Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Easy Chicken Shredding

Do you have a lot of recipes that involve shredded chicken? I sometimes avoid dishes that call for it because it seems like a lot of work to cook and then hand-shred chicken or use two forks to shred.

Enter a new method that I discovered in my internet travels to shred chicken: I use the dough hook of my KitchenAid mixer! No mess, easy cleanup and fast!

I boil the chicken breasts first for about 10 minutes. Then put them whole into the mixing bowl with dough hook attachment. About 10 minutes on a low speed. Here is the chicken before:

And after:

In this case, my recipe called for some taco seasoning, so after the chicken was shredded, I tossed this in and let the mixer go for a few more minutes, and my seasoning was nicely dispersed:

I am so glad I found this method, as I no longer avoid shredded chicken recipes!


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Variegation on a Shawl

This week, I started a project that satisfies my need to have an easy project on my needles that allows me to read or watch TV while knitting (I think the break in the middle of the last season of Mad Men will nearly kill me). As an added bonus, the large amounts of stockinette stitch in this shawl happens to show off hand painted or variegated yarns beautifully.

I love to buy beautiful yarns that have lots of interesting color variation, but struggle to find patterns that show off the beauty of the yarn, and don't have so much patterning in them that either the color or the pattern get lost.

This is the Age of Brass and Steam Kerchief, and it is a free pattern on Ravelry. The yarn is Schaefer Yarn Company's Anne, which has been discontinued, in a color way called Mr. Green jeans.


I can see already that this pattern will be a quick knit, and the pattern can easily be modified to do more or less repeats to make a bigger or smaller shawl to utilize maximize yardage. It's amazing how addicting plain old stockinette can be.


Friday, May 16, 2014

Stash Surprise

Do you ever come across something in your stash that you didn't even know you had? This week I was going through my stash for a certain fingering weight yarn, and came across this lovely Madelinetosh merino light. It wasn't listed on my Ravelry Stash, and quite honestly, I don't even remember buying it.

I usually remember where I have bought almost all my yarn. It has memory to me of the places I have travelled and the yarn stores that I have explored in different cities.

I am not sure what I will use this for yet, but I certainly was excited to find this mystery yarn hidden in my stash.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Freezer Meals

I love to cook. But a little over a year ago I had twins, and cooking with them around is, well, to put it mildly, almost impossible. So I have had to adapt, lest the whole family go hungry. Now I try to prep big meals all at once, usually after the kids are asleep. And any time I make a big meal, I make a second one to put in the freezer for later.

I have described my method to some other twin mommies, who were intrigued, so I thought others might be interested in how to go about this. Once you get started, the possibilities are pretty much endless.

You really need extra freezer space to make this work. Before our kids were born we invested in a stand alone freezer that used to reside in our garage. We moved it with us to Maryland, and it now is in the unfinished portion of my basement. A freezer is well worth the extra money if you have the space. I prefer a stand up version for organization purposes but a chest freezer is even more economical if you are looking to get one on the cheap.

I keep all-purpose disposable baking pans on hand at all times. They stack nicely in the freezer and allow me to make freezer meals without putting a casserole dish out of commission until we eat the frozen meal later on. Usually, I stock up when they are on sale for buy 2 get one free.


Some freezer meals that are in my regular rotation:

Lasagna (Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book- I use turkey instead of ground beef)

Creamy seafood lasagna (Betty Crocker Cookbook)

Peach bourbon baked pork chops (hubby approved favorite)

Turkey baked ziti

Oven baked fajitas

Mexican lasagna (personal recipe- basically using burrito wraps as the "pasta" layer with shredded chicken, taco seasoning, black beans, sour cream, salsa, Mexican cheese, corn; all baked in the oven just like lasagna)

Turkey tetrazzini

Confetti Mac and Cheese

Chicken Parmesan Casserole

Chicken Nuggets (I use coconut milk instead of egg for M)

Eggless BBQ meatballs

Meatloaf (Betty Crocker Cookbook - have to come up with an eggless version for M)

Bacon Ranch Pasta Bake (new recipe I tried for the purposes of this post)

This is not as gourmet as I used to cook, but the recipes are crowd pleasers and easy to make in large amounts.

I write the instructions for baking right on top of the tin foil so I don't have to pull the recipe out when it comes time to cook the meal.

Usually I freeze things right before the point you would have put the dish in the oven, but do all the cooking and prep that the recipe has you do up until that point. Bread crumbs I usually hold off on putting on top until I pull the dish out of the freezer and am ready to bake. The chicken nuggets and meatballs I fully cook and then freeze in ziplock bags to pull out a few at a time to heat up for a quick easy meal for the kids.

One of these Bacon Ranch Pasta Bakes is ready to be frozen, the other one I will cook for this week.

Here are my nicely stacked meals in my freezer.


I have to admit, I got a lot of my ideas for how to go about doing this from Saturday cook-ins at my church, MPC, in Pennsylvania where we made a lot of meals at once for our Deacons to give out when people were sick, or just had a baby and needed a meal. We would pull one of these meals out of the church freezer and deliver it when it was needed. What a great way to have a meal on hand if you have a friend in need!

I have yet to try pre-preparing crock pot recipes for the freezer, but many other people do this. I have done a rice casseroles successfully, and also a quinoa casserole, but both were a bit bland. I am still on the hunt for a great rice based casserole.

Here is the cooked Bacon Ranch Pasta Bake. I have to say, this recipe is delicious. I think it's the bacon. Let's be honest; it's always the bacon.

