Friday, February 24, 2017

QUICK & TASTY RADISH & CARROT PICKLES


There are a few veggies that are almost always available at markets and remain fairly cheap all year long. A good deal, right? But, on the other hand, we – you and I - may not be used to buying them. For me, radishes were among those veggies. I always found them somewhat overpowering like raw garlic and onions. My own feeling was that radishes were good – finely sliced - in small doses buried in a green salad but, still, the quantity that I could consume was very little indeed. Most every time I bought a bunch of those rosy red roots, I found some left behind in my vegetable bin at the end of the week.

I, of course, knew what to do - serve the remainder to my husband who loves them and can eat them as a snack without anything – not even a dressing or dip. Now, with this recipe that I'm sharing with you, I know how to love those little red goodies and find no obstacle to consuming some of them most any day. I found that I truly like radishes when they pack a vinegary punch. Actually, the recipe is one my husband showed me how to make. I asked him to add the carrots, thinking - correctly, as it turned out - that the sweet of the carrot would combine nicely with the spicy tart of the radish.

So, here's our recipe for crisp, radish and carrot pickles. We made our first batch this past Sunday afternoon. We have pickled other things, before, and I don’t know why we took me so long to make these tasty pickles. They're so easy to make and go great with all kinds of foods, from tacos to salads, to sandwiches and crackers.

We sliced the veggies very thin because that way they soak up the flavors of vinegar and spices in just a few hours. A sharp chef’s knife was the key to getting the thin slices.
A sharp chef-style knife will make the work a lot easier.


The best thing about these quick pickles is that they’re ready munch on right away. We ate some about 4 hours after they were made – still a bit crunchy but good.

Here is the recipe for these tasty pickled radishes and carrots . The recipe as given below yields about 2 to 3 cups of pickles.

Ingredients
1 bunch radishes (should make 1.5 cups when thinly sliced)
2 medium carrots, also thinly sliced (about a cup's worth)
¾ cup balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar
juice of a medium lime (something my husband always adds for extra zip)
2 tablespoons of minced garlic
2 tablespoons of kosher salt
1 cup of balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon of black pepper or a bit of crushed red pepper flakes

Instructions
To prepare the veggies: Wash and slice off the tops and bottoms of the radishes and carrots, then use a sharp knife to slice the veggies into very thin rounds. Peel and mince the garlic. Pack the rounds and garlic into a quart-sized canning jar.  

Sprinkle the kosher salt on top and shake the jar to thoroughly salt the veggies. Leave without a top (or cover with a clean kitchen cloth secured to the jar with a rubber band) and let them sweat for, at least, 30 minutes. This step ensure crunchier veggies.

Add the vinegar, lemon juice and pepper. If you use some other kind of vinegar - other than balsamic - you may want to dissolve a couple of teaspoons of sugar with it. Make sure that there is some space between the veggies and the rim of the jar. This allows a space for the good gases produced by fermentation. Shake, again, to make sure you've coated all the veggies. Put a secure top on the jar and refrigerate. They're good to go from the first day.
These pickles keep very well for a week or ten days, and usually will be gone long before that. 

Best of all, you can pickle almost any thinly sliced vegetables in this manner. Try carrots, beets, cucumbers, red onions, cabbage or cauliflower. The thinner you slice the vegetables, the better they absorb the vinegar solution and taste like pickles.

Vinegar is good for us, too. It helps control high blood pressure, improve digestive system, reduce urinary tract infections and strengthen bone. With this pickle recipe, you will have a delicious way to have a little vinegar everyday. So go ahead with confidence and make pickles of all kinds, knowing it's almost impossible to get it wrong, and, for most people, they're a spicy delight. And get ready to for a lifetime (healthy) addiction to homemade pickles.






Monday, October 24, 2016

LOOMED KNIT BABY STROLLER BLANKET.



Yay! – I’ve just finished this baby stroller blanket. 

There is something exciting about creating a gift to celebrate a baby’s birth. Of course, in this case it is even more special. The baby is being welcomed as a new addition to our own family – for me: grandchild number four, grandson number two. So, it was a joy to knit a gift for him. He was born last weekend - healthy but a couple of weeks early - and that's my excuse for not having sent it off yet. The mailing will be done ASAP.


