Thursday, September 29, 2011

Nut Free Candy Corn/Pumpkins

After letting my fondant ripen a few days, I tinted, and flavoured it to make candy corn. I also made chocolate covered coconut bon bons, and peppermint patties coated in dark chocolate. I still have plenty of fondant left.

Most of the candy corn brands are made in facilities with nuts. The thought of going through Halloween without candy corn was too much to bear (really, I mean, that's part of childhood in America, right?) so I gave homemade ones a try. I think the store-bought ones are honey flavoured-mine are vanilla. I think you could experiment with that. Sure, they aren't exactly the same, but when the choice is between similar and none, kids tend to be less particular.
Caterpillar? Nessie? I dunno-I had extra green fondant to use-up.

Fondant recipe HERE.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fish Pate Guillaume Tirel-Raymond Oliver, La Cuisine 1967

Obviously, I needed to make some adjustments as I wasn't about to wrap the damn thing in slabs of fatback. It still worked beautifully, which is somewhat frightening when I think about it. If you're following along at home, this is the recipe on page 352-there's a photograph on the reverse. Mine isn't as elegantly styled as Monsieur Oliver's, but it the cook and butler were both off today, and well-I had to make due. I also forgot to photograph it before serving. It was really impressive looking-you'll have to take my word for it.

I didn't need to wonder long if it was worth all the hassle when I was informed, "I would eat this every single day." Yeah, I'll bet he would.

I'm going to print the recipe as it appears in the book, but keep in mind you can line this with fakin' bacon (seriously) and I recommend parchment paper as well to help lift it from the mould. I didn't bother with the grinder, instead chopping it fine with my cleaver, then smashing it finer with the side of the blade. A food processor would probably make quick work of this. As for the fish, I used cod. John Dory is impossible in the US, pike is tasteless, and sole is too expensive. I bought cod for $5.99 a pound, which would have been outrageous as little as a decade ago, but in our current economy, was a rather good deal. I don't see why this wouldn't work with any mild fish. The thicker cod fillets still worked perfectly in the centre layer. Sole might have made a more delicate dish. We're not terribly delicate people. We're "Gigantic loaf of cod" people.

I served this cold, with chilled asparagus spears. I could have made a sauce, but I didn't bother. Served warm, I rather think it would need it.

You Will Need:

1 pound raw fish (hake, John Dory, sole, or pike)
4 egg whites (I used large)
Cayenne pepper
2 cups heavy cream (yeah, but the natural fish oils are "heart healthy" so you're cool)
4 cups fresh, white breadcrumbs
2 whole eggs
2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
4 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
White pepper
4 raw, 1/3 pound fillets of John Dory or gray sole (I used cod)
Fennel fronds
Large thin slices of fresh pork fatback to line mould (or, fakin' bacon if you don't mind being kind of vulgar)
8 asparagus tips

Ready? OK, deep breath. Ready, set, GO!

Grind the pound of fish using the fine blade of a meat grinder. Work in two of the egg whites and season lightly with salt and cayenne. Force the mixture through a very fine sieve into a bowl. Set the bowl in another one filled with cracked ice to keep it very cold. Gradually beat in the 2 cups of heavy cream, reserving 2 tablespoons for later. When the mousseline is ready, make the second filling.

Put the bread crumbs into a bowl and blend them into a smooth paste with the whole eggs, tarragon, parsley, chives, and a little salt and pepper. Whip the reserved cream and stir into the mixture.

Beat remaining two egg whites lightly and reserve them.

Season the fillets with salt and pepper.

Line a large 10 cup loaf pan or pate mould first with the fennel fronds, then with the slices of fatback letting the fat overlap the long sides of the mould. Spread half of the fish mousse over the pork fat. Brush two fillets with egg whites and lay them on the mousseline. Spread half of the breadcrumb stuffing over the fillets and top it with the asparagus dipped in egg whites. Now spread the remaining half of the breadcrumb stuffing over the asparagus tips and coat it with more egg whites. Lay the two remaining fillets on top, brush them with egg whites. Spread remaining mousseline over fillets and fold the fatback over it making sure the pate is well covered with the fat.

Set the mould in a baking dish filled with 2 inches of hot water and cook in a preheated 350 degree F. oven for 1 hour 30 minutes, or until mousse is set.

Serve hot or cold.

Apple Fennel Salad

This was quick to make, and popular at dinner.

You Will Need:

1 fennel bulb sliced very thin-shaved if possible
1 tart apple, shaved thin (I used Granny Smith)
1 medium tart apple, shaved thin (I used a Mackintosh)
Some fennel fronds, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon


Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. powdered mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Salt/Pepper to taste

Whisk, toss with salad. Chill before serving. You can adjust the ratio of oil/vinegar to suit your taste, but don't omit the lemon as it keeps the fennel and apples looking bright.

Buckwheat Sourdough Bread II

This time, I added 1/2 tsp. of instant yeast to help the rise...which it did-then I overproofed it! Duh.

Still, the crumb is lighter, and I think the use of AP flour rather than strong flour helped with the crust-it is very crackly.

I am so close to the perfect buckwheat loaf. Frustrating, but exciting as well.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Quick Cabbage

I was serving pirogi for dinner, and I had half a cabbage in the fridge. Here's what I did with what I had.
(Pirogi recipe HERE, though these were filled with potatoes, cheese, and paprika. I make these in large batches on a single day, then freeze them uncooked. It saves time when tossing together a weeknight dinner).

You Will Need:

4 tablespoons butter
1/2 large head cabbage, finely sliced
1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
Pinch thyme
1 tablespoon imitation bacon bits
1 teaspoon juniper berries (optional) Count how many you use, so you can find them to remove at the end.
1 large, tart apple, peeled, cored and chopped
Handful of chopped parsley
1/2 cup white wine (I used a dry one, but any will do)

In a very large frying pan (or a dutch oven) heat the butter over medium heat. Add the cabbage, onion, caraway, salt/pepper/juniper/thyme. Stir in the apple. Cook about five minutes or until the cabbage begins to wilt. The cabbage should look glossy and well coated with butter. Crank up the heat to high, add the wine, and stir like crazy until the wine evaporates off. Reduce heat to low, add parsley and cook until soft. Serve warm.

The Pinacle of Something

Can you guess what I have wrapped tightly, and sealed in a jar to ripen for a day? Give up?

I made fondant.

