Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Where've You Been?

Yeah, I recognize I haven't posted since Thanksgiving. I don't know where the time goes anymore. But I have been baking, a lot, and getting my holiday gifts together.

As November drew to a close I discovered I hadn't really been canning all year and had approximately three jars in my gift stash. Normally I need about 50! Clearly something needed to be done. I decided to try to make a variety of cookies this year and hand them out to my neighbors instead. I started with gingerbread (Day 1). Actually, I started with a gingerbread house, and then moved on to gingerbread cookies. We had a marathon decorating session (Day 2) and I set the cookies aside. Nine dozen.

Then I made shortbread cookies (Day 3). They were supposed to be spritz cookies, using my cookie press, but the dough was too thick (I vaguely remember that this was why I put the press back in its box for over a decade) so I rolled it out and made shortbread hearts which were filled with ganache and dipped in chocolate. Two dozen.

Next I made Biarritz cookies (Day 4), with almond and hazelnut flours and orange zest. These also were sandwiched with ganache and striped with dipping chocolate. Four dozen, I think. Maybe five. I lost count.

The next task was meringues with hazelnuts (Day 5), Rochers. The technical difficulty here was that the hazelnuts clogged the star tip while piping, so I had to change to a plain tip and they weren't as pretty. They baked overnight in a low oven. Six dozen or so.

Then I made chocolate crackle cookies (Day 6) which was really fun and easy. But the recipe was a little off for me so instead of five dozen cookies I got four and a half dozen.

Lastly, a double batch of Nanaimo bars (Day 7). This recipe I posted is similar but I use pecans and my Mom's recipe has slightly different proportions. These are traditional for our family at Christmastime. Roughly four dozen bars.

Today I assembled little gift boxes of all the cookies along with some kisses and other chocolates and have started delivering them to our friends and neighbors. I have more to do, but this takes care of the bulk of people on my list!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Time to Be Thankful

This has been a particularly blog-unfriendly year, between not having a lot of time and not having a lot of interest in canning or baking. I know, that seems weird. It's not like I'm not baking, it's just that it's fairly routine stuff, like cookies or cornbread or the regular batches of white bread I make with Legion whenever we run out. That's still happening, but it doesn't seem all that blog-worthy anymore. I haven't even started a gift stash this year.

But it is Thanksgiving, and it's time to stop and rest briefly and have a feast. To reflect on the things that have made this year good and overlook the bad.

This year there will be nine of us, and I just brined the turkey. We are having our feast on Friday as I'm working tomorrow, giving me an extra day to bake and prepare. Yesterday I made the squash by roasting my last three farm share butternuts and mixing the baked squash with butter, salt, and pepper. Nothing too fancy. Mom will bring the sweet potatoes we love, our friends are bringing rolls and Brussels sprouts, and maybe a dessert.

For the turkey, I mixed 1 cup of Kosher salt for each gallon of water, and put the turkey in that with some bay leaves, peppercorns, sage, celery salt and rosemary.

The next thing I did was make two pumpkin pies, using my favorite recipe. Fortunately, I had condensed milk in the house and didn't need to run out and get some.  I also had 3 cups of pumpkin  purée in the freezer; that may be the last of it. The crust got a little toasty because they were a little too close to the edges of the oven but nothing too bad. I baked the leaves and acorns separately for about 20 minutes so they wouldn't burn. One will go to work with me tomorrow and the other is for my feast.

Tomorrow after work I will make an apple pie and also the stuffing, then on the day of I can roast the turkey, make the mashed potatoes, and put on all the finishing touches!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Semi-Responsible Bee Guardianship

It's been sort of cold, sort of warm, very rainy and not exactly great weather to get into the hive. I'd been meaning to make fondant for them, and get the hives insulated. General wisdom is to insulate the hives around Thanksgiving. Which is next week. But it's going to drop to the 30's tonight.

So I rushed home and made fondant. One quarter of the recipe posted here makes enough to fill two combiner boards which is what I use to make candy boards for a top bar hive. It cooled quickly and I ran out with all the insulation panels to get the hives tucked in for the winter.

Beeyonce's hive was fine, I got the fondant in there and the insulation panels on without an issue. Oh, did I mention I was not wearing my gear or using smoke? This was the irresponsible part, as it turned out, as Phoebee's hive was not as docile. They were, in fact, rather agitated that I was opening their hive on a damp, overcast day. I got the fondant in and three of the four panels on before one decided my wrist was just too close and stung me. Even after spraying it with alcohol the bees were still mad and another got onto my shirt and stung me through it. I decided to leave them to calm down and come back out just before the sun set to get the last panel on.

Once inside the house, I discovered that a bee had hitched a ride on my hair and was now in the kitchen. I managed to catch her with a drinking glass and a towel and took her back outside so she could go home. I'm glad she was the only one!

I just managed to get that last panel on. As expected, when I went back out there were no longer bees crowding the entrance and I was able to tuck them in nicely. Fingers crossed until the spring!

Monday, October 22, 2018

I Bake Because I Love You

The youngerchild takes Latin. Last year the fun project was gladiatorial combat using cardboard armor (and weapons) that was graded on its period accuracy. This year, they will be escaping Pompeii, or trying to, during the volcanic eruption.

Snacks for the class were optional.

Originally the youngerchild asked for Lava cakes but we realized they needed to be baked and served immediately. That wouldn't do. Then we discussed cupcakes with lava colored filling. That led to the inevitable...cream puffs with lava colored filling.

Here's what I know - 1. I am terribly out of practice. 2. One full batch of pate a choux makes a whole lot of cream puffs. And swan bodies (I'm freezing those, thinking about Thanksgiving which is not that far away). 3. My hands aren't as strong as they were while I was in culinary school (see #1, above). 4. Swan heads don't need to be baked for 20 minutes, 15 minutes will do (the first batch burned, whoops!). 5. I have clearly forgotten how to make fondant topping. I did manage to save it after it broke, just barely, and half a batch is just enough for 3 dozen cream puffs. 6. I'm dreading starting my new kitchen and desperate for it at the same time.

Anyway, here are the lava puffs. And I'm exhausted. They literally took all day.

I love you, kiddo.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Notes on a Long, Cold Week

In the ever-fluctuating weather of New England, it's been REALLY COLD. And sometimes rainy. But COLD. It was 33˚F this morning. However, now it's a balmy 57˚F and I needed to get into the hives.

