Tuesday, December 27, 2011

December Daring Bakers Challenge: Letting Nature do the Work

Subtitle:  It's not the height that counts, right?

Another whole month gone by with nary a word on this blog.  That's the bad news.  The good news is that I have TONS to write about, I just drop into bed exhausted every night without having shared a single little bit with you. 

Part of the problem is the very buggy nature of Blogger on my computer these days.  Due to the hack, I can no longer long in as the administrator, only as a contributor.  Therefore, I don't get the standard full module, and on top of that, the module I do get to use is buggy and inconsistent.  For instance, the photo below should be centered.  Blogger will not let me center it.  After a frustrating day of working on the new house, I just can't stand to be teased and mocked by a computer. 

Also, simply adding pictures, much less editing them?  Nearly impossible. 

But I whine and digress.  Back to business!


So, you wonder, what's up with the plastic cup sitting on the counter?  Is is the drink I sorely need to deal with a buggy Blogger module?  Is it to keep myself hydrated?  Is it just a reminder of the time Bet and I took our little girls to the zoo to see the wild animals? 

Well, here's a peek inside...


In a sense, we do have wildlife in here.  But these guys aren't behind bars in a zoo, they're free range!  It's wild yeast given a habitat in which to flourish.  It's sourdough starter!


Mandatory Blog-checking lines:  Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create Sour Dough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with Sour Dough recipes from Bread Matters by AndrewWhitley as well as delicious recipes to use our Sour Dough bread in from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen’s Great British Food!


Now, the goal was to have a nice lofty loaf.  Goals are nice to have, but lately, well, they don't seem to be something to actually attain. As you can see above, after turning out from the banneton where it rose sat there for five hours, the result was doomed to be flat.


I did however get a very tasty loaf bread product. And I did eat it.

Oh, yes I did.

I named my starter Beth, and she resides in the fridge.  I will be pulling her out again soon, and next time I'm determined to get a good lofty loaf.  Or at least enjoy my result, no matter the height. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

November Daring Bakers: Sans Rival


Catherine of Munchie Musings was our November Daring Bakers’ host and she challenged us to make a traditional Filipino dessert – the delicious Sans Rival cake! And for those of us who wanted to try an additional Filipino dessert, Catherine also gave us a bonus recipe for Bibingka which comes from her friend Jun of Jun-blog.
Hello, my name is Kat, and I'm a prodigal blogger.
Actually, I heard on the radio today, but haven't otherwise verified it yet, that prodigal means to be welcomed back. If they don't take you back with a feast of fatted pig or lamb or whatever, you're not prodigal, you're just back.
Anywho...
We moved.
The internets came on just last night.
My job, after the move was complete, was decreased by 75%.
Things are, shall we say, up in the air?
Oh, and we got a dog.
So tonight, I thought I could just eke out the November challenge. I did the October challenge, and I'll post about that later. I couldn't at the time because all my internet accounts were hacked. That was fun. Don't use one password, no matter how strong, for multiple (or all) your accounts. One site gets hacked, evil people get your password, and they have fun playing with all your other accounts.
Anywho...
I thought I could just eke out the November challenge tonight after a full day's worth of moving. And an oven that doesn't work. I had my ten eggs, I had my almonds, I had a couple of hours before I could justify crashing into bed...
I whipped up my meringue to perfection. Then I added the nuts. Instead of folding the nuts into my beautiful bowl of my last ten eggwhites, I spaced out and turned the mixer back on. Faster than you can say "oh heck," or something similar, the entire bowl deflated into a puddle of liquid.
Did I mention our new house is out in the country? Yeah. No way to convince my little hens to squeeze out another ten eggs, and no way to get back into town to buy any to repeat the challenge.
I poured the slop into a greased cake pan, instead of spreading fluffy layers of meringue onto my carefully drawn circles on parchment paper. I threw it in the oven and walked away. About an hour and a half later, Mr. Boom appeared and asked about the cake.
The cake?
Oh heck! The cake!
(again, the word heck may have been replaced by another, stronger, and perhaps whole string of other words)
I took it out of the oven, tipped it over a cooling rack, and out thumped something that looked surprisingly tasty, if not that pretty.
I added some leftover cranberry sauce (homemade, of course) and called it a dessert.
People, it may be a wreck, but it's tasty.
Hopefully, this wreck of a house and my wrecked job will be at least as tasty. Or whatever.
Oh. To see what a Sans Rival is supposed to look like, and to get the wonderful recipe for yourself, go here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

September 2011 Daring Bakers Challenge: Croissants

Mandatory Blog-checking lines: The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!

