Thursday, June 28, 2012

Like Living With Darwin

Everywhere I look, the kid has jars of bugs. Scarab beetles, spiders, bark beetles-you name it, he has it in a jar. I finally put my foot down when he sat one atop my biscuit tin. Look, I had to draw the line somewhere, and I think the kitchen is as good a line as any.

I'm so glad I saved all those baby food jars. My dad used to save them to store nails, screws, and bolts-had them all lined up in the basement. Me? I've got Darwin over here scooping up anything that looks interesting, for later identification (and mounting!). Yesterday, it was a wasp that made the error of entering the home of a would-be naturalist. It looked so damn sad too, sitting there in the jar like Gus in Sam and the Firefly. Eventually he was freed because come on, he looked like Gus from Sam and the Firefly, except he was a wasp, not a firefly. Yeah, I'm soft.

Sweet and Sour Salmon

Still stubbornly refusing to light the oven until the heat breaks (nothing in sight for the next ten days) I prepared a cold salad tonight. Last week, I pickled cherries, grapes, onions and carrots-so we've been enjoying them as well. Don't underestimate the appeal of a relish tray piled high with pickled fruit on a hot day-they go fast!

I did manage to get out for a couple hours very early this morning-but it was a dental appointment, so I can't really say I enjoyed myself. Thank god for 7AM appointments though-I don't think I could venture out in the afternoon. Dewpoint of 80? I didn't think that was possible north of the Mason-Dixon. Truthfully, I'm not all that bothered by the heat-and that's the problem. At some point (I think it was around the time I turned forty, and started going blind) I stopped sweating. Sounds great, but my body no longer understands how to cool off, and by the time I feel hot, it can be dangerous. Knowing this, I stay inside since I can no longer trust my body to behave properly. Yes, I'm the one sitting inside wearing a cardigan complaining the air conditioner is too cold. I never thought I'd be that person. Get the fuck off of my lawn, OK?

The recipe for the salmon comes from Kosher Cookery, Classic and Contemporary, by Frances R. AvRutic. While the sauce must be cooked on the stove top, the kitchen remained cool, and the meal was served cold over lettuce. The raisins sound strange when you read the recipe, but the end result is lovely.

You Will Need:

1 pound tinned red salmon
3 medium onions
2 tablespoons flour
6 tablespoons sugar (I used 3)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vinegar (I used cider)
1/4 cup sultanas (I used regular raisins)
2 egg yolks (mine were large)

Drain the salmon. Remove skin and bones. Break pieces into large hunks and arrange in a dish (she suggests a pie plate). Slice the onions and place in a saucepan with enough water to cover. Simmer until soft-about 20 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the liquid. Arrange the onions over the salmon and chill.

In a saucepan, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and raisins. Whisk in the cooking water and vinegar. Cook over medium heat, whisking until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat, temper egg yolks with a bit of the cooking liquid, then return it to the pan, whisking. Return it to the heat and cook a few minutes longer until thickened. Cool slightly, then spoon over fish. Serve well-chilled.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Another Warm Weather Dessert-Coconut Custard

There's no way I am lighting the oven. If the forecast is to be believed, we're in this crud for at least a week. With plenty of freezer room, I planned ahead baking breads, sweet rolls, and even a couple cakes. I am so not lighting the oven this week.

While the garden supplies us with a steady supply of lettuces, and edible flowers, I've been making a dent in my tinned fish stash. You don't have a tinned fish stash? I always heard there were people that didn't stockpile sardines, mackerel, and herring-but I thought it was some sort of urban legend. Really? Dudes, you should go get some tinned fish-there could be a nuclear war or a snowstorm, or something and you'll wish you had sardines. Pick up some crackers too.

Right, the custard (gosh, I do get off topic, don't I?). This is the easiest of custards, and I promise you with some fresh fruit and toasted coconut (do this in a frying pan-not the oven because we're not heating up the house, remember?) no one will feel deprived. If they do, toss a tin of sprats at their head. You can make this with skim milk, but then someone really might toss a tin of sprats at your head. Still, be assured it will work, but will be much lighter.

You Will Need:

2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons cornstarch (cornflour)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon softened butter

In a saucepan, whisk together the eggs, cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Whisk in the milk and cream and bring to a boil slowly over medium heat, whisking constantly. Remove from heat, beat in extracts and butter. Cover lightly with cling film which you pierce to vent. Cool, then chill. Serve with fruit, toasted coconut, and if you really must, a nice slice of angelfood cake.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Seven and a Half

Yes, I bake, "half birthday" cakes. No, I don't freeze half for next year, and serve only a half (I haven't completely become my mother).

