Thursday, December 30, 2010

If You Don't Like The Weather, etc.

At noon, it was 60 degrees F. and sunny. I used that opportunity to clean out the mudroom and do some laundry. By 3 PM it was 34 degrees F. and we are going to 15 overnight with an ice storm on the way.

I'm using the next few snowed-in days to get lesson plans in order, cull some baby books and toys for charity, and experiment with sausage making. Yeah, you heard that correctly-the vegetarian is making venison sausage because I have a freezer full of dead deer. We've been offered the use of a smoker, but as I'm still waiting on curing salt, I thought I'd make some fresh sausages first-to see if the grinder (antique hand grinder, that is) will do the trick. It has a long, Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, so it only seems right to use it for sausages. Seriously, my freezer is so damned full of dead deer we had to tape the sides closed with duct tape in case it came open and a ten pound bag of frozen chunks came tumbling out. That would be an interesting way to break a foot, I guess. Very Midwestern.

In other non-vegetarian cooking, I had a package of chicken thighs in the deep freeze (Mr. ETB likes them) that I used every part of. The bones went in stock, which I cooked to a gelled glaze reduction. The meat became chicken and dumplings for Mr. ETB's lunches. The skins were rendered and I ended up with half a cup of fat, plus the cracklings which I promptly tossed in the garbage (thank goodness Mr. ETB was at work as I cooked this or he and the old poodle would have been snacking away on them). The dog was not pleased with this decision, but he did get some meat in his bowl. Anyway, the house smells like my grandmother's apartment, but without the lingering scent of mothballs and pickled herring. I guess we can't have everything.

So hey, is anyone else making a cheese ball/log for New Year's? I have some toasted sourdough breadcrumbs to replace the nuts in the coating, and now all I need do is choose between capers, and pimentos. No, you really can't have both, but I'm leaning toward the pimentos because they seem more festive. I like a festive cheese ball/log at New Year's-it just sets the tone for the upcoming year. Sometimes I like a swig of Cold Duck, but if you don't have little wax-coated Dixie cups to serve it in, then screw-it. I should look through the cabinets-I'll bet I have both.

And that's pretty much it. We made it through the holidays, and the new semester begins soon. Here's wishing everyone a a Happy Cheese Ball/Log and New Year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I Don't Even Know What To Title This Post

Presented without comment (really, what could I say?).


What I will say is that Craftastrophe brings me great joy, and you should go there know, to be joyful. Go on, get out of here. Scram.

This *Almost* Never Happens, Except When It Happens,

Hispanics being run out of East Haven, Conn.

As our politicians here in Nebraska are clamouring for more "Arizona Style" laws to make the harassment legal.

Monday, December 27, 2010

These People Actually Exist?

I haven't eaten in a restaurant in years, unless you count the occasional grilled cheese in the Hy-Vee grocery eatery. Danny is polite, and well behaved, but I still wouldn't subject the dining public at large to a small child unless it were at an establishment that specifically catered to children. Being vegetarian, our choices were always somewhat limited anyway, and once he developed the food allergy, I was happy enough to pack a brown bag lunch before we went out for the day. In other words, it has been a good seven or eight years since I've been in an environment where people pull out cameras to photograph the food. Disclaimer-we did have Mother's Day breakfast at Hy-Vee once and took photographs-of us, but the pancakes in the photo get the most attention from people who view them. Go figure. At any rate, the pancake photography was unintentional.

I always thought the "foodie" photographing the meal thing was something asshole New Yorkers did, and that the rest of the country just laughed at them. I mean, sure-I photograph what I cook, and provide recipes, and observations about it-but I actually cooked it. The idea of whipping out a camera during dinner, then posing your meal just-so, and posting it on the internet...I don't know anyone that does that sort of thing. Do you?

I do my best to stay out of Whole Foods, so I suppose I'm less likely to run into the sort of people that need to source their cinnamon, spelt flour, or lactating mother's milk cheese or whatever the hell it is people go to Whole Foods to purchase (I don't think they really sell breast milk cheese-as far as I know) but my reaction the exactly one time I've been in the Omaha store being sneered at and pushed out of the way by someone looking suspiciously sickly for all that healthy food they ingest-is that these people are disturbed, and not the norm. Come on, get over yourself-you live in Omaha, Nebraska.

Here's where I'm going to get the hate mail (that I didn't get for the Omaha comment), and that's OK-I've spent most of my life the owner of unpopular opinions-this is about class and hegemony. Not the upper classes, because they don't care. The middlings-that's where this world of single-source chocolate/pomegranate molasses/shade grown coffee/malted barley syrup/how can you be such a vulgarian and not know that corn syrup is the devil?/you need to be "educated" (re)/group of would-be-hipsters gather to go on at length about the above mentioned, "trends." I don't know how many varieties of salt you keep in the larder, but I have three, and all are domestic. I could go snap pictures of them on a plate, if you'd like. One is plain salt for canning.

