Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Lost, and Found!

This post is going to be a bit self-indulgent. I won't mind a bit if you are not interested in sharing a piece of my yoga journey; just scroll down for other stuff.

Do you practice yoga? If so, you are surely a victim of the allure of the yoga mat. You know what I'm talking about... you are carrying a load of laundry, thinking about dinner, mentally trying to figure out how you can get all 3 kids to their activities, when out of the corner of your eye, you see your yoga mat. Oooohh... I couldn't possibly... but, maybe just ONE downward dog, to stretch out my shoulders... Next thing you know, the laundry is on the floor and you are all stretched out and loving it. Maybe it's just one pose, maybe two or three, maybe 30 minutes. Then, you get on with your day, feeling a little bit... happier.

Well, this is the story of how I lost, then found, my yoga mojo. Actually, I didn't really lose it or find it; it just disappeared, then reappeared, when I was ready, just like "they" tell you it will.

Last summer, right before moving to Kansas City, I admit that I was totally overextended. I was teaching a few yoga classes each week, teaching knitting, my kids were involved in 4H, dance, soccer. I loved everything I was doing, and everything the kids were doing. I didn't want to quit anything, even though I could feel myself burning out. The energy was draining out of me; I wasn't doing anything well. I felt like I was busy nurturing everyone except myself.

So, the big move arrived. After the hustle, bustle and general misery of moving, I told myself I would have plenty of time to practice my yoga, for myself. And I did; but guess what? I had lost my yoga mojo. Totally gone. I would unroll my yoga mat, do a few half-hearted stretches, stare at the ceiling... nothing. I attended a couple of classes but, honestly, it felt like calisthenics to me. A month went by. Then another one. I wondered if I was done with yoga? I couldn't imagine my life without it, yet I wasn't compelled to practice, or read about it, or anything. I kept getting out my mat, hoping.... but, nothing happened.

There was no "aha!" moment. I didn't suddenly whirl into a yoga frenzy; it was very subtle. I decided to organize my yoga music on a separate shelf. I found one CD that I love and decided to listen while I got dressed. I started playing the music more and more, in the morning while cleaning, in the afternoon. One day, a yoga sequence popped into my mind and I just had to try it, so I did. It turned into a 45 minute practice, and it was back! I had rediscovered my yoga mojo!

I am not one of those fabulously flexible people. I don't walk around on one hand. I don't amaze people with my contortions. I'm just a middle-aged Mom with a stiff back and a lot of years of yoga experience. I find peace and joy in my yoga practice. I believe there was a lesson in my yoga void, probably more than one, and I'm anxious to explore each and every one of them. I think there is such beauty in being in the present moment and in not taking anything for granted. I believe that sometimes, you just need to take a break. I believe in learning from those who have gone before me, and in having confidence that things will happen in their own time, when it's right, when you are ready. Don't give up.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

So Many Ideas, So Little Time!

I don't know where this week went! I have so many things I want to blog about and time just flies by, doesn't it? I'm back now, and I'll *try* to be more consistent.

I'm starting with knitting today: I finished the piano bench cover! Here it is, blocked and drying in the guest room, far away from felines and canines. I really like the way it turned out. It was sort of unshapely when I finished it, but the blocking really helped. Now I am focusing on the textured rib socks (from the frogged Jaywalkers' yarn) and also the lace wrap. I will post a picture of the lace soon... I know, it will look exactly like a hairnet, won't it? The secret of lace is all in the blocking. I wouldn't believe it if you told me that, either, but I've seen it for myself, and now I am a true believer. So, stay tuned....

I also have this little pile of Portofino Souffle yarn, purchased on sale at KnitWit for a very, very good price. It is a cotton/acrylic blend, definitely perfect for a warmer weather wrap of some sort. I have some patterns in mind, but I have to swatch the yarn and see what it wants to be.

