Sunday, August 31, 2008

Interesting Stuff

While I recuperate, here are some interesting recipes, posts, blogs etc. that you may enjoy. I'll be back when I can stop coughing until I puke (ewwww).

Do you like beets as much as I do? THIS is where I learned how to properly roast them (I'll never peel and boil again). You can also learn about less common varieties.

Oooh, homemade booze!

So, you think you know about cheese?

Make your own vanilla extract.

Zebra cake.

Shaping Your Breads.

Battenberg Cake

Make your own soy milk or tofu.

Apple Marmalade

What Happens In Nova Scotia Stays In Nova Scotia

I get some unusual queries bringing people to this blog, but "Dulse, masturbate" has to be one of the strangest.

And now, because I've typed that sentence I can look forward to many other interesting blog hits.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Not Dead Yet

Just wanted to pop in and say hello. I'm still sick, and not in much of a mood for cooking. It is however, a good opportunity to point out the importance of keeping a well-stocked kitchen. I could probably go a month without shopping (it has been almost three weeks) before hitting what I consider the "emergency supplies."

So on the bright side, if I croak, my husband has at least a month of ready-made meals in the freezer before he needs to start thinking about re-marrying.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Buttermilk Bread

Two minutes into kneading I realised I was in no condition to be making bread-but I had buttermilk that needed to be used and we were running out of bread (as my family has been living on sandwiches while I've been ill). The recipe may be found HERE though I shaped it into loaves instead of rolls. You can see my version of the buttermilk cluster in THIS earlier post.

A couple notes-
I proofed the yeast in 1/4 cup of water as I can't get yeast to dissolve in a tablespoon of water.

I also needed 2 1/4 cups of buttermilk which is much more than the recipe called for.

Other than that, they turned out well and made a very nice, dense bread. Perfect for cheese sandwiches.

Cough, Hack, Spit

So where was I before the pneumonia? Oh yeah, I had some sort of cold.

Unfortunately, there isn't much to do in bed unless you want to watch television. Before Danny was born I bought a 3 CD set of episodes of The Soupy Sales Show. We've been watching Soupy quite a bit. The gags are so incredibly stupid but I can't stop laughing-which just starts the coughing fits again. Then again, maybe it wouldn't be funny without the benefit of codeine cough syrup.

Yeah, it would still be funny. Oh my goodness, is it ever funny.

Anyway, as I've been stuck in bed I decided it would be a good time to sew myself a few new aprons. The photos are lousy (and I wasn't going to stand and iron them to make better pictures), but the aprons are really cute. I like that they were made with fabric left over from other projects-I can't imagine buying fabric to make aprons as they just get stained and torn-up.

If I ever get out of bed, I'll have lovely new aprons to wear.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Finished Quilt

It only took a year!

I finally completed the cowboy quilt I started for Danny last summer. It is only two pieces of fabric, but the stitching was elaborate. I really hate hand quilting, but some people think the uneven stitches are charming.

Of course, a year later he's totally over cowboys and into trains, but he still loves the quilt. As soon as I said it was finished Danny grabbed it and ran to his room to put it on his bed. I never saw him so excited to go to bed.

I'm so glad to be done with that.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Lentil Salad

Here goes with another recipe that isn't quite a recipe as much as a suggestion.

You could make this more substantial by adding cooked rice or other vegetables like carrots or red peppers. I've been ill and haven't made it to the grocer in a while, so I used what I had in the freezer. Served with yoghurt, this makes a nice cold lunch. I could also see this with a cut-up boiled potato.

You Will Need:

2 cups dried lentils, sorted, rinsed and soaked overnight and cooked until soft with 2 bay leaves
1 large red onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, scraped and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup frozen corn
Herbs (I used dried basil, marjoram, thyme and a bit of chervil at the end)
1 cup frozen green beans
1/4 cup chopped green olives
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Vinegar if desired

Cook and drain the lentils. In a small pan, cook the onion, garlic, celery, corn and green beans in a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Add olives and spices and cook over medium heat until soft. Mix with lentils and enough oil and vinegar to make a light dressing that will keep it from sticking together. You don't need to drown it. Chill. That's it. Serve with rice and yoghurt.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Making Gnocchi In Pictures

Boil and drain potatoes
Cutting into pieces
Fork mashing
Making indentations
Rolling into a log.

Of course I forgot to photograph it step-by-step because I was busy making them, but this should give a better idea of what the earlier recipe described. I also seem to be having trouble with Blogger letting me move the photos around (in an order that would make sense). I guess that just fits with the way things have been around here lately. I've had five hours of sleep over the last two nights.

Anyway, I hope that better illustrates what I was trying to explain in the post earlier this week.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Chocolate Butterscotch Pie In Chocolate Crust

Last winter, my mother-in-law sent me the Hershey's 1934 Cookbook that she had received as a gift from her stepmother. It was a re-issue from the 70's and while it may hold a special place as a bit of family nostalgia, it isn't much of a cookbook. I made both the pie and crust for this recipe from the book and while there isn't exactly anything wrong with it; there isn't anything that exceptional either. Perhaps if you'd never made a cake or cream pie before it would feel like an accomplishment to bake one of these recipes, but frankly I found them kind of stupid. When I bother to light the oven I want the results to be better than merely adequate.