No, not the garbage you buy at the craft store-fondant! Sugar, water, cream of tartar. I have homemade candied cherries, so I guess the next logical step is to flavour my fondant, and use it for homemade chocolate covered cherries. Or peppermint patties. Or maple creams. You get the idea. As a happy bonus, I can be assured that it was made without contact from nuts in a candy facility, as will be the candies I make from it. So there.

I never believed this was something I could successfully make. I was under the impression that it would be some sort of impossibly difficult process, and that it isn't worth the bother. I suppose I achieved something today, but now I feel like everything that follows will be disappointingly mundane. "Oh, a mousse of goose confit with black truffles en croute-how positively boring!" Anyway, I made fondant, and I'm quite pleased with myself, as a matter-of-fact.

What I learned:

You need to be exact with the temperature. OK, I need to, but this isn't the sort of thing that will be easy to calculate with the "ball test." So 240 degrees F. That's the magic number. It also helps to butter the sides of the pot. This helps prevent crystals forming, and it pours easier at the end. You need to pour fondant, not scrape it. That's important, so remember it. You won't get every last drop from the pot, so save your cheapskate tendencies for re-using the plastic netting from bags of onions as a dish scrubber. Really, you don't do that?

The fondant needs to be poured onto a very (VERY) lightly oiled surface. Then, don't touch it for 30 minutes. No really, leave it the hell alone. When it comes time to scrape it, grab the heaviest spatula you own and start folding it towards the centre. This is hard work, but you need to work quickly once you start. If you don't possess decent upper-body strength, you may wish to pass on this project. Keep folding it over on itself. Then, tear off half, wrap the other in either a damp towel or a piece of cling film, and start kneading. It will change from clear, to opaque, and it may even become chalky-that's OK. Keep kneading the hell out of it. When you are satisfied that it is smooth, wrap it tightly in cling film and store in a tightly covered jar to ripen for 24 hours. There, you just made fondant and unlike the stuff from the craft store, it won't taste like ass. It is also incredibly cheap to do.

If you are uncomfortable with your sugar skills, you can replace the cream of tartar with corn syrup. This will help prevent crystals from forming, but if you're afraid of the corn syrup monster (you probably aren't too worried about calories if you're making candy) or somehow feel that using it is cheating, go ahead and do it the traditional way. At worst, you're out some sugar, which thanks to price supports in the US, is still somewhat inexpensive (like some other product I know that's being harvested outside the window I'm sitting at typing right now). Your call.

You Will Need:

2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar or 2 tablespoons light corn syrup

Butter the sides of a heavy 1 1/2 quart pot. Combine sugar, water and cream of tartar. Stir, over medium heat until it comes to a boil, and the sugar dissolves. Cook to 240 degrees F. Pour onto a lightly greased platter, marble slab, or in my case, a rimmed baking sheet.

Cool until it feels cool to the touch-about 30 minutes. Using a heavy spatula (or a wodden spoon if you're a weight-lifting champion) scrape the fondant from the edge, inward, folding over itself into a small square. Flatten it out with the spatula, and do it again, and again. Then, knead the hell out of it. Wrap in cling film, and place in a covered container ( a jar works great) for 24 hours to ripen. Tint and flavour as you like.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


-Children still love the Old Farmer's Almanac. I was about Danny's age when I was given one, and it became a yearly ritual until I was about ten. For some reason, I forgot about the almanac-until today.

-Children's coats cost less than similar ones for adults. Thanks to the "childhood obesity epidemic", I can buy a coat for twenty dollars, and the sleeves don't need to be shortened. Thank you fizzy drink makers!

- See above, but replace with obnoxious, purple jewel toned, flare-leg corduroys. Those were nine dollars. Levi's.

-Lest I should start thinking I'm thin or something, I took a look around on line at height-weight charts. At 5'2" and 119 pounds, I'm on the high end of normal. How positively depressing is that? I did find some foreign charts that were more forgiving-I'd be on the skinny side in Britain. Ideally, I'm supposed to weigh between 99-108 lbs. Yeah, that isn't ever going to happen. Thank god for chubby kids though-I'd never be able to afford new clothes otherwise.

-Our well water smells like beef stock. I have no idea why. I suppose this is better than the sulfur/rotten egg smell some wells get, but sometimes I catch a whiff of my clothing and think, "That's no way for a vegetarian to be smelling."

-As for how I should smell, I bought a tin of Yardley Violet talc. Now I can smell like those C. Howard violet candies. And beef stock. There's probably a Nebraska joke in there.

-I bought a new bra, and it makes squeaking/crackling noises when I move my shoulders. The straps are quite stiff, and the noise is really noticeable. I wonder what the hell people must think. It is a really nice bra, so I guess I'll put up with the sound effects. Wait...there it went again! Did you hear it?

-Frogs can find water in a strange place, in the dark. Danny had a captured frog in his netted case that was due to be set free the following morning. Somehow, he managed to get out in the night and hop, in the dark, three rooms away, and around corners to the bathtub. Consider me impressed. We set him free. He looked annoyed.

-The spiders. You could stick a saddle on them, and ride them to town. I'm not squeamish about spiders, but come on-big, hairy spiders making "I'm going to bite you" eyes at me. After that last bite that had me in bed for a week seriously ill, I'm less sympathetic to them.
"Danny, Danny! Look, the spider has a runny nose, grab me a tissue...oh crap, I smooshed him." Funny, the kid doesn't like my help wiping his nose.

-When I want to irritate Danny, I pretend to believe in witchcraft:

Danny: The weather is going to be warmer again this week.
Me: Oh, that's just because of the woman across the street with the long hair.
Danny: She's not a witch.
Me: People still get tried for witchcraft in some places.
Danny: Well, witchcraft is an impossible crime.
Me: Well, I dunno...who told you that?
Danny: My mother the anthropologist.
I've seen a cow sleeping in her doorway, and she has long hair...
Danny: (frustrated, waving his hands) Oh, mother!

the child wants to be a fish for Halloween (he's suddenly decided he wants a costume after all). No, not Nemo, or something simple. He wants to be a "Lake Superior Rainbow Trout." In other words, he's going as a Canadian. I have foam board, coloured shimmery mylar and foil, and about a month. I'm picturing a sandwich board so he can still walk. Maybe gills sewn onto a hat. Helpful ideas are more than welcome if you have any.

I hope everyone has a great week.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Big Lots Biscuit Binge

I couldn't help myself. I brought them home and hid them away, lest I be tempted every time I walk through the kitchen. The digestives make the very best crumb crust for pies, and cheesecakes.

