Thursday, September 30, 2010

I Deep Fried Bagels

As per the earlier post.

How could I not? What you're looking at are pumpkin spice bagels that were chilled overnight in the fridge, and deep fried rather than boiled and baked. They cooked through perfectly.

The computer is still pretty flaky, so bear with me until I can get around to posting the pumpkin spice recipe.

Anyway, look at the pretty pictures of deep fried bagels!

Tech Problems

I might be scarce until it can get sorted.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Homemade Hob Nobs

I used dark chocolate for the top, but otherwise followed the recipe HERE.

I think Danny has a new favourite. They turned out perfect. How often does that happen with random recipes off the internet?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chinese Jaffa Cakes?

I like the comment in the thread that compares the introduction of Jaffa Cakes to China with the forced importation of opium.

I managed a pretty impressive version of my own a while back, you can see the post HERE

I'm kind of glad I can't get my hands on them reliably, because I'd eat them until sickness. I really would. I don't know who these idiots are that dunk them in tea though. You do not dunk a Jaffa Cakes in tea, or anything else. Dunking things in tea is impolite anyway. Don't dunk things in tea. And sit up straight. And tuck in your shirttails. When's the last time you combed your hair? You probably forgot as you were occupied dunking biscuits (er...cake) into tea.

Monday, September 27, 2010

This Is Going To Be The Best Gorgon's Head, EVER

It began with a Halloween costume-Danny is going as Perseus this year. He can't very well be Perseus without Medusa's head, so I ran around Omaha last weekend looking for Styrofoam heads, and rubber snakes.

The thing is, once word gets out that you're crafting a Gorgon's head from a Styrofoam wig stand head, and rubber snakes...everyone wants one. And really, why wouldn't they? Some asswipe in an SUV just passed you after tailgating for the past five miles? Just hold up your handy head o' Medusa and turn that bastard to stone. Imagine the possibilities. I went ahead and bought two heads, you know-just in case. You should see the way people drive around here.

I need to get some LED lights to wire her eyes. This is going to be the best Gorgon's head, ever!

I'm Henry The 8th I Am

After a long class on Tudor England today, I played THIS for Danny. I thought he might think it was funny. He did, and now he's singing it all the time. I should have seen that coming. I have the record, but I was smart enough not to let Danny know. I can put up with Henry the 8th, but if I have to listen to Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter, I might have to pierce my eardrums with knitting needles.

Winter Squash and Pea Shoot Curry-Chapati Recipe Follows

I'm lousy with squash at the moment, and running out of counter space to keep them. For this curry I used a Carnival squash, and a Buttercup, but you could easily substitute Acorn, or Butternut, or Pumpkin even. Curry is pretty adaptable. I probably shouldn't treat it as a dumping ground for gluts of vegetables, but honestly, I do. I suppose if anyone around here would eat risotto we'd have another place to bury the unwanteds, but we all pretty well hate the stuff.

I looked around the web for inspiration, and didn't really find any. The closest recipe I could find to what I had in mind insisted on thickening the whole affair with arrowroot. I should think with an entire tin of coconut milk that would be overkill, but we tend to like our curry on the thinner side to pour over rice. Keeping this in mind, I'll offer a recipe of sorts, but you go ahead and fiddle with it until it suits your tastes-hey, don't argue with me, I don't know how spicy you like curry, or if you prefer oil to ghee. Go fiddle already.

I served this with some curried apple chutney I made last year (our final jar-time to can more) and chapatis (recipe follows at end of post). The boys both had seconds, so I'll take that as a positive review.

For the Curry:

4 cups of peeled, seeded. cubed winter squash
3 tablespoons cooking oil

Roast in a pan at 400 degrees F. for about an hour, until soft. Can be made ahead.

2 large onions, chopped
4 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1/8 cup cooking oil (I used soybean)
4 cups fresh pea shoots
1 tablespoon Madras curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tin (400 mil) coconut milk (you can use less, or half water if you prefer a lighter version)

In a large pot, cook the onions, ginger, and garlic over medium heat with the oil until onion starts to brown-try not to burn the garlic. Add the curry powder and salt and mix well. Add the cooked squash, and pea shoots. Cook for about 2 minutes over low heat. Add the coconut milk and cook a bit longer until it is heated through. Serve hot, over rice (see below)

For Spiced Rice:

1 3/4 cup water
1 cup rinsed and drained jasmine rice
1/4 cup flaked coconut
1/4 cup raisins
1 cinnamon stick
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Salt to taste

Bring water to a boil, add everything except rice and return to a boil. Stir in rice, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes longer. Fluff with fork before serving (remove the cinnamon stick, of course).

For Chapatis:

Open all your windows (seriously, these will smoke up the kitchen as they bake)

In a bowl, mix 1 cup whole wheat flour with 1 cup AP flour. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Begin with 1/2 cup (you may need double that) of water, adding slowly until the dough comes together in a ball. If it is crumbly, add a tablespoon at a time until you can work it. Gather into a ball and let rest while the pan heats.

I make these on a cast iron pan that is ungreased. Most cast iron pans have enough residual grease and oil from other cooking that nothing will stick. It will smoke a bit, but a fan and open window will do the trick. Divide the dough into 12 balls. Dust them generously with flour and roll out into 5 inch circles. Toss them, one at a time onto a hot pan. Bake until they begin to brown, then flip and cook on the other side (about a minute each. On the second turn, use a spatula to lightly touch the chapatis in the centre-they should puff up a bit. Remove to a piece of foil that you can fold over into a pouch to keep warm. Makes 12.

Apple/Pear Crumble

Now, it is officially fall. Oh, I know what the calendar says, but it isn't official in this household until a crumble has been baked. So there.

Feel free to change around the spices, types of fruit, etc. I used red pears because I had them, and the combination of apples was really a matter of what I grabbed from the bin first. I did like the way some varieties of apples remained crisper giving the whole dessert a better overall texture-a little mushiness is good, but you're not aiming for applesauce (well, you may be, but I'm not). I served mine with sweetened whipped cream, but ice cream would be nice too (or if you're lucky enough to live in a place where you can get double cream-that would be delicious).

I rarely eat the things I bake here, but I did have a bowl of this, and it was really wonderful. I'm kind of a sucker for baked pears in just about any form.

Blah, blah, blah-hey look everybody, mama made a crumble! Happy Autumn.

