Category Archives: Uncategorized

Moving

You know what they say, life is like a box of chocolate pile of boxes.

 

 At least mine is right now.

Kyle and I are moving into our new apartment on the Harvard Business School campus a little sooner than anticipated so I’ve been knee-deep in packing tape and bubble wrap. Not fun.

Especially when all I really want is to be here:

 

So we took a break and had a nice little Memorial Day escape to the beach. It may be pushing 80 degrees, but the water is still icy cold; a bit of a shock to the system, but nourishing for the soul nonetheless.

I’m also moving my cyberspace home and in the midst of setting up a new website/blog, so you may be seeing a little less of me during the next couple of weeks. I think I need a breather and some space to refacilitate myself in more ways than one, but I’ll be back in full force soon enough!

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Exciting Developments

My weekend was highlighted by two very exciting developments.

The first was the realization that almond flour is in fact…ground almonds. Perhaps I’m the last one in the know here, but for several weeks I’ve been trying to justify spending $35 on a bag of flour. Unfortunately, little financial inconveniences kept cropping up: you know, paying for rent, laundry, new running sneakers (doctor’s orders), etc.–I just couldn’t bring myself to splurge.

But I’d heard too much about the wonders of this grain substitute: high protein, distinct rich flavor, and gluten free (which actually makes little difference to me, but is still intriguing). So I did some research (ie Googling) and discovered that ‘flour’ is a somewhat misleading term in this instance.

Fortunately, due to my current obsession with homemade granola, I do keep my kitchen well-stocked with nuts:

The fourth jar from the left just so happens to be blanched almonds.

It gets better. The ratio of slivered almonds to almond flour is apparently equal–how easy is that! So I measured out a cup and a half of nuts, placed them in the food processor and pulsed away until they had a grain-like texture. (Warning: over-processed nuts will turn into butter).

While many think of Friday night as an opportunity to hit the town, in the Eccles household this was always (and still is) pizza night. Pizza night involved pajamas, plenty of wine, a good movie, and, of course, pizza. It’s a tradition that I’ve never entirely gotten over, which is perhaps why the majority of Friday nights I still find myself craving a nice cheesy pie.

As luck would have it, almond flour can be used to make a delectable pizza crust. It has quite a strong, almost sweet flavor. What’s the word I’m looking for…nutty? And it’s firm but moist, more like a thin crust than deep dish. Best of all, it’s quick, easy, and well worth a try if you’re looking to put a new spin on your pizza pie.

Almond Flour Pizza Crust

1 ½ cups almond flour

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon baking powder

1 large egg

1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the almond flour, salt, and baking powder. In a separate small bowl, whisk the egg and olive oil. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir to combine. Place a piece of foil on a baking dish and grease it very generously. Press the dough into a 10″ circle. Cook the crust for 15-20 minutes or until slightly golden. Remove, add toppings, and cook for another 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.

Using almond flour makes the crust such a distinct component, there’s really no need to go crazy with toppings. In this case, I used what I had in the kitchen pre-Saturday morning grocery trip: sweet potato, broccoli, tomato sauce, and lots of cheese. I baked the sweet potato for an hour at 400 degrees, mashed it with salt and thyme, and stirred in about 1/3 cup of tomato sauce. I spread this on the crust, sprinkled it with a hefty amount of shredded cheddar, and topped it off with steamed and salted broccoli.

Exciting development number two: I think I’ve gotten the hang of this double wedding ring quilt. I spent some quality time on my misbehaving seams and we seem to have to come to an agreement. I won’t bore you with the details of ironing/seam-pressing/pinning techniques… but lookie here:

I did a little more work after this picture was taken and I have officially finished one row. Only seven more to go. And you know what? After all my talk of not being in the mood for a big, time-consuming project, I’m loving this. It’s methodical and slow-going, but I’m finding that mode of working very comforting at the moment—my quilting muse works in mysterious ways.

I hope you made some delightful discoveries this weekend too!

