Lemon Ginger Honey

Ginger, Lemon and Honey for a soothing drink.

This summer on Pinterest I saw a recipe for mixing sliced lemon with honey, and letting it age in the fridge. When your throat is sore, you add a spoonful to hot water and sip. I made a batch with chunks of ginger, and it is wonderful. I have researched it a bit, and the original post on Pinterest seems to have come from the blog “A Little Life.” The trouble with Pinterest is that it is hard to find sources for things. Also, the other problem is that it is a time suck. An incredible time suck.

The original instructions said that it kind of becomes “like marmelade” in the jar. It does, kind of. I used it at all stages of” marmeladification” and now that my jar is almost empty, I can’t say I can tell a difference between the first week and now. I do know that after my first cold of the year, my jar is empty, and I am making another batch.

My 6 step method:

  • Scrub a lemon- organic is probably better, since you are ingesting the peel
  • Slice thinly and place in jar- 1 small lemon is good for a pint canning jar
  • Peel and chop a thumb sized knob of fresh ginger root, add to jar
  • Cover in honey
  • Use a chopstick to get rid of air pockets, if necessary
  • Seriously, you don’t have a chopstick floating around?
  • I got a really nice set from my secret santa last year. Secret santas are the best.

See- another one of my “not-really-a-recipe recipes”

As the lemon juice mixes with the honey, it becomes very liquid, then becomes more viscous. My first jar has maybe one more scoop left, which might be a bad thing, considering this cold.


Chipotle Buttermilk Grilled Chicken

I’ve been sold on marinating chicken in buttermilk for a while- for fried chicken, it makes the meat tender, and the crust, which for me is the whole point, crispy. For a long time I used smoky paprika as the spice, with garlic powder and whatever other random spices. Then I saw a jar of leftover chipotle chilies in the fridge, and wondered what would happen if I used them. Miracles, that’s what.
Well, maybe not miracles.
I had opened the can for soup or something- pulling out one of the chilies to puree with tomatoes from my garden. You don’t have to use the entire can at once- the rest can go into a jar in the fridge. Not forever, obviously, but it can be stored.

Chipotles are jalapeno peppers that have been ripened, then smoked. They can be purchased dried, in bags, or canned with adobo sauce. They are hot and smoky and rich tasting. For me, jalapenos are just heat, with no depth. Chipotles have depth. Also, the tang of the buttermilk calms down the heat- you can adjust the proportion of chilies to buttermilk until you get a level you like. That is what I’ve been doing since March.

As this recipe has evolved, I take “a few” chilies, with sauce, and mix them with “some” buttermilk and “some” salt.  It depends on how much chicken you are doing. In these pictures, it was 3 chilies, 1 cup of buttermilk and a pinch of kosher salt. This was more than enough for a whole young chicken that I cut up to grill. In these photos, I put the mixture underneath the skin, which made the skin extra crispy, and the meat very moist- even the breast meat.I have also used this with “convenience” frozen skinless chicken breasts, and it is good with that, too.


Chipotle Buttermilk Chicken

Chicken parts and pieces- I used a whole chicken that I cut up

2 or 3 chilies in adobo

1 cup buttermilk

generous pinch salt


Puree the chilies and salt, add buttermilk and blend well


I used my stick blender to puree everything.

Thanks to the Boy for taking this picture.


Pull the skin away from the meat, and pour the marinade between the skin and meat. Yes, this is gross, but it tenderized the meat and crisps up the skin. It is easiest on breasts and leg quarters. With the wings, I just tossed them in the buttermilk mixture.

Marinade for an hour or so.

Set up a gas grill or charcoal grill for indirect heat- that is, outer burners on, inner burners off, put the chicken in the center, lid down. Or, on a charcoal grill, pile your charcoal on one side, put the meat on the other side.

Place chicken skin side down and cook for around 15 minutes, then flip and cook until a thermometer reads 165.

Yummy. Smoky and crispy, and hot, without being painfully hot.


Toad in the grass

Eggs and bacon, on top of spinach and greens. Squeeze of lemon, pop the yolks, mmmmmm

My college roommate introduced me to a dish called Toad in the Hole- a fried egg in a hole torn in a slice of bread. I don’t know how I grew to adulthood without knowing about this concept- combining eggs and toast in a happy little unit.

It has taken me another 20 years to find out about cooking an egg on a bed of sauteed greens- the same homeliness of the egg, with the virtuous feeling of eating a pile of spinach. I have been calling it Toad in the Grass, which I realize is a horrible name, but I have seen it elsewhere as “baked eggs” which seems like an even more horrible name.

This batch is made with spinach and beet greens from my garden (the beets were supposed to be micro greens, but I kind of forgot, and now they’re macro).

Saute the greens in olive oil and the water left on the leaves from washing them.

This is about two cups of mixed spinach and beet.

When the greens have reduced by about half, crack an egg or two on top. Cover and let cook until the eggs are mostly done. Then turn on the broiler and cook the gooey stuff on top. I added parmesan cheese this time, but I don’t always.


The eggs look kind of like eyes, maybe call it green monster? Another horrible name.

