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Monthly Archives: December 2013

I seem to eat more than my fair share of simple carbohydrates and protein during the holidays. Some days, I just want a nice, hearty salad. Tonight was such an evening.

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My friend Donna brought this salad to a recent get together…and I fell in love. The colors make it festive, and I loved the addition of the butternut squash that is roasted with a sprinkling of red pepper flakes.

I love the variety of the squash and pumpkins that are available now at farmer’s market, and I incorporate what I’d like to try in here, whether it’s white acorn squash or sugar pumpkin, and of course there is my favorite, kabocha. I like the sweetness that comes from roasting these vegetables.

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The other special ingredient in this salad is pomegranate, which is also mirrored in the pomegranate molasses that is drizzled over the top of the salad. I’ve found that taking the pomegranate seeds apart from the pith in a bowl of water is the easiest and least messy method of getting at these jeweled seeds.

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I also make the dressing separately, using the zest from the citrus that I am using, so it’s easier to make a single serving of the salad, and to keep the left overs for tomorrow’s lunch.

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I have already made this several times and you know what happens once a recipe becomes part of your repertoire. It gets tinkered with. I’ve not changed it around a bit too much from the original, but here is my take on a wonderful winter salad.

My New Favorite Winter Salad
Adapted from Autumn Farmer’s Market Salad (Bon Appétit October 2008)
yield:Makes 6 servings

Ingredients
  • 4 1/2 to 5 cups 1-inch cubes peeled seeded winter squash. The original calls for butternut squash, but it’s a great opportunity to try different types of squashes!
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of dried crushed red pepper
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • Juice and zest of 1/2 an orange
  • Juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • Olive oil or walnut oil, about 3 Tbsp — should be about 1/2 the volume of the juices of the citrus from above.
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 ounces arugula (about 8 cups lightly packed)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses (optional)

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Toss squash, olive oil, salt and crushed red pepper and roast on baking sheet for 15-20 minutes or until the squash is cooked through and a bit browned on the edges.

Zest and juice 1/2 and orange, zest and juice 1/2 a lemon, and shake together in a container with the oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a bowl, add arugula. Toss with dressing (do not drench the greens, but use enough dressing just to coat the greens — my dressing ratio is about 2x what the original recipe calls for). Add warm or room temperature squash, walnuts, and pomegranate seeds. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses, if using, and serve.

Remember Cambridge of the grey fleece?

I left you as I had just begun to spin singles from her fleece. I was spinning the silvery puffs of it into yarn for the very first knitted project out of her gorgeous fleece.

I just started spinning earlier this year, so I was a little bit nervous. Yes, I have been practicing a little bit every day, trying to get some skill under my belt, with the ultimate goal of being able to create just the yarn I meant to create. My opinion about yarn is well beyond my spinning skills however, and I still consider myself a novice. I felt though, that I had obsessed enough about Cambridge’s fleece and how I wanted to spin it, that I should just go for it. Besides, there’s more than 7 pounds of unprocessed stuff behind this small bit of processed fleece that I knew I had to start somewhere!

Cambridge has been bred to produce a long wool (and her staple length was 6″), so her fleece does not need to be twisted too tightly together to hold. In fact, since I wanted to create as soft a yarn as possible, I did not want to seize up the fibers by twisting it too much. If I were more versed in spinning, I would have talked about the angle of twist, and how many twists per inch I was aiming for….but I am 100% going by how things felt in my hands and by intuition. (OK, some would say winging it, and I have to admit I was!)

I was cautiously optimistic with the yarn that came off my wheel. The color is absolutely amazing.

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Each single is about 5 strands of her fiber, and I twisted/plied 2 of these singles together to create this yarn. So the yarn is pretty fine. It is a 2-ply lace weight yarn, which is what I was aiming for.

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I made a fine yarn because I thought the first project from Cambridge’s fleece should be a gossamer wisp of a shawl. I wanted to challenge myself from a spinning standpoint, but I really wanted to remember how I felt as Lee and I combed out bits of her fleece — the fluffy, cloud like puffs that emerged as we processed her fleece.