You Will Need:

4 cups thickly sliced apples (I peel them, but that's just me) I used Granny Smith, Cortland, and Gala
2 large pears, sliced
1 teaspoon lemon juice to sprinkle over fruit
1/4 cup water
1 cup raisins
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup AP flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup quick cooking oats (you can use regular old fashioned oats-it will be chewier)
1/3 cup butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a large baking dish (2 quart is good, or a 9x13)

In a bowl, combine the apples and pears with the lemon juice and water. Pour into prepared pan once all fruit is cut-up, and sprinkle with the ginger and nutmeg. In another bowl, combine flour, sugar, oats and salt. Cut-in the butter and then spread over the apples. Place dish on a baking sheet to catch any spills and bake 40 minutes to an hour, or until bubbling and nicely browned on top. Serve warm.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Audio Hosting-Need Advice

It has been brought to my attention that I have an amusing accent. Anyway, one thing led to another, (as it so often does) and soon I had agreed to read the Ancient Mariner aloud for a podcast. That's only funny if you've ever heard me speak-but once I find a good, free audio hosting site, we can all share a laugh (well, you'll be laughing, I'll be reading the Ancient Mariner).

It has also been brought to my attention that I'm in possession of a disappearing regional accent, which I'm not entirely certain is a bad thing, but what the hell, let's go ahead and preserve it on the web. Oh sure, Mr. ETB laughs at my inability to pronounce the letter "t" (really, it is only a fucking consonant-what's so damn special about the letter "t"?) but then he grew up an Army brat and has no trace of an accent, whatsoever. None.

Wadder wadder everywhere but nod a drop do drink.

Anyway-I need to find a free hosting site (I am so not going to pay money for this) and if anyone knows of one, I'd love to hear about it. I don't anticipate needing much storage, but then, demand for people reading Coleridge in Chicagoese might generate some sort of following.

The Dark Half

Danny's been reluctant to let me have a pomegranate, having just finished reading the story of Persephone. I told him I'd only eat a couple seeds, and be gone part of the year, but he's still not cool with it.

"If you go to the underworld, who's going to cook and do laundry? I'll need a new mama-at least for part of the year. Have you thought about that?"

Yep, I've thought about that. Uh huh. Sure have. Tell yer new mam I say. "hi", and not to rearrange my kitchen cabinets while I'm away.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Deep Fried Bagels

Mr. ETB's first reaction when I told him about THIS, was:

"Is she Scottish, or from Iowa?"

This really does take fried dough to a new level. I mean really...she deep fried bagels for crying out loud. Who does that? Well, I would-if I'd thought of it first. Jeepers! She deep fried bagels. Seriously, this has to be tried with the lox and cream cheese, inside.

Kitchen Mage, I bow to your greatness.

Double Chocolate Salted Oatmeal Cookies

-because I'm not happy until I've made everyone gain a stone or two. Or three. You can just go ahead and start cursing me now for the brilliant idea to add coarse salt atop these (go on, start yer cursing) which makes them completely addictive. Yeah, these are really good. Unlike the buttermilk oatmeal cookies I made last time, these have no baking powder-so they are flatter, and crisper. They also over-bake quickly, so watch them.

You Will Need:

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 cup AP flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (bicarb)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Coarse salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. You do not need to grease the baking sheets.

In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg, then vanilla, then melted chocolate. Mix well. Stir in dry ingredients. Stir in oats and chips by hand with a spoon.

Drop by spoonfuls onto baking sheet leaving about 2 inches between them. Dip the bottom of a glass in flour, and flatten the cookies. Sprinkle each lightly with salt. Bake about 12 minutes or until set. Let sit on sheet 1 minute, then remove to a rack. Makes 3 dozen.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pumpkin Lasagne

How's that for seasonal cooking?

For the pasta:

3 large egg yolks plus 1 whole large egg
3 tablespoons cold water
1 scant teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups semolina flour
1-2 cups AP flour plus more for dusting

Beat the eggs until light. Add the water and salt. Mix in the semolina, then as much as the AP flour as it will take until you have a very stiff dough. Wrap in clingfilm and let rest 30 minutes.

Divide into 8 pieces, dust each generously with flour and roll out, either by hand with a heavy rolling pin, or with a pasta maker-until quite thin. Let dry on racks-30 minutes each side before cooking.

Cook the noodles in batches (about 5 per batch) in a large pot of salted, boiling water until tender (about 4-5 minutes. Drain Let cool a bit before handling to assemble the lasagne.

For the sauce:

1 medium sized sugar pumpkin to equal 4 cups cooked, mashed pumpkin (if in doubt, make two-it freezes well)
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups vegetable broth
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 cups drained full-fat (4% ) cottage cheese
4 cups grated Swiss cheese

In a 350 degree F. oven roast the pumpkin. Cut it into 4ths, and place cut side down. Add enough water to come halfway up the pumpkin. This should take about 1 hour. Remove, cool slightly, scrape out of skin and mash in a bowl. Chill until needed. You will need 4 cups of mashed pumpkin total for the recipe.

To make sauce:

Combine pumpkin, butter, ginger, nutmeg, sugar, and broth in a large pot bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer about 10 minutes. Stir in cream. Cool slightly before using.

To assemble:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place a bit of sauce in the bottom of a large pan (I used a 9x13)

Layer on the noodles, then some cottage cheese, topped with a bit of the Swiss. Make another layer of noodles and spread with sauce, repeat until top layer. The very top should have sauce and Swiss cheese only.

Place it all on a baking sheet to catch any spills and bake until bubbly and nicely browned (about 1 hour). Let stand at least ten minutes before cutting.

Makes a whole heck of a lot of food.

Earl Grey Brownies

I bookmarked this recipe three years ago-today I finally made it.

Danny loved them. I mean he really loved them. That's actually too bad, because these are much fussier, and time consuming than my usual brownie recipe. I guess these can be special occasion brownies. I did not use the expensive chocolate recommended (we need all our extra cash for accordion lessons), but got great results anyway.

The recipe may be found HERE.

Dog Yoga

Presented without comment.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Let's Pickle Something Different!

Different. That's what the cookbook enthusiastically suggests (I knew it was enthusiastic because of the exclamation marks. We're not just passively pickling new and different things around here.).

My grapes never set this year. I have no idea what happened, but the leaves are healthy, and it seems a shame not to do something with them. My old Ortho Canning book from the 60's suggests pickling them. Why not? It couldn't be any stranger than pickling day lily buds (and you can't make dolmas out of those).

Anyone out there tried this at home with good results? I know that a jar of pickled grape leaves goes for close to seven dollars around here, so there's a good incentive to try it. I have Concords, so the leaves aren't huge, but they are certainly large enough to use for dolmas.

If only I knew what to do with hundreds of smallish, green tomatoes (I'm not pickling those). I guess chutney is the obvious thing, but I'd really find it more satisfying to stand on West Center Road in Omaha tossing them at cars and screaming, "You people all suck!"

Yeah, I know I can't do that-I don't really possess the upper body strength.

Cheaper Than a Trip To The Zoo

...and arguably, more educational. I mean, if I have to teach humanities...hey, this can count as a, "field trip."

I really didn't expect to have this showing locally. I'm so excited.

