The roots of bread baking…

Birthdays can be such wonderful things; thanks to my latest obsession with bread baking, my sister Nicki-Cha gifted me the brilliantly large New Complete Book of Breads by Bernard Clayton, which I highly recommend for any bread baker who wants whites, ryes, sour doughs, brans, oatmeals, sweet breads, corn breads, and everything in betwixt (never mind the yummy copy of the new 30th Anniversary edition of the epic Alex Haley book Roots).

Its absolutely brilliant and I’ve been thumbing through it all morning, drooling and frothing at the mouth about all sorts of breads I want to bake up this week if the weather is fall-ish. What’s more, my Mum bought me a new Nodic Ware loaf pan, which I’ve been desiring for some time. Drools.

Any takers for the French White Bread with Chocolate? I intend to buy up some deliciously expensive chocolates tomorrow and try my hand at this.

When Loretta Lynn felt like a pie, she told you so…

As Loretta Lynn once so brilliantly noted, “Sometimes it’s like you’re a bit pie settin’ on the table, and everybody runs up to gets their piece of you. When it’s over…the plate’s empty.”

And the other night, while hunkering down on the couch to consume more of Loretta Lynn’s (auto)biography The Coal Miner’s Daughter, I thought of the aforementioned and savory pies began dancing in my head.

What happens when one has savory pies, or any pies for that matter, dancing in one’s head? Well, bake one up!

So came the above Leek and Feta pie with a deliciously buttery filo dough crust–making this one of the fastest savory pies to make, and even friendly to the cooking inept. What’s more, you can add or take out bits you don’t like–let me know if you give this a whirl and change it up! I’m always looking for new savory pie recipes and hybrids.

How to?

You will need:

1 Frozen package filo dough (found in the grocer’s freezer case)

2-5 Large Bunches of Leeks

1 container or brick of feta cheese, depending on how much you like it

2 tbsp dijon mustard

Several sprigs tarragon

Several splashes of white wine

olive oil

salt and pepper

To make up?

Leave philo dough on on counter top to defrost. Must be soft in order to roll out! Do not attempt to roll it out frozen or it spells disaster.

Cut each bunch of leeks by slicing in half lengthwise and then trimming each side. Throw out extra green tops and place leeks in a cold water bath to remove any excess dirt.

Dry leeks after clean by patting them with paper towels. Add to frying skillet with a bit of olive oil and get cooking over medium heat. Leeks will slowly become limp; add tarragon without the stems, dijon mustard and white wine, stirring occasionally. As leeks deflate, add salt and pepper to taste, about 10 minutes. Take leeks off heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roll out defrosted filo dough and place in pie plate. Work top of dough to make nice crust. Pierce bottom of pie with fork. Add leek mixture and sprinkle feta cheese throughout.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for approx. 20-30 minutes or until crust is golden.

Eat.Eat.Eat. Enjoy! Let me know if you try it out.

A whoopie of a good time…

“Let them eat cake!” is certainly not one of my mantras–and despite the often, you know, actual reference to yummy dessert, I’m glad it’s not my mantra regardless.

Every year, my Mum tries to deliver a birthday dessert that does not involve, yes, you’re right, cake. Last year, it was oatmeal cookie sandwiches; the year before, it was strawberry shortcakes the New England way–with biscuits, not pound cake, for that’s cake, you know.

And for 25? A mound of whoopie pies, filled with marshmallow frosting…and let me tell you, it was a whoopie of a good time.

Thanks Mum! My waistline is…weeping.

Birthdays are so succulent…

Tomorrow I join the quarter-century old club, and as a welcome gift as entrance into a life of tending to my garden, bread baking, knitting, and other granny-like endeavors (because I’m old, people!), my Mum bought me some various succulents and their new, brightly painted potted homes.

The succulents, purchased at our favorite farm, Spiderweb in Tuftonboro, New Hampshire, didn’t know what some of the varieties were, but like any plant in the cacti-family, they are perfect for those of you who don’t like trimming and misting and the inevitable plant fooding. Succulants don’t require much–just some bright light every week or so, and a dribble or two of water when the soil feels quite dry, on average about every 10 days and up to more.

