Still Life, With Cats

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All the butter

When one thinks of orange, one naturally thinks of biscuits, right?

Yeah, me neither, but when I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it. So today’s orange thing was these Orange Biscuits.

They come together like any other biscuit recipe, in that you work all the dry ingredients together with the butter until it resembles coarse sand, and then you stir in the liquid (in this case milk and orange juice) until just moistened, being super careful not to overwork the dough, and then you roll them, cut them, and bake them.

These had an extra step of an orange butter sauce (which is literally orange juice mixed with melted butter, reduced on the stove) which was brushed on top of the biscuits prior to baking. Here’s where I admit I wasn’t paying enough attention to the steps so I popped the biscuits into the oven and then made the butter sauce instead of the other way around, so I pulled them out about five minutes from the end, basted them with the orange butter sauce, and finished them back in the oven.

Of course, once one has a small bowl of orange butter sauce, one has to come up with something to do with all the rest of it. So I looked at the pan of chicken and broccoli I was putting together for dinner, pondered the fact that orange would go nicely with both of those, and just dumped the remaining orange butter sauce directly into the pan. That, plus some leftover rice from the fridge, turned into a delicious dinner. Also, how many more times can I use the words ‘orange butter sauce’ in this blog post?

While I would happily use orange butter sauce for chicken, broccoli, and rice again, I’m not sure the biscuits are worth a repeat. They’re perfectly fine biscuits, but a plain, non-orange biscuit would have worked just as well.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.


It feels like it’s been a very long year so far, and it’s not even halfway through February. So today was definitely the day to whip up some comfort food, in the form of pudding.

Pudding is one of those things that I usually don’t make from scratch because it’s so easy to just buy a box of mix at the store, but every time I *do* make it from scratch, I wonder why I don’t do that more often. Because it is SO EASY.

Since this month is all about the orange, naturally I had to find a recipe for orange pudding, so when I stumbled across this recipe, I knew I wanted to give it a try. Unlike most other pudding recipes I’ve made this one doesn’t use any milk or cream – just a whole lot of orange juice, some eggs, butter, sugar, and cornstarch to thicken it up. Also this recipe requires a lot of whipping. A LOT. I started the process by hand, because at first I thought it was just the eggs, but then when I looked more closely at the directions, I quickly transferred everything to my mixer and let the machine do the rest, because that is far too much whipping to be done by hand.

Anyway, here’s how it turned out.

The orange flavor is extremely forward on this, but it’s surprisingly creamy (probably from all that whipping), and when one is in the mood for some comfort food, this definitely hits the spot.

We ate it while watching an episode of The Repair Shop on Netflix, because sometimes the best way to self sooth is creamy sunshine in a bowl, and a gentle program on the TV that always, without fail, has a happy ending.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

Two for one

I had a plan for yesterday’s orange thing, except that yesterday morning we got a call that our new-to-is car had arrived. We scheduled a time after dinner to drive out the CarMax in Roseville to pick it up, and figured since everything had already been taken care of, it would be a quick trip – plenty of time to make orange things once we got home. Ha. NOT.

On the plus side, buying a car online means significantly less time spent getting the hard sell for all the extra stuff they want you to pay for. On the negative side, we were still stuck there for several hours, because they took it off to be detailed and that took soooo long. So by the time we got home it was super late and I just didn’t feel like trying to tackle anything in the kitchen.

But at least now we have a car – a 2017 sea foam green Prius. I drove it home and it felt just right – everything where I expected it to be (unlike the rental), with a couple huge improvements over my old recently squashed 2004 Prius – backup camera! Automatic bluetooth synching with my phone! Heated seats!

Anyway, today I made up for missing yesterday by making two orange things. The first was this scrumptious Orange Walnut Bread, which I didn’t photograph because I got distracted by work and kittens, and ah well, just take my word for it, it’s super tasty and if you happen to have some oranges floating around in your fridge that need using up, you should whip up a loaf of this right away.

