Dinner, April 14, 2016

 dinner 
Spinach and feta chicken sausages, beets, and greens with yellow bell pepper. Delicious with a couple chunks of pickled zucchini and some tomato jam.

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Dinner, April 13, 2016

 

Turkey meatballs, veg mixture of mixed greens, onion, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. Excellent with a little tomato jam and mango chutney. 

Gardening Day

I realized yesterday that I was using the wrong date for average last frost in my area. Which means that I am 2 weeks late getting seeds started and getting stuff out in the yard.

*gasp!*

This is not a huge deal. I am not, after all, some kind of master gardener. Not at all. In fact, I’m a huge faker. Last year was the first year ever that I had a garden, and I basically put plants in the ground and hoped to get food from them.

My plan this year is only a little more sophisticated. In that I thought about what I want to have produce-wise for canning or eating fresh, and I got seeds for those things.Blog20160413a

This morning after I hit the gym, I headed to the home improvement store to get some garden soil and some, ahem, amendments (composted manure) to top off a couple of the beds that were used last year. Also in the pic, though it’s under the other bags so it can’t be seen, is a large bag of potting soil for a couple of the planters I have for on the front porch.

Last year, there were 3 beds in the front yard, 4 planters on the porch, a small 4×4 bed in the back and 4 self-watering planters on the deck. I re-bordered one of the front beds, making it just a little bit bigger, got one more deck container, and will be building beds in a 10×20 footprint. Hopefully this weekend. More on that at a later date.Blog20160413c

So anyhoo, 2 of the front beds will be flowers to attract butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators. The other, newly slightly expanded front bed will house vegetables, and received its first residents today: Lacinto kale, sugar snap peas, radishes, swiss chard and kohlrabi. There’s some space in the bed still for something else, but I haven’t decided what yet. Maybe a small cluster of flowers to attract pollinators, and some other low attractive plant. I’ve got seeds for other radishes and chard, and 2 kinds of beets.

Blog20160413bThe little 4×4 in the back got a few seeds, too: lettuce, spinach, carrots, turnips. Less than half the bed was seeded, so there’s plenty of room for other produce or later plantings of the same so I can harvest continually throughout the summer.

Beet seeds are soaking on the windowsill for planting tomorrow. This afternoon, I pulled asparagus seeds out of their soak and put them in peat pucks. Does it make me a masochist that I’m starting asparagus from seed and not crowns?

Next steps: build the beast of a bed this weekend and then order a truckload of garden dirt (I figure 3-4 yards) to fill it. Pull out the hostas next to the deck and replace them with rhubarb. Figure out where to plant the hearty fig tree I bought. Start the other seeds that need indoor start: marigolds, brussels sprouts, okra, zucchini and cucumbers.

 

Dinner, April 11

Sautéed cod, seasoned with curry powder and topped with homemade mango chutney, mushrooms, beets and cherry tomatoes. 

 

Recipe: Pork and Sauerkraut

I grew up with sauerkraut on the table. Not every day, or even every week. But it was a part of our family meals. Usually, there were sauteéd onions, maybe mushrooms, mixed in. Or it was the filling in pierogi, or served cold on hot dogs. But it was always a side dish, something meant to play with the main flavor of the meal.

This recipe is something that I got from a recipe card at my local Penzey’s Spices. I’m embarassed to say that I never considered using sauerkraut like this, even though it’s such a simple thing. Almost not a real recipe, as much as an idea for throwing things together. I’ve made it with pork tenderloin, cut into chunks, as well as with boneless pork country ribs, and both times it’s been out of this world.

Sauerkraut
Home-fermented sauerkraut, in-process

If you have it, go ahead and use home-fermented sauerkraut. Yeah, I know that’s a bit of an oddity, unless you homestead or follow some food trends. But it’s actually really easy to make, especially if you have an airlock system that keeps the oxygen out of your fermentation vessel, like Pickle Pipes. (Disclaimer: I’m not selling these. I got a set for Christmas from my sister, along with the Pickle Pebbles weights, and they’re easy to use and low-maintenance.)

The last time I made this, I was out of whole fennel seed, so I just tossed in 1/2 teaspoon of ground fennel instead.

