Saturday, April 19, 2014

Whole Lemon Cake with Yogurt-Olive Oil Glaze

While Russ replanted some blackberry and raspberry bushes along the south fence line I made this Easter cake for us.  I used whole Meyer lemons and semolina flour.  The farmhouse smells divine right now.  I used the most beautiful golden imported olive oil in the glaze, some of which has now been absorbed into the cake.  Lemon love.

I initially found a recipe for a whole orange cake that I still might try but then I saw this version that is made with semolina flour.  I had to purchase the semolina and Meyer lemons at a fresh market store in Louisville but it's totally worth it.

It's a beautiful day in the bluegrass.  Today is the last day Keeneland is in session so there are lots of tourists driving through Versailles and past our house.  I'll be sad when Russ mows the lawn later however.  It's a complete blanket of wild violets right now and I love them so much.  I walk the dogs to the back of the property and look back across a wash of purple.  I'm so inspired by a simple visual buzz like that.  The violets are so fleeting and after the winter we all just had I'm so grateful for them.

We've got the wine and the cake, the grill and the music, and my heirloom tomato seeds are in their starter soil doing their thing.  It's a great start to spring. 

Here's the recipe for this cake.  I based it off of the recipe I got off of this lovely blog.  I changed a few things.  The recipe I got this from asks you to use a small bundt pan but I don't have a small one.  I think you could also use two smaller cake pans and make a small stacked cake.  I just used one regular sized stacking cake pan.  The cake is not designed to rise a lot, just a little.  I believe you could make this cake and use tangerines.

whole meyer lemon semolina cake with yogurt-olive oil glaze
This cake is baked in a small/mini Bundt pan. If you don't have that size pan, you can use a 6 - 8 cup fluted pan, but the height of the cake will be shorter, or use a simple round cake pan as I did.

1 tablespoon plus 1 stick butter (1/2 cup), at room temperature (I weighed 4oz from a brick of French butter). 

1 tablespoon plus 1 cup all-purpose flour
2 Meyer lemons
½ cup semolina flour
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt (I used a kosher sea salt to which I had previously scraped the seeds out of a vanilla pod and added to the salt)
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup natural cane sugar or granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
about 1/4 cup almond milk to added as needed to get the batter to the right consistentsy
For glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted to remove lumps
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (I used an Italian imported EVOO) 
1 tablespoon Greek yogurt (plain or vanilla flavored).  I used plain because of the vanilla seeds in the salt that I used. 
1 teaspoon fresh Meyer lemon or plain lemon juice.  I saved back 1 tsp from the pulverized lemons for the glaze.

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Use your fingers to smear 1 tablespoon butter all over the inside and into the nooks and crannies of your pan. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the flour into the pan and rotate to distribute the flour in an even coating over the butter. Knock out any excess flour by tapping the pan upside down. This is an important step to ensure your cake doesn’t stick to the pan.
  3. Cut the lemons into wedges and remove the seeds. Put the lemons in a food processor and process until fairly smooth – it’s okay if some very small pieces of peel are visible – you should have about 1 cup.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk remaining 1 cup flour together with the semolina, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
  5. Beat the remaining stick of butter with the sugar in the bowl; beat in the eggs one at a time.
  6. Add the lemon puree to the mixer and beat until combined; add the flour mixture and stir until smooth. Spread the batter evenly into your pan; bake 40 – 45 minutes, or until a toothpick emerges from the cake with a few moist crumbs. The sides of the cake will separate from the pan and there may be a few small cracks across the top, that's a good indication that the cake is done. Cool the cake in the pan 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.
  7. To make the glaze, stir together all the ingredients until smooth; add 1 teaspoon or more water to reach a thick but pourable consistency. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake and let it set before slicing.

