Category Archives: food

Experimentation with Fermentation! Part 2

My maiden name is Guenther, and my dad’s side of the family has a pretty German heritage, but somehow or other I don’t think I ever tasted sauerkraut until I was an adult. Most likely my mom, who is all Irish, didn’t fancy the stuff. So it just wasn’t something I ever ate as a kid, and I must have therefore figured it was a “yucky” food, and never sought it out. Until one day I was visiting some relatives on my own after college, and they had sauerkraut as a side dish. I enjoyed it from the first tentative bite! It was like pickles, sour and salty and a bit crunchy. I started buying it at the store from then on – not religiously, but when I remembered it as a flavorful condiment.

After learning more about fermented foods, recently, I have decided that homemade sauerkraut is the next project!
And not only that, but I decided I first needed to make my own ceramic crock to ferment it in, being that I am a potter, after all.

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My first attempt at a handmade fermentation crock

Now that I had a crock to ferment in, here’s the process I followed for homemade sauerkraut!

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Chopped Cabbage and Salt

I filled a huge bowl with chopped cabbage. Just one head, about 2 lbs. One head of cabbage was more volume than I expected! But then I added sea salt, probably about 3 teaspoons (I didn’t measure), and started squeezing the buhjeezus out of it.

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Massaging the salted cabbage

This got the cabbage all coated with the salt, and already it started drawing the water out. After walking away, and then coming back to repeat the massaging process every 10 minutes or so, the cabbage really started releasing its juices.

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Cabbage juices pooling in the bowl

After an hour of this, I felt the cabbage was sufficiently reduced in volume and wilted enough to start packing into the crock. I tossed in a teaspoon of caraway seeds (because Michael Pollan added some to his in Cooked), and then into the crock it went, handful by handful.

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Pounding down the cabbage

I used a cocktail muddler to really pound down the cabbage. This forces out the air, packing it down, and it gets the water to continue squeezing out of the cabbage. The cabbage juice (or brine) needs to be at a level above the solid cabbage; this protects the kraut from exposure to air, which can cause it to mold (bad).

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Weights to keep the kraut submerged below the brine level

Once I felt I’d pounded enough, and the cabbage was sufficiently juicy, I topped them off with two half circle ceramic weights I’d also made when I made the crock. These will keep the kraut from floating to the top and getting moldy. The bacteria that transform the cabbage in to sauerkraut prefer an oxygen-free environment, so that’s the environment I intended to create.

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Adding water to the moat creates an airlock

The photo above shows my little helper Ethan, pouring the water into the reservoir around the crock lid. The water will let CO2 out (it’ll “burp” to release pressure), but won’t allow any air to go in.

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My kitchen helper

Look how proud he is, helping Mama. Nevermind that he spilled most of the water on the counter, haha. By the way, how is it possible that this kid is two-and-three-quarters already?? Obligatory observation on how time flies.

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And now we wait…

So that’s it! Now my pretty little crock will live on the kitchen counter for a few weeks, and hopefully it will produce a yummy, probiotic sauerkraut!

And out in my studio I’m working on improving my design. Swing over to my Jadeflower Ceramics Etsy Site – I’ll have crocks like this (better, even!) for sale in my Etsy shop.

Here’s to my continuing fermentation adventure! Bye for now!

 

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Filed under DIY, Fermentation, food, Recipes, tutorial, Uncategorized

Experimentation with Fermentation! Part 1

I’ve recently gotten pretty immersed in the little-talked-about food world of fermentation. Fermented foods have been around for millennia, so why am I now just discovering this?? Anyway, I thought I’d share a bit about my new food hobby!

My interest was first piqued after watching “Cooked” on Netflix – Michael Pollan’s 4-part documentary series. It is really good, if you haven’t seen it yet! I was particularly intrigued by episodes 3 & 4 which went deep into our human history with Bread, and then with fermented foods. Incidentally, bread is historically a fermented food too! It’s only until recently that most breads are made with commercial yeast, rather than cultured sourdough.

I was so fascinated with the show, that I immediately checked out Pollan’s book (also titled Cooked). It’s a great read, I definitely recommend it. Like his other books, Michael Pollan has a great way of introducing not-so-commonly-know information that is both useful and insightful, as well as making the subject matter very relatable through personal anecdotes. Of course, after reading it (and before I even finished the book, really), I decided I wanted to challenge myself with some new cooking skills, and making my own wild sourdough bread and my own home ferments were first on the list. I checked out more books from the library.

Pollan’s book is great because it has a whole bibliography from which I could get more information. Readily available at my library was Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation which was a great starting book for someone new to the whole fermentation thing.

