Thursday, March 31, 2022

Oranges and Lemons

I wasn't certain dairy free/sugar free paska would be doable. I'm pleased to report it is.
My decorating skills aren't what they used to be, but the breads are so pretty it hardly matters. They have an abstract quality.

I've used a number of different recipes over the years, but this one from the now defunct blog, Mennonite Girls Can Cook is my favourite. The recipe may be found HERE. I made a few changes starting with dairy. I used an extra creamy oat milk for this, along with a good quality vegan margarine. I wouldn't go with cheap margarine for this as they're mostly water and crappy oil. I also substituted artificial sweetener for the sugar using Swerve granulated. I used much less than the 3/4 cup called for in the recipe as artificial sweetener is so much sweeter than sugar. I also took a pass on icing it, opting instead for a more traditional, if not slightly cack-handed decoration on top. 

Because paska is such a light bread I went ahead and used plain all purpose flour. Could I have gone with whole grain? Sure, but I bake these once a year, and even with all the accommodation of going dairy-free/sugar-free it is still bread. The boys know that, and are consuming accordingly. I wouldn't rule out using white whole wheat in this recipe, but that's not what I went with this year.

In years past, I didn't have a blender that could manage pureeing an orange, lemon, and their peels. This year I do, and it made very light work of the recipe. I've done it with a small food processor, in batches, but it was messy and the peels never did completely puree. That was okay, as bits of peel in a holiday bread can be nice as well, but this came up completely blended. When I started getting sick, we invested in an OSTER blender to puree food. It wasn't even that expensive-I think it was around $45 USD but it does pretty much everything I'd expect from a blender. I know people spend hundreds of dollars on blenders, but it is hard to imagine what more they could do unless they cook dinner as well. Not being paid by the company to review it, just really love my blender. 

Decorating the top of a paska is a skill I've barely managed, but there's a few things you can do to make it easier. After you make your decorations place them on a tray in the fridge to stay cold while you wait for the breads to rise. This will keep them from puffing up. I used an egg wash of yolks and water to brush the loaves and affix the decorations before baking. Some people use toothpicks to hold everything in place through the first 20 minutes of baking, which would probably help with decorations sliding around. Also, these breads really rise, so lower your rack in the oven or you'll be cleaning baked dough off the top element. After the first 20 minutes, pull the loaves out, rotate them and give them another brush with the egg wash. This will make for a deeper golden colour. You could even give it a third brushing near the end if you see spots of bare dough that you missed. Or you could just ice the whole thing and save yourself the effort. 

As the bread bakes the smell of citrus and egg bread fills the kitchen with the most gorgeous aroma. I'm happy to report toasting slices of the bread on subsequent days has the same effect. When it goes stale, it can be used to make eggy bread/French toast or a beautiful bread pudding. Whatever you do, don't toss it out. 

Paska freezes well, tightly wrapped in a layer of wax paper covered with either cling film or foil. The wax paper/greaseproof layer is important as it protects the bread when it is time to thaw. Breads should always be thawed wrapped to keep them fresh. 

I don't have round pans that would accommodate that much bread dough, so I baked in Pyrex casseroles (one round, one oval). Make sure you grease them well because these breads will stick, especially if any of the egg wash drips down the side. A sharp thin knife run around the edge helps with that. I could have lined the casseroles with parchment, but didn't think of it until later. Isn't it always like that?!

Now that you've had dessert, how about something more substantial?

Who doesn't appreciate a big pot of beans on a cold day? I had half a packet of black eyed peas waiting to be used, and I went with an Ethiopian inspired recipe that may be found HERE. I skipped the extra hot pepper as the boys aren't much for them and I didn't feel like going to the store for a single pepper. It turned out well, and they enjoyed it. Instead of purchasing Berbere spice I threw together my own using the recipe HERE. Now I have extra for future meals. 

Earlier in the week there was chicken piccata that I served with a side of chickpeas and summer squash. The photo is terrible, but the recipe is very, very good and may be found HERE.

And now for an outfit.

