Rose Petal Jelly

Here is a deliciously simple recipe to use locally available produce! 

Rose petal jelly tastes like spring in full bloom. It has a sweet  light lemon flavor followed with a gentle floral note from the rose petals. It is quite simply one of the most delightful jellies I have tasted. I have been eating it straight out of the jar (with a spoon of course :p) until I can get around to using it in a cake. YUM!  
You will need to use organic roses that have not been sprayed with any chemicals. I found these in my friends yard. Use the most fragrant roses you can find for the best flavor.
This recipe will easily adapt to any herb or edible flower. Lemon balm, violets, or nasturtiums would be wonderful.
Rose Petal Jelly
3-4 cups of packed rose petals - free of bugs
4 cups of water
4 cups sugar
Juice of one lemon
 1 box of pectin
 Sterilized jars (I got 4 and 1/2 8oz jars)
1.  Place rose petals in a large sauce pan, cover with water. Bring to boil, and simmer for 5 minutes.  Turn off heat and cover with lid. Allow to steep for 60 minutes. .
2.  When rose water has steeped, strain and press out liquid.
3.  Add the juice of one lemon and watch the murky brownish-pink water turn bright pink Its Magic!
4.  Pour back into sauce pan and turn heat on high.  Stir in pectin and stir until dissolved.
5.  Add sugar to boiling mixture. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring continuously.
6.  Transfer the jelly to hot, sterilized glasses and seal according to manufacturer’s suggestions.

I use a water canner. Fill the canner with enough water to cover your jars of jelly by at least one inch and start heating the water. Place your sealed jars of jelly in the canner and bring to a boil, close the lid, and boil for 10 minutes. Remove from the canner and place on a kitchen towel to cool. You should hear "PING" from each of the jars indicating a vacuum seal.  You can also press a finger on the lid to see if it gives to the pressure. If it does you can either reprocess the jar of put in the refrigerator. Theses should keep up to 2 years in a cabinet or up to two week refrigerated once opened.
This jelly would be great as the filling for a cake or macaron. You can also make a syrup by omitting the pectin and use that for a Rose Petal Martini - dressed up with sugared rose petals. For those of you who do not drink martinis the syrup can be used in carbonated water for a home made soda.

Chickens can fly!

I have some sad news to share today.
I lost one of my chickens- Amanda.
She escaped her chicken yard by flying over a 5 foot fence.
Scout was on hand and... well.
Chickens sound and look a lot like squeaky toys. 
Once she stopped squeaking he came and got me with a worried look.
After talking with a friend who has raised chickens I found out chickens can fly. She had chicks escaping a 10ft fence! 
Dewella and Ezmeralda marmalade are a little depressed. I clipped both of their wings this afternoon and gave lots of treats to cheer them up. I had no idea chickens could get so sad. They really have so much more personality than I expected.

Chicken update 7 weeks old.

Chickens go through a gawky teenage phase. Hen's are people too I guess! My birds have gotten so big so quickly. They were only little peeps for about 2 weeks then I moved them from my horse's 5 gallon water bucket to an old feed bin twice the size. The coop upgrade only lasted a week and they started jumping out giving my dog, scout, the thrill of his life! Luckily I was on hand to toss them back in before he recovered from his enthusiastic dance and got a  taste of fresh chicken. It was a close call.

So after searching around for a larger chicken containment system I decided on a small kiddie pool enclosed with cut up cardboard boxes about 4 feet high. This has worked until this morning when I went in to check on the ladies to find them all merrily perched on the cardboard wall.  At 7 weeks they have most of their feathers but, the night temps are still down in the 40's so they spend their days out in the chicken yard but, I bring them in at night. The buff orpington (Ezmerelda Marmalade) has not changed color.  She is mellow. If you pick her up and place her on your friends shoulder she sits contentedly and twitters.

The spotted Sussex (Dewella) has really changed color!  She is gorgeous with red, cream,gold,  and black colors and little white spots. She is easily motivated with worms and is always the first to run up for a treat. If no food is involved she is the most standoffish. She flaps her wings and squawks to no end when you try to cuddle her.

I am still hoping I have all hens. Time will tell.
Hopefully the nights will get warmer and I can get these chickens out of my spare room in the next week or so.
Did you know that chickens love cake? and cranberry scones ;)

And the winner is!

Thank you to everyone who entered the give away for my 100th blog post!
I used to generate the number 24 for Smitten Sugar! 

