Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Coming out of the (Pantry) Closet

There's something I need to tell you. It's been weighing on me for a while now and I haven't really known what to do about it. I've tried so hard not to let it show but I think I've just been in denial, trying to hide what's going on when everyone probably knows already and has just been waiting for me to own it.

So I guess this is it. OK, deep breath. Here goes:

This isn't a knitting blog that occasionally mentions food. I've tried to keep the focus on knitting but it's just too hard. I take a picture of the sweater that I'm working on, but all I can think of is how pretty the Guyanese Channa looks in the cute little bowl my sister gave me for Christmas one year. Instead of figuring out how best to show the socks I've almost finished, I'm trying to decide which plate to use to feature the slow cooker black beans I made earlier this week.

God help me, I'm even starting to plate my food specifically so I can take a picture of it. I'm even thinking about making bread again, just so I can post a picture of it on this here blog!

So now my secret is out. From this day forward, at least until something else comes along to distract me, this is a food blog that occasionally mentions knitting. Oh, and the other shiny pretty things that come along now and again.

There. I feel so much better. Don't you?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Front Accomplished

I'm starting to get busier now, so the days of sleeping in, sipping a nice long cup of coffee, and spending the morning surfing the internet are becoming less frequent. I'm spending more time doing finishing work for the store and I'm starting to pick up some other projects so I'm having less time to knit.

I did, however, manage to finish the front of the 4-3-2 ribbed pullover from the Winter '05 Interweave Knits.
This here's without the flash . . .
And this one is with the flash.

The true color lies somewhere between these two pics.

This is the original pattern. The yarn I'm using, Uruguay Chunky, is a slightly bigger gauge, but it's a merino so it pulls in more. I think the end result will be the same, and I'm liking the look of the ribs with a firmer yarn.

I hope to finish this in time for it to be of use for the season. I have a feeling there's still time. I don't think the worst of winter is behind us yet here in Chicago.

Of course, if I'm wrong that will make me very, very happy.

Friday, February 24, 2006

You're Breaking My Back

Thanks to Jessica, there's a new Surprise link on the sidebar.

So you know who to thank . . .

Thursday, February 23, 2006

All Chickpeas, All the Time

If your math's good, you will have noticed that there were still about 2 cups of unused chickpeas still left from the original 4+ cups that I had to Do Something with after I used 2 cups for the Guyanese Channa I wrote about yesterday. If it's not then you, like me, were strongly encouraged to take a remedial math class before taking any required math courses in college.

Ah well. Now that I knit, I'm learning all the math I never learned in school. Who knew?

Where was I? Oh yeah, the chickpeas.
Because I had such a plethora (god, I Iove that word) of chickpeas, I didn't want to make yet another main dish. My chickpea tolerance is actually fairly low and I've only recently developed enough of a taste for them to be able to eat them in their whole form instead of disguised as hummus or felafal. I was looking for something different--something light, which is oddly oxymoronic for chickpeas, I think most people would agree.

Since I didn't really know what I wanted, I decided to surf online rather than going through my cookbooks. I went to Allrecipes.com, a good resource when I have an ingredient in mind and I'm looking for new ideas of what to do with it. I searched through the chickpea recipes and found this recipe for Roasted Chickpeas.

I have to admit right off the bat that I played with the spices. I added chili powder and I think it was a good addition.

The only thing I didn't do right is that I didn't cook it quite long enough. I had trouble keeping my oven at 450 deg. As a result, most of the chickpeas didn't dry out completely so they're a little chewy.

Even so, they came out really tasty. I plan to make these often--they make a great grab-by-the-handsful snack. And healthy too! And it tastefully (tee-hee) solves the problem of what to do with the rest of the chickpeas whenever I cook them up.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Guyanese Channa

When I cooked the chickpeas for the lentil curry, I put the rest of them in the fridge and figured I'd do something with them later. Well, a week passed and all of a sudden I had to Do Something with them right away, or throw them out. I'm getting a little tired of my standby chickpeas simmered in tomatoes and rosemary, so I've decided to take that dish out of rotation for a while.

So what to do with the 4+ cups of cooked chickpeas before they're no longer fit for human consumption?
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Guyanese Channa. It's also in the Lean Bean Cuisine cookbook I went through at my brother's house. I copied it because I love Channa Masala and thought this might be similar. Of course, it's nothing like, but it's delicious nonetheless.

It doesn't take too long to make. You have to mash the peas against the side of the pan as you're cooking them, though, so you really get a workout. The whole time I was mashing them, my mantra was "These better be worth it." They most definitely were.