Danny wanted a weather-related cake again, specifically, a hurricane. *shrug*

Hurricanes don't come to a point at the base like a funnel cloud, so I used ice cream comes hacked off 1/3 of the way from the bottom, and layered them inside each other for height. It looked better than I thought it would. I opted for the Florida coastline because it is easier than doing the entire Gulf coast (my pastry bag skills ain't what they used to be since RA). Danny is pleased with his cake, which is all I really care about.

We measured him last evening-he's 4 ft 2 in, which means he is exactly a foot shorter than I am. I doubt that will last long.

Happy half Birthday kid, yer mama loves you.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Me, Sitting in the Dark, Thinkin' About Stuff

The popular advice, to keep the curtains drawn during the day, lights turned off, etc. to maintain a comfortable temperature indoors on a hot day...well yes, it works quite well, but I'm not certain it is worth it. The house is cool, be assured it really is, but it is dark, with only the glow from a monitor screen lighting the room. I felt awful just typing that. I feel like a bat, and the summer hasn't even officially arrived. Perhaps I'd feel better if I bit someone...or flew at their head.

Whilst confined to the dark, albeit cool house over the past week, I did manage to get next year's homeschool curriculum submitted to the state Department of Ed. All fourteen pages of it (well, double-spaced, and including a bibliography, but still). Driving to post it, we were caught in a horrific downpour, the windows fogging up, barely able to see...and then the rearview mirror decided it would be an opportune moment to fall-off. We survived, the syllabus is submitted, and for once I am heading into summer without a bunch of loose ends to deal with.

The weather is expected to break for two days (with serious storms predicted, just to make sure we don't enjoy ourselves too much). I expect to spend that time baking bread for the freezer, as it will be right back to the upper 90's by the weekend.

I'm hoping to get out of here Thursday for the book sale at Swanson. After all this sitting in the dark, it will be good to get out, and walk around the dark, windowless, basement of the library.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Apricot/Crepe Dessert for a Warm Evening

As promised, here's my no-bake dessert for the 100 degree F. evening. Crepes, layered with apricot jam, and coated with chocolate ganache. I dipped a few dried apricots for decoration. Easy, and the kitchen stayed cool.

Safe, Sound, and in Big Trouble

Kids, running away to avoid cleaning your room won't work.

Something tells me those two will be spending a fair amount of time in their room well past it being cleaned.

Additional tip for kids- shoving everything into a cupboard, or beneath the bed won't work either unless your mother is really handicapped and can't bend over to check. My mother was pretty handicapped, but she'd just poke he cane around and be all like, "You didn't clean your room at all!" So yeah, you'll have to clean up. What's more, hiding your laundry behind a bookcase... really bad. Really, really, bad. If your mother has to physically pull out a bookcase to get at your shorts, she's gonna be furious.

So clean up your room.

Crepes Are Your Friend

You may have heard the weather has been warm in the Midwest. I thought this would be a good time to remind you that crepes are indeed your friend when the oven must remain unlit. Plan ahead, make your batter in the morning, then you are fifteen minutes away from the evening meal unless you get all fancy with the filling. I wouldn't dream of suggesting you fill them with leftover macaroni cheese and Branston pickle-but I've see it, and it didn't look half bad. Not that I would encourage you but, eh whatever.

I do feel bad for the people sitting in the stands at the College World Series, in Omaha. I suppose if I'd planned all year, and traveled across the country to see the team I support, it would seem obligatory to show up at the game. Still...99 degrees with a heat index around 70? Not me. Nope.

We look to be getting a bit of a break at the week's end, but next week looks awful again. Remind me again, why do I live here?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Intellectual Property

Danny is being punished. No, I won't divulge what he did (it isn't terribly interesting anyway) but I will tell you how I punished him-copying book Nineteen of the Odyssey-by hand. Neatly.

Typically, I'm a fan of, "will nots" as in, "I will not do this again" written hundreds of times using up any hours ordinarily reserved for play. Unfortunately, Danny has picked up considerable speed at writing, "I will not" (practise makes perfect?) so I thought the seriousness of his misbehaviour demanded something he would need to pay close attention to. We've been reading the Odyssey aloud for the past month anyway, so at least the punishment is topical.

Book Nineteen is pretty long. I didn't notice that before punishing Danny, but once I did I couldn't very well have him do something else. Yesterday, he was about halfway through writing when he wandered out, Odyssey in hand to complain to Mr. ETB.

"But it is so long! I'll never finish it."

Mr. ETB agreed, then sent him back to his desk to continue writing. A few moments later, Danny returned, still clutching the book, but this time turned to the front.

