Friday, December 12, 2008

apple butter... mmmm.....

This was a two-day affair. A delicious, aromatic, two-day affair that had my housemates and I drooling every time we went into the kitchen. Apple butter. Oh man. It is fantastically simple to make, especially if you have a crock pot. I used this recipe and intend to give out small jars of the stuff as Christmas gifts. 

I started Thursday morning peeling apples. I forgot to take a picture of the apples before I started but I think you all know what apples look like. So here they are naked. 

How many apples do you need? As many as is necessary to fill your crock pot. The recipe calls for about 4 pounds. I just had a big bag of 'em from the Allins' orchard (thanks!) and I used them all. Remember that when cooking them they will reduce down a lot

You need to peel, core and chop the apples up and throw them into the crock pot with sugar and spices. Regular sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, and a little salt. You can really put in any spices that go well with apples - I've seen a number of recipes and they all have something different in them. I went with this for simplicity. 

I kept part of the chopped apples back until I had put in the sugar and spices so that I would have an easier time mixing everything. This way I didn't have sugar and apples and the like flying all over the place. I stirred everything together and then gradually added and stirred in more apples with the crock pot on low.

Once it's all in there, pop the lid on and cook on high for three hours. At first it will look kinda like apple pie filling.

But eventually it turns into applesauce, and it makes the whole house smell fantastic. After three hours on high, turn it down to low for another 6-8 hours. Give it a stir every now and then. Make sure you leave the lid open a crack so that the steam can escape and the apples will reduce. 

I, unfortunately, forgot about this part and so by the time I went to bed they were still quite soupy. So I left the lid open a bit and put it on 'keep warm' overnight, and this is what I got on Friday morning. 

The apples have reduced by half. Before it gets too thick, you need to blend it. If you have a hand blender, rock on, you can do it right in the crock pot. I don't so I had to scoop everything into the blender and then put it back.

 I think I probably should have blended it before I went to bed because the blender seemed a little perturbed at me, but all was well. Then I put it back in the crock pot on low to let more liquid come off it while I studied and went to my (last!) exam.

You'll know it's done when you put a little bit on a plate and no liquid separates from the butter part. If you wanted, you could throw it in jars and put it in the fridge right from this point. But since I'm giving this away, I wanted to properly can it.

Canning is pretty easy but you need to do it properly unless you want to give someone botulism. The important part is to make sure everything is clean and that you boil everything for long enough. First, wash the jars and lids with hot soapy water. Then boil them for at least ten minutes to sterilize. Or you can just run them through a very hot dishwasher cycle. I did the jars and lids in separate pots so I could leave the lids in hot water while I filled the jars, which I turned upside down on a towel after taking them out of the boiling water. Use tongs for everything because it's HOT. You want to fill the jars with the butter while both are still hot, leaving about 1/4 inch of room at the top. Carefully place the lids on top and screw the rings on almost all the way, then put them back in the boiling water for at least five minutes. 

Carefully remove them from the water. I put a towel on a tray and put them all on that. I got ten jars of apple butter from that one crock pot.

Then you need to leave them to cool somewhere without drafts for 24 hours. So tomorrow evening I will check the seals by pressing on the tops - if they don't pop, they're good. If they do pop, they aren't sealed right and need to be kept in the fridge and used within about a month. I guess this is really a three-day affair that I'm in the midst of, then.

A really good guide, if you're new to canning and food preservation like I am, is the US Department of Agriculture's National Centre for Home Food Preservation. Their Complete Guide to Home Canning was really helpful.

Ta-da! Add a label and a ribbon once it's cool and you've got a great gift. Even though it takes a long time, it's really simple and most of it is just waiting for the stuff to cook. So good! I saved a jar for myself, now I need to make bread to put it on!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


I am a bad, bad food blogger. Since I posted about that delicious roasted acorn squash I have made - and forgotten to photograph - cheesecake brownies, a few loaves of bread, and carrot muffins. For shame, as all were delicious.

Anyway, I did remember to take pictures of the piparkoogid that I made. This recipe for Estonian gingersnaps was in the Toronto Star last week and looked mighty tasty. 

