Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Garden Wildlife

This morning's harvest
Production is picking up. Lactofermented pickle experiment started last week and I'm going to have to start canning the regular pickles soon and freezing eggplant Parmesan slices. We're soon going to start drowning in eggplant and cucumbers without careful management and the tomato and summer squash deluge is just around the corner. More comprehensive garden update and our new Midsummer Vegetable Patties recipe (think Italian egg foo young) coming soon.
I hate snakes. Like in an embarrassing, irrational startle and I'm unable to return to that part of the yard for the rest of the day way. I keep trying to be happy that we seem to have at least a couple good sized garter snakes living in the yard. Intellectually, I know they'll keep rodents out of the compost pile and seem like a good sign that our yard is a nice non-poisonous place to live for critters. Emotionally, *shudder*.

On a happier note, I saw two goldfinches and a house finch in the sunflowers today. We also have mourning doves, robins, and magpies who have all set homes in or near the yard. Squirrels round out nature's menagerie out there and keep the cats busy chattering at the windows.

We got our special use permit this week so we're set (by next spring at the latest) to install two beehives and four hens back there. Three dwarf nanny goats are also permitted but probably a little farther down the road. It's so exciting to see the yard slowly improving. :) Happy summer!

Sideways Cable Yoke Baby Sweater

Clearance yarn + matching vintage buttons at the yarn store meant I couldn't resist playing a little bit. Hopefully, I'll test adjustments soon to make more sizes (3-6mo, 12-24mo) but wanted to get the original written down since it's time to start knitting for fall (or at least starting to plan). ;) I have a super bulky size 3/4T with a sideways cable yoke that I need to write down as well. I'm kind of in love with the sideways cable look right now. 

As always, I avoided seams. There is a little finishing to keep the front edges from rolling but I didn't want a border along the lower body to distract from the yoke. Neck, sleeve and bottom edges just have a couple rows  of garter stitch to keep them in place. 

If you make this pattern, please send me a picture or link to your own blog, ravelry (love looking at the completed projects here!), or facebook post so I can see how it turned out! This pattern is for personal use only and not for resale.

If you aren't a knitter and wish to custom order a sweater in the color of your choice, please contact me here or at moderncrafter.etsy.com. 

Also, if you follow the pattern, please leave me any feedback or corrections that will help improve the pattern for future users! Thank you!
(modeled on 17 pound child, with a 17" chest circumference)
Size
6-12mo. (chest circumference at arms = 22", sleeve from underarm to wrist = 5", back of neck to bottom = 9 1/2")

Materials
  • 120g Zitron Magnum yarn (3 skeins, Zitron Magnum is discontinued. It was a rayon/acrylic blend with 11wpi and 140yds/50g skein.)
  • 3 - 5/8" to 3/4" diameter buttons
  • Size 9 needles, one set circular and one set of double pointed
  • 2 stitch holders (large enough to accommodate 32 stitches each)
  • cable needle

Gauge
17 stitches x 26 rows = 4" x 4" in stockinette stitch
7 cable pattern repeats (28 rows) = 4", center 13 stitches of cable panel = 2"

Cable Pattern
LC (left cross): slip 2 stitches to cable needle, hold to front, knit 2 stitches, knit stitches from cable needle
RC (right cross): slip 2 stitches to cable needle, hold to back, knit 2 stitches, knit stitches from cable needle

Row 1: Slip 1, LC, k2, p1, LC, k2, p1
Row 2 and 4: Slip 1, purl 6, k1, purl 6, k1
Row 3: Slip 1, k2, RC, p1, k2, RC, p1


Notes
I make baby sleeves a little on the short side because my babies always seem to get sleeves pulled down and in their way. This pattern falls with the armpit about 1/2" lower than "actual" measurement on a child. There are instructions at the end of the sleeve section if you want to make the sleeves 1" longer ("standard" length)

Here's an excellent tutorial on picking up stitches from a slip stitch edge. I used the one loop method at the top and bottom of the yoke to avoid bulk but it does create the little holes along the top and bottom of the yoke. When finishing the front edges, pick up both loops. I also always pick up a stitch at the very beginning and end of a segment to get a smooth edge at the join. It's a good idea to count the chain stitches in the pick up edge of your work and divide it out to pick up evenly. Instructions are included if you end up with the same number as I had.

