Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Invasion of the Yip Yips

The Martians, aka the Yip Yips, have always been my favorite characters from Sesame Street. A few years ago I found a tutorial for making your own crocheted Yip Yips, and earlier this year I finally got around to making a few:
Since the original tutorial wasn't an actual pattern, after I had made a couple that turned out well I wrote down how I made them. Here is my version of the pattern (please refer back to the original tutorial for step-by-step pictures if you need to).

Crochet Sesame Street Martians
Materials and supplies:
·         Lightweight yarn (3) in black, white, and main color of your choice
·         Crochet hooks in size G and E
·         A plastic drinking straw
·         A chenille stem in a complementary or contrasting color to the main yarn color
·         Scissors, yarn needle, stitch marker

For the body:
Using G hook and main color yarn, chain (ch) 26.
Row/Round 1: Single crochet (sc) into first stitch of chain to form a loop (make sure loop is not twisted); 1 sc in each remaining stitch of foundation chain (26 stitches). Do not join at end of round.
Rows/Rounds 2-12: 1 sc in each stitch of previous round (26 stitches per round). Do not join at end of rounds – you will be crocheting in a continuous spiral.
Row 13: 1 sc in each of the first 12 stitches of previous round (12 stitches). Ch 1, turn.
Row 14: 1 sc in each stitch of previous row (12 stitches). Ch 1, turn.
Row 15: Decrease by sc2 together (dec), 1 sc in next 8 stitches, dec (10 stitches). Chain 1, turn.
Row 16: 1 sc in each stitch (10 stitches). Ch 1, turn.
Row 17: Dec, 1 sc in next 6 stitches, dec (8 stitches). Ch 1, turn.
Row 18: Dec, 1 sc in next 4 stitches, dec (6 stitches). Ch 1, turn.
Row 19: Dec, 1 sc in next 2 stitches, dec (4 stitches). Ch 1, turn.
Row 20: 2 dec (2 stitches), fasten off. Leave longish tail for sewing.

Make eyes according to this tutorial, using the drinking straw and the black and white yarn.

Securely attach eyes to body, a couple rows down from the top and slightly in from the edge on either side. Trim yarn ends close so they won’t show. Using a yarn needle, thread the tail that was left after fastening off and sew the two sides of the face shut: start at the very top and whipstitch the edges down to about row 15 (you want the mouth to have a small peak rather than being completely round). Bury the yarn end.

For the tentacles:
Cut 26 two-foot (24 inch) lengths of yarn from the main color. Fold each length in half and attach one length to each stitch in the foundation chain, using the E hook and a lark’s head knot; this forms a fringe of yarn all around the bottom of the body. For each tentacle, insert the E hook into the foundation chain stitch, yarn over with one of the fringes, pull up a loop, and chain 18-20 stitches (make them as tight as you can). Fasten off, tie a knot at the end, and clip the excess yarn close to the knot. Repeat for the other fringe in the same chain stitch, and then repeat with the remaining fringes. You will have 2 tentacles per chain stitch in the foundation chain.

For the antenna:
Take a standard-size chenille stem and cut it in half – it should be about 6 inches long. From the side above one eye, insert the stem into the peak of the head and pull halfway through (you may need to loosen a stitch with your crochet hook to help it go through). Bend the two sides of the stem upwards and give them a little twist – this will keep the antenna in place. Roll each end of the stem inward for a couple turns, and then bend the stem until you are happy with the shape of your antenna.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Indian-Style Lentil Soup with Spinach

This is a soup that I created a couple years ago, basically by combining a couple recipes from an Indian cookbook (Madhur Jaffrey's World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking) and using a recipe for a Greek chickpea soup called Revithia as inspiration. I've made it several times, but I never actually wrote down what I did -- UNTIL TODAY!!! I'm honestly surprised that I managed to make it so many times from memory with it coming out relatively the same each time. So here it is!

Indian-Style Lentil Soup with Spinach

1 medium onion, chopped
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp coconut oil or olive oil
1 tsp garam masala
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 cup dry lentils, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes (do not drain); I recommend low-sodium
4-6 cups chicken or vegetable broth; again, I recommend low-sodium
1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
1 bunch scallions/green onions, sliced

  1.  Heat oil in a heavy stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and saute for a few minutes. Add garam masala and curry powder and continue to saute for a few more minutes -- do not let the spices or the garlic burn.
  2. Add lentils, undrained tomatoes, and 4 cups of broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 40 minutes or until lentils are fully cooked and tender. As the lentils cook they will absorb liquid, so you may need to add another cup or two of broth (or water) if the soup starts to get really thick.
  3. Once the lentils are fully cooked, stir in the coconut milk and then puree the soup using a hand blender. Alternatively, you can puree the soup in two or three batches using a traditional blender or a food processor.
  4. Add the spinach and scallions to the pureed soup and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes, just long enough to allow the spinach to cook.
  5. Serve and enjoy!

Recipe Notes:
  • This is a mildly-spiced soup (because my family are wimps). If you want to make a hotter version, try adding some Indian chili powder or cayenne pepper with the other spices.
  • If made with vegetable broth, this recipe is fully vegan.
  • If you want, you could reserve half the sliced scallions to use for garnish.