I did giggle a bit at the blurb on the digestives telling consumers how wonderful a source of fibre they are. Health Food! Have it with some of that "colon health" yoghurt, and you can spend some real quality time in the WC.

If I could just get my greedy mitts on a malt loaf.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Banana Spice Cake with Penuche Frosting-Gourmet January 1972

The lengths I will go to avoiding the waste of a single banana. After making the banana ketchup earlier this week, I was left with a single banana that no one would eat. I would have, but they make my mouth itch. While I was tempted to hide it in a curry, I decided instead to bake an elaborate cake. Yeah well, that's me. Actually, it isn't terribly elaborate, but it did require several bowls.

This is a cake made with the expectation of serving it at a later time. A keeping cake. Tightly wrapped, it should last quite a while, given that it is basically encased in brown sugar fudge. The cake itself isn't overly sweet, but the frosting is ungodly so. I say that in a good way, but be warned-this isn't a cake for diabetics. Or people concerned about becoming diabetic. Actually, just cut a small slice-a little goes a long way (which is totally OK because it is a keeping cake).

You Will Need:

For the cake:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups sifted AP flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup buttermilk
1 large banana-mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts (I substituted 1/2 cup fine porridge oats)

In a bowl cream butter and sugar together. Beat in eggs until light. Sift dry ingredients. In another bowl, combine milk, banana, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients alternating with buttermilk/banana mixture. Stir in nuts or oats. Pour into 2 greased, 9 inch pans. bake at 350 degrees F. for 35-40 minutes or until they test done. Cool 5 minutes in pans on racks, then cool completely on racks. When cool, frost.

For the frosting:

In a small saucepan melt 1/2 cup butter. Stir in 1 cup brown sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook, stirring 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup milk and bring to a boil again. Remove from heat, and let mixture cool. Slowly beat in 2 cups icing/confectioner's sugar until it is of frosting consistency.

Frost between layers, and on outside. When dry (it will firm quickly) wrap tightly in cling film (it will leave an imprint on the frosting, but it looks attractive when served) and then tightly in foil. Let it stand at room temperature for at least 1 day, preferably 2 or 3.

Pumpkin Borekas

This was a good way to use up half a cup of pureed pumpkin left from baking the challah in the previous post. The dough for the borekas is dairy. but you could always use an oil crust(or frozen puff paste sheets).

These were pretty popular at dinner tonight, but I think the boys were under the impression they were eating empanadas. I won't tell if you don't.

You Will Need:

For the crust:

1 1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (or shortening)
4-5 tablespoons ice water

Sift salt and flour together. Cut in butter. Add water a tablespoon at a time until dough just comes together in a ball. Set aside while you make filling.

For The Filling:

1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried sage, crumbled
2 tablespoons butter

Heat the onion in the butter in a large frying pan. When softened, add garlic, sage, salt, and pepper. Cook about 2 minutes longer. Add pumpkin, and cook until combined-about 1 minute. Remove, and cool.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet. Divide dough into 12 balls. Roll out into circles about 1/4 inch thick. Place a small bit of filling in centre. Fold, and crimp to seal. Brush tops with egg, and sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired. Bake 20 minutes, or until golden. Serve warm.

Pumpkin Challah

I added a cup of pumpkin puree to my regular challah recipe. It needed a bit of extra flour, but otherwise it didn't require much adapting. Worth trying, if you're in the modd for something seasonal.


Danny is a sport coat kind of fellow. He's fine with a sweatshirt to sleep in, but early on, decided it unthinkable to wear one outside. *shrug*. He's partial to argyle vests as well.

Today was a lovely Autumn day. Danny was excited to wear his tweed coat for the first time this year (thank God it still fits), and his argyle beneath. Mind, this attire was worn with jeans and sneakers, so it isn't like he was dressed fancy, yet he seemed to attract attention everywhere we went. Well, mostly from old women at the market, and the post. What I thought so interesting was my son's response to the compliments.

Old Woman: My, don't you look handsome today.

Danny: Thank you-I'm wearing my favourite shirt, that's probably why.

Isn't that interesting? I don't know that I had a favourite shirt in Grade I, or that any of my clothing made me feel particularly attractive, but Danny clearly does, and it impacts the way he approaches the day. The shirt itself isn't exotic or anything-a beige broadcloth. Still, he feels cheerful wearing it, and the mood seems to be infectious. Maybe the secret to happiness is really just a well-tailored shirt.

Small Town Fun

Danny took his accumulated chore/tooth fairy money to the bank today. We'd spent some time counting the change, filling out the deposit slip, and he was eager to get it safely into his account.

One of the benefits of living in a small town is that people know you. Sure, that can go bad quickly, but in Danny's case it means he's a native. The whole of his 6 1/2 years have been spent here. I suspect today may be up there in ranking as one of the very best days of his life. Why? The bank tellers brought him into the room where the coin counting machine is to watch his change being tallied. I don't think he's ever had a more thrilling experience, and the fact that he didn't need me to accompany him made it all the more grown-up. Danny was rather pleased with himself for counting the change accurately for the deposit.

We're working on penmanship at the moment-through the letter "J". Danny is looking forward to being able to actually sign his deposit slip in cursive. I can't remember being excited by banking as a child, but then again, no one let me see the coin counting machine.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Banana Ketchup

I buy bananas when they are on sale. No one eats said bananas. I make banana bread. This time, I made banana ketchup.

I had a friend at university from the Philippines who was revolted by American Ketchup . I'm revolted by American ketchup as well, but at least I didn't try it the first time expecting bananas-that would have been quite the shock. Anyway, I have no idea if this is authentic, but the recipe was easy enough to follow. I did have to cook it down and then run it through a food mill as I do not have a food processor-but it worked fine. I now have two quarts of the stuff, so I'm hoping it works well on toast with cheese (it is vaguely chutney-like in flavour). I can't really see this on potatoes. *shrugs*. I'm not buying any more bananas.

Recipe HERE.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Raised Potato Doughnuts

This recipe makes a gigantic batch-about 4 dozen. Thankfully, doughnuts freeze well when wrapped in freezer paper, and then tightly with foil. Defrost at room temperature, covered.

From the wonderful cookbook, From Amish and Mennonite Kitchens, Pellman and Good.

You Will Need:

2 1/4 teaspoons granulated dry yeast (not instant)
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup shortening (I used Crisco)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk, scalded
3/4 cup mashed potatoes (I ran mine through a food mill)
2 large eggs, beaten
4-6 cups AP flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Combine shortening, sugar, salt and milk. Cool to lukewarm. Add yeast mixture, potatoes, and eggs. Mix well. Add flour a cup at a time kneading well. The dough will be soft, but not overly sticky.

