Oops! Catching up with crafts and jam

Pretty Little Folks voileWow, it has been a busy summer.  I don’t know how it is mid-August already.  Between house projects, syllabi, and article editing, the months have really flown by.  I hadn’t crafted in ages until yesterday, though I tend to make a lot of stuff in the summer.

And this is one easy craft, so I’m not sure how much it counts, but I’m taking it, anyway.

Right there is a little pile of voile–super-soft cotton–in the Little Folks line by Anna Maria Horner.  It’s adorable with little houses, trees, deer.  When I saw it on sale at Sew Mama Sew, I thought it was time to buy myself a little something to make myself a little something.

So I made this:
Little Folks infinity scarfIt’s called an infinity scarf.  I know it’s hard to see here, but I take awful self-portraits.  Essentially you make a big tube.  And wrap it around your head.

Here, have a tutorial:  http://thecottagehome.blogspot.com/2011/05/lightweight-spring-infinity-scarf.html

I sort of fudged sewing the short ends together to make the tube, but my sorta ugly seam is well-hidden when I wrap it around my neck.  This whole project took me all of a half an hour, and the payoff was faaaaantastic.

If you like easier projects, I think you should also take a stab at canning.  A lot of people find canning intimidating.  It can be, I suppose–sometimes you have to be fast on your feet and you do spend a lot of time in a warm and humid kitchen.  But the recipe at Food in Jars for this particular jam takes a  lot of the chaos out by making it in the slow cooker.

Blueberry ButterFirst you have to have a LOT of fruit, in order to make 8 cups of puree in your food processor/blender.  I think I used nearly 4.5 pounds of berries.

Then you put them in the cooker with a little sugar and, if you want, some spices.  I didn’t want any–the reason I was trying this recipe is because I wanted a spread (technically this is a butter) with pure blueberry flavor.  My other blueberry jams tend to taste more sweet than blueberry-y.  This recipe uses less sugar and no pectin, and the results were amazing.  It cooks down for several hours and then you process it in a water bath.

Don’t take my word for it–Marisa at Food in Jars has legions of happy commenters on this recipe!

As the summer winds down, I’m planning on making some salsa verde and canning it; we made a half-batch of three pints last year and this year I’ll make a full, as we loved it.  I did make seven pints of sweet pickles that are now in the basement with the cherry jam and this butter.  With the fall I’ll make apple sauce and maybe some vanilla/pear jam in between.  That’s it, though–a leaner canning year, but that’s ok.  I’m hoping to find a cheap chest freezer on craigslist and step up the preserving next summer, or get some tattler lids (bpa free, reusable plastic?  sweet!) and do tomatoes (last year a bunch of my lids got rusty spots on the inside–the tomatoes were probably fine, but it made me nervous).  It’s almost time to start planning Christmas gifts, so the less time I spend over the canning kettle, the more I can spend on that.  And in two weeks, it’ll be time to reunite with my eager students and start another semester.  Wow, the time goes so quickly.

Cherries I Forgot I Photographed

Cherry jamTypically I neglect blogging because I haven’t photographed anything; this time, I forgot I took photos.  Here’s my first canning effort of the season, since I missed the strawberries:  sweet cherry jam.  The cherries are from Washington State, alas, but they were pretty good.  The jam is just the Ball recipe that comes in the pectin package.  Truth be told, I don’t love it–it’s a lot of sweet and a not a great deal of cherry flavor.  Hmm.  Tasty, but not ideal.  But hey, at least we have some jam set aside.  Next up will be blueberries, though the ones I picked last week are already near gone, so I’ll have to get more.  Following that, in short order, will be sweet pickles and tomatillo salsa.  Yum.  But for now, cherries.

Cherry pancakesCherries, I discovered, are actually quite tasty in pancakes.  I suspected they might be, given how awesome cherry clafoutis is.  These pancakes were quick and easy to make, except for pitting and chopping the cherries.  I added a handful–maybe 10 cherries?–to the following batter:

1 1/4 c flour
3 1/2 t baking powder
1 t salt
2 T sugar
1 1/4 c milk
1 t vanilla
1 egg
2 T canola oil

Mix, without overdoing it–a few clumps are ok. Add chopped cherries. Heat up a skillet over medium heat. When a bead of water dances on the surface, you’re ready. Cook a couple of minutes until browned and puffy, then flip. Let that side cook a couple of minutes and you’re good to go. Keep an eye on your skillet–mine always gets a little too warm and I have to turn it down or else I end up with brown but raw pancakes. Ick.

