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Showing posts from February, 2011

February Canning: Organic Russian Beet Relish {giveaway}

Yum. This recipe came from the book Pickles and Relishes, full of recipes that hit on pretty much every season and include crock pickles, heat-processed pickles and refrigerator pickles. The fixings for this recipe include beets, cabbage, onion, celery, caraway, horseradish, sugar and vinegar, creating a memorable experience for my palate. I picked up the veggies for this batch from the University District Farmers Market in Seattle-- I love that we have year-round markets, and I especially love Nash's Organic Produce. This was a relatively quick project, less than three hours from start to finish and resulted in 7 full pints and 2 half-pints.


Unfortunately I was a little short on brine (especially after getting the bubbles out of the jars with a chopstick) and had to scoop some of the solids from the jars in order to get them covered effectively with the amount of brine I had on hand. I noticed the jars also lost some of the liquid when they processed in the water bath canner, tho…

February Knitting: Man Socks

You know what they say about a man with big feet, right? That his socks take FOREVER to knit!

These socks were the marathon of sock knitting-- 11.5 inches from heel to toe plus the cuff. Imagine that you enjoy running (I do not). Now imagine the run taking much longer than you imagined and you've got to run in circles, sometimes jog backwards, run out of stamina, and then get to the end just to realize you have to repeat the entire course just to finish. Luckily for me, knitting allows breaks or stops altogether which is how I handled the original Man Socks, an overdue graduation gift.



Fast forward almost 2 years and usher in a blog post from the Yarn Harlot about "Finishitupitis" and I realized just how silly it was for me to leave those socks sad and unattended. With a bit of digging I was able to find the same yarn, same dye lot on Ravelry for a great price and committed them to the queue for February's knitting goals. Had I been able to imagine those socks would …

St. Valentine's Challenge

On the fateful day of February 14th, also known as St. Valentines Day, two departments in our office faced head-to-head in a chocolate themed cook off. Hoping to sway the numbers in our favor I contributed three dishes: Homemade Vanilla Wafers dipped in Semi-Sweet Chocolate, topped with Orange Marmalade; Mom's Cream Cheese Cupcakes (aka blackbottom cupakes); and Vegetarian Chili con Chipotle y Chocolate.


We definitely gave the other group a run for their money but in the end our team's amazing dishes just couldn't stand up to the Steak with a sherry, balsamic and chocolate reduction, topped with blue cheese. The chef of that creation even included a vegetarian option-- same deal, portobello mushroom instead of beef. Sigh. Even one of my three votes went to that dish. I know, I know...


Talk about chocolate and sugar overload! We must have had at least 25 different dishes in the room... and I tried each one. I had a lot of fun baking and have almost recovered from the brutal…

February Homebrew: Wormwood Ale

I started this brew just a couple days before the explosion of my January batch of ginger beer and my brewing mojo took a blow. Regardless, this batch is nearing the end of fermentation and will be ready to bottle in a couple days and after a few months of aging to round out the bitterness I will sample and report back. It's too bad I couldn't get freshly dried wormwood flowers for the aroma... maybe next time.


The brew was easy. I boiled the wormwood, strained it into the bucket with malt extract and honey, and pitched the yeast. Brewing beers without grains and hops really helps keep the chunky mess to a minimum. For more information about this recipe and wormwood's medicinal, spiritual, and brewing uses check out the book I've committed to for the year: Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers: The Secrets of Ancient Fermentation.

Love that book. Interesting stories.


PS. Part of the reason my ginger beer exploded was because I didn't check the original or final gravity o…

Good night, sun.

Dear Seattle,

Your expansive views are breathtaking; watching your sun set is a treat.

Deeper and deeper, into the horizon it slips.


Until focus is lost in your soft light.


Favorite Food: Fresh Spring Rolls

It's a snow day here in Seattle so I'm at home doing some online trainings rather than sitting in the office. Lucky! This afforded me the chance to make one of my favorite foods for lunch: Fresh Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce.


These are quick, easy and fill my frequent craving for leafy greens and rice-based dishes. The varieties are limitless, though my preferred rolls typically include salad greens, sliced apple and avocado. Today I replaced the avocado with thinly sliced onions, and sometimes apple is replaced with another fruit like mango or tomato. If I want something a little more substantial for dinner I will include fried tofu or tempeh and on rare occasion, shrimp. To make your own, submerge a sheet of rice paper for about 5 seconds, put it on a plate and fill it with your favorite fruits/veggies/proteins, and wrap it up. Typically I serve them with some type of peanut sauce (today's was spicy curried pumpkin peanut sauce with coconut milk) or a simple sweet chili…

Ginger Beer Explosion

A few years back one of my roommates had an eye-catching sticker on the refrigerator from The Beer Nut in Salt Lake City, which said "MAKE BEER NOT BOMBS." Well here I am, asking if it's possible to shift the paradigm and have the best of both worlds. Couldn't we just have beer bombs?

