Thursday, March 31, 2011

Flapjack Wars

Chewy or crunchy? This is a serious subject for debate-you wouldn't believe how fanatical people can get over oats baked in a ton of butter and sugar. Mine are somewhere in the middle-a bit of chew, but thin enough to require some work.

The beauty of flapjack is how durable it is-so durable in fact you need to cut it still warm in the pan or it will be impossible to get a knife through it. With a very busy weekend on the go, I figured the best carry-along treat to coax a tired child into another hour of searching the stacks of used books at the library sale would be flapjack. Amazing how tons of fat and sugar can bring a grumpy six year old around. Can't wait for his middle-aged complaining about how all we did as a family was go to used book sales, and how his mother would force feed him refined sugar to keep up stamina. I was forced into many a dull weekend with my parents, but no one was loading me up with sugar-it might have been more tolerable.

Fine, fine, I decided to bake flapjack. But which kind? Danny seemed so indifferent to it the last time I baked. A while back, I spotted THIS recipe and though, "Christ on a bike, that's a shitload of butter!" But my subsequent thought was, "I should try it." So I did. Let's call it Flapjack Number One.

Flapjack Number One (or, FNO because I'm the sort of person that would call it, "FNO") was thicker, extremely moist (well geez, it has a ton of butter in it-it ought to be) and used both whole oats and quick cooking. I thought it was interesting to use both, and I rather liked it, but it does tend to crumble more than flapjack made entirely of quick cooking oats. No matter, this is still quite good, but a bit too soft for my tastes. I did bake it longer than the recipe called for, and perhaps my oven is a bit off, or the oats I used absorbed differently. A few more minutes wouldn't have hurt. Still, fear not as I doubt very much it will go to waste.

Flapjack Number Two (FNT-because you need me to point that out in the event you hadn't already caught on from the previous paragraph) is thinner, made entirely of quick oats, and holds together better. It is firmer, crunchier, and the ratio of brown sugar/golden syrup seems to work better. The recipe I'm posting is for a small batch (because I already had a ton from FNO) but it doubles easily enough.

So which is it then? I really don't know. Danny clearly preferred FNT, but he's young and has good teeth. If I were young, and in possession of good teeth, I think I'd prefer it as well, but the softer FNO has qualities I can appreciate in my declining years. I still think it is an ungodly amount of butter, but you could certainly eat worse things.

Here's the recipe for mine:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Generously butter an 8x8 square pan (or go larger if you prefer it thinner).

In a saucepan, melt 1/2 cup unsalted butter ( don't be like my mother, and substitute margarine-it won't make it any better for you)

1/2 cup brown sugar (I make my own with granulated sugar and molasses which gives it a richer taste)

1/4 cup Golden Syrup (don't you dare substitute with rice syrup)

A generous pinch of salt

2 1/3 cups quick oats

Heat the butter, brown sugar, syrup and salt in a pan until it melts. Pour over the oats and mix well. Pat into prepared pan, bake 20-30 minutes depending on how chewy/crunchy you like it, and cool a few minutes in the pan, on a rack. With a sharp knife, cut into squares. Let cool completely in the pan. I store mine in a tin with sheets of wax paper between the layers.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Second Christmas

We decided to have a second Christmas, and steam the remaining pudding. When I made them, back in October, I planned to give the second away-but we didn't have any takers. Imagine, some people find Christmas pudding leaden. Fools.

The weather is still damp and cool here, but I know how quickly that can turn. Today seemed like the ideal day for a final two hours of steaming.

I've been in a dour mood of late, but that's nothing that can't be improved with booze-soaked glaceed fruit steamed in breadcrumbs and fat. Mmm...breadcrumbs, booze and fat.

Now, to put a dent in the two remaining Christmas cakes (Danny has suggested battering and deep frying hunks of the cake on skewers. I have to assume that is his Scottish side speaking. At any rate, they need to go before Pesach (insert Scottish Jew joke, HERE__________________).

OK, I'm off to whip up some hard sauce (blech, I really, really hate the stuff).

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Library Sale This Weekend, and Other Upcoming Events

If you're a local, or feel like visiting Omaha this weekend, the quarterly Friends of the Library Book Sale is Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Swanson branch on Dodge Street. I'll be around Friday and Sunday, but Saturday I'm stuck (I shouldn't say it like that, but I'd rather be buying books) at Morrill Hall (14th and Vine) for Colorful Creatures Day. Danny's submission was a cray-pas drawing of a millipede with not one, but two glue traps. That ought to win a prize, or at the very least, make some docents laugh. These rural kids, huh?

Sunday April 9th is the Severe Weather Symposium at UNL.
This is a great event, there's tons of freebies, pamphlets, posters, and people on hand to answer your questions. Really, I can't say enough nice things about this programme, and we've been going for years now. If you can get to Lincoln, it is well worth the price of admission which!

Perhaps stargazing is more your thing? Public viewing nights at Behlen Observatory near Mead.
I live rather close to the observatory, so if you're planning on going, drop me an email and maybe we can grab a gourmet pizza at the gas station (I'm serious, the gas station makes incredible pizza).

So, what's going on where you live?

The Prettiest Polka Dot Pasta You'll See Today

I cut these with the detachable centre piece from my doughnut cutter.

My Six Year Old, Channeling Virgil Thomson

In the car, I have the radio tuned to a classic rock station.

Danny: Is there a point to this song?
Mama : Uh..Don't Fear The Reaper?
Danny : This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Ever.

About five minutes later:

Danny: And what is this song about?
Mama : Radar Love?
Danny : It doesn't even mean anything, and it isn't music, this is noise. This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard, they aren't even trying to play music.
Mama : I thought Don't Fear The Reaper was?
Danny : I changed my mind.

