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Monday, February 15, 2016

"Cheezy" Cream of Spinach Soup

In doing the Whole 30, I've found paleo ways to make old standards that are sometimes better-tasting (and occasionally, easier) than the non-paleo origionals. Take cheesy soups, for instance: how on earth do you make them without having lumps of cheese throughout? I have never mastered the fine art of thickeners to make a perfectly creamy, cheesy soup. Until today, and believe it or not, no cheese was harmed in the making of this soup.
For this soup I used sweet potato as a thickener, turmeric for its color (that it's high in magnesium and iron is another benefit), nutritional yeast for that je ne se quois funk (the protein and B vitamins are a major plus!), and coconut milk for making it creamy.
To make it I used:

  • 1 Tbsp ghee (use avocado oil to make it vegan)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cups bone broth (or vegetable broth to make it vegan)
  • 1 tsp each of: dry mustard, turmeric, paprika
  • 2 tsp salt (or to taste; just keep in mind that salt is part of what convinces you there's cheese involved!)
  • 4 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 heaping cutting-boards-worth of spinach, chopped (about one small bag or container)
  • 1 14 oz can (or 2 cups homemade) coconut milk

Heat a soup pot over medium-high heat and add the ghee or oil. When hot, add the chopped onion, and let it cook until translucent. Add the diced sweet potato and garlic and let cook a couple more minutes. Add broth, spices, salt, and nutritional yeast, cover, and bring to a boil.
As it's boiling, chop up the spinach, and add it to the pot one cutting-board at a time. Bring it back to a boil, and occasionally press a sweet potato slice onto the edge of the pot with a wooden spoon to see if it's fully cooked. Once it is, turn off the heat, pour in the coconut milk, and mix with an immersion blender. Serve hot!
This is a very bare-bones recipe. Add a little spice with some hot sauce or pepper flakes! Add some tang with a dash of lemon juice. Add thyme and oregano for a more Italian character. How do you dress up your soups?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Midwestern Gumbo!


I've now completed 3 weeks of the Whole 30, and I've experience it as so:
Week 1: Take pictures of all the things! I can only think about food! Make up new recipes and post the instructions on every picture!
Week 2: Take pictures of all the things! I can only think about food! But I'm kind of tired of keeping track of every single thing I do. I'll write the recipes later.
Week 3: Uggg...so tired of photographing my food/making it look presentable. I want to just eat it and get it over with. I have better energy! Oh wait, just got a cold with a fever attached. It's lasted 4 days.
So basically I can't really tell how this diet is working. And I couldn't really have 3 meals a day because I haven't been hungry, and also because I've been either sleeping or crazy productive. The last two days have been crazy productive; I've done the math and typed up charts for a lace shawl, I'm in the process of writing it out long-hand (for non-chart-readers), I've memorized several verses of Не Ветейся Чайки for the Golosa concert on Saturday, and worked on the painting that will fill a big wall in our living room.
I have had time to test and re-test some recipes, and I found a real winner! Midwestern Gumbo! What makes it Midwestern? The fish comes from a can; I don't trust much un-canned fish around here. Un-canned fish is for the coasts.
The recipe is quite simple! (Two of the ingredients go straight from the can to the soup!) Also, you can change around some of the ingredients; last time I made this I used butternut squash, chicken stock, and spinach, because that's what I had on hand. This time I only had one lonely shallot, where normally I would use a whole onion. It still turned out superbly! Keep the "garbage soup" mantra in mind: If it's in your fridge and might be nice in a soup, use it!
You'll need:
  • 1 Tbsp cooking fat
  • 1 onion (or shallot--maybe two shallots if you have them), chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic (more or less, depending on taste), chopped coarsely
  • 1 Tbsp smoked hot paprika
  • 1 Tbsp sweet paprika (Pictured above is our "wedding spice blend", which is mostly paprika, both smoked and sweet--if you have one and not the other, use 2 Tbsp of the one you have)
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 quart bone broth
  • 4 links Wellshire Farms Andouille Sausage (no sugar!)
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tin sardines in olive oil (I use Wild Planet)
  • 4 leaves kale, stemmed and cut in a chiffonade
  • 2 Tbsp Frank's Red Hot (no sugar!)
Melt the cooking fat in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until golden. Add the garlic and stir until aromatic (or use your spidy sense if you're stuffed up and can't smell anything).
Throw in the spices, stir around so they absorb the cooking fat. Add the sweet potato and toss until coated with the toasted spices.
Add your bone broth and cover the pot until it's boiling. Turn down the heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
Lift the lid, turn up the heat slightly, and add the sausage and peppers. After about 5 more minutes, empty the can of tomatoes and the tin of sardines (olive oil and into the soup. Stir it around so the fish breaks up.
Bring it back to a boil; if you haven't already, use this time to chiffonade the kale. It's a super-fancy word for "roll it up and slice it very thinly". When the kale is chopped, throw it in the soup and stir until it's wilted. Add 2Tbsp (more or less) Frank's Red Hot and turn off the heat.
Note that I did not mention salt. Both times I've made this I forgot the intended salt, and only when I sat down to eat it I realized that it didn't need any. This may be because of the sausage, or the can of sardines, but it tasted perfect without any added salt.
Stay tuned for more recipes!