So far, I have successfully brought a bowl of flour and water to life! (Ahem, really not that miraculous, apparently) Leaving this bowl of flour goo on the counter for almost 2 weeks, I thought perhaps the wild yeasts and bacteria that I was promised are everywhere didn’t live in my home, or didn’t want me to make my own sourdough bread. But patience paid off, and I now have a happy, bubbly starter, still living on my counter (covered with a cloth most of the time).

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Sourdough Starter (wild fermentation!)

I feed it a bit of flour and water every day. I’ve made 5-6 loaves of bread thus far, two batches of English muffins, and pancakes. Not everything has been a rocking success, but I have made a few things I’m pretty proud of…like this loaf of bread.

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Whole wheat Sourdough Bread

Another fermenting experiment that is underway was one M wanted to do – homemade Mead. Apparently, mead is just about the easiest alcoholic ferment you can do – just mix honey and water and give it a stir every time you think of it.

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Mead fermenting in my blue Le Creuset Pitcher

And if you can use pretty crockery to do your fermenting, all the better! After 10 days of stirring and waiting, we’re finally starting to see some bubbling activity. Soon we’ll transfer to a bottle to finish the process.

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Tiny bubbles of CO2 in our honey water show us that fermentation is afoot!

My next adventure is to make homemade sauerkraut. But that’s a post for another day. Stay tuned for Experimentation with Fermentation Part 2!

 

 

 

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Makin’ Bacon Pancakes

If you are a fan of the totally awesome animated show “Adventure Time” and also spend any amount of time on the internet, you may have come across this completely get-in-your-head music video…

Anytime I think of it, or if someone says the words “Bacon Pancakes” it is inevitable that this song will then be on repeat in my brain for the rest of the day…or until I make me some bacon pancakes.

So one recent Saturday morning when I actually had some bacon in my fridge, I decided to whip up a batch. And M was most pleased.

Jake the dog’s song says it all – Bacon pancakes…make some bacon and you put it in a pancake!

Here’s my step-by-step for your own delicious meat-candy filled breakfast delight!

First! Start with the bacon.

you start with the bacon!

you start with the bacon!

For 2 people, I found that 4 strips of bacon was plenty. If you’re cooking for more, or have more of an appetite, adjust accordingly!
I like to use the baking method for my bacon. It ensures evenly cooked, flat bacon, and you don’t have to keep an eye on it. Leaving you to do other things!
If you’ve never baked bacon, here’s how I do it: line a baking sheet with foil (for easy clean-up) and fold the edges to contain all the grease. Place your baking sheet into a cold oven, then turn it on to 350 degrees, and let cook for about 15-20 minutes. (Check at 15, and leave in until it is the level of crispiness you like!)

Next! While your bacon cooks, mix up your pancake batter. Just your favorite recipe, be it a box mix or from scratch. My go-to recipe comes from my Joy Of Cooking cookbook. It is my go-to for a lot of basic recipes. 🙂
When your bacon is done, drain on paper towels and cut each piece in half.

cooked bacon and pancake batter

cooked bacon and pancake batter

Then! In a pre-heated pan or griddle over medium heat, add your first dollop of batter.

First dollop of batter

First dollop of batter

Then while the batter is still mostly uncooked, place 2 pieces of your bacon on top. Gently squish them on in there.

...put it in a pancake

…put it in a pancake

And finally, drizzle some more batter on top of the bacon, to totally encase them in pancake.

bacon, covered with batter

bacon, covered with batter

Then cook as normal! When you see lots of bubbles forming through the top, you know it’s ready to flip.

time to flip the bacon pancake!

time to flip the bacon pancake!

The final stages, of course, are to slather with maple syrup and enjoy!

bacon pancakes!

bacon pancakes!

They look like normal pancakes, but with a secret delicious surprise inside. ;-P

there's bacon inside!

there’s bacon inside!

These make a decadent, yet very easy breakfast. And I dare you not to sing that song the entire time you make them 😉

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Cherry custard breakfast Tart (gluten free)

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted a recipe here on the blog! And over a month since I’ve posted at all! The last couple months have been a whirlwind of work, a new business venture by my mother, and lots of pre-wedding events for two of my closest friends.

Fresh Cherry Custard Tart

But here I’d like to check in briefly, and share a recipe that may make the rounds into your summer brunch rotation. I searched out a breakfast tart recipe in order to utilize a few ingredients I had on hand that I wanted to use up – my first batch of fresh summer cherries, ground almond meal that has been living in my fridge for the past 2 months, and leftover ricotta cheese.

Sweet fresh cherries

I made a huge batch of almond “flour” in April in the attempts of baking homemade French macarons. After two failed attempts (wop wop), I decided to leave it to the professionals. But I still had a good amount of almond meal left over. (Almond meal is simple to make at home, if you have a food processor. You can also buy it at most grocery stores these days – Bob’s Red Mill is a good brand to try. But making your own is cheaper!)