About ten minutes later, nearing home:

Danny: Mama? Mama? What is this...
Mama : (annoyed) Stairway to Heaven. You're listening to Stairway to Heaven...and don't tell me how stupid it is because you've already experienced the two stupidest songs of your six years of life already today.
Danny: (softly, under his breath, but still audible) Well I guess I've lived a lot in the last twenty minutes.

Monday, March 28, 2011


I was so excited to find Barry's Gold Blend tea at the Baker's in Omaha. Today, I brewed a pot. The tea tastes exactly the same as I remember it, though I always bought it loose, not in bags. Looks the same, tastes the same as it did when I drank it twenty years ago...and truthfully, I think I prefer PG Tips. My palate must have adjusted over the years.

Gah. I just spent $8.00 on a box of tea I no longer like. I still like cream crackers-bought about five packets of those. Well, that was an expensive stroll down memory lane.

I guess I'll shove it in the cabinet with the other orphaned products like bitters, pomegranate molasses, and Earl Grey. Someone will want it...someday.

This is my teapot that I use everyday. I actually felt a twinge of discomfort brewing Irish tea in this pot, though it does depict the Battle of Waterloo, not the Battle of the Boyne. That would be much, much, worse.

Sure, I could have used this teapot, but it is so fragile I'm terrified of breaking it. It sits in my china cabinet along with a matching creamer, sugar bowl and jam pot. I doubt very much I'll ever use it.
Anyone want a box of expensive, not very interesting tea?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Quick Coating For Baked Haddock (and other fish as well)

I arrived home late, but was still able to toss this together quickly. For years, I breaded fish with crushed-up Ritz crackers. I still think that makes a perfectly acceptable coating, but this one uses up that steady supply of breadcrumbs I seem to have.

You Will Need:

A handful of fresh parsley (use either kind, I'm not about to dictate what sort of parsley you should like)
1 heaping tablespoon chopped, preserved lemon peel, or the grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large gloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon

With a large knife, combine everything and chop again (and again, and again) until it is quite fine and the lemon and garlic are practically a paste. Combine with a couple cups of coarse, dry breadcrumbs. Toss well.

To coat, and bake fish:

Season fillet, dredge in plain flour, then in beaten egg. Roll in parsley/breadcrumb mixture and place in a well-buttered pan. Dot with additional butter and bake in a 450 degree F. oven until it flakes-I did about 15 minutes for haddock. Cod would take longer.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Spice Cake, Circa 1937

Click photo to enlarge.

From my well-worn copy of the Herald tribune Home Institute Cook Book, 1937.

The cake is nice, but somewhat heavy. This would have been positively luxe in 1937 as it calls for three eggs, a cup of milk, and a cup of sugar. I did go ahead and use butter rather than shortening, but otherwise I followed the recipe. I might cut the amount of clove next time-it was a little like eating a pomador.
Hope everyone has a nice weekend.


The daffodils had the best of intentions...

...but the weather had other ideas.
The red winged blackbirds are not pleased.

I'm not pleased either. The seedlings on the windowsil look annoyed as well.

Danny has selected a poem to tell you about. He read it aloud, did an illustration, and a synopsis longer than the poem. The poem is by Peter Blue Cloud.

spring equinox

Now day and night sit balanced.
From a silence that seemed forever,
the first booming crash of break-up
thunders from the river. Smiling,
an elder oils the handle of a hoe
and listens for that great, warm wind.

Creation is a song, a trickling become
a gurgling, chuckling water voice.
Winds which bend the snows to melting
carry clouds of rain storms on shoulder.
Green islands appear on turtle's back
grasses long asleep beneath the snow.

Dawn of a glorious season, flowers
in merging, undulating waves of color
The taste of strawberries, anticipate
in their blossoms, the rich and fertile
smells of soil we bend to,
breaking ground for summer's corn.

-Peter Blue Cloud

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sugar 'Em Up Apple Snacks

Janice has led me down a path I never thought I'd go...the path at the grocer leading to the crescent rolls in a tube. The recipe is HERE, and I must say, they look much better baked with Mountain Dew than with Green River. When I removed them from the pan, I was reminded of that gloppy green stuff children used to play with...slime? Was that what it was called? It looked like that.

Yep, the photos are quite out of focus-I think that adds to the classiness of the thing. Remember when crescent rolls from a tube were considered "special occasion" food? Well, they were at my house-and then they were (like everything else) rationed so we wouldn't get fat. I'm pretty sure if my mother were alive, she wouldn't approve of this dessert...or she'd try to make it with sugar-free soda. She used to do this thing with baking apples in diet ginger ale with a few, tiny cinnamon hearts tossed in the pan for colour. *shudders*.

So these won't win any beauty contests, but I have to admit, they are really good. My head hurts from the sugar, and my teeth are aching. Probably not a good dessert for diabetics, or people that care about artificial ingredients, food colouring, additives, fat, get the idea. Still, I ate it, and would probably eat another if I could (fortunately, my body overrides my brain so I don't suffer that problem of overeating before getting full. I'm full after three bites...three extremely buttery, sugary, bites). Your level of self-control may vary, so plan accordingly. The dog looks interested, but these are too good for the dog...well, my dog anyway.

I was tempted to save this for an April Fool's post and suggest using organic butter, pure cane sugar, Fleur de Sel,freshly grated cinnamon, and any other expensive ingredient I could think of that would go nicely with soda and crescent rolls.

Thanks, Janice!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Nut-Free Chocolate Spread

This is pretty darn close to the chocolate spreads in stores, sans the hazelnuts (or any nuts for that matter). It chills firm, but still spreadable. I followed the recipe in my 1950 edition of the Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook for Dark Chocolate Filling. Because it is 2011, not 1950, I cooked the sauce longer to ensure the egg yolk would be safe. I also strained it through a fine sieve and didn't catch any scrambled egg-but I'd still do it to be sure.

