Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter

Five minutes later...

Hippity Hoppity

I caved in and did what everybody in crochetland seems to be doing these days - I made the now famous Bunnies from Green Dragonfly. Go. Make these right now. They are easy and so adorable.

Note - we used leftover worsted weight yarn and an I or 5.5 mm hook.

Thing One (my 21 year old daughter) made the white bunny. I made the gray one.  This morning, they are being cuddled by an 8 year old.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Weekend Pics...

Snow is in our forecast and the wind is howling. Sounds like a crochet and soup weekend.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Granny Patch

Making progress!

Simple, four round, granny squares, using a "join as you go" method. The yarn is Stylecraft Special DK, and there are about 30 different colors here. I have to admit, this hasn't been one of my favorite projects, but it is growing on me as it gets bigger.  This picture shows 9 rows of 10 squares. I added another row last night. I think 20 rows of 10 - 200 squares total - plus a border should do it.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cranberry Almond Lemon Bread

I love bread. I do. Can't imagine life without it. And I'm a big fan of no-knead artisan bread recipes. In fact, I don't think I'll ever knead dough again. What's the point? I've had more success with the no-knead varieties than I ever had with traditional bread baking. It's easy. It's successful. I'm basically lazy, so this is a win.

Recipes and instructions for no knead breads are available all over the internet, and there are many books out there, too.  The one I am most familiar with is Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  Easy. For the most part, I follow the basic recipe from Artisan bread in five. I do make a few small, but notable, changes.

Lots of things could affect it, but I get a better rise and airier bread if I increase the yeast a little bit, and add some sugar or honey to the dough. The sugar feeds the yeast, making it rise more.  It's important to follow the recipes the way they are written first - then play with them and see what works best for you. 

Well, this weekend, I was reading through my blog list. I subscribe to a lot of blogs - almost all are connected to food or crochet.  I get lots of inspiration from what others are doing, and this weekend, bread was on the list. Simply So Good is featuring a Cranberry, Almond, Orange, Artisan no-knead bread! It looks fabulous. I MUST try it.  And the dough is rising right now.  I have one minor change - no oranges in the house, but plenty of lemon, thus my version is Cranberry - Almond - Lemon Bread. I am a firm believer in substituting citrus at will, and a little thing like lack of oranges will not keep me from my bread!

Here's what I did:

Combined gently in my Kitchenaid standing mixer:
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 TBSP yeast
about 2 TBSP honey (squirted in, not measured)
1 TBSP kosher salt
Two big handfuls of dried cranberry
about a cup toasted, slivered almonds
grated peel of one lemon
3 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

Yes, the dough is super sticky. If you compare my ingredients to Simply So Good, you can see they are almost the same.  I did follow her suggestion and toast the almonds. And knowing what I know about MY success with artisan breads, I increased the yeast a little bit and added that squirt of honey.  

I covered the bowl and left it on the counter for two hours. When I returned, it had more than doubled in size. At this point, I generously floured my parchment paper, and dumped the bread dough into a heap. With floured hands, I shaped it into a loaf, covered it with a linen cloth, and walked away. 

Here is the wet sticky dough after the first rising...

And here it is floured, on the parchment paper, ready for more rising.

And here is a favorite tip I picked up from Pinterest!  See that lid?  That's from a Parmesan cheese container. It fits on a standard canning jar. I keep flour in this one, but I have several jars just like it with other things. It is super handy! I don't have to grab my big flour bin from the cabinet when I just need a little bit to thicken a sauce or for baking.  I don't know who figured out that this works, but I'm very grateful.

A few hours later (maybe 3?) I returned.  I put my baking stone on the top rack in the oven, and my old metal jelly roll pan on the bottom rack, and heated things up to 450. This is how they do it on Artisan Bread in Five.  You put the bread on the hot stone, and pour some cold (or at least room temp) water in the metal pan.  Steam happens. Shut the door to keep it in.  Bake, about 30 minutes or so.  It will smell amazing. Take it out of the oven and leave it alone. Do NOT cut it yet. Wait. At least 20 minutes. Longer if you can. Cutting hot bread is bad. It ruins the texture.

Here is the result.  I cut a few slashes in the top of the bread before baking. It's not necessary, but something they suggest at Artisan Bread in Five.  Look at that gorgeous crust.  

And here it is, cut open - filled with luscious cranberries and crunchy almonds. The texture of the bread itself is light and airy. Delicious.

I couldn't resist, and put a little butter on this slice. Not necessary, but hey, I like butter.

Birthday Weekend!

How cool is this?  
Unfortunately, I couldn't make "screen capture" work, so I took a picture with my phone. 
Technologically challenged? Yup. 

Yesterday was my birthday - 48!  It was a great day. I went to Ann Arbor, MI (just an hour from here) for pedicures and lunch with good friends. I don't get a pedicure often, and I'm not sure why. It was lovely. We sipped hot tea, relaxed in comfy reclining chairs, and let them massage and pamper our tired toes. After pedicures, we went to Zingerman's Roadhouse for lunch. So delicious! Warm spinach and mushroom salad...artisan cheese with bagel crisps and roasted balsamic grapes...I even had an ice cold beer.  Now I'm not usually much of a beer drinker. I prefer wine - and nothing sweet. But this was wonderful. 

