Monday, March 31, 2008

Library Thing

(I'm cross-posting this at the other blog so sorry in advance to those of you that read both)

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.

Sourdough Rye With Medium Rye

I was eager to try out the new medium rye flour as I've been baking with the heavy stuff which is well, heavy. I also experimented with using the caraway seeds on top, rather than in the dough so that the seed-haters can just brush them away. How anyone could hate a caraway seed is beyond do those freaks boil their potatoes? Anyway, this recipe will make two small loaves or one monster.

You Will Need:

1 cup fed starter

3 cups all purpose flour

2 cups warm water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon salt

1 cup First Clear flour

2 cups + medium rye flour

Caraway seeds if you like

In a large bowl, mix the fed starter with the warm water and break-up a bit. Stir in three cups of all purpose flour and mix well. Cover, and let soak3-6 hours. The longer it soaks, the more sour you get (I usually do about four because anything after that just seems like overkill).

The mixture should be bubbly by now. Stir in the sugar and salt. Mix in the cup of clear flour. Slowly add the rye flour about half a cup at a time until you have a sticky, but manageable dough. Resist the urge to add too much flour. I knead my breads by hand (the Kitchenaid bit the dust over a year ago and I never bothered to fix or replace it) and it takes a good ten to fifteen minutes of work to develop any gluten, even with the high protein First Clear flour. The medium rye was much easier to work with than the dark.

Place the bread in a buttered bow, turn to coat and cover again. It will need a good, long rise-probably close to three hours (or more) until doubled in bulk. Don't try to rush things by placing it atop the oven (it will dry out). Just be patient and let it rise slowly.

When the dough has doubled, divide it in two (if making two loaves) and let rest, covered for ten minutes. Sprinkle a baking sheet with semolina and shape the loaves as you like. Place on sheets. Brush the loaves lightly with water and sprinkle with caraway seeds and a bit of white flour (to prevent the towel from sticking. Cover with a cotton (not terry) towel and let sit another couple hours until almost doubled.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Use whatever method you prefer to create steam and slash the loaves. Load into steaming oven and bake twenty minutes. Rotate pan, and bake 10-15 minutes longer or until well browned and internal temperature is around 190 degrees F. You can go to 200 degrees F. but watch to be sure it does not burn.

Cool completely on racks before cutting.

Carrot/Chick Pea Salad With Citrus And Cumin

Finally, a carrot salad my child will eat. The original recipe is HERE but I made a number of additions and omissions. Still, I never would have thought of the orange syrup reduction and honey with cumin. It was excellent. I'm sure the original is delicious too, but I can't manage carrots unless they are well-cooked and pine nuts are out of the question. I also wanted this to be a main dish, so I added chick peas and feta cheese.

I served it with cous cous (with mint and raisins) and yoghurt. I grilled the last few slices of bread from a loaf of sourdough in olive oil and it came together as a light, early spring meal. Did I mention I have something like ten pounds of carrots in the house right now? This is a very good way to use them up.

You Will Need:

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/4 cup olive oil

1 pound of carrots, thinly sliced in ovals

salt to taste

1 tablespoon honey

juice of one lemon

1/2 cup black olives

1/2 cup of orange syrup (1 cup orange juice reduced over medium heat to 1/2 cup)

2 cups cooked, chick peas

1/4 cup chopped feta cheese

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the carrots and cook until fork soft. Stir in the cumin to coat well.

Make the orange syrup.

Combine the orange syrup, lemon juice, olives, chick peas and carrots in a bowl and chill. Before serving, toss with feta cheese.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Good Day Thrifting

I'm now the proud owner of a large stack of Kitchen Klatter magazines from the 1940's through the early 80's. I can't wait to bake Steak And Onion Pie. I paid (you should sit down for this) .27 cents each. I bought dozens. They sell for absurd amounts of money on-line, but I'm not selling them-oh no, they're mine. I'm so excited I could pee my pants.

