Monday, April 30, 2012

Big and Small

Last evening, Danny asked if I had any photographs from my field work. I do, but mostly they are photographs of artifacts, test pits, and survey equipment. Danny insisted he wanted to see them, so I located a photo album, and let him flip through.

Danny: (pointing) is that you?

Me: Yes, I sure was covered in mud, eh?

Danny: Was that the summer you had amoebic dysentery?

Me: Yes, it was.

Danny: I could tell, you look really small. (Flips through a few more pages to photographs from another site the following year) Well you didn't have any dysentery there, you were much bigger. Look how big you got...

Me: You're grounded until your fortieth birthday.

Maple Steelhead Trout

Sometimes, I take for granted that everyone knows (more or less) a variety of fish preparations. This one is particularly good for pink-fleshed fish, and works as well under the broiler as it does in the pan. You can leave the fish to marinate all day, but I find that an hour or two is adequate.

You Will Need:

1-2 fillet of trout (or salmon, etc.)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon smoked salt, divided
1 tablespoon dried minced onion
1 tablespoon neutral salad oil (I used sunflower)

Butter to cook

Place the fillet in a shallow pan. Combine everything except butter, and whisk well. Pour over fish, and leave to marinate in fridge, skin side up (is it just me, or does, "skin side up" sound like a good name for a naughty movie?).

To cook:

Heat a heavy frying pan (I used my trusty cast iron) over medium heat and melt about 1 tablespoon of butter per fillet. Place them in the pan, flesh side down (see, that sounds even worse than "skin side up"...I can't win) and cook about ten minutes each side until done. The fish should develop a lovely carmelised colour from the syrup.

I served the fish with roasted beets, brown rice cooked in stock and onions, a salad of rocket and spinach, and Struan bread toast points.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sing Along With The Fall

Just because.

Sesame Cake That Smells Like Chinese Takeaway

Still impressed with the sesame cookies last week, I toasted a bunch of sesame seeds and ground them up to make what I thought would be something between a nut butter and tahini. What I got was the smell of toasted sesame oil like you find in Chinese takeaway. I loathe Chinese food. I grudgingly make it for my family, but not without reminding them what a trial it is, though I usually omit the sesame oil as it is really the smell that bothers me more than the taste. That said, I could go happily through my remaining years without ever being forced to look at a plate of the stuff, but I understand that I am clearly the oddball.

Strangely, simply toasting the sesame seeds smelled pleasant, it wasn't until I ground them that the house started smelling like the Kowloon on Rt. 1.

The cake was really popular, much like Chinese takeaway, I suppose. I have the cake under a dome in the fridge, but I'm still met with the overpowering smell of sesame every time I open the door-pungent stuff, that. I'm posting the recipe because everyone (myself excepted) enjoyed the cake, though it will be a long time before I am persuaded to bake it again. I'll put the recipe here so they can bake it for themselves someday...when I'm dead. The original recipe for the cake is from my 1966 Better Homes and gardens Pies and Cakes Cookbook.

And yeah, I still can't frost a cake worth a damn.

For the cake:

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon mace
1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds, cooled
1/2 cup shortening (I used butter)
1 1/4 cups milk (I used whole) Divided
2 large eggs

Sift together dry ingredients. Add shortening and 3/4 cup of the milk. Beat 2 minutes. Add remaining milk and eggs; beat 1 minutes. Pour into 2 greased and floured pans. bake at 350 degrees F. for about 25 minutes, or until cakes test done. Cool on racks 10 minutes, then cool completely on a rack before frosting.

For the frosting:

1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds ground into paste
1/3 cup cocoa
2 2/3 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream (more or less depending)

Beat together the first three ingredients. Add the cream slowly, beating until you have an icing that can be spread easily. It firms upon chilling.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Strawberry and Sparkling Grape Sorbet

I still had a couple bottles of non-alcoholic white grape juice left from New Year's Eve, and this made good use of one bottle.

