Thursday, December 31, 2009

Roasted Duck Legs. With Red Wine and Quince Conserve..and Other Good Stuff

Yeah well, I figured on the last day of the year I could cook the poor guy something other than curried chickpeas or veggie chili. Not that there's anything wrong with curry or chili, mind you.

The duck legs had been sitting in the freezer for a while. Mr. ETB picked them up last summer at the Vietnamese grocery. I stuck them in the freezer and promptly forgot about them. Last week, after dislodging a large package of frozen pumpkin puree, I came across the duck legs. That brings us to the present.

Until I started marinating the legs around two this afternoon, I wasn't really certain what I intended to do with them. Usually, my inspiration comes from what I have lurking in the larder. Cabbage, carrots, apples, wine, some ginger quince conserve...yeah, I could turn that into dinner. I am out of semolina flour, so I made noodles that were in more of the spaetzel territory than pasta. To my mind this translated "Alsace", but it could just as easily gone in a million other geographic/culinary directions. Personally, I just like an excuse to cook cabbage with wine and juniper berries.

So hey, when you de-glaze the pan, keep in mind the wine will sputter. I nearly blinded myself (a few strong words might have been uttered) but once I realised I could still see, I fnished the job and made a really lovely sauce from the crap in the bottom of the roasting pan. That's a technical term-the crap in the bottom of the roasting pan.

I marinated the duck legs for an hour, and they took about another hour to cook. Not too bad, and certainly less work than a whole duck. For five dollars, we got three very large duck legs (and most of the thigh) plus a generous layer of fat which I saved. Oh come on, you didn't think I was going to throw that out, did you? Now that I know how nice they are, I should go buy a few more packages and make a large confit. I wouldn't want to do a whole goose again (that was so incredibly insane, but the goose fat lasted us for over a year) but duck legs would be nice to have preserved in their fat ready to use.

For The Cabbage:

1/2 medium head of green cabbage, finely sliced
3 carrots, matchsticked
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 large apple, peeled, cored and chopped
3 tablespoons clarified butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon duck fat from the roasting pan (if you have it)
4 whole juniper berries (always count how many you use so you know you have pulled them all before serving)
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
pinch of sugar
Splash of white vermouth or white wine

Heat the butter and oil in a pan. Over medium heat, cook the cabbage, carrot, onion and apple until quite soft. Turn up the heat to high and give it a generous splash of vermouth. This really is a matter of taste, so adjust as you please. Cook until vermouth burns off. Reduce heat to low, add duck fat if you have it and pretty much cook the daylights out of it until it is very, very, soft-about an hour. This will time perfectly with the duck if you are preparing one.

For The Duck Legs:

Marinate 1 hour before cooking with the following:

1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon chopped garlic

Cover and turn once at 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 180 degrees C.

Place a rack in a roasting pan. Place the duck legs on the rack and roast for about 50 minutes without basting. When they are nearly done, drain off the duck fat (don't you dare toss that out!) and pour over the following:

1 cup red wine (I used Cabernet because I had it)
1/2 cup ginger/quince conserve

I know, you probably don't have the conserve unless I sent you a jar last year. Gosh, that was a pain in the behind chopping and cooking all that quince. Anyway, in the absence of fancy conserve, use red currant jelly, or apricot jam, or really whatever you like. I don't think it matters. Marmalade is always nice with duck.

So pour that over your duck legs, and return to the oven. Increase the heat to 450 degrees F. for five minutes. Open the door carefully (steam, you know) and baste. Return to the oven for a few more minutes to crisp up slightly. Keep an eye on it.

Remove the duck from the pan and let stand on a baking sheet while you deal with de-glazing the pan. If you have glasses (or shop glasses) it might be a good idea to wear them.

Place the pan directly on the burner and heat it until the crud in the bottom of the pan loosens. Stand back, and add a generous splash of red wine. With a wooden spoon, stir, scrape and dislodge as much of the crud as you can. Strain through a sieve into a bowl or large measuring cup. Grate in 1 or two gingersnaps (if you have them, otherwise just do flour) until thickened to your tastes.

For The Noodles:

3 egg yolks plus 1 whole egg
3 tablespoons water
3/4 teaspoon salt
(about) 3 cups AP flour

Beat the eggs until light. Add water and salt. Beat in 1 cup of the flour with the mixer, and then the rest by hand until you have a stiff dough. Knead well. Wrap and let rest 20 min. Roll out and cut as desired. Dry on racks for about 1 hour. Cook in gently boiling water for fifteen minutes. Drain and serve hot.

Worst Food Trends of the Decade

The Guardian has a piece on the worst food trends of the last decade. I thought this, from the comments was magnificent:

"Not really any trends, but I would like to say that frisee should be banned. Far too many places still seem to find it acceptable to put a less-than-it-looks clump of that revolting vegetable floss on the side of a plate because it's a lazy way of filling a space and to hell with the fact that actually eating the stuff is like going down on an orangutan with pubic alopecia."

I'll leave you with that thought in your mind for the New Year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Amazon Recommendations

You know how Amazon gives you recommendations based on previously viewed items and purchases? I get some pretty odd recommendations, but it occurred to me that it would be fun to try and "crack the code."

How many searches (without searching for the actual films) would it take to get the Amazon software to recommend both the Pixar movie Up, and the Russ Meyers film Up?

