Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hawaiian Fast Food

You know how unusual it is for me to get interested in a cooking project - for me, cooking is just that tedious lag in the day before the eating can start.  But every once in a while, I get the bug to Make Something.

Today's inspiration came when Emma and I finally got to visit 99 Ranch Market, a huge Asian grocery store in Plano.  I think we were both missing all those fun foods we enjoy in Hawaii.  Plus, this place is so big and so exotic, it's a field trip all by itself.  Our visit helped us collect the final ingredients we needed to make one of the most fun grab-and-go foods on the Islands:  Musubi.

Now, I went to high school in Hawaii, but somehow never heard of this stuff.  But my sister and her family, who have lived there forever, taught us all about it on this last trip.  We're hooked now.  It's kind of like sushi, but simpler and heartier.  You make a bunch, when you make it, so it lasts a while in the frig as a filling snack.

Ready?  Here we go:

Like most things in Hawaii, it starts with rice.  When I got home from my sister's last fall, the first thing I did was run out and buy a rice cooker.  Sure, I can cook rice in a pan, and have for years, but these things do all the work, and if you get the water part right, they're almost fool-proof.  Here's my sister's mystical system for getting the right amount of water in your rice without formal measuring:  pour in as much rice as you want (I use long grain white... nothing special), and then add water.  If you touch the top of the rice with your finger, the water should come up to the first knuckle.  No matter how much or how little rice you use, it seems to work every time.  Next, I let the rice soak for about 15 minutes before pushing the GO button on the rice cooker.  Walk away and let the magic happen.

While that's cooking, you can pull out the Hawaiian secret weapon:

That's right.  Spam.  Don't laugh - there were about 20 different varieties available at the Asian market today.  They know a good thing when Hormel cans it.  You can't argue with 75 years of classic canned meat.

Slice it thin and brown it in a pan on both sides.  Set it aside  to cool.  I suppose if you're too good for Spam you could experiment with bacon.  But it just wouldn't be the same.

Assemble the remaining components:

Sushi nori - the thin, black, papery seaweed sheets that they wrap around sushi.  Ten sheets to a package.  Inexpensive and indispensable.

One of my favorite seasonings: Furikake... sesame seeds, seaweed, salt, and some other stuff.  (My nieces and nephew insist on adding it to popcorn.)  Adds some interest to boring stuff like plain rice.

That's it.  You're ready to put it all together.

Lay out a sheet of nori on a cutting board.  Center your handy-dandy sushi press in the center.  I got my press in Hawaii, but I bet the Asian stores here have them, too.

Ack.  Blur.  Emma is a very quick assembler.  Fill the form a bit more than half full with rice.  Press it down with the, uh, presser-thingy.

Add two slices of Spam.  We leave a space between them because we'll be cutting the finished musubi in half.

Sprinkle on the furikake.

Add another layer of rice, and press again.

Carefully remove the form and roll up one edge of the nori.  Wet the other edge of the nori, which makes it sort of self-adhesive.  Kind of like wetting the flap on an old-fashioned envelope.  I use my finger dipped into a cup of water.

Fold this edge over the first, and "glue" it down.  Cut your musubi in half and cover each piece with a piece of plastic wrap.

Repeat, to make as many as you like.  These are a favorite picnic food in Hawaii.  Perfect to pack for a day at the beach.  

Okay, we've got our snacks.  Now we just have to get back to Hale'iwa...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fingers and Wool

Four new spinners took some wool for a spin today.  We all got the amazing euphoria of the "aha" moment, when the wonders of fiber twist into focus.  This group of ladies, all with their own relationships with yarn already, are taking it to new levels. 

They're off to a great start, and the beginning of a beautiful friendship...

Monday, May 28, 2012

Wool Washing Workshop This Saturday

Sure, buying raw wool is the most economical way to buy fiber, but then you have to CLEAN it.  Is this intimidating to you? 

 Get the confidence you need this Saturday at the farm - we'll teach you to skirt and wash your fleece with ease.  Make this big scary job into one you're not afraid to tackle, and take on any gorgeous fleece that comes your way.

Come to the farm Saturday at 10 AM for a hands-on workshop and learn how to separate the good from the bad, and how to clean the fiber without felting it. Turn your sow’s ear into a silk purse.

Observing is free - come, learn, get your hands lanolin-y. Take home some handouts and new confidence. Bring a fleece and we’ll skirt it for $10. We’ll draw straws, and the winner will get her fleece WASHED for free.

Rumor is that our web designer and fellow Gulf Coast Native sheep breeder, Shaun Jones will be bringing our two new Gulf Coast sheep the same day! (Black and white twin brothers… oh yeah…)
RSVP here or on FB or e-mail so we can plan a bit…

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Evening in the Pasture

Just before sundown, when the pastures are settling down for the night, is a great time to get a little one-on-one with the critters, and make sure that all is well.

Sweet, happy Tella, always smiling.

Young Moses, catching the last few rays of the day.

Pretty Rachel, already working on another gorgeous fleece.