You Will Need:

1 quart strawberries, well-mashed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup sparkling non-alcoholic grape juice

Mash the strawberries and force them through a sieve to remove seeds. This is a pain in the behind, but worth it. Whisk in the sugar, then whisk in the sparkling juice. Keep whisking until the sugar dissolves (it goes pretty quickly with the carbonation). Place in a freezer tray and freeze 30 minutes. Scrape with a fork and mash. Return to fridge and repeat every 30 minutes until form. Scrape into a container and freeze until firm before serving. Makes about 1 1/2 pints.

Frozen Rhubarb and Custard

-you know, ice cream, except it is a custard. Stop looking at me that way, you know what I mean.

So hey, this is how I deal with stress, and surplus rhubarb.

You Will Need:

4-5 large stalks rhubarb, diced
1/4 cup vanilla sugar (regular is OK if you don't have it)

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon good quality vanilla extract (the cheap stuff is OK for baking, but if you can swing decent extract, or have a vanilla bean to infuse the cream, use it)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Toss rhubarb and sugar together with a couple tablespoons of water (no more) and place in a baking pan. Bake until rhubarb is soft-about 20 minutes. Cool. Either force through a sieve by hand with a wooden spoon and plenty of patience, or use a food mill. Don't blend or put through a food processor-that will ruin it. Chill until needed.

For the ice cream:

heat cream and milk until steaming. meanwhile, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until light. Slowly whisk in the hot milk in a very thin stream, then return it to the pan and cook until it reaches 170 degrees F. Strain into a bowl, stir in vanilla and chill in an ice bath. When cool, set in fridge at least an hour.

In a metal tray in the freezer (an 8x8 works well and won't use too much space) place the custard and chill 30 minutes. With a fork, break up any hardening around the edges and return to freezer. Do this every 30 minutes until it is nearly set. Stir in the rhubarb puree, and freeze again until done. At this point you can mash it smooth with a fork, or quickly blitz it in a chilled metal bowl with a hand mixer (chill the beaters as well). Transfer to a freezer container and let firm before serving.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Benne Seed Cookies

These are the best biscuits I have ever baked, full stop. I will never bake anything even close to these. I made the batch to give away in a sort of pre-May day basket of treats...but I ended up giving away mostly candy as these are staying right here with me (and my hips). Oh dear god, these are really good.

The recipe is from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies. The title isn't an exaggeration-just about all the cookies in the volume are winners (the coconut washboards are really delicious). If you make these, be sure to bother toasting the sesame seeds ahead of time-it is worth the bother as it really brings out the sesame flavour. Living in a home with someone allergic to peanuts has changed the way I do many things in the kitchen. Sometimes, I really miss peanut butter cookies, which these really remind me of. In fact, to be completely honest, these are better than any peanut butter cookie I ever tasted.

You Will Need:

3/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted in a pan until just brown, then cooled.
1/4 pound butter
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 cups plain flour
1/4 cup milk (I used whole)

Cream the butter and then add the vanilla, salt, and sugar. Mix well. Add the egg and beat well. Add half the flour, then the milk, then remaining flour. Mix in cooled sesame seeds.

If dough is too soft to form a roll, chill it in the bowl for a bit. Roll dough in a piece of wax paper until you have a strip about 12 inches long, 3/4 inch wide, and 1 inch thick. Place wrapped dough on a cookie sheet and freeze overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cover two baking sheets with foil.

With a sharp, heavy knife, slice dough into 1/4 inch slices and place 1 inch apart on sheets. Bake about 15 minutes, rotating pan once at the halfway point. Cookies will be brown on edges but pale on top. Transfer to racks until cool.

Try not to eat them all in a single sitting.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bitter Molasses Candy

I know this isn't the sort of candy everyone will like as it has a very strong, burnt flavour but if you do, I promise it will quickly become addictive and you should give half the batch away before you demolish it.

This is so dead simple to make, which is another reason you should plan to give some away-it can be made as a spur-of-the-moment sort of whim with ingredients you probably have on hand.

The recipe originally called for nuts, which I omitted. If you choose to add them, include 1/2 cup in the bottom of the pan, then pour the candy over it and proceed as the recipe indicates. The original was from From Amish and Mennonite Kitchens.

You Will Need:

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons full flavour molasses

Line an 8x8 heatproof pan with parchment, then grease it lightly.

In a large, heavy pot (it will foam up so use a large pot) bring everything to a boil over medium heat. Cook until it reaches 300 degrees F. (hard crack stage). Remove from heat, pour in prepared pan, and when it begins to cool, score into neat squares. When fully cooled, break into squares and wrap tightly in wax paper. Immediately give half the batch away.

I Hate the New Blogger Interface

It does not work with my browser, I do not wish to use Chrome, and I expect even if I download Firefox, I'll still have trouble. If I disappear for a while, it probably means I can't log-in. This would be a perfect time to go get a domain or something, but I really don't want all the bother that goes with it. Maybe after eight years of cookery blogging, I've made, said, and photographed all I need to (and plenty I didn't need to).

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Damn You, YouTube

My kid discovered Romper Room tonight. He also discovered Shazam! but that one I can forgive.

Do be a good bee.

I suppose it was our fault, Mr. ETB thought we should play a bunch of old music for him to see what he might like for the mp3 player. Somewhere between Buffy St. Marie and Iggy Pop (which is one hell of a, "between") we ended up with sidebar suggestions for children's television shows (yeah, I dunno how that gets from Iggy Pop to Romper Room either) and well, you know. Danny didn't care for Banana Splits, or the 1972 intro to Zoom, but Miss Nancy in her bouffant hairdo was enchanting.

Lentil and Spinach Salad

This salad will work with whatever lettuces/greens you have. I'm overrun by baby spinach and beet greens at the moment, so that's what I used. I also used regular old grey lentils for this, but quick cooking French lentils would be great as well. If you use butter-type lettuces, add them to the lentil/vegetable mixture before serving, otherwise, toss the spinach/beet greens in with the rest. The salad is best served at room temperature, and should be made a couple hours before serving for the flavours to absorb.

You will Need:

About 1 quart fresh baby spinach leaves, washed and well-dried
2-3 cups cooked lentils
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped radishes
1 large ripe tomato, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup diced yellow courgette
1/2 cup diced green courgette
1`/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/8 cup chopped pimento


1/3 cup olive oil (corn oil is also good, though much different. if you're lucky enough to have a decent unrefined corn oil-kinda expensive, this is a good use for it)
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon honey
Juice of 1 large lemon

Whisk together and toss with salad ingredients.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Courgette Salad

I'm pretty sure there is a more straightforward way to make this rather than cooking the vegetables in segments-but I haven't figured it out. I suppose you could roast the vegetables and just pull them from the tray as soon as each is done, but that too seems like a bit of work. I wouldn't bother posting this if the results weren't worth the effort, and I rather think they are. The family agree, so here it is.

You can substitute vegetables if there's something you have and need to use as the exceptional part of this salad is the dressing. I based it on a Todd English recipe from the 90's ( you know, the guy that looks like Jack Kerouac, but less hung over...can you imagine a Jack Kerouac cookbook "You grab a bottle of cheap Tokay and like drops of rain on the Sierra Nevada in spring when the whole world is going whoo-hoo lookit the rain, you pour that cheap Tokay wine into a bowl and whisk slowly like some zen master turning and then everyone breathes and you've poured wine in a bowl. Then, you grab some salt...")*, but with a whole hell of a lot less oil, and much more lemon juice (and additional vinegar). You should save those calories for dessert, not blow them on a salad. Well, a good dessert anyway, I mean if your choice is between Watergate salad and the olive oil, I'd take the oil, but I have a four layer white cake with a strawberry filling and cream cheese frosting for dessert- I like olive oil as much as the next person (or Todd English) but geez, I have cake in the fridge! The original was meant to dress roasted red peppers, but I do find that the unlikely combination of spices works really well with just about anything (I'm eager to give it a try with cauliflower). I also skipped the mixer/food processor to make the dressing and just whisked the oil in slowly to form the emulsion-this was simple enough, though if you have modern appliances and aren't living like it is 1840, go on ahead an use 'em. OK fine, I'm not living like it is 1840, we have electricity that kinda sorta works most of the time and when it doesn't, "Mr Electric" comes out in his truck and fixes the line. That happens more than I care to think about. But yeah, blenders and food processors are great, ain't they?

You don't really come here for the recipes, do you?

You Will Need:


4 small carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal to keep with the zen nature of the dish, but you can dice them if you want to screw with the Universe.
1 yellow courgette (sliced thinly)
1 green courgette (sliced thinly)
2 red bell peppers, sliced thinly in strips
1 large red onion, sliced thinly
1 large clove garlic, smashed and chopped (this is not a pacifist action)
1/2 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped(borderline pacifist action depending on the level of coarseness-name calling is prohibited)
1 tablespoon preserved lemon peel, chopped
Pinch of thyme (can be a pacifist action provided the pinch is of a playful nature)
1 tin white beans, rinsed and drained of their lifeblood and happiness bottled up in aluminum prison like some beat/bean/bongo/baby waiting to jump in a salad
Olive oil for cooking-a few tablespoons at most

Heat a heavy pan that will promote browning-I use a cast iron skillet. When it is good and hot, add 1 tablespoon of the oil, and the carrots. Quickly, over high heat, cook until they begin to char. Remove carrots from pan. Add a tiny bit more oil if needed and repeat with red pepper. Remove to same bowl as carrots. You just want them cooked until they car, the vegetables should maintain some semblance of shape. Add more oil sparingly if needed and give the courgettes a toss over high heat-no more than a minute as they will continue to cook when removed to the bowl with the other vegetables. Remove them. Cook the red onion in the same manner. At the last, add the garlic, lemon peel, parsley and thyme. I'd say half a minute for those. When you have everything in a bowl, give it a light toss and begin making the dressing as the vegetables cool. You will add the beans at the very last when mixing in the dressing.


2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons chopped, fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
juice of a lemon
3-4 tablespoons cider vinegar to taste 1/4 cup olive oil (the original called for double that)

Combine everything except oil and vinegar in a bowl. Slowly, a few drops at a time, whisk in the olive oil. I did not warm mine as the kitchen was already warm, but in winter, it wouldn't hurt. Adjust by adding vinegar at the end to taste. Toss with vegetables and beans.

I served mine over hot brown rice with the salad itself brought to room temperature.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cinnamon Sour Cream Crescents

I've been trying to recreate this pastry of my youth (split three ways of course, so no one got fat ...well, Dad did because he got his own cinnamon roll) with only moderate success for at least thirty years. Today, I improvised and while it isn't what I'd call a "Chicago sour cream roll", it is pretty darn close. I'm not going to ration them out in small wedges as I'm not after authenticity in that way. I swear to god, growing up was like the Jerry Springer in and day out-I really ought to be more screwed-up.

Right, the rolls then. They're lovely, no? Would you believe I was inspired to make them because I had half a cup of sour cream nearing the expiration date? I mean, that's logical-use a stick of butter (OK stick and a half with the filling) eggs, milk, and flour just to avoid tossing out some sour cream? Maybe I didn't escape my childhood as unscathed as I think. None of that matters of course, because I now have thirty cinnamon rolls to fill my freezer for quick on-the-go breakfasts, or when it gets too hot to bake (it will, oh it will-we're just being spoiled right now).

You Will Need:

2 cups milk, scalded
1 stick of butter, mostly melted in the scalded milk (more or less, don't worry about it)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon INSTANT yeast
1/2 cup sour cream
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6-7 cups plain flour (or enough to make a non-sticky dough)

Cinnamon sugar and extra butter (about 1/4 cup) softened for filling and topping
Heavy cream for brushing

Dissolve yeast in milk and butter in a large bowl. Mix in sugar, salt, sour cream and eggs Mix well. With a wooden spoon, mix in the flour until you can no longer stir, then use your hand to mix adding only enough flour to make the dough manageable without sticking-if you add too much flour it will be dry. Amounts needed will vary by brand, humidity, etc.

When kneaded until smooth, place in a large, buttered bowl and let rise until doubled-about two hours as the dough is quite rich. Punch down, let rise another 45 minutes.

Divide dough in half. Roll each into a circle that is about 1/2 inch thick. Smear each round with about 2 tablespoons soft, not melted butter. Top with cinnamon sugar to taste (I went a bit generous with it, but no one has complained). Cut each round into segments as for crescent rolls (it is up to you how large to make them for your needs). Roll up from the wide end and place on a well-greased baking sheet point under. I needed three large baking sheets. Cover lightly and let rise another 30 minutes while the oven preheats to 375 degrees F.

Bake 10 minutes, then rotate pans and bake another ten. At this point, check for doneness(spell-check says "doneness" isn't a word...fuck spell check. You go on and check for donness because if you don't your buns will be burned or undercooked and spell check won't be there to console you) as it will vary depending on how large they are. Cool on racks.

Eat your rolls whilst telling Spell Check what it can do to itself, because you checked for donness. Yes you did.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I'm Posting This Because...

...because it is the world's longest nipple hair (maybe). I mean, do I need another reason?

We're *Still* Doomed

Six year old handcuffed and arrested for tantrum.

This Morning On the Farm

Pretty, huh?

Got an inch and a half in the rain gauge over the past couple of days as well.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cheese Filled Soft Breadsticks

These are really quick to prepare-just under an hour start to finish. The recipe comes from Mennonite Girls Can Cook (indeed they can!) and I suggest you go over to the site immediately and bookmark it (go on).

Mr. ETB described these as being, "more like restaurant food than what you usually make", which I think translates roughly as, "I can eat and enjoy these without it being too challenging to understand why I am supposed to enjoy this." Personally, I think it was the oregano which makes everything smell like cheap pizza (not a bad thing, when properly done).

I froze half the batch. The rest were easily re-warmed with about 25 seconds in the microwave. I can't wait to try the dough on quick cinnamon sticks for a weekend breakfast.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

We're Doomed-Game Show Edition

THIS doesn't shock me (sorry) at all.

Tofu Donner Kebab

I didn't attempt forming the tofu into the typical cone shape because that would be absurd. Instead, I focused my efforts on re-creating one of Mr. ETB's favourite meals. I went ahead and made pickled carrots and onions to serve inside the pita with lettuce, yoghurt, and the fake kebab-it turned out better than I expected. I knew it would be OK, I didn't think the boys would love it as much as they did.

The spices are being listed leaving amounts to your own taste. I don't see why you couldn't use it as a guide for seasoning lamb mince, or sausages-at least, I don't see it being limited to tofu.

You Will Need:

Extra Firm Tofu-sliced 1/4 inch thick in slabs and pressed dry of liquid between towels and weights for 30 minutes, changing toweling a few times.

4 Tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Smoked salt
Fennel Seeds
1 beef-flavoured soup cube, crushed
1 tablespoon sugar

Mix all together well and pour into a large baking dish. Arrange tofu slices, turning once to coat. Cover with cling film and let sit at least six hours, or overnight in the fridge.

Next day:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake 30 minutes, uncovered. Carefully turn slices with a fork (it will be fragile) and bake another 30-40 minutes or until quite firm and resembling the texture of sliced lamb.

Cool on a fresh plate (rather than sitting in excess oil) and chill, well wrapped until needed. To re-warm, I gave it about 1 1/2 minutes in the microwave.

Going Deaf

Watching a television commercial:

What I heard: "There are five self-abusers in this household."

What was said: "There are five cell-phone users in this household."

I mean, wow-that would suck, but really what kind of product could they possibly be selling to deal with that scenario? I knew I'd misheard by the time they started babbling about, "minutes."

Wild Weather

We missed the bad storm last evening, but the flooded fields are already attracting flocks of what appear to be pelicans. How do the birds find these places so quickly? Amazing.

Looking at the footage of the devastation in Iowa, really brought back the tornado for me. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it except perhaps when I find stray pieces of the old car in the garden-but I do remember feeling utterly overwhelmed by the scale of the mess. "How the hell will I ever get this all put back?" I remember wondering. You do, of course except when you find part of the Volvo in your flower bed. You get it put back, or torn down, or replaced. Neighbours you never met show up with chainsaws, and start clearing the debris. The Red Cross hands out super-heavy-duty plastic bin bags that you are still re-using years later to tarp things in your garage. People tell you, "It is only stuff", and while you're thankful to be alive, you were still kind of attached to your, 'stuff." Eventually, you recognise you can't salvage some sentimental items, so you take photographs, and then cart your possessions off in those super-heavy-duty bin bags from the Red Cross. They give you a free tetanus shot-just in case.

When the warnings were issued ahead of yesterday's storms, it seemed a bit overblown. While I doubt anyone at the Storm Prediction Center is pleased to be able to claim, "We told you so", it does drive home the point that warnings ought to be taken seriously. The low number of fatalities reflect the amount of time people had to prepare ahead of the storms.

I know I say this every spring, and I will keep saying it-purchase a weather radio you can programme to your location-it will be the best thirty dollars you ever spent on a piece of technology.

Buffalo Carp

I spent the first part of today at the Ak Sar Ben Aquarium with Danny. After admiring the carp, gars, and paddle nosed fish, we went to do a bit of grocery shopping. To our delight (and yes, he was practically giddy over this) sitting in the glass case at the fish department were Buffalo carp. I've never noticed that before-so we bought some.

Other than the obvious gefilte fish, does anyone have ideas for it? The fish was really inexpensive, so if Danny likes it, I could see going back to get more for the freezer.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Brace Yerselves

The weather service has been on at length all day about the impending storm system tomorrow. I never recall hearing news reports telling you to think about where you will be the next day, and plan accordingly for shelter, but I suppose they can see this setting up to have potential for serious damage.

Yeah, I'm not putting out my new plants until Sunday.

Kiddo is a bit of a weather nerd ( he keeps daily, detailed weather journals complete with printouts of radar and maps) with a fondness for statistics. Earlier today, he recited all the terrible tornadoes dating back to the early 20th century that hit Saunders County Nebraska in the month of April...because he keeps track of that sort of thing. I like data as much as the next person (really, I do) but his ability to bring out relevant (OK interesting) statistics and do the maths regarding frightens me. When I was seven I read comic books.

If you live in the Midwest, you may want to bring any fragile plants indoors tomorrow.

That Kid Reads Too Much

At the dentist:

Receptionist: (to Danny) Will you come back, and see us again in six months?

Danny: Yes, (Pause) unless you have some sort of horrible scandal, then I probably won't be back.

He didn't elaborate as to what sort of scandal that might be.


Better than being born in the loo at the Aragon.

They sound like a sweet couple, I hope they find each other.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


These are the Darwin variety mentioned in the post below.

Lime Tree, Garden Update

Mr. ETB bought me a lime tree today. It is a dwarf variety that will bear fruit, but is used mainly for the leaves in curries. Obviously, it will need to be brought indoors over cold seasons, but we've had pretty decent success with the bay laurel in a similar situation. I'm rather excited about this-I make quite a bit of curry.

Also purchased, a lovely rosemary bush (bagworms got the old one, and they are a nuisance to start from seed), and some petunias Danny selected for the containers at the front of the house.

We are currently harvesting:

Pea shoots
Mesclun mix lettuce (went to seed, and overwintered in containers-a fun surprise)
Beet greens
Turnip Greens
Nasturtiums (indoors)

Tulips-"Darwin" a beautiful reddish orange flower with yellow at the base. I planted eight bulbs last year, and we've had great luck with them as cut flowers (they've lasted over a week on my dining room table). Danny selected them (for the name, primarily) and I can't wait to get my hands on more this Fall. Sometimes I get carried away with flowers I really like.

Recently Planted:

Assorted lettuces
Baby Romaine
Nasturtiums (outdoors)
Parsley (flat)

Next Up:

Pole Beans

The Spring Affair is at the end of the month in Lincoln-that is a dangerous plant sale for me. I have very little will power in the face of some wonderful, exotic plant at a reasonable price. I've had good luck with everything I've bought there (well, the oregano died, but I did rather neglect it) and sadly, that just encourages me to spend more money.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Pesach Brownies- Classic Kosher Cooking, Sara Finkel

Yes, the photo sucks. Raymond should come live with us so I could have professional photography on the blog-but then he'd weigh 300 lbs. and hate me. So you're stuck with crappy photos. As the kids say, whatever.

Another year, another version of brownies. Really, there's only so much you can do with passover brownies (sour cream versions, egg-less, oil vs. margarine) but a good frosting will make them edible. Some recipes claim, "I would make these all year", but that is a flat-out lie. No one would willingly make Passover brownies during the year. All that said, for what they are, this batch was pretty good.

A few months back, I found a number of Jewish cookbooks at the library sale (someone must have been moving, and donated their cookbooks) and I'm really making good use of them. Classic Kosher Cooking by, Sara Finkel is just that-the classics. So far I've made the pesach spongecake (excellent), and chremslach which are a sort of dried fruit and matzo meal fritter (also excellent). The book is nicely hard-bound, and the type is easy to read across the kitchen counter which is more often than not, how I end up looking at cookbooks (oh, what I would give for more counter space). I can enthusiastically say it was well worth my .50 cents to purchase.

The frosting recipe comes from the same volume, and that one I would make use of during the year-it is wonderful.

You Will Need:

4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup salad oil
1 tablespoon orange juice
1/2 cup powdered cocoa
1 cup Pesach cake meal (finely ground matzos)
2 tablespoons potato starch
(3/4 cup chopped walnuts which I omitted)

preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 pan.

beat eggs, adding sugar slowly until fluffy. Stir in remaining ingredients. Bake 25-30 minutes taking care not to overbake. Cool, then frost and cut into squares.


1/2 cup powdered cocoa
1` cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water-scant
3 tablespoons margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (optional. I used it)

In a saucepan, mix cocoa, water, and sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook about ten minutes or until it reaches soft-ball stage. Remove from heat and beat in remaining ingredients. Continue to stir until thickened. Note- Much like fudge, it will begin to loose gloss as it thickens-that's when you should spread it. I didn't have trouble with it, but I also gave it my complete attention. I could see it failing horribly if you stopped stirring for 30 seconds or something.

Dandelion Jelly

I've never made dandelion jelly, but I have a yard full of dandelions, and a boiling water canner. I understand it has a delicate flavour-like grass. I'd be interested to hear if anyone has tried this, and whether the results are worth the effort of pulling apart all those dandelion heads.

Gone Native

Mr. ETB needed a new pair of dress shoes. Instead of coming home with his usual black wingtips, he proudly held up the pair of shiny, black Western boots the teenaged salesperson persuaded him to purchase instead. OK, I can wait a minute for that to sink in. Right. Cowboy boots. Those of you who personally know Mr. ETB should feel free to begin calling him, "Tex."

Mr. ETB is already 6'4". Add to that a nearly two inch heel, and he's really rather imposing-until you notice he's wearing cowboy boots.

"But you don't understand" he informed me, "These aren't riding horses boots, these are really nice boots like you'd wear to Keno on a Saturday night."

He's never played Keno, and hasn't been to a bar on a Saturday night in the last twenty years. I dunno, cowboy boots and a suit is a look, I guess. I just hope he doesn't feel inspired to try his hand at riding an electric bull, should he ever end up in a bar on a Saturday least, not in his good suit.

As my father in law used to say when something was in need of an exclamation, "Doggies!"

This is Where I Pass Along Some Middle Aged Wisdom

Yesterday afternoon, I trudged to the attic intending to pack away a few coats. Instead, I spent the better part of the afternoon disposing of rubbish written by my younger self. Two large boxes of youthful rubbish, mind. A paper shredder might be a reasonable investment for someone with a tendency to put thoughts to paper, but we live on a farm with a pit for burning, which packs a bit more symbolic impact, if you're into that sort of thing. I accomplished this task without wearing my glasses, lest I be tempted into thinking something was good enough that I might wish to "use it someday."

Right, so the middle aged wisdom part: Don't write poetry unless you are a 1960's confessional poet, and even then, it probably wasn't a good idea. I mean, if Anne Sexton had lived to my age, you know she would have regretted everything that came after, "I Have Been Her Kind". I have to think it would have been worse to die of embarrassment than carbon monoxide poisoning. My point is, you probably don't write very well, and the bastard you poured your heart out over in verse didn't deserve poetry-even really god-awful poetry. They might have deserved Anne Sexton's poetry, depending on how bad of a bastard we're talking about, but even then, only with the benefit of really overly dramatic reading.

