Knitting Retreat – Sheep to Shawl

We are sailing away to knit and laugh together and you should come!  Heather Kinne of Highland Handmades and I already got a good start on the laughing part when we filmed The Fiberista Files podcast together recently.

Hanging out on deck and knitting. Let's retreat together!
Hanging out on deck and knitting. Let’s retreat together!
Highland Handmade yarn by the fabulous Heather Kinne.
Highland Handmade yarn by the fabulous Heather Kinne.
Mim
Mim onboard the Riggin.

The Knitting Getaway is 4 days and 4 nights of a fiber experience with Mim Bird of Over the Rainbow Yarn (Rockland Maine’s LYS), Dyan Redick of Bittersweet Heritage Farm, and Heather Monroe Kinne of Highland Handmades as we follow the start-to-finish yarn process of shearing to spinning to knitting with handspun yarn.

We begin with a sheep shearing and skirting demonstration at Bittersweet Heritage Farm and wind up back at the Riggin for dinner at anchor.  Heather from Highland Handmades will also be joining the trip to lead a spinning demonstration where you’ll be able to spin your own fiber (roving and combtop provided) on a drop spindle. Mim Bird will be with us as well to help assess the yarn we’ve created and figure out how and what to knit with it.

1f8e8810bb4de4395d8961b275f3f55ba
I mean could these wee ones be any cuter? Photo credit Bittersweet Heritage Farm
b51063933c66755a93a5da046237b886a
Friends at Bittersweet Heritage Farm. Photo credit Bittersweet Heritage Farm

Your yarn and your project will be individual… and as relaxing or as type-A as you’d like.  This is a pretty special trip and all of the details are on the Riggin site.

Check out The Fiberista Files podcast with Heather and me! The knitting cruise part starts around 22:30.

Particulars:  June 8th – June 11th, $779 per person, all inclusive, 5% discount until Jan. 31st (10% for returning guests)

Annie
Getting my needles ready

Throwback Thursday – Bees Swarming

As I write this, the bees are quiet, not truly dormant, but somnolent and sleepy.  Waiting.  The hives are draped in black insulating plastic and surrounded by feet of snow and not a flower in sight.

But last summer, when the garden was in full flush and the blooms were abundant, the hive wisdom said to swarm.  Make a second queen, split, and create another hive to add to their numbers.

To see a hive swarm is to be in the midst of what feels like a maelstrom.  In truth, bees are as calm as they ever will be when they swarm.  Topped off with honey, surrounding their new queen, and off on an adventure.

We’ve never been quick enough to rehive the swarms, but were lucky to capture this one leaving on film.

Bee Swarm Still from video
Hive swarming.

 

Annie
Thankful they didn’t all swarm!  Their honey is fantastic.

Chocolate Cashew Pudding

My friend Glen, mentioned in the doughnut post, is often down in the galley in the wee morning hours when I’m making all the decisions about what we’ll be eating for the rest of the day.  I’ll often share out loud what I’m thinking because one, I know he likes to hear the winding road of my thought process, and two, I like to share with him because it helps me to hear, in my own words, what I’m thinking about. Somehow, when it’s outside of myself and in the space of the galley I’m able to see the big picture a little more clearly.

In any event, because I’m having these ‘out loud’ conversations, Glen gets a preview and many times an input.  Long before he talked me into doughnuts, he talked me into pudding.  Sure, it’s a pain to stand over the wood stove and stir it until it thickens, however, the creamy, sublime result is totally worth the effort.  This is one I just made up this summer and will have to share with Glen when he sails with us again.

Chocolate Cashew Pudding Photo by Rocky Coast Photography

Chocolate Cashew Pudding
For an extra rich dessert, serve with whipped cream on top and dusted with cocoa powder.

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate cut into small chunks
1/2 cup cashew butter

In a thick bottomed pot, combine the sugar, cornstarch, milk, and salt.  Bring to a full boil over medium heat whisking often to make sure the bottom doesn’t scorch.  Remove from heat and add the vanilla extract and then the chocolate.  Let the chocolate melt from the heat of the mixture, stirring occasionally until the chocolate is melted.  Add the cashew butter and again mix well.  Transfer to small serving bowls, cover with plastic wrap and chill.