I'd planned to take the feeders out entirely, particularly since Beeyonce's hive hadn't really been taking as much syrup. I took advantage of this nice weather and got in there, removing the feeder and moving the false back closer to the combs. For Phoebee's hive, I'd planned to do the same but since they were a younger colony and the weather is supposed to be a little warmer over the weekend, I gave them a new jar of syrup. One more, before the cold sets in for real.

Recently we also went apple picking, in the rain, although the rain gods were kind and it only drizzled while we were out in the fields. I made a pie for the elderchild's birthday but haven't even decided how much applesauce I'm going to make. We're eating our way through the rest for now and I'll see how much applesauce we need before I start going crazy. We haven't been eating through it as quickly as we used to. I guess as the kids grow older they don't see applesauce as a snack.

Yesterday I picked up the penultimate farm share. I didn't spend a lot of time in the fields but did get a whole lot of kale and parsley. There were squashes and potatoes and brussels sprouts and all sorts of terrific autumn veggies. I'm a little inundated with escarole but I will make another batch of soup with some of it. Tuscan-style escarole and white bean soup is one of my favorites.

What I should be doing is taking advantage of this great weather and cleaning up the yard a bit. But I'm tired. Maybe tomorrow. 

Friday, October 5, 2018

Maybe I'm a Disney Princess?

I think he's a yellow-throated vireo. And a young one, at that.
Today as I drove into the parking lot at work I saw a little yellow fluff on the parking deck. It didn't seem like a leaf to me. After I parked I went back to see if I was imagining things and, no, I wasn't. It was a little bird.

But he was just sitting there! So I picked him up, thinking he was hurt. He sat in my hands and let me pet him and seemed maybe a little dazed. Maybe he'd hit the windows above? I couldn't see a nest up in the building above the parking deck, so a window was the most likely reason he was just sitting on the ground. I checked out his wings, made sure they both extended fully, and wondered if maybe he needed to sit in the sun until he could warm up and be ready to fly.

I carried him over to the sunnier part of the parking deck, near the trees. Then I decided to try to give him a little toss, to see what he might do. He fluttered a bit and landed in my hands. I tried again. This time he fluttered his wings, took off, and flew into the nearby trees.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A Thing of Beauty

Our dishwasher arrived today.

It's shiny and quiet and, most importantly, doesn't leak. I'm so happy!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Peach Pie Filling

A little bit ago I bought a whole lot of peaches. We ate what we could, I made a crisp and some peach melba jam, and there were a few left that were getting a little soft. I decided to try my hand at peach pie filling.

The first recipe I found had apples and raisins in it and I didn't want to make that. Then I found a plain recipe which was scalable. For 6 large peaches, first I peeled and sliced them and set them in a bowl of water with lemon juice (to stop the browning). Then I boiled the peach slices for a minute and set them aside to drain. The next step was to combine 1.5 cups sugar, 9 oz. water, just under 1/2 cup of Clear Jel, and a heaping 1/8 tsp. of cinnamon and bring to a boil. Then I added 3 oz. lemon juice and boiled for a minute. Then the peaches were folded in and cooked for about 3 minutes, and then packed into pint jars. This amount made 3 pints. They were processed for 30 minutes in boiling water.

While they were processing, I went to feed the bees and found that one hive (Phoebee's, who I was able to see today) finished their jar of syrup and the other hive (Beeyonce's) didn't. Not sure why that is, but I changed the one that was empty and I'll check again in a day or two. 

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Fair-ly Successful

Today we went to the Fair.

Yesterday I spent all afternoon making a Brazilian carrot Smith Island cake, following my notes from last year when I discovered I needed to make 1.5 batches to get 8 layers for the cake. Actually, I made 9, but that's because one broke and I had enough to make an extra. Each set of two layers takes 12 minutes to bake. I made the fudge frosting with bittersweet chocolate instead of semi-sweet, that way it wasn't as cloying. When I was getting it ready to go in my cake tupperware thing, I discovered it was too tall. Whoops! I found a plastic "crystal" plate and transported it on that, covered in plastic wrap. It worked.

After dropping off the cake, I checked out the canning competition. Of the 9 categories I entered, I placed in all of them! I got first place in pickled beets and in the conserve category (pear almond), second place in strawberry jam (for the balsamic strawberry jam), other jelly (rose petal), other jam (caramel pear), salsa, and other pickled vegetables (carrots), third place for bread and butter pickles and an honorable mention for the hot pepper sauce/chutney. I'm just grateful they didn't disqualify it for not being a standard chutney. Anyway, I think that's what I won; sometimes the ribbons are on groups of things and it's hard to tell. I'll find out for sure on the 9th when I pick everything up.

Next stop was the beekeeping department, where I was very excited to discover that my honey lavender cheesecake won in the cheesecake category! Consider I'd never made the recipe before, I'm so pleased. I visited briefly with my beekeeping mentor and then we moved on.

After exploring the fair with friends and checking out the bunnies, eating turkey legs, and otherwise just enjoying the really nice, sunny day, we went back to watch the judging of the "Favorite Dessert" category which is really basically cakes. There were seven entries and I could tell my 8-layer cake had done well when the judges fought over the piece. When they read the recipe and saw how I'd made the layers one said, "I'm intrigued." The other said, "That's really good," as they were moving on to the next one. After the judging was complete there was a tie for first place, my cake and another which was a peach crumb cake with bourbon caramel sauce. I think I can understand, without even tasting it, why that also won. I spoke with the judges a bit, the one who is a caterer said he planned to take my cake home with him. I'm not sure if he was joking? But they were impressed with the tiny little layers and the overall flavor.

We spent a little more time looking at all the fair things: the giant pumpkin (2,114 pounds!), the produce displays, the chickens and other poultry, and briefly stopped at a hot dog eating contest as one of the youngerchild's friends was interested. We did not watch the entire 10 minutes of that, everyone was kind of grossed out.

Now we're home and all of us are exhausted. I think I may take a nap!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Bee Focused

This morning I drove up to Topsfield and entered a cheesecake in the Fair. This was for the Beekeeping Department's Baking with Honey competition. I discovered they had a category for cheesecakes and I'd recently received a cookbook from a nurse at work that was all honey recipes. The cheesecake recipe was four ingredients: cream cheese, honey, eggs and vanilla. Suffice to say I'd never made this cheesecake before, and probably making it and entering it in the fair was...brave? Something, anyway.

