Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Oh no, the CFTBL! I was so happy we were able to get Danny the costume he really wanted. It looks like such a crappy get-up to us, but when you're four it is just the greatest thing in the world. Who knew a couple yards of polyester and a plastic mask could bring so much joy to a child?...and his evil friend Cthulhu.
I was leaning slightly in this photo, but Danny really is that tall...or I'm that short-take your pick.

There were even less people doing Halloween this year in our tiny town. At first I thought it might be fear of flu, or the recession, but then I realised it is just the population getting to be teenagers. Families moved in here during the boom, and now those growing families are all grown. The people who did give out stuff did themselves and our tiny town proud-full sized Twix bars and glowing necklaces. You rock Twix bar lady, and glowing necklace lady. Mrs. Trail Mix tubes...I don't know-she was kind of elderly and probably meant well.

Best story from the night:

Another "old timer" who puts out an elaborate display each year because Halloween is his birthday (he must have been about 80) was telling me how for years he made sure no one "messed with the jack-o-lanterns" by wiring them with electrical fencing. Have I mentioned this is a very small, rural town? Yeah, don't try that one in Lincoln. When he was younger, he used to dress up like a mannequin and lie on the front porch and then scare the wits out of kids who came up to see if he was in fact real.

Danny had a blast, I'm exhausted, and now we can all look forward to hitting Shop-Ko bright and early for half price Halloween candy tomorrow.

Monsters vs. Prime Ministers

Starring: Prime Minister Harper...and Monsters!

Mr. Harper Officially welcomes Gort the Robot to Ottawa: "Oh, well yes that's fine that you went to Calgary first."

But the Hydra wants a hat(s) too:
"Well really now, you keep losing them-you can't expect the city to keep handing out honorary hats if you keep losing them when you grow your head back. That's fiscally irresponsible. Really, you need to take that up with them, but for all the oil money in Alberta, they still can't be handing out hats to every monster that stops by to say hello and skeletalise a cow. Er...cattle. They're called "cattle." I think. Cattle? That's the proper term then? Right. Cattle. They might give you one hat, but I do think three are out of the question.

The Japanese ambassador wants to discuss mad cow disease in Canadian beef exports:

"Canadian beef is absolutely safe to eat, though we do recommend cooking it to a safe internal temperature. With your fire breathing capabilities that shouldn't be much of an issue.'s Mothra these days? Do send our regards.

The Liberal leader drops by:
"Look Iggy, I don't have time for your nonsense, I'm lousy with monsters at the moment...perhaps you failed to notice."

Mr. Harper addresses ecological issues:
"Well who told you to go near the sands in the first place? I mean, really now-you're a creature, a monster at that, you should know better. It is all fine and well to be looking out for the stupid migratory birds, but honestly, I thought you monsters could look out for yourselves. Oh yes, so tough when it comes to dragging swimmers out of the water, but put them near some oil sands and they're all "Oh...ewwww... I got dirty! Go get your NDP friends to scrub you off."

Mr. Harper on the nuclear threat:

Look Mr. Gort...that's your name? Gort? Is that Spaceman for "I have horrendous manners?" I thought so. As I was saying, Canada does not have nuclear ambitions. You really do need to stop pounding my head now-that really isn't polite and Canadians value polite behaviour above...pretty please, stop pounding my head? That really isn't terribly polite. You leave me no choice but to summon the RCMP...and they're bringing stun guns..

Mr. Harper on Tourism:
Why yes, we have tall buildings, why do you ask? Our women? Just lovely, lovely, lovely women. Well I don't know what you mean by "good screamers" but if it something American women do, then I'm sure our Canadian women can scream every bit as convincingly as their American counterparts. You're not actually a king are you? You're a monkey!

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Potato Pancakes -a New Recipe

Bad photo, good potatoes.

I think (as does the rest of the family) these are the best potato pancakes I've made. The recipe originally called for a grated apple as well, but I omitted that, as I didn't have one. It certainly didn't hurt the end result-these were fantastic. Danny, who isn't really a fan of potatoes in any form ate two.

Adapted From: A Taste of Tradition by, Ruth Sirkis

2 lbs. potatoes
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons flour or matzo meal
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 small onion
1 small apple (I omitted this)
Oil for frying

Peel and grate the potatoes, onion, and apple. Beat eggs lightly and add to grated vegetables. Add flour, baking powder and salt. mix well.

Heat about 1 inch of oil in a frying pan and fry, a couple at a time (don't crowd the pan) then drain on a rack. Serve hot with applesauce or sour cream.

Halloween Carrot Spice Cake With Caramel Filling and Buttercream Top

Cute, eh?
I for one, welcome our new evil overlord...
If you have extra buttercream, roll it into balls, chill and then dip in melted chocolate. They set pretty well and look adorable.

This layer cake has everything in it-pineapple, carrots, coconut, raisins...the only thing it lacks is nuts. It is moist, dense, gooey and so filled with sweetness it makes your teeth hurt just reading the ingredients. Probably not a good cake for diabetics. I used a fresh pineapple that I crushed, but tinned would work fine (probably easier to drain-mine gave off quite a bit of juice) and you could exchange any dried fruit (currants, sultanas) or even walnuts for the raisins. For this particular recipe, I think Parchment lining the bottom of the pans would have been nice, but I greased and floured them. I did have a bit of cake stick to the bottom, but as you are frosting and covering the cake so heavily, it hardly mattered in the end. You can also bake this as a sheet cake in a 9x13 pan and just leave it in to frost.

We had fun decorating it with the mouldable buttercream from yesterday's post. It took tinting well, and rolled out perfectly.

