Winter Grapes and Making Choices

I just finished a new hand spun yarn.  It makes me think of fat and juicy red, purple and green grapes!

Grapes Hand Spun Yarn

I’m really pleased with it.  It was very difficult for me to decide how to spin it.  I was torn between long color changes (think Noro!), or something more barber pole-y.  Barber pole won, as you see.  I just love the bright contrasts I get with this type of yarn.  It’s a very traditional “hand spun” look.

I spun this on my Ashford Traveller and I really loved working with these colors once I finally made a choice on how to do it.

I have a bit of a problem making choices.  It’s quite difficult for me to choose one thing from a long list of options.  It’s hard for me to let go of all the other possibilities, and that’s what has to happen when I choose one thing.

I used to have a very, very hard time in restaurants with huge menus.  It’s much easier now since I just look at the vegan friendly choices.  And, in Indiana, it’s usually a very limited number of items on any menu – so that makes it much easier for me.

I find I rarely eat out anymore; I used to love to dine out, but it isn’t the same now, I sit there looking at the menu thinking “I can make nicer things much more cheaply (and pretty easily) at home”.  So, I’ve found that we just don’t go out very often now.

However, if I lived in a city with lots of fabulous vegan eateries, I’d be at a restaurant all the time!

So, the grape yarn is in my Etsy shop already.  Go take a look if you want to see a few more pictures of it.  It really is luscious!

Let me know how you like it.

My Very Favorite Vegan Cookbook of 2012

Someone asked me recently which new cookbook of 2012 I liked best.  I’m afraid I will show my greedy little sweet tooth here, but the winner is 150 Best Vegan Muffin Recipes by Camilla V. Saulsbury.

150 best vegan muffin recipes

I use this cookbook three or four times a week (I have a lot of teenagers who eat endlessly).  The things I like best about it is that almost all the recipes use easily available ingredients and the recipes are very easily customized to your family’s tastes.    I have switched her recommended soy yogurt for coconut when that was all I had, with great results, which makes it very useful when cooking for someone with a soy allergy.

The author includes a tip with almost every recipe and some of them are quite useful, for example, how to choose a good mango, or how to store wheat germ.  She also suggests substitutions that can change things up a little bit.

So far, I’ve only found one stinker – Mashed Potato Muffins – and, to be fair, she states to mash the potatoes with a fork, which I think must mean they should be chunky.  Mine were very very smooth, potato puree really, and the muffins just weren’t anything special.

But, the others I’ve tried are fantastic!

My favorites (in no particular order)

  • Gingerbread Muffins
  • Dark Chocolate Muffins
  • Pumpkin Spice Muffins (I see my copy has a note in it in my handwriting which says  “add walnuts” and another that says “add ginger for pumpkin gingerbread”.  I’ve tried it both of these ways and they were smashing.
  • Chai Latte Muffins (favorite of the teens)
  • Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins.  I add a tiny sprinkle of sugar to the top of each of these before baking to get a crunchy top.

Tonight’s menu is potato and kale soup, toasted french bread and to finish, the lemon poppy seed muffins.  Can’t wait!

Knitwear Bakeware

I was at my local Kroger this morning, just picking up a few things.  Stopped to look at the coffee mugs (I threw several out this week and was hoping to replace one or two).

Look what I found!

knit dishes at kroger 003

 

And

knit dishes at kroger 006

 

Cable knit bakeware!  I really love them, the red is an oblong baking dish, wouldn’t a vegan casserole look great in it?

Might have to go back and pick one up.

Vegan Eating and Another Etsy Shop Update

People ask me all the time “what do vegans eat?”   I was at the dentist for my routine cleaning a couple of days ago and the hygienist was saying how little build up I have, must be that I have “good saliva”.   I asked her if what we eat has any effect on tartar build up.   She said she thought it probably does.

So, I mentioned I eat a vegan diet, and of course, her first question was “what do you eat???” in a shocked voice.  I laughed and said “plants”.  She then asked routine question number 2 “where do you get your protein??”.  I replied “seeds, nuts, tofu, and vegetables”.  Thinking back I should have added “the cows eat only grass (unless they are force fed corn), they seem to get plenty of protein”.  But, it’s a good policy not to be too snarky to the person probing your gums with a sharp instrument.

She couldn’t fathom what kind of meals I eat, and I’ve heard that a lot before, so here’s this week’s dinner menu.

Monday – Taco Salad and quesadilla made with vegan cheese (Daiya is my favorite vegan cheese, kudos to my Kroger for carrying it!)

Tuesday – Pasta with jarred sauce and roasted vegetables

Wednesday – Sauteed Tofu in bottled teriyaki sauce with rice, green beans and a raw vegetable salad

Thursday – Vegetable Soup (homemade in my pressure cooker) and a bought italian round bread from La Brea Bakery

Friday (today) – Couscous and curried vegetables, I will probably sprinkle some pepitas (pumpkin seeds) on mine

Saturday – Veggie plates (like Cracker Barrel, only vegan)  Baked potatoes, salad or maybe cole slaw, carrots, and probably green beans (we love them a lot!), maybe corn.  It’s possible I’ll get ambitious and make some french bread or something similar.

