Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pumpkin goodness

I cannot get enough of pumpkin flavored things in the fall. And this recipe did not disappoint. The cookies are very cake-like, but get a nice crust on the outside. And the cinnamon glaze? Well, that's the icing on the cake.
I usually sneak in some whole wheat flour in cookies, but I was all out this time around. I added some quick cooking oats instead. Not a lot, but enough to give the cookie a bit of texture. Barely noticeable, but it's nice to know there is a bit of whole grain in there. I would imagine you could easily substitute half of the white flour for whole wheat.

Pumpkin Cookies with Cinnamon Glaze
(Adapted from Iced Pumpkin Cookies at allrecipes.com)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup quick cooking oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Cinnamon Glaze
2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients. Drop on cookie sheet by tablespoonfuls; flatten slightly.
  3. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove from heat and transfer to cooling sheets.
  4. While cookies are cooling, make the glaze. Combine confectioners' sugar, milk, melted butter, cinnamon and vanilla. Add milk as needed to reach the right consistency (thick but "dunkable").
  5. Allow cookies to cool, then dunk them top first into the glaze. Don't store the cookies in a closed container. They'll do fine out on the counter for a couple of days.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How I spent my summer vacation, Part I

My house is quiet. Really really quiet. The kids are in school. The pets are lounging in their favorite cozy spots. The hubby's at work. I'm here. Alone. Hold on, I'm taking a moment -

...Wow. This is kind of weird... and nice.

I realized about a week after all the busyness and craziness of summer were behind me that I still have a blog, which has been neglected since the start of the summer. I didn't really intend to take the summer off from blogging. Last summer, I had a bunch of blog posts with all the things I was up to creatively. But this summer, it kind of got pushed aside. With both kids starting school this year, I wanted to spend as much time as I could with them. That fuzzy sentiment started waning around late July when I heard the umpteenth fight over whose turn it was to play with Luke Skywalker/the red piece of sidewalk chalk/the giant stick in the yard/the sand bucket/the BIG shovel/the other shovel... you get the idea. I know, I know - bad mom. But thankfully, I had my little guy's 3rd birthday and a vacation to ready for, and then it was back to school mode through the start of school.

But I do have a few projects to share from the summer....

I made these guys for two birthday boys this summer. I'm not sure what to call them, since disembodied heads of Star Wars characters doesn't sound right. Stress balls? Hackysacks? No wait, please don't kick them. I don't know. I think they're kind of cute though. I winged the pattern for them, but I think they turned out ok. I'm going to try to replicate them for my kids, so when I do, I'll probably write down what I do.

I've got a few more projects I can't wait to share. I was able to finish most of my summer projects, and have a few recipes to share too. And I am blocking my Featherweight Cardigan as I type this, which is very exciting. I missed my goal of having it done by my vacation, but it will be a great sweater for the fall and spring.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What's for Dinner: Sticky Chicken Wings

I love when my kids surprise me. I made these Sticky Chicken Wings from Everyday Food for my husband and myself. For the kids, I made chicken nuggets. The reasoning was simple:  the recipe had too many kid strikes against it. First, the wings themselves. Visible bones are generally a huge turn off with my kids. Next, the "sticky" factor. It's borderline odd how much they dislike getting dirty while they eat. And anything that looks like it could get them dirty seems to be a deterrent for them. And then there are the ingredients - a jalapeno pepper? Fish sauce? I shudder to think of the reaction should they ask what was in the sauce.

So, I was quite pleased with myself that I had the foresight to make them something I knew they would approve of, while my husband and I enjoyed something I figured we would like. I set the plates down, and everyone started eating. My daughter was the first one to notice something was amiss.

Daughter: "What are you eating?"
Me: "Chicken wings."
Daughter: "They look good."
Me: "They are. Do you want to try one?"
Daughter: "Ok....(taking a tentative bite). Mmmm!" (stealing the wing from my hand)
Son: "I try one too!"
Me (eyeing the dwindling number of wings on my plate): "Oh... sure."
Son: "Mmm! Yummy!"
Daughter: "Why didn't you make us these?"

And so it goes. The chicken nuggets were no match for the sweet and salty wings. As an aside, I have never had wings turn out this well from my kitchen. They always seem to get watered down and rubbery. These came out of the oven with a truly crispy exterior and a rich glaze. I made it a dinner by serving them with brown rice and shelled edamame, but this would be a perfect snack for a game or party. I'll definitely be making these again - this time, for everybody.

