Food and Knitting

We are back from a successful spring break/college tour exercise and as you would expect, my house is a disastrous mess (college son left in charge of dogs and cats).  There is a veritable Mount Denali of laundry to be done, spring plants arrived while we were gone and need planting, and, with work starting back up tomorrow, I've got A LOT to do today.  All of those have-to-do's compete with my want-to-do's: hanging out with family and knitting.

Almost done(Silver Spoons.  Almost done.  Incredibly gorgeous.  Must finish today.)

The chore that takes up the most time for me is menu planning. I love to cook, but I've got one child who is Pescetarian (I had to look it up too, when she announced this was what she was four years ago, no meat, only fish), one who is an avowed red meat eater, and a husband whose tastes are rather whimsical.  In other words, I really can't win here.  So I try to offer a balanced diet of what can be cooked after getting home from work at night and ignore those who are critical of what I think are my outstanding efforts given all of the constraints.  Seriously, planning for all of this is a chore, but if I do, Hubs does the grocery shopping.  I consider it reclaimed knitting time.

I thought I would share this week's meals, for those of you looking for a short cut of your own on this chore for the week.  I've devoted an hour to picking out some weight conscious recipes (we over-ate on spring break, it was amazing.  Hen of the Wood.) that are reasonably quick or can be prepped ahead of time. I hope having these handy will help you get in more knitting time today!

Tonight, Sunday, we're having Parmesan Chicken Breasts.  I'll upscale the recipe a little bit by using Panko Bread Crumbs and just a little mist of Olive Oil on the chicken breasts to help the crumbs stick and promote a little browning.  We like authentic Greek Salads — the version without lettuce.  I'll use this recipe and also serve some steamed Broccoli on the side.

Monday night we are having an old favorite, from a Gwyneth Paltrow cookbook.  You can love her or hate her, and her idea of what's in the typical pantry is insanely crazy, but we love her recipes.  I'm not typically a fan of canned tuna, but her Brown Rice Pasta with Tuna and Capers is a huge hit in our house, and with a simple side salad, it's a meal all on its own.  You can leave out the anchovies if you think you don't like them, but consider trying it out and not telling anyone.  They'll never know and they add a lot of flavor!  I'm adding a simple Watermelon with Feta Cheese and Mint salad as a side dish. It's too early for watermelon to taste summer ripe, but I think I can fake it with the hint of mint in this recipe.

Tuesday: We're having Sandwiches with Beet Hummus and Greens.  They will make the vegetarian crew happy.  The meat eaters may end up at Five Guys, but that's their problem! These Lemon Pepper Vegetables are great too.  I'm going to steam mine and add seasonings, and serve them on the side.

Wednesday is the last night I'll be cooking this week, as I've got a combination of work commitments that will get me off the hook for the rest of the week.  The New York Times recipes are reliably good and usually pretty interesting. I'm going to try their Braised Lamb with Egg and Lemon.  It appeals to me because it's best if made the night before, so I can cook it Tuesday evening while, um, knitting, and have it ready to go for dinner on Wednesday.  I'll probably braise some carrots and parsnips in the pot when I reheat it and serve it with a side salad.


Random Things + Swatching A Cable Pattern

I'm a little bit frustrated with my swatching efforts, so before I get to that, two random things to start your morning.

1. I just discovered the NYT's Only Ice Cream Recipe You'll Ever Need, and it is a keeper!  Even better, they have a chart of the best way to do add ins. I wanted to make basil strawberry ice cream, and it would never have occurred to me to whiz up the sugar and the basil in the Cuisinart before adding it to my custard mixture.  Genius!


2. I just discovered that my Mom, in her late 70's, is now on Instagram.  How do things like that happen? Will I be this cool when I'm her age? (Probably not.  I'm not that cool now.)


3. Swatching.  It's a little bit perplexing to try and count all those mashed in stitches when you are swatching for a cabled pattern.  I do like how my swatch has improved with proper care, though!  Here it is as knit, all scrumbled up together. This is for one of the new sweaters in Rowan 58, Glacier.


Here it is after blocking, all relaxed and happy.


The best I've been able to figure is to put a gauge over the swatch, pin its edges, and then stretch the swatch apart to count stitches.  And, doing this makes me happy, because I am good.  Pattern gauge is 20.5 st = 4' and I'm getting 20 stitches to 4", so I think I can work with that. Row gauge is good as well. True confessions: A lot of the knitters I know are amazing and really good at this stuff.  I'm not, but I'm okay with that.  I'm a working Mom of four.  I give myself permission to do my best and enjoy the process of knitting even when I flame out. But, I adore this yarn (Snug Bulky from The Plucky Knitter) and I have high hopes for this project.  I WANT this sweater.


Although I want to knit some on the last square this weekend (and I did sneak in the cast on of a new project I'll show you when it's a little further along late last night), I'm also going to cast on Glacier and get to work on the first piece next week.  I can't wait!


We Interrupt Our Knitting To Bring You…..French Macaroons

Although I have been knitting (and contemplating how different knitted fabric can look, depending on the size needles you use), I've interrupted this afternoon because I'm in love.  With these.


Whole Foods Macaroons.  We discovered them yesterday — at least a year behind everyone else in the blogosphere apparently.  They were delicious!  We split five among three of us and they were like eating little bites of heaven.

Of course I had to try to make some at home.  But, I didn't seem to have any of the right ingredients or equipment, so I MacGyvered a little bit.  I ground up some almonds to make the almond flower and used a ziploc bag with a hole cut into the bottom instead of a pastry bag and tip.  The green color is an homage to Ollie, whose favorite color is green.


