Monday, November 19, 2012

Bunny Bunny Who Has the Bunny ~ and ~ Skillet Cake Recipe

This is the well-dressed bunny and it's going to the first child of Steve's second cousin.  He happens to be a favorite of ours and it's been a pleasure watching him mature into a wonderful young man and meet and marry the woman of his dreams.  What a lucky baby this is.

It's not often that I have the occasion to knit for a baby and after giving it some thought I decided on knitting a baby blanket.  I reasoned what better way to wrap a baby in love and warmth and start them off early on the path to enjoying being wrapped in wool and wearing shawls?

But when I told Steve of my plans to make a blanket he asked me instead to make a toy.  Why a toy I wanted to know?  And he told me because he remembers from his childhood that he had a small toy he loved and a handknit Christmas stocking that a neighbor made for him and his sister.  And he wanted this child to have a special toy too.  It's funny how small acts of kindness can have such a lasting impact on someone.  After all these years Steve still remembers that neighbor, the toy, and the stocking.  And so together we chose this bunny pattern ~

Particulars:  Well-Dressed Bunny designed by Fuzzy Mitten; 1 skein Lush yarn by Classic Elite Yarns (50% angora 50% wool); US 6 needles.  This toy is knit flat and a very easy pattern to follow.  It's not as big as some toys I've knit but is the perfect size for a baby.  One of the advantages of knitting a toy flat is that the pieces can be washed and blocked prior to assembly.  To get my bunny's ears to lay flat and have a softened texture I partially felted the ears using hot water, soap and vigorous agitation before attaching them.  I knit this pattern as written but did add a bunny tail with angora yarn and the dress is slightly modified and also embellished with embroidered flowers (I made the petals with a detached chain stitch with a french knot for the center).  The hat is a simple rolled brim design.  For those interested I'll put my pattern notes for making the bunny tail and hat on my Ravelry notebook page.   Other toys I've knit are a mouse, a bear, an elephantmonster, owl, and a rabbit.

Apple Skillet Cake ~ or ~ Cherry Skillet Cake

I don't know if I should be flattered or offended.  Steve raved so much about this cake you would think he never had a nice piece of cake before.  This is the King Arthur Flour Apple Skillet Cake but with a number of modifications so rather than confuse you I've written it out below with my changes.  The original recipe is very highly rated and you might want to just use that.  But mine is a smidgen healthier (e.g. substituting canola oil for butter) and paradoxically a little less healthy (e.g. substituting brandy for apple cider) and has a few other small changes and it came out beautifully.

Apple Skillet Cake (or Cherry Skillet Cake)

Apple Mixture
4 or 5 apples (3 granny smith apples and 2 golden delicious) pealed and thinly sliced
1/3 cup organic dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons brandy
1/4  teaspoon nutmeg
1/4  teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 (scant) salt

Cherry Mixture
4 cups tart pitted cherries (I use 2 large jars of Trader Joe's Dark Morello Cherries in light syrup - drained)
1 1/3 cups sugar (if using unsweetened tart cherries) or 1/2 cup sugar if using drained sweetened cherries
2 1/2 Tablespoons tapioca
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tablespoon sweet butter (crumbled over the top of cherries - just before putting into the oven).

Cake Batter (use the same cake batter regardless which topping you use)
1 3/4 cups All Purpose Flour
3/4 cup white granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup warm milk (whole milk)
1 large egg
6 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Prepare 9" x 4" cast-iron skillet (butter and flour (or use granulated sugar))
3.  Combine apple mixture and set aside.
4.  Combine dry ingredients and set aside.  Mix wet ingredients and then stir (using wooden spoon) into dry ingredients until combined.  Pour into prepared skillet.
5.  Spoon the apple mixture (or cherry mixture) over the batter distributing the apples a little more heavily toward the edge of the pan and add all the liquid (brandy, etc.) as that will settle into the bottom of the pan and caramelize.  If using the cherry mixture dot the top with 1/2 Tablespoon sweet butter.
6.  Bake 1 hour or until apples are browned and cake tester come away clean.  I baked my cake an extra 10 minute (a total of 70 minutes).