If you can get it to show the same two films at the top of the page as new recommendations, get a screen shot, send it to me in a jpeg, and I'll send you a prize you probably don't want anyway. It'll be fun.

Not quite off topic-talking about Delicatessen in the last post got me wondering if renting Julie and Julia at the same time would get you in a government database. I wonder what sort of recommendations that combination would get from Amazon.

Stick Out Your Tongue and Say "Blech!"

I do hope everyone is getting their eggs boiled for deviled eggs tomorrow evening. Don't skimp on the paprika either-that's crucial to a good deviled egg.

This lovely little book (of which I inexplicably have two, and no memory of purchasing either) is filled with all manner of disgusting mid-sixties delights. I won't be preparing anything from this publication. I might stuff some celery with cream cheese if I'm feeling ambitious. I really hope to be in bed by nine.

I grew up in a household where deception, in respect to food, was rather routine. Those horrible cookbooks that suggest hiding beets and spinach in your children's desserts-my mum was decades ahead on that idea. Except for the dessert part because she didn't bake. Still, if she knew you hated something it was more likely than not to end up on your plate in a not-terribly convincing disguise. My dad detested tinned tuna but it didn't stop my mother from using it mixed into her salmon cakes. They were mostly tuna. I don't believe this was a cost saving measure on her part, but rather an oddity she had of convincing people they really liked something they didn't. I still really hate cucumbers, particularly when they are cooked with fish.

I don't play that game at Chez Eat The Blog. I respect the fact that Danny loathes butternut squash (he'll eat the others) and I don't attempt to sneak it into cupcakes. I can't think of anything more disrespectful (OK, sure-it isn't up there in the disrespect rankings with say, screwing your mistress in your wife's bed, but it is still kind of awful) than disregarding the knowledge that someone has an aversion to a food, and serving it anyway because you think they should eat it. You know, this isn't Ireland in the 1800's. We're permitted a whole, wide variety of foods to chose from. Leaving one or two off the menu rotation isn't the end of the world. Sure, if eating butternut squash were the only thing standing between my child and starvation, I'd make him eat it. I probably wouldn't have any flour or sugar to disguise it in cupcakes.

Off topic but semi-related in the strange way my mind works-have any of you seen the movie Delicatessen? Sure, it was a funny movie, but you still wouldn't like it if your butcher was making sausage from body parts. Would You?

The point (yeah, there's a point. Don't be such a smartass) is that it is the height of arrogance to charge oneself with the role of deciding another's tastes. Of course I expose Danny to new and varied foods-but I absolutely do not lie to him about what it is...because he trusts me not to. That's it really, you don't abuse the trust people give you. Let's face it, eating someone else's cooking involves a great deal of trust anyway.

Perhaps that's why I find this so terribly offensive:

I mean, tongue isn't exactly for everyone (though in my pre-vegetarian days growing up, I loved it). But don't worry, they won't suspect it. Make sure it is well-flavoured...they won't know a thing.

I'll stick to the deviled eggs and sardines on toast for New Year's Eve, thanks ever so much.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What Do You Call Cats That Have Been Put In a Bong, and Run Through The Spin Cycle?


Lincoln, Nebraska-Cat City USA. Wait, I forgot " used for target practise". Then there's that whole trying to run them over with your lawn tractor thing that seems to be a popular pastime in these parts.

Don't worry, the stoned kitty turned out just fine though at first he was a bit catatonic. OK, I'm sorry, that was in poor taste. But hey, look on the bright side, at least no one has rung up the police (yet) to report a cat that has been playing with a string for two hours.

I haven't looked yet, but you just know this is going to make

Still Having My Butt Kicked... whatever I have. I doubt it is flu, as I only have a temperature of 100 F. That's not really flu. Anyway, I'm sure I'll live (mostly) but I'm taking it easy for a while.

At least people don't look at my bright red nose and assume I'm that I have the whole coughing/sneezing thing to go with it. That's nice. There's always the people that look at my nose and go:

"Awww, look at your pink little bunny nose!"

- and then try to rub it. I really hate that. I guess all the sneezing discourages that as well.

The tablecloth is progressing nicely. It has flower baskets in the corners, and ribbons around the top. I think it will be lovely for Spring. If we ever get Spring. I have a 17 ft. drift of on the side of the house that borders the wildlife area. That spot is always bad, being open to blowing, but I've been here almost ten years and I've never seen anything like it. When I feel better, I'll have to take Danny's photograph next to it. Really, I haven't seen a blizzard like that since I left Chicago.

I watched The Seventh Seal with Danny and he liked it. Thank goodness, since it was a Christmas present, and I'd feel terrible if he didn't. When I bought it from Amazon, it was described as dubbed. It was not dubbed. Danny did the best he could with the subtitles, but they ran too fast for him, so I read as we went along, pausing to explain the Crusades, Black Death, and burning witches. I was a bit worried he might be afraid, Death looking so sinister and everything, but he thought the whole movie was great fun. I was really stunned at just how well he grasped the idea that you can't beat death.

There's a part in the film where the knight is making his confession, and he tells the priest that he has it all figured out how he will defeat death at chess, and describes his move only to discover he's been making his confession to death himself. Danny thought about it for a minute and then informed me:

"It wouldn't have mattered. That move wouldn't have had him in check."

So apparently while I was reading subtitles aloud, kiddo was paying attention to the chess moves, and had memorised where they were when they left off.