5 Comments

Filed under cooking, quilting, Uncategorized

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.

3 Comments

Filed under cooking, crochet, sewing, Uncategorized

A Different Kind of Bread

I started my weekend off right: a Friday night dinner with one of my favorite people, my sister Z, at a delicious, tucked-away restaurant downtown, Troquet. There’s nothing quite like a ladies night.  We had a little sisterly love fest, fabulous wine and bubbly cocktails:

We even made friends with the couple sitting next to us (bit of a long story; like I said, this place has really good wine):

 

There was too much amazing food to recount in detail (think truffle pasta, duck confit, and sticky toffee pudding which is the only dessert that can distract me from chocolate). However, the culinary highlight of the evening was my main course of suckling pig (served three ways) which came with…spoon bread. Now, I’d never heard of spoon bread before so, as a bread lover, I was naturally intrigued.

 

Can you tell which is the spoon bread? If so, I’m impressed because I wasn’t entirely sure until I’d sampled a bite of each. It’s second from the right—and boy was it good.

So Saturday morning I rummaged through a couple of the many cookbooks that I’ve inherited from my mother and discovered that the main ingredient of spoon bread isn’t flour; it’s cornmeal. This means that spoon bread is really just polenta in disguise. And you may know how I feel about polenta. I’m also eager to try any dish involving eggs since I now have a regular supply of freshly laid eggs from my mother’s chickens. Big surprise, then, that on Saturday night, I did a little spoon bread baking of my own.  

I found a very basic recipe and decided to spruce it up with cheese and baby spinach. I’m not being cocky when I say it was 100% successful because, well, I’ll be the first to admit that—in contrast to the slightly more finicky yeast bread—spoon bread is kind of hard to mess up.

If you ask me, it should really be called sponge bread (it got its name from the fact that it is traditionally eaten with a spoon; big surprise) due to its soft, foamy texture. The spinach rose the top in the baking process and formed a crispy green layer while the cheese melted throughout and provided a sharp, subtle undertone. And, of course, it tastes a whole lot like polenta, which can only be a good thing.

Spinach & Cheese Spoon Bread

  • ¾ cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ cup sharp yellow cheese, grated
  • 1 large handful baby spinach
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  •  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sautee the spinach in a medium sauce pan, coating it with the olive oil and stirring until it is entirely softened.

In a large bowl, mix together the cornmeal and salt. Add the boiling water while stirring continuously, then add the melted butter. The batter should be smooth.

In a smaller, separate bowl, whisk together the eggs. Gently whisk in the milk. Add the milk and egg mixture to the cornmeal mixture and whisk together, gradually adding the baking powder. Sprinkle the cheese and spinach across the top of the batter and mix it in gently with a wooden spoon.

Poor the batter into a greased baking dish, about 8 x 8 inches. Bake for 30 minutes or until firm.

 

The rest of my Saturday consisted of a freezing cold morning at Faneuil Hall and a warm, happy afternoon in the apartment spent—you guessed it—hand stitching. My fingers are a little sore, but I’m powering through. My main focus has been on my reverse appliqué quilt (which needs a better name; I’m still brainstorming). Last night, while watching Inglorious Bastards (oh Quentin Tarantino, I love your movies but they give me some weird dreams), I finished up the zigzag stitching around the perimeters of the reverse appliqué squares:

 

I also added another layer of reverse appliqué with buttonhole stitching to the central square:

 

I keep thinking of Shrek’s unsuccessful metaphor for how ogres are like onions while I work on this quilt because I envision it as having many layers, which I build up (or peel away, as the case may be) as I go. It’s an evolving quilt, not one that I have an entirely clear vision of from the start. Those are often the best kinds…

And I sure am addicted to the hand stitching. You know it’s bad when you’re practicing 90 degree power yoga (as I was this morning) and you keep getting distracted by the stitching along the side of your yoga towel:

 

Yeah, I’m a bit obsessed. Fortunately, I have a wide open day of sewing ahead of me, followed by a double date with my other sister. A weekend of stitching, sister time, and good food; doesn’t get much better than that.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

