Return of the Pumpkin

I mean, pumpkin is, after all, kind of like a Jedi of baking. Its Force pulls everybody in for a bite of cozy goodness and its seeds, roasted, are the lightsabers that ward off unsavory snacks.

Sorry, I’m done making lame food/Star Wars metaphors now. The point is, I still have pumpkin puree that I froze last fall, and I made somethin’ scrumptious. A friend pinned this pumpkin cheesecake recipe and I drooled just looking at it. You may be shaking your head at first glance – recipe from a website called “SkinnyTaste”?!

This recipe totally destroyed my skepticism about a “healthier” version of cheesecake. The vanilla greek yogurt made for a great thick yet fluffy cheesecakey texture, and I’ve never been able to tell the difference between full fat cream cheese and Neufchatel (1/3 less fat) stuff. My momma’s kitchen wisdom tells me that reduced fat stuff usually tastes just the same while completely fat free is almost always gross.

The only changes I made to this recipe were to the pumpkin butter to swirl in. I love pumpkin butter. It’s so smooth and creamy and cozy [I need to diversify my food adjectives…]. The combination of nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon will always make me want to hunker down at home for the day, no matter the season.

I made just a cup worth of the pumpkin butter, instead of the 3 and some odd cups the recipe makes, so I only used 1 cinnamon stick and took it out after 10 minutes, which was plenty. If you’re outta cinnamon sticks, I think you could just put an extra dash of ground cinnamon in and call it good. Although it might be quicker to just buy pumpkin pie filling to swirl into the cheesecakes, I think the homemade goodness of the pumpkin butter would win. It’s a little smoother, thinner, and maybe not quite as sweet.

I’m callin’ this one a tri-yum-ph. Three little cheesecakes mysteriously disappeared right after I made these, and I was the only person around…hmm. I wonder whodunnit.

p.s. Here’s a little update on the mystery knit. A few hints: cotton yarn, cast on 306 sts. Any guesses yet?

Soup a L’Orange

If I could quit my jobs and just make people things all the time, I’d be one happy camper. I visited Wooster a few weekends ago [I almost said, “to see Noah and my sister,” but that’s a gross understatement – it was great to see everyone!]. Before I came, my sister, who’s been having a weird time sorting out how she deals with lactose and soy, asked if I could make some squash soup to bring to her. UH. YES. I’d been meaning to make pumpkin soup of some sort, and there was a soup I made a while back that I wanted to try to replicate, if only I could remember what I used…

The soup I’d made in the past was an amalgamation of a recipe-surfing session. I looked at recipes for carrot/orange/ginger soup, and ended up making something along those lines that was warm and bright, with a little kick from the ginger. I found some of the recipes I looked at again, but alas, I couldn’t remember all the details I changed. Leslie’s [my sister] soup was going to be a guessing game.

If the soup needed to be lactose and soy free, so I figured it might as well be vegan, too.  The key ingredients I used were carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, orange, and ginger. The bright colors and creamy warmth were perfect to combat the dreariness of a windy February day.

So here it is, my very own pumpkin-carrot-orange-ginger soup.

Disregard the amounts of ingredients here - I made a double batch when I took the pictures.

  • 1 1/2 c. pumpkin puree [canned or frozen, shouldn’t matter]
  • 1 large sweet potato, cubed [I chose these for their sweetness and thickness instead of Idahos]
  • 1 med onion, diced
  • 1 lbs carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 orange [juice and zest]
  • approx 2 ins grated ginger
  • 18 oz vegetable broth
  • 2 1/2 c. water
  • 1-2 c. almond milk [vanilla]
  • 1 rounded tsp. corandier
  • 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. minced garlic [approx 6 cloves]
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil

I just really love orange zest.

In large pot, heat olive oil and add onion, carrots, garlic, and spices. Sautee until onions are translucent, about 3-4 mins. Add pumpkin, sweet potatoes, juice and zest of orange, grated ginger, vegetable broth, and water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about half an hour or until sweet potatoes are soft and easily pierced by a fork.

Transfer soup to food processor in small batches and puree. After soup is entirely pureed, put back in pot, add almond milk, and simmer for 5 mins. Enjoy! If you’ve got ’em [I didn’t], croutons make a great sidekick to this soup. Because clearly, sidekicking for salads would suck balls.

Please, lemme know how it turns out, should you decide to make it! All feedback is welcome 🙂

Sweet Spiralin’ Leg Warmers

So I may not have any project updates from recent stuff yet, but these were a fun project I knit for a friend’s sister for a Christmas gift. My friend did most of the work in terms of the pattern search, after I exposed her to the wonderful world of Ravelry.

If you haven’t heard of it, Ravelry is basically a huge online database of knit and crochet patterns. I started using it to keep my projects organized and keep notes on them, but it’s a great way to explore the larger knitting community. I feel like searching for patterns on Ravelry is like shopping for shoes on Zappos – there are a million different kinds and the site lets you tailor your search and be [k]nit picky and search in terms of knit versus crochet, yarn weight, needle size, free versus available for purchase patterns, and category of the knitted goodie you want to make. Even better? If you like a pattern and want to see how it came out for knitters other than the designer, you can see the pictures they uploaded and comments they made about the pattern before you commit to starting the project. What more could you want?! Oh, you know, each pattern is rated overall out of 5 stars and then rated for difficulty. This place is a dream.