"OK, I'll do this, but I just want to show you something." He matter-of-factly informs his father, pointing to the copyright warning about, "No part of this book may be reproduced without express written permission."

Holding back a laugh, Mr. ETB told Danny we'd take our chances.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Nut Allergies and the Grocer's Cheese Department

Add this to the list of things I hadn't realised I need worry about. Last weekend, I noticed that the counter in the cheese department, where they slice and prepare packets of cheese for sale was mounded high with shelled almonds being packed in plastic tubs.

I knew the deli was off limits as they prepare sandwiches for takeaway that have peanut butter-but I hadn't noticed the cross-contamination potential at the cheese department. I suppose that means factory sealed cheese for us, though it does provide me a valid excuse to purchase my favourite cheeses as entire wheels. This happened at the Baker's Grocery on West Center Road, in Omaha. I haven't checked to see if this is a chain-wide practise, however the potential is always there if employees are not trained regarding food allergies. Given that I typically leave Baker's feeling like I've been assaulted by stupidity, and more often than not, incorrectly charged-I don't have much confidence I would get a response I could trust as accurate with respect to food handling practices. Further, when I have asked questions of this sort, I'm often confronted with accusations-like I'm asking for some sort of special treatment. I understand people feeling defensive about it, thinking you are asking them to do something they are unable to. Really, I just like to know what I'm dealing with so I can patronise an establishment, or not. I certainly don't expect them to accommodate my needs. That said, I do however wish they could contain the loose piles of nuts to one section of the store I could avoid. Having a pile of open nuts at the end of each aisle in produce makes it pretty difficult to avoid. Sometimes the nut allergic need to purchase produce. I've stopped weighing things on the scales because of the nuts, and Danny cannot reach into a pile of fruit to select something as people regularly toss shells into the displays as they snack their way through the department. I know stores can't stop people from being pigs, but they could do a better job of containing it to one area. At any rate, that's like wishing for world peace-ain't gonna happen, and so I grow what I can at home, in season, and race through the produce department otherwise. No bag of radishes is worth dying for.

As we still live in a world where severe allergies are viewed as some sort of lifestyle choice rather than a legitimate disability, I'm prepared for people to be rather hostile about it. When Danny is older, he'll be able to protect and advocate for himself, but until then, they have to deal with me-and I'm not willing to risk his life because someone doesn't "believe in food allergies."

Anyway, watch out for the cheese counter if you have nut allergies.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Save the Date

Railroad Days, the yearly celebration of the railroad takes place 14 and 15 July at locations in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Omaha, Nebraska. At $15.00 a family pass, good over two days of events, this is an inexpensive activity. Transportation is provided between locations, and it runs quite regularly (so you won't feel stranded at any one locale).

The weather is usually hot and humid at that point, so dress accordingly. I can't remember a year when Railroad Days, wasn't miserably hot, but the venues are air conditioned, and it is a short ride on the bus between locations.

Planning to attend? Want to organise a meet-up? Drop me an email. You know I'll bring provisions of the simple carbohydrate variety (somehow, I acquired the moniker, "The Candy Lady", and am frequently met with the look of children asking the just returned from traveling adult, "What did you bring me?" Personally, I find that awesome).

And yes, you are required to wear an engineer's cap when attending Railroad Days. Stripped overalls are optional given the weather conditions. Imagine me getting all excited, and clapping my hands when I say, "It is nearly Railroad days!"

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Expose Yourself to Art

Does anyone remember the fairly popular poster that read, "Expose yourself to art" and had a picture of a man opening a raincoat to flash a statue? My art teacher had that poster on the (outside) door to the department office in High School, but I cannot imagine anything like that today. I think of that now, as I put together an arts curriculum for next year. In an era where drapes are put on statues to preserve their modesty, I'm fortunate to be homeschooling. While I try to keep it age appropriate, I am reluctant to declare most things off limits (I would make an exception for McCarthy, at least at this point because..well, because watching a naked man in a wig writhe in a bathtub shoving raw meat in his mouth until he pukes is...well, frankly it would be a waste of shock value. That's the sort of thing you show them as teenagers, when they think they're such radical, artists. You show them those videos, and they shrug, admit defeat, and go do their homework without complaint. Nothing wipes out teenaged attitude like adults shocking the shit out of you. I know this from my own teenaged introduction to shocking art.

