I’m not even going to bother with the niceties regarding how long it’s been.
I’m posting now because I made a souffle. Like an honest-to-god-bechamel-and-meringue-powdered-sugar-on-top souffle. And it was delicious. Because I was the one behind the wheel, though, I did have to start over on the meringue, and the best part was that I got the souffle right – easily the hardest thing I’ve ever had to make – but the custard didn’t come out right. Typical.
I start a new job on Monday. It’s a big girl job, with a set schedule and a salary, and I’m really excited about it. Maybe that’s why I’ve been feeling adventurous. So adventurous that I went out and bought a yellow sweater. Me, the girl whose closet has consistent of fifty shades of black since middle school. So adventurous that I made chickpea curry for dinner the other night from scratch, eschewing the easy way out (read: jar of butter chicken sauce).
Dinner tonight was mashed root vegetables. That was it. Just potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, and carrots mashed and cooked in an onion-garlic-rosemary oil. So why not go beyond that for dessert?
Of course, as mentioned, the night was filled with irony. The first being that my initial goal was to find a dessert without a lot of sugar – something with the semblance of being healthy. The second, again, being that I couldn’t make the freaking sauce to go on top. I was frantically whipping it, trying to get it to set, and I look over and my gorgeous souffles are falling. I practically screamed at Eric: No! Eat it now! Forget the sauce!
But they were good.
I haven’t really been doing NaNo this year, so this was a much-needed success in the right side of my brain. I’ll take it.
Last year, while living in the dark place that is Arkansas, I had to make my own paczki for Mardi Gras. My Polish man deserved to celebrate in a style befitting his heritage, but Arkansas has never heard of a paczki, and they were nowhere to be found. So I made a lemon curd filled pastry that we called a paczki.
Although we are now in a Dutch area and paczki are available at every local supermarket, the ingredient list on these boxed delicacies make me blush.
So, tomorrow being Mardi Gras, and I having a day off, I thought some baking was in order. Here is the first batch:
Like last year, these are baked, so they are slightly healthier. However this year, to appease my coworkers who will be enjoying the fruits of my labor, I opted for a custard filling instead of fruit. I guess what I left out with the oil, we gained in the egg-milk-sugar filling.
I also went a step beyond this year by glazing the paczki to help the powdered sugar stick better.
Did I mention that I actually have an icing gun of sorts now, so I can bake and then insert the delicious filling, instead of having to make two thin pieces of dough wrap around the filling? I scare myself sometimes.
In case you are interested, here’s how I made them this year:
I mixed 2 cups of flour (1 cup of all purpose and 1 cup of quasi-pastry flour) with two packets of yeast, a quarter cup of a sugar, and a pinch of salt.
I melted a half stick of butter on the stove top with a cup of milk and two tablespoons of honey, cooked them together for about five minutes.
I added a tablespoon of rum, one egg, and two egg yolks to flour mixture, then the melted milky butter goodness.
These mixed together into a very very doughy substance, to which I added about another cup and a quarter of flour to make more solid. This I let sit for ten minutes.
After ten minutes, I rolled out the dough and cut out circles with my half cup measuring cup (about 2 inch diameter), and let those sit for an hour.
At the end of the hour, I started my first batch in the oven while I made the glaze to go on the paczki – quarter cup melted butter and a quarter cup honey.
Ten minutes into baking, I glazed the paczki, then let them cook another four minutes.
While the paczki baked, I also made the custard filling: 2 cups of milk (scalded), half cup of flour, two thirds cup of sugar, one egg and the egg whites leftover from those yolks. I cooked these for about 5 minutes until thick, then added a teaspoon of vanilla.
Once the paczki cooled a bit, I dragged them through powdered sugar, and a few minutes after that, I filled those suckers with some custard.
I haven’t tasted one yet because Eric’s not home, but considering the nearly 5 hours this has taken me, they’d better be the best damn paczki ever.
In other news, I got my letter from GVSU, so I am another step closer to collecting another degree or two. Woohoo!
