Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Phenomenon of Mug Cakes

Moistest Very Vanilla Mug Cake from Table for Two
Remember that one fateful day on the internet when you got really bored and started getting interested in cooking because your roommate could cook better than you?

I remember that day well. I have such a massive sweet tooth and I was looking for quick cakes and cookies. I stumbled upon the mug cake. It was quick and easy to make if you measured everything right. And it made the perfect amount for one person so you didn't have to share.

Then time passed and I forgot about the humble little mug cake. I had moved on to bigger cakes and fiddling with perfecting the proper cup of tea. Then cookies came out to play with a brief but still lingering interest in velvet cakes. Then the savory side of cooking called to me and the mug cake was all but forgotten. A novelty in a bookstore when you turned to your mom and scoffed that somebody actually published an entire cookbook on how to make different mug cakes.

Oh, sweet little tasty mug cake, forgive me in my arrogance. I see now that you are something special. Something to be written down in every family cookbook just waiting to be played with and perfected in each passing generation. Small enough to have big disasters with and big enough to satisfy a sweet craving especially made for one or two people. And the perfect way to make a cake without an oven as long as you have a microwave.

I bet you would be the perfect venue for finally figuring out my perfect red velvet cake.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Randomly on a Monday

Do you ever have one of those days were you want to blog, but you don't really have anything new (or much brainpower) to blog about something? Well, today is just one of those days. Even worse, today doesn't seem to want to be a list day either. So today's special "randomly" posts will be rather...well...random.

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Don't eat bad avacados. You can tell that they are bad when you cut into them and the fruit is brown and yucky looking. Even if you think you can salvage the fruit inside, it is probably better not to do it anyway. On the opposite side, avocado milkshakes are perfectly yummy and delicious and will fill you up for hours!

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If you are dehydrated, water will make it worse. Drink some Gatorade instead because it has electrolytes that will help you feel better faster. Orange Gatorade is my favorite flavor.

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If you are reading a history book on knitting, then prepared to be tempted to knit something practical for yourself like the way your knitting foremothers did. Just don't be surprised if you suddenly want to knit laceweight yarn on super tiny needles to make an elegant business jacket that will probably take a half a year to make. Then get distracted by thoughts of argyle socks because that seems less crazy.

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When you set yourself a deadline, make sure it is a reasonable one that can be managed. Avoid those ideas that you have that you are pretty sure you can do and then realize that deadline is only three days away.

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I might have found a deep love for Evernote....now if only I can figure out how to use it effectively for knitting and spinning without it having getting into fights with Ravelry.

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 Finally, I have set myself a book challenge for the rest of the year because I thought I wasn't reading enough books. I have committed to finishing five books by the end of the year and I have already finished one book. Since I normally get stuck reading the same thing over and over and over, I decided that it would be smart to ask you lovely readers with your wide and varied interests: what are your recommended reading books? Please comment below so I can find my next book!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Quick Shawl Update

This project is hanging on my needles for way too long. I didn't get my friend's wedding shawl done in time to give it to her in person and that did put a damper on my knitting for a little bit. I actually put it aside to finish two pairs of socks and then I fell down the spinning hole for a while.

Now I have a goal to finish her shawl before the end of the month so I can get it washed, blocked, and photographed before I send it off to her before the weather starts getting cooler. Because, really, that is when she would be most likely to throw this shawl on to get warm and cozy.

I have decided that I am going to start reading more books. My finished book count has declined rapidly since finishing school and I do miss reading. I feel like it keeps my mind flexible, but I don't feel like buying more and more books for myself. Enter the local library: perfect source for free books.

My most recent book is called No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting by Anne L Macdonald. It is such a fascinating read for a knitter. The book starts with the women knitting during the American Colonies before the Revolutinary War. I feel like such a lazy person when I read about everything women did back in the older days. They did everything from taking care of the house and the farm and the children as well as doing the wash, mending clothes, spinning yarn and thread, knitting, embroidering, canning, and quilting. I feel like I don't get nearly as much accomplished.

I have gotten up to the 1920s, so the book is quickly approaching the end. The chapters are getting a little shorter and there are more pictures. I know I am getting close to the time period where knitting dies out and falls out of the mainstream, but it will be interesting to see if there is a revival during WWII or not. I will be surprised if it doesn't.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Leek & Potato Sadness

Today's supper was such a dismal failure that I just have to write about it. After all, it wasn't that big of a failure. The chicken salad with lime cilantro dressing was fairly good as was the iced tea.