See, I told you it was the perfect film for a five year old. I only wish it had been dubbed as advertised. Oh well, he can brush-up on his reading.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

And Now, The Flu

Really, I don't mind. In fact, I'm just so pleased to have made it through the Birthday cake and Christmas that I hardly care if I'm stuck in bed coughing and sneezing for a week. I. Am. Done.

I'm using this down-time as an opportunity to finish a few sewing projects that can be managed from bed (embroidered tablecloth) and watching some movies from the large stack of .50 cent VHS tapes we bought at a sale. I think I can save you watching John Carpenter's Vampires. I mean, for .50 cents, OK but you wouldn't want to spend real money renting it. I'll probably donate it back to the thrift store.

I should also mention that stale pannettone makes wonderful French toast. That bread is like a gift that just keeps on giving. Two weeks old, still delicious.

I hope everyone had a lovely holiday. I'm going to take some time off cooking and baking for a while, though Mr. ETB wants a movie cake for his Birthday in January. I'd tell you what he's requested, but I'll just leave that as a surprise for later.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Cake and Pudding

Grannymar's Christmas pudding was a great success. Mr ETB loved it. I even made the dreaded hard sauce, which was greatly improved by making it with homemade butter.
This Christmas cake has been stored in brandy soaked cheesecloth since early November.
Think of it as a big old sponge full of brandy. The fruits and peels are all homemade and candied, and the applesauce was from my neighbour's apple trees last fall. Mr. ETB thinks all the preserving, canning and candying is a bit much, but the results are really worth it. We have two Christmas cakes and I'll keep the second one for a Simnel cake during Lent. A rolled coating of buttercream will dress it up nicely.

We will enjoy the other pudding for St. Patrick's Day.

Was it worth all the work? Absolutely. Will I do it again next year? Ask me around November.

Soft Pretzels

It wouldn't be Christmas without a batch of soft pretzels. This isn't even close to a traditional recipe, but it is simpler to prepare. The recipe may be found HERE. Be warned, they are quite salty and the amount of baking soda called for in the water bath can be cut by half. At any rate, go easy topping them with extra salt.

Merry Christmas

If you live in Nebraska and asked Santa for a blizzard, I think you got it.

Have a safe and joyous Christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Early Christmas Present

Look, my two favourite sodas in the whole entire world!

Mr. ETB works near a place that sells exotic soda pop. He also bought me a Paula Deen cookbook which is fantastic because I love her! Really, I do. I think people who get so unhinged about her deep frying butter are just being jerks. You know if Mark Bittman did it they would be raving about how wonderful it is. She seems like just such a lovely person, and lord knows, she's had her difficulties in life. Normally, I get upset when Mr. ETB spends money on new (as in not used) books, but this is one I'll treasure forever.

When I was a child, we had this ritual that only Chicagoans would think of-go out looking at Christmas lights...and then stop for ice cream on the way home. Ice cream, in Chicago, in the winter. See, I told you it was nuts-but we weren't the only family that did it.

There were a couple of ice cream parlours you could go to, but the one my parents favoured was called Lockwood Castle. I liked the place as well because they made an ice cream soda with Green River.

I should explain the whole, "Ice Cream Soda" thing to people not from Chicago. Basically, they filled a tall ice cream dish with the soda pop of your choice, and then put in some ice cream which they mashed up in the pop. Then, an additional scoop of ice cream. I always had vanilla with Green River as it was a pretty strong lime flavour. I'm sure there were idiots that had strawberry, or chocolate...there's always one, you know? Anyway, being a traditional sort, I kept to the clean flavours of lime and vanilla.

It does seem like the drink fell somewhat out of popularity around the time the Green River serial killer was on the loose in Washington State. Speaking of serial killers and Christmas (OK we weren't really, but humour me)one Christmas we made a detour from our usual viewing of lights to go watch the police excavating Gacy's house. That was my family's idea of entertainment. We didn't see anything really-other than police tape and a bunch of cruisers around a kind of ordinary house, but hey-we didn't want to miss out. I don't specifically remember going out for ice cream afterwards...but I'm pretty sure we did. My old man wasn't the sort of person to miss out on an ice cream soda just because some guy that used to be a clown went and murdered a bunch of young men. Priorities, you know.

Hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas. We're trapped at home due to blizzard conditions (seriously, we're talking about scary winds and snowfall), but that's the best sort of holiday as far as I'm concerned.

Not Your Nana's Salt Cod

You could easily do at least five of the seven fishes in this meal alone, but I only used salt cod and anchovies in mine. The boys both enjoyed it. I made my own linguine, but I'm sure (almost) no one would object if you used store-bought.

The broccoli was a completely unexpected addition as Mr. ETB brought it home after a quick trip to the store. Broccoli is sort of a luxury item at our house as it is kind of expensive, so obviously I wanted to use it at the freshest point.

I didn't want to spend the entire Christmas Eve standing and cooking, so I prepared the vegetables and made the noodles in stages through the day. That worked well as I still had to give the Christmas pudding a final steaming (so we can just heat and eat tomorrow).

