Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Novelty of it All

The thing with crochet is there is so much that can be made and done with yarn. From yarn bombers, to hats for cats, there is a myriad of things that you never knew existed out there. For me it's always fun when someone approaches me with and idea for something, and I'm able to help them make that idea become a real object.

I thought it would be fun to share some of the most memorable designs that fall into my novelty category. Remember, if you see something you like, contact me to place your own custom order.

First up is the mermaid tail blanket. These are every.where. right now, along with the shark counterpart for these underwater predator fans. A few people did ask if I make them, but it was this particular order that I was excited to do. It was for a little girl I know and adore and her favorite color of purple made this even better. I wanted to bring more of a true tail look to the blanket and instead of a simple stitch I worked with something that gave the texture of scales. To add to that, I made up a starfish accent applique and fluted the fins.

When it completed, I couldn't be happier with the results. I know it's going to fuel her imagination and become a much used item.











Next novelty item is one I wish wasn't such a novel idea in our modern world. Doilies were used often in the decor of homes years ago. They were a way to dress up a simple chair or table, and often a way for housewives to show off their handy work. This past year, I've worked on a set of three doilies for another good friend. Each one was made using patterns from my grandmother's old collection from the 40's and 50's. It was so rewarding to work on something where I saw her own handwriting and notes, and then be able to pass it along to a person who truly appreciates the detail and time that goes into making these lovely items. I also thought I'd give it a try to make some doilies in different colors. I was really surprised and pleased by the results and am hoping to maybe make a few more in various colors.

Another novelty concept I had a great time working on was the crochet tapestry look. Admittedly, I didn't really make any to sell, but I had wanted to experiment with the idea. I've made a few different panels and have a monogram one on display in our master bedroom. As for the others, I still need to figure out what I want to do with them, but I did enjoy seeing how the Russian method of crochet made it possible to recreate cross stitch and tapestry based patterns.






This sweet baby bonnet actually came about while I was working at a show with many lulls in the shopping traffic. Made for a friend who, at the time, was waiting for her baby girl, I decided to give a nod to those old fashioned baby bonnets from the Victorian era. Delicate stitching and sweet little flowers made this ultra girly and gave it that old fashioned feel at the same time.

I love the way that yarn can become something so unexpected. It isn't something that needs to be limited to scarves and hats. Give it time and you'd be amazed at the things that can develop from a simple hook and strand from a skein.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Dairy Free Mac and Cheese for the Grown Ups!



When I first saw a recipe for a dairy free mac and cheese, I was super excited...that is until I saw that it called for a soy based cheese. Yeah, soy and I don't really care much for each other in high quantities. So, skip that one. Next up, another recipe claiming dairy free, which it was, but also tasted more like chicken soup than mac and cheese. Finally, tried another and again disappointed with the overall flavor and mouth feel.

Macaroni and cheese is one of those dishes that just screams "I'm here to comfort you!" Unfortunately, these recipes were more along the lines of "terribly sorry to get your hopes up." Yes, I know, I shouldn't expect to have a mac and cheese that's just like what mom used (and still does) make. That's when I realized I needed to think about what I wanted out of these dairy free promises.

What was it about these particular meal that I liked? What seemed to be missing from my previous attempts? When I started looking at things that way, I discovered that I wasn't getting what I wanted because those recipes weren't going to give me that.

First of all, I am big about mouth feel. I wanted velvety, rich and creamy. To add to that, I love a sharp cheddar bite so I needed some tang and deeper tones than a chicken broth could bring. Finally, I wanted to look at it and want to dive in because of the rich sunny color.

Keeping all this in mind, I threw out the chicken broth and grabbed some beer instead. Then I decided that carrots were not going to be creamy no matter how much they were pureed, but those sweet potatoes could fill in nicely. Let's not forget that amazing cheeseless pizza I had a few years back that used caramelized onions instead of cheese, and omg, the sweet tangy flavor that brought to the table.

All said and done, I now have a recipe I'll be turning back to because, well, I got what I wanted, and oh yeah, bacon...Is this going to be super kid friendly? Ehhhh, not with my picky eaters, but if your little one is adventurous, sure!

Also, if you would like to make this gluten free, get yourself some GF pasta and switch out the beer for some very dry chardonay. As for more vegan friendly, omit that bacon (::gasp::) and add on some more caramelized onions on top.


