Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mini and yet, mighty!

Wow, you all went nuts for the meatloaf muffins! How rude of me not to offer my blog is taste-o-vision. (Please post your taste-o-vision requests here.) What I like best about meatloaf is that it's high in protein, and even higher in deliciousness.

If you're short on time, or like your food portioned out for easy party-eating (or lunch packing), the muffins are the way to go. I'm going to steal borrow Mom's mini loaf pan and try it in that next, but I have a feeling that the muffins will win the day.

For those of you who requested the recipe (waaaaaay more than I expected) here you go:

Start with The Joy of Cooking; go buy it now if you don't already have it, and buy it locally if you can. Recycle Bookstore in Campbell is where I go for buying my cookbooks, when Laura isn't giving them to me, that is.

(Full disclosure: I'm friends with the owners, and actually helped move the Campbell location. I still pay for my books, and I would still shop there even if I didn't know and love the owners.)

I'm not going to rip off Ms. Rombauer or either of the Beckers, and if you don't already own this book, you'll be glad you got it. So, here are my changes, since learning how to cook involves changing stuff:

- Ground beef instead of the meat they suggest. (I like the texture better.) I'll also get the meatloaf meat blend from Lunardi's (pork, beef, and lamb) if I'm sure that Sam isn't eating with us because it's less expensive and there was no noticeable taste, moisture, or quality difference. (Sam doesn't do pork, for those of you who were curious.)
- I mix it all together with bare, freshly washed hands. I feel that you can better taste the love that way, and we all know that love is the secret ingredient. 
- Cupcake tin instead of greased loaf pan. I use paper liners, and an ice cream scoop to measure out the meatloaf into the cups.
- Cook time: about 25 minutes, until the middles are 160ºF (71ºC, you're welcome metric people)
- Let them rest and cool for 15 minutes (900 seconds, only because there is no metric measurement for time, and that's a shortcoming in my eyes), and enjoy. (Enjoyment is required.)
- If you're doing side dishes, start them when you pull the meatloaf out to cool. The timing will be perfect.

Last but not least, the other awesome thing about meatloaf is that it takes 10 minutes to throw together and then you have the whole time it's in the oven to knit. The bonus is the virtuous feeling you get when you know that your dinner is cooking away and you have nothing to do but wait for it to be done.

My meatloaf knitting? My cashmere Mariah:

Mariah w/pattern
Knitty, Winter 2004. My Mariah.

(Now I have a feeling that Blogger will be getting "feel-o-vision" requests. I just ask that you wash your hands first.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Betrayal tastes Italian

Andrew and I have been together for a long time. At the beginning of our relationship, we went out for Italian food a few times, and when Andrew asked me what kind of food I like, I told him that I don't really like Italian food.

Now, before I have the Italian contingent of my readership get up in arms, I don't like going out for *most* Italian food. I can make my own pasta and sauce at home, easily and inexpensively. What I do like to go out for are things like gnocchi, which are fiddly and deeeeeeelicious.

Andrew took my statement to mean that I absolutely, positively, never-ever-EVER would EVER want to go to an Italian restaurant. EV-VER.

While we were in Long Beach for TNNA, we went to a PHENOMENAL Italian restaurant, La Parolaccia, and I had the most incredible saffron gnocchi. Here, have a bite:

saffron gnocchi
Mmmmm, tasty!
Of course, I've never had anything like this at home, but I thought I should revisit all of the Italian restaurants in my area, just in case. For science.

This train of thought led to the idea of buying pre-prepared gnocchi and making the sauce myself, and other tasty (and simple to make) dishes, including lasagna.

With that thought in mind, I called Andrew from the hotel, and said, "Hey, what would you think of me making some lasagna?"

"Lasagna! I would LOVE it! It's my favorite food ever!" Andrew exclaimed, and then went on for TEN minutes about his love of lasagna, which he never breathed a word of previously.

The information was staggering. It was like I found out that I married a Cylon. Who loves lasagna.

"I... I don't even KNOW you!" I sputtered in a silly way, but still feeling a little upset that he never told me. What kind of monster am I?

"You said you hated Italian food. I didn't think it was a dealbreaker. I have Stouffer's lasagna when you go out of town," he told me.

"Stouffer's?! Why don't you just stick a knife in my HEART?" I said, owning my melodrama.

He paused for a moment, and I said, "Ok. So, I'll check the Joy of Cooking for a recipe for lasagna."

"All right! I'm looking forward to it," Andrew said.

So, fast forward to this last week. I checked my trusty copy of Joy of Cooking, and I made the Tomato sauce with meatballs recipe (variation 2). I did the whole thing, shaped the meatballs, the whole megillah:

Homemade meatballs! Eat your heart out. Or until you're full.

Those meatballs are nasty little things. They taste delicious, but the oil pops and spatters, and while they were well-behaved for the photograph, they were NOT well-behaved in the pan. At a certain point, I screamed a few choice words at them, and then decided that browned, season ground beef would be just fine in my sauce, and that the Kitchen Police would not come and get me.

I prepped the lasagna for Sunday Game Night (a new tradition in our house, inspired by Meghan from the Stitch It! Podcast), and realized that a lot of the ingredients were the same as for meatloaf.

