Episode 63: More than Sweet

cover63It’s the holiday season and I go on a bit about the Christmas decorations at Yin Hoo.  This episode contains the following segments: Ever-expanding Skill Set, A Little Bit o Learning, The Back Porch, The Front Porch, and Double Happiness.  Have you ever wondered why some sugar substitutions work better than others? In this episode, I review some major points about the chemistry of using sugar in baking, and relay some tips about substituting honey, maple syrup, molasses, and sucralose (Splenda). Plus, a review of my special kind of gift knitting.



xmas3Recipe links:

Buckwheat Thumbprint Cookies

Proper Shortbread

Almond Hazelnut Gateau – This recipe calls for “whipped topping,” but I recommend substituting heavy cream whipped to firm peaks. It’s decadent, but not too sweet.



Links to information about sugar and sugar substitutions:

Baking with Sugar and Sugar Substitutes

Sugar’s Functional Roles 



Episode 62: (a different kind of) Gift Knitting

cover62I also announce the winners of November’s Bulk Bins Cook-along and Another Door Opens. This week’s segments include: Chin Waggin’, The Back Porch, The Front Porch, Ever Expanding Skill Set, and Gratitude Journal. I engage in a little chin waggin’ about my Thanksgiving dinner, which features turkey grilled on my Big Green Egg charcoal grill.  It’s a bit of a departure from tradition, but works well given Yin Hoo’s teeny tiny kitchen.  My holiday knitting is complete, so I’m taking part in hashtag grinchalong. In December I’ll be knitting with gift yarn and patterns that I’ve received over the course of the year.  I’m also taking part in an Advent scarf knit-along for the second year.


Pumpkin Gnocchi

gnocchi7Memories of Thanksgiving dinner are revived with these tasty pumpkin gnocchi. I like to make a glaze of butter and leftover gravy to sauté the gnocchi–which gives them a glistening appearance. Serve as a appetizer, or as a main course.






Pumpkin Gnocchi

gnocchi6makes 4 appetizer portions

  • 1/3 c pumpkin purée
  • 1 1/3 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 oz soft cheese (chèvre, gorgonzola, etc.)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • grated nutmeg
  • freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 tblsp butter
  • 1/4 c rich turkey or chicken gravy
  • dried sage or parsley


Combine first seven ingredients thoroughly and knead into a smooth dough. Keep dusting the dough with flour, if necessary, to avoid sticking.

Flatten dough into a square and cut four equal pieces. Refrigeration at this point can help dough relax–important if the dough is sticky.  I made two batches, and the one that rested overnight in the refrigerator was much more tender and light.



Roll each piece of dough into a “rope” of about 1/2″ diameter.  Cut 3/4″ pieces with a small knife. If desired, press each gnocchi onto the backside of a fork to create distinctive ridges, and set aside on a floured surface.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add about 20 gnocchi at a time, stir to prevent sticking, and allow gnocchi to cook for 3-4 minutes. Pasta is done when it floats on the surface.



Using a small strainer or slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to a small sauté pan, in which you have combined butter and gravy. Sauté until golden brown and serve with a garnish of crushed sage or parsley leaves.

Episode 61: Warping & Weeping

cover61This week’s episode includes the following segments: The Back Porch, Chin Waggin’, The Front Porch,  A Little Bit of Learning, and Double Happiness. You’ll hear about my disastrous attempt to start a scarf for Samuel. I have some before pics, but no after, because I don’t believe in photographing carnage. Also, there’s a bit of investigation about types of flour. I’ll be taking a digital detox this week. I typically refrain from shopping on Friday, but this year I plan to go a step further and spend Friday in quiet contemplation and reflection. I wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving.



Here’s the warp at about 3:30 pm.  I enjoy this setup on my porch.  But the temperature was near freezing and it started to get dark VERY quickly.  I’ve learned my lesson.  Porch weaving is for much warmer temperatures. Now that I’ve found another gift idea and I’m well into the knitting, I feel much, much better!

Here’s a link to “Butter” by Elizabeth Alexander. You can listen to an audio file of the poet reading her work.

