A Couple of Finished Knits

I finished up a couple of knits, just in time to cast on my project for the Ravellenics, which is plodding along:

Pattern: Copycat C.C. Beanie (pattern available for free on Ravelry)

Yarn: Berroco Vintage in Paprika colorway

Needles: US 8

Notes/Mods: Knitted as written, and it was my first time doing a provisional cast on. Pattern is super-easy. Many people add a faux fur pompom on top, but I decided to pass on that.

Pattern: The PussyHat Project (Also free on Ravelry)

Yarn: Brown Sheep Natures Spun Worsted in Cherry Delight Colorway

Needles: US 7 and 8

Notes and Mods: I had no desire to seam a hat, so I stalked other projects on Ravelry and adapted the pattern to knit in the round with a three-needle bind off. I made the brim too long, but doubled over, it fits Bean perfectly. If I make another for myself, I’ll shorten the brim a little to ensure the hat fits as intended.

Advertisements

Chicken Fajita Chowder in the Instant Pot

It’s been a bad couple of weeks around here, so comfort food that is nearly effortless is definitely dominating the menu. I adapted my Chicken Fajita Chowder for the Instant Pot. It’s warm, slightly spicy, and the perfect one-pot meal. It starts by sautéing seasoned chicken, onions and garlic:

Then you just dump the remaining ingredients in the IP:

Just 10 minutes of high pressure later, and dinner is served:

 

      • Chicken Fajita Chowder

        • Print

          Ingredients

        • 3 T. all-purpose flour
        • 1 envelope fajita seasoning, divided
        • 3 or 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
        • 4 T. olive oil
        • 1 medium onion, chopped
        • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
        • 15-1/4 oz. can Fiesta Corn
        • 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
        • 4-1/2 oz. can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes, undrained
        • 4-1/2 oz. can chopped green chiles
        • 3 c. chicken broth
        • 1 c. instant brown rice, uncooked
        • 10-3/4 oz. nacho cheese soup
        • Garnish: sour cream, shredded cheese, crushed tortilla chips, green onion
          Procedure

        • Combine flour and  2 tablespoons of the fajita seasoning in a large zip-loc bag. Add cubed chicken and give the bag a good shake to coat the chicken.
        • Set Instant Pot to Sauté setting. Add olive oil, and when hot, add the chicken to the pot. Sauté, stirring occasionally until chicken is lightly browned (Some of the flour coating will probably stick to the bottom of the IP. This is normal, and will be fixed in a minute).
        • Add onions and sauté until soft, about 2 minutes, then add the garlic and cook an additional minute. Add the chicken broth to the pot and use a spoon or spatula to help deglaze the bottom of the pot (i.e scrape the bottom of the pot with your spoon to release those browned bits).
        • Add the remaining fajita seasoning, corn, black beans, stewed tomatoes, green chiles, and rice to the pot.
        • Put the lid on the IP and switch it to manual. Set timer for 10 minutes at high pressure. When the time is complete, do a quick pressure release. Stir in nacho cheese soup. Serve with desired garnishes.

Finished Knit: “What The Fade?!?” Shawl

I finally finished this monstrosity, and it taught me I am definitely not cut out for mystery knit-a-longs. I love all of this designer’s Fade pieces, so I took a chance on the MKAL, despite being a pretty picky knitter. I can’t decide if this is clown barf or the perfect Mardi Gras accessory.

Pattern: What The Fade?!? (available for purchase on Ravelry)

Yarn: Simple Sock from The Lemonade Shop in the Wade, Goldfish, Sunday Funday, Doughnut, Jeepers Peepers, and Mommy Juice Colorways.

Needles: US 3

Notes: My shawl ended up fairly larger than most, so I may have blocked it too aggressively. I was just trying to even out the tension between the brioche and garter sections. As much as I swore off brioche knitting in the past, this project gave me a lot of practice so I am more confident about my understanding of the technique. As for the yarn, I’m on the fence about this one. I love the quality of the hand-dying, but this yarn is fuzzing and pilling like crazy just from the handling during knitting.