Friday, April 11, 2014


This is where my Ashford single-treadle becomes therapeutic.  I've had this foot injury for a couple of months now.  It's such a drag.  I thought it would get better but it got worse.  At one point it hurt to even walk.  I'm advised that moving my foot and stretching it is the best way to heal it.  So I've been spinning and spinning and working that treadle.  Some of these are from bats I purchased at A Tangled Yarn in Nicholasville, KY.  You can go there and get bats for yourself too.  The green yarns are from some natural wool I bought at Dianne MacDonald's open house at her sheep farm two autumn's ago.  You can go to her blog and see her sheep and lambs.  I overdyed the natural cream and brown wool with Greener Shades emerald.  They are all two-ply.  With the exception of the greens they are all Merino top and so, so soft, some with a little sparkly in them.  Love that sparkly.


I finally, (finally) got a new camera.  So glad about that.

Monday, February 24, 2014

On Handwork

Of course the art therapist in me loves her description of the universal quality of the spiral as a "cosmic gesture of creation":  the view of the earth from space, the spiral on the back of our heads, and how that translates to spinning.  Art therapy also focuses on the meditative aspect of repetitive work.  Mandalas are useful for tapping into that mindspace too.  Anyway, I couldn't say it any better, so I'll just let you watch the video.  This is Renate Hiller of Fibercraft Studio in Chestnut Ridge, New York.  And she's lovely. 

Please visit her website.  It's also lovely.
"Today, more than ever, the crafts have the mission to reconnect the human being to the Earth and her substances, bring healing to the senses and soul, and foster the creative capacities of the human being."  ~ Renate Hiller

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

the state of the Main Street farmhouse

Today I'm being forced to take a full day - and night - at the house with the yellow door.  I'm iced in.  It's not that Main Street isn't clear.  It is.  It's just that our old driveway is steep and iced over.  Our house sits almost at the top of what used to be called South Hill.  Well, technically the very back of our property where our long, narrow French-style acre stops and the new McMansions in the South Hill neighborhood start would be the top of the hill.  Anyway, our house sits a good story or two up off the street, which is kind of nice as I sit at the desk in my art studio in the old parlour and watch traffic go by below me, but not so nice when trying to drive a car straight up from the street onto a snowy icy driveway.  In days gone by, before they widened Main Street, I suspect there would have been a more genteel grade to that driveway, it came up next to the house and curved around what used to be a barn (where my blackberry and gourd garden is now) and continued through two huge English walnut trees (still standing back there) to the horse farm behind it.  We know this from old plat maps my nerdy archaeologist husband acquired through the Commonwealth.  Our house sat on the edge of town and because of the zoning, we could actually have chickens, horses, goats, or any other farm critter on our in-town acre if we chose to do so.  But we're not getting a goat, and that's already been discussed.    So today I'm iced in and it's not so bad.  I decided to fire up the crockpot and make this awesome orange teriyaki chicken thing I've been making all winter.  I found it on Pinterest.  Love me some Pinterest.  In my usual style I played around with it and combined two recipes to get the flavor I want.  Here it is if you want to make it too.  Russ loves it so much.  I steam a combination of brown and white basmati rice that I buy bulk from the international grocery store here in Lexington.  I know some of my followers here are frugal like me, so I just want to say that Soy-vay is pricey.  It can be about five bucks a bottle, however I stock up when it's on sale.  Also, when you divide out the number of meals you get from this crockpot of goodness, it's reasonable, I promise - economic freedom is our goal, only secondary to eschewing reliance on a generally overly processed and oppressive marketplace, but that's a post for another day.

my beloved hand-me-down crockpot from Mama Ceil
Orange Teriyaki Chicken
juice and half the rind of one beautiful orange
1 bottle of Soy-Vay teriyaki (I used the island teriyaki for this one)
1/2 coursely chopped sweet onion
1 whole small or 3/4 or a big green pepper, coursely chopped
1 lb of boneless chicken thighs (I use organic, with no preservatives or "flavorings")
2 tsp soy sauce to taste