Episode 60: Another Door Opens

cover60This episode includes the following segments: The Front Porch, The Back Porch, Ever-expanding Skill Set, A Little Bit of Learning, and Gratitude Journal. This week, I talk about developing my very first shawl design, Another Door Opens. I’m so pleased that the pattern is complete and available on Ravelry. The Bulk Bins Cook-along continues — November is devoted to flour and we’ve been talking about pies. I’ll go into a little more detail about blind baking crusts, a topic my mother touched on in Episode 59, but which needs a bit more explanation.


A Shawl Design Comes to Life


The idea for Another Door Opens has been living with me for about a year. I am fond of visiting a very large ginkgo tree on my daily walk. The golden color of the leaves as they turn, their gently sloping ridges and scalloped edge, the way they form a soft carpet beneath the tree — every aspect of the tree and its leaves inspired me. This summer, I tried to bring my ideas together into a pattern, but grew frustrated. Finally, my beautiful skein of spindle-spun yarn, made with fiber from Three Waters Farm, provided the push I needed to try my ideas again. The result is a shawl that begins with a triangular shape, but quince2finishes with a soft border. The wingspan edge is nice and stretchy. Slipped stitches along the spine create a strong visual center. Recording the sequence of rows and stitches was one thing; devising a method of presenting the pattern was another challenging task. I’m pleased to offer a pattern in table format, with written directions and stitch counts for every row, plus percentage information so that you can use every bit of your selected yarn. The pattern has three sections, plus a border. Adding additional rows in any of the sections will result in a larger shawl. After completing the shawl design with my handspun, I worked it again with Quince & Co. Tern in the colorway beaverDusk. I added a border in Claudia Handpaints fingering-weight yarn in the color Cabin Fever. I’m hosting a giveaway for a copy of the pattern, plus a beautiful skein of yarn (458 yards of 2-ply 80% fine merino / 20% kid mohair in the Wild Geranium colorway) from Beaverslide Dry Goods. Join the Yarns at Yin Hoo group on Ravelry and post a message in the contest thread for a chance to win.

My Kind of Apple Pie

 pieslice                        My Kind of Apple Pie

This version of an American classic has a crunchy crumb topping that doesn’t sink into the apple filling — that’s because of a unique double crust.  Use a variety of apples from your outing to a local orchard or farm stand. This pie is perfect with a scoop of real vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of maple syrup. It is also a valid breakfast item, if you ask me.

Double Crust

  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tblsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 c shorting
  • 1/3 c butter (cubed / cold)
  • 2 tblsp vodka
  • ice-cold water

In a large metal bowl, combine first three ingredients. Use a pastry cutter to cut in fat until mixture has a rather sandy texture and there are no large clumps.

Sprinkle vodka, then ice-cold water by the tablespoon. Use a fork to stir. Add liquid until the mixture comes together into a dough.

Form two disks (one slightly larger than the other), using the heat of your hands to shape. Do not knead the dough! Wrap each disk in parchment paper and allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Crunchy Crumb Topping

  • 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1/4 c dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 tblsp flaked coconut
  • 6 tblsp butter

Cut butter into dry ingredients until the mixture has a course, crumbly texture. Set aside.

Apple Filling

  • 8 – 10 medium-sized apples of different varieties, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • lemon juice
  • 2 tblsp flour
  • 2 tblsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon OR
  • garam masala
  • dash freshly-grated nutmeg

As you peel, core, and slice apples, keep firmer and softer varieties separated into different bowls. Add lemon juice to sliced apples to prevent browning.  Add flour, sugar and spices. Toss to coat.

Heat 1 tblsp oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan or stock pot and cook apples gently over medium heat until they start to soften. Add a few spoons of water to prevent sticking if necessary. Cook firm apples first; and softer/sweeter varieties later. Very sweet or soft apples do not need to be cooked at all. Remember, you are not making apple sauce; you’re simply starting the cooking process for the apples. Allow mixture to cool slightly while you roll out pie crusts.

Preheat oven 375°

Roll out refrigerated dough on a lightly-floured surface. Place first (larger) round of dough in a deep pie dish, pour in apple filling and make sure there are no air pockets. Place a second round of dough on top. Cut off excess dough and crimp. Cut several large vents in the top of pie, brush with maple syrup, honey or a beaten egg white, then heap crumb mixture on top.

Place pie in center rack of oven and bake for 20 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350° and continue baking for another 40-50 minutes or until filling is completely cooked through and bubbling in the center.