WIP Wednesday: Shades of Gray

It’s been a while since I have shared my knitting projects with you, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been knitting!  I have an unprecedented (for me, anyway) three projects going right now. Each of the projects is very different, except for one similarity:  they all use yarn in some shade of gray.

Project 1 – Socks

CoBaSi - Gun Metal Gray

First up is a project I actually started over a year ago.  It’s my first pair of socks, Focus Pocus by Michelle Hunter.  As I said, I started this one a year ago, but I didn’t like how tight the cast-on edge was.  It was hard to get over my heel, and it felt a little tight on my calf.  So I ripped it out.  I put off starting over for several months.  The cast-on and knitting of the first few rows is quite fiddly and stressful and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

I finally braced myself and cast on in November.  To address the too-tight edge I used a larger needle for the cast on, then switched back to the smaller needle when I began knitting.  This not only helped with the tight edge, but it seemed to make the whole process go a little easier.  Now that I am well into the knitting, I am enjoying this project!

Focus Pocus Socks

I am about halfway through the cuffs of these socks.  This project is temporarily on hold while I work on some other projects, but I am looking forward to getting back to it.

Project 2 – A Mystery!

I can’t really tell you much about this next project, because it is super secret!  I can show you a picture of the yarn I am using:

Kenzie Yarn

And here is a little detail photo:

Mystery Detail

I will tell you more about this project when I finish it in a few weeks!

Project 3 – Downton Abbey

Lastly, I couldn’t resist participating in the Downton Abbey Mystery Knit-a-long hosted by Jimmy Beans Wool again this year. I have had so much fun with it the last two years, and so far this year is no exception.  As always, Jimmy Beans created a specially-dyed yarn just for this project.  While I liked the pink and brown colors of the special yarn, I couldn’t see myself getting much use out of a shawl in those colors, so I went rogue and chose these pretty colors:

Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock

The yarn is Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock. The color on the left is called “Fifty Skeins of Gray – Anastasia” and the color on the right is “Kerfuffle”.  I love these two colors together!

I am running a few weeks behind the knit-a-long (the group is on clue #4 and I am on clue #2).  Here is a picture of my shawl at the end of the first clue:

DA Mystery Shawl Part 1

I can’t wait to see how this one turns out!

What projects are you working on?

1 Comment

Filed under Knitting

TWD: Brown-Butter-and-Vanilla-Bean Weekend Cake

Brown-Butter-and-Vanilla-Bean Weekend Cake

It’s time for another Tuesdays with Dorie recipe from Baking Chez Moi!  I was really looking forward to this one: Brown-Butter-and-Vanilla-Bean Weekend Cake.  I love simple vanilla-flavored cakes, so this sounded right up my alley.

What makes this recipe special is the brown butter and the vanilla bean.  Sure, it would be good with “unbrowned” butter and vanilla extract, but the inclusion of these two ingredients really adds oomph and complexity to the flavor.

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake

As expected, I loved this cake! The flavor, the texture, everything about it. The tender but sturdy crumb was surrounded by a lightly crunchy crust. While I loved this cake on it’s own, it would be wonderful as a base for strawberry shortcake, or any recipe calling for pound cake.

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Cake

Altitude Adjustments

I live at an elevation of about 4500 feet, so I usually have to adjust cake recipes so they rise properly.  The adjustments I made seemed to work well.  Here’s what I did:

  • Reduced the baking powder by 1/8 teaspoon
  • Added an extra tablespoon of cream
  • Added a tablespoon of 1% milk

Note: I did not use the optional rum.  If I had, I probably would not have added as much extra liquid.

9 Comments

Filed under Cooking

FFWD: Spice-Crusted Tuna + Caviar in Aspic

Happy Friday! Boy this week went fast! I think it is because Monday was a holiday, so the week started a day late. Regardless of how fast the week flew by, I managed to make two French Fridays with Dorie recipes, both fishy. I made this week’s recipe, Spice-Crusted Tuna, and the dreaded recipe from a few weeks ago, Arman’s Caviar in Aspic.

Spice-Crusted Tuna with Mango Chatini

Spice-Crusted Tuna with Mango Chatini

First up is a quick and easy recipe using fresh ahi tuna: Spice-Crusted Tuna. Fresh tuna is rubbed with a paste made from cardamom seeds, white peppercorns, coriander seeds, fresh ginger, and salt. Then it is quickly seared in a skillet and served with a drizzle of olive oil.  I topped it with the optional Mango Chatini, found in the “Fundamentals and Flourishes” chapter of Around My French Table.

