Friday, February 27, 2015

A renewed attempt...again

So...I really am bad at blogging. A good blogger will update regularly. I do not.
But I'm back for now, for who knows how long. Maybe a couple of weeks, maybe a few months, maybe the rest of the year. I'm not reliable when it comes to writing, but I'm going to try for a bit.
I had 12 drafts of unpublished blog posts saved before the last time I went on an unintentional hiatus so it's not like I didn't have any material to work with. I'll be publishing those as time goes on, fixing them up and prepping them for the public eye.

Here's one. A post about mixed drinks which wasn't published before because I couldn't think of anything clever to say about the drinks. All I had was the recipes and the pictures. But, I figure it's time to put my pride away and just give something over.

Two More Kale Soda Cocktails

Kale Rum Buck
Makes 1 drink, or 2 just-a-little-bit-for-me-thanks drinks.

2 oz Rum
0.5 oz Simple Syrup
0.5 oz Lemon Juice
2 oz Hansen's Natural Kale Soda

Shake up the rum, syrup, and lemon juice with ice. Pour over ice and top off with kale soda.


Kale Cream Dream
Makes 2 drinks

25 ml Orange Agavero
70 ml Vodka
40 ml Heavy Cream
100 ml Hansen's Natural Kale Soda

Pour Agavero, vodka, and cream into a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake until cool and frothy. Pour equally into two glasses. Add soda, pouring down the side of the glass.

Great for sipping with period dramas on PBS.

I had a lot of fun with that cow creamer.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mochi with my Sister

I don't get to see my family very often anymore. This is, of course, compared to seeing them every single weekend or to living with them. Now, we get to spend a spare weekend together here or there, as our transportation and schedules allow. I work until Friday evening and train in Jujitsu Saturday mornings, so what weekend time we do have together is slim when we have it. Compared to waking up to my family every single day, I hardly see them at all now.
When we do get to spend time together, it's precious, rambunctious, and over stimulating all at once. Children standing as high as my hip and shorter wrap their arms around me like living straight jackets and bounce. Sister M and Sister R gather up their crafts or art projects to show them off to me. Brother P and Brother D ask me how I've been and what I've been up to- Brother D will ask in Japanese and I'll respond by telling him to make a muscle. Brother P will drag me out side for just a minute to show me some new trick he's figured out or to make me play with him. Sister H will be wiping off her hands from working in the kitchen of turn away from her computer for a bit to catch up with me. Mom will be working in the kitchen, dashing through house work, and trying to get a chance to sit with me and chat- all at once.
Eventually, the buzz will simmer down and we'll sit together for a family dinner.

Sometimes, we'll have the chance to squeeze in projects.
Once such weekend, Sister H planned and plotted so that she and I could make Mochi together.

Mochi is a Japanese sweet made of sugar and rice flour mixed into a paste, steamed, and then stuffed and shaped. It's one of my favorite things to eat.

We used this video tutorial as a guide.

Our mochi didn't turn out much like the mochi from the Asian Market I love so much, but I don't think that was the point for me. Rather than having just a normal, haphazard visit with my family that weekend, I can remember something special that my sister wanted to do with me. She carved out time, energy, and focus (not to mention mochi supplies) to spend time with me. Gifts like that are precious, especially when life is rambunctious or overwhelming.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cherry Scones at 7,000 feet

I spent last week in Santa Fe with the Boss Lady and Baby. We stayed in a pueblo style house up in the mountains, with vibrant lavender burgeoning in the front garden and an endless sky stretching on and on out the back door. Oh! it was beautiful.

Some days I could have sworn the sky was flirting with me. I mean, honestly, what am I supposed to make of this view?

Obviously take as many picture as humanly possible.

I took roughly 700 pictures that week, and most of them were of clouds.
I also took pictures of antique cars until my camera battery failed me (posting those in the future).
And I took pictures of these scones.

I think it's pretty clear what interests me; pretty clouds, pretty cars, and pretty food.