Raw Milk Part 2 and Whipped Cream Cake

This is a continuing post about my journey with raw milk. Hopefully you are thinking about processed milk and beginning to question some of the decisions food safety experts make where your food is concerned. I am not against safety measures to protect me from food born illness. I do believe the animal producing the food should be part of that safety and quality process. Happy cows = happy cheeses and milk!
So you think you might like to know your local dairy farmer? Maybe set up a cow share with your neighbors? Awesome! Here is how my set up works!
I pick up 1/2 to 1 gallon of milk each Saturday from a family dairy with 3 Jersey Cows. It is self service. I put my cash in an envelope. I mark down the number of jars I am returning and place them on a rack. The envelope has my name, amount paid, jars returned, and any other comments I need to leave such as change in amount of milk I need or vacation dates. My milk is placed in the milking parlor refrigerator into a mason jar with my name on it. The milk looks like this.
Raw or fresh milk looks different. The color is buttery yellow. If the milk has had a chance to sit a couple of hours the cream begins to rise to the top. It is a thick yellowish layer. Being the city slicker I am I had not idea why my milk was so Chunky. So I would vigorously shake it up. Boy do I regret that now!
Now I know the awesomeness that is fresh cream! You can get pasturized milk and still have cream. It is the homogenization process that gives a blended milk. Homogenized milk will not separate to give you a cream top. Now each week when I buy my fresh milk I pour off the cream.
See! The container on the left is milk and the right is all cream! Fresh cream is lightly sweet, buttery and sooo creamy. There are no cooked milk notes, no sour lactic notes, and no cardboard flavors. It tastes fresh and clean. This is the first time I have really had fresh cream. I use it in coffee and baked goods.
The first recipe I tried it in blew my mind! I made Rose's Whipped Cream Cake.
The cake used no butter just cream. The flavor and texture are reminiscent of pound cake with a lighter crumb closer to an angel food and (I am not sure how this is possible) a strong butter flavor. I have made two of these in the last 3 weeks! yikes! It is a quick cake to put together and disappears equally as fast.

Whipped Cream Cake by Rose Levy Beranbaum "Heavenly Cakes"
Serves: 8 to 10
Baking Time: 25 to 35 minutes
This unusual old-time recipe was sent to me by chef Anthony Stella, a restaurateur in Delaware, who asked if I could perform a makeover on it. What intrigued both of us about the recipe was that at first glace it seemed to contain no butter or oil. But on closer analysis, I discovered that the butterfat contained in the cream was more than equal to the usual amount of butter added. My makeover involved a nip and tuck, decreasing the sugar and baking powder and increasing the salt to compensate for the saltiness previously provided by a higher amount of baking powder. I also increased the overall yield by one and a half times and baked the cake in a fluted tube pan to give it an attractive appearance and more center support. The result is a perfectly even and exceptionally moist and tender cake.
Batter Ingredients
Cake Flour or bleached all-purpose flour, sifted (2 1/4 cups/8 ounces/225 grams)
Baking powder (2 teaspoons/2 teaspoons/2 teaspoons)
Salt (3/4 teaspoon/3/4 teaspoon/3/4 teaspoon)
Heavy cream, cold (1 1/2 cups/12.3 ounces/348 grams)
3 large eggs, at room temperature (1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons/5.3 ounces/150 grams)
Pure vanilla extract (1 teaspoon/1 teaspoon/1 teaspoon)
Superfine sugar (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons/8 ounces/225 grams)
Special Equipment
One 10-cup fluted metal tube pan, coated with baking spray with flour
Preheat the Oven
Twenty minutes or more before baking, set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C (350°F/175°C if using a dark pan).
Mix the Dry Ingredients
In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt and then sift them together to make the mixture easier to incorporate.
Mix the Liquid Ingredients
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater, whip the cream, starting on low speed, gradually raising the speed to medium-high as it thickens, until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and vanilla just until lightly combined. On medium-high speed, gradually beat the egg mixture into the whipped cream. The mixture will thicken into mayonnaise consistency (unless high-butterfat cream is used). Gradually beat in the sugar. It should take about 30 seconds to incorporate it.
Make the Batter
Add half the flour mixture to the cream mixture and, with a large silicone spatula, stir and fold in the flour until most of it disappears. Add the rest of the flour mixture and continue folding and mixing until all traces of flour have disappeared. Using a silicone spatula or spoon, scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Run a small metal spatula or dull knife blade through the batter to prevent large air bubbles, avoiding the bottom of the pan. Smooth the surface evenly with a small metal spatula.
Bake the Cake
Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted between the tube and the side comes out completely clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. The cake should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven.
Cool and Unmold the Cake
Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. With a small metal spatula, loosen the top edges of the cake and invert the cake onto a wire rack that has been coated lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Cool completely. The cake requires no adornment, but I love to serve it with a light dusting of powdered sugar or a large dollop of lightly sweetened Whipped Cream (page 115).
Notes: Do not chill the bowl and beaters for the heavy cream because the eggs will not emulsify as readily if the whipped cream is too cold.
High-butterfat (40 percent) heavy cream produces a finer, more tender crumb. This cream is generally available only to bakeries and restaurants, but it is certainly worth asking your local baker to sell you a container.