Think, Chocolate Curd...if there were such a thing. Thankfully, it only makes about 1/2 pint, so you can't get into too much trouble if you decide to grab a spoon and sit in front of the telly.

I have to go bake wholemeal biscuits to spread it on...or maybe I'll just go grab a spoon...I wonder what's on tonight besides storm warnings?

You Will Need:

1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon butter

Put it all in a heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly (especially at the end when it might scorch). Cook until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat, strain through a sieve and cool at room temperature. Cover, and keep chilled.

A Strange Calm...

The wind was racing through here not five minutes ago. Now, all is calm...dead calm. I mean, there isn't a hint of movement in the air which is heavy, humid and seventy degrees F. If you don't happen to live in the American Midwest, let me explain-that ain't normal. No sir, it sure ain't.

The swallow building a nest by my front door (just like every year) is freaking out because it has suddenly turned dark. Really dark. I'm going to open the door to the storm cellar anyway-just for an airing out (and to chase out any farm cats that might have been overwintering down there), and check the batteries in the flashlights and weather radio. I know it is nearly April, and officially spring, and all that but my brain just isn't ready for severe weather season. Obviously nature doesn't give a toss what I'm ready for, because it looks like we're going to get clobbered any minute.

I really hope we don't loose power tonight, what with a freezer full of dead deer and such.

I love spring when it is daffodils and pea shoots, but I could do without the tornadoes, hail and other joys. I know it has been three years since the tornado, and I wouldn't say I was traumatised by it, but I do keep an extra keen eye on the weather when it starts looking like this.


Tea Bread-Gourmet Magazine June 1972

The recipe was originally for jasmine tea. I still have half a tin of Earl Grey left from another recipe and since no one will drink it (understandable) I used it in this bread. Good call, actually. The original recipe also called for nuts which I omitted without any substitution. The bergamot goes well with the lemon and orange (it is an orange, or some sort of citrus, isn't it?) and when baking with butter, and zest it almost smells good-almost. You can probably guess I'm not a fan of Earl Grey.

You Will Need:

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter (I used unsalted)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon grated lime rind
3 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (I used ginger instead)
3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup strongly brewed tea (recipe called for jasmine, I used Earl Grey)
1/2 cup chopped pecans (I omitted)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x5x3 loaf pan very well. Set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the grated peels and egg. Mix well. Add the tea to the orange juice and mix. Combine dry ingredients and sift well. Add, alternating with juice/tea mixture. If using nuts, fold it at the last.

Here's the odd bit-let the batter rest in the pan 20 minutes before baking it.

Bake 45-50 minutes or until it tests done (mine took 55). Cool ten minutes in pan, on rack, then cool completely on rack. If you have any citrus curd on hand, this would be a good opportunity to use it.

Makes one large loaf.

Which Side Are You On Boys?

I had only given labour history a brief introduction around the holiday in the fall-then the shit hit the fan in Wisconsin. Danny's news comes primarily from the radio, mostly Democracy Now, and As it Happens because those are the shows on in the kitchen when I'm making his lunch and dinner. I hadn't made a point of explaining union contracts to Danny, though he did get a kick out of seeing my old union withdrawal card (so you don't have to re-pay joining dues if you get another job in the same union) and he has a few books on what unions do. Anyway, I wish I could take credit for this, but I suspect this is Amy Goodman's doing:

The contract:
I like the fact we're only a bread baking union, none of that middle class apricot cake baking for us!

The Union membership card:
I'm putting this in my wallet for the next time I happen upon a picket line. I don't know what I was pretending at age six, but I'm pretty sure I wasn't organising unions.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Homemade Spring Roll Wrappers

I've made my own dumpling dough, scallion pancakes, steamed bun...but never tried spring rolls. That had to change. I was surprised how difficult it was to find a recipe for the wrappers that sounded reasonable (you know, like it would actually work) but I found the recipe I ended up using at Penniless Parenting-and I trust her. If you aren't already reading her blog, you should be, unless of course you are one of those people that likes to toss money away. You aren't the sort of people that like tossing money away-are you? I didn't think so-I keep pretty nice company over here at this little blog.

Anyway-the egg rolls came up beautifully, the boys devoured them, and I have eight more uncooked ones waiting in the freezer for the next time I'm struck by a desire to deep fry things. Yeah, you're going to need the kettle for this-but come on, there's vegetables in it. Use good oil and you can almost (well not really) claim this as health food (OK not at all).

The recipe for the dough may be found HERE (yes, I'm forcing you to click over there because the tutorial is excellent). The filling I used is as follows:

1/2 head small cabbage, finely shredded
1 red bell pepper, finely sliced in matchsticks
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
3 carrots, finely chopped in matchsticks
1 tablespoon dehydrated onion flakes
1/2 teaspoon dehydrated garlic granules
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 heaping teaspoon 5 spice powder
A splash of soy sauce
A small splash of sesame oil
Extra oil for the pan

Heat a large pan or wok and cook everything until softened. Cool before using to fill wrappers. I made mine ahead and kept them lightly covered in the fridge until i was ready to fry several hours later-this worked just fine. To freeze the extras, I packed them in pastic containers between layers of wax paper.

I also served a stir fry of carrots, peppers, green beans, onion, garlic, water chestnuts, and tofu over rice. The tofu can be fried well ahead (even a couple days) and keeps well tightly wrapped in the fridge. I find that making this sort of thing in stages is much easier than trying to slap dinner on the table come six PM. There's plenty of stir-fry for leftovers tomorrow, and I have frozen egg rolls waiting to go. The only reason my life isn't a pathetic mess is good time management skills-really, I don't have brains, looks or money, but organisation? Oh yeah, I have that one down.

