Cooking + Baking

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Oh, gosh! How many times I have crested this little hill and seen the light of the rising sun. There is always something magical about the anticipation of what will come next: a bird soaring, a hot air balloon, a glimpse of the Spanish Peaks some 140 miles distant.

The tallest biscuits I’ve EVER baked. A towering 3 inches! The secret? I made my own baking powder! Two teaspoons cream of tartar to one teaspoon baking soda. I was positively giddy watching them rising higher and higher through the oven door. And the flavor, the height of biscuit goodness. We topped them with the surprisingly delicious cranberry banana jam and the remains of our last jar of homemade peach until the season rolls round again.

The best and most handsome sleeper I know.

I had a hard time wrangling my tripod into action, so it was all over the place on the night of the blood moon, but I really can’t complain because this shot is rather fun. It also got me wondering, what would it be like to have more than one moon? What of the ocean tides? More fierce? Less? How bright the night sky?

In other skyward musings, have you risen early enough to see Venus and Jupiter in the East lately? Venus is a revelation, gleaming low and bright in the sky, and the quiet darkness so lovely and worth every moment I stand shivering and barefoot in my nightgown.

 

Whoa! I don’t know what happened, but it sure looks cool.

That’s better!

My friend Bebe is one of my dearest companions. She is funny, generous, kind, and smart. We love to bead together (making jewelry, mostly), and can talk up a storm on any and every topic. She’s also fearless and lived all over: Africa, Alaska, England, as well just about every corner of the contiguous United States after being born in Maryland. In her travels, she’s accumulated a vast array of recipes. She started making cranberry banana jam about fifty years ago in Alaska, though she made it with indigenous lingonberries that she and her friends collected in the wild. Unless you’re lucky enough to have lingonberries available, cranberries are the best substitute.

When she first offered me a jar, I was a bit skeptical. Cranberries and bananas? Weird. I am open minded, however, so I took a jar. Wow, this is good! It tastes mostly like banana, with a hint of fruitiness I would never identify as cranberry. As the title infers, strangely delicious. The hubster and I devoured it in no time. Here’s the recipe, just in case you’re curious, too.

Cranberry Banana Jam

4 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen

1 1/2 cups water

3 cups mashed banana

7 cups sugar

6 ounces liquid pectin

1 teaspoon bottled lemon juice

Sterilize canning jars – I used a variety of jars, so I can’t say exactly how many jars this makes, so have quite a few on hand.

In a large pot, combine cranberries and water over medium heat. Simmer until cranberries start to pop, about 10 minutes. Stir in mashed bananas and sugar. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook until mixture comes to the boil, stirring occasionally. Boil for one minute. Remove from the heat, stir in pectin and lemon juice.

Dispense jam into sterilized jars. Wipe the rims clean with a damp cloth, attach lids. Process in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove from water and place on a kitchen towel to cool. If you want to give away the jam without sealing, simply allow to cool and refrigerate until sharing. I’ve got two jars in the fridge as I type. Danger, Will Robinson, danger!!

Oh, and Happy New Year! It’s 2019!

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Oh, the chill we’ve had as of late! But how a pretty frosted landscape makes braving the icy winds worth it.

Cuddling with my favorite newborn!

Made this beautiful cheesecake (those are vanilla bourbon apples on top) in celebration of the little one’s parents and grammie visiting. I gilded the lily by dousing it in caramel sauce. No one complained.

 

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Pike’s Peak in a cloud hug! I volunteer at a retirement home, spending time with hospice patients. One of my ladies, when asked if she had a nice view, said, “It’s nothing much.” Not taking her at her word because I am a woman of my own mind, I glanced out and saw Pike’s Peak. She said she’d seen it so many times she was over it.

Though I am open to many possibilities in life, this really isn’t one of them. Nearly every day, I see this great mountain, and am always delighted by it. It’s here for me!¬†And you, too! I felt the same over my sixteen years in Portland; every day I caught sight of Mt. Hood, Mt. Saint Helen’s, and Mt. Adams was a finding a penny on the sidewalk kind of day, simply the best.

