Thursday, December 30, 2021

Farewell, 2021

Like I said before, I've been doing a lot of baking, just not writing about it. 

For the holidays, I made a lot of cookies to share with family, friends and coworkers. I even made enough to share with the youngerchild's D&D group. Gingerbread snowflakes and stars, chocolate crinkle cookies, Nanaimo bars, Linzers, and M&M cookies. It took a few days to bake them all and not very long for them to get eaten!

Over the holiday week I fulfilled a promise to my family that I would make croissants from scratch. This usually takes 2 days, but can be done in one. Basically, I got all the folds done, rolled the croissants and partially proofed them in one day, put them in the fridge overnight and then completed the proofing the next morning and baked them. A lot of butter leaked out, so I'm going to have to try again when I have the proper amount of time to do them slowly, as that might change things. Still, for a first attempt, they were very good, particularly fresh out of the oven with strawberry jam. 

I hope next year is the year we finally come out from under all this. Fingers crossed.

Friday, December 10, 2021

It's Hard to Describe

Just look at that lamination!
It's not like I haven't been cooking. I have. I made pies. I made puff pastry apple tarts for Thanksgiving. I cooked an entire Thanksgiving meal for six. I have been making bread and we even had friends over for dinner last week. I knit things, gifts for family and friends. 

It's just that I haven't felt like writing about it. When the pandemic first started, I had all sorts of energy. I made cakes, experimented with Japanese baking, hiked, sewed, and worked. That energy is gone, replaced with the ennui of the day to day grind. There is little joy at work, just angry and anxious families who take their frustration out on the staff. It's no wonder it's hard to find people to hire. 

There's no exotic travel to look forward to. I miss my old life. This one feels too small.

So here I am, making turkey stock and canning it. For Thanksgiving I roasted a turkey breast and then cooked some turkey legs in a slow cooker. The bones got made into stock a few days ago and today I canned nine pints. That's about as exciting as it gets. 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Final Check

After a string of typical November weather, today is almost 70 degrees and beautiful. Last week I picked an overcast day to put the mouse guard and "bee cozy" on the hive, but today was the day to open the hive and put the fondant in.

Because I didn't want to take off the flow hive, but I also didn't want the queen up there, I made fondant in pieces that I slipped between the flow frames. The queen excluder is still in place. That way, the worker bees can get to the fondant from below and bring it lower into the hive, and there is still a lot of honey in there. At least, there was, the last time I checked. Hopefully that will work for them. 

The colony seems to be doing well, they didn't get super aggressive which would indicate that they were feeling pinched for food, and I did all I needed to do without my bulky gloves on. 

That's it until the spring, at which point I am hoping they will finally and fully move into the flow frames and I can, after 2+ years, harvest honey more easily. Wish them luck!

Monday, November 1, 2021

6 and 6

It's only been two weeks but the sauerkraut stopped fermenting, not sure why, so I decided to can it this evening. I cold packed it into 6 pint jars and it's processing for 20 minutes in the canner. 

The other project on my list lately was to make a batch of hot pepper spread, the one with the banana peppers, mustard, and vinegar. I had a bunch of banana peppers from the farm share, enough to make just about 1/3 of a batch, which worked out to 6 cups. 

Some of these will be placed in a box to send to my nephew for his birthday, hopefully he doesn't mind it arriving a little late.....

Monday, October 18, 2021

Fermentation Time

Throughout the last month or so, we've gotten a lot of cabbage and fennel from the farm share. Today I shredded five pounds of both combined and got it into my fermentation crock. I generally don't know what else to do with all that cabbage. I have put some in dumplings, and in shabu shabu, but there was still a lot left and some of us do like sauerkraut. 

Tomorrow I'll add the white wine, 1/2 cup per five pounds of vegetables. 

Last weekend I went to the Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY, with friends, and bought some wool to make myself a sweater as well as some small kits to make as gifts. We went 2 years ago but, obviously, not last year. I finished one of the projects I'd purchased at that last trip, just in time to wear for this one. It was Weekend Wanderer, and I made it with two colors of a merino wool/angora rabbit mix which is just SO SOFT. I even had the experience of other fair attendees cooing over my shawl and it made me very happy. 

