Thursday, January 15, 2009

Knitting Along

Gathered Pullover is really moving along. The body is finished, and I'm half-done with the first sleeve. I wish I'd known how fun and easy cables are! They always seemed so mysterious, but like lace, it turns out that you just follow the directions. This is obviously a simple cable motif, so we'll see if I still like them when I try something more complex. I'm a little afraid I've made the body of Gathered Pullover too long--I was just happily knitting along and knit it longer than I had planned (I'm making the body and sleeves longer than called for, and knit an extra inch or so above the cable to move the placement down a bit. I'm also doing hemmed edges, though I haven't decided if I'll modify the neckband or do it rolled. I think I want to do it in the round, at least.

Reading: Lots. Of special note are Savvy, a YA tall tale/coming of age story by Ingrid Law, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, and a really fantastic novel called The Disappearance by Efrem Sigel.

Writing: Nope.

Cooking: I got inspired by the freakishly cold weather (relatively speaking; in Wisconsin, this would be a warm spell) to make a pot pie. I quickly shifted my interest to shepherd's pie, which is crustless and topped with mashed potatoes, when I realized I was not inspired to make pie crust. I had in mind something akin to Amy's Organics frozen Shepherd's Pie, veggies and chickpeas in a tomatoey broth, with mashed potato topping. But Matt actually volunteered a suggestion of using...tofu. I know! Weird. So I thought of Amy's Vegetable Pot Pie, which has tofu and veggies in a creamy sauce. Hey, I can make that, but without crust and with the mashed potato topping, I thought. I googled around, not liking to reinvent the wheel, and found this recipe at Mollie Katzen's site. (You can find the mushroom sauce recipe in a crepe recipe if you go back to the recipe index.) But that wasn't quite right. I didn't want the sauce on the side, and the vegetable hash seemed overly involved, so I winged it. What else is new? You could make any or all of the components ahead of time, or assemble the whole thing and bake later. If you don't like my mashed potatoes, make your favorite recipe instead. I really liked this, but it was pretty liquidy, so I have you use half the sauce as a gravy on the side.

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

Mashed Potato Topping:
About 6 medium Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and diced
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 cup milk (more if needed)
1/2 tsp salt (more to taste)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Place potatoes and garlic in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain. Add milk, salt, and Parmesan and mash well. Set aside.

Mushroom-Tofu Filling:
1 TBL olive oil
1 onion, minced
2 ribs celery, minced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
1 pound mushrooms, washed, trimmed, and quartered
1 pound frozen mixed vegetables (mine had carrots, peas, corn, and green beans)
1 package tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 tsp salt (more to taste)
black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion, celery, bay leaf, and thyme. Cook until onion is translucent. Add mushrooms and cook on medium heat until mushrooms begin to give up liquid. Stir in vegetables, tofu, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Spiked Mushroom Sauce (you will use HALF in the casserole dish and half on the side):
1 TBL butter
1 pound mushrooms, washed, trimmed, and very thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp salt (more to taste)
3 TBL vermouth (you can substitute sherry or brandy)
1 1/2 cups milk, warmed
3 TBL flour
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Melt butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add mushrooms and cook until mushrooms begin to give up liquid, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add bay leaf, salt, and vermouth. Cook 5 minutes. Whisk the flour into the milk; add to mushrooms. Cook 5-10 minutes over low heat, until slightly thickened. Add black pepper, remove bay leaf, and stir HALF into Mushroom-Tofu Filling. Serve the other half, warm, on the side as gravy. (Or just cut the recipe in half if you don't want extra sauce.)

Place in a large casserole dish or 9x13 pan. Top with mashed potatoes. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, until top is golden brown and edges are bubbly.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A New Year!

I'm a little late to the New Year's party, but I was hung up on finishing a project that was a bit ambitious for me. I finally bit the bullet and did the *gasp* sewing part, so I get to start out with a finished object post! Since it was such a difficult project for me, I took LOTS of pictures, but sadly, I did not get a photo of them upside-down.

From above:

From above, only at an angle:

Both from the front:

A close-up of the one I screwed up:

A close-up of the one I didn't screw up that nevertheless looks wonkier than the other:

Pattern: Bamboozelle from Knitty
Yarn: One skein of Southwest Trading Company Bamboo in Cobalt (if this yarn looks familiar, you may have been reading my blog back during the Knitting Olympics...sorry, any excuse to show that sweater)
Needles: Size 6, 5, 4, and 3 circulars, size 6 dpns
Notes: I love the yarn, but I was a bit put out that there were THREE knots within two rows! I'm sorry, but that's ridiculous. There was a fourth several rows past that, too. I still haven't decided how I feel about this pattern. I loved the cute little basket in the photo. I have NO IDEA what she did to that basket to make it look so sturdy and finished. As you can see, mine are not perfectly four-cornered--by a long shot. I went to Hancock Fabrics and found a nice lady to help me (I found the gorgeous art glass beads there, too!). I used stiff interfacing, taped together, then plain white fabric for the lining. I blocked the basket out with grocery bags, which worked okay, but maybe I needed something stiffer than my stiff interfacing. The basket is tapered by switching to progressively smaller needles from the top. This was a neat idea since no decreasing was needed until shaping the bottom. However, it also made for floppier fabric at the top, where structure is kind of needed. To be fair, I was using a different yarn, and maybe Alchemy Bamboo makes a stiffer fabric, I don't know. Anyway, for the first basket, I accidentally cast on 121 stitches instead of 114, which I didn't discover until it was time to decrease for the bottom. Oops. But it worked out fine, and I like the slightly larger basket. To sum up, I liked the knitting, but I'm not sure the finishing should have been done by a non-crafty person like me. It needed more professional finishing than I can do, but I'm still not sure how the basket in the pattern can look so perfect if she did the finishing she calls for.

Other knitting: I decided on a pattern for the Silky Wool. I hope i don't regret this, but I chose the Gathered Pullover. I did a folded hem instead of the rolled edge, and after lots of ravelrying, I will be relocating the center cables by knitting an extra inch or two before and an extra couple of inches after the cable. I'm still undecided about eliminating the eyelets.

State of the knitting: Okay, I really did NOT do well with my yarn challenge last year. I'm supposed to give away the yarn in my list that I didn't use, but I'm not gonna do that. I think at this point, with a toddler and writing to do, I'm not going to try to challenge myself with knitting. I have enough challenges. So I'll just keep trying to do things from my stash without concrete goals, but I'll pick things that are fun and relaxing without worrying about doing a project a month or using up twelve different yarns.

Writing: Hoping to get going again this week!

Reading: I'm slogging through Eat Pray Love for my book group, and I have an ARC to read. Er, two ARCs to read. I ended 2009 with 217 books read for the year! What can I say? Reading is my TV.

Cooking: Not too much of interest, but I have some plans for good stuff coming up!