Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sun of Cheese, Moon of Cheese

As it would seem, all the big grocery stores around here are out of farmer's cheese. If this is a problem, it must be getting close to Christmas, the one time of the year I can justify dragging out the recipe for deliciously cheese-stuffed, butter-fried lumps of wonderful. I could make them stuffed with something else—like many things, they are traditionally filled with whatever you have in abundance—but the family recipe calls for farmer's cheese and sautéed onion, and it just wouldn't be the same without it. And still, I can't remember a Christmas Eve without pierogi.

The traditional Polish Christmas is a Christmas Eve celebration called wigilia, which involves a "meatless" meal of seven fishes and sharing a wafer called opłatek. In my family it has evolved from this into some Polish-Irish-New-England-Hippie take on this, which still involves the fish-focused meal (most years we build a fire and put a fish in it, though this year we're making a festive Christmas jambalaya), but it also regularly involves colcannon, an Irish mashed potato and kale dish with a ring of golden-fried onions on top. And pierogi, which I usually do ahead of time. I suppose I haven't yet totally exhausted my options to get farmer's cheese and make several dozen pierogi before tomorrow night.

I'd offer up the recipe—I don't believe in secret recipes—but, like so many of the things I make I have difficulty quantifying it and writing it down. Also, I can never make the right amount of dough for the amount of cheese filling, so I wouldn't necessarily trust my numbers to work out perfectly anyway. In lieu of that, I offer up my somewhat unique recipe for Sundrop Cookies, which I developed several years ago because I wanted to make a cookie for solstice that tasted like sunshine.

Sundrop Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen 2½-3" cookies
  • ½ c. butter (1 stick)
  • ½ c. shortening
  • 1½ c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. lemon oil or 2 lemons' worth of minced zest
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • ¾ tsp. turmeric
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne (turmeric and cayenne add the color and heat of the sun, respectively, but without one or the other, you still have a pretty good lemon cookie here)
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2½ c. flour
  • ½ c. finely ground coconut (optional—replace with equal flour if you leave it out)

  1. Cream butter, shortening and sugar.
  2. Blend in eggs, lemon oil and lemon juice.
  3. Blend in turmeric and cayenne, if using.
  4. Add baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  5. Mix in coconut (if using) and flour.
  6. Roll into 1½" balls and place on parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  7. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes.

Et voilà! Dozens of little suns! Happy Holidays and wishes for a sweet New Year!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Maybe They'll Hatch?

I've been sitting on a lot of yarn recently. I don't really expect any of the yarn to hatch (though I wonder what might emerge if it did), it's mostly been a difficulty of getting the right light to take a good picture. As far as I see it, in the absence of professional photographic equipment, there's no true substitute for natural light. My stepmother swears by her full-spectrum OttLite, but I don't have one. And, while there's a lot to be said for compact fluorescent bulbs, mimicking natural sunlight for photography is not one of them. The complication of getting natural light is twofold: first, that most days I leave for work before the sun is all the way up and usually come home after it's down again; second, that there's snow on the ground now, which I welcome, but means that it's not as easy to drag my stock outside with a background and get perfect light.

So, this weekend, I briefly evicted the plants from the bay window in my living room, scrubbed it down really well, laid out the yarn on a piece of white cloth at just past mid-day, and took a lot of pictures. Suffice it to say that this is my new favorite place to take pictures. You can check out and critique my photography by going and looking at all the new yarn listings! New selections include the fruits of the October dye binge with Sadelle (including a few yummy cashmere blends), a number of silk blends to keep you company through the winter, a 100% alpaca and a wool blend prime and tested for socks.

From the October dyeing come the cousins (different colorways dyed on the same base yarn) First Day of Spring and Starry Stairs, a blend of merino, angora, rayon and cashmere dyed on the one hand with a variegation of cool colors and on the other hand with a deep red purple, highlighted by the blue rayon flecks which didn't take the dye. Also from this batch is Tainted Love, a more lightweight wool/rayon/cashmere blend with a spectrum of red and purple overdyed on tan. Rounding out this dye batch is The Green, Green Grass of Home (cousin to Lady Stardust), green overdyed on pale ice blue for a kettle-dyed effect that brings thoughts of warmer weather.

Silk is a fiber of many textures and tonalities, but every one of them is warm and soft next to the skin. Check out the following new yarns with a majority silk fiber: Odalisque, a robust, nubbly superbulky raw silk blend in a deep sunset purple flecked with color, Lost Coastlines, an earthy, tweedy blend of silk and cotton twisting together different warm brown tones, and Of Angels and Angles, a wintery breath of lacy white silk and angora.

Rounding out the additions are the raucously red pure alpaca Rock Lobster and the sock-ready and tested brown wool blend Clothes of Sand.

Also, all orders until the end of December of $10 or more will come packaged in a one-of-a-kind drawstring bag which you could use as gift wrapping for this or another gift or keep for yourself as a gift from me. I make a bunch of these up to deliver my own presents, and they sometimes get more use than the gifts inside them.

I am also very excited to share the formerly top-secret project with my students that I mentioned in my last post: their own Etsy shop, Prisms Place. Every other year, our school sweeps up the whole 7th and 8th grade and takes them by train down to Washington, DC for a week. The cost of this is, understandably, significant. As part of paying for the trip and encouraging student ownership of it, each student is asked to earn $75 through their own efforts. As part of this, I am facilitating the shop for a group of student artists as a way of helping them sell their crafts to raise part of this money. The selection currently includes yarn critters, hand-drawn stickers, uniquely made suncatchers, earrings, made-to-order organic chocolate chip cookies and polymer clay figurines of everything from hippos to sushi (which hasn't managed to get listed yet. Should nudge them a little on that). All on their own, the polymer clay crew made and posted a webcast about what they do. They've also continued this with some instructional videos for making things out of polymer clay.

Yes, I am quite proud of them.

Well, as it starts snowing in earnest here, I am going to take my dog and go play outside before it starts getting dark out. In the mean time, here is Galaxie 500's spaced-out cover of "Listen, The Snow Is Falling," the original version of which was the B-side to the classic "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)."