Sunday, March 27, 2011

Quick and Easy Spanakopita Wheels

"The wheel is come full circle." - Shakespeare

When I visited Greece several years ago on a study abroad trip, Spanakopita pockets saved my life. During a three-week period, my fellow students and I were constantly on the move, visiting many archeological sites and museums, and did more walking in one day than we did in a week at college. Seeing as we were mostly out in the wilderness (with almost no civilization immediately nearby), our only chance of grabbing lunch was to nip into bakeries nearby the hotels where we stayed before getting on the bus, and buy some baked item to eat later on. Whereas most of my fellow students would just make do with a loaf of bread, I always wanted something with a bit more substance to it - enter Spanakopita.

This recipe makes a very close approximation to original Spanakopita, but in a pinwheel form rather than a pocket.

  • 1 package frozen spinach, thawed, rinsed and thoroughly dried
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 4-6 oz. Feta cheese crumbles
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • egg wash (1 egg whisked together with a little water)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Thaw, rinse and thoroughly dry the spinach by wrapping it in paper towels and squeezing it over a sink. Place spinach in a medium bowl with Feta cheese, garlic, lemon juice and mix thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Carefully unroll the puff pastry sheet and roll out slightly on a floured surface with a rolling pin (be careful not to rip the dough, or let it become too thin). Spoon the spinach mixture onto the dough, and spread out evenly across the surface to within 1 inch of each edge. Roll carefully into a wheel, and seal the edge with egg wash. Seal the ends closed in the same way.
Slice the log into 1 1/2 inch wheels, lay on baking sheet evenly spaced and bake for 20-23 minutes, until golden brown at edges. Let cool.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

A brief yarn about knitting

"The web of our life is a mingled yarn, good and ill together." - Shakespeare

In case you can't tell by my previous posts, I'm (slightly) obsessed with knitting and yarn. I justify it by quoting sections from Proverbs 31 in the Bible (you know, about not eating the bread of idleness and working with your hands willingly... :-)), and by considering that at least it's a productive use of wasted time.

Anyway, with that disclaimer, I will now proceed to briefly discuss... knitting.

Any fellow knitters who have not discovered are really missing out. It's a free online community for fellow fiber-arts friends (say that ten times fast). It has lots of groups, patterns, references and resources available, plus gives you a chance to showcase your achievements with needles n' yarn.

Another fun knitting pattern website that I love is, which is where I found the Shipwreck Shawl pattern below (I have the yarn for it, and some of the beads - the rest are backordered - and am only waiting for the right moment when my knitting to-do list clears up to embark upon it). They have four levels of difficulty for their patterns: Mellow, Tangy, Piquant and ExtraSpicy. As you may guess, Mellow patterns are for the true beginner, whereas Extraspicy may make you lose your mind.

Also, because I'm truly in love with the colors I've blended for the Shipwreck Shawl, I'm going to put up a few pictures:

the yarn is a blueish teal, but just looks blue in the picture

the beads are a matte emerald green

If you haven't knitted before, it's never too early to get addict-, er, get started. I dare you to tell me to my face that knitting's for grandma (but be warned - insulting a person carrying knitting needles is not very wise).

"She seeks wool and flax, and works willingly with her hands... she looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness." - Prov. 31:13, 27 (ESV)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Shipwreck Shawl

"Beyond the shadow of the ship/I watched the water snakes:/they moved in tracks of shining white,/ and when they reared, the elfish light/fell off in hoary flakes. Within the shadow of the ship/I watched their rich attire:/ blue, glossy green, and velvet black,/they coiled and swam; and every track/ was a flash of golden fire." - "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I've finally understood what it means to suffer a "fatal attraction." It happened when I beheld this shawl knitting pattern:

It's one of the most beautiful, difficult knitting patterns I've ever considered making (possibly more so than the Christening Gown below). I felt that quoting the Rime of the Ancient Mariner was appropriate in this case, seeing as he and I have sealed doom in common - him for shooting that Albatross, me for planning to make this shawl...

The pattern is here.

In case I unwittingly seal some other knitter's doom and they too feel compelled to make this shawl, you can find yarn and beads for knitting at bargain prices at these websites:

As soon as I make some room on my knitting to-do list and get around to this project, I'll definitely write a post about it - provided I escape the Ancient Mariner's fate.

To be continued...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Menu

"When Irish eyes are smiling,/ sure, 'tis like the morn in Spring./ In the lilt of Irish laughter/ you can hear the angels sing./ When Irish hearts are happy/ all the world seems bright and gay/ and when Irish eyes are smiling/ sure, they steal your heart away." - "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" by Chauncey Olcott and George Graff, Jr.

"I bind unto myself the Name/ the strong name of the Trinity/ by invocation of the same/ the Three in One and One in Three/ of Whom all nature hath creation/ Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:/ Praise to the Lord of my salvation/ Salvation is of Christ the Lord." - from St. Patrick's "Breastplate" prayer

St. Patrick's Day celebrates the man who brought Christianity to Ireland. For my family, it's always been a feast day, even though we're not practicing Catholics.

