Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Monday, July 30, 2012

How Can I Not Help You Today?

At the supermarket:

We are walking along, looking for my allergy medication. An overly cheerful woman approaches and asks, "What are you looking for today?"

Sometimes, the employees are trying to be helpful. Most of the time, I get asked this in West Omaha because I'm a little too dark for the neighbourhood, and they think I'm going to steal. This happens a lot. I can tell the difference between the employee that is forced to ask this of everyone, or the question being posed with the, "I've got my eye on you dark person" vibe. Today, I'm pretty sure she was trying to be helpful.

So great, I was in a hurry and in an unfamiliar store, and for once there was something I needed help with-a "win-win" as the kids say.

"Where's the Benadryl?" I asked.
"Oh, let's see..." she wandered down a few aisles with us following. I wasn't sure if she knew what Benadryl was, but she didn't know where it was. That's OK, I really do feel bad for workers being forced into the role of helper when they clearly can't do much save for walk the same aisles you were walking at the outset.
"That's OK" I told her," We can find it."
"Oh. Wait, there was a recall-they came and took it all, that's why we can't find it on the shelf."

I was surprised by this, as I am signed up for FDA recall notices, and get a slew of them in my email each day. Benadryl would be a pretty major one to have missed.

"Well that's a drag. I guess we'll use something else."
"Yeah" she agreed, "They do these recalls and they have to take everything, generic, name brand, all of it."

Now I thought that sounded odd, because they are all different manufacturers. That would be like saying all aspirin was recalled, across the board. I turned to leave the aisle when I spotted the Benadryl, generic and regular, liquid and pill, and capsule etc. all lined up for sale.

"Here it is." I pointed to the medication display.

"Oh, I guess they didn't recall it." She mumbled and wandered away to find someone else in need of unsolicited help.

This is the new customer service technique where they waste your time being cheerful and helpful. Mr. ETB had someone tell him they didn't carry a product we'd been purchasing at a certain store for quite some time (he doesn't usually shop and needed help finding it) and the department manager gave him her card, and said she would order the item...that was one aisle over from where they were looking-in a department she manages. In USALand the appearance of helpfulness is good enough.

Stop asking me if I "found everything I'm looking for" when the expectation is I will respond, "Yes", and you can return to whatever it is you do. I promise not to approach you and ask for help if you will stop pouncing on me in the aisles with forced cheerfulness and offers of help you cannot possibly provide.

Now get off of my lawn.

Two Sunflower Seed Butter Cookies

I can't believe I waited this long to try out the sunflower seed butter in place of peanut butter. While I'm allergic to (some) tree nuts, I was always able to eat peanuts. Most of the time I don't miss them, but Mr. ETB does. I made him some sunflower seed butter cookies, and he thought they were convincing enough to post. Danny liked them as well, though obviously he has no reference for peanut butter. Me? I'm indifferent, but I was never in love with peanut butter to begin with. The brand we purchased was made on dedicated nut-free equipment in a nut-free facility, which makes a big difference with something like nut butters that are hard to clean off. It wasn't cheap, and I don't see using it very often, but for an occasional ingredient in baking it works fine. I thought the flavour lacked some of the depth of peanut, though I wonder if a tablespoon of honey might have helped with that (or sesame seeds)?

I don't do the whole cross-hatching the cookies with a fork business. I've never had it work well, it makes the cookies look squished, and frankly, it seems pointless. If your expectations involve cross-hatching, then you should do it, otherwise, I find rolling in sugar produces an attractive crinkle top similar to a ginger snap-and who wouldn't want additional sugar when you're already consuming something bad for you?

Sunflower Butter Oat Cookies with Chocolate Chips:

Yes, you can use raisins rather than chocolate chips, but really, that won't make it any healthier, oats or not.

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter
1 cup sunflower seed butter
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarb.
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups quick oats
1 cup mini chocolate chips (or finely chopped chocolate0
Cream sugars and butter. Add eggs, and sunflower butter and mix well. Sift dry ingredients and add gradually. Stir in vanilla. Stir in oats and chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. It helps to chill the dough between batches if the kitchen is hot. Drop by heaping teaspoons onto ungreased sheet and bake 15 minutes or until just brown at the edges. Let stand a minute on sheet before removing to a rack to cool. Nakes about 5 dozen.

Crinkle Top Sunflower Seed Butter Cookies:

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sunflower seed butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups plain flour
3/4 teaspoon bicarb.
1/4 teaspoon salt

Granulated sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease baking sheets. Cream together the butter, sunflower butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla. Sift together flour, bicarb, and salt. Slowly blend into creamed mixture. Shape dough in 1 inch balls and dip tops in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes. Cool a minute on sheet before transferring to a rack to cool. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Getting Ready for the Fair

Danny's entry for the children's baking contest is finished-a coconut and dried cherry quick bread. It looks perfect, and smells wonderful. He's also entering the "best dressed vegetable" contest. We have a small watermelon, floral picks, green beans, and some cherry tomatoes to fashion an edible Medusa head. I'm pretty sure we'll be the only one bringing a Gorgon head to the Saunders County Fair, but I suppose stranger things have happened. I guess this would qualify as one of those proud, "That's my boy!" moments.

I have a sourdough rye bread in the final rise. I'll bake it tonight, and take it tomorrow. Sourdough always does better after a day's rest (as does a quickbread). In the end, I did a straight caraway rye rather than a limpa which would be dead common here in "Little Sweden."

I don't care if I win anything, and the children all get a ribbon for participation (I'm not keen on that, but that's the world we live in now) but we are having a wonderful time just entering. There's something special about selecting your best recipe, making it perfect, and then filling out the paperwork. Besides, if there's one thing the Saunders County Fair has been missing all these years is a nice rendering of a Gorgon head in fruit and vegetables.

Don't look at the watermelon or she'll turn you to stone!

Stuff I Think About

Today's source of annoyance is the phrase, "Highly trained professional." I mean, that's implied, correct? I can't say I've ever heard an advertisement touting, "Half-assed trained professionals." Someone I'm sure, did some market research and decided "highly trained" sounded better than, "professional."

While I'm at it-stop saying, "Very unique." It drives me crazy. If something is unique, then it does not require "very."

And if you'd please, Get Off Of My Lawn!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Still No Rain

All day, all day long I've been listening to the watches being issued for severe thunderstorms with promised deluge. Not. A. Drop. None. There's a serious looking cloud hanging to the south of us-but I know we won't get rain. Grand Island got rain, a bit-but that's 100 miles to the west (99 miles to be exact) where's our rain? Where's our rain? In Grand Island, apparently.

I feel sick, and I might just cry. This is worse than the Christmas I wanted a Barbie, and they got me a subscription to the Times Literary Supplement instead (no, they didn't I made that up-but it does illustrate the degree of disappointment I am experiencing when the promised rain failed to materialise).

If my parents had bought me a subscription to the Times Literary Supplement rather than Barbies I wouldn't devote so much time to maligning them on a blog. OK, I'm not really maligning them...because it is all true. Except for the Times Literary Supplement bit.

Where's our rain?

In an Attempt to Use the Last Few Potatoes...

...I have done the following:

4 dozen pirogi
2 dozen vareniki (because I had extra dough, and half a head of cabbage)
3 dozen raised potato doughnuts

I could have made mash, and been done with it, but I'm an idiot. At least the freezer is stocked should I drop dead. Last week I made several dozen ravioli to use up cottage cheese. I'm sure the doughnuts will freeze well as long as I don't sugar them-so we'll have Sunday breakfast for the next few weeks.

