new year’s intentions

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good boy, docker!

I ended this year with a hike with friends. My friend Bobbi took some wonderful pictures of Docker, as usual. She has such a good eye and I feel so lucky that she shares her talent with us. Hiking and friends fit in with my intentions for the new year. I don’t like to set resolutions, because it feels like a failure if I don’t accomplish the things I set out for myself. Instead, these are some of the things I intend to do this year (in no particular order):

  • Continued regular exercise (10k steps per day, closing Apple Watch rings, yoga every week, at least once)
  • Less (or no) time on Facebook (unless this results in less time spent in person with friends)
  • Good boundaries
  • Blog meaningfully
  • From a list I saw on Twitter:
    • Practice self-compassion
    • Embrace vulnerability
    • Deal with my ego

I hope that is not too many things to think about. I think that all of them are things are important for me in the coming year. If you set intentions or resolutions, I hope you are also able to find ones that are meaningful to your life and that set you up for personal growth and not just a feeling of defeat if you don’t reach them.

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oliebollen

I leave you with my oliebollen (Dutch donuts, traditional for New Year’s Day. They are not an intention, but I make them yearly because my husband and kids love them. They are the one thing I deep fry.

Let’s all hope that 2019 treats us better than 2018 did!

christmas gifts and food

I got an Apple Watch for Christmas. Those of you that know me know that I am a bit obsessive about reaching my 10k step goal daily. This past year I had a 9 month streak of hitting my goal! I got sick in September and that ended that. I have been less strict with myself about getting to my goal every day but I often try to go for an extra walk in the evening to get the steps. Well, now I have some new goals to try to hit too!

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closed my rings!

I closed the rings yesterday but today I have only gotten the red (calories burned while moving) and blue (stand at least once per hour). Somehow I got 10k steps today without getting 30 “exercise minutes”. That one is going to be a challenge when a lot of my walking is done with the dog. He stops and breaks the “exercise minute” counting, or something.

I also got hand knit socks for Christmas, from my mom. Aren’t they pretty?

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hand knit socks are the best socks

Finally, I was given a cookbook: Dinner in an Instant. Tonight I made a pasta dish from it, and it was delicious!

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creamy chickpea pasta with cumin and mint

I didn’t have all the ingredients because my husband and younger son ate the hummus when I wasn’t looking, and it was still delicious. I think it will be even tastier when I make it again and do have hummus. (I blended the chickpeas instead which made it not super creamy but still made for a tasty dinner.)

So my holiday went well. I hope yours went as well as mine did!

knitting and cookies and new games, oh my

I finished some knitting projects! (I know, shocking, right?)

First up, the results of my hats for Paradise project. I made six hats.

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My mom made one with a cute pom pom.

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I also decided to donate some scarves I had knit for another donation project and never got around to mailing (oops) plus a cowl I made as a sample for knitting class and the purple one I was knitting over the summer.

A friend of mine from my mostly defunct knitting group also gave me a couple hats, a scarf, a couple cowls, and a baby blanket.

All of these items are now on their way to Paradise, hopefully to bring someone some warmth.

I also put the finishing touches on a baby dress I had knit and whipped up a bunny for the couple who sells my favorite coffee at the farmer’s market.

I love that bunny pattern. If Ravelry is to be believed, I have knit it 28 times. You would think I would have it memorized, but I have to look at it for the ears. I can manage the rest.

In other exciting news, I baked fancy cookies.

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And I got a new game with many game pieces to pop out and build into adorable trees. It’s called Photosynthesis. I grew the best trees when Niels and I played it this afternoon. Go me!

Facebook

I am thinking about leaving Facebook because of recent revelations about their cavalier attitude towards user data and privacy. I am hoping to use my blog more regularly instead of posting everything there.

I have also rejoined Ello and Mastadon. I am abigailvr everywhere if you would like to connect with me.

In the mean time, here are some cookies I baked today.

See you here soon!

bedrooms, toes, and ice cream

We have been working on rearranging the whole house since June or so and today was the beginning of the final step: switching my younger son back into the small bedroom and my husband and I back into the larger one.