I should have trusted my mother-in-law's notes she wrote in the book about which recipes were good and which were not worth it. Of course, she never made the pie or crust because she's (so she claims) unskilled with pastry. I don't know how a person can grow up in Harrisburg, PA and not be able to roll out a piecrust, particularly being such an otherwise talented cook. I guess we all have our weak areas-I can't broil a steak without ruining it. Anyway, next time I'll make the Creole Chocolate Cake because she gave it high marks.

I was not going to go out and buy a Special Dark chocolate bar to grate up and put in the crust. Even if I could find one around here, the chocolate no longer resembles the product it used to be (as in, it used to contain real chocolate) so I went ahead and grated up 1 ounce of bittersweet chocolate, which worked fine. If I made this crust again (which I doubt will happen) I'd substitute butter for the shortening. I also used my own homemade chocolate syrup in place of the Hershey's brand because I already had it made (I make a small batch at the beginning of each week for Danny to have in his milk). It's less sweet than the commercial syrup, and a bit thinner but it worked fine.

The recipe didn't offer much guidance about how long to cook the pie filling. Maybe in 1934 telling people to cook it until it is "thick" was universally understood. I cooked mine about three minutes after it came to a boil. I would say slightly thicker than pudding is what you're aiming for . I'd also use a good whisk for best results and keep the stuff moving constantly.

Other than that, I guess there isn't much to say beyond it is a chocolate/butterscotch pie in a chocolate crust. Not horrible, but I probably wouldn't make it again.

You Will Need:

For The Crust:

1/3 cup shortening

1 cup all purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, grated

3-4 tablespoons water

Cut the shortening into the flour and salt. Mix in chocolate. Add water until dough comes together. Roll out and line a 9-inch pie plate. Prick crust bottom and bake in a preheated 450-degree f. oven for 12 minutes or until done. Cool completely before filling.

For The Pie:

¾ cup brown sugar

1/3 cup all purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

2-½ cups milk

6 tablespoons chocolate syrup

2 egg yolks, beaten

2 tablespoons butter

½ teaspoon vanilla

In a saucepan, combine sugar, flour and salt. Stir in the milk, syrup and egg. Cook over medium heat until it comes to a boil Cook three to four minutes longer until thickened but not hard. Remove from heat. Beat in the butter and vanilla. Cool slightly. Pour into cooled crust. Cool at room temperature about twenty minutes, and then chill. Top with whipped cream.

It's Always Damp In Halifax

Danny is giving me a geography lesson combined with a weather report. I thought that was kind of cute considering he's only seen broadcast television a few times (mostly when we were staying in the hotel after the tornado) and I guess the Weather Channel stuck in his mind (wonder why).
What I didn't expect was Danny being able to name the towns correctly, including the obscure ones on Cape Breton Island. That's what you get for buying a kid educational placemats.

"Mama, the weather in Antigonish is cloudy and it is damp in Halifax but it is a beautiful weather day in Truro where they have lobsters which are a kind of fish and seagulls which are a kind of bird but nobody really eats them. Mama? Mama are you listening because they have warnings for hail in Chester they have interior rooms in Chester like storm cellars or a bathroom shelter without windows? Mama? Mama, it is a nice place to grow peppers in your yard unless it rains. Mama? Mama? The man on my phone told me it is OK if you have a lobster living in your yard. I have a lobster problem and have to grow some peppers.It is snowing in the bay of Monday...funday...Fundy! Fundy! And it snows on the lobsters. Mama? Mama...this is a very important lobster emergency and we have to go to an interior room...they said so on the radio. Mama? Mama? Are you paying attention?"

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wheat Bread And Music Boxes

Anyone remember how popular Lucite was in the 1970's? I mean, everything was made of the stuff and it wasn't cheap. Equally popular were musical items, so much so that there was for a while a chain in malls across the country that only sold music boxes. This little gem is the best of both-and a lipstick holder as well! What? You just throw your lipstick in a drawer? Barbarians.

Danny had been playing with my musical water globe and asked where the batteries went. I figured this was a great opportunity to show him something he isn't likely to run across that often, so I dug out the Lucite lipstick holder to view the mechanism. He was completely absorbed. No toy I ever purchase will equal winding up that mechanism and watching it go. Fortunately, I have a number of musical items/boxes he can play with as my mother (and grandmother) were fond of the things. In fact, when Danny came home from the hospital we hadn't bought any sort of musical soother or mobile for him, but I had a musical bell (a Christmas ornament) that we hung over the crib to lullaby him to sleep each night (it played I Am The Bird Catcher, from The Magic Flute).

I suppose his sudden interest in items around the house may partly be due to the amount of trouble he has been in since Friday. No need to detail it here, but let's just say were I a parent that spanked he'd be awfully sore right now. Since I'm not the spanking sort, he lost privileges-all of them. I pretty much took large garbage bags and dumped all his toys into them and told him he'd get them back when he can behave and earn them back. He's awfully sorry-and bored. Oh-so-terribly bored. He made a train out of empty boxes that the canning jars came in. So bored, so very sorry, so still being punished.