It’s Never Too Early

I can’t help it. As soon as Halloween is over, I’m thinking about Christmas. That’s not to say I don’t love Thanksgiving. It’s more that I think of the holiday season as one big conglomeration of family and friend time, gift-giving, good food, and all that seasonal splendor. The next couple of months are also a particularly wonderful season for quilters and knitters since it gives us the excuse to go craft crazy—I mean, how can I not hand-make every single gift that I give? (If you’re familiar with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, you’ll recall that this ambition can beoverwhelming at times, though word it). On the other hand, it’s not the best time of year for blogging since I’d rather not spoil any surprises; don’t be surprised if my next few entries are a little less loaded than usual. For now, I still have some projects to share…

First of all, it didn’t take me long to think of the perfect application for that hilarious mushroom fabric from Autumn. As far as I’m concerned, mushrooms belong in the kitchen—and so do aprons. So I fiddled around and came up with this design, which couldn’t be simpler (you can easily make one in an afternoon):

231

I’m a big fan of the beautiful apron movement (ever been into Anthropologie? Half the time I like their aprons more than their skirts and wish I could find a way to get away with wearing them on the street). Aprons are one of the most essential kitchen accessories. I used to try to sneak in some slicing or stiring while not wearing one every now and then, but that’s always the time when you wind up with grease splattered across your favorite sweater. Now, I won’t even spread hummus on a slice of bread without wearing an apron. Even though aprons meant to get dirty and you should use them to the max, they can still look lovely (that’s what washing machines are for).

Whenever I go away for a weekend—even if it’s a one-night trip to NYC—I like to spend the next one hunkered down at home, taking immense pleasure in grocery shopping, doing laundry, cleaning, and generally relaxing. So last weekend’s nine-patch is a homey one:

230

 One of the fabrics reminds me of the Log Cabin motif. The other one qualifies as ‘homey’ because, well, it’s actually from a pair of my boyfriend’s old boxers (washed, don’t worry) that didn’t fit anymore. I realize how odd that may seem but boxers are such an around-the-house kind of thing… work with me here…

 As much as I love home and my homemade pizza, I have to admit that NYC pizza is amazing. On Halloween night, having forgotten to make dinner plans, we spontaneously bought these absurdly delicious slices of pizza. It may have been the circumstances, but they tasted… unbelievably good.

Around 3 am, we were struck by a major craving for more and searched around what felt like the entire city, but no luck. Shouldn’t you be able to procure pizza at any hour in the city that never sleeps? Anyway, the memory of those slices has lingered, so I tried to capture a bit of their delectable flavor in my latest pasta:

232

This is basically mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, basil and shredded rotisserie chicken (you’ve gotta love those lovely warm grocery store rotisserie chickens). Nothing’s better than long strings of melted mozza, and the quintessentially pizza-y essence of basil. This one’s definitely a keeper, but I’m going to do some tweaking before I post the recipe.

For the first time in a long time (possibly ever) I used my mixer to make something other than fool! Gingerbread. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love those little gingerbread people cookies that you can decorate, stick on trees, and give away as gifts. But truth be told, I’d much rather eat the fluffy, dense gingerbread that you cut into like a piece of cake. So I did some browsing and found this simple and surprisingly healthy recipe—don’t worry, it doesn’t taste as healthy as the ingredients would suggest. I did a little fiddling to accommodate my personal preference for a slightly more seasoned and gooier loaf:

191

Wholesome Holiday Gingerbread

  • 1 ¼ cups molasses
  • 1 cup honey
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 ½ tsp ground gloves
  • 1 ½ tsp liquid ginger (or ground ginger)
  • 2 cups milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Beat together the molasses, honey, eggs, and oil. Mix together the dry ingredients and add them to the egg mixture, alternating with the milk. Pour the batter into a greased 13″ x 9″ x 2″ baking pin. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. This is heavenly when served warm from the oven, but don’t fret if you don’t finish it all in one go- the generous amount of molasses keeps this bread moist for quite some time. I enjoyed it reheated for about a week; simply wrap a piece in foil and place in a 350 degree F oven for about ten minutes. 

