Sunday, January 24, 2016

Recipe: Stupid Simple Pecan Bars

A while back my boss lent me his copy of a Cook's Illustrated Magazine. There was information about how to choose and roast a turkey. (It was November) I turned the page and found this recipe for a pecan bar- Nice and simple, no extra sweet custardy or syrupy filling. Just a press in pan crust and glazed pecan topping.

I didn't make the recipe exactly as it was written, here is my version:

1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted- I used unsalted

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup agave nectar*
2 tbsp water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter melted and still warm -salted this time
1 tsp vanilla
3-4 cups pecans- toasted

*I used agave nectar because I have it on hand, if you don't have agave, use 1/2 cup corn syrup and omit water. Note to self: try maple syrup here because maple&pecan is a good combo.

Toasting the pecans is essential for the nuttiest pecan flavor. Here is how to toast nuts. This can be done ahead of time,

Preheat oven to 350, Line 9x13 pan with foil so that the foil can be used to lift the whole batch of bars out of the pan. I used two layers- one placed lengthwise and the other layer placed crosswise.

To make crust: whisk dry ingredients together in bowl. pour in melted butter, mix until all flour is incorporated. Press into pan.

To make the topping:combine brown sugar, agave, water and salt in bowl, pour hot butter over ingredients and stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in vanilla. Fold in pecans. Note: I had three cups of pecans-the recipe called for four. Fewer pecans makes for a more caramel-y topping.

Pour topping over crust. It will not spread evenly and remain clumpy. This is ok. It will even out during baking.

Bake for 23-25 minutes, until topping bubbles.I took mine out of the oven at about 21 minutes because the topping was bubbling, My topping remained rather goooy. Very good but goooy. Cool completely in the pan. Then use foil to lift bars out of pan. I cut mine into 32 pieces for small bites dessert bar servings, but the recipe recommends 24 servings

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Me-Made-May 2015 Pledge

I, Lydi of, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May 2015. I endeavour to wear at least one handmade/refashioned item a day for the duration of May. 

I also endeavour to sew one pair of pants that become a regular part of my spring/summer wardrobe, because it has been years since that happened.

It has been almost a year since my last post. Let's skip last that and get right back to posting. I've knit a lot, I plan to knit more. And I have some refashioning to finish, some men's shirts tucked and hemmed to my size and I need to lengthen the sleeves of a suit jacket for my brother.  Plus I'll be moving soon. Again. Sigh. I hate moving.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Me Made May: first ten days

I intended to do a FO Friday post yesterday, but my camera cell phone is giving me grief so I don't have photos of my two most recent finished objects.

That also means I don't have pictures of my me-mades for Me Made May.  Sigh.

May 1: Black pants, wool gaberdine, wide legged. (It was cool enough to be comfortable)
May 2: Whit and black print open front long sleeve top, fabric was knitted-I sewed it, came up with the pattern myself.
May 3: Black boyfriend-shaped cardigan, wool, knitted.
May 4: Same cardigan, hand knit orange socks
May 5: Short sleeve green floral print blouse, knit blue scarf-shawl
May 6: Black slacks, stretch cotton poplin.
May 7: Cropped cardigan, knitted.
May 8: Black toggle closure top
May 9: Sewn knit top, hand knit shawl
May 10: Another pair of handknit socks

Thoughts so far:
I have quite a bit of black- not complaining, just stuff I made when I worked somewhere with a dresscode of black.

I haven't had a chance to break out my warmer weather clothes. It's still kind of chilly in the upper mid-west.

My me-made items fall into the 'wardrobe staples' category.  So far it's all been items I wear in a regular basis. It makes sense, I keep my wardrobe small, so stuff stays basic to match everything else. Solid neutral colored pants, plain sewn tees, A small variety of casual long sleeve indoor-type jackets. Though I need more of these.

I'm planning a denim top-somewhere between a classic denim jacket and a blazer. I have a dark denim embroidered with bright spring colored flowers.

I've also been inspired to refashion many of my me mades. The black poplin pants could be  trimmed into a skinny-pant. Friday's sewn tee could be altered or taken in.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Recent Yarn acquisitions

Two weeks ago there was this fabulous event hosted by yarn stores, a shop hop. Seventeen local yarn shops got together and put on an event. There were custom dyed yarns and special patterns, beads to collect and food/money to donate. It's a blast.