If you are in the mood for some knitting fun, you should check out Knit 2 Together by Tracey Ullman and Mel Clark. I love this book! No, it's not just another celebrity knitting book. The patterns are beautiful and well-written, the stories are funny, the photos are lovely. There are lots and lots of things I actually want to knit. I've already made the "Luxe Neckwarmer" and the "Grownup Bonnet" (photos in previous posts); they were fairly easy to knit and I love the results. I already bought the yarn to make the "South Seas Table Runner," which will be perfect for our kitchen table. I'm considering the "Pimlico Shrug" or the "Lacy Hug-Me-Tight" for the Portofino yarn. There are baby clothes, men's sweaters, family sweaters, a tea cozy, hats, bags, legwarmers, and more. Check it out!

I think it's time to talk about one of my other kitchen loves: my pressure cooker! The first thing I must say is: do not be afraid! This is NOT grandma's pressure cooker! Yes, I personally know 2 people who have had pressure cooker explosions; both were the "old-fashioned" kind of pressure cookers, and both people admitted that the mistakes were probably theirs! The newer pressure cookers have several safety release valves. There are stovetop models and electric models. All shapes and sizes. I definitely use mine at least once a week, usually more often. You can cook beans, soups, stews, potatoes, grains, meats, vegetables, anything, in a fraction of the traditional cooking time. You simply load up your cooker with food, bring it up to high pressure, set your timer. When the cooking is done, release the pressure, adjust the seasonings and serve. Lentil soup cooks in 7 minutes; split pea soup in only 6 minutes. You can soak dried chickpeas overnight, then cook them up in about 18 minutes for the best-tasting, creamiest chickpeas you have ever tasted! (Which, of course, equals awesome hummus!!)

You will definitely want Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure by Lorna Sass; it's the pressure cooking bible. My pressure cooker is a Kuhn-Rikon, and I bought it on Amazon. There are lots of good cookers out there, but remember, you get what you pay for. I originally bought a Fagor for around $20, and I don't recommend it. First off, it is aluminum, and you really want stainless steel. Secondly, I had a hard time getting it up to high pressure. Things never cooked evenly or completely. Go for the good one.

I asked Mike to buy me some greens at Whole Foods last week. He came home with Dino Kale. I didn't know what to do with it, but beans and greens are always good, right? Here is what I made: (you can easily adjust this recipe for cooking on the stovetop; simply follow the recipe but cook for 1-2 hours, until your beans are soft.)

Pink Beans with Greens (served on brown rice)

2 C (about 1 lb.) dried pink beans, rinsed and soaked (or pinto beans, or white beans...)
1 onion, diced
1 Tbs. oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 large celery stalk, diced
2 tsp chili powder, +/-
5 C veg. broth (approx.)-- I used water and 1 Tbs. veg. bouillon
1 piece of kombu (optional)
1 bunch of dino kale, chopped

In the pressure cooker, saute onion in oil until soft. Add garlic, then carrot and celery and mix well. Stir in the chili powder. Add the beans, kombu and broth. Cover and bring to high pressure for about 8 minutes (will vary with type of bean used.) Remove from heat and release pressure. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add kale, stir well, and cook over low heat for a few minutes, until kale is cooked. Serve over rice.

Sorry, I don't have a photo, as it is GONE!! That's it for today; more soon!!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Fun with Fiber

Okay, I couldn't resist. Yes, I will write about knitting fibers, but I'm starting with another sort of fiber: vegetable fiber, both soluble and insoluble. We need them both, and lots of them, and very few of us get enough. I always thought, somewhere in the back of my head, that since I am a vegetarian, surely I get plenty of fiber. I read that women should consume 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day. Just for fun, I decided to keep track of my fiber intake, and the results surprised me. Even starting my day with a very high fiber cereal (9 grams right there!), I often did not get enough. And those days when we don't have time to eat right? Not even close!

I know there are all sorts of fiber supplements out there, but I believe the best way to get our nutrients is from whole foods, so I decided to share some recipes. These will center around the humble legume, or bean, if you will. Beans come in many different shapes, sizes and colors. Their tastes can be surprisingly complex. You can buy them dried, canned, frozen, or (sometimes) fresh. You can serve them hot or cold, whole or mashed, with grains, in tortillas, in soups, stews or salads. And on and on; the possibilities are endless.
I personally think that beans taste best when they are either fresh or dried and then soaked and cooked to order. I know this takes time and forethought, so I am also a huge fan of canned beans. Just rinse well and drain and proceed with your recipe. You really can't go wrong. I have to put a plug in here for another one of my favorite kitchen appliances: my pressure cooker. Cooks beans, soups, stews in mere minutes. More on that another time.