In fact, Danny's boredom is so complete that in addition to peering through all the curio cabinets looking for something interesting, he took a baguette off the counter and played with it-like a baseball bat at first, and then decided to cradle it like a baby.

Danny: (Hugging the loaf of bread) "Awwww, a hug for my little baguette."

He's bored out of his bloody mind. That's good-I want him to remember how horrible it was to loose all his toys and be so bored he cradled a baguette and played with a Lucite lipstick holder.

Have I mentioned how much trouble that kid is in? Oh my goodness.

You Will Need:

1 Lucite lipstick holder circa 1976 (just kidding)
2 cups warm water
3 3/4 teaspoons regular yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups whole wheat flour
3-4 cups bread flour
Cornmeal for dusting

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water in a large bowl. Let proof ten minutes. Add the olive oil and salt. Add the whole wheat flour and then the bread flour a cup at a time until you have a not-sticky dough. Knead until smooth adding more flour if needed. Place in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled. Punch down, shape into loaves and place on a cornmeal dusted baking sheet. Dust with small bit of flour and cover with a cloth.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Use whatever method you prefer to create steam. Slash loaves and place in oven. Bake 20-30 minutes or until bread reads an internal temperature of around 200 degrees F.

Cool on racks.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Gnocchi With Pesto, Summer Squash, And Carrots

I broke every single rule for making gnocchi and ended up with the best ones ever. Really, they should have been heavy and leaden using waxy new potatoes rather than russets, but they were wonderfully light. I'm glad I made a large enough batch to freeze half.

I'm going to give a recipe with the understanding that it isn't one to be followed in an exacting manner. You really can't. There are so many variables from the moisture in the air to the moisture in the potatoes that you really just need to go by feel. Honestly, even if they are a bit chewy from too much flour, they are still excellent in a potato dumpling sort of way. You'd have to try pretty hard to screw up gnocchi to the point of being inedible (I'm not saying it can't be done, but it would take an effort).

I must have looked at a dozen recipes this morning and not a single one was similar in the amounts and ingredients. Some people feel the addition of egg to gnocchi is some sort of heresy. If your potatoes are moist enough, you really can omit it though it will be more difficult to form the roll. Impossible? No, of course not, but I also don't have any strong feelings about how to prepare them. If you think adding nutmeg will do something-go for it. I'm just offering another example of what I did and relating that I had success with it. Mind you, we're not Italian (even remotely) so we may have the wrong idea of what these are supposed to be like. Ask me about borscht or a kulebiaka, and I'll hold forth at length.

You Will Need:

For The Gnocchi:

4 cups of fork-mashed waxy new potatoes (skins removed) measured after mashing.
(about) half an egg yolk
(about) 1 cup all purpose flour (I only used about 1/2 cup, but my potatoes were well-dried having been made a day ahead)
Salt to taste

Pesto or other sauce and sauteed vegetables of your hosing.

Mash the boiled and cooled potatoes with a fork until fluffy. Add about 1/4 of an egg yolk and mix in. Add a small bit of flour-maybe two tablespoons and the rest of the egg and salt. Continue adding flour a tablespoon at a time until you have a mixture that can be rolled out into a log. It should not be too wet or sticky so you may need more flour.

Divide dough in three. Roll out each section into a log about 3/4 inch around. Cut into 1 inch squares. Make indentations with the tines of a fork to help grab sauce. I sort of rolled each gnocchi along the inside of the fork until there was a nice curved set of grooves on one side. This really isn't something I'd obsess too much over if it gives you difficulty. You can also make a simple indentation and be done with it.

Set the gnocchi on a wax paper covered baking sheet as you work. If you decide to freeze any, set them on plates in the freezer for twenty minutes before transferring to freezer bags. This is helpful if you're making them early in the day (as I did).

To cook the gnocchi:

Bring a pot of water to a gentle boil. Toss in a few of the gnocchi at a time and let them rise to the top. Skim off and do the next batch. Serve immediately topped with sauce and vegetables or whatever you like.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Have Some Cookies

I just haven't felt up to much cooking/posting lately. When I do cook, it is food that will feed the boys for a few days at a time-casseroles, pizzas, vegetarian stuffed peppers, etc. I was hopeful that I'd found a nutritional supplement I could tolerate drinking as the first one went down not horribly, but subsequent attempts did not go as well. Thankfully, I only bought a small box. Nothing sucks the enjoyment out of cooking faster than being unable to eat. Funny, eh?

Anyway, here's some frosted butter cookies to enjoy until I can stop tossing my cookies.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Pasta With Lima Beans And Sweet Potatoes

By now you've probably realised I favour non-traditional combinations of vegetables, beans and pasta-this recipe is no exception. While I used large, dried Lima beans as the base for the meal, you could use frozen or tinned Fordhook Lima beans. These beans were really quite massive.