Sugar Pumpkins

The boys won't eat pumpkin pie. I consider this a sure sign of evil, but short of shaving their heads looking for the mark of the beast, I'll shrug and prepare the pumpkin as a savoury. Really, what else, save for demon possession could make someone dislike pumpkin pie? I adore pumpkin pie-but I can't eat an entire one, and pumpkin butter is one of those things the FDA says is no longer safe to home can. At some point, I'll drag myself over to Village Inn, have a slice of their pie to sate my yearly pumpkin pie obsession, and then spend the rest of the year complaining how their pie isn't as good as mine, and I'd bake one if only my family weren't troubled by demons.

I hear you asking, "Well why buy sugar pumpkins then? Aren't they kind of expensive for something no one likes?"

Yes, well there's that, isn't there? I dunno, they're cute. Haven't you ever brought something (one) home because it was cute? I mean, sometimes-most times that works out OK, and when it doesn't well heck, at least you've....geez, I've just personified a damn pumpkin, haven't I? Next, I'll have it screaming, "Don't roast me" in the pan and be forced to display it on my front porch until a badger runs off with it.

You know, really I should just bake myself a pie, eat until I'm ill, and dustbin the rest. I really should.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Did You Look That Up In Burroughs?

Danny has been collecting millipedes in a jar. I find it a bit gross, but his Papa keeps encouraging him. I guess they got to talking about millipedes, and papa offered some insights about the bugs.

Danny: I just looked up millipedes in the encyclopaedia, and I looked up centipedes as well....and neither of them are called, "The Black Meat."

Papa: Uhhhhh

Mama: Please don't show him a copy of Naked Lunch.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tomato and Corn Pie

Still using up tomatoes. This recipe relies on tinned corn, and beans because that was what I had. You could of course, use fresh corn or home cooked beans. Danny isn't wild about corn or tomatoes, but once it gets baked in a pie crust he seems to think they are no longer the same vegetables. Funny how everything tastes better in a pie crust.

You Will Need:

(about) 8 large, ripe tomatoes, skins and seeds removed
1 tin corn, rinsed
1 tin vegetarian chili beans, rinsed (it still retains the "chili" flavour without the sickening sauce cheap beans are tinned in)
1/2 cup sliced black olives
3 tablespoons dried, minced onion(these give more of an onion-dip flavour than fresh onions, which was kind of in keeping with the idea I had)
1 teaspoon dried garlic granules
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup grated sharp Swiss cheese
2 large eggs, slightly beaten

Combine, mix well and pour into crust-lined 9 inch pie plate.

2 layer pie crust

For the pie crust:

2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter
3-5 tablespoons ice water

Combine flour and salt. Cut in butter until fine like cornmeal. Add the water a tablespoon at a time until it comes together. Divide in half, roll out and line bottom with crust Fill, then top with other half of crust. Cut vents, crimp edges, and brush with either an egg wash, or heavy cream (I used cream this time). Place on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F. for about 1 hour, or until nicely browned and filling bubbles up through vents. Serve warm or cold.

Lamb Shank With Dried Apricots and Spices

I've been a vegetarian since I was seventeen years old. I don't mind cooking animal products, but I am at a very real disadvantage not being able to taste as I learn. I have to take Mr. ETB's word for it when he tells me something is good, or awful. He's fairly honest with that, so I feel comfortable posting a recipe after he's tried it out.

What I lack in experience with eating, I make up for with reading. I have a pretty good sense of what works well together. This is not to say that I haven't turned out really horrible dishes-because I have, but at least I have an idea of what spices work well with a particular meat.

Cleaning out the freezer, I found a single lamb shank purchased some time after Easter last year. If I'd planned ahead, I could have soaked beans and made a bean/barley cholent, but I didn't. I had half a bag of dried apricots, half a bottle of cheap red wine, and some preserved lemon which suggested I ought to go the North African route with this, which I did.

You Will Need:

1-2 small lamb shanks
Salt and pepper
6 tablespoons olive oil (about)
1 cup dried apricots
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon preserved lemon peel, chopped
4 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons ground cumin
3 cups dry red wine
Water to cover

In a large dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat and sear the lamb shank really well. Remove lamb to a plate and add everything except the wine and water to the pan. Cook for a few minutes to combine the spices. Add the wine, increase the heat and boil about two minutes. Reduce heat, add the lamb shank (s) and enough water to cover. Place a lid on and cook 1 hour in a 350 degree f. oven. Carefully (steam) open the casserole and turn the shanks making sure to keep them submerged. Replace cover and cook another hour until tender. If the liquid is boiling rather than simmering, reduce the heat to 325 degrees F.

When lamb is tender, remove to a rack inside a roasting pan. Increase oven heat to 425 degrees F. Strain the liquid from the cooking casserole and discard the solids. Return liquid to pan, and over very high heat, boil until reduced to 1/4 volume. It should begin to thicken a bit and coat the spoon. Pour over the lamb, return to the oven and cook 5 minutes. Baste with pan juices, return to the oven and cook another five minutes. Give it a final basting, then remove from oven. Tent loosely, and let stand at least ten minutes before serving.

Friday, September 17, 2010


This year's single surviving bell pepper plant produced five small peppers. Every year, I take a picture of Danny holding the "Peppy" he's grown from a seed. Here's this year's:
Ah yes, those were some excellent peppers. He was a little sad to see them stir-fried, but he ate them up just the same. While the pepper plants failed miserably, the tomatoes were really, really productive. Too bad we didn't care for them. I have a counter full of tomatoes I need to deal with-I can't even bring myself to make sauce. I am so terribly sick of tomatoes.

This is an exhausted mama, who is swearing off gardening...sort of...maybe...but not nearly as much as this year, but I'm putting in a few last onions and peas anyway...but really, I'm essentially through gardening...probably. Completely unrelated, does anyone know how the hell my mother's chin got on my face? Really, I never had a pointy chin. Strange.

I hope Danny doesn't inherit the family chin, but I guess he can always grow a beard.

Because You See, I'm Obviously Just A Stupid Woman

This morning, I answer the door when everyone arrives to sort out the electrical problem.

"Can you go get your husband, we're ready to fix the electricity."

Uh, huh. Anyone that knows Mr. ETB is aware that he just barely knows which end of a shovel to dig with, and that when it comes to household/general maintenance things, he's probably not the person to speak to. Me? yeah, I'm just the broad in the apron.

"Sure thing, I'll go get him!"

For the record, he hasn't got a fucking clue either-but he went outside and watched the whole thing because it seemed like the really butch thing to do. Just imagine the testosterone as three guys stand around watching another guy climb a ladder to solder a piece of wire together. Pretty macho stuff there. Good thing I wasn't out there, I might have felt faint, and been without my smelling salts. Fine with me-I can stand around inside the house scratching my arse and looking clueless-I don't need to be out there with all the really aggressive bees and wasps this time of year.