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

Cheesecake With Pears And Caramel

I was so obsessed with not over baking this cheesecake that I ended up under baking it. No problem, still delicious! The recipe may be found HERE.

I made a crust from the oatmeal cookies baked yesterday and I didn't think it was special. It was adequate, but I think you could find a better recipe so I'll skip posting mine. It is much the same with the caramel topping I made. It isn't bad, it just isn't wonderful. It is adequate. Eh, you can find better.

I think it is worth showing the not-so great results just to keep the blog honest. It's too easy to crop a photo just-so and no one will know that an entire side of the cake caved-in. You should know when half a cake caved in, which this one did.

Not that it is going to waste because hell, it is still cheesecake (something I bake once a year, if that). I took a taste of the collapsed part of the cake and it really does taste wonderful-I'm sure a few more minutes in the oven would have solved the problem, and I'd encourage anyone to bake the recipe-just don't get antsy and pull it from the oven too soon.

At least the pears were perfect. You know how sometimes you buy pears and they either never ripen or they turn to mush in what seems a matter of hours? That didn't happen this time and I was able to get beautiful slices of perfectly ripe pears for topping my less than perfect cheesecake. I did give them a soak in water with lemon juice to keep the nice white, colour.

I don't want to give the impression that this was a disaster-far from it, just not as great as it might have been. Kind of like life, I guess.

Squash With Grapes And Sage

Red grapes were on sale this week. I love roasting grapes as a topping for bread but tossing it with squash, onions and sage is great as well. Strangely, I don't really enjoy fresh grapes, but baked in a pie or turned into sorbet-I'm there.

The recipe came from Bon Appetite in 1995, but the original recipe called for fresh sage (at $3.00 for a small package that isn't happening here) and two tablespoons of butter. I opted for 4 tablespoons of olive oil and found that was perfect.

You Will Need:

1 medium red onion, cut into eighths

1 butternut squash-seeded and peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes

1 tablespoon dried sage

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups red grapes

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Mix everything in a bowl and then spread on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir every fifteen minutes or so. Recipe takes approximately 35 minutes.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Oatmeal Cookies

For the first time in a few weeks I actually felt like eating something today. I've been living on instant chicken soup you prepare in a mug and saltines, so I guess it isn't shocking that I finally got hungry. Oatmeal cookies seemed like a good re-introduction to food.

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
2 eggs
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

Pasta With Red Onion And Grape Tomatoes

I thought my husband needed a break from eating mutton twice a day, every day since Sunday. Pasta sounded good and with the grape tomatoes only costing me .50 cents, I couldn't really go wrong. Sure, fresh basil would have been nice if I had it, but dried worked OK too.

You Will Need:

1 large red onion, chopped

1/2 stick unsalted butter

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved (or because we have a child, quartered)

1/4 cup chopped, black olives (I used Kalamata)

1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese cut into very tiny cubes

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 sprig chopped rosemary

1 teaspoon dried thyme

salt and pepper

Cooked Pasta

Melt the butter and oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and olives. Add the red wine vinegar (to help the onion keep colour). Cook until soft. Add the spices and mix well. In the last few minutes before serving, add the tomatoes and cheese, just to warm them through. Toss with hot pasta.

Blackberry Buckle

I've never been certain what the difference between a "buckle" and a "slump" is. Let's just make everyone happy and call this a "Blump."

I was able to purchase blackberries at a bargain price today (a buck a container) and as it was late when we returned home, this easy dessert was perfect. Danny thought the homemade whipped cream was the best part, but kids just don't understand how special blackberries are (well, I did because there was a large bush next to the community garden and all the kids used to go eat them still warm from the sun).

