Or Cherry Cheesecake Frosting. 

Yes, if you've noticed a common thread in the last few frosting recipes, I have a thing for cheesecake!

Once again, the basic recipe is the no-cook Ultra Gel frosting, though you can use cornstarch or flour if you're willing to cook the initial mixture.

The difference between this and the others I've tried is that the earlier ones all used pureed fruit or else jam as part of the ingredients.  This time I used concentrated fruit juice- in this case, a delicious cherry-pomegranate blend- the kind that comes frozen in 12-ounce cans.  This opens up all KINDS of possibilities!  Use lemonade concentrate- or orange passionfruit mango- or whatever else is in your grocer's freezer.

In the photo above, after spreading the frosting on the cake top, I mixed 1/4 cup of jam with about 1- 1 1/2 Tbsp. water, dribbled in parallel diagonal lines, then ran a butter knife lightly through it, alternating directions every other time, to create the chevron pattern.  Then I added the border.


To protect the frosting from drying out overnight, since this one was made ahead of time, I stuck mini marshmallows on the ends of toothpicks, poked them into the cake, then rested plastic wrap on top of the now-blunt toothpicks.  Works great.

Cherry Cloud Frosting

2 sticks butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
1 c. sugar
1/4- 1/2 c. Ultra Gel* (higher amount if yours is fluffy like powder snow, lesser if dense like baking soda is)
1/8 tsp. salt
1 c. (8 oz.) juice concentrate, thawed
1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract


Beat the butter until smooth, then add everything else at once: sugar, starch, salt, juice concentrate, and extract.  Beat on low for one minute, until combined, then beat on high 5-6 minutes, until fluffy.

*to use cornstarch, use 1/4 cup.  To use flour, use 1/2 cup.  Either way, mix this with the sugar in a small saucepan, then gradually stir in juice concentrate.  Bring to a boil, stirring often; cook and stir until thick, about 4-5 minutes. Cover and cool to room temperature, then add all other ingredients and beat until fluffy.

To make the 'cheesecake' version, use only 1 stick of butter, and one 8-oz block of cream cheese, softened.

 
 
The last time I cooked beet greens for my family was about three years ago.  I grew up eating them because I 'had to', and continued it because their nutrition content reads like a fantastic multi-vitamin:  protein, fiber, folic acid, phosphorus, zinc, calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, Vitamins A, C, E, K, and three different B vitamins.
But I'll tell you what- after that last time cooking and eating those soggy, bitter greens (I might have burnt them a bit too) all by myself-- sort of plugging my nose as I did-- cuz, dang it, they're good for me!  I thought that'd be the last time I cooked them.

When I pulled the first beets out of the soil this year, though, the old "you oughtta" came back.  This time I was prepared with The Best Vegetable Recipes cookbook from the America's Test Kitchen people.  They had a recipe that could be completed in under ten minutes and sounded like it might not be as terrible as my last attempt.

It was so good I ate seconds.  My husband ate seconds.  My kids at least ate firsts.  And I shared this and Pink Potato Salad with a couple 'foodie' neighbors, who also loved them.  

Not that anyone'd choose this over chocolate; maybe it was just that the greens were much better than anyone's latest memory of them, especially with the crunchy, fragrant nuts and the bit of sweet from the currants.

The amounts and technique will work on any moderately thick green like kale or chard.  (The chard's up next in my yard.)  The original recipe called for cutting out the stems, but they're also good, just take a bit of extra cooking to tenderize.  They can be a little bitter, but the currants countered any of that.

The quantities I used were approximately
1-2 lbs. beet greens
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic (or 1/2 tsp. garlic powder)
1/4 c. pine nuts, chopped  (or other nut you like)
2 Tbsp. currants (chopped raisins work too)

See the slide show for instructions.
 
 
Homemade Turmeric ointment!

About a year ago my right ankle swelled up and became tender to the touch.  There was no recent injury that I knew of.  After a few days, I wrapped it with an Ace bandage.  The swelling went down under the bandage, only to pop up on the top of my foot.  After wrapping the top of my foot, the swelling moved to the other side of my ankle.  Weird.  At that point, I got online to look for how to pull down swelling.  What I found was an ancient Ayurvedic medicine: turmeric and salt.  Well, those were two ingredients I had on hand, and easy to mix.  
I tried it: applied it to a folded damp paper towel, slapped it on the ankle, and wrapped it to make it stay in place.

Lo and behold-- after a day, the ankle was less painful.  After two days, the swelling was gone.  GONE!  And it didn’t come back. My ankle was stained bright yellow for a week, but, hey, it felt great.

Turns out that turmeric contains curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory.  There is lots of evidence that this kitchen spice is also effective against cancer, arthritis, preventing and reversing Alzheimer's, and more.