Will they make it?  Will my swiss buttercream be passable?  Should I give up on trying to make these incredibly delicate sweets and return to my needles?  I'm hoping for a good result here, and, if I can settle on the right needle size, hope to have the start of a sweet little scarf to show you by midweek.


How to Make a Birthday Cake


Although this is not a cooking, or even a baking blog, I sometimes like to dream I'm a famous kitchen blogger.  I don't seem to have gotten the Julie/Julia gene though, so I content myself with knitting.  Nonetheless, I'm going to stray into kitchen territory with this post and show you all the cake I made for my second child's 19th birthday.  He wanted a cake that was both chocolate and white (but not marble) with vanilla frosting.

He got this.


The secret to all good cakes, as I imparted to Ellie, who most decidely thought I had lost my mind, is using a recipe where you separate the eggs. 


Adding whipped egg whites at the end to a custardy batter mixture produces light moist cakes.  So I mixed up my white cake (actually a yellow cake recipe from The Joy of Cooking) and my chocolate cake (Devil's Food Cockaigne from the same book) and baked two white layers and a thick chocolate layer.  The chocolate custard that went into the batter was a crowd pleaser, with spoon tasting all around called for.


The cake layers turned out perfectly.


The only thing left was to put the layers together using Pastry Cream filling that I had made the night before and then to crumb coat the cake with this delicious Caramel Icing, which went underneath the Boiled White Frosting you can see in the picture above after Teddy blew out the candles.


A cake like this is a day-long labor of love, but oh so much fun to make!  I'm off to see if there is a slice left for a mid-afternoon snack.



Thanks Mom!

Just as I was craving some Madeleines, my Mom mentioned in an email that she had just made some. She was nice enough to send the recipe. Orangey goodness! I used blood orange for a little bit extra. They are disappearing at great speed.

Thanks Mom!


The Start of School (and other oddities)

My two youngest children started school this week.


They are so very sweet!  For our youngest, it was the start of kindergarten, so the Judge and I walked over to pick him up and have lunch after the first day of school.  He was exhausted and in my arms.  We said good-bye to his teacher, she said he had a great day, and as we walked off, he suddenly picked up his head and exclaimed "I REALLY LIKE HER!"  Usually, it doesn’t get much better than that.

But, it did, this morning.  He came downstairs at 6:30, dressed in his bathing suit, with a knitted wool vest over a tee-shirt and his backpack on his back, proudly proclaiming he was ready for school (on a Saturday morning).  We are profoundly lucky to have such a wonderful little guy in our life, even if he stumps us with questions like "Do Zombies know that God is up there?" (he pointed) and "Is Dick Cheney really a zombie?"

We’re pretty sweet on our other children too.  The Judge split open a coconut this morning, while I cleaned up an incredible yardsale find — a bookcase for Miss Ellie’s room — and we enjoyed watching their reactions and their efforts to pry the meat out of the inside of the nut.


It is definitely the dog days of summer here in Alabama, and after close to two weeks of over 100` I feel like I’m the dog part.  We’re off this afternoon to buy ballet shoes and leotards (Nutcracker auditions are looming, which makes me incredibly happy, among other reasons, because Nutcracker rehearsals mean lots of knitting time for Mommy) and then I’m going to make lots of lemonade and spend the rest of the day sucking it down.

There is no art news today because my new scanner, after three weeks, still doesn’t work and I can’t scan a blessed thing.  And, I’m not a good enough photographer to take pictures of it.  But, a friend mentioned I have some Halloween ATCs in the newest edition of Somerset Studio, which I haven’t seen, so I hope if you get Somerset, you’ll take a look in the Expressions section and see some of my work there.  I hope I can get the whole scanner debacle resolved by next weekend and be able to scan art again!


Successes Midway Through The Ten Week Plan

I’m in the middle of week five of the ten week plan.  The ten week plan involved my realization that the Colinette Ophelia Tank I was knitting from Giotto in the Paintbox colorway wasn’t going to fit me.  It wasn’t even going to be close.  Somehow, in under six months I had managed to gain a whole bunch of weight, about 25 pounds, which is a whole bunch when you’re only 5′ 1".

My plan was to finish the tank in ten weeks and lose enough weight to fit into it by the time it was done.

So, here’s the tank.


I’ve got about 10" done and I need to get to around 11" and then do the shaping at the top.  Although I’m a bit ahead of schedule, I think finishing it will take me a bit of extra time, so I’m pretty much on target.

And the weight loss?  Thanks to the miracle of low carb dieting, which lets me eat lots of cheese and fruit and drink an occasional glass of wine, I’m down about 12 pounds.  I’m excited about all the money I won’t have to spend on new suits and that I can now devote to crack new yarn.  Eight or ten more pounds in the next 5 weeks and I’ll hopefully both fit into the finished tank and feel a whole bunch better.  It’s amazing what knitting can do for you.

Tomorrow is Thursday, which means I’ll have some new yarn stocking at Elliebelly.   Please drop by and take a look!  There is Treasure on Blue Faced Leicester,


Moonflower on Blue Faced Leicester,




and lots more, including sock yarn on BFL Ultra in the Expelliarmus colorway.


Drop by Thursday at noon (central) when all the yarn will be available for you to purchase.  I’m hoping I have enough in stock this week that it won’t all sell out in the first few minutes and you’ll be able to look around and buy yarn for the next few days.  Make sure you sign up for the free lavender sachet lottery while you’re there too!