None of my succulents have pricklers, and the aloe plant is perfect for a dab about my cheeks or somesuch, though I never get burned so I don’t seek a few of its leaves when I’ve been in the sun. For those of you, like my cohort here at Kraftworkin’ with pale complexion, might I suggest having one of these plants in house, though.

If you want more information, Michael McDowell did a great post sometime this summer on How to Pick Out and Care for Your Succulents, which I highly recommend and often refer to if I have a burning cacti-ques.

File Under: for the “I tend to kill anything living” inclined. Or those of you who just like the way succulents look like me.

This mornings unrequited love of the crossword…?

Some gray mornings in Boston, it’s nice to have no where to rush to (except a library job interview in the afternoon) and that means, for me, a nestle in with whatever tome I’m currently absorbing, endless cups of coffee, and all the local paper crossword puzzles.

But like most similar Fridays, might I highly suggest aiding this entire relaxation and mind flexation activity with my friend and fellow blogger Tom’s “My Top Five” podcast. And this week’s is absolutely perfect for gray days, featuring “My Top Five Unrequited Love Tunes”. Think Joe Jackson, The Cure, The Violent Femmes, and welp, you’ll just have to listen to get the rest.

What’s more, your humble blogger over at Pulp and Circumstance–for those not in the know, my absolute baby, my music blog–was approached to do her own “My Top Five” podcast for Tom…which was meant to drop next week, but um, because of serious indecision time, is stretched to the following week.

I’ll give everyone a heads up, but for now, lay about the couch, perhaps take up some knitting if you like, and feel unrequited.

We laugh secretly at your frustrated maneuverings…

Now, people can have children all they want. Go forth multiply, strain the world’s resources and so on. But leave your double-wide strollers at home. We all have to make concessions living in an urban area, and I’m pretty sure when the MBTA makes that announcement about passengers and strollers sharing space, they didn’t mean these giant monuments to yuppie pride. Even if you manage to have two babies at once, something I can only imagine to be extremely heinous, that is no excuse. What’s so wrong with those double-decker ones from way back when? These double-wides have invaded stores, where they block supermarket aisles and doorways while their owners debate the merits of various soy-free vegan delicacies. They make buses and subway cars completely impassable, causing old people to stumble and the rest of us to glare wrathfully.

Just the other day at Government Center, I saw two of those parents, one with bags akimbo on both shoulders, blithely bashing passersby, while the other pushed a stroller of mammoth proportions. And when they couldn’t get that beast on to the escalator, what did Mommy dearest do? Oh yeah she dropped the F-bomb. And right in front of her children, too. So, why, you ask, do we glare at you? Because it is not your child’s fault you have parked them in a double-wide and sealed them in like freshness in a Ziploc bag. It’s yours. You decided to bring screaming, sweaty babies into the city. So, all you hipster parents with bumper stickers about evil SUVs and limiting carbon footprints, think about your double-wides and make the connection.

C’est finis…

It is the turquoise scarf. Those of you who know about any of my projects know that generally what I lack is the motivation for completion. I like to think it’s part of being kind of free spirited, though some might uncharitably call it dilettantism. No matter. I rarely make conventional, functional items, as my kraftworkin’ comrade can tell you. It is unusual that something leaves my hands without being festooned with some alternative material that makes it entirely impractical. I am reminded of a weaving I once made out of twine and sticks in tenth grade. It hung in the guest room for years, thanks to my poor, long-suffering mother. But that is not the case this time! Oh no! This is a real and true gift, meant to be worn by its recipient. I cast on 28 stitches of this turquoise wool and used 4 knit stitches and 2 purls. It was a very meditative project to compete while watching marathons of House as the summer wound to a close.

Do-It-Yourself: Just Read This.

The New York Times has a really excellent piece on “The Ambassador of Homemade”, Faythe Levine, who has come to represent the epitome of handmade crafting in America.

Levine, who has her own crafting shop and gallery, is widely considered the “expert” on the phenomena that is reimergence of handmade goods here in the states and has been quoted in scholarly material up and down the river, plus, she’s the prime documentarian of D.I.Y. Nation. Drools!

The article discusses her beginnings–a felted owl and some sock monkeys–and how, at just aged 30, she’s come to represent all things Handmade Nation.

If you’re into crafting, or just New York Times profiles, this is surely a read for you.

Levine has recently completed a documentary on the crafting culture, Handmade Nation, which you can check into here, and a companion blog that goes with the film. She’s also got a really cool personal blog “I Was Born in 1977”, which I highly recommend.