Since we are all looking for quick and easy, here is my favorite Q and E Black Bean Soup. It is adapted from an old McDougall recipe, and there are lots of variations, so make it your way:

Quick and Easy Black Bean Soup

2 cans of refried black beans
1 can whole black beans, rinsed and drained
1-1/2 to 2 C vegetable broth (I use water, then add a Tbs. vegetable broth powder)
1 C salsa (from a jar works fine)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp chili powder
cayenne pepper or tabasco, to taste

Pour the refried beans and broth into a soup pot over medium heat. Stir to mix; adjust amount of broth to your liking. You can use your whole beans whole, or you can mash them a bit with a potato masher, depending on how chunky you like your soup. So, add your whole beans, salsa and seasonings. Cook for about 10 minutes and serve. Garnishes add a nice touch; try fresh cilantro, some finely sliced green onions, avocado dices, extra salsa, a dollop of sour "cream" or yogurt.

Here is another simple bean salad recipe. I'm going to give general amounts, but you can double or triple the recipe, use dried beans, or add things to your liking.

Cannellini Bean Salad

2 cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 red onion, diced OR 2-3 green onions, diced
Optional: 1 avocado, diced
Optional: 2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
juice of 1/2 a lemon
Optional: 1-2 Tbs olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
dash cayenne

Combine salad ingredients EXCEPT avocado. Whisk dressing in a small bowl and then pour over salad. Mix well. Add avocado; mix gently. Adjust seasoning to taste. (Tastes great without avocado; I just throw it in if I have a ripe one!)

I guess that's enough for now, but don't forget to have fun with your fiber! Keep some canned beans in your pantry. Add them to soup; mix with marinara sauce and serve on pasta; sprinkle on top of your leafy green salad; add a can of beans to a can of RoTel tomatoes.

I'll move on to knitting fibers, in case beans aren't your thing! I cast on the Regia yarn from the now defunct Jaywalker sock for a new sock. I am making a simple textured rib patterned sock, using size 1.5 needles instead of size 1. I think this yarn is much, much happier in the new sock. The pattern is a lot stretchier and springier and I'm enjoying it much more.

If you are even thinking about knitting socks, there is one book that is essential. Actually, you could knit socks from this book for years and not run out of ideas! It's Sensational Knitted Socks by Charlene Schurch, and it is the ultimate sock knitting book. You will learn how to knit socks cuff down, toe up, on 4 dpns, on 5 dpns, on 2 circular needles, in any size, to fit any foot. There is a "class sock", a mini sock with detailed instructions, for beginners. Ribbed patterns, slip stitches, cables, eyelets, lace, fair isle, basketweave, and combinations of all those, and more. Essential for your knitting library. She has a new book called More Sensational Knitted Socks. I haven't seen it yet, but I have high hopes:-)

Finally, I have this skein of yarn. 100% wool. 165 yards. I'm so intrigued by the colorway, sort of chartreuse into mauve. It really wants me to knit it up into something, but what?? I've been thinking about some fingerless mitts.... still thinking....

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Perfect Food, Cooked Perfectly

I can't believe I've written 8 posts already and have not yet discussed rice, or my beloved Zojirushi rice cooker!! Rice, the most basic food, the world's most popular grain, the diet staple of many countries. Dress it up, serve it plain. Sweetened for breakfast, savory for supper, leftover for lunch. What could be better? I have always liked rice, but, I must confess, unless it was cooked at an ethnic restaurant, my rice attempts barely went beyond Minute Rice. As I began experimenting with vegetarian cooking, I knew I needed to make some decent rice.

