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Don’t F. with the Pancakes 2

Posted on July 04, 2011 by crankycheryl

We were preparing for our first camping trip of the year a couple weeks back and it occurred to me:  Muffins!  I could make muffins!  I don’t have to make pancakes in the morning.  I always burn them anyway – how much can they really like them?  I mean, I could make CHOCOLATE muffins.  We LOVE chocolate!  I can even put chocolate CHIPS in them.  They’ll be so happy.  And I’ll be happy not having to clean up that big mess.

They were not happy.  I forgot the cardinal rule:  do not mess with tradition.  But I remembered it once I saw their faces fall, the disbelief as they looked at each other.  I mean, they seemed to think, divorce is one thing.  But this no pancake crap is just too much.

And they’re right.  We live our lives in a state of Plan B.  I’m forever ambitious and re-focusing what we’re going to do, dragging them off to this and that social event, a new activity to try, friends of mine with kids they don’t necessarily love.  They have ample opportunity to adapt, to make peace with a reality they didn’t choose, to punt and duct tape to get through their days.

So as we prepare for our second camping trip of the year, I dug this post up.  And I made the pancake mix.  And off we go.

Originally posted June 2009

I always burn the pancakes.  As I was making the dry mix to bring along with us, I was trying to talk myself out of freshly made pancake breakfasts on the cookstove for our first camping trip of the year.  I always make pancakes when we’re camping. I always burn them, distracted or inattentive for one minute and there they go.

I was grabbing ingredients for the mix and calculating times to see if I could possibly cook the pancakes ahead to just reheat on site, I kept thinking how I always burn them.  Mommy always burns the pancakes.  We go camping and we can count on a few things – hikes, and beach time, and s’mores, and our funny orange sleeping bags.  We try to stay in our favorite sites and leantos and we love to travel with our favorite friends, and in the morning Mommy burns the pancakes.

 

uu camping 037

So I made the mix and brought the add-ins (fresh blueberries, blueberry jam for putting on top).  We hiked and the boys were big enough to set free to explore the brook behind our campsite and we all got covered in mud and found cool pieces of mica and couldn’t get our fire going to save our  lives.  And in the mornings I burnt the pancakes and all was right in our camping world.

Well, you know, sort of.

Pancake Mix

  • 2 c. unbleached white flour
  • 2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c. buckwheat flour
  • 1/4 c. + 2 T. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. cream of tartar
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1/2 c. instant nonfat dry milk
  • 3/4 c. powdered buttermilk
  • equivalent of 2 powdered eggs (or 3 egg whites)

Rehydrate with about 1 1/2 c. water and 2 T. oil.  Cook until burnt.

 

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The June List 2

Posted on June 21, 2011 by crankycheryl

We picked strawberries today at the Charlotte Berry Farm, a.k.a. “berry picking heaven.”  The boys love it because they have excellent toys and creemees, and I love that the farm is owned and staffed by lovely people who don’t spray their strawberries with all manner of toxic badness.

Though the little guys did primarily focus on Legos, I got E. in the field with me to pick berries for the first time ever.  He was racing up and down the rows with his flat, screeching when he found big berries and plucking and plucking away.  Who knew that all I had to do was casually tell him to come with me and he would?

And if we’re picking strawberries, it must be June, a realization that leaves me in the blessed and happy-anxious state of preparing for the Vermont harvest ahead.  It’s true that it’s off to a slow start because of our sodden fields (beautifully written about by Melissa Pasanen in our local paper).  But it’s still time to think about preparing for easy meals in the hot months ahead – not to mention the long winter that’s not too far behind.

So today’s Tuesday Tip is my Food To-Do List for June.  I’m about halfway through, and I will or won’t get there but at least we’ll have berries.

  • Try to use up any lingering 2010 food that’s still in the freezer.
  • Then defrost the freezer.  But do remember to put down something to catch the water.  Yep.
  • If buying ahead, choose items that will combine well with salad ingredients or grilled meals.
  • Pick strawberries for freezing or canning (this year I’m not making strawberry jam and am only freezing).
  • Pick first greens for braising/cooking and blanch and freeze them.
  • Put aside one or two cool nights for baking muffins, cookies and biscuits so I’ve got some baked goods in the freezer for when it’s too hot to crank the oven.
  • Pick rhubarb and freeze it.
  • Pick thyme before it’s in flower and dry it (oops – nearly before it’s in flower).

