one skillet lunch

February 28, 2010

I love it when I can make a meal with one skillet. Especially when the skillet is cast iron, and doesn’t require a lot of cleaning…

I was working on a project this morning, and when it got time to make lunch I realized that I didn’t have too much time. I wanted something hot, and so I rummaged around in my fridge and pulled out a handful of rainbow chard, a carrot, and some cheese, and olives. I made a grilled cheese sandwich, and on the other side of the grill I sauteed my chard with olives. It was a yummy treat, and so pretty to look at!

soup for bait.

February 26, 2010

Sometimes it is rather tricky to get my mom over to my house. Especially in the winter, when it is cold (14 degrees), snowy (I can’t even drive down my little lane..), and dark (8 pm).

But, when I have a jar of home-made soup, and a promise to heat it up, she does somehow make it over. My dad and I made dinner for some friends of his, and I made soup from a wonderful soup cookbook, Vegetable Soups, by Deborah Madison. My mom brought the cookbook home from the store a few days ago and we have made two delicious soups from it already. (She made a black bean soup with cumin, lime, and cilantro.) I saved a jar of soup for my mom, and heated it up for her when we got home.

I started the soup with a bunch of fresh vegetables, and made a stock. I like to make home-made stock, although sometimes I just don’t have the time to do it. This particular soup calls for chickpeas, so I added the chickpea broth (made with garlic, onions, bay leaves, parsley, and peppercorns) to the soup as well.

The main ingredients were broth, chickpeas, and farro (for which I substituted soaked spelt, with a slightly chewier result).

We garnished the soup with fresh parsley, olive oil, salt pepper, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten things up.

Anyways, I got home, heated up the jar of soup, gave my mom an eider down comforter, and the hot soup.

Here is attempt number one of Tunisian crochet. I have been meaning to get around to this for a while. This morning, when I got into work, I grabbed a ball of Peaches and Cream multi colored yarn, and a wonderful crochet hook with a long cord (also known as an afghan hook). The stitches are worked back and forth on the right side of the work, picking up the horizontal loops while working to the left, and getting rid of them as you work back to the right.

The long cord attached to the end of the hook comes in handy when you start accumulating the stitches. If you were working a small item, you probably wouldn’t even need the cord!

I made a pot holder of sorts, although it might need to be double thick for it to be really useful. It looks pretty crafty, and now I am now motivated to try the technique with linen, or hemp, to make some placemats. I also want to try it with an assortment of hand dyed yarns to see what happens with the variegation.

Some days I just love my job! Especially when it requires me to do “product development.” Hehehe..

More socks…I just started another pair of two socks at once on one set of double point needles. One sock is knit with the yarn held in the left hand, and the other sock is purled with the yarn held in the right hand. The pattern is in an Piecework Magazine, and has been recently re-released in their single issue magazine Knitting Traditions, which is awesome! My favorite bit about this particular pattern is that it has been referenced in many old knitting magazines as well as in War and Peace! That was all it took to get me inspired! That and the possibility to do something new and tricky, involving socks.

Maybe too tricky…

I cast on for both socks at the same time, using my right hand and left hand mirroring each other to cast on.

The right sides of the cast on edge were on the outside, and the wrong sides were together, so I had to twist the stitches so that they were opposite, as the socks are knit with the right sides together. I got through the cast on and knit 2 purl 2 ribbed border with several mishaps, and learned to make sure and check my work REGULARLY so as not to accidentally connect the two socks…

The purled sock is a little bigger, and I am worried that my gauge is significantly different from knitting continentally to purling English style. I am going to keep on working on it for a while and see what I can do…

Fast forward a few days..

I ripped out socks numbered one and two, as I am pretty sure that I would have had two distinctly different sized socks if I had continued. The purled sock (on the outside), worked with the yarn in my right hand, was coming out much larger.

I also decided that I would like the socks to be ribbed the whole way down. This means that I would have had to constantly be switching between socks, as well as stitches, which is tricky! It didn’t make sense for me to spend that much time tinkering with this particular project. I ripped out the socks, and switched to one sock at a time.

I finished one very orange sock, measured the amount of yarn that I had left, and re-knit the top and grafted the new part onto the old. There is a bit of a line where I grafted the two parts together, but this way I can use all of the yarn in the ball, and have super long ribbed socks. They come about 2/3 of the way up my calf!

