The Button Infinity Scarf

Say hello to The Incredible Shrinking Girl.

The Incredible Shrinking Girl

Since moving in with us in late April, Darling Daughter has lost about 50 pounds.  It’s amazing what can happen when you simply cut junk out of your diet.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she has a pretty physically demanding job (which she loves)

Above is the photo she posted to Facebook last night to show off the infinity scarf I made for her.  You have to admit, the girl knows how to take a selfie.

The photo I took is a little less flattering (it doesn’t help that ALL of her clothes are just hanging on her these days), but you get a better look at the yarn I used (black acrylic interwoven with shiny, metallic threads in different colors):

The Button Infinity Scarf

I haven’t had much time to crochet lately (and I’m not going to have a lot of time until the wedding cakes I’m doing in early October, to say nothing of canning season, have passed), but when Darling Daughter asked for an infinity scarf to wear this winter, how could I turn her down?

For the uninitiated, an infinity scarf is simply a winter scarf crocheted into a big loop – no beginning, no end.  Since I wanted to do a braided scarf, I couldn’t crochet in a big loop; I had to crochet three separate panels, sew them together at one end, braid them, sew them together at the other end, then join the two ends before adding buttons at the seam.

I’d love to give you the pattern for it, but I sort of went off the cuff with this one and while I could write a recipe in my sleep, I have no earthly idea how to write a crochet pattern.

Which doesn’t mean I won’t try.  Because you know how I am.

So… here goes.

Materials:

– 3 skeins Loops and Threads Impeccable Glitter, “Mirror” color

– size H/5.0mm crochet hook

– 3 large, black buttons

tapestry needle

Abbreviations:

ch: chain

sc: single crochet

dc: double crochet

st: stitch

Make 3 panels using the following directions:

Loosely ch 18

Row 1 –  Dc in the 3rd st from hook; dc to the end of the chain (16 dc). Ch 1; turn.

Row 2 – Sc in 1st dc; sc to end of the chain (16 sc). * Ch 1; turn.

Row 3 – Repeat row 2 to *. Ch 3; turn.

Repeat rows (1 – 3) 23 more times for a total 24 rows of (1) dc and (2) sc.  Fasten off yarn and cut.  Weave in loose ends.

Line up the ends of the 3 panels.  Using the tapestry needle and the same yarn the scarf is made of, sew together the panels on one end.  Braid the panels; sew together the other end of the panels.  Bring the ends together and join them, again using the tapestry needle and yarn.

Attach the buttons at the seam.  Fasten off yarn and cut; weave in all loose ends.

Please, all of you serious hookers out there, let me know what I’ve done wrong here – it’s all a learning experience for me!

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.

Tomorrow

Last Friday I wrote about my decision to do another Whole30 this summer was motivated by my most recent bout of insomnia.  I’m glad to report that I’ve been sleeping more soundly since that post.  Not as soundly as I’d like, but it’s better – no anxiety attacks, which is always a good thing.  In fact, the anxiety attack was more worrisome to me than the insomnia; I used to suffer from anxiety quite a bit until we changed our diet.  It was the first attack in a very long time, and it was NOT welcome.

This morning, I’m suffering from menopausal brain fog, something else of which I’d like to see the end.  Why this has lingered when the irritability and mood swings have lessened in frequency and severity over the last year is beyond me, but I really, really hate it.  Hopefully clean eating for 30 days will help a bit with that, too.

Also, I’d like to apologize for the lack of blogging about optimal diet for menopause.  It hasn’t been because I don’t want to, but I simply have not had the time to do the kind of research and experimentation needed to do write with any sort of authority, and I’m not the type to go just throw junk out there because it sounds good.  It is one thing to advise that women of a certain age exercise and avoid alcohol (and plastic) as much as possible, or why it’s not a lack of estrogen that’s the problem but a lack of progesterone, but it’s something else all together to explain the science behind those claims.

Time is my problem and will continue to be, as our busy canning season is rushing towards us with the speed of light, I work to get The Young One settled in college and my workload at the office does nothing but increase.  I do plan, however, to give frequent reports about how I feel over the next 30 days, and what I believe are the causes, so there’s that.  I may also add a page to this site where I document what I eat every day – it will be interesting to see how what I eat affects how I feel (and vice versa).

Anyhoo, in anticipation of a month of grain-dairy-soy-sugar-free meals, here are some of my best Whole30 recipes.  I’ll be making them over the course of the month, and hope you do too.

