Monday, March 31, 2008
Have you heard about Library Thing? The idea is to list your books in a virtual library and see what other people with similar books are reading. For us, it is a great way to at last catalogue our many thousands of books. So uh, two bookcases down! You have no idea what an enormous time suck this thing is. I’ve had to actually limit the time I devote to registering our books or it would leave few hours for little else. It also forces me to admit I’m not as good a housekeeper as I’d like to believe-how do books manage to get dusty between volumes when wedged in tightly on a shelf?
There are a couple ways of viewing the collections-as a list or as a bookshelf. The bookshelf option shows you the dust jackets. It was only as we’d entered a hundred books or so that we realised so many of our books were obscure so that no picture was available. You have to admit, that’s kind of cool.
I guess my attraction to Library Thing is that it reminds me of flipping through friends record collections as a teenager. You could tell so much about a person by their records and by their books as well. OK I know what you’re thinking and yes, it did cross my mind as well, but I look at it this way: if "they" want to know what I’m reading there are plenty of other ways to access that information already. Yes, a listing of a person’s library absolutely does provide insights about the person…but so does five years of blogging. I own a first edition of Nova Express and Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book-draw what conclusions you will!
Is anyone else doing this? It’s a great opportunity to reacquaint yourself with books in your collection long forgotten. I had no idea I owned The Structure Of Complex Words. See what you unearth when cleaning the bookshelves?
This will probably take months to complete, but I’m looking forward to it and if little else, it is a complete listing that would be helpful for insurance purposes if (God forbid) it ever becomes necessary.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
If you're from Nebraska the New Life Thrift Shop in Bellevue also sells children's books for .29 cents and always seems to have a large selection of Whitman books from the 50's and 60's if you like them-and we do. The artwork is just so darned cute and if you're imaginative can be used for numerous craft projects.
Then, I mean, since we were already in Bellevue, we went to the Goodwill which sells their children's books for .39 cents (only at that location). That includes hardcovers. Because it is next to Offutt AFB you see the most incredible selection of books people have brought from everywhere. Today it was Dandelion Library flip-books (the ones that have two stories but you have to flip the book around) and nature books. I spent something like seven dollars today and came home with my arms filled with treasures.
I also picked up a set of nesting babushka dolls (complete) marked USSR (so not a recent tourist object). I paid the grand sum of .89 cents for it, which was a bit above budget but eh, the kid liked it.
If you are a local I should mention that the Orchid show is going on at Lauretizen Gardens (Omaha's botanical gardens) which was our first stop today. I didn't buy any orchids, but we had a lovely time viewing the exhibits. We've been making the most of our membership and sometimes it does feel like a home away from home. Danny brought his little plastic sprinkling can (because the flowers might get thirsty-but we only pretended to water them) and marched around serving as docent for any unsuspecting visitors that didn't know what a pansy, orchid or laurel tree were. I see a summer job in his future.
Well, I'm off to read my Kitchen Klatters.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Oh sure, I know what you're thinking and it is absolutely true that I could have made a bowl of oatmeal and saved myself the butter, brown and white sugar and salt-but who'd want to eat that? My father-in-law calls oatmeal "gruel", and I'd have to agree. Oh to be sure, it is nutritious, but so are sheep's kidneys (according to my grandmother) and many other nutrient-rich foods. I don't want that. I baked cookies instead.
I used the recipe I've been using forever (came off the lid of an oatmeal canister) with a few changes. I added real butter, double the raisins and a generous amount of salt. I know salted oatmeal is all the rage today but my mother was tossing salt into our oatmeal back in the 60's. So there!
