Friday, May 16, 2014

Braided Hope ~ Lisa Frank blanket {knitting}

***The following post contains affiliate links. I may receive a small commission on any purchases made through these links. This does not affect your purchase price in any way.***

I've mentioned before about how much I love knitting. And if you know my age, you'll be able to correctly assume that I once had a great love of Lisa Frank and the explosion of rainbowy goodness it contained. Add them together and you might get a sense of the thrill I got when I found the Simply Soft Yarn Prints-Rainbow Bright piled up so prettily in the yarn bin.


The discovery came as I was digging through pink skeins for a blanket I was going to make for Evie. (If you don't know, Evie is a stuffed pink elephant who has been an important part of the family for the past 3 or so years. She is J's best friend and has rather impressive imaginary abilities -- such as creating fresh air if you caress her worn out tag.) I'd made small blankets, scarves, and hats for Evie and Froggy (V's equivalent of Evie) over the years, but J informed me that the blanket was just not big enough or soft enough or pink enough for that picky little elephant. I wasn't too upset at the idea of starting yet another knitting project or going yarn shopping (*giddy squeal*), so I probably grabbed my keys and sunglasses that very second and ran out the door.

This is how I watch football games.
Since Evie is apparently so picky, I was having a hard time finding a pink yarn that was an acceptable shade of pink and yet still soft and snuggly. I meandered down the aisle and spotted the brilliant hues of "Rainbow Bright" seducing me to grab the few remaining skeins of it in the bin. Since I have no self-control when it comes to yarn, I bought it and hoped Evie would approve. My original plan was to finish the blanket in secret so it could be a surprise for J--I mean, Evie--but she'd already discovered it by searching my bags before I even got my shoes off at the front door. Her giddy squeal assured me she liked it as much as I did.

I knew it was going to be a relatively large blanket compared to the baby blankets and other small projects I normally do, so I wanted an easy but interesting pattern. I found a pattern for a Braided Hope blanket square that seemed to be just what I was looking for. I got out my size 8 circular needles (29") and modified the pattern a bit to add a garter stitch border around it.

If you want to make one of your own the way I did, cast on 258 stitches. For the border, I knit the first 6 rows, then added 4 knit stitches to the beginning and end of each row in the original pattern. I repeated the pattern (which is a repetition of 4 easy rows) until I was almost out of yarn for the third time and was tired of it, then I knit the last 6 rows and binded off. Because I love the knitting itself and not necessarily the projects I'm making, I have yet to weave in the ends as it sits in a pile of 6 other projects with dangling strands of yarn all over them. Thankfully, Evie's birthday isn't until July, so I have some time to get it completed before she gets it. *wink*
Relaxing with Lisa and the doggies


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Just Breathe

My little boy has a very active imagination and is very enthusiastic about playing out his imaginings. He's especially fond of playing various scenes from the Cars 2 movie, particularly the "mysterious oil rig" (which was actually his birthday cake theme) and racing parts. Of course, both of these scenes involve cars blowing up.

During one recent afternoon, he was driving his toy cars around and around the play table, occasionally making one roll in the air as if it were being blown up in the midst of its racing. According to his usual custom, he kept narrating the play to me, and I would burst into very convincing fake cries for each of the wounded cars. Like any member of the male species, seeing a girl cry makes him pretty uncomfortable. He quickly held up his hands and told me not to cry. I asked, "Not even a little bit?" "No," he answered. "Just breathe!"


He was parroting back to me something I say often to my little ones. (They really are listening!)When they get upset or frustrated or just too busy talking/yelling/arguing to listen and think logically, I make a motion with my hands and say, "Just breathe!" repeatedly, lowering my voice with each repetition. It works every time. And yet I rarely heed my own advice, and often blow up instead of calming myself down enough to think logically and put things in perspective.

I thought I'd have it all together by now. Growing up, I thought turning a certain age or getting married or becoming a mother would be the magic bean that transformed me into a calm, cool, collected adult who always thought, behaved, and spoke just as I should. Now that I've been an adult, married, and a mother for a few years now, I'm beginning to think I was misinformed...or perhaps the magic age is somewhere in one's 90's. Existing is still hard work. I've learned a lot through the years, but--my goodness!--I feel like a work in progress...very, very slow progress.