Something I must complain about, though: I really fucking hate  it when recipes assume that you have a stand mixer. I would love a stand mixer, I really would. But there's no way in hell I can afford one right now, and neither can a lot of other people who love to bake. So when I see a recipe that states "In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment..." or something similar, I want to smack the writer of that recipe upside the head. HELLO, YOUR PRIVILEGE IS SHOWING. Geez. This is one such recipe. I made it without a stand mixer and it turned out just fine, thankyouverymuch, so I don't know why recipe writers insist on explicitly referencing stand mixers. Sure they're useful, but not entirely necessary. End rant.

So here are your ingredients: 
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room  temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2/3 cup fancy grade molasses

First you mix together the flour, baking powder, and all the spices in a bowl. Set that bowl aside.

In a different bowl (or a stand mixer if you have one), beat together the sugar and butter. Add the egg and beat that in too. 

Then you add the molasses. I just thought the molasses looked really cool so I took this next picture. 

Slowly pour it into the sugar/egg/butter mixture and beat it together. 

Once that's all mixed together, slowly add the flour mixture to it. Be careful not to overshoot the bowl and make a mess like I did. 

See that! A hand mixer! Hah! 


Anyway. Then you will have dough. 

Separate the dough into four portions and wrap them up in plastic wrap.

Then put them in the fridge for at least two hours before you begin the next part.

After that agonizing wait, take the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Preheat the oven to 350F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Roll it out to about 1 cm thick. The original recipe says to do like, 1/8 of an inch, but I felt that was rather thin. Then cut shapes out of it! The classic is rounds, but the only cookie cutter I own is a heart, so that is what I did.

Also, thank goodness that there were four portions of dough because I forgot to take pictures three times! Gah! But here we are anyway.

Carefully transfer the cookies to the baking sheet with a spatula. Bake for 10 minutes, switching racks halfway through. Again, I deviated from the recipe here - it said 14 minutes but I felt that was too long - especially with how thin it said to roll the dough. And I like chewier rather than crispier cookies anyway. So there you go.

And then they will be done! 

Remove to a rack and let cool. Yummyness. 

This recipe makes a lot of cookies, so unless you plan on giving lots away, halve the recipe or freeze some of the dough. I have no idea what I'm going to do with all of these - I already gave half of what I made to my mom and there are still so many left!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Roasted Acorn Squash


Acorn squash. This showed up in the Good Food Box like a month ago and I'm only now getting around to using it. That's the great thing about winter squash - stored properly, they will keep up to six months. Hence their popularity once it gets cold.

Two weeks after the acorn squash showed up we got a butternut squash and made soup out of that. The poor acorn squash sat green and lonely (aside from a few dried-out ears of corn we forgot about, oops) on our windowsill until I decided to roast it for my dinner tonight. It was a welcome distraction (among many other distractions) from the essay I have to write for tomorrow.

For this recipe all you need is a squash, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. If I had it I would have also used maple syrup, alas all I have is the sugary table syrup crap and that is no good. In terms of equipment you need a big sharp knife, a spoon, and a baking pan. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and get going!

The hardest parts of roasting squash are a) cutting the squash, and b) waiting for it to be done. The squash needs to be cut in half. Be very, very careful doing this because otherwise you will chop something off yourself and end up waiting even longer for the squash while you're in the ER. Knives are sharp and squashes have hard rinds.

So you chop the thing in half. Then you have to scoop out all the guts and seeds. If you like you can toast the seeds and eat them. I am not a fan of squash seeds so I did not.

Next you cut lines all along the insides in a criss-crossing formation. It's all pretty and stuff and lets the liquids get right inside the squash. Then you start putting the tasty stuff in.

Put the squash into the baking pan and throw a few spoonfuls of butter and a few spoonfuls of brown sugar into the cavity of the squash.

Sprinkle the halves with cinnamon and nutmeg. If you had maple syrup this would be where you drizzle it all over.

Pour a few cups of water into the pan, then put it in the oven for an hour and a half. This is the annoying waiting bit. But soon your house will start to smell really, really good.

When it is done you will have some extremely hot squash that look kinda like this.

