Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Progress and Frustration

We have walls. And a floor

The radiant flooring will be installed in the master bathroom soon. We identified that we needed a few extra pieces of tile for the shower and I was able to order them. Our contractor is really happy with how the plaster was applied as it dried perfectly. These are the signs of progress.

The frustration is that the cabinets aren't ready; we were promised 8-10 weeks, this is week 10 since I signed the work order. Apparently an integral worker on the cabinets is currently quarantined. I guess this is what happens in a pandemic. It does mean we had to delay the appliance delivery by an additional three weeks. I have been informed that it is unlikely I will have a functional kitchen by Christmas. We're trying to remain calm.

In other news, last week I made fondant for the bees and put the sheet of fondant between the top of the bars and the inner lid. Hopefully that, plus their own honey stores and the insulation I applied, will help them stay alive and healthy through the winter. 

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. It's weird to not be making any pies. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Oven Opportunity

Last weekend we had to vacate the house for two days while the spray foam insulation was applied. Apparently we weren't supposed to be around the fumes while the chemical "cured." So we moved into my parents' nearby apartment which was currently empty, smuggling the rabbit and his cage in late at night in case we weren't supposed to have him there. This is the place where I've been storing a lot of my things and where I have been baking bread every week. Key words: FUNCTIONAL KITCHEN.

The first night we were there I baked cornflake chicken and squash halves in the oven. I made a batch of cookies. It was lovely. The next day I made a double batch of cornbread and baked it in little loaf tins so we could freeze some. We had two of the loaves tonight with a taco casserole I made in the instant pot. For dinner, the youngerchild asked for something unexpected - chicken pot pie! I didn't know the youngerchild liked that. I figured out a way I could make it with what I had available to me.

At the store, I bought a rotisserie chicken and some chicken gravy. I had sweet potatoes and a small onion from the farm share which I cooked in a sauté pan until soft. I made half a batch of pie crust. We've been watching a lot of Great British Bake Off and everyone wanted me to make a "suet crust" but I only had butter so I guess it was a disappointment. Not really. Butter crusts are awesome.

I divided the crust into three portions, rolled them out and put them in more of those little aluminum loaf pans, then put a layer of shredded chicken, 1/3 of the sweet potato mixture, and 4 T. of chicken gravy in each one. I then folded over the flap of crust that was hanging off the side of the tin. These were baked for 25 minutes at 425˚F and then 20 minutes at 400˚F until the gravy was bubbling at the top. They were the perfect size and tasted pretty good. They maybe could have used more gravy poured over for serving but I wouldn't add any more to the pie itself because that might be too much moisture.

And look! No soggy bottom!


Monday, November 9, 2020

Bee Happy

At least, I think they are? They did okay during that cold snap and today it is 70˚ and they are very active. There is honey in almost all the frames of the second brood box. I didn't dig through very much because I don't want to disturb them as much as possible. Since the hive is now coated in styrofoam panels it would be exceptionally hard for me to take the box off and look at the lower brood box. 

What they are doing is breaking through the styrofoam I put between the inner and outer lids. I am not sure why they would do that. I suppose I can remove it but I am hoping it can continue to provide some insulation. There is a fine white powder that looks like ash in front of their entrance, after a beat or two I realized it was styrofoam dust. 

One thing I will need to do in the next few weeks is make a fondant sheet to put across the top of the upper brood box to give them a little more food for the winter. Just in case. 

As far as the home construction goes, the valve for the shower was installed so now the hot water is hot and the cold is cold; prior to that the water was mixing at that point and everything was basically the same temperature which made showers...interesting... The electricians are still working and tomorrow the AC vents will be moved. We hope to do the spray insulation this Friday. The tile is all here and accounted for and waiting in the garage for their step in the process. 

Friday, November 6, 2020

Potato Leek Explosion

Since we're obvious not cooking a lot right now, the potatoes, squash, and other fall vegetables from the farm share are patiently waiting to be consumed. I have been trying to figure out how to manage this and decided to see if I could make potato leek soup in an instant pot. Turns out, it is not hard.

I chopped up my 3 large leeks and sautéed them in the pot with butter and oil. I added 2 cloves of garlic and then some flour. Once this was all cooked, I added 2 pints of stock (I had Ducken on hand) plus a cup of water, salt, pepper, and about a pound of potatoes. This was pressure cooked for 7 minutes and then naturally vented for 10 minutes. After that, I put some in my blender (one of the few things I didn't pack up and put away) and tried to blend it. 

Hot liquids always take me by surprise, I guess. That's the only explanation. I was holding down the lid but I guess the pressure from the steam was stronger, and of course it went everywhere. Thick, viscous potato leek soup. I was reminded why I have an immersion blender. I don't exactly know where it is at the moment. It could be in the foyer. Or the guest bedroom. Maybe the living room? My stuff is spread out all over the place; some of it is even at a different house right now. Finding anything that I didn't see in the last 5 minutes is basically impossible. 

Now the "kitchen" in my dining room is cleaned up and the I'm pleased to say the soup was excellent.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Because 2020, Why Else?

It snowed yesterday. Not just a light dusting, either. Five inches of snow. In October, in eastern MA. The last time it snowed around Halloween was about 8 years ago and not nearly this much. We lost one decent sized branch because our trees are still covered with leaves and the snow is very heavy, and all the other branches are weighed down and bent toward the ground. It's very pretty. Everything is melting now as it should be in the 40's today and the sun is shining. 

I'm not sure how the bees are doing. I'm glad I got out there to insulate the hive before this happened. There were a bunch of dead bees at the entrance to the hive, but not a huge amount. I hope they are OK. I did see one bee moving inside the entrance and I'll check on them in a few days when it's warmer. 

The construction had to be put on hold for a week while we made sure our contractor, who was ill, didn't have COVID. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, last week he did some of the framing and the electricians came and did most of the wiring. I think they have more to do next week, but it's a start. There will be no shortage of electrical outlets anymore, as the new building codes specify how many I need and it's way more than I'll ever use. Maybe when this is done we can have the coffee pot, kettle, and toaster run at the same time? Wouldn't that be nice. 


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Construction Update

The aforementioned instant pot is incredibly useful. After making a venison stew last week, yesterday I made egg noodles in it, set them aside, and then made chicken piccata. Well, a simplified version of piccata, but it tasted good and didn't take long. The egg noodles mostly cooked but some were more al dente than others. 

As far as the house goes, the bulk of the plumbing is done, and we're supposed to have the electricians here soon. Yesterday our AC person came by to discuss where to put the vents. When we put the high velocity AC in 16 years ago, we were not able to have vents in the living room because he couldn't get the ducts across the firewall we found on the center joist. Now, while the wall is open, we discovered he can run the ducts underneath it and into the living room ceiling so we are planning on getting two vents in the living room and leaving two vents in the kitchen. 

We need to pick out vanity mirrors asap.

