Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Roasted Cauliflower

This also counts as the new ingredient of the week.  I've never bought cauliflower.  I don't like it.  That's kind of weird, because I love broccoli.  Cauliflower is very nutritious, which usually makes me want to eat something.  Not so much this.

The real problem became obvious when I was looking it up in the Bible.  Until recently, the only way anyone prepared it was steamed.  I do like my broccoli on the mushy side, but I guess not cauliflower.  It must be similar to my yes eggplant/ no zucchini issue.

Nowadays, you can get it roasted, riced, mashed, and several other creative ways.  On a whim, I decided to buy a head and add half of it to some pasta primavera-ish thing I was going to make with pesto.  Everything tastes good doused in pesto, so I figured I was safe.
Most recipes posted online are pretty much the same if you're looking for the basics.  I chose to go the garlic route because it was going on pasta.  You could use fresh or dried herbs as the flavoring, or put a dry cheese like parmesan on it.

So the big question is, did I like it?  It was ok.  I think I cooked it too long.  It kind of tasted like Brussels sprouts that had been steamed too long.  I'm the weird kid who liked Brussels sprouts, so this wasn't all bad.  Kind of a cabbage-ey note, but not in the stinky feet category.  I still have half the head, so I'll try something else with it in a few days.

1 medium head cauliflower
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tb olive oil
salt and pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 400º.  Cut head in quarters to make it easier to remove the core.  Cut the florets into bite sized pieces.

2.  In a bowl, toss together florets, garlic, and olive oil.  Spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.  Dust with salt and pepper

3.  Roast 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned and can be pierced easily with a fork.  Use a spatula  to loosen a piece and check underneath.  It should be browned but not burnt.

4.  Serve hot as a side or cold in salads or as a crudité.

Difficulty rating  π

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Sugar Cookie Fruit Tartlets

I had already defrosted a ball of sugar cookie dough for tea when I remembered that I had planned to do something with the half cup of boysenberries I had picked that morning…for tea.  Instead of either putting the cookie dough back in the freezer or making two tea items, I threw them together.

The main difference between sugar cookie dough and pastry dough is the sugar.  Structurally and procedurally, they're the same thing.  Boysenberries are very tart, like raspberries, so I figured they could compensate for the sugar in the crust.  I just used half as much as I would have if there was a plain pastry crust.  The couple of bites I ate without much cookie in them were really sour, so it was a good call.

Notice how much I'm stressing the tartness of the berries.  Don't try to do this with a sweet filling.  You'll hurt someone.

My biggest concern was actually that the cookie would overbake while I was waiting for the berries to cook.  By making these small tartlets and not piling the berries past the rim, everything finished at the same time.  The berries still had their shape, but the sugar had glazed with the juices into what you would consider a pie filling.  The edges of the crust got a little dark, but everything touching the filling was still soft cookie.

2" ball of sugar cookie dough
*1/2 C berries
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp butter

1.  Roll the cookie dough into a circle roughly 4-1/2" across.  Coax into a 3" mini tartlet pan with a removable bottom.  Trim off the excess.  Preheat oven to 350º, even if the cookie dough recipe calls for higher.
2.  In a bowl, toss berries with sugar and cornstarch.  Pour into tart shell and arrange in a single layer.  Dot with the butter.

3.  Bake until the cookie edges are browned and the berries are softened, 15 to 20 minutes.  Allow to cool before loosening shell from the pan and removing tart.

Makes a single tartlet.

Difficulty rating  π  (assuming you already had the dough made)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Apricot-Cherry Jam

This new jam came from the same day as the mixed berry.  I did a batch of apricot orange jam and had two large apricots left over.  I combined them with about an equal weight of cherries for this jam, then made a small batch of Cherry Vanilla jam with the rest.  It was a long day of canning, which I'm calling Jam-a-Palooza.  This time, I really am done making jams for the year.  When you can't fit them all on the same shelf, it's time to call it quits.

*1 C apricots: peeled, seeded, chopped
1-1/2 C cherries: pitted and halved
1/4 C lemon juice
1-1/2 C sugar
*1 tsp powdered pectin

1.  Refresher on peeling apricots:  Boil water.  Drop in whole apricots.  Wait for skin to bubble, about 1 minute.  Remove to an ice bath.  Rub off skin.
2.  Place all ingredients in a medium skillet at least 2" deep.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Skim off foam and continue to boil, stirring often, until jam thickens and sheets when spilled off a spoon, about 20 minutes.  At some point, you won't be able to see the apricots anymore.  Cherry tends to take over the color scheme.