You Will Need:

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature, divided

1 cup sugar, divided

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup milk

2 cups blackberries

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Sweetened whipped cream for serving

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease an 8 inch square pan. Cream the 1/4 cup butter and 1/2 cup sugar together. Add the egg and vanilla-beat well. In another bowl, use 1 cup of the flour with the baking powder and salt. Mix well and add, alternating with the milk being sure to end with the flour. Pour into pan and top with berries. Mix remaining flour and sugar with the allspice and nutmeg. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter until a coarse meal. Sprinkle over berries. Bake about forty minutes (you'll need to watch it). Serve slightly warm with whipped cream.

Austerity Measures

I'm in the mood to pressure cook a ton of beans and freeze them for future use. I'll let you know how it goes.

Mutton Curry With Apples

Oh gosh, she's using curry as a dumping ground for leftover mutton again. Well, I did make a large batch of barley soup with some of it, and I still have enough left for a pot pie-thank goodness for the freezer.

This curry is quite different from the last one as it uses Madras curry powder and apples. The spice mix is simple enough to throw together and is versatile enough that tripling the recipe and storing some wouldn't be a bad idea.

I've used this curry mix with cooked lamb neck bones and with regular ground beef. I've never tried it with chicken but I don't see any reason why it wouldn't do well.

You Will Need:

2-3 cups cooked mutton, cubed (or lamb, etc.)

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves

3 tablespoons cooking oil

a 6 oz. tin of tomato paste

2 cups chopped, tart apples

1 tin chick peas, drained and rinsed

Water to cover

For the spice mix:

2 tablespoons Madras curry powder

1 tablespoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon cardamom

In a large pot, cook the onion and garlic in the oil until softened. Add the apples, chick peas, mutton, tomato paste and spice mix. Cook for about a minute over medium heat and then add water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for half an hour. Strain, reserving the liquid. Return liquid to pot and boil until reduced by almost half. Add the solid ingredients back to pot, stir and serve hot over jasmine rice or rice noodles.

A Post For Locals

I found myself in Wahoo today (yes, that is really the name of the town) and stopped at the Warehouse Surplus (126 East 5th Street Ph#402-443-5377). If you're not clued-in , the front of the shop is filled with silly nick knacks, but the rear of the store has wholesale commercial food items (large bags of flour, rice, spices...pretty much anything you can think of). Their prices on bread flour haven't gone up yet so if you're a baker and live in Nebraska this might be a good time to take a trip up Rt.77. Then, you can go next door to the Wigwam Cafe for lunch (yes, you really ought to). I've also purchased large bags of yeast for really a tenth of what the grocery store charges. The flour products are all General Mills and the yeast is Fleischmans-so no weird brands you've never heard of.

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

Mutton Curry

As, I turned some of the leftover mutton into a curry. Mr. Eat The Blog had two bowls of it and said it was perfect. I'll take his word for it.

You Will Need:

Leftover lamb or mutton-about 8 ounces

4-5 tablespoons oil

2 cups cooked chickpeas

1 large onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced

1/2 cup roasted red pepper, chopped

1/2 cup diced tomatoes (seeds and skins removed

1/2 cup shredded coconut

2 cups coconut milk (not cream)

2 cups water

The following spices mixed together:

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/8 teaspoon turmeric

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/8 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

In a large pot saute the onion, garlic and ginger in the oil. As soon as it begins to get soft, add everything else and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a slow simmer and cook slightly covered for about an hour. In the last twenty minutes remove the lid and increase the heat slightly to thicken. Serve hot over rice.

White And Wheat-Same Basic Recipe

Two very different results from the same basic recipe. For wheat, substitute out two cups of whole wheat flour for white. The recipe will make two loaves or one large tray of rolls.

You Will Need:

1/4 cup warm water

2 1/4 teaspoons dry (not instant) yeast

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups whole milk

5-6 cups white bread flour or 3 cups white bread flour and the rest in whole wheat

6 teaspoons vital wheat gluten

Dissolve the yeast in warm water and let stand until ready to use. Scald the milk and pour over butter, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Cool to lukewarm and then add the yeast. Add three cups of the flour beating vigorously with a wooden spoon. Add the rest of the flour and vital wheat gluten until you have a soft dough. Knead until smooth (about ten minutes). Place in a buttered bowl, cover and let rise until doubled-about 1 1/2 hours.

