Thursday, March 27, 2008

New Project!

Two-Tone Shrug
Originally uploaded by snarkmeister.
I've started on Tomboy's shrug. I bought the yarn for this several months ago, but couldn't bring myself to start the project until I'd finally finished the Spider-Man Sweater. Now that the SMS is off my needles (yay!) I'm able to start some new projects.

I cast on for the Two-Tone Ribbed Shrug (from Fitted Knits) on Monday night, and quickly realized that I'd need to finish off my Dashings (the fingerless gloves) before I could get very far, because I needed my row counter and it was currently in use for the gloves-in-progress. So on Tuesday evening I finished off the Dashings, and last night I worked for a while on the shrug again. I must say, I've made excellent progress. :) I'm really loving the yarn too - it's a solar-dyed fingering weight organic cotton by Ceallach Dyes. I'm knitting with two strands held together to make it a heavier weight & so I can get gauge. This yarn is so soft and yummy - the colors range from bright apple green to a lovely faded denim color, so it's got some visual interest (the ribbing will be all blue; I have a different skein of yarn for that). And it's going to match very well with the track suit I got Tomboy for Christmas. It will be SO cute with the pants & a white t-shirt or tank top underneath, or with jeans. And it'll be a great summer-weight layer, to keep her warm in the evenings when it gets a little chilly.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Rainbow Pasta

This is a baked pasta dish that's absolutely stuffed with veggies, so it will be my contribution to Sweetnicks' ARF/5-a-day roundup.

Rainbow Pasta
2 Tbsp EVOO
1 c sliced mushrooms (I used crimini and shiitake)
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 small yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 large jar tomato sauce (I used an organic roasted garlic/basil flavor sauce)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1/2 lb (half a box) penne pasta, cooked until nearly al dente
1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced or shredded
1/4 c fresh chopped parsley, for garnish
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add the mushrooms and cook until they soften and begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and bell peppers, and season well with salt & pepper. When the veggies are all softened (another 4-5 minutes), add the tomato sauce and the red pepper flakes and heat through. Mix the sauce with the cooked pasta and pour into a casserole dish. Top with the mozzarella cheese and bake until the cheese is golden brown and the casserole is bubbly (about half an hour).

Serve immediately, garnishing with parsley for a little punch of color.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sweater is DONE!

Finally. Finally, finally, finally, the damn sweater is off my needles.

Saturday I frantically knitted up the ribbing on the neckline, after completely screwing it up Friday night (beer + knitting apparently equals forgetting how to do knit-one-purl-one ribbing. *sigh*). We took the kids to a free church-sponsored Easter event in the next town over, and I have to say, that was the most AMAZING thing I'd ever seen. There were more than 20 bounce houses (I think they must have rented every single one in the area), a laser tag game, a rock climbing wall, easter egg hunt, hotdogs and drinks and people driving around in golf carts throwing out candy...and the whole thing was free. Every single bit of it. They must have spent thousands and thousands of dollars on this shindig. Anyway, while Rugrat was waiting in line for the laser tag, I knitted the neckline. Afterwards, we went to Tomboy's piano recital, where I finished the sweater by weaving in all the ends. And Saturday night I washed and blocked the sweater. Sunday morning it was dry and ready to go, and I achieved my goal (well, my latest goal) of finishing the sweater in time for Easter.

As you can see, the sweater is a *bit* big. The neckline in particular is huge, but the sleeves are also a little too long and the shoulders are definitely too wide. That's OK. Turns out I'm fine with that, because now he'll be able to wear it for a couple of years, probably. And he is incredibly proud and excited - he kept telling everybody we saw that his mom made the sweater just for him, and he's the only person in the world who has a sweater like that. He wore it all day on Easter and put it on over a t-shirt to wear to school today, as well. And you know what? That's just fine with me. :)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sweater progress

Whither the Spider-man Sweater, you ask?

Well. After ripping out sleeve #2 about seven times and re-starting over and over and over, I am pleased to tell you that the second sleeve is finally, finally done. In fact I just finished it a few minutes ago (knitting on my very belated lunch break). I have started weaving in the ends, and am about 1/3 through that process. Tonight I plan to pick up & knit the ribbing on the collar, and then once those pesky ends are woven in and I block it, it will be DONE.

