we’re jammin’

 

friendly, non-intimidating kitchen

One of my goals is to gain more confidence in the kitchen.

If you’re new to my blog, one of the first things you should know about me is that I’m not a perfectionist.

I just happen to like it when things go perfectly.

I’m not an alarmist either. So when I made tomato jam the other day, I didn’t think about botulism or accidentally poisoning my friends. My jam-filled jars weren’t going to shatter in a pot of boiling water, exploding magnificently in my face. And I never once thought about investing in a welder’s helmet. Or a beekeeper’s outfit (for deep frying: onion rings, chicken, Snickers bars, etc.).

I had to stop procrastinating. I had some beautiful tomatoes I bought at the farmers’ market and I had to do right by them.

tomatoes

So I began at the beginning. I read the “Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving”. Set out the equipment and ingredients. Started chopping.

chopping tomatoes

A few hours later, the tomatoes were cooking nicely on the stove. But wait – my jam looked more like soup! Oh, the horror!! I glanced at the recipe again and it didn’t mention covering the pot with a lid. Which I did. And I shouldn’t have. Doh!!

Another four and a half hours later, the tomatoes finally cooked down and I tried the hot water bath technique for the first time. The jars didn’t shatter. I still have my face and am not going to need plastic surgery (at least not for this reason)!!

Three and a half pounds of tomatoes and eights hours later:

the "fruits" of my labor. sorry. it's my grandpa humor. I realized later that I put pears in the photo when I really should have tomatoes. Good thing I'm not a perfectionist and this is not going to drive  me crazy.

The “fruits” of my labor. Sorry. It’s my grandpa humor. (I realized later that I put pears in the photo when I really should have tomatoes. Good thing I’m not a perfectionist and this is not going to drive me crazy.)

All that work resulted in three, almost four, half-pint jars, two of which I’m planning to give away. Tasted pretty good, if I do say so myself. Kind of sweet, savory, tomatoey, jammy, and other yummy, nonsensical words.

I really hope I don’t poison my friends. If I do, I’ll try to write from prison. They allow free-writing time in there, don’t they? Maybe I can start a canning group! We’re jammin’, jammin’, and I hope they’ll like jammin’, too…

 

wrestling with carrots

carrots - before beauty treatment

I volunteer for an organization that is part public/community garden, part harvest market, part nursery, and part educational resource.

I love it there.

In the beginning, all I did was weed. I didn’t mind. It’s quiet, peaceful work that requires patience and persistence, which it turns out I have when it comes to weeding. I’m the same with untying difficult knots. Can’t get your shoes off? Poor thing…come over here and let me take a look at the problem.

Certain activities bring out my perfectionism – without the Type A personality, of course. Uh, why do you still have your shoes on? I didn’t unknot your shoes for fun, you know. Next time, can you take them off before entering my blog? Here are some slippers you can wear (which I will burn immediately after you leave).

A weeder’s job is never done. Ever. I began to think that I would never graduate to doing anything else.

A few weeks ago, another fellow weeder and I were asked to help with some planting. We were so thrilled that our egos ballooned up over our heads.

We made it!! We’re too legit to quit!!

garden

A week later, the garden manager asked me to help harvest the broccoli:

“Get a clipper from the barn – ” He instructed.
My ego starting floating up into the air again. I quickly returned and started to cut some of the heads of broccoli, realizing that some of the stalks were way too thick for the clippers.
“How do I cut some of the bigger stalks? I don’t want to hack at them.” I said to the manager, holding up my narrow clippers.
“Well…first of all, those are wire cutters.”

Ego properly deflated.

I knew how ridiculous the situation was, so I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. He gave me his clippers and went off to get another pair. I put my head down and started working. I also harvested snap peas and then remembered the manager saying they needed carrots, too.

I couldn’t find him, so I asked someone else which carrots to harvest. I hadn’t a clue.

“Look at these tall greens,” She pointed to a large clump of carrot tops. “You could pull the more mature ones.”

Those were some stubborn carrots. I pulled, dug, and wrestled until I had sweat falling into my eyes (and everywhere else). Sometimes I was left with only the tops in my fist. If I had more time, I could have gotten more of them out, but everyone was beginning to leave and I still had to cut the tops and rinse them. As I was doing this, the garden manager showed up with another basket of carrots. He didn’t pick many mature ones – most of them were quite tiny.

Note to self: always find the manager and ask him how he wants things done.

carrots - after

My supervisors are loose and forgiving. They aren’t looking for perfection, which is perfect for an imperfect person who thinks she needs to be perfect. What they’re looking for is willingness, and  I am more than willing to learn and add to my growing base of knowledge (and superpowers). I predict all of this will come in very handy in the future…

 

country mouse

 

stranger danger!!!!

stranger danger!!!!

Somewhere in one of my past posts I called myself a country mouse who liked to rock ‘n roll once in a while. If you glance at me for about, umm…0.2 seconds, I’m pretty sure you’re not saying this to yourself: she sure as heck looks like she knows her way around a farm!!

Instead, I bet you think I can’t function without multiple cups of caffeine in the morning. You doubt I can lift a 5lb bag of gummy worms. You believe, given the option, that I would push over and use a small child as a stepping stone before placing my foot in sheep poo.

sheep sighting
I would call you Judgey McJudgerson, but I haven’t done any of those things, so who am I to say? You might be right.

I have a dream. And that dream is to have a small farm. Small being the operative word. Like maybe a few goats and a dozen chickens to start. See if I can handle it.

chicken coop

When you have a dream, you tend to overlook the reality of the situation. At least I do. Oh, but please let my dream stay beautifully misted over with romantic idealism…

sheep farm
Marry me, FarmLife!!
(Sorry, I held back as long as I could. Some day, one of my proposals will be accepted wholeheartedly.)

