"Things won are done,
Joy's Soul lies in the Doing."
- William Shakespeare

Friday, July 27, 2012

An Agenda

This seems to be the year for babies.  Friends, family, acquaintances, that woman over there - ogling the chocolate aisle in the grocery store; they're all sporting either a pleasingly round bump, or a new little one.  Breeding is IN this year, my friends.  (Though not for this gal.  Oh, my, no.  We're onto the next chapter - the one where the kiddos are pretty trustworthy and independent - which means I get to slack off at gatherings and enjoy my wine, perhaps cuddle a baby or two, while my friends chase their toddlers.  And I get to sleep through the entire, blessed, uninterrupted night.)  All this baby-having is an awesome business, I must say.  Aside from the obvious perk:  that I get to love on some littlies (then pass them back to their harried parents and just maybe refill my wineglass); aside from that, my friends, there's this:  Babies are a major boon for knitters.

You see, knitting is a thoroughly selfish pastime.   Oh, sure, you may think we're quite generous with spending hours knitting a sweater, or weeks on a blanket, but listen up:  We do it, and happily, but with an agenda.  Here's the thing.  Knitting is sort of addicting, once you start.  All the lovely yarns, the sweet patterns...it does become somewhat of an obsession, if you're not careful.  Thus, by ensuring a healthy supply of breeding friends, we are able to justify our little compulsion.  The money spent on yarn, the hours spent knitting (that perhaps should be spent refinishing that dresser I started weeks ago), the time squandered spent wisely browsing Ravelry and Pinterest for knitting patterns.  Guess what?  We'd do all that anyway, if we didn't have you fine folks to knit for.  This way, we can say:  "Ah, dresser-schmesser.  I've got a baby to knit for!  I'm very giving, don't you know?"  "What?  Clean the house?  Well, but I would, only, so-and-so's about to give birth, and wouldn't it be a crying shame if that baby was cold?  When I, in all my generous glory, could have been paving the wool-clad way for that wee bundle?"  Yep, we're sneaky, we knitters.

So, here are a couple of projects I've completed recently...purely motivated by a generous spirit.  Of course.

For J's soon-to-arrive bubby:


The chevron baby blanket, from the Purl Bee.  It may be a selfish undertaking...but look how happy she is.  (And that baby won't be cold, you know.)

The next one was somewhat of a conundrum.  My brother and his missus have been expectant for many moons now, and I have been stumped as to what to knit my new nephew.  Because knit I must.  But I knew they weren't really the sort to dig a knit sweater...nor would they appreciate those awesome striped pants I made recently...and they'd probably think I was officially insane if I tried gifting their child a rainbow blanket.  Nor was I feeling particularly moved in the hat direction.  (See?  We may use you to justify our addiction, but we do attempt to make things you'll like.  Mostly.) 

So, the Kiddos and I were at the library the other day, and the Girl pulled a knitting book out, and wanted to check it out.  A toy and stuffed animal knitting book   Now, you may be thinking I have reached the penultimate pinnacle of nerdiness, but upon taking a closer look at the book - Knitted Toy Tales - I decided that it is definitely cool.  And I made this guy:

Who doesn't need a knit elephant, I ask you?  Right.  That's what I thought.

I finished in the nick of time, too...for look who arrived in the world yesterday:

Ahhh, bless.

Now, get out there and make some more babies, people!  I've got to get my knit on!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

In the Spirit of Summer

It seems that Summer has decided to hang out with us again.  Although, I must say, she is one fickle, unappreciative guest, isn't she?  Summer's long-awaited arrival practically brings tears of joy to our eyes, after that overstaying sop, Spring, finally takes the hint that she and her despondent crying jags (or rainstorms, as the case may be) are no longer wanted...In swans Summer, only to inform us that she's using us as home base, while she jaunts around the country, visiting more exciting places and working on her tan.  And, piteous creatures that we are, we celebrate her return, forgive her for her capricious temperament, and yearn for her to stay and grace us with her company for just a few consecutive weeks.  Ungrateful wretch that she is...we love her.

Summer allows us a freedom that we aren't able to enjoy the rest of the year.  Summer is the wild friend, come to tempt us to throw away convention and rejoice in the moment.  Off fly the restricting layers:  coats, sweaters, socks, and shoes; to be replaced with mood-altering sundresses, swingy skirts, and dancing bare feet.  Nights grow long.  Bedtimes are nearly done away with altogether.  School routines are set aside for a blessed ten weeks.  The theme of the day becomes one of hedonistic, live-in-the-moment, abandon.  How can we not worship Summer?  She's the Fun One.

