Thursday, September 30, 2010

An Ethiopian Meal

What People Eat Around the World (click here) fascinates me. I like to explore other cultures by reading recipes for their foods. I watched Jeff Smith aka The Frugal Gourmet on PBS during the mid-1990's. He closed every show saying, "I bid you peace" and I couldn't help loving that as much as I loved his shows on ethnic cooking. I was honestly crushed when I first heard whisperings of the scandal that took him off the air. Despite his probable evil-doings, his cookbook, The Frugal Gourmet On Our Immigrant Ancestors -Recipes You Should Have Gotten from Your Grandmother, is probably one of my very favorite cookbooks. I REALLY LOVE cookbooks. To say I have quite a few is a gross understatement, and so to say its one of my very favorites is saying alot. One of the many things I love about my husband is that he has never once implied I should get rid of any of my cookbooks, and he seems to understand, or at least accept, that its not so much I need them to cook but I just love having them. He bought me Our Immigrant Ancestors years ago when our oldest (now 22) was a tot and my cookbook collection was still quite modest. I remember being really PISSED when she sprayed water on it while playing at the kitchen sink, and it always fall open to page 109, Cuban Black Bean Soup, as a result. You don't have to actually cook from this book, you can just read about the history and some of the foods of the different people who've immigrated to this country. Of course, you will eventually want to taste those foods. That is what happened to me with the foods of Ethiopia. Luckily, really great authentic Ethiopian food can be found at Kokeb in Seattle and I'm absolutely charmed by the rustic simplicity and quality of their food every time I eat there. But I genuinely love to cook, and so every once in awhile I make a variation of this meal, both to satisfy my desire to eat Ethiopian food, and to enjoy the experience of cooking exactly what another home cook in another part of the world would make for their family meal.

Berbere Spice Mix
This spice mix is crucial for Ethiopian cooking. It isn't searingly hot, and once made, it will keep in the fridge for up to six months.
1/4 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. ground cardamom
1/4 t. ground coriander
pinch ground nutmeg
pinch ground cloves
pinch ground cinnamon
pinch ground allspice
1 T. grated onion
1 t. pressed garlic
1 T. red wine

In a small caste iron pan over low heat, toast for 1 minute:
1/2 c. (yes, cup) paprika
1/2 T. cayenne
2 t. salt
1/8 t. ground black pepper
Slowly stir in 1/3 c. water, then add spice mix. Cook 10 minutes. Cover spice mix with 1 T. olive oil and store in a small glass jar in the fridge for up to 6 months. Besides Berbere, onions are also crucial in Ethiopian foods.

Lentil Wat
Cook 1 c. red lentils in water to cover plus 1 1/2 inch
In a heavy skillet, in 1 T. olive oil, saute:
1/2-1 chopped red onion
2 minced garlic cloves
Add 2 T. Berbere Spice Mix. Add cooked lentils and salt and pepper to taste. This is so tasty and I always wish I had doubled the recipe after I've served it. Eat with Injera bread.

Injera Bread
Combine in blender:
3 c. warm water
2 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1 1/4 t. baking soda
Remove to a bowl and stir in:
3 T. beer or club soda
Heat an electric griddle to 300 degrees and ladle 1/4 c. batter (twice) spreading in an outward spiral to form a very thin pancake. Cook until it bubbles all over and no longer appears wet. Cook only one side. Remove and stack on a place until all are covered. They are best fresh but we happily eat them as leftovers with lentils, jam -or Doro Wat.

Doro Wat or Ethiopian Chicken Stew
This recipe, the national dish of Ethiopia, is adapted from model Gate Maya Haile's recipe she learned to make from her Ethiopian mother and sisters. She is the wife of Marcus Samuelsson (also Ethiopian born) and it was included in his cookbook, New American Table. Like her, I also believe procurring the best quality chicken possible is important and every bit worth the effort.