Pork
Layer the pork on the kraut

Accompaniment suggestions: prepared horseradish for the meat; beets or carrots as side veg; crunchy roasted potatoes are a nice texture contrast

Pork and Sauerkraut

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart sauerkraut, undrained
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seed
  • Pork Chop Seasoning or Bavarian Seasoning
  • 6 pork chops OR 2 pork tenderloins, cut into 2″ thick slices OR 6-8 boneless pork country ribs
  • 1-2 bay leaves

Instructions:

  1. Do not drain the sauerkraut. Place the kraut, chopped apple, chopped onion, fennel seed and caraway seed in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.
  2. Season pork with Pork Chop Seasoning or Bavarian Seasoning. I like the Bavarian because it’s a salt-free blend (and sauerkraut has a bunch of salt already), plus the mustard seed in it plays really well with the tang of the kraut. Brown both sides of the meat in a large skillet over medium-high heat. If necessary, do this in 2 batches so the meat isn’t crowded in the pan.
  3. In a 4-6 quart slow cooker crock or a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, place about 1/3 of the sauerkraut mixture. Top with the browned pork and then the rest of the kraut. If you can’t fit all the pork in a single layer, then use half in one layer, then 1/3 of the kraut (half of what’s left), another layer with the rest of the pork, and the end of the kraut on top. Add a bay leaf or two. (I always use two so that I know how many to fish out when it’s done.) Cover.
  4. If using a slow cooker, set to high for 3-4 hours (longer if you like to use low or you need to set it in the morning and let it go all day). If using a Dutch oven, place over medium heat until it reaches a simmer, then turn the heat to low and let it be for 1-2 hours.
  5. Serve 1/2 cup kraut with 1 chop/hunk of tenderloin/country rib.

 

Update, April 9

Woah. It’s been a week since I put anything out here. I guess this week hasn’t been very interesting.

No, that’s not completely accurate. I’ve been too busy to pull out the computer and type something, and it’s just too much of a pain to type anything of any length on the tablet. Dinners this week have been either really boring or intended for recipe posts that have yet to be written. And I finished no knitting, though I did get a bunch done on a shawl for work and some significant progress designing a shawl from scratch.

This week, I finally got my rear in gear to start some seeds for the garden! I’m only a couple of weeks “late” on some of the flowers that should have been started 10-12 weeks before planned planting out. (I’m in zone 6a; average last frost is early- to mid-May; typical planting date is last weekend or so of May.)

Monday I pulled out a starting tray, watered the peat pucks, and grabbed my big ol’ box of seed packets. I started Fountain Lobelia, Shasta Daisy, Gloriosa Daisy, mini sweet peppers, mixed bell peppers, Jalapeños, Impala (cayenne) peppers, Habaneros, Black Beauty eggplants, and a few Black Magic Kale. Yes, I know I could plant kale en situ right now, but I still have to build the beds and fill them, and I’m not sure if I want to put the kale in one of the existing beds in the front of the house. When I checked the moisture on the pucks today, the kale had already germinated!

There have been flurries in the air intermittently all day today. And it’s cold enough that I don’t want to go outside to plant some of the perennials and summer bulbs that could go in now. Maybe Monday/Tuesday, if the air temp is better and it’s not so soggy out.

Knitting-wise, I’m working on the Lilla shawl from Berroco, intended as a class in June on knit-on edgings. For class, we’ll work edging onto a swatch-sized piece because I know there’s no way that people would come to class with a huge piece of knit done already. It’s a simple-enough piece, though I’m still working on the body so I can’t speak about how the border will actually work up yet. We don’t carry the recommended yarn at work, so I’m using a lovely apple green shade of Berroco Ultra Alpaca.

The original design is going fairly well. Last week at work we took delivery of some gorgeous hand-dyed linen blend yarn from Interlacements. It’s not expensive, on a yard by yard basis. But the hanks are quite large. I wanted to create something original that would use a single hank but be compelling enough to make people crave the yarn. The tricky part is designing it to be interesting to look at and to knit without being so fussy or difficult-looking that our customers won’t even be willing to attempt it. That’s a fine line to walk.

