Friday, March 22, 2013

Work in Progress

by Kelly

Spring is officially here, so crack out the gardening tools and seeds and....oh, wait, it's currently 23 degrees outside. Fahrenheit. Maybe I'll cross out the F on my thermometer and pencil in a C for Celsius, which would make it about 73-74 degrees. There, that's better!

If only it was so easy.

Meanwhile, I have determined that sweaters are not easy either. I have basted the thing together, and the disaster is finally official in my mind - the sleeve seam doesn't match with the body. Grrr.

Bernat Turtleneck Sweater

I'm thinking there really is a problem with the sleeve numbers for the medium size. So, I'm going to have to frog the sleeves and start over. Sigh.

The only way I can think of to do this is to count the decreases I have on the body seams and format my sleeves so that their decrease slopes match. Before I do that, I'm going to pin the body pieces together and make sure they fit me. If not, the whole sweater may have to be redone, which I'm afraid is not going to happen. In that case, I will frog the whole thing to salvage the yarn, shove the yarn in the bag and the bag in my closet, and never look at it again until I regain my temper.

At any rate, I have a baby blanket on the agenda for Dawn's charity drive, so that will help me regain my composure. A side benefit of a big, simple project like a blanket is that I can catch up on all the TV shows that are currently piled up on the DVR.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Nitrate Free Corned Beef

by Kelly

Nothing says St. Patrick's Day more than green beer and drunken altercations in Chicago bars. Lacking that, however, the aroma of corned beef and cabbage makes a good substitute.

But nothing is ever as simple as it looks.

Quick back story: my husband despises the diet his gout forces him to live with, and constantly seeks ways around it. There are certain things that will trigger a gout attack, namely anything that contains sodium nitrate, a preservative commonly found in lunchmeat, sausage and many other yummy things...including corned beef.

So I suggested that we make our own, without the 'bad salt' that he has to avoid. The only reason I made this crazy offer was because I was confident, without doing any research, that there would be a recipe on the Internet.

And guess what...I was right. In fact, there are quite a few different versions, some with remarkable variations including juniper berries, beet juice and possibly the simplest one.

We chose this one, from Simply Recipes. Of course, we didn't have half of the spices required, but luckily the spice fairy came to our rescue and mailed us the rest (thanks, Dawn!).

Toasting spices is quite an adventure in its own right, or at least it is for those of us who've never done it before. Make sure you have the window open, so you don't asphyxiate yourself. Also make sure that all pets are out of the room, because when tiny mustard seeds are popping out of the pan like crazy they will be right under your feet trying to find out what on earth you're doing, and you may step on them and possibly drop your last clean spatula and say a very dirty word.

After the spices are burned toasted, add them to the water with salt and sugar and make your brine. Then it's just a matter of adding the meat and patiently waiting for five to seven days (we chose seven, with good results). Turn the meat once a day. If you have a pet, every day they will nose in to find out what you're up to. Ignore them.

Then cook. At this point, we altered the recipe slightly. At my mom's advice, we added a raw beet to try to get the pink color that will be lacking without that sodium nitrate. We also didn't add the cabbage and potatoes, because the one thing my husband hates more than a restricted diet is being told that vegetables are part of the recipe.

Three to five hours later, depending on the patience of your other family members, remove the meat and slice.

Make sure to cut across the grain, or the meat will shred into little bits and not make good sandwiches.

If you have pretty, restaurant quality plates, please feel free to use them. The rest of us will keep it real with the standard paper kind.

And the end result was very gratifying. The taste was spot on. The beet, however, gave mixed results. The meat was slightly pink when first cut, but rapidly turned the color of good Gyro meat. My husband suggested that we add beet juice to the brine next time.

Next time?? We'll see....

Also, the beet didn't taste like corned beef at all. My mom said it tasted like boiled beet. The rest of us didn't try it.
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