Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More Holiday Fun

You know how I consider Female Trouble the best Christmas movie ever? I think we might have a new Passover tradition of watching, Palindromes. OK, it isn't specifically a Passover movie, but the family is Jewish, and they remind me of my family-in a totally psychotic way (actually, when was my family NOT ever totally psychotic?). I laughed myself sick when I saw it originally, and I wondered if I'd still be amused by it-I am! I probably ought to be ashamed by that, by eh, what the hell.

Seriously, it is like watching my parents being channeled.

Obviously, I didn't let Danny watch it, but I'm thinking of buying a copy for him when he's a teenager, and starts asking questions about my side of the family. Really, the film is just as good as meeting them, and you have the benefit of hitting mute when it gets to be too much.

Oh yeah, I guess if we were normal people, we could just rent The Ten Commandments as a Passover movie...I think you can finish that sentence by yourselves.

Passover Manicotti-Sort Of (Also makes great gluten-free blintzes/crepes)

I basically made some gluten free crepes with potato starch and eggs. You can use this recipe to make noodles, or crepes, or blintzes, or really whatever you like-they're versatile. Be warned, the first couple crepes will flop. I don't know why, they just will-but stick with it-the results are light and delicious...except for all the cheese, which isn't light at all. You know what I mean...

You Will Need:

About 6 cups of chunky spaghetti sauce (I made mine with tons of carrots, onions and red bell peppers)
About 4 cups grated cheese (I used Provolone and Pepato)

For the cheese filling:

2 cups full fat cottage cheese, drained and forced through a sieve
2 large eggs
A handful of grated mozzarella

For the crepes:

3 large eggs
1 1/3 cups cold water
6 tablespoons potato starch
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons cooking oil
Butter for the pan

With a hand mixer, beat together everything except the butter until thick like cream. heat a small (5 inch) pan and toss in a knob of butter. When pan is hot, pour in about 2 tablespoons of the batter (stir it between crepes to keep the starch from settling). Tilt to coat the pan and cook until dry. Turn, and cook a minute or two longer until golden. Transfer to a plate and make the next. I did not need to keep re-buttering the pan, but this will largely depend on your pan.

When cool, fill the crepes with the cheese filling, and fold closed. return to frying pan and fry in a bit of butter until browned nicely on both sides. Set aside on a plate.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In an 8x8 pan, cover the bottom generously with spaghetti sauce. Layer in the crepes, then cover with a layer of cheese. Repeat with a second layer finishing with sauce and cheese. Bake (on a baking sheet just in case) for about an hour. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

First Planting

I braved the high winds (still!) and planted the rocket, lavender, and radishes today. The raised bed looks great, and only needed a small bit of work to be readied for the first planting. I'm so glad that's done. It was really bothering me.

Hopefully, the borage will come back this year. Looking around the yard, I realised it really has been neglected. I'm not in any shape to be doing yardwork, but I do think , at the least-I should take down the fake poinsettias from Christmas. It was a very long winter, what can I say?

Scary Cats

You should go look at THIS. Because I told you to, that's why.

Further Evidence We've Achieved Idiocracy

Granted, I do have a really high fever at the moment, though I suspect these would strike me the same way feeling well:

(Radio host to guest) "But isn't going on Hospice care just giving up?"

(Headline) "The Flip Side of Immigration: Deportation."

Quick, someone say something smart.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Swallows

The swallows came back today. Every year, they re-build their nest in the roof of our front porch. We never use the front door anyway, and they are more than welcome to stay.

I first noticed them the year I was expecting. I tell Danny that each year, Mrs. Swallow comes back with her babies to show me how much they've grown, and to see how my baby has grown. I'm sure by next year, he'll no longer accept that story, but it is nice to see them year after year.

I have a really awful viral yuck. That's a bona fide medical term, "Viral Yuck." Look it up. Anyway, don't expect much around here. I thought after six weeks of being sick with the last viral yuck that I was probably through for the year. Crap. Just in time for the holidays.

My trays of seedlings are all sitting in the sunny dining room window. If the insane wind ever stops I can direct sow the radishes and peas. I watched a farm cat eat two small snakes, one after the other-like he was slurping up spaghetti. Good kitty. It must be spring.

OK, I'm off to bed. Cough, sneeze, hack.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Passover Coconut Macaroons

This was a new recipe for me, and I think I like them better than my "usual." The macaroons are denser, chewier, and have a candy-like texture. They are also very, very sticky-so watch your fillings on these.

From A Taste of Tradition, Ruth Sirkis 1972

You Will Need:

3 egg whites at room temperature for am hour
2 1/2 cups flaked coconut
1 cup caster sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
I added melted chocolate for extra calories because I clearly need them.

Preheat oven to 3oo degrees F. Grease a baking sheet, or use silpats, parchment, etc. when the book was published in the early 70's she advised greasing waxed paper and baking on it. I guess it didn't kill anyone, so eh-do as you like.

beat the whites until they hold peaks. Add the sugar 2 tablespoons at a time, then beat two minutes after until all sugar is added. Gradually add lemon juice and beat five minutes longer. Fold in coconut. Form in mounds on baking sheet and bake 20 minutes. Turn off oven, pop open the door and let them sit another 20 minutes or longer until mostly dry. Cool on racks. Decorate with melted chocolate if you like.

Very Quiet

I seem to have developed laryngitis again. Danny has come down with a bit of a sore throat as well (and a cough, and general yuck). Because my voice is so generally weak now, I can't tell if I'm actually getting sick. Still, it is nice for Mr. ETB as he doesn't have to listen to me. Well, he knew he was marrying someone that never shuts up, so really, we shouldn't feel all too sorry for him.

Saturday was the Severe Weather Awareness Symposium. That was fun, and the exhibits were interesting. I have some glossy, educational posters about weather to send to Saskatchewan, as soon as I can find a tube to post them. I mean, the posters were free-you knew I'd grab enough to share ;)

On the first floor, the newly credentialed storm spotters were waiting to have their identification photos taken. When the NOAA alerts are issued, you can usually tell if it is serious weather based on whether or not storm spotter activation will be necessary. Every time I hear, "Storm spotter activation", I hear it like the old Super friends cartoon:
"Stormspotters...ACTIVATE!" Anyway, I'm sure I'm not the only person my age that thinks that, and it was ever so quiet as they stood there in line...I didn't do it. But I thought of it, and probably would have if Mr. ETB wasn't there to get all embarrassed. He's so fucking middle class.

Tonight is the first seder of Passover. Since Danny isn't feeling well, I'm going to keep things short and sweet. At least there will be matzo ball soup.

OK, I'm off to press my good tablecloth.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Devil's Food Cake With Nougat Filling and Buttercream Frosting

Nope, not health food.

For the cake:
From the Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook, 1950 ed.

2/3 cup unsalted butter
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2/3 cup dark cocoa powder
1 1/3 cup cold water
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1/3 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour 2 9 inch baking pans

Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. Combine cocoa and water (add a bit of water at a time to make mixing easier) Add vanilla to mixture.

Sift together dry ingredients and add alternating with the cocoa mixture. Pour into pans and bake 30-35 minutes or until cakes test done. Cool in pan ten minutes, then finish cooling on racks. Make filling.

For the Nougat filling:
From The Herald Tribune Home Institute Cookbook, 1937
(I omitted the nuts in this and it worked just fine)

Combine 3/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup cake flour, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Beat 1 egg slightly and add 1 cup of water to mixture. Melt 2 squares of unsweetened chocolate and add. Cook in a double boiler over hot water for ten minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat and mix in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/4 cup chopped nuts. Cool before using.

For the frosting:

1/2 cup softened butter
3 cups icing sugar
Heavy cream to thin
Vanilla extract to taste

Cream the butter and sugar together adding vanilla and enough cream to thin to a spreading consistency.

I decorated the top with some of the chocolate brittle I made earlier in the week.

And In Conclusion

I have really dreadful narrative abilities. This hasn't stopped me from writing, but at least I recognise my inability to tell a story in a form that might well,possess a form.

