Skye’s Saturday Project

My granddaughter, Skye, spent the day here on Saturday. Among fun things we cook up in the kitchen that are edible, we like projects for other homemade stuff most people buy at the store.  Once we made lavender hand cream.  Recently we put together homemade insect repellent using essential oils.  This time we tackled making laundry detergent.  Skye did most of the work and took all (except the above)  photographs and decided somewhere along the way she would turn this into her next science project.  We researched several recipes online and when we saw that one of them had indeed been used by another student for a science fair, she read the steps, but turned away from the computer and said firmly “Don’t tell me the conclusion – that is for me to discover!”   I don’t think I was this scientific when I was in fourth grade.  How about you?

Since I posted that these next few weeks would focus on art of cooking and beauty in the kitchen, I started to announce  “This program is interrupted by breaking news…”  when I decided to feature Skye’s work.  But immediately following that thought was the realization that there is no more beautiful thing in my kitchen than a child, especially a grandchild!  And when you stop to consider the art of homemaking, crafting and cutting costs is most likely higher art than cooking with flowers!

Skye’s Laundry Detergent

1 bar of soap, any kind

1 cup Borax

1 cup washing soda

2 gallons of water, divided

2  one gallon containers with lids

3 gallon cooking pot

Long handled spoon


 Use food processor or hand grater to grate bar of soap into cooking pot.  Add borax and soda, stir to combine and add one gallon of cold water.

Bring to a boil.  Mixture will begin to coagulate.  Remove from heat and stir as you add the remaining 1 gallon of cold water.

Mix well and pour with funnel into 2 one gallon bottles.  Mixture thickens as it cools and sets.  Use 1/2 cup or less per load.  OK for high-efficiency washers. Ingredients may be halved to make only one gallon.

Roses on the Table

Who doesn’t love roses as a table centerpiece?  Whether it is a bunch of antique roses in a Mason jar or a single perfect bud, this addition to a kitchen table or a fancy dining setting always seems to bring smiles.  But roses are not only for smelling and seeing, there are dozens of ways they bring beauty to the table.  They taste good, too!  Any rose can be used as an edible offering if it is grown organically – without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  So this is definitely a homegrown project unless you know that the roses have been grown safe to eat.

Rose petals are a charming garnish.  Like pansies and violas, they can be sugared and used for decorations on cupcakes.  Like Calendula and nasturtiums, they can top greens for a salad.

Rose lemonade is delicious.  A few petals floating in a clear glass pitcher of ice water can make memories at a little girl’s tea party.

Rose Petal Syrup
4 cups rose petals
6 cups water
2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Simmer the petals until all the color has gone into the liquid, about 30 minutes.  Strain & return liquid to pan. Lower heat and reduce to about 1 ½  cups liquid, about an hour. Add
sugar lemon juice.  Boil just until all dissolved, then remove from heat and pour with funnel into sterilized bottles or jars.  Store in refrigerator.

Rose Sugar
1 cup  rose petals
1 cup sugar
Blend  in a food processor until mixed. Store for at least a week before using. Keeps well in the freezer

My granddaughters and I make rose petal vinegars with red rose petals.  We use clean quart jars that have been put through a sanitize dishwasher cycle.  Pick several cups of petals, rinse them, and pat dry. Place a couple of handfuls of rose petals into a jar and  pour either white or apple cider vinegar to within an inch of the jar top.  Cover, and place in a sunny spot outside for several hours as if you were making sun tea.  Cider vinegar makes a lovely rich red color, while the white vinegar will be a delightful paler pink.   If you wish, you can bring vinegar to a boil to cover the petals instead of putting them in the sun. I then pour the vinegar into pretty bottles and cork.  I prefer to keep the vinegar refrigerated and ready to splash over greens in a salad.