I made this tart to bring for a Father’s Day brunch at my parents’ house on Sunday. I wanted to be sure it wasn’t too sweet (since this was a breakfast dish), I wanted it to be gluten-free and nearly sugar-free to appease my mom, but still taste great for my dad. This would also be completely suitable as a dessert dish for a fresh summer meal. You can certainly make this the night before, for a breakfast or brunch.

Cherry Custard Breakfast Tart
adapted from Cannelle et Vanille
Total time ~about 2 hours

Almond Crust:
2/3 cup brown rice flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand)
1/2 cup almond flour
3 Tb cornstarch
1 Tb sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
6 Tb butter – diced into 1/2″ cubes, reserve in freezer until needed
1 egg yolk
2-4 Tb ice water

In a food processor, combine the dry ingredients, pulse to 3-4 times to mix. Add the butter, pulse about 10 times, until butter is incorporated to about pea-sized (do not over-process). In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and 2 Tb of ice water. Add to the flour mixture, pulse several times to incorporate. Add up to 2 additional Tb of ice water, pulsing until dough begins to hold together. Turn out dough onto plastic wrap, briefly knead into a ball. Flatten into a 1″-thick disk or rectangle (depending on the pan you’ll be using), wrap up and refrigerate for 1 hour.

When ready to roll out the dough, roll between two sheets of plastic wrap, lifting up & replacing the wrap after each roll to give the dough the freedom to move. (Using plastic wrap lets you see the dough, but makes clean-up easy and lets you pick up the fragile dough without it sticking to your work surface or tearing it with your fingers.)

Place your dough in your tart pan & trim excess. Refrigerate until filling is ready.

Cherry/Custard Filling:
1 pound fresh cherries, pitted & quartered
3 Tb unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean, split & seeds scraped
1/4 cup almond flour
2 Tb cornstarch
2 eggs
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/4 cup ricotta cheese

Preheat oven to 400F (200C).
In a small saucepan, brown your butter (for a great how-to on browning butter, click here). To the browned butter, add your vanilla bean and seeds. Let the vanilla steep for about 10 minutes. Remove bean.
In a small bowl, whisk together almond flour and cornstarch. In medium bowl, whisk together eggs, agave, ricotta cheese, and butter mixture.

Layer cherries on tart dough

Arrange your cut-up cherries on your tart dough (give the pan a few gentle shakes to get them evenly distributed). Pour the custard mixture over your cherries – tap the pan a few times to evenly distribute the custard.

Look at those gorgeous vanilla seeds!

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until beginning to brown on top. Let the tart cool completely before serving. Enjoy!

Let tart cool completely before serving

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welcoming the sun’s return

How did I miss the whole month of March??
Oh right, I’ve been workin’ like a mad-lady. But I’ve missed you!

Anyhoo! Before I totally miss the month of April as well, I wanted to say Happy Easter, and maybe (just maybe) the spring has finally arrived in Seattle. At least, we’ve seen a bit of the sun in the last few days, and I think the frost has finally given up most mornings.

Purple hard boiled egg

But in honor of today being Easter, I want to focus on eggs.
Yes this is a a hard-boiled egg:
Isn’t it crazy?

But that’s not the best part! Here is my egg sliced in half:

pretty purple pickled egg!

I love it! This beats dying the outside of eggs any day.
And the best part is, it’s all natural, and still tastes great. I discovered the idea of pickling eggs with beet juice from one of my go-to foodie blogs Simply Recipies, and you can find her recipe for pickled eggs right here! It’s so easy to do, provided you have beet juice on hand. You can use the juice from fresh beets, or do as I did and use the stuff from canned beets.

I’ll definitely be pickling eggs again, and probably try out some of Elise’s other pickle recipes.

So happy Easter, to those who celebrate it! And welcome springtime and new beginnings!

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Filed under food, Holidays

From Pin to Party

I agree with the majority of folks out there that Pinterest is pretty fabulous. While I’m not one of those people who has to “pin all the things!!!” I do enjoy having a visual space where I can collect all my favorite finds from around the web in one neat little package. And it’s a great planning tool! You can find all my pins right here.

I used my Pinterest as a planning tool for an event I put on over the weekend. I celebrated my 30th birthday! In reality, I had a 4-day celebration, starting on my actual birthday (on Thursday) and through to Sunday, but my little party was Saturday, and Pinterest was a big help in guiding my inspiration.

Ever since my wedding, I really enjoy planning parties and executing all the little details! This one was no exception. I had a handful of fun craft projects.

