Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sarah's Francie Socks

Sarah's Christmas present was these purple Francie Socks. I made them with Knitpicks Essential Kettle Dyed Eggplant. One sock has more of the kettle dyed look than the other, but it's not too noticable. She knew she was getting socks, so I asked her to measure her foot. She replied that she didn’t have a ruler yet and so she measured her foot on college ruled paper. She was 32.5 lines. :)

It turns out that I just have to knit the socks to where the arch shaping stops and then it’s time to shape the toe. When I made them for myself I was fearful of them being too long since I have rather small feet. I ended the arch shaping early. However after trying on my sister’s socks, I find that it would still work for me too. Next time I’ll finish the arch shaping for myself.

Since she's in China and can't model them for me, I modeled them for the picture below. I'm sure they'll look great on her feet too. The picture below is a more accurate representation of the color than the one at the top.
These took me exactly one month, I started them Oct 15th and finished Nov 15th. I think I'm becoming a faster knitter, and I'm also devoting more time to it during the week so that I can get projects done. I've waited until now to post them because I didn't want to spoil the surprise for her.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I hope you and your family are enjoying a Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008


I came across a food blog called Lucullian Delights, and found this recipe of Lussekatter. I decided I just had to try it since saffron and cardamom are some of my favorite spices. I've used cardamom before in pilafs and curries, but never in baking. It was wonderful. My rolls didn't turn out quite as yellow as Ilva's because I had saffron threads, not ground saffron, but the flavor and some of the color was still present. We heartily enjoyed them as dessert and as breakfast too.

Here's her recipe, and below you'll find it again with my estimates for US measurements and adaptations:


2 1/2 tsp dry active yeast
14 tablespoons butter
2 cups milk, plus a little bit more
scant cup sugar
1 tsp ground cardamom
small pinch of saffron threads
1/2 tsp salt
6 and 1/3 cups flour
1 egg

1. Combine yeast, salt, sugar and cardamom in mixing bowl.

2. Melt butter in sauce pan. Crumble saffron threads and add to melted butter. Pour milk in to pan and warm to just finger warm around 98 degrees F.

3. Add liquids to yeast in bowl and stir to mix.

4. Add the flour and mix well. I used my Kitchen Aid to knead the dough until it was smooth.

5. Cover the dough and let it rise for 1 hour.

6. Divide the dough into balls around the size of a fist and roll into snakes between your hands. Shape into S shapes and lay out on parchment lined baking sheet. Let rolls rise for 40 minutes. I noticed they didn't seem to change much as they rose, but that they did expand a good deal once in the oven. Make sure you leave room between them on the baking sheet.

7. Brush rolls with brushed egg. Top with strategically placed raisins.

8. Bake in a 440 degree F oven for 10-15 minutes. It took more like 15 minutes in my oven. Cook on a rack.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Snow on the Garden

Yesterday afternoon into this morning we received around 8 to 10 inches of snow. I waded out into the snow just before sunset, to check on the garden under the snow. From a distance, I could see footprints around the beds that were not mine.
On closer inspection, I found them to be deer footprints. Looking at the remaining Brussels Sprouts plants which I never pulled out of the ground, I could see some evidence that the deer were munching on the leaves. I may need to cut off the plants so that the deer don't learn that my garden is a source of food.
Here are a few other snow landscapes.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mom's Francie Socks

I knit these socks for my mom's birthday this month. I did straight ribbing on the legs and the Francie pattern on the sole of the foot. They are knit with Plymouth Happy Feet in a cranberry color on size 1 needles. I started them on November 15th and finished them on December 12th. This is my 4th pair of socks using the Francie pattern on the sole, and it's become almost automatic. I enjoy the extra detail it gives to the socks.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ice Storm Details

Here are some detail shots from Friday's ice storm. The red crab apples were especially stunning encased in ice against the blue sky. The goldenrod seed head drips with ice.
The sun's power quickly begins to melt the ice. Now the ice dangles below the branch it encased and reflects the blue skies.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Grandma's Chocolate Snowflakes

These cookies go by many names in my family. When we made them growing up, they were always referred to as my Uncle Steve's favorite cookie. When I called my mom for the recipe they were chocolate cookies with powdered sugar. Her recipe was a little lacking in details, so my sister forwarded me an email from our Grandma with more specifics. Grandma called them Snowflakes. My cousin Elena's status on facebook mentioned them as Chocolate Crinkles. So I'm calling them Chocolate Snowflakes because I think it is important to have the chocolate in the title, because that's really what these cookies are about.