We're expecting rain tonight-I'm gonna go out on the lawn and run around in it (unless there's lightning, then I won't because that would be stupid, really stupid not sorta stupid like cooking all day to use up a few potatoes) if it ever does show up.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

This Week in America

Cops attack infants (and other non-violent protesters) with rubber bullets and dogs.

Lesbian has gay slurs carved into her body, spray-painted on her walls, and home set on fire in Lincoln, Nebraska. This in a city where they recently decided to overturn a "fairness" amendment protecting the LGBT community, and instead put it to the public for a vote.
I can honestly say, I'm terrified of Lincoln, and will not go there alone. It isn't just the LGBT people that need to be watching out there-if you're a person of colour, poor, disabled, or otherwise seen as "different" it is not a safe place to be. I've never encountered such a hostile city, in the US or elsewhere. Having had someone threaten to kill me because they thought I was Latina (my car had the nerve to break down at an intersection and inconvenience him) while others heard ,and did nothing to help as I was threatened by a very large, angry man screaming and reaching for me in my car window I feel I have some credibility on the subject. Nearly eight years later, I've been to Lincoln perhaps a handful of times and never alone. Never. I know politicians and business people will assert this isn't representative of the city, but it would take a whole hell of a lot of goodness being displayed to convince me otherwise. The local police still won't call it a "hate crime", but the FBI has been called in and presumably they can determine if having "Dyke" carved into your stomach is evidence of a hate crime, or if it was just some kids fucking around and setting someone's house on fire after an assault. I mean really, what do they need to determine it, a note from the assailants saying, "This is a hate crime?"

Monday, July 23, 2012

Don't Mourn, Subscribe (and Then Organise)

I can't think of a better memorial to the life of Alexander Cockburn than a subscription to Counterpunch's print edition.

Think Cool Thoughts

We posted this in the drive, because someone has to be the strange family that puts up Christmas decorations on the 105 degree day.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

That's Just Pants!

I lived near a Just Pants, but I never bought anything there. It was across the street from the newsagent that had pinball machines. I played lots of pinball. My mother thought the name, Just Pants" was hilarious.
"Get it? That's Just Pants!' She howl.
Yeah. I got it. Every single time we went past the store.

So I'm a 1950's Housewife

-right down to my measurements. OK my hips are more like 38, but still. I wear dresses, but more of the house variety. My aprons look a bit more lived-in. I don't clean house in heels, or wear makeup.

I really laughed at THIS (coming from the Daily Mail, so keep that in mind). It seems I've been living like a 50's housewife (though some days it feels more like the 1850's) without realising it. Except for the school run, as we homeschool. Though I must say, my mother was a 50's housewife having married in '57, and she didn't keep house-she hired someone to do that. She stayed slim the way most women did-amphetamines! According to my dad, he'd be recruited by my mother and gran to go pick them up at the pharmacist's house, at night, by the back door.
"Didn't you suspect anything?" I'd ask thinking no one, even my father couldn't be that stupid.
He did acknowledge, years later that he found it odd the pharmacist insisted on cash rather than a check.

I hardly think of it as a slimming scheme, but here's my typical day here at Eat The Blog Farm. This is more of a weekday routine, but it does give you an idea. I was a bit surprised when I typed it out, as I really don't feel like I do that much-looking at it now, perhaps I really ought to insist on some modern appliances like dishwashers and stand mixers. I'm not posting this because I think anyone ought to aspire to this sort of life (dear god, take the conveniences when you can!) more as a sort of, "Oh isn't that interesting." Please, don't take anything I do as advice for how to live your life.

6AM-Make coffee, get Mr. ETB's lunch ready to take to work.
6:15-Hang last load of laundry from previous evening (typically dishtowels, napkins, that sort of thing)
6:30-Start first load of laundry for day
6:55-Dress (yes, contrary to popular belief homeschoolers bother to get dressed each day-we don't study in our p.j's).
7:00-See Mr. ETB out the door with coffee, lunch, etc.
7:05-Get Danny's allergy meds and breakfast started.
7:15-Danny's breakfast (he's just not a cereal eater-I wish he were, but yeah, I make breakfast every day)
7:30-Wash up breakfast dishes.
7:45-Make my bed (Danny does his own).
8:00-Start a loaf of bread (this can take several hours).
8:30-Start prep for lunch ingredients, and dinner if able to do ahead.
9:00-Start school.
12:00 Lunch.
12:30-Wash up from lunch, prep for dinner.
1:00-More laundry (typically).
1-3:00 Class time with chores wedged in between (mending, ironing, garden chores, dusting, etc.).
3:00 -Hoover the entire house (I try to do this daily as we all have allergies and benefit from it)
4:00-Start dinner, finish any baking.
5:00- Tea. Danny has his at 3. This is my first real sit-down of the day.
5:30-Set table for dinner, arrange salads, relish dishes, whatever can be done ahead.
7:00-Wash up dinner dishes.
7:30- Arrange next day's itinerary, school projects, test, paperwork.
8:00- Family time (typically games, sometimes stories).Serve dessert. Wash-up dessert dishes.
8:30-Danny heads to bed (toothbrushing, etc.).
9:00-Last load of laundry
9:30-I sit down to read the internet if I didn't at tea. Sometimes I post.
9:45-Say hello to Mr. ETB and have a few minutes of uninterrupted conversation

We do manage to eat dinner together, thanks to Mr. ETB's work hours (most of the time, though he does quite a bit of work from home). Weekends are more relaxed, and I try to cook something on Friday they can serve themselves all weekend, so it isn't like I never get a break. Sometimes, on a weekend, I get to go grocery shopping all by myself.

So yeah, that's my day at Eat The Blog Farm/Health Spa.

Meatless Maid Rite/Loose Meat Sandwich

I made these last week, just as I was getting sick, and forgot to post them. How I managed to bake hamburger buns to go with them is still a mystery (and kind of lost in a hazy fever-induced fog), but I'm told they were enjoyed, and the leftover buns didn't last long enough to be frozen. So, if I can do this with 103 F. it should be a breeze to put together when you're feeling well.

Ten days into whatever the hell this is, I'm still miserable. The high fever is gone, but a persistent low-grade temperature hangs around just enough to make me feel wiped-out. I slept all day yesterday. I hadn't bothered getting dressed. Today is a bit better, but I'm still pretty weak. I can honestly say this is worse than any flu I've ever had. Anyway, enough about me, how are you all surviving summer?

I'll post the bun recipe as well, but really, if your weather is anything like ours, do yourself a favour and buy them-the world won't come screeching to a halt if you serve store-bought bread.

For The Buns:

From Better Homes and Gardens Homemade Bread Book, 1973
(Note-I did these by hand without a mixer, and it worked fine. I also used half strong flour)

In a large mixer bowl combine4 cups AP flour (or half plain and half strong if you prefer) and 4 1/2 teaspoons yeast. Combine 2 cups warm water, 3/4 cup cooking oil, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 tablespoon salt. Add to mixture in bowl. Add 3 eggs. Beat at low speed 1/2 minute, then beat 3 minutes at high speed. Stir in 4 cups AP flour by hand. You may need more or less, until you have a soft dough.

Knead until smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl turning once. Cover, and let rise until doubled-about 1 hour. Punch down, divide dough in three portions. Let rest five minutes, covered. Divide each portion into 8 balls. Turn each ball in your hands to shape until smooth (it helps to pull and tuck it under as you go). Press ball flat between hands, then place on greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise until doubled (about 30 minutes). Bake at 375 degrees F. about ten minutes, or until done. If you like, before baking brush tops with a bit of water and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds (I did both, because I'm indecisive).

