Tuesday, January 28, 2014

8-Layer Dip for Game Day

Whether or not you plan to watch the Superbowl this weekend, this 8-layer dip is wonderful to make for any gathering, any time of the year. It's easy and delicious -- and fairly healthy with its fresh tomatoes, avocados and lettuce. I always use vegetarian refried beans made without lard. You could also try refried black beans to change it up a bit.

In a mixing bowl, combine a 16-ounce can of refried beans with 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice and 2 tablespoons water. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish and spread evenly.

Top the beans with: 1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream; 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese; 4.5-ounces canned chopped green chiles; 1 or 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped; half an avocado, diced small; some shredded Romaine lettuce; and 2 thinly sliced scallions. Serve with tortilla chips, and enjoy!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Meyer Lemon-Infused Vodka

Here's what I chose to do with some of the Meyer lemons I mentioned in my last post. I made infused vodka. Simply wash the lemons thoroughly, peel them and insert the peel into a bottle of vodka. Let steep for 1 to 2 weeks. The vodka turns a pale yellow. I had some the other evening with cranberry juice, which makes a tasty cocktail. Cheers!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Citrus Fruits

A neighbor friend of ours spent the holidays in Florida at his parents' house and brought home a ton of citrus fruit -- at least it seemed like a ton. He gave us a bunch of grapefruit, which I love to eat in the morning. Remember this post about my grandmother's old bamboo-handled grapefruit spoons? They're so handy.

He also brought us some Meyer lemons, below, which I'd never had before, and frankly wasn't sure what to do with. I researched Meyer lemons and learned from Wikipedia that they are native to China and thought to be a cross between a true lemon and either a mandarin or common orange. They were introduced to the U.S. in 1908 by Frank Meyer, an employee of the US Department of Agriculture, who collected a sample of the plant during a trip to China.

I squeezed the lemon juice and froze it for future use. I also used the peel to try something new, which I'll share in my next post. Stay tuned ...

Friday, January 10, 2014

Vanilla Cakelets

This recipe was on the packaging of my new mini fluted cakelet pan, which I bought at Williams-Sonoma during their after-Christmas sale (because I don't have enough bakeware already -- ha!). These little cakes are so pretty with powdered sugar dusted on top. A simple powdered sugar glaze drizzled over them would also be nice. 

Vanilla Cakelets 

Ingredients (all at room temperature)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (1-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup milk
Confectioners' sugar (for dusting)

1) Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour the wells of a mini fluted cakelet pan; tap out excess flour.

2) Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. 

3) In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy and smooth. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla until just incorporated.

4) Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with milk, and beginning and ending with flour. Beat each addition until just incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Do not overmix.

5) Spoon batter into prepared wells, about 1/3 cup each. Spread batter so the centers aren't higher than the sides. Bake until cakelets are lightly golden, and a toothpick inserted between edge and center of a cakelet comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes.

6) Gently loosen cakelets from pan. Using a serrated knife, carefully saw off the rounded bottom of each cake to make a flat surface. Place cut side down on wire rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioners' sugar or drizzle with icing just before serving.

Monday, January 6, 2014

A New Knitting Project

I started a new knitting project last month. I'm making yet another scarf, in a really pretty color. For me, a good deal of the fun is in daydreaming about what color and what type of yarn to use. Once I'm in the knitting shop though, the choices are overwhelming. 

On this particular visit, my goal was to buy an earth-toned yarn, maybe in a shade of brown or rust. I left with something very different: this rich raspberry-colored yarn in a merino-silk blend. I'm using size 5 needles. I enjoy working with smaller needles and a finer yarn. The final product has a tighter weave. One day I'd love to be able to knit a baby's sweater or pair of booties with these needles. I just adore hand-knitted baby's clothes, and have pinned several sweet photos to my Knitting board on Pinterest.

Our local knitting shop offers classes, and I've signed up for a course that starts next week. I hope the classes will help me advance my knitting skills so I can finally make something other than scarves, such as a pair of socks, some fingerless gloves or a cap for my husband. I know how to cast on and bind off and the knit stitch, but I need to master the purl stitch (I taught myself once using an online video, but quickly forgot), and learn how to follow a pattern.

So there it is. My first goal for 2014 is to advance my knitting skills and make something other than a scarf. What goals do you have for the New Year?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Faux Fur for Cold Nights

I'll start by saying this: I am an animal lover, and very opposed to the use of real fur in clothing or decorating. In fact, when I was in my early 20s, I gave my then-boyfriend's mother a lecture on why fur coats were cruel and unnecessary -- right after she had made a comment about her mink coat! Needless to say, that relationship didn't last. 

Lately, I've been seeing a lot of faux fur throws in decorating (like in Joan's beautiful, cozy barn room), and I've been drawn to them, but at the same time, conflicted. While I know they're not real fur, they do feel and look real. Part of me feels like it's wrong to desire even fake fur. On the other hand, I really love the look of a faux fur throw, and I can only imagine how warm one would be on a cold night in our drafty old house. 

After debating this in my head for several months, I ordered a Luxe Faux Fur Throw in "coyote" from Restoration Hardware, on sale.  (By the way, it bothers me that they use the name of an animal to describe the color. I'd much prefer "medium brown.")

I received the throw a few days before Christmas, and I'm very pleased with it. The size is substantial and perfect for snuggling and napping. It's very warm, with a nice velvety-soft fabric lining. It looks and feels so realistic that I have to keep telling myself it's fake, just so I won't feel bad about having it.

I'm very glad I didn't order the throw I was going to buy from Pottery Barn. It was backordered online, which is why I looked elsewhere. The other day I was in a PB store and saw the throw in person. It's not nearly as nice (doesn't feel or look as real) as the one I purchased from Restoration Hardware. 

So what's your opinion of man-made faux fur? Are you a fan? Or do you say "no" to anything resembling fur, even the faux variety?

Before I go, I want to wish everyone a very happy New Year. May 2014 bring you peace, good health and prosperity.

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