Lastly, it's been chilly at night so I went out and installed the mouse guard on the hive and used styrofoam panels to insulate the hive. I'm worried that if they use up their honey stores now, they won't have enough for winter. A little extra insulation won't hurt. It doesn't look super pretty but it works!

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Goose Stroganoff a la Instant Pot

Did I mention I have no kitchen?

Right. Well, my in-laws gave me a Yedi pressure cooker (basically an instant pot) for my birthday which arrived last week. The first thing I did with it was hard-boil some eggs which are handy for a quick lunch. Then I set to studying the recipe book and thinking of things I could make in it. I had some frozen game meat that my brother-in-law had given me so I thawed some and planned on making the "Meaty Noodles" recipe which is really just stroganoff. 

After thawing what I thought was a chunk of venison I discovered that it was actually goose breasts (complete with birdshot). I decided to go for it anyway and make this dish. I got all the component parts chopped up and placed into containers until it was time to cook. I had leftover egg noodles from last week in the fridge so those would be heated up at the last minute.

I will say this, the instant pot is easy. It's nice to be able to cook while I don't really have a stove and this whole adventure feels a little bit like camping. At least we're indoors. What does it matter if the working toilet and the working sink are on different floors?

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

T Plus 36 Hours

In just 36 hours, my kitchen has gone from this:

to this:
and in the process we've discovered some fascinating and creative plumbing and electrical solutions from prior renovations that will likely pose some challenges. Not to mention three layers of floor before getting to the subfloor. 

Also in that time we've had the power out in the upstairs bathrooms that required us to pull out the paraffin lamps and camping lanterns (power is back, but it took a while today). And spent a full day unable to reach the basement without going outside. The basement is where the food and water are.

Tomorrow, we're told, the half-bath off the kitchen will be demolished and the plumber should come to work on the plumbing of the original bathroom upstairs, the one with the soldered brass pipes. If that can be completed in a day then the other bathroom, the one with the shower, meets its end on Thursday. 

Saturday, October 3, 2020

T Minus 46 Hours

EEK!

It's really happening! We got the go-ahead from the building inspector and demolition starts in 2 days. There still is a lot to pack up in the kitchen but I've been working on it for a bit already this morning. And, I made my last batch of applesauce because, of course I did. 

Honeycrisps and a few Empires, brown sugar, smooth. Five pints. 

I will pack up the canner and move it to my back-up kitchen where it can keep Legion and my Kitchenaid mixer company. Along with the vacuum sealer and any other bulky thing I can think of. Maybe the pizza stone?

Anyway, back to wrapping glassware...

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Batch #2

Using every spare moment I had today, between picking up the farm share, running to the store twice, and driving around for both the children, I managed to make another batch of applesauce, this time with brown sugar because I don't yet want to open the new bag of white sugar. Plus I am making this Sicilian-Style Fish Stew with fish my brother-in-law gave me that he caught, and changing pretty much everything else. No golden raisins? How about barberries? No onion? Use a leek! Add escarole!

Packing

In between packing boxes in the kitchen, I am also trying to finish up canning projects before I don't have a stove in the house. I will have access to a kitchen nearby, but I'm hoping to not have to use it too often. I'm sure there will be a lot of take-out and some meals I don't have to cook (paté and cheese, for example). But apples are in season and we went apple picking yesterday, which means applesauce.

Usually we wait for the elderchild to be home from school in order to go picking. This year being different in so many ways, of course, means the elderchild does not get to come home at all until December. So yesterday we dodged a pretty impressive rainstorm (we literally got to the farm 5 minutes after it passed over us) and picked a half-bushel of mostly honeycrisp apples. Last night I made an apple crisp for dessert. Today I made a batch of applesauce. Five pints.

One of which will be dropped off to the elderchild later this morning. While it's still warm.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

T Minus Something

The contracts are signed. The appliances are on order. The cabinets are under construction. We have a plan. 

Starting next week, maybe Monday, maybe later, depending on the permitting process, we demolish the kitchen and two of our three bathrooms. The contractor is taking pity on us and not destroying the only bathroom with a shower until he can get the third bathroom, the original one with a tub and soldered brass pipes, replumbed. Since we're finally going to be able to reach the pipes. Once that is done, we can have a makeshift shower in there until everything else is finished. 

What I'm discovering is that packing up a kitchen while I'm still trying to use it is stressful and hard. I'm trying to empty the fridge and that's not easy either. I also don't have enough boxes. 

Today I used up the eggplant and tomatoes from the farm share to make another batch of caponata. The color is off because I used an heirloom variety that is more yellow than red. But it's still caponata and it still tastes good. It'll make a nice sauce for pasta in a pinch. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Spaghetti Sauce

Last week's farm share tomato haul was about 11 pounds of plum tomatoes which ripened by the window over the weekend. Today I puréed them in the food mill and then cooked them down with some garlic, onion, celery, oregano, salt, pepper and brown sugar. This was the recipe I was following. From 11 pounds of tomatoes I got 16 cups of purée which then cooked down to 8 cups of sauce. That's now canned into two quart jars and I have more things to store in my soon-to-be-nonexistent pantry. 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Conversion

Since in a relatively short time my kitchen will be in shambles and my fridge needs to be emptied, I'm starting the process of clearing out the freezer. What I need to do is convert things that are currently frozen into shelf-stable items like soup or stews that are canned. Today I made stock with the chicken and duck bones stashed there, along with some onion peels I also kept in the freezer. I then took all the stock I made and converted it to soup by adding onion, carrots, wild rice and Swiss chard (the chard came from the farm share). After dinner there was enough soup left over to can in 3 quart jars. These can be opened and microwaved for a quick meal while we are kitchenless. 

I did find some bags of vegetable scraps so might make vegetable stock soon. Or not, if I run out of time. 

Friday, September 18, 2020

A Flurry of Cooking

At yesterday's farm share there were more tomatillos than usual so I got enough to make another half-batch of tomatillo salsa which I made this morning before I have to go to work. Nothing too exciting there, I suppose. What was more exciting is that last night I made karaage which is Japanese fried chicken. The recipe came from when the elderchild and I took a cooking class over the summer. Basically, you cut up chicken thighs into pieces, marinate them in soy, garlic and ginger, and then dredge them in cornstarch and flour and deep fry them. It was terrific, even if I didn't have the "right" mayonnaise for a dipping sauce. 

To go with the chicken, I made dango, which are balls of rice flour that are boiled, put onto little skewers, and then seared and topped with a sweet sauce. We'd had these at a yakitori place in Tokyo and remember them fondly. They're sort of like dinner mochi, I guess. I even let the youngerchild manage the blowtorch to sear them before serving. 

Lastly, we had chilled blanched green beans with a sesame dressing. There were no leftovers. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Pizza Sauce

Last week at the farm share there were plum tomatoes in addition to the heirloom and other tomatoes. We could pick 15 of the plum tomatoes so I kept them, letting my friend have all the heirlooms in return. They were pretty green when I picked them; they ripened all weekend in a bowl near the window and today I made them into pizza sauce. 

