Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

Please donate if you can. American Red Cross

If you can't, please take a moment to send some good prayers to the region.

A new generation of jam

I know...I know...another blog about jam. I should really just rename this blog "The house of jam".

Anyway, it's your own darn fault for coming back. You don't have to, you know.

Well, in any case, since you're here I might as well tell you what I've been thinking about. The other day while browsing through my local Indian grocery store, Kalustyan's (I live by Little India on Lexington and dropped in on monday night to pick up some spices I needed for a biryani I planned to make) I came upon a little collection of interesting flavorings and essences...jasmine essence, rose water, etc...

Doesn't blood orange marmalade with jasmine and rose sound divine?


Fresh fig with orange blossom and cardamom essence.

I've run out of jam jars (I originally bought two dozen) but I've just put in an order for two dozen more. I'll be back up to my jam making ways in about 5 - 7 business days...actually make that 2. I placed the order about a week ago.

I also came across coconut essence. I've been toying with the idea of making a pineapple-coconut jam for sometime but feared that the amount of dry coconut I'd have to use to impart a noticable coconut flavor would leave the jam horribly fiborous. Now, I think a pina-colada jam might be possible...without all the bits that could get stuck in your mouth.

BTW, if you can think of other unique/interesting jam suggestions I'm all ears.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

SS in town

SS has been in town and while I can't say I've been the best host, it's been great seeing her! I realize I'm not the biggest party person...I don't like going clubbing and that sort and I really don't like much of the city's party scene...a little too velvet rope for me. Sometimes I wonder why I'm so enamored by the city.

For whatever reason I've gone to bed later and later each night. The first night was 1am, the next 3am and last night 5am. Crazy.

Anyhoo, I've also been able to work a little cooking into the mix. I made some zucchini-carrot-coconut-walnut bread and I'm probably going to make some banana-coconut bread tonight. I'm also roasting some organic tomatoes (from my CSA) that I'll combine with some fresh mozzarella, organic zucchini, stock, and organic roasted garlic for a nice pasta dinner tonight for the two of us.

EC, if you are reading this, please come over...I've got a whole loaf of zucchini bread waiting for you in my fridge!


What's up with the comment area spamming? Does anyone know how to prevent this?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

How to make jam

Several of you have emailed me with various questions related to jam. Most of them are in the vain of "Is jam making hard?" "How do you make jam?" "Have you made any jam recently?"

Given this line of questioning, I thought I'd write a bit about the jam making process. Although I'm still quite the novice, I have made 5 batches now and the whole process seems to get easier and easier each time. Thus, for those of you who might want to make your own jam, here is my advice and notes from what I've learned.

The jam making process is actually two separate processes; jam making and sterilization.

The first thing to do is clean and sterilize any and all tools and jars you plan to use. Wash everything; jars, lids, jar band, wide mouth funnel, ladles, jar tongs, in warm soapy water. Place a big (minimum 20 quart capacity) pot on the stove and fill it with enough water so that it will cover the jars with at least one inch of water. You don't want the jars to touch the bottom of the pot so either use a jar rack or a round cake cooling rack on the bottom of the pot. Bring the water to a boil and put the jars and bands in the boiling water. Boil for a minimum of 10 minutes to ensure complete sterilization. Take the jars out with the jar tongs and the bands (this is where a lid remover comes in handy) place them on a clean towel (this prevents thermal shock). Prevent touching them with your hands (contamination) and allow them to cool.

Make the jam. As a rule of thumb I've found the following recipe suits my taste. 5.5 cups of fruit (whatever you want), 4.5 cups of sugar, the juice and rind of 2 or 3 lemons (depending on how acidic your fruit is), one pouch of liquid pectin. Place the fruit , sugar, and lemon juice and rinds in a big pot (make sure it's big...jam foams a lot in the beginning and you don't want spillage.) Bring everything to a rapid boil and then turn down the heat until you get a rolling boil. About 2 or 3 minutes into the process mix in all the pectin. Boil for the next 10 - 30 minutes until you get the consistency you want. Remember that jam is thinner when its hot so you don't want it to the exact consistency it would be when cold. It should be a bit thinner. A good way to test the consistency is to put a small plate in your freezer before you begin making the jam. When you're ready to test take the plate out and put a small amount of warm jam on the plate. Place the plate in the fridge for about 20 seconds. Take the plate out and test the consistency. This will be the consistency of your jam. If it's still a little runny boil the jam a bit further. Once your jam is the right consistency get ready to work quickly.