Currently, and slowly, I'm working on Impervious. It requires a lot of concentration.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Now You're Thinking

For the elderchild's birthday, something made me think about the video game they all used to play called Portal. There were these blue and orange portals that one creates to solve puzzles, with a promise of cake at the end. It's been a long time since anyone played Portal in this house, but when I mentioned making a Portal-themed cake to the elderchild the response was, "Ooh, I'd love to see that!"

It took me a couple of tries to make the portals. I knew I was going to make them out of sugar, and after a few experiments I used Jolly Ranchers melted in the oven in my cake rings on greased parchment. 

After that, it was a relatively simple matter to make a chocolate cake and cream cheese frosting. After we got back from the Fair today, I frosted the cake, pressed Cocoa Krispies on the sides, and topped with cherries. Then for the hard part - cutting the cake to make it look like it was passing through a portal.
And that is how we served it, with the appropriate number of candles spread out on both parts. The elderchild was quite pleased.

Did I mention the Fair was today? It actually started yesterday and will go through the 11th, but we always go on the first Saturday since I can never wait longer than that to find out how my entries did. I only entered 4 classes this year, but got first place in 2 (elderberry jelly and salsa verde) and second in the other 2 (dill pickles and bread and butter pickles). I do wish we got more specific feedback about our entries so we can improve, but still, I'm happy with the results, of course! We checked out the rabbit, bird, vegetable and flower competitions, watched a stunt show, ate a bunch of Fair food, and oohed and aahed over all the beautiful crafts on display. The bee house was PACKED so we didn't really go through it, but that was alright. We had plenty to do. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Lucky Twice

This morning my husband and I went to pick raspberries. Last year, we had to schedule an hour block and we could pick pints or quarts. This year, things are not as plentiful. We could only schedule a half-hour block and were given the option of half-pints or pints. We opted to pick 4 pints. Which we did as quickly as possible. Thunder started rumbling in the distance. We picked faster. 

Just as we were leaving the raspberry row, the sky erupted with lightning and, a few minutes later, it poured.

By the time we got home, the sky was so dark, it felt like 8 pm. I made a batch of raspberry jam without pectin, and ended up with about 6-7 cups of jam from 2 quarts of berries.

This afternoon, we went back out to pick up the farm share. We kept an eye on the weather report and went when it had stopped raining. We did curtail the pick-your-own part of the share. In particular, we opted to skip the flowers and tomatillos and I didn't glean any of the tomatoes that were left (not on the share, but up for grabs for people who had the time). Thankfully, we got back to the car a few minutes before it once again started raining buckets. The farm share was full of late season greens: lettuce, arugula, kale, escarole, and chard, plus raspberries, onions, eggplant, peppers, kohlrabi, and herbs. 

Three more weeks of the share to go! Hopefully there will be better weather. 

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Keeping Up

Last week at the farm I grabbed more plum tomatoes, which seemed like a lot at the time but cooked down to only two pints of tomato sauce - lots of Striped Roman heirloom plums, a few Romas, and the better part of a quart of sungolds. The share included two quarts of sungolds, but I only picked one. We just can't eat them fast enough! There is only a month left at the farm, and I expect that we'll be moving more into the winter squashes soon. For now there are lots of carrots, peppers, eggplant, onions, and greens, plus a few handfuls of raspberries. 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Yellow Heirloom Tomatoes

Last week at the farm, instead of picking plum tomatoes (they were pretty picked over by the time I got there) I picked a bunch of yellow tomatoes. These are some form of heirloom tomato, but I don't know which one. It might be a Yellow Oxheart. It might be a Lillian's Yellow. Or something completely different. Regardless, they're large, they're uniformly yellow, and they're very sweet. Last year I made a salsa amarillo out of them. This year, I'm on a pizza sauce kick, so I made a batch of yellow tomato pizza sauce.

Well, really, it turns out orange when it's cooked down. We'll call it Golden Pizza Sauce. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Bee Hood Failure Mode

It's been a while so I went to check on the bees. They're generally doing well but it is later in the season so, despite my smoker, they were definitely trying to defend themselves against me. I guess they thought I was going to rob the hive. Not to mention it took me a while to get the Flow hive off the rest of the boxes and once I got into the upper brood box I inspected a few combs and then decided to leave them alone as they were getting agitated. 