First wear for this spring suit in a synthetic fabric that mimics linen. I like contrast piping and was happy to score this suit for a fiver.
The vintage snakeskin/lucite bag was perfect with it.
I woke up to a light dusting of snow covering the ground, though the roads were warm enough to stay clear, if a bit slippery. I won't be heading out until later in the day, but it isn't expected to warm up until later next week. That's rather typical for my part of Nebraska. Can't plant anything but the hardiest greens until mid-late May. I let the gardeners mulch over the main part of the vegetable garden as I know I just can't do it this year. The young men looked a little disappointed but I pointed to the perennials, and assured them I'd be doing the sunflowers later. Even if I could do the planting, dragging buckets of water and weeding would be a chore. Once the sunflowers go in the front of the house won't look so bare. Hard to think about gardening when it is snowing! We could do with some rain though. That would be welcome as there's brush fires everywhere and our dry snow won't do much for that. 
Stay warm, and eat some beans😀.


Sunday, March 27, 2022

Owl Be Baking


Remember that time I baked Hoot Cross Buns? Thank goodness  Danny is past the stage of needing everything to look like a raptor. I'm trying to work out a lower-carb recipe for buns that will work for the diabetic, and I think spelt is going to be my friend here. We'll see. Good Friday is still a bit of a way off.

Okay, since everyone is fine with it, I'm going to do some outfits. Standard content warnings apply.

Still cold and damp here, and it seemed like an opportunity to wear this vintage tweed suit one more time before cleaning and packing it away. I belted the jacket hoping to look stylish rather than having it hang too large. I think it worked. Never underestimate the power of a good belt. 
The scarf is serving dual purpose accessory, and hairdo-protector when outside in the wind. I didn't spend half an hour fiddling with my hair for a wind to blow it all to hell. 

I had my fourth jab of covid vaccine on Friday, and while it made me a bit ill on Saturday, it was nothing compared to what an actual covid infection would do. I went to the public health department for my jab as they let you schedule a time, have a pleasant waiting room, and ample parking. My pharmacy can't manage to fill my prescriptions correctly, I really didn't want to stand around their chaotic environment waiting for someone to figure out the vaccine procedure for the immunocompromised category. Anyway, it all went smoothly, and I'm glad I was able to get that done. Hopefully I'll be able to get some antibodies before the next wave hits. I'm still wearing a mask (sometimes two) everywhere I go, avoiding crowds, and more or less living as I have for the past couple years. Life may have moved on for everyone else, but it definitely hasn't for people that are old, sick, or both. Meanwhile, the mayor wants to strip power from the county health department so they can't ever declare another mask mandate. I appreciate wishful thinking as much as the next person, but that's shitty public policy. 

Enough of that. What do you think of this coat I thrifted new with tags for $15.00 USD? 

That bunny looks ready to fight.

I didn't think I needed a pink raincoat, but after trying it on I quickly decided that I did. The shop had just put it out that morning. It still had tissue paper over the buckles to protect it. I wonder how long it sat in someone's wardrobe before they decided to donate it? It looks 90s/early 00s to me, but I'm not an expert. The lining is beautiful and the photos don't show how well made it is. There's nothing worse than a coat with ill fitting lining. This is just superb. We've had such a mild winter I got through most of it wearing my Burberry trench coat. Now I have a coat for spring. 

(No makeup, sorry)
The same shop had this fully lined, two piece silk outfit originally from Talbot's in what I again, think was the 90s. The tag says Made in Korea, and I don't think we've imported much from Korea since the 90s. I could be wrong. 
I can't decide if that is a pebble or tiny giraffe print, but whatever it is, I like it very much. The cuff bracelet was another recent purchase and is made of buffalo horn. 
Vintage Naturalizer shoes. Maybe a *bit* too early for spring shoes, but eh, whatever.

I had a dress like this when Danny was a baby, so I'm placing it 2004-ish. 

More vintage shoes that I just noticed could use a polishing. Ooops.

Tried matching the swirl pattern in the dress with earrings and brooch. 

