Friday, August 24, 2012

Zelda cookies

In 1987, a game was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System that would change gaming history and spark a passion for countless people worldwide: The Legend of Zelda. It remains one of the best -- if not the best -- gaming series of all time.

I was introduced to the original Zelda game as a child in the 1980s; I grew up a tomboy and played video games with my older brothers and childhood neighbors. While my family had Sega consoles (Master System and Genesis), our neighbors had the NES and SNES, and it was through my neighbor's NES that I was introduced to the magic of the original Zelda.

That game, the original, evolved into an epic series since, with Skyward Sword as the latest Zelda game for the Nintendo Wii. Many Zelda fans have a particular favorite in the series that ignited their Zelda obsession. The game that did it for me, personally, was Ocarina of Time. The music, the storyline, the game play... every aspect of the game is mind-blowing.

Ocarina of Time poster

Magic potions? Yes, please.
From the Triforce Tribute, Portland, Oregon. 

There is so much creativity expressed by Zelda fans:  Doujinshi, countless and beautiful artwork, music, and inspired culinary ideas are a few of the many examples. Wanting to express my love of the series, too, I've yet to make the insanely awesome Link pixel cookies, but I've made my own (albeit far less beautiful and sophisticated) Ocarina of Time themed-cookies. To make these easy-schmeezy Zelda cookies, you need a shortbread recipe (if you're gluten-intolerant like me, click here for a recipe, or you can do the not-from-scratch-shortcut and buy Bob's Red Mill shortbread mix), a little food coloring, and some cookie cutters (party hat and heart).

Zelda cookies. Omnomnom.

For Link hats: Separate the dough in half and add green food coloring. Mix well to blend. Roll out and use the party hat cutters. Slice the top edge of the party hat cut-outs with a knife, to give it less of a clownish look and more of a "Link hat" appearance. If you want to create stitches -- totally optional as Link's hat stitches aren't as visible in Ocarina as they are in, say, Twilight Princess -- take chocolate sprinkles and line them up to create stitches.

Ocarina of Time heart containers: Use a little bit of blue food coloring, mix well, roll out the dough, and use a heart cookie-cutter. After baking, use a little decorating gel coloring to draw the inner red heart.

Follow the recipe's directions for baking time and temperature.

More Zelda stuff to come, but in the meanwhile get your Zelda creativity fix from these sites:

The Geeky Chef blog
Zelda Party Channel

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Oregon Grape

Okay so I'm broke. But I need jam for my toast! Hey, Oregon Grape bush, I'm gonna pick ya.

So, for real, Oregon Grape -- Oregon's State flower -- is currently ripe, and it makes a decent jelly when made with an ample amount of sugar. While Oregon Grape isn't a true grape, they resemble grapes, and the jelly tastes like concord grape juice.

Oregon Grape, of the Mahonia species and Barberry family, has several varieties that grow in the Pacific Northwest. Cascade Oregon Grape (M. nervosa) and Tall Oregon Grape (M. aquifolium) were discovered by the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805. The fruit is high in vitamin C, and is an important food source for wildlife. Many people are surprised to learn that Oregon Grape is edible for humans as well, but they're not exactly palatable as they're very sour fresh off the bush. Herbalists love Oregon Grape as it has medicinal qualities as well. Used as an alternative to Goldenseal -- a wonderful herb that is threatened -- Oregon Grape root can be used to aid a variety of ailments, including  digestive issues. It is also claimed to aid skin issues such as eczema and psoriasis in the form of salves and soaps. (I can personally attest to this, as I have infused Oregon Grape root in oil, which I used in my soaps with positive results.)

Anyway, I went picking in a wooded park and brought home about two cups of berries. Before getting started, be sure to soak them in a salt water mix to draw any critters out.

Oregon Grape Jelly:

2 - 3 cups Oregon Grape berries
1 box pectin
2 - 3 cups water (or apple juice, if desired)
Sugar (I used about two cups but you can use more, if desired... it all depends on how sweet or tangy you want your preserves)
1 tablespoon honey

This recipe is easy to adjust if you're making a larger batch, increase the water to just cover the berries. But before you get started, rinse the berries well of the saline solution. Cook about five minutes in a pot or saucepan to soften them.

Now, some folks don't mash/crush the berries when making Oregon Grape preserves, but I crushed the berries a bit to release the juices and let them cook more. I strained the mix using a sieve  -- removing the seeds and skins, some of the pulp gets through the sieve but it's mostly juice -- and continued to cook the juice, where I added an equal amount of sugar (give or take, depending on your taste... for two cups of berries I added two cups of sugar and some honey). Add the pectin, bring the juice to a boil, and cook for another few minutes before pouring into jars.

Oregon Grape Jelly.

Toooooooast! Omnomnom.

My opinion of Oregon Grape jelly?

For more information, please see:

Wild Berries of the West by Betty Derig and Margaret C. Fuller
Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West by Gregory L. Tilford
Oregon Grape: Gentle Protector at thepracticalherbalist.com

This post was written for educational purposes only. The information in this post is not intended to diagnose, cure, or treat any disease. Please see disclaimer: Not all berries are edible, and many are poisonous, so do not consume any berry/plant without being 100 percent positive of identification. Consult a physician, Naturopathic doctor, or herbalist before using Oregon Grape for medicinal purposes. Do NOT use Oregon Grape while pregnant.