Bite

This morning I woke up and made pizza dough and ate some leftover orange pancakes and pondered the day ahead of me. The house needed cleaning and there was a meeting to go to, and friends coming over in the evening, and I was feeling very uninspired as to what to do for the the day’s citrus thing. But then I remembered I’d seen a recipe for Lemon Crinkle Cookies, and I figured, hey, why not give those a try.

They only use one lemon, which didn’t seem like much, but which turns out to be exactly enough. The cookies may not be much to look at, but they are a delightful bite of sweet and tart. The lemon flavor is present, but not overpowering, and it helps cut through the sugar. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Citrus used so far: 7 lemons, 8 tangelos, 2 mandarins

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

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A light crumb

What do you do when you pick the first three mandarin oranges of the season off your tree?

Well if you’re me, you turn a few of them into scones.

I like scones – they’re pretty simple to make and I’ve done them in a variety of flavors over the years. In fact, I made lemon scones last year (which were pretty tasty, even if the bulk of the lemon flavor ended up in the glaze on the top). But these will not be my favorite.

Here’s the thing with citrus. The only one I don’t mind eating is grapefruit, and even then I have to be in the mood, because most citrus comes with lots of pith and stringy, chewy bits that I find very off-putting. Yes, I am the sort of person who will strain orange juice before eating it, even the stuff that claims to be pulp free (spoilers – it isn’t), because I find pulpy juice absolutely revolting. I thought maybe these scones would be fine, because the mandarins were chopped up fairly small, but nope, getting a chunk of orange in my mouth just killed it for me.

Luckily Richard absolutely loved them, so he’ll be eating the rest for breakfast the next couple days, and I shall just stick to leftover orange pancakes, where nary a bit of pulp is to be found.

Citrus used so far: 6 lemons, 8 tangelos, 2 mandarins

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

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Breakfast tails

Because the current batch of foster kittens have been so active, we’ve been letting them out in the mornings, to run around the kitchen (thereby doubling their space, and giving us a chance to clean out their room with slightly less kitten ‘assistance’).

This morning I headed around the island to refill my coffee, and looked down to see that two of the kittens were industriously investigating one of yesterday’s lemon muffins. I was baffled at first – I know for a fact that neither of these kittens is big enough to get onto the kitchen counter where the muffins were stored (wrapped and covered and, we thought, safe). It wasn’t until later, when I saw Timmie bounce nonchalantly onto the counter and head straight for the muffins, that I realized what had happened. This was doubly reinforced when she ran off with the remaining whole wheat soda bread. Turns out someone is a bit of a carb fiend. Goofy little cat.

Anyway, back to the citrus things. The few remaining tangelos in the fridge were starting to look a little sad, so I turned the three that remained into pancakes.

The orange flavor definitely comes through, and they’re nice enough pancakes. I think I prefer a heartier pancake though, so I’m not sure I’d bother with this specific recipe again (although I’d certainly be game to swap out the milk for fresh squeezed tangelo juice in one of our more preferred recipes, next year when they all come ripe again).

Citrus used so far: 6 lemons, 8 tangelos.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailes.

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A whole new world

When we bought our house, back in 2007, it had a huge second-story deck off the back that was in really bad shape (massive dry rot in some places, wobbly railings, etc.). Over the years, it slowly went from bad to worse (railings broke off, stairs collapsed), but we left it alone because there were more pressing projects to address inside. We blocked off the door to the deck so no one could even go out there, and figured we’d deal with it some day.

Eventually though, the whole thing started to sag, to the point where we realized if we left it much further, it was going to come down on its own, and take part of the wall with it. So a couple months ago we finally bit the bullet and had it redone.

The next step, of course, was to turn half of it into a catio, because we do not believe in spoiling our cats around here, nope, not at all.

So here it is, in all its finished glory. I freely admit we’ve already been having our coffee out here since the frame and doors were put in place, and the cats have been able to start investigating.

These are views from the kitchen door. The screening above the railing is all chicken wire, and there’s screening over the top, so they can’t sneak out that way (and nothing can sneak in). We had the benches added because 1) the space is huge and this way there’s plenty of seating for when we have people over, and 2) it’s a way to give the less agile cats (cough, Nutmeg, cough) a way to get up to the higher levels.

And this is the view from the far corner. There’s a set of double doors, so we can open it out onto the rest of the deck.

Action shot (with Sherman and Timmie)

It’s exactly what we were hoping for, and so far the cats seem to be just as happy. At some point we’ll get another light put in, and possibly an electric outlet so maybe I can bring my work laptop out there every once in a while, but for now, it’s done.

As for the citrus things, today’s was Tuscan Lemon Muffins, made with ricotta.

Pretty tasty. I’d definitely make these again. We enjoyed them with our coffee this morning in the catio, while watching the cats enjoying the outside world.

Citrus used so far: 6 lemons, 5 tangelos.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

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Soup-adjacent

I wasn’t really intending to do so many soups and soup-related things this week, but when we were pondering what to do for dinner tonight, I found this chili recipe and decided it looked intriguing enough to try.