The recipe called for tuna steaks that were about a half inch thick.  Mine were at least an inch think, so I sliced them in half.  I wish I had not done this as I ended up overcooking my tuna.  The recipe stated that the inside of the steaks should remain pink, but mine were cooked all the way through.

I liked this recipe, but it would have been better if I had not overcooked my tuna.  This is a good quick and easy recipe to make if you are looking for something meaty, but a little different.

Arman’s Caviar in Aspic

Caviar in Aspic

Now it’s time to talk about what might be the most dreaded recipe in AMFT: Arman’s Caviar in Aspic.  Fish flavored jello with scoops of caviar. Ummm…

Needless to say I had to make this one for myself.  No one else in my household would touch this one with a ten foot pole.

So, I made it and I tried it.  I didn’t hate it.  But I can’t say I liked it either.  I can see how, with the right setting, the right people, and the right drinks, this could be an enjoyable sensory experience.  Unfortunately, trying this on a random Thursday afternoon by myself in my sweatpants was not the right setting…

I’m still glad I made this and tried it!  It’s part of the FFWD experience.

Next week we get a (short) reprieve from fish. Stay tuned!

11 Comments

Filed under Cooking

FFWD: Curried Mussels

Curried Mussels

Happy French Friday Saturday! I am a day late with my French Fridays with Dorie post.  I sat down to work on it yesterday, but I must admit I got distracted by the Internet.

This week we made a wonderful dish that tastes way better than the effort put into it.  Curried Mussels are the last of the three mussels recipes in Around My French Table for the group to complete.  It is basically steamed mussels in a creamy curry sauce.

I am always surprised how quick and easy mussels are to cook.  We began by building up a sauce of butter, onion, shallot, curry powder, red pepper flakes, wine, and some herbs.  The mussels are added to the pot and quickly steamed.  Once the mussels are done, the sauce is finished with a bit of cream.  Heaven!

Curried Mussels

Good thing this recipe was quick and easy because I made it for myself for lunch one day.  No way anyone else in my household was going to eat this.  It felt special and decadent to make myself such a wonderful lunch on an otherwise mundane week day!

This was my favorite of the three mussels recipes.  I even slurped up some of the sauce when the mussels were gone.  I will have to remember this recipe next time I’m feeling the need to treat myself to a special lunch.

7 Comments

Filed under Cooking

TWD: Granola Energy Bars

Granola Energy Bars

I am happy to report that things have gotten back to normal around here.  It’s always nice to return to normalcy and routine after the holidays.

Tuesdays with Dorie is kicking off the new year with a healthy recipe from Baking Chez Moi: Granola Energy Bars.  Have you ever made your own granola bars?  I did once before, and while they tasted good, they were too crunchy and crumbly. I was very excited to give Dorie’s recipe a try!

Granola Energy Bars

Besides oats, nuts, and dried fruits, Dorie’s recipe includes shredded coconut, vanilla extract, and her secret ingredient, brown rice syrup.  While she gives us specific ingredients and measurements for these healthy bars, she also gives us permission to mix and match with our favorite nuts and dried fruits. I did a mix of slivered almonds, raw sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, and mini chocolate chips.

Verdict?  Wonderful!  These granola bars are chewy and delicious.  I love the idea of experimenting to find my favorite, signature blend of nuts and fruits.  The mini chocolate chips melted into the mixture, so next time I will wait for everything to cool before I mix them in, or else use cocoa nibs.  I also want to try these with coconut oil in place of the butter, as suggested by a fellow TWD member.

Granola Bars

These were a big hit with my family.  My husband has been eating them for breakfast.  My daughter has been enjoying them in her school lunches or as after-school snacks.  And I like one as an after workout lift-me-up.  I can see myself making these on a regular basis!

What did the rest of the TWD crowd think?  You can find out here!

13 Comments

Filed under Cooking

FFWD: Citrus Two Ways

Happy Friday!  It has been a strange week here at the From Scratch household. Between a third week of Christmas break (yes, my daughter’s school district has a 3 week winter break…), head colds, and cable/internet/phone problems, things just didn’t feel normal around here.  This is a long way of saying I didn’t make this week’s (dreaded) French Fridays with Dorie recipe.  I will make it next week when things are hopefully back to normal.  Instead, I will catch you up on a couple of recipes that I made in December but haven’t had a chance to write about.  Let’s get started!