In my mind, every baby needs a special baby blanket, something that's all their own. I not only believe this now but always have. So, along with my sons and grand kids, that makes six knitted baby blankets that I've made over my lifetime.  Oh! I also have made  blankets as gifts for other babies, but most of those tend to be made of soft material with a crocheted edge. Nice, but not so much work went into them.


Did I follow a specific pattern so I would know how big the blanket will turn out?  Turns out that I didn’t. I winged it. The result was a cover about 40 inches long and 28 inches wide - big enough to classify as a stroller blanket from what I've seen on the Internet.



The style, I hope, is trendy and chic – a colorful striped pattern that can grow with baby instead of seeming “babyish.”



The yarn is an acrylic – the better for frequent washing - of medium weight, doubled. It’s made of white yarn – along with four bright colors (red, green, blue and yellow).  I pulled out the long green loom that I’ve been using for the past five years.

You can might guess from the photo, the cover was knitted as a flat panel.  I e-wrapped the pegs all the way down, around and across the back side of the loom, including all the pegs except one at the end. 

The pattern was unusual.  It was knitted in a single piece,  consisting of a series of colored stripes -  that were all to be three rows wide. The white spaces between each of the stripes were to be 6, along with 8 white rows on each end. The reality was that I lost count – several times - and the stripes turned out to be a bit irregular. But I did manage to keep the order of the colors that I planned and the slight irregularity makes it look nicer - a bit like homespun – or at least I think so.
Easy to make loomed knit baby blanket.


The upside to this kind of knitting? It's really easy. You are basically e-wrapping and knitting over the whole thing. Total time was about 20 hours – done leisurely over four weeks.



Was there any down side on the loom knitting? Not so much. Other than a slight shrinkage that had to do with yarn wrap tension and the cast-on edge rolled a little. Again, I wasn't concerned as I knew beforehand about these limitations and planned to add a border all around to finish it off. It was really no problem to do the half-double crochet edge that gave a more finished look.  Another down side of loom knitting came from an obvious right side and a  less finished looking backside. But, now that it’s completed, the backside seems O.K.


Reminiscing now: my sons (now fathers, themselves) really loved their handmade knitted blankets.  In the toddler years, they carried around their "blankies" as a comfort when taking a nap or settling down to bed at night. Unfortunately, those blankets are long gone. So many years have passed. 

Each of the three older grand kids also had their own soft, handmade baby blanket.  But the grand kids are all still young and I suppose that their newborn blankets are being kept somewhere - or better yet, have been passed on to other family additions.


For now, I hope that my daughter-in-law will remember this blanket and tuck it around the baby in the stroller on cool/cold mornings.  When he doesn’t need it for outside use, it can be folded in half and placed on the foot of his bed. Of course, I realize that he will have many lovely blankets, but I bet only a very few of them (or, possibly, none of the others) were made specially for him.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

repost (original in April, 2012): TAKE GRANDMA'S 100 THING CHALLENGE

Despite the materialistic hype that's pounding at us every day, having overflowing basements, closets, garages, and drawers doesn’t make us better or more attractive people. And, it won't make us miraculously happy either - quite possibly the opposite. I think a lot of us feel that in our bones, but where do we start? A book and blog have been written about this dilemma. It’s about the 100 Thing Challenge, and it tells us how one person pared down his worldly possessions to an amazing, minimalist 100 things. He says that he’s been convinced by his experience. Here's what he recommends to reach such a goal: "Reduce (get rid of some of your stuff); Refuse (to get more new stuff); and  Rejigger (your priorities)."

I bet you'll feel joyful and spiritually uplifted, too, if you take on your own minimalist challenge. This is, of course, a tough choice to make. Many, if not most, US households have so many extra things. So, paring back to 100 – even a 1000 - things may seem like a monumental task. It’s clearly a decision that shouldn't be taken lightly – especially when there are other family members who may not want to sign on to such an ordeal.

Grandma's 100 Thing Challenge
It’s a smaller challenge, by far, than living with only 100 things but I believe it’s something we all can do and feel good about. It makes minimalism a work in progress. So, start out slow and do a little at a time. That way, it won't be so much of a burden. You’ll know that you can halt the process if suddenly you see (or feel) the need. My challenge to you is to give up one thing - duplicated in function or unused in several months - in your home every day for 100 days. Then, if you like the results you can continue giving up some more things for another 100 days, and so on. Maybe, then, you'll find just the right number of things for you - 100, 200, 300, etc.

