Saturday, February 28, 2015

February round-up

Whoosh! There goes another month. Items of note, as recorded on my phone photo album:

My boss sent me flowers! To say thank you for my hard work on the giant project I mentioned a couple of posts back. They brightened up my kitchen for the better part of two weeks and made me happy every time I looked at them. It was such a nice feeling to know why they were there.

Peach-blackberry crumble! I made this for dinner guests early in the month, with some stellar fruit from the farmer's market. I used this crumble topping recipe and topped it with homemade vanilla ice cream (have I mentioned that I got an ice cream maker for Christmas? More on this later, I expect). Although I suspect the shot above might actually be Greek yogurt, which is my preferred crumble topping these days, just FYI in case you're inclined that way.

Birthday cake! Three people on DP's team have February birthdays, and so he asked me to provide a cake for the birthday lunch. You can't see my favorite part: I always end up with extra colored frosting, no matter how lavishly I decorate, so this time I put some of it between the layers as a surprise. Next time I'll do it on a home cake and get a picture.

Scones! Which are actually a vehicle for what's in the jar - spiced pear-blueberry butter. Backstory: I have coffee every Wednesday morning with a group of parents from Miss B's school. Attendance varies, but there is a core group of about a half-dozen of us who are almost always there. For the last couple of weeks, one regular, J, has been bringing bags of pears from his tree to give to all of us, and the cooks among us have been experimenting with them - one of them a fellow food blogger who just posted her second pear creation.

For my contribution, I cooked down about 1 kg/2 lb of pears in the slow cooker until soft, then pureed them in a food mill and returned to the slow cooker to thicken further, along with a generous handful of blueberries. Once the butter had thickened enough that a spoon left a trail across the bottom of the slow cooker, I seasoned with some lime zest and juice, a large pinch of salt, lavish shakes of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and nutmeg, and finished with a good slug of maple syrup. (Fruit butters don't usually need much extra sugar, as the natural sugars are concentrated through the cooking process.) I decanted into sterilized 120 g/4oz canning jars, which I hot water bath canned, making sure I had enough to share, as well as one to serve with scones I made first thing last Wednesday. I used this recipe, omitting the berries and adding half a lime's worth of zest instead.

I didn't get a picture of my favorite dinner of the month, which was last Sunday, when we had a small bunch of friends over. I was in the mood for American food, so I made this kickass honey barbecued chicken, along with potato salad, coleslaw, and rolls. I finished off with a chocolate icebox cake topped with salted caramel sauce, and we ate outside on a perfect late summer evening. It may well have been the high point of this summer for me.

And that wraps up February - first day of autumn tomorrow here in Australia (though temperatures tomorrow are scheduled to be over 30C/90F). What's in store for March?
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