I'm looking forward to watching the Oscars red carpet tonight for all the outfits, but can't promise I have any desire to watch the actual awards ceremony. I haven't seen any of the nominated films, so that does tend to make it less interesting. 

Hope you have a great week. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Diabetic Friendly Banana Quick Bread and Some Outfits

 Another post of something I made before catching cold. 

Early on in learning to cook/bake for a diabetic I thought bananas would be off the menu as they contain too much starch. Turns out, that's not true and as part of a reasonable diet, they can be enjoyed. Problem is, they get ripe quicker than Mr. ETB can eat them. Dan won't eat a plain banana, but baked he will. Now, how to make banana bread more diabetic friendly? 
I wanted to try making one that didn't include any carbohydrate heavy flour (although I have used both whole wheat and buckwheat successfully in quick breads), so I gave it a try entirely with finely ground almond flour. Because I am baking for a diabetic, I used Swerve sugar replacement but if that isn't an issue for you feel free to use brown sugar, honey, agave syrup, etc. Bananas are already somewhat sweet by the time they're over-ripe enough to require baking, so use what feels right to you. I haven't tried this with egg replacer but as it depends on whipped eggs for some lightness it might be a good place to try out aquafaba (bean liquid). Again, I haven't done that, so you're experimenting alone . Do let me know if you try it though. 

When the bread comes out of the oven it feels soft to the point of collapse, so definitely give it some time to cool in the pan and firm up a bit before removing it to a rack for complete cooling. 

You Will Need:

1/4 cup corn oil (or any other neutral oil you prefer)

1/3 cup Swerve brown sugar replacement

4 large eggs at room temperature

1 1/2 cups (about, you don't need to be exact) roughly mashed bananas

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon or mixed spice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups fine ground almond flour (you don't want the one called, "almond meal" as it will be too heavy).

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a sandwich loaf pan with parchment or grease and flour. An 8-9 inch pan is best, but if all you have is a larger one, go for it, your loaf will just be shorter. Only small pans? Use two. I'm a flexible baker. Did you know you could even use a casserole dish, or a soufflĂ© dish? Oven-proof pot? Yep, you can use that too. Baking times are approximate anyway, so it is a good habit to check your baking as it goes. 

In a big bowl, combine the oil and sugar. If you're using Swerve it won't break up and dissolve like regular sugar but don't panic-it will all get mixed in and melted in the baking. Dump the eggs in all at once and with a hand mixer (or a strong arm) beat on high until the eggs are lighter and everything starts to look a bit thicker. It doesn't need to ribbon, but get it good and mixed up as this will give the loaf volume.

Beat in the bananas, baking powder, baking soda. spices, salt, and vanilla extract. With a wooden spoon, gently mix in the almond flour. Somewhere between stirring and folding, but be gentle with it.

Pour your batter into the pans and bake about an hour depending on the size of your pan. It will look darker than a regular banana bread because of the almond flour, but you still need to test it with a toothpick to see if it is too wet inside. If it is browning too much for your tastes, cover it lightly with a sheet of foil as it finishes baking. 

Cool in the pan on a rack for 10-15 minutes before removing from the pan to a rack if you used butter and flour on the pan, otherwise lift the parchment lined loaf out to a rack, and cool completely before slicing. Store tightly wrapped in wax paper. 

This lasted about three days at room temperature because they ate it all! Makes a great breakfast with cream cheese or the non-dairy variety. Tightly wrapped it should last even longer given how much oil and fruit is in it. If you like very thin slices, chill the loaf first, then warm up the slices on a plate at room temperature. I find a serrated knife makes easy work of slicing a soft quick bread. 

Now that everyone's fed, I have a couple of outfits to share. Standard Content Warning about illness and weight loss, so feel free to click away if that's best for you. I want you to feel safe at my blog, so head's up. 

