Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Christmas in July

Not quite, but it always seems like Christmas when I get a box from The Loopy Ewe! I've said it before, but it's worth saying again -- it's so nice to deal with a business where your custom is valued. We're always quick to complain about bad service, especially on the 'net, so it's pleasant to point out those vendors who go 'above and beyond'. Almost as much fun as playing with new sock yarn is seeing what little lagniappe Sheri has included with your order. This time it's a sample of the wool wash Soak -- something I've wanted to try for a while.

And now for something completely different -- a gratuitous photo of Monty titled "Cavalier Woken From His Nap, and not entirely happy about it".

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Peach Cobbler...

...or any juicy summer fruit cobbler. And want to know a naughty little secret? When fresh fruit isn't in season, use a good quality frozen fruit* for an 'almost as nice' result.
*(unsweetened, and don't thaw before placing cobbler in the oven)

Begin by heating the oven to 450F° (230 C). Next prepare your fruit of choice. We like tart cherries, or peaches, or a mixture of berries, or peaches with blackberries, or... How much fruit? I would suggest at least 4 cups, but I tend to just prepare enough to generously fill the pie dish I use. I measured one cup of sliced peaches as being equal to 160 g., so metric-ly speaking that would be about 640 g. of peaches. Peel, or not -- your choice. Sweeten with sugar -- the riper and sweeter the fruit, the less sugar you will need to use. In general you would use from 1/2 cup (100 g) to 1 cup (200 g). I like to also add about 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) of cornstarch to the fruit. Really fresh, just picked fruit tends to be very juicy, and this helps thicken the juice just a bit. If you like (and I do) add a small amount of cinnamon -- about 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) -- just enough to add a depth of flavor without overpowering the fruit. Mix it all together, put it in your favorite baking dish and top with a few small dabs of butter (yes, the real stuff!).

For the biscuit dough topping:
  • 2 cups (280 g) flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) salt
  • 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) baking powder
  • 5 Tablespoons (70 g) butter
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup (170 ml) milk

Combine the first four (dry) ingredients and mix thoroughly. Next, cut in the butter, using a pastry blending tool or two knives. Mix together the milk and egg, then add to the flour/butter mixture. Don't over mix, but when it nicely combined, mound it over your previously prepared fruit.

Spread the batter in a nice, even layer over the fruit, but not to the very edge -- leave about a 1/2 inch (1 -2 cm) margin or so all around. To prevent juice spillover while baking it's helpful to place your baking dish on a cookie sheet, or have a large piece of foil beneath the dish.

Bake at 450° (230C) for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 350° (180C) and bake for another 25 - 30 minutes. If you think the top is becoming too brown, try placing a sheet of foil loosely over the top to shield it, but you need to give the biscuit topping time to cook through.

Serve warm, and enjoy! If you like to gild the lily, you could serve with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream, or some such, but it's quite tasty on its own.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Peachy Keen

As I see it, home vegetable/fruit gardeners go through four distinct phases, and I'm not talking spring, summer, autumn and winter.

Phase 1: We have no peaches, but we're eagerly looking forward to that first juicy bite.

Phase 2: We have a few peaches, and wow -- they are sure tasty!

Phase 3: We have more peaches than any human could possibly eat, freeze, can, or cook -- help!

Phase 4: We have no peaches -- thank you (insert deity of choice here)!

We are now at phase 3 with peaches, potatoes and garlic. The string beans, squash and tomatoes are on the horizon and I'm trying to stay strong.

It's not all fruit and veg though. Got a new Japanese knitting/crochet book recently and I've started another project.

This issue of the "Let's Knit" series has a nice mix of knitting and crochet styles for spring and summer. Here's the one I'm making --

And here's what it looks like in the yarn (Elann Camila) that I'm using --

That's the beginning of a sleeve; I also have one of the fronts finished too, but that doesn't photograph so well. I'll be shortening the sleeves to three-quarter length, and I've lowered the neckline just a bit in addition to shortening the body length just a tad. So far I think it's looking pretty good. More details later!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Life Is Just So-Sew

No knitting, no crocheting, but the needles have been flying. I'm taking a little break from mingling yarn, and doing a little fabric wrangling instead.

A light summer 'jacket' sewn from an interesting eyelet fabric from an OOP Vogue (Adri) pattern. Here's a closeup of the fabric --

Nicely ventilated for summer, no?

Also completed, a bunch of knit fabric tank tops, and a Jalie tee-shirt. Miracle of miracles, they all fit -- what a high!

In honor of such amazing success, I'd like to pay tribute to my sewing muse, Jill.

Jill and I go way back, and she is the reason I first starting putting needle to fabric, since keeping her in fashionable frocks was putting a big dent in my spending money. So out came Granny's scrap box and I set to work on producing clothes that would be right at home on any of today's hip runways -- right down to the raw edges, whacked out seams and 'interesting' choice of fabrics! Still, it was fun, and kept me out of my grandmother's hair for hours at a time, in addition to starting a lifelong love affair with fabric and fiber of all types.

Sadly, this particular Jill is not my original -- who, I hope, found happiness with another little girl and is not a bottom layer in the town dump in Hot Springs, Arkansas -- although they could be twins. For anyone else out there with clutter-phobic grandparents, here's a hint: you can always find your childhood for sale on EBay!