Orange and Olive Salad

Orange and Olive Salad

Orange and Olive Salad. This is one of those recipes from Around My French Table that I was dreading the most.  It just didn’t sound good to me. But, since I’m committed to trying every recipe, I carried on.

Much to my surprise, I liked it!  I especially liked how refreshing the orange seemed with it’s drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. I also liked the onion with the orange.  But I found my mild Niçoise olives did nothing to add to the flavor of the salad.  Perhaps a saltier kalamata would have been better?  Regardless, I was pleasantly surprised!

Pan-Seared Duck Chicken Breasts with Kumquats

Pan-Seared Chicken with Kumquats

Next up is Pan-Seared Duck Breasts with Kumquats.  Except I used boneless chicken breasts. This recipe is all about the kumquat sauce and I knew my family would prefer chicken over duck.

Despite my change to chicken, I followed the recipe pretty closely. I made the sauce and candied kumquats as written.  The chicken was pan-seared skin-side down just like the duck would have been, but then I kept it in the pan and roasted it in the oven until cooked through.

This was good!  I had never cooked with kumquats before and it was fun trying something new.  The sauce was good with the chicken and my husband loved the candied kumquats.  I would make this again.

If you are interested in what the dreaded recipe for this week was (and don’t want to wait until I write about it next week), you can find out here.  Here’s to a good weekend and a more normal week ahead!

9 Comments

Filed under Cooking

FFWD: Simplest Breton Fish Soup

Simplest Breton Fish Soup

Happy New Year!  January 2015 is going to be a fishy month for French Fridays with Dorie, and we’re getting off to a very fishy start with Simplest Breton Fish Soup.

As the name implies, Simplest Breton Fish Soup is a very simple soup, inspired by the soup fishermen in the Breton region of France would make aboard their fishing boats. It’s made with some basic vegetables (onion, shallot, garlic, celery, leek, and potatoes) and whatever fish is fresh.  I added carrots and saffron, as suggested by Dorie in her bonne idée.

Dorie recommends using a variety of fish and mussels for this soup.  I used one sardine, a nice amount of cod, and a handful of mussels.

Breton Fish Soup

So how did my family like this simple, fishy soup?  I loved it!  My husband…not so much.  I didn’t even try giving any to my daughter.  I loved the rustic simplicity and straightforward flavors.  It was almost refreshing after the heavy eating of the holidays. Even though I loved this soup, I doubt I will make it again since the rest of my crew would not be on board.

10 Comments

Filed under Cooking

TWD: Gingerbread Buche de Noel

Gingerbread Buche de Noel

Happy Tuesdays with Dorie!  Just in time for Christmas, the group made a fanciful Christmas dessert called Gingerbread Buche de Noel.  These log-shaped cakes are very traditional in Europe, and pastry chefs in Paris unveil their creations for the year with fanfare.  Dorie calls hers a “Franco-American buche de Noel”, with American flavors and the traditional European shape. I made mine for Christmas dinner.

Buche de Noel

There are quite a few steps to making this dessert.  First, make the pecan praline that is used in both the filling and to adorn the outside of the cake.  Next make the gingerbread sponge cake, then the filling.  Finally, when you are ready to assemble the cake, make the marshmallow frosting.

I learned a couple of new techniques while making my buche de Noel. First of all, the cake layer had a technique I have never used before. The first step is to warm the eggs and sugar over simmering water before whipping them. It must help get nice volume. Next, I have never made marshmallow frosting before. It requires a candy thermometer and techniques similar to making marshmallows. It made a lovely, light, spreadable frosting.

Buche de Noel Slice

I enjoyed the flavors of this decadent Christmas dessert, but sponge cake ended up a bit dry.  I actually blame my kitchen scale for this.  I cut the recipe in half, relying heavily on my scale to do so.  Unfortunately, the scale was on it’s last legs and I had trouble getting accurate measurements.  I am sure something was off, resulting in my dry cake.  I did get a new kitchen scale as a Christmas gift (yay!), so this won’t be a problem in the future.

Other than the dry cake, I thought the cake was delicious. I loved the marshmallow frosting and would like to try it on a different cake some time. My daughter inhaled her serving, so I think she liked it!

