Category Archives: foodies!

Swatching and blocking, yarn and ice cream

Do you always swatch? Do you always wash and block your swatches? True confessions time here: I don’t always swatch, and when I do, I don’t always wash and block it. This has come back to bite me several times. Lesson learned! I’ve modified my approach: If the yarn is familiar to me, I might dive right in. A new yarn? It’s best to do my homework.

knitpicks galileo

This is Knit Picks Galileo in a deliciously plummy color called Urchin. It reminds me of these shield urchins I saw last December.

shingle urchins hawaii

But I digress.

This ia a new to me yarn. It’s sport weight, a 50/50 blend of Merino and Bamboo viscose. Two ply. It’s deliciously bouncy and round to knit with. Occasionally I’ll split the yarn with the Hiya Hiya Sharps that I’m knitting with, but I want that pointy tip for the lace stitches I’m working. It’s a reasonable trade-off.

The ballband recommends a size US 3-5 needle. I started with a 7, just for grins, because it’s going to be lace. Definitely too floppy. I swatched with a 6, and it felt pretty good, but I thought I’d push the envelope and swatch with a 5, too. It felt a little full on the needle, but surprise! It was my favorite of the three blocked swatches. It relaxed a lot from the bouncy knitted piece, but it also had more of the structure it needed to make this lace behave. So glad I swatched AND blocked in this instance. I’ve been knitting like crazy, and I’m halfway done with the project. No pictures; it’s a secret for now.

Speaking of plummy, my friends offered me plums from their super-productive tree again this year. I picked two colanders full, which was enough for two batches of jam.

yellow plums

I thought I’d come up with my perfect plum jam last summer. That was before I had some plum bourbon jam on a mini-doughnut at Pip’s Original Doughnuts. And over the year I’d also decided that I like a more traditional pectin set for plum jam. (Pomona’s is still my go-to for strawberry, and no pectin at all for raspberry.)

pdxknitterati bourbon plum jam

After the first batch, I went for the trifecta of favorite things: Plum, bourbon, crystallized ginger. Heaven. Not particularly boozy, but a extra depth of flavor that plain plum jam doesn’t have.

Notes for myself:

6 cups chopped plums
1/4 c water
Bring to boil, simmer 5 minutes. Add 1 box Sure-Jell pectin for less sugar (pink box) mixed with 1/4 cup sugar. Bring to boil.

Add
4.5 cups sugar
1/4 cup bourbon
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

Boil 1 minute per pectin package drections, water bath process for 10 minutes (sea level).

Yum.

I must be an extravagant measurer, or maybe I should re-measure my plums after the first simmer, which I don’t, but I always end up with a bit more jam than I’m expecting. I can only process 8 jars with my stockpot/orange silicone trivet setup, and that’s my expected yield. Maybe it’s the added bourbon, ginger, water? Anyway, the extra jam goes into a jar and into the fridge. I had extras from 2 batches in the fridge, so I did this.

pdxknitterati plum bourbon jam ice cream

Plum bourbon jam ice cream. It was a good reason to use the ice cream maker the kids gave to me a couple years ago. And they were coming for dinner!

pdxknitterati plum bourbon jam ice cream

Tastes as good as it looks!

Inspired by Erica’s recipe, but I doubled it and adjusted it for sweetness:

2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup plum bourbon jam
up to 1/4 cup sugar, to taste

Mix milk, cream, jam. Taste! Adjust sweetness as desired. Process in ice cream maker 25-30 minutes. This is a soft set; I put the ice cream in a storage container in the freezer for a couple hours before serving for a firmer set. Delicious. In a perfect world I might make a custard base for a smoother texture, but that would mean more work. I wonder if I’d like it with half and half instead of cream? This is like swatching, with food! But I’m guessing that laziness will win out, and this simple version is probably how it will always happen at my house.

I think this would be spectacular with strawberry balsamic jam, with some additional sugared strawberries thrown in. Just sayin’.

So, extravagant swatching, blocking, measuring, eating! What is your extravagance this summer?

