Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Oh, Boy! It's A Baby!

Pattern:  See below
Yarn:  Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerion, Silver color way
Needles: size 6 

There's a baby shower this weekend. I won't be able to go because I'll be headed to a knitting retreat for a few days of knitting and visiting with friends that I look forward to seeing each year. But I can send a little bit of "me" to the party—something I've knitted just for this baby.

So I set aside the big project I've been working on for weeks. Only three inches to go. Right now it looks like a big lumpy pile of yarn. When it's done and I've completed the finishing process, it will be a different creature altogether. At least that's the plan.

Yesterday morning while pulling out knitting to pack for the retreat, I found a single skein of gray yarn. I knew the mom-to-be had chosen gray and navy for her baby boy colors. So I stopped the white knitting and cast on a baby hat. And I was done before supper. These quick projects are just the best. They are like the bite of sorbet served between courses as a palate cleanser. Adult hats are quick, but it's only the baby hats I can make in an afternoon.

I make sure that for babies—actually, for the new mom—that I choose a yarn that isn't fussy. I like the ones that can go into the washing machine. I do lay them out flat to dry, but that's easy enough with a tiny little hat. My current favorites are Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino and Rowan Baby Merino Silk DK.

It's the most basic pattern. So basic that experienced knitters could make it without a pattern. Here is what I do:
DK or Sport yarn
Size 6 needle, both a 16-inch circular and a set of DPNs
Cast on 72 stitches. Join. Knit in the round for 5 to 5-1/4 inches from cast on edge.
Begin decreases:
    K2tog, K6 around to marker
    K2 tog, K5 around
    K2tog, K4 around, etc
    (Switch to DPNs when you need to.)
When there are 5 stitches left on needles, knit I-cord for about 6 rows. Work two K2tog to leave 3 stitches, then cut yarn and run tail through those 3 stitches. Take yarn down through inside of "stem" and work in the yarn end.

I just realized as I typed out these directions that I didn't exactly follow what I wrote this time. This was a car knitting project yesterday and I didn't have the pattern with me. And the hat is still okay. I love that kind of pattern.

Today it's time to get back to the big project. How fabulous would it be to finish it before I leave for the retreat? If I do, will I be brave enough to take it for show and tell? I don't know yet. Surely don't want to risk anything that could happen to it. But I'll admit I'd love to show it off to a group of knitters. If I sit here long enough writing, maybe I won't be quite done and I won't need to make that decision. :-)

Today is the first full day of spring. Yesterday felt like spring. Today feels more like winter again. I wish Mother Nature would make up her mind!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Life In The Fast Lane

It's been one of those weeks. Each morning for the last seven days, I've need to stop and think, "What day of the week is it? Where am I today?" It's been good things that kept me on the move, but thankfully this morning I'm back in "my" spot on the sofa. Coffee beside me in "my" cup. With nothing out of the ordinary on my calendar for at least a week. Remarkable. And most welcomed. Here's a quick recap of why I am behind on blogging.

I had the good fortune to spend a few days at the beach with long-time friends. It's an annual trip that we all look forward to each year. Fresh seafood twice a day. A little shopping. And this year, a marathon viewing of A Place To Call Home. That's an Australian TV show set in the 1950s. Such a good show that we watched it until late at night and on our last morning there, everyone was up early to watch a few more episodes until it was time to leave. The TV watching is not a typical activity for us, but the show is that good. FYI, it's available on Acorn TV and is broadcast on some PBS stations. I also found that you can purchase it by the season or episode on iTunes.

I got home Sunday night and left on Monday morning for the big city. The wedding is only six weeks away. This trip was for the wedding gown fitting. She's going to be a beautiful bride! While I was there, we visited Jessica's very good friend and her very new baby—less than a week old the day we stopped by. This is one of the babies who came home from the hospital wearing one of the little hats that I knitted.

We also took the sleep-deprived new mom a meal. Jessica made our favorite bourbon marinated pork tenderloin and packaged it ready to pop into the oven. The meal also included orzo spinach salad, sourdough bread, chicken salad with a bag of good crackers, and blueberry muffins. Jessica included printouts of all the recipes, too. I've never thought of doing that. But if they love the food, they will have the recipe and if they have any food issues, they can see the ingredients. What a good idea!

Then I took the long way around from one daughters' house to the other daughter's house so that I could meet a friend at Eat. Sleep. Knit. It's the biggest yarn shop I've ever been to. Worth battling the morning commuter traffic and the extra couple of hours of driving.

