Friday, November 20, 2015

Collard Stem Pesto

I mentioned kale stem pesto when I wrote about Linda Ly's book. So I recently had collard greens and I decided to see if I could use their woody stems to make pesto.  I did whiz the stems first by themselves in the food processor, but then I added walnuts, Parmesan, garlic, salt, a handful of whatever herbs I found in my garden, and olive oil.  Delicious!  Not woody at all.

November has been very mild, hence the presence of herbs yet in my garden.  I'm going to experiment with the pesto again and see if the lack of fresh herbs still makes an agreeable pesto.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Wee Shawl for Phoebe

I was intrigued by the Larkrise to Candleford shawl I had seen on Soulemama and Ravelry. It looks like a warm hug!  I'm actually watching the Larkrise to Candleford miniseries right now, but I haven't seen anyone wearing the shawl yet.

There were some similar patterns on Ravelry, but they were all beyond my abilities or patience to increase said abilities. I boldly struck out on my own and I think it worked (and I wrote the details below in case you want to try, too)!  But Phoebe keeps growing, so I'm not sure how long it will work.

How I made the shawl - also called a "sontag" in the 1800s

(not a "pattern" - please, I am not at that level yet!)  I used size 7 needles and medium-weight  (is that called worsted? confusing) wool yarn that I got for a song at the creative reuse shop.

I started a dishcloth, which means I cast on 4 stitches.  Knit all 4.  Then slip one, knit one, yarn over, knit the rest of the row.  Then repeat this (which adds a stitch every row while creating a picot edge) until you have 75 stitches.

Knit 25.  Keep them on their needle and bind off the next 25.  Leave the last 25 on their needle.  With a third needle, work on one of the wings of 25 stitches.  To continue the picot edge without adding any stitches, slip one, knit one, yarn over, knit two together, knit rest of row. Only do this when you are starting a row with the picot trim, otherwise just knit the whole row across.  When the wing measures four inches, start decreasing: at the picot side, slip one, knit two together, yarn over, knit two together, knit rest of row.  On the plain side, knit two together, knit rest of row. When you get down to 4 stitches, bind off. Repeat process for other wing.  Weave in ends (there will be ends at the beginning of one wing, too, but I can't quite explain the details of how I got the yarn where I wanted it - trust me, it could not have been hard because as it must be obvious by now, I can't handle hard knitting).

Sew buttons on the wing tips.  Wrap around baby with the wings going under her arms, to button on the point of the vee at the back.  Adorable and warm.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Four Heads for the Crock

I got five enormous heads of cabbage from market - I think the farmer charged me $1.50 a head.  I shredded and shredded and shredded cabbage on the mandoline slicer I borrowed from a church friend. (My shoulders and arms were sore the next day and I couldn't figure out why at first!)

So yes, the crock took four heads of shredded cabbage, pounded down with my meat mallet, to get filled up. I salted the layers as I went.

I put a plate on top, weighted it with a quart jar filled with water, and covered the whole business with a tea towel.  My husband carried it down to the basement and it will ferment for several weeks before we start tasting and enjoying.  I'm curious to see what Phoebe thinks of sauerkraut!

Friday, November 13, 2015

At the Windy Washline

Do you want to get some fresh air in your lungs to drive out the germs your people bring home?

 Want to get some sunshine in your eyes, some mood-boosting Vitamin D delivered without a pill?

Want to use a free bleach alternative with no chemicals?

Want your laundry to smell fresh and delicious and utterly clean?

Want to dispense with an appliance, get that square footage back, reduce your utility bill, and reduce your carbon footprint?

 And do you want to do all these things simultaneously for real super-efficiency?

"The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind.  The answer is blowin' in the wind. . . " (with thanks to Bob Dylan)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Little Tiny Knitted Vest

So now I am looking for ways to keep the baby warm with materials I have on hand.  And I have been slightly obsessed with knitting!  This may be due to a bout of  tendonitis in my thumb joint (less hand sewing), the relative speed of tiny baby knits, and the convenience of a friendly teacher to call on.

I used some yarn I had on hand that I hope has some wool in it to make this little vest.  The idea is to keep Phoebe's core warm without wrestling and shoving her arms into two sets of long sleeves.

 I used this tutorial, but I cast on 36 stitches and used 20 for the neckline and 8 for each shoulder.  I also did not use the fisherman's rib because I didn't recognize all the methods and I was too impatient to go to my teacher or You-tube; I did a knit-2, purl-2 rib.

