Category Archives: crochet

Yarn and Yeast

I’ve spent the past few days at Quilt Market in Minneapolis, thus the blogging absence. There’s no way to describe Market, so I’m not really going to try. I’ll just say that it is as exciting as it is exhausting. By Sunday morning, my mind was a foggy blur. So when my boss suggested I work from home the next day while we ate breakfast in the hotel restaurant, I nearly cried from relief into my granola.

My flight landed at 11:30 pm on Sunday night, and shortly thereafter I poured myself into bed and I slept like there was no tomorrow to wake up for.

But wake up I did. And while editing and attending conference calls, I baked rosemary craisin wheat bread from my own recipe:

 

Amazing how stabilizing a little bread baking can be.

Speaking of stabilizing, while at Market I used my spare moments (basically, the airplane rides there and back) to work on my wonky crochet scarf:

 

Apparently, yarn and yeast keep me sane.

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Filed under Bread, cooking, crochet

A Mean Tuna Pasta

My mom makes a mean tuna pasta.

When Kyle and I first started dating—back when I was a youngin of only 16 years old and we still pretended to sleep in separate bedrooms when he stayed over at my parents’ house—my mom decided to make said pasta one evening for dinner. As we walked downstairs to the dining room, Kyle confessed to me that he really didn’t like tuna. I assured him that my mom wouldn’t be offended (she’s an amazing cook so I think she knows by now that if someone doesn’t like one of her dishes, it’s their problem and not hers).

Kyle proceeded to scarf down an entire bowl—and then asked for seconds. Meanwhile, I’m thinking, ‘gosh, he’s really good at faking it.’ I assumed it was part of his Southern boy politeness (I still couldn’t get over the fact that he called my parents ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ for crying out loud). Afterwards, he confessed that it was one of the best pastas he had ever had. I told you it was good.

Naturally, when my mom gave my sisters and I recipe books last Christmas, this tuna pasta was one of the first entries. She must have photocopied it from some magazine years ago.

 

But the first time I made this pasta on my own, I realized that the recipe is almost entirely irrelevant. It did not taste the same—and it occurred to me that during the dozens of times I’d watched my mom make this dish, I hadn’t seen her use a measuring tool once, let alone follow a recipe.

So, while I often enter the kitchen with the goal of making something original and interesting, when it comes to dishes like this tuna pasta, my only ambition is to make it taste exactly like it does when my mom makes it. Sure, I could always just ask her what exactly she does differently–but where’s the fun in that?

It’s taken some trial and error, but I think I’ve finally nailed the tuna pasta. When I made this last night, I couldn’t stop pestering Kyle: “Doesn’t it taste just like Anne made it?!?” His mouth was too full to reply, which I’ll take as a good sign.

The trick seems to be this: more sauce, more tuna, and more veggies (cooked, not raw) so that the pasta-sauce ratio is nearly equal.

This is a perfect summertime (or any time) pasta: light and healthy, but still oh-so-flavorful. Give it a go—even if you don’t like tuna.

Mom’s Mean Tuna Pasta

  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 3 heaping tablespoons capers
  • 3 7 oz. cans tuna, drained
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 large carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ cups sugar snap peas, trimmed
  • 1 ½ cups broccoli florets
  • 1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • Plenty of olive oil and salt
  • 12 oz. of pasta*
  • Parmesan cheese, for grating

 In a large sauce pan, heat the shallot in a generous coating of olive oil. Add the carrots and continue to stir until softened (about 8 minutes). Add the peas and broccoli and, again, stir until softened. You may want to continue to add olive oil as you add veggies—and, of course, sprinkle with salt to taste. Finally, add the red bell pepper, stir until softened, then turn off the heat. Add the tuna and capers.

 Boil a large pot of water, add the pasta, and cook. While waiting for the water to boil, whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar and thyme.

 Add the cooked pasta to the veggie and tuna mixture. Poor the olive oil and vinegar mixture over the pasta and stir to combine. Serve warm in individual bowls (it’s great cold, too) and top with grated parmesan cheese. 

 *Normally, I would make this with bow ties but since Kyle and I are moving to a new apartment in only a couple short months, I’m trying to empty out our pantry so I used whole wheat penne instead.

Like everything else in my life, I like my pasta colorful.

Speaking of colorful, look who’s finished:

 

While my fingers are very fond of crocheting these days, sewing together granny puffy squares is only slightly more fun than stitching together knitted seams. Still, though the final construction of this scarf wasn’t quite as enjoyable as the individual components, the end result is just what I’d hoped for.

 And if you thought scarf season was over…you clearly don’t live in Boston. It’s a cold rainy morning and my landlord apparently doesn’t believe in heating the building post-March so I’m happy to have a scarf to wear today.

 

Meanwhile, my crochet kick is still going strong:

 

As for my double wedding ring quilt…well, I’ve been using my seam ripper as much as my sewing machine, but it’s getting there.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to think of some indulgent treat to make this weekend since I can no longer turn to my chocolate pudding in times of stitching-induced anxiety. Sadly, I finished it off post-pasta last night, topped with a roasted marshmallow and graham cracker leftover from last weekend’s dessert-making binge:

Oh warm chocolatey goodness, I will miss you. Fortunately, I buy my sugar in bulk at Costco, so I’m sure I’ll figure out a comparably indulgent substitute soon.

