Tiny House Shortbread

jenjoycedesign© Tiny House Shortbread

This is a great little method of shortbread I have refined out of necessity, because of the challenges of Tiny House tiny oven that burns everything from the back way before done, and having hardly any counter space to work on anyway.   No complaints really, but only that I have had to abandon my usual ritual of making my own signature shortbread . . .  beginning with fresh grinding oats with a grain grinding attachment on my heavy duty  Kitchenaid mixer that swishes together three batches at once like stirring cream into your coffee, then a process of rolling out over a great sprawling counter space, between layers of waxed paper  with my maple wood rolling pin and lastly cutting then perforating each piece with three particular wooden chopsticks. Right, so my tried and true shortbread ritual with all of its specific paraphernalia has been abandoned while living in our Tiny House, but by abandoning it for a far easier & faster method,  I have actually made a discovery of shortbread with delightful and very unique texture!

And I have to make this small batch very often, because not only does Jeff really appreciate home-made shortbread in his working man’s lunch, but the carpenters building our house do as well, and I have been bringing this very shortbread up to the builders often, with pint jars of tea, coffee, or cocoa. They light up when they see me bring in the basket, thanking me again and again, and for me it is essential that our house is being built by happy & pampered  carpenters!   So,  I am the designated shortbread pro.  I was once employed at what is now a locally famous bakery cafe, and these are in fact, the same ingredients that bakery used, but put together in a very different way.  This is how I make one batch of my  no-burned-edges Tiny House Shortbread.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Ingredients : 1 cup fresh unbleached flour, 1/2 cup organic powdered sugar, 1/2 cup (1 cube) organic salted cold butter, cut into slices.  (I also put in the mix just a pinch of grey sea salt ground in mortar & pestle.)

My specific Tiny House instructions:

1. In small Cuisinart (should I say tiny food processor?)  blend flour & sugar, then add butter and pulse until all the butter has been finely chopped into the flour/sugar, and has become a lovely buttery shortbread ” powder “.   Do not over process into clumpy dough, stop mixing when it is still a powdery crumb, but integrated fully.

2. Dump mix into 8x8x2 inch square Pyrex glass baking dish, and very lightly distribute evenly with your hands or a spatula and lightly pat into a somewhat level even layer, but no pressing, it really will all melt, then crisp together in a beautiful way that these three magical ingredients do all by themselves.

3. Place in oven, right against the door and bake, turning a quarter turn every 5 minutes, so that shortbread is forced to bake more even.

4. When the edges begin to brown, around 15 minutes, lift out of oven and cut around perimeter of baking dish about 1/2 inch into the shortbread and lift out these bits on to the cooling rack (to eat in the mean time), before the edges scorch and are wasted, and the flavor of burn permeates the batch.

jenjoycedesign© trimmings

Honestly, omit the trimming edge step if you are using a conventional oven which heats evenly and doesn’t burn the edges of things, but if you want to do it for fun, and to have those little bits & cut-edge squares,  well then do it anyway!

5. Cut into 16 to 20 squares, and then carefully separate the squares a little in the dish, without lifting — but really, this is fiddly and not even necessary.

6. Back into the oven, turning dish every 5 minutes to get even baking.   When the shortbread looks golden and beautiful, remove from oven, and with spatula carefully lift squares onto cooling rack.  Voila!

jenjoycedesign© Tiny-House-Shortbread

Tiny House Shortbread stacked on a tiny plate!

Heavenly chocolate version: Make the exact same way but add into flour mix 1/4 cup best dutch-processed cocoa powder, and when adding the butter, also add 1/2 tsp of best quality vanilla extract.

A celebratory crumble..

jenjoycedesign© apple crumbleHearing the excavator scraping away against a very rocky volcanic earth for a new foundation at 7 o’clock this morning was absolute music to my ears, and watching the gradual additional equipment arrive up one by one on our dusty road is just making me blast off into an orbit of happiness. I welcome the noise of production finally, over the deafening silence of waiting .  Starting rebuild construction,  twelve days short of a year since the wildfire, and no more waiting!  I have in fact, made a celebratory apple crumble to bring up to the workers this afternoon, when things settle in a bit.  Here’s my totally improvised recipe …

Jen’s Apple Crumble (from the Tiny Oven)

Sugar Mixture: blend 1/2 cup brown and 1/2 cup white sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp salt. Set aside.

Apples: Peel, core & quarter 3 large tart apples. Blend 1/2  of sugar mixture with 3 tablespoons flour then into the apples, place in bowl and set aside.

Crumble: In small processor, grind 1 cup of rolled oats (or just use quick oats), empty into large bowl.  In processor blend 1/2 cup cold butter and 1 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour, finely as for pie crust, and add to oats. Add the rest of sugar mixture in with flour & oats and toss with just enough ice cold water to make it bind a little when pressed together, but much of it still very crumbly & loose.

Assemble: Press a little more than half the flour/oat/sugar mixture into bottom of an 8 or 9 inch square baking dish.  Layer apples evenly, but not touching dish, then sprinkle the rest of the flour/sugar mixture on top.  Sprinkle additional sugar on top to taste.

Bake at 350F until crumble is golden and apple layer begins to bubble. ( In our Tiny House tiny oven, most things burn, so I waited until the fruity syrup began to bubble before taking out of the oven, at the risk of a little burn)

Bergamot

Earl Grey tea

I noticed this particular blend of Earl Grey tea has blue flowers. Blue flowers? Not knowing what flower this could be, I did a tiny bit of research on Earl Grey tea, and of bergamot too, wondering if those petals could be bergamot flower?  My findings  enlighten me to the fact that there are actually two kinds of bergamot in the botanical world!  First, the European grown Bergamot Orange , botanical name is Citrus Bergamia.

ec9e8651e96c25feb9183932b51ef4b2--botanical-drawings-botanical-illustration
Second, the North American herbal plant Wild Bergamot, also known as Bee Balm,  botanical name is  Monardae20b82df1129d9ef5b8e8e91d7e1a0cb
This was confusing to me, because the herbaceous bergamot has a purplish flower, which some of the Earl Grey tea blends have.  Now, reading up on ingredients in Earl Grey blends, I found that the dried petals in my tea could very possibly be cornflower petals !HHDL_Garden_Cornflower
The type of blue flower petals in my tea blend is still a mystery, however, there is no debate that the signature flavor of Earl Grey tea is the citrus kind of Bergamot, the essential oil which is extracted from the aromatic skin of the sour fruit.