Yep, I Went Back Down the Rabbit Hole–My Air Fryer Review and What You Need to Know Before You Buy

Oh y’all…..The Instant Pot suckered me in, and as such, I somehow convinced myself that if the IP was that cool, surely the air fryers everyone was talking about would be a good investment. After Christmas, I finally caved and bought one, and after playing with it for a week, I’m ready to tell ya what I think of these doo-dads. To clarify, I wanted a way to still give my family agreeable foods that also err on the healthier side. I am trying to get back on my wellness goals, and I figured that, if this thing worked, it would be worth the investment.

The above picture shows the air fryer I bought, but with so many brands and sizes, I encourage you to do your research, because these things can range from $70 to $300 bucks.

Here’s a basic rundown on my pros and cons:

Cons

  • Appliance size. These are fairly large, but I have room in a cabinet to store it. If you are limited on space and don’t want this thing sitting on your counter, consider storage options before you buy. The only appliances I let sit out are my husband’s coffee maker, Cuisinart food processer, and my professional KitchenAid mixer. The space footprint on this model is about that of an average stockpot/Dutch oven to give you a reference.
  • Small cooking volume. With a family of five, three of which are hungry men, the cooking capacity of mine is on the small size (I think 4.2 quarts is what this is). When I do use it, I have to cook in batches if I’m cooking for all of us. You can’t crowd it too much or you won’t get the desired result. However, for smaller families or couples, this would work. I don’t mind doing batch cooking on some things, but if I could go back, I would invest in the largest capacity I could find. So, understand the size of your prospective model, and go big if you can.
  • It has limitations, and if you are one of those people who thinks the IP should be able to cook alllllll the things at once like a magician, you might need to adjust your expectations. This is not a substitute for deep-fryer perfection results (especially for super-wet stuff), but with some exceptions, you can get good results for many things. You have to use some cooking commonsense when it comes to managing your expectations.

Pros

  • It works! (assuming you managed those expectations) When used correctly, I’ve been able to achieve results 100 times better than “oven” frying. While I would not make my Mom’s fried chicken in this thing, I am able to achieve crispy foods with great texture depending on the recipe.
  • I’m able to use just a few pumps of olive oil spray, so definitely calorie savings all around, which is exactly what I hoped.
  • It’s fast to preheat and cook. I think there is a learning curve to these if you aren’t on confident cook. That’s ok, though. You can check the food as you cook, without much disruption to the process.
  • Superior performance, taste, and texture when it comes to frozen fries and snacks when compared to oven baking. Additionally, my own experiments produced good results.

So, the first time I used it, I made the Pickle-Brined Chicken Tenders from the Skinny Taste website. I didn’t get a picture, but I prepared the recipe as directed and sprayed them with a few pumps of Pam olive oil spray. They were delicious, crispy, and perfectly acceptable to both me and the kids. That will definitely make it into the rotation. Next, I tossed in half a bag of Alexa sweet potato fries:

I sprayed them with a few pumps of the olive oil spray, cooked them at 390 for 8 minutes, gave the basket a good shake, and cooked for about 5-6 more minutes. The result was perfect for my taste, and I ate the whole plate (then promptly ran out and bought more).

Next, I didn’t get a pic, but I cooked a bag of frozen Crab Rangoon, which also turned out well as far as texture and time, which has me already scheming for Super Bowl possibilities. Additionally, I have teenage boys and the prospect of making mozzarella sticks or other snacks fast and with good results makes me happy.

Finally, I decided to test Brussels Sprouts. I just halved them, added few sprays of olive oil, salt, then 8 minutes on 360. I gave the basket a good shake to toss, then cooked 3 more minutes:

So, final thoughts. This thing definitely was worth the investment, but I also knew what I was getting into based on my research. I am already thinking about Asian hot wings, roasted sweet potatoes, and many more experiments on the horizon. I also think this will give me options to prepare for myself faster and lighter portions of traditional dinners that are for the hubs and the Heathens. Overall, though the size of my model is the biggest con, I am happy I bought an air fryer.

