Oops, I did it again!

August 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Remember how I ran out of yarn for the Nurgake and had to use a second yarn to finish it off? Yeah, well, I did it again accidentally-on-purpose so I could blog about it for Lion Brand. And got a really cute little jacket out of it, too!

The cheesecake shot I decided not to use on the work blog.

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Expanding My Horizons

August 24, 2011 § 4 Comments

And my waistline, but so, so worth it. I came across this thing called Taste & Create a few months ago, where people make food from each other’s blogs (you sign up and get assigned a partner each month — it’s very cool). I decided to participate for the first time this month, and my partner was Always Eat On the Good China. The hardest part was choosing a recipe to make (and I’m totally going to make more of them — she has some really nommy sounding stuff!) but I finally settled on the Chicken Puffs. Chicken, bacon, cheese, puff pastry…what could possibly go wrong? Nothing, in this case. They were amazing.

Delish.

I did modify the recipe a little to use what I had on hand (for example, I used goat cheese instead of cream cheese), and since I’m not a huge fan of plain chicken, I also decided to play around with marinades* and tried something new: OJ and balsamic vinegar. Yeah, that’s a keeper (1c. OJ + 1 Tbsp BV to cover about 1.5lbs of cubed chicken). She mentions in her post about the recipe that although the pic shows a whole chicken breast, she now cuts it into bite size chunks, so I went that way with it. And I didn’t mix anything up for the cream cheese mixture — I just threw a bunch of goat cheese on top and then topped it with some fresh basil, because I am lazy. Oh! Also instead of spraying my cookie sheet I just lined it with parchment paper which works beautifully for keeping stuff from sticking. And I didn’t brush with the egg wash, but that was just because I totally forgot to do it. Seemed to come out fine, but they would’ve been a little crispier with the wash.

The pile of nommy stuff going into the middle of the puff: chicken, goat cheese, bacon, fresh basil.

So, modifications I’ll probably make next time I make this (because there will be a next time): First off, I think I’m going to try it as a pot-pie kind of thing…the puff pastry-to-filling ratio is just really high. Now, it’s puff pastry, so it’s not like my tastebuds are complaining, but I think it will be just as tasty topped with the puff instead of surrounded by it. Second — you might want to sit down for this one — I’m going to leave the bacon out. I just really didn’t feel like it added much to the flavor experience in this case. Weird, I know, but there you are. I also will probably try different marinade/cheese combos — I think this would be great with something spicy on the chicken and cheddar cheese, for instance. And there you have it…my first Taste & Create. This was tons of fun — I’m totally going to do it again next month!

Fresh from the oven.

*A note on using a marinade on something you’re going to wrap in puff pastry and bake: you need to dry it out before you put it in the pastry. Throw it in a saute pan and brown it — you’ve got lots of sugar in this marinade, so even let it caramelize a bit. You don’t need to worry so much about it being cooked through — the baking in the oven part will take care of that. And it won’t get too dry b/c you’ve added all that moisture to it.

This is Not a Clever Title

August 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’m already starting to run out of clever titles for these. More blogging over on the Lion Brand Site, this time about how to increase in pattern and keep it lookin’ purty.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Things About…ME!

August 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

The folks over at Craft do this interview thing called “5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Things About…”, and it’s kind of cool. Sort of a Proust Questionnaire for crafters. Craft has invited their readers to join in and self-publish their own answers, and I thought it’d be a fun little meme to get involved in. So here we go:

5.4.3.2.1. things about...

One Project You Are Particularly Proud Of

1. I think I’d have to go with my very first self-designed sweater. It was right after 9-11 and like many other knitters, I wanted an American Flag sweater, but I didn’t like any of the patterns I was finding so I decided to make up my own. I wanted something very simple, with more of an Old Glory feel than a bright red, white, and blue. I found the perfect yarn at Smiley’s, but couldn’t figure out how to do the stars since I knew that I didn’t enjoy intarsia. Finally, I decided to use fabric paint for the stars.

C'mon, I gotta have at least one "picture in the mirror" shot on the blog.

I hardly every wear it anymore because it’s gotten so pilled (and I’ve lost a ton of weight so it doesn’t really fit right anymore, either), but during the years I did wear it, I got constant compliments on it. That’s what gave me the courage to continue designing, even if for a long time it was just designing for myself.

