No Knitting

InCoWriMo 2017

What the heck, you ask, is InCoWriMo? I asked the same thing and when I found out, I jumped in with both feet. InCoWriMo is short for International Correspondence Writing Month. The whole idea is to write one letter every day for an entire month. Thankfully, the month chosen is February, the shortest month.

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Seeing as I’m already a member of Postcrossing, a worldwide post card exchange, and I love my fountain pens and am looking for any reason to use them, this is a natural progression. So far, I have 18 people slated to receive some kind of handwritten correspondence, some through Postcrossing, some through other forums I’m on.

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Want to learn more? You can check out the web page here. Why not consider joining me? It doesn’t have to be a letter, per se, just correspondence of some kind… a letter, a note, a postcard… whatever. You just have to write one every day. You can mail it, you can hand deliver it, either way is fine.

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And, honestly? Everyone loves getting mail that isn’t a bill.Don’t you? Would you like to get a letter/note from me? Email me your snail mail address at peridot1454 at gmail dot com and I’ll add you to my list. Or ask me for my address so you can send ME some snail mail.

Snail mail concept

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Categories: InCoWriMo2017, No Knitting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dessert!

Before I even start this post, let me make it clear that I rarely eat dessert. I love making yummy things but, after one piece, I rarely have any more. Seriously. You know that apple pie and the lemon meringue pie I made for Thanksgiving? One piece of each. All those cookies? Maybe 4 of each….total.

I love baking. I just don’t eat much of it.

I think tonight might be different.

A couple of weeks ago (Thanksgiving weekend, to be precise), in order to make the Lemon Meringue Pie, I bought a bunch of lemons including a bag of Meyer lemons. I still had quite a few left. Then, this week, John came  home with apples. Not just a bag of apples, but four boxes! I was told I could make as many pies as I wanted.

Today, I decided I didn’t want to bake pies so I went on the hunt for apple cake recipes and found a recipe for a French Apple Cake. It looked simple enough. It’s basically apples held together with a bit of batter.

Oh my!

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With some whipped cream, this cake is amazing! It isn’t super sweet, even with the icing sugar dusted on it. As I said, it’s more apple than batter. It’s also flavoured with rum, not so much that it’s boozy but just a flavour. If you do decide to try it, I strongly suggest that you leave the rum in it; honestly, it’s really good! Oh, we decided to make it a little more decadent by drizzling the cake with salted caramel sauce. It didn’t need it, though. Both John and I agreed that, though it’s great as it is, this is a basic recipe that could easily be modified. What goes with apple? John suggested, believe it or not, lavender. I thought, perhaps, almond. It’s a recipe that invites experimentation. And I just happen to have a few more apples.

Then there were the lemons. Sure, I could have made another lemon meringue pie, or two. I know Trinity would have been thrilled. It just happens, however, that I bought a new bundt pan today (something I didn’t have until now) so I started looking at bundt cake recipes today. A number of the recipes I found start out with a boxed cake mix but if you know me at all, you will know that there are no boxed cake mixes in my house nor are there ever likely to be. I kept looking until I found this one.

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With lemon juice in the cake, lemon juice in the glaze, and a sprinkling of lemon sugar on top of it all, this is one lemony treat. The cake is a hot milk cake and is so moist and flavourful, John was pretty much moaning with pleasure. I made on very small alteration to the recipe; when the cake came out of the pan (cleanly, I might add), I brushed the entire cake with lemon juice, giving it even more lemony flavour. I think Trinity will like it.

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Dinner was amazing. Sorry you weren’t here to enjoy it with us.

Categories: Baking, Blogging, No Knitting | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Gluten Free Experimentation

Let’s get things out in the open right from the start… I am not gluten intolerant. So, why am I experimenting with gluten free baking? Well, I happen to have people in my family who ARE gluten intolerant. Because I do a fair bit of baking, I’ve been challenged by my daughter to change at least some of my recipes to gluten free. Ok, challenge accepted.

With Thanksgiving on Monday, I decided it was time to try making a gf dessert – Lemon Meringue Pie. This morning was spent looking up gluten free baking and recipes for pie pastry. I’ve got the filling down pat; I’m using a recipe I’ve been making since high school (a very long time ago!). The recipe I settled on was this one, from Gluten Free Girl.