I decided to make my coworkers a ginormous batch of cookies for the day after Christmas. All but one of us in the precinct is working the day after (aka “the Show”), and I think we’ll need some extra cheer during our busiest – and likely lowest attitude – day. And JT had us close a little early this evening, so that we could get home to our families, and I to my oven.
And I baked, dear reader; I baked.
I made a double batch of my favorite oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies, and a regular batch of my Christmas tradition cookies (this time with actual sprinkles!).
This is but a taste of the baking that ensued when I got home.
That’s great, but that does not explain my title. Oh, no. Feeling particularly bold, I decided to try something new. A month ago or so, Eric and I bought a donut pan. I have since made a batch, but as I said…bold. So tonight I thought “I know what’s Christmasy! Booze!”
I switched up the recipe that came with the pan and made chocolate donuts. And then I dipped those suckers in a Bailey’s glaze. BAM!
The batter for these is always a little thin, and after two batches of cookies, it was strange to work with. And also, I am messy, so there are little bits of batter all over the pan. Mmmmm!
It’s amazing what I can do with only about 4 combined feet of counter space.
And then, because I was feeling so very fancy, I decided to sprinkle a little sea salt on these bad boys to offset the sweetness.
So, yeah. I don’t mean to brag, but I made some chocolate-bailey’s-glazed-donuts tonight. Merry Christmas to all!
In addition to the peach-honey butter, apple butter, pickles, salsa, chips, and apple sauce that I threw together this year for Christmas gifts, I also decided to make my mom some cranberry-orange vinegar, since she eats a lot of salad. I thought it might make a nice, quasi-festive (read: cranberries) vinegar that she could use in a dressing.
Here is how I did that:
Certain men failed to read the “6 Cups” of white wine vinegar, so I had only two cups, thus my only having a half cup and one orange. I used frozen cranberries because, well, they’re not easy to get fresh ’round here.
I cut up the orange and the cranberries (as much as I could cut up tiny fruits) and put them in bowl. I crushed them slightly with another bowl and poured in the vinegar.
I place the covered bowl of fruit and vinegar on a bookshelf where it would stay cool. It sat there for ten days.
This is what it looked like when I opened it again to finish up. Mmmmm.
I used a sieve and cheesecloth (just to be safe!) to drain the vinegar and separate the chunky bits. It was nice and red and, again, festive.
The last part was just putting it in a nice jar. I didn’t bother processing it, so mom will have to use it fast. (Read that, mom? Make some delicious salad dressing when it gets to you!)
I tasted a tiny bit before sending it, and I will say that it is a very subtle taste. I think if you are not a fan of vinegar, you would want to let the fruit soak a bit longer. This made me a little antsy to try raspberry vinegar next.
I have tomorrow and Wednesday off (hooray!), so I will have to write a few more posts for the remaining projects. I ship everything tomorrow, but I took plenty of pictures. For instance – tortilla chips! CDs! Etc! And I’ll post pictures as I start/work on/finish the board game I am making for gift opening on Christmas.
I had my project for this post done yesterday, but I felt…silly, I guess, for wanting to post about it. But working in the kitchen, doing something with my hands in general, always makes me feel a little bit better about the world. The universe seems so much simpler when I view it through a measuring cup.
When we face the horrific parts of life, it is natural to seek the comfort of normalcy. Mine are the anise cookies that my grandma made every year for Christmas. It’s been years since I had them, but they always mean Christmas to me. So last night, trying to find some comfort and sense in the world, I decided to make them for the first time.
I used three recipes kind of rolled into one.
It’s a simple recipe, really, and a simple kind of joy.
I guess it’s fitting. No one can go back in time (yet), so I made the cookies with my own twist.
I still feel silly for posting – who the hell cares about my cookies?
But if you are looking for some meaning, or reason, or little tiny piece of joy in an otherwise dark time, then all I can suggest is that you find a recipe that you remember with comfort, and you go bake.
I am writing with the intention of sharing how Eric and I made apple butter last week for our DIY Christmas this year, but before I start, I just have to talk about yesterday.
As some of you might know – hopefully all – on the 14th, The Hobbit will be released in theaters. That is great news. But what was even better news to me was that this past weekend (8th and 9th), theaters around the country/world were showing all three extended versions of Lord of the Rings. And I mean in a row. 800 minute run time (with breaks). And because last week the Universe seemed to be smiling upon me, I had yesterday off for the first time since I’ve started this new job.
