How spelt flour changed my baking life

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I’ve tried whole-grain recipes for baking from time to time with mixed results. Substituting whole wheat for half the all-purpose flour worked in a lot of recipes. For quick breads, I often did well substituting whole wheat for all the all-purpose if I added in a little extra liquid. Sometimes I had tried whole wheat pastry flour, sometimes white whole wheat, sometimes “regular” whole wheat.

Sandwich breads calling for some or all whole-wheat flour often tasted too strong to our family or had a not-great texture. If I limited the substitution to no more than one-third of the recipe, then it worked much better. Oat flour worked in that way too (it’s not hard to make your own oat flour out of rolled oats if you have a food processor) and made me wonder about other non-wheat whole grain flours.

Last winter I saw a recipe for spelt pizza dough on the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day blog. I love their pizza and flatbread cookbook but had somehow missed that recipe. I bought a small bag of spelt flour to try it out. It was a hit with the whole family; we find the spelt mild-flavored and delicious without being overpowering.

From there, I moved on to the whole wheat biscuits from 100 Days of Real Food, but substituted spelt flour for all the whole wheat. Yum, and the kids gobbled them up too. I went to my beloved New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day cookbook and used spelt instead of whole wheat in the 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread: another winner! If you are looking to add some whole grain into your baking, give spelt flour a try.

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Garden to Table August 2016: tech support for food & yarn lovers

IMG_0120The long days of summer with a chaotic mix of heat and rain make everything grow like crazy! August is a time of great abundance in the Midwestern garden, and the farmers’ market tables are loaded with so many choices that we forget how hard it was to wait for tomatoes. Maybe you’ve picked up some yarn at the farmers’ market too…after all, fall is coming in a couple months.

Some times you might want a little help figuring out what to do with all that goodness. Here are a few of my favorites that you can use for free on your computer, smartphone, or tablet (or some combo of those):

Evernote – Great for saving online articles, blog posts, and recipes. Free to join on up to two platforms. Syncs between platforms so your notes are always read t0 go. Also great for writing draft blog posts and note taking!

Google Keep – While I can keep lists in Evernote, I like to use Google Keep for lists instead. This no-frills and easy-to-use app loads quickly, syncs between platforms, and allows quick and easy sharing of lists and notes with others.

feedly – Great for reading blog posts. Subscribe to your favorite blogs. feedly checks them regularly and compiles the new posts in your account. You can organize them by category (I have Assorted, Food, Fiber Arts, Gardening, Science) or just enjoy them any which way.

Ravelry – Love yarn? Then super-fun and useful Ravelry is for you. So easy to use, it has a database of yarns and patterns (so helpful to see what that pattern you’re considering looks like in different colors and yarns), online forums for many topics, online pattern shop, and sections to keep track of your projects, yarns, needles/hooks, and library! I love using Ravelry to search through my library from the comfort of the living room (“Hmm, I know I have a pattern somewhere in the house for a worsted weight scarf. Which book is it in?”). Want to access Ravelry on your phone or tablet? Try Stash2go for iOS or Android, or use the Ravelry mobile site.

E-books – Not everyone loves to read or work this way, but I’ve been able to get a lot of books for very little money this way! E-book publishers have short-term sales (and you can always check the Kindle bestsellers list in categories of interest on Amazon), so follow them on Twitter or subscribe to their lists (Storey Fresh Picks is one of my favorites for cooking, gardening and craft books) to find out about them. The picture above shows some of my favorite Kindle books and PDFs.

NYTimes recipes – A good iOS app and a really good website to get you access to the many recipes the Times has published over the years.

PDF reader – Really handy to be able to “mark up” a PDF of a recipe or pattern. I like GoodReader (iOS) and save a copy of both the original and my marked-up PDF knitting patterns that way.

Craftsy has online classes for crafts but also cooking and gardening! They have a number of free ones to get you started, and if you sign up to watch some, you can get notifications of sales on classes.
What did I miss? I look forward to reading about your favorites in the comments.

Getting more Clever in the kitchen

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What you’ll find in The Clever Cookbook by Emilie Raffa

Winner, winner, chicken dinner! I won a copy of The Clever Cookbook from a blog giveaway from Hip Foodie Mom (psst, there’s a recipe at the giveaway link as well). This is a fun cookbook, and its subtitle, “Get-Ahead Strategies and Timesaving Tips for Stress-Free Home Cooking,” speaks right to what we are all about here at the Yarnstead. Emilie Raffa, the author, has a culinary degree, a family for whom she loves to make healthy food, and a blog called The Clever Carrot. I photographed the table of contents instead of the cover for you since I think it really shows off the helpful techniques you can learn in this book.