3.  For canning, process in a water bath for 12 minutes.  For refrigerator storage, wait for it to cool to room temperature before putting a lid on the container.

Jam-a-Palooza
Makes 1 pint

Difficulty rating  :)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Breakfast Platter Scones

I've been waking up baker-early on my non-baking days to lessen the shock when I do have to get up at 1am.  Most of the time, I roll over for another two hours.  That still gives me two hours before a 5am shift to have breakfast at home.  It has made a huge difference in my day.  For one thing, I've had at least one cup of coffee before getting behind the wheel.  I'm not hungrily looking forward to my oatmeal, which doesn't even keep me full past 10am.

So now I'm looking for better variety and things I can make the day before and reheat.  It takes longer than I usually want to make sausage or bacon.  I went through a batch of Bacon and Apple Pancakes and started revisiting other protein-based baked goods I'd made over the years.

This is a variation of the previously posted Bacon and Cheese Scones.  It's kind of a double batch of it on steroids.  I wanted to make this more than just decadent, but actually nutritionally balanced.  Only eat one.  I don't calculate calories in these recipes, but I'm pretty sure this is over 500.

*2 C frozen shredded potatoes
*1/2 lb uncooked bacon
2 eggs
*4 oz cheddar cheese, shredded or finely diced
1-1/2 C flour
1/2 C rolled oats
1/4 C margarine
1 Tb baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 C cream
1/2 C milk

1.  Bear with me.  This step will make sense by the end.  Preheat oven to 375º and spread out potatoes on a rimmed cookie sheet.  Place a rack over them and lay all but one of the strips of bacon on it.  Bake until the bacon is done, turning periodically.  The fat will replace the oil the bag of potato recommends, and grease the pan for later.
2.  Take that reserved piece of bacon and pan-fry it in a medium skillet.  While that's going on, beat the two eggs with two tablespoons of water.  Remove the cooked bacon and use that fat to make scrambled eggs.  Don't cook them until dry, because they're going in the scone dough.

3.  In a medium bowl, stir together flour, oats, baking powder, salt, pepper, and sugar.  Cut in margarine until you can't tell it from the oats.  Stir in the grated cheese.  Chop the bacon into small pieces and stir it in.  Then stir in the cooked scrambled eggs.

4.  Turn oven up to 425º.  Stir milk and cream into flour mixture to make a sticky dough.  On the baking sheet, arrange the hash browns into 8 sections.  (For smaller scones, divide hash browns into more mounds.)  Drop the dough onto the hash browns.  Brush tops with a little more cream and bake for 24 minutes, until lightly browned.  Remove to a rack to cool for a few minutes, then serve.

Serves 8

Difficulty rating  :)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Mixed Berry Jam

The whole point of growing boysenberries was to taste them in a context other than pie or jam.  They have a short season, so it's like when cherries are available, how you get sick on them for a month because you won't have a fresh one for another year.  When I was only getting a couple of handfuls of them a year, this was great.  They garnished a salad and a few bowls of oatmeal.

This year's bumper crop made it obvious why the jam is a thing.  I simply can't eat them all, when half a cup ripens every two days.  So I hoarded up a week's worth and bought some blueberries and strawberries on sale to make a composite jam.  That's something I've never had, so it still counts.  Also, it was the week apricots were at their cheapest and it seems a shame to set up a canning pot for one batch of jam.  When I realized I hadn't bought cherries yet this season, the whole thing kind of escalated.  I had to buy more jars, and got these cool half-pint wide mouth ones.  If I'm ever able to schedule my annual tea, there's going to be a crazy array of jams.  Mid-June, and I haven't even set a date.  I hate being under-staffed.

1 lb strawberries, hulled and quartered
*12 oz aggregate berry such as blackberry, raspberry, or boysenberry
6 oz blueberries
4 C sugar
2/3 C lemon juice
*1 Tb powdered pectin

1.  I tend to cut the more firm berries in half, to make them break down easier, but you can put them in whole.  Mash the blueberries to break the skin.  You don't have to get every one, like with regular blueberry jam, since the other berries will help them along.
2.  If canning, start your water bath and sterilize jars for a 3-pint yield.  Stir together all ingredients in a wide pot or deep skillet.  Heat over medium-high to boiling.  Continue to boil and stir frequently until thickened, cooked, and starting to sheet, at least 20 minutes.  I forgot to look at the clock.  If may have been over half an hour.  Skim off any foam as you go, so you can see the jam underneath.

