Basket Weave Stitch- another Free Crochet Pattern

I Love crochet! There- I’ve said it. Oh, you already guessed? Maybe you did not know this then…what I love more than discovering cool new-to-me patterns is when I find them for free. And boy! I’m loving finding so many free patterns on the web. Now if I could just find a source for free yarn. (grin)

basketweave crochet stitch on a scarf
Infinity Cowl Scarf in the basketweave stitch

The basketweave stitch yields a very simple but interesting textural stitch. I made this infinity scarf in a soft variegated yarn. It is wide enough to use as a cowl and head covering for the really cold days.

crocheted scarf in basketweave stitch
Wide infinity scarf crocheted in a soft, variegated yarn

This stitch pattern was found on Daisy Farm Crafts. Their web site is another one that has a ton of cool free crochet patterns and projects. If you need video tutorials for any of the patterns, well my gosh! They have a ton of those too on the Daisy Farm Crafts YouTube channel.

Basketweave crochet pattern
For complete stitch how-to just click on the picture.

Happy crafting!

My Hometown · Travels

Hiking Watson Lake On a Snowy January Day

The last time that Les and I hiked around Watson Lake was in early summer. It was an oasis of water, granite boulders, varied flowers, foliage and beautiful views. If you are looking to escape the summer heat in our high desert, this is one cool place to be. Now, however, it is winter, but still a lovely day hike.

We were surprised that some of the lake was still frozen. It had only been a couple days ago that we had our little storm but, when the Arizona sun shows her face, she is ruthless if she can get the temperatures up a little. Our snows do not usually stick around more than a couple days.

After a few days of being COLD, so cold that our little bit of snow was not even melting, we decided to bundle up and get out of the house for a short hike. The day was bright and sunny, but 32 degrees when we started out. I know that many of you across the country are laughing at my description, but to me, anything below 35 is COLD.

As is normal Prescott attire, most of the other hikers were in regular jeans and tees or sweat shirts. LOL, Not me!

Les was making fun of me for wearing earmuffs too. I didn’t care. I had on loose jeans with sweats underneath, wooley socks, a long sleeved thermal tee, a 32 degree hoodie and a large winter parka. And I wasn’t sad either. It did not bother this girl one bit that I could look around and see others with just sweats. Whatever….they HAD to be cold!

We started out on the Peavine Trail which is a wide rocky trail and then veered off to the left to catch the Lakeshore Trail. On the Lakeshore, there is plenty of variety in the terrain. It is rated as a moderate hike, but you can suddenly find yourself traversing some slightly steep or narrow paths over granite boulders. We like to leave the path here and there to scramble over the boulders. This is especially so in warmer weather when we want a nice bit of shade in which to eat our lunch.

Lake view after scrambling up some of the granite boulders. I think that part of the reason that Les and I love these granite dells is that they remind us of Joshua Tree in California. It was where we used to go to camp and hike when we were still just dating.
OK, it’s getting warm. Time to start shedding some layers.
I’m eating and Les is way off in the left side of this picture sketching. Can you find him? LOL, this is as it usually is. Me eating- Les sketching or taking pictures.

Located just 4 miles from Prescott, this beautiful lake is not only surrounded by several hiking trails, it also offers many other fun activities including fishing, boating, kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, and camping. The camp grounds includes restrooms with showers, picnic areas, and parking. The camp ground is only available during the summer months. There is a $3.00 parking fee for hiking and day use of the park. If you would like to camp, it’s $15.00 per night.

If you ever get to this area, check out Watson Lake. There are several other lovely lakes in our area. This seems to surprise a lot of people. What? Lakes in Arizona? Yes, and it snows too?

Good to Know

Your Local Friends of the Library Store Has Amazing Deals on Books

Out side of art and crafts and music, Les and I LOVE books! Except for the bathrooms, we have at least one bookshelf in every room of the house. One of our all-time favorite places to score great books is our library. I don’t know if every state has a “Friends of the Library” store, but it will be worth your time to check it out.