Oh, I can write an essay. Essay form is easy enough. Where I get completely screwed is telling a story, and concluding it. This isn't limited to writing-I can't tell a story aloud with any better results. Mr. ETB makes up wonderful stories for Danny each evening at bedtime. I try to tell a story, and I can't end it with anything more than a shrug. This spills into daily life as well. People think I'm abrupt because most conversations end with me uttering:
"OK. Bye." and fleeing.
That doesn't work as well in print. Readers have certain expectations. Fortunately, no one I know expects me to have social skills in daily life, which is good because at my age the likelihood of me suddenly becoming anything close to normal is fading. Faded. Yeah, that's just not going to happen.

I sort of feel like I ought to get these stories out, and maybe illustrate them for Danny. Why I think he'd want to read them I can't say. I really do attract strangeness though-that in itself ought to be of some interest. Yeah! He should have something to read while he's sitting in the clink for bludgeoning me to death. I don't really think he'll bludgeon me to death...well, I he doesn't. If he does though, he'll need something to read. Hey, do you know what it is called when you murder your mother in front of the house? "Welcome matricide." I can't conclude a story, but I can tell a reasonably funny gag.

I'm going to post snippets of stories here from time to time, just for the hell of it. Maybe you'll be amused, or want to bludgeon me to death. Or think I'm tiresome, or pretentious, or unable to write a proper conclusion.

See how this one strikes you:

By March, there was unspoken knowledge that further snow wouldn't linger, with a few memorable exceptions. Two or three weeks in, after the forty degree mark had been breeched, I'd ditch the hat and scarf only to huddle in the wind waiting for the routinely delayed bus. A turtleneck sweater pulled straight to the ears Alvin the Chipmunk style can only achieve so much, and it made lighting and smoking a cigarette if not impossible, more challenging. A few patches of well sanded snow would cling to the curb. I'd wedge my saxophone case sideways into the snow patch with the least mud, sit down on it, and try to light a cigarette without baring my face to the elements. I lived in Illinois for years, a smoker most of them. I never did invest in a decent wind-proof lighter, or coat with a hood.The bus stop was, I think, a couple blocks from my house. I say, "think", as blocks are somewhat hard to gauge in subdivisions generally, what with the rounded corners and all-but harder more so when the subdivision is new. Acres and acres of unpaved roads and newly dug holes in the ground waiting for the last frost to pour foundations. No one pours a foundation, or plants a garden in Illinois before Mother's Day.

We lived on Kipling Lane. The bus stop was at Kipling and Keats. By March, when I'd survived the first five months in newly cleared suburbia, I'd sit on the saxophone case, smoking an unfiltered Kool that had the strange design detail of half a brown filter paper where a proper filter would have gone. I always thought that was a silly detail, though it did do a swell job of keeping the paper from sticking to my lip. It still looked ridiculous. Less ridiculous than some of the other cigarettes floating about in late 1970's Midwestern America, but enough to make me self-conscious. I'd wait for that bus, smoke my cigarette, and silently mock my parents for building a house on Kipling lane. Kipling. My parents moved into a brand-new subdivision with named streets and nary a house, and they chose a lot on Kipling Lane. Mallory, Tennyson, Keats-they could have had their pick, and they chose a lot on one of those rounded corners that made their mailbox all the more inviting for teenaged boys subduing boredom with cans of Schlitz and Louisville Sluggers. The stupid box might as well have been in the centre of the road.

I'd sit there, waiting for the bus that never arrived on time, with that Midwestern optimism we carry to a fault. I'd leave each morning at exactly seven expecting that surely this time it would arrive at seven ten, or seven twenty, or half past at worst. It's a strange enculturation we have, cheerfully meeting our disappointments, anticipating them even. I blame the Scandinavians that settled there first-you'd never get a German to stand for that shit. I swear to god, these people get cancer, or Parkinsons, or some dread disease no one's ever heard of, and they're practically clapping their hands at the prospect of turning their diseased lemons into lemonade.

I'd smoke and wait and freeze and think about how much nicer it would have been to live on Keats. No one ever runs out of nice things to say about Keats, do they? You could fill a dozen library shelves with books about Keats and still people would feel compelled to write more. I challenge you to fill a scant shelf with books about Kipling, though admittedly, he moves somewhat in and out of fashion with the prevailing cultural sensitivities. Probably still on the shit list in India.

By March, I understood that I wouldn't be an even passable saxophone player. I went to class, but was only too happy at the thought of the school year ending in a few months time, and the bloody instrument being returned to the store, readied for rental by the next student that, with customary Midwestern optimism thought they were going to be some sort of jazz great. I could be wrong about this, but you never do hear about white kids from the North Shore of Chicago growing up to be ground breaking jazz musicians. I'm sure there's an exception, there's always an exception.

I really hated the feel of reeds in my mouth, but then I never understood people who suck on toothpicks. My old man used to keep a toothpick in his mouth all day long, and when it got all frayed and pulpy, he'd turn that thing around and work the other side. That's the spirit of someone that survived the Great Depression selling newspapers for 2 cents a copy in all weather-you don't want to waste a perfectly good toothpick with half a day's gnawing on the other side. Everyone knew he'd use the same chewed-up toothpick to pick at his ear wax, but only my mother had the desire to yell at him for it. I tried to avoid thinking about shit my dad stuck in his ears, though on occasion he would shove the wax so far down the ear canal that he'd have to get it medically removed and then he'd be bragging about the size of that wax ball for weeks. You couldn't really avoid thinking about it then. Sometimes, he'd forget about the used, but still usable toothpicks in the pocket of his work shirt and my mother would accidentally put them through the wash. More than a few times, I'd get a small piece stuck in a t-shirt or something and be unable to find it. I really hated that, all day being poked with the splintered evidence of my dad's inability to throw away toothpicks, rubber bands, string or twenty year old bank statements, though those never found their way into the wash, that I remember. I preferred unfiltered Kool cigarettes to chewing on toothpicks, or sucking on saxophone reeds. I'm glad I didn't try learning to play the oboe-the reeds on those things are even stranger. I'm not musically inclined. I'm not sure I even like music, or ever did. I bought that first Boston record because I thought it had a cool cover just like everyone else, but halfway through the first side, I knew I'd never play it again. I bought a lot of records because they had cool covers. Strangely, I never did that with books. I bought more books than records. I don't think a music appreciation class would have helped, no one appreciates 70's arena rock.

"East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet." He got that right though, Kipling did. I couldn't have been more uncomfortable, and out of my culture than I was after moving to that house on the corner of Kipling Lane. Unfortunately, I wasn't there to colonise the place, and mould it to my social standards. I think, if I really had to pinpoint the moment when I knew it wasn't going to be a "good fit" as the saying goes, it was when a classmate cheerfully asked how many rooms our house had, as a sort of conversation ice-breaker. I didn't know, I'd never thought about it. I must have seemed terribly suspect. What's more, I didn't wear a hat or scarf in March, in Illinois. It's odd that I don't remember much of the place outside of early spring that first year. It wasn't an exceptional winter, though I suppose it would be fair to say it was an unexpected winter. No, no, of course we expect winter in Illinois, we just never anticipated how much snow would land on a corner lot in a still largely unbuilt subdivision. Like the teenagers with beer and baseball bats, I think the snow had some sort of magical radar that would send off bells and wildly flashing signals screeching, "Here! Here! Dump it all right here!" and of course, it would. After the fact, we though of a snow fence, but by the following year someone built a house next door and the grey brick beast made one hell of a fine snow fence. That first year though, good lord, no one saw that coming.

Kipling. I loathed Kipling. I think everyone did, after the 60's. My mother had an ancient copy of Kipling's History of England. This was a source of great embarrassment to me, as well as amazement. Strange to think, as late as the 1930's Kipling's take on how the British "civilised" the Irish would still be taught, and admired. Sometimes, I'd pull the red-bound volume with the crest on the cover from the shelf and look at the illustrations. It had lovely full colour plates, and must have been a somewhat costly book to produce, much less hand off to careless children. Not that my mother was ever careless, even as a child, family lore to be believed. British history is filled with wonderful, heroic battles, eyes pierced through with arrows on battlefields-wonderful reading really. But Kipling wrote it. I couldn't read it. I'd freeze my behind off each morning waiting for the bus and daydream about Keats. Keats would have given the Battle of Hastings a much better treatment. Probably. You really never can read enough Keats, or books about Keats, can you?