3.  For canning, process jars for 10 minutes for jelly or half-pint jars, 15 for pint jars.  For refrigerated or freezer storage, cool to room temperature before putting lids on the containers and storing.

Makes about 3 pints

Difficulty rating  :)

Monday, June 12, 2017

Wasabi Mashed Potatoes

Yes, again with the wasabi.  It's just like using creamy horseradish sauce on your baked potato, only a little green.  Anyway, if you google it, there are a ton of recipes.  Cheesecake Factory even has one.

I made this batch lumpy and a little thick.  I also left the skins on for the nutrition.  If your personal style is for a creamier, whipped potato, double the amount of cream or make the second portion milk.

1-1/2 lb red potato
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, finely chopped
1/4 C butter
*1/3 C cream
*1 Tb wasabi powder
salt to taste

1.  Cut potatoes into 1" cubes.  Place in large pot with water to cover by 1" and a sprinkle of salt.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower to a simmer.  Cover and cook until potatoes are fork-tender, about 30 minutes.
2.  Drain potatoes and beat with garlic and onions until broken down.  Add butter and cream and beat in.  Add wasabi powder and beat until evenly a light tinge of green.  Taste and add salt as necessary.  I admit, at this point I also added another 1/2 Tb of wasabi powder, but I was in the mood for a strongly flavored potato.  One tablespoon is more than enough for everyone to get the hint.  Serve hot.

Difficulty rating  π

Friday, June 9, 2017

Wasabi Cake with Pickled Ginger Icing

The half kilo of wasabi powder came with a pint of pickled ginger.  While I can eat that stuff straight out of the jar as a snack, I did save some for creative uses.

Looking for recipes, I found something called a Black Pearl cake.  It's chocolate with a wasabi kick and black sesame seeds on top of the icing.  Maybe I'll do that one day.  This time, I wanted something lighter.

In the end, I settled on a tried-and-true white cake recipe with wasabi powder instead of extract.  The filling of a white chocolate ganache is intended to mellow out the assault of both the wasabi and ginger.

And really, you don't want either flavor to hit you too hard.  This isn't spicy candy, it's a flavored cake. The point is to get an unexpected zing from the frosting that complements the sweet heat of the cake, with a soothing bit of filling.  I mean, really, a horseradish cake?  No one would eat that.

Cake
3/4 C sugar
3/4 C margarine
3 eggs
2/3 C milk
1-1/2 C cake flour
2 Tb baking powder
*2 Tb wasabi powder (don't freak out)
1/4 tsp salt

1.  Cream together sugar and margarine until fluffy.  Grease two 8" cake pans, line bottoms with wax paper, and grease the paper.  Start preheating the oven to 350º.

2.  Sift together cake flour, baking powder, wasabi powder, and salt.

3.  Add eggs one by one to mixer and beat until incorporated into the margarine.  Add milk and gently beat into a sloshy mess.

4.  Add flour mixture and stir until just moist.  Scrape down sides, then beat until no longer lumpy, about 1 minute.  Don't whip, or the final cake will have large holes.

5.  Distribute batter between cake pans.  Weighing the pans gets you the most accurate distribution.  Bake until springy, about 25 minutes, rotating pans after 15.  Cool in pans 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and slowly remove the wax paper.  Cool completely before filling and icing.  You can even  freeze the layers and do it another day.

Filling
*1/4 C heavy cream
3/4 C white chocolate bits or finely chopped block white chocolate

1.  Boil cream.  Place white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and pour cream over it.  Stir to melt chocolate.  If all of the chocolate doesn't melt, microwave it in 10 second increments and stir between.  It's going to be very thin, so let it set up while you make the icing.

Icing
1/4 C butter
1/4 C shortening
2 Tb pickled ginger, minced
about 1/2 lb powdered sugar

1.  Cream together butter and shortening until smooth.  Beat in ginger.

2.  Slowly incorporate powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached.  Remember that it will thicken as it dries.

To assemble cake

1.  Make sure cake halves are relatively level.  Trim if uneven or have risen too much.  Snack on the trimmings to find out if the cake is too spicy.  That will determine how much filling you need to even out the flavors.

2.  Place bottom tier on a cake circle or serving plate.  Top with filling to desired thickness.  Anything left over, beat into the icing.  Place top cake on top of filling and center.
3.  Mound the icing on top of the cake, then coax down the sides to cover.  The point of icing is to keep the cake from drying out.  You don't need a half-inch thick layer, just enough to enhance the flavor of what's inside.