I bought this skirt about a year ago, but rarely wear it because it is so heavy. That rules out summer wear, which is when I tend to appreciate this sort of style. The weather and wardrobe gods got themselves aligned this week and I was able to wear this spectacular piece. 
The eagle-eyed might notice I'm wearing a pair of house shoes colloquially referred to as, "Scuffs." These are by slipper maker Daniel Green, beloved of nanas and nursing home residents across America. It wasn't always so. Vintage Daniel Green slippers are often adorned with feathers, satin, and could "almost" pass for shoes. During the war when shoes were rationed and slippers were not, many a bride walked down the aisle in a pair of Daniel Green's (and then wore them to the reception). These were unworn when I found them in the thrift store, but they're not vintage. My vintage gold scuffs finally bit the dust a couple of years ago. They're very comfortable, and sturdy. I'm not being compensated by the company, but I do love their products. I would even splash out to buy these new. 

The chain link belt was something I bought new around 1980 at The Limited. A belt like that never really goes out of style, though at the time I think it was trying to be retro for the 60s. The handbag was thrifted, though I've long since forgotten where. 
Both the skirt and the boots are recent finds, and the first wear for both. The wool cardigan gets worn year after year, but is also thrifted. 
The boots were in good condition. At some point I might want to get better insoles, but so far they're comfortable. They're leather, and well made. 
There's a better look at the cardigan, though I had to over-expose the photo to show the details. Black is so hard to photograph. 
A cherry print skirt that isn't horribly twee is a rarity, so I  grabbed it. It is a bit big (okay, about two sizes too big) but between pinning the waist and a belt, I don't think it is obvious. I'm hoping I'll eventually grow back into it. 
I brought out the cherry brooch for an odd off-season wearing. I also put on some lipstick and attempted to style what's left of my hair. Not too bad, if I don't say so myself.

I'm off to the dentist tomorrow, and while I don't expect too much issue from the tooth (it needs a crown) I'm always a bit leery of being leaned backwards for an hour as it seems to set my dizziness/nausea stuff into gear. I don't have much else planned for the next couple of days, just to be safe. 

Dan took his exams today and said it felt like it went well. He won't know the results for a few weeks, but fingers crossed it all went as well as he thinks. Now he needs to focus on finishing out the rest of the year. 

We're expecting snow (again) tomorrow, but I'm going guess it won't stick around long at this time of year. That's my hope anyway. 

See you next time. 

Saturday, March 19, 2022

No Recipe Required and a Couple of Rare Outfits


After a week of dealing with a cold that was surprisingly worse than expected (I took 2 covid tests because I just couldn't believe a cold could make me that sick) I was a bit out of place when I finally wandered back into the kitchen. Mr. ETB had been cooking (and shopping) so it was a surprise to open the fridge and see a bag of Brussels sprouts. They're expensive here, bordering on luxury item, but he'd managed to find a good sale. 

Looking around, there was half a packet of nitrate free turkey bacon, which is still not exactly good for you, but less bad than the stuff loaded with preservatives. Well that decided it, and with the addition of some carrots and red onion, it made a quick sautĂ© to serve over farro.  Most of the time, that's how I cook. There was just enough left over for Mr. ETB to take for his lunch the next day. 

I'm still somewhat weak from the cold, but so thankful it wasn't flu or covid, both of which are still circulating in Omaha. We all caught it to varying degrees, but I was the only one sick enough to stay in bed. As soon as I'm completely over it, I'm off for my fourth dose of covid vaccine (second booster) unless they change the advice yet again. 

Dan is taking his college entrance exam next week. They take it Junior year so if they crash and burn there's still time for a re-take next year. I hope that doesn't happen. He took a test preparation class and feels confident. Fingers crossed. He's still planning to attend school in Belgium so I guess if the recent situation hasn't put him off Europe, that's good. Interesting time to study International Relations! Not sure what's going to happen with the trip to France this spring, but hopefully the covid numbers will go back down again. They're scheduled to go in early June. I don't know how he's suddenly old enough to be doing all these things, it feels like he was just a colicky newborn that did nothing but scream and throw up. Now he's moving to Europe. Probably. 