I made the Weeknight Chicken Potpie from chapter 2, and it is easily the best potpie recipe I’ve made. Instead of puff pastry for the crust, I used the America’s Test Kitchen pie crust with the vodka which can be made ahead; my other substitution was dried lovage from last year’s herb garden for the celery.  Believe me, if you have lovage, you’ll never need celery around. I’d show you a picture of the pot pie but we were too busy eating it.

There are sections on preparing vegetables, broth, sauces, compound butters (instant flavor when you need it), spice blends, grains, and marinades ahead. Each section features recipes showing how to use those ingredients to get flavorful home-cooked dishes without taking a lot of time. We love beans here, and I make them with a pressure cooker; if you don’t have one of those, check out The Clever Cookbook’s bean chapter for techniques that don’t use a pressure cooker and delicious ways to use them. I’m already eyeing up the bean soup, baked beans, and curried chickpea recipes from that chapter.

Another chapter shows how to use your food processor to speed up your prep work, so my trusty old Cuisinart will be put to work.  My only complaint about the book is that there’s a whole chapter on substituting vermouth for white wine in recipes, which I didn’t think needed a whole chapter. Maybe I’m just craving more recipes like in the other chapters, oh well! Not a deal-breaker for me. If you are looking for ways to get more flavor into quick meals, definitely check out this cookbook.

Thanks to Alice of the Hip Foodie Mom blog for this giveaway! Alice is a fellow member of Wisconsin Whisk and a great recipe developer. We’re in need of snack innovation over here, so I made her No-Bake Almond Energy Bites a few days ago. In keeping with my tradition of fearless ingredient substitution, I made a few changes to use what I had in the cupboard. I used sunflower seed butter instead of almond butter, maple syrup instead of agave, brown raisins instead of golden, and standard size semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of mini. I didn’t have peanut butter chips or dried cranberries so I skipped them this time.  They are still yummy although they taste more like sunflower seeds than the original, I am sure. So maybe I should call them No-Bake Almost Like Alice’s But More Sunflowery Energy Bites. 😉  I’ll make them the actual way in the recipe one of these days. But seriously, Alice has a lot of fun recipes on her site, some with videos to help us along, and since I have a recent vegetarian in the family, I am especially grateful that she has her recipes indexed by type for easy browsing. Her “Join A CSA” menu option is a great idea and has inspired me to add a “Find A Farmer’s Market or CSA farm” page to my blog in the near future.

Mini-reviews: The Make-Ahead Cook and all things Mason-Dixon Knitting

Happy Holidays, dear readers! I’ve got a few short book reviews for you today.

IMG_3130First up is The Make-Ahead Cook from America’s Test Kitchen. Long-time readers of this blog will know that this is right up my alley because I am always looking for ways to get delicious food on the family table and keep life as simple as possible at the same time. The cover displays the eight strategies explored in the book: preparing meals ahead so they are ready to cook when you get home, making stews and braises ahead for reheating at meal time, oven-ready casseroles, shopping smart to get multiple meals from a minimal amount of ingredients, cooking a big roast on the weekend and basing additional meals on the leftovers, slow-cooker favorites, and cooking larger batches so you can freeze some for future meals. I’ve only just begun trying the recipes in this book, but with the extensive testing it’s gone through, I know this book will keep its place on the top shelf. I’ll do a cookbook follow-up this summer.

If you’re in the mood for more recipes, check out Wisconsin Whisk, a group of food bloggers to which I’m pleased to say that I belong. From this link, you can see featured recipes and get info on all the member blogs.

IMG_3124Next up is Mason-Dixon Knitting, the blog and the books. I found them in a round-about way. When my children were still wee, I was one day out at a bookstore to Get Out Of The House Without Children and determined to treat myself to a new knitting book. Happily there was a large selection at the bookstore, and eventually I pulled Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne’s first book off the shelf. ‘Mason-Dixon Knitting, what an unusual name for a knitting book,’ I thought.’What in the world are they knitting?’

Ha. It was the name of their blog…because Kay lives in Manhattan and Ann lives in Nashville. And they are knitting up a great time, which I didn’t know previously because of aforementioned mama busyness. I was immediately delighted by their sense of humor, friendly writing style, and the fun projects. So my new book led me to the blog, instead of the other way round, and it’s still my favorite knitting blog! I very happily got their second book, Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside The Lines, a few years later.

Their newest project is A Coloring Book for Knitters with drawings by Juliana Horner. You don’t need to read the blog or books to enjoy this grown-up coloring book, but regular MDK readers will see familiar projects and themes (and pets;). I started paging through the book from the back and nearly panicked:’Ack! They HAVE to have lopi sweaters…whew, there they are at the front. Of course, they’d never forget those.’ I think I’ll use that page to try out color combinations for the next lopi sweater I’ll knit. Yup, just as soon as it stops being 50-60F in December.