 What is kefir and why would you drink it?
Kefir is a fermented dairy beverage you can make at home using kefir grains. The grains look like cauliflower and are squishy.(Like my very technical lingo?) 

The grains are made up of a community of yeast and bacteria. It has more good gut bugs (probiotics) than yogurt. So I drink it cause it is full of beneficial bacteria, has antioxidant properties, and because it tastes so darn good!
Do not confuse the kefir you buy at whole food market near the yogurt with the kefir that you make with real live kefir grains. The store bought kefir tastes like a drinkable yogurt with a sharp lactic acid bite. Homemade kefir is sweet and creamy, less sour with a bit of a zing. 
See the bubbles?

Store bought kefir  is good... until you taste real kefir. Kefir you make at home using grains is effervescent, sweet with some slight sour notes, and creamy smooth texture.
I use kefir in place of buttermilk. If  i need yogurt I pour it into butter muslin and hang it for 12 hours to drain the whey. For cream cheese hang it longer. Easy peasy no?
So how do you make it?
You place your fresh grains into a clean mason jar and pour dairy milk over it. I like my kefir fizzy so I lightly screw on a cap. Let it sit out over night to ferment. If you prefer a sour lactic bite to your kefir let it ferment longer. Once it is to your liking strain the kefir grains out. Metal is not recommended since some say it upsets the balance of the grain colony.
What you have left behind once you remove the grains is Kefir! At this point it will keep refrigerated for a week. I make about 2 cups worth daily and drink it as soon as it is ready. You can add fruit and sweetener if you like. I do a quick blend in the jar with my immersion blender for a smooth creamy mouth feel. Drinking curdled milk is not appetizing to me so a quick blend really makes a difference.
 Once you have stained out your grains place them in a new clean mason jar and cover with milk. Repeat often!

where can you get real kefir grains? There are many sources on the internet like this one. I got my first batch in the mail.. It took close to a month to get a balanced flavored kefir. I have also shipped partially dried grains to friends but, it takes me a week or so to have enough to share. My first few batches had a very pronounced yeasty/ beer type smell and flavor. Eventually your grains will settle down and the yeast will be less predominate. Just enough to create fizz without smelling like sourdough starter. I drank it anyway. You may have bad batches every so often. I think it is the nature of live food. You can toss those or share them with a pet. My dog LOVES kefir and it has improved his digestion! ( he was on antibiotics and I never thought to re-balance his gut with probiotics)
Don't for get to enter my give- away for a chance to win a $50 store credit!

Cake Slice Bakers: Banana Cake with Chocolate Frosting.

For the last week at work I have undergone sensory training. I have eaten every type of chocolate available for purchase. We tasted every variety of milk from skim to buttermilk and a variety of fruits. It was eye opening. I have never equated chocolate with burnt rubber, brown fruit or sour milk. Now I can not help but really analyze the food I am tasting. Did you know people have their tongues insured for this type of career? Did you know tasting food was a career? I think it is waaay coool! I hope to have my tongue insured some day.

Another thing I learned in sensory training is the difference between preferences and actually describing what you are tasting.
With that said- On to this months Cake Slice Bakers top pick Banana Cake with Chocolate Frosting!
Here are the facts. The recipe is quick and easy 1,2,3 and you are done. The frosting is super easy-  just heat, combine, and stir. I used Hershey's special dark cocoa and enjoyed the result.
The banana cake is moist with a nice balance of sweet, salty, and a lovely perfumey note from the bananas. I really like this cake and will probably make it again.  The frosting had an upfront sweet note, followed by vanilla flavor, and finally bitter chocolate flavor. The texture I ended up with was more of a doughnut icing than a cake frosting. 

 Given my choice I would top this lovely banana cake with a dollop of fresh whipped cream to compliment the banana flavor. As is this recipe was a good one for both flavor and texture.

Banana Cake with Chocolate Frosting
(Recipe from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott)
Banana Cake
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter, softened
1½ cups sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk*
1½ cups mashed ripe banana

Chocolate Frosting
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup evaporated milk or half-an-half
4 cups sifted confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

* If you don’t have buttermilk you can make your own by stirring 1½ teaspoons of vinegar or lemon juice into ½ cup of milk and leaving for 10 minutes.

To make the cake, heat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 9 inch cake pans. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and stir with a fork to combine well.