Ummmm.  Has it really been two whole weeks since I posted?
Has it really been ONLY two weeks since I posted?
Wait, first I need to swear you to secrecy. 
I am NOT on the internet, m-kay?
I am packing up the piles and piles of junk on my desk.  The tapping Mr. Boom thinks he might be hearing is simply the clacking of items falling into boxes.  That's my story and you have to help me stick with it!
You see, we've made an offer on a house, and that offer has been accepted.  It's a foreclosure, so we couldn't make the sale contingent on selling our current house.  Ergo, we really must get this one cleaned up and sold ASAP.  No time for blogging.
Or baking.
BUT!!!!
I had already made this month's Daring Baker's Challenge before we ever lay eyes on the new house. That's the good news.  The bad news is that my attempt failed.  It sucked.  It was awful.  It needed to be redone but I never did it.
I'm sure if YOU tried it, though, you'd meet with great success.  Please please please don't let my failure sway your own judgement about whether or not to try.
You can find the recipe we used right here.


 


Now, I know the recipe is from good ol' Julia herself.  But honestly?  While I was going to give it one more attempt for the sake of the challenge, in the future I'll undoubtedly use the recipe I've used before from Julie at Willow Bird Baking.  That recipe is here.  And you can see my results on her blog here.
Excuse me a  moment, gentle reader!
(Yes dear, I'm most certainly packing!  Things are flying into boxes!  Honey, how do you spell croissant?  No reason!  Just curious!!!)
I'm back. 
For my definitive croissant post, go here.
For the world's most definitivest croissant post ever, go talk to Audax.
I'm outta here!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Another year gone by

Make new friends, but keep the old
One is silver and the other is gold.

Do you know this song? As a young Girl Scout we sang it all the time as a round. Some would say the tune is old and worn out, but I've never fallen out of love with it's simplicity and straightforward message.

Today I broke a beautiful new mug that I purchased only last Sunday. It was a porcelain travel mug with blue swirls and brown dragonflies. Sitting on the shelf of the kitchen shop it sparkled, it called to me, I was instantly enamored and smitten and head over heels. It was expensive, but resistance was futile and the purchase was made.

But today, after using it twice, I dropped it on the sidewalk outside my office. The pretty mug shattered into a jillion buhzillion little pieces.

I'm sitting here now, in front of my computer at home, drinking a mug of tea. This mug is old. It's practically from another lifetime. It was one of two that my dear friend Bet (Hi Bet!) sent as part of a care package when my first husband came out of remission from cancer. This mug isn't pretty, but it's solid. I've had it and used it excessively for nearly twenty years. I love this mug.

Today Mr. Boom and I looked at a house. I'm pretty sure the house was designed and built by Mr. Brady. Planters are built into the stairs on the inside of the house. The wallpaper in the laundry room is bright! and yellow! with flowers! and ribbons! that blind! It's kinda like this.

We're making an offer on the house, and I hope we get it. At the same time, a brick sided split level is quite a change from a 1910 Victorian. But who can argue with acres, and a pond, and a pasture, and a totally huge woodshop? Be still my heart, but there are ducks on the pond that the realtor assured me would come with the house. Did I mention the realtor has known me since I was eight years old? She patted me on the arm as she assured me the wild mallards would definitely want to live with me! Of course, she winked at Mr. Boom at the same time...

All day long I've been racking my brain, looking for something to say or do to celebrate another blog-o-versary--our 2nd! I might come up with something later on in the week, but don't hold your breath since we have all kinds of ducks to get in a row (get it?) to make the offer and get things straight with the bank.

All I have is this: thanks friends, old and new. Some are near, some are far, but I think of all of you as gold. True gold.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Gasp!

Gasp!

I'm the mother of a high-schooler. Part of me keeps thinking "how the heck did this happen?"
The snarky/romantic side keeps answering "well, a man and a woman got together..."
This plays in my head over and over.
When Chirp chirp was just a babe, people, older ladies in particular, would constantly advise to enjoy it now, it goes by so fast. I'm a freak of nature, or something, because it hasn't felt fast at all. It just feels odd that now I'm one of those people who has high school kids--and I'm not sure how I reached this point. Wasn't there supposed to be a manual handed out or something? Shouldn't there have been an official letter in the mail? "Hey Lady--your daughter's going into the high-school!"
I don't know. I just have this discomfited feeling.
Chirp-chirp, on the other hand, is rockin' her new status and making me proud. Changes aren't her strong point, but you'd never know it to see how she's handling it all. I am SO proud of her!

This past week, I've made three fail foods. The first was zucchini frit-foo-young. That's when you try to make zucchini fritters for a crowd, but omit the flour from the mix. The second was creme bruleaky. That's creme brulee that doesn't set up, but it's your aunt's birthday and everyone at the table is dying to see what incredible treat you've made for dessert. The third fail food was coconut ice crud. That's where you take a lovely recipe for coconut ice cream and forget to put the sugar in. That was for Grandma's 89th birthday, a mere three days after the creme bruleaky incident. With the same crowd. I tired to hand over my baking crown, but no one would take it. Maybe that has to do with the crusty smears of ravioli stuffing gone awry decorating it?