Instructions
Cable panel:
Cast on 15 stitches.
Row 1: Knit
Row 2: Slip 1 stitch and purl remaining stitches in the row.
Row 3 and on: Work Cable Pattern until piece measures just over 28" (mine was 50 pattern repeats =  202 rows total)
During final cable repeat (make buttonhole): Row 3: Slip 1, k2, RC, p1, yo, k2tog, RC, p1, Row 4 as normal
Cast off all stitches.

Create neckline:
Orient cable panel so buttonhole will be on right side.
Row 1 (on the top edge):  Using circular needles, pick up and knit 78 stitches from the slip stitch edge .
  • To evenly pick up the required stitches, pick up and knit in one chain stitch, a second chain stitch, and then picked up the 3rd and 4th chain stitch, knitting in both together. 202 rows = 101 chain stitches = about 76 stitches picked up + 1 at each end to get a clean edge.
Row 2: Slip 1, purl all remaining stitches
Row 3: Slip 1, k2tog, yo, k4, k2tog, *k8, k2tog* 6 times, k9 (make buttonhole, 71 stitches left)
Row 4,5,6: Slip 1, purl all remaining stitches
Row 7: Cast off while purling

Finish yoke and make body:
Turn the sweater over so it's upside down.
Row 1 (on the bottom edge): Using circular needles, pick up and knit 118 stitches (pick up an extra on each end and pick up two in one at about every 6 chain stitches from each end and every 8th chain stitch in the middle)
Row 2, 4, 6, 8: Slip 1, purl remaining stitches
Row 3: Slip 1, k1, M1, *k8, M1* 14 times, k1, yo, k2tog, k1 (make buttonhole, 133 stitches)
Row 5: Slip 1, k1 , M1, *k8, M1* 16 times, k3 (150 stitches)
Row 7: Slip 1, k4, M1, *k8, M1* 17 times, k5 (168 stitches)
Row 9: Slip 1, k25, place 32 st on a holder, cast on 2, k52, place 32 st on a holder, k26 (108 st left on needles for body, 32 st on holders)
Work in stockinette stitch (slipping the first stitch of each row) until body measures 9" down the middle of the back from the neckline, ending with a knit row. Knit next 2 rows (to create a bottom edge of garter stitch) then cast off.

Sleeves:
Starting at bottom center of armhole with double pointed needles, pick up and knit 2 st, k all stitches from holder, pick up and knit two more st. (36 stitches) (I like to leave an extra long tail when I join yarn here so I can tighten up any loose places in the underarm stitching when I weave in ends during finishing.)
Join the sleeve and begin working in the round, knitting every row.
Row 8, 12, 16, 20, 24: K1, k2tog, k to last 3 st, ssk, k1
(Decrease 2 st on the 8th row once and every 4th row after that 4 times, 10 st decreased, 26 st remaining)
Rows 25 and 26: Knit
Row 27: Purl
Row 28: Knit
Row 29:Cast off while purling
Repeat with the other armhole.
**To make the sleeves about 1" longer, decrease on Row 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 (at 10th row and every 5th row for 4 times). Rows 25-29 in original pattern become Rows 31-35.**

Finishing:
Pick up and knit a row of stitches (one into each chain stitch), casting off as you go, between the bottom of the yoke to the bottom edge of the sweater on each front edge to prevent rolling. You could also single crochet into this edge but be mindful of gauge with this method. It's very easy to get the edge stretched too long or bunched up too tight.

Sew buttons onto opposite front to correspond to buttonholes.

Weave in all ends and lightly block.

Friday, July 11, 2014

2014's Garden

April 1
 June 19
July 11

We added a few new rows this year, bringing the main garden up to about 1000 sq. ft (~850 sq ft of beds). Foodwise, there's also the hugelkultur out front where we've started the herb garden and I put out the extra poblano pepper starts, the bed by the front steps with scarlet emperor beans and the front 10'x10' plot that is gardened and harvested by Jovial Gardens to be given to people who need food. They planted the three sisters (corn, beans, and squash) and it's nice to have a front yard garden again, no matter how small.