And I managed to get to the next stop in time to have a late lunch with Baby Girl. When she found out I was coming, she told her mommy that "Mimi makes my heart happy." Then as she tapped her chest she said, "My heart beats Mimi...Mimi...Mimi." The next morning I was there to get her breakfast and in her almost-four-years-old manner of speaking, she told me, "I'd like an apple for breakfast. But take the red off the back." She's growing so fast. I'm going to miss her preschooler way of phrasing things.

I left that house right after breakfast to get home in time for a big event here last night. The Spotlight On Agriculture banquet is the largest event of its kind in our state. At this 44th annual dinner, Daddy-O received two awards—Cattleman Of The Year and the M. L. Ouzts Memorial Outstanding Extension Supporter Of The Year. Other awards were presented in the areas of forestry, poultry, dairy, horticulture, 4H and FFA and the Farm Family Of The Year was recognized. The entire evening is a huge reminder that our food does not originate at Publix or Kroger. The nearly 400 people attending last night know that, but we were reminded that it's important to tell our story to others,

After driving nearly 1,000 miles (on seven different interstates) this week,  
I'm glad to be home. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Baking Bagels For Breakfast

First, let me tell you—go to the Skinny Taste blog and see her post of this recipe. I don't know if she "invented" the recipe, but it's where I first saw it. Plus, she has a video. She also includes many tips, including making gluten-free bagels and using an air fryer. I just made the basic ones in the oven.

Bagels. With 2 ingredients. Yogurt and flour. Those are the main ingredients, anyway. If we're honest there are some minor ingredients used here, too. If you google "yogurt bagel," you'll see a bunch of places where the recipe is posted. Most call for self-rising flour and non-fat Greek yogurt, so many of these recipes are labeled "2 Ingredient Bagels."

Now I am lots older than the SkinnyTaste blogger. These bagels are the hot thing going around the internet and in Weight Watchers circles now, but this recipe reminds me of the simple mayonnaise biscuits, and if you don't mind adding a third ingredient (which is 2 sticks of butter) they are similar to the very delicious sour cream muffins we've made for years. My grandmother made the mayonnaise biscuits, so the concept has been around for a very long time. They are most like "ice cream bread" which I've never made, but it's another old recipe. Those recipes all call for self-rising flour, plus one or two other ingredients. I followed SkinnyTaste's lead and used all-purpose flour and added my own baking powder and salt.

The Greek yogurt and flour make a soft dough that can be shaped into circles and baked for a bagel-looking treat. The circle shape makes it fun. It is not chewy like a bagel but it was good. And I like that it only makes four. Of course, you can double it if you want more.

As I said, it seems to be popular in Weight Watchers land. 3 Freestyle points per bagel. Not counting the butter or cream cheese you slather on it. The points are according SkinnyTaste. I didn't calculate myself. But whether you are "counting points" or not, it's a good recipe. Fun to make. Fun to eat.

If you bake these cute little treats for breakfast, allow enough baking and cooling time. The mixing and shaping is really quick. But it takes about 35 minutes for baking and then cooling before slicing. More time than you might think.


1 cup all-purpose flour*
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
1 egg white, lightly beaten
desired topping**, such as everything bagel seasoning, sesame seeds, cinnamon sugar, etc.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheet with Silpat baking mat or parchment paper. (Lightly spray paper with PAM if you need to.)

Combine flour, baking powder and salt and whisk well to blend. Add the yogurt and mix with a fork until well combined. It might still be a little crumbly.

Lightly flour working surface. Turn dough onto floured surface and knead about 15 times.
Divide dough into four equal parts. Roll each ball into rope, about the thickness of your thumb. Join the ends and pinch together to make a circle.
Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with topping. Repeat on other side.

Bake on top rack for 25-26 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool 10 minutes before cutting.

*Can use self-rising flour and omit the baking powder and salt.
**I used Trader Joe's Everything But The Bagel seasoning. 

If you have the time and inclination, you can read a zillion other blog posts about this recipe and see all the variations folks have come up with. Bagel bites. Pizza crust. Rolls. I always find it interesting, too, to read about variations in the basic recipe. One cup flour. One and an eighth cup flour. If using plain flour, add 2 tsp. baking powder...except for the people who add 1-1/2 teaspoons. That pretty much tells me that it's not the kind of recipe where things need to be precise. I followed the recipe I gave you here. I haven't tried it with self-rising flour yet. But I will. I did find that I need to bake mine a minute longer to get a good brown color. And the inner texture was fine that way.