This is one wall of our “dining room. Yes, there is a table and some chairs, but the other sides of the room are lined with art supplies (as it should be.)
This is just a small sampling of fab art books that we got on our last trip.
Lots of fun prompts on colorful pages.
See What I mean? Don’t you just want to start doodling?
The cover is kind of…but then you look inside this book and oh, WOW!
Some journaling examples for our friend, Lesley Riley.
And from our friend Jenny Doh, more art journal examples.
I won’t say that this book changed my life, I’m still reading it, but MAN! There are some wonderful chapters on how you may have lost your creative confidence and how you may get it back. Loving this book.
The ‘Creative Confident’ also has a lot of full color gorgeous artwork inside.
This book has a ton of cool ideas to jump start your mixed media painting fun.
And example of monotype combined with watercolor. Along with the examples, there are great step-by-step instructions for making each type of art.
Two books from our friend, Rîce Freeman Zachary. Rïce is an artist herself so, she has a clue about the life of a working artist. Along with her knowledge of art and craft, Rïce has a fun, fast flowing way of writing that I really enjoy reading. There are, of course, several different stories from varied artists explaining how they work, what their studio situation is like, how they overcome creative blocks and so on.

The lesson here? Check out your local “Friends of the Library” store. I truly hope that your city has at least one.

Food · Recipes

How to Make Keto Friendly Sweetened Condensed Milk

Looking through cooking magazines, I run across lots of delicious looking recipes. I then try to make them Keto friendly. This holiday season, I wanted to try making really good fudge, but all of the smoothest looking recipes call for sweetened condensed milk. I looked it up online and, sure enough, you can order it. But, the ingredients looked so easy that I thought that I would give making it a try. Success!

The most important thing to remember is that you must be prepared to stand at the stove and stir for the entire time that it takes for the mixture to condense. In this case, about fifteen minutes. The larger batch that you make, the longer it will take to reduce.

This is what the milk looks like at the 7 minute mark. The cream and butter are starting to caramelize a little. Keep stirring and simmering.
At about the 11 minute mark, the mixture is reducing and browning up a bit more. Keep stirring.
This was at the 15 minute mark. The more you make, the longer it will take to condense of course, but for my 1-1/2 cups cream, fifteen minutes was perfect.

Sugar Free Sweetened Condensed Milk

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

This recipe will yield about 1 cup sweetened condensed milk

– 1-1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
– 2 tbsp unsalted butter or Ghee
– 1/3 cup Swerve confectioners sugar
1. In a medium saucepan, add all ingredients
2. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring often to prevent scorching
3. Lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring continuously.

Store in an airtight container if not using immediately. It will harden up a little in the fridge. You can microwave it to bring any remaining milk back to liquid or use the slightly hardened mixture to make frosting or fat bombs. It’s delicious.

Food · Recipes

Cauliflower Coconut Curry Soup

Full of healthy fats, this soup is perfect for a Keto diet. It can also be easily adjusted for vegans or meat eaters. Just cook the soup as the recipe directs for vegans. If you are a meat eater, add whatever you like such as chicken or fish. I like the soup with chunks of baked Alaskan wild caught cod as you will see in the last photo.

Vegan coconut curry soup made with cauliflower, tomatoes and spinach
Coconut curry soup made with cauliflower, tomatoes and spinach

This is one instance that I miss rice in my diet because the curry soup is excellent ladled over it. If you are not on Keto, try adding chick peas to the pot. They are also delicious in curry spiced dishes.

