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Deer Ticks and Japanese Barberry: A match made in heaven?

Japanese barberry has gotten a very bad rap over the past 20 years for being an invasive shrub. Introduced into the US in the 19th century, in many areas, it has ‘hopped the fence’ and taken over rural hedgerows and woodlands. A lot of people like it, though, because it’s colorful, makes a great hedge and it’s something that deer won’t eat. It does, however set up shop in native areas and push out native plants – it’s a real bully.

But landscapers and home and garden centers keep selling it and home owners keep putting it in.

Well, if you need a reason to a) not put it in or b) to get rid of it if it’s on your property now (and to encourage others to get rid of it, including going to your town or city planning folks to talk to them), here you go:

University of Connecticut at Storrs has, through a multi-year study on their properties, found that Japanese barberry harbors white-footed mice (field mice), and black-footed ticks (aka: ‘deer ticks’, Lyme disease ticks), two out of the three pieces of the puzzle which have produced the almost wild-fire increase in the growth of Lyme disease (and the other diseases that black-footed ticks carry).

Wait a minute — aren’t white-tailed deer the villains of this disease-spreading piece? Yes, deer are one of the vectors, especially for adult ticks. But in terms of sheer numbers of tick nymphs (the babies) getting their first ‘meal’, being spread over wide areas and living to become disease-ridden adult ticks, white-footed mice are the real culprits. And guess what — white-footed mice love living conditions under Japanese barberry shrubs even more than deer ticks do.

Here is what research at University Connecticut found that the higher the density of Japanese barberry (such as would be found in Connecticut woodlands), the higher the density of all stages of ticks, nymphs and adults, infected and non-infected. The more control measures that were taken against the shrubs (such as chopping down, mowing, or burning), the fewer and fewer the density of all stages of ticks. In the area where the Japanese barberry was eradicated completely, there were few, if any, ticks. Lyme disease and Japanese barberry

So, what do you do if you have Japanese barberry on your property? Well, if you have a whole hedge of it, you might want to call in the landscapers and have them rip it out (if you decide to do this yourself, make sure to take precautions in terms of long sleeves, long pants, with perhaps the addition of an anti-tick spray (hopefully one that is pyrethrum based) and perhaps use a technique where you are pulling the bushes out with the use of a long rope to put some distance between you and the ticks. If you have only a few bushes, then University of Connecticut advises using a propane torch. Control Japanese barberry to control Lyme disease

Now, let’s say you are concerned but don’t have any bushes on your property but it’s prevalent in your area? Well, now’s the time to get active locally and go speak to your local government officials to establish an eradication program.

Lyme disease is nothing to take lightly. The health implications of being infected and going untreated are very very serious. Lymne Disease Complications

And if you can keep your family and pets safer by removing an invasive non-native shrub, why not?

(Photo at the top, courtesy of Vastateparkstaff)

Getting things started in the garden

Well, spring really sneaked up on us here at Chez Siberia (and probably a lot of other places as well). One moment, we have six inches of snow with freezing temperatures and the next… 50 degrees and sunshine.

Nothing like that to wake up the ‘we’d better start the tomatoes’ feelings.

Now, all long-range weather forecasts are telling your old Aunty that this summer is going to be not very warm (of course, all things are relative) – they are calling for temperatures in July and August to be 5-10 degrees cooler than normal. Which means that I needed to choose tomatoes that have a note on them saying something like, ‘cold tolerant’ or ‘will set fruit even in cooler temperatures’, because tomatoes are one of those tricky beasts. Most of them require warm night-time temperatures to set fruit. If temperatures are going to be iffy, then this is the way I hedge my bets.

Starting tomato seeds is really pretty simple. You need all the usual things – seed starting mnix, something to put it in, some warmish water, the seeds and a source of bottom heat. I use a heating mat, but I also got a metal grill to put on top of it to hold the box above the wwarmth a little bit. If I put the box of soil right on the mat, the soil mix gets to a temperature of over 80 degrees. Yes, I want warm soil but that will cook the seedlings, so I hold it away. If I didn’t have a metal grill to raise the box, I’d put an old towel on top of the mat to do the same thing. I also am a keen re-user of those plastic boxes that you can get salad mix in at the grocery store. They are relatively sturdy and have a lid that snaps on tightly to hold in the warmth and the moisture for the early stages of growing the seedlings until I need to transplant them out into bigger pots.