I've said this before, but feel the need to repeat it-people are eating out of dumpsters, if at all (and I don't mean the people who are doing it as a fad-I mean people who are really hungry and have to eat from dumpsters). This recent "foodie" (god, I hate that term) fad aside from being plain stupid, is obscene. How many people are out of work in the US right now? Photographing and posting the meal you had at some posh establishment is vulgar. It is impolite. It is morally repugnant. It reminds me of the horrible posters people had in the 80's of the man in a polo uniform standing in front of a Rolls Royce that declared, "Poverty Sucks." Indeed it does, and so do you. So do you.

I would not be so presumptuous as to tell people what food to eat. Fine, eat your expensive meal-enjoy it, people who work in kitchens are notoriously overworked and underpaid and will appreciate your patronage-but for fuck's sake, leave the camera at home. If you don't want to eat corn syrup, don't eat corn syrup-but don't be a jerk about it. I don't want to eat a pork chop, but I wouldn't oink at someone as they attempted to eat theirs.

This isn't about food, I'll say that again. Literary snobs are just as irritating but we give them a pass because sometimes they've actually read the book and have something worthwhile to contribute. Sure, we tolerate the pretensions of people with interests in art, music, history, taxidermy (yeah, that's a stretch) and what have you-so surely the food snob isn't a unique phenomenon. I was going to make a snide remark about you can't eat a symphony, or at least you don't need it for subsistence, but that would get outraged hate mail too. Of course, food is no longer merely subsistence...for some people. For great numbers, it is-and I'm as complicit in creating that situation as other middle-class Westerners are. I don't think I'm a better person for my consumption habits. I think I'm a better person for not reveling in my consumption habits. Actually, I feel pretty guilty about my consumption habits, and we're working class by just about any definition.

Something to think about, post holiday gluttony.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Praise My Pud

I insist the family applaud the Christmas pudding, and this year they did not disappoint. I didn't set it alight, but I don't think anyone cared.

Just look at that beauty. I made it in October. The Christmas cake was made around the same time. What you see here is the last of the cakes made with homemade graham crackers and candied fruit. Some people might find it too moist and dense, but we loved it. I haven't tried the sourdough fruitcake yet, but it has enough booze it in to last until next Christmas (I doubt it will make it past New Year's). I still have another pudding as well, which we'll break out for St. Patrick's Day.
(Christmas cake made with graham crackers)

So, was it worth all the candying of fruit, baking and preserving? I really do think so, but only because I was interested in doing it. Making glaceed fruit is a project (quite the project) and if I didn't enjoy it, that might have cut into my appreciation of the cake. Truthfully, I don't think the fruit in the plastic tubs at the grocer is as terrible as people insist, and if it is the difference between doing holiday baking and not-why go ahead and use it.

I learned a few interesting things in the kitchen this Christmas, most importantly being-beer battered, deep fried sardines are awesome! Aw c'mon, it was Christmas Eve-I needed something impressive. Everyone was impressed, all right!

I also learned that giving a six year old a magic set is a good decision. He likes the erector set, but the magic set came with a wand, disappearing coins, and other neat stuff. Abracadabra. He's also having tons of fun with batteries, copper wire, lightbulbs, and propellers. We'll be building a radio after the first of the year when we resume school. Danny's pretty excited about that.

Lastly, I got exactly what I wanted for Christmas-a lovely, relaxing day with my two favourite guys, cake for breakfast, and a beautiful, latex-free hot water bottle. I filled it, hopped back into bed and luxuriated in the warmth. I was also gifted a beautiful set of fluffy, soft bath towels in a beautiful rose colour, and new scissors for paper, to help preserve the life of my good sewing scissors (I don't like using fabric scissors on paper as they dull).

Now, to sew a cosy for the hot water bottle.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Best Christmas Eve

Mr. ETB had the day off work, and the boys spent the day taping batteries and wire together to power lightbulbs, fans, and other assorted science projects. I mean, they spent hours at this, which left mama with loads of free time. Hooray for involved fathers. They were also somewhat secretive and sent me to my room. I suspect there was some gift wrapping taking place. I hope I'm getting an electric pencil sharpener this year-I really do want one.

I put the cookie press to work making rosemary cheese savoury spritz crackers. They're nice, sort of like a shortbread made from expensive sheep's milk cheese, and butter. There's some flour in there too, but not much. Anyway, now the season feels complete because I used the cookie press.

When they sneak off to bed, I have some fancy Cara Cara oranges, chocolates, and caramel corn to fill the stockings. Danny is getting an erector set, papa is getting socks and a documentary about the MC5, and with any luck, I'm getting an electric pencil sharpener, new kitchen shears, or a hot-water bottle. I ask for the good stuff at Christmas because I know come my birthday in February, he'll forget and just run out to buy me a box of root beer flavoured popsicles and a copy of Nebraskaland magazine which is kind of like Cosmo for the hunting/fishing crowd.

