Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ever Wonder What a Billion Calories Look Like?

-Stay tuned, I made a (very) large batch of homemade halvah. Because I clearly need more fat in my diet. You wouldn't want me to waste away, now would 'ya? I didn't think so.

It is cooling, and I'll try to get pictures tonight, but we probably won't be trying it until morning as it really needs to set.

It has a cup of tahini and 1/2 cup of oil, 3/4 cup of honey and a bunch of other stuff-how can it not be good? OK, it did actually look a bit on the oily side, but that might have been my tahini, so it may need tweaking, we'll see.

Updates later.

Cheddar Topped Herbed Scones

These are one of the best things I make, and I've been making them for years. I adapted them from an old soda bread recipe.

You Will Need:

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg, beaten
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet.

Mix dry ingredients and then slowly add the milk-you may not need it all. Work as little as possible until combined. Turn out on a floured surface and pat into a rectangle. Cut into triangles. Place each piece on baking sheet and brush with beaten egg. Top with cheese.

Bake about 20 minutes, checking frequently., The tops should begin to bubble and colour and the bottoms darken. This will vary depending on how large you cut them. Remove to a rack to cool. Best served the day they are made.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Quick Bread With Yogurt and Olive Oil

If I couldn't have butter and milk, this cake might be a nice substitute for pound cake. Since I can have butter and milk, I was kind of unimpressed with it. I guess it was sort of a novelty thing. The boys liked it quite a bit. I substituted lemon zest for the lime, but otherwise followed the recipe, which may be found HERE.

The cherry sauce was a complete experiment, and it worked fine. Basically, I under-cooked some jam.

For the Sauce:

4 cups pitted cherries (any kind)
1 cup granulated sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup water

Pit the cherries, place them in a bowl and cover with sugar. Let stand about an hour. Once the juices begin to run, toss the cherries and sugar into a pot and add the water and lemon juice. Cook over high heat, stirring constantly until it reduces. You don't want to take this to the gelling point, so test it with a cold, metal spoon. If it dribbled off in thick droplets you're good. You don't want it to break in sheets. If it does, no big deal, you have preserves.

This makes about a pint. I cooled mine in a heat-proof casserole dish on the counter and then transfered it to an open jar that I let cool completely in the fridge before closing. Use it within a week or so. I doubt it will be around that long.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Pesto Pizza Continued

Just a couple more photos of it cut. It was a huge hit with the boys.

Pesto Pizza

I had a bit of frozen pesto left from last year in the freezer, so I used it as a base for pizza. I also used a couple cups of cooked white beans, Mozzarella cheese, Roma tomatoes, and olives. Neat huh? I know what you're thinking...beans on a pizza? I guess I've always thought meat on a pizza was a bit strange. To each their own.

I doubled my regular pizza dough recipe and put it in a deep, round pan. This is much too much pizza, and we'll probably be eating it all weekend. Oh well, at least I used up some of last year's pesto.

Vintage Saturday

My glasses.

I bought these for a few dollars at a thrift store in rural Wisconsin. I've been wearing them for years, but now they have new bifocal lenses in them.

I can see again! I really didn't realise just how badly I needed new lenses. Now I don't have to hold my arm a mile away to read the label on a bottle of aspirin. Driving is much better too-I can look down to see how fast I'm going and look up at the road again without it taking my eyes five minutes to fully recover. I've been sewing again as well.

Friday, June 26, 2009

You Are My Sunshine

Sometimes I like to get creative with the Friday challah. I could not seem to get a good photograph, after many tries I settled on this one. The picture does not quite do justice to the size of this bread-it is huge. I figure we can eat the rays as rolls tonight and slice the centre for sandwiches all weekend.

