Monday, January 10, 2011

Darlene's Pressure Cooker Split Pea Soup

Darlene's Pressure Cooker split pea soup
Made about 1 1/2 qts of soup. 6 Corelle-ware cereal bowls full. 
This method is different from most pressure cooking methods. We're not just dumping and pressurizing, so READ THE INSTRUCTIONS all the way through! 

By follow instructions pressure canning/cooking is VERY safe! THINK about what you're doing and pressure canning/cooking is VERY safe! But if you start "winging it" or not paying attention, you WILL have problems!

Plan on being in the same room with the pressure cooker/canner while it's going. Do NOT walk off and "forget it". This is not the time to be doing 3 things at once.You need to be able to hear the regulator rocking. If you get the heat too low or too high, the sound of the regulator rocking will let you know that you need to come attend to the heat level.
Preparing your pressure cooker:

Place the cooking rack (that came with your pressure cooker) and about 2 cups of water in the bottom of a 6 qt pressure cooker. Place medium-size stainless steel or Pyrex glass bowl on top of rack. Make sure there's room in the bowl for everything with about 2-2 1/2 inches from the food to the lip of the bowl to spare. Also, the bowl has to sit no higher than 3/4 of the way up the pot to allow for proper cooking under pressure. Food will boil in the bowl, so it needs some room to not overflow the bowl. Make sure you can get the bowl in and out of the pan easily so that the steam can go around the sides of the bowl - you don't want the steam pushing the bowl (and its contents!) up near the exhaust port! If that happens, food particles WILL block the port and you WILL have an explosion from the build-up of pressure. So that's why you don't want to force the bowl into the pan. (Do I REALLY need to tell anyone to NOT USE PLASTIC in a pressure cooker? Do YOU really want to be the butt of "dumb blonde" jokes? lol)
Reminder: Even with an easy to remove bowl, you will NOT be able to remove the bowl until the bowl cools down some, so plan to use a ladle to remove the soup from the pot. (You can't pour the soup out of the bowl because hot water from the bottom of the pan will ALSO come out with the soup! And the bowl will probably fall out - leaving a mess and you burned!)
The reason for the bowl is to keep the split peas from sticking and burning on the bottom of the pan. This method works for making chili in the pressure cooker too. In fact, anything that has a tendency to stick to the bottom of the pan is a good candidate for this method. It allows the food(s) to be pressure cooked, but keeps it off the bottom of the pan where it will stick and burn. Next time I make hash, I'm going to use the bowl in the pot. Last time, I almost burned the hash. If I used a glass bowl, I would NOT use a "quick pressure release" method of cooling down the pot. I think it will cause the glass to break. I'm not going to try it myself and see what happens and I would suggest you NOT try it either. 

1 can of ham* (cannery processed in #2 cans) (Can use diced ham, bacon, ham hocks, Kielbasa or summer sausage for this too)
**1 3/4 cups - 2 1/2 cups water (I used broth from ham), chicken or veggie stock, or bouillon cubes/granules to add more flavor
1 cup split peas
1 large onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 small carrots, cut into 3/4" pennies
7 very small potatoes, scrubbed. Large dices
1 small bay leaf
3 turns of my little pepper grinder - about 1/4 tsp (I don't normally use pepper either. lol)
large pinch of ground ginger - about 1/4 tsp
salt - optional (I don't normally add salt to my food. And with the ham, I didn't need to add any. YMMV)
Add to individual bowls:
2 tsp butter
1/4 tsp Sriracha Hot sauce (or hot sauce of your choice)
1 tsp red wine vinegar (I'll be fresh lemon juice would be good too!)

