Monday, January 30, 2012

Sourdough Foccacia With Roasted Grapes and Rosemary

I have no idea what I did to get that beautiful open crumb, and I probably couldn't reproduce it if my life depended on it. I didn't measure, I didn't time anything, I just slapped it together. I'm posting this because I know that nothing I bake will ever look this good again, even if I remember to write down what I did.

Butter Bean and Radish Salad

This can be made ahead, though it is best served slightly warm, or at room temperature.

You Will Need:

5 large radishes, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon preserved, salted orange peel-chopped finely
1 garlic clove, finely minced
Handful of parsley, chopped
3 scallions, chopped
1 tin butter beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon paprika
(about) 3 tablespoons olive oil
Ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Heat the oil over medium heat and add everything except the beans and lemon juice. Cook until radishes have wilted slightly. Stir in beans, cook about 1 minute longer just to heat through, and remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice.

Apple Cake

I seem to be on some sort of Jewish cookery kick of late. The recipe for this cake comes from, Jewish Cooking Secrets From Here and Far. This was a recent purchase from a library sale, and this is the first recipe I have tried from the book. Now, everyone I grew up with ate this sort of apple cake, so I hardly think it qualifies as, secret but it makes a lovely cake nonetheless.

You Will Need:

5 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
5-6 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
3 cups plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a large tube pan. Sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon over the sliced apples and set aside as you make the cake. Sift dry ingredients together-set aside. Cream oil and sugar. Add juice, vanilla, and eggs. Beat in flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well. Pour half the batter in pan. Top with half the apples. Repeat ending with apples on top. Bake 2 hours, covering top with foil after first hour to prevent over-browning. Bake until cake tests done. Cool, upright in pan overnight.

Parve Kishka

This is meatless, though it does contain eggs as a binder and is not suitable for some vegetarians. A kishka (pronounced, "kishkee") is a stuffing in a casing. This variety does not require a casing, and is super-easy to prepare. The recipe suggested using a food processor, or a grinder, but I did just fine with my box grater. I also omitted the celery (I didn't have any) and increased the carrots to four. It was fantastic. I skipped seeking out a box of farina and used my sourdough breadcrumbs instead-inspired, and excellent!

These re-heat well in a new piece of foil generously brushed with oil.

From Kosher Cooking, Contemporary and Classic by, Frances R. AvRutick. (This is quickly becoming my favourite cookbook).

You Will Need:

1 cup matzo meal
1 cup Plain flour
1/2 cup farina (I used dried breadcrumbs)
2 large carrots, peeled (I used 4)
1 large onion
2 large eggs
1/2 cup oil (I used corn oil)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper (I used black)
2 tablespoons paprika (my addition)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Blend together matzo meal, flour and farina. Set aside. Grate vegetables finely. Add eggs, oil and seasonings. Mix well. Generously grease 2 sheets of aluminum foil. Divide mixture in half and roll each into a log. Roll up tightly in foil and place on a baking sheet. Repeat with other half. Bake 45 minutes. Serve hot.

Hungarian Cabbage and Noodle Flakes

I wasn't sure what, "Noodle Flakes" were, so I took a bag of bowties and bashed them with a rolling pin until I had flakes. I think that was probably close.

The recipe comes from, Kosher Cookery, Classic and Contemporary by, Frances R. AvRutick

You Will Need:

1 medium sized head of cabbage (about 2 pounds)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup margarine
1/2-1 cup minced onion (I used 1 cup)
8 Ounces noodle flakes (I used half a bag of bow tie noodles, crushed)
Dash of black pepper

I used a sharp knife to finely cut the cabbage-0a grater or food processor will do as well.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 2 quart casserole, and set aside.

Core and wash the cabbage. Grate or cut finely. Sprinkle with salt, and let sit two hours. Wring dry in kitchen towels (this is a bit of work).

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the margarine and cook the onion until softened. Add the cabbage and fry until lightly browned. Cook and drain the noodles. Mix together and pour into prepared dish. Bake 20-30 minutes or until browned on top.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Venison Sauerbraten

Who knew venison sauerbraten and gnocchi would be such a great combination? I did. That's why I'm the Mama.

Anyway, Mr. ETB is the only meat eater in the household, and he enjoyed this special treat. It does require planning ahead, but that isn't such a terrible big deal. The actual prep time was pretty minimal (chopping some vegetables) and he really loved the results. It also gave me an opportunity to use up the gingerbread men I still have lurking around from Christmas.

I used THIS recipe on a different cut of venison and still had terrific results (with less cooking time).

Buttermilk Oat Crisps

The oats are so good for you, they counteract the 1/2 cup of buttermilk and butter. See? Healthfood!

From 641 Tested Recipes From the Sealtest Kitchens, 1954

These look similar to the oatcakes I made a few weeks back, but these are clearly a biscuit/cookie rather than a cracker. I prefer the light texture from the buttermilk, and they are delicious both warm and cold. The recipe suggested cutting in strips, but I suck at strips, so I did rounds and cut them into triangles. I scattered coarse salt atop one batch before baking, but they still taste sweet. Danny had some for tea with grapefruit fennel jam.

You Will Need:

2 cup plain flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup rolled oats, crumbled (I used quick oats)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup melted butter

Combine dry ingredients. Add butter, then milk and mix well by hand. Knead lightly. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Divide dough into eighths. Roll into circles 1/8th inch thick. Cut into triangles. Place on ungreased baking sheets and bake 8-10 minutes or until golden. Remove to a rack. Serve warm or cold.

Sort-Of a Three Bean Salad

Half-eaten salad. My son grudgingly stopped eating for 30 seconds so I could snap a photograph. He glared at me like it was child abuse or something.

Danny loved this, and he's not the sort of person to carry on about a salad. I made some major changes to the original recipe, but I liked the idea of using both garbanzo and kidney beans. I had fresh green beans, so I steamed them lightly and tossed them in. The addition of tinned corn wasn't something I would have thought of, though I suspect I'll never be permitted to serve a three bean salad without it again.

I always have difficulty dissolving granulated sugar in oil and vinegar for salad dressings. I'm sure it is just laziness on my part, but I usually resort to using either honey, golden syrup or Cane syrup instead. This time, I used two tablespoons of Steens boiled cane syrup and I suspect that was what took this rather ordinary bean salad into the top tier of my seven year old son's "Best ever" dishes. He insisted I blog it, lest I forget what I did different from the recipe. I do think you can manage with sugar, or honey, or what have you, but a bottle of Steen's in nice to pour over French toast (and no, they aren't compensating me to say that, I just like and use the product).