For now, the problem appears to be solved. We're due for bad storms again tonight, so keep your fingers crossed for us, because if I have to go through this ordeal again, I'm moving. No really, I'm not kidding-I am this close to packing up, and moving to the city. Living on a bus route is starting to sound more and more attractive every day.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'll just get my pretty little self back into the kitchen to whip up dinner.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Power Still Flaky

It appears to be something outside the house., as all the overhead lights work, but nothing plugged into a wall does. Odd, huh? Ugh. Anyway, I'll see if I can get through this post before we lose power for something like the tenth time today.

I haven't really been cooking, as the power is likely to go at any moment. I lucked out tonight, and managed to get dinner together, but I'm sure I'll wake to the screech of the carbon monoxide detector surging on and off all night. I guess I could just unplug it-not much risk this time of year with the furnace off.

I. Am. So Sleep Deprived. It Isn't Funny.

The air is so deadly still in here at night without a fan going. It isn't even hot-just stale. Contrary to popular belief, the air isn't cleaner in the country (particularly if your neighbour has been burning trash in the pit) and opening windows during harvest would mean all kinds of dust flying in here. The phone isn't working right either. There, how's that for complaints. Got any complaints to share? Type 'em in the comment section. I'll moderate, and post them if the power stays on.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Things I Wish I Could Un-Know

I've been teaching a unit on the early North American explorers. When La Salle came up, I remembered Starved Rock State Park, and went seeking the website.

The last time I visited the park was about ten years ago-on the trip moving to Nebraska. Mr. ETB had never been there, and it wasn't terribly out of the way, so we stopped for bit, walked around, and continued on to our new home. I hadn't really thought about the place since.

Here's where I'm going to sound like a terribly cranky old woman (which I know I never do, so don't let that shock you or anything) when I tell you that a State Park is not a mall. It is not a shopping centre. At most, you come home with a t-shirt with a crappy silkscreen of the lodge on the front, or a toy totem pole made in some place you've never heard of. Maybe a pair of moccasins. If you've been an extraordinarily well behaved child, your parents will get you a toy tomahawk to chase your sister around the finished basement with. What you don't do...what seems frankly obscene is go to a state park to engage in recreational shopping. I mean, that's always kind of sad, but it is all that much worse at such a magnificent park. It isn't like there's nothing better to do. There's trails, and boats, and little waterfalls, and depending on the season, pelting unsuspecting strangers with acorns-there's tons of stuff to do at Starved Rock-can't you spend a few hours without buying something? Really, go out and read a few historical markers-they have them all over the damn place. You might learn something about those old French dudes like Marquette, Joliet, La Salle, and other guys that got a portage named after them.

Fall really is a lovely time to see the park, if you get a chance. I've been there in the dead of winter as well, but the hiking is a bit trickier.

The Blogger Spam Filter Stinks

It puts real comments into the spam folder, where they go unnoticed until I say, "Hey, when did they create a spam folder?" and go look.

I wish they'd send out a mass email or something to let you know all the things they suddenly decide to change.

Anyway, I'll do a better job of checking one more thing I didn't need to deal with.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Partial Power

We had a hell of a storm come through here last evening. Downed trees, uprooted crops, part of the neighbour's silo in our yard-a real mess. The next town down the road clocked a wind at 81 mph. We're out on the rural road that way, so I guess that was what came through here.

The strange thing is-the power is working-at least in some parts of the house, but the lights are all very dim-partial power. Every so often, it just goes out-but only some of it. None of the circuit breakers trip, and it comes back on-without doing anything. This happened half a dozen times today.

No point in cooking anything-the stove will just go out. Same with laundry. The computer has been flaky all day as well. *shrugs* at least I have reading material.

Anyway, blogging will be light until an electrician figures this all out.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Licorice Buttermilk Ices

This was an experiment that went well, though I had moments when I considered tipping the entire thing into the dustbin. First, let's discuss licorice.

Oh, I know-I can hear you screaming, "Licorice is the devil!" Acquired taste, to be sure, as is buttermilk. The thing is, good licorice is a rarity, and expensive. I suppose what infuriates me more is buying expensive licorice and having it be of inferior quality. I might as well go on record here as one of those sick individuals that crave the heavily salted stuff from Holland. Oh god, I love that stuff. I didn't use that for the ice milk. I used the soft, disgusting stuff from Australia that people seem to like. I was going to toss the bag out, but it cost three dollars. My first thought was to infuse vodka with it, but I have actual licorice root for that sort of thing. Instead, I infused buttermilk with the better part of a bag (which is, I should note-quite a bit of licorice).

Heating buttermilk is tricky-you don't want it to completely separate, but it will slightly curdle as you go. Once the strained and heated milk was added to beaten egg yolks and sugar, and reheated it smoothed back into a custard with no harm done. It did look scary for about a minute.

I did not use straight buttermilk. I used 1 1/2 cups with 1/2 cup whole milk. That balance seemed about right, but it was still pretty tangy. The lemony-licorice mixture seems really obvious to me, but you may prefer to use more regular milk, or even half and half. I wouldn't use heavy cream for this-it is more of a light, refreshing type dessert.

I planned to serve this with pears poached in sweet, white wine-but didn't get around to poaching pears. A little Pernod would be nice too, though you can easily overwhelm the buttermilk with licorice/anisette. You need to taste, and adjust as you go.

Mr. ETB wasn't sure he liked it, but after finishing a dish, he had three more. It does take a bit to adjust to the oddness of the unfamiliar combination, but in Mr. ETB's case, it quickly grew addictive.

You Will Need:

1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup whole milk
a handful of strong licorice candy (whatever you have)
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar

Heat the milks and licorice over low heat to infuse-about ten minutes. Strain out licorice. heat the milk again gently to steaming (don't boil it). Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until light. Slowly, tempering as you go, pour the warmed milk into the eggs. Return everything to pan and cook until it reaches 170 degrees F. Strain into a bowl and set in an ice bath. When cool, transfer to an ice cream maker, or a freezer tray. I used a tray, stirring with a fork every thirty minutes until I got a texture I liked. You can also give it a good mashing with a potato masher to break up large ice crystals. Makes about 1 pint.

Buttermilk Oatmeal Cookies

These are the softest, lightest, deliciously moist oatmeal cookies I've ever made. This is a perfect recipe for those times when you have just a small bit of buttermilk left to use-up. The original recipe called for raisins and walnuts-I substituted chocolate chips for the walnuts.

From Better Homes and Gardens Cookies and Candies, 1966

You Will Need:

1 cup shortening (I used butter)
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 3/4 cup AP flour
1 teaspoon baking soda (bicarb)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg (I thought that was a bit much, so I used half)
3 cups quick cooking oats (I had these because I'm blind and bought the wrong cannister, but you could use regular oats too)
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (the recipe specified California walnuts, but I think you'd be OK to use what you have. I substituted chocolate chips).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease baking sheets.