A while back, I tried combining carrots with sweet potatoes and liked the combination so much I now use it as a regular pairing. I also made use of quite a bit of parsley cooked with the vegetables-this was a nice balance against the heavier beans and potatoes. Mr. Eat The Blog had the idea to stir in a bit of Dijon mustard at the table for extra kick. I'm glad he liked it because he's taking it for lunch tomorrow.

You Will Need:

2 large sweet potatoes peeled and diced

4 large carrots, peeled and diced

1 large red onion, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, finely minced

1 cup parsley, stems removed and finely chopped-divided

1/3 cup fresh sage, chopped

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

1 small jar roasted red peppers, chopped

4 cups cooked lima beans

Cooked Egg Noodles

In a large saucepan with a lid, add 1-3 tablespoons of olive oil to heated pan. Add carrots, onion, sweet potatoes, garlic half the parsley and all of the sage. Add the salt and pepper and cook a few minutes over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and cover. Cook about twenty minutes, stirring every five minutes or so to prevent sticking. Add more oil if needed. When carrots and potato are soft, add the Lima beans and red peppers and cook until heated through. Serve over hot noodles.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Two Tone Bread

This swirl bread is also from the Better Homes And Gardens Homemade Bread Book, 1973 and uses that same odd method of un-dissolved yeast in a mixer with warm milk, and flour. What those three minutes with a small bit of flour is supposed to achieve I don't know. Personally, I don't think it does anything except perhaps make it a bit easier to knead. I should try it side by side with a straightforward method some day.

The breads are lovely, albeit uninteresting. I used skim milk (reconstituted from powdered) without any problems. I substituted ½ cup of the three cup total with heavy cream to sort of make up the fat content somewhat. That seemed to work fine. I also substituted bread flour for the all-purpose.

The swirls are attractive and I know Danny is going to love them (at least, I hope he does because I have two rather large loaves now). The recipe is pretty simple for what I consider to be a somewhat fussy type of bread. It does help to understand you will never be able to roll out the rectangles of dough to the exact dimensions-so just do the closest you can and then sort of stretch them to the same size once the top layer is on. That's cheating, for those of you who were wondering. Go ahead, it beats taking a ruler to your dough.

I baked these 35 minutes to an internal temperature of 190 degrees F.

You Will Need:

5-6 cups all purpose or bread flour (I used bread)

4-½ teaspoons active dry yeast

3 cups milk

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup shortening (I used butter)

1-tablespoon salt (I used about ¼ teaspoon more)

3 tablespoons dark molasses (I used full flavour)

2 ¼ (I needed 3) cups whole-wheat flour

Optional glaze-1 egg yolk beaten with 2 tablespoons heavy cream

In a large mixer bowl, combine three cups of the all-purpose flour with the yeast.

In a saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, salt and shortening. Heat slowly just until the shortening melts and cool to lukewarm.

Add liquid to dry mixture in bowl. Beat ½ minute at low speed scraping sides constantly. Beat three minutes at high speed. Divide batter in two (easiest to measure in a large measuring cup if you have one, otherwise count ladles). In one half, add enough of the all purpose flour until you have a dough that can be kneaded without being sticky. Knead well until elastic.

In other bowl, add the whole-wheat flour and molasses and knead until smooth and elastic.

Butter two bowls and place each in one. Turn once to coat, and cover. Let rise 1 hour to 1 ½.

Punch doughs down and let rest, covered for ten minutes.

Grease two loaf pans generously with butter.

Divide each dough in half. Roll out the white dough into a rectangle that is roughly 12x8. Do the same with the wheat. Place wheat atop white and roll tightly from short end. Pinch seam closed and place in pan. Do this with other loaf. Cover with a towel and let rise another 30-40 minutes or until almost doubled.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

If desired, brush loaves with glaze. Bake about 30 minutes or until loaves sound hollow when rapped with knuckles or internal temperature reads around 190 degrees F.

Cool on racks.

Any Wanker Can Spell "Masturbate"

This has nothing to do with cooking and everything to do with editing.

I'm sure they will catch it and correct it eventually, but here's the article with masturbate spelled "masterbate."

This comes (sorry, my bad) on the heels of the paper having sacked the few literate employees they had.

I make spelling and grammatical errors constantly, but I'm not a newspaper-a paper that just sacked their last few literate employees whom I'm pretty certain could spell masturbate correctly.

Anyone want to start a campaign to send copies of Strunk and White to the Journal Star? It isn't only the spelling errors I find so maddening. Honestly, it is getting so bad over there I can be 3/4 of the way through an article and think, "What is this supposed to be about?" Of course, sacking your only literate employees does not help the situation. I'd keep a tally of these but it is just too irritating. Did I mention they went and sacked their most literate employees? Yeah, they did.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Introducing Your Crappy Mama Doll

Are you familiar with those children's craft blogs where mothers make the most beautiful, wonderful toys and crafts for their children? This isn't one of them. Sure, I can do a bit of lacemaking and embroidery but actually do proper crafts? Are you kidding? The last time tie dye touched my hands was around 1970. I can manage pretty things, but cute? Creative? Nah. I let the kid glue macaroni to a paper plate and call it a day.