I told the music instructor that I wanted out after the first month of lessons. I seem to remember him telephoning my mother, and trying to convey this, along with a sort of gentle let-down that I was essentially too uncoordinated to work my fingers and mouth at the same time, a discovery that understood early in life probably saved me from a life of prostitution. That, and I have a really awful gag reflex. Really, just the sight of a tongue depressor is enough to induce retching. I still think it was the whole sucking on a reed thing, before I could even get to playing the instrument that put me off, along with the rented instrument issue. Sure, they sterilise them after each student, but who the hell wants something in their mouth that had been in someone else's mouth? See? No future in prostitution. Or music. My mother had paid for an entire school year's rental, so I was stuck lugging the sax and sucking the reeds until June. The music instructor was pretty merciful, and didn't make me participate in recitals. I believe I had the option of sitting on stage and pretending to play. I can't remember if I did. He was a nice man, with heavily lacquered hair that defied Midwestern winter. He probably didn't have to wait for a bus that was always late. I don't think he was put off by sticking things in his mouth that had been in someone else's mouth.

Each week, through March I'd mark off the calender to opening day. I liked baseball about as much as I liked Kipling, and playing the saxophone, but by god, it was something to live for, like the first red winged blackbirds screeching out their arrival by reminding you of their name, "RED WING BLACK BIIIIIIIIRRRRD!" I don't think I liked birds any better than Kipling, baseball, playing the saxophone or the first pink rhubarb forcing through the Midwestern mud-but the winters really are unbelievably long. I think I took up smoking simply to pass the time, waiting for the bus, waiting for spring, waiting to return the saxophone to the moth eaten man that ran the shop in Evanston. Eventually the first buds would show up on the few newly planted trees scattered through the subdivision and that Midwestern optimism would start thinking perhaps...and then, it would snow. Sometimes, it would melt immediately as it hit the ground, but more often than not, it stayed. That's what you get for optimism, but those Scandinavian settlers responsible for it were probably used to snow. There's a reason they drink so much alcohol and wear nice sweaters. I don't know what the whole lutefisk thing is about.

I never did learn to play a complete song on the saxophone. I did, near the end of my lessons figure out that there was a lever (button, key, I can't recall what they were called) off to the side with a sort of mother-of-pearl coating that was for an octave. Why this eluded me, and wasn't pointed out to me by the music instructor is odd, but he was probably busy fielding telephone calls from parents wanting to know why their child wasn't going to be the next, Miles, or Mingus, or Maclean. East was East, and West was West, and never the twain would meet-but East was towards the lake, and West was on the other side of the highway, a divide of new money and old that occasionally did meet in the no-man's land of the public school. A sociologist might have thought it interesting. I sat on my sax and smoked and waited for the goddamned bus.

The bus stop was next to a house we called "one point five". That's what it cost. That was a lot of dough in the 70's, and maybe if their senses hadn't been whacked out from the extremes of valium and coke binges, someone might have thought better of building a house that essentially looked like a gigantic crate. It had to look like a crate, because they constructed it around a tree and a giant boulder (both brought in). One point five. At least it faced Keats. Would have been a shame to spend that kind of money for a Kipling mailing address. Shortly after one point five was built, someone built "Two Mil". At least Two Mil had an indoor pool. You can't swim on a boulder.

They were sending me to camp in Northern Wisconsin come summer. We'd already had a visit from the camp director, on my birthday no less. No one bothered to tell me we'd be getting a visit from the camp director, on my birthday. He brought slides. I'm pretty sure he could have just sent a brochure with pictures of kids water skiing and we'd have gotten the idea, but the personalised service did kind of ensure he'd be leaving check in hand. There was that to look forward to-eight weeks in Northern Wisconsin pretending to be athletic. At least I wouldn't have to drag a saxophone around. My mother, with her fantastic (in both senses of the word) state of organisation, went ahead and purchased stationary and pre-stamped the envelopes so I would be able to write letters home thrice weekly. She did this a good many months ahead of my departure, and was livid when the price of postage suddenly went up a cent the week before camp began. I have a vivid memory of mother sitting at the kitchen table affixing additional postage to the envelopes, furious as they no longer looked neat and the one cent stamps did not coordinate with the apricot coloured fake parchment stationary with my name (misspelled) in bright red block type across the top. The printer fucked up the spelling of her daughter's name, and that was fine, but the stamps clashed and that put her over the edge.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

And This Week At Morrill Hall...

...a couple walked past the Darwin exhibit and said:

"Now there's something you don't see in Kansas!"

They heard me laughing too.

Christopsomo-Greek Easter Bread

This is a huge bread, which almost makes me feel better about the four eggs and entire cup of butter it contains. Fennel, butter, sugar...I think you know how my kitchen smells right now.

I used bread flour rather than AP flour as I wanted a less cake-like texture. You may use either.

Adapted from Sunset Breads Step by Step

You Will Need:

4 1/2 teaspoons granulated yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup warm milk
1 cup melted butter, cooled
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons anise seeds (you can crush them if you like)
1 teaspoon salt
(about) 7 cups bread or AP flour
9 dried apricots
1 egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water with a pinch of sugar. Let stand until foamy. Add the cooled milk, butter, eggs, sugar, salt, fennel and flour, a cup at a time until you have a dough that is no longer too sticky to knead. Work until smooth. Place in a buttered bowl, turn once and cover. Let rise until doubled-about 2 hours.

Punch dough down. Pull off 2 blobs of dough about 3 inches in diameter. Shape remaining dough into a ball and flatten to a 10 inch round. Place on a buttered baking sheet.

Roll each ball into a 15 inch rope and at each end of each rope, cut the bottom about 5 inches up into two pieces. Place atop the bread being careful not to press the decoration into the dough. Arrange in a cross and curl the ends around an apricot. Brush with the egg wash and let rise again until nearly doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake about 45 minutes or until deeply golden. Cool on rack.

Well Then

Me: (hearing Danny laughing at cartoons) Wow, you really sound like you're enjoying your show.
Danny: Yes, and you need to be quiet now so I can continue enjoying it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Since I can't send one through the post (they don't ship well) to Raymond, here's a virtual Kulich to enjoy. The recipe is pretty easy to do, and there's still plenty of time to bake a couple. The recipe will make 3 loaves in 1 lb. metal tins, but I made two and used the remainder for "Easter eggs." If I make the basket bread tomorrow, they will be cute inside.

Traditionally, Kulich has almonds in it. I omitted them, and added cherries (because my Danny loves them) but I don't see any reason you couldn't use currants, or citron, or whatever you like.

You Will Need:

4 1/2 teaspoons granulated dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup milk scalded and cooled to lukewarm
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup candied cherries, cut-up
4 1/2-5 cups (or more) AP flour
Icing sugar and water for glaze
Jimmies to decorate

Dissolve the yeast in a large bowl with the warm water and let proof. Cool the milk to lukewarm and add to bowl with sugar, salt, eggs, butter and 3 cups of flour. Mix in the vanilla and fruit. Add the remaining flour, a cup at a time until you have a dough that is no longer sticky and can be kneaded. Knead until smooth and elastic.

Place in a buttered bowl and let rise until doubled-about 2 hours. Punch down, divide in 3 parts and place in well-buttered 1 lb. tins. make sure your tins are not lined with a coating (as are tomatoes). Let rise in a warm spot until nearly doubled-about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place kulich on a baking sheet and bake 35-40 minutes or until well browned. the tops will get rather dark. Cool in pans on rack for five minutes. Carefully run a thin knife around the tin to loosen kulich and then gently slide out. Cool on racks. While still warm, coat with a thick glaze made from icing sugar and water. Decorate with jimmies.

Depression Era Butterscotch

This was not a hard butterscotch, but it wasn't exactly soft either. It reminded us of a cross between molasses taffy, and Mary Jane candy (without the peanut flavour). Mr. ETB really liked it, I did too, but I wouldn't call it butterscotch.

