Right before Christmas I stopped by my friend Dolores’s house to drop off some fabric, and she sent me out the door with a batch of freshly made buttermilk oat farls (similar to a scone or biscuit). They were delicious, and I have been wanting to make them ever since. They are dense, tangy, and the perfect thing to eat with butter and jam, warm out of the oven.

The rolled oats are soaked in buttermilk overnight, and the farls are very moist and buttermilky as a result. If you love buttermilk and oats, you will probably love these.

The dough is shaped into a circle, and then cut into 4 or 8 pie wedges (Dolores shapes her’s into a square, and then into 8 triangles). I made mine round because I used my round cast iron pizza pan, as all my cookie sheets have migrated to my mom’s house. I patted the dough right onto the pan, cut it carefully, and slid the pieces apart. It worked well. I didn’t preheat the pan, so I was a little worried that the biscuits wouldn’t cook as well on the bottom, but they turned out golden on the top as well as on the bottom.

Here is the recipe, pretty much exactly as Dolores told it to me.

2 cups rolled oats (not instant!)

1 1/4 – 2 1/4 cups buttermilk

2 1/2 cups sifted flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

Mix oats with 1 1/4 cups buttermilk. Make sure to cover, and let stand overnight.

In the morning. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter baking sheet. Stir flour, salt, and baking soda together in a small mixing bowl. Gradually beat flour mixture into oats to form a soft dough, adding more buttermilk if necessary (it probably will be). Shape dough into flat circle, about 1 inch thick. Cut dough into quarters or eighths, and place on cookie sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden.

They are best when served warm, and can be kept warm by placing in a dish lined with a teatowel, in a warm oven, or by the stove. They can also be reheated quite easily in a toaster oven or regular oven!

hot potato

January 25, 2010

I’ve been eating a lot of pretzels with slices of locally made cheddar cheese (prairie breeze, from Milton) and Patak’s Hot Lime Relish. Tonight I was still craving the taste, but wanted something a little more dinner like, so I switched the pretzel out for a potato.

And added some green onion, sliced jalapeño, and cilantro. And of course a dollop of butter. It was yummy, and definitely a welcome change from the pretzels.

Wash and prick potato (russets are good), stick it into a 400 degree oven, and let bake until tender. (Can’t remember how long..) While the potato is baking, chop some green onions (about 1 per potato), a little bunch of cilantro, and the tip of a jalapeño, and mix them up a little on the cutting board.  Add a good amount of butter to the potato first, so that it melts, and then add the chopped green mixture and cheese. On top of all that add a big spoon of lime pickle (to taste!). This might taste good with yogurt as well (instead of the more traditional sour cream).

bright and fluffy down

January 22, 2010

I have had an old (turns out really old) down comforter floating around my house for a while. I use it when it gets really cold, as one of the many layers on my bed. It is white, has no cover, and is a little funny looking, with rubberbands tying up holes here and there. I guess that it hasn’t really been my favorite blanket to use. Swati brought me some beautiful batik fabric from Cambodia (originally frim Indonesia) this fall, and I spread the piece out on my bed a few weeks ago, and it was a nice bright change for the room. I asked for a second piece of fabric from Swati, and sewed them together to make a nice little reversible coverlet for the comforter.

The comforter it turns out was a wedding present from my grandparents to my parents, and has somehow managed to last a long time! According to my mom, the reason that it is now kind of small and downless is that it kept on being divided, as there were more various children and beds to cover. This might be the last of the Swiss down…

All I did to make the cover was to sew the two rectangles of fabric together. That is it. It took about 30 minutes to sew and adjust and sew, to complete the project. To keep the comforter from moving around all over the place I sewed ties onto the comforter and the cover, on all 4 corners.I attached the 4 corners before I stuffed the comforter into the opening at the top.

The finished product isn’t particularly big, and has lumps here and there, but it is bright and cozy, and makes me happy. A quick fix for a sunless day (or week…).

hoodless wonder

January 22, 2010

I finished the tomten hood a few days ago, grafted the top stitches, and then decided that it was too much…too heavy, and bulky, and I wasn’t even sure that I would use it. I love hoods, but the idea of a knitted hood, potentially not very windproof, and possibly saggy, had to go. I went back to knitting the stand up, possibly flop down collar, and it worked out really well. I am now kind of obsessed with wearing this sweater/coat. I feel like it is a bit of a sheep wrapped around me. Toasty warm!

To finish the coat, I made a collar that is about 8 inches long, and it folds over. I then picked up the stitches along both fronts and knit 6 rows (3 garter stitch ridges on the front) and then cast off. I was planning on adding a zipper to this, but I am now not so sure. I kind of like the idea of buttons or toggles of sorts. I will probably wear it around for a month or so before deciding…

Elizabeth Zimmerman has to have been one of the most amazing knitters ever. All the little features of this jacket come together so well. I particularly like the short row shaping in the back, which makes the back of the sweater just a few (important) inches longer, and keeps my back warm and covered!