Further calling us to adore Summer is the sheer bounty she presents to our senses.  Crisp, boldly hued vegetables and lusciously ripe fruits are suddenly, overwhelmingly on offer, often needing no more than a wee drizzle of this, or a dollop of that, to be called a meal.  My very favorite food is Summer food.  And breakfast is no exception.

Having received some beautiful raspberries in yesterday's CSA box, (after a few nibbles - we aren't saints, after all), I set them aside for breakfast this morning.  And, because we are luxuriating in Summer, rather than going to the boring grocery store, my plan for yogurt and raspberries needed some modification.  Seeing as how I was out of yogurt.  A very ripe peach, and some previously frozen coconut milk cubes did the trick nicely.

Summer Smoothie of Raspberry, Peach, and Coconut Milk
-serves 2 to 3, exact amounts are not given...use your instincts!

1 half-pint, or more, fresh raspberries
1 large, very ripe peach
10 or 12 frozen coconut milk cubes*
coconut milk, or fruit juice, to blend

*I used a boxed vanilla coconut milk drink, from Trader Joe's, not the canned kind you cook with.  Although I would be curious to know if that works.  Using an ice cube tray, simply pour the coconut milk in, and freeze for several hours.  Once frozen, store in freezer bags, for up to several weeks, using them as you need them.*

Throw the fruit, coconut cubes, and a bit of coconut milk (or juice) into a blender, and blend until smooth.  You may need to add more liquid, to get things moving.

Enjoy immediately, while soaking in the morning sunshine.

May you revel in the day.  Happy Summer!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


No, I'm not going to complain about the fact that Summer seems to be playing tricks on us here in the Pacific Northwest.  Again.  Nor am I going to subject you to a lengthy discourse on the importance of personal hygiene, though I do rate a good shower.  Rather, I'm referring to a baby shower that G, H, and I (that would be me), threw over the weekend, for our dear friends and soon-to-be parents, M and J.

How's that for a picturesque party location?

With the gorgeous backdrop, we did it up, mountain style.

It was a grand day, I tell you.  The sun actually shone.  

Laughter, along with the sangria, flowed freely.  

(Okay, a few were excluded from the sangria.  This didn't affect the laughter, never you fear.)
Kiddos ran wild.

 Misters may have run somewhat amok as well...As you do.

Of course, we did manage to eat a few things.  Specifically, this:

From the inspiring, gorgeous cookbook, La Tartine Gourmande, this recipe for cold honeydew and cucumber soup, served with skewered melon and proscuitto-swaddled (forgive me, it is a shower, after all) mozzarella - well, they fit the bill perfectly.

The soup is an absolute delight.  Honeydew and cucumber mingle sweetly with shallots and thai basil, to create a lovely, unique twist on a gazpacho, that rides the line between sweet and savory splendidly.  A no-cook dish, the only thing that was slightly tricky (as we were picnicking), is that it must be served very chilled.  That's what ice and coolers are for, though, right?

Here you go:

Cold Honeydew and Cucumber Soup, with its colorful skewers - adapted from La Tartine Gourmande
 - serves 6, recipe easily doubles, or serve as an appetizer, in a small cup or shot glass

1 lb 7 oz (650g) honeydew melon flesh, diced
1 long English cucumber (300 g, 10 1/2 oz), peeled, seeded, and diced
1 small shallot, peeled and finely chopped
juice of one large orange
juice of one lime
15 thai basil leaves
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs olive oil

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the melon, cucumber, shallot, orange and lime juices, and basil leaves, and pulse to a fine purée.  Season with sea salt and pepper, and stir in the olive oil.  Cover and refrigerate for a few hours until well chilled.

To serve, drizzle a wee bit of olive oil over each serving, and present with melon and mozzarella skewers, recipe below.  This soup keeps well for a few days in the fridge.

For the skewers
honeydew melon, balled with a melon baller
canteloupe, balled
watermelon, balled
mini mozzerella balls
few slices of proscuitto cut in half, lengthwise
few thai basil leaves
freshly ground black pepper

Make one or two skewers per person, with 4 balls of melon, 2 basil leaves, and one proscuitto-wrapped mozzarella ball, on each.  Season with pepper.  Share with friends.

