Spin WIPs: Wensleydale & SW BFL

Current wheel project!

Spinning seems to be the only craft seeing some serious action these days. So serious that I have even stocked up on sweater quantities – basically anywhere from 500 to 800 gms of fiber to spin up. I haven’t started these projects yet tho. I reckon it’ll be a while before I get to it – I still have to figure out a pattern and game plan. No point spinning blind (not knowing how much yarn I need and what weight).

In the meantime, my spindle AND wheel have been seeing some action time. I’m still working on my own handdyed Wensleydale singles and it might take a while before I can finish spinning up all 4.5 oz of the stuff but so far, the results are pretty lovely. The picture below is the first skein of singles produced. It is slightly overspun but still has a very nice fuzz-halo to it. Yardage wise, it’s a whooping 400 meters and I reckon it’s weighing in at less than 50 gms!

The above is a superwash BFL from Hedgehog Fibres. I don’t really know what I am going to do with it but I reckon it’ll fair quite well for a 3-ply light fingering to fingering weight yarn. If the yardage is decent, I might use this for a shawl but otherwise, socks will just have to do. Tehehehe.

Spindle Spin: Wensleydale singles in Magical Forest

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Laksa noodles from scratch…

Yummy asam laksa!

For as long as I could remember, I could never find laksa noodles for my homemade Penang asam laksa. I can find kuey teow or flat rice noodles, beehoon or vermicelli, tang hoon or mung bean noodles, a wide range of egg-based noodles but never laksa noodles. Heck, even soba and udon is easy to find.

So after some hunting around at my favourite Asian grocery store – Paris Store (there are no Asian shops here in Dole so I go to Paris Store in Lyon whenever I visit my mother-in-law) – I decided to take the plunge and make my own laksa noodles. The store stocked bags of Vietnamese flour mixes for all kinds of things and after looking at the packaging, I decided to try out the one that read “Rice Spaghetti” since it looked pretty much like a bowl of laksa.

It’s pretty much straight forward and reminded me of making glutinous rice balls. You basically cook one-third of the flour mix in some water until it thickens like glue. The remainder of the flour mix is mixed in with some more water. Once the “glue” is ready, it goes into the flour mix and here is when you get to exercise your muscles and mix everything until it resembles a semi-fluid glue mix. I had to add more water to get it down to the right consistency – somewhat like pancake batter. When that is right, pour some into a pipping bag and pipe some long strands into boiling water. They’ll float when ready and after that, just scoop up the floating noodles, toss them into cold water for a minute or two before you drain and set them aside.

When I first made these noodles, I made a rather watery batter and I wasn’t exactly organised. So it required two people – one to pipe the noodles and another to fish them out. Took me three tries to get everything to the right consistency, timing and cooking structure. In fact, my most recent attempt today saw me doing everything alone. From start to finish, it took less than 45 minutes. The result was approximately 1 to 1.5 kg of lovely springy freshly made noodles!

You could say that everyone savoured their rations, even Noah!

Laksa noodle flour Finished product

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Spindle: Fleur de Lys & Juniper

These two lovelies arrived a while back and my, how they stand out.

The Fleur de Lys cutout (pictured below) has been on my spindle wishlist since I first saw them a while back. Mike makes lovely cutout spindles and the fleur de lys design is a new one – under six months old, I reckon. I managed to snag one in the most gorgeous of wood grain possible. The colour of the whorl/wood is much dark in real life. I took the picture in such a way that you could see the lovely wood grain.

Spindle: Fleur de Lys cutout

Fleur de Lys
Whorl | Bolivian rosewood
Shaft | Hard maple
Total weight | 1 oz
From | Mike from Spanish Peacock

Then there is the lovely, petite Turkish by Anne. Again, she really knows how to make turkish spindles that are easy to carry anyway, spin forever and just a joy to work on. Juniper is a lightly scented wood so this will definitely help to keep the little bugs away!