Rinse the chicken thighs and put them in the crockpot.  Add the juice of a big beautiful orange and the zest. Add about 1/2 cup water.  Turn the crockpot on high.  After about 1 1/2 hours check the chicken, maybe turn it and make sure it's cooking.  It should be bubbling in there.  After another hour stick two big 'ol knives in there and coursely shred up the chicken.  Don't worry, it will fall apart.  Now add the teriyaki sauce and veggies.  Add about 1/4 cup water to the soy-vay bottle and shake it up, to get all of the sticky sesame seed goodness out of it and add that to the crockpot.  Add the soy sauce now too.  The soy sauce is optional. Omit it if you are trying to avoid sodium.  Now turn the crock down to LOW and let it cook another 4 hours.  Steam some rice to have with it.
note:  sometimes I use Sweet Baby Ray's Cola-que when the store wants a ridiculous price for the soy-vay.

You can follow my crockpot recipes board over on Pinterest.  I have another board called recipes I've pinned and tried and I make notes on that too.  I'm one of those people who actually tries what I'm pinning.

I know I haven't posted in a while.  At first, like most bloggers, I felt guilty, as if everyone is sitting around waiting for my posts - ha!  However, in retrospect, I realize that my life is so full that I'm not glued to social media.  That's a good thing right?  Have you heard of these new bars in New York City where there are no televisions or cell phones allowed?  You get to detox from all electronic intrusion.  I love that so much, although I love technology too and I love to connect with some of the most awesome people through my blog.  Anyway, in the spirit of attempting to connect with the world, we finally broke down at Christmas and bought a Roku box.  Awesome, I thought, now I can watch everything.  Turns out I'm so detoxed from cable that I rarely go to it.  The best thing about it is being able to watch what few programs I choose to watch on a large screen t.v. when I feel like it.  We turned on a regular television station the other day to watch the Olympics and I felt like the ads were screaming at me.  It was very intrusive to my psyche.  It made me want to take a huge-ass bullhorn and go to the people who made those commercials and just blow it right in their faces until they cry and beg me to stop.  Ick - - - and wow, that sounded really hostile.  Sorry about that.  So I've come to realize that when I'm not in Louisville doing my career thing that, well, I really just want peace and quiet.

It's that time of year when I start to plan the garden and order seeds.  It feels like a hopeless endeavor right now because of this harsh winter, but I'm always the one pining for spring in early February, which by the way was a hopeless endeavor when I lived in Chicago for twenty years.  God bless you all up there because I know this winter has been hard.  I keep a photo diary of my gardens year to year, and I now keep my seeds sorted in a photo album - another Pinterest idea.  So today I thought I'd share a few of the photos that are inspiring me for this year's garden and also I wanted to share a few canning photos with you.  Last year the cucumbers went gaga so I was literally canning pickles every four or five days.  The peppers freaked out too so I canned lots of pickled peppers too.  They make me so happy.  I also made some plum cardamom jam.  I gave the bulk of it away as gifts but I wish I had made more.  Same with the grapefruit jam.  I found a source for grapefruits when I was at the farmers' market in Marco Island in late fall and the jam is delectable.  I have my mother and my mother-in-law hooked on it, bwahahahahaaa.  It's good stuff!

Silver Queen sweet corn.


Cardamom plum jam.  Gifts for some fiber friends this year.
Torch flowers.

I'll definitely do more torch flowers this year.  They stand tall with dozens of electric orange flowers all over them.  I loved looking out the kitchen window in the evening and seeing them in a row along the ridge in the backyard, with bees and butterflies and insects buzzing around them.  They brought monarch butterflies to the property too, and that made me really happy.

Despite the ongoing construction at this old farmhouse, I have been continuing to create (don't worry Mama Ceil, I'm not throwing away my art talent).  I want to share a spinning video I made, spinning a woolen yarn.  Since that video, I took that one-ply skein I spun and dyed it a lush emerald color using Greener Shades dyes.  I also dyed some other raw stuff (wool and mohair) while I had the dye pot going.  I've been posting some of this over on my Big Fat facebook page, so feel free to check in there if you'd like.

this is the mohair fleece I dyed

Here's the link to the video of me spinning this woolen yarn and I hope you like it. 


