Gifts for the Serendib House Crew

As I finish up the holiday gifting, I got to put together some gift packages for my staff too. Some version of this will be going out to the Serendib House crew: Stephanie Bailey, Emmanuel Henderson, Darius Vinesar, Cara Bogehegn.

I couldn’t do a quarter of what I do without their help, so thank you to everyone who’s ordered from us this year, and helped me keep employing them, even during a pandemic. They alleviate a lot of stress for me in a variety of ways, and multiply my efforts enormously.

(We really need to take a staff photo sometime, folks!)

Sizes

I haven’t quite figured out the shipping yet for sending jars of curry powder (it’s a little complicated, because it involves figuring out what size UPS Priority mail boxes fit which jars, how much padding I need for shipping glass safely in padded envelopes, etc.), but at least for locals, I have jars of curry powder available now, in three sizes:

– 1/4 c. hex

– 1/2 c. tall

– 1/2 c. hex

You definitely get more curry powder for your money if you get it in a bag, but the jars are much more convenient for sitting in your spice rack, so it’s a tradeoff!

I’ll be asking Stephanie Bailey to add these to our Shopify site in the next day or two, so any locals looking for last minute gifts they can pick-up from my porch, consider a cookbook + jar of homemade curry powder. You can add on a tea towel or two as well, to make a lovely package.

The Count for Saturday’s Flash Sale

I *think* this is the count for what will be available foodstuffs-wise during Saturday’s flash sale. Possibly with one more kind of cookie. I can’t handle much organizational stuff at this point, so please don’t try to pre-order anything. I’m planning to open the sale at 10 CST, first-come, first-served.

(1) cardamom-rose knitted sweater shortbread
(1) chocolate-cayenne dragon egg shortbread
(3) set of 4 squares of Sri Lankan love cake (pistachio / cashew variation)
(5) set of 1/2 dozen dragonfruit & passionfruit marshmallows
(6) jasmine & rose black tea in a test tube (caffeinated)
(9) set of 4 Dragon S’mores marshmallows (smoked vanilla with sea salt, chocolate, and graham cracker crumbles)
(10) dragonfruit Nebulae bar (white chocolate, citrus, white pepper)
(11) set of 4 dark chocolate-dipped passionfruit marshmallows (sprinkled with silver stars or pink hearts)

(21) box of 5 confections (2 Dragonfruit Nebulae chocolates, 2 blood orange taffy, 1 chocolate-cayenne)

Off to count soaps, bath salts, etc.

Love Cake

I made Sri Lankan Love Cake for the Patreon boxes, and I have just a little left for the upcoming flash sale on Saturday. This batch is a little unusual, because I had a lot of pistachio on hand and not much cashew, so I tried making it with pistachio. Still tasty, but I don’t think I’d recommend the switch, as it does come out just a touch drier, I think. Delicious with a nice hot cup of milk tea, though. 🙂 Original recipe below:

Love Cake

(two hours, including baking time; serves dozens)

Some say this Portuguese-derived cake was baked to win the hearts of suitors, while others say it’s because of the labor of love involved in all the cutting, chopping and grinding of the fruits, nuts, and spices (much easier these days with access to a food processor). But regardless, it tastes like love: sweet, tangy, and fragrant. My mother says it doesn’t taste right without the crystallized pumpkin, which you can find at Indian grocery stores, though honestly, I like it just as well with the candied ginger. A perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea.

8 ounces butter, softened, plus more for greasing
16 ounces raw unsalted cashews
10 ounces fine granulated sugar
10 egg yolks
Zest of two limes
Zest of one orange
Juice of two limes
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup honey
3 drops rosewater extract (or two teaspoons rosewater)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 ounces semolina, toasted
3 ounces candied ginger and/or crystallized pumpkin, minced as finely as possible
5 egg whites

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 250. Grease a 9Ă—13 baking dish with butter and line it with two layers of parchment paper. Grease the paper with butter.

2. In food processor, grind cashews to coarse meal.

3. In a standing mixer (paddle attachment), beat 8 oz butter and granulated sugar until creamy. Add egg yolks and mix well. Add zest, juice, spices, honey, rosewater and vanilla; mix well.

