Saturday, October 25, 2014

"There Is A Kind Of Beauty In Imperfection"

A Knitted Hug


Remember this blanket? I posted about it a few weeks ago. I took it to Baby Girl when we drove out for her christening. It was soft. Just right for keeping her warm this winter. Mommy said Baby Girl liked napping with it. She sent me a photo (the one at the top) so that I'd know it was being used right from the start. Until Mommy used it in the car soon after we left. Threw it over the baby in her car seat on a cold morning. 


When Mommy arrived at her destination, she pulled the blanket off. And SNAGGED IT on the base of the car seat. I got a panicked text message that she was afraid the blanket was ruined. Not only had a long strand of yarn pulled out from the blanket, that yarn had broken. What to do???


"Mail the blanket back to me--unwashed, untouched. Leave the damage alone." Until I could see what had happened. Thankfully, the blanket injury was near the edge. The repair isn't perfect but it won't likely be noticed by anyone who hasn't read about it here. And even then, you might have a hard time finding the spot. We KNOW Baby Girl won't notice. Or care. 

So as soon as I get that final frayed short end of yarn secured, I'll launder it. Then I'll mail it back to Baby Girl so that she can snuggle under this blanket for her naps again. 

And what if the blanket was beyond repair? It's just knitting. I would make her another one. Not such a disaster after all.


"There is a kind of beauty in imperfection" ~ Conrad Hall, cinematographer


Friday, October 24, 2014

I Needed Chocolate

Chocolate Pumpkin Muffins

I feel a little bad sharing a recipe here that I probably would never serve to you. They taste good, but because of the unique ingredients, they kind of fall apart easily. But there are times when you might need this recipe. As muffins go, these aren't going to win a prize. But they have a place in your recipe box. I promise I'm never sharing a recipe I don't like!

I still haven't been grocery shopping. (I'm going today after my doctor appointment. Maybe.) So the items in my pantry are still limited. I hunkered down yesterday trying to shake this sinus-y thing. But all day I craved chocolate. And there was none here. Then last night I remembered a recipe we used to make often. In fact, it was the very first recipe I posted on this blog. PUMPKIN SPICE MUFFINS.

So I made a chocolate version. Not bad. Not bad at all. Because there is no egg in the recipe, they have a tendency to fall apart. I found they needed to cool completely in the pan before I could get them out intact. That's why I probably wouldn't serve you one. Big Sister used to make the spice variety often and she liked to make mini muffins which hold together better. Yes, the mini-muffins are the best way to do these. But last night I wanted easy. One pan of regular size muffins was all I could manage.

We started using this recipe when Big Sister had some food sensitivities and had to cut egg whites and soy from her diet. (Thankfully, she has outgrown these sensitivities.) And that pretty much eliminated all baked goods. Except this recipe. There is also no oil used in the recipe. So if you need to cut out eggs or if you are avoiding oils/fats, this is good choice.

I still like the spice version with the streusel topping best. But these were last night good with a cup of tea. And with a cup of coffee at breakfast this morning. After all, they're chocolate! How could they be bad?

CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN MUFFINS

1 box chocolate cake mix (I used Duncan Hines Devil's Food)
1 (15-oz.) can of pumpkin
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350ยบ.
Mix the cake mix, pumpkin and water thoroughly. Stir in chocolate chips. Spoon into well-greased muffin tins. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean. Let cool in pan before removing.  (You might need to adjust your baking time if making mini-muffins.)

How easy is that?


Update: One injection and two prescriptions this morning--I should be on the mend quickly.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Impossible Supper

Impossibly Easy Barbecue Beef Pie

The prospects for supper tonight were looking dim. It was looking like a supper at home was not gonna happen. It seemed impossible. I came home from our trip with a raging sinus problem. The kind where your eyeballs hurt. All I have wanted to do is curl up under a blanket and sit still. 

Daddy-O has been good about not asking me to cook anything. We've had supper from local restaurants—both of them—already this week. And I just couldn't ask him to do that again. Since I have not been to the grocery store since we got home, my cooking options, like my energy, were limited. 


But then I remembered the Impossible pies I used to make fairly often. I did have cooked ground beef in the freezer. There were two eggs and shredded cheese in the refrigerator. Bisquick and a bottle of barbecue sauce were waiting in the pantry. And since I was out of milk, I used evaporated milk. (You should always keep a small can or two of that on hand.) 1/2 cup evaporated milk + 1/2 cup water = 1 cup milk. Works fine for cooking.


Since the only onion left in the pantry needed to be thrown out, I used a few good shakes of instant minced onion from a bottle that stays on the spice shelf. It was ready for the oven in minutes.



IMPOSSIBLY EASY BARBECUE BEEF PIE
1 lb. lean ground beef.
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup barbecue sauce
1-1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (divided)
1 cup Original Bisquick mix
1 cup milk
2 eggs
additional barbecue sauce, if desired.

Heat oven to 400°F. Grease bottom and side of 9-inch pie plate with shortening or spray with PAM.

In 10-inch skillet, cook beef, bell pepper and onion over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until beef is brown; drain. Stir in 1/3 cup barbecue sauce. Spread in pie plate. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup of the cheese.