Juniper Turkish spindle

Juniper Turkish
Whorl | Juniper
Shaft | Walnut
Total weight | 20 gms
From | Anne from Bulle

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Low fat banana cake

Low fat banana cake

In the quest of losing weight the healthy way, I have started to cut back on my diet, revamp my eating habits and regular exercise. The weight loss has been very slow – about 500 gms to 1 kg in three weeks – because I was still eating rather well. So I decided to get a little serious by doing some calorie counting. After just two days of counting calories, I must say that people really do overeat in terms of portions and the food itself. I found myself watching my portions when I cook and trying to stick within the 1200-calories-a-day limit with some success. It really isn’t all that difficult. The key is in finding substitutes and yes, portion control.

Since I have been developing a sweet tooth of lately – no thanks to my diet which has had me being restricted to no desserts and just fruits – I decided to find a low fat banana cake. I modified my own banana-based recipes with the general guidelines of substitution – applesauce for oil and whole wheat instead of bleached white flour. I wasn’t too sure how a 100% whole wheat cake would go down so I opted for the 50-50 approach.

The result is a approximately 130 calorie slice of banana cake – each slice is about 1 cm thick and oh so moist & delish! Noah loved it and kept crawling around the dining table as I was slicing the loaf up, begging for more – he got the crumbs because it was past his breakfast time and I don’t like the kids to eat continously all day long. I’ll give him half a slice for his snack later. I reckon this would go down quite well for breakfast – one or two slices would still leave me a good window for the remainder of the day plus the whole wheat element will keep me fuller.

Low fat banana cake

NOTE: If you’re after a richer indulgence, you can replace the applesauce with melted butter (or vegetable oil if you don’t want to live that dangerously). But that means a higher calorie count! Tehehehe.

Low fat banana cake

Ingredients

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup cake flour
2 eggs
3 large bananas – mashed
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 applesauce
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp skimmed milk (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C.
  2. In a bowl, mash the bananas before adding in the sugar, applesauce, eggs and vanilla extract. If you’re using milk, add this in as well. Stir until well incorporated.
  3. Add in the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Stir the ingredients with a wooden spoon gently – take care to not overbeat. If the mixture is lumpy, that’s okay.
  4. Pour into a loaf tin or any pan of your choice. Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
  5. Enjoy them fresh or store in an airtight container to keep.
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Baking stash: Ingredients

Where I store some of my baking items and goods.

Recently, some friends tagged me about what are the essentials for baking for a beginners. That got me to thinking – I have shared recipes and even reviewed equipment but I never shared about my kitchen layout or what I have stocked (or hidden away).

I can’t say that my current kitchen layout is the best – I take food pictures on my dining table in another room because the lighting and space is better, most of the cooking is done right next to the sink on either the stovetop or oven and prep work is done on a small (aka prep) table (formerly my dining table when I was living in Switzerland). I have stuff stored everywhere – machines and gadgets are mostly in boxes and hidden under the prep table or above the wall cabinets. Baking trays and pans are in the cupboard where we store our dishes, glasses, serving plates, etc. Dried fruit, nuts and chocolate chips are stored in the wall cabinet while the spices, flour, flavours and sugars are out in the pantry shelving behind/next the kitchen door (above pic).

So in random order, here is a list of the items I have for baking (savoury or sweet dishes):

Pantry goods

  • Cake flour (Type 45)
  • All purpose flour (Type 55)
  • Bread flour (Type 65 and above)
  • Buckwheat flour
  • Corn flour
  • Rice flour
  • Glutinous rice flour
  • Arrowroot flour
  • Soy meal, homemade
  • Coconut flour
  • Almond nibs, slices and chunks
  • Dark chocolate/Bittersweet chocolate
  • Cocoa powder
  • Chocolate chips
  • Dessicated coconut
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Cream of tartar
  • Yeast – instant
  • GDL
  • Lye water
  • Vanilla extract
  • Vanilla bean
  • Orange flower water
  • Sugar – white/caster, brown, muscovado, molasses, palm, coconut
  • Syrup – maple, agave
  • Honey
  • Rose wine
  • Brandy
  • Cointreau
  • Colouring

Spices

  • Oregano
  • Fennel
  • Cumin
  • Pepper – black & white
  • Cinnamon – ground & bark
  • Nutmeg
  • Cloves
  • Star anise
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Bay leaf
  • Basil
  • Ginger
  • Tajine mix
  • Mexican mix
  • Provence herb mix
  • Saffron
  • Onion
  • Ginger
  • Garlic powder
  • Garlic salt
  • Guacamole mix
  • Grill-barbeque mix
  • Ground turmeric
  • Whole cardamon
  • Paella mix
  • Four spice mix
  • Five spice mix
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Spindle: Wild apple, amaranth and a Bossie

More spindle candy for you folks!

