Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Something Stinky

"Gosh, I reek", I thought aloud as I poked my head inside my shirt looking for the source of the stench.

You know, it wouldn't kill my husband to let me know he's unwrapped a wedge of Stilton and is bringing it to room temperature in the dining room.

Gosh, I'm glad that odour wasn't me.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Red Lentil Curry

I picked up an Australian cookbook at the thrift store last week. While the recipe isn't traditional Indian cooking as I know it, the Australian take on red lentil curry was delicious.

From Confident Cooking Curry And Chilli Cookbook

1 cup red lentils, rinsed ( and rinsed, and rinsed) and drained

2 cups vegetable stock

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 2/3 oz. ghee

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 large green chili, seeded and finely chopped

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1/2 cup coconut milk

Place the lentils, stock and turmeric in a heavy pot. Bring to the boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook ten minutes.

While the lentils cook, heat the ghee in a frying pan and cook the onions until brown and soft Add the garlic, chili, cumin, and coriander. Cook, stirring for a few minutes until mixed. Stir the onion and spices into the lentils and add the tomato. Simmer over very low heat for 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings (salt and pepper) and then add the coconut milk, Stir through to re-warm and serve hot.

Naan II and Mint Chutney

Unlike the last naan I made, this recipe does not use yeast. It also comes up much puffier and less "pita-like." The recipe comes from my favourite Indian cookbook, The Spice Box by, Manju Shivraj Singh, as does the recipe for mint chutney.

I used bread flour and skim milk in mine without any bad results. I made a few changes in the technique such as having the milk at room temperature and adding the leavening agents with the dry ingredients.

For the Naan:

2 cups bread flour (you may need more, so keep it handy)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup milk (at room temperature)

2 tablespoons melted ghee, cooled to room temperature

1/2 cup of yoghurt (I used lowfat)

1 egg

1 tablespoon ghee for brushing tops

1 tablespoon onion seeds for topping

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. add the wet ingredients and mix well until you have a soft dough, adding more flour if needed. Let rise in a buttered bowl for four hours, covered.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Divide dough into four parts. Pull the dough with your hands into the shape of a footprint. Brush the top with a little ghee and top with some onion seeds. Wet the bottom with your other hand by dipping it first in water (it sounds weird, I know). Place on baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until nicely browned. They may stick a bit, so give them a good budge with a thin spatula and don't freak out if you have to really chop them off the sheet. It cleans up easily enough.

For the chutney:

2 cups chopped mint

2 medium onion, chopped

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 fresh green chili, seeded and chopped

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup water

Put everything in a blender and grind.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Saturday Night In Nebraska

I feel sort of guilty. For three years I kept Danny away from television and tonight I let him sit on my bed and watch both The Laurence Welk Show, and Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians. They've been running both shows on our local PBS channel for as long as I can remember and probably will forever. What else are you going to do on a Saturday night in Nebraska? Might as well dance to Guy Lombardo on the telly.

Danny was less impressed with the Laurence Welk Show, and seemed mildly upset by the freakish appearance of the performers.

"What's wrong with that lady mama?"

"Nothing is wrong with her baby. We all looked like that in 1975."

I think it was the Farrah Fawcet hair and the robin's egg blue eyeshadow that he found so disturbing, but the clothes were pretty outlandish too (floor-length Holly-Hobbie dresses, anyone?). At any rate, he seemed to prefer the look of men wearing tuxedos and a ton of Brill Cream in their hair on Guy Lomabardo. It's just like New Year's Eve-in late April.

While my little guy was busy learning the words to The Hop Scotch Polka ("Jump on one foot, jump on two, even if you look like a kangaroo...") I was able to get a good start on the fractur. Tracing out was a nightmare-even with a light table, but the embroidery is going easily. I'm pleased with the way the pearl cotton is working against the linen and so far, the colours seem to work (that is a dark green, though it does look black in the photo).

I'm not looking forward to doing all those leaves in satin stitches, but hey, it is supposed to be folk art-maybe no one will notice my cramped stitching. I'm arthritic and blind-what the heck was I thinking?

Anyway, Passover ends tomorrow at sundown and as far as I'm concerned, not soon enough. With the exception of the gefilte fish, everything has been made from scratch because kosher convenience foods just aren't available around here. It looks like we'll have one box of matzoh left over, which was pretty good calculating on my part (I bought five boxes of regular and two egg for Danny). I am soooo ready to revive my sourdough starter and bake a rye bread.

Anyone want to meet at the Mobil Station tomorrow night for a pizza? I'm serious, our tiny town has a gas station and they make the most incredible pizzas. Someone tried opening a pizzeria in town and lasted half a year-because they couldn't compete with the Mobil. Hey, sometimes you find really great food in strange places.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Well I Hope So

I'm all for healthy eating (in theory if not in fact) but the labeling of vegetables as "Fat Free" is beyond absurd.

In what is probably not a good sign, I looked at the ad and thought, "Deep fried pickles might be tasty."

Passover Eggplant Parmesan

The best part of this dinner is how little it cost. I stopped by the Warehouse Surplus and bought cherry tomatoes for .25 cents, and an eggplant for .50 cents. The rest, I improvised from what I had on hand at home.

I suspected eggplant would take well to being breaded with matzoh meal, given how coarse it is. I didn't bother making a layer of actual matzo in it to mimic pasta because I don't make my year-round eggplant Parmesan that way. You could, but this is already a pretty hearty meal-though I'm sure it would be a spiffy sandwich next day between two slices of matzoh. I think I just invented an eggplant parm matzo sub. I should copyright that-it would sell well in Boston. I made my own sauce and am giving the recipe here, but you could do anything really, or open a jar. I won't rat you out.

Anyhoo, you can probably imagine how great this smells. I'd totally invite you over for dinner. I would. There's more than enough for company.

You Will Need:

1 eggplant
Kosher salt
2 cups matzo meal
2 eggs, beaten
1-pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small tin of tomato sauce
½ tin tomato paste
¼ cup chopped black olives
1 large bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped, fresh rosemary
8 button mushrooms, chopped
1 large, sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large carrot, finely diced
Olive oil for sautéing
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1 cup pecorino Romano cheese, grated
Oil for frying

Peel and slice the eggplant lengthwise. Layer in a colander sprinkling with kosher salt between layers. Let stand 30 minutes to drain. Rinse well and pat dry before coating and frying. While you wait for the eggplant, make the sauce.

In a large frying pan, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, rosemary and olives until soft. Add the mushrooms and cook a few minutes more. Stir in the dried herbs.

