Friday, May 26, 2006

Center Schmenter

My latest knitting related learning disability has to do with what is known as the "Center Pull Ball."

Very occasionally I've had success sticking a finger into the center of the ball and fishing out the end that is tucked inside. For you non-knitters, the reason you want this end rather than the easily accessible one on the outside has to do with ball twirlage (that's a technical term). If you use the outside end, every time you pull on the ball to advance more yarn, the ball takes off across the floor, providing much delight to cats and toddlers in the general vicinity. If you find that elusive inside end, your ball of yarn will stay where you put it and not collect all the dust bunnies under the couch as it rolls away from you.

I believe that I am uniquely disabled in my inability to find the inside end. I am further hampered in my efforts by memories of the old BBC/PBS series All Creatures Great and Small (based on the James Herriot book of the same title.) My mother hails from Yorkshire, where the series is set, so watching the show was a family requirement and we all got to know the folks at Skeldale Veterinary Surgery rather well. In particular, I have vivid memories of the actor playing James, the young Christopher Timothy, with his entire arm up a cow's or horse's birthing canal trying to help a stuck calf or foal to be born (I'm pretty sure this scene happens more than once in the series.) That's right, up to the shoulder, groping around for a grabbable part of the baby animal.

I can't shake that image from my head every time I go grabbing for the center pull yarn end.
Up to my knuckles in Patons Merino.
Unlike that talented James, what I pull forth is not what I was groping for:
Big wad of yarn. No end in sight.
It would be as though James gave a tug and pulled out the placenta and left the baby animal inside. Since no blood, organs or even living things are involved in my dilemma, I end up stuffing the wad back in and once again, resigning myself to being the great-cat-entertainer and using the outside end.

So, help me out here folks. Is there some secret to yarn end retrieval that I don't know about? Does anyone have advice or a quick and easy method to get the damn end out of the middle?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Even Healthier Muffins

We have a little trouble in our house with blood sugar fluctuations (well, not all of us. Brian seems to be able to go for hours without food and stay sane where as I very quickly become the Kate-Monster and start losing major functions--stuff like thinking and walking--when my blood sugar drops.)

Ian has inherited my blood sugar issues but not my love of food so it becomes tricky to get the right kind of foods into him to prevent the appearance of the Ian-Monster (who, believe it or not, has a louder scream than the Kate-Monster...). Recently I modified my earlier recipe for Healthy Banana Muffins to have more protein and whole grains which can help we glucose-challenged folks stay stable. Now I call them "Even Healthier Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins". They are a little darker brown than the original version but still taste damn good. And they freeze really well. After they cool, put them in a ziplock bag and shove it in the freezer. Then when you want a muffin, pop it in the microwave and nuke for about 20 seconds--this has the added benefit of making the chocolate chips all gooey.

Even Healthier Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 C White whole wheat flour (King Arthur Flour makes white whole wheat)
1/2 C teff flour (Bob's Red Mill teff flour is available at Arbor Farms)
1/4 C honey or white sugar
1/4 C brown sugar
1/2 C wheat germ (I like the toasted kind)
1/2 C fine ground almonds (you can grind your own in a clean coffee grinder, or buy the Just Almond Meal from Trader Joe's)
3 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 medium sized bananas, mashed (3 if you want really moist, heavy muffins)
1/2 C milk
1/4 C canola oil
2 eggs
3/4 C chocolate chips

(You can also add 1/2 C dried fruit: raisins, currants, cranberries, etc. and can substitute 1/2 C ground flax seeds for the wheat germ, and also can substitute soy flour, brown rice flour or sorghum flour for any of the above flours--the recipe is very flexible and, so far, has always turned out well. I've even made these gluten-free for a friend.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Measure dry ingredients into bowl and stir well.

Combine wet ingredients in a bowl and mix until blended.

Add wet to dry all at once, stir just until all the dry stuff is incorporated, then stir in the chocolate chips.

Spray muffin tins with non stick spray or line with papers, fill 2/3 full. For small muffins, bake 15 minutes, for big ones between 20-25 minutes.

Muffins freeze well--once cool put in ziplock bag and freeze. To eat, nuke 1 frozen muffin for 20 seconds.