The second was the thing I intended to make yesterday – Orange Sesame Brittle. The concept sounded very intriguing – who doesn’t love a good brittle, after all. You toast the sesame seeds and zest an orange, then you make a caramel, and then you stir the seeds and zest into the caramel with some butter, and finally you pour it onto a pan and let it cool.

It certainly *looks* pretty.

But once it was cooled and we broke off a piece to taste, we both looked at each other and shrugged. It’s just….eh. It needs *something* – maybe some salt, or some additional flavoring? No idea, nor am I motivated to try to figure out what was missing. Ah well, not every recipe we try can be a winner. And at least the bread was a smashing success – yum!

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

Citrus and sugar

This morning when I got up, I looked at the list of things I really needed to do, and then I ignored it and instead made donuts. Orange donuts, to be exact.

These were super quick to stir together, and for those of you who care about such things, this particular recipe is vegan (although I just used regular cows milk since that’s the sort of milk we have in the fridge).

After they are baked, then they’re drizzled with a glaze made of yet more orange juice stirred together with some powdered sugar, and then you let them cool just long enough for the entire house to smell delightfully like citrus and sugar before you pluck one from the cooling rack and inhale it in a single bite. Um, I mean, before you place it on a plate and then take dainty bites as befitting an elegant lady, okay, I can’t even finish that sentence without my eyes rolling right out of my head, so eat it however you want.

This is definitely a recipe I’ll be saving to make again. Yum!

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

Two and done

There was a horrific wind storm in Sacramento last Tuesday night. These pop up every couple years and every time, there’s a ton of trees or branches down – it’s a hazard when you live in a city of trees, especially when some of the trees are as old and as huge as the ones in our neighborhood. We’ve had ginormous branches come down in our area before – one landed on our neighbor’s boat a few years back, but it usually isn’t too bad. However, Wednesday morning we woke up to see this.

Later in the day I went out to get a better sense of the scope of the damage. This is how big the branch actually was.

It blocked the entire street.

Thankfully the tree it came from did not also fall – that could have taken out a house or two. Thankfully no one was hurt (unlike a lot of other places in the city – there were trees on houses and power lines ripped out all over the place). Thankfully we have awesome insurance. But it’s been a hassle, dealing with inspections and paperwork so on. They finally towed away the blue car yesterday – due to its age and the extent of damage, the insurance company declared it a total loss. That’s okay, we figured – with both of us working from home right now, there’s no rush to replace my car. We can easily adjust to being a one-car family. The red car was towed to the body shop, and we’ve had a rental car, so we would be just fine until it was repaired.

But this afternoon I got a call from the insurance adjustor – there was enough structural damage to the red car that it, too, is being considered a total loss. That was followed by a notification that, now that we’re not waiting for one of our cars to be repaired, we only get the rental until the end of next week.

So…I guess this weekend we’ll be car shopping. During a pandemic. This should be *fun*.

– – – – –

I didn’t get around to making yesterday’s orange thing yesterday, because it was a long day and the last thing I wanted to do at the end of it was bake. So today I made two things – both of which had the unfortunate attribute of using up oranges but not tasting like oranges at all. The first was Orange Cornbread. As cornbread recipes go, this was pretty tasty, but the orange juice addition was a wasted effort, but it made a delicious side to the pork stir fry I whipped up for lunch.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

In this week’s episode of ‘Will It Blend?’

This morning I was in the mood for muffins so I looked online and found this recipe, and the premise was so intriguing I decided to give it a go. Because for these muffins, instead of just stirring in juice and/or zest (the usual way of using up an orange in a baked good), you actually cut them into pieces and then blend the entire orange (yes, peels and all) into the dough. Wacky!

