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Afternoon Coat

Here’s the pattern for the Afternoon Coat cardigan I made a few years ago. The photocopy has seen better days, but it is still legible.

Sometimes I think the color work looks like animal skulls.

Sometimes I think the color work looks like animal skulls.

 

This was one of the first projects I actually finished and liked enough to wear. Were I to do it again, I’d probably pick other colors to match more in my closet, but the two purples are lovely to look at. I used Cascade Heritage for this, but I’ve been using Valley Yarns Huntington a lot lately, and I think that is a good yarn choice as well.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2015 in knitting

 

Festive Red Chard Risotto

I don’t remember exactly when this dish became a part of our holiday menu, but I think it was when I was in middle school. The juice of the red chard stains the rice a lovely magenta and the green of the leaves heighten the festive appeal. You can easily make a non-wine and/or vegan version by omitting the white wine and cheese. Since both do add some flavor, be prepare to add some extra lemon juice and salt to compensate.

Red Chard Risotto

+Cheese version

 Red Chard Risotto

1 medium onion, diced
2-3 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil
1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes or to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper or to taste
2 cups arborio rice (this is for festive amount of risotto. Make less for a regular meal)
1-2 cartons of your preferred broth (I have used just water before and it works okay. Just add more spices)
2 bunches red or rainbow chard, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
Juice of 2 lemons
~1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
salt to taste

Heat the oil in a pot or large sauté pan. At the same time, add the broth to a small pot and bring to a gentle almost-simmer.

Here's how I run my risotto. Broth heating in back, risotto cooking in front.

Here’s how I run my risotto. Broth heating in back, risotto cooking in front.

Sauté the onions, pepper flakes and black pepper until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add the rice and stir well to coat the rice in the oil. Let the rice toast a bit so that the kernels start to become translucent. Turn the heat to medium.

Let the arborio rice toast a but before you begin to add the broth.

Let the arborio rice toast a but before you begin to add the broth.

Now pour a ladle or two of broth into the rice mixture and stir! Stir until the liquid is nearly all absorbed. You don’t want things getting so dry that it starts to burn, but there should be no broth trails when you run the spoon through the mixture.

Now is the time to add more broth.

Now is the time to add more broth.

Keep doing this broth-stir routine until the rice starts to look like almost-cooked rice, at which point do a taste test. You’ll know it’s time to add the wine and chard when the rice is mostly cooked through except for a little core of hardness. The rice is going to continue to cook while the chard is wilting, so you don’t want it to be too done at this point or you will get something more like chard porridge. You also don’t want it to be too al dente at this stage, or the poor chard will get overcooked while waiting for the rice to cook through.

Chard!

If at all possible, get all ruby chard. This year was a rainbow blend, and while it tastes the same, the color of the rice isn’t as vibrant.

Once the rice is nearly done, add the white wine (or just more broth) and the chard. Two bunches of chard is a lot to cram into a pot already full of rice, so you might want to pre-wilt some of it in the microwave or another pot. Just be sure not to lose any of the chard juice! Stir the chard in as best you can, then cover the pot. Check every five minutes to test for doneness or to add more broth if the rice is getting too dry.

When the chard is cooked to your liking, the rice should be done as well. If not, add broth as before until the rice is cooked. Now add the lemon juice and stir a final time.

Turn off the heat before adding the final spices and/or cheese.

Turn off the heat before adding the final spices and/or cheese.

Turn off the heat! If this is a vegan risotto, taste and add salt as needed. If you are going full-cheese, sprinkle about a 1/4 cup of the cheese and mix in. Is it cheesy enough? Maybe add more cheese. Continue until the cheese level is acceptable. You could use vegan cheese here if you want, but I’ve not found any that have the right texture, so when going vegan I prefer to just leave the cheese out altogether.

Vegan Red Chard Risotto

The vegan version looks more festive because the colors aren’t dulled by cheese.

Feast! We like to eat this accompanied by Cauliflower and Caper Sauce.

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2014 in cooking, food

 

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Mom’s Breakfast Potaotes

My mom has been making these breakfast potatoes on special occasions for as long as I can remember. Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays…they just don’t feel right without a big bowl of breakfast potatoes to munch on.

The type of potato you use for this recipe really does matter. You need the starchy russet potatoes that come in big bags at the super market. They are a sturdy potato that hold their shape after all the cooking. More artesianal potatoes are just not up to the job of this particular dish. Also, I’m firmly in the Parmesan camp when if comes to the cheese. The shredded stuff from Trader Joe’s is my personal favorite for this and risottos.

