Monthly Archives: March 2010

Canning Cuties

Cuties are on sale again. I’m always so glad when its that time of year. Last time they were on sale, I bought a couple 5 pound boxes, thinking that we’d share one of the boxes. But then I got to thinking that maybe rather than sharing, we could try canning!

I found a fantastically inspiring blog with all kinds of crazy delicious sounding recipes at tigress can jam, and I found this recipe for canned clementines. So Hubbs and I gave it a shot. Hubbs was a great sport helping to peel all 5 pounds of oranges, and then separate them all into segments to fill the jars. Its pretty simple, really. You basically just stuff freshly boiled jars full of oranges, and then pour boiling sugar syrup into the jars and process like normal. Pretty easy. But a few things I learned in the process:

1. You might have wondered whether the oranges still have the pith on them. And yes they do (i wasn’t about to start at that tedious job) But did you know that commercial fruit packers use lye to dissolve that membrane away??? I think I’ll be content eating my lye-free skin-on mandarins from now on thank you very much!

2. I was so excited to get the jars going that I forgot to let out the air bubbles. That may or may not be the cause of

3. the bottoms of 3 of the jars breaking off as they were boiling! I have no idea if it was the air bubbles, or over-tightening of the lids or what. But it was weird.

4. The recipe recommended a light syrup, as in only 1/3 cup of sugar. Next time I think I’ll increase that amount. It may be leaving the pith on, but the oranges, once we broke into the jars for a taste, tasted really bitter. We decided thats a good thing in salads, but not so good on yogurt or general munching.

All in all, a great success and something I’ll definitely do again, especially if I’m interested in lye-free oranges. And that might be soon since I somehow ended up with 2 more boxes of cuties when I left the store the other day…

(and yes, every time I can I do line up all the jars on the window-sill to admire them with the sun shining through. It always makes me happy)


Visit to Alden Lane

This gallery contains 13 photos.

Today I went to Alden Lane Nursery to start gathering plants for the summer garden. A gardener friend has been telling me about Alden Lane out in Livermore for quite awhile and today was finally the day to visit. The … Continue reading

Sugared Pecans

In the beet salad recipe I posted a few days back, I referenced sugared pecans. I thought I should post some instructions for how to make them – it is really simple and really quick, which means its totally feasible to whip up a quick batch to go in the salad you’re making. They’ve also become standard fare when we are enjoying bread and cheese, they’re especially delicious to eat with some of the gorgonzolas and blues.

Quick Sugared Pecans (or walnuts, almonds, or nut of choice)

1. Gather supplies. This recipe goes really quickly, so you’ll want to have everything ready to go before you begin. You’ll also want to read the instructions all the way through before you begin. You don’t want the pecans to blacken or the sugar to brown while you’re looking for a plate (I speak from experience).

To gather: sugar (about 1/4-1/3 cup), pecans (about a half cup, or enough to fit on a single layer in your pan), a small pan, a wooden spoon, and a plate.

2. Put pecans in a single layer in the pan.

3. Turn heat onto medium-high and stir constantly until they are toasted. You should notice a toasty smell after a few minutes, when you do, turn off the heat and lift one nut out with the wooden spoon. It should be hot on both sides.

4. With stove off but pan still on the stove, cover the pecans with a generous shake of sugar. Stir quickly and watch as the sugar begins to melt. If the sugar isn’t melting, turn the stove onto low and stir until the sugar just begins to liquify and then turn the stove off immediately. You want to melt the sugar, NOT cook the sugar.

5. When the pecans are coated with melted sugar, sprinkle another spoonful of sugar over them, give them a quick stir so that the sugar crystals stick to the melted sugar that’s on the pecans, and turn the pan out onto a plate to cool

6. Let cool on the plate for 5-10 minutes, and they’re ready to eat!

Be sure to wipe out the pan while its still a little warm or else you’ll have to soak it to get the sugar residue out

Easy to Please

I forget how exciting things are when you’re three.

I wrapped my nieces’ 3rd birthday gift last week. We picked out the old standard Candyland, and a little outfit with ice cream cones on it. It seemed perfect then to tie a big old lollypop on the outside of the package – the big kind that you’d see in the store and your parents would never let you get. Since we’re Aunt and Uncle, we get a free pass to give all those fun kinds of things.

We unloaded it at their house, and our niece did an amazing job, actually, of being patient. She saw the “ya-pop” right away and starting laughing and shrieking about it, and would go over periodically during the day to look at “my ya-pop.” And when it was finally time to open gifts, she was way more excited about the candy than probably anything else (of course!). Hubbs suggested that all I need to do is wrap up an empty pink box with a lollypop on top and the kids would be happy! Life is good when you’re three, I guess.