Chili is always better if there’s something alongside it, like cornbread, or a hearty toast, to help cut the spice. So dinner tonight was a bowl of the chili, with a thick slice of Whole Wheat Soda Bread slathered in Nutella (since today was also World Nutella Day) on the side.

Verdict: It’s pretty good. You get an occasional hint of orange, but it’s a nice accompaniment to the other flavors. It’s definitely a recipe I’d be willing to make again next year, when the tangelos come ripe again.

Citrus used so far: 5 lemons, 5 tangelos.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

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Last minute

This morning we went into the kitten room and watched the once-sickly kitten racing around, eyes all wild, tail all puffed, acting just about like any other kitten his age would act. He now has, in fact, more energy than before the crash, which seems to confirm (at least for me) that this was just a relapse of whatever it was that took him down the first time. He’s not thrilled to still be getting medicine, but I don’t mind the occasional glare from a small floof – it’s not the first time and it certainly won’t be the last, and whether he likes it or not, he has to finish up these doses so we can make sure this thing is gone for good.

As for today’s citrus-related thing, I didn’t think about what to make all day, until after dinner when I remembered, oops, I hadn’t made any citrus things yet. So I hastily whipped up a batch of Lemon Ginger Shortbread, using some of the candied ginger I make and stash in the freezer for this sort of thing.

They don’t look like much, especially since we didn’t have any powdered sugar, so I couldn’t make the glaze, but they’re tasty. The lemon flavor is subtle, and you probably wouldn’t know there’s any ginger in there at all, except for the slight heat that follows at the end of a bite. It will be interesting to see if the ginger flavor gets a little more pronounced after they’ve had time to sit for a day or so.

Citrus used so far: 5 lemons, 3 tangelos

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

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Frost in the air

The temperature gauge on my clock read 37 degrees as I drove out to the surgery center this morning to drop off a kitten for her spay, and when I got there, instead of lining up and waiting for the doors to open, everyone just stayed in their cars, heaters on, trying to avoid stepping outside until the last possible moment.

The fog burned off by mid morning, although it was still plenty chilly out the rest of the day. I spent most of the day huddled downstairs with extra layers, working, but took a short break in early afternoon to go pick up the kitten from the emergency vet, now that he was feeling much better. That’s one huge worry off our shoulders, although I think it’s safe to say that he’s now burned up at least one of his nine lives.

There wasn’t much time for any sort of grand baking today, not with work and kitten schlepping, and rehearsal afterwards, and it’s still pretty cold out there, so instead I decided to make another soup. Tonight’s dinner was Carrot Orange Ginger Soup, or actually Carrot Tangelo Ginger Soup, since I figured those were close enough (and that’s what we had in the fridge), paired with a few leftover lemon rosemary rolls from last night.

I really, really liked this soup. The flavors are interesting and complex – it’s an odd combination of ingredients (carrots, tangelo juice and zest, ginger) but it totally works, and bonus, it’s the sort of thing that’s quick and easy to throw together when you don’t have a lot of time to cook. This one’s definitely joining the rotation for winter meals.

Citrus used so far: 4 lemons, 3 tangelos

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

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Warming

Today has been a day to breathe a little easier. I did not think to bring his medicines when I dropped the little foster kitten off at the emergency vet so late last night, so that was first thing on my list this morning – at least, first thing after the usual slew of cat-related chores (fill the food and water bowls, scoop the litter boxes, snuggle the other foster kittens, check on the very tiny babies currently residing under our bathroom cabinet, etc.) We also took a little time to sit outside on the newly renovated back deck, drinking our coffee and watching a few of the cats explore the nearly-completed catio (yes, pictures will come, but later, once everything is complete).

Otherwise we’ve just been trying to catch up on everything that’s been left to the side this past week. And for dinner tonight, since the pie from yesterday was such a (taste) fail, I decided to make a different form of comfort food – soup and rolls, because it’s very hard to go wrong with those.

The soup was the lemon orzo soup we’ve made many, many times before. Turns out we didn’t actually have enough orzo, but we did have risotto rice, so I used that instead, and while it ended up thicker than normal, it was still creamy and warm and absolutely delicious.

I also made these Lemon Rosemary Potato rolls to go with the soup. Conveniently, the rolls used up all the zest from the lemon I juiced for the soup, so that was a win. They smell a bit lemony, but the flavor is very subtle – you know there’s lemon and you know there’s rosemary, but mainly they’re just soft and delicious, and the perfect accompaniment to dinner.

Total citrus used so far: 4 lemons

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

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The dark of night

This has been one hell of a week. There have been multiple visits to hospitals (both people and animal variety) for various emergencies, several expensive repairs (plumbing, electrical, and automotive), and the discovery that our credit card had been hacked so a lengthy process of figuring out which charges were / were not fraud. The house is a disaster zone – there are dust bunnies large enough to gain sentience gathering in corners and suspicious spots on the floors, and every surface is cluttered with stuff that needs to be sorted, or thrown out, or put away, but with everything else going on, tidying has been last on the priority list. It has been the sort of week that culminated in standing in front of the freezer, eating ice cream directly out of the carton at nearly midnight, because that’s the best I could do.

