Also, pie
Wednesday February 01st 2023, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Food,Knit

(Sunflower rolling pin here. I much prefer their big size.)

There was some blue cashmere that has been in my stash with the start of some forgotten thing for several years now and today somehow finally felt was its day: I went to see what there was of it.

Not much. The cast on, enough stitches to connect the ends–and a merciless tangle of yarn and dropped stitches.

Nuts to that. I started over.

By the end of the new cast on I knew why the thing had never gotten anywhere: the raspy needle and that grabby yarn were the worst enemies. I didn’t want to knit even the first row till I’d found a different pair.

I found a very slick circular. Size 6.


That was the one I’d finally finished yesterday’s project on, where the needle was too slippery for the very slippery yarn and so it had taken me forever to make myself get it done.

All I’d needed to do the whole time was swap the two out.

Switch, swatch, I was making a botch


(Note to self: next time you fill ten pounds of flour into the container, don’t drop it. And if you do drop it, don’t aim it upwards at your cashmere sweater. And if you do, just hope the neighbors’ security camera didn’t record the pouffy cloud you shook off outside the front door. Also if anyone knows the best way to carefully clean the rest of the flour out without making glue please reassure me that I do, in fact, know how to hand wash sweaters.)

Wait, wait, bring that back here a moment
Monday January 30th 2023, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

The Claude Monet effect?

My desktop was open to my blog and I saw it from across the room while doing something else–and did a double take as it hit me.

Dr. Rachel Remen, in one of her books, gives examples of people idly doing things with an intention known only to their subconscious, and talks about how important it is to try to notice what inner truth it’s trying to tell you.

There on the screen was the picture of the pumpkin almond flour muffins and the chocolate hazelnut mini-cupcakes I’d baked to take to my nephew’s in-laws for Saturday night’s dinner. They had loved that the muffins were made with honey from Ukrainian sunflowers, not to mention how good everything was.

Before I even knew how their numbers would fit into that tupperware for carrying, I had started arranging them like this and was so pleased when it came out in a way that just felt so right.

How did I not see that as a sunflower till now?

Musical interlude
Friday January 27th 2023, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Food,History

So I did, I had some of those kale gnocchi cubes for lunch, and they were okay enough.

Meantime, I have heard for decades descriptions of Yoko Ono’s screeching. I always thought that was just a put-down of her singing. I had no idea. My stars. (Chuck Berry’s face!)

Which leads to, as YouTube does, John Lennon and Chuck Berry doing Johnny B. Goode and decades after that, Berry reprising it with Julian Lennon and telling him how proud he was of him and that he was going to tell his dad when he sees him. Wow.

Kale no we won’t go
Thursday January 26th 2023, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Good intentions.

He thought of a way to ask nicely, what possessed you? without putting it like that.

Frozen, that helps the texture soften, right? And it would be minced so finely you wouldn’t care. Dark green veggies are good for you! The flavor would be covered by all the parmesan I would heap on that bad boy and maybe some pizza type sauce too if that’s not enough to smother it. Or something.

Kale gnocchi from Trader Joe’s.

Back into the freezer it went.

But I’m going to sneak a few cubes into the microwave and try it out–tomorrow for sure.

Sunday January 22nd 2023, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,History,Life

The day began with the news of the unspeakable horror of the mass shooting at a Chinese Lunar New Year celebration in southern California.

I kept thinking of my friend Jean’s 90th birthday party a half dozen years ago where her grandkids brought out a long elaborate paper dragon, bright red and yellow and held high to celebrate properly as they waved it up and down racing around the room in sheer joy. Their grandmother had survived Pearl Harbor as a teen. And so they themselves had come to be. She is with us yet.

That is what Chinese Lunar New Year should be about: a shared celebration of all that is good in life.

This afternoon, the doorbell rang.

It was our newest neighbors across the street, the mom and her two young kids–with her daughter holding out a tray covered in little things that were inviting but unfamiliar to me.