You Will Need:

1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup molasses (I used full flavour)
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 tablespoons boiling water
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Butter an 8x8 pan

Combine sugar, molasses, vinegar and water in a medium pan. Cook, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Then, without stirring, cook to 250 degrees F. Add butter, and cook again to 272 degrees F. Remove from heat, add vanilla and quickly pour into pan. When cool, cut-in squares with a knife. When cold, break apart. About 1 pound.

Depression Era Chocolate Brittle

We both liked this OK, but next time I'd make it with chopped up baking chocolate-not chips as I interpreted the recipe to mean. I have no idea if bagged chips even existed in the 30's. Basically, it is like an elaborate chocolate bark with a crunchy centre. I had difficulty getting it out of the pan. If I made this again, I'd line the pan with parchment.

You Will Need:

3 cups chocolate bits (I would just chop up semi-sweet chocolate) divided
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons butter

Place 1 1/2 cups of the chocolate in the bottom of a shallow 8x11 pan. Place in a 350 oven for ten minutes. Remove and let stand a few minutes, then spread the chocolate evenly over the bottom. Set aside, but keep oven on.

In a small pan, combine sugar, corn syrup, salt and water. Stir constantly until dissolved. Boil until mixture is brittle dropped in water (300 degrees F). Remove from heat, stir in butter. Pour in a thin layer over the melted chocolate. Cover with remaining chocolate bits. Return to oven for 7-8 minutes. Remove from oven, and spread as before being careful not to press chocolate into the brittle. Let stand until firm. Break into irregular pieces. About 2 pounds.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Another REALLY Awful Pick Up Line

At the Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium:

"I seen you got a bum leg there."

Yeah, nothing breaks the ice like, "I seen you got a bum leg there."

I suppose I could have hit him with my cane, but he already seemed a little brain damaged.

Depression Era Candymaking

Tonight, I made a batch of butterscotch that had little butter, but plenty of vinegar. I also made a chocolate brittle that was essentially melted chocolate chips with a hard layer of brittle poured over it and then another layer of chips melted on top. Both are on the counter setting, and I'll post the results tomorrow.

In the initial stages of cooking-before adding the butter and vanilla, the butterscotch smelled exactly like barbecue sauce. Molasses, vinegar, sugar. I guess that's not far off.


With Passover and Easter overlapping, our interfaith household is in a bit of a bind. I know there will be complaining if I neglect the usual assortment of Easter breads, so I'm going to do them this week. I think this will be helpful to anyone looking for things to actually serve at Easter. I thought about going the Eastern route, and baking the breads late, but Danny is really after me to bake a basket bread, so there you go. Personally, I think he wants to colour eggs with the Transformers kit I bought him (stickers, egg holders, etc.). I think we all know what movies I'd be designing egg colouring kits for, were it left to me. Thankfully, I'm not in the business of deciding those things, though I'd like to think we'd all live in a much better world if I were. Obviously, I can't be objective about this.

I'm also going to make Danny's basket candy myself. I have a recipe for a fluffy chocolate nougat filling, originally intended for cakes (from a Depression era cookbook). I'm hoping it will work, and I can fill chocolate with it in an approximation of a Milky Way bar. I guess I'll need caramel too. I have egg shaped moulds too. I bought some concentrated apricot flavouring, but I'm not sure if that would just be too strange as a hard candy. I don't know, I guess we'll see.

Mind, it isn't all candy around here at holiday time. I have a supply of balsa wood gliders, and just the coolest kaleidescope ever to stash in the basket. But I need to step on it-Passover starts Monday evening, and I don't even remember where half my table linens are packed.

Now, for local readers. Thursday evening is the last of the free nights at Morrill Hall. Friday evening, the observatory in Mead has visitor's night, and Saturday is the Severe Weather Symposium at UNL. So quit yer complaining that there isn't anything to do that doesn't cost money.

Meanwhile, I might be posting a bit less than usual, or in batches through the next couple weeks.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Make Your Own Scrubbers...

...from the netting your onions came in.

I wish I could remember where I saw this because it is brilliant, and I'd like to give credit where it is due. Genius!

Herb Pie In Phyllo

This was quite a bit of work, but no one told me to go and make my own ricotta. I used the recipe HERE, but I used almost completely different herbs and cheeses. It went over really well. It was served as a picnic meal-OK we had the picnic on a blanket in the living room because the Spring-like weather wouldn't cooperate with our picnic whim. You can't very well have a picnic with 35 mph wind gusts. Anyway, it was devoured happily, and there was still plenty left for tomorrow's lunch. With any luck, we might even make it outside.

My filling ended up being:

Preserved lemon
Pepato Cheese
Cheddar Cheese
Swiss Cheese
3 eggs rather than 2

I know it sounds like an utterly bizarre combination, but it turned out lovely. I think Danny was astounded when he tasted it.

I really like the way olive oil works with phyllo, and it seems marginally better for you than a bunch of clarified butter. This will certainly become a regular dish in rotation at our home.

For Ricotta:

2 quarts whole milk
2 cups buttermilk

Heat together over high heat, stirring and scraping the bottom to keep it from scalding. When heat reaches about 170, curds will start to form. Stop stirring and remove from heat. Remove clumps with a slotted spoon to a cheesecloth lined sieve. Drain well, do not press. Keep covered in the fridge until ready to use.

Homemade Hamburger Buns

Mr. ETB has been craving hamburgers for some time now. I figured, if I'm going to make him hamburgers, he might as well have decent bread for them. I always thought that was the best part of a burger anyway, but then I was probably leaning vegetarian from a young age.

These buns are light, yet sturdy enough to support a greasy burger and a ton of grilled onions. Since I know you're wondering-I fried the burgers in a cast iron pan after having grilled the onions. I toasted the buns in the same pan. I did not add anything to the ground beef except salt/pepper and parsley. I grew up eating broiled hamburgers that were "stretched" with breadcrumbs and egg. They were like eating meatloaf on a bun. That can be OK, but Mr. ETB really wanted a couple greasy burgers.

For The Buns:
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Homemade Bread Book

2 cups warm water
4 1/2 teaspoons granulated yeast
3/4 cup cooking oil (I used soybean)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon salt
3 large eggs
About 7 cups AP flour


5 tablespoons dried onion
2 tablespoons poppyseed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
Water to cover

Mix together and let soak until absorbed.

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and sugar. Add the oil, salt, eggs and 4 cups of the flour. With a mixer, combine on low for 1 minute, then beat on hight for 3 minutes. By hand, stir in the rest of the flour until you have a stiff, no longer sticky dough. Knead well. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise 1 hour or until doubled.

Punch down dough and divide in three sections. let rest five minutes. Divide each section into eight balls. Shape into smooth rounds by pinching the underneat together, then flatten with your palms into 3 inch circles. Place on greased baking sheets. Top with onion mixture and let rise until nearly doubled-about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Bake rolls 10-20 minutes (the recipe said 10, mine took 20) or until nicely browned on top. Cool on racks. Makes 2 dozen rolls.

Summer Pudding In Spring

Yeah, it looks a bit pale, but it is only March.

I couldn't wait until Summer.

It looks a bit pale, but that's only because I didn't cook the berries long enough to get a deep colour. No matter though, it still came up wonderfully. I've never been successful with unmoulding large puddings, so I opted for three small ones instead. As you can see, they held together. This would not have happened with a large mould-not in my hands anyway. I chalk it up to one of those things like my mother always burning the garlic bread. I accept my weaknesses and don't try to challenge the will of the universe.

This isn't the sort of thing you can write a recipe for, but here's the basic technique. From the outset, I really want to warn against over-complicating a simple thing. You need bread, fruit, and syrup. Beyond that, it becomes an entirely different dessert.

Make a syrup of 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar. when sugar is dissolved, add about 2 cups berries (but don't add strawberries-they break down too easily-use those uncooked in the centre of the pudding) and cook just until the syrup is coloured and berries start to pop. I could have cooked mine longer for a deeper colour, but then you sacrifice the texture of the berries. Do as you please. You can always do a touch up after it comes out of the mould (be sure to save the extra berries and syrup).

