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Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Best Almond Cookies Ever

Recipe notes:
(1) I never use white sugar.  I use turbinado for brown sugar, and evaporated cane juice (yes, I know it's still processed, but at least it is not bleached) for everything else - even powdered sugar.  Generally, I just put a whole bag in the blender for 1 minute for super-fine sugar, and 3 minutes for powdered.  I'll also use my nutri-bullet thingy for smaller amounts if I am out (but still have full-sized sugar granules).

(2) This is an eggless recipe, as seems to be the tradition with almond cookies regardless of culture.  However, I've found most other recipes too dry, so I add some honey to help the dough stick together.  The result is a cookie a little more on the chewy side of crunchy instead of crumbly.

(3) These cookies spread a little, so make them small - I use a 1 tbsp measure and gently and quickly shape into a small flat round.

Makes 30-35 cookies, can be doubled.

Preheat oven to 350.

Lightly toast 1 cup sliced almonds.

Cut up 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter into pieces, put in a medium bowl, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter), let sit and soften while you measure the rest.

Sift before measuring, then sift together 3 times: 1/2 c corn starch, 1 c unbleached flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder

When butter is soft, beat until evenly smooth and lightened, slowly add 3/4 c powdered sugar (as mentioned above) and whip until light, smooth, and no granules are noticeable when you take a small taste.  Add 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, 3/4 tsp almond extract, 2 tbsp honey, beat again until evenly incorporated and lightened.  NOW PUT THE BEATERS AWAY AND GET A SPATULA.

Add flour and incorporate with a few quick slicing strokes until flour is almost completely blended into the butter, add the almonds and finish up the mixing in 5 or so strokes (less mixing = more tender cookies).

Make small 1 tbsp rounds on a cookie sheet, with enough distance to allow batter to spread a little, and bake for 8-10 minutes - until they just barely begin to golden.  LET SIT for 1-2 minutes BEFORE removing cookies from sheet and putting them on a cooling rack (they'll squish or crumble if you try to move them too soon).

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Street Level Sun Hat

I needed a sun hat.

So I made one.

The pattern, the Street Level Sun Hat, is available (click the pic):

Made in Cascade Cotton Rich DK.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Super Simple Tunisian Scarf

For this winter, I had made myself a ruffled scarf (in Cascade Superwash in a bright pretty heathered blue), but it's too narrow to provide protection against Chicago's winds. I'll still wear it when the temps are above freezing as it's pretty just over a sweater, but I decided I needed something with more warmth.

I didn't have anymore Superwash on hand in a color that would go well with my cherry red winter parka, but I found the perfect yellow in my Cascade 220 stash. I decided to go really long, so that I could wrap it around my head 3 times and still have enough left over to tie off, so the completed scarf, with fringe, is 128 inches (3.25 m) long and 5 inches (12.7 cm) wide. For this length scarf (with fringe), I used 490 yds worsted weight 100% wool yarn (Cascade 220 Quatro, colorway Butterscotch #5010).

The super simple stitch pattern:
I used Cascade 220 and a 6.5 mm Tunisan hook (from the Denise Interchangeable Set).
Base Chain - ch 20.

Row 1 - insert hook into 2nd ch from hook, yo and draw up a lp, sk next ch, yo, {insert hook into next ch, yo and draw up a lp, sk next ch, yo} x 3, insert hook into last st, yo and draw up a loop, yo and draw through ONE lp on hook , {yo and draw through 2 lps on hook} x 19. Bolded portion is called a standard return.

Row 2 - lp on hook counts as first st, {insert hook behind front vertical thread of next st AND behind diagonal thread of following st, yo and draw through both sts, yo} x 9, Tks* in last st, standard return.
*Tunisian knit stitch

Work until desired length. Bind off last row with sl sts across. I used 10 strands, each 18 inches (46 cm) long, for each tassel (a total of 18 tassels, 9 per side).

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Italian Square Blanket

My most recent bit of awesomesauce to share is a blanket I stitched using a motif from a MUST HAVE book for your crochet library.

I present the Italian Square Afghan:

This blanket, stitched for my mother's Xmas gift, was intended to mimic an Italian style stained glass window, because I felt that also reflected the motif itself (named by The Harmony Guides, not me, as the Italian Square).

After I made the first square:

I tessellated it and played around in PhotoShop and I discovered that I was love with the overall relief pattern created from the tiling of the squares.  That 13 x 13 square blanket was going to use A LOT of yarn.  I'd made the first square with some Berroco Comfort that I had on hand and I really like the drape that this soft and sorta floppy yarn yielded.  These squares have a lot of bobbles, and those can add stiffness and bulk to a completed piece and I wanted this blanket to be cuddly and soft... and washable!  So I decided to go with the Berroco Comfort (and a 5.0 mm hook), and I am glad I did.  As is my custom, I washed the blanket before wrapping it up to give it away and on gentle wash/low dry it came out beautifully and even softer than it went in.  No pilling or fuzzing of note, and no re-blocking needed.

The next step was to choose colors from the available palette of the Berroco Comfort, and then play around with tiling ideas in PhotoShop.  The result was the following:

After I decided on colors, I ordered up my needs.  The color palette make me SO happy:

And I needed to make 169 of those! And weave in all those ends! And join them all together!  Whew.  But it was my special project for being stuck in bed, post thyroidectomy.  A motif project was just the thing, because each piece was quick to stitch up, and I wouldn't have to deal with a large project until the very end.  Wanna know what 169 squares looks like?  I was so proud I had to take a pic:

The next step was to join them all together.  Originally I had thought I would hide the outer tail in the join, but I later decided to weave in the end before joining a square to the whole piece.  