What about the salt?  You know how it kills snails: it pulls water through cell walls, essentially dehydrating them.  This is an example of osmosis.  It works on the same principle to pull extra water out of your skin or underlying tissues.  I used RealSalt because it includes trace minerals.  The salt and turmeric reinforce aspects of each other.

The basic mixture is 2 parts turmeric to one part salt, then mix with just enough water or oil to make a paste.  If you use water, it's considered an actual paste; if you use oil, it's technically an ointment.  Water might help it penetrate your skin better, but curcumin is fat-soluble, so it might be more potent as an ointment.  I don't know for sure; it just seemed logical to use the oil, which has healing properties itself if you use either coconut oil or olive oil.  Curcumin's bioavailability is said to increase if you add something with quercetin.  Dock (sorrel) has large amounts; so does apple, broccoli, cranberries, and more.  Since I didn’t find anything in my house and yard while I was mixing that was easy to use that wouldn’t spoil in it, I skipped that part.  Maybe next time I’ll dry some dock and heat it for a couple hours with the coconut oil base.  Or add a little green drink powder.  It still works fine without it; there was no quercetin in what I used on my ankle.  

This new batch also contains a couple essential oils this time around (didn't with my ankle), to hopefully enhance the healing properties; this will go on a leg injured by falling down the stairs, made worse by a lack of circulation and movement, now suffering- months later- with fluid in the joints and pain. Rosemary is relaxing, a good tonic for nervous and circulatory systems, and helps increase vigor and energy.  Ginger relaxes blood vessels is a strong circulatory stimulant, and is often used in massage oils and to relieve aches and pains.   A standard amount of essential oils for topical use is 1 drop essential oil per 25 mL of carrier oil, or about 5 drops per ¼ cup oil.

Please remember that anyone can be allergic to foods; don't use ingredients you've had reactions to, and watch for new reactions.  When you apply this to your skin, wrap it with something that doesn't matter if it gets stained- because it will!  (Turmeric is also a great fabric dye.)

Here are the quantities I used for this batch:

4 Tbsp. turmeric (1/4 c.)
2 Tbsp. RealSalt
2 Tbsp. coconut oil or olive oil (I used coconut oil)
2 drops rosemary oil, optional
2 drops ginger oil, optional

Best stored in a small glass jar. Babyfood jars are great.
 
 
Upcoming 2014 Utah Legislation-
Ending Compulsory Education

Utah state senator Aaron Osmond has announced that in 2014 he’ll sponsor a bill proposing to end compulsory education in Utah. The announcement got national attention, as Utah would be the first state to have this in a hundred years if it passes.  

There is a bit of panic and a lot of misunderstanding about this. 

“Compulsory education” is not the same as “public education”, and under his proposal, public education would remain solidly in place.  What would change is the parents’ ability to determine what is best for their child, would give teachers more respect by not forcing those who don’t want to be there on them, and would return the role of the state as a supporter of the family—the basic unit of society-- rather than the current view of the family being the supporter of the state. 

The principle involved here is whether or not we will allow parents to make decisions based on their own projected outcomes, or whether they’ll be compelled to do what bureaucrats think best for their children.  I believe the purpose of life is for each person to learn from their own choices and learning and the consequences that naturally follow.  We are much less likely to learn –or value the chance to learn- when we’re forced into anything.  Our current system’s promise is that every person will turn out to be ‘educated’, without regard to individual preference, agency, or voluntary dedication.  They fail, as they must.

I have children in public school, in a charter school, and homeschool.  Even though I’m ‘allowed’ to homeschool, the state requires me to get their permission to take care of my own children’s education, to promise to have them in ‘school’ for a certain number of hours and days, and to teach them the same topics the state Board of Education determined were most necessary.  This is wrong for a few reasons. 

  • Do individuals and families exist to serve the state, or does the state exist to protect natural rights of individuals and families?  
  • My children, not having to compete for attention with 30 other students in a class, can get their work done in fewer hours.  
  • There are multiple reasons for education- and the UBOE’s objectives are not the same as mine.
  • There’s never enough time to get everything done that anyone would like; I want to spend the limited time with my children teaching them things I think most important in helping them be hardworking, loving, responsible people who search for wisdom and reach out to others on their own initiative.

Before acting on your fears that Utah will suddenly be a hotbed of juvenile delinquents and welfare recipients if this law passes, please research the history of compulsory education and what the alternatives yield.  Some good places to start are (please at least watch the video! the same one as embedded above):

________________________________________________________________________
In addition, this will help relieve the huge financial burden that comes with our local student population predicted to double over the next 15-20 years.

  According to http://boostup.org we currently have a 24% dropout rate in Utah. I think that this will not change much when ending compulsory education.  Others are worried that some parents are lazy and will not have their children attend- but I believe these parents are highly motivated to have the children at school where others take care of them and leave the parents with free time during the day. 

