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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Recipe Round Up: Cooking, Fast and Slow

Baba Ghanooj

Much like my recipe for harissa, these amounts are largely guesses. I make this by feel, sight, and taste.

2 large eggplant (the fat kind, not the thin kind)
4 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 2 lemons, strained to remove seeds
1/4 cup tahina
1/4 cup good olive oil plus more for garnishing
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
salt, to taste
chopped parsley, to garnish

Take the stem off of the eggplant, prick all over the skin with a fork, and roast in a pan at 400 F for 45 minutes to an hour, until they are soft and the liquid is seeping out of them. Allow to cool, then remove and discard the peels. This can be done a few days in advance, and then the eggplant kept in a covered dish in the refrigerator.

In a food processor or blender, place the garlic and process until the pieces are extremely fine. Add the eggplant flesh and process some more to combine and puree. Add the lemon juice, tahina, olive oil, and pepper, and puree until it is a smooth, uniform mixture. Add salt and taste for flavor and seasoning, adding more lemon juice, tahina, and/or olive oil, until it tastes just right.

Serve in a shallow dish, and drizzle with good olive oil, sprinkling with chopped parsley for color.


Tourshi really just means pickles. These are beet stained, pickled turnips, and even my beet and turnip skeptical friends and family like these. Something about pickling foods makes all of them delicious. Although you could can these, I really only use them as refrigerator pickles. The quantities are, therefore, not as precise. I use what it takes to fill a jar and go from there. Rich loves taking these bright magenta pickles in his sandwiches for lunch at work, as they always draw surprised looks and comments from his co-workers. There are two ways to make these, too: Fast and slow. The first is the slow way. You have to let them sit for quite a long time to turn into pickles. The second way is the fast way. They are fermented, but don't worry, if something goes wrong, you will know right away. If they smell fine, they will be fine to eat. They only take 5 - 7 days to ferment completely.

Vinegar or Slow Method:

2 pounds baby turnips, firm and unblemished
2 large beets, peeled and sliced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and root end trimmed
3 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
6 tablespoons salt
4 dried red chiles (optional)

Wash and trim turnips, peel if necessary. Quarter or slice the turnips. I quarter them if I plan on using them to serve along side food, and slice if we are going to use them as pickles with sandwiches and so on.

Layer the turnips into two quart jars with the beets and garlic.

Mix the vinegar, water and salt to dissolve salt and divide between the two jars. Add two chiles to each jar and seal.

Keep on the counter for 3 - 4 weeks, turning jars over occasionally to dissolve salt better, then refrigerate.

Lacto-Fermented or Fast Method:

2 pounds turnips, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch thick sticks (slice into 1/2 inch thick rounds, and then cut across to make sticks)
1 1/2 pounds red beets, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch thick sticks
1/2 cup coarse sea salt or kosher salt plus a pinch to add right at the end
8 cloves garlic, peeled and root end trimmed
8 dried red chiles (optional, but not really)
2 teaspoons of whole peppercorns
about 4 cups water (if you have chlorinated water, use filtered water)

2 half gallon or 4 quart jars with plastic lids, all immaculately clean

Divide the garlic, chiles, and peppercorns evenly between your jars. Layer the turnip and beet sticks in the jars, reserving the longest pieces for the end to secure the vegetables under the brine. Set aside reserved pieces of turnip.

Divide the salt equally and sprinkle it over the vegetables in each jar (so 1/4 cup per jar if you are using half gallons, and 2 tablespoons per jar if you are using quarts). Put the lids on and shake them up to distribute the salt evenly over all the vegetables. Use the reserved pieces of turnip to secure the vegetables underneath by tucking them in across the jar, under the shoulders of it, crossing the pieces to make a kind of guard at the top. Allow to sit for 6 - 12 hours to start releasing the water from the vegetables.

Top up the jars with water, leaving about an inch of space at the top. Put the lids on the jars, loosely, and place the jars on a platter with a rim or a pan to catch any overflow of liquid. Allow to ferment about 5 days. You may hear hissing or see bubbling, and this is good. That is the sign that the fermentation is happening. If they start to smell bad, and I mean bad, then something has gone wrong. It is an unmistakable smell, like a fungus. If you use a metal lid, there may be some discoloration that is distasteful, which is why I recommend a plastic lid, but will not harm the pickles themselves.