1 tin kidney beans
1 tin garbanzo beans (chick peas)
1/2 lb. green beans, lightly steamed and refreshed under cold water
1/2 cup diced green pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/2 cup corn oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons boiled cane syrup or 1/2 cup sugar
Dash lemon juice
Black pepper and salt to taste (I didn't add any salt as the tinned items already had plenty)

This salad improves after a day, though it is pretty fantastic on the first.

Sweet and Sour Tofu

At the last library sale, I picked up a copy of Kosher Cookery, Classics and Contemporary by, Frances R. AvRutic. I only glanced at it quickly when making the purchase, but upon returning home I began marking off the dishes I couldn't wait to try. Last evening's dinner featured three, and they were all fantastic.

I wasn't sure how my family would react to a tofu dish that mimicked Polynesian chicken I remembered from the 60's. Mr. ETB reacted by asking where the Pu Pu Platter was, but we'll forgive him that as he probably just misses the Kowloon. Danny, who isn't fond of pineapple ate happily enough, though he did push the pineapple chunks to the side of the plate. Fair enough.

Cornstarch, and pineapple juice rarely make appearances in my cooking, much less together, but I have to admit, this was a really lovely dinner served over rice. I can see making it again, but probably not regularly-I don't want to start spoiling them or anything-before you know it, they'll expect a Pu Pu Platter.

I added baby corn and water chestnuts because i had them, and it seemed to round out that retro feel I was getting from the pineapple. I made a few other changes as well, and will note them in the directions.

1 lb. Firm Tofu (I used extra firm)
6 tablespoons oil, divided (I used slightly less)
1 large green pepper sliced into 2 inch long strips
1 large carrots, sliced thinly (I used three)
1 large onion, finely diced (I used a red onion and sliced it thin)

For the sauce:

1 tin (20 ounces) pineapple chunks in unsweetened juice (reserve juice)
1/8 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup molasses or honey (I used Golden Syrup)
1/4 cup vinegar (I used cider vinegar)
3 tablespoons ketchup
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup cornstarch dissolved completely in 1/3 cup water
3/4-1 teaspoon dried ginger to taste]

I did quite a bit of this recipe ahead and then simply re-warmed the tofu and vegetables before adding the sauce and cooking it together. Tofu can be fried up to a day ahead, and it certainly goes faster to have all your vegetables cut and ready to dump in a wok just before dinner. Keep in mind, you can even purchase already fried cakes of tofu if you're pressed for time.

Press the tofu free of water between dishtowels and a weight. A jar filled with water will work. You'll need to change the towels several times, but it is worth it when you go to fry the tofu. The recipe has you slice the tofu into slabs, but gives the option of cutting cubes, which is what I did. Fry about half of them at a time. You'll need half the oil for this. I used corn oil as I like it for this type of cookery, but go with what you prefer.

Once the tofu has been fried, remove it from the pan and add a bit more oil. I did not need another 3 tablespoons, but your wok may be less seasoned, etc. so keep it handy in the event you do.

Heat the pan and cook the carrots, onion, green pepper, and any other vegetables you choose in the pan until just softened, but still rather crisp. At that point, you can either proceed, or combine it with the tofu and chill it until you are ready to make dinner.

Drain the tin of pineapple and reserve the liquid. Toss the pineapple in with the tofu and vegetables. Mix together the ingredients for the sauce, whisking well to make sure everything is dissolved. Re-heat the vegetables and tofu in the pan slightly, and add the sauce. Over medium high heat, cook, stirring (A wooden spoon will prevent the tofu breaking as easily as a metal spatula) until it thickens. Serve hot over fluffy white rice.

You'll probably want a few dashes of hot sauce on this, but maybe that's just me.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Good Idea, Poor Presentation

This was a delicious ginger, sour cream topped cheesecake that I thought needed pears poached in stem ginger syrup and green food colouring.

It was delicious, but green tinted pears should remain buried in the graveyard of mid-century cooking.

Inexpensive and Durable

Hey, that looks just like 1972!

I wanted a new tablecloth, but couldn't find anything well made, and reasonably priced in the shops. I happened upon a sale on upholstery and drapery fabric at Hancock. For a few dollars a yard I got my new tablecloth, and the durability I was looking for. This is a very heavy material, and it launders perfectly (no ironing!).

I have enough extra fabric for placemats and napkins as well.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How To Write About the New Food Trends

Reading an article about the latest food trend (really, I'm not going to dignify it with a link) I've come to realise you can convince people to eat anything provided they think it is trendy, and you use the correct language to describe it:

This year's trendy new menu item for the foodie community is none other than the simple, unadorned, shit sandwich. The shit in a shit sandwich varies from a silky texture to a more rustic, chunky texture redolent with earthy flavours of the intestinal tract. The bold flavour and mouth feel of a shit sandwich when paired with the sharpness of an artisinal sourdough will keep foodies knocking down (back) doors for more. Imbued, laced, kissed and lovingly drizzled with subtle accents of whatever the small-batch, locavre had twenty four hours before crafting the raw, unpasturised shit sandwich, no two shit sandwich experiences are quite the same.

Whatever you do, purchase your shit sandwiches from a reputable purveyor-you may wish to skip the popular food truck on this one, unless you can verify the source of the shit. You can taste the difference between locally sourced shit sandwiches, and those shipped in from another city. If I'm paying for an Omaha shit sandwich, I don't want it tasting like Lincoln shit. I know what Lincoln shit tastes like, and no self-respecting "cacovore" is going to shell out good money for that. Don't even get me started on the shit butties from Beatrice. They don't even offer you a napkin.

If you plan to attempt a home kitchen version of the shit sandwich, you'll need to plan ahead and make sure you use entirely, locally sourced fibre. The ingredients are easier to spread when fresh and warm, but if you must delay the preparation of your shit sandwich for say, a soirée later in the evening, chill it ever so carefully beneath a dampened towel of 100% Egyptian cotton, preferably with a thread count of at least 350. Remove it from the fridge and let it re-warm to room temperature and then quickly blitz it in a liquidiser until you have a soft, delicate consistency. If you over-do it, don't despair! Everyone likes diorrhea vichyssoises. You'll need to add some potatoes to round it out-look for heirloom variety baby spuds to add that look of "Loo to table without middlemen" foodies love.