Much like the poster on the art teacher's door, the idea of letting a group of high school students loose in a Kienholz exhibition without previous explanation (or warning) wouldn't be possible today (funny that I'm thinking of McCarthy and Kienholz as they were both part of the same art scene in L.A. and made art that caused people to vomit. This is how my brain works-guess I'm stuck with it). That was the first time I can remember being disturbed by an exhibition. I'm pretty sure the chaperones on the trip had no clue what we were seeing, and spent the afternoon in the museum cafe as the students walked stunned through the galleries. I was fourteen (I know because I still have signed gallery notes from the exhibition-I may have been stunned, but I was smart enough to grab signed gallery notes) and completely unprepared for what I saw. I remember getting home that evening and being in a bit of a dazed funk. In her typical, "What the hell is wrong with you?" manner of parenting, my mother wanted to know, "what the hell was the matter with me"-so I told her about the field trip. Rather than wonder "what the hell was wrong" with the school dumping a bunch of suburban kids in a Kienholz exhibition for an afternoon she laughed, shrugged, and said something to the effect of, "Oh yeah, they're (Kienholz and Reddin) good, aren't they?" By that point she'd seen enough basketballs in fishtanks, and broken crockery affixed to canvas that Kienholz probably seemed comprehensible, disturbing as it was. My mother was suddenly if not cool, at least up on the art scene...and it was horrible. She wasn't supposed to know that stuff. If she knew that, what else did she know about? I realised in that moment that I had lost the ability to shock my mother, and it really enraged me. I mean, how dare she?

I keep that experience in mind as I select what to cover in a fine arts programme for my son. I suppose just teaching fine arts is radical today, but I want to keep some shocking art on reserve, just in case he begins to fancy himself an artist, and needs to have his reality adjusted.

Spicy Aubergine and Broad Bean Filled Bread

This is...well, it is a very long post, with a very long recipe for something that is essentially a calzone with Middle Eastern flavours. The filled bread is excellent, and only worth the time as I was at home all day doing other things. I wouldn't attempt this on a weeknight if you work away from home, though it wouldn't be impossible provided you don't mind dining well into the wee hours of morning.

Last week, the local grocer had aubergine on sale for a dollar-and they were enormous. Really, enormous doesn't begin to express how mammoth these things were-so I bought two. I couldn't help myself. I used the first to make caponata, which we've been eating since Sunday. Today, I knew time was running out, so I prepared a number of slices into breaded cutlets for frying at a later point, wrapped them in freezer paper, and that was that. The remaining cutlets were pan fried for tonight's dinner. I could have made a lasagna, or a traditional calzone with tomato and cheese, but I also had a dozen red peppers to deal with (I swear, I'm useless in the face of reduced produce. It could be worse, I could be bringing home stray dogs, or orphans). I roasted those early in the day, before I was sure what would become of them. I rather like the results, but I am also rather wiped out from it all. The bonus is that I ended up with enough food to feed the boys over the next few days, without heating the oven in the forecasted warmer weather. These would be great at room temperature as well.

If you time this correctly, the dough will be ready when the eggplant is done frying-but you can always slow it down by sticking it into the fridge after the first rise. I'll post the recipe in the order I did it, but each part can be made well ahead-a day ahead if need be.

For the Red Peppers:

There are all manner of doing this, but I find this simplest. If you have a better method, feel free to use it.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees f. Clean 6 red bell peppers and leave in rather large slices. Toss with about 4 tablespoons olive oil, and spread on a baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes, then turn the slices and bake 10-15 minutes longer or until skins remove easily. Cool, remove skins and chill until needed.

For The Spice Paste:
Not quite harissa, but in that spirit.

1 tablespoon chopped, preserved lemon rind
1/2 tablespoon chopped preserved blood orange rind (skip it if you don't have it, or just use a bit of orange zest)
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon crushed fennel seeds
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
1/2 teaspoon dried fennel
1 heaping tablespoon concentrated tomato paste (or a few tablespoons of the regular)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
More vinegar if needed to make a spreadable paste
Mix all together, cover and chill until needed. It may separate, but give it a stir and all will be well.

For the Dough:

2 cups warm water (lukewarm)
2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon coarse salt
4-6 cups strong flour

Dissolve yeast in bowl with water and sugar. When foamy (about five minutes) stir in salt, and about 4 cups flour. Add more flour as needed to produce a dough that can be kneaded easily and is no longer sticky. Oil a bowl, place in dough, and let rise until doubled-about 1 hour).

Punch down dough and let rest 20 minutes before dividing in fourths and rolling out 1/2 inch thick.

For the Broad Beans:

I used tinned beans which I slipped out of their tough outer skins. Do this ahead, and set aside until needed.