Taste to see if they are sour enough, and if not, put the lid back on and allow to ferment a few days longer (I usually never go beyond 7 days). Tightly seal the lids, wipe down the outsides of the jars, and place in the refrigerator. They will keep for at least a year in the refrigerator. Longer, actually, though they will get softer.

Chipotle Beef

This recipe can be made either on the stove or in the slow cooker. If you make it in the slow cooker, leave out the water, since there isn't the same evaporation as there is when cooked on the stove. This recipe is a 1:1:1 ratio for the meat, onion, and can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. You can scale this up or down with ease. It makes great tacos, burrito filling, can be served over rice, or made into a tortilla casserole. My friend JoNell gave me the recipe, and I have adapted it for our ease and preference.

2 pounds beef cubes
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 cans of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, snipped into small pieces in the can with scissors, with all the sauce (reduce to one can, if this is too spicy for you)
water to cover
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt

Place all the ingredients in a pot large enough over medium high heat. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat and simmer until most of the liquid is evaporated, about three hours. It should be pretty close to shredding on its own, but you can help it along if it needs it. Serve as you wish.

To make in a slow cooker, do not add any water, and cook on low for 6 - 8 hours.

Slow Cooked Beef Machacas

I found a similar recipe to this several years ago, and fiddled with it right from the start. We didn't have some of the ingredients, and I wanted to do other things with the recipe. In any case, this is what I came up with. Normally, I make these with bell peppers and jalapenos, because those are easiest to get. However, with our bounty this week, I had some sweet, smoky, red frying peppers and some habaneros. I used one habanero for the entire pot and left out the chipotle powder.

3 - 4 pounds beef chuck roast (or another tough cut that does well with slow cooking)
2 tablespoons ancho chile powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon salt
3/4 teaspoon chipotle powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, peeled and diced
6 sweet peppers, seeded and diced
2 hot peppers, seeded and minced
1 head of garlic, peeled and minced
1 quart diced tomatoes with their juices (jarred or canned)

In a small bowl mix the ancho chile, cumin, salt and chipotle powder and spread over the chuck roast. Heat a large skillet or pot over medium-high heat and add olive oil. Add the chuck roast and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes.

Remove and place into the slow cooker.

Add the onions and peppers to the skillet and saute for 5 - 10 minutes, or until the onions get soft. Add the garlic and cook another minute or two. Scrape the bottom and then add the vegetables to the slow cooker.

Add tomatoes and beef broth to the slow cooker and set to low for 8 - 10 hours.

After the beef has cooked enough to start shredding, use two forks to shred completely, mixing in the vegetables and juices.

Serve with warm tortillas and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro.

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Stitch Fix Number Eight

A big thank you to everyone who has signed up using my referral link! I so appreciate the credits. If you are interested in learning more, I wrote about my first experience on the blog, and you can do a search on my Stitch Fix posts.

On to Stitch Fix #8

This box arrived about two weeks ago. So, this is the first time I didn't even bother getting pictures of me in any of the clothes. I did try them on, but none of them suited me. Several of them flat out ignored specific requests or instructions I've given previously or in my style profile. Rich actually asked if I was given a different stylist this time, because it was so off the mark. I had high hopes for the dresses, and the dolman top in the slate blue, but there was something wrong with the fit or the fabric or the cut on every single piece.

I am so disappointed. This is a splurge that we only occasionally get for me. I have raised the price points to the highest point on everything to try to ensure that my stylist can more easily honor my requests. That meant that I wouldn't be able to get them as often, and that buying an entire box was going to be a rare experience. That was fine with me. A successful box for me did not have to be full of five perfect items. One item that delighted me and could replace something I didn't wear often or didn't flatter me was my goal. Anything more than that was a bonus. And I didn't mind paying retail if it saved me the time, gas money, and hassle of traveling to shop somewhere. This was supposed to be a treat for me before our 22nd anniversary of our first date. Instead, it made me sad. This is the first time I've sent every single item back. I was out the styling fee, but it was worth it to me, and since I have had referrals before cover quite a bit, I figured it wasn't too bad.

So, not a win this time. I don't know if I am going to try again. I had one disappointment, then the better box that came after it, but this was a bomb, through and through. It seems like the first few boxes were better, both in terms of quality and style, than the later ones have been. I was also rather frustrated that the Stitch Fix response algorithm placed all the blame on my stylist. The automated response was to change my stylist for the next time, but although she certainly shares some of the blame, some of it is what was available to her, and I think the in house brands are just not as good as the other brands they were getting before.

