Saturday, February 12, 2011

Gluten Free Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Mmmmm....super yummy by themselves or with a cream cheese or peanut butter topping, these muffins are easy to make since they're based on a cake mix. I just made a few modifications to the mix instructions. Here's what you'll need:

* 1 bag Namaste Foods, Gluten Free Spice Cake Mix
* 3 large eggs
* 15oz can pumpkin puree
* 2.5oz (Approx.) cream cheese
* 2tbsp (Approx.) Blackstrap Molasses

Heat oven to 350*F, as directed by the mix package. Put paper liners into muffin pan (I prefer a stoneware pan for nice, even baking).

Soften cream cheese in microwave, mash it up then whip with the eggs, pumpkin, and molasses. Add spice cake mix gradually, mixing after each addition. It will be thick. Resist the temptation to add additional liquids.

Portion into miffin/cupcake tins. I usually fill about 3/4 full or so. Bake 25-30 min until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from pans and cool muffins until cool enough to eat without burning your tongue. Enjoy.

Makes 22-24 muffins.

General comment about Namaste Gluten Free baking mixes: They're awesome. Some of you might have been excited when Betty Crocker came out with Gluten Free mixes. I have to say, I really wasn't. I'd already fallen in love with Namaste. They're made with quality, whole food ingredients.

We also highly recommend their Gluten Free Pizza Crust Mix.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Suggestions for Success and the Pea Vines Shawl

Thought I'd show you all a recent finished object today. This is my rendition of Anne Hanson's Pea Vines Shawl. You can also view/buy this pattern directly on Ravelry. I have made the medium size shawl with Knitting Notions Merino/Bamboo in Azure. I had a little trouble - I only had one skein and it wasn't quite enough. But Katherine at Knitting Notions was very helpful in finding a skein of the same dye lot for me, and I was able to finish it with no modifications. Thanks bunches Katherine!

The design is well presented and interesting work. The main body of the lace work with the little nupps creating 'peas' is a little complicated, so maybe not the best for your first lace, but if you're past that beginner stage and comfortable working from charts, it is a fairly straightforward pattern to follow. It also has written instructions, for those of you crazy enough to not like charts.

I have three suggestions for you that might make the process easier.

First, as the shawl is started from the bottom, necessitating a lot of casting on, here is a simple way to make sure you have enough yarn to cast on all those stitches:
Cast on a sample by long tail. Note how many stitches wide your sample is for reference. Knit a bit. Check your gauge and they type of fabric produced. Carefully rip out, but when you get to the cast on edge, pinch the tail in your fingernails right where it joins the fabric edge and hold on. Rip out remaining stitches, leaving the slip knot in place. Without stretching or allowing sag in the yarn, measure the length of yarn between your fingernails and the loop. Divide this distance by the number of stitches used in the sample, then multiply by the number of stitches you plan to cast on, and add 10 or 20% of the distance, then measure out this distance on your yarn and tie a slip knot. Cast on. Rejoice that you only had to do it once.

Second, I find nupps, at least the style Anne has used for this pattern, easier to create with a steel crochet hook, both for the making of loops and pulling through of the last. Try it - cuts down on the swearing.

Third, as suggested by another Ravelry user, I stuck a T-pin under/at the base of each pair of peas during blocking (see photo), to encourage them to pop out a bit. For the medium size shawl, you're going to need a lot of pins for this, maybe 75 or 80.

The last image is of the unblocked shawl. I remember hearing Kelley Petkun of Knit Picks saying in a podcast once that she would like to see more folks post images of their unblocked lace, so that the uninitiated to lace can see how different the final product looks from the in process item. See how scrunched up it is vs the photos posted at the top of this story? As you might guess, the blocking and stretching process also causes the shawl to grow considerably in size.