Jamming…strawberries

Last month I bought some Hood strawberries, local berries that are so delicate they don’t go for sale outside the area. They’re tender and sweet and perfect. We ate some, and I made a small batch of strawberry balsamic jam with the rest.

strawberry balsamic jam

Three little jars of heaven. I liked Marisa’s recipe at Food in Jars, but I prefer my strawberry jam less cooked, so that there are still chunks of berries and a lighter color and less cooked flavor. This recipe uses no added pectin, so you have to cook it longer for it to set as jam. Still, delicious.

This week California berries are on sale at the supermarket for 99 cents/pound, so I decided to have another go at it. I bought 3 one pound boxes of berries, and used them all. A bit more than planned, but I don’t really like fresh strawberries, so there was no use in keeping some back!

I decided to use Pomona’s Pectin, which works with less sugar and the cooking time is minimal. You might remember my plum jam adventures from last year with Pomona’s Pectin. Ultimately, I decided that plum jam really wants to be made with traditional pectin and more sugar for that jewel-like set, so I’ll be back to that this summer. But for strawberries? Perfect.

strawberry balsamic jamsNo pectin on left, Pomona’s on right

I like the fresher taste and bits of fruit in this version with less cooking time. The only thing that I didn’t love is that my fruit wants to float in the jam after processing. Marisa says that it’s due to air trapped in the fruit, making it lighter than the rest of the jam. Possible fixes: Cut the fruit smaller (I wanted chunks, so no), macerate fruit with sugar overnight (too late for this time), or swirl fruit in jars as they cool (bingo).

fruit floating jam

I guess I missed one of the jars! I’ll keep that one for me, and mix it up when I open it. I have 4 half pints and 6 4-ounce jars.

The instructions for Pomona’s Pectin say to mix the pectin with the sugar, I think so it doesn’t clump. Next time, I’ll keep back half the sugar to mix with the pectin, and use the other half to macerate the berries overnight. Problem solved.

Notes to self for next year’s strawberry, with or without balsamic:

Strawberry balsamic jam

6 cups mashed berries, a little less than 3 pounds (I gave them a quick whirl in the food processor)
3 cups sugar (I might cut it back to 2.5 next time)
3 tsp Pomona’s Pectin
3 tsp calcium water
2 TBS balsamic vinegar, or more to taste

Combine fruit and 2 cups sugar; macerate in refrigerator overnight.

Canning day: Combine pectin with remaining sugar; set aside.
Add calcium water to fruit. Bring to boil. Add remaining sugar and pectin. Return to boil, stirring to dissolve pectin. Remove from heat.

Fill jars to 1/4″ from top, wipe rims clean, screw on lids. Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath canner. (Sea level, your altitude may vary! See instructions in the Pomona’s Pectin packet.)

Yield: 8-9 cups

If fruit still wants to float, swirl in jar after cooling 30 minutes. Any sooner and it’s still too liquid to keep it from floating back up.

What else? I noticed that a vine has taken over our dead bamboo stand. I thought it might be morning glory, which would need to be removed. It’s been growing on the bamboo for a couple years, wispy and delicate. But this year it’s very vigorous, and covered with buds, which don’t look like like morning glory.

passiflora overtakes bamboo

Yesterday it came into bloom. It’s too high for me to see from the ground, so I took this picture through the window.

passifora

It’s a passionflower (passiflora) vine! I think it was a volunteer from the neighbor’s yard. Pretty, but I can see how it might get out of hand. In fact, it is jumping over to the lilac on the left, so I pulled some down.

passiflora

Should I let it run free, as long as it leaves my lilac alone? The lilac needs pruning, so that will leave space between. But this thing is WILD! I read that some varieties make fruit, and so I guess I’ll wait it out. Passionfruit jam?

Are you jamming this season? I’m looking forward to plums. This year it’s going to be plum bourbon jam…

Tiny harvest is tiny

The blueberry crop is still going strong, despite the best efforts of the birds and squirrels to make me share. The new raspberry plants have given me almost a dozen berries. I wasn’t expecting any this year, so it’s all bonus.

raspberry blueberry

I ate the first raspberries immediately, and then I saw Sue’s raspberry post. Wish I’d seen it earlier. What a great way to make a tiny harvest special! I had to try it. Click the link for her gorgeous photo.

raspberries and chocolate

No, they’re not giant raspberries, but isn’t it cool how close my iPad can get without zooming?

