Saturday, January 30, 2010

Is this a baking blog?

Like I said in my last post, I think I've been getting distracted from knitting for a variety of reasons. Whatever the case may be, I decided to bake bread today. The other day, I got my latest issue of "Clean Eating" magazine. They had a big article on whole wheat pizza crusts, fresh homemade sauces, and a variety of healthful pizzas. I made my way to the store to get a new bag of whole wheat flour and vital wheat gluten to make the recipe in the magazine. THEN I asked my husband what he'd like for supper... homemade calazones with whole wheat crust or Italian Stuffed Shells... can you tell... he likes Italian dishes? He said he had NO interest in whole wheat crust, darn it! So now I find myself with five pounds of whole wheat flour and several cups of vital wheat gluten! Apparently vital wheat gluten makes bread dough more elastic. Bread made with exclusively with whole wheat flour can be kind of tough.

Today I looked through my three bread baking books. I selected "Making Bread at Home" by Linda Doeser. This book is a bread machine bread making book. I selected the Harvest Loaf but I got crazy adding extra ingredients including flax seed meal, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds... and of course, some of the vital wheat gluten. In the photos above, my little loaf looks a little sad... but I think I am really happy with this bread. I just tried a little bite and I think it's really good. I am looking forward to this for breakfast tommorow. I plan to toast it and put an egg on top... or maybe I should have it with homemade blackberry jam (my friend Karen in Oregon made it and mailed it all the way to me in Colorado!). This is bread worthy of such great jam!
Since I was pretty excited about the results with my whole wheat bread, I have another loaf of bread in the bread machine right now (recipe from the same book). This book actually got me to try some of the various settings on my bread machine. The recipe in the machine now calls for a "cake" setting... never noticed that before. Cinnamon and Spice Bread calls for ingredients including baking soda (instead of yeast!), cinnamon, grated nutmeg, molasses, butter, eggs, raisins. Of course I did not exactly follow the recipe this time around either. The recipe called for measuring the dry ingredients and then the wet ingredients... and then combining them together like you would make muffins, and THEN you put the ingredients in the bread machine. I wondered then if the cake setting would further mix the ingredients (like bread machines do) or just bake what I had stirred together. Well, my little bread machine is just churning and churning away in the kitchen so it will be interesting to see how this comes out. I'll keep you posted! Three and a half hours is a long time to wait to see if something is going to turn out!

What's keeping me busy

I've been distracted from knitting lately. I am not frustrated by my projects per se... but I am distracted by other things which I need to get done or I want to get done. I had two days where my husband was at training and my son was in school, so I found myself relishing the opportunity to do what ever my little heart desired. The first project I tackled was cleaning and organizing our master bedroom closet. Lately I've found my knitting supplies and yarn stash spilling into other areas of the house. With a little de-cluttering and organizing, I found all things could fit in the master bedroom closet. There were some serious dust bunnies in that closet; it feels to have it done. The second project was really cleaning the laundry room. Nothing very exciting but it feels good to have it spruced up as well. Since I was home all day by myself, I felt the obligation to make great big meals for my family which I wouldn't have time for on a normal week night. Night number 1 was fajitas with all the fixin's and night number 2 was Italian calazones (with homemade crust) for the big people and a Shepherd's Pie for the little person in the house (made with hamburger, corn, and mashed taters... he likes it with lots of cracked black pepper and Ranch salad dressing... go figure!) I've made more lemon poppy seed bread and a pumpkin pie this week. Stocked the fridge with more oven roasted broccoli (with lemon zest and crushed red pepper flakes) and cauliflower ( with lemon zest, cumin and paprika). Since I had to pull out the bread machine for yesterday's pizza crust, today I am inspired to attempt to make whole wheat bread. I added some flax seed meal, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds. I hope it works out. I am working on my second blue and purple stripey sock. I need to finish what I've started instead of starting new things. Maybe after I get done with my pair of socks, then I'll get back to my GAA!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Kitchen gadgets make me happy!

