Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Recipe for a Bag?

I don't like getting rid of useful things. It gets to be a problem sometimes: the dark side of being good at coming up with things to do with all the leftover wrapping paper, wine corks and egg cartons that life throws at you is ending up perpetually torn between untenable clutter and unending guilt at getting rid of useful things to the point where you seriously consider pouring one out for the last forlorn wedge of cabbage that you had to chuck after it got weird or the armload full of office paper you recycled that was only printed on one side.

If any of that resonated with you, what I'm about to describe will either be exciting or exacerbate the issue: you know those knit-mesh bags that onions, clementines and other produce are often packaged in? A few minutes of crocheting (even if, like me, you're not much of a crocheter) turns them into awesome, reusable produce bags. You can wash produce right in these bags and then hang the whole thing to dry. They are extremely light and compact but strong and adapt to hold a variety of shapes and quantities.


  • one mesh bag (see below for details about different kinds of mesh)
  • ~8 yds strong twine (I use #15 or #18 nylon mason's twine)
  • crochet hook, size H-J

Types of Mesh

There's a couple of different types of mesh that these bags are made of, and each type has its advantages and disadvantages. These are the three main types you will see:
Knitted Mesh
This is easily my favorite, as it's the most flexible and adaptable. However, it also requires the most careful construction; the loops that make up the top of the bag can come undone under stress, so it's important to crochet a few rows down from the edge to avoid this.
Woven Mesh
Harder to come apart than knitted mesh, but much more stiff. Woven mesh will still fold up small, but does not adapt to the shape of its contents as well as knitted mesh or diamond fused mesh.
Fused Mesh
This type completely avoids the problem of things coming apart, since the whole thing is one piece, but it's also more rigid than the other types of mesh. There are two kinds here: square fused mesh and diamond fused mesh. Diamond fused mesh has many of the same properties as knitted mesh, while square fused mesh is much like woven mesh.


Note: Click any stitch name to see an instructional video for it. These are videos I found already on YouTube, rather than ones I made.
  • Double Crochet three or four rows down from each opening in the top row.
  • Join with a slip stitch when you get all the way around.
  • On the next round, chain two stitches, and do a single crochet into every other stitch all the way around. That's (ch 2, sc) all around for those of you who speak crochet.
  • Join with a slip stitch again, then cut your twine, draw through the loop and weave in the end.
  • Next, add a drawstring. Cut a piece of twine about two feet long and thread it through the gaps made by the skipped stitches.

Update (9/6/14): due to a single quotation mark out of place in my coding, the juicy part of step 3 was not visible until now. Apologies to anyone confused.

Hooray, it's a bag!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Peanut Noodles with Spring Greens. And an Egg.

For what it's worth, I wasn't complaining about the cold in February. Complaining about the dark, maybe. I save my temperature complaining for when it's hot out. It pairs well with my cantankerous stubbornness about air conditioning. Today peaked at 95°. Certainly not as hot as it can get around here, but just as certainly beyond comfortable.

Regardless of how warm it was today, here or where you were, we all have those days where the mere thought of turning on the stove makes you want to get another icy drink out. I've been realizing how much peanut sauce is a hot-weather staple for me recently: Fresh summer rolls dipped in it, drizzled over lettuce-wrapped rice (with or without anything else), or even just a bowl of veggies and a jar of peanut sauce.

This has been the recipe I've come back to more than others recently. Here, the peanut sauce dresses up cold buckwheat noodles tossed with long, thin cut cucumber or summer squash (inspired by zucchini noodles) and the piquant blend of greens I've been gradually thinning out of my garden. And ,just for good measure, an egg on top. Since discovering steam-cooked hard boiled eggs (a method which I can't recommend heartily enough), I've been putting them in all kinds of things. I'll let The Food Lab go into detail about the method, but by way of my recommendation, it is faster than other boil methods (since you only have to wait for ½" of water to come to a boil), and I have had an almost perfect peel record with it. The closest thing to an imperfect peel I've had since starting to use it is actually in the photos of this dish, and I'm pretty sure that one was my fault.

It's pretty good without the egg, too, though, and is totally vegan without it. If you're not eating eggs for whatever reason, the peanut sauce does provide a little protein, but I've also made and enjoyed this with crispy-fried bits of tempeh.

Peanut Noodles with Spring Greens

2 servings
  • 100 g soba noodles (one bunch)
  • 1 cucumber or small summer squash/zucchini
  • ¼ c. peanut sauce (see below)
  • 2-3 c. mixed baby greens (1-2 good handfuls per serving)
  • 2 eggs, boiled (or steamed!) to your preference (I like about 8 minutes here)
  • optional but nice:
    • scallion, sliced thin
    • a few sprigs of cilantro

Start by putting on water to boil the noodles and cook the eggs (if you've got time, you can use the same pot and do the eggs after the noodles). While the water is heating up, peel your cucumber or squash. They're both very tasty here, and bulk out the noodles with cool fresh flavor. If you've got a spiral slicer or julienne peeler, good for you. You know what to do, so go to town. Otherwise, use your vegetable peeler to peel thin slices off of the cucumber or squash until you get down to the seeds. If you prefer, you can slice these strips thinner to blend in with the noodles more.

Once the noodles are cooked, make sure to run cool water through them until chilled. Toss the noodles and cucumber/squash in the sauce until well coated. Divide up into bowls and toss with a handful of greens, then top with an egg.

Peanut Sauce

vegan, gluten-free depending on your soy sauce
makes about 1 cup of sauce
  • ¼ c. peanut butter (Mine is creamy, natural & salted. Yours will work too, but you might have to add more or less stuff)
  • 1-2 Tblsp. sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
  • ½-1 tsp. thick chili-garlic sauce like Sriracha or sambal oelek
  • (or more, to taste)
  • 2 Tblsp. soy sauce
  • ¼- c. water
Add all ingredients except water. Add water a tablespoon or so at a time, stirring until thoroughly combined before adding more water. If you add too much water at once, the suspension will break and you'll get weird thready peanut-butter bits in seasoned water. If this happens, add a little more peanut butter and stir until smooth. You'll have to add more water later. Adjust seasoning as necessary.


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