Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Citrus Marmalade

No longer am I out of marmalade. Marmalade, a fruit preserve made from the juice and peel of citrus fruits, is very easy and inexpensive to make at home yourself. I like to make mine from a combination of lemons and oranges, so I call it Citrus Marmalade. But, if you prefer, make orange marmalade, lime marmalade, grapefruit marmalade, or any combination of your choice. It's all good.
My favorite use for marmalade is as a flavoring for the yogurt that I make. I love the combination of the taste of the tangy, fresh yogurt and that sweet, slightly bitter flavor of marmalade. But, with nothing but empty jars on hand today, I was unfortunately out. No worries here though, because I had oranges and lemons on hand. From start to finish, this marmalade recipe makes up fast, so within thirty minutes from taking the pan out of my cupboard, I had two lovely jars of marmalade on hand once again.
Not liking the poor quality, rubbery, slightly pricey stuff they call marmalade that's available at the regular grocery store, and not wanting to shell out the big bucks to purchase one of those fancy jars at one of those fancy shops, I realized a long time ago that it's best just to make it myself. I recommend using only organically grown citrus fruits in order to avoid any nasty chemicals that might have been used on a non-organic orchard. Living in the Pacific Northwest, our climate is not warm enough to grow our own citrus fruits. If you reside in a climate where you can grow them yourself, lucky you. Here's my basic recipe.

Citrus Marmalade
1 Orange
1 Lemon
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Water
Wash the lemon and orange. Grate off just the colored portion of their peels and place the gratings in a large pan. Peel the pithy white layer off of the orange and lemon and discard. (I add that to my compost pail.) Slice, dice and chop the lemon and orange into small pieces.
Place the chopped fruit in the pan with the grated peel. Add the sugar, then the water and stir to blend.
Cook on high until the mixture comes to a steady boil. Lower the heat and continue cooking for ten minutes, stirring as it cooks. Citrus fruits contain plenty of their own natural pectin, so the mixture will begin to thicken as it cooks. To test to see if the marmalade has cooked to a thick enough consistency, remove the pan from the heat and spoon a small dab onto a cold plate. If the dab thickens, your marmalade is finished. If it is still too runny or a bit watery, return the pan to the heat and cook in five minute intervals, testing for thickness at the end of each interval. When your marmalade has reached the desired consistency, cool slightly and pour into jars.
Once this batch of marmalade was finished, I could hardly wait to try some in my yogurt. Wow, it really is exceptionally GOOD.
This recipe makes two jelly-sized jars of marmalade. Cover with a lid to keep for several weeks in the refrigerator. Double, triple, or more, this recipe to make larger quantities. If you make a larger quantity, place regular canning rings and lids on the jars and process them in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Once canned, marmalade will easily keep for up to one year. For a great gift idea, make a variety of citrus marmalades - orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, or any combination of those fruits - and pack them in baskets or small boxes to give away.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Harvest Monday - April 25, 2011

The local news mentioned snow in our mountain passes and that we shouldn't be expecting it to warm up much here any time soon either. The weather guy went on to say that unless we get some sort of warming trend, which, by the way, turns out to be extremely doubtful, this month will most likely go down in our record books as the coldest April in recorded history. No wonder another Harvest Monday has rolled around and all that's available for harvest from my garden is over-wintered leeks, salad burnet and a few small snips of herbs.

My friend Dena was visiting and loves to cook, so made one of her favorite dishes with some of this week's harvest. It was fun having an opportunity to share my kitchen with an enthusiastic cook who loves being creative with recipes and ingredients. When I told her about Daphne's Harvest Monday project, she thought it sounded fun and welcomed the challenge.
She started with the leeks. First slicing, then frying them in bacon grease, this would not necessarily be a dish for someone with the goal of weight loss.
Then she sliced a red onion and cooked that up with the leek. Next, she sliced up a big pack of cheese and fruit sausages. Adding them to the pan, she cooked them through. Unfortunately, after reading the package label for the sausage, we discovered that they contained both pepper and paprika. With a severe allergy to capsicum, unfortunately, I would not able to even try this dish. She said she makes it all the time and absolutely loves it. I thought it smelled so good.
Having planned a picnic and hike at Tennant Lake and Hovander Homestead Park for lunch that day, she made up Salad Burnet Egg Salad for us to take. The cucumber flavor of the salad burnet was a wonderful addition to the egg salad. You can read all about our picnic and hike here - Really Rose Blog - Tennant Lake and Hovander Homestead.
With the intention of making Fresh Herbed Whole Crackers, we visited my garden and snipped a few assorted herbs - sage, oregano, mint and rosemary - and pulled up a few green garlics from a small bed in my Garden Nbr. 01 where I had deliberately planted garlics too close so that I could use the green ones fresh as I thinned them out. The green garlics looked almost like green onions and are absolutely packed full of garlic juice with a very good garlic flavor.

