The Hoppy Okapi

Occasional posts about hiking and other stuff

Sangria Drink-Through #5: Persimmon, Pomegranate, and Tangerine Sangria December 28, 2008

Filed under: 101Things,sangria,wine — Amanda @ 14:18
Tags: , , , ,

This winter fruit combo was our Christmas sangria, paired with baby back ribs in a coffee-barbecue sauce.

Persimmon, Pomegranite, Tangerine Sangria

Recipe: Persimmon, Pomegranite, Tangerine Sangria

It was the first time I’d ever had a persimmon, so that was the exotic part of this sangria – I got two Fuya persimmons, orange fruits that look like firm tomatoes with leafy tops.

Ingredients

Ingredients

Liberating the pomegranite seeds was the most time-consuming part of the sangria. Last time I had a pomegranate, I followed the recommendation from The Joy of Cooking to soak the pomegranate pieces in water and let the seeds separate from the skin and the little white connective pieces float to the top. This time, I just cut the fruit into sections and plucked out the seeds, and I think it was actually faster and less messy – only a few drops of scarlet juice found their way onto the floor!

Pomegranate Seeds

Pomegranate Seeds

The recipe said that the persimmons should be peeled, seeded, and quartered; but when I cut my first persimmon open, I found that it had more of a core than a seed, and when I checked Joy of Cooking for more info I learned that Fuya persimmons don’t need to be peeled unless the peel is bitter-tasting, so I tasted my persimmon (mildly sweet, like a slightly astringent pear) and decided to just core and slice them before adding to the sangria.

Pomegranates, Tangerines and Persimmons

Pomegranates, Tangerines and Persimmons

I mixed the fruit together, trying to crush some of the pomegranate seeds so they added more flavor to the sangria, then added the Triple Sec (the recipe called for Mandarine Napoleon, which is apparently a Grand Marnier-like tangerine liquor, but I went with a more basic liquor) and the red wine, a very dry Spanish red that I found in the organic wine section at Trader Joe’s.

Fruit and Wine

Fruit and Wine

When it was time to serve, I added the sparkling water and piled each glass with tangerine slices and pomegranate seeds. This was a really good sangria, and paired well with our barbecue ribs. It was dark and dry, with the tangerine flavor coming through to add perfume, and combining with the pomegranates to bring a hint of sweetness to the drink.

sangria_finiI’m not sure if the persimmons added much flavor to the sangria – maybe my persimmons were poor examples of the fruit, or just not ripe enough, but I felt like the sangria would be just as good without them.

 

Kittens’ First Christmas

Filed under: holidays,kitties — Amanda @ 11:25
Tags: ,

Athena and Zephyr eventually learned to stop playing in the Christmas tree, but they had a lot of fun on Christmas morning with both our presents and theirs!

Zephyr checks out the curly ribbon

Zephyr likes the curly ribbon

Athena examines the presents

Athena examines the presents

Athena tries to open an umbrella

Athena tries to open an umbrella

Athena runs off with her new toy

Athena runs off with her new toy

Zephyr finds the toy, abandoned in styrofoam peanuts

Zephyr finds the toy, abandoned in styrofoam peanuts

while Athena plays with a ribbon...

while Athena plays with a ribbon...

Zephyr attacks!

Zephyr attacks!

 

Sangria Drink-Through #4: Limonada Espana December 22, 2008

Lemons and Peaches

Lemons and Peaches

I’m trying to make the sangrias for my drink-through when the required fruits are in season, but sometimes it doesn’t quite work out. I wanted to make a sangria for my Christmas cookie baking party, but the seasonal sangrias that I hadn’t already tried (grapefruit sparkling, pomegranite/persimmon/tangerine) seemed a little too risky to make for the first time for a party. (Well, the grapefruit sangria seemed to risky, and I just didn’t feel like messing around with pomegranite seeds that weekend!) So instead I chose a semi-seasonal sangria instead – Limonada Espana.

Limonada Espana recipe

Limonada Espana recipe

I stocked up on fresh lemons – the recipe takes two lemons plus a half-cup of lemon juice! – but I had to settle for canned peaches from Trader Joe’s instead of fresh.

Sangria Ingredients

Sangria Ingredients

Since the peaches were preserved in white grape juice, I cut down a little bit on the added sugar. The featured liquor in this sangria is Liquor 43 (Cuarenta Y Tres), a Spanish vanilla flavored liquor with 43 ingredients in its top secret recipe.

Lemons, Peaches, sugar, Liquor 42, lemon juice

Lemons, Peaches, sugar, Liquor 43, lemon juice

Adding wine to the fruit

Adding wine to the fruit

Since we did our grocery shopping on the same morning as the party, this sangria had only about six hours for the flavors to meld before serving. it turned out well, but I think the lemon flavor overwhelmed the peaches, and I probably should have added the full amount of sugar because it was still pretty tart – I think Chuck added extra sugar to his.