You Will Need:

For the cake:

3 large eggs
2 cups AP flour
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch dried ginger
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup crushed and drained pineapple
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 9 inch pans (or use parchment on the bottom and then grease again). Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the sugar, flour, oil, baking soda, spices and vanilla. Mix well until combined. Stir in the carrots, pineapple, coconut and raisins by hand. Mix well. Pour into pans and bake until they test done (Mine took 50 minutes). Let cool in pans twenty minutes on rack. Then, unmould. It is not a catastrophe if the cakes stick a bit-just loosen it with a spatula and plop it back onto the cake. You'll fix it with frosting later.

For the filling/frosting:

In a small pan, melt 1/2 cup unsalted butter. Add 1 cup brown sugar and stir over low heat two minutes. Add 1/4 cup whole milk and whisk until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and cool completely. Then, beat in 1-2 cups of confectioner's sugar until you have a spreadable frosting. Use the frosting to fill and frost sides of cake. Top with rolled buttercream.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The British Are Coming

I've been reading Paul Revere's Ride to Danny again. The last time we read it regularly he was too young to really grasp the American history, but enjoyed it as a poem. Now, he's older.

We covered much of what the poem left out (like the fact that Revere never did quite complete the ride being captured just outside of Concord) and why the British were coming in the first place. We talked about Minutemen, and the Boston Tea Party, and King George, etc. Danny took it all in, but finally interrupted with a question:

"So what would have happened if we'd stayed a British colony?"

Sometimes...sometimes I think perhaps I shouldn't be a parent. At the very least, I probably shouldn't be homeschooling...and yet.

"You'd have bad teeth, be perpetually drunk, and have in-bred stupid children because you married your cousin."

Sometimes...sometimes when I think I've completely failed as a parent, as a teacher, that child does something so magnificent that any doubts I had disappear...

"So mama? Is Kansas still a British colony?"

I love being that child's mother.

Homemade Sugar Paste-Sort Of

I couldn't fathom spending all that money on meringue powder and sugar paste, etc. just to make a few monsters and pumpkin decorations. What I did do was make use of the store-brand unsalted butter I bought for $1.00 a pound on sale and stuck in the freezer for just this sort of project.

You will Need:

1 lb. butter, softened
(About) 1 bag confectioner's (icing) sugar

Beat the butter until soft. With your hands, work in the powdered sugar until you have a very stiff, pliable clay-like mixture. Chill briefly. Tint as desired (gels colourings work best). Chill again. Start playing.

Now, if you're feeling particularly crafty, roll the tinted buttercream into balls and chill. Then, dip into melted chocolate and let harden in the fridge. I made some bright orange ones coated in dark chocolate-very Halloween-ish.

The buttercream is really adaptable-you can roll it out, and use it almost like fondant to "wrap" a cake. I think that would be cute on very flat-topped cupcakes.

Anyway, another simple and inexpensive hack I thought worth sharing.

And in other news, it looks like Mr. Eat The Blog will have to deal with stuff at work this weekend, so I get Trick or Treat duty. That means I get first pick of the peanut treats-I hope the cheap bastards in this town are sports this year, and give out full sized Butterfingers. You know, "fun sized" really isn't. What?! Do you think it is? Gosh, I sure hope someone hands out pennies, or individually wrapped cough drops. I love those. Smith Brothers licorice kick ass, but only because they stopped making Pine Brothers. The Pine Brothers had it all over the Smith Brothers, though the Smith boys get extra points for the beat beards.

What's the worst thing you ever got Trick or Treating? I'll vote for Jordan Almonds.

Cabbage, Celery and White Bean Casserole

This recipe doubles easily, and while it is best eaten the night it is made, it is still quite good second day. Both celery and cabbage were on sale last week which helped keep this in the "pennies per serving" range.

You Will Need:

3 cups finely shredded cabbage
Boiling water to cover cabbage
3 cups chopped celery
1 1/2 cups fresh, soft breadcrumbs
3 cups cooked white beans, drained
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons butter
Generous amounts of salt and pepper
1/2=3/4 cup shredded hard cheese (I used a mixture of Parmesan and Pecorino Romano)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Grease a large casserole dish and set aside. Place the cabbage in a large pot and pour the boiling water over. Let stand ten minutes. Drain very well. Mix with celery and beans. Place a layer of celery and beans in the bottom of the casserole. Salt and pepper the layer. Top with 1/3 of the breadcrumbs. Do the next layer of celery/beans/cabbage and another layer of salt/pepper. Do another layer of crumbs. Repeat with remaining beans, salt and pepper-but hold off on the last of the crumbs. Beat together the egg, milk and cream. Pour over the casserole and then top with the last of the crumbs. Dot with butter and finally sprinkle on the cheese. Bake 15-20 minutes or until bubbly. Serve hot.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Quince Tart With Cheese

Sometimes I do really well guessing. I couldn't find a recipe for what I wanted, but I knew strong cheese goes well with quince paste-so why not baked quince? Why not indeed.

I used a hard goat cheese and a very aged, granular sheep's milk cheese mixed with some Swiss to give it a bit of softness. The Swiss is very mild- I wouldn't use a strong one that would compete with the hard cheeses.