You Will Need:

Salt cod-soaked three days, water changed thrice daily-cut into hunks
Oil for frying
1 egg, beaten
Panko breadcrumbs (matzo meal makes a good substitute too)
1 bunch broccoli, stems peeled and chopped, and steamed until bright green (about four minutes) then refreshed under cold water
Olive oil (about 1/4 cup)
2 large onions, chopped
1/2 bulb garlic cloves, chopped
2 large red peppers, chopped
1 small tin anchovies in oil, drained
1/2 cup green and black olives, sliced
Oregano, basil, salt and pepper to taste (You really won't need salt)
Cooked linguine noodles
Fresh breadcrumbs

Steam the broccoli and set aside. In a large pan, heat about half of the olive oil and cook the onions until softened over medium heat (about five minutes). Add the garlic, red peppers, anchovies, olives and spices. Cook over low heat until flavours blend-about ten minutes. Add broccoli and additional oil. Keep warm over low heat.

Pat the salt cod dry and dredge in flour. Dip in beaten egg, and then roll in breadcrumbs. Let sit for a few minutes before frying. Heat about 1 1/2 inches of oil in a deep frying pan (I used cast iron). Get the oil good and hot and fry pieces of fish no longer than a couple minutes. It should flake easily.

Transfer the fish to the pan with vegetables and toss with oil.

Serve over linguine tossed with fresh breadcrumbs.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Seven Fishes

We're doing the Seven Fishes tomorrow night, even though we're not Italian. We spent enough years living in East Boston that the tradition feels familiar. My family Christmas tradition growing up was to get everyone together, and find something trivial to fight about. It just isn't Christmas without doors slamming, and ashtrays being tossed at walls. Oh, and the Pina Coloda mix with the rum already in it-mummy loved that stuff. One year, my grandmother behaved so horribly that my dad got on the phone to his brother-in-law, and told him to come pick her up before he killed her. He must have sounded like he meant it, because twenty minutes later my uncle was there to collect granny. Anyhoo, the Seven Fishes seem like a nicer (though admittedly, less fun) tradition for Danny to associate with Christmas Eve.

For tomorrow I have:

Salt cod
Smoked Octopus
Herring in paprika sauce

You know there will be a ton of pasta as well. Unless we lose power from the storm*...then we're eating sardines on crackers, which really wouldn't be too terrible.

* we've already had a large, ice-laden tree branch crash down on the roof (no damage, that I can see anyway). That was fun. The power has surged a couple times, but so far so good. There's a rather ominous looking icy-branch over a power line running across the front yard. I really, really, really hope it doesn't snap.

Cheese in a Can

Because what the hell, Christmas comes but once a year.

Won't Mr. ETB be surprised Christmas morning when he unwraps a giant pen shaped like a penguin, a bag of homemade caramel corn, and a can of cheese in an aerosol can. Yup, I think he will be.

The stuff isn't cheap either. It ought to be, but strangely isn't. I should have invested a few dollars in a bottle of Cold Duck, but I just wasn't thinking. Maybe for New Year's Eve.

Kiddo is still sick, and now I'm getting it-hooray. We baked ginger snaps though, so if nothing else, the house smells festive...well, as long as you stay away from the dog...he doesn't smell so nice...and he farts.

We're supposed to have this massive storm today through Saturday. They are warning people to call off Christmas travel and just celebrate next week. I can't ever remember that happening, even in Chicago, which makes me think this is going to be one heck of a doozy.

So if you're traveling this holiday, please be careful, and if you're driving through the plains, stay as far south as you possibly can. The freezing rain is already falling at my house and while it looks lovely on the bare tree branches, I sure wouldn't want to drive on it.

Safe travels.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How Can Something That Smells Like A Rotting Corpse...

...taste so good?

You'll want to store it in a closed container. Trust me on this. Get some good rye bread and pickled onion for the world's best sandwich. Stinky, but really delicious.

Anyone Have A (Blech) Hard Sauce Recipe?

Mr. ETB likes it. I don't. A small batch recipe would be greatly appreciated.

In other news-a major winter snowstorm is headed our way...right after the ice storm. All across the state of Nebraska, couples can be heard cheering how awfully unfortunate it is the in-laws won't be joining them for Christmas dinner this year. Travesty, really. Of course, it also means you can't go out to the movies, and eat Chinese food, but hey- plan ahead and make your own potstickers.

And in yet more, "other news", Danny came down with a fever today. No appetite, but otherwise fine-just a little sleepy. Not sleepy enough to take a nap, mind you...

So really, the hard sauce thing-any ideas?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Got Those Old Cosmic Blues Again

Riding in the car, a Janis Joplin song came on the radio.

Danny: What is that?
Me: Janis Joplin. She was very popular when I was your age.
Danny: But what is it?
Me: Well, music, I guess. Sort of. Singing. Sort of.
Danny: Make it stop. Please.

You're What Kind Of Santa?

My sister came home with a B.B. King record one day, and our housekeeper promptly let our parents have it, but good.

The boozing, the women, the utter depravity of the life of a bluesman! She was outraged that my parents would permit their teenaged daughter to bring something like that into the house. At first, I thought that was the just typical Ella Mae churchwoman lecture-I mean, she used to scold me for leaving undressed dolls lying about. Yes, dolls. Because it wasn't proper. For some reason the Chrissy doll sitting unclothed bothered her more than anything else, though it is true that Mrs. Beasley had her knickers sewn on to avoid just those sort of situations.

"I knew him as a baby in Mississippi. I watched him."

After so many years, I can't remember if there was one of those slow-motion type lags you see in movies where the person is trying to process something they've been told before the camera screeches back to the startled person muttering:

Our housekeeper was B.B. King's babysitter. I guess there wouldn't have been any reason to share this fact prior to my sister bringing home that record, but still. At that time (and probably still to a degree) B.B. King was probably the most famous bluesman alive (OK maybe Muddy Waters was higher on the fame scale, but B.B. King was pretty damn famous-in Chicago anyway).

"You what?!"

Oh, she liked him fine when he sang in church-that was swell, but all the drinking and women and so on-that was too much for her. I thought she was right insane, and I laughed her outrage off as the ranting of an old woman. Until this evening.

I was washing up the dishes after dinner, and listening to the radio. NPR had a Christmas blues show on. It wasn't until I heard B.B. King singing about being "Your Backdoor Santa", that I understood just what she found so offensive. Oh, I know, he didn't mean that backdoor-but it was still a pretty over-the-top song. Sneaking in to romance ladies when their men were out drinking. Bringing gifts for the children so they will leave mama alone to get romanced! Yep, I was starting to see Ella Mae had a point-it just took me forty years to understand it.

It seems so unfair-by the time I'm old enough to understand things, the people I'd love to share it with are all dead. I never get the chance to tell people they were spot on because it took me four decades to get it. So many times I wish I could call my grandmother to let her know I understand reusing plastic bags, or saving string in a jar on the windowsill. I get it now. I do. And it breaks my heart that I can't let her know it.

Ella Mae, wherever you may be, God rest your soul, you were right. About so many things. I wish I could have admitted it while you were still here.

Egg Nog Ice Cream

I'm pretty sure I hadn't bought eggnog in a good twenty five years-but last weekend I did. Today, I went back to the store, and promptly bought another container. Sure, you can make your own. I don't want to-I think I prefer the one from Roberts Dairy.

No, I'm not getting anything to endorse their product, and truthfully, I don't buy any of their other dairy items. This eggnog though...I mean...OK, this stuff should be listed as a drug. It is that addictive.

Longtime readers know that I have been ill, and that swallowing can sometimes be a problem. Well let me tell 'ya-I had no difficulty whatsoever downing eight hundred calories worth of this stuff over the weekend. Seriously, screw Ensure. This stuff is a million times better...and it has real nutmeg. I like nutmeg.

When I find something I like (butterscotch pudding, for example) the next logical step is for me to try freezing it. I'm pleased to report that twenty minutes in an ice cream maker turned the eggnog into the most delicious ice cream. Toss some boozy mincemeat over it and you have a holiday dessert no one will ever forget. It would make a great base for a frozen pie, or an ice cream cake as well.

My Neanderthal brain is thinking I should consume as much eggnog as I can while it is still available to hold me over for the lean times between mammoth kills (or winter holidays). The thought of going an entire year without it ...I can't bear to think about it. Really, I've been ill so long that although I maintain a cooking blog, I really haven't had much enjoyment from food in a long time. If you live in a part of the Midwest where you can get this eggnog-give it a try. It was one of the least expensive brands (they have an entire shelf devoted to various flavours and fat contents of the stuff) in the least flashy packaging, but wow, is it ever good. Really good.

You Know You're An Interfaith Household When... give serious consideration to baking mincemeat rugelach.
Updated-it worked!

I think I'm going to do it. OK, I know I am.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

And The Cake Was Pretty Good Too...

I should mention that I used the recipe for the Gold Cake in the 1950 Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook. Five egg yolks make the cake rich, and just dry enough to be stable. It cut easily, and withstood all that icing. For the icing I used half butter half Crisco and a bunch of confectioner's sugar. It isn't terribly fancy, but if frosts smoothly and can survive standing at room temperature for a good long while. For decorated cakes, I don't think I know of a better icing.

The Day The Earth Stood Still...In Cake and Cookies

Danny's 5th Birthday cake. After three weeks of decorating cookies in royal icing, the big day is finally here. You can scroll down to the next post to see more of Danny enjoying his Birthday (very) early this morning.

It looks like Danny likes his cake.

"We come in peace"...blah. blah, blah..."Hey, the Army shot the spaceman!"
Well why'd they have to go and shoot Klaatu? Gee whiz.
They were just trying to warm us about the nukes...
Oh great, now the robot is know that isn't going to end well...

Kind of amazing what you can do with seven pounds of butter, five pounds of sugar, ten pounds of flour and far too many egg whites to keep track of.
Happy Birthday Dannypants. The Earth really did stand still at 2:18 in the afternoon five years ago. Then, I heard you cry and the doctor said:
"That's your baby!"

I always thought that was what other baby would have been in the delivery room? Of course that was (and will always be) my baby. Five! Five years old.

OK, I'm off to get all mushy-n-stuff.

Danny's 5th Birthday

Five fingers old...that's a whole hand. Some might question the wisdom of giving a small child bongo drums, a tambourine and a seven in the morning anyway.

Happy Birthday Danny. I'm so lucky I get to be your mama!

Oooh, a microscope! Battery powered light source and AC adapter too.
By noon today, I'll have looked at swabs of everyone's mouths...except for the dog. His breath stinks.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


I finished baking, and assembling the flying saucer cake as Danny napped this afternoon. I frosted it grey and doused it with white cookie glitter-I think that looks sufficiently outer-space-ish. Yeah, that's a technical term. Anyway, tomorrow I'll assemble the whole darn thing.

I had leftover coconut that I tinted for grass, and leftover cake scraps and frosting so....