Mixed spices for coconut curry soup
I always mix my dreid spices together before adding to the soup pot or whatever I’m making. That way they disperse better, IMHO

Cauliflower Coconut Curry Soup

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 head cauliflower, cut into bite sized pieces
2 cans (13 oz) full fat coconut milk
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 cup water
3 ripe tomatoes, chopped into small pieces
4 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped
1 small onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and diced into small pieces
4 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp liquid Stevia (or sweetener of your choice- this just mellows the spice flavors a little)

-dried spices-
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp yellow curry powder
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp ground ginger
salt to taste

1. In a soup pot, add water, chopped onions and cauliflower. Bring to a boil, stirring to make sure that the cauliflower does not burn
2. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5-6 minutes just to begin to soften the cauliflower and onions
3. Add all ingredients except the dried spices. Stir to combine
4. In a small bowl, mix the dried spices together. Sprinkle over the soup and continue to stir to combine. Return to a boil.
5. Reduce heat and simmer for another 25 minutes or until the cauliflower is fork soft.
6. Ladle into a bowl and serve hot.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The soup can also be frozen. I freeze my meals in quart baggies and laid flat for easy storage. That way, it is easy to remove one or two servings for lunch or dinner.

Baked cod in cauliflower coconut soup
Here, I’ve added chunks of baked cod to my soup. YUM!


Food · Recipes

Faked apple pie filling for Keto? Try Chayote as an apple stand-in!

Apples are another no-no on the Keto diet. So how am I supposed to make my apple fritters? How about my cranberry chutney? I love cranberry chutney with diced apples and chopped dried apricots, but both fruits are a Keto no-no. As in NO!

Well, I haven’t figured out an alternative to the dried apricots, but the chayote squash is a success on the apple replacement. I had read about using chayote in Keto “apple” pies so I had to try it out. Score! You would never know that you were eating squash in the “apple pie” filling if no one clued you in.

Chayote squash cut in preparation for faked apple pie filling
You can see how the green skin of the chayote adds to the illusion that you are using granny smith apples in your pie filling.

When you cut into chayote it looks like it has the texture of a cross between apples and pears. It is firm like apples and when you eat it raw, it has a very, very mild squash taste. This is what makes the squash perfect for soaking up the taste of whatever you spice the dish with. In this case, I used McCormick’s apple pie spice. To the mixture I also added brown sugar flavor extract. That worked out perfectly in place of regular brown sugar.

Chayote "apple pie filling" as it cooks and after it's reduced.
The chayote pieces as they are boiling and (left) after reduction. With the apple pie spices and the brown sugar flavor extract boiling, the whole house smelled delicious!

Keto Friendly Faked Apple Pie Filling

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 large chayote squash, (I chopped the squash into small pieces so that I could use some of it in my cranberry chutney also)
1/3 cup Xylitol sweetener (or sweetener of your choice)
1 cup water
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp brown sugar flavor extract
1 tbsp cream of tartar
2 tsp apple pie spice
2 tbsp ghee or butter
1/2 tsp salt

1. Add all ingredients except the chayote and butter to a medium sized sauce pan. Whisk to combine.
2. Add the squash and butter and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue boiling and stirring for about ten minutes.
3. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Cook until the squash comes to your desired consistency for apple pie filling. My chayote pieces were fairly small so this step took an additional 30 minutes of simmering.
4. Taste and add sweetener or pie spice if you like.

You can use the faked apple compote over or in whatever you like. Try it over cakes, cottage cheese, yogurt or your keto ice cream. Whirl it into your Keto smoothies for an additional flavor layer to the shakes.

Sugar free Faked apple pie filling over a vanilla mug cake
I made a sugar free vanilla mug cake to do a taste test with the “apple pie” compote spooned over the top of the cake. Yummy, it was delicious. BTW, I wasn’t sure how a mug cake would taste until I made this one. Perfect! It has the texture and taste of a real cake- like a coffee cake. Click here to get the recipe for the sugar free mug cake.
Sugar free trifle with chayote apple pie filling.
To make the individual trifles, I layered the chayote “apple pie” filling with pieces of the mug cake and whipped cream. Then I sprinkled a little nutmeg on top of the whipped cream. Be still my heart! You can see why, with my sweet tooth, Keto is the easiest diet that I ever stayed on.
Keto friendly, sugar free cranberry chutney over a sugar free vanilla mug cake.
I used some of the “ apple” compote in the making of my cranberry chutney.
Sugar free cranberry chutney over vanilla cheesecake mousse.
Here, the cranberry chutney tops a vanilla cheesecake mousse. Also YUM!