I was having a hard time hearing and I did not want to get this wrong.

It was Chinese New Year, they explained, and it seemed they wanted me to pick one of these. We are going around to the neighbors, the mom said; this is what we do on this day.

I said that I was unfamiliar with the tradition and wanted to make sure I got this right (while thinking, Richard, come!)

He had heard the bell and the voices and he did just that, he came up behind me and I got to introduce him.

Her little boy made a point of moving a step to the side to be right opposite my 6’8″ husband and looked up and up and up at maybe the tallest man he’d ever seen up close and thought it was so cool and they both enjoyed that moment together very much.

Pick one, they explained. And they thanked us for the pomegranates I’d brought them from my tree a few months ago.

I briefly touched a package holding what seemed like a baker’s rendition of a golden sand dollar and asked the daughter holding the tray, Which one would you pick?

The mom picked that one up and the two others like it arrayed like a set and held them out: I saw your daughter! Does she live here?

A few cities away but yes, in this area.

(Of course, my mother always taught me anyway that it’s good manners to take the one you touched so it felt just right that she wanted us to have those for each of us.)

Because this is what they do on Chinese New Year. They visit their neighbors. They share sweets. They made sure we had plenty.

They offered love and connection as a way of being in the world.

There were two wonderfully crunchy cookies in that first little packet and we can both attest that they were delicious.

Man is it coming down
Wednesday January 04th 2023, 6:33 pm
Filed under: Food,Knit

An inch so far today, with two more by tomorrow night. And the wind!

Friends a few cities over have lost power. We haven’t so far, but it did have me deciding dinner was going to be some of the more expensive food in the freezer: it should be enjoyed, not worried over.

And so the stuffed chicken breasts are in the oven and the thought occurred to me that if the lights go out now, what would we do.

That little creme brûlée torch that was his favorite Christmas gift a few years ago. Can you cook chicken parts with it? Here, let’s just pry open that center there with a fork and melt that cheese… That would work. Right?

(Update 9:00 pm: It sounds like a large branch of a tree is being dragged across the roof by the wind, resting a second, gusting and dragging almost right away again. It is loud out there. And I am not used to hearing much of anything as being loud.)

Give it a ten
Sunday December 25th 2022, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

We had a wonderful, wonderful day, and I hope you all did, too. I’m just going to write about a little moment on the side because I’m never going to remember the details next year any other way. Maybe do 325 next time.

Hunk-o meat, we call it. If he wants a large cut he cooks it, an arrangement going back to when his widowed retired dairy farmer grandmother filled a large grocery bag with part of a cow out of her freezer and sent it home with us. T-bones? Broke newlywed students are supposed to know what to do with those?!

We’d gotten a James Beard cookbook as a wedding present and he had fun learning and in retrospect, I think that’s what his grandmother was going for all along.

We rarely eat beef these days. We’d rather the Amazon not be bulldozed for it. But at Christmas he likes to go big–even though it would just be the two of us this year, because hey freezers and leftovers and faster meals later and all that but whatever, he just really wanted that beautiful rib roast.

Start it high, Beard says, then after so long you turn it down.

He did all that.

Only… he had set a timer for the amount of time at 425 and later, since I was in the kitchen anyway, could I change the oven to 325–nah, make it 350 when it goes off.


There’s the timer timer and the oven timer and he’d set the wrong one. The oven was now off. I turned it back on. No biggy.

It was about 20 minutes before I went, wait a minute…

I always use the lower oven because I am not a fan of standing on my tiptoes in front of major heat to see into the top of the thing.

He’s 6’8″ with a back that has opinions. There would have to be a really good reason before he’d ever use anything but the top one.

Duh. I turned his back on but it had already lost about half its heat. It, of course, went into full blast mode to make up for it.

Also, now the timer was and had to be the one on the thermometer and I couldn’t hear it at all, though I did hover nearby and rescued it at two degrees above what he was aiming for.

We really thought we were doing okay.

There is only one way to describe the result.

The beef.

It felted.

