Saturday, June 28, 2008

A bit of this 'n that

So something is eating my beans! I have a few more beans coming up from the second sowing that I did but they first set of true leaves are either missing or seriously stunted on the beans. I've read that slugs can do a number on them so that might be the case but I haven't seen any other signs of slugs and I have my copper tape up but perhaps they've breached my defenses already. On a positive note everything from the second sowing is up except my potatoes! Even the cilantro which for some odd reason takes longer to germinate than my carrots do. Hmmmm.

I have another almost finished knitted project. They are super cute slippers for my little H (15 months old now). They are basically socks without a bottom of the foot that are sewn to a fleece lined suede bottom. I used some yarn I had leftover from a poncho I made. Chunky weight so went very fast. The yarn is self striping with large stripes so the slippers don't exactly match. But I had some reservations about the slippers and as a result didn't want to a) buy a whole ball of new yarn when I had a plenty big stash that needed paring down and b) didn't want to waste my stash by going through the self striping yarn to find the right starting color for the second slipper and just started where I left off. The reservations I had about the slippers were that they were going to be too small or rather too small very shortly (partly why I tried to hurry up and knit them) and also that H wouldn't wear them. I've tried the one slipper on a couple of times now and each time he pops it off quickly. I still need to sew the second one on but what with my reservations and my new temptation (see below) I'm in danger of not finishing it. Ack! Must stay on target...

Slippers Nearly Done

What is really got me going right now is that I've cast on my first sweater! It's for H and is a snap tape cardigan by Mac & Me. Its in an organic cotton that's super soft. My previous encounters with cotton left me longing for my nice resilient wool, but I couldn't imagine making a toddler a wool sweater when I have to do the laundry. Of course, now that I've started I can't imagine not washing the sweater by hand no matter what its made out of, but at least with cotton I feel like I can keep a few of my options open. Its going smoothly so far and the advice I've heard about doing sweaters for the first time (besides test gauge swatch - check) is that you just break it down into pieces. So I've done the ribbed waist portion of the back and have moved on to the stockinette portion of the back before I need to start doing some shaping for the arms. And really that's going to be the most monotonous part, I believe. In other words the largest chunk of stockinette without anything special to do. It's so much fun I wanna wrap up this blogging nonsense so I can get back to it.

Mac & Me Snap Tape Cardigan

Finally, I've got another exciting diversion. I purchased a baking book that I'm so in love with at the moment. King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking. Its a basic how to make everything book - from breakfast stuff (oatmeal, granola, pancakes) to yeast breads, sourdough, cakes, quick breads, flat breads, cookies and pies. This is an area where I feel like I have a lot to learn about the chemistry of cooking and this book seems to deliver all that but all of the recipes include whole grains from spelt and barley to oat and wheat. But they claim to try to not sacrifice taste. So not every recipe includes 100% whole grains if it messes with the functioning or taste of the food. Gonna be making a shopping list when I head to the grocery store to get me some fancy flours!

Make Me Some of these Mama!
However, I've only made one recipe so far and considering I've only had the book for a little over 24 hours that is actually saying something about how excited I am about it. Its a Banana Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar. I know. A little deja vu. Results: yummy will probably make again. Called for spelt but I only had whole wheat so used that. Called for letting it rest over night but we're in a hurry around here so ate it all crumbly from the pan. I was aware that it was whole wheat but not distracted by it. So success in my book. Yummy!
Banana Chocolate Chip Bars

Finally, if you follow the current events in the side bar, I mentioned that Tortilla Soup was on my radar. We tried it. H is making a mess of it here. Not bad, but honestly, I think I'm not a soup person because I got more excited about the idea of it than my execution of it.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I made my Banana Chip Chocolate Chip Cookies from 101 Cookbooks Blog. Very tasty. There were three things that set it apart from your typical Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe. One was whole wheat pastry flour. Heidi says you can use regular all-purpose flour if you don't have whole wheat pastry. Well, I had white pastry and all-purpose whole wheat. So I wasn't sure which to use and ended up using the white pastry. I once looked up what the difference was between all-pupose, pastry and bread flour but have since forgotten. The result of using the white pastry - well I couldn't really tell a difference from a regular chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Chocolate & Banana Chip Cookies

It also called for (toasted) wheat germ. I wasn't sure if that meant you should buy pre-toasted wheat germ (like toasted sesame oil) or toast your own wheat germ. I assumed the later and promptly burned the heck out of mine. Second try I took it out of toaster oven early. I loved the chewiness that it added to the cookies. So much that I want to try them again with whole wheat flour as well. I like whole wheat in general but typically don't LOVE whole wheat. But the wheat germ, mmm-mmm. So wanna go all the way for the chewiness factor.