I’m following the directions from a Serious Eats recipe, one that worked very well for me last week when I baked an apple pie. One thing I noticed right away is that the dough is much whiter than my regular pie dough. That may be the result of the flour blend I’m using, I suppose. This particular blend is a mixture of  white rice flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, and guar gum. The directions say to substitute 1 cup of wheat flour for 1 cup gf flour mix so that’s what I went with. The slip of paper that came with the gf flour reads “This Gluten Free Flour blend is good for breads, cookies, cakes & most general gluten free baking”.

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Right now, my pie shell has been baking for about 10 minutes; I’ve just removed the parchment and baking beads and it’s back in the oven at a lower temperature to finish baking.

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Ok, I let the bottom get a little dark. At least I know it’s baked through! In my reading, I read a few posts that said that an all butter crust doesn’t always hold its shape well. Many suggested freezing the pastry for about 15 minutes to half an hour before baking so I did. I must say it held its shape quite well. I’m pretty happy with it, all in all.

As I’m writing this post, I’m also baking this pie. This is real time blogging! At this very moment, the pie is back in the oven. The lemon filling is in, the meringue on top and it’s baking for a few more minutes, until the meringue is lightly browned, just the way we like it.

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Unfortunately, I can’t tell you… .yet… how it turned out. I’m really happy with the appearance. There were some bits of pastry stuck to the parchment and they were pretty flaky and tender but the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. It needs to cool; it needs to set. Thanksgiving dinner must be eaten. Only then will dessert be presented.

If we can wait that long. I’ll let you know.

Categories: Baking, No Knitting | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Further Adventures in Fermentation

So, a couple of posts ago, I told you about my first forays into the art of fermentation. Let’s see, I’ve made sauerkraut (not bad), pickles (nobody likes them… I’ve disposed of them), picked beans (um… also not a major success), pickled cauliflower (won’t ANYBODY try them??), water kefir, and kombucha.

Notice that those last two have no comments? Well, that’s because the kombucha has been going strong. I had one batch that went very wrong (smelled suspiciously like a sewage tank.. not very palatable) and started fresh. I was able to purchase a scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast… look it up but be prepared – it looks like slime… see below) as well as starting another one from a bottle of purchased unflavoured and raw kombucha. A few months in, my kombucha is pretty darned tasty, if I do say so myself.

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The beginnings of a new scoby on the surface of a batch of kombucha. The larger blob is the original scoby, used to ferment this batch.

If you’re not familiar with kombucha, it’s a fermented beverage made with tea, sugar, and a scoby, a bacteria/yeast culture that feeds on the sugar and the caffeine in the tea. When the process is complete (or to one’s satisfaction), the resulting beverage is kind of tangy/sour/sweet and slightly fizzy. Flavourings like juice, berries, herbs, syrups, etc. can be added in a second ferment in a sealed bottle and the resulting drink can become quite fizzy. The batch I bottled earlier today (pictured below) is seasoned with blackberries and lavender and is one of my favourite combos.

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It’s a drink that has been around for a long time (possible thousands of years) and there are many reported, but largely unproven, health benefits. For myself, I can say that some developing hip pains have pretty much gone. Is is from the kombucha? I don’t know. Thing is, I like this stuff. It’s easy to make. It tastes good. I’m drinking something that’s filled with probiotics and that can’t be bad for my body.

The water kefir, on the other hand, seemed to be going very well. Unfortunately, it was so sickly sweet that I was concerned that it wasn’t fermenting properly. I threw it all out. I do, however, have a couple of bottles that turned out so well that I’m tempted to try again. Tempted. I haven’t broken down yet and purchased more water kefir grains. I have a bar fridge filled with kombucha that will need to be consumed before I seriously consider it.

As for other fermented foods? I like the idea of fermentation but, around here, if no one’s going to like or eat them, why make them?

Categories: Blogging, Fermentation, Health, Just stuff, kefir, kombucha, No Knitting, water kefir | 1 Comment

Fermented, not Demented

In regards to the title, there are those who might (just might) consider me slightly demented when it comes to playing with my food. My latest…. ok, let’s call it what it is… obsession is fermented foods. My first batch of kombucha is now in bottles for its second ferment (to encourage the fizzies). My first small batch of rhubarb honey soda (2 bottles… that’s all…. 2 bottles, ok?) is in bottles.

The rhubarb soda will be moving into the fridge a little later, after I’ve tidied and re-arranged the fridge. I think it’s something the kids will enjoy later today – after I’ve had a taste of it, of course.

In other ferments, I have a ginger bug on my kitchen counter; there’s some heavy cream that has been cultured with yogurt, ready to be turned into cultured butter. There’s a kefir starter in my fridge and there’s a jar of water kefir on my stove. There’s also a jar of sauerkraut in the closet under my stairs. I think that’s it…. for now.

