Friday, October 31, 2008

Now we're cooking!

Lilah's friends, all dressed up with nowhere to go.

I keep trying to find a time when I can get a photo of this sweater on Lilah, but she's not been cooperative. The only sweater she likes is her Baby Gap zip-up sweater. Maybe I can bribe her with a cookie when she wakes up. Anyway, here it is:

Details: Placket-Neck Pullover from Last-Minute Knitted Gifts (Duh, do I knit anything else?), size 2-3 years
Yarn: Rowan Baby Alpaca DK in Blossom
Needles: Size 6
Notes: You hear about this pattern from me all the time: easy, fun, cute. I LOVE this squooshy soft yarn. I love Kitchener stitch (weird, I know). I love the easy finishing. Unless, of course, you foolishly do a striped version...

Just for fun, since I haven't gifted the other two Placket-Neck Pullovers, here they are ensemble:

I just started a toddler blanket in Cascade 220 in GREEN. And I do mean GREEN! It's about an inch of seed stitch at the moment, so I'll save posting a photo. Despite my laments that I never learn that winging it doesn't work for me in knitting...yes, I'm winging it. I think it'll be Big Bad Baby Blanket-ish, but with more squares. Or something. We'll see.

Reading: I re-read all the Bunnicula books (actually, the most recent three I'd never read before), and thought they were great fun. I just finished the Ulysses Moore series, a fantasy series about 11-year-old twins who move into a strange house with a mysterious door. Enjoyed it. I'll have the review up soon. I'm now reading Death by Cashmere, the first in a new knitting-related mystery series by Sally Goldenbaum--I was actually contacted and asked if I'd like a review copy, which makes me feel special.

Writing: Nothing. Tomorrow is November 1, the beginning of National Novel Writing Month. The official goal is to begin and finish a novel in November. MY goal is to write SOMETHING every day in November, even if it's just a sentence. I have to get back into my groove of finding time for this.

Cooking: Here's where the content is this time!

If you've been to a southern California restaurant in recent memory, you know that all restaurants are required to display the grade they got from their inspection. This is not without controversy, since some traditional ethnic cooking/food storage methods fall outside what detractors call paranoid American standards of food safety. I'm told that lots of fantastic spots get Bs for this reason. But I like seeing on the window that the place I'm about to eat has conformed reasonably to cleanliness/food safety standards. At any rate, LA County had a neat promotion to build awareness about kitchen safety in your own home, so they offered an online food safety quiz. If you passed, you got one of these in the mail to put on your fridge:

I got an A! I'm such a food nerd, I immediately filled out the test and put this up on my fridge as soon as it left the envelope. Fun stuff!

Crockpot Peanut Stew (adapted from Cooking Light)

I had a couple of requests for this recipe. I don't normally reprint recipes from magazines or cookbooks, but I made so many changes to this, it's hardly recognizable. The recipe called for reduced-fat peanut butter, which I don't think of as food, so I used my standard natural peanut butter (The ingredients should say peanuts and salt. Period.), which adds so much more flavor the little increase in fat is worth it. Add to that--reduced fat peanut butter makes up for the loss of flavor with plenty of sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup, so I think it's a wash, nutrition-wise, and when in doubt, I go for the less processed option. The taste here is a HUGE difference, as is the mouth feel. Trust me, get natural peanut butter (I use Smuckers). The amount of salt you need depends entirely on your stock. I make my own vegetable stock (see below), with no added salt, so I need a bit more salt. If you use a canned full-sodium broth, you will need very little. Taste after a couple of hours and see. I doubled the recipe to feed a crowd, but didn't double the liquid. You need less in Crockpot cooking, anyway, but I wanted more of a stew than a soup. This is really nice in the winter, very warming!


8 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
1 teaspoon salt (depending on your stock)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
4 cups vegetable stock
3/4 cup natural peanut butter
2 tablespoons tomato paste
mm1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Place all ingredients except for cilantro into Crockpot. Cook on high 4 hours, or on low 8 hours, or until squash is tender. Check seasonings and liquid level and adjust as needed. Yum! Serve over rice, sprinkled with cilantro, to feed a crowd.