For the Maid Rites:

A bag of ground beef substitute (I used the Morningstar Farms crumbles that come frozen)
1 tablespoon Crisco (no, you can't use olive oil, this is a Maid Rite, for fuck's sake)
2 teaspoons salt (yes, plain old table salt, see above comment for reasoning)
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 tablespoon yellow mustard from a squeeze bottle (ibid)
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Water to cover

Melt your fat in a heavy pan (I used cast iron). Sprinkle the salt directly onto the melted fat (look, don't overthink this, just do it). Break up the crumbles as they hat in the pan. When they begin to brown, add the onion, and then when they are nearly softened, add the mustard, vinegar, sugar and water. Simmer, uncovered for 15-20 minutes, or until the water cooks out.

Put it together:

Mustard, ketchup, and pickles are traditional. A slice of cheese is also OK. The buns are best if you can give them a bit of steaming first, but a quick nuke in the microwave works as well. This is one of the few times you'll get the desired results microwaving bread.

Serve hot. Potato crisps are optional, but pretty authentic. So are root-beer floats.

Friday, July 20, 2012


I braved the midday heat to snip some lettuce for tonight's dinner. It is dead still. No wind, no farm equipment, no one on the county road-even the birds, and cattle are silent.

I've lived here eleven years without ever experiencing something like this. Even at night, late when there shouldn't be any noise, there's the sound of well motors, or the occasional far-off car. This feels terribly Twilight Zone, and I don't like it. A working farm shouldn't be this quiet midsummer-even if there's nothing left to farm, drought having stunted everything. I drove past a cornfield yesterday where the stalks had grown to about four feet, tasseled, and had stunted little ears-no bigger than a child's hand. Last year it was underwater.

I put out some bread and water for the farm cats. Oh, I know I shouldn't feed them, but I can't bear to watch them drag their skinny bodies along, too tired to go after birds. Some bluejays came after the cat left, making off with a few scraps. They needn't fear the cat, he couldn't jump if his life depended on it.

104 tomorrow, then 102, 103, 104, etc. No end in sight. The air is just dirt, and fumes, and dirt. And dirt. At least the wind is calm, that's something. We live in fear of lightning strikes, or cigarettes tossed from car windows. We do laundry at midnight to conserve energy at peak use hours. I hang it to dry on a wooden rack in the kitchen, fold when I get up in the morning. We conduct our lives in the dark, peeking out the windows like fugitives, quickly drawing the curtains against any room-warming rays. I'm convinced this is the "new normal." Driving home yesterday, I was tempted to pull into the nearest car dealership, and purchase the first model I saw on the lot that had air conditioning. I've lived without it in the car all these years arguing that summer is such a short season, it is hardly worth the cost. Mr. ETB pleads with me daily to do so-but I'm stubborn about cars, particularly when mine is paid for, and runs. There isn't anywhere worth going in this heat anyway, air conditioned ride, or not.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Nut-Free Chicago Style Spumoni

Growing up, I was lucky enough not to be allergic to the nuts in spumoni (no one knew about cross-contamination issues back then, though looking back, I probably got my share of reactions from almonds that were picked out of a bowl containing cashews. Seriously, it amazes me I'm still alive). God, I loved spumoni. I wasn't crazy about Italian food generally speaking, but I'd suffer through a plate of spaghetti if I knew there would be an ice cream payoff. I loved the whole presentation-the cone shape, the bits of candied fruit, the never-enough pieces of chocolate.

When I moved to Boston as a young woman, I assumed (yeah well, you shouldn't do that) good spumoni could be found in my largely Italian neighbourhood. No spumoni, but the corner store sold these funny sherbet cones that had a gumball in the point of the cone. Screwballs, yes, spumoni no. The situation wasn't much better in the North End. I tried a few local versions, but they weren't the right shape, and they had layers like Neapolitan. Who does that? I gave up on spumoni, and would have forgotten it entirely had I not come across a recipe for "Chicago" spumoni in Dolce Memories, A Rediscovery of Italian desserts by Irene Ritter. Oh dear god, she nailed it perfectly. The problem of course, is the nuts.

Knowing what we now understand about cross contamination between nuts, I wouldn't be willing to risk it. With Danny having both tree nut and ground nut allergies, the chances for a reaction are too great to consider it, unless I ever start growing my own pistachios (unlikely, as I live in Nebraska). Because of his almond allergies, Amaretto was out as well, but I think I cobbled together a pretty good nut-free version with some workable substitutes. I made mine in a freezer tray without any lumping issues, but if you use an ice cream maker, it needs to churn quite a long time-consider yourself warned.

I used Styrofoam cups to pack the spumoni into, and it can be peeled away before serving. I used large cups so I can serve it in slices, but small ones are fine as well. You can of course Skip the cup entirely, but then I will deny knowing you. That's OK, you've probably denied knowing me for years.

You Will Need:

1 16 ounce jar of maraschino cherries, drained and chopped
3 cups whipping cream
1 tablespoon brandy
2 tablespoons orange zest (I used strips of dried orange peel that I used to infuse the cream)
7 large egg yolks (yes, you'll be making an angel food cake with the whites)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used mini)
1/4 cup chopped candied citron (I had homemade, but you can skip it as the store-bought tend to be made on nut-equipment-you can use a bit of lemon zest instead)
1/4 cup other candies fruit, peel, or whatever you have (I had candied apricots)

In a large saucepan, heat the cream, zest, and brandy to steaming over medium heat. Meanwhile, whisk the sugar into the egg yolks in a heat-proof bowl until light. Slowly add cream to eggs, whisking. Return to pan and cook to 170 degrees F.

Strain into a bowl, and place in an ice bath. Chill. When cool, stir in cherries, fruit, etc. Place in a freezing tray and stir with a fork every 30 minutes until mostly firm. Pack into cups, cover with cling film and permit to ripen several hours or overnight. To serve, peel away the foam, and slice.

Poppy Seed Dressing

You'll hate me for sharing this, even as you admit it is the best poppy seed dressing you've ever tasted. As it has no dairy or eggs, it is suitable for vegetarians, and keeps a very long time. Still, two cups of vegetable oil is never going to be health food, but used sparingly, it can make a fruit salad pretty darn special.

From Cooking From Quilt Country, Marcia Adams

You Will Need:

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons powdered mustard
2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup cider vinegar
2 cups vegetable oil
3 tablespoons poppy seed

In a large mixer bowl, combine first four ingredients. Slowly add the oil, beating until thick. Beat five minutes more. Stir in poppy seeds. Makes about 2 pints.

No-Bake Chocolate Haystacks

Pretend it is 1966. You can skip the bouffant, and plastic sofa covers. OK, so it is 1966, the weather is awful, and you want to "bake" cookies. Just for the record, my mother never made haystacks, but everyone else's mother did-sometimes their dad made them as well. Anyone could make these, except my mother, who probably, really couldn't. I'm confident you can manage these, and as a bonus, they won't heat up the kitchen.

From Better Homes and Gardens Cookies and Candies, 1966

You Will Need:

2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk (I used 2%)
1/2 cup margarine (you could use butter-it was .39 a pound, so I'm using marg this week)
3 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup flaked coconut
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash salt

In a saucepan bring sugar, cocoa, milk, and margarine to a boil over medium heat, stirring. Remove from heat, stir in remaining ingredients. Drop quickly from a teaspoon onto a wax paper lined baking sheet. Cool. Pretend it is 1966.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


If you're in Canada, have a look out for THIS fellow.

Still Bored?

Fine, fine. You've made vinegar, read a book, decorated some fruit and veg..."Now what can I do?" you wail. Stop wailing, it makes your face all red and puffy. Say! I know what we can do. Anyone remember those poster sets in the 70's that came with markers and some detailed design to make it woth the two dollars? Yeah, well this is the Internet age, grab your own materials and go download a Mucha from the Mucha Foundation website. That ought to keep you busy. And no, I did not bake Danny kloache to eat whilst he coloured his Mucha prints.

