Category Archives: Cooking and Baking

Missing in Action

Yes I have been missing in action from the blogosphere of late, but I have been keeping busy.

Looking for a job of course.

Teaching Spindling Classes at the Woolpack in Acton, MA.  This has been loads of fun!  9 new spinners so far!  I just love this place!

I spent much of January and early February shoveling and battling the weekly snow storms.  But it appears that the little rodent may have been right predicting an early spring.  It’s been in the high 50Fs the past two days!  I know we will most likely still have cold snowy weather, but with the days getting longer and a bit warmer it feels like we’ve finally turned the corner of this winter.

I have been busy spinning and knitting of course.  I finished spinning the beautiful brown roving (all three pounds!)  for Cece!  It was lovely fiber to spin.  I wish we knew what it was because I would definitely get more of it!  I have also been spinning from my stash.  This was lovely merino superwash from Blue Moon. It was supposed to be socks but I wanted something more substantial, so spun it a bit on the bulky side and made hats.

This is a wonderful hat to knit and I adapted several patterns.

Simple Hand Spun Hat Pattern

I used 100 grams of my bulky/heavy worsted handspun on size 8 US – 16 inch circular needles.

Cast on 80 stitches – join being careful not to twist the stitches.

Twisted rib pattern for three inches. (K1tbl, p1 – repeat)

Knit stockinette for 6 inches.  Then do a radical decrease

K2 tog all the way around

Knit next row.

Repeat the last two rows until there are ten stitches left.   Leave about 8 inches of yarn and run it through the last 10 stitches, pull tight to close and weave in ends.

This makes a warm, comfortable, uni-sex hat.

I also finished the Arroyo Shawlette (ravelry link) from some merino superwash that I had dyed and spun into a fingering/dk weight yarn.

Cindy, Stacy and I took a trip to Pasa Yarns last month and now I have a boat load of dyeing to do.  I’m testing our some different techniques and having fun playing in the studio.

Cindy and I are building up inventory for the upcoming Andover Craft Fair on Mother’s Day.  I am also carding some lovely batts for spinning and felting.  And in response to several neo-needle felters that have dropped by the studio, I now have a big basket of my left over carding bits and dye soppers.  You can fill a bag of your picks for $1/oz.

Last night I made some Oatmeal cookies that were to die for.  I basically opened the cupboard and pulled out leftover bits that I thought would taste yummy.  They were so good I am sharing this one for prosperity.

Oatmeal Cookies

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix together well

Add

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/4 (approx) leftover bag of butterscotch chips

3 Tbsp chopped candied ginger

3 Tbsp chopped pitted dates

(I didn’t have any nuts, but pecans or walnuts would be good too)

Bake 375F for 9-11 minutes.  Let cool on cookie sheet for about 3 minutes before sliding off on to a cooling rack.  This made about 2 dozen cookies.

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Time Flies…

Ok what happened to August and most of September?

I have been a very busy looking for a job, doing lots of fibery things, enjoying the summer and cooking lots of yummy things.

First the job search…  it sucks, especially when you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up.

Next Fibery Things


Andrew and the Dead Fish Hat

A few of us finally all showed up for Sunday at the Peddler’s Daughter a week ago Sunday so we presented Andrew with his new winter ski hat.  Fortunately he loved it.  For Rav readers – this is the dead fish hat, knit with various commercial and handspun yarns.

The Dead Fish Hat from the back

I also finished a shawl (no pics yet) and several pairs of socks in various stages.

I am also experimenting with shibori dyeing and felting.  I’ve rescued a few old 100% wool sweaters from my new favorite second-hand shop, Saver’s.  I then dyed the sweater a base color, then tied marbles and sewed pleats.  After that I felted the sweater and overdyed it.  Then removed the threads and marbles.  I love the effects and will cut this up and see what it wants to be.  I am thinking a bag at this point.

I have also been cooking with the harvest coming in.  Last week I picked most of the remaining concord grapes from a friends very abundant arbor.  I hoped to get enough grape juice to make a batch of jelly.  I ended up with enough for THREE!  I made two batches and froze the rest of the juice for later.   It made really yummy jelly this year.  Much better than last years batch.