Use your eye. Trust your touch. If you think it needs a bit more flour, it might. All ovens bake differently, so your baking time may vary a little. I will make these again for certain and try another topping.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Cook, Little Pot, Cook

Peach Salsa Chicken with Jasmine Rice

When I was a child, I never got tired of hearing about the magic pot, a fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm. If you knew the magic words, you would never be hungry. But it was equally important to remember the words to make it stop cooking. Too much porridge was as bad as too little.

If you don't have an Instant Pot, please bare with me while I share another IP recipe. (Adapt it for your slow cooker instead.) This is not a push to go order this "magic pot"—because as much as some IP users gush over the life-changing wonders of the small appliance, it's not a necessity in your kitchen. But if you will actually use it, it can be handy. I have enjoyed using mine. As I learn more about it, I'm liking it better.

I think having the word "instant" in the appliance name can give people unrealistic expectations. (FYI, it's a pressure cooker.) It still takes time to cook things. Over the weekend, I read a recipe for cooking oatmeal in the IP. The writer said it was one of her favorite things to do. She added that it saved no time, but it was the hands free part that she loved. She put the ingredients into the pot, set it cook and then headed to shower and dress for the day. When the oatmeal is done, the pot automatically switches to "keep warm" so that she can eat whenever she is ready. That's what appealed to her. You have to figure out what works for you.

I'm still on the lookout for tasty reliable recipes. This peach salsa chicken recipe is one of those. It came from my knitting friend Betsy who says it's one of their favorites. She has used her Instant Pot much more than I have, so I've been happy to get a few of her tried and true recipes. This one that cooks the chicken and the rice separately but in the same pot is pretty close to magic. (That's called pot-in-pot cooking.) Five minutes of prep and then in about 45 minutes, dinner is ready.

Yep, the recipe says cook for 15 minutes. But you need to allow time for the pot to come up to pressure and then more time for the pressure to go down so that you can take the lid off. So the actual time is much longer than 15 minutes. So it's truthfully more like 45 minutes. The good part is that you do nothing after you close the lid until it's done. This almost hands-free cooking method makes it another easy meal for another knitting day.

Here is Betsy's delicious recipe...with a little of my own tweaking.


4 thin-cut chicken cutlets
1 jar of peach salsa (or something similar)
1 cup water
1 small can pineapple tidbits in juice, drained

For the pot-in-pot rice:
1 cup jasmine rice
1 cup water

Pour about half the salsa into the pot. Add chicken cutlets on top, then pour the remaining salsa over the chicken. Put a cup of water in the jar and swish it around and pour that into the pot. Put rice and 1 cup water into a small oven-safe bowl (I've used pyrex and metal) and set bowl on top of chicken.

Place lid on Instant Pot, close and set it to SEAL. Set to MANUAL for 15 minutes. "Natural release" the pressure. Carefully take out the bowl of rice and set aside. Shred the chicken in the pot. Stir in the pineapple tidbits. Serve the chicken and sauce over the rice.

Betsy didn't add the pineapple, but after we had it the first time, I kept thinking that more fruit would be nice. I just stirred it in after cooking and that was fine. Next time I might even use the drained juice as part of the 1 cup of water.

Last time all I could find was a pineapple/peach salsa. This time my store only had peach/mango salsa. The slightly sweet fruity salsa is a pleasant change from the also-good taco flavored salsa chicken that I've made in the slow cooker many times. (If you don't have an IP, you can do this chicken and salsa in your slow cooker and then cook the rice separately. You don't need to mix extra water with the salsa if you cook it that way.)

This was my first "pot-in-pot" cooking. The first time I made this, I dug deep into my cabinets and found a 1-qt pyrex bowl that was the perfect size for pot-in-pot cooking. I set a trivet over the chicken (a trivet comes with the IP) and put the bowl on the it. Perfect rice. Then I got nervous about using pyrex under pressure although it worked fine. So I ordered a metal 1.5 qt bowl. It also worked well. But it was too tall when I set it on the trivet, so I did it like Betsy told me and set the bowl directly onto the chicken and salsa. Perfect rice again. Just be aware the when you do it this way, the bottom is sauce covered. I set mine on a paper plate when I took it out of the IP.

