Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sub Lime

Project: Use It Or Lose It (Lime Edition) finally came to an end early last week, and it was none too soon. There was one lime left and Thanksgiving was looming large on the horizon. It was time to gear up for holiday cooking. Still hovering over me was the all too recent memory of The Great Lime Marmalade Disaster of 2010*. One lime left... make it good.

I love the idea of blackberry and lime together, so I adapted a favorite cookie recipe from last year and delighted in the result (that means we ate a whole lot more of them than we probably should have). It might be a good idea to wait for a party before making these.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cranberries

Pineapple-Meyer Cranberry Sauce
Picture this: Thanksgiving morning, I sit with my mug of tea trying to clear the night from my eyes and focus on what I need to do: bake a pie and make cranberry sauce. Both are easy. The pie I've made before about a billion times, and the cranberry sauce... even the most complex of those are little more than chop-simmer-cool. Though I'm surrounded by a half-dozen excellent recipe options from holidays past, I decide to go online and look up more of them. I do stuff like that. Last night, too tired (and too cold) to want to stop at the grocery store on the way home for a couple oranges, I had decided to use Meyer lemons in the cran-sauce this year. They go great together in lots of other things, and I'd already seen one recipe in a Sunset magazine using that combination. Two results from my online search looked promising. One was from Bon App├ętit and the other from Figs With Bri, a lovely food blog that overflows with warmth and deliciousness.

The holiday season is always a magnet for bittersweet emotions and this week has been the official start of them. Hubs and I are disappointed that we couldn't celebrate Thanksgiving with my family or his (all of them hundreds of miles away). We are overcome by the generosity of good friends offering to share their family table with us. We are concerned about friends who are having serious health issues. So, how do I handle all of this? Simple really, I sit and weep over a cranberry sauce recipe I found on the internet. But I never forget the sweet side of bittersweet: our relatives are relatively healthy and happy, we have loving, caring friends with big hearts, and we have food, clothing, and a roof over our heads. When you boil it all down, anything more than that is just sauce for the turkey... it's nice to have a little on your plate, but it's the meat that matters.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Everything's Better With Browned-Butter

Normally, I am not a superstitious person. Black cats can cross my path all they want (here-kitty-kitty-kitty!). When I find a penny, I'll pick it up with no expectations for the outcome of the rest of my day. I flagrantly disregard chain-letters. Rubbing a rabbit's foot only appeals to me if it is still attached to the rest of the sweet fluffy bunny. I have opened more than my fair share of umbrellas indoors.  And the only bad luck I ever got from breaking a mirror is that I had to clean up broken glass and buy a new mirror... but that's not luck. If I broke a wine glass or a crystal vase, it would have the same outcome. That's just cause and effect, action and reaction.

So I was looking to use up more limes the other day, when what popped up on one of my favorite blogs? Browned-Butter Cranberry Lime Muffins. Was it fate? Destiny? A sign? Does it matter? Not really. I did feel however, that the timing was too perfect to ignore (and they kinda sounded delicious)... I needed to make those muffins. Everyone needs to make these muffins. Here's why... the butter browning on the stove smelled so out-of-this-world good. Seriously, why don't they put browned-butter in everything?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Limes Fly When You're Having Rum

Faux-ito Mojito Syrup
A well crafted Mojito can be a beautiful thing. Tropical yet bracing with a hint of sweet, a wisp of sour and a kiss of mint. Tall, cool and refreshing, it's the perfect quencher on the hottest of muggy summer days. Those are precisely the kind of days when I feel most like a slug however, and slugs don't have the energy (or thumbs) to make a well crafted... anything. What's a thirsty girl to do? Short of hiring a cabana boy (which might get awkward if she doesn't have a cabana), she can quickly mix up the ultimate "Faux"-jito. Basically it's little more than a spiked Italian soda, and I will admit here and now that it will fool no one (unless maybe they've never had a real Mojito before). What my Mojito Syrup does best is to approximate a Mojito. Go ahead and call it a lazy-girl's Mojito. For that is exactly what it is... and I am that lazy girl.

Why am I talking about tropical drinks and heat waves in November? It's because of the 5-pounds of limes I bought of course. I made up a double batch of this Mojito syrup... so that's 6 more limes used up and the last of the fresh mint too (at least until next spring when it will miraculously revive and dominate the side yard once again). Don't ask me how many fake mojitos this makes... I could figure it out, but I don't think I want to know.*

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Money Doesn't Grow On Trees (But Limes Do)

Save extra limes by drying them
Impulse purchases are almost always a bad idea.* You spend money on something that sparkles and winks at you when your defenses are down and before long you find yourself wondering "What, in Heaven's name, was I thinking" (and by the way, where did all my money go)?

