Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Peanut Buttah & Pumpkins

Recipe time.

We wanted edible playdough today, so I looked 'round the internets to find a recipe. Guess what? 99% of the recipes I found call for milk, mostly powdered. For an art/cooking project? Has anybody tried eating that stuff lately, because what I remember from my own childhood is that powdered milk has more flavors in common with licking the outside of the animal than the sweet stuff from the udder. (Not that I get to ingest milk anymore - lactose is not my friend.)

So, experimentation time. Here's what we did:

crunchy peanut butter
brown rice flour

I warmed the honey and the peanut butter for easier mixing, then sprinkled in rice flour until the little guy liked the texture. This is obviously a very easy process, and doesn't need exact measurement. I wouldn't recommend using a peanut butter than already has sugar (you know who you are), or if you must then omit some or all of the honey. I'm also quite sure that cashew or almond butter would sub in well if peanuts are an issue.

* ~ As a health warning, if your child is under three, you might want to skip this recipe. It sounds fun, but you're more likely to have problems with both peanuts and honey if you're under three. ~ *

Last nights recipe actually included measurements. Well, most of the ingredients did. Pumpkins are undoubtedly my son's favorite part of Hallowe'en, so we buy them early and often. But then I have to cook them up, so I needed a creative way to use up a few things I had in the fridge (oh, that yogurt is still good, I promise). Here's the what-for's:

1 small pumpkin, baked, skinned and gutted
2 sticks butter, or 1 cup, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 cups AP flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 cups plain yogurt
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla

First, prepare the pumpkin. For me this means splitting the sucker down the middle, greasing a pan with a little olive oil, then throwing the pumpkin in the greased pan into the oven (at 350 degrees) until the skin starts to turn brown and the whole thing has give when pressed.

Second, prep the yogurt. Say what? If you've seen Alton Brown's Good Eats episode on recipes for lactose-free folks, you've seen him make yogurt cheese. The stuff is brilliant - it makes fantastic ice cream, "cream cheese" frosting, bagel schmear, or sour cream substitute. Here's a quick run-down of AB's recipe: scoop a cup or more of yogurt into a moistened multi-layer cheese cloth. Twist the cloth into a tight little bundle - the whey will start to release immediately and run out. You can either hand squeeze for a while, or you can weigh the bundle down with couple cans on top and inside a strainer. I just squoozed mine until I felt like enough whey had come out - this will drastically reduce the volume of the yogurt.

Okay, cake time.

Cream the sugars and butter together in a large bowl until the mixture is light and fluffy. As the butter/sugar mix creams, combine the flour, leavening, spices and salt and sift together. In another bowl combine the pumpkin, yogurt cheese, vanilla and eggs. If you think the wet mix is too thick, add the second cup of yogurt a little at a time, stopping when the wets resemble pancake batter. Alternate adding flour and pumpkin into the creamed butter and sugar. When everything is well mixed, it should be very fluffy and pale orange.

Butter and flour two loaf pans. Set the oven to 350 degrees. Divide the batter between the pans and bake an hour at 350 or until the cakes test for doneness.

Beware, this cake tried very hard to collapse on me right out of the oven. The crumb will be very moist and tender. Wait until the loaves fully cool to avoid total collapse.

I will probably revise this recipe to include more flour so that it has a little more structure. The tender, pudding-like texture was really yummy, but very unprofessional.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Projects Renewed

There have been some changes at Black Trillium recently, which seems a little strange because we only just started the site as a trio. We sat down and discussed our crazy lives and realized that maybe now was the most ideal time to be starting something. I walked away from the evening as the ongoing proprietor of the online shop, which was way more than I hoped for. I think we left the "joint venture" on a positive note, and I'm happy to say I've been able to post new things over the last few weeks. Dyeing solo is quite different than in a group - I'm still waiting to see if what I dye has appeal to a wider audience. If I'm still doing this about the same time next year, well, that will be something.

Just because I'm dyeing doesn't mean I've changed my knitting habits either. Startitis, I think that's the clinical term. Socks, blankets, laceweight cardigans and pullovers. Cowls, kid sweaters, other random knitted gifts. You name it, I probably have something on the needles to fit. But hey, I scored big time:

Noro decided they didn't have need to continue this colorway (182, I think), so Little Knits has it on the seriously cheap for a whole bag. I think I'm going to do my own version of one of the new Mason Dixon Knitting patterns. Noro for the dots, Cascade 220 in Jet for the background and border. If I take time to contemplate my own crazy, I might chicken out, so no self-reflection on this one.

Oh yeah, in other news, I started back working at the kitchen store. I know, silly me. Bills need'a payin'.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What Do You Smoke?

Okay, so we've been dyeing yarn for what, a month and a half? It was in the works long before that, but our first skein of yarn went up near the beginning of August. Well, over time and because we have solemnly sworn we will not hock our wares at our pal Jami's shop, we have formed our own little gathering afterward at a coffee shop 'round the corner. We're not the only ones who knit there - we've seen other groups gathered there before us, and we've heard tell of a group that outgrew the place and moved to the grocery store across the street.

At one of these gatherings, my dear friend Stef asked, and I quote:

"So, are you guys like drug dealers? You can't sample your own stuff?"

Okay, I think that's how she said it, but at any rate, you get the gist. And then I started thinking about why it is none of the three of us has jumped on knitting up our own sock yarn.

There have been many skeins in this process that we've all expressed a great deal of interest in. We've redyed several colorways that have sold because we liked them enough to want to knit socks with them. I carried around Sonrisa for days before I realized I should probably put it up on the site instead of hoarding it.