Mary came down this week and we spent a couple of days making salsa.  This too came out really good.  So know we are stocked with salsa for the winter – I think we used an entire bushel of canning tomatoes from Gary’s Farm Stand and the end of the green chilis from my brother who lives in New Mexico that had been grilled, peeled seeded and frozen.  This is a good batch for sure.

This past weekend was Lowell Open Studios, so things were busy around Western Avenue Studios.  Some of the lovely people that did a dye workshop with me last week stopped by.  It was really nice to see you all again.  I hope we can do some dyeing again soon.

So as you can see I have been very busy, I almost don’t know when I had time to work.  But I really do need to find a job… soon!  So keep me in your thoughts and burn some green candles for me.

Oh and next Saturday is Open Studio again, so I have to get busy dyeing this week!

Two more sleeps!

And then we are on our way to Rhinebeck!  I keep checking the weather reports and it is going to be cold, cold, cold.  But now it’s saying that there might be snow on Friday.   I really don’t want to tow the camper and set up in snow so I would appreciate anything my weather witchy friends could do to ‘adjust’ the weather. 🙂

Last Saturday I was heading over to my studio to do some more dyeing of our misc. skeins for the sale bin.  I decided to swing by GrotonFest to see my friends whose daughter had a booth there to sell her tissue paper flowers.  When I called she said she was located next to the alpaca I practically ran.

Next to her was St. Isidore’s Alpaca Farm from Lunenburg, MA – OMG! They were so cute – sorry no pics I forgot my camera.  I asked what then did with all their fleece and they send it out and have it processed and spun into yarns.  They had lots of beautiful alpaca yarns for sale, but then out of the corner of my eye at the end of their table….  white fluff in a basket?  Is this Cria?  Yes it is!  Quickly I checked my wallet to see how much cash I had on me.  I managed to scrape up enough to purchase 4 oz. of this.

Cria

When I got home later I picked it (little or no VM) and separated the longer (3-4″) locks from the shorter (1-2″) ones and picked out a few second cuts.  Then I wrapped the longer locks in mesh and set them to soak in soapy (Unicorn Fiber Wash) warm water for about an hour, then rinsed and laid them out to dry.

It feels like cashmere or Angora… it’s that fluffy.  I am thinking of blending this with some other luxury fibers (cashmere, yak down, baby camel) that I have in my stash.

Now my mission at Rhinebeck is to find the perfect spindle to spin this on.

Some other stuff I have been up to.

tomatoes

Mary, Laural and I had our annual Salsa Canning Weekend.  We used 40 pounds of tomatoes in the process.

chili fix'ins

Along with red and Vidalia onions, limes, garlic, poblano and jalapeno chilies.

I think this was our best batch of Salsa yet.  We got about 25 pints total out of this and more than enough for us to “taste test”.

As I mentioned before we had Lowell Open Studios and I did get the wall outside the studio lettered and painted.  It’s a little ‘off’ but it works.

Studio Wall

There were a ton of people who came by to check out the studio, sit and knit, and eat lots of the food too.  It was a great weekend followed by the regularly scheduled Saturday Open Studio the next weekend.  Cindy and I finally made rent for the first time!  YAY!  Which is why I was back in the studio dyeing to replenish the stock for the upcoming Holiday Weekends and an Artisan Holiday Fair I’ve signed up to do on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in Westford.   So stay tuned for those announcements as I get more details.

Back to the grind now…

Five more days….

…  until Spring. I can hardly wait. This weekend we got a little glimpse of what it around the corner. Bright sun, warm enough to sit outside without a heavy sweater and/or coat, hat, mittens, etc. It was just lovely.

Cindy and I (and my nephew Eric) spent most of the day on Saturday painting the new studio space. Cindy had done all the priming last week, so we just had to get the color on.

The studio space is long and narrow (think bowling alley). There are two columns on either side of the studio that are going to work out to separate the workspace from retail space. We also decided to use color to emphasize the two spaces. I love, love, love the colors – the front (retail space) is a very dark purple blue. The back (workspace) is a light, light, periwinkle grey. The light in the space during the day is spectacular. I cannot wait to actually get some play time in there soon.

