I was trying to duplicate the house salad at J. Liu (minus the bacon) and didn’t like the store-bought dressings I found at all. J. Liu calls theirs “sweet and sour vinaigrette,” and none of the varieties I’ve tried from the store can match it. So I was experimenting, and since I had opened a can of coconut milk for something else, thought I’d try that. Turns out it’s YUM! So here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil (I ran out and used some canola, too)
  • 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar (maybe less would do–it’s pretty strong)
  • 1/2 cup of coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce (Kikkoman or other real soy–not la Choy)

Shake all ingredients in a bottle or jar with a good lid. It seems to emulsify pretty well and not separate like oil and vinegar. I think that’s a balsamic thing. Ah, no, Google reveals that it’s the honey. (Mustard also works.) Another interesting thing is that it’s not the vinegar that wilts the lettuce in your leftover salad–it’s the oil! If you’re interested, you can check it out here: The Food Lab.

Salad Ingredients

  • Mixed baby greens
  • Strawberries
  • Gorgonzola cheese
  • Candied pecans

I like to use a bowl with a lid (I found a cool melamine one at the Asian market that was pretty cheap) that I can shake the whole salad in. Oh man, it’s every bit as yum as the one at J. Liu, with an added hint of coconut flavor!

I made these for my mom for Mother’s Day, but judging by how many disappeared into the kids, they’re a hit all around!

cupcake

I got Aldi’s new gluten free brownie mix, and added the cream cheese surprise! (I copied the cream cheese part from Bob’s Red Mill, and then realized the Aldi mix is four ounces smaller, and had to run out for a second box!) If you use another brand, just follow the instructions on the box for mixing up the brownies.

This made 24 cupcakes for me, and I filled them almost to the top. Brownies don’t rise a whole lot during baking. These are sooo rich that you could probably make them smaller, but no one left any behind.

Ingredients

  • 2 boxes of liveGfree Brownie Mix from Aldi (17 oz.)
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 c oil
  • 4 T water
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 1 package cream cheese (8 oz.)
  • about a third to a half bag of chocolate chips
  • 24 cupcake liners

Mix

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F and put cupcake liners in muffin tins.
  2. In a medium bowl, beat one egg with the sugar and cream cheese until light and fluffy.
  3. Stir in the chocolate chips and set aside.
  4. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, water, and remaining eggs until blended.
  5. Add the two boxes of brownie mix to the mixing bowl and stir until just moistened.

Assemble and Bake

  1. Spoon about a generous tablespoon of brownie mix into the bottom of each cupcake liner.
  2. Top each with a generous tablespoon of cream cheese batter.
  3. Top each with another generous tablespoon of brownie mix.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes to half an hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean (unless you hit a chocolate chip!)

I forgot to take a picture! I’ll go see if there are any left at Mom and Dad’s. :)

scrapghan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ah spring, such as it is. (They’re predicting snow again.) I was feeling a little let down, knitting wise, with no more people wanting hats or slipper socks. I wasn’t in the mood to make more dishcloths. And then I spied my long abandoned scrapghan! I’ve got tons more colors to use up after a long (loooong) winter of knitting!

Of course, being me, I had to dig through a metric ton of yarn bands and yarn scraps and long lost needles and long lost pattern print-outs and long lost dishcloth cotton, and STILL couldn’t find the pattern I was using. Defeated, I came in to my computer to find the pattern (which I’m sure I’ve printed out several times) and when I found it under two names: Stained Glass Pram Blanket and Honeycomb Stroller Blanket, both of which have identical long-winded patterns, I decided I didn’t want to waste two or three sheets of paper (to lose again by next spring). So I made a shorthand version of the pattern with standard knitting notation, then decided that maybe other knitters might appreciate a tree-friendly and eye-friendly version, too! So here you go, a PDF to download and print out:

ScrapghanShorthand

In case you want to see what it looks like before downloading, here it is, in all its simple glory. If you don’t already know the shorthand, K means knit, P means purl, wyib means with yarn in back, and wyif means with yarn in front. And the asterisk * means to repeat everything between the asterisks until you get to whatever you need to do to the right of the asterisk.