Serves 4 to 6

Annie
Making all of the women in the household happy – the husband too, actually.

Lemon Curd Tarlets – Feeling Tart and Sunny

These little tartlets came about when working on a catering job for a winter dinner.  The whole affair was a cocktail party, so finger food was the name of the game, including the desserts.  Once topped with a berry – raspberry or blueberry – these beauties were perfect for a small bite confection.

Little lemon tarlets that will be topped with a raspberry garnish.
Little lemon tarlets that will be topped with a raspberry garnish.

Another favorite way to use lemon curd is in the Blizzard Bluberry Lemon Curd Roulade, which, as you might guess, was made on a snowy day last winter when the winds were slapping at the windows and doors.  Indoors was the only place fit for humans, except the occasional forays into the wild for a snow shoe or ski and then back inside for a warm cup around which to wrap the cold hands.

If I were to find myself with some leftover lemon curd, I might have several thoughts on what to do with it other than eat it straight from the spoon.  One, this is a perfect combination for my Nana’s Lemon Prune Cake.  Two, if you find yourself wishing for something elegant, layered in a wine glass with sliced strawberries and vanilla whipped cream would hook me right quick and in a hurry.  Three, I’ve been known to have it with some yogurt.  Hey, if Liberte brand yogurt can do it, so can I.

Lemon Curd
This recipe is inspired by “The New York Times Cookbook.”
4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice; juice from about 2 lemons
2 tablespoons grated lemon rind; rind from about 2 lemons

Cream the butter and gradually beat in the sugar. Beat the eggs into the creamed mixture, then add the lemon juice and grated rind.

Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and cook over low heat, whisking continuously until mixture thickens and deepens in color. This must be cooked over low heat and stirred constantly to keep it from curdling. If desired, use a double boiler.

Press through a fine sieve into a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Makes about 2 cups

Tartlet Crust
This crust is extremely versatile and is one of my go-to recipes when creating tartlets or tarts that require a fairly structured crust.  It is inspired by Alice Medrich, author and pastry chef extraordinaire.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon homemade vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Press 1 tablespoon of dough into the bottom of two 12-hole muffin tins.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges begin to brown and the tartlet shells release from the tins easily.  Transfer to a grate to cool.  Fill with lemon curd when the shells are fully cooled.

Makes 24

Annie
Feeling tart and sunny

 

 

Greens with Toasted Cumin, Beans, Beets, and Goat Cheese

This time of year when excess has surpassed moderation to a degree that feels uncomfortable, I reach for greens, roasted vegetables, and grains. Protein comes in the form of beans, nuts, and avocados and I crave simple flavors, rich only in the essence of the ingredient, not slathered in sauce or gravy.

After the New Year dinner. Tons of greens, no meat. Whew!
After the New Year dinner. Tons of greens, no meat. Whew!

This dish is one that came from needing to use up a number of ingredients left from a farm share and the last harvest of miraculous greens from the garden. Vegetarian in design and satisfying in flavor and simplicity, this dish is among those we’ve been reaching for ever since the first of the year.

Greens with Toasted Cumin, Beans, Beets, and Goat Cheese
1, 29 ounce can black beans, rinsed
1 avocado, pitted and sliced
1 teaspoon lime juice
Pinch of salt
Fresh black pepper
4 ounces goat cheese
Roasted Beets and Leeks (recipe below)
Greens with Toasted Cumin (recipe below)

To assemble, spread the greens on large platter or on individual plates. Heat the black beans in the skillet that cooked the greens and meanwhile gather the rest of your ingredients. When the beans are hot, transfer them on top of the greens. The beats go next. Garnish with slices of avocado, sprinkle with lime juice, salt and pepper and dot with goat cheese.

Serves 4 to 6

Roasted Beets and Leeks
Remove the skin of the beets only if they are very large. Otherwise, the skin adds a textural element that is a complement to the softer flesh.
2 pounds beets, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups diced leeks, about 1 leek cleaned well
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Several grinds of fresh black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss the beets with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a baking sheets with sides. Transfer to the oven for 1 hour. Add the diced leeks and stir to coat with the oil and return to the oven for another 15 minutes or until the leeks are cooked through and beginning to brown.