Squash Blossom Sauce over Butternut Ravioli

For these months leading up to and including holidays which are important family celebrations, Kitchen Keepers is celebrating the Art of Cooking, or beauty in the kitchen if you prefer!  One of the most stunning ways of feeling like an artist while working with food is the use of edible flowers!  Not just as a garnish, which is always lovely, not just for a ladies luncheon, but as a wonderful taste and tell addition to your menu.  Squash blossoms are so much fun, especially if you happen to grow your own. Since  the male squash flower has done its work when it has provided pollen for the female flowers (yep, there’s a difference – they have a longer stem and no small bulb at the end next to the vine), it is perfectly alright to pick them for using in the some fanciful and fantastic recipes. If there are no squash vines in your garden, you may find the blossoms sold at farmer’s markets or specialty stores.  There are great recipes that use the whole flower by stuffing it or dipping it in a batter to fry.  For this sauce, the flowers need to be fine chopped.

Simply trim off the stem end, spread the flower flat to brush off any tiny bug or debris, rinse and pat dry.  You can stack the flat blossoms to shred for this recipe.  I like to use purchased butternut ravioli which I cook and drain before plating with the sauce.

Adapted from Molly Wizenberg

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped
12 squash blossoms, quartered lengthwise and chopped fine

pinch of saffron

2 cups  chicken broth
1 egg yolk

1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Bring a large pot of water to boil for cooking pasta while starting sauce.

Add butter and oil to a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onion, celery, carrot, and parsley; cook, stirring occasionally for  3 minutes. Add the squash blossoms, a pinch of salt, and the saffron. Stir gently. Add 3/4 cup of the broth, stir gently, and raise the heat to medium. As the broth starts to reduce, continue adding more broth gradually until it has reduced significantly and only a small film of broth coats the vegetables. This should take about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk.

Add the pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook according to package directions.. While it cooks, place the sauce back on medium heat. Measure  3 Tablespoons of pasta water and, whisking constantly with a fork, gradually add the hot water to the egg yolk to temper it.  Pour the yolk mixture into the saute pan, and stir continuously to combine. The yolk will thicken the sauce.

When the pasta is  al dente. (about 2 1/2 minutes.),  scoop the pasta from its cooking water into the sauce, and use tongs toput it into the sauce. Cook the two together for about 30 seconds, then serve in shallow bowls or on plates, topped with grated Pecorino Romano and garnish with fruit and a sprig of basil.

Pumpkins Everywhere

Back into your garden-beds!

Here come the holidays!

And woe to the golden pumpkin-heads
Attracting too much praise.

Hide behind the hoe, the plow,
Cling fast to the vine!
Those who come to praise you now
Will soon sit down to dine.”

– Grace Cornell Tall, To Pumpkins at Pumpkin Time

This time of year, I love decorating with pumpkins and cooking with pumpkin.  I have already made Pumpkin Gingerbread and Pumpkin Bread Pudding,  Today it is Pumpkin soup with Chili, Cranberry and Apple Relish, smooth, creamy, and delicious for a fall supper.  Why not serve it in a pretty pumpkin tureen along with tiny pumpkin cornbread muffins?   I have adapted this recipe from one featured by Rachael Ray on the Food Network.

Pumpkin Soup with Chili, Cranberry and Apple Relish

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 2 ribs celery with greens, finely chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  •  2 teaspoons ground thyme (I use Penzey’s French Thyme)
  • 2 teaspoons Tabasco
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 (28-ounce) can cooked pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg


  • 1 crisp apple, such as McIntosh or Granny Smith, finely chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Sprinkle sherry over dried cranberries to soak for 15 minutes, then combine all ingredients and set aside.

Heat  soup pot over  medium high heat. Add the oil and butter.  Add bay, celery, and onion, season with salt and pepper. Cook 6 or 7 minutes, until tender. Add flour, thyme and Tabasco  then cook for a minute. Whisk in chicken stock and bring liquid to a bubble. Add pumpkin in large spoonfuls stirring until smooth. Simmer soup 10 minutes to thicken a bit then add in cream and nutmeg.  After adding cream and nutmeg,  keep warm until ready to serve but do not boil. Serve with a spoonful of relish scattered on top

Pumpkin Cornbread

1 box Jiffy Cornbread Mix, prepared as box directions suggest.

