Monday, June 30, 2008

Making Jam

When we bought our house last year, we inherited some very lovely flowers/herbs/trees, including well-established lavender and rosemary, hydrangeas, two rosebushes and two fig trees. Of course we also inherited some really awful things like miles and miles of overgrown monkey grass and trees that had had all of their lower limbs lopped off by what I can only assume was an overzealous tree trimmer.

The fig trees really excited me. When I was a child a set of my great-grandparents had a huge vegetable garden, berry bushes and fig trees. I remember eating fresh figs at their house and the milky liquid that came out of the top of the figs when you pulled them off of the branch. Last year we were still feeling our way around the new house and working on removing all that monkey grass so I didn’t have the energy to keep all the birds away from the figs so we didn’t have any to speak of. This year I’ve tried to do a little bit better job at shooing the grackles and robins and English sparrows away from the trees. I’ve really been watching them, waiting for the figs to be ripe enough to pick. Saturday morning I went out and was able to get several ripe pounds of figs. I’m still not sure what variety they are, I think they might be Celestial but I’m not 100% sure. They don’t turn brown or purple when they’re ripe, their green skin just lightens up. Knowing that there was no way Doug and I would eat that many figs I wanted to make jam out of them.

Again, I grew up with my grandmother and my great-grandparents canning and making jellies and jams so I had a vague idea of what I needed to do. I Googled ‘making fig jam’ and got a few hits. Basically I needed figs, Sure-Jell, sugar, lemon juice, glass canning jars, a few large pots and some patience. It seemed as though it took forever to peel and cut up all the figs but I finally got them all chopped and threw them into a pot with the Sure-Jell, a whole lotta sugar, lemon juice, a little lemon zest and some water and boiled it for a few minutes and then let it cook for a little longer on medium heat. I sterilized the glass jars in the dishwasher and nearly boiled the lids and tops in hot water for 5 minutes.

After the jam cooled down a little bit and poured it into the jars. I got four 8 ounce jars filled with the amount of figs I had. In two of the jars I put some rosemary from my garden in with the jam, I thought that might be tasty served on top of warm brie with crackers. I snuck a little taste as I was putting it in the jars and it seemed to taste pretty good, so my fingers are crossed. After the jars were filled they got a boiling water bath for about 10 minutes. It was a pleasant experiment and I managed not to maim myself in the process (which is usually not the case). I’m keeping two jars for myself (one of each) and giving the other two to my mother. If I can keep the birds away from the trees I should have more ripe figs to pick in the next few weeks and I’ll probably make more jam. This time I might try using honey to sweeten it instead of sugar any maybe add walnuts to a batch.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Garden - Week 11 (I think)

Everything is growing, no confirmed casualties (yet). I'm still fighting the battle of the whiteflies. Slug problem has been taken of, new problem with horned tomato worms! I picked three off of my tomato plants in the past two days. Grrr. If it's not one thing its another. Despite the tomato worms I found my first teeny, tiny green tomato yesterday. It's from one of the heirloom tomato plants, either Cherokee Purple or German something, I can't quite remember.

The cucumber is also getting pretty tall, I have commissioned Doug to build some trellis frames for the cucumber and squash vines to grow on/up. I should have those by the end of the weekend. The butternut squash is growing wildly, it hasn't bloomed yet but I can see the buds on the vines. I need to give everything a good spray of insecticidal soap to treat those horrible whiteflies and anything else that might be crawling around on the leaves. The carrots are also pretty big too. The tops really look like carrots now. It's amazing to me that just a few months ago I planted most of these things (cucumber, squash, melons, carrots) from seeds and now they're huge. Here's to hoping they continue to grow and aren't overrun with an investation of anything awful.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Flickr Obsessed

