About Me

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Hello! I am Diana, wife to Ted. We are the parents to one miraculous 6-year-old little princess. Aside from my daughter my earthly passions include home-cooking at an intermediate level, Music, knitting, photography, learning Adobe Photoshop, digital scrapbooking, and online social networking.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Powerless, Helpless, and Pampered

Today's blog entry shall contain no pretty pictures, no recipes, no unexpected chickens. Instead it shall contain a whine/rant/grumble about the power company showing up in the middle of preparations for a Pampered Chef Party that was to be held at my house tonight.

My list was a simple one:

Clean Bathroom
Do dishes
Clean Fridge (about which I was going to blog...)
Cook Appetizers for Party (also about which I was going to blog...)

Just after noon today the electricity police showed up with a warrant for my arrest (well...the arrest of my meter box, anyway). I could bail myself out if I could fork over $237. I could not. I was helpless and didn't even have a tin cup to bang against the bars (it was dirty waiting for the dishwasher to have power again). My electricity privileges were revoked until I was able to use my one phone call to reach Dear Husband. The problem was eventually resolved (as may be obvious by my being here now), however, it took about 5 hours until the power was turned back on.

I had to drag half of my kitchen up to the In-law's house (in a little red wagon...no joke) so that I could cook the appetizers...I had to skip my shower (thank goodness, due to cooking, I smell like fresh crushed garlic most of the time anyway), and the dishes never did get finished...AND I had to wrangle DH into vacuuming right before guests arrived, but we pulled it off.

We had a moderately successful show, and aside from a splitting headache and lack of photos to blog with, I am no worse for the wear.

Thanks for listening *BOO-HOO*

-Diana, The Ivy Kitchen

P.S. Speaking of vacuuming, click on the "Win a Dyson Button" in my newly added "Fun Stuff!!!" section of my sidebar. It is a great giveaway being held by my friend Kristin.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What's on the Needles: Don't be a Chicken!

Ok, so the title of this post is both an introduction to an on-going post series and a cryptic reference to a STRANGE knitting experience I had today!

"What's on the Needles" will join "Fresh off the Needles" as ongoing posts that I will do to keep you all updated on my knitting projects. "What's on the Needles" will just track where I am in various knitting projects that I have in-progress.

Right now the only thing I have on the needles (aside from an abandoned project that is soon to be ripped out) is the back panel for a cabled baby sweater that I am hoping to have finished as a gift for a dear friend who is expecting a son in August. I am almost finished with the back panel and still have the front panel and both sleeves to go. I am knitting it on size 6 needles with Caron's Simply Soft acrylic. The pattern is from "Baby Knits for Beginners" by Debbie Bliss, but is heavily modified by me...so you won't actually find it if you look in that book, lol.

So I was sitting out in the sun working on it, while The Little Princess played...when something very out-of the ordinary happened...
Meet Woobster (so named by The Little Princess attempting to say "rooster"):

Where we are living I have seen wild turkeys, foxes, snapping turtles, porcupines, deer, bald eagles...but never an extremely cute/ugly domesticated chicken!

Woobster appeared out of nowhere, and came right up to my chair as I was sitting there knitting. He proceeded to follow The Little Princess and I around outside for about 1.5 hours until he apparently got bored and went on his merry way! Calls to neighbors yielded no answers as to his origin, and I sincerely hope he found his way home.

Thanks for reading!

Diana, The Ivy Kitchen

The Violet Verdict

This Memorial Day weekend was a fun, activities-packed weekend with the In-laws and a surprise visit from my Dad who lives in Connecticut. It was also my birthday on Sunday. The whole family (MIL, FIL, SIL+Hubby+2 kids, Little SIL, DH, The Little Princess, and myself) camped "away from home" in a cabin that the In-laws have (those that know us will laugh at the quotation marks).

FIL has been working for the past month getting the cabin ready for family use, and this was the maiden sleep-over. Between figuring out sleeping arrangements for 3 toddlers (for 3 nights) in a one room cabin, my dad's barking dogs, and figuring out how to celebrate my birthday while camping, it was all an interesting adventure.