3 T. olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
4 red onion, chopped
1/4 c. fresh ginger, peeled and minced
Cook 20-30 minutes on med-low heat. Add:
1 T. tomato paste
2 T. Berbere
Cook 10-15 minutes more on low. Add:
4-6 skinless chicken thighs and legs, seperated; 10 wings, jointed; or 1 chicken, pieced, breast meat deboned(and saving bones, back and neck for stock making), soaked in lemon water.
1 t. cardamom
1 t. salt
2 T. butter
2 c. chicken stock (or water)
1 c. red wine
Cook for about 45 minutes. Add a bunch of greens (collards, kale, spinach or Swiss Chard) and cook 10-15 minutes more. For a complete Ethiopian meal, serve with Injera bread, Lentil Wat, hard-boiled eggs and cottage cheese.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Banh Mi Pork Burgers

Back in January, Bon Apetit had a pork meatball sandwich recipe made with the Vietnamese ingredients and flavors found in the Vietnamese Sandwich, Banh Mi -one of my absolutely favorite foods. They substituted ground pork meatballs for the usual pate and/or grilled pork found in Banh Mi Sandwiches. I thought, "How can this not be a good thing?" but for one reason or the other, I never got around to making them. Months later, I saw Bahn Mi Burgers (a burger is just a huge flattened meatball, right?) on the food porn site, Tastespotting and after that it snowballed. It seemed I was seeing recipes for Banh Mi Burgers everywhere: Serious Eats, Saveur, All and others. EVERYBODY it seems was onto the Banh Mi Burger idea.

This was a few months ago, but we had to wait until our ground pork was in packages in the freezer, and not nosing around in the mud in her pen, to make these burgers. That's part of the deal with raising your own foods: you eat what you raise, and you try and raise what you want to eat; you sometimes have to wait months for that food's season to come around -and you see its face. Chaos in the Kitchen's recipe for Banh Mi Burgers is adapted from Bon Apetit's meatball sandwich recipe, and the recipe I adapted last night. These burgers taste more like the filling for Vietnamese Spring Rolls tucked into a burger bun than a Vietnamese sandwich -which is every bit as good, or even better, than I thought they would be.

Banh Mi Pork Burgers

Mix salad and set aside for 1 hour or so.
2 c. shredded cabbage
2 c. grated daikon radish
2 c. grated carrots
1 jalapeno, seeded and thinly sliced
1/2 c. cilantro leaves
1/4 c. rice vinegar
1 T. sugar
1/2 t. salt
Use on burgers and also serve on the side with the seasoned mayo dressing.

Mix seasoned mayo dressing.
1 c. mayo
1 T. Maggi Seasoning
2 T. rice vinegar
2 T. sugar
1 t. hot chili-garlic sauce (sriracha)

Mix for burgers:
1 lb. ground pork
1/4 c. basil, minced
2 T. cilantro, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 small leeks, finely shredded
1 T. fish sauce
1 T. Maggi Seasoning
1 t. hot chili garlic sauce (sriracha)
1 t. sugar
1 T. cornstarch
1/4 t. black pepper
1/2 t. salt
1 T. sesame oil
Form four patties and fry in a caste iron skillet with a bit of sesame oil (or cook on a grill) until done. Lightly coat burger buns with sauce, add a dollop of salad, tomato slices and pork burgers. Serve with French fries, seasoned mayo dressing for dipping sauce, and more salad on the side.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Beef. It's What's for Dinner.

This is our neighbor's cow. She is all by herself, which herd animals hate; She keeps looking towards our sheep flock in a friendly way. Her shelter was built on top of the ridge but she prefers the cozy protection of the cherry tree in the lowest corner of her pasture. The poor, sad cow vocally lamented her situation for over a week. I grew up with cows. My father was a cattle rancher and raising wheat and a herd of Herefords was our livelihood. We also kept a couple Holstein dairy cows for the family's milk. Though Americans are a nation of beef eaters, my family is a bit of an anomaly as we generally eat very little beef. Every year we raise lamb, rabbits, poultry and a pig for our family's meat, and though we raised beef on the ranch during my childhood, we actually ate more deer and elk meat than beef. Beef has always been a treat in my food world except for a period when my mother-in-law raised beef to share with her adult children. We are all excited about the recent MEAT SWAP a few weeks ago, when we traded lamb and goat we'd raised and butchered, for beef that my husband's sister had raised. Since then, we have been eating beef with gusto: Portuguese Steak, which is amazingly delicious; steak, medium-rare, served with mushrooms and garlic browned in olive oil; the quintessential (homemade, NOT McD) All-American, all-beef hamburger; Thai Spicy Ginger Beef, which my husband absolutely loves (the peppers from our garden were actually hot this year); and humble Beef Stroganoff.