Oh, oops, I forgot to add my border to the sides. I just knit an extra five stitches on each side of every row.

Scrapghan in Shorthand

CO 100 (or multiple of 8 + 12)

Border:                 *K* six rows

Rows 1 and 2:    *K*
Row 3 (RS):         With color, K1, wyib slip 2, *knit 6, slip 2 wyib * K1
Row 4:                    P1, wyif slip 2, *P6, wyif slip 2 * P1
Rows 5, 6, 7, 8:  Repeat rows 3 and 4 two times
Rows 9 and 10:  Change to BLACK. *K*
Row 11:                    With next color, K5, wyib slip 2, *K6, wyib slip 2 * K5
Row 12:                  P5, wyif slip 2, *P6, wyif slip 2* P5
Rows 13-16:        Repeat rows 11 and 12 two times
Rows 17-218:     Repeat rows 1-16 twelve times. Repeat rows 1-10 one time.

Border:                 *K* six rows

Bind off. Weave in ends.

 

I sure wish I had the patience now to figure out which row I left off on…

Updated: I totally messed up the number of stitches to cast on (it was tiny) and only making the neat edge on one side, so I’m overhauling the pattern.

I’ve been playing around with the herringbone stitch, which I find too fiddly to want to make something that would take a long time, like a scarf, but it’s so cool that I like it in small doses. I tried a potholder, since it’s a thick, squishy knit, but it turned out vaguely rhomboid in shape (or cattywompus, to use the technical term). Here it is, while I was knitting it, arranged as un-cattywompusly as I could manage.

WP_20140105_004

I remembered loving the thick, solid edges of the beard I use in my bearded hat with twirly mustachios, and thought it would make a nice border to stabilize the herringbone and give it more of a square shape. I also am too lazy to make something so “large” as a potholder at the moment, so I’ll try this out on some squishy, absorbent coasters.

Notions:

Abbreviations:

Sl1 = slip one purlwise
K1 = knit one
P1 = purl one
HK2togTBL = knit two together through the back loops, only dropping the first stitch from the left needle
HP2tog = purl two together, only dropping the first stitch from the left needle
* … * = repeat whatever is inside the asterisks

Notes: With herringbone, you use bigger needles than you normally would for the thickness of yarn because it makes such a dense fabric. I normally use size 8 needles for dish cloths and coasters and such, so I bumped it up several sizes for these.

Video tips:

Herringbone Stitch from iknitwithcatfur
How to do a long-tail cast on

Pattern:

CO: 26 stitches using long tail cast on

Border Row 1: Sl1, Knit to last stitch, P1
Border Row 2: Same as Border Row 1

Row 1: Sl1, K2 * HK2togTBL only drop 1st stitch * K2, P1
Row 2: Sl1, K2 * HP2tog only drop 1st stitch * K2, P1

Repeat herringbone rows 1 and 2 six or seven times, then knit the border.

Border Row 1: Sl1, Knit to last stitch, P1
Border Row 2: Same as Border Row 1

And there you have it. Once I finish one, I’ll post how many times to repeat rows 1 and 2 and a picture of the finished product!

This is the result of my third doctoring of the recipe I got from the Gluten Free Goddess, African Bean Sweet Potato Soup. The first doctoring got rid of the bell peppers (blech) and all but the black beans, but now it’s a whole different animal with four-grain rice, more spices, and a cinnamon stick! It’s very thick and hearty, so I’m calling it stew now. I’ll add a picture next time I make it.

Ingredients

Spices Veggies & Liquids Stir Ins
1 T olive oil

1+ T Panang curry paste

1/2 t or 1 stick cinnamon

pinch cloves

pinch nutmeg

1/2 t crushed red pepper
2 t minced garlic

1 medium onion, diced

2 medium or 3 small sweet potatoes, diced

1 medium zucchini, diced

1 quart light broth

1/2 c peanut butter melted in 1/2 c hot water
4 Grain Rice, cooked

2 T cilantro, chopped

juice from one lime

1 T brown sugar

salt and pepper to taste

cilantro for garnish

Heat Up Some Flavor

(and make your kitchen smell really good)