Normally, my hood works great, but there must have been a little gap today between the hood and my coveralls because a bee got inside my hood and proceeded to sting me on the side of my nose, up near my eye. All I could do was catch it in the hood netting and get it out, and then I grabbed my spray bottle of rubbing alcohol and sprayed my face. Yes, it did burn in my eyes, but I needed to neutralize the alarm pheromones and keep the rest of the bees away. That did work, but I was certainly done for the day. I closed everything back up and got out of there, quick!

Good news, though - I did see lots of honey and definitely larvae and capped brood. I have not yet seen Cybeele but I'll trust that she's in there somewhere. 

My nose doesn't hurt too badly, either. Could've been a lot worse. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021


The tomatoes from last week are finally ripe and I made another batch of pizza sauce. Despite having more purée from the same number of tomatoes, I ended up with fewer jars of sauce. Which is odd, considering it's the same thickness as the previous batch. I guess these tomatoes were just juicier to begin with? Anyway, I ended up with 4 cups of sauce. This way, even if the rest of the tomatoes at the farm aren't great, I still have a lot of pizza sauce until next season rolls around.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Salsa Verde

Yesterday, which was an uneventfully rainy day, I picked up the farm share.

I say uneventful because often when I am at the farm and it rains it takes the form of a tremendous downpour, complete with lightning; it's like a curtain of rain is drawn across the field. Yesterday it was more steady - no significant hazards, but still drenched at the end. So I can be forgiven for not picking the flowers, or the tiny handful of raspberries in our allotted share. But I did grab a bunch of tomatillos and tomatoes, before the wet weather destroys those crops.

The tomatoes still have some ripening to do, but the tomatillos were enough to make four cups of salsa verde. Since I only had three jars, there is more in the fridge to do something with. I did get three decent sized poblano peppers in the share and so I might make chile rellenos and top with salsa verde. Something like this recipe, in fact. 

Also today I prepped my four entries for the fair. I have to take them in tomorrow before work. 

As I typed all this, I looked up to see 5 monarch butterflies on my butterfly bush. That's the most I've ever seen here at one time. They're so beautiful!

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Pizza and Doughnuts

Due to the frequent rain the tomato crop at the farm share has been limited. We're expecting more rain over the next few days so yesterday they said we could pick 15 large tomatoes each in addition to the sungold cherry tomatoes. I picked plum tomatoes and set to work this morning making pizza sauce, which is something that we use a lot of throughout the year. 15 tomatoes made a half-batch of sauce, about 4.5 cups. 

But that isn't nearly as exciting as doughnuts! Last Saturday I took a recreational cooking class at the culinary school and it was all about doughnuts. Mmm. In pairs we made a batch of yeasted doughnuts that were then deep fried; my partner and I opted for Boston Cream. It is, after all, a classic. And a favorite of this family for sure. Each student could also make their own batch of cake doughnuts; the choices were apple cider, gingerbread and Devil's Food; I made the Devil's Food and my partner made gingerbread and we shared the results. I also made a humongous batch of chocolate glaze which we shared with other groups and also the chef instructor planned to keep the rest and use it the next day. 

All in all, the doughnuts were tasty and easy, and now I have another pan to buy....

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Now I Have a Deadline

I finally checked out the exhibitors' guide for the Topsfield Fair and I have until September 7 to enter. I think I will enter the dill pickles and elderberry jelly I have already made, plus today's Salsa Verde and Bread and Butter pickles. The farm share was full of pickling cukes, onions and tomatillos today and I was able to make a batch of the salsa and 4 pints of Bread and Butter pickles.

Given the time constraints I have over the next few weeks, this may be it for my entries. I don't think I'm going to try to bake for the fair this year, either. I want to see how this year goes. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Dill Pickles

Provided things don't change too much, the Topsfield Fair is supposed to be happening this year. It seems like I should get a few things ready although I haven't really been making anything with the fair in mind until this week. Today's farm share had a lot of pickling cucumbers and I took my allotment (10) and made dill pickles.