In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar and beat well, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one by one, and then the vanilla. Beat well for 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally until you have a smooth batter.

Using a large spoon, stir in half the flour just until it disappears into the batter. Stir in the buttermilk and then the remaining flour the same way. Quickly and gently fold in the mashed banana and then divide the batter between the 2 cake pans.

Bake at 350F for 25 to 30 minutes until the cakes are golden brown, spring back when touched lightly in the center, and begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Cool for 10 minutes in the pans on wire racks. Then turn out onto the racks to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the butter, cocoa and evaporated milk in a medium saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring to a gentle boil. Cook, stirring often for about 5 minutes, until the cocoa dissolves into a dark shiny essence. Remove from the heat and stir in the confectioners sugar and vanilla. Beat with a mixer at low speed until you have a thick smooth frosting.

To complete the cake, place one layer, top side down, on a cake plate and spread about 1 cup of frosting evenly over the top. Cover with the second layer placed top side up. Spread the rest of the frosting evenly first over the sides and then covering the top of the cake.
Be sure to check out the rest of the Cake Slice Bakers Banana Cake with Chocolate Frosting.
AND don't forget I am having a give away! See my 100th post for info on how to enter!

100th Blog Post and a GiveAway!

Wow I just can not believe I have kept this going for as long as I have!
When I first started this little baking blog I thought it would be a way of making my baking obsession seem legit. I could make it seem like I NEEDED to bake 3 or for cakes a week for RESEARCH and Blog Material. Then I started meeting other bloggers and I realized what a great community we have.
There have been days when a comment really makes me smile or laugh our loud.  So I want to say a big Thank You to all who stop by!  Sharing my morning coffee while checking in on your blogs makes me feel like I am sitting in your kitchens. So in honor of blog friends and my 100th post I am hosting a giveaway! That's right! You will be randomly selected to receive a $50.00 gift certificate at any of the CSN stores.
WOW!  $50.00 dollars to spend any way you want! How do you enter?
You need to be a registered follower of my blog to participate and leave a comment. This is open to bloggers from all countries!. I will use to select the winner.

This giveaway is thanks to the people at CSN stores. Your gift certificate will enable you to select an item at any of their 200 stores! You can choose anything from cookware, bake-ware, baby and kids items, home improvement, or even home furnishings such as barstools to set up your own exclusive entertaining room!

Good luck friends! You have until April 30th to get signed up as a follower. I will post the winner of the $50.00 dollar gift card to be used at CSN stores on May 1,2010!

Milk Part 1

Every Saturday I do something illegal and dangerous.
I drive out to a local farm and purchase unpasteurized cow milk.

Ok so it isn't entirely illegal.- at least not in Oregon.
"Under Oregon state law, commercial dairies are prohibited from distributing raw milk. The only exception is for small operations with three cows or less, which are permitted to sell raw milk on-site but cannot advertise sales or ship off the premises."
The farm I go to is an exception. 
The dangerous part may be true.
There is a huge debate about raw vs pasteurized milk and health benefits vs. health risks.
Why would I risk my life or health to use raw milk?
Which leads me to how this all started! My friend A and I wanted to make mozzarella cheese. We tried a few batches with store bought milk. We checked the label and steered clear of UHT or ultra Pasteurized products. We barely got curds. We tried powdered milk as recommended in the kit recipe with moderate success. We researched milk companies only to find more batches of failed cheese. You see milk that has been UHT processed is heated to 240-280 so it can sit on the supermarket shelf up to six months depending on the packaging ( this is for aseptic box style packaging)! This Ultra High Temperature processing breaks down the whey protein that is needed to form good curds for cheese making. Not all brands of milk label  UHT pasteurized even if they reach temperatures that break down the whey protein.
At this point I decided to get milk from the source! A quick trip to Google pulled up a list of raw milk "suppliers" in my area and I made a few calls. I was lucky to find a local dairy farm minutes from where I keep my horse. I met the milk maid, the cows, and toured the milking parlor. The milk parlor smelled of bleach and was spotless! A good sign. I signed a waiver saying the milk was only for animal/ pet consumption and bought my first gallon of raw milk.
To be honest I was a bit freaked out by the raw milk. But we had to have at least on successful batch of cheese and this was my last ditch effort.
There is no comparison to the cheese making process using raw milk vs. store bought. Within a few minutes of adding the acid and rennet we had the most beautiful curds we had yet to experience. The process was exactly as explained in the book so we knew we had been doing it right all along.
Now that I have been using raw milk for about 2 months I can not view store bought milk as real milk. From my raw milk I can
  • skim off the cream
  • make butter
  • make buttermilk
  • make cheese
  • make whipped cream
  • kefir
  • yogurt
For those of you who bake there is no comparison for flavor in puddings, custards, and baked goods when using  fresh milk/cream vs UHT.  processed milk/cream. 