Monday we went for a short hike from the Hoyt Arboretum up to Pittock Mansion. I always think of hiking as something you do elsewhere; it’s so nice to have very local options. This is inside Portland’s city limits.

maidenhair fernMaidenhair fern

buzzWhy hello there! (What kind of flower is this?)

hikers

And of course, any outing with Sue, Mimi, and Kelly means food! We had lunch at Pho Tango in Hillsboro. Fabulous!

bun bo hueBun bo Hue

spring roll

I always thought the vegetables were garnish, just eye candy, but Mimi says you eat them wrapped around the spring roll. That makes a spring roll way more interesting.

yucca and coconut

Mimi made dessert. Yucca and shredded coconut tossed with toasted sesame seeds and a bit of sugar and salt. Sounds odd, tastes great!

Summer is in full swing here. It’s supposed to be 100 degrees (fahrenheit) this weekend. Time to water…again.

Music, knits, food, yarn: a quick Seattle trip

I made a quick trip to Seattle at the beginning of the week to meet up with the Piano Babes. We met (mostly) in 2000 at Sonata Piano Camp, and have been friends ever since.

We went to a very interesting concert by the Nord Trio at the Nordic Heritage Museum: Piano, violin, accordion. Yes, accordion. The concert opened with selections from Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite, and the accordion was beautifully expressive. This is not polka music!

Before the show, we briefly poked around in the Finnish design exhibit, and of course I went looking for fiber fun in the Norwegian folk art rooms. I was not disappointed.

spinning wheels and carding benchspinning wheels and a carding bench

drop spindlesdrop spindles, and a stone whorl from the Iron Age

Selbu mittensSelbu mittens

embroidered mittensembroidered mittens

bobbin lace bobbin lace

And my favorite thing: A man’s folk costume from the Setesdal region, 1920.

norwegian folk costume There is a very traditional sweater under the vest.

sleeve detailsleeve detail

norwegian steeked sleeve You know this sleeve is steeked! Beautiful.

The weeekend also included a beautiful full moonrise,

full moon rising

a windy walk through the Olympic Sculpture Park and along the shoreline of Elliott Bay (downtown Seattle)

EchoEcho

Elliott Bay

Elvis sighting at the PIElvis sighting (see him?)

windy!Windy!

and lots of beautiful food. I won’t post it all, but if you follow me on Instagram you’ve seen some of it. (I’m pdxknitterati over there, too.)

beet salad at lola

I’m lucky to know this group of very smart, talented women.

On my way home, I stopped at Tolt Yarn and Wool in Carnation. It is a beautiful shop.

Tolt Yarn

I came home with some souvenirs.

tolt yarn souvenirs

The white yarn is sourced locally in the Snoqualmie Valley and spun at Green Mountain Spinnery. The purple yarn is from Green Mountain Spinnery, so they’re cousins. It’s called Mewesic, so it fits the theme of the Piano Babes weekend. Both are DK weight. I don’t know what I’ll do with them yet, but they look and feel good together, a little rustic but wooly. I bought the mug for DH; he gets a souvenir, too.

So that was the weekend. Now knitting, knitting, knitting, trying to finish a design sample. Soon!

How was your weekend?

Wontons and crème brûlée

Not a usual combination, but there it is. Sue (Tango Mango) and Mimi came over today for some cooking fun. The idea was that we were going to make crème brûlée, but we knew we’d need lunch, and Mimi wanted to know how to fold wontons. Why not do both?

snacking

We started with a pre-cooking snack. Just to keep our strength up. As one does.

Sue pre-made the custard for the crème brûlée, so she poured it into the cutest shortie wide mouth mason jars and we set them to bake. You’ll have to go to her blog for the actual recipe.