Here is the workspace from the pillars to the back. That window is so tall that if I stand on the window sill I cannot reach the top of the window. This is primed but not painted.

studio-1

Here is the space from the pillars to the front (entrance). This is primed and ready to paint.

studio-2

Here is my sister and nephew painting.

cindy-and-eric-painting

cindy-painting


Here is the finished front with some of my fiber that we brought down. Loving the colors!

wall-and-fiber

Here is the finished back space. Well technically not finished – I still have to move down the fiber, dyes, and all the other accoutrement that goes with fiber dyeing, etc. But it gives you an idea.

finished-back-studio

We plan to put stainless steel counters on the right side, and sitting space on the left.

Finished (but not moved in yet) front space.

finished-front-studio

What do you think? I am loving it and I am not regretting giving up therapy and happy pills for this space. It’s so much better for my soul and well being.

I think we are going to have the big opening Open Studio Saturday on May 2nd, so put that on your calendar!

I also went to a couple of parties this weekend.

lynnie-and-mike

Lynnie and Mike

And of course if you go to a Tea (Birthday Party) in March you are bound to run into the Mad Hatter 🙂

march-mad-hatter

With two parties the only thing I made all weekend was a yummy pasta salad that was so easy and cannot really be counted as cooking.  I got this from Lynnie.

1 box of Barilla Cellentani pasta cooked to box specs.

Rinse and cool, then add an entire Party sized container of Tabouli salad.

Toss to coat pasta – refridgerate for a couple of hours then serve.

It was addicting to eat.

Oh and these little petit fours from Concord Tea Cakes were almost too cute to eat!

petit-fours1

And knitting – I finished the socks and started on some lacy fingerless mitts.  Pics later.

Just checking in…

It’s been a couple of weeks, but since then I have finished a pair of socks for Alicia – her belated birthday present and trade for earrings that she made  (finally) but alas, I did not photograph them (sorry 😦 )  Since finishing her lovely socks – I have been in knitting project limbo – casting on, knit a few pattern repeats, frog, repeat…  either the yarn isn’t happy with what I am trying to knit with it or I am having knitters block/funk.  I finally realized I have a need to do some serious spinning.  Time to listen to my fiber gut and spin damn it.  I still have that 7 lbs. Romney Fleece to clean and card up.  I thought I was going to have to wait until spring since I have no place to dry that much soaking wet fleece, that is not until I spotted this!  You too can get one here.  It that cool or what?   And my friend Britt just happened to be taking a trip down to Ikea last weekend.  Now we just need to hook up to pick up and I’ll be in fleece washing business.  I also think I want to dye up some fleece pre-carding just for fun.   Now if  ‘they’ would just get the studio finished I could be doing all of this there instead of in my tiny kitchen.

drying-rack

Speaking of my kitchen…    I’ve been making more soup.  This week I made Avgolemono, otherwise known as Greek Chicken-Lemon-Rice Soup.  I checked out a bunch of different recipes but ended up just following my palette (and what I had in the fridge and pantry).  I had 4 cups of homemade Chicken Stock in the freezer so I started with that.  (as previously noted the bestest recipe for soup stock – is Bertha’s recipe from the Silver Palette Cookbook and this is what I had).  To the 4 cups of my stock I added another 2 cups of canned stock, 2/3 cup of jasmine rice (next time I will try Orzo as I hear that is good too).  Bring the stock to a boil and let the rice cook for about 15 minutes.  I then beat until frothy 3 large eggs (this made the soup very thick so next time I will cut back to 2 eggs).  To the eggs I added the zest and juice of one very juicy lemon.  Once the rice was cooked I removed the pot from the heat and ladled in 2 ladles of hot broth SLOWLY into the eggs while whisking vigorously so the eggs did not curdle.  Once the eggs were tempered I dumped it all into the stock placed it back on to the reduced heat and just let it simmer for a few minutes.  Just before serving it up I added some freshly chopped parsley.

This is just what I wanted on that very cold, snowy Wednesday.  Yummy indeed.  The soup was warm and tasty, the eggs and rice made it light but hearty and the lemon just brightened it all up.   The only thing missing was some good crusty bread.