Or you could just go have a creemee.

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Make Marmalade in March 3

Posted on March 12, 2011 by crankycheryl

It’s March and the birds are singing like it’s spring.  I don’t know if it’s a lion or a lamb, but our colossal snow fall is now running down the streets in rivers of rain water.

 

Things just seem to becoming more and more, I don’t know, richer, deeper, entwined.  Now a dear friend’s daughter is coming to spend a night with us every week since her family’s having a hard time.  E. is in the school play, along with children with people I knew 20 years ago when I was young and crazy and looking at them across the school gym is just like looking across a dark club at them and I’m wondering if I still find them intimidating.   At church, Z.’s class is making soup to share with hungry neighbors so we’ve got beans on the stove to add to tomorrow’s soup pot.   My heart catches, twisting as I watch the kids coming into their own lives, laughing, earnest and wild.

 

And it’s March, it’s my father’s birthday month and it’s peak citrus season.  He loves marmalade and so I made him a big batch for his birthday.  Marmalade always feels like a special success when it works.  Whereas a berry jam has some body, marmalade is really just sugar with juice and peel so it really has to set up just on the basis of getting it to the right temperature.  I find this usually takes a bit longer than recipes indicate – if you go ahead and make it, just make sure you’ve got the hands-on time it needs.

Orange-Grapefruit Marmalade
6 1-cup jars
Adapted from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

1.  With a sharp paring knife, remove the zest from:

  • 3 lbs. mixed organic oranges and grapefruit.

Far be it from me to question the canning gods over at Ball, but I found their instructions to score the fruit into quarters, remove the peel a quarter at a time and then use a paring knife to scrape out the bitter pith unworkable.  So I pulled out this and used it instead:

You can also do this with any vegetable peeler as long as you’re careful to leave as much of the white pith behind as you can.

2.  Set the fruit aside and place peel in a stainless steel saucepan with enough water to cover generously.  Bring to a boil and boil gently for 10 minutes.  Drain off the water, cover again and repeat, until peel is softened.

3.  Over a saucepan or bowl to catch juice, use a sharp paring knife to remove the pith from the fruit, and then separate the segments from the tougher membrane.  Put the fruit into the saucepan and squeeze the membrane to make sure all the juice is in.  Toss out seeds and pith (but if you have a use for them please let me know).

4.  To the saucepan with segments add:

  • the cooked peel
  • 4 cups of water

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce the heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until peel is very soft, about 30 minutes.

Remove from heat and measure 6 cups, adding water if necessary to reach that amount.

5.  Prepare your canner, jars, and lids.

6.  Ladle 3 cups of the cooked mixture into a deep stainless steel saucepan.  Ladle remaining mixture into a second saucepan.  Bring both to a boil over medium-high heat.  Keeping it at a boil, slowly stir:

  • 3 cups sugar

into each pan.  Boil hard, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches the gel stage.  Remove from heat to test, and then keep cooking if necessary (My recipe said it would take 12 minutes, but it took 45.  Here’s how to test.)  Once you’ve gotten there, skim off the foam.

7.  Ladle hot marmalade into jars, leaving 1/4″ head space.  Remove the air bubbles by poking down the side with a chopstick, and add more marmalade if necessary to get the proper amount of headspace.  Wipe rim, center lid on jar, and screw the band on without overtightening.

 

8.  Place jars in canner so that they’re completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil, cover and process for 10 minutes.  Remove the canner lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars to cool and listen for that satisfying little pop that means the jar has successfully sealed.  (If it doesn’t, just keep it in your fridge and eat up in the next couple of weeks.)

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Beet, Fennel & Goat Cheese Crostini 2

Posted on June 25, 2010 by crankycheryl

Well, not crostini exactly since the bread isn’t crisp.  Maybe canape, but they anyway were what I brought to a veggie potluck this week.  I skipped the crisping because I always kind of hate the inevitable crumble and collapse of bruschetta and crostini after you take one bite and before you know it you’re dripping tomato cubes and apologizing to the hostess about the carpet.

Not only was I taking such care of my future co-eaters, but then I felt myself simpering with smugness about being able to combine thawed roasted beets from the freezer, fresh snipped fennel fronds from the garden, a Brie-like goat cheese from our CSA share, and apricot preserves from last year.

