Friday, August 29, 2008

All-Clad forever

I have several All-Clad Stainless pots and pans, judiciously acquired over the years. I say "judiciously" because they are expensive pans, and I am cheap. But one of the things I am willing to spend money on is good cookware, and All-Clad is the best.

I bought my first two pans about ten years ago, when I was a poor 20-something with two roommates in a crummy walk-up apartment in New York. I bought a 1.5-quart saucepan and a 3-quart saute pan. I researched cookware for quite a while before settling on All-Clad. I dithered and dithered and dithered, and finally bit the bullet with help from a birthday gift from my brother. Hey, a pan which costs close to $200 was a huge purchase at a time when my daily take-home pay was $70. Those pans meant a lot to me.

I've used those pans heavily for the last ten years. I love them. The little saucepan got a lot of use when I was single, and once I started cooking for more than just me, the saute pan began to see heavy use. Nowadays, I use it nearly every day. I've added other All-Clad pans to my arsenal, but these pans, especially the saute pan, are my workhorses.

But, as we were preparing to move into the new house, I realized that somehow, over the years, the bottom of the saute pan had warped a bit, so that it was no longer flat. I hadn't cared when I was cooking on gas, and even on our apartment's electric coil stove it wasn't a problem. But in our new house, we have a ceramic smooth-top stove (bought from the Sears outlet--bleargh!), and when I was researching these stoves, I read comments from a lot of people complaining that you have to have perfectly flat pans to use them.

I became concerned. I began to worry that I would have to abandon my beloved pan. And, now that I have a started my career over again, a $200 pan is once again a huge purchase. I didn't want to have to buy a new pan.

So, I went on the All-Clad website, and sent them a message, asking if there was any way I could fix it. I thought they might direct me to a dealer or someone who could, I don't know, bang it out for me. Who knows? Instead, I got back an email which said, essentially, "All-Clad pans are guaranteed for life. Send the pan to us for evaluation for repair or replacement. Here's your return number."

To say this was more than I expected would be an understatement. I was a little worried about surrendering my favorite pan. But, a month ago, I dutifully packed up the pan, sent it off to All-Clad, and waited. I cooked without it for a month (very tough, let me tell you!). Then, this week, when I came home, there was a box waiting for me.

I'm not kidding: they sent me a brand-new pan.

I love All-Clad, and the little pauper who bought that pan ten years ago with more money than she really should have been spending on a pan? She feels like crying.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


My sweetie hates crows.  I think it has to do with an incident a year ago, when he first moved to Seattle, and was trapped in a courtyard populated by crows.  The crows thought he was invading their territory and proceeded to divebomb him in threatening ways.  It was like a scene from The Birds.  He's hated crows ever since.  There are crows that hang around our new house, and whenever he sees them on our roof, he mutters under his breath and glares at them.

This morning, his hatred of crows bore fruit.  Today was the day we were going to start seriosuly moving into the house.  We've hired movers to move our big furniture next weekend, but we are planning to move the smaller stuff and boxes ourselves.  We were going to do it this weekend to get them out of the way of the movers.

So, this morning, we get up bright and early to drive down to Tukwila to collect some boxes from one of my sweetie's coworkers who recently moved.  We get back to the apartment, and have the first carload packed and ready to go.  He goes out to bring the car around.  As he gets to the bottom of the steps, he sees a pair of crows on the curb.  He comes down the last few steps quickly, and as he launches himself off his right foot to run at them, something snaps in his right calf.  Instant, horrible pain.  He can't walk.  We have to go to the emergency room.

Fortunately, the doctor at the ER tells us it is a not very serious, albeit very painful, injury, and that he should ice it, elevate it, pop some painkillers, and stay off it for several days.  They gave him a pair of crutches.  So much for packing and moving. 

Personally, I think the crows gave him the Evil Eye.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Jaguar Cove

My sweetie and I went out to dinner tonight with some of his coworkers.  It's a long story, but essentially we were meeting an executive from his company at the zoo.  Neither of us was much looking forward to it, but my sweetie felt obligated.  Then we arrived, and found ourselves here:

Dinner was in the zoo.  To be specific: in the Jaguar Cove.

See Junior in the back there?  Yeah, he's not thinking about dinner at all.

It turned out that the executive is on the board of the zoo, and tickets to this dinner were part of a charity auction of some kind.  My sweetie's boss had bought the tickets, but in the end couldn't go, so he gave them to us.  What we had feared was going to be a dinner all about work turned out a lot cooler.  And the executive had all kinds of cool things to tell us about the zoo.

For example, Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo is a breeding zoo.  They have a female jaguar, too, but they're letting her and Junior acclimatize to each other slowly, so they're not kept in the same exhibit yet.

Having never been this close to a jaguar before, I was fascinated by his shape.  Totally different from a tiger: much more muscular; the legs seem shorter, proportionately, and he's got big shoulders and a big head.   While we were eating, several times he made a weird, kind of grunting, huffing sound, which I've seen described in books but never quite understood.  Definitely would not want to run into one of these while hiking in the rainforest!

Afterwards, we went to see the flamingoes, who are a new exhibit in the zoo.

Did I mention the zoo was closed?  So cool.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Oh, were you wondering about my knitting?

Probably not, but this is, by subtitle anyway, a knitting blog.  And I have been knitting, in the evening hours, when work on the house has stopped.  Here are my current projects.

A baby hat of my own design, knitted from Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Astrakhan, which will never, ever, happen again.  The stuff is a nightmare to knit, even if the end result is kind of cute.  The baby is due in September, but no one told him, because he arrived yesterday.  Luckily, my knitting is already done.  Hah!