Friday, January 29, 2016

First Week of Doing The Whole 30


Last fall I was visiting one of my best friends, and she had a book sitting around that looked interesting. She told me about it as pushing a reset button for your metabolism, and changing one's relationship with food. I then poured through her book during my visit (and bought myself a copy at the Writer's Block Bookstore in Vegas)

We decided to start our Whole 30 experience on February 1, but some of my local friends were starting mid-January, so I followed suit. New Year's and our friends' wedding contributed to some unhealthy binges (lots of fun!), so I was very ready, come January 19, to start my first Whole 30!
The first week was not easy; days two and three saw me as foggy and irritable, respectively. The weekend was a little easier (early bedtimes, early wake-up times), and I got to do a trip to Costco with my neighbor and Whole 30 buddy, Brianna. Buddy trips to Costco are wonderful; I got insanely huge bags of sweet potatoes and pears, and she got a 4-pack of pork roasts. Since the price for the pork matched the combined price for the produce, we split everything! Win!
Over the past week I've been trying new recipes, plus writing my own. It's funny how limitations can lead to creativity; when I can eat whatever I want, I often go the rout of pork gyoza with soy-sauce and sriracha, or pasta and pre-made pesto. Both delicious, but kinda boring!
I've been posting some recipes on my Instagram, and I thought I'd share them here on my blog so they're easy to find and come back to. I think I'll share some great staples:
Garlic Sautéed Spinach
  • Several cloves garlic
  • 2 or 3 pinches (or shakes) crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bag, or several handfuls, fresh spinach
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
In a cold pan, scatter the garlic and pepper flakes, then pour in oil and swirl to coat.
Turn heat on medium, and cook until the garlic is fragrant (starting cold makes the garlic infuse the oil). Add the spinach, toss with the garlic, and cook until wilted. Add salt and pepper.
Chipotle-Lime Mayonnaise
This is fantastic for salmon or tuna salads, a base for chipotle-lime salad dressing (2 Tbsp, plus the juice of one more lime), or as mayo on Jiberitos, a Chicago-Puerto-Rican sandwich on fried plantain slices. It's also a great dip for baked sweet potato fries or roasted butternut squash!
  • 1 egg, room temperature (1 hour on the counter is good, 30 minutes in your pajama pants pocket is great!)
  • 1/4 + 1 cup avocado oil
  • 1 tsp each of: mustard powder, salt, rosemary, and dried ground chipotle
  • zest and juice of one lime
In a food processor or blender, combine the egg, 1/4 cup avocado oil, spices, and lime zest.
With the processor still running, slowly drizzle in the remaining 1 cup oil.
Set the processor to low and pour in the lime juice.
Store in a glass jar in your fridge; it should last about a week, if it indeed lasts that long!
Best Taco Meat
This is such an easy dish--I might double the recipe next time so we have more leftovers!
  • 2 Tbsp cooking fat
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp each of cumin, coriander, chipotle, and oregano
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder (I used the Centrella brand, which contains salt--if you're using one without, add salt to taste)
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 6oz can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
Melt the cooking fat in a skillet over medium-high heat, and when hot, add chopped onions. When the onions are golden, add the garlic for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the spices, mix around, and add the ground beef. Break it up until browned everywhere (no pink), and add the tomato paste and stock. Stir for 2 minutes over medium heat. Serve over baked sweet potato,spaghetti squash, or in an omelette the next day.
There are more recipes on my Instagram, but either I didn't see them as "staples" or I need to try them again till they work out better, and I may add them later!
Are you doing a Whole 30? What kind of experience have you had so far? Do you have any requests for recipes you'd like to see?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Three New Patterns and Stitches Midwest!