In the past I have only really used Flickr to upload pictures to be posted on Ravelry. And last summer when I was in the process of creating my craft room I found a set of craft room photos there that I obsessed over and got inspired by. Well the other day I started looking at other pictures on Flickr, usually the photostreams of people whose blogs I read. Then I found the Memphis group and started looking through those and before I knew it I had wasted two hours of my life looking at photos! But they’re just so pretty…

my Flickr favorites


Tuesdays with Dorie: Mixed Berry Cobbler

Who doesn’t love a good cobbler? I grew up on cobblers made with berries and peaches from my grandparents and great-grandparents gardens. I was happy to try out a new recipe, chosen this week by Beth of Our Sweet Life. The cobbler was easily put together and required little effort. I used frozen mixed berries, which included strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries. I probably could have used fresh berries but we were having Saturday night dinner guests and the thought of having to clean and hull all those berries did not appeal to me.

I followed Dorie’s recipe to a tee, the only addition being an egg wash and a sprinkling of raw sugar on the top. I used a mini-cookie cutter in the shape of a flower to cut out the center and then left it on the top during baking. I cooked about 10 minutes less than the suggested time; my oven might run a little on the hot side because I usually cook things a few minutes less than is actually called for. The cobbler turned out well and smelled delicious. I served it at room temperature with vanilla ice cream. Everyone really enjoyed it and Doug and I finished up what was left yesterday. Nothing beats a melting scoop of vanilla ice cream floating in a sea of warm berries!

I’m really excited about next week’s selection, Apple Cheddar Scones, chosen by Karina of The Floured Apron, because I *love* scones!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

Sundays are my favorite day. Doug and I get up early enough to watch CBS Sunday Morning, drink coffee and plan what we’re doing (or not doing). This Sunday I got up before Doug and decided to make pancakes. Mainly because I have a box of pancake mix that will expire in August so I’d like to use it up. I used my cast iron Lodge skillet I bought last Thanksgiving to make cornbread in. Every time I use my skillet I think about staying at my Nannie and Pa’s house when I was younger. Nannie is my mom’s mother, my maternal grandmother and Pa is my maternal grandfather. I spent most of my summers at their house out in the county until I was around 13. Nannie let me do nearly anything I wanted to and didn’t mind my ‘cooking’ experiments. I probably wouldn’t be half the cook I am today if it wasn’t for her letting me run wild in her kitchen. Last Thanksgiving I was hosting lunch at my house and I called to get her recipe for cornbread to make cornbread dressing with. It called for bacon drippings but I don’t keep bacon drippings (although I guess I could?) so I winged it. The cornbread turned out okay, but it didn’t taste like hers, probably because I omitted the bacon drippings and my brand new iron skillet isn’t ‘seasoned’ yet.

After pancakes and the news, we spent the rest of our Sunday doing odds and ends and making an ill-fated journey to the grocery store. OMG I hate people in the stores on Sunday. Everyone walks around like they have all the time in the world. I almost drop-kicked two middle-aged women shopping together because every time I turned my cart they were in the aisles blocking my passage, so irritating. I didn’t want to spend my entire Sunday stuck behind the ‘mosey-ers’ at Schnucks. I spent a good portion of the rest of my Sunday in my craft room knitting and listening to This American Life podcasts. I’m working on the Le Slouch beret for my friend Tzili and this martini dishcloth I started forever ago that I’m just tired of looking at. Late afternoon is my favorite time to be in my craft room, the room gets the afternoon sun and its always full of light from about 3:00PM until 5:30 or so.

Earlier in the day I had the idea to make pizza on the grill for dinner. I made pizza dough in the morning so it would have time to rise. I used this recipe from Epicurious for the dough and used suggestions from this article on how to proceed with the grilling. We used mild Italian Chicken Sausage, fresh garlic sautéed in olive oil and shredded mozzarella for the topping. I left off the tomato sauce because the acidity of tomatoes bothers Doug’s scarred esophagus. I made two smaller pizzas instead of one bigger one because I decided it would be easier to manage them. The lesson I learned was that you must watch the dough like a hawk once you put it on the grill because there is a great chance you might get distracted and wander around the yard for 10 minutes while your pizza turns to ash on the grill. The first one on the grill turned out burned on the bottom but the top was okay. When I put the second one on I watched it very closely and it turned out fine. I’ll make them again because I would really like to try a margherita version and a version with pesto. After the burned pizza crust I needed a glass of wine, luckily the friends we had over for dinner Saturday had brought us a bottle of red so I tore into it. I felt much better after a glass.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Peppermint Cream Puff Ring

