>maybe i would ride in it’s pocket

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There are some things I want so bad, that I’ve pictured happening so often, that I’m always a little fuzzy as to whether my mental images are from real life or not. 
Like, “This can’t be true, but the picture’s so real… is it true? 
No. 
But maybe…?”
One of these things is to see a kangaroo on the side of the road. 

>Friday lunchacha

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My birthday is normally on the first day of summer, so I always say that summer is my favorite season. My heart knows this is not true. Fall is my favorite, because of HARVEST! I don’t grow much produce myself (although I bought brocolli and beet seedlings today — fingers crossed they don’t die) but I love love love all the wonderful bounty at the markets. The flavors, the names, and and especially the colors. The deep purple of eggplant has been beckoning lately, and with all the eggplant dishes popping up in my favorite food blogs, I bit. I started with the Eggplant Salad Toasts recipe from Smitten Kitchen as inspiration, but changed it dramatically. Please change this recipe to suit your own palate. Add some chopped olives or mint at the end. I might take Deb’s advice and mix the leftovers with some sort of grain (quinoa, steel-cut oats) for a yummy salad. You could also bake this into a frittata. In short, this is a great salad to have on hand for eating all week long.

For my quiet at-home Friday lunch, I made this and ate it with some Green Curry Chicken from last night’s dinner. Photo and recipes follow.

Eggplant Salad, for eating on bread or from a bowl

Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.

Dice into small pieces:
1 medium eggplant
1/4 medium onion (I used 1/2, but it was too much onion for me)
1 Roma tomato
and mince 
2 cloves garlic

Mix the above with a swirl of olive oil, a shake of salt, and lots of fresh-ground pepper. Spread on a baking sheet (maybe two if you have small sheets; you want there to be room between the pieces). Put in the oven for 10 minutes. Stir it around. After 10 more minutes, stir again, turning everything over and around with a spatula. Bake for 10 more minutes (so, 30 minutes total). 


While the veggies are roasting, put 

1/4 c crumbled feta cheese
a sprinkle of smoked paprika

in a bowl. 

Once the veggies are roasted to your liking (you could go longer than 30 minutes, but they’ll start to lose their shape) remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. 
 Then scrape the veggies into the bowl with the cheese, dribble
1-2 T of balsamic vinegar
over, and toss. 



Serve on toasts, or stuffed into a slice baguette, or on a bed of lettuce. Not super-sexy looking, sort of slumpy and brown, but delicious and nutritious!

Makes about 2 cups

If you want this on bread, put some baguette slices on the oven rack to toast in the residual heat. This was good warm, but I liked it even better the next day straight from the fridge with a little more vinegar to brighten the flavors.
I didn’t do a bigger picture because neither this or the chicken are really so yummy to photograph.

Yesterday afternoon I watched a live-stream video of Adam of The Amateur Gourmet cooking dinner. (Which is about as exciting as it sounds, but, well, interesting in an “I’m-older-than-the-internet-look-what-it-does-kids!” sort of way.) Anyways, he made a spice rub for chicken. The video ended right around 4 o’clock, and I sat there for a minute staring at a blank screen, wanting chicken. I always want chicken.

Adam had used fennel seed and peppercorns. We didn’t have fennel seed. We did have some other seeds, and some green curry mix from World Market. They have all kinds of spices in little packs for just 99 cents, so it’s a good way to try a spice you’re not sure about. If you can avoid buying your spices in jars, it’s almost always cheaper. I buy all my spices from bulk jars (where? Central Market, Whole Foods, even QFC and Top have a small selection) and keep them in clean baby food jars.
For this chicken I rinsed and patted dry 5 pounds of chicken legs. Keep this in mind when making your own chicken; adjust the amount of spices if you don’t have 12 people in your house. Lay the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet.
In a small skillet toast
1 T dill seeds
1 T caraway seeds
1 T yellow mustard seeds
for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until the smells reach your nose. Let cool.

Put in a spice grinder with 1 T black peppercorns. Grind until fine. Mix in a small bowl with 3-4 T salt and 2 T green curry powder. Drizzle olive oil lightly over the chicken and spread to coat. Sprinkle the spice mix liberally all over the chicken pieces. Bake at 400˚ for 30-40 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces over and bake for 30-40 more minutes, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 180˚ or until the chicken is golden.

Pieces of chicken just aren’t that lovely to view, so no photos.