Sticky Chicken Wings
from Everyday Food
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1-inch piece fresh ginger, smashed and peeled
1 serrano or jalapeno pepper, halved lengthwise
2 pounds chicken wings, cut in half at joint (wing tips removed)

1. Preheat oven to 300. In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, whisk together brown sugar, fish sauce, lemon juice, and soy sauce until sugar dissolves, 2 minutes. Add ginger, pepper and chicken wings; toss to coat. Arrange wings in a single layer.
2. Bake wings 1 hour. Increase heat to 450 and bake until sauce is reduced and wings are glazed, 30 to 35 minutes more, turning wings occasionally. Serve with additional sliced jalapeno, if desired.

Friday, June 3, 2011

In the Kitchen: Strawberry Shortcake Cookies

Strawberry season is here! I love finding new recipes to make with all the delicious local strawberries out there right now. Of course, they're great for just eating fresh, but there are a lot of fun ways to use up all those berries.

This recipe came to me from Martha Stewart's Cookie of the Day e-mail, Strawberry Shortcake Cookies. It really is like a portable strawberry shortcake; the cookie itself is like a sweet biscuit. They were amazing - slightly crisp on the outside with a great biscuit inside -  on day 1, but by day 2 were a bit soggy. I'd suggest making them on a day or for an occasion where you know you will consume them all that day. The upside is that they are so easy to put together, it isn't a lot of trouble to make - and eat - them on the same day.

One more note: The recipe from the web site says it makes 3 dozen. I used a bigger scoop than called for and got 1 dozen. Whoops. I am an admitted sugar freak, but I thought the palm-sized cookies that resulted were a good serving size. And since they are best eaten that day, I think 12 larger cookies is much more doable than 3 dozen.

Strawberry Shortcake Cookies
from Martha Stewart Living

12 ounces strawberries, hulled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (2 cups)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2/3 cup heavy cream
Sanding sugar, for sprinkling
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine strawberries, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining 7 tablespoons granulated sugar in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, or rub in with your fingers, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in cream and strawberry mixture until dough comes together.
  2. Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment, spacing evenly apart. Sprinkle with sanding sugar, and bake until golden brown, 24 to 25 minutes (this might take longer if you make the larger size). Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool. Cookies are best served immediately, but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What's for Dinner: Greek Quinoa Burgers

Quinoa. I feel so pretentious just saying it. Keen wah. Keen wah. Fun. Oh well - it's a tasty and versatile protein. So there. I've been wanting to make more with quinoa for a while now, ever since I tried and loved this quinoa and walnut stuffed red pepper recipe, which I subsequently lost. (On a side note, I'd love to make that recipe again, so if anyone knows of something that sounds like it or close to it - it had parmesan cheese as well, I think? - please let me know!)

I really have no idea how I came across this recipe, but when I saw it was a vegetarian burger with some Greek influence, I knew I wanted to try it. My husband and I thought it was fantastic. The kids liked it to a certain extent as well, but were much more enthused about the pita that came with it.

A note about the recipe: It calls for a sauce to go on top made with Greek yogurt. I didn't make it. One of the benefits of having a Mediterranean grocery story in your neighborhood (Pitaland, for those in the area), in addition to amazing pita made on site - is an equally delicious prepared gyro sauce. I took full advantage. If you do go with the sauce in the recipe below, I'd add some dried oregano to it, perhaps in place of the scallions - I think it would really add to the taste.

Greek-Style Quinoa Burgers
from wholeliving.com

1/2 cup rinsed quinoa
1 medium carrot, cut in large chunks
3-6 scallions, thinly sliced
15 ounces great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Coarse salt
Ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

4 pitas (each 6 inches)
1 cucumber, thinly sliced diagonally
  1.  In a small saucepan, bring 3/4 cup water to a boil; add quiona, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook until liquid is absorbed, 12 to 14 minutes; set aside.
  2. In a food processor, pulse carrot until finely chopped. Add cooked quinoa, half the scallions, beans, breadcrumbs, egg, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; pulse until combined but still slightly chunky.
  3. Form mixture into four 3/4-inch-thick paties (dip hands in water to prevent sticking). If too soft, refrigerate 10 minutes to firm. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium; cook burgers until browned and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes per side.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, and the remaining scallions; season with salt and pepper. Serve burgers in pita topped with cucumber and yogurt sauce.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lazy afternoons... right.