In a large pot, combine the cherry tomatoes, the sauce and paste. Add the sautéed vegetables and stir well to combine. Depending on the brand of tomato sauce/paste, you may need salt-test at this point. The matzo meal breading for the eggplant is not salted (though the eggplant will retain some from soaking, so take that into account when adding salt. Cheese can also add quite a bit, depending on the type you may need to add water if the sauce is too thick at this point, but remember the cherry tomatoes will give off water as they cook. Cook, covered until cherry tomatoes are soft –about 25 minutes.

Place matzo meal on a large plate. In a large bowl, beat the two eggs. Dip the eggplant first in egg and then in matzoh meal. Transfer to a plate. When all are coated, return to fridge for a few minutes as oil heats. This will help the crumbs adhere better.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Begin heating frying oil in a heavy pot or pan. Grease a baking dish.

When oil is hot, fry eggplant taking care to drain the slices well. When all pieces are fried, begin assembling.

In the bottom of the dish, place a ladle of sauce. Top with eggplant, more sauce, and cheese. Make the second layer being sure to end with a cheese layer (it won't matter if you forget, it just looks nicer when browned.

Bake the casserole for 25-30 minutes or until nicely browned and bubbling. Let stand 10-15 minutes before serving.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Fried Coke

Have you heard about fried Coke? I hadn't until tonight. The idea is to take a lump of frozen, Coke flavoured dough and deep fry it and then top it with cola syrup, whipped cream and cinnamon sugar.

Look, everyone here knows I'm not phobic about deep frying-I deep fried a goose in its own rendered fat for heaven's sake. But somehow...I don't know, this seems so...wrong. That said, it probably does taste pretty good.

Seems like being a southern invention it should have been made with Dr. Pepper. Apparently there is a southern tradition of eating frozen Snickers bars and drinking Dr. Pepper (or so my husband and father-in-law claim).

Anyone ever deep fry something really strange that they'd like to share?

Iced Curry Soup

It was unusually warm here today (near 80) and my husband was out driving in the city in a shirt, tie, and a car without air conditioning. I thought a cold dinner was in order. Thankfully, he liked it unlike our citrus-hating son who gagged on the first spoonful as though we'd fed him potted groundhog or something. I suppose it is a legitimate dislike-he had no idea it contained orange juice until he tasted it. I'm actually pretty surprised he could taste it beneath yoghurt and curry, but I guess if you really detest something, you'll spot it. I'm not going to force it on him-after all, I wouldn't want to eat a cucumber.

The soup worked well for Passover as it does not contain beans or flour.

The soup is spicy and if you're not used to curry, you can cut back on the powder quite a bit. I also used a generous grinding of black pepper which could be omitted. It wasn't flaming hot, but it did leave a bit of a burn.

From The Best Of Food And Wine Collection, 1988

You Will Need:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 large tart apple, peeled and chopped

1 large baking potato, peeled and diced

1/2 cup dry white wine (I actually used vermouth and it was fine)

2 cups chicken stock (I used vegetable stock) divided

1 thin slice of ginger

1 teaspoon salt (omit if using a salted stock)

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 cup fresh orange juice

1 cup plain yoghurt

In a pot, cook the onions and garlic over medium heat until softened but not browned-about five minutes. Add the curry powder and cook another three minutes. Stir in the apple, potato and wine. Cook until the wine evaporates-about three minutes. Stir in 1 cup of the chicken broth and the ginger. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until potato is very soft-about 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and cool slightly. Puree the soup in a blender (carefully opening the pouring hole now and then to let steam escape) in batches until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in the rest of the stock. Chill several hours. Before serving whisk in the yoghurt and orange juice. Serve in chilled bowls (I used small mugs so it could be sipped).

Passover Mixed Vegetable Bake

The recipe for this dish is based on the one in Jewish Vegetarian Cooking by, Rose Friedman. I omitted the green pepper (because nobody would eat it) and added herbs. It was pleasant, though I do think it could have used some cheese. That's probably just my inner-Midwesterner talking, but some ricotta wouldn't hurt it any.

We ate ours cold, though the dish is intended to be eaten warm.

You Will Need:

2 packages of frozen spinach, cooked and drained well

2 medium onions, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

Olive oil for frying

2 stalks celery, chopped

5-6 carrots, grated

salt and pepper

A pinch of ground ginger

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 eggs

1/3 cup matzoh meal

1/3 cup vegetable stock, brought to a boil

Cook and drain the spinach well. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a pan with some oil, cook the onion, garlic and celery until soft but not browned-about ten minutes over medium heat. Add the rest of the vegetables and mix well. Mix in the tomato paste, eggs and matzoh meal. Put mixture in a greased baking dish and pour on the boiling stock. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes or until top is browned.

Eat hot or cold.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Potato Chips And Passover

Over the past few days I have hits from searches wondering if potato chips are Kosher for Passover. Well, it depends on the oil they are fried in. Corn, soy and peanut would not be acceptable. As far as I know, sunflower seed oil is OK but you might want to check it out further because I'm not positive. There seems to be considerable debate from year to year and it varies by group as well (for example, Sephardic Jews eat rice during Passover).

You can of course buy kosher potato chips, which eliminates the guesswork. There used to be a brand we bought on the East coast called "Dirty Potato Chips" where they did not wash off the potato starch making a crunchier chip. They were pretty good chips. If you can find them, they're worth the extra money.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Actually, "Big Boy" Is The Name Of The Train

Oh, The things adults will do to entertain a child.

I'm of the belief that children should not be burdened with grown-up worries-particularly when there isn't much to be done. In an attempt to keep life as normal as possible for Danny, we've been going completely overboard in showing him a good time. Yeah, I know.

First stop today was Lauretizen Gardens. Outside, they have a park (a good climb up a steep hill of steps) where two Union Pacific engines are on display. If you're not a railroad enthusiast, "Big Boy", and "Centennial" probably won't mean anything to you. If you are, then you probably know how important Omaha was in railroad history. It was fun.

Yes, That's me and no, I don't have a moustache. I'm going to assume it was the light and our cheap camera. I do have a head full of grey hair, which the camera captured true to life. Thanks. I cropped out my big fat arms-because that's what photoshop is for.

Then, in what I can only assume was temporary insanity, we took Danny to an arcade. A very dumpy, old-timey arcade. If you've ever wondered if there is a parallel universe where it is still 1981, I have news for you. The place is called, "Nickel A Play". Dark, loud (oh God, it was loud) and reeking in cleaning solution (so bad your eyes burn) it was easily the most fun our kid has ever had-in his entire life. Nothing will ever be as exciting as sitting and playing the driving games. He had a serious melt-down when it was time to leave-but really, I can't blame him.
Come on, seriously. Look at that kid having fun. You'd cry too if your parents dragged you home to eat beets for dinner and take a bath. Driving games are much more fun.

"I don't want today to be over!" he wailed as my husband carried him through the car park. It was awfully hard not to laugh. I can remember being that age and not wanting fun days to be over either.

