The Spiderman Blankie

Once upon a time, boys and girls, this was a personal blog.  It came into being in February 2008 and contained photos and amusing stories of my family and dog, with a few recipes thrown in for good measure.  It had a small, but devoted, following and it made me very happy.

Then, in 2010, we discovered The Real Food Movement and the paleo diet and this blog morphed into a full-blown food blog.  The readership grew by leaps and bounds and before I knew it I was receiving more than 60,000 visitors a month.  It began to take more and more of my time; I started running ads and worrying about my stats, the quality of my food photography and why did that person unsubscribe??  Things like being unable to come up with an acceptable paleo version of zucchini bread were serious blows to my self esteem.  Taking a day off, much less an entire month, was unthinkable and I became increasingly stressed about it.  The blog became more and more like a second (poorly paying) job rather than the happy hobby it had been in the beginning.

After 3 years it just became too much, and in the summer of 2013 the frequency of my posting took a serious nose-dive.  How we ate had taken another turn and we’d begun incorporating more traditionally prepared grains and legumes back into our diet, along with the occasional out-and-out flour-and-sugar-laden dessert, and I didn’t feel like my readers would care for those recipes.  The absence of pressure to post something 5 days a week, without fail, that my readers would find interesting and relevant, came as something of a guilty relief.

In recent months, I’ve seriously considered abandoning this blog all together.  In a way, it would be a relief.  But then I think about all of the things I enjoy about it and I find myself really reluctant to just drop it.  So, I think I’m going to go back to how it was in the beginning – if I have something I want to post about, rather than something I think someone else wants to read, I’ll do it.  If not, I won’t.  I’ll still post recipes – many will be paleo friendly (it’s still the basis of our diet), but some won’t.  If you don’t like them, don’t read them (and certainly don’t make them).

At any rate, one of the things I’ve started doing, since the blog no longer takes up all of my free time, is crocheting.  I know, I know – it’s a little old lady pastime.  Well, I have news for you: at 51, I’m beginning to edge toward little old lady territory.

I used to crochet when I was much, much younger (I learned as a teenager), but it never really progressed much beyond long straight rows of double crochet and granny squares; I never learned to read a pattern.  But last year, I got a bee in my bonnet to make Oldest Son an afghan…so I did.  I had no idea what I was doing – if only I’d known about seamless joins, magic knots, weaving in ends and Fray Check – so I’m pretty sure it’s going to come unraveled, sooner rather than later (if it hasn’t already), but I was pleased to have been able to give it to him for Christmas.

Since then, I’ve made an effort to really learn and I’ve quickly gotten much better.  I’ve made an afghan for Jolly as a housewarming present, a bedspread for our California King and have nearly finished another afghan (a surprise for a friend) and a winter scarf for Beloved.  I also made this.

The Spiderman Blankie

Click the image to enlarge

This made one little boy VERY happy.  When I finally finished it and posted the photo on Facebook, Jolly saw it and showed it to our G Man (who had been waiting quite impatiently for it); he insisted they come over and get it right this minute!  They took a long weekend road trip recently to Niagara Falls and I was told he hauled it along with him.

Meema haz a pleased. 😉

For those that might be interested, you can find the free pattern here.  I used an H/8 hook (5.5mm for the metrically inclined, or a #6 for any UK or Canadian readers).  It took 4 skeins each of Red Heart Cherry Red and Blue Suede (which I felt was more appropriate for a Spiderman blankie than bright red and blue), and one skein of black, and was just over 5 feet in diameter.

So, there you go.  Beloved’s garden, preserving, fermenting, recipes, crochet projects and decorated cakes.  Those are the things I’m spending my time on when I’m not at work, so those are the things I’m going to blog about whenever the mood strikes me.  Stay along for the ride, if you like.


The Zucchini Invasion

Our vegetable garden is doing marvelously well this year.

Boy, is it doing well.

We’ve already harvested rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries (both red and black), lettuces, spinach, collards, Swiss chard, kale, peas, turnips, beets, carrots, radishes and some green beans – many more of those are on the way.  We’re about to start harvesting peppers – bell, jalapeno, serrano, poblano – as well as the cabbages; tomatoes will be ready soon, too.  The onions are coming along, as are the sweet potatoes and Yukon gold potatoes, and the spaghetti and delicata squashes doing quite nicely.  It also looks like we’re going to have quite a few cantaloupe and even a couple of Sugar Baby watermelons.