Now, this really is something you can do on the window sill at home as long as you have a sunny window, though you do need to keep watch to turn the seedlings so that they don’t grow all in one direction. I have an unheated greenhouse (and right now the temperature in that is 36 degrees – once the sun comes around the corner of the house, it will go up nicely into the 70+ range), but between the warming mat and my covering up the box with a big clear plastic bag, the soil is warm enough to keep the seedlings going.

Something that I am doing new this year (and I realize this sounds a bit daft at this point in the game) is that I am not putting any sort of seed identification markers IN the box. I’ve actually ended up numerous times with mold and other issues inside the box with the wood tags that I’ve used, so I’m doing something different this year. The humble piece of masking tape on the outside of the box.
I figure I can just write on the tape and won’t have as many issues inside the box until it is time to transplant.

Speaking of temperatures (digression), this year’s long winter and very cold temperatures have set me way back. Usually I can get out, put clear plastic or glass over one of the beds and get the soil up to 50 degrees so that I can put in cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Chinese cabbages, beets, chard and lettuces. Not this year. I went out this week and took the soil temperature and it was still under 40 degrees F. Not warm enough for me to encourage it with a piece of glass or plastic, I’m afraid. I’ll try taking the temperature again today since we’re supposed to have a nice warm sunny day (again, all relative; it’s supposed to be 50 degrees F). Perhaps I’ll have better luck today.

In other areas of the garden, we’re starting to see the leaves from some of the many bulbs I planted in the fall. The crocuses are up, bless ‘em, but nothing else so far. It will be very interesting to see how the bulb patch looks once it’s in full flower mode. The patch, frankly, is a supremely ugly spot under which is our new septic system. So, of course, in the digging, installing, and filling in, we lost all of the top soil (despite our begging the contractor to set it aside on a tarp that we oh-so-thoughtfully put out for him) and have nothing there but horrific weeds which we have been assiduously yanking out and replacing with hardy perennials, in the hope that they will beat the nasty guys back (I know, wishful thinking). In the fall, I planted several hundred bulbs of various sorts and we shall see if that gives us a little bit of pleasure in the next couple of months.

Hope your spring gardening is coming along! Anything new and exciting in your garden?

The Pillow Project: Zips, Snips, and Done

So, let’s get down to business, shall we?

First things first: How are we going to close up the pillows? Well, yes, I can leave one edge completely open, stuff in the pillow form and then whipstitch it closed. Which I hate because it frankly requires me to keep the pillow form under some sort of control while I’m doing it. Very tiresome. I could also do a double flap and put in buttonholes and buttons. But I’m not going to do that either; I’m just going to put in a zipper. This makes stuffing the pillow very easy and it’s a neat and tidy closure. There are two ways to do this – in one of the seams (and if you follow directions on the package the zipper came in, then you are home free). Or, I can split the back into two pieces, make a seam there and insert the zipper in that seam. (more…)

The Pillow Project

I think I can safely say at this point that even at Chez Siberia, it’s spring. Most of the snow is gone and I’m seeing the little leaves of the spring bulbs start to poke up.

Not that it is warm by anyone’s stretch of imagination. It’s 22 degrees F. this morning and windy so it’s not warm. But we are seeing the proverbial ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, winter-wise, here. Which means only one thing.


After being cooped up for almost 5 months (and given the series of storms, horrific cold, wind and so forth; that 5 months seemed to last forever), there is part of me that requires massive change. Ordinarily, this revolves around getting my hair cut but this time, it’s more global. (cue scary music) I need change in the house.

Change in the house usually requires painting (which I don’t want to do; I actually like the color in the house at the moment). Some people go for a giant ‘slip-cover-a-thon’ for the furniture or a big change-over in the drapes. And not that I could not be convinced to change out the drapes in the livingroom for spring/summer/fall. I actually think that might be a good idea (something light-colored perhaps), BUT from a budgetary standpoint, I always go for ‘biggest bang for the buck’, which I think in this case involves… cushions for the two couches in the livingroom.

