Friday, December 31, 2010

Laptop Kitty

Ever since her first days here at chez Natalie, Melly has been a big fan of laptops - both Geoff's and mine. Fortunately, she doesn't traipse about on the keyboards anymore, but she does enjoy being near computers and the warmth they emit.

I was laying on my bed working on the blog when Melly hopped up to join me:





Scarlett, of course, couldn't miss this prime opportunity for snuggles and curled up next to my leg.


Happy New Year's Eve, everyone. If you are going out and celebrating, stay safe!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Scarlett the Snuggler

Scarlett is always on the lookout for any stationary human with an available horizontal surface. As soon as she spots one, she is there in a flash. Here, my lap was at an angle, so instead of sitting on it, she snuggled up next to me and purred and purred for hours.



Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Naughty Melly





Melly has recently discovered that she can get a great view of the kitchen counter from on top of the kitchen garbage can.


She was very good about just looking, until...


That shriveled brown thing on the counter is a cured sausage made by Geoff (you can read more about his sausage-making adventures here). It's very tasty stuff, and I'm sure it smelled quite scrumptious to Melly.


It was at about this point that Geoff, who was sitting behind me, looked up, saw what Melly was doing, and yelled for her to get down. Of course, Melly was completely unfazed, whereas I jumped about three feet in the air.

Note: there used to be a Squirt Bottle o' Discipline, but it cracked. I have not yet replaced it, so Melly has been running amok.

She's incorrigible.




Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Window Sill, Part 2



This is what was causing Scarlett's tail to swish so vigorously at the end of yesterday's video:





After a while, Scarlett started to fidget and pace as much as the tiny ledge would allow.

After she looked balefully from the floor, to me, and back to the floor several times, I gave in and got her down. Silly kitty.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Scarlett on the Window Sill

The cats like to hang out in the bathroom, slurping from the faucet, playing in the bathtub, sitting on their shelf next to the sink, etc. The other day, I walked into the bathroom and discovered this:


(Despite this discovery, I am still confident that it wasn't Scarlett who so thoroughly mauled the bathroom blinds.) Scarlett loves to explore, especially anything that gets her close to the great outdoors. The bathroom window is pretty drafty, so I suspect the stream of outside air is what drew her up there.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!



Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas Eve!

Our Christmas celebration starts on Christmas Eve with a big dinner and the opening of some presents. So, in honor of the beginning of Christmas, here are a couple of classic photos of my parents' handsome cat, Star. Doesn't he look festive?



Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bumblekitty


I sped the video up a tad (it's at 1.3x), but it's equally ridiculous at regular speed, believe me. The music, "The Tale of Tsar Saltan: Flight of the Bumble-bee," is played by the Budapest Clarinet Quintet.

Things have been pretty crazy here with Christmas prep, but I have enough blog material to keep to my usual posting schedule through New Year's, so I hope you'll be able to continue visiting!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Snowballs & Thumbprints

I'm combining the last two cookie posts into one since Christmas is rapidly approaching and baking days are running out! Also, I am really excited about tomorrow's post and wanted to be sure to get to it before Christmas (it's a Melly video, and it's been cracking me up ever since I filmed it).

Snowball cookies always make me think of my mom. She has made them every Christmas for as long as I can remember, and they always turn out perfectly tiny, perfectly uniform, and perfectly delicious. Mine end up oddly misshapen and many different sizes, but at least they taste good!

Snowball Cookies
1 cup soft butter
¼ cup confectionary sugar
½ tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 ½ - 2 cups ground nuts (I use walnuts)

Mix everything together. Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes (lightly brown on bottom). When cool, roll in confectionary sugar.

Thumbprints
Preheat oven to 325F

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons sugar
1 cup butter

About half a jar of fruit preserves (I usually use seedless raspberry or strawberry)

Stir together flour and sugar; cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Form mixture into a ball and knead until smooth. Shape dough into 1” balls. Place 2” apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using your thumb, press an indentation in the center of each cookie. Bake for 18 minutes or until bottoms are light brown. Immediately spoon about ½ teaspoon fruit preserves into each indentation. Remove cookies from sheet.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Melly's New Friend

Last week, Sarah the cookie winner, Sue of Pitter Pats fame, and another friend Sarah came over. We had fun eating the results of my Meyer lemon experiments, drinking champagne, and of course, playing with kitties. At first, both cats were overwhelmed by the people and the attention, but Melly eventually came out and was her usual friendly and ridiculous self. Scarlett made a few brief appearances but mostly watched the goings on from behind the couch.

