Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Honey Cowl and Baby Sweater

In the years after completing my bachelor’s degree and leaving our college town, I’ve found that it isn’t easy to make friends outside the college vacuum. It’s difficult to find people with similar interests or in some cases that you can just generally tolerate. This past summer, while working at an organization for my graduate school internship, I made a new friend! She came into our shared office one morning packing a homemade (canned) jar of blueberry –lime jam,  and in that moment I knew we could be buddies.  She shares my love of kitchen adventures (and is in many was much more adventurous than I), home preserving, gardening and camping. She is amazingly talented in her professional field and is always willing to share what she knows or teach someone else. She’s an amazing woman all around, kind, thoughtful ,honest and has a great sense of humor . As grateful as I am for the professional experience I gained from my internship, gaining a friendship has been  a perk that while different, is equally as appreciated. 

 Accurate Color Shot

So, this amazing friend let me drag her into my wedding planning madness and helped design our invitations and other stationary (and wouldn’t let me pay her for her time).  I told her I would pay her in knitted goods! Everyone likes knitted goods!! I decided to give the epic Honey Cowl (ravelry link) another try. I made one of these when the pattern was released and though it was a bit of a pain in the butt. However, I was swayed by Kay over at Mason-Dixon Knitting and her romanticizing of the whole process. I had two hanks of the divine Malabrigo Silky Merino (half and half silk and merino… yumm) in Cape Cod and thought the pattern was simple enough and the color was just right for my friend and her cranberry wool winter coat. 

I’m pleased to say, I loved this one. I loved the yarn. I loved the process . I loved the cowl, so much so I’m glad this color looks terrible on me or it would have never made it to my friend!
As I was finishing the Honey Cowl (a surprise) my friend emailed and asked if I could whip up something for her nephew, who will make his great entrance very soon.  Of course! Who doesn’t love knitting for babies?!  I went to my old baby standby the Little Coffee Bean Cardigan (Ravelry Link). I changed up the striping pattern from what is written in the pattern. Substituting 4 row stripes and using 4 colors instead of the recommended 2. I should note, that if you decide to go this route, there will be TONS of ends to weave in at the end. When I turned the sweater inside out, it looked like I had made it with fringed arms. The finishing work was worth it in my mind though, it’s my favorite one I’ve made so far. Buttons are burnished brass from Le Petite Buttons. 

Maybe it’s the process knitter in me, but I love knitting for other people. I can’t remember the last thing I knit for myself (look for another  Silky Merion Honey Cowl in the future though). It gives me great amounts of comfort and satisfaction to know that my hand knits are out in the world, keeping people warm against the cold and comforting them through their daily lives. This week that circle of people grew by two. 

Edited: When the box containing the cowl and sweater arrived, I got a phone call from my friend and the first words out of her mouth upon my “hello” were “This cowl is AMAZING!” Yep, I have some pretty awesome friends.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Potato Substitute

I literally just put down my fork, and am thinking “MUST…. BLOG…. RECIPE…NOW!” Yes, it was that good! 

For the last two months, as you know I have desperately been banging out my thesis and I am SO CLOSE to being finished. I’m on my LAST round of edits and I defend in 9 days! What does this have to do with potatoes you ask? Well, they are one of my big comfort foods (along with mac & cheese).  I like mine loaded with sour cream, sharp cheddar and smoky bacon (who doesn’t, right?). One of the other things I have been doing for the last two months is going to the gym. I’ve been really dedicated to my strength training classes and working up on my cardio. While I would love to eat potatoes (or mac & cheese) every day while I sit at home and pound away on my computer, it would not point me in the direction of my health goals (bummer). We need a substitute! Quinoa burgers to the rescue!! 

Have you ever had a quinoa burger before? I never had before today, but I had a few magazine clippings with recipes and a few things on pinterest and decided to give it a go. I looked at a dozen recipes and nothing was quite what I was looking for. I should use this moment to add that quinoa burgers are a great vehicle for lots of veggies or legumes, just mix them into the mixture and enjoy. That was not what I was going for today. Here you will find a super simple, pared down version of the quinoa burger that offers a million ways to mix it up, change the spices, change the toppings, add some veggies or chick peas (Sorry, Amy! I do love them so!). I found that a cast iron skillet gave me the best crunchy exterior and you really can’t skimp on the oil in the pan. It makes a huge difference and I promise it will not leave your burgers tasting or looking greasy. 

I topped mine with the old baked potato stand-bys of sour cream, sharp cheddar and bacon. I’ll even let you in on a little secret: I keep a little packet of Black Label Bacon Pieces in my fridge. It’s one of the few “convenience foods” I love, perfect for those times when you just want a bit of bacon without all the hassle (and since it’s REAL bacon, I don’t feel as guilty about it, as I would about buying Bacon Bits). These “baked potato” quinoa burgers are heavenly (and full of protein)! They are moist on the inside, they hold together nicely for cooking, and have an irresistible crispy exterior. The best part is, this recipe makes a huge batch, so make a few for lunch today and then put the rest in your fridge and you can enjoy these babies all week! You know I will be!!

Quinoa Burgers 

1 c Uncooked Quinoa
2 c Water
¼ tsp Sea Salt
½ tsp Garlic Powder
¼ c Wheat Germ
1 egg
½ c Sharp Cheddar Cheese

First bring water to a boil, add salt and quinoa (make sure to wash your quinoa well, in a fine sieve before boiling, or it will turn bitter). Put the lid on the pan and lower heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes covered. All the water should be absorbed when it is cooked. When the quinoa is cooked combine quinoa with the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl. Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Make quinoa mixture into patties and fry until dark golden brown on each side. Remove from pan and top as you please! 
(I Used ½ tbl Sour cream, 1 tsp bacon and a large pinch of shredded sharp cheddar on each patty.)

Friday, March 1, 2013

February Reading Rundown

How on earth is it March already?! I know February is short, but come on!

Not much reading for this month. Well, unless you count all the academic stuff and the guides for writing cover letters and preping for interviews post-graduate school. Which we wont, because really, you only read that stuff when you have to and this, my friends, is about fun.

In February I read:

Death of a Cad by M.C. Beaton

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

It's another toss up this month between two very different books. Kostova is one of those authors where I can't help but find myself thinking I wished my mind worked like her's did! This is an amazing story that tracks through three generations of a family and three periods in history as these historians try to unlock the truth behind Vlad (the Impaler) Stevitch. It is full of suspense and beautiful writing about historic cities and relationships between people. If you read only one fiction book this year, choose The Historian.

Kostova's unlikely contender is Bourdain. Future Hubby and I loved No Reservations, and this book has been on my list for a very long time. The discussion of food is beautiful and raw. It has very colorful language, so be forewarned and please don't let your child who wants to be a chef read it. Do read it yourself though. Bourdain doesn't pull any punches, he talks about the resturant world like it is, at it's best, at it's worst and all the people that make it run. I loved this book, because for a moment I was there, in the kitchen, completely vacating my own life and THAT is what I look for in a great book. 

Total: 10 (5)