The recipe I use, "Favorite Dill Pickles," from The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving, is nice because it has a little sugar and mustard seeds which temper the acidity of the vinegar. It's also really quick to make. In about an hour I converted most of the cucumbers to six jars of pickles. I say "most" because one was hiding under the bok choy and I didn't see it until it was too late. 

Wild Blueberries

Another thing that's been missed for the past few years has been wild blueberry season. We did find some when we were camping last year, but we hadn't trekked out to our favorite spot since 2017. Apparently, in the interim the bushes were sprayed again and have started to come back but aren't up to their usual bounty. 

Yesterday we went fairly early in the morning to go pick - partly because it was the coolest day of the week and partly because it was a weekday and hopefully not as crowded. As we're still fairly busy and everyone has been tired lately, we set a limit of two hours of picking. At the end of that we had just under 6 cups of berries. Last year I had made blueberry jam from the regular berries we picked in NH, and still have a bunch, and this was enough to freeze some and make a batch of scones. 

This morning I made a full batch of scones which made twenty. In addition to the blueberries I tossed in a bit of crystallized ginger. I froze a dozen and the rest we had throughout the day. Although they were at their best still warm from the oven, with soft butter. Mmm. 

Sunday, August 8, 2021


It's been four years since I made elderberry jelly. For some reason, I am always busy while they are in season and their season is relatively short. This year, I managed to catch them between travel and work, and so got enough berries to make a batch of jelly. Just like before, 5 cups of elderberry juice, 1/3 cup lemon juice, 6-1/2 cups sugar and 1 box of powdered pectin. If I decide to enter things in the fair this year which, so far, is going ahead as scheduled, I will enter this.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Peaches for Days

We finally went on a trip.

Two weeks ago, we piled in the car and drove to Ohio to visit family. It was our first big road trip with an electric car, and we charged it along the way without any problems. Nice to know that works well; the car plans the route and where to charge based upon what the battery level is when you start. While we were there, we went to a charging station a few times but also just plugged it into the 220 outlet at my in-laws' house which was slower but allowed for more visiting time. 

My mother-in-law had ordered a box of peaches from the Georgia Peach Truck, about 25 pounds. On a whim when she went to pick them up, she got another box. So there were 50 pounds of peaches to do something with in a relatively short time. We ate a lot of them, cutting up 4-5 peaches every morning for breakfast. However, between my brother-in-law and me, we made short work of the rest.

First of all, I made a peach cobbler. I always forget that the texture of cobbler is weird to me, and I should just make a crisp.

Over the course of the next two days, I made two batches of jam without added pectin. My in-laws often get jars of jam in the mail from me, and they had them there for me to take back, but I filled them with jam instead. However, we came up against the aforementioned Great Canning Lid Shortage of 2021. Since there weren't a lot of options, we decided to try paraffin like people used to do. It took a few tries for me to get the pattern down, but it worked just fine. I was even presented with some gingham and VINTAGE Wiss pinking shears from the 1940's, in the original box and hardly ever used. The shears were in amazing condition. We ended up with eleven jars, and by the time we left there were only nine left. 

Paraffin cooling

Looking adorable

Another thing everyone wanted was a pie. I looked up a recipe and used this one for the filling, but made my usual crust, this time half Crisco and half butter. I struggled a lot with rolling this one out, and the base was patched in myriad ways. Thankfully it was under the filling. (I nicknamed it "Frankenpie.") We ate it, still warm, out on a deck after some burgers. Summer is awesome.

After all that, my brother-in-law made two more pies, and he tossed a bunch of peach chunks in cornbread which I had never considered but now think is amazing. What is even more amazing is that we got through all 50 pounds of peaches in a week. 

Now we're back, and getting settled, and I made bread today and I'm making a different kind of pie, a custard pie from a recipe I saw in the NYT.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Admitting Defeat

My mulberry tree has been super productive these past few years. Since I still have a lot of jelly from last year I decided to make syrup instead. I have picked several batches of berries and juiced them, setting the juice aside to make the syrup in one big batch. Well, between the storms that have not given the berries a chance to ripen or knocked off the ripe berries before I could get to them and the birds, chipmunks and squirrels that eat them even before they are ripe, I don't think I'm going to get any more. 