Thursday, September 19, 2013

How the Garden Went Down

Every year I'm convinced I'm not going to get any tomatoes and every year I do.  It's like those horrible Christmas shows where something happens and everyone is sure there won't be a Christmas but there always is.  Russ says I do this every year.  Although I did not get anywhere near the bumper crop I always shoot for, everything produced.  My blushing heirlooms did particularly well despite the rain.  The Cherokee purple and chocolate cherries were the second to produce.


By the end of the summer I had some pink brandywine too.  Those dark red pumpkin shaped costolutos that kicked ass last summer came out very late this year, well after the rains stopped.  Still, I was grateful that I had a windowsill full of tomatoes throughout August.  I look forward to that the way I look forward to seeing fields and fields of sweet corn

The peppers are still out there blooming.  Of course the blooms that are out there now don't stand a chance of fruiting.  The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting cooler.  I managed to can a batch of peppers with my first harvest.  My second harvest came out of the back garden today.  I really have Renee's Seeds to thank for it.  All of the seeds I have purchased from them have been prolific.  I wish I had remembered to take a photo of the spaghetti squash we picked but it was eaten or gifted in the first few days.  There's still a delicata, butternut, a couple more spaghetti, and an acorn out there cooking.  I'm going to pickle this second harvest of peppers too.  I've been using a recipe out of Canning For a New Generation.  What a lovely book.  I had it checked out of the library over the holidays last year and then the doorbell rang and a friend in Chicago had gifted it to me.  I love it when things like that happen.  It's nice to have a friend that knows me so well.

After all the rain, the tomatoes came in a few at a time, mostly Cherokee purples and the blushing heirlooms.  I got a Siamese twin.  I'm used to having a bushel at a time so I had to dial it back and get old school, literally picking a tomato at a time and slicing it up for a BLT.  The golden heirlooms are very low acid and make for a sweet, mellow sandwich.  The only problem I had with them was that they didn't have enough natural pectin and my first batch of tomato jam didn't set up as stiffly as I would have liked.  I corrected this with my second batch by wrapping the rind of the fresh lime that I used to add the juice to the jam and let it boil with the mixture at the beginning.  After correcting for that, no problems.

Somewhere in the middle of August I finally got a surge of tomatoes and since I was inspired to keep it old school this summer, I just cut them up, cooked them down, and froze some fresh chunky sauce for curries and soups.  I can't get enough of how beautiful tomatoes are. 
 My eggplant produced.  The blooms came late in the summer, late for my taste anyway.  I just pulled more off the plants today.  There are still beautiful fuzzy purple stems and blooms on the plants but I don't see how they can come to fruition unless we have a hot Indian summer.

I almost though it was going to be the year without sunflowers.  Russ kept making Year Without a Santa Claus jokes, but seriously none - not one - of my sunflowers came up.  The seedlings got pelted with all of that hard rain and I was so sad.  Remember how I mentioned that one rogue sunflower?  It came up and bloomed.  Literally the only sunflower in the garden.  It sprouted inside the opening of one of the concrete blocks surrounding the tomato beds.  The torch flowers that I planted in the middle of the summer as an experiment did fantastic and were my mock sunflowers this year.  They were another seed purchase from Renee's Seeds and they attracted bees and monarch butterflies.
So here's a sampling of the tomatoes starting clockwise.  There are bright red Italian costoluto that look like little pumpkins, zebra stripes,  a golden heirloom next to that on the left, below that a small blushing heirloom, next to that a Cherokee purple, below that is the top view of a pink brandywine and next to that is a chocolate cherry.  Then there are some unripe zebras that need to go in the windowsill and some marigolds that will be dried and used in some soaps I plan to make.  I'll probably make one last batch of tomato jam with these tomorrow after I pickle those peppers.  The winter garden goes in tomorrow after Russ gets home from work, so I'll still have vegetables to fret over in the winter months too.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

love. this.