I browsed the bins at Whole Foods, totally bewildered. Basmati, Texmati, arborio, forbidden rice, red rice, black rice, Jasmine rice... very confusing. I experimented, but I thought to myself, "Surely, there is an expert amongst us??" And, I was right! Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann wrote "The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook," which has become my rice bible. They taught me everything about rice, where the varieties come from, what they taste like, how to cook them, how to serve them, basic recipes and hundreds of variations. They also taught me everything about rice cookers, the appliance I never knew I couldn't live without.
Long ago, I had a rice cooker/ steamer. The rice often burned and stuck to the bottom, and brown rice was hit or miss. After much research, I decided to invest in a REAL rice cooker. I bought this little beauty, the Zojirushi. She has neuro fuzzy logic-- very fancy, indeed! She cooks any and all rice to perfection. Don't be confused: this is not a machine to cook rice quickly. She is often slower than stovetop. However, it is always perfect. There is a warming cycle to keep it warm for hours. There is a porridge cycle that makes creamy, warm porridge. There is a brown rice cycle, and then you can choose softer or harder rice. If you buy the rice cooker AND the cookbook, Zojirushi becomes even more. She cooks all sorts of grains, pilafs, polenta, puddings, applesauce and poached fruits. And more. It's a good thing.

By popular demand, here are the finished loaves of bread. We went through 1-1/2 loaves at dinner that night; the rest never made it to the freezer:-)

On the knitting front, here is my JayWalker sock:
That's right, completely gone. Here's my story: I kept thinking it looked kind of big, but I checked and re-checked my gauge and it was right on. I had about an inch to go on sock #1 before the toe decreases. I was admiring the beauty of the pattern, and I suddenly noticed how dense the fabric seemed to be. It was NOT very stretchy at all. I ignored this for a day or two, feeling that dreaded feeling in the pit of my stomach. Today I decided to try it on. It would not stretch over my heel. I couldn't get it on. I lined up my kids, like Cinderella and her step-sisters trying on the glass slipper. Unfortunately, I didn't find my Cinderella. No one could get the darn thing on their foot. Off I trotted to the frog pond. I think I'll look for a different pattern to try!

It's snowing like crazy right now and my bird feeder is the most popular spot in town. If only they wore socks!!!!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Every Picture Tells a Story, Don't It??

I have lots of pictures today! New batteries in the camera and it was just begging to be used, so I did!!

First, here are a batch of vegan cupcakes, chocolate with chocolate "butter"cream frosting. I cut one in half so you could see how moist and rich they are. Okay, that is a lie. I cut one in half so I could eat it, and it was delicious! My daughter made them, and she used Z Trim in the cakes and in the frosting and didn't even tell me! I couldn't taste a difference at all.

Here are three loaves of Sesame Whole Wheat bread, rising nicely, almost ready to bake. Should be delicious with dinner tonight. I don't know what dinner will be, but as long as there is freshly baked bread, it will be good. Actually, dinner will probably be a soup from:

this book, Vegetarian Soups for All Seasons by Nava Atlas. Nava is one of my favorite cookbook authors. I own several of her cookbooks and every recipe is easy to prepare and enjoyed by the entire family. This is the new, updated edition of Vegetarian Soups. She has made all of the soups vegan and there are 20 new recipes from the original edition. Here are some recipes I've tried: New England Clam-less Chowder, made with baked tofu and soy or rice milk, creamy and delicious; Curried Red Lentil Soup, with sweet potatoes and swiss chard, a wonderful combination; Chickpea and Tahini Soup, very rich and spicey; Mock Chicken Noodle Soup, made with baked tofu, as good as the original; Potato Soup with Pink and Green Beans, I liked it, but not a family favorite; and Chickpea and Bulgur Stew, classic, Italian flavors, hearty and filling. Highly recommended. At the beginning of the book there are a few recipes for vegan staples, like tofu sour cream. At the end of the book are a few quick breads and muffins you can make to enjoy with your soup. Are you hungry yet? :-)

I turned the heel of the Jaywalker. I love turning the heel; it's like a little miracle every time I do it. Now I just have to speed through the gusset decreases and down the foot, to the toe. It's kind of drizzly out right now, and cold, a perfect night to stay home and knit!!