Above you see one of the couches. We have this one and a dark blue one and a red and blue and ‘some other colors that I’m not quite sure I can identify at the moment’ rug to tie everything together in the livingroom. I certainly lay no claim to great expertise in home decor. We tend toward the ‘find a hole and fill it’ school of decorating, especially on the walls. But after living with these couches for five years (one is an ancient one we inherited from one of my great-aunties which went through a complete re-do from the inside out), I have to say one thing:

They look a lot better with cushions on them and they look a whole lot better with cushions that are highly contrasting. At the moment, cushions are a bit ‘thin on the ground’ as they might way.

Hence the title above: The Pillow Project

Pillows, as a home decor project and as a sewing project are about as simple a deal as you can possibly find, as long as you measure the pillow insert correctly. If you want to be very technical, you can make cushion covers with zippers in them, or you can devise an opening that is held closed with buttons (meant to be seen, or not) or with a clever use of folded fabric at the back, like an envelop. But I need to make, as they might say out West, a ‘whole mess’ of cushions. I might even change out the cushion covers I already have (just to put something else into the rotation. So far, the plan includes printing cushion covers and fabric with screen printing. I might even use fabric paints on the fabrics and come up with my own fabric as well. This is an opportunity to let my creative ‘freak flag fly’.

So, stay tuned.

One a penny, two a cross buns

This is the time of the year when you can find all sorts of seasonal/holiday treats in your local grocery store or bakery (if you have one). My seasonal guilty pleasure are hot cross buns. I have not had them in years but my brain certainly remembers the taste and so..I picked up a package along with the rest of the grocerias. When I got home, I settled myself down with a cup of tea and one of these shiny buns with the sugar cross on the top.

Tasted … just…like…paper towels. For a second, I was wondering if it was me, somehow. I have had a nasty cold for a while, so I tried out one of them on the DH. Ditto. So, I checked the ingredients.

No eggs. No milk. No butter. No wonder…. (more…)

Pip, Pip … and all those sorts of disasters

Never, ever let it be said that your dear old Aunty cannot snatch disaster from the jaws of victory. Given enough distractions, 50-odd years of cooking muscle memory can go flying right out the window, taking the recipe with it, straight down into the toilet.

Exhibit A: This morning, before the DH and I left to go to a sort-or local museum (any museum that does not require suiting up for a 4 hour drive qualifies as ‘sort of local’ in my book) for a workshop, I wanted to make cookies. Not just any cookie, mind you, but the sort of cookie that I was able to find in literally every coffee shop, tea counter, railroad commissary, and museum cafe when we were in London, UK. Which was recently (did I forget to tell you that? Well, we WERE). These cookies are basically referred to as ‘chocolate caramel shortbreads’ and range from the blatantly ‘the only connection in these biscuits with real ingredients is in your head’ commercial sort, shrink-wrapped in cellophane, to something which might elicit noises found in that deli scene from “When Harry Met Sally.” So, once we returned, I was determined to recreate them simply so I could get my fix have the memory available.

And luckily, through the agency of Millionaire Shortbread Bars, I thought I’d happened on the recipe version of the ‘slam dunk.’

No such luck. Distracted by the time, a nasty cough, thoughts about the workshop, and snow outside the window, I completely lost it. The recipe for the shortbread part of this affair calls for 3/4 of a cup of butter. No great shakes, I thought at the time, that’s three sticks.

Woops. No wonder once I took the 9×9″ pan out of the oven, that it did not look like shortbread; it looked like shortbread soup. That’s when it hit me: 3/4 of a cup of butter is 1.5 sticks; not 3 – big trouble. But I was not in a mood to throw that in the trash and start again (I didn’t have time, either); I scooped it into a heat-proof bowl, added more sugar and almond flour (frankly, that is what I had at my hand; I could just as easily have used regular all-purpose flour, which is what I used the first time, so this shortbread is half flour/half almond flour). I mixed that up, said a little prayer to the kitchen gods and goddesses and pressed it into a 9×13″ pan and put it back into the 350 degree F. oven for another 20 minutes.

