Still Life, With Cats

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Kitchen Adventures

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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



Bright

I couldn’t get through an entire month of lemon things without making at least one pie. This is not, however, the lemon pie you are expecting. There is no meringue involved; just sugar, eggs, whole lemons, and pastry.

Any time whole lemons are involved, there is the potential for the food to end up bitter. So the key to a Shaker Lemon Pie, according to everything I read online, is to make sure you slice the lemon very, very thin, and you give those slices lots of time to macerate in the sugar. LOTS of time.

So this morning I sliced up 3 lemons as thin as I could, then tossed them in a bowl with the sugar, and left it to sit all day. This evening, I made the pie crust, then finished up the filling, and popped the pie into the oven. A couple hours later, after it was baked and then thoroughly chilled, we gave it a try.

You can see bits of the rind peeking out. And please look at that crust. This is the first time I have made a pie crust that actually came out nice – not only in taste, but in appearance. Yay, perhaps the long, dark night of pie crust woe is finally over!

But I digress. How was it, you ask? Really, really good. The filling borders at the edge of too sweet… until you get a little sliver of the rind to even things out. It’s definitely a rich tasting pie – I wouldn’t want more than a small piece at a time – but I could definitely see making this again.

Lemons used: 3

Total lemons this month: 45

Making a lemon thing a day for Thingadailies.



All things good

After last night’s double fail with both cake and fondue, tonight was a welcome relief. Because tonight, I made risotto, and it was soooo good.

I am not sure if I have actually made risotto before, as usually the only rice we have in the house is the brown variety, but I have seen it made oodles of times on various cooking competition shows. It is not a quick meal, since you are basically cooking the rice very slowly in a skillet, but it’s worth it.

This particular recipe starts with a finely chopped onion, includes lots of lemon juice, and ends with butter and parmesan cheese, and a dash of cream, and honestly, there is just no way this could have gone wrong.

The recipe for the risotto claims it makes only two servings, but they must be feeding giants, because this could easily feed two to three times that many people.

In deference to health, we had it with a side of broccoli, steamed and then tossed in a lemon, garlic, onion, butter sauce. The sauce recipe came from a collection of vintage recipes which also includes this particular gem.

Someday I may have to make this, just for the amusement factor, because how could I *not*?

Lemons used: 2
Total lemons this month: 38

Making a lemon thing a day for Thingadailies.



Taking a dip

Today’s lemon thing is quite possibly the weirdest one for the month, but when I stumbled across the recipe, I knew I had to try it. And now none of you have to, because I fell on that sword for you. You’re welcome.

So what is this weird thing, you ask? Fondue. Lemon fondue, to be exact.

It sounded like such an intriguing concept, and it seemed pretty straightforward. Water, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and butter. I figured it would be a bit like a lemon curd. What could possibly go wrong?

Ha. First of all, it was really runny. Sure, the cornstarch-sugar mixture thickened, but not very much, so that at the end, we were left with this anemic slightly sweet lemon water sort of concoction.

As for what to dip in the fondue, I have this recipe for lemon pound cake, and pound cake goes well with sweet fondue, and I have made it several times before with no issues. But this time the cake crumbled into bits once I tried to dump it out of the pan.

Mmm, doesn’t *that* look appetizing.

Oh, we did try to make this work, carefully dipping chunks of cake into the runny lemon stuff, but….yeah, no.

Ah well. At least the cake was tasty, even if it was in pieces.

Lemons used: 3
Total lemons this month: 36.

Making a lemon thing a day for Thingadailies.



Lightning round

This morning I had my decorating class (we’re playing with gum paste this time around), but I always wake up super early regardless, so I figured I would have plenty of time to whip up these Sticky Lemon Rolls with Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze. Even though it was a yeast dough, I figured it’d still be fine! So as soon as I got up, I poured myself some coffee and then I mixed up the dough, and set that up in the microwave with some heated rice pads to speed things along. While it went through its first proof, I took care of the usual chores and made sure I had everything ready to go for the class. Then I rolled out the dough and mixed up the filling and huh, this filling’s awfully runny…oops, I was supposed to let that chill for about half an hour. Except I didn’t have an extra half hour to wait, so instead I kind of poured the liquid filling all over the dough, rolled it as best I could, arranged the rolls in a springform pan, and then poured all the remaining liquid over the top (figuring it’d just soak down into the nooks and crannies). Those went into the oven to rise, and when they’d nearly puffed out of the pan, it was time to bake them.

Naturally they took longer to bake than anticipated, because that is exactly the sort of thing that will happen when one has to leave at a certain time and doesn’t have any extra minutes to spare. So as soon as they were finally done I whipped off the ring on the springform pan, smacked the cream cheese glaze willy-nilly all over the rolls with no thought whatsoever to how it might look, then pulled off a roll and pretty much inhaled it as I was dashing out the door. We shall not speak of how fast I was driving, but I did at least make it to class only 2 minutes late, so there’s that.


Notice how the cream cheese glaze cleverly covers up the fact that these aren’t spiraled so much as randomly folded due to the aforementioned issue with the filling leaking out all over the place.

Anyway, these are incredibly delicious, despite how long they take to make, and I highly recommend that you give them a try, although perhaps set the dough up the night before, though, (which is what I should have done if I’d had half a brain) so you’re not stuffing super-hot-from-the-oven rolls into your gaping maw as you run out the door, and instead have time to properly enjoy the combination of lightly lemon-touched dough, a delicate lemony filling that somehow thickened up during the entire process despite my oops, and a lovely rich cream cheese glaze.

Two (sticky) thumbs up – would definitely make again.

Lemons used: 3
Total lemons used: 28

Making a lemon thing a day for Thingadailies.




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