Saturday, June 30, 2012

Radio Silence = Not feeling well...


My biggest fear in life - thus far - has been that I would turn into one of those "Old People" who, when you asked "How are you?" would reply with an HONEST response!!!

I don't wanna go there so....  Suffice it to say that - when I go "silent" for awhile - it means I feel like sh*t!

A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling "Pretty Okay" and actually managed to log some serious Studio Time (Yay!).  In the meantime, I went for a follow-up visit with my dermatologist who "upped" me to a particularly NASTY exfoliating topical ointment/treatment.  The minute I applied the topical-ointment-du-jour, my hands burned like I'd stuck them into a vat of boiling acid (I couldn't get my hands into a sink fast enough!) and I have, since, broken-out in itchy hives/scales over 70-80% of my body.


Hubs thought it was sunburn - and offered to slather me in Aloe.  Unfortunately, no.  It's now turned into full-blown guttate psoriasis.


So..........  Long story short:  I have "fired" my last dermatologist (#4 - IIRC), and I am now seeing a NEW dermatologist (one who is listed as being a member of the "President's Council" of the Psorisasis Foundation).  I did express that "I mean no disrespect to the doctors at Stanford Dermatology..." (yada-yada) "But...  The bottom line is, I am not getting better, I am GETTING WORSE" (as I broke into tears in the doctor's office - talk about f**king embarrassing!!!).

Anyway...  I am going in to have more labs drawn (Yippy-Skippy).  And I think we're gonna start with immuno-suppressants (like they give to transplant patients - Double-Yippy-Skippy).  Hopefully - one way or another - we'll achieve SOME kinda relief...

In the meantime, since this ISN'T my place to whine about health-woes, I may stay kinda "quiet" for the time-being...

However, since this IS supposed to be my Happy Place, I WILL post about Garden Updates and/or Awesome Recipes I encounter!  This weekend?  Santa Rosa Plums are ripening LIKE FREAKING CRAZY!!!  So far, we've been eating a couple-three fresh-plums - straight off of the tree.  In the next week I hope to cobble-together a pie, or some kinda cobbler.  Or I might make more jam - who knows?!!

For the time-being, I am "Laying Low" and just trying to get through the day.........................

Thank GAWD I telecommute full-time (otherwise, I might HAVE to go out on disability or some kinda nonsense!).  And, honestly, my insanely-busy workload - of late - has actually been a Godsend because it gives me something to FOCUS on (besides my otherwise MISERABLE state!).

Anyhoooooo....  Sorry for being such a BUMMER, but that's my (lame, but accurate) excuse for being an Absent-Blogger!

More later (I hope)!!!!!


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Recipe: Low-Sugar Avocado Chocolate Mousse (Work-In-Progress!)

As I've mentioned, I subscribe to a CSA/Farm-Share/Organic Veggie delivery... ("Oh, only about a JILLION times!")

And they have a blog...

And they post recipes...

And one of their recipes made me go "Hmmmm!"

That recipe is here :-)

It's been sitting on my Pinboard for awhile, and I keep buying avocados, and letting 'em sit til they get disgustingly squishy, and throwing 'em out! (Oooops!)

What can I say?  Sometimes I am just not in the mood for Kitchen Witchery!

Well, last night I checked the latest batch of avocados and found them to be IDEALLY soft.  We're talking PERFECTLY squishable so I set about rummaging through the cabinets to find all of the appropriate ingredients (there really aren't many!)

Note: Omit the "Bullet Blender" - go with an Immersion Blender instead (not shown)

And, of course, I wanted to modify it to Low-Sugar so - once again - I am "adapting" the recipe.

Now, if you are a complete Choco-Holic FREAK who simply adores super-rich, super dark, almost-bitter chocolate mousses, you will absolutely LOVE this!

I have to admit, I am not in that particular camp.  I'm more a mild milk-chocolate kinda gal, but anyway - here is what I came up with, and it's pretty damned rich! (I need to cogitate on how to tone-down the bitterness, though...  For my own personal tastes!) (Although, on the plus-side, this stuff is soooo rich, I can only eat 1-2 teaspoonfuls at a time!)

QT's Low-Sugar Avocado Chocolate Mousse
Adapted from Farm Fresh To You

Yield: 4-6 half-cup servings


  • 2 large ripe avocados, halved, peeled and seeded (about 8 oz ea)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli's - Yum!)
  • 3/4 cup granulated stevia (or Splenda)
  • 2-3 TBS agave nectar (or honey) or more if you like your mousse a little sweeter (I might go "more" next time)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened chocolate almond milk (or plain almond milk, coconut or regular milk)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (might bump that up next time, and maybe cut-back on the choc-almond milk)
  • 1 - 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used pure vanilla that I picked-up in Mexico)
1.  Cut the avocado into several chunks, squish with a potato masher.
2.  Add the cocoa powder, sweetener, milk and vanilla and blend* until the mousse reaches the desired consistency, adding a little more milk if needed.
3.  Chill before serving.

Give it time for the flavors to meld some, before eating.  The flavor absolutely *does* change.  I was hoping it would "mellow" with time - and it did (somewhat).  But, like I say, this is still SUPER rich!

*Note, I started with my bullet-blender - using the grinder attachment.  Did not work.  Immersion blender in a DEEP bowl is definitely the better choice.  And, when you're using an immersion blender, it really-really helps to have a baby spatula to keep scraping the blender tip (this stuff starts out pretty thick - and if you, stupidly, use your finger to clear the shmear, you'll be smudging chocolate mousse ALL OVER the kitchen!)

