Authors Holding Knitting

Exactly what it says on the tin. Photos of authors that I like, holding knitting I was working on at the time.

Neil Gaiman holding a sock in progress (this sock is now a shawl).
Neil Gaiman holding a sock in progress (this sock is now a shawl).
John Scalzi holding a baby sweater (this has since been ripped out).
John Scalzi holding a baby sweater (this has since been ripped out).
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John Scalzi holding a towel in progress.
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Kelly Sue Deconnick holding a cowl in progress.

 

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Amal El-Mohtar holding a cowl in progress.

 

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

I talk a pretty good crunchy game. I attempt to grow some of my food, I cloth diapered until our washing machine stopped working properly, I cook a lot of my own food from scratch, pickle and put up preserves. But I still go through a chunk of various disposables. Chiefly being cotton pads to clean my face.

Last month, I knit myself a washcloth. I use this awesome facial scrub from Lush and I really need a washcloth to get it off properly. So I dug out my hoard of kitchen cotton and after 10 years of knitting, knit the gold standard of newbie projects.

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I like the nubs, they add extra exfoliating power.

After a few days of using it to wash my face (and at least one trip through the washer), I discovered I liked using the smoother side of the washcloth to get toner off my face. But you don’t need such a big cloth for that, so I whipped this up:

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This looks WAY bigger than it is

So now that I have this, I’ll probably whip up a few more. And that means fewer cotton face pads purchased and then thrown out. So that’s a good thing.

Maple Dijon Chicken

The recipe I use for this is an amalgamation of this one and one from Mommy’s Fabulous Finds. The ratio of dijon mustard to maple syrup is the same in both – 2:1. Each recipe calls for a different kind of vinegar. I like rice vinegar because it ties back to Alton Brown’s honey mustard recipe, which is basically an inverted ratio of sweetener to mustard. I kept the onions, left out the mushrooms (because no one but me eats them and I don’t eat canned mushrooms ever), and have come to a weeknight staple in our house.

Maple Mustard Crockpot Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2-4 TBSP of rice vinegar
  • 1 onion, sliced

Instructions:

  1. Mix mustard, syrup and vinegar together.
  2. If freezing, dump into a gallon ziploc bag with chicken and onions. Freeze flat until ready to use. When ready, defrost overnight in the fridge.
  3. If cooking right away, dump sauce, onions and chicken into a crockpot. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Serve over rice.

Jarring Summer

Over the last few years, I’ve gotten into preservation. It’s a byproduct of belonging to a CSA – you feel really bad wasting the local produce. While living in a tiny Manhattan apartment, I mostly pickled things using the lacto-fermentation method. A couple of screw top jars don’t take up that much space. We don’t have that much more space here in Boston, but it’s organized differently enough that I have more storage room. So last summer I started to can. Mostly applesauce and apple butter, but a few small batch jams from Preserving By the Pint and Food in Jars. Having a mixed stone fruit jam to spread on my toast in the middle of winter was lovely. So this year I’m trying to get a head start.

So far, I’ve made strawberry jam from Food in Jars. Technically it’s supposed to be strawberry vanilla jam, but I didn’t have any vanilla beans. I compensated by swapping out half the sugar for vanilla sugar. I’m saving this one for a snowy morning in February, but I may have to open a test jar sooner.

Strawberry jam cooling
Strawberry jam cooling

Tonight I put up a batch of Raspberry Peach Spreadable Fruit from The America’s Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook. The smells of peach and sugar cooking together are fabulous, and I think this one will cheer me up in my yogurt come January.

Raspberry peach jam cooking
Raspberry peach jam cooking
Jars canning in a water bath
Jars canning in a water bath
Jars cooling on the counter
Jars cooling on the counter

British Style Curry

I love Indian food. My favorite Indian restaurant back in NYC is Pongal, where they make an incredible Alu Gobi, Shahi Paneer and Channa Masala. But while I have a marked preference for the dairy and vegetarian dishes, Himself loved going to Shalom Bombay (where meat dishes were the only options). So when I started cooking Indian at home, I ended up trying to find a foolproof chicken curry recipe. One of these days (probably when Monster gives me a bit more time), I will start on some of the  earmarked recipes in both Indian Cooking Unfolded and The Big Book of Curries, but for now I have a more British style method that doesn’t have a precise recipe. It evolved from this recipe, but took a left turn when I read the chicken curry recipe in Indian Cooking Unfolded. There, the curry sauce goes into a blender (I use an immersion blender), and that produces the thick consistency Himself likes. This makes the food much less authentically Indian and far more British, but I’m OK with that.

British Style Curry

Ingredients:

  • Approximately 1-2 lbs of either boneless, skinless chicken or some sort of beef (I use pepper steak) cut into small pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 5+ cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2+ T of minced ginger
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • curry powder
  • turmeric
  • garam masala
  • ground cumin
  • ground coriander
  • 1 package frozen cauliflower
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • Frozen peas (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Brown the protein on high in a mixture of coconut oil and canola oil (or schmaltz) and remove to a bowl
  2. Dump the onions in the pan and cook until slightly browned
  3. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until it smells wonderful
  4. Add the spices – no specific amounts are given because it’s different any time I make it. Generally more of both the curry powder and garam masala than anything else.
  5. Deglaze the pan with the can of tomatoes and scrape up the lovely brown stuff on the bottom of the pan
  6. Add the can of coconut milk
  7. Hit the sauce with an immersion blender (or pour it into a blender) until smooth and thick
  8. Add the protein back in, along with the corn and cauliflower and cook on low for ~30 minutes
  9. Add the peas, if using
  10. Serve over basmati rice and garnish with chopped cilantro

Curry

Asian BBQ Crockpot Chicken

So in the process of putting away bulk chicken cutlets, I realized I had quite a lot of barbecue sauce left in a Costco sized bottle. I’d already made up a batch of Applesauce BBQ Chicken (which I know needs a writeup) and was out of cranberry sauce. But I always keep a ton of Asian flavor staples in my pantry, and they sell bottled Asian BBQ sauces. So I figured that I could whip something up. It’s currently chilling in my freezer after a few mishaps in prep today. There will be a writeup as soon as I’ve cooked and eaten it! Obviously this is one to serve over rice, probably with a side of soy & sesame roasted broccoli.

