Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Freezing Eggplant Parmesan & Other Preserving

This worked well last winter and it is a nice convenience food for a quick meal. To use the frozen slices, place them on a baking pan in a hot (400-425F?) to crisp/thaw them for a few minutes. Add a dab of sauce and grated mozzarella and broil.
 Lightly salt the sliced eggplant and let it sit in a colander to drain for about half an hour.

 Dip each slice in egg and bread crumbs (we like panko style crumbs).

 Fry in oil.

 Cool on paper towel and pat oil from the top as well.

 Stack in layers separated by parchment paper.

Wrap in foil, label, and place flat in the freezer.

Three large eggplants took two hours (including draining time) to prepare and made 2-3 meals (plus my lunch) for our family.

I also used our produce to put together our 4th quart of lactofermented pickles, grated other eggplants for dinner tomorrow, and made ground beef/onion/pepper(Anaheim and Poblano)/garlic/kale enchilada filling for tonight's dinner and for freezing. It feels good to start squirreling food away for the winter. 
This recipe was my jumping off place. I quit using the grape leaves and haven't noticed a difference. We've been using a couple cloves of garlic, a few peppercorns, some dill head, and some prepared horseradish (Thanks Aunt Debbie and Brad!) in with the cucumber slices in the brine. Horseradish does seem to be the magic ingredient. I'm looking forward to some jalapenos ripening so we can try that too.

Wrap the filling in corn tortillas with some shredded cheese, pour enchilada sauce over the pan (we like Nanita's), sprinkle with more cheese and bake until hot and cheese is starting to crust. With the filling already made and frozen, it becomes a pretty quick meal.

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)
6-12mo. (chest circumference at arms = 22", sleeve from underarm to wrist = 5", back of neck to bottom = 9 1/2")

  • 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

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

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.

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.

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.**

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.