Squirrel, hanging by its back feet
So today I mixed the roughly 8 cups of juice with 10 1/2 cups of sugar and made syrup. Seven pints plus a 4-oz jar for my gift stash. The fauna in the yard can have the rest of the berries.

Friday, July 9, 2021

So Much Rain

Tropical storm Elsa has hit eastern Massachusetts and it's a good thing I have no need to go outside today. 

What I have been doing is fermenting garlic scapes. I've tried various things with the garlic scapes from the farm over the years: pesto, freezing, using them in place of garlic or onion in cooking. This recipe breaks down the woodiness of them by fermenting them briefly. The kitchen has smelled of garlic for days. Today I packed the ferment into jars and will keep them in the fridge. 

For reference, half a pound of scapes works out to one 8-oz jar. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2021


My beekeeping mentor has guided me through many confusing years of beekeeping and this year has been no exception. My hive has successfully requeened themselves and, while I haven't seen her, I know she exists because as of today my hive is full of worker brood. There is no other way that can happen. Long live Cybeele!

The other good news is that they have started to build proper comb in a flow hive frame. If they can just move into all of them, maybe next year I'll be able to harvest honey from them and not have to disrupt them too much. They have so much honey they should be good for the winter unless we have a drought, which could still happen, so I'll still have to keep an eye on things. 

Lots and Lots of Greens

This week I had the whole farm share to myself, and there were so many greens. Spinach, mustard, collards, kale, arugula, and a braising mix which is a lot of other greens I can't identify. I was reminded recently of boorani, a Persian spinach and yogurt dish my mother used to make when we had company. Specifically, though, I've been seeing posts about boorani using greens other than spinach. Well, why not?

So I cooked up some onion and garlic with turmeric, salt and pepper, and then added all the spinach, mustard greens and braising mix. (The collards and kale are for the rabbit and I'm not sure what to do with all the arugula, it's overwhelming.) Once everything was cooked down, I stirred in plain yogurt and added coriander seed, dried lemon salt, and sumac to taste. It's a good way to get more greens in my diet. Yum!

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Sorting Themselves Out

I checked the bees today as it's 20 degrees cooler than it was yesterday and my bee suit is very hot. Even with it only being in the 70's, I'm still roasting! 

What I found were two hopefully promising things. One is that I found sporadic larvae, suggesting I have a new queen. I did not see the queen but I didn't want to disturb things too much and I had already taken everything apart so I could examine the lowest box so I didn't take out all the frames. I did not see any capped brood of any kind, suggesting that the worker bees didn't try to lay eggs in the meantime. Hopefully my assumptions are correct here. I've emailed my bee mentor to see what he thinks.

The other thing was that there was nectar in one of my flow frames. Hopefully that means the bees are starting to consider them as viable frames and will start to build in them. It is clear that this is going to be a multi-year process to get them to the point that they build them out completely. But if they have successfully requeened and I can get them through another winter it just might work. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Lemon Balm

The farm share started up again this week and yesterday I picked up the share. As is typical for the first share of the year, it was rather small. Split between my friend and me, I ended up with 4 radishes, some arugula and mustard greens, and a bunch of lemon balm.

Actually, we were given the option of one bunch of herbs in total, with the options being lavender and sage, mint, Chinese chives, and lemon balm. After a quick mental stock of my canning inventory I opted for the lemon balm, thinking that maybe I could make jelly from it. Of course, the internet came to my rescue as it always does for these things, and I found several similar recipes for lemon balm jelly.

Essentially, you make a tea with lemon balm leaves and hot water and should end up with 3.5 cups of tea. Add half a cup of lemon juice, 1 box of pectin and 4 cups of sugar and you have a lemony jelly. It tastes like lemon marmalade, but without all the challenging bits of peel. (I believe I've mentioned before that I'm not a huge fan of marmalade.)

I've added three small jars of this to my gift stash which now has 18 jars in it. I'm starting early this year. 

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Hoping for the Best

The bees are continuing to be confusing. Today I really got into the hive and found a couple of things. (1) They still haven't started drawing comb on the flow frames, so I rubbed beeswax all over them in the hopes of enticing them to start. (2) There were more queen cells, including a few emergency queen cells. (3) Close inspection of every single frame showed me there were no larvae anywhere. Which means there is a problem with the queen.