Place dough in a greased bowl and let rise until doubled-about 2 hours. Punch dough down, let rest 10 minutes.

Roll out dough on a floured surface to 1/2 inch thick. Cut with a cutter (or a glass and baby bottle as suggested in the recipe). Place on greased sheets to rise until doubled-about 45 minutes.

Heat oil to 375 degrees F. I used soybean oil, but that's just a matter of taste.

Deep fry about 1-2 minutes on each side, or until done. I tend to favour a bit overdone because gooey-undercooked doughnuts make me cry. So sad.

Drain on racks over a baking sheet, then toss in a bag with granulated sugar, or make the glaze in the recipe as follows:

1 1/2 lbs. icing sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Warm milk-enough to make a soupy glaze.

After dipping doughnuts, return them to the rack to dry.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Strudel Dough-The Art of Fine Baking, Paula Peck

When the Art of Fine Baking was published in 1961, making pastry at home must have been somewhat mystifying. I find the instructions in this book overly fussy, but I have to remember that people weren't skipping off to the kitchen to whip up a batch of puff paste, or strudel dough-at least no one in my family was. I'm not sure what year dough in a tube showed up on supermarket shelves, but if that was the baking landscape at the time of publishing, it would certainly explain a lot. The Art of Fine Baking assumes the bakers is starting from zero knowledge.

The recipe worked, rather well at that. With practise, I might be able to stretch the dough tissue-paper thin, but the results I achieved weren't exactly heavy. I warned the boys they'll be eating a bit of strudel as I work on technique, but I don't see any reason they can't be savoury.

I improvised a filling of Seckel pears, Golden Delicious apples, raisins and cinnamon sugar. I had a loaf of soft white bread that made excellent breadcrumbs, though I question Peck's wisdom in suggesting 2/3 cup of butter to saute 2 cups of fine, white bread crumbs. I thought that was a bit overboard, and would use much less next time.

You should probably use clarified butter for basting. The recipe did not call for it, and I regret not doing it anyway. I'd go ahead and clarify at least half a pound, as it is always better to have more than you need. The dough really needed frequent basting to keep it from drying out.

You Will Need:

1 1/2 cups strong (bread) flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 egg whites
4 tablespoons oil (I used soybean, she calls for peanut)
1/4-1/2 cup warm water
2 cups fine white breadcrumbs sauted in 2/3 cup butter (start with less and see what you think)
Extra butter for brushing strudel
4 cups filling

Place flour in a bowl. Make a well. Add salt, lemon juice, egg whites, and oil. Using your hand, mix together adding enough water to make a soft, sticky dough. Knead and beat well (I did repeated slapping against the counter along with kneading). Knead at least 15 minutes or until it is elastic and smooth. Place in an oiled bowl, oil the top of the dough, then cover with a plate. Place entire bowl into a larger bowl of very warm water. Let sit 15 minutes, turning once or twice in the bowl in that time.

Cover a table with a pastry cloth large enough to hang over the sides (I use an old flat sheet). Rub flour into the cloth, particularly in the centre. Place dough on cloth. Roll out to the size of a large handkerchief. Brush all over with oil.

Dip your fists into flour. Working with your fists under the dough (palms down) stretch from the centre outward until it is as thin as tissue paper.If it begins to dry before you have stretched it thin enough, brush the dough with oil. If it has small holes, ignore them. Let dough dry about ten minutes, but do not let it become brittle.

After the dough has dried, trim the thick edges. Brush entire surface with melted butter. Scatter with breadcrumbs. In the bottom nearest you, place a 2 inch strip of filling across. Fold over flaps of dough to right and left of filling. Brush them with butter. Lift the cloth nearest you and use it to lift the dough and flip it over on the filling. Continue this until it has rolled up. Flip onto a greased pan. Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Bake 1 hour, basting at least three times . Bake until golden brown. Cool on rack, then dust with icing sugar.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cauliflower Cheese, and Cheeky Little Bastards

This morning, as the first field mouse of Autumn went scurrying across the kitchen floor, Danny screamed, "You cheeky little bastard!"

I tried not laughing, really I did. It was like he was channeling my Gran. He's six. I don't really think that's appropriate for a six year old, funny or not. It was rather funny. Then, I made cauliflower cheese, so apparently I have Grandmother on the brain today as well. I can't think of a more old fashioned dish, but it was a cold evening, and what could be better? Not much, but let's not try to deceive ourselves, this isn't health food. I did use 2% milk to compensate for the four tablespoons of butter and 2 cups of cheese. I don't think that helped. Fortunately, it isn't the sort of thing you can devour a large helping of, so there's that built-in restraint. Maybe I can put some in the mouse traps for bait tonight. Cheeky little bastards, indeed.

Use any combination of cheese you like.

You Will Need:

1 head cauliflower, cut into florettes and lightly steamed
1/2 cup grated Red Leicester cheese
1/2 cup cheddar
1/2 cup Swiss
1/2 cup Double Gloucester
1 cup fresh white breadcrumbs
Paprika for sprinkling
2 cups milk
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder (more or less to taste)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Steam cauliflower and set aside to dry. Combine cheeses in a bowl, then remove 1/4 to another bowl, mix with breadcrumbs, and set aside.

In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour with a wooden spoon, stir until foamy. With a wire whisk, slowly whisk in the milk. Add salt/pepper/mustard. Whisk over medium heat until it comes to a boil and thickens. Remove from heat, stir in all but the reserved cheese, and stir until smooth (do a handful at a time). Place cauliflower in a buttered casserole. Pour sauce over. Top with cheese and breadcrumbs. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake about 30-40 minutes or until bubbly.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fruit Candy

Well, I finally achieved my long time goal of making a jellied fruit candy from nothing more than fruit and sugar. Prune plums have enough pectin that when cooked well past the point of being good for anything, they begin to solidify. I took half the batch and dried it out in the oven as fruit leather. The rest, I poured into a parchment-lined tray and chilled, uncovered for a day. I then cut out rounds. sugared them and let them sit another day uncovered in the fridge. Success. You do need to cook the plums until soft, then run them through a food mill. At that point, measure your fruit. Use an equal amount of sugar by volume. Then, cook the hell out of it. You could get fancy and add a splash of wine, or lemon juice but I prefer the intense flavour of the prune plums.