May I present:
(A fantastic blog name, I think)

Snowmen in Fezzes

you do is simple:

Crumble up leftover cake scraps, and bind with leftover frosting. Chill on a plate with a stick inserted through the pieces. Dip in melted white chocolate, and decorate. Easy. And cute. For the Christmas tree, just stick some tinted coconut onto the melted white chocolate.

I can't show the actual cake yet because a certain almost-five-year old is sitting nearby. I'll get the Birthday photos up at some point tomorrow or Monday. Keep your fingers crossed that I don't drop the whole bloody thing on the floor.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Oh, Now What?

The cats in the storm cellar were bad enough-this morning I surprised a squirrel in an unused room upstairs. I hadn't noticed a window was broken (because I never go up there) and well, those rodents aren't stupid. I was on the steps when I heard a scurrying above that I just knew wasn't a mouse.

And I'm pretty sure I saw a bobcat out by the garbage pit last week.

Cue the Green Acres theme...

Spreadin' Christmas Cheer

...In a hat bearing the likeness of a Lovecraftian monster. You wouldn't believe how many people thought it was a freaking elf's hat. Really, what the hell is wrong with the people in this state? Anyway, kiddo wanted to go out and spread some Christmas cheer, and who am I to refuse?

I love the fact that Danny affected a really strong Boston accent as he handed people their gifts and said:

"Heah's some Christmas cheeah!"

Of course, in my head I was thinking the next sentence should be:
"I made you a pooomahdoah."

Anyway, Mr. ETB insisted that I cut the caramels and wrap them individually, rather than present people with three pound slabs of candy. He's so bloody middle class sometimes. Our veterinarian got extra jam and caramels because he will come out early on a Saturday morning in a snowstorm when your elderly poodle is peeing blood. You get extra candy for that. We really love our vet-I wish he were my doctor.

I needed a couple more boxes, so we stopped at the dollar store on the way home from Wahoo (that almost sounds like it should be a country western song: "I was on the way home from Wahoo when my gun-slingin' granny shot the preacher down in front of the Keno parlour on a Saturday night...") where Danny entertained shoppers by (loudly) singing Deck the Halls." Hey, we were spreadin' Christmas cheer, damnit!

I'm glad Danny enjoyed himself. This year he's really old enough to engage people in conversation, though admittedly, I do kind of brace myself for the things he might say.


Heah, have a poomaahdoahhhhh. It smells like cloves.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

At The Post

Better late than never, I sent off the Christmas presents today. The very nice postal worker at our small office said to Danny:

"You're always so well behaved, and polite."

Danny gave her a serious look and replied:
"Are you being sarcastic?"

Thank God she laughed.

Holiday Gifts

Still molten salted caramel waiting to be turned out onto a board. It has a cup of heavy cream, a cup of whole milk, a cup of butter and more sugar than you care to know about. Not health food, and probably not a good gift for diabetics.
Graham crackers are healthier than caramel, but still contain a stick of butter. I guess healthy is a relative thing here.

I always try to give people things they would never purchase for themselves. I'm thinking a 3 lb. slab of salted caramel falls into that category. Not terribly likely you already have one sitting around either. I hate that, when someone beats me to it, and starts handing out 3 lb. slabs of salted caramel. Bastards.

I dunno, cutting it into pieces, and wrapping them individually is nice and all, but it looses that whole, "Gee whiz, I just got a 3 lb. slab of caramel" , impact.

Graham crackers make nice gifts too.

Caramel recipe HERE
Graham crackers recipe HERE

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Magic Mountain

Danny decided he wanted to read us a story tonight, so he grabbed The Magic Mountain. We tried explaining that he'd think it was kind of boring, but once the kid gets an idea into his head, he follows through. And he reads quite well.

First, I need to tell a story.

About fifteen years ago, I had lung surgery. Mr. Eat The Blog sat in the waiting room while I went for my follow-up appointment with the surgeon. I came out and saw my then boyfriend sitting in a room full of people with oxygen tanks and the like...reading The Magic Mountain. To this day, he insists it was not a conscious act-but I don't believe him. You don't sit in a waiting room at the Mass general with people hacking up diseased sputum, reading Thomas Mann...without knowing exactly what you are doing. I think that was when I knew I loved him.

Anyway, tonight when Danny got the urge to read Mann, he found a post-it note I'd left in the book, many, many years ago. I thought it would be worth sharing.

Bonus quote from Danny after reading aloud the first few pages, and being told how he read that better than many adults:

"If I can read The Magic Mountain, I can learn how to yo-yo."


Are You Sick Of Hearing About The Birthday Yet?

No? Good.

I finished decorating the last of the cookies tonight (yay!) and my sugar cube structures cemented perfectly. All that is left to do is bake and frost the cake, tint the coconut for grass, and assemble the darn thing on a sturdy board. Hopefully, the weather will be decent Sunday, and Mr. Eat The Blog can keep Danny out of the house for an hour or so, giving me time to assemble it all.

Oh. My. God. I'm old enough to be a grandmother, and in a few days I will be mother to a five year old. No wonder I'm so freaking tired. People, I am So. Freaking. Old.

Kiddo is in the living room playing with the yo-yo I bought for .75 cents in Chicago in 1973. He thinks it is the best Hanukkah gift, ever. Someday, he's going to find out about Nintendo, and the like-but tonight he's in the next room trying to learn Walking The Dog.


Fake Bakers

The Globe and Mail has an article about people who try to pass off bakery goods as their own at parties and school bake sales.