Last night was a pho night. And being Martin Luther King, Jr. day we spent some time being thankful for him as well. Theo went to the library and picked up some books, cds, and dvds about Martin Luther King, Jr., and we ended up watching a documentary. I am always struck by how powerful he was. Such a great inspiration for justice and peace.

There is a little resturant in LA that makes vegetarian Pho. I like to go there when I am visiting, and last week I started wanting to make some pho on my own. Pho is actually Vietnamese beef soup, with rice noodles and lots of broth. So making vegetarian Pho, as my friend pointed out, is sort of like making pot roast without the roast… That said, our broth turned out really well, and the soup was delicious! I will definitely be making it again.

First step is to make the broth. I made a purple cabbage based broth, with carrots, onions, garlic, celery, and bok choy. I simmered everything for about 45 minutes and then strained the liquid. Because I made this last week, I put the broth into little ziplock bags and stuck it in the freezer for a few days. We also had a batch of winter broth that my mom made a few days ago for backup, in case we ran out of the purple broth.

Yesterday, when I got home from work, I took the bags of purple broth out of the freezer and started to make the “real” soup broth. Step one was to char the ginger in the wood stove. I went through several skewers before the ginger was suitably charred. Charring the ginger gives it a very distinct smell and taste.

Next was to dry roast the spices in the pan. This step helps release the flavor of the cinnamon, ginger, star anise, bay, and garlic. We went on a real hunt for star anise, and finally Jan at Everybodys found it behind the jar of Lavender flowers (in case you are looking for it there they DO have some!) After we had roasted the spices for a few minutes over medium heat, we added the purple broth, and let everything simmer on the wood stove while we chopped the vegetables.

I am not completely sure which vegetables are traditional, but we had a whole bunch of different things that we added. Sort of a composite of different pho recipes that I found online. From our local CSA we had some beautiful napa cabbage and baby bok choy. We shredded them and set them in bowls to be added to the broth at the table.

We also included dishes of bean sprouts, mint leaves, basil leaves, and lime. To garnish the top we added bowls of thinly sliced jalapenos, cilantro, and sliced green onions.

At the table, everyone got a bowl with some broth and then we added noodles, tofu, and vegetables.

Everyone’s bowl was distinct, and carefully mixed to taste.

We ate and ate and ate. It seemed to me that the broth was a little trick to get me to eat more and more vegetables.

neck cozy

January 14, 2010


I have had this ball of yellow/orange yarn floating around for several years. I think that I used part of it for something, but I can’t even remember…

A few days ago (back when it was really cold) I picked it up and started to make a neck cozy (a sort of scarf that isn’t too long, and buttons around the neck). I knit in seed stitch, on size 8 needles, and added a little cable up the side to keep me entertained while knitting. (After working on the garter stitch tomten jacket I needed something more engaging.)

The cable also worked to my advantage by stretching out the bottom of the scarf. It is now nicely shaped and fits around the base of my neck more easily, without my having to increase, or do any funky short row shaping!

I knit the scarf in super soft Malabrigo, and the seed stitch shows the subtle variations of color in the hand dyed yarn. I added a little scrap of green on the edge just for fun, and to use up one of my tiny scraps..

To finish the scarf I ribbed a few rows in knit 2 purl 2 ribbing, and then added buttonholes, and more ribbing. I sewed on 4 glass buttons from Germany (via At Home Store). They are brown and shiny, and add a bright little detail.

(Some people knit tea cozys, but I guess that I would be in the category of people who knit neck cozys.)

To download pattern, click here.

All our cold weather, and being stuck inside sick means that I finally got around to ripping out my trial (and error) tomten sleeves. The football shoulder and the too skinny sleeve are gone. I ended up with two sleeves, pretty much identical in dimensions, and a little on the big side. I decreased two stitches every 4 ridges, instead of every three as I was using a yarn with a smaller gauge than called for in the pattern. In hindsight, I think that I could have decreased every 4 ridges, and then every 3 ridges, and back and forth until I used up all the necessary stitches. I do like that the decreases ended right at the cuff though. It just happens to be a rather roomy cuff…

And now on to the hood! I have started the hood, but think that I might rip it out and redo it as well. I made it pretty much according to the pattern, although I grafted 4 stitches on either side of the shoulder instead of picking them all up. (image below)

If this hood doesn’t work, I think that I am going to go back and decrease a little around the back of the neck to create a smaller neck opening, and work from there. As the pattern goes, the neck seems to be rather large, and the hood will be a little less shapely than some. I am not sure if this will be a problem for me or not. I already have a large-ish jacket with big sleeves, and maybe a big hood won’t be so bad. (For this particular jacket, I am going for warmth over fit anyways..)

But for now, I am going finish what I have started and see how it goes, and then if I don’t like it, then rip it. It always helps to see what a project might look like finished, to get ideas about how to adjust it. I guess that I am a big fan of knitting and re-knitting.