Since we have a giant mound of Mandarins in the fridge, I decided that three were probably the rough equivalent of one regular orange, so I quartered them and added those to all the ingredients (minus the flour) and then pulled out my stick blender and blended (messily) until the oranges were no longer recognizable. Then I stirred in the flour and poured the batter into my skull cake pan, because one should use a skull cake pan as often as one can, after all, and popped them into the oven and hoped for the best.

Note to self: while the skull cake pan works great for some recipes, do not bother doing that with these muffins again. If you squint really hard you can sort of make out the skull, but otherwise they look more like misshapen lumps.

Unconventional appearance aside, however, they tasted absolutely delicious. If you were to guess what the ‘special’ ingredient is, you wouldn’t assume whole ground-up oranges, you’d instead guess cornmeal, since that’s what the interior color and texture reminds me of.

The orange flavor definitely comes through. I was worried that the inclusion of the peel would make them bitter, but that was thankfully not the case. And bonus: it used up another three mandarins from the pile. This is another recipe that we’ll definitely be making again.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

Do these count as a serving of fruit? (part 1 of 28)

Hooray, it’s February, and that means it’s time for Thingadailies, where I make a thing a day. This year I’m going to be focusing on citrus, but unlike in years past, this year it’s all about the orange – or at least the orange citrus, since the fridge is overflowing with tangelos and mandarins from our trees.

To kick the month off, I decided to make these Orange Sticky Buns. They have several appealing features – the first being that they’re not yeasted, so they are something I could easily whip up on weekday morning before my long trek to the office (aka, walking downstairs still in my pajamas with some coffee and a cat), and the second being that with half a cup of juice required, they would use up at least several of the citrus mountain that has taken over our kitchen.

The dough itself is more like a biscuit dough – you just mix it together and then pat it out into a rough rectangle, spread on the filling, roll them, cut them, and bake. The filling is similar to the typical sticky roll filling – brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon, but with the addition of some zest. But what makes them officially sticky rolls is the orange glaze, which starts with what is basically an orange infused brown sugar caramel that’s poured into the pan before the rolled buns are added.

The house smelled absolutely delightful while they were baking, and once out of the oven, they did not disappoint.

They took a bit longer to bake than anticipated, and I probably could have left them in just a bit longer, since the middle ones were just on the edge of under baked. But overall, they were extremely delicious, and a fantastic way to use up a couple mandarins.

Yum! I would definitely make these again.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.


To round out our unofficial Year of Rainbows for the Baking Sisters, this month my younger sister and I decided to do something with a mirror glaze. Originally we were going to do the Walnut Whip from the GBBO finale, but make it peppermint, but we also wanted to do the glaze, and so eventually that just sort of combined into one thing that had no relation to a Walnut Whip at all. Or, for that matter, a rainbow, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves too quickly.

Anyway. We started by making a chocolate ganache, because that needed time to chill in the fridge before scooping. That’s fairly simple – just heat up some cream, stir in enough chocolate to get to the right consistency, plus a little butter for creaminess, and then set aside.

Then we made white chocolate peppermint mousse, which was also super easy – heat up some cream, stir in some white chocolate and peppermint extract, then once that’s reached room temperature, fold that into some more cream that’s been whipped to stiff peaks.

Then we remembered we’re supposed to be taking pictures, so here’s both of those.

Then I scooped the mousse into my tiny little dome molds, added a little dollop of the ganache, added a little bit more mousse to the ones I hadn’t filled quite enough, and popped those into the freezer.

Next it was time to make the cookies. We decided to go with a vanilla sable cookie, into which we stirred some crushed up peppermint candies.

While those were cooling on the counter, then it was time to do the glaze.

Mirror glaze is made of white chocolate, gelatin, and weirdly, sweetened condensed milk. We both used this recipe, which seemed pretty straight forward. Since we were both doing peppermint, we figured picking red and green and white would make total sense. Right?

So, glaze made, divided into three bowls, and food coloring assembled. So far, so good.

Next the instructions said to pour the colors together into one bowl and just barely stir, before pouring. And this is when things went horribly, laughably wrong.