Mom's breakfast potatoes

The carrots mixed in indicate that this is the vegan batch.

And now in her own words, my mom’s breakfast potatoes!

Here’s the recipe for my breakfast potatoes, at long last. I call them breakfast potatoes, because I get up early to make them on holiday mornings. But we eat them all day long (I usually make a double batch).

BREAKFAST POTATOES

2 large greased cookie sheets
10 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed, cubed
1 Cup flour
1/4 C (or to taste), dried onion flakes
1 T granulated garlic
1/2 Tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 T ground cumin
2-3 Cups shredded parmesan or formaggio quatro cheese
1/4 pound butter, melted
Soy sauce (don’t add until half way through the baking)
Mix the dry ingredients and cheese in a big bowl, add the cubed potatoes, and mix. You don’t need salt, the cheese and soy sauce add enough saltiness.Drizzle half of the melted butter over the mixture, and stir well, being sure to get the dry stuff that falls to the bottom of the bowl.

Grease the cookie sheets with the other half of the melted butter. Divide the potato mixture between the cookie sheets, spread the potato chunks out, trying to have only one layer of potato.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, drizzle soy sauce over the potatoes, and stir and turn the potatoes over. Return to oven for 15 more minutes, or until dark golden brown. You might want to stir them one more time, to make sure all the sides get crispy.
The potatoes are done when they test soft with a knife or fork. Fantastic piping hot, but also good at room temperature, or even cold.
We eat them with ketchup, steak sauce, or whatever sauce you usually use with potatoes.
VEGAN VERSION
Substitute olive oil or margarine for the butter.
Use vegan cheese shreds instead of parmesan.

Mom's Breakfast Potatoes

I actually forgot to take a picture of the non-vegan version. It looks like this, but with cheese chrunchies.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2014 in cooking, food

 

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Lentil Broth

While you can eat this broth as is, I think of it more as a base to which I add whatever veggies I have on hand, beans and/or grains and possibly a few additional spices. It’s perfect for a cold day, and the lentils enrich the broth and make it surprisingly hearty even with out add-ins.

red lentil broth with potatoes, cabbage and barley

Red lentil broth with potatoes, cabbage and barley

Lentil Broth

1 yellow onion, diced
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup chopped celery (aim for roughly an equal amount of onions, carrots, and celery)
2 tablespoons oil([I use a mix of grapeseed and olive)
salt and pepper to taste
2-4 chilis japones or other small red dried chilis (optional)
1/2 cup small red lentils of peeled mung beans (small lentils are key! You can make this with larger lentils or split peas, it will just take much longer to cook)
1 12-oz can of tomato sauce or puree

1. In a soup pan, heat the oil and saute the onion, carrot and celery. When the onion starts to get translucent, add the pepper and chili. Continue to cook until the onion is soft but not caramelized. Add the lentils and salt and stir to coat.

2. Add the tomato sauce and 5-6 cups of water. Bring to a simmer and let cook until the lentils dissolve into the broth, about 45 minutes to an hour. Season with more salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crusty bread on a cold winter night.

To fancy up the broth into a full blown soup, add some spices at the end of step 1 (when you add the lentils). Consider using curry powder, ras el hanout, basil, oregano or any other herbs or spices that you like. Then add some vegetables and/or canned beans in step 2 when you add the liquid. Consider using potatoes, cabbage, brocoli, green beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, zucchini, hominy, barley or other vegetables and grains that you like.

You can also stir in chopped cilantro at the end once you turn off the heat. This is especially nice with the mung beans and curry powder flavors.

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2013 in cooking, food

 

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Peach-Mango Butter

My sister and I like to ride to the Farmer’s Market on Sunday, but we also like to sleep in. So sometimes we get to the market as the stalls are packing up. One the one hand, sometimes a booth we wanted to check out has already taken off. On the other hand, many of the booths still left offer end-of-day specials.

Last weekend we got a free bag of discard peaches (5 total). They weren’t so much overripe as horribly bruised. I submerged them in a pot of boiling water for about 15 second to make the skin easy to peel off, carefully cut away all the icky bits, and blended the chunks with two mangos that were starting to get dubious. I pored the puree in a large pot, added 1/2 cup sugar and the zest and juice of two small lemons.Then I cooked on medium high for about an hour and 45 minutes, until the consistency was right. I quickly scalded a mason jar in some boiling water and poured in my peach-mango butter. Then I let it cool before putting it in the fridge. Scalding the jar is a good habit, but since I didn’t heat process it after filling the jar I’m not going to risk keeping it outside the fridge.