Gluten-Free Crab Cakes

Gluten Free Crab Cakes

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes

Melon Salad

Melon Salad

Chili Dogs

Chili Dogs

Zucchini Fritters

Zucchini Fritters

Okra Stir-Fry

Okra Stir-Fry

Birria

Birria

Mushroom and Spinach Quiche. Gluten-free, dairy-free and low carb, this crustless quiche is unbelievably delicious.

Mushroom and Spinach Quiche

Citrus Marinated Flank Steak. Nothing compares to a perfectly grilled Flank Steak, especially when flavored with citrus and chili!

Citrus Marinated Flank Steak

Another Whole30

I had a recipe for you today but, well…you’ll get it next week.

I’m a bit wonky today.  If you’ve been reading here for any amount of time you know I suffer from periodic bouts of insomnia.  Most of the time it’s a night or two (occasionally three) where I have a hard time either falling asleep or staying asleep.  The staying asleep nights are usually sinus-related, and I can find some relief simply by sleeping semi-upright – either propped up on what Beloved refers to as “Mount Pillowmanjaro” or, more successfully, in my recliner.  If that’s not enough, then I have other strategies I employ, and I’m usually back to something resembling normal sleeping patterns in a day or two.

Three years ago, though, I went through a severe period of insomnia that lasted over six weeks.  Yes – SIX WEEKS.  It started out sinus-related and was so bad I began to have nightmares that I was choking, which brought on horrible anxiety attacks about sleeping in general and just made the whole thing worse.  I was a miserable zombie before it was all over, and have dreaded a repeat.

The last two nights?  Have not been good, and this morning I had to talk myself down from what was a potentially major anxiety attack.  Two nights and one bad anxiety attack was enough for me to decide to nip this right in the bud, and since I know my sinus problems are at least partly diet-related (things have been getting a little lax here at the Sushi Bar in regards to grains, legumes, dairy, alcohol, etc), I am going to join the big Whole30 push this August.

I know I was disappointed in the results from last year’s Whole30, mainly because it did little to alleviate the worst of my menopause symptoms.  Over the course of the last year, those have abated somewhat; not from anything particular that I’m doing, I’m sure – I’m still over-worked, over-scheduled and over-stressed.  Perhaps I’m just getting to the point in this menopausal journey where the symptoms are, if not disappearing, just becoming naturally less severe (I know regular exercise is helping quite a bit).  Right now I’m looking for a way to nip this particularly nasty and tenacious insomnia in the bud, and I could also use an excuse to clean up my eating act somewhat (like not being able to sleep isn’t excuse enough).

So just get ready for another month of Whole30 recipes, beginning the first of the month.  My enthusiasm for blogging has also been waning lately; maybe this will help with that, too.

Have a great, restful weekend, y’all.

U.S. Wellness Meats Featured Chef for June!

Yes, that would be me.

For those of you unfamiliar with the operation, U.S. Wellness Meats sells and ships humanely and sustainably raised meats, many of which are raised on their farms in Missouri and Illinois.  The meats and products they don’t produce themselves are acquired from a network of cooperative family farms around the country.

Besides grass-fed and pastured beef, bison, pork, chicken, lamb and domestic rabbit, they also sell sustainably caught wild fish and seafood, a variety of raw milk cheeses, raw honey, seasonings, barbecue sauces, and a variety of healthful fats – grass-fed butter, duck fat, tallow and extra-virgin olive oil.  Whole30 compliant bacon and sausages are also available.

There are also many recipes on their site (including four of my own).  If you cook with pastured meats often, you know that they often require more careful cooking than their industrially farmed counterparts, so it is nice to have such a robust collection of recipes dealing exclusively with grass-fed and pastured proteins, many of which were developed by popular paleo/real food bloggers.

Please take a moment and visit U.S. Wellness Meats when you have a chance.  They’re a marvelous resource for humanely and sustainably raised meats, especially for those who aren’t fortunate enough to have a local source.  Even if you can easily obtain grass-fed beef and pastured pork and chicken, their other offerings are definitely worth a look.  While you’re there, be sure and read the FAQ page, which is a wealth of information about how their animals are raised and processed.

Oh, and the prices are fairly reasonable, as far as pastured meats go, and they offer a bulk discount, as well as free shipping, on many items.