Things To Do With Leftover Broccoli Rabbe...

How about pizza topping?

This worked well as a white pizza (no tomato sauce) as the oil and garlic in the rabbe kept the base from drying out. I also used an assortment of cheese (cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, and Provolone), sliced red bell pepper, and a sourdough crust. All told, there was maybe half a cup of rabbe and garlic in the cooking oil-more than enough for topping two pizzas (a little goes a long way).


Thank god for the Daily Mail, or I'd probably never have a laugh. OK, check THIS out.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday With A Scientist

Each month at Morrill Hall they have a Sunday programme where children can learn about a specific subject, ask questions, and do some hands-on experimenting. Today, was optics and lasers, which was great because Danny had a few questions about the ultraviolet light spectrum. Actually, he had many questions, which were patiently answered and explained. Family admission is ten dollars, which really isn't bad considering my kid spent two hours playing, "stump the physicist." That's worth ten bucks. I should have asked some of the grad students if they do tutoring.

Anyway, you know from my previous posts about visits to this particular museum that there is always something interesting to hear near the Darwin exhibit. While Danny and Papa went in the play area, I sat on a bench and waited for the hilarity. I didn't have to wait long.

Older couple-maybe 70:

Woman (grumbling): I don't know why they have so much Darwin stuff here.

Man: I know, isn't this a nature museum?

I wish I could sit there for hours recording the things people say-imagine the Twitter feed potential.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Oat Crackers

These oat crackers came from 101 Cookbooks. They were easy enough to make, provided you own a heavy rolling pin. I thought they were just, OK, but Danny really liked them. *shrugs*. I also didn't use parchment-just a lightly greased pan and they were fine. I can't afford to use parchment unless I really must.

This is probably some sort of heresy to say (for someone with an Eastern European heritage) but I'm not in love with rye. I might try these again with whole wheat flour, and a different fat than butter. Anyway, I'm sure with some sour cream spread on them (see...there's my Ukrainian heritage speaking) they would make a good base for something...probably herring. Am I forgiven now?

Because the recipe came from 101 Cookbooks, I had to photograph it on my Johnson Brothers China (I've never noticed other bloggers using the same China pattern). I grew-up with this pattern as my mother had it, and naturally when I moved out, I purchased the same. Familiarity, I guess-and I rather like it.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Spring Tablecloth

I thought it was time to use this tablecloth I made last year.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Escarole is In

-as are a ton of other early crops. I still need to deal with the potatoes today or tomorrow. I don't know why I'm so nervous about growing potatoes-it doesn't sound that complicated?

I'm still intrigued by the idea of growing them in bags, or boxes that you remove a plank and harvest from the bottom. Anyone tried either method with success?

I'm afraid Danny's seasonal allergies arrived early this year and the poor dear is giving the "allergic salute" wiping at his nose with the back of his hand (yes, he does have handkerchiefs, but that would require reaching into his pocket, where he's stuffed god-only-knows whatever it is children find outside and decide to carry home. Mostly, we've had rocks, melted Milk Duds, and the occasional brochure. Last week, it was a subscription card to National Geographic which he filled out and asked his papa to post, which he happily did. I don't think Danny wants to look at topless women in exotic locales-I think he was lured in by the promise of a free wall map). So it is a Benadryl kind of afternoon, which in Danny's case means bouncing off the walls. I should probably give him a dust rag and tell him to get started on the bookcases.

Dudes, we are only a few months away from enjoying escarole soup!

Dig a Hole, Stupid

I thought putting in rose bushes would be this big, complicated activity but reading the side of the package it sounds pretty straightforward. You soak the plant in water for a few hours, dig an hole, and plant it.

Gosh, if I'd known it was that easy, I'd have bought more. I'm not great at complicated pruning, or separating bulbs, but digging a hole I can do-I even know which end of the shovel to dig with. I have an anthropology degree-I spent a summer session at university learning to dig holes in the ground. I had a double major, and I can tell you from experience, history majors can't dig holes. Sorry, that's one of those truths like when you attend a military parade and the sailors can't march. Army, sure. Marines, certainly. Hell, even the Air Force can march. Get to the Navy and geez, you've been to parades and know that I speak the truth. There-my anthropology degree at long last becomes useful.

I should probably go purchase more rose bushes, but I'm having more fun making sweeping generalisations that happen to be true.

At The Playground

I watched a father and mother with their (about) two year old. I saw:

The father, so messed-up he couldn't walk, attempt climbing up the slide, child in his arms. He stumbled, child slipped, but was fine. A few minutes later, the child came swooping down slide by himself with no one to catch him (mum was over on a bench texting), so I did. It seemed like the thing to do, as the drop-off was kind of high for such a small child.

"That's OK, no problem" I told the dad, setting the child down. Mum came racing over demanding to know what I had said to him. Not, what I was doing catching her child, but what I was saying, to her fella.

I told her
what I said. She glared at me, as though it were some sort of confrontation. It wasn't.

ered off to the merry-go-round, and I watched dad fall off and roll underneath. I don't think mum noticed. The child resumed his existential screaming, which he'd done nearly nonstop since they arrived (I never did hear him speak) which also went unnoticed.

At that point, we left. I didn't care to be drawn into their little family drama.

This isn't me railing against teenaged parents, or drug addicts. I've known people from both groups (some at the same time) who have still managed to pull it together long enough to look after their child. I've known some excellent young parents, and some people you'd never suspect were drug addicts. I can't even say what I observed was neglect-we all turn our backs and have a child fall on the playground-I got a broken arm at five falling from a slide as the teacher had her back turned. It happens, that isn't child abuse. What I couldn't get over was the child screaming unnoticed, and uncomforted. It was one of the most heartbreaking things I've ever seen, and I've seen some pretty awful parenting. The child seemed fed, clean, otherwise cared for-someone is apparently looking after the basics, unless of course you consider emotional involvement basic.

