Butternut Squash Soup

The weather is warming up, but I promised my Butternut Squash recipe.  Hopefully, there is a cold day lingering before spring is in full bloom.  Otherwise, save this post for Winter 2013!

butternut squash soup

Ingredients
1 LB Butternut Squash cubed
1 small Onion chopped
1 1/2- 2 cups Chicken Stock
1 T Butter
2 1/2 oz heavy cream

1. Chop the onion and squash.

2. Add the chopped onion and butter to a saucepan large enough to fit all the ingredients. Cook on medium heat until the onion in translucent.

3. Add cubed butternut squash and 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock to the saucepan.

4. Simmer until the butternut squash is tender. About 15-20 minutes.

5. Remove from heat and spoon into a blender. Pureé the squash, onions and stock, then add the heavy cream. Add extra stock if needed.

6. Add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!It is so easy, and so delicious!

Advertisements

Ultimate Beginners Guide to Knitting

I recently taught my friend Jenn how to knit, and it got me thinking about when I started to knit.  It was just over 3 years ago that I began my first knitting project.  I searched the web trying to figure out everything I needed to know.  Went to one site for one thing, another for something else.  Long story short, it was way too time consuming and frustrating to figure out what I needed to know to begin knitting.

So! I decided it would be a great idea to explain everything it is you need to know (and not know right away) to start your first knitting project!  This will probably be my longest post yet, but very thorough by covering every essential detail and most likely answering every question you’ll have.  PLEASE ask me if you have a question unanswered in this post.

** If I “*” a sentence, I will elaborate more as you read.

To begin:
Find a simple pattern ( preferably something flat like a scarf) that uses thicker yarn, or uses at least size 6 needles.
There are all different size needles and yarn, which I will explain later.*  The best way to not go crazy in the yarn store is to know what you’re looking for.

Ravelry.com is a great site that has any pattern you could possible want.  Sign up for free and do an advanced search to find a pattern. You can customize your search  to what you’re looking for (needle size  used etc.) or, if using another site or pattern book, the pattern will tell you what you need to get started. So look at the needle/yarn size to make sure it’s what you’re looking for.

I strongly recommend thicker needles and yarn because it is easier to see your stitches.  As a new knitter, you’re going to what to see what you’re doing so you can figure out how your stitches link together.

Buying materials:
Needles come in three basic forms : circular, straight or double pointed.

Circular needles are for making larger things such as a blanket or a sweater. Or tubular things like hats.  When knitting with CN you are knitting in the round, which means it is continuous and do not have to change the needles to different hands when you finish a row. I will talk about knitting in the round in another post.

Circular needles are two tapered needles joined together by a strong plastic cable.  They come in various lengths ranging from 12″ to (about) 47″.

These are my personal favorite because anything you can do with straight needles, you can do with these.  It’s silly to buy straight needles and CN of the same size. Trust me, it makes sense.

Straight Needles generally are 10-16inches in length, and are limited in use.  They are mostly used for scarves or small flat things.

Double Pointed Needles are used for making small tubular things such as gloves, socks or hats.  They are slightly different to use than the previous two types because it involves 4 or 5 needles instead of 2.
They are great if you want to make certain things, but not ideal for traveling because the stitches can easily slide off.  They do sell stitch stoppers, but I don’t trust them.

Needle sizes range from US 4- US35 with about 15 different sizes.  The smaller the number, the smaller the needle.

YARN! YARN! YARN!  There is a plethora of yarn out there from different colors, to fibers and textures and weights.

So, you’re at the yarn store and you have your needles picked out, and now it’s time for the hard part: choosing yarn! Which one? How much? WHAT COLOR?!  But, you have you’re pattern and needles picked out, so your selection is limited.

Buy a pretty basket to put your stash, it will grow quickly, and you’re going to want easy access. But…

**** DON’T OPEN YOUR YARN UNTIL YOU HAVE READ THIS! ****

There are 2 very important things to do before you rip open your yarn, then get it all tangled up.
1. SAVE THE LABEL! This is sooo important especially as a beginner because it has all its information on it.  It tells you, what needle size to use, care instructions, lot number* and gauge*.  Buy a box (mine are in a single-bottle wine box) and tape or tie a piece of the yarn to the label.  This is helpful when, you have some left over from a past project and you want to use it again, or you want to buy more of the same yarn. 