Starting with my basic recipe for Stone Ground Whole Wheat Crackers (go - HERE - for that recipe), we substituted assorted fresh garden herbs (I also added some purchased sesame seeds that I had on hand) and minced the green garlic for the 1/4 cup of cheese required in that recipe. We also added a few raisins, making the crackers somewhat savory. I would recommend dicing the raisins rather than leaving them whole as I did this time. The dough is rolled out thin, so when forming the crackers, the raisins tended to stick up a bit more than I had anticipated.

We also heated 2 tablespoons of olive oil mixed with a couple more minced garlic cloves, and brushed that over some of the dough after it was rolled out. With my rolling pin, the garlic bits were gently pressed into the top of the cracker dough before we cut the crackers out. That tray of crackers definitely had garlic in every bite.

As it turned out, these Fresh Garden Herbed Whole Crackers went exceptionally well with the Salad Burnet Egg Salad.
Daphne over at Daphne's Dandelions set up Harvest Monday as a way for garden bloggers to show off their harvests. It sounded fun, and a great way to challenge myself to be more creative with my harvests - especially this early in the spring. She's got a great garden going herself this year. Check out her blog to see what's growing there, and read about what's being harvested.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hertz Trail - Redux

The end of the Hertz Trail was blocked by a huge tree the last time we hiked it, so I tossed a fold-up saw into my pack on the way out the door. Hoping that saw would be sufficient for blazing a trail through the brush and stinging nettles that surrounded the giant obstacle in the middle of our trail, I felt relieved once we had hiked in to that point along the trail and discovered that the problem had already been resolved. That fallen tree, now a permanent fixture, has redefined our trail. We now detour slightly to the left, then walk under that fallen tree in order to continue on to the end of the trail. Here's Dena, I and Janel posing under that giant tree. As you can see, it is a huge! It must have been an incredibly tall tree as it lays over the original path and extends way out into Lake Whatcom.
The sun was out as we hiked today making for a pleasant pause at this small beach along our route. With Lake Whatcom our backdrop, Matt joined us in this photo.
To see pictures from when we hiked the Hertz Trail trail earlier this month, and to get more information about this trail, go here - Really Rose Blog - Hertz Trail.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tennant Lake and Hovander Homestead

Rather than go to a restaurant for lunch, we prepared a picnic and headed over to Tennant Lake where we walked up the steps of this fifty foot tower. We sat on the bench up there and enjoyed the view of Tennant Lake and its surrounding marsh lands with majestic Mount Baker in the background as we dined.
Then we walked through the marsh on the raised boardwalk. This boardwalk had been closed due to severe damage from the flood waters of the nearby Nooksack River several years ago. More information about this marsh and photos of the flooding are available here - Really Rose Blog - Great Classrooms - Tennant Lake. I was delighted to see that repairs have finally been made and the boardwalk is once again open.
The boardwalk meanders through the wooded marsh and along the edge of the lake for a ways before it meanders back through the marsh again and takes us to a gravel trail that leads back to the tower where we ateour lunch. The lake was absolutely full of water lilies. Their buds still rather small, I must try to get back there when they are in bloom.
After thoroughly exploring the Tennant Lake area, we took a nearby trail leading to the Hovander Homestead.
Dena just loves my dog, so Torrie thinks it's okay to sit on the bench with her.
This is the main house at the Hovander Homestead. The yard is full of fruit trees, raspberries, beds of herbs and raised beds just waiting to be planted with garden vegetables maintained by master gardeners from the Washington State University Extension Master Gardener Program. Most of the produce grown at these Hovander Homestead gardens is donated to the Ferndale Food Bank.
This tiny pump at the Hovander Homestead seems dwarfed by the size of this water tower.
There is also a Children's Story Garden and a good sized green house on the grounds. Also maintained by the Master Gardeners, we peaked through the greenhouse windows and saw tables full of tomato plants, no doubt for the Master Gardener Plant Sale that's coming up on May 7th.
Here is a video that was prepared some time ago by KVOS Television about Hovander Homestead Park and the Tennant Lake Interpretative Center.
This video must be several years old because much of the Whatcom County Parks Department funding for this park is no longer available and they have dropped the educational programs they had offerred for the local school children.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fragrance Lake

It doesn't seem to matter how often I hike this trail, it remains a favorite. I'm not sure if it's because of the challenge of the 1,100' elevation gain in the short 1.9 mile trail, the beauty of the forest we pass through to get there, the giant sandstone cliffs we pass along the way, or the calm of the lake once we've reached our destination, but it always feels like an accomplishment once we're there.