For the Aubergine:

Peel and slice aubergine in rounds 1/2 inch thick. Layer in a non-reactive colander with coarse salt (about 1/2 teaspoon per layer). Let stand 30 minutes. Rinse each slice well, the dry between towels. Prepare three bowls, one with beaten eggs (about 3) another with plain flour, and a third with dry breadcrumbs (or Panko, or the Jewish Panko known as Matzo meal, or crackers, or whatever coating you prefer). Dust each slice first in the flour, then dip in egg, the coat with breadcrumbs. Remove to a plate. Any leftovers can be frozen for later use. You will need about 8 slices to make 4 breads. Keep chilled until ready to use. I find it helpful to coat them about 30 minutes before I am ready to fry as it helps the crumbs adhere better.

Heat about 2 inches of oil in a heavy pan. I used a mixture of corn oil (for heat tolerance) and olive oil (for flavour). Watch it so it does not smoke. Fry the slices over rather hot oil about 2 minutes each side. Drain on a metal rack over a pan. You can drain on paper, but they stay crisper on a rack.

Put it Together:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Dust a baking sheet with cornmeal or semolina.

Divide dough in quarters. Roll each section out and spread a tiny bit of the paste over the centre. Layer on a slice of aubergine, a few broad beans, and cover with a few slices of pepper. Be sure to leave room around all of this to bring up the sides and seal the bread. After the peppers, spread a bit more paste, then repeat ending with red pepper and paste. Bring up sides of dough, folding to seal-but do not pull too tightly-the dough needs room to expand. Place smooth side up on a baking sheet, brush with an egg wash of yolk and water, and scatter tops with a mixture of fennel seeds, cumin seeds, dried thyme, and sesame seeds. Pierce a vent with a sharp knife.

Bake the breads 30 minutes, the rotate the pan and bake another 10-15 minutes, or until done. Remove to a rack and then immediately cover with a dishtowel to keep the crusts soft and pliable. Serve warm, or at room temperature. They reheat well in a 200 degree f. oven. The microwave is OK as well, but the dough will be softer.

Makes four large breads (a single bread can easily feed two people with a salad). Serve with yoghurt.


Last month, when Mr. ETB had a terrible cold and cough, I suggested he buy a bottle of peppermint schnapps. My dad swore by it, along with tea, and sitting in a steamy room wrapped in a wool robe. As he probably missed less than a handful of work days in his life, there's probably something to it. Mr. ETB saw the sort of money they get for peppermint schnapps these days, and decided to go without. Really, most of it isn't very good, why should it be so terribly expensive? No wonder middle school students have resorted to drinking bottles of cough syrup to the point of hallucination...they can't afford schnapps.

Right. So I still had the candy canes we hung on the Christmas tree last year, and finally I had a good use for them. Soaked in vodka, they make a reasonable substitute for peppermint scnappps-for a whole hell of a lot less money. Sure, you have the bright red colour to deal with, but I like something cheerful and uplifting when I have a bad cold.

If you didn't plan ahead by hoarding peppermint candy canes when they were reduced to .10 cents a box after Christmas, you can probably give this a shot with Altoids-but that will add to the cost. Let me know if you try it. I'll bet if you look around at dollar stores you can still find peppermint sticks from last year. You can be all middle class about it and use peppermint oil, or extract, but go easy with that stuff as it is potent, and you will need to make a sugar syrup to add later.

Next terrible cold, pour yourself a shot of homemade schnapps, turn the shower on as hot as possible, and sit on the loo reading a newspaper until you feel better. Plaid wool bathrobe optional.

Now I Get It

My mother became partial to caftan dresses as she entered middle age. I always thought them ugly-until my middle aged self purchased one yesterday. With sandals, a hat, summer handbag, and possibly sunglasses, this is as "dressed" as I plan to get in the predicted, "hotter than typical" summer we're looking at in Nebraska. Yes, that sentence had all manner of punctuation issues, screw you E.B. White (and screw you too Strunk).

It feels strange to type this, but here goes:
It is a really nice caftan.

I fully understand there are only a few snap-front closures between a caftan and a house-dress, but I fully intend to wear mine away from home. It took me more than forty years to understand, but now I get it. If I have to sit poolside this summer watching my seven year old scream, "look at me mama!" without the benefit of a poolside cocktail (My parents didn't know how great they had it in the 60's) I'll need something to protect my skin from sunlight (lupus sucks for a million reasons, but the rash is the most visible evidence of the suckiness). Caftan. Go ahead, say it with me slowly...caftan.

