Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Citrus Sugar and Citrus Salt

When Jamie and I made marmalade last year, it dawned on us after we made this mess that we should do something with the peels that weren't going into the marmalade:

This year, I thought ahead and took a vegetable peeler to the tangelos, blood oranges and grapefruit before I segmented them.

I ended up with quite the peel yield.  I knew I wanted to do something sweet and something savory.  I settled on a small batch of citrus salt and a small batch of citrus sugar.  The peels not used in these batches went into the freezer and are hanging out until I determine their future.

Of course, the citrus salt recipe I was inspired by called for Maldon Sea Salt, which I did not have.  I have been curious about it anyway, so I picked some up, even though I could have made do without it.  When I got home, I became curious about how many types of salt we have.  I knew it was a sizeable amount but hadn't taken stock before.  Well, folks, I pulled them out of all of their hiding spaces.  The verdict: we have an obscene amount of salts. What harm would adding one more do!?

salt and minced citrus peels
I blended the salt and peels together in a spice grinder in about a 1:1 ratio and then baked it at 225F until it was dry.  I let it cool, blended it up again and then mixed in a little more salt.

We've been enjoying it as a finishing salt with our weekend breakfasts and over greens.

I made the citrus sugar by blending minced peel and sugar in a spice grinder with half of a vanilla pod.  That also went into the oven along with the salt, separated out on parchment paper, like Heidi did here.  I blended it again after it baked as the chunks needed to be broken up a bit.

This has been delicious mixed in with black tea.  The zest and bean pod are noticeable in the end result here, so if I wanted to avoid the larger parts in my tea, I could put it into the steeper with the leaves instead of mixing it into my individual cup.

I look forward to playing around with other spin-offs with the rest of my peels.  This post on Local Kitchen has a lot of ideas that are worth exploring. 

Have you used citrus salt or citrus sugar?  If so, I'd love it if you would share your favorite uses in the comments.  I could use some more ideas!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Six Citrus Marmalade

Thank you all for your kind words and thoughts regarding Jack's passing.  It helps to know others understand the emotions that come with that type of loss.  Amid the sadness and nostalgia, I am acutely aware that his passing is not tragic.  He lived a long, complete life and I am grateful for that fact.  With each  day that passes, we are establishing new routines as a one-dog family.  Tchazo seems quite satisfied with the extra exercise and love he has been getting.  

So, let's move on to some of the many cheery things in my life.  Like....marmalade!

I brought this burst of color home in late February and spent nearly an entire day processing it.

Ruby Red Grapefruits, Lemons, Blood Oranges, Tangelos, Cara Cara Oranges and Tangerines

But, before cutting into any of it, I needed to have an extensive photo shoot.  Citrus is so pretty!

 The marmalade recipe (Citrus Overload Marmalade from Tart and Sweet), calls for 6 types of citrus, so I've opted to call it Six Citrus Marmalade. This is a particularly labor intensive marmalade recipe as it involves segmenting some of the fruit.  I zested the fruit before I cut the skin and pith off, because I wanted to make the most out of each piece of fruit.  I'll tell you more about what I did with the peels in tomorrow's post.

Segmented Grapefruit, Blood Oranges and Tangelos

Cara Cara Oranges, sliced thinly.  The Tangerines got the same treatment.
The lemons were zested and juiced.

The result is complex, concentrated and delicious.  Last year, Jamie and I made this recipe together.  It is so labor intensive, that I endorse the buddy system for it.  It seemed to take me a really long time this year when I made it by myself.

It is a good thing citrus is so pretty to look at and smell, otherwise I might have been cranky about the amount of time is consumed.  OK, I might have been a little cranky about it anyway, but I still enjoyed the burst of summery feelings this batch brought to a dreary February day.  Since finishing this batch, many of the  jars of marmalade have been being given as birthday gifts.  It seems I know a lot of people with March birthdays! And, of course, we've been enjoying it at our house, too.  It is scrumptious on yogurt and granola.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Story of Jack and Trinity

As one of my first acts as an "adult" with a newly minted undergraduate degree, a full-time job, a new boyfriend and a rental house with a yard, I made the big leap into responsibility and got a dog.  I saw a post about Jack while "browsing" Petfinder and I fell in love.

Jack's Petfinder Picture
It probably helped that he resembled Ernie, the charming dog of a family friend.  Ernie knew tricks like how to bark at the right spots when Clare, his owner, sang the song How Much is the Doggie in the Window.  The Petfinder notes about Jack said he, "will make a great pet for a family that wants a lab-type dog in a smaller package!" and that he "is very affectionate and loves to go for walks and car rides."  They claimed, "He is crate-trained and housebroken." (I know exactly what it said because I printed it out and kept it all of this time!)  I thought that description sounded like the perfect dog.

