Friday, September 22, 2017

Corner to Corner Crochet - Blanket

I took a small break from crochet. I was up to my eyeballs in yarn there for a while, plus, with our extra hot summer, hanging out with a bunch of thermal yarn in your lap was only going to make me extra warm, which is a big no bueno in my book. It took seeing a cute blanket on Pinterest to completely inspire me. Not only was the pattern intriguing, but the colors were absolutely beautiful. Behold, my first attempt at corner to corner crochet.

Corner to Corner crochet
By the way, you can find the free pattern and tips for making this blanket by Susan Carlson on her blog "Felted Button" here... and the yarn is called "candied" by Red Heart Boutique Unforgettable Yarn, which is pretty much gorgeous, and can be purchased at craft stores like Joann's, and also in multipaks at Amazon

Because of the increasing (or decreasing at the end of each row), I would consider this blanket at the intermediate level. Just as a personal tip, I also watched a number of YouTube videos to make sure I had started the pattern of increasing correctly before getting too far into the project.

The thing about crocheting any blanket typically is... it's super boring. Seriously. You get the initial chain stitch down for as wide as the blanket needs to be, and then go back and forth, back and forth, same number of rows and columns, repeating the same crochet pattern over and over until a blanket starts to form. This is great if you are on a plane, or in a waiting room somewhere and don't want to count rows, but for me, after a day or two, the endless back and forth feels more like a drudgery to me than a fun crafty side project.  Enter in corner to corner crochet!

My first attempt at corner to corner.  Hook used is a 5.0 mm (H) Crochet hook
Corner to corner does just that, it starts in the corner.  You need to add a row of increase at the end of every row, which is just enough to keep you interested and your mind sharp.

Corner to corner, this got me really excited when I saw the rows change on their own.
The other awesome thing about corner to corner, is that if you pick a yarn that has a slow color change, you won't need to switch colors all the time (and tie off loose ends, my least favorite part of a complicated blanket). The yarn magically and gradually changes into one beautiful color after the next.  

The most beautiful pile of pastel rainbow yarn ever
You just keep increasing rows as your triangle wedge grows...

It's working, it's really working!
until it gets wider and wider, and you need your tween daughter to hold it up for a picture.

Thanks for helping me Vivi!
I will admit I did get a bit persnickety in the middle of the blanket about not wanting two rows to be the same color. When I saw the pattern might make two rows of the exact same pink shade near the same part of the blanket, I would cut and tie off the yarn at one end, pull a few feet out of the working yarn, and start the new color so it wouldn't sync up later in the pattern.  

Oh and be it noted, no matter how warm it is outside, crochet will attract your kitties, they love to "help" by laying directly on your work.

Haley, the softest kitty in the known universe (aka Fluffy butt) "helping" me crochet
When you get as wide as you think you want to go, now is the time to switch it up, and start decreasing each row.  This keeps you mentally on your toes and helps minimizing boredom. I also went to YouTube to make sure I was doing this correctly. 

Decreasing suddenly makes a square edge appear along the sides - neato!
It's fun to see the rows shrink and shrink until all you have left to do is to put an edge on it, and tie off the loose ends (you'll still have some - just not as many as if you switched rows every color).

Tying off loose ends... it's actually quite the task
Then you can sit back and admire your work.  This was the first time I could lay it out on the floor and take a step back.  It was awesome how the color change of the yarn made the most excellent stripes, and almost gave it an optical illusion effect.

Rainbow stripes o'plenty

Here is it draped over a chair.  I just love how it turned out!

The next day I took it outside to get some shots of the colors "in the wild".

Unicorns would definitely approve of this blanket, so many colors!

Candied yarn - love the color changes!
From sea to shining sea it's color mania.  Oh and the border on this pattern gave it a nice solid edge, and actually made two different variations, depending on which side of the blanket you are looking at.

Flat facing on the front of the blanket, loops on the back side border.

This blanket is warm and soft, but not too heavy.  It's perfect for family movie nights in our new chair. It was immediately claimed by my eldest, as you can see here... she's ready for a bowl of popcorn.

Vivian says this blanket is "hers" now.
This was a really fun, and really beautiful blanket to make. Red Heart Unforgettable yarn is not only super soft, but comes in a bunch of beautiful slow color change patterns. I was thinking about picking a new color scheme and making a second one actually. Feel free to post any projects you are working on, and... Winter is coming... so happy crochet everyone!