Approximately 10 minutes before the jam is ready place the jar lids in the pot of hot water. Boil for 10 minutes to warm up the gummy sealant on the lids. Take the lids out of the water with the lid remover. And let them dry a bit. Avoid touching them with your hands.

Using the sterilized wide mouth funnel and ladle, ladle the hot jam into the sterilized and dry jam jars. Fill the jars to about 1/3 inch of the rim. You want to leave some space - this space creates the vacuum seal. Repeat with all the jars. Using a clean wet cloth, wipe the rims of the jars clean. Place the sterilized lids and then use the bands to the secure the lids in place. Only tighten the bands finger tight. Using the tongs place each jar in the pot so that they don't touch each other. Boil the jars for about 15 minutes. Avoid jostling the filled jars to much after this point. Once the 15 minutes are up take the jars out carefully and place them on a towel. Allow them to cool fully before handling them. About 5 minutes after the jars come out of the boiling water you should start hearing little "clinking" noises. This is the sound of the vacuum seal forming. It's a gooooood thing.

You should now have 6 beautiful 8oz jars of jam. They should last indefinitely although i've read that you should replace the lids once a year if you plan to store them for a very long time. But who can keep homemade jam around for that long!

Happy jam making...if you are so inclined!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Something in the air

I think there is some weird bad injury mojo lingering in the air. Everyone seems to be falling or injuring themselves recently. Maybe its the tormented, confused souls of all the victims of those recent airline crashes causing chaos. Who knows.

My darling SS has been to the emergency room 3 times in the past week. My boss injured herself on an exercise machine and I dislocated my left ankle when I accidentily stepped on some uneven pavement last night. To top it all off, my ankle wouldn't pop back into place so after about a minute I had to do the unthinkable and literally shove my talus (ankle bone) back into place. Pretty fricking awful. I now have just enough mobility to hop between my bathroom, my kitchen, and my living room.

On the brightside, I get to work from home for the next couple of days.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Weekend roundup

After spending nearly all of last week in Boston (interesting town. Its best feature is my friend CK), I came home to my semi-messy apartment and promptly jumped into a crazy, fun weekend of merriment. First off was a great girl day with AC whom I hadn't seen in nearly 7 months! Then it was off to see Sufjan Stevens at the Bowery Ballroom. The Castanets opened and they were not good. Actually, they were quite painful. Sufjan Stevens finally hit the stage around midnight and made up for the Castanets. He was quite brilliant. I had loads of fun. I didn't get home until 2:30 in the AM and stayed up until 4 just doodling about. After a lazy Sunday day I met up with the parents and sister for some quality dinner. I gave away 4 jars of jam to the family. Now I'm down to 13 jars of jam.

In other news, the brilliant SS is touching down in NYC on Thursday night. I'm sure I'll have a least a few tales of debauchery by the end of the week.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A few things I would like to do...

Here are a few random things I would like to do (some near-term, some a bit longer-term). This is not an exhaustive list.

- Travel to Antarctica
- Have sex outside during a warm summer thunderstorm (having sex in the backseat of a car is also kinda up there)
- Run the NYC Marathon
- Shave my head bald (just cause)
- Learn to drive a stick
- Finish my MFA
- Learn to decorate a cake and pull sugar

What sort of idosyncractic things would you like to do?

Monday, August 15, 2005

Zero to Sixty

Last Thursday, while sharing dinner with AI and LA, AI shared this bit of wisdom about relationships (as told to her by our mutual friend DB).

"Relationships are like driving a car. When you try to go from zero to sixty in two seconds you have to grab the wheel hard and really work to control the car. When you are going that fast any pebble or bump in the road can make you swerve off into a ditch. When you accelerate to twenty, twenty to forty, and forty to sixty...the little pebbles and bumps in the road are easy to deal with and don't affect you much."

I thought this was pretty wise stuff and I thought I'd share it with y'all.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Thunderbolts of Lightening...