I did add a couple of plum tomatoes from my own plants, but that hardly made an impact. 

Once everything was run through the food mill I had 10 cups of purée which was cooked down with lemon juice, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper, and turned into 6.5 cups of pizza sauce. That should last us for the better part of a year, I hope! 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Sure Sign of Autumn

It's September, the kids are in school (sort of), the nights are cooler, and raspberries are in season.

This year for raspberry picking we were asked to sign up in advance and each group of up to 6 people would be assigned their own row for an hour. I'd already been rained out of one time slot last week and I was glad for the good weather today. My husband was free this morning and needed a break from work so he joined me and we enjoyed a quiet morning at the raspberry farm.

We brought back 3 quarts of berries which I promptly turned into 10+ cups of jam without added pectin. Raspberry seems to be the jam we always run out of, so it's nice to refill the supply. We have another slot in 2 weeks which hopefully will not get canceled and then we can have more berries just for desserts and snacking.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Making Room

Well, it's official. I have signed the contract to build my new cabinets for the kitchen, and am about to sign the contract for the whole reconstruction. After over two years of planning, we're going to tear apart a significant part of the house and hopefully at the end of it I will have the kitchen of my dreams. 

But, until then, I have food to prepare, and things to can, and a kitchen and several bathrooms to pack up. This is the part about which I'm most anxious. What do I pack? What do I leave out? What if I need that thing? 

One thing I do know is that I'll be down to one fridge. I admit, I'm rather spoiled to have two. I use the one in the basement for extra cartons of milk and cream, all my flour, all the meat I keep in the freezer, and extra produce from the farm share that usually can last a long time in the fridge: cabbage, carrots, beets. Well, I started the cabbage fermenting last week, and now it was time to tackle the beets. After all, 10 pounds of beets takes up a lot of space that I could be using for other things. Since it's about to become the primary fridge I need to make room.

So. Now I have five quarts of pickled beets and some prepared golden beets ready to make into cake and for me to eat. No one else in the family eats them, at least, not voluntarily. The kids won't touch them at all, unless they've been made into cake. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Salsa Amarillo

Before I head out to the farm tomorrow for more tomatoes, I needed to finish what I had in the house. That included what was left of the big-as-your-head tomato I used for last night's tomato tart, and also 2 large golden heirloom tomatoes. I thought maybe I could make a salsa that preserved that yellow color. So I roasted the tomatoes with half a large onion and six yellow Hungarian hot wax peppers. I also roasted a jalapeño but I ended up not adding it as I didn't want to affect the color of the salsa and, after tasting it with just the wax peppers, it was hot enough. 

The proportions were: 1 quart tomatoes, 1 cup onion, 6 wax peppers (about a cup? maybe?), 1 T. salt, 4 tsp. sugar, just under 2 T. vinegar. 

The salsa is a beautiful golden color, and tastes amazing, so I consider that a success!

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Mystery at the Door

This morning, just before I was heading out to do a few errands, my husband saw someone pull up in front of the house, run up the steps and leave something at the door. He disappeared back into his car before my husband could see him clearly, so instead we went to the door and found a small jar of pesto. Who could have brought me pesto? There were a few options. We decided to put it in the fridge until we figured out the identity of our mysterious benefactor.

A few hours later I got a text from a friend from culinary school, identifying himself as the bringer-of-pesto, made with basil from his garden. I had loaned him my bee suit a few weeks ago and he wanted to thank me. Little did he know, I had been eyeing a recipe that required pesto and had been wondering if I needed to buy some. Now I could make the recipe today!

The recipe was for a tomato tart that was in the New York Times over the weekend. I have been getting heirloom tomatoes from the farm share and there was this one tomato that was likely almost 2 pounds all by itself. It had been ripening on the windowsill and it was time to do something with it. Everything was coming together nicely. I made the crust and par-baked it, spread it with the pesto, mozzarella cheese, fresh basil and oregano from my garden, and then arranged the tomato slices and topped it all with an egg custard.

It was so good, even the youngerchild ate a slice. And pretty much every ingredient except the cheese is usually a no-go. 

Before adding the custard
After baking

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Two Quick Updates

Yesterday I started a batch of sauerkraut, using 2 heads of cabbage and a head of fennel. I'm starting to appreciate fennel just a little bit, I've never been much of a fan, despite the fact that I like licorice and anise. But I certainly only like it in small doses and this is a very small part of the batch of sauerkraut, which is currently fermenting in my crock.

This evening, after getting the farm share, I used diced onion, green pepper and carrots to make tofu lettuce wraps. I used the sauce from this recipe, which uses peanut butter, honey, and a variety of sauces mixed together, but I used cubed tofu instead of chicken or pork. It worked well, even if the lettuce did fall apart. Served with some brown rice and chopped peanuts it was a satisfying meal. 

Oh, and elderchild, guess what? We finished the carrots. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Replenishing the Salsa

Tomatillos have started to come in on the farm, earlier than the tomatoes, and after a couple of weeks we accumulated enough to make a half-batch of salsa verde. I always use serrano peppers for this as they come in around the same time, but unfortunately this year the cilantro was store-bought. Yeah, I know. Apparently I was down to 2 jars left in total of the prior batches so I needed to make some, and this afternoon I needed something to distract myself. This will do. 

Notes: 18 oz tomatillos, 4 serrano peppers, 3 small cloves of garlic. 

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Back to the Favorites

In previous years, when I was flush with tomatoes and eggplant, I made a lot of Roxanne's caponata. Sadly, for the past few years I haven't had the right ingredients at the right time, but this year there have been a lot of eggplant in the farm share. The tomatoes are just starting so it's possible I'll be able to make more but, for today, I was able to make 3.5 pints of caponata. I've missed it! In general, I substitute green bell pepper for the celery and this time I didn't have red wine vinegar so I used cider vinegar which worked just fine. 

Saturday, August 22, 2020

No Rain

We're in a bit of a drought at the moment, but that's not the topic of today's post. We were supposed to go for a socially distant walk/hike/picnic with friends today, so we got food together and were all set when, right before we were to leave, the sky got really dark. The forecast said it was likely that there would be thunderstorms so we rescheduled and stayed put, only to have it not rain at all. Hopefully the forecast for tomorrow is still better because we don't really have another option.

I ended up using that time to make another batch of Bread and Butter Pickles, with cucumbers from the farm share and my garden, along with an onion and a Hungarian hot wax pepper. From about 1.5 pounds of cucumbers I ended up with 2.5 pints of pickles. Yes, this is a very small batch; I'd been waiting for more cukes by now but both the farm and my garden have stopped producing in any sort of quantity. I'm hoping when it cools down again the plants I have at home will perk up. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Summer Fruit

Yesterday, in the midst of all the unpacking-cleaning-putting away that normally follows a camping trip I got a text from my friend, Abigail, did I want pears again? They had been talking about taking down the pear tree because it was so large and hard to manage so I was glad to hear they hadn't and after a few texts back and forth I had four pounds of small pears on my doorstep. 