Sunday – Potato and cauliflower curry (with peas), basmati rice, probably with a raw vegetable salad.

All meals here are served with seasonal fresh fruit (right now sliced peaches or nectarines, grapes, raspberries, strawberries, quartered oranges, etc.)

Doesn’t sound too spartan, does it?  Kids seem to like it, and we are all pretty healthy (my cholesterol is awesome!).  My 17 year old daughter was texting me from school (study hall) on Tuesday – here is her text verbatim  –  “tofu tofu tofu 🙂 can we have tofu tonite pls pls pls”  I was laughing pretty hard, never thought I’d have teenagers begging for tofu!

I try to keep meals pretty simple for the most part.  Vegan cooking is just like SAD (Standard American Diet) cooking; it can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it.

We had another big update in our Etsy shop this week with lots of gorgeous new knitted accessories.  I’d love to hear feedback on our photos and products.  Suggestions on what you’d like to see in the shop are also welcome.

Here’s a great crimson ruffled silk scarf.

This is an unusual wrap/scarf that Cheryl knit (these are all hers, actually).  She has a fabulous eye for patterns, she will knit something I think is nothing special and it always turns out wonderfully.  She gives me lots of coaching on pattern selection (thank goodness).  This is Noro yarn in beautiful jewel tones.  The wrap is knit in wedge sections that make it curve around the body.


The red hot chunky cowl.

And, it’s partner, the watercolor version.

The pink variegated scrunchy cowl

The mohair rainbow cowl

The pinky-peachy hand dyed cotton ruffled scarf

The neutral wool/silk/angora cowl (maybe my favorite of this batch, it reminds me of the winter woods).  This is Noro yarn.

And, to finish – the Pink Roses Cowl.

I’d love to hear which is your favorite!

Creative Weekend

A nice thing happened last week.  I finished a shawl and put it in my Etsy shop.  It was raw silk, so quite warm and had great drape.  Within 25 minutes someone purchased it.  I was quite surprised and happy, of course.  Here’s the shawl.

That was a great start to a very nice weekend.

I am well through another Wingspan shawl.  Here’s a picture.

This is another Noro yarn called Silver Thaw.   I love the way this yarn is knitting up, didn’t think much of it before I wound the skein into a ball, like so many Noro yarns, it’s impossible to imagine what it really looks like in the skein.  This yarn does have shorter repeats than what I consider typical for Noro.  This shawl might be a keeper, it’s really lovely and will be easy to wear with all those colors.

We went to a play at the Mud Creek Players on Saturday evening.  The play was The Trip To Bountiful, which I wasn’t sure about, but I really enjoyed it and the audience seemed to love it.  I knew they were all in when they all gasped at the right place (it was a heartbreaking moment in the story).  The actress playing the lead role was phenomenal, and the other female lead was great too (I really did not like her character, and the actress is actually quite a nice person – that’s acting!). There are still two more performances, if you are in Indy and looking for something different for next weekend click here to find out about tickets.  They are very affordable and the play is wonderful.  Live theatre is such a unique experience, you will be talking about it for days.  I was also crazy about the sets in this play, they were quite minimalist, but just perfect.  I am always astounded by the creativity displayed by set designers in our local live theaters.

Yesterday I spend quite a lot of time messing around in the kitchen.  First I decided that all the fresh figs I bought Friday were not being eaten fast enough.  I’ve never seen fresh figs in a grocery store in Indiana before, so I bought quite a lot (6 pints) and they were just beginning to get over ripe.  I did a bit of research and then bit the bullet and made fig preserves.

Thanks to Bayou Woman for her recipe.  Here they are before cooking.

After the sugar has melted

Cooked for a while

And – the finished product

I probably cooked these a few minutes too long, they came out more like candied figs than real fig preserves, but I believe I’ll be able to choke them down anyway.

Then, I made a big pot of ratatouille, which is so perfect for this time of year.  All the needed ingredients (zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers) are perfectly ripe and inexpensive.  I also used garlic, shallots, salt and pepper, and about a tablespoon of herbes de provence.

I cooked it in my pressure cooker pot for a while (uncovered), then transferred to my slow cooker to continue cooking while I went to work in the reTails adoption store.

I adopted out a dog and two cats during my shift – yay – then came home to finished ratatouille, all I had to do was cut up some peaches, slice some grainy bread and sit down to eat.  Heaven!

I will concede that my daughter Cecily makes much better ratatouille than I do (from her authentic recipe acquired from her host mom in France this past summer), but hers requires messing around stirring it every  15 minutes for 3 hours and I am not often motivated to do that!  I may try a modified version of her recipe next time.

We endured a bit of drama at dusk when one of the biggest boy cats decided to take an evening stroll on top of the deck canopy.  It has some skylights now.

Niblet fell about 8 feet, landing very awkwardly on a chair right across his midsection.  I was afraid he had seriously hurt himself.  He took off running, but came in for breakfast and seems none the worse for wear today.  Cats never cease to amaze me with their athleticism and sturdiness!

My to do list for today includes ordering a new cover.