On Wednesday, August 5, I released three new patterns! Two of them were shawls that were inspired by my recent trips to the Republic of Georgia; Lenjeri is a lace pattern inspired by a small village in Svaneti, and Polyphony was my attempt to knit a tangible interpretation of the traditional 3-part vocal tunes prevalent in Georgia.
When Doug and I visited Lenjeri on our honeymoon, we were enamored with the greenery and flowers finding homes within cracks of stone walls. When Leading Men Fiber Arts gave me a skein of green merino-silk lace yarn (the Ghost Light base) at Vogue Knitting Live, I immediately associated that green (Envy) with the green I saw in that small village. Fortunately, I had the chance to return this summer with my Georgian Choir on a tour to learn folk songs.
I'm fascinated with traditional Georgian polyphony, most often sung in three parts with close harmony (each word links to a different style of three-part singing in the country--I could not decide). I decided to combine this fascination with my love for knitwear design, and came up with Polyphony, a warm, color-block stole with a lace center. I tried to make the colors work together to make a whole, as well as illustrating that the middle part in Georgian polyphony is often the most detailed. I knit it out of Leading Men Fiber Arts Show Stealer base (80% merino, 10% cashmere, and 10% nylon) in the colorways Dames At Sea, Dusty Quartz, and Sandcastle.
I modeled it by a river in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.
The third pattern I designed for the Leading Men Fiber Arts boot at Stitches was a fun hat pattern called Zipadee, using elongated slipped stitches forming zig-zag zippers that meet at the top.
I knit it out of their Playbill base (dk weight single-ply merino) in the Seaweed colorway. It was a fun, quick knit after all the shawls!
On to Stitches! We set up the Polyphony wrap on the model next to several kits that Steve and Andy picked out to go with the pattern.
I had a wonderful time meeting other designers, fellow yarn-addicts, and seeing some old friends.
If you came by the booth, thank you! I loved the opportunity to meet you!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Operation Berry Pie

This has been the summer of pies. Usually I attempt one pie per summer, then being discouraged by the amount of work involved, I put off my next attempt for the following summer. Not this year! For my husband's 40th birthday he requested "pie" as his type of cake, and since I figured there would be loads of people celebrating that weekend, I decided to bake two. This is indeed the answer, because yes, it is a lot of work. But if you put in the work and it results in twice as many pies, why, it's really only half the work per pie!
A couple weeks ago I made two berry pies, but forgot to look at a recipe when I started. Therefore, I had to fudge a little bit, and it resulted in everyone asking for my pie filling recipe! I had to think about it, and just to make sure, I recreated the pies.
First, I prepared the filling (remember, this is for 2 pies):
  • 4 cups sliced strawberries
  • 4 cups blueberries
  • 2 cups rasperries
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
I mixed them together, making sure the berries were coated, and set it aside.
I then made the dough. I increased the recipe by a quarter because I can never seem to make a pie crust that drapes over the edge of the pan and still have enough for the lattice on top.
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 2/3 cups ghee (you can use butter, shortening, or lard, but I prefer clarified butter)
  • up to 16 tablespoons ice water
Cut the ghee into the flour, first using two knives, then a hand mixer (I like my mixers analogue), till the largest clumps of ghee are the size of small peas. You'll still have a lot of loose flour everywhere, but don't worry about that; that's the ice water's job.
Add one tablespoon of ice water and toss it around, then press the dough to the sides of the bowl. Repeat this until you can make a solid clump of dough that can be formed into a ball.
Seperate your dough into four pieces. Roll out your first two pieces into 12" diameter circles and drape them perfectly over the pie pans with no cracks or holes.
I'm far from professional, but I bet even the pros have to play doctor some. Now trim your perfectly-draped (sorry--I just realized that maybe not everyone would recognize the sarcasm here--that's sarcasm) pie crusts and cover with cling wrap and put in the fridge.
Roll your next two chunks into similar shapes, then use a pizza cutter to slice each one into eight 1 1/2" strips. Lay some cling wrap on a cookie sheet, then arrange one layer of strips, then another sheet of cling wrap, and a second layer of strips. Top with a third layer of cling wrap and place in your fridge.
By now, the sugar has probably robbed your berries of some juice. Set up a collander over a bowl, and slide the berry mixture into the collander. Wait a couple minutes for them to drain.
Reserve 3/4 cup of the syrup for the pie. With the rest, I recommend sweetening a pitcher of black iced tea.
Pour your reserved syrup into the bowl where the berries were. Add:
  • 4 Tbsp Minute Tapioca
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • a dash of cayenne (optional, though I added 3 dashes and it was magnificent)
  • 1 tsp each of cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla (extract)
  • freshly grated nutmeg (does anyone ever measure grated nutmeg?)
Add the berries from the collander, mix, and let sit for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, with two racks arranged in the middle two slots. Place a large cookie sheet on the bottom rack.
Take out the pie crusts and strips from the fridge. When the berry mixture is ready, ladle it in to the pie crusts, equally. Arrange the strips on top of the mixture in a woven lattice, then crimp the edge of the pie crust with your fingers. Seperate an egg and reserve the whites in a small bowl, and paint the egg white onto the lattice. Sprinkle sugar on top, generously, but don't go overboard.
Place your pies in the oven for 25 minutes. Rotate them, then turn the heat down to 350 degrees F. Cook for another 30 minutes. Take them out and let them cool to room temperature.
Oh boy oh boy oh boy!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Roasted Almonds: A Formula



