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Recently my three year old wanted a Doctor Who/Princess birthday party. She is being raised by nerds! So we planned a menu surrounding these themes. We had fish fingers and “custard” (garlic aioli), bowtie pasta salad, chips, hor d’ouerves, wibbly wobbly timey wimey jello jigglers, princess tea party jello and puddings, and . . .Dalek cupcakes.

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I sort of ran out of time and they aren’t the most perfect dalek cupcakes ever made, but I will share my recipe with you! What I did was turn a cupcake upside down, top it with a mini cupcake, pour chocolate ganache all over it, then used pretzels and chocolate chips to make them look like Daleks. I used a very old-fashionedy recipe for cupcakes that uses vinegar and olive oil as the leavening agent, so they are vegan without the ganache.

The recipe for the cake came from here: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/super_easy_super_moist_chocolate_cupcakes/. Thank you!

The rest of the recipe is a bit less exact.I heated an 8 oz carton of heavy cream in a small saucepan, just before the boiling point. Then I poured half a bag each of milk chocolate and dark chocolate chips into a heat proof bowl and poured the hot cream on top of them. I blended the chocolate into the cream until it resembled chocolate syrup and then left it in the fridge for a while to harden up, about 30 minutes. You don’t want the resulting ganache to be too solid or to runny, find a balance.

Once the ganache is ready get out your cupcakes and take off the wrappers. Take a large one, turn it upside down, apply a bit of ganache to attach the small cupcake to the top, then as neatly as you can, pour the genache all over both cupcakes, smoothing as you go. Do this to all the cupcakes, and then let them sit in the fridge a few minutes to harden just enough so you can put on the chocolate chips and pretzels without them sliding all over the place. Voila!

Now go and CE-LE-BRATE!

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Over the last few weeks I have started numerous projects involving just learning how the processes work. Mostly fermentation as it’s useful in many ways. It’s also very well suited to my life. You just mix together certain (and usually very few) ingredients and let them sit until they are ready. While the fermentation is happening there is usually very little maintenance involved.

Sauerkraut FermentationSo what are these projects I’ve been working on? First I started sauerkraut. I purchased a very nice two gallon crock through Ace Hardware online, which they delivered to the store for free  then I just had to pick it up. Then I chopped the three heads of green and white cabbage I had acquired locally, added them to the crock in layers. In each layer I sprinkled canning salt and pushed the cabbage down with my fists to draw the water out of it. There was supposed to be enough water when I finished to cover the cabbage so here I mixed a little canning salt in water and poured it over the cabbage to cover. Then you put a plate that fits inside the crock on top and place a heavy weight on it. At first I used a pumpkin as a weight, but should have known that putting it in salty water slowing gaining acidity was a a bad idea. So now it has half gallon jar filled with water on top. Every couple of days you have to check on its “bloom.” Which is a really nice word for the mold that gathers on top. It kind of freaks me out, but the sauerkraut is protected by the salty brine and the rising acidity.

When the kraut is all fermented and ready to go, I will post about it again!

Sourdough Starter and My ScaleAlso I am creating a sourdough starter for bread. This process uses no added yeast. The flour and water are mixed together in a non-reactive container and agitated every day by pouring out half of the mixture and adding new flour and water. I pour into the compost, but you could also make new starters out of it for yourself or to pass on to friends. What happens by the agitation is the waking up of the naturally occurring yeasts in the flour and the air.

To make your own sourdough starter first acquire a couple of supplies. A kitchen scale is very useful. The recipe I use is measured in  grams. Also a non-reactive container. I use a Pyrex bowl with a lid. When you actually get your starter activated, you will need a colander or basket, some canvas, and a large bowl, but the actual baking will be another post. So all you have to do is mix 200 grams of unbleached white flour and 200 grams on water in your non-reactive container. Put a lid on it and set it on your counter. Every day you pour off about half of the mixture and mix in 100 grams of flour and 100 grams of water until it is active. Bam! In about a week, it will be bubbly, like you added yeast to it, and it will have a lovely sourdough smell.

Active Starter

 Soon I will post about experiences keeping it active and baking with it! I think it’s so exciting when you can make things happen, just with what nature has available. It may take a little longer, but isn’t what we need as a society is a sense of patience and a feeling of creation?