[This is awkward, but…I don’t really have any Ravelry friends yet, I stick to groups, so, uh…please be my friend if you’re a fellow Raveler? See the new little button on the right of my blog page? Click away 🙂 ]

Back to the legwarmers, yes? My friend, Julie, told me that her sister likes bright colors and needs the legwarmers to keep cozy, as she works at a ski resort. Because of these being a super functional gift, I figured the best route for yarn would be washable wool. I went to my local little yarn shop and bought some bright orange Cascade 220, which, from my understanding, is a pretty popular worsted weight washable wool, not to mention SOFT.

The problem with non-washable wool is that it can be scratchy on the skin and when you wash it, it’ll felt. Not the case with the yarn I bought. It felt so good in my hands as I knit it – it was soft and smooth. The most reassuring part was knowing that when I finished them, they were finished. No worry necessary about shrinking in the wash or becoming a felted train wreck later.

The pattern Julie picked was a Purl Bee pattern [just about everything they do is swoon-worthy]. In terms of heeding the directions in the pattern, I only followed the pattern for its spiral rib. I actually swatched beforehand to make sure they wouldn’t come out too small or too big, but I felt like knitting the whole leg warmer on the same size needles would be weird, unless Julie’s sister’s legs from the knee down are of freaky uniform circumference. My solution for this was to knit the ankle on needles 4 sizes smaller than the bulk of the legwarmers [size 3 dpns], and then gradually increase needle size until the gauge the pattern called for [size 5 dpns, then size 7 dpns]. My last sizing issue was with the part of your leg just above your calf but below your knee. It’s smaller circumference than your calf, and droopy legwarmers would probably look pretty sad, even if they are bright orange. So I hopped back over to my smallest size needles and knit the last inch on those.

One last thing before I get to the actual pattern. The original called for the legwarmers to be really tall, but I thought that could either of two ways: ridiculously high above the boot or ridiculously bulky when scrunched down to the height of the boot. I made ’em 17-18 ins tall instead of the 30 the pattern called for.

Now that I look at it, these look a little on the short side. It's because my tall sister is the model - she was blessed with mile-long legs.

Here’s my tweaks to the original pattern:

  • Knit the first 18 rounds on size 3 dpns [or needles 4 sizes smaller than the size you need to obtain the pattern’s gauge].
  • Knit 6 rounds on size 5 dpns  [or needles 2 sizes smaller than needles used for pattern gauge]
  • Knit on size 7 dpns until leg warmers are about 1 inch shorter than desired length, ending on a round that’s the end of one of the rib rotations – each is 3 rounds]
  • Switch back to smallest size dpns [size 3, in my case] and knit 6 rounds [2 portions of the spiral rib rotation]
  • Cast off as pattern indicates.

When these were finished, the spiral pattern totally jazzed up what would otherwise be straight, boring rib, and the rib contributed to the bounce and squish of the things. It was really hard to give them away. Just to squish them in my hands was heaven.

Verdict? Triumph.

I’ve never, ever worn legwarmers, but now that I knit, I’m considering the idea. Anybody have a sweet pattern for ’em? Or thoughts on how to make the ones I made even better?

Sandwich Heaven

Okay, a post about a sandwich might sound pretty menial, but…holy balls. Just made a deluxe grilled cheese that had me singing at the though of it. [The Muppets – “We Need A Little Christmas” – why Christmas? No idea. It’s just an upbeat song.]

Ingredients: white cheddar with bacon bits in it, deli turkey, tomatoes, a quarter of an avocado mashed up [so it’s spreadable], and spinach.

Popped it in the skillet with some olive oil. Drooled. Added some crispy crunchy lettuce when it was done. Groaned with taste bud happiness when I took the first bite. 

Any suggestions for the next pumpkin recipe post? I’m thinkin’ soup.

Pumpkin Bread

Ok, so I know that I made all this fuss about how awesome pumpkins are, only to forget about ’em. Well, pumpkins are still awesome and I don’t care if they’re “outta season.” [Oh, right, that’s why I froze them.] In an effort to make up for the lack of food posts and neglect of pumpkin, I’mma post about them until…well, I have no idea. I won’t ever get sick of them. So maybe until I run out of frozen pumpkin.

Annnyway, I made pumpkin bread yesterday. I think I’ve eaten about half a loaf all by myself already. It’s a family recipe, so I essentially left it alone and just cut the sugar from 3 cups to 2, using brown sugar instead of the regular white stuff. Not a dangerous switch, especially because the molasses-y flavor from the brown sugar pairs well with punkin stuff. The recipe says nuts are optional, and the 9-year-old in me still scrunches up her nose and mumbles “yuck” to bread with nuts in it, so I ruthlessly banned them from the recipe like the cool kids exclude the geeks at school.

