Monthly Archives: April 2015

“Maroon, yellow, blue, gold and gray”

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I have too much yarn.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I still probably have way too much yarn, but today I have a lot less than I did yesterday. Like, four giant Ziploc bags’ worth.

I’d been meaning to go through the yarn closet for a long time now, but if you’re a regular reader of this little blog o’ mine, you know that the past couple of months have been just a wee bit challenging. And the last thing I felt like doing was pulling out all of the bags and sorting through everything I’ve accumulated over the past couple of years.

Not because of the physical work, mind you. It was just the whole idea of sorting through every skein of yarn because, to be honest, there was a lot of poor yarn purchases on my part and I know I’m not alone in this. I also know that you can’t keep everything. Or that you would want to knit or crochet everything in your stash, either. We all have clunkers in there, buried at the bottom of the bag, just underneath the skeins of the merino and silk blend.

You know, that bag of red eyelash yarn that you bought eons ago because you didn’t know what you were buying? Yeah. That’s what I’m talking about here.

So I decided before I go and pick up my 12 skeins of Osprey for this sweater, before any more cute little skeins of sock yarn come to live in my house, I needed to do a little housekeeping. And here’s how I went about it.

Pick a time when you can devote a couple of uninterrupted hours to go through every bag and box of yarn you have. You don’t have to do it all in one shot, but you really do need to go through all of them.

Find an organization or a person who’s going to take the yarn you no longer want. My local Goodwill was thrilled to get five bags of clean yarn in almost-perfect shape. Please remember that anything you donate must be in good condition. If it’s not, see if you can recycle it. And of course you can always sell it.

And if you were thinking about doing a spreadsheet or perhaps using the “Stash” feature on Rav, right about now would be a good time to start doing exactly that.

Next, figure out what you’re going to keep and what’s going to get donated. And please be honest with yourself. You know what you like to knit and what you like to knit with, right? If you don’t knit lace and you have ten skeins of laceweight, do you really want to hang on to it? Or do you have a friend who would love it and make something beautiful with it? That’s what I’m talking about.

Oh, and I only had three piles: keep, donate and pitch. That’s because I’m a ruthless bitch when it comes to this organizing stuff. And I refuse to hang on to one half of one third of a ball of Sugar and Cream cotton. In barf pink, no less. Out it goes.

I wouldn’t be so cavalier if that was Tosh Sock, of course. You know what I mean.

As you go through your yarn, put aside the yarn you’ve already bought for specific projects. And I will guarantee you that you’ll find yarn for projects that you’d forgotten about.

If you want to, sort it by weight. I have a ton of sock yarn, so once the projects were put aside, I stored the rest of the sock yarn together. And I discovered a couple of neat colorwork possibilities, too.

Once you’ve gone through it all, it has to go back to wherever it was being stored. If you weren’t happy about that situation, here’s a good chance to change that, too.

I’d love to have a huge, open LYS-style storage system, but I don’t have the room for that. So I picked up a few of those closet organizers that hang from the rail and they work perfectly for me. I put the wool in generic ziplocs and write the project name on the outside if it’s earmarked for anything special. If I wanted to get really wild and crazy, I’d slip in the patterns so I’d have a kit ready to go.

Because you never know when you’ll need a knitting kit, right?

I stored the acrylic and cotton in those humongous zipper bags. If you decide to go that route, make sure you get the clear ones so you can see what’s in there, because that’s really the purpose of this whole thing, right?

Sigh.

Sigh.

Sit back and gloat and take pictures of your new stash. Share with other people and make them jealous. Gloat some more.

Now go knit!

“Simple Stuff”

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Last week my friend Sharon sent me a tweet about the renowned Italian cook and cookbook author Marcella Hazan from the Food 52 website with a note that said, “I kind of thought you liked her.”

She was right. I haven’t thought about her or her recipes in years, but after looking at the recipes on the website, I remembered why I always admired her. Her recipes are simple. They’re easy. They’re earthy and delicious and fabulous and made from scratch. They’re what good cooking should be and what so many dishes really aren’t.

And it’s something I always forget. I’m just drawn to recipes that are three pages long and make me pull out half of the pots and pans in my kitchen. Even when I really don’t want to do a lot of cooking because I’d rather play with string, I inevitably end up spending all kinds of time in the kitchen mostly because I can’t leave well enough alone. Buy bread? I’ll make bread. Pick up ice cream? That’s what the ice cream maker is for. It’s a slippery slope, my friends.

asparagus1Now that spring’s here, I need to re-embrace simple stuff. A pound or two of gorgeous asparagus doesn’t need much to make it any better than it already is; just a quick saute and some pasta and Parmesan should do it nicely. The socks I’m knitting are a heavenly blend of merino wool and cashmere in a simple lace and cable pattern. They’re lush and gorgeous. The yarn didn’t need an intricate stitch pattern for it to shine, so why complicate things?