So it’s the end of the season and you have a garden full of green tomatoes that you could allow to sit on your counter and redden. It will take a couple of weeks, but it will happen eventually. Or if you’re like me and ended up with dozens and dozens of little green cherry tomatoes, what do you do with them? Well there are quite a few things you could do. If you are also finding yourself with a load of cabbage, you could do chow chow, which is delish. Or you could do a relish, or some other kind of pickled green tomato thing. Or you could do what I did and make a salsa. I happened to have a lot of peppers and onions as well as tomatoes. It is very good! And it’s relatively easy, once you get everything chopped. This was quite a chore for me since I have dozens of little, tiny tomatoes.

This is the recipe I used:

5 lbs green tomatoes, chopped small (as you prefer for salsa)
6 yellow onions, chopped (4 cups)
3 jalapenos, chopped with seeds (1/2 cup)
4 large red bell peppers, chopped (2 cups)
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 cup lime juice1/2 cup vinegar1 tablespoon salt1/2 tablespoon cumin1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves2 teaspoons pepper1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional, to taste)
1 -2 teaspoon sugar

Combine everything in a large pot, mixing well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. To continue canning, bring salsa to a boil.
Ladle salsa into hot sterile jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe lids and jar edges clean before finger tightening lids and placing them back in the boiling canning pot.Process (boil) jars for 15 minutes. Remove carefully and let sit for 24 hours. Check lids for seal, and refrigerate any unsealed jars
I wish I would have added more peppers or more spice. It really didn’t turn out spicy enough for me, but it is still really good. I just spice it up right before using it.
Queen Anne's Lace Jelly

Queen Anne's Lace Jelly

On another note, Ellipsis Books and More is on Etsy with jams, jellies, teas, and antiquarian books. Vintage and handmade tea ware are coming soon! We will be doing gift baskets for Christmas. This is really, really exciting and I’m so happy to finally have this part of Ellipsis realized. Hopefully someday I will selling out of my very own physical store and farming sustainably on a large scale.

I’m reading this fantastic book called “Vertical Farming” by Dr. Dickson Polmmier. It is unbelievable what ideas are floating around right now. This man is purposing taking the farm directly to the cities by way of skyscrapers that use hydroponic techniques to produce food all year round. How cool is that? I would love to do that on a smaller scale in a smaller town also involving a small geodesic dome. When people start putting these plans into practice, them everyone else will realize that it’s not too late.

Things are going well I think. I only wish the proper direction would reveal itself. I have been researching ways to raise money to start a physical Ellipsis as well as the best and least expensive ways to create sustainable ways of operating a business. Here in Galena there are possibilities of renting a store front. The biggest obstacle is how to grow enough Camelia to make enough tea. The answer I think, is to build a geodesic dome. It’s a pretty amazing concept. Essentially a greenhouse, it is a dome built from triangles. The idea of them is that they are entirely self-sustaining, meaning everything from the heating to the water flow is all created within once introduced. And since they are built of wood and polycarbonate panels with UV glazing, it can withstand very severe weather conditions. All this; however, is a very big undertaking and would require either the use of or purchase of property.  Where as if the move to California happens I could grow a whole field of Camelia right in the open.

I am fascinated with the idea of building a structure that could grow fresh food all year round. It would be like creating a paradise with the perfect temperature all year round. A little oasis. According to growing spaces, a company out of Colorado that manufactures geodesic dome kits, a dome that is 22 feet in diameter can produce food for 4 to 5 people all year round. Imagine if every community had a large geodesic dome to grow food. Our food would be entirely in our hands. Radish Relish and Black Raspberry Jam

Anyroad, I made some delicious black raspberry jam yesterday. I did not use pectin and it turned out lovely. A little softer than typical jam, but delicious none the less. And also a batch of radish relish. I love how pink it is. The radish mix and watermelon radishes I planted really made for a pretty relish. It’s good on crackers or a sandwich like regular relish. I will share the recipe for the relish with you.