I used the store brand oatmeal because I'm thrifty and I don't like the look of old Smilin' Willie Penn's phiz on the name-brand label. He looks like he has gas, which given that it is oatmeal is entirely possible. Ever notice how his eyes follow you around the room? OK fine, so you don't notice these things...or so you claim but I know that he's grinning because he's just bludgeoned the Keebler elf to death and hidden the body in a shallow grave (why is it always a shallow grave? Seems if you're going to go to the bother of killing someone you ought to dig a grave of a decent depth to avoid being stumbled over by mushroom hunters and joggers...but I digress) beside the hollow tree. I guess he could be grinning as an act of nonviolent resistance...but I kind of doubt it. We had a housekeeper when I was growing up that used to turn the framed photographs around because she didn't like them watching her as she cleaned. I wonder what Ella Mae would have made of the Happy Society Of Friends guy? My guess is she'd have bought the store brand (which actually as I recall, we did). So what was I talking about? I know, you come here for the short, succinct posts.
Again, these cookies aren't health food (and um, taking two and making a sandwich with homemade whipped cream isn't healthy either) but they really did hit the spot.
You Will Need:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups oatmeal (I used old fashioned but quick oats are fine)
2 cups raisins
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Beat together the butter and sugars until light. Add the egg and vanilla. Mix well. Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add to the butter mixture. Stir in the oats and raisins. Mix well.
Place by tablespoons on ungreased cookie sheets and bake 10-12 minutes until browned on edges. Transfer carefully to racks and cool.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
They also have a small amount of fresh produce that rotates daily. Today I bought a pint of grape tomatoes for .50 cents and two packages of fresh blackberries for a dollar each. They were all in very good shape.
If you're not a baker, but like fresh baked bread they have a freezer case filled with different varieties of frozen bread. I can't say enough nice things about the place, so I'll just encourage you to check it out if you find yourself in Wahoo, Nebraska.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
I've had over a month to consider it, as the leg sat in the freezer but somehow, it slipped my mind. No, that's not true. I pushed it farther and farther back in the freezer in hopes he'd forget the damn thing and I could quietly dispose of it at a later date.
I haven't a clue what to do with it and my mother is no longer alive to ask. Actually, I know what she'd have done with it and nothing ruins a fancy meal like ringing the fire brigade to come put out the grease fire threatening to overtake the kitchen. Perhaps that was the lamb...I can't remember it was too long ago. Either way, sheepy/lamby/woolly creatures that go "baa" in anything other than ground meat form place me a bit on edge with one eye to the fire extinguisher. I don't even like mutton, in fact, I hate it. I hate the smell, the sticky fat, the smell, the taste, the smell, the clean-up, the smell and well, you get the idea.
So I went searching my cookbooks for advice but there wasn't any, at least not anything reasonable (I'm sooo not cooking the damn thing with hay. Yes, that's right, hay. I'll just run outside and grab some from the moulding bales next to the barn). Perhaps I could wrap it in cabbage and oatmeal (WTF?). So I turned to the internet which offered me much the same advice probably gleaned(sorry, still thinking hay) from the same sources. My sense is that there's only so much you can do with old sheep (almost sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, eh?).
On the odd chance any readers might have a brilliant thought, please feel free to share it in the comments. My plan is to go ahead and roast it with garlic and rosemary (that ought to help with the sheep-y odour) unless something else is discovered. I really am open to suggestions at this point as I'm hardly inspired to cook something I so intensely dislike.
Go on, don't be shy-share your sheep-y goodness advice.
(Squinting to read as he waves book around)" It says the cake is for Purim" (Thinks to self, "trains?")
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Why smear William Blum with lies when you can smear him with delicious decorator's frosting?
Dave Lindorff Can't Believe This Is Happening-but it is. And now he's a cookie. Hmm, don't suppose he'd mind if I called him "Cookie", do you?
Paul Craig Roberts...OK look, he's just not a guy I can make wisecracks about (believe me, I tried).
As always, please visit Counterpunch and consider subscribing.
I'm also not a food snob/purist. If your soup lacks strength go ahead and add a couple bouillon cubes-I won't rat you out.