Grouse season has started. This means that turkeys can be viewed at every turn in the road, but the grouse are invisible. This shouldn't be confused with turkey season, when grouse fly up from under your feet with every other step you take and turkeys don't seem to exist. Turkey season does start here in a couple of weeks, at which point I'm sure we'll see lots of something else. Of course, I don't hunt for anything else, so I'm looking forward to it!

We did see a badger the other day. Thankfully, the badger saw us and decided it was easier to melt back into the trees than to stake a claim on his territory. Also saw a couple of snakes that day engaged in a little bow-chicka-bow-bow. But no grouse, of course.

Today I'm attempting this month's Daring Bakers challenge. Hopefully my streak of bad performance in the kitchen is over and I'll meet with success. Of course, it's such a yummy challenge that I won't mind repeating it over. And over.

Neither will the resident high-schooler! (Gasp!)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

August Daring Bakers: Candylicious!


The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at http://www.chocoley.com offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!

While I know my entry isn't nearly awesome enough to go for the prize, I had soooo much fun with this project! 

My first candy was a sweet coconut-stuffed candy.  Inspired by recipes from around the web (Joy the Baker and Have Fork Will Eat) I ended up with this combination for the moist, chewy interior:

1 cup sweetened condensed milk (about 7 or 8 oz)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 good dash of salt
2 1/12 cups of unsweetened coconut flakes (I always get this from the bulk section at our market, it's fresher and less plastic-tasting)

Stir the first four ingredients together, then add the coconut.  Cover tightly and throw into the refrigerator for several hours before using.  With your sticky little fingers, form into your desired shapes.  If your kitchen is warm, you'll want to re-chill the shapes before dipping into the chocolate. Also, the harder you pack the mixture into your mold ( I used an oblong Tablespoon measure-er thing), the easier it will be to to dip.  My looser-ly packed shapes tended to fall apart in the bowl of chocolate.  The only way to save the situation was to dig it out with a spoon and eat it.  Chirp-chirp was of great help here!


My second combination was peanut butter and chocolate.  This one was the request (maybe a little more like a demand? How about insistent request? ) from Mr. Boom.  For peanut butter and chocolate, one need look no further than the Brown Eyed Baker for inspiration.  I tweaked her peanut butter cup recipe until we all agreed we'd gone to heaven. 

1 cup cheap creamy peanut butter (the good stuff will separate)
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

Combine all the ingredients and chill, just like the coconut recipe above.



Confession here on the marshmallow.  I used store-bought marshmallows. It's just too dang hot to play with melted sugar.  I'm so sorrrrrrrry.  What I should have done was this, from a previous Daring Baker challenge.


This may or may not have been by second breakfast, elevensies, and perhaps first and second lunch today...


You could have it too, just follow this link to the printable directions on tempering chocolate and making all kinds of delicious candies in your OWN (and hopefully cooler) kitchen.



Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Zucchini fritters (spell that one ten times fast!)

My garden runneth over, with zucchini.  I've made zucchini bread a few times already, and while we all like zucchini bread a lot, we are getting a little tired of the same ol' same ol'.  Mr. Boom and Chirp-chirp refuse to eat fried zucchini, no matter how much Parmesan cheese is melted over the top, so I'm trying to find new ways to use up the squash. 

A fellow Master Gardener brought me a piece of zucchini cake the other day, and it was sooooo good!  The recipe came from her CSA (a weekly fruit and vegetable delivery service straight from the farm), and she said she'd pass the recipe along to me.  She did send me a bunch of recipes for zucchini, but not for the particular slice of cake in question.

I finally e~mailed the CSA and asked if they'd share it with me.  They said sure, no problem, it's form Martha Stewart.  Lo and behold, I had the recipe here in my own home!  The cake was featured in the July Martha Stewart magazine.  Hooray!

In the same article, a picture of zucchini fritters caught my eye.  The fritter recipe called for exactly twice the amount of zucchini I had in the fridge, twice the eggs, and twice the onion.  Perfect!  I made the fritters for myself, and began reheating leftovers for the sure-to-be naysayers.  You know, of course, that I can't follow a recipe to save my soul, so here's what I did.


About one cup of zucchini, about one half an onion, together strained through a bit of cheesecloth.  About one cup of grated Parmesan cheese (another leftover), and a palmful of flour.  Also salt and pepper, but you can't really see those.


Mix it all up gently with one egg.  The last egg.  A store-bought egg because the hens refuse to lay in this heat.