I was home in time to make dinner...and decided to make Mushroom Stroganoff. Sorry, no pictures, but it was delicious.  The tradition here is for my husband to bake my cake. It is always the same - Angel Food, from scratch, with fluffy, seven minute frosting. The fun part is he usually makes a mistake and we get to laugh at the various disasters. Yup, I'm serious.  One year, he mistook tsp for tbsp, and let's just say I've never had such a salty cake in my life!  With years of practice under his belt, I think he has finally mastered the art.  Here's what's left of the cake today.  The picture doesn't do it justice - so light and airy.  Nice work!

Tricks to the perfect Angel Food cake: don't use your freshest eggs. I get better results when they are at least two weeks old. Bring them to room temperature before starting.  If you are lucky enough to have one, using a standing mixer. The egg whites need to whip a long time to get stiff.  We actually bought a standing mixer because we love Angel Food cake so much.  I don't regret it at all.  Folding in the ingredients is not the same as mixing. Folding allows you to gently combine the wet meringue with the flour/powdered sugar, without losing the air that's been whipped into the batter.  That air is what makes the cake so light and fluffy. Take your time - practice. If your first one isn't perfect, try it again.  It's so worth the effort. 

Of course, if you bake an Angel Food cake, you have a dozen egg yolks staring at you. I can't bare to throw  them out or feed them to the dogs - my hens worked hard laying those eggs! What else could I do but whip up some lemon curd? I followed Martha Stewart's recipe, which was quick and easy. The curd came out just perfect. But now I suppose I need something to put it on.  

Just for fun - here's a picture of eggs from our hens.  The palest ones are not white, but a soft greenish blue.  So pretty! No need to color eggs for Easter around here. 

And finally, my husband thinks he is really funny. Here is one of my gifts this year:

If you always wondered, "who buys this crap" when seeing such "lovely" items in the stores, well, now you know.  
Hands off ladies - he's all mine! HA HA HA HA HA!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Mixed Stripes, Update 6

A little more progress...

My last update stopped with the row of Meadow - DC clusters. So we will pick up here with the yellow.

1 row hdc - Saffron
2 rows hdc - Wysteria
Star Stitch - Shrimp
1 row hdc - Aster
1 row sc - Fondant
2 row sc - Magenta
2 rows hdc - Spring Green
Outline Cluster - Lipstick & Sherbet
2 rows hdc - Cloud Blue
1 hdc - Pomegranate
1 hdc - Spring Green
1 hdc - Wysteria

As of today, this blanket is 7 1/2 feet wide and 4 1/2 feet long. I'd say that makes it about half way done.  I feel like I've accomplished so much...but it will never be finished. My tendency has always been to make really big blankets.  When I was a kid (high school!) I made a giant broomstick blanket - ambitious for a teenager! Working with the broomstick stitch across long rows was not easy. Thirty years later, I still have it somewhere. Anyway, the point is, I like big blankets!  (I feel a new blog post coming on.... "I Like Big Blankets, and I Cannot Lie!")  I've just never had a project take so long.  I started this four months ago and it's only halfway.  My groovyghan is just as big, and was finished in 3 months.  Oh well, I do love this project, so I will just keep going....and order another pack of Stylecraft DK from Deramore's!

The edge was curling in, so I'm holding it flat for you to see the stripes.  That happens to me when the rows start from the same side, instead of flipping the work and going back and forth.  When I do 2 rows of the same color, I always flip the work. Sometimes, I flip even if I'm doing one row and changing colors. Sometimes, I don't flip it. I've made those decisions as I go, depending on the look I want.  I have not indicated whether I flipped or not in these instructions, but most of the time, I do flip it.

In this picture (from an earlier spot in the blanket) I worked single rows of sc, switching colors for each row, and flipping the work.  You can see when the rows were worked on the wrong side, sandwiched between rows worked on the right side, less of that color shows through.  The shrimp and meadow were worked on the wrong side - so they appear as thinner stripes on the right side, even though it is all the same stitch. Does that make sense?  It gives a little different look.  Compare it to the picture above, those last three rows are all hdc, all worked on the right side.

At the end of the day, it is personal choice. I really like the variety of widths in the stripes in my blanket.  I like that some stripes barely show through, and others are wider and bolder.  

I would love to see what other people are doing.  If you are following Little Woolie's CAL, too, post a link to your blanket! 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Bring It On Down to Veganville

I have to share this clip from Saturday Night Live this weekend. It's hilarious - and I appreciate the nod to Justin's vegan lifestyle.  Trust me, it's worth waiting for the commercials to get to the clip.  I hope you enjoy it, too!

March 9 - Justin Timberlake

Saturday, March 2, 2013

My Week in Pictures...

Stripey progress... (I'll post the specifics later!)

Amazing, delicious cheesecake! Every couple of months, I have a girl's night out with my dear friends Rose and Alice. We drink a bottle of wine, eat delicious food, gab about our kids, and relax.  Love it!

Spring is coming!

Granny Patch progress...