**Remember, my opinions and reviews are all my own. No one solicited me or gave me free stuff, because I’m just not that cool, y’all. There are no affiliate links on my blog, and if you see an ad, that comes from WordPress, not me, because my blog is from their free-hosting plan.**

Finished Knit–21 Color Slouch Hat

So, after seeing the kit for this hat pop up on my Facebook feed like a bagillion times, I finally caved and bought the kit from WEBS. It was my selfish, post-Christmas knit, and while I had some issues with the kit, it turned out fine. Because the skeins are so small, I decided to hand-wind them rather than break out the swift and winder. So, I just started at the beginning and as I progressed, I made the Heathens take turns being a human swift while I wound the colors as I came to them. They learned quick to hide when I hollered one of their names. Lazy on my part? Maybe, but we’ll just call it a character-building exercise for them, shall we? Additionally, my attempts at jogless stripes were an epic fail, but what’evs.

Pattern: 21 Color Slouch Hat (pattern available for purchase individually on Ravelry, but you really want to order the yarn/pattern kit on this deal. Retailers other than WEBS offer it, so you can find it online with a quick search).

Yarn: Blue Sky Fibers Wookstok (I’ll spare you the list of the 21 colorways…ain’t nobody got time for that)

Needles: US 6 and US 7

Notes and Mods: Ran out of Spring Ice so I doubled Spun Gold row. Ran out of Rusted Roof so did three rows Driftwood instead. Not enough Earth Ivy left for the last row of that colorway, so subbed Cranberry Compote.

This kit is a little frustrating because there really isn’t enough yarn for some colors. I was diligent about not doing too-long yarn tails and my gauge is good. Even if these two factors were not perfect, I was short two full rows of Rusted Roof, and an inch or two of a too-long yarn tail still does not cause such a shortage. Substitutions with remaining colorways, however, are easy enough if you don’t mind that fact.
However, I am pleased with the finished hat because I have a very large head and this sits slouchy-perfect on me. I was worried that other projects I snooped seemed more fitted, so I was sure it would not fit me as intended. But it did! (ok, so maybe my gauge ended up a tiny bit looser than anticipated, but yarn shortage is still a thing here so you may need to improvise like I did).
Finally, I confess that, since this is for me, I could not fathom weaving in all those ends. It was a knot-tying extravaganza! No shame!

Overall, this is a comfortable, very wearable hat that fits my large melon well. Now, if I could just convince myself to slog through the never-ending shawl that’s left on my needles, I can focus on the Ravellenics next month and start knitting down my stash before I lose my closet to the yarn.

Black-Eyed Peas in the Instant Pot

I made black-eyed peas in the Instant Pot for the traditional New Year celebration. It super easy, and much faster than the usual stovetop method. I did soak the peas in water several hours before cooking them because this little boogers absorb a lot of liquid. The end results were delicious perfection, and plenty to feed a crowd.


Black-Eyed Peas in the Instant Pot

  • Print

Ingredients

  • 4 TBS butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 pounds dried black-eyed peas, soaked for several hours
  • 7 cups chicken broth
  • 1 ham hock
  • salt and pepper to taste (I’d start with a TBS of salt then add more later of needed)
  • cayenne pepper to taste
  • 2 TBS White vinegar

Procedure

    1. Set the Instant Pot to the saute setting and let it get hot. Add the butter, and when melted, add the onion, celery, and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until soft (about 4-5 minutes). Add garlic and cook for an additional minute.
    2. Add the peas, chicken broth, ham hock, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Switch the Instant Pot to manual, add the lid and check that the value is correctly positioned for sealing. Set time for 20 minutes on Manual mode. (Note–with this much stuff in the IP, it will take about 20 minutes to come to pressure).
    3. When the timer is up and the IP beeps, let the pressure release naturally for 20 minutes, then do a quick pressure release if the pin hasn’t dropped already.
    4. Remove IP lid and stir in vinegar. Check for seasonings and enjoy!

Finished Holiday Knits

Alrighty, now that the holidays have passed, I can post the few last-minute gifts I whipped up in the days leading up to Christmas. I swore not to do any gift knits this year, but finally decided that it just would not be December if I wasn’t knitting a gift or two. All of these were fast projects (at least as far as “fast” applies in knitting terms), and with stash yarn

Pattern: Polku Messy Bun Hat (available for purchase on Ravelry)

Yarn: Caron Simply Soft in Country Blue colorway (I held the yarn double for this project/gauge)

Needles: US 10 and 10-1/2

Notes and Mods: Made this for my Mother-In-Law, who requested a hat that allowed for a ponytail. I went up a size to ensure the gauge and yarn would work.

