Taking notes along the way

A jam day

Blueberry Earl Grey, to be exact.

the finished product
the finished product

 

Used this recipe. Wondered why I couldn’t use fresh-squeezed lemon juice, so googled. The issue is apparently the need for sufficient acidification. But according to this article, lemons that one finds in a typical US grocery store are sufficiently acidic for use in all canning EXCEPT FOR MEYER LEMONS, WHICH ARE NOT. So, I guess I could have used fresh lemon juice. Since I wasn’t planning on giving any of the jam away, I would be the only person at risk of nastiness. Given that jam doesn’t last long around me, it probably doesn’t matter what I use.

Mistakes were made. I have never used pectin as a setting agent in jam before, so I simply noted Sure-Jell on my grocery list. Went to the store yesterday, and found that there were three different types: regular, less-or-no sugar added recipes, and All Natural. Of course, I picked the All Natural, which proved to be the wrong type; I should’ve bought the less/no sugar added. But I had already put the berries on the stove to cook, so I figured Hell with it and went ahead.

Oh, I also found that I had bought decaf Earl Grey instead of regular.

BE THAT AS IT MAY, I made the jam. I jarred the jam. See above photo. It’s in the fridge now, still slightly warm. However, it does appear to be setting. It may remain a little runnier than desirable–I’ll know more in 12-24 hours–but I shall endeavor to cope. It does taste good–nice berriness with strong hints of Earl Greyness. I think it’s a keeper recipe. I usually eat jam on toast, but I bet this stuff would rock on pancakes.

In other news, still dealing with tailing ends of Cold From Hell + Las Vegas Relapse. Got a tentative schedule for Wiscon, which looks like it will be fun–will post when it’s finalized. Wishing the weather here in far NE Illinois would warm up.

Oh, and the other day, this happened over on the Twitter:

yikes!
yikes!

 

So yesterday, I mailed off a book.

Fly-by

Not much going on in Kristine Smith land. I did post over at the BookView Café blog about the doggy DNA testing I had performed in order to find out Gaby’s mix. Suffice to say, I was surprised at the results.

It’s Alex Gordon work for the next week as I deal with JERICHO copyedits. Holiday prep will take place as well. So far, the weather has made it feel most unChristmassy. It’s around 30F now and blustery, but it’s possible that it may warm to the 50s and maybe even the 60s next week. No white Christmas.

I took a break from copyedits to bake cookies yesterday. Ina Garten’s Oatmeal-Raisin-Pecan, with added chai spice and toasted coconut. Whole wheat flour and wheat germ instead of white all-purpose. Have one–they’re great with coffee or tea.

Oatmeal raisin pecan toasted coconut whole wheat chai. Good cookies.
Oatmeal raisin pecan toasted coconut whole wheat chai. Good cookies.

 

Dreams and other things

I have heard that folks aren’t all that interested in hearing about other people’s dreams, but last night I had a weird one and I am posting it here as much for myself as for public consumption.

I usually don’t recall my dreams as a whole piece. I will remember bits and pieces–the sensation of flying, the fact that I’m being followed by a vampire and WHY AM I NOT SCARED?? But this was fairly intact from beginning to end, so, here goes.

I’m on a plane. Literally. The jet is at cruising altitude, above the clouds, and I am outside, wrapped in a blanket, tethered in place, and hanging on. I think I’m nestled where the wing and body meet, but I’m not sure. I just see the endless blue overhead, the clouds beneath. I don’t feel the wind in my face, or the cold or vibration. I don’t see any windows, and have no clue whether anyone can see me or not. Someone has to be flying the jet, but I can’t see them. I’m alone.

Except for King. My dog, that passed away over two years ago. He’s lying on a dog bed, either atop the plane or gliding beside it. He seems pretty laid back, considering that he’s 35K feet above the ground with nothing holding him in place. Given that he was never the calmest dog in the world, it’s worth noting.

Time passes. Then for some reason I can’t recall, I untie the rope that’s holding me in place. I’m still wrapped in the blanket, but damn, I’m gripping whatever I can grip and holding on tight. Then I hear barking, and I look to my left and see that King has lost contact with the jet. He’s not falling, but drifting farther and farther away on his bed. He’s barking–I’m not sure if he’s afraid, or trying to get my attention, or what. I don’t know if I can find him, because I don’t know where the jet is going or when we’re going to land. I’m not panicked, though. Something in the back of my head tells me that I will be able to find him.

And that how it ends. I’ve lost my dog and my rope, but I’m still hanging on. I’m sure this somehow relates to things going on in my life right now. I’m contemplating changes and anticipating others, all of which will lead to some degree of upset. Funny, the way the brain deals with things like that.


 

In other news, I found I had a few overripe bananas in the fruit bowl. That could mean only one thing. BANANA BREAD. I fell back on my basic recipe, which is like the easiest thing ever. But along with being basic, it’s also incredibly forgiving and flexible, which gives me a chance to play.

This time, I was going to add chocolate chips and stop there. But then I remembered Aarón Sánchez’s Mexican Brownie recipe, which I had made before and liked. The main addition there is a quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper, which adds just a touch of heat to the brownies. I decided what the heck, and gave it a try.

I didn’t stop there. In addition to the cayenne, I added about a 1/3 teaspoon ancho chili powder for smokiness. A teaspoon cinnamon because that works with just about everything. A teaspoon of espresso powder to boost the chocolate. About 2/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips.

As usual, I used whole wheat flour instead of all purpose. This time, I used 1 cup whole wheat + 1/2 cup white whole wheat, both King Arthur brand. I added an extra half-teaspoon baking soda to give the heavier dough a boost. And as always, more salt than was called for, about 1/3 teaspoon instead of a pinch. I’ve found that savory recipes often call for too much salt and sweet recipes for too little. You can cut back on sugar sometimes if you lean on the salt to boost flavors. Plus, you wind up with more varied flavors than simple sweetness. Plain ol’ sugar sweetness is boring at best and sickening at worst.

Anyway, I just had a piece, and it worked. A lighter crumb than you’d expect from a whole wheat quick bread. The heat is subtle–it takes a few bites to build, then hangs around until the end. The espresso boosts the chocolate, and overall there’s a nice, deep, full flavor. As usual, the banana flavor is pretty much buried, but I make this recipe so often that I need to mix it up every once in a while. Besides, I eat a banana most every morning with breakfast. I know what they taste like.

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