I don't know anything about the people. I can't say if they love their child or not, if they are otherwise good parents having an off day, maybe the dad had some disease that makes you stumble about-hell, I don't know. For all I know the child might be autistic and screams like that 24/7 and they just wanted some fresh air at the park on a nice day-I have no idea. I really don't, and I wouldn't go out on a limb and make an accusation based on nothing more than a feeling that they ought to pay a bit more attention to the kiddo.

I mean, at that point, why bother going to the playground? Somewhere in their heads they must have arrived at the idea that going to the playground is something you do with a small child, but they weren't quite equipped to manage the motions.

I hope that child isn't still screaming away unnoticed.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

You Don't Want A Man That Eats Boxty Anyway

Boxty on the griddle
Boxty on the pan
If you can't make a boxty
You'll never get a man.

The answer to this should of course be:

You want boxty on the griddle?
You want boxty on the pan?
You want a fuckin' boxty?
Go on home to Mam!

That aside, you might care to try it out for your St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

Recipe as follows:

1 cup mashed potatoes
1 cup grated potato (squeezed dry)
1 cup AP flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs
Milk to mix
Butter to fry

Sift together dry ingredients. Add potatoes and eggs. Add milk slowly until you have enough for the dough to hold together in a batter. Drop by spoonfuls onto a buttered, hot griddle. Cook a few minutes on each side. Serve well buttered.

Now, I could forgive you if you looked at that and thought it was too much fuss. That's what Champ is for:

Mashed potatoes
Cooked, chopped kale
Melted butter

Mix first three together and mound on plate. Make a well in centre, and pour in butter. Serve.

OK, you probably want some bread to go with your potatoes (well, I do) but soda bread is getting kind of boring, so here's my recipe for treacle farls:

4 cups AP flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chilled butter-cut up
1 3/4 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons treacle, molasses, or Golden syrup
1/4 cup currants

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly flour a baking sheet.
Combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter.Add syrup to buttermilk and stir until dissolved. Add liquid slowly until you have a dough that is no longer sticky. You don't want to knead too heavily, or overwork the dough as that causes it to be tough. Add the currants. Pat into a round 1 1/2 inches high. Cut into 4ths and place on pan leaving room between. Bake until deeply golden brown-about 30 minutes. You may need to decrease the heat if they brown too quickly.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cracking Toast, Grommit

Fuck me, now they have, "Toast Scientists"

Now me? I like me toast 2 cm thick, toasted under the broiler in the oven (really, people give up counter space for toasters?) until it is charred. Then, I coat it in unsalted butter, and bring the jar of marmalade to the table where I eat it straight from the spoon. What sort of vulgarian puts marmalade on toast anyway?

Veggie and Potato Knishes

These are heavier than the potato fl;our ones I bake for pesach, but still nowhere near the old-fashioned kind people used to bake (with loads of chicken fat).

The filling is really simple-finely diced carrots, scallions, garlic, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper, and a generous heaping tablespoon of sweet paprika. I cooked it all slowly in margarine-yes, I really used margarine (don't ask). When it was soft, I mixed it in with some leftover mashed potatoes and a handful of grated cheddar cheese. There you have it-see? Simplicity.

The dough recipe comes from The Art of Jewish Cooking-but I reduced the oil called for by half. I tried making it as written, including fussing about with making a well for the eggs and oil-it came up horrible. That batch hit the dustbin, and I tried again with less oil. I have no idea if that was a mis-print, or if flour, or oil were dramatically different in 1950's USA, but it worked much better with less oil, and more water.

For the dough:

2 1/2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/3 cup oil
2 tablespoon or more water

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together. Combine the eggs, oil and water-stir into flour with a fork until combined adding more water if needed. Knead lightly just until smooth-you don't want to overwork the dough.

Roll it out to 1/2 inch thickness and cut into 3-4 inch rounds. Mound some filling in centre, pinch closed and bake on a greased baking sheet for 35 minutes at 350 degrees F. Cool slightly before serving.

You can also give them an egg wash before baking if you like, or freeze extra unbaked knishes.


My camera isn't that great, but the photo should give you a small glimpse of the vast numbers of migratory birds that pass through Nebraska. The sound is so loud, it almost sounds mechanical, rather than natural. At night, letting the dog out into the yard, the noise is overwhelming (in a wonderful way).

The photo was taken from my side yard after the geese began flying off from the wetland restoration area just to our West. Seeing how many birds visit those wetlands now almost makes it worth enduring the increasingly awful mosquito infestation each summer.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Gladiolas, etc.

I didn't plan to buy much at Earl May-maybe a few seed packets, but then I saw the glads. If you buy 25 bulbs at $10.00 you get a $2.26 discount. That's pretty good, and you get to select the assortment you want, not what was packaged together. So yes, there's some bulb digging ahead-but really, I couldn't pass that up. Well, of course I could-but where's the fun in that?

Other things that found their way home in the bag:

Dwarf Borlotto Beans
Fava Beans
Hollyhocks-Summer Carnival
Delphiniums-Pacific hybrid
Miss Wilmott Sweet Pea

Oh, then I stopped at Sears and bought a few more five dollar dresses because they had five dollar dresses. Come on people-that's cheaper than charity shops. Danny got a flannel shirt for a buck, sweat pants for three, an argyle vest, and two pairs of dress pants. Mr. ETB got a new blade for the lawnmower (yep, almost time to start mowing-ugh).