Dairy Free Mac n Cheese

Ingredients

4 medium Yukon gold potatoes
1 medium sweet potato
2 medium sweet onions
3 large cloves of garlic, crushed
a few dashes of salt
1/2 cup beer- a stronger body is better
1- 1 1/2 tsps Worchester sauce
1/4 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp celery salt
Box of small shell pasta or elbow pasta
Cooked and crumbled pork or turkey bacon (optional)

You will also need:

immersion blender, large pot, medium pot, large shallow pan with lid, deep medium bowl.

Directions

1. Peel your onions and thinly slice into half moon cuts. Break apart into the pan and add in the beer and a few dashes of salt. On lowest heat possible begin to caramelize your onions. This process, when done right, will take about an hour and half. You want your onions to become tender and a honey brown color when done and about a half the amount than what was originally put in. Keep your heat low, stir every so often and keep the lid on until the onions become transparent. Then you will want to remove lid and watch carefully making sure to stir often. Set to the side to cool.

2. Peel all your potatoes and cut into similar sized wedges, same for your sweet potato. Then add into your medium pot with the crushed cloves of garlic. Fill pot with water until everything is just submerged under the water. On medium low heat bring water to a boil, keep lid vented, and cook until fork tender. 

3. Removed wedges of potatoes, sweet potatoes, and the garlic and put into your bowl along with half of the caramelized onions. Then carefully pour your reserved liquid on top. Using the immersion blender blend smooth. To get a more cheese like consistency, you will actually want to blend a little more than you would think until the mix becomes sticky. If it seems to dry, add in a little bit of water a few tbsps at a time. In the end you want this mix to be thick, creamy and very much like a fondue.

4. Boil water in the large pot and cook your pasta as instructed.  When done save about a 1/2- 1 cup worth of boiled pasta water and drain pasta. Return pasta to the pot and pour potato mix on top along with the reserved water a little at a time until you are satisfied with consistency. Then add in your remaining seasonings, making sure to stir well.

5. Give the mixture a few minutes to cool down and meld the flavors together, then serve with a garnish of either the rest of the caramelized onions or the bacon, or both really. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful


Today, many families find themselves either traveling to, or preparing for the visit of friends and family. Tables are loaded with amazing dishes, whose fragrances waft through the home. Children are eagerly licking their lips in anticipation for that taste of pumpkin pie loaded with whip cream, or the tasty cookies their aunt brought to the dessert table. Adults are enjoying the exchange of memories and laughter, with a nice little cocktail or chilled beer in hand. Dogs are gazing with hope at the nearest plate bearer, almost willing the plate to tip just enough to spill a tasty treat, and cats are huffing and glaring at the newest visitor speaking in baby talk to them, or finding a warm quiet spot to rest.

We are having a quiet, quality day today, spent with each other and enjoying the little things that fill our lives. I am so grateful for the life  my husband and I built together. Our two children, with their own unique personalities, give us reason to laugh and smile daily. Their innocence and personal drives amaze me and their unconditional love for us and the people in their own little worlds reminds me to be thankful for those we've brought into our own lives.

I wish you, reader, a day where you find a moment or two to reflect and realize the good things in your own life. If you have to work today, thank you. If you are home cooking, thank you. If you drove two hours just to be there, thank you. If you are reading this, thank you.

Have a wonderful day and Happy Thanksgiving!!

Always,

Vanessa M.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A New Fall Favorite- Snickerdoodle Bundt Cake with Apple Cider Brandy Glaze made Dairy and Egg Free


This recipe originated from trying to figure out a good cake for my husband. He's an agreeable chap, who tends to fall into the "it's doesn't really matter to me" group when asked what he wants. Usually, this is completely fine and helpful at times, but when you want to treat him to his favorite dessert for his birthday, it actually doesn't help at all. So, there I sat. Pondering the many sweet treats he's had through the years and figuring out which were his favorites. I noticed he seems to go more for the sweet and cinnamon genre of cakes and cookies instead of the rich and chocolaty varieties. Then I recalled how his love for snickerdoodle cookies surpasses many other sweet options.

Do they even make snickerdoodle cakes though? Well, let's hit up Google and see what I find whilst wandering the internet. And yes, there were recipes for such cakes, but alas, none of them were exactly cakes I would be able to enjoy due to the 1lb call for butter, or numerous eggs to the batter, etc. While reading through these recipes, I managed to find a few that had the potential to work well with substitutions thrown in.