Chefs recommend you pair your shit sandwiches with the bold, muscular flavour of root beer. A small batch, craft root beer will have notes of tree bark, which will recall nicely the olfactory experience of taking a crap on a log when you went camping the summer you turned ten. Hints of wintergreen will produce a heady topnote not unlike those gigantic pink lozenges your Gran kept loose in the bottom of her handbag that inexplicably read, "Canada." Any true foodie knows that Canada tastes like weak beer and Tim Bits.

As for presentation, chefs across Nebraska who declined to be quoted directly for this article have confided on background that the addition of a frilly toothpick and a cocktail olive really sell these sandwiches. Said one well-respected soon-to-be Nebraska's first Michelin starred shit artist, "Look, you don't want to be left with a ton of this the next day. I can't move day-old S-Tartines. Our patrons have more money than taste, and I'm telling you, the frilly toothpick thing sells sophistication. Sure, molecular gastronomy has a place, but if you source it correctly, you get all the foam and viscosity you need without cannisters of chemicals and dicking about with burners and flasks. Sometimes you have to ask yourself, am I a biologist, or a chemist? Me? My cooking is all biology."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sourdough Apricot Buckwheat Loaf

A complete experiment, with striking results. I haven't cut the loaf yet, so I can't assess the flavour, but I wanted to get the recipe down before I forget what I did.

1 cup fed starter
2 cups water
2 cups strong flour

Let stand at room temp 15 hours.

Final dough:

All of starter
1 cup water
2 cups (or more) buckwheat flour
2 tablespoons malted barley syrup
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 cup chopped, dried apricots

Autolyze 30 minutes.

Folds 4 times over three hours.

Final rise: 2 hours.

Preheat Dutch oven 1 hour before baking in 450 degree F oven.

Bake: 25 minutes covered
20 minutes uncovered to 200 degrees f internal temp.

Mackerel Mousse

Last Boxing Day, I found myself at a discount grocery chain that had large tins of mackerel on sale for a dollar. I bought several. I wasn't expecting much, but figured I could use it as a substitute for tinned salmon in a pinch. To my surprise, I opened a tin today and found lovely pieces of fish carefully packed and ready to be used as the intended ingredient rather than a replacement. I wish I'd bought them all.

The original recipe called for smoked mackerel. This worked just as nicely, though obviously it is a different sort of thing. Adapted from, Jane Pettigrew's Tea Time, 1986

You Will Need:

8 ounces mackerel
2 ounces butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 chopped scallions
Salt and pepper

Whip the butter and cream cheese together until light. Beat in the rest. Chill several hours before serving.

Savoury Prune Pate

I'm sorry, there isn't any possible way of photographing this that keeps it from looking like a turd garnished with stem ginger. See, this is what I mean about the obligation bloggers feel to photograph everything. I think we could all be better off having not seen this.

Right. So ask me about the .25 cent book I snagged at the sale a few months ago called, Pate, The New Main Course for The 80's"by, Carol Cutler.

What Ms. Cutler lacked in an ability to predict food trends, she makes up for in interesting recipes. In fact, most of the side dishes are more interesting than the pates. While prune timbales may never have become the "quiche of the 80's", they make a very nice accompaniment to a meal. In fact, I think they would be delicious with roast venison.

You Will Need:

4 ounces pitted prunes
1/2 cup chicken stock (I used veggie)
1/4 cup port or maderia (I used brandy)
1/4 cup orange juice
2 inch strip of lemon rind
1 ginger slice, crushed (I had stem ginger which I used=-wasn't sure what a slice of ginger meant in 1980)
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon gelatin
1/2 cup yoghurt

Put prunes in a small bowl and pour on enough boiling water to cover. let stand 30 minutes. Strain. Place prunes, stock, port, orange juice, lemon rind, and ginger in a saucepan. Stir in nutmeg. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook 30 minutes. Remove from heat and with a slotted spoon remove prunes, ginger, and rind. Discard ginger and rind. Sprinkle gelatin on top of warm liquid in pan and let stand a few minutes. Gently heat just to boiling, whisking until gelatin dissolves. Remove from heat and pour over prunes in a heat-proof bowl. Beat until smooth (or use a blender). Add yoghurt, and beat again until smooth. Strain through a sieve (not in the instructions, but I did it anyway based on experience).

Lightly oil ramekins, baba moulds, or what have you. Pour mixture into moulds and chill until set. Run a knife around them and dip in hot water to unmould. Will make 4-8 depending on size. I garnished mine with crystalised ginger so it would look less turd-like.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Weekend in (a few) Words and Photos

The book nook grows! We've made the first turn. These are back-to-back cases that will be hooked together (once we know where they're all going)so whatever you see is doubled with the side you don't.

We went to the yearly, Retired Teachers Book Sale in Lincoln today. It ran all weekend, but even in the final hours, we found more stuff than we probably should have come home with. From 2-4 they had a bag sale where for $7.50 you could fill a gigantic bag. We filled two. Unlike the library sale, these items are all donated which had me purchasing beautifully illustrated sheet music from the 1860's through the 1940's. Many, many scores from films, with movie-star photos on the cover. We used to sell these for a couple dollars each in the antique store, and these were of much better quality. They hardly took up any room in the $7.50 bag. That left room for cookery pamphlets and books. I never knew I needed the United Nations Cookbook from 1951-that is, until I saw it. Likewise, I never really though I needed a coffee-table book of the Canadian Parliament. At least I have plenty of bookshelf space (for the moment). You should see what I have planned for upstairs!

The car show was in town this weekend as well. This year, I just so happen to be looking for a car, and it was nice being able to check them out without pushy salespeople. Here's Danny in the Dodge that looks a whole hell of a lot like the '74 Dart my sister drove (except that was green). This isn't a Dart, though I heard they are bringing that model back as well. I sure hope they come with a good, solid hairbrush as that's what my sister frequently had to employ under the bonnet to get the damned thing to turn over. I don't drive Chrysler products anymore-fool me once...OK several Chryslers.

What I am planning to purchase is a Volkwagen which believe it or not, I am (seriously) too short for. Yeah, let that sink in. I went to sit in the bug and after cranking the seat as high as it would go, realised I could barely stretch to see over the dash. Go ahead and laugh. They made them roomier. Mr. ETB could even fit in the back seat if he had to. I don't actually want a bug, I want a Jetta. Das Krautmobile!

Of course, an Audi convertible is a krautmobile as well, but this one yodels like a Swiss hillbilly. Or that could just be the diesel engine.

And yes, the kid nicked my sweater. He's tall.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Don't Let Them Raze the Purple Hotel!