  1. Heat olive oil in a big stew pot and add all ingredients from the Spices column. Stir to infuse the oil (and the air around you) with spicy goodness.
  2. Add garlic and diced veggies. Cook on medium 5 to 7 minutes, stirring several times, until softened. At this point, the combined aromas of spices and sweet potatoes will make your mouth water.
  3. Stir in broth and peanut butter melt, heat to a high simmer, cover, and lower heat. Simmer 20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Stir in rice and cilantro and simmer another 5 minutes.
  5. Add lime juice, brown sugar, salt and pepper, warm through and serve garnished with cilantro.

This stuff smells and tastes so good! For some reason, the zucchini, having no real flavor of its own, tastes almost like baked apples in this recipe. The rice adds texture that makes it more of a stew than a soup. But the true heart of it is the combination of peanut butter, Thai spices, and sweet potatoes. Thank you, Gluten Free Goddess!

Image

This hat is a combination of several patterns I’ve found around the interwebs. I’ll see if I can dig up links to give credit, but in each case I’ve altered the patterns somewhat.

TLDR: I’m a wordy mug, so if you want, you can skip to THE PATTERN.

The hat itself is an adaptation of the Bicycle Wheels hat pattern from Victoria at sew knit me. I knit kind of tightly, so I use bigger needles. Also, I left off the dingleberry when I made it for my friend, Davey-OH!, who discovered the pattern when I asked him to pick one. Then my kids and all of their friends wanted one after my daughter modeled it for me. EVERYONE loves this hat! I’ve even been stopped at Joann and asked what the pattern is called! I had made so many of these that I was very comfortable with not having to check my gauge again, so I stuck with this pattern, but without the purl rows, to make the beanie part of the bearded hat. (Actually, the one in the pictures was a little short, so now I’m making it longer and cuffing the ribbed part before attaching the beard.)

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The beard is from the Bearded Beanie by Henya at Chicken Stitches. I didn’t use her hat pattern because, like I said, I was already very comfortable with the bicycle wheels one. I did try the applied I-cord mustache on my first try (bearded hat 1.0), but after looking at it, I felt that it lacked a certain twirly appeal that I saw in the numerous mustaches that my daughters seem to have on everything from t-shirts to duct tape to Christmas tree ornaments. (Thanks, James!) Anyway, the beard from Henya’s pattern is fabulous, and contours to the chin in a most magical fashion. It also has a really nice texture with thick yarn, and a beautiful finished edge.Image

And the pièce de résistance, the twirly mustache, is slightly adapted (or maybe that’s what she meant in the first place, but I’m just writing it differently) from Robyn Wade at Sweet Little Domestic Life. When I tried it as she wrote it, it seemed that the numbers were off, but maybe it was a couple of typos. Anyway, I just changed rounds 10 and 11, and also figured out how to knit the pipe cleaner right inside the I-cord because I don’t have the patience to stuff it in there after the fact.

Image

You can see from my goofy pics (thank you, James!) that the twirly mustache can be bent into whatever shape strikes your fancy.

Image

THE PATTERN

Beanie

Gauge: 11 sts 17 rows 5″

Size 13 circular needles (or size to obtain gauge)
Size 10 dpns set of 4
1 skein of Chunky or Bulky weight yarn, like thick & quick
Stitch marker (I use a loop of pink wool roving that has kind of felted itself with age)
Tapestry needle or big plastic needle

On circular needles, CO 44 sts. Place marker and join round without twisting stitches. (Although Möbius strips are cool, they don’t make good hats.)

For a folded ribbed edge, *K2, P2* for 10 rounds. For a shorter ribbed edge, do 7 rounds.
(In the picture, I did *K1, M1, K1, P2tog* for the last round as suggested by Victoria, but I don’t do that with the folded ribbed edge.)

K 12 to 14 rounds.