4.  Garnish cake with additional ginger slices and/or a light dusting of wasabi powder.  Refrigerate until ready to serve, especially on a hot day.

Makes one 2-layer cake, about 8-10 servings

Difficulty rating  :)

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Adventures From Seed

I haven't bought any seedlings this year.  I've been doing it all from seed, with varying degrees of success.

Failures first.  Either it's too warm or the seeds are too old, but I can't get any carrots to sprout.  There are two left.  I've been reseeding the chives every two weeks for over a month, and have yet to get a sprout.

I did get one more fennel to come up.  Really, that spot was more weed control than caring if I got another fennel, but I'll take it.  The four others are finally taking off.  I guess they needed more warmth. What has really benefitted from the weather is the watermelon.  No surprise, it likes a sunny day.  One plant in particular is getting strong.  The rest are thinking about it.
The most successful is the Roma tomatoes.  I planted one in the back yard big pot and another in the front yard.  The pot is doing better, as expected, and started to flower.  I should have tomatoes in a month or two, depending on the weather.
As for stuff that hasn't died yet, all the artichokes are still alive.  Some are larger than others, but I kind of knew which ones were in better soil and planted the stronger seedlings where I expected the best results.  I didn't get any blueberries this year before the squirrels did, but it is by far my best crop of boysenberries to date.  I have to check the plant every couple of days, and have left a few on there too long.  They hide.  And have thorns.  Eggy is still putting out an occasional eggplant.  If she ever dies, I'm going to seed celery in the pot.  I learned my lesson about celery root systems.  If she's still flourishing in October, I'll just buy another pot.
I planted a few beets and some cucumber last week, again as weed suppression.  The cucumbers were also because I'm kind of getting tired of beets, and needed something in that space.  They're supposed to be pickling cucumbers that grow more in a bush than vine, which will work with the space I have left and not run into the watermelon.  I'll just put tomato cages around them to act as a trellis.  Cart before the horse; they have to germinate first.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Berry Crepes with Banana Cream Filling

My boysenberry crop is starting to come in!  So now I need to find things to do with them that Knott's doesn't make.

I went on a search of this site for whatever sweet crepe batter recipe I use, and couldn't find one.  Really, I haven't made regular crepes here?  Well, I wasn't making them today either, so I went to Alton Brown for a scientifically tested recipe.

What I failed to note until all of the ingredients were in the blender was the yield.  This makes more crepes than I intended.  But Alton only used two tablespoons (1 ounce) in his and mine are usually closer to 1/4 cup.  I also lost more than usual before the pan was seasoned, so I only ended up with a dozen.
I also ate one to check the flavor
There's no reason you couldn't put berries inside the crepe instead of banana.  I had one that was going over-ripe.  Also, it allowed me to put less sugar in the batter and filling.  Berries can be tart.  The surprise of this dessert is the berry-tinged, purple crepe batter.

The garnish was going to be a white chocolate sauce, but I forgot to buy white chocolate.  This kind of snafu is why I keep a shaker of powdered sugar by the stove, next to the salt, pepper, and clove of garlic.  That's a weird combination of items to have on hand, but I actually used all of them that day.  I need to stop making several elaborate dishes on work days.  Three hours of cooking after eight hours of cooking & baking is really exhausting.  Side note: you can make these crepes ahead of time and freeze until needed.  You don't have to do all of this in one day.

Crepes
*1/2 C compound berries, such as raspberries, blackberries, or boysenberries
2 eggs
*3/4 C milk
1/2 C water
1 C flour
1 Tb sugar
3 Tb melted butter
more butter for the pan

1.  Put everything in the blender and run until smooth.  Let sit in the fridge for 1 hour to let the gluten develop.  You will have about 3 C of batter.

2.  Heat a small skillet over medium-high.  Place a generous amount of butter on a paper towel and wipe the pan.  Hang on to the paper towel and butter, because you're going to need it between every crepe.

3.  Pour a scant 1/4 C of batter into pan and swirl to coat the bottom until the batter sets.  Cook until the edges are browned and start to separate from the pan.  Yo can use a heatproof spatula to get enough off the pan to grab, but you're going to have to flip the crepe by hand or it will tear.  Cook other side about two more minutes, then remove to a wax paper-lined plate to cool.  Re-butter pan and repeat until all the batter is used.

Filling
1/2 C whipping cream
1/4 C mascarpone cheese
1 Tb sugar
*1 banana, thinly sliced
powdered sugar for garnish

1.  In a chilled bowl, beat cold cream to soft peaks.  Add sugar and beat to stiff peaks.  Add mascarpone and beat until smooth, which will soften the whipped cream's peaks.