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Marble Cake and Bitter Chocolate Frosting

I had five egg whites left from the gelato, so here's a cake that uses exactly that amount. The cake is adapted from The Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook, 1950 and the frosting from Hershey's 1934 Cookbook

You Will Need:

For the cake ( makes a 9x13 sheet cake):

2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 7/8 cups sugar (odd, I know)
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup softened butter
1/3 cup softened shortening
1 1/4 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 unbeaten egg whites

After mixing remove 1/3 of the batter and mix in:
1 square melted unsweetened chocolate
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons warm water

Grease and flour a 9x13 pan. Set aside. preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients in first part of recipe. Add shortening and butter and cream together. Add the milk and extract, mix well. Add the egg whites, mix well. Remove 1/3 of batter. Mix in second set of ingredients. Pour first part of batter in pan. Pour second part over, here and there and then run a knife through to create a marble effect. You can see by the photo I am not very good at that technique.

Bake 35 minutes or until cake tests done. Cool in pan.

For the frosting:

frosting does best spread on a slightly warm cake and then chilled before serving.

You Will Need:

1/2 cup butter
2 cups confectioner's sugar (icing sugar)
2 tablespoons (I needed more like 6) cream
4 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted

Cream butter and sugar together. Add cream and beat well. Add chocolate and beat to get spreading consistency. You will probably need to add more cream. The frosting hardens nicely as it chills.

Note: A small pinch of salt wouldn't hurt, even though the recipe does not call for it.

Green From The Garden, and blog housekeeping

Sage, watercress, rocket, and pea shoots. Not a bad harvest for the end of June. The tomato plants are doing great. The peppers are struggling, but digging in despite the odds and the basil seems determined to live. Not bad, all in all.

I'm noticing some un-cool referrer stuff via the tracker. Because of this I have changed the commenting format to require approval. It may be completely innocent, or the person's computer may be compromised. Either way, I don't want to deal with it, so I've enabled moderation. If I'm not approving your comments, it is because your visits to my site are showing as coming from those referrers. Sorry.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Chocolate Coconut Milk Gelato

I wanted to try the chocolate gelato recipe with a cup and a half of coconut milk as a substitute (I had it left from the curry on Monday night).

It worked! I swear, this gelato recipe is the best. I tried it with white chocolate and had great results as well (though you need to cut the sugar in half for that one).


Yet another way to beat the heat-making a large batch of polenta at six AM. Wrapped tightly, it keeps for days in the fridge, and can be reheated in the microwave. I prefer mine fried in a bit of oil, but a few minutes in a pan shouldn't heat up the kitchen too terribly.

Polenta is versatile. I'm serving it with carrots, spinach, shallots and white beans-but you could easily top it with a red sauce and cheese.

Thirty minutes of cooking over very low heat on the stove will provide a generous base for many dishes throughout the week. Just make certain to use a very long spoon for stirring as the stuff has a tendency to sputter. I use the butter because it gives it an overall better texture , but you could easily skip it.

Other things I've done with polenta: HERE, HERE, HERE.

You Will Need:

6 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups polenta (corn grits-not corn meal)
3 tablespoons butter (optional)

Bring water and salt to a rolling boil. Stir in polenta and reduce heat to a very low simmer. Stir frequently for 30 minutes until thickened. Some of it will stick to the bottom of the pan no matter how well you stir-no worries, just soak it and it comes out easily (unless you burn it on. Then, frankly you're screwed).

Beat in the butter at the end if using it.

Butter a large casserole dish.

Tip out the polenta into dish, and let stand ten minutes. Invert onto a large plate and let stand another five minutes. When slightly cooled, transfer to fridge, uncovered on plate and chill well. Cut into 3-4 meal sized servings and wrap tightly in foil.

To fry:

Cut polenta into squares and heat a frying pan over moderate heat. Add a small amount (maybe a tablespoon) of olive oil and fry on each side until dark and crispy. The inside stays wonderfully creamy and that crunchy crust is really divine.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Curries, Fruited Rice, and Chutney

I've made both of these curries before HERE and HERE. The chutney recipe is HERE.

