Sunday, February 28, 2010

2010 Knitting Olympics

I made it!  I finished my project for 2010 Knitting Olympics!  I committed to knitting a helmet liner.  This was a project I read about on the site of a nice little yarn shop in Maryland.  Any knitter wanting to knit and send a helmet liner to our troops in Afghanistan check out this site for a free pattern.  I haven't made it to the shop yet--a lot of snow in our area kept me from visiting a couple shops I'm wanting to get to.  But the snow has cleared and my helmet liner has been completed.
I hadn't attempted this type of project before.  It turned out to be a well-fitting pattern that would keep anyone warm out in a windy-cold area.  The front can be pulled up under your eyes or pulled under your chin, depending on how much coverage you want for your face.  I think any outdoorsman who goes out in severe weather would appreciate one of these. The pattern could be changed and different colors used to adapt this for just playing in the snow--a much less serious use for it.  I have enough yarn to make two more just like it for donation. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Knitting Olympics "Let The Knitting Begin!"

At the moment the torch is lit tonight to begin the Olympics 2010, more than 2000 knitters will cast on to knit a challenging project of their choice that must be completed before the torch is extinguished at the end. We're  joining the yarnharlot.  Read her inspiring and hilarious introduction.  There are other knitting groups on the web forming their own "knit with the Olympics" plans for tonight.  I had signed up to attempt my first Fair Isle mittens, using both the continental and the English methods for two-handed stranding--a real challenge for me--a continental knitter.  But, I discovered there is a call for "helmet liners for soldiers," that are being sent to soldiers in Afghanistan.  I've had a soldier in Afghanistan and I've decided to join that cause instead.  When the torch is lit tonight, I'll cast on dark olive 100% wool to knit a helmet liner before the torch is extinguished on Sunday, February 28.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ma's Pasta Fazool

When I met my husband's grandmother, "Ma," she was no longer cooking her Italian meals.  In her broken English she would try to tell me stories about her life in Parma and about some of her dishes.  In a previous post, I made Pasta and Bean soup from Cook's Illustrated for Magazine Mondays.  Today I made Ma's version of Pasta and Bean soup.  They are quite different from each other:

Cook's:
Ma's

                                                      













The first version has a  rich flavor full of complexity from all the ingredients.  Ma's "ditalini" is simple and clean--I could eat the whole potfull at a sitting.  It could be made with a chicken broth base, but Ma put no meat or broth in it.  She made it somewhat "soupier,"  my husband told me, and they would sometimes break up bread and put in it when they ate it.  I can make it mostly from pantry ingredients and sometimes I substitute canned cannellini to make a really quick meal.

Pasta Fazula

1/2 pound dry cannellini
1-1/2 quart water
3 Tblsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 minced onion
1/3 cup minced celery
2 Tblsp. tomato paste
Dash chili pepper
1/2 tsp salt or more, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup uncooked ditalini
1 Tblsp. butter
3 Tblsp. chopped fresh Italian Parsley
Grated Romano cheese (Or parmesan)

1.  Wash beans and soak in 1-1/2 quart water overnight.
2.  Next day, heat olive oil and saute garlic, onion and celery until soft.
3.  Blend in tomato paste, chili pepper and pepper.  Add beans and soaking water.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, about 1-1/2 hour, adding more water as needed to keep the consistency soupy.  Add salt when beans are almost tender.
4.  Meanwhile, cook ditalini until "al dente."  Drain and toss with butter to prevent sticking.
5.  When beans are tender, add ditalini and parsley and simmer 5 more minutes.  Taste--add salt if needed.  Top with cheese to serve.

