Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cardigan of my dreams

I can't tell you how often I'm getting dressed or thinking about what I'm going to wear to some event and reach for my fingertip-length, shawl-collared, wraparound black cardigan — only to realize that I don't own one. I'd been looking for the exact right pattern for months and finally decided to suck it up and spec it out. The schematics from this pattern came in handy to avoid having to reinvent the wheel, since I liked the general silhouette and fit. I narrowed the upper back by several inches and adjusted the fronts so they'd overlap even without the ribbing.
For the sleeves, I'm employing one of my favorite tricksy knitting techniques: Barbara Walker's seamless, set-in sleeve caps from the top down. It's spelled out in Knitting From the Top and is GENIUS for perfectly fitted set-in sleeves. Basically, you pick up stitches around the armhole (she tells you to figure out how many you need and pick up exactly that many. I pick up 3 out of every 4 stitches and then work a round to adjust the number — less crazy-making, less chance of gaps or bulges) and then work short rows. Sounds complicated, but isn't. Granted, even with some interesting techniques thrown in, black stockinette isn't the most thrilling knitting experience a girl can have, but I want this damn sweater — this exact one — and I will have it. The end.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The most important something of the something

I'm not a breakfast person. I need to be up for a couple of hours before I'm interested in anything but coffee. Just. Not. Hungry. That said, I'm aware of the health benefits that come from starting the day with something nutritionally sound. So, I've compromised by making myself a smoothie before I leave the house every day. All the advantages of breakfast, with all the not-breakfast-ness of a beverage.

I start with frozen fruit, the same amount of each every day:
Then some ground flax seed and yogurt. I've started making my own yogurt, which sounds all time-consuming and hippie-ish, but it's really not any more taxing than making a cup of tea.
Cover it all with calcium-enriched orange juice:
Blend, and take it into a room with natural light:

1 banana, fresh or frozen
6 frozen strawberries
6 frozen mango chunks
2 handfuls of frozen blueberries
2 T flaxmeal
1/2 c or so of yogurt
orange juice to cover.

Blend. Drink. Feel smug about how awesome and health-supporting your habits are.

Homemade Yogurt
2 1/2 c. milk (any fat level works. as always, I'm a 1% girl.)
1 T. yogurt (the best you can buy for your first round. after that, just use some of your previous batch)

Bring the milk to a boil, then let it cool until you can hold your finger in it for 10 seconds (aka 110F). Put the yogurt in a small bowl and whisk in a little of the hot milk. Add the yogurt slurry to the rest of the milk and whisk. Pour it all into a glass jar, wrap it in a towel or old sweater and put it somewhere warm overnight. In the morning, stick it in the fridge. By afternoon, you'll have a jar full of incredibly fresh, perfectly perfect yogurt.

I've also been making large batches of steel-cut oats and portioning them out for the week, then bringing one to work every day and heating it up in the late morning. Even though I love it the regular way with maple syrup or brown sugar, a bit of butter and milk, I've gotten kind of addicted to this recipe from The Kitchn for oatmeal with dried apricots and buttermilk. I just do it on the stovetop though instead of in a CrockPot, and even though the write-up thinks it's too sour, I love the (pretty mild, really) tanginess of the buttermilk. As a matter of fact, I eat it with extra buttermilk on top. And I add some ground flax seeds, since I seem to do that to everything I eat these days. I love it with the apricots, which swell into jammy, juicy little nuggets when cooked, but I'm looking forward to trying other fruit too -- picked up some dried cherries and blueberries yesterday just for this. Ground or chopped nuts would be nice too.
Oatmeal with Apricots and Buttermilk
1 cup steel-cut oats
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried apricots, snipped into small pieces
3 1/2 cups water
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons wheat bran (optional)
2 T flaxmeal

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add all of the dry ingredients and stir. Pour in the buttermilk and vanilla, then another half cup of water (gets every drop of buttermilk out of the measuring cup). Turn the heat down and cook for 30 minutes. Serve with extra buttermilk and sugar.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Finally, a weekend at home

I hadn't had an unstructured weekend by myself like this in a while, and I really needed it. I kicked things off by going out for Thai food in Queens with some friends Friday night. They ordered for the table before I got there, so I'm not entirely sure what we had (range of appetizers, at least a couple of curries, several vegetable dishes, desserts) but there was a ton of food and everything was fantastic.

