A friend of mine who moved here a few years ago posted a picture on Facebook of her toddler reaching up into a thicket of green leaves (her tree looks much younger than mine) for a big, juicy-looking lemon.
The California life. Her relatives back where it’s cold and snowy commented in ways one might imagine, and I was recounting this to Michelle when she got home, telling her my own crack about, “When life gives you lemons, make–”
“–lemon meringue pie!” she grinned.
“Is that an offer?”
And so tomorrow we shall bake.
(Back to Glenn Stewart’s book. His friend was scooping up sleeping pigeons in the dark from city billboards in the early days of the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group to feed the raptors they were trying to nurse back from near-extinction on a nearly-zero budget–and found himself surrounded by a swat team. The man does have a story to tell!)
With the help of a dairy-free maple doughnut
One other thing about Saturday: after the oven shopping, Richard thought, and I happily agreed, that, hey, it would be cool to go for an ice cream about now.
This is a rare impulse for us.
We had no idea where such a shop might be in the town we were in and neither of us felt like walking through the mall that was back thataway.
I fiddled with my phone a moment–how do you get Siri to come up again? I’d been able to hear her in the Verizon store’s demo when I bought the phone, but in real life, not so much. And Siri doesn’t come with closed captions. (Wait. If she actually does, tell me quick!)
But I knew how to get to the local Whole Foods from where we were and so we headed there for some single-serving Ben and Jerry’s. Not quite the same, but. Happened to pass a frozen yogurt shop on the way, actually, but didn’t pull in there but just kept going. Huh.
Found a cart out of habit, and, walking in the door, while Richard turned left towards the freezers I found myself turning right into the bakery section–I realized afterwards in order to have a moment to observe out of the corner of my eye before deciding. Reached for a vegan doughnut to bring home to Michelle, put it in my cart, found I did have the courage by that point, and went back a few steps left and stopped a man a moment.
A new veteran, was my guess. Maybe thirty at most. Not much past the entryway but standing in place, staring at the store laid out before him. Tall, muscular,Â close-cropped hair, with a hard-looking face fiercely clenching an unlit cigar in angry defiance of all the preppy-health-obsessed-self-righteous-overprivileged-lifestyle and sticker shock that Whole Paycheck can be to some. (Though it’s great for people with food allergies.)
And coming from his hand was a cane with four very small walker feet at the bottom, like a child’s toy of the grandpa’s version. The cane itself, though, was an unexpectedly beautiful piece of woodwork for something with such a Medicare-suggesting end.
Mine, though nowhere near as nice as his, was carved and stained in two colors of varnished wood candycaning around each other. With the usual thick ugly black rubber tip.
I lifted it a little and looked up into his eyes, and because of what was in my hand, he was willing to meet mine.
“If you’ve got to use’em, might as well be a nice one,” and I complimented him on the woodwork in his.
His face changed entirely. He almost laughed but for that cigar he wasn’t about to let fall.
I don’t know who he was. I knew in my bones he needed that moment and that that’s why we had had to go there, and so, turns out I needed that moment too and didn’t even know it till afterwards.
Frogged my shoe, too
“Oh, something smells good!” as he climbed in the car.
For a long time, I’ve had good reasons not to sign up.
But the clipboard came around again at church after I’d gotten several days of political-group emails talking about a national volunteer day.Â I’ve never been one to run with a crowd so I picked my own day but it just felt like time to step up.
It was for the Ronald McDonald House families by Stanford Hospital. I talked to the coordinator about how to pull this off. Walking with a large full heavy pot of sloshing soup with a cane in one hand and lousy balance while trying not to spend any time in the sun while needing to drop the soup off in not the late but the early part of the afternoon–it was going to be interesting.Â She was delighted to have a new volunteer and assured me there was a handicapped spot right by the door; just check in at the desk and surely they’d be glad to help carry.
And so this morning I chopped two heads of celery, some big red and yellow peppers, a couple of onions, a good handful of seedless red grapes cut in half–don’t miss those–a whole lot of chicken broth, I cut up a no-nitrates ham steak, added two pounds of split peas, rinsed first. Simmer. Stir!
My dutch oven was very full. I got up and stirred it every couple of minutes for two and a half hours, partly to make sure it never got up to a big boil–there was just no room. I was supposed to bring enough for 16 people, but given how much there was IÂ only felt a little guilty for scooping a bit out for Richard and Michelle.