I think, on further reflection, that we ought to be able to measure felting levels and call them Kevlars.

Chicken and fish, I tell ya.

Hoshigaki review
Friday December 16th 2022, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Food

The texture: I would say it’s like a dried fig without all the little seeds. (It did have one small shrunken persimmon seed.) The flavor: it’s a Hachiya alright but with more depth and character, there’s some there there.

It’s good. I like it. A fresh Hachiya is so big but is such a barely-held-in bag of loose jelly that you feel like you didn’t really eat much at all afterwards; this is so solid that it feels like half a lunch to itself, even when you know it’s the density of it; it’s still just one single persimmon.

I found myself going in the kitchen and cutting off another thin slice again and again all day (say the word persimmon to my husband and I get to have the whole thing to myself) and I still have this little bit left of the first one.

So I had to photograph the next one for you. Has a certain Mesa Verde look to it, doesn’t it? (Third picture down.)

Thursday December 15th 2022, 9:49 pm
Filed under: Food

After an abrupt closure at the height of the Christmas rush due to covid exposure, yay for negative tests and today Andy’s Orchard announced they were open again, stocked with your favorites and a discount for coming in.

I’d been waiting all year for the stuffed figs (not on his website yet) to make their seasonal comeback. And to replenish my dried apricots, the Blenheim slabs, (also here in a gift box) ie the ones that were dried at the point of greatest ripeness such that they smeared when cut open. So good. Adding ten minutes to my daily exercise and snacking on those these past two winters satisfied both the sweet tooth and the need to drop the pandemic pounds–and I did. Lost the prediabetes, too. Apricots for the win.

There was one other thing. I’d seen them there before but it wasn’t till I read about them in the New York Times that I saw why I should try those weird-looking shrunken-monkey-brain things, and Andy’s is the only place I’ve ever seen that has them.

Lily Chin (famous longtime designer in the knitting world) expressed her extreme delight at discovering some in New York City. Alright then, I had to at least try them, given that we live where they actually grow and I could support the farmer directly. This was the first year I hadn’t yet had so much as a ripe persimmon and that season’s about over, and it was easy to entice me with the idea of a variant that would keep, as well as buying some fresh ones by going down there.

(My neighbors who always traded me persimmons for pomegranates moved away this fall and their tree sits there unpicked and untouched.)

So. I could not for the life of me think of the word. The clerk was checking me out when I remembered with, Oh! Do you have… uh… The Hachiyas, y’know, dried and shriveled Japanese style and, um, hanging on a string (pantomiming holding the string delicately with thumb and forefinger while flicking at it from below with the other hand as if to make it swing back and forth in the air or as if I’m the rude kid in elementary school sitting behind you trying to grab your attention when the teacher’s not looking. What was the name of the boy behind me who liked to do that.)

I got some!

Slice them and serve them with cheese like salami, the Times says.

Fruit. Salami??

I haven’t tasted them yet; there’s this whole wait-till-Christmas mentality. It’s two days too late to use my birthday as an excuse to dive in early.

If I adore them like crazy, given the price tag (well deserved; they have to be massaged daily while drying. I am officially jealous of a persimmon), I will just remind myself, I have my apricots. I have my Andy’s extra ripe slab dried Blenheim apricots.

And that is no small thing.

Peeps at the conversation
Sunday December 11th 2022, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

In tonight’s segment of, “don’t believe the captions”: one knitting friend in the Zoom meeting was mentioning how her son loved to put peanut butter and a few chocolate chips on his mushroom before putting it in the microwave.

People were going back and forth and chuckling and I finally found that one moment where it was safe to interject and went, because I just had to know, Chocolate chips and–mushrooms? So tasty. What am I missing here.

MARSHmallows! They howled.

Usually I guess such things in time but then how would I amuse my friends?