I'm not the sort of person that sends readers off to sign petitions, but this time I'm making an exception. Go HERE, and let's try to keep the city from tearing down a unique landmark.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Meet The Presidents Game

More facts than you can spin a wheel at. I don't think you could sell a game with this much reading today.
I like how Mexico is represented on the map by a sombrero and a cactus, and Canada is just a couple pine trees.

I spent the day teaching the Electoral college, and my brain is toast. A couple weeks ago, nostalgia compelled me to purchase this game for Danny on Ebay. We gave it to him tonight, because after a day of trying to understand how you can win the popular vote, and still lose an election, I thought he deserved some fun.

I had this game as a child, and I think a few of the coins are still floating about in forgotten boxes, drawers, etc. I became possessed of the idea of purchasing it for Danny, and thanks to Ebay, all the crap you had as a six year old is available for a few bucks and shipping. The other thing I'm looking for are the Marx figurines of the presidents that were given away at either the gas station, or the supermarket (I can't remember). Most of mine disappeared, and I'd love to get my hands on a set for Danny. Anyone have a set they'd consider parting with?

Really, you try explaining the US electoral system in a way that makes sense. I dare you to try.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Things You Learn in a Department Store

I finally got around to ordering Danny a full-sized mattress and box spring today (yeah, I did buy it from the place down the street, I mean, I sort of had to, ya know?) so we went into town (well, West Omaha) to Dillards looking for good sheets. I'm not going to throw money away on inexpensive sheets that fall apart in a year (if that) and pop off the mattress. No, I have sheets in my possession that my in-laws purchased in 1960-and they are still like new. I still have pillowcases I had as a child (yes, I still have my Peter Max printed sheets). I know we live in a disposable society now, but I only intend to purchase two sets, one of which will be flannel-I want them to be of decent quality.

Well, forget getting that at a department store. Plenty of duvet covers, shams and the like, but apparently people only care about how a bed appears when made, and buy the sheets at a discounter. Man, I had to drive into a mall. I hate going to the mall. To make it worth the effort we strolled through them men's department where I found Danny the hat in the previous post. Stetson. 100% wool. I really hope it lasts. Anyway, whilst making our way through the men's furnishings we spied the most fantastic (in both senses of the word) thing-Spanx for men. OK, I can wait as you sit and absorb that for a moment.

Sadly, they don't call them Manx, but then what the hell have the Manx done to deserve being confused with a men's They sell an undershirt to keep the man-boobs in place as well. Danny was suitably horrified, though he seemed equally horrified that men would want to wear ultra fine gauge sweaters that would necessitate a slimming undershirt to begin with. Anyone with a bit of sense would just wear a vest and a sportcoat-you don't need a corset for that.

We also discovered you can purchase denims that are not only pre-faded (they've had that for years) but artfully detailed to look like they have faded just-so, in bend lines at and behind the knee. I mean, they didn't overlook any detail right down to the fraying hemlines. Oh, they cost $150.00 U.S. Hey, don't fucking look at me, I don't wear them. My denim comes from the children's department at Shop-Ko, and cost around ten bucks. I save my money for good bedding-if only I can find some.

Ditch the corset, buy a sportcoat!

Someone Got a New Hat

Caution-Cute Overload
(scroll down if you dare)

I did warn you. Awwwwwww, cute. Er...handsome.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Plan Ahead

I made 250 gnocchi today. They are wrapped in freezer paper in packets of 25. Tomorrow, I make and freeze sauce. This is how I avoid cooking at the weekend. The gnocchi took about 1 hour. Not a bad yield for a hour's time.

If Danny learns nothing else from me, he'll have mastered time management. I was never this organised in my youth, and I regret it. Hopefully, I can spare him the nightmare of a cupboard I lived with for ten years in Boston.

Harvest Apple-Cranberry Pie-Farm Journal Pie Cookbook

As far as I'm concerned, this was a nice pie, but Danny insists it is the best pie he's ever tasted. Ever. That's saying something as he's been served a number of pies over the years. A favourite pie merits posting, I suppose.

I added the raisins as I thought the tart apples and cranberries needed it. This turned out to be a good decision as the liquid was also a bit on the wet side. Not terrible, but more liquid than many people would like. The raisins helped absorb some of the excess.

I've never used corn syrup in a pie filling. I thought of trying Golden Syrup, or even Steens Cane Syrup, but ultimately I did not want this to turn into an obscenely expensive pie. At close to $6.00 US for a cup of Golden Syrup, I did the maths, and went with the corn syrup. I'm not corn-phobic, but I also don't buy soda, or much in the way of prepared food. I tend to think of these things as an allowance. Obviously, were I sucking down a 2 litre of Coke each day followed by a Hershey bar, I might reconsider. The old man used to do that-chocolate bar and a soda thing. It used to make my head tingle just watching. I think the lorry drivers have better things to get all hepped up on these days. Dad was partial to sugar. So yeah, the corn syrup is your call.

The one thing I might add to this recipe would be dried cranberries. Then again, it might be overkill. Sultanas probably would have looked nicer than raisins, but as you can see by the photograph, I'm not the sort of person that fiddles with their food. I have the diner mentality of slap it on a plate and cover it in cling film if it needs to sit a while. There, I arranged your slice of pie. In fact, you can see part of the crust broke when I cut the slice for the photo. I could have cut another slice, or affixed the broken piece back on-but that would take 20 seconds I could be spending telling you about my dad's dietary habits. I know you don't come to the blog for pretty pictures (at least, I hope you don't or you'll be kind of disappointed after while).

From the Farm Journal Complete Pie Cookbook, 1965:

Pastry for a 2 crust pie (I used an all-butter variety)
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups raw cranberries (frozen is OK)
2 teaspoons orange peel, grated
1 1/2 cups chopped, peeled apples (Mine were tart varieties)
1 cup raisins (optional)
2 tablespoons butter

Mix sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a saucepan. Add corn syrup gradually. Add water. Stirring constantly bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until mixture thickens slightly.

Add cranberries, and cook until skins break. Add orange peel. Add apples. Remove from pan and cool completely before filling pie crust.

Turn mixture into a lined, 9 inch pan. Dot with butter. Adjust top crust, cut vents, and flute edges. I brushed mine with half and half, and sprinkled it generously with granulated sugar for a crunchy topping.

Bake in a hot 425 degree F. oven 40-50 minutes.

Oatmeal Drop and Baking Powder Biscuits

Oatmeal Drop Biscuits are on the left, Baking Powder on the right.

Or scones, or rolls, or whatever they are called where you live. Both were simple enough to make, and delicious as well. The traditional biscuits re-heated better than the oatmeal dropped ones, if that matters to you. They were still perfectly edible, just a bit crumbly.