Chocolate Snowflakes


4 squares of unsweetened baking chocolate, melted
1/2 cup oil
2 cups scant sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
powdered sugar

In a large bowl, combine the melted chocolate, oil, sugar, vanilla, and eggs. Mix well.
Mix the dry ingredients together in another bowl. Add in two parts to the wet ingredients.

Refrigerate the dough until it is chilled and easy to work with. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 F. Use a teaspoon to scoop the dough and then roll into a ball in your hands. Roll the ball of dough in the powdered sugar.
Place on a greased baking sheet, spaced well apart because the dough spreads (about 9-12 cookies on a sheet).
Bake for 10 minutes or so, until they no longer look shiny or bubbly in the cracks of brown.
Let cool on the baking sheet for a minute and then transfer to a rack to cool.
We baked these today because our church puts together plates of cookies to thank the people who work in the buildings we use for our services and meetings. We also will keep a few for ourselves. I also baked two Eating Well Recipes:

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ice Storm Landscapes

Last night, into this morning we had an ice storm. I wish it had come as snow, because I want to get out and start the cross country ski season. Instead it came as rain, freezing rain, and sleet. It was enough to cancel school for today. Around noon, the skies cleared and the sun broke out. Suddenly I could hear the ice falling and dripping. I rushed out with the camera to capture some of the splendor of the landscape and the trees as everything was coated with ice. Here are a few of the landscape shots. Keep in mind, this is all ice on the ground, not snow.Here are some milkweed seed pods, glistening with the ice.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Thanksgiving Recap

I realize it is a bit late to share our Thanksgiving meal with you, but it has taken me a while to be able to sit down and sort through the photos from those wonderful few days. Here's some photos of the yummy food.

My contribution was purple mashed potatoes and cornbread dressing. Since my mom was making Yukon gold potatoes as well, I roasted a head of garlic and added that to the purple ones to distinguish them from the others in flavor. Here's one of the blue potatoes when peeled. They had a white later immediately under the skin and then purple underneath. However, when peeled, the spots came from where eyes might develop in other circumstances. I was taken by the pattern on this one.
Next the purple mashed potatoes on the day of the feast.
And then the next day. We were puzzled how they deepened in color overnight.
The wonderful turkey.
The Herbed Oatmeal Pan Bread.
And the entire spread along the breakfast bar: cranberry sauce, turkey, pruple mashed potatoes, Yukon gold mashed potatoes, peas, blueberry jello salad, cornbread dressing, sweet potato casserole & rolls.I neglected to photograph the pies, but there were 6 for the 10 of us: 2 pumpkin, 2 pecan, and 2 chocolate. They were all wonderful.

We had so much food we enjoyed an essential identical meal the next day for lunch. Then we cut up the carcass and made two pots of stock. I took home half and left my mom half. We thoroughly enjoyed a turkey-barley soup when we returned home.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Here are more photos of the mini-mitten ornaments. Here is the first set on the Christmas tree. I ran out of this red yarn and had to buy more. I found a self-patterning sock yarn that has made quite interesting results, and these are two of the best. I still have quite a few more pairs to go, and I'll be excited to see how the others turn out with this yarn.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Sweet Potato Dumplings

Earlier this week I made jaoizi (Chinese dumplings ) with my class as part of our study of China. We had left over dumpling wrappers and my husband suggested we fill them with sweet potatoes. I thought goat cheese would go well with the sweet potato, and then looked at recipes for Sweet Potato Ravioli for inspiration. It's hard to say whether we ate dumplings or ravioli for dinner, but either way they were so sweet and good and amazing that we'll be definitely making them again. Below is the rough recipe.

Sweet Potato Dumplings

16 dumpling or wonton wrappers
1 sweet potato
2-3 tablespoons goat cheese
1 tsp maple syrup
dash of nutmeg
salt & pepper
3 tbsp butter
4-6 fresh sage leaves, chopped

Wash the sweet potato but do not peel. Wrap in foil and bake for 45 minutes in a 375 degree oven until flesh is soft. Cut open and let the the flesh cool. Scoop it out and mash it in a bowl. Let cool. Add 2-3 tablespoons of goat cheese, maple syrup, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir together. Place one teaspoon of mixture inside dumpling wrapper. Dip your finger in a bowl of water and run it around the edge of the wrapper. Fold in half and then pinch in folds from each side.