Cream shortening and sugar until light. Add eggs and beat until fluffy. Stir in buttermilk. Sift dry ingredients (except oatmeal, nuts and raisins). Stir into butter mixture. Stir in oats, raisins and walnuts. Drop from tablespoons 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Bake about 8 minutes (mine took closer to 12, but ovens vary). Cool a minute on the pan, then carefully remove to a rack. Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

I found it helpful to keep the yet-to-be-baked sheets in the fridge, along with the extra batter. This seems to help keep the cookies from spreading too much.

Well That Just About Covers Things

Looking through books:

Me: Here's a complete collection of Marlowe's poems.
Mr. ETB: Yeah he was all like, "Oh I really like Satan, you know. Oh I really love Satan."
Me: Well sure, but his Faustus was pretty good.
Mr. Because he loved Satan.
Me: Hey Danny?
Danny: What mama?
Me: Don't make deals with the devil.
Danny: OK. I already learned that.
Me: And don't smoke crack.
Danny: OK mama

Oh, Lookit The Nature-n-Stuff

We arrived home to find the cluster of butterflies and moths (and bees) swirling around the flower heads. Danny was enchanted, and tried to catch a few (not the bees). What you can't see in the photo, is underneath, I have ground cherries growing wild. I have no idea where they came from, but we popped open one of the still-green husks and sure enough, there was a green little ground cherry. They need to ripen a bit before I can harvest them, but what an excellent surprise.

Record Breaker

As we were leaving the Omaha Library Bag sale (fill a paper bag for $2.00 with as many as you can cram in there) Mr. ETB asked if we broke any records. Turns out, we did. I asked if we could have a library volunteer certify that so I could post it on the blog. I spent twenty four dollars today-do the math.

Oh my goodness did we get fantastic stuff. Art books galore, history books, philosophy, drama, classical studies, science, nature...dudes, I know I said I need five more bookcases-make that ten. Gee whiz, this was like the library sale to end all library sales. I can't believe the quality of the books they were practically handing away.

Oh, the movies too! I filled bags of VHS tapes for $2.00 a bag. Good classics, films about artists, documentaries. I told Danny he's not permitted to complain of boredom again until he's at least fifteen. Then, I told him he had to have all the books read by Friday, but he just sneered at me in response.

So much fun. Next one is in December-mark your calendars.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cooking From The Garden and Pantry-again

I don't know-I just can't seem to drag myself into a supermarket lately. I have more tomatoes than I know what to do with, and plenty of dried beans-this is what I ended-up with.

Pasta with homemade Tomato Sauce and White Beans

For the beans:

Sort, rinse and soak beans overnight. Next morning, drain and rinse. Place in a large pot with 2 bay leaves, a whole (unpeeled) onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, and black pepper to taste. Simmer until beans are soft, but not falling apart-it works best if they hold their shape. Drain, and reserve 2 cups of the cooking water for later use.

For the sauce:

About 12 medium sized tomatoes

Blanch the tomatoes to remove skins. Seed, and chop coarsely. Add a bit of olive oil, spices to taste (I used marjoram and bay leaves) and cook until reduced to 1/4 the original volume . Cool.

In a small, heavy pot, melt 4 tablespoons butter. Over medium heat, with a wooden spoon, cook in 4 tablespoons flour until it foams. Slowly whisk in the reserved bean water. Whisk over medium heat until it thickens. Add to the cooked tomato sauce. In a large pot, combine the cooked beans and sauce and let combine over very low heat until beans are warmed though. Adjust seasonings if needed.

For the pasta:

3 large egg yolks plus one whole egg
3 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups semolina
1-2 cups AP flour

Beat eggs until light. Add water and salt. Beat in the semolina, then by hand add as much of the AP flour as you can until it is a very stiff dough. Wrap in cling film and let sit 30 minutes. Roll out with a generous amount of flour, cut as desired and let dry on racks for 30 minutes. Cook in moderately boiling water for about 5 minutes or until done.

Combine with beans and sauce.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Dudes, I'm Shitting Books Here!

So here's the deal for Sunday, if you can get to Omaha:

Fill a bag of books from the discounted section (good stuff in there too-lots of science, and classics) and pay $2.00. These are the books that had been selling for .25 cents.

You don't want to know how many volumes I bought today (no really, you don't). I'll get photographs, and a longer post up after I rest for a bit. Most of what I ended up with weren't library editions, but donated books-some of them were really nice. I didn't really need a three volume biography of Lorenzo De Medici from 1800, but what the hell, it was four bucks. Likewise, I didn't need the gigantic book listing all the known national anthems of the world (with sheet music!) but I really would have felt bad leaving it there. Besides, someday I may need to know the Gambian National Anthem-and I'll be all set.

Some of the more difficult to find treasures I came home with:

A History of Spain, Harold Livermore (I had actually been looking for this and was resigned to eventually ordering it from Amazon)

The Lore of Ships, Tre Tryckare 1963
I'll get photos up later-this is a magnificent edition... after I vacuum the cat hair out of it. I'm still trying to figure out how the cat hair got into a series of inside pages, but I guess we never can really know what cats are up to when unattended. I guess it will be worth the potential allergy attack cleaning it out.

Anyway, more later once I've had a chance to assess what we got.

And Sometimes, I Just Listen In Utter Horror

Overheard at Omaha Library Sale:

Man #1 : Wasn't T.S. Eliot. Lawrence of Arabia?
Man #2 : Who was that?

No, I didn't say anything. I did get a giggle at T.S. Eliot being confused with T.E. Lawrence.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Vanity Sizing

This has been going on for years with women's clothing, but I admit it is really disconcerting that a 36 inch waist pant can be 41 inches in reality. That's quite a difference.

I'd like to go on record encouraging men to just stop wearing pants. Why, if they can't give you accurate sizing, it seems the only reasonable response is to boycott.

No. More. Pants.

Poor Mojo's Newswire

Search Hits

I get the very best Google searches bringing people here. Sometimes I learn about fetishes I'd rather not know about, or dishes that sound too revolting to be true. I really like the ones that ask advice like, "Why did I marry a cheap Scotsman?" Like yeah sister, I hear you but what the hell do you expect Google to do about it? I get an awful lot of hits about, "Husband doesn't like my cooking." Sometimes I wish I could respond.

At least a couple hits a day come from Hawaii looking for, "lemon crunch cake." It must be a popular local thing. Most of the hits from the UK are for, "goose fat chips." Indonesians come here searching for, "pineapple danish." I really ought to track the queries by country for certain dishes-it could be interesting.

My all-time-very-favourite search was, "Therapy to finally get over Watergate." You can't really top that, can you? I thought I might drive some strange hits to the blog by doing a title about Bob Avakian and Magnolia Bakery cupcakes-but it never got any searches-for either. I could see being pretty far down the Google page for Magnolia Bakery cupcakes, but how many people are out there searching for Chairman Bob these days?