The finished sangria

The finished sangria

Eating the wine-soaked peaches was fun, but I suspect that  fresh peaches would have lent more peachy flavor to the finished product. Overall, there are other red wine sangrias that I prefer over this one, but I’d be interested in trying this fruit combination with a citrusy white wine sometime in the summer.

 

Adventures in Sourdough III: Pizza December 19, 2008

Sourdough pizza was actually Chuck’s ulterior motive in buying sourdough startes for my birthday, and I, armed with newly purchased Italian-style flour from King Arthur, was happy to oblige. I made pizza on the same weekend as the sourdough pitas, so my starter was active and ready to bake. The recipe in the booklet that came with my Italian starter called for an entire kilo of flour to make six thin-crust pizzas; since we were only going to have pizza for dinner for two nights I meant to make only 2/3 of a recipe, but I forgot to scale my measurements and ended up making the whole thing (and we got to have pizza for an extra night!).

The Italian 00 flour (which I ended up using nearly all of with just this one recipe) was ultra-silky to the touch. The King Arthur version is also low protein (8.5%), but I did some research afterward and learned that the numeric rating for Italian flours actually refers to the grind. “00″ is the finest grind, and it actually comes in diverse protein levels – I saw one online with 11.5%, similar to an all-purpose flour, and I have no idea what the protein level is of the brand that I found at a local Italian deli (hooray for living in Little Italy!).

Here, the giant blob of about-to-be-kneaded sits on my kneading mat. It was very soft, and although it got more elastic as I kneaded, I suspect that I should have kneaded it even more.

pizza dough, before kneading

pizza dough, before kneading

After one proofing once, the dough for the two pizzas we made on the first night was shaped and left out to proof again. (The dough for the other pizzas was put into the refrigerator imediately after kneading to keep it from over-proofing.)

after kneading and rising, the dough was formed into rounds (proto-pizzas!)

after kneading and rising, the dough was formed into rounds (proto-pizzas!)

After stretching the dough into shape and proofing again, we started topping the pizzas – since these were thin crust pizzas, a light hand with the toppings worked well. Here we used light layers of pepperoni and fresh mozzarella (dry thoroughly first if using water-packed cheese!), plus roasted garlic and drained canned tomatoes.

fresh mozzerella, pepperoni, roasted garlic

toppings: fresh mozzarella, pepperoni, roasted garlic, tomatoes

We then put on the final touches – parmesan cheese and herbs – and put the pizza in the oven – heated to 500 degrees F, with baking stone.

after sprinkling with parmesan - ready for the oven

after sprinkling with parmesan and herbs - ready for the oven

One of the key things we learned about this dough is that it’s very delicate after shaping and proofing. the first night, we didn’t think to shape the pizzas on parchment, and the second round ended up sticking too it’s rising surface too much to be transferred to the baking peel. It had to undergo an emergency re-shaping, and the texture of the baked pizza suffered as a result. The second evening (when we baked all four remaining pizzas), we let the pizzas rise on parchment, and then transferred the parchment to the stone along with the pizza. This worked well – with the caveat that it’s important to trim the parchment to just about the same size as the pizza; otherwise the corners of the parchment will start to singe and you’ll be on oven-fire-watch until the pizza has finished baking. (Or perhaps a Super Peel would solve my pizza transfer problems…hmmm, it would be sad if my current peel had an unfortunate accident…)

Here’s the pizza from the first night that turned out well – the crust was thin and wonderfully crispy, with a little chewiness at the edges.

Baked to crispy perfection!

Baked to crispy perfection!

We had a lot of fun making the pizzas, despite the frustrations with the fragile crusts. Chuck made a barbecue chicken pizza that turned out really well, and I made a delicious one with kalamata olives and sundried tomatoes. Chuck actually prefers a chewier crust for his pizzas, so next time we do sourdough pizza it will probably be from a different recipe, but I’m looking forward to getting another bag of 00 flour and giving this another try.

 

Christmas Christmas Time is Near December 15, 2008

Time for Toys and Time for Cheer!

We got our Christmas tree just over a week ago – we’ve been away from home for the past few Christmases, so it’s been three or four years since we last put up a tree. We had some concerns about the kittens attacking the tree this year, so we got a small one and decorated it with only non-fragile ornaments. It was fun (and a little overwhelming!) to get all of our Christmas decorations out of storage and go through them to pick the ornaments for the tree. We struck a good bargain though – I decorated the tree, and Chuck packed up the ornament boxes back and took them back down to storage!

our Christmas tree with its purple lights

our Christmas tree with its purple lights

We have a fun mix of our childhood ornaments and newer ones, but the most fun thing for me was finding all of my Madeline ornaments – I have five different kinds! They’re mostly visible (if kind of small) in this picture:

Christmas tree - how many Madelines do you see?