Nothing tastes more like Christmas then gingerbread dunked in eggnog (with a side of pomegranate fool, of course). Yes, I already have a stash of eggnog in the fridge. What I didn’t have in the fridge when I went to make my latest yeast bread, however, was milk (I think it all went into the gingerbread). In fact, I didn’t really have much of anything  besides the bare essentials. So I combined a couple bread recipes, did a little subsisting (slightly nervous that this would be a total failure— I tend to think of yeast breads as incredibly fragile and prone to disaster). In the end, it turned out beautifully.

The more bread I make, the more convinced I am that the most crucial element of the process is allowing your yeast to proof separately in warm water before any other mixing begins. Being patient with this step is crucial. If it goes well, there’s room for experimentation without a major mishap.

The eggnog in this loaf imparts a subtle hint of nutmeg but is far from overwhelming—it still works wonderfully as savory sandwich. The texture is both soft and dense, but this may have to do with the brilliant La Cloche that my mother gave me. If you’re a bread-baker, trust me, these are worth the investment. Overall, this is a straightforward and gratifying recipe, well worth trying out this time of year:

190

Eggnog Wheat Bread

  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • ¼ eggnog, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees F)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 2 tsp white sugar
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 2 cups bread flour (whole wheat or white)

Pour the yeast into the warm water, gently stir, and allow to proof until slightly foamy (usually about ten minutes). Meanwhile, combine the vegetable oil and eggnog in a medium bowl. Once the yeast has proofed, add the yeast, salt, and sugar to the oil and eggnog. Mix in the wheat flour and the oats. Add the bread flour, ½ a cup at a time, to form a thick dough that can be kneaded (I used about 2 cups of bread flour but you may find that you need more or less).

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 5-7 minutes until it is slightly sticky and elastic in texture. Place the dough in a greased medium sized bowl, and turn it over so that it is lightly greased on all sides. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth. Preheat the oven for one minute, turn it off, and place the dough inside. Allow to rise for about 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

 Turn the dough onto a board and knead it for about 5 minutes. Shape into a loaf and place on a greased bread pan (or La Cloche). Place it back in the oven and allow it to rise for about 30 minutes. Remove the bread and allow it to continue rising for about 10 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the bread for about 40 minutes (if you bake it in La Cloche, remove the lid for the final ten minutes). Turn it onto a drying rack and allow to cool before slicing (not too much—nothing’s more divine than warm bread fresh from the oven).

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Commitment

Who knows why, but most of my latest projects involve quite a bit of dedication—as in, they’re not anything I expect to finish by my next blog post. It might have to do with this hibernating time of year; long-term projects to keep me company throughout the winter months are just so appealing.

For starters, it has slowly dawned on me that one area of quilting which I tend to overlook is, well, the actual quilting. Most of the time, my creative energy goes into patchworking together the top, and the final quilting stitches are practical, following the seams, and not particularly inventive. But now that my jobs involves being surrounded by truly gorgeous stitching, I’ve decided I need to try give my own handiwork a bit more attention. So I’ve put together this very simple patchwork top. I bought the simple brown cotton and the flannel backing at Sewfisticated, my new home away from home. The patterned fabrics are from the remaining fat quarter pack that I bought at Portsmouth Fabric Company of Anna Maria Horner’s designs.

038

However, this one pattern is a gift from my friend Autumn.