Line your mould with cling film-this will help to get the whole thing out easily. Arrange slices of bread tightly on the bottom and sides. If you trim the side pieces on a slant you can get them to fit very neatly. I didn't bother. With a spoon and a pastry brush, saturate the pieces of bread. Some people dunk them in liquid and then line the mould. My bread always falls apart when I try that, but go ahead and give it a go if you're feeling confident. Fill the centre with fresh strawberries and your cooked blueberries, etc. Fit a piece of bread over the top and douse with more juice. Bring the cling film up over the top and close. Weight with a small tin (I used condensed milk as it is heavy) and set in the fridge for at least 8 hours. Carefully unmould onto a plate ,and garnish with extra berries, juice and whatever else you like. I used some pureed strawberries I had from something else.

Raise The Scarlet Standard High, Beneath The Folds We'll Never Die...

I went to bed really excited, being told I'd wake the following morning to a socialist paradise. I sort of expected Raise The Red Flag, and The Internationale, to be blaring from the radio. Instead, I got up and damnit, wouldn't you know-I'm still living in late-capitalist America.

I guess the Mao suit goes back in the closet.


Just from what I've observed in other countries that socialise their medical services, it seems unlikely people will want to give those benefits up once they have them.

I'm still kind of bummed about the socialism thing.


"Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer we'll keep the red flag flying here..."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Quick Apple Cinnamon Kuchen

Mr. ETB wanted cinnamon rolls, and Danny wanted frotters. I wanted to go back to sleep. This is what they got for breakfast.

You Will Need:

3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups AP flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Cinnamon sugar
1 tart apple, sliced very thin

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease an 8 inch square pan generously.

Cream together sugar and butter. Add egg and mix well. Add milk,. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Stir into batter.

Spread batter evenly in pan. Press apple slices into top gently. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar.

Bake 25-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Serve still warm. Go back to bed, and let family do the dishes.

Happy Sunday.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Homemade Seed Pots

Everything you need to know about making your own seed pots for the upcoming gardening season. I've been saving egg cartons and toilet paper tubes.

By the way, it snowed today.

So far, here's the initial line up for the garden this year:

Bell Peppers
Corn (a popcorn variety)
Delectica Squash

I am still looking for culinary quality violets that can be dried and candied. If anyone has a good source/suggestion, please let me know. The garden centre staff looked at me like I was out of my mind.

Salted Caramel Cheesecake

I made a batch of these today. I've made them before, and once again I chickened out carmelising the sugar. A few seconds more and the caramel would have been darker and richer tasting-but I was terrified of burning it. Oh, it is still really good (Mr. ETB suggested selling them from a food cart downtown) but I'm slightly annoyed as I think they could be even better.

I didn't use expensive salt-just coarse Kosher salt. It was fine.

I'm going to give the sauce another try with golden syrup to see if I can get the deeper flavour without risk of third degree burns. I worry about that now, as I have a difficult time telling hot from cold, and might not notice molten sugar burning my skin until it blistered.

The Nut Free Mom Blog

THIS blog is a fantastic resource for families dealing with nut allergies. We had a pretty easy transition given my forty plus years with nut allergies, but I still find new, and helpful information. Even if you don't have a child with nut allergies, odds are you will know people that do-having accurate, helpful information is always nice even if it isn't personally needed.

When I was a child, nut allergies were pretty rare, so people tended to be really accommodating. Today, the biggest threat I see Danny encountering are people who don't believe your child has a genuine allergy. This scares the daylights out of me. He's homeschooled, and eats almost no processed food. We don't eat away from home, and he brings meals with when needed. Still, no matter how well I plan, protect, and try to shield him from allergens, I know it will happen again. I'm resigned to that. What I can't fathom is why anyone would deliberately place your child in danger to prove...what? What in god's name do they think they are going to prove by potentially killing your child?

I really like the people who think because you carry a couple eppi-pens that eating a nut won't be life threatening. Like it's an allergy pill you take to treat hay fever.

Really, I worry more about protecting him from morons than I do from peanuts. Man, are we ever living in a screwed-up time.

Overheard At Morrill Hall

Danny and his papa were off playing in the children's area, so I waited by the interactive Darwin exhibit. If you've ever wondered what Darwin's study looked like, or wanted to see his snuff box, you can take a virtual tour through his home, and learn interesting trivia along the way. Did you know the Darwins played two games of backgammon each evening, and kept records of who won over decades? I sure didn't. The collection of photographs is fascinating, and easily navigated via a well designed exhibit. After I satisfied my curiosity about Darwin, I sat on a bench across from it to wait for the boys.

I watched a steady stream of youngsters pulled away from it by parents who thought it was "for grown ups." That was kind of sad, but it was free admission night at the museum, and I guess they came for dinosaurs and moon rocks.

Finally, two college aged young women sat down at the exhibit. Between giggles, taking photographs with a cell phone, and random clicking on pictures one managed to utter:

"Oh shut up, wait... I don't even know who he is. Did he write books or something?"

Thursday, March 18, 2010


If you've been reading this blog for more than a week, you understand that I bake. My family isn't sweet deprived, and there's always some ginger snaps, or homemade caramel in the kitchen. Most of this is taken for granted, appreciated but not really fussed about-unless I bake chocolate chip cookies.

To my mind, they are probably the least interesting thing to bake. Quick, not terribly challenging and I usually have the ingredients on hand-I rarely bake them. I suppose because they are really rather boring.

I baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies today, and from the way Danny reacted you'd think it was Christmas morning. I used store-brand chips, but he didn't seem to notice, nor care. The child who will happily eat one cookie, and return to playing sat in the kitchen like a dog pleading treats until I handed over a second and third. I tried them, they're good-but not joy inducing. I really just don't get it.

I can't attribute it to a child's palate either. Mr. ETB will likely finish off the remainder of the batch this evening.

I grew up in a household where we didn't see many cookies, and they were rationed. My dad liked those horrible almond windmill cookies, and my mother would rarely permit some sort of revolting bran/honey crap from the health food store that probably elevated her blood sugar more than a good old Oreo would have. Sometimes, at Christmas we'd get a tin of Danish butter cookies-but that was kind of a special treat, and I had to fight my sister for the pretzel shaped ones with the coarse sugar topping. I guess my point is, I don't have any strong associations with Toll House type cookies because no one baked them. They wouldn't have been any good with Sweet-n-Low and margarine anyway.

Just for uh...research purposes, I had another with a cup of coffee just now, and I still really don't see the appeal. They are awfully sweet, and soft. Given all the trouble I have with swallowing, soft food is normally attractive to me, but I just can't seem to get as excited over these as everyone else. I'm happy that they enjoy what I've baked, but it really does seem like misplaced praise. I mean, I baked some seriously badass ginger snaps earlier in the week, and didn't hear a peep of "Oh my gosh these are so good give me another one right now or I swear I'm going to die oh I mean give me two, this is a cookie emergency!"

Maybe it's a guy thing.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wahoo, Nebraska-Where Every Day Is Like Being Trapped In A John Waters Movie

It could just be me, as I have this precedent for attracting strangeness. My husband attributes this to having a numerically interesting birth date, and my parents naming me for a Donovan song. It's like they overwhelmed the balance of the universe or something, and now I live life as a weirdo magnet. Really, I don't mind-I like weirdos. Mostly.

So when the morbidly obese old man in full St. Patrick's Day regalia sitting on the bench at exit to the Sun Mart asked if I wanted to sit on his lap, I laughed and said:
"Aw thanks, but not today."

I was halfway through the door when I heard:

"I'll bet you jiggle nice."

So. How was your St. Patrick's Day?

Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls With Lentils

Sorry, I didn't bother with a picture as I have so many cabbage roll recipes on the blog already. You probably know what cabbage rolls look like.

After some thought, I decided to try a filling that didn't use rice. Instead, I served it over rice, which gave a more attractive presentation. Funny, I never imagined myself using "Attractive presentation", and "Cabbage rolls", in the same sentence. Maybe I really should have taken a photograph. Maybe you have to be of Eastern European heritage to find beauty in cabbage rolls. Next thing, I'll be drinking tea from a glass.

