Friday, June 22, 2012

A bit of summer in a jar

I'm hearing **PINGs!** from the jar lids of my first batch of preserved cherries. I'm so excited to see if they turn out.

I asked dear ole hubs to help me pit the cherries, and he said he'd prefer that I left the pits in. His reason: having to eat around the pits slows him down so he can't gobble up an entire jar in 5 minutes. I've seen him do it. I still think he just didn't want to help me pit 5 pounds of cherries. How can I blame him though?

We used honey from the cherry farm to make a light syrup for the cherries. I processed the jars in a makeshift canner (my largest stockpot with 2 washcloths lining the bottom of the pot) and wrapped some rubber bands around my tongs for a jar lifter.

Note to self: invest in a real jar lifter. Jury-rigging tongs with rubber bands, while innovative, is really pretty dangerous.

I used several different websites to get info for canning cherries.

  • was my main reference and I'll be back when I'm ready to try other fruits.
  • is another wonderful reference. There are lots of photos and I use this website to find U-pick farms each season.
  • was another site with great information for canning rookies.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache

Hello again! I've missed you so. I have no excuses for where I've been hiding. I've just been terribly lazy as of late and caught up in other projects. But tonight, I had to tell you about this little gem - a VEGAN chocolate cupcake with chocolate ganache.

(I've already eaten three, and would be scarfing down more if they weren't promised for a potluck tomorrow.)

I've been doing a little bit of vegan baking lately, inspired by my cousin and one of my son's teachers. I've been very happy with the few recipes I've tried so far. The first recipe I made was from Joanne Choi at Week of Menus. Her pumpkin muffins were a huge hit. I'd been expecting a dense, mealy, tasteless hockey puck and was surprised by how light and fluffy the muffins turned out.

Yesterday I made some peanut butter cookies from Rustic Garden Bistro. They've converted dear ole hubs into a PB cookie fan.

And tonight...oh dear. Tonight, I finally tried a recipe I tore out of Sunset Magazine last year. The recipe is from Chef Chloe Corscarelli, and it won first place on Food Network's Cupcake Wars. I also found a rich chocolate ganache made with coconut oil from The Nourishing Gourmet.

I highly recommend you make these to trick your vegan-hostile friends. They'll be converted immediately.

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

adapted from
link to original recipe here

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup water
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with liners (I made 24 small and 6 large cupcakes.)

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and whisk until just combined. Do not over mix.

Fill the cupcake liners about two-thirds full with batter. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean with a few crumbs clinging to it. Cool the cupcakes completely before frosting.

Chocolate Ganache Frosting

adapted from
link to original recipe here

1/2 cup of cocoa powder
3/8 cup of virgin coconut oil
1/4 cup of honey

Sift cocoa into a large bowl. Add coconut oil and honey and stir until well combined.

Spread on cooled cupcakes, top with fresh raspberries, and enjoy!

(I didn't bother melting the coconut oil, nor did I harden the ganache before spreading. However, the cupcakes went right in the fridge after decorating, and the ganache firmed up and should be perfect for serving tomorrow.)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


I met one of my girlfriends with her infant son at a music class yesterday. It was one of those classes where the instructors bring a bunch of percussion instruments - drums, sticks, bells, tambourines - for the kids to play, while the adults clap and sing along with the instructors. The instruments are there for everyone to use and share. Although possession rules get messy when you're dealing with toddlers, there didn't seem to be any major incidents with sharing and taking turns.

(But can someone please explain to me WHY these instructors bring hand drums and lots of sharp, wooden percussion instruments and drumsticks and then spend the majority of class trying to explain to the kids and their caregivers that they can't bang on the drums with the sticks because the drum heads will break?! I do not understand why they do this! But I digress.)

There was a lady next to us whose son looked to be a few months younger than mine. He danced around for a bit, sat on his mat playing with a stuffed snake that he'd found, and eventually dropped the snake and went to play with some instruments on the other side of the room.

A few minutes later, my son saw the snake and started playing with it. He was slithering it around on the floor, you know, like snakes do. Then he got down on the floor next to it and started pretending to be a snake too. So darned cute!

That's when the other little boy noticed that my son was playing with the stuffed snake and started walking over to him.

I thought, "This is going to be interesting," as I headed over to help manage the situation. For the last year, my son and I have been working on using his words to talk about his feelings when he's upset, to ask for a turn on the swings, to let a friend know when he's playing with something that he'll let them have a turn when he's finished. He's not perfect at it, which is why I'm there to help. But the other parent needs to be receptive to our efforts, or at the very least remain uninvolved. So I was glad that the other lady also got up and headed in their direction.

But when she got there, she took the snake out of my son's hands and told her boy, "Let's give this back to the little girl it belongs to." Then she walked away, with her son toddling after her.

I was stunned. And speechless. My son ran over to me and curled up in my lap, while I sat there trying to understand what had happened. I was just as confused as my son was. My initial reaction was, "What the sh*t was that all about?" My next reaction was, "XXXX XXX XXXXXX XXXX! XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXXX XXX!!!"