It always bothered me that recipes for fruit pate called for gelatine, or cornstarch. Well, bothered in the sense that I could remember candy as a child that had neither, but was a locally made thing that no longer exists. I have no idea if the omission will lessen the shelf life of the candy, but I don't think they are bound to last very long based on the initial reactions around here. We'll see.


Under no circumstances am I paying $ 2.99 USD for a single quince. I am not. Still, I enjoy quince this time of year, so consider this a plea to locals with quince growing at home-give me your quince. I'll pay you back with a batch of quince paste, and ginger-quince jam. Hell, I'll even bake you a sourdough. Anyone?

In other fruit-related news:

You cannot find fresh figs in Nebraska. I've tried.

In still other fruit-related news:

I harvested a total of seven Concord grapes from my vines. We suspect pheasants, but really on this farm, it could have been anything. Imagine me looking extremely annoyed. No, really annoyed. There, I think you've got it. I suppose there won't be any bottling of grape jam this year, unless a local has some grapes as well. Anyone? Same offer of bottled and home baked goods as above applies.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I Hate to be a Snob...

...but Missoni for Target is not the same as owning Missoni that didn't come from a cheaply made range for a box store. They are not hand knit. They are not silk. What's more, you didn't have to dig through racks of crappy 40's rayon dresses and beaded junk in a muddy field at Brimfield in 1992 to score an authentic piece. I did, so there.

I despise Target, equally as much as I despise Wal Mart, and I frequent neither. Now, I'm going to be bombarded by idiot questions about which store my Missoni dress came from, and I'm going to have to find a way of explaining without sounding like a snot, that mine did not come from the shitty retailer.

OK, I just had to get that out of my system.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Stop Micro-Managing Your Toddler's Playtime

So all that about your child's early development may be rubbish after all? Who could have imagined? Actually, I did, and you probably did as well.

Imagine, you plop the baby in a bouncy seat before the telly, have her watch Baby Einstein videos, and in a couple of months, presto! Your baby can read, do linear algebra, and play harpsichord. Bitchin'.

I can assure you, my mother never got down on the floor to play with me. True, she might well have been unable to get up once more if she'd tried, but the point is, she never would have tried. Parents didn't do that sort of thing in the 60's. In the 60's, parents sent you to the finished basement to play, listen to your Osmonds records, and read comic books. If the weather wasn't too inclement, they kicked you out of the house until dinnertime. I can remember being three or four and hiding behind the tree on the parkway squirting pensioners with my water gun on their way to the bus stop. Obviously, no one was watching me too closely, or supervising my squirt-gun skills so I'd have a better chance of being accepted to university. In the 60's you could let a toddler play in front of the house without fear of being charged with child neglect.

Looking at the PSA's they run on television in the US, one gets the impression if they don't spend every waking (and semi-sleeping) moment blathering on and on and endlessly on to your young child about god only knows what, why they'll be ruined. That's right, they'll never learn to walk, talk, do multiplication, or make fart jokes. And it is all your fault, as you could have been down on the floor playing with Matchbox cars and reading Cicero's Philippic Orations. Now your three year old is going to be plagued with poor self esteem, won't be able to tie their shoelaces, all because you had other stuff to do. You know what I say? I say the self-esteem crap is overrated. If everyone gets a great sense of self-esteem, who will work as exotic dancers? Huh? Did you think about that, brain scientists?

Look, I'm not saying you can lock them in a closet and forget about them until they turn eighteen, but you don't need to go up the park every day to work on their slide navigating abilities. And those instructional videos, I mean, you didn't really buy those, did you?

Relax. You can skip the three hour reading session today, and just let them look at some comic books before dinner. Save your energy for the teen years. They're probably not going to end up sociopaths. Probably.

Cranky Yankee

Danny has been reading Spirits of '76 by, Eric Sloane. This is not a simple read, for children or adults but well worth the effort. The reading itself isn't terribly difficult, however the ideas presented require, in fact they deserve, more than a quick skimming for major points. As an adult reading Spirits of '76 with a child, I've been pressured to examine my own thoughts regarding the spirits of respect, hard work, frugality, and others.

Spirits of '76 has been a wonderful starting point for conversations I needed to have with Danny that are uncomfortable. I'd rather explain, "where babies come from" than have to explain regarding corporations as individuals, planned obsolescence, government waste, and the limits of wealth. Danny had a difficult time understanding that 100 million dollars isn't that different than 200 million dollars save for it becoming a full time occupation caring for that money. This would be positively radical were Sloane alive, and suggesting that today. In the 70's you could still argue against obscene accumulation of wealth.

I won't lie, Spirits of '76 is written in a moralising tone. Were this book by anyone else, I'd have changed gears, and assigned a different reading. Because Spirits of '76 is by Eric Sloane, I've given the volume the benefit of the doubt, being familiar with his artwork and other books. When Sloane rails against degenerates that don't appreciate the value of hard work, he isn't screaming about his tax dollars being wasted on the dole for the impoverished. I suspect Sloane would rail just as strenuously against investment bankers, millionaire CEO's, and the like. This isn't an easy concept for a child to understand, and I dare say many adults I know would find it equally difficult to wrap their heads around. Spirits of '76 challenges the reader (rather, confronts the reader) to examine their accepted, normalised, "correct thought", by way of the 18th century ideological field.

Spirits of '76 has provided me with an opportunity to introduce Danny to other, "cranky Yankees" as we like to call them. We've started reading Thoreau's, Where I Lived, and What I Lived For, which I had not planned to include in the school curriculum, but felt obligated to do so as it fits so well with the ideas being covered by Sloane. I use "cranky" as a sincere compliment. While I could easily imagine Andy Rooney saying many of these things-in fact, I can almost hear him as I read, muttering, "Well why do you suppose that is?" in some sort of exaggerated outrage, Sloane clearly is not Andy Rooney. Spirits of '76 is not the complaining groans of an old man frustrated that he can no longer find black and red ribbon for his Underwood typewriter. Sloane might have grumbled about the disappearance of typewriter ribbon, but for the sake of the people who manufactured it, the way the words had to be carefully thought through, and typed in the absence of a backspace and delete key. Sloane would appreciate the value of a well-typed, error-free page-Rooney just wants you off of his lawn.

