Gadget Girl Goes Gaga (yes, it’s a post about the Instant Pot) (and also about my other obsession: homemade Greek yogurt)

For someone who loves old-fashioned, slow things like knitting and spinning and weaving, I sure do love gadgets. So I guess it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that I would fall in love with a kitchen gadget. I just really wasn’t prepared for how very hard I would fall.

I had read about the Instant Pot on NomNomPaleo’s blog for months before I finally couldn’t take it anymore – I had to try this thing. I gave my husband some pretty blatant hints (things like sending him a link and saying, “Hey, I would love one of these for Mother’s Day!”), and – what a nice surprise! – I received one for Mother’s Day: the Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Programmable Pressure Cooker 6Qt/1000W, Stainless Steel Cooking Pot and Exterior

Twenty years ago, I dated a guy who loved to cook and specifically loved cooking in a stovetop pressure cooker. He persuaded me to get one, and I did. But I was always so scared of that thing that I probably used it less than a dozen times over the years. But the electric pressure cooker takes away that fear for me, because it takes away the risk. It also takes away the guesswork. I was attracted to this particular electric pressure cooker because it’s a 7-in-1 gadget- it works as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, food warmer, yogurt maker, and it sautés and steams.

But here is my confession. For the first six months of owning this beautiful baby, I only ever used it to make yogurt.

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There were two reasons for that. One: I was intimidated by all the functions and options on the machine. Two: the yogurt is amazing.

I started eating yogurt again (after years of reducing and occasionally eliminating all dairy) last winter, after a really nasty stomach bug. When I was getting back on solid foods, there wasn’t much that appealed to me. Then I suddenly had a deep, undeniable craving for Greek yogurt – thick, plain, whole milk yogurt (I believe in eating fat). I had some raw, local honey from my stepson and his fiancé (they raise bees) that I stirred in, along with some raw nuts. It was total bliss, and I was hooked.

In May, after receiving my Instant Pot, I started making my own plain, whole milk yogurt. I used to make yogurt years ago, when the boys were toddlers. I have a dedicated yogurt maker for just that purpose. But this was even easier than that:

  1. pour in the milk, lock the lid, hit the Yogurt button, and the pot brings the milk to boil. It beeps when it’s ready.
  2. Take off the lid, turn off the machine, let the milk cool to 115F or below (this is the hardest part of the whole process).
  3. Stir in yogurt starter (I use Fage Total yogurt or some of my previous batch of yogurt). It needs a lot less starter than you might think. I stir in 1 Tbsp per quart (and I usually start with half a gallon of milk and so stir in 2 T yogurt).
  4. Put the lid back on, hit the Yogurt button again, and adjust the time (I usually do about 10 hours, but it can be as few as 8 or closer to 12 – I just set it depending on what else is going on with me that day). When the timer goes off again, you have yogurt. It can go straight into containers in the fridge to chill at that point.
  5. But since I like Greek-style yogurt, I always strain mine first. I pour it into a strainer lined with a clean cotton tea towel, set over a large bowl. I then set the whole thing in the fridge for 2-4 hours, which makes for a very thick, very creamy yogurt (and a good amount of whey, which can be used for many other purposes).

I know that food bloggers always take pictures and show you each step. But I’m not a food blogger and my kitchen is poorly set-up for capturing those moments anyway. So I’m just going to assume that you can visualize the pushing of buttons, the closing of lids, and the straining of yogurt, and skip right to the goods:

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It is SO GOOD, y’all.

And so thick:

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And since it’s plain, everyone in the family can stir in whatever they like (or leave it as is). I like mine with honey, almonds, and fresh berries.

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As delicious as this yogurt is, and as unbelievably easy as it is to make, I decided over the holidays that it was high time I started using the Instant Pot for over things, too. So I joined this amazing Facebook group dedicated to the Instant Pot, and it has been really educational and inspiring. My gal Heather and I text about our Instant Pots all the time, and she’s been encouraging and helpful, too.