Know what else I'd like to get my middle aged hands on (please, get your minds out of the gutter)? Some oversized white plastic bangle bracelets. I have a necklace, and earrings-but you can't really wear a caftan to full effect without something on your wrist. The caftan is black and white, you see. My own mother would have worn red accents with it, and then matched her shoes, handbag and hair ribbon to it (really, she would have-she even matched her foundations that no one would see to her clothing). God I miss Woolworths-they would have had plastic bangles for sale.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tiramisu For Lazy Cheapskates

Mascarpone cheese is so expensive where I live, this would have been a really extravagant dessert. The recipe I had gave an option of using a cream cheese and whipped cream filling, which is what I did-still no bargain, but it won't consume a week's food budget either. I really liked that this was made with a simple sponge cake baked in a 9x13 pan and then cut in half-no fiddling around making ladyfingers, or layers. The twelve minutes in the oven was the most time consuming part of the recipe. We're nearing the end of Spring term, and extra time is something I just don't have.

From, Dolce Memories, a rediscovery of Italian Desserts by, Irene Ritter

6 whole eggs, separated
2/3 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup cake flour

1 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
12 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1 3/4 cup icing sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons Marsala
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Coffee soak:
1 cup brewed espresso or strong coffee at room temp
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 8 ounce bar of bittersweet chocolate (I shaved 2 ounces of baking chocolate instead)
9 Whole Strawberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x13 pan. Beat yolks until thick-set aside. Whip egg whites and 2/3 cup sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold in egg yolks and vanilla with a rubber spatula. Fold in cake flour until well blended. Pour and spread evenly in pan.

Bake 12 minutes, or until cake tests done. Cool 5 minutes in pan on rack, the remove to a rack and cool completely. When cold, cut in half to make 2 layers (do not split the layer in half, but rather cut it down the centre to make two 7 inch or so layers. Got it?

Prepare filling:

beat cream until soft peaks form-set aside. Beat cream cheese and icing sugar just until stiff-don't over beat (the recipe says it will curdle). Beat in the whipped cream, vanilla, and Marsala. Chill.


Stir the sugar into the coffee until dissolved.

Assemble in an 8 inch pan. Lay down a sponge half. Spoon on half the coffee. Top with half the cream filling. Then the second sponge, remaining coffee, and filling. Smooth the top and cover with the grated chocolate. Cover with cling film and chill. Can be made ahead and stored up to two days. Garnish with a fresh strawberry.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Helpful Hint-Condensation on Cold Drink Bottles

My morning iced coffee used to drip condensation from my reusable bottle. This irritated me, so I cut the cuff off one of Danny's sweat socks, slid it over the bottle, and now that problem is solved. I call it the, "coffee sock" but you can call it what you please. It also serves as a bit of insulation, and let's face it, an unevenly cut band from a sweat sock is always going to look classier than a foam band with a stupid saying on it.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Eaton Mess

Eaton Mess with blackberries, plum, and nectarines. Tastes better than it looks.

Less a recipe, than a "how-to."

Crush about 6-8 large meringues, leaving a few larger chunks. Fold into about 2 cups sweetened whipped cream. Top with fruit that has been lightly poached in a sugar syrup. Drizzle with extra sauce from fruit. Serve immediately.

You can adjust the amounts of everything to your tastes. Now, about those meringues. There are many, many recipes for meringues on the internet-they all suck. All of them. Here's mine-it doesn't suck.

3/4 cup egg whites at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar, divided
2 1/2 teaspoons vinegar, divided

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Place the racks of the oven in the upper and lower thirds.

Beat the egg whites until they begin to form the first soft peaks. Slowly, beat in the first cup of sugar (no more than 3 tablespoons at a time) incorporating well after each addition. Add 1 teaspoon of the white vinegar and beat well. Continue adding the second cup of sugar until you have about half remaining-then, add the remaining vinegar. Add the rest of the sugar slowly, and beat until you have very stiff, glossy whites that hold a peak.

Pipe onto the parchment. Bake 20 minutes, then rotate the pans front to back, and up and down. Bake another 20 minutes. At this point, turn off the oven and leave the meringues in for at least three hours to dry out (overnight is even better). If it is at all humid where you live, leave them in the turned off oven until you are ready to serve.

Pimm's, and a Lemonade Recipe

I can't think of a nicer way to spend a mid-week, summer evening than sitting here sipping a Pimm's and lemonade. I made the lemonade, but any old kind will do. People have all sorts of oddball ideas when it comes to Pimm's. You really don't need all the crap in the glass (cucumber, borage, apple slices, etc.) what you need is ice, lemonade, possibly a spritz of ginger ale and another slug of gin for good measure. Anything else is vulgar. The drink pictured is Pimm's and lemonade with ice.