A Little Birdy and Some Real Talent

Last night I started a project that I’ve been thinking about for awhile. Honestly, I think what inspired it was the cover of the new book that Hubbs and I are reading -one of my all time favorite books – Swiss Family Robinson. We bought a new copy to read and I’ve especially enjoyed the beautiful illustration on the cover. It looks like it was scratched or etched, but I’m not sure about illustrator Scott McKowen’s specific technique. Its amazing to notice all the detail and depth that can be created just by varying the width of little colored lines.

The way he’s treated the shadows and reflections, for example, is particularly interesting. All he’s done is adjust number and weight of the scratch marks, and it becomes clear where the sand ends and the water begins. Our eyes know exactly what the various black shapes represent. Its quite impressive and I might be tempted to buy more books like this just so I can be amazed by the covers!

So my project, of which scratching out this bird illustration was the first phase, was inspired by all this. I used an old piece of scratchboard and an exacto knife and made a nice little pile of black dust on the desk. Compared to the great skill exhibited above, mine looks pretty messy. But I think that the final project is going to be great. I’ll post when its finished.

Fresh Grilled Beet Salad

Today I harvested beets. Now that the sun is shining during the day, the beets (which I planted in November) are finally growing. The beet greens are winning the slug battle, and the beets themselves were popping out of the top of the dirt when I checked them this morning. So I pulled up about 10 of the biggest ones and we had a garden dinner with our neighbor.

The recipe was kind of thrown together with what we had in the fridge, but it ended up being delicious. Hubbs roasted the beets on the grill, and we piled it on garden lettuce, with goat cheese, home-canned mandarin oranges, grilled chicken, sugared pecans, avocado and a balsamic vinaigrette. Mmmm… My mouth is watering just remembering it.

I (well, hubbs) had never bbq-ed beets before, but it was super easy and grilling them really did bring out the earthy flavor. I think that might be my favorite part about all the things that come from the garden, and beets particularly – the terroir. I love that they all taste a little like dirt. Not too much like dirt, they all taste delicious of course, but they all taste like they grew outdoors, and not in some sterile growing material in a vegetable factory. Before I was a gardener I totally underestimated the satisfaction that comes from eating food that grew in the backyard.

Here’s the recipe for the grilled beets.

Grilled Beet Salad – serves 4

  • 6 cups lettuce
  • 10 small-med grilled beets (see link above)
  • 2 grilled chicken thighs, sliced
  • 3/4 c citrus (Mandarin oranges, grapefruit or orange sections. Even better if the citrus is slightly bitter)
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 2 avocados, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sugared pecans

Layer ingredients in salad bowl and top with vinaigrette


  • 2 T honey or sugar
  • 1 t dry mustard
  • 2 T Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 t chopped rosemary
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 T olive oil

Mix 1st 4 ingredients in a small jar. Shake well to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Taste to make sure flavors are balanced (If it tastes too sweet, salty or sour, add more vinegar, salt, or sugar so that all flavors taste equally strong) add the oil and shake well to combine.

The machine-of-tomorrow

I suppose before I get too far along in talking about sewing, I should introduce my machine. Here she is:

She’s a Singer 301a, from the 50s I believe. She was my Grandma’s mother’s new sewing machine, which my grandma gave me quite a few years ago. Its just like my parents “new” house I guess- I always think of it as the new house, even though they’ve lived in it almost 20 years.

A few things I love about the machine:

1. It’s been quite patient with me. I started playing around with it before I knew what I was doing, yet every time I sit down, it works! I’m sure I’ve been less than kind to it, but it still just chugs right through what I ask it to do, which brings me to number 2

2. Its not finicky: I’ve sewed through stacks of paper valentines and canvas paintings, not realizing that you’re supposed to do things like “change the needle” and “adjust thread tension” – But its still works every time! The manual does say that it will start up “with no coaxing.”

3. I love the sweet illustrations and instructions in the manual. There’s so much optimism and promise.This what my sewing experience will be like! Delighted exclamation when I walk past my machine, and crowds of ladies (all in dresses, of course) ooh-ing and ah-ing as I fold my newly sewn sheets.

And here in the second paragraph it does say that the “smooth running machine-of-tomorrow will amaze and thrill” me. Now that’s a promise!

The manual also promises if I ever have trouble, “a trained, courteous SINGER representative will gladly call at your home.” I may have to take them up on that someday.