Split pea soup is a favorite around here but it was also on the list of foods I got told to my great regret not to eat anymore post-op. I do, actually, but only a few spoonfuls, watered down with lots of fluids.
I am so glad I saved their part out.
The little boy had just gotten out of the elementary school up the street and was clearly enjoying the speed of his bike. He was alone. He was careening through the pedestrian island where the main road crosses his and it was clear he wasn’t going to be able to stop in time–I slammed hard on the brakes. The guy behind me slammed his.
Nobody hit the kid. Or anyone else, either.
But what was–I glanced down when I felt safely well past him, and there was what turned out to be half of that pot of soup splashed across the floor.
It wasn’t till I got to the Ronald McDonald house that I was able to fully assess the damage: the carpet was just the start. Part of the dash, the center console, my right shoe, the little lever thingy to pull the seat forward and back, behind there–and yet somehow there was still more soup in that pot.
I went to the check-in desk and got a very helpful woman who brought a cart and towels: no need to carry that pot in, and there, put the towels on the bottom tray when you’re done. She hovered, wanting to help, but the passenger side floor of a Prius is a one-woman operation.
I gave it up for the sun exposure of it, not explaining more than, I’ll finish this at home, thank you so much for the towels and the help! The moral support especially is what I really meant.
We walked through what turned out to be a beautiful building, very well designed as a healing place for families of sick children. Into the kitchen. There was a row of crockpots waiting, and I wished for a smaller one but was surprised at how much of my offering still, after all that, went into that big thing. Loaves and fishes!
Back at the car, I smiled wryly. It ain’t easy being green.
I posted something brief on Facebook, and a local friend (thank you Suzi!) mentioned that the car-washing place over thataway will do a carpet shampoo and shopvac in a small area after a spill. Good.Â The little boy is okay, that’s what matters most; I can only pray that the little ones of the families staying where I took the soup to will be, too.
I picked Richard up from work and his comment as he got in the car made it instantly clear that this was a dinner he was going to thoroughly enjoy. And somehow that, too, made it all worthwhile.
And even after I dropped half the rest of it on my other foot Michelle got some after she got off work late. Ooh, Mom! Split pea soup!
(With a p.s. for Phyllis: your plates of cookies I delivered sat demurely on the seat the whole time and showed that green stuff down there How It’s Done. They were fine.)
Read. The. (insert unprintable mother-bear growl) LABELS.
Sam’s roommate surprised her with the scarf she’d made while waiting with her at the hospital. She’s just the best.
Sam ended up in the ICU last night.
And Sam was at long last discharged from the hospital tonight after she was able to keep the beginnings of food down and her platelets had gone slightly up–with a long way to go, but it’s a start.
Y’know, it works a whole lot better when the hospital isn’t serving you broth with gluten in it and then wondering why the patient who can’t eat wheat is suddenly a lot worse.
A huge thank you to everybody for your much-needed prayers and good thoughts her way. (Long, long exhale.) Phew.
Milk Pail‘s fresh almond paste has a higher almond and lower sugar content than the stuff in tubes elsewhere; amount will be random, but aim for the .5 to .7 lb range slab. Cut it up a bit and Cuisinart it with 2/3, or, if you like it sweeter, 3/4 c sugar, 3 eggs, 1 tsp almond extract, long and hard, then add in 1/4 c flour (of the type of your choice, I imagine, though with Sam gone home I just used plain old plain old) mixed with a tsp of baking powder. 8″ springform pan 35 min at 350. A near-instant recipe.
Michelle wheedled and threw Bambi eyes at me when I got home from Purlescence tonight and then pounced the moment it was cool enough to unlock the pan. No added fats, unlike the original Fanny Farmer version. Eggs and almonds and no allergic reactions, hey, guys, save some for breakfast.
And while I was at knit night…
Nathania got everybody’s attention: Pamela had had an idea and they’d thought it was a great one. Since the shop had moved into its bigger space (in the same shopping center), they’d had this big white bare wall. Purlescence has always tried to offer a sense of community to all who love to work with yarn as they do; Pamela’s idea was that we could all pitch in and create a community wall of–knitting, weaving, crocheting, tatting, you name it. Square, round, funky, big, little, Nathania asked, whatever appealed to you: like some of the get-well afghans out there (boy did I feel proud and happy and blessed by so many friends and lucky all over again as she said that) and then they would move the furniture out of the way of our knitting-group area and sit and piece together whatever comes in the door with this idea. Put a piece of yourself up on display with everybody else’s. Let’s make ourselves a giant wallhanging, a permanent display of who we are in our community.