The only tomatoes I had on hand were a can of diced, so I spooned out what looked like a tomato's worth. I also had to add some of the liquid as I was mashing the chickpeas because it was getting really dry.

I will definitely be making this again.

Home Cookin 4.9 Chapter: Beans and Vegetables

Guyanese Channa

1-1/2 Tbsp. oil
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tomato, cored and chopped
4 scallions, finely chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. canned or cooked chick peas, drained

Heat oil in saucepan and add pepper, tomato, and scallions. Cook over med. heat 5-7 mins. Blend in seasonings and cook 1 min. more. Stir in chickpeas and cook app. 10 mins., mashing peas against side of pan while they cook.

Transfer to a serving plate and serve hot.

Serves 4

from Lean Bean Cuisine: Over 100 Tasty Meatless Recipes from Around the World, by Jay Solomon (Prima, 1994)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Lentil Curry with Potatoes, Carrots, Spinach, and Chick-peas

I love Indian food, but it's been difficult for me to master all of the subtle intricacies of the spices and textures. As a result, I've resigned myself to enjoying it when eating out, but I rarely attempt it at home any more.

So when I first saw this recipe I was reluctant to try it. It had Indian written all over it. But I had just discovered this smoked Spanish paprika at my local spice shop and was eager to try it in as many recipes as I could find. So I decided to try it anyway.

And it was so worth it. This dish has just the right blend of spices--they're strong and you know that they are there, but they don't overpower (which is the problem I usually have when I try to cook Indian food at home). I was worried that the two serrano peppers would make it too spicy, but the combination of the other ingredients and spices mellows out the heat.

It looks a little intimidating because of the number of ingredients, but a lot of them are the spices. It's not something you can throw together in a half hour, but if you feel like cooking and you have a couple of hours it's well worth the effort. And it makes a week's worth of lunches if you're looking for things to take to work with you.

I only made a couple of changes to this recipe:

1. I use 3 Tbsp. of the oil and I omit the butter.
2. Sometimes I'll throw in a half a cup of peas, if I have them in the freezer.

Otherwise, it's really good as it is, especially with brown rice to round out the proteins.

Home Cookin 4.8 Chapter: Soups and Stews

Lentil Curry with Potatoes, Carrots, Spinach, and Chick-peas

2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 Tbsp. butter
2 large or 3 med onions, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 fresh serrano chilies, finely minced
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
2 tsp. ground coriander
1-1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 qt. water
1 c. red or brown lentils, rinsed
2 large potatoes, cut into 1/2" cubes
4 carrots, cut into 1/2" thick rounds
1 lb. fresh spinach
1/2 c. cooked chick-peas
2 tsp. fresh lime juice

Heat oil and butter in large saucepan over med. heat. Add onions and saute, stirring frequently, 10-15 mins., until onions turn golden brown. Add garlic, chilies, ginger, coriander, cardamom, cumin, turmeric, paprika, salt and pepper. Saute for 2-3 mins. longer, stirring frequently.

Stir in water and lentils. Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook 10 mins. Add potatoes and carrots and simmer 15-20 mins., until potatoes are tender.

Add spinach and chick-peas and simmer for 5 mins. longer. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary. Stir in the lime juice.

Servings: 4

from The One-Dish Vegetarian by Maria Robbins (St. Martin's Griffin, 2000

I didn't notice until today that yesterday was my 100th post. Looks like I'm here to stay, for what it's worth.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Some Knitting

I hope everyone had a nice President's Day, even those of you who had to work. It sure seems like more people have to work on federal holidays now than in the past. Sucks.

I've mostly been working on finishing lately, but I do have something new to show you:
You may remember the yarn--it started life a couple of weeks ago as the Yoga Wrap designed by Adrienne Vittadini from the winter Vogue Knitting. I had knit about four repeats of the lace pattern when I realized that I just wasn't getting into it, and I didn't like the way the yarn was draping. Then I was looking through the winter Interweave Knits and rediscovered the 4-3-2 Ribbed Pullover. I'm just past the V-neck separation on the front. Here's a closeup:
The actual color of this yarn is between these two shades, but the one above is closer than the closeup. Blues are really hard to capture in artificial light.

This is going pretty fast, and I think the yarn really holds up to this pattern.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Recipe Correction -- Southwestern Black Bean Soup

Ooops. I just discovered a typo on the Southwestern Black Bean recipe in the post below. It should be 1-1/2 c. dried black beans, not the 1/2 c. it previously said.

I have since corrected the post.

I hope this didn't screw anybody up (Lynda).