I also had 2 slices of pre-cooked bacon (you should cook bacon in the oven- it works really well) that I threw on top. Sooooo yummy.

Blueberry coffee cake

We go to DH’s aunt’s house in Nebraska for Thanksgiving every year. We love it. It’s quirky, it’s fun, it’s conservative in every sense of the word.

In one of those senses, it is very difficult to add different things to the menu, or leave anything off. This is probably true of Thanksgivings everywhere, it seems to be a menu we are married to, for better or for worse.

So, I like to bring things that fill in the gaps, stuff for breakfast, stuff to snack on with leftovers.I avoid anything that is too traditional, because when you mess with tradition, people are always disappointed. Nothing with sage, nothing with pumpkin.

DH brings avocados and makes his world- famous guacamole- (the secret ingredient is love).

Last year I brought cinnamon twists, which I baked on Tuesday night, brought in the car Wednesday, fed to people on Thursday and Friday morning, then when we were getting ready to leave, people hugged us, and murmured, “are there any of those cinnamon things left?” To my mind they were kind of stale, but how often do you get real homemade sweet rolls?

This year, I am trying coffee cake. I don’t know how it will go over, will people reminisce about the cinnamon rolls? Is that how menus become fixed?

I seem to remember an old issue of Cook’s Illustrated with a perfected coffee cake recipe. I’ll have to dig through my copies of the magazine, because the coffee cake story on the Cook’s website is behind a pay wall.

You won’t get my credit card number, Christopher Kimball!!! Actually, he probably will eventually, but not today. Even though I complain that Cook’s Illustrated is mostly just American food, and pretty meat-heavy at that, sometimes you want, even need, Meat Heavy American Food. Particularly at Thanksgiving in Nebraska.


Simmering stock

For years, when we go to DH’s grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving, one of the aunts has gathered up all the turkey bones after dinner, and given them to the dog, Lady. I always thought of that Far Side cartoon, where a dog is sitting at a table, with a chicken bone sandwich in front of him, thinking, “I think she’s trying to kill me.” A couple of times I voiced my concerns about the poor dog eating poultry bones, but they usually ignored me and gave the bones to the dog anyway. Lady wound up living a long, full life, barking at strangers who drove out to the farm.

            There’s a better thing to do with bones, though, than try to kill your dog. I’m talking about stock, of course. According to Ratio, http://www.amazon.com/Ratio-Simple-Behind-Everyday-Cooking/dp/1416571728/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1290297746&sr=8-1 which has become my new bible, homemade stock is what separates the good from the great. For example, I am doing braised leeks for my contribution to Thanksgiving dinner. So, I chop the leeks, wash the dirt off them, put them in a casserole and cover with broth, then throw in the oven for an hour. I could dissolve some boullion, or open a can of broth. But homemade stock has a feeling to it, and a rich flavor, that isn’t too salty or tinny. It is worth having around. And not that hard to make, with either turkey bones, or chicken.

            So, you have some bones left over (I plan to beg some from our hosts before they give any to the dog. Sigh, Nate is the next generation of dogs risking perforation…) get out the crock pot, and cram the bones in.

I swear I had a photo of the crockpot, but I totally can't find it- here's Alice. Cute, isn't she?

Skin is fine, meat is fine, connective tissue, like in the rib cage or the wings, is great. As the connective tissue breaks down in the simmering water it will create a smooth “mouthfeel” in the stock. The crockpot is the ideal vessel because it stays at just the right temperature. When stock boils, it can evaporate too much water, and scorch. Trust me, this isn’t a smell you want in your house. To the crockpot, add a chopped yellow onion, some carrots and celery. These are for flavor, and you’ll strain them out later. The ratio book says do a 3:2 ratio of water to bones, by weight. I usually get a pitcher and pour water in until the bones are covered.  Although, I did get a food scale for my birthday (thx DH) so maybe I’ll weigh the bones this time.  Simmer all day, or night, if you can stand the smell of turkey soup when you wake up.  I can’t- it gets into my dreams… Anywho, simmer all day, then decant. Use tongs to pull out the big pieces, then strain the stock in a fine mesh strainer. I have a five quart crockpot, which make a little less than 3 quarts of stock. I strain them into 1 quart yogurt containers, pile them in the freezer, and pull one out when I want to make soup. I use it to make rice and beans, as well. One of my favorite applications is just to mix it half and half with spicyV-8 juice. And, of course, making braised leeks for Thanksgiving dinner in Nebraska. After the pan comes out of the oven, it can wait until the next day. I add bread crumbs and fresh-grated parmesan cheese, then bake again until the cheese melts, then put it at the kid’s table. That way, I know I’ll get a good share of it.

Rustic Apple Tart and Hand Pies

Hand pie- it’s a perfectly cromulent word.

These could have stayed in the oven for another five minutes for that golden brown deliciousness.

Worlds collided today when the girl brought home My First Cookbook, which  has a pastry recipe, and I picked a zillion apples from our tree. A surprising number of them weren’t wormy.