Since it’ll be a while until gardening gets equal coverage in my blog, I’ll leave you with a new header picture: blueberry leaves in the fall!

 

 

Herbs, weaving, and foodie daydreams: November in pictures

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Drying herbs the easy way, and marinating some feta with herbs (recipe in The CSA Cookbook).
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Second try with the Robin’s Nest yarn from my last post! I ended up using this as a swatch, ripping it out, and restarting slightly wider and with selvage stitches to even out the edges of the pattern.
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There’s been a lot of reading and creative daydreaming, good for the soul. My cooking mojo went AWOL for a while, but Thanksgiving and a lot of homegrown pumpkins have me daydreaming about pies and soup!
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Got a great deal on a tapestry loom and stand on eBay.
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Awesome seller made assembling easy!
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Hooray for good labeling.
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Ta da! The assembled loom & trestle stand. Kinda back to the future (more on weaving soon).
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Getting ready for winter! Snow coming tonight.
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In case anyone arriving at my house didn’t already know I’m a knitter…

A bunny, a chicken, and #whenknittingattacks

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I took my copy of Itty-Bitty Toys to class, and the author signed it for me! Complete with cartoon bunny toy 😀

On October 10, I took a class at the Knitcircus Studio during their fall retreat. Our teacher was the lovely Susan B. Anderson, and we learned to make a sock yarn bunny! I went shopping ahead of time and got some DK weight Knitcircus yarn, which is thicker than sock yarn and would make a larger bunny anyway, so I followed the mini-bunny pattern. It was really fun, and I learned a ton. Here’s my bunny so far:

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Isn’t that fun gradient yarn? I’ve finished the bunny’s head and part of one ear so far.

I’ve knit loosely for years, so on most projects, I start my swatching one or two needles sizes lower than recommended. The recommended needle sizes for this DK yarn are 3-5. I started my bunny on a size 2 circular using the Magic Loop method. One of my classmates remarked on it, and I told her how small dpns make my hands unhappy (should have known that would turn out to be a knitter’s jinx). Knitted toys need a very firm fabric, and I was doubtful if I was making one after I’d finished the back of the bunny’s head. Oh, yeah, did I mention that I didn’t swatch? Thankfully Susan was right there to consult, and she encouraged me to drop down to a size 1…which I only have in dpns right now. But I did switch and now the fabric is just right. I’ll either have to be very careful of my hands or see if I have some circular size 1’s in my needle stash.

I really enjoy knitting toys and some quirky amigurumi-type projects. I’ve knit a few for my kids, but some are for no reason other than I feel like knitting them. That’s how my chicken Hettie came to be. She’s knit of handspun yarn that I was initially disappointed in; I thought the colors would look different spun up, but wow, do they make a great chicken!

Doesn't she look like she needs a nest?
Doesn’t she look like she needs a nest?

If you are on Ravelry, you can see some of my other toy projects: starfish, Loch Ness monster, snail, golden snitch, pig, and a few others. Search on the tag “toy” from my project page. Toys have a lot of interesting techniques in them. I’m looking forward to working more on my bunny and a few other fun animals, too!

I also bought some yarn for a scarf or small shawl when I got my bunny yarn. I tried a shawlette in a circular shape but ended up frogging it since the shape didn’t look good on me no matter how I styled it. I reskeined and washed it to get the squiggles out and will reknit that yarn into a lacy scarf. The colorway is Robin’s Nest, which is truly lovely.

Pretty colors! Fun, quick knit! Not flattering on me, but if you like circular, you should try this pattern.
Pretty colors! Fun, quick knit! Not flattering on me, but if you like circular, you should try this pattern.

I had a small knitting attack (shoutout to the Knitmore Girls for the hashtag) while making the shawlette although it seemed huge at the time. I counted my stitches about 6 rows from the end and thought I was 28 off! That’s more than even so I can fudge, but since it was nearly bedtime, I put it aside until morning. Yes, knitters, don’t make any major project decisions after 8pm! You might regret it in the morning. Turns out I was looking at the stitch count for a different row, whew, so I recounted and thought I was about 18 off. After knitting to the correct row, turns out I was only 12 off which I easily was able to add during the next 6 rows of garter stitch. Fudging saves the day! Almost. The yarn will make a fabulous scarf a few projects from now.

Mini-post: cookbooks!

In my last post, I wanted to share a picture, but my computer and WordPress had an inconvenient and rare disagreement. Still puzzling. No need to keep my readers in suspense: here are the cookbooks that currently enjoy top shelf honors!


There are some excellent books on lower shelves, too, more of the baking or specialty variety. I have to mention (again) The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, Rustic Fruit Desserts, and Lidia’s Family Table. E-cookbook favorites: Dinner-A Love Story and River Cottage Veg. Happy reading and cooking!