I guess after I read about the purple martins leaving over on Dianne MacDonald's blog, it sort of gave me the urge to migrate south too.  Today is one of those days where it should be ninety degrees and humid however it was in the 60's when I woke up.  Add to that all of the facebook posts of friends' children on their first day back to school, and I can feel fall coming for the first time this year.  I'm sitting here in a fleece shirt feeling the urge to sew all day, to create meditatively.

I remembered this short video with Natalie Chanin.  I hope you like it.  I hope it inspires you to sit and sew.  I just love her work. I know we all do.   Here's the link to her website.  If my house wasn't perpetually under gut construction I would venture down there and take a workshop. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

the state of this place

I suppose I should start with some gratitude for the harvest that we do have.  The peppers are looking great with no disease.  Look at these beautiful black bells that we are getting.  They were so tiny and scraggly during the drought last year, but this year they are doing well.  Lots of green bells and anaheims are almost ready to pick and I'm thrilled.

I love the purple color that pulses through the veins of the eggplant, the purple fuzzy tendrils, Please know that I love that so much.

Because I've been focusing on saving my tomatoes I completely forgot about the eggplant that is out by the peppers and also producing fruit.  Even the persnickety Asian eggplant is producing.  That huge-ass squash next to the Asian eggplant is my delicata.  As it matures it should develop green stripes.  The delicata squash leaves have only recently developed more of that fungus due to the rains.  I've been going out there every day encouraging the delicata to hang on, telling it the sun and heat are coming, checking to see if they are starting to stripe yet, doting, and waiting.  

I made him stop picking the pattypan to add scale.  See all that mold on the leaves from the rain?  That really pisses me off.  See those camo pants?  After he came back from a summer-long dig in Belgium they were crusted the shape of his body.  I'm not kidding.  I had to wash them at least three times.  I can't believe he just kept wearing them.  Archaeologists do things like that.  The color of his skin lightens after he gets the Belgian clay scrubbed off of him.

The cucumbers are out of control.  I got an idea from Pinterest to construct an archway out of chicken wire for the cukes to grow up and over, and now we have a cucumber tree.  So, yay for the cucumbers.  I've canned two batches of bread and butters - one batch to give away and one to keep for the house.  Of course Mama Ceil gets a big jar and she loves them.  I love how excited she is to get my canned goods.  She grew up on a farm and has always eaten from the garden.  I guess that's why she is in her seventies and still mowing her lawn.  Her beloved roses are, of course, doing well this year. While we were visiting my family in Indiana last week my little sister exclaimed that she loves hot and spicy pickles, so I've resolved to take the last batch of cukes and can some hot and spicies for her.  We could potentially get thirty more pounds of cukes off the vines if only it would stop raining.  The rain is really perpetuating fungus on the leaves out there.


gratuitous shot from the local nursery of canning jars I covet 

I don't even have my usual photos of sunflowers to show you because right after I planted the seeds and put all the bird netting up we got ten straight days of heavy, heavy rains and whatever managed to sprout got pelted out of the ground.  I unfortunately have only one rogue sunflower.  Last summer when I drove through Indiana and saw the corn burnt on the stalks out in the fields I cried.  I had never seen a drought that horrible in my lifetime.  This year, the corn tastes great and the tops are the perfect caramel color.  The corn will be harvested around here very soon and I can't wait.  I've already had some tastes out of both western and central Kentucky, and it's perfect and sweet.  But sadly, no sunflowers this year.  I can't tell you how much I love looking out to my garden in the morning with coffee and seeing my sunflowers all in a row, and how excited I feel when I spy orange and red colored tomatoes waiting to be picked.  So I'm trying to be grateful for what has been doing well in the garden and for what few tomatoes I am getting.  I'm grateful for that one rogue sunflower that managed to survive the rains.