The one I landed on worked as the perfect skeleton to let me rebuild and create a cake that would not only be enjoyable for my husband, but also something I could eat on his birthday night as well. Let's face it, if you have to do all the baking, you want to be able to taste the end results!

Without further ado, because I can't stand those blogs that take forever to get to the recipe, here you go!


Snickerdoodle Cake with Apple Brandy and Cider GlazeDairy and Egg Free



Ingredients:

Crust coating-
2 tsps ground Ceylon cinnamon (Avoid Cassia based cinnamon for health and flavor reasons)
1 c white sugar
Coconut oil non stick spray
Dry Mix
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
2 tsp Ceylon cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg 
Wet Mix
1/2 c refined coconut oil, at room temperature, or ideally between 70-75 degrees. Virgin will affect the flavor and you will have more of a cinnamon coconut finish as a result.
1 c white sugar
1 c light brown sugar
1/2 cup cinnamon applesauce.
3 tbsps ground flax seed
9 tbsps warm water
2 tsps vanilla extract
1 can full fat coconut milk, preferably Golden Star brand, chilled


Materials Needed
1 large mixing bowl. 1 medium mixing bowl, 1 sifter, rubber spatula, small bowl, measuring cups and spoons, hand mixer, Bundt cake pan.

Instructions-

1. In a small bowl, combine 1 c of sugar and 2 tsps of cinnamon. Mix together well. Preheat oven to 325. Using coconut oil spray, generously spray a 9 inch Bundt pan, being careful to cover all the nooks and crannies, as well as the center tube. Dust the entire inside of the pan with the sugar and cinnamon mixture. You should only need about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar, try and evenly coat the inside surface of the pan, including the tube. Save the remaining sugar and cinnamon mixture and set everything aside.

2.  In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set to one side while you move onto the next step
3. Beat just the coconut oil  on medium speed for one full minute. It will begin to fluff and become a nice opaque white. Add the white sugar and mix for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl then add the brown sugar and applesauce. Mix for 2 minutes until the mixture looks light brown and uniform in color
4. In a small bowl mix together 1 tbsp of ground flax to 3 tbsps warm water. Let set and then add to the coconut oil and sugar mixture beating on medium speed for 1 full minute. Repeat 2x more then stir in the vanilla. (It helps to mix each round after you've just poured the previous round into the mix. This way the next one is ready after you've beat the mixture for a minute.)
5. Add the flour mixture to the wet mix alternately with the canned coconut milk and mix on medium until well blended.
5. Spread half of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup of the cinnamon sugar mixture over top. Spread the rest of the batter into the pan and sprinkle any remaining sugar mixture over the top. Take a knife and gently swirl a bit to incorporate the sugar mix into the batter. It does not need to be well mixed. You want it to sort of marble its way through the batter.
6. Bake in the preheated oven for 55-65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely. If the pan is still hot to the touch underneath, then wait until it cools to a comfortable warm.





Apple Brandy and Cider Glaze
Ingredients
1/2 cup fresh apple cider
1/2 cup apple brandy
1- 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
2 splashes vanilla
Tbsps of water if needed

Instructions
1. In small sauce pan simmer cider and brandy until reduced to a quarter of its original volume. Make sure to watch this and stir often to prevent burning. This also brings a caramel undertone to the glaze.
2.  Pour reduction into confectioners sugar until it makes a runny paste golden in color. Depending on the day you may find you need to either add more sugar or more water. Do so a tbsp at a time.
3. While cake is still somewhat warm, drizzle glaze over cake to get absorbed into the cake itself. It really adds a great flavor to the cake and the tart tang of the cider offsets the sweeter flavors of the cake.





For the original dairy and egg based recipe go to http://dozenflours.com/2009/03/snickerdoodle-bundt-cake.html

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Disapproving Cat

Does not approve...






We rescued this "little" lady in our neighborhood and she's a riot of cat. She will let you know with a full throttle lecture when she isn't happy, and she gets this look on her face of pure disapproval. We often will joke about this personality quirk of hers with the saying "Disapproving Cat does not approve." A friend of mine even had a good laugh over it after she commented on the fact that she wasn't exactly a grumpy looking cat but there was something about her
expression.