Speaking of bread….    I keep reading about Julie’s adventures in bread making from the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.  This is a book I have had on my wishlist for quite awhile and voila – work gave me a kudos $25 gift certificate for Amazon.com so I knew immediately what I was going to spend it on.  Good reading so far.  I made a batch of the starter/sponge, but I am letting it ‘set in the fridge’ for awhile because I really like a sourdough-ish taste and texture and the longer I wait the better it should be.  Although I have to admit waiting is hard.  I just might have to breakdown this weekend and test a loaf or two.  Especially if I make that Minestrone Soup I’ve been craving lately.

Stay tuned and I will let you know how the bread turns out.

Playing hookie and new finds

Last Friday I just had to take a day off. My stress level was off the charts and I just needed some down time. Not really ‘down’ time as in spend the day in my jammies and taking to my bed… no, more like I just need to do something other than work today.

I had recently ordered and received some new fiber dyes that I wanted to play with. Gaywool Dyes from Louet. These are really simple to use with a minimum amount of equipment or fuss. There is no need to presoak in anything but water; you see the acid is already in the dye.

These dyes come in crystallized form that you dissolve in hot boiling water. I still painted the dyes on the presoaked fiber, and then used my steamer to set the dyes.

I don’t know if was because I was using the soft pastel shades but they seemed to exhaust quickly and easily, leaving very little rinsing required.

And last but not least the colors came out lovely. I would highly recommend these to anyone who doesn’t want to fuss with chemicals, or vinegar, etc. These can easily be used in a crock-pot or microwave too.

I dyed some BFL Superwash roving that I recently acquired. It took the dyes very nicely. I also had some white Shetland roving that I dyed as well. The Shetland didn’t take the dyes as strongly as the BFL, but I did get a really nice shade with the Gaywool dyes that resemble sea glass. I cannot wait to spin this up.

I was planning on posting the individual rovings but they still are not completely dry – so here is a sneak peak of them on the drying rack.

Open Studios was quiet as far as people passing through, but we did have a good group of people to hang with. Alicia (no blog yet), Brian and my sister Cindy who is currently setting up a new blog here.

Speaking of my sister… check out her latest project. She warped with some of the alpaca she brought back from Peru and she used merino silk as the weft. She dyed the yarns prior to weaving the fabric and she even got the lines in the plaid to match when she constructed the cape. Exquisite no?

Brian and I brought our spinning wheels and got a lot of spinning done. I am almost finished with the Jacob’s fleece that I got at Spa from Deb at the Irish Ewe. I am thinking of over dyeing once I’ve plied it.

Brian and I also took a break to run up to Classic Elite Hub Mills and to say hi to Alice. I also picked up the first volume of Barbara Walker’s Treasury of Knitting Patterns. Lucia will be relieved I am sure – I thought I was going to get booted from the Knitter’s groups when she found out I didn’t have at least one of the books in my library. I think I am safe now anyway.

This weekend I also did some shopping at my favorite Idylwilde Farms again. I did get some more dried beans. This time I picked up the black Turtle Beans. I hope to make a lovely black bean salad with these.

I also made some yummy hummus this weekend. It is so easy that I don’t think I will ever buy hummus from the grocery store again.

Easy Hummus

1 can of good garbanzo beans aka Chickpeas, rinsed and drained well then dumped into the food processor add to it a big fat clove of garlic or two that I pressed through the garlic press, 1 tsp lemon zest, 1 tsp ground cumin, a couple of shakes of tabasco sauce, 1 tsp Kosher salt. Process for a minute then scrape down the sides.

Add slowly 1/4 cup of water that you added 3-4 tbsp of fresh squeezed lemon juice to. Continue to process for 1 minute then scrape down the sides.

Take 6 tbsp of well mixed Tahini and blend with 2 tbsp of good Extra Virgin Olive Oil. then turn on the processor again for a couple of minutes and drizzle the Tahini and EVOO mixture in.

It should be nice and creamy.

Other things you can add for flavor and variation:

1/4 cup of drained artichoke hearts roughly chopped or a

1/4 cup of roasted red peppers

I ended up making two batches of this it was so good and there still wasn’t any left to bring for lunch today.

Another acquisition was made. I found two Royal Worcester Single Egg Coddler’s at the local consignment shop. I love coddled eggs. I wish I had time every morning – but these will have to wait for work from home days or weekends.