Beef Stroganoff is so old-fashioned, so unexotic, so unsexy (and unphotogenic) of a food, that it's easy to pass over. It readily adapts to being made in large quantities and nasty versions by various food services have given it an undeservedly bad reputation. But Beef Stroganoff done well is a deliciously comforting dish of tender beef and soft noodles in a creamy, complex and deeply flavored sauce. It is an honest-tasting casserole of Russian-origin with relatively straightforward ingredients that are easily put together. It is so charmingly 1950's and -unlike the congealed salad recipes of the same era that always illicit an involuntary, "Eww" from me- I can't help loving it. In the beginning, after first discovering Stroganoff (I don't remember my mom ever making it), I made this recipe in an avocado green electric skillet from the 1960's that was my grandmother's, until I reluctantly retired it. This is my recipe I've used for years. I don't recommend eating it once a week throughout the PNW's nine months of NOT summer, but I make it at least once, or even a few times, during the season of dark -when fall has fully descended, during the dark days near the winter solstice, and/or in March before the end of the dreary rainy season- then it is a welcome and comforting indulgence.

Beef Stroganoff
4 T. butter
2 T. oil

1 large onion, diced
1-2 c. mushrooms, chopped
Saute until limp, but not brown. Add:

1-2 lbs beef sirloin tip steak (or boned lamb leg), cut into cubes or strips
1/4 c. flour
Saute a few minutes then add:

3-4 c. stock
3/4 t. salt
2 minced garlic cloves
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 t. dry mustard
3-4 T. ketchup
Cook 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Add:

2 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. Dijon mustard

Simmer 2-3 minutes. Add:

3/4 c. sour cream
Do not let sauce boil after adding sour cream. Meanwhile, separately cook 12-16 oz egg noodles al dente and add to Beef Stroganoff. I like to serve this with brussel sprouts, but last week I served a simple salad of tomato slices and minced basil from the garden with the Beef Stroganoff and it was scrumptious.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Favorite Apple Pie

Several years ago, I decided to write down EVERYTHING I cooked for one year. My thinking was that if I documented all my cooking over a year, I would collect all the recipes and foods my family loved and my kids -teens on the cusp of leaving the home hearth- would then be able to cook the remembered foods of home at any time in their future (A much bigger and less straightforward project than I'd thought it would be). September is apple season here in Washington state and I made this pie on September 11 during the year of documenting everything I cooked. I added, "It seems fitting to make this on this day -which has come to signify so much to so many Americans." I believe in celebrating the foods of each season (and each season with its foods) and also the comfort found in the rituals of cooking and sharing foods. Picking apples from our orchard to make into a pie to serve to my family is a reminder to me that despite there always being a few bug spots in the apples (and in life), life is good. And its better with ice cream.

Favorite Apple Pie
Adapted from Farm Journal's Country Cookbook
Make a double crust pastry and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
Peel, core and slice apples to make 6 cups and toss with:
1-2 T. lemon juice
1/3 c. apple juice or cider
1/3 c. apple butter (optional)

2 T. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/8 t. ginger
1/8 t. salt
Add mix to apples and toss. Scrape all into pastry-lined Pyrex pie dish. Dot with butter, moisten edge and place on top crust. Seal and flute edges together. Cut vents. Place pie dish on a pizza sheet (to catch drips and save yourself an oven mess) and bake 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 35o and bake 45 minutes longer. Serve with ice cream.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Knitting Project: From Inspiration to Handbag

Inspired by the compost bucket of all things (click here),

and having yarns in my stash I felt were close enough to those colors,

I started a knitting project to make a felted handbag using an adaptation of a basic pattern.

I knit the main color of the bag a lavender similar to the blue potato peelings and the flap a contrasting garden green, though not quite the same as the green of the leeks or tomatillo husks, with a seed stitch border.

I felted it in the washing machine then added carrot-colored embroidery and an earthy-looking button. It's an inspired NOT earth toned, earthy handbag -definitely NOT everyone's style- but I'm kinda liking the funkiness.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

Georgia Special Cake Recipe

My cousin Michelle was describing a cake made years ago by her husband's grandmother and of course, I demanded the recipe on the spot -and then sent a nagging e-mail later. She sent the recipe -not given to her by the grandmother, but written in a report by a 13 year old boy on his family tree. My cousin said, "I remember it being a taste of the summer...light and refreshing...yummy. She always made it in June, around Father's Day. When I think back on it -it reminds me of hot summer days, sitting out on the back porch swing at Danny's Grandparents' house, so I know it was good, but maybe the memories are better..." I don't know about you, but it makes me so frustrated that its NOT June -and won't be for quite awhile- because I want to make this cake, invite all the family to come over, sit in the shade of the big maple tree, and EAT CAKE. Sigh. I'll just have to make the best of the situation and at the VERY first opportunity I can find to bake for a large group of people, I plan to use this Georgia Special Cake Recipe to make cupcakes that taste of summer at grandmother's -no matter how dark and rainy it actually is outside.