And…it came out like a champ. I thought I was home free.

Not so fast. The caramel layer calls for taking a can of sweetened condensed milk and heating it for 60-90 min. OR, if using the microwave, doing various calisthenics with the zapper.

In a large heat-proof bowl.

Not a large Pyrex(tm) measuring cup. Well, I thought it was large enough until some rather disturbing noises started coming from the microwave — it was boiling over. So, I hauled it out, transferred it to the biggest heat-proof bowl I’ve got and cleaned the rest of what had boiled over onto the glass microwave tray into the bowl too. No, we are NOT going to discuss the fact that someone had been heating up spaghetti sauce and had not cleaned up the tray afterward. I was a desperate woman and what’s a little tomato and basil in the cookies between friends, right? So, I went back to microwaving it, lowering the power and stopping it, stirring it and so on until it turned brown.

With the texture of tile cement, I might add. Tasted fantastic – but spreadable? Nyet. Addition of a little milk, dribs and drabs as we go to restore a bit of “liquification.” Plopped that into the pan of now-cooled shortbread and (not in the recipe, but I figure chopped walnuts cannot ruin anything) added a double handful of walnuts, chopped up pretty well. And it looked like this: Pretty darned good.

Again, I deluded myself into thinking I was ’rounding third’; all I had to do was make the chocolate layer, which called for a teeny bit of butter and chocolate chips. More cement. I added more butter – it looked better but still had all the appeal of chocolate cement. Out came the milk again. This was NOT the nice shiny layer that I was looking for. And time was getting short. So, frankly, I plopped the entire deal on top of the walnuts, pushed it around to cover with a wet rubber spatula and as the DH was honking the horn on the car outside, slid the pan into the fridge to wait for out return.

Final result? What you see in the top photo. The texture of the top layer is just like the ones in London – a bit resistant at first and then you hit the nuts and caramel. The shortbread is mmmmmm. From an appearance standpoint, I need to work on that chocolate layer to get it smooth and shiny (confections are NOT my strong suit – anyone have any ideas?), but other than that, I can recommend these heartily.

Pour a cuppa!!

Insulating Basement Floor Joists

And..back to cold floors and a cold house and what to do about that. But first, as is my wont, a little story.

A couple of years ago, we had a huge flood in our area. Chez Siberia, being on a hill and not near the rivers involved, was not hit, but many people were and a big coordinated effort was put together to send teams of the able-bodied to homes that frankly were under water and needed wrecking out. The DH and I volunteered to be part of one of those teams. This poor little house was old, with a laid-up stone basement (the worst sort; I have grave misgivings about any house with a laid-up stone basement, mostly involving water and snakes but that is another story for another time). The flood had filled the basement and the first floor to almost the ceiling. We won’t discuss the logic of doing anything with this home other than bring in the bulldozers and roll-off trailers. The DH and I were part of the team that went into the basement, which at this point was like something out of “Alien” if you recall the early scene in the hold of the ship with the eggs — foggy, dark, drippy and dank. To say it gave me the creeps is to put it mildly.

All over the floor, in the six inches of muck, were hunks, chunks and long pieces of fiberglass insulation. There was also wet, moldy insulation hanging from the ceiling joists. There was also a part of the house that had been built over a dirt crawl space, which had been turned into a swampy combination of mud and insulation. Handling that stuff was a lesson in the shivers, I can tell you and there was a whole part of the under-story of that house that we did not touch because the crews upstairs started their work with saws and crowbars, which caused all sorts of stuff to start raining down on our heads. We bolted for the stairs and told the crew chief that they’d have to either cease work upstairs and send everyone down to the basement, or just work upstairs and do the basement later. After looking at the basement, the crew chief decided to send in a request for professionals to come down since it was probably going to require some engineering.

But (and back from the digression), for me, it was lesson learned: fiberglass insulation should only be used in areas where it is dry, expected to always BE dry, and not subject to ever getting wet. Ditto for cellulose insulation, which had been blown into the walls of the first floor and which had acted like a wick, pulling floodwaters right up the walls into the ceiling.