I taught Sue and Mimi my Dad’s wonton folding method. Mimi showed us one that she knew. But only one.

pdknitterati wontons

Recipe is at the bottom of this post. If you want to see folding in action, that’s over at Sue’s blog, too. My hands were too busy, and messy, to take a picture.

pdxknitterati wonton soup

Lunch was delicious! We took an ice cream break at Salt and Straw before torching the crème brûlée.

salt and strawI don’t know these people, but they looked very happy with their ice cream.

We figured out the crème brûlée torch.

pdxknitterati crème brûlée

It was as good as it looks!

pdxknitterati crème brûlée

Here’s the recipe for the wonton soup. I like that it has bok choy and water chestnuts inside the filling; it lightens the texture and gives it crunch. Enjoy!

Wonton Soup
Makes enough for 6 hungry people

¼ lb peeled deveined shrimp, (frozen thawed is fine, and size doesn’t matter since it will be ground)
¼ lb ground turkey breast
6 medium to large shiitake mushrooms (3 for filling and 3 sliced for soup)
1 can sliced water chestnuts (half for filling and half to go in soup)
1 stalk green onion
3 to 6 stalks bok choy (half goes into filling; other half goes into soup) I like baby or shanghai bok choy. If you use the smaller bok choy, 6 stalks; if you use the really big long stuff, 3 is plenty)
snow pea pods, optional, amount of your choosing (I skipped these)

1 egg
¼ tsp five spice powder
½ Tablespoon oyster sauce

1 package wonton wrappers
1 48 oz box reduced sodium chicken broth
2 cups water

Start your broth, water, 3 sliced mushrooms in a large soup pot. This can heat while you prepare wontons; when it boils bring it down to a simmer.

I have a small food processor, so I chop things sequentially. This also lets me avoid chopping the vegetables too finely; we want some crunch.

Chop and place into a large bowl: the shrimp, turkey (already ground), 3 mushrooms, ½ can water chestnuts, half the bok choy, green onion. Combine eggs, 5 spice, and oyster sauce and add to bowl, Mix all ingredients well. (does it need a little more 5 spice? give it a sniff; it should smell divine. I tried to measure but usually guess.

Fold wontons! I put a little less than a tablespoon of filling in each wonton. Fold on the diagonal, then use the back of your spoon to put a dab on the fold next to right side of the filling (on the outside), give a little twist and fold to bring the underside of the left side of the filling mound to the dab on the of the right side of the filling mound. Sounds confusing, I know. Sue took pictures of the process, so check here.

Bring broth back to a boil. Add wontons and remaining water chestnuts and mushrooms. Cook for 4 minutes, reducing heat to a low simmer when soup begins to boil again (don’t want to jostle the wontons too much and have them fall apart!). After 4 minutes, add the remaining bok choy (sliced in 1 inch pieces on the diagonal) and pea pods. If you have extra shrimp, now is the time to put them in the soup, too. Stir occasionally to get the vegetables down into the soup. Soup is ready in about 3 more minutes. Don’t overcook; it gets sloppy!

If this is more food than you need, you can store the extra filling in the fridge for a couple days, and make fresh wontons again.

Bon appetit!

Merry Christmas!

My last Christmas stocking made it home in time for the holiday. The red one is the Super Cabled Christmas Stocking in Knit Picks The Big Cozy.

pdxknitterati christmas

We started the day with the (adult) kids, serving up a mimosa brunch with waffle iron hash browns and brisket scrambled eggs (leftover brisket from Tuesday’s end of Hanukkah celebration).

waffle iron hash browns

Prime rib is in the oven, and extended family is due at 5 p.m. Hope you’re having a peaceful day, whether or not you celebrate Christmas! Did you receive any crafty gifts? My friend Carole gave me an Ott light, which will be very helpful for beadwork. It’s going to Crafty Moms weekend with me, for sure.

Merry merry!

Cooking with Tango-Mango

Oh, beautiful food. I met Sue, author of the Tango Mango blog, through our mutual friend Mimi earlier this year. Her photography and recipes are outstanding.