Photo courtesy of John Carlson
 I love our gang.

Have a beautiful day.

Friday, July 13, 2012


'Tis not the season, for knitting.  Or so you might think.  (You would, of course, be wrong.)  For those of us just crazy enough to seek a bit of peace and sanity in the rhythmic clickety-clackety action of needles and yarn, well, it's always the season. 

I've been unable to post some of the latest knits (until now) because they were gifts for soon-to-arrive little ones.  (And there are still some that I must wait to post - wouldn't want to ruin the surprise!)  And some I just haven't quite gotten around to posting, because, well, I'm kind of slow sometimes. 

So, here you go:

The textured shawl recipe, made of some gorgeous baby alpaca wool.  (I'll get around to posting Ravelry notes soon.)  Ravelry notes here.

Wool sounds weird and unnecessary for summer, but the evenings are still quite cool, so it's just the thing to throw over my shoulders, to prolong the outside time.

This one's pretty cute:

The baby and the pixie hat.  Done in cotton, wee L looks kind of awesome, I do believe.  Ahhh, bless the bubbies.

Check these babies out, though:

Seriously?  Knitted pants with a big, roomy bottom for wee cloth diapered bums?  There was only one friend that I could be absolutely certain would dig some wild knit pants for soon-to-come-babe:  J.  These come from one of my favorite knitting sites, Pickles.  I love all of their baby and kid knits, (especially these cool kids capris!)and often feel just a bit sad that I didn't learn to knit when mine were small.  Oh well, plenty of child-bearing friends these days. (Ravelry notes here.)

J needed a few Easy Peasy cloths, for the babe, too.  Of course.

There's more on the way...

Have a lovely day!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Best Intentions

I'm not sure if it's all the sunshine that's damaging my braincells, but this head of mine does seem a little full of holes at times.  Yesterday, the Kiddos and I had the pleasure of a pool party with good friends to look forward to, and in preparation, I whipped up a tasty salad, in the morning.  Thinking I was being ever-so-thoughtful, and supremely organized, I stashed the salad in a big yogurt container.  No glass by the pool, right?  Seemed like a decent idea.  However, when I arrived at the party, I brought out my yogurt container, with perhaps somewhat of a flourish, being rather proud of my salad, only to realize my error:  I brought yogurt.  And that lovely zucchini salad was sitting at home, chilling in my fridge.  Oh dear.  So it goes.

R, being ever-so-thoughtful herself, ran upstairs and whipped up a beautiful zucchini carpaccio of her own, bless her.  (A salad that I shall have to make very soon, it was delicious.)

So, while my best intentions rather came to naught, as far as providing a dish for the pool party was concerned, we did enjoy the salad with dinner last night.  The recipe is one of those lovely, intuitive sorts, barely a recipe at all, simply food that makes sense.  It comes from La Tartine Gourmande, the gorgeous cookbook that is now sitting at the very top of my birthday list.  Splendid for a pool party, should you possess the mental capacity, unlike this gal, to get it there.

Here you go:

Zucchini Salad with fresh herbs - Adapted from La Tartine Gourmande
-serves four, recipe easily doubles to serve a large group

2 medium zucchini, finely julienned, preferably using a mandoline
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs - I used parsley and mint

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs white wine vinegar (or substitute another light vinegar, or lemon juice)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp maple syrup or honey
6 Tbs good extra virgin olive oil

Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together, then dress the zucchini with it, tossing with the fresh herbs.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  This salad will keep for a day or two, but the zucchini will lose its crispness and go a bit watery with time, and the mint will darken, so it's best eaten the day its made.

Perhaps you will have a bit more luck than I had, getting this one to an event. 

Enjoy your day!

Monday, July 9, 2012

At Last

Summer has officially arrived.  At long last.  And according to conventional Pac NW wisdom, it turned up a day early, on the actual 4th of July.  What a pleasant surprise, after all that dreary rain.

With the lovely, hot days, we spend most of our time outdoors: playing, working, cooking, and (the best bit) eating.  Out comes the grill, the uber-simple meals, the ice-cold bevvies....good things are happening in the summer, no doubt about it.

Recently, I was visiting Jennifer Casa's lovely blog, J Casa *handmade, and was inspired by her post of a Martha Stewart recipe, for Mojo Pork Kebabs.  A quick-to-prepare, marinated dish of pork and veggies, that can be prepped early in the day and forgotten about, until hungry bellies grumble, and the heat has died down just enough to light the grill. 