“I can still see some of the white,” Richard said, wandering into the kitchen.

“Yes, because that’s where I accidentally dropped the bowl and smashed them,” I replied.

I think the problem is that we were using a recipe that is meant to make a galaxy sort of swirl, where blues and silvers and blacks would all merge together and it’d be lovely. Let’s just say that red and green weren’t the best combination to use for that particular technique. They look….well, perhaps this color combination would have been an excellent choice if I was going for zombie guts. Hmm.

It was pretty amusing, however, since there was hysterical laughing from both sides of the camera. At least with mine you can tell there were supposed to be more than one color (the white just completely disappeared). My sister’s colors just merged together automatically into a muddy brown that made them look a bit like, well, see for yourself.

To top it off, she sprinkled hers with edible glitter, to make them sparkly, but which instead had the unfortunate effect of reminding me of when the cats accidentally ate some tinsel, leading to a very sparkly litter box surprise. I think we were all just about crying from laughing so hard.

Anyway, on to the tasting part of the program. I picked the prettiest one of mine to highlight. All alone, on a plate, it doesn’t look…bad. I mean, the appearance is not remotely what I was going for, but at least it’s (mostly) dome-shaped, and the glaze is definitely shiny.

Once cut open, you can see all the distinct layers, so I’m pretty pleased about that.

As for taste, while it may look a hot mess, it’s absolutely delicious. The peppermint in the mousse was the perfect amount – just enough to be cooling in the mouth, but not enough to veer into toothpaste territory. The ganache helped cut the sweetness, and the crushed peppermint in the cookie gave a little bonus texture. Yum!

So overall, this was a nice way to end our year. We’ve definitely learned some very important lessons about what not to do with mirror glaze (do not attempt to swirl red and green – learn from our fail!), and after all, it’s the taste that matters more than the presentation (no matter what Paul and Pru might say).

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

It’s beginning to smell a lot like…

We might not have done much decorating yet (except for the tree, the rest remains in the attic), but when it comes to holiday food, I’m all in this week.

Tuesday morning I peeled and sliced two pounds of fresh ginger (I am here to tell you that when people tell you you can just remove the peel with the edge of a spoon, they are lying, because that has never once worked for me, and also ginger has a lot of awkward corners, also what’s one more cut on my finger from the vegetable peeler, fa la la) and then after it boiled for a bit I mixed it with its own weight in sugar and cooked that until nearly all the liquid was gone, until poof, only candied ginger remained. I do this every year now because candied ginger is a delightful ingredient to keep in the freezer, ready to grab at a moment’s notice when one wants to make some scones, for example.

Thursday night I turned 16 lemons from our extremely prolific Meyer lemon tree into candied lemon peel. Pro tip – do not start this at 8pm on a weeknight, because not only does it take 3 separate boilings to prep the rinds, but then the actual candying process takes up to three *hours* and also if one happens to doze off waiting for the stupid lemon peel to finish candying, then one ends up having scrub a LOT of lemon-scented caramel off the stovetop the next morning when the pot inevitably boils over. Ahem.

And then today I made Ginger Spice cookies, because it just so happens I have this giant bag of candied ginger in my freezer and why not.

And also I made some Peanut Butter Fudge, because ’tis the season and all that.

Most of it’s going to go to other people (because even if we can’t all be together, I can still share the baked good joy), but there’s still enough left for nibbles here and there, and the house smells wonderful, and that will have to be enough.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

Comfort and joy

Two short things for today.

First, if you need a smile, then this video is definitely for you.

Timmie loves the foster kittens, and there are big gaps under some of our doors because it’s an old house. Put those two things together and you get scenes like this. There are two separate foster kittens reaching their adorable little feet under the door at Timmie.

Second, because today is apparently National Pastry Day (or something like that), this evening I whipped up these Hand Pies, except instead of blueberries, I used leftover cranberry curd in the middle.

They turned out delicious. Yum!