To show that I really and truly am earning my grown-up merit badge, I did the prep and got the meatloaf muffins (Emy corrected my referring to them as "meatloaf cupcakes") baked while LukeWarm was already working, the way he does. Barely any extra prep, and zero extra dirty dishes.

Whaddya think?

Meatloaf muffins
One cupcake, one serving. Tidy!
Oh, and for those of you who were wondering? The lasagna turned out awesome; I saw some leaving the house this morning in Andrew's Star Trek lunchbox. Ignore me, I'll be busy high-fiving myself over here.

Friday, January 21, 2011

To my Momsicle

Happy birthday, Mom! I'm so glad you made it.

Let's be honest, things were a little touch-and-go before your last birthday, and I'm not the only one who was worried. But we are *so* past that.

Thank you for teaching me. You've taught me all sorts of things, from how to fold an egg (which I think is still a misleading term), read, knit. You taught me how to be fabulous, by your fabulous example:


You taught me to have fun, and not take myself too seriously, and to make a face when someone points a camera at me, because our faces *won't* stick that way:

By example, again.

You taught me to always try new things:

Costello's, Sock Summit 2009
From kiwi to micro-brew, we always try three bites (or sips) of everything, and we never summarily dismiss anything as gross before really giving it a try. Especially if it's the "weird stuff". You also taught me that sometimes a recipe can't be salvaged, and getting pizza is always an option.

Mostly, you taught me to have confidence in myself. Not the "Check out these groovy hotpants!" confidence, where I automatically assume that all of my ideas are the best, but the confidence to think things through, then say, "This is what I'm going to do. Get on board or get out of my way."

You're my biggest supporter, and my favorite co-pilot on a road trip. Nobody can peel the wrapper off a burger like you can, or make the best of a gross situation.

You always go along with my crazy ideas, like when I called you in the middle of the night to tell you that we should do a podcast, and you said, "Ok... What's a podcast?"

You're the heart and the brains of the podcast. You tell everyone that you're "just the co-host", but that's totally not true. You're the talent, I just run the equipment and fill the empty spaces.

I always tell people that I have the best mom, and it's true. There are so many people who couldn't imagine living so close to their families, and I couldn't imagine living anywhere but. I'm so lucky to have a mom who loves me, and likes me as a person. I'm glad that we're friends now that I'm an adult, and that you still pull rank when I need a little motherly direction.

Happy birthday, Mom. I hope that there are whole bunch more that we can share.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Knit like a Zimmermann

(To the tune of "Walk Like An Egyptian", preferably the version by the Puppini Sisters. Go listen, you'll love it.)

I'm ashamed to admit that though I co-host a knitting podcast, I've never written about the podcasts that I listen to- which is why we podcast. Because we love listening to them!

One of the new shows that has popped up in the last year is Knitting Pipeline, hosted by the charming Paula, who also is a bagpiper. (Also, how great is it that there's a niche for bagpiping and knitting?!)

Paula knew Elizabeth Zimmermann personally, and they corresponded by mail. For those of you not in the know, Elizabeth is considered by many to be the mother of modern knitting, such as it is. I knew *about* Elizabeth's books, and I have owned all of them for quite a number of years, but I never deigned to read them- I just collected them for the patterns.

Two years ago, I knit a baby surprise sweater and complained that Elizabeth's directions weren't breathe-here-blink-here clear. You'll forgive me, right? I was young, and it was the impetuousness of youth speaking. I am Much Older and More Worldly now. Also, I just flipped to the pattern, I didn't read the book, and as everyone knows you should read directions All the Way through.

Given that earlier this year, Elizabeth's patterns and books were described to me to be more like recipes than strictly knitting patterns, this makes much more sense. However, if you're used to The Joy of Cooking and you get a family recipe that says "a pinch here" or "a dash there", (or my favorite, "cook until done") and you happen to be a child who thrives on structure and exact measures to feel comfortable initially, it's enough to reduce your normally composed self to tears.

So, I'll say it.

I was wrong.

What? You couldn't hear me?


Elizabeth is brilliant and personable in her books. (Nod if you already knew that; this is my fresh discovery, please share the enthusiasm of novelty.) I don't normally care for people chatting with me in my literature, but it seems that Elizabeth and I have a lot in common. She has a lot of tips and tricks (and my beloved math, in the form of percentages!), and I'm eating it up faster than dessert at Marché.

The only thing that could make me feel closer is if she reached out and asked if she could have the last glass of Syrah- after all, we've been sharing the bottle while I read.

The Blizzard (my nickname for her, since we're good friends now) makes me want to go dig in my back room and start a percentage-based yoke sweater. She makes me want to sing "The Blizzard and I" at the top of my lungs.

Her writing has inspired some of my favorite writers, most notably Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. It's like seeing 10 Things I Hate About You then seeing Taming of the Shrew (preferably performed live, if you're lucky enough it's at Shakespeare Santa Cruz). It's so similar, but the original is what has inspired (now 3) generations of knitters. Good quality and sensible thinking will always outlast the test of time.

Now if only I could get her books on my Kindle. Then, I could have my buddy The Blizzard with me all the time, and not have to weigh down the corners with my lazy Kate and not break the spine.