To this batter, add 2/3 cup pureed pumpkin, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.  Mix thoroughly and fill prepared miniature muffin pan cups 3/4 full.  Bake at 400 for 20 minutes or until muffins are browned.

Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins


Pomegranate Jelly or ?

Pomegranate Jelly is what I set out to make! This the recipe for pomegranate jelly. My jelly did not set, and I now have 8 jars of pomegranate syrup in my refrigerator which I plan to use for glaze and dessert toppings!  Because I believe our kitchen stories help each other most when we share both successes and “detours” I will post the process here.  Since I have figured out what went wrong, I thought you might benefit from my mistake!

The harvest from our two pomegranate trees was enough this year to create my desire to make jelly from our crop.  With Joe’s help I spent a good part of the day last Monday cutting and collecting seeds from a big mound of pomegranates.  In case you don’t know, there is a trick to this.  Soak the pomegranates in water first to soften the leathery skins, then cut the whole fruit into two or three pieces.  In a large bowl of water, submerge each portion of pomegranate while you work on loosening the arils (seeds) from the white membrane that holds them.  This keeps pomegranate juice from squirting all over you and the kitchen, and actually makes the separation a little easier.  In small batches, pulse a few times in a blender to release juice and strain through a sieve.  Use a wooden spoon to mash the pulp and get as much juice as possible.  Then use the juice obtained to make jelly, molasses, syrup, or freeze it.  I chose jelly.  Because I didn’t have quite enough juice,  I supplemented with purchased pure pomegranate juice.

When I shopped for the packaged fruit pectin, I could not find the powdered pectin I have formerly used (Sure Jell).  Instead, the supermarket canning supplies offered Ball Low Sugar pectin in a bulk jar.  Since it had instructions on the label for how much powder to substitute for one package, I brought it home and proceeded to substitute.  THAT was my mistake!  I now know a sad fact – that not all pectin brands are equal. They have very different processing requirements. You can’t substitute one brand for another and use the same instructions. I found out the hard way. That is in no way an indictment of one brand, just a fact.  Since this recipe calls for “1 package of powdered pectin”, that is what I needed to use, simple!  Another need is to watch carefully when instructions say to add the pectin, and when to add the sugar.  You can’t just plop everything into your pot and proceed.  Now that I have gotten that settled, I will say that this is a good thing to learn now, instead of after you have filled your jars.

Pomegranate Jelly

4 cups pomegranate juice

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 package powdered pectin

5 cups white sugar

You will need 6 – 7 eight ounce jars and lids

Juice pomegranates as recommended above or use purchased pomegranate juice.  Prepare jars.  I ran mine on the sanitize cycle of my dishwasher.

Measure pomegranate juice and lemon juice into a 6 quart pan.  Add pectin, stir and place over high heat.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent scorching.  When the juice has reached a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, add sugar.  Boil hard for exactly 2 minutes.  Remove from heat, let stand for a minute and skim off any foam.

Fill jars to 1/2 ” of rim of jar.  Wipe rims clean.  Screw on 2 piece lids

If you are storing in the refrigerator, allow jars to cool before placing in refrigerator.  If you are canning the jelly for unrefrigerated storage, place jelly jars, not touching, on a rack in a tall pot of boiling water which covers the top of the jars by at least an inch.  boil for 5 minutes and remove from water.  This is best done with canning pot and rack and equipment for lifting the jars.  Let the jars cool, then check seals.  The lids should be sucked down.  You will hear a popping noise as this happens while the jelly cools. Once the jars reach room temperature, put them in the refrigerator for a few hours to assist setting.