Crown shaping:

K3, K2tog, (*K4, K2tog*) 6 times, K3
K 1 round
K2tog, (*K3, K2tog*) 6 times, K5
K 1 round
*K3, K2tog* to end with 24 stitches
Moving to smaller DPN, K 1 round, dividing stitches between 3 needles
(I usually put an extra stitch on one to hold the marker in place, so I have 9 on that one, 7 on the next one, and 8 on the other one.)
K 1 round
*K2tog* to end with 12 stitches
K 1 round
*K2tog* to end with 6 stitches and snip the tail to several inches long
Using the tapestry needle, pull the tail through the remaining stitches, and weave in the ends.

Beard

Size 10 needles
Bulky yarn (less than a skein)

Weird increase stitch: K1M1 (knit one make one) knit one into the back stitch, leaving the stitch on the left needle, then knit it as usual. Kind of like this video, but doing the back loop first instead of last. http://www.knittinghelp.com/video/play/bar-increase-english

CO 7 sts

Row 1- 8 Slip 1, K5, P1. Row 9 Slip 1, K4, K1M1, K1. 8 stitches. Row 10 K7, P1.

Row 11 Slip 1, K5, K1M1, K1. 9 stitches.

Row 12 K8, P1.

Row 13 Slip 1, K6, K1M1, K1. 10 stitches.

Row 14 K9, P1.

Row 15 Slip 1, K7, K1M1, K1. 11 stitches.

Row 16 K10, P1.

Row 17 Slip 1, K8, K1M1, K1. 12 stitches.

Row 18 K11, P1.

Row 19 Slip 1, K9, K1M1, K1. 13 stitches.

Row 20 K12, P1.

Row 21 Slip 1, K10, K1M1, K1. 14 stitches.

Row 22 K13, P1.

Row 23 Slip 1, K11, K1M1, K1. 15 stitches.

Row 24 K14, P1.

Row 25 Slip 1, K12, K1M1, K1. 16 stitches.

Row 26 K15, P1.

Row 27 Slip 1, K13, K1M1, K1. 17 stitches.

Row 28 K16, P1.

Row 29 Slip 1, K16.

Row 30 K16, P1. Row 31 Slip 1, K13, K2Tog, K1. 16 stitches. Row 32 K15, P1.

Row 33 Slip 1, K12, K2Tog, K1. 15 stitches.

Row 34 K14, P1.

Row 35 Slip 1, K11, K2Tog, K1. 14 stitches.

Row 36 K13, P1.

Row 37 Slip 1, K10, K2Tog, K1. 13 stitches.

Row 38 K12, P1.

Row 39 Slip 1, K9, K2Tog, K1. 12 stitches.

Row 40 K11, P1.

Row 41 Slip 1, K8, K2Tog, K1. 11 stitches.

Row 42 K10, P1.

Row 43 Slip 1, K7, K2Tog, K1. 10 stitches.

Row 44 K9, P1.

Row 45 Slip 1, K6, K2Tog, K1. 9 stitches.

Row 46 K8, P1.

Row 47 Slip 1, K5, K2Tog, K1. 8 stitches.

Row 48 K7, P1.

Row 49 Slip 1, K4, K2Tog, K1. 7 stitches.

Row 50 K6, P1.

Row 51 – 58 Slip 1, K5, P1.

Bind off and weave in ends.

Twirly Mustache

Size 10 dpns (only need 2)
Same bulky yarn as you used for the beard
Pipe cleaner
Smallish crochet hook

CO 8 sts (we’ll make two of these)
Bend pipe cleaner in half to mark the center, then place the center behind your work just as you begin to knit your I-cord. Each time you pull the yarn across the back, ensure that the yarn goes behind the pipe cleaner, trapping it inside. It will be loose until rounds 10 and 11, but you can push it up snugly so that the middle is at the bottom of your knitting after the decreases.

Rnds 1-9: Knit I-cord.

The tricky part:

  1. Slide the knitting to the right to prepare for the next round of I-cord.
  2. Insert the crochet hook down through the middle and snag the I-cord ladder (those loose lace-up stitches in back) from the back of rnd 1.
  3. Pull it up through the center, and place the stitch at the beginning of the needle so that it will be the first stitch you knit. The I-cord gets all smooshed, so you’ll need to snug it back down to the center of the pipe cleaner at this point.