IMG_0139

2. ROLL THE YARN INTO A BALL. The general image of yarn is a ball that cats like to play with.  But yarn is not sold that way.  There is no one way it is packaged, but it should always be wound into a ball or it WILL get tangled.

HOW TO WIND YOUR YARN
Generic yarn that you buy at a big name Craft Store will usually be in a log shape, fancily wound with the yarn making a zigzag pattern. The end of the yarn (visible or easily found) should NOT be touched.  Instead, go into the center of the “log” and pull out the mess on yarn.  In here, you will find the other end.  With this, you can beginning winding it by wrapping in around your fingers a few times, then fold it into a ball.  Continue wrapping the yarn in different directions until you run out of yarn.

Other yarns bought at a specialty store  are not at complex.  You simple find an end and start winding.  Some stores may have a yarn winding station that you can use once you’ve purchased your yarn.

LET’S KNIT!

Ok. Actually. Before you can start knitting, you need to cast on your stitches.  It is the hardest part, but once you get the hang of it it’s very rhythmic and relaxing.

There are 2 basic ways to CO: single or double.  I am only going to teach you double (or long-tail) CO because it looks nicer and it has more give.

To begin your CO you will need to make a slip knot, with a long tail that will accommodate for the stitches you will make with it.  You also want some extra at the end to weave in later on.*  Depending on your project and needle size, you will need more or less.  Some knitters do not like this method of CO because there is no true way to measure how much you need.  But it’s better to have enough, because if you don’t have enough, you need to take your stitches off and do it all over again with a longer tail.  I would multiply the width of the project by 2 or 3 depending on the size of your needles/yarn, then add extra for the tail.

So… to make a slip knot, wrap the yarn around two fingers twice.

IMG_0098

Spread your fingers and bring the tail through your fingers and make a loop.

IMG_0099

Finally, take both needles, put it through the loop and tighten it around the needles. Make sure that your end-tail is in the front and yarn tail is in the back.  This will make your CO (first row) purl row.*

Now that you have your slip knot, we are ready to CO!

With your needles in your right hand, take your index finger and thumb and bring them between the two strings.

IMG_0104

Still in the original position, gather the two strings in the ring and pinky fingers.  Then turn your hand outward toward the left.  Raise your middle finger so there are 3 strings forming the letter ‘Z’.  You will be using these 3 strings to form your stitches.

IMG_0106

Keeping your left hand in this position, bring your needles under 1, over 2 under 3

IMG_0114

Then grab 3 with your needles and bring it through 1 (skipping over 2). When you bring your needles back through, there will be a new stitch on you needles.

IMG_0116
Once you’ve brought your needles up through 1, release you thumb and pickup 1. With your thumb pull 1 to tighten the stitch.  Then bring your thumb back to the left with 1 still against it.  Your ‘Z’ formation should go back in place.

IMG_0119

IMG_0120

Repeat this until you’ve reached your desired amount of stitches.  NOTE: The slip knot you made in the beginning will be taken off when you start knitting, so DO NOT count it as a stitch.

When you’re finished it will look like this. (Knit side)
IMG_0066

The back will look like this. (Purl side)
IMG_0067

NOW WE CAN START KNITTING!!!!
There are many, many different stitches that create beautiful knitwear.  But they are all done with 2 simple techniques: the KNIT and the PURL.  Together,  when the knits are knitted and the purls are purled, they create a stockinette stitch.

This is the stockinette stitch showing the KNIT side.  This is the front of the work.
IMG_0169

This is the PURL side of the stockinette stitch. This is the back.
IMG_0170


You will eventually understand how it works and what it is you are actually doing.  You will see that when you knit a row, and turn it to start the next row, the back of the knit row looks like a purl!

If every row was knitted, or every row was purled, you will get a garter stitch.IMG_0172

There are also two different styles of knitting : continental (left-handed) or english (right-handed). This simply refers to which hand you hold the yarn in.  I am teaching english because that is how I knit, but I will teach continental in another post.

To begin:

Remove one needle from the CO stitches, so you are left with 1 needle holding all your stitches, and 1 empty and free.

Take the first stitch on the LN and pull it off.  This is the slip knot you made in the beginning that is not a proper stitch.

Hold the needle with the stitches in your left hand and the empty one in your right hand.

When you did the CO, the end tail was in the front and the yarn tail in the back. Now that you turned your  work over to start the next row, we will start with a PURL row.