Serves 4 to 6

Sunday, February 7, 2010

BBA Challenge - Cinnamon Buns

Today was a perfect day to mix up some of Mr. Reinhart's Cinnamon Buns.  I  didn't have any trouble mixing the dough.  I used all the buttermilk and added just a bit extra flour to help the dough come away from the bowl.  The dough was nice and soft.  I made the large buns.  Cutting the rolled dough was a little tricky on my first try when I tried to saw back and forth with my knife.  But I found if I used my serrated knife and pulled the knife toward me, then lifted it up and drew it through again and again, I was able to cut the pieces without mashing the dough.  Then I used a little spatula to lift the pieces onto my pan.
After rising the buns were touching like they should:
After baking I only used about 1/2 of the glaze to drizzle over the tops.  It was enough for our taste.
We really liked these with a cup of coffee.  Thank you, Mr. Reinhart.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snow, Snow: Creamy Rice Pudding

We are in the midst of a SNOW--a fairly big storm for here in WV. We already had snow--now there's more.




The first 2 were pictures taken yesterday before we got a couple more feet that are outside right now and it will continue snowing all day today--about 3 feet are expected.  We are all cozy inside--we have plenty of food, water and firewood.  I spent some time yesterday cooking and baking in case the power went out--this is a heavy snow so that was a possibility.  But we woke up to much more snow this morning and we still have power so I have curled up by the woodstove today with my reading and knitting--two of my favorite activities on a stormy day.

But I still can't resist making something creamy on a day like this so my recipe today is:

CREAMY RICE PUDDING


6 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup rice (I used Arborio)
1 pint Half and Half
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
cinnamon

1.  Bring first 3 ingredients to almost boiling, add rice and stir with whisk.  Set to simmer, cover and cook for 50 to 55 minutes. (stir occasionally with whisk.)
2.  Beat eggs, 1/2 and 1/2, and vanilla.  Add to rice mixture.  With constant beating with whisk, bring to a boil and cook about 3 minutes.
3.  Put into a dish, sprinkle with cinnamon and refrigerate.  (I like it warm!)

This is a really good, simple rice pudding.  You can add raisins, other flavorings or other fruits to it, if you like.  I'm already thinking about what I can add to my next one--maybe cherries.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Magazine Mondays - Creamy Mushroom Soup

This morning a still, heavy snow covered everything.  I heard "no school" and knew I was in for a day in the kitchen making something creamy and warm.  I've been on a search for really good cream of mushroom soup.  I wanted it to be thick and creamy and flavored with thyme.  I tried a recipe from Ina Garten a couple weeks ago, but it wasn't quite thick enough for me and it involved making a "stock" first.  I also didn't care for the pieces of leek all through it. (The flavor was good.)  I looked through an old Cook's Illustrated Winter 2008, Soups and Stews. (Thanks again, magazine mondays)  It calls for nutmeg, which I didn't want and it didn't use thyme or flour, but I made some changes and have pretty close to what I was looking for:
Creamy Mushroom Soup (My version)

6 Tblsp. butter
3 large shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup flour
1/2 lb. white button mushrooms (sliced)
1/2 lb. baby bella mushrooms (sliced)(I happened to have these--you could just use white)
1-3/4 cup chicken broth
2 cups hot water
1/4 ounce dried wild mushrooms, optional
3 Tblsp. med-dry sherry
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 sprig thyme
2 tsp.  fresh thyme leaves
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Extra sauteed sliced mushrooms to sprinkle on top

Melt butter in a heavy dutch oven over medium-low heat.  Add shallots and saute until softened.  Add garlic and sprig of thyme and cook another minute. 

 Sprinkle in flour and cook another minute or two.  Increase heat to medium and add the mushrooms.  Cook about 7 minutes.  Turn heat down, cover with lid, and cook about 20 minutes. 

Add chicken broth, water and dried mushrooms.  Remove the thyme.  Cover and simmer about 30 minutes longer.  Transfer soup to a bowl and puree in a blender in batches.  Return soup to dutch oven.  Add the thyme leaves.  Stir in the sherry and cream and bring to simmer.  Add lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.  Serve with extra mushrooms on top and a sprinkle of fresh thyme leaves, if desired.    Serves 4 to 6 people.