Character flaws aside, what’s really nice about these is that they can be an inspiration for all sorts of summer eating.  A piece of good bread, crisped or not, a slice or schmear of cheese, a tart and fruity something on top, and a sprig of some fresh herb or other – lots of possibilities.   I made this version thinking about how the different kinds of sweetness of beets, apricots, and fennel would play with the creamy cheese on baguette.  But you of course will adapt it to use what you’ve got around.

Beet, Fennel & Goat Cheese Canapes
About 25 pieces

Arrange on a platter:

  • 25 (or whatever) thin slices of baguette, lightly brushed with
  • extra virgin olive oil (you’ll need about 2 T.)

Place on bread:

  • 1 slice Caprella, Camembert, Brie, or any soft cheese you like

Set bread aside.

Combine and puree in a blender, or a bowl that will accommodate an immersion blender:

  • 1/4 c. apricot (or other fruit) preserves
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. sherry (or other mild) vinegar
  • pinch salt
  • pinch sugar

Pour dressing into a medium bowl.

Cut into small dice:

  • 2 c. worth roasted beets (or plum, peach, apricot, melon, tomato, etc.)

Combine dressing and beets or fruit with:

  • 2 T. finely chopped fennel fronds (or basil, lemon balm, nasturtium leaves)

Place a heaping teaspoon of the beet mixture on top of the bread and cheese and top with:

  • 1 small sprig of your chosen herb.
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Blessed Silence Sunday: Life of the Dutch Baby Pancake 5

Posted on January 24, 2010 by crankycheryl

Crockpot Apple Butter 2

Posted on October 21, 2009 by crankycheryl

I don’t know what’s happening here, but I know that I’ve got far too much to do and far too many apples that have been sitting around here since I picked them (more like “picked them up off the ground”) on Saturday.  They’re starting to look kind of surly and impatient.

I’m so busy right now, working here and here and on this.  Work is good!  But it’s cutting into my cooking and blogging time, for sure.

Still, I found myself with the time to make some apple butter, and the time to at least plan to make some chunky apple-raisin-spice jam.  Or more apple butter.  Or compost, at the rate this is going.

In any case, if you find yourself with a wild herd of apples looking accusingly at you, may I suggest getting out or borrowing a crockpot and making yourself some delicious apple butter?  It’s easy, and a comforting balm for these overworked days.

The recipe is simple.

Get a boatload of apples.

applepicking 008

Peel and cut a bunch of apples.   If you have a good peeler/corer/slicer, go ahead and use it.  (Maybe you’ll have results better than mine.)  If you have a crappy one, why not just skip it and use the usual implements like these?

apple butter 2 004

Peel and cut until your crockpot is full.  Maybe a little less full than this:

apple butter 2 001

Put the lid on and turn the heat up to high.  Let it cook for 8 hours, maybe while you sleep.  But if you actually get 8 hours of sleep a night, don’t boast about it, okay?

In the morning, or after whichever 8 hours you choose, your apples will have cooked down to something like this:

apple butter 2 008Mash it all up with a wooden spoon, add 1 – 3 cups of sugar, and a 1/2 t. of whatever spices you like, maybe some cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, the usual.  Turn the heat down to low and cook for another 8 hours.  When it’s done, it will be a thick brown fudgy goo, looking maybe chocolate-y.  It’s not chocolate, but it will make people make yummy sounds and start going through your cupboards for a container to take some home in.

To eat it, just spread it on some good bread and enjoy.

apple butter on bread 002

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Apple Truckload Saturday 2

Posted on October 17, 2009 by crankycheryl

applepicking 006

Today was Shelburne Orchard‘s Truckload Saturday, and some neighbors and I went to load up – $50 for two carloads of Macs, Galas, Liberty’s, and Empires.  These neighbors, in fact:

applepicking 021

CrankyGreg says we looked like a bunch of hip, radical nuns, which I can live with.  We took our blessed selves and went and scavenged the “falls,” and jostled the last attached ones out of their branches.  And I’m wildly pleased to report that I climbed a tree to chase down some high-hanging Galas.