I have also discovered that Earl Grey tea is one of the most varied blends of tea,  and that “Earl Grey” as applied to tea is not a registered trademark, thus numerous tea companies produce their own blends of Earl Grey tea, using a wide variety of tea leaves and additives.  Aside from black tea, obviously, ingredients vary enough to make me dizzy; there is foremost the essential oil of the citrus bergamot, but may also citrus rind, licorice root, lavender, mallow flower, monarda flower, cornflower, jasmine, rose petals lemon grass,  vanilla ~~ just to name a few ingredients I have found so far.  What are the ingredients in your favorite Earl Grey blend?

All very well & good!  Actually, the reason for my curiosity is that I have been thinking about making Earl Grey ice-cream lately,  among other forthcoming tea-inspired ideas, so I finally did, and here’s  how I made a small sample batch, including a little photo slideshow…

  1. Heat to scalding, 1 cup of heavy cream with 2-4 tablespoons of your favorite Earl Grey blend in the cream — no need to boil.
  2. Add 1/2 cup sugar, and let it sit a couple of hours at least, to get the Earl Grey flavors exuding into the cream.
  3. When completely cool, stir well, and strain through sieve, then and add 1 cup milk.
  4. Churn freeze & enjoy!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Served up in a little espresso demitasse,

and let me tell you,

the ice-cream is every bit as fragrant as the tea,  

absolutely delicious … 

jenjoycedesign© Earl Grey icecream

Earl Grey  tea ice-cream

… and I think that the Earl himself would approve!

image

The Earl Charles Grey, 1764-1845

 

Seasonal

jenjoycedesign© seasonal-berry-pie
Blackberries line the country roads and harvest is abound in the deep rural places that are secret to we locals. Approaching mid-summer now, and life sometimes feels so uneventful, and yet changes so fast day to day that I can barely acknowledge a blink. Its the punctuation of a season, of a summer,  of things like making a berry pie from hand-picked berries,  just how good it really is when I take a few hours  to indulge to create a little pleasure for the senses.
Life is good.
I just have to remind myself of that on occasion.

Invincible Summer Lemonade

Botanical-Fruit-Lemon-Italian-780x985

” In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.”                           — Albert Camus

In California in winter you might very well witness yellow lemons fattening on the branches of the Meyer Lemon tree, bringing summer into winter.   This is so at odds with one’s expectations, that I found the quote by Camus to be perfect!

And now for a little fun research on the extraordinary & delicious Meyer lemon ~~ ​In the turn of the last century, American “agricultural explorer” Frank Nicholas Meyer collected a sample of a native​ lemon plant on a trip to China​, which was believed by him to be a hybrid of a lemon and a mandarin orange. He introduced ​it to the United States in 1908.

lemon_55b701e5-c0b0-4087-b90e-5b33c1da91fe_grande

The Meyer lemon is commonly grown in garden pots as an ornamental tree​, I personally have one, and feel they are delicious and wonderful potted citrus to have.  California Cuisine chef Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in Berkeley  rediscovered this fruit in the cuisine revolution of the 90’s, as did Martha Stewart when she began featuring them in her recipes.  I remember that era & the popularizing of the Meyer lemon very well. ed4eb8cff64f736b233f46e4813b5fd7

“The Meyer lemon fruit is yellow and rounder than a true lemon. The skin is fragrant and thin, colored a deep yellow with a slight orange tint when ripe. Meyer lemon fruits have a sweeter, less acidic flavor than the more common Lisbon or Eureka varieties. The pulp is a dark yellow…” read more …

619652b672cfe3b53d183d57eb3a6815.jpg

Happy Summer Solstice everyone ~~ and on this first day of summer, I give to you my very own extremely delicious sparkling Meyer lemonade recipe ~~ having just renamed it just for this solstice  “Invincible Summer Lemonade” ! ​ This recipe will make you  a couple of tall glasses of delightful ice-cold lemony refreshment, so dig out your zesters and make sure there’s plenty of ice in the freezer.

  1. Pick 1  ripe fruit from your Meyer lemon tree, or from the produce stall at the market, but really, any kind of  fresh lemon will do,  just avoid using old stale lemons.
  2. With a zesting tool, zest outer skin of entire lemon, only the yellow part, avoiding the bitter white of the peel if possible.   If you don’t have a zester, then use a grater, but more often than not, too much of the peel is lost to the grater.
  3. Into a glass quart jar or liquid measure, combine 2-4 tbsp organic sugar, and lemon peel and let sit for 30 minutes, while stirring once or twice while sugar is leeching out those tasty essential oils from peel, the signature flavor in this drink.
  4. Now juice the peeled lemon and pour juice over sugar-zest mixture. Stir well until all the sugar dissolves in the lemon juice.
  5. Pour into juice 2 to 3 cups sparkling mineral water ( or a combination of sparkling and cold water).  Add more sugar if desired.
  6. Pour lemonade through strainer over ice into pitcher or glasses & enjoy the best taste of summer you’ll ever have.   Perhaps while contemplating the following text by Albert Camus …

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger — something better, pushing right back. Let the situation be as cold as winter but the heat lies within you. “

Valentines

jenjoycedesign© valentine shortbread.JPG

Its that day again, St Valentine’s Day. I am leaving you with a very simple shortbread recipe that isn’t my usual recipe, but was the best sell-out from the (now locally famous) bakery I use to work at in the late eighties, and is perfect for writing on with chocolate!