Two Mistakes You’ve Made In the Past

1. I was going on a long plane trip and thought I’d knit me some socks, a la the Yarn Harlot. However, since I can’t bear to knit plain socks, I threw in some cabling. Way, way too much cabling. I work toe up and ribbed the bottom of the foot (it’s like a little built-in massager!), and when I completed the outbound leg of the trip I was just finished with that part of the sock. I tried them on and they fit fine. On the way home, I finished up the cuffs, with cabling all around. They pulled in so much I couldn’t even get my toes in.

2. My favorite baking mistake: When I was 12 or 13, I was home after school by myself and I was allowed to bake, should I be so inclined. I’ve always enjoyed trying out new recipes and techniques, and I found a recipe for some sort of baked fudgey concoction. There was one ingredient that I had never encountered before, and so I called my mom at work to find out a) what it was and b) did we have any? She was in a meeting, so her secretary passed her a message and then gave me the reply: it was something we had on hand and I was indeed familiar with it. So I whipped up a batch of this stuff and waited eagerly and pulled it out of the oven, and it was clearly wrong. I called Mom back; she was still in a meeting, and her answer was the same as last time. So I figured maybe I screwed something up with the first batch and I threw together the second batch. Same results. It wasn’t until Mom got home and was reviewing the recipe for me to try to figure out what had gone so horribly wrong that we realized that somewhere along the way, “corn syrup” had gotten translated as “corn oil”. Let me tell you, a cup of Wesson is not the same as a cup of Karo syrup.

Three Things That Make Your Work Unique

1. I once read an interview, or perhaps a blog post, wherein Neil Gaiman spoke about how he enjoys writing in many different mediums and likes to continue to explore different ways of working in his chosen craft. I kind of feel the same way…I consider myself “polycraftual” but mostly I work in fiber-related crafts, like knitting, crocheting, cross-stitch, a little quilting, weaving, dyeing, etc. When I hear about a new technique for working with yarn or fabric, I almost always give it at least one try. I occasionally branch out into other mediums, but not often and it doesn’t usually stick for long. But I find that I often am able to incorporate techniques or lessons learned from my branching-out projects, and that makes my main body of work richer and more interesting.

2. Despite my polycraftual-ness, I tend to be a bit of a purist. Although I see lots of art and craft that combines, for instance, crochet and quilting and embroidery and papercraft, it’s not me. I keep my paintings painted and my sweaters knitted, and the twain very rarely meet for me when it comes to mixing media. I find this is true of my work with food as well. I enjoy lots of different flavors, but I would rather have them available separately and then combine them as I eat, trying out different combinations that way.

3. When I was little, my dad was an accountant for a women’s suit company. He and my mother both instilled in me the ideas that line and quality will always out over fads. I like to incorporate quirky and fun details into my designs, but at their core I try to always have a sense of the classic, something that will last for decades, not a season or two. It’s a little different with food — I think it’s pretty obvious that I’m firmly on the bacon fad-wagon — but while the food itself is consumable and ephemeral in nature, the recipes themselves do still have that very basic core that can be dressed and re-dressed for different palates and changing tastes.

Four Tools You Love To Use

1. Wood needles and hooks. I’d almost rather not make something than make it with metal or plastic hooks/needles…I just like the feel of warmth and quality I get from wood. Knit Picks interchangeables are my current  faves — they’re really just great quality and ability to pick and choose which pieces I need is fabulous (though it has resulted in my having several sets of the same size tip).

2. My electric ball winder. I have gone through at least five (and possibly more) of the manual winders, and I hate them. With that added to my health/mobility issues, I decided it was time to upgrade. My fabulous LYS owner helped me pick one out, and it’s been wonderful. It did take some getting used to, as you need to tension the yarn on the swift differently than you would for the manual sort, but now that I’m used to it I don’t think I could go back.

3. The internet. Seriously, how freaking awesome is the internet? When I was in high school I was on the debate team and we spent our evenings glued to the microfiche machines at the library, going blind reading all that tiny, blurry print (well, except for the evenings when we were out TPing/saran wrapping people’s houses) (or so I heard…not me, Mom). If we wanted to access more extensive sources, we all piled into someone’s car and took a road trip to one of the colleges in town and used their library. If you couldn’t remember who was in a movie, you had to go to the video store and look, or wait until it came on cable (I have no idea what people did in dark ages before there was cable and video tapes). Now you just pop over to IMDB.com and Bob’s your uncle. Not only that, I can have 40 pounds of kitty litter delivered to my door tomorrow, should I need it. Man, that is just crazy. But crazy awesome. Because in addition to all of that, I can use the internet to find awesome new crafts and techniques, to access stitch dictionaries, to check equivalency charts, to hang out with other like-minded individuals, to see what my friends are up to, to read about the latest progress in the search for the Higgs boson…the potential is really pretty much unlimited.