All Best for a very merry Christmas,
The Eat The Blog Family

Sourdough/Bittersweet Chocolate bark

Toasted sourdough breadcrumbs sprinkled atop melted bittersweet chocolate, and given a generous toss of coarse salt. I won't say it is the best thing I"ve ever tasted, but definitely in the top five. You still have time to make some to tuck into the Christmas stockings. Would probably be OK with regular breadcrumbs as well-though not seasoned ones. That would be icky.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Seven Fishes

I'm not Italian, but ten years in East Boston made the Seven Fishes a family tradition anyway. This year, I have:

Octopus in a tin (yep)

It will mainly be sides, with a main dish of baked cod. The caviar will go on deviled eggs. I'll make the pimento/nut-free cheese ball (don't ask) and some pasta for the salmon as a cold salad. Beyond that? Hell, I have no idea, but thankfully my boys don't care. After Danny heads off to bed, we'll watch Female Trouble, because it is the very best Christmas movie, ever.

Panettone Bread Pudding

I was not about to pitch the last of the panettone simply because it had gone stale. Indeed, I was looking to add more fat and calories to the already caloricly dense bread. THIS recipe did the trick. I halved the recipe and baked it in an 8x8 pan with great results. I made the full recipe of the sauce however, and I'm glad I did-it is going to be great over the Christmas pudding. Or rum raisin ice cream. Or straight off the spoon. get the idea.

Chex Mix

My first exposure to the snack food, Chex Mix came some time in college. I hated it. I still hate it. In fact, I can't for the life of me understand why anyone would want to eat it, either homemade, or in the store-bought, pre-packaged variety. Apparently, people love the stuff. It isn't like I dislike carbohydrates-I love cereal, pretzels and cheese crackers-just not all tossed together with butter and seasonings. Blech.

Mr. ETB's granny in Pennsylvania used to make the stuff for him, and he associates it with Christmas and well, I think you know what I made yesterday. I mean, being Pennsylvania Dutch, she could have been making stuffed hog stomach, so really, keeping a cherished childhood memory alive via some cereal in butter and Worcestershire sauce is a small price to pay for nostalgia (I make him pickled eggs and beets for god's sake).

Anyway, I had what I consider an absolutely inspired idea whilst whipping up the batch of, "Harrisburg Haute". Remember those .19 cent boxes of mac and cheese I bought for "emergencies?" Well hell, if needing seasoning for Chex Mix isn't an emergency, I don't really know what it. After I pulled the mix from the oven to cool, I doused it with a couple tablespoons of the cheese packet. Brilliant. He loved it, and I can't wait to try the rest on popcorn. I'm still not eating the Chex Mix, but as long as Mr. ETB is happy, I suppose I am as well. Wisely, Danny refused to touch the stuff.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Stacked Black Bean Enchiladas With Sweet Potato Rounds

This is so much easier than rolling and assembling them in a baking dish.

I wouldn't blame you if spending an entire day making beans, and corn tortillas isn't your idea of a quick dinner. In fact, I'd encourage you to try this with tinned beans and store-bought tortillas. I'm including the bean recipe as well as the tortillas, but really, you could make these with little more work than opening a few packages.

For the black beans:

This makes quite a bit, but the extras freeze well, and if you like to make a dozen burritos for the freezer, you'll go through them in no time. I like a freezer stocked with burritos-a little planning ahead pays off when I don't feel like cooking dinner.

1 lb dried black beans, sorted and soaked overnight before cooking. When tender, cool and reserve cooking water.
3 bay leaves
6 large carrots, finely diced
2 large onions, finely diced
1-2 green bell peppers, diced
6 cloves garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Corn oil for cooking (I like corn with Tex-Mex food, but use whatever you prefer)about 1/4 cup
1 tin corn, rinsed and drained

Spice mix:

4 teaspoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons ground coriander
Salt/pepper to taste (if using tinned beans, cut down on salt)
4 heaping teaspoons chili powder (if using mild, adjust as needed)
4 heaping teaspoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon dark cocoa powder
Chili flakes to taste

To cook beans: place overnight soaked beans in a heavy pot, cover with water. bring to a boil, skimming any scum that rises. Cover, leaving room to vent and simmer until tender-about 2 hours, replenishing water as needed. You'll notice I don't add anything to my black beans when I cook them. You could certainly add the bay leaves at this stage, possibly even a whole, un-peeled onion and some garlic if you like. I tend to keep it plain in case i want to freeze some for use in something else, but do what works best for you.

In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil and add the carrots, onions, bell pepper, garlic, and bay leaves. When onions begin to soften, add the corn, thyme, and drained beans. Cook a few minutes, then dump in the spice mix and coat well. Cook a few minutes longer, then add the cooking liquid from the beans. If it does not cover everything, add a bit of water. Reduce heat to simmer, and cook about 1 hour, stirring often to keep it from scorching. If you prefer soupier beans, add more water. Keep in mind that the beans will thicken upon standing, and chilling.