I managed to find a driving game I liked-a speedboat navigating game. It took some actual skill and by the time we left I had the fourth highest score. I'm not sure that's something to be proud of, but I also managed to hurt my shoulder! Because I'm an old, old, old woman. Old. Too old to find an arcade game that engaging. I can't believe I'm actually sore from it. The games are better than they used to be and you really do need to hang on to the steering wheel as it jerks about and responds with actual tension. Still-I'm probably the first person to manage actual pain from playing it. Gosh, I suppose that ought to be embarrassing.

Anyway, I thought I'd share some photos from the best day ever that nobody wanted to be over.

Gefilte Fish From The Freezer Case

I never knew gefilte fish could taste this good. Seriously. The stuff in the jar? No more. From now on I'm buying the frozen loaf from Ungers.

The fish comes frozen and wrapped in a sort of parchment. You toss it in a large pot of boiling water with two sliced onions, four carrots and some salt and pepper. Reduce the heat, simmer it for an hour and before you know it the house smells like your grandmother's-without the mothballs and mildew. OK, maybe a little mildew, as we have quite the home library.

I didn't think Danny would like it, but he tore into it like it was cake. The seasoning mixture was sweet, but it also had enough horseradish/pepper bite to balance it out.

Every year I look at the fish grinder (the old kind that hook onto the counter) and think about making my own gefilte fish. I'm pretty sure I'll never bother-at least not as long as this wonderful frozen fish is available. Honestly, it was nothing like that sickening stuff in the jar. I can see buying this year round-it is too good to only have during a holiday.

The rest of dinner was pretty simple-chips, sour cream and some beets.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Passover Spinach Cheese Bake

Not exactly a spinach pie, but still pretty good considering it is made with matzoh. It can be eaten cold, though it does tend to become a bit heavier.

You Will Need:

6-8 slices Passover matzoh
1 cup grated provolone
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1 large carton cottage cheese
2 packages frozen spinach, cooked and drained
a dash of garlic powder
2 tablespoons dried onion flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup crushed potato chips

Cook the spinach and drain well.

Mix in a large bowl with everything except the matzoh and potato chips. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a 9x13 baking dish, make a layer of matzoh and then cover with the spinach/cheese mixture. Repeat with a second layer of matzoh. Top with crushed potato chips. Bake 25-35 minutes or until cheese is melted and chips begin to brown.

Serve hot or cold.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Drop Coffee, Not Bombs

We gave Danny his first balsa wood glider today. He took a look at it, and said:

"It's a Sapp Brothers Plane."

(Sapp Brothers is a chain of truck stops in Iowa and Nebraska that are known for their trademark giant coffee pot)

We're not really sure why Danny thinks this, but it sure is preferable to him pretending it is a fighter plane.

Meatless Stuffed Peppers

These vegetarian stuffed peppers were improvised from what I had in the fridge and couldn't be easier. The filling can be made well ahead. This will make 6 stuffed peppers with plenty left over to serve as a side dish.

You Will Need:

4-6 large red bell peppers
1 cup uncooked basmati rice
2 cups vegetable broth (cubes OK-adjust salt accordingly)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, finely diced
4 stalks celery, finely diced
1 large sweet onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablesppons chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
¼ cup black olives, chopped
Grated hard cheese

Cook the rice in the vegetable broth (bring broth to a boil, add rice, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat, let stand five minutes. Fluff with fork).

In a large frying pan, heat the oil and add the vegetables and herbs. Cook over low heat about fifteen minutes or until soft. You don't need to overcook the filling as it will bake more in the oven with the peppers.

Slice the tops off peppers. Clean out seeds, and fill with rice mixture. Top with a bit of cheese if you like. Place in a roasting pan and fill ¼ the way up the side of peppers with water. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until soft. If you have extra rice filling, heat it in a small pan and bake at the same time.

Serve hot with any extra rice mixture

Candied Matzoh Crunch

This candy is so good you might want to buy a couple boxes of matzoh to make it even if you're not Jewish or celebrating Passover.

The recipe is HERE

I think I'll be making a batch of this to send to my in-laws. This stuff is really good.

Passover Chocolate Cake

This is the chocolate cake recipe in Simca's Cuisine, by Simone Beck. I found the adapted for passover version in The Best Of Food And Wine, 1995. I think you'll prefer it to a mix from a box (and those Passover cake mixes in boxes are close to six bucks! Even using expensive chocolate in this cake, it didn't come close in expense).

Set aside some uninterrupted time to do this. The recipe didn't mention it, but I added my sugar very, very slowly-about a teaspoon at a time, which helped the eggs beat higher. The same goes for folding in the Passover cake flour-do it a very small amount at a time and the results will be better.

I made a small change in omitting the almonds due to allergy. I compensated by adding an additional two tablespoons of cake flour, but I will give the recipe as written for the nuts. I also opted for bittersweet chocolate because I had some expensive stuff I wanted to use before the heat of a Nebraska summer destroyed it. We prefer our chocolate a bit on the bitter side anyway.

You Will Need:

For the cake:

2 tablespoons slivered almonds

3/4 cup sugar

6 ounces German sweet chocolate (I believe she means the type made by Bakers)coarsely chopped

12 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 large eggs, separated at room temperature

1/4 cup Passover cake flour (very fine matzo meal)

Pinch of salt


1/4 cup slivered almonds

3 1/2 ounces German sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons strong coffee

3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into bits

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease an 8 inch springform pan and cover the bottom with parchment. Grease the parchment. Flour lightly with Passover cake flour and knock-out excess.

In a food processor, pulse the almonds with 1 tablespoon of the sugar until very finely ground. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, set over simmering water (or use the microwave-I did) melt the chocolate and butter. Remove bowl from heat and let cool slightly.

In another medium bowl, beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until very thick and pale yellow. Add the sugar slowly. Stir in the warm chocolate until smooth. Fold in the cake flour and ground almonds.

In another bowl (I used copper) beat the egg whites and salt until stiff peaks form. Stir in 1/4 of the egg whites to the chocolate mixture and then fold in the rest. Just fold until combined-don't deflate the eggs.

Scrape into prepared pan and bake about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out with a few moist crumbs and the top springs back when pressed lightly. Remove to a rack and cool in pan 1 hour.

Loosen sides with a knife and invert cake onto rack. Let cool completely before removing parchment.

Make the glaze:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Toast the almonds on a baking sheet about 7 minutes or until golden.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the chocolate and coffee and stir until melted and smooth over low heat (about 3 minutes). Remove from pan and stir in the butter until mixed.