Greens with Toasted Cumin
I used Brussels sprouts greens for this recipe, but it’s only because I’d just harvested them from the garden. I’ve never seen them in our grocery store, and kale or collard greens are a perfect substitute.

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pound Brussels sprouts greens (or kale or collard greens)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Several grinds of fresh black pepper

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the cumin into the bottom of the pan and make sure that the greens are ready to add. Toast the cumin for about 30 seconds or until it becomes fragrant. Add the greens immediately and then the olive oil. Turn with tongs and incorporate the salt and pepper as well. Brussels sprouts greens are sturdy and take about 10 minutes to soften. Kale will be cooked in just a few minutes.

Annie
I feel lighter just writing about it.

Nana’s Lemon Prune Cake with Lemon Butter Sauce

My mom sent me a recipe for my Nana’s Lemon Sauce via email, which was a little odd.  Normally, when I ask for a recipe, it comes by mail – photocopied recipe card complete with my Nana’s handwriting.  Even though I bless the convenience of computers every day, there is something a little sad inside of me that misses the recipe written in her own hand, stained with drops of milk and string of egg white.

I remembered the sauce well from my childhood when my Nana would don a ruffled gingham apron and create a tiny bit of magic in her small kitchen.  I loved that space, not much bigger than my own kitchen now, with really tall cabinets, an old-fashioned oven complete with warmer and a small aluminum-edged table in the middle of it all where everyone gathered.  For the big meals, we ate in the dinning room, but the real heart and action happened in that small kitchen.

Prune Cake Photo Rocky Coast Photography

The sauce itself was silky, tart, lip-smacking… but I didn’t remember how she served it.  After questioning my mom, the reason became clear.  My Nana served it with fruit cake – never my favorite on the best of days.   I went to bed that night thinking about what would go well with my Nana’s Lemon Sauce and how I could reinvent fruit cake into something not only palatable, but actually yummy.  That is how this recipe was born.

My Nana always called it Butter Sauce, but I always remember calling it Lemon Sauce.  When I think of butter sauce now, it brings to mind a Creme Anglaise, and this sauce is much like that, only less smooth vanilla and more punch of lemon.

Lemon Prune Cake with Nana’s Lemon Butter Sauce
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
Zest from one lemon
1/4 cup lemon juice (juice from about 1 lemon)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon extract
1 cup diced prunes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Make a well in the center and add the remaining ingredients. Stir until just well mixed. Pour into prepared cake pan using a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl.

Bake until cake springs back when lightly pressed in the middle and the edges have pulled away from the sides of the pan, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan before serving either warm or room temperature with Nana’s Lemon Butter Sauce.

Serves 12

Nana’s Lemon Butter Sauce
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup heavy cream, whipped

In a medium double boiler heat egg yolks until they lighten in color, whisking fairly consistently.  Gradually add sugar, continuing to heat and whisk.  Remove from heat and add butter, lemon rind, juice, and salt. Fold in whipped cream.  Chill and serve on top of warm cake.

Makes enough to serve with cake plus extra — have a spoon ready.

Annie
Thanks, Nana!

Sitting Down to the Dinner Table Together

A number of years ago, when the girls were small and bedtime was 8pm (for me and them), a friend of mine said something to me and I didn’t believe her.  As I was holding my tired, tear-stained four year old on my hip, she said that when your kids get older, it’s just as intense as when they are small.  She said that instead of clinging to your pant legs, they need you in a completely different way, but just as much.  She said that her teenagers were just as time consuming and just as needing of her nurturing as when they were small.

I thought she had motherhood amnesia.  You know, the syndrome that has a mother, who recently experienced labor, to be so awash in baby love that she wants another child.  She forgets that this will require another labor.

Now that I have teenagers, I still think my friend forgot how intense mothering small children can be.  So when I’m trying to figure out how and when all of us can have dinner together because one has play practice from 6 to 8pm and the other has a class that begins at 7pm and it turns out the only time we can all sit at the table together is at 5pm, I remember when they were small.

DinnerTable

When at the end of the day, everyone was a little (or a lot) frayed at the edges and no one could really handle entertaining themselves.  When having little people “help” with dinner meant starting at 4pm for a dinner at 6pm.  When holding one in the sling and the other on the hip meant that I couldn’t chop a vegetable or make a salad.  But if I set them down, the terror of the toddler would reign down on the household.  Back then I wished I were an octopus.