*I canned some ham at our local cannery in #2 cans. This is the first can that I've used. I ended up with about 2 1/2 cups of broth and 1 cup meat.
Pick over peas and rinse. Place drained peas in bottom of bowl. (If not using canned ham, skip to "*Add ham") Drain and measure liquid from ham. You should have about 2 1/2 cups liquid from the can. If not, add water, stock, etc. 
*Add ham and liquid to bowl.
Add onion, garlic, bay leaf, pepper and ginger to bowl.
Prepare veggies and add to bowl.
Close pressure cooker and turn heat on high. Bring to pressure following your manufacturer's suggestions. When regulator starts rocking, slowly lower heat to a slow rocking of the regulator. Let pressure cook for 15 mins. When time is up, remove pan from heat, but let the pressure come down on its own. (It took about 30 mins for me to hear the safety valve click as it released.)
REMOVE THE BAY LEAF! Don't ask, it wasn't pretty and 35 years later, I still remember it. DO NOT TRY TO REMOVE BOWL FROM PAN AT THIS TIME! 
**Either take a stick blender to the contents of  the bowl or use 1 3/4 cups of water. I think I'll stay with the stick blender because it thickened it up just right for me, but if you want chunks of meat and veggies, cut back on the water - unless you like a thinner soup. Ladle it into individual serving bowls.
It still "needed something". So I stirred in 2 tsp butter and 1/4 tsp Sriracha sauce (Asian hot sauce) into my soup in my bowl. Still "needed something". Added 2 tsps of red wine vinegar to top of the soup in my bowl and didn't stir in. YEAH!!! Disclaimer: I have an asbestos tongue. When my bottle of Louisana Hot Sauce proclaims; "One drop will do", I laugh at it, open the bottle UP (instead of using the dropper in the cap) and POUR it on my food - especially when I want "Hot Wings". As for the vinegar,  I'm of German/Dutch stock. I like SOUR just fine. In fact, I peel and eat grapefruit like most people peel and eat an orange. Except ya have to remove the membrane around the segments - those suckers are BITTER. (Ok, I'm from FL too. lol)
Alternate treatments:
Forget the meat/meat stock and you have a vegetarian soup. 
I believe this to be gluten free. I know there's no gluten in anything until you get to the Sriracha sauce. There's nothing to indicate anything that would be hiding gluten in it, but since I don't have a problem with gluten, I haven't investigated it.

Use 5 or 6 slices of bacon. Fry in bottom of pressure cooker until browned. Remove from pan and fry onions until golden, add garlic and cook a few minutes more. Add 1 cup of water and deglase the pan. Pour water/onions and garlic into bowl. Place 2 cups of water into bottom of pressure cooker, along with the rack Add bowl and follow rest of directions above.
Make cream of split pea soup by adding white sauce to it after it's cooked. (3 T flour, 3 T butter/bacon grease, 2 cups milk) I would definitely cut back the water in the bowl to 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 cups or the milk will thin it too much for most of us to enjoy.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Making do in a small living space

This past Aug, I moved from a 4 bedroom house to a 1 bedroom duplex. Not only is there fewer rooms, but the 4 rooms (bedroom/bathroom/livingroom/kitchen) I do have are MUCH smaller than their counterparts in my old house. My kitchen is almost non-existent. AND the notice that I had to move gave me less than a month to get moved. Not a lot of time to sort a lot of things. Some of my food storage things were easy to sort as I moved them. So were my homeschooling books/children's books. Those boxes went to DD and DSIL basement. They will be returned to the house as soon as I can get stuff here decluttered. Food storage stays, books will be sold.

Some things I've done to maximize space:

Gotten rid of a lot of stuff and am continuing to purge. The kids had to come get their belongs, if not...their stuff went to someone whom wanted it or to the trash.

I've repurposed some metal utility shelving and bookshelves that I already had and a dresser that wasn't "needed". I hang most of my clothing. Gotten/getting rid of a lot of things I never wear/think I'll fit back into "someday"/don't like.

Things I'm keeping have to do double duty. Duplicates are going. (Do I really NEED 3 BOXES of cookbooks? Uhmmmm...don't I look on-line when I want a new recipe or to check the cooking times on things?) Do I really need a flour sifter when I have a small-grid metal strainer? I now make Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day and Healthy Breads in 5 Minutes a Day. Do I really need TWO bread machines? I mean, it takes me less times to mix a batch of REALLY good-tasting bread dough from which I can make 4 or so loaves of bread in less time than it takes me to fiddle with the bread machine!