The cabin, located along a river, somewhere in the Maine woods :)

In addition to some other cooking I did (I made a batch of homemade glazed doughnuts...which hopefully I will have the chance to post about in a later blog entry) we cracked open a jar of the now infmaous Wild Violet Jelly.

The taste verdict: it is delicious as well as beautiful!

It has a very fruity flavor, which you might not expect. It almost had a flavor similar to watermelon flavored candy, but much more mild. Everyone who dared to try it liked it. I am looking forward to the possibility of making more (although the violets are starting to dwindle and go by now that warmer weather is here).

Here is a photo of my birthday breakfast, hearty & rustic camp food. Grilled sausage, salsa & cheese scrambled eggs made on the Coleman camp stove, and my homemade honey wheat bread toasted on the grill. The violet jelly loses some of it's former beauty when it is about to serve it purpose in life, hahaha:
Thanks for reading!

Diana, The Ivy Kitchen

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What Did One Dandelion Say to the Other Dandelion?

Take me to your weeder.

Today, I need you all to go back and read yesterday's violet jelly post and re-imagine it all in YELLOW!

The whole lot of my flight of whimsy:

Diana, The Ivy Kitchen

P.S. I just ate a peanut butter and Dandelion Jelly sandwich and it was DEEEEEE-LICIOUS! It tastes a lot like honey. I can't wait to try the violet Jelly in earnest this weekend!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Violet, You're Turning Violet, Violet!

Meet the common wild violet, they grow in abundance in unkempt lawns all over New England:

It all started on Mother's Day when we were visiting with friends. We were all sitting outside enjoying some unusually warm May weather when my friend Andrew, a foraging enthusiast, picked and ate a wild violet to see what our collective reaction would be. Normally, you might think that if violets had actually been poisonous that he wouldn't have taken his life in his hands in that way. If you thought that then you obviously don't know Andrew...

As it turns out, according to one of Andrew's foraging references, wild violets are not only edible but they are commonly used to make a beautiful naturally colorful jelly. Flowers and cooking, two of my very favorite things, my interest (and obsession) was piqued.

I have done jam making and canning before, but I have never made jelly, let alone foraged for the ingredients. But I found a website that outlines the process clearly, and I was confident that I could do it.

Thankfully, the afore mentioned unkempt lawns seem to inexplicably surround our dwelling place...

I needed 2 cups of violet blossoms...so the Little Princess and I headed outside with our little measuring cup and began picking. It was a painstaking process to separate all the blossoms from the stems, and my little cup was filling up very slowly. In addition, the wind began to blow and my blossoms started flying out of my cup. A change of technique was in order so I got a large bowl and picked a whole lot of violets: stems, leaves (grass...) and all. That went much more quickly, and I was able to spend a few hours doing the de-stemming inside out of the wind. It took awhile, but I was determined and told Dear Husband that I was a pioneer woman being a homesteader. He quickly squelched the homesteader spirit by reminding me of the $4.00 box of pectin and the sack of refined sugar I had him pick up for me on his way home, hahaha.

When I had my (approximately) 2 cups of violet petals (green sepals included, they don't seem to have an effect on the color or flavor in this particular recipe), the next step was to make an "infusion" by pouring 2 cups of boiling water over the petals in a glass bowl:

Then I covered the infusion with a plate and let it cool to room temperature. They recipe says you can let it infuse anywhere from 30 mins. to 24 hours. I wanted the fullest color and flavor I could could get so opted for the 24 hours. After it cooled to room temperature, I put the infusion in the fridge overnight.

This is what it looked like the next day (all the colors had leached out of the flowers into the water):

The next step is to strain the petals out of the infusion, a colander with normal sized holes worked ok for this recipe, although I know using cheesecloth is better for making clearer jellies:

As you can see the remaining infusion is a rich eggplant purple color!

Next I boiled the jars in a large stock pot for 10 minutes (you'll want to start the water boiling before you start actually making the jelly, so it will be ready when you need it, also you are supposed to have a wire rack on the bottom of the pot so that the jars are not directly on the heat, but I had to improvise and Dear Husband came up with the idea of lining the bottom of the pans with unused jar lids, it works perfectly)! I left the jars in the hot water until I was ready to use them. The purpose of this is to sterilize the jars so no bacteria ends up in the sealed jar

I assembled all the ingredients that were called for (in addition to the infusion): One 3 oz. packet of Certo liquid pectin (the jellyfier), 1/4 cup of pulp-free lemon juice, and 4 cups of white granulated sugar.