Inside Activities-Heatwave Edition

I won't be leaving the house any time soon.

Make your own flavoured vinegar:

Sterilise a bottle, fill with herbs, fill with vinegar. There, done. Now what are you going to do with the rest of the day?

Make funny creatures out of fruit and vegetables...and toothpicks. You will need toothpicks.

Still bored? I guess you could go read a book. Don't have anything to read? Well, if you live in Eastern Nebraska, you can get yourself over to Swanson library on Dodge Street Thursday between 10 and 3. If you have an air conditioned car you can pick me up on the way over.

The seven day forecast looks pretty much the same. Sunny, high of 98. Sunny, high of 98. etc. I guess I can make use of the time at home considering how I will use all this vinegar. Who wants salad?!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Chai Poundcake

I put some of the chai concentrate to use in this poundcake (I also made ice cream). I've already made a second batch of concentrate as Danny has been having some mixed into a glass of milk for elevenses. I've been joining him, though I pour mine over a glass of ice and add a bit of milk, rather than adding the concentrate to a glass of milk.

This is a "keeping" cake. Make it, wrap it tightly, and let it mellow several days in the fridge before serving. Be sure to serve the slices at room temperature. I served it with pickled/spiced peaches and a bit of whipped cream.

You Will Need:

1 cup butter
1/4 cup shortening (this helps it keep and stay soft-don't skip it)
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar (or a teaspoon ground cinnamon mixed in granulated)
5 large eggs
3 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chai concentrate
1/2 cup heavy cream

Grease and flour a large tube pan, and set aside. Do Not preheat the oven (trust me on this one). Cream the butter and shortening until light. Slowly add the sugar until incorporated. Beat in eggs one at a time. Sift together the dry ingredients. Mix together the chai concentrate, vanilla extract, and cream. Add, alternating with the creamed ingredients. Pour evenly into pan. Place pan on a baking sheet, and place in cold oven. Set to 325 degrees F. and bake about 1 1/2 hours or until cake tests done. Cool in pan on a rack twenty minutes. Carefully unmould, and cool completely on rack before wrapping tightly to store. They call it a "pound* cake, but mine weighed in at four-this is a substantial cake.

*Yes, I do know that has to do with the original weights of the ingredients.

Because you were a good reader, and read to the bottom of the post, I'm going to reward you with a beautiful early 20th Century photograph of the painter Gustav Klimt who looks like he was the sort of man that would have enjoyed a good poundcake-and a comfortable smock.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Things I Think About

-before forgetting them for another forty years. Today, I'm thinking about paper straws. No reason, but that's how my brain (sorta) works. When was the last time you saw one? I can't remember, it was that long ago. You could probably find fancy ones, for the "foodie" douchebags that buy faux retro things (stop looking at me like you don't know what I mean...you know exactly what I mean). I don't want those. I want paper straws like you got with a Green River float at Lockwood Castle in 1972.

Next thing I'm gonna think about before I get even older and forget it again-Sen Sen candy.

Learning to Drive-a Story Snippet

I learned to drive by my dad having me drive him to some dark, dirt road in rural Wisconsin. It was fully dark by the time we got there. It was a good hour and a half from home.

"OK, drive us back" he said, reclined his passenger's seat, and went to sleep. This was long before GPS, though it was so remote, I don't think a map would have helped. That was my one and only driving practise from my parents. I took a driving course at school.

I live down a desolate, middle-of-nowhere road. I probably ought to be thankful I got the rural road version of driving instruction, because my sister got Lake Shore Drive at rush hour-before they fixed the curve.

Tina Turner, and Fireworks!

At Lincoln Pride 2012, Saturday Evening:

Danny: Wow, Tina Turner was great! I had no idea she was that good, I really like her.

Me: Sweetie, that wasn't the real Tina Turner.

Danny: There's two Tina Turners?

Me: I think there are several Tina Turners. That was a performer impersonating Tina Turner.

Danny: But that wasn't the real one? You mean that isn't even her name?

Me: No, I'm sorry.

Danny: She was probably better than the real Tina Turner.

Errrrr, no. But I will give everyone credit for getting up on an outdoor stage when it was still 93 degrees F. at 7PM to perform in a wig, and elastic dress. This heat is back for another week, and I'm ready to die. I've had an awful fever on and off since Thursday, and I keep going from wearing a sweater, and taking hot baths to sitting before the air conditioner with ice cream. Still, I wasn't going to miss pride Weekend, so off we went.

Saturday evening we went into, "town" for _________ (name of town) Days. No drag queens (that I noticed) but there was music, fireworks, and one heck of a wonderful time all courtesy of a town of 700 people. I was too sick to get to the antique car show, and I guess I'll have to wait until Halloween for my ride on the antique firetruck, but otherwise, a great time was had by all. I love that Danny can grow up in a place where kids roam all over the place without being paranoid about it. I did get a giggle at the police patrol in the golf cart. I find it a nice contrast to all the small towns that convinced themselves they need armoured vehicles. ______(name of town) has a golf cart, though it is a really nice golf cart. Sometimes I don't appreciate how spoiled I am living here.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Saunder's County Fair

I'm thinking of submitting a bread to the fair this year. Because I am a poor judge of my own work, I'd like to ask a favour of readers; if I've baked something you admired on the blog, could you take a moment to tell me what it was? I'm leaning toward submitting my sourdough limpa bread, but I'm interested in hearing what readers have to say.

Thanks for your help,

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Story Snippet-Mittens the Dog

When I was ten, a dog followed me home. That's not completely true, I encouraged the dog to follow me home with a trail of Pringles. Maybe it was Monster Crunch, I can't remember. So the dog, a mostly springer spaniel with god knows what else bred in, stuck his waggy tail way up in the air, followed the snack food trail, and came home with me where I declared to my parents as so many children have to their parents, he followed me home.

They didn't like dogs. They didn't particularly care for children either, but they were more or less stuck with us-the dog required a bit of sales technique. Fine, the dog could stay, but he had to remain in the laundry room until he could be shipped off to boarding school to learn obedience (which a more intelligent child would have seen as a glimpse of their own future, but I didn't, and was thoroughly caught off guard when they deposited me suitcase in hand at the school where I never did learn obedience, but had my foot tattooed with India ink by another girl in the dorm. At least they didn't make me eat dry kibble and live in the laundry room until they shipped me off).

So a couple months pass, and the dog, Mittens (which was completely a cat name, I know that's like the animal kingdom version of a Boy Named Sue) named so because of his four white paws, still isn't home. Each month, the school would call, and inform my mother that Mittens was a sweet dog, but not terribly bright and would need some more time. Eventually, he came home.

Two days after his graduation/homecoming he was in the laundry room (my mum wasn't about to let him loose in her white decorated house (what sort of an idiot decorates a country house with dirt blowing in every time the door opens with white sofa, white carpets, glass tables everywhere? Yes, I just called my mother an idiot-were she alive today, I reckon she'd agree). The dog had graduated to better food as well-small individual meals of some "meat" shreds in cellophane pouches that came in a box. Why this was stored atop the washing machine, I can't say but the dog that was too stupid to leave the obedience school in a timely manner, took but a few minutes to figure out how to open, and consume an entire box of food. Stray dogs are good at that sort of thing. Stray dogs are also good at eating their own sick, so if the overeating made him upchuck, we never knew. We didn't know until he shat everywhere in that laundry room. Floor, walls, the scrub sink-the closet where my dad kept his work clothes. No surface was left unpooped. Later, when I'd have visits home from school at holidays, I'd think about smearing feces about the laundry room in a nod to the genius of Mittens. Regrets, regrets.