I thought I'd mention how nice it is to can your chutney in the fall and then enjoy not standing over the stove cooking it in summer. At the time I canned it, we thought it was too sweet, but it did mellow and develop some character over time and everyone really enjoyed it tonight.

Here's the thing I want to share about the rice-you need to add the fruit after cooking, or the rice will turn mushy. Go ahead and make the rice as you ordinarily do and then add the fruit after it has cooked. Cover it, and let it stand five minutes, then fluff with a fork and serve. For this rice I chopped up crystalised ginger, dried apricots and sultanas. Sure, there was plenty of dried fruit in the chutney, but my family has certain expectations for rice, and fruit is one of them when serving curry.

Tonight on the farm

Can you find the first little green tomato in there?
We are under a severe storm watch again tonight. In the less than five minutes I spent outside getting these photos, I got no less than eight mosquito bites (some are still developing). As I walked our path to the drive, millions of tiny grasshoppers jumped out of my way. They'd better stay away from my garden...if they know what's good for 'em.

Heat Wave

It is very warm here at the moment, and it does not look like it will improve much anytime soon. Thankfully, the young men building the barn across the way showed some sense, and went home. It is impossibly humid as well.

After all, it is only 36 degrees...C. It sounds better than 96 F. though, doesn't it?

The house stays pretty cool as long as I cook late at night or early in the morning. We're microwaving last night's curry, so that shouldn't add too much to the suffering. Mr. Eat The Blog has an hour long commute without air conditioning in his car, which was made all the more brutal last night by two serious accidents shutting down the Interstate. By the time he got home, all he wanted was a cold drink. The nerve of people, having accidents at rush hour on the hottest day of the year!

So here is some unsolicited advice to help survive the warm weather, and a smoothie recipe at the end:

Make friends in Nunavut, and visit them!

Clothes take longer to dry in humid weather. I have a ceiling fan in the kitchen, so before bed, I hang the clothes on the wooden rack and position it beneath the fan. By morning, the clothes are dry.

We have two large, West facing windows in the dining room. In each window, I placed large, white foam boards from the craft shop. These help to reflect the light away from the house and block sun much better than curtains alone.

A damp dishtowel around your neck will keep you cool as you cook.

Someone suggested baking granola on a baking sheet on the front seat of the car-I'm seriously considering trying it. The only problem is that I'd be forced to go outside and stir it every once in a while.

Blueberry/Cherry Smoothie

The trick to this is having the fruit either frozen, or at the least, on the verge. This eliminates the need for ice cubes. You can of course use soy, rice or any other milk substitute.
1 cup frozen blueberries
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sugar to taste
Enough milk to thin

Blend well and serve it up in a pretty glass. We had these last night and they were delicious.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Key Lime and Star Anise Sorbet

I made a few changes to the original Dorie Greenspan recipe, by using much less key lime juice, and infusing the syrup with star anise.

We're divided on this one. Predictibly, Danny hated it ( "Citrus, I hate citrus!"). mr. Eat The Blog really enjoyed it (we had it after a dinner of curry) to finish off a spicy meal, and I thought it was really tart, but my taste buds are messed-up from medicne and it is usually Thursday at the earliest before anything comes close to tasting normal. Then, I get the medication again on Saturday and everything tastes like bile until midweek. Ever wonder why it is Friday Cakeblogging, not Sunday? Exactly. Anyway, citrus always tastes bad to me now, so I don't think I'm a fair judge of this sorbet. I will say that I loved the texture from the condensed milk. I had a couple tins in the pantry left from something I expected to make at Christmas but never did. I think this might be the first time I've ever used condensed milk. It is however, very, very sweet. I think that is good given the tartness of the limes, but still-be warned.