>Community

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I’ve been pondering community lately. As someone who attempts to follow the words of Jesus in my life, I feel convicted to foster community… somehow. I don’t live on my own, I have few possessions, and my financial budget is small. I’ve moved around quite a bit the last few years, and thought my current town is my hometown, my good friends now live far away or we are no longer such good friends. My heart wants to live and love with those who are like me. Don’t we all want that?
The idea of not only having a social network for mental and emotional sharing and support, but a commune-like community where property and time is shared, is intriguing to me. I’m just starting to vocalize all this rumbly-tumblyness inside, so forgive me if I ask more questions here than anything else.
Where do I even begin? Even writing this, there’s so many directions my heart says to go. “Social justice” is a popular phrase, and I want to know how to work for social change within a framework of God’s love and truth, not as an addendum. There are two websites I’ve been following lately that I’ll recommend: Rowdy Kittens and Shareable. Both of these sites discuss using our time, goods and resources for not only our own betterment, but the betterment of those around us. A former pastor used to tell about people who would come up to him and say “You [meaning the church] should do x or y or z”. He would tell them “Go for it!”. This is a more direct way of saying “Be the change you wish to see in the world”.
The hard thing is moving beyond past hurts. I’ve been involved in so many community efforts, in some way or another, in the past, and have been hurt. Who hasn’t? Trying to even write down, right now, what I’m thinking, brings back memories of hurtful times. What if I get hurt again? What if I hurt someone else? What if I fail? This spring I discovered in me a huge fear of failure. I had enrolled in a class that turned out to be much harder than I had anticipated. I failed tests. I felt like a failure. (I’ll admit, I made that jump from “failing at something” to “I am a failure” very quickly.) I passed, but that fear was an unwelcome discovery. Yet like my class, where my options were either give up and never know what could have been, or try and maybe something positive will come out of it, I must try SOMETHING.
The idea of sharing resources is especially interesting to me right now. I have a lot to say about STUFF, but for today I’ll end on a good note. If anyone wants to borrow my canning supplies, or anything else I have, please ask. 
For canning, I have:
a water-bath canner with rack
an instant-read thermometer/timer
a jar lifter
recipes, tips, and books
knowledge
I am also happy to teach you how to can. 
If you have a similar conviction, let’s put our brains together! What are ways that you know of, or desire to see put into practice, to live in communion with others?

>Scraps

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There’s a right way and a wrong way to deal with random bits of food. The wrong way is the way of… someone close to me. Someone whom I love so so much. Someone who rhymes with “scmother”. This way involves putting a large Tupperware container in the freezer, using it to create a stratum of progressive leftovers. When the container is full, defrost, dump in a pot, cover with water, salt to taste, and call it soup.
The ensuing rebellion at this gruel ensured that ‘leftover soup’ did not happen again.

(I should take a brief parental detour here and let you know that we children did not run the household. However, having simple majority, sometimes our outcries counted as a democratic decision. If the vote was split, but mom liked the controversial dish, a repeat was likely. We still have yells about something known as King Ranch Chicken. I am in the “like it” camp; Homesick Texan has a yummy sounding recipe on her site.)
(Another parent/food/geocultural bunny trail: One time we were gifted with a casserole that, apparently, was called Fish Saute. Being children of Seattle, we always thought it was called Fish Latte. Even typing this out, that’s where my fingers went. 

Fish Latte. It’ll be the Flavor of the Day at some drive-thru coffee stand in Monroe soon. If I’m right about that, you all owe me twenty bucks.)

Okay, back from… wherever that went. Oy vey. I spent my Saturday night* examining different ways to use fruit (specifically pear) scraps. One is straightforward pear butter. The other way spawned two recipes, one for canned cinnamon pears and one for pear-scrap apple jelly. Unless you like canning (I find it soothing) or you’re bored out of your gourd and want to spend three hours with pears, I recommend splitting these methods up. It’s a lot of pear time.

*If the idea of me at home experimenting with pears on a Saturday night makes you sad for me, please know that earlier in the day I had a date. Part of the date unexpectedly involved watching police with assault weapons lock down parts of the city and search for an armed suspect. We also strolled through an open-air flea market and had coffee. So, my day wasn’t so very spinstery. 


Recipes ahead!