Asian BBQ Crockpot Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce (I use Sweet Baby Rays because that’s what you can get at Costco)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp chili paste (Sambal Oelek or Chili Garlic Paste)
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp freshly ground ginger
  • 3-6 minced garlic cloves (I use a lot, but not everyone likes as much garlic as I do)

Directions (If freezing):

  1. Dump all sauce ingredients into a gallon freezer bag
  2. Add chicken breasts
  3. Freeze flat until ready to use

Directions (If cooking right away)

  1. Mix all sauce ingredients in a bowl
  2. Dump over chicken breasts in crockpot
  3. Cook on low for 4-6 hours

Mexican Themed Shavuot Dinner

This one’s belated, but hey, it’s here!

 

For the one dairy meal I managed to put together for this holiday, I went vaguely Latin flavored with a detour to France for dessert. I also pretty much relied on one cookbook: Moosewood Restaurant Favorites: The 250 Most-Requested, Naturally Delicious Recipes from One of America’s Best-Loved Restaurants. I really like this cookbook – the food and recipes are generally very approachable, and it’s always nice to have a cookbook that I don’t have to spend hours modifying the recipes for it to be useful.

The main course was Mexican Corn & Cheese Casserole. I’m still tweaking this, because Himself is convinced that it doesn’t count as a main dish if you don’t include an actual dead animal or a facsimile of a dead animal. This means that since the main seasonings of the casserole are coriander and cumin, we turn to Tofurkey’s vegan Chorizo crumble to bulk out the dish. Because there’s more in the casserole than the recipe calls for, it doesn’t *quite* set properly. The texture is a bit closer to overloaded scrambled eggs than a properly set egg custard. I’m going to post the recipe as written, though we leave out the peppers and, as I said, add a full package of chorizo crumble.

The recommended accompaniment to this casserole is Green Beans with Lemon Zest Dressing. These were excellent, though I would be willing to sacrifice the color of the beans to a dressing that had lemon juice rather than zest. I think that it might marry better with the dijon and olive oil than the zest did. The best thing about these beans is that they taste great at any temperature, from right out of the fridge to fresh from the pot.

Because I generally like to put a starch out, I figured I’d continue with the theme and make the Spanish Rice from the same cookbook. This I wasn’t thrilled with. The recommendation to add a pinch of cayenne drowned out the more subtle cumin seeds that were sautéed with the onions and garlic. Either that or my cumin seeds are just old. The salt levels were low enough that the tomato purée didn’t add ANY flavor whatsoever. Basically this rice tasted like texture with heat on the back end. Will not make again without several adjustments. Not going to post the recipe either.

For dessert, I went with a simple concept that can be easily prepared on Yom Tov – a clafoutis. Specifically, this clafoutis from one of my all time favorite recipe sites: Smitten Kitchen. You can pretty much always rely on Deb for a stellar example of any recipe you’re looking for. I used cherries, a common clafoutis ingredient. Recipe is found at the link, and I see no need to retype Deb’s excellent instructions.

Overall, more successes than failures. I’m going to make the rice at least one more time with some adjustments before I write the recipe off entirely (every cookbook has its duds). Below are the recipes for the casserole and green beans. Please enjoy them!

 

Corn & Cheese Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 2 T oil
  • 1.5 cups diced onions
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup seeded and diced bell pepper (I leave this out as Himself doesn’t care for bell peppers)
  • 3 generous cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (1 16 oz package frozen) split into 2 cups and 1 cup
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese (6 oz)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F and grease an 11 x 7 x 2 inch casserole dish.
  2. In a covered saucepan, warm the oil on medium heat.
  3. Add the onions, sprinkle with half the salt and cook for about 8 minutes.
  4. Add the carrots and cook, covered, for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the 2 cups of corn and peppers and stir in the cumin, coriander and red pepper flakes.
  6. Cover and cook until the veggies are tender (about 7 minutes).
  7. While the veggies are cooking, purée the eggs, milk, other half of the salt, black pepper and the reserved cup of corn in a blender (I use an immersion blender in a bowl) until smooth.
  8. When the veggies are done, spread them evenly in the casserole dish. Pour the custard on top and sprinkle with cheese.
  9. Bake, uncovered, for about 35 minutes. The cheese should be golden and a knife inserted into the custard should come out clean.

 

Green Beans with Lemon Zest Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb green beans, trimmed
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil (spring for the good stuff)
  • 1 minced garlic clove (a nice big one)
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 T finely grated lemon zest (VERY fine)

Instructions:

  1. Steam or boil the beans until tender
  2. Stir everything else together in a bowl
  3. Toss the hot beans with the dressing, making sure the coating is even
  4. Salt and pepper to taste

 

You will note that the cookbook is actually linked to the Amazon listing. I’m using Amazon affiliate links now, so please use the ones in the blog entries!