I was pretty proud of myself for figuring how to segregate the groups of stitches to make the neckline!

However, when it was time to sew up the side seams, I realized that the vest was rather narrow for Phoebe's chub.  So I knitted two little panels (I think 12 stitches wide - maybe?  it took me a while to get photos of the vest in action, and I've knitted other things in the meantime) and then added one panel under each arm.  This is only obvious is you take your eyes off the sweet baby face above the vest.

More vests coming soon!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Old-School Cocoa Puff Bars

Once upon a time, I was a student at a very large Mennonite high school.  Later I was a teacher at this same school.  I ate in the cafeteria and those cooks did a pretty good job, better than other school cafeterias I've eaten in (but not as good as Mennonites at home).

They served a dessert called cocoa puff bars and I loved them. I can't actually now recall which lunch the bars went with, although I have never forgotten the green beans with the mac and cheese, the flabby pizza, and hot sauce with the Vietnam fried rice.

I remembered those bars a month or so ago and suddenly realized: I could make them!  And eat them again!  But alas, a Google search showed me that there are several versions of cocoa puff bars around (one, oddly, with a ganache topping; these are cocoa puffs, people, and they are not gourmet).

So I emailed the head cook of this Mennonite school, and she sent me the bulk recipe in pounds.  She said she had to hunt for it in an old file, which makes it sound like cocoa puff bars are no longer on the menu and I feel sorry for the current students.

They are super-simple to make and the cocoa puffs give a delicious crunch in the rich peanut-buttery goo.  If you can ignore the questionable nature of the puffs (what, exactly, are they?), these bars are wonderful.

I've made these bars twice now, and both times I finished the box by dumping the cocoa puffs into a finished batch of chocolate buckwheat granola with a fierce ironic glee. Health food: meet strange food!  Wheeee!

Cocoa Puff Bars, the old-school Mennonite version

Heat together (I do this in a large pot):
1/3 cup butter
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey

Stir to melt.  Turn off heat and add:
1 cup chocolate chips

Stir again.  Fold in:
7 cups cocoa puffs

Press and smooth mixture gently into lightly greased 9x13 pan. Cover. Cool to room temperature. Cut into bars.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Letters from Honeyhill

Letters from Honeyhill: A Woman's View of Homesteading 1914-1931 is an unusual treasure that Rebecca found at our library.  It is a collection of letters written by Cecilia Hennel Hendricks, who is an excellent writer with an eye for detail, humor, and human interest.  Her letters, selected and edited by her daughter, range in topic from housekeeping minutia and observations to her involvement in state politics to their family finances.

Cecilia writes about their first car (and car accidents), their first victrola, and redecorating.  She discusses canning and raising children with her sisters and mother, also going on at length about the petty squabbles of the various ladies' aid groups she is involved with.

Like most homesteaders, she and her family suffer tragedies, although Cecilia does not express self-pity, regrets, or despair in her letters.  I admire her fortitude even as I wonder how she kept it up (maybe she had times in her bedroom with the door closed that she feels are not something she cared to document for posterity!).  Occasionally, she refers to times when she was ill or “doing poorly” but she doesn’t elaborate.  When her parents and sisters send gifts and money, she is grateful and gracious - that takes such skill when difficulties slam up against pride!

I'll give you a short sample entry here below, so you can read for yourself Cecilia's style and insights. This book is well worth seeking out if you are interested in a women's biographies, housekeeping, or the homesteading/pioneering life.

Tuesday, June 5, 1923

“I am pleased to state that we now have a girl to stay with us all the time.  She came last night.  Her name is Norma Myers and she is a high school girl from Powell.  Mrs. Osborne told us about her last summer, and when we couldn’t get anybody else this time we got her.  I think she is about 18, and is a good big girl.  Mrs. Osborne says she has been cooking since she was 13 years old and can do anything about the house.  She is a neat looking girl and her mother is always as neat as a pin.  Their house looks nice, so I guess she knows how to do things.  It will certainly be nice to have our house looked after.  John does enjoy having a clean, neat house to sit down in after his work outside is finished, and when I had everything to do I couldn’t always keep the house looking the way I wanted it to.  The outside yard work in the bees will soon start and then of course I can put in my time to advantage helping John, and he will need help, for we have more bees this year than we have ever had."


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