 Whole-Fruit Pear Butter
10 medium pears, washed and cut into large chunks (do not peel or core)
1 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup agave or other sweetener, or to taste
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 Tablespoon vanilla

zest and juice of 1 orange

Put the pears into the pot of a 5 quart slow cooker (I just kept cutting pears until the crock was full.) Mix the water and lemon juice, then add to the pot. Cover and cook on high until the pears are very soft. I left mine for 6 hours. (You could also do this on the stove top, but obviously the time will be much shorter.)
Process the stewed fruit through a food mill. Do not return the scraps to the pot. This is a very waste-less recipe; mostly what was left in my mill was the seeds and stems.
Add the rest of the ingredients. (If you have a Microplane, use it to grate the ginger and zest the orange right into the pot.) Let it cook with the lid propped open until thickened to your liking. (Alternatively, put into a pot or wide pan and cook over medium heat until bubbly and thickened.) 
A good way to test for the true thickness of a butter, or the gel of a jam, is to keep some small plates or bowls in the freezer. Put a spoonful of the spread on the frozen dish and return to the freezer for a minute. Poke it. Like what you see? Can your spread. If not, boil for a little longer. If I forget to put a dish in the freezer, I’ll swirl some around on the inside of the pint glasses we keep frozen.

Prepare your jars and lids. Once ready, fill the jars to 1/4″ of tops, remove bubbles, wipe rims, and apply lids. Return to the water, bring to a boil again, and boil for 15 minutes. 

Remove, let cool, and check seals (remove the rings and hold the jar slightly above the counter by the rim. If it’s sealed, it should stay put.) Wipe down the jars, write the date and contents on the lid, and store up to a year. 

 Makes 7 half-pints
Canned Cinnamon Pears
10-12 medium pears (eyeball as you go… this is a very “eyebally” recipe)
7 1/2 cups apple juice
2 cinnamon sticks, broken or cut into 7 pieces total
Prepare your jars and lids.

Peel and core the pears, saving those scraps for the jelly recipe below. Cut the pears into chunks or slices and put them in an anti-browning agent. (I crush 6 500-mg vitamin C tabs in a bowl and add warm water to dissolve.)

When jars are ready, put the apple juice in a pot, put a lid on, and bring it to a boil. Remove from heat. Remove the jars from the water and fill each jar, first with a cinnamon stick, and then to the top with pears. (Because this is a raw-pack, the pears will shrink a little in the jar as they’re cooked.) Fill with hot apple juice to 1/2″ of top. Wipe rims and apply lids. Return to water, bring to a boil, and boil for 25 minutes.  

Remove, let cool, and check seals. Remove rings and wipe down jars. Write date and contents on lid. You shouldn’t reuse the lids (the rings are all right as long as they’re not rusty) and the best way to remember which ones have been used already is to write right on them. (By the way, those new Sharpie pens aren’t permanent on metal.) If you don’t like the look, you can always cover it later with fabric or a tagboard circle.

Pears take well to many spices. If you don’t have cinnamon sticks, try using Chinese five-spice powder, a star anise, rosemary, lavender, or crushed fennel seed (this last one may be a bit strong for most people to steep in the jars, so put it in a spice bag or tea strainer and remove from the juice before canning).

Makes 7 pints.

Okay, this last recipe didn’t work the first time. I threw some sugar in the pan with the juice, added some conventional pectin… and it didn’t gel. I know what I did wrong: I didn’t use enough sugar. Now I have 5 jars of apple-pear syrup. Good for mixed drinks or pouring over a porous cake. The lesson here: Live and learn and rename it something fabulous if it doesn’t turn out. Once I doubled a recipe for chocolate-chip cookies. Except I forgot to double the flour. The doughballs melded into one. No worries though, right? I cut the Pangea cookie into squares and called them Toffee Bars. Delicious!

(UPDATE 9/15!) Um… it didn’t work the second time EITHER. Pomona’s pectin takes time to gel. You won’t normally see the gel until the jar and contents have completely cooled. I went to wipe down my jars of “jelly” last night… and they hadn’t gelled. So now I have MORE jars of syrup. This stuff doesn’t have added sugar, so I guess I could always just drink it, but I don’t know why it didn’t work! I created this recipe directly from the instructional pamphlet that comes in the pectin box. Any ideas?

Pear-Scrap Apple Jelly
Prepare your jars.