Fry them up in a bit of oil in a cast-iron skillet set to blazing hot.  Throw the first three onto a plate and cook up the second three.


Come back to find the first three MISSING ENTIRELY!  Mr. Boom and Chirp-chirp like zucchini fritters, it turns out.  Like them a lot, it turns out.

Well, we've got lots of zucchini, but I'll need to get some eggs and onions.  Both of which, by the way, should be coming from the yard but aren't.  Thank goodness for the modern supermarket, and thank goodness for  a new way to serve the family squash.

I'll make the cake next, after I get the eggs.

I'm sorry to say that neither of these recipes are on the Marth Stewart Website, but I don't think you need a real recipe for the fritters, anyway.  Try it and let me know what you think!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

And some stuff I forgot!

Yesterday I told you I only recently learned about hornworms and sphinx moths.  What I forgot to tell you was where I learned it!  You've got to check out this blog post by Lauren Scheuer of Hunt and Peck who writes and illustrates about her adventures with chicken ownership.  She always makes me laugh!

We've been working hard to make sure we don't lose any more of our own little chooks. This morning we found another skunk in one of our live traps.  This little guy makes the fourth we've removed from our property.  Since it was already pretty warm outside before we rolled out of bed this morning, I was concerned about hydration.  I used a spouted water bottle to squirt a little water in through the fine mesh of the trap, and the sweet little skunk came right over, put one paw through the mesh to support his/her weight, and then proceeded to sip the water so delicately from the stream of water. 

So.  Freaking.  Cute.

Mr. Boom said we couldnt' keep the skunk as a pet.  Mr. Boom said I couldn't hug him, squeeze him, and call him George.  Mr. Boom didn't look into the cute little brown eyes of the skunk and fall in love.

We took him (the skunk, that is) up to a little canyon nearby, away from all homes and chicken coops, and set him free.  After he came out of the trap he circled back around to take a good look at us.  Mr. Boom backed away, but I was ready to embrace him (the skunk, that is).  At the last second, though, he turned away and ran off into the bush.  He was my favorite little pet skunk I've never had.

Today we're tackling the beautification of the side of our shop/garage.  It's a long, narrow, ugly spot that grows weeds and nothing else.  It needs help. 

I need a cold drink. 

Bottoms up, everyone!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Just some random stuff

Check out this link!  This site linked on the Google Earth Blog tells you exactly which satellites are above you at any given time.  From playing around, I've also determined there's NO WAY aliens could, or would ever want to, land here on our earth.  I know they wouldn't come to live, and I doubt they'd even think it a nice place to visit.  Seriously, there's just too much detritus out there to navigate around: it looks like the earth has fleas.  If our planet was a Snoopy character it would be Pigpen with his tenacious cloud of dust encompassing him at all times. 

In other news! We made an offer on a house.  We didn't get the house.  I wasn't going to fall in love with it before we knew our offer was accepted, but I did anyway.  Three acres, a pond, outbuildings, brick walkways, big gazebo, tall trees along both edges of the property and all the way up the driveway.  Fruit trees, raised beds, cold frames.  This place had it all.  But someone else got it.  Ah well.  C'est la vie.

In other news!  A Sphinx moth flew into our office this evening.  I never knew until this past week that tomato horn worms grow up into Sphinx moths, aka hummingbird moths.  I did a post last year, showing a local tomato hornworm.  These guys are just too cool for words, not that I let that stop me.  Ever. Ahem.

In other news! Plantars warts suck.  Liquid nitrogen does not belong in the proximity of bare skin.  I reminded my doctor of this.  I told him we could go out in the parking lot and use the liquid nitrogen to make ice cream instead.  I told him that if I was being expected to pay good money for the treatment, the  canister of gas ought to look fancier than a regular ol' helium canister.  I told him I should at least get some drugs.  My doctor never listens to me.  I will brag a little and say I never cried nor swore in the treatment room as he masochistically held the wand of nitrogen to the base of my foot.  He didn't see my cry one single tear (unless he looked out the window and saw me yelling, cursing, and screaming in my car).

In other news!  Anyone want zucchini?  I have some to share...



Wednesday, July 27, 2011

July Daring Bakers Challenge: Fresh Frasiers!

Mandatory Blog Checkin Lines: Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.

This month's challenge was super-tasty and a wonderfully seasonal challenge.  While Jana suggested using strawberries and blueberries to complement a vanilla chiffon and pastry creme, I just couldn't see buying two types of fruit at the store when my garden was overflowing with other varieties.

My cherry tree has gone berserk, and we have a few lingering strawberries still on the plants.  The blueberries are dead.  Completely dead.  Blueberries, then, were a no-go.