Today, after taking a small poll of the family members who were awake at the time, I decided against making jam and for making pears in syrup. We can only eat so much jam, my husband pointed out. We do occasionally turn to our jars of fruit in syrup if we have run out of fresh fruit. That settled it, and I made 2.5 quarts of quartered pears in syrup. 

Thank you, Abigail, as always, for the pears!

Monday, August 10, 2020

Blueberry Season

We went camping in NH for the past 2 nights, which was fun despite the occasional rainstorm. It was a nice break from the daily routine here at home as we haven't been able to do any of the vacationing we'd hoped and planned to do. So, we found an even more socially distant diversion. We hiked, and swam in the pond at the campsite, and cooked a lot, and made s'mores, and picked blueberries.

At the campsite there was a patch of wild blueberry bushes and the elderchild and I found time to pick a bunch; we ended up with about 3 cups that we brought back and tomorrow I will make a pie. However, there was also a nearby blueberry farm and we stopped there on our way home. In about half an hour the four of us picked roughly 7-8 pints of berries. These are cultivated berries, so larger and not as sweet. 

Tonight, after a lot of laundry and getting dinner organized, I made blueberry jam with the berries we picked from the farm. I ended up using all of them with 6.5 cups of sugar and made a jam without added pectin. Ultimately that made 10 cups of jam which is sweet and spreadable. I'd been worried that we were going to miss blueberry season so am glad we found them!

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Figured It Out

When I made the dilled beans, one of my jars broke. I wasn't entirely sure why. Today, I was making bread and butter pickles and had a jar break again which is a bummer but that led to me finally understanding what is happening.

Since I've gotten my new stove the burners are much hotter. So if I put the jars on the counter next to the canning pot, the heat from the burner radiates out the side and gets the jar hotter than boiling water. So, when the jar is placed in the canner, the temperature differential causes the jar to break. This doesn't happen with jam, only pickles, because with pickles the jars have to sit while I get them all filled before I pour in the liquid, so they have more of an opportunity to get hot. 

Now that I know, I can change my workflow to avoid this. 

I did end up with four pints of bread and butter pickles, using cucumbers from the farm share and from my garden, plus a Hungarian hot wax pepper for a little heat. The kind of heat that doesn't crack jars, at least.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Some Assembly Required

I've been planning to add a FlowHive super to my hive for a while, and purchased it at the same time as the Langstroth. However, it came in 3 boxes, completely in parts. I wasn't ready to assemble it and then have to find a place to put it all before I set it out. So I left it in its component parts until two days ago when the youngerchild and I put the box together. 

This is essentially a medium super with four Flow frames and four regular frames. There were no instructions. There was a link to their website that had a video of the assembly of a similar but not-quite-the-same box. We assembled the box as best we could. We made sure the Flow frames worked and were set at the proper setting for the bees to get started. Then I looked at the box with the pieces for the last four regular frames and discovered that I needed foundation to make them. At least, I thought I did. Again, no instructions. I ordered foundation sheets from Amazon.

The foundation arrived yesterday just as I was headed to work so today I found a video posted by "Beekeeping for Dummies" and assembled the frames with their foundation. There were small pieces of wood left, I'm not sure what those are for. Regardless, I got the frames together and into the box, like so:

Then I got into my bee suit and brought it out. First I quickly peeked in the upper box on the hive and saw lots of capped honey. This is a great sign. Then I set down the queen excluder which is what prevents the queen from laying eggs in the Flow frames and ensures they will only have honey in them. I placed the Flow super onto the rest, put the cover on, and now we just have to see what the bees manage to do before the weather turns cold. 
Back
Back
Front
Front


Thursday, July 23, 2020

Thunder Clouds

As I drove to get the farm share today, I saw big white fluffy clouds on the horizon. I wondered if I might get rained on. The answer was Yes, and then some...

I'm not sure why this is, but I'm always picking green beans whenever I get caught in a thunderstorm at the farm. Today was no exception. The share was for unlimited beans, and I wanted to can some dilly beans, so I continued to pick, soaked through in the heavy rain, with thunder all around me (thankfully I did not see any lightning) as I gathered as many of the smaller, more tender beans I could find and some dill flower heads. Ultimately I had enough for 3 pints of dilly beans.

Which are now 2 pints. One of the jars cracked in the canner and the bottom fell off. Whoops. 

Plant Based Protein

During this pandemic we've been having a protein rut of sorts. The youngerchild does not eat red or gamey meats or fish, and the elderchild won't eat beef. This leaves us basically cooking a lot of chicken and pork. I've been trying to expand the protein options by adding tofu, and one night we tried vegan sausages. The remaining 2 vegan sausages remain, unopened and unloved, in the fridge. Tofu has been slightly more successful, with a couple of stir fries. The youngerchild asked if it could be cut up smaller after the first attempt, so there would be a higher ratio of surface area (aka the part that actually has flavor) to volume. The second attempt had much smaller pieces of tofu but even then, they weren't consumed completely but more was eaten, at least. The elderchild is completely fine with the tofu in any form. 

There will be more fish in the future, and the plan is to make sure the youngerchild has something else to eat, but I'm tired of not having fish because I love it and would like to eat more of it. However, in the interest of increasing the plant based protein in our diets, last night I made tofu alfredo sauce. It wasn't bad, but there was a lot of tweaking of the recipe to get it to the point that it tasted more like alfredo and less like tofu. 

What I did was blend 16 oz. of silken tofu with 1/2 cup whole milk in a blender, then add 2 T. of butter that had been used to sauté garlic. (The garlic was discarded, it was just for the flavor.) Then I blended that with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and about 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, and heated it up in a saucepan. I added a little bit of fresh parsley, adjusted the seasonings, and voilá. Served over ravioli: cheese for the youngerchild, a combination of butternut squash and sausage for the rest of us, with fresh basil on top. 

And, guess what? 

The youngerchild had seconds.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Oat Bars, Second Attempt

Today's oat pulp went into another batch of granola bars. Following the same recipe, sort of, but with more oats to make it a little drier and different mix-ins:

1 ½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup cane sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
½ cup oat milk
1 cup oat pulp
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup chopped pecans
¼ cup dried cranberries

¼ cup pepitas

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper hanging over the edge.
In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients including the rolled oats, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
In another large bowl, combine the wet ingredients including the eggs, milk, oat pulp and vanilla extract. Transfer the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients and set aside until flavors blend, about 20 minutes.
Fold in the pecans, pepitas and cranberries, and spread combined mixture into prepared square pan.
Bake in the preheated oven until edges are golden brown, about 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool on wire rack for 5 minutes before slicing. Cut into 8 bars, place on baking sheet and return to the oven at 225˚F for another 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the bars cool in the oven.