If I were to do this again (which I might, with some alterations) I would just buy lime juice in a bottle. Standing there with numb hands trying to juice those limes with a wooden reamer over strainer was insanity. If you're hell-bent on doing it, at least give the limes a good roll on the counter-top first, pressing down hard to get more juice. You're going to need quite a few limes to get the cup the recipe called for originally. I used 3/4 cup and still thought it was plenty sour, but use your own tastes as a guide.

Recipe HERE.

Star Wars Embroidery, Railroad Days, Vultures, Etc.

All you need are plain t-shirts, washable ink, floss and a needle. These aren't the best pictures, but you'll have to take my word for how cute they are when worn.

Last year, I was embroidering Cars characters on sweatshirts. I can only imagine what he'll want next year.

Each shirt takes a couple hours, but can be easily completed quicker without constant interruption (like that's going to happen any time in the next ten years).

Last weekend was Railroad Days in Omaha and Council Bluffs. Five museums, two days, ten bucks per family, transportation included. Sure, it was unbelievably hot, but we had a great time. Danny took his first bus ride between the museums, and being the good mother I am, I insisted we sit in the back seats (it was a school bus). I think he was pretty surprised when he went bouncing up in the air the first time. Mr. Eat The Blog bounced around too, but I won't repeat his comments. That could be a a blog unto itself.

True to my word, I let Danny eat birthday cake for breakfast on Saturday, and he nearly pooped himself with joy when he saw what we bought him. I need to explain this first-Danny has taken a liking to reruns of The A Team. I know, I know-I kept him from television for the first three years of life, and now he's nagging me to watch the A-Team and reruns of the original Battlestar Galactica from the 70's. I wish it weren't true. Lately, he's been watching Dragnet as well. I'd like to think that I can somehow turn these shows into a lesson on popular culture, but who the heck am I kidding? I have a small child that runs around saying:
"I pity the fool!"

So yeah, we went on Ebay and bid on a matchbox A-Team van from the 80's. It ended up being a buck plus shipping. Danny was impressed.

So did I ever tell you the story about Mr. T cutting down all the trees in his front yard in Lake Forest? I was working nearby and everyone was going out at lunch to gawk at him taking a chainsaw to the old trees on his property. I guess he wanted a sprawling lawn, and the neighbours didn't think he should, or something like that-it was a long time ago. I sort of like the fact he went out there with a chainsaw and did it himself. Lake Forest is a pretty WASP-y kind of old-money place-it must have terrified the locals.

Anyway, I pity the fool that doesn't go to Railroad Days next year. It is a great event.

Oh, and we came home to three scary Turkey Vultures. Yuck, I hate those things. Big, ugly birds. The photo isn't that great, but take my word for it, you don't want them around.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Right On Time

Every year, right at the start of summer, it happens. I'll be sitting at my desk in the evening and hear a "thud" on the window. Looking up, I'll see a frog hanging there, reaching a hand out now and again to grab the tiny insects attracted to the light of my computer monitor. He has plenty of fine dining after all the rain we've had. I get itchy just looking out the window.

This morning, there was a gigantic cicada on the kitchen window, and as I type, it is still hanging there. I told Danny that he came to wish him a happy 4 1/2 birthday. Around noon, I heard Danny talking to the window:

"But the party isn't until tomorrow."

I think we'll be obligated to bring it some cake if it is still there in the morning. Sort of reminds me of the time when Danny was whispering behind the washing machine to the mice that "Mama bought traps-you have to go."

So anyway, here's the first frog of 2009, if you keep track of that sort of thing. 2007 frog, HERE.

Four and a Half

I will try to get better pictures when the light is better in the morning.

This is not the best looking cake I've ever baked, but judging by the scraps from trimming and the extra frosting, it might be one of the best tasting. I just couldn't get the butter cookie dough to handle well in the humidity, so they came out thick and puffy and far too soft. You can't see the patches I did with frosting, but they're there. My decorating skills seem to have taken a dive of late-maybe I need to start doing Baking With Counterpunch again for the sake of improving my technique. Link

I needed to do four layers to accommodate the height of the frosted cookies. That's quite a bit of cake. I need to go pick up my eyeglasses tomorrow-I think we'll bring them some cake...actually a lot of cake. I'll give the recipe for two layers because most people aren't insane enough to make something like this.

