Thursday, July 18, 2013

Best Zucchini Bread Recipe!

This is such a bold statement! But from all the zucchini breads I have tried (shuddering to think of my mom's half burnt oily bread- she could cook just about anything but she couldn't do banana or zucchini breads!- According to dad she does a better job of it now!) I think I have come up with the best tasting one yet! No nuts- in zucchini bread they are uncalled for! Also what I love about it is it uses butter not oil! Much tastier! This is a mix of a few different recipes as usual. If, like me, you have a lot of zucchini in the garden, this is a great way to use it up! As for the spices Jeremy can't do a lot of cinnamon so I only use 1 teaspoon if you like more feel free to add more.

So from today's harvest (the potatoes made a fine potato salad for dinner!)

Zucchini Bread
Makes 2 loaves

2 eggs
1 1/3 Cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 Cups grated and drained zucchini
2/3 Cup melted butter (I use 1/3 cup salted and 1/3 cup unsalted so I don't add any extra salt- if you use unsalted add a pinch or so of salt)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 Cups flour

Pre-heat the oven to 350 and grease 2 loaf pans.

hand grated zucchini
In a bowl mix the eggs until beaten, add vanilla, and sugar and mix to combine. Add the zucchini (please make sure to drain it- use an clean dish towel and wring it out- this will prevent your bread from being too wet) Mix in the melted butter and baking soda. Slowly add the flour a bit at a time stirring to combine.

Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for about 50-60 minutes, or when a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 10-15 minutes then remove from pans and cool completely.

Now this freezes well, not sure for how long as ours have never made it longer then a week or two! On hot days like today it's fun to eat almost right out of the freezer! Also top with cream cheese! yum! 

Monday, July 15, 2013

My Facination With Water Part Three

Well our new betta, Garth as you can see some my post a few days ago, as taken residence in the tank I used for my new water drops I've been working on. We went to buy another tank yesterday and I saw a critter keeper, thinking without the black edging on it, maybe it'll work better. Well I was right and wrong at the same time. It's better for the drops on the top but the plastic reflects a lot differently when doing the underwater shots. I much prefer the glass. I'll keep this for the drops since it's cheaper and doesn't hold a whole lot of water, so it's easier for me to manage then the container I was thinking of using if this didn't work out.

So this post won't have a lot of the underwater stuff that I've been preferring. But some of the drops came out rather fun! If you want check out my older post (part two) to see more work. Now I experimented with using heavy cream over milk, and I slightly surprised to see it made a difference! I was expecting a slight difference, but cream really rises faster to the top them whole milk does. For the drops it didn't make much difference. For that I switched to veggie oil. I thought mixing some food coloring in would make it fun, but I shook it too much and the red and blue mixed into purple. I think if I hadn't done that I could maybe have gotten two different colors in the drops! As it is the purple looked pretty cool!

So here are the milk/cream into water part two. I also will buy black felt for the back of the tank, I think it'll work better then a t-shirt.

trying without the black background
I love how the oil stays on top and the food coloring sinks
not sure what it is about this, but even though it's boring I like it
almost getting the little crown!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Wild Blackcap Jelly From Bramble to Jar

When we moved to this house a little over 8 years ago there were tons of wild blackcaps (ie. wild black raspberries, wild blackberries) Each year has been an on or off year, depending on what I'm not quite sure. Last spring our landlord cut down a bunch of trees for us since they have started blocking the sun. He took down a couple nastier cedars out back and in doing so knocked a lot of our blackcap patch out. They grew back plus some, but no berries. Since berries like these grow on 2nd year canes, we have an enormous crop this year!! The picking has never been so good!

We pick about 2 pints to 2-3 quarts a day depending on what's ripe and how horrible the mosquitoes are biting that day! See below!

In the last couple years Ball has started making their pectin and putting it into containers instead of the boxes. Well I prefer the boxes, so we bought up all of them we could find two years ago and I'm still using them. Plus a few years before that they changed some of the recipes! Why?! I can't understand this, the ones they had worked great. It's jam/jelly, processing times don't change. I didn't like how the new recipes tasted and looked all over online to find the old ones and couldn't. Then one day I cleaned out my bag and found an old sheet of recipes from the box! I always had one on me so I'd know how many quarts of fruit to buy when I was out. I had it laminated to keep it since it's such thin crappy paper. But now I can use the older ones I prefer, like for grape. But sadly the hot pepper one I liked isn't on this one. Oh well, at least I got the grape and others I prefer! Also if anyone from Ball is reading this, please bring back the boxes!!!!!!!!! I'm not sure what to do when I run out!? The new containers require the new recipes, and also cost a lot more money per batch! PLEASE bring them back!

Now I use the blackberry recipe for these not the raspberry. If you want the old one here you go. Not sure if the new one has changed or not?

3 quarts of berries, crush one layer at a time with a potato masher in a large stock pot (meaning large and tall if you have one it may not like much but it boils up pretty good!) and simmer for 10 minutes covered. Use a jelly bag and strain them, it takes a long time to do this and I get impatient, they say squeezing the bag causes cloudy jelly. It's never happened to me. Squeeze away, but you'll have purple hands for a day or so! Measure out 3 1/2 cups of the juice and pour into that same stock pot, add the box of pectin, 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice.  Stir constantly bringing it to a hard boil that you can't stir down. Add 5 cups of sugar and keep stirring until it's a hard boil again. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and ladle into sterilized 8oz jars. (I put them in the water bath pot and bring it to a boil while I cook the jelly.) Cover the jars with the lids and rings and boil in a water bath for 10 minutes, with the water covering the jars by at least an inch. Remove and place on a towel, then allow to cool for 24 hours and check the seals. They also say not to store the jars with the lids on them, but I leave them on. I've never lost a seal yet. 

