Holiday decorations

I had a few holiday columns over at the Kitsap Sun that you might like to check out. If you’re looking for an easy gift for kids to make or a way to embellish your own tree, you might like the recipe for salt dough ornaments.

salt dough ornaments

We plan to use them as tags for the homemade jams we made this summer. It’ll be a pretty, thrifty holiday gift.

Gingerdead Men Cookies for Halloween

imageBoo! Happy Halloween! I’m not one who usually falls for kitschy holiday things, but walking through town last year, this cookie stamp caught the child’s eye. Now, it seems to be a welcome tradition. Making gingerdead men is not only a hilarious pun (that pretty much cracks us up every time we say it) but is also a delicious fall treat to gift and munch. We used fresh, local ginger from Tani Creek, and so this cookie has a little zing that becomes addicting.

Tips for Making Gingerdead Men

  • Use your favorite chocolate sugar cookie recipe or go with our favorite. We love the chocolate ginger combination of this recipe. The dough is easy to work with (if you keep it chilled) and really holds its shape. Definitely don’t skip the fresh ginger.
  • Roll your chilled dough out thinly. To make stamping easier, flour the dough and the stamp side of the cutter.
  • Stamp first, using a small cutting board to help you press down evenly. Next, cut it out and transfer the deadman, still in the cutter, to a parchment lined sheet with a large spatula. Tap it out of the cutter directly onto the sheet.
  • Use a thicker royal icing recipe. We whisked together: 1 1/2 c. confectioners’ sugar, 3 tsp. meringue powder, 1/2 tsp. vanilla, 2 tbls. water.

 

Pear Butter and Tips For Baking Frozen Fruit Pie

I have officially declared this year’s canning season closed. I have canned all of the things. I have used all of the jars. All of them. Aside from one excusable weakness (peaches!), I stuck to my goal of only canning free fruit. This wasn’t too hard this year, actually. Even though our garden production isn’t fully up and running, when friends know you preserve, somehow bags of produce seem to make their way to your back porch. (Lucky me! But really, people, canning season is CLOSED.)

Recently a friend and I were invited to pick some pears from a regal and impressive old tree. Such a gift! I made a lot of chocolate pear jam (which I’m renaming, more appropriately pear butter) from Preserving by the Pint. I look forward to eating this on a snowy day in December in front of a fire – it’s definitely a holiday jam.

 With the pears, also, I made several pear anise pies from the one pie book you absolutely must own. On some of the pies, I added a streusel topping. I froze the pies raw and plan to bake them as needed. To do this, line your empty pie plate with plastic wrap and then build your pie on top. Freeze for about 2-3 hours, then pop out of the plate. Wrap and label. I find it helpful to list which pie plate I used since I have many of varying sizes. To bake a fruit pie from frozen, unwrap, place in plate, and pierce vents on top with a chef’s knife. Follow baking temperature and time in recipe, adding 25-30 extra minutes. If your pie begins to brown, loosely lay a square of foil on the top.

Figs Aplenty

figs aplentyA generous islander gave me some figs from a beautiful, mature tree. So, of course, I had to learn what to do with them right away! We ate a few for breakfast just straight up, with honey and chopped nuts. We gave away a few to friends who had never eaten a fig before. The rest, I found a few ways to preserve them for the rest of the year.

  • I modified this chutney recipe, using dried cherries and omitting the red pepper powder. This will be delicious in the fall and I imagine it on simple fig saladthe Thanksgiving table.
  • From Preserving by the Pint, I made fig and thyme jam. It’s already been enjoyed on cheese platters and turkey sandwiches. Yum.
  • In the steam oven, I dehydrated halved figs for 16 hours. (16?!) I was still unhappy with the level of dryness, so I packaged them for the freezer. I plan to make fig anise bread with these.

Summer

Summer so far has been about fresh veg and a few obsessions: this salad, blackberries, and as much ice cream and sorbet as possible.

IMG_2213I picked up this great book from Food in Jars author (and you should too.) I’ve had a great time canning without sugar and experimenting with sealing the jars in my  steam oven. What a luxury it is to preserve in summertime without the big vat of boiling water!

And then this – an update to my favorite party platter. Summer style, of course, means showcasing raw vegetables and my new favorite condiment, gremolata. Look for the recipe in the next From Scratch column on the Kitsap Sun’s site.

 

Strawberry Season

It’s time for everything strawberries. We’ve been enjoying them from our own garden, picking enough for an evening snack or for breakfast. The Day Rd. farmstand is also already stocked with half flats for sale.  I always have mixed feelings about jamming all those lovely, whole berries, but I am certainly glad for them when December rolls around. I have also had a lot of success with vacuum sealing them for smoothies. First I trim the tops, wash, and lay out to dry on a towel – an easy procedure for wonderful, mid winter returns. Strawberry shortcake is a given. You can read about my favorite two ways here. So many possibilities! These are the two weeks of the year when we try to make all of our favorites.  IMG_0854

How about starting the morning with fresh strawberry scones? Or Pamela’s pancakes with sweetened homemade ricotta and halved berries?

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A lighter choice might be a spinach salad with an easy vinaigrette: 2 parts vinegar to 1 part oil and a pinch of salt. (I chose a raspberry balsamic vinegar and walnut oil)

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And any day now, fingers crossed, they’ll be enough abundance to make our favorite raspberry strawberry jam.

Kitchen Love

We have a new kitchen to get to know and, now that we’re settled into it, are having a lot of fun playing with new things and cooking up old favorites. Here are a few recipes that we’ve been loving lately.FullSizeRender (25)

  • There is no better way to test out a new oven than watching pita bread puff up. I make this recipe with all whole wheat flour.
  • My new favorite trick for breakfast, lunch boxes, and on the go meals is this omelet. Even the t-ball team loved it. (Whew, kids are sometimes the hardest critics.)
  • Steam! Oh, be still my heart. I have a new toy. I’ve been learning how to cook in a steam oven. I’m loading it with fish, rice, and veggies in it,  and instantly making a ridiculously easy and fresh meal. The biggest surprise is that now I can make oatmeal at the push of a button with no pan to clean. I have used this ratio with success: 2 cups water, 1 cup steel cut oats, 1 tbls. buttermilk. Mix it all up in a metal cake pan. Put it in the steam oven the night before. Program it to be done when you wake, cooking for 20 minutes at 212. I have also made yogurt and can’t wait to can and dehydrate in this one stop gadget.
  • I’m not going to lie, there’s been a fair amount of homemade ice cream to get through the busy days. But, there’s also been this healthier, quick smoothie.
  • Still making pizza with this recipe often. These days, when there are kids around, they get topped any old way.FullSizeRender (26)65
  • How did I miss the avocado toast craze? Where have I been? I’m now working to make up for lost time with this stand by.
  • And some days, you just have to treat yourself and let someone else make the coffee. Thanks, Hitchcock Deli. Wow. Just wow.Attachment-1

What’s happening in your kitchen? Hope it’s full of spring goodness and the promise of (fruitful!) summer days.