Baking at 7,000 feet above sea level is a different experience from the usual for this bayou city girl. Living that high in the clouds was a whole other adjustment.
The air was dry. I was thirsty all the time and my skin was uncontrollably thirsty too. My hands soaked up lotion; I would rub on two pumps worth of the stuff and in an hour I would need another dosing. The bottoms of my feet felt like Velcro sticking to the blankets when I got in bed. I was drinking water constantly
The air was thin. Dancing and running left me gasping and lightheaded. If I stood up too quickly after stretching, my head would feel like it would float away.
But that all made the fluffiest baked goods known to man. So it was a pretty even trade-off if you ask me.

Of course, there are ways to adjust for altitude in baking so that your end results maintain a certain standard no matter where you bake. I found a great little table chart from Pie in the Sky and High Altitude Baking.
I studied it well. Then I ignored it.
I had full intentions of following the chart, I swear. But when I got to the kitchen and found- after a good stint of exploring, searching, and nearly spelunking- there was no teaspoon, I gave up trying to exactly measure anything smaller than 2 tablespoons. The smallest measure that could be found was a 2 tablespoon measure. Anything smaller would have to be estimated.
So, I started my high altitude experiment with pancakes, estimating the measurements and not adjusting for altitude. I ended up with pancakes puffed high that melted in the mouth.
Then I moved onto scones.

Cherries were on sale at the grocery store, so we picked up a bag. I chose this recipe for fresh cherry scones from the Table for Two blog, but made up a different glaze from the top of my head.

Again, I had to estimate all amounts smaller than 2 tablespoons and did not adjust for altitude.
And, omaigoodness, these were good.

I'm sure they're great at other, lesser elevations, but at 7000 feet they were scone-clouds. Yum.
Julie from Table for Two uses an almond glaze for her scones, but I just can't bring myself to conform. That, and I couldn't find any almond extract (or almond anything) in the Santa Fe kitchen- even after spelunking in the pantry. I did find ground ginger and a couple cases of shockingly pungent ginger ale, though. Ginger + Ginger Ale = Ginger glaze for my cherry scones. I enjoyed the combination and, if you'd like to do the same, I suggest you follow Julie's recipe for glaze, substituting ginger ale for the milk and adding ground ginger to taste.

Let me know how these scones turn out for you at whatever altitude you find yourself baking in, and whether or not you adjusted for the elevation. We can make a grand experiment out of it. And give Mrs. Julie a visit as well, and tell her I sent you.

I have also discovered a new Saint- well, new to me. He lived in the 1500s.
St. Pascal Baylon; patron Saint of kitchens and cooks, a Fransican raised in poverty with a particular devotion the Eucharist. It's said that his pantry at the monastery was miraculously replenished.
"I joyfully celebrate the food I am given.
May it deeply nourish everyone I feed."

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

And we all Live in the House of Jackfruit

This is Jackfruit.
Say hello.

This one was 14 pounds when we picked it up from Hong Kong Market, and it was the smallest one available.
The jackfruit has a thick, tough skin that oozes latex sap when cut. The fruit inside is surrounded by "rag," strong, soft fibers much like the equally inedible bits of the inside of an artichoke. The golden fruit encases a large smooth seed, which is further wrapped in a thin lining like hard vellum. The whole fruit smells funky- like an overripe bunch of bananas- and, while not strictly bad-smelling, it's certainly overbearing. The sap is a devil and a test of character. It gets on everything and only oil will remove it. It will cling to and coat your knives, hands, and counters. A thorough rub with peanut butter easily cleaned it up afterwards, but slicing the dang fruit was torturous.
Torturous, but worth it.

The golden insides do not stink or stick and they taste wonderful. It's firm and slick, tasting like perfect mangos and bananas with a hint of pineapple and pear, or an edible pina colada.
The seeds are edible, too, and there are dozens in one jackfruit. They are very starchy and should be boiled until tender in just enough water to cover them. They can be eaten as a snack with salt, pepper, and a light sprinkling of lime juice; or mashed with butter like mashed potatoes; or roasted like chestnuts; or added to a stir fry in lieu of water chestnuts. Just be sure to slip off the vellum-like casings before noshing.

Boiled in water to cover, cleaned of the outer casing,
and tossed with salt, pepper, and lime juice.