There was a cutworm problem that caused all of my early crops (lettuce, spinach, radishes, pak choy, parsnips, beets, carrots and peas) to be a dismal failure. It was frustrating for a while there when I didn't know what was going on and stuff just sprouted and disappeared or seemed like it never came up. I've got about 4 parsnips, a half dozen beets and a motley collection of pea plants that survived. I overplanted most of those beds with extra tomato and pepper starts. Beyond that things are mostly growing well. For some reason the Brazilian Beauty tomato plants have withered away to nothing while all the other varieties around them thrive. Flea beetles have also suddenly invaded the crucifers (will have to do something about that) but hand picking has been working to keep the cabbage moth caterpillar population under control.

What we have growing: beets (Chioggia and Golden), parsnips, peas (Alderman, Little Marvel and Queen Anne), corn (Golden Bantam), tomatoes (Amish, Nova, Siletz, Oregon Cherry, and a couple varieties obtained from a friend's extras), peppers (California Wonder, Lipstick, Poblano, Anaheim, Arroz con Pollo), ground cherries, cucumbers, basil, beans (Violet podded stringless, lima, and Red Hidatsa), cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, sugar pumpkins, acorn squash (Mesa Queen), melon (like small cantaloupes), watermelon, butternut squash, Sweet Dumpling squash, yellow summer squash, and zucchini.

The harvest is just starting so I get to start keeping a running total on the side of the blog after taking a two year hiatus with the move (2012) and the NICU (2013)! I've missed keeping a garden record.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Some New (to me) Recipes

In an attempt to live more like we use to, now that our lives have finally settled down after the move and the NICU baby absorbed our last two summers' time and ambition, we are having a "no spend" July. I wanted to do it partially because it would spur me to use more of the pantry stuff up and cook all of our meals instead of most. The other, prosaic part is that I like the idea of tightening our belts a little after the new roof, new sewer main, new back door, and basement support beams came (unexpectedly) all at once. 

Since we've made the choice that I'm not going out to make money, what I can do at home is figure out ways to save it. Our rules are nothing "unnecessary". Regular bills are necessary and pretty much everything else isn't really necessary. You might make a case that food is a necessary expenditure, but a look at our pantry and freezer suggests that it is not a very immediate need. We have already prepaid for our egg, veggie, and milk CSAs, which pretty much covers fresh foods. I've got a little of the "prepper" in me and feel better with a full larder but it will be nice to trim it down a little for a month (or two?) before we start stocking it for the winter again in September. I did buy a loaf of bread and some lunch meat to help with Q's lunches in the coming week though. Maybe a roast next weekend, thin sliced for sandwiches? Pork loin? Getting breadmaking back into the regular cycle can eliminate those groceries next week. I like not going to the grocery store (aka dens of evil processed temptation). :)

And it's SUMMER! GARDEN SEASON! Fresh, inspiring foods constantly appearing in my yard and in our CSA from the farm down the street. I love having a garden again. I'll have to do a garden post very soon but we have about 1000 sq. ft. of garden just starting to take off for the season.

Anyway, on to my new delicious finds...

Five Anaheim peppers needed to be picked. This recipe was the inspiration but I used canned chicken breast (9.75 oz. can) and just winged it with proportions until it looked right (including green onion from the garden!) They were small peppers so there was extra stuffing but it was perfect for Willow baked by itself so she didn't have the peppers' heat.

The farm linked this recipe to its Facebook followers since the CSA has been getting a nice bunch of radishes each week. I liked the idea but a recipe seemed like so much work (dramatic sigh). I just used 3/4c apple cider vinegar, 1c hot water, and a large teaspoon full of honey to make the brine then put a bit of dill in the jar (also from CSA) and dumped in the sliced radishes (not paper thin from a mandolin). They're darn good. Wil is so funny about anything pickled and these were no exception. She's pretty much willing to eat as much as I'm willing to give her. 

They remind me a lot of sauerkraut and make me want some other strong flavor to complement them (think Reuben sandwiches). I've been virtually creating in my head with chopping some up with something else and making kind of a chutney to serve over patties of kasha? Still pondering...

I looked up our old favorite breakfast cookie recipe today. I had forgotten it took bran flakes, which we don't have and I didn't really want to buy (even if we weren't no spending). Happily I found these and I think I like them even better than the old ones. Quentin will argue that they aren't really that recipe any more so I'll document my changes here. Most of them were made because of the ingredients I had on hand.
  • replaced the apple sauce with apricot puree
  • skimped on the syrup and used 3/4c (instead of 1c) for a double batch. It is grade b though, which we think has more flavor (along with being cheaper).
  • replaced the pistachios with walnut pieces
  • left out the flax seed (if I had any I would have put these in since they're the healthy fat source)
Okay, Quentin may have a point...