Don't be fooled though. She's actually very sweet and cuddly. Loves her belly rubs and curling up with the boys on a blanket. She's also known to sneak into the shower to steal a few sips of water, even with a freshly filled water bowl around the corner.

But hey, with an expression like that, you do have to have a little fun with it now and then!



Sunday, November 8, 2015

Decadent and Dairy Free Hot Cocoa and Melted Vanilla Ice Cream Drinks


It's fall, which means cooler weather, and that means "s.n.o.w." becomes the next concern, or joy, in our home. While some may wonder why on earth snow suddenly becomes part of my autumnal lexicon, those who live in my area will understand. The past three years we were "lucky" to be graced with snow in late October or early November. Not exactly normal for our area and no fun when, suddenly, you can no longer pamper the snow blues away with a rich cup of homemade hot cocoa, such as my dietary change created.

I've tried to come up with something that tasted like the cocoa of days gone by, but at the same time actually has some health benefits to it, beyond the warm fuzzies it provides the soul. Because my taste buds are shifting from loving the sweetness of milk chocolate to the bite of dark, I am providing a few different options for sweetening your drink. I know that what I enjoy sipping probably won't go over as well with the younger kiddos out there or those with a sweeter tooth. Let's just say those who relish a bite of 85% dark chocolate will want to sweeten according to the lower measurements. If you want sweeter, increase little by little until you find your happy spot. I'm also providing the stove top prep and microwave approach. Either way you still get an awesome creamy drink, but you may not always have the time to wait for water to boil in the pot. Benefit of the stove top is that you can make many mugs at once instead of one at a time, like the microwave. 

As a little bonus, I'm also going to provide what we call in my family a melted vanilla ice cream in this post because it's another hot drink winner on a very cold day. It's also dairy free and will use the same ingredients, minus the coco powder, and with a little extra spice.


Ingredients for Decadent Dairy Free Hot Cocoa 


Per Drink...

3 heaping tbsps of chilled coconut milk (No lite stuff or pre-boxed here if you really want that creamy mouth feel.)
1 cup water
2 tbsps cocoa powder (I use Hershey, but that's my traditional choice.Also, if your powder is pill-like or hard, then you'll want to sift this first. )
2-4 tbsps raw honey (You can use confectioners sugar using the same measurements.)
1 tsp vanilla extract (Use the real stuff if you got it, but imitation will be ok.)
2 dashes of Ceylon cinnamon *optional (Read up on the health benefits of this variety and ditch the Cassia cinnamon right quick. It's worth it, trust me.)



Microwave approach

Since this is most likely the way most will make it, I'll start here:

1 serving at a time...

1. In a microwave safe mug, add in your coconut milk. Then pour your water over the milk and stir. Microwave on high for 45 seconds.
2. To the mug, add cocoa powder and stir well until powder is well incorporated. (If you are using confectioners sugar, now is the time to add to your mug.) Return to microwave and heat an additional 45 seconds.
3. Add in the honey, if you are opting for this sweetener, the vanilla, and the cinnamon. Stir until honey is melted and enjoy!


Stove Top Approach


1. Bring water to a boil.
2. While you wait, add into your mug(s) the coconut milk, sweetener of choice, and cocoa powder.
3. Slowly pour a cup of water over the ingredients in the mug and stir until well blended.
4. Add in your vanilla and cinnamon, then stir to blend.














Melted Vanilla Ice Cream


So yummy and a nice twist on a typical hot drink after a long day out in the snow.

Ingredients

3 heaping tbsps of chilled coconut milk (No lite stuff here if you really want that creamy mouth feel. I use Golden Star as my go to and nothing else for this particular recipe.)
1 cup water
2-4 tbsps raw honey (You can use confectioners sugar using the same measurements.)
2 tsp vanilla extract (Use the real stuff if you got it, but imitation will be ok.)
2-4 dashes of Ceylon cinnamon. The more you add, the more like a cinnamon roll instead of vanilla ice cream. (Read up on the health benefits of this variety and ditch the Cassia cinnamon right quick. It's worth it, trust me.)
1 dash of nutmeg (Add this in where cinnamon is called for in the recipe options.)



You can make this in the same two approaches as given for the hot cocoa recipe, obviously omitting the hot cocoa and adjusting a couple of the seasonings. Again, the stove top makes it easier to make more at once.