The fruit can be eaten plain, and I've taken to chopping a good handful into a bowl of plain yogurt with hemp hearts for breakfast. It can also be added to salsa the same way some folks like to add mango.

It's good cooked too. I've made a Chicken and Jackfruit Curry, Cheese-stuffed Jackfruit, and Caramelized Jackfruit eaten on vanilla ice cream.

Caramelized Jackfruit
Serves 2 generously.

1 tablespoon Butter
1 heaping tablespoon Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Orange Juice
1/2 cup, well packed, Jackfruit Pieces

Melt the butter and the brown sugar together in a pan over heat, stirring until you have a warm, brown paste.
Add orange juice and stir together until all the lumps are gone.
 Bring juice to a simmer then add Jackfruit. Let it simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, swishing it around with a wooden spoon. Wait until the juices have become thick, syrupy, and reduced like in the picture below. Serve immediately on ice cream.

You'll start with this^, simmer it till it looks like this^

 Then spoon it over ice cream so you can have this!

It's caramel-y, fruity, hot, and oozey. Enjoy!

I'm sorry for going AWOL. I'm happy to be posting again.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Happy Birthday!

My best friend, Casey, moved away a few years ago, and I missed her horribly. She would visit once in a while and we'd have the best time traipsing around the city, eating lunch alfresco, exploring places we had never been. It was on one of these visits that I found out her favorite fruit was watermelon.

I never much cared for it and couldn't really enjoy it. It seemed like a really messy way to eat water. Then one day, when I was 8 years old or so, I was able to put off homework by eating slice after slice of watermelon. That made it that much more enjoyable.
But the best way to make me really like something, is to see someone I love enjoy it. There we were, Casey and me, sitting under the summer sun in our city, eating lunch, and she had a big bowl of watermelon and a smile. After that, I made sure we got watermelon every time we hung out the rest of that summer.

Then, after she went back out of state, I found this recipe over a year ago and I saved it for her return. Finally, this year, I was able to make some for her birthday.

I made some modifications, of course.
I cut the sugar in the watermelon syrup and didn't strain it.
I increased the amount of watermelon in the curd and left out the dye.
Though yummy, the curd won't taste much like watermelon immediately once it's made. After a night in the fridge, however, the flavor becomes much more apparent.
I chose an entirely different cake recipe: Genoise.

Watermelon Syrup
Equal parts Watermelon juice and Sugar.

Liquidize watermelon flesh in blender. I made 3 cups. Pour into a container with an equal amount of sugar- so I added 3 cups of sugar. Give it a good stir and let sit covered in the fridge as least 6 hours.

Watermelon Curd
5 Tbs Butter
1 cup + 2 Tbs Sugar
2 Whole Eggs
1 Egg Yolk
5 Tbs Watermelon Syrup

Cream the butter and sugar then add the eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Add the yolk and cream until smooth. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly. Once thick like pudding, remove from heat and continue whisking for a few minutes. When the curd has reached room temperature, add watermelon syrup one tablespoon at a time, fully incorporating with a whisk after each addition. Spoon or pour into jars and refrigerate.

Genoise Cake (From Williams-Sonoma Mastering: Cakes, Frostings & Fillings)
4 Tbl Unsalted Butter
1 1/2 cups Cake Flour OR 3/4 + 3/8 AP Flour and 3 Tbl Cornstarch
8 Large Eggs
1 1/3 cup Granulated Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla

A small sauce pan
A Sifter
A double boiler
A whisk
A large bowl
A small bowl
A hand held mixer or a stand mixer
A rubber spatula
2 9 inch round cake pans
Butter and flour for dusting the pans and parchment
A testing stick
A sharp serrated knife

Now don't let that scare you.

Preheat the oven to 350F and prepare the pans by lining them with parchment, greasing them, and then sprinkling with flour.

Sift the flour (and the cornstarch, if using). This is very important.
Melt the butter in your small sauce pan. Set up the double boiler- the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl- and bring it to a simmer.

Whisk the eggs and the sugar in the double boiler until well blended. Keep whisking over the simmering water for about 3 minutes until sugar is dissolved and the eggs are warm. Use an instant read thermometer if you want to be detail oriented. It should read 120F.

