How to peel an orange like a ninja

“I would prefer it it I did not enjoy oranges. Consuming them is a most incommodious business.”

I have long shared the sentiments expressed in today’s quote (which is taken from Eileen Atkins’ character in the BBC miniseries Cranford. Which, as long as I’m on the subject, I may as well tell you is the greatest thing ever and should be watched by everyone).

Who doesn’t love a good orange? Who doesn’t not love the sticky, messy process of trying to consume one?

Up until last week I had never known a really good way to deconstruct an orange. I saw a photo depicting the following method on Pinterest. I didn’t even click on it, I just caught a glimpse of it in passing. It seemed too good to be true, so I mosied on without a second thought. A day or so later, however, I found myself wishing to eat an orange with lunch and this method popped into my mind. I didn’t think it would work, but decided to give it a go just the same. As of now, this may rank as one of the greatest decisions I have ever made.

Perhaps others have already been enlightened by all this, but since it’s new to me I find it very exciting. Also: I’m pretty sure that nobody has ever gotten close enough to a ninja to see how they peel their oranges, but I am certain that this is the method they must use. It’s just that awesome.

Miss Deborah would be proud.

How to peel an orange (like a ninja):

Step One: Use a paring knife to slice the ends off of your orange.

 

Step Two: Pretend you are a surgeon (this isn’t necessary, but it’s more fun) and make a shallow incision along the length of the orange. You want it to be deep enough to go through the skin, but not cut into the fruit.

Step Three: Using your fingers, gently separate the cut and pull open the orange.

VOILA!

Now all you have to do is peel the sections away from the skin and enjoy. I can’t absolutely guarantee sticky-finger-freedom, but I can say with certainty that this is the best and least messy orange-peeling method I’ve ever tried.

It’s the simple things in life, you know?

Ginger Cakie Bars

“Is that man going to be you beau?”
“Billy! No! What made you think such a thing?”
“Aunt Margaret said likely he would fall in love with you, and you wouldn’t want me around any more. Oh, but I was scared! It isn’t so, is it?”
“Indeed, no!”
“I am your beau, ain’t I?”
“Surely you are!” said Elnora, tightening her arm.
“I hope Aunt Kate has ginger cookies,” said Billy with a little skip of delight.

A Girl of the Limberlost (Gene Stratton Porter)

The following cookies are the result of my desiring something like a ginger snap in bar form. The original recipe came from Real Simple’s website but I deviated from it quite a bit, using less sugar and eggs, adding molasses, and leaving out the chocolate chips altogether (and also using baking powder instead of soda by accident. Whoopsy!) You can see that I’m getting more confident when it comes to making adaptations in the kitchen. Hurray for experimenting and trying new things! And not utterly failing at them!

Now, my personal opinion of these cakie bars (I say “cakie” because they’re sort of cookies, but also sort of cakey) is that they are a bit boring by themselves. I recommend eating them with whipped cream or ice cream. Some sort of cream cheese frosting would probably be really good. Or eat them with hot tea or cocoa. Or put in chocolate chips, like Real Simple suggested. There are loads of possibilities, as you can see. That alone makes this recipe worth hanging on to.

Ginger Cakie Bars

1 C butter, at room temperature
2 1/4 C flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves (I omitted)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 C brown sugar
1 C granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 C molasses

Preheat oven to 350˚. Grease a 9×13″ baking dish.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, baking powder and salt.

In a separate bowl, beat together butter and sugars untill fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla, and molasses. Gradually add the flour mixture, beating until just combined.

Spread batter evenly in the prepared baking dish and place in oven for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan before cutting.

Zebra Cheesecake Brownies

Did you ever find a recipe and get excited, because it looked so good, and then tried it out and had your excitement turn to horror as it quickly became obvious that your budding creation was not shaping up the way it was supposed to? And so then you worried about it, and pulled your hair a bit and bit a nail or two. And then the horror/anxiety eventually subsided into relief when you realized that, although what you were making looked nothing like the pictures, it had still turned out pretty doggone good?

That, in a nutshell, is the story of myself and the following recipe.

I found it at Tracie’s Culinary Adventures, under the title of Black & White Cheesecake Bars. They looked fabulous. As ramblingly mentioned above, however, what came out of my oven bears very little resemblance to the original.

Yet they are delicious. Don’t ask me where I went “wrong”, because I haven’t the foggiest idea. But hey… all’s well that ends well.

Given these strange facts, I am christening my version with a different title. They are way more brownie than bar, and look rather zebra-ish, so I’m going with Zebra Cheesecake Brownies. Yum, eh?

Zebra Cheesecake Brownies

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

 

Spray a 9 x 13 baking pan with cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the long sides, then spray the parchment with cooking spray.

Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth. Add 2 eggs and 2 teaspoons of vanilla to the butter mixture and beat until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture. Once all of the flour is incorporated, increase mixer speed to medium and beat until fully incorporated. The batter will be heavy!

Preheat over to 325 F. Set aside 1 cup of the cookie dough – cover and refrigerate. Press the remaining dough into the prepared baking pan. Chill for 30 minutes then bake until the base is set and the edges are puffed, about 25 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, combine the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, 1 egg and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in a medium bowl. Spread over the cooled base. Remove the reserved cookie dough from the fridge and let it soften slightly. The cookie dough can be crumbled on top of the cheesecake layer or, if you prefer, you can use a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip to pipe the dough in diagonal lines (going both ways) over the top of the cheesecake layer. (Note: I highly recommend not being like me and thinking you can make the piping method work without the pastry bag. It’s a messy story. Don’t ask.)

Bake until the filling is set, 25-30 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Once cool refrigerate briefly then, using the overhanging parchment, lift the bars out. Trim the edges and cut into individual bars (about 20).

Newfoundland White Bread

“I am going to learn to make bread to-morrow. So you may imagine me with my sleeves rolled up, mixing flour, milk, saleratus, etc., with a deal of grace. I advise you if you don’t know how to make the staff of life to learn with dispatch.”
Emily Dickinson

Newfoundland. Not only is it a ruggedly beautiful Canadian province and a dog of fluffy persuasion, but (as I have recently learned) it’s a variety of delicious home-made white bread as well.

This is the best Canadian recipe I’ve tried since Nanaimo Bars. It’s also the only Canadian recipe I’ve tried since Nanaimo Bars, but still… it’s a good recipe. I mean, there is nothing like homemade bread, amiright?

Newfoundland White Bread(from Rock Recipes)

Makes 2 medium loaves

  • 5 C flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp (or 1 packet) instant yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 3 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 C warm milk

 

Combine 3 cups of the flour along with the sugar, instant yeast and salt in a large bowl or in the bowl of a large electric mixer that uses a dough hook. Add the melted butter and warm milk. Using a wooden spoon or the regular paddle of your electric mixer beat for 4-5 minutes until the mixture is smooth with no lumps.

If using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook at this point and begin to slowly incorporate the remaining 2 cups of flour. If not using an electric mixer keep mixing in the flour gradually until a soft dough forms that leaves the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto the countertop or bread board to knead. Add extra flour as needed. Knead the dough for an additional 10 minutes either in the electric mixer or on a bread board or countertop.

Cover dough and leave to rest and rise for one hour. Punch the dough down and knead it for a few minutes by hand before letting it rest for another 10 minutes.

Grease 2 medium loaf pans. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions, forming each division into a ball. Place 2 balls of dough in each loaf pan. Cover with a clean towel and allow the dough to rise until it is about 2 inches above the rim of the pan, about 2 hours.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

When baked, turn loaves out onto a wire rack to cool. Brush the tops with melted butter if desired to soften the top crust.

 

 

 

Spaghetti with Garlic Gravy

“No man is lonely while eating spaghetti:
it requires so much attention.”
— Christopher Morley

“Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in oil in screwtop jars. Too lazy to peel fresh? You don’t deserve to eat garlic.”
— Anthony Bourdain

Are you guys watching the Olympics? I never miss ’em. Never ever.

Now, I have always been much more a spectator than a participator when it comes to sports. I played pee-wee basketball and tee-ball as a youth, and took a tennis class in college. And even though I owned the push-up category of the Presidential fitness challenge in grade school, I am not an athlete in any sense of the word. I’m the girl that got picked last for Capture-the-Flag teams, and then got stuck with flag-guarding duty every single time.

This is all OK. I am at peace with my un-athleticalness. There is nothing wrong with just watching sports and letting others do the competing.

I don’t know why, but the Olympics always bring out a different side. They inspire such ridiculous questions as, “Is it too late for me to become an elite competetive kayaker?” and “Could I possess an as-of-yet undiscovered water polo gene?” The answer is always a resounding YES (to the former) and NO (to the latter). So I content myself by considering that if daydreaming were an Olympic event, I’d be a perennial gold-medal contender.

Another great way to content one’s un-athletic self? Spaghetti with garlic gravy, crab, and cherry tomatoes.

I found this recipe at Goddess of Scrumptiousness, and switched it up a bit, omitting the lemon-marinated chicken and replacing it with imitation crab. My way was tasty, but I do not doubt the original to be quite smashing as well.

Spaghetti with Garlic Gravy

  • 1 package of spaghetti, cooked
  • 1/4 C butter
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 4 cloves finely minced garlic
  • 2 T flour
  • 2 1/2 C chicken stock
  • 1 T fresh basil, chopped
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 C fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 C cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Grated parmesan cheese

–  Place sauté pan over medium heat and add butter and olive oil.

