Archive for August, 2012

veg out

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

i don’t know about you, but at this time of the summer, i usually start hunting around for new ways to use vegetables from the garden (for others, it could be the farmer’s market or CSA).

on the one hand, we don’t want to waste even a bite of that great summer flavor, but on the other . . . if we have to eat green beans (squash, tomatoes, peppers—you name it) fixed the usual way one more time, we just might question our good fortune.

enter another terrific book in the CIA at home series—vegetarian cooking at home with the culinary institute of america.

now, i know that the word “vegetarian” often conjures up all manner of negative connotations—the most scurrilous being that one will be be forced to choke down tofurkey with some sort of stringy, greenish-gray mass of goo on the side, all in the name of “dinner”.

uh . . . NOT.

think back to all those meals you’ve watched me cook and asked for recipes to make yourself—did you see any meat? most people who eat in our home don’t even realize they are enjoying meat-free meals.

and truly, there is no reason on earth that eating vegetarian should involve foods that are any less delicious, nutritious, or attractive than those containing meat. i wasn’t raised in a vegetarian household, but because my mom is italian, we enjoyed a whole repertoire of dishes that are vegetable based—childhood favorites that we continue to cook and share. we never thought of them as foods from the fringe—just what was for dinner. and the fact that these dishes are often more economical is an added bonus.

i guess what i’m trying to do is set the scene—if you’ve been looking to expand your horizons, add new levels of texture and taste to your diet, and/or eat from a more healthy selection of choices, get ready to be wowed.

as with other books in the CIA at home series, this one is not merely a collection of recipes. i think that’s especially important in a vegetarian guide, because great meatless meals rely on a certain chemistry for success, both in flavor and in nutritional value. not that getting it right is difficult—it isn’t. but knowing a few key pointers about cooking and combining various food types will go a long way to bringing out the fullest flavor of each dish, while ensuring proper balance and complete protein.

the book is divided into sections according to meal components and food groups—starters, soups, main dishes, grains, vegetables, sauces, and even condiments.

each section begins with some background information, pantry basics, and cooking fundamentals for that food type, followed by a series of tempting recipes through which to put that information into practice.

a handy and guide to making soup stocks and which one goes best with which soup segues right into some awesome soup recipes

taking advantage both of the fruits of summer

and the warmer, richer flavors of winter.

now, soups and vegetables and grain dishes aren’t the jurisdiction only of vegetarians—just about any cook might have use of a book that offers both tasty vegetable recipes and some guidance to making them the best they can be.

i just love that the book has a section on making pasta. i do have at least four or five other books that contain pasta recipes, but i know i will use this one a lot because it has the information and the recipe right there

alongside sauce recipes i might be making or vegetable preparations i might be using in the same meal. making my kitchen life a little easier was very smart.

while it’s true that preparing vegetarian meals might entail a little more prep than say, slapping a steak on the grill and opening a bag of peas, the book does a good job of showing one how to get from A to B efficiently and effectively,

whether you are tackling one of the fancier, fussier dishes designed to impress

or a more humble and hearty meal in a pot.

all of the reasons listed above are good ones for considering this book, whether you intend to go full-on vegetarian or not. but what if you ARE curious about meat alternatives, such as soy, tempeh, or seitan?

no worries—it’s in there.

the section on cooking with high protein meat alternatives is quite informative and even contains a guide to making these products at home, should you want to try it.

while we enjoy eating these products as ingredients in a number of our favorite dishes, i had never thought about making them at home before. however, i may do it after reading up on it more. i’m not sure i’m well set up for it in our current situation, but i’ll find out if i decide to experiment, haha.

i do think it would be great to make our own burger substitutes for instance—we both like the idea (and the convenience, once in a while) of veggie burgers, but have yet to find a packaged brand that is nutritionally sound and really knocks our socks off.

i have great hopes for the recipes here . . .

another bonus section contained in the book is the one on condiments. because many vegetable based recipes may come from unfamiliar cuisines, learning a little about the condiments associated with them can widen the appeal of a new dish by allowing eaters to customize the spiciness or flavoring.

salsas, relishes, chutneys, dressings, flavored vinegars, even ketchup are included and using them to add a layer of flavor to everything from soups to sandwiches is encouraged.

