Raiding the larder of ideas.

What one family eats, plans to eat, dreams of eating. Plus, other food and kitchen-related stuff from the home of steak-and-potatoes, pie and fresh green beans from the garden.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Blimey! It's limey! Lime Curd

I bought a couple little bags of little limes, last week, at which time the Bat asked me what I intended to do with them. When I say "little limes," I mean approximately the size of cherry tomatoes. These are not your typical bartender's limes, but closer to key limes (see pic above. That's not a giant lemon, just a regular one, slightly smaller than a baseball). They require some work to juice, since they won't fit into the average citrus juice press. Natch, the Bat was not volunteering to sit all afternoon squidging the little things on one of her gadgets.

I knew that ahead of time. I did some warm-up exercises before I started, today.

Now, you already know the big downside to itsy bitsy citsy... er, um, citrusy things. You're going to have a sore arm, stiff fingers, and a very angry wrist. The upside is, you get a lot more zest per tablespoon of juice. All those little guys have a touch more surface area than one or two big guys. This means, when I got going, I had plenty of extra zest to put into a little tub and pop into the freezer for a later occasion. Plus, some of those peels went down the garbage disposal, making the kitchen smell like... well, like lovely, lovely limes.

Meanwhile, I had, from my two pounds of limes, a little over 1.75 cups of juice and about five tablespoons of zest, and I was ready to roll. So I fixed me up a mess o' curd.

Lime Curd

2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups fresh lime juice
2 Tablespoons lime zest
4 eggs, well-beaten

Place double boiler on high heat. Put sugar, butter, lime juice, and zest in upper level, stir until butter melts.

In a separate small bowl, thoroughly beat the eggs (but not so they're frothy), then whisk two tablespoons of the hot lime mixture into the eggs, stirring to blend well.

Reduce heat to medium until water is just simmering. Gradually add the egg into the lime mix, whisking constantly. Cook in top of double boiler until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon (about 20-25 minutes).

Ladle into clean jars, put lids on them, allow to seal*, and refrigerate when cooled to lukewarm. Best if eaten within a few days.

*the bat taught me the basic trick to sealing foods into a jar... make sure the jars are absolutely clean, still warm. Put fresh new lids into simmering water, allow to stand a few minutes to soften the rubberized seal. Using a canner's funnel, fill your jars with what it is you're planning to preserve. Make sure the rim of the jar is clean. Using tongs, take lid from hot water, place carefully over the top of the jar, then clamp it down with a screw-on canning ring. (At this time, you may also wish to put them through a hot water bath, for greatest degree of canning safety, if you're not planning to refrigerate or to eat within a few days). If you've done it all correctly, as it cools you will hear a little "ping" or "pop" from the creation of a vacuum seal. If it doesn't seal, just pig out or pop it in the fridge.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bunnies, bunnies, bunnies...

Today, I'm breeding bunnies.

The process is very simple -- almost as simple as the mother nature variety (but not nearly so overwhelming, for the uninitiated). In fact, if you go back to my Christmastime post on Mice in the Kitchen, you already have the basics.

You will need a double-boiler and either waxed paper or parchment for this project, as before. But, sorry, no dark chocolate. I also recommend avoiding the use of white chocolate chips, favoring the brick/block style chocolate for this project, because I find that the chips tend to be less inclined to melt smoothly (they're great baked into stuff, but crummy for dipping). And, by my personal preference, I have chosen the white chocolate kisses with cookie crumbs in them, over plain white chocolate or the hugs, with the chocolate stripes. It's mostly esthetic, but then, I also like how the cookie bits cut the excessive sweetness of white chocolate, and these little guys are plenty sweet anyway. I also chose to visit the organic food store for their unsweetened, medium coconut, rather than the other local supermarket brand option, for the same reason (they only carry sugar-added). Sweetened coconut would just be too darned much, for anybody over the age of six.

So, to bunnies.

White Chocolate Marshmallow Bunnies


1 lb white chocolate (block form)
1 bag regular "campfire style" marshmallows
1 bag mini marshmallows
1 bag (12 oz or so) Hershey's white chocolate kisses, your choice of variety
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut, medium or fine flake
sliced almonds or cashew halves


In the upper portion of a double boiler, over low heat*, melt white chocolate. Dip large marshmallows, one at a time, to completely cover them with the white chocolate, set them on parchment or waxed paper to cool a little bit.