And as if she couldn’t get any cooler, Faythe’s also in a band, Wooden Robot, and plays the musical saw. Golf, freaking, claps.

A woman of many hats?

As Herman Melville once so brilliantly noted, “Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off–then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”

While, unlike Herman’s epic tale and its central figure, Ishmael, I do not take to the sea when these urges come. Instead, I tend to knit up….hats, so that may Ishmael ever rise from the ashes of literary history and meet me on the street, he may knock my hat off if he misses the sea.

And so today, finding a whole stash of Merino wool left over from a cabled sweater I cast on last winter, I decided to start–and at least come close to finish, if not finish oh so–the Piksi Hat by Erica over at CopyCat, which I have been drooling about for sometime and have yet to knit it up.

The yarn is a pumpkin color–one of my favorites (I adore all things hued of rust, or curry, or deli mustards) and might I say the hat is knitting up fast. I cast on sometime this afternoon and by 5, I was already on decreasing rounds and nearly to the finish line! Woo! A project that may get done pronto. Stat. Asap. It makes me gush and I was so eager to try on what I’d done and snap fotos of it, I accidently dropped a couple stitches in the process, which had me swearing, and fixing it up right straight. It’s all settled now and ready to be finished.

I’ll post fotos of it once its completed, but might I mention I didn’t have any size 8-16 in. circulars with me this weekend and was forced to cast it on using 4 dpns, and let me tell you, it was a task keeping stitches and markers in place–don’t do it! Resist the temptation to cast on something that may be burdensome with the tools you have in front of you. Don’t drool so much over a pattern that insists and begs you to cast it on immediately, like I always do.

File Under: Cold weather, cometh? You can expect to meet me halfway, in this pixi.

I wanted something whimsy…

And whimsy’s what I got.

Yesterday evening, while engaging in a little film watching, I decided my eyes simply couldn’t take working with size one needles on some ribbed socks I recently cast on–and needed a switch. Not in the mood to work on my version of the Noro Garden Scarf, I decided to finally cast on using those Size 35 mumbo jumbo needles I bought about a month ago, and had some leftover salmon colored yarn with little flecks of gold and green in it that I’d used a year or so back to knit up some adorable little baby booties that I never gave to any slobbering little one.

What I got was a scarf that nearly knitted itself up in an hour–using garter stitch, I cast on 18 and ended up with a wide, large eyehole scarf that reeks of whimsy, something often described in my dress. So what could go wrong? Not a thing.

Methinks this was so easy I must make one for all my friends! Get in line; who wants a touch of whimsy in an hour or two?

File Under: Must.Stop.Casting.On.New.Projects.Have.Too.Many.Scarfs.Already!

Malabri-n-go Me This!

I finally got my hands on some delicious Malabrigo yarn! Drools! While these two kettle dyed and handspun in Uruguay skeins really made my credit card sweat, let me just say,

Malabrigo yarn is smooth and soft as butter; a pure Merino worsted weight yarn well worth the $12 a hank; and might I add, I’ll even go for broke and sit and ball it much to my dismay because its that tasty (for those in the know, I get quite frustrated when I have to ball my hanks of yarn–once, breaking down in tears to my sister as I fought a gigantic hank of Israeli hand-dyed cotton that was far too impressionable to the great big, honkin KNOT!).

What’s more, Malabrigo works with generations of cattle ranchers in Uruguay to deliver the wool for their Merinos and laces; similarly, their Angoras are handspun by Native Americans in Argentina. It’s good to see my fellow Natives producing some of the most gorgeous yarns I’ve ever seen.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with the yarn yet–its got hues of purple and grey in it, and I love that its color palette is slightly uneven. It may end up a gift for someone at Christmas, but I’m quite drooling to make myself a giant chunky cowl of some sort. I’m vacillating betwixt that and something a bit more dainty. What do you think?

I adore the feather and fan cowl that I first spotted at one of my favorite blogs Knitology via Stay Fancy Free, which I definitely plan on knitting up regardless of whether I use the Malabrigo. But then there’s the giant chunky cowl over at CopyCat.

File Under: I need to buy this same yarn in the Cadmium color. Covet. Covet. Covet. Oh, and I need to decide on a project.