I have had the idea for a while to make a pair of slippers out of some left over scraps from a blanket that I made my mom a few years ago. I carefully saved all the little balls of yarn in a plastic bin, in my old closet at my mom’s house. I was sick at home yesterday, and made a quick trip over to her house to raid the bin.

My original idea was to make a pair of sock like inserts that I could then wrap with leather for shoes. However, after making these, I decided that I liked the colors too much to cover, so I will have to make another, less charming pair for my original project…

I started with the sole. Made with scraps of of Lambs Pride yarn. Two strands of worsted (different browns), and one strand of bulky (red). The idea for the sole pattern was inspired by a pair of slippers designed by my friend Emmy. I did make a left and right sole though, following the shape of my feet as I knit the pieces.

To make the rest of the slippers, I organized my scraps into even piles. To do this, I used my handy dandy kitchen scale. I weighed each ball of yarn so that the two slippers would be approximately the same (stripewise). All the scraps for the tops of the slippers are from the blanket and are Manos del Uruguay yarns. A beautiful kettle dyed wool, and one of my favorites for felting because of the beautiful texture it produces once felted.

I picked up and knit the stitches around the base of the slipper, and then worked across the top, decreasing to shape for the top of the foot and instep. It took a bit of trial and error on the first slipper, and then I just needed to remember what I did for the second…there might be a few discrepancies.

Above are the slippers resting on the blanket that I made. (borrowed from my mom, with permission of course!)

Aaaand wash!

I popped the slippers into my top loading washer, on high heat, high agitation wash for about 10-12 minutes. I didn’t want them to be too felted, but I wanted there to be enough felting so that the slippers were sturdy and durable. The soles didn’t felt as much as the tops, but since I knit them more densely to begin with they worked out okay.

It is important to try the newly felted (and consequently soggy) slipper on before it dries. I like to make sure that the basic shape that I want is established, so the fibers dry as I would like.

I decided to have the slipper have a slit all the way up the inside. I am not sure if I will put a zipper or buttons, or simply sew it up… so many possibilities!

About 5 years ago I made a pair of fingerless mitts, adapted  from the pattern in Weekend Knitting, by Melanie Falick (one of my favorite knitting books). I knit them with Limbo super wash wool, and wore them all the time. I mean every day, or every other day throughout the winter. They are the most handy things to have if you are ever knitting, playing music, typing, or doing anything that requires the use of fingers in a cold environment. Last winter I dropped one of my mitts in to the wood stove, and decided that I might finally need a new pair. Of course that was last winter… I have continued to wear the same pair, one mitt shredding apart for this fall and winter. Last week I gave the remaining in tact mitt to a friend. Now it was really time to make a new pair! Today I had a little time off, and as it was really really cold outside, I spent a good amount of the day curled up by the fire, knitting. Oh how cliche…

After careful consideration, I was able to write the exact pattern for my mitts. (Because I had them for so long, I was rather attached to the exact design.) The mitts are knit back and forth on straight needles, using short rows to shape for the hand. It is a very simple pattern, with a bind off/cast on hole for the thumb, and a three needle bind off.

I added a row of single crochet at the top, and around the thumb, and two rows of single crochet at the wrist edge. I knit the sport weight yarn on a size 4 needle to give the finished product a firm, slightly dense feel. The tighter gauge helps the material hold up to lots of use.

Swati came to visit for Christmas, and she brought with her the idea for pumpkin soup. Joumou, a type of pumpkin soup, is traditionally prepared for Haitian Independence Day (incidentally New Years Day). Although it is traditionally served for breakfast in Haiti, we got around to eating it late in the afternoon, settled around the fire. We used several different recipes to come up with a yummy, vegetarian version of the soup. Probably a little different from the one Swati had in Haiti, but pumpkin soup all the same.

I started the soup with “winter broth” from The Greens Cookbook, by Deborah Madison. Winter broth is my absolute favorite comforting winter food. I added extra pumpkin (including seeds and peels) to the broth because it was intended for pumpkin soup. The main soup pumpkin came from the farmer’s market about 3 months ago! Talk about long-lasting. Swati rinsed the seeds and set them out to dry to save for my pumpkin patch next summer.

Then I sauteed a little onion in some olive oil and added cubed pumpkin, and winter broth to cover. I put the pot on the wood stove to simmer. When the pumpkin was tender, I pureed it and set it aside.

Meanwhile, I put a little oil in a new pot and added some freshly grated ginger, shallots, 2 cloves, and a few cloves of whole garlic, pierced with a knife. While these veggies cooked, I added celery, potato, and carrots, and a dried hot pepper from my friends garden!

After a few minutes I added some more broth and the pureed pumpkin and set the entire pot onto the wood stove to simmer until the veggies were tender. About 20 minutes, slowly boiling. Yum!!

In case you were wondering, the photos in this blog are particularly beautiful. Thanks to my resident photographer, Swati!