At the beginning of the year I made myself some goals for 2012.  I put them on my blog so that I could hold myself accountable for actually reaching them.  Here is my list of goals and my progress on each one:

1. Learn to bake bread- no progress, but hopefully before the end of the year.  There is still time!  And luckily this is a task that shouldn’t take a day or two.

2. Learn to quilt- no progress, but I did buy all my fabrics and get my sewing machine out of storage. Ah ha! Here are my fabrics.  I purchased most of them from Sew Modern.

     

  

Here are all of the fabrics stacked up together so that you can see all the colors and prints in action.

3. Begin to learn Italian- nessun progresso (that’s Italian for no progress)!  But that’s okay I have plenty of time before I move to Florence, Italy.

4. Get my butt into shape- So for I bought an adult tricycle to get around (but it’s been raining lately- a great thing!!!) and I have lost 20 pounds (50 pounds to go).

5. Publish an E-book or a book book- HA! What an unrealistic time frame I gave myself! Maybe in 2013 or 2014.

6. Get organized- Believe it or not I didn’t own a desk before.  Now I have a desk a file cabinet, drawers, almost everything in my life has a place! but of course there is lots of room for improvement.

7. Learn how to plan things ahead of time- I have made so much progress on this.  Even my blog posts I schedule 7-10 days ahead of time! But this is a constant battle for me- procrastination is in my blood… its what I am made of… my very essence.  Fighting it is like fighting my DNA… it’s freggin hard! So I’m working on it and making progress.

8. Eat healthier and more vegetables (get a CSA box)- Got my CSA box! And I LOVE it!!!  I now receive the “more veggies only box” every other week.  They stay fresh much longer because they are local and don’t spend two weeks on a truck.  So not only am I eating more vegetables that are local, organic and in season, but I am getting way more creative in the kitchen!  BTW- Let me know if you are interested in Farm Fresh to You – I can get you a coupon code for $10 off your first box!

9. Eat out only 1-2 times a week- Well, ever since we got our CSA box I feel an obligation to use everything in the box.  May no vegetable go to waste! So naturally we are eating out much much much less.  Also now that I’m not working a full time job I’m not exhausted when I come home and I have a ton of energy to cook for dinner. Also all the veggies we eat give me energy, and the weight loss gave me more energy.  Its cyclical! So now we are down to eating out about 1-4 times every two weeks.

10. Plan a vacation to Europe & New York- Nothing on NY front… but I am thinking about it for the spring.  I did go to Barcelona in the summer. Sorry I didn’t blog about it… but it was right in the middle of the Olga’s Vest KAL and there just wasn’t any Barcelona blogging time… but I have to say- my sister and I had a blast!!!!!  But why don’t I share a few photos for fun?

     

From left to right: La Padrera, Parc Guell, La Sagrada Familia.

 

     

From left to right: Me shopping at All You Knit is Love wearing my Janna’s Tunic, a random yarn bombing in the Gothic Quarter, my sister polishing off a bowl of very Spanishy nachos and washing it all down with a hearty pitcher of sangria.

11. Self-publish between 8-10 patterns with about 5-6 garments- Hmmm….. well… this was definitely a tough one!  I self-published 11 patterns this year and 6 of them were garments.  So booyah! Got that one in the bag!

12. Finish all UFOs older than 3 years- HAHAHAHA! What a pipe dream! I did finish one UFO… and then I published it…. can you guess which one? Here is the link to the pattern… I published it :)

13. Knit another Blanket (maybe TDS)- Didn’t do TDS, even though I still want to.  I even have a the perfect yarn picked out, Manos Del Uruguay Wool Classica.   TDS my size! Even  though I didn’t knit a blanket, I have crocheted one and started piecing it together.

     

14. Make my own pair of pajamas- Yeah right! Another pipe dream.  Got the fabric, got the machine out of storage….  now I just need to relearn how to sew, follow a pattern, and remember how to use my machine…. aaaah! Overwhelming.  One of these days I think I’ll go to the Sewing Arts Center and take a class.

 

I’ve been going a little nuts with the baking lately… I’m coming up with and testing recipes for the February TNNA show, where I will of course be passing out cookies as usual.  I’ve been baking all kinds of shortbread cookies… so many!!!  This recipe was so unusual and delicious I just had to share!