Radish Relish

3 cups stemmed radishes
2 large ribs celery
1 large red onion
2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 tbls mustard seed
2 tsp dill seed
1/2 tsp celery seed
1 cup vinegar
2 tbls prepared horseradish

Put the radishes, celery and onion through the coarse blade of a grinder, or chop them finely. Mix with remaining ingredients and allow to stand three hours. Bring to a boil in a large pan and cook ten minutes. Pour into hot jars, leaving half-inch head space. Adjust lids and process 1/2 pints and pints in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

Watermelon RadishThe watermelon radishes are so pretty. I have to thank Rachel for these seeds.

Ellipsis really is getting closer and closer to full conception all the time. Wouldn’t you love to sit in a cozy used book store sipping a cup of locally grown artisan tea, eating a scone with some homemade black raspberry jam? And to top it off, the business is as sustainable as it feasibly can be at that given moment and it is working to make your community a better place to live and work. This is something I must make happen, wherever the future takes Ellipsis Books and More.

I have been scouring the internBlack Raspberry Bushet and every cookbook I own searching for the proper baked goods to serve with tea. There are oh so many though and it’s very hard to narrow it down to a few to start with. So I said to myself, how about doing something will all those black raspberries all over the place. They are literally everywhere out there. I picked enough for some cakes, jam, and to just eat plain on my cereal. And I found a delicious looking Black Raspberry Almond Tea Cake.

The cake itself was delicious. I wish I lived in an area where I could grow almonds. Well you never know very soon maybe we will relocate to California and there I could grow almonds . .. Drizzled over the cake it had an almond glaze and I sprinkled some fresh raspberries on top. The only problem with this cake was that it does not keep longer than the next morning. So it would not be practical for the store.

Black Raspberry Almond Tea Cakes

Black Raspberry Almond Tea Cakes

1 tbsp almond extract
1/3 cup oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup Buttermilk (can substitute milk with 1 tsp white vinegar)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
2 cups raspberries

1 tbsp cream
1/4 tsp almond extract
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tsp sliced toasted almonds

Preheat to 325. Combine all wet ingredients, them mix in sugar. Add dry until well combined, then fold in raspberries. Pour batter into greased mini pans or into a greased bundt pan. Bake for 50 to 45 minutes. For glaze combine cream and almond extract, add powdered sugar until combined into a pourable glaze. Add almonds. Allow cakes to cool slightly, drizzle glaze on top just before serving. Garnish with fresh raspberries.

This is a quest that will continue . . .

It’s been a slow and mellow day today. I watered the plants, put the tomatoes out in the sun for a bit, took a walk, and added some books to our Alibris site.

I wanted to share the recipe for the lavender creme brulee I made Monday night for a birthday party. It was delicious.

2 1/4 cups heavy creamLavender Creme Brulee
1.2 cup sugar
1 vanilla pod
1/2 tsp dried lavender or 2 tsp fresh lavender flowers
5 large egg yolks
Sugar for the topping

Preheat to 325 degrees In a medium sauce pan, combine cream and 1/2 cup sugar. Slice vanilla pod down the middle and scrape out the seeds. Put seeds and pod in the cream mixture, add lavender. Bring to a boil over medium heat whisking constantly until it comes to a simmer and bubbles form along the edges. turn off heat and put the lid on the mixture. Let it steep so the lavender and vanilla flavors permeate the custard. Now whisk the egg yolks very well in a large glass measuring cup, then mix in the hot cream mixture until very well combines. Divide into ramekins. Place the ramekins in a large roasting pan and fill with water half way to the top of the ramekins. Bake until the custard is set but still slightly wobbly in the center, about 35 minutes. Cool on a baking rack then put in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Before serving sprinkle the tops generously with sugar then either use a culinary torch or your oven broiler to melt and caramelize the sugar.

This was so good. The lavender flavor was very subtle along with the smooth vanilla. Some day I would love to grow vanilla orchids in the greenhouse. We paired our creme brulee with a pot of loose leaf plum black tea. It was a wonderful pairing.

Look for an update on our gardens tomorrow. The mints and herbs are doing great and the veggies are getting big. We’ll be harvesting radishes soon to make a big batch of radish relish for canning. Also the black raspberries are beginning to ripen. They are every where. So we will harvest some of them to dry and incorporate into teas, others to make jams, and the rest for experimenting with. I’m thinking lemon curd black raspberry tarts . . .

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