I have seeds germinating all over my house. That's actually kind of nice, there's a certain hopeful optimism in having seeds germinating everywhere. How lucky I am to live in a place with so many windows (save for that time the tornado blew them all out, but really, how often (touch wood) does that happen?

Speaking of severe weather-the Severe Weather Symposium is coming up. That's a really fun time over at UNL, if anyone would like to attend. I'll get more information posted as the schedule is set, but the seminars are always interesting, and there's tons of stuff for children to do (and freebies galore, because you never know when you'll need a poster explaining the water table, or ozone). Obviously, I spent a great deal of time on Earth science last week, and I expect to do the same this week. I still can't really process what I'm seeing.

Posting might be a bit slow this week as we are just past the halfway point of reading the Iliad aloud, and Danny has (finally) mastered multiplication. I want to get through the readings before the start of Summer session, so I might hold off on division a while, though he's pretty determined to get it over with .

Danny has been going through a fruit and cottage cheese stage, and we found out this week he can eat melon without any mouth sensitivity. I can't, and neither can Mr. ETB, so Danny was delighted to find out he can indulge in cantaloupe without being required to share. Kiwi, watermelon, and some plums rounded out a few days worth of fruit salad. No complaints here-at the moment, cottage cheese costs much less than milk, per serving. The melon was kinda pricey this time of year, but eh-if you can get a kid to eat that sort of thing willingly, it is worth forking over the cash. I've paid more for worse nutritional value.

At some point, I'll have to carve the Viking ship out of a will be worth it, just to see Danny's face. OK, there's something to work on.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Whimsical Bread

-because I like a bit of whimsy (you have no idea how whimsical I can be, mostly when no one is watching), and Danny thought it would be cute.

Bunny Bread

Chick and egg-yes, the egg is kind of big. If I make these again, I think a blob of brightly coloured yellow dough would be funny inside the egg. Maybe I'll do that for Easter.

Feathery Crumb Cake

Much, much better than the picture makes it look. In fact, the cake is completely addictive-I've been unable to stop cutting, "one more small slice". You should bake this cake, and immediately give half away, to save yourself from it. Unlike the crumb cakes I remember from primary school, this one doesn't smell like Play-Doh, which I consider a major improvement.

From Better Homes and Gardens Pies and Cakes, 1966

You Will Need:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9X13 pan.

1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 cups AP flour

Combine above by cutting in the butter. Set aside 1 cup of mixture for topping.

To remaining mixture add 2 large eggs and beat until light.

Sift together:
1/2 cup AP flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt

Add in alternating additions with 1 cup buttermilk (I used regular milk with 1/2 lemon squeezed in)

Pour batter into pan. Top with crumbs and bake 45 minutes, or until it tests done.

Onions and Spinach, and Baby Chicks

The spinach, red onions, and chives went in today. The weather is lovely and warm, but far too windy for extended periods outside. Bummer. I've discovered that the mudroom makes a wonderful little greenhouse for seedlings as it has both west and south facing windows. Perfect. I need to get all the accumulated junk out of said mudroom before I can begin plants. Less than perfect. I have an ambitious six year old with plenty of energy-completely perfect.

We started a seed/planting journal for Danny where we mounted the seed packets, information about when/where they were planted, and so on. I hope he'll hang onto it and look back through it fondly when he's an adult. We enjoyed some indoor, window box grown lettuce for lunch today, which I suppose makes it all much more exciting for a child. I love to watch him studying his packets, looking at books and trying to decide what would work best together, what to use for borders, and so-on. I dare say he's more thoughtful with his garden planning than I ever was (or will be).

Yesterday, we went to the farm supply store to see the first of the baby chicks and ducks. An employee held a chick for Danny to pet. That was really sweet. I hope my facial expression didn't betray me as I inwardly winced, worried about germs, and how fast I could wash his hands. For a farm dweller, I still get really icked-out by birds. I've come too close to driving into the belligerent turkey that likes to wander into the curve of the county road. I really, really don't like chicks, ducks, etc. Dirty, dirty, birdies. Bird flu, etc. Still, what can you do if someone is holding a fuzzy yellow chick for your son to pet? I bit my tongue, smiled, and got the sanitising hand wipes ready from my handbag.

OK-we're off to clean the mudroom. I baked a crumb cake today-I'll try to get that posted laster.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Cutest Picture Of A Kid Making Pasta You'll See Today

He did the rolling, I did the cutting.

Rocky Road Meringues (nut free)

These are a good way to use up extra egg whites. I planned to make coconut macaroons, only to discover I didn't have enough coconut. These were an experiment that turned out addictively well.

You Will Need:

3 large egg whites at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Handful of mini marshmallows
Handful of mini chocolate chips
About 1/4 cup of shredded coconut (use more if you have it)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment (the marshmallow makes these very sticky as they come out of the oven).

In a warm bowl, beat the egg whites until they begin to hold peaks. Slowly-a tablespoon at a time, beat in the sugar. Fold in everything else, and mound on baking sheets. Bake about 30-40 minutes depending on how dry you like your meringues (I prefer them really dried out, nearly burnt, but chewy ones are nice as well).

Cool on rack.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Venison and Prune Casserole

Mr. ETB loved this. I followed THIS recipe more or less (I used dried herbs and served it over roasted potatoes) with just fantastic results. If you have a freezer full of venison, this is as good a way of dealing with it as any. It certainly got rave reviews here.

I also made a double batch of venison tamales today for the freezer. I'm still up to my ears in deer meat, but ever so gradually, I'm making progress. next-up is venison sauerbraten.

Apple Filled Crepes

Remember those crepes from the previous post? This is what I did with them. The whole thing was assembled hours before I needed it, then put into the oven after dinner for 30 minutes. This might just be the perfect make-ahead dessert.