While those are cooling, lay out pairs of nuts on another parchment sheet, to form ears (use your own artistic sense to decide whether to point them all in one direction, or to make the "lop ear" arrangement). If you are using almond slices, set them up so the pointier side is left fully exposed, and the round end is the anchor. Dip flat side of kiss into white chocolate (or, dip a tool into it, then spread onto the flat surface), then set that, liquid-side-down, on top of a pair of nuts. Allow to cool a few minutes, to set up. You do not want to try to attach them to the "body" too soon, as they will tend to surrender to gravity if the chocolate is still too soft.

Meanwhile, dip small marshmallow into chocolate. Roll in coconut, let rest on one edge of cooling dipped marshmallow to make the tail.

Add the head (if they've cooled too much for the chocolate to adhere, go ahead and lightly dip again, hold in position for a little while before moving to the next bunny).

Do not allow any two to sit too closely together... bunnies can become a problem, can't they?

1 lb of white chocolate will make approximately 4 dozen bunnies, depending on how thick you layer the chocolate on the marshmallows.

*be careful to keep the temp down, and to stir regularly. White chocolate will quickly turn to lumpy, beige, vanilla-flavored almond bark if allowed to overheat. It tastes okay, but if you wanted pristine white bunnies, you won't get them if you're not on your toes. I speak from experience.

Note: If you don't like the long noses these bunnies have, wait until they're cooled, then heat a knife to melt/cut off a portion, to round the face out a little. I find that the kids who eat these little guys have no complaints about my Cyrano de Bungeracs.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

In line for a decoration

I cheated, this week.

You see, there was this boy, and his sixth birthday, and his expressed interest in chocolate cake, and my having a few other things going on (including preparation for hosting a doll club meeting this coming Tuesday evening -- it's open to anybody who has an interest in dolls/doll-related collectibles). But anyway, I took shortcuts.

I made a cake from mixes, used tubs of pre-fab frosting, and otherwise cut corners (literally, as well as figuratively). But I don't know if anybody will complain, considering all...

I had a set of candle holders in the shapes of circus performers, and, well, things sort of went from there.

This required two packages of identical brand-name, pudding-in-it dark chocolate cake mixes, baked in three pans: 1 angel food ring pan, a standard 8" layer cake pan and 1 form for making taco salad bowls (it was the best I could come up with on short notice to make the cone-ish peak of the tent, & I had to trim away the "wings" all around it). It also used one full standard tub of chocolate whipped frosting to hold the layers together and to hold the colored sugar grass on the plate; the exterior required nearly two full double-sized tubs of white whipped frosting, and a surprisingly small amount of Wilton's icing color to get the white frosting to go all yellow, red and orange. In each case, though, I added a small amount of powdered vanilla, because nothing should ever go straight from the box... and, besides, I like the extra little kiss of flavor of vanilla, in many sweets.

The scariest part of this is, because I used the angel food cake pan, there was this nice, big hollow section in the middle, just right for filling with candy. Naturally, there will be a surprise when the monkey-boy cuts into it. The Bat opened a mess of little packets of hard-candy-coated, chocolate-flavored Sixlets and I mixed them with a handful of sour Runts, and poured them into the unfrosted gap before attaching the peak with chocolate frosting. (I reckon the youngsters will enjoy the candies, while the rest of us have a sip of something a little more adult in nature, because candy is dandy, but....anyway.)

The ropes and trim are made from pull-apart candy whips (wild cherry flavor). The (sadly misshapen) front gate to the tent is made from a brand-name store-bought fruit leather supported by toothpicks, since, even at doubled thickness, the stuff is far too flexible to hold its own shape (no foolin', huh?). I think that, if I choose to do this again, I'll make a frame for it out of white chocolate, first.

The lettering (such as it is) was scribbled using one of those pre-fab icing tubes with the cut-your-own-size tip attached to it. In other words, I cheated. A lot. But I had fun. And I think a birthday boy might be happy with it, too.