Last week, Mimi and I went to Sue’s house to make stonefruit galettes. Her camera pictures are way more beautiful than my iPhone pictures, but you get the idea.

pdxknitterati stone fruit galette

Sue made the short crust ahead of time, so our task was to roll it out, prep the fruit, and form the galettes. (Recipe is on the Tango Mango blog.)

pdxknitterati stone fruit galette

I love how these look, even before baking. (Hey, Sue, we forgot to dot with butter! It was delicious, anyway.)

pdxknitterati stone fruit galette

While they were baking, we had this pretty and tasty salad. The cucumber is shaved with a “vegetable sharpener” which looks like a giant pencil sharpener. Fun tools!

salad tango mango

This was not the first cooking party we’ve had with Sue. Last June, we made enchiladas, a new dish for me.

enchiladas

Here’s Sue, finding the best light for photo styling…

Tango Mango photo

Check out the Tango Mango blog. Pretty and delicious!

What’s new on the knitting front? I’m almost done with a new shawlette design, wondering if it’s going to block out the way I want it to. I guess I’ll find out soon…

Adventures in jamming: fruit, pectin, music

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My friends gave me these beautiful yellow plums on Sunday, and I’ve been jamming up a storm. Both of these are ginger plum jam, with some chopped crystallized ginger added to the plummy goodness.

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The one on the right is my usual Sure-Jell pectin version. It requires an exact amount of sugar to set. It’s very sweet. The one on the left is my first experiment with Pomona’s pectin, which doesn’t require sugar to gel. The pectin is activated by calcium (included in the packet). I used less than half as much sugar in this second jam. It’s much more tart, and the plum and ginger flavors shine through. But why do these two look so different? I made the second jam with turbinado sugar, so it’s darker, and I don’t love how it looks. I went back to the drawing board (and picked more plums), and came up with this winner.

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Sunshine in a jar

It’s not as crystal clear/jewel-like as the Sure-Jell jam, but it has much less sugar, 4 1/2 cups of sugar for 8 cups of prepared fruit, instead of 8 cups of sugar for 6 cups of fruit. This is a little sweeter than the last version, per my family’s request. I like that I could add sugar until it tasted right. Pretty color. Delicious flavor. Nice texture. And I’ve run out of jars, so I’m done jamming for the season. Whew!

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Third time’s a charm

For reference for next year:

Ginger Plum Jam

8 cups prepared plums (pitted, not peeled, pulsed a bit in food processor)
4 1/2 C sugar
1/2 C lemon juice
1/4 C chopped crystallized ginger
8 tsp calcium water (from pectin package)
6 tsp Pomona’s pectin

Prepare and process per directions in pectin package.

image

More jam? A couple weeks ago, we picked raspberries and made jam with this recipe I found last year. No added pectin, and an exquisite color and set.

Now I have a LOT of jam. I found this recipe for making jam ice cream a while ago. I haven’t tried it yet; I need to get out of the kitchen! But this may come in handy later.

I just picked the very last of my blueberry crop for this year. (Ring added for size reference. The bowl is only about 4 inches, and the berries are not so big in real life.)

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I don’t love blueberry jam, so I have gallons of berries stored in the freezer for (my signature) cobblers, pancakes, muffins, and compotes all year long. Eating them fresh off the blueberry bush is my favorite way to enjoy them. I’m going to savor these last few.

In a different kind of jamming, the Pie Birds (my friends Claudia and Becky and I) sang in church on Sunday. This is our version of the Wailin’ Jennys’ Bird Song. I’m the low harmony, and play one of the guitars. It is an absolute joy to sing with friends!

Snowy Woods Cowl

I’m madly knitting away, and about halfway done with two projects that are publishing soon. One is the re-worked Snowy Woods Cowl. Lorajean over at Knitted Wit is doing this custom color in her Aran weight yarn for me. Isn’t it gorgeous? And soft and bouncy to knit with, too. We’re planning a pattern launch sale and a KAL. Stay tuned!

How was your week?

Potpourri post: cook hike knit!

A little of this and a little of that, all in a mad dash.

We celebrated Mother’s Day with the annual boys’ (young men) helping me put the yard in order. They also brought me a Vietnamese clay pot, and they made dinner in it. Catfish and eggplant in clay pot, and Vietnamese beer to go with it.