Done, I tell you.

So I'm hoping to get Rugrat wearing the sweater for Easter. I'll post pics when it's not only merely done, it's really quite sincerely done.

Chicken Panzanella

Panzanella is a delicious Italian tomato and crouton salad, and the addition of roasted chicken breast it makes a light, satisfying spring or summer meal.

Chicken Panzanella
1 large chicken breast, roasted and shredded or cut into bite-size chunks (I buy chicken breasts with the bone in and skin on and roast them at 400 with olive oil & salt & pepper - this keeps them moist and delicious; if you do the whole package at the beginning of the week you'll have pre-cooked chicken to make quick meals with for a few nights)
2 c diced tomatoes (I used grape tomatoes, cut in half)
2 c sourdough bread, cut into 1" dice
1 shallot, sliced thinly
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
1/4 c olive oil, plus 2 Tbsp
1/4 c good balsamic vinegar
fine sea salt & freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400.

In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, shallots, parsley, 1/4 c olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and chicken. Season well with salt & pepper. Let this mixture stand for at least 15 minutes - half an hour or more would be better - to let the flavors meld and allow the tomatoes to give up some of their juice. Don't worry if it seems like there's too much liquid at the bottom of the bowl; the croutons will fix this.

Toss the bread cubes with the 2 Tbsp olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Lay them out on a cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, until crisp and golden brown. As soon as the croutons come out of the oven, add them to the rest of the ingredients and toss to combine. The croutons should soak up the yummy liquid, but retain a bit of "bite".

Monday, March 17, 2008

Irish Beef Stew

In honor of the holiday, I made a lovely beef stew with Guinness yesterday for Mr Wonderful to take to his potluck party at work today. The worst part about it is that I don't get to have any! This holiday-appropriate veggie-laden stew will be my contribution to Sweetnicks' ARF/5-a-day roundup this week.

Irish Beef Stew
1/4 c EVOO
1 onion, diced fairly large
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 carrots, chopped into large chunks
2 huge russet potatoes, cut into 2" dice
1 1/4 lb beef stew meat, cut into about 2" dice
1/2 c flour, divided
1 Tbsp fresh thyme
1 bottle Guinness beer
4 c beef stock
1 bay leaf
4 Tbsp butter (half stick)
salt & pepper

In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, carrots, and potatoes. Season well with salt & pepper. Saute for a few minutes to give the veggies color (they will be very, very undercooked), and then remove from the pot. Salt & pepper the beef and shake it in a ziploc bag filled with 1/4 c of the flour, until the meat is all coated. Saute the meat in batches, until it's lightly browned on all sides. When the meat is all browned, return everything to the pot (including veggies), and add the thyme and Guinness. Scrape the bottom of the pot to get all the browned bits up while the alcohol cooks out, then add in the beef stock and the bay leaf. Raise the heat, bringing the stew to a simmer, then reduce back to medium-low and cook for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are done. If the stew hasn't thickened enough, you can make a quick roux to thicken it (I needed to do this): melt the half-stick of butter in a pan, then add a 1/4 c of flour. Let the mixture cook for a minute or two, then add the roux, a spoonful at a time, to the stew and stir well to combine. Let the mixture bubble away for a few minutes before you add more of the roux - it takes a few minutes to thicken up. (I only needed to add about half of the roux mixture to get my stew to the right consistency.)

Serve with Irish soda bread or some other nice fresh, dense, crusty bread.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Snow trip!

We took the kids to the snow this weekend. I'd been promising Rugrat that we'd go up to the snow, and when our plans to visit Mr Wonderful's sister this past weekend fell through, we decided to head up for an impromptu Tahoe trip instead.