Invert the cake onto a serving plate and place 2 inch wide strips of waxed paper beneath to catch any run over. Using a metal spatula, spread the glaze evenly over the top and sides of the cake. Discard the strips. Arrange toasted nuts in a ring around the top and refrigerate the cake at least 30 minutes before serving.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ask The Hive Mind

I know we have some creative/artistic people visiting here so I thought I might pick your brains for a moment. I am in the planning stages of a needlework project that will eventually be a wedding present. I am making the couple a Fractur (in a design similar to THIS). Instead of pen and ink/watercolour, I'm thinking of embroidering it on a rather nice piece of Irish Linen I've been saving for years (I knew I'd use it-eventually). It is a natural coloured linen and for thread I was thinking of using THIS cotton (I have about a dozen balls of it already-in the wrong colours). Is there a pearl cotton you think is better (other than DMC)?

My questions are:

A) Will this look cheap? Should I just bite the bullet and buy them a domed cheese board or something? I will not be attending the wedding, just sending a gift.

B) Do you think the natural/rough linen will look good with pearl cotton? I'm going for a folk-art look.

C) How would you mount and frame it? Exposed? Under glass?

I really would appreciate any thoughts. I have a few months to get this completed.

Cinnamon Rolls II

I bolted awake at 4:40 this morning to what I thought was wind shaking the house in a thunderstorm. Turns out, there was an earthquake in downstate Illinois that was felt as far east as Ohio and west to Nebraska.

If you're wide awake at that hour there really isn't much of an excuse if you fail to make breakfast. Cinnamon rolls sounded good.

The last time Illinois was rocked by an earthquake I was sitting in my mother's kitchen having a cup of coffee. Suddenly, the dishes in the sink started clanging about.

"It's the cow upstairs taking exercise." she stated, matter of factly.

It wasn't. She didn't like her upstairs neighbour any better after finding out it was an actual earthquake, but it did become a favourite family story.

These cinnamon rolls are not the ones I have in my archives so I'll call them Cinnamon Rolls II. This recipe comes from the Better Homes And Gardens Homemade Bread Book. I've very nearly baked my way thorough that volume and like everything else, this recipe was simple and the results delicious. The only change I made was the addition of 3/4 cup raisins which I plumped in hot water and drained well before using.

You Will Need:

For the dough:
3-4 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons regular granulated yeast
1 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

For the filling/topping:
3/4 cup plumped raisins
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons cinnamon
icing made from confectioner's sugar and water mixed until smooth

In a large bowl, mix 2 cups of the flour and yeast. In a saucepan, heat the butter, sugar, salt and milk until just warmed and the butter is melted. Cool to lukewarm. Add to flour and then add the two eggs. Mix 30 seconds on low speed on a hand mixer and then three minutes on high, scraping sides as needed. By hand, stir in 1 1/2-2 more cups of flour until no longer sticky. Knead until smooth and elastic-about ten minutes. Place in a buttered bowl, turn to coat and cover. let rise until doubled (about 1 1/2 hours).

Punch down dough and divide in two. Cover and let rest ten minutes.

Roll each half into a rectangle and brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with Cinnamon sugar and raisins. Roll carefully and seal seam. Cut each half into 12 pieces and place in a well-buttered 9x13 pan. Cover and let rise again until almost doubled 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Bake rolls 18-25 minutes or until golden. While still hot, spread with sugar glaze.

Speaking Of The Dutch And Cheese...

A story from The Collected Works Of Mama Magruder.

This is the story of how the Hoooode Oooode Gooode Cheese (That's Gouda to those in the know) came to America. You see, for many years Americans were unaware of the delights of Hoooode Oooode Gooode Cheese, that is until two cheese makers named Hugo and Pieter decided to send some. One day, Hugo said to Pieter:

"Jah, let us put on our wooden shoes and clop over to the windmill to make Hoooode Oooode Gooode cheese so we can send it to America for people to enjoy." Said Pieter.
"Jah, good idea Hugo."

And so they put on their wooden shoes (for everyone in Holland wears wooden shoes) and Clop-Clop-Clop, walked over to their windmill where they made cheese. It was an old windmill, and when they opened the huge wooden door it made a terrific "squeak", that was really more of a groan. Pieter and Hugo removed their wooden shoes at the door as they had seen the Japanese do when they visited Japan (except of course the Japanese worse soft shoes, not wooden ones) and set about making the Hoooode Oooode Gooode cheese to send to America.

First, Hugo boiled a huge vat of milk. Then, Pieter added the cultures. With a huge curd knife that was really an old battle sword, they took turns cutting the curds, for that was tiring work. Then, Hugo poured the curdled milk into cheesecloth and they hoisted it way, way, way up to the very top of the windmill's ceiling and let it drip. When it had drained, they lowered the cheese, placed it in a press and then Hugo melted some bright red paraffin wax and coated the cheese.

Said Pieter:

"Goodnight, little Hoooode Oooode Gooode cheese. We be back in three months to see if you are stinky enough to send to America."

And so they returned to their little cottage to watch The Price Is Right on their satellite dish. Hugo had a wall calendar featuring milkmaids that wasn't exactly exploitive but probably not in line with contemporary Dutch milkmaid reality. Nonetheless, he took a bright red marker and drew a happy face on the first day December as a reminder to check on the sleeping Hoooode Oooode Goode cheese.

A few months later, Hugo and Pieter were watching The Price Is Right, and Hugo got up to use the water closet. On the way, he passed the calendar and noticed the bright red happy face and yelled to Pieter in the next room:

"Jah, Pieter! Today we must check the Hoooode Oooode Gooode cheese to see if it is stinky enough to send to America."

And so they did. First, the put on their wooden shoes. Clop-Clop-Clop they went, out to the windmill. "Squeak", went the gigantic wooden door, and off came their shoes in the doorway.

"Hoooode Oooode Gooode cheese, it is us-the cheese makers Pieter and Hugo. We have come to check on your stinkiness. Are you stinky?"

Pieter leaned into the room where the brightly wrapped cheese lay sleeping. He sniffed deeply "sniiiiiiiiif"

"Nope. Not stinky enough. Go back to sleep Hoooode Oooode Gooode cheese-we see you in another three months."

Three months passed, and now Pieter and Hugo were at home watching re-runs of Sex And The City when Pieter said to Hugo:

"Jah, we should go check the Hoooode Oooode Gooode cheese."

And so they did. They put on their wooden shoes and clop-clop-clop, out to the windmill they went. They opened the great wooden door, "squeak", and removed their shoes inside. Hugo stuck his nose into the Hoooode Oooode Gooode cheese's room and asked:

"Are you stinky?"

And it was. Oh, it was so very stinky. This made the cheese makers Pieter and Hugo very happy, for now the Hoooode Oooode Gooode cheese was ready to ship to America. Pieter went to his small desk in the corner of the windmill and took a large quill that he dipped in an inkwell. On a sticky label he drew a picture of a windmill and the words:

Hoooode Oooode Gooode cheese from Holland, with hugs and kisses from the cheese makers. Pieter took the label and slapped it on the wheel of cheese in bright red wax and took it to the post office to send to America.