I'll post what I did, but obviously, don't run out and try to find the same cheeses, or even use the same spice combinations. I used a vanilla bean because I had one that was drying out-but I could have as easily used star anise, or cinnamon, or cardamom-you get the idea. I also like juniper berries (did I ever mention I was named for the Donovan song, "Jennifer Juniper?" Well, I was. People did things like that in the 60's, and my mother liked the song. You don't want to know what her name was) which probably explains my deep affection for gin. I don't have much affection for Donovan, and I'm getting somewhat sick of seeing his kids turning up everywhere, but it does put me in a league of children whose stupid beatnik mothers named their children after popular songs. Actually, it never was that popular of a song. I guess I should be thankful she didn't name me "Sunshine Superman." I don't know who or what my sister was named for. She doesn't like gin. Or Donovan. Juniper berries are handy to keep around because they are wonderful for seasoning duck or goose. Or duck, duck, goose. Or drinking too much gin and goosing someone. Or ducking.

Yes, yes, get on with the tart then, will you?

You Will Need:

For the Quince:

2 large quince, ripened to the yellow stage, peeled, cored and quartered
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup ruby port
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon dried juniper berries
1 vanilla bean, cut and scraped (but toss the pod into the pot as well)

For The Tart/Cheese

1/2 cup hard cheese of your choice, finely grated
12 sheets phyllo dough thawed
1/2 cup clarified butter, melted (You probably won't need it all, but better to have it)
The poached quince
1 cup finely grated white bread crumbs

To poach the quince:

Place wine and water in a small pan and add sugar. Whisk until dissolved. Add everything else, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover halfway and cook until quince are tender (about 20 minutes). Remove quince with a slotted spoon. Remove the juniper berries and vanilla bean. Return to burner and reduce over high heat until syrup begins to thicken and almost reaches the gelling point. Remove, scrape from pan with a spatula and mix over quince. Chill until needed. The sauce will thicken to a jelly-like consistency-that's good. You don't want it too runny.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly brush a baking sheet with melted clarified butter. Working quickly and keeping a damp towel over the sheets of phyllo, layer three sheets and brush each with butter. After three, sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs, then repeat until all sheets are used, ending with a butter (not breadcrumb layer). You need not be meticulous about this. You could even do a light coating of breadcrumbs between each layer. Roll the edges up to form a wall of sorts around the tart (I totally stink at this sort of thing and made liberal use of clarified butter to er...mend the dry edges that shattered.). Sprinkle with the cheese and lay quince slices over. You will have more quince than you need (and probably enough phyllo for a second tart) but it is also good for breakfast with some thick yoghurt. Take spoonfuls of the jelly from the chilled quince and spoon it over the exposed fruit slices. Just enough to give it a glaze as it melts in the oven-you don't want a mess.

Bake until tart is dark and golden-mine took about 25 minutes, but keep an eye on it.

Cool on rack before serving.

Two Breads...

...waiting for some good cheese.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Early Holiday Shopping

Well, I'm done. I had a gift certificate at Amazon that was getting old so I bought Danny a VHS boxed set of My Favorite Martian, and four of the best episodes of Lost in Space. I also bought him a new, portable chess set (he's turned into a chess-obsessed freak). I have a recorder I bought last year and never gave to him (just barely a step up from a "flute-o-phone", but still a musical instrument...sort of) so he can get that for his Birthday. If I can get my hands on a few inexpensive train toys, we'll be good. It is difficult having a birthday so close to Christmas, so I really try to have a "wow" gift in the lot. I think he's going to love Lost in Space.

Mr. Eat The Blog requested a film for his birthday as well, but I wouldn't want any of the tracking software at Amazon keeping a record of my having bought a copy of Vulgar. There are very few movies I wish I could un-watch-but that is one of them. Actually, I wanted to douse my eyeballs with hand sanitiser. Your mileage may vary.

I must say, it is so much nicer to do your holiday shopping with someone else's money-I tend to be more generous. I guess it would only be the bad sort of re-gifting if I bought something for the person who gave me the gift certificate. Not to worry, I'm crocheting her a hat and scarf.

Wow, I feel like I accomplished so much in ten minutes. I should go have a drink or something.

Flu Shot, Halloween, Etc.

Danny's doctor's office still hasn't gotten hold of the piggy-wig flu vaccine, but the regular one was in. I went ahead and splurged for the nasal vaccine over the injection because I'm a nice mother (mostly) and I was kind of tired.

We have a tradition of going out for ice cream after vaccinations, but since Danny developed the peanut/nut allergy, I've been hesitant to take him in an ice cream parlor (all those chopped nuts sitting around for sundaes). Instead, I took him to Runza which offers vanilla or chocolate soft serve (or a swirl) and that's it. Perfect-no fear of peanut contamination. It also gives the kiddo an opportunity to amuse the teenagers behind the counter by asking them if they "Get the runs from Runzas?" Yeah, good times all around.

I do kind of feel bad about not being able to take him to the local place anymore, but I would feel like a dipshit asking them to take special precautions to accommodate one kid. I can't stand when people do stuff like that. Don't even ask what Halloween will be like. I've been teaching Danny that he has to take whatever is given him, say "thank you", and when we get home, I'll check it over for nuts and trade him for nut-safe candy (why yes, I did think to set in a stash-that's why I'm the mama...). The world doesn't revolve around you and your nut allergy (or my nut allergy), but that's still hard for a child that has been waiting all year for his favourite holiday.

We totally caved, and ordered Danny a vintage Creature From the Black Lagoon costume off eBay. Under twenty bucks-not bad, even if it does smell of mildew. It has a mask, which is really all kids care about.


It kills me to actually pay for fruit we used to have growing in our front yard, yet I did just that-to the tune of two dollars each. I bought two-because that was how much change I had in my coin purse. Do you do that? Excuse a purchase as only pin-money because you didn't need to break a bill? Absurd, I know (particularly if you've loaded your little beaded coin-purse to bulging with twenty dollars worth of quarters) but I now have two perfect quince.

