Knitting for Tiny People

I have not knitted much clothing in my short knitting career,  but recently decided to give a baby sweater a try! Plus, knitting for tiny humans is so much easier than the full-sized ones.

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This sweater was pretty easy! It consists of a front panel, back panel, and two arms that are knit flat, then seamed together. The most technical aspects of the project were attaching the arms to the body, the pocket, and the buttons/holes. As always, my least favorite part of any project is all the finishing, i.e. hiding the yarn ends and such. I just suck at it!
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Don’t look too close now, I’m a terribly lazy knitter!

This project was so fun that I think I will knit up a couple more of these babies!

This pattern came from one of my favorite books – Knit Two Together.

See Apple Trees

It’s that magic time of year when summer and fall are arm wrestling to see who wins the day. This warm weather stormy dance also means that it’s time to keep your eyes peeled for apple trees ready to be picked. They’re everywhere! Drive around and find a neighbor that can never quite manage to get to picking their tree and ask if you can harvest a couple boxes. Juice them for fresh cider, slice for pies, or cook down for apple butter.

Or better yet, dry them in your oven for a super easy, delish snack. Check it!

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My friend at Feisty Dog orchard gave me a 40lb box of “holy rollers”  aka apples that have little bug marks on them. I washed ’em, then core ’em.

Like this!

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It was easier and faster than I imagined, especially since I used my new apple corer from the hardware store (10 bucks!)

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I then got out my mandoline slicer and created uniform slices and layed them out on sheets. The directions told me to use all racks, but I only have one, see. So, baking sheets had to do.

Turn your oven on to the lowest setting, 175 – 200 degrees and dry for 8 to 12 hours. I left mine over night.

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They turned out great! Lessons learned include: 1. I would slice the apples thicker cuz I wanted a more chewy ring, 2. If you put rings in acidulated water, I think they discolor less, 3. The overlapping rings stuck together to form chains, which was fine but I thought I’d mention.

See apples, people!

Usually food, not today!

Hey y’all, (wait. did you know that recently I discovered that I’ve been spelling the word ‘y’all’ wrong all of these years?! i mean, yes, i noticed that red wavy line underlining the word, and yes, i just ignored it because i thought that red-waver was merely pointing out that  ‘y’all’ wasn’t a word! well, it wasn’t. it was saying, “look bitsh, you’ve been spelling this word wrong your whole life. lesson learned. ya’ll does not equal y’all. onward)

I made a quilt.  And since this mambajamba has been gifted to the babymama, I will feel free to share.

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It was definitely the most complicated quilt top that I have attempted and I’m fairly happy with how it turned out.  I loved these fabrics, from Moda, and the remnant navy blue stripes I had laying around the ole fabric bin.

 

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I didn’t do much quilting, as you can see and basically randomly outlined the shapes from the top side.  I have a pretty terrible sewing machine, so it makes all of this a lot harder. But! I have come to understand the world of bindings much better, so hooray for that!

Go and get your sew on, lovely people!

 

 

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Pow! Kale Salad.

Better Homes and Gardens called this dish ‘Power Kale Salad’, but doesn’t that sound silly? Does the recipe call for a variety of kale called ‘power’? Not sure, so I’m going with POW!! Kale Salad.

Upon flipping the page, I was immediately drawn to this salad – it’s a beaut.

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Here’s my version:

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I followed mostly followed the recipe except I added roasted cauliflower and used blood oranges for their amazing color. The cherries were a rad addition. This was a delicious and fairly simple salad that was easily a main course. Yumyum.

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4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs.)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 seedless tangerines
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 cup dried tart red cherries
1/2 cup pomegranate-blueberry juice blend
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
4 ounces green or purple kale leaves, shredded (4 cups)
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 red or green pear, cored and thinly sliced
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, shaved
Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Brush chicken with 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil. Transfer to a foil-lined baking sheet. Finely shred 2 tsp. peel from the tangerines. Peel tangerines; slice crosswise and set aside. Sprinkle chicken with tangerine peel, 1/4 tsp. of the salt, and 1/4 tsp. of the pepper. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until done (165 degrees F). Transfer to a cutting board; let stand 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, place cherries in a small microwave-safe bowl. Add pomegranate-blueberry juice; microwave 30 seconds. Let stand 10 minutes. Drain cherries, reserving juice; set cherries aside.
  3. For dressing, in a small bowl whisk together reserved juice, remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil, vinegar, remaining 1/4 tsp. salt, and remaining 1/4 tsp. pepper. Pour half of the dressing into a large bowl. Add kale and onion; toss to coat. Transfer to a serving platter.
  4. Slice chicken; arrange over kale mixture with tangerines and pear. Top with cherries and Parmesan cheese. Drizzle with remaining dressing.