The one of me is gross, sorry, but no one believes me when I tell them how bad they can get. The day we took these shots I was talking with our neighbor for about 15-20 minutes. When we got in Jeremy stopped counting at 48 bites as he was covering me in calamine lotion, he got 4 the neighbor got none. sigh. I'm going to die of the plague by a mosquito bite. I just know it.
one of our patches this year

a days picking, notice the bottle of calamine behind it!
the finished product!
Some other wonderful stuff you can make with wild blackcaps!
And forewarning, these bug bites are horrible!
see what I mean?! the other day I had one on my forehead that was the size of a $.50 piece! That one on my elbow is one bite, look how huge it is!!!

Friday, June 28, 2013

My Fascination With Water- Part Two- This is Getting Way Funner Then I Ever Thought!

OK, totally dorky title, sorry about that! But this week has been one of the crappiest in a while so I need to be a little silly today! I'm trying to deal with these short term disability people. Luckily my case manager seems somewhat sympathetic otherwise I'd been even more depressed then I already am. I'm not getting them at all. They are asking me why, if I was diagnosed with AS in 2006, didn't I go out on disability then? Why am I going out now? Really, so you're giving me trouble and wanting to deny me something I've paid into for over 13 years because I didn't go out 7 years ago? First I can't really afford to go out, I could afford to go out even less 7 years ago. And most important?! It's a progressive disease!!!! Meaning it's getting worse. Now due to this possible denial hanging over my head I'm forced to sell my Pany 25 1.4 lens. It's my only prime for low light, but I just haven't been using it enough to justify the cost. Even with my lack of use I'm not really wanting to sell it. I just really need the money.

So as you can see, since I always over-share, it's been a hard week. I needed something to make me smile and I found it in little drops of milk!

In my last water post I showed you a website of a woman who does water drops, and creates the most breath-taking images I've seen of what's basically water. I e-mailed her a bit and she is super friendly and helpful. She's not one of those horrid photographers who think they have the market cornered on some type of photography and won't tell anyone anything about how to get the images. I mean really, with millions of photographers out there, no matter WHAT you shoot, there are others doing the same exact thing. Why not be generous and help out people? This woman is that and more! She even has a book to help people even more! While I don't own a flash or the proper equipment that she suggests I did try to do something easier. At some point once the money situation settles I may see about getting a flash, but to be honest, that probably won't happen since I can't justify a flash for just one type of shooting. I've always been a natural light shooter, so I went outside, which of course causes major reflection issues, but I didn't care! I was trying something new and fun! Sure I've tried to shoot waterdrops before, not very successfully, in my kitchen sink. But what she does really inspired me to do more! So I got our old 2 gallon fish tank out and filled it with water. Then used an old bubblebath container as my dropper, since I don't own eyedroppers, and filled it with milk. After doing a bunch I then used food coloring to color the milk to add a bit more. I tried to do some drops into a leftover dish we have, but they didn't come out as well as I hoped. And by then my battery was getting fried from the higher burst rate. With the milk plumes you don't need the higher, the lower works just fine, which helps keep your battery going longer. I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it! The OMD battery life is the only thing I hate about this camera! I was worried since the OMD isn't known for it's burst rates, but I managed well enough!

Now remember these are my first attempts! So please forgive the roughness of most of the images. I'm hoping to figure things out better. I know using a flash would enable me to lower my iso and raise my shutter speeds, but I'm still getting the hang of everything. 

Again like other posts, if you have any questions please feel free to contact me. If you have any suggestions, I'm also open to that as well!

And now on with the show!!!!!
the Kiss
This one is not edited well since I was getting excited about what was going on, but I need to figure out how to do this, both the drops and the underwater plumes together are just too irresistable to not try again! But I need to figure out a container, I know some places locally that sell glass containers for like a buck. So I may check them out to see what they have. If the fish tank didn't have the black edged top it would work ok, so if you want to try any of this make sure to get a tank without the black top to it. I may try it in the tank with the water level half way filled, that may work well enough for me, I just worry about not being able to get the plumes deep enough, and splashing on the sides of the tank. Hmm we'll see about this?...
 And now for the better part, the easier part, which allowed me to get better images. These are what are making this week standable! I'm having so much fun doing these, I can't wait to do more!
This is why I love photography. When something just clicks it really makes me so happy. It gives me a bit of a purpose. It causes a spark within me that has the ability to make me smile like nothing else.

Edited to add:
OK so I've had some interest in more details on how to do this.

Here is the set-up, as I said I don't have a flash, so I currently am doing it outside on my deck. I am using a 2 gallon fish tank and those big paper clips to clip a black t-shirt on the back. Then I set my tripod up in front of it and zoom in so the tank fills the whole image.
Then here is the orignal image before any editing. You can see the reflection of the camera and the house.
Then for editing I crop down to what I want in the image, then use levels to darken the image to get most of the air bubbles and glare out and slightly lighten it with the right slider. Then using the clone tool or use the eye dropper and select the darkest part of the background and then the brush tool I get rid of the rest of the air bubbles and try to slightly even the background out if needed. I then go back to the levels and darken it a bit more with the left slider, leaving the middle mostly where it is, then lighten the right slider to brighten it.

Here is the edited version again.
Then whatever else you need to do it's up to you. you can flip it upside down, do a mirror image or whatever! Have fun!