After a couple of hours we had two cars full of apples and were hungry, so we went up to the Orchard’s store and food area, where we found an enormous apple pie,

applepicking 019and these nice people frying up onion rings made with Ginger Jack in the batter,

applepicking 025

and sausages roasting inside their brick oven.

applepicking 028So now I’ve got 4 bags (about 2 bushels) of apples hanging around.  I’ve taken the first batch and started some Crock Pot Apple Butter.  With the rest, I’d like to can Apple Pie Filling, but can’t seem to find the Clear Jel I’d need.  Maybe more applesauce, maybe something else, whatever it is I’m sure E. & Z. will be tired of it long before it’s gone.

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Three Things To Do With … That Jam On Your Shelf 1

Posted on September 03, 2009 by crankycheryl
From pickyourown.org.  My camera isnt back from the doctor yet.  But our plums did look a lot like these.

From pickyourown.org. My camera isn't back from the doctor yet. But our plums did look a lot like these.

My friend Meredith left this last week:

If you can come up with three more zucchini recipes, then certainly you can think of three ways to use up that jam we made last fall. (I certainly can’t!) Remember how I found the secret stash of plum trees? And no one was picking them, and I felt a civic duty to pick bags and bags of plums? And we made a tart plum-vanilla jam? Fun time, it was. But, well, that jam is still sitting on my shelf — six jars, maybe? A year has passed, and it’s time to use it up. So, I challenge you! Three recipes, please …

I accept the challenge!  And, M., I still have several jars too.  But here’s how we can use them – and how anyone could make use of any tart jam sitting on their shelf.

1. Think dessert. Get:

  • 1 box mini phyllo shells
  • 1/2 c. mascarpone cheese
  • 1 t. honey
  • 1/2 c. plum or other tart jam.
  • Fresh berries for garnish.

Toast the shells very lightly for a minute or two.  Mix together the maple syrup and mascarpone.  Spoon a small amount of jam into the bottom of each shell, and use a melon baller to place a small scoop of mascarpone over it, then top with a berry.

2.  Make a barbecue sauce. Combine:

Use it for grilling eggplant or chicken or tofu or anything you like.

3.  Put it in between layers of any sweet golden cake, and then frost with a butterscotch or caramel frosting.

What do you think? And what else do you need to use up?


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Blueberry-Lavender Jam 3

Posted on July 30, 2009 by crankycheryl

At last we got it together to organize a summer playdate with some friends.  Though the weather report on Sunday was threatening something torrential, the skies were clear as the day went on and so we rallied our various troops and headed off Straight from the farm.to pick blueberries.

It was a sticky day and we were hot and crabby.  Still, in between refereeing various fights (all involving my children) and stopping for snacks and water refills and bouts of whining, I had a moment or two to appreciate the act of picking itself.

After two grueling strawberry picking sessions, blueberries feel like a gift.  They’re easy to spot and grow in friendly little clusters and are a comfortable height for picking.  If your place to pick is like ours, your kids, when they’re not busy trapping each other inside the hammock that the farmer is nice enough to provide, can run up and down the rows like the wild baboons they are.

And after three hours of that, after reducing my children to plaintive cries of, “home … home,” we went home, and this is what I made the next day, while the boys loudly channeled Cain & Abel as I shrieked, “THESE POTS ARE HOT!  GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN!”  It was a good time.  Well, no, it really wasn’t.  But when I served this on homemade bread for breakfast the next day and all was silent except for the happy little noises they made, sounding like content little nursing babies, it was very nearly worth it.

Blueberry-Lavender Jam
4-5 cups

  • 4 c. berries, rinsed and picked over to remove stems and “squishers,” then mashed
  • 1/4 c. lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 c. sugar
  • 3 t. Pomona’s Pectin powder
  • 2 t. calcium water made according to Pomona’s directions
  • 1 flower sprig from fresh organic lavender
  1. To read about canning safety, equipment, and much more, visit Canning Food Recipes.
  2. Make calcium water if you haven’t, according to directions enclosed with pectin.
  3. Wash and rinse jars, and let stand in hot water.  Bring lids and rings to boil, turn down heat, and let stand in hot water.
  4. Put mashed berries into pan with lemon juice.  Add the calcium water and stir well.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine sugar and pectin very thoroughly (a whisk works well).
  6. Place lavender sprig into berries and then bring to a boil.  Add the pectin-sugar mixture.  Stir vigorously 1-2 minutes to dissolve the pectin completely.  You can use a slotted spoon to look through the berries to make sure you don’t have clumps of pectin hanging around, which would prevent setting-up.  Return to boil and remove from heat.  Remove lavender.
  7. Fill jars to 1/4″ of top.  Wipe the rims clean with a clean dish towel or cloth napkin.  Place a lid and a band on top, screwing band on firmly.  Place in boiling water deep enough to cover, and boil for 5 minutes (adding 1 minute for every 1,000 ft. above sea level).  Remove from water.  Let jars cool and listen for the satisfying snapping sound as the lids form a vacuum seal.  Verify the seal by pressing down in the lids’ centers to check that they don’t move.  (If they do move that’s ok, just put the jar in the fridge and use within a couple of weeks.)
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Strawberry-Honey Jam 9