Here’s a link to help you get the idea until I make a video of it: http://nonaknits.typepad.com/nonaknits/2005/10/nonas_happy.html
This is easier done than said, and it’s what really gives the mustache character.

Rnd 10: (K1, K2tog) 3 times. 6 stitches.
Rnd 11: (K1, K2tog) 2 times. 4 stitches. Time to snug it back down to the center of the pipe cleaner.
Rnds 12-the end of this half of the pipe cleaner: Knit I-cord.
Rnd penultimate: K2tog twice
Rnd final: Knit

Cut tail and pull tight through 2 remaining stitches. Weave in end (but leave the tail hanging on the thick end).

CO 8 sts.
Once again, place the center of the free end of the pipe cleaner behind your work just as you begin to knit your I-cord. Each time you pull the yarn across the back, ensure that the yarn goes behind the pipe cleaner, trapping it inside. It will be loose until rounds 10 and 11, but you can push it up snugly so that the bottom of your knitting bumps into the first half of the mustache.

Knit the same as the first half. Use the tail at the thick ends to tie the two halves together, and if the pipe cleaner is a different color than the yarn, wrap it around and tie and wrap around and tie a few times to ensure that it doesn’t show.

Assembly

Yarn from the hat and from the beard and mustache
Tapestry needle
Diaper pin or large safety pin

  1. Bend the mustache into a slight upside-down V to leave an opening for the mouth.
  2. Pin the mustache onto the beard, leaving the twirlable ends free, pinning the two thick sections well down onto the beard so it won’t droop, and keeping the center up above the beard for the mouth opening.
  3. Hold the beard up over your chin and pull the sides up like you’re attaching it to the hat, and look in a mirror to check your placement.
  4. When you’re happy with it, cut about a foot or so of yarn, and if it’s too thick for sewing, pull it apart (mine was four strands, and I used two strands for sewing), thread the tapestry needle, and sew through the back of the beard to attach the moustache, removing the pin when you can.
  5. Put the hat on, hold the beard up over your chin, pull the hat down over the sides to overlap, and hold one side in place while you remove it and pin it in place.
  6. Using the hat yarn, sew through the back of the beard into the hat to attach the first side.
  7. Try it on again and hold the other side in place until you get it pinned, and sew this side in place.

Image

I’ve been all about purple sweet potatoes since I saw them in a bin at the Westgate Import Market this summer. They’re so beautiful, but I think I forgot to take a picture of them in candied form! Ah, there they are, in the purplish pink bowl. They’re not as brilliant of a purple candied as they are when you just nuke them and eat them plain, but they are so yummy! As my niece said, “I don’t like sweet potatoes, but these taste like Christmas should smell!”
Image

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of purple sweet potatoes
    (or regular, if you can’t find purple at an Asian market)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of pecans
  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 1/2 cup of orange juice
  • 4 tablespoons of honey
  • 2/3 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla

Preparation

  1. Without peeling, cover whole sweet potatoes in water in a big pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes until sweet potatoes are softening, but still firm.
  3. Cool, peel, and cut into chunks or slices into a baking dish.
  4. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  5. In a saucepan, add all other ingredients and bring to a boil, then pour over sweet potatoes.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes.
  7. Serve in a bowl, spooning sauce over any dry sweet potatoes.

Notes

I adapted this recipe from one for regular sweet potatoes that called for maple syrup (yick!) for which I substituted orange juice and honey, and then added cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. I haven’t done a test drive on the amounts above for several reasons:

  1. I have no idea how many pounds of purple sweet potatoes I had. There were two big ones shaped like a human heart (with swirly patterns of purple and pale purple inside) and two long skinny ones (that looked like a purple tree trunk inside).
  2. I first made it with half the sauce ingredients, then realized that I’d forgotten the pecans and that it didn’t look like much sauce, so I made more sauce with the pecans without really measuring. it might not have been quite double the original amount.

Next time I make this, I’ll measure and update if necessary. I might even put the whole bag of pecans in. Yum!

Another cool thing: the sauce takes on this lovely berry color from the sweet potatoes. They look very dark in the picture, but you can definitely still tell that they’re purple!

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