Georgia Special Cake
1 box yellow cake mix
11 oz can Mandarin oranges with juice
4 eggs
1/2 c. vegetable oil

Mix all in large mixing bowl. Beat on low speed for one minute, scrape, then beat medium speed 2-3 more minutes. The orange segments should be broken and well mixed into the batter. Pour into greased and floured Pyrex baking dish and bake 325 degrees 25-35 minutes or until tests done. Or use two round pans baked 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. I plan to make cupcakes using this recipe and bake them 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until tests done.

OPTIONAL: Poke cake all over with a toothpick and pour juice from a 8 oz crushed pineapple can onto cake top and allow to soak in. Cool.

12 oz container frozen whipped topping
3.4 oz pkg instant vanilla pudding
8 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained.
Mix all with a wooden spoon. (Using a mixer will break down the frozen whipped topping -NOT a good thing.) Gently frost top of cake, cakes or cupcakes.

Other names (and variations) for this cake besides Georgia Special ( are Mandarin Orange Cake ( and Finger Lickin' Good Cake (The Cake Mix Doctor Cookbook). Some variations add 1 c. coconut to the frosting and some substitute pistachio instant pudding for the vanilla for a "1970's retro" vivid green and bright yellow contrast -Yikes! Also, 1/2 c. melted butter or more oil (1/4 -1 c. more) are added in some recipes, but I think lighter is better here. Some don't drain the pineapple for the frosting/topping but I think that might be a big mistake and make it too liquidy -I could be wrong, though.

Season for Soup

Tis the season for soup, one-of-a-kind soups you put together from 'what is on hand'. Not always the most visually lovely of foods, but homemade soups of any kind are definitely among the more comforting and soul-satisfying meals I've eaten. My sister-in-law, Gretchen is the undeniable Soup Queen, and I have learned a lot watching her put together a pot of soup. A variety of vegetables with a leafy green included are a must, like these I used from our garden: Bright Lights Chard, pole beans, carrots, patty pan squash and parsley. With the variety of late season produce now available in the garden (and before the frosts come) now is the season for soup making.

Any kind of one of the less desirable cuts of meat is also a must: meaty goat bones, lamb shanks, chicken necks, turkey wings and here I used the leftovers from a roast goose we had the night before (and yes, it was REALLY good). There is no recipe for soup made with the ever changing 'what is on hand'. The leftover risotto from several nights back, the cornbread stuffing and roasted potatoes served with the goose and the drippings all went in to this pot, along with more sage and some salt. Another time I may use leftover cooked kidney beans, roasted beets and cabbage shredded, but not used, for salad. 'What is on hand' soup is never the same but it's always good. Even though this is my not-so-big-pot, and all of us ate several bowls of soup (and yes, it was REALLY good), I was pleased to freeze a couple containers of soul-satisfying soup to have stashed away simply needing to be heated. When needed, it will be like finding a forgotten $20 bill in a coat pocket!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Two Quotes on Ireland

"When I leave Ireland, what I'm going to miss most is people calling me dearie." -David Lebovitz (click here)

"Geographically, Ireland is a medium-sized rural island that is slowly being consumed by sheep." -Dave Barry

Bread n' Butter Pickles

Every once in awhile, something comes into your life that you really, really need -you just hadn't realized it yet. My son brought this BIG POT home, given to him by his friend's mother the other day. Now, I have a pot (pushed to the side just out of view in the photo above) big enough for making spaghetti and soup for our family, single batches of my jam and pickle recipes, -heavy bottomed, stainless steel, quite adequately large, I thought- but it is dwarfed by BIG POT which, not surprisingly, was once used for cooking in a large communal house.

The day after BIG POT came into our kitchen, I was making Bread n' Butter Pickles and the cucumbers I'd picked were enough for half again the recipe -too much for my not-so-big-pot to hold. That was when I realized what had been missing in my life all these years: BIG POT. A recipe and a half would easily fit in it, as well as double jam recipes, quadruple batches of strawberry preserves, huge vats of stock or soup for freezing.... Forever gone is the frustrating experience of putting ingredients into my not-so-big-pot and midway realizing it won't all fit. Never again. Thank you, Bob and Trista.

