Wednesday, January 6, 2016

National Bean Day and Crocheting

National Bean Day

As with many of these obscure holidays, I couldn't find a definitive reason behind National Bean Day.  The best reason I found was that it commemorates the death of Gregor Mendel, a geneticist who used bean plants in his research work.  

Whatever the reason, beans deserve to be celebrated!  They are versatile, easy to prepare, inexpensive, and can be found in all cuisines.  They can be dressed up or dressed down, made into hot or cold dishes, be the star of a dish or a supporting ingredient, and are a good source of protein.

One bean I frequently prepare is the pinto bean.  This is my basic recipe for Slow Cooker Pinto Beans.

Slow Cooker Pinto Beans Recipe

1 lb dry pinto beans
4-5 slices good quality pork jowl or smoked bacon, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
2-3 serrano or jalepeno peppers, diced.  Adjust hotness by including/excluding the seeds

I soak the pinto beans overnight in a bowl, then rinse and place in the slow cooker the next morning.  Add the pork, onion and peppers, then cover with water so that everything is completely submerged with about an extra inch of water.  Cook on low for 6 hours.

At the 6 hour mark, I check on the beans and add the cumin and salt to taste.  I LOVE cumin so use several tablespoons.  After that, I cook for another 1-2 hours, depending on how tender I want the beans.

The beans are great right out of the slow cooker.  I also usually turn half of them into refried beans the next day, using bacon fat and adding some chili or chipotle powder.  

Beans freeze well and are a great staple to have on hand for a quick meal.

Crochet Projects from the last few days

This past week, I have taken a break from work and crocheted 4 quick projects from a book I've owned for several years -- Crochet One-Skein Wonders, edited by Judith Durant and Edie Eckman.  This book is one of a series of one-skein wonders books and all of them have a wide variety of patterns in different skill levels.  They are great stash busters if you have a mix of random single skeins.

The yarn for each of these items was from my stash, so no money was spent.  While crocheting, I was also able to think about what items I'd like to add to my Etsy store in January and which existing items need replenishing.

Center Table Runner

I used a skein of variegated sock yarn for this center runner for my dining room table. The pattern was for a smaller placemat size with 12 large motifs.  I wanted a larger piece for the enter of my table, so I expanded the runner to 18 large motifs.  I really like the way it turned out.  A future project would be a tablecloth using this same technique.

Lucky Dog

This book has a handful of crocheted animals and all are cute.  I selected the dog and used the rest of the variegated sock yarn from my table runner project to crochet his ears and embroider features, then light blue fingering weight yarn for the rest of the body.  The pattern used an interesting method of decreasing for the body so that the curve of the upper body was more realistic than many amigurumi I have seen.  Overall, the shaping ideas are ones I'll consider using in future projects. 

Montana Hat

I used grey worsted weight yarn to knit this interesting hat.  The brim was worked in rows, then joined together to form a headband.  After that, the crown was worked in the round after picking up stitches along the top of the headband.  I enjoyed this pattern because I learned how to create a twisted cabling effect in crochet - something I had not done in the past. 

Mobius Cowl

This cowl was made with super bulky orange variegate wool and a N hook, so it was a very quick and easy project.  By crocheting through the back loops, the ridges were former and added great texture.  Before joining the two ends, there is a twist so that it lays properly.  A fun afternoon project that will keep me warm in January!

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