Pattern: Man Hat (available for free on Ravelry)

Yarn: Loops and Threads Charisma in Deep Woods Colorway

Needles: US 8 (wish I had used a 9 or 10)

Notes and Mods: Made this for my sister’s very knit-worthy boyfriend from stash yarn. He has a big head so I think I should have gone up a needle size or two. His son loves it so much, I’ll be knitting him one after I finish up my current WIPs.

Pattern: Man Hat (available for free on Ravelry)

Yarn: I Love This Yarn in Camo colorway

Needles: US 8 (though I used a US 10 just for the cast-on to prevent a too-tight edge).

Notes and Mods: CO 88 stitches to make up for smaller gauge. I have used this crappy yarn before and the color pooling never makes sense. For example, I knit this hat with the yarn in the exact same pattern and stitch count and there was no significant color pooling. The recipient is a big camo guy, so hopefully it’s not too crazy for him.

Pattern: Little Red Riding Slippers

Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick and Quick in Constellation colorway

Needles: US 10

Notes and Mods–Made these for my sister who is not a fan of knits, but loves Ugg boots so I took a chance on Ugg-inspired slippers. I screwed up on attaching the cuffs so the seam isn’t going the way I prefer, but I was not willing to rip it out at that point. If I make these again, I will pick a yard that gives better stitch definition at this gauge. She’s actually worn them, so I’ll count that as a win.

Now it’s back to WIP wrangling…sigh.

Super-Easy Petite Cheese Cakes

We had a nice, relaxed family get-together yesterday, and I wanted an easy dessert that I was pretty sure *most* of us would like. These little cakes are so stupid-easy, and for something so simple, they still taste like delicious indulgence.

Petite Cheesecakes

  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 18 vanilla wafers
  • jam of your choice for topping, if desired

Procedure
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line cupcake pans with 18 paper baking cups. Place a vanilla wafer in the bottom of each cup. Beat cream cheese, sugar, eggs, lemon juice, and vanilla extract together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with cream cheese mixture and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until set. Cool 15 minutes on a rack, then refrigerate until ready to serve. Top with jam, if desired.

How easy is that?!?

Blog Update for the Recipe Page

Hey Y’all. I’ve been trying to update the recipes page to include a comprehensive link list, while also going back and coding the recipes into a printable format within the posts. While a few recipes/posts got voted off the island, most should be on the Recipes page now. Please note, formatting on some may vary, because I just added the code, rather than rewrite post after post. This just means some recipes will have a running-ton of pictures in the procedure sections.

Remember, I’m just a chick with a free-hosted blog that I tinker with on my laptop…when I’m not hiding in the bathroom with wine hoping my kids won’t find me. If you encounter an incorrect link, a problem, or some other kooky hiccup, please let me know.

See that pic? Those are the Chocolate Cake Cookies, which would be perfect for Santa. I’m just saying is all…

Guess where you can find that recipe? Oh yeah, that page thingy I just talked about.

Easy Gingerbread Cutout Cookies

School is out, which means we are in the final countdown toward Christmas. I’m making cookies with the kids, which is equal parts fun and frustrating as they argue about who gets to use which cookie cutter first. My kids could fight about what air tastes like if given the opportunity.

We are on to sugar cookies today, but ended up making Gingerbread Cookies last weekend. The recipe I use is pretty easy to work with and forgiving, so it’s great if you really want to get into decorated cutouts. If you need to distract restless kids, I highly recommend baking up a batch, and investing in a few dollar tubes of icing from the store so they can decorate and be distracted from arguing about that whole air thing.

Gingerbread Cutout Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder

Procedure

    1. In a large mixing bowl, cream shortening and sugar. Add molasses and egg, mixing well to combine.
    2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, salt, and making powder, stirring well.
    3. Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture, mixing to form a soft dough. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for a couple of hours.
    4. On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out cookies with desired cutters and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes until edges are firm. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely. Decorate as desired.

%d bloggers like this: