Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sourdough English Muffins

I've made whole wheat sourdough English muffins, but these were closer to my idea of what a muffin ought to be. They're nearly gone a day after I made them.

You Will Need:

1 cup fed sourdough starter
2 cups water
2 cups strong flour
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted margarine (better than butter in this application)
Additional plain flour 2-3 cups

Mix starter with water and 2 cups of strong flour. Mix well, cover with clingfilm and let sit 2-12 hours depending on how sour you like your sourdough. I did 6.
Stir in honey, salt, margarine, and enough flour to make a dough that is no longer sticky. Knead lightly until it comes together in a ball and holds together-this dough does not require a great deal of kneading.

Cover, and let rise until doubled-about 1 hour with my starter, but some sourdough takes longer-adjust as needed.

Punch down dough, divide in half and pat out into 1/2 inch thickness on a board heavily dusted with cornmeal. Cut into circles using a 3 inch diameter cutter (more or less). Place circles on wax paper a couple inches apart and let rise, lightly covered until doubled in bulk.

Meanwhile, heat your cooking surface. I used a well-seasoned cast iron pan that did not require any greasing. If using a griddle, adjust as needed. The heat needs to be hot, but not so hot that the muffins burn-they need about ten minutes each side. On my electric range, this is halfway between low and medium. Again, you may need to adjust as you go. When the surface is hot, cook the muffins a few at a time ten minutes on each side. I like to tilt mine on edge in the last minutes, but that's just my way of doing it, and I've yet to see it mentioned in a cookery book. If the muffins are quite large, it helps to make sure they are fully cooked. Cool muffins on rack, then store tightly wrapped in the fridge. Toast before serving.

Old People Having Conversations

Mr. ETB: Who was it they tried to run for Wellstone's seat after he died? Wasn't it wait, Humphrey, right?

Me: I thought it was Fritz Mondale.

Mr. ETB: They're all the same person, aren't they?

Well, Well, Well

If it had been up to me, you'd have met the business end of a rifle, but my better half bought the humane trap.

-we meet at last-you must be the one from the walls. Pleased to meet you, I'm the human from inside, you know the lady that bangs the wall and screams obscenities. yeah, that's me.

Danny went outside to give him a good lecture as well.

Something New to Worry About

-Mouldy tampons.

Rhubarb Juice

The recipe comes from the wonderful Marcia Adams book, Cooking From Quilt Country.

You Will Need:

8 cups coarsely chopped rhubarb
5 cups water
(about 2 3/4 cups sugar)

In a large pot, combine rhubarb and water. Simmer, covered about ten minutes or until soft. Drain through a cheesecloth lined colander into a heat-proof bowl. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out excess juice by hand. Measure juice. For each cup of liquid, use 1/3 cup granulated sugar. Return to a pot, whisk over low heat until sugar dissolves. Chill. Mix with ginger ale for a punch-type drink.


I made kulich last year, so this Easter, I tackled paska. They are gorgeous, smell wonderful, and were worth all that kneading by hand ( I do not have a stand mixer). I followed the recipe, HERE.

If I made them again, I'd go for smaller loaves, and maybe add half a teaspoon of ground mace as I like the way it works with citrus. Mine split a bit, but I always have that problem with egg/yeast breads. If I really cared, I could ice them, but I don't care, and Danny already has them claimed for French toast in the morning.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Green Beans/Carrots/Red Peppers/Onions/White Beans

Served at room temperature, this vegetable dish is versatile. Serve it over hot rice, with a wedge of fried polenta, or even a hunk of nice bread. As with so many salads, this improves after the first day. This is a variation on the Green beans dish in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I've substituted so many ingredients over the years, keeping the technique essentially the same. Don't have white beans? Try chickpeas. Don't have green beans? Try broccoli. The one thing I did was reduce the amount of olive oil because no vegetable dish needs 3/4 cup of olive oil. Fine, maybe eggplant, but otherwise...

You Will Need:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large, mild onion, halved and thinly sliced
6 carrots (more or less) cut into thick match sticks
1 large sweet red pepper, cut in thick matchsticks
(about) 4 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped(tinned are OK if you make this out of season)
4 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
1 large bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Pinch of ground cloves
1 stem fresh parsley
1 tin white beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup water
1/2 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed, blanched, refreshed under cold water and drained
Chopped fresh parsley to garnish

In a large pot, heat the olive oil and then add the carrots and onions. Cook about five minutes over medium heat just until the onions soften-you don't want them browned. Add pepper, tomatoes, garlic, bay leaf, salt/pepper, cloves, and parsley. Add beans and water. Cook, uncovered for ten minutes over a low simmer. Meanwhile, blanch the beans.
Add green beans, and cover the pot. Cook another twenty minutes, or until green beans are tender and liquid has mostly evaporated. If you still have more than 1/2 a cup liquid, remove with a slotted spoon the vegetables to a bowl, then turn up the heat and reduce the liquid until you have no more than 1/4 cup. Pour it over the vegetables.

This is best served slightly warm, or at room temperature.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

There's a Rich Bastard Dinosaur Listening to Rap Music in My Swiming Pool

-and he has cancer, made me loose my job, and then my house was filled with vermin so I resorted to witchcraft...on my Birthday.

You'll be relieved to know no children in New York City will be subjected to any of these upsetting words when they put #2 pencils to paper for tests.

No word on whether the classroom cop can still drag them out of the classroom in handcuffs for talking back, but at least the youngsters won't be traumatised by all those upsetting words.

Via Poor Mojo's Newswire.

"Latex Alternative" Not Latex Free

I can't believe I need to write this post, but apparently in Late Capitalist America, you can sell whatever the hell you want, call it whatever the hell you want, so long as you print a miniscule disclaimer no one can read without the aid of a microscope indicating that the product is in fact, the same material it claims to be an "alternative to." In short, the "Latex Alternative Vinyl Gloves" that advertise as a "safe alternative for persons with allergy to latex" actually contain latex, and have the handy disclaimer that "it may cause an allergic reaction in some individuals."

Now what sort of individuals do you suppose might have a reaction to latex? Gosh, I dunno...maybe individuals that are allergic to latex? Considering this has the potential to kill me, I'd really prefer that in large print on the front of the package. I'm sure the advertising department ran it past the legal department, and it is all perfectly acceptable as far as liability is concerned, but it still seems...sleazy. If it contains latex, that needs to be prominently displayed, at least as far as I am concerned as a consumer-a consumer that will never be purchasing their products again. Only the person purchasing the product (and their allergist) can decide what is a "safe alternative" but it would be helpful to have that information easily accessible at the time of purchase. A tiny disclaimer at the bottom does not seem adequate to this consumer. Furthermore, what is prominently shown is "latex alternative" and Vinyl. That implies an absence of latex, and something else in use. What's next, "Penicillin alternative" that contains penicillin?

Sure, I can (and will) return the product, and no one is forcing me to purchase it again (I won't) but consider this a heads-up to carry a magnifying glass in your pocket when you go shopping as the language has obviously undergone enough change that "alternative" has come to mean, "same damn thing, rebranded." Yes, I'm furious, because it could have been really dangerous if I opened the package-and I would have had no recourse because they ran an unreadable disclaimer explaining their Orwellian advertising.

How do you guys like living in Idiocracy?

"Brush With Fame" Journalism

There's an odd phenomenon locally where newspapers (and to some extent television news) run stories to the effect of, "Someone that used to be from here did something." The, "something" can be as far removed as being an assistant to the assistant to the valet of someone that used to be kind of famous thirty years ago. I'm not exaggerating. Sometimes the local connection is so distant it ends up being a person that was born in Nebraska, but moved when they were seven months old-brush with fame! I guess the point is to somehow make the state seem relevant outside of Ag circles, but sometimes the reports are outright absurd. I never remember this sort of thing in Illinois or Massachusetts, but perhaps it is more common than I realise. Maybe a sort of, "local kid does good", story sells papers (OK sells advertising on websites) but it does really come across as , "Here you rubes, read about someone that got out!"

Does the media do this sort of thing where you live?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Watermelon Cake-A World of Baking, 1968

I bought my copy of Delores Casella's, A World of Baking at the retired teacher's yearly booksale in Lincoln, Nebraska. Because it was the last day of the event, I took advantage of the bag sale, and bought anything that looked interesting. I found it tucked away in a bookcase last evening, and thought it was about time to bake something from this interesting little cookbook.

Reviews on the web sounded encouraging, so I set aside my reservations reading through the recipe. Though the book was published in 1968, many of the recipes are much, much older. This cake was from the "historic" section and as I struggled to fold the egg whites into the heavy, dough-like white batter, I gained a greater appreciation for the upper body strength of 19th Century women baking without the assistance of electric hand mixers. Even with the mixer, this cake was a workout.

The two different batters mean you are basically making two cakes. I would have been irked by this, except that one cake made use of the whites, and the other the yolks. That had me less irritated. I won't lie, this cake takes effort, and while I didn't think the result was worth it, the cake was devoured amid praise (between mouthfuls of cake, of course) from the boys. The recipe did not suggest a frosting, so I resorted to a butter/shortening mixture with icing sugar as I knew it would stand up well in warm weather.

I should have made the pink batter deeper in hue. It barely stands out, and unfortunately, it is difficult to see the distinct layers as they also blended a bit (I followed the instructions to spoon the batter on rather than pour, but eh, whatever). Currants might have sunk less than raisins (to look like watermelon seeds), but overall with a bit of imagination I suppose you can see where it is meant to resemble a watermelon. OK, maybe one of the really deformed watermelons you sometimes get if they grow against a rock or something. Fine, it isn't a pretty cake, but it is flavoured with rosewater and vanilla and heavy as it is, my family liked it. Old fashioned cakes do tend to be a bit on the heavy side, and I may have overbaked it ever so slightly, but at worst, I can always scrape the frosting off when it goes stale and make a trifle. I don't think it will get a chance to go stale. Me? I would have binned it after the first bite, but I'm probably not a good judge of cake-I just bake the bloody things.

For the White Cake:

2 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarb
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
4 large egg whites at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pink Mixture:

2 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarb.
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup buttermilk
Pink food colouring
1/2 teaspoon rose water
1 cup dark, whole raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10 inch tube pan. Set aside.

First make the white cake:
Sift the flour with the bicarb. Cream the butter and sugar until light. Add dry ingredients alternating with the buttermilk. Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into batter along with vanilla extract. Set aside.

For the pink mixture, sift the flour and bicarb. Cream butter with sugar until loght. Beat in egg yolks. Add flour alternating with buttermilk. Beat in food colouring and rose water. Fold in raisins.

Divide white batter in half. Drop by spoonfuls, the white batter in the bottom of the pan. Drop with a spoon again, the entire pink mixture. Carefully drop on the remaining white batter on top.

Bake about an hour (mine took almost an hour and twenty minutes) or until cake tests done with a toothpick. Cool 10 minutes in pan, then remove and cool on a rack.

I frosted mine green which I thought would look cool against the pink and white, except that the pink didn't show up, so now it looks like a funny green/grey cake. I do think I got the colour of a watermelon rind pretty accurate but the overall effect was kind of a disappointment.

We're Doomed

Micromanaging the Easter egg hunt.

"Take Your Parent to Work Day", was pretty funny though-in a sad way, but you know. I rarely have occasion to hold up my mother's parenting decisions as examples of how to do things, but her approach of generally ignoring us, and being banished from the house early Saturday morning (and woe to the child that arrived back before dinner) does seem like the stuff of an idyllic childhood.

I tried imagining either of my parents pulling a similar stunt at the Easter egg hunt, but can't. If nothing else, they were pretty orderly as far as rules, and if there was a rope to keep you out, then you didn't go over the rope. OK, in honesty they weren't all that fit either, so hurdling a rope, and crawling about looking for plastic eggs wouldn't have been something they would entertain in the first place, but I'm sure they would have felt pressured by social norms not to do it. One needn't be mannerly at home to know what's expected in public.

God, I just wrote something kinda/sorta/nice about my parents, didn't I? Gee whiz, I must be getting sick or something. I better go lie down.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Fly Control Product Review-Black Flag Window Trap

We live on a farm with livestock nearby. Most years, flies can be somewhat controlled at the source, in the pen area. This year, in the absence of a real winter, the flies have been nightmare-ish.

While I do make use of fly-trap jars that are attractant based, we were getting them inside at a level I found unacceptable. We finally gave in, and went with pesticide outside the house, but inside I decided to give the new Black Flag Window Traps a try. I am not being paid or compensated in any way by the manufacturer for this review. We purchased our traps at Menards at $2.00 for a packet of four.

Essentially, it is a clear, plastic rectangle of sticky tape that you affix to the corner of a window. Flies tend to land, and gravitate upward...until they get to the corner. Unlike the fly tape that spools as a ribbon, this leaves very little room for escape. Sooner or later, the flies attracted to the brightness of the window track to that corner. While your idea of family fun might not involve counting how many flies your trap catches each day, we've been pretty delighted with the results. The pesticide has slowed the initial spring onslaught, and hopefully got the next generation before they hatched, but the flies that were still puttering about are quickly being taken care of by the traps. I should note that the volume of flies we are seeing would be extraordinary even for the height of summer, but whatever the cause, we've been able to deal with the indoor problem without resorting to heavy chemical use by employing a number of these traps throughout the house. I can live with just about anything, but flies really put me over the edge. We typically get one cold day in the fall when all the flies freak out, and try to get inside, then they die. This year, we had them straight through winter, more or less, and then about a month ago the population just exploded. It isn't just us-the house 3/4 of a mile from us is suffering too-and they aren't near livestock. Even in town they're finding themselves inundated this year.

I wouldn't recommend a product if I didn't use it, and certainly not if it didn't work well. These traps work incredibly well, are fast, affordable, and chemical free. Just get someone else to peel the filled sticky tape off the window for you-it can get kind of gross.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Early Garden

The first of my early crops are poking their heads through the soil. Spinach, turnips, beets, radishes, peas, rocket, and onions are all thriving. We've been really fortunate with the weather so far, and I'm glad I took advantage of the early spring to work the soil and get everything in.

Inside, I have seedlings in covered trays atop the fridge (really, it is like having a heating mat) and in my sunny dining room window. Danny ordered some black icicle tomatoes from Baker Creek that he's pretty excited about. They sent along a complimentary packet of wildflowers as well, so he's quite pleased. I bought him some seed packets for the Easter basket this year as well (it went over so well last year) and I suppose he'll need a new garden journal. Each packet gets pasted carefully into the book along with pertinent information about the development of the seeds.

As we had such a dry winter, I was concerned the tulip bulbs might not do well, but the first leaves are poking up, and I'm hoping they last more than a day or two (we get our share of high winds here).

Less exciting-the grass needs mowing-already. I hate mowing grass. Eventually, I hope to plant the back entirely and just have the grass in front of the house to deal with. It isn't really grass at all, anymore. It is ironweed, and something that used to be grass fifty years ago before it bred with some herbicide resistant weed. It looks ok from a distance, but it isn't the sort of lawn you'd want to spread a blanket on and have a picnic, even if the farm wasn't full of flies.

I bought some sorrel to re-plant (we lost ours to a bit of bulldozing after the tornado) but I may grow it in a pot as it has a tendency to take over. Mr. ETB doesn't care for schav, so I'm still a little unsure what I'll actually do with it. Who knows, sorrel ravioli might be the next big food trend (unlikely, but not impossible).

What I'm really excited about is the new hand-weeding tool I purchased at the hardware store (I know, the things I get excited over are pretty boring) I will update as soon as I get a chance to try it out.

I was never a keen gardener until after Danny was born-his interest has probably kept me out there weeding long after I would otherwise. I will say that I've learned quite a bit from the failures, and do not consider myself in any way expert. Largely, I've been the recipient of dumb-luck. I stick things into the ground, and most of the time they grow.

I wish I had the same luck with squirrels (yes, it defeated the humane trap, and made off with the cob of dried corn). At least the weather is warm and it will likely remain outside. Did you ever see the movie, Mousetrap? It is like that, with a squirrel.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Coconut/Pineapple/Honey Ice cream

There's a recipe for a gallon of a similar ice cream in my old Farm Journal canning cookbook from the 60's-it sounded wonderful, save for the raw, whole eggs.

I made a few changes (reduced the quantity, cooked a custard base, toasted the coconut) and the results were delicious. This is the sort of ice cream I cannot make too often as I doubt I'd be able to practise good self control around it. I don't really know how I'll sleep tonight knowing I have a pint in the freezer. Like Sirens, they are, those pints of homemade ice cream calling to me from the freezer. Small batches are good-less damage in a worst case scenario.

You Will Need:

1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, well drained (it wouldn't hurt to squeeze it dry)
1/2 cup toasted coconut

In a heat-proof bowl, whisk the yolks and granulated sugar together until light. In a saucepan, heat the cream, milk, and allspice until steaming. Carefully whisk the milk into the egg mixture in a thin stream taking care not to cook the eggs. If you suck at this sort of thing (don't worry, that isn't some sort of character flaw) go ahead and temper the egg mixture properly. I do use a strainer at the end to catch any bits of cooked egg, but do whatever works best for you. Return the mixture to the pan and cook until it reaches 170 degrees f. or coats the back of a wooden spoon (if you run a finger through it and it leaves a clean line, the custard is done).

Strain into a heatproof bowl. Whisk in the honey, extracts, and if desired, a pinch of salt (I do this, but I don't know that it really makes any difference-habit I suppose). Pour into a metal pan (glass is OK too) and place in freezer 30 minutes. With a fork, scrape around the perimeter, and mix well. return to freezer. Continue doing this until ice cream is mostly firm. If you should forget it, and it freezes solid, no harm done-simply scrape it into a bowl and give it a quick blitz with a hand mixer. When the ice cream is mostly firm, but still workable, stir in the fruit and coconut (I suppose coconut is a fruit then?). Transfer to a freezer container and chill several hours until firm.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Nut-Free Easter Recipes

Blogger has been acting flaky of late, so I'm not certain how far along I'll get with the list before it crashes. It took the better part of two hours to get last night's post done. I will continue to add to the list over the week.

A few years ago, I compiled my Lenten Cake recipes into a central post, which may be found HERE.

Most of these recipes are for candy (in case you want to make your own for a nut-free Easter basket) and desserts, as main courses don't tend to need much adaptation to nut-free.

Nut-Free Edible Bread Basket With Fanciful Loaves

Christopsomo Bread

Nut-Free Kulich

Nut-Free Hot Cross Buns

Nut-Free Edible Nests For Peeps (with marshmallow poop!)

Nut-Free Pink Meringue Cookies

Homemade Hard Candy-Nut Free

Nut Free Homemade Twix Bars

Nut Free Homemade Sky-Bar (ish) Candy

Lavender Caramels-Nut Free

Homemade Nut-Free Fondant for Candymaking

Nut-Free Dark Chocolate Fudge

Nut Free Cinder Toffee Ice Cream

Nut Free Strawberry Bavarian

Fish Pate (something for the meatless guests)

Nut Free Strawberry Cream Cheese Tart

Coconut Macaroons-Nut Free

Revere Beach Live Cam

All the er...interesting things about Revere without the smell of low tide. No audio of course, but you know it probably sounds something like:

"Yeah, so I says to Frankie, hey! That's not yerz, that's my-an. Where you been since the track closed? My cousin Joe was goin' to Foxwoods last weekend when the Caddie blew out. That's a nice car he got though, mint. Ya wanna cup of cawfee from the Dunkin or just a cup-a wadder? Hey, there's Palo. Hey! Palo, where you been since the track closed? I seen your ma gettin' her hair done in Eastie last week, she says you been workin' construction. I gotto go stop by Demoulas, I'm outta milk. See youse later."

I'm not going to apologize because you know it is accurate.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Nut-Free Passover Dishes

This list is by no means comprehensive, but things have a way of getting buried in the depths of this blog to be forgotten. Let me know if I've forgotten something. I'll update the list from time to time as I make/remember things. I will Do an Easter List next.

Nut-free Haroset/Charosset
Mixed Vegetable Bake-Passover/Nut Free
Cream Puffs/Soup "No Mandel" Passover/Nut Free
Carrot and Potato Patties-Passover/Nut-Free
Passover Poutine ("Jewtine")
Vegetable Passover "Lasagne"
Passover Nut Free Crispy Sticks
Passover Nut-Free Veggie Knishes
No Bake Passover Nut-Free Chocolate Matzo Roll
Passover-Nut Free Bagels
Gefilte Fish
Passover Nut-Free Potato Crust Pizzas
Passover Nut-Free Brownies II
Passover Nut-Free Manicotti/Blintzes/Crepes
Passover Nut-Free Macaroons
Meatless/Nut Free/Passover Cabbage Rolls
Nut-Free Passover Sponge Cake
Matzo Balls
Passover Eggplant Parmesan
Iced Curry Soup
Passover Adaptable to Nut-Free Chocolate Cake(You can omit the almonds with no harm done)
Passover Potato Kugel With Carrots

Hot Cross Buns

At Eastertime, my dad who was a food distributor would swap with the bread guy for hot cross buns-except he called them (in a heavy Chicago accent) "Piss-pay-li-an Rolls." As you can imagine, any food that contained real, actual, not saccharine sugar glaze on top would be pretty popular at "Ye Old House of Diabetic." She probably ate them too.

This recipe isn't anywhere near "authentic", but it works, makes a good two dozen, and most of the ingredients you probably already have. I didn't have currants, so I used raisins. I don't think anyone noticed. I left half of the batch unglazed as they freeze better that way. As Pesach starts on Good Friday this year, I had to make some adjustments and get the Easter baking out of the way first. Up next, Kulich.

I will be putting together a few posts for holiday dishes with links in a central location over the next few days. If I've overlooked something, or you're looking for something I haven't made-ask! I probably have it in one of my cookery books (we all know how many books I own) and I can at least try to find you a recipe even if I haven't personally tested it.

These are based on my 1959 edition of Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Cook Book. I've made some changes as to the type of flour, spice, etc. but their technique of rolling the dough and using a biscuit cutter is a really helpful technique I've not seen used elsewhere.

You Will Need:

3 teaspoons granulated dry yeast (not instant)
1/3 cup warm water
1/3 cup scalded whole milk
1/2 cup melted and cooled butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Scant teaspoon salt
2 cups strong flour
2-3 cups plain flour
1 heaping teaspoon mixed spice
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup raisins
1 beaten egg white

Glaze-confectioner's sugar and water

In a large bowl, proof the yeast in the water with a pinch of the sugar until foamy. Add milk, butter, sugar, salt, and bread flour. Mix well. Beat in the eggs. Add mixed spice. Add enough of the plain flour to make a dough that can be kneaded without being too sticky. Knead until smooth. Place in a buttered bowl, cover and let rise until doubled-a couple hours. Punch dough down and roll out into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter, cut into rounds, then shape by pinching sides beneath as with dinner rolls. Place on buttered baking sheet. Cover, and let rise until nearly doubled-about 45 minutes. meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Before baking, cut a cross into tops and brush with beaten egg white. Bake about 15 minutes, or until done. Cool on rack. Ice cross with icing sugar and water mixture.

Bag of Plagues

Hail and fire-white and red rubber ball
Wild beasts-lion finger puppet
Locusts-green bug toy
Lice-Black bug toy
Cattle disease-cow puzzle
Boils-green rubber hand with white spots
Frogs-toy frog
Blood-red plastic cub labeled, "blood"
Death of the Firstborn-Puzzle depicting a dead guy in front of a pyramid
Darkness-pair of sunglasses

You really don't want to know how much I shelled out for this, but I didn't want my son to be the only kid without a bag of plagues come Passover. In interfaith family style, I also baked hot cross buns today.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Pepper Slaw with Beans

This is another nice way to use up odds and ends in the vegetable bin. You can adjust the proportions, and ingredients to reflect what you have, keeping the basic idea.

!/2 head red cabbage, finely sliced
2 green bell peppers, finely sliced
2 red bell peppers, finely sliced
1 tin sweet corn, rinsed and drained
1 tin chick peas/garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 tin dark kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 large onion, halved and finely sliced

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
4 cups cider vinegar
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon ground allspice
Salt/Pepper to taste

Mix well, and serve chilled.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Severe Weather Season

This is the week Midwesterners make sure the flashlights and weather radio have fresh batteries, the storm cellar is easily accessible, and important documents are ready to grab in one central place. Extra medications, car keys, a spare pair of eyeglasses, and old pillows for head protection are also great to have on hand in your sheltering area. Surviving a tornado teaches a person a number of things like keeping your tetanus jabs up-to-date, and taking the reports seriously. When we made our way to the storm cellar that evening, we didn't really expect anything to happen. Child, dog, and weather radio in tow, we did it anyway, and lived to be posting this today.

A week without power presented a number of challenges (flushing the toilet, for example) and while I enjoy camping, most campsites aren't littered with broken glass, plaster, a collection of out-of-print cookbooks (sob) and the neighbour's hay barn atop your motorcar (though truth be told, I always hated the Volvo).

Don't underestimate the power of even a small tornado. Don't believe me? Click HERE, HERE, and HERE too. This was the work of a small tornado. There were actually two-the other one hit in town (we live in the outlying countryside). Imagine what a larger one would bring.

I was glad, as we began cleaning up that I was already serious about food storage. Cooking was the very last thing on my mind, and we just don't live in a place where you can run out for a quick bite, or groceries for that matter. Besides, I was somewhat occupied with other activities, like pulling large shards of glass from my walls, my carpet, between books in the bookcases (still not sure how that happened). Four years later, I'm still finding things in the yard, or hunks of melted plaster behind cabinets. Being able to grab a jar, pry it open and have food handy really made a world of difference as we tried piecing our home back together. I like potato crisps and ice cream as much as the next rural resident that grabs a quick snack at the gas station on the highway, but it gets old after a while. Poor Danny still can't look at a box of cereal as he ate so much of it straight without milk in the days following the tornado. Once we got over the initial shock, and the reality of what a mess we had to clean up sunk in, food became a welcome bit of normalcy. I may have regarded food in terms of subsistence prior to that June evening, but after, I've kept a watchful eye on the supply of dried fruit in the larder. Don't ever take raisins for granted. Raisins and clean water can save your life.

In the years since, I've been more methodical in my food storage, and I do a rather good job of rotating items out. For rice and beans, I'm a fan of hard plastic bottles that juice comes in, but then I find it easier to pour than scoop. They work well for sugar also. Small soda bottles are re-filled with water and kept frozen for power outages, transporting groceries home on hot days, and the occasional injury requiring an ice pack. I do canning, but that really only keeps me set for about a year (freezing won't help much if you lose power). With that in mind, I want to direct you over to Chef Tess Bakeresse, and her method of preserving dried foods as complete meals, in jars. This is genius. Obviously, I wish I'd known about this method years ago, but better late than never (it isn't like the weather in Nebraska is suddenly going to become more calm, and reliable-it was 87 degrees at the farm today, in Mid March!). While you're at the site, take a look at the beautiful painted breads Tess creates-they are nothing short of incredible.

If you're a local, or can drive in for the event, the Severe Weather Symposium on 31 March 2012 at UNL. If you're planning to go, drop me an email and we can organise a meet-up . You know I'll bring food. You know you want to see the weather balloon being launched (don't lie, you know you do) and the giant model of a piping plover ("Pebbles") will be making her annual appearance for souvenir photos (we have the yearly photos of Danny and Pebbles displayed on our piano. Yes, we are kind of strange. Some people do visits with Father Christmas, we do Pebbles the Plover at UNL).

Even if you don't live in an area prone to severe weather, a bit of preparedness is never a bad thing, and a $30. weather radio that can broadcast emergency information can pay for itself the first time you actually need it. In hindsight, the thing that really kept us from being too horribly freaked out by the experience was knowing what to do. You can always panic later, but having a procedure to follow, knowing you have prepared for it-it won't undo the power of a tornado or a hurricane, but you do tend to function better when it is a matter of grabbing a bag of flashlights, radio, etc. by the door to the storm cellar rather than trying to round up everything as you take cover. I keep an emergency kit in the car as well. There's a reason schools conduct fire drills (and if you live in the Midwest, Tornado drills). While I'm not the sort of person that panics imagining all the terrible yet unlikely things that can happen, and require my son to wear full hockey gear to play in the yard, I do like to plan for things I know have a reasonable chance of happening. Part of a child learning to be independent is knowing how to proceed in an emergency, and conduct his or herself without being crippled with anxiety if mummy or dad isn't there to tell them what to do. With younger children, it helps to give them a specific task to be in charge of. Danny took his flashlight duties very seriously the night of the tornado, and in a way it gave him a feeling of control (a very small bit, but still) over some small part of the experience. He couldn't stop the storm, but he could keep the light on.

Lastly, I want to mention how important our volunteer fire departments are in rural areas. With power lines down everywhere, and the firehouse itself being hit, they still managed to get out and check on the welfare of people. After the storm, other local departments made their way to farms bringing water for flushing toilets, livestock, and had cleaning supplies if you needed them. Yes, the Red Cross and FEMA also did great work (really, they did) but the under-funded and often overlooked VFD's really did come to the rescue of many a family stuck out on an acreage without power to run the wells. If you have a few bucks, and you're looking for a good place to send it, small town fire departments can always use the help.

Plan ahead, because if the weather of late in these parts is any indicator of things to come, we're going to have one heck of a severe weather season.


Nothing says, "St. Patrick's Day", like the food of the invaders. A few of these for breakfast, and you'll be leaving intricate stone carvings all over the place, and penning epic poems.*

You'll need a special pan for these, which are available in Scandinavian shops, though the one I have is a mass-produced, non-stick Nordicware. I like it very much, and it cost around twenty dollars. They are not giving me anything to say that-I genuinely like their products.

Traditionally, these are not filled, but served with jam or applesauce. I had half a pear and half an apple looking lonely in the fridge so I cooked them in butter and cinnamon sugar. Filling aebleskiver is simply a matter of blobbing a bit of filling in the centre and then dabbing on a bit more batter. Turning them takes a bit of skill, but even ones that aren't perfectly spherical will hold together. You could make them savoury as well. Any pancake batter will do, and I don't see any reason you couldn't use a mix if you don't care to be whipping egg whites first thing in the morning. I'm curious to try these with a cornmeal pancake as a side dish for beans-Stop looking at me like that, Danish/Mexican fusion cookery is the next fad, I swear.

From the New York Times Heritage Cookbook:

2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs, separated at room temperature
2 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon bicarb.
Butter to grease pan
Filling if using

Beat egg yolks into buttermilk. Sift flour, salt, sugar and bicarb together. Beat into egg mixture. Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into egg batter.

Heat the pan over medium heat until good and hot. Brush each well with melted butter. For filled aebleskiver, fill wells 3/4 full, top with a dab of filling, and then a bit more batter to cover. Cook until bubbles break on surface (about 1 minute). Carefully turn (flip with a knife or spoon) and cook about 1 minute longer on opposite side. Serve hot (they don't keep) with jam, syrup, or whatever you like.

* Oh come on, it was a really long time ago, though for their part, the Danes could apologise already.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Kentucky Lemon Pie-New York Times Heritage Cookbook

Confession, I've never made lemon meringue pie. Further confession-I'm not sure I've ever eaten one. Well, that's all changed now as I'm sure this pie will go into regular dessert rotation here.

For most of my life, I was under the impression lemon meringue pie was not only disgusting, but probably dangerous to eat. Like most misconceptions, this one came courtesy of my mother who once got sick on lemon meringue pie, the memory of which remained so strong she couldn't walk past a bakery case containing one without diverting here eyes. Similar reactions would play out at the mention of Spanish rice, Pepto Bismal,or bourbon and ginger ale. I'm not sure if the Pepto was prior or subsequent to the ingestion of the above mentioned food and drink, but my mother may have been the only case of someone actually getting a worse case of the shits from Pepto Bismal. So yeah, I don't know why I took her word for the pie all these years when I disregarded every other bit of motherly wisdom she felt the need to impart which I won't re-quote here to avoid bringing people here from Google searches of an impolite nature.

The pie, the pie, yes I'll get to that. You see, apart from my mother's warnings about food safety, there was always the issue of intimidation. I fear soft meringue. There's a reason I've yet to make a Baked Alaska, and it isn't because I don't like ice cream. No, I've never been quite certain what it was supposed to be like, having been forbidden to eat it. Was it soft like whipped cream? Crunchy like a baked meringue shell? Without a sense of what I was aiming for, I figured there were plenty of other desserts I could prepare without wandering into meringue territory. Besides, I'd read in many a cookery book about, "weeping" meringue. That didn't sound very appetising, and if anyone could make beaten egg whites cry, it was probably me. I avoided the stuff for years. I once made some brown sugar meringue bars that were probably overbaked as I still had no concept of what it was supposed to be like. Today, I stared at the three big lemons on the counter, shrugged, figured, "What the hell", and apologised to the memory of my mother. I baked the damn lemon pie. It is excellent. I did not throw up, reach for Pepto Bismal (or bourbon) and I'm kind of sorry it took my mother being dead twenty years for me to at last wander into the universe that is softly baked meringue. I'm sorry mum, but it is not like eating, "frothy spit."

The recipe is an old one, from the great big blue edition of the New York Times Heritage Cookbook. I used my own all-butter pie crust recipe, which I will include with the recipe. At first read of the ingredients, it sounds like an ungodly amount of sweetener (sugar and corn syrup) but against the tartness of the lemon juice, it ends up being just about right, if not a hair on the sour side. Consider yourselves warned-I would not reduce the amount of sweetness in this pie. I did not try any substitutions for the corn syrup, but I'd be interested to know if you try it. I have a large tub of glucose syrup I've never bothered to use, so perhaps I'll give that a try next time. Still, I'm loathe to mess with perfection, which this pie clearly is. This is really fantastic pie.

You Will Need:

For The Pastry:
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter
4-5 tablespoons ice water

Combine flour and salt. Cut in butter until you have fine crumbs. Toss on water a tablespoon at a time and mix only until it comes together in a light ball. Gather together and set aside a few minutes before rolling out. Roll pie crust thin and high on the sides. Chill in plate before filling.

For The Lemon Filling:

6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cornflour (cornstarch)
1/2 cup lemon juice
Grated rind of one lemon
1 tablespoon melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Beat eggs until well combined. Add syrup and continue beating. Combine sugar and cornstarch and add to the mixture, beating. Add the lemon juice, rind and butter. Beat until mixed. Pour carefully into pie shell. Bake fifteen minutes. Reduce temperature to 300 degrees F. and bake another 45 minutes, or until set. Cool, then chill before topping with meringue.


3 egg whites at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 tablespoons icing sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until stiff. Add sugar, a tablespoon at a time until well incorporated. Spread meringue over pie making sure to touch the pastry edge all around (so it won't weep). Leave the surface rough. Bake ten minutes, or until meringue is slightly browned. Cool, and chill again. Serves eight to ten, or three really greedy ones.

Phyllo Pizza

You can make an excellent pizza using phyllo dough. Brush the layers lightly with olive oil, and top as for regular pizza. Bake at 375 degrees F. until nicely browned. I served mine at room temperature.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Keeping the Museum Safe From Unattended History Students

The sign on the door at the Saunders County Museum stopped us in our tracks:
"No Unattended Children Under 13 Permitted."

We'd taken Danny on a field trip to a local museum, but I guess it was a good thing we didn't send him there alone. Wahoo, Nebraska is a very small town. It wouldn't be impossible to be on a first-name basis with most of the neighbourhood children, or at least know their family. There certainly isn't anything in the collection that would be attractive to steal, and aside from a wide, spacious staircase the place doesn't seem terribly dangerous requiring adult supervision. We couldn't imagine the rationale for this rule, so we asked.

The docent informed us that "Children under thirteen don't have a reason to be there without an adult." She mentioned that some underage museum goers had recently shown up, and she had to turn them away. She sounded annoyed that they still tried to gain admission even after seeing the sign. Imagine that, children begging to be admitted to the local museum! They must have been up to no-good. What possible reason could those delinquents have for wanting in a place like that?

Mr. ETB reckons it has more to do with liability, fear of something that, could happen, however unlikely. I've never heard of small town children being kidnapped from the local museum, but the fearful may believe there's danger lurking in the dark corners behind the player piano, and the baseball exhibit. Speaking as someone who spent many an unaccompanied hour wandering the Oriental Institute gawking at mummies in a neighbourhood considerably riskier than Wahoo, Nebraska I think perhaps this policy is misguided. The thought of children interested enough in the history of their county being turned away at the door is really heartbreaking. Would it be so terribly difficult to give them a guided tour if it is so dangerous for them to be there unattended? The place is small enough to cover in ten minutes. There is every reason for children to be in a museum, attended or not. Not every parent can, or is willing to spend time accompanying their children to a museum (or library, or park). The website claims to have programmes for children, accompanied children, anyways.

"Hey you damn kids with your history books, and curiosity...get outta here!"

Friday, March 09, 2012

Quisp and Other Cereal (Serial) Flashers

I doubt very much that Mr. ETB will even open the box to try any, but when I saw Quisp had been reintroduced onto the market, nostalgia got the better of me, and I bought it. He's so difficult to buy presents for, but who wouldn't want a box of sugary cereal with a nose-less, propeller-headed space alien on the front? Right.

We went back to the farm store today to watch baby chicks and ducks again. They had turkeys in as well, but I've lived in the country long enough to know that turkeys are mean sons of bitches. Oh yes they are. Belligerent, aggressive, destructive-there's a wild flock that live on the S-curve out of town and woe to the unsuspecting motorist taking that blind curve at anything over 30 MPH. Turkeys ain't nothing nice. Consider yourselves warned. Ducks on the other hand are lovely, and their eggs are wonderful. If you don't have enough cash on hand to by one you can always put it on their bill. You can groan at that, I won't be insulted.

Something began rooting out my garlic bulbs, so I'm not expecting much of a crop this year. I must have planted fifty, and so far I've found about fifteen partially sprouted cloves dug up around the garden. Hopefully some will make it. I'll toss on some more dirt, and hope for the best.