Lasagne Veronese. That sums it up.

Happy Valentine’s Day. A while ago.

Isaiah and I just got back from a dream-once-in-a-lifetime-honeymoon-adventure to Europe where we traveled by train for one month! During this time, we stayed with my high school best friend in her (now) home town – Carpi, Italy. She showed us the sights, told us what we “must see”, and chaperoned us to the picturesque town of Verona.

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Verona was gorgeous. I can’t really explain it in a way that would do it any sort of justice, so here, look at these photos.

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We stopped at one of the many adorable piazzas to have a snack and ended up ordering something called Lasagne Veronese. Isaiah and I really wanted to eat things that were specific to the region, and with a name like that, how could we go wrong?! Gina hadn’t heard of it herself but still gave the seal of approval to go ahead and order. And ohhhhhhhmyyyyyyyyygaaaaawwwwwwwdddd. It was amazing.

IMG_0516See that thick, white layer? That’s cheese! And the purple is sauteed radicchio. holy balls.

Fast forward to Valentine’s Day. I wanted to do something special for Isaiah so I decided to find a Lasagne Veronese recipe and try to recreate this special meal. Easy, right? I’ve cooked lasagna. Ahem – WRONG.

Before we go any further, here’s my version for a visual comparison. (oh and P.S. the ingredients list is at the end of this post.)

IMG_6753aI was super sad to not get a single good shot of a square piece of lasagne sitting solitary on a plate.  So, this is the best I got. Notice how the cheeeeeese layer is vastly different!

I began my search as all people do, googled it. And this is what I found. Yep, that’s Italian. So I copied the page and put it into Google Translate to try to understand what the heck it was talking about. Now, this recipe kept using the word ‘tastasal’ (what the heck is that?) and also ‘besciamella’ which = bechamel sauce. I googled ‘tastasal’ and came across this recipe for risotto with tastasal and it told me that tastasal is the stuffing that is used to make salami. (Further…”indeed the housewives of the Bassa Veronese would make this risotto to judge the seasoning of their salami before putting the filling into the casing.”)

Um, that doesn’t help me very much. What is IN the tastasal?!  Fortunately, the risotto recipe went on to tell me “a couple of words about the meat” and sent me here for a “Tuscan salami recipe that will work, but your best bet will be to visit a butcher who makes northern Italian cold cuts and purchase some fresh raw salami stuffing. Or, in a pinch, you could use mild Italian sausage instead, crumbling it up.” Unfortunately, I ran out of my excess of “butchers who make northern Italian cold cuts” so I had to get creative. Notice how in this Salame Tastasal recipe, the ingredient list calls for “spices” and “herbs”? This is precisely the information that I need to carry out this crazy lasagne dish and no one will give it to me. No one.

Until I kept reading, and found this…”for every 25 pounds season it with 2/3 pound of salt, an ounce of cracked pepper, and a half-ounce of spices, by which we mean cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg. Then take a head of garlic, grind it in a mortar with an ounce of wine, and squeeze it through a strainer and into the meat.”  TA-DAH! I also couldn’t find any plain, ground pork, so I chose the mild Italian sausage from my meat counter and collected the herbs/spices.

IMG_6732aAnother snag – the original Lasagne Veronese recipe called for a type of cheese that I couldn’t find, Monte Veronese. This is a cow’s milk cheese and even though the recipe said that I could substitute with gorgonzola, it just didn’t seem like I would get the same consistency. So I chose a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese that for the LIFE of me as I sit here looking at that package in the photo, I can’t remember what type of cheese it was! I do know that it was a semi-hard cheese, mild in flavor, with smallish holes in it. damn. —–OH I JUST REMEMBERED! It’s Fontina!

IMG_6734aChop radicchio and onion thinly, and saute in butter (or whatever). I like butter.