    Blackout Cake

    I never had the true Brooklyn Blackout Cake experience. This is a chocolate cake which captures a bit of American history. The story goes that there was a great neighborhood bakery in Brooklyn called Ebinger's. They were famous for the Blackout Cake.
    Legend has it the cake originated during the war when Blackouts were practiced in the city. Ebinger's made this cake famous and baked it for 74 years. Then one very sad day the Bakery closed its doors and the recipe was sealed in a vault by the family. Rumor has it that Entenmann's tried to buy the recipe but the family kept the secret and refused to sell out. Occasionally a newspaper article will pop up claiming to reveal the top secret recipe for blackout cake but those lucky brooklynites who grew up with the sweet treat have yet to give approval to any of the so called authentic recipes. sightings of ex Ebinger bakers or family members are as elevated as Elvis sightings. Each new sighting or recipe brings excitement and anticipation of a cake so delicious it may only exist in memory.
    After much research and recipe comparisons  I've been able to gather the cake is a moist, deeply chocolate flavored cake filled and surrounded with chocolate pudding and coated in a chocolate crumb crust. I did not choose to bake one of the Ebinger Blackout Cake recipes. I went with a classic American cocoa cake and a classic American cocoa pudding found on my Hershey's cocoa tin. It is still a Blackout Cake and may be the stuff of legends once your friends have a slice. So until the mystery of Ebingers famous recipe for Brooklyn blackout cake  is solved I think we will just have to keep baking!
    Do you have a bakery from your past that has great memories or a most loved recipe? Mine is a place called The Goody Bakery. It was located in South Miami. My dad used to take me there after preschool and I would get a giant sugar cookie decorated like a smiley face.

    Hershey's Black Magic Cake

    • 2 cups sugar
    • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour - I used cake flour for a more tender crumb
    • 3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
    • 2 teaspoons baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 cup buttermilk or sour milk*
    • 1 cup strong black coffee OR 2 teaspoons powdered instant coffee plus 1 cup boiling water
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


    1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans or one 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

    2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes (Batter will be thin). Pour batter evenly into prepared pans.

    3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes for round pans, 35 to 40 minutes for rectangular pan or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost as desired. Yields 10 to 12 servings.

    * To sour milk: Use 1 tablespoon white vinegar plus milk to equal 1 cup.

    Hershey's Chocolate Pudding
    • 2/3 cup sugar
    • 1/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
    • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 2-1/4 cups milk
    • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • Whipped topping(optional)


    1. Stir together sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt in medium saucepan; gradually stir in milk.

    2. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils; boil and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla. Pour into individual dessert dishes. To avoid a skin from forming on top, press plastic wrap directly onto surface; serve warm or refrigerate at least 2 hours. Garnish with whipped topping, if desired. 4 to 5 servings.

    1. Stir together sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt in large microwave-safe bowl; gradually stir in milk.

    2. Microwave at HIGH (100%) 7 to 10 minutes or until mixture comes to full boil, stirring every 2 minutes. Stir in butter and vanilla. Pour into dishes and serve as directed above.

    To Assemble the cake
    Level the baked cakes. Use the cake scraps or baker snacks ;) to make a crumb coating for the cake.
    If you have tall enough cake you can half each one for a 3 layer cake and use the 4th layer to make the crumb coating for the cake.
    Place 1/2 cup of pudding in between each layer and the top of the cake. You may cover the entire cake with pudding if you like but this cake is so moist it is fine without it! Cover the top with crumbs from your extra cake layer or scraps. That's all there is too it! I like how simple yet elegant this cake looks.

    Tasting notes: This cake is very moist and tender with a nicely balanced chocolate flavor. Not too sweet. The pudding compliments the cake well. It is sweet and creamy. more in the realm of milk chocolate. I like it as a frosting and will use it again. If I were just using the pudding as a dessert sans cake I would try another recipe. It does not have enough chocolate flavor for me and is a little too sweet as a stand alone dessert - I am more of a dark chocolate fan. Hope you enjoy!

    Lemon Kefir Cake with Lemon Ginger Marmalade

    I was reading through one of my favorite baking books, "Baking: From My Home to Yours" by Dorie Greenspan, because I have been needing some baking inspiration. The majority of my cakes have been disappointing lately and I was really ready for a quick and successful cake. I love baking from Dories book. It is like working side by side in the kitchen with an old friend. When I got to the French Yogurt Cake with Lemon Marmalade the whole recipe just clicked for me. I had just finished making marmalade so I have plenty on hand. With the weather being really crappy- typical of Oregon this time of year- I decided this cake would be a sunny little burst on a very gloomy day.