But, back to our own little corner of Hell in our basement. This area, which frankly, no matter how much drainage we have done, is for geographic and probably other reasons outside that corner of the house, is always damp, and tends to leak up through the floor when it rains. So, there was no way we were going to use fiberglass bats in the ceiling joists of that area to try to keep the cold from penetrating the floors.

Enter: Styrofoam insulation.
OK, this would not be my first choice, either, and I’m not going to get into the whole ‘I’d rather not give my money to companies such as xxxx’ discussion. This is a lesson in how to get this done. Styrofoam insulation, to be blunt, is faster, more efficient, and quicker than anything else we’ve ever done. I did not want to bring in the spray foam folks – that stuff is amazingly effective in terms of sealing up and if it were the summer and we were going away for several weeks, I’d think about it. But it’s winter, and I host extremely small children in this house. Not the time for something like urea foam.

Here’s how you go about this. You’ll need:
Steel tape measure
Small knife, with or without a serrated edge
Chalk snap line or some other way to making a line to follow for cutting
Mallot (optional but really useful)
Piece of wood – chunk of plywood or masonite(tm) works well

Step One: Check under the floor joists
for nails sticking out. There may be ones not only pointing down from the subfloor upstairs, but also sticking out of the joists themselves for various reasons. Either pull them or figure out how you will slide the piece of foam over them because you need to get the foam right up next to the subfloor.

Step Two: (see photo at the top) Measure between the floor joists just under the subfloor. Believe it or not, that measurement might not be the same as between the floor joists at the bottom of the joists.

Step Three: Mark the styrofoam insulation
.Using your knife and the measurement from just under the subfloor, mark both ends of the piece of insulation. The DH is kneeling on the basement floor. Make sure you do NOT put your knee into the insulation.

Step Four: Snap a line through both those marks
. This is your guideline.OK, so maybe you don’t have a chalk snap line. You can use a meter or yard stick and a pencil; just be careful, again, not to step, lean, or put your knee into the insulation.

Step Five: Cut the insulation
. No one’s arm is that long and you’ll need to get to the center of the insulation. Put down the plywood or masonite(tm) and carefully lean down on that so that you can reach the center and cut along the guideline. Then go to the other end of the guideline and do the same. If it’s a little bit jagged, then use your knife to even it out.

Step Six: Install. First, test the piece up against the space between the joists to make sure it’s going to actually go in. If it’s too big, the piece will snap into pieces if you force it. If you need to shave off a little bit from the long edges, take care of that now with your knife. Then, sliding it over your head, get the short end right up against the end of the space right next to the wall. Make sure that is snug and that, as in the photo, one long side of the piece of insulation is snugged up against the inside of one of the floor joists. Raise the other edge. If it jams, do NOT force it. Take it down and shave off a little bit more of the insulation and do this again. Don’t get too enthusiastic with that knife – you want the piece of insulation to fit against that other floor joist, but you also don’t want to end up shaving off too much. To finish off, using your mallet and piece of wood, put the wood up against the insulation and tap it, all along the surface, to make sure it is good and tight against the subfloor.

First piece done. Now, before you lose your nerve, do the rest!!

Bits and Pieces

It’s been one of those weeks (and weekends), my little wombats. So you get odds and ends, bits and pieces, random thoughts, and whatever I’ve cleaned out of the fridge. Lucky you.

If you are from the Southern Hemisphere, them please forgive the following statement which is on the one hand, one of those obvious items but for you folks, it’s rather cruel since you are basically burning up and have dead bats falling out of the skies and kangaroos dropping from heat prostration. My condolences.

But for those in North America, I can safely say, without fear of contradiction, that it has been cold. Brass monkey cold. And here at Chez Siberia, it has been ten days of energy discoveries the likes of which I am sorry to say, have taken us by surprise. The house was not only cold, it was ‘crouching over the oil heater and choosing which side to cook first’ sort of cold.