There isn't much you can do with two quince, so I peeled and cored them and as I type they are poaching away in wine, simple syrup, juniper berries and a mostly-scraped vanilla bean. Part of me wanted to toss in some black peppercorns, but I resisted.

I have some hard sheep's milk cheese in the fridge and some Phyllo dough defrosting. We all know I have clarified butter. I'll bake it tomorrow, though I still have only the vaguest idea what I'm aiming for.

You have no idea how delicious my kitchen smells right now, which is great because I'm microwaving leftovers for dinner. Maybe no one will notice in a fog of quince intoxication.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Whisky On The Rocks...

...hold the penguins.

Sort of amazing the glass hasn't shattered all these years.

Rice Salad in Croustades

I had a couple cups of leftover brown rice to use up. Sure, I could have disguised it in burritos, but I also had stale bread. People, you know what stale bread means in this family. You don't? Oh sorry, it means break out the clarified butter because mama's making toast. Our croûtons. Or croustades. Whatever. Stale bread and clarified butter are two of the best-est things in the whole wide world. They are, trust me. I used stale squash rolls for these. You know, I re-purposed them. So hey, how about that Austrian/English side of the family...

...and for those brown rice haters, just fill them up with cheese chunks. Not as elegant, but eh, whatever.

The rice salad is beautiful. Really, it is-and it used-up odds and ends in the fridge. That half a mini-box of raisins my son forgot to finish last weekend when we were out? Yeah, I remembered them in my purse and tossed them into the salad. Stop looking at me like that-it isn't like I dug Tic-Tacks and Dentyne out of the bottom of my purse and stuck those in. Give me some credit, OK? Green pepper entering "use it or lose it" territory? In it goes.

Anyway, once I stuffed it into the cute little toast cups no one knew they were essentially eating food that would have otherwise been tossed-out. It wasn't gone off-just needed a bit of a face-lift. Like the cook.

For the Croustades:

Stale bread, sliced and stuffed into a muffin tin.
Clarified butter for brushing (melted-duh)
If you want to be super-fancy, some grated hard cheese in the bottom is a nice touch. Yes, you know you want the cheese you fancy-pants-croustade-baking-haus frau, you. Or me. Look, the cheese is optional, OK?

Bake them in a 400 degree F. Oven until toasted-about fifteen minutes. Cool on a rack. Fill as desired.

For The Rice Salad:

2 cups cooked brown rice
Glug of olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 granny smith apple, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Handful raisins
Balsamic vinegar to taste
Sprinkling of sunflower seeds
Chopped parsley

Heat the oil and cook the onion, garlic, celery, and carrot until softened. Add spices, raisins and cooked rice. Add balsamic vinegar.Adjust salt and pepper. Toss in chopped parsley and sunflower seeds. Serve at room temperature, or slightly warmed.

Carrots With Black Beans and Chick Peas

This couldn't be easier. Well, it could, I suppose, but stop being like that. You know what I mean. Excellent served with leftover cous cous.

You Will Need:

Olive Oil
5 carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 onion, chopped
1 tin black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon preserved lemon peel, chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of hot pepper powder

Cook the onions, carrots and peel in a glug of oil over medium heat until soft. Add everything else. Warm through Serve. Easy.

Thinking Out Loud

Nothing special-just my regular angelfood cake with cherries cut up in it. It occurred to me, as I was decorating it that were a cake to be featured in a John Waters movie-this would be it. Or maybe one of those cakes where you poke holes in it and pour in coloured Jell-O. But really, I think we'll just call this "The John Waters Cake" from now on.

I need to watch Multiple Maniacs again.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Lamb with Lima Beans and Onion Port Jam

Yeah, I thought about "posing" the food, and then thought better of it. Oh look everybody, Lamb chops! Oooh, elegant.

Sure, it sounds plain, but these were exceptional lima beans (really!). I picked up a couple inexpensive lamb chops for Mr. Eat The Blog as a treat, and adjusted the lima beans to suit the vegetarians. I served it with cous cous and onion port jam. I also made a batch of squash rolls from acorn squash that worked nicely.

The recipe for the lamb and lima beans comes from the November 1971 issue of Gourmet magazine.

Night Before:

Sort and rinse 6 cups dried lima beans (small ones). Cover with water and soak until morning.

Next Day:

In a cheesecloth, tie 3 sprigs parsley, 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns and 1 bay leaf. Cover with water and simmer about 1 1/2 hours or until tender. Drain, reserving liquid. Set aside or chill until needed.

While you broil the lamb, make a roux in a large pot by whisking 4 tablespoons butter with 2 tablespoons flour. Cook 2 minutes. remove from heat, stir in 3/4 cup (or more if needed) warmed bean cooking water. Cook over medium heat until thickened. Add the beans and warm through. Adjust salt and pepper.

Serve with broiled lamb. The magazine suggests using the broiler drippings to additionally flavour the beans-I skipped this so Danny could eat the beans.

For the Onion Jam:

This is a great recipe to know and keep on hand for meat dishes. It is simple enough to make, and keeps well covered in the fridge.

You Will Need:

2 Large Sweet onions (about 2 lbs.)
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup ruby port
1/2 cup dry red wine

Slice the onions 1/4 inch thick into rounds. Melt the butter in a large dutch oven and add the onions. Stir to coat, then cover and cook ten minutes over medium heat. Remove lid, reduce heat to low and cook anouther 25 minutes or until very deep gold. Stir in the sugar and cook another 10-15 minutes, stirring, until quite dark and carmelised looking. Add the port and wine. Increase heat to high and boil rapidly until liquid evaporated and onions turn to jam (about 10 minutes). Cool. Serve slightly warmed.

