Friday, November 28, 2014

Leftovers - combining small bits into a treat!

First - sorry for the delay in posting.  I've been a very busy lady. I've had some adventures and medical testing. In the future, I'll be posting about my husband and I's cruise to Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Jamaica. 

Recently I was thrilled to be able to share in a knitting exchange with my knit 'sistahs'.  With this exchange we were to make a scarf for another while a secret friend made one for me.  I selected the pattern Leftie by Martina Behm because I love the look of it and it makes use of leftover scraps of yarn. 

It's no secret that I have a great fondness for luxury fibers! Because of the expense, I've saved the small amounts left over - and with this project, discovered the perfect use for them.  

The base yarn is Manos del Uruguay Fino in the colorway Silhouette. This color was selected because it seemed to me to be perfect for dressing up or wearing with a favorite pair of blue jeans.  It seems to be a great neutral complimenting the fun colors of the various luxury yarns.  

My daughter, Melissa, agreed to model the scarf once I completed it - while we were vacationing at the beach.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Haven Poncho!

I'm in heaven over this latest test knit! As our weather has finally added a little nip of cool air to our days, this is my new go-to wrap for running errands.  It is the Haven Poncho by designer Holli Yeoh.  She has designed a wonderful group of patterns for Felicia Lo's Sweet Georgia Yarns and created a book entitled Tempest.  

While this collection is selected to have optimal beauty when using my favorite line of luxury yarns, it works well in yarns from my stash collection as well.  For my test knit I used Madtosh Merino Light yarns in a variety of colorways - all were already in my craft room just waiting for me to combine them into a unique, one-of-a-kind, stylish statement piece!  

In Haven, you carry double strands of fiber, first the same colorway then blending by carrying two independent colors.  The blending is colorful and subtle at the same time. I also placed the simple wooden buttons I found on both sides, making this a truly reversible poncho.  While the design calls the reverse garter section the "front", it works and looks great with the stockinette side forward also.  This is a slightly deceptive pattern in that the reverse garter stitch has a tendency to row out (group two rows together in an unintended striped look) if you don't pay close attention.  I used a smaller needle on the purl stitches to help offset this issue.  I also knit slower and with more attention than normally given a simple pattern. It will take even the fastest knitter a bit of time to get through the yardage of this fabulous piece.  Take time and persevere because I'm confident that this will become your favorite wrap to grab when rushing out the door!
The cost of the fiber is another issue for this piece.  If knit in the yummy fiber suggested, the cost is very near $400!  Even using the lovely Merino Light, the cost of fiber can run near $200.  I recommend that you knit this piece but as a heirloom item that you intend to wear now and pass down later.  This means that you will also have to be a bit more reserved in your colorway choices - keeping to colors that work with a multitude of other colors in your wardrobe - base colors that go with whatever you use in your new favorite poncho. 

PS These photos were taken after I finished the poncho and before the pattern was released.  This means that my husband (acting photographer) took these photos in August on one of the hottest days of the year - hence the cropped pants and sandals and a couple blurry ones taken in a rush!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Quick and Versatile Tex-Mex Meat

This recipe is for a family favorite.  It is so quickly put together and that alone makes it a great go-to for hectic night meals.  Add to that the versatile nature of this recipe and you have something you will find yourself making each week!  Your family will have something different because you will be changing the final meal you serve from the base recipe. You can use canned goods, frozen or fresh as long as you pay attention to the amount of liquid accumulating in the pan.  Too much liquid might make your chosen dish soggy.  

What you need:
Ground Beef (or turkey)

Diced Tomatoes
Spanish Rice
Black Beans (optional)

Putting it all together:

Brown and drain the meat.  Prepare rice according to directions. Drain the corn and add it to the meat.  Add the salsa, diced tomatoes, and beans (drain and rinse these well).  

Put the meat mixture over chips, salad greens, in a tortilla, over chicken or cube steak, or eat it as its own meal. I have even made soup using this as a base - it's so easy, just add chicken stock and heat through! This freezes well and reheats for another great meal when you find yourself short of time and in need of a good meal or snack. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Boy Oh Boy!