I'm so happy to be cooking and planning more rigorously again. I just feel better when we're eating this way. Hopefully, there will be lots of new discoveries to come. The ground cherries are just starting to ripen so we have a whole new fruit that we've never had before. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Limoncello and Apple Cider




Azure Standard had a lot of organic citrus available this delivery period. Being a drop point and being able to order lots of yummy food delivered to our door once a month is lovely. Even if it often ends up being the same price as finding a good sale at the grocery, this way I don't have to shop sales or load the girls up to take them shopping. Anyway, 10 lbs of lemons, 20 lbs of blood oranges, and 6 lbs of limes are going to be made into curds, marmalades, and LIMONCELLO. Q's wanted to make limoncello for years so he opened a gift on his birthday (a week before the drop) that included a large bottle of vodka, a microplane zester, and Willow's toy lemon with a note promising real ones in the near future.

The recipe we're using is the basic one from Limoncello Quest, a guy who really seems to like his limoncello. Might as well experiment based on wisdom learned through someone else's passion. It calls for 17 lemons. This makes a lot of zest (as you can see above). If you ever have cause to zest any citrus, you must invest in a microplane zester. I don't see how you could get all zest and no pith any other way that isn't extremely frustrating. It took me about 45 minutes to zest all 17 lemons, with occasional interruptions as Wil found ways to "help". 

The project also produced a quart of juice and enough left over for a little lemonade for Willow and me. I don't know what we'll do with the juice, probably freeze it for now for use when we're canning tomatoes this summer (or making summer lemonade!)

I had no idea that just adding the zest to the vodka would immediately turn it this neon yellow color. Now we just have to be patient - 45 to 60 days before we add the simple syrup and filter it then let it age at least another 45 days. Argh! At this rate, I'm going to need to plan some 4th of July limoncello cocktails.

 In other news, Q finished building our cider press on January 26. We still used to Kitchen Aid shredder attachment to grind the apples. A grinder is next season's project. It's pretty awesome owning a press though. I want to try making pear cider next season too, if we can get some inexpensive pears.

Willow loved it when we took the bucket off and were left with the pressed together disc of apple. She called it "apple pie" and patted it. I can't imagine how confused she would have been if we tried to teach her the correct name - the "cheese". She also thinks that fresh cider is fantastic. Two gallons of cider started fermenting a month ago and now we have this...
It's all ready to rack! Since it fermented a such a cool temperature in the root cellar I hope it's a really yummy batch. (Cool and slow cider fermentation helps prevent off flavors.) We always kill the yeast (we use champagne yeast for a less "beery" flavor than cider yeast) and then add some sugar. This makes it perfect for my girly palate and very dangerous. It usually ends up 6-8% (once it was more like 11%, oops!) and if it is sweet you can down way too much way too fast.
Hopefully it will be in bottles in the next week or so and then we'll have cider ready by the end of May. Perfect way to celebrate Clarity's first birthday, right? ;) 

Alas, making good alcohol takes sooo long.

UPDATE, 7/5/2014: The cider turned out a little "wine-y", not quite sure why. Good but not as good as some we've made before. The limoncello is divine. We filtered and added the simple syrup on 5/25 (took a while extra to get around to it). We thought it was really good even the first night. We tend to drink a shot each night now as a night cap. It has gotten smoother and goes down way too easy. There are another 10lbs. of lemons in the fridge now awaiting processing because the idea of running out haunts us. :)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

One Size Fits Most Hat Pattern

I designed this hat as a last minute Christmas gift in 2012 and it has become a family favorite. My brother, sister-in-law, husband, and mother each have one. I also wear one sometimes, when Willow (the toddler) hasn't stolen it (it's one of her favorites too) and I've sold a few. In a bulky yarn, it's a quick, easy knit and one size really does fit most people, toddler through adults. It's a slouch style on toddlers and more of a traditional stocking cap on adults. The diamond pattern is a simple variation on left and right twists, the only difference being that in each twist one stitch is knit and the other is purl (instead of both being knit st as in traditional LT and RT)

If you make this pattern, please send me a picture or link to your own blog, ravelry, or facebook post so I can see how it turned out! This pattern is for personal use only and not for resale.

