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]

YARN. SALE.

Ohmygoodnessyarnsale. I’m pretty sure adrenaline was coursing through my veins as soon as I realized EVERYTHING was cheap.

A thing of beauty.

Michael’s had a huge sale on yarn last week and I just couldn’t stop myself from thinking up more projects to knit, even though I’ve already got lots of unfinished and not-yet-started projects in my queue. AH. It took me 2 hours to choose because there were SO many colors and SO many brands on sale and there was SO much excitement about patterns bouncing around in my head. [Think I’m gonna brave it and write my own simple hat pattern soon!] Aside from that, I spent a few hours with Laverne last weekend just to sit and knit together, and this week she donated that huge Bath and Bodyworks bag [the one in the picture above] full of wool to me. My glee level is insane right now.

Some knitters may scoff at mass produced, non-local yarn shop yarn, but man…soft yarn is soft yarn. Blame it on my knitting youth (I’ve only been at it for a year), but I can’t turn down cozy yarn that’s $2 a skein, even if it is mass produced. Even if I did have more money to spend on yarn, I don’t always want wool, which is most of what our local yarn shop sells. Whatever, man. I do what I want.

January Shmanuary

uh…happy belated New Year?

The holidays were too speedy…meaning I completed none of the knitted stuff I made/am making people for Christmas. So far, I’ve made my brother one and a half of a pair of glittens, my boyfriend one sock, and half of a project for another friend that’s still a secret. There are so many more waiting to be cast on that have to sit on the back burner! Much to my knitting projects’ dismay, I neglected them to finish my graduate school applications/give schools all my money, play Settlers and Scrabble with my family (what if there was a hybrid game of them both?!) and watch a lot of Muppets (both Christmas specials and the new movie). Oh! And I visited Noah in Ann Arbor for a whole wonderful week.

Here’s a crappy quality laptop camera picture of the glittens [that are my brother’s size, not mine]. Just to prove that I’m still alive and knitti…erm…breathing.

Until I finish more projects, it’s ah-dee-ohs, amigos. Happy January.

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… 🙂

P(yum)pkins, part 2: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Also called pepitas, I remember looking forward to these little guys after carving pumpkins as a kid. It’s super easy to roast them, and there are about a million ways to do it. My mom always used to toss them Worcester sauce and some salt, and man oh man were those the best.

This time, I decided to branch out a little from the straight up salty avenue. Don’t get me wrong, classic is well, classically delicious, but I wanted a little more of an adventure. A little bit of Google searching led me to an blog entry with 3 different ways to roast the seeds. I chose the Sweet ‘n’ Spicy and Curried recipes [though the third, Black Tea and Butter sounded pretty interesting, too]. And I almost followed all of the directions.

Before we get to the recipe, can I just write about the highlight of my day for a second? Puffy coats on little waddling kindergarteners are hilarious. A kindergarten kiddo in the classroom I work in always struggles with putting his marshmallowy winter coat on, and we’ve been practicing putting it on by laying it on the floor, standing at the collar, stickin’ his arms in and flipping it up and over his head. Today, the little dude did it by himself TWICE. The look on his face when he succeeds is this excited shock that he put his coat on without a struggle. I was so pumped and had this huge grin on my face, to which he responded by giving me a big ol’ bear hug. I about melted from cute overload.

H’ok, back to the food.

For the Sweet ‘n’ Spicy:

  • 1 c. pumpkin seeds
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 c. natural cane sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper [yaaaaay!]
  • scant 1/2 tsp. sea salt, finely ground [I think regular ol’ salt would do just fine, too]

“Preheat oven to 375. In a medium-sized bowl whisk together the egg white, sugar, cayenne and salt.

I think this looks disgusting. Good thing it doesn't taste how it looks.

Add the pumpkin seeds and toss well. Drain off any excess egg white (using a strainer) and place seeds in a single layer across a baking sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes or until seeds are golden. Sprinkle with a bit more sugar and cayenne pepper when they come out of the oven. Taste and season with more salt if needed.” [Original recipe]

I thought the oven temperature was a little high compared to when I’d roasted pumpkin seeds before, so I started at 300 F. The seeds on the pan looked super gooey and gross, like they were just going to sit there and stay soggy to spite me. So after two 4 minute intervals with some turning in between, I bumped the heat up to what the recipe called for and kept my fingers crossed.

Sweet 'n' Spicy

OH. MY. GOD. They turned out to be perfect after two more 4 minute intervals at 375 F. They crisped up with this really beautiful gloss from the egg white coating combined with the caramelization of the cane sugar. The heat from the cayenne kicks in like a sassy little aftertaste is supposed to. I forgot to sprinkle with more cayenne and sugar at the end like the recipe calls for, but I couldn’t stop eating them. Neither could my family. OM. NOM. NOM.

Curried Pumpkin Seeds:

  • 1 c. pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. curry powder
  • scant 1/2 tsp. sea salt, finely ground
Again, whisk together the oil, curry powder, and salt. Toss seeds in mixture, spread single layer on baking sheet, bake for 12 minutes or until golden, yadda yadda. I didn’t take process pictures because it’s pretty simple.

The recipe called for egg whites again, but because I’d never coated pumpkin seeds with egg whites before, I wanted to do a batch in a way I knew would succeed [so much for adventuring, but I wasn’t about to risk all the seeds I worked so hard to separate from pumpkin guts]. These guys were the reason I started the heat at 300 F, because they started out dry  and I thought that anything higher would burn the outsides too quickly. I roasted them together with the Sweet ‘n’ Spicy guys, even when I turned the heat up to 375 F. In hindsight, I would have just done them on their own before roasting the egg white-coated seeds that call for a high temperature. I think they’d only take about 10-15 minutes at 300 degrees, and not have gotten a little on the dark side like they did. Make sure you stir them up every now and then during baking to make sure they roast evenly.

Curried Pumpkin Seeds

Holy moly, do I love everything about pumpkins.

All the curried seeds you own in the bowl to the left, on the right that's sweet 'n' spice, yes.

Some take home lessons here:

  • Dry pumpkin seeds tossed in oil cook way faster than fresh seeds that are still moist (I think). Do the dry dudes at a lower temp at, oh, maybe around 275-325 F? Let me know if you know/discover otherwise, please!
  • Egg whites make friggin’ awesome coating for roasted stuff. Despite how they make pumpkin seeds look clumpy and disgusting at first, the outcome is glossy and crispaaaay.
  • Don’t forget about the other squashes! Seeds from acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squashes roast up just the same.
Verdict: Triumph.
If anybody’s got suggestions or favorite recipes for other interesting ways to roast pumpkin seeds, please share! I’d love to make some more from other squash seeds.
A huge thanks goes to my brother, who sent me the nice camera that he never uses anymore so that I can take nicer pictures to post here. Also for his encouragement to keep writing. And for just being the best brother in general. Thanks, Ben.