One of my roma plants with blight.
some heirloom zebra stripes that so far look healthy (fingers crossed)

The tomatoes have early blight, it's a common fungal disease where the leaves get yellow with spots, usually starting on the bottom and working up, and usually in conjunction with leaf spot.  The problem is that when the foliage gets wet and stays wet - especially late in the day - the plants are susceptible to fungal diseases.  And the rain just didn't stop for all of July.  Everyone I'm talking to is having similar problems. I thought to myself early in the season that we should put a thick layer of straw under the plants.  The straw, along with watering the plants at the base with coveted rain water, is what saved the tomatoes during the drought last year, but this year the house is gutted and we didn't do it.  We should have put straw down.  Straw and marigolds.  I know better.  I've heard the stories about drought and rain growing up.  The New York Times just ran a story about the rain affecting the produce and you can read that story here.

But I don't want to paint a completely grim picture of the state of things.  I mean, the cucumbers, squash, and peppers are doing well.  I do have some tomatoes on my plants and have been enjoying a delectable BLT here and there the past couple weeks.  It just makes me disheartened that I don't have a bushel to put up and another bushel to give away right now.  I still have a lot of blooms so maybe if the rain and sixty degree nights go away and the sun and heat return the tomato patch can rally.

French lentils with chard. Photo from the New York Times as noted herein.

I got a lovely bunch of silver and red chard from the garden.  I'm going to make wholesome dish of French lentils and chard that I found in the Times.  You can click here for the recipe.  If I remember, I'll take some photos after I make it.  I'm one of those people that enjoys soups and stews in the summer.  I don't know, it just feels easy to digest in the summer.  I was hoping to make a kale salad too but caterpillars ate my kale.  Those little bastards.  I was going to pick the kale but I wanted it to be as fresh as possible so I worked the weekend at the hospital.  Then when I went out on Monday to pick it, the caterpillars had chewed it to nothing.  Drat.  I also had a little hustle going and was going to trade my kale for some wheat grass and quails' eggs.  Now I'll have to try to trade for pickles and eggplant, maybe trade gourds and garlic in the fall.

Another round of fall harvested vegetables are about to go back in the raised beds:  carrots, fennel, more kale (dammit), silver and red chard.  I just planted another round of herbs to bring inside for winter.  My goal is still to harvest a big basket of multi-colored carrots.  I mean it.

it's all coming out.  all of it.  new modern vanity - can't. wait.
new tile and this sh*t goes away.  can't wait.
a true hallway instead of the chopped up segue space.

Meanwhile, the back of the house is gutted.  The problem is there's only one bathroom.  After we are done with this phase there will be a small half bath with the cutest little sink ever in the laundry room, but we have to rehab the only bath we have to get there.  Everything is being shifted around so the bath will no longer be square with wasted space in the middle, but instead a little narrower and longer.  Where the tub is now will be sealed off and stairs will go through there from the hall closet up into the attic.  Under those stairs will be my pantry off the kitchen.  But for now, everything shifted around.  I've only been forced to use the bathroom in the backyard once and no, it did not build character.  I think I got a mosquito bite but let's not talk about the rain and the skeeters because it's making me a crazy person.  All this shifting around of space has given us a true hallway now which seems to add some visual order to the joint.  Russ installed a recessed light in the hallway too. I really appreciate the modern features here and there.  Some days I wish we could just leave it all behind and move into a mid-century modern California style ranch somewhere out west.  I'd be willing to leave everything but my vintage Pyrex and my dogs, by the way.  My only concern with this fantasy is whether or not I could grow a decent tomato out there.  I'm a Midwestern girl, and tomatoes are the deal breaker. 

But here, look at some photos of Mama Ceil's roses.  You deserve it after having to look at blight and bathroom reconstruction.  Here you go.  Let me know how you are doing and enjoy the rest of the summer.  Just because the kids have to go back to school in August doesn't mean summer is over.  I know I'm a child of the 70's but I truly believe we are entitled to every last drop of hanging around sipping mint julep-ness that's out there. The song says school's out for summer, not school's out until August fifteenth.

love that Mama Ceil upcycled a pimiento jar left over from making pimiento cheese.  xoxo.

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