The way we did it :

 Cream in mixer 1 cup unsalted butter (I use 1/2 cup of salted, and 1/2 cup of unsalted) with 1 cup powdered sugar. Add 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, and roll out between sheets of waxed paper, carefully flipping and releasing paper from dough before rolling more, chilling as needed. Roll out to 1/4 inch thick, then cut into shapes. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes, switching in the middle top and bottom cookie tins.

Melt chocolate (I use Trader Joes Bittersweet Belgium) slowly in double boiler (I use a metal bowl over a pan of barely simmering water). When chocolate is not quite all melted, remove from heat and stir until all melted evenly.  Fill cake decorator bag, and with tiny tip, write notes of endearment.

Happy V-day everyone!

valentines.jpg

moody monday

jenjoycedesign-butter-toffee-with-almonds

Emma and I are moody.

When feeling under the weather (on the eve of a birthday)…make candy!

Emma wants some …

010.JPG

( See her nose? )

 Honestly, I have not gone on a candy-making jag in years.  I used no recipe, just tossed ingredients ( about a cup of org. sugar, a bit more than half cube of salted butter, a glob of corn syrup, and a dash of cream) in a small saucepan over a low flame while cold-water testing until it was right. Poored in a buttered pyrex dish over a bed of chopped toasted almonds, then sprinkled more on top.  I ate a ton of it, it shook off the blues, and then I felt better.

jenjoycedesign-butter-toffee-corrugated-ribbing

Oh, and knit something really amazing !!!  Anyway, the rest of it is just cozy, dark drizzling dank gorgeous wintery day, while drinking coffee, munching butter toffee and knitting. I will be home in my hermitage for the week just working on forthcoming design. 🙂

jenjoycedesign-corrugated-ribbing

jenjoycedesign-emma

jenjoycedesign-edison-lights-globe

jenjoycedesign-fireside

jenjoycedesign-emma-hunkering

Golden

jenjoycedesign©golden.JPG

Earliest morning light greets me as I go into the dark kitchen to make a pot of tea. Certain times of year the rising sun aligns and finds a tiny window through acres of trees and pierces through to light up this antique oak ice chest in our kitchen, a real stonehenge-like occurrence near the equinoxes.   I really am fascinated with the play of light, and how it changes dramatically the perception of objects, and even emotions about them, or a room. Light moves swiftly as the colors that are created from it are a palette seemingly endless and varied.

A few minutes later you can see the light washing out a bit, and a shadow of a fir tree from the woods in front of the kitchen window…in a sort of woodsy magic shadow puppet show!

jenjoycedesign©011

The Perfect Morning!

jenjoycedesign©Emma Oct 6, 2015

Its a beautiful day!  The temperature cool,  skies clear, and Emma and I had a good trail blaze this morning, finding new pathways and walking old ones. We’ve walked every single day this Autumn, and are very much on track, but just a little tired & aching too.  Back home to open up the doors and windows and let the smooth fresh Autumn air billow out the rafters ! Then I thought to get busy in the kitchen with my latest idea of potted brulee. But first some tea. . .

jenjoycedesign©037

I have been on a preserving kick lately, mostly with apple butter and small-batch jams but I have been thinking about ‘preserved’ custardy things …  just little yummy things in jars, like brulees, rice or tapioca pudding, like just pop the lid off and have something amazing & home-made sort of thing.  Yesterday I ran into town to buy a case of 1/2 cup little canning jars, and so I finally got busy  with steam baths and sterilizing jars and a good measure of inventiveness from a standard vanilla bean brulee recipe.  My idea was to cook the little custards in steamy water bath (with loose lids) for about 25 minutes, then when done, take them out and tighten lids immediately, like you do with jars of jam.   There’s no sweeter kitchen sound than the ‘ping’ of canning lids cooling with their vacuum tight seal.   Oh but I did leave one for tasting !

jenjoycedesign©potted-vanilla-bean-creme-brulee

After cooled I figure to keep them in the fridge, but will have a hugely longer shelf life as well as (I’m hoping) to maintain the freshness of ‘just made’ brulee. Well, that’s my latest experiment in any case. I can hear it begging to be slathered in home-made berry preserve. Can’t you? Or a sprinkle of raw sugar crystals caramelized with a brulee torch. Because lets face it, nothing is better.   Well, at least nothing comes to mind at the moment,  especially now that morning has become noon, and I’m hungry!

jenjoycedesign©potted creme brulee

Good-Bye Summer

in the kitchen

My family has been with me in recent last days of summer. Here, my expert noodle-making nieces are preparing with me,  a dinner of chicken noodle soup. We do love to cook & bake. The days have been filled with trying emotions during the Northern California’s devastating Valley Fire that has ravaged their hometown and is still, eleven days later, only 75% contained after devouring much of the county. I will not list the dreary statistics of the wildfire,  but instead report happily that their house withstood no damage at all ~~ nothing short of a miracle~~ only a couple of sheds, wood fence, some of their garden & landscaping in front of their house burned.  Even their chicken coop remained in perfect condition with all the hens surviving and left 11 eggs until my brother was allowed back to see his house a week later…we suspect the firemen patrolling for days dowsing smoldering areas, who may have given them more water and food.

However, not so fortunate were so many next-door-neighbors’ cabins burned to the ground.  I had just posted this post  only about two hours after the fire had broken out (unknowingly) and it was that night and into the the next day that their little mountain town was nearly destroyed, and even then the fire had only begun brewing in the eerie high winds after a week of 100F temps, to become a national disaster area and record Northern California wildfire.

Its been very preoccupying time, but today I am ready to get back into the routine again, focusing on knitterly things.  My nieces, their mom and my brother are all fine, though anxiously awaiting to return to their house whenever the water & power are turned back on.  They will even be starting school again next week, as it was saved, as was the ‘business district’ of their tiny town. Life will be busy cleaning up all of the debris & ash in the community, and slowly finding a sense of normality once again, although not without a smear of soot everywhere, and strong odor of smoke permeated absolutely everything (even in their home), and which will linger for many months. I am hopeful next spring will bring a burst of growth after the rubble is removed and winter clears the slate.