My little guy has been fighting me tooth and nail on naps. It's made for a wonderful series of comical mishaps during our afternoons as we try to work though the whole "if you don't want to nap you need to stay in your room for some quiet time" thing. Broken mirrors! Foot after foot of tooth floss emptied out of containers! Missing keys! Headless toys! Cries for snacks every 15 minutes! Comical, right? I'm sure I'll look back on it some day that way. I hope.

In the meantime, though, it hasn't left much time for writing on my blog. I like to keep my evenings to actually making things instead of blogging about making things, so the afternoon nap/quiet time is the perfect time to sit down and write. Not so much the past couple of weeks.

But the making has continued, even if the blog has not. I've tried a few new recipes, which I can't wait to share, and I've got a new make - these very-cool-if-I-do-say-so-myself earrings, made with Habu Silk Stainless. I love them, and I can't wait to keep playing with this yarn.

I'll need to add a picture of me actually wearing them, but right now I've got the whole its almost 90 degrees outside and I've got no air conditioning look about me, so that will have to wait until later.

I need to get back to working on my Featherweight Cardigan. I am making some decent progress on it -- I'm currently working on the second sleeve. I had a bit of delay because of couple of my size 6 double pointed needles went missing (likely from the same imp mentioned above), but have since reappeared. My goal is to have it done by the first (official) day of summer.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What's for Dinner: Baked Maryland Lump Crab Cakes

This was probably the sixth or seventh crab cake recipe I've tried out - partly because I'm always looking for the perfect crab cake recipe, and partly because I forget which ones I've tried. The first time I tried making crab cakes, I hadn't really read through the recipe thoroughly. And I had no idea what all went into crab cakes. But I followed the directions diligently, and was whisking egg yolks and adding oil as I whisked away.... then it dawned on me that the recipe was having me make my own mayonnaise. Needless to say, that recipe was not used again (and I think I took much joy of shredding it into my garbage can).
This recipe isn't by any means the best recipe, but I liked that I was baking the crab cakes instead of frying them. Kind of makes the neon orange macaroni and cheese nestled beside the crab cakes not so terrible (ok, not really).

Baked Maryland Lump Crab Cakes
adapted slightly from Allrecipes.com

1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons Old Bay™
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 pound lump crab meat
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a baking sheet.
  2. Combine bread crumbs, baking powder, parsley, mustard powder, pepper, and seafood seasoning; set aside. Stir together mayonnaise, butter, Worcestershire, and egg until smooth. Fold in crab meat, then fold in bread crumb mixture until well blended.
  3. Shape mixture into 12 crab cakes, about 3/4 inch thick, and place onto prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, then turn the crab cakes over, and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until nicely browned.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Featherweight progress...

I wish I loved finishing projects as much as I love starting them. I'm about a third of the way done with my Featherweight cardigan, and it's going really well. I was getting a little bored with all the stockinette for the body, so I did one of the sleeves. The other sleeve opening is still on a stitch holder, so it's a little awkward to try on. But here it is - so far...

I am loving the yarn - the color, the feel, everything. And it is such an easy pattern to follow. But the stockinette is really boring. Really, really boring. My eye started wandering...

And I cast on for a Tropical Lily top for my daughter. I am happy to report that I'm using stash yarn for this project - some Lion Brand Cotton Ease originally bought for a sweater (I am determined to meet that pesky stash busting creative resolution). That was a few years ago - so there's no longer enough for a sweater at her present size. This summer tank seemed like a good match for it. The lace pattern is really easy to follow and is keeping my interest a little more. Well, at least until another project catches my eye.

Friday, April 29, 2011

What's for Dinner: Honey Pecan Crusted Chicken

Pecans, honey and chicken. My goodness, what a good combination. I've tried this recipe before using the original recipe, which calls for tilapia, but after a season of  fish frys, we were feeling a little fished out. The  chicken worked really well with it, with only a few modifications (a little time in the oven was necessary to make sure the chicken was cooked through). I served it with couscous and roasted carrots, but I think this recipe is really flexible - I imagine it would be just as tasty with pasta or on top of a salad.