And when I say that Melly was friendly, well, see for yourself. (That's Sarah the cookie winner providing the belly rubs.)





Monday, December 20, 2010

Molasses Sugar Cookies

The recipe for these cookies came from my aunt Nadine (she of the coffee cake and apple pancake). Most years, I make a giant batch of gingerbread cutouts, which I do for two reasons: I like to eat them straight out of the oven while they're still soft, and they really jazz up a cookie plate. This year, since I did all my baking in one manic day, cutout cookies were just not feasible.

Enter molasses sugar cookies. These cookies have the same ingredients as gingerbread cutouts with the addition of an egg, which helps them puff up in the oven and stay soft when they come out. So aside from retaining the texture of fresh-from-the-oven gingerbread cutouts, these cookies require way less work! Perfect.

Molasses Sugar Cookies

¾ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
¼ cup light unsulfured molasses (I didn't have light - regular worked great)
1 egg
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cloves
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375F.
Melt shortening. Pour into large bowl and let cool but not set. Mix in sugar, molasses, egg. (If you don't let the shortening cool enough, the egg will cook when you add it. Oops.) Combine flour, baking soda, and spices in small bowl. Stir dry ingredients into shortening mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes. Shape into 1” balls and roll in sugar. Place on cookie sheet and bake for about 8 minutes or until the bottoms of the cookies have browned (I ended up going with 9 minutes; you can go longer if you want them to be crunchy). Cool completely.
Enjoy and share.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Meyer Lemons

For those who wondered about the Meyer lemons and what I made with them, I thought an update was in order.

Meyer lemons are sweeter and less acidic than regular lemons. They also have a thinner skin and seemed to me to be juicier. For more information on Meyer lemons, here’s a link to the Wikipedia article.

I made three things with my Meyer lemons, all from the blog Smitten Kitchen. The first was lemon risotto, the recipe for which can be found here. I love risotto in just about any form, so I had high hopes for this recipe. Fortunately, it turned out to be delicious. Geoff baked a piece of salmon with some herbs and a little lemon juice and the risotto went with it perfectly. Should you try this recipe, make sure to measure the cheese by weight and not by volume as freshly grated parmesan is very fluffy; I measured by volume and ended up having to grate more cheese on top of my risotto after it was done. I should also mention that I am not a very confident cook and that I very rarely venture outside my comfort zone of baking – and even I can handle risotto. It seems a lot fancier than it is, which is great if you are having people over for dinner or something, but it’s more about patience (there’s a lot of stirring) than skill.

The second recipe was lemon cake, which I made in two loaf pans (you can also use one tube pan or bundt pan). As you know by now, I have a total weakness for all things lemon, and this lemon cake with lemon syrup and lemon glaze is the perfect indulgence for that weakness. The only thing I would do differently is to poke deeper holes in the cake before pouring the syrup over it – the few places where I did that accidentally had wonderful puddles of syrupy goodness. I made the glaze fairly thick so that it would cover the top of the loaves and hide all the little punctures.

The third thing I made was a lemon tart. Unfortunately, this one did not go quite as planned, probably because I was in a hurry when I made it and rushed many of the steps. I used SK’s great unshrinkable sweet tart shell, which, annoyingly, did shrink. It had a great flavor, though, and was easy to make in advance, so I’ll definitely use this recipe again. For the filling, I made the whole lemon tart. I didn’t read ahead in the recipe and so didn’t have time to let the melted butter cool off enough – this, combined with the fact that my tart shell was still warm when I poured the filling into it, is probably what caused the resulting soupy tart filling. The filling did eventually set up a bit, though, and it tasted wonderful, so when I next have some time for leisurely baking, I will give this another go.