The next day, I came home from school to be told Mittens, when left out in the yard had run off. I spent days wandering the neighbourhood looking for him, calling his name, posting, "Lost" notices. It was only after my mother died-fifteen years later that my sister confessed to having deposited the dog at the pound. She dropped that on me as we were at the funeral parlour, picking out caskets. It was like she held it in for fifteen years, and at long last could tell me without being scolded by our mother. If I'd known they had me scouring the neighbourhood in search of my put-down dog, I really would have shat up the walls. Regrets, regrets.

Rum Raisin Layer Cake

Oh, the lengths I'll go to using up egg whites left from making pasta and ice cream. By the time you add up the expensive dried fruit, butter, and cake flour I would have saved money tossing out the whites-but I can't do it.You have no idea how many egg whites I have in the freezer. Anyway, this cake is a beauty-a mistake really but it turned out so well, I'm going to share the recipe.

First, the extract. When the hell did I buy a large bottle of rum flavoured extract? I can't imagine either, as I have no qualms about using rum in baking. I wonder if I bought it accidentally, mistaking it for lemon? I went ahead and used it to great effect, which came as a pleasant surprise. I also made a batch of coconut/pineapple ice cream, and a few drops of the extract made it Pina Coloda-like, which is nice if you like Pina Colodas, which I don't. My mother adored them, and used to keep a bottle of that pre-mixed bottled drink in the fridge for an afternoon cocktail. "It has the rum already in it!" she declared the first time she brought a bottle home. Forget the copier machine, or the PC, or the moon landing-Pina Coloda mix with the alcohol already in it was the apex of 20th Century innovation. I should hunt down a bottle of that stuff and see if it makes a good ice cream. Anyway, yeah-rum extract works better than I would have expected, though I don't think you save anything in terms of alcohol because extracts are mostly alcohol.

So the cake, you want to know about my screwed-up cake that turned out perfect. I accidentally mixed the sugar in with the cake flour, instead of creaming it with the butter. I wasn't about to toss it out and start over, so I cut the butter into the flour mixture until it was a very fine crumb. Instead of beating the egg whites (because what would I fold them into?) I went ahead and dumped them in. Know what? It worked! Sure beats hell out of standing there with a whisk and a copper bowl beating egg whites. See, I've learned from my mistakes. The Old Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook had recipes that incorporated the butter and eggs this way, so I figured if it wasn't the lightest cake I ever baked, I'd get something. It wasn't heavy at all-it was a lovely cake.

The heat is expected to return by the weekend, so this might be the end of my cake baking for a while (again). I'm glad it turned out as well as it did.

You Will Need:

For the Filling:

1 1/2 cups raisins
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Juice of a lemon
1/2 teaspoon rum extract

Mix all except the extract in a saucepan. bring to a boil and cook over medium heat until thickened. remove from heat, stir in extract, and chill before using.

For the Cake:

1/2 cup softened butter
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon rum extract
1 cup egg whites

Grease and flour 2 9 inch cake tins. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter until very fine (use your fingertips at the end. The mixture should feel like damp sand. Mix in the milk, cream, and extract until smooth. Beat in the egg whites at high speed with a hand mixer until light-at least three or four minutes. Pour into prepared pans and bake until they test done-about 25 minutes. cool 10 minutes in pan, then unmould onto rack. Cool completely before filling.

For the Icing:

5 tablespoons softened butter
5 tablespoons softened cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Enough icing sugar to make a spreadable icing (about 2 cups)

Beat butter, cream cheese, and extract until light. Slowly beat in the icing sugar until you reach the desired consistence. Decorate with raisins (no really, that is part of my recipe instructions-don't screw with me, I put a lot of thought into this-use the bloody raisins. If you want to improvise, and make up the rules as you go along, take up cricket. Put the goddamned raisins on the cake you ___________________.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Chai Concentrate

This is the best thing I've made in...well, ages really. I used some of the concentrate to make ice cream. I used to say I didn't really care for ice cream-that was before I made chai ice cream. Good heavens, that was good.

The recipe comes from Flavors of the Sun. I'm going to insist you go over there for the recipe because it is a lovely blog, and you should be reading it. Yes, you should-now scram!

Oh, and make this concentrate because it is wonderful.

Basil Ice Cream

I have quite a lot of basil at the moment. True, it smells like pesto (minus the garlic, of course) but it really is delicious with a subtle anise flavour. I'd make this again.

You Will Need:

3-4 cups fresh basil leaves
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks

Steep the basil leaves in the milk and cream for 20 minutes, then strain. Whisk together the eggs and sugar until light. Whisk in the hot milk/cream, then return to a pan and cook to 170 degrees F. Remove from heat, strain through a sieve into a bowl, and chill in an ice bath until custard is cold. I make ice cream in a metal tray in the freezer, whisking with a fork every 30 minutes until firm. If you have a machine, go ahead and use it. Makes about 1 pint.

Monday, July 09, 2012

The Heat Broke, So I Baked

This is a blueberry/cherry pie. The red decoration on the cherries is sugar, and the green is food colouring applied directly to the pastry. I figured after all those No-bake desserts, I owed them a rather special pie. Admire the special pie, damnit.

This was Saturday, after the monthly library booksale. Danny came home with more physics books (he's really into physics, which makes me a little nervous as I grew up hearing stories about Cousin Louie who blew up his mother's kitchen as a youngster. Cousin Louie went on to work on the Manhattan Project).
Today, I baked. Baked my little heart out, I did.

Five baguettes, two boules, a buttermilk sandwich loaf, a blueberry-cherry pie, beet green, raisin and anchovies empanadas, and now I have two pounds of cherries drying in a slow oven overnight. Oh, and I made sofrito, applesauce, baked tofu, a veggie paella, and washed few loads of laundry. Then, I re-potted a couple plants, and did the dishes. We had a full day of classes as well. I've been up since 4 AM because a storm blew through and woke me. We didn't get much rain to speak of. I have large bruises on my legs, arms, and hands-I have no idea why. I should probably get that looked at. *Shrug*

Mr. ETB took the car to the mechanic for a small repair, and halfway home, it fell out from beneath the car-so his day kind of sucked too. At least the heat broke. Hey everybody, the heat broke! I'm not sure what I'll bake tomorrow, but after two (or was it three) weeks without the use of the oven during the heat wave, I'm just so happy to be somewhat back to normal. After all those salads and griddle breads, I was afraid I'd forgotten how to cook.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Monthly Saturday Book Sale at Swanson

I came home with thirty cookbooks, and two bound sets of Cooking Magic with issues from the 40's and 50's. I paid a buck for those. Anyone need 17th Century recipes for goose? I've got you covered. Oh, the wonderful books I came home with today.

We did well in the non-cookery books as well. I knew it was going to be an odd day, as the "Scowly Man" smiled at me-eye contact and everything. I wasn't sure if I should rush off to purchase a lottery ticket, given that the universe is now obviously out of whack. I know I say this after each trip to the sale (Thursdays 10-3, and the first Saturday of each month) if you're able to get to Omaha, make this a destination. I've been to many a friends of the library book sale over the years, but none are as consistently good, organised, and reasonably priced as this one.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Weekend Storytime

I have interesting stories, but I'm a shit storyteller. I can't create an interesting plot, I ramble in poorly punctuated sentences, and my conclusions are typically something along the lines of, "and then we all went home." Yeah, that's not going to stop me from subjecting you to snippets of strangeness from my forty-plus (plus, plus) years of life. Rather than go the traditional route, I thought it might be more interesting to reduce them to something longer than a Tweet, but shorter than a short story, tossing the weirdness out for readers without trying to understand it. I think this will be a regular feature-let me know what you think.