Christmas tree - how many Madelines do you see?

Trying to keep the kitties out of the tree has been challenging! Most of the time they don’t mean to attack it, but it’s a convenient hiding place to attack each other from, and so we hear the bell on the bottom branches ring a lot when they’re feeling playful. Other times though, their curiosity gets the best of them, and so every evening I do an ornament check to see if they’ve knocked anything down. Last week a Madeline took a dive:

xmas_tree_madeline

Poor Madeline and Genevieve!

I’m happy to report that Madeline and Genevieve were unharmed in their fall! Unfortunately I think the kitties are becoming immue to the squirt-of-water deterrent method – they keep going back to the tree no matter how many squirts they get!

This weekend I had a Christmas cookie baking party, where we listened to The Oak Ridge Boys Christmas and When My Heart Finds Christmas, and made some old favorites:

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies:

Chocolate-Covered Cherry Cookies

Chocolate-Covered Cherry Cookies

And Buttermilk Sugar Cookies:

Colorful Sugar Cookies

Colorful Sugar Cookies

They’re not the most stylishly decorated cookies, but they do have bright colors and sprinkles. Plus I added some crushed candy canes to the white frosting to turn it into peppermint frosting – it was the hit of the evening!

Merry Christmas!

 

101 Things in 1001 Days Update: 12/12/08 December 12, 2008

Filed under: 101Things — Amanda @ 8:00
Tags: , ,

It’s been 130 days since I started my 101 Things list – 13% of my time is up, so it seems like a good time to see how I’m tracking toward list completion. Here are some things I’ve recently finished or made progress on:

  • #16    Make one recipe from every cookbook I own: entries for this were frozen at 63 cookbooks, so if I get more, they don’t get added to the project. I’ve made recipes from 10 books so far, so I’m about 16% done with this task – not too bad, but it seems like a lot of work just to cross one thing off the list! One of these days I’ll write up the recipes and get some blog posts done for these!
  • #35    Complete a cook-through (or drink-through) blog project: I’ve completed three recipes from Sangria so far, so I’m about 10% done with this one. It’s a little bit less daunting than the cookbook project, and I should be able to finish it fairly easily.
  • #51    Hike to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite: I’m scratching this one off the list – I didn’t quite make it to the top, but I did discover that it’s not something I actually want to try to do, at least  in the next couple of years – getting almost to the top is good enough for me!
  • #57    Visit a US city I’ve never been to before: Our trip to Austin allows me to cross this one off (technically Fresno could have counted too, but since it wasn’t the main destination of our Yosemite trip, I held out for another trip.)

With numbers 51 and 57 crossed off, I have eleven things done and several others in progress. That’s about 11% done with 13% of my time gone – not too far behind, but there’s a lot left to be done – I’d better start making some progress on the rest of my list!

 

Yosemite Hike: Half Dome December 10, 2008

Filed under: hiking,outdoors,vacation — Amanda @ 8:31
Tags: , , , ,

Yosemite flashback #2: Half Dome, September 16, 2008

Having packed our bags and made our sandwiches the night before, we woke up at 5am on Tuesday to get ready for our trek up Half Dome. We drove over to the trailhead parking area and left the car just before six. It was dark enough that we had to backtrack and walk along the road to the trailhead, as the narrow path through the woods was obscured. There were around two dozen people starting out at the same time, including a big group of about twelve people. We made a quick stop at the Happy Isles trailhead, then started up the paved path to Vernal Falls. The darkness was fading into shady morning light as we climbed that first mile, the sometimes-steep 430 foot climb a good warmup for the trail ahead.

Vernal Falls, almost dry in mid-september

Vernal Falls, almost dry in mid-september

Unlike Yosemite Falls, which was entirely dry, Vernal Falls still held a trickle of water in mid-September. While that made for less spectacular pictures, I was quite happy with the lack of water on the stairs leading toward the top of the falls. Our guide book claims that there are about 300 steps on the trail from the bridge to the top, but it felt like a lot more as I was climbing them. I went at a slow-but-steady pace, counting out 40 or 100 footsteps before pausing for a rest. The steps are only about 0.6 miles, but they were steep! Still, I was fairly well energized and felt triumphant when I reached the top.

Top o the Falls (Vernal, that is)

Top o the Falls (Vernal, that is)

We paused for a bit of GORP before heading up the trail to Nevada Falls. Although it’s a higher climb and longer than from Vernal Bridge to the top of those falls, the path to Nevada Falls was made more palatable by friendlier switchbacks, sometimes with granite stones providing a ramp with some traction but rarely resorting to the cursed stairs of Vernal Falls.