Bread n' Butter Pickles
Adapted from Pickles and Relishes by Andrea Chesman

4 quarts sliced, unpeeled cucumbers
4 medium sliced onions
2 red sweet peppers, sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1/3 c. pickling salt

5 c. sugar
3 c. cider or white vinegar (I use cider)
2 T. mustard seeds
1 1/2 t. turmeric
1 1/2 t. celery seeds

Combine sliced cucumbers, onions, peppers, garlic and salt in 5 gallon crock, large ceramic, glass or stainless steel bowl, or clean plastic bucket. Cover the vegetables with ice and mix well. Let stand 3 hours. Drain (remove any remaining large chunks of ice). Combine remaining ingredients in a large kettle. Add vegetables to syrup and bring to a boil. Pack pint jars leaving 1/2 inch head space. Seal. Water bath 5 minutes.
Makes 8 pints (a single batch recipe for not-so-big-pots)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


We start harvesting lettuces in May; strawberries and spinach in June; garlic in July;

probably close to 200 lbs total of 4 types of potatoes in August;

cucumbers for making pickles, blackberries for making jam, and the pig went to the butcher in September;

the meat chickens and more rabbits will be in October;

and lamb and winter squash before November. Each harvest is its own seasonal celebration for us, plus our hard work puts a lot of great food in the freezer with more sealed up in jars in the pantry. We eat local and seasonal, in the truest sense, all year round and are harvesting almost half of the year. A picture in the paper yesterday (click here) , Holding fast to the farm life, reminded me that fall is the season for harvest celebrations and despite the lousy gardening year we've had -we have a lot to celebrate. It's easy to take any lifestyle for granted but I can't help thinking while doing chores most mornings, how truly lucky I am living this life that I do. I am blessed and every day (and most meals) are a celebration of our lifestyle -which I don't take for granted.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Rum Bundt Cake

"This is the best cake, literally, I have ever had!" my eldest daughter said the first time I made this, and it is now my mom's favorite cake. I first heard of Rum Bundt Cake in A Threadbare Heart, a novel by Jennie Nash where the cake is pretty much one of the main characters. She didn't include the recipe but I was intrigued enough to start a search for it. I didn't have to go far; a multitude of variations immediately surfaced (, The Cake Mix Doctor cookbook by Anne Byrn and on several blogs). And the version my mom first had was not a Bundt cake at all, but was baked in a 9 x 13 dish. Obviously, this is a very popular recipe AND I HAD NEVER HEARD OF IT BEFORE. The story is that the Bacardi company president hosted a party in Miami in 1976 where a neighbor brought a version of this cake for dessert. The corporate chef began making it for executive lunches, and then an ad campaign was launched that was very successful -it just didn't reach me until now. It definitely has a pronounced rum flavor throughout. The crunch and flavor of the nut layer contrasts with the softness of the cake with the buttery sweet and slightly sticky glaze wrapping around it all. It is quite rich, so I like to make the smaller 6 cup size Bundt for just the family, but the mondo 12 cup size is better for groups. Here's my version. This is a good cake for family reunions, funerals (as in the novel), hostess gifts, potlucks, and family dinners....anytime is a good time to bake this cake.

Bacardi Rum Bundt Cake
Grease and flour a 6-cup Bundt pan (or double recipe for a 12-cup)
Sprinkle 1/2 c. chopped pecans (or walnuts) over the bottom of the pan.
Mix together and halve, saving second half for another cake, a yellow cake mix and a 3 3/4 oz. Jell-O Instant Vanilla Pudding mix.

2 eggs
2 T. cold water
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. Bacardi Dark Rum

Mix batter for 2 minutes. Pour over nuts in pan. Bake 325 degrees for 30-40 minutes (45-50 minutes if you double the recipe for a 12 cup pan) or until toothpick tests clean. Cool 15 minutes in pan on rack, invert cake, remove pan and set aside (don't wash it). Make the glaze in a small saucepan.

1/4 c. butter
Stir in:
1/2 c. sugar
2 T. water

Bring to a boil and boil 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add 1/4 c. Bacardi Dark Rum. Pour half of glaze into Bundt pan, then reinsert cake into pan. With a toothpick, prick holes all over cake top then carefully pour or spoon second half of glaze on cake top allowing it time to soak in. Leave cake to sit and absorb glaze for several hours before inverting onto a plate to serve.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Take a Look...

