Friday, January 29, 2010

Jane: Food blog

Sometimes I wish I were a food writer. I'd love to write columns about cooking, grocery shopping, vegetable gardening, local foods, tea . . . .

Every month, there are 2 food pieces in City Revealed, the local mag I write for: recipes by a local chef who teaches cooking classes, and a restaurant review. But I'm the feature writer there, not the food writer, so no place for my food writing there.

I guess that's one reason I have a blog. Today it's a food blog!

So here's a dish I made last night.

The recipe was "Sweet Roasted Butternut Squash and Greens over Bow-Tie Pasta," from The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper, a wonderful cookbook my sister got for me last Christmas. I've enjoyed several recipes I've tried from here already. They're easy and sumptuous.

I'd wanted to make this for a while because I love vegetarian pasta dishes, and my family loves squash. But I didn't try it because the pasta's finish included half-and-half AND cheese (I've developed lactose intolerance).

When I ran across the recipe again while trying to plan the week's dinners, I couldn't resist. I decided to try it without the half-and-half (I used a bit of cooking water from the pasta) and not as much cheese. It was both digestible and delicious!

Another reason I was hesitant to try this is the squash. I don't like the idea of peeling and cutting up uncooked winter squash. But the authors suggested a method that made it not so difficult:

cut the squash in half. Put it cut-side-down on a cutting board. Slice into strips, which are then easier to peel. Not EASY, but easier.

It's not difficult to find winter squash here this time of year, and it was on sale this week. I found one just the right size. I have never used escarole (the "greens"), but the grocery store had it, too. There wasn't any fresh basil or sage that the recipe suggested, so I used dried basil and made a mental note to try this again in the fall when I still have fresh basil. I need to plant some sage as well.

Roasting the squash, onion, garlic, and escarole with basil, olive oil, and a bit of sugar made them tender and tasty. The idea was to caramelize them a bit (and wilt the escarole).

The only change I'd make to the recipe would be to add the escarole to the roasting pan just for the last 10 minutes so it wouldn't burn. Also, Splendid Table thinks that 1 pound of pasta is the right amount for 4 people. I think that's too much. Since Eli doesn't like pasta (I know, how can you not like pasta?), I halved the recipe and it was enough for me, Robbie, and Bruce, with a bit left over for my lunch today.

I served it with Jim Lahey's no-knead bread--actually Mark Bittman's 4-hour version and crudites.
So what are you cooking?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Jane: Kawaii

I think that's how you spell it. It means "cute" in Japanese, and it's a big deal in Japan, the land of Hello Kitty and Pokemon.

So when I saw this book,

I couldn't resist. It has all sorts of amazingly kawaii things you can easily make. "How fun!" says the text.

Here's what I made.

The pink coin case actually holds safety eyes for amigurumi (you would have guessed that, wouldn't you). The other little card case currently holds coupons, but it seemed too small.

I decided to use their ideas to make a bigger case, but I decided against kawaii and chose some whimsical decorations instead. I embroidered them on both sides with perle cotton.

Yeah, denim and embroidery, very 70s. But so am I.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jane: Foot follow-up

Turns out Robbie fractured his 3rd and 4th metatarsal on his left foot. They were impacted fractures, which means the bone stem was pushed up into the knob at the end of the bone, and that's where the fractures occurred.

Apparently, if you're going to have a fracture, this is the one to have. It's fairly stabile--the bones won't shift around as they heal.

Dr. Roof, our family physician, explained this by drawing the bones--right on Robbie's foot. "You don't mind if I draw on your foot, do you?" he asked. Robbie didn't.

"Dr. Roof is good. He actually explained it to us," was the verdict.

What does this mean? That Robbie can walk on the boot-cast as soon as his foot doesn't hurt anymore. And he can take the boot-cast off at night after 2 weeks. It's hard to sleep in, Robbie reports, so this will be good.

In six weeks, he'll be boot-cast free.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Robbie: My F***ing foot

Yeah... I went sledding... I broke my foot... I'm very pissed off... is this enough?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Jane: Finished my cardigan!

It took me 1 year + and 2 major trips to the frogpond,* but I finally finished!

Thursday night I told Bruce that if I were single, I would pull an all-nighter that night to finish it. But I'm glad I didn't try that--I had to make some adjustments once I got the pieces sewn together. The neckline was much too big/wide, and I had to take out the collar ribbing (you do that last in crochet), fill in some space with single crochet, and redo the collar.