When I first saw this selection I was a little intimidated, I’d never even thought about making cream puffs before. But I read the directions and decided I could do it. Because we have limited fridge space this week I decided to not make the ring but just individual cream puffs, easier to store and manage. I followed the direction on making the dough, and the puffs came out perfectly. I baked them just as directed and I had no problems with wet insides. I didn’t have a true pastry bag so I used some plastic icing bags and tips I already had to pipe out the dough and the filling. After I piped out the puffs I dipped my finger in a little bit of water and smoothed the top of the puffs a little bit, I discovered that little trick from a website that I now cannot find.

For the filling I split the recipe in half. Half of the cream I made into peppermint cream filling as directed by the recipe, using Kentucky Colonel mint from my garden. I was very minty, I’m not sure exactly how many leaves I used but probably around 20? For the other half of the cream I used a vanilla bean for flavor, I just love seeing the little flecks of vanilla in white cream. I made it just as I had with the peppermint cream, bringing it to a boil and refrigerating, the only exception being that I didn’t have to strain it because there were no leaves. I didn’t see crème fraiche at my normal grocery store and at that point I was too lazy to drive to the specialty grocery so I just sour cream. Both creams turned out nicely, but I will say even though I love peppermint I preferred the vanilla bean cream over the peppermint cream.

When it was time to open the puffs I used a small serrated knife, however most of the puffs opened with just a gentle pull. The chocolate topping was a little thicker than I liked so I added more heavy cream and another ounce of chocolate to make it easier to pour over the puffs. I topped them off with sliced toasted almonds and a sprig of my mint.

The cream puffs were good, not earth-shattering, but still delicious. In the future I’ll probably use the vanilla bean cream and maybe try making the chocolate pastry cream too. Probably the biggest thing to come out of this week’s dish was that I’m not scared of making cream puffs/éclairs now. I *know* I can do it and I’m not intimated anymore.

Monday, June 16, 2008

More Recipes & Bacon

I’ve become an Everyday Food addict. I love buying that little magazine filled with ‘easy’ recipes. I really like the way it looks stacked up on my cookbook shelf. I almost have the Everday Food: Great Food Fast cookbook, it was a gift last Christmas and I use it a lot. Some of my favorite recipes are in there and they never take a long time. The June edition of Everyday Food has several good grilling/summer food recipes but one baking recipe caught my eye – Coconut Pineapple Loaf Cake. I thought it sounded really good and really easy. I made it last Thursday, it turned out really well. It was easy enough to make on a weeknight and had a minimal ‘dirty-dish’ count. The pineapple made the cake moist and tangy and the coconut added a nice crunch, together they made it taste very tropical.

Several weeks ago I bought some Portobello mushrooms with the intention of grilling them. Well time passed it was several days later and I still not grilled them and that night it was raining. So I went to and searched for Portobello mushroom recipes. I found this one, you make a stuffing of shrimp, breadcrumbs, parm, mayo, basil, onion, garlic and a few other spices, mound that inside the mushroom and bake it until the top and golden brown. OMG this is good, Doug *loved* it and rarely does he *love* food but he really loved this one. The recipe is perfect but I also added Old Bay Seasoning and used shallots instead of onion (just because I had shallots on hand that day). I’ve made it several times since and it really is a great recipe, it’s fairly easy too as long as you get shrimp that is already peeled and deveined.