039

Autumn and I met while participating in the TNNA summer internship program, PiPN, and I fell immediately in love when I realized I’d never met such a crazy eclectic girl—she has a thing for chickens, McDonald’s apple pies, and spins lovely yarn, sometimes while wearing only her underwear. Autumn recently sent me the most wonderful impromptu gift; a beautiful little collection of cotton fabrics. This one went so conveniently well with the other fabrics in this quilt, I had to include it, but I’m saving the others for something special. I’m particularly fond of the mushrooms, they’re just adorable:

042

Anyway, back to the quilt. The extremely simple, large block pattern is intentional since I’m going to use this piece as an opportunity to explore my hand quilting,. It’s the perfect winter/holiday project since hand stitching can easily be done in the company of others (as opposed to sewing machine work) and to me, this time of year is all about lounging around with the people you love.

I’ve committed myself to several fairly ambitious knitting projects as well, but for now I’ll focus on one. As is probably clear by now, I have a major weakness for Classic Elite Yarns, which isn’t such an awful thing since I have easy access to them given my summer internship there a couple of years ago. All those gorgeous, natural fibers… not to mention their  patterns. And even though I haven’t been following patterns much these days, my heart practically skipped a beat when I saw this stunning sweater.

 

I knew it had to be mine. And I’ve wasted no time. Since I decided to spend this past Halloween weekend in NYC, I had 8+ hours on a bus which means lots and lots of knitting time. Only yarn this lovely (Kumara: 85% extra fine merino and 15% baby camel) could have kept me alive and functioning on Sunday morning. By the end of the weekend, I’d completed the entire back and most of the front. This might not be such a long-term project after all…

043

Speaking of Halloween, I have two new nine patches in honor of this past week, the inspiration for which should be clear:

041040

I also did a little costume sewing, though not for myself. About when I was going to sleep on Sunday morning, my older sister was waking up and taking the bus to the start of the NYC marathon. Let’s just say that she runs about as much as I patchwork, and she is absurdly good at it. But, since she couldn’t exactly celebrate Halloween evening given her run the next morning, she requested a Winnie the Pooh hat and gloves to make the actual event a little celebratory. I was, of course, honored to help—and sewing a fuzzy hat and mittens out of yellow fur material was a total blast. It turned out quite well, if I do say so myself:

Mile 26
(Hey, this is at MILE 26- you’d look this way too!)

I’d also like to brag that her final time was 3:13:33 (for those of you who don’t normally follow marathons, this is an average speed of about 7:24. That’s fast). I’d like to think it has something to do with the ensemble, but I realize that no amount of awesome accessories could make any normal person run at that speed. Congratulations, Charlie!

Let’s just say that I’m glad it wasn’t me running on Sunday morning. I managed to overload on sugary coffee and somehow drag myself back onto the bus, but I wasn’t up for much more than that. Imagine how good it felt, then, to come home to pasta and fool waiting for me in the fridge. I love when I have the foresight to make leftover-producing meals before a trip.

The pasta is a taco-inspired ensemble of avocado cream sauce, black beans, grated cheese, and ground turkey meat. I used Greek yogurt (along with smashed avocados, lemon juice and diced tomato) to make the sauce and the result was enough to give the meal some substance, but thin enough to spread throughout the pasta.

004

And the fool: cranberry-orange. Seeing as my mother’s stupendous gooseberry fool is what got me started on this dessert in the first place, I was absolutely delighted to discover that cranberries are pretty darn close. Once stewed in orange juice and doused with sugar, they’re the perfect amount of sweet and tart, and their tangy flesh dissolves just a bit, yet lingers so you get little bites of it spread throughout the fool. Truly delicious.

001

Yummy food that lasts, plus sewing and knitting that keeps you company during the cold winter months… Commitment feels good.