Carrot/Ginger/Yam/Squash Soup with Kale Chips

...and I served it with brown rice. Insert vegetarian joke here_______________.

The soup was a way to make a small batch using odds and ends around the kitchen. The kale chips were an interesting garnish.

For the soup:

4 carrots, diced
1 cup cooked acorn squash
1 yam, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons peeled, chopped ginger
1 large white baking potato
8 tablespoons butter
Salt Pepper
6 cups rich vegetable stock

Cook the vegetables in the butter until slightly softened. Add the stock and bring to a boil. reduce to a simmer, adjust salt and pepper and cook until all vegetables are quite soft. Strain, reserving liquid. Puree in small batches (carefully) letting steam escape from blender now and then (trust me on this one). Return to pot and thin as needed with stock. Serve topped with kale chips (recipe follows).

Kale Chips:

1 bunch kale, stripped from thick stems and torn into chip-sized pieces
Salt and pepper
1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Wash and dry the kale. In a bowl, combine kale and oil. using your hands, run the leaves until they are fairly coated and glossy. Lay carefully (not overlapping) on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake until crisp-about 10 minutes. Best served the day they are made.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cream Cake With Honey Buttercream

*Edited to add reaction from Mr. Eat The Blog:

"This may be my favourite cake so far. At least my favourite in a long time."

That's quite the endorsement, as he's not really that fond of cake. Then, he asked if I would go bake him another to take to work tomorrow.

This is a Rose Levy Beranbaum recipe that appeared in Food and Wine Magazine in 1987. An oldie but a goodie, indeed.

The recipe makes it sound very rich, but plain and I suppose it is. You should probably like butter if you intend to bake it. I dressed it up with some bittersweet chocolate on top to disguise the fact that I cannot frost a cake skillfully. That part wasn't in the recipe, but hey, it isn't like three ounces of bittersweet chocolate are going to hurt.

did not use parchment paper to line the bottom of the pan. I greased and floured it instead-no problems getting the cake out of the pan. It did take a full fifteen minutes longer than the recipe indicated to bake, but ovens do vary. The buttercream came together easily, as did the cake overall. No fuss, no complicated test of skills-just a lovely cake you could whip up in a hurry if need be. As a bonus, it isn't absurdly large.

I can't quite place it, but it reminds me of something from childhood (obviously, nothing mummy baked because mummy didn't bake) and I sort of think it might have been sponge cake. I can't remember-in fact the only cake I remember showing up at our house with any regularity was frozen pound cake and God knows, this is a million times better than that.

Every single time I heat honey on the stove I wonder why no one has marketed an air freshener in honey fragrance. I'd buy it.

You Will Need:

For the cake:

1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter softened to room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour pan, using parchment on the bottom if you have it. Rose recommends Baker's Joy, but I personally hate the stuff. I opted to grease and flour instead.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add the butter and 2 tablespoons of the cream and beat until mixed. Rose says, 1 1/2 minutes, but my hand mixer took closer to five until they were adequately creamed together. Use your noggin.

In a small bowl, beat together eggs, cream and vanilla. Add to creamed mixture in three parts mixing twenty seconds each time.

Scrape batter into pan, smooth top and bake 25 minutes or until top is golden and springs back when lightly indented. A cake tester should also come out clean. Cool in pan, on a rack for ten minutes. Run a knife around the edge and then remove to a rack. Return right side up and cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:

2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons honey
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Beat egg yolks until light and pale-about three minutes. Bring honey to a rolling boil in a small pan. Pour into egg yolks in a thin stream beating as you go. Continue beating until bowl is completely cool to touch.

Add butter slowly with mixer on low. At some point it might look curdled (mine sure did) but if you keep beating it goes away (glad she warned about that-I would have thought it ruined). Beat until smooth and creamy-5-7 minutes. Frost top and sides of cake and decorate according to how poorly you frosted it.

Fifth Generation Wedding Cake

No, I didn't bake one. The recipe comes from The Herald Tribune Home Institute Cookbook. Apparently, in the 1930's people thought this would be a good idea. Basically, it is a fruitcake with odd additions like wintergreen flavouring that you then pack tightly in an airtight tin filled with sugar. The idea is that it will still be good to eat on your 25th anniversary. The recipe makes a shocking 14 lbs. of fruitcake. I'm posting the recipe for amusement and historical interest-I'm not recommending it.

1 pound almonds
3 pounds currants
3 pounds raisins
1 pound mixed peel
2 cups cognac
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cloves
1/2 nutmeg, grated
1 pound shortening
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
16 (!) eggs
3 drops wintergreen
1 cup molasses
1 cup sour cream

Blanch and shred the almonds. Mix with fruits, peel and brandy and let stand in a closely covered jar for two days. Sift together flour, soda and spices. Cream shortening until smooth. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Then add wintergreen and molasses. Add flour alternately with nuts and fruit. Turn into greased pans filling about 3/4 full. Cover with greased waxed paper and steam two hours. Remove waxed paper and bake in a slow oven (250 degrees F.) for about 1/2 hour to dry surface. If kept covered in sugar in an airtight tin, the cake (so they claim) will be good on the 25th anniversary.

Makes 14 pounds of fruitcake.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Entirely Homemade (except for the cheese)

From the noodles, to the tomato sauce from garden-grown tomatoes. Danny cranked out the pasta in the machine today-serious arm strength on that kid. This was the last of the sauce I froze, so I wanted to send it off in style. I made quite a bit-we'll be eating it tomorrow as well.