Ze recipe, pour vous [with my teensy adjustments]:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 cups brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon each: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, & ginger
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups frozen pumpkin puree [canned is fine, too, if you don’t have as much time on your hands as I do]
Mix dry and wet ingredients separately.

Combine.

Pour into 2 greased and floured loaf pans.

Bake 1 hour at 350*F. Let cool on wire rack. Devour. Potentially with ice cream.

Isn't it cool how the edges kinda folded up?

Verdict: Tri-yum-ph. [I make no excuses for my awful puns and love them anyway]

ONIONS, or A Chopping Method that Blew My Mind

Image

H’ok so I’m sure this isn’t new to everyone, but it’s so fun that I’ve gotta share. Instead of dicing onions by cutting long strips and then chopping those, my friend Miles taught me this trick while we were studying abroad in London a couple years ago. Nothin’ quite like cookin’ with friends.

Cut the onion in half by the root.

Place it flat on the cutting board and cut horizontally toward the root, but not all the way through. Then make a few vertical slices on the top-most part of the onion half that still looks like a petal.

Finally, hold the onion so it doesn’t smoosh out on the sides and slice across it like you normally would from front to back. MAGIC.

Feel free to step back with your hands on your hips and a grin on your face to relish how quick and entirely neat and orderly and uniform [which equates to WONDERFUL in my book] it was to chop an onion like that. Now, please, go put it in something delicious and tell me about it.

p.s. I don’t often use the phrase “off the heezy,” but when I do…it’s Dos Equis. Christmas Eve morning I made these delicious pumpkin bars from the pumpkin puree I’d frozen this fall, but I didn’t take any pictures because the kitchen has been, ahem, off the heezy with all the holiday food production lately. I added cream cheese frosting to ’em, because really, what are pumpkin desserts without a cream cheese element?! Within hours, they were decimated by the hungry mob made up of my extended family. I hope everyone’s holidays have been just as delicious as mine!

Knit Earwarmer Headbands

There’s only one pattern in my repertoire that I’ve duplicated over and over and over, yet varied just as much. Say hellooooooo to winter headbands. It all started with wanting to make them for the captains of my college ultimate frisbee team, Betty Gone Wild. At fall and early spring tournaments, it’s too hot to wear a hat and too cold to go completely without. Headbands are so perfect for sports, but kind of a hassle to take on and off. I found this pattern for an adjustable cabled headband that’s easy to wear and remove, and adapted it a bunch.

The pattern makes a pretty wide headband, so all the ones I’ve made have only been 15 sts wide instead of the 21 the pattern calls for. I’ve basically ignored the given cable pattern. The first ones I made for my former teammates were all garter stitch in between the sl1, yb, k1, yf, sl1, yb border except for a smooth middle section of stockinette, on which I used a duplicate stitch to write the name of the team [Betty Gone Wild]. Duplicate stitch is alot easier/neater for adding in words or small patterns, at lease that’s what I’ve found for small patches of contrast color. You just take a needle and thread and copy each stitch in a contrasting color on top of the original stitch.

The garter stitch sections helped the headband to be even more elastic. I used a skein of Simply Soft and size 5 needles. Unfortunately, I didn’t measure gauge, but just knit the beginning of the headband on size 5 needles and ripped it out a few times before settling on the 15 stitch width. Relaxed, they were 21-23 inches, with the smooth logo portion measuring around 7 inches. For my first foray into knitting with a double strand of yarn and into duplicate stitch, I think they came out pretty well – the yarn is ultra soft and my friends wear them a lot!

The other versions of the headband I made were a little more tame, color-wise. All include cables instead of wording and use calmer colors.

I started knitting last December [this was my first project], and the first thing I’ve made for myself was this teal headband. I used size 4 needles for each of these cabled ones, the teal is Paton’s Classic Wool and the lighter ones are Bernat Alpaca. These were knit specifically to stay warm when we’re outside for recess. I work in a special education classroom and we still venture to the playground irregardless of how windy and cold the weather is, and it just plain stinks to wear a hat or headband that makes for a messy hairdo afterwards.

I made these for myself, the teacher, and the other aide in our classroom and thought it would be cute if they were all similar but had their own unique cable. I was so surprised to discover that cabling makes it look like you put way more effort into a project than you really did. Looks intimidating at first, but is easy peasy after a quick look at instructions. Mine [the teal one] is the reversible cable found here.

The light blue cable is a just braid: Each border of the headbands is comprised of 3 stitches, so I added one more in the middle sts to make 10 in between. The pattern for the braid I fiddled around with for 10 sts ended up like this:

  • All even rows: P2, K6, P2.
  • Every 6 rows, alternate between cabling 3 in front and then 3 in back (P2, K3, C3, P2)
  • Knit until about 2 inches from finished length.
  • All odd rows: K2, P6, K2

The marbled headband’s cable is a double twist with an elongated section in between, again for 10 sts, here‘s the pattern I found for it.

These are a favorite project of mine, so far. They only take a day or two to make, are easily customizable, and are incredibly functional.

Verdict? Super Triumph, over and over and over… 🙂