If you are interested in trying it for yourself, my disappointment notwithstanding, go ahead and use my referral link. I may wish to give them another chance in the future.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Yarn Along: You Want to Knit Saint Nicholas

Look at that! Progress is being made on the final sample of Saint Nicholas! I would still be grateful for a few more knitters to do a quick preview knit now (not a test, it shouldn't need much, if any, editing at this point) so I can see how people like the design and to have some extra project pages besides my own ready to link up when I release the pattern in November. If you are interested, please e-mail me, contact me via Arabian Knits Designs on Facebook, or @arabianknits on Instagram, on my Ravelry group or leave a comment here with your e-mail address. This is a quick stocking, knit in a worsted weight (and only one to knit!), that can easily be finished by the middle of November. However even if you don't finish, but post a couple pictures of your progress, that still helps me. I should be able to send PDFs to people tonight or tomorrow. Thank you to those of you who have contacted me already!

Nejat's blanket, meanwhile, has grown an extra round. The crochet vortex still has me in its clutches. I thought I was on the final round, and found that I had one more to do. Sigh. It's a good thing that Nejat already loves this blanket.

As for my reading, I did finish Murder is Bad Manners. It was a fun story, but I think included elements that were inappropriate to a book aimed at juveniles. They didn't even make sense, which is something I'm noticing more and more. These kinds of messages are included, I think, because they are "supposed" to be, but with little regard to whether it makes sense for a character, a story, or is appropriate to the audience. In any case, I actually liked the story, in all other ways, but as it wasn't exactly great literature, nor necessary, I'm not recommending it to our kids, and I told them why and my opinion of the story.

At that point, I was ready to start a more serious book, and picked up Hillbilly Elegy. It is an amazing narrative. J.D. Vance is a compelling writer, though there is definitely inappropriate language, and real life violence in it. The only times the language really bothered me were when it wasn't a direct quotation or when it was actual profanity (versus vulgarity, which is what many of our "bad words" are). Also, if you have lost a child as we have, whether to early death, stillbirth, or miscarriage, there are references to the death of an infant and multiple miscarriages. Nothing graphic, but it was sobering, and both Rich and I had to kind of take a moment to breathe and talk about it with each other. The picture he paints is powerful, though, and language notwithstanding, we are recommending it to Alexander and Dominic. Rich and I have been reading it together at night, and really think the warning and the advice intrinsic to the book is so important for young men, especially, to understand.

Also posting to Keep Calm and Craft On and Yarn Fanatic.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Menu Plan: October 23 - 29

Alexander Hamilton is dead. Long live Alexander Hamilton! (In our stomachs) Our pig was butchered last week, and we were able to get the cheek meat to slow cook and the tail for the kids to roast like they did in Little House on the Prairie. Rich and I talked about it, and we think we will get three piglets next year. We have been able to get them either free or extremely low cost, so it has only been the cost of feed and butchering, and the feed is minimal, as we have a lot of area that they can graze and forage. The plan is to butcher two for the freezers, and sell one to another family for them to butcher, and the cost of the sale ought to pay for our butchering costs, which brings our costs down considerably. Last year, we learned that you need to schedule the butchering as soon as you get the piglets if you want to get it done in a reasonable time. This year, we learned that they really need companionship. Both Frank (Sir Francis Bacon) and Hammy (Alexander Hamilton) were amiable and genial. They are better than dogs. They are friendly, playful and intelligent, they ward off the coyotes, and when you pet them, your hands don't even stink. Their breath is another story.

If we can get our fencing done properly in the pastured areas of our yard, we're hoping to get a small flock of Tunis sheep (a ram and two or three ewes), but that is a pretty big if. There is so much that needs to be done on the house and on the property, and with the expenses of college and so forth, we have to be deliberate in choosing which project takes precedence. Then there is the time issue. Ideally, though, we'd have sheep of good wool quality that we raised for the meat and wool. I don't spin, yet, so at this point, the wool would be for sale or gift to others, but I'd like to get to where I was able to spin the wool as well. We like the idea of having sheep's milk to make feta and halloum, but that would probably be a long third place to the meat and wool. My perfect flock of sheep would also include a Polwarth ram and two ewes, because I love their wool, but they are difficult to get in the United States. I really like the luster and strength of Blue Faced Leicester wool, but we have pasture for a maximum of eight sheep, I think, and we have so much on our plate at the moment, that the fencing and pasture management would be quite a big bite for us, not even counting the management of a flock of sheep. The Tunis sheep would be the simplest for us to keep, as they are excellent grazers and foragers, were bred for desert climates, and are easy mothers.