Because I didn’t know how any of these things would turn out and I had people coming over, I also made SK’s apple cake. I’ve made it before so I figured it would be a good backup. Of course, I accidentally dumped in about four times as much cinnamon as it called for, so it didn’t quite go as planned. Luckily, it tasted good, if a bit spicy.

I still have more cookie posts to put up, which I will continue to intersperse with cat posts, and I have a few more Meyer lemons in my fridge. Sadly, I ran out of sugar last night (that’s 5lbs in less than two weeks – eek), so I’m taking a brief baking hiatus.

Cranberry Bars

The other bar cookies I made last weekend were cranberry bars, my favorite holiday cookies. They're easy to make but the tangy cranberries combined with the lemony, oaty crust are so delicious.
Cranberry Bars

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups rolled or old fashioned oats
3/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 tsp grated lemon peel (Or a bit more. Hard to go wrong with a little extra lemony goodness.)
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup margarine or butter, melted
1 16-oz can whole cranberry sauce
1/4 cup finely chopped or ground walnuts or pecans


Stir together flour, oats, brown sugar, lemon peel, and baking soda. Stir in the margarine and mix thoroughly. Reserve one cup of the flour-oat mixture for the topping. Pat the remaining oat mixture into an ungreased 13"x9" baking pan. Bake in a 350F oven for 15-20 minutes or until the edges start to brown. Spread cranberry sauce on baked crust. Stir nuts into reserved oat mixture and sprinkle over cranberry sauce. Lightly pat oat mixture into sauce. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until top is golden. Cut into bars. (Since I'd cut the magic bars into squares, I cut these into triangles for variety.)

Yum.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Synchronized Staring

It's a new sport.

Stare right.

Straight ahead.

Stare left.

And now up!

I love how grumpy they look. So adorable. Shortly after the last picture was taken, Melly suddenly leaned over and shoved her nose under Scarlett's tail, prompting Scarlett to growl and leap off the couch. Also, it would appear that my slipcovers are more in need of steaming than I realized.


And, last night I made: lemon risotto, lemon pound cake, and a shell for a whole lemon tart. And I still have more Meyer lemons! Excellent. I also made apple cake, in case the pound cake and tart don't turn out. Definitely going to have to find someone to foist the leftovers upon - I hope my coworkers are hungry!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Magic Cookie Bars


Clockwise from top left: thumbprints, magic cookie bars, molasses cookies, cranberry bars, and snowballs.

Since I was baking at Geoff's and needed to calibrate his oven before making anything delicate, I started with a double batch of magic cookie bars. These are incredibly easy cookies to make - my sister has been making them since she was about five. They're also quite a crowd pleaser and are always the first to disappear from cookie plates.

Without further ado, here is the recipe:

Magic Cookie Bars

Ingredients
½ cup butter
1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 6oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
1 cup chopped nuts

Directions
Preheat oven to 350F. In a 13"x9” pan, melt butter in oven, then sprinkle crumbs over butter.* Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumbs. Top with remaining ingredients; press down. Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned. Wait until the cookies have fully cooled to cut into bars (you can also freeze them for a few minutes before slicing). Store at room temperature.
*Since the butter can burn if left in the oven too long, you can melt the butter in the microwave instead and just pour it into the pan.

In other news, my little corner grocery had Meyer lemons yesterday! I've never had them before, but since I've heard they're the best for baking, I had to get some. I haven't decided what to do with them yet, but I'm really looking forward to trying them.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pillow Kitty

Before I get onto today's post, Mark (TBT) of Mark's Mews, you're one of the cookie winners, so please email me (link on sidebar) your mailing address so that I can send your cookies.

Moving right along...

These pictures are not the greatest, but the cats were being so ridiculous that I'm sharing them anyway.

I've mentioned Melly's love of pillows, but it was recently discovered that she also likes being under them. Scarlett found this curious.



Scarlett settled in next to Melly for further investigation.


Unfortunately for Scarlett, Melly is still a pest when under a pillow.



Monday, December 13, 2010

That cannot be comfortable




After a crazy busy weekend, I haven't had a chance to put together any elaborate cat posts or the baking posts, but I should be able to get back in the swing of things this week. In the meantime, I'll be putting up some posts I had saved.