2.  Onto each crepe, spoon a heaping tablespoon of filling.  Top with several slices of banana.  Fold or roll crepe, then dust with powdered sugar.  Serve immediately.

Makes 12 to 16 crepes, depending on size

Difficulty rating  :-0

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Bleu Cheese Burgers

I decided to barbecue for Memorial Day, even though the weather is seasonably drab.  There were two ripe eggplants, but I had to come up with a better reason than that to light the grill.

Burgers are fine.  I like a good hamburger.  This weekend, I wanted more, and decided to try a bleu cheese-infused burger.  I found this recipe that mixed the cheese into the burger instead of trying to seal it within the meat.  That never ends well for me, like the dirty snowballs that erupted hot chocolate everywhere.

Then it took me three tries to get the grill lit.  I was very close to turning on the oven instead.  These melted into the grill a bit and there was cheese all over the coals.  I suspect that was a result of the fire not being hot enough.  It was fine by the time the burgers were done, and the eggplants cooked in the time allotted.
I was disappointed that these didn't taste more cheesy, but that may be due to how much dripped out.  The cheese did make them perfectly seasoned and tender.  If you were to add half a cup of bread crumbs, this would make an excellent meatloaf.

For serving, I wouldn't add much.  A little mayo if you need something creamy on your bun, maybe some lettuce and one veggie (I would have used tomato if the eggplants weren't ripe) would be enough.  I did toast extra bleu cheese onto the top bun after the first day to up the cheese factor.

1 lb 80/20 ground beef
2 oz (1/2 C) crumbled bleu cheese
1 egg
2 green onions, chopped
*1 Tb Dijon or grainy mustard
*2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tb water
1/2 tsp salt
*1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
Vegetable or peanut oil for the grill
for serving: buns, veggies, mayo

1.  In a bowl, combine all ingredients.  Let sit in the fridge for an hour for the flavors to meld.

2.  Oil the grill very well or things are going to stick.  When the coals are very hot, divide the meat into four portions and press into patties larger than the buns.  Put a dent in the middle.  This is a grilling trick, because the patties will shrink up and get higher in the middle.  The dent will disappear.

3.  Grill burgers until browned on bottom.  You can tell that because they come off the grill easily.  Flip and cook other side until burger tests 160º in the middle.  Serve immediately.

Difficulty rating  π

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Kohlrabi Slaw with Tahini Dressing

So after all that about trying to gain weight, this is the kind of thing I've been eating that prevents it.  Putting chickpeas in slaw to make it nutritionally a main dish simply does not provide enough calories for an active person who is not on a weight loss program.

That said, I really liked the dish.  It also gave me the chance to use the food processor without having to hunt in the hall closet for it.  I so love having everything back in the pantry.  Although, I do still sometimes head down the hall for things before remembering they are where they ought to be.

1 bunch (usually 3) kohlrabi
1 large carrot
1 small shallot
1 C greens; I used beet
1 15oz can chickpeas
*2 Tb tahini paste
*2 Tb lemon juice
*3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tb plain Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp salt
*orange for garnish (optional)

1.  Peel the kohlrabi and carrot.  Run through the shredder attachment on the food processor.  Thinly slice shallot, or toss it in the processor, too.  Drain and rinse the chickpeas.  Chiffonade the greens.  Toss all together in a large bowl to distribute.
2.  For the dressing, combine tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and yogurt.  If it seems too thick, add water until it's thin enough to coat the salad evenly.

3.  Toss together shredded veggies and dressing.  You can serve this room temperature or chilled.  Unlike a vinegar-based coleslaw dressing, you don't have to let this sit and marinate.  It will have the same texture right away as days later.  Garnish with orange slices if desired.

Serves 8-10 as a side

Difficulty rating  :)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cucumber-Wasabi Ice

It's one thing to say "yay, I need to put on a couple of pounds!" and quite another thing to do it.  Like being overweight, being a touch too light is often earned by a lifestyle of eating and activity habits.  In my case, I've been eating lighter, vegetarian-ish meals high in iron and protein.  At the same time, I'm much more physically active.  If I was five pounds heavy, that would be awesome.  I was an ideal weight to start with, so this kind of ruined that.  But I feel great, and not weak at all.  Just really hungry.

So, I'm trying to find extra things to eat without resorting to unhealthy foods.  Larger portions of the same kinds of things I've been eating stopped the slide.  Next up was treats.