At the base of Pikes Peak in Colorado, lies a smallish down called Manitou Springs. We go there often because of the nice shops (unique clothing boutiques, an old fashioned candy store, artist co-ops and galleries, and an arcade with games I can imagine my dad playing when he was young). My husband and son really enjoy the arcade so we synchronize our watches and agree to meet back up at the candy shop at a predetermined time. I venture out to my favorite few shops and I always end up at the Manitou Kitchen Shop. This is the kind of store where you find something new every time you make a lap around the store and every time you go for a visit because the store is absolutely bursting with anything and everything kitchen related. I have a system... I limit myself to one purchase per visit. After I select my purchase for the day, I scope out what I might like purchase on a future trip. I love all my gadgets from the Manitou Kitchen Shop. A tiny strainer which is the perfect size to drain one can of beans or one pound of hamburger, Microplane graters, silicon spatulas, a cookie cutter shaped like a football. This past Saturday, I splurged and bought four items. Shame on me! But I am excited about my purchases. For the longest time, I have wanted a really high quality peppermill. I've been adding red accents in my kitchen and I think this one fits in well! In the picture above, you can see my new peppermill next to my salt cubby... you'd think I bought them together they match so well (I also got the salt cubby at the Manitou Kitchen Shop on a previous visit... imagine that!) My other purchases included a super fine mesh stainless steel strainer (needed something this fine to rinse quinoa for all the quinoa I've been making lately). I bought a little veggie scrubber which fits on my finger (true story... I no longer have a veggie scrubber because my scrubber brush ended up in the garage a few summers ago when I needed to scrape paint on the outdoor window trim!) Finally, I got this great looking yellow sparkly coarse sugar to decorate cookies, cakes, etc. They also had hot pink sugar but I decided the yellow sugar would look great on some lemon cookies (which I really need to get to before my lemons go bad). Here's another photo. Silly I know, but some folks might be almost excited to see these as I am to have them in my kitchen. Hee, hee!

My latest block...

I have been struggling quite a bit with my latest block. This is a pattern from The Great North American Afghan. My Great American Afghan (GAA) course instructor suggested this particular block as an alternate block in the event there were some patterns in the GAA we did not want to complete. This block, as you can see, has an interesting construction. The center green portion is knit from bottom to top. Then you pick up and knit stitches around the perimeter to make the garter stitch border. For some reason, I really struggled with the simple border. The Great North American Afghan instructions are very slight in comparison to the detailed instructions in the GAA booklet. When you begin the border you stay with the main color and you place several stitches on hold (that's where the little safety pins come in). After the border is complete, you pick up your live stitches and complete I-cords of varying lengths. The I-cords are then stitched down to continue the cables and add more design to the block. I get frustrated with my knitting because I feel like I do a pretty darn good job with the knitting portion, only to screw up my project with poor sewing skills! Hence the reason the Under the Sea block is still not complete and the reason my three trees on the Three Trees block are still not stitched down! Ugh! I am starting to make a deal with myself... I need to not start any new blocks until I tie up all these loose ends... literally! And this is when working on my project feels more like work than enjoyment. Hmmmm.... I think I'll write another post right now to take a needed break from my block!

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I have to admit I am feeling a bit ashamed of myself. The other day, when I was doing my grocery shopping for the week, I found myself mildly irritated because I could not find the specific tortillas I was looking for. There are the 95% fat free tortillas my husband and son like and also my new favorite tortillas (whole grain, high fiber, high protein, low calorie and with green onions no less!). Nope, couldn't find either variety in the store. I just hoped what I had at home would carry me over until my next shopping trip because, heaven forbid, I loathe making another grocery run mid-week because I have not planned ahead well enough! By the way, there were several other kinds of tortillas I could have purchased... corn, flour, spinach and pesto, sun dried tomatoes, herb, garden vegetable, burrito sized, wrap sized, soft taco sized, low carb, no trans fat, no lard, and so on.
Today, we went shopping out of town to our big super center... two cases of water, big bottle of hand soap, huge package of paper towels, three cans of furniture polish, a few pounds of coffee, three jars of pasta sauce, a nice roast for dinner tomorrow, two big packs of socks for my husband, and 10 pounds of chicken wings to stock the freezer. We filled my car with gas (did not even have to wait in line) and went out for a nice pizza lunch. Went to the book store and the sporting goods store. It's a trip we make pretty much one time monthly.
As we lugged our purchases into the house, I found myself thinking of the folks in Haiti who are desperate for aid which can't seem to get there fast enough. How they would appreciate the bottles of clean water, the socks to wear, the food to eat, the gas for their cars, something as simple as soap. And in contrast, think of the ease and accessibility of it all for us. I recalled my frustration at the grocery store earlier in the week and it made me feel ashamed to think how much I take for granted.
I looked in the fridge and freezer this evening... I have two opened and one unopened package of tortillas in the house. I am doing laundry and dishes now and I am thinking we are fortunate we have running water (hot and cold) to keep us clean and healthy. We have a roof over our heads and a kitchen filled with wholesome fresh ingredients to keep us fed. There is so much we take for granted each and every day.