Oh baby. Take spoonfuls of the melted butter in the middle and drizzle them over the rest of the squash.

Carefully remove the squash from the pan onto a plate (I used a spatula underneath and tongs on the sides to stabilise each half). Let cool a bit, then devour straight from the shell. Dip any bits that didn't get butter on them into the middle because oh goodness does it ever taste better that way.

When it is all over you will have something like this.


Friday, November 14, 2008

yummy: an introduction

So there's part of me that really wants to blog more, but these days I do not have the energy or interest to blog about politics (especially SCSU politics, I'm not touching those with a ten foot pole), therefore, I am going to be blogging about the one thing that has been keeping me somewhat sane this semester: cooking.

These days I have been swamped. It's my last year of university and I am finishing up with three classes each semester. I work two jobs, sit on three committees, and am applying to graduate school. Earlier this semester I played intramural rugby as well. Very busy. I spend most of the time chained to my desk and it's honestly not a lot of fun. It certainly helps that I love my courses, and that I'm excited about graduate school (though also petrified, of whether or not I'll get in, of how much this is costing me, of how much it will cost me to go...), but honestly, it's really hard. This is where the food comes in.

When I was younger, I didn't like cooking. Or at least, I didn't like the idea of cooking. I had this vibe where I tried to reject things I saw as girly, or feminine, and cooking was one of them. There was also the shunning of dresses, the abhorrence of pink (which continues), and so forth, though to be honest this whole business did not make a hell of a lot of sense because I still played with Barbies for a long time, and I did the makeup thing in grade seven. Anyway. Kitchen stuff was a no-go, unless it was microwaving something or making cookies with my mom. I could scramble my own eggs, that was a big deal. My sister and brother forbade me from making pancakes, though (I undercooked them). But that was about it for me and food.

However, early on in high school, I think in grade ten, I wanted to bring in cookies to class for some reason, for Christmas I think. And I made them myself, which I hadn't done before, with the same recipe Mom always made, which I will not share with you because she'll kill me*. Aaaaaaand I kinda got hooked. And I made cookies a lot more over the next few years. And when I started at UTSC I became known as The Cookie Lady on the old SCSU forum because I talked about my cookies. And we had cookie parties, forum meet-ups where we'd all bring cookies and it was good. 

So yeah, baking pulled me into its sweet, delicious vortex and I have not come out since. 

Cooking, however, has been a bit different. I got into cooking a bit back in second year when I was living with my dad, because he and my stepmom love cooking and love baking. Seriously, you should see the look my dad gets when he talks about cooking, his face just lights up and he gets all excited and lots of hand gestures and all that. They taught me some stuff that was very useful when I moved out and lived with a bunch of friends in a house across the street from campus for third year. At that point I was regularly making food for myself that wasn't prepackaged, although I still ate a fair bit of Kraft Dinner from time to time (but with broccoli in it! Yum!). It wasn't until the following summer that I really got into it. 

The summer after third year I lived in a different house near campus, with my boyfriend at the time, Andy. It was just the two of us in this huge house, and it was a rather lovely summer, me working on campus, Andy writing and doing odd jobs (he's American, at the time he didn't have clearance to work in Canada) - and cooking. Andy loves to cook, almost as much as my dad. He is also extraordinarily good at grocery shopping on a very limited budget. One of his jobs was helping a book dealer move, and he got a whole bunch of cookbooks from her. We ate well and he taught me a lot that I took with me to residence when I moved there last year to take a position as a Residence Advisor.

I took up most of the kitchen in that townhouse, I admit it. Most of the drawers and cupboards had my stuff. I cooked a lot. I baked a lot. Ohhhh did I ever bake a lot. I got really into baking a huge range of things that year, from fancy cupcakes to delicious cookies to, most notably, cheesecake (including the deep dark chocolate cheesecake pictured here). I also made truffles, and squares, and various loaves.... yeah. Yum. That Christmas all I wanted was baking gear. I also learned to make dinner. Dad gave me his pasta sauce recipe and a lasagne dish for my birthday. Since then I haven't bought pre-made pasta sauce, and I make great lasagne. No more Kraft Dinner. 