I used a join I call a "ric-rac" join. I love this join for many reasons.  First, it's a flat join so it doesn't make the fabric any thicker or change the drape in any way.  Second, it's REALLY sturdy and can handle the tugs and pulls a large blanket must endure. Third, it lines up the squares perfectly, always matching the edges of the stitches just right - so that the overall pattern is consistent and apparent.

With the working end of the yarn held behind/under the blanket-in-progress, I slip stitch into the corner of the square I am adding, then I slip stitch to the corner of the square I am joining to.  Then I slip stitch over one on the same square, then I slip stitch to the next unworked stitch on the square I am adding, and so on.  Here's a graphic:

If you love this motif, you can find it by purchasing the Interweave Press Harmony Guide: 250 Crochet Motifs.  Click the pic of the cover to see the Amazon information page.  I can't recommend this, or the other Harmony Guide editions, enough.  While I can't say I am the designer of the blanket, I was able to take a component provided by the book and make it completely my own through use of color, tiling, join, etc.  The Harmony Guides are great launching places for fabulous ideas.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

More than just a deli

One of my favorite aspects of city living is having an abundance of small grocers (and specialty food shops) as close (or closer) than super-stores.  Conte Di Savoia, an Italian deli on Taylor Street, has been the grocer of choice for my Italian side practically since my great-grandparents landed in the US.

Conte Di Savoia is one of those magical places that is much bigger on the inside than it appears from the outside.  For instance, they have nearly an entire aisle of imported olive oil:

They also carry specialty ingredients, and Italian treats, like cannoli shells, anise rosettes, lady fingers and Ciao Bella gelato.  And then there's the Italian butter cookies and fine chocolates and biscotti and dried pastas... 

Besides serving up the best Italian subs in Chicago, their deli is stocked with amazing cappocollo, mortadella, pastrami, several kinds of salami and an ever-changing array of imported cheeses.

While all of that certainly makes Conte Di Savoia a destination, what keeps it on my weekly circuit of grocers-to-visit is their store product line of freshly made sauces, filled pastas, and jarred spreads.  Their house lupini are perfect - just the right amount of saltiness.  Their pepper spread is not for the faint of heart (or heat) - I recommend sticking to the medium if you are putting it on a hot dog or beef sandwich  (their hot variety should be reserved as an ingredient for stews, soups and sauces because full-strength could burn a hole in your tongue).  And their sauces... well, I rarely make my own any longer because Conte's are Just. That. Good.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

'Tis the season for tights

Even though I turn 39 in a few weeks 11 days, my inner Punky Brewster still gets a little silly for funky socks.  And while I hope bejeweled vests stay put in the past, the revival of '90s style opaque tights makes it a lot easier to dress up for a Chicago winter.

StockinGirl has it all: houndstooth tights (only the socks are shown in photos), paisley thigh highs, even winter weight opaque cotton tights in fabulous colors.

What I really love for winter is their selection of wool tights.  Yes - you read that right: wool tights.  If you live south of I-80, you might not understand the need, but us northerners need to protect ourselves from the elements!

The wool tights come in 3 varieties.  The first pair are non-textured:

Next up are the ribbed tights:

And finally a cabled version:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Airy Earth

Up In The Air Somewhere is a great name for Susan Dwyer's website as she takes heavy earth, in the forms of clay and wood (paper), and makes them light.  I love her work so much it was very difficult for me to choose only two items to highlight.

Her hand-crafted papier-mâché bowls have a gold-leafed interior.  Oh, they give off such warmth!  Can't you see them filled with ribbon candy and sitting on a holiday table?

And her factory-shaped trinket boxes - Oh My!  I'm thinking that perhaps one could stuff the smokestacks with dried flowers and keep potpourri in the bottom.  Or use the stacks for bracelets and keep other bits of jewelry inside.  The striped one could be a sugar bowl, with the spoons kept in the silo.  I could on (and on), but instead I recommend that you click the link, check out Susan's wares, and be inspired all on your own.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Delish Dolls

As a little girl, I was somewhat obsessed with Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle at the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago.  I even had a large hardbound book, filled with detailed macro photography, that spoke to the history of many pieces in the castle, and how Ms. Moore came to possess them.

My love of the Fairy Castle comes from  my love of intricate details that take focus to achieve, and a lot of soul to envision.  It is for those reasons that I also adore Spookbot Dolls by Lori.  Her dolls are the sort that inspire a girl to make wee little furniture.  I'm sure you know someone who would love to give these a home:

Oh - I can totally see my nine year old self spending rainy Saturdays making a Fimo playhouse for the sweetie on the top.  And the gal below has zombies to fight, dontcha know?  Or maybe I'm just partial to handmade dolls that don't already come with someone else's story... :-P.

Because I said so

In order to have a place to share the really good stuff I've come across, I decided to create With A Side Of Awesomesauce.

I enjoy the good life - on a budget.  I'm always suspicious, and sometimes resentful, of spending money.  I think it is why I avoid mass-market products: the chances of being disappointed about the quality seem much greater than when purchasing from artisans and local businesses.  That's not to say that all widely available goods are crap - I'll be featuring a few of them here I'm sure - but that I tend to be happier with my purchases from "little guys".

In our current economy, I think supporting artisans and local businesses is more important than ever.  When we buy cheap imported goods, we don't just put Americans out of work - we also send those profits overseas.  When we buy from our neighbor, our neighbor can then buy from us, and we keep our resources within our communities.

These days, there's a lot out there to choose from... but that can make it overwhelming, especially when considering a purchase from an unknown entity.  I understand the thinking that at least one knows what one is getting from a mass-produced product, including where the quality is likely to suffer.

With A Side Of Awesomesauce is here to offer reviews of the really good stuff.  Please feel free to offer suggestions in comments!