Trouble is, cherries and vanilla are a fine combination, but not my definition of gotta have it.  Chocolate and cherries?  Well, that might be good....especially when combined with the disk of almond paste she directed us to put on top.  Wait a minute!  I've reinvented the black forest cake.  Inspiration was a long time coming, but this was an inspiration worth the wait.  Chocolate chiffon, kirsch-enriched simple syrup, and the last of the cherries from the tree.

Chirp-chirp, of course, just wanted chocolate. Straight chocolate. No fruit, no thank you.  None whatsoever. 


And, as a nod to Jana, here's the last of the strawberries for 2011...


Friday, July 22, 2011

How does this make sense?

I really like listening to Science Friday on NPR. Have you ever listened in? Sometimes the ramblings become too political, but generally speaking this radio show is totally golden.

Friday afternoons generally find me at home, cleaning up a week's worth of unfinished chores, washing the laundry and hanging it to dry, scrubbing the toilets, sweeping the floors, and altogether acting out the part of Cinderella, except for the good part at the end where she ends up with an entire staff to clean her sparkly castle. Well, like Cinderella, I did get a prince, so I won't complain! I am still waiting for the cook to appear, and one of the mice had a little something going for him which I wouldn't mind having at hand!

Anyway, the auditory backdrop for the day is Science Friday. Good stuff.

Today was different. Since I took yesterday off for our camping trip, I had to work today. There isn't a radio in my lab, which is really a hallway, so I usually listen to tunes on my Droid phone and try not to rock too hard, which could ruin my samples. Not that I'd know anything about that. At all.

Today, though, I wanted to listen to Science Friday. My Droid phone has a radio station listening function (oh wait! that's an ap, right?) so I turned that on. Well, you can only listen to the radio if you have earplugs in. I do not need any more wires hanging off my body while running samples, so that was out.

All righty, then, I'll listen online! Except that none of the "three easy ways to listen online" (please use your deepest testosterone tone when reading that phrase) work on my phone. I tried to download Windows Media Player, but it wouldn't download to my phone. I tried I-tunes, but that only works if you have an I-phone. The last choice was Real Player. I select that download, and the NPR page takes me to the Real Player page.

Where the page tells me to

USE
MY
PHONE'S
CAMERA
TO SCAN
THE $^%@!^
CODE

You know, the code that is on my phone's screen

in order to complete the download.

Excuse me, but how do I use my phone's camera to take a picture of my phone? Seriously, people. What the heck??????

I couldn't make this up.

And I didn't get to listen to Science Friday.

OH look! Here's the page so you can see it yourself!
http://www.real.com/realplayer/android

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Conversation whilst packing




Mr. Boom and I took a little camping trip yesterday. Chirp-chirp is away at her cousins' house*, so we decided to make the most of the opportunity by sneaking in a little car-camping excursion.


Where to go, where to go? We made a deal. I'd pack, and Mr. Boom would pick the location.

I finished up at the office at 3:00, went home, and packed the car. I also made sure all the animals had food and water to last overnight, and that the gardens all had enough water to survive a day without our love and care. Or something like that.


Anyway, I threw our sleeping mats, sleeping bags, and pillows in the car. I put cereal, peanut-butter, bread, crackers, and marshmallows into a box. Into the cooler went several shots of espresso, milk, goat cheese, jar cheese, frozen steaks, garlic, and cottage cheese. I grabbed our camping kitchen box, the Coleman stove, and a lighter. Car packed--hooray!


When Mr. Boom walked in the door just after 4:00, I told him to pack his own bag and we could hit the road. He had a few questions...

Him (with a hand on the cookie jar): Did you pack cookies?
Me: No, but I did pack the cheese!

Him: Insect repellant?
Me: No, but I packed the field guides?


Him: Something to start a fire?
Me: No, but I did bring the backlog of newspapers.
Him: That's what I meant.



Amazingly, we had all we needed, and not too much more. Perfect getaway. Well, it would be perfect if we didn't have to work in the morning!

So where'd we go? Little Naches River for the night, Ohanapecosh the next day. Cayuse Pass, Chinook Pass, and lots of high mountain driving in between!

*She's spent a lot of time at her cousins' this summer. The girl is two weeks older than her, the boy is two years younger. They have a hot tub, a movie theater, their own private bit of forest, and a three minute drive to the mall. Home just can't compete.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Update

Okay, starting now…?

Funny how hard it is to just pick this blog-thang back up. Writing is a habit, I guess, and like any (good) habit not practiced, the ease with which it’s practiced can be totally lost. Engulfed. Desolately twinkling on the ocean floor.

I’ve fallen out of many good habits recently, and I’m sorry to say I can’t say the same about any of my bad habits. Why can’t those two be self-balancing? I’d like to complain to the management about that one. Someone should really write a letter. Of course, I could write the letter myself, except I’m out of practice, you see.