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Filed under clothing, cooking, crochet, Pasta

Moms… and Madness

I honestly don’t know what I would do without my mother.

When I tell her I need a larger container for my fabric dyeing, she shows up at Hamersley’s Bistro with a large, red, horse feeding bucket.

 

At our impromptu family dinner the other night, she gave my sisters and I the type of gift that only a mother could give.

 Her style is a bit more elegant and, frankly, subtle than mine, but she knows my taste well enough to buy me fun and funky accessories like this multi-colored cuff:

 

She keeps me well-stocked with fresh chicken eggs:

 

And delicious little surprises like stinky cheese. This  Roquefort made my usual salad-and-sandwich lunches so much more interesting this week:

 

 She gave me a bottle of Vitamin D for Christmas, and a few weeks later sent me an email about the dangers of taking vitamins due to their high folic acid content.

 

She makes me part of a larger history. I’ve inherited so much from my mom, including the majority of these threads and a lovely packet of crochet hooks which I’m finally putting to good use these days!

 

I can’t even begin to photograph all of the pots, pans, and kitchen accessories that she has passed down (not to mention bed sheets, table cloths, furniture…). I’ll take her hand-me-downs and all their memories over new goods any day.

Whenever there’s some sort of mishap or crisis, she sends out an email with the ‘victim’s’ name in the subject line. My most recent example: an email titled “Z” about my little sister’s car crash. I wonder how many “Pippa” emails she’s sent out over the years…

She has an incredible garden, full of fresh fruit, veggies, flowers, and even chickens—and requested a Mother’s Day dinner rather than brunch so she could spend the day tending to it. She also requested our help, so in addition to my usual crafting endeavors and an abundance of long-neglected chores, I’ll be spending my Sunday in a sunshiney garden.

On that note… Happy Mother’s Day!

Meanwhile, is it possible that I’m  a crochet convert? Granny Puffy squares are just so full of possibility…

 

Just as crazy—did I actually make a rough sketch of my next quilting project instead of taking my usual, improvisational approach?

 

Craziest of all: could it be that I met my chocolate cake match last night at Prezza and wasn’t able to finish every last drop of this incredibly rich, succulent, flourless beauty? OK, so I only left a couple bites, but still…

What is the world coming to?

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Filed under crochet, dining out, quilting

Upside Down

Is this not the happiest looking bag you’ve ever seen?

 

But of course it is. Clearly, I decided to add the buttons. I think it was a wise decision.

Do you know what else makes me very happy these days? Besides, of course, the fact that I’m engaged (sorry, I had to throw that in there—it hasn’t gotten old yet)! Cake.

Here’s the weird thing—I really don’t think of myself as a cake person. I’m always preaching about how ice cream is my number one dessert of choice. But take a look at the lovelies that I’ve consumed at various restaurants in the past week or so:

 

And that doesn’t even include the chocolate cake that Kyle and I fed each other on Saturday night.

Clearly, I have a particular fondness for any cake whose description includes the words ‘warm’ and ‘chocolate,’ thus the first two cakes from Bistro du Midi and Rialto. That misfit is sticky toffee pudding from Hamersley’s Bistro, one of few alternatives that can tear me away from chocolate (and no, I don’t normally eat out this much!)

Upon further reflection, I think the issue isn’t so much the cake itself, but the way that most cakes come: as big old honking rounds that you have to slice into and eat as much as possible of lest they go bad. 

(OK, this was a particularly horrendous example that I came across a couple of weeks ago at a super divey diner in New Jersey, but still…)

But give me an individually-sized cake, warm and fresh from the oven—and accompanied by a side of something cool and creamy—and I’m a happy gal.

Another one of my non-chocolate favorites has always been pineapple upside down cake. Baking a cake upside down makes it different in a good way—and since my life has recently been turned upside down, also in a good way, I declared this past week Upside Down Cake Week. The best part is, I used my beloved 2 cup Mario Batali pan to make individually sized cakes which we could eat in one go—therefore enabling me to make a whole new kind of cake the next night, guilt-free!

 

 In order: the classic pineapple upside down cake, banana chocolate chip upside down cake, and strawberry peanut butter upside down cake. The accompaniments, in order: pineapple fool (yes, fool is back!), my homemade banana chocolate ice cream, and Edy’s strawberry ice cream—I may have come to terms with my love of cake, but I still can’t forgo the creamy accompaniment.