The leek and potato soup was the sad failure of the meal. And it was the highlight of the meal.

This isn't the first time I have made leek and potato soup. I first made it during the winter and I did follow the instructions out of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (courtesy of my fantastic local library) It was wonderful! Light to taste, but hearty and filling all at the same time. It was also green instead of being the not-quite-white soup pictured.

This time the potato and leek soup came out watery and nearly flavorless. It was obvious that I did something wrong over here, but I think I figured it out.

1. I didn't put in enough potatoes. I only found four potatoes in the fridge and I didn't see the additional bag on the counter when I was prepping my potatoes before work. For the amount of water I used, I really needed at least six or seven or even eight potatoes.

2. I didn't prepare the leeks correctly. When I first made the soup, I cut the roots off of the leek and then peeled, rinsed, and cut the entire leek. Including the not really that tender dark green top. What I did this time was use almost only the white part of the leek and I didn't even cut into the light-green part that wasn't the dark green leaves. So the soup tasted watery and had very little leek-y flavor. The parts of the leek you are supposed to use is the white part up to the very very dark green tips. (Simply Recipes has an excellent post about how to clean leeks since I have no leek pictures to show you guys)

3. I didn't use any salt or pepper during the cooking process of the soup. I let people add it on the side. Normally that would be fine, but this time it made for a bland soup since I didn't even try to flavor it at all. This is a big culinary no-no that I should have realized. Always ( and I do mean ALWAYS) taste what you are cooking along the way. If I had, I would have realized something was off in my soup and fixed it.

The good news is that I can save all of my leftover soup! I have at least two servings left which is plenty enough to get it back to the flavors I fell in love with. Since I found the potatoes, I get to add another peeled and diced potato or two. I am out of leeks, but I can substitute in some onions for my fix to get a similar flavor (and the cookbook backs me up on it). I just need to re-heat the whole thing with the extra ingreedients and let that simmer until tender. From there I can either use my immersion blender to make it all creamy and consistent or just leave it chunkier since it is already blended. The extra water should evaporate out to make the base thicker. If it doesn't then I can add some cream or just mash up some of the new potatoes in the soup.

I think I will also make a variation of the soup while I am fixing it by adding some watercress to the mix. That will make it tasty and be enough of a change in the flavor profile to make me happy by not having the same soup two days in a row. I will let you guys know how that turns out.

Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Andean Inspired

When I first started spinning, I didn't want to spin two different singles and ply them together to make a two ply. I was afraid they would be different lengths and I would have waste. So I learned how to make a plying bracelet and Andean ply. Similar to chain plying (one single into three) it takes one single and lets you ply it against itself to make a two ply.

I wanted to do something similar with the last (and oldest) of my cotton singles. But with the plying bracelet, your project is stuck on your wrist and you are generally committed to spinning the entire thing in one go. I didn't want to do that. So I took my nostepinne and wound a center pull ball on it with my singles.

It was fantastic! The cotton didn't collapse onto itself when I was spinning and I was getting a nice two ply out of the tiny singles. Everything was going just fine for a while until I put it down and came back to it two nights later. The center of the ball had collapsed the next time I sat down to work on it and I didn't notice it until I was getting massive tangles.

Well, after the third tangle I was annoyed and decided to jam the center pull ball on my finger. I found the middle (where one end was feeding out) and popped my finger in there. I started out on my pinky, but eventually decided that my pointer finger gave me the best control of the yarn.

It worked.

Having a temper tantrum and deciding that it wasn't worth struggling anymore actually worked. I was able to control the inner and outer yarns better and got the rest of the yarn plied up onto my spindle. And best of all, I had no more breaking problems with either of the singles (they came before my cotton practice).

The tangle of singles beside my spindle was the only bit of cotton I lost from that batch. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn't that much yardage. I would have been more annoyed if I had just given up and thrown the rest of the ball away.

Now I have three skeins of cotton all spun up and waiting for me to finish spinning my cotton/denim blend. Then they will be going to the boiling pot so I can try my hand at actually finishing cotton properly. Since all of the cotton I have spun is naturally white, it won't be changing colors like colored cotton, but it will get all the wax off so it will be absorbent. And I will see if my artist ink is colorfast or not. Then I will have four little skeins of cotton ready to be knit with.