Rhubarb Rosemary Jelly is Deeeelicious!

I followed this recipe from kitchenparade.com to make rhubarb rosemary jelly. Except I used 1.5 lbs of rhubarb and adjusted everything up proportionally. It wound up being just a little too gelatinous to be perfect, so I'll add more water next time. I think I did cook the rhubarb mix longer than the recipe indicated, so I may have condensed it too much so it's likely to be a cooking execution problem more than a recipe problem. Plus, I've never made jelly with gelatin before (I've always added pectin) so I was just hoping for the best and waiting to see what happened.

Nevertheless, this jelly turned out be really delicious! I am not a huge fan of rhubarb, but since T planted some last year, it's fairly well-established now and we are rolling in the stuff, so I'm just trying different recipes to discover what I like.

This jelly is definitely going to the top of the list! I'll make another batch either later this week or this month, and I'll put it into smaller jars and give them out as gifts. It's that good, and something you can't readily buy in stores.

In my opinion, the only reason to make your own jelly (or sew your own clothes for that matter) is to acquire something that is either completely unavailable in the marketplace, or is available but prohibitively expensive. I could probably find rhubarb rosemary jelly available somewhere but my guess is that after shipping costs are figured I'd wind up paying $15 or more for a jar of the stuff. And here the rhubarb and rosemary are free, and it only takes about an hour of my time start-to-finish, and I get 2 quarts. If I pick more rhubarb, I could make a larger batch without increasing the time and effort too much.

T pointed out that one needs to figure the time and cost to plant the rhubarb in the first place, but I argue that we don't, since it's a sunk cost. That rhubarb is growing in the garden like gangbusters, without any particular care or fertilizer, and it's taking over its patch of earth without any input from us now, whether we harvest it or not. So this year, it's free. Same with the rosemary. I' haven't touched that plant other than to harvest from it for years, and it's a monster. Around 3' high and 4' wide. Pretty scraggly-looking, but still delicious, so I let it remain in place for now.

Anyway, this post has started rambling when all I really wanted to do was direct you to the awesome recipe for rhubarb rosemary jelly. I recommend it to anyone. I eat it on toast, and it's delicious. Haven't tried it with peanut butter, but it just might work in a pbj sandwich, too. . .


  Lamb Breast (Recipe)

In an effort to use up the lamb in our freezer, I decided at random to defrost the packages of "lamb breast". The packs were about 5" x 14" x 1/2". I tried to imagine the physique of a lamb and figured the breast meat would be a thin fillet, like chicken breast. I figured I would slice the breast meat thinly on the bias and pan fry it with onions and serve it over noodles.

But when the meat was defrosted and I opened the package, it was not as I had imagined. What was labeled lamb breast looked to me like spareribs. I decided to go online to figure out what to do with it. I reviewed four or five recipes, and decided to go with a variation of this one.

There was another reference site that very helpfully had photographs of the three different cuts that are all commonly labeled lamb breast. They do indeed include rib bones, but it's just not always called ribs when it is sourced from lamb (although "Denver ribs" was a term that could be used. . .). The two basic options are to braise the ribs or marinate and grill them. I've been braising a lot of meat lately, so I was ready for a change. Plus I happened to have 1.5 fresh lemons on hand, so it was a sign that I should use the opportunity to marinade.

The marinade I created was 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 2 tsp dried oregano. That was enough for two racks (breasts?) of the size I mentioned above. I got them to fit in a gallon ziplock bag and marinated them overnight in the fridge.

Today I fired up my stovetop grill, which basically involved preheating it (it's a cast-iron grill on one side, griddle on the other) over two burners for about 5-10 minutes. I sprayed some oil on it (after burning the fibers in my pastry brush trying to brush oil onto it-- doh!), and put the meat flesh-side down on the grill to char. The meat had been warming to room temperature the same time the grill was being preheated.

While the meat was cooking, I rinsed and drained two cans of chickpeas and put them in the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan (along with a handful of leftover kidney beans). I added about 1/2 of a chopped white onion, then salted and peppered the beans & onions. Once the meat had suitably attractive grill marks and the outside was seared nicely, I put the racks atop the beans in the pan, and baked it at 350F for 1.5 hours.

The chickpeas wound up getting a bit crunchy during that time, but had nice flavor (the kidney beans remained tender). The meat came off the bone relatively easily (much like pork ribs), but did not taste at all like either beef or pork ribs. I think this is the first time I've had this cut of lamb, so it's a bit exciting for me to try something new. Nor did it taste quite like the braised lamb dishes I've been making lately, so it was a nice change of pace.

It was not a difficult technique, but the marinade does require advance preparation, one of the reasons I rarely use marinades. Advance preparation is not the strong suit for people with ADD. But the success of this dish will inspire me to perhaps try the marinade & grill technique for some pork ribs I've got in the freezer. I'd prefer to grill outdoors on a grill instead of over the stovetop indoors due to the smoke involved, but with the kitchen window open and fan on it wasn't too bad, and will have to do until T builds a deck where we can put the grill.

"Hold On to Your Kids" Book Review

"Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers" by Gordon Neufeld

I thought the first part of the book where the author gives examples of the horrors that can result when kids are "peer oriented" went on a bit too long, but did find the chapters where he eventually got around to explaining concrete steps to take to maintain parental attachment while avoiding or reversing peer attachment to be useful.

Before reading this book, I thought kids would "attach" to their parents based largely on the sheer quantity of time they spent together, but the authors have explained that it is more complicated than that. It is easier than I supposed for kids to become "unattached" to their parents, but then on the flip side it shouldn't be too hard to get them back if you catch this early.