The best part of upside down cakes is, of course, the layer of fruit, butter, and brown sugar that caramelizes beautifully while the cake cooks, and ultimately ends up on top once you’ve flipped the cake out of the pan. I used the same basic recipe for all three of these cakes, but tweaked it a tiny bit each time. And, naturally, I used whole wheat flour because you know more theory about whole grains negating caloric content…

Individual Upside Down Cakes

For the topping:

  • 1 heaping tablespoon of brown sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons melted butter
  • Fruit of your choice:
    • 2 slices of pineapple
    • ½ banana, sliced
    • About 4 strawberries, sliced

For the cake

  • 3 tablespoons of whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • ½  small egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • Additions:
    • Pineapple: 1 tablespoon of pineapple juice
    • Banana: 1 heaping tablespoon semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • Strawberries: 1 tablespoon crunchy peanut butter (I melted the peanut butter in the milk before adding it to the flour mixture, and I left out the regular butter)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the topping, melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and stir until it has dissolved slightly. Cover the bottom of a small dish with the butter/sugar mixture (my pans are about 4¾” in diameter), and lay the fruit on top.

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the egg, butter, and whole milk, and any ‘additions’ (pineapple juice, chocolate chips, etc.) and beat until just incorporated. Poor the cake batter over the fruit topping. Cook at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes or until the cake springs back slightly when touched.

Allow the cake to cool for about 3 minutes before flipping it right-side up.

Tomorrow my fiancé (sorry—last time!) and I are off to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, so we’ve decided to lay low tonight. He has some preliminary business school paperwork to get through, so I will gladly give him the couch and park myself in my new favorite spot. I’m calling it my stitching station:

 

For some reason, I’m spending lots of time on the floor these days—it’s good for spreading out all of my stuff and having a fellow carpet buddy makes Shuffle a very happy bunny. His new favorite pastime is removing the pins from my pincushion, one by one:

 

While Kyle is working, I’m planning on a marathon crochet session (yes, I just confessed to a Friday night of ‘marathon crocheting’)…

 

 …and methinks individual apple and almond upside down cakes are in order.

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Filed under cooking, crochet, sewing, Uncategorized

Freak Flags and Fads

I like to crochet in unusual places. For instance, in my car when I’m stuck in bad traffic:

 

If I’m stuck at a really long red light, I’ll even weave in and trim the loose ends, thus my cup holder is actually full of scraps of yarn:

 

Last night, I knit in Noir bar while enjoying an LA Confidential (stoli peach, cointreau, peach nectar & champagne) and waiting for my dinner companion. Yes, I have no pride shame. But hey, we all have our freak flags­—it’s just that some of us wave them a little higher than others.

Fortunately, Welton arrived soon enough and we enjoyed a delicious dinner (not to mention inexpensive: Noir has to have the best happy hour deal in town with $5 flatbreads, $4 sandwiches, $3 salads, $2 snacks, $1 sweets, and free nuts!)

 

That glorious looking goo would be gruyere, spinach, and bacon dip. There are no words—and there wasn’t any left by the time we were through, either. I love eating with Welton because, like me, he has a hearty appetite. The only alarming thing about our dining together, however, is the mound of perfectly polished-off plates at the end of the meal.

For some reason, I was in the something uncharacteristically simple as my main course: a three-cheese pizza with spicy tomato sauce and caramelized onions. Of course, I dipped this baby in the gruyere goodness so it wasn’t really all that simple in the end:

 

It tasted just as good as it looks, and reminded me that I haven’t made my own pizza in quite some time…

Actually, I’m having a bit of a dilemma these days. I’ve been meaning to watch Food, Inc. for a while, but I’ve also been skeptical about this film since, like many young women, I’ve gotten caught up in diet fads in the past and it did me no good—I now try to avoid all that food hysteria and eat everything in moderation (most of the time…).

Anyway, on Wednesday night I took the plunge and squeezed in the first 15 minutes of this film before making dinner for some friends. So far, I’m sensing that the gist is this: be very careful about where your meat comes from. I respect that message, I really do. And I hope I can become a bit more conscious of it. I’m also really trying to be slightly vegetarian, especially when eating at home…but it’s hard! Gosh, I even contemplated buying turkey bacon for Wednesday night’s meal, but that lasted a whole two and a half seconds. Who am I kidding. What’s pasta carbonara without real, fatty, crispy bacon?

 

Some things you just can’t substitute. This was one good pasta, if I do say so myself, and I credit that to the fact that the sauce contained a good dollop of bacon fat (and plenty of butter). That being said, I’m an animal lover—believe it or not, I dream of the day when my house is full of giant pet bunnies and teacup pigs. I’ll never be a full-on vegetarian, but I’m going to suck it up, finish Food, Inc., and hopefully approach my meat consumption with a bit more awareness.

Meanwhile, bacon was actually buy one get one free at the grocery store so I have a whole lot in my fridge—I also happen to have plenty of cheese and a bag of spinach. Dare I attempt to make my own cheese-spinach-bacon dip?

My lovely dinner left me feeling rather energized so I went home, put on some elastic-wasted pants, and filled my sink with warm water and laundry detergent. My hand-dyed fabrics are now washed and hanging to dry, ready for my patchworking pleasure. Let’s admire them one last time (and ignore the blurry shot), shall we?

 

Other weekend plans include an Owl City concert and bike ride to Concord Center.

Sigh, life is good. This morning’s sing-along of choice: Cat Stevens. I listen to the wind, to the wind of my soul.

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Filed under cooking, crochet, fabric, Pasta