4. Add semolina and mix well; add cashews and candied ginger / pumpkin and mix well.

5. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff; fold gently into cake mixture.

6. Spoon batter into prepared pan; bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, until firm to the touch. (Alternatively, spoon into buttered & floured (Baker’s Joy makes this easy) mini tea cake molds (Nordicware made the excellent one I used for this) and bake for about 40 minutes.)

7. Let cool completely in the pan, dust with confectioner’s sugar (optional), cut into squares and serve.

The Joys of Shopping Hyper-Local

One of the fun parts of shopping hyper-local is that someone can place an order for a signed hardcover cookbook + 8 oz. of curry powder, drop you an e-mail asking if they could possibly pick it up today, because they want to gift it to someone tomorrow, and you can say yes, certainly, give me an hour to finish grinding the latest batch of curry powder, and then it’ll be on the porch, waiting for you. 🙂 Hope the recipient enjoys!

A Common Dish

This is a common dish around here — I learned the basics of it right after college, when I was working as a secretary for Fetzer Vineyards; they sent us home with a bottle of wine every Friday, and they had these little recipe cards that went with their wine. I didn’t actually use a Fetzer chardonnay for this — just a random white wine I had around. Still yummy. Good quality Italian sausage takes it up a notch!

This is a great meal for feeding a family of four dinner, and usually makes enough that everyone gets either lunch or dinner the next day too. Reheats well!

Basic process (about 20 minutes):

– cook some pasta (we like spinach rotini to get some extra veggies into the kids), drain, and set aside

– while pasta water is boiling and pasta is cooking (remember to set a timer so pasta doesn’t overcook — rotini takes 7 minutes), work on the next steps

– chop an onion or two and sautĂ© in olive oil

– if you feel like chopping garlic, do that, and add some in; garlic powder also works

– cut up some mild or spicy Italian sausage (take off skin first if it’s already formed into sausages) and add it to the pan, brown for a few minutes on medium-high, stirring occasionally

– cut up a couple chicken breasts and add to the pan, brown for a few minutes on medium-high, stirring occasionally

– stir in 1/2 t. salt & 1 c. of white wine; cover and turn down to medium high and simmer 5-10 minutes, so chicken and sausage will cook through

– chop up some bell peppers (ideally a couple different colors), remove lid, and add them in

– add some frozen peas for more veggie goodness

– stir in 1/2 – 1 c. heavy cream, turning down to medium-low, so cream doesn’t curdle

– taste sauce and add more salt if needed, but usually the sausage adds sufficient

– add cooked pasta to pan, stirring to coat with sauce

– if sauce is a little thin, you can simmer it down a bit to thicken

– if you want, grate fresh Parmesan in (don’t use shaker Parmesan, as that has additives to prevent clumping that will also keep it from blending smoothly into the sauce); alternatively, serve with shaker Parmesan, which is frankly what we’re likely to do most of the time, because the kids love it and it’s easier during a busy week

Mood! 🙂

But I will bake this batch of dragon cookies (are they not the cutest?) for the Interstellar Patreon treat boxes, and then switch to grading & writing, because deadlines, alas.

(t-shirt reads: “I just want to bake stuff and watch Christmas movies.”)

Dragon S’more Marshmallows

• Homemade vanilla marshmallows = good.

• Homemade vanilla & smoke marshmallows = better. (More interesting flavor, with that hint of smoke.)

• Homemade vanilla & smoke marshmallows sprinkled with sea salt = even better. (A touch of salt adds a great contrast and really wakes up the marshmallow.)

• Homemade vanilla & smoke marshmallows dipped in dark Callebaut bittersweet chocolate = better yet. (Because chocolate — also the slight bitterness helps the marshmallows from being overwhelmingly sweet.)

• Homemade vanilla & smoke marshmallows dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with graham cracker crumbs = best. (If you can’t be sitting by the campfire, or having a dragon toast your marshmallows for you, this will have to do.)

Dragon S’more Marshmallows

3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 c. water, divided
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 T vanilla extract
1 t. smoke extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
butter (for greasing the pan)
sea salt for sprinkling
1 c. bittersweet chocolate chips

1/4 c. graham cracker crumbs, crumbled

1. Add 1/2 c. water and gelatin to the bowl of stand mixer (whisk attachment). Stir briefly to combine.

(NOTE: If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can make marshmallows in a large bowl with a hand mixer — you just have to be willing to hold and beat it for 12 minutes. Prep the pan and spatula for the marshmallows ahead of time.)