Wow...what interesting weather we've had here in NYC these past few days. It's been HOT and HUMID...basically melting weather. But now a cold front is moving in and colliding with the warm front, perfect conditions for a good old thunderstorm. Warm summer thunderstorms are one of my most favorite weather occurrences. Thunder, lightening, the sound and smell of rain...what more can you ask for. My windows are thrown open and I'm sitting by the window listening, watching, and smelling the drama that is transpiring outside. If it's still raining later on I may go for a long summer rainstorm run. I love those runs the most. I can't go out just yet because I have a huge pot of peach, nectarine, shiro plum jam boiling away on the stove. I got a gigantic load of summer fruit this week in my CSA. I have to cook down the jam a bit more before I can jar it, seal it, and sterilize it. Then I shall strap on those running shoes for my run.

This was fun weekend. It was a mini-vacation weekend for me. I took Friday off and am also off tomorrow as well. The fun started on Thursday evening. I had AI and LA over for dinner (I fed them lots of veggies) and then we talked about boys, broken hearts, tentative hearts, remaining open to love, and what attending Union Theological Seminary is like. All very inspiring stuff. I laughed, I feed, I shared love...what more can a girl ask for. I spent the rest of the weekend practicing yoga, writing poetry, playing really bad acoustic guitar, sketching painting ideas, cooking some more, attending a sample sale (and scoring a beautimous winter has strawberries on it! but in a very elegant, fashion forward sort of way), having more friends over, attending a lovely UU church, and meeting up with another for a tasty brunch. A very good weekend indeed.

Alas, in reviewing my last paragraph I realize that I fail horribly when it comes to living up to the stereotype of the hot, sexy, single girl about town. No late nights of drunken debauchery, no kissing of random boys, no waking up not knowing what I did the previous night.

Eeeehhhh...I'm not all that concerned. I'm happy and surrounded by much love. What more can a girl ask for?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

I'm MESSY!!!

Why do people assume that I'm neat? and why are people always surprised to see that my apartment/desk/purse are horribly cluttered?

Throughout my life, people have always expressed amused shock/pleasure upon seeing how cluttered and messy my apartment and/or desk are. As my dear, dear NG stated when seeing my apartment during senior year of college "I love it! You're messy. It makes you so human!" Is there something about my personality that communicates a certain anal persnicketiness? Do I really come off as that pulled together?

I've never been much for tidying up (as EC can attest.) I can leave unwashed laundry lying around for weeks (my ample underwear drawer is evidence of this. I'd rather buy more than wash what I have!) I can leave a stack of books on top of my kitchen table for months without reshelving them. The only thing I can't stand is a messy bathroom and kitchen and dirty dishes. I must do dirty dishes!

I'm messy and I don't much care. I don't think messy is a terrible character flaw. Smoking...that's a bad character flaw. Dirty socks...not so much. Then again, I know tons of people who would argue otherwise.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Zucchini bread success

Success! I ended up making the equivalent of 6 loaves of zucchini bread this weekend. Four loaves were baked on Saturday with my dear friend EC acting as sous chef and then I made two more loaves on Sunday night.

Sunday nights loaves were a real dousy too. I decided to see if I could make a low-fat, low-sugar version of the bread. I used only 3/4 of the sugar called for in the recipe, replaced all the oil with apple sauce, and used 4 egg whites instead of the required 3 eggs. The crazy thing is that I think the loaves I made on Sunday night were infinitely better than the ones I made on Saturday night...and Saturday's batch was delicious to begin with.

So, I now only have about 2 lbs of yellow squash to eat through. Keep those fingers crossed that I don't get any more squash.

In the mean time I have about 2 lbs of cucumbers, 2 lbs of tomatoes, 5 lbs of potatoes, 1 lb of baby carrots, and 3 lbs of onions to eat through. Ack!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Trouble with a capital "T"

Sometimes, I really wonder what is wrong with me. How do I get myself into these sorts of messes? Good lawd. Someone have mercy on my soul.

(Wicked little grin ;-)

Friday, August 05, 2005

Zucchini bread anyone?

So, I finally figured out what I'm going to do with the remaining 6 lbs of zucchini and summer squash I have. I'm baking Zucchini Pineapple Walnut bread & muffins this weekend. I'll probably end up making a double batch since I have so much zucchini!

I'll be home on sunday night and baking. Give me a call and swing on over if you want a taste. Otherwise, the bulk of the goods will either be wrapped up and tucked away in the freezer or brought to my office to feed the masses.