What about those who worry that children not educated at a school (home-schooled) will end up on the welfare rolls?

Look at the track record of those who ARE in public education!  Two years ago (2011) we had about 32 million households who receive means-tested government assistance like school lunches, Medicaid, and food stamps, and 49% of American household have at least one member who receive some sort of government assistance.  And the numbers continue to climb.  We have a government that discourages personal initiative and effort, and protects us from the natural consequences of our actions, which would yield growth, understanding, and drive.

Here's something else that Oak (the guy from the vid above) has said:
"Why don't parents parent? Because once the state takes that authority from a parent, they are absolved of responsibility. If you want parents to parent again, give them back the authority and responsibility so they are empowered. If their child doesn't want to go to school, it's not the state's job to call the child a criminal and force him/her to school, it's then the parent's job to teach the child (perhaps with the help of concerned family and neighbors) the value of an education. If the child doesn't see the value, he/she won't learn. You can't teach someone who refuses to learn and you only hinder those who are there to learn. Removing compulsory education will help children become self-motivated just like we expect of them in college. It's not going to introduce child labor and sweat shops. It's going to open up new paths in education as educators innovate to provide a reason for those children to be in school."

 “Many people want the government to protect the consumer.  A much more urgent problem is to protect the consumer from the government.” –Milton Friedman

"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." — James Madison

In the War in Heaven, some were willing to trade their agency to choose, for promises of security. Christ’s plan is for agency, personal effort, and learning from natural consequences-- the path that leads to personal, meaningful growth; Satan’s plan is of control and coercion.

"We must be careful that we are not led to accept or support in any way any organization, cause or measure which, in its remotest effect, would jeopardize free agency, whether it be in politics, government, religion, employment, education, or any other field. It is not enough for us to be sincere in what we support. We must be right!” -Marion G. Romney


Summary of my thoughts- I see this as an issue of whether the parents or the state is the ultimate authority over each child, and also as a perfect example of the continuation of the War in Heaven. In addition, scaling back the arm of government to its proper role here will have cost benefits.

 
 
About twenty years ago, a group of my neighbors got together for a "Summer Salad Social".  One of the more unusual offerings there was a salad from a friend from Argentina; she said it was a fairly common salad there- cubed cooked beets with cubed cooked potatoes.  This one is not a lot like hers- which wasn't even pink-- but that was the memory that sparked this salad's creation.  My husband says it's a keeper, especially since it was made using fresh-from-the-garden beets and potatoes.  The flavor is even better the next day.

Since there are children to feed here, I called it something else for my girls' benefit: "Princess Pink Potato Salad".   :)

If you live near me, I have lots of garlic chive plants to share!

Summer Pink Potato Salad

1 lb. beet bulbs, about 4 medium
1 lb. new potatoes, cubed, or halved if small
1 lb. summer squash, cubed
2 Tbsp. Italian dressing OR 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
4 oz. ham or smoked turkey, diced
6 oz. mozzarella, cubed
a few sprigs of fresh thyme, or 1 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 c. garlic chives, chopped, OR a handful of chopped green onions and a sprinkle of garlic powder
1/4 c. mayonnaise

Bring about 2" of water to boil in a medium-large saucepan and add 1 tsp. salt.  Trim beets, leaving about 1" of stem on top.  Scrub and rinse, but don't peel them.  Let them cook, covered, in the simmering water for about 45 minutes, or until the largest can be pierced easily with a fork.  Remove beets, saving the water.

Add the potatoes to the water.  Simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes, until tender.  Remove the potatoes using a slotted spoon, and put them in a large bowl.  Add the Italian dressing or vinegar, and toss gently to coat. 

Add the squash cubes to the water; simmer, covered, for 5 minutes, or until barely tender.  Pour into a colander and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking.

Add to the potatoes.  Now that the beets are cool, slide the beet skins off, then cube the beets.  Add to the bowl, along with the ham/turkey, mozzarella, thyme, and garlic chives.  Stir to distribute evenly, then add the mayonnaise, along with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir until everything is a beautiful pink.  Store any leftovers in the fridge, covered.
 
 
Everyone knows you can make bread with zucchini- but what if you have a giant yellow summer squash hiding in the garden?

Both zucchini and yellow squash-- either straightneck or crookneck-- are summer squash, with a similar flavor and texture, and CAN be interchanged in recipes.

My family's favorite quickbread is Lemon Zucchini Bread- so today we got Lemon-SummerSquash Bread.  I no longer shred zucchini -or this squash- for recipes, but puree it instead.  No more strings.  As a bonus, if I'm freezing some for later use, the texture does not change when thawed, unlike shredded squash.  

AND, if you're pureeing the squash, you can have the blender (or food processor) mix all the wet ingredients for you.

This bread is great for breakfast.

The recipe is found over here, though the blender method is below.