Honey Pecan Crusted Chicken
adapted from Steamy Kitchen
6 to 8 chicken cutlets
3 tablespoons honey
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup crushed pecans
salt & pepper
3 eggs, beaten in bowl

Honey Glaze:
3 tablespoons honey mixed with 2 tablespoons hot water
3 tablespoons olive oil, for frying
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pat chicken cutlets dry. Using a brush, brush both sides of chicken with honey. Generously salt and pepper both sides of the cutlet.
  2. Combine the panko and crushed pecans. Lay out your ingredients in this order: chicken, egg mixture, panko/pecan breading. Dip the chicken in the egg, coat with panko/pecan breading on both sides, set aside. Repeat with all cutlets.
  3. Heat a large fry pan over medium heat. Add olive oil. Once the oil is hot, turn down to medium low. Add the chicken to the pan, make sure the cutlets don’t touch each other. You may have to do this in separate batches. Fry for 2 minutes until the underside is golden brown. Turn. Fry another 2 minutes. Transfer cutlets to a parchment lined pan and put in the oven until cooked through.
  4. Pour the honey glaze over the chicken.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What's for Dinner: Lighter General Tso's Chicken

We recently discovered, to our delight, that my formerly incredibly picky daughter has developed a taste for Asian food. This is indeed wonderful news for my husband and I, who have a serious appetite for it. I've been experimenting with more recipes as a result, and this one was a big hit.

The sauce, made with fresh ginger, was a standout. You can adjust the heat level to your taste - I kept it pretty mild for the kids. While it's not exactly like what you might get at a Chinese restaurant, this General Tso's has enough of the flavors to make it a passable substitute for the real - and much unhealthier - thing.

Lighter General Tso's Chicken
from Everyday Food  
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 pound snow peas, trimmed and halved crosswise
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated and peeled
3 tablespoons light-brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes (more or less, depending on your taste)
2 large egg whites
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower
  1. In a large bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1/2 cup cold water until smooth. Add snow peas, garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, and red-pepper flakes; toss to combine, and set aside.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together egg whites, remaining 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken, and toss to coat.
  3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Lift half the chicken from egg-white mixture (shaking off excess), and add to skillet. Cook, turning occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with remaining oil and chicken, and set aside (reserve skillet).
  4. Add snow-pea mixture to skillet. Cover; cook until snow peas are tender and sauce has thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet (with any juices); toss to coat. Serve with rice.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What's for Dinner: Ziti with Asparagus, Smoked Mozzerella and Prosciutto

I love asparagus. I love mozzarella. I love prosciutto. So when you combine the three of them together? Perfection. This recipe, from Giada De Laurentiis' Everyday Italian, is my absolute favorite recipe from her books. It is wickedly easy to prepare, with minimal ingredients and minimal clean up. The asparagus cooks with the pasta, and then it's all tossed together with prosciutto and fresh basil. Smoked mozzarella (yes, did I mention this is smoked mozzarella? One word: scrumtrulescent) and some of the pasta water combine to create a wonderfully silky sauce.

It is a perfect weeknight meal. Fast, simple and delicious. You need to make this. Now.

Ziti with Asparagus, Smoked Mozzarella and Prosciutto
from Everyday Italian

8 ounces dried ziti or other tubular pasta (I used penne)
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
3 ounces smoked mozzarella cheese, diced (about 1/2 cup)
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut crosswise into strips
3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
  1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the ziti and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the asparagus and cook until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite, and the asparagus is crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Drain the pasta and asparagus, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
  2. In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add the pasta, asparagus, 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and the 1 cup of reserved cooking liquid, and toss to coat. Remove the skillet from the heat. Add the mozzarella, prosciutto, and basil and toss to combine. Season with more salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the pasta to shallow bowls and serve. (Serves 4.)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sweater Wars IV: A New Hope

I really shouldn't be looking for patterns to use with yarn that is already in sweater form, right? But I can't stop myself. I am leaning toward frogging my Radiate sweater. I keep looking at it, and I just don't think the yarn is right for the pattern. The yarn has a nice drape to it, but in this sweater, it looks a bit droopy and floppy, especially in places where you really do not want droop or flop.

I came across this pattern first - the Heliotropic Pullover in the Spring 2011 issue of Interweave Knits.

I think it caught my eye because it has a similar slipped rib pattern, although on this top it has a nice radiating look. I also prefer that it is done on stockinette, versus the reverse stockinette on the Radiate. It's knit in the round, which would be a nice departure from all the straight needle knitting I've been doing lately. I think the stockinette a-line would be a good match for the yarn as well.