So why not? We could certainly benefit from having pictures of our finished yarn as socks or some such as "shop samples". All yarn stores do this sort of thing. I personally would love to wear some of the insanely bright things I've dyed. I don't care if you could see my feet from Jupiter - I love bright colors.

Again, I thought to myself in the shower, while doing dishes, and sitting there next to Stef and Em and Jess on Wednesday, why not?

Seriously? Well, actually it's not serious, it's rather silly.

I'm a 401(K)nit Stasher. I have more sock yarn than I need finished socks or than I could reasonably give away (finished socks). Okay, I'm not as well stashed as this nice lady, but give it time. If I am really jonesing to cast on another pair of socks, I can stash dive, or crawl through Ravelry and find something that inspires me. All of my stash makes me want to cast on - that's why I bought it - so often it's a matter of keeping myself from casting on like a crazy person.

Our sock yarn has a whole different feel to me. The creative process is in the dyeing so when a colorway finishes drying, that is a finished object to me. After that, it's up to someone else to take the baton and move the yarn through to the knit-up object phase. I wonder if it feels this way to yarn store owners? Or spinners? Or the folks herding and shearing the sheep?

Really, though, it's a matter of time until I succumb to some lovely skein or other. Our newest base yarn is just fantastic. I think it would compare to Lorna's Laces in plied texture and fineness, but smoother and tighter. It doesn't get all loopy like 100% merino as you dye and dry. When I have a chance, believe me, you'll see what I'm capable of. Vanilla socks, of course, but something fun color-wise. Clown vomit, maybe.

Just a couple more things...

Check out the widget on this sidebar. Usable only in Wordpress, but how totally cool anyway! Okay, so I'm considering switching to Wordpress and establishing my own domain name and this is just one more piece of motivation. If you're already powered by Wordpress, you can find the coding for the widget here. Brilliant.

Happy birthday, Em!

Sweet. A blogger who loves dictionaries. And the Harlot.

That's all. Carry on.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Yarn Harlot (W)rides Again

First, you should know, I have no idea what I plan to do with post. Mostly, I feel like writing.

A while back, I was fortunate enough to get an interview with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, which was posted here. Okay, so that site is run by my husband, Joe, and his business partner and good friend, Dan, and occasionally I feel like I should contribute to new content, as that helps keep the numbers running. A little bit like new blog posts, though I can't say that I'm very good at that on my own. Their site is a bit more of a geek site and a whole not-a-lot of the knittery, so I tried to keep the interview about writerly, and geeky, stuff. It was fun. And terrifying.

She (the Yarn Harlot) is on tour again. Right now, as we speak, she's probably (smartly) getting some zzz's in a comfy Seattle hotel. The place she was to appear this evening, Third Place Books, is a top-rate independent used and new bookstore that has way more to it than just books and magazines. I mourn my lack of residence in my home town on nights like tonight, although if I were several years younger and unleveraged by a young child I would have made a bonsai trip up and back just to be there.

I have this wild idea that I might have a few more questions to ask the illustrious Harlot. Wisely, we haven't contacted her with such flights of fantasy because I have yet to read the latest book. I know, I'm a bad little fan. But if I were honest, I would have to admit that, English Literature near-degree not withstanding, I don't read much anymore. Knitting books are great - most of the words are about patterns or techniques - but not this most recent of YH endeavors. No, Free-Range Knitter is ". . . a sort of David Sedaris-like take on knitting--laugh-out-loud funny most of the time and poignantly reflective when it's not cracking you up." according to Library Journal. Essays. Oh crappers, I'd have to actually think while reading. Having at least some familiarity with YH's personal style I'm sure that means not only funny, but thoughtful, intelligent, conscious writing. Yup, too brainy for this momma.

Well, not really. I should give myself a tiny ounce of credit - I did used to read smart books. The list of things I read and absorbed at University is pithy, and I still own every bleeding tome. But that part of my life, and my brain, seem to be on hold for at present. I am present, but in a different way.

I don't know if this means I will try down the road a bit to read the book and then ask for an interview, or if I should just bag the idea altogether. The woman writes darn well on her own. And she would choose to fly over any other super power. How can you top that?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Betrayed by Sock Yarn

As happens every so often, I recently did a reorganization of my stash. It helps me get a clear picture of what holes I have in my stash, and what projects I bought yarn for that maybe I've forgotten about. I also get to play with color, which is fun and enlightening. Oh, and who doesn't love the manhandle a whole bunch of cushy, sweet-smelling wool?

I found out two things about myself in my last yarn reorg that I thought I'd share:

1. I am a fetishist. Can you see a common thread in those colorways above? The same can be seen in the bin where I keep my greens, blues and purples. I like particular color combos and tend not to deviate from them very widely. This is not good news for our dyeing.

2. I like pink. Wait, what? I've told people outright (Emily, I can hear that smirk all the way over here) that I hate pink. I used the word hate. That's a pretty strong word, right? Well, I stand contradicted.

If anyone would like to find out just how OCD I am about sock yarn and particular colorways, you can check out my stash on Ravelry. The whole thing should be up there, as I've found it to be an excellent dose-of-reality tool. Here's the link.

We've been dyeing away in anticipation of our Ravelry ads going up. Here's a sample of what we've come up with in the last week or so:

We've been working with a new wool and nylon blend sock yarn that is absolutely fabulous. Nicely plied, very soft, very little halo (unlike some of the other wool/nylons we've worked with) and takes dye like a sponge. I can't wait to see how it knits up.

Here's a bit of a laugh to end with, especially if you're a Trekkie.