Archive for Crafts and Cooking

This has truly hacked my life.

It seems like 90% of the time, I skim through my Lifehacker feed without clicking a single link and question why I stay subscribed. And then I come across a post like this one that instructs you to Sift Out the Crumbs in a Cereal Bag with a Kitchen Strainer for a Better Last Bowl and they have me sucked back in for another month. The best thing is, you don’t actually have to follow the link since the whole “hack” is pretty much there in the title – if you have ever eaten cereal you get how it works.

Innovating Knitting

This knitting the weather project, wherein one selects a range of yarn colors to represent different types of weather, and then knit a row a day in the appropriate color, really appeals to me. I could see doing this for other types of record keeping as well, such as knitting a row each night for the number of hours I spent working that day, or how far I ran, or just a general quality-of-day-to-color mapping. But the low-tech data visualization aspect of it really tickles me.

But I already have an obsessive knitting project going – I am working through all of the patterns in the sampler in Knitting Lace. The patterns are gleaned from a mid-1800s German lace sampler. I’ve never knit with thread before, but I went with size 10 and it’s actually no harder than thread crochet. One clever thing I thought to do was to, between patterns, run a piece of contrasting thread through my stitches before starting the next pattern. This way, when I totally misunderstand the new pattern, I can easily rip back to my last stopping point without worrying about dropped stitches. I’m on pattern 13 right now and over halfway through a 1000 yard ball of thread – fortunately I am hooked or I would be starting to rethinking the magnitude of this project.

Same low protein, less chlorine

I am unreasonably excited that King Arthur Flour is coming out with an unbleached cake flour. I love their bread flour, and my entirely-uneducated-bias is against bleached flours. I’m really hopeful that this shows up in my local food store. Sadly, I cannot even find regular cake flour in my local food store, so my hopes are not too high. Anyone who live around me have suggestions of where I can get cake flour around here? My Cake Bible has been pouting at me every time I use regular all-purpose in a birthday cake, but I cannot bring myself to order flour over the internet.

Not really a recipe

I have been trying to get into the habit of taking a real lunch to work with me, and making up a batch of brown rice for the week that I can top with stuff seemed like a good idea – it would be filling and easy to throw together in the morning. Unfortunately, while I know brown rice is much better for me than white, I have not yet come around to liking the taste as much. So I decided I needed to make something aggressive enough to put on brown rice, while still being compatible with its flavor. I settled on making a spicy batch of vegetarian chili. Chili is fun, because I just go to the store and wander the aisles looking for stuff I want to throw in. Today, I ended up with:

  • a large red onion and a couple of cloves of garlic, sauteed together in olive oil until well cooked,
  • two huge carrots shredded finely, two green peppers, two “long hot peppers” (that is what the Giant Eagle called them – no idea what they actually were), and a cup of rehydrated TVP, all cooked in with the onion and garlic for about five minutes until softened,
  • two cans of kidney beans, a can of black beans, and two large cans of crushed tomatoes, brought up to a simmer,
  • a handful of oregano, basil, and chili powder, two handfuls of cumin, and about four chipotle peppers, after which the whole thing simmered through two periods of hockey.

The end result had a really nice texture (I chopped all my veggies very fine, and while I find TVP fairly flavorless I really like how it binds something like chili together) and a great flavor. It was also incredibly spicy; I have always associated chipotles with a smokey flavor, which the chili definitely has, and didn’t think about the added heat. I don’t mind, but this is definitely a chili to serve over something, not just to eat a bowl of plain. It also is an insanely huge batch of chili – I can never make a dish like this and not end up with enough for a week of meals and plenty to freeze. Fortunately, chili freezes wonderfully, and I am going to make up containers that I can thaw out and use to make up two or three lunches out of. Next time I would probably leave out the unknown hot peppers and remember to throw in shredded celery as well.

Holiday Baking

I always get overly ambitious with holiday baking, because while I enjoy doing it my first instinct is towards things like pies (for Thanksgiving) or cut out and decorated sugar cookies (for Christmas) that are yummy but fussy and time consuming. So I need to remember that there are recipes like this out there as well. It’s not as fancy as a pie, but this Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Nut Bread is both easy and delicious. A single recipe really will make three bread loaves so don’t double it up unless you have an insanely large mixing bowl and want to run two batches through your oven. I made a few muffins with some leftover batter and it works great for that too. This is getting printed out and put in my recipe box to pull out again in the future.