Other Birthday Cakes:

Three and a Half
Two and a Half

From The Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook, 1950 (with a few modifications)

You Will Need:

1/3 cup softened butter
1/3 cup solid shortening
1 2/3 cups sugar
3 eggs
2/3 cup cocoa
1 1/2 cups cold water
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1/3 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Grease and flour pans. Line bottoms with parchment then grease and flour that as well. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place rack in centre.

In a bowl, cream together butter, shortening and sugar until light. Add the eggs and beat well. In another bowl, whisk the water into the cocoa (do a bit at a time and use a whisk-a spoon will just swirl it around without wetting the cocoa). Add vanilla.Set aside.

Sift dry ingredients.

Add dry ingredients alternating with the cocoa mixture. Mix well, without over-mixing and pour into pans. Bake 3-35 minutes until they test done. Cool in pans on rack ten minutes. Remove from pans and finish cooling on racks before frosting.

Lavender Blueberry Ice Cream

-for people who like Yardley of London. I'm really not kidding. That's not necessarily bad, I have wonderful childhood memories associated with getting hand-milled bars of soap for my birthday each year-but I must warn you that this ice cream has a very assertive fragrance. If you're sensitive to strong, floral smells you might want to pass on this, or at least use half of the amount of lavender.

Recipe may be found HERE at Once Upon a Plate

It was only after I took the photos and cropped, etc. that I noticed the original post also had this displayed in a teacup. I wonder if subconsciously it was so strongly scented like Earl Grey that both our minds immediately thought, "Teacup." Of course, tea cups are a great way to photograph ice cream too-but I really think it is the scent.

I can't imagine sitting down and eating a gigantic bowl of this, but with a nice wedge of lemon pound cake I could see it being really nice.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Anyone Who Ever Had a Heart...

...Wouldn't turn around and bake it. They'd braise it, of course.
Here it is rinsed. This is the underside.
This is the top. There's a pretty decent layer of fat on it. You need to trim the tubes, etc. Then, put it in a bowl and let it soak for 30 minutes.
Make some stuffing while you wait.Parsley, thyme, rosemary and breadcrumbs sounds good. Preserved lemon on hand? Go ahead and toss that in too.
Stop making fun of my tying skills. I'm a vegetarian. You don't get this sort of experience baking tofu.
Melt some clarified butter in a heavy pan. Dredge the heart in seasoned flour and give it a good browning.
Give that heart a generous glug of Port before going in the oven.
This is how it ought to look when you set it in.
And when you take it out three hours later.
If you did it correctly, there should be a nice roll of stuffing inside.

Serve it over homemade noodles and impress the heck out of anyone willing to try it.

Mr. Eat The Blog liked it. It was very lean, and very tender. He's looking forward to having the rest as sandwich meat.

You Will Need:

A beef heart
2 cups chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons butter
Clarified butter
2 cups soft white breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon preserved lemon rind-chopped
Flour for dredging seasoned with salt and pepper
1/2 cup Ruby Port
1/2 cup water
Extra Port and about 2 tablespoons red currant jelly

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Clean and trim heart and soak in fresh water 30 minutes. Drain and rinse. Pat dry.

Mix together parsley, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper, breadcrumbs and softened butter until you have a soft mixture. Slice the heart through the side (ow!) without going all the way through. Stuff with mixture. With string, roll and tie it as best as you can.

Melt the clarified butter in a heavy pan and brown the heart well. Transfer to a baking dish (You'll need one with a lid) pour the wine and water over the heart. Cover it and let it cook for an hour.After an hour, give it a turn. I doubt it will need more liquid, but if it does, add some more wine. Let it cook another hour. Turn it again.