2 Comments

Filed under cooking, knitting, quilting, Uncategorized

Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun

There’s no better fall activity than apple picking. It’s a quintessential autumn activity. Lucky for me, Kyle and I picked the perfect sunny, cool day to do it in. We went to a lovely little place, Shelburne Farm, in Stow, MA—they had pumpkins, apple cider, floppy-eared bunnies, and kettle korn. What more could you ask for. It was a wonderful morning, and we walked away with an enormous, overflowing bag of gorgeous apples—every shape, size, and kind. Afterwards, we swung by Concord Center, another one of my favorite places, for a little antique fabric shopping…

033 

  (Turns out, these old fabrics were quite appropriate for this week’s apple-picking-inspired ninepatch)

 …and lunch at Walden Grille. The day was going perfectly, until I suddenly realized during the carried home that my slouchy knit beanie was nowhere to be found. Maybe losing a hat isn’t such a big deal to most people (and most hats) but, to be honest, I was heartbroken. In the couple short weeks that I’d had that beanie, I’d really fallen in love. We called the restaurant, the farm, the antique stores, and then drove back and searched around ourselves… nothing. I’ll admit I was more than a little grumpy. But, rather than let this mishap totally ruin the rest of my day, I did something about it. That’s right, in one single afternoon/evening, I re-knit the entire hat. If this sounds crazy, well… it probably is. But I felt a million times better when it was complete.

 029030

 Probably looks like exactly like it did the first time and that’s because it is exactly the same. But having to re-knit this hat raised a good point. My working process is usually as follows: get an idea, start stitching/sewing/knitting/cooking without any steadfast plan, improvise as I go, achieve a respectably high rate of success, then find myself unsure whether or not I will be able to reproduce my results. Interesting… and sort of a problem when I do want to reproduce them. Luckily, I managed to figure out the hat again, and this time you’d better believe I wrote down what I did. I’ve also decided to share this simple pattern with the masses. It’s very straightforward but with some creative yarn/color choices, you can make yourself a totally unique accessory. I love these slouchy beanies because they keep you warm, but they’re casual and stylish enough to wear indoors as well. So, here you go…

            SLOUCHY BEANIE

                        Note: I’m including instructions for my color scheme in [] but feel free to use whatever color combos you like, alternating every four rows, every other row…  or maybe not at all. I used Heirloom Merino Magic yarn from Australia, but most worsted weight yarns will do- just check your gauge. While it doesn’t matter if the body of the hat is loser, you don’t want to the rim to be too baggy (or tight).

            Yarn

  • Four colors of a lightweight wool or cotton yarn [Green (A), Purple (B), Orange (C), Red (D)]

            Gauge

  • 5 sts/1 inch on size 10 needles

            Needles

  • 16″ circular needles, size 6 and size 10
  •  Double-pointed needles, size 10

            Ribbing

  • C.O. 100 stitches to the 6-inch needles [with A]
  • Knit a 1 x 1 rib in the round (*K1, P1, repeat from *) until you have completed 10 rows, or about 1½”

            Body

  • Change to the size 10 needles
  • [Still using A], *K3, inc, into the next stitch, repeat from * until you have completed one row
  • Knit  32 rows of stockinette stitch (knit every stitch in the round), or until the hat measures 6″, not including the ribbing [4 rows B, 4 rows C, 4 rows D, 4 rows B, 4 rows C, 4 rows D, 4 rows B, 4 rows C]

           Decrease

  • [change to A] *K3, K2tog, repeat from * until you have completed one row
  • Switch to double-pointed needles
  • *K2, K2tog, repeat from * until you have completed one row
  • *K1, K2tog,  repeat from * until you have completed one row
  • *K2tog, repeat from * until you have completed one row
  • Cut the yarn and pull it through the remaining stitches. Weave in all loose ends.

             I’ve also engaged in some double knitting that was a little less heartbreaking—as in, not motivated by loss. You see, I’ve fallen in love with funnel scarves (again, I really take back what I said about having enough scarves) and after purchasing this one from Madewell in New York

 027

        I decided to create one of my own. So I dug into my stash of Ariosa from that glorious summer that I interned at Classic Elite Yarns, and came up with this:

 028

            Another incredibly easy project…and luckily, I kept track of this one as well. But I don’t want to bombard you with too many patterns in one post, so I’ll hold off on it for now…a little motivation to keep coming back 🙂