Finally, it called for banana chips coarsely chopped. This is what was supposed to make the cookies. It also called for nuts, which I don't care for in my cookies so increased the banana chips. I'm not sure what I was expecting but I think its good but not stellar. I sideways step in the evolution of the chocolate chip cookie - not better or worse just different. I will probably make them again. How's that?

Monday, June 23, 2008

How does my garden grow?

Things are coming along nicely, albeit more slowly than I anticipated. I had given up on my beans and potatoes after 3 weeks, when lo and behold two of the four potatoes I planted came up and 1 (maybe 2 - one seems to be missing its cotyledons and remains to be seen if it has enough oomph to send out real leaves) bean plants came up. I'm trying to figure out why it took so long for everything to germinate. Everything except my carrots which came up on day 15 or so. I was expecting another week before I saw signs of those veggies. I did have a gopher and still do have a gopher so I'm working on a solution for that. So the gopher *might* explain why half of the potatoes didn't come up. But why no beans? Why was everything so late? Why are my radish roots still the size of spaghetti on day 30 (with 28 days to maturity)? I think some of it may be because when this happened:


Yes, the tree workers used my vegetable garden as a staging area for their power tools (can you see the little tiny row of radishes emerging in the upper right hand corner of the bed!). And then I left the hose on for 6 hours. When I started sowing my second batch of seeds (yes, 3 weeks has passed!) the ground was very compacted. But the second sowing of seeds has come up much quicker than the first. Its been 9 days so far and everything except the cilantro and beans and potatoes (I replaced the two missing potatoes) are up. In other words radishes, onions, mesclun and two kinds of lettuce.Here's some photos I took 9 days ago when I sowed my second batch. Everything is looking even bigger today!



Lone Green Bean
'Blue Lake' Green Bean

Radishes 'n carrots
'White Icicle' Radish with 'Scarlet Nantes' Carrots underneath

Tom Thumb lettuce
Tom Thumb Butterhead

Cilantro seedlings

Mesclun Mix
Mesclun Mix

new sowing
Raised "Spring" Bed After Second Sowing

I've decided to go all the way with my vegetable garden and do 4 beds for the major planting seasons in SF and then some spaces for perennial herbs. My parents came to town and helped me whip everything into shape. But I did learn a few things since laying the first two beds. First up the gopher issue. I was just out in the garden this evening and three of my chive plants have disappeared down some holes. Grrr. Fortunately I have a few more plants that I heeled in thinking 5 plants would be more than enough but not wanting to compost the donations my mother gave me. There was also signs of burrowing in the actual raised vegetable bed with a couple of missing onions. I'm not terribly worried right now, because there's not a lot I can do. However, for the remaining three beds I plan to line them with hardware cloth. This is a bit tricky because there are lots of roots around so I can't excavate as much as I'd like and its not something I want to try to work on with my little boy around (you know wire cutters & lots of exposed metal edges). The other issue is that I would like to get my irrigation system installed before I fill the beds up. I've decided that a sprinkler head on a hose isn't going to cut it. Although my timer is now working properly. So that's the major item on my agenda right now - getting my irrigation system set up and then hardware cloth installed.

Soggy circle
4 Raised Beds (plus 1 slated for Sandbox and new location). Check out the herbs in the little sidecar bed.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cables and Socks

Photo by Mr. Thystle with Thystle's Camera. Model = Thystle

I've had socks on my knitting needles since February. I signed up for a sock class way back then with the goal of knitting a pair for my sister's birthday in March (along with this apron). I got the first sock done probably in late April/early May and then immediately cast on the second one since I've heard of the second sock curse and slowly bit-by-bit my made way through the sock. I got waylaid by gaming for a bit but then a friend talked me into doing a project with her so we went to the yarn store to shop. She then decided she had too much on her plate (smart woman that she is) and I decided that I really needed my plate to spill over onto the floor so added two new projects to my queue. But the store visit was what motivated me to get these socks done, since apparently a birthday deadline isn't enough. I'm very happy with my first pair of socks. I used two circulars. Its a self striping superwash wool blend which I think makes a lot of sense for socks, but isn't exactly candy for the hands. I'll probably use two circulars again even though I'm not crazy about pulling the needles through and they have an annoying habit of the stitches getting stuck at the joints. However, with double-pointeds I tend to drop stitches way too frequently.

Once I finished that I had to fly through the next item I had in my queue to get to the the new projects I was inspired to start from our visit to the yarn shop. I had purchased the yummy alpaca/wool yarn during my sock class with the intention of making a hat for myself as well as learn how to do cables. Easy-peasy! Its probably my fastest hat to date (6 hours? 8 hours?) and I've been wearing it around the house constantly in the last 48 hours. Its way too cold in San Francisco right now. Cables are a cinch. I like how they decrease in size for this pattern, making them look like unicorns horns. I also like doing a hat with chunky yarn.