In medium bowl, stir Bisquick mix, milk and eggs until blended. Pour over beef mixture.
Bake uncovered 25 minutes.

Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Bake about 5 minutes longer or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve with additional barbecue sauce.

According to the online recipe from Betty Crocker:
"Savory Impossibly Easy Pies can be covered and refrigerated up to 24 hours before baking. You may need to bake a bit longer than the recipe directs since you’ll be starting with a cold pie. Watch carefully for doneness."
These pies are fun to make. They taste good. And they use things you usually have on hand. You can make dessert pies, breakfast pies, meat pies and vegetable pies. Just do a Google search for Bisquick Impossible pies. The "impossible" part is the fact that you don't need to make a crust. The milk, eggs and Bisquick make a crust as it bakes. Works for me!

So what did Daddy-O think about the supper? (Other than he was happy to have one.) He declared it, "Really good." "You can make this again." I'm glad, because supper tomorrow night will be leftovers.



Monday, October 20, 2014

Christening Day

 

When families are spread across the country, a christening is a grand reason for everyone to get together. All of us. That's a rare occurrance. Baby Girl had her special day last weekend. She wore the dress I made when Little Sister was christened a few years back. And the cap? It has been in our family for generations. What a precious keepsake for us. As precious as the memories of the day.

Baby Girl was good through the entire service. You never know how that is going to go. No tears or shrieking, thankfully. The only crying we know about was from the lady right behind us who told us she cried when Mommy and Big Sister sang the beautiful christening song.


It was a quick trip for us, but we did squeeze in a trip to the Crystal Bridges museum for their current art exhibit, "State of the Art" just minutes after we arrived. It was amazing, even though we were pulled through it at a fast pace by a four-year-old who didn't understand "gazing." The art was wide-ranging in style. I was particularly interested in their fiber-related exhibits—like this tunnel of handmade afghans.


There was another installation of crocheted pieces put together into a sculpture. I love that artists see the world through different eyes than most of us and then share that vision.


There were a few granite sculptures, too. Love the detail in this sculpted sewing machine.


There was a collection of knitted birds, too.
Our race through the museum only gave me time to snap a very few photos.


The weather was cool enough last weekend that Baby Girl got to wear the cap and sweater I had sent to her a couple of weeks earlier. I love seeing these girls in things that I made just for them. (Waiting for a photo of Big Sister in her new gray cowl. ~hint hint~) Baby Girl is too little to know about "handmade" but I hope she appreciated that it was soft and it was warm.


There was a little grandmother time, too. Big Sister was there, but being the typical teen, she was busy with her own things. On Sunday we did get to hear her sing (along with Mommy) for the baby's christening. And I had an email from her yesterday telling me that she had a good audition and made it into all-region choir! Congratulations to her!


Then our couple of days passed and it was time to turn around and drive nearly 1,000 miles back home.  Bless Daddy-O who had to drive all the way there AND back in the rain!



It was so bad coming home that we stopped for the night when we weren't so very far from home. But driving in the dark, and in the rain, and in the fog was more than he felt like doing. Plus, we got to enjoy the fall colors for a bit from our hotel window the next morning.



Now we are home and unpacked. The laundry is nearly done. It's time for me to check the gown before I hand wash it and pack it away for another time.







Thursday, October 9, 2014

It's About The Yarn


The pie class last weekend in Atlanta wasn't the only thing we did on Saturday. After that, Jessica (also a knitter) took me to Eat.Sleep.Knit. in nearby Smyrna. Oh, my goodness. The yarn choices were overwhelming. There is no way photos can show how much yarn they stock. We had fun looking and wishing and, of course, buying. I had made a list ahead of time, so I did keep my new yarn acquisitions to a reasonable limit. (Pssst....you can order from them online, too.)


Yarn: Berroco Comfort ~ Turquoise
Needles: size 8

Before I let myself start with any of the luscious new yarns, I finished this baby blanket. So what if the baby is now six months old? When Baby Girl was born, I only lacked 8 more rows. And it took this long to finish it. Right in time for cold weather. Maybe my timing is just right after all. She is too little to know, but wrapping her in this blanket is like a big hug from me. We live so far apart and this is one way I can feel a little closer.


Pattern:  Sock Recipe: A Good Plain Sock (from Knitting Rules)
Yarn: Regia World Ball Colors (Italy)
Needles: Size 2

I know it isn't Halloween yet, but Christmas is showing up in the stores at an alarming rate. Which means it is time to think about starting any gift knitting. Daddy-O asked me for a pair of Christmas socks soon after I first learned to knit socks. It took me some time to find a "Christmas" yarn. Then it took me another year or so to start the sock. But he shall have Christmas socks this year!

Socks are great travel knitting. At least the leg and the foot parts are. I'm done with the heel, so this sock is ready to finish on a long car trip that starts soon. (I discovered after I started knitting that my Christmas yarn is really part of a series of world flag yarns. These are the colors of the flag of Italy.)


