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March 2011

The Most Beautiful Thing I Ever Knitted

Lately there's mostly been cooking going on around here. But in the background there was this MAMMOTH damn knitting project lingering, going on six years. And it is finally finished.


It doesn't look like a whole lot before blocking, does it?


Blocking being an entirely different beast, altogether. A pain in the ass, is what I mean.


But then you see it in all its glory. And it is glorious. Fantastic. Gorgeous. Worth every second you spent on it.


And you say the same thing you did after 40 weeks and 4 days of pregnancy, 25 hours of labor, 1.5 hours of pushing. "Let's make another one!"

You probably call it crazy, but something you sweated through comes out so stunningly gorgeous?! And you are completely caught by surprise by its beauty.


Not that I am equating our child to a knitted object. Because look at THAT concentrated gorgeousness? Beats anything I have ever laid eyes on. Yes, our Master Icer is at work!


This is what we started with, because I am a little late blogger, and these were St Patty's Traditional Cupcakes!


They came out a little odd with some mixed in brownness, maybe it was the gel color I used that didn't get mixed properly. But oh my, Martha knows her velvet cupcakes!


We used the Sprinkles frosting recipe. Oh yum. And some orange sprinkles.


Ok, maybe just a little bit crazy. If you consider pausing your TV and using your fancy ass camera to take about 20 pictures of this GORGEOUS hat Temperance was wearing on "Bones", crazy. I'm not sure I followed the storyline much this time. Look at it! So cute. Even if the weather here is spring & almost summerish this week.

Winter will be back.


P.S. The shawl is Print O' the Wave stole by Eunny Jang. I will definitely knit lace again. Definitely.


Cooking Together

Bon Appetit, the magazine, had an article the other day about food's power to give you great memories, and how important it is to preserve them. Because it's really not about food. It's how families & friendships are forged in the kitchen, working together to create something delicious to eat. We all have to eat, right?

Women in  the Terezin concentration camp in Czechoslovakia dealt with their present by writing down recipes from their pasts, on scraps of paper, in hopes that it would be for their children. The book looks amazing, and is called "In Memory's Kitchen".

And it makes you think about those simple things in life. How to preserve some of our past, for us, & our children to enjoy.


I grew up in a family who cooked. But it wasn't like it is today, someone's "hobby", but out of necessity. It makes you take for granted all the knowledge that came with making food every day.


And we all know, it's difficult to get "recipes" out of Grandparents. It is always "a little bit of this, and a little bit more of that" & "it's done when it feels right". There was always a lot of touching the food involved. How do you put that down on paper?


So we did a lot of "show me" instead. Palt is one of those delicacies that you just have to eat growing up to fully enjoy. Grate raw potatoes, add flour, salt, maybe some ox blood, wrap it around a ball of ground beef (meatball sized), make into balls, boil for about 40 minutes in salted water, eat with butter and lingonberry preserves. Today we call it Poor Man's Food, but I call it the best food in the world.


We all inherited the desire to cook. Here my sister is making ladyfingers. From scratch. For the tiramisu we were making later. I think we finished it around midnight, I was leaving to go back to the US the next day, but still got to eat some of it! See that braid in her hair? I just realized that I must have made it, because everytime I see her I always have to braid her hair. It's one of those childhood things. These days she sits more still than she did 20 years ago. Kind of.


This is called Sillbord in Swedish. Direct translation is "Herring table". After an entire evening of eating & drinking & talking & being silly until the wee hours, I walked into my Mom's kitchen and this is what I saw. "It's time to eat something salty before we go to bed, we'll feel better tomorrow". Hard boiled eggs, boiled potatoes, pickled herring, sour cream, hard tack,  & of course, beer. Ice cold beer. Now that's how you end a great evening. My Mom knows.

Everytime I go back to Sweden, my Mom always asks "What do you want to eat when you get here?" And my answer is always the same. Her tarragon stew.  She always huffs & puffs and complains, it's so boring, and don't I want something fancier? But it is always on the table when I get there. And it's so good. She makes it with pork loin, but my attempts at home are always made with chicken.


Last night when I made it, I tried to actually write down the recipe. Usually it's blandly called "my mush", trust your instinct and don't follow it to the letter if you don't like how I do things. That's why cooking is great, there are a hundred ways to make one single dish. Or maybe even a thousand.