It's kind of amazing that you can cook the rice and the chicken at the same time in the SAME POT. But they cook separately. Now, that is close to magic. Jasmine rice is a nice sticky rice and it was perfectly cooked. I need to try more of Betsy's recipes.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Sheet Pan Teriyaki Salmon with Asparagus

I have been staying the course for the last few weeks. Working diligently on the knitting that has a deadline. I am inches away from the finish. If there had not been the need to "knit backwards" a couple of times, I would be really near the end. But unknitting is part of the process. No "it's close enough" this time. I want this to be done correctly because this is a special project. So I take out stitches when I need to and reknit them.

Now, even though I've knitted lots every day, I cannot sit still for too long at a time because it's bad for my back, bad for my hands, and bad for my concentration. So during these knitting weeks, I've taken frequent breaks. To do laundry. To clean house. To declutter. Clearing away the cobwebs in the corners has the added benefit of clearing away cobwebs in my head.

For the last couple of years, I've been up and down the highway many times, never staying home for many weeks in a row. But I've only been gone a couple of days since Christmas. And it's March already! Because I've spent several weeks in a row here at home, I've noticed things that I've conveniently ignored up until now.

These last few weeks I've cleared bookshelves. Emptied drawers. Dusted corners. Cleaned closets. Thrown away. Given away. And I hate to admit it but I finally put away the last Christmas decorations. The house feels like it can breathe again. I imagine I could go through the same shelves and drawers and cabinets and do it all over again and find more things to eliminate. But this is a good start.

Of course I've cooked. We have to eat. But I've looked for quick, easy meals. I didn't want to spend lots of time cleaning up after supper either. One pot meals. Sheet pan dinners. Instant pot cooking. It's all good.

Last week I borrowed an idea from daughter Jessica. I followed her directions but used what I had on hand here to cook salmon in the oven. (Check out her blog for many good healthy recipes. Lots of Whole30 things, too.)


2 salmon filets (I used frozen filets, thawed overnight in fridge)
1/2 bunch fresh asparagus, washed & trimmed
olive oil
*house seasoning (or use a mix of salt, pepper, garlic powder)
bottled teriyaki sauce

Preheat oven to 425ยบ.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper for easy clean up. Place asparagus on baking sheet. (For best results, be sure your asparagus is dry before you roast it.) Drizzle a little olive oil over vegetables. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with house seasoning. Arrange in single layer on one end of pan. Roast for 10 minutes.

Take pan from oven, turn asparagus over. Put salmon filets on other end of pan. Drizzle olive oil over filets. Sprinkle with house seasoning. Put pan back in oven and continue roasting for another 15 minutes, or until salmon is done. Brush salmon with teriyaki sauce when it comes out of the oven. (Next time I think I'll brush some on a few minutes before it's done.)

Bam! Supper is served. To finish out the plate, I zapped a bag of frozen Green Giant cauliflower risotto medley. Five minutes in the microwave and a minute to rest and it was ready. Y'all...a one cup serving of this risotto has 20 calories. A cup of white rice has 206 calories. Brown rice has 216. And we thought the riced cauliflower was good. Good enough that I'll be sure to keep some on hand.


I always keep a jar of house seasoning on the shelf. Sometimes I make a big batch. Most times I make it in this smaller proportion.

 *House Seasoning:  
1/4 cup salt 
1 tbsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. garlic powder

Mix well. Store in an air-tight container, such as an empty spice bottle or small jar. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

In The Small World Category

I took a meal yesterday to someone who is recovering from surgery. That's not very unusual. But there's a story about the one who received the delivery that is unusual. Let me tell you the story.

About 10 years ago we sold our mother and daddy's house. It's the house they bought before I was born. Unlike my granddaughters who have lived in multiple houses in multiple states, I lived in one place from the day I was born until the day I went away to college. So you can imagine the memories that were in that house. But the time came to sell it.

A young woman (the age of my daughter) bought the house. I didn't know her. In a small town, it wouldn't be unusual to know the buyer, but I had lived away from my hometown for years. I met her when she came to view the house. I saw her again at the closing. And that was it. For a couple of years anyway.

During those two years I became seriously interesting in knitting. I wanted to take my knitting to a level beyond the knitting I had done since my teen years. And during that period of growth, I discovered Ravelry, a social media/data base for knitters.