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Southwestern Black Bean Soup

Black bean soup has always been problematic for me. I love black beans, but they don't lend themselves well to just any recipe. I used to think they should be interchangeable with pinto beans, but they're not. They're more firm, so they don't blend into their surroundings quite as well.

I've always liked the idea of black bean soup, but the reality is usually less than the sum of its parts.
And then I found this recipe in one of my brother's cookbooks in Austin. It had all of the usual suspects, so there was little reason for me to believe it would come out any better than my earlier efforts, but I decided to give it a try anyway. And it came out really well.

What's different? The flavors blend together. It's not just black beans surrounded by a flavroed broth. It's soup. Maybe it's just that my taste buds have changed over the years, or maybe it's this recipe. At any rate, I heartily recommend it.

I used my handy dandy super duper hand immersion blender to puree the soup; I just stopped about halfway through.

My only complaint? The fresh jalapeno I used had No. Heat. Whatsoever. Nada. Zip. From now on, I use the pickled peppers that come in the cans (or jars). They're always reliably hot.

Home Cookin 4.9 Chapter: Soups and Stews

Southwestern Black Bean Soup

1-1/2 c. dried black beans, soaked and drained
6 c. water
2 Tsbp. oil
1 large onion, diced
1 green or red pepper, diced
1/2 c. chopped celery
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
2 carrots, diced
3 Tbsp. dry sherry
2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
2-3 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. dried thyme, or 1 Tbsp. fresh
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 c. canned crushed tomatoes
1 tsp. salt
4 scallions, finely chopped

From Lean Bean Cuisine: Over 100 Tasty Meatless Recipes from Around the World, by Jay Solomon (Prima, 1994)

Place beans and water in saucepan and cook for app. 45 mins., reserving 4 c. cooking liquid, and set aside.

Heat oil in saucepan and add onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic and jalapeno. Saute for 7 mins. over med. heat, until vegetables are tender. Add carrots, beans, reserved cooking liquid, sherry, and all of the seasonings except salt. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 20 mins., stirring occasionally. tir in crushed tomatoes and salt and cook for 10-15 mins. more.

If you prefer thick soup, puree half in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and return to pan. Add salt.

Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle scallions over the top.

Serves 6.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day. Chocolate for everyone!

I haven't felt much like posting lately. I did finish Jammie and I wore it Saturday. It's warm and comfortable. I'm glad I pushed so hard to finish it, but it will be a while before I work so single-mindedly on just one project.

Friday, February 10, 2006

D-Day Minus One

Jammie's almost done. I finally finished the collar and I've sewed the right side and sleeve seams. All I have left is the other side and about a hundred ends to weave in. Here's a shot with the sewn side and cuff:
It's a big puppy. The collar was supposed to be 24 cm., then folded in half, but I figured that would just swallow me up so I bound off after 17 cm. I'm not all that fond of turtlenecks and usually convert most necklines to a crew neck, but I didn't think that would work out that well for this pattern so I decided to go ahead and make the turtleneck. The 17 cm. gives me just enough volume. It's a little tight, but I don't feel like I'm being buried alive.

Here's a closer shot of the collar:
I really like the way this sweater feels. It's thick and carries a lot of heft, but it's not overly heavy, which is good considering how much yarn there is. It's going to keep me nice and warm on Saturday.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Who's an Olympian?

The Yarn Harlot has issued an Olympic challenge to knitters. I like the idea of it but would have to decide by tomorrow what I wanted to try to make. I don't know if I have time to put my other projects aside and only work on one thing.

It's a fun idea, though. Although it's too late to officially join up, I may just decide to play along anyway.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Stir-fry Crazy

An Asian market recently opened down the street so I decided to check it out. They have all kinds of ingredients I'm unfamiliar with and I'm really looking forward to some cooking adventures. Here's my first:
Last night's dinner was a tofu stir-fry. Most of the ingredients were familiar to me, except for the two greens (they're different). To the left is Yu Choy; that's Gailan on the right. Apparently, Yu Choy is an edible rape, and Gailan is a kale. The woman at the register said they would both be good for stir-fry. She told me gailan is used in Pad See Ew.