Both recipes come from Better Homes and Gardens Homemade Bread Book, 1973. I've had great success with the (many) recipes I've made from this small, paperbound book. The recipes aren't terribly exotic (perhaps they were by the early 70's standards) but they are tested, and deliver provided you follow the directions. if you see it lurking at a charity shop, or book sale, it is worth purchasing particularly if you're a novice at breadbaking.

Biscuits Supreme:

2 cups plain flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
2/3 cup milk

Stir thoroughly the first five ingredients. Cut in shortening until it resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the centre, add milk all at once, and stir just until dough clings together. Pat out to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut, place on ungreased baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees F. for 10-12 minutes. Makes about 12 biscuits.

Oatmeal Drop Biscuits:

1 cup plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 cup shortening
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 beaten egg (I had large)
1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons honey

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in shortening until it resembles coarse crumbs(god, that's such a cliche but there isn't a better way to describe it). Stir in oats. Combine egg, milk, and honey. Add to flour mixture all at once. Mix just to combine. Drop by spoonfuls onto baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes. Makes about 12 biscuits.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Vareniki With Sauerkraut

A few library book sales ago, I came home with The Dumpling Cookbook by, Maria Polushkin. I bought the volume for this recipe, but in the chaos of the holidays did not find time to try making vareniki until today.

Vareniki are not pirogi. I shouldn't need to point that out, but I will anyway. Some are filled with sweet mixtures of fruit and cheese, these are savoury filled with sauerkraut and onions. I cannot eat this sort of thing, but it was very well received by Mr. ETB and Danny. The beauty of a recipe like this is the quantity it produces. I have at least four more dinner's worth frozen now. Dumplings are such a hassle to make that being able to just do a large batch, and get it over with makes it a more attractive effort.

I had a jar of good sauerkraut to work with. I don't doubt that this will be good with standard supermarket kraut from a tin, but it may require a bit more rinsing to get rid of the extreme saltiness of the brine. I can't vouch for the fresh kind packed in bags as I don't buy it. It has taken me years to bring myself to be in the same room with the cooked stuff-I don't think I could handle the smell of the raw kraut *shudder*. I still don't bring cucumbers into the house. Ever. I wonder if I'd have the same aversions if the old man had sold caviar off his truck for a living?
"Beluga?! Oh god, not beluga!"

the dumplings, back to the vareniki. These are Ukrainian, though I can't say that my Gran ever made them. She was more of a kreplach maker, and actually, I think she bought them. I think the most ethnic thing she ever prepared for me was some sort of stewed fruit compote that got served with wheat germ and sour cream for breakfast. Prunes and apricots, I think. Fantastic. I've been thinking about her a bit this week as the high-rise building she lived in went up in flames. I rarely read the Chicago papers, but for some reason I was looking at the Sun Times, and there on the front page was the apartment my Gran moved to in the late 70's. Her previous place was like something out of The Blues Brothers as it shook when the train went by on the elevated. Anyway, I'm sorry I wasn't more interested in Ukrainian cookery when she was still alive, as I'm sure she would have had an opinion about vareniki. Ukrainians have an opinion about, everything. Which brings me to my next point-I have no idea if these are traditional or not. I'm certain you couldn't find two people to agree on what is traditional. I do not wish to engage in debate over dumplings, nor do I aspire to insult the Ukrainian national dumpling with an inferior recipe. I followed the recipe in the book, and the boys liked them. That's traditional enough for me. I just want to head this off from the start as I've read enough heated comments about borsch that typically end with insults about Russian borsch being better known to the world because Stalin killed off all the Ukrainian borsch makers. Or something like that. So no angry letters about the vaeniki, OK?

You Will Need:


2 cups plain flour
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites for sealing


4 tablespoons butter (I had unsalted)
1 lb. sauerkraut rinsed under cold water, squeezed dry, and finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Black pepper
1/2 cup dry, white wine
2 tablespoons sour cream

To serve: 4 tablespoons butter and 2 medium onions fried until crisp and browned

Make the filling ahead so it can cool.
Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large, heavy pan with a lid. Add the kraut and cook over low heat for 5 minutes or until it is dry and beginning to stick to the bottom of the pan. Remove to a bowl. Melt remaining butter and add onions, salt, and sugar. Cook until golden. Return kraut to pan and add wine. Turn heat as low as possible and cover. Cook 45 minutes, checking frequently to ensure it has not cooked dry. Remove from heat, stir in sour cream and let cool. Do not fill dumplings with hot mixture or it will melt the dough. Chilled is best.

Make the dough:

In a bowl mix together the flour, whole egg, milk and salt to make a stiff, but workable dough. You may need to add a few drops of water. Knead until smooth, wrap in cling film and let rest at least 30 minutes.

Divide dough in half. Keep remaining portion covered. Roll dough out to a thickness of 1/8 inch (you may need to stretch as you roll). Using a biscuit cutter (about 3 inch) cut out rounds. Brush very lightly with beaten egg whites. Place a teaspoon of filling in the centre, then fold over to form crescents. Pinch closed (I used a fork). Set on a baking sheet covered with wax paper and continue until all dough and filling is used (I got close to 70 dumplings, most of which I froze at that point).

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook vareniki about 10 at a time, and simmer until they float to the top. Remove with a slotted spoon to a dish that you keep warm in the oven. Meanwhile, fry the onions and butter.

At this point, I removed the cooked onions from the pan and lightly browned the vareniki until a slight crust began to form. This is absolutely not traditional, but I thought the boys would turn their noses up at dumplings that were only boiled. As I was not the one eating them, I gave them the dumplings they wanted rather than the dumplings I thought they should have. Besides, the frying pan was already dirty.

I served these with herring fillets in paprika sauce, and a salad we call, "Farmer's Chop Suey" (I know, I know). It is radishes and scallion in cottage cheese and sour cream (half plain yoghurt at our house). Seasoned with salt, pepper, and dill it is a favourite. It typically has cucumber in it but we don't use cucumbers in this house because they are disgusting and smell like my family. I really do wonder about my caviar theory.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Plum Ring Mould

A jellied salad makes everything look like 1970.

I had preserved fruit purees from last summer, but you can make it fresh as well. You'll need to cut up fruit, place it in a large pot with a bit of water just to keep it from sticking, and then simmer covered until the fruit is soft. At that point you run it through a food mill (not a food processor) and then proceed with the recipe. Any left over puree will freeze well.