Reality can settle in later, like with a real marriage, right?

The Day I Asked Butter to Marry Me

This is not a food blog.

I bake occasionally, yet have never felt moved to post anything about my clanking around in the kitchen. There are so many food bloggers out there sharing beautifully delicious information. Leave it to the professionals, right? I didn’t want to muck up the Internet with my measly offerings. Until this happened:

before

Folks, I knew I had to blog about this as soon as I started browning the butter over the stove. It totally made me grumpy. Why do I have to brown this butter? Is it browning yet?? Now? Is it brown now?? Hey, it looks like it’s going to explode and splatter, leaving me with butter-filled boils on my arms!!!

And then, the butter bitch-slapped me and started getting groovy. And then, I wanted to guzzle it like ice cold beer on a hot day.

BrownButter, will you marry me?

Look!

after

These Peach Cobbler Muffins were made from the Joy the Baker Cookbook. She doesn’t have the recipe on her blog, so BrownButter told me to type it out instead of grumping about it. BB also instructed me not to cut and paste from some other site. Respect the muffin. Anything you say, BB…sigh

————————————————

peach cobbler muffins

peach cobbler muffins
courtesy of joy wilson | joy the baker cookbook
makes 12 muffins

for the muffins:

1 ½ c all-purpose flour
½ c granulated sugar
¼ c packed brown sugar
1 ½ tsps baking powder
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
7 Tb (almost 1 stick) unsalted butter
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/3 c milk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 ¼ c diced peaches

for the topping:

3 Tb unsalted butter, cold
½ c all-purpose flour
¼ c packed brown sugar
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 12-cup muffin pan and set aside. You can also use cupcake papers for this recipe. 

To make the muffins: in a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugars, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Place butter in a small saucepan, and melt until browned over medium heat. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together egg, yolk, milk, and vanilla. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the warm butter, making sure to scrape any brown bits into the egg mixture as well. Whisk until well incorporated.

Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture all at once. Fold together with a spatula. Once no flour bits remain, fold in the diced peaches. Divide the batter between the muffin cups.

To make the topping: combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and blend together with your fingers until crumbly. Butter will be the size of oats and small pebbles. Divide the topping among the muffin cups on top of the batter.

Bake muffins for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of one of the muffins comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan 20 minutes before removing. To remove, run a butter knife along the edges of the muffin pan and gently scoop out.

Muffins will last, well wrapped, at room temperature for up to 3 days.

—————————————————

Those are the instructions, verbatim, and I followed them verbatim. The muffins took longer in my oven than the recipe stated, and unfortunately, I’m not sure how long I baked them. I did one of those “three, then two, then three more minutes” until I forgot the total time in the oven. But I know you’re smarter than me because you are at one with your oven and know its temperament well enough to outsmart it.

They turned out wonderfully. I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve already had two and plan to have another, warmed, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

By the way, BrownButter turned down my proposal. After all the typing I did, it said it just wanted to be “friends”.

With a heavy heart (and tummy), I carry on.

 

Art, Thy Name is Phil

art.

I find the word kind of frightening. It’s only three little letters, but I might as well be spelling p-m-s or w-a-r. Okay, I’m being a little dramatic.  About war.

I used to make stained glass and mosaics using glass. I say “used to” because after I moved out of my house, I didn’t have the space (or the will) for it. When I packed all of my glass and equipment, I ended up with over a dozen banker’s boxes, and this was after I had donated about two boxes of glass to a local stained glass store.

Scoring, cutting, and soldering needs a certain kind of space, not to mention using a glass grinder and grouting. But I vowed to get back into it. Someday. At some point. In the future.

The journaling course, “Journal Your Life” run by Susannah Conway reactivated the creative side of my brain and I started to dabble in a bit of watercolor, drawing, poetry, and collage. Mentally, I find that painting and drawing are the most difficult to do – my hands and the paper act as two magnets: attracted, yet repelled. However, this year I’ve been trying to muffle the “YOU SUCK!” voice and have been experimenting with a neutral, objective frame of mind.

One step leads to another. It can lead to discovery – about yourself and the process. It’s very exciting. Cool. Neat. What are the kids saying these days? Are they still saying “da bomb”? How about “fo’ shizzle”? Um, I don’t think I’m using that correctly.

Here is how my one step led to the next:

This is Phil. I wasn't that pleased with how he turned out, but I was just experimenting. I set him aside; I figured he could useful for something later on.

This is Phil. I wasn’t that pleased with how he turned out, but I was simply experimenting. Oh well. I set him aside; I figured he could be useful for something later on.

Here's Phil after some scissoring. He's looking more handsome to me now...

Here’s Phil after some scissoring. He’s looking more handsome to me now…

The new Phil.

The new Phil.

I completed the newly reimagined Phil at 2am this morning. I couldn’t bear to stop and leave him unfinished. I was so happy when I was done; I’m surprised I was able to fall asleep. I’m supposed to go running today, but all I want to do is gaze at Phil. Maybe I’ll make him a sibling…

Phil, experimentation…whatever you want to call it – is so good for the soul. Be it baking/cooking, teaching, writing, exercising, and basically anything you put your heart into, you are expressing your inner self. It’s so satisfying, enlightening, interesting, da bomb. And another fantastic part about it – if you allow it – is that it seats you in the center of the moment, yet you’re moving at the same time. There’s so much beauty right there, right now.

Now that’s what I call ART.