Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Plethora of Pestos Workshop & Garden Tour

I'll be visiting Minnesota and teaching a Plethora of Pestos Workshop & Garden Tour at Ripple River Gallery in the Bay Lake Area.

We'll start the afternoon in Ripple River's stunning garden where we'll talk about growing culinary herbs and get an up-close, hands-on look at our featured ingredient. Then we'll move to the porch for a pesto making demonstration and a discussion of the history of pesto, tips for storing fresh herbs, and an exploration of how to vary your ingredients and create new recipes. And finally we'll wake up our taste buds as we sample and taste 6-8 different pestos - each an original recipe. Participants will receive a packet of information that includes recipes for all the pesto we'll have tasted (plus a few extras), and tips for growing culinary herbs.

This workshop has been designed in the spirit of "handcrafting real good food" and will be a celebration of growing, crafting, and creativity.

When: Saturday July 18th from 11 AM to 2 PM. You can contact Ripple River Gallery for registration either by email at or by phone 218.678.2575. For more info. and great photos of Ripple River Gallery visit their Website or their Facebook page.

I hope to see you there.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Knitting News: New Patterns, Socks, and On the Needles

I'm feeling in the mood to share and give updates. This post will therefore cover all the knitting news from my little world and it includes lots of photos and useful links.

First up, I have completed the writing, editing, and photo taking for two new patterns - Both are felted wool projects, and both are classic hats - The Felted Tam and The Felted Cloche.

Both are available in either my Etsy Shop, and on Ravelry. (Incidentally, the beautiful wood button shown on the Cloche was handcrafted by Ripple River Wood Turning.)

I finished the sock! The Shorty Socks worked out great, and they fit. And in accordance with the New House Rules I threw out a crappy pair of store bought socks. I actually threw out 4 pairs of crappy store bought socks - they were all the same socks and were purchased in a multi-pack, so they sort of count as one.

I'm going to continue with the sock knitting, of course. The sweet taste of success has only served to motivate me further. Next up is my first pair from a Sock Cocktail Kit I purchased through Knit Picks. I'll be knitting the shifting rib with a self striping yarn.

Also currently on the needles is this beautiful Waves of Lace Shell and matching Scarf Designed by Ilga Leja. Actually, the top is no longer on the needles - knitting is complete - all that's left is the blocking and seaming. I'm waiting for my new lace blocking wires to arrive. The scarf is in its infancy. Both are knit in Handmaiden's Flaxen - a silk and linen blend. I purchased the yarn and the pattern as a kit from One Planet Yarn and Fiber.

Also on in progress are the Knit Chickens from Blue Sky Alpacas. I would love,love, love to have a brood of hens, real hens, of the egg-laying variety. But since the current plan is to move a thousand miles in a year it doesn't seem practical. I'll wait to have hens until I'm settled in Portland. But in the meantime... I'll be knitting chickens. They are simply too cute to ignore, and the Blue Sky Dyed Cotton is probably my most favorite yarn.

And finally, to keep abreast of what I'm crafting in the kitchen and the garden you should follow my other blog - In the Kitchen and the Garden.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Tips for Shopping at your Farmer's Market

Farmer's markets aren't just a good place to buy fresh, seasonal fruit and veggies. Most larger urban markets also have farmers offering healthy meats, fresh cheese and dairy, fresh baked goods, and eggs from pasture-raised hens. Many also offer a selection of value-added foods like homemade pastas, and various sauces, salsas, and preserves. In other words, it is possible to do the majority of your shopping at your local farmer's market.

Following are some tips and suggestions for a satisfying market experience.

> Bring bags from home and be sure to bring several, that way fragile, and easily bruised items like peaches or tomatoes can have their own bag and stand a better chance of arriving home in good shape.

> Spend a little time before you go planning a few meals, looking over a selection of recipes, and thinking about what you'd like to cook this week. You stand a better chance of getting what you need, and using what you buy if do a little planning. But plan with the season in mind - don't go to the market looking for butternut squash in the middle of June. And keep an open mind while you shop, be prepared to be flexible with your plans.

> Talk to the farmer's and get to know them. This is actually one of my most favorite aspects of shopping at the farmer's market. You'll know where your food comes from, and you'll have a more enjoyable shopping experience. Also, the farmers and growers well let you know what's coming in soon and what's almost gone, which will make it easier to plan and allow you to take full advantage of foods with a short season.

> Remember that not all farmer's are "certified organic" because it is costly to maintain certification. Ask your growers about their growing methods and standards, you may be pleasantly surprised. If you're buying meat ask if the animals are pastured and how they live. Most farmer's are more than happy to share, and actually like to talk about their farm and their animals. Many will even invite you to visit.

