Wednesday, February 5, 2014

puttery kitcheny day

It's a good day for tea.
And puttering in the kitchen.

When it was still quite dark this morning, I saw a little shadow swooping up to the birdfeeder. Then another. Two juncos were breakfasting unusually early. Then I noticed the fine, dense precipitation. It was falling straight down but it was too dark to tell if it was rain or the kind of teeny-tiny snowflakes that couldn't possibly add up to anything but generally do.

I checked the weather report: 1-3 inches accumulation predicted by the end of the day. Hmmm. Pretty sure there was already 3 inches atop the bird feeder, and the sun wasn't up yet.

Sure enough, by the time we went out to feed a couple of hours later, Piper and I stepped out the door into 8 inches of fresh snow. The air was pleasantly warm though: 24F, which feels very warm indeed these days as long as the wind isn't blowing.

At 10 AM, the snow was still falling. The weather report now predicted 3-5 inches total by the end of the day. Step it up, weatherfolk. The sky is way ahead of you.
While Piper lounged and thawed her iceball leggings by the heater, I baked another fruit-topped teacake.
This one with dates.

I like to think every experiment in the kitchen is an opportunity to learn something. Here's what I learned this morning:
don't bake this particular cake with dates.

Each of those harmless-looking nuggets had the consistency of a very chewy pebble. They reminded me of something, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Pretty sure it wasn't something we think of as edible, though.

In another kitchen adventure, I tried to "zest" Meyer lemons.
I've never "zested" anything before, and to be honest, I'm not sure I've "zested" anything now. Does anyone know if I took too much of the rind along with the peel? I tried not to, but I just don't know. Please advise!

I also juiced the lemons with my Grammy's old glass juicer, thus justifying the allocation of cupboard space to this tool for another year. Maybe ten.

Some of the juice went straight into a peanut-ginger marinade for the tofu which is in the fridge at this moment, becoming wonderful. (Fingers crossed. This was definitely an experiment, and it is on tonight's menu.)

Oh, here's an actual Helpful Kitchen Tip!
Two, even. 
Gosh, maybe three!

First: I heard that a good way to cook a tougher piece of beef, is to put it in a pan with a can of peeled tomatoes, cover the pan, and bake (roast? poach?) it in the oven for two or three hours at 325F. Last week, I had a small slab of top round and I had a big can of Pomodoro tomatoes, so...I tried it. And I must say, after 2 hours, that chunk of meat fell apart before I could put a knife to it!

Second: as they worked to tenderize the beef, the tomatoes were reduced to nearly a paste, which soon became the base for a bonus pasta sauce. Very tasty! I've had "meat sauces" that tasted less rich and meaty than those tomatoes.

Third: when I decided to add some of the leftover cooked beef to a lentil stew, I wanted to chopped the pieces "across the grain" so there would be no long, stringy pieces dangling from a soup spoon. And as I was pondering the least-tedious way to orient all those small pieces of meat in order to chop them properly, I had a thought:

My super-deluxe kitchen shears! 

By which I mean, the pair of ordinary scissors I keep in the kitchen. One of my most useful kitchen tools, but this is the first time they were put to work smallifying chunks of cooked beef. Worked beautifully, and took next to no time. Snippety snip snip!
It's late afternoon, and still snowing. I just checked the weather report again, and can tell you with certainty that we are experiencing a 50% chance of light snow.

I hope you are enjoying the weather of your choice, wherever you are! And readers who are craving a good snowfall are very welcome to come on by!
I can offer a nice cup of tea, but - just between us? - 
you'd be wise to pass on the cake.


  1. We got a good dumping of snow today too ... all finished now. When you zest a lemon, you should take off only the yellow peel, not any of the white pith which makes it bitter. The date cake looks really good, but I'll take your word for it that the dates were chewy. Great tip on the meat & tomatoes ... sounds great for the crock pot. Wendy x

    1. Thanks so much for the info on the zesting...apparently my non-zester status is intact! I understand now why people rave about microplanes. I have one in the woodshop, but may need to invest in one for the kitchen ;)

  2. I have a special little zesting tool about the size of a potato peeler but instead of a blade it has a piece of metal with a row of holes in that you drag across the lemon making tiny little curls of zest.
    Shame about your cake - but it looks good! And I hope the weather forecasters catch up! X

    1. Tiny curls sound pretty! Mine look more like potato peelings. I'll have to keep my eyes open for a zesting tool :)


  3. dang ,all of this is making me hungry! It is colder here today so I will have some tea with you. I am making jalepeno bread it should go in the oven in a few minutes. If you like spicy this would be good with your roast. I really don't zest either, the cake looks good. "_)

    1. A friend of mine used to make cornbread muffins with jalapenos...they were delicious!

  4. Oh dear, now I'm hungry again and I just had dinner a few hours ago. Seriously, my mouth is watering, minus the chewy pebbles you described earlier. ;-) Though I must admit, the tea cake looked very yummy. Snack before bed for me now. Blessings to you, Bird

  5. Thank you for a great laugh. The date cake was the best. Have you figured out what the dates reminded you of??? Still giggling here. (and not because I'm a good cook or baker - I've never zested anything either!)

  6. I love to bake on stormy days. Sorry your date cake didn't turn out, I hate when that happens.

  7. Puttery days in the kitchen are always such fun -- they make me feel fullfilled -- even if I make something that does not turn out right. That cake looks wonderful - even if the dates are chewy! Love the idea for the steak- I will give that a try~
    thankyou for your precious visit and for your prayers for our dear friend.


  8. It's started snowing this morning and is expected to snow on and off for the next couple of days. I've stocked up on my soup and baking supplies so I'll be puttering too for a bit. It's a great thing to do when it's so cold outside!

  9. Hi Quinn, a thoroughly enjoyable post and the thought of your slow roasted meat sounds wonderful. Your lemon zest looks good to me and you're wise to get ready...this is supposed to be a huge storm and will hit us on Wednesday.

    1. Gosh, I hadn't even heard about another big storm this week! Thanks, Sandra. That settles it - MUST get milk tomorrow, to feed the kefir. Should have gone today, but didn't.


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