Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's the Great Pumpkin!

Despite my mother's warning, I was determined to cook a whole pumpkin for...well, for something.  After a little recipe searching and asking some ravelry peeps for advice, I decided on a Caribbean Pumpkin Black Bean Soup.  Now I can't find the recipe I liked best so I am going to make up my own, and of course I'll share it with you all!  But before we get to that, let me tell you a little bit about how I turned a whole fresh pumpkin into about 2.5 cups of fresh puree. 

Thanks to Elana's Pantry, I was confident about conquering and chopping up my little (actually a little too big) sugar pumpkin.  After all, I just have to cut it in half, clean out the seeds and pulp, and roast each half in a pan filled with a quarter inch of water.  No biggie.  I've peeled awkwardly shaped raw butternut squashs with a giant knife and gingerly shaved the prickly skin off of countless slippery pineapples with the same giant knife.  Well, maybe my giant knife wasn't quite sharp enough, because cutting a pumpkin in half, even a small one, is hard!  I'd rank it up there somewhere with giving yourself a bikini wax (awkward and painful) and giving a screaming cat a flea bath (simply put, hell in a bathtub).  My knife actually got stuck in the top of the pumpkin like a scene from a horror movie!  Too bad I didn't get a picture of that...when I finally separated the pumpkin halves I let out an audible sigh of relief.

Cleaning out the pumpkin was no biggie.  Of course I saved my seeds for roasting.  Squeezing the slimey pulp through my fingers used to be (ok, still is) my favorite part of carving Jack-O-Lanterns.  I managed to refrain from doing that today, but  mostly because I didn't want to get any slime on my nice sweater.  Mental note:  get an apron.  After 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven, I had this:

Pumpkin seeds gently flavored with my favorite Pampered Chef Sweet and Smoky Barbeque Rub, and a beautiful roasted pumpkin! 

Close up of my delicious roast pumpkin flesh
And the soup my pumpkin became:

Caribbean Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

3 cups of pumpkin puree or roasted pumpkin (to be blended later)
2 cups vegetable broth
2 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes with green chiles
2 sweet onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 Tablespoons minced ginger
1 15 oz can of light coconut milk
1 15 oz can of black beans, drained and well rinsed
salt and black pepper to taste

1.  Heat oil in soup pot.  Add onions, carrots, and cumin.  Saute until slightly softened.  Add pumpkin, ginger, coconut milk, 1 can of tomatoes (if  you will not be using an immersion blender add both cans of tomatoes now), chili powder, and vegetable broth.  Heat through.  Use immersion blender to blend the soup until it is about 80% liquified.  Blending is optional, but recommended if you are using whole roasted pumpkin.  Add black beans and second can of tomatoes (if not already added).  Bring to a boil and season to taste. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Foster and Family Services Foundation Walk and Raffle

Thank you to all the donors!  Winners have been contacted via ravelry message.

I have always been inspired by families who foster and/or adopt children.  If you know me, you know that I love children, and I am fascinated by family and social dynamics.  Having grown up in a fairly normal and loving family, I wasn't exposed to negative or unstable families until I was fortunate enough to work with some of the amazing library-going kids at my last job.  The thought of children growing up without at least one parent around to supervise, love, or support them is almost incomprehensible to me, but I know it happens.  Some children and families need help, help that may come in the form of placing the kids with another caregiver who is better equipped to do the actual parenting.  So whether it is the Tuohy family of The Blind Side, a member of my knitting group, or my friend Jenn's mom and dad, foster and adoptive familes are my rockstars.  I know that one day, when I am ready to start a family, fostered and adopted children will be a part of it.  But for now, the best thing I can provide is monetary support.  That is one reason why I am thrilled to be doing the Walk for Children in Foster Care for the Foster and Family Services Foundation this Saturday.  To help raise money for this worthy cause, I am hosting a raffle here on my blog.  You can make donations on my fundraising page here.  Each $5 donation will give you one raffle entry.  For example, if you donate $20 you will have your name entered 4 times.  No donation is too small; every little bit helps!

Here are the prizes:

1.  An item handmade by me!  Any non-knitters entering will be entered in a drawing to win a hand-knit accessory set of your choice.  I'd suggest a hat, cowl, and fingerless mittens, but I'll knit any 3 accessories of your choice!  The winner and I can talk about colors and patterns so you get something completely custom.   If you don't want handknits we can talk about something else, like baked goods. 

2.  Two skeins of Madelinetosh Sport in new color Lumiere!  This 100% superwash merino wool yarn is soft and springy with amazing stitch definition.  It is currently only available on Madelinetosh's etsy site. 

2.  One skein of Three Irish Girls Westerly Sea Sock in the colorway Giselle.  This yarn is 70% superwash merino wool and 30% seacell, a fiber made from seaweed!  This is an exclusive club colorway.

3.  2 skeins of Spud and Chloe Fine in the colorway Sassafrass.  This yarn is 70% superwash merino wool and 30% silk.  It is both beautiful and durable.

4.  One skein of Have You Any Wool Simplicity Sock in colorway Famous for Nothing. This yarn is 100% superwash merino wool.

5.  One skein of Three Irish Girls Roslea Organic Merino in colorway Titania.  This 100% organic yarn is not superwash.  It is perfect for soakers or any item that will showcase its gorgeous colors.  I know two skeins are pictured here, but only one is up for grabs.  Sorry!