Today is the first day of February, which means it’s also the first day of Thingadailies. Last year I did lemon related things every day, due to our extremely prolific Meyer lemon tree in the backyard. This year I decided to expand that a bit, to just encompass anything citrus, since we still have a pile of tangelos in the fridge, and there are a bazillion mandarins on the tree in the front yard, still waiting to be picked.

I have been looking forward to this, because things have been pretty dark around here lately (politically), and citrus is the sort of flavor that makes you think of spring and hope and new beginnings. So today, in between trips to the emergency vet, and nervous monitoring of a very sick little kitten, and a power outage (where I grimly knit by literal candlelight because my phone was nearly dead and there was nothing else I *could* do) and trying to keep on top of the suspicious hairball stains on the floors, I decided that the best way to kick off the month would be with pie – Lemon Chess Pie, to be exact. I’ve seen recipes for Chess Pie over the years but have never made one (or even tasted one, for that matter), and the concept sounded intriguing. It’s supposed to be a thick, sweet concoction, sort of (I assumed) like a custard or a cheesecake. The filling includes cornmeal, which seems odd to me, but all the recipes I found have it, so sure, why not. Cornmeal it is.

Pie is supposed to comfort food, tucked into a tasty shell, and I desperately needed some of that this evening, coming home at nearly midnight from the second trip today to the emergency vet, where I dropped the sick kitten off to spend the night. But this wasn’t. The cornmeal in the filling gave it an unexpected (not in a good way) gritty texture. The lemon was too sharp, and not bright and soothing at all. The crust was perfectly done but I have no idea if the middle was set to where it was supposed to be, since it seemed a bit looser than I was anticipating, or even if it tasted like a chess pie should. I took a few bites of my piece and then pushed it away, disappointed, and with an unpleasant taste in my mouth.

Sometimes ice cream straight from the carton is the only suitable option, if only to clear the palate of an extremely unpleasant experience. Here’s hoping next week brings healthier family, healthier foster kittens, zero nasty financial surprises, and much better news.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

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Color splash

Flush from the success of last year’s Year of Cheese for the #BakingSisters projects (which…I realize I have been sadly lax about blogging, but hey, why should that be any different from anything else I keep forgetting to blog about), we decided to pick a theme for 2020. And thus, 2020 was designated the Year of Rainbows (or color gradients, as the case may be). I foresee the purchase of a lot of food color gel in my immediate future.

We kicked things off today with three brightly colored items: Rainbow Swirl Bread, Rainbow Challah, and Rainbow Marshmallows.

The rainbow swirl bread is basically just a regular white bread recipe, with added colors. I used the recipe linked above, but you could easily use your own favorite light-colored bread recipe in its place. You mix up the dough, then divide it into equal size balls (I did five), and mix a color into each of the balls. Note: mixing the color into the dough balls takes far longer than you might expect. Far, farrrrr longer.

RainbowSwirl1

Those are left to rise for about an hour. Then you roll (or carefully press them) into 8″ x 4″ rectangles, and stack them in rainbow order.

Roll that up into a tight spiral

and plop it into a greased bread pan for its second rise.

Once baked and cooled, when you slice it, you get this gorgeous rainbow swirl effect.

I think it’s safe to say our sandwiches for the next week are going to look pretty wild.

Next up was rainbow challah. For some unknown reason I have never made challah before, so I was excited to give this a go.

It starts the same way as the first bread, in that you mix up the dough, then divide it into equal parts (six this time) and work in some food coloring.

Once that’s had its first rise, then you roll each color into a log and line them up, in rainbow order.

Then comes the fun part – braiding. The recipe link above includes a useful video for how to do this part, and all those bright colors turn into something really gorgeous once it’s all braided up.

After a second rise, it bakes. I was worried about the fact that it didn’t rise very much during either set, but once in the oven, it grew quite a bit.

And here’s an interior shot.

Finally, after all the bread, it was time to do the marshmallows. I’ve made marshmallows before (in fact during one #BakingSisters morning, we made chocolate marshmallow fluff, which was absolutely delightful), but that was always done with egg whites. The recipe I linked above didn’t use egg whites at all, and instead is made solely from gelatin and sugar syrup, whipped until smooth. Then you divide it into one bowl per color used (I did five) and add the food coloring, then stir until well mixed.

I admit by this point I was a little tired of kneading and mixing colors into things, so I went with a lighter, pastel palette.

Those get layered into a pan that’s been lined with a very thin layer of powdered sugar, and then are set aside to firm up. Did I remember to take a picture of them before I covered the top with powdered sugar? No, no I did not. Ah well. But I did carefully cut out a chunk before they completely set, so you can get an idea of what they look like.

Verdict: Well. They’re marshmallows, with rainbow blotches, and they taste like….marshmallows. Nothing much more to say than that.

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