More pictures:
Smushing the avocados.
These were absolute PERFECT consistency for squishing!

Mousse, after blending.
Yes, unfortunately, it DOES kinda look like doody!
(Might be better to smear it, all pretty-like, into your final serving dishes!)

Yes, I did make a bit of a mess!
I didn't post the picture of my work-area with all the chocolate-smeary fingerprints! ;-)

Anyway, like I say, if you are totally into the über-rich chocolate mousse thing, you will *definitely* love it!

I still want to go back and calculate the nutritional info.  When/if I do, I'll post it.  Possibly in a future-post if I figure out how to tweak the recipe more to my liking ;-)


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ramblings 'bout Ceramics and a recipe for Paper Clay

Okay, I titled this post "RAMBLINGS" for a reason!  If you're not into Ceramic Stuff, then move along (but there WILL be pictures!)

Hmmm...  I don't ramble much about my ceramic artistry pursuits here. Probably because I don't really consider myself that much of an "artist" (although others would beg to differ!).  Actually, it's more "therapy" than anything else and, to be honest, I've been pretty p*ssed-off that - due to my stupid (stress-induced/genetic) skin condition - I haven't been able to Play in the Mud for quite some time!

Doctor's telling me to deal with my stress and, at the same time, telling me I shouldn't play in clay.  WTF?!

Anyway, I figured I'd yammer a bit about ceramics today because - FINALLY - my hands have gotten clear enough that I actually made it out to the studio yesterday.  YAYYY!!!

Seriously, I haven't been out there since last year!! (And Gawd have I missed it!)

So - for starters, I'm not much of a wheel-thrower.  I mean, if you held a gun to my head, I could probably throw a small vase or bowl.  And I actually *do* own a wheel (bought it at last years' Potter's Council Conference since it was On Sale!):

This is the same as my "virgin" potter's wheel!
It's compact, but still surprisingly "beefy"
(meaning it's easily sturdy-enough to handle anything I *might* be willing to throw)

But wheel-throwing is messy business that requires ready-access to running water - something I did NOT have built into the Tiki Shack (I was gonna rig up an exterior sink/faucet thingie - hooked to a hose - but never got around to it).  Realistically, *if* I ever got the urge to throw a pot, I'd probably set-up the wheel out in the backyard gazebo - where it would be easy to hose-off the mess afterward!  And - truth be told - I find wheel-throwing to be boring at best, and frustrating at worst.  It's just not my thing.

So yeah, hand-building and slab-ware is more my speed (and if I had the Time / Attention-Span, I'd go back to sculpting).

I do have my own slab-roller:

This is the kind of slab-roller I have.
The handle attaches on the front-ish side and is used to 
smush the clay between the center rollers.  
The top star-bolt thingies are used to dial-in the thickness...

Picture a ginormous pasta-maker or old-fashioned laundry wringer.  It's a mechanical device with two rollers set-up on a table.  You cut off a slab o' clay appx 1-2" thick, sandwich it between two pieces of canvas (I actually add cheap interfacing to the sandwich b/c I don't care for the canvas texture in my clay), and run it through the rollers several times, rotating the resulting slab and reducing the distance between the rollers so you get a thinner slab, each time.  You end up with a thin (appx 1/4" thick) slab that can be decorated with various textures and either pressed into molds (single-dish TV-dinner trays are a personal favorite), or cut into shapes and constructed into whatever (think Gingerbread houses, or vases, or whatever).  The thing about slab-rolling is that the clay has a tendency to develop a "memory" for whatever it's original form was and, in many cases, it has a tendency to "warp" during the drying/firing process...  And, honestly, some shapes really don't lend themselves well to molding (i.e. deep bowls).

That's where the Potter's Council Conferences come in handy (as well as the Ceramic Arts Daily emails I receive).  I've learned several techniques for minimizing the warpage.  One is keeping the slab a tad thicker than your desired thickness and throwing it down onto the table, at an angle, so it stretches in different directions (usually, when you're rolling the slab, you're limited to two directions).  Also, using a rolling pin kind of helps (again, in multiple directions).  And using a rib tool to compress the clay is also helpful.  So I've tried most of these techniques and had...  Well...  Varied success!

And, honestly, that's okay.  While I'm not totally into the "organic" vibe, I am a "partial-perfectionist" (How's THAT for an oxymoron?!).  I try to make pieces that are pretty "clean" - but they definitely do still look "hand-made" and NOT like they came from IKEA or Wal-Mart!

One technique that I learned at this years' Potter's Council involved "forming" a round bowl over a half-sphere mold.  The demo was done using a half-sphere made of bisque-ware (clay fired once).  In my case, I have a series of "Nesting Bowl" molds made out of casting plaster (and there are ceramic artists who would rant-for-days about how they wouldn't allow plaster in their studios blah-blah-blah because if plaster accidentally gets incorporated into clay, it will explode - true! - but that's not the point of my post.  I have plaster molds, therefore I will use them!).

Anyway, this particular technique uses a round-ish blob of clay, an inch-or-so thick that gets placed on the bottom of a half-sphere mold (of bisque-ware or plaster).  Best to place the half-sphere on a banding wheel (but not mandatory).  Then you take a flat-sided mallet and pound the clay onto the mold, turning and beating it evenly, all around.  As you pound it, the clay thins and stretches around the spherical form and you end up with a nearly-perfectly round bowl!  And since it's been beaten mercilessly, there isn't much "memory" left for warpage!