IMG_6736aI had to saute the radicchio in batches because there was a lot of it. Then I mixed the sauteed radicchio and onions together. Cook until wilted.

IMG_6733aNow what I love about the Tastasal Debacle is what it taught me about food and traditional cooking. The salame tastasal recipe was from a “manuscript dated to 1772” and the person reproducing this recipe (online) goes on to explain that the recipe itself is very cursory, i.e. lacking A LOT of detail. And the reason for this is because “the 18th century author assumed the cook would then know how to season the salami, a process that’s crucial to the success of the endeavor (these kinds of assumptions were common in recipes of the time, and also correct, because the authors were professionals, as was their audience).”  What I take to mean “professional” is not that the cook was a chef, but that EVERYONE knew how to spice sausage just as their families had been doing for centuries. Very. Cool.

So you can see here what I used to spice my tastasal which I mixed together with my hands.

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Back to it. Ingredients for the bechemel sauce. I always think that this sauce is intimidating, giving way to anxiety, until I start to actually make it, and I’m like, DUH, it’s really simple and I should add this to crap more often!

IMG_6738aThis photo isn’t super helpful regarding desired consistency. Just go see Martha. And stir, stir, stir.

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Construct. I did NOT make my own pasta. Are you crazy?! I got lasagna at the store. Then layer on the radicchio/onion mixture, layer on slabs of the cheese (I always grate my cheese for lasagna but I wanted to see how it would turn out if I followed the Italian instructions and I was super excited for that melted slab action.) Then pour on bechemel sauce. Repeat.

Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on the top, and bake at 300 Celsius for 30 minutes. Celsius! Jeez!!! 400 F.

IMG_6748aIt turned out fan-motherlovin’-tastic. The original Lasagne Veronese that we had in Verona did not have sausage in it, so my version with kickin’ with flavor. The consistency was not that similar, especially since the dish in Verona wasn’t very hot, so the dish had set up a bit more. But I was super proud to pull it off and go on a food adventure.

I’d REALLY love to see your version!

Lasagne Veronese (attempted by a Californian white girl)

Lasagna “noodles”
bechemel sauce
tastasal (lean, ground pork, seasoned to taste with salt, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ground fresh garlic, and wine. Whew!)
red radicchio
Monte Veronese cheese

I’m not going to give quantities because it really  doesn’t matter that much🙂

Babies Get Cold.

Babies get cold, right? At least I’ve heard that they do since I don’t actually have one. Yet. (Cue scary music)

And since my friends keep having babies, and babies seem to enjoy blankets, it seems like a perfect opportunity to hone my blanket-making skills. This time, if the form of quilting!

ImageBOOM! A quilt! And you can quilt too. A quilt is made of three, no four, pieces. 1) The quilt top, which you see here, has the fabric design. 2) The guts, or batting, is the middle fluffy part. 3) Then the back part of the quilt which is often a very simple, single piece of fabric. 4) Finally, a binding strip of fabric holds the whole bitch together.

This pattern was inspired by a very crafty friend that just makes up quilt patterns and they turn out great! I copied this Chevron pattern from her and decided to use primary colored fabric. The “whiteish” looking chevrons are actually a pale yellow, honeycomb print fabric.

Image**Notice in this photo that when I quilted the blanket, I chose to outline the chevrons. And when I did this, I chose to sew just to the outside of the colored chevron. The result? It makes the chevron pop!

This quilt top is made from cutting out simple triangles, then sewing them into squares, then assembling all the squares! I watch a million youtube videos to remind myself how to cut the batting, pin it all together, quilt it (that’s the actual act of sewing the sandwich together), then assembling the border binding which I find to be the most tedious and stressful part of the whole thing.

Now go out and quilt something you sewing genius! A good first project? Quilted potholders!

Imagep.s. Congratulations Andrew & Jennifer!

we ain’t skeered.

What is your relationship with food? Nonono, not your relationship to your ass – what is your relationship with food? What was the food culture in your family when growing up? Is food celebratory or a pain? Does planning a meal get you energized or raise your anxiety level?