    For those of you unfamiliar with Kefir it is a cultured milk product with a taste similar to yogurt but with a slight fizz and yeast flavor. I make my own from kefir grains and raw cows milk ( posts to follow on both topics!). It is more of a drinkable yogurt the consistency of buttermilk so to make it work for this recipe I drained off some of the whey to resemble yogurt.
    This cake is so simple. My only changes were to use kefir instead of yogurt, cake flour since I was all out of AP, and olive oil in place of canola oil.  The batter comes together quickly with minimal amount of dishes piling up. That is always a plus! I baked the cake in a loaf pan for the entire recommended baking time. My cake, though light and incredibly moist, did not rise much. I blame the lack of height on the fact that I quickly gobbled half the loaf before I had finished the photo shoot! Now that's good cake!
    I used 1/2 a jar of my home made Lemon Ginger Marmalade and strained it like Dorie suggests.
    I think next time I will used the stained bits in the cake. The Marmalade glaze is the perfect accompaniment to the cake. The cake itself is lightly flavored with lemon zest and vanilla extract ( I doubled the vanilla per some TWDer's suggestions) I got some fruity notes from the olive oil and more of a ricotta flavor from the kefir. The lemon ginger marmalade glaze adds a balance of sweet, tart, and zesty over the more deeply flavored cake. Like I said I ate 1/2 before i had even realized it! The flavor develops better the second and 3rd day if you can leave it alone that long!

    So thank you Dorie for such a simple and lovely cake. I will make this one again!

    Lemon Kefir Cake with Lemon Ginger Marmalade Glaze
    adapted from the fabulous Dorie Greenspan!
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup ground almonds (or, if you'd prefer, omit the almonds and use another 1/2 cup all-purpose flour)
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • Pinch of salt
    • 1 cup sugar
    • Grated zest of 1 lemon
    • 1/2 cup plain yogurt - I used kefir
    • 3 large eggs
    • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract - I used 1 teaspoon
    • 1/2 cup flavorless oil, such canola or safflower - I used olive oil

    For the Glaze :

    1/2 cup lemon ginger marmalade, strained
    1 teaspoon water

    Getting Ready:

    1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter an 81/2-x-41/2-inch loaf pan and place the pan on a baking sheet.
    2. Whisk together the flour, ground almonds, if you're using them, baking powder and salt.
    3. Put the sugar and zest in a medium bowl and, with your fingertips, rub the zest into the sugar until the sugar is moist and aromatic. Add the kefir , eggs and vanilla and whisking vigorously until the mixture is very well blended. Still whisking, add the dry ingredients, then switch to a large rubber spatula and fold in the oil. You'll have a thick, smooth batter with a slight sheen. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top.
    4. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the cake begins to come away from the sides of the pan; it should be golden brown and a thin knife inserted into the center will come out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes, then run a blunt knife between the cake and the sides of the pan. Unmold, and cool to room temperature right side up on the rack.

    To Make the Glaze:

    Put the marmalade in a small saucepan or in a microwave-safe bowl, stir in the teaspoon of the water and heat until the jelly is hot and liquefied. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the cake with the glaze.

    Schicken chicken it's the law.

     I can not believe how fast chickens grow! Here they are at 2 weeks old thwarting my attempts to get an accurate read on the thermometer to maintain precise coop temps. 
     And now just look at them at almost 4 weeks! 
    Here is Lady Ezmeralda Marmalade. Such a diva with her feather boa!  
    Next up we have a little speckled Sussex with no name. look at those shoulder pad like wings. she reminds me of those 1980's fashions. A very chic chick!
    And last but not least our top hen - Amanda ( she just reminds me of my friend Amanda. Maybe it is the eye liner? (shhh dont tell Amanda I named a hen after he! It will be our little secret!)
    Amanda was the first to escape the coop/ horse feed bin so coop building is a VERY high priority.
    Luckily Scout was on duty!
    Sigh. He is so dedicated to those hens! Definitely time to get them  into a hen house!

    So I got my chickens before looking into the local law about keeping livestock in the city limits. One of my neighbors keeps chickens so I figured it MUST be legal.  It did not take long for curiosity to get the better of me and I found a web site with a really good list of chicken laws. It says Eugene, OR. A maximum of 2 hens, no roosters, kept 20 feet from dwellings. hmmm. well I have 3 but I am still waiting to determine if they are all hens. And I may loose one to a predator so we will say I am within the legal limit of chickens. The 20 feet will take some tape measure work to determine placement of the coop and yard.
    And speaking of chicken coops! I ordered one off of amazon and boy is it cute!