For those of you who missed the last post, I have a lot of wasabi powder in the pantry.  Like, a lifetime supply.  A great deal of the recipes I've found online are for desserts with a punched-up zing.

The recipe I found for this idea is not a true ice cream.  It's vegan and raw.  It's also super easy.  Blender to ice cream maker, and you're done.  It mostly tastes like cucumber, with a little zing in the aftertaste.  If you don't have an ice cream maker, you can stir the mix with a fork every hour until it's frozen.  There are other options: pour the mix into popsicle molds, or freeze in ice cube trays to add to mixed drinks.  A mojito with a cube of this would be the talk of a pool party.

1 medium cucumber
1 15oz can coconut milk
2 Tb sugar (or other sweetener)
*1 Tb wasabi powder
2 Tb lemon juice
*1 sprig fresh mint

1.  Peel and seed cucumber, then chop into chunks and place in blender.

2.  Add remaining ingredients to blender and run until smooth, about 1 minute.

3.  Process in an ice cream maker until mostly firm, then transfer to a container and freeze for 2 hours the rest of the way.  Or, pour mix into a shallow container and place in freezer, stirring with a fork every hour until firm.  Either way, it's going to need a few minutes at room temperature before you can scoop it.

Makes about 3 cups

Difficulty rating  π

Monday, May 22, 2017

Wasabi-Iced Sugar Cookies

I recently came into possession of slightly over a pound of wasabi powder, so expect crazy things from me using wasabi as an ingredient.

Most "wasabi" sold in markets in the US is actually colored common horseradish treated to taste like wasabi.  Like "turkey ham", Bac-os, or fake crab.  (PS: most fake bacon bits are vegan and kosher.)  Americans can't tell the difference, but it's a whole lot cheaper than the real thing.  If you insist on true wasabi, go to an Asian market and ask the grocer.  It's going to cost significantly more.

I didn't like wasabi growing up.  A lot of kids don't.  I only got used to it when hot and spicy foods became an everyday thing and I discovered I was allergic to them.  When horseradish became my alternative spice, I learned to appreciate wasabi.  Still, there has to be a balance so the spice adds to the taste and experience and doesn't merely clear out the sinuses.

And that's where combining wasabi powder and sugar comes in.  It really isn't unheard-of to have a spicy cookie.  Ginger snaps can be quite strong.  Actually, they would taste great with this icing.  The color combination wouldn't work, though.  Maybe replace part of the ginger in the cookie dough with wasabi powder, then ice as normal.

The cookies in the photo were from a mix.  For a better recipe, I do have one for sugar cookies on this site.  Here's the icing:

1 C powdered sugar
*1 tsp wasabi powder
milk as needed

1.  While cookies are in the oven, stir together powdered sugar and wasabi powder.

2.  Add milk 1 tsp at a time, until desired consistency is reached.  Go slowly.  You may think the icing is too thick, then it will thin out after sitting a minute.  Do not go by the taste to judge how strong the wasabi flavor is.  It will get stronger over time.
3.  Once cookies are cooled, ice one and let it dry a bit.  (Keep stirring the icing in the bowl every few minutes to keep it soft.)  Taste and decide if you need more wasabi or more sugar to create the balance you want.  Then ice the rest of the cookies.

Makes enough to ice about 18 two-bite cookies thinly

Difficulty rating  π

Friday, May 19, 2017

Well, That Was Hard

As is usually the case with home improvements, the pantry painting took longer than expected.  I did learn a lot.  For example, the top shelf is about 3" less deep than the others.  Those other shelves are patched in the back with a second strip of wood.  My guess is that all the shelves were cut to the top size, then someone changed their mind after the first was installed.  Instead of starting over, the patch strip was put in the back and the original shelf was lined up in front of it.  I'm sure the change was invisible originally, but in 60 years the wood shrank and warped unevenly.  That was how the scary black stuff grew, between the pieces.  The warping was less than 1/4" vertically and the pieces are still flush together, so I hit them up with some spackle while I was doing the walls.  Yes, that's the wrong product to use on wood, but you can paint over it and anything was better than nothing.