What kind of meals do you prep for your freezer?


Monday, May 12, 2014

A little February in May

I posted about this finished project a long time ago, but had to show you some pictures of M actually wearing it. The Elizabeth Zimmerman February Baby Sweater:




Thursday, May 08, 2014

To Knit or Not to Knit

The last year has been busy. I had twins. And life with twins is crazy. And if you think trying knit with one baby is hard, try having both hands full at all times. I took a one year hiatus from knitting. The twins are now 15 months old and a little ray of sunshine has emerged. I am running more. I lost all my baby weight. And I am knitting. Mostly after bedtime, but I am back. Little pieces of the things I enjoy are back in my life and it's wonderful.

These are the socks that I picked up to get me back in the swing of things.

Herringbone Rib Socks in St. Elias from Pagewood Farms

It's amazing how quickly obsession returns once you pick it back up again. I am loving the subtle color changes of the Pagewood Farms yarn.


Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Wooly Weekend

This weekend I went to Maryland Sheep And Wool. I have wanted to attend for years now, but now that we have moved to Maryland I just have no excuse not to attend! So on Saturday morning, G and I got in the car and headed over. I left M with the hubby, and I have to say I was glad I didn't have the double stroller because some of the barns were pretty crowded. I didn't take many pictures, but here is one of me wearing G and enjoying the nice day. He wasn't so into the yarn, but did like the sheep, so we alternated yarn barns with sheep barns to keep everyone happy.


I was surprised that I actually kept myself in check and didn't buy crazy amounts of yarn. I have so much unused yarn as it is, that it really had to be special for me to pick it up. G tried to convince me that I should pick up spinning. He grabbed some beautiful roving off the shelves. But I told him I just don't have time for any more hobbies right now. Someday, I hope to pick up spinning, but right now is just not the time in my life.


But I did pick up 6 skeins of this lovely yarn (Shepherd's Wool in color Denim) that will likely become a sweater in the future.

And a sock yarn that was too yummy to pass up (Studio Sock by Neighborhood Fiber company)



Overall, it was a great festival, and I will definitely attend again. I might leave the house a little earlier though. At 8:40 am the line from the highway to the Fairgrounds of cars was pretty incredible. But knitters are such nice people that everyone just waited their turn.


And G loved the sheep so much he brought 1 home with him.



When we got home, a pleasant surprise. The yarn I won from Brenda Dayne arrived in the mail. A really pretty Regia Extra Twist Merino to make her Tintern Abbey Socks! So all in all I had a fiber kind of weekend!




Monday, December 31, 2012

Double Trouble

These have actually been done for awhile but waiting on buttons. The original ones I ordered were too small and I had to order new ones.

I picked this pattern out before I knew the twins' genders so the colors are very gender neutral. 

The project traveled with me to Ireland and all over before I stopped traveling. 

Pattern : Small Things Sweater by Carina Spencer
Needles: Size 8 for body and Size 6 for cuffs
Made for: Baby Girl and Baby Boy H
Size: Newborn
Started: July 1, 2012 and September 1, 2012
Completed: December 30, 2012

I chose to do the Grow With Me cuffs that can be folded over to adjust as they grow.

Overall, I was very happy with this pattern, and I like how the heathered yarn fits the project. It won't be long now before they will be here and wearing some of these knitted items!

You can also glimpse the beautiful cradle my cousin made me in some of these pictures!  We have many talented crafty people in the family.
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Monday, December 24, 2012

In the Zone and Even Seasoned Knitters Make Mistakes

I am officially in baby knitting zone. Here is a new project I started. The pattern is Pembroke and it is a vest I am knitting in Knit Picks Comfy. I love the deep blue color and Comfy is so soft!

I think little boys in vests have an irresistible preppy adorable look and therefore it is only fitting that I should make a vest for my son.

I cast on this project after I realized I couldn't begin a Fruit Cap I was planning to match one I already knit for baby girl. I ordered the color yarn I wanted from Webs, but when it arrived I realized instead of Tahki Cotton Classic, I ordered Tahki Cotton Classic Lite which is actually a sport weight and not the DK weight of the contrasting yarn I already had in my stash. Doh! Rookie mistake, but new yarn is now ordered and while I await its arrival I needed a new project, and cast on the vest.

Here is the infamous yarn.  It will go in my stash for another project down the road.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Swaddle Cocoon

A friend of mine pointed me in the direction of this pattern, and it just may become my go-to gift for new babies.  It is quick, easy and beautiful.  And once I have two infants at home, quick and easy is a must if I am to get any gift knitting done at all!

Pattern: Laurel Love Cocoon by Melissa Riley
Needles: Size 13 Circular 40" Needles (I used the Magic Loop Method)
Yarn: Plymouth Yarn Baby Alpaca Grande
Made for: The Twins (Baby Boy and Baby Girl H)

First Cocoon Started: December 14, 2012
Completed: December 16, 2012

Second Cocoon Started: December 16, 2012
Completed: December 18, 2012

I learned the Magic Loop Method for this project, and while I found the method easy enough, I think I prefer the Two Circular Method of knitting for in the round to Magic Loop.  I did have a little bit of difficulty with laddering/loose stitches at the sides, but I found if I paid close attention I could eliminate this as I was switching sides. I do prefer Magic Loop to the more fiddly double points for small circular projects.

If you are interested in learning Magic Loop, here are two tutorials I found helpful:

1. Knitting Daily
2. Commuter Knitter

I will have to take pictures of the cocoons with babies in them.  I think the effect it lost without proper models to show them off.