His loft bed went away first, it is the end of an era.

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bye bye loft bed

This photo is a bit dark, but his bed is now in the small room! (It just needs a new frame.)

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at last!

Unfortunately, in all the hubbub of cleaning up today, my younger son stubbed his toe on one of the many air filters we currently have going, which resulted a trip to urgent care and probably podiatry tomorrow.

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sad pinky toe

In between all of that excitement, I made ginger ice cream for Thanksgiving. It doesn’t look like much, but it smells amazing and I hope it tastes as good as it smelled!

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ginger ice cream to be

cookies and my favorite author

I spent a bunch of time today making mini corn muffins and The WORST Chocolate Chip Cookies for my sons’ pot lucks at school tomorrow.

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look at these cookies
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aren’t they terrible looking?

As you can guess, they’re actually very delicious. That is fortunate, because school has been canceled tomorrow due to the impending apocalypse.

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i live in that purple blobby bit over San Jose

To escape from thinking about the apocalypse, I went to see Neil Gaiman speak at Stanford.

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my fave

Neil Gaiman is my favorite author. I have been to many of his readings, signings, and speaking engagements since 2001 when I saw him read from American Gods. He never fails to delight and entertain. He read us a story about wildfires, read a section of Good Omens, answered some audience questions, and let us all know that what he believes in is empathy and leaving the world a better place than when you turned up.

Also, he compared writing Norse Mythology to knitting. He said writing it was his knitting, like how knitters knit between things and in the end they have a sweater.

Funny he should mention knitting, because that was what I was doing while I listened. I got a couple inches of sleeve done. I am making good progress.

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just the sleeve, but the rest of the sweater was there on my lap

Maybe that can be my project for our “smoke day” tomorrow: finishing this sleeve!

 

challah!

Look at me, missing days left and right this year. Alas. Apologies, etc.

Moving on…

I made challah yesterday. I use Mollie Katzen’s recipe from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, using the honey and butter options, and using half whole wheat flour and half white bread flour. I also added a half a cup of vital wheat gluten this time around and it made for a very, um, sturdy, dough.

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ready to rise

It was harder than usual to knead because of the sturdiness but I think it was totally worth it.

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braided and ready to rise again

I have taken to using a scale to insure that I have equal amounts of dough for my braid. Also, I start the braid in the middle and work towards each end. I find that I get a much more symmetrical loaf that way. Next up is learning to do a braid with more strands in both directions. I can only do a three-strand braid backwards for the moment.

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don’t cut it before it has cooled

These loaves are kind of enormous. They weigh about two pounds a piece. I gave half of one of the loaves to the owner of my favorite coffee vendor at our Farmer’s market. I follow their Instagram and they followed me back and she expressed dismay last week that she didn’t get to taste the bread I had posted on Instagram so this week I decided to make some for her. She sent me a photo of it with her dinner and said it was delicious! I am pleased that she liked it.

My family likes it too, of course. It’s not a low carb day when I make a batch of these but at least it is carbs made with love.

pho good

Sunday means the farmer’s market in my world. On this particular Sunday I was buying the remaining ingredients needed to make chicken pho. My friend Peggy suggested trying to make it at home and we each procured some of the ingredients. My last purchase was the chicken legs and thighs from my favorite chicken vendor, Pasture Chick Ranch. I have been buying my chickens from them almost exclusively for the past few years and I think they are really tasty. Today was no exception!

At the suggestion of another friend, I followed the Serious Eats recipe for Pressure Cooker Pho and it was an excellent suggestion! I think my version turned out to be delicious.

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I like my pho heavy on the noodles, light on the chicken.

Peggy picked up enoki mushrooms so I added those when I was cooking the individual portions of noodles. If I made it for myself again, I would add more veggies, maybe spinach or bok choy, but I think my family preferred it the way it was. I definitely need to make it again because I doubled the recipe but then fewer people came over than expected. Also, Peggy bought a rather large bag of noodles!

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Sooooo many noodles!

This is the bag after I had cooked enough noodles for eight people. Overall, though, I would say this recipe is a keeper and other than having to have some unusual spices on hand, not too complicated!

