December 30, 2011

Baby Bootie Madness! (How to knit your own baby booties!)

So, I may have gone a little crazy knitting baby booties lately...

Perhaps you are also expecting, or have a grandbaby on the way, or a dear friend that is going to have a little one? Would you like to make them a special gift? These baby booties are honestly easier than they look! I might not recommend them if you are a very novice knitter, but, if you can already knit and purl, they will be a snap!

Here we go! Using (US) size 5 needles, and yarn that is #3 or #4 weight, cast on 32 stitches. I've found that if I make a slip knot for the first stitch and don't pull it tight, I can adjust any slack I accumulate when knitting the first row. It is illustrated here in the pictures. For the pattern, you'll be using the knit and purl stitches, you'll be setting aside some stitches on either a stitch holder (but I don't have any, so I use a different yarn / thread to hold them, using a large needle to pull it through, also shown in the pictures). 'Picking up' stitches may seem intimidating, but it is actually pretty easy. You don't have to be incredibly specific about what part of the pattern you're picking up, just do your best to spread out the number of stitches you're picking up over the distance so it is relatively even. Finally, have fun with this! Have fun with the color, the yarn texture, the ribbon, and don't feel it has to be the same color as the bootie! Some color combinations you might consider- green and pink, pink and orange, baby blue and lavender, it's really up to you! Fits roughly 0-6 months. If you're in doubt on size, try going up a needle size to US #6. Keep in mind the # of needle is not the cm measurement!

Size 5 needles
Cast on 32 stitches
Row 1 knit
Row 2 knit 21 stitches, put the remaining 11 either on a stitch holder or as described with contrasting yarn (turn)
Row 3 *k1, p1 12 stitches, place the remaining 11 either on a stitch holder or as described with contrasting yarn (turn)
Row 4 *k1, p1 (you are creating a ribbed pattern in this part)
Row 5 *k1, p1
Row 6 *k1, p1
Row 7 *k1, p1
Row 8 *k1,p1
Row 9 *k1, p1
Row 10 *k1, p1
Row 11 *k1, p1
Row 12 *k1, p1
Row 13 *k1, p1
Row 14 *k1, p1, but do not turn- pick up 7 stitches (knit stitch) along the ribbed panel, then knit the 11 stitches on the stitch holder (if using contrasting yarn, just cut it as needed and throw away)
Row 15 p28, then pick up 7 stitches (purl stitch) along the other side of the ribbed panel, then purl the 11 stitches on the stitch holder (if using contrasting yarn, just cut it as needed and throw away)
Row 16 knit
Row 17 purl
Row 18 knit
Row 19 purl
Row 20 knit
Row 21 purl
Row 22 knit
Row 23 bind off 2 stitches (purl), purl remainder of row
Row 24 bind off 2 stitches (knit), k2, k2tog, k14, k2tog, k2, k2tog, k14, k2tog, k2
Row 25 purl
Row 26 k2, k2tog, k12, k2tog, k2, k2tog, k12, k2tog, k2
Row 27 purl
Row 28 k2, k2tog, k10, k2tog, k2, k2tog, k10, k2tog, k2
bind off (purl)

To finish, sew together the bottom seam so that the stockinette stitch will be the outside of the bootie. Sew a ribbon to the outside back center seam, making sure it’s long enough to tie around the precious little ankle!

In addition to having fun with the color and ribbon choices, you can substitute a different pattern for the rib if you like, for example, a seed stitch, or a moss stitch!

December 11, 2011

Weekend Lunch Delicousness... Rib Eye, Cheese and Dijon Sandwiches

This sandwich is outstanding, and, while I recently made it for us for a weekend lunch, it's also wonderful as a weekday lunch if you are having people over, or if you just want to feel a little spoiled! I recently hosted a 'mailing party' for our local Ballet company, where we stuffed invitations and enjoyed lunch together. One of my dearest friends, who is just too cute, always says, 'Is there anything better than a mailing party?' and, no, there is not. You get to see your friends, you get to catch up with them amid the envelopes and glue sticks, or, you make new friends, which is always delightful. We enjoyed these sandwiches with an arugula salad dressed with lemon vinaigrette- but pair these with whatever you see fit!

These sandwiches have two components, the first is the cheese and Dijon spread that you make, the second is the rib eye. You sear and cook your rib eye(s) to your desired doneness, we like medium rare (although, being pregnant I have to make mine cooked through), the best way to do this is to cook them ahead of time, then refrigerate them before cutting them into thin slices. When they are cold, they are much, much easier to cut. But, if you are hungry and in a bit more of a hurry, it is absolutely ok to cut them after cooking them and skip the refrigeration step. Here we go!