I wasn't going to post photos of my outfit, but Mr. ETB was so impressed with how well the dress and handbag matched, I'm going to go ahead and do it, but with the warning to click away if looking at me right now would be upsetting. I absolutely understand. 

That is a good match! The dress is a stretchy jersey thing with the most absurd wrapping feature...
I'm not convinced the ties add much but I can flap them like wings, which is fun. Obviously my standards for what constitutes, "fun" have sunk rather low. 

I was already coming down with a cold when I snapped this photo. The sweater is much brighter than I typically go for, but I liked it. Much as I'd like to think winter is over, I know better. We were treated to a lovely, warm sunny day today which was nice. 
This was today's outfit. The vintage dress is made of a lightweight nylon that was too sheer to wear alone, so I've also got a full slip on beneath it. I knew that navy blue slip would come in handy eventually. I bought the dress at a bargain price because it was falling apart. I made a few repairs and while not perfect, it is pretty good for what it is. It is a little too big right now, but eventually it will fit correctly. It would benefit from a structured bra, but my days of wearing those are over. 

 I will leave you with this game I spotted at Walgreens. As an anthropologist, I should point out that we don't actually know if Neanderthals had language. There's no reason to think they didn't, but poetry might be a stretch. At any rate, I'm not sure how I feel about a game that has you hit opponents with a stick, inflatable or not. Remember, Neanderthals were the ones with the big brains, not us. 

Only $19.99 😏
Have a good weekend.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Flageolets au Gratin- Gourmet Magazine February 1972


Before coming down with this cold (day 5ish? I've lost count but think I'm turning the corner for the better so, yay!) I made this bean dish for the boys. I haven't been cooking this week, but it looks like they've figured out ways to feed themselves, and I've detected actual cooking taking place in the kitchen. I'm not racing back to take over. 

My own meals have been of the soft/liquid variety complicated by not really being able to taste anything with a cold, a sore throat, and having zero appetite. I knew that would happen, so I've been doing things like whisking peanut butter into milk and making a dense, high calorie pudding with it. I read today about a way to get more calories into milk by fortifying it with powdered milk. I'm going to give that a try as well. Is eating straight sour cream gauche? I really dislike yoghurt, and Greek yoghurt seems to me just a way of eating straight sour cream for people that think they're too sophisticated to eat straight sour cream. It adds a lot of fat and calories and doesn't taste like something died and is decaying in my mouth. 

It is really hard to find good nutritional stuff for malnutrition that isn't directed at eating disorders. I was able to get better search results by looking for geriatric nutrition, and found that many of the dieticians working with that population have a better sense of feeding someone with chronic illness as the ageing population faces them with more regularity. I am finding THIS site helpful, if you're in need of similar help, or know someone that is.  Also, who the hell am I kidding? By medical definition I am "an older person" even if I'm not quite elderly. So that's humbling. I'm past " middle age" by CDC definition. Throw in some bad dental work (a bridge that never felt right), a dry mouth, autoimmune disease, dysphagia, medications that destroy my stomach, appendectomy complications, and pretty soon I was seeing myself in post after post about malnutrition in the ageing population. Thankfully, there's some great information that doesn't rely on, "Drink a protein supplement which has more or less been the guidance I'm getting." I'm doing that too as they're beneficial, but I'd like to have actual food occasionally , even if it has been pureed. 
Anyway, I'm looking forward to trying out some of the recipes and in the meantime, eating as much sour cream as my body will let me. Which is, I suspect, quite a lot.

Back to the main post.

Flageolets are stupid expensive in Nebraska and usually rather old as they aren't popular here, so I went with some beautiful Navy beans I'd recently purchased from the hippie health food store. They're a small white bean native to the Americas also known as, "pea beans." Why are they called Navy Beans? Because American sailors have been eating them as a staple food since the 1800s (I didn't know that. That's from Wikipedia). They're the bean typically found in baked beans. These were dried, but hardly any were split, and looking at the bag I got the sense they hadn't been on the shelf long. I don't know what it says about me as a person that I get excited by dried beans. 