Pleased with this first funnel scarf attempt, I decided I needed to make another—ideally, one that was multicolored. But I quickly realized that an intarsia funnel neck would only be semi-successful since you’d see through to the carried yarn on the back. Not all that attractive. Here’s where the double knitting comes in. Basically, after scrolling through all the online tutorials I could find, I introduced a new skill to my knitting repertoire: quite literally, double knitting. While the online tutorials are helpful, they’re unnecessarily intimidating, and tend to claim that this is one of the trickiest techniques out there. It’s really not, as long as you keep your wits about you and think about how you’re knitting. The only drawback, as far as I can tell: it really does take twice as long. The bonuses: endless. No unsightly intarsia work on the back, thicker/warmer knitted fabric, and for some reason… it’s just fun. So, here’s what I came up with:

 031

            Don’t think that all this glorious knitting means I haven’t been sewing. Au contraire. Then again, this blog post could go on forever, so for now I’ll just share one of my latest little creations, and save the rest for another day.

            Coming home at the end of a long day is such a good feeling. But I decided it would be nice to have a little something on the door to welcome me back—and to make it clear which apartment is mine for friends who are unable to remember/get lost in the apartment building. There’s no better way to identify my doorway than, you guessed it, a little quilt.

 022

            I’m going to guestimate that this took me approximately 1 hour to make…so try it out yourself!

  Mini Door Quilt

             Materials

  • Four 2½” squares cotton fabric, any pattern of your choosing
  • One 5½” square fabric for the back
  • One 5 ½”square batting
  • One strip 2½” x 7″ (can be shorter or longer depending on how you want your hanger to lay on the door)
  • One button

             Directions

  • Sew together two of the 2½” square using a ¼” seam allowance. Repeat with the other two squares. Press the seams open.
  • Sew together these two rows of squares, aligning the seams, to form a patchwork square that is two 2½” squares by two 2½” squares. Press the seams open.
  • Make a mini quilt sandwich: lay your backing fabric wrong-side up, your batting, and your patchwork square. Center the patchwork square so there is an extra ½” of batting and backing fabric at each side. Pin the three layers together with four safety pins.
  • Sew your button through all three layers at the point where the four top squares intersect. To hide the first knot, begin by pulling your needle through the top layer, then back up through the back. Sew through the button several times so that it is secure. To hide the end knot, you can try knotting through the thread between the back of the button and top of the quilt, but this may leave too much bulk. If so, simply a tie a knot at the back of the quilt, and pull the thread through some of the backing and batting before trimming it.
  • Trim away any excess batting so that it is the same size as the quilt top. Fold the extra ½” of backing fabric at each side in half and press. Fold it again over the top of the quilt (so it is overlapping ¼”), press, and pin in place, creating mitered corners.

024

  • Edgestitch around the boarder, as close to the edge as possible, through all three layers of the quilt.
  • To make the hanger, fold the two long sides of the fabric strip in toward the wrong side of the fabric so that the edges meet and press. Fold in the short edges of each strip about ½” and press again, then fold the strip in half. Stitch the strip together by stitching very closely to the edge along each short side, and the open long side.
  • To attach the hanger to the quilt, simply stitch using coordinating thread. You’ll be able to see the thread on the front of the quilt, but I personally think this is no big deal.

 025

In retrospect, some step-outs might have been helpful for this project. I’ll keep that in mind for next time. Meanwhile, email me with questions!

            Of course, there’s also been cooking…with apples…lots and lots of apples. For starters, I used Warren (my yeast) for the first time on Saturday night to make whole wheat sourdough pizza crust. He didn’t rise quite like I had wanted him too (I told you, Warren is moody) but was still quite delicious. Kyle made one pizza (hot sausages, hot mustard, and apples) and I made another (butternut squash, raisins, broccoli, prosciutto, cheese, and of course… apples). So good. There’s really nothing like homemade pizza.

 016

    I used this recipe from Pizzathepie.com, but substituted whole wheat bread flour for regular bread flour, and upped the honey to more like 1½ tablespoons. My one caveat: be sure that the pizza is relatively thin before cooking (about ½”) and place it on a greased baking sheet—don’t use foil, it won’t come off easily!