Of course I have one finished sock, and one sock 1″ of the way finished…

I haven’t given up on the two socks at once on one set of double points. I am going to try again, this time using a multicolored yarn, and work really hard to keep my purl stitches tight. Will post when I do!

Heli and I made dosas this morning. She has been wanting to make them for a while, so when I came up to visit, I brought a huge jar of urad dal from my mom. It is a type of “peeled” dal.

Last night we soaked a cup of dal and a cup of rice in separate dishes. First thing this morning we ground the rice and dal.

After they were ground (the dal more finely than the rice), we mixed them together and set them out to ferment for an hour.

Meanwhile, we got the potatoes started. (For the masala part of the dish…)

We boiled potatoes, and then added them to a mixture of oil, onions, spices, and hot pepper. While they cooked, we started working on the dosas.

Heli and I have never made dosas before. Just a disclaimer. So we didn’t have our hopes set too high for the success of our “paper-thin” rice and dal pancakes. Attempt one below…

Ok…so we thinned the batter considerably, tried different utensils, switched to silicone, and then back to the stainless steel, played around with the heat until we found the optimal temperature and when we were suitably satisfied with the cooking conditions, we had made enough dosas…

So We had masala dosas, but more like potatoes wrapped in nice little scraps of dough. They tasted good though!

A finished dosa with potatoes, cucumber carrot raita, and home-made lemon pickle.

Sometimes I like to make two socks at the same time. There are benefits and drawbacks, but overall, I enjoy the process and it seems to keep me entertained. Back to the Valentines day theme (I love a holiday that involves pink, red, orange..), I was feeling inspired to make another pair of pinkish socks. And this was a yarn that I haven’t seen worked up. It is a trekking yarn, made in Germany by Skacel, and this particular variety is 80% wool, 20% bamboo (or something like that). I haven’t made socks with bamboo yet, and I love trekking yarns, so thought this might be fun. We only ordered one bag of this yarn for the store and I couldn’t help myself!

Knitting two socks at once feels like it takes a little longer. Sometimes it seems like the process takes twice as long, as each sock is knit on every round. But at the end, both socks are finished! Kind of a Big Deal! (seriously..) I set up my socks so that the yarn is coming from the inside of the ball for sock number one, and from the outside of the ball for sock number two. Sometimes this involves snipping and weighing the yarn, but in this case I made the socks reverse, and didn’t bother to adjust where they started. Its fun to be random on where the self striping yarn starts. (Its also fun to be selective.)

The socks are cast on, one at a time, and then knit, one row on sock one, one row on sock two. I am working the heels, first the flaps, one row on each. The heel is turned, one sock at a time. For picking up and knitting the gusset, the socks are then worked one round sock one, one round sock two. The gusset always feels like it takes forever for me. And when there are two socks at once thing, it takes forever times two. After the heel is all the way turned, I usually feel like I am home free. The rest of the foot and toe work up quite quickly, and as a project nears the end it seems to pick up speed as well. (Maybe some sort of terminal velocity thing…)

And so, knitting two socks at once does sometimes save me in the end. I have two socks, instead of one lingering sock, sadly waiting for its match.

fresh iowa greens in february

February 13, 2010

We are members of a wonderful CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in Fairfield, and enjoy fresh greens every week. It is one of the things that makes this whole winter thing a little more doable.

My mom and I get a box every week, and sometimes we have a little trouble eating anything…everything is just so beautiful and fresh, and we want to save it! (She often nibbles a little, but wants to save some for me, and we don’t always getting around to cooking or eating together.) Kind of silly, but oh well.

So this morning, as we were baking cookies, I dug through the fridge and found a few gems that we had not eaten. My mom came up with the idea to make a little casserole. She is such an inspired cook. You could probably give her a basket of vegetables, and she would turn whatever she was given into something fresh and delicious!

The base for the casserole is steamed greens: chard, kale, beet stems, and spinach. She placed the steamed greens into several baking dishes, drizzled with olive oil. On top of the greens she put mashed potatoes (cooked quickly in the pressure cooker), and finished the top with grated prairie breeze cheese (from Milton, IA).

It was a quick delicious casserole, fresh with the greens, but hearty with the potatoes (made with organic sour cream) and cheese.

To go with the casserole, she made a salad of lettuce, and ridiculously fresh arugula, topped with avocado, grapefruit sections, and carrot ribbons. YUM!