I came across this letter yesterday as I was cleaning out drawers. My Christmas gift last year was an almost-finished pair of mitts, along with the letter. And I understood. (She did it! She finished them. The mitts were indeed done before winter was over.) The best part of this gift—the letter and the mitts—was that my very busy granddaughter (she's in middle school) used her valuable time for me.

Bookmark this unfinished gift letter now. Just in case you need it. Remember that you really do need to finish the gift, though. <grin>

So, where are the recipes this week? I have been using things from my freezer. Dishes I cooked earlier and saved for a crazy week. This was that week.


Monday, October 6, 2014

A Day At Pie Shop


I love living in the country but a trip to the city is exciting, too. As long as I know I'm coming home when the traffic has overwhelmed me. I went to Atlanta over the weekend for a visit with Jessica. We were attending a pie making class first thing on Saturday morning. 


The temperature was crisp and cool when we arrived at Pie Shop in Buckhead. Mims, the owner and instructor, had everything set out and ready for us to begin. (I think I like cooking where someone else does all the before and after parts.)


The pie of the day was apple pie. A perfect choice for a fall day.  We each found a place at the work table, ready to get to work.


As we worked, we learned about pie-making basics. For the pie crust (understandably, she didn't give us her signature recipe,) choose a flour with a lower gluten flour, such as White Lily. Makes better crust than flours like King Arthur with a higher gluten content. Those flours are better for baking yeast breads. Her choice for a fat was unsalted butter.


We learned about rolling out the crust—flip it over each time as you rotate it. And be sure to lift the pin off the dough just before you get to the edge. If you roll all the way to the edge, that part will be too thin.


Getting the crust into the pan is simple if you fold it over a couple of times before you move it. When you place the bottom crust in the pan, don't press it in—just drop the pan onto the countertop a couple of times and let it settle in.


Then we tacked that big basket of apples. About seven or eight apples peeled and sliced was enough to fill a pie. Slice them thin.


Our apples were sliced about 1/4-inch thick and mixed with only 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch of allspice and cloves. Mims told us that she liked the fruit to shine through in the filling, not the sugar.


Tucking the top crust under the bottom crust and crimping the edges were the last step in our process. And don't forget to cut a vent! Any design you want. I went for the traditional, but others were more creative. 


When the pies went into the oven to bake, we got to sit down. She asked if we would like to try some of her pie. Of course! We all chose a different kind—pumpkin, sweet potato, honey chess, coconut cream, and bacon/tomato quiche. It would be hard to choose a favorite.


And before we knew it, the pies were done. What a souvenir to take home to Daddy-O!     I should have alerted him to buy ice cream.


How much fun it was to spend time with daughter Jessica and her friends. Who are now my friends. If you find yourself in Atlanta in the Buckhead area, stop by Pie Shop for a slice or even a whole pie. There is even an option for ordering online. Thank you, Mims, for a real Saturday treat.












Saturday, October 4, 2014

Baked With Love



For several years our church has been involved with a prison ministry. A big part of this ministry is the delivery of homemade cookies to those inmates who participate. It's one way to let them know that people care—care enough to take the time to bake them homemade cookies.

This year our church was to provide 125 dozen cookies. We've done this before. And I've always used the cookie recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag. But this year I did a Google search for Kairos cookies. Kairos is the name of the nation-wide ministry. There are many  recipes and guidelines out there. 
kairos n. [From Greek kairos ‘the suitable or appropriate time for something to occur or for something to be accomplished,’ frequently contrasted with Greek chronos ‘time in general; time as objectively measured using calendars and clocks’] A moment in time or a timeframe in which God makes it possible for something of lasting importance or significance to happen.
I found a recipe from Indiana that used shortening instead of butter. According to their site, cookies made with butter break more easily. I didn't know that. Figured I give them a try. Another plus with this recipe is that there is no waiting for the butter to soften. That always slows me down.

Daddy-O was the taste tester and said they were excellent. I baked 10 dozen. I'll pack 9 dozen for the church program and leave the last dozen—the odd shaped ones—for Daddy-O's weekend treat while I am away. I am happy with this new recipe. They do seem to be sturdy cookies. Another tip from the website said to be sure to cool them COMPLETELY before packing.

I'm thinking these would also be good to send to college students. (At least to take to them or send them back with some. I'm still not sure about shipping. No one wants broken cookies.) Or, pack them to take to a neighbor. Or, keep some in your own freezer for later. 

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES 

1 cup shortening (not butter)
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2-1/2 cups chocolate chips

Cream shortening and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Mix dry ingredients. (I stir with a whisk to blend thoroughly. Can also sift together.) Add to creamed mixture. Beat in vanilla. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop onto cookie sheets by spoonfuls. (I used a 1-1/2-inch cookie scoop.) Bake at 350 degrees for 13-14 minutes until medium brown. Remove from oven and let cool on pan for a couple of minutes. Remove to cooking rack or dish towel on counter. Cool completely.

Makes 5 dozen 2-1/2 inch cookies

Best cookie baking tip ever:  Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper. (You should find it at your grocery store.) You can bake pan after pan of cookies without washing the cookie sheet or replacing the paper between batches. Just that one sheet can be used over and over. When your baking session is done, throw the parchment paper away. Clean pan, ready to put away!