            And what other fool could I possibly make besides caramel apple? That’s right, my second time making this as well. So I paid attention.

 017

Caramel Apple Fool

             Ingredients

  • 8 small apples, cored and diced (I used a combination of all different types: since they’re all stewed together, it doesn’t really matter. Some might get softer more quickly than others, but you won’t notice in the final stages.)
  • 1 cup caramel sauce
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 pints of whipping cream (I like good old Hood®)

              Directions

  • Place the apples and caramel in a large saucepan over medium heat until the caramel begins to bubble just a bit, and the apples, and stir until they begin to soften. Add the sugar and stir.
  • Turn the heat to medium-low and allow the apple-caramel-sugar mixture to stew on the stove for about 20-30 minutes, or until the apples are very soft.
  • Remove the apple mixture from the heat, and allow it to cool completely.
  • Once the apples are cool, whip the two pints of cream using an electric mixer (or by hand, if you’re patient!). This goes very quickly if you place the mixing bowl and whisk in the freezer beforehand. Whip until the cream begins to firm, forming stiff peaks as it whips (or, obviously, so it is the consistency of whipping cream). Keep an eye on it and don’t go for too long: you want it to be soft, not foamy.
  • Place the whipped cream in a large serving bowl, and fold in the apple-caramel mixture, ¼ at a time. Mix so that it is evenly distributed throughout the whipped cream.
  • Allow to cool in the fridge for at least two hours before serving. It only gets better with time (though goes bad after about a week) and usually tastes even better the next day.

 

            I also figured out a wonderful, quick, weekday dinner: pulled pork and apple polenta. I made it on Tuesday, and loved it so much, I had to make it again on Thursday. Which means, yes, I had to remember what I did. Since polenta is 100 times better when it’s fresh, I’m giving the recipe for one serving, but it can easily be doubled, tripled, or quadrupled, depending on how many you are serving.

021

 Pulled Pork Polenta

         Ingredients

  • ½ cup yellow polenta
  • 1 ½ cups chicken broth
  • 1/8 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ yellow onion, diced
  • 1 small apple, cored and diced
  • ½ cup baby carrots, halved
  • ½ cup spinach/any leafy green
  • ¼ cup pulled pork*
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt to taste

        Directions

  • Coat the bottom of a small frying pan with the olive oil, and place it over medium heat. Add the apples and carrots, and cook until they have softened, stirring them continuously. This takes about 20 minutes, depending on how soft you would like them to be. I find it’s nice when the apples still have a little crunch.
  • Place the chicken broth in a medium-sized sauce pan over medium heat, and cook until it begins to simmer slightly. Poor in the polenta and stir continuously. Add the parmesan while stirring, and add salt to taste (be generous: polenta needs a lot of help to bring out its flavor). Turn off the heat while the polenta is still very soft, since it continues to firm.
  • Meanwhile, turn the heat on again under the apples and carrots, and add the leafy greens and polenta, stirring until all the ingredients are warm—only a couple of minutes.
  • Pour the polenta into a soup bowl, and form a slight ditch in the middle. Add the pork and vegetable mixture. Eat it with a spoon, and enjoy!

*I love the store-bought kind those plastic tubs, such as that made by Lloyd’s®. But, if you have 8-10 hours   to spare, you can always make your own quite easily. Simply place 1 ½ lbs. of pork shoulder roast, ½ cup water, and 6 oz. barbecue sauce in a slow cooker or crock pot. Cover and cook on medium heat for 8 to 10 hours, stirring every now and then so the pork shreds. When done, stir in the remaining barbecue sauce.

            So, I hope you find these patterns and recipes usual, or inspirational at the very least. They mark a new path in my crafting and cooking career, and I’m looking forward to including even more. I’ve always loved sewing, knitting, and good food, and I look forward to spreading the joy.

Leave a comment

Filed under cooking, knitting, quilting, Uncategorized