If you aren't a knitter and wish to custom order a hat in the color of your choice, please contact me here or at moderncrafter.etsy.com.

Also, if you follow the pattern, please leave me any feedback or corrections that will help improve the pattern for future users! Thank you!

Materials
1 skein of Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Bulky Superwash (110 yards/100g) or similar weight yarn
size 11 needles (one set double pointed and one set 16" rounds, or just the double pointed)
cable needle*
yarn needle

*Note for experienced knitters: I don't use a cable needle for this pattern since only 2 st change places, preferring to just slip both stitches off the left needle, put them back on the left needle in the correct order (careful to put the knit st to the front) and then working the stitches in pattern. (K the k and p the p)


Gauge
12 st x 16 rows for 4"x4" on size 11 needles in stockinette stitch

Abbreviations
AR (angle right) = slip next stitch (always a purl stitch) on to the cable needle and hold it to the back of the work, k1, then p1 from cable needle
AL (angle left)= slip next stitch (always a knit stitch) on to the cable needle and hold it to the front of the work, p1, then k st from cable needle

Notes
It has lots of stretch but, if for some reason you are making it for a head larger than 24" around, add another repeat of the diamond pattern by casting on an additional 8 stitches. 

If you need it longer than written (probably only necessary for a large man or someone who wants it very long over the ears), continue even in the diamond pattern to desired length, ending with Diamond Pattern Row 6. 

Instructions
Cast on 72 st and join in the round.
K2p2 rib for 10 rows
Next row, set up for diamond pattern:  p2, *k1, p3* to last 2 st, k1, p1
Work Diamond Pattern (see below) for 14 rows, ending after Row 6
Next row (Row 26): *p2, k2tog, p1, ssk, p1* to end (54 st left)
Row 27: *p2, k1, p1, k1, p1* to end
Row 28: *p1, k2tog, p1, ssk* to end (36 st left)
Row 29: *p1, k1* to end
Row 30: k2tog for 18 times (18 st left)
Row 31: k2tog for 9 times (9 st left)
Cut yarn, leaving long tail and use yarn needle to thread tail through remaining stitches two times, pull tight,
Weave in ends

Diamond Pattern
Row 1: *p1, AR, p3, AL* to end
Row 2, 4, 6, 8: Knit all knit stitches and purl all purl stitches
Row 3: *p1, AL, p3, AR* to end
Row 5: *p2, AL, p1, AR, p1* to end
Row 7: *p2, AR, p1, AL, p1* to end

Easy Pantry Potato Soup

Q's in self-imposed isolation in the bedroom to keep myself, the girls, and the rest of society from further exposure to what I'm calling "the plague" (positive test for type A flu, likely H1N1 based on what has been the overwhelmingly common strain this season). I have no desire to take the girls out in the snow (it's snowed pretty much constantly all day after having several inches yesterday as well). This means that there is no spontaneous food purchasing this weekend. About 5:30p, I realized that we would expect dinner in about an hour. Thank heaven for well-stocked pantries, freezers, and simple cooking. My inability to do the whole "plan and shop for a specific meal" thing means that most of the time I don't use recipes but throw myself into it on a wing and a prayer. This one turned out particularly well so I'm sharing.


Ingredients (enough for about 3 people when served as the entree)
1 lb bacon
1 medium yellow onion
7 medium red potatoes
2 c chicken stock
salt, pepper, dried parsley
shredded cheddar cheese


Using a large pan, cook the bacon until crispy and remove to drain, leaving the fat in the pan. While the bacon is cooking, cook the whole potatoes in the microwave until tender and dice the onion.

Add the onions to the bacon fat. Continue to cook the onions in the fat as you cut the tender potatoes into medium sized chunks.


Add the potatoes to the onions and continue to cook for a few minutes then add the stock and simmer until the potatoes are soft.

If the soup in your pan is too shallow you'll have to transfer it into a deeper bowl to use the immersion blender until the mixture is fairly smooth. (I like my big, wide pan for cooking so there's plenty of bacon cooking surface area but then I have to pour it into a narrower, deeper bowl for blending. I suppose this isn't necessary if you start by using a kettle.)

Stir in salt and pepper to taste (about 2t and 1/2t for us) and about 2t of dried parsley.

Crumble the bacon and stir in those pieces.

Serve hot so the cheese shreds melt as you stir them into each serving.