 

Instant Pot Recipes

A few friends have asked me recently for recommendations for recipes to use in their Instant Pot. I thought I would consolidate my suggestions here for ease of linking!

Starting with two book recommendations:

  • Pressure Cooker Perfection – from America’s Test Kitchen. I love their recipes and cookbooks generally and this one is no exception. It is fairly meat heavy (a vegetarian friend asked) and their pressure cooker recipes tend to be a bit more fiddly than others, just like their regular recipes. This book contains one of my current favorites recipes, Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Cranberries. Everyone in my family enjoys that recipe, which is not usual. The apples in the picture are big chunks but when I make it they come out more like apple sauce, just FYI.
  • Great Food Fast – by Bob Warden. I think I have only made the whole chicken recipe from this book, but I would still recommend it. That recipe is delicious and I use it all the time. I’m sure when I branch out I will enjoy some of the others. The recipes in this book are less fiddly and more likely to be made with things you have on hand.

Recipe links:

  • IMG_3596Mongolian Beef – another favorite in my house. I think the meat is more tender if you use slightly less than 2lbs, so that is what I usually do. I aim for 1.5lbs but I buy whatever size the beef vendor at our farmer’s market happens to have.
  • Macaroni and Cheese – I generally prefer my baked macaroni and cheese recipe but this one is a close second! It is faster and requires less time standing at the stove. I think the texture is best when you use sour cream and/or half and halfas the “liquid” dairy but it is good with the evaporated milk too. I don’t put on any toppings. Three out of four of my family members like this one.
  • Chicken Stock – much quicker than on the stove and I think even more flavorful. I add black peppercorns and garlic cloves when I make it. I have been known to use a squirt of ketchup when I don’t have a tomato or open canned tomatoes. The chicken vendor at our farmer’s market says she uses vinegar and I have thought about trying that too.
  • Zuppa Toscana – only one step of this soup is actually pressure cooked but it is very tasty. I use zucchini sautéed after the sausage instead of spinach and it is still tasty. Another one that three out of four of us like but I really really like it. (I just bought sausage to make it yesterday, so this is in this week’s plan!)
  • Teriyaki Salmon – the pickiest member of my household enjoys most things cooked with teriyaki sauce, so this dish works for him! I usually wrap the salmon in foil packets instead of using pans since I didn’t have any that fit but I got some steamer pans that might work. I haven’t tried it yet.
  • Pressure Cooker Eggs – guidelines for timing the various hardness of the yolks. I always make hard yolks and these are perfect and super easy to peel.
  • Teriyaki Chicken – I tried this one for the same reason I tried the salmon recipe above and it worked! I personally prefer breast meat from the chicken so I usually use two thigh/legs and a whole breast which I cut into four pieces. I also cheat and use bottled teriyaki sauce. One of these days I will try the from scratch sauce in this recipe but it works well with a bottled sauce too. (And it is much faster that way!)
  • Chicken Breasts – tried this recipe one night when I was scrambling for dinner and my whole chicken was frozen. I actually used the Trader Joe’s frozen breasts for this (defrosted them in the microwave for a few minutes first) and they were really good. I used herbs de provence instead of the oregano and basil. Very tasty and very fast for a week night meal.

Okay, I think that is it for my favorites right now. I hope that helps some of you fall as in love with your instant pot as I am with mine. You might notice that I don’t talk about rice. People have told me that they like making rice in theirs, or dishes where the rice is cooked in. My picky eater doesn’t like things pre-mixed and some nights the rice is the only thing he eats so I have a rice cooker (that I also love) that is often going at the same time as the Instant Pot. Your mileage may vary, of course!

pies

It is the day before Thanksgiving, so you can probably guess what I was doing.

Pies don't look perfect. Hopefully they still taste good!

I tried a new recipe this year. That top pie is Lemon Chess Pie. I have never heard of that kind of pie before but my husband requested lemon meringue. I don’t like making meringues so I compromised with this one. I hope it’s tasty. The other pie is also from King Arthur Flour’s website. I also haven’t used that recipe before but how do you go wrong with a pumpkin pie? You don’t, that’s how.