Bring pot of water to a boil. When boiling add salt and dumplings. Stir to prevent sticking. Return the water to a boil and cook until dumplings rise to the top. Meanwhile melt the 3 tablespoons of butter in a skillet. Let the butter begin to brown before adding the chopped sage. When the dumplings are done, use a slotted spoon to ladle them into the butter. Here they are just after going into the skillet.
Let simmer and brown a bit on one side before turning to brown on another.
Let cool a bit before eating as the sweet potato holds the heat well.
Eat with your fingers :)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Curried Lentils

This recipe is an improvisation that we've made a few times. I use French Green Lentils (also called French Puy Lentils) because they keep a nice firm texture and don't get too mushy. Each time it's a bit different based on the spices we add and the left-over tomatoes. This time the tomatoes were from my canning this summer and had been pasta sauce the night before, so there was a little garlic, red pepper and herbs already mixed in. In the photo below, we served the lentils with a Kashi 7 grain pilaf which we found on-sale at our local Co-op. They are also good with rice, couscous, or another whole grain.
Curried Lentils


1 cup French Green Lentils
olive oil
onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 inch ginger, grated or chopped
1-2 tsp garam masala or other spice mix
1 tsp ground cumin
ground cayenne pepper(if you like to add heat)

about 14 oz crushed tomatoes (or tomato sauce)
generous handfuls of kale or swiss chard,
roughly chopped
salt, pepper

In a small pot, place 1 cup lentils and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil and then simmer 20 minutes until lentils are tender.

Meanwhile in another pan, saute the onion, garlic, and ginger in a dash of olive oil. When the onions are clear, add the spices and stir for one minute. Pour in the tomatoes and bring to a simmer to thicken. Don't let the tomato mixture get to dry. Turn it off if it is thickening too much and the lentils are not yet done.

When the lentils are done, drain them and then add to the the tomato mixture. Stir well and return to a simmer. Add the chopped kale and cover to cook the greens. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper. If the mixture is too acidic, add one small teaspoon of sugar.

Serve with rice or other grain.

The Last Harvest of 2008

We had our first ground-covering snowfall on Sunday night into Monday. I got home Tuesday while there was just a bit of daylight still in the sky and went to check on the kale and Brussels sprouts. The snow killed the last bit of Swiss chard, and buried the tiny carrots that were not worth trying to dig up. In between the Brussels sprouts and kale, and to the right of the kale you can see my second planting of Brussels sprouts. The large Brussels sprouts were transplanted into the garden on May 8th, as medium-sized seedlings from a co-worker. My first indoor seedlings weren't successful and so I re-seeded on May 10th and not transplanted into the garden until June 16th. The month and a week made a big difference in the plants progress. The later transplants never got enough sun because the kale and surrounding plants were already taller. If I transplant later again, I'll need to make sure they get enough sun.

Some of the kale looked as though it was burned where the snow had settled on the top. I realized that I wouldn't be home during the daylight during the rest of the week and so I harvested the Brussels sprouts for dinner. Though they were tiny (most smaller than the last batch) I harvested 9 ounces of them. They were delicious.
Tonight I went out in the dark to pick the last of the kale, and my husband graciously came with me to hold the flashlight. The last small bit of the tender inner leaves went into a Curried Lentils dish.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas Ornaments

Much of my canning enterprises from this summer was with Christmas gifts in view. Now I'm hoping to add some home-made ornaments to those gifts as well. I searched on Ravelry last night and found this pattern for mini mitten ornaments. I should have sat down to lesson plan, but instead I knit up one of these mittens. They are a quick and easy use for last little bits of sock yarn and are knit on size one needles. The first one took me 50 minutes. I did some work for school and then finished another mitten before bed. I think I'll be making quite a few of these in the next weeks. They are very easy and very cute! A picture on the tree will follow when we get a tree.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I was amazed at all the different patterns the ice can make in the same little culvert. Where ever I look, streams and ponds are freezing over with this week of cold weather we've had.
Before we know it, there will be snow to photograph.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Frozen Garden

With temperatures last week not rising above freezing for much of the week, the garden is pretty well frozen. I'm not sure if these plants are just in cold storage as if they are in the freezer, or if they can still grow in this weather. The leaves are pretty crispy, yet they don't have the signs of damage because of the cold that more tender plants show. Rather they're just very stiff.

This week is very busy with three Thanksgiving meals (Sunday at church, Monday at school, Friday at home in Maryland) and the travel to Maryland. So we won't be harvesting the second bunch of Brussels sprouts until December. Will they grow in the mean time? I'm doubtful. I'll just be happy if they keep until we're ready to eat them.