Gently deflate dough and let rise another 30 minutes.

Grease pans or tray (if making rolls) and shape dough as preferred. Dust lightly with flour and cover with a cotton towel.Let rise until doubled.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

For rolls, bake about 25 minutes. For bread about 30-35.

Cool on racks.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

I Can Haz Ur Sheep

Don't you just feel for our poor little doggie sitting patiently table side for a taste of mutton? He was rewarded for his patience with a few nice pieces. Both Papa and his little doggie seemed to enjoy the roast, and have declared it a success. I cannot take credit for the preparation as I've been in bed ill most of the day. I haven't tried any and don't intend to.

The recipe may be found HERE.

Mr. Goody made a few changes including two nice turnips and ruby port instead of the pint of beer. I can say that it smelled better than any roasting mutton I've ever encountered. Upon unwrapping the roast it turned out to have the bone removed which shortened the cooking time considerably.

I suspect it will turn up throughout the week in various curries and the like.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Easter

Uh oh-looks like our little birdie isn't feeling well. I wonder, was it the mutton? She's made a terrible mess of the nest. Fortunately, her friend below is doing better.

I want everyone to know that the marshmallow fluff and green food colouring bird poop was my husband's idea. He's a stickler for realism. The actual project idea came from Angry Chicken. She didn't make bird poop-because she's classy and stuff. I'm sure if she had, it would be exquisite bird poop.

I can just imagine the look on Danny's face when he wakes up and sees these sitting on the dining room table.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

How Do You Spell Sucker?


Yeah, I made the train cake (see post from earlier today). If I did this again I'd skip the messy glaze and just use a good ganache. Because the cookbook was for kosher recipes most of the baked goods didn't have dairy-including the glaze (so it can be served after a meat meal). It would have been more attractive with better decorations but I did the best I could largely freehand with melted white chocolate. It did look much better in person than the crummy flash photos let on. Danny was impressed.

I look at it this way: Danny will have enough disappointment and unhappiness in life as he gets older. I realistically can't do much about the state of the world, or the frustrations he's likely to encounter. I can however, bake him the cake he wanted so badly when he was three. I mean, if you can't feel excited and happy when you're know? You're supposed to be carefree and get the special things you want at that age. Let the grown-ups tear their guts apart with worry, but damn it, let the little ones have some fun before the difficult crap starts intruding. Thankfully, for the moment I'm able to provide him with the little things he wants (really, Matchbox cars and the occasional cake aren't going to break the bank). He asks for so little, I'm always a little relieved when I know what he actually wants. Most days he's satisfied with my lap and some stories.

When Danny came into the dining room and saw that cake on the table he was stunned for a moment. Then, as he registered in his brain that it was the cake he'd wanted so badly a smile broke across his face and delighted, he said:

"Oh mama, it is the train. Mama made Danny the train."

Now come on, you don't get that sort of a reaction with a cheap toy from Target.

I'll not post the recipe as I really thought the glaze was stupid. Instead, I'll explain how I assembled it.

Bake a sheet cake in a 9x13 pan. Cut lengthwise into 3 parts. Two slices are then divided in two for the boxcars. The remaining piece can be cut for the engine, smokestack, and cow-catcher. Apply the glaze, affix white chocolate pieces and you're in business. Have a camera ready, your kid will be all smiles.


I have a small...make that a sizable mutton problem. Really, any mutton is arguably a problem but my husband presented me with a leg of mutton and sort of has his heart set on my preparing it for Easter.

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.

Hamantaschen Bread And Cake Style

The photograph is of a yeast-raised Hamantaschen filled with apricot. They are very bread-like, perhaps a bit more than I really would prefer. While I do not care for that style of pastry, Danny really enjoyed them (and ate two at lunch).