–  Saute garlic until fragrant and soft.

–  Add the flour and cook for a minute.

–  Add chicken stock and simmer gravy until thickened then add the chopped basil.

–  Season with salt and pepper.

–  Add the  cooked spaghetti into this  sauce.

–  Add the cherry tomatoes and finish the dish with the chopped parsley and grated parmesan cheese.

Cheerio Bars

Note: I have been trying to find a theme/header/background for this blog that satisfies me ever since I started it. Satisfaction continues to elude me. I thank my readers for their patience with all the tinkering.

***

This year for the first time in… well, pretty much for the first time ever, I planted some things in the garden. Patience isn’t my strongest suit, which is probably what has prevented my doing so  in the past. Starting something in March or April, tending it continuously, and not receiving the benefits until July? Previously, I would have said a vehement “no thanks” to the idea.

My tune has changed, though, and I’m glad for it. Now we have fresh flowers to brighten up the house and a robust supply of fresh herbs. There will be tomatoes coming along soon.

My glee in all of these things is such that I feel the need to take a copious amount of photographs of my “babies” and also to inflict them on the public. Heaven help you all should I ever have real children.

 

OK, so in the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t grow this Queen Anne’s Lace. It popped up of its own accord. But it’s so photogenic, I couldn’t resist.

Last week I took it a little further (too far, perhaps) and sneaked into the neighbor’s yard to take pictures of her sunflowers. Because a rabbit (presumably) ate the ones I was trying to grow.

I like sunflowers.

But what does all this have to do with cheerio bars?

Nothing whatsoever, to own the truth.

There was a period of time in my younger days when this recipe would get made in our house from time to time. Somewhere between then and now it was lost (and nearly forgotten). I discovered it recently on Pinterest and was only too happy to resurrect it. Plus, this version prescribed a melted chocolate topping (which was new to me) and, even though the chocolate-melting process continues to give me fits (you can see the funky consistency in the photos that follow. It isn’t supposed to be like that) I must say that it makes for a brilliant addition.
The original recipe calls for Special K, but you could also use Rice Chex or Krispies, and I made it work with Cheerios.

Cheerio Bars – or Special K Bars, or what-have-you (from the delightful Yammie’s Noshery)

  • 6 cups of your cereal of choice
  • 1 C light corn syrup
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 1/2 C peanut butter
  • 2 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 C butterscotch chips
  • Additional 1/2 C peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Grease a large round bowl and pour the cereal in. Set aside. Grease a 9×13 inch pan. Set aside.

In a pan on the stove-top, combine the corn syrup and sugar. Stir with a rubber spatula over medium high heat until it comes to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and stir in 1 1/2 cups of peanut butter. Immediately pour this mixture over the cereal and fold in well until no gobs of caramel remain. Pour into the 9×13 pan and pat flat.

In a microwaveable dish, combine the butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, 1/2 cup of peanut butter, and vanilla. Microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring very well after each interval, until it is completely melted and smooth. Pour over the bars. Allow to cool completely at room temperature before cutting.

 

See the weirdness of the chocolate? *Sigh*

Banana Peanut Butter “Ice Cream”

“Ice cream is exquisite.  What a pity it isn’t illegal.” -Voltaire

I realize that I have developed a habit of starting out every post here by telling you how much I love a certain thing, and I acknowledge that it is high time I start being a little more original.

Today is not the day for that, though.

Because you must know: I love ice cream. I love it to bits. I love things like cookies and pie with much ardour as well, but there is nothing I love more than ice cream in the summertime. Nothing.

Strictly speaking, the following recipe is not ice cream at all. It is what you might call a “healthier alternative”. Now, words like “healthy” and “alternative” coupled together would usually cause me to recoil like a vampire from direct sunlight. I’m all for healthy eating, but when you have a phrase like “healthier alternative” it almost always denotes an inferior version of some delicacy that cannot be improved upon. Like turkey bacon. *Shudder*

In this case, however, I can have no such qualms. It may not be “real” ice cream, but the yummy factor is off the charts and the texture is awesome. And it’s as easy as you please to make. And there is a lot of room for experimentation, which I always love.

In short, this summer treat is definitely worth a try.

Banana Peanut Butter “Ice Cream” (from Got Chocolate)

  • 1 1/2 bananas, peeled and sliced into coins
  • 3 T peanut butter
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 rounded T chocolate chips

Pop the sliced banana pieces in the freezer ’til they’re frozen solid.

Place frozen bananas in a food processor and blend until you have a smooth pulp.

Add peanut butter and honey and mix thoroughly.

Stir in chocolate chips by hand.

Remove to a freezer-safe container and freeze until solid.

Enjoy! 🙂


Baked Spaghetti

When you really want to show some love, keep the flowers and say it with spaghetti.  
-Rachael Ray

Cooking for your family or friends is one thing. You want a challenge? Try preparing a meal for thirty-plus college athletes.