One day, Danny's mama was shopping in the Hy-Vee grocery store on Q Street in West Omaha. Danny needed to use the bathroom, which was unfortunate as the bathroom at the Q Street Hy-Vee in West Omaha, Nebraska is the loudest bathroom in the entire world. It's true, ask anyone. What's worse, the loud flush is amplified by the tiled floors and high ceilings. Oh, it is a ferociously loud bathroom-but Danny had to go.

"I have to go, I have to go I have to go!" wailed Danny.

So Mama parked the grocery carriage by the cheese department next to the bathroom and they went. Danny made sure to place both hands over his ears as mama flushed because he already knew that the bathrooms at the Hy-Vee grocery store at Q Street in West Omaha, Nebraska were the loudest bathrooms on Earth. It's true, ask anybody.

Still walking with his hands over his ears, they returned to the grocery carriage they had parked next to the cheese department, which was less a department, than a single case display.

"Look mama", said Danny, "What is that bright red cheese with the windmill on it?"

Mama looked, and read the label.

"It is Hoooode Oooode Goode cheese from Holland, with hugs and kisses from the cheese makers."
"Can we buy it?"
"Well, I don't know-it is awfully stinky."
"Can we have it? Can we have it? Can we have it?" Danny clamored.

Surely you know it is impossible to resist the lure of brightly waxed Hoooode Oooode Goode cheese festooned with a hand drawn windmill and a love letter from Holland.

And that is the story of how the Hoooode Oooode Goode cheese came to America, specifically the Hy-Vee grocery store on Q Street in West Omaha, Nebraska.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Sourdough Toss-Off Onion Rings

Thankfully, I'm not a fan of onion rings so I wasn't tempted to eat any of these. I did give a piece the old chew/spit treatment and I can honestly say these are unlike any onion rings I've ever eaten-in a good way. The boys liked them.

I'm thinking I need to make these again and try replacing the sparkling water with Cel-Ray soda. I'd also consider using the toss-off and a beer to batter cod. I love the idea of being able to use something I was just going to throw away.

I did end up needing about twice the amount of sparkling water than the recipe called for, but I think my starter is probably a bit less hydrated than most.

The recipe may be found at My Kitchen In Half Cups.


I seem to be taken with cooking things I cannot eat. Today's offering on the list of food guaranteed to send your pancreas into spasms is a caponata from The Best Of Food And Wine, 1995.

My husband bought me something like a decade's worth of these books at the thrift store and I'm really enjoying them. Food and Wine magazine does an excellent job of offering detailed instructions, and even though the caponata had multiple steps, it was easy to follow.

My husband just had some for lunch and really enjoyed it. Danny is still trying to decide how he feels about eggplant, though he's pleased enough with the capers and olives.

The recipe did not call for salting the eggplant and letting it drain, but I did so anyway. Cut the cubes and place in a colander with a tablespoon of salt tossed throughout. Let drain for about 40 minutes. Rise and use as the recipe calls for.

You Will Need:

3/4 plus 2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

Sea Salt

2 red bell peppers, sliced lengthwise

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 16 ounce tin crushed tomatoes in sauce

Several parsley stems

a few fresh thyme leaves

6 stalks of celery from the heart, with leaves, thinly sliced crosswise

1 medium eggplant (I used 4 Japanese style ones) peeled and cut into cubes

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

1 cup green olives, pitted

1/2 cup capers, rinsed

salt and pepper

Prepare the eggplant as above and set aside.

In a large, deep pot combine 1/4 cup of the olive oil with the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until soft and translucent-about 5 minutes. Add the peppers and and cover cooking until softened-about another 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook until fragrant-about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, parsley stems and thyme sprigs. Cover and simmer gently, stirring occasionally until the onions are tender-about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, heat the 2 tablespoons of oil and add the celery. Cook over moderate heat until they begin to soften-about 8 minutes. Transfer celery to a bowl. In the same pan, add the 1/2 cup oil and add the rinsed and dried eggplant, cooking over medium heat until lightly browned-about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the eggplant and celery to the pot with the tomatoes and onions. Cover and simmer until all the vegetables are soft-about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the sugar into the red wine and stir to dissolve. Add the capers and olives to vinegar.

When vegetables are cooked, stir in the vinegar, capers and olives. Re-warm about two minutes.

Serve caponata warm or at room temperature. Can be kept in fridge two days, but return to room temperature before serving.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tofu With Yoghurt, Cumin, And Other Good Things

Extra firm tofu was on deep sale last week so I stocked-up. Usually, I deep fry it in oil and then stir-fry it with vegetables marinated in sesame oil and black bean garlic paste. Not the healthiest way to use an otherwise good-for-you food, so I looked around the "internets" for something new to try.

I had serious doubts about THIS recipe-but I was wrong. It was probably the best tofu I've ever made. I didn't grill it, but it did fine in a frying pan. I served it with some sauteed carrots and red pepper and basmati rice with raisins. Danny (my vegetarian son) devoured it, and even my carnivorous husband put a serious dent in the platter. I don't have much leftover.

At first glance, olive oil, garlic and yoghurt seem an odd mixture, but the cumin and garam masala really bring it together well.

Next time, I might try baking it, or possibly firing up the grill. I'm still not able to really eat, which is disappointing as I really liked the flavour of this dish.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Where There's Smoke...

...there's Kansans.

We're getting an extremely high wind blowing up here from the south today which is unfortunate timing as the Kansans have been doing a controlled burn of agricultural land on our border. I guess the people in Lincoln woke to a smoke-filled city this morning. Looking south, I can still see some haze hanging over that area, but up here anyway it has been clear.

If I hadn't read the warnings on the NOAA website to stay indoors, I never would have known. Where we live, everyone burns their rubbish in pits and this time of year, as farmers are getting ready to plough, there's a fire every other day. Somewhere in my prednisone addled-brain a bell went off this morning: I guess breathing all that smoke is bad for you. Then, a second bell went off that reminded me I've spent my life living in two of the most polluted cities in the United States and that whatever the Kansans are slashing and burning off their fields probably doesn't come close to the air quality issues I had living next to Logan Airport for ten years.

There's got to be a "Kansas City Barbecue" joke in this somewhere, but I'm just not finding it.

I Don't Like To Waste

I'll say this-you simply haven't lived until you've experienced having your eyelids swell to twice their normal size. I have a face like an ass at the moment-aren't you glad I'm sharing this? Actually, I look like a space alien-with an ass for a face-you get the idea.

I gave up and let my husband and son feed themselves the past couple days. Fortunately, Danny is the kind of kid who is happy eating a plate of lima beans and brown rice (then again, with enough butter and salt that is kind of heaven on a plate) as long as he gets a bowl of yoghurt with blackberry jam mixed in-so papa had it easy preparing dinner.