    I started with the idea of building my own and after pricing the wood, roofing, and fencing I realized the 450$ and up prices for premade coops at the feed store were not that bad. Then, still unable to bring myself to pay nearly 500.00 for a coop, I mean come on! It is a place for chickens to poop. How nice should it be? I found very reasonably priced coops on amazon of all places. Is there anything they don't sell? So If I can do this any one of you can too! I will keep you updated on my adventures in Urban Chicken Farming!

    Quick Lemon Ginger Marmalade

     I was down in California a couple of weeks ago for the Natural Food and Product Expo. I was manning the booth for the company I work for and getting a chance to meet foodies from all over. It was such a fun event! If you are not familiar with Expo West imagine you are strolling through Whole Foods market and you can taste every single item on the shelf. As you are tasting you can talk directly to the people who make the products. Very cool! I stopped by the King Arthur booth for some baked goods and went all fan girl about how much I love the blog done by their R&D team.  I had a great time sampling all the new and innovative products as well as meeting people who love talking about food as much as I do. It was inspiring.

    The first day of expo I was handing out samples and chatting with folks when I got on the topic of local food and how the food industry is changing for many. Localvore has entered the culinary landscape and it is exciting! I was sharing a conversation with another food blogger about local fresh ingredients when he told me he had lemons that very morning picked from a tree in his yard.
    You have fresh local lemons!
    I got super excited and waxed poetic about fresh fruit... I have not had any since I picked  calamondin oranges at my moms when I visited in October. My last local bit of fresh fruit was also last fall when I picked apples. I have been eating plenty of canned fruit that I put away last fall so I have not really been tempted to purchase any but, geez fresh picked lemons! So of course he offered to bring me some! And he did! The very next day he showed up at my booth with a grocery sack full of the freshest bag of citrusy sunshine I have ever smelled.

    At the end of expo I put 5 pounds of lemons in my suitcase, checking my bag at the airport, and prayed no one would confiscate my agricultural booty.

    Now back in Oregon I have been putting lemons in all sorts of recipes. My all time favorite spring time Lemon Cookie, a lemon kefir cake - recipe coming soon!, and jars of Lemon Ginger Marmalade. I gave some away and I still have a few that I needed to freeze! Lemons and other citrus freeze remarkably well.

    This recipe comes from "Ball Complete Book Of Home Preserving" an exciting book for those of you interested in learning to can your surplus of local fruits and veggies. This book contains 400 recipes. If you are looking for reduced sugar or pressure canning recipes this book will only provide a brief introduction.

    Quick Lemon Ginger Marmalade

    7 half-pint jars from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

    • 6 small lemons
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 2 1/2 cups water
    • 1 cup coarsely grated ginger root (about 12 oz.)
    • 1 (1 3/4 ounce) package regular powdered fruit pectin
    • 6 1/2 cups sugar
    1. Prepare canner, jars, and lids.
    2. Measure sugar and set aside.
    3. Using a vegetable peeler, remove yellow lemon peel in long strips. Cut strips into thin slices. Reserve fruit.
    4. In a large deep stainless steel saucepan, combine lemon peel, baking soda, and water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, cover, and boil gently for 5 minutes until peel is softened. Remove from heat and set aside.
    5. Using a sharp knife, cut white pith from lemons. Working over a large bowl to catch juice, use sharp knife to separate lemon segments from membrane. Place segments in bowl and squeeze membrane to remove as much juice as possible, collecting in bowl. Discard membrane and seeds.
    6. Measure 1 cup lemon segments and juice. Add to softened lemon peel with ginger root. Whisk in pectin until dissolved.
    7. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Add sugar all at once and return to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove from heat and skim off foam.
    8. Ladle hot marmalade into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Remove air bubbles and adjust head space if necessary by adding hot marmalade. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
    9. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered by water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool, and store.  


    So I was watching Shrek 2 when I noticed an eerie resemblence between Scout and Puss in Boots.

    Cake Slice Bakers : Pineapple Upside-down Cake

    For the month of March the Cake Slice Bakers top voted cake was the Pineapple Upside-down cake. The only time I remember having this cake was served with my school lunch at the cafeteria in grade school.  This cake is better than my old Alma mater was capable of whipping up for hoards of hungry 3rd graders. The flavors are really lovely. Just imagine sweet brown sugar coated fruit with hits of buttery cake and you will get the idea. Pineapple this time of year is a cheery reminder that sunnier days are on the way.

    I followed the recipes EXACTLY as written.(I know I must be coming down with something!) The only ingredient swap I made was to choose a healthier locally canned cherry instead of the day-glow red variety floating around in High Fructose Syrup. The finished cake still looks pretty but the lack of dye in my cherries seemed to dull the jewel like appearance I usually associate with this cake.