The second recipe is for the cake/cookie-style I usually bake.

As I've been under the weather lately, I made use of tinned apricot filling. Traditionally fillings of poppy seed or prune are used, though where I grew-up there was a bakery that did almond which I've never run across elsewhere.

One of the cookbooks I have shows a rather elaborate, fanciful cake shaped like a train with an engine and a few cars behind. Apparently, someone thought this would be just swell for Purim and stuck it in the book with a two-page photo spread. Guess who came carrying me the cookbook (A Taste Of Tradition, The How and Why of Jewish Gourmet Holiday Cooking by, Ruth Sirkis, 1972), pointing to the photograph. Yeah, good guess.

"Look mama, a train."

"Oh, would you look at that..."

"What is it for?"
(Squinting to read as he waves book around)" It says the cake is for Purim" (Thinks to self, "trains?")

"Purim is Thursday!"

(aloud) "Oh." (silently, "shit").

"Mama will bake it for Danny?"


Unless I wake up feeling a whole lot better tomorrow, I wouldn't bet on it. But at least there's Hamantaschen.

For the Bread-Style Pictured Above:

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water

1 cup milk

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter

5-6 cups all-purpose flour

2 eggs

1 egg yolk plus 1 tablespoon water for wash

filling of your choice

Dissolve yeast in the warm water and let proof about fifteen minutes. In a saucepan, combine the milk, butter sugar and salt over low heat just until butter melts. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm.

In a large bowl, combine the milk/butter mixture with the yeast and eggs. Add two cups of the flour and beat well. Add the rest, a cup at a time until dough comes together. Slowly add enough as you knead to make a soft, yet elastic dough. Knead until smooth, about ten minutes. Place in a buttered bowl, cover and let rise about 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch dough down, divide in half.

Roll each half into a rectangle 17x12 inches (oh, you needn't get out a ruler, just try to get it approximate) and with a four inch cutter, cut into rounds. Place a bit of filling in the centre and then moisten the edges with water. Pinch shut into diamond shapes and place on a greased baking sheet to rise again until nearly doubled-about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the tops with the egg wash and bake 15-20 minutes or until golden. Cool on racks. Makes about 30.

For the cake/cookie style click HERE to see last year's recipe.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sourdough With Whole Wheat Flour

Not 100% whole wheat, but two cups added to a sponge of first-clear starter and three cups all purpose flour. I did a shorter soak with this one-three hours for the sponge, two hours for the first rise and two hours for the second. Baked at 400 degrees F. it didn't split off the base (for a change). The crumb is a bit tighter than what I typically like, but the resulting bread was quite pleasant. Here's the details:

1 cup fed starter

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups warm water

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon salt

Mix fed starter with two cups warm water. Add three cups white flour and let sit three hours. Stir in sugar and salt. Add whole wheat flour to sponge adding more if needed. Dough should be sticky. Knead 10-15 minutes until it passes windowpane test. Place in oiled bowl and let rise two hours or until doubled.

Divide dough and let rest ten minutes on a board.

Sprinkle a baking sheet with semolina (or cornmeal) and shape breads. Dust lightly with flour and cover. Let rise about two hours or until just about doubled.

Score loaves (I used a kitchen scissors on this loaf)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Use whatever method you prefer to create steam and load the breads. Bake 20 minutes. Carefully open oven (standing to the side to avoid any steam blasts) and rotate the pan. Bake another ten minutes and begin checking for doneness (is that even a word?). I baked mine to an internal temperature of 200 degrees F. but 205 would have been OK . You can always do the tapping test if you do not have an instant read thermometer.

Cool completely before slicing.

Vegetarian Chili

Another recipe for a dish that really does not require one. Using what I had on hand here's a rather simple vegetarian chili. Served over a baked potato and topped with cheese and sour cream, it made a filling meal for very little cost. I made quite a bit, and we'll probably be eating it all week.