I did alter things, just a wee bit.  The original recipe calls for cucumbers on the skewers, and I am not a fan.  I think it goes back to college days, when for a short time, I had a very odd, rather lurk-y roommate, who cooked cucumbers.  (I don't know which was more unsettling:  the creepy moments when you'd feel as if you were being watched, and looking up, there she was, just lurking quietly, for who knows how long...or the weird, cooked cucumbers.  Shivers.)  So.  No cucumbers for me, thanks.  Instead, we threw some onions and sweet peppers into the marinade.

I also added a pinch of ground cumin to the marinade.  Because why not?  Citrus, pork, garlic...it sort of wanted cumin for a friend, I do believe.

Here you go:

Mojo Pork Kebabs - adapted from Martha Stewart, via JCasa *handmade
-serves four to six

pork tenderloin, about 2 pounds, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
two large peppers, cut into large chunks
1/2 large onion, cut into large chunks
1/3 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbs freshly squeezed lime juice, from 2 limes
1/4 cup orange juice, from 2 oranges
1 tsp ground cumin
pinch red chili flakes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the marinade.  Whisk together olive oil, lime and orange juices, cumin, chili flakes, salt and pepper.  Pour half the marinade over the pork, and refrigerate in a large ziploc bag, or covered bowl, for a minimum of half an hour, up to overnight.  I made mine in the morning, and grilled that evening.  Reserve the other half of marinade for veggies, and brushing on the pork while grilling.

Before skewering, toss the vegetables in the reserved marinade.  Again, reserve this marinade for brushing.

If using skewers, thread the pork and veggies onto them, just before grilling.  Or, if your skewers are packed away in boxes, as ours are, use a grill pan over the coals, to cook.

Preheat your grill, or barbecue.  When hot, grill everything until done, brushing from time to time with marinade.  Pork needs to be cooked to 165 deg F.

Serve up your Mojo Pork with some fresh, crusty bread, pita, or tortillas.

A perfect meal, for perfect summer weather.  At last.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Eating Outside the Box - Take 2

Summer is being its usual, furtive self here in the Pacific Northwest.  While the rains shower, the chilly breezes blow, and clouds roll over us, we keep hearing that ever-so-hopeful saying:  "Summer starts on the 5th of July."  And it looks like that may be the case this year.  Again.  Sigh.

But.  Here and there we spy a few glimpses that summer is upon us, contrary to all atmospherical evidence.  Check these beauties out:

The loveliest of lovely summer fruits, in this gal's humble opinion, straight from our CSA box.  Almost too pretty to eat.  Almost, but not quite.

With the bounty of strawberries we received, I decided to make my first attempt at jam, a new move for me.  And I am so happy I did.  Now we'll be able to savor these gems for months to come.  (Provided I can stash away the jars, before they get devoured.)

I found a marvelous recipe on Food in Jars for a vanilla-infused strawberry jam, with just a little bit less sugar in it, than the standard recipes.  Don't worry, it's still shockingly sweet, you'd never know the jam is a couple of cups shy of the usual amount.  There is a delightful hint of vanilla in the background, as well as a wee tease of tartness, from fresh lemon juice.  And Oh.  My.  Word.  It's some damn fine jam.  Not wildly different from ordinary strawberry jam, which would possibly offend the Mister, as that's his favorite kind...but just different enough to make it perfect.

I did have a time getting it to the setting stage, it took way longer than the suggested amount of time in the recipe.  But then I went here, and learned some good things about getting jam to set properly.  The main key for me, was to bust out the thermometer, and wait until the temp read 220 deg F.  And Voila!  That was it.  Perfectly sweet, perfectly set, jam.

I'm feeling just a teensy bit proud, I must admit.  And ever-so-slightly hopeful that I can manage to successfully can a few other goodies this summer.

Go visit Food in Jars, and make this jam.  I'm telling you.  Damn fine jam.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Eating Outside the Box

I think a new title is in order for this season's CSA recipe series, don't you?  Last year, it was Out of the Box...this year, I've put a little twist on it. 

We have the pleasure of partaking in Helsing Junction Farm's CSA program, for the second year running, and I must say, I am all kinds of pleased.  As was to be expected.  Aside from the obvious benefit of eating local, organic food, I get the perk of a little "surprise!" moment, when opening the box each week.  Every time I pop that lid and delve inside, the wheels start turning...cookbooks fly off the shelf into my hot little hands...Food is about to happen here, people.