We have a box of 1,000 wooden sticks. While Danny tossed hand fulls in every room of the house, I sat on the floor amused with some felt scraps, tape, and scissors. Sure, my mother used to make us wonderful paper dolls and outfits but she was an art student and knew how to do that sort of thing. I'm an anthropologist-I can tell you all about playthings in non Western cultures-but make one? Really, I don't think so.

I sort of like Your Crappy Mama (TM) as she sort of looks like I feel. I can just hear her telling you to "Quit picking it, you'll leave a scar." Yep, that's Your Crappy Mama (TM).

"Don't slouch."
"You want I should eat pork?"
"Fine, marry her...if you need me I'll be leaping from the Tobin bridge."
"What's with the faces? Always with the faces?"
(Wait, I think I just turned her into my grandmother-put a Ukrainian accent on the above)

I tatted her bodice and hat-impressive, no? And look, she's reading Guilty Carnivore (why aren't you reading Guilty Carnivore, huh? Because you're too busy chasing fast women, making faces and slouching? Huh? Huh?).

Don't slouch.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Saag Paneer With Mustard Greens

No photo because let's face it, that is not a photogenic meal.

I had two generous bunches of mustard greens to cook and no idea what to do with them. Mr. Eat The Blog bought them at the farmer's market because they looked nice. I hadn't eaten them since I was a child and our housekeeper discovered them growing wild in the un-landscaped land behind our house. I should explain that-we had just moved to the suburbs of Chicago and our home was built on what had previously been farmland. We had many strange things on that land-little grey things that looked like crayfish living in the storm basin, a quince bush, and wild turnips (also with greens). Ella Mae (that was really her name, and a dear, dear woman she was) couldn't believe we were going to just let the greens grow and die and insisted on picking and serving them.

I don't remember them being awful, but it wasn't something I'd willingly eat unless I was trying to be polite. I feel the same way about collard greens and kale, so obviously I'm not a good judge of quality greens. I like spinach, and can tolerate beet greens, but that's about it.

I suspect if you're willing to use some bacon fat, or salt pork most of these greens can be made more interesting. Since I'm not willing, I tried to come up with something imaginative to do with my quantity of something I dislike. I did what any good cook would do (not really) I disguised it in Indian food! Heck, under cumin seeds, ginger and cabbage, you'd never know there was a good pound or two of mustard greens in it...or would you?

Danny knew. After a proud "That's my boy" moment I permitted him to pick out the pieces of paneer and eat the curried potatoes and chutney instead. I can always get the kid to eat chutney and yoghurt.

Mr. Eat The Blog loved it though. Really loved it, which is good as I have a large casserole filled with the stuff.

The saag recipe HERE is what I used exchanging the spinach for about a pound of trimmed mustard greens.

The paneer recipe is HERE and makes an excellent activity to impress a three year old. It is quick and simple to do.

Old Time Wheat Bread

I was tempted to split the dough into three loaves-I'm so glad I resisted. These beautiful breads are massive and I can't wait to have a tomato sandwich on wheat.

The recipe is a bit strange in that it requires using a mixer for the first few cups of flour. The recipe comes from my trusty Better Homes And Gardens Homemade Bread Book, 1973 I made a few changes by using butter and bread flour, but I'll post it as written.

Will Need:

5 cups all purpose flour (I used bread flour)
4 1/2 teaspoons granulated dry yeast
2 3/4 cup water
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup shortening (I used butter)
1 tablespoon salt
3 cups whole wheat flour
Optional glaze:
1 egg yolk with 2 tablespoons heavy cream

In a large mixer bowl, combine 3 1/2 cups of the all purpose flour with the yeast.

In a saucepan, combine the water, shortening, salt and brown sugar. Heat over low flame until shortening is melted. Cool to lukewarm.

Add liquid to dry mixture and with an electric mixer, beat 1 1/2 minutes at low speed, then three minutes at high speed. Stir in the three cups of whole wheat flour by hand. Add the rest of the white flour a cup at a time until it comes together. Knead until smooth. Cover and let rise about 1 hour or until doubled.

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

Grease two bread pans generously with butter. Fit the dough into them and cover with a towel. Let rise again until almost doubled-30-40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Brush loaves with glaze if desired and bake 30-45 minutes or until hollow when rapped. I baked mine to an internal temperature of 200 degrees F.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Pizza From The Garden

Not much of a recipe-onions, olives and home grown tomatoes, but I wanted to share the lovely photo. These tomatoes are particularly precious to me as they survived the tornado in June.

We made such a big deal out of marking a date on the calendar to go and purchase our seeds (24 March) and through the long winter Danny would count off the days until we could make our trip to Earl May. Sure, there are better garden catalogs, but going to the store, handling the seed packets and having the experience is important also. I've been doing this with Danny since he was a few months old (actually, the day I found out I was expecting I had earlier gone to Earl May to purchase bedding plants-so we have a bit of a tradition in place) and hope to continue it for many years. When the tornado hit it took out the basil, parsley, Brussels sprouts and thyme-but the tomatoes and sage not only survived, they thrived. I'm hoping the wisteria will come back next year-I'd like to see it bloom at least once (we thought this might have been the year until the fence and tree fell on it).