For those of you who have followed us since we got started here, you’re probably asking yourselves, “Wait a moment there, Aunty — you folks gutted the house and put in massive amounts of insulation in the walls and replaced all the windows and doors and shouted “Halleluiah”. How could you be cold?

This, my little cupcakes, is a reasonable question. And rather timely and a reminder to us all. You will see up at the top a not very artistic picture of one of the ducts which goes from our old fuel oil furnace in the basement to some particular part of the house (probably the livingroom but that is not important here). As you can also see, it is NOT insulated (you can get special batts to wrap ductwork so that you are not spewing (my word for the day) heat into places where you are not. We’d always planned to do this (cue violins) but never got around to doing it in the front basement (versus the back basement which could be rented out as a meat locker even under the best of circumstances, and which we did insulate – not only the ductwork but also underneath the floor joists under the dining area (known in the house as ‘Fairbanks, South’).

Now, here is another, also unartistic shot. which, other than the foam insulation around one of the copper waterlines, shows the underneath of the subfloor for our first floor.

Also, uninsulated and also something we had always planned to insulate.

Now, when we first got all the work done on the house, it made a HUGE difference in warmth and comfort upstairs. It really did. Why is it that now, the first floor feels like a garret? Besides the horrific cold weather we had?

One thing changed, and it was one thing that we did not take into account when we did it.

We stopped using the furnace in the basement (ahhhhhhh). We installed a wood pellet burner in the fireplace in the livingroom. We love it and it puts out tremendous amounts of heat (it also dries out the air in the house like fury so we have to run a humidifier as well but that’s another deal entirely). But, it’s obvious that what happened was that when we ran the furnace in the basement, that was heating the basement and that was heating up the subfloor and regular floor on the first floor, making the first floor much more comfortable. I never thought about that issue.

So now, with no furnace going in the basement, it’s extremely cold down there (I measured it this morning and it’s 45 degrees F. What it was during the “Polar Vortex” when the wind chill factors here were minus 35 degrees F, I don’t know and don’t want to know), so the subfloors are cold, which makes the floors upstairs cold, which makes the house chilly and uncomfortable.

Lesson learned. Next big project: Insulate the subfloors in the basement. Since we have a certain amount of humidity issues down there, we will be using foam insulation and for the moment adding wool sweaters for everyone.

Odd bit number two (and a more pleasant one): Another bit of comfort food. Here’s a dessert I have not made in a very long time but which is just lovely. It can be eaten as/is or dressed up with a bit of whipped cream, vanilla ice cream. It has the added benefit that if you are cooking with little ones, they are amazed that you just dump everything in the baking dish, throw it into the oven and voila.

Denver Chocolate Pudding

You’ll need: Some sort of 2 quart, deep baking dish. I use a Corningware(tm) casserole.

Sift together:
3/4 c. white sugar
1 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
3 T. baking cocoa

Melt: 2 T. butter and throw that into the sifted ingredients along with 1/2 c. of milk and 1 tsp. of vanilla and mix up with a fork.

Spoon into a greased baking dish. Then throw on top:
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
4 T. baking cocoa
1.5 c. cold water (or, if you want to live on the wild side and have it around ‘at hand’ (as my Mum used to say), use cold coffee instead)

Bake, uncovered in a 350 degree F. oven for 40-50 min. The signal that it is done (you don’t want to overdo this) is in the picture above – you will start to see the chocolate sauce stuff coming through the crusty top of the cake.

Serve by spooning up the cake at the top and cover with the chocolate sauce that will be underneath.


Sometimes you just want a plain cookie

Having come through the Holiday Season(tm) here at Chez Siberia (where, for the last couple of weeks, thanks to Polar Vortex – now there’s a name that needs to be registered – it’s been more Siberian than we’ve had in a very long time) mostly intact, I received a request from the DH for ‘a plain cookie’.

No chocolate chips, no oatmeal, no raisins or other dried fruit. No weird layers of unidentifiable stuff. No frosting. No peanut butter.

Now, that’s a challenge for sure. Your dear Aunty was left feeling that all I had to work with was shortening and sugar and not much else. Shortbread, perhaps?