One of the wonderful things about blogging is that it makes it so someone in Missouri is almost like a neighbor. Over the past month, Farm girl Susan, author of the Farmgirl Fare blog, has been posting pictures of their baby donkey and his antics. Looking at her blog and her pictures of their little donkey as he discovers the world, makes it just like she really is a neighbor. I so enjoy checking in on him, the same as I enjoy looking at all my neighbor's animals while on my daily walk (and I have the same musings of: I wonder what's new?; Oh, that's so cute; and Huh, how about that!). If you haven't looked yet, check it out: click on Farm Girl Fare in my list of links to the side here (Be patient, her site loads slowly, but honestly, he's so cute it's worth the wait). Susan also posted an amazing birthday story (click here) on Saturday, July 17, 2010 -often real life is so much stranger -and heartbreaking- than fiction. And as a discouraged farmer once observed, "Some days you'd be better off to not even get out of bed!"

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Knitting Project: A Little Bag

This is one of several little bags I've recently made from a pattern by Sara Swett in the all new Homespun Handknit, 25 Small Projects to Knit with Handspun Yarn, a book that I reviewed for the Black Sheep Newsletter a while back. Sara's pattern was designed for knitting cotton; I adapted it to use my farm-raised Corriedale handspun. My intent was to use up my odds and ends left over from various projects. I was hoping for serendipitous success with the design, as happened with this first bag...

...but not so much with this one. It looks like Easter with too much kitsch.

I'm currently using my very last skein of natural colored gray Corriedale blended with dyed mohair to knit yet another little bag. I think it looks like our Pacific Northwest skies this time of year. It is a really lovely yarn (if I do say so myself) and I wanted to use it to knit myself a little bag to hang on my spinning wheel to hold my 'stuff.' This little bag is simplicity itself. You knit a garter stitch square, pickup along its edges and knit in the round to form the body, make drawstring holes at the top, then knit 2 i-cords to thread through the holes. You can add any color design you want. The following is not so much a pattern for making these little bags but rather a basic guideline I use. You can do the math before picking up the stitches around the edges of the square if you want evenness and perfect divisibility when making the holes for the drawstring. I used a US size 8 circular needle.

CO 3 st
K1, M1, K end; repeat until it measures the size you want (4-7 inches)
K1 row (this is the diagonal across the bottom); change colors if needed or desired.
K1, K2tog, K end; repeat until 3 st. remain; leave stitches on needle.

PU stitches all around 4 edges of bottom square using 3 or 4 dpn or circular needles (this is 60 st, 54 st or 66 would be better). Join stitches. Purl one round. Change yarn if desired or as needed. K in round to make body. Purl each round of 1st yarn before switching to a new yarn, then K when 1-2 inches less than desired height (4-5 inches total). I often have to adjust stitch numbers (K2tog as needed) to make divisible by 6 st to make drawstring holes.

K3, BO 3, repeat to create holes. Next round, K3 above K3, CO 3 above BO st. P one round, K one round until desired height (1-2 more inches).

Make two I-cords of two contrast colors. CO 3 st and K each same length (15-21 inches, or at last as long as the bags circumference), or make one length to double and thread through of one color. Thread both I-cords through drawstring holes. Sew each to its own end to make two continuous loops. Pull alternate loops from two opposite sides (more or less depending on how even your hole numbers come out) to close. Turn the bag inside out and felt it by washing in hot wash/cold rinse in machine with a pair of very faded denim jeans.

I was feeling really inspired with my knitting this morning, making the I-cord for my latest bag while drinking my second cup of coffee. Last night I attended my first Snohomish Knitter's Guild meeting and joined as a new member -I think its going to be so much fun! I was knitting this little bag at the meeting and couldn't help but feel like I was making a stone-ground whole-grain bread amidst other's who were making croissants, souffles, and eclairs. Not that there is anything wrong with whole grain bread mind you, or that anyone was anything other than friendly, encouraging and welcoming to me, its just that the array of fibers, artistry and craft skills of the knitters present there was so amazing, I couldn't help noticing the contrast. Personally, I like knitting projects that require as little math and mental focus as possible. I also prefer knitting with handspun rustic yarns and find immense satisfaction in using yarn that is only a few steps of processing away from the animals in the barn.