That is NOT how you do it
Sunday December 04th 2022, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Even if they’re grown only an hour away from here and we get them absolutely fresh, raspberries are like fish–you don’t wait all week to use them up, and we had a lot and I was bored with muffins so I decided to make a clafoutis. Then I decided to substitute the flour with almond flour just because I’d never tried that before. Maybe I wasn’t as bored with almond raspberry muffins as I thought I was. Whatever.

After putting it in the oven, I scraped the last tiny bit of batter onto a plate and stuck the last raspberry in the center and nuked it so I could at least get some idea of what I’d just done.

It’s what happened next that threw me so hard that I didn’t react as immediately as I should have to stop it.

I took it out of the microwave when its countdown was over…wondering what that sound was.

The thing was still going. With the door wide open. Deaf that I am, I put my hand on top of it to make sure I was feeling what I was hearing so I really was hearing it.

And still, that door was open. And I was standing right there. What?!

I reached towards it and hit the stop bottom. It kept going. NO! I stepped around it and unplugged it, kicking myself that it had taken me about seven or eight seconds to believe what was happening and to react rationally–who cares about the off button, make it be off!

I don’t seem to be cooked. (checks self again)

You need to test it, said hubby helpfully.

Yeah no babe. Uh. Uh. (like, are you crazy? why are you even saying that? i guess scientists gotta science)

But then I offered him cold leftover clam chowder and we both went no in unison to that idea, and I was in actual fact curious, so I did: I put it in the microwave. I closed the door. I plugged it in. I turned it on and stepped as far back as I could where I could still see the panel ticking off the seconds.

And it turned off at the end as one would have every perfect right to expect it to. Everything seemed peachy fine. I unplugged it, took out the chowder, handed him his, nice and warm, considered tomorrow morning’s hot cocoa and how much I hate standing still stirring at the stove while my blood pressure steadily goes down (80/40 before morning meds is where my normal starts)–and knew that if nothing else I will never leave that thing plugged in and unattended again.

I think we need a new microwave. (understatement alert)

Panasonic is OUT. Anybody got a recommendation?

It’s pie time
Sunday November 20th 2022, 11:47 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

Knitter friends meeting by Zoom. Here on the other coast, I hadn’t had dinner yet.

Pumpkin pie? We were talking desserts, mostly chocolate, mostly chocolate cream pie, and man did I want to run go start baking.

Finally someone grinned, “My aching hips” and we all cracked up.

(Afghan: finished the ninth repeat. Six more to go.)

A bit of a splurge
Monday November 14th 2022, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

They grow cherries. They know cherries. They’re in Michigan. (They decided to let their subscribers know they were cheering on Gov. Whitmer.) And everything I’ve ever bought from them (not that that has been a lot) has been good. Their cherry/fig/onion spread in a toasted cheese sandwich? You kind of have to smash it a bit to make it spreadable but trust me that sandwich is going to be good.

So I wondered if I could send my kids a warm cherry pie out of the oven to make Thanksgiving easier, as I looked at the picture in the catalog of their Mamma Mia’s sour cherry pie in a bottle.

I have bags of pitted sour cherries from my own tree sitting in my freezer, and I can tell you they make the best pies I’ve ever baked. But my children are not here.

There was only one way to know how the bottled ones could turn out.

The delivery. Richard opened the jar for me. I didn’t even make the crust (sorry, Scott!) though I did roll it out super thin, the way I like it.

My mom made a lot of pies while I was growing up. She called it the one last chance in a meal to get nutrition down her kids, so we’re not talking chocolate cream here, we’re talking fruit.

Someone once asked her for her pear lime recipe and won a recipe contest with it–without mentioning it to Mom, but it got back to her because such things always do and I remember Mom being both irked at her friend’s rudeness and loving that Mom, really, was the one who had won that thing. Score!

Pistachio grape pie. Cherry. Peach! After our pick-your-own expeditions in the summers we kids would just be waiting for the best part of dinner.

When I was a freshman in college eating dorm cafeteria food, the vending machines in our basement sold Hostess fruit pies if you got to them soon enough after they were restocked.