Well, no. I got the DH to admit that he wouldn’t mind the inclusion of coconut but he did NOT want coconut macaroons.

Well, scrabbling around the seemingly hundreds of cooking and baking books that I have laying around here, I came across.. well, actually I came across nothing. No such thing as a plain, ordinary cookie that just so happened to have coconut thrown into it. So, I modified a different cookie recipe I have and frankly, they turned out rather nicely and were gobbled up by anyone within reaching distance.

Plain cookies with coconut

1 stick of butter (unsalted)
1/2 cup of veg. shortening
1 cup of white sugar
1/2 cup of dark brown sugar (because that’s all I’ve got and frankly it has such a strong flavor that I can’t use it by itself; if you, on the other hand, have light brown sugar, then use 1/5 cups of light brown sugar)
2 eggs
1 tsp of almond flavoring (if you only have vanilla, then use 3 tsp. of vanilla. Almond flavoring is very strong)
3 cups of flour (now, I did it with 2 cups of flour and 1 cup of almond flour, again because I have it around)
2 tsp. of baking powder
1 cup of dried coconut (flaked would work well also)
a little liquid of some sort (I used some juice I had in the fridge but anything will do)

Mix everything up together and put, by spoonfuls on a greased cookie sheet. Press down with a fork dipped in water.
Bake at 375 degrees F. for 6-8 min. You want the edges to be brown.

The almond flour gave these a rather sandy texture which people seemed to like; if you are using just regular ‘all purpose’ flour, you probably won’t get that effect; you may even need to throw in a little extra flour to make sure they are not too wet when you spoon them onto the baking pans. This recipe made, for me (because I make BIG cookies) slightly more than 3 doz. If you use a smaller spoon or are more delicate with your baking pan applications than I am, then you could probably get 1-2 doz. more. They are crispy when they come out. The coconut makes them a bit chewy.


More from left-over liquor-land: Orange Extract

At this time of the year, you might find yourself with a box of oranges as a gift (or, as part of a fund-raiser). Now, you can certainly eat them and toss the orange rinds. No one would fault you for that (although there are a lot of things you can do with orange rinds including making your own citrus cleansers and furniture polishes), but here is another way to use them that can actually provide you with a holiday gift later on: Making orange extract.

So, what, precisely are we extracting when we make this stuff?

Well, 95% of the oils in an orange peel is made up of a substance called d-limonene, which is a relatively stable hydrocarbon that gives off that characteristic ‘Oh, someone is opening an orange” smell. It has found widespread use in the chemical industry as an ingredient for cleansers and degreasers. It is also the ingredient that makes orange extract add that characteristic smell and taste to baked goods and other products.

Like the vanilla extract recipe,vanilla extract this is simplicity itself. As a matter of fact, it is even easier.

First, you are going to want to use oranges which have really thick skins. Those will have the most ‘orange oil’ in them and are the easiest to peel in terms of getting the orange stuff off (it’s either that or a grater; I think using a vegetable peeler is easier)without having any of the white pithy stuff that is underneath it. You don’t want any of that in your extract mix because it will make it bitter. Second, you want to give the oranges a really good scrubbing. If you have the blessing of having organic oranges available to you – fantastic, you’ll just want to make sure they are scrubbed up well. For anything else (which means everything else), put a couple of drops of dish washing detergent in the water, scrub the oranges well, and rinse, rinse, rinse.

Here is the basic mix: You will need vodka or white rum. Again, get the cheapest stuff you can find. One big bottle is a liter, which is approximately 34 ounces (which works out to 4 cups and two left over ounces in a bottle).

For every quart Mason(tm) jar:
Peel of 7 oranges
3 cups of white rum or vodka

The jar, once you put everything into it, should look like this: Seal up the jar with a screw top or a piece of plastic topped by a canning jar lid and ring. Shake up the jar and put it away in a cool dark place for several weeks, taking it out to shake it every couple of days. You can use it as is, or strain out the liquid into another bottle with a cork or screw top and use it in any recipe that you’d use orange extract, including baked goods or in items such as cocktails.

Bon Appetit!!

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