When the infusion is mixed with the lemon juice it turns from eggplant purple into Barney-the-Dinosaur Fuscia, it is pretty amazing!

Add the infusion/lemon juice mixture to the sugar in a large saucepan, stir frequently with a wooden spoon and bring to a rolling boil that can not be stirred down:

I am a dork and thought the swirling of the foam as the mixture began to heat up was cool:

After the mixture boils, add the packet of pectin and boil for 2 more minutes, temper the heat, making sure not to let it boil over. Turn off the heat and when it stops boiling skim off as much of the remaining foam as possible. Have your jar & funnel ready (also boil your funnel to sanitize it) and pour the hot liquid into jars as quickly as possible. Fill jars to 1/8 inch of lip.

Place the seals on the jar and screw the lids on securely. using a potholder, invert the jars onto a dishtowel and let them sit for 10 minutes to seal. As you can see, when I am filling jars, I always chicken out before I get the the 1/8 inch below the lip...so I have a lot of extra space, I need to get over that so I get less air in my jams/jellies! You might hear the lids make a popping noise when they seal, you might not. Turn them over after 10 mins and test the middle of the seal with your finger, if you can't pop it up and down it is sealed. If the jars do not seal you can put them into the boiling water for 5-10 minutes, CAREFULLY take them out with metal tongs and place on the towel to seal again, or you can just put your jelly in the fridge to keep.

And finally, the finished product, one of the most beautiful things I have ever cooked! Dear Husband and I both tasted some from the pan and it has a very fruity and pleasant flavor. It will most likely be making it's debut on an upcoming family camping trip, at which time I will have further commentary on the flavor!

Well, if you made it this far, thank you so much for reading! It really was a fun and exciting process...and unfortunately...on the same website I found this recipe on ( http://prairielandherbs.com/violetjelly.htm ), I have discovered a Dandelion Jelly recipe. As I close this entry I am gazing longingly out the window to the yellow speckled greenery...

-Diana, The Ivy Kitchen

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Fresh Off the Needles: Toddler Sun Dress

I finished my most recent knitting project this A.M. before getting to any much needed house work! But what is housework when those unfinished stitches are calling your name? :)

I have knit several tank tops for the Little Princess based on a pattern that I found on the Internet. But I changed the tank top pattern quite a bit to fit my needs (and my child, lol). After knitting a total of six of those, I decided to alter the pattern even more to try and make a little sun dress. I have knit baby dresses before so i used the knowledge I have gained from that to add a skirt portion to the tank top. I was worried about the outcome, because I am nowhere near to considering myself a knitwear designer. But this time the risk seems to have paid off! Here is the final result (I am hoping to knit a few more, if time permits):

I knit it with Caron's Simply Soft (and simply CHEAP, hahaha) on size 9 needles. Light Blue and White.

I chose the coloring and checked pattern to try and "match" this bonnet (which was given to the Little Princess by a random stranger at the local recycling center, lol). I take full credit for the shoddy Photoshop work!

So on to the next project! It will most likely be something for an upcoming, and very important baby shower in June. I just realized that is only 2 weeks away, so I better get those needles to smokin'!

-Diana, The Ivy Kitchen

Welcome to My New blog!

Hello and welcome. This is my maiden post for The Ivy Kitchen. Most of this is new to me, and I will be stumbling through the inner-working of Blogger for awhile yet. My hope is to use this blog to chronicle my cooking & knitting adventures (as I am so fond of calling them). I have two projects in the works right now that I should be posting photos of soon, one in the kitchen and one on the needles.

In the kitchen I have a batch of wild violets steeping in anticipation of becoming jelly in a jar tomorrow. On the needles (so to speak - I am on to the finishing work now) I have an experimental pattern for a toddler sun-dress that I partially designed myself.

I am looking forward to posting more about those things in the next few days!

-Diana, The Ivy Kitchen