When life gives you lemons... go on a cooking frenzy!

After making a yummy loaf of lemon bread the other day, I went crazy in the kitchen on a cooking frenzy, utilizing lemons in all ways imaginable!

My lunches for the week: Quinoa cooked in chicken broth and drizzled with fresh lemon juice. Chicken breasts seasoned with rosemary, thyme, and basil... browned in the pan and then roasted in the oven with lemon wedges which made a great sauce when later reduced. Oven roasted broccoli with lemon zest, olive oil, and crushed red pepper flakes.

Also made two loaves of lemon bread... this time with poppy seeds. Which reminds me, I really need to get that bread in the freezer or else I'll start gobbling it up.

I also made some viniagrette with olive oil, dijon mustard, and lemon juice... I am not sure how much I will like it??? Also made some hummus with roasted red peppers, chickpeas, cumin and... of course... lots of fresh lemon juice. I think I put in too much garlic. Very strong raw garlic taste... not good. My husband was a trooper and ate some but he said he thought it tasted gritty. Hmmm. Unfortunately, I think that may go in the trash. More goodies with lemons to come... I'll keep you posted! :)

#24 Mirror Image is complete!

This block was enjoyable and not too difficult after I got passed Row 2 of the pattern chart. On Row 1 of the pattern chart, there are 12 instances where you do double yarn overs. On the following row, you drop one of the two wraps. I found Row 2 really confusing because it basically said to purl 15 and then a little later in the row purl 15 again. This of course is not tough in and of itself, but determining where to purl those pesky 15 stitches gave me fits. I had several false starts and finally was able to conquer that darn row with my GAA instructor sitting by my side! Once I got passed Row 2... it was a breeze! This is a block which utilizes an invisible cast on. Believe it or not, the invisible cast on is done in the center of the block horizontally. You complete half of the block and then you go back and gather up the stitches from the invisible cast on (the invisibly cast on stitches are held for safe keeping on a strand of waste yarn) and then you knit the other half of the block. Mirror images... brilliant and quite pretty I think!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

When life gives you lemons...

When life gives you lemons... make lemon bread... and lemon cookies with lemon icing, lemon marinade with herbs, lemon viniagrette, lemon meringue pie, lemon shortbread cookies... ah, such possibilities!

Some relatives in Arizona have wonderful citrus trees in their yard, including a very prolific lemon tree, and the past few Januaries, they've sent us big boxes of the biggest, freshest lemons I have ever seen! I have them stowed safely in the fridge for now (can't let any go bad or go to waste!) as I dream up recipes for them. So far I've made this moist, sticky, slightly sweet loaf of lemon bread from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. The recipe calls for brushing the loaf with a combination of fresh lemon juice and sugar while the loaf is still hot. Yum! Coworkers loved it! Next time, will add poppyseeds for sure!
Block #24 is nearing completion. Will post a photo of that later today. Nine more rows to go and a bind off row and some blocking to stretch it to size, and then I'll be on to the next block! I wonder if the ladies at my Thursday knitting group would like some lemon cookies with icing? I've got just a recipe for that!