Overall, I'm pleased with it. It's a big, bulky sweater, which isn't particularly "fashionable" right now, but it seems like a good style for an Aran style sweater. I like the way these drop shoulder sleeves worked out--the sleeve stitch kind of melds with the body stitch near the shoulders, so it makes the drop shoulders less "dropped." The yarn worked great for the project--it's cuddly and warm! I plan on having it around for the many years.

Nerdy details for crocheters:
Pattern: "Rugged Rover" from Jane Snedden Peever's Crocheted Aran Sweaters.
Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease (20% wool, 80% acrylic) in "Fisherman"
Hook size: H was recommended, but I had to use J to make the gauge work. All the amigurumi crocheting has made me a tighter crocheter! One size smaller hook used on trim.
Buttons: 5/8 (I think I may have to replace the buttons with bigger ones. 5/8 seem to be a bit small. I suppose I could also sew the buttonholes up a bit if I like these smaller buttons.

*Knitters and crocheters say they're making a trip to the frogpond when they have to rip something out. Rip it, rip it. Get it? :-)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Jane: Crochet Project

Remember that crochet aran sweater I was working on? Here it is, being blocked! Once it's dry, I'll put it together and do collar, cuffs, bottom band, and fronts with buttons (it was shown with a zipper; maybe I'll do that instead).

It's taken a while, and lots of ripping out . . .but I sense completion is near!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Jane: Robbie's birthday weekend

If I had been smart, I would have taken my camera along yesterday when the whole family went sledding! Then I would have had great photos, like my brother's photos of his family skiing and skating.

The weather was reasonable, in the teens, so we all headed out to Bever Park for sledding. Besides the usual cold weather garb, I added NASA socks
and my snow pants
(can I point out that I've had these since high school?:-) No jeans of mine from that era would fit me now, but the snowpants, yes!)
I knew we'd be exercising, so I omitted the silk longjohns.

It was good to sled--I like the occasional bit of thrill. Robbie did well on his snowboard, and Eli snowboarded on a sled and also did well.

The night before, we went out for supper for Robbie's birthday. He requested a Japanese sushi and steakhouse, so we went to Oyama Sushi and Steakhouse, a locally-owned place. The owner's Mom was Chinese, his dad was Japanese, so he owns two restaurants . . . !

It's a beautiful little place.
Lots of people were there that evening, which made it seem festive. Bruce got a noodle hot pot, and the rest of us got bento boxes with tempura veggies and shrimp, pickled ginger, seaweed salad, rolls (california or tuna) . . .
After supper, the waitstaff brought Robbie a dessert with a candle in it, and everyone in the restaurant sang happy birthday to him, while a waiter banged a small gong! Wish I had a photo of that! Robbie enjoyed it.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Jane: A Mom's Advice on Staying Warm

It's been cold everywhere recently! Here in Iowa, though, this is normal. We're used to dealing with icy temps.

The best advice is "stay inside," but sometimes you can't. So here's what you need to stay warm when it's way too cold.

From top to bottom:
Cute Hat: It's got to be cute so you'll wear it. That thing your mom told you about 90% of your body heat escaping from your head is not factually correct, but a hat really ups your warmth factor. Best places for cute hats: K-Mart (where I got the one pictured), Younkers.

Sunglasses: After it snows here in Iowa, we get sunny, clear, COLD weather. So the shades keep down the glare while also keeping the wind out.

Cute Scarf: Hey, this is your chance to show off knitting or crocheting skills! (I knitted the one in the picture with nubbly yarn.) For a while I wore a no-sew scarf I made with fleece. The scarf keeps your neck warm, can be pulled up over your face, and adds a note of style.

Down Jacket: I am not kidding. You must have down if the temp is below 25. I bought the one in the picture from Eddie Bauer a long time ago, Before Kids, and it's still nice. The other jacket option is, of course, fur, and don't knock fur until you've worn it on a cold day.

Fleece and Thinsulate driving gloves: I prefer mittens for warmth, but they're not as useful when driving.

Slacks: That is to say, not tights and boots, no matter how cute your tights and boots are. Wait until it's above 25. Cords and wool slacks are best, of course, but denim's OK.

Warm boots: I wear them whenever there's snowcover or it's below 20, pretty much all winter. Uggs are cute, too, but they are not waterproof. I wear my (fake) Uggs inside, as slippers.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Jane, Robbie: funny cat video

Hope you enjoy this video!

Jane: fit-less?

The ads in the paper are full of pictures of treadmills, ab rockets, and heavy bags. It must be January, the month of resolutions to get fit!

So I'll stick with my physical activity theme.

