Thursday, June 21, 2007

Summer Showers (and Salads)

I'm snug in my apartment listening to the first real thunderstorm of the season. The neighbor's daughter must be having a sleepover because every time the thunder booms, I hear a chorus of screaming followed by giggling and loud protestations of having been the scaredy-cat who initiate the screaming.

The hours at the noodle factory have been long lately this being our annual Busy Bee Season, leaving me too drained and uninspired when I get home to do much more than heat up a twice-baked potato (made en masse a few weekends ago and frozen in anticipation of my post-work zombie state). But the weather has been struggling to be summer lately and I've been craving pasta salad. So today, I decided that come hell or high water, I was going to have my salad tonight. Darnit.

The irony is that it seems pretty hellish and high-watery outside right now (queue girly screaming). But I've got my pasta salad!

Summer-at-Last Pasta Salad

1 bag tortellini--any type, cooked, drained and cooled.
1 yellow onion--coarsely chopped and sauteed (Feel free to leave raw--I just don't like raw onion very much and the slightly caramelized sauteed onion here makes a nice compliment to the flavors)
3-5 cloves garlic--coarsely chopped and sauteed with the onion
1 red pepper--chopped

a few stalks of celery--chopped
a handful of fresh basil--coarsely chopped

half a tube of goat cheese (any kind)--crumbled
3 tablespoons dressing
2 teaspoons sea salt

Combine in bowl. Serve over greens (hopefully yours haven't been sitting in your fridge for two weeks waiting patiently for me to cook this meal and are a little less grumpy than mine). Consume with gusto. Nice. And. Simple.

For the tortellini, I used Trader Joe's artichoke tortellini, and for the goat cheese, I used the recently-discovered Trader Joe's low-fat goat cheese. It's really quite edible! It's distinctly goat cheese and best when used in combination with other things--like this salad or pizza. I don't know that it would stand on its own, unless you mixed in some herbs. Mmm...that's an idea. Oh, P.S. in retrospect, a stronger cheese would do better in this salad--a blue cheese or Roquefort or other stinky cheese.

And for t
he dressing, I used Maple Grove Farm's Lime-Basil Vinaigrette--my mom hooked me on this line of dressing. Most of the flavors are fat-free and really quite good. I tend to not like the oily, greasy dressings in typical offering, and the Maple Grove dressings are somehow both light tasting while still coating all the little bits and pieces in your salad. Score!

This Stella Italia Pinot Grigio is destined to become my Summer 2007 Refreshment of Choice. It's light and floral with a very distinct flavor of honey. But not a cloying honey, the whiff of honey you get while spooning it over your strawberries. The finish is apple-crisp and altogether satisfying. It goes well with any course--salad (obviously), fish, a light dessert. And if that weren't enough, it's $6.99 at Trader Joe's. I'm sold.

Thunder moving off. Salad finished. Sleepover moved on to a movie (hopefully not a scary one). Time for little Emma to think about another helping of salad.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Sick Days and Daisy Dukes

I got bowled over by a summer cold yesterday, completely out of the blue. No sniffly warning signs, no dry-cough indicator. Just woke up yesterday morning and proceeded straight to the moaning stage. Where normally I would soldier through and keep on trucking through my regularly scheduled life with no regard to what my body was trying tell me, I thought I'd try something different this time around and actually take a break. So I came home early yesterday and ended up staying home again today. The past 48 hours have been a tough regimen of naps, tea, movies ("Shortbus" was not what I expected--wowzas), and more naps.

Having said all this, I'm now at the antsy "everything in my apartment bores me, but sitting upright for more than a few minutes feels like dying" stage. And then I remembered, Oh yeah. I have a blog! So far this post has taken me about an hour to
write because I keep putting my head down on my desk and taking a little catnap. That sounds more sad than it really is. I think. Actually, I feel a lot better!

Here, help me with my knitting:

I started working on the daisy dukes a while ago, loosely based on the Sweetheart Shorts pattern over at Knitpicks (I keep typing that as sweatheart shorts, but that's...not at all what I'm going for). I decided to use some navy blue cotton yarn because I couldn't find any denim at any of the yarn stores within public transit distance. I also accidentally threw away the label, so I can't tell you exactly which yarn or dyelot I'm using. I know, I know. A
knitter's biggest faux-pas. Alls I can say is that it's been a rough few months, and well, it's just yer basic navy blue cotton dishtowel yarn, so I think we'll be ok.

I also decided to use the pockets from an actual pair of jeans instead of knitting my own. The tricky part was figuring out how to knit the front so that the pockets from the jeans would line up. I spent the entire time while I was waiting for a standby flight to Minnesota last April inexpertly plotting the slope of the pocket and matching it to my gauge. I felt veeeery smart when I was done, let me tell you!
The knit pocket actually lines up perfectly with the jean-pocket, but I moved the knit piece askew a little so you can see what an awesome job I did with that pocket shaping.

So--I will knit the front and the back in two separate pieces and then join them together at the bottom of the pocket. I already had to rip out and restart once because I am knitting the front and back pieces separately on straight needles, but my gauge was taken from knitting in the round. I know, I know--another big knitting faux pas to so brashly assume my gauge would be the same (unless you're a knitter, I know you don't care a lick about gauge, but trust me, it can be a real brat). Anywho, easily remedied by going down a needle size for knitting the front and back and then switching to the larger needles when I joined the pieces for working in the round.

And then I realized my second mistake. The sweetheart shorts pattern has you start increasing for shapeliness around the hip and bottom region after about an inch and a half. I figured (again, oh-so-brashly) that my pockets would be about an inch and a half and I'd start shaping as soon as I joined the pieces. Well, this would have actually been fine. If I'd remembered. Instead, I was so excited at working in the round that I whipped off several rows and now I'm at about two and a half inches. So here's my Dilemma Emma, do I rip the three rows and go back to do the shaping correctly? Or do I
soldier through and keep on trucking through my regularly scheduled knitting?

No, don't say it. I know what you're going to say. I know what I have to do. I have to. My conscience will never let me live with subpar knitting. Even for a pair of daisy dukes. I will have to rip it, and rip knowing full well that I may very well drop all those cast-ons at the bottom of the pocket and just have to start completely over. It's ok. I'm still going to be sick another few days. I still have plenty of daytime TV to catch up on. *sigh*

Oh, but here's the exciting part that I need to figure out soon: I want to intentionally knit little tears in the bottom hem of the shorts--like Kay's Raspy sweater HERE. I can probably figure it out myself, but it would probably be a good idea to track down a copy of Denim People to get the full story.

And on that note, I feel another nap coming on. Or some tea. But not together. Bad combo.

Emma's Feel Better Tisane/Tea/Whatever-Cuz-It-Makes-Me-Feel-Better Drink:

Cuppa hot water
A coupla scoops of honey
A teaspoon-ish of fresh grated ginger
Half a squeezed lemon