Monday, November 22, 2010

What's white and flaky and falling down outside?

I don't know how I'm expected to get anything done when the beautiful snow is falling just outside my window. It's gone from just a few flakes floating around to giant flakes obscuring the trees across the street. I feel like a silly Seattlite for being so transfixed with it, but it's just so pretty!

It's a terrible picture, but iPhones don't do too well through glass and flakes. I'll try for a better one on a walk tonight.

Last night I walked through Pike Place Market and saw the most amazing Christmas decorations going up:

Rein-pigs!!! There were four of them, all with pine boughs for antlers. The lead pig had a red clown ball nose. I don't know if they're installing a sleigh as well, but I loved it just the way it was! So cute.

This is how Ollie feels about the snow:

It's perfect knitting weather. He should be happier.

All for now. Keep warm!!

PS. No, the title of this post was not intended to refer to anyone in Ellensburg.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Attack of the Germs

Most of my time the last week has been eaten up by coughing. Hard to do much else when your lungs are actively trying to leave your body. I have found some time to knit, but not much, and not on projects I can discuss (I have a non-disclosure agreement with myself). I have a lunch-time project that lives at my desk and I work on when I can. I'm almost done and just have to decrease. If I can find a free lunch hour or two, I'll probably complete it. But for now, here's an old picture of it.

It's yellow and white. I ordered some mill ends on eBay in Caron Simply Soft. They were super cheap and I was really excited. I still like it, but when I decided to knit with the yellow and the white together in one hat, I realized that they are of completely different weights. A comparison of almost 4 ply to 10 ply. Ridiculous. But it was cheap and I wanted to use it, so I pushed on. The result might be kind of.... bobbly, but oh well. I don't have a recipient yet, so I'm not too disappointed.

Other knitting projects to commence soon. Hopefully over the long Thanksgiving weekend. But for now, I'm in energy save move and focusing on making sure the couch doesn't move.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Happy (late) Halloween!

We had a grand total of zero trick-or-treaters.  Not even a-one. Luckily, we had a small party on Saturday so we got to show off our fantastic costumes.


I thought they were great, and it was a lot of fun to "fly" around in my cape. I still have the Batman theme song stuck in my head.

Nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana BATMAN!

We made a bunch of homemade treats for the party - those apple butter bars, sugar cookies from a tube (note to self - NOT the kind you can use cookie cutters on), and some chocolate pumpkin muffins.  The chocolate pumpkin muffins are super moist and probably the easiest thing ever to bake. Want the recipe?

Mix 1 can pumpkin with 1 box chocolate cake mix (Devils Food was recommended. I made German Chocolate once before and I may have liked it better). Mix in some chocolate chips, if desired. Bake in greased muffin tin for 20 minutes at 400.

That's it. Two ingredients. Three if you want.

For mini muffins, baking for 13 minutes was too long, and 10 minutes wasn't quite enough. I bet 11 minutes would be perfect.

After the party there were still plenty of treats left. I made people take home treat boxes. If they tried to leave them they felt my wrath.

Anybody want some frosted sugar cookies? I still have a bunch.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Andes Hat Pattern

Inspired by a hat seen at on an outdoor gear website, I designed this pattern to use up some yarn I got on the cheap --it's discontinued.  As much as I don't actually enjoy knitting with the yarn (it likes to split), I do like the final product.

Andes Hat
by Robyn Redekopp

3 skeins Rowan Alpaca Soft (1 Tuscan, 1 Old Rose, 1 Lichen)
Size 8 DPN or 16 inch circular
Tapestry needle
Stitch Marker

Fits Small/Medium sized head.

CO 60 sts in Tuscan (green).  Place marker and join in the round.

K1P1 around for 6 rows.

Switch to striping pattern. Repeat stripes in color pattern - Old Rose (pink), Lichen (tan), and Tuscan (green).
Row 1: Knit around.
Row 2: Knit around.
Row 3: Purl around.
Switch to next color.

Repeat 3-color striping pattern five times. After completing fifth stripe in Lichen, begin to decrease in Tuscan.

Row 1: *K8, k2tog* Repeat from * to * around. (54 sts)
Row 2: *K7, k2tog* Repeat from * to * around. (48 sts)
Row 3: *K6, k2tog* Repeat from * to * around. (42 sts)

Continue to decrease until 6 sts remain, break yarn and run through sts. Pull tight and tie off.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Apple Butter

My first attempt at apple butter fell flat. I used a recipe from Tasty Kitchen that basically filled a crock pot with cored, sliced apples and a few spices, and cooked them for 8 hours on low before canning. I didn't quite have time for 8 hours plus canning time, so I cooked for 3 hours of high, then let them crock on low for 2 more hours. The apples got soft and smelled and tasted good, but they were pretty much still just chunks of apples, and not at all what I had in mind. So I ran it through my Cuisinart to mush it up, but still had wee chunks of apples. That's how I canned it, but it's.... kinda disappointing.