Teen Girl With String and a Bottle of Ink

In what was probably the nicest dorm accommodation in North America, I shared a house with eight other girls, two adults, and their toddler child. We each had our own rooms, nicer than many a bedroom I've had since.

I needed to ask someone a question-let's call her "Nicki", wait, scratch that, her name was, "Nicki". I find her sitting on the bedroom floor with a needle knotted several times, and a few bottles of coloured ink. I probably asked something intelligent like, "Hey, whatcha doin' with the needles and ink?" because even at fifteen, I had a knack for asking interesting questions. Needles, string, ink-it looked interesting, so I asked.

"I'm going to give myself a tattoo." she replied. Over the years, I've tried to remember if she actually called it a "prison tattoo" , as that's what I've come to understand the method of needles and string as. Seeing how I have one very small tattoo on my waist that I got in 1984 as a way of freaking out my mother (it worked!) I'm not really an expert on tattoo, or prison. I haven't done the prison thing (yet).

"Cool." I said. I probably said, "cool" that was what people said then. I might have said, "nifty" if I was being clever, but most teenagers aren't clever-I probably said, "cool." I admit to being somewhat of a magpie when it comes to art supplies, so I'd guess I sat down on the floor to look at the ink. I didn't want her to give me a tattoo-I'd seen the way she applied her robin's egg blue eye makeup-a tattoo from that girl would flirt with a level of self hate even my fifteen year old self couldn't manage.

I picked up a couple of the colourful bottles with dropper stoppers. My mother liked to paint. I won't go as far as saying she was an artist, but she'd been to art school, and when the right balance of valium and diet pills kicked in, she'd mix up some paint and slap it on canvas. Sometimes, I'd help mix the paint. She didn't like to mix paint whilst smoking because she'd have to wash her hands before returning to the cigarette, lest the toxic pigments get transfered to her mouth via the cigarette paper.

I held up a couple bottles-I think it was cobalt and something containing cadmium-I can't remember, but I recall saying something like, "You're going to die if you do this." My adult self likes to think I was matter-of-fact about it, but I probably said something like, "Don't you have any ink that isn't labeled toxic?" As I had the reputation as the one who was, "good at science", she went rummaging for the other purchases, finally settling on a bottle of India ink.

"See, the label says it conforms to standards..." I don't know what the standards were back then, or what the label said, but we arrived at the conclusion that the bottle of India ink was safe. She wanted to do a test on the sole of her foot, in case it looked really bad, which seemed reasonable. Then, the unreasonable happened-she used my foot instead. How this came to be is lost in the decades since, though it must have been persuasive as I'm not generally the sort of person who bends to peer pressure.

The soles of your feet have (thankfully) plenty of calloused, dead layers. I didn't look until the very end, which I'm glad for, or I might have laughed causing her to puncture me. Less prison than home economics, she'd neatly dipped the thread in ink, then sewn a few lines on the bottom of my foot. Under a single layer of skin she'd dragged the thread in the way that my sister used to take a string a sew her calloused fingertips together as a way to entertain her baby sister.

It lasted a few weeks, then sloughed away.

It Isn't the Opposite of Existentialism

The house-parents were Fundamentalist Christians. At some point, someone mentioned Surrealism, and before long, the toddler daughter of the Fundamentalists Christians was responding to every query such as, "Do you want cheese for lunch?" or, "Do you accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour" with, "Surrealistic."

She did that for a while.

Go Smoke a Cigarette

Two boys arrived to first period class late. It was winter, in Chicago. The teacher was a flake, I can't remember what she taught suggesting there wasn't much to take from whatever it was she was assigned to teach us. They mumbled some excuse about having wet hair, and needing to dry it before going out the door, or they'd get pneumonia. Lame, of course, but an excuse probably offered up successfully before.

"You can't catch cold from a wet head." she informed them. That should have been the end of it, or maybe staying after school to do a few menial tasks. Instead, she made them go to the sink, wet their hair, and stand outside the classroom door in the freezing Chicago winter. I think they were instructed to stay out there until they'd finished a couple cigarettes (look, it was over thirty years ago, before zero tolerance). The plan was to check them over the next few days to see if either had developed any illness. They lived.


My mother had hip surgery, and I went to see her in the recovery room. A rabbi came to see her, and she demanded of him, "Do you have any morphine?"
"Well, no" he replied. Before he could offer to fetch a nurse, she screamed at him with considerable strength for someone that had just undergone surgery,
"Then get the fuck out of my room!"


When I lived in Boston, the family that lived in house behind mine were really loud. Sometimes we'd hear them fighting. Occasionally the mother would get drunk, sit on the back porch and sing, "Old MacDonald" for the entire neighbourhood.

"I'm so fucking ashamed of you, you whore, I can't stand to have people over here because they'll see you...and you used up a whole god damned bottle of my fucking conditioner! A whole bottle, you piece of shit!"

"Gosh", that's a terrible way to speak to your daughter", I said to Mr. ETB.

"Oh, that's the daughter talking to the mother. Sometimes they lock her out on the porch when she's drunk, and she sings Old MacDonald."

Green Fish Curry

Due to allergies, I'm unable to use commercially produced green curry paste. Making your own isn't difficult, and it does permit control over the level of heat from the chillies. If you are able to consume the type in a tin, this will be an even quicker meal to put on the table. I made the green curry paste a day ahead. It makes quite a bit, so I froze the remainder for later use. I have not tried canning it, so I can't offer advice for that method-it would be pretty low acid, so it must be pressure canned. This recipe isn't even close to traditional.

For the Green Curry Paste:

Chopped green chillies (I used a small tin of chopped jalapeƱo)
4 tablespoons chopped red onion
5 large garlic cloves
1 tablespoon chopped, fresh ginger
1/4 cup fresh coriander
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (ideally, you'd use fish sauce if allergies aren't an issue)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lime juice
4 tablespoons coconut milk
1 tablespoon lemongrass if you have it (I didn't)
1/2 teaspoon ground dried coriander

Mash it all together. I used a chef's knife, and like when I make pesto, chopped until I had a paste. You can of course use a mortar and pestle, a food processor, etc. You don't want a puree, so don't overwork it if you use an electric appliance.

For the Curry:

1 tablespoon cooking oil
2 tablespoons of the green curry paste (above)
2 lime leaves (Available at Asian markets, or if you know m, and live local just ask and I'll bring you some from my tree)
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 cups thin coconut milk (I diluted mine at about 1:1 You can use it full strength, but it will be rather rich)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (or fish sauce)
2 lbs. Cod cut into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup fresh chopped basil

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the curry paste, and cook over medium heat 2 minutes. Add lime leaves, lime juice, coconut milk, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer about five minutes until thickened. Add fish, reduce to a simmer, and cook slightly covered about 8 minutes, or until fish is cooked through. Stir in the fresh basil, and serve hot over spiced rice.

For the Rice:

When boiling water for rice, add 2 tablespoons raisins, 1 cinnamon stick, and a pinch of cloves. Cook as usual.

Cherry Fluff Dessert

It was all downhill after I made the rice krispy treats. This is as close as I get to Watergate salad, or a pot-luck in the church basement (shit, now I have to make tater-tot-casserole, don't I?) but at least I knew enough to decorate the top with maraschino cherries.

I used some cheery puree I had frozen from last summer. To make fruit puree, you stick fruit in a large pot, add a few tablespoons of water, then cover and simmer it until soft. Run it through a food mill, and at that point you can use it immediately, or freeze it for next summer when the mercury hits 102 degrees F. and you need a dessert.