I think the dust has settled, finally, from the seemingly-endless turmoil I’ve been bashing my way through. This spring, we had five hens and four cats. Due to this death and that disappearance, we were down to one hen and two kitties. Hardest of all was the death of Cirrus, my big fat blue-eyed Siamese wonderboy of love. He was poisoned. Why??????? But now we have two new hens, and the missing kitty (Pablano) returned home after a week gone. He was in good health, but reeked of axle grease and garage. He didn’t stop meowing for days, and still wanders around crying at times. There’s lots more, of course, but stuff I can’t share (to protect the innocent, the not-so-innocent, and the just plain kooky elderly folks in my life).

Cherries.

We have tons and tons of cherries. I’ve frozen up five gallon bags full of cherries. My mother-in-law has picked cherries, my neighbor ahs picked cherries. The birds are eating the cherries. Still, you can’t even tell that a single cherry is missing from the ever-loving ever-fruitful tree. I don’t know what kind of cherries they are. They’re bright red—cherry red if I might say so—and sweet enough to eat off the tree, tart enough to cook with. Turns out it’s really easy to freeze cherries. Just pit the suckers, throw ‘em on a cookie sheet, and then roll the little fruit marbles into a bad after a night in the freezer.

I made a cherry clafouti with some of the crop. Clafoutis are so pretty, and spoken so well of—and of course they’re French—so how could it not be wonderful? It wasn’t. Bleh. I will NOT be posting that recipe!

I think I’m going to make wine with however many more I pick. Sweet cherry wine? Like the song? That should be good, right? There’s a joke in there about judging a book by a cover song, but it’s probably a really bad joke, so I’ll not look for it any further.

Josh Ritter. Oh, Josh Ritter.

Met him at his recent book reading, music playing, and book signing. Mr. Boom snapped a photo of Josh Ritter and me hugging. Dorkeist photo ever. I don’t care. Josh spoke a bit about the process of writing. He likened the first draft of a book to building a block of marble. Editing is the process of sculpting the statue out of the marble. I laughed when he said you edit and edit, sculpt and sculpt, and hope that at the end, when you whip off the sheet, you’ve got enough arms. I’m not putting quotes around that because I didn’t get it quite right. But you get the idea.

Okay, I’m saving the rest for another post. I can’t wait to tell you about the gardens, how well the trellises are working (I haven’t forgotten that I need to post the plans for them, Tanya!!), and a bee update.

All right. Off to work on reestablishing the good habits, and scaring some of the bad back into their corners,

Kat

Monday, June 27, 2011

June Daring Bakers: Baklava!

 

Mandatory blog-checking lines:  Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.

Another month went by?  Really? I guess from looking around the garden I should realize that time's been passing.  A lot has happened in the past month, the good and the bad, births and deaths, unions and breaks, and the three of us are just holding tight to one another and desperately hoping that the quantity of "things happen" will abate. 

But really, STARTING NOW, I'm back!  I really mean it this time!  I'm back!

Erica blew my mind totally out of the water this month with her Daring Bakers Challenge to us.  First I saw "baklava."  Cool!  I can do that!  Been doing that for years!  I get a break this month--woot! Then I saw "make your own phyllo."  Surely she jests?

Nope. 

So, this month I and my other Daring Baker cohorts learned the secrets to rolling out really thin pastry.  Really thin.  Thin enough to read a newspaper through.  Chirp-chirp ran to get a section of paper for that particular test.  Did she bring me a headline? 

Nope.

Tiny print.  However, with a bit of squinting and guesswork, we were indeed able to read the article in the paper.  I will admit to skipping the test on each and every subsequent layer of phyllo I rolled out.  But that first piece?  Oh yeah.  You could read through it.


The baklava was lots of fun.  So much so, that I made two batches.

The first batch was the traditional walnut and almond with honey syrup.  The honey, of course, came from our own little hive out back.  In fact, I was chickening out of the challenge, and mentioned this to the gals in the hive.  They retorted that if they could go through the effort of making honey, surely I could go through the effort of rolling out ridiculously thin pastry. Chagrined, I rose to the challenge.


The second batch was the result of a discussion with the bolting patch of spinach.  "Surely," the spinach plants as tall as my waist said," if we're able to devote the energy to this skyscraper (in spinach terms) height, you can devote the energy to roll out more of that ridiculously thin dough."  So, re-chagrined, I did.  Accompanying the spinach in the second batch, were some onions, pine nuts, and feta. 


Cheesy green baklava might now sound appetizing, but spanakopita does, right?  And, oh yeah baby, it was gooooood.


And see those flakes on the bottom of the pan? You can read through them. Oh yeah!

To learn to make phyllo yourself,  check out these great directions given to us by Erica.  Do it!