You Will Need:

2 tablespoons unflavoured gelatin
3/4 cup grapefruit juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups prune plum puree (or cherry if you prefer)
1 cup water
2 whole cinnamon sticks
4 whole cloves
1 cup finely chopped apple
2 cups blueberries (I had frozen from last summer)

Sprinkle the gelatin over the grapefruit juice and let soften. In a large pot, heat the sugar, salt, puree, water, and spices taking care not to let it boil. Let simmer very gently for 10 minutes. Remove spices. Stir in the gelatin and bring just to a boil, stirring until gelatin is dissolved. Mix in fruit, and pour into a rinsed ring mould. Chill several hours before unmoulding.

For real-super-classy 60's look, unmould on a bed of lettuce (iceberg of course, that's all anyone had back then-before the boycott anyway, then we didn't see lettuce for years) and garnish with tinned peach halves and maraschino cherries. Yes, you must use tinned peaches. I served mine with blueberry yoghurt and a French dressing, but strangely I think Roquefort could work. Probably not Green Goddess.

You know, I was just thinking some beaded curtains would be lovely in the dining room.

Pineapple Marmalade

This marmalade is a bit of work as you must chop the pineapple, and orange finely-by hand. Worth it? I suppose so, though I'd add a bit of lemon juice next time to compensate for the mildness of modern pineapples. I'd also add more ginger. Still, it has a lovely texture, a good level of pineapple flavour, and it will probably make a wonderful filling for a coconut cake at some point. The recipe makes a rather small batch-I got four half pints.

Again, from the now well-used, Sunset Home Canning

1 large orange
4 1/2 cups finely chopped fresh pineapple (cut by hand, not in a food processor)
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger (I'd double that, but that's me)
3 cups granulated sugar

Scrub the unpeeled orange and chop as finely as possible, discarding pips. I cheated, and zested half the orange peel. In a large, heavy pot combine everything and bring to a boil over high heat stirring constantly to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring until you reach the gelling point. I also used a thermometer, but it began to set at around 200 degrees F. rather than 220, so keeps spoons handy to test the old fashioned way. Preserving is like that-you may want to chill a saucer as well. Mine took about 30 minutes to reach the gelling point, but again, keep an eye on it. You may need to reduce the temperature if it begins to spit near the end. A long spoon is nice.

Ladle the hot marmalade into sterilised 1/2 pint jars leaving 1/4 inch head space. Remove air bubbles with a small spatula, wipe threads clean with a damp towel, and seal with a heated lid. Fasten screw-bands and place in a boiling water canner. Process 10 minutes adjusting for altitude, then remove lid, kill the heat and let sit 5 minutes longer to cool down. Remove to a heat-proof surface and let stand 12-24 hours before testing seals. Makes about 4 half pints.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

TDD Birthday Cake

-Try ordering one of these at your local grocery chain bakery.

What? Doesn't everyone make a Test Driven Development cake for their SQL geek's birthday? Well, why not?

Happy Birthday, Mr. ETB!

Monday, January 09, 2012

Vegetarian Madfouna

I improvised a filling made from butter beans, parsley, onions, garlic, mint, and spices. It was spicier than Danny's typical dinner, but he ate it happily enough, asking for seconds and (gasp) thirds. He never does that.

The original recipe is HERE. As the post is so detailed, I won't bother to reprint the ingredients and technique for the dough, but will instead give you an idea of what I did for the filling. I will note that the dough handled beautifully. This dish will be in regular rotation at our house. If you haven't been reading Moroccan Cuisine Marocaine, you should probably set aside some time to do so as you won't be able to stop clicking through the archives marveling at the incredible dishes. The breads! Oh, the breads! Really, go have a look and bookmark the URL because you know you'll want to make practically everything there.

For the filling I used:

(about) 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 sweet onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped coriander
2 tablespoons chopped, preserved lemon
4 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 small tin butter beans, drained
4 dried apricots, chopped
1/4 cup raisins

In a large pan, heat the oil. Add everything except the parsley, butter beans, and coriander. When onions have softened, add remaining ingredients. Mix well and cook a few minutes until the herbs wilt. Remove from heat and cool before using to fill dough.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Lime Mint Jelly (Jam)

From Sunset Home Canning.

Don't say I didn't warn you that this is addictive. You'll wonder what to put it on, but let me assure you, this stuff will never make it anywhere near toast-you'll be eating it by the spoonful as a sweet.

About the colour-yes, it looks like Green River Soda, and no, it wasn't deliberate (or natural). I added what I thought was a single drop of green food colouring to help along the grey-ish colour of the mint. I might have overdone it a tad. Danny is really freaked out by the glowing green jelly and refuses to try it, but that's fine-more for me.

I used pint jars, yielding two and a half. Bad call. I would use half pint jars were I to make this again (which I'm sure I will because it is delicious).

You Will Need:

8-10 limes
Grated zest of 5 limes
4 cups granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups water
Green food colouring (if desired)
3 ounce pouch of liquid pectin
3 heaping tablespoons of finely chopped fresh mint leaves

Wash and grate the zest of 5 limes. Set aside. Juice enough of the limes to total 3/4 cup juice. Pour lime juice, sugar, and water into a large, heavy stockpot and bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add food colouring at this point if you like.

When mixture comes to a full rolling boil, stir in the entire packet of pectin all at once. Add zest and mint. Return to a full rolling boil and cook hard 1 minute. Remove from heat, skim any foam, and pack into sterilised half pint jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe threads clean, seal and process in a water bath canner 10 minutes (adjusting for altitude). Remove lid, kill the heat and let cool down 5 minutes before removing to a surface to cool. Let stand 12-24 hours. The jelly will look watery at first, but it sets beautifully by the following day.

Grapefruit/Rosemary/Juniper Cordial

We'll see how this goes. I dried the grapefruit peels for several weeks before using them, as I do with orange peels in wine. The juniper berries were an afterthought, but something about the citrus and rosemary suggested gin to me, so there it is.

I'll update when it gets strained and sugared.

First Saturday Book Sale at Swanson Library, Omaha

I did rather well at today's sale. Among the great finds were the Larousse Gastronomy from 1961, an oversized Life magazine cookery collection (featuring stories that ran in Life) from 1958, and a book on Philip the Fair that begins, "Philip the Fair is a hard man to know" which made me laugh, seeing how he's been dead since the 13th Century. Sorry, nerd humour. Anyway, we also came home with various field guides to identify insects, some sort of, "How-to" book of witchcraft (Mr. ETB insists it is technically a reference book), and a US army publication from the 1950's explaining the Soviet threat to newly deployed officers in Europe.