yeah, if i go to the trouble of creating our own homemade veggie burgers, i just might go the extra mile and make some ketchup to go with them. all the more likely if the recipe is right there where i can get my hands on it.

last but certainly not least—this book is simply gorgeous. it celebrates the mouthwatering beauty of vegetable dishes so that i can practically smell the food as i browse the pages—it makes me want to cook something right now. that’s the best advertisement for vegetables i can think of.

so, are you excited?? thinking already about rolling up your sleeves to get busy in the kitchen this weekend? well fortunately for us, our friends at the CIA are generously holding a signed copy of vegetarian cooking at home with the culinary institute of america for one lucky reader. want to throw your hat in the ring to win it?

leave a comment at the end of this post by 9 pm EDST on sunday, september 2nd naming a vegetable dish you want to learn to make better. we’ll announce a winner in the blog post following.

in the meantime, don’t hold back from getting started on some new vegetable dishes this weekend—the best of summer is upon us; time to get in the kitchen and enjoy what remains.

hope we all have happy labor day weekend with safe travels. for those who have asked, erica finally resurfaced this morning and i hear that baby knitspot will be making an appearance very soon—stay tuned!

growing shame

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

my mom’s front entry is always such a cheerful welcome in the summer, filled as it is with plants. some of these are ones that she brings inside for the winter and others are seasonal.

my little fledgling impatiens plant made it to albany in pretty good shape, losing just one leaf on the way (that was hanging onto life by a thread anyway). i have one more plant at home with two short branches and a fresh cutting in water.

that’s all the result of a winter’s worth of pretty consistent work on our part to keep these plants going. still, we did it, right??

then we got here and what was pretty much the first thing we saw on arrival??

the plant my mom grew from a small cutting she received in may from her cousin. obviously, these two have no need of my help in the propagation department.

color me shamed.

not only that, but when i turned around, i saw  these new starts

jeez loueeze; i don’t know what it is about our house, but we can’t get any houseplants to grow this well. huh, i can’t even get the cuttings to take root very well; i really struggle with them.

of course, i’m going to be taking one of those home . . .

and maybe one of these coleus too; my cousin propagates these each year to share around the family as well. i know coleus are easy to come by, but these are especially gorgeous and it’s fun to know they originate from some old plant many years back.

we’re having a nice visit so far; my mom had to have some routine tests, so the first couple of days have been focused on that, which has provided some excellent knitting time. i’ve nearly finished my current secret project and have put in lots of time on wasp and rose as well while we stayed home in the evening.

i’m halfway through the third and final trellis section; after this i get to start the hem pattern, which is the section that contains the wasps.

it’s getting bigger!

i had extended waiting room time on my hands today, but i prepared well by bringing the second sleeve for my sweater project along

sorry for the horrible representation of the color in this photo; i just couldn’t get the camera to cooperate. the yarn color and the upholstery color just don’t play well together as they do in the previous photo and there isn’t another spot in the house with decent light. anyhow, i’m past the underarm on this sleeve and working on the raglan shaping.

one of the things i like about working a raglan sweater in pieces is that the shaping on the sleeve can be different than the shaping on the body. so instead of a box with symmetrical, geometric shaping, you can achieve some contour in the bodice that more closely molds to the actual curves of the body, which are a bit more sinuous.

one thing i keep forgetting to bring up about this new sweater is that i haven’t yet come up with a name for it—i’m at a complete loss at the moment. maybe it’s time to have a naming game on the blog? we haven’t done that in ages.

OR we could just ask kim the dyer to name it—she’s the master of names, me thinks (ok, well, her husband is). yes, now that i think of it, this would be the perfect solution—one of those sassy indigodragonfly names. my only criteria is that it be rather short, one or two words. it’s much easier for things like making ads and listing the pattern everywhere.

may we can get them to come up with a short list of ideas and the blog can vote on which one works best . . .

i’ve had a couple of really good runs since i’ve been here too—my mom lives on the edge of  the pine bush nature preserve, so even though she is also near everything she needs, there are wooded country roads very close by to get away from all that.

tomorrow we are heading to hudson, NY to visit cousins, have a nice lunch, and maybe stop to buy fruit on the way. i can’t wait.

we leave for home on thursday, but i have a nice post planned for out travel day—don’t miss it!