Here's how to make a lemonade worthy of your overpriced (in the US anyway) bottle of Pimm's:

4 lemons, well scrubbed
2 cups granulated sugar
1 quart boiling water
1 quart cold water

Slice lemons and place in a heat-proof bowl. Cover with sugar and let stand 10 minutes. With a potato masher, crush the slices until most of the juice has been released. Pour on the boiling water and stir until sugar dissolves. When cool enough to handle, use your hands to extract all the bits of pulp from rind. Strain. Add remaining water and chill.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

That Was Just About...

...the neatest thing ever-or at least for the next 105 years.

I was lucky enough to view the transit through four different telescopes tonight. I did have to stand on a chair to see through one of them, which made me slightly uncomfortable as I was wearing a short-ish dress. Oh well, I guess if you were lined up to view the Sun and Venus, why not toss in a moon?

As we were in line, I noticed a number of people looking at smart phones. I was ever-so-tempted to pull my slide rule out (yes, I carry a slide rule, do you have a problem with that?) and pretend to do calculations.

As Danny was falling asleep, the first fireflies came out-so I made him get out of bed to see them (what sort of a mother wouldn't drag her kid out of bed to see the first fireflies of the year?).

I hope he remembers tonight in old age, I thought it was pretty special.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Transit of Venus

If you are in the Omaha area tomorrow, the planetarium at UNO will be having an event from 4:30 to around 9PM. A short film will also be screened. Whatever you do, don't look directly at the sun (same rules as a solar eclipse apply).

If you see me, come over and say hello-I'll probably have interesting snacks stowed in my handbag (I think we still have flapjack from the weekend). See, I just bribed you with biscuits to come see the transit. I know I won't be around for the one in the next century-and you probably won't either...dudes, this is a once in a lifetime experience. Now really, why wouldn't you want to do this?

Bring insect repellent.

Leche Frita-Fried Milk

The recipe makes quite a bit, so be prepared to only fry enough for one evening. I can't imagine too much complaint at having this a second or third) night. Mr. ETB has already asked me to try it with a chocolate custard. Coffee might be good as well. I guess we have a new favourite dessert.

From, Spanish, Published by Hermes House, 2004.

You Will Need:

2 1/2 cups whole milk
3 finely pared strips of lemon peel
1/2 stick cinnamon
1/2 cup caster sugar (just put your regular sugar in a grinder for a quick whirl)
4 tablespoons cornstarch (cornflour)
2 tablespoons plain flour
3 large egg yolks
2 large whole eggs (for coating later
8 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs
Sunflower oil for frying (I used soy)

I served mine with some nectarines cooked in vanilla sugar and lemon juice.

In a saucepan, bring the milk, lemon and cinnamon to a boil gently. Remove from heat, cover and let infuse 20 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and flour. Whisk in the egg yolks and add a bit of the milk. Strain the remaining milk in, whisking and return to the heat. Over medium heat, whisking constantly, bring the mixture to a boil. Cook until it thickens and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Pour into an 8x8 heatproof pan and smooth the top. Cool, then chill until firm.

Pour 1/2 inch oil into a frying pan, and heat until quite hot. Cut the custard into squares. Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl. Dip each square first into the egg, then gently coat with the breadcrumbs. Remove to a clean plate until all are ready to fry. Fry the squares a few at a time, spooning the oil over the top until golden. Drain on kitchen paper.

Helicopter Cat

Presented without comment.

Marinated Mushrooms

Yep-another mushroom salad recipe. Danny loved this, but Mr. ETB thought it was just, "OK." It should be noted he isn't crazy about mushroom salad in general, so take that into consideration. I purchased the Spanish cookery book at the library sale last weekend, and have already made several recipes. Tonight for dessert, we're having fried cream (a breaded and fried custard). Film at eleven.

From, Spanish Hermes House Publishing 2004

You Will Need:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup sherry
1/4 cup water
3 cups button mushrooms, trimmed
2 whole cloves
Parsley to garnish

Heat oil in a saucepan. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft. Add tomato, sherry, water, cloves, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook 45 minutes. Add the mushrooms, then cover and cook another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool, still covered. Chill overnight. Serve the mushrooms cold, sprinkled with parsley.

Olive Salad

I served a number of small dishes tonight (marinated cheese, mushroom salad, rice salad, rice pancakes, broad beans with sausage-like tofu) but most of the compliments were for the olive salad. It doesn't seem like the sort of thing requiring a recipe, so feel free to add a strip of lemon zest, a bay leaf-really whatever you like-I'm not the sort of person that would dictate what sort of olive salad you should like. This is the one we prefer.

Most salads of this sort are better a few days on-so plan accordingly.