Next up, slippers and a sweater for my little boy.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Tree Out

Newly Barren

So we cut down a very big Deodar Cedar in our back yard a week ago. It was a tough call on my part and I still feel a bit mixed about the whole thing. On one hand, I've been working hard to put a vegetable garden in (read why here). And one of the things that vegetables really need is sunshine. Well the cedar really wasn't helping in that department. It also wasn't contributing to privacy due to its placement in the middle of the yard with a high canopy. Nor was it really doing a lot in the defining space category, although it was pulling its weight in "contributing to the overhead plane". It was also ugly, by my standards, having been mutilated by overzealous pruning multiple times. It should've had a central leader and it had about 20 of them along with lots of long stumps and it really shouldn't have been limbed up that much (they don't put out any new growth once they've been limbed up like that). But taking it out didn't seem like a very environmentally friendly thing to do, and let's face it, removing a 30 foot tree isn't cheap. But I think the hardest thing of all was just ending 30 some years of growth. It takes a while to make a tree that big and despite the ugly butchering job it had a certain majesty. But its gone and I have loads of sunshine for my seedlings now and the back bedrooms now get oddly hot in the late afternoon (oops, didn't think about that).


Lumber Jack

Latest Cooking

3 ingredients

My friend told me about this delicious easy dessert and as soon as I heard the ingredients, I knew I had to try it. It's super easy. Three ingredients. Coconut butter melted in double boiler and add agave nectar and fresh lime juice to taste. Poor into greased/parchmented pan to cool at room temperature then store in fridge. If you send it straight to the fridge it will separate. I got the coconut butter in the bulk food section of my local health food store. I used a pound (@ $10/lb = ka-ching!) of coconut butter, about a cup of agave nectar and about 4 limes. It fit into an 8x8 pan nicely. It is super rich (little fudge size pieces go along way) with the consistency of cheese cake. My mind is whirling with all sorts of variations to try with it. I thought of semi-sweet chocolate for a fudgey version. And the coconut makes me think of pureed bananas. My husband suggested berries blended in then swirled for marbled effect. My friend was thinking of the cocoa nibs. So I'm definitely going to try again with a few different ideas. Its rich enough that I can probably get several versions out of the next batch.

Finished Cocolimeagavedessert

I've also been doing some somewhat unusual by my standards cooking. I like to cook entrees and desserts. And if you've been following the blog, you'll see I've been doing more in the baking department. But the latest stuff falls into "miscellaneous". I wanted to try a few things with whey. So first I had to make it. Easy enough, a bunch of yogurt poured into a linen cloth and then left to drain. Stuff that comes out of the bottom is whey, the stuff that stays in cloth is cream cheese. I used goat milk yogurt, because that's what I had on hand. So its seems that the cream cheese has a bit of tang like chevre. You can also use soured raw milk. But it was super smooth and creamy. Better than the store bought stuff, but I'm a bit biased. I don't know how often I'll be making it in the future; I don't really know how much whey I'll be going through, so I might just buy cream cheese in the future if I need it. But it was definitely easy and fun for the novelty of it all.

With the whey I made mayonnaise and sauerkraut. Mayonnaise is egg yolk, an egg, mustard, salt, whey and alot of oil. I used a custom blend of olive oil (monounsaturated fat), sesame oil (polyunsaturated fat) and coconut oil (saturated fat) in equal amounts. The mayonnaise again was interesting for the novelty of it and tastes good. Distinctive and rich like aioli. Although wee too mustardy for me. However, to make it work, you need to add the oil (3/4 cup) drop by drop into the food processor. So its running forever. And in the process, freaks out the dog and the baby. So I doubt I'll be making it again.

Finally, I wanted to try some lacto-fermented food so I made some sauerkraut. This falls into the very easy to make category. Head of cabbage thinly cut. A bit of whey. Some caraway seeds. A tablespoon of sea salt. Then meat tenderizer it to death to help release the juices. Stuff it into a mason jar with liquid covering all the cabbage and lid on tightly. Leave on the counter top for 3 days then into the fridge until you are ready to enjoy it. I tried a bite and its definitely sauerkraut. There is something fun about leaving food out on the counter when you've been conditioned to put everything in the fridge to keep it from spoiling. It makes bubbles so you know its doing its thing. While it was really easy to make, I realize I'm not a huge sauerkraut fan. Perhaps trying different seasonings? I recall having it at a German restaurant and the cabbage almost melted in your mouth. Mine had the tart taste but was much more like coleslaw in the crunch department. Perhaps with time it gets softer? Hrmm, I haven't really had a chance to research it to much, so I'm far from an expert on it.

Left to right: Mayonnaise, sauerkraut, cream cheese

Funky cooking