Review: In the Raw

In the RawIn the Raw
by Nikka Michaels and Eileen Griffin

Strip away the clothes (yes, please!) and the attitude, and culinary school students Ethan and Jamie aren’t as different as they appear. Used to fending for himself and his sister, tough-boy Ethan wears his piercings, tattoos and spikey hair like armour, which isn’t unusual for a twenty-two year old. Jamie cycles through his uniform of pressed button-downs and khakis, thoughtful gifts and acceptable gestures because that’s how he was raised. Deep down, however, these boys—okay, they think they’re men, but to me they’re boys and so gosh-darned cute—basically want the same thing: to succeed in a field they are passionate about. They want to be chefs. Continue reading “Review: In the Raw”

Strawberry Season

I love strawberry season. I like picking the berries and I like eating them, too, which is a good thing. This year, we went picking three days before vacation and had to eat and/or use nearly nine pounds of them before we went away. Yeah, not the best planning, but…strawberries.

Here’s what we did with those nearly nine pounds.

20140627_154632First up, we made jam. I’ve made strawberry jam before. It’s very, very easy. Strawberries don’t contain a lot of pectin, but when combined with sugar, they have enough to form a loose spread, particularly if you cook your jam long enough to boil off some of the excess water. Adding some lemon juice can speed up the process and I think the citrus also helps maintain the bright, glossy red colour of the jam. (This could be my imagination, but it works for me.) Being that I don’t actually eat a lot of sugar—I like my sweets but I’d rather snack on something savory—I reduced the amount my recipe called for by half. I don’t know if that added to the cooking time or not, but it took longer than twenty minutes for my cut up strawberries to gel. My daughter lost interest after the first half hour, which is fine. I was happy to handle the hot jars alone.

20140627_185928Next up, we made strawberry shortcake. We almost always make biscuits for this. There is something about a warm biscuit topped with fresh whipped cream and strawberries that just trumps the little shells you buy at the supermarket. They can be like dried out old sponges. I suppose we could make our own, but I like the biscuit texture better. It’s almost like eating high tea for dessert—English scones (not those weird American wedge things), whipped cream and sliced strawberries sprinkled with just enough sugar to add a little sweetness.

The next morning, we made buttermilk pancakes with strawberry compote. I don’t know what a compote is, either. It looks like a loose syrup. Actually, it looks something like my strawberry jam, but the color isn’t as bright and glossy. Nor was it cooked down for about an hour and a half while I whined by the stove. Whatever it is, it’s good and it works very well with my husband’s fluffy buttermilk pancakes. Mmm.

20140629_073716We still had about four pounds of strawberries to use, so Husband made a strawberry tart. This is a new recipe, as in one we haven’t tried before. I liked it, but didn’t love it. The pastry wasn’t quite short enough for me and the glaze perhaps not quite sticky enough. But, I will note that after we let it sit in the fridge for three days while we vacationed, it did set nicely. The pastry softened a little and the strawberries absorbed more of the sugar and citrus. The glaze, unfortunately, got a little cloudy. Something to work on for next time.

Leaving you with a picture of the best part of strawberry season: the picking. My knees weren’t happy, but my daughter certainly had a good time.

(Note: Follow the links for recipes, except for the compote. Apparently that was made up…)


An Apple a Day

applesWe went apple picking on the weekend. It was one of those magical fall days where the sun is warm, the shade cool. Here, in North East Pennsylvania, the colours are approaching their peak, meaning there is plenty of green in between vivid yellows and reds, which makes for a lovely contrast.

The apples played hide and seek with us, invisible behind thick clusters of green leaves until we passed by. Then a flash of red or yellow would catch our eye. Upon turning around, we would wonder how we had missed so many apples.

When we got home, we wondered why we had picked so many apples.

I ate three; they taste amazing right off the tree, all warm from the sun and free of any polishing wax. A dust off and they’re ready to eat. But, what to do with the other sixty?

My husband made a pie. Much to my annoyance, I was not allowed to eat any of it on Sunday night. It had to cool, he said. Set or something. It’s sitting on the counter now, calling to me—crust all golden and pushed up at the centre because there are so many apples hidden inside. I’ll get a slice tonight, or he will be finding somewhere else to live.

Continue reading “An Apple a Day”