And speaking of spring, it’s on to new designs, about spring-things and emergence of new growth.  I’ve been making a pair of half-mitts to go with Snowmelt Tam , and I’m very pleased. Here is mitt number two, and I am hoping to get the pattern for these going first week in Autumn.

snowmelt mitts

Today is the last day of summer, and I will greet tomorrow, the Autumnal Equinox with great appreciation and fervor, and begin again in earnest my ritual of knit-walking as I have let summer nearly break me of the habit.

Forthcoming are more pink flowers in a snowy yarn-scape!

Sweet As A Rose

jenjoycedesign©fragrant-rose

This morning a lovely fragrant rose bloomed in the garden, and promptly I cut it off to put it in a vase on the table of the big open room of our house hoping to make the house smell lovely.  Now, usually that is fine enough, but being a bit of a striving dessert chef, my tongue could just taste that fresh fragrant blossom. Yes,  perhaps in a bath of whole cream, and barely sweetened with some fine crystals of organic sugar. My creative inner cook loves a challenge, and my nose and mouth can be jealous friends.

While this blossom was still opening it’s amazingly fragrant coral pink petals, I got out copper pots & spoons, and began to whistle a tune while a steam bath started to tremor. And this is how I made my rose ice-cream. . .

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I broke off only petals of a very fragrant variety of (organically grown) rose flower into bath of full cream ~~ about a cup, in preferably a glass or stainless steel bowl. Heated over simmering water as a double boiler, and when cream was very warm, added about a half cup of sugar (less is more) , stirred and let cool until room temperature. All that lovely rose essence leeches out into the full cream as the fat and the sugar really help the process. After it cooled to room temperature, I strained the petals out of the cream and added a little whole milk, not quite doubling the volume. Into the churn freezer it went.

jenjoycedesign©enjoy!

I must say, it would be perfect if I learned how to sugar preserve rose petals and garnished with them.  As the summertime drones on with mercury rising,  its a real treat to be enjoying a  little taste of rose ice-cream !

 

Summer

hydrangia cuttings

This June I have become a mad propagator! These are cuttings of hydrangea I managed to acquire last week, and well, along with a bunch of citrus too…

lemon cuttings

I am keen to try at making a lemon espalier border in the garden,  from um… these cuttings. Who’d think I would be drawn to this sort of thing, or even up for such a task? Not me!  Well, I’ll not count my lemon trees before they root.  It probably will not work. Everything in the garden seems to be thriving now that we have installed drip irrigation (on some of the garden, but not all), and I am very excited to be gardening a lot of my time this summer.

Beneath my soaker-hose hydrated shelter of white sheet sun bonnet, the kale & lettuces are a bunch of partying plants, like a mosh pit of dancing leaves, along with my fragile little seedlings of new lettuces, kale, spinach, to rotate after the big leaves have been eaten or bolt, whichever comes first, as well as a few other things…

misty hydrated & covered lettuce, spinach & kale bed (seedlings too)

Mind you, I’ve never been able to grow lettuce here before, ever. I have now discovered the secret! There’s nothing like a huge salad bowl every night for dinner , of lettuces and these…

cotton yarn tomato trellis

tomatoes which I’ve trellised this year (yes, with some handy red cotton yarn I have)…. this photo taken a week ago, shows them just touching the top string at almost 6’…. but now, they are reaching up past it and the tomatoes are beginning to ripen red as the yarn!

five-foot-high tomatoes, and growing!

I do love my very rustic garden. Jeff and I have built it little by little, from a cleared bit of woods. I am considering potting shed now, as I spend the early mornings contemplating sitting next to the first-year Gravenstein which will one day be ‘under’ , and artichokes, asparagus, and perennial flowers… while the sprinkler showers us all with a pitter patter of rain. I love this time of day like no other.

I’ve also been up to doing some baking.017

Working on a signature rustic lemon-mascarpone sponge cake…

(um, but this one was an experimental apricot one…)apricot mascarpone sponge cake

because life is just too short to overlook these impulses.  This of course, is along the vein of propagating lemon trees, what is this craving I have for lemons? I will not question, but instead perfect my lemon recipes as I affectionately care for my little citrus plants. Grow…. grow… grow little lemons.

As I close this post of June’s bliss, I want to share with you a fun cake making video of Jamie Oliver’s, while wishing you all a lovely July and it’s a holiday here so Happy Fourth and all of that patriotic cheer!

Dicey Highland Hats !

jenjoycedesign©Dicey Capjenjoycedesign©Dicey Cap 2There are three shapes now, and all modeled together here in one ensemble. First of the three, the latest shape added to the pattern and gaining in popularity,  the Dicey Highland Cap (mentioned over in this post)  with or without a toorie (that is the felted wee pom pom) . . .

jenjoycedesign©Dicey Cap (no toorie)2 jenjoycedesign©Dicey Cap (no toorie)Next, the original shape,  the Dicey Highland Bonnet which was shaped with dramatic swag and swagger to emulate the traditional Scottish Highland bonnets . . .

jenjoycedesign©Dicey Bonnet 3jenjoycedesign©Dicey Bonnet jenjoycedesign©Dicey Bonnet 2

And last, the Dicey Highland Beret,  finished with an i-cord beret loop, and all together much more modest and a bit less voluminous than the bonnet . . .

jenjoycedesign©Dicey Beret

So there you have it.  The pattern is complete with the three shapes: Bonnet , Beret, and Cap.  If you would like to try to knit up maybe one or two (or three or four) of them for Christmas gifts like I am,  you can find the pattern available, once again, over HERE .

And after all the photo shooting, we settled into making a quick batch of raspberry moon pies for my nieces to take home, as is our tradition.

moon pies

The End Of Summer


My nieces came to visit and we migrated into the kitchen without a blink.

What do you do when you have to cram a lot of fun into a short 24-hour visit?


Have a lot of fun… a lot…. and do weird and crazy things.

Like make carrot ice-cream !!!


You know what? It was actually really good !

Here’s what we did:

In centrifugal juicer, we extracted juice from carrots until we had about 3/4 cups carrot juice, then  added about 1/4 cup sugar, and 1-1/2 cups cream, then churn in the icecream maker.

