Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ginger Lentil Soup

I am a huge fan of soups for a lot of reasons- they're easy to make, they're healthy, they're comforting and filling, and best of all you can make a huge batch and feed yourself for a week. Lentil soup is one of my favorites because it's super tasty and lentils are really good for you (especially as a protein source if you are a vegetarian). I usually make lentil soup with curry, but I haven't been able to find a good mix yet in Athens, so I adapted my usual recipe to be flavored by fresh ginger.I started by sauteing carrots, onions and celery in olive oil (called a mirepoix if you want to get fancy). A lot of soups start from this base and you can pretty much throw in whatever you want from there. Let those cook until the onions start to brown around the edges, then cover with water or stock and add a cup or so of dry lentils. You can go about a hundred different directions from this point, depending on your taste. I added salt, pepper, cayenne, a one inch cube of fresh ginger (peeled and chopped), a small can of crushed tomatoes, and the juice of one lemon.
The lentils take about 45 to cook, so just check on them every ten minutes or so. Taste the broth toward the end and make sure it is well seasoned (I always wait until the end to add most of my salt because the soup cooks down and the flavors concentrate).
I was actually very happy with how this soup turned out. Boiling the ginger mellows its intense flavor to a subtle spiciness and the lemon juice adds a nice brightness. And as with all good soups, it only got better the longer it sat in the fridge.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Amigurumi Penguin

This is my first amigurumi, and probably my last. My friend requested one and I thought it would be quick and easy, since it's crocheted. It was exactly the opposite--because the stitches are so small and tight, it takes a lot of force and meticulous attention to get the hook in the right place.
I used a pattern from Lion Brand Yarn (you have to create a login, but it only takes a minute). I didn't have any of those nifty plastic eyes, so I just knotted some of the black yarn and pulled the ends through the white circles.
I made a top hat and umbrella out of felt as an homage to Oswald Cobblepot, but I think he turned out much cuter than The Penguin. I puzzled for a while over how to make the umbrella, and I ended up gathering a circle of felt around a bent bobby pin, which worked pretty well.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Apron from a Collared Shirt

This apron is a very simple project that anyone with a sewing machine and an old button down shirt can do. It's also a great way to repurpose a shirt with a stain on the front or sleeve, because most of that fabric isn't used.I started by cutting off the back of the shirt and hemming the sides, which became the body of the apron. I gathered it at the top and attached a piece from the front of the shirt (this extra piece makes the apron long enough to protect you from kitchen messes down to your knees).
The details are really the fun part of this apron. For the pockets, I opened the cuff of the shirt and sewed along its edges. The straps are made from the strips of buttons and buttonholes that run down the front of the shirt. Just be sure to leave some extra fabric when you cut them off so you can sew down the rough edges. To fasten them, cut a button hole for the strap with buttons, and attach one of the buttons from the cuff for the strap with holes.
The only downside is that you might be too worried about getting such an adorable apron dirty to actually use it in the kitchen!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Rocky Raccoon

I don't make a lot of stuffed animals, but I wanted to try some alternative stuffing methods I had been dreaming up. Most stuffed craft items use poly-fil, which has the perfect texture and is easy to handle, but it's made of synthetic material. I wanted to try something more earth-friendly, so I started saving all my fabric scraps that are too small for reuse. The result was decidedly lumpier than a normal stuffed animal, but it looks perfectly adorable and has a certain bucolic charm when you hug it.

The body is made from an old t-shirt and the details of felt. I used a sewing machine to put the body together, so it took almost no time at all. I crocheted a little beret and scarf just to give it some personality, and to cover up the not-so-clean seam connecting the neck to the body.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The hummus experiment

I bought a jar of tahini last week, mostly because I was so excited about being able to read the label (the transliteration is taxivi in Greek). My favorite application of the delightful sesame paste is hummus, which I have never made before. The "experiment" mentioned in the title refers to the fact that I have no food processor or blender, so I had to finely chop the garbanzos and hope for the best.I combined a few different recipes I found online to come up with the following:

~150 g dry garbanzo beans
4 tb lemon juice (to taste)
1-2 tb tahini
2 cloves garlic
1/2-1 tsp salt (to taste)
1 tb olive oil
water (for consistency)

After over an hour of mincing with that tiny knife, I had what could generously be referred to as a "rustic" hummus.
It doesn't have the smooth texture I'm accustomed to, but the taste is fantastic (especially if you are a garlic fan). I must have eaten a cup in one sitting, but it was well deserved after all that chopping. I probably won't do this again because it is so labor intensive, but it's good to know I can in case of emergency.

On a different note, you may have noticed the nutella jars in the first picture, which are holding lemon juice and salt respectively. I am a big advocate of saving all containers that seal (either jars with threaded tops or tins with snap on lids) instead of buying tupperware. It keeps the material out of the landfill and reduces the demand for plastic goods. Plus you've already paid for it, so why not put it to good use? There are also some stores, like Nature Mart, that let you bring in your own containers to use for bulk items (if your bulk store doesn't have this policy, talk to someone in charge about preweighing your containers).

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mr. Freeze iPod cozy

This is probably one of my favorite projects because it came out almost exactly like I was imagining it. And aside from being time consuming, it wasn't all that challenging either. I found a free trial program online that would convert my image into a cross stitch pattern (there are tons of these programs and they have a surprising variety of functions-- imagine Photoshop for cross stitching).

The body of the cozy is made of two layers of fleece, which protects the screen and provides a little cushioning if the iPod is dropped. The thickness of the material, however, made sewing the top together very difficult, and it turned out a little uneven.

The tab at the top buttons on the other side, a particularly good closure for this application because you can plug in your headphones while the iPod is still wrapped up in its cozy.

By the way, if you don't know who Mr. Freeze is, a. I'm very sorry, and b. he's a Batman villain. The image I used is from Batman the Animated Series, which is a must watch if you haven't already seen it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

First post

I'm finally succumbing and starting a blog. It's a craft blog only in the loosest sense, more like a "things I make" blog, because I'm already dying to post about my sourdough starter (if it succeeds). So here's the first taste:

This is Professor Banana, a fridge magnet I made out of felt. It was a very simple project; the most difficult part was engineering the monocle out of thread so that it would hold a circular shape. I originally intended to make a whole series of fruit magnets with various personalities, but I spent so long hunched over this one that I didn't want to start another, and I never returned to the project. If I ever do, the next one will be Dame Apple.