Now I wish I could clone myself.  I’d have one mom drive and the other make dinner.  Since neither of those is likely, I’ll just stick with having a lot more free time in the day, serving dinner at the oddest of hours so that we can all sit face to face, and driving my teenagers to and fro with “car talk” to sustain me.

Annie
Dinner time – it’s important

Chocolate Truffles – Little Rounds of Heaven

The days around the holidays, I’m especially reminded of traditions surrounding family.  Of creating and sustaining those rhythms that our girls will look back upon and remember well.  It’s not the presents around the tree, I think, that will be held the strongest in their minds and hearts, but those less tangible moments that have nothing to do with receiving.

Instead it will be the ritual of tromping into the woods to find just the right Christmas tree.  Decorating the house with pine boughs, roping and white lights.  Lying underneath the decorated tree and looking up at all of the branches illuminated with that golden glow.  And, of course, Christmas cookie making.

Now, we’ve gotten “better” at these rituals as the years have progressed.  The tree now has ornaments from top to bottom rather than a band of decorations high enough for a young one to reach on their tip toes.  The cookie making is a more ordered affair.  In other words, I’m not scraping flour and sugar off the floor and ceiling for a month afterwards.  And even the decorating of the house happens without tears or broken ornaments.  What a blessing to be able to spend these special days together.

Hands in the cookies.
Hands in the truffles.

The girls and I made these dark, silky balls of decadence as one of our Christmas “cookies” this year and had trouble not eating them ALL.  Fine Cooking‘s recipe is perfect and I wouldn’t change a thing.  We covered them in several ways – with cocoa powder, chopped walnuts, and the classic ganache.  Some got an espresso bean inserted in the center.  Those were our favorites, but they were all out-of-the-park delicious.  They make a perfect homemade holiday gift (If you can bear to give some away!)

Truffles2
Rolling truffles in cocoa powder.
All of the varieties.
All of the varieties.

Annie
In chocolate heaven!

Crafternoon – Skirt Made from a Wool Sweater – Handmade Holiday Gift Idea

Now that we are home and have all of our crafting tools at our disposal, the sewing machine has come out and the knitting needles have slowed (not stopped, just slowed).  Of course there are tons of clothing items that one can make with re-purposed wool and wool sweaters, some of which I’ve shared in the form of fingerless mittens, cowl, and felt-decorated sweaters.  Last week I came home from a school event and shared with Chloe the idea of a snappy wool skirt a student was wearing over leggings – cool boots too, of course.  As I worked my way through the crowd and closer to the skirt (the student I mean), I realized that it was actually the bottom of a felted sweater inverted so that the hem or lower cuff of the sweater had become the waist band of the skirt.

The next morning Chloe comes down wearing one of two skirts that used to be wool sweaters hanging out in the crafting pile ready and waiting to become something.  The second was prepped for a short spin under the sewing machine.

Recycled sweater skirt Photo by Rocky Coast Photography

Directions for How to Make a Skirt from a Wool Sweater
Felt the sweater so that the fibers connect and the ends don’t fray by washing in hot and rinsing in cold water.  Stop the washing machine occasionally and check to be sure that you aren’t felting it more than you want.  The fabric will just become thicker and thicker with changes in temperature and agitation so slower is better.   When the fabric of the wool is the thickness that you’d like, spin it to wring out most of the moisture and then hang or lay flat to dry.  Sometime I’ll roll an item between two bath towels and then press or even step on the roll to squeeze out any excess moisture.

To determine the length of the skirt, measure vertically from where it will ride – waist, belly button or below belly button – to where you’d like for it to end – knee, thigh, mid-thigh.  There is no hemming necessary with this project, so therefore no need to adjust the measurement for hemline material.

When dry, lay the sweater out on a cutting board.  With a yard stick or measuring tape, measure from the bottom of the sweater (waist of the skirt) to the hem of the skirt.  Make a horizontal, straight cut across.   Note:  If the wool is the washable sort, then a quick zigzag stitch along the hemline takes care of any unraveling that might occur.  It also can add a design element if you use a contrasting thread color.

Annie
Who needs the mall?