Making the cheesecake yesterday was a messy affair. First of all, the recipe was just for the cheesecake itself, no crust, and the pan was supposed to be set in water. I was having none of that, though. I made a graham cracker crust, prebaked it, and made the cheesecake batter. This is where things started to derail. In school we learned to pour viscous fluids like honey into little pouches of plastic wrap and then squeeze out through a hole in the bottom. Less waste. Evidently I squeezed too hard, and honey blooped out all over my hand, the outside of the mixing bowl, and the counter. I think a little actually ended up in the batter. I salvaged what I could. Not having a dishwasher is really a pain.

I'm not sure what it is about baking for the Fair that draws out the chutzpah and clumsiness in me all at once.

Anyway, I baked this cheesecake for about 65 minutes at 300˚F and let it cool. And it cracked. Not much I could do about it now, I guess. This morning I drizzled it with honey and sprinkled it with lavender buds and drove two hours round trip to get it there. Fingers crossed? Maybe?

This afternoon, rather late in the day, I changed the feeder for the bees again. I only have a few more weeks to build up their stores, after all. They were remarkably docile, both hives. I take that as a good sign.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

All Coming Together

For many years, I've dreamed of a new kitchen. We've done a lot of work on the outside of our house, most recently a new roof (last week, somewhat unexpected), but I've been planning for a new kitchen for ages, it seems. Last spring we hired an architect and started making plans. We were supposed to start construction last June, but that didn't happen. So we pushed it off to the fall, aka NOW, but that's not happening, either. At least, not quickly.

Two weeks ago, I went to the cabinet makers our architect recommended. They're coming in another few days to do a consultation in the space, so we can decide what to build and where. I knew what appliances I wanted and decided to wait to buy them until I had a better plan. But the universe decided otherwise. Exactly a week ago, our dishwasher died its final death. It'd been leaking for a while and we'd managed it, knowing we were going to get a new one eventually. Well, that eventually is now. I've been told not to cook anything that involves a colander until the new dishwasher is here.

Monday I bought a dishwasher. And a fridge. And two stoves, and a hood. I'll actually have a vent that goes outside! So exciting. We'll take delivery on the dishwasher next week (one more week of hand-washing...) and they will hold on to the rest until we're ready. Which is going to have to be soon.

It's time.

In the meantime, it's been really rainy on most of the days I've wanted to get into the hives so even though it was cold and overcast yesterday it was still a reasonable time to get in and change the feeders. I didn't do any inspecting; I decided to make it quick.

Today I went to the farm share in the rain, again. This time, instead of warm summer thunderstorm rain that pelts you like hail as you stand knee-deep in green beans and wonder if the lightning will decide you're the tallest thing around, it was that cold, raw, steady rain that chills you to your core. I skipped on some of the PYO part of the share, opting instead to get as many tomatillos as I was willing to work with. And cilantro. So I made a full batch of salsa verde.

The sauerkraut in my fermenter was finally done; after I canned the salsa verde I shoved it all into 6 pint jars and canned them as well. Lastly, I started a batch of bread.

Currently the dough is rising in the mixing bowl rather than smaller bowl, so there is one less thing to wash.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Peach Melba Jam

My last attempt at this particular jam was in 2010 when I broke my hand. I vaguely remember shoving everything one-handed through the food mill and coming up with jam that was mostly raspberry and very little peach. This time, I had an immersion blender and I reversed the proportions of the peaches to raspberries so it was 2 parts peach, one part raspberry. It's still pretty heavily raspberry, though.

The berries came from my farm share and the peaches from that place near my parents' where I often get the half-bushel for canning. I was in the neighborhood last week and got two 4-quart boxes of peaches, and now one is completely finished.

Using the Sure-Jell recipe with 4 cups of puréed fruit and 5.5 cups of sugar, I made 7 cups of peach melba jam.

The rest of the berries will likely get consumed tonight with a little cream and sugar. They won't last long. The residual storm that was Hurricane Florence passed through and was gone by the time I got out there, but that rain was intense. And it wasn't even at hurricane level - I cannot imagine what the people in the Carolinas have been through. At the farm, they basically said that if you were brave enough to be in the fields, everything was unlimited, so I picked about a quart of berries, a whole lot of green beans, the largest bunch of parsley I dared to get, and whatever peppers, tomatoes, and tomatillos I could find.

I hope to make some salsa verde tomorrow. Actually, I hoped to make some today, but SOMEBODY fed the cilantro to the rabbit. I even ran to the store just now but they were completely sold out(?!). Apparently, cilantro is on everyone's menu but mine.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Crabby Bees

Actually, they weren't too bad. I decided that every time I feed the hives I should alternate which one I inspect. It was time to inspect the original colony, the one that's been a little crabby whenever I try to get in there. I steeled myself for their anger and proceeded.

First, however, I installed a mouse guard on hive #2, and I should get the insulation panels in the next week. I quickly changed their feeder and peeked in on them through the window; all seems to be well. Still in a good mood.

Then I inspected the original colony and changed their feeder. I was able to see all the bars this time, despite having a bunch of angry bees climbing all over my gloves and trying to fly in my face. Thank goodness for my bee veil! I'm happy to report I saw Beeyonce today; she's rather hard to find but I found her on the second bar in from the front. There was definitely new brood, lots of worker bees, very few drones, and they're building up a lot of honey now. All very good signs.

The other thing I did today was visit a few of my black walnut spots and harvested a bunch of walnuts. It's better when I can get them straight off the tree so the bugs haven't had time to get in them from the ground. After crushing a few accidentally with the car as I got the soft outer husk off, I have a good amount (maybe 20?) drying in the garage. I also picked up some peaches today and will likely bake a few things this weekend!

Friday, September 7, 2018

Double Thick

Since it's September and I have about one more month to feed the bees, it was time to make double strength syrup (2 pounds sugar per pint of water) to really fortify the honey stores for the winter. It's been either super rainy or super hot this week and today was the first chance I got to get into the hives safely. As before, Beeyonce's hive was mildly annoyed, but I checked a few combs and saw some honey, including some capped cells of honey, a very good sign. Phoebee's hive was very polite, and I was able to look at all the combs. I saw signs of honey production, nothing capped yet, but did see Phoebee and a decent amount of brood cells. Things are looking good.

As I continue to manage the huge amount of food from the share, I made another batch of salsa verde; I had about 20 ounces of tomatillos to start with and ended up with just under 2 pints worth of salsa. That's now canned and all set. Thankfully, now I have nothing currently sitting on the counter to be cooked except one spaghetti squash. I do have a few things left in the fridge, though this week we got through a lot of produce.

