Friday, April 3, 2020

Spring Zweig Sweater and Chicken Vegetable Instapot Recipe

This is a knitting blog and, as always, I have a project to share.  But first I want to talk about the COVID-19 crisis and how anxious and worried I am for our neighbors, community, world and of course our family.  I wish everyone could stay home and avoid exposure to the virus but I know there are those who perform essential roles in providing healthcare, food, supplies, and leadership and my thanks and prayers are with each of you and your families.

I think it will be many months before a vaccine is widely available.  Those of us who are older, have underlying health conditions or family in those risk categories will likely have to take precautions for longer than others.  This means staying at home and not leaving for any reason and that can be isolating and lonely.  But there are things you can do to stay connected and be part of your community.  For example I have joined a group on Facebook (Milk Street Community) that shares recipes and tips and our Temple (Makom LA) has a variety of live services streamed on Facebook as well.  Both are welcoming and friendly communities.  Other options include having a virtual happy hour on Zoom and other creative uses of social media platforms.  Look around and find those that interest you and join in.  This is also a good time to touch base with friends and family and rebuild relationships that have drifted apart.  And of course you should absolutely keep knitting!

In this post I am wearing the very popular Zweig Sweater designed by Caitlin Hunter.  It's a unique design that combines texture, lace, and colorwork and yet still manages to be an easy and straight forward knit.  That's the magic of Caitlin's patterns - they look a more complicated than they are.  I chose to use Spring colors as I don't have many sweaters for that season as Spring in Southern California feels like summer anywhere else.  Ironically it's really cold this Spring but as we are confined to home I'll just have to sashay about the house in my new sweater.  That's okay because next year I may break down and wear this in the Winter as well and make it a two season sweater!

My mother would laugh at that as she is always telling me I am too rigid and I need to be more flexible.  But I like each season to shine for it's own special reasons and I resist crossing over seasons in clothing or food.  Spring is a time for lemon flavored baking, pink flowers, Easter baskets, enjoying the sound of birds singing, baby lambs, longer days and rediscovering the miracle of regrowth and renewal. I'd love to hear what makes your heart sing about Spring.   

I won't go into my tips for colorwork or how to achieve a custom fit for a sweater because I have shared those tips in previous posts.  My tips for knitting a sweater are in the post Knitting a Sweater and Tips to Achieve a Custom Fit and my colorwork tips are in the Hebe hat post (an Alice Staremore design) and to be honest I think there are now a number of Youtube videos that would probably make great free tutorials for colorwork.  But I still stand by my advice to practice, practice, and practice more on a swatch holding two strands in your hand and get very used to knitting that way before you embark on your first project.

Particulars:  Zweig Sweater, designed by Caitlin Hunter (Boyland Knitworks); yarn by A Homespun House (merino/cashmere blend).  This was a very easy sweater to knit.  I made the smallest size (XS) and made no modifications.  I chose the amethyst color and Molly (the dyer behind A Homespun House) helped me pick the contrasting color of stardust and I think that was the perfect choice. 

Other patterns that I've knit by Caitlin Hunter are her Kobuk hat and Sunset Highway Sweater.  I love all her designs and I'm sure I'll be knitting more.  Other projects knit using a homespun house yarn include the beautiful shawl in my last post and All the Angles, a shawl designed by Stephen West that I have yet to photograph.

Before I switch gears to cooking I have just realized that I am approaching my 13th Blogiversary.  That's a long time.  My very first post Welcome to Mr. Puffy and Claudia's Blog! was back on May 5, 2007.  I want to thank you for reading along on this journey and for the comments and private notes that I've received.  I'm glad that I embarked on this journey and I know there are many more projects and recipes that I want to share and I hope you will following along with me and find some inspiration along the way.  

Instant Pot ~ Chicken Vegetable Soup ~

Steve and I have been practicing self isolation long before it became popular.  Largely a result of living in the mountains and working long hours at home.  And when you spend a lot of time at home your meal repertoire gets to be pretty large by sheer necessity.  I know many of you are not used to cooking meals at home and the COVID-19 crisis is making you consider how exactly do you stretch that chicken or use up bags of legumes.  So I thought this would be a good time to share a recipe that will help on both accounts.

A quick word about the Instant Pot (pressure cooker).  No you don't need one to make this recipe.  You can simply cook the chicken and legumes on your stove top and adjust the cooking time.  However I think you'll have to cook it long and slow at a low heat to achieve the same texture and melding of flavors.  