I love this cable pattern. It is from Fiona Ellis' book Inspired Cable Knits. I really love many patterns in this book, very inspiring. I want to take this cable pattern, which is on a yoga bag, and was inspired by vrksasana (tree pose), (can you see it?), and put it on something else. It's still in the "thinking" stage right now, but stay tuned!!
Monday is the day I try to stay home, get caught up on laundry, do some cleaning, bake if I had time. I was able to do all these things today, so it was a good day, overall. Last Monday, I worked on my online banking, and I discovered a charge I couldn't identify. After much digging and many phone calls, it turns out that someone used my husband's credit card number. I just want to warn you about this. It is very common, so check your statements often and don't let anything slide. At first, I saw a charge for $19.95, and I figured I must have bought something and forgot. But when I saw the $68.95 charge, I knew something was fishy. We caught it right away and the bank refunded our money and canceled our cards, but it was inconvenient. Still, I feel fortunate that the damage wasn't worse.
Today, I was working on a bill from our dentist. I called the billing office with a question and I was so insulted! This is not the first time I've been told, "We bill your insurance company as a courtesy," as if I should be thanking them or something. I am the customer; they should be thanking me for my business and accomodating my needs... am I wrong here? I did have to set her straight on this one! I was irritated for a while, but I'm over it.
Okay, the bread is in the oven and smells heavenly. Time to work on the soup!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

My New Best Friend

Here she is! She's warm and soft and I don't know how I ever lived without her! If you know me, you know I am always cold. This recent Kansas City cold wave has not helped matters at all. I try to dress in layers, wear scarves, etc., but I couldn't get warm. So, I broke down and bought this down jacket from Lands End. I know, the color (blue paisley) is NOT me, but I was feeling whimsical, so there you go. I needed a new excuse to knit mittens and scarves and hats in all new colors for myself, and now I have one. Love it!

I had two knitting epiphanies this week! This could be a record! First, I was working on the piano bench cover. I had measured and calculated carefully, but something wasn't working out. I ended up ripping out about 6 rows, and I didn't know what to do. I decided to stew on it for a while. All of a sudden, while standing in the shower, the answer came to me! I happily picked up my needles and knew exactly how to make the pattern work. I'm more than halfway done; I'll post pictures when I'm finished. I love it when that happens!!

My second epiphany was more of the "DUH" type moments. (In the end, I felt more dumb than smart :-) I was working on my JayWalker socks. If you know the pattern, you know that it is NOT difficult at all. It is simple and straightforward and not complex at all. I did read the instructions, honest!! I was struggling with every round, because the increases and decreases changed the number of stitches on each needle every round, so I had to slip stitches to work the pattern. It was time consuming. I kept thinking there had to be a better way. Hmmmm.... Last night, I remembered that the pattern DID say to work the socks on 5 dpns, not 4; I had switched to 4 dpns because I prefer to knit with 4. I decided to try it on 5 dpns, with the stitches divided the way the pattern instructed. Novel idea, huh? Well, what do you know? Problem solved. The pattern allows even distribution of the increases and decreases, no slipping stitches or adjusting, easy to keep track of the increases and decreases. Is there a lesson here? I'm about to start the heel flap; I'll post pictures once that's done.

I do have a few faults. Just a few. One of them is that I am a bonafide bookaholic. I don't just love books; I buy them, I collect them, I hoard them. I earmark them, I read and re-read. I do try to borrow books from the library. Honestly, I borrow them, I love them, then I buy them. Occasionally, I'll borrow one that I don't buy and I feel so proud and virtuous!! I thought I'd start reviewing some books. These are not new books, just recent borrows or acquisitions.

