AJAX BELL

Author of the Queen City Boys books


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Adventures in substitutions

It’s a cold, cold winter night here, so I did the only thing one can do, cooked and baked until the house was warm and smelled good.

Quinoa Red Lentil Soup


I used this recipe (the stove top version which only took about 35 minutes) which came highly recommended from a trusted friend.  I saw it and thought, oh I have all those things, I’ll make that.  HAHAHAH!  Well, I had quinoa and red lentils.  Of the spices I only had fresh ginger, paprika, cumin and thyme.   So I used those and substituted 2 tbl of green curry paste for everything else.  Also I didn’t have any of those vegetables, so I used a yellow onion, diced, a yellow squash (the zucchini like kind), also diced and a can of diced tomatoes and a couple cloves of garlic, finely chopped.  I did follow the directions pretty closely, despite all the substitutions.   At the end of cooking I also put half of it through the blender until it was smooth and added it back in with the rest (a secret that improves 85% of soups).

I think it turned out great.  Would be excellent with a dollop of sour cream but there’s few things that isn’t true about.

Apple cake


2 eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin spice
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 apples, peeled & chopped

Directions:  In large bowl, beat eggs, applesauce and oil until smooth.  Add sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin spice, baking soda, salt and mix well.  Add flour, beat until smooth. Fold in apples. Pour into greased and floured 9 by 13 pan. Bake at 350F degrees for 50-55 minutes.

I substituted Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose gluten-free baking flour.  Also I normally would do 3/4 cup applesauce and no oil, but I was unsure about this flour mixture, because I’ve never used it and I figured a little oil might help.

I’ve used previous versions of this recipe (I seem to reinvent it every year, whole wheat flour, less sugar, no oil, now gluten-free) to make muffins for which it is excellent.   The original recipe called for 2c sugar and a cinnamon and sugar glaze, but I really prefer things less sweet.  You should experiment until it tastes how you like.


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cookies and stories

Most importantly I made gluten free peanut butter cookies this past weekend.  Here is the recipe:

1c peanut butter
1c sugar
1tsp vanilla
1 egg

Beat peanut butter and sugar together, then add egg and vanilla.  Roll into walnut-sized balls and place on greased (or parchment papered) cookie sheet and crush in # pattern with fork.  Bake 10(ish) minutes at 350′.  Eat.  Be amazed at how much like a floured cookie this is.

I made many and brought them to work.  No one seemed able to tell that they were any different than any other peanut butter cookie.  I might next time reduce the sugar and add a second egg to see if they can be chewier.  These came out just like I remember the standard Joy of Cooking recipe, just like a PB cookie, but I would like chewier version.  Also I recommend greasing up your hands before rolling the dough balls, as they are sticky wickets.

♦♦♦

I am still reading Deathless.  I don’t ever want it to end.  I feel like I’ve been seriously slowing down on it all week in a subconscious effort to draw out the fairytale as long as possible.  In my head the whole story is animated in paper cut-outs like the cover:

Also it makes me want to dress like a fashionable 1930s revolutionary and decorate my entire house in Russian folk art.

Speaking of folk art: Lubki prints of popular culture stories (I’m not linking to the original source here because it’s in Cyrillic).  I could totally decorate my house in there.  And then lounge around in this skirt.  And people would only think I’m slightly less crazy than they think right now.

♦♦♦

I also saw X-men: First Class this week and loved it.  Think this is an awesome introduction to the universe.  Though I’d recommend the comics over the other movies.  But despite some small casting discrepancies it was pretty well done and very enjoyable for a summer movie.  My triffling story problems with it are endemic to current films and don’t really detract from the movie (characters have instant changes of heart, but who has time for back story and moralizing when there’s explosions to be watched?).  Also Michael Fassbender wears the heck out of some clothes in this movie.  Mmmmhmmm.

Heading to the west coast in a little more than a day for my amazing little sister’s graduation.  Very excited to escape the oppressive middle TN heat right now.  Need to pack a neat capsule wardrobe, both fashionable and urban and for much cooler temps.  It’s kind of exciting.  Also need to finish some web work I promised folks and do a metric ton a job work before I go.


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Sunday dinner

I’m heading into work late.  It’s way too cold, icy and snowy to go outside.  In lieu of doing work this morning, I typed up my Sunday dinner menu for you.

Spice Rubbed Lamb Chops

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground cloves
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large lamb shoulder blade chops

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Mix the 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon together. Brush each lamb chop lightly with the olive oil and season with the spice mixture. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chops in the skillet, without crowding until brown and crisp on both sides, about 3 or 4 minutes for both sides. Finish chops in the oven for 1 minute for medium rare, or to desired doneness.