But... this pattern is done with a lighter, DK weight yarn. My yarn, Berroco Weekend, is worsted weight. I can try to use smaller needles to see if I can match the gauge, but I don't know how that might impact the drape of the yarn if it is knit on smaller needles. This is where being a novice at all this sweater knitting stuff is really causing problems.
As I'm contemplating all of this, KnitBits - Berroco's weekly e-mail newsletter pops up in my e-mail, and it is featuring a free pattern for Weekend yarn.

The pattern, Quonset, is a button-free cardigan, and I kind of like it - though not at much as the pullover. But this one would definitely work for my yarn because it's written for the yarn. I'd want to knit the sleeves a little longer to 3/4 length. I don't know why, but that length really draws attention to her elbow skin. Yes, the appearance of flabby elbow skin is important when considering sleeve length. Make a note of it.

In the meantime, I'm moving on to another sweater project - my second attempt at a Featherweight Cardigan. I'm using a beautiful yarn I picked up at the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival - Abuelita Baby Merino Lace. And this time, I am keeping it stored away where nothing can damage it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What's for Dinner: Pad Thai with Grilled Chicken

I love Thai food, so I generally jump at the chance to enjoy it whenever I can, even if it means making it myself. When I came across this recipe for Vegetable Pad Thai in Everyday Food, I knew I'd have to try it out. The magazine paired it with an Asian Beef Salad, but we're not huge beef eaters. Grilled chicken seemed like a good alternative.

I'm happy to say that everyone loved it. The recipe was really easy, and very flexible. I omitted the scramble eggs, and next time, I think I'll add some carrots, mushrooms and peppers to the noodles.

Vegetable Pad Thai
from Everyday Food

8 ounces dried, wide, and flat rice noodles
2 tablespoons dark-brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus wedges for serving
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 scallions, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 large eggs (optional), lightly beaten
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped roasted, salted peanuts
  1. Soak noodles according to package instructions. Drain. In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar, lime juice, and soy sauce.
  2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add scallion whites and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add eggs (if using) and cook, scraping skillet with a rubber spatula, until eggs are almost set, about 30 seconds. Transfer egg mixture to a plate. Add noodles and soy-sauce mixture to skillet; cook, tossing constantly, until noodles are soft and coated with sauce, about 1 minute. Add egg mixture and toss to coat, breaking eggs up gently. Serve noodles with lime wedges, topped with scallion greens, cilantro, and peanuts.

Monday, April 11, 2011

If you want to destroy my sweater...

I have a bit of a secret. I finished my sweater. The sleeves are seamed. The button and buttonhole bands are done. The buttons are sewn on. Everything is finished, short of weaving in the ends. And here's where the much darker secret comes in. I think... I... really dislike this sweater. And I'm ready to cry over it. I don't want to weave in the ends because that means I'm truly finished with a sweater that I am really not happy with. The buttonband seems too loose, and it has that oh-so flattering button gaping going on. I'm not happy with the length although I added several inches to the pattern. Will blocking fix this? Should I try it? And if I am still not happy with it, is the yarn even salvageable? The mere thought of frogging this thing and starting another sweater with this yarn sends my stomach into somersaults.
I am thinking that if I just get rid of the buttons, I might be happier with it just being an open cardigan. Or maybe just one button at the top? I don't know. I need to think about it.
In the meantime, look at this. I am ashamed. So... ashamed...

Sure, I tell myself that I need to stop buying yarn. That I need to use what I have first. And then Sugar'n Cream goes on sale for a buck each, and wham - I'm buying 12 balls of it. The colors just looked so bright, I thought they'd be great for market/beach bags. Do I need four brightly colored market/beach bags? That question is best left unanswered.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

What's for Dinner: Fish Tacos

Last week was my birthday, so my goal was to cook as little as possible. I was actually quite successful in that endeavor, but it doesn't make for a lot to post about. I did have a few meals I prepared-- starting with this recipe. It's not really a full on recipe per say. It starts with already prepared panko breaded tilapia. I get mine at Costco -I love having them on hand. I added a creamy lime sauce from Everyday Food, some shredded cabbage and prepared ranchero sauce.

On the side, I have Mexican rice, based loosely on this recipe from Allrecipes.com. After making this, I will never go back to a box of Mexican or Spanish rice again.