We have almost finished putting our garden to bed, and have quite a lot of tomatoes and jalapenos to use up this week. If I can get to it, I will try my hand at a green tomato chutney recipe a friend posted to use up the green tomatoes. If we don't use up enough of the jalapenos in cooking and eating, I'm going to make my first batch of another friend's cowboy candy. Jerome's radishes are pretty much spent, but he still has carrots and turnips that we can harvest. We were gifted with about 90 pounds of dead ripe pears this weekend, so home economics this week includes making quite a bit of pear sauce to eat and to can. We've been eating the pears as well and have given away quite a bit, but they really won't last enough to do a lot of baking with them (which is too bad, because I have a ton of pear recipes), and are already a little too soft for canning as slices or chunks. Pear sauce is a great favorite here, though, and can be eaten and used in baking everywhere that apple sauce can, so I think it's the best way for us to use them and keep them from going to waste. The pears were truly a gift from God, as Rich was driving home from a business trip Friday and called me to tell me he was driving through our fruit growing area and was keeping his eyes open for pears for sale. He found none. Just a few minutes after that I received the text saying that there were boxes of ripe pears available for the first people to respond. There was a call to help clean up the garden for the food bank, so we took most of our kids and helped harvest for that and on our way out, they sent us off with more peppers, some cucumbers, tomatoes, and several butternut squash. Also, Nejat and Yasmina ate an entire row of pea pods (with permission) after harvesting green tomatoes for the food bank. The Lord has been blessing us in our busy and stressful time.

Our life has become one that requires mostly easy and slow cooking meals. The schedule and life we keep with eight children, church activities, knit night at our house, monthly dances, half the children going in different directions, and kids with work schedules on top of their school has kept us hopping. We scored pretty well at the farmers' market so, along with our gleanings and the pears, we have a pretty pile of produce to eat this week, and those feature heavily in the menu. The pork cheeks aren't really enough to feed ten people, but I had such a lovely meal of them at a restaurant in Seattle, that I'm going to recreate it for the family and make an excessive amount of gravy to spread the wealth of the pork and just serve it with a ton of mashed potatoes, salad and roasted Brussels sprouts (we have six pounds to use). I thought of adding some bacon to the mix to add more meat, but Rich thought it would adulterate the flavor. I think the dish was served with grits when I had it, but we have a ton of potatoes, and I make pretty nice mashed potatoes. In looking over our menu plans, I realized that it's Mexican-ish week for us. This is largely because we found amazing deals on these smoky, sweet, red peppers, as well as poblanos and bell peppers at the farmers' market. So, there you have it.

What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Yarn Along: Unfinished Things

Ignore my chipping nail polish please. I know it will come as a great surprise that a homeschooling mother with eight children at home has a hard time getting around to fixing her manicure.

I don't think that Nejat's blanket will ever be complete. There must be a crochet vortex as well as a knitting one. I get closer and closer to finishing it, then find out that there is still more. There will not be a person more relieved to have this finished than I.

Please take a look at the prototype for Saint Nicholas, however. I'm putting out the call for knitters to do a quick preview knit now (not a test, it shouldn't need much, if any, editing at that point) so I can see how people like the design and to have some extra project pages besides my own ready to link up when I release the pattern in November. I mistakenly said that the stocking was 18 inches in circumference, it is actually around 15 inches. If you are interested, please e-mail me, contact me via Arabian Knits Designs on Facebook, or @arabianknits on Instagram, on my Ravelry group or leave a comment here with your e-mail address. This is a quick stocking, knit in a worsted weight (and only one to knit!), that can easily be finished by the middle of November, however even if you don't finish, but post a couple pictures of your progress, I would be grateful. As soon as I have the pattern back from the tech editor, I will be able to send the PDF to those interested in a sneak peek at the design. Thank you to those of you who have contacted me already! And thank you to Rachel at The Philosopher's Wife for linking to my request on her blog, I appreciate all the extra eyes.