Purl= yarn tail in front
Knit= yarn tail in back

HOW TO PURL
From right to left, insert the RN (right needle) through the first stitch and to the front.
IMG_0151

Wrap your tail counter-clockwise (from right to left) around your right needle.
IMG_0153

Holding your tail tight, push your RN back though the center of the stitch (the same way you entered).
IMG_0156

Take the stitch on the LN that you have been working with and push it off the needle.
IMG_0157

Repeat this until the end of the row.

When you are finished with your row, all of your stitches will be on the RN.  Flip the RN to your left hand to start your next row.  You should see the ‘v’ pattern forming on this side. This means you use the knit stitch.
To begin the knit stitch make sure your yarn tail is in the back.

HOW TO KNIT
From left to right, place the RN (from the front of the stitch) through the middle of the first stitch and to the back.

IMG_0071

Wrap the needle with the tail counter-clockwise.

IMG_0072

Holding the tail taut, push the needle back through the way in came.

IMG_0074

IMG_0075

Lift the RN up, and push the stitch off the LN.

IMG_0077

Repeat the knit stitch until the end of the row.

You will notice your stockinette stitch forming.  It is a beautiful stitch, however you may notice your project begin to curl.  This happens and it cannot be flattened.  To help it from curling there is often ribbing for the first few rows.  Ribbing is made by making a pattern of knits and purls in the same row. Ex.: 2 knits, 2 purls.

Are you thinking to your self “How do I get my front tail for purling to the back for knitting?”  Ah, yes. well it is very simple.  When you are finished with a purl stitch, for example, and ready for a knit, just bring the tail in BETWEEN the RN and LN to the back.  Make sure you do not cross the tail OVER the needle.  This with create another “stitch”.  Sort of a phantom stitch that doesn’t belong there.  If you are feeling ambitious and curious TRY IT!

Anyway, we are not done yet!  We still need to finish our project by casting-off.

Casting off is almost exactly like knitting or purling. So, don’t sweat!

It does not matter whether you end on a purl row or knit row.  For the sake of those of you who are ending on a different row than what I will explain, I will use the word “stitch” in place of knit or purl.

So, stitch 2 stitches.
Then take the first stitch you made and lift it up, over the 2nd  stitch and off the needle completely.
IMG_0161

IMG_0162

Stitch one more stitch, so you have 2 stitches on your RN. Again lift it over and off your RN.
IMG_0168
Repeat until the end.
For the last stitch, cut the yarn tail and pull it through the loop.

YOU DID IT!

All you need to do now is weave the ends in with a blunt needle.

Ok now.  So this is a lot of information and I can keep on going.  There are a few more floating thoughts I’d like to get down, but not sure how to sew them into the other thoughts.  So bare with me for just a few more minutes.

I mentioned earlier the gauge, which also appears on almost all labels.  This is an ESTIMATE of how many stitches per inch in a square.  So, for the label above, for this yarn I would use US9 needles and end up with 16 stitches per 4 inches and 22 rows per 4 inches.  HOWEVER, every knitter knits differently.  You should always knit a square and measure your stitches before starting a project.  Especially if it is something that requires accuracy for size.

Lot number refers to the color of the yarn.  Yarn is made in batches, and the dyeing process may vary, so if you buy the same color yarn from the same company with a different lot #, they may be slightly different.

Also, just putting it out there,  pom-poms are made separately and have nothing to do with knitting.  I say this because I was helping Maddy pick out a hat pattern and she liked some hats, but didn’t like the pom-pom.  So she looked for other ones.  But I explained to her that they are made at the end and attached.

As a beginner, absolutely focus on doing it right.  But if you want to try and get comfortable right away, this is how I hold my tail:
The yarn around my finger stays close to the needles (no more than an inch away), and I control the tension with my pinky and ring finger.

IMG_0081

And lastly, I want to mention counting rows.  With scarves and beginner projects, it ‘s not of much concern. You should be getting to know the technique and get in the groove first.  But it’s an easy thing to do, so why not get ahead, right?  If you’re looking at the stockinette stitch, pick a column, and count  each ‘v’ and include the stitch on the needle.

THAT’S IT!  If you’re looking at garter, it’s easier.  If you stretch it a bit, you can see the knits in between the purls, so you can count each purl row by 2.