So Mr. ETB suggested one tonight that we're sure will generate some interesting searches:

Reading William S. Burroughs to Alzheimer's Patients.

I can't wait.

From My Garden...and Bookcases

This year, I grew heirloom tomato varieties, and I'm sorry to report that none of them were particularly special. They grew well-and I have tons of them, I just don't care for them all that much. I really didn't like the yellow ones. The Green Zebras were fine, but after a few dozen, it became a chore looking for things to do with them. Oh well, that's the gamble you take in gardening.

What did work out fantastic were the dozen heads of radicchio, and the leeks. I know, you're wondering what I'll do with that much of produce that gets used sparingly-but trust me, I'll put them to good use.

Today, I planted the last of the peas. As I only harvest the shoots, I don't need to worry about them maturing before a frost. At least, I hope I don't (we've been known to have early frosts around here).

I still have bell peppers, sage, and some cutting lettuces, but for the large part, I'm through-and pleased to be. I have no idea if I'll do a garden this size next year. It was an awful lot of work, and living with chronic anemia has forced me to give better consideration to the tasks I take lugging books home from a library sale. Oh yes people! You know where I'll be for the next three days. There's also a large sale coming up next month at the Wahoo library, which runs for a couple days. We spent yesterday cramming books into every available space of bookcase to make room for new additions to our collection. Oh sure, it was futile-we need at least five more bookcases, as they are at capacity now, but I think once the easy-reader books are culled from Danny's collection, we'll free up some more room.

I really hope we run into "smiley" again-I mean, if he fancies me that much maybe I can get him to lug books to the car for me ;)

What Did We Expect?

Passing a racist ordinance leads to an increase in harassment.

Most of the time it is more subtle, but I've also had ethnic slurs screamed at me (strangely, the screamers tend to be in moving cars-funny how that works). I've stood at check-out counters waiting to be served with no service forthcoming. I've been told to "go back where you came from" (I doubt they mean Boston), seen people scurry their children off the playground when we showed-up, and endured the hostile, "you people", comments. One time, when my car died at an intersection, I had someone come up to the rolled-down car window (the car was dead, I couldn't roll it up or lock the doors) and scream at me for being a *^#&)__illegal", and then described how he'd like to kill me off. For the locals, it was in Lincoln at the intersection of Cornhusker and 27th on a Saturday afternoon. There were dozens of witnesses, and not a single person helped. I really thought I might end up dead. he drove off, I got the car started, and since then, I've maybe been to Lincoln twice in five years.

Obviously, I'm staying as far away from Fremont as possible. The proponents of this legislation can insist this is aimed at curbing undocumented workers, but I can tell you, from my very extensive experience over a decade of living in Nebraska-it isn't. What it will do, and is already doing, is make it socially acceptable to be a dickhead. A racist dickhead. With the full support of the state. I can't wait until I get pulled over and asked for my papers. Really, I just can't wait. This is a hard place to live with a dark complexion. Mind, I'm not likely to be locked-up until they establish my immigration status-or deported without a hearing. Try dealing with something like that if you don't speak English. While I personally don't have anything to lose in terms of being locked-up, I sure as hell don't want to live in a, "show us your papers" society. I could do without the racist hostility as well. People who feel empowered to behave badly will do it. I mean, open a bloody history book, you know? How sad is it that it still works?

Even if this ordinance never goes into effect, the message has already been sent that harassment and discrimination are just fine and dandy so long as it is perpetrated against a powerless group.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Things That Don't Happen

Looking over my shoulder as I read a cooking blog:

Mr. ETB: Is that one of those corporate sponsored blogs?

Me: Sort of. She got famous something like five minutes after her first post because she got asked onto the Martha Stewart show to make some gimicky-type cake thing. Then, she got a book deal.

Mr. ETB: Martha Stewart never has people on who write SQL.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The War of 1812

I was in my forties before I understood what the hell the War of 1812 was about. Sort of. Sure, we learned the basics in school-Old Ironsides, the burning of Washington, blockades, etc. It didn't really mean anything, but it was the space that took up a few pages in the textbook between the Louisiana Purchase, and the Civil War. Now that I'm teaching it, I can understand the appeal of simply presenting it as a sort of trade dispute on the high seas.

In truth, there isn't a really concise answer to what the War of 1812 was about. That's OK-I don't really do concise anyway. I took a deep breath, backtracked to the Napoleonic wars, and faced the fact I can't really do an adequate job with 1812 if I don't do 1804. Crap. I really thought I was done with that (not that the child is-oh no, little Danny wants to know how many sails were flying on each ship in each particular battle, how many guns were fired by how many men, and casualty counts. If there's such a thing as a "Napoleonic Wars nerd" (which sadly, I think there is, and I don't mean SCA people) he'd be pleased to wear the label).

When I was in school, it would have been unthinkable to discuss the war as a vehicle of opportunism for the U.S. to get their hands on Canada (and Florida). I don't think I ever heard about that until university. I knew of Calhoun, but nothing about him. That seems like a rather grand omission, but again-a complicated, time consuming aspect to teach.

What I'm realising (though honestly, I understood this, rather I tried to ignore it, and forge ahead) is that it is very nearly pointless to teach US history as a stand-alone subject. I don't think this tendency to teach US history in such a way is some sort of isolationism. I think it is a bit of laziness with complicated material, and a need to cover as much material as possible to score well on standardised tests. In defense of teachers-they only get so many hours a semester to cover an ungodly amount of stuff. Since I have the opportunity to spend time making certain Danny understands the material I'm presenting, without being distracted by other students, it seems right to cover the material in depth so that it does not merely become the space in the textbook between the Louisiana Purchase, and the Civil War.

I still don't think Danny believes the bit about impressment. Oh sure, he's got his brain around conscription by one's own country-but the idea that you could be seized, and forced into the opposing army is really profoundly upsetting to him. I think it really conflicts with a five year old's sense of a fair fight.

So-anyone have some material they'd like to recommend for this unit? I need to get my hands on a good biography of Madison, but I'm also interested in materials published outside the U.S. You know, to see how the war is viewed in other places, by disinterested parties.

And just because I know you're wondering...there will be no USS Constitution cake being baked. I lived in Boston too many years listening to that damn cannon being fired each and every morning to care. I did explain to Danny that the Constitution is still fully commissioned to which he replied, "Why? Are they going to send it to Afghanistan?"
"Why", indeed.

Chocolate/Cinnamon Mandelbrot

My family has certain expectations come the High Holidays. There will be honey cake, and mandelbrot. This was my first attempt with this recipe, but I'm thrilled with how light they came out, and I think this may go into regular recipe rotation around here. They are certainly too good to save for holidays.
The original recipe called for almonds-I substituted chocolate chips due to nut allergy. Were I feeling particularly decadent (which I'm not, but whatever) once cooled, you could dip a corner of these into melted chocolate. You can also play with the flavourings (mocha would be really good, or you can use anisette extract for a more biscotti type cookie. Mini chips would have worked better, but I don't normally keep that sort of thing on hand, and I cook with what I have.

