Tag Archives: Cooking



This week brought us in the Northern Hemisphere the first day of Autumn.  It also brought Smedette her first day of school.

After being away from the world of academia for a decade, I have ventured back into its seemingly inviting embrace.

I’m looking to upgrade a current credential/degree and set myself on a path for even more education (and debt).  I’ve missed using my brain.

I admit, I feel overwhelmed right now.  I have forgotten how to be a student, how to appropriately manage my time, but maybe that is just seeing a stack of syllabi and realizing this is for real now.

So, I did what any reasonable adult would do and baked.  Sure, I probably should have been reading, but I really feel my nerves were but to better use by peeling and chopping fruit.

Mixed Fruit Crumble

  • In a mixing bowl, peel and chop enough fruit to fill the entire bottom and half the volume of baking dish of your choice.  Stick with pears, apples and stone fruit (peaches, nectarines, plums, etc).
  • Sprinkle the chopped fruit with lemon juice (like from half a lemon, more if you want…as you can tell, this is going to be very free-form) and freshly grated ginger (how much?  I don’t know, use your nose.  You will know when it’s enough).  Drizzle a bunch of honey over everything, mix and pour into your baking dish.
  • In the same bowl, add some quick-cooking oats (for a 9×13 baking dish, I probably used two cups), healthy sprinkle of cinnamon, handful or so of chopped nuts; mix well.  Feel free to toss in any other spices: nutmeg, cloves, additional ginger, etc.  Add a few tablespoons of melted butter and mix.  There will be dry bits and wet clumps; this is fine.  Do not drown the thing in butter.  Pour over the fruit.
  • Bake at 375F until golden brown; this could be 30+ minutes.
  • Eat to avoid math homework.

Posted by on 24 September 2013 in Baking, Cooking, Food, Fruit, Recipes


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Strawberry Season

One of my favorite seasons has arrived in the South.  Actually, it arrived a few weeks ago, much to our delight (Huzzah!  Strawberries!) and horror (Isn’t this too early…?  IT’S GLOBAL WARMING AND WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE)  (But first, strawberries!  Huzzah!)

I picked up an enormous stash of strawberries from the farmers’ market and this is what I made:

Strawberry Syrup
(I do not like maple syrup. A betrayal to my pseudo-Canadian roots, I know).

  • 5+ cups stemmed and chopped strawberries
  • Liquid: ginger ale, apple, orange or pomegranate juice (natural/no sugar added); quantity will be explained in directions
  • 3+ tbsp lemon juice
  • Sugar
  1. In a pot, bring strawberries and enough liquid to cover bottom of pot to a boil over medium heat and let cook for about 5 minutes.  While the fruit is cooking, set up a jelly bag or a fine mesh strainer lined with a few layers of cheese cloth over a bowl (or to save yourself a step, a large capacity glass measuring cup would be best).
  2. Remove from heat and crush the daylights out of the berries with a potato masher.  Pour the slurry into the jelly bag or prepared strainer and let drain for a few hours.
  3. Reserve solids left in bag/strainer; they make a great addition to smoothies or yogurt.  Measure how much liquid you have and using 2:1 ratio of liquid to sugar, bring liquid and sugar to a boil over medium heat.  Add lemon juice; taste to adjust sugar and lemon levels.  Keep cooking until sugar has dissolved. Let cool, pour into storage container(s) and refrigerate.


  1. Ladle hot syrup into prepared jars, wipe rims, affix lids and bands and water-bath process for 10 minutes.

Note: Fruit syrups are rather thin, so do not expect this to be the consistency of maple syrup.  If you do prefer a thicker syrup, just prior to serving, heat some up in a sauce pan and whisk in some cornstarch.

Strawberry Sauce
Perfect on ice cream sundaes or your French Toast if you prefer something a little more substantial than a fruit syrup

  • Per 5 cups stemmed and chopped strawberries:
  • 1 cup liquid: ginger ale, natural/no sugar juice
  • 1 tbsp citrus zest
  • 1 cup sugar
  1. Put everything except the sugar in a pot and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Once strawberries become extremely soft and expel a lot of liquid, purée using a stick blender or in batches using a traditional blender.
  2. Add sugar and simmer until sugar has dissolved and mixture has slightly thickened, 5 – 10 minutes.  Let cool, pour into storage containers and refrigerate.