One thing I learned while doing the cleaning was not to wear my glasses or shoes once the painting started.  I can see well enough a foot and a half not to leave any unpainted areas.  Oh, and once I changed the bulb to a white one, the color in there didn't change a whole lot.  The paint was a slightly yellowish pink off-white.  I'm sure the choice was either because the whole kitchen was going to be that color or because you want lower light levels in a pantry.  I hardly ever use the bulb, so it didn't matter.  I just picked a lower wattage than was in there before.
Once everything was bleached, spackled, and sanded, it was time to wedge all 4'8", 90 pounds on a fat day of me into the pantry with the first color to do the walls.  I decided to free-hand the flat blue color and use tape for the Swiss Coffee latex on another day.  If I'm patient enough, I can stay in the lines.  Probably failed coloring in kindergarten, and there's a reason I'm a bread baker instead of a cake decorator.
The first coat took only an hour.  I was disappointed that it was obvious from the start I'd need a second coat, but again, I'm only doing this once.  There was a bunch of paint on my hands and elbows, but none on the bandana over my hair.  Small victory.  A couple of isolated, stained patches needed a third coat, but that dried while I was putting up the blue painter's tape before doing the semi-gloss.

Then I woke up the next day and was very sore from holding up half my weight on the door frame.  Imagine doing one-armed pull ups for an hour straight.  I decided to wait a week for the strain to heal before hitting the project again.  Meanwhile, I did paint my bedroom and bathroom door frames, which have had blue tape on them for about six months.  Not the best paint job ever, but a whole lot better than they looked before I put up the tape.  You would have to be looking for flaws to find them, and I seriously doubt anyone who doesn't live here would do that.

Fast forward a week of my food sitting in the hall.  I'd only just gotten the last of the paint off my feet, and there was still a little around my nails.  I hoped to finish the project in one day, but semi-gloss takes longer to dry than flat.  Still, I had a full coat on all but the top shelf and the ceiling.  Those just had the cuts around the edges in preparation for the roller.  The door frame and baseboards were done, though.  I decided that a single coat was so beyond what was there before that I'd call it and focus on the parts that would actually be seen and used.

So, the next day I got in there again with the roller.  Once I got down to the shelves with a full coat, it got easier.  Four hours later, everything was dry enough to pull off the tape.  A quick trip around with the blue paint to patch anything the tape pulled off finished the messy part of the project.

Then came the hardest part of all, waiting three days for the paint to dry completely before covering it with the padded shelf liners I had bought before deciding to paint.  I was not about to scuff or stain the shelves after all this.  Finally, I felt confident enough to put down the liners and put all the food back.
At which point, I'm the only one who can tell it was even painted.

Difficulty rating  $@%!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

New Ingredient of the Week: Papaya

This is not a new feature, just something I thought I'd mention.

While I've had papaya before, I've never bought it.  There was a giant pile of them at Sprouts for only 88¢ a pound, so I bought the smallest, most ripe one I could find.  At just over two pounds, it was a small investment to bring something new into the kitchen.
Preparing papaya is very basic.  Cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the caper-like seeds.  You can pare off the skin and slice or dice it, or leave the skin on to serve wedges.  It can be blended into drinks, or you can freeze the purée as a sorbet.  Papayas are not overly sweet, so they can adapt more easily to uses in savory dishes.

I ended up serving it based on an idea from the Bible to use lemon-infused whipped cream.  Instead, I took some plain Greek yogurt I had on hand and stirred in lemon juice, honey, and a couple of drops of orange liqueur.  Dolloped on wedges, it was a summery dessert.
And this is post #800!  My seventh blogiversary is July 18th.  I'm astonished that I'm still coming up with anything to write about, even though the posts are sometimes over a week apart.  More of the mix is gardening and non-recipe posts, but at least I'm writing something.  Everyone should write at least weekly, to exercise the brain and language skills.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Chickpea "Ceviche" Salad

This was a lot of effort so I wouldn't waste half a bunch of cilantro.  One of my co-workers brought ceviche, and it was really good, but I only had a couple of bites because I'm uncomfortable with the idea of raw shellfish.  (She didn't blanch the shrimp.)  Even sushi shellfish is cooked.

Which brings me to the air quotes in the title of this dish.  The proteins and eggplant are cooked, making this much safer to eat and easier to digest, but technically not ceviche.  Also, subbing in legumes for tilapia makes this less of the fish dish that ceviche is supposed to be.  Ceviche doesn't merely mean raw any more than carpaccio merely means thinly sliced and raw.  There's a whole lot more to those concepts, and it really bothers me when vegetables are called carpaccio because they're paper thin.  This title is the closest approximation of the taste based on terms familiar to an average cook.  It's kind of a Mediterranean salad with a Mexican flair.  Since I'm mashing up cuisines, this isn't getting the Non-American label.  The definition of American cuisine is adapting foods from other lands.