From The Art of Jewish Cooking, Jennie Grossinger 1958

You Will Need:

1 1/4 cups sifted AP flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons salad oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cinnamon (I have very strong cinnamon on hand, so I halved that amount)
1 cup chocolate chips or almonds

Generously grease two loaf bread pans. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside. Beat the eggs until thick. Slowly (about a tablespoon at a time) add the sugar beating well after each addition. Beat until very pale yellow. Stir in the oil and vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture, then fold in the chips/almonds.

Pour a small bit in each pan to just cover the bottom. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Repeat until you have used up all the batter and cinnamon. I used a knife to smooth the tops and it made a really attractive swirl design that still shows when sliced.

Bake 35 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Remove to a rack and cool five minutes in pans. Remove, cool a few more minutes on rack while you preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

On ungreased baking sheets, slice the loaves into 1/2 inch slices, then cut again horizontally in half. This should give you the classic biscotti shape. Bake five minutes on each side until nicely toasted. You may need a few minutes more or less, so watch them. They do crisp up a bit as they cool. Cool on racks.


I think I prefer this to the recipe I've used previously-but they still don't come close to what I remember getting from the local bakery as a child. Still, they're pretty good for what they are (puffy egg cookies) and they're so light you can almost convince yourself they're not full of eggs and oil.

From The Art of Jewish Cooking, Jennie Grossinger (You know, of the resort in the Catskills-think Dirty Dancing) 1958

I should note that this book belonged to my mother. I don't think she ever used it.

You Will Need:

3 eggs (I used large)
1/2 cup salad oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup sifted flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons poppy seeds (I omitted these)
Cinnamon sugar for topping (I added this)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease 2 baking sheets. Have eggs at room temperature before beginning. Beat the eggs until very light. Add the oil, sugar, flour and salt. Add poppy seeds if using. Beat well until very smooth.

Drop by teaspoons onto greased baking sheet leaving about 3 inches between (they puff as they bake). Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon sugar and bake 15 minutes, or until puffed and lightly browned. Makes about 36 (I got 24).

Monday, September 06, 2010

Barbecue Beef Ribs

Oh look, the vegetarian made ribs!

These are the long ribs, and they are really much more fat than beef. That didn't seem to bother Mr. ETB (also more fat than beef). As I'm currently overrun with tomatoes, I made my own sauce. That was a bit of work, but I'll post the recipe in case you feel ambitious.

For the sauce:

4 quarts tomatoes, cut into quarters and seeded
A splash of olive oil

Roast the tomatoes for 3 hours in a deep casserole in a 225 degree F. oven. Cool, Put through a food mill to remove skins. Remove liquid to a saucepan and boil gently until it is reduced to about 1/3. It should be thick like tomato sauce, but not as thick as paste from a tin.

Add to the reduced tomatoes:

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons dried minced onion
2 teaspoons dried minced garlic
1 bay leaf
A generous grinding of black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Pinch of ground cloves
1 teaspoon dried mustard
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon mild chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme.

Stir together, cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

For the ribs:

Dredge the ribs in flour that has been seasoned with salt and pepper. Pull off a hunk of fat from the underside of the ribs (there's plenty, trust me) and heat it in a Dutch oven over medium heat. When melted, brown the ribs. Remove from heat, add water to cover, and replace lid. Simmer slowly until tender-about 2 hours.

Remove ribs, and drain. Heat a broiler, and place on a rack over a broiling pan so that the ribs will be about 5 inches from the heat. Baste with barbecue sauce, and cook five minutes. Baste again, and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Let stand a few minutes before serving.

Not Really Digestive Biscuits

They're something...but they're not digestives. Not terrible, not wonderful, Danny seems to like them. Good with tea, I guess.

I thought the recipe sounded wrong (confectioner's sugar rather than brown sugar, no oat flour, etc.) but I gave them a try anyway. At worst, I'll crush them for a pie crust.

The recipe may be found HERE.

Sunday, September 05, 2010


We need a tutor for ancient Greek. I know we live in somewhat of a cultural wasteland, but someone in the state must be qualified to teach ancient Greek. We still need an accordion teacher as well. I'm thinking of posting an ad in the local paper:

Wanted, accordion teacher/ancient Greek tutor. Must have chest hair.


Actual Conversation:

Papa: What is a corbeled arch anyway?

Danny: Here, I'll show you in an art book.

Papa: Hey wait, go back (flips back page) what's that?

Danny: That's a (whatever he said it was) but I'm really not up to teaching you humanities today Papa, I just wanted to show you the corbeled arch you asked about.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Banana Split Cake

Someone stop me before I bake again...

The mid-seventies were full of recipes like this. At least this doesn't rely on a box of custard mix, or Jell-O. It called for something called, "Sweet cocoa mix", which I took to mean something like Nesquick. I just used regular old cocoa powder-worked great.

Strangely, this is a pretty decent tasting cake. A bit rich-but not as heavy as pound cake. It certainly isn't overly sweet, and well-just look at it. There's a recipe for a glaze, but I skipped it because I'm curious how long this will last at room temperature. I'll include the details if you're feeling daring.

From Better Homes and Gardens Home Style Cooking, 1975

You Will Need:

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup butter, softened
4 eggs (I used large)
1/2 cup sour cream (I used the full-fat kind)
1/2 cup mashed banana
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups AP flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup strawberry preserves
A few drops of red food colouring
1/2 cup sweetened cocoa mix (I used regular unsweetened cocoa powder)

3/4 cup sifted confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light. Add the eggs, one at a time beating well. In a small bowl, combine the banana, sour cream, milk and vanilla. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Add to creamed mixture in two additions alternating with the banana mixture.

Remove 1 cup of cake batter and fold in the strawberry preserves, and food colouring.

Remove another cup and stir in the cocoa powder.

Pour half of the plain mixture in the bottom of the pan. Top with the strawberry batter making sure to spread it out to the edge. Top with remaining plain mixture, again spreading it to the edge evenly. Top with the chocolate mixture in a ring around the top, but do NOT spread to the edge.

Place pan on a baking sheet and bake about 70 minutes, or until it begins to pull away from the edge of the pan and tests done with a toothpick. Cool ten minutes in pan on a rack, then carefully unmould onto rack. Cool completely before glazing.

For the glaze:

Combine powdered sugar, corn syrup, and vanilla. Add enough milk (about 1 tablespoon) to make a frosting of drizzling consistency. Drizzle over cooled cake.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Cream Puffs

These are so easy to make, I really don't know why I don't bake them more often. The only "trick" to good cream puffs is getting them completely dried out. Leaving them in a turned-off oven with the door ajar seems to do the trick.