For the apples:

4 large apples (I used a combination of Goldens and Braeburns)
Lemon juice
Vanilla sugar
Clarified butter

Peel and slice your apples. Toss them with lemon juice. Add sugar and butter (go to your tastes here)keeping in mind you will use more when assembling it. Pop it into a pan and cook a few minutes until apples are just soft. Cool.

Grab a heat-proof pan (I used a cast iron skillet). Brush it generously with clarified butter. Place a crepe in. Butter the crepe and sprinkle with sugar. Top with apples. Repeat until you have used as many crepes as you like (5 or 6 ought to do it). Make sure you spread the apples to the edges so you don't get a mountain forming in the centre. The last layer should be apples with extra butter and sugar drizzled on top. At this point, you can cover and chill it until you are ready to bake it.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place pan in oven and bake 30 minutes. Turn on broiler and (watch it carefully) let it go until nicely browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

You Don't Get A Smile Like That With Bisquick

Yes, I do have a poster of the Canadian Prime Ministers hanging in my kitchen. Before you go all nativist on me, be assured that Danny has a place mat bearing the likenesses of the U.S. presidents. I'm also aware my child needs a haircut. Gee whiz, he really needs a haircut.
Would you look at that? Golden, buttery, perfect pancakes. Dang! I'm finally learning how to cook.

I made a dozen crepes, and Danny had the broken ones with jam and chocolate chips. Normally, more would fail, but either I'm getting really skilled with a frying pan (doubtful) or the recipe is exceptional. I let it rest three hours, for what that's worth. I'll post the dessert later, after I serve it.

From Mastering the Art of French Cooking:

1 cup cold water
1 cup cold milk
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups AP flour
4 tablespoons melted butter

Whisk together the water, milk and eggs. Combine salt and flour. Whsisk in the flour to the liquid mixture, then add the butter. Mix well and chill, covered at least two hours before using. Makes about 12 crepes.

Pancake Day

We will be having a layered crepe dessert this evening. This means making the crepes ahead of time with Danny and eating all the, "mistakes" with lemon and powdered sugar.

Don't forget to let your batter rest (I do about 2 hours) for best results.

I showed Danny the cartons of frozen pancakes at the supermarket and he was fascinated/horrified by them. We didn't buy any as I try to avoid manufactured foods with his allergies/cross contamination issues/etc. but the idea of sticking a pancake in the toaster is pretty novel the first time you see it. I wonder what he'd think of the waffles. I don't do waffles-ever. Sometimes, to be funny the boys threaten to buy me a waffle iron, but I don't think they would really do it.

I will get the recipes for Lenten cakes re-posted from previous years, and see about updating with some new ones. Any vegan cake would probably fit the bill.

OK-start flipping!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Today's Scores-Three Dollar Rose Bushes and Seed Potatoes

Before I tell you about all the wonderful things I purchased for the garden today, I need to talk about the crisps. Dear God, I ate so many potato crisps today.

I do enjoy a visit to Big Lots. There simply isn't a better place to stock-up on canvas. Their regular prices are better than the super-discounted sales at the art store. The quality is surprisingly good. Anyway, as I wheeled the carriage towards the overstocked food chanting my silent prayer of, "Please have a malt loaf, please have a malt loaf (they didn't) I came face to face with a gigantic display of Jay's Potato Chips. At first, it didn't register as they are now sold in bags, not the box I remember from my childhood. Mr. ETB rounded the corner, arms brimming with other nutritionally lacking foodstuffs and spied the Jays.

"Aren't these the ones from Chicago?"

I swear, it was like one of those slow-motion things in the movies where the room spins as his voice distorts into a slow....ones from Chicago..."

A quick scan of the bag indicated they're now made in Pennsylvania by the pretzel company I don't particularly care for-and really, I expected them to be horrible. We bought two bags, popped one open in the car park and...oh dear God I've eaten so many I don't understand why I haven't gotten sick yet. I should be sick, but I'm not-and now they're nearly gone. Nearly gone. I should have bought more-they'll never have them again. Mr. ETB offered to make a u-turn and go back to purchase the rest, but I thought surely I would be sick by now and no longer want them. I was wrong-I want more Jays. I also want a wedge of double cream brie because it would be awesome with crisps (yeah, I'm low class) but the stores insist on slicing into the wheels, and selling the inadequately ripened wedges. I'm so sick of buying under-ripe cheese. What's wrong with people anyway? I just checked and it seems you can buy the crisps on line. Well, there goes my figure. I guess you really can't "eat just one". Yeah, I'm doomed.

Still giddy with my crisps and cheap canvas, we stumbled on a display of rose bushes-three bucks. Someone obviously had some fun naming the varieties. It was hard deciding between, "Golden Showers" and "Montezuma" (geez, I can't wait to see the Google hits I get after this post) and in the end I went with something called, "Chicago Peace"( I could make a joke here, but it would be too easy). Anyway, I bought two. Earlier in the day I bought seed potatoes (red) shallots, and onion sets (red). I would insist I'm done this time, but I believe we all know better.

The best discovery today however was at Bakers supermarket on West Center road. They have Barry's Gold Blend tea. I nearly overlooked it as the packaging has changed quite a bit over the years. Mr. ETB gave me one of those, "Whatever makes you happy dear" smiles. Alongside on the shelf was a good supply of HP Sauce and mushy peas in a tin. I bought some overpriced cream crackers and threatened the boys with life and limb if they go near them. I'll share my crisps, but cream crackers are another matter. Imagine me doing a little happy dance. I've said for years I'd give up coffee happily if I could get hold of the tea I like-and that's exactly what I intend to do. I never really liked coffee.

How the hell could they name a variety of roses Golden Showers?!

