Monthly Archives: December 2012

hot chocolate

I made the most awesome hot chocolate the other day. I would have gone with regular hot chocolate out of a package, but we didn’t have any. I’d just come home from running errands and didn’t want to get right back in my car, so I dug through my kitchen pantry instead.

hot chocolate ing

That’s how I ended up adding nutmeg and cinnamon to my hot chocolate. And it was amazing!

Ingredients
3 c milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3 T honey
5 T cocoa powder

Put the milk over medium heat (you want it simmering, but not boiling) add the honey, cinnamon and nutmeg and let the flavors steep together*.

Add the cocoa powder and whisk everything together until it’s smooth. Pour the cocoa gently, some of the spices may have settled to the bottom and these can be left behind. This is fine because you steeped the flavor into the milk earlier.

hot chocolate

*Yeah, I didn’t sit around and let things steep. I went upstairs to put laundry away and forgot about the cocoa. Same difference.

felted, fulled

I hope that you and yours had a very merry Christmas, time spent with family, or whatever you choose to celebrate this time of year. I certainly did as my sister managed to give us all a new baby for Christmas. Oddly she won’t let any of us keep him though…

Knitted gifts were thin on the ground at my house. There was a hat with kitty ears for the new baby (my sister is a crazy cat lady, it seemed appropriate) and my mom got her traditional hand knit socks. Even Neil didn’t get a hand knitted gift, I didn’t plan one as I didn’t know if I’d have time to finish it.

So when I found myself with a few days of down time between designs I took a moment to fix a hole in my wardrobe. My old slippers had completely worn through.

needle felting

These are the classic felted clogs from fiber trends. I knitted them up in just a few hours and felted them down in almost the same time.

felted bird slippers

Seriously, I think it took HOURS to felt them. Might’ve been my own fault though. I didn’t have size 13 dpns on hand so I used size 11s. My gauge was off, the fabric was a bit more dense than it should have been. I think that’d make them take longer to felt, right? Well, technically, when you’re doing this with fabric it’s fulling, not felting.

felted nuthatch

Felting (using raw fiber) is what I did to make the little bird decorations! My left slipper has an owl on it, the right slipper has a nuthatch (that’s why he’s upside down)

felted owl

I think the owl’s head might be a bit small, I was looking at him the other day and I decided owls really don’t have shoulders. Not sure if I’ll be brave enough to try and fix him. I don’t want to ruin anything!

Sleep like a knitter

Alternate title: how to sleep when it’s 40F in your bedroom*

1) Legs: PJ pants will not be enough. Consider some long underwear as well.

2) Feet: don’t leave your poor toes to fend for themselves between the cold sheets. Try some bed socks, or some nice cashmere handknit socks.

3) A bulky hat. No need for cold ears whenever you stick your head out from under the covers to breath.

4) Mittens, or at least fingerless mitts. Keeping your wrists warm will make your whole self feel warmer. And gloves are silly, do you need dexterity while asleep?

5) A bed jacket or sweater of some kind. I really love sleeping in wool, it’s so warm and the breathable. Choose something unconstricting and without buttons.

Corollaries
-Don’t sleep in a scarf. Wrapping things around your neck and going to bed is a bad idea.
-Flannel sheets are lovely but they take longer to warm up first!
-Hot water bottle. Get one. Store it next to your bed jacket and sleep socks. Embrace your inner old fogey.

*We went to visit family for Christmas and left the living room thermostat set to 50F. Then Vermont proceeded to have its coldest 3 days of the season (so far.) There are no baseboard heaters on the second floor.

Welcome Yule!

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!

-The Shortest Day, Susan Cooper

longest night

Maine fish chowder

Neil doesn’t have a lot of family traditions around Christmas time. But one that we both love is the fish chowder his family eats at holiday get togethers.* I was in the kitchen when his mom made this chowder just once, about five years ago. But with a few memories and the help of the internet I’ve cobbled together a pretty fair imitation!

chowder ingredients

Ingredients
1/2lb each cod and scallops, or pick your favorite 2-3 seafoods
1/2 of a large onion
3 yellow potatoes
3T butter
2 C milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 C frozen sweet corn
1/2tsp thyme, a bay leaf, salt, pepper, and other spices to taste

The first thing you notice is OMG the ingredients from the grocery store! What can I say, we don’t have a lot of fresh off the boat seafood out here. These are the things I remember of the chowder: Neil’s mom cooked the fish in the bottom of the pan first. She simmered the potatoes in milk, not stock. And the chowder was thickened with evaporated milk.**

So in an attempt to hold to tradition I’m not straying far from the basics and so this fish chowder really lets the seafood shine through.

I used 1/2lb each of scallops and cod. I seem to remember there were two types of fish and scallops, but for just 2 people this is what I settled on. I melted butter in the bottom of the pan, added 1/2 a large onion and let it cook until just translucent. Then I added the seafood.

I cooked this over medium high heat with the cover on until the cod was starting to fall apart. While they cooked I peeled and chopped 3 potatoes. There should be plenty of tasty juices in the bottom of the pan by now and I just threw the potatoes in there and added about 2 cups of milk.

This is the part I thought was sketchiest. I don’t think it’s a good idea to boil milk, and I remember thinking that same thing at the time. But she kept the temperature around medium so the chowder was just gently simmering and everything seems to work out! Oh, along with the potatoes I added thyme, salt, and lots of ground black pepper. I don’t think his mom used a bay leaf, but I certainly did. I managed (just barely) to resist the urge to add more herbs and spices.

chowder and bread

Once the potatoes are just tender enough to pierce with a fork (about 25 minutes for me) add frozen sweet corn (~1 cup) a can of evaporated milk (12 oz) and check the seasonings. This is the point where you can turn the chowder down to low and keep it warm until the flavors have melded and all the guests have arrived.