You Will Need:

To Cook Beans:

2 cups dried pinto beans

2 cups dried great northern beans

3 bay leaves

Soak beans overnight. In the morning, drain and rinse. Place in a pot with water to cover and add the bay leaves. Cook at a very slow simmer for 2-3 hours until done. Drain, reserving cooking water.

For the Chili:

Cooked beans

1 large tin whole tomatoes, chopped-reserve liquid

1 cup tomato sauce

2 large onions, chopped

5-6 large carrots, chopped

1/2 cup roasted red peppers, drained and chopped

3 large garlic cloves, chopped

3-4 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon epazote

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground ancho peppers

1 tablespoon dried basil

Bean cooking water

In a large, heavy pot cook the onions, carrots and garlic over medium heat with the oil until slightly softened. Add everything else but the bean water. Stir. Add as much bean water as you think it needs to cover. Reserve the rest in the event it needs more later. Because the chili is cooked uncovered you will need to check it frequently and keep stirring as the liquid will evaporate. Some will stick to the bottom no matter what you do, but cleans up easily after soaking. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. You'll need to keep an eye on it as the water evaporates you'll need to reduce the heat. The chili will be better the longer it cooks and thickens. Mine cooked three hours but could easily have gone another hour and a half. The worst thing that will happen is it will get softer, which is kind of the point anyway. If you like your beans still firm, figure about two hours.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Home Baking With Counterpunch-Week Three

This week's Baking With Counterpunch features a trio Counterpunchers know and love.

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.

Previous weeks:

Chomsky, Nader and Zinn

Castro, Subcomandante Marcos, Chavez

Chicken Soup With Matzo Balls

I hesitated to publish a recipe for chicken soup; after all it's not a difficult thing to make that requires a recipe. Much like spaghetti sauce I don't really have a set recipe for it, rather I toss it together with whatever I have on hand. Still, if you don't know where to begin, the tossing of ingredients is more difficult. Doing a quick search of the web, I noticed some people pre-sauté their chicken and vegetables. I don't do that. I also don't add star anise or fresh ginger. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with it (sounds good to me) I just don't do it. This is simple food that I only make (predictably) when we're all miserably sick with colds.

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
1-teaspoon salt
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

Sorry, The Cook Is Sick

I was going to post a recipe for Top Ramen but I'm too sick to try and be funny.

See you when the plague leaves our house.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Chocolate Lenten Cake

Obviously, if you gave up chocolate for Lent, you're out of luck with this recipe. You may find the recipe HERE. I made a couple changes increasing the cocoa to 1/2 cup and adding a heaping teaspoon of instant espresso. Otherwise, I followed the recipe and came away with a very quick, simple cake. I used an 8x8 pan and it took slightly less time, so adjust according to the size of your pan. You should also let it cool completely before pulling it out, but then you do get to taste the cake when the big pieces stick to the bottom of the pan. Wow, is this good cake, considering it has basically nothing in it.

I Just Flew Into Nebraska...

...and boy are my arms tired!

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

I Can't Stop Baking Sourdough

-And I'm not even sure I really like sourdough. I sort of feel an obligation to keep feeding and caring for the starter-like a baby. I hope it doesn't want to go to college.

Roasted Beets With Citrus Vinagrette

Another recipe based on about twenty others that weren't quite what I wanted. I'd take it as more a suggestion than a recipe as you can vary the amounts to suit your tastes.

To Roast Beets:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a heat-proof casserole place the cleaned beets, with the skins still on. Cover and bake about an hour (check for doneness but don't overcook as they will continue cooking after being removed from the oven).

Remove from oven and keep covered. Let sit 30 minutes. Remove from casserole, cool and using a paper towel, wipe the skins away. You can use a knife of course, but you'll lose a bit of beet with the skin.

Slice as desired and chill until ready to use.