This is the same filling for fluffy grape pie, adjusted to a stand alone dessert. Obviously, you can pour the whole thing into a baked pie crust, but I'm not baking at the moment due to heat. The original recipe comes from Farm Journal's Freezing and Canning Cookbook, 1963.

You Will Need:

1 cup cherry puree (concord grape, plum, etc.)
1/4 cup water
3 oz. package lemon jello (use the regular kind, not the sugar free)
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, whipped stiff
Maraschino cherries to garnish (yes, you must use them to properly get in the spirit of 'fluff")

In a saucepan, bring the puree and water to a boil. Stir in the jello, and remove from heat. Whisk in the sugar. Place bowl in an ice water bath, and chill until the mixture mounds on a spoon. Meanwhile, whip the cream.

Beat the jello mixture until fluffy. Fold in the whipped cream. Pour into your best, clear-glass bowl (because this is a "fancy dessert", duh!) and garnish with maraschino cherries. You just made Midwestern America in a bowl.

Sourdough Limpa English Muffins

Swedish muffins, I guess you could say. I'm pleased with how these turned out.

You Will Need:


1 cup fed white sourdough starter
2 cups water
2 cups strong flour

Let sit 8-12 hours.

Main Dough:

All of sponge
1 tablespoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons full flavour molasses
2 tablespoons finely minced re-hydrated dried orange peel (or the zest of 1 fresh orange, grated
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed
3 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
3-4 cups light rye flour

Mix into sponge, salt, molasses, orange, fennel, and butter. Add the rye a cup at a time until you have a dough that is tacky, but no longer sticky. Knead a couple minutes, but forget getting the dough to windowpane-it won't. Place in a well-buttered bowl, and let rise. Depending on the strength of your starter, and the temperature of the room, this can take 1-3 hours. Mine took 45 minutes.

Punch dough down and divide into two sections. Generously dust a work surface with cornmeal (not cornflour). Line a baking sheet with wax paper, and dust that with cornmeal as well. Pat out each half to about 1 inch thickness (more or less, it depends how thick you like your muffins). I used a large cutter, but again, use what you have, or prefer (a glass will do the trick in the absence of a good cutter, as will an opened tin). Re-rolling doesn't work because of the cornmeal, so try to cut as closely as possible to minimise waste. Repeat with second section of dough. Cover the muffins on the baking sheet, and let rise in a warm place until light-about 45 minutes, but keep an eye on them.

Heat a cooking surface until it is hot, but not so hot that the muffins burn (you'll need to keep checking and adjusting as you go). I use a cast iron pan and can cook about three at a time. Cook the muffins about 10 minutes on each side (again, this will vary for a number of reasons, so you do need to watch what you are doing). Cool on racks, then transfer to plastic bags and store in the fridge. I made mine sandwich sized and got ten muffins.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

A New Drink

I'm not really a board game sort of person, but the boys are. I understand most games work better with a few players, so to get through hours of mind-numbing advancing of pieces across a board, I like to have a cocktail. Last evening, I invented a new one.

I had some iced tea made with Earl Grey (that's sort of a double abomination, the icing of tea, and the vile bergamot blend, but the child likes it, and as my only child, what the hell, I indulge him with whatever sickening tea he prefers. Me? I'm more of a PG Tips woman, and I prefer it hot, but OK, I'm not seven) and some Mexican brandy. I added a generous splash of lime juice, and some ice. I call it a, "Pissed Up the Earl." It was excellent.

I tried the second round with rum, which I didn't like as well, but that one I called, "Rummy Earl."

I know you can just pour a bunch of different booze in it, and call it a Long Island Iced Tea, but that seems a waste of perfectly good gin, and vodka.

Obviously, I wasn't too pissed up the Earl as I still had houses on Boardwalk, and Park place when we finally called it quits well-past bedtime.

Not Health Food (Technically, I'm Not Sure It Even Qualifies As Food)

I enjoy brown rice cereal. I'm not coeliac, on a diet, or otherwise trying to increase the fibre in my diet-I just like it. With the weather being ungodly hot, I thought, "What the hell, let's make rice krispy treats with brown rice cereal!" I was really enthusiastic, so I added the exclamation point for emphasis. I didn't grow up with rice krispy treats , so I always feel like I'm being initiated into some sort of cult Americana when I make them.

Look, I know we've been solidly residing in Idiocracy for a while now, but using brown rice cereal in no way transforms a stick of butter, and a bag of marshmallows into a healthy sweet. I understand the desire, the longing, the impulse to try your damnedest to make it so-but rice krispy treats, brown rice or not, still contain a stick of butter, and a bag of marshmallows. I'm sorry, but you needed to hear that, and it might as well come from me.

I won't send you to the website-I love you guys too much for that, particularly the recipe where you can fashion them into balls, decorate them with licquorice, and hang them on a Christmas tree. Christmas trees don't need extra fibre-they're all fibre.

Are we clear now? Rice Krispy treats are delicious, you can even toss some mini-chocolate chips on top if you're feeling adventurous, but kids, please understand, they're sugar delivery systems. If you find yourself particularly poopy after consuming a few, I'm pretty sure it isn't because of all the fibre contained in the highly-processed brown rice cereal.

Buttermilk Coleslaw

Here's another salad tip you may enjoy (enjoy my tip, damnit!) buttermilk and sour cream make an excellent dressing for coleslaw. Go easy on the sour cream-no more than a couple tablespoons to provide some body, and use buttermilk for the rest. If you're counting calories this will save you over an oil and vinegar based recipe, and certainly quite a bit over mayo. Besides, mayo is disgusting in coleslaw. And for fuck's sake, stop being such a miser with the carrots-put a reasonable number of them in the salw, and you won't need so much sugar. Sugar has no place in coleslaw anyway.

There, you enjoyed that tip, didn't you?

The Best Nut-Free Pesto Potato Salad You'll Ever Make

Sounds rather presumptuous, I know. Still, I doubt very much you will ever make a pesto potato salad that surpasses what I brought to the table this evening, so rather than repeatedly attempting the impossible (to improve on it) why not jot down these instructions instead? That's a good reader now. Pens at the ready (OK fine, mouse hovering over, "Print page")?

You Will Need:

Waxy yellow boiling potatoes, the smaller the better cut into dice
2 heaping cups of fresh basil leaves
1 clove of green garlic, finely minced nearly to a paste
Cheese of your choice, about 1/4 cup very finely shredded
Olive oil-about 1/4 cup

Boil the potatoes taking care not to overcook them. Drain, rinse in cold water, and set aside. Meanwhile, blanch the basil leaves for 30 seconds. Drain, and refresh under cold water. Drain well, and pat dry. Chop as finely as possible (I used a big chef's knife) and chop again with the minced garlic. It should be pretty well a mush by this point. Because you blanched the basil, it will retain the vibrant green colour.

In a bowl, combine the basil, garlic, and cheese. Add the salt, and then slowly stir in the oil-how much you need will depend on the cheese, your tastes, etc. Toss with the potatoes.

There-you just made the best Nut-Free Pesto Potato Salad You'll Ever Make and you did it without a blender, food processor, or other fancy kitchen tools that just take up space on your counter. You can make this ahead, and freeze it but don't add the cheese until you are ready to serve.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Sourdough Tapenade Griddle Breads

How long has it been since I lit the oven? Two weeks? Longer? The forecast is showing the same crap until at least Monday, so here's another bread you can make in a cast iron skillet.

These were really nice, and they re-warm perfectly in the microwave, something I can't say of most breads. Sliced in half, they can be topped like pizza, and baked a few minutes in a toaster oven, or serve as a base for a fried egg.