In the months of June and July that is exactly what my family does on a regular basis. The New Market Rebels are part of Virginia’s Valley Baseball League, a summer affair made up of college players and wooden bats. Our little team is actually owned by the community, and runs on volunteer power. Everyone has a role, and ours is to ensure that the team is well fed following each home game. There’s a lot of work involved, but it’s the so-very-worth-it kind.

This past Sunday we prepared a feast of baked spaghetti, using a recipe I concocted several months ago. I am happy to report that it seemed to be well-received. I myself find that I prefer this baked spaghetti to the traditional variety.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos of the finished product. I got all excited (due to a particularly memorable conclusion to the game that was being played) and forgot to take them. Walk-off home runs tend to have that effect, you know.

Baked Spaghetti (Yields a 13×9 dish full. If you’re feeding an army like I was doing, just multiply by 8.)

-1 pkg. spaghetti
-1 good-sized can or jar of spaghetti sauce
-4 T butter (melted, or at least melty)
-1/3 C grated Parmesan cheese
-3 Eggs
-1-2 C shredded mozzarella cheese
-1 lb. Italian sausage, cooked

Cook pasta according to package instructions.

In a big bowl, mix together the butter, eggs, and Parmesan. Throw the pasta in and toss to coat.

Apply a thin layer of sauce to the bottom of a 13×9 baking dish. Top with a layer of your prepped pasta, then another layer of sauce. Continue the layering process until you’ve used up all your sauce and pasta. Top with crumbled sausage and mozzarella.

Bake at 350° for about half an hour.

Summer Chickpea Salad

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

-F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby)

I love chickpeas. Have I mentioned that? They are, without contest, my favorite legume. They’re great in whatever form they take. Throw ’em in a soup? Delicious. Roast ’em? Delectable. Make ’em into hummus? So tasty (I could honestly eat hummus and pita chips all the day long).

When I saw the recipe for this simple, summery, colorful chickpea salad, I jumped on it. I made it almost immediately, for a picnic, even though I didn’t have any peppers or cherry tomatoes. It might have to make a reappearance once the garden starts producing.

For a light, lovely and fresh summer side dish, you won’t do any better. Especially if you share my love of chickpeas.

Summer Chickpea Salad (Courtesy Heat Oven to 350. Check out their photography… it’s gorgeous.)

2 cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans) rinsed and drained
2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 cucumber, halved and sliced thin
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 T olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 T chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions:
1. In a large bowl, combine chickpeas, tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients, except the Parmesan cheese.

3. Pour the dressing over the chickpea mixture and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and top with Parmesan cheese before serving, if desired.

Jammie Dodgers

“I’m going to need a SWAT team ready to mobilise, street over maps covering all of Florida, a pot of coffee, twelve Jammie Dodgers and a fez.”

It’s confession time. My name is Elizabeth Kipps, and I’m an Anglophile.

If it’s British, I’m probably into it.

I wish I could spell words like “color” and “favorite” with u’s and get away with it. I would rather call diapers “nappies”. I love Austen and Dickens and Tolkien, Leicestershire accents and Robin Hood and The Beatles. I watch Downton Abbey, Sherlock and almost every period-drama miniseries the BBC turns out. I have eaten Jelly Babies and, while the notion of baby-shaped candy is disturbing, I love them.

I do not wish we drove on the left-side on our end of the pond. But most Englishy things delight me. Perhaps it’s because some British royalty are among my ancestors (which practically makes me a princess. True story.)

This love is what compelled me to make these cookies, er… “biscuits”. Even without that factor, though, how could one not want to make and consume any cookie biscuit that is called a “jammie dodger”? It is pretty much the greatest name ever.

So grab yourself a jammie dodger, a nice cuppa, a friend, and settle down with some Doctor Who reruns. I can’t think of much else I’d rather do.

(Beats fish fingers and custard.)

***

Jammie Dodgers (adapted and “translated” from The Pretty Blog)

1/2 C butter
2 Eggs
1 C sugar
2 1/2 C flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 C jam (I used raspberry)
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting (optional)

1. Cream the butter and sugar together until light, fluffy and pale.

2.  Add eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition. Sieve in the flour, baking powder and salt and mix well until a dough forms. Leave the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.

3. Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut out circles using a round cookie cutter. Cut shapes with a smaller cutter out of the centre of half of the circles. Place them all on a lined baking tray.

4. Bake  for  8-10 minutes.

5. When the cookies are done,  remove the tray  from oven and allow to cool. To assemble, sandwich the whole circles and the cut-out rounds together with jam.

6. Leave out for a while in order to let the jam to set. If desired, dust with confectioner’s sugar.

I might have cheated and made a few with Nutella instead of jam…