Strawberry jam – no pectin

  • 1 lemon
  • 1020g strawberries
  • 4 cups sugar
  1. Rinse the strawberries quickly under cold water. Dry with a kitchen towel, and cut off their stems. Cut them in halves or quarters if they’re big, leave the small ones whole.
  2. Put the strawberries together with the sugar and the lemon juice in a porcelain dish, such as a terrine dish. Cover with a sheet of parchment paper, and let macerate overnight.
  3. The next day, put the strawberry mixture in a large saucepan and bring just to a simmer. Pour the mixture back into the dish, cover with parchment paper, and let rest in the refrigerator overnight again.
  4. On the third day, put a saucer in the freezer. Wash the glass jars and their lids carefully, then soak them in boiling water for 10 minutes, and set them out to dry upside down on a clean kitchen towel.
  5. Pour the mixture through a silk sieve (I just used a regular sieve). Bring the syrup you’ve gathered to a boil, and let it boil for ten minutes. The goal temperature, if you have a candy thermometer, which I don’t, is 105°C (221°F). Remove the foam cautiously with a spoon (I personally leave the foam alone, I don’t mind the foam).
  6. Add in the strawberries, the mint and the pepper. Bring to a boil for another 5 minutes, stirring gently. Remove the foam again if you want.
  7. Take the saucer out of the freezer, and put a drop of jam on it. Tilt the saucer, and see if the jam is set. If not, let it boil for another minute, then test again until you’ve reached the desired consistency.
  8. Pour the jam into the jars until they are full, wipe carefully if there was any spillage and close the lids tightly. Let cool to room temperature upside-down on the counter, then store in a cool and dark place for a few months.
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Ricotta Cake with Blueberries


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup blueberries


Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 9-inch cake pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the first four ingredients. In another large bowl combine eggs, ricotta, vanilla extract, and butter. Slowly combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients. Once combined, gently fold in the blueberries, careful not break them. Pour batter into cake pan and bake for about 60 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven to cool before slicing and dusting with confectioners sugar.

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Road Trip Planning

We spent quite a long time planning the route for our Epic Summer 2017 Roadtrip. We looked at hours to drive in a day,  availability of accommodations, distance from the main travel route, and did it sound like an okay place to stay.  We ended up finding 13 great sounding properties – 12 from Airbnb and another from VRBO.

Our Route is Beavercreek > Twin Falls > Laramie > Des Moines > London > Montreal > Quebec City > Charlottetown > West Bath > Rochester > Fort Wayne > Eau Claire > Bismark > Missoula > Beavercreek.

Now we’re planning our route each day.  When should we leave? When will we arrive? Where should we eat? Should we take a picnic? Where should we stop for fun, shopping, site seeing?

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Our Epic, Family Road-Trip

Sometime around St. Patrick’s Day, I bumped into a Facebook post comparing a lovely little corner of the world to mother Ireland.  It resonated with me, seemed to be such a wild and beautiful place that I looked further.  It became clear that this place – green and rural, small-town and snowy, full of lobsters and Irish moss – might be the place for me to retire to when the time comes…..and thus began the plan for the ‘Epic, Gardner Family (minus one that hates riding in the car) Road-trip’ – – almost 8,000 miles to Prince Edward Island Canada.

Last night we booked the anchor property – the place we will stay for 7 nights – a charming 2 bedroom home located in Historic Downtown Charlottetown. It is a five minute walk to the shops, restaurants, and theatres Downtown Charlottetown has to offer. The historic Charlottetown Waterfront and the Charlottetown Event Grounds are only minutes away.

…..and so….the adventure begins.

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Our Cider Mill is finally Home – and in Need of Repair

Almost 20 years ago, we found a beautiful, old cider mill and press that someone wanted out of their backyard.  We offered them $85.00 and managed to get it into the truck and home.  We cleaned it up and it lived inside for a few year (mostly in the way), eventually making it out into the garage when our apple trees got big enough to make pressing viable.  It was still in the way so we made the decision to lend it to an environmental learning center in a neighboring school district until we had a better place for it.  We would take our apples there to press, they could use it for their harvest celebrations with kids, and they would see if they could find someone to fix the legs which were deteriorating.  Severl years on, we have never been able to coordinate getting our apples there, the kids love it, and the repairs have not happenes, if anything it’s worse (not their fault, just happend) so we’ve decided to bring her home.  What follows will be posts of our attempts at fixing her up back to the glory something that beautiful deserves.  This post will be the “before”.

Posted in May 2017 | Leave a comment

Lovely May Weekend

We had two days in a row with breaks from the rain……time to head outside and do a little gardening.  Yesterday was errands day, and then I was, I must admit, a little lazy.  Today, I was up with the sun, cleaned the house, straightened the refrigerator, and tended to the dairy chores.

I made…..

  • Viili Starter Culture (5200): A Finnish yoghurt variety, Viili is very mild and creamy, with a fairly thick consistency. It’s a versatile favorite that’s perfect on its own or in any yoghurt recipe.
  • Matsoni Starter Culture (5202):  Matsoni, from The Republic of Georgia, has a thin, custard-like texture with notes of honey. Its flavor is the most “yoghurty” and is a popular choice for frozen yoghurt.

I haven’t tried these cultures yet.  They incubate at room temperature and don’t require a yoghurt machine.

There was also……

A batch of the yoghurt I typically make, started from a store bought yoghurt.  This one I scald the milk to 175 degrees, cool it back to 115 degrees add the starter yoghurt and incubate for 5-6 hours.