What Spirits of '76 is not, is a volume of flag-waving, thoughtlessly blind patriotism. Rather, Spirits of '76 is a book that affords the reader an experience so very rare of late-understanding the Colonial imagination, and considering the impact two centuries later without promoting an agenda. I dare say, if Sloane had an actual thought-out agenda, or stance it might have been against stupidity. Sloane isn't hitting you over the head until you agree with him-he's hitting you over the head until you stop mindlessly spouting ideas divorced from their meaning. Sloane expects you to think as you read, and if after careful thought you conclude you've arrived at nothing to conclude, well that took some serious consideration as well. Sloane doesn't have all the answers, nor does he require such of his readers. One could never find a publisher willing to take on a book like this today, when thanks to the entertainment "news" media everyone is expected to have an opinion on every imaginable subject lest they be perceived as ignorant, or weak.

Spirits of '76 is well written and beautifully illustrated. Good reading copies are available for around a dollar (I paid .25 cents at the library sale). Indeed, you could spend a dollar on something that would be more enjoyable in the short term such as a stick of candy, but in the spirit of frugality, what you take from Spirits of '76 may be of greater value, and long term enjoyment. I suspect Danny will return to it over the years, approaching the ideas presented with new found maturity, and lived experience. At least that is my hope.

Buckwheat Sourdough

This turned out much better than I anticipated. As I'm still tweaking the method/recipe, I'll post what I did more as a reminder to myself, than a finished recipe. It does make a lovely flatbread though. Nice with cheese. It is quite sour as the sponge sat longer than intended. Everyone feels this is a good development, but if you prefer your sourdough less sour, ferment the sponge for less time.

You Will Need:

1 cup fed sourdough starter
2 cups water
2 cups strong flour

Mix, cover let sit 12 hours.

To sponge add:

2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon malt syrup
1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
3-4 cups buckwheat flour

Mix, let stand 30 minutes.

Over next two hours, fold four times. Let rise, covered in bowl overnight (8 hours)

Next day:

Dump onto work surface without deflating dough. Gently shape. Place on cornmeal dusted baking sheet. Dust with flour and let rise again for 6 hours.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Create steam. Bake 20 minutes. Rotate pan, bake another 20 minutes.

Pear/Anisette Ice Cream

Another experiment that everyone liked.

You Will Need:

3 large overripe pears
1 tablespoon lemon juice
a few drops of water if needed

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup 2% milk
1 tablespoon fennel/anise seeds

3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar

In a large pot, place the pears, cut in fourths with the lemon juice and a few drops of water if the pears seems dry. Cover, bring to a simmer and cook until pears are quite soft-about ten minutes. Remove to a food mill and force through. Set aside to cool.

In a saucepan, bring milk, cream and fennel seeds to a scald, slowly over low-ish heat. Meanwhile whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a heat-proof bowl. Strain the seeds from the milk and slowly whisk into the eggs and sugar. Return to pan and heat to 175 degrees F. whisking to prevent eggs cooking on bottom of pan. Strain through a fine sieve to catch any cooked egg. Stir in pears. Set in an ice bath until cool. Freeze either in a tray or an ice cream maker. Makes about 1 pint.

Savoury Carrot Pie

I'm swimming in carrots at the moment and I was looking for something to serve with a spicy bean soup. This pie was well received. Interestingly, you can make this as a sweet pie as well, substituting mixed spice, and increasing the sugar to about a cup. Decrease the salt to 1/2 teaspoon for a sweet version.

I served this cold, but it would be fine slightly warmed.

You Will Need:

2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons dried sage, crumbled
1 teaspoon dried thyme
A generous grind of black pepper
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 1/2 cups carrots, cooked until soft and run through a food mill
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup milk (I used 2%)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 unbaked 9 inch pie crust

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine sugar, salt, and spices. Stir in carrots and eggs. Add milk, cream, and mix well. Pour into pie crust. Bake 1 hour or until filling is almost set. It will still cook after you remove it from the oven, so don't overbake it.

Serve cold or slightly warmed.

I also cooked some "end of the garden" veggies. I'll miss those potatoes.

Nut-Free Black and White Coconut Slices

These are the coconut slice cookies from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies, except that I substituted half a cup of quick cooking porridge oats for the nuts in the filling. This worked exceptionally well. Most of the time, I substitute coconut for nuts, but since it was already there, the oats seemed more logical.

Don't be afraid to experiment with substitutions-within reason, of course. I've used coarse, dry sourdough breadcrumbs to great effect as a nut substitute as well. You can make a delicious mock-pecan pie using toasted coconut flakes. If you have a treasured recipe that includes ingredients you can no longer tolerate, it is worth a bit of experimentation. In the case of the pecan pie, I've been told it is actually better than using pecans. Sometimes you end up with a ruined attempt, sure. Most of the time it is still edible anyway. Sugar and butter-what's not to like?

I won't post the recipe as it is widely available on the Internet, and in book form at your public library. I do encourage you to purchase the book, it is wonderful.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Get in the Car, We're Going for Chicken!

The closest I get to Illinois these days is a quick glance at the Chicago rags. Not often mind, as I don't find steady reports of random shootings terribly good use of my limited reading time. Today's Sun Times had a story about a woman who died after injecting hot beef fat into her face in a sort of do-it-yourself botox procedure. That seems like a very Chicago way to die, less commonplace than getting shot, but still giving a nod to local history, the stockyards, and such.

Largely, I don't feel much connection to the place-save for my horrendous regional dialect which provides hours upon hours of endless entertainment for those I find myself engaged in conversation with. No, I won't say, "couldn't" simply for your amusement.

Sometimes, in scanning the papers I find an article that dislodges some terrible childhood memory I thought effectively buried in the place reserved for ex-husbands and cringe-inducing poetry I wrote in high school. Certainly nothing I'd willingly revisit, but then the newspaper shoves a photo of fried chicken in my face, and I'm eight years old again trapped in my parent's yellow Lincoln Town Car with Gran in tow to the restaurant at the chicken farm an hour's drive from home. I can't claim this was the event that determined my vegetarianism-but it probably contributed. I can't blame the chicken. I don't even remember the chicken.

Reading the article, I'm surprised to hear they have a petting zoo, museum, and stage show at White Fence Farm. I never saw any of that. Perhaps these are features added after the 1970's, but had they existed, I doubt very much I'd have been permitted to check them out as we were on a rather singular, determined mission-to eat chicken.

