Cooking From the Garden: Pickled Striped Beets

Striped beets aren't usually as sweet as regular beets, so they tend to get overlooked when we harvest things from our garden.  Jake continues to grow them because he thinks they are pretty, but the result tends to be what I refer to as "monster beets."  Sometimes, we will have left them in the ground so long a couple of them grow together into one beet. 
At that point, they are a little bit tough, and the flavor leaves something to be desired.  But it is easy to punch up that flavor by roasting the beets, then pickling them.  The stripes present in the raw beets fade over time, leaving a pale pink pickle this goes beautiful in a salad or as an accent to a meal.
We made these earlier in the summer.  I've been holding onto these pics until I opened a jar so I could show you the finished product at the same time.  You can use the following recipe with red beets, but the color will be much darker.

8 - 10 c. striped beets, cleaned and peeled
3 tbsp. fresh rosemary needles
2 tsp. olive oil
1 large red onion, frenched
1 c. white wine vinegar
2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 c. sugar
1 c. water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Prepare a canning bath. 

Cut the beets into small chunks and place them on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle the rosemary over the beets and sprinkle with the olive oil.  Roast in the oven for 35 minutes, or until the beets are completely completely cooked through.
Remove any tough spots from the cooked beets.  Layer together with the onion in 1-quart jars.  In a small non-reactive pot, combine the vinegar, sea salt, sugar and water.  Bring the liquid just to a boil, then pour it over the beets in the jars.

In a small pot boil the rest of the ingredients and pour over the beets, leaving proper head space. Process for 30-35 minutes.



Minions Cake Pops

I've been getting ready to do a kid's cooking class again next week, so I've been in full-tilt baking mode.  Check out my take on the Minion Cake Pop.  They're not that hard to make.   

To make about a dozen pops: 
Start with a basic vanilla cake (1 box of cake mix, or a recipe that will make an 11x13 cake).  Crumble it and add around 5 tablespoons of vanilla frosting (depending on how moist your cake is).  Form the resulting "mush" into egg-shaped balls.  I like to put mine in the freezer for about an hour to let them firm up.

While this is happening, melt:
1 package yellow candy melts
1/3 package blue candy melts
1/4 package chocolate chips.

Roll out:
6 small Tootsie Rolls (square up edges and cut each into two straps)
1 small block blue fondant (cut into 6"x1 1/4" strips)

For each pop you will also need:
1 stick
4 pieces from a candy necklace (2 white, 2 another color)
2-8 chocolate sprinkles
Black food-color marker

Dip the stick into the yellow candy, then push it into the cake pop, being careful it doesn't come out the other top.  Allow it to set for a minute or two, then dip the pop, tilting to cover all the cake.  Before it dries, add the 2 white round candies for goggles and wrap a strip of tootsie roll around it to for the strap (some of the characters can have one eye).  Place the sprinkles lengthwise atop the cake pop to make hair.  Wrap the strip of blue fondant around the bottom of the pop, pressing it well into the still-wet candy coating to make it stick.  Use a toothpick dipped into the melted chocolate chips to add eyes to the center of the candy goggles.  Use a toothpick dipped into the blue candy melts to adhere the other two round candies near the bottom of the cake pop to make feet.  Ust the food-color marker to draw on a mouth and a circle with a "G" in it.


It Takes the Cake: Strawberry Filled Chocolate Cake

I'm down to my last jar of strawberry lavender preserves.  This means two things:

1 -- I made just enough preserves last spring to last for the year, as strawberry season is right around the corner, and

2-- I need to come up with something special to do with this last bit of sweet perfection.

So I whipped up a rich chocolate cake, substituting lavender sugar for the granulated sugar, along with a batch of chocolate buttercream.  When I assembled the cake, I spread a layer of the strawberry lavender preserves in the middle.

I piped a simple strawberry design on the top, and did a bright green beaded boarder at the edge of the cake board.

If you'd like to make your own strawberry lavender preserves, here's my recipe:

Strawberry Lavender Preserves:

8 c. strawberries
4 c. lavender-scented sugar (or granulated sugar)
2 tbsp. lavender flowers
Juice of 1 lemon

Wash and hull strawberries and slice using an egg slicer. Combine the strawberries and the lavender sugar in a large pot and heat slowly until the juices become clear (4-6 minutes). Remove from the heat and stir in lemon juice.  Bundle the lavender flowers into a square of cheesecloth and tie securely.  Add the bundle to the strawberry mixture.  Cover the pot loosely with plastic wrap let stand overnight.  When you are ready to proceed, heat 2 or 3 ladles full of the strawberry mixture in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook and stir for 3 -5 minutes, or until the preserves pass one of the tests for reaching the gel state.

Ladle the jam into the sterilized jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of the rim. Repeat with the remaining strawberry mixture.  Process in boiling water canner for 5 minutes.

If you want wore information on canning and are local to the Dallas Fort Worth Area, there is still pelnty of time to sign up for my Fundamentals of Canning class that I will be teaching out at The Universtiy of Texas at Arlington in early June.


It Takes the Cake: Vintage Cake Presses

I love thrift stores.  You never know what you are going to find.  One of the stores I frequent often puts collections of similar items together in plastic bags.  I picked up a bag the other day, and I thought it had cookie cutters in it.  But I could see the word "Wilton" and the copyright date "1972" on the back of one, and since the bag was only $2, I bought it.

There were cookie cutters in there: four Barney ones, to be precise.  (As I don't have any toddlers in the house, those will be going up on Ebay, when I get a chance).

But the Wilton things weren't cookie cutters.  I wasn't sure what they were, but I had a guess, and when I put in the model number (408-91) on the back into Google, my guess was confirmed.  I had picked up an entire set of vintage cake presses. 

Cake presses are neat, and couldn't be simpler to use.  Once you have a base coat of frosting on your cake, you gently press the design onto the cake, creating an outline pattern, which you then trace over with thicker decorative frosting.  You can use one design in the center of a round cake, four of the same design in the corners of a larger rectangular cake, or a repeating / alternating pattern around the side of a tall cake.  Or use your imagination . . .

These can also be used to press a design into fondant, uncooked sugar cookies, royal icing, etc.

I was planning to visit an elderly friend, so I decided to make her a cake and use one of the presses to make a design surrounding her last initial. 


Fort Worth Botanic Garden -- Spring Has Sprung

A couple of days ago, were out at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden taking pictures of new-to-me vintage brooches to go up on my Etsy site.  While we were there, I took some shots of the beautifully intense spring colors.  Enjoy.

These two shots are of pansies.  A humble choice for sprucing up the garden, but look at the effect of a mass planting, and the beauty of a single plant in closeup.

And who could expect such brilliant intense beauty from any other vegetable aside from Swiss Chard?

What could be more of an acknowledgement of spring than a fern unrolling new growth?

And here's a bonus: Two shots of a squirrel who was likewise out enjoying the good weather.