I think the culture of food that I grew up in was a fairly regular Southern Californian, bikini-focused, five o’clock news, rush hour traffic sig alerts, mexican-food lovin’ -type thing. We ate a lot of food out of boxes and cans (refried beans, anyone?), went out to eat on the regular, had a LOT of BBQ chicken and boiled potatoes and white rice with butter and breakfast cereal, etc. I’m currently grateful that we weren’t allowed to eat fast food nor have soda on  a regular basis in the house. However, when ice cream or cake or other treat entered into the kitchen, it was like Lord of the MoFo Flies in there!!! EVERY PERSON FOR THEMSELVES wake up in the middle of the night and jam your face with ice cream so you could make sure to get some and if there were Frosted Flakes in the cupboard that was the meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner until they were gonzo.

In my opinion, we did NOT have a positive relationship with food and it was often seen as “the enemy”. But what I am most interested in is your/mine/our relationship to food right now. And the general question of the day is – why does traditional cooking* seem so freakin’ scary?

So instead of spending too much time of the soap box, I’m going to narrow down this conversation to a simple challenge – Make Your Own Pumpkin Pie Filling From Scratch. (I KNOW!!! I am too late for Thanksgiving, but Thanksgiving is what made me want to write this so I have to live within the confines of the current time-space continuum.)

I worked at a pumpkin patch this year for Organic Matters Ranch, the farm that I am working for this season and next. I made it my personal goal for two out of the four weekends, to pump customers up on the pie pumpkins and encourage them that they can, in fact, make their very own pies from scratch! Hooray!! It’s clear that many of us out there think that this idea is TOTALLY INSANE because 1) what is a pie pumpkin, 2) how in the hell do you cook one without taking all weekend to do so, 3) it will take way too much time (see #2), and 4) will it even taste good?!

ImageMeet the Winter Luxury pie pumpkin. A pie pumpkin introduced in 1893!!! Wow! Its specs include an amazingly sweet orange flesh that tastes like pie even before your season it (!!!), and a thin skin that is easy to cut. You’re welcome. (For nothing that I actually did). Now you, go out and find yourself a pie pumpkin, I swear you can find one at a grocery store (even a conventional store) near you. Once you have your lovely pumpkin, cut off the stem. Then carefully, cut in in half with a large knife.

ImageKABOOB! Now you’re in. Just like in carving jack o’lanterns, scrape out the webby flesh and seeds. You can keep the seeds if you like to roast later, but don’t let that stress you out. This is about the pumpkin (PIE!!) after all. Heat your oven at 350 degrees. Git yerself a casserole dish, turn your pumpkin halves so that the now open pit faces down into the casserole dish. Pour an inch of water (some use broth instead of water when using pumpkin for soup) into the bottom of the dish. Place in oven. Close door. Pat yourself on back.

Wait about 45 minutes, or until when you stab that sucker, it is very tender. Don’t worry!!! You can’t really screw anything up.

Here are some fascinating facts about pumpkin to entertain you whilst you wait:

  • Pumpkins are a winter squash, just like Acorn, Delicata, Red Kuri, Kabocha, Jarrahdale…and many more! Cook them the same way as your pie pumpkin if you wish.
  • Pumpkin flowers are edible.
  • The largest pumpkin ever grown weighed 1,140 pounds.
  • The name pumpkin originated from “pepon” – the Greek word for “large melon.”
  • Pumpkins originated in Central America.

Imagemmmmmmm, it’s done. Carefully remove the halves and scrape out all the insides into a bowl. Find your favorite pumpkin pie filling recipe, grab a crust from the store (you can tackle crust another time) and assemble!!! One pie pumpkin will easily yield 2 cups of flesh. Also, if you  happen to own a food processor, I suggest that you develop a deep, sweet sweet love relationship to that baby that’s been neglected in your bottom cupboard for years, because that machine is a MIRACLE! And you can use it to make great, homogenous pie filling.

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Now, my main purpose in this post was not to talk calories and nutrition, the benefits of buying local and organic, or even the (real) fact that home-cooked food tastes better than the packages stuff. The post is really just a shout out to the natural beauty and crazy blessing of good food. Make time for food, friends.

*Generally, I think of traditional cooking as what our grandmas and their parents ate, with respect to ingredients (mostly whole foods that did not come in cans and boxes), and how their food was prepared (sans microwaves (not that microwaves are terrible or anything)).

‘maters.