Now the good/bad thing about bisque-ware AND plaster is that it tends to absorb the moisture of the clay and facilitates drying.  Drying = Shrinkage.

Now, when you've got drying/shrinkage on a concave form, this is good.  The clay separates from the mold quite nicely and will pop right out.  But when it's on a convex form, you run the risk of it shrinking ONTO your mold and NOT being able to release it.  Hmmmm...

So you really need to "time" the removal appropriately.  Too soon, and the clay is too flimsy to hold it's shape.  Too late and, well, it can get stuck and/or crack.  And too soon vs. too late varies widely depending upon the temperature and humidity and phase of the moon, or whatevers!  There are a lot of variables at work, is what I'm saying...

So ANYWAAAAYYYY (I did say this was a "Rambling" post, didn't I?!)...  The first time I made a "beaten bowl" I left it on the form for two days.  It was a bit of a struggle, but I was able to remove it.

I double-wrapped it in plastic so it would dry SUPER slowly, butttt....  Unfortunately, since I had left it on the form for too long, it started to crack.  Booooo!!!

Now, here's the deal with Ceramics.  Typically, when something like this happens, you just need to "let it go!"  Really not much point in trying to "save" the piece because the likelihood is pretty low that you'll be able to salvage it...  And, as long as the clay hasn't been fired, you can certainly recycle it (add water, bring it back to a slurry, partially-dry it and wedge it to a usable state again).  Well, I have never been one to conform to "conventional wisdom" so I attempted to salvage it with porcelain slip...

And, through it all, I was posting photos on Facebook (because, honestly, that's where I "track" all of the ceramic stuff I do. "I made this.  I put thus-and-such underglaze on it.  I bisqued it at cone xx.  I put ya-ya glaze on it and fired to yy."  No doubt, boring as hell to most of my friends, but it's a good (easy) place to "journal" my stuff and it's easy for me to go back and see what I did (in case I want to duplicate it, right?!).

Anyway, the porcelain-slip repair didn't work very well, so I decided to "hide" my shortcomings and carved into the bowl thusly:

"If ya can't fix it, DISGUISE it!"
This is about 2/3 of the way thru my "disguise attempts"

Well, as luck would have it, I DO have some Ceramic Artist "FB Friends" who are rather knowledgeable, and one of them had actually viewed my post about my miscreant Beaten Bowl and she mentioned that she used "Paper Clay" for similar repairs with amazing success.  She even posted a link (Yay!)

Original Paper Clay Recipe here.

Now, she didn't post this link until *after* I'd gone through several iterations of "attempted repairs" on the aforementioned bowl, so I *didn't* use paper clay on this one.  But I DID use it on a couple of other pieces.  The bowl DID survive bisque-firing (but I could see a "hint" of the crack afterwards - which I attempted to "bury" in glaze - to no avail).  While I couldn't get a good photo of the final [cracked] version, it's working quite nicely as a summertime dog-water-bowl in the backyard!

Trust me - in spite of the "impressionistic" glaze-job,
there IS a visible crack in this bowl
(but the dogs don't seem to mind!)

Anyway, there were a couple of other broken pieces in this particular "batch" of ceramics.  Lesson-learned:  Don't load the bisque kiln when your blood alcohol is above .08!

I'll focus on one of my Clay Critters:  My Tazz-the-Spazz Weenie Dog mini-sculpture!  See, Friend-P suggested, awhile back, that I should take my leftover scrap clay and make little Critter Sculptures.  That has actually turned out to be a pretty good idea (since, honestly, I am waaaaaaaay too lazy to recycle my old clay-scraps and - Friend-P usually benefits b/c I give her BAGS full of "used" clay to recycle).

So anyway, I made a small Tazz-The-Spazz Clay-Critter.  But, somehow, during drying I managed to break-off her tail (:::GASP:::).  I had also made a spoon-rest (for the stove) and managed to break THAT in three places.  #$%^!!!

I decided to brew-up a batch of paper-clay based on the link above.  Now the original link called for low-fire earthenware, and J had mentioned that she adds vinegar to the mix...  I'm dealing with high-fire clay (fired at mid-fire temps), so I wasn't really sure how things would come out in the end...

I wished I'd kept "exact measurements" but I'll try to capture "what I did" (so, again, maybe someday I can DUPLICATE it!!!)...

Get yourself some cheap toilet paper and shred it by hand.  Put it in a medium-sized bowl.  Put some water in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil.  Pour the boiling water into the bowl of shredded toilet paper.... (Sorry, no exact measurements!  Next time!!!)

Mmmm!  Fiber!!!

Allow it to cool....  Then squeeze out most of the liquid and transfer the sludge to a smaller bowl.  Add an appx equal amount of whatever kinda clay you are working with...

Fiber *and* minerals!!!
Add appx 1 tsp (a small splash) of vinegar at this point...

Squidge it together on a sheet of drywall board (which should absorb *much* of the moisture)...

Very Squidgy!

Then try to mix it, as best you can, with your hands...  You want the clay and TP fibers to be well-mixed,  This is MESSY business!  You don't want it as thick as clay, but not as runny as slip.  You want it "somewhere in between."  Thick enough to smush into any cracks, but slippery enough that you can "smooth it out."