Monday, September 04, 2017

Pineapple Teriyaki Chicken Skewers (2 ingredients)

Sometimes you need to throw a quick dinner together, and using a pre-made glaze that cuts the time on your meal prep way down.  On mother's day we made ribs in the pressure cooker with a Jack Daniel's honey brown sugar sauce (they were amazing, recipe here), while my dad tried his own pressure cooker ribs using a delicious pineapple teriyaki glaze/marinade. We liked the flavor so much that I thought it would work really well on grilled chicken skewers.

Pineapple Teriyaki Chicken Skewers
These skewers are easy. You will need:

Chicken breasts (cut into 1 inch cubes)
Kona Hawaiian Pineapple Teriyaki Glaze (found at Fred Meyer and Walmart)

So much yum in one little jar
You will also need some wooden skewers that have been soaking it water for about 15 minutes (so they don't char).  Optional would also be cut up fresh fruit/veggies to add to the skewers (bell peppers, onion, chunks of pineapple)

Chop your chicken breasts into cubes and marinate the meat in some of the Pineapple Teriyaki glaze for at least 30 minutes.  I also added some seasoning (salt and pepper).

Let the chicken marinate in the fridge until you are ready to put them on skewers

Next add the chicken chunks onto the wooden skewers that have been soaking in water

We did just meat the first time around, but these would be awesome with chunks of bell pepper, onions, and pineapple
This is usually where I hand things off to my hubby to grill on the BBQ. He says he turns the grill on high to preheat, turns it down to medium, then puts the skewers on with the ends hanging off the grill (so the wood doesn't burn). Grill about 3 minutes per side while "keeping an eye on it" (his words) and brush on extra glaze on as they are cooking.
Chicken skewers hot off the grill
While he's grilling the skewers I usually whip up a couple of sides. Rice and some slices of watermelon and we are ready to go.

Pineapple Teriyaki goodness - love the grill marks
 A quick, easy dinner that looked awesome and tasted great.

Easy and yummy are my favorite combination!


Normally I'd do a printed link to the recipe, but with only two main ingredients, this one is self explanatory.  Enjoy!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Instant Pot Creme Brulee

One of my favorite desserts to order in a restaurant is creme brulee.  What's not to love about creamy cool vanilla custard topped with a crunchy candy sugar shell that you have to tap with your spoon to break open to reveal that creamy goodness center? So delicious and fancy! Have I ever, pray tell, made this delectable creme brulee for myself you ask? Well no. I have this irrational fear of tempering eggs. Don't ask my why, I blog about food, I love cooking, I'm addicted to the Food Network, but for some reason the fear of unintentionally scrambling eggs into my desserts have kept me away from my attempting to make my absolute favorite.  Enter the Instant Pot. I found a recipe on their community Facebook page that eliminates that pesky "tempering of the egg" fear and makes it stupid easy.

My absolute favorite!  Creme Brulee!

You will need:
(Recipe posted by a gal named Heidi Miller on the Instant Pot Facebook page)

5 egg yokes
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups of heavy cream 

You will also need six 6 oz ramekins, and Instant Pot, the inner trivet, and water.  Upon advice from the Facebook page, I purchase my ramekins in a set of eight at amazon here.  I was extra stoked they came in a beautiful light teal color that matched my new kitchen. They have other colors as well.

Add 5 egg yokes to a bowl.  

Add 1/2 cup of sugar

Whisk together

Add 2 cups of heavy cream and 1 Tablespoon of vanilla

And mix together until smooth.

Pour into six 6 oz ramekins a little above mid way
This recipe will do exactly 6 ramekins, the most that will fit in the 6 qt pot
Cover ramekins tightly with foil.  I cut out squares that just fit over the round surface and sealed each one as tightly as I could

Make sure these are sealed around the edges as much as possible
Pour 2 cups of water into the bottom of the Instant Pot and cover with the trivet.  Stack the first three ramekins on the bottom.

A perfect fit
And then stack the next three ramekins balancing them on top of the first row.

All snug as a bug in a rug
Set the Instant Pot for manual for 13 minutes.  The most important part is to let the pot do a natural release.  That means, DON'T touch it until it depressurizes by itself and the tab on the top pops down by itself.  I made these twice, the first time I let it naturally release and they turned out great.  The second time I was impatient and released a little early. What it made was a big mess as the brulee inside the ramekins came up under the foil and made a sticky mess.  They were much uglier and very sticky.  

We still ate them of course, (for science) 

But all in all, the first batch following the rules turned out much better!

Cool at room temperature for 30 minutes then chill for 4 hours minimum.  