Right, so how does one make cabbage rolls? I really find that blanching the leaves first makes them easier to fill, and cuts down on the cooking time. I also like to make my fillings ahead of time, so everything is ready to assemble and bake. To start making all of this at once would take a couple hours and honestly, I tire too easily now for that sort of an effort. You could easily make the filling the day before, and just blanch and fill the cabbage leaves the evening you cook it. That would make it easier if you had to work away from home all day. What I'm saying is, don't get intimidated by the length of these recipes. Most can be made partly ahead.

You Will Need:

1 cup lentils, sorted rinsed and soaked 4 hours
6-8 outer leaves of a head of cabbage
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 carrots, finely diced
2 large onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups chopped, fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary

(about) 1 cup dry breadcrumbs
2 large eggs

1 cup tinned tomatoes and liquid, chopped-liquid reserved
1/2 cup tinned spaghetti sauce
2 cups vegetable broth

In a large pot of boiling water, blanch the cabbage leaves for two minutes. Turn off heat, let sit for five minutes. Drain and refresh under cold running water. Dry well on kitchen towels. If done ahead, keep in a covered bowl in the fridge until needed.

Drain and rinse lentils. Place in a small pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered until soft-about 20 minutes. Drain. If doing ahead keep chilled.

In a large pot, melt the butter and oil over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and garlic. Cook until carrots are soft. Add herbs and seasonings. Reduce heat to very low and cook until parsley has broken down, and everything is quite soft. If it seems dry, add a bit more oil. Add the lentils and cook a few minutes more to blend flavours. Remove from heat. If making ahead, keep chilled until ready to assemble.

For the sauce:
Combine tomatoes, sauce, and stock in a bowl. Set aside until needed.

To Assemble:

Before filling cabbage rolls, beat the two eggs and breadcrumbs into the lentil/carrot mixture. You may need more breadcrumbs, but keep in mind they will expand as they absorb liquid. It should hold together without being dry. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly butter a large casserole dish. Fill each cabbage leaf generously without over-stuffing. They really will expand a bit as they cook. Arrange in the pan. Pour over the sauce, and place in oven. Bake 30 minutes. Baste with juices to keep top from getting too dried out. Return to oven, reduce heat to 350 degrees F. for another 30 minutes or until done.

Serve hot over rice.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

At The Very Least, They Need A Better Acronym

I hate to see anyone lose their job. Except maybe THESE people. I wish I could hire them all...just so I could have the pleasure of sacking them all over again.

Oh, they're too good for menial, minimum wage work. Yeah, OK. That's the sort of people we should be holding up as examples of perseverance? Gah. Oooh, a project manager. I'll bet you feel pretty darn important, huh? Since when is a project manager an executive anyway?

Still, there's plenty of humour to be found in their unhappiness (as it should be). From the article:

"Among them is Paul David Madsen, self-titled America's Job Coach and author of a new book: “Laid off & Loving It for 2010: Rebuilding Your Career or Small Business with Social Media's Help; Make Your Own TwitterVator Speech, Let Linkedin End Your Job Hunt.”

Oh geez, and he's unemployed, what with a book title like that, and all. Unbelievable.

"There's Mac, an Air Force retiree with executive experience: “I'm looking for a company that needs help moving toward the next level of excellence.”

OK, that's just kind of pathetic. I actually feel a smidgen of sympathy for him. But really, how the hell do people learn to speak like that?

I know so many people out of work, nearly out of work, underemployed, who are just steps from homelessness...and these schmucks think they are too good to push a broom, or work a cash register? I mean, fine-feel any way you like, but it is beyond sickening that the paper thinks they are not only worthy of an article, but that they deserve congratulations for "not settling" for work they deem beneath them.

How To Waste Stimulus Funds

A school in Omaha is using their federal stimulus funds to stop behaviour problems preemptively. Gosh, that sounds great, I wonder what they have in mind?

From the article:

"The behavior program starts with developing buildingwide standards of behavior and consistent expectations for all students. Some can be as simple as laying out how students can pass safely through hallways — forward, not backward — or as complex as establishing acceptable ways to express feelings."

No really, this didn't run in the Onion. So no stomping your foot in anger in the hallways kids-at least not backwards.

Wait, it gets worse:

"Ten percent to 20 percent of students will need more help, either in the classroom or in small group sessions. And 3 percent to 5 percent will need individualized plans to address behavior problems, Johnson said."

Lesson plans for learning to walk the hallways in a forward facing manner? Heck, they could just use those stimulus funds to buy a few stun guns-that'll get those disobedient backward walking students into compliance! And stimulated! "You! You are not in compliance!" Then, ZAP! So much cheaper than employing school psychologists, and you still end up with the students beaten into mindless submission-at half the cost.

"Next year's training will focus more on intervention for students who aren't responding to such instruction. That can range from an adult checking in with a student twice a day to providing additional services to families or even alternative placements."

Great! Micro-managing students and dragging social services into the family will really give these students an incentive to stay in school. This isn't stopping behaviour problems early, this is labeling and branding children as defective in primary school over terribly minor things. Zero tolerance is awfully punitive, and I've yet to see evidence that it is effective, unless effectiveness is measured in mindless obedience.

Kind of a shame, with teachers in Omaha being laid off, that the money couldn't be used for more academic uses.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bread Roulade With Vegetables and Honey Mustard Baked Tofu

This sounds difficult, but it really isn't. If pressed for time, you could even make this with store-bought frozen bread dough, and already baked tofu. I won't rat you out. The filling should be prepared well ahead of time because you want it cold when filling the dough (this will prevent it splitting and spilling, as well as soaking into the dough too much. That's a good rule of thumb for calzones as well.

I had some fresh spinach, so I used it. I'd go ahead and use whatever vegetables you have. I wouldn't go out and buy fresh spinach just to make this. But that's me. I only added a handful anyway.

The recipe will make two very large loaves. When cool, wrap the leftovers in foil, and keep refrigerated. Re-heat, uncovered on a baking sheet in a slow oven. I have not tried freezing these. I'd be curious to see how the unbaked ones did in the freezer. Maybe next time.

You Will Need:

For the dough:

2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup warm water
3 teaspoons granulated dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 tablespoon salt
5-6 cups bread flour/strong flour

Dissolve the yeast in a small bowl with the water and sugar. Let stand until foamy. Heat the milk, butter, and salt over medium heat just until butter melts and salt dissolves. Remove and cool to lukewarm.

Add yeast to cooled milk in a large mixing bowl. Work in flour a cup at a time until you have a fairly stiff dough that can be kneaded without being too sticky. Knead until smooth. Place in a buttered bowl and let rise until doubled (about 2 hours). Punch down, let rise again until almost doubled (about 1 hour). Punch down, divide in two and let rest, covered 30 minutes.

Roll out and fill as directed later in recipe.

For the tofu:

1 block firm, or extra firm (NOT silken) tofu
4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons olive oil

Press the tofu dry between kitchen towels. Slice into four pieces and on a fresh towel, press out more moisture. Do this a few times (You'll run through about five towels) taking care not to crumble the tofu. Combine the marinade ingredients, and pour half in a shallow dish. Arrange the tofu slices atop marinade, and then spread the rest on top. Cover with cling film and let sit 30 minutes. Turn the slices and let soak another 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with foil (trust me on this-it makes a mess) and arrange the slices on it. Bake 30 minutes, then turn and bake another thirty minutes. Keep turning every thirty minutes until tofu is quite firm-this can take an hour and a half. Remove from oven, cut into tiny cubes, and let cool. Add to filling mixture below.

For the filling:

4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
6 medium carrots, finely sliced on the diagonal (or however you like, just keep them small)
1 cup chopped fresh, raw spinach
2 cups chopped fresh parsley (I really like cooked parsley-you can use less or omit it if you prefer)
1/2 pound mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary (crumbled)
2 small bay leaves
Salt/Black Pepper

Heat the butter and oil in a large, heavy pot. Cook the onions, garlic, carrots, and spinach until soft. Add the parsley, mushrooms, and spices and continue to cook over very low heat until nearly mush. Remove bay leaves. Combine with cooked, diced tofu and cool completely (chilling is best) before filling dough. This can be prepared hours ahead.