First, I have been enamored of this tablecloth idea from the moment I saw it:

DIY Bunting Tablecloth from The Sweetest Occasion

 I loved this idea for ages before I got around to making my own painted tablecloth.
I took a different design direction, but the process was the same.

Start with a plain white tablecloth or fabric. Line underneath with paper or dropcloth. Painting supplies: Acrylic Paints, Acrylic Fabric Medium, Sponge brush, paper templates cut into triangles

I wanted a kind of triangle confetti pattern, and I chose a dark orange, pastel pink and dark turquoise for the color palette. Fun party colors!
After an hour or so of stamping (M helped too, the sweetie!) this was the final result:

party tablecloth, finished!

Once the paint had thoroughly dried, the final step was to heat-set the paint with an iron (following the directions on the Fabric Medium bottle).

Once craft down! Many to go!
Next, I’ve loved the use of paper for decorations for some time. Whether it’s craft paper, patterned colorful paper, or tissue paper. Love it all! And these images really got me inspired:

pretty paper decorations, image from LeSueur Interiors

Pretty paper medallion backdrop, from Kara's Party Ideas

Tissue Paper Decorations, from realsimple.com

So for about a week prior to my party, I started folding paper into fans, and taping those fans into round medallions. All different colors and sizes. Some with petal edges, some just straight, some with doilies in the centers, some without. All of them coordinating with my blue-orange-pink color scheme.

My Paper Medallion Party Backdrop

I love the overlap of all the different sizes and colors! It just looks so cheerful!
To hang them, I used clear fishing line taped to the back of each medallion, then tied to clear push pins into the ceiling, visually gauging where each one would look the best with height and overlap. You could see the pins and the line if you looked closely, but for the most part they were invisible!

For party food, I knew I wanted to keep it simple (purchasing my veggie platter, sliced cheeses, hummus and pita, and mixed nuts), because the one thing I wanted to make myself was Cake Pops!

Cake Pop 101, from A Beautiful Mess

This was my first experience making cake pops. And in fact, my first time eating cake pops! But I’ve loved the idea and the cute presentation ever since first seeing it on Bakerella. I bought my sticks and candy melts from Michaels, and was all set to concoct these pretties.
I discovered that my mixture was far too gooey! One boxed cake + 1 can frosting turned out to be a very wet ratio! Next time I make these pops, I’ll start with less frosting and mix in more as needed, rather than dumping the whole can in at once (live and learn)!

cake pops, before being mixed

So as a solution, I quickly baked a half-recipe for simple chocolate cake from scratch, and added that to the mixture, which helped firm up the “dough.” All in all, my pops turned out super cute, and they were a big hit with everyone.

My finished cake pops

Another sweet treat that Pinterest inspired was Italian Sodas!

DIY Italian Sodas, from the Salty Pineapple

So I made  my own little drink station with fun soda-fountain glasses and fun stripey paper straws from HeyYoYo on Etsy!

Italian Soda station

My last bit of party planning wasn’t inspired by anything I’d seen on the webz. But as a ceramic artist, I wanted to share a bit of myself with my guests, so taking a cue from those “paint your own pottery” places, I set up a crafting table where people could glaze a piece of pottery I’d made especially for the occasion.

my very own "paint your own pottery" station!

A random assortment of mugs and vase cylinders that could be personalized! It took some coaxing to get people to jump in, but those who did enjoyed it! I’ll be firing those pieces later in the week and sending it to my friends who participated! 🙂 Hopefully they’ll be a fun little souvenir of the evening.

So in conclusion, I had a fantastic time turning 30.  And I am truly looking forward to a new decade and a new chapter in my life. I absolutely loved my 20s, but I have no regrets leaving them behind. Maybe because I enjoyed my 20s so much is why I’m optimistic about the next 10 years! Life is basically good, and I have a lot to look forward to. Not least due to my wonderful friends and family. ❤

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February 28, 2012 · 7:48 am

Tea and Grahams

It feels like the weekend went by slowly and way too fast at the same time! I did manage to get lots done, and even baked this recipe from smitten kitchen – one that I’ve been dying to try for a while now!

Homemade Graham Crackers!

A little quiet moment, with a cup of hot tea and a mildly sweet, wonderfully crunchy graham on a rainy afternoon? Priceless.

Plus, I got in a little photo shoot for that cute little lacy plate you see in the picture!
Do you like it? You can find more in my Shop! 🙂

But anyways, those graham crackers are so great! I insist that you go make some as soon as you can. They are great for snacking when you don’t want something too big or too sweet (and I think if I make them again, I will cut back on the sugar even more)

So happy Monday everyone. Oh, yes, and Happy Valentine’s day as well ❤

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