Before the full-extent of my current misery was to become known, I'd bought a few produce items that were sitting in the fridge needing attention. It looked like today was going to be the "use-it-or-lose-it" day so I headed into the kitchen completely uninspired.

First up were the baby artichokes. Thankfully, they are easy to prepare and don't require all the trimming of the larger ones. I plopped them in a big pot of water with a tablespoon of lemon juice and let them boil away half covered for about 20 minutes. That was easy. I trimmed the leaves away (to eat later with some of that homemade mayonnaise) and placed the trimmed chokes in a bowl with 1 cup chopped Kalamata olives, ¼ cup small cubes of Pecorino Romano, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar and some thyme. This will be served with crotons made from stale sourdough and some salad greens. There you have it-a first course.

Next up were the beets. That was easy as well. I washed them and placed the unpeeled beets in a covered casserole. I baked them about 1 hour at 400 degrees F. and then let them stand, covered for another 25 minutes before wiping off the skins with a paper towel. Great, the beets are ready to be eaten with salads, or cheese through the week. That was easy too.

Ah, the rhubarb. I live for the first rhubarb of spring. Unfortunately, I couldn't think of a damned thing to do with it beyond baking it. Turns out, that was a good call and I'll look forward to pouring it over vanilla ice cream or custard if I can summon the energy to make some. The syrup from cooking is excellent stirred into a nice cold glass of seltzer water. To roast rhubarb:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut rhubarb into 1 inch slices. Cover with granulated sugar (about 1 cup sugar to 4 cups cut rhubarb). Add about ½ cup water and bake until soft. That's it. Delicious.

I have some tofu marinating in spices and yoghurt (yeah, that's what I thought too, but I'm more open minded when I'm not eating it (heh)) and some Japanese eggplants waiting to be turned into something. Overall, I think I did a pretty good job of using what I had without waste. Mama hates waste. Hates it.

Film at eleven-if I can stay awake long enough to serve and photograph the meal.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Old Dutch Cheese Meteorites

Hey, you know what? I like the white cheddar flavouring in the Dutch Crunch popcorn as much as the next person, but I think they went a bit overboard in this bag-what do you think? The two large white objects are solid (and quite heavy) masses of congealed powdered cheese coating that never did make it onto the actual popcorn. Sometimes, you get small clumps of the cheese in a bag of popcorn and that's always kind of nice-that soft, squishy salty cheesey grit against your teeth. This? No, that's just too much cheesy pleasure-for anyone. Certainly me. We added the apple for scale-would you lookit the size of them there cheese balls? I could roll those suckers in chopped nuts and give Kaukuna a run for the cheese-ball/log market.

I should note that I actually had to stop my husband from eating them. He was really going to do it. I think I'll put them out in the yard for the deer-as a salt lick.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Curries, Chutney, Coconut Rice And Fried Snacks

Admittedly, making curries when you're suffering stomach ills isn't the most obvious thing-but the rest of my family still needs to eat. I did sample about two tablespoons of dinner just so I could say if I liked it (I did) but I'm afraid this sort of thing is off my menu for a while.

The dinner consisted of curried potatoes and peas, a chickpea curry with coconut rice and apple yoghurt and tomato chutney as sides. I also made some fried snacks from chickpea flour. Those, I was less crazy about, though the flavour was good and they were light and crunchy. I should have cut them much thinner or forced them through a sieve so they would look like noodles, but this worked OK.

This whole meal was built around my inability to toss the remaining ¼ cup of coconut milk left over from the cake and frosting. Talk about thrifty! I was thinking I would need paneer and ghee so I made both and ended-up forgetting to use them. I guess I can make naan and saag tomorrow. I swear, my mind just hasn't been right this week and I'm blaming it on the mega doses of prednisone to counteract the iodine allergy on Tuesday. This has been the most miserable week (I won't go into the details, being a food blog and all) made all the worse by the feeling of being a hamster running in a wheel (not so good for getting much sleep either, but damn, my cupboards are tidy. I have one more dose of this stuff to go and probably a week after until the effects start fading, but wow, did this week ever stink. Well, enough about that, and on to the food.

You Will Need:

For The Chutney:

1 pint grape tomatoes
1 medium red onion, chopped
¼ cup chopped dried apricots
1-cup sultanas
1 large sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon salt
A few flakes of dried red pepper

Toss it all in a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook until tomatoes pop and most of the liquid evaporates. Cool, pack in jars and use within a week.

For The Apple Yoghurt:

1 apple, finely chopped
1-cup plain yoghurt
1-tablespoon honey

Mix well and serve with curries.

For the Potatoes:

2 tablespoons oil
4-5 boiled potatoes, drained and quartered
1 cup cooked green peas
3-4 shallots, finely sliced
1-tablespoon madras curry powder
Salt to taste

Cook the shallots in the oil until softened. Add the peas, potatoes and curry powder. Mix well and cook a few minutes more. Adjust salt and serve.

For The Chickpeas:

4 cups cooked chickpeas
3 tablespoons oil
3 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped ginger root
Salt to taste
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons coriander
½ cup hot water
2 teaspoons garam masala powder

Cook the onions, garlic and ginger in the oil in a large frying pan until golden and softened. Add the chickpeas, then the salt, cayenne, turmeric, coriander and hot water. Increase heat and cook off excess water. Boil for a minute or so and remove from heat. Stir in garam masala and serve hot over coconut rice.

For The Coconut Rice:

Stir in ¼ cup of coconut milk to cooked, hot rice.

For The Chick Pea Flour Crackers:

1-cup chickpea flour
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1-teaspoon oil
½ cup (or more) water for mixing
2 cups oil for frying

Mix the dry ingredients and rub in the oil. Add enough water to make a stiff dough. Heat the oil for frying. Cut into long strips (or force through a wide-holed sieve if you have one). Add to hot oil and fry until deep gold. Store in airtight container.

Friday, April 11, 2008


Today, I conquered my fear of making mayonnaise. I'd always been under the impression it was difficult and could curdle badly. I was wrong. It was simple, fast and once you taste the homemade stuff nothing else will ever quite seem good enough. I did mine with a wire whisk in a metal bowl. It can, I'm told be done in a blender of food processor.

The recipe is from Mastering The Art Of French Cooking.

You Will Need:

3 egg yolks at room temperature

1 1/2 cups olive oil, gently warmed

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder

2 tablespoons boiling water

Wash a round bottom bowl in hot water and dry thoroughly. Heat the olive oil gently in a pan until needed. Have boiling water at the ready.

Beat the egg yolks with a whisk until thick and sticky-about 2 minutes.

Add the lemon juice, salt and mustard. Beat another 30 seconds.