Did I mention that this is MESSY?!!

Truth be told:  It's pretty messy, squidgy and gross - but it is also tacky enough to make bone-dry pieces stick together, quite nicely!  The key is to wet your dry pieces with vinegar, and score them pretty-well, then use the TP/Vinegar/Clay Sludge like a glue to piece everything together... Then you need to let everything dry again and hit it with a green Scotch Scrubbie to smooth out any rough edges...

Let me tell you:  This stuff works LIKE A CHARM!!!

I didn't have any "BEFORE" pictures of the weenie dog with the broken tail, but here it is immediately after repair:

You can "kinda" see the repair, a little past halfway, toward the right...

Weenie dog - still greenware (this *might* have been pre-repair - honestly can't tell!)

Weenie dog - after bisque and coated with black and brown underglazes...

Weenie dog, on the Tiki Bar after final firing. 
You can't even tell that the tail was ever broken!

So yeah, the Paper Clay Recipe was an absolute Godsend and seems to work wonders on greenware (completely UNFIRED ceramic ware).  It also did a mighty-fine job on the spoon-rest that I made (but I didn't take any usable pictures of that).

This weekend, I decided to make another "beaten bowl" and - this time - I did NOT leave it on the plaster form for two days...  However, atmospheric conditions - this time around - were extremely Hot and Dry.  I didn't leave the clay on for a full 24-hours, but I had a helluva time removing it from the plaster mold.  I have spritzed it with water and double-wrapped it in plastic (so it will dry super-slowly).  Not sure if it will crack or not - but, if it does, I will use the aforementioned Paper-Clay recipe to repair it.

New Bowl 06/16/12

I really would like to make a "series" of bowls, in different colors, for posting pictures of my (numerous) soup recipes!  I'll probably make a coordinating series of plates, as well - at some point.

Hell, I am just-plain-THRILLED to be "Back in the Shack" again - regardless!!!

And...  Just for sh*ts 'n grins, I figured I'd post a picture of some of my more "recent" creations (meaning, they went thru their final firing earlier this year.  I have almost-nothing "new" to share :::sigh:::)

Left and Right - slabware, cut and formed around a plaster mold.
Center, clay wrapped around a styrofoam cone from the craft store
Bowl was a small "beaten bowl" from one of my plaster half-spheres... 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Oooh Lookie Lookie!!!

We are just *days* away from endless p*ssing and moaning about "What the hell am I gonna do with ALL THESE PLUMS?!!"

You have been warned!!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Recipe: Low-Sugar Apricot-Strawberry Freezer Jam

Okay, I know I promised photos of the BBQ pulled-pork, but - again - I'm a Big Fat Liar!

My college buddy, D, was in-town this past weekend and we yakked and gabbed and laughed endlessly (About what?  I couldn't tell you!).  And, well, I just never got around to taking a photo of our dinner!  Deal with it!

Okay, tonight's recipe *does* get a photo!

So Good-Friend P has an Apricot Tree which was producing fruit - in OVER abundance!  She dropped-off a rather "ample" bag on Friday - but I was too side-tracked to act on it right away.  Consequently, many of the fruits ended up in the compost bin (::::GASP!:::).  But I did manage to save a few...  And I supplemented with other fresh, local 'cots.  And I had ALSO picked up a couple-three baskets of fresh, local strawberries!

Now that D is gone, I am faced with ALL THIS FRUIT and zero energy to do any hard-core canning.  So I did the next best thing:  I made a batch of Low-Sugar Freezer Jam!  Annnnnd...  Since it turned-out so yummy, I figured I'd better post the recipe before I forget!!!

QT's Low-Sugar Apricot-Strawberry Freezer Jam
Yield: 3 x 16 oz freezer jars (do the math for half-pint conversion!)

  • 3 cups chopped fresh apricots (remove pits, but leave the skins on) (quantity will vary depending on the size of your 'cots)
  • 3 cups chopped/squished fresh strawberries (appx 2-3 small baskets)
  • 3 TBS bottled lemon juice
  • 2 TBS granulated sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 cups Splenda
  • 10 TBS "Instant" Freezer Pectin (I used Ball brand)


  1. Chop up your apricots into little (1/4-1/2" chunks) - drizzle with 1 TBS lemon juice + 1 TBS sugar.  Set aside.
  2. Core and slice your strawberries - sprinkle 1 TBS sugar on top and let 'em start sweating
  3. Partially squish your strawberries with a potato masher (you want to keep *some* recognizable chunks)
  4. Dump the apricots into the strawberry bowl.  Add remaining 2 TBS lemon juice and mix thoroughly
  5. In a separate bowl, combine your dry ingredients: Splenda, sugar and pectin
  6. Dump the dry ingredients into the fruit bowl and mix thoroughly
  7. Spoon into freezer jars and toss 'em in the freezer.

Easy Peasey!  Appx 15 minutes worth of effort, and I've got plenty of scrump-dilly-icious freezer jam!  Just the right mix of sweet and tart! Yummmm!!!


Friday, June 8, 2012

Recipe: Crock-pot BBQ Pulled Pork

So yesterday, College Buddy D was scheduled to arrive around 5:30pm-ish.  Hubs' flight wasn't scheduled to arrive 'til later in the evening.

I figured we needed to *maximize* our Girl-Time and - having just gotten off a plane (and with a veritable truck-load of luggage) - it seemed like eating at home was gonna be our best bet...