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Green River Soda

If you're from Chicago, this soda will be familiar enough. For everyone else, it is a brightly coloured lime soda. It smells like window cleaner, is far too sweet, and as a child a glass of this with a grilled cheese sandwich was as perfect a lunch as could be had. Bonus points if there was a paper straw in the glass-striped.

Mr. ETB bought me quite a few bottles from a specialty shop (we don't have it as a local product here) for Valentine's Day. It was thoughtful, and I do enjoy it once in a (great) while, but we have much too much of it now. Danny was not impressed by it.

Green River soda is wonderful as a "float" with vanilla ice cream, but beyond that, I can't really think what to do with it. As he spent quite a bit purchasing the stuff, I don't want to keep it so long it goes, "off" or flat.

Do you suppose, I could make jelly from it? I have a few boxes of pectin in the cabinet, and it might strangely enough be good with Mexican food-what do you guys think? Has anyone tried something similar with Coke, or Dr. Pepper? I've made champagne jelly, but the soda is so sweet I'm not sure how much sugar to add. If it does work, imagine the possibilities-Chinotto, San Bitter, Cream Soda...

I have quite a bit of the stuff, so suggestions for cooking/baking/canning with soda are most welcome.

More Seeds! And Other Uninteresting Blathering.

Really, I don't know what possesses me, but the flower seeds just keep piling up. I'm really determined to have my cutting flowers this year. As I expect to spend considerable time outdoors, I succumbed to my desire for a huge, floppy straw hat. Mine's pink, and it cost all of $3.00

I don't know how I overlooked it, but Danny never had a Battleship game. I corrected that oversight today, though I suspect Mr. ETB is having more fun with it than Danny. I've sworn off spending any extra money until after the library book sale at the end of the month (yes, I budget for that) but .20 packets of seeds are hardly an extravagance, though you wouldn't know it from the evil looks I get when I deposit the new acquisitions in the growing pile on my desk. Books, and gardening-he could do worse with a wife's hobbies, ya know? The Battleship game was $5.00.

At times, I think I'm feeling better but then over-do, and find myself exhausted again. Slow and steady, etc. but that's not really in line with my personality. I like diving-in and getting things accomplished, forever scratching a satisfied line through the items on my, to-do list. The best feeling as far as I'm concerned is falling into bed completely exhausted from a day spent doing/going/on my feet. Sitting idle at a desk, even fully engaged in work isn't the way I do things...because I prefer to do things. I've been terrible to be around, but the boys let me buy seeds and other gardening items which does serve to distract me from complaining, if only temporally-at least until I come here. Ha, you lucky bastards. Come for the recipes, stay for the grumbling.

I suppose it is cheating, but in a bid to attract more birds to the area outside Danny's room, I'm planning a stand of sunflowers. What I hope won't happen is that they'll be slamming themselves against the window-that wouldn't be the effect I'm hoping for. Just to be safe, we'll put decals on the windows and plant the sunflowers a bit away from the house. With any luck, the bird watching should improve over there. Sure, a bird feeder would be more reliable. True enough. When have I ever done the simple, obvious thing?

Saturday night is my standing date with Mr. ETB. We have a bottle of beer to split, and we'll watch the Retro TV station because they broadcast, Night Gallery, and then follow it with some dreadful (usually Japanese) B horror movie. I remember being really excited when Night Gallery was on originally, and then quickly deciding it was awful. I still think it is awful, but in that amusing, camp kind of way.

(just overheard from living room)

Danny: I'd like you to just sink my battleship already-this is getting tiresome.
Mr. ETB: but...
Danny: No really, can I tell you where it is, help you locate it?

I should go record this conversation in case he ever gets the idea to run off and join the Navy-can't imagine a recruiter would be too pleased with a potential sailor willing to hand over ship coordinates because he's bored, and wants to go read Elizabethan poetry. That kid.

I hope you're having as lovely a weekend as I am...try buying seed packets and a floppy hat-it does wonders for one's disposition.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Sourdough Chalah II

Now that my starter is 6 months old and stronger, I made a challah raised completely with starter (last time I added yeast). The results were beautiful, and Mr. ETB who isn't typically a fan of egg breads really loved it.

What I did:

Day One:

Sponge-1 cup fed starter
2 cups water
2 heaping cups strong (bread) flour

Mix well, cover and let ferment 18-24 hours (mine went 20).

Day Two:

To starter add:

1/2 cup granulated sugar
A generous pinch saffron
2 teaspoons table salt
1/4 cup corn oil
3 large eggs
2-3 cups strong flour or enough to make a dough that isn no longer too sticky to knead

Work the dough until smooth. Place in oiled bowl to rise-about 8 hours.

Divide dough into 4 pieces. Let rest 30 minutes, covered.

Work into ropes and braids. Place on a buttered baking sheet. Cover lightly. Let rise until almost doubled-about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Brush with egg yolk and water wash. Bake 20 minutes. Remove from oven, brush again with wash and bake another 20-25 minutes or until deeply golden. I baked mine to an internal temperature of 200 degrees F. Cool on rack. Makes one very large loaf.

Chickpeas, Carrots, and Other Stuff

This was built around the bag of fresh mint leaves I had sitting lonely in the fridge.

You Will Need:

1 tin chickpeas, drained skins removed
6 large carrots, cut into matchsticks
1 cup chopped fresh mint
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped, preserved lemon peel
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 cup raisins
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt/Pepper to taste

In a large pan, heat some olive oil (about 3 tablespoons) and add the carrots and garlic. Cook until carrots just soften, then add everything else leaving a pinch of both parsley and mint aside for finishing. Cook until tender, over medium heat-about ten minutes. Serve over rice or cous cous for a main dish, or alone as a side.