To assemble:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously dust a large baking sheet with cornmeal.

Roll out each half of the dough into a large rectangle. From each half remove about a golf ball sized bit of dough for decorating the top. I'm not going to give you exact dimensions because it doesn't matter. You want the dough about an inch thick. After that, do as you like. Place the filling atop the dough leaving about 1 inch around the edges. Roll it up, pinch the seam closed and place on the baking sheet seam side down. Repeat with second roll.

To decorate, I cut out shapes and used fresh parsley, but you really don't need to do this. I made several slits in the top of each roll for venting. If you carefully lay the parsley around it that will help disguise the scoring. If you care. It is probably a sign of being well adjusted if you don't care. Obviously, I have character flaws that manifest themselves in the kitchen. Ahem. So decorate, or not as you see fit.

Brush with an egg wash (1 egg yolk plus 1 tablespoon water) Reserve any extra for brushing again after ten minutes in the oven. This will give it a deeper colour. Let rise another ten minutes or so while the oven heats, then place on the centre rack of the oven. Bake ten minutes, remove and brush again with egg wash. Return to the oven and bake another twenty minutes or so. The bread should be deeply golden and feel somewhat firm. A bit longer is always better than underdone, so if in doubt, let it go a while longer.

Cool on a rack for a few minutes before cutting. Serve warm.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lenten Spice Cake With Carrot Marmalade Filling

For a cake made without eggs, butter, or milk this was pretty moist. The marmalade from the previous post worked perfectly with the spices of the cake. The one problem was, I didn't have any applesauce. I did however have 5 Granny Smith apples, so I made a batch of applesauce. That took all of fifteen minutes. Really.

The applesauce was so good, I'll post the recipe here, but you can of course use store-bought. Still, if you've never tried making your own, why not give it a go? The most difficult/time consuming part was peeling the apples. You can freeze any extra in plastic bags.

For the applesauce:

1 pint tart apples, peeled and sliced
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar (optional)
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Cut up apples and place in a large pot. Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until soft-about ten minutes. With a potato masher, break up the apples leaving some chunks (unless you like it really pureed, in which case you can put it through a food mill. Add sugar to the pan, and lemon juice. Mash together well and boil one minute longer. There, you've made applesauce. You can also add spices, or vanilla if you like.

For the cake:

1/2 cup dark molasses
1-1 1/2 cups applesauce
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cup AP flour
1/2 cup sugar

Grease a 9 inch round cake pan. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine molasses with 1 cup of the applesauce-reserve the rest in case you need it.

Combine dry ingredients, and whisk together. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry. If it is too thick to pour into the pan, add a bit more applesauce, up to 1/2 cup more.

Pour into pan, place in the oven on the centre rack and bake about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre tests done. It may take much longer, but again, better to keep checking than have a dry spice cake-at least that's my thinking. On the other hand, dry cake just invites dousing it in booze, so maybe you have to call that one as you see it.

Let cake cool on a rack, in the pan for 20 minutes, then let cool completely on a rack. At this point, I split the layer and filled it with the marmalade from the previous post, but you could just skip that. I also made a glaze of confectioner's/icing sugar and water to spread on top. You could easily just dust it with powdered sugar and have a beautiful looking cake.

Really though, that marmalade is magical. I can't think of the last time I enjoyed something quite so much.

Listen Here, You Little Whippersnappers...

I may be five feet tall, going grey, and limping as I walk, but my mind is still functioning perfectly well, thank you very much. I resent being treated otherwise. I really do.

I went to buy heavy cream at the store today, and noticed it was dated for Monday. I asked a stock boy to check in back if there were any newer cartons, and he said no. At that point, it seemed reasonable enough to ask if they could discount the container (being sold at full price) since it was going to be past the expiration date soon. A manager came out to lecture me. Yes, lecture.

I was informed that the truck had just been there today, and that all the stores get heavy cream dated two days from when they arrive in the store. Furthermore, it is good for 7 days past the date on the carton. I called bullshit. In fact, I suggested he call over to their store at Q Street where I usually shop, and get heavy cream dated three weeks ahead. I was told this was impossible, and that I was wrong. At this point, I was getting annoyed. It would have been just fine had he said, "Look, I can't do anything about it." I could deal with that. What I cannot stand is some twenty-something brat lying to my face, and suggesting I'm hallucinating, or worse, trying to get away with something. I really don't like that. Really.

"You know" I said, "You could have just said "no" without being condescending. It's really insulting. It's not like there isn't anywhere else to shop."

He stood there giving me a pained smile and replied, "Well, I'm sorry you feel that way."

I pushed my cart away giving serious consideration to just abandoning it in the aisle and leaving. I really can shop anywhere I like, I have a car. Mr. ETB and Danny were waiting in the eating area having lunch, and I sat down to join them, still pretty angry. A few minutes later, along comes the whippersnapper toting a pint of heavy cream with a much, much later date on it. Well, what do you know, they did just happen to have some newer cream in back. He did apologize. I said "thank you", but I still felt like leaving the cart.

Mr. ETB reckons it was because I scolded him in my best "old lady" voice, but I really wonder if perhaps someone overheard the exchange. Honestly, it didn't change anything. He apologised about not looking carefully, not the way he spoke to me. I suppose one shouldn't expect too much. I know we live in a world where cashiers can't count back change, and asking a question of anyone under forty is met with such blank stares I might as well be speaking Manx. I know that the standard response in nearly every one of these situations is a shrug of the shoulders and a mumbled, "whatever." I know this. I understand it. It annoys the crap out of me anyway.

Some days I feel really ill equipped to function in the world.

Now get offa my lawn, you damn beatniks.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Carrot Marmalade

This was a small batch (2 pints worth) that I didn't feel was worth putting through a water bath. We'll polish it off quickly, so I'm storing it in the fridge. As it is a completely new recipe, I have no idea how it would work for canning. Personally, I'd give it 10 minutes in a water bath canner, but it isn't like 15 would hurt. Just keep in mind, it is untested. I was really pleased with the results, so I'll probably go ahead and preserve a batch at some point and post the results.

Most recipes for carrot marmalade call for liquid pectin. This seems like a waste of a rather expensive product that can be put to better use making Moosehead beer gumdrops. I don't have anything against pectin, I just didn't think with all the orange peel and pulp it was really necessary.

I used a blood orange and a Cara Cara because that was what I had. The blood orange left dark flecks throughout which is attractive once you realise you didn't burn the carrots to the bottom of the pot. Yeah, it had me fooled for a second.

I added the maraschino cherries because Danny loves them. I thought they would go well with carrots and pineapple and they ended up giving the whole marmalade a lovely jewel-like appearance.

I used some of it already to fill a gingerbread spice cake, and I couldn't be happier.

You Will Need:

4 cups grated carrots
1 1/2 cups crushed pineapple. well drained
1/4 cup maraschino cherries, cut-up
1 large Cara Cara orange (peel removed and reserved) pith removed and chopped up
1 blood orange (peel removed and reserved) pith removed and chopped up
1 large lemon (peel removed and reserved) juiced (should total about 1/3 cup liquid. You can top-up with bottled lemon juice if you are short)
4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Cut up peels into thin strips about 1 1/2 inches long. Place in a small pot with water to cover. Bring to a boil, then drain. Repeat three times until peel is soft. Keep in mind that once you add sugar to the peel, they will never get any softer, so make sure you have them as soft as you like before proceeding.

Add everything else to a very large, heavy pot and with a long, wooden spoon stir constantly over medium heat (so you don't burn the sugar) until dissolved. Continue to cook over medium heat until it reaches the boil. It will sputter, so really-use a long handled spoon. At this point, you keep cooking until the oranges break down, and the mixture thickens. Mine took about 20 minutes, but stoves vary quite a bit. You'll want to keep stirring to prevent sticking. Use a cold spoon to test for doneness. In my experience, marmalade is best a bit underdone because once it goes hard, you'll break knives trying to pry it out of the jar. If you think you're *almost* to the gelling point, and it barely sheets off a spoon when tested, I'd err on the side of caution and pull it off the heat. If you do overcook it, all is not lost-it makes great marinades melted down with other liquid. I've brushed a few ducks with marmalade in my day ( that almost sounds like it could be a euphemism for something dirty, doesn't it? "You damn DUCKBRUSHER!").