Yarn Haul, Shop Hop 2014
From left to right: CoBaSi in cream (KnitN from the Heart), Taiyo Sock in blues (Darn Knit Anyway), Ultra Pima in cream (Amazing Threads), Wild Hare pinnacle sock in "More Sea than Otter", one of the special colors at Yarn Garage, and Sun Valley Fibers BFL DK in "Lake Skies", custom color at Twisted Loops.

And now that they are all together, I sense a theme of cream and blue.  The one from Yarn Garage is destined to be their featured pattern, a reworking of a Steven West design by one of the employees. Twisted Loops had a nice fingerless mitt pattern featuring the yarn, but on second thought, I might make Hands of Blue with this colorway, or something TARDIS inspired. Hmm, haven't quite decided yet. The Ultra Pima and CoBaSi are destined to complement/accent planned projects using yarn already in stash. The Noro Taiyo is probably going to become longitudinal. Not pictured is the Summer issue of Knitscene. I had to check it out, half the patterns came up in my Ravelry pattern highlights.

And then, today I made my way over to the market at Yarn Over (it wasn't far, really) and picked up this:
Only the one skein of yarn, but that's alright. It's from ModeKnit and the colorway is Lobelia. I think it's going to become a petite version of wingspan. The pattern came to my attention on Ravelry and when I saw it at a vendor booth, I figured, why not? The buttons are going on a cowl I'm almost done knitting - details and pictures at a later date. At the same booth I found a wooden belt buckle. I've been imagining a fun and semi-functional belt from fabric in the stash, and finding this was just the thing I needed to push my idea to reality.

I haven't done a whole lot of knitting the past week. I've been going over my wardrobe in preparation for MeMadeMay, and when I say 'going over' I mean mending and altering and occasionally eliminating. Though I really wish it would warm up a bit- highs in the mid to upper 60's instead of the 40's, please? Many of my me-mades are for warmer weather- I have some nice skirts and short sleeved blouses that I would love to pull out of the closet...

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

On clothing and style

So the wonderful blogger over at hosts Me Made May. She is currently taking pledges for May 2014. I participated last year, and plan to this year.

It's for people who have made stuffs- clothing, accessories, etc, but who might not wear their creations. It's designed to push people into using the items they have created, whether sewn, knitted, refashioned, etc.

I often fall into this category.

I have been making clothing for half of my life. More than pj bottoms for most of that time.

I rarely buy clothing at traditional retail shops. Many factors: cost, quality of material and construction (or lack thereof), personal style, dubious ethical and environmental practices, dislike for practice of 'fast fashion', abhorrence of consumerism.

Grew up in a working class home. Early childhood clothing was hand-me-downs from family, starting in junior high I got a couple of pair of jeans from Penny's or Sear's in the fall other clothing came from  thrift stores. It was economical and fun to spend a couple of hours flipping through racks at second hand stores looking at what I could cobble together. I didn't have a cohesive style, heck I still don't, and didn't follow the trends and fashions of teens ( I grew up before the use of 'tween').

In college, I found many friends that had the same ambivalence towards fashion. Clothing is utilitarian, and comfortable. Fashion comes after that. High fashion at college was t-shirts advertizing the groups you were a part of.

After college, I spent several years working at a large department store, and while I successfully avoided being stationed in the clothing departments, I learned about the practices of the retail fast-fashion industry.  Ish.

I no longer work at the department store (Thank God!) The last time I bought a new piece of clothing (undergarments excluded) was three years ago, it was a bridesmaid dress. My wardrobe is small, I wear all of it in a year's time (with the exception of the bridesmaid's dresses). 

I don't feel like I have a cohesive sense of style I'm inspired by early 1940's fashions-( tailored, simple silhouettes brought on by war time rationing, pants became acceptable for women to wear outside the house.) but because of my job and chronic pain, wardrobe choices are simple- knits for tops because I can't always work buttons. Denim for pants-it's durable.

And now to wrap this up, because it's turning whiny.... 

I guess I have thought of clothing primarily as utilitarian for so long, it's difficult to 'see' style in what I wear. I'm practical-I dress for the weather and for how my body functions (stiff hands and such). Maybe in the next month I can start looking at how I dress as more than just clothes, but as an experiment in self expression.

My pledge this year is to :
1. Wear at least one me-made item a day, five days a week for the duration of May
2. Take pictures of my outfits, if only for personal evaluation.
3. Create two from-scratch garments over the course of May.
4. Reflect on the garments I have purchased and made.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Checking in on New Year's Goals

Today is the first of April, which means that we are one quarter of the way done with the year.
On January first I made some goals about my crafting in 2014.

Goal one: Post twice a month.

Check! Sidebar on your right shows that I made three posts in January and two each for February and March.