I think the only things we’re not going to see much of are butternut squash, parsnips and okra, which is sad – Beloved and I both adore them.  But, when we’re ready to harvest the late summer/fall vegetables, we’ll be able to plant more greens and cool weather crops; in fact, I think Beloved’s already got a second round of peas going, as well as more radishes, turnips and beets.

And of course, there’s the zucchini and summer squash.

Tons and tons of zucchini and summer squash; not only are our own plants producing like the vegetable version of gerbils, we’re getting an average of six pounds a week from our CSA. (When we pass roadside stands or booths at farmers markets heaped with piles and piles of the stuff, we just shudder.)

We’ve been cooking and eating it several times a week – often for lunch and dinner.  Before too much longer I’m going to go on a zucchini bread baking binge, the vast majority of which will be given away to our co-workers and friends; the rest will be frozen and most likely consumed over the holidays (Oldest Son is coming to visit for Christmas! Hooooooraaaaaay!!)  In the meantime, we’ve been freezing a great deal of it for use during the winter and early spring months, before we face next year’s Zucchini Invasion.

Freezing zucchini is really quite easy.  We simply shred it using the shredding blade of our food processor, then measure it out in 1-cup portions.  Those portions are then placed on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and put in the freezer until completely frozen – usually overnight.  Then we vacuum seal them with our Food Saver and pop them back in the freezer.

Shredded ZucchiniShredded Zucchini Bagged

How do you use all of this frozen, shredded zucchini you may ask?

It’s actually a good question; the first time we did this, I was hard-pressed to use it all.  But, if you think a little outside of the box, it really isn’t hard.

You can use it in Zucchini Fritters, of course, or your favorite zucchini bread or muffin recipe – I never had much luck making paleo zucchini bread; it always came out heavy and/or gummy – but when I go on my baking binge, I’ll probably use this recipe.  However, I mostly hide it in savory foods.

It’s a great addition to meatloaf and meatballs, or the meat filling in stuffed cabbage (especially if you’re grain-free or low carb; it substitutes the rice or bread crumbs quite nicely).  It’s easily hidden in many types of casseroles, including the breakfast type, and is also really good in soups and tomato-based sauces – toss it in the spaghetti sauce AND the meatballs, and you’ve got your kids eating twice as much!  I’ve even thrown it in omelets and quiches.

So embrace the zucchini.  You’ll really be able to eat it all.

The Sunflower Cake

Oh, hai.

Yes, it’s been a month.  Sorry about that.

I’ve been cooking, of course, but have not had the time (or inclination, to be perfectly honest) to photograph and write the recipes for the things I’ve cooked.  Summer is pretty busy at our house, what with the CSA, the backyard garden and all the freezing and canning and preserving.  The Young One is home for the summer (and working full time – let’s all CHEER!!) and Darling Daughter is firmly settled in the spare bedroom, and working the graveyard shift at a local nursing home.

We’ve also had The G Man quite a bit this summer; Jolly has taken a new position with her employer and is getting ready to move to Michigan.  She’s been traveling to her new location nearly every week for a few days, transitioning over and finding a new place to live, and we’ve been watching the apple of our eyes while she does this.

Like I said:  BUSY.

In the midst of all this busyness are a couple of birthdays:  Jolly’s was last weekend (The G Man celebrates his 5th birthday in just a few weeks).  At her request, I made a Mexican feast of enchiladas, rice, beans and corn spoon bread.  And of course, cake was involved:  a 9″ yellow layer cake filled with lemon curd and covered with a lemon-flavored classic buttercream.

Since ombre cakes are all the rage these days, I thought I’d give it a whirl.  I wish the cake had been taller because I was really pleased with it.  Unsure of what to do with the decorations otherwise, I kept in mind that Jolly loves earth tones, and ended up with three gum paste sunflowers over airbrushed stems and leaves.  Nothing fancy, but it came out pretty well.

Sunflower-Cake Sunflower-Cake-2 Sunflower-Cake-3 Sunflower-Cake-4Say-Cheeeeeeeeese

The G Man approves of the “lemonade cake” Meema made for Mommy.