The jar to the left is culturing milk kefir and the others on the right are cultures of crème fraîche.  The batch closest to the yoghurt maker is cream, the far right jar is milk.  Both were heated to 85 degrees before some crème fraîche starter was added.

I also find it hard to pass up butter making in the spring when the cream is so bright yellow from the new grass.  I had a little over 1 quarts of cream, and now I have a nice bit of delicious butter and a jar of buttermilk for cooking.

After the morning chill burned off, I made my way outside to put in the start of my new herb garden.  I’ve tried several spots around the house and they are either too far from the kitchen, too prone to being taken over by quack-grass or too close to too much dog hair.  I decided to try the bed in front of the garage.  It’s close to the front door, has a sidewalk acting as a quack-grass-barricade, and is protected from dog fur by the garage.  It also seemed to winter over my tiny Bay Tree and a Thyme plant from last summer when all of the others frozen in our record cold spell.

I put in fennel, dill, variegated oregano, green oregano, thyme, and sage. I was also able to pick up some violas last week on clearance for $0.40 so I added them to the window boxes of lettuce and nasturtium.  In addition, I potted up a clearance lavender and a pretty little lemon scented geranium.

The potatoes I put in a week of two ago have started coming up in the galvenized tub.  It will soon be time to add some extra soil.



Its beautiful and green outside.  The perfect time to add a little green inside the kitchen.  Fresh herbs and cress are tasty and beautiful.

Posted in May 2017, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

April (and her showers) coming to and end

Another weekend is coming to a close.  It’s been a busy one.

On Thursday afternoon I picked up a few more vegetable starts for the kailyaird.  I put broccoli, red cabbage, green cabbage, Hubbard squash, acorn squash, round zucchini, patty pan squash, fava beans, and another eggplant in the beds and planted a couple of pickling cucumbers in an old galvanized garbage can.  The onion starts still need to be planted as does the dill plant.   I also found a sweet little lavender on clearance that I need to find a pot for.

Saturday morning we rushed out to Forest Grove, OR for the OSAA State Solo/Ensemble Competition.  Our youngest had placed first in the district competition and was competing for the state title.  He played really well , coming 6th in the field of 21.  We were really proud of how well he did.

On the way home from the competition, Saturday, we  stopped by the farm to get milk.  I finally was able to get a photo of the dairy cow.  She’s lovely.

Down the road a bit, we stopped in Canby and picked up three peppers (chilis) – yet to be planted.  We also bought three nasturtiums for the window boxes.  I added some Romaine lettuce to the boxes and sprinkled around some additional nasturtium seeds.

Sunday morning we did a little grocery shopping and stopped by a thrift shop.  I found a really beautiful 1948 copy of Dante’s Divine Comedies, a beautifully carved pottery bowl, a Mahor face mug for Joe’s collection and a few wonderful candles.  I also bottled the hot sauce that’s been fermenting since October.

In the afternoon, we trimmed the water suckers from the apple and pear trees – probably no the right time of year, but Oh Well.



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Starting the Garden

The 2017 gardening season officially began this weekend.  I did a bit of weeding and planted the following:

  • lettuce – 1 start – back garden
  • garlic – 9 starts – back garden
  • kale – 1 start  back garden
  • zucchini – 1 start – kitchen garden
  • tomatoes – 4 starts – kitchen garden
  • strawberries – 6 starts – back garden
  • potatoes – 3 varities – greenhouse garden (red), galvenized tub (fingerling), kitchen garden (russett)
  • peas – seeds – kitchen garden
  • beets – seeds – kitchen garden
  • mesclun mix – seeds – kitchen garden
  • spinach – back garden
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Bakery Visit #9 – Redbud Cafe (Blanco, Texas)

The latest stop on the “52 Bakeries in 52 Weeks” Goal – The Redbud Cafe (#9) in Blanco, Texas.
The Redbud was huge inside, serving bakery items along with lunch and breakfast, and a big selection of wine and beer.  They also had a nice selection of cookies and other baked goods – yeah for the peanut butter cookie.

Posted in Bakery Trips, March 2017 | Leave a comment

Remember the Alamo – Texas Vacation

We don’t vacation ofter, but this year we took a trip to visit family in Austin, Texas for Spring Vacation.  We went into Austin the first day, visited their new VooDoo Doughnut (from Portland), went down to Congress street, and saw the Capital Building.  That evening we took a boat trip on Ladybird Lake to see the thousands of bats come out from under the Congress Bridge at dusk.

The second day, we drove down the highway to San Antonio, saw the Alamo and the beautiful buildings downtown.  We took the highway through Hill Country home.  We drove through the beautiful little towns of Dripping Springs and Blanco.  The wildflowers were just starting to bloom  –Bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis)and Indian paintbrush (Castilleja spp.) were just starting to peek out.

The next day, we went back to Blanco to visit the cafe, pottery studio  and antique stores that were all closed when we drove through the day before.  On the way down we tried to stop at the Texas Hills Olive Oil Company but it was closed on Tuesdays.  Along the little country road we found a spill-over – rather than the water running through a culvert under the road, it runs right over the road n- gorgeous.  In Blanco, I found an antique butter press for a souvenir and a handmade casserole dish with an armadillo on the lid and had a bite to eat at the Redbud Cafe.  On the way home, we stopped at the Andalusia Whiskey Co. where Joe tried the White Pearl, the Revanent Oak and the Striker.  The place is beautiful and the proprietor was so friendly and knowledgable.

Posted in March 2017 | Leave a comment