Vegetables, yarn, and yarns: all of my passions all in one place.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Quick Stir Fry, Slawless

I had once again forgotten to make a list while doing a quick shopping trip at the only Meijer near us (which isn't exactly local because it's 30 minutes away but when one can Meijer, one should Meijer, for the produce alone). This sometimes (mostly) happens. Of course, everyone knows that the best way to do the shopping is to make a weekly menu and divine a list of those items needed to make said menu that aren't already in the cupboards/fridge.

Then, you STICK TO IT. You don't buy extra and thus, maintain some semblance of budget.

So this shopping trip was not one of those well-planned ones, but we still needed to remain budget-conscious, in light of the bills of Christmas past. We tried to buy sale items only and only necessities. My bakery-made blueberry mini-bagels were both of these things because who doesn't need mini-bagels? I was so excited by the sale, I bought two bags.

We did fairly well for once (bagels really would have been on the list), mostly because we did not go to the grocery store while hungry. We were practically running through the produce aisle (which tends to be where I find fun ways to spend lots of money. Purple kale, anyone?) when my eye halted on one of those orange clearance stickers. Now, these stickers are a price-conscious shopper's best friend. They mean "this food isn't bad yet but is very-near or just-past its sell-by date so you can have it at a significant discount that will totally be worth it if you eat this item soon, like today." This sticker was on a bag of broccoli slaw mix.

I've never had broccoli slaw, mostly because I really dislike slaw in general. There's something about vinegary vegetables that just doesn't do it for me. I almost walked right by but then I thought:

Just because you buy broccoli slaw mix doesn't mean you have to make slaw with it. So I bought that bag and I took it home and made some broccoli slawless stir fry.

Broccoli Slawless Stir Fry
One bag of broccoli slaw mix
2 cups uncooked brown rice
a random can of beans
whatever sauces and seasonings you want

1. Make the rice.
2. Fry up the slaw mix.
3. Add in a can of beans and some sauce and seasoning. I used a few twists of my Asian spice grinder (McCormick) and soy sauce. There may or may not have been teriyaki.

So simple. Also, cheap. Also, broccoli stems are very tasty when cut up into teeny tiny slivers.
 Who knew?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Well this is easy... knot.

With a year of Christmas knitting behind me, my options have opened. Inevitably, this has actually caused an increased stress level, as I contemplated knitting All The Things. I want it all, all the patterns I've coveted and purchased in preparation of this moment. Staring at all the things I wanted to do, I was overwhelmed.

That's why it was actually a very good thing that my boss requested that I make her a hat. We planned it together. She explained what she wanted and I searched for patterns until I found something that fit the bill. Then, because she wanted a flower on it, I busted out my book of various crocheted and knitted flowers and she picked out a pattern for an irish rose. Then, that settled, I grilled her about what she wanted in a fiber, warmth? easy to clean? preferred color? any wool allergies?

Chat done, I had a solid lead on a good yarn choice that would meet all of her requirements but not break the bank. Yarn prices tend to give the uninitiated-- and the cheap-- sticker shock. She is uninitiated. I am cheap. I settled on a nice bright white color in Lion Brand's Wool Ease, a colorway called "White Frost," that also had a soft halo. For the pattern, I went with Lotus Hat by Uptown Purl.

This hat served as my just-after-Christmas knitting. I finished it and had the flower sewn on and the hat blocked and dried before the end of my work's Christmas break.

So far, everyone who sees it either loves it or loves it and wants one. It may end up being the it hat of the season.

Hat out of the way, though, I wanted to knit something for me. Looking back through my ravelry notebook, I, in fact, discovered that I haven't knitted a single thing for me since I finished my wedding veil, which just seems ridiculous. Until I remember I've been knitting the same blanket (not for me) for a year.

I thought about starting in on the ice skating cape from My Grandmother's Knitting using my 10 skeins of merino, but then, I wasn't sure the gauge was right. Plus, I really wanted to finally be able to knit a Canary Knits design, so I pulled out my Village Yarn Bahama Cotton DK-weight yarn and I cast on for Killdeer, which I plan to have finished in plenty of time to wear to work in warm weather.