  1. Ladle hot sauce into prepared jars, affix lids and bands and water-bath process for 10 minutes.

Strawberry Jam

  • 8 cups stemmed and chopped strawberries
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 3 tbsp low-sugar pectin
  1. Put everything except the pectin in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook the berries down until the are soft and you can mash them to your preferred consistency and all of the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Add pectin – stir well!  Let boil for 10 minutes and skim off any foam.
  3. Let cool and place in storage containers.  Jam freezes well.


  1. Ladle hot jam into prepared jars, affix lids and bands and water-bath process for 10 minutes.

I substituted some of the sugar with ginger syrup which gave the jam a fantastic gingery aftertaste.  My CSA informed me there will be even more strawberries in the box this week and my own garden has exploded with them, so if you leave near me, please stop by for some jam.  I need the cabinet space.


Posted by on 16 April 2012 in Canning, Cooking, Photographs, Recipes


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Put This on Everything

Sorry I’ve been half-assing the blog of late.  The pollen has been all-consuming here in Charlotte, as well as other pockets of the US.  It’s been miserable and between the allergies and the allergy medications, I’m barely functioning as a zombie.

However, spending this much time indoors allows me fool around in the kitchen.

Ginger Syrup

  • 2 cups finely chopped fresh ginger; no need to peel.  Just wash and chop.
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 cups water
  1. Put everything in a pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer until a thick syrup forms (not quite the consistency of maple syrup); 50-60 minutes.
  2. Pour through a fine mesh sieve, discard solids.  Keep in the fridge.

Drizzle this over everything; fresh, baked or braised fruit.  It adds an awesome spicy kick to muffins, waffles and pancakes.  Add to your granola and yogurt.  Over ice cream and be sure to include a bit on your cheese plate.  Or my personal favorite: mix with vodka and serve over ice.


Posted by on 2 April 2012 in Cooking, Photographs, Recipes


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Cream Cheese

What have I gotten myself into?

This month we were challenged to make a cheese using cultures.  The Husband can always tell I’m up to an unusual kitchen experiment when I come back from the grocery store with a ridiculous quantity of milk.  Like I know I’m going to fail in advance.

Which I did.

But, it was my own fault for thinking all cultures are alike.  However, accidentally making yogurt isn’t such a terrible mistake.

I decided to make cream cheese.  And despite screwing up the first time, it actually worked the second.

No one is more surprised than myself.

The taste was good, but not great.  I think I need to adjust the fat content of the milk and if this is to become a regular thing, I would consider getting a pH meter to make sure it doesn’t slip into strange-acid-aftertaste territory.

It requires some time; most of it just draining and this was the first cheese recipe that I had to go to the Internet to purchase ingredients (cultures) as they could not be found locally, even at my wannabe-dirty-hippie market.

And what became of said cream cheese?  Well, if you were around for Pi Day, you already know:


Posted by on 21 March 2012 in Cheese, Cooking, Photographs


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Pi Day 2012

Blackberry-Lemon Pie

Cheesecake with Lemon Curd and Raspberries

Almond-Pear Tart

Pepper-Onion-Garlic-Asparagus-Smoked Cheddar Quiche


Posted by on 14 March 2012 in Baking, Cooking, Food, Holidays, Photographs


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Recipe: Buttermilk Cheese

Rachel is co-author of one of my favorite blogs, A Year Without Groceries.  And just as the title indicates, Rachel and her husband, Tom, went an entire year without purchasing food from a supermarket, convenience store or restaurant.  They were successful and have embarked on Year #2.

And to start off the year, they have issued the first of what is to become a monthly cheese challenge.

This is a challenge I can get behind.

I chose to make Buttermilk Cheese.  The ingredients were few and required no special equipment.  No cultures were required as buttermilk already contains an acid.  This cheese is so delicious; it will be made again.  And again.  And again.