For the corn tortillas:

2 1/2 cups Masa
1/2 teaspoon salt
(about) 2 cups warm water

Mix masa and salt together in a bowl. Add water slowly as you mix with other hand. Dough should feel moist and spongy. A good test is to take some out and make a ball. Flatten it against a hard surface with your palm. If the edges crack, you need more water. Divide into 12 pieces, roll into balls, and cover with a damp towel until you are ready to use. Roll each out into a 6 inch circle (or close enough). Don't worry if they look shaggy around the edges, they will be fine. Heat a skillet (I use cast iron for this) over medium high and add a few drops of oil that has a high smoking point (again, I used corn for this). Fry a minute or so on each side until they are nicely browned, adding more oil if needed. Drain on a rack over a baking sheet.

Put it together:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

I used two 9 inch cake tins to bake these, but you could do it in a tray like a casserole if you prefer.

Lay a tortilla in the bottom. Cover with grated cheese of your choice (I used Swiss and cheddar) and top with beans. Stack another tortialla on and repeat until you reach the top of the pan. The last layer should be cheese. At this point, top with salsa if you like (I did) Make the second batch in the other pan. Place both pans on a baking sheet to catch any spills. Bake about 25 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Serve hot.

For the Sweet Potatoes:

Look, the frying pan is already dirty, you might as well shallow fry some potatoes. Earlier in the day, bake a large sweet potato until it is tender, but not mushy soft. Cool, then slice into rounds. Dip rounds in beaten egg yolk, then coarse dry breadcrumbs. Chill 30 minutes before frying in about 1/2 inch of oil.

And Then, I Noticed the Candy Moulds

I was just arriving at that point of, "all that's left to do is hang the stockings", when I remembered the hard candy moulds I had gone to great difficulty locating. Drat, I thought I was done. Mind, hard candy is a pretty quick deal, but I still thought I was going to be spending the next couple days with my feet up, sipping egg nog.

I'm going to do anisette flavour because I don't feel like smelling peppermint, and Mr. ETB used up all the oil of clove last time he had a toothache (it does really help to use a bit on a cotton swab across the painful tooth). I have apricot extract, but now I'm concerned it might be extracted from kernels and with Danny's allergies that would be in the same class as Almonds. Where's the artificial flavouring when you want it?! Anyway, I also have some lemon oil, but that frankly seems pointless.

Don't Flush That Fat

The sewer workers of London would like you to bin the fat from your Christmas goose rather than send it down a drain. Video with song, HERE.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Favourite Vintage Cookie Platter

Purchased years ago at a Salvation Army store for a dollar. The picture really doesn't get across how huge this thing is-about 2 1/2 feet across at the centre. Huge! You can't send your husband to work with a cookie platter like that with a few tiny sweets arranged in the middle. No, you need to send it laden with all manner of Christmas baking.

There's sables, pfeffernuesse, homemade Hob Nobs, and, World Peace Cookies.

The problem with baking assortments to give as a gift is that I invariably end up with more than I need/can eat. I packed a really generous container for the letter carrier (yeah, he'd probably prefer money, true) and still had tons of these left. That's when you want a really nice vintage platter to press into service. Pretty damn festive, I'd say.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Not-Quite Crocodile Bread

-but similar.

This bread took a total of three days. Here's roughly what I did.

1 cup fed starter
2 cups water
2 cups bread flour

Let stand 12-24 hours in a cold room.

Final Dough:

All of sponge
Additional 1 1/2 cups water
(about 2 cups bread flour)
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Mix together well and using your hand, pretend you are a mixer on slow speed (you can skip this step if you have a mixer). The dough will be very sticky. After ten minutes of pretending to be a mixer (or not) cover with cling film, still in bowl and let rise another 12-24 hours in a very cold place. My kitchen is about 62 degrees F. You could use the fridge if need be. In this time, with a rubber spatula, give the dough a fold every four hours or so. I wouldn't get up in the middle of the night to do this, but if you're getting up to go wee, or whatever it is people get up in the middle of the night to do-give the dough a gentle fold. Cover it, go back to bed.

After 12-24 hours, you should have a very wet, still not holding a shape, but puffy bread. Without stirring, or doing anything to deflate the dough, gently turn the bowl over onto a well-floured baking sheet and let the dough gently fall out of the bowl. Don't touch it. Lightly dust the top with some flour, cover it with a tea towel, and leave it alone for 2 hours.