This fall, our Tae Kwon Do school went through a transition. Due to declining enrollments (and increased heating costs) we had to move out of our awesome facility. Master Hughes is continuing to teach a few kids, but just once a week, in a much smaller space, but it's not really enough for me and Robbie.

It was tough losing TKD. I love martial arts, and I had hoped I could continue for a long time. It's an awesome activity--I always felt like I was learning something new, and I made good friends at the school. Most of all, it is FUN! I really don't like to exercise unless it's fun.

So this fall, I was looking for some kind of activity to replace my twice weekly TKD classes. My job can be rather sedentary, so I seem to need exercise to combat an achy back and stiff joints. Plus I need to stay in shape for ballet! I guess I'm one of those "30 minutes of exercise most days" kind of people rather than a "7 minutes a week" kind of person.

I didn't want to increase the number of times I swim (just once a week) because I don't really like the chlorine. I had fun biking on Sundays . . . until the weather got cold. I tried out a noon exercise class at the Y, and it turned out to be "step" class, something that's antithetical to ballet (step develops bulky leg muscles, while ballet develops long muscles). It also wasn't fun.

And then I saw what I wanted to do on T.V.

Eli was home sick, and I was taking a break from writing to watch T.V. with him. We saw an ad for an exercise DVD that looked really fun: Turbo Jam!
It combines moves from dance and martial arts, the music is awesome, and the leader is encouraging but not silly. Plus, there are other people doing the exercises with her, so you feel like you're in a class.

I borrowed it from the library, along with several other DVDs and really liked it, so I ended up buying it. I would highly recommend it for anyone looking for a fun exercise video. I especially like the 20-minute workout and the Ab workout. I do those together.

Another video I discovered is called "10 minute solution. Fitness ball workouts"
What makes this one fun is that it uses one of those huge fitness balls--you bounce it, catch it, roll on it, . I mean, how fun can that be! I also like the way you can customize a workout, chosing from among 5 different 10-minute segments. I like "cardio," "abs," and "flexibility." I'm going to buy this one (I signed it out from the library, along with a couple of others that weren't as fun.)

So where I once was thinking I'd become fit-less without TKD, now I have a couple of options for home fun and exercise--options that are not time-consuming, customize-able, and FUN!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Jane: Ballet at 47 1/2

Just got back from a vacation-week drop-in ballet class, and all I can think is "pwn3d." I believe that's video-gamer-speak for "I got beat."

I'm not giving up, mind you. But it was a really challenging class. There were 4 of the school's best dancers there, too, and they did not get pwn3d. They were beautiful and really fun to watch. All I could think of to keep going is "I'm old enough to be their mom, and I'm still doing this."

Actually that and "I love ballet!"

I guess that second thought--the love of ballet--is what really keeps me going. I am not, have never been, and will never be a really good dancer. But in the 7 1/2 years I've been taking ballet (I took modern and jazz in H.S. and college), I've really learned a lot and I've improved as a dancer. It feels so great to feel your body pull into alignment during barre exercises, and to move with grace and lightness in the center floor combinations!

The nice thing about being older is that this is enough of a reason to keep doing ballet. When you're younger, you have to be in the recitals and it probably matters more that you're actually GOOD at it. Probably if you're not good, you drop out.

But now, as a middle-aged dancer, all I have to do is just enjoy it! I don't have to be concerned that everyone in the class is better than I am. For one thing, they're all in the advanced class, and my adult class is "intermediate." But also, I am not in competition with them. I can just watch them and enjoy how beautifully they dance.

(But I have to admit, I felt a great surge of relief when I saw that their pirouettes to the left were weaker than the ones to the right. Ah, it's not just me who has that problem!)

On Monday evening, I went to the birthday party of a friend who was turning 50. The party was at the gymnastics hall where he teaches--and still does gymnastics! In fact, he gave us demonstrations on the rings and the mat! Afterward, I told him how much I enjoyed seeing him do his demo, and said "today I took a ballet class with a bunch of teens. I think I was old enough to be their mom, but I still could dance with them." We high-fived.

There's such a wonderful feeling of satisfaction to really push yourself physically doing something you really love. And I have lots of friends--many "middle-aged" women--who do amazing physical activities. Britta and Heather play hockey in an organized league. Lynda does triathlons. My sister plays softball in several leagues.

I also know some middle-aged people who CAN'T do strenuous physical activities because of illness or injuries--and that'll happen to me someday. That'll happen to all of us, I guess. But that makes the activities themselves all the sweeter now.