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This was inspired by a cooking class we took in Vietnam in 2009, and a Southeast Asian Flavors class we took at Portland’s Culinary Workshop last month. What a cool gift, and there were no leftovers.

Last week some friends and I went for another urban hike, this time in Macleay Park. We went from Pittock Mansion down to the Stone House and back again. I chose this hike because I wanted the view of Mount Hood from Pittock Mansion, but it was a pretty hazy day.

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(Doing a little work up there, clearly)

Most hike guides go from Lower MacLeay Park up to Pittock Mansion and back, but I wanted it to to be a little shorter due to time constraints, so we started at the top and went down and back up again, skipping the portion below the Stone House. This meant all the hard work was at the end. Oof. But it was pretty!

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The Stone House was a comfort station built as a 1930’s WPA project; when it was damaged in the Columbus Day Storm of 1962, the city opted not to repair it. The stone walls are all that remain. Kind of creepy cool.

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Balch Creek

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Maidenhair Fern

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Magic lighting!

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Share the trail

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Is this some kind of rose?

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Reward!

In other news, I’m working on a few design ideas. I’m using this bit of stash for one of them. It’s Knitted Wit Bling in Fuchsia Basket, a CSY color from last year.

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I’m knitting at a loose gauge, and blocking even airier for a lovely springtime accessory. Surprisingly, it’s not a shawl this time! We’ll see if it matches my vision. I’ll know soon. I’m also working on a couple things for September…

Puff, the magic…pastry

My go-to dessert for holiday parties this season has been a simple pear tart. Fresh sliced pears on a bed of puff pastry, brushed with butter and sprinkled with sugar before a little turn in the oven. (Please excuse the kitchen lighting; it was dark out. As usual.)

pear tart

Paired (peared? hah!) with my favorite bourbon caramel sauce, this is a heavenly dish. My favorite aunt sends me pears at Christmas, and many of them have gone the way of the tart. I”m saving some for cranberry pear bourbon jam, though.

I was reading blogs today, and saw Tango Mango’s decadent chocolate swirl buns, yeasty buns full of chopped chocolate. I was tempted, but feeling much too lazy to make a yeast dough and wait for it to rise. Luckily, I had one last puff pastry sheet in the freezer, so I did a mashup of her chocolate swirl buns and her pain au chocolat. (If you like to play with food, you really need to follow her blog.)

Here’s the result.

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Chocolate pinwheel puffs
Yield: 9 pretty puffs, and two not so pretty ones

Ingredients:
1 sheet puff pastry
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 egg
sprinkle of sugar, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Use a little non-stick spray in the bottom of a standard muffin tin to keep melted chocolate from sticking. (I didn’t, and only had a little sticking.)

Thaw puff pastry, and then use a rolling pin to roll out dough to about 12″ by 12″, not a lot thinner, mostly just to roll out the creases. Sprinkle mini chocolate chips over the surface. I’m guessing on the amount, you could go way heavier if you want. Let your conscience be your guide. Mine looked like this. (sorry, more kitchen lighting)

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Roll the dough up into a tube. Scramble the egg to make an egg wash, and brush some on the edge to seal the roll. Slice the roll into 1 inch pieces. Place the pieces into the muffin pan. They look like they’re too small for the pan, but they’ll puff up. The two end pieces won’t be pretty; you can add additional chocolate chips to make up for it. Brush the pinwheels lightly with the egg wash, and sprinkle them with sugar if you’d like. I didn’t, but the sparkle and crunch would be a nice addition.

Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, until pastry is golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack. Eat the not quite so pretty end pieces first to hide the evidence.

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Enjoy your pinwheels while paging through Doomsday Knits. Oh, I think I forgot to tell you: Doomsday Knits is live!

Doomsday Knits

You can order your ebook for immediate delivery, or ebook and hard copy. Hard copies will ship in January. I’m looking forward to sniffing the ink in my printed version, but I’m enjoying my ebook NOW. My Thrumviator is in this book, and now that I’m back in Portland, I could really use one!

Thrumviator 2

Happy knitting, and happy munching!