OK. OK. OK. OK.  I think that is all for now.  I must go check on my clotted cream!!! (Which I am making for my tea party today!)

Leaf Rubbings

My brother recently moved back to the states from Brazil with his wife and two kids.  He came ahead of his wife with the kids, Gabriella and Matthew, a day before Hurricane Sandy hit Jersey, and stayed with me while they sorted out their living arrangements.  But while they were living with me, I was Super Aunt (but, really, I always am) keeping them as busy as possible with NO POWER for 10 days while also juggling work and crafting.  The first day or two was rough on the kids: no TV or DVDs, no heat and (duh) no lights.  But we took adventures up to the jungle (attic) and found hundreds of exotic animals (Beanie Babies).  We also colored,played with dolls and cars, and put together jigsaw puzzles.

I thought it would be a good idea to go out and walk around because aside from being inside for days, because everything was closed AND we needed to save our gas, this was the first time Gabriella and Matthew had never seen Fall leaves. (Never mind the SNOW that fell days later!!) So I took Gabriella outside to collect things, leaves in particular, to make something with.  She immediately got into it and was curious as to what we were going to make.  A forest, she thought. Perhaps.  Or maybe some beautiful Leaf Rubbings!

I began by showing Gabriella (7) how it works and explained how to do it.  I mentioned composition, pattern texture as things to keep in mind when making her picture.  At first, she had a bit of trouble getting the texture of the leaf because she was either pressing too hard or too soft.

So, we played with different ways of doing it at first, and found that rubbing the crayon over the leaf horizontally (leaf vertical) was most successful in capturing the fine detail of the leaf textures.  Overall, it was a success!  It was fun to see what was going to happen with each leaf, it was relaxing and our pictures came out beautifully.

Get out and get some leaves before they’re all gone!

Cucumber Tomato Salad

Today was a beautiful 75°F and sunny. I couldn’t wait to spend my Saturday outside in the park.  I knew I’d get hungry so I threw together this delicious cucumber tomato salad and hit the park.  The park eventually became uninviting, as it was some sort of organized dance parade that sounded like Electric Zoo, but it was relaxing long enough to enjoy my lunch.

Ingredients:
1/2 hot house cucumber
2 plum tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp oil
1 T finely chopped red onion
splash of white vinegar
salt
pepper
oregano

1. Wash and cut cucumber in half lengthwise, then into slices and fold into a paper towel to absorb excess water.
2. Wash and chop tomatoes into bite size pieces.
3. Cut the onion and add them into a bowl with the cucumber and tomato.
4. Drizzle with remaining ingredients and toss.

Serve with bread for dipping.

*For a heartier meal add red or white beans or peppers.

Enjoy!
xxx G

Roasted Broccoli and Lemon Quinoa

It is crunch time for me as I finish up my last academic paper and get things ready for my BFA Open Studies on Thursday.  I kept procrastinating and writing my paper in hopes that my hunger will pass, for I cannot spare enough time to cook up something decently healthy.  But, alas! I was able to make something both delicious and time saving!

(Yes, I am writing this post, instead of my paper. I am also eating this as I write)

I put the quinoa in the rice cooker, the broccoli in the oven, then I wrote while they cooked.  The cooking time equated nicely to my writing time before I needed to take a break.

But whether you have time to make a five course meal, or you need a quick fix, eat this healthy, vegan-optional treat!

Preheat oven to 425°
Ingredients:
1/4 cup quinoa
1/2 cup water or stock
1/3 stalk of broccoli
1/2 lemon 
olive oil
salt
pepper 
feta cheese (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 425°.
2. Cut and wash broccoli and place on a baking sheet sprinkle oil, lemon (only half of the half), salt and pepper.  Shake it around the pan to make sure everything is coated, then place it in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until browned.
3. Wash quinoa, then place water/stock, quinoa, oil, salt and pepper in a rice cooker. Or cook in a saucepan. Cook for 15-20 minutes
4. When the time is up, mix together the broccoli and quinoa, then add the remaining lemon juice.  Add the feta if desired.

Enjoy xx G

Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies

In each of my classes at school, we all generally sit in the same seats every week, next to the same people. This past Monday I ended up sitting next to my friend Ryan, which was quite a please might I add.  He said he wasn’t having a good day and all he wanted was for class to end before it even started.  I told him, “I can’t make that happen, but I can bake you something! What do you like?” He said, ” Do you make brownies?”  And I replied, “No, do you like peanut butter, or earl grey? I can make you earl grey shortbreads.”  As Ryan agreed that shortbreads would make him happy, Maddy (my friend sitting on the other side of me) added, ” you can dip them in chocolate.”  So it was settled, I would bake him Earl Grey Shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate and bring them to class on Wednesday.