If you are able to donate, thank you so much, and good luck!  The walk is this Sunday, September 25.  I will accept donations and raffle entries until 8 a.m. eastern time on Sunday morning, and winners will be announced here on my blog on Monday September 26.  If you donate, comment on this post so I know to look for your entry.  Be sure to provide your email address or ravelry name so I have a way to contact you.

Monday, September 20, 2010

All Things Orange

An Autumn Bounty of Orange
Fall officially begins this week, and I have been feeling the pull of the changing season.  My usual color palate tends toward the cool tones of blues, greens, and teals.  Intentionally or not, almost everythng I knit, wear, and carry falls within those parameters.  However, lately I've been craving warm, rich tones of orange, and this little collection I've recently built up shows it.  [Clockwise, from far left] I have on display here Madelinetosh Merino Light in Terra, orange and white lilies from my dear friend Leah's bridal shower, a sugar pumpkin, Farmhouse Yarns Bonnie's Bamboo in Terracotta, Madelinetosh Lace in Warm Maize, and Lotus Yarns Chakra in Lena.  Those are all ravelry links.  Sorry, non-ravelers!

I've been noticing and admiring my once-detested color, orange, more and more lately but last week I suddenly decided that I needed a yellow-orange cardigan and I needed it now.  Instead of going out to the Lim$ited like most normal people, I endeavored to knit the sweater myself.  I picked out the perfect yarn (Tosh Lace in Warm Maize) and cast on pretty much immediately for the Featherweight Cardigan.  I plan on lengthening it at least 2 or 3 inches and employing short rows to make the collar shawl-collar-ish.  Yes, I do still have my second Malabrigo Sock version of Hestia on the needles, and done. Why I thought it would be a great idea to cast on another lightweight mostly stockinette sweater, I don't know.  But I do know that I'm a happy knitter and pretty soon I'll be a happy sweater wearer.

As for the rest of the orange goodies in my above photo, I have plans to make some delicious sweaters, accessories, and dishes.  The TML is destined to become a Hamamelis Shawl, and the Bonnie's Bamboo is set aside for Lonicera, both patterns by Through The Loops.  I love nearly everything Kirsten Kapur does, but I am especially excited for these two as I've been searching for the perfect yarn for Hamamelis for a while, and I had the good fortune to try on the sample for Lonicera while it was temporarily living at Angelfire Studios.  Good gravy, was that simple sweater sexy on me!  I was somewhat shocked that the same sweater that fits tall and skinny Sofie so well looked like it was made for the me (substantially shorter and curvier), but I guess that's the beauty of this design.  The drapey fronts lend it to many different style options, and the bamboo draped over my curves just perfectly.  I've worked with Bonnie's Bamboo before, so I know it is just a dream to knit with and I can barely wait to cast on.

The only other item pictured that I currently have a plan for is that adorable sugar pumpkin.  When I proudly told my mother that I had bought a pumpkin exclusively for cooking, not for carving, she was not impressed.  She asked me what I planned on doing with it.  When I told her I intend to cook it somehow she gave me a sideways look and said "I did that once when your father and I were first married.  I never did it again."  I'm sure plenty of women say that about one task or another, but I am unfazed.  I'm going to roast that baby and turn it into something delicious--probably Caribbean Pumpkin Black Bean Soup.  Look for a blog post about that later this week! 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Book Review: The Irresistible Henry House

Every now and then I encounter a book that makes me long for discussion.  The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald is one of those books.  I am always intrigued by social and cultural history and the science of attatchment and relationships, which are some of the themes of this novel. 

Henry House begins his life in 1946 as a "practice baby" in the "practice house," the central element in fictional Wilton College's home economics program.  A group of students, young women of course, actually take turns mothering him under the strict watch of home economics expert Martha Gaines, who subscribes to the pre-Spock philosophy that babies need to be trained, not cuddled and loved.  Nevertheless, Martha's empty life is inexplicably brightened by the charming Henry and soap-opera worthy circumstances help her convince the college president to allow her to adopt him instead of returning him to the orphanage at age 2 to be adopted by a young couple.

The constant doting of so many young women and the smothering love of Martha shape Henry into a boy and young man who knows his power over women and uses it to his advantage.  Due to the unusual circumstances of his adoption, Martha doesn't tell him the whole truth.  When Henry's biological mother shows up and spills the beans to the once-happy 9 year old, he quickly spirals into a place of isolation, mistrust, and self-unawareness.  Henry trusts neither the adults in his life nor the girls so desparate to be his partner in crime.  He grows into a "disturbed" teenager and eventually runs away from his boarding school to become an animator for Disney in California and later for the Beatles Yellow Submarine movie in London.  His playboy life comes full circle when he meets and falls in love with another grown "practice baby" during the turbulent 1960s.  This relationship, however, is not what it seems.  I know it seems that I may have given away a lot of spoilers in the past two paragraphs, but trust me, this novel is so rich with characters and detail, the bare bones I revealed here are nothing compared to what you'll find between the covers.

Verdict:  I think the author's assertion that lack of loving attachment in baby and childhood leads to a maladjusted adult incapable of forming loving attachments may be a bit too extreme and elementary, but I was still entralled by the way these tragic characters' lives played out.  Anyone who is interested in family and romantic relationships, the social history of the mid-20th century, or bildungsroman will enjoy this book.  The theme and tone also reminded me of John Irving at his best.  Henry is somewhat of an anti-Garp (of The World According to Garp).  Now that I think about it, I think these two novels would spurn a fascinating compare/contrast analysis!  Something to think about...