At this point, scatter another baking sheet generously with corn meal (this bread will stick like the dickens-so really, don't skimp on the cornmeal). With a knife, quickly divide the dough in two doing your best not to deflate it more than absolutely necessary. Using a couple spatulas, lift the dough gently stretching it into a long, flat shape and plop it (that's a technical term) gently onto the prepared sheet. Repeat with second half. Again, dust lightly with flour, cover and let rise another 2-3 hours. Meanwhile, in the hour before, preheat your oven. You'll want steam, so if you use a pan in the oven for steam, preheat that as well. I do mine at 450 degrees F. but admittedly, that is hot and you'll need to reduce the heat after the first 20 minutes to 425 degrees F. This is a matter of personal preference. You could bake it straight through at 400 as well. I prefer a really hard, chewy crust on these, as it tends to soften with storage.

Because of how wet these are, slashing is kind of pointless (and they're already flat and spreading sideways) but you can if you wish. I brush mine with a mixture of salt and water, but if you have a bottle for misting, that would probably be better.

Before loading bread into oven, brush with salt mixture and create steam in over (a bit of water tossed in the heating pan works well, but some people like using an ice cube). Bake 20 minutes, ten carefully open oven (remember the steam) and rotate pan. Bake another 20-30 minutes at 425 degrees F. Cool on racks. Sourdough improves with standing at least 8 hours after baking.

Agamemnon Cookies

The cookie glitter shows up better in person, but you get the idea. I thought about party hats, but "Mask of Agamemnon" cookies on sticks just seemed so much cooler.

Gosh, That's A Nice Horse...I Wonder Why They Sent It...

Happy Birthday Danny. Six years old. For those of you keeping track, that's a hand and a thumb.

Mama and Papa were up until 3 AM putting together cake, frosting, etc. So here's more of a photo essay of our (early) morning.

You just don't get a smile like that when your child un-wraps a Lattimore translation, do you?

Surprisingly nice edition, published half a world away, but I'm glad someone is keeping it in print.

Yeah, my decorating skills were not top-notch this year. Everything gave me trouble from the icing, to the decorating tips. The horse did, however remain standing and let's be honest-you probably couldn't keep a two-foot high horse made of cake standing, could you? I didn't think so.
The cookies were supposed to look like red/black pottery. They look more terra cotta, but I still think they work.
Skewers are your friend.
I like the cookies of dead Trojans laying about, tumbling off buildings, etc.

And of course, the completed quilt.

And special thanks to our friends in Des Moines that guided us through the purchase of quality star-gazing binoculars for Danny. You guys are the best, and Danny said to say thank you for helping us get, "exactly the right thing". The, "for once" is implied ;)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Teaching Science On A Budget

A quick lesson in static electricity for very young children:

You will need:

Tissue paper
a plastic ruler
a piece of wool or silk
A flat surface (like a clipboard)

Cut the tissue paper into a few fish shapes. Rub the plastic ruler quickly over the wool. Hold ruler over tissue paper fish, and watch them, "swim".

There, you've taught static electricity.

Well That Really Hurt

Long-time readers are aware that six years ago, I messed up a disk in my neck reaching up in the shower to apply shampoo. That's how my injuries happen-not snowboarding, not lugging 50 lb. bags of dirt to the garden-no, I harm myself washing my hair.

At the time, after an MRI, and many, many trips to specialists it was suggested I have surgery-an idea I quickly dismissed after thirty seconds on the telephone with the office receptionist. If you can't get the person booking the appointment to shut up and listen to your question, odds are against getting someone to listen once you're there. Our family doctor understood, and over the years, when it acts up, we spot-treat with pain medication, muscle relaxers, and steroids. This has served me well, as I've only had a few problems since the initial injury, and they resolve quickly with rest.

This morning, I started to pull a jumper over my head...well you know what happened. I could tell, immediately that it was going to be bad. Over the next twenty minutes the pain migrated from my neck to my shoulder, to the middle of my back. The bad news-it is on the other side. Now I have injuries on both sides. I'm hoping it is something minor, or a bulge...but it feels horrible. I'm heavily medicated, and I'm still feeling pain, but I'll going to try and be optimistic anyway because there's no way in hell I'm having surgery.

The last time this happened it was really terrifying as I had a small baby that needed to be lifted, and held, and fed. This time around I can just sit on my behind and give orders. I'm good at that, actually. Mr. ETB is able to do most of his work from home, so I don't need to worry about falling over, or being too out of it to watch Danny. With those concerns out of the way, I'm able to rest and try to get this damn thing healed as quickly as possible...except of course that Danny's birthday is Monday-and I still need to bake and assemble the cake.