Fish Tacos with Creamy Lime Sauce
4 panko breaded tilapia fillets, cut in half diagonally
8 corn tortillas
1/4 head of green or red cabbage, shredded
1/4 cup sour cream
1 lime, half finely zested and juiced, half cut into wedges
Hot sauce, such as Tabasco
Prepared salsa or ranchero sauce
  1. To make the lime sauce, combine sour cream, lime zest and juice, and a few dashes hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. To prepare the tacos, warm corn tortillas one at a time in a nonstick skillet set at high heat, until they are soft and flexible. Fill with 1 tilapia piece, and top with cabbage, lime sauce and salsa. Serve with lime wedges, if desired.

 Mexican Rice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
1 teaspoon cumin (can go less on this, depending on your love of cumin)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 chicken bouillon cubes 
  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add rice. Cook, stirring constantly, until puffed and golden. While rice is cooking, sprinkle with spices and salt. 
  2. Stir in tomato sauce, 2 cups of water and bouillon cubes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Friday, April 1, 2011

What's for Dinner: Cashew Chicken

I have tried at least a half dozen versions of Cashew Chicken,  both from recipes and thrown together based on what I had on hand. This time around, I opted to dust off a cookbook I've rarely used - Rachel Ray's 30-Minute Meals - and try out her version.

As a rule, I do not like Rachael Ray recipes. I will admit that I have enjoyed food produced from Rachael Ray recipes, but not enough to really try a lot of her recipes out. I tend to like a lot of order to my recipes. I am not one for pouring a couple of glugs of anything into a recipe. My glug might be different than your glug. Give me tablespoons. Give me cups. Don't give me glugs. I need exactness.

Still, when I first received the book and thumbed through it, I made a note that she had her own version of Cashew Chicken -- the name so cutsie, I refuse to post it here. Not into cutsie in my cooking (baking excluded - give me a bunny shaped cake anytime). Yet another strike against her.

But you know what? It turned out great - definitely one of the better Cashew Chicken recipes I've made at home. I'll admit that I was a little heavy handed with the Sriracha on my portion, but it was a decent recipe that actually took about a half hour altogether, even with the chopping involved (I haven't been so lucky with the few other recipes I've tried - a two hour "30 Minute" Chicken and Dumpling recipe springs to mind). As a bonus, the kids loved it too. I'll be holding onto this one. Here's the recipe - glugs removed.

Cashew Chicken
(adapted slightly from Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Meals)

1 cup jasmine Rice
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced & mashed
2 tablespoons rice wine, rice vinegar or dry sherry (I used rice vinegar)
2 pinches crushed red pepper (more or less to suit your taste)
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon oil (recipe called for sesame oil, but I've always read that it's more of a flavoring oil, not a cooking one)
1 large carrot, peeled and diced into small cubes
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 can (7 oz) sliced water chestnuts, drained and coarsely chopped
3 heaping tablespoons hoisin sauce
A couple of handfuls unsalted cashews
3 green onions, thinly sliced on an angle 
  1. Cook the rice according to package directions.
  2. In a large bowl, combine chicken with 1 tablespoon sesame oil, garlic, rice wine, crushed red pepper and black pepper. Set aside and let it hang out.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in wok or large nonstick skillet over high heat until it smokes. Add carrot and stir-fry for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the coated chicken and cook another 3 or 4 minutes. Toss in the bell pepper and water chestnuts. Heat through for 1 minute. Add the hoisin and a handful of the cashews and toss to coat evenly. Place chicken on a bed of jasmine rice and top with additional cashews and green onions.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

What's for Dinner: Shells with Roasted Cauliflower, Chickpeas and Ricotta

I had this recipe from a recent edition of Everday Food. I love chickpeas, and roasting them gave them a great slightly crunchy, nutty quality. I was a huge fan, but my famiy did not seem to agree, as most of the chickpeas on their plates stayed there. We've had -- and loved -- roasted cauliflower before, and I know there's a recipe for some type of pasta with roasted cauliflower that I've tried that was enjoyed more than this one. Lots of leftovers too - I have a feeling I'll be the only one enjoying them.

Shells with Roasted Cauliflower, Chickpeas and Ricotta
(from Everyday Food)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cut into florets
1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Coarse salt and ground pepper
5 ounces crusty bread, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (2 cups)
1 pound medium shells
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup fresh ricotta

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss together 2 tablespoons oil, cauliflower, and chickpeas; season with salt and pepper. Arrange cauliflower and chickpeas in a single layer and roast until cauliflower is tender and chickpeas are crunchy, 25 minutes. On another rimmed baking sheet, arrange bread in a single layer and toast until golden and crisp, 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add cauliflower mixture, 2 tablespoons oil, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. To serve, top with croutons and ricotta, then drizzle with oil.