So if you ever find yourself with a produce drawer filled with yummy greens, this is a great meal to use them up and really ENJOY them. Thanks to my mom, of course!

valentine hearts

February 13, 2010

My mom and I made these this morning. She has been making these for Valentines Day for as long as I can remember. The cookies are sweet, but not too sweet, because of the chopped almonds. The pink frosting with almond extract is delicious. And the fresh taste of raspberry jam in the center completes them. This actually might be my favorite cookie. There is something about making a cookie once a year that makes it extra special. I like to make these and pass them out to friends on Valentines day.

When I made it over to my mom’s house this morning, she had all the ingredients measured out, cooking show style.

The cookie dough is a simple mixture of the usuals. Butter, flour, nuts, sugar, etc. I like to make assorted sizes (we got carried away and only made one size this year..), but nothing too big as the cookies are double layered. Too big and there is just too much cookie.

We first chopped the nuts, rather coarsely in the food processor. Then we creamed butter and sugar, added vanilla and sour cream (egg replacement), and finally the flour. The dough is rather dry and crumbly, but you don’t want it too moist, or it will turn a little cake like and the cookies won’t be as crisp.

My mom rolled all the cookies out.

She was really good at jiggling the dough with the spatula to separate the cookies from the surrounding dough.

Once the cookies were cooled, it was time to spread them with jam, and make little cookie sandwiches. I saved a jar of homemade raspberry jam that I made this fall for the center layer. I put on just enough to make the cookies stick, making sure that nothing dripped down the sides of the cookies.

It is important to jam the undersides of the cookies together. They stick better that way, and then the outside of the cookies look better too!

The icing is made with powdered sugar (we used the natural stuff, even though it is a little more “home-made” looking), almond extract and vanilla. To give it color, we chopped up some beet stems and boiled them for a few minutes in water. Then we added the colored water to the icing, adding a little extra powdered sugar to stiffen it up.

The icing is carefully applied to the top of the cookie with the back of a spoon (another trick I learned from my mom…).

The whole jam and frosting part took for ever!

And always, last step is to wrap the cookies up in parchment paper packages. This particular grouping is ready to go to the post office!

kimchee (finished)!

February 11, 2010

Quick update.

I opened my jar of kimchee today. According to my recipe it said 3-6 days sitting, depending on how sour you like it. A much quicker turn around time than its Western counterpart (sauerkraut)! I was kind of excited to try the finished product, so I called it finished after 3 days. And to be honest, it doesn’t change much in color, and seems to mellow somewhat in flavor. Actually, mellow isn’t really the right word. Maybe more like the flavors come together. My kimchee ended up very spicy, very garlicy, and full of ginger! A perfect combination to keep healthy in this cold weather.

It is really spicy though, and Heli suggested for me to eat the kimchee with a fried egg or rice to cut the heat. (definitely helps!) I am really excited to try making a batch of kimchee with some other greens, such as bok choy, more kale, and other assorted items that I get from my CSA share.

center pull ball

February 9, 2010

My mom taught me how to make these. There are times that you need a ball of yarn that can be pulled from both the inside and outside. I really like to wind my balls of yarn by hand, and this particular technique makes it possible to have both a hand wound, and center pull ball!

Start by taking off the ties that bind the hank. It is important to take care not to tangle the ball of yarn, as this can quickly turn into a disaster. (Never knit from an unwound hank of yarn!!)

I lay the yarn on the floor, sometimes on the back of a chair, or over my toes, to keep the threads straight.

The yarn is wound around the thumb. I hold the inside tail with my fingers so that it doesn’t get lost, and start winding around first the thumb and one finger, and then add more fingers as I go.

It is really important to keep the ball soft, not super tight. I find that wrapping the yarn around my fingers and then slipping them out every few wraps to work well for this.

As the ball gets bigger, I wrap around more fingers, to keep the tension of the ball even. If the ball is too tight, it could result in stretching the yarn, which can result in altering the tension of the finished product.

I keep rotating the ball every 10 or so wraps. This is to keep the structure and integrity of the ball. If you wrap too many times in one place, the ball can come apart more easily. It is better to do fewer wraps, and rotate a little each time (kind of like a machine made ball).

After a while the thumb begins to dissappear. This isn’t a problem, just as long as you keep the base of the thumb defined..

I eventually end up wrapping 3 or 4 of my fingers under the yarn as I go.

It is always fun to watch the ball get larger as the hank of yarn shrinks. It is especially important to make sure that the hank does not become tangled towards the end. (It is tricky to untangle yarn with a large ball of yarn attached to your thumb too…)