I was going to advise putting the pen away, but that brings me to my next bit of old lady wisdom-the Internet is forever. Look, I know how fortunate I am being able to lug my embarrassing notebooks off to the pit for disposal, but if you put those profound thoughts of yours on Facebook, or Blogger, or wherever it is young people share their profound, unedited, you're screwed. Those over-written blog posts that describe some damned thing you baked as, redolent, infused, garlicky, perfumed...yeah, you're going to be stuck with that. Those toilet training posts you wrote accompanied by a photograph of your child giving a poop-satined high-five for the camera? Yep, at best he's going to hate you, at worst, you're looking at matricide. Deleting posts won't help. Kids, the Internet is forever.

I'd like to take this opportunity to publicly apologise to all my friends that I ever subjected to reading/listening to my youthful rubbish. I am really ever so sorry. So, so, so sorry. Learn from my mistakes kids-don't write poetry.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Allergy Warnings Passover Cake Meal

This year, the Passover cake meal comes with a nut allergy warning. Great, you need that for just about everything you bake. I ended up making a (much) less expensive substitute by grinding matzo in my electric coffee grinder. If I owned a food processor, I'd have used that.

Just a heads-up if you discover the warning at the last minute, you can still finish the cake you were baking. this is a real problem though. I know to stay away from the prepared mixes, but I really thought the staple ingredients were safe-obviously I was was wrong. A good lesson in remembering to read the labels of products every single time. Production lines change, as do ingredients.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Finished Candy Eggs

-and we're done.

Scroll down to earlier posts for more details. All told, this took about nine hours of work over the course of two days-not terrible. Having an allergic child has really forced me to consider do-it-yourself foods I never could have imagined tackling before.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Helpful Advice

-in the event you ever need to land a plane.

Chocolate/Buttercream Eggs in Real Shells

This will be a two-day project, but I wanted to share some observations made so far.

1. Drying eggs completely is essential. Once you have drained and rinsed your eggs, swab the inside with a q-tip to be sure all water and excess egg is removed. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with paper cups and place an egg in each, hole side up. Bake 10 minutes, then let cool completely in cups before removing to an egg carton for filling. If you have any water in the shells when you add chocolate, it will seize. You don't want that. You also want to harden the shells a bit, which the baking will do.

2. Don't worry about making the hole too large. At the end, you'll seal it with a sticker or some sort of decoration. It is more important to get it the proper size allowing for whatever candy you plan to fill it with. Once the shells have been baked, they are harder to widen-so plan ahead.

3). Pour the chocolate in using a tiny spoon, or if you prefer, a pastry bag. You'll need to coat the inside of the shell first in layers if you plan anything for the centre. If you're going for a solid egg, just go ahead and fill it. Again, Q-tips are a good way of working the chocolate around without being strong enough to damage the shell. Do this in layers, returning the shells to the fridge for a good half hour between coats. You did save the egg carton, didn't you? Good, that makes it easier to move them around.
I added some melted marshmallow around the buttercream yolk. You need to work fast if you go the marshmallow route as it firms back up quickly.

4). Buttercream: 1 stick of butter and about 4 cups icing sugar kneaded together and tinted. I made tiny yellow yolks which I then encased in larger white buttercream. These will be the centres of the eggs. You could use fondant if you prefer a candy that will hold up without refrigeration.

Extra buttercream can be used to fashion bunnies and chicks. OK, you can fashion anything you like, but I was trying to stay topical. Feel free to do the Stations of the cross out of buttercream if you feel inspired (why have I never done that in decorated cookies?! I have to remember to do that next year. Someone be in charge of reminding me, OK?).
Don't the bunnies look like they're having a bit of gossip at the chick's expense?

OK-I'll update the results tomorrow.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

How to Spend a 90 Degree Day

-I bought two winter coats. I couldn't pass up wool pea coats for $9.99. I almost bought the hot pink one on sale at $29.99. I like $9.99 better. I bought the same coat in grey as well.

I also came home with a pair of black, strappy shoes with impossibly high heels (I don't know why I did either). Those were under ten dollars as well.

I'm not being compensated by the company in any way to say this-get yourself to a K-Mart before all the good stuff is gone. You know you want a hot pink pea coat.