The chicken is cut into chunks, today it was 1/2" squares. S&P the chicken, add 2 tbsp of butter to a hot pan, quickly brown the chicken (sometimes I add 1.5 tsp of tarragon to the chicken while it browns, i feel like it releases the flavors more than adding it later, or maybe I just love the smell of licorice). Don't let the chicken cook all the way through. Remove the chicken from the pan.


Chop the onions. Add 1 tbsp of butter to a pan, and saute the onions until translucent. If you'd like to reverse these steps you can do that; saute the onions first, then the chicken. Whatever works for you. I'm not really sure which way I do it sometimes. Do we want the onions to flavor the chicken or the chicken to flavor the onions, or maybe both? See? 1000 ways.


I love the smell of onions cooking in butter. Even if you don't like to eat onions you have to love that smell.


Add the chicken back into the pot along with about 1 tbsp of flour. Let the flour cook for about a minute. Add 1-1.5 cup of chicken stock and deglaze the pan. Let it putter until the chicken is cooked, add about 1/2 cup of cream (you can even omit the cream to make it "healthier", but I think that's kind of crazy.) S&P & add tarragon to taste.


Really, do you want to omit the cream? Didn't think so. Just try not to overcook the chicken, it's the trickiest part, to reduce it enough to make it thicker, while keeping the chicken moist inside. I'm not terribly precise, I just love the flavors of tarragon, cream, chicken all together, so it doesn't have to be perfect. Once in a blue moon it is close, and I have no idea what I did.


We eat it on a bed of brown rice, which means, start cooking the rice right before you start the chicken, and it will finish at the same time. Slick, huh?

White or a lighter red wine works really well.

Tarragon Chicken (for 2-3 people)

1 lb chicken breast cut into chunks 1/2-1" square. (about 2 breastesesesess)

1 cup of chopped onions (one large, or two medium onions, or close enough)

3 tbsp butter (2+1 tbsp)

1.5 tsp tarragon

1 tbsp flour

1-1.5 cups chicken stock

0.5 cups cream

S&P & tarragon to taste.


One day I hope this girl will look back on her childhood and feel the way I do about mine. Filled with  memories of friends & family & a hot kitchen where everyone cooked together and had fun.






But Not For Me


For someone very little. Actually, someone who should be joining us soon. I'm pretty sure her Mommy & Daddy want to see her real soon. Loved making the blanket, Jared Flood's Umaro pattern, in something soft & washable. All his patterns are fantastic.  The hat was just winged, but the booties are Christine's Stay-On Baby Booties.


And for when she gets a little older.


About our Model's age. Who really wanted to get this thing...




Then it was time for Karen's Nemesises (yes, I am pretty sure that is a word). Pretty undulating cables, and the Malabrigo sock yarn is so soft. I will always think of being in the car on the way to Monterey Bay Aquarium while knitting these ones. Pissing rain the whole way. But oh boy, was it pretty.


Miss EB thought it was amazing.


The knitting continued.


Don't remember the yarn (I am SURE there's a label floating around somewhere), but the pattern is Aantje by Knitwhits, purchased at Stitches 2011, A little fidgety to knit here and there, but overall came out nice. For a Mommy, but not mine. It's still cold in Minnesota, so it hopefully will come to good use soon!


Our very special Model took it upon herself to model it as well.


Miss Babs sock & baby yarn made us some Pricklies. If I make them again, will definitely add a little length after the thumb. But since they're not for me, they will probably fit the recipient fine!


Oh wait, yes, these are for me! And therefore decided to mirror the mitts. Completely forgot to do the k1tbl,p1 ribbing on the first mitt (with the pink cuff), so I ripped it out from the bottom (really, just cut the yarn), and knitted it from the pattern down. They're for me, I never had any plans to re-knitting the entire mitt, maybe only some vague idea to knit three mitts. And stupid, yes, I forgot, also a stupid idea.


Because with a beer or two, who'll notice anyway?


My Sweetie got me flowers.


I love tulips.


So delicate.


We didn't forget it was Semla-day on Tuesday, I'm pretty sure that's why it's also called Fat Tuesday. My swedish cookbook didn't have a recipe (!!!), but thankfully we have the internets, and used this one.


Oh yeah, it tasted as good as it looks.