This year I'm getting deeper into these disciplines. I found this website called SuperCook, where you keep a list of all the ingredients you have and it tells you what you can make with them - awesome. I bake regularly, especially for special occasions. Over the past month I have even been baking bread, from scratch, in the oven, and it's good. My roommate Laura asked me if it was my life goal to make the apartment smell good at all times - sounds like a good goal to me. As well, my other roommate Jen and I get a Good Food Box from FoodShare every other week, which is always interesting and challenging. FoodShare puts together these boxes of local/organic/fair trade produce that they get in bulk and sell to the community at low prices. The small box that Jen and I get is $12 and lasts us just over a week or so. The catch is, you don't choose what's in the box - you get whatever's in season, and whatever it is FoodShare has on hand. That means we have had the opportunity to experiment and try a lot of things we hadn't before, like leeks and Swiss chard. Thankfully the box also comes with recipes! Unfortunately very few of them involve the giant heads of romaine lettuce that we seem to get in every box, and neither of us are terribly in to making lots of salads, so that often goes wilty and it makes us sad. But! We have made some delicious things. Potato leek soup, spinach & broccoli quiche,
squash soup, and lots of other yummy stuff. It is much fun.

Yes, it's hard work. It does take a fair bit of time, and yes I am still incredibly busy. But you know what? I deserve good food! So I'm going to make it! The process of making something is really therapeutic, and there's a great sense of accomplishment at the end. With all the other stuff I have going on, to take the time to make something good for myself, to chop, stir, mix, knead, saute, whatever, feels really, really good. It is my time out and my self-care - it doesn't feel like work at all. Being in the kitchen has really grounded me and kept me sane over the past few months. 

Aaanyhoo. There was more I was going to say but I haven't thought through it all yet, and it's getting late and I need sleep. So this is all for tonight. 

*Note to Mom: the recipe is in a cookbook, it's not all that secret! :-P 

Sunday, March 30, 2008

hate crime at utsc.

This is cross-posted, with some edits, from my private journal, since I am not up to rewriting anything on it. It hurts too much.

So it's a Saturday, the day after spring formal, which was awesome, and I slept until three, and spent the afternoon and evening messing around on Facebook instead of doing homework, as usual. I'm scrolling through my friends' status updates when I notice someone's. It says something about arson and hate crime on campus. I'm concerned so I leave a post on her wall asking about it, and carry on.

A few hours later, still procrastinating, someone else has got a similar status up. One of his friends has written on his wall that they "saw the board" and someone else is asking what happened. Now I'm really concerned. Both of these friends are involved with the LGBTQ Lounge and I'm worried something happened to it. So I throw on my coat and take off to the B-wing, where the Lounge is and where they have a big bulletin board, in a glass case, between the AMACSS and SoSSA offices.

This is what I saw:

Someone set the bulletin board on fire. You can see that a whole pane of glass is missing and the scorch marks. There's residue, I presume from a fire extinguisher, on the frame and on the floor and on the two buttons placed on the ledge. When I got close to the board, I could smell the smoke. I went down to the Lounge itself to see if anything happened there, but it looked fine. I came back to the bulletin board and was almost too upset to take the picture, but I did.

Today I've heard a little more details. Apparently the glass casing was not smashed, it was removed from the frame. The administration should be releasing statements soon. There is now a Facebook group, which has a different picture posted:

Clearly from before it was all cleaned up, like when I saw it.

I am pissed off beyond belief. I'm angry and I'm worried and I'm scared for my friends. I hope the assholes who did this get caught and are swiftly punished.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Hopes & Dreams for Women Project

So the blog is more or less dead but I thought I'd showcase some awesome stuff going on on res right now. For International Women's Day I shamelessly ganked an idea from Antigone Magazine and we did a postcard project, where people wrote their hopes and dreams for women in the future. The cards are now on display in the Residence Centre if you're local and can check them out. Feel free to continue to submit cards, and participate in the original project too! Here are pictures of the display. They're kinda shitty because of the glass getting in the way but I had returned the key to the cases, so oh well. If you have a question about what a particular card says, ask me and I'll go find out for you.