Reentering the competitive knitting circuit

I did not do as well in Sock Wars as I would have liked, in large part due to its unfortunate timing in the midst of finals (what time I gained in knitting while proctoring I lost working against the deadline for final grades). So I was excited to see that there is also a Hat Attack competition, which conveniently starts September 16th, which tends to be as much of a slow spot in the academic semester as you are going to find. Plus, hats are way quicker to knit than socks.And in this competition last knitter standing wins $500 worth of yarn! I’m all signed up and excited to go through my stash to find a good yarn to use – unlike in sock wars the required gauge is already up so you can swatch right away. Here’s to hoping I make it to the second round this time!

Too many projects

My goal for the summer is to end it with fewer projects, not more, but there are so many cute crafty projects out there that I keep running across. You can never have too many fun summer dresses, and I really like the shape on this jersey swing dress. The pattern is a bit vague though – I need to print it out and think about it before I try it. I like patterns that are more guidelines in theory, but there is something nice about the pin and cut on the lines types.
If you aren’t the sewing type, maybe you’re intrigued by the Altoids tin emergency candle. I have been collecting those tins for years but have pretty much exhausted my uses for them. This looks like a fun easy project.
What I would love to tackle is one of these patterns based on mathematical patterns. Some of the tessellations and fractal based ones are prettiest, but when you start reading the descriptions others like Counting Pane starting looking really interesting.
Most likely, I will put this adaption of Zimmerman’s baby sweater into adult size on the queue. I’ve had really mixed results with the sweaters that I have tried, but Zimmerman’s patterns are always very good, and the end result is super cute. I’m just trying to decide whether it would look good in a variegated yarn instead of a solid….

No really, lettuce soup????

I like to try to go to the local farmers market in the summer when I can, and it makes it easy to identify and buy locally grown produce, but it also makes it easy to identify what is currently in season locally. This is much more of a mystery at the food store, which makes the “peak-season” map at Epicurious of what is in season by region each month a nice tool. Besides learning that right now I ought to be focusing on asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, peas, spinach, and summer squash, I can also look up recipes for those ingredients. This Cauliflower Caraway Potato Soup looks really easy and yummy! And I definitely think I want to try making these Summer Squash Bread and Butter Pickles. However, my biggest temptation is to try the really odd sounding Lettuce Soup, for which I have all of the ingredients right now….

Start your needles….

I am very excited, because tomorrow I’m taking part in my first Sock Wars! It’s a single-elimination tournament where you assassinate your target by knitting and sending them a pair of socks before your assassin sends a pair to you. The sock pattern and target dossiers are being sent out tomorrow. I’m not the fastest knitter in the world and with it coming into finals, I’ll be pretty happy if I make it into the second round on my first time out. I went out and got my yarn and checked my gauge yesterday. I’m using this Sockotta yarn from Plymouth. I like knitting in the cotton/wool blend and I went with color pattern 6670 (one of the fair isle effect color patterns), which I think will knit up into pretty, bright spring socks. I’ll probably come back and post on my progress in the comments….

Dinner Reruns

There are a ton of memes like this, but I’m thinking of keeping my weblogging juices flowing by taking part in these Weekend Assignment weblogging prompts. It is contrived, but looking back the questions seem pretty good.
This week we are asked:

Weekend Assignment #201: To promote a new cooking show, a TV station is going to pay you $500 to eat the same basic meal every day for a week, prepared with only minor variations by their on-screen host. What’s on the menu?
Extra credit: Do you tend to eat the same thing all the time anyway?

For me, the answer to the extra credit pretty much answers the first question. I definitely get in food ruts where I eat the same thing for a week or two straight. I made a huge batch of Susie’s Green-Curry Shrimp last week and have been eating it basically every night since then, making up fresh rice in my microwave rice cooker as needed. I do that with stew and chili a lot also – I can eat either every night for a week easily, especially if it is within the “rules” (or, my own inclination to bake or go to the store) to have fresh bread or biscuits with it.
So, really, this doesn’t sound like a challenge at all so long as it is something I like okay. But, I’ve never understood people who didn’t like leftovers. There is a show on the Food Network right now that seems to be all about how to get three different meals out of the same ingredients and preparation processes – it just seems easier and no less appealing to make three times as much of the first dish and be done with it.