These arrived a few days ago with a little cutie I got from another Ravelry member who was destashing a huge stash of spindles and other goodies! As a result, my spindle bouquet is starting to take form. I’ll try to snap a pic once my collection is complete. Ohyes, it’s not finished yet. Tehehehehe.

wildapple_spindle-matthes-b

Wild apple
Whorl | Wild apple, notched
Shaft | Walnut
Total weight | 24 gms
From | Matthes from here

amaranth_spindle-matthes-b

Amaranth
Whorl | Purpleheart/amaranth, notched
Shaft | Maple, fully waxed
Total weight | 30 gms
From | Matthes from here

bosworth_mini

Cherry Mini
Whorl | Cherry
Shaft | Birch
Total weight | 16 gms
From | Bosworth from here

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Healthy caramel popcorn

Healthy Caramel Popcorn

The kids love popcorn and while we have been buying the stuff commercially at the local grocers, I decided I had enough and to make my own. At least this way, I could control how much sugar I put in my caramel, what sugars I used and so forth. In fact, I could even make a buttered or unsalted version and so forth. The commercial popcorns were a little on the sweet side so time to ditch it. Besides, I didn’t relish paying nearly 2-3 euroes for a bag of popcorn goodness.

The recipe I used is very simple and quick – I finished making this in under 20 minutes after much dilly-dallying and going back and forth between assignments on back ground checks and recipes. I hadn’t anticipated the volume of popcorn I ended up with so I would reduce the quantity of kernels used if it’s just for two people and/or immediate consumption. Original quantities are for 4 tablespoon of unpopped kernels so if you just want a light coating or drizzle of caramel, feel free to reduce the amount.

Eva gave this a thumbs-up and honestly, it’s hard to resist this while it is cooling in the baking tray! Tehehehe.

Healthy caramel popcorn
Recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie here
Ingredients

1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup agave syrup
2 tsp maltose (optional)
1 tsp margarine/butter
Pinch of salt

Method

  1. Pop the kernels in a nonstick, lighly greased pot (with a lid – very important!) on medium-low heat. Shake the pot ocassionally. Remove excess popcorn if the pot is full. Continue until almost all the kernels are popped. Separated the unpopped kernels (discard) and set aside.
  2. In a separate pot, add in the sugar, syrup, maltose and butter and cook over low heat until the mixture is bubbly and the sugar has melted. Add in the salt and stir to incorporate.
  3. When ready, pour the caramel over the popcorn and toss to coat the popcorns well. Do this fast as the caramel will start to stick as it is cooling.
  4. Once well-coated, break up the large pieces (or not) and spread on a baking tray. Cool until room temperature and store in an airtight container.
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Scottish Heather

SS Handspun - Scottish Heather

Ply | Three
Yardage | 461.7 m
WPI | Fingering
Fibre | Dyeing4Colour – 70/30 SW Seacell-Wool in Scottish Heather
Tool | Serenity Wheel [10:1]

Another finished handspun yarn!

Yes, it appears that my knitting has taken a break and I have picked up spinning again. Not exactly ideal considering that I have two knitting WIPs – cardigans for Eva and I – but the weather is starting to warm up so I reckon I might have to slow down on the spinning to make room for more knit work before it gets too warm for knitting.

While the yardage is fantastic on this bump of 4 ounces, I am not quite happy with the overall spin. While plying, some of the singles broke due to insufficient twist. Plying usually neutralises some of the twist so if you intend to ply your yarns, it’s good to create singles with an overtwist to it. I’ll have to remember this when I switch between spinning projects. (My previous spin project was an alpaca-silk-merino blend which I turned into laceweight singles – this requires a different amount of spin to keep the fibers together but not make the resulting yarn too wire-y.)

So far, that makes it about 17 ounces of wool spun up for the year. That’s not much but hey, it’s a start. Oh, did you know that I clocked over 5300 meters of singles! Whoa…

SS Handspun - Scottish Heather

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