Maybe cherry season is coming up locally, and you can try your hand at these cakes–you won’t be sorry.  In the meantime, I’m going to try to keep from wilting and try equally hard to get some work done.  Enh!  Late July already?  Yikes, stripes!

Grilled Buffalo Chicken

I didn’t get a pretty picture (alas, it wasn’t pretty) but if you are a fan of buffalo chicken but would rather not fry everything for whatever reason, this is for you. I love buffalo chicken fingers, myself; I like the wings ok, but don’t care for all the skin and bones involved.

I used tabasco sauce in my recipe, as Whole Foods didn’t have Frank’s, which I understand is traditional.

So here you go:

1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast  (I had two huge pieces), dusted with:

s&p

paprika

chili powder

Grill until done–this took about 15 minutes.  Let them rest a few minutes and then cut into chunks.

Mix 3.5 T tabasco or other hot sauce with 3 T melted butter.  I think Mr. Pea added a little more paprika to this, as well.  Add your chopped chicken and toss.  Add about 1/3 or so cups of crumbled blue cheese.

We ate this chicken with corn on the cob and our make-it-yourself rice-a-roni.

 

Know When to Walk Away

I finished priming the porch.

By the time I was done, I’d also primed a nice glob of the yard.

And an earthworm.  I felt bad about that.

And most of my hands.

And my favorite shorts, which I’d stupidly worn with an inflated ego, assuming I wouldn’t get anything on them–I only had a few pieces to paint, after all!

And so I came in.  Testy.  Ticked off.

And I made some spaghetti and reheated some only OK sauce I made this week (tomatoes with butter and an onion?  Weird.), but won’t throw out.

And wisely, I’m eating it at the table and not on our new couch.

Free table! Yay!

Early in process--just missing screensThis is an in-progress shot of our screen porch.  Here it’s missing screens and trim, torn down courtesy of dad.  Right now it’s been sanded and the interior parts, as well as the horizontal beams, have been sanded primed.  I need to sand a couple of missed spots and prime the outside, but we’re well on our way to having a proper porch.  The door needs work–I can’t remember what dad said we’re doing about that–and eventually we’ll have to repair the floor, too, as the concrete split and needs re-sealing.  But hey, porch!  Almost!  Yay!  Which is good, as I got this freebie today:

Free table!!  Woohoo!Wahoo!  I was driving from work to the grocery store and saw a guy putting it out on the sidewalk.  As I inspected it, a lady offered to help me get it in the car.  She was awesome, trying every which way combination to get it in.  I still have no idea what her name even was.  Then I drove very, very carefully home as the table was sticking out of the trunk and held in with a bungee cord.  But hey, free table!  It needs a coat of paint, but it’s in good shape and really fits the home’s original mid-50s aesthetic.  Yay, free!

 

Hot day? Make Panzanella.

Panzanella!I’m not sure if we’ve ever talked about panzanella together.  If not, we really should have.  I’ve only made it once before last night, which is crazy: it’s quick and easy, goes down really easily with some crisp white wine, and is perfect for summer.  Panzanella is an Italian bread salad, designed to use up leftover loaves.  If I were you, I’d run to the store right now and get some bread, so you can have this for dinner tonight.

What’s nice about panzanella is that you can include pretty much whatever you have handy.  This particular version, which I made for dinner with a friend last night, contains half a wide Trader Joe’s baguette, most of a cucumber, about half a pound of fresh mozzarella (it was on sale this week, so I didn’t make it myself.  This is easy, remember?  But you could make it a lot more involved by baking your own bread, making your own cheese, and growing your veg.  On another day, that would be up my alley), 1/4 of a vidalia onion, finely chopped, a tomato, some basil slivers, and half a red bell pepper.  I also added a can of rinsed white beans for added protein.  If you had artichokes, they’d be great; if you like olives, add them.  Feta?  Why not?  It’s very, very flexible.

For the dressing, I mixed a scant 1/4 c (maybe more like 3 T) red wine vinegar with a little more than 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil.  Add salt and pepper, pour over salad, and toss.  You want to do this with at least 20 minutes to spare, as all that bread soaks up the dressing in that time, which is what makes this salad spectacular.  This giant bowl of salad will feed only three hungry people, I have to caution you, as it is nearly impossible to stop eating it.  You might be able to get four servings, but I’d just add more, instead–finish off that cucumber, the pepper, the cheese, and add more baguette.  Include a little more oil and vinegar.  You won’t regret it!