In the spirit of keeping it simple, here’s a great recipe for asparagus and pasta. It’s from New Classics and for once, I left well enough alone and didn’t complicate anything. asparagus2

Really.


 

Pasta with Asparagus & Lemon

  • 1 ½ pounds asparagus
  • 1 pound penne or casarecce pasta
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup grated Pecorino or Parm
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.
  2. Rinse the asparagus and snap off the tough ends (they’ll break where it’s tough). Or, trim off the ends and peel the stalks about halfway down the stalk. Cut off about 1 ½ inches of the tips and set aside. Chop the rest of the stems.
  3. When the water comes to the boil, put the tips in and let them cook for about 3 minutes or until tender. Pull them out with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain. Add the chopped stalks and let them cook for about 7 minutes or until tender. Pull them out, drain, rinse with cold water and reserve separately.
  4. Puree the asparagus stems with the lemon juice and the olive oil in a blender or food processor until smooth. If it looks a bit too thick, add some of the pasta water. Taste for seasoning.
  5. Cook the pasta according to how you like it and drain. Stir in the asparagus sauce, the tips and the grated cheese. Give it a good stir and serve.
  6. Enjoy!

“What you think you’re doing with my chili con queso?”

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I did not grow up eating chili.

Well, technically, that’s not really true. I did eat chili, but it came out of the infamous red and yellow can and it was only eaten for lunch, usually on a day home from school. Stuff like that (I’m looking at you, Dinty Moore Beef Stew) wasn’t considered “real food” when I was growing up so it was eaten on the down-low, usually when my family wasn’t around.

Oh Brett, now could you?

Oh Brett, how could you?

I gradually moved away from the red and yellow can and I started making chili. Armed with a recipe from “The Good Housekeeping Cookbook” (the 1952 edition or something like that), I made a pot of…something with ground beef, onions, a green pepper, chili powder, canned tomatoes and kidney beans.

No, this was not chili. This wasn’t even close, but I used the recipe as a blueprint and over the years I started adding more chili-ish things to it (fresh jalapenos!) and it was good. It still wasn’t what pure chili-heads call authentic “red”, but with a scoop of sour cream, some grated Cheddar and a handful of Fritos on the side, it was just fine.

When I became a vegetarian some 15-odd years ago, one of the first things I wanted to make was a pot of chili, so I pulled out my cookbooks and realized that pretty much anything was fair game in Chili World. Whoa! There were recipes for chili with TVP (texturized vegetable protein), bulgur wheat, frozen shredded tofu, edamame, custom chili powder blends from artisanal Californian dried chilies, Dos Equis, organic heirloom dried beans, cocoa.

chili peppers1And while they all sounded great, all I really wanted was a bowl of something with onions, green peppers, chili powder, canned tomatoes and kidney beans. With sour cream and cheddar and Fritos, natch.

No cilantro, though. Cilantro is evil.

Anyway, I came across a great recipe for chili in “New Classics” and I’ve been making it for years. This isn’t a “hot” chili since I don’t care for food that’s hot just for the sake of it being hot. Sparky and spicy yes; hot, no. Feel free to make this as screamingly torrid as you see fit.

The chili purists will scream that I still don’t make chili. I don’t really care; this one makes me happy.


Veghead Chili

  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Spanish onion (or large yellow onion), chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. ground coriander
  • 1 Tbsp. good chili powder
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 2 medium summer squash (zukes, gold bar zukes, summer crookneck), diced
  • 1 hot pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped (wear gloves if you’re really sensitive), optional
  • 1 large pepper (red, green…orange or yellow look really snazzy), stemmed, seeded and chopped
  • 1 28-oz can tomatoes in juice, not puree (diced, chopped plums or crushed…your call)
  • 2 15-oz cans beans with liquid (I like pinto and black…your call)
  • 1 cup of frozen corn kernels
  • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • minced fresh parsley and cilantro (if you must)
  • salsa and/or Tabasco to taste
  • salt
  1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven.
  2. Add the onions and saute on medium-high heat until golden. Add the garlic and give it a good stir.
  3. Add the spices and oregano, stir.
  4. Mix in the diced squash and the peppers. Cover the pot and cook on low for a couple of minutes.
  5. Remove the lid and add the tomatoes, beans, corn and tomato paste. Give it a good stir, cover and let it simmer for about half an hour or so. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
  6. Add the parsley, salsa, Tabasco and salt. Taste for seasonings and adjust.
  7. Enjoy!