Goal two: Sew something for entry in the MN state fair.

Um, I think I've determined that it will be a buttoned-downed blouse. I have the fabric, some pale pink striped seersucker and buttons to match. I even have the pattern picked out, though I have to alter this and redraft that, so really I'm going to be winging it. Though I have made the pattern before (hence the need for redrafting...) so I do know what needs to be different. Sigh, that should be my April sewing challenge.

Goal three: Crochet something for entry in the MN state fair.

Nothing to report on this one yet. I thought I had a project and craft materials, but have since re-thought and rescinded earlier decisions. Note to self: check crochet patterns on Ravelry, peruse crochet pattern libraries of family members.

Goal four: Knit 10 items off Ravelry queue.

For it to count as being 'off my queue' I had to have queued it before 2014. All are public links to my project pages on Ravelry.
First off: Snowflake, a SusannaIC pattern. Queued March 23, 2010.
Then Cats in the Hat, for sister. Squeaked into queue on December 24, 2013.
And Ringwood, my first pair of gloves, queued shortly after being published in Knitty: September 30, 2010.
Then another gift: Cabled Socks. This was my Ravellenic challenge. Queued December 15, 2013.
And most recently Gail, A lovely lace shawl, queued January 14, 2013.

I've also made a pair of socks for my mom that never entered the queue, it was a spur of the moment insomnia driven decision. These have yet to be photographed, but they do exist. Knitty pattern Fargyles, knit in some worsted weight acrylic that's been lingering in the stash.

Plus I cast on for the Heliopath Vest, though after perusing project pages, I think I will rip back and cast on the 38" size.

And just the other day I started a new pair of socks. I bloged about them in the last entry.

That means that five out of my eight projects started in 2014 came of my pre-2014 queue. Not bad for three months of knitting.

Goal five: Learn a new technique:

Well, I haven't gotten there yet. There was a brioche class at my LYS, but it filled up fast. I've been told they will offer it again, so I have that option. I could also take a craftsy class or read a book or watch a DVD, so I still have plenty of options.

In non-goal related craft news, the wonderful blogger at 'So Zo' is hosting Me Made May, again. I participated last year and am thinking about what I want my goal to be for this May. Hopefully it will inspire me and my wardrobe choices. Here's the link to the introduction and signup for this year's festivities. More on my wardrobe and handcrafted clothing later this month.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

On a sunny Saturday Afternoon

I have a finished object to show off:
Gail post-blocking

The pattern is Gail, available free on Ravelry.  It's been in my queue for quite a while and when the yarn (Sockittome from Cherry Tree Hill) didn't prove suitable for socks, the shawl became plan B.

Modifications: I was running short on yarn at the end, so I omitted the stuff between the points by working the points in short rows.  I had six completed motifs along edge of shawl and was halfway through seventh when I worked rows one and two of edge chart.
Then I bound off two edge stitches. Knit next stitch, yo, work motif in pattern through decrease, turn.
Wrong side row: yo, purl to last two stitches, p2tog-through back loop.
Right side row: Slip first stitch purlwise, yo, work in motif pattern though decrease, turn.

Repeat last two rows until motif comes to point. With one stitch on working needle bind off as follows: yarn over, purl, pass first two stitches over purl stitch. yarn over, purl...until there is one stitch on needle before next motif. yo and work second motif as before.

I thoroughly enjoyed knitting this shawl, and see more in my future.

Last night I baked my first successful yeast bread in two weeks. (sorry no pictures) Last weekends loaves didn't have enough salt, so they rose to fast, over proofed and collapsed upon slicing. Two weekends ago I added to much sugar and then proceeded to over bake, so they had a dark crust and were on the dry side.

In other baking news I made Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Banana Bread that the employees at my LYS loved. It's good, but I need to alter the brown sugar-sugar ratio and increase the leavening agents to compensate for hazelnut flour. But I see potential.

In knitting developments, I determined that I should rip back my Heliopath Vest and knit the smaller size. Sigh.

I started a new pair of socks. The pattern is Wendy Johnson's Toe-Up Socks With a Difference (Rav link), knit with Malabrigo sock. However I am adding a lace motif up the instep. It's the owls from Ginny's Cardigan (Rav link again) (from Unofficial Harry Potter Knits, as is aforementioned Heliopath Vest). The colorway is Chocolate Armago which comes out kind of stripey when knit up in socks. And it's not just me, I just looked at sock projects on Ravelry. I'm not frogging these, I was just startled when I saw the stripes, that's all.