So I left the queen cells I found, and closed it all up again, and emailed my bee mentor. Hopefully he has some ideas. They definitely haven't swarmed, and they definitely have room in there, so fingers crossed this is the right decision.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Still There

It's been a week since I moved combs around in the hive in an effort to get the bees up into the Flow hive and prevent them from swarming. Today I went to check on them and they are definitely up there now, but not laying wax down on the flow frames just yet. They do seem to be getting ready to build comb on the last regular frame up there. They appear healthy and appropriately active.

While still feeling weird about it, I destroyed another 4-5 queen cells that I had missed last week. It seems like the correct way to manage a potential swarm. I am still hopeful that they'll figure out they have a whole other box of frames and move in for good. If they still haven't made much progress by next week I'll bring some beeswax to rub on the frames as extra enticement. 

Meanwhile, the backyard is full of nesting birds: cardinals, robins, even an oriole made an appearance but I'm not sure he stayed. Also, two baby bunnies have been sighted amongst the other small mammals. We have the ubiquitous squirrels and chipmunks, several adult bunnies, and a vole. 

Friday, May 7, 2021

I Hope I'm Doing the Right Thing

It's a nice sunny but cool day and I have been meaning to check on the hive. I got the smoker really going today and took a look around. First of all, the bees haven't started drawing comb in the flow hive, which apparently isn't unusual. But, because they think they don't have enough space, they are preparing to swarm. I found several queen cells and lots of brood, and lots of honey filled comb in the middle box. I did not look into the bottom box. 

After a little thinking, what I decided to do was move the comb that just had honey and no brood up to the flow hive. The four flow frames are in the center and there are four regular frames on the sides. Since I found three frames in the middle box with honey and no brood, I moved those into the flow hive and brought empty frames down in their place. I also destroyed most of the queen cells I could find, about which I felt badly, but I need to try to keep a swarm from happening as best as I can. I do think that Alcibee is doing fine given the large amount of worker brood I'm seeing and the fanning behavior the bees were doing while I was in there. 

The other thing I found were several scouting ants, the large kind like we find in the house in the spring. I hope the bees are dealing appropriately with them. 

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Spring Dinner

Yesterday we went for a walk at one of my favorite conservation lands, which has meadows and forest and lots of beehives. My top bar hives, which I gave away last year, ended up there, and there are at least four other collections of hives. There is also a Victory Garden and some marshes. As you might imagine, there are lots of birds and lots of foraging. 

I'd hoped to snag some garlic mustard to make a risotto to go with dinner, but I'm a little late; the garlic mustard has already flowered and would likely be [more] bitter. But I did see nettles just starting to come up, right when they are at their best. 

Despite my lack of gloves, I picked the tips off about a cup's worth of nettles, tossed in a few violet flowers, and brought them home. My fingers definitely got stung, and they tingled quite a bit for the rest of the day. Worth it -

Once I got home, I made a nettle and field garlic risotto, using the field garlic from the yard (you know, the stuff that grows everywhere that looks like chives). This was served with chicken piccata and a salad garnished with those violets I picked. A fresh tasting dinner to celebrate Spring!

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Proctor Hill Berries

The place I used to go horseback riding is called Proctor Hill. I was given permission to forage there; there were nettles but, mostly, there were berries. All sorts of berries. Over the years, I foraged wee little amounts of black raspberries, red raspberries, wild blueberries, a handful of blackberries, and wild grapes. These were tucked into the freezer, waiting until I had enough of them. I had always intended to make a mixed berry jam or jelly as a gift for my riding instructor. 

Time has marched on and my instructor has left that farm for a place that better suited her current needs. I haven't ridden for over a year, after a spectacular fall made me question whether I wanted to continue. I was just getting ready to consider Western pleasure riding instead when the pandemic effectively made the decision for me. At least, for now. I do miss it; spending an hour or so a week without a cell phone in sight, only focused upon the immediate challenge of convincing a very large living and opinionated creature to do what I wanted. It got me out of my head in a way that nothing else seems to do. 