Use the scraps from the canned pears recipe. Put the peels and cores in a wide pan and cover with apple juice to about 1/2″ above the scrap level. Bring to a simmer and simmer until the scraps are soft, about 5 minutes. 
Remove from heat. Place a strainer double-lined with cheesecloth over a bowl. I used my 8-cup measuring cup. Strain the juice, and once cool enough to handle, gather up the cheesecloth and squeeze as much more juice out as you can. You should have about 5 cups of liquid. Set aside one cup, and return the remaining liquid to the pan.

To the larger amount of juice, add 4 teaspoons of Pomona’s calcium water and stir well. Bring the remaining cup of juice to boil in a separate pan. Put it into a blender, add 4 teaspoons of Pomona’s pectin powder, and blend with lid vented for a minute or two until all the powder is dissolved. Bring the fruit in the big pan to a boil. Add the pectin-juice and stir for one minute. Return to a boil and remove from heat. 
Skim off foam. Fill jars to 1/4″ of top. Wipe rims and apply lids. Put jars into canner and bring back to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool. Check seals, wipe down jars, label and date, and enjoy on soft white toast or hearty oatmeal scones.
Makes 4 half-pints (approximate).


Recommended accompaniment: “Another Saturday Night,” by Cat Stevens

>Library Round-up

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Recently I joined a members-only website, and in the profile section you’re asked to list “5 things you can’t live without”. The goal here is not to be too literal (none of us can live without water, or air, thanks), but to be clever and stand out a little, while being truthful. I put ‘library card’ for one of my essentials. Our local library is a seven minute walk away. I’ve had my card number memorized for years (and have no idea where the actual card is). This knowledge came in handy last year at the Minnesota State Fair. The day I visited, you got a discounted admission ticket if you showed your library card. The young man working the booth let me recite mine instead; I think I may have astonished him.
I thought I’d highlight several titles I’ve enjoyed (for free!) from the library lately. But first, here’s my brother at the main branch of the Seattle Public Library. It’s an astonishing building, both architecturally and literarily. Rem Koolhaas was one of the principal designers. It has lots of glass and steel. There are exterior shots here; this site also shows off the four-story “continuous staircase”. Parts of each level have slightly sloped floors, and as you follow the slope up or down it takes you all through the four levels non-fiction. There’s also a giant conveyor system for returning materials, which my brother thought was “awesome”.

Source
1.  The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich (2009 edition). This is an exhaustive compendium that covers how-to’s, safety, and a plethora of recipes for anything you could ever want to pickle. (I’ll soon be featuring a pickled beets recipe I adapted from here.) The recipes range from basic to fancy, which I appreciate as I’m new to pickling. None seemed particularly hard, once you have the technique down. (Admittedly, I’ve yet to try fermented pickles. I don’t know if I’ve ever even eaten one. Does anyone have experience with this?) There are refrigerator pickles, crock pickles, canned pickles, recipes for using your pickled products, and uses for leftover brine. In short, a complete pickling book. This may go on my birthday list.

2. Shades of Grey, by Jasper Fforde. I struggled to describe this book, because it’s so WEIRD. Jasper Fforde has also written the Thursday Next series (the first is The Eyre Affair), about a detective who investigates in book-worlds by jumping into the pages of books and entering the worlds contained within. Shades of Grey (which, by the way, is the superior way to spell that color) follows Eddie Russett, a Red in a world where color and color perception is everything. Eddie is young, has a physician (or “swatchman”) for a father, and gets a rare chance to travel outside his home village to see others. When he does so, his world starts to crack as the truth behind a large governmental scandal that’s affected EVERYONE’S lives becomes made known to him. Fforde does an excellent job of describing whatever fantastical world he’s conjured up, so don’t let my muddled explanation scare you away. If you enjoy smart fiction, read something by Fford. (He also wrote a series about nursery-rhyme crimes, if you’re more into detective novels.)
3. Magazines. My local library has about 20 different titles, and I’ve noticed they often receive the latest issues about a week before I do. (If you’re curious, I subscribe to Country Living, Wired, and Bon Appetit.) The latest edition is always “in-library use only” so you can read it in a timely manner for free! The larger regional library up the road has probably 300 magazine titles on the shelves. 
4. Homemade by Judith Choate. My primary love language is gifts. This book, subtitled Delicious Foods to Make and Give, contains recipes and ideas for culinary treasure ranging from baked goods to snacks and appetizers, drinks to relishes and chutneys. I know someone who’s famously known for giving out fudge at Christmas. I think I’ll go the caramelized almonds route myself, but this book pulls me in many different directions. Would you rather get Framboise Syrup or Chocolate Malt Cake the next time I show up at your place? Invite me over, and just maybe I’ll bring both.
5. Thrifty Chic: Interior Design on a Shoestring by Liz Bauwens and Alexandra Campbell. If you loved the magazine Domino, if you scour thrift stores and Craigslist for pieces to remake, if you’re short on cash and inspiration, or if you just love beautiful photos of beautiful real interiors, then this may be a book for you. It’s a British publication, so it’s got that whole Euro-chic thing going on too. 
That’s it for this edition of “Library Round-Up”. Next time I’ll tell you about the services the library offers, and recommend more titles. Let me know if you read any of the above books!