Two days later, I went to visit Jack at an adoption day and fell further in love.  The folks who ran the adoption agency were skeptical about my ability to care for him.  They said he needed lots and lots of exercise and that he would do best with a family that included children.  They said that he has been in and out of the agency and they were looking for a forever home for him.  I was determined that he was MY dog and I was committed to doing what it would take to care for him.  One of the volunteers believed me and helped me convince the powers that be that I was worthy of adopting him.

After a screening process (and a fee and a contract), I was allowed to pick him up at his foster home.  From that point on, he was my dog and I was his person.

I remember those first walks I took him on, when the leash felt so new and strange in my hand.  I didn't know a darn thing about having a city dog.  All of the dog experience I had was with country dogs and was from when I was a little kid with no responsibility for their care.  On one of those first walks, Jack was sniffing a tree in the park by our house.  A passerby commented that Jack was checking his "pee-mail". That was my first clue that I had a lot to learn about dog politics.

I quickly realized how different dogs and cats are when I found Jack constantly underfoot, looking like he was asking me, "What do I do now?  How about now?  Tell me! Tell me!".  He needed me to take the role of master/alpha, so I had to step up! I needed to tell him what to do all the time and I felt so bossy. I got used to it, though and now I am annoyed when my cat doesn't follow my commands :)

The notion that I was now fully responsible for his care was really driven home when, on one of our walks, he tried to poop and some grass didn't come all of the way out of him.  As I stood there looking at him, all a mess and needing help, I had the realization that it was my job to deal with it: mine and mine alone! As it turns out, owning pets involves a lot of gross tasks having to do with stuff that comes out of their bodies. After taking a deep breath, I covered my hand in a plastic bag and pulled out the blades of grass.  Yep.  That was when I knew owning a dog wasn't going to be all rainbows and roses.

After a few weeks of being on his best behavior, Jack decided to unpack his bags and show me all of the issues he had kept well hidden.  He started being aggressive to other dogs, including my boyfriend's new puppy.  He started to have bathroom issues inside of the house.  And, most problematic of all, he starting to have severe separation anxiety.  I found that last issue out via a note from our neighbors.  I think he felt safe enough to unpack his baggage because he knew I loved him and he was at home with me.  Smart dog, waiting until I was too attached to let go before showing all of his cards.

2003 - Picture by Sally
To say owning Jack has been easy would be very untrue.  This dog tried my patience and challenged me in so many ways.  He brought me to tears with each new problem.  But, I knew when I got him that I was making a lifelong commitment and that I would have to deal with whatever he threw at me.  So, I found workarounds, coping mechanisms and sometimes drugs for his issues and we made our peace with them.  I did my best to give him a comfortable and happy life and he gave me so much love and devotion in return.

As much as he was a pain in the bum, I loved him deeply.  He was my companion through so many life events, including moving from Minneapolis to Boston and back again.  He traveled all over the country with me and literally followed me up and down mountains.  When a dog who has no interest in exercise follows you up a mountain, you know you have his loyalty.    

2008 - New Hampshire

2008 - Maine
2010 - Minnesota
Oh, and that description about Jack on Petfinder?  As it turns out, those were all lies except for the part about being affectionate.  And the things that woman said at the adoption day?  So untrue!  He valued a quiet house with soft beds, needed very little exercise and got cranky and snappy around children.  And his foster home?  It was 6 blocks from where we ended up buying our house exactly 7 years later, nearly to the day! And that boyfriend I had when I was 23?  He is now my husband.  That puppy that Jack hated?  That was Tchazo and, if you've been around my house or my blog lately, you know how close Jack and Tchazo were.

After nearly 11 years and an enormous collection of memories, Jack and I parted ways today.  Jack's health has been deteriorating steadily for about 2 years.  He had a few cancer scares and a wicked case of arthritis, but in the end, it was old age that tipped the scales.  He was estimated to be 15, but his exact age is unknown. His quality of life has been dwindling and within the past handful of days he was showing us signs that he was ready to let go.  In his last few weeks, the thing that seemed to bring him the most comfort was being held on my lap.  And believe me, I held him a lot.

This power that pet owners have to determine when a beloved pet's life is over is a blessing and a curse.  I am very thankful that I (and our wonderful vet) was able to create a transition for him that was peaceful and relaxed and full of love and comfort.  But, man, does making the decision to euthanize suck!

I am so grateful to Paul for being right by my side as we went through the heartbreaking process of letting Jack go today and in the days leading up to today. Tchazo was there, too.  It was important that we all supported Jack as he left us.  Our hope is that Tchazo will have an easier transition to his status as only dog since he was there to witness Jack's passing. Even though I have no doubt that it was Jack's time to go, it is still sad and painful to lose a pet.  He was a member of our family and we will feel his absence for some time to come.

Be free and be at peace, my Jack.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Annis Shawl. Again.