The resounding answer is: yes. The proof is in my kitchen cupboard.
I came home tonight eager to see my man and when I saw/smelled the remnants of some spilled ginger beer (brewed about 3 weeks ago) on the kitchen counter I thought, "Aha! I've caught you now my dear-- sipping on stolen ginger beer." Alas he was nowhere to be found and slowly the gnawing suspicion of something terrible took over. I opened up the cupboard and there it was: Shrapnel. He had not taken the beer and left foolish proof behind, nor had he even been home. The spillage on the counter was the simple result of a bottle of beer exploding from too much carbonation.
Much of the ephemera I came across regard…

February Canning: Bottling Habenero Hot Sauce

This month I took a "canning" class, and I use the term canning loosely in this situation to describe the process of making a food that is shelf stable for a period of time, from Seattle Can Can at a neighborhood store called Goods for the Planet. We bottled our very own habenero hot sauce!


I don't have the exact recipe, but we essentially softened some diced bell peppers and habeneros in boiling water for about 5 minutes (until aromatic), drained the water, ran it through a blender and then mashed them through a colander and jelly bag. We added the pepper goodness back to the non-reactive pot, added 20% vinegar (1 cup to every 5), let it simmer for a bit and then put it in sterilized bottles. Voila!


Because the hot sauce is very high-acid it's shelf stable without being processed. The caps have a foam liner underneath that creates a good seal, and it will keep for a quite a while but might lose it's spiciness as the capsaicin fades. Easy peasy. Save your old hot s…

Good Afternoon Quiche

With an easy morning ahead of us and some groceries in the fridge, Carson and I set out to bake a quiche and have a relaxing holiday. I think we achieved the goal.


A couple weeks ago we bought a bone-in ham and froze many small bags of ham for treats like this. I see a pot of soup with the bone sometime in the near future. But for this dish we used the following:

~3/4 c chopped ham1/2 c chopped onionCombine the two, fry until onions are tender~3 c loosely packed braising greens (we used various types of chard and kale)Add to onion & ham and fry for a minute of two until it begins to soften a bitIn a separate bowl beat together2/3 c heavy cream or half and half1/3 c yogurt8 eggsdash of nutmegsalt & pepperthen add 1 c shredded cheese (we used sharp cheddar)One pie crustLine baking dish with pie crust, bake completely covered with foil at 425 degrees for 8 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven and add the filling. Bake at 325 degrees for 50 - 60 m…

February Spinning: Merino on a High-Whorl Drop Spindle

Last October Carson and I took a halloween trip to Doe Bay on Orcas Island and on our vacation we made a quick stop at Warm Valley Orchard, a quaint farmhouse that advertised wool for sale. I'm a sucker for all things fiber, and their sheep in the meadows beckoned me. Well, I've now converted a beautiful merino top into what I imagine will end up as fingering-weight yarn. The singles were spun on the Little Si spindle from Cascade Spindles, a top-whorl spindle weighing about 1.5 oz.


Once the yarn could no longer support the spindle (the fiber would separate and I would drop the spindle), I wound it onto the nostepinne and plied on the same spindle from a center-pull ball. This is something I tried a bit with the leftovers from my last batch and really enjoyed improving my technique. I also sat atop the ledge of my loft which provided about 6 feet of space for spinning below.



To wrap up I wound the yarn around a niddy noddy to create a skein which was consequently soaked/washed…

A matter of means

Dear Universe,

Please grant me the wherewithal to have a small cottage and couple of cats, with a bit of land for sheep and chickens. I need a large garden space, some fruit and nut trees, and wouldn't mind having friendly neighbors. I am more than willing to share this dream and space with other like-minded individuals/families in cooperative manner. As they say, "Many hands make light work." This isn't a lot to ask and I will even open a savings account (and buy a lottery ticket) to facilitate your speedy response. In return I plan to buy less, make more of my own clothing and food, support genetic diversity in livestock, be kinder to the earth and continue to give back to my community.