So I finally took the plunge and went beyond making yogurt. And I have been ALL IN. In the last 11 days, I’ve made Buffalo Wings, Kalua Pig, Chili, Vanilla Custard, Mocha-Rubbed Pot Roast (a dish I usually make in the slow cooker but was even better in the Instant Pot; actually the same could be said about the Kalua Pig), Mexican Beef ( AMAZING), Crispy Chicken Breasts with Lemon and Capers, Potato Soup, and absolutely perfect easy-peel boiled eggs (twice). (I will try to come back and add links to all of those when I have a minute – this post is already getting out of control!).And of course, I’ve also made more yogurt.

My mind is hopping all the time now with Instant Pot ideas, so I figured I might as well subject all of you to it, too. I’m probably going to need to write up some of my ideas and experiments, too, so consider this fair warning – you may have to see many more I Love My Instant Pot posts.

But in case you came by for crafts and not for yogurt, here’s a thing I made with all the time my Instant Pot has saved me:

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Hello Yarn “Blossom” on Finn – my first spin of 2016 – 3.5oz, 252yds 2-ply DK. Love this bright, happy yarn on these cold, grey days!

Disclaimer: Yes, that is an Amazon affiliate link up there. I was not paid anything for gabbing about my Instant Pot. But if you are thinking about getting one and you use my link, I will get a tiny commission to support my blog habit. No pressure. HAHA SEE WHAT I DID THERE? #imsopunny

 

 

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2015 Spun Up

Two weeks into the new year (can I still call this year “new”?), and I’m already behind. I spent the first several days sick, and the next several trying to catch up from having been sick, and I’m still trying to recover my knitting mojo (not to mention finishing up the photographing and logging of my 2015 knits). It’s been a little demoralizing.

But this right here has perked me up:

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That right there represents the most I’ve ever spun in a single year – just shy of seven pounds. This was in large part due to getting an electric spinner (a Hansen miniSpinner) for my birthday in June. The first seven yarns I spun this year happened over a period of five months, on my Ladybug. The next 20 happened over the next seven months, on my miniSpinner.

I am sad to say that my Cherry Matchless has seen no action at all this year, and she is in a high sulk. I need to make some decisions about her this year. The miniSpinner has completely revolutionized my spinning, and I’m just not sure I need two wheels on top of the spinner. I’ve always adored treadling, but the truth is, I’ve done no treading since June. It’s hard to justify keeping my Matchless under the circumstances, but it’s also hard to consider letting go of such a beauty. So … we’ll see.

Meanwhile, I’m in love with spinning these days and am hopeful that I can maybe spin around 10 pounds this year, while honing my technique.

Also, just because I like to see the numbers, here’s what I made:

  • basic 2-ply: 19
  • chain-ply: 4
  • singles: 4
  • already knit up (or in the case of 2 of them, woven): 15

Even after almost seven years of spinning, it still always amazes me that I can make yarn with my own two hands (and a tool of some sort). Such a deep and simple pleasure, and one of the brightest spots of 2015 for me.

Winter is Coming Spinalong :: Annunciation

At the end of the year, I finished up my third (and final) spin for the Winter is Coming Spinalong (in the Southern Cross Fibre Ravelry group). Considering themes and images as inspiration for my spinning is a new way of doing things for me, and I’ve really enjoyed it.

For this spin, I chose “Bloodstone” on Superwash Merino:
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I absolutely adore this colorway – so deep and rich.

Initially, I thought of its resonance with winter fires, or with red Christmas decorations, but in the end, I was drawn to something altogether different. It was an icon of the Annunciation – Gabriel’s visitation to Mary – a story I get to read at our church’s Christmas Eve service every year. I loved the particular depiction I found (which I won’t post here because I don’t own the rights to it), because Mary is holding yarn. It’s red yarn. In some icons, she is depicted as spinning (and, in at least one, even knitting). In this one, she has dropped her yarn to listen to the angel. What’s more, she’s also wearing red socks. Okay, maybe they are shoes. But I like to imagine that they are socks. I also like to imagine that they are handknit handspun socks, that she made for herself. The deep red really enchants me. I wanted some for myself, so I spun up the yarn.

