle wood-grained squares / diamonds between the solid red squares / diamonds. Here's the overall picture ...
... what do you think? 'Scuse the messy knitting basket on the right. And the crayon cup on the floor at the left arm of the sofa (where Little Madam C. left it). Okay, so a red coffee table isn't everyone's cup of tea. Remember that I live in a rented apartment with hohum eggshell white walls and poop brown carpets that I cannot change!

Speaking of tea ... and I digress for a moment ... I'm in LOVE! I found that most fabulous ...
... Tea Chai Spice Mix in our local SaveOn (@ Spruceland in case you're in PG ... the Parkwood SaveOn doesn't carry it). Some years ago, I took a Punjabi language course at UBC and was introduced to "authentic" Tea Chai. Since then, I've tried dozens of different recipes and spice mixes and none of them measured up to that delightful first tasting. THIS spice mix does! It's packaged in Surrey BC and is exactly the right blend of spices and heat and not sweet. You use about 4 teaspoons of spice mix to a mug of boiled water along with a regular black tea bag. I add a dollop of cream because I like it creamy. And I stir it with a cinnamon stick just because.

On to my Christmas decorating preparations this evening. First, I slipped into something comfy to wear ...
... flannel jammies with snow people and snowflakes on them (don't laugh at my crooked toes please). Then a little mood music ...
... Okay, the choices were pretty limited here as this is the ONLY Christmas CD I own. Then a little gingerbread scented oil ...
... to put visions of sugar plums or and yummy festive baking smells in my head (without the calories). Of course, I also had a little something festive to wet my whistle ...
... no, that is NOT a huge glass, it's a very tiny bottle! Oh, and finally, something sweet ... just because ...

With the appropriate preparations in place, I was ready to proceed. Plum Blossom (the ceramic cat) climbed up onto the castle top of my loom for a good view of the proceedings ...
I didn't take pictures of the actual decorating, but here's the results:
No, not the red milking stool. No, not the spindly-legged red moose ... Maeve the Moose lives there year-round. And not the Good Fortune Buddha on the milking stool. Here, I'll show you a little closer ...
... do you see it now? No? I'll move in REALLY close with my camera ... just a minute ... here it is ...
... my Christmas decoration!

Phew! I'm plum tuckered out after all that decorating! I think I'll treat myself to another wee glass of Bailey's and call it an evening. Deck the Halls, y'all!