I did cheat and combine the strangest assortment of cheese ends ever. Last weekend, I was in Council Bluffs, Iowa so I stopped at my favourite Hy-Vee in the mall. It is so totally worth crossing the bridge into Iowa for cheese ends-I'm not kidding. For ten bucks I came home with about seven different, quality cheeses in small quantity. My store near home doesn't sell $2.00 wedges of Pecorino Romano that smells like something decaying crossed with a gym locker. I bought some lovely sheep's milk cheese from Montana as well. I ended up combining prove lone, Parmesan, Havarti, the Sheep's Butte (ha ha), Pepato, and the Romano for the hard cheese layer. Long time readers know that I don't use much ricotta, but rather substitute cottage cheese that has been forced through a sieve. I used this technique tonight as well, but stirred in a bit of the hard cheese as a binder along with a couple eggs. Perfect. While you're in Council Bluffs, be sure to stop at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum. It is free, staffed by retired employees who can answer your questions, entertain small children, and just be all-around terrific. Then, after you tire of driving the train simulator, you can head over to the Hy Vee in the Mall of the Bluffs and get yourself some Sage Derby. I really do love cheese-Maybe I'm part rodent.

Chocolate Banana Muffins

Half an hour from deciding you want muffins, you can be pulling these warm from the oven. Best part? You don't even need to drag out the hand mixer for these-a wooden spoon will do nicely.

You Will Need:

1 3/4 cups AP flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 beaten egg
3/4 cup whole milk
1/3 cup mild flavoured cooking oil (I used sunflower)
1 cup cut-up chunks of banana
1/2-3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
Coarse sugar for toping

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with paper wrappers (I got 12 generously sized muffins)

Mix the dry ingredients together. In another bowl, beat together the milk, oil and egg. Add to the dry ingredients and mix without over-mixing-just make sure to moisten all the dry ingredients. Fold in the chips and bananas. Pour into cups and top each generously with a pinch or two of coarse sugar crystals.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until done. The muffins will be quite brown.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Dog Stinks

Poor old poodle dog has a skin condition (common in white haired poodles, I'm told) where his skin turns almost black-and stinks. Oh Lordy, does that dog stink.

Today was reasonably warm, so I gave him a good haircut and plopped him in the tub. He really doesn't care for it, but what's an 8 lb. ancient dog going to do about it? He can't even hop out of the tub by himself. I know-like I should talk. You should have seen me try to get up off the bathroom floor after giving him a bath. The blind leading the blind around here. Anyway, he's clean and do you know what? He still smells. You know how old people start to smell? He smells like old dog. Don't misunderstand, we love him, and so long as he's comfortable and happy we are. But he smells. Bad. Really bad.

And now he's all happy from the haircut/bath attention and wants to sit on my lap. I've got two letters to describe the smell of that poodle. P and U.

An Interesting Combination

I don't know why it never occurred to toss fresh spinach into a stir-fry before, but look! Fresh spinach in a stir fry.

What else have I in there... red and green bell peppers, cabbage, carrots, onion, garlic, stem ginger, sesame oil, corn oil, hoisan sauce and some five spice powder. At the last, I added some already baked tofu and served it over rice. I also made about a million potstickers (OK more like 100, but still) most of which are nicely packed in bags of ten in the freezer for future use. If you try that, be sure to freeze them on a plate first, before adding them to freezer bags. Oiling the plate helps with any sticking problems as well.

Seriously, you probably have a healthy dinner lurking in your vegetable bins that you didn't realise was there. Carrots and cabbage are the foundation of many a cheap meal in this household.

Leftovers go to work with Mr. Eat The Blog for his lunch. No wasting either. That's good-Mama hates waste. She really hates it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bunny Biofuel

Presented without comment.

The Nebraska Sunset Company

"Mama, why is the sunset pink sometimes?"

I know, I know, that would have been a great opportunity for a science lesson in the hands of a competent parent.

"Well Danny" , I explained matter-of-factly, "The Sunset Company takes requests, and some days people ask for pink."

"The who?"

"The Sunset Company. Every state has at least one-we have two because we have two time zones. Anyway, every day people call up and place an order for what kind of sunset they want and the style that gets the most calls each day is what they give us."

"How do they make the sunsets? Is that even possible?"

"Well of course it is (roll eyes for effect) how do you think we get different types of sunsets? Gee whiz, I thought you knew about the Sunset Company."

"So how do they make the sunsets?"

"Easter egg dye, mostly. You know, those little tablets that come in the kit?"


"Well, they mix it with water in huge buckets, and then they hook up teenagers and dung beetles to pulleys and they drag the sunset colourings up into the air and dump it out just as the sun is setting on the horizon."

"How old do you have to be to work at the Sunset Company?"

"Fourteen, because you don't actually need to drive, though sometimes they ride the dung beetles."

"Can we call them now and request a pink sunset tonight?"

"Sure, but it is kind of late, and it will depend what other people wanted-you know, you're not the only kid in Nebraska asking for a particular sunset."

"How do they do it in other states?"

"Some states like Kansas automated their sunsets and they aren't as nice anymore. Nebraska bought some of their dung beetles. Then, we swiped a good part of their water and tried to stick them with the bill."


"Never mind. But yeah, handcrafted sunsets are nicer. OK, I'm going to call now."
(Go to phone, pick it up)

"Hello, operator? Get me the Nebraska Sunset Company-no, no, not the one in North Platte, I need the one in Weeping Water. Fine, fine, I can hold while you ring them. Yes, hello, I'd like to request a sunset. About 7 PM? Great, we'll be watching."

"Did you call them?"

