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Archive for February, 2010

They say that great minds think alike and today I think it must be true:  I made a chickpea tagine for dinner last night and this morning I woke up to find that Mark Bittman’s recipe of the week in the New York Times Dining & Wine section is a rich Spanish Chickpea stew!

Of course, I wasn’t thinking about Mark Bittman last night when I decided to make this dish.  Instead I was feeling a little achy (I have a cold) and tired (did I mention that I have a cold?) and wanted something comforting for a rainy February night (yes, the rain is back).

Although I have not always been a bean fan, lately I have been craving meaty legumes and chickpeas seemed like a good foundation on which to build a hearty meal.

I grabbed a couple of cans of chickpeas from the pantry, did a little web-investigation and found a recipe that looked like a good place to start,  and less than an hour later had steaming bowls of this fragrant vegetarian stew on the table.

Chickpea and Apricot Tagine
(adapted from http://www.care2.com/greenliving/moroccan-chickpea-stew-recipe.html)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 28-ounce can diced fire roasted tomatoes
2 cups water
Salt, to taste
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/4 cup raisins
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 cans chickpeas, rinsed
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro or parsley

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot.  Add the onion and carrot and cook, covered, for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic, cinnamon, turmeric, salt, cayenne, tomatoes, water, and salt to taste. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, soak the apricots in hot water for 10 minutes, then drain and slice. Add the peppers, apricots, raisins, lemon juice and zest, and chickpeas to the vegetable mixture and cook 20 minutes longer, or until hot and the flavors are blended. Stir in the cilantro and serve over couscous, or even better, quinoa.

This was the perfect dish for a chilly night; it even almost cured my cold!

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I know.  It’s February 20th.  But in spite of what the calendar would have you believe, today everything in Portland is screaming SPRING!

The warm sun and bright sky (and the fact that we have been staying at a downtown hotel all week during some home renovations) drew us out for a walk after breakfast this morning.  I’ve wanted to show S the Eastbank Esplanade walk along the Willamette River for months now so we headed down to the river and across the Hawthorne Bridge.

It’s always cooler on the east side of the river and much nosier, too, as you make your way alongside and under the freeway.  Even the incessant roar of traffic couldn’t keep us from enjoying the sights along the way — from the natural

to the industrial.

I’m not sure if it’s good for the bridge, but all the rust on the Steel Bridge is remarkably photogenic.  This shot reminds me of a map.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Sunday mornings around here are usually an occasion for lingering over breakfast and the newspaper.  S is a great breakfast chef and always makes something delicious; flipping pancakes or scrambling eggs to the strains of our favorite Sunday tunes:  Charlie Haden and Hank Jones’s album Steal Away:  Spirituals, Hymns and Folk Songs.

To celebrate that impulse (and because our old one has recently been retired to the garage) I got S a new waffle maker for Valentine’s Day.

So, of course, we had waffles. S used the recipe for Buttermilk Waffles that came with the waffle maker (his extensive collection of breakfast cookbooks is currently buried in a pile of other cookbooks as a part of our preparation for some home repairs) and they turned out perfectly.

Buttermilk Waffles
(the Williams-Sonoma Kitchen / All-Clad recipe)

Makes 8 waffles

3 eggs, separated
1 ¾ cups buttermilk
8 tbs unsalted butter, melted
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar

Preheat a waffle maker on medium high heat.
We just eat them as they are ready; but if you plan to make all the waffles before serving any, preheat the oven to 200 F.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then whisk in the buttermilk, butter and vanilla until blended.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.  Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and whisk until smooth.

In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold 1 cup of the egg whites into the batter, then carefully fold in the remaining whites.

Pour about 2/3 cup batter into the center of your hot waffle maker and close the lid.  Cook until golden brown and crisp, 4-5 minutes (or until the waffle maker cheeps at you!).

Serve immediately with warm maple syrup, or place on a wire rack in the oven and keep warm until ready to serve.  Repeat with remaining batter.

All that butter probably helps them develop that perfectly crisp exterior.  S also thinks that beating the egg whites makes a big difference.

Whatever the reason, they were good to the last bite!

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Philosophical interlude

I am not a professional blogger.  When I started this blog I wasn’t really sure what my posts would be about, or how often I would post, or how the posts would fit together.  The name of my blog, Knitting a Life, seemed like a good idea at the time; among other things, I am a knitter, and I had a hard time imagining that any blog I authored wouldn’t have some knitting in it somewhere.

To tell you the truth, once I came up with a title for this blog I didn’t worry about it much.  Until a friend told me that he didn’t read my blog because it was about knitting.

That stopped me.  I tried to explain to him that my blog is NOT about knitting, but he was convinced that it was and that he would never read it as a result.

Of course, knowing that one person isn’t reading my blog won’t make me stop writing it.  If I worried a lot about who was reading these posts I would do things a lot differently than I do.  My friend’s comment did make me think about what I mean by “Knitting a Life.”  Not necessarily what I meant when I started this project, but what it has come to mean over the few months I have been working on it.

What is this blog about?  One way to answer that is to look at what I post about.  Knitting, sometimes, but also food and family,

travel and teaching, places and passions.

Is this blog about knitting?  I guess some people would say that, since there have been posts about my knitting projects and about yarn.  I don’t think of it that way, though; I think this blog is about knitting a life, mine.

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Making granola at home

I have to be honest.  This didn’t begin as a post about granola.  In fact, I was searching for a recipe for healthy, home-made granola bars.  The crunchy kind.

After a long search I found a recipe that looked promising in the Baking Illustrated cookbook, another source that I frequently turn to when looking for baking ideas.  After reading the recipe, of course I felt the need to make some changes.

I started by substituting some Bob’s Red Mill Muesli cereal for some of oats called for in the original recipe.  Mixing this with the oats prior to toasting them added a few more grains and, I hoped, some extra nutrition and flavor.

While the grains were toasting, I heated maple syrup (which I used instead of the honey the original recipe listed) with brown sugar

and chopped some walnuts.

At the last minute, I also added some wheat germ as I mixed the toasted grains with the maple-brown sugar syrup and nuts.  The mixture was nice and sticky as it went into the oven for the final baking.

I’m not sure if the maple syrup-for-honey substitution was the cause, or if I just didn’t press the mixture into the pan firmly enough

but I ended up with wonderful, crunchy, maple-walnut granola instead of granola bars.  Not what I had been aiming for, but incredibly good all the same.  I’ll definitely be making it again soon.

I’m going to get some milk and eat some right now!

Maple-Walnut Granola

5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Muesli Cereal
½ cup canola oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups whole walnuts
¾ cup maple syrup
¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup toasted wheat germ

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Line an 18 x 12 inch rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Combine the oats, Muesli cereal, canola oil and salt in a large bowl and mix until oats and cereal are evenly coated.

Spread the mixture into an even layer on the baking sheet (reserve the bowl for later) and bake, stirring every 10 minutes, until the oats are pale gold in color and smell toasty, about 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and lower the heat to 300 degrees F.

While the oats are toasting, place the nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped (about 10 1 second pulses). Remove ½ of the nuts and continue to process the remaining nuts until finely ground.  Mix the coarse and fine nuts together in a small bowl and set aside.

Combine the maple syrup and the brown sugar in a small sauce pan over medium heat and cook, stirring often, until the brown sugar is completely dissolved, about 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla and set aside.

Combine the toasted oats with the nuts, wheat germ and maple syrup mixture and stir until everything is evenly coated.

Pour the mixture into the rimmed baking sheet and spread evenly.

Bake until golden, about 45 – 50 minutes.

Cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.

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