Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays

Wherever you are, we are neighbors in this world. We wish you blessings of the seasons and peace in the new year - the McNeils

Monday, December 22, 2008

It's a Blizzard!

After a gorgeous, sunny weekend with temperatures all the way down in the 50s at night, we finally have snow in Windanseaville! Okay, it's fake snow made of egg whites and dipped in chocolate, but still. It is a little misty with a tiny bit of drizzle outside, which is what passes for winter weather around here.

The snowcaps are from Tyler Florence's recipe and they are super easy to make. I had the egg whites left over from making sabl├ęs yesterday, so I whipped these babies up and popped them in the oven last night so they could sit. The meringues are very sweet, but the semisweet chocolate balances them nicely. If you make them, you can make your own superfine sugar by whirring regular sugar in the food processor just a bit; also, they're sticky to the touch - they stick to each other and they will stick to your fingers, so have a little powdered sugar on hand and dip your fingers into it from time to time so they'll slide right off.

PS Just in case you doubt this is Southern California, witness the avocado next to the snowcaps in the top never know when you'll need a little guac.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Shortrow Sideways Hat

Just a quick FO! In between my other projects, I had to cast on for this little donation hat because I knew it would be quick quick quick, and it was! It took less than 100 yards of cotton dishcloth yarn, but I might make it again using some variegated yarn in a larger gauge. The pattern is here (scroll down) if you need a fast gift.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's Beginning to Smell a lot like Christmas

In another blog-inspired impulse, I just finished enjoying a rainy morning in the kitchen baking molasses cookies. I followed the recipe as Ree has it, except that I made a double batch, I whisked my dry ingredients together to distribute everything evenly, and I rolled the cookies in demerara sugar before popping them into the oven. I think I rolled them a little smaller than hers too, because I ended up with about five dozen cookies instead of the expected 36 and they're still a nice size. The fragrance is incredible - I shelled and ground my own cardamom in my old coffee grinder (not because I'm crazy - it's because I bought it a few months ago for another recipe and I could only find it in the pod - right now it's in the stores pre-ground probably cuz it's in a bunch of Christmas recipes) and between the spices and the molasses and the demerara sugar baking, I wish I could bottle the smell and sell it as Eau de Noel.

PS John came home for lunch today and proclaimed these the best molasses cookies he's ever eaten...he's something of a connoisseur, so that's a great recommendation! If you bake them, and you should - they're easy - don't overbake. They're best after they've cracked but are still a little on the chewy side.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Rainy Day Baking

The rainy weather here in Windanseaville is just another excuse not to leave home, in my opinion. This is as close to winter as we get, and with a pot of chicken tortilla soup on the stove and the fire lit it's heaven on earth. A little knitting, a little baking, a good movie on tivo....even if I have to do a little work, the rest of the day is fantastic. Directly after reading this post by Bea this morning, I went to the kitchen and baked donut muffins. I even doubled the recipe so I could deliver some to a friend I had a meeting with and still have plenty for the girls.

Did I mention that Fiona is home for winter break? The tortilla soup (the Barefoot Contessa recipe with leftover roasted chicken shredded into it) was for her - I promised I wouldn't make it until she was home to eat it! The soup was last night's dinner, accompanied by a pumpkin tarte. The tarte was a hit, so you're seeing what's left over, i.e., not much. The filling is basically the recipe on the Libby's can except that I used eggnog from a carton in place of the evaporated milk, and I baked it in a tarte pan with a gingernap cookie crust. Topped with maple whipped cream (3 cups heavy cream, whip until soft peaks, add about 1/2 c maple syrup - not pancake syrup - whip until the consistency you prefer) it is all kinds of good things on one plate. It makes enough for a 10" tarte plus 4 little 4" tartelettes (cuz you know you've gotta taste it before you serve it to people!).

The muffins are pretty fab, too - I only dredged the tops in powdered sugar so they're not actually too sweet - good with a cup of coffee on a rainy afternoon.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Mitered Mittens

We <3 the LJ Christmas Parade!

December is always such a busy month, I barely have time to catch my breath! Last weekend alone we had a parade, a triple birthday party, and a regatta...these were just the main events and don't even include the errands and life in general, or the things we couldn't do because we were busy with parades and regattas. And if you think I've made any progress on stimulating the economy, guess again. No progress. No stimulation has taken place.

I did make a gorgeous chocolate cake for the birthday people, though. It's the Chocolate Buttermilk Cake from Magnolia, with their chocolate buttercream on top. It may well be the best chocolate cake I've ever eaten. I ended up short on the unsweetened chocolate called for in the cake and had to substitute some very nice cocoa and even more butter, most likely bringing the butter-to-person ratio up somewhere in the this-cake-will-kill-you range, but it was definitely worth it.

On the knitting front, I've been working away on mittens, mittens, and more mittens. I just love them. These are the Elizabeth Zimmerman's Mitered Mittens and they are super fun to knit.

The pattern shows the Noro Silk Garden off beautifully, and the mittens are matched but mismatched at the same time - very cool. I cast on 40 sts, knit 5 rounds of garter stitch, 2.5" of cuff, and away we went.

Rather than using EZ's thumb method for this mitten (snip a stitch and unravel live sts), I used Kathryn Ivy's technique and put in a thumb gusset right after the cuff. She's right, it distorts the palm of the mitten less. I also quit decreasing at the top when I had 12 stitches total and kitchenered the fingertips. I bath in Eucalan and a rest flattened them right out to the shape you see here - they were a little gnarled before blocking.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Target Wave

Isn't this a great pattern? These Target Wave mittens are from Knitting Nature, one of my favorite books for knitting inspiration. I'll admit I haven't knit very many Norah Gaughan designs, but I love the organic quality of her creations.

The gray is Malabrigo Worsted in Frost Gray, and the cream is some wool I had in my stash...Lana Gatto, I think. The pattern calls for knitting these mittens flat, but you know me, I hate to seam. I adjusted for the seam stitches and knitted the cuffs in the round, knit back and forth for the thumb hole, and joined again for the fingertips.

For the thumbs, I picked up stitches all around the thumb hole, adding a couple of extras where it looked like there might be gaps. Those I dispatched with a k2tog on the first round of knitting and then continued to the thumb tips.

The finished mittens were a little wobbly looking, what with all the curves and color changes, but I cut out a hand shape from an old Amazon box and steamed those babies smooth. I love them!