For the Vinaigrette:

1 cup fresh orange juice (I used a combination of Moro blood oranges and Cara Cara)

2 tablespoons finely chopped crystalised ginger

3 tablespoons olive oil

7 tablespoons cider vinegar (you may prefer less, taste as you add)

salt and pepper to taste

Pour generously over the beets and then remove the beets with a slotted spoon to a serving bowl. Reserve extra vinaigrette for serving.

Dixie Cornmeal Foldovers

Another recipe from the Better Homes And Gardens Homemade Bread Book.

As you can see, foldovers don't work for me-probably the reason you won't find Parker house rolls featured anywhere around here. If I made these again I'd probably just dip them in the melted butter and skip the whole folding bit. They are a bit on the rich side (with 3/4 cup sour cream) and went well with a salad and soup dinner. I wouldn't want to serve these with a roast.

You Will Need:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup cornmeal

1/4 cup shortening

1 egg, beaten

3/4 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons melted butter

water for edges

Grease a baking sheet and pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cornmeal. Cut in the shortening. Add the egg to the sour cream and mix well. Add to dry mixture and stir until moistened. Then knead lightly and flatten on a board to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into rounds. Using the back of a knife, fold a flap over so the top overlaps the bottom and moisten the edge with water. Brush tops with melted butter and bake 8-10 minutes. I got a dozen, the recipe says 20-24. Go figure.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Lentil Soup

I had about three cups of lentils leftover from the casserole, so I turned them into soup. This is very lazy soup-I hesitate to call it cooking.

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.

Eating In Bed

-But only when you have a fever of 102.

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

Long-Soaking Sourdough Sponge Breads

I couldn't decide what I wanted to do with shaping these loaves. In the end, I shaped them in a sad attempt at a baguette and then cut the tops with scissors. You can do this technique by rolling the dough flat, cutting and then stretching the holes out, which does make an impressive bread-but not so great for sandwiches. At least that's what I have in mind for these. The more I think I've learned about shaping the more I realise I know squat.

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
1-tablespoon sugar
1-tablespoon salt
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.

Lentil Casserole

I was unable to find a satisfactory recipe for lentil casserole/loaf, so I came up with this. We enjoyed it and it will likely make future appearances at dinner.

You Will Need:

2 cups cooked lentils

2 cups jasmine rice

1/4 cup dry plain breadcrumbs

1 large onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

1/2 cup chopped mushrooms

1/4 cup roasted red pepper, chopped

1/2 teaspoon sage

1/4 teaspoon thyme

1/4 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon rosemary

salt and pepper to taste

2 eggs

olive oil for cooking vegetables

In a large pan or pot, cook the onion, garlic, spices, mushrooms and pepper over medium heat until softened. Mix in the rice and lentils, Remove from heat and mix in eggs. Pour into greased casserole and bake at 350 degrees F. for 1 hour. Serve with plain yoghurt.

Celebrating The No Child Left Behind Act

You have no idea how hard it is to fit "Mortimer J. Adler"on a cake. Well, I'm sure it won't come up too often.

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.

Home Baking With Counterpunch

This week's Baking With Counterpunch features three Latin American favourites. First, I do realise I made Fidel Castro look like a bearded Popeye and that I completely screwed-up the Cuban flag. I had pastry-bag issues today.
Second, that Citgo logo on Chavez' beret didn't quite work out as planned either.
Marcos looks excellent though.

Subcomandante Marcos. Yeah, that's supposed to be a pipe in his mouth.

Hugo Chavez

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

Lenten Cake With Carrots And Dried Fruit

I suppose if I were told I could never eat another cake with sugar, eggs, milk or butter-and this were the only cake permitted, I might learn to like it. I really do feel terrible for people with severe allergies to common foods. I have a difficult enough time avoiding nuts; I don't know how people learn to manage as well as they do. This cake would be suitable for vegans if you omit the sugar, which the original recipe I tweaked did. I added ½ a cup of granulated sugar but I also substituted apricots for dates, which are considerably less sweet.

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
1-teaspoon cloves
1-teaspoon nutmeg
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.