Paperwork is outta here. I'm taking anything I "can't part with" that's paper - cookbooks I won't use but that do have one or two recipes I'd like to have, old slides (don't have a projector - never did! But slides took up less space and were cheaper to develope than pictures were.), negatives, receipt that I need to keep, old tax returns, etc are all being scanned into the computer and put into files. Then the files will be transfered to either CD, DVD or thumb/flash drive for storage. That way, there's a backup should I need it or want to look at it and it won't clutter up my hard drive or my storage space. (Wow, that will get rid of a LOT of boxes of stuff!) Then I can throw AWAY the originals (You need to keep tax records for 7 years or so and talk to someone who knows what YOU need to keep for other records. I'm dumping tax records that were done and filed online. These are copies. It doesn't matter that I toss copies.)

Get rid of a lot of my books. Things I haven't looked at in YEARS probably don't need to be kept. Things I reread - Agatha Christy, Lilian Jackson Braun, my scriptures stay. Also some of the children's books - I have 2 grandkids on the way! (Got rid of 2 bookcases full of kid's books.)

When I moved, I organized the jumble that was my food storage into cardboard boxes marked: Flours, sweeteners, fruits, veggies, meats, tuna, pasta, baking, condiments, grains, dried beans/legumes, milk and oils/shortening. Since I only have a couple of 1/2 and 1/3 sized cabinets, I'm keeping them in those boxes! I know at a glance which box something is likely to be in and I only have about 4 or 5 of each type box to look through. When I have more time, I will sort the boxes better - but this system is better than the "toss it on the shelf and lose it" method I had before. I used "milk" boxes. The local store gets their brand milk in a heavy box that hold 4 gallons. It has handles cut into it on 2 sides. Nice size/shape for storage. Not too heavy for me to lift and carry. When I have time, I could make the boxes look nicer by paint or putting contact paper on them. But for now, they stay as they are. Oh, and as I open a box, I write on an outside surface (NOT on the top of the box!) what's IN the box so I don't have to keep hunting through the same boxes each time I want tomato sauce, etc. I keep the written side facing out, that wasy I can see what's in that box without opening it.  And they're FREE, recycled and still recycleable when I'm done with them or they wear out.

These things are the "start" of getting rid of 21 years of kids and their "stuff". It's really hard because not only am I getting rid of the clutter - and that would be anything I'm not using that's getting in the way, but I'm having to deal with memories that won't be repeated. So I cry a little and I sort and get rid of a little. Slowly, but surely, I'm getting my new place cleared out. Hopefully, by the time we get the promised storage sheds put up in the backyards, I won't need one.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all of you.

May this new year bring you happiness and prosperity.

About gauge in Knitting (and Crocheting)

Primarily, I'm talking about knitting here. But these facts also apply to crocheting as well. Gauge is gauge.  And to do a proper gauge swatch, you're supposed to knit at least a 4"x4" (10cm x 10cm) swatch, wash and dry it like you will do the finished article and THEN do the gauge check.

Let's face it, most of us do NOT do a proper gauge swatch. Some of us are doing good to get the swatch done at all and then we measure it without bothering with the washing and drying part. I'm guilty of said practice.

A sad but true fact. Very few patterns will turn out the same size as written if you don't check the gauge.  If you're an experienced kniter, you may know that you traditionally have to go up or down and how many needle sizes you usually have to change. But even then, unless it's the same designer who's patterns you've used before, you may be off gauge. The person that wrote the pattern (that's done by knitting something and writing down what you do as you do it - and frogging - A LOT!),  may have a different gauge themselves. If they have the same gauge as you do and you change needle sizes as you'd normally have to do, you'd have something too big or too small.