Tomatoes, precious. They have started rolling in.  And you know what?! I really need to get to these bitches before the fruit flies do. They are just waiting, waiting, waiting ’til one of these organic-grown, locally sewn, beautiful tomatoes ruptures a nice crack in the skin, then BLAMMO!! Fruit fly extravaganza.

Summer is busy. Llike crazy busy. With Isaiah working his farm and me working for a farmer in the area running his farmer’s market stands, we are eyeballs deep in fresh produce. Not to mention, we decided to farm an additional plot of land this year! (more on that later. i hope. )

When you work with local, fresh food, you are most likely poor in funds, but very rich in amazing food. In order to take advantage of this currency you have to plan to eat your produce daily (sorry Burrito Place, I will hit you up in the winter), process the stuff as it comes out of the field (i. e. get that basil in water man!) and get creative in your recipes (ummmm, what else can you do with cabbage besides eat it with fish tacos?!).

Enter canning! I learned to can (to preserve food) several years ago from an amazing  local woman that has since taught me all sorts of valuable food-related shit. Lindsey, thanks babe. My first canning experience involved vast amounts of produce, over a half dozen women, and hours and hours of slicing, chopping, stuffing, boiling, and cooling. While I still love this scale of canning, I have come to understand that canning is also doable on a weekday evening on a very small, single batch basis thanks to this rad chick – Food In Jars via my pal Sarah. So, here we go.

Oh wait, another thought. While I think that everyone should try canning once in their lives, I do believe that it is NOT cost effective if you don’t have access to large quantities of produce. So for someone like me, canning is almost a necessity. For someone like you, if you interact with your local farmers and can by large quantities of produce (e.g. a lug of strawberries), then rad!! And cost effective! But just keep in mind that if you want to make and can your own Strawberry Basil Jam (and are going to do a small batch and are not married to a farmer and aren’t drowning in strawberries so hard that you now hate the taste of strawberries) then expect to do it because you think it’s way rad instead of thinking that you are going to save moula.

So, here we go.

Prep your jars. I used 4 quart jars. Heat water in your canner to a simmer, add the jars and let boil for a bit. You can throw the rings in there too. You are trying to sanitize your jars. Remove the jars carefully and set on a clean dish towel. Keep all that water in your canner boiling. To sanitize the lids, you can place them in small saucepan, cover them with water, and simmer over very low heat.

Core the tomatoes and score the bottoms with an X. Fill a large bowl with ice water. You are going to use this water to stop the tomatoes from cooking after you blanch them.  Also, fill a kettle with water and bring that to a simmer as well. You are going to use this in your canning jars.

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Add tomatoes to the boiling water and blanch for 1-2 minutes. If you are working in batches, make sure that the water returns to boiling between dunks.  Put the hot tomatoes into the ice bath immediately. When they are hot enough to handle, peel the skins off and set the tomatoes aside.

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This next step is muy importante! (That’s ‘very important’ to those of you that are not as oh-so-bilingue as myself. Don’t worry, that’s totally a word.) Add 2 Tbls. of lemon juice to all of your clean canning jars. You have to do this because tomatoes are not acidic enough on their own to be safe canning in a water bath canner. Fill you canning jars with the warm tomatoes to the neck, then pour the hot water from your kettle in; leave 1/2 inch of headspace at the top. I am SO TERRIBLE at this part. I never get it right.  Using a chopstick or other long skinny device, get the air bubbles out of your jars. Then fill with more water if necessary. (If you look closely at the picture below, you will see that I didnt get the liquid right.)

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Place lids and rings on your jars and process is boiling water bath for 45 minutes. Take them out with a jar grabber thingie, and let cool on your counter. You know that you kicked ass and did good when the center of your canning lid pops down, and doesn’t pop back up!

If you want more on canning, check this out! 

If you really want to learn how to can, I also recommend taking some time to learn about it (other than this post). Because while it is very easy, there are some important things you should know.

Adios! (see, totally worldly.)

not drunk all summer, promise.

not drunk all summer, promise.

Hi. From the previous posts, you’d think I’ve been drunk all summer. Not true. Sort of.

We are blessed with food this season with the warm weather making everything go wild. Including plums!! And I love to preserve the seasonal bounty with alcohol, so here you go.

Pick plums. Prick them with fork. Toss them in clean jar. Cover with gin. Store in dark cupboard for a while. Remove fruit and drink!!