Bacon is a guilty pleasure of ours. We both know it’s totally unhealthy and most of the time we eat turkey bacon when we have a hankering for bacon. And turkey bacon is good, it’s a little dry but it has that crunch and it’s only 20 calories or so a slice. Every once and awhile I’ll break down and get real bacon, but I almost hate to because when you cook bacon the scent of sizzling bacon lingers and then you have the bacon house. Anyway, we were making a Super Target shopping run a few weeks ago and came across Niman Ranch Applewood Smoked Bacon and Apple and Gouda sausage. We decided to buy some and try it out, as a treat. That stuff is amazing, pure pork heaven. I’ve never had such delicious bacon and sausage. Of course now we’re both hooked, the only redeemer is that we have to drive all the way out to Super Target to get it so we’re less likely to eat it very often thank goodness. We really heart Niman Ranch bacon.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

My husband is wonderful because...

He built me a sweet little bookcase. I have more 'stuff' than I know what to do with. When I first wanted a craft room Doug built me a craft desk, big and wide with two big open shelves on either side of the base. He also built a hanging board for me to hand various crafty supplies on. I was inspired by this post from Alicia of Posie Gets Cozy. I loved the look of her bookcase. When I Googled 'pink bookcase' I found this lovely bookcase that cost a measly $520.50!!! I pestered Doug for two weeks to make me something similar and he had the time this weekend. Materials (for two bookcases but he only made one for right now) were about $80.00 total and it took him most of yesterday to cut it out and put it together and then it took me half of the day today to paint and seal it. But it looks great and I just *love* it. The picture isn't very good but it's painted 'Flower Petal Pink', a Martha Stewart collection color from Lowe's. And who doesn't need a pink bookcase?

This weekend has flown by, we went to dinner at Celtic Crossing in Cooper-Young Friday night and then went to a pottery sale by Melissa of Bridgman Pottery. I love, love, love her stuff, it's fantastic. We bought a mug/tumbler (but I might use it as a vase) and a berry bowl. But she has these wonderful herb markers and sea urchin vases and platters with ferns and little cups with bees. I loved everything there, I'm sure I'll be giving her more of my money in the future.

Saturday was WWKIP day and it was a lot of fun, I got to meet several people from Ravelry. Yesterday I also went to Stash because they were having a sock yarn sale and because I need to get some size 4 DPN's to finish off my Green Gable. I scored three skeins of pretty, pretty sock yarn. Now I just need to actually knit some socks. We went to World Market last night because my latest yarn purchase left me with no place to store my yarn and I needed another seagrass basket.Today I've painted, I've made my Tuesdays with Dorie selection for this Tuesday (and I didn't screw it up!), I bound off the bottom and one sleeve of my Green Gable and I've one more sleeve to finish plus some weaving in the ends. Pretty productive for a Sunday if I do say so myself.

Friday, June 13, 2008

WWKIP and the nearly finished Green Gable

World Wide Knit in Public Day is tomorrow and in Memphis there's an event at the Central Library from 10AM-1PM. I'm going and looking forward to seeing some of the people I knit with on Tuesdays at Cafe Eclectic and some people from Ravelry and Stitch & Bitch that I haven't met yet. I'm planning on taking a few things I've made, the Juliet sweater, my Booga Bag, my Sophie bag and maybe a scarf.

I'm hoping I'll be able to finish up my Green Gable sweater before the weekend is over. I'm knitting the last few inches of the bottom of the sweater and after that I'll have the ribbing at the bottom and the ribbing on the sleeves to finish up. It's gone pretty quickly, considering there have been a few days I haven't had a chance to work on it at all.

I'm going to cast on Wendy Bernard's No Purl Beret this weekend too. I bought some Brown Sheep Worsted in Jack Plum for the beret. It's going to be my 'going-away' gift for one the youth directors at work. She and her husband are headed back to Israel in July and I'm really going to miss them. I'm also planning on making her husband a kippah, I have the pattern for it but no yarn yet. I need to get both items knit up by July 18 at the latest. Gotta get to stitching!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Needles and ART and feeling alone