Yarn made from Cambridge’s fleece, technically, should not be next to the skin soft (I will leave explanation of all of this to Clara Parkes, here). A sample of her fleece will be sent in to be tested, but the diameter of each fiber will likely be over 30 microns. I was surprised, as I cast on, how soft the yarn felt. (Which I actually wrote off to psychosomatic wishful thinking.)

Now, I may have been nervous as I sat in front of a spinning wheel with Cambridge, but once I had the yarn and I had some knitting sticks in my hand, i had zero trepidation.  I knew exactly what to do, and I wanted to do some magic with the sticks.

The first Cambridge project needed to be a classic shawl, with classic lace motifs. I pulled out my trusty little bible for such thingsEvelyn A. Clark’s Knitting Lace Triangles

Evelyn Clark has designed some amazing shawls. There are close to 11,000 of her Swallowtail shawls up on “the system” on Ravelry. I was lucky enough to take her shawl design class at Madrona this year.

Knitting Lace Triangles gives you a basic outline of how to create a lace triangle of your own design using some building blocks that Evelyn outlines. I used 2 lace motifs, the ripple lace and the medallion lace. Classic. That is what I was shooting for.

Here it is! A lace triangle that is 55″ wide and 23″ deep at the center. I hope I did Cambridge proud!

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I’m not 100% sure any more where my Mother got the original recipe. Suffice it to say that this has been made so many times by members of my family that it has gone through multiple modifications. My version is slightly different than Mom’s, mostly because I prefer things less sweet than she does.

The cake is full of apples. In fact, it is basically baked apples held together barely by a batter that is slightly thicker than pancake batter.

What makes this cake so very my Mom’s is that there is a pretty healthy amount of brandy in it. You can substitute the brandy with a dilution of vanilla extract (but you realize that is alcohol too, right?), but I really love the brandy with this cake. If I have it on hand, I may use Calvados or Armagnac with this but Mom’s brandy of choice is Remy Martin.

Any apple would work, but my favorite is Gala or Cortland.

Apple Cake
(yield: one 8×8″ pan)

1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
100-150g granulated sugar. I tend to the lower amount usually, but this can be adjusted between these amounts based on the sweetness of the apples that are being used
2 large eggs
150g flour
2tsp baking powder
1tsp kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp table salt)
2tsp cinnamon
1/2tsp nutmeg
3-4 apples, depending on size, quartered and sliced. (The thinner you slice, the more apples you can pack in — I like mine about 1/4″ thick)
1/4 cup raisins, soaking in 3-4 Tbsp brandy

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour baking pan, line bottom with parchment (unless you are using a nonstick pan)

Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition.

Shift together all dry ingredients. Add to batter in 2 batches, mixing until just incorporated after each addition.

Add apples, raisins and brandy and stir to incorporate.

Put into prepared baking pan, smoothing out the top. The cake will look and feel like a bunch of apples held together with a thickish batter. I like to bang the pan against the countertop to knock out air pockets.

Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, 45-50 minutes.

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I think the dried cranberries would be great in this cake as well. I define “raisins” broadly here — I have used sultanas and currants. Obviously, the brandy is optional…it can be substituted with some diluted vanilla extract (I would dilute it with apple juice if you have that on hand), enough to plump up the raisins.

The texture of the cake will be affected by the amount of sugar that you add to the batter. 100g is, in my opinion, the minimum amount of sugar necessary. Mom always makes it with 150g, but I don’t have as big a sweet tooth as she does so I tend to err on the lower side. If I’m using a very tart apple, like Granny Smith, I will add more sugar to compensate for the tartness.

Cambridge (SHF1305) was born at Shepherd’s Hey Farm on January 27, 2013 (photo by Lee Langstaff).

314422_168064710014149_1251301220_nI met her not long after this. In fact, I met her as she prepped to go to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival in May 2013 as a lamb.

Isn’t she cute in her pretty flower show coat??? (The sheep wear the coat to keep the fleece clean and to keep the sun from bleaching the fleece.)