I'm now the proud owner of a book on making mead-several varieties of mead. I have no idea if I will like mead, but I do like an interesting challenge. I found a 1972 copy of the Ball Blue Book which has some interesting recipes that seem to have disappeared in subsequent re-printings. Also discovered were a copy of Maryland's way, a collection of historical recipes, and a copy of The Colony Cookbook, from the long-defunct (but still kinda famous) Colony restaurant in New York. More stories than recipes in that one, but still fun.

I think the way the book sales have been re-arranged in an improvement. Rather than a three day quarterly sale, they do every Thursday, and the first Saturday of each month. It is easier on the volunteers, and it keeps a nice flow of new materials through the place. I certainly didn't have any difficulty finding things to purchase, and I was just there Thursday. People were in good spirits, the weather was lovely, and I finally own a copy of the Larousse. Not a bad afternoon.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

67 Degrees F. in January Ain't Normal...

...for Nebraska.

I drove home with the car windows down today. I made lemonade. I served salad. I'm afraid the bulbs outside may get tricked into sending up green shoots. The Chicagoan in me is thinking, "Sure, but 80 inches of snow are around the corner", but the forecast looks good for an extended period. I'm saving a fortune on propane, but it still feels strange to be taking down holiday decorations in this weather.

It was nearly a festival atmosphere at the library today. Danny found himself in an interesting conversation with a pensioner about the advantages of wearing a sport coat. Danny prefers them to sweaters as he has room for pens, calculator, handkerchief, etc. The elderly gentleman agreed, and within moments the two of them were bringing forth all manner of oddball items from their pockets.

OAP: Oh, a pocket protector, that's good Danny, it will keep your jacket clean.

Danny: Yes, I got this calculator for Christmas and it came with a pocket protector which made me really happy because I'm a nerd.

OAP : Nothing wrong with that.

Danny: I know, right? I'm a bookish kind of nerd.

OAP: That's the best kind to be.

That exchange had the somewhat humourless German guy we see at every sale trying his damnedest not to laugh. Jah.

My point is, when humourless Germans start laughing you know something is wrong with the balance of the universe, and we're all going to be seeing the horsemen of Armageddon or at the very least, shoveling a shitload of unanticipated snow. Snow can catch you off guard in a mild winter-you know, Mike Balandic.

So yeah, I should be baking a Twelfth Night cake for tomorrow, but I feel like I ought to be making watermelon granita.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Handmade Ryan Gosling

I never heard of this guy until all the memes started, but THIS one appealed to my crafting side.

But What Do Vegetarians Eat?

Harissa potatoes

Lentils, brown rice and beet green casserole, roasted vegetables, harissa baked potatoes, and oatcakes with the most perfectly ripened pear I've ever tasted. I'm showing you this to try and get across the idea that vegetarian meals need not be dull.

I know this is a popular time of year for people to experiment with vegetarianism, and quickly feel defeated after their third or fourth tofu burger or other meat substitute. Anyway, I thought it would be a good time to post some attractive meatless meals, just to show it can be done.

Scottish Oatcakes-Nick Narin

I've owned Island Harvest for years, but these were the first thing I made from the book. The oatcakes were a great hit, though I did need more oats than the recipe indicated-I'll chalk that up to the difference in American oats. If I made them again I would use half Old fashioned and half Quick Cooking oats.

1 1/2 cups oatmeal plus extra for dusting
1/4 teaspoon bicarb.
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon bacon fat (no) lard(no) or butter (yes)
2/3 cup water

Melt the butter in the water. Sift the dry ingredients together. Add the water and mix. The oats expand and will form a soft dough (I needed much more oats).

Roll into a round 1/4 inch thick on an oat dusted board. Cut into 8ths. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes, turning them every five to prevent them getting soggy. Cool on racks.

Preserved Citrus

Preserved lemons and blood oranges. They soak in salt and lemon juice for a week at room temp, then get topped up with olive oil and stored in the fridge. In a few weeks, you have preserved citrus peel ready to flavour fish, vegetables, and grains.

Healthier Brownies

I accidentally made something healthy. Don't tell anyone. I was inspired by the great deal on tinned pumpkin and the understanding that my family does not like tinned pumpkin. I did what any sane person would do-I shoved it into brownies. I didn't try to fool anyone (I don't think sneaking things into people's food is a decent thing to do) and when Danny was told it had pumpkin he made a face, but tried it anyway (I mean, come on-it is still a brownie). He really liked them. I mean, really liked them which is great because they are very easy to make, and I bought a lot of pumpkin. There, I used tinned pumpkin in something that isn't disgusting. Where's my award?

I will note that a very dark cocoa makes this seem more indulgent than it is. I buy the inexpensive Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder (They aren't paying me to do so) as I think it is a good quality product for the price. I can't randomly purchase cocoa and other baking products due to Danny's allergies and cross-contamination concerns, but feel free to use any sort you like. I'm not about to tell you what cocoa to like. I used to really like Droste before it was ten dollars a box.

You Will Need:

4 large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup unsweetened tinned pumpkin
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cooking oil (I used corn, but any will do)
1 1/4 cups cocoa powder sifted with 1 cup plain flour

Grease a 9x13 pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, beat the sugar and eggs together until light in colour, and thick. Beat in the vanilla, pumpkin, and oil. Sift the combined flour and cocoa over the mixture lightly and very gently fold in until combined.

Pour into pan and bake 25 minutes or until it tests done. Cool in pan on rack. Cut into squares.

Any Idiot Can Roast Veg

-Still, some idiots insist on boiling them to death. I know, I grew up with a "boiler" for a mother (and Gran). Olive oil was something we bought in a tiny bottle at the pharmacy to clean out your nose on a Q-tip in the winter. No one I knew actually used it to cook.

Cut your vegetables. If you're doing things together that cook quicker, you may need to remove them sooner-I try to accommodate this by cutting quicker cooking items larger, but it really isn't anything to get overly concerned about. Place the vegetables in a bowl. Add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil (or whatever oil you like) and herbs (I use a lot of thyme and rosemary). Toss, and pour onto a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper if you like. Place in a hot oven (425 degrees F.). Bake 15 minutes. Stir. Return to oven another 15 minutes or until done.

There, isn't that better than boiled carrots?

Lime Vinegar

The lime vinegar is finished, and I'm rather pleased with it. I can't wait to use it on a fruit salad.