Begin adding the oil a few drops at a time in a constant stream. Do not stop beating. A couple strokes per second is the recommendation and that is what I did. Though the temptation to just pour in the oil is great, resist it. You want to build the oil into the eggs slowly. After 1/2 a cup or so of the oil has been added it will thicken and then, as the recipe suggests, you can give your arm a rest for a second or two. Beat in the remainder of the oil by tablespoons. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a few drops of lemon juice and continue beating in the oil (I did not need to do this).

At the end, beat in the boiling water which is supposed to help prevent curdling. Adjust seasoning and pour into a bowl. Cover immediately with plastic wrap on the surface to prevent the formation of skin. Poke a few holes in the plastic to vent. Cool before transferring to a jar.

Coconut Cake With Lime Curd And Coconut Frosting

Some of the best cakes at my house are the ones I never intended to bake. This one sprang from the bag of very cheap limes I brought home and immediately turned into lime curd. There's only so much lime curd one can spread on crusty bread. Since I was baking a white cake to go with the curd, I decided on coconut. Then, I just got completely carried away with the frosting. We really didn't need this cake (I still have last week's pound cake in the freezer), but the power of lime curd and a tin of coconut milk are pretty hard to resist. Bake at your own risk.

You Will Need:

For The Curd:

3 large eggs
2 egg yolks
¾ cup caster sugar
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons lime zest, grated
1 stick cold butter cut into tablespoons
Optional food colouring
In a small saucepan, whisk together the eggs and yolks. Whisk in the sugar, then the juice and zest. Over medium low heat, whisk constantly and add the butter a small bit at a time. Keep whisking until the mixture thickens but do not permit it to boil. Remove from heat, add food colouring if desired. Strain curd through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl and cover with plastic directly on the curd. Cut a few holes to vent and chill a few hours or overnight before using. Leftover curd lasts about a week (it will never last that long, trust me).

For The Cake:

1 cup coconut milk, well mixed (save the rest of the tin for the frosting)
6 egg whites at room temperature
1-teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups cake flour
1 ¾ cups caster sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1-teaspoon salt
¾ cup unsalted butter, softened

Grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans and line bottom with parchment. Grease the parchment as well. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix the coconut milk, egg white and vanilla together. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients and cut in the butter until it is a fine meal. Remove ½ cup of the milk/egg mixture and reserve. Add the rest to the flour mixture and beat at medium speed for about a minute. Add the rest and beat another minute.

Pour into pans and bake 30-35 minutes until cakes test done. Cool in pans first twenty minutes, then on racks.

For The Frosting:

1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
½ cup solid vegetable shortening
3-4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1-teaspoon vanilla extract
Food colouring if desired
Enough coconut milk to make frosting light (about ½ cup)

Beat together the butter and shortening until light. Slowly add the powdered sugar until you have a thick, but spreadable paste. Add the extract and food colouring. At this point, begin adding the coconut milk until you get a very light, fluffy frosting. Keep beating, you want this very light and if you find you added too much milk, sift in a bit of extra sugar and keep going. This frosting is very forgiving, but you need to keep whipping.

Assemble Cake:

Trim cooled cakes and spread centre with lime curd. Apply a crumb coat of frosting to cake and chill 20 minutes. Remove from fridge and continue frosting sides and top. Sprinkle top with coconut and garnish with lime slices. Inhale deeply and pretend you are in the tropics instead of the central plains where it is snowing today-mid April!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sesame Seed Cookies

The recipe I had for these cookies was a bit vague-"shortening" (no mention if liquid or solid) and "Dump it all in a bowl and mix by hand." Instead, I gave it a re-working and ended up with these lovely, albeit plain cookies just begging for a cup of good strong coffee.

The original recipe came from a cookbook put out by our local bank in East Boston, many years ago. I'm sure someone asked their grandmother how she made her seed cookies and the instructions sort of reflect that. If I made these again I might add a bit of orange juice, or zest, possibly even some anise seed inside. Plain as they are, they make a nice base to be split and filled with jam, if you must sweeten them up. Danny liked them just fine and if a three year old thinks they are sweet enough, they probably are.

You Will Need:

1 cup granulated sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons solid shortening

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

3 eggs

1/4 to 1/2 cup (or more) milk

1 cup sesame seeds

Sift together the dry ingredients and cut in the shortening. Add the eggs and enough milk to make a firm but not too dry dough. You need to be able to roll it in a ball, so if it crumbles badly, add more milk taking care not to add too much. The recipe called for 1/4 cup and I ended-up using 1/2 a cup but I also used a new flour-so I'm not positive what was going on.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Roll into balls the size of a shooter marble (what? You didn't play marbles as kids? Fine, about half the size of a golf ball) and then roll in the sesame seeds. I baked mine on silicone pads, but parchment would be OK too. The recipe didn't specify a greased or ungreased sheet so I'd err on the side of caution and grease if you lack parchment or pads.

Bake 15-20 minutes depending on size until cookies are dry and just becoming golden on top. Cool on racks.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


(This is cross-posted from my other blog because it seems like information worth sharing)

This isn't my usual sort of post but I feel it is important enough to mention in the event it might save someone else an unnecessary allergic reaction.

I'm allergic to (among other things) iodine. Having not been a seafood eater I only discovered this problem when having a CT scan a few years ago. I ended-up hospitalised and pumped full of Benadryl by IV. It was miserable, but something I thought I'd be able to prevent ever happening again. Tuesday, I was sent for a CT scan. I reminded the doctor ordering the test what happened last time, and she wrote in great big letters on the order, NO IODINE CONTRAST.

After drinking the first cup of bitter-citrus liquid, my throat started itching and I felt nauseated. Similar to the way I get if I accidentally eat a cashew. I immediately mentioned this to the radiology desk person who dismissed me as crazy, and in a lecturing tone informed me that they'd be unable to do the test the doctor ordered if I didn't finish drinking the contrast. I don't know about you, but I really resent taking attitude from someone young enough to be my daughter.

I downed the second cup of contrast and by that point knew something was wrong. Still, I went back and took the test as the radiologist stood there with a clipboard confirming I have an iodine allergy. I mentioned that I wasn't feeling well and he dismissed it as being a bitter drink and that I might feel some stomach upset. By this point I was breaking out in hives but they were on my arms and stomach and I hadn't seen them yet.

I got home and well, you don't need to know…well actually you do need to know. I had explosive, bloody shits. And hives. Big, ugly hives. I ran to the computer and after a bit of Googling determined that the contrast did in fact contain iodine, albeit in a smaller amount than what I'd had in the IV years ago.