***   ***   ***

jenjoycedesign©contemplating-Autumn

The Autumnal equinox is approaching in a week, and it is my absolute favorite time of year.  When October comes along with the marine fog pouring over the ridge I always feel so cheerful.  And when the first soft rains wash the dust off of the parchment dry landscape, it comes back to life, and then I feel ecstatic.  Like a cougar ready to pounce I am anticipating earnest work ahead on the woodland knitting trail that I have been contemplating well over a year.  Autumn is my happiest time, and my most hard-laboring time.

Just that I will spend the next week, the end of summer, first finishing this…

jenjoycedesign©second-sleeve

(Not the cup of tea, but the sweater ) 😉  I am making good progress on the Autumn sweaters for my nieces, with the first one finished and the second more than half way done.  Soon I’ll be at the yoke joining sleeves to body, then it’s usually done pretty fast from there.

jenjoycedesign©knitting-progress

I am pretty well certain that I will be finished with both of the sweaters by the equinox, which is one week from today… and the photo shoot with nieces wearing them is scheduled for the first weekend in October ~~ so my fingers are crossed, and I’m so excited !  For this last week of summer I knit while the sounds of grape harvest surround us on the mountain , rattling gondolas towed behind tractors on the rugged dirt roads and chatter of jovial pickers are heard in the breeze.

 

In The Kitchen

jenjoycedesign©noodle-making As I mentioned in previous post, my nieces came for a visit for a couple of days.  We mostly ‘chillaxed’ around together with our EDC’s (electronic devices of choice: iphone, kindle, laptop) but with plenty of time in the kitchen, just the way the last days of summer vacation should be spent, after a very busy one they had.  Both nieces had a busy summer, but Miss Eleven had and an incredible growth spurt ~~ and this visit was special, as for the first and last time, we are all three the same height !

Two days, one night, and four times we flung flour. jenjoycedesign©making-noodles The first time was making noodles (flour & egg) for upon their arrival they were good and hungry and I had some home-made chicken soup all ready for their expert noodle work.  By the way, Miss Fourteen could easily win a chicken-noodle-soup-eating contest … hands down! jenjoycedesign©bakers Second time, made Amish moon pies ( flour & butter) with apple filling I had made ahead of time waiting in the freezer , and came to life good & proper with their very experienced moon-pie-making magic touch.  How many moon pies did I personally eat? Don’t ask, I lost count! jenjoycedesign©making-moon-pies jenjoycedesign©moon-pies! Third time, pizza for dinner (flour & yeast) which means of course, pizza dough… and lots more flour (sorry , no photo of pizza) .  Fourth time, next day repeat noodle making for to finish off the chicken soup. Thats about it, a whirl-wind couple of days flinging flour and exhausting relaxation.  We three girls thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and that’s certain.

What totally killed me was in our last hour before I had to bring them back to Calistoga to meet their mom,  Miss Eleven says ” Lets bake something ! ”  Can you believe that? C’mon kid ! She cracks me up. Anyway,  we will leave you with our humble little noodle recipe . . .

jenjoycedesign©moon-pies

~ My Niece’s Way of Noodle-Making ~

Crack one egg into bowl. Add a pinch of salt, and maybe pepper and other herbs & flavors ‘to taste’~ whatever strikes your fancy. Add flour and stir with fork until ball forms. Add only enough flour to keep very moist wad of dough so that you can pick it up with your hands, the rest of the flour will be added from well-floured hands and surface. Break off small chunks and roll out with your hands. When all rolled out, into a pan of rapidly boiling water, or chicken broth, or soup, add all noodles quickly and at once,  Stir , then let simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes. Eat and savor the hand-made goodness.

A Little Something of Lace

 jenjoycedesign©lace-edge

I’ve been working steadily on a project , “A Little Something” ,  for The Wool Box.  I  talk in my previous posts   Posted From Italy  and   Yarn Whisperer  about Northern Italy’s  “The Wool Box” , of Biella’s heritage wool mill and yarns, and of specifically Oropa 1-ply with which I am working in a design.   I’ve changed course a couple of times, with piles of little half-lace mitts strewn about my loft room, I have worked and reworked,  and now I’ve pretty much nailed it.

In the process of experimentation, I’ve come up with a lovely eyelet-icord-rib hybrid edging for the Little Something I’m designing. I pretty much thought it up for myself, and I don’t know what to call it (I’ll come up with something soon).  Love how the single ply’s frisky & playful personality punctuates the edge !  This is after washing and blocking too.  So crisp, Oropa 1-ply is anything but tame . . .

jenjoycedesign©lace-edge2

That said, I have discovered there is a ‘tender underbelly’ of Oropa 1-ply. Being a 1-ply, it does not have the support of another strand keeping it together as much, so when one picks up the end to knit, one must do so delicately, as the end does lose a bit of twist and becomes easily broken (but that’s a no-brainer with any single ply wool). I compensate by taking up a good 12 inches before knitting from an end. Did I mention that this sensitive side of Oropa is just really… well… ‘kitteny’.  . . is that a word?

Better said I suppose, as noting it’s shyer downy quality.

Upon examining the fluff at one of the unraveled ends I noticed  a small percentage of strong & slippery longer hairs and proportionally a lot more of shorter downy wool.  Definitely Old World wool.

*  *    *  *    *  *

On another note, I haven’t been able to knit much today (yet) as I was at a sort of Lady’s Social for the day,  held over at  my neighbor’s, here in the woods.  I actually made a lovely creme brulee from a big fat perfect Meyer lemon growing from our tiny tree in a pot.

jenjoycedesign©creme-brulee-to-go

I packed the three brulees (there were three of us) into a little basket , covered them, threw my knitting bag over my shoulder, kissed Emma good-bye for a while and headed out into the woods (sadly) without her, for what was actually a short five-minute walk through back-country. I felt just like a fairytale character, like Red Ridinghood or Goldilocks.

Meyer Lemon creme brulee to-go, with carmelized sugar and all, delivered back-door style.