Topping Options Great for Both Recipes: Mini marshmallows, dairy free whipped cream, candy cane, etc.


Friday, October 2, 2015

Loaded Sweet Potatoes with Caramelized Onions




It never fails, when colder weather approaches the need for satisfying comfort food increases. Being that the usual loaded baked potatoes are a major no for my dietary restrictions, I decided I would try out a new spin and on old classic. Sweet potatoes are always a favorite of mine, especially when baked. Wanting to play on the sweet and savory combination, I came up with this great recipe that uses breakfast sausage and caramelized onions to create a ridiculously yummy and filling meal.

Easy enough for most anyone, but you may want to brush up on your caramelizing technique if it isn't something you are used to doing. Give it a try and I promise you will not be disappointed. Everyone dove in and ate it to the very last bite...even when tummies started getting full. Yes, it was that good. I fully plan on making this a few times a month during the cold weather seasons.

To create this meal for your family you will need...

4 medium sweet potatoes
1 tube Jenny O Turkey Breakfast Sausage or Jimmy Dean Breakfast Sausage
2 celery sticks finely diced
1 apple finely diced
1/2 cup Craisins
1/2 tsp of ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 medium sweet onions (Vidalia if you can find them) cut in half then finely sliced
sea salt
coconut oil

Materials Needed
Heavy duty foil, baking sheet, large shallow pan with lid, medium sauce pan, spatula and fork.

Directions

Preheat oven to 400.

1. Make sure to clean your sweet potatoes as you will be keeping the skin on for this meal. Make a few punctures into the top of each potato and then wrap in a sheet of heavy duty foil. Place on baking sheet and bake for at least an hour and then check for fork tenderness once an hour passes.



2. While potatoes bake, add about a 1 tsp of oil to your large shallow pan and when melted put in your onions and reduce heat to lowest possible setting. Add a few dashes of sea salt, stir and then cover with a lid. The onions will ultimately be caramelized so it is important to keep the heat low and then stir occasionally with a good rubber spatula. If you are doing this right, the onions will reduce down drastically and turn a very light caramel color by the end. You do not want the onions to burn at any point or you will lose the sweetness of the onions and instead get more of a bitter flavor. Toward the end, vent the lid to help the residual liquid cook off and get the onions to a more creamy consistency.


3. As you work with the onions, in medium sauce pan add in a tsp of oil, the apple, the celery, and Craisins. Add a few dashes of sea salt, the ginger and cloves, and again cook on a lower heat until apples and celery are tender. At that point raise your heat to medium and add in your sausage meat. Cook thoroughly and make sure to drain any excess fat that is cooked off the meat. Once you have done so, set aside. (I actually place on top of the stove back towards the oven controls so the heat escaping will help keep the mixture warm while the potatoes bake)


4. When potatoes are fork tender, carefully remove from the foil and place each one on a plate. Split the potato in half and then add a few heaping spoons of the sausage mixture on top, then spread a layer of caramelized onions and serve. I baked some beer bread to go along with for a nice hearty meal on a cold rainy day, but for the gluten free group, this can obviously get skipped. 


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Creamy Golden Mushroom and Vegetable Soup- Dairy Free


Yes, it is still summer, but fall isn't too far behind. We've already had a few chilly nights, to the point where I've given up on our tomato plants. As the weather chills, I always love to start getting some feel good, comfort food style, tasty recipes on the ready. Forewarning, the next couple shared on the blog are going to have mushrooms in there so if you aren't a fan, you'll have to either omit or come back for another recipe. Before having to go dairy free, I loved cream soups and chowders. Those suckers warm you right up and keep your belly nice and full! Sadly, coconut milk just wasn't the answer for the cream of mushroom soup I've been having. It just doesn't work itself out as well. Instead, I came up with  "cream" soup that uses a vegetable that is actually very easy and readily around your kitchen...the humble potato! So give this a read and then a try and enjoy :)



Creamy Golden Mushroom and Vegetable Soup- Dairy Free




Ingredients

1 cup thinly sliced Baby Bella mushrooms (one package should do it)
2 medium carrots peeled and thinly sliced into medallions
1 stalk of celery sliced into crescent bite size pieces
1 sweet onion cut in half and very thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic thinly sliced on the horizontal
6 golden potatoes washed well with peels on sliced into even sized round slices about 1/2 thick
1- 1 1/2 tsp pepper depending on taste
2 dashes of nutmeg
Kosher salt in a shaker (you'll be seasoning to your taste so measurements are not exact)
1/2 cup very dry Pino Grigio
2 tbsps coconut oil or olive oil
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock (not broth) Low sodium ideally.
2 cups water