"Yes, they said to look out the West window around 7 PM and you should see a rather pink sunset, but they had to mix in some orange because they were running low on dye."


Yeah, he totally bought it. I've spent the better part of the last two days answering questions about the Nebraska Sunset Company, and how much better the sunsets used to be before the government got rid of the old red food dye in the 70's.

I hope he doesn't grow up to hate me.

Monday, October 19, 2009


NSFW at all, but too funny to not post. Have you ever laughed so hard you gave yourself indigestion? Really, I can feel waves of acid flowing up my esophagus(is that even spelled correctly?) every time I laugh-but I just can't stop looking (and laughing) at these.

THIS one is great. Disturbing, but great.

So That's what happened to the dinosaurs.

Not THAT kind of weiner...

Now THAT's surreal

Corn Poo soap

Some people like to read in the loo

"They Had To Put it in a (Vegetarian) Escarole Account"

Long before I took the temp job, I'd been hearing stories from a neighbour who worked there about the secretary who typed with two pencils to preserve her manicure, and how she said, "escarole" account. She was exactly as depicted, complete with escarole accounts.

Lynn, Massachusetts. Need I say more? No, I guess I really needn't. So let's talk escarole soup instead.

I was up until one in the morning watching three tedious hours of what I think was supposed to be surrealist film making without the really cool stuff like slicing open eyeballs (at least not literally-metaphorically, OK maybe). I felt somewhat ill all weekend, but combined with the lack of sleep, disgust at having lost sleep, and being in a generally pissy mood, I knew I wouldn't be cooking anything terribly challenging. I wanted soup-and lots of it. I had a large bunch of escarole in the fridge. I now have a gallon of escarole soup. Don't you love how that works? It was very nearly as simple as it sounds, with a few small steps along the way.

Before I get to the recipe proper, I want to talk about cheese rinds. My husband thinks this is simply being parsimonious, but there is an actual reason (other than being cheap) to save the rinds off hard cheeses like Parmesan-you can toss them into a pot of escarole soup for flavouring. Sure, they look a bit gross when you fish them out after cooking (you'll want to pull those out) but no one is going to see the bloated, blubbery cheese rinds, whereas they will taste the difference it makes in your soup. Yes, I do feel self-satisfied knowing I've utilised every last bit of a wedge of cheese. Look, some people have actual meaningful accomplishments in life to get all smug about-leave me my damn cheese rinds, OK?

Right. So in those nasty old rinds go, to your beautiful soup. I had every intention of making my own noodles as well, but when I saw that half bag of bow tie noodles in the pantry from God only knows when, I thought, "Hell, yes!" and in they went. Sure, the soup is nicer if you cook the noodles in another pot and add the cooked noodles to the soup-but I didn't. I'm not a nice woman, and neither is my soup. Here, nibble a cheese rind and shut up.

Escarole soup should really have chicken, and I wasn't really sure how I wanted to compensate for that in a meatless version. I considered getting some of those imitation chicken strips in the vacuum pack, but instead I opened a tin of chick peas and called it a day. I'm not feeling well, remember?

It turned out wonderfully. I can truthfully say I prefer it to escarole soup made with chicken. I still feel like crud, but at least I have a good supply of soup on hand.

You Will Need:

8-12 cups rich vegetable broth (always best to have more on hand if needed)
(about) 4-5 tablespoons olive oil
6 large carrots, chopped
5 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 bay leaves
1 large bunch of escarole, trimmed and chopped
1 tin chickpeas, rinsed, drained and skins removed
3-4 handfuls dried pasta
Salt, pepper
Rinds from Parmesan or other hard cheeses

In a large pot, heat the oil and cook the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, thyme and bay leaves until carrots are softened. Add the escarole a handful at a time and stir-in as it wilts. Add the chickpeas and Parmesan rinds. Add the broth until it covers the vegetables by several inches. Adjust salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Stir in the pasta. Reduce to simmer, skim any foam that rises, and cover leaving about 2 inches for steam to escape. Cook about an hour.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mexican Chocolate Cake

Earlier in the week, Danny was reading a very long recipe to me from The Best of Food and Wine, 1994. As he read, I started to think it sounded good-long, but good. A quick glance confirmed my suspicion that it was an Alice Medrich recipe (don't ask how I could tell, I just could). Hey, anything with chocolate and coffee sounds good to me, so I promised Danny we would bake it for Friday Cake Blogging. I still can't get over how well he reads (scary). Scarier, is that his reading of choice tends to be cookbooks (that's my boy!) and he's figured out how fractions work.

I made this with inexpensive ingredients (store brand cocoa, Baker's chocolate) and it was still exceptional. I can't begin to imagine what this would be like with better cocoa like Droste. Yeah, I consider Droste top of the line around here. I just cannot (will not) purchase twenty dollar a pound (or more) cocoa or chocolate. The better stuff is really wasted on my taste buds anyway,and at least for now, Danny does not care (though he does find the box of Droste cocoa more attractive than the Hy-Vee stuff). If he keeps reading cookbooks, I should probably brace myself for him pitching a fit because I didn't use the correct olive oil.

The recipe is long, but is easily done in segments. Start to finish took about four hours. I did not have a single problem with it-the instructions were clear (although strange) and the results perfect. I can usually tell by how the cake unmoulds from the pan, how it will go and it went perfectly. I was actually out of parchment paper, so I buttered and floured the pan without any difficulties. I could see baking this cake without the filling and glaze as a nice cocoa/coffee cake. I'll bet it would make killer cupcakes. I'm still not really sure what makes this a "Mexican" chocolate cake other than the cocoa and cinnamon, but eh, OK. I personally would use more cinnamon were I to bake this again.