The recipe (along with a cute picture of Danny) is HERE.

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Thursday, September 02, 2010

Big. Fake. Smile.

Danny calls it my, "big, fake, smile." I call it, a response to utter exasperation, a survival technique of sorts. Sometimes, I lose myself, and accidentally try to communicate with idiots though in the end, "big, fake, smile" is there to round out the interaction. I really don't know what else to do-occasionally I need to leave the farm, and deal with people. Generally, it is considered impolite to call people fucking morons to their face, whether or not they are behaving in a fucking moronic manner. Big. Fake. Smile. Sometimes, I think the exasperation shows through, best efforts aside. I never have managed to mask incredulity convincingly-I should probably work on that.

The simplest tasks are growing incredibly tiresome as people refuse to shut the hell up for a minute, to think before responding. My five year old understands this, but the concept seems to be lost on the majority of adults I'm forced to attempt dealing with. I don't delight in being short with people. I don't derive any enjoyment from making people feel bad. For my part, I'd rather stay at home, and not deal with them at all, but I certainly don't leave home with the intention of upbraiding someone for the sheer hell of it. I may not be a, "nice" person, but I'm not completely heartless either. Usually. Big. Fake. Smile.

Danny needed to having his hearing test repeated, as the results were borderline last time. This is apparently common enough, as kids are distracted at their check-up, and sometimes don't understand what they're being asked to do. The paediatrician suggested we return on a day when we were in town, to re-check it. He said we didn't need an appointment-just a few minutes to re-do the test.

I called the office ahead of time, just to make sure today would be a good day. After beginning to explain this to the receptionist, she transferred me, mid-sentence into a voice mail for the nurse. That would mean waiting at home until late in the afternoon when they return calls, for something that didn't require a nurse's time returning a call about. I called back, got the same receptionist who was put off by my suggestion that she didn't let me finish explaining what I needed, and that she really needed to take fifteen seconds to hear what I was asking. Yeah, that really went over poorly. Finally, she understood, and told us it would be fine to come in.

We arrive, speak to another person at the front desk who is again, utterly clueless as to what we need done, and refuses to stop for a few seconds and actually listen. A hearing re-check is not an appointment. We did not need to see the doctor. We did not need to schedule an appointment. I went through the entire thing for the third time before she got it.

Mind, I wasn't rude. I was matter-of-fact. I did ask her to, "please take a moment to listen." I explained what we needed clearly, and concisely. For that, I was met with tears welling in her eyes. Really.

Two minutes later, we were finished with the hearing test, and on our way. Look, I felt like a total piece of shit for making her cry. I did. I tried to re-play the conversation in my mind and I couldn't for anything figure out how she could have possibly taken it as some sort of cruel criticism, or personal attack, but I wouldn't have felt right leaving without at least trying to smooth it over.

On the way out, I apologised for sounding short, even saying that I know hearing re-tests probably don't come up that often and there isn't a good procedure for dealing with it. At any rate, I wanted her to know I didn't personally fault her, I just needed to make sure I was being clear with what we needed. Essentially, I was offering an apology where none was needed because it seemed like the decent thing to do. Her response was a series of lies, misrepresentations of what I asked (I did not tell her I needed an appointment today), and accusations of being, "mean." There really wasn't much more I could (or would) say, so I gave a big, fake, smile and went on my way.

Were this something out of the ordinary, I wouldn't be posting it. There seems to be this inability to ever accept having made a mistake, or misunderstanding something that people will (almost frantically) do anything to place the blame elsewhere. Again, even my five year old doesn't resort to, "I didn't do it." It is as though there is some unwritten rule at play where everyone must always have an answer, correct or not-like there's a penalty for taking a second to think. If there isn't an answer, then something is made up, usually so completely unrelated as to render it useless. I used to think it was some sort of inability to be logical and rational at the same time, but really, it seems to be worse than that. When someone does finally speak to you, it is from the standpoint of having somehow been victimised, and then you're hit with self-help-speak and platitudes. Mostly, I resort to the big, fake, smile.

Is it psychoactive drugs? I'm serious, do you suppose that could be it? How does so much of the population suddenly lose the ability to listen, reason, and the like-in the space of a decade or so? It does not appear to be generational (this woman today was in her fifties). Is it the meds making people behave this way? Technology? Do the Internets make people stupid? Is there some way I can blame Reagan for this?

I'm ever so thankful I don't need to work outside of the home-I don't know how I would manage. Likely, I'd be sacked in the first week for making someone cry, or talking too fast. When I do return home from one of these assaults on my intellect, I feel so completely bewildered that it takes a couple of days to reassure myself that I haven't in fact, lost my mind as well. Thank god I don't cry easily.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Chocolate Pear Strudel

This was sort of a lazy person's dessert, but I simply didn't feel up to a challenge today. I used phyllo dough, which takes strudel from pastry making to simple assembly. Fine with me. This recipe makes 2 loaves.

You Will Need:

20 sheets thawed phyllo dough
1/2 cup clarified butter, melted
1-2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
3 large pears, thickly sliced (peeled and cored-but you are smart enough to know that already) tossed with 1/2 cup granulated sugar and a generous pinch of ginger
1 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet.

Quickly assemble the phyllo by brushing each layer with butter-do ten sheets for each strudel. On the last layer, butter the top, spread with breadcrumbs, and in the bottom 1/4 of the rectangle, pile half the pears and chocolate. Carefully roll it up, tucking in the ends as you go. Place seam side down on baking sheet. Cut about 5 vents across the top and brush generously with more butter. Repeat with second strudel.

Bake 20 minutes, baste with more butter, and rotate pan. return to oven and bake another 10-20 minutes, or until deeply golden. Cool, then dust with confectioner's sugar, or icing if you prefer. Makes 2 strudels.

Dear Mum...

...sorry I won't be making it home this year.

Canadian History Books, and Other Things That Bother Me

Really, I'll be pleased if he can remember John Cabot, and something about Cartier. I flipped open a copy of The Pageant of Canadian History, and was met with this stunning statement:

"North America was formed through geological ages to become the home of virile men."

Rock hard? I can't find the joke, but I know there is one. The book continues much in this absurd, over-written manner, with generous ethnocentric characterisations of the indigenous peoples. Yeah, we're going to need a better textbook. Canada has changed a bit since 1943, though assuming their men are as virile as before. They've probably stopped calling the First Nations, "savages."

While I'm complaining about the quality of writing for children...

I've finally given up, and resorted to teaching classics with Edith Hamilton, and the Bullfinch. How on earth can you teach mythology and give it the old, "happily ever after" treatment? Bah! That's what's wrong with kids today. Now get offa my lawn, you damn beatniks with your long playing records and happy endings!