My mother was a bit overboard in her pursuit of a chicken soup that was so light and clear and free of the tiniest fat globule that I swear it was almost colourless. She achieved this by cooking only the chicken and a bay leaf and adding cooked celery and carrots afterward. It was very light, clear soup-it also didn't have much flavour. I toss everything in the pot in a way that I'm sure would have horrified her. As for the fat, when the soup cools you can skim it right off the surface. As I remove the skin prior to cooking, there isn't much anyway. Speaking of that removed fat and skin-I was able to get just over ½ a cup of rendered chicken fat from my large package of chicken thighs. Throw it out if you must, but then don't come crying to me when you have no solid fat for your matzo balls…well you are going to make matzo balls, aren't you? Fine, recipe for rendering chicken fat and matzo balls will follow the soup.
Use whatever chicken is least expensive. Where I live thighs are less expensive than wings (a curiosity) and it is the part we prefer anyway. You can use a whole chicken as well, but it will work better if you cut it up.
For the Soup
2-3 pounds chicken, skins and fat removed
5 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, quartered
4 stalks celery, chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed
2-3 sprigs parsley
2 bay leaves
Thyme, rosemary salt and pepper to taste
Water to cover
Toss it all in the pot. Cover with water and bring to a simmer, try not to boil as it will incorporate any fat into the soup (same principle as making stock). Start skimming. If you're using dried spices it might be better to add them later or tied in a bit of cheesecloth so you don't skim them away. No need to be fanatical about it, you can always add a bit more if you mess-up and forget.
Cover with the lid open about 2 inches. Simmer for about an hour-maybe two. You'll need to test. The carrots should be soft but the chicken shouldn't be cooked to death, as you still want to add it back to the soup. Keep it cooking at a slow simmer and you'll be fine.
Remove from heat. Drain, reserving vegetables and chicken, which you'll set aside to cool. Pull out as many of the carrots as you think still look decent and set them aside with the chicken. Toss the rest.
When cooled broth is de-greased add chicken and carrots back and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Cook your matzo balls and then add to soup. Serve hot.
To Render Chicken Fat:
Cut-up skins and fat into roughly 1-inch pieces and place in a heavy saucepan. Add about ¼ cup of water and set over medium heat. Stir occasionally and watch the heat-as the fat releases you will want to lower it to avoid scorching. Under no circumstances should you permit your spouse to eat the cracklings. If you must, overcook them to save the fools from themselves. Drain through a fine sieve and chill until solid.
To Make Matzo Balls:
2 tablespoons chicken fat (or vegetable oil)
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup matzo meal
2 tablespoons water or broth
In a bowl beat the fat with the eggs. Add the salt and matzo meal. Slowly add the water/broth until smooth. Cover and set in fridge for fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, boil a large pot of water.
With wet hands, form the balls (about a dozen) and drop them into boiling water. Cover, reduce heat to simmer and cook 3-40 minutes. Transfer to soup and serve hot.
Place the broth in a bowl or casserole and set in fridge to cool and de-grease. When chicken is cool, remove from bones and chop up for soup. Save out
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Friday, March 14, 2008
The Sandhill cranes really are back and Danny thought his Mr. Crane was looking a bit tired so he tucked him in for a nice nap.
Danny's fever broke, and now he has a lovely sinus/cough thing, as do I. This really has been one of the worst years for flu/viruses I remember. Seems like we've spent the past four months getting past one thing and on to another.
At least Mr. Crane is getting some rest. Hey Canadians-your birdies (or as Danny calls them "Boy-dees") are on the way home.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
You Will Need:
3 cups cooked lentils (about-use what you have)
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons dried, minced onion
1 teaspoon dried, minced garlic
1 large tin crushed tomatoes w/juice
2-3 beef soup cubes
4 carrots, finely diced
1 frozen block of spinach
1 tablespoon cumin
salt and pepper as desired
about 6 cups of water
Toss it all in a pot, bring to a boil. Skim excess foam and reduce to simmer. Cook until carrots are tender. Done. Go back to bedroom and re-wind video for child for the fifteenth time. Take child's temperature. Bring him saltines. Tuck him back in. Repeat as needed.
Poor kiddo, I tried getting him to eat Jell-O but he was smart enough to spit it out. It's saltines and mashed bananas around here for a while.
