In my freelancing work, I’ve been between projects this month. I often try to utilize “down time” by updating my portfolio. I’ve added 5 new projects this time around, 3 in User Interface and 2 in Web Sites.
For my birthday last month, BN cooked me dinner. He made pumpkin curry, and grilled the pumpkin. Talk about yum! One of my knitting friends shared Poblano peppers from her garden, and I invented a soup using them and the leftover pumpkin and acorn squash. Delicious… you must try this.
Pumpkin-Corn Chowder with Grilled Chicken and Poblano Peppers
Serves 5 to 6
2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 t ground cumin
1 t chili powder
1/2 t dried thyme
1 small baking pumpkin or 2 small acorn squashes
1 large or 2 small poblano chile peppers
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3-4 cups chicken broth
2 cups frozen corn
1 1/3 cups milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the pumpkin or squash into quarters, removing pulp and seeds. Cut the chiles in half and remove stems and seeds. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Pat the chicken dry, then mist or brush on olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Grill the squash over high heat, until the skin is blackened and the flesh is very soft. Grill the chiles over medium-low heat until the soft and skin is blistered. Grill the chicken until just done, being careful not to overcook.
Scoop the flesh of the squash out of the skin, discarding skin. Puree the squash in a blender with enough chicken broth to make a thick liquid.
Heat the olive oil in a soup pot. Saute the onion until softened, then stir in the garlic and spices. Pour the pumpkin mixture through a sieve into the pot, stirring to push the puree through. Discard strings or other solids. Bring the soup to a simmer.
Peel the blackened/blistered skin off of the chiles and chop finely. Add to the soup.
Shred the cooked chicken with two forks and add to the soup.
Puree the corn with the milk briefly in the blender – some whole kernels should remain. Stir into the soup. Once the soup is heated through, adjust the thickness with more chicken broth if needed, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve with tortilla chips.
Since we all have hats on the brain now, (or on the head in my case, winter is in effect here in Eugene) I’d like to mention my next hat project…
At my LYS the hot trend at the moment is Mini Mochi yarns from Crystal Palace, knit into the wonderful Fair Isle Hat that was designed to take advantage of its luminous, slow-striping colors. The question appears to be not will you knit this hat, but how many of them will you knit – there are SO MANY CHOICES. I asked PR, one of the regulars around the shop table who has knit 4 mini mochi hats so far, for advice in choosing colors and she suggested going for contrasts – once they are blended by the stranded knitting, the effect will be the most stunning with a pair of yarns that may not appear particularly harmonious at the outset.
Overwhelmed, I went with my gut and grabbed these two. I’m excited to see how they blend and play off each other.
Happy knitting, friends, and keep warm!
An original knit design of mine has been published. In May 2009, I read on Annie Modesitt’s blog that she was compiling a book of “inspiring hats.” Knitters were invited to submit project photos of hats they’d knit from their own designs or others’. I submitted a bunch of photos, one of which was an original design, my Top Knot hat. This was chosen as a runner up, one of the ten patterns to be published in the book, 1000 Fabulous Knit Hats.
The 10 patterns include a nice variety of style and skill level. The rest of the book is just for inspiration, but the knitter (or crocheter) and designer are listed, so if someone was interested in knitting the same project, it would be possible to find the pattern on Ravelry.
My prize was extra copies of the book, so I am holding a random drawing here on the blog to give one away. Leave a comment on this post to enter! Be sure to enter your valid email address in the comment form (it will not be displayed) so I can contact the winner. Contest will close at 11:59 pm (Pacific Time) on November 6th, 2010.
In mid-September we moved to a new-to-us apartment, in a new-to-us part of town. It’s in the Goodpasture Island area, which is not really an island but is mostly surrounded by water in the form of ponds, creeks, and the Willamette River.
From our corner of the complex, if you headed to the right of our neighbor’s black car and toward the red-leaved trees, you would come to the river trail. I’ll show you some scenes of that later. For now, come on in – I’ll give you a tour.
It’s nice to be on the ground floor for a change. Though we do hear our upstairs neighbors bouncin’ around (one of them is a young girl).
In our entryway, there are doors to our garage, our hall closet, and our laundry room. They are all messy and/or boring, so I won’t show you those, just know that they are there… and boy do I love them. Especially the laundry room! No more lugging baskets downstairs to coin-operated washers.
To the right is the kitchen. Notice the dishwasher, very convenient. Not so convenient is the fact that there are only 5 drawers in the entire kitchen, one of them is 4 inches wide, and the other 4 are narrower than 10 inches. Our nice roomy silverware tray wouldn’t fit, but no matter – BN crafted a custom one with wooden pegs. Other than that the kitchen is very nice, and has a bit more counter space and a few more cupboards than I’ve ever had before.