Pour the warmed egg mixture into a stand mixer, or remove the bowl and start running your hand mixer. Beat the eggs on medium high until they reach the ribbon stage. They'll be thick, pale yellow, and it will fall back on itself like a ribbon when you lift the beaters.

Hold the sifter over the eggs and sift a third of the flour in. Gently fold the flour in, making sure not to deflate the eggs. Repeat with the rest of the flour.

Drizzle in the butter (re-melt, if need be) and the vanilla. Gently fold them in.

Pour the batter evenly into the two prepared pans and bake for approximately 18 minutes until golden and firm to the touch.

Remove from oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from the pans.

Watermelon Cake, Assemble!

Trim any ragged edges from the 2 cakes using the serrated knife. Cut each cake horizontally into two layers. Brush the cut side of each layer with watermelon syrup, let it soak in, then brush again. Repeat as many times as you like, just let them dry a bit before each application.

Optional: Take one of the layers and cut out three to four circles from it to make a mini cake.

Place one layer on a cake stand or serving plate. Plop on a generous dollop of watermelon curd and pipe watermelon cream in a thick circle around the edge. Place a second layer on top and repeat with the curd and the cream and the cake until you've used all the layers. Slide wooden skewers into the cake for a bit of stability and to keep the whole thing from sliding. Do the same with the mini cake layers, if you choose.

Plop a whole lot of cream on top of the cake and spread it gently over the surface with an offset spatula, evenly coating the cake. Coax the cream down the sides and add as much a you want as the need arises. Do the same with the mini cake.

Mini Cake Bonus: Cut a heart out of the scraps you used to cut the mini cake and set it on top of the assembled cake, pink side up.

Pop the whole thing in the fridge to let the cream firm up before serving.



Thursday, June 5, 2014

Blogger Spotlight ~ Anna MacArthur

I like watching people grow.
Before you assume I'm a really slow creeper, let me explain.
There's a young woman I've known since she was a younger girl, and that whole time she's been developing her talent for art.
I've mentioned Under the Bear Hood before. The blogger over there is Anna MacArthur, artist and author. I've known her since I was 15. So that would be... (20ish subtract the 15...hmm) 9 years.

She displays her art online through devinantArt as Eightcrows and as TheBookof-thePeddler, and on her own blog.

The drawings and paintings that she's released usually feature characters from the books she is writing or important characters from another's story.
Her pictures range from cheerful to creepy

TT Reports 3 picture by eightcrows

Viva el Papa by eightcrows 

What an empty house you have... by eightcrows

The Hanging Tree by eightcrows

Hollow childhood by TheBookof-ThePeddler

And there's this: my favorite of her stylings

I love the use of pen, lines, and proportion. I can't help but think this would a good way to illustrate an old world fairy tale where too many things go wrong.

In addition to all that, she regularly draws little comic strips about her own life. They are simple and boldly honest. I love that about them.


So, please, go visit Anna MacArthur and have a gander. It'll be fun.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Strangest Pop

Call it soda, call it pop, or call it coke. Whatever you call it, you probably haven't had it flavored with kale. I never thought I would either, however... You know how things work around here. If it seems odd, we have to put it in our mouths. So far, even counting kale soda, we have not been punished for that philosophy.

Kale soda does not taste like a vegetable. It doesn't taste grassy or cabbagey. It tastes refreshing, light, and a little green. It's surprisingly good.

And it makes a great John Collins.

Seriously, I'm pretty sure I have a favorite cocktail now. I hadn't before, but now I have one.
I've replaced the usual with a whole lot of the kale stuff. The kale soda and whiskey blend really well, and the whiskey is mellowed considerably.

Kale John Collins
Makes 1, or 2 "just a little" ones.

8 oz. Hansen's Natural Cane Soda, Kale flavor
1.5 oz Evan William's Sour Mash Bourbon Whiskey
1 oz Lemon Juice
0.5 oz Simple Syrup

Shake whiskey, lemon juice, and syrup in a shaker with a cup of ice.
Pour over ice in a tall glass.
Top off with kale soda.


It's been a long time since I've last posted. Hopefully, that will be the last absence from me for a good long while. For now, accept this photo of a cow creamer eating kale.