Let us not forget to mention the awesomeness of less grocery shopping each week, by the way.  Less time spent trudging the aisles, searching for something that sounds good (and is preferably organic, hopefully local)...more time spent creating something delicious with what is right there in front of me.  This is the way to cook.  (And eat.)

Last's week's box contained a beautiful assortment of early-season fare (I feel like I should say early-summer, but it doesn't seem right, given the rubbish weather), including garlic scapes and arugula.  Oh joy!

I had a bit of walnut butter that I'd made a few days before (recipe follows), so it was just a natural progression to come up with a Garlic Scape, Arugula, and Walnut Pesto.  Right?  Obvious.

Garlic scapes are the shoots that spring from hardneck garlic bulbs, that must be snipped off, in order to allow the plant to put its growing mojo into that bulb.  They're slightly milder than garlic, not as much heat, but full-flavored and scrumptious.  Such a treat, especially as they're only around for a very short time each year.

The walnut butter is super easy to make, and a wonderful substitute for bog-standard PB&J.  It's not quite as smooth as peanut butter, but I think it's a little more versatile.  It's oddly great combined with goat cheese, arugula, and avocado (in a recipe from Tom Colicchio's  'wichcraft), marvelous spread on crackers with a little marmalade or fruit chutney...ah.  Endless possibilities.  Plus, and I just realized this, walnuts are grown around here.  What a fab, local substitute for peanut butter, huh?

If you cannot be asked whipping up a batch of walnut butter, just toss some walnuts into the pesto.  The end result will be the same.  (Although you won't have a lovely jar of walnut butter sitting in your fridge.)

Oh PS - I'm doing the "You be the guide of your destiny", sort of recipe, again.  Create, my friends, create!

Garlic Scape, Arugula, and Walnut Pesto 


4 or 5 garlic scapes, coarsely chopped
small bunch arugula, (roughly 1 1/2 to 2 cups, packed)
EITHER:  a couple tablespoons walnut butter (recipe follows)
OR:  a generous handful toasted, coarsely chopped walnuts
olive oil
juice of 1/2 to 1 whole lemon
freshly grated parmesan, about a handful or so
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

If you are using walnuts, rather than the walnut butter, throw them into the bowl of your food processor first, and give it a go around, until they're fairly broken down.  Add the garlic scapes, arugula, a bit of salt and pepper, the juice of 1/2 a lemon, and a glug of olive oil.  Whiz everything around until it's somewhat smooth, and taste.  Add more olive oil, if the pesto is too dry, more lemon juice if you want to jazz it up a bit.  A bit more walnut butter will round out the edges.  Add in the parmesan, process again, and recheck the seasoning.  Make sure you have added enough salt, because it will bring all the flavors together, plus, if you're adding the pesto to hot food, it will lose its edge somewhat.

The pesto should be a lively green, with a vibrant hit of garlic, and A smooth, peppery background, from the arugula.  Yum.

There are endless ways of serving this:  toss with pasta, over roasted or grilled veggies or fish, on crackers or sandwiches...get into it.

Walnut Butter - adapted from 'wichcraft
-makes about 3/4 cup

2 cups walnut pieces
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 300 deg F.  Toast the walnuts on a sheet pan, in the oven, until fragrant.  Keep an eye (nose) on them, it should take anywhere from 5 to 7 minutes, depending on the size of your walnuts.  Check often.

Process the toasted walnuts in a food processor, until roughly chopped.  Slowly add the olive oil, and continue to process, until you have a spreadable, but not overly smooth, butter.  (It will not have the smooth texture of store-bought nut butters.)  Season with salt and pepper.

This will keep for up to one week, in the refrigerator.  (Note:  In the 'wichcraft recipe, this is actually referred to as Walnut Pesto.  I just like to call it walnut butter.  It makes sense to me.)

By the way...I am keenly aware the my posting has been fairly sporadic these days.  We're in the midst of house buying, and I seem somewhat unable to focus on any one activity for longer than five minutes.  You can most often find me, if not wandering aimlessly, trying to remember what I was doing, gazing off into the distance, caught daydreaming about a new life, in what may be a sort of dream-come-true, kind of place.

We're still in the inspection phase of buying, and I do know better than to count my chickens before they hatch...but...shall we count these instead?


Fruit trees!

How much fun will I be having?

May your day be filled with dreaming, as well.