    Flipping the cake out of the pan after cooling for 5 minutes is like waiting for the moment you get to open your birthday gifts. I was really pleased that I only lost one pineapple ring during the flip. It was easily replaced back on top of the cake.

    This is not a recipe I would repeat. Even though I really like the taste I found the texture offputting. The cake is gummy and soggy under the syrup and fruit. I have read that adding an extra egg white to the batter will provide a sturdier cake. I may give Pineapple Upside- down Cake another try using the extra egg white tip. Your suggestions are welcome if you have a most favorite recipe!

    March’s Cake: Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
    (Recipe from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott)
    Pineapple Topping
    One 20-ounce can pineapple rings, with their syrup or juice
    4 tbsp cold butter
    2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
    10 maraschino cherries

    1½ cups all purpose flour
    ¾ cup sugar
    1½ tsp baking powder
    ½ salt
    ½ cup milk
    4 tbsp butter, softened
    1 egg
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    Heat the oven to 350F.

    To make the topping
    Drain the pineapple well, reserving 2 tablespoons of the juice or syrup for the cake batter. Melt the cold butter in a 10 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Or, put the butter in a 9inch round cake pan and put it in the oven for a few minutes as the heat melts the butter.

    Remove the pan from the oven or stove and sprinkle the brown sugar over the buttery surface. Place the pineapple rings carefully on top of the scattered brown sugar and melted butter, arranging them so they fit in 1 layer. (You may have a few left over). Place a cherry in the center of each ring, and set the pan aside.

    To make the cake
    In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Use a fork to mix them together well. Add the milk and butter and beat well with a mixer, scraping down the bowl once or twice until you have a thick, fairly smooth batter, about 1 to 2 minutes.

    Add the egg, reserved pineapple syrup or juice and the vanilla. Beat for 2 minutes more, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides.

    Carefully pour the batter over the pineapple arranged in the skillet or cake pan and use a spoon to spread it evenly to the edges of the pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the cake is golden brown and springs back when touched lightly in the center. Cool in the skillet or pan for 5 minutes on a wire rack.

    With oven mitts, carefully turn out the warm cake onto a serving plate by placing the plate upside down over the cake in the pan and then flipping them over together to release the cake onto the plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

    Be sure to get the story from the rest of the Cake Slice Bakers. Maybe they had better luck.

    Here chick, chick, chick, chick...

    I can not stand how cute these babies are! OH MY! 
    I have named the little yellow chick lady marmalade - I was making some lemon ginger marmalade yesterday and it seems to fit her. Any suggestions for the other two? 
    I have wanted laying hens for awhile but I live in town and never thought it was possible until I met a neighbor who had chickens and ducks. Right downtown! I would go visit those chickens regularly and sometimes find an egg or two. So even though I don't have a coop - yet- I decided to get some chicks and just dive right in. I chose three breeds. Three because my friend said four would be too many? You have to set your limit somewhere I guess.
    The little yellow baby, marmalade, is a buff orpington.

    She should look like this when she gets older. they are described as sweet and curious and recommended for first time chicken moms.
    The second chick is a speckled Sussex and this is where my carefully chosen list of chickens I should buy went right out the window. See, I did some research before I went to the feed store so I would get easy chickens suitable for someone who only knows that chickens lay eggs and are fun to watch. But then I saw the big bin of chicks with a glossy photo of a beautiful spotted hen and, well, my list went right back in my pocket.
    Now that I was just randomly picking chicks it got a lot harder. I was deciding between one of those punk rock looking polish breeds with the plumes on their heads or the lovely silver laced wyandottes like saw at last years county fair.
    Just look at those black tipped feathers! This hen is ready for cocktails and a night of salsa dancing! So glamorous!
    I am still not entirely sure which chick I ended up with but, I asked for ms. silver lace. They were in the same bin peeping and running around like crazy so I hope we caught the right chick. If not, a polish punk chicken will fit in perfectly around here! UP the Punx!

    After doing a quick search the web says Wyandottes tend to be dominant birds. This is my largest chick and she is definitely in charge of the other two. 
    All of my lady birds - please let them all be lady birds!- should lay brown eggs. My dog, scout, has been very eager to eat meet them. I will really have to keep an eye on any predators like neighborhood cats, dogs, and raccoons. Hawks should not be a problem in the city but some bird fencing should prevent a hawk attack.
    So I hope you will all join me as my blog shifts focus a bit from exclusively baking to my experiments in urban farming! 
    Now to get some "volunteers" to help me build a coop!  This one is lovely don't you think?