I made a few changes from the recipe by soaking them overnight with half a teaspoon of bicarb in the water. Does it help, or is it cooking superstition? I couldn't say, but much like the old wives tale about not adding salt to the cooking water of dried beans there have been just as many articles written to debunk it as there have in been in favour. I don't add the salt until later. If it doesn't make a difference then, so what? Is it harming anyone? People fight about the silliest thing online, but beans really don't need to be one of them. Do what feels correct for you. I'll post the recipe as written also noting I used whole, tinned tomatoes for the recipe because there are no fresh tomatoes in Nebraska at this time of year that you'd want to eat. I also used a dairy free heavy cream made from fava bean protein and oil that worked beautifully. So many of those are coconut based which will impart a slight flavour, but the bean one (I use Silk heavy whipping "cream" and it really does whip!) works without any issues. I also used a vegan margarine. 

I would say it was successful. The boys both enjoyed it served the first night with fish and roasted vegetables, and the second night I took the leftover beans and served them with roast chicken. For the third night I had about 1 cup of chicken and a few servings of the beans left so I fried a few pieces of turkey bacon, added some broth to thin it down, and threw the leftovers over chickpea pasta. No waste! You might not get three nights off of these beans, but I am told they just kept getting better night after night. 

Flageolets au Gratin:

In a large bowl, soak 2 cups of dried flageolets in water to cover overnight. Drain the beans and put them in a heavy casserole with one onion stuck with 2 cloves and a bouquet garni composed of 6 sprigs of parsley, 1 garlic clove, unpeeled, 1 bay leaf, and 2 sprigs of thyme (I adjusted with dried). Add enough water to cover the beans by an inch (I did more) and 1 tablespoon salt (I skipped the salt) and bring the liquid to a boil. Skim off the froth, lower the heat, and simmer the beans for 1 1/2 hours or until they are tender. Discard the bouquet garni and onion. 

In a skillet, sautĂ© 1 onion finely minced, in 2 tablespoons butter until it is soft. Add 2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut into strips and 1 garlic clove, crushed. Simmer the mixture for 5 minutes. Add 1 cup chicken broth and 1/2 cup heavy cream and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the flageolets, mix them in gently, and season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer mixture to  a buttered, shallow gratin dish, sprinkle it well with bread crumbs (it didn't specify but I did fresh) and dot it with 2 tablespoons softened butter. 

Bake the dish in a hot oven (375 degrees F) for 30 minutes or until it is hot and the crumbs are browned. Sprinkle the dish with chopped parsley (didn't have parsley so I used chervil). 

The cover is from the story on the Amalfi Coast. What a delight it would have been to subscribers finding this magazine in their mailbox in February of 1972. 

Our expected blizzard never came, but it did get cold and windy. Next week the temperatures will rival early summer. I'm not going anywhere, but I'm also not packing away all the winter items just yet. We've had snow flurries in May. I sincerely hope this will not be one of those springs. 

I'll leave you with perhaps my favourite Tumblr meme

Hang onto your hats, it fucken wimdy out there. 

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

Some Gourmet Magazine Covers

 Since everyone seemed to enjoy the last recipe, I went through the archives and dug out some photos of Gourmet Covers to share. 

I'm presently on day four of the cold from hell (not covid) that was just sniffles for Dan but is kicking my behind and everything else. I'm actually staying in bed-because I can't keep upright longer than it takes to get to the toilet. This is why I've been so afraid of catching covid, or flu, or anything else. No idea how this slipped through the masks we all wear, but it did. After two years of not being sick with anything viral I'm also reminded just how awful colds can be. I feel like every tooth in my head is about to fall out. We have a snowstorm coming tonight, but it will be in the 60s (F) in a few days so not much to concern ourselves with there. Dan has a four-day break from school so he can stay home and watch the snowflakes fall. He'll probably sleep through it. 

I'm going to revisit some of the recipes as well. I have one for beans that I made last week (upcoming post) that might be enjoyable.