Saturday, May 24, 2014

Summer Window Boxes

The weather was too nice to spend the day inside, so I decided to spruce up the front of the house by planting in our window boxes. Silver Mound, Vinca Vine, Sweet Potato Vine, and Red Geraniums for a pop of color. What are you planting this year? Be creative and enjoy!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Roasted Vegetable Pasta Salad

I'm not usually a pasta salad fan. I love pasta, I eat salad, but they don't go together in my mind. I must admit, however, that I am a complete and total sucker for beautiful food. Fresh, colorful vegetables, creamy mozzarella, tangy, red vinaigrette? Yes, please. I'm so ready for the vibrant, pretty food of summer--this pasta salad is my way to kick off the season. This isn't the traditional, Italian dressing laden pasta salad that most of us probably grew up with. This salad is more about the vegetables for me and less about the dressing.

16 oz. short pasta (I used Gigli or Campanelle), cooked al dente and drained
16 oz. mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
8-12 oz. fresh asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into pieces
8-10 oz. grape tomatoes, halved
1 red onion, quartered then sliced thickly
1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
Olive oil
2 jarred roasted red peppers, sliced
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, cubed
1/2 c. olive oil
1/4 c. good quality red wine vinegar
1 shallot, minced
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of salt/pepper (use a generous pinch of salt)
1/2-1 tsp. brown mustard (whole grain or spicy brown)
Handful of fresh, chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 425 degrees
Toss prepared vegetables (mushrooms, fresh asparagus, grape tomatoes, red onion, artichoke hearts) with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet lined with foil. Roast approximately 20 minutes, depending on the size of your dice/slices
Cook pasta according to package directions in well-salted water, drain
Combine 1/2 c. olive oil, 1/4 c. vinegar, shallot, sugar, salt/pepper to taste, mustard, parsley in a mason jar. Shake until well-combined
Toss roasted vegetables, red peppers, pasta, and vinaigrette
Once salad has cooled to room temperature, stir in cubed mozzarella
Eat at room temperature or allow to chill

I ate this salad two meals a day for three straight days, and it just got better each day. This recipe could easily be modified according to your tastes; use the vegetables that look best at your market. Be creative and enjoy!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Crafts of Kindness 3: Wildlife Rescue Nests

Spoiler alert: adorableness ahead! Spring is finally, FINALLY prying Michigan loose from winter's cold dead fingers, and the change of season inspired this Crafts of Kindness post. While it's fun to see newborn animals in their natural homes with their parents at this time of year, not all of spring's new arrivals will be so lucky. Animal Rescues often take in orphaned baby bunnies and birds in addition to the usual domesticated animals like cats and dogs.

(Please forgive the plastic Easter eggs I used for scale in the first picture. I was sans baby animals to use as models.)

Bev's Country Cottage has put the word out that several wildlife rescues are requesting crocheted or knitted nests for their animals. I knit one today, following the pattern listed on the Bev's Country Cottage website for a knitted nest. It is imperative that the nests be tightly knit and able to hold their shape. To achieve this result, I knit my nest with two strands of worsted weight yarn held together. Although the pattern calls for size 5 double pointed needles, I worked on circular needles using the magic loop method.

The pattern that follows is reprinted from the Virginia Beach SPCA Wildlife Program:

On size 5 dpn’s cast on 54 stitches (dividing up into 18 sts/needle) [or using the magic loop method on size 5 circulars]. Work in knit (stockingette is automatic on dpn’s) stitch for approximately 3 inches. Begin decreasing for the crown as follows:
Next row: *K 7, k 2 tog* repeat to end
Next row: *K 6, k 2 tog* repeat to end
Next row: *K 5, k 2 tog* repeat to end
Nest row: *K 4, k 2 tog* repeat to end
Next row: *K 3, k 2 tog* repeat to end
Next row: *K 2, k 2 tog* repeat to end
Next row: *K 1, k 2 tog* repeat to end
Clip of yarn leaving a tail of about 6 inches.
Using yarn needle, slide yarn needle under all stitches on needles, and draw tight to close up the end. Knot

Once your nests are finished, check with your local wildlife rescues and animal shelters to see if they would be able to use your handiwork. If not, these location are definitely in need of nests:

Virginia Beach SPCA Wildlife Program
Attn: Wildlife
3040 Holland Rd.
Virginia Beach, VA 23453

Wildlife Response, Inc.
Attn: Deborah Hoover-Powers
PO Box 2904
Chesapeake, VA 23327

Wild Baby Rescue
Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
14 Grouse Mountain Rd.
Blairstown, NJ 07825
Nests- Hope Davis

These little nests are quick to knit--I finished mine in just a few hours and I'm not a particularly fast knitter. Added bonus: baby animals aren't choosy about color coordination, so it's a great stash-buster for all of your oddball leftover yarn. This would also be an excellent undertaking for a knit or crochet group. Be creative and enjoy!