Our menu always includes:
  • Baked Ham 
  • Colcannon
  • Irish Soda Bread
We've been having Colcannon on St. Patrick's Day in my house ever since I can remember, and it's one of my favorite dishes. My mother uses the recipe found in "the Irish Farmhouse Cookbook."

 Another Irish cookbook I've recently come across is "the Irish Isle" which has many Irish menus, and includes a CD of Irish music.

the Shamrock became a symbol of the Trinity when Christianity was brought to Ireland

Irish Soda Bread has been varied and changed many times over the years. The original stuff is very hearty and brown, with little or no sugar, and no fruit or frosting (I recently came across something in the market that was white, filled with raisins and currants and whatnot, covered in some kind of hard icing and marked "Irish Soda Bread." My inward response doesn't bear repeating here). A good recipe for it can also be found in the "Irish Farmhouse Cookbook."

an example of real Irish Soda Bread

So, whether you're actually Irish or not, dipping into the culture and dishes on St. Patrick's Day can be a culinary adventure.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Feather and Fan Comfort Shawl

"As for me, give me comfort first, and style afterwards." - Mark Twain

As I've said in a previous post, I really have no need to knit any more shawls at this time. My knitting to-do list is becoming longer and longer, and I can hardly find space for one more item. Even so, I definitely intend (Lord, and the resilience of my hand muscles, willing) to work my way around to this shawl:

Whether I adapt the size to an adult or leave it for a child will depend on who I make it for. Obviously, it doesn't have to be in these particular colors, but if I do ever make it, the color palate will be chosen with care...

You can find the pattern here.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

French-Italian Dinner

"Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are." - Anselme Brillat-Savarin

French and Italian dishes are incredibly tasty, but can be intimidating to cook. This dinner marries both cuisines, and is simple to make.

The Menu includes: Pear and Roquefort Salad (French), Roasted Balsamic Vinaigrette Chicken (Italian), Lemon Rice.

For the salad:
  • Whatever salad greens preferred (a Spring Mix works well)
  • Ripe Pears, sliced (Bartlett or D'Anjou)
  • Crumbled Roquefort cheese (can be left out if not desired)
  • Toasted Walnut halves
  • Homemade Mustard Vinaigrette dressing (recipe below)
Cut and/or clean the greens, and lay a portion on each salad plate. Clean and slice the pears into long slices. Make the mustard vinaigrette dressing and toss the pear slices in it to coat. Place about three to four pear slices on each plate of greens. Sprinkle with walnuts and Roquefort crumbles and serve.

Homemade Mustard Vinaigrette:
  • 3 tbsp. Champagne or White Wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper 
In a medium bowl, whisk vinegar, mustard and egg yolk. Slowly whisk in olive oil to create an emulsion. Mix in salt and pepper to taste.

For the Chicken:
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 tsp. parsley
  • 1 tsp. Thyme
  • salt and pepper
In a small bowl, whisk vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil. Clean the chicken, and combine with the vinaigrette in a large Ziploc bag. Seal securely and toss to coat. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, up to 1 day.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Remove chicken from Ziploc bag and arrange in a large greased baking dish. Roast until chicken is cooked through, 1 hour. If chicken browns halfway through cooking time, cover with foil and continue to roast. Transfer to a platter when done.
Whisk chicken broth with pan drippings. Drizzle sauce over chicken and sprinkle with lemon zest, parsley and thyme, and serve with Lemon Rice (recipe below).

For the Rice:
  • 1 bag of rice (Jasmine or Brown are best)
  • 1 stick of Butter
  • 1 - 2 lemons, depending on how many servings are needed (1 medium-large lemon will work for two servings)
Cook the rice according to the directions on the package,  for as many servings as needed. Zest and squeeze the juice of the lemon(s). Once the rice water has almost completely evaporated, cut a portion of butter and mix in with the rice (about 1 tbsp. of butter per serving), along with lemon juice and zest (about 1 tbsp. of juice and zest per serving). Mix until the butter has completely melted and all liquid has evaporated, without burning the rice. Serve with the chicken immediately.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Knitted Christening Gown, Pt. 2

"Every child begins the world again." - H.D. Thoreau

The Christening gown project continues! It's been coming along nicely, and the time has come for another update.

This is Panel A, at the end of the textured pattern section. It is very close to being finished.

Panel A, nearly finished
As I've been nearing the end of the textured pattern section, I've started embroidering "Lazy Daisies" on the piece. I'm using golden colored, Pima Cotton sock yarn for the embroidery.

close-up of Panel A daisies

A close-up of the Lazy Daisy. Making things for a baby when you don't know the gender (or when making something that will probably be used for multiple babies) can limit the color choices. My favorite choices for "neutral" baby colors are greens, golds/yellows and peach.

Lazy Daisy close-up

Meanwhile, I've started working on Panel B, which is practically the same as Panel A for the textured pattern section.

This means that, for most intents and purposes, I'm starting all over again. This is very daunting until one comes to the 8th or 9th pattern repetition (there are 17), then the hope of actually finishing it gives one an added incentive to keep working.

To be continued...