Whatever the number of things you can get rid of, you'll be living without that much household disorganization and have more time to do meaningful things for yourself and others. Like many others, the very clutter and dust-accumulation around may be so depressing that you go out to shop for new things or plan more vacation trips - just to get out of the house.

I believe that people find grace through balance, and we can only achieve this when we take control of our own lives (not having our belongings own us) and pursue what's really important. Possessions, beyond a bare minimum, just get in the way. Having a suburban McMansion, despite the TV and movie hype, isn't “living the good life”. When we endlessly acquire more things, including duplicating stuff in our homes, we never settle in and enjoy what we've got.

Over and over, we’ve mistakenly told ourselves that life wouldn’t be complete without this "special" thing we are buying. But just as soon as this thing is brought home and tucked away, we start out the next day to the mall or the big box store to look for the next "special" thing - in what ends up being a never ending process. We mindlessly seek that momentary reward of finding that next thing - whatever it is and whether we need it or not. With this kind of consumerism, we are the dog chasing our own tail. You can just stop that cycle.

This is what the 100 Thing Challenge is about. If you try for a certain period - say, two or three months - to not buy anything beyond your basic needs, while recycling and repurposing all you can, you'll have a great sense of liberation. You will find that very few things make the new purchase cut - a useful tool, a book, a good wine, a small gift for someone who needs cheering. And, hey, you don't have to ditch family photos and heirlooms. The very best can be incorporated, into your new, organized lifestyle or given to a loved one who promises to cherish them.

Grandma's take on this challenge
If you remember, I already recommended the wardrobe editing challenge. For me, personally, wardrobe editing meant paring back to a total of 50 items. I continue to practice the wardrobe discipline - just buying a new item - usually the thrift store variety - when I really don't like something I have or have worn it out.

I give back the no-longer wanted items to charity or tear them apart, to use as fabric strips (or yarn, in the case of sweaters) to make needlework and other craft projects. I must say that I've seldom regretted giving something away or had a hard time replacing an item that later I found I needed. My personal goal is to have only enough needed for daily life and make absolutely no frivolous purchases. That means taking home nothing that hasn't been considered for at least a week. I’ll cheerfully give up just about anything with only a few exceptions. My rule is: If I haven't used it in three months, I can probably live perfectly well without it.

So, here’s where I’ve started with my own paring down process. Everything is fair game right now, except:
- Stuff that’s my husband’s
- Some few books
- Good quality and super useful tools for crafts and for fixing things.
- Collections count as one item. If everything goes in one small case, I count it as one item. But I can and will edit objects from any collection that I have.

I’ll know I’m well on my way to winning this challenge when all my personal things, including clothing, fit comfortably into a tiny room room or one small commercial storage locker.

Steps to begin your 100 Things Challenge
Put one item in the Challenge Box every day for 100 days.
Things that are "just trash" need to go out and not be included in this box.
Start out with duplicated items. Then move on to things that haven’t been used in 3 or more months
Make a list of what goes in the Challenge Box and add boxes as needed.
Take a picture of each box as it fills up, if you want a visual record.

After 100 days, you'll have accomplished these things
- Big “give-away” pile for charity
- Plans and organization to have a garage sale. To make sure that most stuff goes, try labeling a majority of items with "Make me an offer." (You might try selling the really valuable things on Ebay.)
- Happier for having a lot less to store and/or dust.
- A bit more money in your pocket or savings account because you are thoroughly aware of what it means to buy and hold on to so many useless things.

Where to from there
So, I hope you start out your minimalism challenge by choosing to get rid of 100 things. You'll find it's true that the less you have, the less you have to worry about. You’ll amaze yourself at how free you feel - no longer burdened by the need to organize, store and maintain all that stuff. Just keep on paring down and you’ll feel even better. And that relief can be extended to other areas - if you're both convinced and brave. (You might try a week-long camping trip to see if 100 (or even less) items are enough to live with on the short term.) Besides your belongings, you could then move on to other minimalist challenges that can cover other areas that tend to complicate our existence and contribute to the carbon burden of the Earth, such as:
- New digital gadgetry
- Media consumption
- Costly dietary items
- Non-essential energy and water use
- Long-distance and long-commute travel