Man, they were a sorry, sorry apology for my mom’s talents and my childhood, but I bought the cherry one. Twice during the year, though I tried more times than that. They were all sugar and cornstarch and goopy and no flavor and I always assumed the red was sheer food coloring. There was none of that tart cherry essence, no hint of almond, and I remember wondering if there were more than one or two cherries in the whole thing–probably not.

They were pricey on my student budget and they never satisfied.


The first bit glopped out of the jar onto the pie crust but most stayed right up inside there. I got a small spatula and started scooping.

There were a lot of cherries and also a lot of their juices cooked up into the food starch and that part was looking a lot like my dorm memories–I prepared myself to be disappointed.

And yet. The flavor! All that actual fruit! Cherries, definitely, almond, it’s there. I had the spatula all to myself afterwards. I reached back in the jar and got that very last little bit.

Baked? Cooled (some of it never got to) and once it finished setting up?

It’s not my tree’s sour cherry pie. But it’s definitely something I’d send to my kids for when they have too much that has to get readied to put on their plate.

Bottled sunshine
Friday October 07th 2022, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,History,Politics

Anne gets the thanks for this one. A note from her got me looking: Ukraine is of course known for its sunflowers and as a large producer of sunflower oil.

What happens when you grow lots and lots of big bright yellow flowers?

You get lots and lots of honeybees.

I had no idea that Ukraine produces 10% of the world’s honey, although of course they do; it’s just that most of it never makes it over the ocean to here.

In the US, Congress has allowed corporations to adulterate both olive oil and honey and to sell deliberately mislabeled blends as the real thing. If you’re allergic to corn like a nephew of mine, that’s kind of a big deal on both counts. Can we please vote in people who care about people?

Which is why it’s wonderful to find a company that tracks its sources down to the individual farmers and verifies that what they’re passing on to their customers is nothing but true pure honey. (Re the olive oil: California’s law requiring Californian-grown organic extra virgin olive oil to only be that has been grandfathered in. That one you can trust.)

So. Anne found a jar of Ukrainian sunflower honey from a company that not only does that source tracing but is donating 100% of profits for it to World Food Kitchen and to Medical Teams International’s efforts on behalf of Ukrainian refugees in Moldova.

Even with the FedEx shipping, that sixpack of bottles comes to $12.50 per two-pound jar. The local stuff I’ve been buying is a dollar an ounce.

Do you have friends who need Ukrainian sunflowers in a jar for Christmas? Some of mine suddenly do. And it’s already here on our side of the ocean. While the money heads over there where it’s so badly needed.

But no pumpkin spice. Unless you want to.
Thursday September 29th 2022, 9:51 pm
Filed under: Food,Recipes

I went looking for a pumpkin variant on the almond flour muffin theme and played with a recipe I found at (Note that there’s 1/3 c more almond flour from when I first played with this last September.)

My updated recipe as of December 2022:

Bowl 1: 1 2/3 c almond flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon. (Yes her baking soda might have made it lighter. This is why I will never ever put it in, much though I still love that old college roommate, and the texture was quite light just the same.)

Bowl 2: melt 3 tbl butter in a glass measuring cup–almond oil works fine–swish it around, pour it into the now-empty third-cup measuring cup you used on the almond flour, add a maybe generous 1/4 honey to the butter-coated glass one: it makes it so much easier to get all the honey out. Beat together 2/3 c canned plain pumpkin, 2 eggs, the butter, and a tsp vanilla, then add to the almond flour mixture.

Note that if your honey is crystallized go ahead and use it anyway, just beat well.

Twelve muffins. Sprinkle crunchy sugar on top. I used the maple sugar that had been sitting in the cupboard for two years needing to be needed and it was a superb choice. Highly recommended. (Tripping and spilling batter like I did the first time these went into the oven, not so recommended.)

Bake at 350 with paper liners for 22-23 minutes.

These do not have to be put in containers to keep overnight, and the texture improves markedly when fully cool vs first coming out of the oven–they hold together better.