We (my husband and I) have spent large sums of money attempting to have a baby. IUI, IVF w/ ICSI and Assisted Hatching, many vials of Follistim and HCG and Lupron and Clomid and progestrone in oil and progrestrone suppositories. I have several large plastic bags in my bathroom closet emblazoned with the ‘IVP Care’ logo, full of alcohol wipes, needle packages and boxes of have half-empty medicine. I also have a sharps container that holds the needle waste created by the IUI and IVF cycles. In my day to day world I don’t know anyone who has ever dealt with this mess of infertility treatments. All of the people in my world have had children the ‘old-fashioned’ way and have never in their wildest dreams considered the possibility of having to have their eggs/sperm harvested from their bodies and mixed together by embryologists in a fertility lab. Most of my friends and family have tried to be very supportive and sent prayers and good wishes to me but they don’t understand the reality of actually going through a cycle. The pain of a multiple negative pregnancy tests, sobbing in the bathroom at work because you got the phonecall, the heartbreak of realizing you may never have your own biological child. People try to be really helpful and say “have you thought about adoption?” And while it’s absolutely an option, we’re not in the place where it is our option yet. I don’t think they understand the grieving that one has to go through sometimes when dealing with IF failure. It makes me feel very alone in the world.

I read blogs of other women who are going through or have gone through the kinds of things I have – some with success and some without. I was looking at a blog earlier and found a link to this YouTube video about PIO injections. It struck me because it made me see, physically see, another woman dealing with what I’ve dealt with. I do feel alone because everyone I ‘know’ with IF is online but this video made them a little more real for me. I ‘know’ there are other couples all over the place having the same doctor’s appointments and ultrasounds and injections I am. There are other women crying in the bathroom on their lunch breaks and trying to keep their mascara from smudging so everyone doesn’t ask “what’s wrong?”

I keep thinking it’ll get easier, but it hasn’t yet. November will mark 4 years since our first RE visit and still no pregnancy. We have another RE appointment next week to go back and discuss doing more IUI’s, possibly with donor sperm. I can’t help but feel pessimistic about it though. More hemorrhaging of money, more 7:30AM ultrasounds and blood draws, more hormones and more disappointment. Oddly enough Doug is more optimistic than I am. Usually it’s the opposite, I’m the cheerleader and he’s the emo kid. I guess we’ll see who’s right and who isn’t.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Garden - Week 8

Most everything in the garden is growing like crazy. The squash just keeps getting bigger and bigger and some of them are getting ready to bloom. Over the weekend I pulled out the dead peas and replaced them with some watermelon plants I transplanted from one of the other beds as well as marigolds to help with pest control and a few peanut plants we found at Dan West over the weekend.

The bed that holds the butternut squash, the summer squash, cantaloupe and watermelon was getting crowded so I relocated some of the squash to the bed with zucchini, cucumber and carrots. I'm still having slug and whitefly issues. I bought some 'Sluggo' slug treatment over the weekend and spread it around on Sunday, it's safe for all other animals/wildlife, just not slugs. Yesterday morning I went out there and found little slug bodies in my beds so I guess it worked. I used insecticidal soap to treat the whiteflies but it barely made a dent in them. Those little bastards are hard to kill. They are the worst too, I hate them with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. I've also notice what appears to be aphids on my tomatoes so that's something else I need to deal with. I'll have to consult my last issue of 'Organic Gardening' to see if I can find a natural solution.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Monday and Tuesday I was off for Shavuot, one of the many perks of working for a synagogue - Jewish holidays and national holidays. I wanted to spend some time with my niece B because she'll be starting kindergarten in August and I won't be able to spend the days I'm off with her like I have in the past. I asked her what she wanted to do and she wasn't so I suggested the movies. We went to see Kung Fu Panda, which was not terrible. It was cute for a kids movie. Ian McShane was the voice of the 'bad guy', which was interesting because Doug's been watching seasons 1 and 2 of Deadwood the past few weeks so it was odd to hear Ian McShane's voice without hearing 'f*ck' or 'c*nt'. David Cross also did a voice, I heart him. Doug turned me on to his comedy, he's awesome. I took my knitting to the movies because I've been working on the really boring stockinette hell portion of my Green Gable sweater so it didn't require me to pay attention. B fell asleep towards the end of the movie so I had to carry her out, she's almost as long as I am tall now and it's a lot harder to carry her now than it was when she was a baby.