So you may be confused about two major things
1. I don’t make BROWNIES??!?!?
2. Where are the Chocolate Dipped Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies?

To clear up the first issue, unfortunately I don’t like chocolate, so I don’t make brownies because I don’t care for them.  I am aware that it is a near catastrophe for both cases, but how can I guarantee that my brownie recipe will be great, if I don’t have a palate for quality brownies?

I did not dip my cookies for two reasons: 1. I didn’t have chocolate chips.  and 2. These cookies are melt-in-your-mouth PERFECTION! So adding a shell of chocolate seemed unnecessary in terms of both taste and texture.

With that said, I bring to you the recipe, which also includes directions for the chocolate dipped version if you wish to try it.  Enjoy!

Makes about 36

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups flour
3 tea bags (or 2 T) earl grey tea leaves
3/4 cup conectioners sugar
2 sticks salted butter (room temperature)

6 oz chocolate chips

1. Combine flour and tea leaves.
2. Add confectioners sugar and butter.
3. When all the ingredients are almost combined, finish the dough by quickly and loosely kneading in the loose crumbs. Flatten into a disk (about 1″ thick) and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375°.
4.  Unwrap the dough and place on a lightly floured (or powdered-sugared) work surface.  Roll the dough into a 1/3-1/4 inch thick rectangle. Cut into strips or squares or any shape your heart desires.  (I cut mine into 3 columns and 12 rows to make 36 rectangles).
* the warmth of your hands should melt the butter and make the dough workable, but if not add 1-2 tablespoons of water
5. Place cookies onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating half way through.

For Chocolate Dip:
1. Once cookies are out of the oven and cooling, melt the chocolate in a double boiler.
2. Dip cooled cookies into chocolate and place on parchment paper to let the chocolate set.

xxx Miss G

Pão de queijo- Cheese Bread

This past summer I spent about two months in Brazil.  I stayed with my brother and his family is Rio, and while I was there I met wonderful people, new friends, went to beautiful places and picked up a little Portuguese.  The slight differences in the brazilian culture compared to the American, is one to appreciate only by being immersed in it.  Though on occasion I regret not visiting Cristo, I enjoyed going where the locals went and doing what the locals did.  But I did go hanging gliding in São Conrado!
One part of Brazil that one can not escape experiencing, tourist or not, is the pão de queijo.  It is as easy to find as it is to find pizza in NYC, it is everywhere; and it is delicious too. There are moments I wish I was back in Rio, but knowing I can make my own pão de queijo, I can stay in the US a little longer.  The only difference between mine and ones in Brazil is the type of cheese.  In Brazil they use a cheese called “queijo minas” which I have not found in the NYC.  Parmesan seems to be the next best thing and works just as well.
The Brazilian holiday Carnaval was recently celebrated last weekend and I couldn’t help but find a way to celebrate myself.  I could have gone out dressed up in sparkles and feathers, but instead, I made 
pão de queijo and listened to Seu Jorge on Pandora Radio.

As soon as the pão de queijo came out of the oven, my friends Matt and Joe called to say they were on their way over.  Thank goodness for that because I wasn’t going to eat 30 all by myself!  The boys came over with milk and a box of fruit loops, but gladly put it on hold to eat some pão de queijo.
These little balls of goodness are great for feeding some friends or having as a snack. You can shape the dough into balls, freeze them and cook a few at a time to snack on.

Makes 30
Ingredients:
1 stick butter
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp salt
2 cups tapioca starch/flour
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs
Preheat oven to 375°
Step 1:  In a saucepan melt butter, then add water and milk and bring to a boil.
Step 2: Remove the pan from the heat and slowly add the tapioca statch while stirring with a wooden spoon.
Step 3: Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes. Then add the eggs and cheese.  Knead the mixture for about 6 minutes, or until it is (mostly) smooth.
Step 4: Grease a cookie sheet then using a tablespoon, scoop the dough into a ball and place it on the cookie.  Cook for 20 minutes or until the the outside is crispy.
Serve warm and enjoy.
xx G