Although we are still putting the house (and our lives) back together, we can celebrate the harvest of the tomatoes that really shouldn't have made it. Everyone likes an underdog, right?

Don't Call Me Daniel

Papa: Daniel, come here.
Danny: Don't call me Daniel!
Papa: What should I call you?
Danny: "Handsome Dan."

Leaving to go out for the day as a family:

Danny: Mama should stay home and do chores.

In the Old Market, where my husband is playing on a storm grate

Mama: Don't do that, you'll fall in. Our housekeeper fell down a manhole in Chicago and she was never the same again.
Papa: (being silly) Oh, it's OK (jumps on it)
Mama: Stop that right now, look at the example you're setting.
Danny: Mama should stay home next time and do chores.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Maybe no one will notice me if I hide behind the car...
"Om, nom, nom that's some tasty fresh hay. Maybe no one will notice me here if I stick my head in just a bit, nom, nom..."
It's the farmer, run!
That means, you.

It sounded like a stampede through the front yard, and actually it sort of was. Our neighbours were moving their cattle but the cattle had other ideas. They broke loose and went straight for the yard-until they discovered the stacked-up bales of hay. One smart cow hid out in what used to be the garage before the tornado.

As Danny stood watching this from the front room window, the bull (yes, the bull was running loose as well) decides to drop a load. Danny found it all too amusing. Still, we can't have cattle pooping anywhere they please, so we made a sign to put in the window. Cattle can read-that whole "Oh I'm an illiterate cow, moo-moo-moo" thing is just an act.

They've been warned.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Up Next

Bagels. Because I have nothing better to do at 5 AM.

The bulk of the work is done the night before, then the bagels rest in the fridge until morning. Next day they are boiled in a solution of water and bicarb and then baked. Then I send Mr. Eat The Blog off to work with freshly baked bagels. Cool, huh?

Details tomorrow.

Coffee Concentrate

You need to plan 12 hours ahead for this but it is worth the effort. I've been buying the gigantic can of Midwest Country Fair coffee from Hy-Vee for around $4.50 a 2 lb. tin. You'd probably expect it to be horrible (hell, I'd expect it to be horrible-but given this long soaking treatment it is actually pretty decent and it makes excellent iced coffee. The concentrate will make 2 generous servings and can also be kept in the fridge up to two days. The soaking process mellows the coffee and turns the el-cheapo store brand coffee into something that honestly rivals what you could get at some coffee places-it beats the pants off anything I've ever had from Scooters.

You Will Need:

A glass jar
1/3 cup ground coffee
1 1/2 cups water

Mix it in a jar and let it sit 12 hours at room temperature. Strain through a coffee filter fit into a sieve. Strain again (this seems silly, but it does make a difference even if you can't see any particles). Dilute with an equal amount of water. Serve hot or cold. Seriously, mixed with sugar, cream and a bunch of ice it is almost like a frappe.

Vegetable Kugel

I wasn't going to post this recipe since it really isn't a recipe at all but a tossing together odds and ends. When I made it at 9 this morning, I was pretty sure I'd be confined to bed for the rest of the day-then I remembered I have a three year old. Have I mentioned how old I am? let me put it this way, I have friends that are grandparents. Most people assume we are Danny's grandparents, though truth be told, my mother-in-law could (easily) beat me in a race around the block.

So yeah, the three year old was having none of this staying in bed and resting business, so I made dinner early and then did something I swore I'd never do-at least before I became a parent. I gave him a new toy I'd been saving as a special surprise...just so he would let me lie down for half an hour. Matchbox cars-the best .99 cents you can spend for peace and quiet. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, my beautiful noodle kugel. No, not the sweet kind with fruit and cream cheese (blech), but a meatless vegetable version.

You can make this fancier with ricotta and real onions/garlic, etc. It was all I could do to pour some dried onions and garlic into a bowl and honestly, it turned out really well. I thought I'd get a couple meals out of it, but there was hardly enough left for Mr. Eat The Blog to take for lunch tomorrow.

You Will Need:

1 bag of broad egg noodles (I used the store brand because it was .70 cents a bag-and good) cooked and drained
2 cups cottage cheese-drained
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 box frozen spinach-cooked drained and squeezed dry
5 carrots, peeled and grated
1/4 teaspoon dried minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried minced onion
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
3 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large casserole dish or a 9x13 pan.

Combine everything, pour in pan and bake 40 minutes to 1 hour or until nicely browned on top. Serve hot or cold with plain yoghurt or sour cream.

Tripple Berry Pie

Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries tossed with flour, sugar and a bit of lemon juice/grated zest. Dotted with butter, topped with a crust and baked 1 hour at 400 degrees F.

You don't really need a recipe do you? Fine, it was so simple you'll laugh.

You Will Need:

Crust for 2 crust pie

2 cups each blackberries, blueberries and raspberries
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
spice, if desired (cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, etc.)
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter for dotting
cream for brushing top
extra sugar for sprinkling crust

preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line the bottom of a 9 inch pie plate with bottom crust. In a bowl, toss together the berries, flour, sugar, spices, zest and juice. Pour into pie shell. Dot with butter and top with second crust. Cut vents. Brush crust with heavy cream. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake 40 minutes to 1 hour. Cool. Impress your family. Get up early next day to eat it fro breakfast before anyone else arrives at similar idea.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Moroccan Bread

This is a Paula Wolfert recipe from The Best Of Food And Wine and it couldn't have been easier to make.