This definitely made them less sticky and more like the vision I have in my head for what they should be. The best part is once I get the proportions tweaked, I can change the mix-ins anytime based on what I have in the house.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Another Use

Last night, while baking bread, I threw in the oat pulp from another batch of oat milk and adjusted the water in the recipe based upon the texture of the dough. Today the bread baked and it's just wonderful, the oats make almost no difference in the crumb of the bread but augment the flavor just enough to be noticed. This is another handy way to use all that oat pulp we're generating, so glad it isn't going to waste.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Fruity Oaty Bars

When making oat milk one ends up with a lot of ground up oat residue and it seems wasteful to throw it out. The first thing I made with it is a face scrub with some honey which is less of a scrub and more like a paste and we're not sure how we feel about it. The next thing I tried were granola bars which were far more successful.

Using this recipe, I replaced 1 cup of oats and the applesauce with the oat pulp from 1-1/3 cups of oats. To make a quart of oat milk, I blend 1 quart of water with 1-1/3 cups oats and then strain it through a jelly bag. Instead of walnuts and cranberries I used almonds and currants, and I used oat milk instead of almond milk. After baking them I felt they were very soft so I cut them in to bars, arranged them on a baking sheet, and put them back in the oven on the "keep warm" setting for several hours to dry them out a little more. They're similar to chewy granola bars you can get in the store.

Feedback thus far: very chewy, needs more cinnamon. I might consider a pinch more salt or other flavoring, taking out the oat milk entirely as there is already a lot of liquid, and changing up the nut and fruit content. That being said, I think this is a very successful way to use up the oat pulp. 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Bees and Bunnies

Today is a very warm day and I was overdue to check on the bees since I added the second set of frames about a month ago. So I got myself into my bee suit and checked on them. I only checked the upper box, because to move the box would have been hard and would have really riled up the bees. They seem to be doing quite well, there was a lot of capped honey, a lot of new brood, and most of those were worker bees so I know Alcibee is doing well even though I didn't see her. To be fair, I didn't look too hard. I only checked 8 of the 10 upper frames and none of the lower ones. Mainly, I just wanted to make sure they weren't planning on swarming soon.

Found him again, hiding under some yard waste, so put him back under the bushes
After checking on them, I set about watering all my potted plants and, when I went around to the front of the house, found a baby bunny in my path. It was so small! It's ears were only about an inch long. After a while, it got tired of me looking at it and hopped away, on gangly little legs. We have lots of bunnies in the yard, probably because we don't have a dog or cat that would scare it away, but also possibly because we dump the litter from our rabbit's litter box into the compost heap and I think it attracts the wild rabbits. We love having them in the yard enough that I don't even mind that they have methodically destroyed all my hostas. 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Ran Out, Made More

We were down to the last jar of stock and there were three bags of chicken and duck bones in the freezer so today I simmered them in my lobster pot and made about 16 pints of stock. Only 14 jars fit in the pressure canner so the rest got frozen except for what I needed for tonight's chicken piccata. Not a whole lot else to report, except that I found a great way to use Napa cabbage for something other than kimchee...sautéed and served with pan fried salmon. This week the farm share was in between crops so there wasn't as much produce to contend with. We're already mostly through it and it's only been 3 days.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Purslane

For weeks now, at the farm share I've been eyeing the purslane that is growing like, well, a weed, in the kale patch. Last week they said we could pick it, but I didn't have time. This week I planned for it and picked about half a pound of it. It's ubiquitous and does well as a ground cover in between crops. I had pickled some once before but couldn't find the recipe so I made this one instead. I used a mixture of white, cider and rice wine vinegar because I didn't have enough of the cider vinegar for a double batch. Also, the dill at the farm is fully in flower and that's perfect for making pickles as a few flower heads per jar works better than dill seeds.

In the share was the beginning of a cucumber crop and, with a couple of cucumbers from my patio garden, I made one pint of dill pickles that I didn't process in the canner. Instead, I'm treating them as refrigerator pickles, just like the purslane. I'll let them sit for a week before tasting them. I'm sure there will be more cucumbers in the next share and maybe I'll plan to make bread and butter pickles then. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Farm Share Mixed Radish Pickle

The farm share always has radishes and Hakurei turnips the first few weeks and, since I'm the only one who likes radishes, even with just half the share they build up. (Note to self, they are not great on pizza.) But last week also had small Daikon radishes so I thought to mix all 3 into a quick radish pickle using rice wine vinegar and ginger. This is a recipe in Preserving by the Pint which I've made before, just not with all kinds of radish/turnip at once. They made exactly 1 pint, good for sandwiches and salads.

Another thing I had in abundance was fava beans so following another recipe in Preserving by the Pint, I made a fava-parsley-walnut pesto, using foraged black walnuts instead of regular ones. This made over 2 cups of pesto; I froze one cup, and baked chicken breasts coated with some of the rest. All of us ate it, some of us liked it. The rest were just very polite. 

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Wonton Soup

Wontons before simmering
After making dumplings a while ago I still had some of the filling in the freezer and another package of wonton wrappers. So last night I made wonton soup, using this recipe. I doubled it but used half stock (Ducken, I have only 1 jar left!) and half water. Also, since I didn't have scallions, I used garlic scapes. And I added noodles because I wanted to make sure everyone had enough to eat. It is very easy and very good.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Mulberry Jelly and Oat Milk

One of the things we have been trying is oat milk, for various reasons. It's not bad. But it can be expensive. So I thought I'd try to make it myself, which is easy, except for the straining part. Basically, you blend 4 cups of water and 1 cup of oats in a blender and strain it. I'm using my jelly bag. The hard part is that the pulp blocks the fluid from draining through the bag so I'm stirring it every so often to get it out of the way. The disadvantage of doing it at home is that it isn't calcium fortified but we can make more of an effort to get our calcium in other ways, I suppose. I am now thinking of things to do with the leftover pulp, once it has been dried. Maybe granola bars?

Also this morning, I made mulberry jelly with 4 cups of mulberry juice, 3 T. lime juice, 5 cups of sugar and a box of pectin. This made 7.5 cups of jelly. Now the birds can have all the berries on the tree they want!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

So Many Strawberries!

Last night I made strawberry shortcake with a quart of the berries we'd picked the day before. It's always popular and because we eat it so quickly it's hard to get a photo. This time I remembered to take one before we ate. We got another quart of berries from the farm share today which are already mostly gone!

My mulberry tree is really doing well this year and just today I got half of the mulberry juice I need to make a batch of mulberry jelly. I will likely do that over the weekend as I am working tomorrow.