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The spinning itself was a total delight. The chain-plying was another story entirely. I’ve been having trouble with my chain-plying lately, and I don’t know what the problem is. I ended up with more twist and less yardage than I’d hoped. I actually ran it back through the spinner to take out some of the twist, and that helped (though it didn’t increase the yardage, of course).

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I think I need to go back to one of my wheels for chain-plying, because I do believe that part of the issue is my electric spinner tempts me to go faster than is wise. That works fine for regular plying, but not for chain-plying. But even on the wheel, I struggle with consistency in my chain-plies. I am very, very interested in hearing any words of wisdom from those who have this process a little more down pat. What advice would you give me?

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Even with my plying issues, it’s hard for me not to love this yarn. The color is so deep and luscious (which I didn’t capture very well in these photographs). I’m looking forward to knitting it up!

 

Winter is Coming, Second Spin

It was Tuesday, and I blinked, and then suddenly it was Friday. I’m sure I’m not the only one trying to find that sweet spot between Getting It All Done and Enjoying the Moment. It’s a tough balance to find any time of year, but especially as we move further into this season.

Waking early for quiet time to think and create is one thing that really helps me find my breath. The fact that I end up with something beautiful to show for that time alone is quite a nice bonus!

Last month, I told you about the Winter is Coming Spin-along in the Southern Cross Fibre Ravelry group. I’ve had a lot of big plans for this, but the spin-along will be up in two weeks and I’m realizing I’m not going to make everything I dreamed of. But I did finish my second yarn this week.

With this spinalong, I’ve been experimenting with using pictures as inspiration to guide me in the process of spinning. It’s been really fun! For this spin, I used this picture for inspiration:

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That’s Jon Snow’s direwolf “Ghost” (from Game of Thrones), and I adore this picture. It seemed a nice match to the Southern Cross Fibre October Classic Club offering:

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I love those luscious colors so much! This is Comeback Wool, an Australian wool I’ve never spun before. It was a total delight.

Ordinarily, I would just spin this up and ply it with itself, with my biggest decision being whether to have it barberpole or line up the colors. But this time, inspired by the picture of Ghost, I really wanted to add a significant amount of white to the finished yarn. So I ordered some undyed Falkland from Spunky Eclectic and spun that up. Then I plied it with the October Showers. I had 4 oz. of the October Showers and 3 oz. of the Falkland – I had uneven amounts because my original idea was to use an undyed grey fiber in there as well. So I ordered 1 oz. of an Icelandic blend in a natural grey from Spunky Eclectic. The color was great, but the feel of the fiber was so different from either the Comeback or the Falkland, that I ended up deciding not to use it.

With an uneven amount of fiber, I decided to ply a small portion of the Comeback Wool with itself. So when I ran out of the Falkland, I wound the Comeback with my yarn winder into a center-pull yarn cake and plied one end with the other, which yielded a nice long streak of lavender at the end of the yarn.

Enough shop talk! Here’s the final product:

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This is 7.25oz, 362yds worsted 2-ply, and I love it.

I’ve been toying with the idea of plying it one more time – chain-plying it for a really fat 6-ply. But I’m torn, because I also really like it as it is. So … we’ll see!

As I’ve been writing this, snow started to fall, hard. Maybe, after these strange couple of weeks of record high temperatures, maybe winter is coming after all!

 

Saturday Spinning

I have a new favorite fiber, y’all. It is Eider Wool and it seems very similar to Shetland, but with maybe a little more poof after washing.

 

Southern Cross Fibre “Water” on Eider


David (of Southern Cross Fibre) is a genius with color, as you can we’ll see.

This is 226 yards of DK-weight 2-ply, and I’m extremely pleased with it.

  
I’m planning to use it as weft for a scarf I’m going to weave, with some Hello Yarn Kent Romney Lambswool as warp:

  
I’m pretty excited about this project and hope to get to warping it soon!