So Eric and I went to see all three Lord of the Rings in theaters, and it was amazing. There was a small group of people there (I hope Saturday was busier. I can’t imagine how more people would not want the opportunity to see these films on the big screen again). Between films, one of the theater managers would come out toward the end of our break and have trivia questions for us, with prizes. Via Eric’s insistence, since I kept muttering answers under my breath while other people were participating, I actually stood up for one question and won him some candy. I mostly stood up because I was shocked no one had shot up immediately. The question was “What is the translation of the inscription on the one ring?” I wasn’t going to bother standing because everyone knows that. But no one stood!
If you’re not familiar and are curious, the inscription is “One ring to rule them all; one ring the find them. One ring to bring them all, and in the darkness, bind them.” It’s actually part of a longer poem about the rings of power that I will save some face by not posting in its entirety, even though I recited it on the way home last night. I told Eric that in the nerd world, he’s my trophy husband.
The showing started at 11am, and we left the theater just after midnight. Worth it. Totally worth it.
Now onto the crafting/cooking. Last week, in our hurried pace to get through making the last of the Christmas gifts, we made a rather large batch of apple butter. Here is how we did it:
1. We washed, peeled, and diced(ish) the apples. The instructions said to core, and since we don’t have any fancy device to de-core, I just chopped around it. It worked out fine.
2. We added the apples, along with a cup or so of water, to a pot and let it simmer for about a half hour. We wanted the apples soft enough to go in the blender.
3. When they were soft, we threw them in the blender and pureed them. I now have an old-school grinder that would have done the trick, but we were going for fast, not necessarily authentic, though I would love to use that device sometime.
4. When the apples were blended, we essentially had applesauce. In fact, when we make applesauce this week, we will get to this step and part of step 5, then be finished. But moving on!
5. We added the cinnamon and ground clove that give apple butter that slightly spicy taste, and we threw it back into the pot to cook. We cooked it until it was sticky and did not slide easily off the spoon.
6. It took almost another half hour before the butter was the right consistency. Luckily we had practice with the peach butter, although that did seem to go a little bit quicker.
7. When it was ready, we poured it into our sterilized jars, leaving a 1/4 inch head space, screwed on the lids, and processed them in our boiling processor for 10 minutes. We made 12 small jelly jars.
All that’s left for these is some decorative flair. I will put the labels on and cover them prettily.
All that’s left for Christmas goodies are some blank-in-jar things (cookies, pancakes, soup, etc), the applesauce, and I think I will bake some cookies for those without the penchant for cooking/baking even pre-made mixes.
And Eric’s gift. I am caving and buying him some things, and while I’m not terribly pleased with giving in, I am more interested in making sure he has useful and enjoyable things that he wouldn’t buy himself. Which, if I’m being honest, is not a lot of things because he generally just buys what he wants. He’s gotten better around Christmas, though, after three years of me bugging him about it. 🙂
Well, then, I am off to continue my adventures. Keep it crafty!
Working full time is great. Unless coworkers start calling off work, and I am asked to fill in for extra shifts. On my day off today, I am going in at 4 to close. My plans for today probably could have been kept because I have/had most of the day available. Most of my energy has gone into what to make for my late lunch/early dinner and Eric’s dinner when he comes home.
Since we are leaving next Tuesday for a visit with family, I didn’t do much in the way of grocery shopping, so I have been trying to put together a kind of pasta salad idea. Not having a whole lot of ingredients, I needed to be a little creative. Tuna, peas, various beans, some tomatoes from our plant outside, and pasta.
I ended up nixing the tuna.
I simmered the peas, tomatoes, and garbanzos in some oil and vinegar with parsley. For the record, I also cooked the pasta. When the pasta was done, I threw all the ingredients in a bowl, spritzed some lemon juice on the mixture, sprinkled a little bit of cheese, and voila!
It came out pretty tasty. Now I have about 15 minutes to get ready for work, and I’ll let this little concoction chill in the fridge for Eric. There is enough that we’ll probably both have lunch for tomorrow, too.