Friday, May 27, 2011

May Daring Bakers Challenge: Chocolate Marquise on Meringue

Required blog-checking lines: The May 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Emma of CookCraftGrow and Jenny of Purple House Dirt. They chose to challenge everyone to make a Chocolate Marquise. The inspiration for this recipe comes from a dessert they prepared at a restaurant in Seattle.

Oh my goodness.  This challenge was a doozy to create and a doozy to eat.  Emma and Jenny, both accomplished pastry chefs with training and professional time served, challenged us to make one of their favorite confections, chocolate marquise on meringue.  The challenge consisted of four parts--the fourth part that you're not seeing here is a spicy nut topping.  Oh, and I didn't have cocoa nibs available anywhere in my little town, either, so those are missing as well.

But let my tell you what IS here, and you tell me if you think it needed the rest.



First is the meringue, and one the most sensory rich recipes outside of bread dough that you might ever encounter in the kitchen (at least while cooking, ahem!). In a new-to-me-twist on meringue making, the egg whites, a splash of vinegar, and a heaping love of sugar are put into a mixing bowl over a hot water bath.  Then, you use your hands to stir the warming mixture until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is almost hot.  Go on, I dare you!


Next up is the marquise itself.  Somewhere between mousse and ice cream, this frozen-but-thawing hunk of creamy chocolate is rolled in cocoa prior to plunking down on top of the meringue.  Sweet, but not terribly so.  Smooth, but not without some body.  Oh, and did I mention the little bit of Kahlua flavoring in there?  The recipe called for Tequila.  I demurred.  Worms are for the garden, not for the kitchen, I always say.


Alrighty, see that caramel sauce?  Yum.  Again, the recipe called for Tequila.  Again, I demurred.  Whiskey!  Whisky is good, right?  You betcha! Interestingly, the whisky gave the caramel a fruity flavor--something akin to pineapple.  Not sure what happened there, but it really goes well with the chocolate and meringue.


Are you drooling yet?  I would be, but I'm full.  How much of this were the teenager formerly known as Chirp Chirp and I able to eat between the two of us?


Clearly, we need practice! 

Recipe here (I made a quarter batch)

Many, many thanks to Emma and Jenny for this great dessert.  I see this as a showstopper for a crowd, maybe around the holidays? 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Starting.....now!

Did you ever say that as a kid?

Him: "Let's have a staring contest, starting Now!"  "
Me: "You blinked!"
Him: "No, wait, I wasn't ready.  Starting...Now!"
Me: "You blinked!"
Him: "No, wait, I wasn't ready. Starting...Now!"
Me: "You blinked!"

Him: "No, wait, I wasn't ready. Starting...Now!"

Ad nauseum.

I remember my brother doing it all the time, and being really annoyed by it.  I suppose I must have done it too, and been really annoying to others as well.  But, well, here I am doing it to you!

So, I'm back....Starting Now!

Our sweet valley is finally warming up.  We've had three tremendous floods so far this year, with another one on the way.  So that's been a lot of fun. 

I built eleventy tomato trellises for the Master Gardener plant sale, and all of them sold, so I'm hoping the old timers of the club will decide to keep me.  The sale was a lot of fun, albeit a lot of work.  The proceeds go toward all our volunteer work around the county for the year.  We have several demonstration gardens and classes for all types of gardeners (kids, veggie growers, flower gardeners, etc.) and at each of those we have printed information available for people to take home.  Photocopying costs add up quickly....

I also built two for my own garden.  My tomatoes have some growing to do...

In other words, Mr. Boom got his turkey.  I still have to get mine, and the pressure is really on, now!  The season ends at the end of the month.    From his 16 pound turkey, I put seven meals in the freezer.  Not bad!  Last night, we had the drumsticks with morels from the same trip as well as spinach from the garden.  Yummmmmy. 



In my defense, he may have shot the first bird, but I found the first through the seventh morels of the season.  Just sayin'.

Right now I'm listening to Eddie Vedder's new ukulele album.  What a kick!  I only wish it were a mandolin.  Then I'd feel just a little bit cooler concerning my new hobby.  I can't remember if I told you I also found a second-hand banjo?  Tony Furtado, my inspiration, needn't worry about any competition from me. Let's just leave it at that...

In other news, I finished up planting the garden this morning, and then hung the laundry out to dry.  It's now raining.  Good for the little seeds, bad for the t-shirts and such.  Oh well.

Finally, my thanks goes out to the Pollinatrix for the gorgeous collage she sent.  Soooo pretty.  And tranquil.  and just perfect in all ways.

And really finally (starting...now finally?), you know I'll be back tomorrow because it's the 27th, i.e. the reveal date for the May Daring Bakers challenge.  I better get going on that.  It's a doozy!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Let's see, where was I?