I also appreciated the chapter describing the ways peer orientation *seems* to be a good thing in young kids and that's why society pressures parents into getting their kids "socialized" at a young age. Although it may be too complicated to explain to people who disagree in a social situation where this would come up, the book does give the reader encouragement to be counter-cultural and foster parental attachment way beyond the time most parents in our culture have relinquished that role to peers.

Roasting a Leg of Lamb

I keep checking my blog to see where I recorded what I did with the first leg of lamb I cooked, but I guess I didn't write it down. So I'm writing down how I cooked this one, so I don't have to memorize it for the future. Here's the procedure:

Preheat the oven to 450F. Put a thin layer of water in the bottom of the roasting pan, and oil the rack.

Pat the leg dry, then stuff slices of raw garlic cloves into the meat every 1"-2" all over the leg. Rub the leg with olive oil, then season with salt & pepper. Put the leg on the rack, and roast at 450F for 20 minutes.

Mince fresh rosemary and dried thyme.

After the 20 minutes in the oven, remove the meat and rub with rosemary and thyme. *I didn't do it this time, but next time I think I will mix the herbs with softened butter and rub that mix on the meat rather than just the herbs, since the lamb we get is lean.* Reduce the heat in the oven to 325F, insert a meat thermometer into the leg, and cook for another hour or more.

Remove meat when thermometer hits 135F-140F. When I took the meat out, the thermometer read 140F, but when I put in an instant-read it went to 150F. Either way, it was pink in the middle and not too overcooked, but I wouldn't have wanted to leave it in any longer.

I made gravy from the pan drippings using goose stock.

How to Make A Frumpy Dress from Three T-Shirts

After going through my closet, I now have an entire box of very old T-shirts that have shrunk enough that they'll never be long enough for me again. Most are also worn at the edges or have random stains or other problems that will prevent me from ever wearing them away from home. So they are just waiting to be reborn with their bits of good fabric as new articles of clothing. Most of which I doubt I'll wear out of the house, either, but at least for every new housedress I have, that keeps one nice piece of clothing clean to wear on days I do go out.

Last week I ran out of maternity clothes between laundry days, so I figured it was time to start sewing. Until now, I had a fair selection of non-maternity clothes that covered me pretty well, but as I enter my 3rd trimester, I really need a significant amount more coverage in front.

Here's the T-shirt I selected to use for the top of my dress (there's nothing wrong with this shirt except it's way too short for me now):

Then I fished out two large T-shirts I got at Old Navy last year for $.49 each. In order to "restyle" T-shirts, you generally need extra T-shirt fabric, and I discovered that Old Navy has clearance T-shirts for less than either the cost of plain fabric OR the cost of used T-shirts at the thrift shop. When I'm in there, I always cruise the discount rack looking for stuff under $1, and add it to my box of available T-shirts.

Shown here, I've already cut off the neck, sleeves, and side seams, so I have four pieces of flat fabric.

This next part required the most precision of any step. I carefully flattened out each piece of black shirt face up on my cutting board. First the back pieces, then the fronts (so I could see the lowest neckline on top). I carefully lined up the bottom hems because I was going to keep the manufactured shirt hem as the hem on my dress.

Once I had four neatly aligned, unwrinkled pieces of cloth, I used a rotary cutter to first cut the top straight across, preserving as much fabric as I could below the raw edge where I cut off the neckband. Then I cut from as close to the fabric edge as possible down at the hem at an inward slant to the top. This is necessary both to have a nice A-line shape for the skirt, but also because you need to trim off the curved armhole cutouts.

Next I used my serger to sew these four skirt panels together (although you could use a regular machine just as well, T-shirt knits don't generally ravel so you can leave the seams unfinished). I sewed the two front panels together for the front, and the two back panels together for the back.

Then I used a regular sewing machine to machine-baste the top edge of the skirt at 1/4" and 1/2" around the front of the skirt only (because I need more fabric in the front than the back). I marked the center front and center back of the hem of my red T-shirt, and lined up the skirt seams. I started pinning from the center back, and pinned the fabric evenly until I reached the side seams of my skirt (note that this is beyond the side seams of the top T). Then I gathered the front of the skirt to fit the remainder of the top T's fabric in front, aligning the front center skirt seam with the front of the red T. Once pinned, I basted the skirt to the shirt and tried it on. I wound up having to rip out part of the seam where my gathers were uneven and I re-distributed them until I was happy with the result. Once I was satisfied with the basted version, I sewed the skirt to the top with a regular stitch. When you sew the final seam, remember to stretch the fabric as you sew to preserve the stretchy comfort of the jersey material! Then remove the basting stitches.

I also used a black fabric marker to get rid of the words in order to have more of a generic "agricultural" themed dress instead of a Happy Halloween dress. You can still see the words a bit, but I'll go over it again with another coat of fabric paint and hopefully that will do the trick.

As I mentioned in the title, this merely instructs you how to make a frumpy dress. It is not so cute that I will be wearing it out of the house, but it's certainly fine and comfortable for the cooking and cleaning and baby-minding that makes up the bulk of my days here at home.

Who knows, it might not turn out nearly as frumpy when worn by someone who is NOT pregnant (although I wouldn't get my hopes up). Anyone who tries this feel free to email me a photo and I'll post it in the comment section (if you're clever you can post a link within a comment you add yourself, I think, although I can't explain how to do it).

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