If you would like to try making Gingerbread Buche de Noel, you can find the recipe (and/or listen to Dorie talk about it!) here: Dorie on NPR.

7 Comments

Filed under Cooking

FFWD: Speculoos

Speculoos

Merry (day after) Christmas!!  I hope all of you who celebrate had a wonderful day.  We had a lovely time with plenty of good food!

I have a lot of cooking and knitting and even a bit of sewing to catch you up on!  I will tackle them one at a time over the next few weeks, so keep your eye out for new posts from me.

For the last several years the French Fridays with Dorie group has done a Christmas Card Exchange.  This is the first year I participated and it was so much fun! I loved getting the mail each day to see who I got cards from.  Here is a photo with most of the cards I received (I am still waiting on a few…and I have a feeling a few of you are waiting on mine).  I hung them all on our front doors.

Christmas Cards

Today for French Fridays with Dorie the group is doing something a little different.  As part of the card exchange, participants could also share a favorite cookie or drink recipe.  Then, if we wished, we could each make one of those recipes and share it on our blogs today.  I decided not to participate in the recipe exchange, so I am doing a make-up recipe instead: Speculoos.

Speculoos are a spicy brown-sugar cookie recipe popular across Europe.  They are especially popular around Christmas-time. I had been meaning to make these cookies for the last couple Christmases, and finally made them this year.

Dorie’s recipe includes a lot of cinnamon (yum!) and a touch off ginger and cloves.  They are sturdy enough to be cut into shapes, but I made simple round cookies.

Watch out!  These cookies with disappear quickly!

Watch out! These cookies with disappear quickly!

I loved these cookies!  Cinnamon cookies are a favorite and these did not disappoint.  Based on how quickly these cookies got eaten, I think everyone in the family liked them.

If you would like to try Speculoos, Dorie’s recipe can be found here on her blog.

9 Comments

Filed under Cooking

Lamb and Dried Apricot Tagine + Tartine de Viande des Grisons

Lamb and Dried Apricot Tagine

Happy French Friday!  How is your December going?  Mine’s been busy, but with fun stuff like a birthday party for my daughter and Christmas preparations.  I’ve been decking the halls and trimming the tree!

Thank goodness for last week’s easy French Fridays with Dorie recipe, since I doubled up this week with it and the current week’s recipe.  I also have a little bonus at the end of this post!

Lamb and Dried Apricot Tagine

Lamb and Apricot Tagine

This week the group made a Moroccan-inspired dish called Lamb and Dried Apricot Tagine.  Lamb shoulder, onions, tomatoes, and dried apricots were braised slowly in broth infused with exotic spices, including garlic, saffron, ginger, cumin, and cinnamon.  To finish, each serving was sprinkled with toasted almonds and chopped cilantro.  I served it with plain couscous, which was perfect for soaking up the flavorful sauce.

We liked this!  My husband wasn’t sure about the apricots when he saw them, but it turned out he had nothing to worry about.  I loved the variety of flavors and textures.  A hit for sure!

Tartine de Viande des Grisons

Tartine de Viande des Grisons

Next up is a simple open-faced sandwich: Tartine de Viande des Grisons.  The hardest part about this one was finding the bresaola, a dry-cured beef from Italy.  Interestingly, I looked for this at Whole Foods and they didn’t have it, but when I returned a week later they did!

Like I said, this one is simple.  Lightly toast a slice of country bread, butter it generously, top with a layer of bresaola, drizzle with a bit of walnut oil, and strew on a few pieces of walnut.  Cut and eat!

Yum!  This made a lovely little lunch that I enjoyed very much.

Bonus: Red Kuri Soup Redux

Red Kuri Squash

Finally, I found a “real” red kuri squash while in Seattle for Thanksgiving.  I brought it home and re-made the red kuri soup from a few weeks ago.  If you recall, I wasn’t convinced the squash I found here in Reno was really a red kuri squash.  Or it least it wasn’t the kind you can find in France.  As you can see, the one I found in Seattle looks more “authentic”.

Red Kuri Soup

I made the soup again with my new squash.  It definitely had a different flavor and we liked it much more.  My husband wasn’t comparing this version to boxed soup.  Whew!  However, I don’t think we liked it as much as the French seem too.  I think I will stick with my favorite butternut squash soup recipe.  But I am glad to have tried this with the second squash.

I hope you all have a good weekend!

10 Comments

Filed under Cooking