Saturday, February 15, 2014

Knitting Class

One of my goals for 2014 was to take a knitting class so I can advance beyond the basic garter stitch and scarf making. Since winter is my favorite time to knit, I decided to sign up for a 4-week class that met for two hours on Thursday nights starting in mid-January. I'm amazed at how much I learned in a total of only 8 hours! 

Below are my two practice swatches. The first photo shows four different patterns. At the bottom is the basic garter stitch (knit every row). The next one up is the stockinette stitch (knit one row, purl one row). Next is a 2x2 rib (knit two stitches, purl two stitches), and finally, at the top, is seed stitch, which looks prettier in person.

The next swatch shows the beginnings of a cable knit, which uses a special cable needle inserted every so often and creates the raised portion of the cable. I still cannot wrap my mind around how this actually works, and for someone who likes to understand how things work, this is frustrating. As I'm knitting, I find myself asking, "Who came up with this in the first place?" Do you ever wonder about things like that?

In addition to these great patterns, I also learned eyelet, which is how you create a hole or space in your work. Lacy knit garments are made using eyelet. On the practical side, I learned how to follow a pattern, how to increase and decrease (necessary when making a garment) and how to "unknit," or backtrack to a mistake in order to fix it. I also learned how to use a crochet hook to correct a dropped stitch -- very important. Now I'm ready to start a new project that will allow me to practice all that I've learned!

Do you knit, or do you want to learn how to knit? If so, I highly recommend it. Knitting is fun, challenging and good for you. How is it good for you? Well, I'm told that knitting requires one to use both sides of the brain, so it's a great way to keep one's mind active and healthy. And the results are so rewarding. What could be better than to give a handmade scarf to a friend for her birthday or a knitted baby blanket to an expectant mother. If you're thinking of learning to knit, do it now -- don't wait! Check out my Knitting board on Pinterest for some inspiration.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Gold Medal Granola

Last night, as I was watching the winter Olympics, I decided I would call this post "Gold Medal Granola." Not because I've won any medals for it, but because in my book it gets the gold. 

Granola is one of my favorite things to make. It smells incredible while baking and the homemade variety is more delicious than anything you can buy commercially. 

This recipe features pecans and dried fruit. It's my husband's favorite snack. You can add chocolate chips if you like, but we prefer the cinnamon, pecans and fruit to stand out. Why not make a batch this week to snack on as you enjoy watching the Olympics!

Pecan and Dried Fruit Granola

1/3 cup vegetable oil (I use canola oil)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup honey (use the best quality honey you can buy, organic if possible)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
3 cups rolled oats
2 cups coarsely chopped pecans (or almonds, if you prefer)
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup mixed dried fruit

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F with racks in upper and lower thirds. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or coat with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine vegetable oil, light brown sugar, honey, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Add the oats and pecans and stir to combine. Divide mixture between sheets. Bake 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the coconut, dividing evenly between the two sheets, and bake until mixture is golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Let cool completely on sheets. Stir in the mixed dried fruit. Store in an airtight container up to 3 weeks.

Per 1/4 cup without chocolate chips: 158 cal; 9 g fat (2 g saturated); 2 g protein; 18 g carb; 2 g fiber.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Strawberry-Oat-Almond Smoothie

We make a lot of smoothies around here, and this strawberry-oat-almond smoothie is a new favorite of mine. It's thick and delicious and makes for a healthy start to the day. It's from Everyday Food; watch the video here and also see how to make a spinach-peach smoothie, which may be next on my list. 

To make this strawberry-oat-almond smoothie, simply combine:
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries (I use frozen from the bags and bags of berries we pick each spring)
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup fat-free or low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup raw almonds
  • 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
Blend until smooth. 

There will be some small bits of almond in the smoothie, making it more substantial than most smoothies. My husband also noticed that if you let it sit a while, it thickens up, probably due to the oats, so I recommend drinking it right away. If you want a thinner consistency, I suppose you could add some milk or almond milk. Enjoy!

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