I think times have changed quite a bit since I was in school. The most "baked" item likely to show up on the fund raising table would be rice krispie treats. If the parent supplying them was really into it, there might be some jimmies on top. Otherwise, it was generally accepted that you went to one of the two excellent bakeries in the neighbourhood, and bought some kichels or mandel brot. That had the added bonus of being kosher which the marshmallow treats were not (gelatin). So everyone was happy. No one I knew had home-baked sweets in the 60's and 70's-unless their grandmother lived with them. My grannies weren't really bakers. My father's mother made her own pickled herring in wine, but you couldn't make use of that at a bake sale.

Seriously though, would you even bother to try and disguise bakery purchased sweets? What ever happened to , "Hey, look-I splurged on bakery items!" I always though homemade stuff looked like you were a cheapskate.

Really, isn't it enough to attack women for formula feeding, how they discipline their children, how they clean, and whether they work outside of the home? What, now baking skills are fair game? Really, if you have friends putting enough pressure on you that it seems normal to sit in your car dumping store-bought brownies onto a paper plate, and decorating them with squeeze frosting...well, frankly you need new friends.

I had to laugh at the advice for re-warming a pie and making indentations with the back of a spoon to make it look homemade.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Washington Monument sugar cubes and royal icing.

I am so insanely exhausted, but just so pleased with how well this is turning out. I think tomorrow night will be the last batch of decorated cookies (Hallelujah! ) and then I can worry about baking and frosting the cake.

It dawned on me (too late) that this whole thing would have been a million times cooler had I gone for black and white. Oh well, maybe next time.

There Are Cats Living In The Storm Cellar

I know this, because I could hear them fighting. I can't begin to tell you how strange that it-hearing screaming cats under the floorboards of your kitchen.

I'm pretty heartless, but not heartless enough to evict them on a sub-zero night. As soon as we get into positive numbers though, they're out of here.

The dog is thrilled with all of this.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Movies

You know how families have certain movies they watch every it just wouldn't be Christmas if you didn't watch them?

So who wants to come over and watch, Female Trouble.

He Thinks He's Important

In what was obviously a moment of insanity, I went grocery shopping on a Saturday. The weather's been bad, so I wanted to do a bit of a stock-up shop before the next round of storms. I'm in no condition to do a large shopping trip, so Mr. Eat the Blog and Danny took a cart and helped out with the list.

In the produce department, I see a woman, about my age pleading with her husband over onions.

"It says they're sweet onions." She tells him, somewhat helplessly.
"I can only eat Vidalia onions." He shouts back at her. "You know I have to have Vidalia onions."

It just got worse from there, like it was her fault they didn't have his precious Vidalia onions for sale. I've seen two year olds with better self-control than that jackass had. As all this was taking place, he was having an argument with someone on the phone via the ear-piece he had stuck on his head to show the world how important he is.

None of this was my problem until he decides to try pushing me aside as I'm getting my peppers. No, "Excuse me", or anything of that sort. So I let him know I'd be done in a minute, but he would have to wait his turn. I suppose that was risking getting punched in the mouth, but I just can't believe anyone thinks that is appropriate behaviour-ever.

I mean, can you imagine being married to that? Or working for someone like that?

Good Thing Butter Was On Sale This Week

...because I've already blown through two pounds of it in as many days baking these cookies.

So tonight I made about half of the "crowd people", the army guys in jeeps (yeah, I already had tanks, but I needed jeeps too), some retro-looking cars, and some other crap I can't remember. So far, so good. All I have left to do is Klaatu, the actual flying saucer cake and tinting a ton of coconut for grass. If I can find candy cigarettes I'll make a fence from it, if not, we go with sugar cubes. I never want to decorate another cookie with royal icing again-ever.

Still. looking at them on trays drying in the kitchen, I have to admit this is going to be a really cool Birthday cake. Mr. Eat The Blog's Birthday is in January, and he jokingly said he wanted a cake with more people on it than Danny's. I offered to do Salo in decorated cookies, and I think he's mildly concerned I might actually make good on the threat.

Anyway, 1 week to go!

By the way...

If you're one of those people we always send Christmas gifts to...they are going to be late this year. Think of it as a New Year's gift instead.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I Wish I Could Blame This Cake On Pain Medication...

...but I think we all know full well, I'd do this cold sober.

He does look awfully sad though.

You know how it is, one day you're sitting around looking at the bag of store-brand pretzels no one liked, and the next thing you know, you're ramming them into the baked likeness of a porcupine. I know it isn't just me, that happens to everyone at some time or another.

And would you look how festive the leftover ganache is once you turn it into truffles? I mean, come on. Yes sir, those are some festive truffles.

In truth, I wanted to try baking something in my old Fire King bowls to get an idea how well it will work for the flying saucer cake next week. I had five egg yolks to use up, and the cake took exactly that. I love when that happens, don't you?

The baking in bowls went amazingly well, given that I still feel like a zombie. I have a good number of the cookies decorated (about 25 small tanks, the Capitol building (that came out amazingly well) and Gort) so even with being sick, I'm still (sort-of) on schedule. Tonight I'm making the Washington Monument out of sugar cubes after the kid goes to sleep. I'm still not sure what to do for the crowd of people. Mr. Eat The Blog suggested Mike and Ikes as sort of abstract people in the crowd, but I'm leaning toward sugar paste. I might change my mind after fifty or so little sugar paste people. Anyway, I'm still open to ideas if anyone has them.