You Will Need:


1 cup sifted all purpose flour
1/2 cup sifted cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 tablespoons hot water
1/2 cup buttermilk at room temperature
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs at room temperature


10 ounces milk chocolate, chopped fine (I used Baker's German Sweet chocolate)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder dissolved in a few drops of warm water
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon


6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut up
1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 inch x 2 inch cake pan and line the bottom with parchment. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In a small bowl, dissolve the espresso powder in the water. Stir in the buttermilk.

In a large bowl, cream the butter until light. Gradually add the sugar and then the eggs, one at a time until incorporated. Add the flour alternately in three parts with the liquid starting and ending with flour mixture.

Scrape into prepared pan and bake on the lowest rack of the oven for 50-60 minutes or until cake tests done. Remove to a rack to cool five minutes in the pan before running a thin knife around the perimeter. Unmould carefully, then turn upright on rack and cool completely.

Make the filling:

Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat cream and corn syrup to a simmer. Add the espresso and cinnamon., When steaming, pour over chocolate and let stand 1 minute before whisking smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Divide cake carefully into top and bottom. I used a very long knife and a steady hand.

When filling has cooled to room temperature, using an electric mixer on the high setting, beat until light in colour and thickened, but don't beat until dry. Pour a little more than half between the layers and then replace the top. Frost the remaining top and sides of the cake with the extra filling keeping the top as smooth as possible. Set into fridge ten minutes to chill.

Make the glaze:

Set a bowl inside a skillet of just simmering water (I know, strange but it worked). Combine chocolate, corn syrup and butter in bowl. Stir until just smooth. Remove from heat and whisk until completely smooth.

Place the cake atop an upturned large mixing bowl on a baking sheet to catch drips. Pour all the glaze on top of the cake and working quickly, smooth over the sides. Don't overwork the glaze. Transfer to a wire rack set over another baking sheet to cool completely.

I decorated mine with candy, but nits or chocolate covered espresso beans are what Medrich recommends. I had these cute little gingerbread men that looked so nice against the dark chocolate, so I used them.

The cake can be stored at room temperature for a day, or refrigerated for up to two days. Return to room temperature before serving (unless you live at my house where room temperature is around 58 degrees-it was actually warmer outside today than it was in the house).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

If you're looking for a heavy, overly rich, gooey mac and cheese-this isn't it. This is, for lack of a better description, a mac and cheese soufflé. It is wonderful, and we all enjoyed it (including the ancient poodle who is now eyeing me suspiciously because he never gets table food, and probably thinks he's headed to the vet).

I made my own noodles for this, but you could certainly use store-bought. I always seem to have more eggs than I need, so making noodles makes sense for our family, but I'm not so much of a food snob to insist your mac and cheese will somehow be inferior with packaged macaroni.

Truthfully, the best macaroni and cheese was my mother's and she used to make it with No Yolks noodles and three tins of condensed cheese soup. I know, the yolkless noodles is sort of like having a diet soda with a fast food burger. It was good macaroni casserole, and the only reason I don't make a similar one anymore is because what they charge for a tin of cheese soup is robbery.

Again, I turned to my trusty Amish cookbook for the recipe. I slightly increased the proportions because I had extra noodles, but I'll post it as printed.

Adapted from Amish and Mennonite Kitchens, Pellman and Good

You Will Need:

1 1/2 cups milk, scalded
2 cups soft bread crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tbsp. onion, chopped (I used dried)
1 1/2 cups mild cheese (I used a combination of cheddar, provolone, and Swiss)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups macaroni, cooked

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a casserole dish and set aside.

Pour scalded milk over breadcrumbs. Stir in butter, onion, cheese and salt.

Beat egg yolks and add. Stir in cooked macaroni.

Beat egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Fold into macaroni mixture. Pour into casserole and sprinkle top with paprika. Bake 1 hour.

Green Tomato Bread

I'm still working my way through the pile of green tomatoes. This is very much like a zucchini (courgette) bread. I like the recipe because it makes two loaves (one for the freezer). I made a few changes like adding cinnamon and dried cherries, but those are very minor changes. I may grate and drain some extra tomatoes to freeze for baking breads in December, now that I know the recipe works well.

Danny had great fun helping me measure and stir the ingredients (in other words, it is so easy, a four year old can do it).

From that wonderful cookbook, From Amish and Mennonite Kitchens, Pellman and Good
(I'm serving a casserole from the same book for dinner this evening as well)

You Will Need:

3 eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups grated and drained green tomatoes (I further squeezed them dry in a dishtowel)
3 cups AP flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
`1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins
1 cup dried cherries (or nuts)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two loaf pans generously and set aside. Beat eggs well. Add the sugar, oil, salt, vanilla and finally tomatoes. Sift dry ingredients together. Gradually add to the tomato mixture. Stir in raisins and cherries. Pour into pans. Bake (about) 45 minutes (mine took 55). Cool in pans twenty minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Vegetable Terrine

It worked!

You are looking at cooked carrots seasoned with cumin, a potted cheese mixture of dry cottage cheese creamed with pecorino and Swiss, parsley, preserved lemon, capers, olives and sealed with clarified butter. I laid a few fresh sage leaves across the top for appearance.

I served this with olive oil and herb crackers I made this morning, but it would have been great on toast. When you cut it, use a serrated knife and really grasp the thing so it does not fall apart. Two days of pressing it under weights did the trick.

Now I'm really inspired to do something frightening with the duck legs I have in the freezer.

Cool, huh? I still can't believe it worked.