My poor freezer. It is currently home to the following frozen items:

- 2 containers of Veggie Stew
- 1/2 a frozen Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie (baked 2 weeks ago)
- 1/2 quart of frozen blackberries (from last weekend)
- 6 carrot cake muffins (baked about 3 weeks ago)
- 1 container of Korean curry

and in the very near future - one or two loafs of zucchini bread.

I really need a family to feed pronto.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

On Loss and Letting Go

It is with extreme sadness that I inform you that I have lost something very precious and dear to me. It was with great difficulty that I let her go. She was hanging in there for so long. She wanted to stay with me but alas her time had come. So, last night, after much debate, I did it. I let her go.

Who is she, you ask?

The toenail on my right big toe.

You're probably thinking...."Eeeeeewwwwwww, why did you share that with us?"

Well...I think it's kind of amusing.

See, here's the story. About three weeks ago I did a crazy, long, wonderful run. I was out running for about 3 hours and covered 17 miles. Don't ask me what motivated me...I really don't know. I like to run (which all of you know already.) And sometimes I just need to go out there and run and sometimes it just feels so good and I continue to run until I'm completely exhausted. It was that kind of run. Anyway, about a day later, my big toe nail started hurting. Hmmm...,I thought, that's not good. A few days later, my toe started swelling a bit. Still not good. A few days after that the swelling went away but I started noticing a certain "looseness" occuring in the toe nailbed. Hmmm...weird, I thought. Then about two weeks ago I noticed that my entire nail was no longer attached to the nailbed. It didn't hurt or anything, it was just detached. I wondered how long this would go on. Well, I have an answer now. Last night when I was taking my post yoga shower my toenail finally decided to say goodbye. It wasn't painful, it wasn't very eventful...she just sort of fell out. Weird.

Anyway, now I have no toenail on my right big toe. I wonder if another will grow in? What if one doesn't? Will I be big toenailless for the rest of my life?

It looks pretty funny actually. As many of you know, I like to keep my toenails painted a nice fire engine red. Keeps my feet and my soul happy. Anyhoo, it's kinda weird to look down and see 9 sparkly red toes and one dud. Should I paint a little square red box on my flesh? It's so weird. It's also incredibly amusing. I'm kinda giddy (if you can't tell from the tone of this post.)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Veggie Stew

Food manufacturers really need to start making single people size packages of food staples.

Sunday night was cooking night for me. I made some hummus and a big pot of veggie stew. I had most of the staples in my house for the hummus - chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, roasted green onions, salt, pepper, lemon - but no tahini. I went to the grocery store to pick some up. The only size they had was a 16oz tin. All I really needed was 3 or 4 tablespoons of tahini, not 16oz. I went to another grocery store hoping they would have a slightly smaller container - no luck. After visiting a total of 4 grocery stores I finally gave up and purchased the 16oz. tin. What exactly am I supposed to do with the extra 15 ozs of tahini? I made some salad dressing last night in a desperate attempt to use a bit more of the sauce but I'm still left with 13 ozs of the stuff (give or take.)

The veggie stew turned out marvelous. I was trying to use up most of my veggies from my weekly CSA run. Last week I got 8 lbs (!!!!) of squash. Needless to say my veggie stew had squash. It also had eggplant, green peppers, new potatoes, carrots, garlic snape, spring onions, and peas - all organic! I also added a little tofu for protein and some white wine for flavor. It was all thickened with a little butter. Yummy! The only problem I have now is that I have enough veggie stew to feed a very large family...for a week!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Hot Sun + Warm Berries + Good Friends = Happiness

Blackberries 1
Originally uploaded by jboylee.
Kahlil Gibran wrote:
"And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter and the sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed."

Ah, blackberry picking was delightful. It was truly an opportunity for the sweetness of friendship to flourish. I've posted a few pics from the weekend (courtesy of the artist eye of KC) on flickr. Click on the picture to see a few more from the trip. Alas, the only regret is that GS couldn't join us due to malfunctioning technology. No worries though. There will be an autumn apple picking run to delight in.

My intention was to make blackberry jam but those little berries are soooo tasty and I very well may end up eating them all before I get around to making the jam.

All in all, a great Sunday activity. Friends, berries, laughter, and really yummy homemade spinach quiche (courtesy of MK).