In yarn and knitting (as well as in everything else), both beauty and art are in the eyes of the beholder; both are also often found in the most unexpected places. While cooking yesterday, I was struck by how really lovely these colors looked and just had to take a picture. Don't laugh -it's our compost bucket! Kitchen waste discarded and layered while I was cooking: leeks and tomatillo husks, then blue (lavender) potato and carrot peelings.

I'm inspired to create a bag with the colors in the compost bucket, or at least the yarns in my stash that are pretty close. I'm envisioning a felted handbag of greens and lavender with carrot-colored embroidery. We'll see where the inspiration actually leads me.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

"Three of my favorite things: chocolate, peanut butter, and pie!" was my son's response when I told him I was planning to make this. This is a chocolate and peanut butter lover's dream dessert. It comes together easy enough, but as with all ice box pies, you must allow plenty of time for chilling. And despite its swanky appearance -this pie is an absolute snap to make!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
For the crust in a food processor pulse to fine crumb:
1 1/2 c. graham crackers (about one full cellophane packet)
1/3 c. sugar

Melt together then add to crumbs and pulse:
6 T. butter
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
Press mixture in pie dish to form crust. Bake 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Put 1 c. PB in a medium size mixing bowl. I prefer chunky, but the store was out, so I had to use creamy here. In mixer bowl whip to soft peaks:
1 1/2 c. whipping cream (I didn't say it was healthy or low-fat)
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
Add a few blops of whipped cream to PB and mix in to lighten. Now mix/fold all PB and whipped cream together until smooth. Scrape into cooled pie crust and smooth top.

Refrigerate for 3 hours. When it is chilled, heat 1/2 c. whipping cream to just before boiling. Add 1/2 c. chocolate chips or 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate and stir, and stir, and stir, until all is melted and smooth. Spread over pie filling.

Sprinkle top with 1/3 c. finely chopped dry roasted peanuts. Return to fridge for 3 more hours, overnight -or until you just can't wait any longer. Enjoy.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sheep go to Heaven, Goats go to Hell

"Sheep go to Heaven,

...Goats go to Hell." though not meant literally, fitting song lyrics of the group Cake. Capricious by nature (Caprine is Latin for goat), goats are a PAIN to deal with. They will climb on whatever they can (here our terrified quail's house), eat the few thing you wish they wouldn't (the dogwood tree and roses across the fence), and given the slightest opportunity, they are geniuses at escaping (and then eating things you REALLY wish they wouldn't). 'Charming' and 'full of personality ' are how those who like goats describe them -oh sure, they're cute- but they are SUCH a pain to deal with.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Basil Pesto for Freezing

"If I had to choose just one plant for the whole herb garden, I should be content with basil." -Elizabeth David, Italian Food

Basil is one thing my husband always grows in the garden, and now is the time to make pesto for freezing while the plants are a profusion of basil leaves -and before the cold comes and turns the leaves black overnight. The bees love the flowers, and while picking the leaves their hum and the scent is overwhelming. Making and freezing pesto captures basil's inimitable flavor and aroma to enjoy all year long. I pick about 5 quarts of leaves when making pesto to freeze.

I like to add a tiny bit of rosemary to my pesto. It's not crucial but I think it adds something special.

I also like to use a fair amount of garlic when making pesto. It was a good year in our garden for growing garlic and it makes me happy to know I can use it as liberally as I want.

Basil Pesto (for freezing or to make about a pint)
8 cloves garlic (or more)
1 t. salt
2 t. fresh picked rosemary leaves, minced
1/4 - 1/3 c. pine nuts
5 quarts fresh picked basil leaves (or as much as will fit in your processor)
3/4 c. or more olive oil, pour over layers of basil while adding and processing
In food processor add garlic, salt and rosemary leaves plus basil to fill processor bowl and some olive oil. Process. Keep layering and processing, and it will all eventually fit. Add pine nuts when half of the basil is processed. Add more olive oil if it seems to need it.

I then freeze the basil pesto in 1/2 c. containers. It defrosts quickly and can be stored in the fridge for several weeks.

By adding a bit of pesto -with or without the addition of grated Parmesan- simple meals of plain pasta and one or more vegetables or fresh tomatoes (during their brief season), can be transformed from mundane into extraordinary. Spending a few hours now making basil pesto will provide us with it all year long. And the kitchen smells so amazing while I'm making it!