Ahh. Nothing beats cooking by the seat of your pants.
I had the day off, and despite that, I felt rather productive today.
I got some painting done (more on that later; the project is hush-hush at the moment), got some writing done (fiction, primarily, and now this post), got a game of C&C set up for when my honey got home, and I even got the prep work done for dinner.
Tonight’s dinner was Mediterranean Couscous Cabbage Rolls. They’re a simple concept: couscous salad (couscous, olives, feta cheese, mint), wrapped in a cabbage leaf (cabbage leaf), and all of that simmered in a tomato sauce (tomatoes, EVOO, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and cinnamon).
I got the wraps ready, so that when Eric and I returned from our intervals this evening, I could whip up the tomato sauce real quick and then finish them. I figured they would be done early enough that we could eat, play a game, and unwind before I had to get to bed relatively early for work tomorrow.
Oh! Speaking of which, it is confirmed that I did not get the Goodwill job. I was, however, informed that I was their second choice. So, hooray for being the first place loser!
Moving on. When we returned from our run, I was feeling a bit sore, so I popped the tomatoes on the oven to sauce up, and I hopped in the shower. Upon stepping out of the shower and dressing, a burning smell came to me. I looked at Eric, “did you not check on that burning smell?”
“What burning smell?”
Burned sugar tomato paste all on the bottom of the pan was the only answer to that question. I was quite proud of myself for keeping calm enough to scoop out the remaining tomatoes, turn off the burner, and put my possibly ruined pan in the sink to soak.
My answer to this level of failure: I promptly opened a beer and sat on the couch to write this post.
Eric has since finished showering and gone out to procure more tomatoes, so that I might try to not burn a batch of sauce and provide him with dinner. I’m not sure if I’ll be up for eating it, to be honest. And I don’t know that I’ll be up for the game that I set out, especially with an ego that has taken more than a few hits this week.
What I will take away from this is that I should not take even quick showers while making anything, unless I give explicit directions to watch the item that is cooking.
Also, I will have to take a look at the pan again. I can’t imagine how it could have gotten so hot so quickly.
So…I lied about being patient and reading and learning before canning. This weekend, Eric and I went and bought the final supplies for our canning adventures.
And then we made peach-honey butter.
Here are some things we learned:
1. We were given two pressure cookers, which is awesome, but unnecessary for things like jams and pickles. They will be necessary for things like green beans.
2. It is a good idea to have two people working at once. Eric was in charge of jars, and I was in charge of cooking.
3. Canning is really just making a really big batch of something, and then doing the right things to preserve that something. For some stuff, the recipes aren’t that different.
4. Always sterilize more jars than you think you will need! We had to quickly clean and cook two more jars when I realized I had more peach butter than we expected.
We got four jars and a little extra that we have already eaten. That means 4 gifts made! We are taking one with us to Ohio this weekend when we visit some friends.
It was super fun!
And now I’ve got the bug. Eric wants to pickle. I want to make everything and save it. I believe we’ve created yet another monster.
I am being overwhelmed with craft ideas. And when that happens, I usually end up sitting on the couch doing nothing. Much like I am doing now. Except I have an excuse today.
While carrying the multiple boxes of jars downstairs, gravity decided to bring up an old argument. Luckily I wasn’t carrying jars by then – just one of the very light cookers – but I was, alas, on the stairs. So I am nursing a twisted ankle, sore leg, and bruised back.
I made almond milk! I am excited about it, too. My mother-in-law had been talking about her cutting out dairy products, and she is coming over this weekend, so I wanted to try it out before she came over. Eric and I are also working on avoiding some dairy, but we are cheese fanatics, so it’s been rough going. We’ve been buying soy milk, but they put a lot of extra crap in that stuff; mom gave me the basic recipe, and I soaked my almonds last night.
So now I am planning on making some almond meal/flour! I don’t have time to bake this stuff tonight, so I’ll throw it in the fridge for now and do it tomorrow, but my ultimate goal is to bake something using both the flour and the milk. I’m thinking cookies.
There is something so gratifying about making your own food.