She also really likes puzzles and I took her to Michael's to pick out a new one. She of course picked out a Hannah Montana puzzle (gag). But I will buy her nearly anything so I got it for her and spent the remainder of the afternoon alternating between helping put together a glittery puzzle of Miley Cyrus and watching Disney and Nickelodeon. We also made cookies, I let her hold the mixer and scoop out the dough so she was really happy. I can't believe she's as old as she is. It seems like just yesterday that she was so tiny I gave her a bath in the bathroom sink.

Tuesdays with Dorie: La Palette's Strawberry Tart

This week's selection for TWD came from Marie of A Year in Oak Cottage. I love strawberries and this tart looked delicious and not too involved. However, my first problem was trying to find a tart pan with a removable bottom. I looked at Target even though I knew they probably wouldn't have such a thing and of course they didn't. But I also went to Williams & Sonoma thinking surely they would have one - they did not. I found one on their website but not in the store. So I though about either making the crust in the springform pan or in the tart pan/plate I already have that had no removable parts. I decided to go with the tart pan.

The crust was fairly simple to make. My food processor is small though and was not big enough to mix the crust in, so I used my big blender, it has a lot of different settings on it so I though that was the next best thing. It did okay, the big problem I had was that the butter got stuck in the 'well' of the blender bottom. So I still ended up having to take the crust mix out and mixing it together by hand, which makes me believe I mixed it too much. It tastes great, it's just very crumbly and did not hold its shape when I tried to spread the jam on it.

I didn't have any of the suggest liquors for mixing in with the berries but I did have some Triple Sec so I threw in a little bit of that as well as a little sugar. I used some homemade strawberry jam I bought at the herb festival I went to a few weeks ago, it was very good. In the book Dorie suggest using creme fraiche on top of the tart but I already had some heavy cream on hand so I made whipped cream. All in all it was a tasty dessert, my presentation was lacking and my pictures aren't stellar but the tart was another winner.

Next week's selection will be the Peppermint Cream Puff Ring, chosen by Caroline of A Consuming Passion.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: French Chocolate Brownies

This week’s selection was from Di of Di’s Kitchen Notebook. When I saw the selection posted I went home to look up the recipe immediately. Everything looked good except the raisins. I love chocolate covered raisins but the thought of raisins in brownies wasn’t exciting me. Add that to the fact that I knew I’d be making these for guests who would probably not dig the addition of rum raisins and I decided to skip the raisins and the cinnamon. At some point I’ll probably make them again with the raisins just because I want to try flambé.

I used Ghirardelli 60% Caco Bittersweet Chocolate. I almost always use Ghirardelli for my baking needs because it’s not super spendy and I can chop it easily. It melted so nicely in my metal bowl and when I added the butter the smell of the chocolate and butter made me want to just dig in with a spoon. It was a fairly simple process to make them. Not too many steps and it all came together pretty quickly. I was using my 8” Pyrex square for something else so I used a 9” inch cake round to bake in. I thought that would be okay since in the recipe Dorie explains that the recipe was intended to be a cake at first. I baked them for about 5 minutes shy of the recommended time and they came out perfectly - with a crackled top. And the buttered foil helped them slide out very easily.

Since I had omitted the raisins I wanted to add something special to them on the side so I made homemade whipped cream (just heavy cream and super fine sugar) and raspberry coulis (raspberries, lemon juice, super fine sugar and a pinch of salt). The brownies alone were delicious, they were really light, not heavy the way some brownies can be. With the whipped cream and the coulis they were still great. Another thumbs up from my husband and from our dinner guests. A great recipe!

Next week it’s on to La Palette’s Strawberry Tart from Marie of A Year in Oak Cottage. I’ll be hitting the Memphis Farmer’s Market this Saturday for the strawberries.