Supplies Needed

large pot
deep mixing bowl
heat safe spatula
slotted spoon
tasting spoon
ladle
immersion blender (or a very good blender that is heat safe)




Directions


1. In large pot, on lowest heat setting possible on your stove, melt your oil and then add your onions and garlic with a few dashes of salt to start extracting the moisture from them. Place lid on top of your pot and start to sweat the onions with the garlic. (Sweating means you are cooking on a low heat allowing the juices to slowly come out with out causing any burning or browning.) Stir occasionally.

2. As onions start to get somewhat softer, add in your mushrooms, celery and carrots along with a few more dashes of salt. Make sure the heat is still on lowest setting possible. You will continue to slowly cook down the veggies and start caramelizing them on lowest heat setting. This will take patience but very worth the end flavor. 

3. Once onions become a light brown and are nicely translucent, add in your wine and cook until all comes to a gentle simmer.

4. Add in your stock and potatoes. Bring back to a gentle simmer on a low heat setting.

5. When potatoes are fork tender, remove them from your soup with a slotted spoon and put into the mixing bowl and then add in water. Using your immersion blender, blend until smooth and then return to pot with the rest of the contents. (If using a blender just put potatoes into your blender with the water but do not over blend. Pulsing will help you better control it.)

6. At this point taste your soup, add in additional salt to your taste and then the pepper and a couple dashes of nutmeg. Do not add too much nutmeg though.

7. Simmer your soup on low heat for another 20-30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together and cook down the water. Make sure to stir every 5-7 minutes and scrape down the pot's sides with your spatula. The soup will start to thicken at this point thanks to the potatoes, which now have made your soup "creamy."


8. You can serve as is, or add in things like bits of cooked grilled chicken, or sliced sweet Italian sausage for a little more of a hearty meal and protein. Or to keep it Vegetarian, a wild rice would be a great addition. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Super Simple Crochet Afghan Pattern, Free from VSM Handcrafted Designs!


In this house we all love to curl up under oversized and super comfy blankets as the weather gets colder. While I do have lots of large afghans, they aren't as fluffy and warm as they used to be after years of use. I figured it was time to make up a new one for the house and I wanted this one to be bright and cheerful for those more dreary and dull winter months. It's actually a very easy pattern once you get the hang of it. Because of this, I decided to offer it up as a free pattern here on the blog.

Now, a little request. Even though this is free, I did put a lot of time into writing it up and creating this design. So please, be respectful of this and do NOT reproduce this pattern for sale or use any of the photos in this blog as your own. While more than welcome to sell any products you create from this pattern, you cannot sell this pattern itself. It is mine, and I ask that you do credit the shop's name if you share it with others.

If you are working on this and get stuck or need clarification, just shoot me a message! I am more than happy to help you out. Also, you can visit my Etsy shop to purchase other patterns I've created at https://www.etsy.com/shop/VSMHandcraftedDesign



Super Simple Afghan Pattern by Vanessa M. of VSM Handcrafted Designs
Copyright 8/14/2015.


The stitch used in the body of the afghan works off a count of 3. So decide how long you'd like your afghan to be and then you can do a gauge swatch to see how many stitches per inch you will get. Once you do that, you can determine how many sets of 3 you would need to meet your desired length. You may use any size hook or yarn in this case. I went with a 4 ply worsted weight yarn and an I hook.

Basic Instructions for stitch pattern in the body.
This pattern will be challenging at first for someone just getting started with crochet but with the repetition of the stitch it will get easier. Anyone else intermediate and above should do fine with this, and if you have a question, just contact me.

Chain in sets of 3 to desired length for your project

R1- In 3rd ch from hook 2 dc. *Sk next 2 ch then sc in next ch. In same ch, 2 dc.* This will create your cluster. Continue * to * to very end of the length of your starting ch until you get to the last 3 chs. Sk 2 chs and sc in last ch.  Ch2 and turn.
R2- In 1st sc, 2dc. *Sk next 2 dc. Sc then 2dc in next sc.* Rep * to * and end the row with a sc in last st of the row. Ch 2 and turn.