Generally, I like to alternate a light book with a deeper or more serious book. However, after finishing Circus Mirandus, which I loved, by the way, I just couldn't get myself to read something more solid. Instead, I picked up Murder is Bad Manners. Meanwhile, three books I've been wanting to read for some time are languishing on my night stand.

Also posting to Keep Calm and Craft On and Yarn Fanatic.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Menu Plan: October 16 - 22

Running a little late this week. We had to make a trip after church on Sunday that was not originally in our plans. We were able to pick up a box of huge Jonagold apples from a local grower, though, and they were from this year's crop instead of the kind of mealy storage apples we've been seeing in the store.

Our pig should be butchered at the end of the week, or beginning of next week. We're hoping for this week. Our garden is still giving us a tiny bit, mostly herbs, so we're using those up and savoring the last of the fresh produce of the year. We also have some potatoes still in the ground that should be harvested this week.

I'm feeling a tiny bit better, by which I mean, not entirely exhausted and in misery with pain. It's probably going to take almost a year for the bruise on my bone in my elbow to heal, if the bruised tailbone experience I had when I was a dance instructor is predictive of how long I will be hurting. I'm older by nearly 20 years, though, so I'm praying that it won't take longer. Thank you for your prayers.

If you didn't check out last week's recipe for apple cider doughnuts, you are missing out! Go, read, and make them while fresh pressed cider is still easily gotten!

What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up.

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Recipe Round Up: Apple Cider Doughnuts

I was looking for a recipe for cider doughnuts and found a few that I really liked. I cobbled them together to come up with my own recipe. Let me tell you, these are the best apple fritters you will ever eat. I make another kind that is quick and easy to make, and leavened with baking powder, that I will post another time. Since apples are generally available all year round, those are simple to whip up as a treat, and also delicious. These, though. These are yeast risen and full of depth and the flavors are layered perfectly. This is a fall only recipe. Using fresh pressed cider will make the best doughnuts. Store bought from the refrigerator section will be alright. Regular juice won't cut it, in my opinion. It's better to wait until the fall cider presses are out again to make them. You will reduce the cider to a concentrate and use it in both the dough and the glaze. I love using my bread machine for doughs like this. If you wish to make the dough by hand or use a stand mixer, that will work just fine.

3 cups apple cider

2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1/2 cup apple cider concentrate
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
3 1/2 cups bread flour or all purpose flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (I use Ceylon, but any cinnamon you like will work)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
oil for frying

Apple Filling:
4 medium apples, cored, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
pinch of salt

Cider Glaze:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup apple cider concentrate
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Before doing anything else, pour the apple cider into a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a simmer or low boil. Cook the cider until it reduces by two thirds, leaving 1 cup (or a little more) remaining. This may take up to 45 minutes or more. Divide the concentrate in half and set aside. This step can be done up to four days ahead. Store the cider, covered, in the refrigerator.

Put all ingredients except for the oil into your bread machine pan and run on a dough cycle.

While the dough is being made, prepare the apple filling. Place a large saucepan over medium heat and put the butter and sugar in it to melt, stirring occasionally. When it has melted, add the apples, cinnamon, vanilla extract, apple cider vinegar, and salt. Cook the apples, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and most of the liquid has evaporated from the pan. This can take up to 20 minutes, but can be affected by numerous variables. Take off heat and cool to room temperature.

When the dough cycle is complete, dust a work surface with flour, punch down the dough and turn it out onto your board. Pat or roll it into a rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick. Spread half the apple mixture over one half of the rectangle. Fold the other half of the dough over the apples and press to seal the apples in the dough. Pat the dough out into a rectangle again, flouring the board and the dough as necessary, and taking care not to tear the dough. Cover half of the dough with the remaining apples, and fold it over itself again, sealing the apples in the dough. Pat the dough into another thin rectangle again.

Flour or line two baking sheets with parchment or wax paper. Use a bench scraper or a sharp knife to cut the dough into about 1 inch squares. Take 3 pieces and press them together, pinching and patting to help them stick together. If apples poke out, this is fine. Place on a baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining pieces.

Cover the fritters with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for about 30 minutes, or until doubled in bulk.

While they rise, make the glaze. Whisk together the butter and sugar, then drizzle in the cider concentrate, vanilla extract, and salt, and whisk to produce a smooth, pourable liquid.