French Chocolate Brownies
- makes 16 brownies -Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour1/8 teaspoon salt1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)1/3 cup raisins, dark or golden1 1/2 tablespoons water1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 12 pieces3 large eggs, at room temperature1 cup sugar

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, butter the foil, place the pan on a baking sheet, and set aside.
Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon, if you're using it.

Put the raisins in a small saucepan with the water, bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the water almost evaporates. Add the rum, let it warm for about 30 seconds, turn off the heat, stand back and ignite the rum. Allow the flames to die down, and set the raisins aside until needed.

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Slowly and gently melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the butter, stirring so that it melts. It's important that the chocolate and butter not get very hot. However, if the butter is not melting, you can put the bowl back over the still-hot water for a minute. If you've got a couple of little bits of unmelted butter, leave them—it's better to have a few bits than to overheat the whole. Set the chocolate aside for the moment.

Working with a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they are thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Lower the mixer speed and pour in the chocolate-butter, mixing only until it is incorporated—you'll have a thick, creamy batter. Add the dry ingredients and mix at low speed for about 30 seconds—the dry ingredients won't be completely incorporated and that's fine. Finish folding in the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula, then fold in the raisins along with any liquid remaining in the pan.

Scrape the batter into the pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is dry and crackled and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the brownies to cool to warm or room temperature.

Carefully lift the brownies out of the pan, using the foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. With a long-bladed knife, cut the brownies into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side, taking care not to cut through the foil.

Serving: The brownies are good just warm or at room temperature; they're even fine cold. I like these with a little something on top or alongside—good go-alongs are whipped crème fraiche or whipped cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce or even all three!

Storing: Wrapped well, these can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Yarn Over Eureka

I started working on a new sweater as soon as I finished my first one in April. It's the Green Gable from Zephyr Style, the same girls who designed the Juliet sweater I made. In February when Yarniverse had their 40% off sale I bought enough Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece to make the Green Gable sweater and the Rusted Root sweater. I picked out Peridot, a pale green for my Green Gable and buttercream, a soft yellow for the Rusted Root. When I made the Juliet sweater I knew something was slightly off with my stitches I had too many. I could never figure it out but it turned okay and the blocking helped and probably I'm the only person that notices its imperfections.

Green Gable - WRONG

For Mother's Day I made my mom a reusable grocery bag out of Hempathy, a hemp yarn. (It's actually not quite finished because I still need to make and sew on the handle. Whoops.) The bag is an open lace pattern made with yarn overs. Again I ended up with extra stitches. It's slightly off too, it doesn't look terrible just not perfectly executed.

I saw a cotton lace/cable shrug on Ravelry I wanted to make too. I started it and again more yarn overs and more stitch problems. I didn't want to go to the yarn stores for help, I wanted to figure it out on my own. I got pretty far into the Green Gable three different times before ripping it out and starting it over again because I couldn't the stitches correct. I knew I had to be doing something incorrect with the yarn overs, there was no other explanation. I looked online at, I looked in my Stitch & Bitch books, I Googled 'yarn over help' nothing. From the video on I knew I was doing my yarn over correctly but I was still ending up with a leftover stitch. Finally I took a piece of paper and wrote out my stitches and tried to figure out where that extra stitch was coming from. After half an hour of being near tears I figured it out. I was making a yarn over and then knitting a stitch. That's wrong, you're supposed to place the yarn in a certain position and then follow your pattern, whether that be knitting a stitch or knitting two together in the case of the Green Gable sweater.

Green Gable - RIGHT (it's the same yarn, the picture above is with a flash, the picture below is sans the flash)

I was still concerned that was the right thing to do but I decided to go ahead and knit a few rounds anyway. Well apparently I was right, that was my problem. I'm almost all the way finished with the lace portion of the sweater and when I compare it to photos of other people's on Ravelry it looks right. So now I'm excited to finish this sweater, the shrug and make another bag for my mom that' has the proper number of stitches and thus the proper lace pattern.

Big sigh of relief. I'm not a complete knitting moron.