Peach-Mango Butter

Five peaches (minus the gross bits) and two small mangos cooked down to just fill a 16oz jar with a bit left over for sampling. In retrospect, I could have used less sugar since even though the peaches weren’t very sweet the mangos certainly were. The lemon zest was a last minute addition. I was planning to just use the juice, but the lemons were fresh from a friends tree and smelled so good… I think the zest really makes this butter. It’s reminiscent of lemon curd, and helps cut the sweetness.

Peach-Mango Butter

Still-warm preserves on fresh bread.

That night we ate it hot on chocolate sourdough bread from the Farmer’s Market. The next night I brought it and my latest version of vegan scones to Downton Abbey night. Everything was a hit, and no one guessed the scones were vegan. I’m still in the experimental stage with them, but I should have a recipe to share soon.

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in cooking, food

 

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Spicy Stir Fried Lotus Root

Before I started cooking with lotus root, it intimidated me. I assumed it would be a huge pain to prep, and that it would take forever to cook. Not so! It’s about as difficult to prep as a potato, but if you want to ease your way into working with lotus root, many Asian supermarkets sell vacuum sealed bags of pre-cut lotus root in water. And it doesn’t taste much different than fresh lotus root. Maybe a little less crunchy.

I make this dish to go along with stir fried vegetables and awesome tofu. It tastes even better the next day.

Spicy Lotus Root

So pretty!

Spicy Lotus Root

2-3 lotus roots
1 tablespoon chili oil (substitute light sesame oil if you don’t like spicy food)
1/2 tablespoon minced ginger (if you like garlic, add the same amount of that)
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce

If you are using fresh roots, give them a quick wash.  Lotus root grows in the mud, so there is often a bit of dirt residue. Cut off the tough joint between the bulbs, then use a vegetable peeler to peel the bulbs. Slice the bulbs into 1/8″ sections. Lotus root oxidizes like apples, so if you aren’t going to cook them immediately, place them in a bowl with a little vinegar or lemon juice.

fresh lotus root

Fresh lotus root. They look unappetizing, but they are actually lovely.

Heat a wok or sauté pan on high and add the oil and ginger. When the ginger starts to brown, add the lotus root slices and soy sauce. Stir to coat. Cover and cook for about 10-15 minutes or until the slices are as tender as you like, stirring every 5 minutes. I like my lotus root a bit crispy, but they are also good well cooked.

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2013 in cooking, food

 

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Vegan Bread Pudding

This is a super easy dessert or brunch item, and a good way to use up bread that’s getting a little sad. But it’s so good you might find yourself using fresh bread!

Bread pudding and peach

Did I forget to take a picture of the baked pudding? Yes. Did my sister Instagram it? Yes.

Bread Pudding

About 4 cups stale bread, cubed (2 sandwich rolls)
1 can coconut milk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
1/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)
2 small apples, cubed (optional)
(The final three ingredients are optional, but I highly recommend using at least one of them to enhance the texture and flavor. You could also try dired cherries, dried blueberries, dried cranberries, dried apricots, soaking any of the dried fruits in booze such as rum, other nuts like walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, chocolate chips, adding cocoa powder to the milk mixture, add ground cloves, ginger, cardamom, allspice, vanilla, almond extract etc!)

Preheat the oven to 350°.
In a large bowl, mix together the bread cubes, raisins, nuts, and apples. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the coconut milk, sugars, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour over bread mixture and make sure all the bread gets coated/wet.

Oil your baking container. You can use a square cake pan, 2 small loaf pans, or even muffin tins. Add pudding to your container and bake.

Cake pan=about 60 minutes.
2 loaf pans=about 50 minutes
Muffin tins=about 40 minutes [depends on how moist the pudding is]

Unbaked bread pudding

Ready for the oven!

Your pudding is done if an inserted knife comes out pretty clean, with not too much pudding gunk on it.

Goes well with fresh fruit or ice cream if you want to make it fancy, but it’s great on its own.

Tastes best served warm. If like me you have no microwave, you can revitalize your leftover bread pudding by heating it in a frying pan with a little milk to moisten it. How about bread pudding French toast?

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2013 in cooking, food

 

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