Let's see, where was I?  Ah. Yes.  Doom and gloom, end of the world.
Well, we're still there, but now that spring is here in full force it's not quite such a hard thing to bear.  Yes, everything may end tomorrow, or even later on today.  But isn't that blossoming cherry tree really pretty? 
And, standing here at the edge of the world, I've become a little accustomed to the view. 

In other news, this week's Master Gardener class was the last of my training, and I am now (drum roll please) an official Master Gardener Intern.  The training wasn't particularly hard, but it was VERY intensive.  We were really lucky to have some eminently qualified specialists make the journey to our little town to teach us about soil science, entomology, grafting, and other fascinating aspects of gardening.  We had field trips, too, including an organic produce farm and the most amazing home garden.  I'll tell you more about the latter later on in another post.

Let's see, turkey season is underway.  Yesterday, we finally saw a turkey for the first time this year, but she was a little female and therefore not at risk from us.  Really, though, is any turkey at risk from us? I'm beginning to think not.

I did manage to call in the most gorgeous coyote one evening last week.  He was the reddish-brown of fallen Ponderosa pine needles, and his tail was erect.  He was very well filled out, and had an almost cocky attitude.  This was a far cry from the mangy, slinking, tail between the legs, half-starved coyotes we tend to see in the fields around here.  My forest coyote took my breath away, and he keeps appearing in my dreams.  Maybe he stole a piece of my heart, too? 

I'll try to get some pictures up of our fruit trees tomorrow.  They're all in bloom.  The tulips finally popped open, as well.  Yep, spring is here.  We made it through another winter.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The bees at the end of March

Isn't rhubarb gnarly looking when it first pokes up out of the warming spring soil?
I think of aliens, and brains, or maybe alien brains? What I don't think of is pollen.
There isn't any.


 But take a close look at the bees...


You might just about be able to see that some of these little gals are so heavily laden with pollen that they can barely fly.  Look at that little group of three to the right of the sugar feeder.  The two flying above are looking at her stash of the good yellow stuff. 


They aren't finding any pollen in the currant bushes.  The first leaves are very tightly furled up, with no bud or blossom in sight.


If you look on the board behind her, you'll see another gal with some pollen, and another buzzing around in the air just above her.


The aspen trees have little catkins dangling down, but no yellow pollen could be coaxed out by me.  Maybe my little bees know a secret?


The lilacs are definitely bare, but they would be.  Even the tulips around here have a few weeks before they'll bloom.


Cherry?  Same thing!


I know of only one place in this whole town where you can find pollen.  It's about a half mile away, but that's definitely within a healthy bee's territory.  Tomorrow I need to go to the greenhouses in the Bi-Mart parking lot and see if any of my gals are hanging out in there.  I wouldn't blame them, what with the primroses and pansies and poppies in bloom, and the warm plastic sheeting over top to hold in the sun's warmth...

So yeah, I have a good scientific reason to go down there--I'm just scoping out the range of my bees, that's all.  It certainly isn't to imprudently purchase impatiens to plant in the snow forecast for tonight.

Bees. Yup.  That's my story, and I'm sticking with it!


Sunday, March 27, 2011

March Daring Bakers: Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake


Mandatory blog checking lines:  The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.


There's never been a bad Daring Bakers challenge--NEVER--but I'm afraid you guys might get bored if I start off yet another challenge with "this was phenomenal," or "this challenge was so awesome," but the fact is, this challenge was awesome and phenomenal!

And now you're bored, right?

Wake up and smell the coffee caked people!  You're smelling warm, moist, fluffy yeast bread; you're smelling cinnamon  and sugar; you're smelling Sunday morning and flannel sheets, and you're smelling comfort right out of the oven.  Really, it's quite worthwhile to stay awake for.


You're wondering about the meringue, aren't you?  I was, too, when I first read the challenge and began studying the recipe.  Essentially, this is a giant uncut cinnamon roll that uses meringue instead of butter to hold the yummy goodness of cinnamon, sugar, and chocolate into the spiral instead of the more commonly used melted butter. 



How can anything with less butter be better?  Because the meringue all but melts into the bread dough, leaving the goodies suspended in steam, unadulterated and much less heavy than what you're used to in a cinnamon roll.  

Yer just gonna have to trust me on this.



No, wait, yer not gonna have to trust me.  Yer gonna make it yerself and see. 

Right?

Here's the link for the recipe.  The only changes I made were doubling the amount of sugar in the dough (oops!) forgetting the egg wash (oops!) and adding glaze (yummy!).

Other DB'ers made savoury versions, too.  Ham and cheese, pepperoni, and I can't remember what all else.  I drooled a lot this month, watching other creations come to life on the DB forums!  Have fun with this, and let me know how yours turns out!