Posted on June 15, 2009 by crankycheryl

bread and jelly 002Allow me to start with what is not included in this post:

  • How I brought my children to a hot field on a sunny day with milk in sippy cups, but no water at all.
  • How Z. clung to my leg and whined and pleaded to go home, insisting we hold hands every time I took a step.
  • How I went to pick a week too early, knowing we’d be away for the peak berry-picking weekend, which resulted in twice as much work for half the results.  And a sunburn.
  • The growing awareness of how so many of these allegedly golden, wholesome childhood moments I seem so hellbent on providing are like this.  Sigh.

Regardless, we are completely out of last year’s jam, and I heard that the call had gone out that strawberries were ready.  So off we went to Adam’s Berry Farm in Burlington’s Intervale, at which we can pick our own organic strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries.  (For blueberries, I’m also especially fond of Owl’s Head, which has an astonishingly beautiful hillside setting and live music, even if its berries aren’t organic.)

june 007One double bedtime, some serious lolly-gagging, and seven pounds of berry-cleaning later, I was getting ready to can.  Well, truth be told, I was trying to talk myself out of canning because it was 11:00 and I wanted to go to sleep.  But I had washed the berries and couldn’t trust them not to spoil, and there was no way I was letting all that suffering be for naught.

I pulled out the Pomona’s, a citrus pectin that’s activated (i.e., is able to gel your preserves) with the addition of the calcium powder that’s included.  I know some serious jam-makers who don’t like its texture, but I think it makes great stuff.  Plus it doesn’t require a crazy amount of sugar (in fact, you don’t really have to use any), and you can double or triple batches, unlike with many traditional recipes.  Isn’t flexibility nice?

strawberries and chicken 002Strawberry-Honey Jam

About 5 pints

  • 8 cups of strawberries, cleaned, with stems removed, and cut into halves or quarters, depending on how chunky you want the results.
  • 1 cup honey
  • peel from 1/2 organic orange, or 1/2 t. dried
  • 4 t. Pomona’s pectin
  • 4 t. calcium water made from packet included with pectin

Wash and rinse jars, lids and bands.  Some boil everything, and some say this isn’t necessary.  Whichever way you decide to go, do that and then keep in hot water until ready.

Place water in boiling water canner deep enough so that it will cover the jars you’re going to fill once you put them in.

Mix calcium water according to package instructions and set aside.

Put berries, orange peel, and calcium water into stockpot and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Stir pectin into honey.  As berries are approaching a boil, look at the texture and either leave as is, or use a potato masher to smooth out chunks as desired.  When berries are at full boil, vigorously stir honey-pectin mixture in for 1 – 2 minutes, being sure to stir hard enough to dissolve the pectin.  Bring to a boil, then remove from heat.  Remove orange peel if using large pieces.

Fill prepared jars to 1/4″ of top, wipe around the rim with a wet cloth, then place on lids and bands.  Carefully strawberries and chicken 007place jars into boiling water, and boil for 5 minutes.

Place on a rack to cool.  In the next little while you should hear the slight snap of the lids sealing completely, which will let you know that they’re ready to store.  To test the seal, tap on them.  If they move or wiggle at all, just keep in the fridge and use within three weeks.

This jam is delicious.  Like fresh strawberries themselves, bright and sunny and not overly sugary.  My mom (and you know how moms are always the most objective of critics) said it was the best strawberry jam she had ever had.  It may be immodest, but I agree.  What a treat it’ll be if that taste lasts into the depths of winter.  And by then, I’ll have forgotten the rest.

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