Now, antiques are a whole different story. I've learned the hard way (on a handful of occasions) that when it comes to antiques (or any other vintage or one-of-a-kind cool thing), the rule is: "Buy it now—it sure won't be there later" (and by the way, where did all my money go?)

Being broke really cures you of impulse shopping (or antique shopping, or frankly most other kinds of shopping as well). The value of a dollar becomes so crystal clear, it pings. While this kind of clarity is a good thing, I do tend to get kind of obsessive over using up every last scrap of food we buy. To throw food away is like tossing cash straight into the garbage can. Oh sure, it can be put into the compost bin so it's not totally wasted... but that's some mighty pricey compost. You might even call it rich.

So here it is... my confession... I made an impulse purchase. I couldn't help myself. It was such a good deal, and it sparkled and it winked at me. So without thinking it through, I bought it. I bought a 5-pound bag of limes. My justification was that as a seasonal produce item, it fell under the Antique Rule: it may not be around next time (if it is, the price will certainly be a lot higher). Besides, think of the wonderful things I could make with them!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Olive Oil: What A Sweetheart

T
here are a lot of reasons why I like olive oil cakes, not the least of which is that they're quite tasty. Most of the time that's enough. And if that were all they had to offer, it would be plenty. But these cakes have something more going for them. Simply glance over the list of mega-health benefits from olive oil, and suddenly making (and eating) a cake feels almost virtuous.

Then there are those times when I need* to make a cake and I find myself without a dab of butter in the house. Olive oil to the rescue.

These cakes are dense, moist and flavorful, but not so sweet as to make your teeth ache. Even with a sugary glaze poured over the top of them, they are restrained in their sweetness, making them equally at home after dinner, for breakfast, or mid-afternoon with a mug of tea.
Want more? Check out this previous post: Olive Oil Cakes 
    * The word "need" in this instance can be anything from having guests over, going to a potluck, or simply a hankering for cake. 
    **Info regarding the new U.S. Olive Oil Standards

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Autumn In The Vineyards

    O Autumn, laden with fruit...
    O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stained
    With the blood of the grape, pass not. but sit
    Beneath my shady roof; there thou may'st rest'
    And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
    And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
    - William Blake, To Autumn, 1783

    A toast to my favorite season... the colors, the smells, the changes in the air, the low golden light of the sun. Simultaneously yearning for a few more weeks of summer while anticipating the coming of winter. Harvesting nature's bounty and preparing for the long months of short days ahead of us. O Autumn, indeed.

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Blackberry-Peach Porridge

    What happens when you take a few minutes to wash, slice, and freeze summer fruits at their peak (or close to it)? You get to put peaches in your winter porridge. And if you heat up your favorite berry preserve with a little bit of liquid* and stir it up... you get to drizzle it over the peach porridge and taste the warmth of the summer sun on a morning so cold, you could almost see your breath inside the house. So maybe I exaggerated a bit on the temperature, but it is the coldest morning we've had so far this season. You know it's really cold when the sun has been up for three hours... and the temperature is still dropping. Time for a nice big pot of tea... excuse me while I go put the kettle on.

    *A tablespoon of liquid to a quarter cup of jam. Just enough to make it syrupy. Water will do, or try orange juice, lemon or lime juice. Feeling decadent? Use Cointreau, brandy or bourbon.

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    A One-Pot Wonder

    Pasta with Sausage and SpinachOh, how much do I love a delicious dinner with only one pot to clean at the end of it? Let me count the ways. Or not. Why go to all that trouble? Let's just recap: it's delicious and clean-up is a breeze. I'm good with that. 

    Well, this here is just such a dish. A one-pot wonder if you will. It has the added feature of tasting so much more complicated than it actually is, and well, I  kind of like that about it too. Did I mention how adaptable it is? Substitutions, additions, and even subtractions, whether accidental or intentional, are no problem at all.

    The recipe is built around pantry and freezer staples, so it's quite budget friendly and as a result we make it fairly often. Especially on weeknights. Especially in the winter. And especially when the thought of staring down another big pile of dirty dinner dishes will send me right over the ever-lovin' edge. Is it any wonder that this is one of our favorites?