I went with doing a grouping of 4 rows of this stitch style with an alternating row of the following instructions. You can of course alter to fit your preferences.

Alternate Row- Make sure end of last row has a ch5 instead of ch2. Sk 1st sc and next 2 dc. *In next sc, dc, then ch 2. Sk next 2 dc.* Rep * to * and finish row with one last dc in the last st of the row. Ch2 and turn. To continue with cluster pattern, just sc, 2 dc in all the previous dc from the alternate row and end with a sc in the last dc of that row. You can then pick up with instructions to R2.

Continue with this format until you have your desired width to your length. If you are going to switch colors, do so on an Alternate row for best results and consistency. The wonderful thing about this pattern is that you can just leave it as it is or you can opt to create a border like I have with mine. To create this particular border you will need to be advanced with crochet.



Border Instructions

R1- You will be working in the round for this. In corner of last sc with starting border color, ch 4. Work along your last row of the body and ch2, sc in the next sc from prev row. In the last st of this row you will need to sc, ch3, sc in same st. Now you will rotate your work to continue along a new edge. You will need to evenly work the same ch2, sc across this edge. If you do the 4 rows with an alternate combination, I found working a sc at either edge of the dc sp, and a sc in between the 2nd and 3rd rows the easiest way to space. If you have altered this count, you may need to fiddle with your spacing. When you get to the next corner, again be sure that the corner stitch will get a sc, ch3. sc. Again rotate and move on to your next edge and evenly work the ch2, sc combination down that edge. Corner will be sc, ch3, sc and finish off your final edge evenly spacing the ch2 sc and finish with a sc, ch3 and connect with a sl st to the 2nd ch of the original ch4. Ch1.

R2- Using same color, 3hdc in 1st ch2 sp. Continue to work 3 hdc in the ch2 sps. When you reach a corner, 3hdc, ch3, 3hdc. Pick back up with the 3hdc in ch2 sp and continue around all edges. When you get back to where you started connect w sl st to 1st hdc. Do not fasten off current color but do cast on your new accent color.



R3- With new color and starting in the corner of just behind where you connected w. a sl st, Ch3 and dc around the ch3 sp. Ch 2. Sk the next 3 hdc, and in sp between the prev 3hdc and the next 3 hd, make a cluster st of 2dc. (2dc cl- This means you will need to yo, insert hook into sp, yo and pull through to have 3 loops on the hook. Yo and pull through 1st 2 loops. Then yo again, insert hook into sp, yo and pull through to have 4 loops on the hook. Yo, pull through 2 loops. Yo and pull through remaining loops) Continue to ch 2 and  2dc cl in the sps between the 3hdc groups. In the corners 2dc cl, ch3, 2dc cl. In last corner  you will do 2dc cl, ch3 and then connect with a sl st to the 3rd ch of the original ch3 in this round. Fasten off this color and get ready to go back to your original border color.

R4- Working behind your last sl st  in the corner, ch3, 2 hdc. Then dropping your stitches down to R2, 3dc in the middle hdc. Continue to do this along the edges, making 3 dc in the middle hdcs of R2. When you reach the corners 3hdc, ch 3, 3hdc. Continue working around your edge like this and at the end you will need to do 3hdc, ch 3 and connect w a sl st to the 3rd ch of the ch3. Fasten off this color and cast on your next border edge color.



R5- Working behind your last sl st in the corner, ch3, 2hdc. Continue with a hdc in each previous st from R4. When you get to the corners 3 hdc, ch1, 3hdc. Again continue with this around your edges. At last corner 3hdc, ch1 and then connect with a sl st to the 3rd ch of the ch3. Ch 1.

R6- In same st as sl st, sc. Sc in each hdc from R5. At the corner ch1 sp, 3 sc, the continue with sc in each of the prev sts. Connect with a sl st when you get back to the starting sc. Fasten off and weave in your ends.

I hope you enjoy working on your own afghan and I'm always up to see what others create from my patterns. Feel free to send me a picture of what you have completed!


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Super Simple Summer Sangria



This recipe is so easy, and so yummy, you really can't lose. You just need to prep the wine with the fruit the night before you plan on serving for best flavor distribution. Then just add in the last couple of elements when it's time to party and you're all set! Careful though, it's so full of flavor and light, you may forget it has a nice kick to it as well. As always, drink responsibly and preferably with people who make you smile.



