Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mediterranean (or Irish) Lace

"I consider lace to be one of the prettiest imitations ever made of the fantasy of nature...I do not think that any invention of the human spirit could have a more graceful or precise origin." - Coco Chanel

When I first started knitting seriously two years ago, I never thought I would want to take up lace knitting. The easier types of lace are all well and good, but the more intricate the pattern becomes (and the thinner the yarn *cough*thread*cough*), the more likely one is to make mistakes and rip their hair out. So, one might conclude along the lines of Cicero, no sane knitter shall knit lace.

Someone call me a Paddy wagon, please...

...and maybe get me a straightjacket...

Again, when I finally get some of my larger knitting projects finished, this will be next.

I can see using this as a head covering with a wedding dress, instead of a veil (and/or wearing it to church when I eventually become a crazy old knitting/cat lady/spinster).

The pattern comes from this book.

Just find me a nice padded cell, give me enough yarn, keep an eye on me to make sure I don't stab someone (or myself) with the knitting needles, and this will be a breeze.

More to come eventually...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Apricot and White Chocolate Chip Cookies

"Feed him with apricots and dewberries, with purple grapes, green figs and mulberries." - Shakespeare

The first time my mom made these cookies, I thought they sounded a bit disgusting (I consider white chocolate to be abomination of man, and a direct result of the Fall in the Garden of Eden). But after I tasted them, there was no going back - I became an instant addict.

They are ridiculously easy to make. The recipe comes from this book, which has many other delicious recipes (who says pre-made lunches are just for kids?).


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mushrooms, Strawberries and Green Goddesses

"You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just good food from fresh ingredients." - Julia Child

As I've said in previous posts, I hold firm to the belief that French cooking has the answer to many of the world's problems. I love having opportunities to indulge in it.

I put together this menu with a French recipe for the entree, but left out a starch, as a person with mild diabetes was partaking in it with me.

The menu includes:

  • Chicken with Mushrooms
  • Salad (I used Green Goddess dressing)
  • Strawberry-Vanilla Custard
The salad is simple enough - just put together a mix of your favorite greens (I recommend spinach, romaine and iceburg lettuce), and add a salad dressing that will go favorably with the sauce on the chicken recipe below:

Chicken with Mushrooms
Makes: 3
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 oz. mixed mushrooms (I recommend shitake, oyster, baby bella, morel, etc.), chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • flour
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 cup creme fraiche
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 cup brandy
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper, and dredge in flour, shaking off excess. Heat 2 tbsp. butter in a large pan and cook chicken over medium heat, browning both sides, 8-10 minutes. Place chicken breasts in a casserole dish.
Add 2-3 more tbsp. of butter to pan with shallots, mushrooms and garlic. Saute over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add brandy to pan, reduce liquid by 1/2 over high heat for 2-4 minutes. Add creme fraiche, lemon juice and heavy cream. Boil till mixture starts to thicken, 5-10 minutes. Pour sauce over chicken, place in oven and bake for 12 minutes until chicken is cooked through. 

The dessert is quite simple enough. Whether you prefer to make a baked custard from scratch, or simply mix together a package of cold instant pudding, incorporating ripe, sliced strawberries is a tasty decision. A good, simple recipe for a baked custard can be found in this classic cookbook. If you don't own a copy, I highly recommend it to beginning and experienced cooks alike. 

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

"You had better explore to Donwell,' replied Mr. Knightley. "That may be done without horses. Come, and eat my strawberries. They are ripening fast." - "Emma," Jane Austen

Spring only has about a month left, and summer is at the door. What better way to celebrate than to make Strawberry Pretzel Salad for any and all picnics, potlucks, and other joint meals?

There are multiple variations on this recipe. However, the basics remain the same.

  • A basic version of the recipe can be found here.
  • An interesting version that takes a twist on the basic one is Ezra Pound Cake's recipe.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Baby Boots and Cloche

"A [little] girl is Innocence playing in the mud, Beauty standing on its head." - Alan Marshall Beck

I made these baby boots and cloche for a friend who is expecting a baby girl. She adores (and looks amazing in) hot pink, which is why I felt compelled to make these in hot pink for her when I found out she was expecting a girl.