  In my opinion, beauty is in the small things, novelties as this. Little pots of golden tastiness !

jenjoycedesign©Meyer-lemon-creme-brulee

The recipe, for those interested, with just three ingredients, it’s incredibly easy and fast to make . . .

Meyer Lemon Creme Brulee:

1 very large and ripe Meyer lemon , 1 pint of heavy whipping cream, 1/2 cup organic sugar

Finely zest lemon and squeeze juice from it.

In small saucepan slowly heat pint of cream, while stirring, until it begins to boil.  Keep at ‘barely boiling’ for a couple of minutes, while stirring, then take off heat.

Add lemon zest , stir, and then slowly stir in the lemon juice.

Fill about 5 or 6 ramekin cups and let cool. Refrigerate for at keast 4 hours. Rest assured, it *does* set up !

About 20-30 minutes before serving,  sprinkle a teaspoon or two of sugar on top of each brulee,  and with a hand held torch ( or under broiler flame)  carmelize sugar until bubbles and darkens to a deep gold ~~~ while  creating a crisp layer on top.

Eat & Enjoy !

Now Reading . . .

jenjoycedesign©breakfast (1)
Birthday cake for breakfast?  You bet ! As last night we were too stuffed from dinner out, we couldn’t eat even a bite, so birthday cake was waiting to be cut into this morning.   ((My top-secret-recipe cake, which I made myself for myself (I know!) … only as I love to have an opportunity to keep practiced.))

I now am a proud owner of a hand-made book stand,  and  Jeff  made it for me, and on very short notice !

(Miss MacLeod , thank you for the epic read with which I am about to test out my new book stand ! xx)

jenjoycedesign©book-&- stand

The best thing about this book stand is that it has a very wide base and I can easily perch it on the half-wall under the skylight and read-while-knitting-while-standing. Its been a lovely birthday, thank you much for all of your sweet birthday wishes yesterday .

I really couldn’t be happier, because as I post this . . .  it’s raining!

Three Days

jenjoycedesign©spicy-cocoa

One of my weird kitchen concoctions ~~ hot pepper chocolate.

I have been home alone on the mountain with Emma and The Ravens for four days now.  Jeff is returning tonight,  from Mexico where he has been visiting with his daughter in Cancun since the nineteenth, visiting ancient Mayan ruins and enjoying a lovely warm beach.  Here, I’ve been very busy with holding the fort, and working on this lacey thing . . .

jenjoycedesign©lacy-rib

But really what I’ve been working hard on while alone in the house, is my traditional gift of Christmas to Jeff, but I dare not show you a thing until Christmas morning. In the mean time, still serving up my Spiced Chocolate drink if you’d like to stop by ~~I’ll whip one up for you !  If you can’t make it over, I understand, but you’ll have to try this at home ! Here’s how :

 Jen’s Spicy Bittersweet Chocolate 

(For two servings)

With a mortar & pestle, crunch up a couple of cinnamon sticks, and dried chile flakes or a whole small chile pepper  ~~ to taste, what you consider ‘barely hot’ , or ‘really hot’, it is up to you.

(( Optional:  a few cardamom pods, and a  ‘petal’ from a star anise pod, a dash of grey sea salt ))

Simmer in a pan with  about 3 cups of water for about 20 minutes, take off heat and melt into it a few ounces bittersweet chocolate, whisking while it melts.

More chocolate is nice… as much as you feel to balance against the heat of the peppers.  I don’t add more sugar, as the idea is to be bittersweet and spicy hot… which is really delicious. However, nobody is stopping you from sweetening it up :).

Whip up a small bowl of cream, again, barely sweetened.

Strain through sieve into cups and pile on the whipped cream , sprinkle with something… like nutmeg or cinnamon… and enjoy !

Wishing You All and Yours lovely days of these fresh first winter days (or summer) and Happy Christmas sentiments.

Six Days

030

Taking a break from the yarns,  and before I get into the next big project, I thought I’d make a batch of cranberry jam !  The mountain’s freeze-drying wind is keeping me from walking today, and so here I am, with cheery sing-along Christmas songs , a fire in the woodstove,  and more still to make.

 Just feeling rather cheer’d by the seasonal dazzle of colored lights and sentimental old ornaments.  Some are very old, as this doll’s doll that was my mother’s as a child, which I made into an ‘ornament’ years ago,  and the little sheep given to me by a friend back when I just started learning to spin and got a spinning wheel  . . .

jenjoycedesign©xmas2
And the little ‘teazle mouse’ given along with a really generous gift certificate to a lovely spinning shop, now two decades ago (does anybody remember the one in Jack London Square in Sonoma??)  I remember I only got to spend a little of it before the shop sadly went out of business.

051
I’ll be making some peppery spiced cocoa a little later today so do hang around !

Red & Green

I woke this morning, and wrapped a bunch of little presents to send off in the post to Jeff’s sister’s family in Vancouver & his dad’s too.  Lots of little things, and I found as I had plenty of wrapping paper, I was totally unprepared in the festive colors ribbon department.  No worries… with a huge stash of every color yarn, and a spinning wheel… a spool o’ Christmas twine is not but a few turns on the wheel away !

jenjoycedesign©plying red & green

See how whimsical & cheerful a little pom pom is to finish it with?

jenjoycedesign©red&green

I was only lying to myself.

I can’t not make more gifts.

This my friends, is the shift I was hoping for, into high gear  making  , and I will do my best to post finished things here.  Starting with this one, my secret recipe shortbread, for the Scottish host of the Christmas party I attended on the weekend ~~~ and it was a particularly delicious batch!

jenjoycedesign©shortbread

It got all wrapped and tied with plaid ribbon and everything, and it was so smart looking. Oh, also, I wore my Vineyard Rows Tam (California Highlands Bonnet) and had so many lovely compliments from the folks at the party about it, it has inspired me to make a little game with myself, which is this :

I vow not go out into town for the rest of the winter without wearing something I’ve hand knit. Today I went grocery shopping wearing for the first time my Red Cardigan ~~ I can’t believe that was the first time I wore it out, it was wonderful indeed! I felt extremely lovely in it. Well, here’s to the holiday spirit, and all things hand-made !

