Monthly Archives: March 2012

T-O-F-U: a guide

I must warn you: this entry has no knitting content whatsoever. Although the subject (tofu) is treated with the same amount of enthusiasm as a sock knitter feels after discovering Judy’s magic cast on.

What is tofu? The really short answer: tofu is made from soy. There are a few steps in the process, but soy beans are the original source.

In Finnish you may also come across the term soijajuusto, “soy cheese”. In spite of this translation, tofu is not really a replacement for cheese (there are other products for that), but an alternative for meat.

There are two varieties of tofu sold generally, firm and soft (also called “silken“). The brand I use a lot is the Finnish Soya (homepage here). They sell both unseasoned and seasoned firm tofu, plus silken tofu with the name pehmeä – mjuk tofu

Tofu is widely available at least where I live. Even Alepa usually has some, with larger supermarkets carrying multiple varieties and brands. Check near the cheese section.

Firm tofu has a significant amount of protein (about 16g/100g) and not too much fat (8-10g). Silken tofu has less protein (6-8g), so I tend not to use it as the main ingredient in my cooking.

Tofu by itself is pretty tasteless, but can with seasoning be adapted almost endlessly. The firm variety I mostly use fried, in savoury dishes. Silken tofu is good in pie fillings, sauces and even in baking -I’ve used it in chocolate pancakes, for example.

Here are a few examples of how I use tofu:

tofu3

This picture was taken around Christmas, in case you can’t guess from all the red. It’s spaghetti with tofu in sesame sauce, made from a recipe in Puputytön juhlakirja (Finnish vegan cook book) that has become a household staple.

(A fun fact that surprises most people: sesame seeds have a high amount of calcium. 100g has 975mg, more than the adult’s recommended daily intake (600mg*). Of course one doesn’t eat 100g in one meal, but I use small amounts here and there, and bigger quantities occasionally -like in the sesame sauce.)

tofu2

This is Satay Tofu with a bulgur salad. The Satay, or peanut, “sauce” (this one’s pretty thick) is my own version. The bulgur salad is based on a recipe in Viiden tähden vegaani (another Finnish book), but I substituted couscous with bulgur (which also adds protein and fiber to the meal).

what to do with tofu

Finally, an example of my typical weekend breakfast. The basic idea is just that, basic -fry some tofu, add some vegetables our whatever’s in the fridge, season, and eat. My favourite version is probably frozen peas, onion and corn. The picture shows tofu and left-over peas and tomatoes, with nutritional yeast sprinkled on top. (That, by the way, is one of the vegan substitutes for cheese. See wikipedia article here or a vegan blogger’s post here. In Helsinki the best places to find it are Ruohonjuuri, Punnitse & Säästä, Ekolo and general health food stores.)

As you can see, in all of these examples the tofu has been fried. This is both fast and easy, but here are the basics:

-First dry the tofu! I generally first press it with my hands over the sink and then wrap it in kitchen paper. Once the extra moisture is out, I cut it into cubes or slices, depending on the recipe. You can also put tofu in the freezer -it changes the texture a bit but makes it even more easier to fry.

-After drying, I either fry the tofu at once or let it marinate in a sauce for a while.

-If you’re frying just the tofu, use a hot pan. The tofu should get a nice golden colour.

For more recipes, my two favourite sources have already been mentioned – Viiden tähden vegaani and Puputytön juhlakirja. There’s also one focused exclusively on tofu: Tofukeittokirja by Marianne Kiskola and Sanna Miettunen. I rarely use English-language sources nowadays, but Vegan Yum Yum has pretty good recipes in the archives. In Finnish my fave is Chocochili. Other vegan blogs are for example Pidempi korsi and kasvis.fi.

*Kasvisruutukokki (WSOY 2003), page 30.

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Three, with footnotes

I have as many as three FOs to show you today! I know I wanted to write about all three at once, but since one of them was a gift for someone who might be reading this, I had to wait until the 21st 🙂

Let’s start with the gifted item – a hat! In fact, they’re all hats. Again.*

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Yarn: handspun from Villavyyhti. The skeins are unique, so you won’t find the same stuff behind that link, but truly, they’re all awesome.

This one’s really all about the yarn. Actually, since the recipient is a knitter, I could have just given her the yarn, but I really wanted to knit with it myself. What can I say, I love handspun.

Pattern: None. I guessed how many stitches I might need, knit a garter band, then switched to stockinette. After one false start at knit night I got closer to the right head size with 110 sts on 3mm needles. 

This next one took f o r e v e r. Many people have probably already seen it, since I took it to various knit nights in February and beginning of March.

Image

Out of approx. 30 pictures THIS was the best one. Sigh. 

Pattern: Wild is the Wind by Lee Meredith (available for purchase via Ravelry). The designer was interviewed on Stash & Burn in February and inspired by that, I cast on the hat while listening to the show**. It’s one of those no-gauge patterns, i.e the pattern provides the formula but you have to do some math to calculate the necessary stitch numbers. This one was not my no. 1 favourite -some directions could have been clearer, and although I do now love the pointy top, I was following the directions for a non-pointy one. Also, I continue to be unwilling to knit any sort of vertical bands, and just did a 1×1 twisted rib instead.

Yarn: Madelinetosh Tosh merino light in “calligraphy”. Obviously, my choice of light fingering weight yarn might not have been optimal for this pattern. At least it certainly explains why this took so long -my gauge was 32sts to 10cm.