Happy Holidays!

Food · Recipes

Sugar Free Vanilla Mug Cake

Microwaved mug cakes? I never thought that they sounded very good, but maybe it was time for a try. I needed a little cake so that I could demonstrate how great the Chayote “apple pie filling” was when spooned over cake. Well, guess what? The super easy mug cakes are awesome! The texture is kind of like a cross between a coffee cake and a sponge cake. And the taste is whatever you make it. In this case, I made a vanilla flavored cake.

Sugar free vanilla mug cake topped with Chayote "faked apple pie filling".
Sugar free vanilla mug cake topped with Chayote “faked apple pie filling”.

Sugar Free Vanilla Mug Cake

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 tbsp heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp coconut flower
1 tsp liquid Stevia or sweetener of your choice
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten
cooking spray to coat the inside of the mug or ramekin (I used coconut oil spray)

1. Into a small bowl, stir all ingredients to combine.
2. Pour into a greased mug cup or ramekin.
3. Microwave for 90 seconds. Let cool before you tip the cake out of the cup or ramekin.

Keto trifle made with sugar free "apple pie" filling made of chayote squash
Or you can tear the mug cake into pieces and use it to make a layered individual trifle. This one is layered with whipped cream and Faked “apple pie” filling made with chayote squash.

Happy Holiday Baking!

Food · Recipes

Keto Chayote Cranberry Chutney

For years, my cranberry chutney has been a sweet and tangy mix made with whole cranberries, diced apples and dried apricots. Now that I’m on Keto, I wondered what the heck I could use instead of the apples and apricots. Let me tell you, chayote squash fit the bill. Chayote is a very mild flavored squash that looks like Granny Smith apples when you slice or dice it.

Instead of apricots I also added a cup of frozen 3 berry mix (blueberries, raspberries and blackberries) to the chutney just for a little added flavor and visual texture.

Chayote squash
Chayote has a texture like apples and is so mild in taste that it absorbs the flavor of the spices that you cook it with.
Sugar Free Chayote-Cranberry chutney heaped over vanilla cheesecake mousse.
Sugar Free 3 Berry-Chayote-Cranberry chutney heaped over vanilla cheesecake mousse.

Keto Chayote Cranberry Chutney

  • Servings: 8-12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 (12 oz) pkg cranberries
1 large chayote, diced with the skin left on
1 cup frozen 3 berry mix (blueberries, raspberries and blackberries)
i cup water
3/4 cup Lakanto Monk Fruit classic granulated (or sweetener of your choice)
3/4 cup Lakanto Monk Fruit Brown (or sweetener of your choice)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground dry mustard
3 tbsp cider vinegar

1. In a saucepan, boil the water and sweeteners, stirring until no granules remain.
2. Whisk in the dried spices.
3. Add the diced chayote and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer to cook the chayote for15 minutes to soften it up.
4. Add the cranberries and bring back to a slow boil. Stir the mixture occasionally, cooking until the cranberries are popping and the chutney is reducing in liquid – about another 10 minutes.
5. Add the frozen mixed berries and return to a boil. Stir and cook for another 5 minutes or so until the chutney has a texture that you like.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.

This chutney is excellent over buttered toast too. Additionally, it can be spooned over cottage cheese, yogurt, mousse, whatever you can dream up. Oh! And all of the ingredients are healthy so whirl some up into your smoothies as well.

lemon cookies with cranberry cream cheese
Cranberry chutney over sweet lemon biscuits slathered with cream cheese.
Keto Chayote Cranberry chutney over vanilla mug cake
Keto Chayote Cranberry chutney over vanilla mug cake

Happy Holiday Cooking!