About half way through the final rise, pour oil into a deep pan for frying, and heat over medium high heat, until a piece of bread sizzles when inserted into the oil. Set aside another pan with a rack over it to drain the doughnuts after frying.

Once the fritters have risen properly, place the fritters in the oil, without crowding, and fry them for about a minute on each side, until they are golden brown on both sides and cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on rack over pan to drain and cool a minute while you fry the rest in batches.

When the fritters have cooled a few minutes, drizzle with glaze. I do this in two steps, using about half on the fritters at first, then letting them cool some more and pouring the rest of the glaze on them in a second layer later. Let the glaze set a bit, 10 - 15 minutes, and serve warm or room temperature.

These can keep for several days in an airtight container at room temperature, but you will probably eat them all. Recipe makes about 20 - 25 fritters.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Yarn Along: Saint Nicholas is Almost Ready for You to Knit!

Surprise, surprise, Nejat's blanket is still not finished! Her second birthday present is rapidly turning into her third Christmas present. I tend to be a process knitter/crocheter at the beginning of a project. There are new skills to practice or learn, or something fun to work on and enjoy. By the end, though, I am a product knitter. I want this thing finished. And I am so there with this blanket. Nejat loves it, and will love it, and I'm sure I'll be happy with it when it is complete, but I am starting to get irritated with it. Why isn't it complete?! It's only two more rounds and the finishing.

I have made the finishing touches on Saint Nicholas, however. I'm putting out the call for knitters to do a quick preview knit now (not a test, it shouldn't need much, if any, editing at that point) so I can see how people like the design and to have some extra project pages besides my own ready to link up when I release the pattern in November. The picture above shows the prototype, the actual stocking is much larger, it is about 18 inches in circumference and longer, I just made that smaller mock up as a sample for a design proposal. If you are interested, please e-mail me, contact me via Arabian Knits Designs on Facebook, or @arabianknits on Instagram, on my Ravelry group or leave a comment here with your e-mail address. This is a quick stocking, knit in a worsted weight (and only one to knit!), that can easily be finished by the middle of November, however even if you don't finish, but post a couple pictures of your progress, I would be grateful. The tech edited pattern ought to be back to me next week or so, after which I will be able to send the PDF to those interested in a sneak peek at the design.

On the reading front, I finished An Everlasting Meal. LOVED IT! and highly recommend it to all who enjoy food, eating, and cooking. Even if you don't, it might help you capture that love, or at least give you some tools to use with what you have at home to make good, simple meals.

I have come back to Circus Mirandus, which is a fun, light read, and I am enjoying it. I have tried, numerous times, to get into The Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, but it is just poorly written. I know it's popular right now, but I think that's just because someone Christian/moral has written it. It's not absurdist and funny, it's just ridiculous and trying too hard, in my (evidently minority) opinion. Rich tried to read it, too, and when I picked it up again, he said he couldn't get past the first couple chapters. We had been thinking of reading it to the kids as a fun evening read, but it's just not good enough to slog through it. We get that it was being silly on purpose, but it was too self-conscious and on purpose, and just too foolish, more so than it was funny.

Also posting to Keep Calm and Craft On and Yarn Fanatic.

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Sunday, October 09, 2016

Menu Plan: October 9 - 15

We had lemon pudding cake instead of chocolate cake for Alexander's birthday. It was a surprise to him that we were having a little party, so that was nice. I saved up as much energy as I could so I could make those cakes. And thus ends birthday season at our house. It begins again next March.

Meals this week are still heavy on simple and easily made my others. Our schedule is so crazy, homeschooling is a full time endeavor right now, plus trying to heal, plus all the ballet. Aside from five days a week at the studio and Nutrcracker preparations, they are doing a choreographed Thriller performance four times on Halloween, and Amira will be in it. So, there are extra rehearsals for that, too, of course. Lots of fun, but lots of time. Rich had a written exam yesterday, and we are glad that is complete. He is awaiting his oral defense now. Lots of prayers for that, and the timing of it, would be appreciated. Rich has been doing much of the driving for baseball and ballet and such, but he would bring his books for studying and his work computer for getting work done. That isn't quite over, but it will be a different focus until his oral examination is complete.