I couldn't believe that I'd just watched a grownup snatch a toy away from my son and I hadn't said anything. Hadn't I spent countless hours explaining to my son that we don't take things from other people? That we can say, "That toy belongs to that person over there. Will you give it back to her when you're finished?" That we need to learn how to ask for things if we want something, that it's never okay to grab something out of someone's hand?


I totally failed yesterday. I failed to stand up for my son. I didn't say, "Excuse me, but my son was playing with that." I really wanted to give that lady a piece of my mind, but I didn't think of the right words until I was in the car on the way home. I'm still really angry, mostly because I could have done something, but I didn't. I'm not even talking about a beat-down. I might have modeled a more appropriate way to handle the situation, and yet I watched it happen and showed my son that I don't feel comfortable standing up for him, or myself.

You better damn well believe that isn't happening ever again. Not on my watch.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

UPDATE: The after-effects

The house still smells like an ashtray. I've tried air fresheners, wiping down the cabinets, and opening all the windows. My sister says it smells musty. I think it smells like a cheap motel.

Dear ole hubs has taken to asking me, "What are you burning for dinner?" Grrrr....not funny! It's a good thing you're cute, or else I'd <insert empty threat here>. However, I did burn some nachos in the toaster oven the other night. I threw my hands up and started laughing when I realized it.

Note to self: Check and re-check smoke alarm batteries and placement of fire extinguishers.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Blackened beans

Do you find recipes in magazines and tear them out, only to never actually make the dish? I do. I've got recipes ripped out of magazines from the early 90s that I will never make, but I still have them filed away just in case! I've been trying to curb that habit lately (and all the towering piles of paper!), so the recipes I save are usually simple ones where I already have most of the ingredients in the pantry.

A couple of days ago, I began prepping a Bean & Chard soup from Sunset Magazine by boiling and soaking some dried beans. Since our move last week, my energy level has been kind of low, so I didn't get any further than the boil/soak that day.

Yesterday morning, the runny nose and sore throat that the toddler had been fighting off finally got to me.

Today, around lunchtime, I decided that the Bean & Chard soup would be perfect for my worsening cold. Little did I know that white beans, even after a 48-hour soak, still needed a few hours of simmering time before they'd become edible. So much for planning ahead. I added a quart of homemade veggie stock to the beans and set the pot to simmer. I kept checking, but the beans didn't seem to be softening up, even after a couple of hours. By that time, I had to put my son down for a nap, so I headed upstairs.

Which is where I promptly, and blissfully, passed out for another couple of hours.

When I finally woke up, it took me all of two seconds to register the faintest smell of smoke, jump out of bed, and run downstairs to the kitchen. When I lifted the lid of my lovely, beautiful, new-to-me dutch oven, this is what assaulted me, along with a huge plume of smoke.

G*ddamn "blackened" white beans carbonized to the bottom of my pot. Eff me.

I think I mentioned before about my cooking skills. Do I need to tell you that the best investment we've made in this house so far is the fire extinguisher?

Especially since we've lived here for exactly one week today, and already this is the SECOND time I've burnt something on the stove?


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Happiness level: High.

I know, it's such a terrible picture, but I really wanted to share it with you anyway.

In this messy corner, my very own craft room (!!!) is beginning to take shape.

Yes, the shape is that of a blob, but I am so excited!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Late-night cravings

What dish contains beans, yams, coconut, bananas and milk?

It's halo-halo, that Filipino treat! (Of course, I can't forget the jackfruit and the ice!)

My mom used to make it for me all the time when I was younger. I remember her pulling 4 or 5 glass jars filled with gelatinous, starchy, or stringy ingredients out of the fridge, along with a big block of ice and a can of evaporated milk. I can't remember how she'd shave the ice, but I do recall the slightly crunchy texture, which was coarser than Hawaiian shave ice but much less rocky than an American snow cone.

I made a halo-halo for myself tonight, and dear ole hubs looked at it and headed right off to bed. Good thing too, because it was almost indecent how much I enjoyed it. I think he might have gotten jealous.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Time marches on

We've moved all of our boxes and furniture out, but there's one thing I can't move - the wall where we marked my son's height. I just noticed that it's time to measure him again. I also noticed that I didn't start marking the wall until just after his 2nd birthday. I guess he couldn't stand still prior to 9/1/2011?

Don't worry, I already have plans to recreate this chart in our new home. Sentimental much? ;-)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Giving thanks

Today, I'm grateful that dear ole hubs owns a moving company. Moving gets harder each time we have to do it, but without his wonderful employees and his own expertise, we'd still be sitting in the midst of a shit-ton of boxes. We'd probably be sitting on the floor too, since at one point it was questionable whether our huge sleeper sofa was going to make it through the door or not.

Now we just have to wait for the cable internet to be installed on Saturday. I don't think I can go much longer than that without my FB fix.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Looking further back - Rolling over

Two years ago today, my dear old 1993 Ford Ranger pickup rolled over 200,000 miles. She was my first new vehicle right out of high school and I paid off my loan by myself in 60 installments with money I'd earned waiting tables. Who am I kidding? She was my only vehicle. I drove her day in and day out for 16 years, until I was forced to get something more suitable for driving around with an infant.

She stills runs great, though her seatbelts are worn and the shiny black paint job turned gray a long time ago. As we approach her 20th birthday, I wonder if she'd qualify for classic car status.