There are two camps or ways of checking gauge and each camp thinks the other camp is crazy. One camp thinks that knitting a swatch takes less time and then you have a "sample" to keep of how you knit with that size needle and that weight/brand yarn and that pattern (seed stitch, ribbing, etc). They start out with one size needle, do their 4"x4" square and measure it. If it's not to gauge, they switch out needles, but keep on knitting on the already existing swatch for another 4", measure that and then correct again if needed. The advantage to this method is that you then have a ball park figure for the next time you knit with those combos IF YOU'VE WRITTEN DOWN what you've done and kept it WITH the swatch. (paste a corner of a piece of paper to the swatch and mark on the corner what you did and how you did it. The cons to this method is that you've got yarn sitting there that could be in an item and you've spent time that you could have spent knitting what you want on an otherwise useless sample. OR you can make your swatch larger and when it's finished you both have a sample of your work and a washcloth/dishcloth for use.

The other camp is the "start knitting it and then see what the gauge is" camp. The value of it is that, if things are right, you can just keep going. AND you have all of that skein of yarn available to work with. Down side is this - if it's NOT right, you've got to frog it all and start again. And if it's a big project, that's a LOT of time wasted.

What I tend to do is go ahead and start a small item - one that I'm not going to have to cast on a bunch of stitches to do and then check my gauge as I go along, with the foreknowledge that I MAY have to frog it. Toe-up socks and top-down hats and mittens, squares for an afghan all make good examples of something I'd just dive into and do, then check to see if I'm on gauge. Usually you have only a few stitches to start with, and as the stitches grow you can both see and try on the item as well as measure it to see if  the gauge and size are correct.

Brim-up hats, cuff-down socks and cuff-up mittens/gloves, as well as scarves are a toss up. My feelings are that by the time I've done a swatch, I've cast on almost as many stitches as I would making the item. So I may as well go ahead and start knitting - again keeping in the back of my mind that in an hour or so, it could be frog pond time.

Something large - one piece or large panel afghans, sweaters, coats  - BIG projects that take a LONG time to do, I'd swatch. Also if I make something that uses a very fine yarn - like lace or novelty yarns, where frogging can mess up the yarn, I would also swatch. There is one time that I would go ahead and knit a big project and that's if I was making something that has sleeves that are a separate piece, cuff-up (so there's not so many stitches), I would go ahead and knit a sleeve to see if I'm getting gauge in pattern on that sleeve.

Remember to do the swatch in pattern to make sure you have the same gauge as the designer calls for. Sometimes, the designer will tell you to have such-and-such a gauge in ribbing, stockinette or garter stitch. Mostly though, the gauge will be checked in the main pattern that the item will be knit in. And I've seen patterns with swatching called for in ribbing with one size needle and another swatch in another pattern with another size needle. So ALWAYS read the pattern ALL THE WAY THROUGH!

Three other things that I have found will affect my gauge. One is the yarn itself. I did 3 swatches of a plain scarf with some Red Heart or Vanna's Choice yarn. The scarf was a simple stockinette stitch with 3 garter stitches on each side and about 3 rows of garter stitch top and bottom to control the natural tendency of stockinette to roll up on you. Well, I got to knitting and that scarf just "grew" on me. It's WAY wider that the swatch showed it should be and it's way LONGER than what I intended. And yes, my swatch WAS accurate - in 4". The finished scarf was only supposed to be 12" wide, so even if the gauge was off, it wouldn't have grown to 18" wide. I guess as I made it the weight of the fabric it caused it to stretch out. Since it was for a kid to take to school, I didn't loose any sleep over it.

The second thing that has fouled me up was changing types and "style" of knitting. When I went from using DPN's and either "Bates" or "Boyle" needles to using Magic Loop and Addis Turbos needles, I had a HUGE gauge change. To the point that I had to completely frog one of the Fingerless gloves that I was working on. It was my own pattern for a fitted glove. I wrote down what I was doing as I did it. And I still had the DPN/Bates/Boyle glove WAY larger (and fitting the recipient) than the ML/Addis glove, which was too small. That was about 18 hrs of work off to the frog pond. My fault because I should have checked the gauge when I changed, but never dreamed there would be a difference. After all, it was the same yarn and the same size needles. It wasn't until I had DD try them on that I found they were WAY too tight. To the point that the stitches were stretched enough you could see her arm through the stitches.