>Reduced-sugar jams and a GIVEAWAY!

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 As a thank-you for reading, I’m giving away a jar of this delicious jam, plus a surprise baked good to spread it on! To enter, leave a comment telling me about your best improvised recipe, and check back on Friday for the winner!

If you like to can your own jams and preserves, you may, like me, be aghast at the amount of sugar you quickly go through in putting up your spreads. Most pectin requires a certain amount of sugar to gel, and some recipes don’t even use pectin, but have you boil the fruit until it reaches the gelling point (220˚ at sea level). 

There is another way. Pomona’s Universal Pectin uses calcium to cause the pectin to gel. If I were more of a sciencey person, I would explain to you how this works, but I use words like “sciencey” so obviously I’m not. What I know is that this calcium magic allows you, the consumer, to use lower amounts of sugar or even other sweeteners in your recipes. The informative guide sheet included in each box of pectin also gives clear instructions on how to develop your own preserves recipes. I recently put on my big girl pants and did just that. I was inspired by this article on “Bachelor Jam”, which is simply fruit and sugar layered in a crock, covered with a high-proof alcohol, and let to sit. As tempting as that sounds, I wanted something with a lower ABV (alcohol by volume) percentage. Some kiwis were getting soft, the ancient triple sec in the fridge needed to be used up, and thus, Bachelorette Jam!
Bachelorette Jam 

You don’t need to worry about peeling the fruits (except kiwi). After everything had simmered for a while and gotten soft, I ran it all through my Foley food mill, but if you don’t have a food mill, you could just chop everything really small to begin with, or blend it after some simmering. I like the applesauce-like texture a food mill makes.  

1 pint blueberries
2 kiwis, peeled
1 1/2 apples
1/2 nectarine
1 pear
1 peach
zest and juice of 1 orange
lemon juice
1 c honey
Pomona’s Universal pectin and prepared calcium water
1/2 c triple sec
Prepare your jars and bring the jars and rings to a boil. Let them simmer while you make the jam. Soak the lids in a bowl of very hot water.
Wash the fruit. Dice into approximate 1/2″ pieces and measure. For each cup of fruit add 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice. (I had 6 cups of fruit.) Stir the lemon juice and all the fruit together in a deep and wide pot. Bring to a simmer and let simmer with a lid on until the fruits are soft. Put through a food mill, or blend in a blender or food processor. Return to the pot. (I dumped the stuff left in the food mill back in, as it was pretty broken down, but you can discard it if you wish.) Stir in 1 teaspoon of prepared calcium powder per cup of fruit.
Stir 3 teaspoons of pectin powder into the honey. Bring the fruit to a boil (212˚) and let boil while stirring in the pectin-honey. Stir vigorously and let cook for two minutes to dissolve the pectin. Return to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in the triple sec.
Pour the jam into the prepared jars to within 1/4″ of top. Remove the air bubbles with a chopstick or small spatula, and adjust headspace as needed. Wipe the rims, apply the lids, and screw the ring on until hand-tight. Put the filled jars back into the water bath and return it to a boil. Once it starts boiling again, process for ten minutes. Lift the jars straight up out of the boiling water and let cool. Remove the rings, check the seal, wipe the jars, and store with the rings off. Don’t forget to date and label your lids!

Makes 7 half-pint jars

Since this recipe has so many ingredients, I made pretty labels so I remember all the kinds of fruit. I found many great options here; for this recipe, I used Martha Stewart’s fruit labels, customized in Pages.