In the last fifteen minutes of cooking (check to see that meat is tender first) remove the heart and strain the pan juices through a fine sieve. Remove the heart to another pan-this one won't need a cover. Toss out the junk. Pour off as much of the clear oil as you acn and place it in a heavy saucepan. Add another glug of Port and the red currant jelly. Boil until reduced by half. Pour it over the heart which you have now transfered to another pan. Crank the heat up to 375 degrees F. and cook another five to ten minutes or until it develops a dark crust. Remove from oven to a heavy baking sheet. Tent with foil and let stand at least twenty minutes before carving.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ginger/Cherry Frozen Yoghurt

I couldn't resist using the syrup in a frozen yoghurt. The flavour is subtle-if I'd known I'd be making this I'd have used much more ginger in the syrup-still it is nice, and the iciness you often get with a syrup isn't nearly as bad as I expected.

2 cups full-fat yoghurt
1 cup cherry/ginger syrup

Churn, and freeze several hours before serving.

Carrots and Chickpeas With Cumin

I spent so much time decorating cookies that I was in a bit of rush to make dinner. Start to finish, 30 minutes. You can do that, right?

You Will Need:

Cooked rice

1 tin chickpeas, skins removed (tedious, I know but worth doing)
1 cup chopped parsley
8 scallions, chopped
1 tablespoon preserved lemon rind, chopped
8 carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal
3-4 (+) tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup raisins
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the carrots and cook over medium heat until they begin to often-about ten minutes. Add everything else and cook until carrots are quite soft. Serve over hot rice adding more oil if it seems like it needs it.

Random Stuff

Neighbour is replacing his hay barn that landed on our car during last year's tornado. There's a group of young men (unfamiliar, so I don't think they are their relatives or neighbours) walking around wearing jeans, cowboy hats, and little else. This is a vast improvement over the roofers, which you will remember had a creepy, shirtless old man that looked like William S. Burroughs peering in the windows. This is much better.

I bought a beef heart to stuff with parsley and breadcrumbs and bake. I was feeling adventurous (easy to do when you won't be the one eating it) and Mr. Eat The Blog was somewhat interested in trying it. I'll probably do that tomorrow. Take another piece of my heart now baby...

Danny's half birthday is coming up and if you've been following along the past few years, that means cake. I've been frosting Thomas the Tank Engine cookies to decorate it with. I still have a couple days to pull it together.

My tomato plants are looking fantastic. We are under a severe storm/tornado watch tonight and I'm really tempted to go out and cover them in case of hail. I really don't know what to do. I hope I don't lose them all again this year.

The state has been restoring the prairie around us and making water retention areas for waterfowl. The birds love it-but I was outside for less than three minutes to let the dog out, and I am covered in mosquito bites. Not good. The mosquito magnet must have surrendered.

Well, I'm off to go watch the half-naked cowboys across the driveway.

Cherry/Ginger Syrup Lemonade

Oh look, a nice big pitcher of cherry/ginger lemonade. That looks refreshing.
Just because I made it for you, I used one of my Art Deco swizzle sticks. I don't bring out the fancy barware for just anyone.
Here's a picture of the syrup. Can you see my camera reflected in it? Yeah? Too bad-I'm a cook, not a photographer.

This syrup is really versatile, and keeps well in the fridge. I made a lemonade from it by adding water and lemon juice until I reached a level of tartness I liked. You can do so many things with a good syrup-go make some right now.

You Will Need:

2 cups water
2 cups sugar
A handful of pitted cherries
1 tablespoon chopped ginger root

Place water and sugar in a heavy pan and bring to a boil, whisking until it dissolves. Add the cherries and the sugar and reduce heat to medium. Cook until the liquid has reduced by 1/3. Strain out the fruit and return the liquid to the pot to reduce to half. Strain again (to catch any particles) into a measuring cup and skim any foam. Strain one more time into a glass jar and let cool completely before closing.

Keeps a couple weeks.