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I know what you are thinking….”OMG she’s done it. She’s bought a sheep to keep in her NYC apartment.”

Don’t worry, Cambridge still lives at Shepherd’s Hey Farm with her brethren of beautiful natural colored long wool sheep. She was bred for her fleece, though. So no…. while I did not bring home sheep for Finn and Lucy I was lusting after her fleece! Anyone who knows me can probably guess why I fell in love with Cambridge and wanted the fleece this little girl was going to produce, right? Not only was she darling, she was every single shade of grey known under the sun.

I begged to please let me be the one to process and make something out of Cambridge’s fleece. Sure, I had just begun spinning, but I thought that I could improve enough by the time she was to be sheared to do her fleece proud.

And on November 22, Emily The Shearer came to The Farm, and sheared 21 sheep. And Cambridge was one of them.

Cambridge did a very good job growing her fleece. It was thick and luxurious. She looked like she was very dark on the outside. But as Emily worked (and she was FAST)….all the grey in all the different glorious shades emerged.

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Say it with me. “Ooooooooooooooo”.

Cambridge is 42% Romney, 19% Border Leicester, 16% Corriedale, 12% Lincoln, 7% Romeldale, 2% Rambouillet and 2% Wensleydale. I’ve actually linked to the fleece characteristics for all these breeds for you so if you are really curious, you can go look. The conclusion you will draw, I think, is that her fleece is probably “not soft” (think cashmere). It is true that as yarn, Cambridge’s fleece will likely not be next to the skin soft. That is not what she has been bred for.

What she has been bred for is this:

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Long locks, bouncy, silky, even crimp (see the light grey locks in the foreground on this picture), oh and the COLOR. It is absolutely gorgeous. And the fleece felt good to the touch, what spinners may call “a great hand”…it’s not “soft” the way most people would think, but it feels good to the touch.

I was THRILLED. And since a picture is worth a thousand words….

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After shearing, Cambridge was given worming medication, put back into a coat (a size smaller because….well, look, she was all fleece!!) and given lots of good food so she can keep warm…and grow some fleece for me next year!

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Now the question was….what to do with this gorgeous bundle? Her fleece weighed nearly 8 pounds before skirting. I pulled out 10.75 ounces (this is not a magic number, I just pulled out what I wanted and then weighed what I pulled out) and got help processing her fleece.

Small amounts of fleece are hand washed carefully…

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Dried….

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and as she is a long wool, we decided to hand comb locks and put it through a diz to create a “top”.

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I decided to keep the colors as separate as I could because her very light grey was incredible and the depth on the charcoal was insane. Think I like her fleece?

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Don’t you? Hand combing produces these coiled fluffs of the fleece with all the fibers aligned. This is going to be a breeze to spin. In fact….here she is on my bobbin! This is the light colored bit….it is literally silver!

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I think it is totally appropriate to break my (unintended) blogging silence with a post to wish my little girlie a Happy Birthday.

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She is, believe it or not, eight years old today-ish (her exact birthday is unknown, but this is her approximate birthday judging from radiographs taken right before she became mine).

EIGHT!

Eight years old means fully grown, mature, almost old. Right?

She still FRAPs when excited or bored — she tears through my apartment, jumping from rug to rug, leaping over furniture. She thinks every human being (almost) exists to give her pets. If you sit on the ground, that is definitely a sign that you are there to play with her. She still thinks, if you are not paying attention and there is a bus or truck on the road, that she may have to put it in its place.

There is nothing in the world she loves more than flying. Can you find The Lucy in the photo below?

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Her command to finish her food is, “Can I give it to Finn?”

I remember the very first time she fell asleep outside of her crate. She was a little over one and it took a 12 mile hike. One sign of her age is Lucy knows how to lounge around…She can often be found in a pool of sunlight….

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…or of course, on furniture where she is technically not supposed to be.

IMG_2060She is my happy little girl with the big ears.

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IMG_2348Happy birthday, Lucy Goose. May there be many many more!

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