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Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

One Chick, 3x Chic, and a Frog…

Posted by Janis on April 12, 2007

For Easter, my mom used to make a chick cake. This is a long time ago, when we were little, and a cut-out cake seemed quite special and even kind of magical. (The fact that the chick was standing in coconut grass with tons of jelly beans could have been a factor.) If I remember right, she got the idea from my grandma, who made one once, and Mom was not to be outdone. So for a few years there, we had a chick cake every Easter. I decided to make one this year and was distressed that I couldn’t find her original handwritten instructions, which had a very cute drawing of the finished cake. Dad and I Googled for a chick cake and were surprised that we didn’t find a very close match, except for one candidate whose directions ended by saying, “Cut cakes and assemble according to diagram. (The diagram wasn’t included with this recipe, so use your imagination!)” So we did. Here’s the chick cake 2007.chickcakefix.jpg I have reason to believe this chick looks a good deal more frantic than the ones I remember Mom making — you can’t expect knit therapy to solve everything.

My other Easter weekend feat was to complete – yes, complete! – the Knitty 3x Chic sweater I started at the end of last summer. I always get myself worked up over the seaming, but it really wasn’t too bad this time. I should get a patent to sell the seams as bulletproof fabric, though — man, you couldn’t get through those things with an AK-47! I had planned to sew the seams with a slightly lighter, similar fiber, smooth yarn, but at the last minute chickened out and used the original yarn. (This is what happens when you read all 8 or 10 sources you have on the subject in your knitting library and then just freak out from too much advice. “Always use the original yarn.” “Use a different yarn for seaming if you knit in a bulky or bumpy yarn.” What if it’s just plain cheapass yarn, huh? What then?!)3xchic.jpg

A couple of caveats for the newbie knitters out there on making your first sweater (or in my case, the third): If you think you should use cheap yarn for yourself on your first sweater, think again. I know it seems sensible on some level: This is my first big project, what if I screw it up? Or my personal favorite: This can be my learning sweater, then if it turns out OK, I’ll make it again in a really nice yarn. Ah, but knitting is kinda like taking a vacation — do you go to a new, exciting destination this time or do you return to someplace you know you already love? Tough call, friends, but I know where I’m going next… a new pattern.

The worst thing about using a petro-product yarn is that, at least in this case, by the time I had sewed it up, it was already getting a little fuzzy. ACK! All that work for fuzz?! And I am very careful about handling and storing projects, so it wasn’t me this time. I keep thinking what a really lovely sweater I’d have right now if I’d just bought some Lamb’s Pride or something — not even luxury yarn, just a good, basic animal fiber. (Of course, by the time I finished it, I had all sorts of nice yarn in the stash, but that’s another story. And a scary one, so we’ll save that for later.)

Hmm, let’s see now — one other knitting update. The frog. I spoke too soon on the bamboo scarf and the hubris fairy smacked me down. Not all the way to the cast-on, but to the part where I picked up stitches and started the long part of the scarf between the borders. It is good for the soul to sit down under bright lights and fix a mistake properly, I must say. That is how I spent my evening last night and I am much happier today for it. Don’t you love a happy ending? So do I, but I’ve got a helluva long way to go before I have one on this scarf.


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“You’re Doin’ a Heckuva Job” Brownies

Posted by Janis on February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine’s Day. No, really — I like Valentine’s Day. Not because of the neverending nonsense about how important it is to be in love, hooked up, a couple — and certainly not because of the relentless stream of moronic advertising reducing that wonderous emotion to crass commercialism.

I like Valentine’s Day because it’s a good time to just connect with friends and family — check in, say I love you, maybe bake something. Or knit something. (More about that project late tonight, no doubt.) I have to admit, I use Valentine’s Day to catch up with little giftings that didn’t quite happen at Christmas, like baking treats for the neighbors. For those of us who slog through January with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) or just the post-holiday blues, Valentine’s Day seems to mark the beginning of the end of the grey, grey winter. It’s a great excuse to buy yourself some spring flowers and breathe a sigh of relief.

Back to the baking, though, in case you’re looking for a good brownie recipe. This is from the back of the Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate box, and I have it on the very good authority of my dear friend David that these are the best brownies in existence. Because I like to give these to friends who have gone waaaaaaay above and beyond, especially during this last year, I call them

“You’re Doin’ a Heckuva Job” Brownies

2 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract (I always use more – like double)

1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted

3/4 cup Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate (regular cocoa powder won’t work – ask me how I know)

2/3 cup flour

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)

1 cup Ghirardelli Bittersweet or Semisweet Chocolate Chips (the recipe says optional, I say it’s not)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine eggs, sugar, and vanilla and stir till mixed well. Add melted butter, making sure it’s cooled off enough not to cook the eggs (yuck). In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients, except nuts and chips, and mix well with a fork. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones, stir with a spoon — don’t beat or overmix. Fold in nuts and chocolate chips. Pour into a greased or parchment-paper lined 8″ x 8″ pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes for chewy brownies, longer for cake-y ones. Me, I’m all for the chewy ones.

Enjoy. You’re doin’ a heckuva job, wherever you are. Now go get yourself some red tulips.

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The Best Flan

Posted by Janis on January 8, 2007

Here’s what to do when you get home after a long day and¬†throw the few bags of groceries over the baby (really doggie) gate, forgetting about the carton of eggs. ¬†Take the four cracked ones and save the yolks, because you can make an amazingly easy and delicious flan with them and everyone will love you (even more).


1 cup sugar, for caramelizing, to line the bottom of the baking dish or ramekins

1 can sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk!)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk (2% is fine, I don’t think skim will work — or matter — at this point)

One 1-1/2 to 2 quart casserole or 6-8 ramekins, a 9 x 13″ baking pan to set the flan pan in while baking.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Over very low heat, melt the sugar in a small saucepan, stirring constantly. This takes some time and patience. It’s worth it. When the sugar is melted and is a lovely carmel-y color, take it off the stove and pour it immediately into the baking dish or ramekins. Swirl it around till it covers the bottom of the dish(es) fairly evenly.

3. Combine the remaining 5 ingredients and whisk until thoroughly blended.

4. Pour the flan mixture into the baking vessel(s).

5. Put about an inch of hot water into the 9 x 13 baking pan, then put the flan pan in it. This keeps the flan from scorching and the caramelized sugar from burning.

6. Bake for 50-60 minutes for a large vessel, about 30 minutes for ramekins. The flan is done when the centers appears to be “set” and not jiggly.

7. Cool on a rack, then put it in the fridge until serving time. For serving, dip the bottom of the flan dish in hot water (either in a pan or in the sink) for a few minutes. You’ll see the caramelized sugar begin to soften. Then take a knife around the perimeter of the dish(es) to loosen the
flan, invert on a plate, and voila! You have the best flan.

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