Sandstone cliffs along the trail.
The trail, one switchback after another. Up up we go.
Dena checks out an old tree trunk.
Reminiscent of gymnastics, this was rather like a balance beam.
We took the short trail branching off the main trail so we could view Chuckanut Bay and the San Juan Islands. What a great backdrop for this group photo.
Torrie swam out to fetch a log.
More information about hiking to Fragrance Lake can be found in a blog entry about one of my previous hikes there. Go here to read more - Fragrance Lake  Hike.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Harvest Monday - April 18, 2011

The challenge was on as another Harvest Monday rolled around and I found myself scouring the garden for something worthy of harvest. Having planted a small patch of six tiny salad burnet plants last summer, because it takes quite a while for this perennial herb to mature, I did not harvest any last season. Fast forward to this spring, now the plants are growing rapidly - so rapidly in fact, soon I must divide them.
Anxious to finally get to taste their cucumber-like flavor, today I snipped off some of the youngest, most tender stems.
Back in my kitchen, after washing and drying the salad burnet, I stuffed several pieces into a cruet, added a garlic clove (not from my garden), heated vinegar to boiling and poured it in.
The fragrance was wonderful. First a whiff of something like cucumbers, then the garlic. I took a taste, and yum! But really it must sit for a few weeks for the flavors to fully mature. For now I must wait as this batch of herb and garlic infused vinegar is destined to be enjoyed with a bit of olive oil, splashed onto salad greens fresh from the garden later in the season.
With the temperatures here at night still dipping into the low to mid thirties, would you believe I thought I heard Seattle's Channel 5 weather guy say tonight that we have had only two days so far this year where the afternoon temperature topped 50. Only two? Can that be true? I'm pretty certain this will be the last year I go without a cold frame in my garden! Here's the state of Garden Nbr. 01 as of today. Growing ever so slowly, when it comes to Harvest Monday, it's slim pickin's.
This is Garden Nbr. 02, the new garden I built last year. Visible are only a few slow growing herbs, a couple of Dad's ancient pots full of hens and chicks, and some obvious fast growing weeds. The remainder of this garden still sits empty, waiting for warmer days so seeds will sprout and plants can overflow their boundaries.
Back in Garden Nbr. 01 though, I do have some soon to be harvested treasures that I am watching closely - like these soon to be blooming tulips.
And this rhubarb. Suddenly starting to grow again, soon I hope to add some of this to a Harvest Monday report.
The chive blossoms are near ready to open too. Last year, I made the most wonderful Chive Blossom Vinegar (see - Chive Blossom Vinegar). Another favorite flavored vinegar, and I'm out. I shall make more very soon.
Daphne over at Daphne's Dandelions set up Harvest Monday as a way for garden bloggers to show off their harvests. It sounded fun, and a great way to challenge myself to be more creative with my harvests - especially this early in the spring. She's got a great garden going herself this year. Check out her blog to see what's growing there, and read about what's being harvested.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunny Skies

It would have been a good afternoon to work in the garden, but I decided to run the dog instead. Along the canals, Torrie leads the way.
He loves running through the tall grasses. Doesn't that look like a smile on his face?
Sunny skies makes for a good walk.
I'll tend the garden tomorrow!

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Note on the Volvo

Taped to the window of my Volvo, this note was wet from the rain by the time I read it. Had I found it on my own, I doubt if I would have even known what it meant.
Margarete knocked on my door a little earlier, and so upset, in her strong German accent chattered on and on about a lot of traffic going by on the street. It sounded like she said something about a school bus, and then that she had hit my car. She continued, saying something about fixing it with strips of plastic that have glue on them. I didn't understand so invited her in. Sitting next to her on the couch, I asked her to please start over with what she was trying to tell me as I secretely wished she spoke English just a little better. Turns out, she had cut the corner to the driveway a little too short and had hit my car with hers, shattering the fog light and turn signal lense cover on the driver's side of my car. It wasn't until we walked out to my car so I could see first hand what she was talking about that I was able to figure out that what she translates from German to English and calls strips of plastic with glue is what the rest of us call Scotch tape.
No serious damage was done - just the lense cover that she had tried her best to repair and a corner of the chrome portion of my bumper had broken off too. She hadn't even noticed that though until I pointed it out. Her insurance will cover the repairs but it seems my car got off with the lesser damage. Looks like that missing piece of chrome from the bumper of my car dug into her Bronco real good before it fell off because her car is gouged and crumbled at the same level that the piece of chrome had been. Should I be thinking, good job Volvo bumper?
Tonight was my turn to drive for our carpool, so until I could get it into a shop so the broken pieces could be replaced, I dried the rain off the car as best I could and applied a layer of two-inch wide clear package tape over the broken pieces, hopeful that they won't fall off as I drive down the highway.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Snow

How can this be? It snowed last night! Not much, and it's obvious that it won't be around for long, but it is snow.
It's just a trace, but a trace too much. I am glad that I got as much done in my garden as I did (see - Planting), but when (WHEN?) can I get back out there again?
Looking even more like winter at Stevens Pass, this unseasonably cold weather is predicted to hang around until the middle of next week. What is happening to our "global warming"?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Gas

The price just keeps going up. An article in this morning's local paper said Gas prices reach $4 per gallon, I guess I should feel lucky that I found it for less ($3.799 per gallon) at that station by the airport.
 It was much higher on the other side of the street though.
Often taking the bus during the week for my daytime errands, I'm sure glad I'm in carpools for the majority of my out-of-town activities.