Thanks in advance,

Mandy

PS. A spinning wheel would really add to the ambience and cut production time.

Eruption

I'm sure y'all remember the classic 3rd grade science experiment, a wild volcano made out of clay with a hidden vat of vinegar inside just waiting for a bit of baking soda. The anticipation, the build up, and the sudden foaming and wild run-off of sour liquid that mixed the paints and colors into a muddy mess, effectively turning a work of art into a blob.

Right?

I had the same shock and awe experience tonight, but it was the adult version and instead of a volcanic eruption I had an eruption of fermented beverage. Awesome! Ginger Beer 1. Carson 0.

Last night Carson stuck a ginger beer (from the recent homebrew batch, bottled about 2 weeks) in the fridge for me but we didn't get around to drinking it until tonight, 24 hours later. I also had thrown a 2nd bottle in today, refrigerating it for 6 hours. The two of us cracked our beers open and mine had slight foaming action, producing a mild head and full carbonation. Carson's beer, however, literally erupted into the air,…

Here I am.

Do you ever take a step back and look at where you are standing, and say "Wow, my feet are planted firmly in the ground," and feel shocked? Slap me silly, but I have a full time, salaried position with benefits. I'm in(doors) one place long enough to have a cat. I have a gym pass, and a relatively stable long-term relationship. I am living the American Dream... and I guess this is what I've prepared for in my upbringing and my job training and my social grooming (ha, right...). I've repeated these facts to myself a hundred, no make that two hundred, times and it still seems unreal.

Three years ago I spent no longer than six weeks in any one city at a time, for an entire year. I lived out of a duffel bag, consequently had the entire contents of my duffel bag stolen, and made $300 a month by working full-time for the government in a program called AmeriCorps NCCC. In a matter of one year I worked as a wildland firefighter, elementary school tutor, affordable housin…

February Knitting: Noro Striped Knee-Highs

Behold the finished product of many months' slow and spotty work: Autumn Stripes, a pair of Noro Striped Knee-Highs.

I started this project back in September of 2010 and was surprised how monotonous the endless length of stockinette stitch began to seem after only the first sock. And I still had a whole 2nd sock to go! I find myself entertaining similar thoughts and feelings when knitting man socks (those feet are so long), but we'll save that for another (soon to be ready) entry. I completed the first Noro sock in September, and the next half too. Unfortunately I kept the 2nd sock until December, and then didn't weave in ends and sew elastic into the casing until February. I swear not to leave unfinished items so sad and lonely for any length of time in the future...



The technique used to convey solid striping rather than gradual color change that is so typically Noro is achieved by splitting a single skein of Noro Kureyon Sock yarn into two balls, and knitting stripes of…

January Spinning: Low Whorl Drop Spindle, Wool from Utah

What started as raw fiber from Utah of an unknown sheep breed (maybe Corriedale or Romney?) that was already scoured and drum carded-- a gift from Carson's mom she bought from a farmer-- and a low whorl drop spindle that I picked up at the goodwill for 99 cents (SCORE!):

With a lot of love, time and effort slowly became this, tightly spun singles of a fiber that contained a lot of vegetable matter and bits of poop that I picked out and turned into basic yarn. I spun at home, on the bus, on my lunch breaks, and at the bar. This spindle is a workhorse and put up with our travels together.

After what seemed like AGES (I started this spinning in June 2010), I finally finished spun the entire batch of fiber and prepared for plying. I chose 2-ply as my method and used the same 3.5 oz spindle. I plied in the all the same places, plus with friends. In fact, I was sitting at one friend's house spinning awkwardly on the couch when I remembered she has a balcony over her stairwell in the…

January knitting: Noro Lace Socks

Socks: A straightforward knitting project. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. No questions about the basic approach to socks. C'mon, I've read Getting Started Knitting Socks by Ann Budd like ten times. It's pretty much memorized.  No problems with the toe decreases. I can turn a heel with my eyes closed. Socks, how simple!
Not.
I thought all of that was true until this yarn came to visit. "Hey girl, feel me up. I'm silky smooth and my appearance is very, very pleasing. If you hold me in your hand you will start sweating awkwardly* because it feels just that good. When you knit with me you will be mesmerized by the gradual striping and color changes, even surprised when you see a new part of me buried deep inside that you didn't know existed."
I was fooled into casting on quickly, in the dead of night in a different city-- gasp, while on work travel! My choice got the best of me and I believe the cast-on and pattern repeat took 5 tries (at 2am) before I gave up on the…