Garnish cake with powdered sugar and serve slightly warm with ice cream or yogurt ~

The MisAdventures of Simcha  ~

G that went better than expected.  I kinda thought he might ask for a paternity test.

Until next time be well and love well and may you enjoy this holiday season with friends and family ~ and good cheer!  We'll be away a lot over the holidays but I hope to have some time for knitting.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Amstel Hat and Hiking in Topanga

This is the Amstel Hat from the Fall 2012 Interweave Knits magazine.  I love it and it's going to be perfect for all the outdoor hikes that I go on.  I have to be honest and say that might not have chosen to knit this hat if I hadn't seen it in person in a LYS.  Some projects are like that.  They don't look all that wonderful in a magazine picture but are fabulous in person, probably because in a picture you can't really see the great texture or experience the tactile appeal.  As I don't have much to say about this project (other than I love it) instead I'm going to share a little about the hikes that Simcha and I take here in Topanga, California which is one reason why I need all the hats, mittens, and shawls that I'm constantly knitting.  

Particulars:  Amstel Hat designed by Kelbourne Woolens and published in (Interweave Knits Fall 2012); 2 skeins Road to China (The Fiber Company);  I made the following modifications to the pattern: 1)  I used the disappearing loop CO from techKnitting; 2) I used a twisted K rib for the brim; 3) I completed the pattern design twice and eliminated the final rows of pattern; 4) After completing the final row of patterning I purled a round and made the recommended decreases on that round with P2Together stitch; and 5) I used Jenny’s Surprisingly Stretchy BO from Knitty.  Love this hat!!!!

The Misadventures of Claudia and Simcha ~

I think I've mentioned before that Simcha and I go out on a hike every morning and sometimes again in the afternoons as well.   We both love being outdoors and we have tons of great trails all around us that we mostly have to ourselves.  Mostly.  We do share them with the local wildlife and that is primarily coyotes, deer and an occasional skunk.  

And, as can happen, the other evening when Simcha and I were out hiking I heard in the distance a pack of coyotes going crazy and yapping loudly.  I knew instantly that this was going to be too strong a temptation for Simcha to resist chase after them, which I obviously did not want him to do.  So I came up with a new command.  I call it the "Wait for Me" command and basically what you do is run after your dog calling out "Waaaaait for Meeee."  This should be interspersed with an occasional "I'mmmm Coming Tooooo."  Hopping up and down as if you have twisted your ankle adds a nice effect if combined with a sharp cry of pain for attention.  Thankfully the years of training and discipline have paid off because in the distance I could see Simcha turn his head to look back over his shoulder at me and then slow his pace as he waited for me to catch up.  Once I had his attention I picked up a stick and threw it for him to chase and thereby successfully diverted his attention away from the coyotes.  

I can't tell you what a pleasure it is to have a dog that is responsive to commands and is such a great hiking buddy.  He's been primarily trained to follow hand signals and I think that has fostered a strong bond that allows us the freedom to take the type of hikes that we do.  Which isn't saying that we don't have the occasional misadventure along the way. 

A Sweet Treat ~ Pumpkin Poppers

These fragrant pumpkin poppers are moist and spicy ~ a perfect Fall treat to enjoy with your coffee or tea.  I used the recipe from Domestically Speaking and modified it by using dark brown organic sugar (versus light brown) and whole milk versus low-fat.  I had tons of cinnamon sugar left over even when making less than the recipe called for.  I made my cinnamon sugar mix using 1/2 cup white sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon.  As you can see in the picture I made some "poppers" and some small muffins.  If you don't have a mini muffin tin making small cupcake sized muffins is a great alternative you simply need to increase the cooking time.  I cooked my muffins approximately 22 minutes.  Instead of rolling mine in gobs of butter I melted 2 tablespoons of butter and applied that with a pastry brush and then liberally sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.

Simcha really enjoyed these, judging from the four (4) muffins missing from my kitchen counter (paper included).  Other sweet pumpkin treats I've shared in the past are a pumpkin bread and a pumpkin chocolate  chip cake ~ both very yummy.

Until next time be well and love well and enjoy the colors, texture, and flavors of this season as we are fast approaching Winter!