Have you ever heard of an Abe Lincoln tomato? Neither have I, but we're growing them this year. I've been a bit more selective with the tomatoes these past few years as I always end up with more than I want, and you can only preserve so much chutney. Danny gets his own patch of garden this year, and has taken great care selecting varieties of seed that do well in our climate, and considering cross pollination. In an ideal situation, I could hand off all the difficult work to Danny, who will consider it all great fun, and I can sit in the shade reading all summer. I don't really believe this will happen, but I find it preferable to the reality that I'll likely end up tending both gardens.

On the way home this afternoon, we stopped at the park. A grandfather was there with his two granddaughters, maybe two and four at the oldest. The older girl was fascinated by Danny, and kept following him around. Danny, trying to be polite (as she was younger) kept stepping out of the way to let her go down the slide first, or climb past him, but she returned, running right back to stare at him, too shy to talk. Poor kiddo was exasperated by all of this, declaring that, "Small children shouldn't be permitted on playgrounds as they don't know how to play properly." I could nearly believe in reincarnation listening to that outburst, as I observed my son morphing into my Gran. I'm still somewhere between pleased and horrified.

This was also the week my son came up with his first slightly off colour joke. He read in the newspaper about a "serial flasher" in Lincoln. The apartment complex was called (not making this up) The View. Anyway, Danny was amused by the fact that the flasher was providing himself better lighting with his mobile phone, and remarked, "He must have wanted to make sure she could see his Grape Nuts! Get it? "Serial flasher."

Oh, how he laughed at that one for hours. Hours, and hours, and hours. And hours.

Happy Weekend.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Salad From a Sunny Window

Nasturtium leaves, rocket, leaf lettuce, pea shoots-all from pots in my dining room window.

This is how I manage until spring in my part of the world, though admittedly we had a rather mild winter. Figs and Manchego cheese, and a dressing of oil, vinegar, fennel seeds, preserved lemon peel, and a few flakes of red pepper came together as a nice first course. Yes, they do the salad course first, and I've been unable to sway them.

The main course was a spicy chickpea stew in roasted tomatoes, carrots, paprika, and preserved orange peel over fried slices of polenta (what most people call, "mush"). It was nice. We have leftovers (also nice). I am completely uninspired of late, but thankfully have shelves of jars I put up earlier. That takes much of the guesswork out of dinner beyond, "which jar shall I open?" The freezer is stocked as well. I don't think I could face a supermarket this week-I know I couldn't.

If you've never grown nasturtiums, I really encourage you to try. They like a sunny spot, and grow happily in pots. Mine are trailing up the sunny window, but have yet to produce flowers. That's fine with us, as we prefer the spicy leaves to the blossoms. They grow quickly, and the tiny buds can be gathered to pickle as false capers (I did that near the end of last summer).

Tuesday, March 06, 2012


...anybody still here?

We've been busy with all manner of illness, a heavy school schedule, an early spring (it was 75 degrees F. here today-insane!), dentistry (oh god, have I been dealing with dentistry), a bit of a fly problem here on the farm (see, "an early spring"), automobile issues, and...and...and...well you get the idea. I could go on though...I just like you guys enough to keep it short and sweet. See? See how I suffer to please you? No, Never mind, I don't need to talk about it. Can I get you a cup of coffee or something to eat? (hey, how's my Jewish mother guilt coming along? I'm getting better at it, aren't I? I've been working on it-I'll bet you could tell).

When life is doing all the stuff that life knows how to do best (because it never seems to do the, "You just won the lottery, woke up tall and thin, world peace has broken out, and whatever else never happens) I do what any rational person would do at the beginning of March in Nebraska-I took my seven year old son to the farm store to look at baby chicks.

Baby chicks are inarguably the cutest thing on the planet. No, ducks aren't nearly as cute, and puppies just look like rats when they're born, so stop arguing with me (I said it was inarguable, aren't you paying attention?) but little yellow birds? Awwww factor of a thousand. Since I was already at the farm store, I bought a red currant bush. Yes, that was an impulse buy, thanks for noticing. The packaging claims it will bear fruit the first year, but I don't think two or three berries will count. We'll see. Mr. ETB will be delighted to know he has yet another hole to dig through our heavy, clay soil. He's lucky I didn't come home with a chicken coop and chicks. I told Danny I'd consider it next year if he's still being responsible and doesn't run off and try to join the merchant marine or something. Right now he's pretty focused on rabbits, but he won't breed them because he knows I'll cook them. He wants a bunny as a pet. I can't cook it once he names it, that would be wrong.

I picked up a book called, "Outwitting Squirrels" at the library sale last weekend. I still haven't outwitted the squirrel. I did catch a small cat in the humane trap. She was really pissed off about it too. I mean, that was a really pissed off cat. Really. No one got bit freeing her though, so I guess that's OK. I'm glad we didn't catch a skunk. The squirrels are sitting on the roof laughing at us. Hear that? Hear that? That's squirrel laughter.

OK, screw this, I'm going back to the farm store for another dose of relaxing fluffy yellow chicks. Danny noted that their peeping in unison is rather a pleasant sound-maybe I'll go make myself a recording as an audio tranquiliser.

Peep. Peep. Peep.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Twinkie Bombe

I decided to recycle the Twinkies the boys bought for my birthday into a dessert. I had some stale brownies as well-those are the base. The strawberry ice cream was homemade, and probably the best part of all.

Happy weekend. Library sale at Swanson tomorrow, if you're local.