I call first on the porcupine arse!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Sorry, The Cook Is Sick

...and Cipro makes you want to puke (and puke, and puke and...well, you get the idea. This is a cooking blog, no need to elaborate.)

Fortunately, Mr. Eat The Blog knows how to cook, so the boys won't starve or anything.

So hey, we got a foot of snow over the past couple days-that was fun. We had these fierce winds blowing snow against the house all night-I think I got twenty minutes of sleep. I slept all day today though, so that was good.

OK, I'm out of here. Probably for a while.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Birthday and Holiday Gifts

I sorted and wrapped Danny's holiday and birthday presents today. Lucky kid, an inter-faith family that celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah, and a birthday smack in the middle-how cool. I don't like December to become a big month-long toy fest, so I always make sure he gets educational presents as these animal kingdom cards, for example. We bought these in a second hand store before Danny was even born. I've waited five long years to see the look of wonder on his face Christmas morning as he tears away the wrapping paper and sees his early 1970's treasure.

Then again, movies make a swell gift. I must admit, I got a laugh wrapping this in Disney paper-like I've comitted some sort of heresy. In case you're wondering (I'm sure you are) I bought Danny the dubbed version because although he can read fairly well, subtitles is asking a lot of a five year old.
Vintage board games are nice too.

Before you assume I'm the world's cruelest parent, let me assure you he is not going without toys and enjoyable gifts. For Christmas I bought Danny a Thomas The Tank Engine flashlight, snowshoes, story tapes, playing cards, and a vintage light-brite knock-off I found for three bucks. For his Birthday, Danny is getting my microscope (supervised use only, of course), a recorder (instrument) bongo drums (yeah, I don't know what I was thinking either) and a tambourine. He's also getting some movies. Hanukkah, we stick to small gifts-two yo-yo's (yes, they were mine and yes, they are real Duncan yo-yo's), some light-up lollipops, stickers, a set of pick-up-sticks, and a mancala set. So here's the fun part-everything (granted, some of it was mine as a child) including the er...gently used wrapping paper, came in around twenty bucks. The flashlight was the most expensive item. I'm a firm believer in buying things when you see them, and then hiding them in the attic. I have some sturdy metal shelving upstairs (where Danny is not allowed) where I keep my sorted toys, learning materials, etc. I'm never without a gift for Danny or anyone else, really. I also detest holiday shopping, malls and the like.

Now I have two weeks to focus on the birthday cake.

Depression Era Griddle Cakes

One more recipe from The Calumet Book of Oven Triumphs.

These were nice, not terribly fluffy if that's your expectation of pancakes. I folded in cut up banana and mini chocolate chips at the last because that's how my family likes them.

You Will Need:

1 cup sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg, well beaten
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons melted butter (let it cool a bit before using)

Heat griddle. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Beat together egg and milk and mix into flour beating only until smooth. Add cooled shortening and mix . Bake on a hot, greased griddle. Makes 12-15 according to the directions-I got eight medium sized cakes. I think the huge pancakes we see today would have been odd in the 30's.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Depression Era Baking

This is one of my vintage booklets I managed to save after the tornado by drying it out on my wooden drying rack. I'm so glad I went to the effort-now it can hang around for another 70+ years.

Look at this photo from the back cover. I totally want to bake that one next-it is so beautiful.

I really like one paragraph recipes.

I split and filled the layers with spiced pear jam, but you could easily skip it.
Of course I frosted this by setting the cake on a rack over a baking sheet-what sort of an idiot do you take me for? As I always tell Danny, "Cleaning a pan is easier than cleaning a counter." Words to live by.

The recipe for the cake comes from a booklet published by Calumet baking powder in 1934. I get the sense, looking at recipes from that time that eggs were quite expensive as most recipes will note how many were required, and sometimes offer more economical substitutions. Butter and cream were apparently cheap and abundant.

I had some cream that needed to be used, and since the previous owner had marked this recipe in the booklet, I decided to give it a try. I'm glad I did. I spent five whole minutes making this cake, and then fifty minutes in the oven. Straightforward, clear instructions and standard pan sizes go a long way towards influencing me to try something new. I skipped the chocolate frosting in favour of a cooked penuche style ( oh, let's be honest-I wanted the leftover frosting to chill and eat like fudge. I like penuche fudge.) that I dressed up with some holiday jimmies. Lookin' pretty damn festive around here, eh? Indeed it is.

I'll save myself typing out the cake recipe as it is legible in the photo and instead give you the frosting details. I split my cake in half, and filled it with spiced pear jam I canned last Fall. Oh, that's good stuff. Anyway, you could certainly skip filling it and really, even frosting seems unneeded. Danny helped me polish off the scraps from trimming and leveling the cake, and we were both pretty pleased with it, "as is."

The penuche frosting recipe comes from the little red, not that little red book-I mean the Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook, 1950. Chairman Betty suggests you sing "Raise The Red Flag" as you stir because it almost sounds like "Oh Tannenbaum" .

You Will Need:

2 2/3 cups brown sugar
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup butter
1/3 teaspoon salt

Stir constantly over low heat to a boil, then boil rapidly to 220 degrees F. Remove from heat and beat until it is lukewarm and reaches a spreading consistency. Pour extra into a buttered pan and chill, then cut into squares as candy. For god's sake, don't throw it out.