You Will Need:

1 cup mixed black and green olives
1 strip lemon peel
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
Black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

Toss together in a bowl, and cover. Serve at room temperature.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

June in the Garden

We're only to the start of June? Can it be? I harvested the last of the spinach, rocket, and peas this morning. This week, the beets will be harvested as well. The first garlic bulbs are being dug up, and they look super. I have them curing in the mud room, which Mr. ETB insists now, "Smells like East Boston." I think he's homesick. He even dragged Danny out there to, "Smell Boston." Somehow, the kid remains surprisingly normal-go figure.

Today, I planted the cantaloupe, more tomatoes, and sunflowers. More nasturtiums have gone in to supplement the several pots already growing. My second seeding of lettuces are in, and someone...somebunny has devoured the tops of my parsley leaving only spiky stems. I mean, whatever it was, it sure was meticulous. I told Danny to go around checking the breath on the bunnies to see if it is fresh. He thought that was an absurd suggestion, mostly because he's sure it was the farm cats.

Tomorrow-watermelon, pumpkins, yard long beans, basil, and courgettes.

Oh, and a woodchuck is er...chucking wood in my raised bed, or at least I think that is what has chipped away the heavy railroad ties.


Track Your Kid-Just Like a Dog

THIS, wouldn't give me, "peace of mind" but it does make me terribly sad that for some people, it will.

I suppose this will be the norm soon enough.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Coronation Tofu

Can you smell the retro?

Coronation chicken is one of those foods I haven't been able to face for years-my mother ruined a lot of food for me. With the Jubilee this weekend, I thought it time to revisit the curried slop (er, salad) replacing the chicken with a baked tofu. I know what you're thinking, but know what? It worked. Not only did it work, but in some ways it is an improvement over chicken as the texture is better. Maybe your mother didn't stew her chicken beyond recognition to the point where it was some sort of sticky mush, which was then tossed in curry powder and salad cream. She went through a period of cooking everything with Madras curry powder, which I like, but I could do without the hard cooked eggs. Or overcooked chicken. Curried chicken over rice was the last thing she cooked before went in hospital for the surgery that killed her. I always felt kind of bad that the last meal she ate in her own home was some crap curried chicken. Had I known it would be the end, I would have driven down the street, and bought her doner kebab from the falafel joint with the drive through (that was the only redeeming thing about that suburb was being able to get a kebab at 1 AM when everywhere else was closed). Instead, she got curried chicken. Twenty years on I still remember coming home from the funeral and dumping it down the garbage disposal.

Aw geez, this isn't making you want curried chicken salad, is it? I didn't think I did either, but a couple decades away from it did help me look at it anew.

I followed the recipe HERE, with a few changes (obviously using tofu rather than chicken, but also making a homemade chutney, and cooked salad dressing). Because of nut allergies, we skipped the almonds, but I had just sprouted a container of lentils, which made for a nice crunch. I made sandwiches to take along on a picnic today, and they were enjoyed by all. At home, serve it over a bed of rice with some salad greens.

Photo of a child enjoying himself at a picnic. I gave him a haircut last evening. I was given strict instructions not to cut too much as he likes his, "rock star hair." I should have given him a damned mullet. Anyway, he's at that age (seven) where he can't be persuaded to smile for a camera, but really, he was enjoying himself. I know he was as he ate two Coronation chicken sandwiches.
I enjoyed myself as well. I could use some self-tanner, eh? Gosh. The light at home is so bad I leave the house thinking I look OK and then see photos of myself and I'm like, "Hey, who's the pasty ghoul?" and then well...yeah, self tanner. Note to self.

My adjustments:

The Tofu: Slice a block of extra firm tofu into slices 1/2 inch thick. Press dry between towels for about thirty minutes. meanwhile, make a marinade of:
1 veggie soup base cube
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
A generous grind of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons neutral salad oil (I had soybean)

Whisk together, pour over tofu in a pan. Turn tofu once, then bake in a 400 degree F. oven 30 minutes. Turn the slices, bake another 30. Cool. Slice as thinly as possible in strips to resemble shredded chicken, or dice finely if you prefer. This will be your, "chicken" proceed with recipe.

For the chutney:

I cannot handle mangoes as I am allergic to latex and the sap on the skins gives me a terrible rash (true, strange I know). To compensate, I used fresh peaches, dried apricots, and some apricot jam to make a sweet chutney.

1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots
1 cup raisins
1 small red onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons thick apricot jam
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1/8 cup finely chopped ginger root
1/2 cup water
4 fresh peaches, peeled and chopped

Combine all, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook until thickened. Makes about 1 1/2 pints.

Spotted at the Library

Yeah, none of that made up Earth Mother stuff for them.