I don't recall it being an "all-you-can-eat" type of place, but I also remember the rule of, "we're not here to fill up on sides" being employed. As an adult, I can see this logic at a Friday fish-fry where the goal, if you will, is to consume as much battered fish as possible. Similarly, if you're at an expensive Sunday brunch, you don't bother with sweet rolls, you go straight for the shrimp cocktail. I get that, really I do-but after enduring an hour in the car with my parents and gran, would it have killed them to let me have a fritter? I mean, come on-no one was going to be deep-frying anything even marginally fritter-esque over at our house. I'm not really even sure why we were at a place that specialised in deep fried food unless my mother feeling buoyed by her recent triple bypass figured that was as good a time as any to test out the cardiac surgeon's skill between deep drags on a cigarette. But no fritters, they were fattening. Oi fatty! No fritters for you!

There was considerable grumbling, but I'm not sure if it was just the dynamic of the long car trip to a destination eatery that ended up with long wait to get in. It was a weekend, and the place was likely busy, but that's not the sort of thing my parents would take into consideration ahead of time. Ordinarily, when faced with a wait they would leave a place, drive around for longer than the estimated wait, then end up waiting somewhere else before finally leaving to eat at some greasy spoon they probably would have preferred from the outset. Much like our dog that never quite learned to play fetch (he'd sit and stare at the toy before you got up, took it from him and tossed it again where he'd run over to it, stand there staring at it, wait once again for you to come throw it again) my parents never grasped that showing up at the most popular pancake house in Illinois on a Sunday morning shortly after church let out was going to result in a bit of a wait for a table. I could write a book about how many times I was sent inside Walker Brothers to check the wait for a table when it was obvious by their being double parked in front-if you couldn't find a parking spot, wouldn't logic tell you there might be a wait for a table? "Thirty minutes? Oh the indignity!" Then, we'd head over to the Greek family-style joint on the corner where they would order the same uninspired fare they would have waited half an hour for at the pancake place. No one ever ordered pancakes at Walker Brothers, they would order eggs, or French toast, or a plate of bacon...and if by some miracle pancakes (or a waffle) made it to the table, they'd insist on the sugar-free syrup because, "Oi Fatty! No real syrup for you!" Syrup was fattening unlike a plate of bacon with some eggs.

Bad as the trip to White Fence Farm was, the trip home was made worse, saved only from an outright brawl by a diverted trip through the city to drop Gran off at home. If I can summon any nostalgia from childhood, it would be the look of Chicago at night. I loved the way the city looked at night. That song, Lake Shore Drive really was accurate (I say, "was" as I haven't been there in years, and have no idea what it is like today).

Years later, they were still carrying on about how terrible White Fence Farm was, but I can't remember why. There likely wasn't a specific reason, and if there was, it probably had little if anything to do with the quality of the food, service, or anything normal people would complain about. Maybe it is the sort of place best driven to without your mother-in-law ,and her obsessive-compulsive clicking of thumbnails against each other, and facial ticks from the back seat for over an hour. Maybe it was more expensive than anticipated, and they were calculating with each bite how much cheaper the chicken would have been at the Greek family style restaurant down the street. Maybe they should have had some fritters. Looking at the photo accompanying the article, I can say, as someone who has been a vegetarian since the early 1980's, that looks like a fine plate of chicken. Quite fine. And they serve it with pickled beets and cottage cheese? Oh my god, that's Midwestern Americana defined-right there. You can't get any more smack-dab-in-the-middle than that. No wonder they hated it. Oi Fatty! No cottage cheese and pickled beets for you!

Friday, September 09, 2011

Not Really a Black Forest Cake

-but you can still pull on yer hip boots, and goose-step over to the table for a slice if you like. Jah, is cake!

*ahem* now that we've got the cultural generalisations out of the way, I baked a chocolate cake, filled it with sour cherry preserves I'd forgotten bottling last year, and frosted it with sweetened whipped cream. I drizzled melted chocolate on top to be fancy, but really this isn't fancy. It was the best I could do after days confined to bed thinking I was going to die.

Sunday, something bit me-mosquito, spider? Who knows. I ended up with a bright red spot on my leg and the biggest, scariest bruise ever-then came the fever. Then, the chills. Headache, body pain, nausea (oh god, the nausea) and days later, I'm still not over it. No kidding-I don't know why I'm not dead from this, but as I'm not, I dragged my behind out of bed and baked today. No one else is sick, so I'm blaming the bite. Really, by Wednesday I was seeing double. Imagine the worst hangover you've ever had, with the bonus of a stiff neck and back, and you can't cure it with a greasy fry-up. I tried. I made myself a fried egg sandwich. Not the best idea, I admit, but it always works for a hangover, and this felt like a really bad hangover...except much, much, worse.

But hey, I'm not dead (yippie!) and here's some cake. I did miss the library sale today, but maybe by the last day on Sunday I'll be able to make it. Or not. You know what I'm gonna do if I find the little bastard that bit me? I'm going to introduce him to my shoe-that's what.

Hey look everybody, cake!

Happy weekend. Wear insect repellent.

A Bit of Everything Cookies

-or better put, I ran out of butter and had to improvise. I adapted this from a recipe in an Amish cookbook that used sour cream and shortening. They came out shockingly well. I still can't believe how good chopped-up Andes candies are in cookies. Danny noted that they taste like oatmeal raisin cookies with chocolate in them. There is a small bit of oats in them, but really they are best thought of as small cakes-much lighter than the typical cookie. I froze half because the original recipe insisted they become moister that way. We'll see. I don't think they will remain frozen long.

You Will Need:

1 cup shortening
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
4 cups AP flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons bicarb.
1 cup chopped semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup chopped Andes Candies (I used cherry and toffee flavours)
1/2 cup quick cooking porridge oats
2 cups raisins

preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cream together shortening and sugar until light. Beat in the eggs until fluffy. Beat in sour cream until well mixed. Sift together flour, salt and bicarb. Stir into creamed mixture. Stir in raisins, oats, and chopped chocolate and candy. Mix well.

Grease baking sheets. Drop by teaspoons onto sheet (they don't spread too much, so you can fit them close) and bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool on racks. Makes about 8 dozen cookies.

The Lunker

Danny would like it known that he has, at long last, caught "the Lunker" on the Bass Fishing game. That's a 25 lb. fish. It involves more skill than you would suspect (hell, I've had the game over ten years and have yet to catch the Lunker). The game is fun, it vibrates when you get a bite, and you have to actually reel it in. There's lures, and depths, and all kinds of crap to consider (crap, not crappie-that's a fish). Danny finds it more engaging than actual fishing because you don't need to bring along something to read and a can of insect repellent.