Ingredients

2 small lemons
2 clementines
1 cup blue berries
1/2 cup red cherries
1 cup strawberries
2 shots/ jiggers of Limoncello
2 shots/jiggers of Triple Sec
1 bottle of Riesling wine
4 cans Seagram's ginger ale

You will also need a very large pitcher, a cutting board, a sharp knife, large spoon, medium bowl, extra lemon or clementine for garnish purposes if you so choose. Make sure all your fruit is thoroughly washed, too.

First, quarter your lemons length wise then chop across to create wedges, but keep the peel on. Toss into the bottom of your serving pitcher.

Next, peel your clementines and divide into sections and then cut the sections into wedge slices. Again, put these into your pitcher.

Gently muddle your blueberries in the medium bowl with a large spoon but don't completely crush them. You want to just break the skin to allow the juices out into the wine mix. Toss into the pitcher.



Cut your cherries in half, and remove the pits, then cut each half into halves and into the pitcher they go.

Chop your strawberries into bite size pieces. Depending on the size you have will affect how you will need to chop these up. Really there is no wrong way, you just don't want the pieces to be awkward and big. Add to the pitcher.

Now, pour entire bottle of wine into pitcher and mix together with the fruit using your spoon. Cover and store in your fridge overnight.

Before serving, add in the Seagram's and the shots of liquor to your mix and make sure that when you pour you let some of the fruit fall into the glass. For fun you can add a slice of lemon of clementine to the rim of your glass.



Friday, July 3, 2015

Avocado Ranch Veggie Dip, Made Dairy Free



You know what I miss, and I mean really miss, that creamy, flavorful dip called Ranch dressing. In my pre-no-dairy-for-you days, I loved going to parties or barbecues and savoring the tang of the sour cream and bite of dill. Granted, I have experimented a few times with trying to make it with substitutions but never really getting the result I hoped for, especially since I discovered the ready made packets of seasoning can sometimes have a kick of dairy, depending on the brand you buy. ::sigh::

The other day, I wandered around the internet looking for "make your own seasoning blends" as meat rubs, but managed to stumble upon a really basic Ranch seasoning blend from HeandSheEatClean.com. To get the recipe for just the Ranch seasoning, go here. After reading through the recipe, I began to mull over the possibility for trying my hand, again, at a Ranch vegetable dip, especially since the 4th of July was at the end of the week.

Wouldn't you know, it was while I was grocery shopping with two ramped up little boys, high from the latest kitten encounter, that the light bulb moment hit. Avocado. Yep, simple and green, and a great healthy fat item I could actually tolerate, just like my beloved coconut milk. So you can bet I grabbed a few, especially since there happened to be a lovely sale on them, and home they came with me.

I knew that the avocados would definitely make a great base to this recipe but to lighten it up, both in color and texture, I added in some coconut milk to make it less like a guacamole and more like a traditional dip. And to avoid that persnickety issue of the avocado getting that browning issue, I added in a healthy dose of fresh lemon juice. Bonus, the lemon juice brought in the classic tangy aspect the sour cream would normally add in the traditional recipe. And if you want this as more of a dressing, just switch over to a lite coconut milk but slowly add to the avocados so as not to over-thin the mix.

The fact that it tasted so good right after making it, really made me thrilled because I knew it would only get better once things had a chance to really marry and blend together. Altogether, it took less than 10 minutes to make, too. Not shabby, at all.

Dairy Free Avocado Ranch Veggie Dip

Ingredients

2 very ripe avocados
1/2 can of chilled Golden Star Coconut Milk (not Lite)
1 medium lemon, freshly juice
1tbsp dried parsley
1tbsp dried dill
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried chives
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2tsp pepper
Spring of fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

You will also need a stick blender (or food processor if without one), a medium size bowl, spatula, and air tight container.

Directions

1. Cut both avocados in half, remove pit and spoon meat into the bowl. Then add in lemon juice and blend smooth with stick blender.

2. Add in coconut milk and continue to blend with stick blender until a smooth and airy consistency is reached.

3. Add in all dry ingredients and then fold together using spatula.

4. If not serving immediately, make sure to store in an air tight container. The lemon juice does help the avocado from browning, but you will need to stir a few times before serving when ready.