While the salsa was in the canner I prepped all the jars for the fair drop-off tomorrow. They needed address labels and ingredient labels. I think I now have everything all organized for tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Adding Flavor

In yesterday's farm share we received more cabbage. I already had 3 heads in the fridge and had been meaning to make sauerkraut, but forgot. This cabbage reminded me about that. There were also leeks in the share. I wondered if I could add leek to the fermentation? After all, you can add garlic, or seeds (usually caraway, which I don't like), so why not a leek?

After cleaning everything up I set to slicing. The 4 heads of cabbage took up a LOT of space in my crock but I expect by this afternoon when it's time to add the wine they will have compressed a lot. I mixed the leek in as best I could. This should take a few weeks to ferment fully. And then we'll see!

In other news, the deadline to enter canned things in the fair was yesterday. I have ended up with 9 entries. I still plan to bake something but that deadline isn't for a few weeks. Saturday I will take the canned goods up to Topsfield. It'll be nice to head up there - it's very pretty up around Topsfield, particularly in September. Maybe we'll even go to the beach.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Plenty of Beets

The farm share frequently includes beets which, generally, we don't eat as often as maybe other people do. Or at least as often as the farm share organizers think we should. So I end up with a stockpile that then needs to be canned. I did that this evening. I'm not sure why I always think it won't be a lot of work, because it is. It takes a really long time to prepare all the beets before I can even pickle them.

The recipe for pickled beets is the standard one from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, except that I generally double the liquid/sugar proportions. This time, because I had more beets, I tripled the liquid parts.

There were some tiny beets in with the rest, I set these aside into two pint jars and these will go to the fair. I know I said I wasn't going to enter any more pickles but I think these will be OK.

The fridge is looking more manageable again, and we have a few summer squashes and eggplant to work through soon. Then I'll be mostly caught up....

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Too Hot

I was hoping to get into the hives today and change the feeders. However, it's 106˚F and it's after 5 pm. So that's a no. I don't want to take the chance that the combs will fall off the bars if I move them and I don't want to melt into a little puddle inside my bee suit. It's supposed to be cooler tomorrow so I'll try for that.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Loosely Defined

Today I braved the 96˚F heat to pick up the farm share. I did NOT pick flowers today, they were practically already wilting before they were even picked. I did, however, get enough hot peppers that it was time to make a sauce.

This is a recipe I've been desperately wanting to enter into the fair. The first hurdle was canning it correctly, using Clear Jel instead of flour as a thickener. I think I managed that today, using up my last 1/2 cup of Clear Jel. It's thick enough, I believe.

The other hurdle has been figuring out what category this fits in. After spending a little time pondering the situation, the only category that works is "Chutney." Technically, a chutney is: "a spicy condiment made of fruits or vegetables with vinegar, spices, and sugar, originating in India." Is this a condiment? Yes. Is it spicy? Yes. Is it made of vegetables with vinegar, sugar and spices? Yes (if you include the spices in the mustard, or the mustard itself). Therefore, I think it qualifies. Hopefully the judges agree.

This one is very, very spicy. Not inedible, but HOT.

Smooth Hot Pepper Chutney

27 hot peppers (⅔ Hungarian Hot Wax and ⅓ Fresno Chili)
20 oz. white vinegar
20 oz. prepared yellow mustard
4 cups sugar
2 tsp. Kosher salt
½ cup ClearJel powder
½ cup water

Whisk the ClearJel and water into a slurry and set aside. Cut the stem ends off the peppers and grind them in a blender, seeds and all, with the vinegar until mostly smooth. Boil the peppers, vinegar, mustard, sugar and salt. Drizzle in the ClearJel slurry and cook for 5 minutes. Ladle into jars leaving a ½ inch headspace. Process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes. Makes about 10 cups.

Chocolate and Pears

For my birthday I put together a variation on a few cakes from school. I had a chocolate almond genoise layer in the freezer so brought that out and soaked it in pear syrup from a jar of canned pears I'd made last summer. Then I made chocolate mousse.

First, I placed the soaked cake in a ring and topped it with the caramel pear jam from last week. As an aside, the canned pears and the pears in the jam were from the same tree, just different seasons! Anyway, I topped the jam layer with some chopped pears, like so:
Then I put some mousse in, added more chopped pears, and then finished with more mousse. Voila:
After chilling this for a while and then removing the ring, I'd hoped to top it with actual chocolate curls. Unfortunately, the chocolate I bought wasn't cooperating, so I had chocolate shavings instead. To compensate, I coated the cake with the shavings and served it:
Since I had a fair amount of chocolate mousse and meringue left over, I made little pots of mousse which, when toasted and with the addition of graham crackers, made nice little s'mores themed desserts for the next night. Yum!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Not a Drop

After a series of weekends when it wasn't possible to get into the hives, I went out this morning and to check on things. I felt it was time to start feeding them and so I got syrup ready and took a look.

Hive #1 was slightly aggressive, I didn't see Beeyonce but I did see larvae and capped brood. Hive #2 was not aggressive at all. I saw Phoebee, who seemed fine. I saw some larvae and some capped brood.

Here's what I didn't see: any honey whatsoever. In either hive.

Granted, that's not too surprising, given that it's August and this is when there is a dearth of nectar. The fact that the bees were relatively polite was a good sign that they're doing OK, but they needed food. It's a good thing I planned to start feeding them; I'll have to keep at it until October. Hopefully the Autumn nectar flows will help. And this year I'll have to make fondant for them.

Given that, I have no expectations of getting any honey next spring, at least, not until they're really producing for themselves.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Baby Carrots

Whenever we hear the adjective "baby" applied to anything like carrots, or other foods, or woolen things, we have to suppress a giggle or two. You see, almost 20 years ago we were in Peru for a long trip. During that time, vendors would always try to entice us to buy things. They would say, " alpaca," hoping we would be fooled into buying their machine-made woven or knitted goods which didn't have much or any alpaca wool in them, baby or otherwise. We learned quickly to identify the quality goods from the rest and did come back with many nice things (see photo, hands down the nicest hand woven blanket we saw), but navigating the street vendors was always a challenge. It did get easier as our Spanish got better although nothing could mask our appearance as tourists. You can understand why labeling something as "baby" automatically raises a red flag for us.

Baby carrots in the grocery store are, for the most part, not young carrots at all but larger carrots cut to look small. Not so with the farm share! Tuesday's pick up included two pounds of carrots and I made a point of finding the smallest ones I could get out of the bin. When each carrot weighs maybe half an ounce it took a while.