Serve this soup with a nice white bread. I’ve made a loaf using half and half regular flour and the white whole wheat I was recommending last week.

chowder white bread

*this always confuses me. Neil hates seafood, but he loves fish chowder, it’s the one exception…
**Actually I just remember milk from a can, but I’m assuming it was evaporated and not sweetened condensed – ’cause that would be gross.

Winter trees

I’m practicing a decidedly old fashioned Christmas this year. Along with fruitcake and a coffee bread with a recipe that starts with “scald the milk” we did not get our tree until this week. I certainly won’t be taking it down on the 26th either. I’ll probably leave it up until January 6th (that’s the 12th day of Christmas, after all)

NVLC

We get our tree every year from Northern Vermont Llama Co. – that’s right there are llamas in this Christmas tradition of mine.

llamas

Usually we go out into the trees and pick one that’s so big the two of us struggle to drag it back up the hill. This year the owners told us they were giving the trees a year off from pick-your-own. They had trees already picked for us, or we could still pick our own if we wanted one over 10 feet.

tall trees

Oh no, we thought – that’d be huge. So we selected a nice 8 foot tree. The first sign that something was amiss occurred when Neil picked our tree up with one hand – one handed and his back has been acting up recently.

Then when we got it home setting it in the stand was easy, the lights that barely covered the last two trees were plenty, I have extra ornaments I didn’t hang…

tree 2012

It is a beautiful tree, and it does fill out the corner of our living room so prettily. But let’s compare, here is our tree from 2010.

decoratedtree

Apparently we usually buy 10 or even 12 foot trees – and we never knew it! Oh yeah, and I picked up a needle felting kit from my Christmas tree farm, as you do…

dona nobis pacem

Between the crazy run-up to the holidays and the craziness in the world right now I think we could all use a little more peace.

dona nobis pacem

Find some time to sit down (knit) and enjoy the company of loved ones. That is the point, after all.

advent wreath

Reckoning

I’m SO CLOSE to finished with the second sleeve. There’s just one little problem

sleeve cap reckoning.jpg

I don’t think I have enough yarn here. I still have 1 inch of sleeve plus an entire sleeve cap. I knew this was coming. When I finished the first sleeve it weighed in at 82 grams, and the remaining yarn only weighed 78g. That’s just not a good sign.

Along with the scant remains of the skein pictured above you’ll notice I have the leftover bit of the skein I used for the back of the sweater, and the little bit of swatch that I worked. And that’s it. This yarn came straight from the dyer (periwinkle sheep, of course! The bad flash photo does no justice to her gorgeous colors) and I have the entire dye lot right here.

But I do have an ace up my sleeve! This sweater has a shawl collar. I knit the collar first, before I’d done all the math for the body. So the collar is 62 inches long, and it only needs to be 60 inches.

No matter what I’m going to be seaming this sweater with some other yarn…

apple sausage soup and cheesy bread

I was feeling stumped for soup yesterday, so I wandered around the grocery store looking for possible soup ingredients. For a meal without a plan this one came together excellently well! It’s cheesy and herby and savory and delicious. That’s exactly what soup and bread night should be.

sausage apple soup

I used apple sausage in my soup but I suspect regular sausage would be just fine. Likewise I used squash, but I suspect carrots or sweet potatoes would be good too. Finally, when you’re selecting apples pick a variety that will hold its shape pretty well once cooked. Brown the sausage with some onion and garlic in butter. Toss in some flour to soak up the extra fat, push it all around and add the chicken broth. Toss in the diced squash and whatever spices you like (I used sage, thyme, and fines herbs from penzeys.) When the squash is cooked add cheese tortellini and peeled, diced apple. Cook ’till the pasta is done, and serve!

This cheesy bread is the real winner though. It is light, fluffy, and has THREE kinds of cheese! How could you go wrong?

Ingredients
1.5 C flour (I used 1C all purpose and 1/2C of white whole wheat from King Arthur’s. This flour has amazing flavor, and isn’t heavy like regular whole wheat*)
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 t baking soda

1/2 C grated cheddar cheese
1/4 C chopped green onion (or scallions)
1 T fines herbs (chervil, parsley, chives, and tarragon)

1 egg
1/2 C cream cheese or marscapone
1 C milk
3 T butter, melted
1 T grated parmesan

cheesy bread

Preheat the oven to 350F and grease a 9×9 baking dish.
Whisk together all those dry ingredients in the first section.
Next toss in the cheese, onions, and herbs so they’re coated with the flour mix.
Finally whisk the soft cheese and butter, mix in the egg and milk. Fold this into the dry ingredients and pour it into the pan. Sprinkle the parmesan on top and pop it into the oven for 20-25 minutes (until the toothpick comes out clean, you know the drill)

sausage apple soup and cheesy bread

*two product placements in a single post! Craziness. I feel like I should say neither of these companies even know I exist, I link them here because I like them.

they’re still here

This time of year I tend to skimp on the chicken content. There’s just not much to talk about. But don’t worry, they’re still here.

sheltered ladies

They’ve just taken shelter in a sunny, protected spot to keep out of the wind. Well, except for Thomas. He’s standing guard just the way a good rooster ought to. I’m afraid he’s getting old for a meat bird, but he’s still the prettiest rooster around.

thomas the friendly rooster

The new birds are getting pretty big. Well, the barred rocks are. The squirrely little white birds are still little and white. And squirrely, someday maybe they’ll learn I’m the source of food; but not yet.

new birds

Out of the 6 straight run birds I think we’ve got two roosters. Can you figure out which ones I suspect? If I’m right the roos should start crowing (and the ladies start laying) sometime in the next month. Then at last we’ll be able to stop buying eggs…