(I substituted cayenne for cloves, which I realize isn’t the same, but worked out very well.)

Chickpea and Leek Soup

5 medium leeks
1 can chickpeas
2 cloves of garlic chopped finely
1 medium potato
4-5 cups of vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan plus extra for garnish
1 Tbs butter
2 Tbs olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Dice and boil the potato, set aside.  Clean and slice the leeks, lengthwise and then in narrow strips.  Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed stock pot with the olive oil and add the garlic. Once they begin to soften, add the leeks and a generous pinch of salt.

Once the leeks are soft and smelling good, add the pre-cooked potato and the chickpeas. cook about 2 minutes then add the 2/3rds the broth.  Simmer 15 minutes.  At this point you have to decide how you want to serve the soup – as it is, puréed or semi-puréed. I blend about half of it and ad it back to rest of the soup. Add the rest of the broth to your desired thickness)and the grated Parmesan.  Serve with more grated fresh Parmesan.

I served all of this with butter lettuce salad, as well.

Over all, super easy.  Since there’s only two if us, we usually end up with enough soup for two more meals.  I’ll probably add chicken and mushrooms to it when I reheat it, to keep it new.


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back to normal blogging: food & shoes & unrelated pictures

I had a fine, mostly relaxing, albeit too short weekend. I capped it with a delicious dinner that I was so pleased with, I have to share it with you.

I started with a small pork tenderloin (about enough for two people with no leftovers) and marinated it for about 5 hours in:

1 cup white wine
3 tblsp. Dijon mustard
5 garlic cloves, minced
fresh Basil, chopped finely
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350º. Place meat in small roasting pan, with the remainder of the marinade poured over it.  Cook 45 mins, turning once, until internal temp is 140º.

Then we had a leek gratin.  I was a little leery of this, but it was incredibly delicious

3 leeks, trimmed, split lengthwise, and well rinsed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tblsp. unsalted butter cut into pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream (I used half & half because it’s all I had)
6 Tblsp. grated cheese (I used Edam, the original recipe called for Gruyere, but depending on what you’re going for, most any mild cheese would work)

Preheat oven to 350º. Arrange the leeks cut side up in a single layer in a baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, dot with butter, and gently pour the cream over the top. Sprinkle with the cheese, cover with a lid or foil and bake for 35 minutes. Carefully uncover and bake 5 – 10 minutes more until the top is golden brown and the leeks are tender.

Even better than they cook for same amount of time at the same temp!

We had it with crusty whole grain bread and white wine.  I used too much butter (I never referred back to the recipe after I first saw it) to no ill effect, but I’ll probably try and do it right next time.  I also would cut the leeks into about 3″ pieces after splitting them, to make it easier to serve (although having a knife that’s actually sharp in my house would have gone a long way toward helping that).

I have been looking for a menswear styled woman’s oxford for close to two years now.  18 months ago I could find one pair and those weren’t real leather.  Now they seem to be the ubiquitous shoe for fall.  Although, as ever with something like this, I know exactly what I want and my need for detail often means the thing I want doesn’t exist.  But sometimes, as I did on Friday, I stumble on the exact thing I’d been hoping to find.  This time the bar was even raised: they come in purple.   Alas, I’m going to be saving my pennies for a while.  And I’ll probably get the grey ones for practicality’s sake.  Still in the interim, while the weather is still warm here, I will fantasize about fall outfits, with sweaters and the perfect oxfords.  In purple.

Today’s picture brought to you by my desire to have eaten such a lovely dinner in Catalan France, while wearing a vintage patterned shirtdress and purple oxfords.  Someday I’ll have a castle too.


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darkness comes on standard time

As I did at exactly this time last year, I have taken the refashion pledge:

I pledge that I shall abstain from the purchase of “new” manufactured items of clothing, for the period of 2 months. I pledge that I shall refashion, renovate, recycle preloved items for myself with my own hands in fabric, yarn or other medium for the term of my contract. I pledge that I will share the love and post a photo of my refashioned, renovated, recycled, crafted or created item of clothing on the Wardrobe Refashion blog, so that others may share the joy that thriftiness brings!

So I will probably be doing most of my sewing blog posts over there, but I will try and link them here when they go up.

I made Thai green curry for dinner to stave off the depression of the first Standard time early sunset. Spicy, wonderful nom nom noms!  And hopefully to help me feel better.