Today I set about making pickled carrots (Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, page 312) and I peeled each and every one of those little carrots. I even left their little stem end on, so they look like the ones you sometimes get in fancy restaurants. These are truly baby carrots and they make me happy just to look at them! I plan to enter them in the fair, and it's cutting it pretty close in terms of them have enough time in the vinegar brine to be fully pickled by the time the judges taste them. This is certainly the last pickle I'll be able to enter this year.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Spicier Salsa Verde

One of the tasks this week was to make salsa verde with all the tomatillos from the farm. I decided to make it a little spicier than usual, as I have a lot of hot peppers. For one pound of tomatillos I added 5 serranos and/or jalapeños. They get all jumbled up in my bag of things from the farm and I have trouble telling them apart. Therefore, I use them interchangeably. This batch is definitely spicier! And they're going to the fair.

I still have a lot of farm share to get through this week:
It's... overwhelming. You can't even really see the 3 melons and pint of cherry tomatoes in the sink!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Rest of the Pears

Just now, after a day spent in an escape room, having lunch in Boston, avoiding thunderstorms, and napping, I made Caramel Pear Jam. I had guessed correctly that the remaining pears from my friend worked out to be four cups of purée but I did have to run quickly to the store for brown sugar since I didn't have enough. It tastes like a pear version of applesauce and it's lovely. This is another entry for the fair, I think!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Free Pears

My friend and neighbor with the pear tree emailed me a few days ago, saying the tree had about a million pears and did I want some? Well, she wasn't kidding. That tree really did have about a million pears. It's still relatively early in the season but they'd already started to fall and mess up her yard. I grabbed about 20 pears and left them in my kitchen to ripen for a few days.

One of the things that has been making me a little nervous is that the fair is fast approaching and I didn't have much to enter yet. I decided to revisit a recipe I made pretty early on in my canning hobby, a pear ginger conserve that has chopped almonds in it as well. It's in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, page 90. Right around the time I was grating the ginger, the pages fell open to another recipe that uses fresh ginger but calls for a cup instead of a teaspoon! I'm glad I caught my error in time.

This used a little less than half of the pears, and I have plans to make another recipe with them tomorrow. Or maybe in a day or two. Our original plans for tomorrow have pretty much evaporated due to impending thunderstorms so we're going to do one of those escape rooms instead. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Wild Blueberry Ice Cream

Blueberry creme anglaise chilling
Today the elderchild and I put together the blueberry ice cream. First we made the base: I puréed a cup of berries and topped off the volume with milk to get 16 ounces. To this we added 6 ounces cream, 8 egg yolks and 5 ounces of sugar to make a creme anglaise. It was a nice purple color. It rested in the fridge until later in the afternoon when we ran it through the ice cream maker, adding the half-cup of frozen blueberries I'd set aside yesterday. This then waited in the freezer until it set and it was time to have dessert!

I'm very pleased with how the pie filling worked this time - it wasn't runny and since these were fresh wild berries they held their shape well. It didn't look as though the filling was jam which is how I think store bought blueberry pies often look, due to being made from frozen berries.
Not the best photo, but you get the idea...

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

New Toy

As early as we could manage, the elderchild and I went to pick wild blueberries. I'd purchased a new toy in the hopes that it would go faster: a blueberry rake. It was also going to be 100˚F today so we left the house at 6 am and were done picking a half-gallon of blueberries by 8:30 am. It was already 90˚F when we left!

Anyway, the rake worked fairly well when the bushes were almost completely ripe. If they weren't, the rake would pull off the unripe berries as well, so I resorted to hand-picking when I came across a bush that was not entirely ripe. It did well even though wild blueberries are smaller. I'd been worried it would miss a bunch of berries or they'd fall out after but it seemed to work just fine.

Over the course of the day, the elderchild and I made a pie out of most of the berries (6 cups worth) and I set aside some to make blueberry ice cream tomorrow. The pie is for dessert tomorrow with the ice cream. Mmm.

For the filling, instead of tapioca I made a base of cornstarch, water, sugar and spices and then poured it over the berries. This seems to have worked much better than the tapioca; my main complaint had been that you could still see the little pearls with the tapioca. This crust is half butter and half shortening as I wanted to see what it does for the texture.

I taught the elderchild how to make a proper lattice, and now the pie is cooling and smelling wonderful!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Bread and Bread and Butter Pickles

We went down to Washington, DC, for a few days. The elderchild was there for camp so we brought the youngerchild and spent a few days showing them around. Among all the monuments and museums, the highlight was seeing the space shuttle Discovery on display in Virginia as part of the National Air and Space Museum. Worth the trip. We've now seen two of the four shuttles on display around the country. There are so many crazy aircraft there: military, commercial, and general enthusiast alike, some even made from kits. It's amazing some of those things actually flew.

Honorable mention goes to the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. It's beautifully done; the bulk of the top floor exhibit compares and contrasts different Nations' beliefs with regard to the cardinal directions and what they represent. It's too much to go into here but it's another museum that probably doesn't get as many visitors as, say, the Museum of Natural History, but should.

Anyway, we got back at 3 pm today and my husband and I dashed out to pick up the farm share. Apparently there is still a cucumber bonanza happening and there were unlimited cucumbers again. I took a bunch of pickling cukes, enough this time to make a batch of spicy bread and butter pickles. The recipe:

3 pounds pickling cukes
2 white onions (about 3/4 pound)
3 Hungarian Hot Wax peppers
1/4 cup Kosher salt
2 1/4 cups cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp celery seed
1 tsp mustard seed

The cucumbers, onions and peppers were thinly sliced and tossed with the salt. These were covered with ice cubes and set aside for 3 hours. After that, the rest of the ingredients were boiled, the drained vegetables were added, and brought to a boil. They were processed for 10 minutes and rested for 3 before I brought them out. I'm hoping to take some to the fair. The total yield was 4.5 pints.

Also tonight I brought out Legion for the first time in a while. I'd meant to feed it before we went to DC but time got away from me. Legion was not happy. After removing the top layer that had oversoured, I took out what I needed for bread and am starting the slow process of revitalizing it. I hope it has enough life in it to ferment the dough I made this evening, the culture is currently in a warm place and is VERY slowly bubbling, so I know something still lives in there. It may mean that the bread will have to ferment for longer, I'll check it in the morning and see.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Well, They're In

Last night, my husband finished the new hive stand and we set it up around dusk so we could be out there without gear and the bees would be mostly turning in for the night. Also it's been raining a lot lately so my goal all week had been to get the bees in the nuc colony into my new hive today, the first day it was going to be reliably sunny. We leveled the hive and got the nuc turned in the correct direction so they could adapt to the direction of the hive - I had anticipated that the window on the hive was on the same wall relative to the entrance as my original hive and so turned the nuc colony around. But when I set it up I was surprised to realize the window was on the opposite side! That way I could have the entrances both facing south and both windows would be accessible to me when I stood between the hives. That's actually a better scenario, since the entrances should face south whenever possible.