A Toothsome Treat

004I made an icecream cake, and here’s how I did it . . .

090
I started with one layer , using half of a cake recipe.

094Ahead of time, I started heating cream with chocolate in it for the ganache pour.  I made a very creamy concoction of about 1 cup cream to 4 or 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, heating in a bowl over water (double boiler)  very slowly.  I then added a little liqueur into the chocolate.

095I made the icecream.

096Genache, icecream, and cooled cake, now cut carefully in half, inside edge up, all ready.

097 I spoon into the layers some yummy flavored liqueur.  The liqueur options probably not a good idea for a kid’s cake.   Furthermore, probably would be best to freeze the layers at this point, though I didn’t for this one, I wish I had.

099I spoon the soft icecream on to the thickest cake layer.

101And I pop the other on top, pressing a little tiny bit.

102Smoothing out the sides a bit, and pop in freezer to harden up.

103I begin a process of pouring a little runny genache on top and spreading it down sides, then putting back in the freezer for about 10 minutes, though it quickly became very messy, this was just the first pour. Do this until you have no more genache, or save the last bit to put into a cake decorator bag and write something on top, such as ” I dare you to eat this all at once ! ” or ” Happy Birthday ” or whatever.

A Cheerful Teapot

jenjoycedesign©a-teapot (2)

Meet my new cheerful little teapot, nearly the color of golden honey, or milky tea, or marigolds.

This morning I was over at Morrie’s house. She has quite the collection of tea and teapots, the most adorable little ones too. We had an impromptu ‘tasting’ of three teas,  not because of any reason other than  I wanted to use all three of her littlest cuties that happened to be within arms reach, and because there were all these bags of tea everywhere, we pulled out of kitchen crevasses while looking for the Earl Grey.

Then  I spread out my latest knitteds on Morrie’s kitchen table, and we discussed sock formulas and then she showed me her latest black Shetland raw fleece and we buried our noses into it while both agreeing it was the finest and very sweet smelling! We flipped pages in knitting books, fondled yarnish things, and we infused each other with ideas as the tea infused in the pots. And so it is . After having come back from Black Sheep Gathering with fleeces to show me, she was a bit preoccupied about  ‘ observing process ‘ over ‘ processing observation ‘.  I can just hang with someone like that !

So anyway, I wanted to show you my teapot, my very first teapot ever I can remember having, strangely.  It is a three or four-cupper, and I got it for $2 down town at the thrift shop on the way home from Morrie’s,  and the loose tea stays nicely at the bottom while I pour the tea out ~~~  it just doesn’t get any better than that !  I’m having my first cup of tea (Irish Breakfast) from it right now.

I think I will make some shortbread to go with ! 

Summer Solstice

jenjoycedesign©apricot-jam

I can’t think of a better  thing to post on the summer solstice than to show off the apricot jam I just made !  I beat the ravens & jays to this year’s crop of uncommonly tiny but plentiful fruits, and surprisingly I was able to make at least a few jars of apricot jam ( I did toss a few dried sour cherries in there too).

jenjoycedesign©apricots

*   *   *

And now for my Fresh Apricot Torte recipe!

This is a perfect desert choice for fresh or frozen fresh fruit. Very rustic, and it’s fruit flavor equals that of any fresh fruit pie ~ without all the hassle of pastry ~ and it is made in minutes ! It’s relatively low in fat too. I’m taking this to a casual dinner party we’re going to this evening. Here’s how :

Beat briefly, two eggs. Add 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup milk, pinch of salt, beat together till blended. Fold in 1.5 cups flour. Gently fold in 1 to 2 pounds in-season fresh or frozen fruit (berries, cherries, apples, pears, apricots, peaches all do really well). Pour into one buttered and floured cake layer pan and bake at 375 or 400 until deep golden on top, anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, depending on whether fruit is fresh or frozen.

Cool on rack, then turn upside down and let torte come out of pan, then place right-side-up on a pretty plate. Serve room temperature, or cold from the fridge.  A dessert of under-statement ~ surprisingly simple, and yet very elegant!

dscn0390

Happy Summer Solstice everybody ! 

How About A Cafe Frigetto !


Its my new drink, I call it a ‘Cafe Frigetto’ ! Its espresso, ice, more ice, and real cream (yes, heavy whipping cream, not half&half)… and it’s ~~~~ frigid cold ~~~

021

Here’s how: In a pint glass filled to the top with ice, pour 2 or 3 shots of fresh brew’d espresso over, stir vigorously until ice stops melting and then more ice to the top. Lastly, a generous amount of heavy cream poured over it all…sinking & swirling down…never quite making it. Nectar !!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sair Heidies

I’ve been posting a flurry of things last two days, this being my second post of the day ! In a post about a package from yesterday I mention some new cookbooks, and a recipe I wanted to try, particularly today, since it’s Easter Sunday. Well, here is my first attempt at making ‘sair heidies’meaning ~~ ‘sore heads’ ~~ which are absolutely darling little cakes inside parchment with broken aspirin-looking sugar cubes imbedded on top (thus the sore head, needing aspirin?) . . . and then tied with kitchen twine. I had neither sugar cubes, kitchen twine,  nor proper baking rings… so I improvised, as I do everything.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


I wish you all were here with me to enjoy a couple of these with tea right about now, because they are absolutely delicious and hitting the spot !!!  Kelly, I thank you again for giving me this creative opportunity in the kitchen, and I look forward to experimenting lots more with authentic Scottish cooking ! 🙂

Edit in ~~ Now all of you may try making them if you like, as I’m posting the recipe from the book , via photos !
002 (2)003

004 (2)
Helpful Note : I did not have sugar cubes, so I cooked a little sugar in a pan, and then tossed the goo with some more sugar and made ‘lumps’. I recommend doing the real thing, and buying sugar cubes (so they can look like broken aspirin too). Also, I did not have ‘self-rising flour’ so I added 1tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp baking soda to the flour, worked well !