So where did this kick come from? I’m not really sure, to be honest. It may have been started by a thread on the Soap Making Forum, one about sauerkraut made the old way, with nothing but salt. It may have been something I saw on Pinterest. In any case, whatever it was sparked my curiosity enough to start doing some research. The sauerkraut came first.

It won’t be ready for another week or two. It’s beginning to sour but, at the moment, is still on the salty and crunchy side. I’ll have to get Trinity to taste it later; she’s our resident sauerkraut fanatic. She could eat it by the jar full!

Kombucha is something I haven’t had before, that I can remember. Kristen reminded me that her Oma used to make it but no one wanted to try it. It was…. icky! There was this giant blob of stuff in a bucket and she would drink some of the liquid daily. It really was rather disgusting-looking. Now, here I am, years later, making it and drinking it myself.

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Center – 3 bottles blackberry/blueberry  kombucha. The other 4.5 are rhubarb honey kombucha. Second ferment to promote carbonation

Kefir is another word I’ve heard before but wasn’t really familiar with. Honestly, it reminds me of buttermilk, one of my favourite things.  Water kefir, though, is a whole new thing for me. I was able to score some kefir grains for both kinds (thanks to Kristen for the milk kefir grains). I haven’t yet made a batch with the grains from Kristen but they’re activated and ready to go. My (very) local health food store carries water kefir grains so I decided to try those as well. Right now, there’s a batch brewing in a mason jar on my stove, made with water, sugar, a hint of molasses, and about 1/4 lemon. It’s been there overnight and I’ll be trying it shortly.

Well, this is turning out to be a very rambling post. I’ll end here. If you have any tips or hints for me, please don’t hesitate to leave them. I’m still doing a lot of research via the google machine (and Pinterest) and I’m absolutely fascinated by the whole fermented food movement. I do find that I feel better since starting with kombucha (which is why I’ve started making it). I feel… I’m not sure how to describe it… a little more balanced? I’m sleeping better, I don’t feel as bloated as I often do… just better.

I’d like to keep it that way.

Categories: Cooking, No Knitting | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sick Day

Ethan has been sick this week. With his mom working, and me working, babysitting duties have fallen to Grandpa John. That lasted one day. Then, I got sick, too. Yesterday (Thursday), both Ethan and I had a sick day. (I’m having another one today; this cough is painful and I’m exhausted!)

Yesterday was one of those gorgeous spring days. It’s chilly in the shade but the sunshine is oh, so lovely. Ethan was definitely feeling better than he did on Wednesday and, after a lunch of Lipton’s Chicken Noodle Soup and a hot dog, he decided to play outside… with my camera.

There’s been a lot of renovation going on in the suite next door and each of the guys working there, or watching there, has a dog. In all, there were four dogs around the property yesterday and Ethan adores all of them. That was one of the reasons he asked if he could use my camera. Here are a few of the shots we took…

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Categories: Blogging, Just stuff, No Knitting, Nonsense | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Slow Cookers & Stuff

Well, I’ve had my slow cooker for almost a month now and I can honestly say, I like it! It’s so easy to throw all the ingredients into the pot, turn it on, and walk away knowing that, by the time we want it, dinner will be waiting for us. The challenge, at least for me, is finding recipes that appeal to us. We like simple, good food but there needs to be a depth of flavour that so many recipes seem to be missing. We don’t use a lot of processed foods so anything that uses canned soups, and ready made “ingredients” is out.

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So far, we’ve tried a lentil soup (which was delicious), Chicken Tikka Masala (which was good but the recipe needs something… it lacked depth), and today I have Provencal Daube of Beef (from a library book). It’s basically a beef stew with Mediterranean flavours, marinated in wine with herbs and orange peel, and loaded with onions, carrots, mushrooms, black olives, and tomatoes. I’m already looking forward to dinner and it’s only 8:00 a.m.!

Kristen has been sounding very interested in getting a slow cooker after sampling what we’ve been making. Her birthday was this week and that got me thinking. Last weekend, I called her and asked if she would like a slow cooker for her birthday. I wanted to head over to Canadian Tire, where I got mine, and I told her that, if they were still on sale, I’d buy one for her.

The were, sort of. I paid $29.99 (+ taxes) for mine in a post-Christmas sale; the regular price was $49.99. They were on sale for $45.99, not much of a savings but still, $4.00 is $4.00. I put it in my cart. Then, I started wandering the aisles. I didn’t realize they had a sale table with items that had been returned. There was a crock pot on that table, exactly like the one I had in my cart. I looked for a price tag, not seeing it right away. When I did finally find the price, I immediately put it in my cart and put the other one back on the shelf.