Today I was able to fully transfer the combs into the new hive. The legs are longer on this stand so it's higher, which is better for me. I don't have a photo yet; I can't take photos with my bee gloves on and the bees were really agitated so I'm going to wait a few days and then take pictures. They did seem calmer as soon as I started moving away but it's going to take a while for all the bees to figure out how to get into their new home.

Good news, though, in that I found larva and capped worker brood cells, continued evidence of a healthy queen Phoebee. I still haven't actually seen her, but I might when they calm down and I can really start to see what is going on. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

I Guess I'm Going For It

Today I ordered a second beehive.

I went out this morning to check on the bees. It'd been a little over 3 weeks since I'd seen them last. The main hive was docile and polite, had plenty of room, plenty of honey, and evidence of a laying queen. I found larvae and capped brood. The average time from egg to adult for a worker bee is 21 days so any capped brood I saw had to have started their existence after the last time I checked in. They're doing fine. They will need to be fed starting next month. It's likely that queen is Beeyonce, even without her makeup.

The nuc colony was also looking healthy. They were more aggressive, had built comb all the way to the back of the nuc box, and I found honey and capped brood. I couldn't look very long because they we rather unhappy. Some of the bees even attacked and flew into my smoker. Anyway, using the same logic as above, I reasoned there must be a laying queen in there somewhere I just haven't yet found. Phoebee.

Checking in with my mentor, he confirmed my suspicious and suggested the nuc colony may feel cramped for space. Based on his recommendation, it was time to decide once and for all if I wanted to manage two hives. Most beekeepers seem to think this is a good idea. I decided I should go for it so I ordered another hive.

It should be here next week. With luck, we can get a stand built for it over the weekend. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Back In Town

For the past two weeks we missed out on the farm share because we were away. In the interim, there must have been a cucumber boom because today at the share pick-up the sign said, "Unlimited Cucumbers." I grabbed a bunch of pickling cukes but they were too large for making crunchy dills or bread and butter pickles. They were not too large for half-sours, though.

Using my fermentation crock and doubling the recipe for half-sours in The Joy of Pickling, I just set up all the cucumbers with 2 T. of dill seed, 2 dried chili peppers, 1/2 tsp each of coriander seed and peppercorns, crushed, 3 cloves of garlic, 2 bay leaves, and 12 cups of brine (this was 4 times the recipe amount, but required so I could use the weights to sink the cucumbers). They should be ready in about a week.

The rest of the farm share included cabbage, Napa cabbage, eggplant, zucchini and summer squash, carrots, lettuce, green beans, flowers, parsley and other herbs. Lately every time I've gone to pick up the share a thunderstorm has come through and today was no exception. It started to rain after I got all the green beans but before I could get all the herbs. I decided I could skip the cilantro and dill this week (although in retrospect it'd have been nice to have a few dill heads for the pickles) and we made it back to the car just in time to watch the skies open up and drench everything and everyone except us!

Sunday, June 24, 2018


Each of my children did really well on their report cards this year (straight A's!) so each got to pick how they wanted to celebrate. The elderchild chose ice cream so we had an outing to the local ice cream parlor. The youngerchild wanted, you guessed it, cheesecake.

I was worried I was running out of graham cracker crumbs so when my husband went to the store I asked for some kind of cookie I could use instead, in case I ran out. He came back with ladyfingers, the dry and crunchy kind. I wasn't sure that would work for crumbs. As it turned out I had enough crumbs, but I decided I could still use the ladyfingers:

Then, once the cheesecake was baked, I had this:

Finally, I made chocolate sauce and poured it over the top. After letting it run through the gaps between the ladyfingers, I chilled it for a few minutes to let it set before I put cut strawberries on top. (The last of this week's strawberries from the farm share.)

Congratulations to both of you for a great school year!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Strawberries and Saffron

This is a belated post, but when the elderchild and I made a strawberry rhubarb pie the other day there was a lot of pie crust left over. To give the elderchild more practice with rolling out crust, we collaborated on a rustic strawberry tart.

The filling was a little bit of strawberry jam topped with sliced fresh strawberries. When it came out of the oven, I immediately brushed it with the saffron simple syrup I'd saved from the youngerchild's baklava and zoolbia adventure. The liquid evaporates off and leaves a glaze which had a nice hint of saffron that went beautifully with the berries. Yum!

Flowers and Berries

This year the mulberry tree in our yard has been fairly prolific. In three picking sessions I got enough juice to make a batch of mulberry jelly. Since I didn't see the lime juice in the fridge right away, I grabbed the key lime juice instead. I think it makes it even better:

4 cups mulberry juice
3 T. key lime juice
5 cups sugar
1 package powdered pectin

Makes 7 cups plus a little more.

The other thing I'd been toying with was the idea of a rose jelly. Not rose hips, just an extraction from the petals. I have scarlet creeper roses in my yard and picked enough to make 2 cups of infusion. Now, the issue here was that I didn't want to add lemon juice because the rose flavor is pretty subtle and easily overpowered. Cooking also causes the rose essence to evaporate or something. So I added some tartaric acid for the acidity without changing the flavor. Why tartaric? I didn't have citric acid but I did have tartaric acid for cheese making.

2 cups rose petal infusion
1 tsp. tartaric acid
4 cups sugar
1 package liquid pectin
1 T. rosewater

I tossed the rosewater in after the jelly had its one minute hard boil so there would be that rose scent and flavor preserved. Into each jar, I added 2 fresh rose petals. This made 4 cups of jelly.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Where is Beeyonce?

That seems to be the big question. I can't find her. She's painted with a red dot, I ought to be able to.

Today I inspected both the nuc colony and the main hive. The nuc colony consisted of the 4 combs I found with swarm cells and one honeycomb. Today I see evidence of an active queen - eggs in the cells, hatched swarm cells, and bees fanning (which indicate to the other bees that the queen is *right here!*). But I did not see a queen.

In the main hive, I did not see Beeyonce either. I did find an UNmarked queen. A new queen? Beeyonce without the paint? Not sure. The main hive is also thriving and more docile than the nuc colony.