For texture, I'm soaking and cooking the beans.  If you don't mind them a little mushy, go ahead and open a can.  Also, it's traditional to put tomatoes in ceviche, but I've been eating a lot of them lately and skipped it.

2/3 C dry chickpeas or one 15oz can
1/2 lb shrimp: peeled, deveined, and chopped
* 1 lemon
* 1 C chopped cilantro leaves
* 1 C diced red onion
*3 cloves garlic, minced
*1 small eggplant - more traditional, avocado
1/4 C finely diced cucumber
salt and pepper to taste
1 jalapeño, diced (optional)

1.  If cooking the chickpeas from dry, soak for at least 12 hours.  Drain, place in a small saucepan with 3 C water, and bring to a simmer.  Cook for two hours and drain again.  Or, just open a can and rinse well.

2.  If using eggplant, preheat oven to 400º.  Cut off stem cap and pierce in a few places.  Roast until softened, about 1 hour.  Cool, then dice pulp.  For avocado, cut in half and scoop out flesh, then dice.

3.  To cook the shrimp, bring a medium pot of water to a boil, then turn off the heat.  Immediately stir in shrimp pieces and cover.  Let sit in the hot water until just barely cooked all the way through, about 2 minutes.  Drain and place in ice water to stop the cooking.

4.  To assemble, get out a large bowl.  Put in cooked chickpeas, eggplant, and shrimp.  Add chopped cilantro, diced onion, diced jalapeño, and minced garlic.  Stir in the juice of the lemon and allow everything to marinate in the refrigerator until chilled, about 1 hour.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  Stir in cucumber shortly before serving so it doesn't pickle and get soft.  Serve chilled, preferably with chips or tortillas.

Difficulty rating :)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Pineapple-Mango Salsa

I finally remembered to get a mango to make a topping for some black bean burgers.  This is also a light topping for fish, shrimp tacos, or anything on the lighter side that can handle a bit of tangy sweetness.  It also works as a dip or salad element.  And best of all, it's raw.  Chop, toss, and go.

I know that some people really don't like pineapple.  A few are even allergic to it.  You could sub in a second mango.  If that's too sweet, maybe a cup of chopped tangerine.  As long as you have the acid from the lime juice, the colors should still stay vibrant if this is not served the same day.

1 mango
1 8oz can crushed pineapple, drained
*1/2 C diced red onion
1/2 C cilantro leaves, chopped
juice of 1 lime
dash of salt

1.  To cut a mango, run the knife down longways just off center, on one side of the flat pit.  Then do the other side.  You can get a little flesh off what's in the middle.  To each half, cut a criss-cross pattern in the flesh, then turn the skin inside-out.  The diced pieces come off with a spoon.  (You can do the same thing to an avocado.)
2.  In a bowl, toss together mango, crushed pineapple, onion, and cilantro.  Drizzle lime juice and salt and stir again to distribute evenly.  Refrigerate for at least half an hour to let flavors meld.  If you want a drier topping, set the mango and pineapple in a sieve over a bowl in the fridge for an hour before returning to the bowl and adding the remaining ingredients.

Makes about 1 pint

Difficulty rating  π

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Just to be Different

I only had cool-weather seeds left and things were starting to bolt.  Plus, the middle celery never really grew tall enough to be useful.  Four fennel did sprout before it started to get warm, but I doubt I could get any carrots or beets started this far into spring.  Time to go shopping.

It's amazing how many vegetables I suddenly don't like when faced with a wall of seeds.  Something I might pick up once a year at the market isn't as appealing when I consider a small crop of it.  There was also space and planting depth to consider.

I got chives for a pot that I forgot to use on the last round of planting.  They're hard to start, but once they take root you have chives forever.  Then I got Roma tomatoes because, when I pulled out the watercress, I realized that the soil was still very rich and held moisture well.  I'm doing a second one in place of the lettuces, but plants in that spot never make it more than one season.  I don't expect it to last past November.

This year's gourd experiment is watermelon.  The variety I picked says the melons grow up to 35 pounds.  I did a little math on how big stuff I grow ends up in various locations, and mine should max out at 20 pounds.  The ones alongside the front yard tomato probably won't make it past 10.  Now I just hope that they grow in the same kind of vine system as pumpkins and cucumbers.  I passed up a variety that grows in a bush because there isn't space for it.


The boysenberry is doing extraordinarily well.  All that rain this winter did wonders for it.  I took this photo before it was in full bloom.  Imagine at least twice as many white blossoms.  I'm looking forward to eating more than one or two berries at a time.  Pretty soon.