cooking

Homemade preserves? That’s totally my jam!

For oh, years and years, I had ignored the random cherry-producing plant (logic would suggest it’s a tree, but it really doesn’t look tree-like) in the front yard.  It never really seemed to yield that much fruit, just a smattering that would be left for the birds.  Somehow, it decided to make up for lost time this year, and its branches became so loaded with cherries that it became impossible to weed-whack underneath as the sheer weight made the lower branches sag right to ground level.

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And that’s not all of them!  That front pail was full, and you can’t see the extra-large mop bucket likewise full on the bottom shelf of the fridge.  While they’re certainly edible, they’re tart as all get-out, which rather curbed the urge to try to snack on them unadorned (imagine trying to eat a cranberry straight up: not vile, but not something anybody ever does).

I had tossed around the idea of making Cherry Mountain Cake, a recipe given to me by one of the underwriters that makes for a spectacular and show-stopping dessert.  The logistical headache or storing the finished product, however, quickly struck that from my list.  Maybe I could preserve them somehow…

Full confession: I was a Jam Virgin.  I’ve always loved the idea of turning summer-fresh fruit into a lovely homemade spread to be enjoyed year-round, but it was an intimidating prospect.  Canners!  Water baths!  Making sure a tight seal is formed so you don’t inadvertently poison your lucky test subjects with botulism!  No, I needed something simple; maybe a freezer jam of sorts.  And so I happened upon this recipe.

What I Liked

  1. It was really, really simple.  If you have a pot and a spoon, you can make this.
  2. It’s a cheap recipe.  Granted, I got the cherries for free, and all I had to buy was the jelly powder in place of pectin.  Risk vs. reward ratio is excellent on this one.

What I Didn’t Like

  1. It’s so simple that it leaves out some really important information.  Cook for 15 minutes?  Okay, but at what heat?  Also, if your fruit is exceptionally juicy, do you have to adjust/eliminate the water, or increase the jelly powder?  Or do you drain the fruit?
  2. It’s sweeeeeet.  Crazy sweet.  I started out with tart fruit, and I find it sweet – I can’t imagine what a version made with a naturally sweeter base would taste like.

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Partway through the fifteen minutes of unspecific cooking.

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“Jarred”, and ready to eat-or-freeze.  Since the motto of simplistic jams the world over appears to be “use whatever containers you want, just leave me alone”, I opted for the sturdy yet versatile number seen above.  I had no idea if it was going to turn out, and I figured if it didn’t, I could at least wash these babies out and use them for something else; the last thing I wanted was to be stuck with a bunch of breakable Mason jars I’d never wind up using again.

It didn’t firm up quite the way I had hoped (and naturally, the recipe didn’t indicate what sort of consistency it should have or how long it should take to set).  But…it’s not completely liquid, either, which I consider a half-victory.

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It spreads nicely and pairs excellently with peanut butter.  Spills are best prevented by holding one’s bagel completely level.  And hey, it’s tasty!

Has anyone ever tried a recipe like this?

Thanks for looking! 🙂

baking, cooking

Nothing says “I love you, Mom” like carbs

Did everybody have a great Mother’s Day?  It took me longer than usual this year to come up with a cohesive gift/meal plan, but luckily that all fell into place within the last week or so.

My original intention had been to make the Tiramisu Pancakes from Chloe’s Vegan Desserts, but then I saw the IHOP commercial touting their new Cupcake Pancakes and Red Velvet Crepes, and darn it, I was moved.  The nearest location to me that doesn’t require a passport still requires an overnight bag, so it was time to take matters into my own hands:

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Behold: Confetti Pancakes, courtesy of the plain pancake recipe from Vegan With a Vengeance plus a handful of sprinkles thrown into the batter.  (Note that “plain” is a bit of a misnomer; the batter has cinnamon and maple syrup and vanilla in it for flavour before my own addition, and is wickedly delicious.)  And yes, that’s blueberry syrup drizzled on top.

My Birthday Cake Theory extends to Mother’s Day as well, so I whipped up a batch of chocolate cupcakes from VCTOTW last night and decorated them this morning.  Now, as I’ve gotten older and less cute, I’ve been replaced by a furry, four-legged little sibling, and he provided me with decoration-inspiration.

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It’s like looking into a decorating gel-covered mirror.

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He’s really quite impressed by this homage.

Also:

Thanks for looking!

baking, cooking

Do not touch Willie. Good advice.

I have just this to say: lousy Smarch weather!  Things were melting and thawing, darn it, and then whammo, enough snow on March 16 to make things look distinctly Christmassy.  Oh, I’ll admit, it was pretty, but getting snow in my shoes walking through the parking lot to work?  Not so much fun.

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That’s okay.  I keep telling myself it will melt.  It will melt.

What better way to stave off snow-induced shock than with a hearty vegetarian chili and hot biscuits?

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This is the Vegetarian Chickpea Chili from Sweet Potato Chronicles, and oh, my word.  Now, I haven’t eaten meat-based chili in forever, but in my totally out-of-touch opinion, the pearl barley gives it this lovely, meaty, chewy texture.  It definitely provides a fun twist on the standard cans-of-beans vegetarian chilis.  This recipe is super-hearty, and doubles wonderfully to feed a small army.