He says, "Be still and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."
The Lord Almighty is with us;
The God of Jacob is our fortress.
                    Psalm 46:10&11


Just breathe...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Deep Dish German Pizza {Recipe}

***The following post contains affiliate links. Using my links may give me a small commission. This does not affect your purchase price in any way.***

I'm sure I've mentioned before that Darling is an amazing cook, and has taught me so much in the kitchen. (I didn't know what a roux was until him!) I've always loved food, but eating with him has given me an even greater passion for both eating and making delicious food. We've gotten to the point where most restaurant meals don't even appeal to us because they taste too processed or because we think of a dozen ways we would change it to make it better. (There are a few places that have yet to disappoint us, so we still blow more money than we should on restaurant purchases. haha) We've even started doing that with a lot of the recipes we try at home, and so our version sometimes ends up just barely resembling the original. I have to give him most of the credit for this, because they're usually either his ideas, or my ideas that came from him teaching me so much about culinary arts.

I've been making homemade pizza a lot more often since finding this tasty deep-dish pizza crust recipe, and we've enjoyed trying different toppings along with it. But then Darling discovered this Kraut Bierocks recipe, and we knew it would make an excellent pizza flavor! And so the following recipe was born...



Deep Dish German Pizza

Crust:

1 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast (half a packet, or you can use the whole thing if you don't want to store leftovers)
3/4 c. warm water
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 - 1/2 c. olive oil
butter for greasing

Toppings:

1 lb. ground sweet or mild Italian sausage
1 small onion, diced
1 to 2 c. shredded (or chopped) cabbage
3 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
pepper to taste
8 oz. creamy Gruyere cheese, shredded
8 oz. mozzarella, shredded


Turn on your oven to its lowest temperature (mine is 170 degrees) for about 2 or 3 minutes, then turn it off before it has the chance to get that hot. We want it warm, but not too hot to touch.
If you have a stand mixer, add the yeast and about 1/4 cup of the warm water to the bowl and let it sit for a minute or two until the yeast dissolves. Then add the sugar and 1/4 cup of the flour, and give it a good stir. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and pop it into the warm (but not hot!) oven for about 20 minutes. It should be a bit bubbly and starting to rise.

Remove the bowl from the oven and add the remaining ingredients. Let your mixer do the work and turn it on low with the dough hook for about 3 or 4 minutes. The dough will be sticky and wet, but elastic. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap again, and pop it back into the warm oven for another 2 to 3 hours.

If you're a slow knife-user like me, start getting your cabbage and onion ready just before your dough is finished rising. If you are shredding your own cheese, go ahead and do that too. Use about 1 tablespoon of butter and a splash of olive oil to generously grease a 12-inch cast iron skillet. Then dust it with yellow cornmeal. Set it aside for now.

Begin browning the Italian sausage in a different skillet with the onion, take the bowl of risen dough out of the oven, and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Sprinkle some cornmeal on to the dough and knead it for a few minutes, adding more cornmeal if needed. Then spread the dough into the prepared cast iron skillet and let it rest for 20 - 30 minutes while you finish the toppings.

Once the sausage is browned, drain the grease and add the cabbage, mustard, and pepper. Cook it, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes until the cabbage gets a little bit tender. Then add about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the shredded Gruyere cheese, and stir it around until the cheese has melted. Once the dough has finished resting and the toppings are done, spoon the sausage mixture onto the dough, leaving about 1 inch around the edges for a nice crust. (We had some leftover toppings, which we attacked with a fork while the pizza was baking. Feel free to add as much or as little as you like your pizza to have.) Sprinkle toppings with any remaining Gruyere cheese, and then top with shredded mozzarella. The Gruyere cheese browns quickly and easily, so the mozzarella keeps it from getting burnt. Bake it for 30-40 minutes, and enjoy!

Note: With this crust, it's also really good to put the cheese directly onto the crust, and remaining toppings on top. I haven't tried it that way with this version, so I'm not sure if the exposed cabbage and Gruyere would do ok or not for the duration of the baking time. Let me know how it turns out if you try it!