I will have to plan on feeding both colonies in the latter part of the summer if I want them to survive. If my queens are both new then they need new names. Phoebee for the main hive and Hebee for the nuc. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Ran Out, Improvised

One of the jams I've wanted to try was a strawberry-balsamic jam. I found a recipe online which used 4 cups of strawberries and 2 T. of balsamic vinegar. I thought I had enough balsamic but the bottle tricked me, the punt was bigger than I thought so I only had about 1 T.

Also, I wanted to use pectin, so I used the regular recipe; when I tasted it I felt the jam needed more...oomph, I guess. Since I didn't have any other bottles of balsamic vinegar around, I added a couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce. I think that did the trick! I'm hoping to enter this one in the fair so here's the recipe:

Strawberry-Balsamic-Plus Jam

5 cups strawberry purée
7 cups sugar
1 package powdered pectin
1-2 T. Balsamic vinegar
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
12 turns from the pepper mill

This made the usual 8 cups plus a little bit. The pepper is a nice touch. 

There is more to do to finish up the strawberries but I probably only have 2 quarts left. Later today I'm teaching the elderchild to make a pie. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Back in the Saddle

Metaphorically speaking, although I am going riding tomorrow...

It's been a long and busy springtime and I have been putting off various cooking and canning projects. But strawberries don't wait and today was a perfect day to go picking. The elderchild and I got up early and arrived just when the farm opened; in half an hour we picked almost 18 pounds of berries. After stuffing our faces with warm strawberry doughnuts and visiting the baby goats, lambs, and all the bunnies (we caught a glimpse of a baby bunny but it didn't want to come outside) we rushed home.

[Actually, we rushed home because I had an opportunity to buy tickets for Hamilton when it comes to Boston. My purchase window opened at 10 am, we got home at 9:46 am. I am psyched to say that we have tickets for October!!!]

First I made one batch of strawberry jam. I have SO MUCH jam leftover from last year if you roll all the flavors together that I won't make a whole lot this year. One batch to start, anyway. We'll see how much I have left. Then I set aside some berries for eating and enough berries in sugar for shortcake. The shortcake is currently in the oven.

Next up, pie filling. Since the youngerchild loves cheesecake, particularly strawberry cheesecake, what better than to make my own pie filling? Using this recipe, I made 6 pints of pie filling. And it's glorious (we licked the pot).

After a few errands and the like, I stopped at the store and bought some rhubarb since I don't seem to have any. I bought almost 4 pounds so I chopped 12 ounces and mixed that with a quart of berries, 1 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of cornstarch. This will become a pie tomorrow. The elderchild has wanted to learn how to make a pie so this is a perfect way to start. The rest of the rhubarb was chopped and is now frozen in 1-pound bags.

That has used up about half the berries. I have to think about what to do next!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Unexpected Split

Two weeks ago, when I checked on Beeyonce and her entourage, all appeared well. I didn't even check every bar because they were getting a little loud which suggested they weren't pleased. But I had been surprised by how many combs had been built compared to my last colony. I suppose I shouldn't have been, they started almost two months earlier in the season and it'd been a mild one with lots of flowers. So I guess it should have also not been a surprise that they would do the other things a vital and prolific colony would do...

Today I had a little more time than expected so I decided to check out the hive. It's a very good thing I did. I managed to get to every bar and I found queen (swarm) cells on bars 3, 5, 6, and 11. There were so many capped brood cells that it's clear Beeyonce is there somewhere and doing well, even though I didn't see her today. After pondering for a few minutes whether I should just let them swarm (and basically be a bad neighbor) I closed up the hive, pulled out my nuc box from the garage, and set it up next to the main hive. I then reopened the hive and pulled out those 4 bars, along with another bar full of what looks to be mostly honeycomb. These are now set up in the nuc colony, with the entrance facing the opposite direction and I'll let the bees sort themselves out. In a few weeks I'll inspect again and see if there is a queen in each box.

After that, I'm not so sure. If Beeyonce isn't around and there's no evidence of a laying queen, I'll recombine them. If there are two healthy colonies, then I have to decide if I want to manage a second hive. All the beekeepers I know think I should have two. Or more. I'm not sure how all my new neighbors (three of the four houses around me are in the process of getting new owners) would feel about more than two hives!

Monday, May 14, 2018

School Project

For English, the youngerchild had a project due today. The assignment was to pick a poet from a country other than the US and make a presentation about the poet and their poetry as well as incorporate some of the elements of the culture. Creativity was encouraged. My child chose Hafez, a poet from Persia in the 14th century. So, in addition to the writing parts, we jointly decided that there should be traditional Persian sweets for the class to consume while the presentation was happening.

Last week the youngerchild and I made baklava. It went pretty well, considering the youngerchild hadn't really done anything like it before. My goal was to step back and let my kid do most of the work and we had a lot of fun. This stayed in the fridge, uncut, until yesterday when we were putting everything together.

Yesterday we attempted zoolbia. This was much harder as it required deep frying and then dousing the fritters in saffron and rosewater syrup. First we made the syrup and set it aside. Then we made the batter with corn flour, yogurt and water. On the first attempt to use a squeeze bottle to drizzle the batter into hot oil, the squiggles were too thin and they looked like shredded wheat. I cut off the tip of the squeeze bottle and tried again but the batter sank in the oil and stuck to the bottom of the pot. So I carefully transferred the hot oil to a muffin tin and tried again, getting hot oil EVERYWHERE. Amazingly enough, nobody got burned. In the muffin tins, the batter came together more like a cookie than a squiggle, but at least they didn't stick. I would transfer the zoolbia into the syrup and the youngerchild would take them out when they were sufficiently infused and put them on the cooling rack. We put them in a container and poured more syrup over them to give them more flavor and then this morning before taking them to school drained off the excess syrup. They taste good even if they don't look quite right!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Quick Check

It's a perfect spring morning today and since it's been a while since I checked on Beeyonce and her colony I decided to pop out for a look. This time, I finally saw the elusive Beeyonce! I also saw plenty of capped brood, both workers and drones. I even saw a little bit of capped honey. They're doing fine. Today I moved the false back to the back of the hive, to give them more space which they don't need yet and also because it's warmer and they don't need to work to keep their hive warm anymore. If anything, very soon they'll be too warm!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Bees are Brooding

And that is a good thing!

It's gorgeous out here today, 67˚ and sunny. I'd noticed the bees were not eating as much syrup so it seemed like time to get the feeder out of there and check on everything. All good news: while I still can't find Beeyonce there are larva and capped cells so I know she's healthy. There's stored pollen and even the beginnings of honey - no capped cells, but definitely nectar being stored. I pulled out the feeder, did a bar by bar inspection, and closed everything up. They seem pretty well established.