Camera Roll-375

This one I call The Cupcake Hat. As a knit object it’s hardly anything special, but it does mark the beginning of a new era. It’s the first baby-anything I’ve ever knit (NO, not for me***).

Me and the BF’s age difference is just big enough to mean that as my friends are now graduating from university, his friends are getting married and having children. This hat was, I imagine, only the first of many baby presents to come.

The yarn is Katia Cotton Comfort -great stuff, actually suitable for (vegan) summer socks, so naturally it’s discontinued. Boo.

* I’ve been re-reading 52 weeks, 52 Hats, which certainly does nothing to limit this hat addiction. 

** Stash & Burn really deserves it’s own post. If you understad enough English to read this and are interested in knitting, please go listen to their episodes.

*** I always suppose a blogger is pregnant when they show baby knits, so just wanted to make it clear that it’s not the case here.

 

Knitting Book Essentials

Good morning all! Today has started with sunshine, coffee and the new Knitty. Not too shabby for a weekday morning.

I’m not really too keen on massive spring cleaning, but I have to admit that the increasing amount of sunshine does make me rather more aware of dust in random places. Like for example our bookshelves. Although I do not buy as much fiction books as I used to, knitting books and magazines take a lot of space as well. And when you add to this the 20-odd library books I have lying around for studying purposes…

My knitting library isn’t huge, in my opinion (and the curious can check my library through my Ravelry profile -I keep it up to date), and yet I’ve realized that I still could manage with far less books. In fact, if I had a really limited amount of space, I could manage with 6 books:

1. Knitting without Tears by Elizabeth Zimmermann

This one really has been invaluable. I’ve used her sweater patterns with most of the garments I’ve made, even when I’ve technically been knitting someone else’s pattern. Nor does the book take much space, as it’s a pretty slim (but large) paperback.

2. Knitting Vintage Socks by Nancy Bush

Although I own more sock books than any other type of knitting books, I find myself using the same few over and over again. I’ve knit some of the patterns in Vintage Socks just as-is, and used stitch patterns from others to adapt to my taste. I also love the history section and the feeling of a long tradition the book evokes. The physical book is rather heavy but it’s also spiral-bound. That means that it stays open, which makes it easy to check directions while knitting.

3. Weekend Hats by Cecily Glowik MacDonald and Melissa LaBarre

I’ve already written at length about this book, and yes, it does have it faults. Yet I have used it and continue to use it. It’s not very expensive, does not weigh too much or take too much space. Definitely a keeper.

Althiugh books 1 & 2 also provide enjoyable and useful reading material, I would still categorize them as pattern books (and no. 3 as solely a pattern book). The rest of the books are on the list because of the reading experience -while I might make some of the patterns, they aren’t really the point. These are the books I read when it’s so hot I can’t knit, but want to read about knitting.

4. Knitter’s Almanac by Elizabeth Zimmermann

What could I say that hasn’t been said already? If you haven’t read it, please do so at once. I own the small paperback edition, which makes the book perfect take-along reading, but there is also a more recent hardback edition with colour photographs.

5. The Knitting Rules by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Although I like the other Yarn Harlot books as well, this one’s really my favourite. It is both useful and fun, again presented in a handy paperback form.

6. The Gentle Art of Knitting by Jane Brocket

I came across Brocket’s earlier book The Gentle Art of Domesticity at the library about two years ago, and have since borrowed it more than once. I started reading her blog (http://yarnstorm.blogs.com/) and naturally found out about the knitting book that she was writing. I bought The Gentle Art of Knitting from the Waterstone’s in Amsterdam when we went there on vacation last spring. Although the book does have patterns, Brocket also writes about inspiration and colour and personal memories, so that the patterns do not really feel like the main point. The majority of them are very simple and if I ever knit any of them, I think they are more to be used as inspiration than strict step-by-step instructions. I’m pretty sure the writer would approve. As a physical object, the book is very quaint and large enough to serve as a coffeetable book.

 

Songs for Spring

As someone with a very long history of blogging attempts (many of which have not lasted nowhere near as long as this one) I think I have at last found the Secret that ensures one’s peace of mind and blogging happiness: write whatever and whenever you want.

Such an exclamation might traditionally signal an onslaught of sexual revelations, work rants and/or cute baby pictures, none of which is really my forte, so fear not. Instead, I just apparently really like making lists (and recommendations). And because I am today waiting really desperately for spring to arrive, I started listening to songs that for some reason remind me of that season.

1. Rubik // A Hard Try

what if the sun/leaned forward and sneaked into your heart/and through?

(I imagine sea & sunlight in Helsinki when I listen to this one.)

2. Rufus Wainwright // 11:11

woke up this morning at 11:11/wasn’t in Portland and I wasn’t in heaven/could have been either by the way I was feeling/but I was alive

(I remember listening to this on my way to high school in the spring, which is really the only connection the song has to changing seasons. But it’s still a really good song.)

3. Kate Bush // Cloudbusting

but every time it rains/you’re here in my head/like the sun coming out/I just know that something good is gonna happen/and I don’t know when/But just saying it could even make it happen

(I imagine gravel wet from spring rain)

4. flor-de-lis // Toda As Ruas Do Amor

(Portugal’s song in the Eurovision contest 2009)

5. Jonna Tervomaa // Tytöstä ja pojasta 

kadut täyttyy ja liput liehuvat/mä en ole nyt juhlatuulella/karkaa minun mukana puutarhaan/toisiimme kiinni kietoudutaan

(I’ve always thought that the celebrations mentioned in the lyrics are Mayday celebrations)