Another shawl!  This one is not meant for me.  I knit it out of stash yarn (Elsebeth Lavold's Silky Wool) because I had a hankering to knit the Annis shawl pattern again.  I wasn't sure who it would be for, which is a rarity in my knitting.  I usually knit with a clear purpose, be it for myself or for a gift for a specific person.  Somehow, I was at peace with the ambiguity of this shawl's future and I knit it happily.  Then I blocked it and set it aside: a shawl in waiting.

The shawl didn't have to wait all that long, because recently our friend Mary contacted me to find out if I had anything I would like to donate to a fundraiser/auction she is organizing for Get Your Rear in Gear.  Paul (and Mary and many, many friends, coworkers and family members) lost Jason, a good friend and vibrant person, to colon cancer in 2011. Since Jason passed away, it has become an annual tradition for those that were close to him to participate in the walk in his honor.  The shawl has found its purpose.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Moth - Love Hurts

Minneapolis/St. Paul finally has its own Moth Story Slam!  After a failed attempt at attending the inaugural event (they oversold tickets, we didn't want to trade our advance tickets for standing room only space so we opted for a refund and free tickets to the next event - see this article for details), we attended the second event.  I am sure glad I gave it another chance, because we were treated to a fabulous evening of gifted storytellers.  Throughout the evening, we laughed, we got teary-eyed, we poked fun at our local culture and I had an amazing gin and tonic.

The host, Mike Fotis, did a stellar job of adding in some of his own stories, keeping the night rolling and adding an upbeat energy to the show.

Taking a bow, raising a fist

The brave souls who told stories on the theme of "Love Hurts" did it intimidatingly well! I know I am too chicken to go up on that stage myself, but I am grateful for the opportunity to listen to them. 

The story slam venue, The Amsterdam Bar and Hall, has a opaque liquor wall that you can walk behind.  I brought my camera along specifically because I wanted to capture a few pics of it!

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Cute Mess Makers

Not pictured: all of the frequent and disgusting messes 
they have each taken their turns making over the past few weeks.  
Now, on to the cuteness:

Tchazo can't get enough of the Jack Pillow

Jack enjoys the blanket with or without Tchazo's company

Tchazo frequently falls asleep while standing.  Then, he falls.
Why he doesn't just lay down when he is sleepy, I do not understand.

Fanny feet in the window.

Behind the curtain, there is a cat.

Fanny has been doing some serious amounts of sunbathing lately.
I am guessing she is yearning for spring as much as I am. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Pogona Shawl. Again.

As long as we were at a beautiful mansion for a party and I was wearing my new shawl, why not force my husband to take pictures of me by a banister?!

This is Pogona.  You might recognize it, because it has appeared here before. Or, you might recognize it because many, many people have knit it.  Rightly so, as Stephen West's patterns are great.

Many of his patterns follow the same type of construction as Pogona, which is to say a top-down, garter tab construction with extra awesomeness thrown in.  I love that once you've established the pattern at the start, most of his shawls can be knit fairly mindlessly without being boring.  Plus, the finished shawls are so wearable.

Pogona has a lot of segments to it which makes it really versatile.  I can position it in a lot of different ways and it will still sit well.

And, the yarn?  This was my San Francisco yarn!  It is Ginko from Artfibers, which is 87% bamboo and 13% silk.  I used up almost all of the 380 yards I bought.  In fact, I had to rip back about an inch at the end to ensure that I had enough for the garter border.  The yarn and the pattern together yield a lustrous and drapey shawl that feels very nice against the skin.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Yelp du Nord

I am starting to get caught up, but man have I been behind on almost everything lately!  You know why?  Because there has been a whole lot of fun stuff happening around town .  Like this Yelp event Paul and I went to.  Thanks to Paul's Yelp review writing in Boston, we qualified as acceptable guests for Yelp du Nord, a fundraising event at the American Swedish Institute/Turnblad Mansion/Nelson Cultural Center.

We lived in this neighborhood right before we bought our house, so it was fun to go back (just for an evening!).  We sampled a ton of fabulous food and drinks from the bite-sized smorgasbord being proffered by local restaurants, breweries, wineries, ice cream companies, chocolatiers, bakeries and more!

The carnage above and the scene below gives you a sense of the crowd.  The Yelp staffers did a great job of limiting the attendees and managing the logistics.  It was a hopping place, but not sufficatingly so.  Plus, if you felt a little too crowded, you could head out to the courtyard to roast some handmade marshmallows.

The Turnblad mansion is always a spectacle to behold.  Nearly everything in the mansion is ornately adorned.

From the lighting to the fireplaces, there is so much to take in!

Bonus: the event was over at 10, so my date and I didn't even have to push it too hard to stay up for the whole thing on a Friday night!  Thanks, Yelp!

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