In the process of moving out and then back in to a freezer, I found all those berries. It was clear I was never going to add to the stash so it was time to make jelly out of what I had. The grapes are the dominant flavor but the raspberries do add something, I think. I cooked down the berries with water, extracted almost six cups of juice, let the solids settle, and then made jelly. Ultimately I ended up with about nine cups of jelly, enough for 12 small jars for my gift stash and a few extra just for us.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Taiyaki, Attempts 1 and 2

For Christmas, the elderchild gifted the youngerchild with a Taiyaki pan. Taiyaki are fish shaped cakes generally served as street food in Japan and other Asian countries. They are often filled with red bean paste but can also have Nutella, custard or other fillings. I remember finding some in Kyoto that had sweet potato filling. Those were pretty awesome. They're made a bit like waffles, with an iron pan.

Round one. 

Once we got the stove back, the youngerchild brought the pan down and left it in the kitchen, moving it from one prominent place to the other, "hoping" I would notice and get around to making them. Fine. I thawed some red bean paste and, using the recipe on the pan's box, made a batch for breakfast a few weeks ago. 

It was clear I was going to need more practice. The first batch were basically raw in the middle but the batter was at least runny enough to fill the molds. I had plenty of bean paste left over and figured I was going to need more practice so today I tried again. This time I used a more pancake-like batter that rose a lot in the pan, so I had more batter leaking out and making a mess. The end result, however, was more done in the middle and more like a stuffed pancake. They were pretty good. 

Now that I have the batter part worked out a little bit, I am thinking about fillings. I might try Nutella, or maybe chestnut puree. We had a different sweet in Kyoto that had chestnut paste and red bean paste together in a ball of rice and that was pretty amazing. Might be fun to try to recreate those flavors. 

Round two.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Spring Bee Update

Today I went out and fed the bees another quart of syrup. This is the fourth week in a row I've been doing that, and I think after this they'll be okay without it. It's warming up, they're bringing in lots of pollen and so many flowers are out right now. I have the flow hive in place and I am hoping they start to work on it. There were some bees in there today, but no evidence that they are laying down wax yet. 

From an overcast start it's turning into a lovely sunny day. I'm looking forward to a short hike later. 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Establishing a New Rhythm

Much like moving into a new home, moving back into a kitchen feels strange. After all, everything is turned around compared to how it was before - the stove is on the opposite wall, the fridge in the opposite corner. The only constants are the sink/dishwasher and this computer. I've been trying to get settled, slowly moving my things into the cabinets, figuring out where they should go only after I try to look for them the first time. 

Perhaps, if I'd been cooking all winter, I would already know about The Great Canning Lid Shortage of 2021. No, I'm late to that party, but thankfully had some canning lids left over from my last big shipment over a year ago. I was out of chicken stock and needed to make some. 

This is where the new patterns come in to play. I have to start figuring out where everything can sit while I work, since my countertops are not generally where I expect them to be. It's weird. I did finally get seven pints of stock into the pressure canner and, despite the "TINK" I heard while it was going, none of them broke. 

The other thing this week was my husband's birthday cake. He wanted a chocolate cake like Worf got in the episode "Parallels" - super soft crumb and covered in spikes of chocolate. Apparently he and the youngerchild have been watching a lot of Next Generation while I've been at work. I made a cake using this recipe although, personally, the frosting was too rich. I think I'd try something different if I were to make it again. Then I melted dark chocolate, spread it on parchment, and broke it into shards for the spikes. 

Sunday, March 21, 2021


Almost done. Really, about 99.9% done. The inspector signed off on it last Thursday.

All that is left is the bathroom threshold, the shower door, a ring to go around the radiator pipe (because basic chrome wouldn't do for the bathroom with the tin ceiling, so we found one to match) and we have to replace one of the shower heads because it leaks. Apparently it's a design flaw, hopefully the replacement doesn't also leak. 

But what that really means is that we're back in the kitchen. And starting to unpack. And definitely baking! Yesterday I started a batch of cinnamon rolls and froze half of them before they were proofed. They can be thawed and proofed when we're ready. The other half of the batch went in the fridge and slowly proofed overnight; this morning I took them out and let them finish proofing on the counter. Then we feasted on cinnamon rolls!