As Danny is still on a bit of an anise/fennel kick I thought these breads might be something he'd really enjoy-he enjoyed baking them anyway. I'll let you know after he gets up from nap if he dug them-I suspect he will.

The loaves need only a single rise and can be ready in a few hours, including cooling.

You Will Need:

2 1/4 teaspoons granulated dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 cup coarse ground whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
Warm water-about 1 1/2 cups
1 tablespoon anise seeds
1 teaspoon olive oil
Cornmeal to dust pans

In a small bowl combine the water, sugar and yeast. Stir until dissolved and let proof until foamy-about 5 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the bread flour, whole wheat flour, and salt.

Slowly add the warm water (you may not need all of it) and work into a stiff dough. Knead until smooth and elastic-about 15 minutes. Knead in the anise seeds.

Divide dough in half, shape into balls and let rest five minutes.

Lightly oil the surface of each ball and flatten into a 5-6 inch disk, about 1 inch thick.

Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place about two hours or until a finger indentation remains when prodded.

preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

prick each loaf deeply with a fork 6-7 times to release air and place on a cornmeal dusted baking sheet. Bake 12 minutes, then reduce heat to 300 degrees F. and continue baking 40 minutes or longer or until loaves sound hollow. I baked mine to an internal temperature of 200 degrees F.

Cool on racks and cut into wedges when cooled.

Makes two loaves.

Chickpea/Marsalla Cookies

I know what you're thinking, but really-try these cookies. The recipe is from The Best Of Food And Wine 1987 Collection and if nothing else, they will make your home smell wonderful. The recipe called for Pernod-like 1 1/2 teaspoons of it. I wasn't going to buy a bottle of something I don't care for to make cookies-so I used a bit of anise oil to get the flavour. I also used the cheapest, smallest bottle of Marsala I could find.

Basically, these are spice cookies. The scent reminds me of something from waaaay back, but I can't quite pin it down-a neighbour's baking maybe. Anyway, the recipe is fussy, but not so fussy that you can't manage it with a bit of planning. The original recipe suggested blending the chickpeas and milk in a blender for 4-5 minutes. That had to be a typo-it shouldn't take more than 1.

You Will Need:

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sultanas
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 cup sweet Marsala
1 1/2 tablespoons Pernod
1 19 ounce tin of chickpeas, drained, rinsed and patted dry
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg at room temperature
Confectioner's sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.

In a saucepan, heat the marsala, Pernod, orange zest and sultanas to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

In a blender, mix the chickpeas and milk with the vanilla until smooth.

In a large bowl, cream the sugar and butter together until light. Beat in the egg. Blend in the raisin mixture and then the dry ingredients.

On a lightly greased (or parchment lined) baking sheet, spoon by heaping teaspoons onto sheet about two inches apart (they will spread). Use centre two racks and rotate pans halfway through baking. Bake 25-30 minutes total, or until the edges are lightly browned. Cool on racks completely. Dust with conferctione's sugar.

Makes 3-4 dozen.

Saturday, August 02, 2008


When my husband was young, he went to Texas to visit his aunt. It probably would have been an otherwise unmemorable trip, but she made doughnuts for him which he then spent the next forty years raving about.

"Wow", I thought. "Those must have been some doughnuts."

I've made doughnuts a few times and he politely would eat them but I knew he was thinking they just weren't as good as his aunt's. I figured it must be some sort of southern thing, and assumed I'd never be able to recreate anything close and probably shouldn't try.

Last fall, my in-laws came to visit and somehow the topic of Auntie's doughnuts came up and my mother-in-law blurted out;
"Oh, she used to make those doughnuts from the biscuits in a can. I didn't know he liked those so much."

Tinned biscuits! Holy Poppin' Fresh! I couldn't believe it.

That was October, and I guess I've tried putting it out of my mind lest I be tempted to try it. That was, until I went over to Make And Takes, because I do whatever Marie tells me to. It's true. Sadly, I'll have to leave it at temptation for a while as I'm in no spirits to fry anything, but that shouldn't keep you from popping open one of those tubes (don't you jump even though you know the pop is coming?) and frying up some...uh..."traditional" southern doughnuts.

Potato Starch Muffins

Flipping through a random volume of the Women's Day Encyclopedia Of Cookery (1966) I found this recipe for potato flour muffins that are supposed to be the ones served at Marshall Field's in the Walnut Room. Honestly, I don't remember these if I ever had them. I was probably too distracted by the hot chocolate with whipped cream and a peppermint stick to notice some stupid muffin. The best food was down on the street anyway where you could get a paper cone filled with warm roasted chestnuts (the only nut I wasn't allergic to).

This would be an excellent recipe if you're avoiding gluten. I'd be curious to try it with rice flour to see if it achieved the same results. They are similar in flavour to a popover, but they lack the hollow centre. The smell and taste reminds me of those little egg-based puffs called "soup mandel" that can be found in Kosher markets.