Today I'm making bread. I managed to (finally) find bread flour in the stores again, and so now I'm making plain bread, just bread flour and all purpose flour, my starter, salt, sugar, milk and water. No teff, or spelt, or sprouted wheat flour (although I quite like that last one). Instead of an egg wash, I'm using water sprayed on just before baking. I did forget to get it started last night, which would have allowed it to ferment overnight and for me to be done much earlier. I woke up this morning, remembered that I hadn't made the dough last night, got it started by 8 am, so it's had all day to ferment and then about 3 hours to proof before baking. It's in the oven now. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Strawberries

Sometimes, when I'm berry picking, I can get into a meditative state, with the methodical picking helping me think about other things. Today I didn't have that experience. It seems that the pandemic has created an extra layer of anxiety over all things. Trying to pick berries and stay away from other people, when all of us would like to be oblivious and just focus on picking, is not too hard, but it does take some of the fun out of it.

Hey, at least the berry farm opened. We did not, however, visit the rabbits in their pen.

Once home, I made two batches of strawberry jam without added pectin. The peach jam last year was so much better without the added pectin I decided that maybe this year I should go for quality, not quantity. I'm not sure if the fair is happening this year, we still have time, but I'm going to focus on the things my family wants to eat and not on what makes a good fair entry. They are not always the same.

Anyway, these two batches made 15 half-pint jars of jam. Just strawberries, sugar and lemon juice. Mmm.

The family did nix my idea of adding dill to one of the batches. I suppose it's for the best.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Ancient Grains

In my continued effort to make bread while bread flour is hard to find, I decided to play around with other grain flours I have found in the store. A little while ago I picked up some teff, knowing nothing about it. I made a batch of bread today with it; proportionately it was 1/6 of the flour and the rest was bread flour.

One of the things I did not realize about teff is that it is gluten-free. Which explains a lot. The dough was softer, and wetter, and while it baked very nicely I had a harder time getting the loaves out of the loaf pans because the loaves were less firm. The taste of the bread is interesting, though. Teff is used to make injera, Ethiopian flatbread which is fermented and has a sour taste. I'm not sure if the sourness to my bread is from the teff or the starter but it does have a more complex taste than usual. It's quite good.

In terms of texture, I think I like the bread made with spelt better, but likely that is because spelt has gluten in it. I have buckwheat flour, too, so I might play with that as well.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Recap and a Bee Check

The last time I checked on the bees, about 3 weeks ago, they were doing fine and starting to fill up all the frames with comb. I gave them a little extra time before this check, mainly because it's been overcast or rainy most days I had time to go see them. Today was a better day weather-wise and I had time so I went out to inspect them plus I brought the second brood box back out. It's a good thing I did, there was plenty of brood, honey in the frames on the sides of the colony, and it was time to add that second box. I did see Alcibee, and she seemed fine.

On my way back from the side yard I discovered poison ivy growing in my yard! Taking advantage that I was still in my bee suit and gloves, I pulled it out, hopefully getting enough of the vines as well to get rid of it but likely I'll have to keep a close eye on that area in the future. We're all so sensitive to it so I'm glad I saw it before I ended up in it by accident.

Otherwise, I've been baking a little, making bread when we need it, and yesterday I made a batch of flan to celebrate the youngerchild ending school for the year. Nothing too exciting for now, which is probably a good thing. 

Monday, May 25, 2020

Daifuku

My rice flour finally arrived from Amazon so I spent a little time today making daifuku: red bean filled mochi balls.

You make the mochi by cooking rice flour with sugar and water and this can be done in the microwave or by steaming the mochi.

I probably rolled the mochi a little too thinly because I made 18 balls, not 12 as the recipe indicated. The difference is visible in the picture: the ones that are darker have a thinner mochi layer and the others were made after I rolled out the scraps again and so were thicker. The thicker layer is desired. Even so, they're easy and tasty!

I also made another batch of the Anpan today using the sourdough starter again. I still need to figure out how to get them to fluff more when they're baking. Today's batch was proofed for an hour, the recipe suggests half that time but I'm thinking they might even need to be proofed for longer. I still have plenty of red bean paste so I'll try again another time. 

Graduation Party

The elderchild graduated from high school yesterday. Given the whole pandemic thing, it's a bittersweet time. The Dean of Students made a special drive out to deliver the diploma in person, about 600 miles each way. We had a small picnic in the backyard with the Dean and her daughter to celebrate. Socially distancing as best we could, of course!

I made lasagna, which is always a little different each time I make it, but the basics are the same: make a sauce with ground meat (lately it has been turkey), sautéed onions, and a jar of marinara sauce, make a box of noodles, mix 1 large tub of ricotta with 3 eggs, salt, pepper, basil and oregano, and layer all this with shredded mozzarella. Bake at 350 or 375 until it's done.

We also had a quick fruit salad and, for dessert, peach mousse cupcakes!

The cupcakes themselves were the easy part: white cake cupcakes. I was also making some for a friend who also has a graduate to celebrate so I made a double batch. Then I made peach mousse from this recipe, and it did NOT WORK. You're supposed to make a peach purée and add gelatin and maple syrup and then let it set and fold in whipped cream. I ended up with peach jello and the whipped cream didn't blend in. (I can't tell you how much heavy cream I've gone through in the last 3 days.) So I made it up, sort of, in that I made another peach purée with a lot less gelatin and folded the whipped cream in and filled the cupcakes. Good thing I had extra peaches. It did eventually set while the cupcakes chilled overnight. Yesterday morning I got up early and made this whipped cream frosting with mascarpone cheese. At least this worked as advertised! I tucked a little piece of peach on top of the cupcake under the frosting to add to the otherwise subtle peach flavor.

It was a lovely sunny day, not like today which is overcast and cooler and with a little rain. Congratulations, elderchild. We're so proud of you and all you have accomplished!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Anpan and Potstickers

The ones with the sesame seeds were the batch with Legion
One of the things I hoped to make with my red bean paste was Anpan, a Japanese bread with red bean paste inside. I followed this recipe and was rather worried that the yeast wasn't working properly as the buns didn't really rise much. So while they were proofing I made another batch, using Legion. I replaced the water and 50g of flour with 100g of Legion. The dough felt more elastic and definitely was easier to work with. However, the original batch, with the powdered yeast, was allowed to proof longer and that might explain the difference in size.

Both of them were fairly dense inside which, again, I attribute to not very active yeast and insufficient proofing, respectively. They still taste better than the red bean rice dumplings I made last week!

The other thing I worked on today was another batch of potstickers, using wonton wrappers this time. These made me very frustrated while I was cooking them: I fried them in oil for a few minutes then added stock and let them cook on low for another few minutes. Sometimes that worked perfectly and sometimes, well, they're not called potstickers for nothing, I guess.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Back to Experimenting

Since I've been having a little trouble getting all-purpose and bread flour, I was looking for ways to make bread without using as much bread flour. I picked up a bag of spelt flour and made a batch of bread today with that. I used 32 ounces of bread flour and 6 ounces of spelt. It looks more like when I used to make this bread with whole wheat flour but, since I'm still using milk as part of the liquid, much softer and springier. Especially when warm!