These patterns come from two separate websites:

the "Sasquatch" boots
The boots can be found here.

the baby cloche
The pattern for the cloche can be found here.
I made a few changes to the original instructions on the shell edging and made up the flowers on my own.

The boots are knitted, and the hat is crocheted.

*Note: I do NOT recommend making baby items in such an alarming shade as hot pink, unless the mother, unequivocally, looks amazing in the shade, and has a better than good chance of passing on such coloring to her child.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Joseph's Coat Entrelac, pt. 2 - scarf version

"Among the several kinds of beauty, the eye takes most delight in colors." - Joseph Addison

I made this scarf as part of a "Pay It Forward" craft swap. It uses the same yarns/colors as the Joseph's Coat Blanket that I made last summer, but with a crocheted edge instead of a knitted one.

The knitting time went much faster on the scarf than on the blanket (obviously).

detail of scarf edge
This was really straight-forward: follow the pattern here. It can be done with a variety of colors, or just as a solid in one color.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mother's Day Breakfast

"The moment the child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new." - Rajneesh

"The phrase 'working mother' is redundant." - Jane Sellman

Mother's Day is upon us. In my home, this means that mom gets to sleep in, and we kids have to get breakfast ready (dad's involvement has phased out as we've gotten older, and there's *less* risk of us burning down the kitchen), timing things so that everything is ready just as she wakes up. (There is a secret to getting this right. Sadly, I've never discovered it, but mom always puts up with our bumbling attempts. Hence the reason for Mother's Day)

While our menu varies from year to year, here are some ideas for what to serve mom for breakfast:

  • Chocolate Chip Banana Pancakes - need I say more? Of course, you can always skip the chocolate chips and banana and add whatever you want, but seriously - who would willingly skip these?
  • French Toast with Fruit. A classic that's remarkably simple to make. You can jazz it up by mixing a simple custard sauce and making stuffed french toast with fruit (preferrably strawberries).
  • Belgian Waffles. You need a waffle iron to make these, but pair them with fruit and maple syrup or heated chocolate sauce, and it's well worth the effort. 
Whatever you choose to make as the main dish, depending on mom's preferences, don't forget to add: eggs cooked her favorite way, bacon or ham, orange juice (or any other kind of juice) and coffee.

And if you do end up serving it to her on a tray in bed, a) don't wake her up before she's ready to wake up, and b) add a flower to finish off the presentation.

Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Just Yarning Around

"Well begun is half done" - Aristotle

Of late, I have not been posting very much about knitting. This is because my well-oiled "knitting machine" has become clogged and is moving very slowly. At last count, I currently have 5 knitting projects underway, with at least 2 or 3 waiting to begin, and a whole slew of others whirling around in the back of my head. So, I'm going to write a brief rundown of what I'm working on at present.

First, and most important of all is the christening gown I'm making for a dear college friend who is expecting at the end of summer.  While I'm working away at it and am definitely making progress, it's not at a point where it's worthy of a new post. Right now, I'm racing to meet or beat my friend's due date (somewhere around the end of August/beginning of September).

Next on my list is a self-designed, buttoned neck warmer with a Celtic knot cable pattern. Seeing as I'm making it up as I go, I don't have a set pattern or pictures to show, but I will do a post on it when it's done. I'm making it on commission (meaning I'll actually get paid for it) for my mom's regular hairdresser, who has to wear all-black to work, and wants a scarf of some kind to break it up a little. It's in dark teal, with smooth, black round buttons. 

Also on my list is the first of a set of knitted place mats I'm making for myself, to use in my own home one day. I'm aiming to make at least 8 of them. They are yellow, with a crocheted edge in blue and red. The knitted portion is very tightly woven, and my hands get tired after knitting several rows, but it's coming out nicely. The pattern can be found in this book.

I do have other projects I'm working on, but I don't want to show and tell about everything up front. So, here are a few patterns I want to make, after I get a few more projects finished:
  • Baby "Sasquatch" Booties I plan on making these very soon. Even if I don't find an expectant mother to give them to (and right now there seem to be a lot of expectant mothers about), I can always list them on eBay...
  • This shawl. See my previous post about it. I'm utterly enraptured and can't wait...
  • A wrap-around sweater-coat from this book. I've never done a sweater before, but I don't want to start one until most of my important projects are finished.  
Happy Yarning!