With the heat hovering at 100 degrees for the next few days, I'm baking things that are quick in the oven and don't require creating steam. Biscuits, muffins griddle breads are all in my plans. The muffins took 20 minutes to bake and just under ten minutes to prepare-you could probably do that faster with a mixer but I prefer beating egg whites by hand.

You Will Need:

1/8 teaspoon salt
4 eggs separated
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup potato starch, sifted multiple times to get out tiny grit
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons ice water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a muffin tin that will hold 12 muffins.

Add salt to egg whites and beat until stiff and dry. Beat egg yolks until pale and thick. Beat in sugar.

Sift together the starch and baking powder.

Fold egg whites into egg yolks carefully. Slowly fold in the flour/baking powder mixture. Mix well. Add the ice water and mix well. Pour into a dozen greased muffin cups and bake 15-20 minutes. Serve warm.

Friday, August 01, 2008

And The Major Project Is...

I may have a foot in the grave, but that won't stop me from embarking on a major project. Are you familiar with bloggers who cook their way through entire cookbooks? There's a woman doing The French Laundry At Home cookbook, which must be insanely difficult and expensive. Anyway, I'd love to do something similar but I'm afraid it would be impossible as I'd eventually run into veal or pork or lobster or something else I can't bring myself to cook. Yes, I know-I lived ten years in Boston and never ate lobster, a fact that is a great source of amusement to people. I'm sorry, I just can't. I'm not judging anyone that does, but I can't. You see where it would be difficult to cook my way through something along the lines of La Cuisine. Then I started thinking, "Why does it need to be a cookbook?"

Remember when I did Home Baking With Counterpunch? I became rather skilled with a pastry bag decorating all those Chomsky and Nader cookies. Why couldn't I cook my way through a book chapter by chapter in decorated cookies? Why not indeed! But which book?

I had a long list of rejected books:

Naked Lunch (obvious reasons)

Beowulf (too many friggin' oars on a Viking ship to do on a cookie. I am tempted to do it in Danishes though just to make the joke about Grendel's Mama getting a hankering in the middle of the night for a Dane(ish)).

Juliet (You know, my whole life I've been hearing about how filthy the book is, and I start randomly flipping through it and there's all these impossibly long boring passages about the political situation in France. I can't express that in sugar cookies. That de Sade was such a long-winded bore. The only one being violated is the poor reader that has to endure all that dull commentary. I'm not baking my way through that).

Nightwood (I just don't think I could depict that last scene in cookies. Besides, I'm pretty sure it was intended as metaphor).

A Distant Episode And Other Stories (If I tried doing these in sugar cookies I'd probably be locked up)

So finally I settled on baking my way through the Bullfinch Mythology. Yeah, I'm serious. The advantage is the background sets can be re-used for all the Greeks, Romans and Norse stories. I made a sort of triptych out of cardboard where felt pieces can be stuck on for mountains, oceans, and trees. A few Ionic columns here and there and I can probably re-use quite a bit as I go. I was surprised at how easily it was coming together-until I started making the cookie templates. You wouldn't think depicting a man's liver being torn out by a vulture would be that difficult on a cookie! Anyway, some posts are probably going to be better than others.

Even if I do a story a week it will take years to get through. I think it will be an interesting way to approach teaching mythology. I suppose it could be a fine teaching tool in other areas but would have limitations say, if you're reading Euclid, though not impossible now that I think of it…well, you see all the potential here. Looking at that last sentence you're probably thinking, "Hey, how about baking your way through Strunk and White? You might learn how to punctuate."

Anyway, that's the project, and if you're interested in taking part, the more the merrier. I wouldn't limit it to cookies, if you're a creative type that likes to sculpt from pate or the like. I expect to get the first few posts up in the next week or so. Any suggestions or helpful pointers are most welcome.

Coconut Chocolate Cake

The components of this cake have all been made before, though as far as I can remember I've never made a four layer cake.

The coconut cake and buttercream frosting may be found HERE I added about 1/4 cup powdered cocoa.

The filling was a centre layer of strained apricot jam (we all know I have plenty of that laying around) and the other two were filled with melted bittersweet chocolate in a very thin layer that will hopefully crackle a bit when cut and served. The fans are simply melted chocolate that was moulded.

Happy Weekend


These are a bit less traditional as I used a combination of whole milk and yoghurt in the dough. This produces a much softer chapati than one made with water. Substitute water in the recipe for milk and yoghurt if you prefer that style.

Makes about 12

You Will Need:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup yoghurt
additional milk if needed
1 teaspoon salt

Mix the flours and salt together in a bowl. Add the yoghurt and the milk slowly until the dough comes together in a ball. Pinch off into 12 pieces. Roll out into a 5 inch diameter round (about) on a well-floured board.

Heat a griddle or cast iron skillet very hot (don't do this with a teflon coating or you'll end up brain damaged or something). Cook the chapatis about 1 minute each side, touching lightly with a wooden spoon to make them puff a bit.

That's it. Easy.