 

what to do with the leftovers?

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

tomorrow we head out for a visit with my mom in albany and of course, the garden has chosen just this time to give forth of ripe tomatoes. we’ve been waiting all summer for the generous quantity on the vine to ripen, but they did not . . . until now.

hot as it’s been, the weather did nothing to push them and when i checked with my friend kris who gave me the plants, hers are behaving the same. so hopefully, we just ended up with very late-maturing varieties and we’ll be hit with an abundant production after labor day (september can be an excellent month for tomatoes).

i put up a few quarts of our own this week, but now i have this little bowl full and i’m not sure whether to cook them down or take them along on the trip. i guess i could get a quart or two out of that . . maybe after dinner i’ll work on it.

i know—i’m obsessing. but with everything else all squared away (even the laundry!), it feels funny to leave one thing hanging.

we have been busy though; green beans are still producing in basketfuls and  yesterday i put up the last of what we’ll need (we’ll eat some fresh and give the rest away), along with some more peaches and when i went downstairs to squeeze them into the freezer i snapped a photo to share. because we added fruits to our stores this year we are full already, even though it’s only august. we still need to put up more tomatoes and then all the fall soups and sauces. hmm, looks like when we return, we’ll be shopping the labor day sales for an additional small freezer.

anyway, off we go tomorrow and i won’t have to think about the garden and its produce for a few days. i’m going to enjoy some extended knitting and pattern writing time, as well as getting out for some fun with my mom.

one thing i’m packing into the car is this impatiens start. i’ve been working all summer on propagating cuttings from the one remaining plant we had. all of my mom’s gorgeous pink impatiens (click here  and scroll down to read all about those) succumbed to blight over the winter, as did the ones she shared with her cousin.

luckily, david and i dug up a bunch of these plants while visiting with her last october and brought them home. mine did not fare awfully well either, but more due to neglect than to disease. but i did manage to get two cuttings to root and stay healthy through the winter, so that by springtime, i had a mother plant from which to work

as it has branched out, i’ve taken cuttings, which have proved challenging to root. but i figured out a system that works and managed to grow few starts. once it got a stronghold and began to branch out, the mother plant has even developed lots of promising new growth around the base of the branches.

these plants are kind of delicate though; they need to be moist and it has been dry here. i can’t decide whether to take this one along or maybe just leave it with bret. i gave him a cutting last week for his and connie’s anniversary and explained that it was the result of 50 years of propagation in our family. he really liked it; i hope they can keep it going as we all try to do!

as for knitting, i think i’m taking just three projects along (instead of my usual nine or so, haha). with secret knitting at the top of the list, my sweater in progress goes into the bag next; not only is it public knitting and moving along at a highly motivating pace, but i think i’ve finally decided on the construction.

i’m going to go with the ribbing at the seams, which will enable me to knit it in separate pieces, rather than in the round. i’ve finished one sleeve and here you see the second one—i got a lot done on it today while i was visiting with susie and debby for saturday morning knitting.

and of course i’m also taking along wasp and rose; i don’t want to lose my momentum on it by leaving it home to languish. i’ve been steadily ticking off between two and six rows during my very limited evening knitting sessions. even though it feels like less progress than i’m used to, i’m still happy that it’s moving forward instead of languishing; that was hanging over my head and i don’t like the feeling.

one thing i do just love about the piece as it stands is that with this quantity of fabric on the needles, you can see what incredible drape it has, even in its unblocked state. can you imagine what it will be like when it’s blocked??

just luscious. sigh . . . not too far to go.

so, that’s  all i have for the time being—now it’s time to pack my bag and make sure everything i want to take is organized. next time i pop in i’ll be in wonderful upstate new york!

he’s here!

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

welcome baby knitspot!
i’d like everyone to meet padraig david baron

born: august 22, 2012 @ 2:55 pm
weight: 8 pounds, 5 ounces
length: 20 inches
ten fingers and ten toes!

congratulations erica and matt; may every happiness grace your little family!