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!

 

And Then My Head Exploded

Now that I’m splint-free, my mind is reeling with possibilities for making, and it turns out I want to make all the things at once.

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From left to right:

  1. Sunday Shawl (crochet)
  2. Handspun for weaving
  3. Undyed fiber from Spunky Eclectic (for my current spinning project, which I think I haven’t shown you yet)
  4. Handspun socks
  5. Cross-stitch I apparently can’t finish

I am so close to done on the shawl (one more row!) but I really need to focus on gifts right now, so here’s what I’m committing to today:

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Socks for my kiddo. Cast on last night and am almost done with the first sock (afterthought heel will happen later). The yarn turned out heavier than I meant it to, but I’ll take it – heavy worsted yarn makes for quick knitting.

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left: Hello Yarn (for warp), right: Southern Cross Fibre (for weft)

have to get my loom warped today. I’ve been planning this for two weeks, but I keep dragging my feet because warping takes so long. But I could’ve warped it ten times by now. Mark my words, internet, today is the day I’m getting it done!

Splint-free and Ready to Knit All the Things

Two weeks from Christmas seems an appropriate time to begin gift-knitting, yes? I kid. I gave up any thoughts of handknit gifts when I broke my hand. It’s been a very weird season for me, to go through each day with no knitting for all these weeks.

I got my splint off this week, though, and I’m ready to get back to the needles. It’s a little overwhelming, to figure out where to begin – I have such a backlog of projects and ideas.

But this morning, my son asked me if I would knit something for him. He said he would like some socks, and my heart melted. I already have the yarn spun:

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They may not be ready in time for Christmas, but now at least I know where to begin.

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!

Handspun Sisterhood Stretcher (Quaker Yarn Stretcher)

Last month, thanks to a cancelled flight and some reshuffling, I had some extra hang time in airports on my way to Rhinebeck. It seemed to me the perfect time to cast on for something new.

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I had packed this skein of my own handspun – the first yarn I spun after my mother’s unexpected death, after weeks of not feeling like knitting, spinning, or doing anything I usually enjoyed. The yarn felt special to me, a symbol of hope and comfort as I began to try to emerge from those early dark days of devastation.

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Southern Cross Fibre Organic Merino, “Laurel Crown”

It was so deeply satisfying to knit with this particular yarn, in our cabin in Red Hook, surrounded by a circle of friends. As I’ve already written, the time with these women was nourishing and healing and strengthening, and just so, so good.

On our last night together, I bound off the project I’d started on the way there.

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It was a fast and thoroughly enjoyable knit, extremely easy and perfect for travel. The pattern is the Quaker Yarn Stretcher, a free pattern designed for using a single skein of handspun (it can be adapted to be bigger or smaller depending on your yardage).

The simplicity and texture really show off the beauty of handspun.

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I enjoyed every stitch, and now that it’s done, I love wearing it too.

It’s like a little piece of Rhinebeck I brought home with me, the hours of laughter and stories from knitter-sisters stitched into it.

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When I put it around my shoulders, I feel wrapped in sisterhood, which really helps these days.

Also, it’s just pretty!

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It is rare to find a pattern that is so deeply satisfying in both the knitting and the wearing. It’s so functional too – perfect as a scarf, it also works up easily in more yarn as a shawlette or shawl. I would highly recommend this pattern, and I will almost certainly be knitting this again.

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The Almost Perfect Sweater (Handspun Laurie)

This summer, I had a brief lull between major events in the life of my family. That lull neatly corresponded with Tour de Fleece, so I spun and spun and spun, ending up with more finished yarn than during any previous Tour.

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I was especially excited about the pound of Hello Yarn “Gobbler” on Cheviot. A wooly wool similar to Shetland, this was a delight to spin.

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I spun it with a sweater in mind, thinking these colors would be absolutely perfect for fall.

I cast on during my family’s staycation in mid-August. The following week, I knit my little heart out in the waiting area while my husband had surgery.

In June, my husband was diagnosed with moderately aggressive prostate cancer. The diagnosis was scary and the surgery to remove it was major, but everything went very well and his prognosis is excellent. The pathology report indicated that the cancer was confined to the prostate and that the surgery got it all.

But before we got to that point, the summer was fraught with worry. My knitting was a good companion during the time of waiting; this sweater has a lot of hope stitched into it.

I wanted a sweater pattern that was simple, slouchy, and textured. The Laurie pattern looked like it would fit the bill, and mostly, it did. I love the wide neck, and the intriguing sweater construction. After the neck, the knitting is just round and round, with the tiniest bit of texture to keep things interesting.

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One of the things that drew me to the pattern was its shape – a little slouchy, a little boxy. But that’s also what kept it from being totally perfect. Because once I finished and put it on, it looked too boxy. There’s a whole bunch of weird extra fabric in the back (almost like wings), and no way to fix that by taking in the sides because it’s seamless.

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At first, I thought the problem was with my execution – perhaps I picked a size too large, or maybe it was the fact that I was knitting with a heavier weight of yarn (worsted as opposed to DK, with my stitch count adjusted for my gauge). But the more I studied the pattern photos and pictures other people have posted of their sweater, the more I realized that, no, it’s a feature of the sweater. Everyone seems to pose their way around it – with arms crossed, or hands on hips holding the sweater in closer, for instance – but if you look more closely, you will see the extra fabric in the back on some pictures.

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If I pose like this, you can’t see the extra back fabric, right? (ironic duck face distracts the eye even more)

At first I was pretty disappointed. It was a lot of knitting (not to mention spinning) to end up looking like a blob.

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Blobbiness emphasized by horizontal stripes!

But my husband has convinced me that it looks better than I thought, and that not everything has to be the most flattering things I’ve ever worn.

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I can always rip back to the armpits and decrease several stitches at the bust, to see if that helps. But for now, I’m going to keep wearing it as is.

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Because it is so comfortable, and so cozy, and the colors are so yummy.

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I wore it to Rhinebeck, so it also reminds me of super-happy times with a sisterhood of knitters.

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It’s not everything I wanted it to be, but it’s almost everything. And it’s basically almost perfect. And for now, that’s good enough.