You Will Need:

A few tablespoons of tapenade (or mush up some olives, capers, anchovies, herbs and oil yourself-I did).

1 cup fed sourdough starter
2 cups water at room temperature
2 cups strong flour

2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3-4 cups plain flour

Combine the starter, water, and flour. Mix well. Cover and let sit at room tempertaure about 8 hours (less time is OK, but the longer it sits, the more pronounced the sourdough flavour will be).

Stir in salt, sugar, and enough flour to make a dough that is not too dry, but not too sticky to knead. The dough should be slightly tacky. Knead a few minutes by hand, to incorporate the sponge, but don't obsess about getting the dough to windowpane-because it won't.

Place in a well-oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled (this will depend on the strength of your starter, and the temperature of the room. Mine took about 2 hours).

Divide dough into 8 balls. Cover, and let sit 15 minutes. Flatten balls and fill with a bit of tapenade. Pinch closed as you would for rolls, stretching at the bottom as you go. Cover and let rest 10 minutes-meanwhile heat your pan.

The pan should be fairly hot-medium at least, and a bit of water should sizzle when it hits. Carefully pat out a ball of dough taking care not to tear through to the filling. Gently roll it out to about 3/4 inch thickness. Place in pan and cook about 5 minutes each side-you'll see them rise as they go. If they start to brown too quickly, or burn, reduce the heat. They may smoke a bit if some oil seeps through, but that's not a big deal-open a window.

Cool on racks, and store in plastic bags in the fridge when cool.

Fireworks Safety

Whilst demonstrating safe use of fireworks, a fire chief shoots a safety expert in the foot.

Well that does really illustrate the point.

Monday, July 02, 2012

The Garden Grows...and Grows...and...Well, You Get the Idea

I hadn't planned to grow anything other than sunflowers on the north side of the house, but once the sunflowers dug in, it looked so sparse...so I planted cantaloupe. That went so well, I put in a patch of watermelon. Pleased with the quickly established watermelons, I decided I must grow a patch of red seeded citron melon. Without any planning, the north side of the house is home to a melon patch. As they grow so well, and so quickly, I seem unable to stop. We stay warm here well into October, so I can still get in a few more varieties if I feel ambitious. I feel ambitious.

Red seeded citron melon is a very old, now largely forgotten variety that is not suitable for eating fresh. Instead, the melon can be preserved (like citron) or cooked into a fruit paste, or marmalade. As I have angelica growing, it seems almost obligatory to grow citron melon.

I'm ordering a few late season crops, and varieties that can overwinter like purple sprouting broccoli. Red turnips are intriguing as well. Mr. ETB wants to grow flax next year. I told Danny we were getting rid of his bed, and putting in a spinning wheel and loom instead. He only half thinks we're kidding. I have Goldenrod growing, so I could actually use it to dye linen. I doubt very much this will happen, but I'm told you can eat flax, so it wouldn't be a complete waste to grow it.

This is the week I have set aside for pickling my grape leaves, but the thought of running the canner in this heat is causing me to reconsider my plans.

The first glads bloomed today.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

More Rejected Blog Names

Happily Frothy

Accommodate the Box

Douchebags Ruin Everything

Why Does My Shit Smell Like Vomit?

Botox is Wasted on the Young

Norman Rockwell's Magnificent Cock!

Oh Look! A Fucking Troubadour

"You Need to Get Educated" for Dummies

"If You Think the Past is so Great, Why Don't You go Live There?"

If You Drink the Tap Water in Nebraska, You'll Grow a Tail

You Got Blood in my Peanut Butter

You Got Peanut Butter on my Rag

Hey! That Tastes Great

Is That a Peanut Butter-Blood Soaked Rag in Your Pocket, or is it Norman Rockwell's Magnificent Cock with a Peanut Butter Blood Soaked Rag?

Haemorrhaging Gravy

Where are Your Ancient Civilisations Now, Egghead?

When the Cat's Away...the House Smells Less Like Pee

I'm Rubber, and You're an Asshole

Oh Look, A String of Blazing Hot Suns

The forecast for the week ahead, HERE.

I Need I.D. For That?

I purchased a "grow your own oyster mushroom kit", at the supermarket yesterday. The teenaged cashier told me he needed to call a manager, and I assumed it was for a price. It wasn't, he needed someone over 21 to ring it. Incredulous, I blurted out the first thing that sprung to mind.

"Why? They aren't hallucinogenic mushrooms! "

The man in line behind me laughed, and we joked about the odd things people get carded for now (cough medicine, spray paint, etc.) Keep in mind, the box has a label across the top that reads, "Great for kids!"

"Oh" the manager said when he arrived, "He thought this was a box of wine. Sorry about that."

Because wine is obviously great for kids.

So That's Why Old Folks Have "Card Tables"

After an epic six hour Monopoly game yesterday, played on the floor, I figured out why card tables get so much use with the over fifty-set. The pain. Oh God, the pain. I had no idea my hips could feel so bad. We took breaks, of course, but it wasn't enough. By this morning, I was sure it would take the two of them to lift me from the bed. Half an hour after waking, I finally managed to swing my legs over the side, and try to get up. Getting my feet on the ground, I sort of eased myself up like a sprout pushing through soil for the first time. My back eventually unfolded, and my hips still seem to work, but I have two words to utter in response to game-playing invitations: Card Table.

Sweet Pickled Cauliflower

I hated this stuff as a child, and I'm not in love with it as an adult. I have, "issues" with pickled foods. Still, my husband and son enjoy them, and it really is a simple thing to make-I just don't eat it.

As a friend once asked, "So if your dad had been a shoemaker, would you be going barefoot, unable to look at another shoe?" I don't know...maybe? I mean, I don't know that I wouldn't go barefoot, unable to look at another shoe.

I do have a funny story about the perils of delivering this stuff on a truck in the summer, well it was funny because I wasn't there. If I'd been there, I'd have to add it to the list of childhood traumas. Right. So my dad was delivering several barrels of this stuff on a warm summer day. He had the windows down on the truck, and stopped to get gas. By the time he returned to the truck, a swarm of bees figured out where the sweet smell was coming from, and filled the back of the truck, settling over the barrels of pickled cauliflower.

Bees be damned, the old man was punctual when there were people waiting for deliveries, so he got in the truck, and started driving (I know, I can't imagine doing it either). By the time he arrived at the next stop, the bees had all flown out the windows. Just another day at work.
Consider yourselves warned, should you wish to transport this to your favourite picnic spot.

The recipe may be found, HERE. It gets better after a few days, so be patient.

Garlic Salad Dressing

My garlic has cured enough to use now, and I have a lot of it. Supermarket garlic has been so horrible the past few years, I'd forgotten how good the stuff can be. Half a clove is enough for most of my uses, as it is really pungent.

We've been eating salads nightly as the weather is hot, and the greens are abundant. To keep the cold suppers interesting, I've been pickling fruit (cherries, grapes, peaches) and vegetables (cauliflower, onions, carrots). My relish dish hasn't seen this much use since the 70's. For some reason, everyone agreed that we needed a creamy garlic sort of dressing tonight (not something I ordinarily make). The dressing was the result of what I had in the fridge, but feel free to substitute widely-this is more a template than a recipe, ya know?

Makes about 1 pt.

2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary
1/4 cup finely minced fresh parsley
1/2 cup basil leaves blanched 30 seconds, drained, patted dry and finely chopped (this keeps it green)
1/2 large clove of garlic, finely minced nearly to a paste
Salt/Pepper to taste
Milk to thin if needed

Combine everything except the olive oil in a mixing bowl. With hand mixer on high, beat in the olive oil slowly until well-absorbed. Adjust salt/pepper, and thin with milk if needed.