The note on the tag read “opened, not suitable” and the price? $15.00. Yes, you read that right… $15.00! She is now the proud owner of a brand new crock pot and I have someone to swap recipes with.

So, what’s in YOUR crock pot/slow cooker?

Categories: Cooking, No Knitting | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Almost Christmas

Time certainly flies when there’s much to do. It’s almost Christmas already. Here, in the house, you’d never know. The only decorations up are the Christmas cards that have been trickling in and the giant 3D snowflake Trinity made for us.

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While the kids were here yesterday, we made a batch of sugar cookies; Ethan was more interested in breaking eggs and adding ingredients while Trinity was most helpful when it came to rolling out the dough and cutting it with cookie cutters. We embellished them very simply with some coarse vanilla sugar. When they left, I gave Kristen a small tin of cookies and kept a small tin for ourselves.

Sugar cookies

Today, I’ll be baking up a couple of very Dutch recipes, speculaas squares and koek, a spiced loaf cake. If you’re interested, you can find the recipe on my cooking blog (also sorely neglected), In Ev’s Kitchen.

We’ve decided to go completely non-traditional with this year’s Christmas dinner. When I asked Kristen what we should have, and suggested turkey, she nixxed the idea right away. Between the three of us, Kristen, John, and myself, we decided to have a prime rib roast with Yorkshire puddings and a variety of vegetables. No stuffing, unfortunately. That’s my favourite part of Christmas dinner. Yorkies make up for it a little bit, I suppose. They’re definitely a favourite around here.

As for Christmas day, the weather man has guaranteed that we’ll be having a white Christmas this year. There’s snow on the ground now, with light snow falling.

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To all of my family and friends, I hope you have a wonder-full, safe Christmas and I wish you a happy and prosperous 2016.

Christmas Tree Hand-Lettering

 

Categories: Baking, Blogging, Cooking, Just stuff, No Knitting, The Weather | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

October Means Halloween

It seems we have a tradition started. Living in an apartment doesn’t give Kristen and the kids much room, or a place, for pumpkins. Last year, she and the kids brought their pumpkins here and carved them. Yesterday, we repeated that event.

They picked up their pumpkins from a local grower and brought them over here for carving while I was finishing up another batch of soap.

A fun and productive afternoon was had by all.

Categories: Blogging, Finished, Garden, Just stuff, No Knitting, Soap | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sandie, This One’s For You

When I started posting about the soaps I’m making, Sandie commented that I should make a chocolate soap. I listened, Sandie (so to speak… how do you “listen” to a written comment?). I’ve just been waiting for the perfect recipe. Well, I found it.

Voila! Double Chocolate Soap…

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Unfortunately, it doesn’t smell like chocolate because I couldn’t find any chocolate fragrance oil. It is, though, two shades of chocolate and does include some real chocolate among the oils. The darker layer is coloured with Dutch process cocoa powder while the top layer is just the oils with semi-sweet chocolate.

I was attempting to do something called a pencil line – a thin line of another colour – but it didn’t work very well. You can see it but barely; this bar has the most visible line of all of them. Often, it’s done with a sprinkling of cocoa over one layer of soap with another layer poured on top of it. Apparently, I didn’t use enough of the bronze mica powder I was using. I know for next time.

Last night, after cutting the chocolate soap, I also cut the swirl soap. It was still pretty soft and I probably should have left it for another day but…. well, I’m impatient and I really wanted to see how it turned out.

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I’m satisfied. It isn’t perfect but I do like the look of it. Unfortunately, you can see that the colorant didn’t get evenly dispersed in the oil I used to blend it. I used a small wire whip to mix the oil and the colorant; I should have used more oil, I think, or spent more time getting it thoroughly mixed. Lesson learned. On the whole, though, the technique was fun. I’ll use a different recipe next time, though; this soap, after almost 48 hours is still very soft and will take a good long time to cure.

Today, there will be no soap making… I have been told (it’s okay, I hadn’t planned on making any today, anyway). Today, we will be making REAL french fries… fried in beef tallow. Which John doesn’t mind buying, now that he knows that our local butcher carries rendered beef tallow. Which I like using in soap. Which makes THE best french fries ever. That is a win/win in my book.

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Categories: Blogging, Cooking, Finished, Just stuff, Making Soap, No Knitting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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