Buttermilk Cheese
Adapted from Martha Stewart

  • 4 cups (1 quart) whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups whole buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  1. Pour everything in a large pot over medium heat.  Cook until whey (cloudy liquid) has separated from the curds; 8-10 min.  Resist the urge to stir while cooking and do not let the milks scald or boil; lower heat if necessary.
  2. Remove pot from heat to help solidify curds; let sit for about 5 min.
  3. Line a fine-mesh colander with several layers of a high quality, food grade cheesecloth.  Do not buy cheesecloths that have been bleached and look for cloths that are tightly woven.  My preferred cheesecloths are from Regency Naturals.  Place prepared colander in sink or over a large mixing bowl if you want to save the whey for future use.
  4. Slowly ladle contents of pot into colander.  I let everything sit for 20 minutes and then gather up the corners of the cheesecloth, tie together and gently squeeze curds to release additional liquid.  At this point, your cheese is ready to consume as is: flavor with more salt, pepper and chopped herbs of your choice.  However, I still find the cheese at this stage a little too watery for my taste and stick the entire contraption (tied cheesecloth, mesh colander over a mixing bowl) in the fridge to drain overnight.
  5. Dump cheese into a bowl and mix in desired flavors.  This batch was made with additional salt, pepper, a few cloves of roasted garlic and chopped rosemary.
  6. Eat with reckless abandon!

Now, what does one do with the whey?  If you are feeling ambitious, you could make ricotta (ricotta means “recooked” and is traditionally made from the whey of other cheeses).  I saved a few cups and decided to use it to make a new sourdough starter.

Results of that forthcoming…

I hope you join me in the cheese challenge and be sure to check out A(nother) Year Without Groceries.  I find it to be a great source of inspiration.


Posted by on 5 January 2012 in Cheese, Cooking, Recipes


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Recipe: Amaretto Cranberry Sauce

My Fellow Americans,

As we approach Thanksgiving, I must ask: when did it become acceptable to confuse cranberry sauce with that horrendous gelatinous mass that slides from a can and holds its shape, right down to the ridges from the can?  There is nothing “cranberry” nor “sauce” about that gastronomical abomination.

I implore you, please consider making your own cranberry sauce this holiday season.  It’s wicked easy and can be made far in advance to be canned or a few days before the big meal and left in the fridge.

Amaretto Cranberry Sauce
Yield: Four 12-oz jelly jars, plus a little extra; depends on how long you let it cook


  • 3 12-oz bags of fresh whole unsweetened cranberries
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Finely grated zest from one lemon
  • 2 cups Amaretto


  1. Put everything in a large pot over medium heat.  Stir to coat.
  2. Once sugar dissolves into the Amaretto and becomes thick and syrup-like, reduce heat and simmer; cranberries will start to burst as they simmer.  Cook until desired consistency is reached; 30-60 minutes.  Sauce will thicken as it rests/refrigerates!
  3. You have made cranberry sauce; it will amaze your family and friends.  Your in-laws may even start to like you.
  4. Store in the fridge for a few days or can using the directions below.

To Can the Sauce:

  • Ladle hot cranberry sauce into hot, clean jars leaving 1/2″ headspace.  Wipe rims, place lids and affix screw bands.  Process using the water bath method for 15 minutes.  Let cool on towel-lined counter/table top for 12 hours before checking the seal; label and store.  If any jars failed to seal correctly, refrigerate and consume within a week.

I usually make my cranberry sauce with brandy, but discovered Amaretto works very well.  If you do use brandy, you may want to add a bit more sugar.  On that same vein, you may find that 2 cups of sugar is too much for your liking as Amaretto is already quite sweet.

The alcohol will be cooked out of this by the end, but if you want a true non-alcoholic version of this sauce, I recommend using ginger ale, unsweetened apple or orange juice in place of the booze.

I also enjoy cranberry sauce on salads (makes a great vinaigrette), mixed in yogurt or atop ice cream.  How do you use cranberry sauce?

Please let me know if you made this and any alterations; I love hearing what everyone does in their kitchen (culinary pursuits, you pervs).



Posted by on 22 October 2011 in Canning, Cooking, Food, Holidays, Recipes


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