This is a ridiculously easy (and extremely tasty) meal.  And I'm sure if you Google it, there are about a million variants on this recipe.  I figured I'd go ahead and make it a million-and-one!

QT's Crock-Pot BBQ Pulled Pork
Yield - at least 6 servings...

Ingredients (vary to suit your tastes!)

  • appx 3-4 lb bone-in pork shoulder roast - ideally with a big slab o' fat on the top (picnic roast / butt roast - which are probably all the same thing).  (You do NOT want pork loin - too lean!)
  • 1/2 of a large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 6 slices of thick-cut bacon, cooked 'til limp - but not crispy (optional - I didn't use 'em this time)
  • appx 1/4 cup Liquid Smoke (I used Hickory-flavored)
  • 1/4 tsp each of celery seed, garlic powder, onion powder
  • generous shake or three of BBQ seasoning (I used McCormick Grill-Mates pork rub - probably a couple of tablespoons).
  • BBQ Sauce (I used Sweet Baby Rays "Sweet and Spicy" and some other generic "Honey-Smoke" BBQ sauce)
  • Sourdough (or whatever) sandwich rolls
  1. Grab a couple of sheets of aluminum foil, large enough to completely wrap the roast
  2. Line your crock-pot with the foil - kinda like making a basket inside the crock pot.  You'll want the bottom to be fairly well sealed (so the liquid stays inside the foil).
  3. Put the chopped onions in the bottom of your foil basket
  4. If you're using bacon, slice it into bite-sized chunks and toss that in with the onions
  5. Place the roast in the foil basket - *fat side up* and wrap the foil "up" the sides of the roast
  6. Sprinkle all of the dry seasonings all around and over the roast.  Then drizzle the liquid smoke onto the roast
  7. Wrap up the roast with the foil.  Doesn't have to be perfectly air-tight, but you want it pretty-well enclosed.
  8. Pop the lid on your crock pot and cook it on low for 8-12 hours (high 4-6 hours).  I find that "low" gives better results (more tender)
  9. At around the 8 hour mark (4 hours if you're cooking on high), peel open the foil and test the meat with a fork. It should be getting pretty tender - meaning you can start to shred the meat with a fork, and the meat should be separating from the bone.  If it hasn't reached that point, wrap it back up and let it cook longer...
  10. Once it reaches the point where the meat is shreddable and the bone is removable, open the foil and use a turkey baster to schlorp off some of the liquid that's puddled in the bottom.  Set it aside (in case you need to add some back in, later).  
  11. Remove the bone and the slab of fat from the roast.  The bone should slide right out.  The fat might require a knife.  If the meat is easily shreddable, then you're ready for the next step.  If not, you might need to pop it back in for awhile longer (and you can turn the crock-pot up to High at this point).
  12. Remove the meat from the foil basket.  Remove the foil basket from the pot.  If desired, you can add some of the onions (and definitely the bacon) back into the crock pot.  
  13. Put the roast back in the crock pot and shred it with a knife and a fork.  Add the BBQ sauce (however much you like).  You want almost a "pasty" to "semi-runny" consistency of meat and sauce (and if it's too dry, add more of the drippings you'd set aside earlier).  Cook, on high, for another 30 minutes.
  14. Serve warm, on a toasted sourdough roll - with more BBQ sauce on the side...
It sounds like a lot of work, but it really is ridiculously easy.  Basically pop the roast in, in the morning, and leave it alone!  And the shredding/prep is, maybe, 15 minutes (if that!).

Oh, and leftovers refrigerate (and reheat) quite well.  This stuff *never* lasts more than a day or two!

Awesomely delicious and I served it with my Catalina Cole Slaw (which D raved about - Yay!) and chips. 

I'll have to post a pic later.....................................

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Okay Okay... Garden Update!

So I popped over to Finnyknits blog today and - the b*tch!  She's already got, like, half a dozen baby 'maters growing!  What-up wit' dat?!!

I mean, yeah, she *did* get her 'maters in the ground a full month ahead of me - BUTTT she also got afflicted with The Blight and had to rip-out/replace a couple of plants.  She's only *just* up the road from me so I'm SURE she got hit with the same Cold and Wet and Ugly June Storm, yet her 'maters are rising from the dead like ZOMBIES or something!

It ain't right, I tellya!

(Not that I am COMPETING or anything!  No sirree!) (I am not what'cha'd call real "competitive") (But I DO hate to lose!!!).

So anyway, I figured "If Finny's plants are producing, then SURELY mine must be, too!"

"Not so, Kemosabe!"

Yeah, I've still got the one Stupice, and it's getting bigger (Yay):

"Go-Go Stephanie!"

Other than that, I've only got blossoms.  Lots and lots of blossoms on almost all of the plants...

Kay-kay-kay!  Shouldn't complain, I know!
But I want MATER BABIES!!!!

So I did it up, all Finny-like, and PEP-TALKED my plants this afternoon...  I was all "C'mon Maters!  Lets get GROWING now!  Can't have Finny kickin' my butt, now!  No way!!!  Grow - Damn you!"

Let's hope the pep-talk worked.  And, in the meantime, let us RECOGNIZE those plants that are producing without requiring "Motivational Speaking" shall we?

Nope.  I still haven't ripped out Mr. Cabbage.  He's up to about 7" diameter now!
(Hell, I still haven't made cole slaw out of the LAST cabbage I harvested!)

