Saturday, November 26

New Ground; an update from Omaha

Hello from the land of gateway to the west! 

Much has happened in the past couple weeks. I moved to Nebraska! Since I have arrived, I have settled myself and my things into a community house, where I live with three others; Francis, Alan and Farren. Francis, who owns the home, is a very active member of the community. Alan is also very active in the community, with a focus on trees and forest ecology. For the past week or two, he has been helping with prairie burns in the area. I am interested to take in as much of their knowledge of the community as I can. It is as though I couldn't have found a more perfect place to live, as I transition into this new city. My housemates are connected to all the people I would otherwise want to know, and have graciously welcomed me into their lives and introduced me to the people in their lives. Farren, who just moved in a couple of days ago, is here to work at a local non-profit. I am excited to know them all more! 

And me? I am working for the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society, as the Urban Agriculture Specialist (woah!). What the heck does that mean? Good question. I am not quite sure yet. The position is mostly unwritten, so I have a tremendous amount of flexibility. At this point, I have been using my time to acclimate myself with the community. In doing so, I have attended the meetings of several organizations' meetings; which has been very rewarding on many fronts. To name a few, I have been connecting with: City Sprouts Omaha, Food Not Bombs, No More Empty Pots and Transition Omaha.

I have been cooking a lot lately, too. Perhaps you are wondering why I keep writing boring details of my life rather than recipes. But consider this post an explanation for my lack of recipe-writing. I have been busy as a bee, flitting from one state to another, with many adventures along the way! I have also been settling in my things so that I can live here and be healthy and full. Now that I am a bit more settled, however, it seems that I will again have time to share my recipes and food adventures, as I continue to forage, cook and preserve my own food.

Thanks for listening!
Happy Thanksgiving season.

Wednesday, November 23

Tuesday, November 1

Happy November!

 Me as a little smidge

Halloween is the ultimate nostalgic holiday. While other holidays seem to have a sense of nostalgia as well, Halloween has such a sensory connection, that it becomes nostalgic on many levels: what costume did you wear? what candy did you have? By Halloween, the leaves have usually fallen, and the air is crisp (and if you live in Wisconsin, it might be one of the first cold days of the year as well!).
 My dearest friend Liza and I, at our first Halloween we could be excited about!
This year, while I didn't have a costume or a Halloween party to attend, I spent my day creating a new and memorable concoction; one that would have even the spookiest of witches wishing their brew was as good as mine! For those of you who know my family personally, you may recall that fall is the season for the Clark's caramels. A tradition my Poppa started quite a while back, of making caramels for the fall and winter holidays. 
Little witch, age 2 1/2
To put a twist on a holiday classic, I tried my hand at gingerbread caramels! And I must say, they turned out quite delectable. 

Gingerbread Caramel Chews
3 cups of white sugar
1 cup of brown sugar
1 quart of white corn syrup
1 pound of butter
1 quart of half and half cream; split into 1 cup and 3 cups
3 or 4 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons of ground cloves
2 tablespoons of ground ginger
1 tablespoon of ground cardamom
1 tablespoon of ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon of vanilla
Kosher salt

1. Place the sugar, corn syrup, butter and 1 cup of the cream in a large, heavy bottom saucepan. The pan should be at least 8 quarts or larger. Heat over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Then, gradually pour the remaining cream into the boiling mixture, in a fine stream, stirring constantly. Add spices and stir well, to incorporate.
2. Continue boiling while stirring until the mixture comes 247 degrees (medium-hard ball stage), approximately 1 hour. For softer chews, heat to 242 degrees.

3. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into a well buttered 9x13 inch cake pan and sprinkle with kosher salt, lightly. The salt helps to bring out flavor later, but too much and you will be grabbing for a glass of water!

4. When thoroughly cooled (a few hours; be patient!) invert the pan and remove the caramel onto a cutting surface. Cut the caramels into long 1 inch strips with a buttered pizza roller. Then cut the strips into 1 inch squares. Wrap them in waxed paper and share with your friends.
Tasty treats, no tricks necessary
Note: If you accidentally heat the caramels too hot, not to fear! Just allow them to cool. Then, reheat the caramel mixture with an additional 3-4 tablespoons of water and bring to 247 degrees. Add the vanilla again, and allow to reset. If the caramels aren't heated high enough, then not to worry, just reheat them again to 247 degrees and add the vanilla again and allow to reset.

Also, to taste test the caramels as you go, dip a spoon in the mix and allow to cool. I found myself adding more of some spices as time went on. It really is an experiment, so adjust as you go, to your liking! Now this is really a sweet treat to die for, especially at Halloween time.
Happy Halloween, from me and Liza last year:
Liza was "Cold" and I was Pippi Longstockings!

Happy treating!