These are great if you want to make them ahead the day before and chill overnight
Pull them out of the fridge and remove the foil.

Hey that's lookin' pretty good!
Dust the top of each ramekin with a coating of sugar.  We used regular table sugar.
Looks like it snowed
Use a mini cooking blow torch to brulee the tops, which will turn brown and form a hard candy-type shell.  

If you don't have a torch, you can broil these in the over for a few minutes until they turn golden
My hubby gave me this blow torch almost 10 years ago in the hopes I would one day make creme brulee. I'm so glad his wishes have come true. I'm not gonna lie, firing this bad boy up was quite the thrill.
Burn baby, burn!
 Give each brulee it's final coat.

Man that was fun
 The only thing left after that is to admire your work... and EAT it.

Holy yum, Batman.
 Tap the outer shell and scoop up some of that vanilla custard inside

It makes a satisfying crunch sound as your break through to the creamy goodness below
I will say, that without tempering the eggs, the texture might not be as super-de-duper smooth as you would get in a fancy-dancy restaurant, however the flavor is still awesome. Very creamy and super tasty.  I'd consider this a "rustic" brulee.

I will SO make this again...and it's nice I can do it now WHENEVER I want from the comforts of home!  

Instant Pot Creme Brule


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Hickies - The best thing to happen to kid shoes

Every once in a while you take a gamble on a new product - and every once in a while, your gamble pays off!  My 9 year old (though she has known how to tie her shoelaces for years) always seemed to be walking around dragging untied laces through the mud and the muck.  Besides being a tripping hazard at school, the laces were getting wet and grimy and who in their right might wants to touch soggy cold shoe laces all the time?  Yuck. Enter in Hickies.  I had seen an ad for them on Facebook and they had really good reviews.  Since I had nothing to lose I thought I would give them a whirl.   *By the way, I am not being paid or reimbursed for this product.  We bought them and are giving an honest review.

Hickies.  Changing the world one foot at a time

So here is a typical look for my nine-year-old. Totally put together and color coordinated everywhere, with her shoelaces a draggin' in the wind.

Sigh.  Seriously, like all.  The.  Time.

The Hickies are an elastic, stretchy, easy to clip on alternative to shoe laces.  They come in many colors and styles.  

We choose some hot pink ones, because she loved the color combo of teal and hot pink.  We also bought some pastel ones as a back up which my other daughter is claiming shortly.

Hickies come in many shades and styles!

First thing we did was to remove the old laces... Good bye and good riddance!

I will not miss thee, you dirty soggy things

Next we laid out all of the Hickies. They came with 14 Hickies plus two bonus black and white ones, in case you want to add in some contrast.

Super cute and we liked we could color coordinate with the existing shoe colors.

There are many ways to lace up to give you different comfort levels.  I will put a link here, they have many videos on different methods to make them snug or easy to slip on.  We ended up doing a little looser style, so she could easily get them on and off in the morning for school, and yet they would stay snug on her feet all day.  The first one we ran straight across the bottom of the tongue.  It is the only one we did straight across.

It's good to start with a simple one

Next we worked on one side alone.  Place the "tail" of the Hickie through the top hole on the shoe, and then skip one hole.  Have the Hickie come out of hole after the skipped one like this:  The head should be at the top, tail out the same side after skipping one hole.

You want to repeat this action starting with the second hold down.  Skip the one with the first Hickie in it and push it out the remaining hole.  So now you have two Hickies on the same side, two heads at the top two holes, tow tails at the bottom two holes.

Now repeat this on the other side of the shoe, only do the opposite and start at the bottom of the shoe.  The head will go in the bottom hole, the tail will skip one hole and come out the third hole.

This will make it so the Hickies line up across the way when we hook them up

The the second Hickie will go in head first at the second to the bottom, with the tail coming out the top hole.

The final product should look like this before you attach them all.

Now that you have that worked out, all the Hickies will line up as you connect them across the tongue of the shoe.  This looser method allows you to slip on the shoe easily, but stays on all day. 

There is a little point at the tail.  You hook it over the blue nub in the middle and push through a hole
Do the same thing to the other shoe and you will be in business.  She slipped these right on and started running around the house.  She also believes that Hickies make you run faster!

Good bye sad soggy shoe laces... we are embracing the very easy shoe future!

No more trip hazard and new fashionable Hickies to boot.

By the way, they don't just make Hickies for kids.  There are tons of adult uses, running shoes, sports shoes, work shoes.  It's a great way to make any pair of shoes easy to get into, fit snugly, and look pretty fabulous while doing it.
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