Annnnd...  I need to read-up on Artichokes, but - after harvesting the last 2 Artie's, I figured he was DONE.  But I looked out the bathroom window yesterday morning and....  Wow!!!

Artie Jr!!!

And the Big ol' Artichoke plant seems to have put out a "pup" plant, right next to it.  Yep - definitely need to consult the Garden Book that hubs gave me for my b-day to figure out how to deal with all this Artichoke-Multiplication Action going on in my backyard!

Annnnnnnd....  Remember how, last year, I was p*ssing and moaning endlessly about "What the hell am I gonna do with ALL THESE PLUMS?!!"

Well, brace yourselves...  This year it's gonna be "What the hell am I gonna do with ALL THESE PEACHES?!!"

'Cuz I think we're gonna have a few...

Okay, maybe more than a few...

Sweet Jeezus!  
Talk about an Over-Achiever!!!

Keep in mind, these are all pictures from ONE tree (the early-bearing white peach).  I HAVE TWO OTHERS!!!

Ironically, I think I "culled" the most peach-babies from this tree (I shudder to think how much fruit we'd have if I *hadn't* picked off appx 1/3 of the fruit when they were teeny babies).  The peaches on this tree will be a tad on the small side, but MOST abundant.  The Yellow peach tree will produce larger fruits (later in the season), but smaller quantities (Thank Gawd).

I suspect there's gonna be a TON of canning going on in the weeks to come!!!

Anyhoooo...  Things seem to be progressing quite nicely in the garden.  Hopefully, soon, we'll get some nice HOT tomato weather (which = "Swimming Weather!"), and I'll catch-up-to (and SURPASS!) Ms. Finnyknits!


Monday, June 4, 2012

Recipe: Carrot Cake Jam!

First, a teensy bit of rambling 'cuz I know I promised ya'all a Garden Update and I'm nuthin' but a Big Fat Liar! (Ha!)

Nahhh...  Just got preoccupied is all.  Saturday night, we went out to dinner where I ordered a steak I couldn't finish and we shared a Diabetic-Coma-Inducing slice of chocolate cake, a la mode, which we couldn't finish!!

(but we brought 'em home!)

And yesterday, we had "fair winds and (thankfully NOT) following seas" (I *hate* following seas!), and we spent the day out on SF Bay.  Sailed south in the early morning, with light breezes and a flood tide.  Motored back in the late morning and made it back to our slip *just* as the Small Craft Advisories were kicking in!

So yeah.  Another good day.  But I was Plum Tuckered Out - so no blogging, and *certainly* no gardening!

Wellllll today...  Today!  Freaking June 4!  We awoke to clouds and - Dubya-Tee-Eff?! - droplets of WATER falling from the sky!  And we're not talkin' bout a little pissy drizzle.  We're talking bona fide rain-drops!  Lots of 'em!!!

Now THAT ain't right!  No Sirree!!!

Well, it's Monday.  Had to work anyway.  But STILL!  JEEEZUS!!!

It goes without saying that I didn't drag my li'l Tractor Scoot out to the far side of the yard to tackle any weeding chores.

Nope.  Instead, I stayed inside and worked.  Then when my workday was done, I cooked.  Made a So-So Asian Veggie Soup (another one of my "Clean-Out-The-Fridge" Frenzies).  It wasn't noteworthy enough to post (Hubs didn't even finish his bowl :::gasp:::), but I got some ideas of how to tweak it next time...

Okay, so TODAY'S Culinary Masterpiece (well, kinda/sorta) is a recipe I stole from a blogger called Canadian Crafter. I honestly don't even recall how I stumbled onto this recipe, but I pinned it to my Pinterest Board and I've been all "Oh my GAWD I have *got* to try this!" ever since...

Today was the day!

I *almost* followed Canadian Crafter's recipe to-the-letter, but - of course - I had to do a Splenda* Substitution and...  To be honest, the mere thought of 6-1/2 cups of sugar was making my brain buzz!  So I did 3+3** and, *when* I make it again, I am SURE that I'll cut the sweetener back even further.  This stuff is SWEET!  (Too sweet for my palate, honestly.  I was dumping salt in, towards the end, trying to "cut" the sweetness)

*Side note:  My experiments with Stevia-sweetened jams, thus far, really have been less-than-satisfactory.  They do seem to "set" when you first make the jam, but then they get loose and goozy, later on.  So I'm sticking with Splenda from now on.

**Secondary side note: Splenda-only *also* is not too satisfying.  The jams don't really have the right "mouth-feel" to them (hard to describe), so they really do need at least *some* sugar...

Okay then...  Enough blathering, post the recipe already!