Recently I've been on a not-so-much sugar kick. It's several steps less virtuous than a no-sugar diet; I'll have dessert once a week (or maybe twice or three times...depends on the week), and then stick to fruit and leftover dinner for snacks.
This slight change in my diet has definitely made my baking-brain feel ignored. I want to be creative! I want to make you, my host body, something sweet to nosh on after you get home from work! OK, baking-brain, OK. I hear you. Let's make some honey-roasted almonds, and let's get them right!
A previous recipe I'd tried led to almonds that were stuck to wax paper like button candy. I tried it again, but moved it to the jar before it got to sticky, which resulted them to be stuck to the jar. This time I thought, "hey! My cooling rack has been lonely since I stopped making cookies, maybe that would work?" and bam! slightly-sticky honey-roasted almonds! They still stick to the jar, but will un-stick once I give them a good shake.
Now, on to the formula. You will need:
  • 2.5 cups raw almonds (Costco, all the way!)
  • 1/4 cup dry sugar (white, brown, turbindo, any natural sugar in crystal form)
  • 1/4 cup liquid sugar (honey, maple syrup, agave, molasses, etc.)
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • Get creative with your favorite spices! I use about 2 teaspoons total of spice.
  • 1 teaspoon of coarse sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • Saucepan
  • Cookie Sheet
  • Wax paper (if using parchment, wet it with a little oil.)
  • Cooling rack (with holes small enough that an almond won't slip through)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pour the liquid and dry sugars and teaspoon of water into the saucepan and heat on medium until the dry sugar dissolves into the liquid. Lower heat and add the spices and salt, mixing until well incorporated. Add the almonds, stirring until each one is coated with the sweet, spicy, syrup. Turn off heat.
Line a cookie sheet with wax paper, then pour the sticky lump of almonds onto it. Use a spatula to spread them into an even layer, then slide the pan into the preheated oven.
Bake for 10-15 minutes, or whenever the smell reminds you that you had something in the oven. Maybe don't leave the room if your method is the latter.
Take out the pan, let it cool for a couple minutes, then lift the wax paper carefully by the corners and slide the almonds onto a cooling rack. Use the spatula to even them out.
Throughout the next hour, revisit the cooling rack, breaking the almonds apart as they dry.
After an hour, or as soon as needed if this is a last-minute present for someone and you need to get to their party RIGHT MEOW, transfer almonds to a jar or a bowl.
The two kinds of almonds I made with this formula are quite fun.
Smoky, Spicy Almonds
  • 1/4 cup honey (liquid sugar)
  • 1/4 cup white sugar (dry sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon each of smoked paprika and chipotle (get creative with spices)
All the other ingredients were the same as the formula. These have a deliciouse, warm flavor. If I had hicory smoke powder I totally would have added that, but the smokiness was definitely present with the paprika and chipotle!
Vemont Vampire-Hunter Almonds
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (liquid sugar)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (dry sugar)
  • 1 clove minced fresh garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Gateway To The North seasoning from the Spice House (this contains a mix of maple sugar, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt, so if you don't have access to this mix, try using a teaspoon of garlic powder and a smidge more brown sugar.)
Add the minced fresh garlic to the saucepan at the same time as the sugars and water. Other than that, everything is the same as the formula!

Did you come up with a creative combination? Let me know in the comments!


Friday, November 14, 2014

Indie Gift-Along!



As knitters, we have a tendency (and need) to think about Christmas gifts months in advance.  As a designer, I get a warm, fuzzy feeling every time a design of mine flies off the page (or screen), onto someone's needles, and into gift-wrapping.  Even though I'm not there for the gift-giving, I love to imagine that's what happens when someone buys my pattern.

Last year, a crew of independent knitting- and crochet-desginers created the "Indie Gift-Along."  It's essentially a group in the Ravelry forums that is dedicated to bringing knitters and independent designers together to make gifts for loved ones, and to share pictures with one another as they work.

I couldn't be more excited to be one of the participating designers this year!  Thanks to all the tireless volunteers who organize this (including Alex Tinsley and Nina Machlin Dayton), I get to be a witness to the gift-giving process, as well as get to know the work of so many amazing independent designers.

I know I'm a day late to report this, but for the next 7 days (ending November 21, 2014), 20 of my patterns will be on sale for 25% off! Simply use the code, giftalong2014!

By all means, take advantage of the sale, and plan ahead for the Indie Gift-Along this year!