2. In a small saucepan (a bigger one will be heavy and hard to hold steadily at a later stage) combine 1/2 c. water, granulated sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Cover and cook over medium high heat for 4 minutes. Uncover and cook until the mixture reaches soft ball stage (240 degrees if you have a candy thermometer), approximately 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from heat; if it continues, it will swiftly turn into hard candy.

3. Turn mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. (Be very careful with the sugar syrup, as it is scaldingly hot and will burn you badly if it gets on your skin.) Once you’ve added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high.

4. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 minutes.

5. While it’s whipping, butter a large 9 x 12 pan and dust with powdered sugar. In the last minutes, add vanilla and smoke extracts. Prepare an oiled spatula.

6. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly (and swiftly) with an oiled spatula. Sprinkle with salt.

7. Dust the top with enough of the remaining powdered sugar to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

8. Turn onto a board, cut into squares and dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining powdered sugar, using additional if necessary.

9. Melt chocolate in double boiler or at half power in the microwave, then dip marshmallows in them, letting dry on a piece of parchment paper. (If you want chocolate to stay glossy, you’ll need to temper the chocolate, rather than simply melting it.)

10. Sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs. May be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks, or frozen.

Milky Way

Shipping out the “Milky Way” Patreon treat boxes today, $20 / month, shipped quarterly, so I was aiming for $60 value. Honestly, I think this is more like $100 value or a bit more, if you were buying these items separately, but I want my Patrons to be blown away. I think the recipients will be happy. 🙂

These include (roughly left to right):

– a Serendib Home tea towel (this recipient picked “Plaid-ish,” part of the Chess Battle collection)
– 8 oz. curry powder
– an assortment 5 dragon greeting cards (drawn by me and Kavi)
– mini bookmarks (I think I did two sets of 5 flower and 5 food)
– a large bar of knitted dark chocolate with cranberry
– two medium bars of Dragonfruit Nebulae chocolate (dragonfruit, citrus, white pepper) — one of the recipients doesn’t like white chocolate, but I included these in hers anyway because they really don’t taste like white chocolate, which can be a little sickly sweet on its own — these are Kavi’s favorite chocolate bar, and she’s a little annoyed with me that I’ve posted the recipe and didn’t keep it secret to pass down to her, oh well, sorry kiddo, your mom is good at sharing and terrible at keeping secrets…)
– an little confection assortment with cayenne chocolates, milk toffee, blood orange toffee and a little more Dragonfruit Nebulae chocolate (nice for gifting on if you are feeling like this is a lot of sweets for you…)
– spiced hot chocolate mix (with dark chocolate Callebaut chips and mini marshmallows to mix in)
– homemade marshmallows: strawberry-rose, mulled apple cider, dragonfruit/passionfruit
– two big pieces of cashew milk toffee
– two little jars of candy-coated fennel seeds in holiday colors
– crystallized blood orange shortbread
– a few cardamom-rose knitted shortbread cookies
– a few chocolate-cayenne gingerbread dragon egg cookies
– two pieces of Sri Lankan love cake
– two iced rose-pistachio dragon cookies
– one test tube of jasmine & rose black tea
– one yarn ball candle

– five different soaps: knitted mitten (pomegranate-vanilla), knitted tree (fir), ice dragon crystal (sweet orange & naiouli), dragon’s blood egg soap (rosewood, clove, and cinnamon), dragonheart knitted soap (pettigrain and cassia cinnamon)

Whew. Kavi said, as she watched me pick them up, “That’s a lot!” Yes, yes it is.

There’s one more level above this, “Interstellar.” I just need to make a few more items for it… 🙂

Join now to get the “Unicorn Garden” treat box in March… link here.

Stretching Leftovers

Had some Thai seafood curry sauce left from takeout a few days ago, and some rice that was starting to dry out. Sauteed a filet of red flapper in a tiny bit of oil, added the sauce, added some frozen peas, stirred in the rice — that’s dinner, breakfast, and lunch, all v. tasty.