I'm obviously a fan of the Instant Pot and this is how it happened.  One day Steve came into the house calling "I have a gift for you."  I was very excited..... until I saw it was a cooking implement.  To say I was underwhelmed is an understatement.  Then I used it.  Now I laughingly say Best. Gift. Ever!  It does take a few times to get comfortable using it and you do have to be careful that you don't overcook things (I found the recipes included waaaaay overstated the cooking time).  But it's worth the effort and now I use mine weekly to make a stew or soup for the weekend.  They are sold everywhere including Amazon, etc.  I have the 6-quart size which is the most popular. 

Chicken Vegetable Soup - Instant Pot Recipe


1 whole chicken (approximately 4 lbs.), skin removed
1 cup mixed legumes (i.e.split peas, barley, red lentils, and maybe small pasta pieces).  I like Bob's Red Mill vegi soup mix which is a mix of all these.  No pre-soaking required.
1 stock cube - I use Rapunzel vegetable bouillon (low sodium) Ralph's grocery store sells this brand
Assortment sliced/diced vegetables  (zucchini, carrots, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, red peppers, sweet onion, and small cherry tomatoes)  These should be cut pretty thick or they will dry out during the roasting process.
2 Tbs. Olive oil
1/4 tsp. dried oregano (optional)
Salt to taste


1.  About 1.5 or 2 hrs before you want to eat wash and remove skin from the chicken and cut off all fat.  Place the skinned chicken in an instant pot.  Add 1 cup or desired amount of legumes, salt, and stock (I use 1 cube) and water sufficient to cover chicken by approximately 2 inches.  Set instant pot on "poultry" setting and adjust cook time to 7 minutes.  After the timer goes off leave the chicken in the instant pot for roughly another half hour to allow it to continue cooking in the hot liquid.  Open and remove chicken from liquid at this point and check that it is cooked though.  If it is, set it aside to cool.  Close the instant pot until vegetables are ready to add.

N.B. I find the 7 minutes plenty of time to thoroughly cook a chicken but it never hurts to double check and should you need to cook it longer you can always place the chicken back into the hot liquid and allow it to continue cooking until you are satisfied that it is cooked through.    

2.  In the meantime preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss mixed vegetables in olive oil and salt to taste.  Spread out on a foil covered tray and bake for approximately 40 to 60 minutes or until tender and the edges have started to brown.  Cooking time is an estimate.  You need to check and see how fast the vegetables are cooking because If you slice the veggies too thin they will cook faster and you risk they shrivel up to nothing.   When they are ready remove them from the oven and fold the foil over to tent vegetables (keep warm) and set aside until ready to use.

3.  About 5 minutes before you want to eat shred the white meat and remove all bones (I typically don't use the dark/thigh meat but that is your choice).  Set shredded chicken meat aside.

4.  Add 50 to 75% of cooked vegetables to the hot liquid in your instant pot and using a hand immersion bender or any type of blender pulse a few times to break up the vegetables and legumes to make a chunky rich broth.

5.  Taste broth and adjust seasoning (add salt, oregano) as desired.

6.  Add shredded chicken and remaining 25% vegetables to the instant pot and you are finished!

We often eat an Instant Pot soup/stew with a side salad and bread.  The bread pictured above is a Turkish flatbread that I made following this Youtube video.  It's wonderful to scoop up dips and soup.  If you are simply going to eat it on it's own then I suggest you increase the salt.

Until next time stay home, stay safe and may all of you and your loved ones find ways to stay connected during this stressful time.  In the sage words of my mother "this too shall pass" and we will get through this together. 



Anonymous said...

Dear Claudia, happily surprised to see your new post. I had to laugh about your comment re "sashaying" around the house in your beautiful new sweater. I often do that when I buy/make a new wardrobe item. Very smart IMHO because that way you feel more natural in your new garment once you do wear it out. Also, love the Caitlin Hunter tip re easier than they look. Love the color of yours! We are all in this Covid-19 crisis together, aren't we? . I am finding a great deal of kindness in people because of it. (And we should all respond with kindness to the overworked store clerks and other essential personnel who might not always be as "smiley" as we'd like them to be.). Stay well! Chloe

Claudia Bugh said...

Haha Chloe why am I not surprised that you are a fellow "sashayer" lol Yes do give Caitlin's patterns a look they are very eye catching and fun to make and wear. Isn't this Covid-19 crisis alarming. I was raised by a father who grew up in the Great Depression and he was very careful with his money but subsequent generations have only know prosperity and are ill equipped for the trials that may lay ahead. Stay home and be safe and sending well wishes to you and your family.

vikas yadav said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vikas yadav said...

Thank you for chiken vegetable soup recipe
I will try for my wife may be she like it in covid 19.