My more recent knitting projects have been baby sweaters for little boys.  I always love the opportunity to get to use my creative juices for little ones but seldom get to knit for the boys.  This was a special treat as the first sweater was combined with a blanket to become a gift for the newest member of our family!  Noah is the son of my husband's cousin and his wife.  He is an answer to prayers as he took a loving couple into the awesome adventure of family life. 

Noah lives in a colder climate than Texas, so I was able to use a wool blend fiber in his sweater and blanket. I knit the 12-18 month size since Noah is no longer a newborn. The sweater pattern was designed by Nancy Lutz and is called Lutzling Sweater.  It was knit in this perfect color of green in Berroco Vintage DK.

The second sweater was knit for my sister-in-law to give to her 'just-like-my-own' son in preparation for the birth of his first child, a son.  It is a brighter, more updated, version of little boy blue and was knit in Berroco Comfort DK Solid yarn.  I love the little star buttons in the mixed colors.  These are a nod to the stars and stripes in our flag and to the baby's father for his military service. The pattern is one I've worked before and tend to return to because I love it so much - Seamless Yoked Baby Sweater by Carole Barenys.  It knits up beautifully into what I think may be the perfect infant sweater. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Oriental Cube Steak

In my on-going quest to share the versatility of beef cube steaks, I'm posting my recipe for Oriental Cube Steak.  Like the other cube steak recipes I've posted, this one is even better the longer and lower temperature you cook them because the slower you cook, the tenderer the beef.  

What you need:
Beef Cube Steaks
Oriental Sauce (1/4 cup of your favorite flavor)
Water Chestnuts, lightly drained
Bok Choy
Sugar Snap Peas
Shredded Carrots
Lo Mein Noodles (optional)
Salt/Pepper to taste

Putting it all together:
Pour about  1/4 cup of your favorite flavor and brand of oriental cooking sauce over the seasoned beef cube steaks which have been cut into strips and placed in a baking dish.  Cover and bake (350 degrees if you only have an hour).  

Prepare your veggies, washing and chopping the bok choy, cutting the ends off your sugar snap peas and washing any unprepared veggies. I like to use prepackaged, ready to use veggies when time is limited.  It just makes it that much easier to have your meal in the oven quickly.  Add your vegetables in the last 1/2 hour, recovering the dish before returning it to the oven.  

If you are using a slow-cooker on low or a lower oven temperature and leaving to cook all day, go ahead and add the veggies over top the beef and sauce. Alter the vegetables to suit your family's tastes.  The noodles add some optional crunch when sprinkled on top of the cooked dish. Fix some rice to have with your Oriental Cube Steaks and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Cheesecake Treats:flavor without all the calories!

I really like dessert but the fact is that I've enjoyed too many desserts in my life. But to forfeit something sweet as I undertake losing weight isn't really an option for me either. This is a lifestyle change, so I have to rethink the treat and the quantity I can have.  Some people can handle a thimble-full of something and be satisfied but not me! I started playing with recipes that might offer me a proper, full-sized snack without putting the breaks on my weight loss.  I love the Cherry Cheese-pie recipe for just these reasons. Playing off this recipe, I wondered how to add flavor without the calories.  It hit me when I was adding a flavor packet to my water!  Yep, zero calories (well, most are) and lots of yummy taste - the perfect combo.  
What you need:
8 ounces Cream Cheese (I use fat free)
16 ounces Cool Whip Topping (I use fat free here also)
16 ounce drink flavor packets (I use 2 for great flavor)
1 Tablespoon Sweetener (I use Truvia)

Putting it together:
Allow your cream cheese to soften and thaw the whipped topping.  Select your favorite flavoring. Mix all the ingredients together until they are a smooth mixture.  Chill until it firms up again.

I like to put this on Graham Cracker squares for a really tasty treat with a bit of crunch.  I also add some fresh fruit to compliment the selected cheesecake flavor.  

Thoughts:  Put this in your choice of crust just before serving. Serve chilled. I think this would make a lovely parfait if you alternate the cheesecake, Graham Cracker crumbs and fresh fruit. Adjust the level of flavor by adding or subtracting the number of drink packets you use.  I'd use confectioner's sugar as the sweetener if you don't want to use artificial. Mixing the ingredients with a mixer on high helps reduce a sensation of 'crystals' in the cheesecake.