I let mine cool in a large, shallow casserole dish, and then packed it into jars to keep in the fridge.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Kenneth Anger Interview in the Guardian

How fantastic is it that he's still alive, and still working?

As a completely oblivious teenager, I saw Scorpio Rising at a film society in Chicago. In a way, it was better not having any expectations, or knowing anything about Anger's work. I'm really glad that I got to see it on a reasonably sized screen because let's face it, they ain't gonna be screening it at Filmstreams in Omaha. Uh uh, nope. I don't even know if you could find it on Netflix. I've been trying to think of nasty things to write on Post-It Notes I can affix to the DVD rental box at the supermarket. I suppose , "Your stupid late-capitalist machine doesn't have any Kenneth Anger films", might be a start.

School Locked Down Over Nerf Gun

Oh, I don't know-I can see where it is easy enough to mistake a brightly coloured plastic toy for an actual assault weapon.

"Omaha Public Schools spokeswoman Luanne Nelson commended the children who issued the alert. They spotted something unusual on school grounds and immediately went to adults in the building - just as they have been taught, she said."

They've been taught to abandon thinking in favour of hysterical reactions. Well done, kids! Actually, I take that back-the adults were hysterical. I mean, it is bright red, yellow and blue.

Anecdotal Evidence Is Not The Same As Proof

Today's inability to reason is brought to us by the "Moms" section of the Omaha World Herald.

The author is discussing chiropractic care for her infant, and somewhat predictably, a comment is made in the thread accusing quackery. Again, not terribly surprising, given the subject.

Scroll yourself down a bit and we find this response:

Posted by: Amy G on 03/10/10 @ 11:42 am:

@Quack, you have multiple messages here showing proof as to the benefits of going to a chiropractor. I go regularly as well and it has helped with head, neck and back issues and has helped me sleep better and have fewer headaches. My brother's chiropractor is the one that actually found irregular bone structure in his neck for which the chiropractor recommended he see a surgeon. He could've been paralyzed had he not found this out. Don't knock it until you've tried it!

I don't know that multiple responses in favour of chiropractic treatment on a message board at the Omaha World Herald really show "proof" of anything beyond the failure of modern education to teach critical thinking.

I like the logic of "Don't knock it until you try it." I mean hey, people think they get relief from trepenation, so if they all agree, then that's probably proof that drilling holes in your head is effective for something (I never really was sure why people do this to themselves). At any rate, you shouldn't knock it until you've tried it so eh, OK. I got me a hand drill and half a bottle of Scotch-what am I supposed to do next?

For the record, I don't really care one way or the other whether people go to chiropractors, or drill holes in their heads for that matter. I do however, care that the mob mentality of, "well,we all agree so it must be a fact", has impaired the ability to
understand the difference between proof, and anecdotal evidence.

So really, do I drink the Scotch, or apply it topically? Anyone?

Baked Creamy Grits

When I was about six, my sister threw some boiling water over a packet of instant grits, and served it to me for breakfast. She probably meant well, with the hot breakfast and all. By the time I had thrown it up all over Mrs. Batz classroom floor, and the custodian had to come and toss pencil shavings on it, I knew grits wouldn't hold a prominent place in future meals. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, I never ate them again.

Oh, I know-you shouldn't start a post at a cooking blog with a story involving vomit. Sorry about that. You're expecting me to tell you I ate these grits in the photo, and that they were wonderful, etc. I didn't eat them. The boys did, and they both liked them and I didn't need to go off in search of pencil shavings, which is great because my pencil sharpener is kind of dinky.

If you actually like grits, these will probably be quite enjoyable. It wasn't difficult to prepare, and the ingredients are economical enough. As I mentioned, they boys really tucked in, and half the dish was gone before I noticed. That says something, I suppose (it says that their older sister didn't cook them instant grits for breakfast forty years ago that they threw up all over Mrs. Batz's polished linoleum classroom floor).

But hey, look everybody! I used that really lovely French souffle dish I made my husband buy for me years ago that I've only pressed into service a few times since. It was blue. I'm sure you understand-blue souffle dishes from France don't turn up at Marshall's every day, you know.

The recipe comes from Lee Bailey, who presumably knew a thing or two about cooking grits and never threw them up all over the floor at Kenton Elementary School in 1970. At least, that's what I think.

You Will Need:

2 1/2 cups whole milk, divided into 2 cups and 1/2 cup
2 cups chicken stock (I used vegetable)
1 cup quick (not instant) grits
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt (I omitted this because my stock was salty-adjust to your taste)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 2 quart souffle dish.

In a medium pot, combine the 2 cups of milk, and the stock. Bring to a boil. In a stream, whisk in the grits and lower the heat to low. Whisk for 4 minutes until mixture thickens. Remove from heat, beat in butter and remaining 1/2 cup of milk. Beat well, then mix in the eggs.

Pour into casserole dish and bake 50-55 minutes or until top is puffed and golden.

Mock Pecan Pie

This was an experiment that turned out well. I adapted an old recipe for pecan pie by adding toasted coconut and using my homemade brown sugar which is a bit heavier on the molasses than store bought. I don't know if I would use Golden Syrup again as it is somewhat expensive and I think dark corn syrup would be just fine (I didn't have any, or I'd have used it). The crust is a cream cheese crust which is very light. It makes a nice contrast to the gooey filling.

I've heard that broken pretzels can work as a replacement for nuts in many recipes, and I even came across a recipe that suggested using 3/4 cup of Old Fashioned oats in place of the pecans. I like both ideas, and will probably give them a try at some point in the future.

I could have left the filling plain and gone for a sort of tarte sucre, but I already have a killer recipe for that and really, you can't improve perfection, now can you?

Both the crust and filling came from The Best of Food and Wine 1988 Collection, but I will post the recipes as I re-worked them. There are a million (probably a billion) recipes around for true pecan pie, so I won't bother with the original ingredients as published.

For the crust:

1 cup AP flour
1/8 tsp. salt
3 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small chunks

Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut int cream cheese. Cut in butter until you have a fine meal. Gently knead until mixed and gather into a ball. Flatten into a disk and wrap in cling film. Chill at least 1 hour, but several is better.

Roll out dough and fit into a pie plate (I used a 9 inch, but an 8 would be fine, just higher on the sides). Cover with cling film and chill at least 1 hour. 15 minutes before baking (while the oven preheats) transfer crust to freezer to firm more.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line pie crust with foil and fill with beans or weights. Bake 15-20 minutes or until it is almost dry. Remove foil, prick all over and bake another 5-10 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Remove to a rack to cool while you make the filling.

For the filling:

4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup golden syrup
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter cut in chunks
1/4 cup heavy cream
Pinch of salt
1 cup toasted coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place coconut in bottom of pie crust. In a saucepan, over low heat mix together the egg yolks, syrup, sugar, butter, cream and salt. Mix well and stir until wooden spoon is coated on the back or it reaches a temperature of 160 degrees F. (Be really careful not to scramble the eggs).

Strain (to catch any eggy bits) and pour over coconut into pie shell. Bake 20-25 minutes (mine took closer to 35, but ovens vary) until puffed. The filling will still move a bit, but will set when cooled.

Cool on a rack before removing from pie plate.

Salmon With Dried Apricots and Fennel

Yeah, that looks like a whole lot of butter in the photo. Most of it runs down into the foil packet anyway. Very moist though *nods head*. Amazing what a bunch of butter will do for fish.

Danny is the only one who like salmon, so on nights when his papa is eating something "non vegetarian" (I do cook my husband a brisket now and then) I have frozen individual servings on hand. I think these were something like 3/$5.00 which is acceptable. The fillets are surprisingly nice.

I chopped up dried apricots, some preserved lemon peel, raisins, and gave it a generous grinding of sea salt and black pepper. I toasted some fennel seeds in a frying pan until they were fragrant, and added them to the topping. Everything was sealed in a foil pouch and baked at 375 degrees F. for about 20 minutes. Danny loved it.

Don't be afraid to try dried fruit in savoury dishes.