Cheese and Dijon Spread
1 cup finely shredded gruyere or gouda (we recently used 'robusto,' and a micro plane grater)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter (softened)
1 1/2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard (we used Maile)
1/2 clove garlic through a press or minced
few grinds white pepper (black is fine if you don't have white)

1-2 Rib eyes (1 rib eye yields 3 reasonably sized sandwiches or 2 colossal sandwiches)
sourdough bread (or sourdough rosemary bread, etc.)

canola oil (for searing rib eyes)
olive oil (for cooking sandwiches)

In a medium bowl, combine the cheese, softened butter, mustard, garlic and pepper. It should come together and be a fairly firm consistency. Set this aside. In a cast iron skillet (or something that will sear nicely), heat a little canola oil at medium high heat. Season the rib eyes with salt and pepper on both sides. Sear for several minutes on each side, to reach your desired doneness. For us, this is about 4-5 minutes and the rib eyes are about 1" thick. Remove from the pan and set aside on a plate. (If doing this step ahead of time put in a zip lock bag or container and refrigerate). Now, to assemble our sandwiches! Take your rib eyes and slice as thinly as you can, discarding the pieces that are overly fatty. (If you need to cook them further, do so now, before you assemble the sandwich). Take two slices of your bread and spread a thin layer on both slices of the cheese and Dijon spread. Next, lay slices of the rib eye in a single layer across the bread. Close the sandwich. Heat some olive oil in a pan on medium low heat. Wait until the oil moves well in the pan. Place the sandwich in the pan and allow to cook for about 5 minutes, then, turn over, and cook on the other side for an additional 5 minutes.

This is delicious! Enjoy!

December 1, 2011

Candied Kumquats! (and Hello Again!!!)

Dear friends,

Thank you for your patience! We have had a busy, busy fall! We learned we are expecting again, hooray! And also, that we have to move to the North East. Both are exciting, although, we are of course sad to leave our wonderful friends and family that we live near now. This little baby, who is a girl, has been significantly harder on Mommy than the first. I think if I met the first pregnant me now, who was fortunate enough to be able to say things like, 'I never had morning sickness,' which, although true, would make me want to punch that me in the face.

A very special thank you to Ellen P, for her comments on Liqueur 44! You know, when I've made this in the past, I haven't experienced what you described, the amount of sugar that stays on the bottom. It is most likely just due to less vigorous shaking during the first week. I think it is most likely not a significant issue for two reasons- the first being, you may find the finished product sufficiently sweet and not mind that the full amount of sugar never became incorporated, or, a second reason, you can easily make the mixture sweeter, if you determine that's what you'd prefer, by mixing it with a simple syrup, (equal parts sugar and water). You need to heat the simple syrup to make it smooth, and then allow it to cool before mixing it with the liqueur. (Limoncello is made in a very similar way to taste). Thank you again for your enthusiasm! I hope that the finished product delights you and your guests this holiday season.

I love candied citrus peel. It is so delicious! And, I don't know if it's true, but I feel like it is very holiday-like. My mother loves candied citrus peel also. I have candied grapefruit peel before, and that's especially delicious, probably because on its own it's somewhat tart, so the finished product has a very nice balance of sweetness. I recently saw some kumquats in Whole Foods and I thought, they are citrus, why can't I candy them? So I did! Because they are small, I candied them in slices about 1/4-1/3" thick. They are delicious and look like little jewels! I gave a small jar of them to a friend yesterday and she loved them! I hope you will, too. While it seems like they take forever, it's more of a waiting game than a very involved process.

Candied Kumquats
1 pint kumquats
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups water
Extra sugar for coating (probably up to 1/3 of a cup)

First, rinse your kumquats in cool water. Remove the remainder of any green stems that are still on them and then slice them into pieces that are 1/4-1/3" wide. You'll need to pick out the seed fragments, this will be a little tedious, what helps is doing it partially in a bowl of water, which seems to help liberate them.

In a small pot on the stove, combine 2 1/2 cups sugar and 2 1/2 cups water. Combine over medium heat, and allow to form a syrup, this probably takes 10-20 minutes. Basically, you need equal parts sugar and water. Just adjust that up or down based on how much citrus you are candy-ing. You may want to use a candy thermometer for this, although, I feel like because mine sits on the outer edge of the pot, the temperature it registers is not completely accurate. In that 10-20 minute period, get it up to 200 degrees on your candy thermometer.

Add the kumquat slices and simmer over a very low heat for 30 minutes. Turn off the burner and allow the kumquats to sit in the syrup, absorbing it, for either the whole day, or overnight, depending on when you are starting this process. (This is 7-12 hours depending on when you are available again) After waiting either all day or overnight, heat over medium heat for about 10-20 minutes, reaching 210 degrees on the candy thermometer. Turn off the burner immediately, and allow to sit again, absorbing the syrup, either all day or overnight. Guess what is next... Yes! Do it again, heating over medium heat for 10-20 minutes, this time reaching 215-220 on the candy thermometer, again, turn off and leave for another day or night (7-12 hours).

You'll notice that the syrup amount is decreasing, this is good- it's being absorbed by your little kumquat jewels! Ok, now, to liberate the kumquats. After sitting for the last time, they'll be too sticky to remove without heating. So go ahead, and turn your burner on low, and after a few minutes, you'll be able to extract each piece with either a fork or tongs. For the drying step, I like to put them on a rack that is over a cookie sheet. However, the kumquats are quite petite, so you may need a more tightly meshed rack, like one for cooling cookies, etc. So, whatever you have, make sure it has the ability for syrup to drain off the kumquats. You'll want them and the syrup hot enough so that the excess syrup will actually drain off, as opposed to just warm enough to extract. Use your excellent judgment here!

Ok, let them dry on their rack for a day. Then, roll them in granulated sugar. Allow them to sit for a few hours after being rolled in the sugar before storing them. I store them either in a tin using layers of parchment or in small glass mason jars. I hope you'll be delighted at how delicious and special these treats are! Perhaps a good gift for your family, friends and children's teachers?