First up, "Interweave's Compendium of Finishing Techniques" by Naomi McNeely. This book describes ways to finish your projects in sewing, knitting, crochet, weaving, knotting, and embroidery. There are edges, seams and joins, trimmings, closures, and more. I'm not much of a sewer, not at all a weaver, so I skimmed through those parts. There were some neat ideas for fringes, such as all sorts of braids and knotted cords. I liked the embroidery part, though they were pretty basic designs. I focused on the knitting and crochet part. I have to admit I was pretty disappointed with the knitting sections. There were only a few edgings, and the knitting finishing techniques were not described or pictured very well, in my opinion. The crochet section was much better, to me. The crochet techniques were much more clearly illustrated and there were some neat ideas. I don't crochet very often, but I think crochet edgings really add a nice finishing touch to some knitwear. This book had some great ideas for that.
I won't be buying this book. The ideas I really liked I can easily find elsewhere. There was a lot of information I would simply never use. However, if you are very crafty and dabble in multiple crafts, this might be a book you'd be interested in. There is a ton of info in this little book.

Okay, ONE more book! This one is "Lorna Sass' Short-Cut Vegetarian." Okay, I love Lorna and I love this book. I own "Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure," the pressure cooking bible, and I have probably sold enough copies of this book to deserve royalties. (If you don't own it, you should!) I also own "Lorna Sass' Complete Vegetarian Kitchen," yet another winner.

The "Short-Cut Veg" was published in 1997. I'm not sure how I missed it! It is full of quick ideas for appetizers, soups, salads, main dishes, veggies, breakfasts and desserts. Lorna focuses on things you can throw together with staples from your kitchen. Not boring, but not too complex; lots of stuff that the kids will like. There is some chopping and dicing, but she uses canned beans and some packaged foods to speed up the prep and cooking time. My favorite part of the book is her special mixes: she has an "Unlimited Waffle Mix", "Super Scones", "Crispy Cookie Mix," and more. Basically, you make up little baggies of the dry mix ingredients and pop them in your freezer. When you want to make some, say, waffles, you just pull out the baggie, add the wet ingredients, and cook. Each mix has several variations you can make; no worries about getting stuck in a rut! I'm definitely trying it out. My kids love waffles and scones, but I am usually short on time. This should help. I believe everything in this cookbook is vegan, though I may have missed something. Yes, it's on my list!!!

Happy weekend!!!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

The Genius of Children

Sometimes I think we are all born really smart, and life has a way of just draining it out of us. Aren't these gorgeous? My daughter knit them for a little girl she babysits for. My daughter is 14 and a fabulous, fearless knitter. The most remarkable thing about these little slippers is: the toes. Look at them! Kitchener stitched to perfection!! My daughter asked for help with this. I picked up the first slipper and did it for her. I didn't teach her how to do it; I simply talked to myself: Knit, off, purl, on, purl, off, knit, on. Can you imagine my surprise when she turned around and did the second one, perfectly, all by herself? No one told her this can be tricky. No one planted the seed in her mind that she might have trouble with it. She just assumed she could do it, and she did.

This is a lesson I need to remind myself of all the time; in knitting, in tennis, in life. Believe in yourself; believe you CAN do it, and you will.

I homeschool my children. I see this over and over again: they don't have to be told how to do every little thing, or when to do it, or why. I always want the recipe, the pattern, the formula. They like to figure it out for themselves, with a bit of guidance. Yes, this can be messy, or inconvenient, or even a failure. There is always a lesson, though, so I guess even a failure is successful on some levels.

In yoga, we always try to stay in the present moment. I tell my students that the joy is in the journey, and it is! It is so easy to lose sight of this simple truth.

On the food front: I tried the Z Trim in my Super Bowl baked artichoke dip. I substituted half of the mayonnaise with Z Trim. No one noticed and the baking dish was licked clean! (Let's keep this to ourselves :-) I could not taste a difference at all.

Another new food we've been playing with is PlayFood. It is a vegan cheese substitute made primarily from raw cashews. They make a cream cheese sub, a sour cream, a cheddar cheese and a nacho cheese. I love the cheddar cheese on pretzels! My daughter has been going crazy making vegan cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World! by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. (a birthday gift from Barbara-- thanks, Barbara!!) Our favorites are the plain vanilla cupcakes with lemon "cream cheese" frosting, using the PlayFood. Absolutely fabulous. I know they are not "health food", but I feel so virtuous eating them! Cupcakes rock!!