QT's Low-Sugar Carrot Cake Jam
Adapted from Canadian Crafter

Yield 6 @ 1/2 pint jars

  • 1-1/2 cups finely grated carrots (this is appx 4 "good-sized" carrots).
  • 1-1/2 cups peeled chopped pears (this is appx 2 medium-sized pears).  She didn't specify how small to chop them, but I was going for appx 1/4" chunks (having learned from past apple-jamming experiences!)
  • 1 can (~14 oz) crushed pineapple, undrained (I used *most* of a 20 oz can - not all of it)
  • 3 TBS bottled lemon juice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon (I might bump this up to 1-1/2 tsp) (No I won't)
  • 1/2 tsp each of ground cloves and ground nutmeg (again, might bump it up, next time) (Nope!)
  • 3 TBS Ball brand Low/No-Sugar Pectin (I'll report back, tomorrow, whether or not that was enough).  CC posted "1 package Bernardin original fruit pectin" - but I think that's a Canuck thing ;-)
  • 3+3 cups granulated sugar and granulated Splenda.  Next time, I will try 2 cups Sugar + 3 cups Splenda (or maybe even 2+2, and add "to taste" later on)
  • 1 cup toasted chopped pecans (optional)
  1. Toast your pecans.  Spray a cookie sheet (or whatever) with oil and cook @ 350*F appx 5-7 minutes.  Keep an eye on them so they do not scorch.  Set the pecans aside
  2. Grate your carrots.  Use the "fine" section of your cheese grater (you want teeny shreds.)
    (PSA #1: If the carrots have green tops, keep about 4" worth of carrot-toppers attached - to use as a handle - so you don't shred your hand!)
    (PSA #2: This might be a good occasion to drag your food processor out - if you have one!)
  3. Chop your pears into tiny chunks (I might go even tinier, next time).  Drizzle them with 1TBS lemon juice, as you go (to keep 'em from browning).
  4. Measure out your Sugar+Splenda+Pectin in a separate dry bowl.  Mix with a fork and set aside.
  5. Dump the carrots, pears, pineapple and the rest of the lemon juice into a large (deep) pot.  Heat on the stove on high, stirring constantly, 'til it boils.
  6. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and let it cook appx 20 minutes (stirring occasionally - just so it doesn't stick/burn).
  7. Dump the sugar/splenda/pectin mixture into the carrot/fruity pot.  Increase heat to high and bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly.  Let it boil hard for one full minute - stir-stir-stir!
  8. Once the minute is up, stir in the pecans.
  9. Remove from heat.  Skim foam, if there is any (Personally, I just stir it back in!)
  10. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars to within 1/4" of top rim.
  11. Remove any gooze around the rim with a wet paper towel.
  12. Cap and pop into a hot water bath for 10 minutes
I'm still stuck with a Steam Canner (haven't killed anyone yet!).  Thankfully, all of my jar lids "popped" immediately after coming out of the canner...

I'm letting them set-up, overnight, and I'll sample one of 'em tomorrow morning.

I'm thinking of serving this jam with this recipe (of course, I'll tweak it to cut-back on the sugar content), along with a generous shmear of cream cheese.  I suspect it will be orgasmically delicious!

Pictures (Yep, crappy Droid pics!)

Carrots, Pears and Pineapple cooking...

Pop! Pop! Pop! Yayyyyy!!!

P.S. - June 5:  Jam has had a chance to "mellow" overnight.  

  • The Cinnamon/Cloves/Nutmeg are "just right" (subtle and nice).  
  • It's still a wee bit sweeter than I like, so I'd definitely cut-back on the sweetener (2+2, then add if needed).  
  • Lastly, it seems to have set-up "okay."  It's a teeny bit runny (if you tilt the jar and hold it, there is definitely some movement!).  Long-term, I fear it will get even runnier - but I doubt that this jam is gonna last very long (it is DAYUM tasty)!!!  Next time, I'll either increase the pectin by 1/2 TBS, or maybe cook it down a bit further...
Freaking awesome jam and can't wait to try it out on Carrot-Bran Muffins with a shmear of cream cheese (this weekend - when my college buddy is here!)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Garden Update!

Wow!  I've not really wandered around in the garden for a couple of weeks now...

Ignore it for a week and holy sh*t!  Things can really take off!

(Some more than others!)

First up:  I posted this pic in my "Birthday Ramblings" post - but it's noteworthy enough for a repeat performance!

My VERY FIRST MATER of 2012!  Stephanie Stupice, of the Finny Farm, is living up to her potential!

Happy Birf-day to Meeeee!!!
This was a much better surprise than the "gift" that the dogs left me when I *refused* to let them out at 4:00-F*cking-AM this morning!


Back to the Garden....

Upside Down Planters:  Well, I think I had posted, a week-or-so-ago, about how I had gone against conventional-wisdom (or plain ol' Common Sense) and planted some of my leftover "Runner Beans" in my Upside-Down Patio Planters.  My thinking was that A) I had run out of plant-able real-estate and B), I could let 'em vine-up the legs of the planters and - possibly - the gazebo...

What I failed to factor-in was the harsh reality that said runner-bean plants would be A) Easily accessible to the Destructo-Dogs (aka Weenie Dogs from Hell) and, B) Our patio gets Bloody-Freaking-Hot during the day and I'd, quite-frankly, be amazed if a Mojave-Desert type of cactus could survive - mere inches from the heat-sinking cement...

Whatevers!  The Bean Plants are GONE! (I blame Princess Annie - since I caught her noshing on 'em!  B*tch!)

Upside Down Planter #1
(Hotter'n Hades)

Upside-down Planter #2 (not as hot)
Again - note the "disappearance" of the beans from the bottom.

On the plus side: The herbs *and* maters seem to be hanging in there!

More Patio Planter Action:
Mandarin orange, transplanted...

Anyway, back to the Beans...  Seems that once the dogs "discovered" that Baby Bean Plants were "tasty," they then went and discovered my "Bean Bed" (aka "Overflow Bed").  Now, RASS-C had installed a smallish picket fence around my Bean Bed.  It wasn't totally Dog-Proof, I'll admit (I was limited to whatever Home Depot had in stock, k?!), but it *was* tall enough that the Destructo-Dogs would have to exert some serious "effort" to get in there...