Friday, January 8, 2010


Made a sock this week. Need to make another of course. This is the great sock yarn I got from with the gift certificate from my mom for Christmas. I still need to finish the toe and am planning to attempt to complete a proper Kitchner Stitch for the toe. On past socks, I've not taken the time to really do this properly. Hoping I can find a great video on the internet to walk me through the process. I think I saw a video on Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Goodies from Knit Picks!

I've been expecting a package from Knit Picks (Thanks for the gift certificate, Mom! Would you know... for Christmas, my mom got me a gift certificate for Knit Picks and... for Christmas, I gave my mom a gift certificate for Knit Picks! Imagine that!? Great minds think alike. We even picked the same snowman design on the gift certificate). Yesterday, a storm front blew in from the North. You could see it snowing in the mountains and hills not too far from us. I happened to peek out the front of the house toward the mailbox at the end of the street and noticed the mailman pulling up to the mailboxes. My husband braved the wind and cold and rain to gather my package. It was a treat to tear into it! Check out my goodies. A book entitled "Andean Folk Knits", Susan B. Anderson's book entitled "Itty Bitty Toys", a kit to make two blue and white stockings, more blocking pins, two balls of gorgeous sock yarn, and a pattern/chart keeper.

I was most surprised by the "Andean Folk Knits" book. I think it was on sale for $5.99 on I expected the book to be small since the price was so low, but the book is huge with tons of patterns and colorful photos. The book contains personal stories from the author (what I've picked up on so far is that she and her family lived in South American as Mennonite missionaries). She goes into great detail about the history of this part of the world and the tradition of knitting as part of the culture. The book contains a number of pattern for bags or purses, many of which are shaped like animals. So many patterns, so little time... okay, enough procrastinating... I need to get moving on that baby boy sweater!

How things are shaping up!

Since I got some great blocking mats for Christmas, I've been spending time blocking most my afghan squares. I like to lay out the squares to see how things are shaping up and to determine colors for the next squares. I am really happy with the yarn I selected for this project.

#5 Bows and Arrows is Complete!

With the exception of "invisible diagonal seam", I am done with block #5. I was so anxious to have show & tell with you that I snapped a photo while it was pinned down to the blocking mat! I still marvel at the creative construction of this block. The designer must be one smart cookie! Snapped a few photos of this one so you can see how this came together. Although the bobbles on this block are not super apparent in these photos, in case you were wondering... there are 80 bobbles in this block. Yep, I counted them! Eight in the very center, 40 around the outside border (that was a rough, slow row!) and the rest outline the lacy design in the center of the block. I really need to get moving on a baby boy sweater I promised to make. I had a great lavendar baby girl sweater made but then I found out... it's a boy! The baby is due in two days. No pressure!

Friday, January 1, 2010

#5 Bows and Arrows in Progress!

Check out the unique construction on this block! This block starts with only five stitches in the center of the block and then you complete eight pesky big bobbles straight away on row five. You would think, from looking at the photo above, that this block is being knit in the round... but NO! It's knit back and forth and then at the end it will be joined together with an invisible diagonal seam (wish me luck with that part). Right now I am on row 30 which has 121 stitches. By row 49, I'll have 169 stitches. The increases are done every other row if I am not mistaken. Fun pattern, but I have to be pretty focused on the instructions when working on this design. I have not been referring to the pattern chart in the instructions. The written-out instructions are good.

#21 Aran Sampler is Complete!

This block was a blast! Posting two pictures so you can see all the great texture and detail. :)

I noticed today, when looking at the GAA instruction booklet, that this block is supposed to be one of the most challenging. I breezed through it following the excellent written-out instructions. I did not refer to the chart at all. Does this mean my knitting is improving if I found this to be not too challenging!??? I only had one problem on the portion on the right hand side... the cable that snakes from the bottom to the top. Maybe it was around row 26, 27 and again 55, 56... I was supposed to do some purl two togethers... but if I did, the number of stitches was wrong. I worked through it and ended up skipping the p2tog and it looks just fine.
I am calling the block the Aran Sampler because our course instructor said once we complete a block like this, we'll be able to complete any aran sweater! Almost makes me think maybe I'd like to make the Great American Aran Afghan someday??? Hmmmm.....