One last knitting thing... I know, I'm jumping around here, but, who cares?? Here are my February socks (well, sock). The pattern is the Jaywalker. My gauge says I'm okay, but don't they look kind of big to you, for a ladies' sock?

Sunday, February 4, 2007

A Super Bowl! (of Guacamole)

Are you a "good cook"? What makes someone a good cook? Most bad cooks know they are bad, and they don't mind admitting it. I think I'm a decent cook. I love trying new things; results are... mixed. Most are edible; many will never be prepared again.

If you want to choose a specific category, there is one in which I excel: Guacamole. I make great guacamole! People who HATE guacamole LOVE mine! Children who won't eat anything green simply inhale my guacamole. I'm going to share my recipe with you today.

I know there are many variations. You can mash an avocado and dump in some salsa... voila! Guacamole! But if you want something fresh and delicious, try this one. Here is my one piece of advice: make it your own. If you hate tomatoes, leave them out. If you only have red bell peppers and no green, use red. Yes, you can use lemon juice instead of lime juice, if you must. As long as you follow the basic steps, my guac is your guac. I must add one more thing: I love cilantro, Mike HATES cilantro. I don't add it to guacamole for family consumption, but if I'm home alone... well, that one time I was home alone, and decided to have chips and guac for dinner, I did add cilantro and relished it!!

Here ya go!

Mince some onion, about 2 Tbs., + or -. Mince it really small, and put it in a bowl. Add some salt, about 1 tsp. Using the back of a spoon, mash the salt into the onion until it is all mushy and the onion sweats and it's pretty liquidy. Add 2 avocadoes. Using a fork, mash the avocadoes well, mixing with the onion and salt. This is the basis for your excellent guacamole. Next add one diced jalapeno (or to taste), 1/2 diced bell pepper, 1 large clove of garlic, minced, and some finely diced tomatoes, as much as you'd like. Squeeze in the juice of 1/2 a lime. Mix it all well, with a spoon. Add chips and you've got a party!

I have another knitting project to share. This is the "Luxe Neckwarmer" from Knit 2 Together by Tracey Ullman and Mel Clark. I love this project. It's simple and quick to knit; a basic "feather and fan" pattern. Using kind of big needles and fairly thin yarn, it's fun to knit. The finished product is so warm and so practical. It gives you the warmth of a scarf without worrying about the tails dragging in your soup. It's perfect for indoor wear and adds a touch to any outfit. I'm going to show you some photos. Okay, the one where I am wearing it DOES kind of look like I have a neck brace on, but I do not. I was trying to show the neckwarmer at its best angle, which wasn't the best angle for me. Oh, well.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

The Scoop on the Skinny

Have you every heard of "Z Trim"? I was reading an article about a school in Pennsylvania which had decreased the fat in their cafeteria foods. One thing that caught my eye was that they reduced the fat in their Ranch dressing and the kids never even noticed. Salad dressings are one of my downfalls; I have never found a fat free or even very lowfat dressing that I really like. A nice, no fat salad can suddenly become 500 calories (or more), thanks to the dressing.

I dug around a bit and found Z Trim. It is a fat replacement "fibergel." It has zero calories, zero fat, zero side effects, and is totally vegetarian, made of water and bran fiber from the hulls of corn, oat or soy. (see www.ztrim.com ) You can mix it with prepared foods (like bottled salad dressings); you can bake with it and replace half the fat (or more); you can whip it with butter or cream cheese and decrease the fat. It is supposed to give the same "mouth feel" as fat, and also, the fiber makes you feel full.

I whipped some with some Earth Balance today and served it on toast. It wasn't very homogenous; probably would have been better if I used the food processor, but once it was on the toast it tasted just like the full fat product. I also added some to some packaged macaroni and "cheese" in place of the optional butter. It didn't change the taste, but it did feel like there was fat in there. I'm looking forward to experimenting!