Our garden is still giving us a few vegetables and herbs. It looks like the frost has been delayed, which makes none of us sad. However, our neighbors have all been burning their brush, so we know it's that time of year, and we need to get on that. Our pig will be butchered either this week or next, so we'll have pork and bacon and ham in the freezer again. Rich is looking forward to souvlaki, and I am looking forward to carnitas. We have learned our lesson, though, and that is to raise at least two pigs together. He was lonely. And pigs are friendlier and smell better than dogs. Well, not their breath, but petting and scratching them leaves no smell on your hands at all; and when you pet them, they roll over and wriggle with joy. A neighbor said that they always raised three piglets, two to butcher, and one to sell for someone else to butcher, to pay for the butchering. We may do this next year. But, at least two pigs will be raised, I think.

What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up.

Here is Alexander at birth and now. What a difference 18 years makes!

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Saturday, October 08, 2016

Recipe Round Up: Butter Tomato Sauce & Caramel Apple French Toast Strata

Marcella Hazan's Butter Tomato Sauce

This isn't exactly Marcella Hazan's recipe, but it's close. It is so simple, so easy, and so good. We have used cans of diced tomatoes as well as the whole ones that we chop up in the pot, with complete success. It's one of the few recipes for which I use salted butter. The sauce is better if it is infused with the onion, and you pull out the onion, but the kids have made it with diced onion, and it still tasted good. Normally, though, I pull out the onion, and we salt and pepper it and eat it as a side dish. Generally, I serve this with a salad and maybe garlic bread.

This recipe is double what you probably want to make, unless you also cook for 10 people at a time. However, it holds well, so would make a great second meal. Or you can halve it. Much like her bolognese, this is what all jarred tomato sauces wish they were.

56 - 64 ounces canned/jarred whole tomatoes, chopped with their juices (I do this in the pan with a spoon or spatula)
8 ounces (two sticks, or 16 tablespoons) salted butter
2 medium onions, peeled and halved crosswise
2 pounds pasta of choice, cooked in heavily salted water
freshly grated parmesan as a garnish

Heat a heavy, large saucepan over medium heat. Add tomatoes, butter and onions to pot and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to low, maintaining the simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float over the tomatoes. Stir occasionally.

Serve over cooked pasta with freshly grated parmesan.

Caramel Apple French Toast Strata

This recipe was shared on Facebook by a friend of mine who belongs to our church communion. She said how flexible it was, and it truly is. This version of it reflects the changes I made to it. The cream cheese and egg provide protein, so it isn't just a sugar high breakfast, and the almonds add that as well as crunch. If you can't have nuts, leave them out, but if you can, they really add something lovely to the dish. Again, this makes a lot. You can halve it if you wish. I like that this can be made mostly ahead of time, and baked in the morning.

24 - 32 ounce loaf of bread cut into 3/4 inch cubes (we've used French bread, sandwich bread, I imagine croissants would be decadent, anything but bagels or pretzels would be wonderful)
8 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1/4 - 1/2 inch cubes
2 large apples, sliced thinly (peeled or not, as you wish)
1 cup sliced almonds
8 eggs (you can get away with as few as six easily)
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon cinnamon (we like to use Ceylon cinnamon with this)
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup

Place half of the bread cubes into a buttered 11 X 15 inch baking dish. Cover with cream cheese cubes and apple slices, covering the bread evenly. Top with remaining bread cubes and sprinkle with almond slices.

Beat eggs, milk and cinnamon and pour over bread mixture. Cover with foil or plastic and refrigerate overnight to make ahead.

In the morning, pull out pan, and uncover, to bring closer to room temperature, while preheating the oven to 350 F and making the syrup.

Make syrup by combining the butter, brown sugar and maple syrup in a saucepan and bringing it to a boil. Pour over the top of the mixture. Bake for 35 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Menu Along: Plagues of Washington

For not having much progress, this is going to be a long post. And not just because I'm putting the menu plan with the yarn along again.

Nejat's blanket is almost finished. It is taking forever. I have two or three more "stars" to go around, but they are gargantuan. My last round will be 600 stitches. I'm hoping to get it finished before next week, but that still will leave the sewing down of the cloud border and the weaving in of the ends, and I still have two other projects that need ends woven in and blocking to do. Bleh.

