Saturday, March 26, 2011

Home: Canning Dreams

So last weekend was a gorgeous, 70 degree, Saturday.

You know the kind...babies laughing, children riding their bikes, gardens being planned with hope and expectation, lunches being made and consumed outdoors...

...neighbors, pulling down their pants and urinating in plain view.

I'm not exactly sure why my neighbor couldn't walk five feet into his house to relieve himself...but I'm sure his reply, had I said something, would have been along the lines of "it's my dang property, I can do what I want."

I make that assumption, only because a few hours later on this same delightful, promise-filled day, my husband was outside playing with our dogs... and the neighbor's teenager, hit him with a BB (thankfully, said BB, hit the visor of his hat, and not his eyeball). And the neighbors kid responded along the lines of "it's my dang gun, I can do what I want."  Spoken like any good ol', red blooded, American...

So you know...obviously...summer is in the air.

And it got me thinkin' about retiring the pumpkin for a bit and pulling out the canning supplies again...

So, I thought a little preview might be in order! Here's what I've got planned for Spring and early Summer:

Strawberry Jam; how can I not?

Strawberry and Lavender Jam; home grown lavender is sure to invoke memories of Lyon...

Strawberry Jam with Thai Herbs; think cilantro, ripe berries, sugar, and balsamic vinegar...can't help but drool a little.

Strawberry Butter; hubba hubba

Rhubarb Something or Other; I've been a little fixated on growing rhubarb...but it takes two years to establish and I believe I've mentioned once or twice before, how patience is not my this will likely be based on what I can find at the City Market.

Pickled Asparagus; we'll see.

Carrot Pickles; apparently, all the rage in San Francisco. Who knew?

Anyway. That was the dream...until today.

Now the dream has morphed into visions of ice scrapers and earmuffs. But at least I can rest assured that my neighbor will relieve himself indoors...


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Age Old Rituals: Pumpkin King Cake

Today is Shrove Tuesday.  A day in which we are "to shrive" or, for those who speak modern English... a day of celebratory penance.

Traditionally, Shrove Tuesday has been set aside as a day to confess one's sins, receive absolution, and thus, free one's self from sin and guilt... before entering into the somber and penitential season known within the Christian and Catholic churches, as Lent.

At some point, we interpreted this to mean... "drink as much alcohol as humanly possible and show your breasts to strangers, in order to collect cheap beads and trinkets."

What?  You don't see the connection?

God is... so proud of us.

If flashing a neighbor is out of the question and confession isn't really up your alley... try a King Cake.  Pumpkin style. (There are lots and lots of King Cake recipes out there, and this one, is a conglomeration... but surprisingly, I didn't find a single one, which included pumpkin! So there you go.)

What you'll need:

For the cake/pastry
1/2 Cup milk
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Package active dry yeast
1/3 Cup warm water (110*F/45*C)
1/4 Cup white sugar
1 Egg
3/4 Teaspoon salt
1/4 Teaspoon nutmeg
2-3/4 Cups flour

For the filling
1/2 Cup packed brown sugar
1-1/2 Teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/3 Cup pecans (chopped)
1/4 Cup flour
1/4 Cup melted butter
1/2 Cup pumpkin puree

For the icing
1/2 Cup confectioners sugar
1-1/2 Teaspoons water
Colored sugar
A bean of your choosing

Scald milk, remove from heat and stir in butter. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1 tablespoon of the white sugar. Let stand until frothy, about 10 minutes.

When yeast mixture is frothy, add the cooled milk mixture. Whisk in the egg. Stir in the remaining sugar, salt and nutmeg. Beat the flour into the milk/egg mixture 1 cup at a time. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

While that's doing its thing, combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, and 1/2 cup flour. Pour 1/2 cup melted butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.  Add the puree and stir.

Roll dough out into a large rectangle (approximately 10x16 inches or so). Spread the filling evenly over the dough and roll tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the widest side. Bring the ends of each roll together to form an oval shaped ring. (Mine lost it's oval-ness, but tasted just fine.) Place on a greased or parchment covered cookie sheet. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.  Preheat your oven to 375*.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Push a doll or a bean into the bottom of the cake. Frost while warm with the powdered sugar blended with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water.  Sprinkle with colored sugar, according to your preference.

Cut a piece while it's still warm, and Oh. My. Gosh.  You'll know then, what it is that you shall "shrive." 

Blessings to you this Shrove Tuesday...

Friday, March 4, 2011

Resentments: Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

There's a lot being said these days, about dear old Charlie Sheen.

How he's gone crazy... how the drugs have finally done their job... how he's a sex addict. Or an alcoholic. Or addicted to the Internet. Or chocolate. Or peanut shells. Or eating the dadgum stuffing found inside your living room couch. (Did anyone see that special on TLC?)

I don't agree with any of these assertions. I think... he's an overpaid punk that's never had to work for the life he lives and can't comprehend the normal boundaries which the rest of the world (either willingly or reluctantly) lives within.

But that's just me.

What can I say? Compassion is not my strong suit.

I say... put him in one of these get-ups for a few weeks. And lets see what happens?

"Resentments...are the rocket fuel that lives in the tip of my saber." (C. Sheen, 2011)

Yeah. You don't know how many times I've heard that, this past week.

Ignore this who-haw, and bake some cookies.  Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies.
What you'll need:
2 Cups all purpose flour
2 1/3 Cups old fashioned oats
1 Teaspoon baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon baking powder
1/2 Teaspoon salt
2 Teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (it's like, the bottle that never runs dry!)
1 Cup (2 sticks) butter - softened
3/4 Cup dark brown sugar
3/4 Cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons honey
1 Cup pumpkin puree
1 Large egg
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Extra bits: cranberries, chocolate chips, walnuts, pecans, etc.

Preheat your oven to 350* and line the baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add egg, pumpkin, vanilla, and spices and mix until just combined.  Add flour, baking soda, and baking powder, stirring until combined... then add your oats.

Divide your batter and add your "bits" accordingly. I put cranberries and walnuts in one batch (Yum!)... semi-sweet chocolate chips in another (meh.).. pecans and milk chocolate (okay)... plain pecans (the best!)... just throw in whatever your little, crazy heart desires.

Bake each batch 10-13 minutes.

And by the way, for those of you who know the cone head above... he is doing well. He's certainly not fixed, but at the very least, we bought some more time.  Time... to live with his incoherent rantings, hotdog binges, and shady behavior with Princess, the street-dog from down the road.  Sigh.