One of the first things I will try to replace is the oil in my favorite tahini dressings. I love tahini dressing on everything: salad, grains, vegetables, EVERYthing! I promised Angie some recipes, so here are two of my favorites:

1. Greek Tamari Dressing ("The Kripalu Cookbook," Atma JoAnn Levitt)
3 Tbs. sesame seeds, lightly toasted and cooled
3/4 C canola oil
3 Tbs. lemon juice
2 Tbs. tamari
2 Tbs. tahini
2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
dash cayenne
dash black pepper
1/2 C water
Combine in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

2. John's Tahini Dressing ("Diet for a New World," John Robbins)
1/4 C lemon juice
1/2 C canola oil
1/4 C tamari
1/3 C tahini
1 Tbs. finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 Tbs. maple syrup
1/4 C water
Blend as above.

Switching gears... I started (yet another!) new knitting project. I am still working on the JayWalker socks and the lace stole (photos coming soon), but they are both using very fine yarn and small needles and I needed a break! I've had some chunky yarn reserved for a piano bench cover for a while now, so I decided to work on that. I am knitting in a diagonal pattern, like a diagonal scarf, just sort of improvising for now. (It's really not very difficult!) The finish is worn off of my piano bench and I'm not very experienced in furniture refinishing, and I have no interest! More fun for me to knit something to cover it up with!!

Finally, something fun: I was browsing my knitting lists and people were talking about their favorite knitting bags. One woman posted some from Dick Blick (www.dickblick.com ). I just fell in love with this one and it was ON SALE for only $14.99!! I can't pass up a bargain like that! It arrived in only 2 days and it is so cool! I love all the pockets around the outside. I love that it stands upright and then sits open if I want it to. The yarn feeds out of the sides easily, even when closed. Plenty of room for all my projects and books or whatever. Truly, a great deal!

Friday, February 2, 2007

A Tale of Two Dishcloths!

Like the cobbler whose children had no shoes, this knitter whined "I have no dishcloths!" So, I got busy and knit up a ballband on Wednesday night. The cheerful colors make me smile while washing the dishes!
I met my friend Shannon for coffee yesterday. She gifted me with birthday goodies, including this:
So, now I have two dishcloths, handmade and beautiful. (Thanks, Shannon!)

In other knitting news, I wanted to post some pictures of my "scood." My son named it a scood, because it is actually a scarf with a hood, but it is really the pattern for the "Grown Up Bonnet" from Knit 2 Together. I knit it in Blue Sky Alpacas hand dyes worsted, and it is warm as can be. Also, great protection for my curly hair from the snow!

I cast on for my February socks. I decided to make some JayWalkers from Regia yarn I bought on sale. I had a hard time measuring my gauge on these. I am using some size 1 needles and I THINK they are okay, but I'm not sure. They look a bit big. I guess I can always rip them out, or find someone around here who will fit into them! (So much for knitting socks for ME!)

I went to yoga last night, a class through the Johnson County Parks and Rec. Molly, the instructor, is so kind and enthusiastic; I really like her. I'm trying to keep an open mind about different styles of yoga, and hers is a lot different from mine. I teach a lot of alignment and she does not. It's all I can do to keep myself from walking around the room and adjusting people! She asked me to demonstrate "my method" of ardha chandrasana last night (half moon pose), which was a lot different from her version. I was happy to demonstrate, but I left feeling kind of funny about it, since it was completely different from her version. It's her class; she should teach whatever she wants to. I've been struggling with this. I've been careful to keep my mouth shut up until now. It's important that her students have confidence in her. I am just so trained in proper alignment, I really can't (and don't want to!) totally change my yoga.

I came close to quitting tennis yesterday, I was that bad. Mike convinced me that I just need more experience playing games, so I guess I'll hang in there for a few more months. I dragged myself to cardio tennis this morning, quite a feat in 9 degree temperatures!! I focused on the tennis part and felt I did a bit better than yesterday. I also scheduled a game for next week, to work on my skills in action.

Yesterday, I read about two studies which discovered that people whose ring fingers are longer than their index fingers tend to be more athletic than those whose index fingers are longer. Guess I blew that theory right out the window :-) Do you ever wonder who thought to study the relationship between finger length and athletic ability? Why? Who funded such a study? And who cares???