I made my annual fall vegetable stock. I make as much as will fit in my stockpots and freeze it in those ziploc containers. I made 11 quarts, which is a whole shelf in my freezer! I love homemade broth for the fat-free, salt-free flavor it adds to the soups and stews I make all winter. If you look to the template on the left, you'll see "My Recipes" under "My Stuff." Vegetable stock is actually the very first recipe I ever posted here. I usually make stock about the same way. This time, I used only the (well-washed) dark green parts of the leeks, because the white and light green parts are so good in other preparations. I used a bit more vegetables overall, because I added a 4-quart pot to the mix.

We had friends over, and I made Curried Butternut Squash Soup and Pumpkin Walnut Focaccia With Gruyere, both from the Cooking Light archives, along with a pesto vinaigrette for salad. I also made Cranberry-Apple Cobbler, also a Cooking Light recipe, and made Cinnamon Stick Ice Cream to go with it. I winged the recipe since I couldn't find one I liked. Those who find my ice milk recipes unsatisfying will be delighted that I caved and used egg in this one--not the NINE egg yolks called for in one recipe I found, but some. I love my ice milk, but it usually doesn't firm up right away, and when it does, it's pretty hard. For company, I wanted something easy to scoop, and this worked beautifully. I thought this was a great accompaniment to fall apple-based desserts. Insane cinnamon addicts might want to add even more--the cinnamon flavor was not exactly subtle, but it paired nicely with the vanilla.

Cinnamon Stick Ice Cream

3 cups whole milk, divided
3/4 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 eggs
1 cup cream

Beat eggs and set aside in a medium bowl in an ice bath. In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup milk, with sugar and all cinnamon and vanilla until steamy. Whisk into eggs (work quickly so as not to scramble the eggs), then return to saucepan. Cook, stirring frequently, until custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Return to ice bath, remove vanilla bean and cinnamon sticks, and add remaining milk and cream. Place mixture, ice bath and all, into the refrigerator to chill completely. Churn according to ice cream maker instructions.


mle said...

I love the collection of baby sweaters! I really need to make one of those for Jack.
I'm sure your blanket will turn out just fine! a blanket is the perfect project for adventurous knitting! LOL!

YarnThrower said...

Your three placket sweaters look so cute together! (Even cuter if you made, say, two or three more :-)

Good luck with your writing challenge for this month! Perhaps Lilah could pretend she is writing, too, with her coloring books while you work? Perhaps I've forgotten completely what it is like to have a young child with me all day long :-)

Have a great weekend! Happy November!

Stefaneener said...

What is it with short people and weird aversions to homemade sweaters? Thing 4 seems over it, but I'm not anxious to pick up needles for her any time soon.

The stock sounds lovely. I wish I had a pot of it going right now as we're well into the first rain of the year.

amy said...

YOU ARE AWESOME! You are my Martha. Honestly!

OK. Natural peanut butter - peanuts, salt only - I'm with you there completely. That recipe looks so yummy - we love the curries! I'm gonna make it with pumpkin instead (and reduce liquid) since I've got plenty of it.

Mmmmm - gruyere, gruyere - tummy growling - need gruyere.

A knitting mystery - that just makes me smile. There should be a knitting book for every genre - maybe around now we need one that covers how knitting has shaped our political history. :)

Your placket sweaters rock. Lilah's pinkie is my favorite; the buttons are the clincher. I'm a weirdo Kitchener stitch-liker, too - where is it used on the pattern...I'm assuming to close the seams on the arms? I've perused LMKGifts but never bought it.

Happy November!

KnitPastis said...

You picked out the cutest buttons for those sweaters! Congrats to you for finishing all those sweaters. I think it wonderful.

Mmmmmm, your ice cream makes me wish I still owned an ice cream maker.

Magdalena said...

These baby sweaters are cute and adorable. I too got a nice one from Gap Kids.

Mary said...

Thanks for sharing the crock pot recipe. I find it very difficult to find crockpot recipes that don't use multiple processed ingredients (cream of something soup, onion soup mix...etc.)

The sweaters are adorable. Must convince freinds to reproduce so I can knit little baby sweaters that won't take 5 months to finish....:)

Knittypants said...

Oh, what a sweet sweater, so girly :-)