Look how many of them don't have worm holes! We don't spray or anything, so worms are the rule rather than the exception.

I chopped enough for a crockpot full of apple sauce, and a pie. Then the girl’s recipe turned out to be for tarts, and I said, what about hand pies? Hand pies, she asked, did you just make that up? Ummmm, no. I’m sure I’ve heard it somewhere.  So, we’ll cut circles, put in apples, then fold them over.  The circle we chose to use was the ring from a half gallon sized canning jar, which made lilliputian sized pies…They’re very cute.  The girl made pie crust for the first time, and we actually should have asked Grandma or Great-grandma for lessons, because I think I’ve only made pie crust twice before in my life.  The girl did a good job, though, it’s nice and flaky.

Baked them for a surprisingly long time- I guess I’ve learned something with this project, because I keep saying how surprised I am. It took about 25 minutes at 350, which was enough to brown the bottoms and lightly brown the tops. The apples are still a touch crisp, so it could have gone even longer. We had enough for 6 half moon shaped pies, and I rolled the scraps into a freeform circle, dumped the rest of the seasoned apples into the center, then folded the edges up over it, into a rustic apple tart.  “Rustic?” she says, as if that isn’t a real word. Rustic is totally a word! The rusitc tart held together beautifully when cooled and sliced.

Promise me you'll eat this with ice cream.

Rustic apple Tart

3 cups sour apples, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon flour

your favorite pie crust recipe, or whatever instant pie dough solution you like best.

Toss the apples, sugar cinnamon and flour together in a bowl. Roll out the crust and cut reasonable-sized circles. On reflection, the canning lids, about 3 inch diameter, made very small pies. Place on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet, fill with the apple mixture, fold over and bake for 25 or more minutes. For once, we forgot to put sprinkles on top, but sprinkles would have been good.

For the rustic tart, I was recalling something I read in Cook’s Illustrated a year ago, so there are probably better sources of instructions. Roll out the dough, place apple mix in the middle, with a good 2 inches of border. Fold up the edges and crimp it, then bake for 35 to 40 minutes.  Because the top is open, it is easier to test these for doneness- just stab an apple with a paring knife to see if they are soft enough.

Why homemade jam? Why not?

You're supposed to skim the foam off to make it prettier, but I didn't.

Our first jar almost finished- 6 days after it was made.

Even though only the girl and I are eating this stuff, we are zooming through it. Looking for excuses to put jam on stuff. You know, I could go for a piece of toast right now.

So, in a world where you can buy jam at the store, where there is a whole grocery aisle devoted to it, why bother making it at home?  I’ve been thinking this a lot lately, as I’ve been making bread, buttermilk, soup stock, lots of  stuff from scratch that my mom, for instance, never made. What do you make from scratch?

The short answer is that I enjoy it, mostly.  It feels good to have stock bubbling away in the crock pot, and then turn that stock into soup. It is kind of fun to stir fruit and watch it bubble and thicken in a pan, then spoon it into jars. 

Cost enters into it as well- buttermilk costs 4 times as much at the store as it does to add some old buttermilk to fresh milk and let it culture. Once you have started a jar, you have a lifetime supply.  I did a little research on line to see what organic raspberry jam would cost, and prices varied from $4-$9. I would never pay that much for jam.  As it is, the berries were from my garden, so free ( ha ha, if you don’t count the labor and the water…) the pectin was about $3 for 6 jars, and it was probably $2 worth of sugar. 

The quality is the last, best answer.  The reason I couldn’t find the price of raspberry chocolate jam is that no one appears to sell it. And it is reallllly good.  To make it, I add a tablespoon of  cocoa powder to the recipe on the insert of the pectin package, and follow the other directions as stated. It could probably be done with cherry or strawberry, too. Experiment.

Sneaking Nutrients into kids’ food

Today I thawed some stock I had made a while ago, and put a cup of brown rice and about a quarter cup of lentils into the rice cooker with about 3 cups of the stock. They should all cook in about the same amount of time, and The Boy has already commented that it smells good, so that is a good sign. The Boy doesn’t eat meat, hasn’t for about two years without serious manipulation, and this spring he declared himself a vegetarian. Which would be fine if he would eat vegetables, but he mostly eats rice. He’s a rice-a-tarian. So, today I am sneaking some iron into the rice, with lentils, also some protein.
At his recent check-up, the doctor threatened to do a blood test to see if he had enough iron stores, and actually ordered the test, but said we don’t have to get it right away. It has been a powerful manipulation tool, I can say, “try the beans, they are on the list of high iron foods. If you don’t eat enough iron, we’ll have to get that blood test”
In doing some research, I think he is getting enough iron- from fortified cereal and bread, from raisins, beans and broccoli. I recognize that he does need to eat a bigger variety of food. I have decided not to fight with him about meat, but I will fight about sweet potatoes, and spinach and other nutritious food.
So, what does anyone out there do to sneak nutrition into kids’ diets? And a related question, is it right to manipulate people into eating healthfully? What about freedom of choice?

the best thing about cooking rice in stock? The brown bits on the bottom of the pan- crunchy goodness.