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Breaking the Rules

27 Sep

Dear Zoe,

I recently revisited my childhood home, and spent a moment soaking in the memories still lingering in a room at the bottom of the creaky basement stairs.  It was the room that held all our families dearest treasures: shelves lined with jewel-toned jars of tomatoes, peaches, applesauce, pickles, and jams.  My mother laughs to think that what to her was a matter of making ends meet could now be one of my favorite hobbies.  Even just thinking back to last summer–you and I up to our elbows in an ice-bath full of cucumber slices–fills me with joy.  Here’s to the yearly ritual of putting up treasures!


When people find out I’m into home canning, they often look at me with awe: “Wow!  I wish I could do that…”  And then I say “Uh, duh–you can!”  I am not a woman of perfection.  So frankly, I’m irritated by the bureaucratic institution of home canning perpetuated by the USDA.  They produce publications titled “So Easy to Preserve”, and then fill it with scary don’ts.  DON’T REUSE YOUR LIDS OR YOU AND EVERYONE YOU LOVE WILL CONTRACT BOTULISM!!!!! Continue reading


The Feng Shui of Baking a Cake

23 Aug

Dear Zoe,

You remember that look you gave me over skype the other day, when I told you I was learning about feng shui?  Well, get over yourself.  And just to annoy you further, here is a post about a cake I made, analyzed using feng shui principles.

xoxo, The Dark Turtle (Emma)

Ok, this post isn’t really about feng shui.  But it is about the color red, and I will mention that I mad this cake in the part of my kitchen that represents fame & reputation, which is associated with this very color.  I’d like to think that making this cake was a chi cure for my aspirations as of late, but that has yet to be proven successful.

Seeing red.

Continue reading

Super Summer Salads

3 Aug

Dear Zoe,

My week with you in D.C. was heavenly for so many reasons.  But one of them was the meal we shopped for and prepared so lovingly for your sister’s birthday.  I should’ve known that when Lucy said her meal of choice for her special birthday dinner was “a nice salad”, that you had some tricks up your sleeve to make it something wonderful.  Your approach to salad-making is now my official summer meal fallback plan!


July is my favorite summer month: the Iowa roadsides are a-bloom with mullein and chicory–and the farmers’ market is overflowing with peak variety: cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, melons, new potatoes, green beans, sweet corn…the list goes on and on.  I love this explosion of nature’s colorful abundance!

Assembling the team

I often eat dinners of giant salads made of whatever is left in my fridge after a trip to the market.  But there is a certain elegance to the following approach to salad-making that can elevate a simple salad to a smorgasbord of deliciousness. There is something about this combination of cooked and raw vegetables served simply that creates the perfect opportunity to savour them each for their seasonal seductiveness: Continue reading

Eggs-treme Cooking Part II: Homemade Ravioli

13 May

Dear Girls,

Now that you’ve finally recovered from the cliff-hanger at the end of my last post, I give you the conclusion of the egg saga.  Don’t worry, there’s a happy ending!


See...happy ending!

Ah, the dark side.  Just like in Star Wars, everything that is good in the world has an opposing evil force.  In this case, the incestuous tale of murder and revenge is told by the egg.  Egg whites are pure and good, while the yolk holds dark secrets and lurks in alleyways.  While I’ve always suspected this (the force is strong in me), I never knew the extent of the yolk’s evil until recently, when I found myself with a surplus of 12 yolks after making an angel food cake (See Part I).  In search of something creative to do with my seemingly innocent yolks, I went to google.  What I found was shocking; the discussion board conversations on uses for egg yolks went something like this:

“Oh, I just love eating plain scrambled egg whites in the morning!  But what to do with the yolks?  I like to make desserts that are high in cholesterol, then give them away to people who’s health I care about less than my own.  Any new ideas to add novelty to my egg-separation routine?”

Responses invariably include recipes for custards, brulees, and hollandaise sauce.  But in between is something far more insidious.  Something along the lines of:  “Why don’t you just eat them, you snobby ignorant flavorphile!”  Continue reading