Here we are in the dining area looking back into the kitchen.
The dining table, which also functions as BN’s workstation since he recently got a laptop.
On the left is a collection of interesting knick-knacks and a painting that BN got in Haiti in 2000. On the right is the view out of our back door, where there is a covered patio that looks out on the communal backyard. A much more soothing scene than a track and a football field, don’t you think?
Now we move into the living room area.
I want you to take special note of my Christmas cactus, which has survived since my birthday last year – by far the longest I’ve been able to keep a houseplant. Here’s the view out of the window:
And the workstation / entertainment center. Note BN’s newest art piece – it’s angular wooden pieces that have been brightly painted and mounted on a fabric backing. He also built the frame, staining it to look like ebony.
BN created this batik-dyed panel last year. It’s nice to finally have a wall big enough to hang it on. Just past this is the bathroom (on the left) and the bedroom (on the right.)
Another batik project by BN. It wraps around onto the wall to the right as well.
The bedroom is connected to the bathroom via a closet/hall/vanity area. I love having a closet for each of us, but it’s kind of overkill for us to have 2 sinks, complete with storage. (Neither of us is the type to do a lot of mirror-facing prep in the morning.)
That’s it – if you went left into the bathroom, and then left again, you’d be back out in the living room.
Now let’s take a walk along the river.
This path is great for bicycling – it’s a lovely ride along the river and through Skinner Butte park to downtown.
I’ve enjoyed running the first few miles along this path, too. I’ll be sad when this lovely weather comes to an end – then I will be heading to the treadmill and weight machines in the apartment complex community center.
My friend J had her baby girl, ETI, on my 6th wedding anniversary – July 10, 2010. I knit her this sweet, simple little cardigan. I finished the knitting in 10 days, it was a breeze. Then life happened, and I didn’t get the finishing done and the buttons sewn on until weeks later – but finally got it mailed off in the midst of packing up to move.
I used Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece, my favorite yarn of all time. (I have made so many projects with this yarn that I have enough remnants to make several more projects – I’m in progress on a granny square bag.) Sadly they no longer carry this yarn at my LYS, so I snapped up some clearance sale skeins for this little sweater.
After having such a good experience with my fine-gauge Ribbon Lace Scarf, carrying it in my purse and working on it here and there, I wanted another small, uncomplicated project to tote around. These socks worked perfectly.
I based these socks on the “Upstream” sock architecture from Cat Bordhi’s New Pathways for Sock Knitters. The yarn is lachesis sock, hand-dyed by Three Fates Yarns (a friend in Salem.) It’s listed as 100% merino, but I could swear it has bamboo in it. It’s silky-smooth and very soft. I finished these during our trip to Lassen and they kept my feet cozy in the evenings.
That was my summer. Not that it’s totally over – I’m going to savor any more warm weather we may get – but it really did seem to go by quickly this year.
BN and I took a few camping trips earlier in the summer. That was nice, to get away. I’m happy to announce that BN completed his PhD in Math from the U of O! I am very proud of him for sticking with it through thick and thin, mostly thin, and I’m excited to see what’s next for us. We are moving out of Student Housing week after next, to a place north of downtown but still close enough for bike rides to the market, library, etc. BN will be job-hunting, and then it’s pretty wide open where we could end up.
My sister GC came to visit us. She was here during BN’s big thesis defense presentation, so she joined us in celebrating by swimming, camping, whitewater rafting, and blueberry picking. That was a ton of fun.
Then we went camping in Lassen with my parents and my 4 youngest siblings.
One of the major highlights was hiking to the Mount Lassen Summit in time to see the sunrise.
We also rock climbed…
… played games, made music, swam in the lake, hiked around, and generally had a wonderful time.
I recently checked two Harumi Kurihara books out of the library. She’s the home-cooking star of Japan and I wanted to explore her recipes. Tonight I cooked 4 of them – with help from BN and my visiting sister GC, and they came out quite well. The only thing that went wrong was burning the first batch of sesame seeds but luckily I had more on hand.
But I’m glad we were able to pull off 4 dishes for one meal, because I see a unifying aspect of Japanese cuisine, with all its diversity, in that there is always a variety. Either you are presented with a series of exquisite little portions, or there is a delightful assortment of goodies in a compartmented box. (Bento!) I’m not sure my family-style spread looks authentic, but the flavors were good and we all had plenty to eat.