I knew I needed to be with other knitters. To learn from those with more skills that I had. I didn't know anyone who knitted, so I posted on a Ravelry forum (on a board for knitters in my part of our state) asking if there were knitters nearby interested in meeting and knitting. I only had a couple of replies, but one of those names sounded familiar. We messaged back and forth a few times and I finally asked where she lived. She was living in the house where I grew up. And she was a knitter. A knitter with more skills than I thought I'd ever acquire. Such a surprise but a good one.

But she worked and was busy, so we never arranged a get-together. We would occasionally comment on each other's projects on Ravelry. And we connected on Facebook and I would see something there every now and then that she posted. Like when a couple of weeks ago I saw that she was having surgery. Those were our only contacts.

Now...I have more cooking skills than knitting skills (although my knitting skills are catching up) so I sent a Ravelry message to her and asked if I could bring her supper one night. I used Ravelry because I didn't have an email address or a phone numberer her. She seemed delighted at the prospects of a home cooked meal. So I delivered her supper last night. And I met the knitter who bought Daddy's house.

I wasn't worried that it would be upsetting to see the house and all the changes it had undergone. I'm okay with change. But it was in the slightly weird category. Things were the same but they were different. The hardwood floors under the carpet that I walked on had been refinished. A large sofa sat on the wall where we had a tinkly upright piano that I played all the years I took lessons. A bedroom was now an office. Hmmm...wasn't there a door on that wall?  She and her husband continue to work to update things so more changes are coming. And that's as it should be. A house is a living thing that needs to change and adapt to keep going. We've done exactly the same kind of things here where we live to make it work for us now.

Anyway, it was interesting to have a look at that old house and see its current incarnation. And it was fun to meet another knitter. For the record, I did find my knitting group a year or so later in my other town. (We live on a farm between two small towns.)

Here is the meal I took. I'm posting it here so that I can remember what worked well, so that the next time I want to take food I'll have a ready made menu. You can use the links to find the recipes.

Baked Rotini is always a hit. This was a dish that a friend brought to Mommy when she was on bed rest before Baby Girl was born. The friend said it was what she always took when someone needed a meal. We know why—it's delicious comfort food. Since this was going to a two-person household, I divided the recipe and save one dish for this two-person household! My supper is ready to go into the oven tonight.

This Sour Cream Cinnamon Coffee Cake can be dessert, breakfast or a snack. A knitter from Ohio shared this recipe with me. She and I also connected via Ravelry and she came here to visit a couple of times. We still keep in touch. Knitters are good folks.

I love baking this Sourdough Bread and sharing it. But if you are not a baker, there are plenty of good options to buy. Sister Shubert's brand is a favorite of ours. And you can't go wrong with one of those five cheese loafs from the grocery store freezer.

I added a green salad and a container of fresh fruit to the tray. I was determined that the entire meal not be all carbs! This was a week when I had time to make an entire meal. But it's also a good and gracious thing to take a single item. Many years ago after I'd had back surgery, I remember a person from our church whom I didn't know very well coming by the house and bringing lemon bars. Thirty years later and I still remember her and the dessert. It's as much about knowing someone cares as it is about the food. Maybe it's more about knowing someone cares.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Sneak Peek

Here's a sneak peek at my current knitting focus. "Monogamous knitting", as it's sometimes called—as in I'm only working on this one project until it's done. No putting it down to knit something else for a while. It has to be that way because there is a deadline involved. I'm right on track to finish when I need to. I calculated that so far, I've knitted 48,501 stitches. That's the actual number of stitches hanging on the needles. I didn't count the stitches that got knitted twice when I had to undo a mistake and reknit them. Thankfully, the number of reknitted stitches is pretty low considering the size of the project.

I know Daddy-O will be glad when I am back to spending a little more time in the kitchen, but I still have thousands of stitches to go. There is enough food stashed in the freezer to take us through a few more weeks. So he is not in danger of starving.

For the chart is a way to keep up with where I am. The pattern doesn't tell you to do this. Each knitter is on their own to figure out some sort of tracking system. Each line of boxes represents the actual lace pattern. Those boxes are numbered 1-12. I knit those twelve rows over and over. I've knitted those twelve rows 26 times so far.

I had said that when this was done, I was going to only knit tiny little projects for a while because I'd be tired of this big one. But you know...I think it's going to be more like when I finish this, I'll miss knitting it. This has been pure pleasure.

This will be the last time I'll post anything about this project until it's time to share the finished object. Patience, dear readers. Patience.