Mr. ETB always wanted to learn how to make a Victoria Sponge, and this seems like as good a time as any to tackle it. He'll be learning how to make buttercream frosting, fill a piping bag, and assemble a Trojan horse from cut-up pieces of cake as well. He'll be Martha Stewart by the time I'm through with him. I'm an excellent supervisor-I learned it from my half-Austrian mother :) I probably won't throw anything at him for ruining my pans. Did I ever tell that story? My sister tried making peanut brittle as a teenager, but it stuck to the baking sheet a bit. Now, anyone who has ever eaten candy knows that water, and heat will melt it-just as hard candy melts slowly in your mouth. Thirty minutes in the sink with some water would have solved that problem, but instead our mother went ape-shit and threw a statue at my sister. OK, she threw it past my sister (she wasn't crazy enough to actually throw a heavy bronze at someone) but it landed hard, and the Rodin-esque Thinker was left contemplating a broken foot. Mother fixed it by piecing it back in place with a band-aid. It stayed that way for years until someone finally glued it back in place. Mind, it wasn't packed away, but displayed in our living room, bandaged foot and all. Thereafter, I privately called the statue, "Brittleman". My mother was long dead before I attempted candymaking, because I'm cautious that way.

And in other news, the panettones from yesterday are the best things I've ever baked. When I cut one open this morning, the crumb was feathery-light, beautifully baked, and the fruit was suspended perfectly in all that eggy, buttery, sugary delight. The ciabattas were pretty darn nifty as well, but I think they take the sourdough breads for granted now. Panettone is a once yearly treat. I'm glad I made it yesterday...I think my bread-kneading is concluded for the foreseeable future. I still can't believe I did this to myself by simply getting dressed. God, I'm old.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Somebody Aced His Finals-and His Mother Baked

Eggs, butter, sugar...
Dried fruit, fennel, more sugar...

19 weeks later, we conclude our first semester of homeschooling. The kiddo is taking a well-earned break before we start the new unit.

The panettones came up beautiful, though they sunk a bit (there's a technique you can do that involves skewers and hanging the breads inverted over poles...yeah, I'll take a little sinking, thanks). They should make magnificent toast all week.

The cibatta (how the hell do you spell that anyway? I'm too lazy to google it) is remarkable. It took three days between sponges, soakers, and fermentation-but look at them! I've started lightly brushing my loaves with salt water before baking, which along with steam in the oven seems to create the crackly type of crust I've been aiming for. The starter just keeps getting stronger and stronger with fantastic results.

Completely unrelated-they're in the other room arguing over whether a tune is Marseilles, or Internationale. I guess I should go set them straight, but listing to Mr. ETB completely make up bogus lyrics is kind of funny (I don't think either song mentions heads rolling in the streets, at least not literally). OK, now they're whistling.

OK, comrades, I'm off to bed.

Words That Strike Terror...

"You are going to make a pannettone this year, aren't you?"

Actually, I hadn't planned on it, but the dough is now rising as I type. No wonder I can't seem to get to the end of my, "to-do" list for Christmas-they keep adding items to it!

If they think they're getting a stollen for Christmas morning breakfast they can just...yeah, I know, I'm not fooling anyone. There will be a stollen for Christmas morning. Truthfully, I do love baking, and this is hardly what I'd consider a chore-or at least, the best chore I can think of.

OK-anything else I'm forgetting before Christmas?

That's Not, "Green"

Today's spitting coffee out my nose moment:

A local Omaha school has received an award for being, "green". Part of their programme involves reducing their "carbon footprint", by having students melt down used crayons, and make new ones...(I swear to god, I'm not making this up) to ship to students in Madagascar.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I'm Giving Kindergarten Finals

Six subjects, twenty five questions each. Our semester ends Friday (hooray!). Granted, he knows more about representations of bulls in Minoan art, and Tudor history than most not-quite-six year olds...but he still can't cut a straight line with scissors, or pour himself a glass of milk.

Funniest homeschooling moments of late:

Danny: I'm writing a play.
Me: Great.
Danny: I have two characters named, "Henry", but to keep things straight, I made one French, and spelled his name with an, "I".

Danny: What hospital was I born at?
Me: Methodist.
Danny: That's what I thought. Aren't they the people from the church that had the pumpkin chucking in the trebuchet at Halloween?
Me: Yes, the hospital is affiliated with the church.
Danny: I'm glad they were chucking pumpkins, instead of babies!


Danny: Mama? I've been thinking about this St. Lucia holiday.
Me: Oh?
Danny: When I'm dictator of Sweden, I'm going to outlaw it-I can't believe they let little girls wear lit candles on their heads. I'm definitely getting rid of that when I'm dictator of Sweden.
Me: I don't think the Swedes are likely to embrace a dictator, much less an American one.
Danny: We'll see.

"Bunzas" Cabbage and Potato Filled Calzones

Danny named these, "Bunzas" as in a Runza, bunnies would eat (because it is filled with cabbage and carrots). Honestly, these are somewhere between Rumbledethumps in dough, and baked pierogi than they are a Runza or calzone. Sometimes, the things that come out of my kitchen defy definition, hence the Bunzas.