Third thing that affects my guage is what's going on in my life as I knit. Perhaps other more experience knitters can control this, but if I'm watching something tense on TV, having a disagreement with a kid or I'm upset over something, my gauge tightens a LOT. Crazy thing is, it's doesn't "feel" any tighter on the needles as I'm knitting, but I can see the gauge is off as I look at what I've done. Like when knitting a pair of socks one at a time. They take me a LONG time to do and when done, I can "see" if I've been knitting while something is "bothering" me or if I'm in a good mood. I can see it in the fabric. Again, that may be because I'm not really a very experienced knitter. Mostly dish cloths, 1 pair of socks, a several of pairs of wrist warmers/gloves and a couple of scarves. And while blocking cures a multitude of sins in a wool/wool blend fabric, it doesn't always do much for synthetics.

What I'm working on is collecting patterns that are really just the math equations for knitting certain items. I have socks covered with my Crazy Heels and Toes book. I can choose any size needle and any size yarn and then make my socks fit the recipient. I may have the math figured out for brim-up hats too. But to do these kinds of things, you have to understand HOW gauge works and then either do swatches or be willing to frog items. Oh, and keep a record of how many stitches you get to an inch on certain brand & weight yarns with certain size/brand needles.

In the end, with all knitting that needs to "fit", you HAVE to know how many inches you're getting to an inch and how many inches you need on the finished item. If I need an item that goes around a 9" ankle, and I know that I'm getting 6 stitches to an inch, then I KNOW I'm going to have to have about 54 stitches to get around that ankle. Then you factor in such things as negative or positive ease and number of stitches needed for the chosen pattern. Then those figures are add or subtract for the stitch adjustment(s) to the base number of stitches. So using my 6 stitches/inch and 9" ankle I know I need 54 stitches as a base. Then, usually you want some negative ease in socks so they fit properly. Usually between 10% - 15% is a good negative ease starting number. So 54-10% (5.4 rounded down to 5 stitches) = 49 stitches. If I'm using a k2, p2 ribbing on the legs and top of foot, I need a number divisible by 4 (2 knit stitches + 2 purl stitches = 4 stitches in the pattern). So I will need either 48 or 52 stitches to have the proper number of stitches. In this case, I would go with 48 stitches. That would give me a negative ease of  about 11%, which would not be too tight. 

And the bigger the item or the more stitches the item requires, the more important 1/2 and even 1/4 stitches have to the final size of the item. 1/4 of a stitch makes an equivalent of adding an additional stitch every FOUR stitches. 1/2 stitch per inch and you'd have the equivalent of 1 stitch every 2 stitches. If the pattern calls for something to be 40" and you're SUPPOSED to be getting 10 stitches to an inch, you need 400 stitches cast on. But if YOU'RE you're getting 10.25 stitches, then you've added 1" to your project without meaning because you've cast on the equivalent of 410 stitches. And if you're getting 10.50 stitches to an inch, then you've added 2" to the size - again, without meaning to do so because it's like you've cast on 420 stitches. Those inches can mean the difference between looking good and looking like something is two sizes too big. It can mean the difference between something that is supposed to be "fitted" looking like it's fitted and something looking sloppy and ill-fitting. And the reverse is also true. Too FEW stitches per inch makes something too tight! 40" of 9.75 stitches per inch is like only casting on 390 stitches. 40" of 9.50 is like casting on 380 stitches. A loss of 1" for the missing 1/4 stitches and a loss of 2" for the missing 1/2 stitches. So that 40" is now down to 38". And that's an entire SIZE difference on some items and TWO sizes different on other items.

Moral to the story - at some point, preferably not too far into the project, check your gauge! It will save you being unhappy with the final fit the project.