Saint Nicholas is about to go to the tech editor. It was supposed to be there last week, but I had a horrible allergic reaction, which led to an infection, which led to a secondary infection. I will spare you the gory details beyond that. I also hurt my shoulder the week before, by reaching for my water cup on my night stand. Being old is so much fun. Yesterday, while trying to fill the bathroom sink to cool a solution I needed to use on the infection, I forgot that our sink didn't have an overflow drain and that I had left the water on while I went to dress. When I remembered, I stepped quickly across to turn off the water, in the now Niagara Falls of our bathroom, stepped on the rug, which turns out was floating above the body of water on our floor, hydroplaned, slipped, landed squarely on my elbow on the tile floor, and slid into home, letting the toilet take the brunt of my fall. I was waiting to find out that the wax seal had been broken on the toilet, and that we had a leak in the bathroom, but glory to God, that doesn't seem to be the case. My shortcut of cooling the liquid made Alexander late to class, ended up with Rich taking a sick day to get me to the walk in clinic and stay home to help me (though he had his computer at home, so was at least able to get some work done), and me in excruciating pain. No obvious breaks or fractures in the x-rays, but we're waiting for the radiologist's opinion before we decide it's just a monster of a bruise.

Oh, and on the non-medical side, one of the tires we just bought for our minivan blew out about a mile from our house on Thursday, so I got a call from Rich asking if I could come pick him and the girls up, then he and Alexander went to put the spare on it after our dinner and Michaelmas festivities. Then they came home to put a repaired tire on Rich's truck. We are buying new tires for my van today which, blessedly, have enough of a discount on them and deals we could take advantage of that we don't have to dip into savings to get them, but we also have to get new tires for his truck, a new engine for our big van, all while paying for college and trying to get Christmas presents for the kids. This is on top of the ongoing medical issues I have been having for the past two years, homeschooling, Rich studying for exams he has to be finished with and pass by the end of the year, the Nutcracker coming like a freight train, homeschool co-op, and normal family life. We're a little overwhelmed and could use prayer.

All of this is to say that Saint Nicholas is delayed now. I'm hoping to have it in this week, but both my shoulders hurt, so typing for any length of time is a challenge, not to mention not being able to rest my left elbow anywhere without shooting pain. My goal is to have it back next week, so we can do a quick preview knit (not a test, it shouldn't need much, if any, editing at that point) so I can see how people like the design and to have some extra project pages besides my own ready to link up when I release the pattern in November. If you are interested, please e-mail me, contact me via Arabian Knits Designs on Facebook, or @arabianknits on Instagram, on my Ravelry groupor leave a comment here with your e-mail address. This is a quick stocking, knit in a worsted weight (and only one!), that can easily be finished by the middle of November, but even if you don't finish, but post a couple pictures of your progress, I would be grateful. Amira is still on hold, as I haven't even had a chance to look over it with the editor at all. I'm hoping to get to that before the end of the year.

Since I spent so much time either hurt or sick this past couple weeks, I did a lot of reading. I'm still reading An Everlasting Meal, but I'm almost finished with it. Also, I finished two books: Last Wool and Testament and Dyeing Wishes. Both light, happy little murders in a series. Easy to read, a little predictable in the first, and using a bit too much Encyclopedia Brown tactics in the second, but fun.

Also posting to Keep Calm and Craft On and Yarn Fanatic.

Meals this week are heavy on what can someone else do to help. The kids have been wonderful, even doing as much schoolwork as they could without me home while I went to the doctor, and doing a lot of the copying for worksheets and meal prep, so I don't hurt myself. They even did most of their chores before Rich and I got home from the doctor's without being asked. It was such a huge blessing. Dominic even volunteered to grade his younger siblings' schoolwork, so I could rest. And he and Amira have been helping with phonics and Bible history with their younger brother and sisters.

We're also in the middle of potty training here. If Nejat is potty trained this week, it would be the first time in 18 years that we didn't have someone in diapers. We are so close! And cannot wait. Speaking of which, Alexander turns 18 this week. It's hard to believe. He gets to vote in the election this year, which he isn't all that excited about, and register for selective service, which none of us are all that excited about now. It is still a big deal, though. I'm hoping to be not in pain in time to make his cake. One nice thing is that his school has Monday off, so he gets three day weekend for his birthday.

The good news is that our garden is still giving us squash, tomatoes, peppers and a few cucumbers, plus radishes and things like that. We are still enjoying the fresh produce. However, the first real frost is supposed to be next week. So, goodbye garden after that.

What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up.

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