With miso in my fridge for the first time since I can remember, I had to make a batch of the Bettah Chettah Biscuits from The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes by Kris Holechek.

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Crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside…it doesn’t get much better than that!

(Kinda seems like a fair trade-off for the snow, no?)

cooking

Who needs the Good Humour man?

I did this a couple of weeks ago and only just downloaded the picture from my camera…oops!

Back in June, I scored a Cuisinart ice cream maker at a garage sale for $30.  Sweet!  And then…it sat in the basement for a couple of months, occasionally being moved if I needed access to something under/behind it.  I understand now why I never bought one before: it’s a bit of a one-trick pony, and takes up space (oh, the space!) when not in use.

While flipping through Hannah Kaminsky’s Vegan a la Mode, I found the perfect recipe to break in my new treasure: double chocolate fudge chunk.  Only I decided to leave the chunks out.  Why waste time making chunks if the base itself wasn’t going to work out?

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Well, it did, so darn it, I cheated myself out of chunks!  It was quite a simple recipe, and used both cocoa powder and melted semi-sweet chocolate for an extra rich flavour.  A single scoop makes a perfectly decadent mini-dessert.  And now that I’ve got my feet wet, more involved recipes await!

Thanks for looking!

cooking, Cross-stitch and Embroidery

Mother’s Day – Better Late Than Never

Don’t worry –  I didn’t forget Mother’s Day.  I was oh-so-dilligent, producing a homemade card and breakfast.  I just had some…issues…securing appropriate photographs.

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This is not one of the giant apple pancakes (à la Pancake House, but better!) I made last week.  Those got devoured within minutes of their hitting the table, and it wasn’t until we were halfway through that I remembered my camera was in the other room.  This is from a second batch, made today, and with camera close at hand.  It’s criminal how good these are, and how easy they are to make, too.  This may be my new special occasion recipe.

And it’s not Mother’s Day without a homemade card, is it?

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I found the pattern in an issue of Cute Cross Stitch I bought last summer, and had pretty much hung onto the magazine specifically for this card collection.  I modified it a bit – made the kitty’s nose black to look like mine, and left off the tail since she’s a bobtail – and mounted it on some pink cardstock I had on hand.

Happy May Long!

cooking

One…ONE Monte Cristo pocket…ah-ha-ha!

The combination of a stat holiday and a nasty, blustery weather system made today a doubly great reason to stay in the house and stay warm.  And the chance to warm up the oven?  Ooh, can’t pass that up!

For Valentine’s Day, I got a new cookbook: Betty Goes Vegan by Annie and Dan Shannon.  This might seem a tad unromantic, but a) I had been coveting this book since I first heard about it, and b) it was from my parents, so really, something a little more, um, personal would just have been inappropriate.  And honestly, you can’t go wrong with a cookbook anyway.  The first recipe I saw that really jumped off the page at me was Monte Cristo pockets.  Why?  Not sure.  I was never a huge meat n’ cheese freak in my omnivorous days, but there was something about this recipe…

Get it? "Comte" = "Count". Ah-ha-ha!
Get it? “Comte” = “Count”. Ah-ha-ha!

OMG…I’m so glad I tried this!  I might cut back on either the time or temperature in the oven next time as my bottoms got a little overdone (on the bright side, I didn’t set off the smoke detector), but that’s such a minor little tweak.  And for reasons unclear to me, I had a ton of filling left over – probably enough for another full batch – so I’ll likely get my chance to try that out sooner than I thought.  Blackened bits aside, this pastry is, no joke, the flakiest, most amazing stuff ever!  I’m glad I ate lunch before starting in on these, or I wouldn’t have had a picture to post.

And now, alas, I only have four…four Monte Cristo pockets left…

(Ah-ha-ha!)

 

baking, cooking

Shchi whiz!!

Or is that “щi виз”?

Although I’m not thrilled about the cold autumn mornings, I love that the cooler weather means I can break out the soup pot again.  Honestly, I could quite happily eat soup every day, all year round, but (sigh) not everyone shares my obsession with the stuff, so the cooler weather means that the rest of my audience will be equally enthusiastic about a steaming bowl of goodness.

Much to my chagrin, I had never heard of shchi before, but when I found a recipe for it on the Post Punk Kitchen, I knew I had found my next undertaking.

Mmm…soup!  I used parsnips instead of potato or a potato/parsnip combo, and between that and the black pepper found the end result to be quite, well, peppery despite its unassuming appearance.  The dollop of Sour Supreme on top helped immensely to temper it.

But man, er, domestic goddess cannot live by soup alone, right?  Enter Garlic-Dill Bread from Julie Hasson’s Vegan Diner.  As a non-yeasted  bread it comes together quickly, using baking powder and beer as leaveners.  Sending me to the store for beer is a little like sending a nun to an adult novelty shop (Not.  A.  Clue.), but I think I did all right for myself.  I used Fort Garry Dark Ale, but can’t say I noticed either an overwhelmingly positive or negative taste.  (So, yay me!)

The very best part of it all: I have an almost-full pot of shchi in the fridge, ready to be warmed up again for supper tonight.