Here is what you need:

2/3 cup flour

1/4 cup coco powder

1/4 cup confectioners sugar

1 tbsp ground espresso (I prefer a French roast)

1 stick of softened butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

zest of 1/2 a medium organic orange

 

Combine the flour, coco powder, sugar, and espresso powder into a bowl and mix well.  I like to use a whisk for this task.

Add the butter and vanilla extract and mix in well.  You can use an egg beater for this (on the very slow setting), but I just do it all by hand with a silicone spatula.  Mixing the batter burns a few of the calories that I intend to eat after the cookies are ready.  Then mix in the orange zest and chocolate chips.

Form the dough into a log about 1.5″ in diameter and roll into parchment paper and refrigerate for about 1 hour.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, line the baking sheet with parchment paper and cut the log into 1/2″ cookies.  Place cookies on baking sheet and bake for about 10-15 minutes.  The cookies will still be a little soft when they come out of the oven but they will harden a bit when they cool down.  Yield about 20-24 cookies.

These particular cookies tastes good with a nice strong cup of coffee and some half & half, mmmm!!! Milk works fine too :)

What’s a Grilled Cheese Invitational?  Every year during National Grilled Cheese Month (yes, it really exists) there is the Grilled Cheese Invitational right here in LA.  Of course its always on a Saturday and during the day, so that means I don’t get to go because I’m teaching at the shop every Saturday.  So I decided to host my very own Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational.

 

 

The day before I went to my local Trader Joe’s and picked up seven kinds of cheeses and three kinds of breads.  Then on Sunday Rory went over to one of our favorite local breakfast places, Zabies and picked up a Rosemary loaf I ordered a few days before.  The types of cheeses we had were: Double Creme Brie, Mild Cheddar, Imberico from Spain, Tripple Creme Brie with Wild Mushrooms, Semi-soft Fontina, American, and Raclette.  The bread choices were a rustic style French bread, Cracked Wheat Sourdough, Pretzel Challah, and the Rosemary bread.  I also made sure to pick up some other key ingredients for the Grilled Cheese Invitaional- tomato, avocado, basil, garlic, onions, butter (of course), pear and prosciutto.  Here are a few pictures of all the cheese.

 

   

 

There were only a few rules, everyone had to make a sandwich, you have to make at least three of one type of sandwich (so everyone can taste the sandwich), the scoring was from 1-10.  Of course with my friends, every singe rule was broken.  Boys watched some kind of sporting event on TV instead, Veronica made only two that she cut three ways each, and people scored numbers that were not between 1-10.

Nicole (my sister and model) was the first one to made a sandwich… I can’t really remember what went in it- I think it was garlic, onions, tomato, butter and the cheeses were Fontina & Imberico (that part I remember) and she used the Cracked Wheat Sourdough bread then popped it under the broiler.  Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of Nicole’s first sandwich because we were so excited to eat that it wasn’t until after that we remembered.  But I do have a cool action shot of Nicole in the kitchen.

 

 

Next was Veronica (I named the Veronica’s Mitts after her).  She started with a guacamole (that she made) and then used the Imberico & Soft Fontina along with the Rosemary bread and threw in some thinly sliced onions and cooked it on the skillet with butter (of course).  Veronica gave me a hard time when I was watching her cook, so there are no “action” shots, but here is a picture of her finished sandwich. Yum!

 

 

I was up next.  I wanted to kick this competition into high gear.  I sliced some onions and cooked them in butter and white truffle oil and then added a few garlic cloves as well as a rosemary and thyme bundle.  Then I put the onions aside and sauteed some thinly sliced pear in the same skillet.  I took the garlic from when I cooked the onions and mashed it up into a paste an mixed it in with some butter and (fat-free) mayo (how do they make that?).  Then I took the rosemary bread and made a layer of Imberico then topped it off with the onions and pears, then a layer of the Raclette.  It went into the skillet and browned until it got all gooey.  When it was about 5 seconds away from being ready I took them all off the skillet, spread one side with the garlic paste I made and threw them in for another five seconds.  Here are a couple pictures:

 

       

 

After that we were all a little tired of cooking and the game was over, so we decided to take a break and go to the beach for a little while.  We drove over to Will Rodgers beach and just hung out there for about an hour or so until we were ready to head back home for some more cheese.