Refocusing... a little

The other day I was scrambling to come up with a shopping list for the grocery store. Again. I do it every week, but somehow I always struggle with it. There are the basics I pick up every week - bread, milk, yogurt, juice - but when it comes time to plan out what I'll need for dinners that week, I struggle. In general the first thing I reach for when I'm putting together my list isn't my recipe box - it's the new food magazine or cookbook I've picked up. I'd much rather make a new recipe that's right in front of me than track down a recipe that I've used before.

That sounds really odd. But it's easier for me -- for some reason my mind suffers from memory loss when I think about those past dinners. There are some recipes that I've kept in mind, but many others I just can't remember. I've tried dozens and dozens of recipes and I have no clue where they came from, whether the kids liked them, or even if I wanted to make them again. I'll just have a vague recollection of a chicken recipe I liked, but nothing more. So I'll try out a new recipe for chicken, and then forget about that one too. I'll bet I've tried at least a dozen different recipes for macaroni and cheese, all from different sources, likely all bookmarked on my iPod or computer, but I have no clue which ones we really liked, which ones were not worth the effort, etc.

I was thinking about this last night and starting thing how helpful it would be to have a place to catalog the recipes I've tried, with a link or text of the recipe itself along with a few notes about the recipe, whether we liked it, if it was easy, if the kids enjoyed it. I was thinking I could start a new blog focusing on dinner and other recipes I'm trying, which would mostly be for me, but others might find use for too.

And then I thought, why not use this blog? My knitting and crochet projects aren't as frequent as I would like, certainly not often enough to  have a regular posts about them. I'm making dinner just about every night though, so it seems like it would be a good fit.

So I'll be adding something new to the blog, called What's for Dinner (I know... creative, right?). It will likely be every couple of days, with photos, a few notes and the recipe. Maybe you'll find some new recipes you'd like to try too.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Catching up

It's been a couple of weeks since the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival, but I still am feeling the creative burst of energy. I've been busy coming up with new projects, and working steadily on old ones. It's amazing what a weekend with crafty people will do for a lady.

This was my third time attending the festival, but the first time we actually made it an overnight trip, and the first time I took a class there. It was a great weekend. First, I was able to make some decent progress on my fourth "first knitted sweater" - Radiate from Knitty's spring 2009 issue. I'm to the point where I am actually thinking and believing that I will finish it. Look at it! I could bind it off now and have a... very weird cap sleeved bolero thing. But still a garment! It is very exciting to be this far along and not, a.) hate it, b.) have a mistake gnawing at me to the point where I must unravel the whole thing, or c.) be so bored with it that I must start something else. This is incredible progress, people.

The class I took was on needle felting. I have been wanting to learn this ever since last year's festival, when I came across a booth with all kinds of needle felting supplies and kits. It turns out that the booth's owner, Esther Bechler was the one teaching the class. If I had known how easy this was to do, I would have started the second after seeing her booth last year. It was a great class - and here's the project so far...

The bag itself is felted - it's a great (and free!) pattern from Knitting Daily. I made a couple of minor modifications - lengthening the handle a bit and removing the foldover button closure. I had no idea what I actually wanted to felt onto the bag, and then I came across a pattern book during our class with a lot of fun paisleys. The cloth in between the bag is a water soluble fiber - a great idea Esther came up with for those with less than desirable (or, in my case, NO) freehand skills. We traced our patterns onto this cloth, taped it on and went to work. I'm making progress, slow and steady, in between working on my sweater. I can't wait to see what else I can do with it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The best laid plans...

It's been a while. So there's one resolution down the drain. But you can always jump back on the horse, right?

I've been busy - really busy. And drained. I redid my bathroom. Tore up floors, laid tile, wainscoting, sink, etc. etc. It might be a subject for a future blog post when it's finally finished - likely on the reasons never to redo your own bathroom.
A few photos from early on in the process...
Almost gutted bathroom -
 the closest thing I have to a "before".