The days are also getting cooler and more trees are starting to turn in our neck of the woods, which means Juniper has occasion to wear a coat. This is a snazzy new one that fits nicely and looks absolutely adorable. How about that dog walker, too. Handsome!

In addition to making kombucha (peach, mixed berry, ginger turmeric, and apple are our best flavors), I have started a wee batch of mead! Honey, water, hibiscus, and time. Fingers crossed that it tastes as lovely as the color. So pretty!

My pack! I snapped these post teeth cleaning (done by yours truly). As you can imagine, it ranks right up there with nail trimming (the hubster’s job) as Juniper’s least favorite activities. Post trauma cuddles go a long way!

Views from yesterday morning’s walk. I know I’m like a broken record, but seriously, this place is so beautiful!

Finally, when I was in college, I was struck by ecological succession. A glacier rests cozily during the ice age; it’s remains melt into a lake; the lake turns to a meadow; the meadow turns into a forest. A magical progression, with every manner of life supported.

During our road trip a few weeks back, I saw a woman who had once been one of my very best friends. For a whole host of reasons, I stopped speaking to her about 18 years ago, a heart-wrenching decision that took me years. Afterward, zooting through the jeweled meadows and forests with a head full of memories, I realized how we are kin: a series of individual beings occupying the same space throughout time. Parts grow and flourish, ebb and flow, advance and retreat, each the same but very different. We spend small forevers with creatures great and small. Some of these creatures nourish, some don’t. Same goes for our experiences, in our own minds and out in the world. As I am solidly in mid-life, I am ever more keen on experiencing all that uplifts and take calculated steps to achieve that goal. This means spending more time with the right people, less or none at all with the wrong ones, as well as being less inhibited about taking risks or trying something new.

So to the picture! I have always wanted to go to a rave, to dance myself silly. Sadly, I never took the opportunity. Then one episode of High Maintenance (my very favorite show!) had a story line with a day rave, and I got super excited. Dancing in the morning? No drugs or alcohol? Where do I sign up?! I searched the interwebs and found Daybreaker, the brainchild of Radha Agrawal, and bought a ticket for their most recent party at the Boulder Reservoir. I went alone but was never on my own, enjoying the best community of huggers, body painters, and glitter mavens! I danced for three hours, laughed and cried. Best of all, I was part of something joyful, radiant, and true. Here’s to more…

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I don’t post many recipes anymore, mostly because there are PLENTY of places to find them, and I don’t necessarily feel like I have anything special to offer. By the process of deduction, I hope you’ve realized this strawberry rhubarb cake IS something special. I’ll give you three reasons. 1. It comes together quickly. 2. Greg hollered from the office, “I don’t know what you’re making in there, but it smells AMAZING.” 3. It tastes even better!

So, yeah, it’s good. I used rhubarb from my garden, which makes me feel extra warm and fuzzy. The pieces are kind of itty-bitty because the stout & gorgeous first stalks, just days from perfect ripeness, were positively mauled by a hail storm. Giant sad face. Giant. These are the little babies that came after, harvested just this morning. I’ll take it however it comes.

Also, if you like a really rhubarb flavor, I’d use another cup of it. I was worried that it would be too sour and was definitely wishing for more.

2 or 3 cups sliced rhubarb

1 heaping cup quartered strawberries

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon sugar

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut in pieces

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 cup flour – I used half all purpose and half whole wheat

Toss the rhubarb in a bowl with 3 tablespoons sugar. Spread strawberries and rhubarb evenly in a generously buttered 10″ pie pan. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook until lightly golden, 5-7 minutes. Pour the butter into into a medium bowl. Stir the 1/2 cup sugar into the butter. Gently stir in the eggs and vanilla, then the flour until blended. Spoon the batter evenly over the strawberries and rhubarb. Sprinkle with the remaining teaspoon of sugar. Bake at 350 degrees until crusty and lightly golden, 40 – 45 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for as long as you like. This is delicious warm or at room temperature. A dollop of whipped cream or vanilla or cinnamon ice cream would be extra-extra.

Enjoy!

 

 

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