I used my basic tofu stir-fry recipe. Actually, it's more of a technique than a recipe. I marinate the tofu in a ginger/garlic/soy sauce mixture. Then I stiry fry the veggies, add walnuts, then the tofu, after adding the marinade to a vegetable broth, orange juice and corn starch mixture to thicken it up. It's pretty tasty, if I do say so myself.
The tofu was incredibly good. I like the kind that already has the water pressed out of it (but isn't already baked or seasoned). Whole Foods has an organic brand that's good, but a little chewy. This tofu was smooth and silky while maintaining its shape. The Yu Choy was good, in a broccoli/bok choy kind of way. The woman had said that gailan was a little bitter and I was hesitant, because I have a low tolerance for bitterness, but it was perfect. It had just a teensy bitter little afterbite. It also stayed crunchier than the Yu Choy. I have a little trouble sometimes not overcooking at least one vegetable in my stir fries. I've learned to separate the leaves from the stems on bok choy (and the Yu Choy and the Gailan) and add the leaves last, and I've also learned to add zucchini close to the end. And I've finally learned that snow peas only take a minute or two to cook and should also be added toward the end. But I'm getting more consistent with practice.

The main reason I picked the two greens was that the baby bok choy and the napa cabbage (two of my more usual stir-fry mainstays) didn't look that good. It's nice to have more options. I'll definitely be using these two greens again.

I'm so glad this store opened just around the corner. I can't wait to try something else that's new!

Three of the four raglan edges are sewn together on Jammie. I hope to get the fourth sewn and the collar picked up tonight. I still plan to wear it Saturday.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Lotsa Links and a Blocked Jammie

Something for Kevin's blog. Apparently, the Olive Garden and Coca-Cola have teamed up to encourage customers to just say no to H2O. They've called the campaign H2No. This story was on Coke's website, but they took it down after a few weeks, but not before Stayfree Magazine mirrored it on their site. Here's the link from the Growers and Grocers blog on the Well-Fed Network (via the Accidental Hedonist).

Growers and Grocers is part of The Well-Fed Network, a group of food-related blogs that just started up. They cover everything from the politics of food to the food on your table.
On the knitting front, Jammie is all blocked and ready to be sewn together. If it's cold enough on Saturday I'll be wearing it to work.

Now that Jammie's all knit I've started a new project.
It's the Yoga Wrap from the new Vogue Knitting, designed by Adrienne Vittadini. It's knit sideways. It's on 10s so it's going pretty quickly. I'm substituting Uruguay Chunky for the yarn and I have to tell you I love the way it's knitting up. It's soft and silky to the touch and just slides over the needles. Here's a closeup of the lace pattern:

The decreases are all in the same place every row, and the yarn overs travel one for a five-row repeat. It's an easy pattern to remember. The lace will show better once it's blocked.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Jammie's Jammin'

And here you see the front of Jammie blocking. it was really hard to get the reverse stockinette to lay flat, so I'm blocking it with the stockinette side up, which is the wrong side on this sweater. I'm halfway done with the second sleeve, so I just might be able to wear it by next Saturday.

Today Lynda and I met for an early lunch at the Aloha Grill in Lincoln Park before getting our hair cut. It's Hawaiian BBQ and I have been curious about it ever since I first noticed it a little while ago when I was walking down Clark. We both had the combination BBQ platter and it was really good. Lots of meat for the price. The sauces have a definite Asian flavor--sweet and savory. I'd like to go back and try their curry and the Tofu katsu.

I got my hair cut shorter than usual, and the stylist convinced me to try parting it on the side. It does look good that way, but it feels really funny. I don't know if I can get used to it. Every time I have to push it out of my eyes I think of Sandra Bullock at the SAG awards and how I kept yelling at her to just move her damn hair out of her damn eyes. But mine isn't covering quite so much and I think I could get used to it.

The new Rowan is out and there are lots of good patterns in it. Several folks have already started picking out yarn. Here's what I want to make. And this. Oh yeah, and this. And this one is gorgeous. And let's not forget this. And the one on the left here. I should be able to knock them all out in a couple of weeks, right?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A Million Little Idiots

So everyone wants to sue Random House and James Frey over A Million Little Pieces. What they're trying to recover? Damages for the time they spent reading the book. If that happens, who's going to file suit on my behalf for the hour and a half I wasted reading The Bridges of Madison County? That did far more damage to my sensibilities than Frey's book ever could.

I finished the first sleeve of Jammie. I'm really pushing to finish this. I don't think I'll have it done by the weekend like I'd originally planned, but it should be pretty close.

Mary and I were talking about our projects earlier today. She's almost finished with her bohus sweater. To spur ourselves on, we've decided that we're both going to finish our sweaters by next Saturday. Of course, I think I have the best of it--my project is on size 8 needles and all I have to do is one sleeve. Mary's working on 1s.

The sad thing is, she'll still probably finish before I do.

For those of you who are interested in spinning, she found some instructional videos here. I'm getting more and more intrigued by it myself.
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