I'm calling this project, knit specifically for work, Leftmost Corner Cubicle, as that's where my desk is located. The design itself, I'm loving so far. It's obvious that a lot of thought was given to its construction. I did have to frog 10 rows initially because I had a little confusion about the first line of instructions for increasing the yoke. It didn't come out quite symmetrical the way I interpreted it and I just couldn't live with that. I ended up using the following in lieu of the instruction given, which may or may not bite me in the butt later, but I don't think it will: 

Sl *k to m, sm, kfb* x 5 (I'm doing the medium), k to m, sm, k to 1 st before m, kfb, sm, k last 2 st

That results in a total of 7 increases per increase row, which should result in the required 235 sts after 44 rows, as long as I've done my math right. Either way, I'm loving how the increases look and I love what the colorway is doing. It's almost like blue camouflage.

So there I was, knitting my happy way to row 32 when it happened. The unthinkable. The dread swelled up within me as I saw it.

My yarn ball has a knot in it from the manufacturer. I have a big beef with manufacturers who allow knots to exist in their skeins. If I had purchased mill ends, I would not be complaining, but I did not. I purchased full price (well... on sale) yarn. There should be no knots, and rest assured this will be my last Village Yarn purchase. I have put the project aside until I have the time to sit down with the video I saw that one time about the way to knot yarn so that it doesn't come untied later (i.e. how to join yarn with a double knot). In the meantime, I threw the whole project in my stash cedar chest and shut the lid in disgust.

I have looked into the gauge on that merino and I think it might work for that cape after all. Depending on my mood, I may swatch for that and do the cape before returning to the knot situation. Or I may buckle down and figure it out now. I do know this: I refuse to have to weave in yarn ends for a manufacturers knot. It's just not fair. Not fair at all.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Kohlrabi and Kale, the K Vegetables

The boy got Scattergories for Christmas. It's a board game I used to play with my siblings all the time when we were kids. There is a list of items and a 20-sided die filled with the letters of the alphabet. Then, you roll the dice, it lands on a letter, and everyone has to think of a word for each list item that starts with that given letter. We've been playing it all week, and it's just as fun as I remembered it.

Well, the last few weeks of food in this house could easily fill up a list of words for vegetables that start with the letter K. The weekend before Christmas, my husband and I happened upon a lovely purple ornamental kale at the supermarket. It was bright and crisp and looking at it, I knew what I needed to do. I bought the kale and delightedly took it home to make some delicious, homemade lentil soup.

Lentil soup is one of my favorite things, especially with some french fried onions floating on the top and a handful of shredded cheese melting into the broth. Thus, while I was working my last day before my work winter break (which lasts from Christmas Eve to New Years Day), the husband took my recipe and made lentil soup with a bag of dried lentils and the purple kale. Or rather, he was supposed to make soup.

Having left the soup to boil down too long (the man is just not a soup fan), he created something slightly more dense than a stew, but it still tasted lovely. Thus, it went into a big Tupperware container and I served it to myself as gravy on my Christmas whipped potatoes, for the much needed protein I, as a veggie, don't get from the Christmas turkey (my family doesn't have Christmas ham, as my sister, having puked up ham with a case of childhood flu, refuses to eat most pork products).

Sorry I was too busy eating it to take a Lentil soup picture. Besides, it was so thick, it didn't really look like soup anyway.

Lentil Soup with Purple Kale
What you need:
olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/4 c dried lentils
6 c worth of vegetable stock
1 T soy sauce
One bunch of purple kale, minus the stems, chopped

1. Stir fry the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic for about 10 minutes in the bottom of a large pot.
2. Add the lentils, stock, and soy sauce to the pot and bring to boil. Then, cover and simmer for an hour or two.
3. When the lentils are thoroughly cooked, bring back to boil and add kale to pot. Let boil for several minutes until the kale is soft.

When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad, I just need some lentil soup. And really, it only gets cheerier with those flashes of purple. The lentil soup was pretty to look at, but it's also packed with flavor from the garlic, lentils, and stock. Of course, I,  being the lentil soup lover I am, knew it wouldn't disappoint.

The big shock of the pre-Christmas season was the Kohlrabi Risotto recipe the husband found on the New York Times website. The ten-year-old scarfed this stuff down, even after hearing the word "Kohlrabi," which is a miracle in itself. We subbed in apple cider vinegar for the wine and brown rice for the arborio, but stayed fairly faithful to the original recipe otherwise.

Kohlrabi is a rather mild root vegetable, with a slight tang to it that really contrasted nicely with the slightly sweet taste of the Parmesan cheese. It made for a complex meal that didn't feel overbearing. Both meals were a big success and left us with plenty of leftovers to skimp on meal-planning for the rest of their respective weeks (Kohlrabi, the week before Christmas and lentil soup, the week of). This left more time for such things as Scattergories and reading the new Russell Banks and George Saunders.

There were just no downsides, really.