Friggin' TAZZ has decimated my bean plants!!!

I honestly expected - that if anyone was going to break-into and destroy my Garden Beds, it would be Princess Annie (our most Narcissistic Hound).  Noooooo!!!  TAZZ (the Spazz) was the dog that I discovered INSIDE the planting bed, noshing on my baby bean plants.  "What the HELL are you DOING???!!!!  GIT OUTTA THERE RIGHT NOW!!!!" I shrieked.  

Tazz is my "most neurotic dog" and I would have thought that ONE encounter, of me shrieking at her, would have put the Fear of God into her.  No such luck (Dammit).  Every time I catch her anywhere near the bed, I yell at her!

Nevertheless, even this morning, I caught her in that bed.  I am now down to three bean plants :::sigh:::  The plants on the left pole are DEAD.  The pole in the center has one plant - barely clinging to life.  And the pole on the right has - maybe? - two plants, barely hanging in there.  :::sigh:::

The artichoke I planted towards the back appears to be dead.  Friend-DV's Zuke is still hangin' in there.  And my pumpkin is also still (barely) clinging to life...

Pisses me off, though...

Okay...  Looks like I might have to break this up into two posts because I need to hop in the shower and get de-gunkified so that hubs can take me out for my birthday dinner!

I will leave you with a couple of "big-picture" photos of two of my beds.  Hopefully, I'll get back online either later tonight (or - more likely - tomorrow) to finish my Garden Ramblings post!

Paste-O-Rama Bed
(yeah, not the best shot - but it's hard to get a good pic with full-sun!)

Artie's Bed
(I tried harvesting a garlic today, but it was microscopically tiny!)

I'll try to update more tomorrow.....................................

Birthday Ramblings :-)

Yep.  It's my party (and I'll cry if I want to!)...  Nah - no need for tears today.  It's an awesome day and I fully intend to celebrate my LAST YEAR before I become eligible for AARP!!! (although I have NO doubt I'll start getting solicitations in the mail - any day now! :::sigh:::)

Soooo  "Whad'ja do?!  Whad'ja do?!"

Well, hubs opened the pool today (Yay!!!)

No more fretting about the dogs falling in (and *under*) the pool cover!
But the birds (who used to eat the seeds that blew onto the pool cover) are none too happy about it!

And I decided to tackle cleaning/setting up the Tiki Bar, in anticipation of my College Buddy D's arrival, later next week...

Ugh!  Messy work (but gratifying!)

"Thank God the Tiki Bar is Open" --John Hiatt

I actually accomplished a "fair amount" of stuff today.  Had a lot of krep that had accumulated on the bar (in the house) that really belonged "elsewhere" so I put a bunch of sh*t away.  Thankfully, D (who has been my friend since college - and I really don't care to calculate how many years that's been!!!), anyway D knows me and really doesn't care if my house is a little cluttered (and it definitely *won't* be spotless when she arrives)!  Nevertheless, I've been wanting to deal with some of that clutter for quite some time, anyway...

So, yeah, today was pretty productive - all things considered.  My hands are paying for it now - not sure how my feet will be tomorrow (but I remain guardedly optimistic).  Friggin' psoriasis!!!

"Soooo  whad'ja GET for your birthday?!!"

Wellll...  First off (not *really* a prezzie - but a nice surprise!), I found my first Stupice tomato in the Finny Farm!

Yay!! Stephanie!!!

Annnnnd...  Neighbor C brought me a jar of pretty flowers:

Bringing even MORE sunshine to the Tiki Bar!

(And, evidently, we are still waiting for Tele-Flora to make an appearance!)

Teleflora arrived! :-)

Friend P was up at the Studio doing a raku firing this morning, and she brought me this:

Super-awesome Raku Sun.  

Not sure what underglazes she used, but I know she put Clear Crackle and topped it off with Ferric Chloride to give it a shimmery golden effect (the photo really doesn't do it justice!).  I will hang Mr. Sunshine over the doorway on the inside of the Tiki Shack/Studio so he can keep an eye on things!

Annnnd, P brought me a blackberry plant - which will get potted-up sometime in the coming week...

And hubs...  Well, hubs gave me these really awesome books:

Brand-Spankin'-New "Sunset Western Garden Book"
(which really is My Bible!) (Totally "gets me thru winter!")
Western Garden Book of Edibles
Annnd...  What to do with all those Edibles?!  "Preserve 'em!"

Awesome!  Truly Awesome!!!

Annnnnd...  The Pièce de Résistance (for this - ahem - aging gardener):

"Some Assembly Required"

Assembly underway...

More assembly...

And throughout the assembly process, one of our neighbors has some kinda "Garage Band" or something and they were rehearsing (or performing?) in their backyard, so I got treated to a Freebie Live Birthday Concert!  No - it ain't Buffett, but - to be honest - they aren't half bad (Instrumentals: pretty good. Vocals: So-So, not great, but not horrible)...

Yayyyy!!!  Almost done!

All done!

So yeah, all told, I'd have to say it was a pretty productive and Very Nice birthday.  I'm sure we'll be heading out for dinner later tonight (lol - if I don't fall asleep first!)...  Yep a Nice Birthday all around!


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