I guess we could just go ahead and mount the game in the absence of an actual fish.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Living Idiocracy

At times (many times) I feel like I'm trapped in the movie, Idiocracy...except much, much worse. This week has been particularly over-the-top, so much so that I've only today started relaxing my shoulders. I have a habit of scrunching up my shoulders when I'm tense and dealing with stupid people. My Last evening, my shoulders were practically touching my ears. It would probably be better to just tell people I think they are idiots, but as Danny pointed out when I got off the telephone with the doctor's office, "You'll just make them cry, and get called mean." In the old days, they used to hand out Valium for this sort of thing.

In what my husband describes as, "The sort of thing that only happens to you", I achieved some sort of status as Queen of unintended farce.

I call Danny's allergist's office to book an appointment, explaining to a nurse what was happening. She asks me to hold. My call waiting beeps, I get a receptionist asking to book an appointment for Danny. I thought this is odd, and told her I was already on the phone with someone else from the office. She insists on giving us an appointment for a week later, which seemed like a long time after a serious allergic reaction, and try to explain in detail what happened complete with hives, stomach problems and the whole serious reaction. She says she's never heard of anything like that, but I have an appointment and can talk about it Friday. OK. Strange, but maybe the receptionist is new and unfamiliar with allergic reactions. She hangs up, the other person comes back and has no idea what I'm talking about when I mention the receptionist. She tells me, that's fine, we'll see you at your appointment then. I hang up the phone feeling like I was describing the moon landing to a fifteenth Century serf.

Thursday afternoon, I get a call confirming Danny's appointment at the dentist. Yes, that's right-in the course of all that explaining, she never mentioned she was calling from the dentist's office-she just mumbled "Dr. so and so." It sounded like the allergist's name. What's worse, after ten minutes of describing hives and loose stools, she never stopped to say, "That doesn't sound like the sort of thing we cover at the yearly teeth cleaning." No, she just let me blather on, and booked the appointment. Why they are automatically calling to book an appointment is quite another matter, but what sort of an idiot does not realise we're talking about allergies when the conversation turns to additional scratch tests and food challenges?

I quickly called the allergist back, managed an appointment for the next morning, and we all had a terrific laugh-except for the moron at the dental office, who I suppose, I might have made cry. We won't be using that dentist again.

Really, by the time it got to "Benadryl and Eppi-Pen" it really was time to interrupt and start asking questions. In a decent world, we would just let the stupid collect the dole to spare us from having their brainlessness inflicted upon us. Some people really are too painfully ignorant to work, and we should just pay them to stay home. It isn't fair to ask them to do things they are incapable of, and equally unfair to subject everyone else to their inadequacies. Tax dollars well spent, it would be.

Anniversary Cake

To celebrate 10 years of living in Nebraska, I did something I never thought I would-I baked cake in a coffee cup in the microwave. After drinking soda for breakfast, and tater-tot casserole, I can't think of anything more Midwestern (except maybe complaining about taxes).

Dove season opened 1 September, and early this morning I woke to "pop-pop-pop" from the wildlife area next to us. At least no one was shooting them off our roof this year (true story).

Cake in a Mug:

4 tablespoons AP flour
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder
2 tablespoons whisked egg
3 tablespoons milk]3 tablespoons oil
1/2 oz. chopped semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine dry ingredients in mug. Mix in egg to make a paste. Stir in milk and oil. Mix well. Stir in chocolate pieces, and vanilla. Mix.

Microwave 3-4 minutes until it is puffed and solid. My 20 year old microwave took about 3 1/2 minutes.

Tip out of cup onto plate, and cool slightly (it will steam) before eating. Impress your friends.

Local Interest

The purple martins are back at the Nebraska Medical Center, roosting nightly around 7:30 PM. You know you want to see thousands of birds at once in the middle of the city. Dress appropriately, a hat might not be a bad idea. Park by the Clarkson Medical building and walk over to the front of the hospital. You'll see people with binoculars when you're in the right spot.

The Omaha Friends of the Public Library are holding the quarterly sale September 9, 10, 11 at the Swanson Branch on Dodge Street. There are many books marked from .25 to .50 cents. Good quality stuff, not crappy paperbacks that smell like they've been in a damp cellar since 1980 with a dozen cats. I'll be around Friday and Sunday (hopefully) so if you see me, say hello. I'll probably have a handbag filled with cling-film wrapped squares of flapjack as that's kind of a booksale tradition for us. I'd love to share some flapjack with you (well, most of you. The Northerner doesn't get any flapjack because he scowls at me) and see what treasures you've found in the stacks.

Headed to Council Bluffs? Stop by the K-Mart. I'm dead serious. There's a clearance sale going on where I picked up a $4.00 handbag, jeans for $2.99, and a pair of khakis for $1.99. If you are a rewards club member, items you buy at K-Mart can be bundled with items you buy at Sears for points. I'm not being paid ,or compensated in any way to promote Sears or K-Mart-I just shop there, and these are brand new clothes for less than thrift stores. The points add up quickly. I can't vouch for the Omaha store's stock, but that K-Mart in Council Bluffs was like striking gold. I won't be needing cardigans for a while ($2.99).

Little Known Fact about Nobbies-they don't just sell party items, they have boxed science experiments for children. $5.99 ea. We bought one about water purification, safety, etc. and another on solar power that has you construct solar panels. Small ones, but still. I passed on the potato clock, and the robotics kit (a bit more money) but I was amazed to see all the really decent educational products hiding behind the party favours and Halloween costumes. By the way, the sourdough, Petrarch (aka "Chuffy) will be celebrating his birthday 1 November. We're having a party, hats, noisemakers, and cake (sourdough, of course). I'm probably not the first person to have a birthday party for a sourdough starter (OK, maybe I am) . I'm going to buy him a new crockery jar as a present. We'll sing Happy Birthday, play pin-the-tail on the sourdough, and probably play Twister. No bounce house. I don't really like bounce houses.

Happy September.

Vintage Saturday

When I bought this blouse years ago, it didn't quite fit. Every few years I'd wear it anyway, then shove it to the back of the cupboard to hang forgotten. It still doesn't quite fit, but keeping with tradition, I wore it anyway. I can't bear to part with it as the collar and cuffs have beautifully tatted lace. Years ago, I used to do tatting, but nothing I made comes close to this blouse. The shirt also features seed beads, carefully sewn onto the delicate silk. I love all the features, but the overall effect isn't that great-on me. I'm sure someone could wear this without looking frumpy, possibly. Maybe. This is a difficult blouse to wear.

I will dutifully clean it, hang it, and forget about it for a few more years.