This trip was all about the kids. We drove up Saturday morning without any real plan (where to stay, what exactly to do) other than "play in the snow." We found a cheap hotel room right after we got into town, and then headed out immediately to find a good hill to slide down on the orange disk we'd brought. Instead, we ended up going to Hansen's Tube & Saucer park, where for $20, Mr Wonderful and the kids slid down a couple of exciting snow slides (much like waterslides) in innertubes. Afterwards, we went out for pizza at Lake Tahoe Pizza Co., which was right across the street from our hotel. The food was great - their combo pizza had a layer of sauteed mushrooms underneath the cheese that was really fantastic.

After dinner, we went to Harrah's and I got $20 in tokens and let the kids play in the arcade for about an hour and a half. Finally, we went back to the hotel and crashed out. I can't really recommend the hotel (Apex) as Mr Wonderful and I were freezing all night, having decided to sleep with our respective kids in order to keep the peace, but at least the kids slept well.

The next morning we went to the Red Hut Waffle House and OMG. BEST. BREAKFAST. EVER! Really, all four of us thoroughly enjoyed our meal. Even the coffee was good. If you ever stay the night in South Lake Tahoe, be sure to check it out. It's on the lake side of the main drag, an unassuming little hole in the wall, and there will probably be a wait (we waited about 20 mins) but the wait is WORTH IT. They specialize in waffles (which Rugrat & Mr Wonderful both had) but we also had fantastic biscuits & gravy, perfectly cooked eggs (and I'm darn picky about my eggs) and the best bacon I've ever had in a restaurant. It was cooked slowly until perfectly crisp, and they were nice thick slices.

After that "righteous gut-packing" (™ Mr Wonderful), we headed back home, stopping for an hour in Strawberry, where the kids got to make good use of the orange disk, as well as the pink disk and the tie-dye sled we bought at KMart in Tahoe. I even went down the hill once! Everyone had a blast here, even Rugrat (who didn't much like sliding down the big hills, but made a fabulous snowchicken; kind of like a snowman,'s a chicken). More pictures are up on Flickr, of course. On our way home we stopped at the Silverfork Cafe. We'd stopped there on our way up, to grab some lunch and hit the bathroom, and their food was fantastic. Mr Wonderful and I split a steak taco (very large, with "two" tacos in the order that actually stretched to more like FOUR) on the way to Tahoe, and on the way home we decided to try the shrimp version. It was heavenly, and that tiny little cafe will be our official pitstop every time we hit Tahoe now.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


No big surprise here. The dermatologist's office just called and the biopsy did come back positive for basal-cell cancer.

Next stop: Shadelands Mohs Surgery Center.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Thai Chicken Noodle Soup

A delicious, spicy Thai curry soup, made with coconut milk and lots of fresh herbs and spices. Yummy mushrooms and carrots mean that this will qualify as my ARF/5-a-day submission to Sweetnicks' roundup this week!

Thai Chicken Noodle Soup
3 Tbsp EVOO
1 onion, cut in half and then sliced into thin wedges to make strips about 2" long
2 c mushrooms, halved or quartered (depending on size)
1 carrot, cut in half lengthwise and then sliced into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
3 chicken cutlets, sliced into 1" strips
1-2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1-2 tsp red Thai curry paste
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp fish sauce (available in Asian foods aisle of your grocery store)
1 can coconut milk
6 c chicken stock
1/2 pkg maifun (rice noodles, available in Asian foods aisle)
1/4 c chopped cilantro
1/4 c chopped basil
4-5 green onions, sliced lengthwise to make long strips (green parts only)
salt & pepper

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute the onions and mushrooms until mushrooms begin to brown and onions are soft and translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add the carrots and the chicken strips, then season with salt and pepper. Go a little easier on the salt than you normally would, as you'll be adding fish sauce later and that's pretty darn salty. When the chicken strips are almost opaque on all sides (it will NOT be cooked through), add the ginger, curry paste, brown sugar and fish sauce; stir to combine well. Then add the coconut milk and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and then add the maifun (break it up a bit before adding it or you'll have unmanageably long noodles to deal with when serving/eating). Throw in the cilantro, basil and green onions and cook for another couple of minutes, until the noodles are tender.

This soup is extremely flavorful and pretty healthy (as long as you don't think too much about the sodium content). It's even better the next day, when the flavors have all been sitting together overnight.