Each Day

Each day, in the morning light, as I go into my kitchen, I hope to see the sunrise cast its blithe shadows on the wall.

Everything so penetratingly deeply glowing as if I am peering into the mouth of a firey oven . . . but then the light changes so fast, within only one or two minutes.

I then can see the form of the trunks and foliage from the fir trees outside the window, as shadow puppets performing a merry show,  while the soft benevolent orange sun climbs up rapidly from the east.

The light which peeks in so intimately through the window early in the morning for only a few moments, so suddenly becomes aloof,  and then the wash of the light of the day floods the room, so fast !  Then everything just looks and feels … well… brightening … yet fading. 

This makes me realize how creativity works.   When conditions are right, a window through which I feel intensity of life, of inner light perhaps, and a bulls-eye to be glimpsed, and aimed toward.  But only moments later the light changes and does not show so clearly the target, and conditions wane, inspiration washes out.  Inspiration is merely a flicker, really, when I think about it, when conditions are right.  I must let my mind’s eye capture that flicker , let it be etched in, and hold it for as long as possible.

In between these flickering moments, I bide my time with the work which needs to be done.

Mossy Green Under The Blue Moon

 

Did you know that today is the Blue Moon ?  Progress on the mossy sweater pauses as I am in for a bit of a little break from knitting,  a little something non-knitting I’d like to bring to show you.   Occasionally I get all worked up in folksy crafty sorts of projects,  my latest making blackboards out of odd frames I find at thrift shops.  Here’s one of two identical, (two frames @ 25cents a piece), which I stained with espresso and sprayed with shellac , then mounted the matte-black-painted fiber-board.

my new ‘weekly menu’ board !

And the other twin,  has become my grocery shopping list . . .

A third,  which I painted red,

and which I am going to give to my girlfriend who has a birthday this month . . .
`

And another which is made from an old frame (50cents )

 is now in my work space of my knitting loft, reminding me of upcoming

Knitterly Things To Do. . .

And just in case I’ve made Yarnings a bit ‘ Yawnings ‘ ,  it’s time for a bedtime story.

A totally nonsensical story about a bit of  Thingsy-ness.

Here goes :

Once upon a time there was a knitter who lived in the woods.  A Woodsy Knitter.

She had a few quirky obsessions. One in particular, (besides chalk-boards, which is rather random, and not really about knitting, unless it’s about listing Knitterly Things To Do)  is related to hand-made garments and such… well , sort of.

“Oh really? What is that?” asked Little Red Riding Hood, eyes as big as saucers, as she pulled back the hood to her red cape, and little golden locks of hair bounced around her face.

“I like to collect old wooden hangers.” Said the Woodsy Knitter, while accepting a too-hot bowl of porridge from Mama Bear.

“Oh I see.” Said Hansel, to Gretel, in a very thick German accent , with pastry crumbs falling out of his mouth as he spoke, landing on his sister.

“But now my collection has refined to the particular ones which have advertisements of old Cleaners and Dyers on them. ”  Said the Woodsy Knitter, and then added ” I just found these, only 25cents a piece, yesterday ! ”

“Oh, yes, very nice, very nice !!!” Said Gretel to Hansel, but very annoyed as she brushed crumbs off of her sleeve.

” Also other kinds of wooden hangers too, ”  said the Woodsy Knitter ” like these old beauties, and also the ones which are completely rounded. This one I found yesterday as well…odd how long the wire handle is…”

“How odd indeed ” Said the Three Piggies, all in unison !!!

And the Woodsy Knitter replied ” But now , the very  very strange thing about these advertisements stamped on them, is how I have collected them over the years, and of all the couple of dozen or so,  no two are alike . “

“Not any?” Howled the Big Bad Wolf, questioningly, and gruffly,  as his brows furrowed upon closer inspection.

“No, really, check them out ! You may have to click the photo and enlarge to notice the names, and old-as-the-hills three-digit phone numbers.  Also, most of them are from my home state of California, but not all.” Said the Woodsy Knitter

Then they all went on their merry way, into their own stories,  after looking at the Woodsy Knitter’s crafty chalkboards, mossy knitting, and wooden hangers.

The fog broke.

The sun shone through the trees in the woods,

and the Woodsy Knitter resumed with her knitting,

and they all lived happily ever after.

The End.

Three Shades of Grey

I am very delighted to share with you a little project which designed itself as I knitted it up just last night and this morning !!!

Using three shades of grey…

A little something for my Old Pioneer Jar Method of brewing tea…

Though I normally use the clear kind of canning jars, for these photos I used one of my collection of  antique blue glass canning jars, with zinc lids. So pretty…

And so, I made a cozy little Tea Cozy for my Jar Brewing method.  It’s so adorable ,  I’m over the moon about it ! It reminds me a little of a Nepali or Tibeten Headress.

Bird’s eye view, knotted i-cord ‘bobble’ handle…

I call it “Earl Grey”

It rather speaks of it’s delicious namesake…

I like to drink my tea in a pint glass.

…and add whole milk.

Earl Grey Tea Cozy.   Whimsical.  Playful. Silly !

Do you suppose a standard 6-cup English teapot version is inevitable?

Maybe, but for now, I am quite pleased to be presenting my own pioneer tea-brewing method and the cozy”Earl Grey” Tea ‘Jar’ Cozy !

Home-Made Candy


Making candy again. One small batch at a time. I call it ‘micro dying’. I use a little one-quart old blue enamel pot, and I start with some homespun alpaca and cook the sugar just right, mixing hues with abandon.

Navy, royal blue, and a t’wee bit of peacock over-dye natural medium grey alpaca until it becomes unmistakably vivid and bold.

Yummy blue alpaca candy !


Spruce and emerald over-dye grey into a mouth-watering green alpaca candy !

 A  real taste sensation when mixed together !

I suprised myself with the color intensity, unusual for me, and I’ll admit, its only the second time I’ve dyed alpaca, and I really love how the fiber responds.