From, The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest by, Carol W. Costenbader
(Buy the book! No one is paying me to say so-it is just a wonderful source for all sorts of things you never knew you wanted to make).

1 clove garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
Zest of 1 lime
1 quart white wine vinegar

Combine all ingredients except vinegar in a large widemouthed jar. Heat vinegar to 110 degrees F.

Pour vinegar into jar and let cool. Tightly cover and store in a cool, dark place. Check flavours after 1 week. Strain through a coffee filter and decant into a sterilised jar. Seal, label and store in a cool dark place.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Sunday, January 01, 2012


The No Frills Supermarket in Ashland, Nebraska has undergone some renovations of late. While it looks cleaner, I still dislike the place and don't shop there save for a few emergency items. Today we stopped by, and Danny noticed the building facade was gone. Previously, it had an old, largely broken latticework fashioned from cinder-block type materials. Ugly, to be sure, but within the blocks, birds would nest. Danny loved standing by the door as a small child watching the birds poke their heads out, and hop from block to block. Now, all of the latticework has been replaced by grey, corrugated tin that makes the building look tidier (in the way that our shed appears tidy) but without a place for the hundreds of birds to build their nests. I suspect that was part of the plan, as they did cause a bit of mess that even the greatest bird lover would admit looked unappealing at the entrance to a grocer. Danny, seeing the birds were without nesting grounds was outraged enough to grab a comment card and fill it out.

It reads:

"Drill holes in the outside of the building. The birds don't have a place to nest now. You screwed your nature."

You screwed your nature. How could you go and screw your nature like that, No Frills? Why do supermarkets hate birds? Huh? Huh?

Hoppin' John-Vegetarian

Among the handful of foods I refuse to eat are black eyed peas. I hate them. I hate the way they look, the way they smell, and the way they taste. Unfortunately, Danny and Mr. ETB adore them. Once a year I indulge them by making Hoppin' John. Then, I leave the table.

I'm going to post the recipe so years from now Danny will know how to make it, but I'm sure you can find more traditional versions than my meatless variety.

You Will Need:

2 cups cooked black eyed peas (I used the fresh ones this year which only need 10 minutes of cooking)
Cooked white rice for serving
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 scallion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon imitation bacon bits (or crumbled fakin' bacon strips)

In a large frying pan heat the oil over medium heat and cook the celery, pepper, onion, scallion, spices and fakin' bacon until softened-about 10 minutes. Drain black eyed peas well and mix into vegetables. Cook another few minutes for flavours to combine. Serve hot over rice.

I Shop Better Than You

I dragged my behind out to do a few chores today (I needed those plastic covers for the ear thermometer so I could keep shoving the beeping thing in my ear and exclaiming, "Oh my god, I have a fever!" Like it was some shocking observation) and I came home with some fantastic deals.

Walgreens had 1,000 tablets of Ibuprofen on a "buy one, get one free" deal. I go through 800 mg. every six hours, so it isn't like they will be left unused. I was pretty pleased with deal until I rounded the corner and saw boxes of Domino icing sugar on sale for .50 cents a box (1 lb.). I bought about ten pounds. The same shelf had Clabber Girl cornstarch for .25 cents a canister-I bought four. Cornstarch is something I never used much of until I became a mother and started making pudding from scratch-no child of mine is eating pudding from a packet. It comes in handy for glazing breads, baking pies, Chinese food, and home remedies.

When I thought my trip to Walgreens couldn't get more exciting (and it is actually kind of a long trip to a Walgreens from where I live) I found the .50 cent tins of pumpkin puree. Then, (I nearly peed myself from the excitement...or maybe it was my fever) I found Danny a beautiful glass/musical snowglobe with his favourite song-Beautiful Dreamer. It was $3.00

So..ask me what I got at Big Lots. Go on, ask!

When I used to travel home to Illinois (which thankfully I don't need to do anymore as nearly everyone is dead) I would stop at the Pharmacy in Deerfield (Lindeman's) to buy vanilla extract they used at the soda fountain. They would bottle it up in a medicine bottle, and stick a prescription label on it telling you how to use your fancy vanilla extract. Oh, it was wonderful stuff. It was years later, after the place had closed that I found out the vanilla came from another local company, Nielsen-Massey. I bought it a few times, but it is an expensive specialty item around here, and eventually I forgot about it. Until today. Today, I found 4 oz. bottles of the stuff at Big Lots for $4.00 ea. I bought them all. I had to. Sure, you can soak your own beans in vodka, you can buy cheaper extracts, there are a million reasons I could have walked past that vanilla except, none of those smell like my High School years. First thing tomorrow morning I'm putting on a pair of Gaucho pants with a matching shirtwaist, robin's egg blue mascara, flavoured lip gloss...and then I'm making a batch of vanilla ice cream. I'll probably sulk and roll my eyes whenever someone tries talking to me, but damnit, I am going to make my rural Nebraska kitchen smell like Lindeman's pharmacy circa 1980.

Also scored at Big Lots-1/2 price cookie tins (I use them all year for sewing materials, storing crackers, etc.) the last of the limited edition grapefruit Tic-Tacs (I bought something like 20 boxes...because I really love grapefruit. In fact, yesterday I happened upon white grapefruit which is rare as hen's teeth these days, and I might have gone a wee bit overboard. I can't help myself-I love bitter citrus. Love it. I would forgo all other food for grapefruit and blood oranges. I ate so damn many grapefruits when I was pregnant with Danny I should have named him, "Texas Sweet".) and blackcurrant tea for Danny (he likes flavoured tea).

I swear I'm not a hoarder, but I do live miles from decent shopping, and sooner or later this 50 degree F. weather is going to turn into winter and I won't be able to get down the access road from the farm. I like to think of it like a squirrel foraging and storing nuts...except this squirrel likes good vanilla and grapefruit Tic Tacs. And herring, of which I purchased several tins as well.

Anyone get any terrific post-holiday sale items?


Since Raymond and Janice were the only participants, you both win (what is the matter with the rest of you?). My favourites were:

"Eat your butter!"
"If you can't be kind, at least have the decency to be vague." (Which reminds me of that Burroughs bit about, "As one judge said to the other-if you can't be just, be arbitrary."

I know I have Raymond's address, and I'm pretty sure I have Janice's as well (I'll let you know if I don't).

I'm a bit under the weather today, but hopefully I'll get some preserves into the post this week, or next.

I'm putting Danny in charge of painting the family motto sign so he'll have things to complain to his friends about when he's a teenager.

Thanks for all the laughs. I'm off to get my daily butter ration!