4. How am I going to top the internet? With BRAAAIIINNNS, of course. My brain is the best tool I have. It can problem solve (most of the time) and figure out what other tools I need and just keeps spitting out fun new ideas to try (though it seems to be stuck in a bacon loop lately, but I’m kind of okay with that).

Five Inspirations

1. People who love what they do.

2. Nature. Yeah, it’s kind of a cop-out, but really? From the violence of a hurricane to the softness of a kitten, there’s just so much there. 

3. Science fiction and fantasy. Books, tv and movies, whatever…the scope of the human imagination is astonishing.

4. Other designers and crafters, especially those who have found a different/better way to do something.

5. Otherworld, which now that I’m thinking about it, is really a combination of the other four. Otherworld somehow manages to be energizing and relaxing and exhausting (in a good way) and revitalizing all at once. It takes place in one of the most beautiful locations I’ve ever seen, was created and is still written and run by one of the most wonderful women I know, who has surrounded herself with an awesome group of people (which I am incredibly proud to be part of) who love to be there and who are amazing at finding better ways to get things done. Oh yeah, and it’s a fantasy setting. It is a fabulously unique happening, and every year 48 new people are lucky enough to get to join us in the experience (you could be one of them, I’m just sayin’).

So that’s me, in a very large and verbose nutshell. Thanks, Craft! This was fun!

I didn’t say chicken, I said kick his butt!

August 17, 2011 § 2 Comments

This weekend I was in a “play around in the kitchen” kind of mood, and I was also in a “chicken and mushrooms” kind of mood. I originally thought I might make a chicken marsala, but I didn’t have wine on hand and didn’t feel like stopping to get any, so I decided to use the beer I did have. I also felt like playing with spices a little instead of just dosing everything with oregano and basil (though you know I do love my basil). What I came up with ended up tasting pretty much like I expected — and wanted — it to taste, so this one’s a definite keeper. And it’s ridiculously easy, too, so bonus!

Noms.

This dish is great served over rice or pasta and topped with a little cheese. It has a very rich but subtle flavor, so a sharp or strongly flavored cheese really stands out nicely (I threw on some sharp cheddar the first night and then used some shaved asiago on the leftovers. Both were quite tasty).

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. chicken, give or take
  • 1 lb. crimini or portabello mushrooms, give or take
  • 1 12oz. bottle of beer (I used Honey Brown because it’s what I had on hand)
  • 1 tsp dry ground mustard
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • app. 1 Tbsp flour, if necessary

Cube chicken and slice mushrooms (I sliced the mushrooms while the chicken was cooking). Pour 3/4 of the beer into a saute pan and heat to simmering. Add mustard, paprika, and chicken. Allow chicken to simmer in liquid until cooked through. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon, leaving as much liquid as possible in the pan. Add butter to the remaining liquid and allow to melt. Add the remaining beer and allow to heat back up to simmer. Add mushrooms and cook through. If the liquid is still a bit thin, thicken with flour as desired.

More Pattern Reading Tips From Yours Truly

August 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

If you get confused by stitch groupings and repeats, today’s post over on the Lion Brand Blog is just for you. Don’t say I never gave you anything. Or if you do say it, feel a little twinge of guilt for the filthy lie you just told.

Found It on the Internet Friday #5

August 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

For years I’ve had one of those fabric tubes full of plastic bags hanging on my wall, and while it’s certainly a better way to store the damn things than just shoving them into a drawer (or tossing them and getting new ones all the time)*, it’s still kind of bulky and unsightly. So when I came across this post with some alternates and saw the repurposed household wipes container, I was all over it.

Like it was always there!

I dried out my empty container, shoved a bunch of bags in, removed the label, and made pretty designs with my sharpies, to match my other kitchen accessories. Sadly, I forgot to take pictures, so you’re going to have wait until tomorrow to see it. But it fits so nicely on a shelf — I’m thrilled with it. AND, now when we go to BJs and need a bunch of bags, I can just grab that container and throw it in the car. Heck, I might even make a second one just to keep in the car!

A little closer

*Yes, I know I should be using cloth etc. bags, and I do try my best to a) remember to take them with me and b) actually take them out and put my groceries in them, but I’m not always successful. And I reuse the plastic bags I do get, as trashcan liners, when I need to transport something messy or to hand something off to someone who won’t be returning my bag to me. So don’t get all up in my grill, yo. Yeah, I know I totally can’t pull off that last bit.

Where Am I?

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