No recipe, as you can pretty much do this with any leftovers you have. Here's what I used:

1 small head of cabbage, finely shredded
6 carrots, finely diced
3 stalks celery, peeled and finely diced
1 large onion, diced
1 small turnip, peeled and diced
4 cups cold, leftover potato mash
6 tablespoons butter
1 bay leaf
dried thyme
caraway seeds
Chopped fresh parsley

Pizza dough recipe of your choice with a bit of extra olive oil for lightness

Egg wash of 2 yolks plus 1 tablespoon water

The dough takes about an hour to rise, so make the vegetables during that time and it will be ready to use when the dough is risen. The potatoes can be used cold, straight from the fridge.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a baking sheet.

In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat and add everything else-proceed to cook the hell out of it. That's it. Cook the cabbage until it is really wilted and soft, and has thrown off most of the liquid. Crank up the heat for a minute or two to burn off excess liquid. Remove bay leaf, and cool slightly before using.

Divide pizza dough into 4 pieces. Let rest 20 minutes. Roll each out to 1/4 inch thickness. In the centre of each square, mound some potatoes. Flatten them slightly, then generously top with the cooked vegetables. Seal, sides, then rotate and seal other sides. Invert onto greased baking sheet, pierce for steam, and wash generously with egg. When all are completed, place in oven (you'll be amazed how much these spring in the oven, so if you only have small baking sheets, use two). Bake 20 minutes. Rotate pan, reduce heat to 325 degrees F. and continue baking until done-about 10-15 minutes longer. Serve warm, or at room temperature. These re-heat well on a baking sheet in a 300 degree F. oven-or just nuke them for a softer crust.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

From The Archives-Orange Slices In Bourbon

You still have time to make these for a nice Christmas gift.

Last evening, I made giant sugar cookies of the Mask of Agamemnon, on sticks. I frosted them, and sprinkled them with edible gold glitter. Tonight, after Danny goes to sleep, I'll pipe on the details. All that is left to do are the cakes themselves, which (I hope) will be pretty straightforward.

I used to complain that the holiday season went on forever, starting before Thanksgiving-I no longer think that. Having a child with a birthday five days before Christmas turns the month of December into a huge marathon, and I find myself wishing I had a couple more weeks to go. Anyway, the finish line is in sight. The quilt was completed last evening, and it looks super after the first wash this morning. I used a low-loft batting as Danny prefers layers of thin blankets to one heavy one (just like his mama!). Now he has yet another quilt to kick off the bed in the middle of the night.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

From The Archives

Each evening, after the wee one heads off to bed, I've been decorating butter cookies with royal icing for his Birthday cake extravaganza. By 2 AM I'm pretty bleary, but time is running short, and I can't begin working on this stuff when Danny is awake. You wouldn't think depicting the siege of Troy would be that complicated after the horse and city were in place, but then you've probably never made Hector and Achilles out of royal icing and butter cookies. At least, I kind of hope you haven't. Because I don't have the patience to mess around with a million shades of icing, I went for the orange/black look of Greek pottery. That turned out to be an excellent decision.

As I was putting the finishing touches on a fallen Trojan, Mr. ETB suggested making a second cake, as a joke to present an unsuspecting Danny with first. His idea was to make a sheet cake with crumbled cookies to look like dirt, and a cookie depiction of Heinrich Schliemann and scattered gold artifacts, like the Mask of Agamemnon also made of decorated cookies. Across the cake, we could lay my trowel with, "Almost only counts in horseshoes", written on it. Or perhaps, "No one will suspect..."

I'm really tempted to do it-we'll see if I have enough time.

I have not been cooking much, as we make our way through finals, papers, and holiday preparations. As I've been publishing this blog for seven years now, I do however have quite an archive of interesting things to share, which I'm posting links to below.


Spritz Cookies
Nut-Free Stollen
Nut-free Stollen II
Steamed Cranberry Pudding
Browned Butter Pound CakeLinkPrune/Apricot Upside-Down Cake
Vin d' OrangeLink

Birthday/Themed Cakes:
Porcupine Cake
Cars Birthday Cake
Excavator Cake
HMS Victory Cake
The Day The Earth Stood Still Cake

Decorated Biscuits/Cookies:

Home Baking With Counterpunch (You never know when you'll need to bake cookies that look like Noam Chomsky, but if you do, I've got you covered)
Bastille Day Cookies


Homemade Sky Bar-nut free
Blood Orange Brittle
Homemade Twix-nut free

I'll try to link some other interesting posts as the holidays go along. Until then, feel free to browse the archives, tags, etc.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Meatless Stuffed Peppers-With Paprika

(Pictured before baking)

Oh dear, not another recipe for stuffed peppers (I know, I've used everything from breadcrumbs to lentils). These were fun as the filling omits the typical tomato paste for a generous coating of paprika.