I finally got around to weaving in the ends on this handspun sweater. (I sewed and cut the steek too, but that deserves a post of its own.)

I made my new favorite lunch, 101 Cookbooks' caramelized tofu on shredded brussels sprouts. I left out the pecans and cilantro and added some crushed red pepper. One pan, a handful of ingredients, crispy, sweet-spicy-sprouty deliciousness.

And a big batch of spaghetti carbonara for dinner on Saturday. No real recipe: while the pasta cooks, crisp up some bacon, add some garlic and white wine. In a bowl, beat a couple of eggs and some parmesan together. Drain the pasta, mix the hot bacon/wine into it, then add the egg mixture and stir very briskly until the heat of the pasta cooks the eggs into the silkiest, dreamiest sauce imaginable. I threw some frozen peas in with the pasta when it was almost done for a little extra flavor and texture.

Not pictured: a batch of sadly but truly inedible bread (too much other stuff — wheat germ, bran, flaxmeal, ground oats — not enough flour). I didn't actually try to hammer a nail with it, but I bet I could have. And I made a big batch of oatmeal to bring to work for breakfast all week, and a big batch of lentil/barley soup with all of the vegetables that were circling the drain in the fridge (carrots, red cabbage, fennel, spinach, mushrooms) that I portioned out for lunches.

It had been a while since I had taken a long walk with a camera and since I needed ("needed;" I always wince internally when I use that word in this context) some things from Ikea, I burned some shoe leather trekking over to Red Hook on Sunday.

And back at the home front, I haz a cat now. She came with the new apartment (long story).
Internet, meet Luz. She is in no small part evil and sometimes tries to steal my soul when I'm falling asleep, but I like her awfully.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Creative destruction

As I was packing and unpacking around this last move, I was forced to come to terms with the fact that I had a lot of handknit sweaters I never wear. Some didn't fit my person, some didn't fit my lifestyle (mostly by being too warm), and some I just plain didn't like anymore. I gave a couple to a church-basement thrift shop in the neighborhood, but a few were worth salvaging for the yarn, which is how I went from this (double-stranded cashmere/silk, hot as blazes):
to this:
And from this (weird poochiness at the chest/neck, no matter how many times I steamed or blocked it):
to this (Karabella Magritte, their dk cashmere/merino):And from this (handspun alpaca/silk, not wholly comfortable next to the skin, plus I knit this back before I knew much about the finer points of fit, so the neck wasn't shaped at all and I was always pulling at it):
to this:I know it's not for everyone, but I find ripping out something that didn't work — even years after the fact — to be incredibly satisfying. Fresh starts are my favorite.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Quinoa is my new favorite.

Absolutely simple and adaptable veggies and quinoa

1 onion, chopped
olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 t. coriander
1 t. tumeric
2 t. cumin
1 med. sweet potato, peeled and chopped into roughly 1" pieces
half a head of cauliflower, chopped
juice of one lemon

1 c. quinoa
2 c. water

Brown the onion in olive oil, then add garlic and spices and stir for 30 seconds or so, until fragrant. Add the sweet potato to the pan and cook until about half done. Add the caulifower and half a cup of water or so. Cover and let cook until vegetables are done to your taste.

In the meantime, put the water on to boil, add the quinoa and simmer for 15 minutes. Add to the vegetables, squeeze a lemon over, and mix it all into a glorious, healthful mess.

This was enough for me for dinner last night and two lunch portions. Since quinoa has a a lot of protein on its own, I didn't add anything else, but if I were using a different grain, I would have thrown a can of garbanzo beans or black-eyed peas in at some point.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Sunday scarf

I finished the sunday scarf (on Saturday, inappropriately enough) and would call myself medium-pleased with it.
A lot of the drapey and ruffly qualities were lost when I washed it (in the pattern, she warns not to block it, but it desperately needed to be washed and I didn't do anything more strenuous than soak, blot dry and lay out flat) The shape is on the long and narrow end of the spectrum even though I increased to 49 stitches instead of 36. I prefer my scarves to be wider and less long, but it's still very nice and comes to a fetching little point at the back.

I did happen to finish another scarf project on Sunday, which still needs to be blocked, but has been such a long-term off-again-on-again project (at least a year, likely closer to two) that I'm just thrilled to have it off the needles. Modified North Sea Shawl in Knitpicks Gloss.