How I love Christmas

Children everywhere in this time zone are at this moment practically quaking and excitement of jumping out of bed to see what Santa brought them. That was me, an undisclosed number of years ago. More than a few. Okay, a lot of years.

What do I look forward to in Christmas Day these days?

  • Annoying people by sleeping late.
  • Eating a proper breakfast.
  • Looking back on a full day and knowing that it won’t be back for 364 days.

I think of Christmas in the same way that the writers say, “I loathe writing, but I love having written.”

I love having Christmassed.

Merry Christmas, all. Don’t worry. It’s over soon. ūüéĄ

Technical issues with this site

Due to a strange technical problem with my web hosting company, PJMCo, my site has been down for a while. It seems to be back for the moment, but as I change web hosts, there may be another day or so of weirdness. I’m in the process of rebuilding the layout, menus, and images.

Owners of Terra vendors in Second Life, your vendors should be back online and working just fine. Should the vendor backend on this site have issues, the vendors safely go offline. So please leave them in place while I resolve the website side of things.

I didn’t know how much of my life depended on cavers.ca being up and running until it vanished.

Caramel sauce recipe

Who doesn’t like caramel sauce on ice cream or a brownie? Nobody. Nobody but the scum of the earth.

In fact, if you want to find out if you should be friends with somebody, offer them a dessert with caramel sauce. If they refuse, kick them out of your home and never speak to them ever again.

This is caramel sauce. It’s important. I don’t think I’m being too extreme.

20150318-caramel_spoonThe greatest thing about caramel sauce is that it’s not some magical substance that can only obtained in a bottle at the corner store. It’s so amazingly easy to make, that you’re about to find out why you’ll never buy it again.

Why make it yourself? First of all, the bottled stuff isn’t real caramel. It’s almost certainly corn syrup with flavours, thickeners, and preservatives. You don’t need any of that. The real thing is caramelized sugar, cream, butter, and a hint of salt. That’s it. These simple ingredients can make a miracle substance that has the power to win you friends forever. That, or just rot your teeth and add pounds to your waist. Win-win, right?

Here’s how you make yourself a hero to your family and friends.

WARNING: Treat hot sugar very carefully. If it spatters on your skin, it can burn you badly.  

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp lemon juice (I’m not certain, but I think the lemon helps inhibit sugar crystallization.)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter in 1″ cubes
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preparation

  1. In the bottom of a very deep pot, place the sugar, water, and lemon and place on medium heat.  DO NOT STIR.
    NOTE: The pot should be much deeper than you appear to need because when you add the milk (later), it will froth up energetically.
  2. While the sugar is heating, heat the cream in a separate pot until it starts boiling, then reduce temperature to warm.
  3. Stages of caramelizing sugar from wet, granulated sugar (left) to dark amber (right). Darker than this will taste increasingly bitter.
    Stages of caramelizing sugar from wet, granulated sugar (left) to dark amber (right). Darker than this will taste increasingly bitter.

    When the sugar begins to boil, watch the colour carefully. It will change colour from light amber to dark. Be vigilant because the time between a light amber and dark is less than half a minute, in which time the flavour changes from sweet bland to bitter and burned. Catch it in between, and your caramel will be flavourful.

  4. When the caramel reaches the right colour, remove it from heat and carefully stir in the hot cream until it’s an even colour. WARNING: It will froth up energetically, and by “energetically” I mean it’s just short of an explosion.¬†
  5. Before you’ve lost the heat, add the butter and stir until it’s an even, creamy colour.
  6. Add tiny amounts of salt to taste. Some people enjoy salty caramel; others don’t. It’s up to you.
  7. Pour into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate.
Caramelized sugar mixed with cream and butter
Caramelized sugar mixed with cream and butter

NOTE: You can control the thickness of your caramel by varying the amount of cream. For caramel sauce, use the amount indicated above; for caramel filling for cake or chocolates, reduce that amount.

If your caramel solidifies in the refrigerator, warm it gently in the microwave or on a stove top, stirring regularly.

 

Creamy seafood sauce recipe

(I’m departing from my usual Second Life blather to bring you deliciousness.)

In case anyone’s interested in the easy seafood sauce I’m making today, here’s an approximation of the recipe. I don’t measure anything, so I’m just guessing here. Wildly guessing. In other words, don’t follow my measurements.

Tortellini in creamy seafood sauce. You can also use this sauce as a base for seafood pizza or in your coffee.
Tortellini in creamy seafood sauce. You can also use this sauce as a base for seafood pizza or in your coffee.

This makes about 8 servings of 300 mL each, so use a big soup pot. I generally make lots and freeze individual portions for later.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans baby clams
  • Clammy liquid from the canned clams
  • 1 slab of barbecued or hot-smoked salmon, chopped
  • 3 or 8 tablespoons¬†unsalted butter
  • 1 to 2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 green pepper, also finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons¬†lemon juice
  • 600 mL cream
  • 150 mL white wine
  • 1 to 2 cups parsley leaves, chopped
  • 0.5 cups fresh dill, chopped
  • 6 lbs aardvark kidneys (optional)
  • 1 tsp red pepper sauce (like Tabasco)
  • Salt/pepper to taste

Preparation:

0. Put the lemon juice, butter, cream, wine, and clammy liquid into the pot, mix briefly, and heat to a simmer. Keep warm. Put on a sweater or something. Also, keep the element on low.

1. While the cream is heating, brown the onion in a frying pan and dump it into the soup pot.

1. Fry up the garlic, and when it’s turning brown, add the peppers. Get a bit of colour into them and add to the pot.

3. When the sauce is simmering nicely, add the clams, salmon, parsley, and dill. Add other stuff if you like. It’s your sauce. I’m not telling you what to do.

B. Add the hot sauce, salt, pepper to taste.

TIP: If the sauce isn’t thick, separately mix a few tablespoons of flour with water (or more wine) until you get a smooth paste and add it to the pot. After a bit of heat it’ll thicken. Add more if needed.

Serve on some kind of pasta. Or just pour it in a mug and drink it like a barbarian. Nobody’s looking. Pairs well with a Chardonnay, Pinot blanc, or power steering fluid.