Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sweater Progress

Yes, I am still working on the sweater! However, the same thing that always happens to me at this time of the year is happening right now: I want to knit spring and summer stuff, not sweaters!! Still, we have cool weather and are expecting a cool down next week, so I have plenty of opportunities to wear a sweater, if I can just finish it.

The body of the sweater is finished, so I only have to knit the sleeves and the neck. This seems like a easy task, but, if you've ever knit a sweater before, you know that the sleeves can seem endless! I don't know why; they have a fraction of the number of stitches as the body of the sweater, and yet... they seem to take forever.

At any rate, these are set in, short row sleeves. I have done short rows before, with wraps and turns, but I haven't done them on the purl side, so that was new. For these sleeves, you have to pick up a certain number of stitches, place a marker, pick up more, place a marker, etc., and you have to pick up the same number of stitches on either side of the sleeve. This sounded sort of tricky to me, but I jumped in. On my first attempt, I ran out of room before I had picked up the required number of stitches. Ripped that out. Second attempt, I sort of "made it work." It looked pretty good, not perfect, but I was eager to move forward, so I deemed it "good enough." Never a good idea!

I worked all of the short rows, joined for worked in the round and then stopped to admire my work. Ug. Not pretty. It was a bit uneven. There were loose spots where I had picked up stitches. Some of my purl wraps were clearly wrong, so there were some weird crossed stitches in some parts. Reluctantly, I ripped it out.

I set it aside for a while, but quickly decided to try again. Picked up the stitches nice and evenly. Worked the short row wraps carefully... success!! I am now "speeding" down the arm of sleeve number one!

In other knitting news, I am about to turn the heel on Mike's tabi sock, which looks huge to me, but he tried it on and it fits him quite well.

I also knit up these baby booties, but still have to sew the seams. A friend is newly pregnant and doesn't know if it's a girl or a boy. However, I had this lovely organic cotton yarn sitting in my stash and it just happens to be blue. Girls can wear blue, too, right? Light blue. Pastel. Barely blue. Maybe I could add pink pompoms if it turns out to be a girl?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Trimming the Fat

I've been trying to cook delicious food that is a little bit lower in fat and calories. I think I've hit that age where every little bit actually does count! Plus, it's just got to be better for the kids.

One thing I use all the time in baking is either applesauce or prune puree. Buying the prune puree can be sort of expensive, though I'm not sure why. Laurie gave me her recipe for cowboy cookies (thanks, Laurie!!) which included directions on how to make prune puree and I just slapped myself in the head... duh. Just put a bunch of prunes in your food processor. Turn it one and start pouring in hot water, slowly. Eventually, you will get "prune butter." Just make it the consistency you want, but be careful not to make it too watery. Turn off the machine every once in a while, scrape down the sides, and start again. Okay, this stuff is delicious! I really like it on toast or crackers.

I just substitute it straight for butter or oil in a recipe. It works especially well for things that can handle a bit of added sweetness, and amazingly well with anything chocolate. Last night, the kids found a box of brownie mix in the pantry. It was from Trader Joe's, "Truffle Brownie Mix." The directions called for 1 stick of butter, melted, and 2 large eggs. I used 1/2 cup of prune puree and egg replacers equivalent to 2 eggs. Voila! Gorgeous, moist and delicious brownies! I know they're not health food, but still, better than the alternative.

Another of my favorite things is bean dip. I love bean dips on veggies and crackers and I really love to spread them on tortillas to make wraps. My favorite is hummus, but I've been searching for a way to make it lighter. I came up with a very tasty bean dip, but I'm not even sure you can call it hummus! It doesn't have tahini or oil in it, though it does have chickpeas. Here's how I made it:

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 clove garlic (large-ish)

2-3 Tbs lemon juice

1-2 Tbs tamari

1 roasted red bell pepper (from a jar)

1/2 tsp smoked paprika (must use SMOKED, not regular)

Whirl it all up in a food processor; let it chill for an hour or so to blend the flavors. This is really delicious! I used it as a dip and then I used it as a spread on my wraps. I just spread a layer on a sprouted grain tortilla and then added whatever veggies I wanted. One time, I sauteed onion, mushrooms and corn and added some spinach leaves... heavenly! Usually, I just put some salad on top and roll it up and eat it. (sorry about this sorry-looking photo:-)

I thought it might make a good base for a salad dressing. I tried diluting it with some rice vinegar and, honestly, it was okay, but not great. I think it might need more seasoning or something; I'll have to play with it.