For 4 large Peppers:

4 green peppers, tops removed and centres cleaned (chop up tops and add to carrots when cooking)
4 small carrots, finely diced
3 stalks celery, finely diced
5 tablespoons olive oil (more or less to taste)
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
Seasoned rice (see below)
1/4 cup hard cheese (I used Romano)

For the rice:

1 3/4 cup vegetable stock
1 cup white rice
1 tablespoon dehydrated onions
1/2 teaspoon dried garlic granules

Rinse and drain rice. Bring broth to a boil with onions and garlic. Add rice, reduce to simmer and cover. Cook 15 minutes. remove from heat, let stand 5 more minutes, then fluff with a fork.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place peppers in a casserole dish and fill 1/4 way up the sides of the peppers with water.

In a large pan or pot, heat the olive oil and cook the carrots, celery, and spices until soft. If it seems too dry after adding paprika, add a bit more oil. When carrots are soft, mix in the rice, and cheese. Remove bay leaf. Fill peppers and bake 30 minutes. Rotate pan and continue baking until tops are nicely browned and peppers are soft. Serve hot or cold.

Corn Fritters-Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook 1950

You know how it is-you score a .19 cent tin of corn at the supermarket, and get itchy to use it. These are pretty quick to throw together. I was tempted to fry them in beef tallow, but I used some sort of, "healthy" oil instead. They're still deep fried, you know.

You Will need:

2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup AP flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salad oil
1 cup tinned corn, drained well
Oil for frying

Heat deep oil in a heavy pot to 375 degrees F.

Whisk the eggs well. beat in milk, then sift dry ingredients together. Add to batter. Stir in oil. Fold in corn. Fry by spoonfuls in hot fat, turning once. Drain on racks. They don't keep well, so eat-up!

Caramel-Filled Biscuits/Donna Hay

I was lucky enough to pick up a never-used-like-new copy of Off The Shelf at the library sale last week. This is a beautiful book-I'd even suggest paying full price for it, though half a buck is pretty hard to argue with. Seriously, I want to make everything in this cookbook-and that is a very rare reaction for me.

The single complaint I have with these biscuits is the use of condensed milk-I hate the stuff. I don't mind the taste, as much as the smell. Standing over a pan stirring it for fifteen minutes made me want to throw up. Admittedly, that's just me and my insanely sensitive nose, so if you're cool with condensed milk, go ahead and use it because it is a very simple method of making a penuche type filling. Looking around the web, other people complained about the filling not firming up, but I didn't have any trouble. I did not, however use a double boiler-I just set a heavy enameled pan on low heat. Do what works best for you.

You Will Need:

8 ounces butter (I used unsalted, though the recipe did not specify)
1 cup icing (confectioner's) sugar
1 1/2 cups Ap flour
1 cup cornflour (cornstarch)
1 egg (I used large)


14 ounce tin of condensed milk
2 ounces butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets. The recipe says to use a food processor, but I no longer have one, so I mixed the dry ingredients, cut in the butter, and then beat in an egg with a wooden spoon. Worked fine. Divide dough into 50 pieces, and roll into small balls. Flatten slightly with the back of a spoon, and chill on sheet for ten minutes. Bake 10-15 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove to a rack. When completely cool, fill with frosting.

For Filling:

In a pan over boiling water (I skipped this part and just worked on a low burner) combine milk, butter, and syrup. Stirring, cook until it deepens in colour and thickens-mine took 15 minutes over low, direct heat. I transfered mine to a bowl and let it cool for the ten minutes in the directions. I think moving it out of the hot pan helps it to set, but again, that's only my experience. Fill cookies, and return to a rack to cool and set completely, They will harden as they sit. Makes 25 beautiful little sandwich cookies.

Almost Completed Gingerbread Cathedral

I still don't know what I'll do for fountains, statues, etc-but I see progress, and (fingers crossed) everything held together when I moved it to a board.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Quilt Top-with poor quality photos (sorry)

I finished the top today-now to put it together and quilt the thing-just under two weeks now. Together with Chapman's Homer, and the siege of Troy in cake, I think we have a pretty good Birthday going. Danny's also getting a special piece of astronomical equipment that I won't mention by name just in case he sees this.

I really hate hand-stitching, and I probably should have done more than a rudimentary sketch before starting to embroider-but we'll just call this, "folk art." Yeah, that works. Poseidon looks pretty good, but my Trojan Horse is just terrible-and Medusa is smiling. Scary, huh?

The entire thing is made from scrap fabric I had on hand, and the last few skeins of matching floss from a larger project.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Quick, Inexpensive Holiday Cards

I borrowed some of Danny's crayons, glitter, and glue. No special materials, no special paper. It took about 30 minutes to make the card.

Obviously, not the way to go if you have a long list, but for a few special people, a hand drawn card is nice.

Multiply By Four...

...and you'll have a pretty good idea how many books we brought home over the three day booksale.

This gem was 12 cents. I have a new craft book from the same era that suggests making a centrepiece from a box grater and ribbon. God, I miss the 70's.