Crochet Pot Holders

Fall has arrived. Officially.

Although it isn’t going to dip down much below 100 ℉ during the daytime for awhile, the nights will soon begin to cool off, bit by bit.  Here in the desert we will still enjoy warm days with sunshine and swimming and well, summer, for longer than most, but after sundown things will slowly segue into more of what I refer to as “oven-friendly temperatures.”  It is a subtle seasonal shift – not at all like the autumn of cooler climes.  No changing leaves or coats in sight, just a refreshing breeze in the evenings.  In other words, good baking weather.

This year, I have aspirations to try my hand at a few things I’ve not made before –  a danish kringle, mini dessert soufflés, baked alaska (gasp), a traditional cassoulet, a few savory baked puddings, cinnamon buns, croissants, and several different kinds of bread.  I know, I can’t believe I’ve never made cinnamon buns either, but there it is.

In celebration (and preparation), I broke out my new pot holders, gifted to me by my mother, who is a crocheting fiend.  This particular group reminds me of creamsicles, sans the drippy part.  I love how she mixes up the patterns, so that each one is a little different – a chevron, a stripe and a color-block.  She’s clever that way.  Plus, she knows I will use the pot holders much more than any scarf or cap she might send my way.

Whether vintage or newly-crafted, crochet pot holders seem to be popping up all over. Finally, a trend I can get behind!  Although I have my own little stash, that doesn’t stop me from admiring more of these handmade gems, here and there. Below is a round-up of five that have recently caught my eye.

One:  Black and white simplicity by textile artist Renilde de Peuter via Remodelista, here.

Two:  Celestial blue grouping, also by Belgian artist Renilde de Peuter via Remodelista. More on Renilde and her label, At Swim Two Birds, here.

Three:  Kitsch and character to spare – and just a bit spooky.  Fringe-eared owl via Sew Lucky Boutique, here.

Four:  Vintage offbeat floral in a sunshiny spectrum via Quirky Quriosities, here.

Five:  Turquoise and unbleached cotton result in rustic elegance via Divisions T Designs, here.

Lastly, I’m mesmerized by this stunning kaleidoscopic installation from conceptual artist Ana Tuominen (via Things Bright, here), which manages to elevate the everyday pot holder into a magnificent mosaic.  Simultaneously gorgeous and contemplative.

Nothing inspires creativity, in the kitchen or elsewhere, like a thing of beauty.

Happy autumn baking adventures!

Corn Chowder with Bacon

My good friend, Mike, has a t-shirt that reads “Bacon Makes Everything Better”. He wears it frequently, especially when our group goes out for breakfast. Every so often, whatever restaurant we happen to be eating in brings him an extra side of bacon, gratis, usually with a big smile and a compliment for his shirt.  Whenever this happens, we are all ecstatic, because there is more bacon, free bacon, which Mike graciously shares with us (one of the many reasons we all love Mike).

I think his tee resonates because it’s true – practically everything is better with bacon. Yes, I said practically, because I never could jump on that bacon-in-desserts bandwagon.  I’ll take a pass on that bacon and chocolate ice cream.  I don’t want meat in my trifle, pudding, or cake.  But bacon on everything else, everything savory?  Yes, please.

This creamy chowder marries the salty smokiness of bacon with fresh, sweet corn. Although it contains bacon fat, butter, milk and cream, which makes it sound as though it would be heavy, it is surprisingly quite light.  In a pinch, you can substitute frozen corn for the fresh – just add it straight from the freezer without thawing.  I often use two large jalapeños or one jalapeño and one serrano, but you can easily adjust the spiciness to your taste by using milder or hotter peppers.  For helpful information on choosing peppers, check out this graphic Scoville Heat Index (via Greg Emerson Bocquet), here.

This soup can stand alone as a meal, but if you want to up your bacon ante (and really, who doesn’t?) it is terrific paired with the classic bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich.  For those over their bacon limit, the chowder is also great with a simple grilled cheese.

Corn Chowder with Bacon
Makes four servings.  Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, here.

6 ounces bacon, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup shallot, finely chopped
3/4 cup celery, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
3 cups chicken stock or broth
2 1/2 cups fresh yellow corn (kernels from about 3 ears)
1 1/2 cups small white potatoes, diced
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup whole milk

In a medium stockpot, cook bacon over medium-high heat until fully crisped.  Remove bacon with tongs or a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.  Set aside.

Discard all but two tablespoons of the bacon drippings.  Add the butter, onion, shallot, celery and thyme to the stockpot.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook over medium-low heat for four to five minutes.  Stir in garlic and jalapeño pepper and cook about three to four minutes more.  Add chicken broth or stock, increase heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

Add corn and potatoes and cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.  Stir in cream and milk until incorporated, and simmer, stirring frequently, until soup is heated through.  Ladle into bowls and serve hot, garnished with the reserved crisped bacon pieces.