My plan for this year is to get in there more often than my first colony, in an effort to keep an eye out for things like cross-combs, queen cells, and other things which are either a nuisance or signs of impending danger. That means I should aim for a weekly or biweekly inspection. 

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Birthday Cakes, 1 and 2

The youngerchild has turned 13 and celebrated twice, once with each set of grandparents. Who live in different states, so that meant two cakes. Never a problem, as the youngerchild has been asking for both these cakes for a long time.

First off, with my in-laws, I made a Brasilian Carrot Cake. I used the recipe I posted before but instead of fudge frosting I made a simple chocolate ganache. When I first poured the ganache on the warm cake, it filled the pan. I turned my head for a second and then looked again and the ganache had sunk about 1/4". Where did it go? It soaked into the top of the cake! That made the already rich and moist cake even richer and moister. Yum. We had a second piece each for breakfast before we hopped on a plane and came home. Our flight was delayed by over an hour, so I'm glad we had a filling breakfast.

Last night, for today's celebration, I made a New York Style Cheesecake, with strawberry topping. This was a recipe from school; the full recipe makes two 10" cakes and so I cut the recipe into 1/3 so I could make one 8" cake. (18 ounces of cream cheese, 3 eggs, a little sugar and flour, and some cream.) The batter was even run through a sieve to get out all the lumps, that's how much of a labor of love this was! It chilled overnight and today was served with the strawberry pie filling as a topping. The only other change I made was that the crust was chocolate wafer cookies crumbs rather than graham crackers.

And, with that, I think the youngerchild has been properly ushered into teenager-dom.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Sorted Out, Sort Of

The past few days I've been out of town and it's been cold and rainy. Even a little snowy. While I was gone my very awesome husband even offered to change the bee's feeder for me, but couldn't get into the hive when it was cold or overcast or rainy. So I got to them this afternoon when it was finally 50˚ and sunny and I was pleased with what I found.

They very industriously have started making comb. They had completely eaten the syrup I left for them. They also ate through the little sugar plug and released Beeyonce. However, I'm still not very good at finding the queen, evidently, as even though I know she's marked with a red dot I still couldn't find her. That's OK. I'm sure we'll see her sooner or later.

I changed the feeder, inspected each bar, and put everything back in place until the next time. I'll probably have to feed them pretty frequently until things warm up reliably and there are flowers around. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Still Getting Situated

After a chilly start we have a few nice days during which I hope my bees figure themselves out. I went and changed the feeder this morning and found a whole bunch of dead or dying bees still in the crate. I'd left it open under the hive hoping they would find their way in; some did, but those that didn't weathered a few nights in the cold and so I don't think they're going to make it. Bee-yonce is still in her cage; I'll go back into the hive in 3 days and if she hasn't been let out I'll do that for her. But the bees only really made comb next to her cage and I hope that they'll figure out what they're supposed to do soon. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Run the World

Feeder in place. It's adorable.
The bees are back!

After a year off, and some pondering, I decided to try again. I opted to get bees earlier in the season, to take advantage of the spring flowers here in Eastern MA. Unfortunately, it's still pretty cold and today it's going to rain, so I got them in as quickly as I could and am hoping for the best.

Here are some things I learned:

An empty hive attracts termites. I discovered this yesterday when I went to do a final clean out. Disappointingly, they ate into some of the wooden slats but fortunately all are still useable, the bees will likely seal any holes with propolis. Also disappointing: they ate much of the comb I left behind for the bees to build on this year. Well, something did, anyway.

Making a bee feeder can be as hard as you want it to be. My husband designed a feeder for me and 3D printed it, but the grooves are off so I had to jury rig it so it wouldn't leak. Still, it works!

Bees don't fan on an overcast day. I really hope the rest of the colony makes it into the hive before nightfall. Still, I think I have enough in there for now that the queen will be OK.

Speaking of the queen, she has a red dot (I went for a marked queen this time) and her name?


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Another Year, Another Chocolate Birthday Cake

Not that anyone is complaining, mind you!

I was going to make a Boston Cream Pie for my husband like last year, but then I saw this recipe for a Guinness cake with frosting that is flavored both with whiskey and Irish Cream. It looked like fun and I'm happy to report it IS fun to make!

Yesterday I made the cake part, which went smoothly. Each layer was wrapped and refrigerated until today. Once I made the frostings, I split the cake layers (my husband was very impressed with the evenness, thank you, culinary school!) and assembled the cake. I know the recipe says to serve immediately, but I have other things I have to do for dinner that are more time sensitive than this, so this can wait in the fridge until after dinner. I will sprinkle the top with cocoa before I serve it.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Stuck In The House

Well, not really. But close enough. Our bunny has been ill and I needed to keep a close eye on him after I brought him back from the vet yesterday. So I'm not planning on going anywhere. The youngerchild and I are working on a gladiator helmet for Latin class and I made chicken stock and soup.

I'd roasted a chicken on Thursday and set aside the bones and leftover meat for this project. However, I also dug through the freezer and found a second bag of chicken bones and meat so added those in. After pouring off 9 pints of stock from the pot, I added more water and simmered again to make the soup. Now the soup is simmering with green beans, celery, carrots and onion. The stock has been canned and is cooling down.

While I was digging through the freezer I did find 5 gallons of tomatoes that I'd frozen last summer. Those were simmered until soft and passed through the food mill. I always forget what a mess that is, and today was no exception. My shirt was spattered with orange sauce, as if I were an extra in a low-budget horror movie. But the sauce is now simmering nicely and it remains to be seen how many pints of sauce I will get. [Edit: 7 pints. I left them plain, without any herbs or spices.]

In the meantime, I keep checking on the bunny and hoping that he's starting to eat. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Closer to Wonder

Since I got Legion, my yeast starter, I've mainly used it to make loaves of bread for toast and sandwiches. Until recently I generally used a combination of 1 part sprouted wheat flour and 3 parts bread flour with either honey or maple syrup as the sugar. However, the youngerchild expressed nostalgia for Wonder bread and requested I try to get the bread a little closer to that. The changes I made were: use all-purpose flour instead of the other flours and use sugar instead of honey or maple syrup. Everything else is the same. It's not super squishy like Wonder bread - honestly, I'm not sure how they do that, nor how they make the crust so soft - but it is white inside and less dense. We're all pretty happy with how it came out. After the first batch, we couldn't stop ourselves and just ate warm bread with butter and almost finished a whole loaf in 10 minutes! Tonight we'll probably do the same thing as these loaves just came out of the oven. Mmmm!