Expect slow blogging as I think it is going to be a very looooong night. Thank God for Hard Hat Harry videos. If he gets any sicker I'm going to have to break out the DVD boxed set of Lunchtime With Soupy.
Monday, March 10, 2008
The dough is interesting. I cup of starter, 2 cups warm water and 3 cups of all-purpose flour for the sponge As the starter is fed with first clear I still had decent protein strength in the bread using all-purpose. I let the sponge sit eight hours. That's the longest I've ever let a sourdough sponge sit (and the starter was fed for 12 hours the night before). The bread took all day and I only pulled it from the oven at 8 PM. I probably don't need to tell you how glorious it smells in here.
You Will Need:
1 cup fed starter
3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups warm water
Enough flour to make a very soft dough (about 2 more cups)
Make the sponge from 1-cup starter, 2 cups warm water and 3 cups all-purpose flour. Let sit 3-8 hours. Add salt, sugar and enough flour to make a very soft dough. It should be very sticky. Knead (as well as you can) about ten minutes.
Place in bowl, cover and let rise 1 hour. Remove, de-gas, fold and return to bowl for another hour. Repeat. Return to bowl for another 30 minutes. Remove to a board, divide in half and let rest 20 minutes. Shape and place on a cornmeal or semolina dusted pan (or peel if you use a stone). Cut as desired, or slash and dust lightly with flour. Cover with a cotton dishtowel and let rest until nearly doubled-about 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Use whatever method you prefer to create steam and then load the breads. Bake 20 minutes, rotate and bake another 10-20 or until golden and having an internal temperature of around 200 degrees F. Cool completely before slicing.
I was torn between doing this cake as Cliff Notes, or Dummies Guide. In the end I think this was the right choice. I realise I'm the only person being entertained by my baking lately, but I don't really care. There are millions of other blogs posting photographs of Meyer lemon cupcakes and Goji berry frappes. I'm going to keep baking the things that make me smile.
Fidel Castro-he's supposed to have a cigar in his mouth, that didn't come across well either. Must be an off decorating day for me.
I'm still open to suggestions for next week. Don't forget to click on the label/post tag to see other Home Baking With Counterpunch entries. As always, this is the part where I send you over to Counterpunch to read, or purchase a subscription. Go on, get out of here.
Friday, March 07, 2008
It isn't a bad cake. It is however a bit on the heavy side and the sort of thing that's screaming for a good dousing in liquor. OK, I think most cakes benefit from a good dousing in liquor, so perhaps I'm not the best person to ask. It was pretty moist, considering but like most Lenten cakes, probably will not be a good keeper (so when it goes stale in a day or so, I recommend dousing it in brandy, ground we've already covered).
The glaze in the original recipe involved frozen orange juice concentrate, arrowroot and shredded coconut. I decided to make a light glaze of water and confectioner's sugar and dust with coconut-sweetened coconut, thank you very much. I really hope diabetics wouldn't get the idea that a cake filled with this much dried fruit would be better than a traditional cake with granulated sugar-because it isn't. In terms of actual carbohydrates, this cake is a serious "carbo-bomb" and as my mother (who was diabetic) often observed, a slice of cheesecake never raised her blood sugar as much as a piece of raisin toast. Consider yourselves warned.
You Will Need:
(Makes 1 large Bundt cake)
1 cup shredded carrots
2 ½ cups chopped, dried apricots
2 2/3 cups water
2 cups raisins
½ cup vegetable shortening or margarine
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
3 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Grease and flour a large Bundt Cake pan.
In a large pot, combine carrots, apricots, water, raisins, margarine and spices. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for five minutes. Remove from heat and cool.
Sift together the dry ingredients. Add the first mixture to the second and mix very well. This is pretty heavy and dry and you will need to do a very thorough job of mixing. Because of all the fruit, you'll need to do it by hand as I suspect it will fry the motor in most mixers.
Bake at 375 degrees F. for 45-50 minutes (I used a cold start oven, if you pre-heat, shorten the time and keep checking).
Cool on rack and glaze if desired.