Faithful Judah, off to take up his watchful position for the evening.

Ruthie, kind and vigilant - still enjoying her summer hair cut.

Moonstruck, cushed in the dirt, about to enjoy an after-dinner roll.

Hen pals, hunting a few more bugs before bedtime.

Vanni, the gentle giant, resting before the night shift.

And one more peek at Tella, cooling off in the water trough.  No wonder I can't keep that thing full, or clean.

Good night, critters.  See you all in the morning...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Fill 'Er Up

Today we filled up the barns.  Filled.  Up.

The Cadillac shed (it's a long story how this structure got its name) we filled with over 200 bales of hay.  Ted has a friend at work who raises cows on the side, and had some square bales to sell.  He gave us an outrageously good price, plus delivery and tons of help unloading and stacking.  An amazing deal.  Thank you Roger, Kim and Riley!  Thanks also to our friend Will, who loved playing farmboy by tossing bales down from the trailer.  All that hay going in the barn was like watching art happen.  If I can keep this dry, and if the sheep like it (ohpleaseohpleaseohplease...) we'll be set for months.

Will and Roger lead the hay brigade.

By the time they were done, the barn was filled to the doors, and we all heaved a sigh of relief.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the property, the Little Red Barn was filling up with a near-record-breaking turnout of knitters and spinners.  We've observed a law of nature that when someone has to leave early from the LRB, more people come to take their place, and we always seem to have enough chairs.  It's a mystery beyond science how this happens every time...

All we know is, we've never had the barn so full of friends that crazy fun didn't break out in large quantities.  A bountiful selection of baked goods never hurts either.

Beautiful projects form on needles, coffee and sweets are consumed, stories told, jokes shared, fresh air breathed, nerves soothed... it's what we do.

We got our money's worth with the AC blasting today.  Even with oppressive heat outside, the LRB stayed cool and refreshing.

Had to capture Chiyo modelling her knee sock in progress... 'specially because it coordinated so well with her gangsta outfit.

We're already looking forward to next Saturday's special workshop: Skirting a Raw Sheep Fleece.  Details coming up tomorrow...

Friday, May 25, 2012

Big White Role Model

In case you haven't been keeping up with Susie Gibbs' blog where Vanni and Tella's little brothers are getting bigger and cuter with each passing day, here's their latest developmental milestone:  Solid Food.

Looks like they're going to need a little bit of practice to master the whole Eating Out of a Bowl thing. (And mightn't we all die from the cute while they do?)   But like any responsible big brother, Vanni is here to show them the way:

See, little brothers?  Not so hard.  The hard part is defending your dinner from the blankety-blank chickens.

In other Vanni news, we got a quick visit from our pal Gail, who's been putting in so many long hours that she hadn't had any farm time in ever-so-long.  Vanni made sure she didn't leave without the Full Farm Treatment.  How wise was she to wear white to snuggle the Maremma?

Our dogs are just weapons-grade Awesome.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Smiles of satisfaction on the sweet faces of the knitting class just concluded.  Stockinette, garter, ribs, eyelets, cables, moss stitch, SSK and more - BAM!  Nothing can stop these ladies now.

Next stop: Socks.  Bring it.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Color Us Delighted

Day Exceeds Most Optimistic Expectations.  That should be the headline.  What a beautiful day yesterday.  I honestly thought we'd be running back and forth between the dye pots outside and the AC in the LRB.  But it turned out to be so pleasant, that we all just camped out in our comfy spinning chairs under the trees, with our fiber and yarn perking away in the colors.

Combine the usual delightful fiber/bff time at the farm with the added drama of dye pot serendipity, and you have yourself one jolly spring day, let me tell you.

Misty's four lovely daughters (yes, they're quads) added their color sense to several of the colorways that emerged from the steamer, and they also enjoyed lovin' on the big dogs and collecting eggs.

We used several different dye methods, but they all start with soaking the fiber in soap and/or vinegar.

Ms. Amy, a high school art teacher, hand painted some roving, rolled it in plastic wrap...

...see, kind of like a cinnamon roll, and stuck it in the roaster to steam.

Beth shows off a wrapped roving about to start steaming.

She also put some fiber into the kettle to get a more monochromatic effect.  Beth likes purple...

Trying to get a shot of the cool dye solution in one of our crock pots, all I could see was the reflection of the beautiful trees overhead.

Ah, here we go... isn't this like something you'd see Harry Potter concoct for one of his classes?

Ms. Amy and I tried some solar dyeing on the front porch.  We put some fiber into vinegar water in a big pickle jar...

Added several colors in powder form...

And watched the warm solution move the dye around and around through the fibers.  This method is fun when you want to let go of all control and just let the elements do the work.

And the colors that emerged.... man... these ladies have wild imaginations.  Lots and lots of brights...

And some really luscious neutrals...

The rich colors just kept on coming!  In fact, we had such a good time, and had set up such a lovely safari Dye Camp in the back yard that I imposed on Rita to come back today to dye more fiber!