On the tube this weekend

I watched “The Fountain” . It was a little difficult to follow as it is three parallel stories that span from the Conquistors in Machu Picchu, some time in the present and some time in the very far future. All starring Hugh Jackman as the main character. But let me just say the hot sexy scene in the bathtub was worth it.

And last but not least, I guess we can pry the gun out of Chuck‘s cold dead hands now.

Soft and Squishy

Yesterday was a soft and squishy kind of day for the most part.

I worked from home so I got to hang around in my soft and squishy pink slippers (no photo).

I also made more Marshmallows. I’ve tried a couple of different recipes, one using no corn syrup, and one with. I wasn’t happy with the sugar only recipe, I think I need to beat it a little longer so I will try it again. I would really like to find a great sugar only recipe only because I would really like to cut corn syrup totally out of my life. Unfortunately the thing with marshmallows is the corn syrup seems to add volume and gives us that soft and squishy texture that we all love.

So far my favorite recipe WITH corn syrup is as follows. You will need these ingredients and utensils.

.marshmellow-ingredients.jpg

Not in the picture but really required for Marshmallows, is the Unflavored gelatin you will need. BTW, have you seen these new nested measuring bowls? They are awesome! I bought a set at the grocery store to replace my mostly missing aluminum measuring cups and got a second set as Christmas gift. I kept them both.

Put 1/2 cup of cold water in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle 3 packets of Knox Unflavored Gelatin over the cold water and set aside to bloom.

In a heavy sauce pan add 2 cups of granulated sugar, 1/2 cup of water, 3/4 cup of light corn syrup and a pinch of kosher salt. Heat over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and it starts to bubble. Turn the heat up to med/high and using a candy thermometer, simmer until it reaches 240F or the softball stage. Remove from heat immediately.

sugarlava.jpg

Using a standing mixer (which works best because you have to beat the sticky sugar mess for at least 15 minutes), starting a low speed, drizzle the hot sugar mixture into the bloomed gelatin slowly. Once you have added all the sugar mixture, which is like hot lava so be very careful, crank up the speed on your mixer to high.

whipitgood.jpg

Note I have a old mixture that I inherited from a friend who got a fancy schmancy one. But you will notice that the old one I have is obviously a Spinal Tap Mixer, because the speed goes past 10! SEE!

spinaltapmixer.jpg

When the marshmallow mixture starts to thicken and turns white like whipped cream, it’s time to add the flavoring. I like to add either 2 tsp. of real vanilla extract, or 2 tsp. of peppermint extract.

Continue to beat for a full 15 minutes. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl and watch closely because this sticky mess will crawl up the beaters and make an awful mess if you don’t keep an eye on things. (ask me how I know, LOL!)

While that is whipping away under a careful eye, prepare a 9 x 12 x 2 pan. Line it with that new Reynolds Release Non-Stick Aluminum Foil. Be sure you have the Non-stick side up and you will also want to lightly spray the foil with no-stick spray. This stuff is really sticky.

Once the marshmallow stuff is whipped good and stiff (hmm that should bring some interesting hits)…. place it into the lined pan and smooth evenly. Sprinkle the top with Confectioner’s Sugar and set aside for 6-8 hours.

almostmarshmellows.jpg

Mine is still setting aside, until I get home tonight, then using clean kitchen scissors, I will cut them up in to 1 inch squares. Dust the cubes with more Confectioner’s Sugar by putting a cup or more into a plastic bag and shaking the cut marshmallows to coat well.

Store in an air tight container for several weeks, or package them up nicely in little cellophane bags and give to friends.

I think for Valentine’s Day I am going to try a batch using raspberry flavored jello instead of the unflavored gelatin, it should make the marshmallows pink as well as flavor them. I also want to try dipping them in chocolate, so stay tuned.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Other soft and squishy moments from yesterday. Spotted (according to Lucia) a SMK (straight, male knitter) in the wild – Harpy’s hubby came to the knitting group last night. He’s a newbie, but doing very well.

swmk.jpg

When we found out he’s a lefty! Nicole taught him continental and he’s picking it up fast! He was also caught holding and admiring the new addition to our knitting circle, Baby Edmund!

holding-baby.jpg

It doesn’t get softer or squishier than that. This is why we all love Dave 🙂

I did manage to get some knitting done. Only a few more inches to go on the sleeves then I can block and put this kid sweater together.