Then I found this recipe from Cooking Light. It got rave reviews. Basically the same idea, cook apples until they're tender, then can. But this one had an added step: press the soft, cooked apples through a fine-mesh sieve. The result is a pure, soft, amazingly delicious bite of heaven. The house was filled with an aroma that made me want to wear a sweater and read a book. Or just never leave the house. I wish I had a candle or room spray filled with this scent so I could inhale it all the time.

So if you do use the sieve (and I cannot recommend it more), what do you do with the cast offs? The recipe says "discard."  Discard from the recipe, yes. But from your life? Oh no no no no no. I put mine in the fridge and have been eating it since on ice cream, in my morning oatmeal, but the spoonful.... you get the idea. Even the cast offs taste awesome.

Without further ado, here it is, most amazing thing I've made since last week's caramel corn:

Overnight Apple Butter
From Cooking Light, Circa 2004

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup apple cider (I used home pressed. Probably why it's so good.)
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp mace (I used more cloves because I didn't have mace)
10 medium apples, peel, cored, and cut into large chunks (about 2.5 lbs)

Option 1, Crock Pot (~10 hours):
Combine all ingredients in a 5-quart electric slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low 10 hours or until apples are very tender.  Place a large fine-mesh sieve over a bowl; spoon one-third of apple mixture into sieve.  Press mixture through sieve using the back of a spoon or ladle.  Discard pulp (to refrigerator!).  Repeat procedure with remaining apple mixture.  Return apple mixture to slow cooker.  Cook, uncovered, on high 1 1/2 hours or until mixture is thick, stirring occasionally. 

Option 2, Stove Top (~1 hour):
Combine all ingredients in a dutch oven.  Cover and cook over medium-low heat 1 hour or until apples are very tender, stirring occasionally.  Strain through a sieve and return to pan.  Cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat 15 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently.

Apple butter can be kept in the fridge for up to a week, frozen for up to 6 months, or canned and shelved for up to 18 months. But it won't last that long. Makes 4 cups.

I used my new dutch oven (see the picture? it's green and boooo-tiful) and the stove top method. If I wanted to eat all of the next day, I would start this in the crock pot and cook over night. But for canning, I was happy to use the quick 1 hour method. I came up with about 4 and a half cups using giant Golden Delicious from my parents' yard.

I found a great way to use up a jar of the chunky apple butter - baking! It may be unattractive to spread on toast, but in these bars you'll never notice. Mmmmm good.

Apple Butter Dessert Bars
Modified from Williams-Sonoma Pecan Pumpkin Butter Dessert Squares

1 box yellow cake mix, set aside 1 cup
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups apple butter
2 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 9x13 pan.

Divide cake mix, placing all but one cup in a mixing bowl.  Stir melted butter and one egg into the cake mix until combined.  Press the mixture into the bottom of the pan and set aside.

In another bowl, mix apple butter with two eggs and milk until combined.  Spread apple mixture over pressed cake mix.

Stir the reserved 1 cup cake mix into the flour, sugar, and cinnamon.  Cut in soften butter until crumbly.  Sprinkle over the top of the apple layer.

Bake for about 35 minutes, or until golden brown (mine took almost 40 minutes).  Cool and cut into 2 inch squares.  Serves 24.

Ain't nuthin' but ground up corn

I ain't never had no grits before.

And the one time I tried to make polenta I failed so completely I somehow got a stomach ache and had to throw the whole pan out.

But when Pioneer Woman posted Creamy Cheesy Grits with Chilies, I wanted to try it. Plus I had just purchased a Martha Stewart dutch oven (in green!) and wanted an excuse to take something from stovetop to oven.

Cheesy Grits with Chilies
Modified from the Pioneer Woman
...but only because I didn't have some cheesy ingredients.

1 cup Grits (I used quick polenta grits I bought in bulk, but you can use regular)

4 1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 oz cream cheese
2 Laughing Cow wedges
1/2 can diced tomatoes
4 oz can diced green chilies
cayenne pepper
black pepper
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
Boil water and add salt. Add grits and stir, then reduce heat to low and cover.  Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.

Stir in tomatoes, chilies, and cheeses.  Stir in spices and check for seasonings. Add salt if needed (it'll probably need it. I salted the container of leftovers, then again when they were reheated on my plate).

Beat egg.  Drizzle in a couple of tablespoons of hot grits to temper, stirring constantly.  Dump it all back into the pot and stir.  Pour into a buttered baking dish and bake for 30-45 minutes, or until hot and bubbly and golden on top (I used my dutch oven for both stove top and oven, sans butter, and didn't have a problem getting it out of the pan). 

Important: allow pan to sit for 15 minutes before serving!! Grits will firm up slightly as they sit.  Stir a bit in the pan if needed.