It is good, though, that I'm starting to see flour in the grocery store more often. Hopefully that is a trend that will continue.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Overboard

Or is it...over-bored?

Today I decided to finally tackle the azuki bean paste I wanted to make several years ago when I learned how to make it from a friend. I guess I bought a lot of beans because now I have about 9 cups of it in the freezer, waiting to be made into various things. My first plan is a type of sticky rice dumpling like I did before with sesame filling but this time will use red bean.

Internet searches have given me more ideas: red bean buns, taiyaki (for which I would have to buy molds), daifuku (Japanese mochi sweets), red bean cookies, ice cream, popsicles, and so on. I don't think I have enough glutinous rice flour to make a huge amount of daifuku but I plan to order some.

Making the paste is relatively easy. After boiling the beans to a mashable consistency, you add a cup of sugar per 2 cups of dry beans, and a little salt. I ended up using the immersion blender to make it smooth.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Breakfast Kuchen

Last night over dinner we were talking about European plum tortes and how there are so many variations and they all depend on local fruit. Well, I don't have any plums on hand, but it did get me thinking, and so this morning I made a peach kuchen as a variation of this recipe for a plum kuchen that uses buttermilk.

The variations were: I used all purpose flour, and I used canned peaches with ginger I made last year. So I didn't coat the peaches in butter, allspice and sugar, since they were already sugary. This did affect the bake, since they're wetter than fresh plums, so it was a little runny in the middle. I made a modified chai-spiced whipped cream (cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger) and we had nice warm cake for breakfast!

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Tomato Sauce

In the ongoing effort to organize the freezers, it was time to get the bags of quartered tomatoes out from last summer. Usually I end up with about 5 gallons of tomatoes but this year it was only 3. They take up so much space, because they're bulky and heavy. It is amazing to me that each gallon, once run through the food mill and cooked down to a reasonable sauce texture, yields one pint of sauce. Makes one wonder about the sheer amount of tomatoes those big companies use to make all those cans of sauce!

These three pints are plain, not spiced in any way.

Also, I just finished baking this week's batch of bread; I added even more milk instead of water to see how soft I can make the bread and still have it be sturdy enough for sandwiches. I've been trying to get flour where I can; I have enough bread flour for 2 more batches, and I bought some spelt flour just to try something different when the bread flour runs out. I am starting to see more flour in the grocery store, but it's all purpose, not bread flour, and so I'll keep an eye out for bread flour. 

Bee Check

Yesterday the weather was good and so I did a quick inspection of the hive. I didn't add any new syrup to the feeders as it's been warm and the flowers are out so I'm hoping to allow them to take advantage of all that nectar. I did fix a little of the cross-combing that was happening, saw Alcibee, and found evidence of new brood. I'll give them a few weeks before I inspect again, and hopefully they will continue to do well. 

Friday, May 1, 2020

Things in Little Pots

Today I took a break from work and made things.

Since yesterday was our anniversary and I had to work, I decided to do something special for dinner tonight. So I made flan. I've never made flan before and I have a healthy respect for caramel after getting burned trying to make caramel sauce in culinary school. That stuff is HOT. So I have always thought about making flan and then dismissed it as Too Hard. Really, it's not.

Caramel: 2 ounces sugar, 1/2 ounce water, 1/4 ounce corn syrup. Boil without stirring until it is just turning golden brown then remove from heat.

Once I had the caramel made and distributed into little ramekins, I made a simple egg custard, poured it over the caramel, and baked them in a water bath for 45 minutes at 350˚F.  They chilled in the fridge until dessert, when they were inverted over saucers. I was pleasantly surprised that they came out intact and that the sauce worked perfectly!

The other thing made in little pots today were candles. I had more of those tins I'd bought to make the moustache wax for my husband and, after a trial run in which it was clear that one wick per tin was not enough, I melted a whole lot of wax and filled the tins with lavender-lemon scented beeswax and 3 wicks per candle. I had some left over so I also made a few tea lights and one last one in an empty jar. It took a long time to melt the wax as I was using a plastic pitcher which doesn't conduct heat as well as metal or glass, and it took very little time for the wax to solidify once poured. The only other downside to the metal tins for candles is that the candles have a tendency to crack and I think it is because the metal and the wax expand at different rates when heated. Glass doesn't seem to have that problem.

Regardless, it's back to work tomorrow so no plans to do any cooking for a few days at least!

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Things in Things

We had been planning for a while to make dumplings, as we all like them and they aren't easy to get right now. We discussed take out, but then decided that we could make them ourselves.

But first, breakfast! I haven't made crepes in a long time, as evidenced by the fact that my crepe mix had expired 2 years ago. I made them from scratch instead. Filled with peaches and/or nutella they were a lovely way to start the day.

This afternoon, I got to work on the dumplings. I ended up making 2 different kinds: sesame rice balls and pork and cabbage dumplings. Both recipes were from when I was assisting in a dumpling class at culinary school. I will never forget that class, especially as I had the unfortunate experience of lifting the steamer off the pot and having the bottom fall out of it, dropping all the dumplings into the boiling water or onto the floor! For the sesame ones, I made the filling by toasting sesame seeds and then grinding them with sugar and mixing them with melted bacon fat, then chilling the filling so I could handle it. The rice balls were made with glutinous rice flour, regular rice flour, and water. These were boiled and then served with a sesame dipping sauce. They were really awesome!

For the pork and cabbage dumplings, I made WAY too much filling. The wrapper recipe (2 cups flour and 6 ounces of boiling water) only made 16 dumplings. So, while those were steaming, I stir fried the rest of the filling, added turkey stock and water, and then added udon noodles so they could cook in the wok and absorb all the liquid. This, for something I just made up, worked very well. Lastly, I whipped up a dipping sauce for the pork dumplings: equal parts soy sauce and water, ginger, scallions, red pepper flakes, and sesame oil.

I probably should have pan fried the pork dumplings rather than steam them, as it would have rounded out the flavor better. But I have 8 left that I can pan fry as a way to reheat them. This ended up being more food than I intended to make but at least we have leftovers!


Thursday, April 23, 2020

Misplaced

It's pretty cold this morning; there is ice in my flowerpots. However, it was also the best morning for me to check and feed the bees. I'm glad I did. Last time I went in, I checked the queen cage, thought that Alcibee wasn't in it, and moved it above the queen excluder so the rest of the bees would eventually get off it and I could throw it away. What I apparently didn't realize was that she was actually still in there, I guess? It didn't look like her at the time. Regardless, I saw her with the rest of the bees near the feeder, above the queen excluder. She needs to be below it, so she can lay her eggs in the newly formed comb. So I very carefully nudged her into the frames below and hopefully she will settle in quickly.

Overall, I'm not sure how I feel about the excluder. Every time I put it back down it crushes some bees and gets the colony upset. (Understandable.) I might not need it if I can be sure the feeders won't hurt the frames by being directly on them. I'll try that next time. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Birthday Chocolate Bliss

About a month ago, my mother sent me a link to a recipe for Ebinger's Blackout Cake. Apparently, this was a thing she used to get when my parents lived in NY in the 60's. I read the recipe and decided it was the perfect thing for the youngerchild's birthday. I made plans.