Knit and Tonic's Tender Blankie, knit from Blue Sky Organic Cotton.  The stuff if hell on my hands and shoulder, but it's lovely soft.  This baby (my sweetie's second nephew, which I guess makes him my second nephew.  Hmmmmmm) is due in October, so I have a bit of lead time.  I hope!

And, finally, Manon:

Knit from WEBS Valleys Yarns Sugarloaf, in a slightly more deep raspberry color than the picture shows.  Yes, this is my fourth Norah Gaughan.  I freely admit my addiction.  I will not seek help; you can't make me.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A galaxy far, far away

Continuing our adventures in what feels like some sort of science fiction (who knew house ownership was so alien?), my sweetie and I made three trips to the dump today.

Yes, the dump is indoors.  Strictly speaking, it is a "Disposal and Recycling Center," also known as a "transfer station."  You back up to the chains guarding a precipitous drop down onto a mountain of garbage, and just chuck your stuff over the side.  Presumably it gets transported later to a landfill somewhere.

My only regret is that I didn't get a picture of the huge earth mover, with all its windows covered in grillwork to protect its operator from flying garbage, that was pushing all of the garbage into that huge tunnel at the back of this picture (NO METAL.  NO METAL).  Everything was grey, industrial, and very, very dirty in a sort of post-apocalyptic sci-fi way.  Seriously, I felt like I was in the sewer of the Death Star, though it was perhaps not quite as smelly.  And no underwater monsters.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Team Destruction

So, we are rewiring the house.  Or rather, we are having the house rewired.  We've owned the house about six weeks, and we're going about systematically destroying it.  First, we cut out a cabinet in the kitchen to fit in our new fridge.  We love the fridge, it was totally worth it, but we had to destroy the cabinet to get it in.

Now, for the rewire.  The house is from 1952, and it has 1950s wiring.  None of the outlets are grounded.  In many of the rooms, the outlets only have two prongs.  In the living/dining room, the outlets have three prongs, but they are merely cosmetic.  The outlets are not grounded.  So, since we're not living in the house, we decided to get the rewire done now.  But the electricians need access to the insides of the walls.  They apparently can go through the attic and through the basement ceiling, and claim they can do the whole house with minimal damage to the walls.

Only problem: we have a finished basement.

Maybe I should say we had a finished basement.  Can I wield a crowbar or what?

Here's my sweetie in the garage, brand new reciprocating saw in hand:
I believe we now own six saws.  Six.  The destructive possibilities are endless.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Malted Milk

I love malted milk.  I have no idea what it is, but I love it.  I always have a jar of malted milk powder in my pantry, and every now and then when I am feeling blue, I'll have a glass of malted milk.

Mind you, this is not chocolate malted milk, which I do not like.

When I was a kid (and, if I am honest, to this very day), I would nibble all the chocolate off the outside of the Whopper so that I could get to the crunchy, malted goodness in the middle and let it melt on my tongue, unadulterated by chocolate which is much too sweet, and much too overwhelming for the subtle flavor of malt.

Why bring this up now?

Well, it's summer.  And our new neighbors on our fabulous new block are having a block party next week.  The organizers gave everyone on the block a little map showing all the houses and the names of the people who live there.  You can imagine that my sweetie and I find this very useful.  We are really looking forward to it, and of course, since it's a block party, everyone is supposed to bring something.  I've decided to bring ice cream. 

I love making ice cream, but I must confess I only make it for occasions where there will be people to help eat it, because I actually get bored with a flavor before I finish a whole batch.  I love ice cream, but not that much.

So, for the block party, I decided to make two batches of ice cream.  One will be my favorite old standby, orange ice cream, the recipe for which comes out of my 1975 Joy of Cooking.  This is the ice cream which caused me to buy an ice cream maker, because a friend of mine made some, and after one bite I felt I must always be able to have it whenever I want it.  It tastes like a creamsicle, only much, much better.

I was going to make chocolate for my second flavor, because I have a very good recipe for a dark chocolate ice cream that's very easy and very good, but it's very dark, and therefore a very adult sort of chocolate.  There are a lot of kids on the block, and I wanted a more kid-friendly flavor.  But wasn't going to make ordinary chocolate ice cream because, you know, you can buy that stuff in the store :-).

After toying with a few things, I finally hit upon the idea of malted milk ice cream.  Not chocolate malted milk!  Malted milk ice cream with Whoppers mixed in.  Trouble is, since no one on earth besides me seems to like malted milk without chocolate, I did not have a recipe for it.  So, I made it up.

OK, OK, so really all I did was take a vanilla ice cream recipe and add about 1/2 cup of malted milk powder to it (as well as almost double the amount of vanilla extract), but hey, I created a whole new ice cream!  And when it came out of the ice cream maker today, I was licking the beaters like some demented kid.  I actually think I could eat the whole batch and not get tired of it.  I love malted milk.  When's that block party???

Malted Milk Ice Cream

2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup malted milk powder
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate-covered malted milk balls (Whoppers)

Beat sugar and eggs until thick and light yellow.  Beat in flour and salt.

Put milk in a medium sauce pan over low heat.  Whisk in malted milk powder.  Bring to a simmer.

Slowly beat hot milk into egg mixture.  Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and set over low heat, stirring constantly until it thickens slightly.  Do not boil!  Strain the mixture into a large bowl.  Cool slightly, then stir in cream and vanilla.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Stir the chilled custard, then freeze in your ice cream machine.  When almost frozen, pour in the malted milk balls and let the machine stir then in.  When the ice cream is done, it will still be soft.

Pack into a container, cover and put in the freezer to harden.  Lick the beaters until your tongue hurts.