Also yesterday I started a batch of bread which I just baked and, in a little bit, I will be making a cake for my husband's birthday. He has a vision of what he wants and hopefully I can make it happen. I am, as usual, winging it. 

Speaking of wings, I fed the bees today, dug out the flow hive box and put it on the hive, and generally checked on things. They seem to be doing fine.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Yes, I Made a Pie for Pi Day

Two, in fact!

While I have not unpacked much, I have unpacked my rolling pin and silicone mat for rolling out pie crust. I worked all weekend but I couldn't let pi day go by without making a pie. So on Saturday morning before work I made a half-batch of pie crust and let it chill until yesterday morning when I could roll it out. I used my fluted clay pie plate for our pie and, in the absence of anything else the right size, found a metal cheese mold ring that I used to make a more free-form rustic pie which I dropped off at college for the elderchild before I went to work. The filling was the last three jars of apple pie filling in my inventory. 

I'm very rusty with the baking thing. Actually, I'm rusty with all cooking. I find myself trying to remember what I used to cook for dinner all the time. I guess it's time to unpack my cookbooks.

Friday, March 12, 2021

So Many Updates

The renovation is almost done. YAY! It's been such a long time. 

We are starting to move back into the kitchen, and have a little more cleaning to do before I can fully move everything in but I'm getting everything sorted and even made my first batch of bread in the new kitchen. It just came out of the oven about an hour ago. Everything smells so good!

There are things that are yet to arrive but they are not critical to functionality: the shower door, the light for the kitchen sink, more shelf liner, and so on.

In other news, I made some syrup for the bees who seem to have made it through the winter and observed them to be bringing in pollen already. Where they are finding it, I have no idea, but they seem to be doing what they are supposed to. I'll keep feeding them for a bit longer and then once it's consistently warm and there are flowers, I'll stop. I'll also get the flow hive box on top around the same time. I also got to use my new bee helmet and it's such an improvement on my old one, I'm no longer looking through mesh but a clear panel and it feels more secure. 

Monday, February 22, 2021

I Have an Oven, and It Works

For as long as it's been since my last post, one would think we'd have completed our reconstruction by now. HAH.

Regardless, when we left off, they were about to install the toilet and sink in the powder room. That room is now functional, and it even has electricity (we had a lantern in there for a while), and it's almost done. The upstairs bathroom is mostly tiled, not painted, has a functional sink but no toilet and the shower isn't fully installed. Forget about the shower door, they just measured for that last week. At least the radiant flooring works, but we have to get an account set up to control it. 

Most exciting, of course, is the kitchen. The electric wall oven does work, and over the weekend I cooked our first meal in it! Baked chicken, sweet potatoes, and crescent rolls. It was nice to have a meal that wasn't a stew, take-out, or on the grill. Since I don't have a kitchen sink or dishwasher yet I have to be very liberal with the aluminum foil but it meant less washing and that's okay. The tile backsplash is >50% done and the gas stove and the other appliances have yet to be installed. But, the cabinets are basically done, too. Progress!

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Best Instant Pot Meal Yet

Last night, I cooked a bunch of mussels in the instant pot, in a broth of ducken stock, shallots, garlic and lemon juice. It is, by far the best meal I've made in the instant pot so far. Served with a ciabatta bread to soak up the liquid, it was a nice change from all the take out. 

Not surprisingly, the youngerchild wasn't interested and got some precooked chicken from Whole Foods instead. 

The painters have started, and the walls on the first floor are primed. Hopefully this week we can at least finish the staining and painting of the powder room which is the last step before the fixtures get installed. It'd be good to have a second toilet in the house. Even better if it works, too. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Occasionally, There is Good News

All our Covid tests were negative, including the contractors and the tiler. We started work back up 2 days ago. This is good news.

We are waiting on the countertops now, as a lot of other things depend upon them. No word on when those will be available. However, the granite shelves for the shower arrived and have been tiled into place. They look amazing. The tiler is doing a terrific job. 

While were were in quarantine, I used a particle board sheet propped on the kitchen counters to do a puzzle I'd gotten for Christmas. It was a good place for it, out of the way and with reasonable light. And I got to soak in the ambience of the kitchen. I can't wait for it all to be completed, it's going to be amazing!