I got my doctor on the line who got the radiologist on the line, who finally checked and to his surprise discovered there was indeed iodine in the contrast (I should have just given them the FDA web address to save time, but they weren't exactly listening to me before this happened, no reason to expect they'd take me seriously after). Except for my doctor-she's really pissed. She filed an incident report and billed the hospital for my drugs (not that benadryl and prednisone are going to break the bank, but still). I already had an eppi-pen at home, which thankfully I didn't need to resort to, but damn, was I ever sick. I still am, though nothing like yesterday. Considering I was there for a CT scan because I was already seriously ill, this really knocked me on my arse.

My real frustration is that all of this could have been avoided-or at least stemmed after the first cup of contrast if someone had listened to the patient saying she felt ill. I'm an anthropologist. I never wanted to be a doctor, and frankly, I'm getting a little tired of being the one doing all the research here (look, I probably studied more anatomy than med students today do, and I know where my goddamned pancreas is-but it shouldn't be my responsibility to point that out. Do they teach anything in med school these days except how to write the prescriptions the Pharma reps tell them to? I sat there in the small, county clinic watching a parade of stiffly-suited reps march in and out of the office as patients at waiting to be seen). That's what I pay a doctor for. I don't want to be an MD. I'm an anthropologist. If you need to know something about prehistoric tuberculosis I can help you out. If you find a femur in your backyard and want to know if it was male or female, how old it was and possibly what killed it, I can take a look at it. I don't do living, breathing people. I do fossils. Fossils. OK? When I go for a medical procedure I'm expecting that the person administering it has had suitable training in their field to carry it out. I wouldn't expect you to know how to prepare a float sample for carbon dating-so don't expect me to know which contrast contains iodine. Reasonable? I think so-or I did until yesterday. Son-of-a-bitch, I'm furious!

I'm so mad; this post just barely scrapes the surface. It could have been much worse, I realise. I had the brains after the first cup of contrast to ring up my husband and have him come to the hospital to collect Danny-but what if he hadn't been available? It was hard enough trying to not act scared in front of him. Again, none of this would have happened if someone had been willing to acknowledge that the patient might have something worthwhile to add. There's also the frightening fact that the people administering this contrast to patients had no idea what it contained. As my doctor sarcastically noted, it was a "learning experience" for them. Seems like this might not be the best area to get on the job training.

So heads-up if you're allergic to iodine.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Apricot Pound Cake

Until I was a mother it never crossed my mind to have apricot nectar as a staple kitchen item. As a special treat, Danny gets a small can of it on Friday evening and woe be mama if she forgets to buy it. Once in a while I happen upon recipes that call for nectar and I'm always interested in giving them a try. This recipe sounded interesting, but faulty.

I've baked enough pound cakes in my life (one could argue, too many) that I know dumping all the ingredients into a bowl and simply mixing and pouring isn't the way to go. It probably would make cake, but I decided to approach it the way I've always dealt with dense, rich cakes by creaming together butter and sugar, adding eggs one at a time and alternating liquids with flour in three additions. I also looked at the recipe and knew the listed amount of baking soda wasn't going to be enough. I doubled it. The original was at in the Southern Cooking section. Usually, these are pretty well edited, but this one was seriously off. Again, it might have worked fine, but I am pleased with the results using a more traditional method.

I also ignored the instructions to coat the cake in apricot jam and made a sauce with strained preserves, tinned apricots and lemon juice. Some whipped cream was a nice addition.

In the middle of making this cake, one of the beaters stopped rotating on my hand mixer. I pulled it out and proceeded with one beater, which in the very last seconds of mixing also stopped. I'll always think of this as the cake that killed the hand mixer but really, it shouldn't have. The batter wasn't too heavy and the mixer was just over a year old. It wasn't cheap either. One-year warranty. Boo hiss, Sunbeam-I'll never buy your appliances again. Call me old fashioned, but when I buy an appliance I don't expect to be replacing it yearly. On a brighter note, the whipped cream I made with a whisk in a metal bowl actually came together faster and better than when I use the electric mixer. So there! You should see me do egg whites in my copper bowl. For an arthritic cripple I sure can wield a whisk.

Papa and Danny were both delighted with their dessert and even admitted it might be as good as (though not better than) mama's chocolate pudding. I tried a bite (a scant, bite really) of the cake, but as I'm still having difficulty swallowing I skipped the fruit and sauce. I suspect it will be even better tomorrow after it has thoroughly cooled and set. I'm freezing half, as it is a very large cake and will update the post when it is served from the freezer noting the results. In my experience, pound cakes freeze beautifully though mine do not usually have sour cream as an ingredient. The sour cream was on deep sale at our grocer two weeks ago and I've been using it in place of buttermilk when I can. I still have another large container, but it is good until May. With food prices being as they are, I find it best to adjust my menus to what's on sale. When I came home with all that sour cream my husband gave me an odd look. I shrugged and chalked it up to being half Ukrainian. You could eat worse than a slice of home baked rye bread slathered with sour cream.

You Will Need:

For The Pound Cake:

3 cups sugar
1-cup butter-at room temperature
1-cup sour cream
½ cup apricot nectar
1-teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 drops concentrated lemon oil or, 1 tablespoon lemon zest
6 eggs at room temperature
3 cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a 12-cup tube pan (the recipe called for a Bundt cake pan, but that sounded like a disaster waiting to happen). Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well. Add the sour cream and mix well. Add the extract and lemon oil or zest to the nectar and stir. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.

Alternating between the flour and the nectar/extract mixture, add to the butter mixture in three additions. Mix very well and then beat on high for about three minutes. Pour into prepared pan, place pan atop a baking sheet (because you know a tube pan is going to leak some) and bake 1 hour and twenty minutes or until it tests done (mine took about an hour and forty minutes but my oven is possessed). Cool on a rack in the pan for twenty minutes, then very carefully remove and finish cooling on rack.

For the Sauce:

1 large tin of apricot halves in syrup, drained and sliced in half (if you like)
½ jar of the cheapest, store-brand apricot preserves you can find (honestly, you do not want to waste expensive preserves for this)
1 tablespoon lemon juice

In a saucepan over low heat, melt the preserves with the lemon juice until thin. Put through a fine strainer removing the fruit (in my experience the "fruit" is mostly skins anyway). Mix well with the sliced apricots and spoon warm over cake.

Add some homemade, lightly sweetened whipped cream if you're feeling decadent. Your family might even like it (almost) as much as chocolate pudding.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Science Fiction, Copper Mining and Struan Bread?

I'm pretty sure today's hit from Flin Flon, Manitoba was my first ever from that city, and they were looking for Struan bread. Funny how recipes go around the world, isn't it? I know they have roads and electricity and even internet connections but it is hard to avoid the mental image of some miner baking bread over a campfire-and cursing the poppy seeds getting all over the

The history of Flin Flon is sort of interesting, the city being named after a science fiction character. I gather they have some tourism these days as well.

Struan bread, huh? Seriously, I just do not understand why people love that bread (my family included) as obsessively as they do.