The funny thing is that when GC and I went to the Asian market this morning, they were closed for vacation. So, I bought miso at the supermarket and all the other seasonings and things I already had on hand!
Rice with Fresh Ginger
From Everyday Harumi
1 1/4 c Japanese sushi rice
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
3 oz shimeji mushrooms (I used shitakes), tough stems removed and sliced
1 1/2 c dashi stock (I used an instant tea-bag type of packet)
1 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 Tbsp mirin
1 tsp sake (I didn’t have any, so I omitted it…)
salt – to taste
nori seaweed – to serve, optional
Wash the rice in cold water. Drain it in a strainer and let it stand for 10-15 minutes. In a large liquid measuring cup, add the dashi stock to the soy, mirin, and sake until it makes 1 1/2 cups liquid. I used my rice cooker, but for stovetop prep, put the rice in a heavy saucepan, add the ginger, mushrooms, and dashi stock mixture. Put a tight-fitting lid on the pan and place over high heat. When the liquid comes to a boil, turn the heat down low. After cooking for 10-12 minutes, turn off the heat and leave for a further 10 minutes, keeping the lid on. Stir the rice, add a pinch of salt if desired, and serve garnished with some nori seaweed.
Eggplant “Dengaku” Style
Adapted from Harumi’s Japanese Home Cooking
1 large eggplant
2 Tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
3 Tbsp hatcho miso (or substitute red miso)
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp mirin
1 Tbsp sake (I subbed rice vinegar)
toasted sesame seeds to garnish
Preheat the oven to 400°
To make the dengaku miso sauce, combine the miso, sugar, mirin, and sake in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until thickened and smooth.
Cut the eggplant in half, and then run a knife around the inside of the eggplant, loosening the skin from the flesh. Score the flat surface with a lattice pattern.
Brush each cut side with 1 Tbsp of oil, and place cut side down on a non-stick or foil-lined baking pan. Bake for 10 minutes or until well-browned. Turn the eggplants cut side-up, and brush liberally with the miso sauce. Return to the oven until the sauce is hot and bubbly, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Chicken with Soy and Balsamic Dressing
From Harumi’s Japanese Home Cooking
Saute 1/2 cabbage, cut in 4 thick wedges, in a mixture of oil and butter. Season with salt and pepper. Saute the chicken with its marinade and serve on top of cabbage. Top with a handful of fresh basil leaves.
Sesame Salad Dressing
From Harumi’s Japanese Home Cooking
We made a simple salad of red lettuce, finely grated carrots (an tip from Harumi), crisp cucumber from the farmer’s market, and green onions.
I was struck by an ingredient that’s very common in Harumi’s cooking – freshly ground toasted sesame seeds. I’m going to have to get a larger mortar and pestle…
My friend E from my knitting group asked me a few months ago if I was interested in making kefir at home. Kefir is a cultured milk drink, and it’s so simple to make that I decided I was definitely interested. E gave me some kefir grains and I started figuring out how to make it work for me. After a few false alarms where I thought I’d killed the little critters, I’m now on my routine of straining out my cultures in the morning, drinking the kefir plain or blended with frozen fruit, and adding another cup of milk to the cultures for the following day. I’ve been keeping the container in a bowl of water since it gets really hot in our apartment and the kefir is supposed to stay between 65° and 75°F. I like it plain, it’s not as sour as yogurt, but not sugary-sweet like milk. But blended with a few frozen strawberries and a squirt of honey – that’s REALLY good. I was hoping I would achieve health nirvana but I still came down with a summer cold… oh, well. At the very least I’m getting my calcium intake!
Here is what I do:
1. Keep at room temperature (65° – 75°) in a loosely covered opaque plastic or glass container.
2. After 12-24 hours, strain into a bowl or glass, stirring gently to separate milk solids from kefir grains (They look like little cauliflower heads).
3. Drink as-is or blend with frozen fruit.
4. Wash your container, put the grains back in, add milk, and repeat from step 1.
Use plastic (non-metal) utensils if possible
On hot days, keep the kefir container in a bowl of water (add an ice cube to the water if you are worried it’s getting too warm) and place it in a cupboard or closet in the coolest part of your home.
To store kefir grains, put just a small amount of milk in the container and keep in the fridge. Change the milk every few days until you are ready to start a new batch.
It will take some experimentation to find a good proportion of cultures to milk. I find that more cultures will ferment less milk in less time. So if it seems to be taking too long, try adding less milk next time. The cultures will grow and multiply, so eventually you will be able to culture more milk (or the same amount in less time.)