The past two months of house guests, lots of running around, plenty of work and then, most recently, being sick, have left me feeling broke down and worn out.  I have need-to-do projects stacked knee-high around the house. I feel the need to just catch up on my life.  Like not even the projects, just you know, being me who isn’t hosting guests or sick or at work.  Ugh.  Lots of sewing will surely help. I should get started on that. 🙂

This weekend I spent a bunch of time fantasizing about a lovely, relaxing summer holiday here.  My mom is just now flying back from here, which also seems about right for where I’d rather be right now.  I did, after many false starts, finally book my tickets to Seattle for the winter holidays.  Dec 20-28.  I’m very much looking forward to that too.

I didn’t do anything for Halloween, but come home and put on pajamas. Lame, maybe, but so relaxing.  I’ve been thinking about my Gramma Marge and my Grampa Ray a lot today. El Día de los Muertos means honoring them.  For a while now I’ve been wanting to make a standing El Día de los Muertos altar for them in miniature.  I should perhaps take some time today to put down my plans for it so that I can start making the little pieces of it over the coming year.  I will light a candle for them tonight.

Picture today is my dining room fireplace “altar” for honoring the dead.


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Thinky thoughts

I am freaking exhausted.  Staying up until 4 am pretending to be a cool rock chick will do that, I guess. Fun night, better day (despite the hangover) showing the PNW boys Nashberg.

Fall still seems to be raining it’s way in.  I’ve gotten pretty used to Indian summers here. I guess it’s still possible.  It’s just been so overwhelmingly grey and insanely wet for the last week.  The air tastes like despair.  I have been here, in the sun, for so long now that apparently it takes only a week of grey for SAD to set in.  Luckily a good day of bright Southern sunlight can knock it out.  Now if only the sun would come out.

Libelle and I went shopping yesterday and I got an amazing wool coat, Italian, with the tags still on at the new Goodwill for $15.  I am smitten with it. It’s purple, but not too purple.  I like autumn all right, though I lament the loss of summer.  The coat is so wonderful that I think I might actually make it through winter.  I will try to take pictures tomorrow.

I lost my evening reading random personal blogs that Google Reader recommended me.  Usually it recs me sewing blogs or something clearly related to other blogs I read (like music or local news) but I got these two random ones.  One a girl who seems lonely and sad, but maybe doesn’t realize how pathetic she comes across (lots of writing about the boyfriend she misses, even though they broke up a year ago and she hasn’t spoken to him in seven months, ugh, so sad).  And another is a sort of hipstery dude in Brooklyn, but he posts kind of interesting art, and these hilarious (possibly unintentionally so) one line movie reviews, so I might follow him for a while.

Then I was thinking about how these blogs are nothing but weird windows into people’s lives so I went back and read my own entries from the last three Septembers.  And I guess since this blog is sort of about nothing, it is also a weird little window into my life.  I was reminded that I get really homesick every September, so it is excellent that I am going out to visit this week (omg, I need to pack).  And there’s odd little entries like this one that make my life seem interesting.  I guess my life is interesting.

I was contemplating some meme where you put all your past addresses into Google Earth and post the pictures of them, but then it seemed oddly morbid. Still, here is the house I grew up in.  It is part of what makes me interesting.  This pictures makes me happy.  Maybe it is because it seems so sunny.

The Placebo version of this song was on the premiere of Vampire Diaries (which so far doesn’t suck) and reminded me of how much I love it.  I have probably listened to it six times tonight.  It makes me feel lonely and happy at the same time.  This video is clearly dated though still incredibly lovely.

This live performance is also dated, but the emotion in it is fantastic.

I am covered in mosquito bites from walking around Spring Hill cemetery this morning.  I hate the word “upcycle.”  I am tired and achy.  I should be in bed.  Instead I am scrunched up on the love seat eating a sandwich consists of wheat bread (the cheap, crappy kind that is like brown white bread), tartar sauce (better than mayo on sandwiches) and havarti.  It is kind of trashy and incredibly delicious.


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What the storm brings

cupcake joy!

Amid today’s crazy booming thunderstorms I made cupcakes.  Rainbow cupcakes with cloud frosting! Hooray!!!

First we mix the batter:

like easter

Which comes out looking more like something for dyeing Easter eggs, than something you’d want to eat.  In fact they don’t look much more edible after they’ve been baked:

tasty?

Obviously what we need to solve this problem is cream cheese frosting.  Lots and lots of cream cheese frosting:

clouds of joy

And the the most important part, eating:

taste the rainbow!