Winter is Coming (A Spinalong)

Snow is coming down hard here today, and I would love nothing more than to just curl up with coffee and crafts and be cozy all day. But today is a writing day for me (so, a different kind of crafting, plus there will still be coffee). At the end of the day, I hope to get back to this:

This is my current spin-in-progress, Southern Cross Fibre “Winter” on Eider. I’ve never spun Eider before, but I’m finding it quite similar to Shetland, which is to say, I LOVE IT.

I’m participating in the November/December spinning challenge in the Southern Cross Fibre forum on Ravelry. The theme is “winter is coming.” Here’s my photo inspiration for this spin:

A long winter’s night, featuring the same gorgeous deep blues, purples, and greens in this fiber. I’m spinning this up to become the weft for a winter scarf, so that’s in keeping with the wintry theme as well.

I hope you are staying cozy and warm, and enjoying a happy weekend.

Just keep spinning

To be without the ability to knit right now has been truly difficult for me. But I am so grateful that I can still spin.

On Friday, I finished this:

   
Southern Cross Fibre Shetland in “Beltane,” chain-plied for socks for one of my sons. This would be for a Christmas present but I doubt I’ll have enough time to knit them after I get out of this splint.

 
But the yarn is ready when I am!

Then Friday night, I watched the third Lord of the Rings movie with the youth at my church. It is so long that I managed to spin an entire four ounces during it. And the movie still wasn’t done!
I started with this:  
 Southern Cross Fibre Bond in “Esmerelda,” picked by my other son for slippers (which would also be for Christmas if my hand weren’t  broken).

  
I spin it as a fat 2-ply, and I love how it turned out.

To paraphrase from a certain fish we all know: When life gets you down, you know what you gotta do? Just keep spinning, just keep spinning, just keep spinning, spinning, spinning. 

My Own Personal Tour de Fleece

Thanks for all the sympathy and support regarding my broken hand. It is a depressing and discouraging development, especially after everything else that has happened in my life in the last six months, but it should be only a temporary setback. It’s definitely disappointing not to be able to knit (I have tried, and it is so clumsy, cumbersome, and slow, that it gives me almost no pleasure or relaxation to do so). Fortunately, there is no shortage of other activities I enjoy that don’t require two fully functional hands.

Happily, spinning is one of those. My right hand is mostly stuck in exactly the correct position for how I like to spin:

perfect!

perfect!

So I am going to treat these next four weeks as my own personal tour de fleece. Let’s see how many yarns I can make, shall we?

I finished Yarn #1 Tuesday night:

Look at those colors!

Look at those colors!

How delicious is that?! It’s Hello Yarn Falkland (one of my fave fibers) in “Mignardises.”

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Look how plump!

Spun as a a light worsted 2-ply with an attempt to line up colors as much as possible. 4 ounces, 218 yards.

I got the next fiber on the wheel yesterday morning:

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Southern Cross Fibre Shetland, “Beltane.” I’m going to chain-ply this for socks for one of my kiddos. Shetland will be okay for socks, won’t it? If Shetland is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

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The greens, blues, and golds in this fiber are so yummy. I hope to finish up the spinning tonight and ply tomorrow!

At least I can still spin…

  
It’s a long, stupid story, but the upshot is I messed up my hand and I’m in a splint and a lot of things hurt, including knitting. I’m seeing the orthopedist in the morning, and I hope to know more then. But tonight, I’ll just keep spinning….

Sunday Spinning

Sundays are so full and busy for me, in a good way, but it means they spin away from me so quickly. Today is spinning by especially fast. But I’m helped by the fact that I started the day by doing all the things that ground me, including some spinning.

  
Finished the first two ounces of Hello Yarn Falkland, “Mignardises” (June 2014 fiber club). I love it and plan to make a little time for more spinning tonight.

I hope your Sunday is beautiful, and that you are able to make a little time for whatever fills you with joy.