This used: 4 of my 5 mixing bowls, both my stand mixer bowls, 3 spatulas, every measuring spoon and cup I had except for the 1/3 cup measure, several pots, 4 different kinds of chocolate, almost a pound of butter and very little flour. Which is good, because I can't find flour in the store and I'm saving as much of it as possible to make bread. Oh, and about 3 hours. And one full dishwasher load for all the bowls/pans/utensils. This is definitely a cake in which you can understand that making it in bulk quantities is easier than making just one.

I'm not really sure if there were technical difficulties. The filling wasn't completely gelled when I got it out of the fridge, but it was close, even though it leaked out a little between the layers. The frosting was also really runny, but also firmed up once it was in the fridge for a while. I moved it from a cake round to a plate, to another plate, and finally to the cake stand, all in an effort to have the edges of the plate not be drowned in chocolate.

It was a success: rich and dense and overwhelmingly filling but not overly sweet. You really can't each much at one time, though. Which is good because there is more for tomorrow!



Monday, April 20, 2020

Snow?

It snowed 2 days ago. And not just a dusting! We got 3-4 inches. Everyone was asking after the bees, so I checked them yesterday and they are just fine. I fed them, and checked that Alcibee was out of her cage (she was). I looked briefly at the frames and saw the bees were starting to make comb. I'll probably feed again on Wednesday and then check next Monday for evidence that Alcibee is laying. Meanwhile, they have definitely started to forage; I saw bees with pollen coming into the hive. All good signs, hopefully!

Friday, April 17, 2020

reduce REUSE recycle

Since I had switched to a Langstroth hive, I had two Golden Mean top bar hives plus a nuc box and all their insulation panels and equipment just taking up space in the yard, garage, and attic. It seemed silly to leave them to attract termites so I posted on the local beekeeping association message board and within minutes I had a response from someone who knew exactly what they were, had worked with the guy who makes them, and was excited to take them off my hands. In fact, she was going to put them in a nearby conservation area which happens to be one of my favorite places to walk. She didn't take the stands that my husband made for them, she said they were "too nice" and I should find a way to repurpose them. Which I will do, and will post when I have figured out something for them.

But, in order to give her the hives, I had to finally clean out all the comb and the last bit of honey that was in them. It's taken a few days to: get all the bees off them, extract the honey (about one pint, in total), and render the beeswax. I have a little more wax to render in the next few days but most of it is done. This yielded just over 13 ounces of wax. There are 2 more combs that I left next to the new hive figuring the bees could try to get whatever honey out of it that they could before I take them away and melt them down.

Two days ago I fed them more syrup, they hadn't finished the last jar so I set the new one in the hive in a way that the bees could get to both of them and stay protected; I put the second box on without any frames so it's just a covered open space with the syrup jars. On Sunday if the weather is good I'll go in there and see how they're doing. I am not supposed to get into the main body of the hive until it's been a week since I put them in so I'll get in there Monday or Tuesday and see if Alcibee is out of her cage and doing well. 

Monday, April 13, 2020

Just In Time

It's rainy, and super windy, and cold. But, it was also the day my bees were available for pick up. I went as early as I could this morning to go get them, before the wind was due to increase dramatically. I planned to keep the bees in the garage until the weather cleared tomorrow, but I was told by the beekeepers at pick up to get them in as soon as I got home, as it would be better overall for the bees. It wasn't raining, just misting, so I went for it and got them loaded into the new Langstroth hive. And then it rained. A lot!
This queen has a blue dot, and she shall be named...Alcibee. Alcibie was an Amazonian warrior in ancient Greek mythology. Long may she reign!

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter Feast

Today, for Easter, we pulled out all the stops. By that I mean we cooked, non-stop. All day.

See? Not cracked!
Breakfast was bacon and egg sandwiches on homemade bread, which was immediately followed by me making a NY style cheesecake for tonight's dessert. I may have finally cracked the mystery of how to keep my cheesecakes from, well, cracking. I let it get almost done, turn off the oven and let the cheesecake cool in the oven for a while. Twice in a row now I've managed to produce an uncracked cheesecake. With different recipes each time.

While that was going on, I also made bread. So as soon as the cheesecake was out, the oven was in use again, baking a milk and honey sourdough bread, 2 sandwich loaves and one round loaf for dinner.

Then, as soon as the bread came out of the oven my husband started to roast the duck for dinner. We normally only do ducks on New Years but when we ordered them we were told we had to buy the whole case, which was six ducks. Three were roasted on the holiday and the other three have been waiting in the freezer. Now we have two left, and unless I find another specialty butcher shop that will be it for a while. I'm sad to say our local butcher shop closed.

From the duck, I was able to render about 2.5 cups of fat and we have some leftover duck meat as well that maybe I'll make into pad thai as that was really great the last time.

After our feast of roast duck, fresh bread, and miso cauliflower, we put strawberry pie filling on the cheesecake and served it over a drizzle of chocolate ganache. So, so good!

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Not the Right Variety

It probably comes as no surprise that my family is a little spoiled when it comes to food. Applesauce is a prime example. I haven't had to buy applesauce from a store in years. YEARS. So we became accustomed to homemade, lightly sweetened applesauce. And then, last fall when we went apple picking, I didn't make any. I really can't explain why. So I bought some honeycrisps and made a few jars of applesauce.

Recently we ran out. And had to buy it from a store. And everyone noticed the difference.

So today, in between telemedicine visits that I'm now doing from home, I made a batch of applesauce. However, I had purchased a 5 pound bag of "Apples." I am not sure what variety they are, I know they aren't Red Delicious, but maybe they're Galas? Regardless, they are not the kind that break down easily with cooking. So they took longer and definitely had to go a few passes through the food mill to get to the right texture.

Ultimately I got a batch of about 4.5 pints of applesauce, lightly sweetened with 1/2 cup maple sugar and some cinnamon. Mmm. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Savory Scones

The other day I was sent a recipe through Instagram from my elderchild with a request that I maybe make them, sometime, please? They were for Spinach, Feta and Fenugreek scones. Well, I couldn't find fenugreek leaves, but I was able to get everything else. Spinach, cilantro, feta cheese, self rising flour and then all the regular scone ingredients. Today I put them all together.

At first the dough is dry and rough but the minute you add the cheese and fresh greens it becomes almost too soft. Maybe the greens needed to be completely dry? Not sure. The instructions weren't really clear on that part. Also, I probably rolled them too thin as they didn't puff up like the photo. That's OK. They tasted very good. Even the youngerchild ate most of one and, considering how much green was in there, that's impressive.

Served with chicken marsala and buttered noodles, they were a fine addition to dinner. A big thanks to the elderchild for finding the recipe!