> Expect to pay a fair price - remember farming and selling at market takes tons of hard work, special skills, and business know-how. The farmers and growers deserve to earn a fair wage. However, don't hesitate to ask for a quantity discount if you are buying a whole bunch of something, most growers will be happy to give a little. When the strawberries were in and I wanted to make jam I bought a huge flat a berries which the farmer discounted. On the other hand, peaches have been in short supply this year because of a late freeze, and so I was more than happy to pay full price for the peaches I bought to preserve.

> Reuse and recycle. Return things like egg cartons and berry baskets to the farmer/grower, it will save them money, and it's good for the environment. It is always better to reuse before you recycle.

> Try something new. Challenge yourself to buy something you're unfamiliar with and ask the grower for ideas about how to cook it or use it. You'll learn something.

> Get a good cookbook or two that focus on seasonal and local cooking. Fresh from the Farmers' Market (Reissue): Year-Round Recipes for the Pick of the Crop
and Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets are both excellent choices. Also a good book on canning and preserving like Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
These books will help you take full advantage of seasonal produce, and to preserve the harvest.

Make shopping at your local farmer's market a part of your weekly routine and a family event - it's a lot of fun, it gets you in touch with your community, and the food tastes better.

New House Rules!

New house rule: for every pair of hand knit socks I complete, a crappy store bought pair will be thrown in the trash.

Running socks, and my single pair of Smart Wool shorties are exempt from this rule. The Smart Wools were a gift, and I wear them all the time. I love them. As for the running socks, I have just enough pairs to run 6 days a week, wear a clean pair on each run, and not have to do laundry more than once a week.

I think it should be noted that I am a recovered pack rat, which means I don't like to have extra stuff around. It should be further noted that I define "extra" as "not used and/or having no sentimental value".

It has become perfectly clear to me that as I knit and accumulate hand knit socks, I will never ever wear the crappy store boughts, rendering them "not used". And since they have "no sentimental value" they will be "extra" and therefore trash.

The hand knit socks are far superior. And it is my house, and I make the rules.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Socks! Complete!

Do you see that? That is a pair of socks! A mated-for-life pair of socks. Yes, I am pleased to announce that with much sticktoitiveness I have successfully completed my first pair of socks.

They were pretty simple actually - no toes to graph, no heels to turn. They're yoga socks. I don't do yoga, but they will make my feet feel loved. And allow me to admire my summery pink toenail polish.

Upon completion I immediately started another pair - those shortie socks I said I'd get to. This time I'm using a slightly different pattern, in hopes of gaining a better understanding of the anatomy of a heel turn. Progress.

And then it will be on to an endless queue of handmade socks. Ambition.

My new found appetite for hand-knit socks has presented me with an unforeseen, but small, problem: I must now figure out how to take compelling photos of my own feet.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Pick a Peck of Peppers

I'm going to pickle these peppers. I found a very simple recipe in Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving . The recipe makes 6 pints of sliced hot pickled peppers. The perfect condiment for almost anything - salads, sandwiches, burgers. I've also been known to eat them straight out of the jar.

My garden has an abundance of peppers right now - they are all coming ripe at the same time. I will most likely get one, maybe two more harvests of peppers before things slow down for the summer.

Where I live, here in Central Texas, the overnight lows aren't all that low any more. And the weather man is predicting our first triple digit temperatures already this weekend. In other words, it's hot. And it's going to get hotter, and stay hotter until the end of September.

And what that means is my first growing season is already winding down. Without cooler temperatures at night the pepper blossoms won't set. Likewise, my cucumbers are struggling with the heat, and I have probably harvested the last of them. The tomatoes will ripen, if I keep them watered, but then they too will shrivel and die in the stifling temps.

I will get a second growing season that will start when things start to cool down in September, and last until the first freeze in January. I'm already planning this second growing season - and I'm planning it with my canning books in hand. I'll grow what I want to preserve: hot pickled green beans, tomatoes for sauce, and zucchini to grate and freeze for bread and muffins.

But first, I'll pickle these peppers, continue making baba ghanouj and pestos, and wait for the tomatoes to ripen.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New Free Pattern

I posted a new free pattern to my Ravelry Designer page yesterday, and it's been amazingly popular - tons of downloads already. The pattern is for a "Wide Rib Cowl for Him".

This cowl was designed specifically to be masculine enough for him, but something that she’ll covet also. It's a very easy pattern and suitable for beginning knitters. It is shown knit in Malabrigo Kettled Dyed Merino Wool. The kettle dyed Merino Wool is amazingly soft and feels good against the skin. The subtle color variations characteristic of kettle dying, along with the ribbed texture add real depth to this cowl.

If you are on Ravelry you can get your free download and either print it or save it to your library.

If you're not on Ravelry, you really should be. It's a great resource - it's full of patterns, you can maintain a queue of projects you'd like to do, and share the projects you've completed.

But, I want to share this pattern with everyone who'd like it, whether they are on Ravelry or not. So, if you are interested you can either email me directly or leave a comment that includes your email address and I will send you a reply with PDF attachment.