Finished floor

Elsewhere in the world of failed resolutions, my goal to reduce my yarn stash is not going so well. I finished the Hurricane Hat I made with the leftover yarn from my Clapotis. I don't know if I would say that I'm happy with it. On the one hand it was a fun pattern to follow, and it turned out to be a cute hat... on someone else. But after putting it on, I've decided I'm just not a beanie type hat girl. I like my slouchy type things, and I'm a little disappointed that with the amount of leftover leftover yarn. I could have probably just knit a slouchy thing all along.

The bathroom sink adds a nice touch, don't you think?
And then there is the opposite problem -- buying more yarn to use up my stash. It seems incredibly counterproductive. But I've done it twice so far. I finished one mitten using up a stash of Patons wool, and realized I'd need a second ball -- or one less hand -- to complete the project. Buying the second ball seemed a tad more realistic. And then I had another leftover ball of Patons, which I thought would be enough for a cute felted bag. Two rows from finishing, I ran out of yarn. Grr. So I bought more yarn for that as well.

I suppose the larger dilemma is how to best use all these little leftover balls. As I've mentioned previously, I'm cheap. And a pack rat. So I have a ton of little balls of yarn, sometimes a half a skein, more likely less. I can't throw them away. I... just... can't. Do people do that? I want to use them, but I want to use them in a useful way.
I do have much much more to blog about - it has been a month, you know. I'll be back soon with more.

Friday, January 7, 2011


I've never been one for resolutions. Ok, ok, I've made resolutions, so I'll rephrase. I've never been one for sticking to resolutions. I guess that's pretty universal - does anybody really? I resolve on January 1 to take better care of myself. And by January 4 I'm eating a bowl of Corn Pops and three - yes, just three - bites of chocolate cake for lunch. Not one of my better moments.

But I guess you have to keep trying. The chocolate cake went into the trash, and I spent the next day trying to declutter our family room - another one of those resolutions: get our house organized and decluttered. So as I'm going through the tangle of yarn, needles, hooks, beads and wire that resides in a basket by my couch - a literal tangle of all these things, mind you- I start to think that I really should be making some crafty type resolutions as well. Keeping better track of and organizing my supplies immediately springs to mind. But it seems the right time of year to set goals for myself creatively. And considering how knitting/crochet/crafty stuff somehow always seem to take priority over those other pesky tasks like, say, cleaning and organizing, perhaps these are resolutions I might actually be able to stick to.

So in no particular order, and off the top of my head.... this year, I want to:
  • Knit and FINISH a sweater for myself.
  • Explore colorwork a little more - work more with Fair Isle and try intarsia.
  • Start and hopefully finish a blanket for my son.
  • Work more with wire knitting and crochet.
  • Decrease my yarn stash by (gulp) half.
  • Learn needle felting.
  • Post at least weekly to my blog.
I think I like creative resolutions a lot more than the other kind. Now off to decrease that stash of mine - starting with a nice chunk of Brooks Farm Solo Silk leftover from my Clapotis.

So tell me, what are your creative resolutions?

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Now that the holidays are safely behind us, I can share some of the projects I've been working on - generally in a panic - throughout the past month and a half. As usual, I took on a bit more than I should have between everything else I want/need to do at Christmastime. So I've got to say, I was really proud of myself for getting everything finished and wrapped in time for Christmas.

French Press slippers
I knew right away that I wanted to knit a pair of French Press Slippers for my sister. These are slippers I've been coveting since I first saw them, and I knew they were her style as well. The pieces that make up the slippers are a wonderfully quick knit. The end result is very long and floppy and looks nothing like the photo. Until you throw them in your washing machine and the little felting gnomes come out with their little felting magic to take your weird floppy looking knitted... things and turns them into soft, felty, snuggly slippers. Thank you felting gnomes.

Coffee cuff
This cuff (pattern found here)seemed like a cute way to package a coffee shop gift card for my daughter's preschool teacher. And a nice quick knit too.

Felted clogs
The pattern is so clever. Somehow the entire slipper is one piece, with minimal seaming (much appreciated after all the seaming involved for the French Press Slippers). It was a lot of fun to see these come together. My first knitted gift for my mother in law.

Panda hat
I had gotten a cute panda outfit for my cousin's newborn daughter, but it seemed incomplete. Crochet to the rescue! In two evenings I had a matchy matchy panda hat.

I also made a crocheted wire bracelet for my mom, but completely forgot to photograph it before I gave it to her. Is it odd to ask someone if you can photograph their gift once it's gifted?

I'll have some big (well, big for me) crafty news coming up soon. I'm very excited for the start of the new year and some new projects. Happy 2011!