The eyelet work I’m using (more solid fabric than holes, so I don’t consider it lace) is basic enough, primarily diagonal lines. But I’m changing directions and adding secondary rows of eyelets, so there’s a sense of motion and curve. The pattern evolves, and will have beads added in the last section to give the outer edge some weight.

Enough of my brain dump. I’m off to edit a couple of pictures and put together a recipe post.

 

 

Labor Day Shawlette

Blog20160331 - 1My boss at work gave me a printout of a pattern a couple of weeks ago. Someone had worn one into the shop earlier in the week and BossLady said it was really nice.

I’m not someone who feels compelled to knit things only in the yarn indicated by the pattern. But I actually had a couple of skeins of the specified product, languishing in a project bag.

Blog20160331 - 2Not a bad knit. Most of the shawls I knit start at the top, which is the neck edge. This one starts at the bottom and works up. The patterned band is worked first, then the body of the shawlette, with short rows to make the whole thing crescent-shaped.

I can hear you groaning now. Short rows! Yuck!

Au contraire! These are what I think of as “Sock Heel” short rows – no wraps. Just turn the piece, then work a decrease to close the gap from the previous turn. Easy peasy.

I added a few bands of garter and eyelet for interest. They match the top of the border and, I think, make the body a little more texturally interesting. There’s an i-cord bind off to provide a little stability and a nice finished edge.

Pattern: Labor Day by O/C Knitiot Designs
Yarn: Crazy by Stonehedge Fiber Mill
(all links go to Ravelry)

Whole Wheat Cornmeal Molasses Pumpkin Muffins

Another tasty treat from my oven!

A couple of months ago, I had some buttermilk in the fridge that I needed to use up, but I didn’t feel like making waffles or pancakes. So I pulled out one of my cookbooks, hit up the index, and found a recipe for some quick bread that used buttermilk as the liquid. It was delicious.

Fast forward to this week, and I’ve got another carton of buttermilk in the fridge. But this time I bought it specifically to make muffins. And maybe a pan of brownies.

The recipe upon which this is based is from The Original King Arthur Flour Cookbook, Commemorative Edition. But being me, of course I had to modify it. (I followed it as written the first time, honest!) The original calls for raisins; I used a little more than specified and I used a mix of golden raisins, pineapple, cranberries, papaya and crystallized ginger. And I added some ground ginger to give it a little spice.

Oh! And a tiny sprinkle of Turbinado sugar on top before baking gives these a little sparkle and crunch.

What’s interesting about these is that they contain no eggs and no oil. The only fat comes from whatever small amount is in the flour, cornmeal and buttermilk.

So without further ado, I give you

Blog20160331 - 7
Muffins!

Whole Wheat Cornmeal Molasses Pumpkin Muffins

  • Servings: 18-22
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 cup raisins or other small dried fruit
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350˚F. Prepare muffin pans by lining with papers and spraying the bottoms of the papers with baking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and ginger. Mix in the raisins.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir together the pumpkin, molasses, honey and buttermilk. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and stir only enough to combine.
  4. Fill prepared muffin cups 2/3 full and bake for 15-18 minutes or until a pick inserted comes out clean.

Recipe modified from Whole Wheat Cornmeal Molasses Banana Bread, The Original King Arthur Flour Cookbook, 1990, revised edition 2010.

Shawl, Check!

Going through my to-do list several days ago, a big item was to finish knitting my shawl.

Check!

Blog20160331 - 4
Unblocked, fresh off the needles

Revontuli Shawl, knit in Frabjous Fibers Wonderland Yarns Mad Hatter, 1 pack mini skeins colorway Caucus Race and 1 full size skein Caucus Race. (All links go to Ravelry.)

Blog20160331 - 5Blog20160331 - 9 I added 18 rows beyond the chart included in the pattern.

It’s all blocked and ends woven in. I’ll probably wear it to work this weekend.

This was one of those projects that goes quickly, because the pattern was simple enough that I didn’t get brain fatigue, but interesting enough that I didn’t want to stab my eye with a needle out of boredom (all-garter stitch projects, anyone?). The color changes from the yarn helped, too, though that was my doing and not the result of using a self-striping yarn.

This is the fourth project I’ve knit from yarn from this dyer. One of the previous projects used a worsted weight, this and the remaining two were all sport weight. It’s fantastic to work with and the colors are out of this world.