Approaching Nevada Falls

Approaching Nevada Falls

After a quick break for beef jerky and pictures of the falls, we headed onward to Little Yosemite Valley, a relatively flat mile or so of trail that was a welcome respite from the endless climbing. Just before we got to the valley floor, we saw three mule deer – one watching us for any sudden moves, another eating away without a care, and the third hiding behind a fallen tree, poking it’s head up to watch us every few seconds.

Doe, a deer, a female deer...

Deer in Little Yosemite Valley

After a mile of mostly flat sandy trail, we began ascending again, relatively gradually through a shady pine forest with pine needles and acorns and pine cones strewn along the trail.

Half Dome from the trail

the back of Half Dome from the trail

After climbing for a while, we reached a sign – Half Dome: 2.0 miles – hooray! From there, we continued climbing through the pines, the trees gradually thinning as we got higher. We stopped for a sunscreen break at the edge of a cliff, where we could look out toward Clouds Rest and other cliffs along the northern edge of the valley.

Half Dome, getting closer!

Half Dome, getting closer!

After a few more minutes of ascending, the walk getting tougher from the high elevation, the granite steps up the shoulder of Half Dome started without much warning. Incredibly steep, and in a seemingly endless series of short switchbacks, these made for a touch climb and I stopped for a break about every twenty steps. After finally reaching the end of the stairs, we had to find our own way up to the top of the shoulder, as the trail all but disappears on the final ascent. On the top, we found a sort of staging area, where people took breaks before the final summit push, and gathered their courage or waited for others who pushed on.

Half Dome - the cables

Half Dome - the cables

After a five minute break to gather up some energy and decide whether to go forward, we made our way across the gap to the true base of the climb. After an initial bout of apprehensiveness I decided to try the cables, but there were ominous clouds gathering and the wind was growing. Not wanting to be caught on the summit in the rain (or lightning!), we waited for most of the clouds to pass, then started to ascend.

The beginning for the climb

the beginning of the climb

I soon discovered that the cables were even scarier than they looked; incredibly steep and with granite worn smooth by thousands of hikers, there was very little traction. After three or so pushes upward, I decided there was too much scary ascent (and an even more terrifying descent) ahead, and decided to turn back. Chuck went onward for a few minutes, but then began getting cramps in his forearms and was unable to grip the cables well, so he headed down without reaching the summit as well.

getting stormy...

ominous clouds...

the sunny side of the valley

the sunny side of the valley

and the stormy side

the stormy side of the valley

We climbed back up to the top of the shoulder to eat part of our lunch, but the wind was picking up and we decided to get down to safer ground in case it started raining. As we made our way carefully but quickly down the wind got worse, forming twisters here and there along our descent, picking up dust and debris and sending it flying into our faces. We took a break again once we had safely descended, thinking that the people who were just starting up the slope in the wind and intermittent raindrops were a little bit crazy.

from below the treeline, looking back at the trail

from below the treeline, looking back at the trail

view to the north

view to the north

We traipsed back down through the pine forest and into the valley, noticing that the river looked quite inviting – it seems like Little Yosemite Valley would be a fun place ot backpack and stay for a night or two, relaxing in the river and maybe trying the crazy Half Dome hike again. In any case, we were soon ascending out of the valley, and then descended back to the Nevada Falls trail junction.

This time, we took the John Muir trail to the edge of the Falls, where a bridge crosses over just above the spot where the falls begin.

Top of Nevada Falls, John Muir trail

Top of Nevada Falls, John Muir trail

it looks like a peacefull stream in mid-september

above the falls, a peaceful stream in mid-september

Presumably the whole area is wet with spray and the pools above the falls are churning violently in the spring, but at this time of year the falls were fairly docile and people were swimming in the pools above the falls and playing on the rocks just below the bridge, making a mockery of the signs imploring you not to do either of those things.

beginning of Nevada Falls

beginning of Nevada Falls

looking at the edge of the falls

looking at the edge of the falls

This too seems like a fun destination for a hike of its own, and it was a good resting point before the final descent of our hike.

view of the valley

view of the valley

From the falls, we had almost four miles to go; the first three were semi-shady switchbacks along the Muir trail, first along more exposed ridges and then through a forest as we got closer to the Vernal Falls bridge. This part of the trail was mostly uneventful, except for passing an ultra-noisy school group and a small group on horseback. I was quite happy to be back at the Vernal Falls bridge, about nine hours after we first passed through. I filled up a bottle of water, having drunk my last bit on the descent to the bridge, and we set off again, only one more mile to go!

It was funny on the way down, passing all the people whose only destination that day was the bridge, and knowing what we were coming back from. we also passed a lot of people who were also heading back down – we were moving faster just because we were so much more eager to be done hiking for the day! With a longing glance at the now-open snack shack at the trailhead we slogged the quarter-mile back to our car, and collapsed there with relief. It took us just about 9 and a half hours for the trip, and we took breaks for probably 45 minutes or an hour of that, so it was about eight and a half hours of hiking for the day.

 

 
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