 

When we got back Nicole was very excited to get started again.  She started to crisp up some thinly sliced pieces of the Prezel Challah in the toaster oven.  Then she made some kind of mustard-butter paste (I wasn’t really paying attention, I was on Pretzel Challah crisping duty).  She used the Sourdough for the outside then out in a layer of Semi-soft Fontina, a layer of the crisped Prezel Challah, a layer of Tripple Creme with Wild Mushrooms and then spread the mustard paste over the top slice (on the outside), and then popped it into the oven and then then the broiler.  After it was all golden brown and crispy she added some freshly chopped tomato to the center and served.  It was very good.

 

   

 

Then I decided to make one more sandwich.  I was pulled out the big guns!  I had made some of my mac-n-cheese for Thanksgiving and threw in a separate batch into the freezer for the perfect day.  Two days ago I pulled it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to defrost.  I warmed it up in the oven (man I forgot how good this stuff is!) and was got ready for the sandwich of a lifetime.  Woohoo!  The Macaroni and Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich!  Yes!  I pulled out the Pretzel Challah for this one and put a layer of Cheddar, a layer of The Mac, and a layer of American.  That is all.  I greased the baking sheet with olive oil spray and covered the sandwiches in it as well and put it in the oven.  Here are a couple of photos so you can see the decadence.  It was very gooey (I promise), and yummy!

 

     

 

After that it was all over.  That was the heaviest sandwich ever!  It was pretty good too.  I think Nicole’s first sandwich was the best one of the whole day.  The other judges did not agree.  Veronica got first place with her guacamole grilled cheese sandwich.  I guess we all should have used some avocado to level the playing field.  Here are a couple of pictures of Veronica with her prize!

 

      

 

She got a wonderful and very official certificate and a coupe of washcloths I knitted up from Mason Dixon Knitting (a personal favorite).  I wanted to make a t-shirt for the prize, but I ran out of time.  Next year I might made an apron as a prize for the winnder, with pictures of cheese everywhere.  Haha!  So my little gathering was quite successful and that included a detour to the beach.  We had fun and can’t wait until next year!  Woohoo!

Every now an then the planets align and I get in the mood for making my own salsa and have all the ingredients to make it as well.  I have been getting a bit lazy when it comes to my cooking and I am in my “roasting phase.”  Pretty much everything I cook goes into the oven… easy to do and easy to clean-up (especially since I’m not the one doing the dishes).

So what do you need?  Please keep in mind that I eye-ball every time I cook, so there are no amounts and measurements and I encourage eye-balling everything yourself as well!

tomatoes (of course)

onion

garlic

spicy peppers of some sort (this time I had Thai chilies)

fresh cilantro

lemon or lime

oil of course

and then all your usual seasonings, like salt, pepper, & dried oregano

 

 

First thing (after you clean all your veggies) cut your tomatoes and onion into quarter pieces.  Lay them out on your baking sheet along with your garlic, onion, and peppers.  Drizzle with oil, in this case I used avocado oil and olive oil.  Then sprinkle with salt, pepper and dried oregano.  Now- lets talk about these chili peppers for a bit.  I have never used Thai chilies for salsa before (but spicy is spicy right?!) so I wasn’t sure how many to use.  So what did I do?  I roasted all of them.  You don’t have to add them all to your salsa, you can taste as you blend.

 

 

Pop it into the 350 degree oven (uncovered) until it looks like this:

 

 

Then put all the roasted ingredients in a bowl and add a little more oil, olive or avocado, you choose… maybe you want to mix it up this time and add garlic oil….. ooooooooh… aaaaaaaaaah….

 

 

Then with a handy hand-blender (love this tool!) just blend the ingredients until it reaches the texture you desire.  Make sure you pulverize out all the bits of chili, you don’t wanna get a mouth full of that.  Hot!  If you don’t have a hand-lender don’t worry- you can use a food processor.  If you don’t have a food processor, don’t worry- you can use a blender (but it gets a bit foamy, so pulse it instead of blending it.  If you don’t have a blender, don’t worry- you can use a hand-blender.

Then squeeze in a generous amount of lime or lemon (to taste), make sure there is enough salt and the flavor is good.  I love fresh herbs so I piled it on with chopped cilantro and scallions, yum!  Serve with your favorite bowl of chips.  I just discovered these yummy quinoua tortilla chips at Trader Joe’s.  What a combo!

 

 

I hope you enjoy my lazy roasting salsa recipe!