My one request, she continued, is that it be purple. Your purple, or your purple (gesturing to one person, then another) or yours, or mine, whatever appeals to you and whatever you define as purple.
And it needs to be done by Stitches.
There are several celiacs in that knitting group. Maybe I could make some almond cakes with Bob’s Red Mill safely non-wheat flour to help celebrate when this big project is done. Pass the purple blackberry/raspberry sauce and dig in!
Homemade sweet chestnut puree
Wednesday January 02nd 2013, 11:48 pm
Filed under: Food
Michelle took John to the airport this morning, and with a touch of bittersweet we are three again.
But I’m still playing in the kitchen. I just finished this a few minutes ago.
I had a 20 oz bag of roasted, peeled chestnuts from Costco and a recipe (oh. wait. that’s not the link. here, try this) calling for 12 oz. So I upped the sugar by a third, figuring a bit less proportionately is good–and it certainly came out sweet enough.
So here’s what I did. I boiled three cups of water, a cup and a half of sugar, and all 20 oz of chestnuts for 35 minutes, figuring I might as well go for the longest time since I had more of the ingredients, turning the heat down a bit after the start but still boiling.Â Cooled it some, added a tsp of vanilla, then dumped it all straight in the Cuisinart and whirled a long time. It was almost too thick for it, and I let the machine rest several times to keep it from overheating.
Somehow the taste was as if there were a bit of dates in there. Curious. It was pretty good, but then I spread some of it across some very thin, crisp ginger cookies Trader Joe’s sells, a combination that would have ended our supply of those pretty quickly–it was *very* good. Totally sells the chestnuts. Richard’s face lit up, too.
But what suddenly stopped me from eating a third was my tongue suddenly feeling like it was burning in spots. More so than that I-am-just-imagining-this of yesterday with the cream puffs. I Googled for nut allergy reactions. I so was not expecting this.
I’m still not sure, and if I am reacting then it’s certainly not on the level that that allergy site was talking about, but neither am I going to mess with this before calling my doctor. I had a reaction to dried rambutan (also from TJ’s) that had my mouth suddenly on fire and my throat closing nearly shut a few years ago while I gasped for breath–scary stuff.Â A cousin of lychees, and I like lychees, but I’ll never touch them again.
I am quietly putting that spread away in the fridge as soon as I finish typing this. Hmm.
Maple creamed my dinner
Wholly (non-) cow was this good!
Michelle’s friend Jenny came over: they have an annual tradition of baking something scrumptious and unusual together in our kitchen over the holidays. Everybody looks forward to it.
Michelle loves making cream puffs but had had a hard time coming up with a dairy-free version that didn’t make us all wish she could eat cream and butter like the rest of us.
And so. I don’t know what they did differently re the puffs themselves, but they were crisp and perfect and what they had always aspired to be. But the filling! Chestnut puree made into a thick–they called it pudding, but that doesn’t quite do it justice. It did not soggyify the puffs even after a few hours together in the fridge.
“Mom! I thought you didn’t like chestnuts!”
I didn’t even remember that nor know if it had been true– “It’s been so long since I’ve had any,” I answered. But THIS! Wow!
I’d had a little bottle of maple butter long hoarded away, ie, simply, maple syrup cooked further down, and they’d mixed that up to top the things off with. I’m not normally a big icing fan–who needs random straight sugar covering up good-tasting food?–but paired with that chestnut, this was a revelation. I’d never had anything like it.
“Did you use a–is there a written-down rendition of what you guys did?” I asked her. “I want those again!”
“Well, sort of,” she said; Jenny was going to get back to her with it.
Meantime, Costco had shelled, peeled, roasted, all-the-work-done chestnuts for $4-something a 20 oz bag and we have a bag. The next stage in the experimentation will be with making our own sweetened puree rather than the tube that Jenny had brought over, and I am running back to that store tomorrow before it’s all gone post-holidays.
And I’m clearly going to be ordering more of that maple butter. (Actually, after typing that, just did, a pound and a half, since the extra half pound wasn’t going to cost any extra shipping charges.)
Remember that weight that doctor wanted me to gain? Well now.
Rolling in the dough
Saturday December 22nd 2012, 12:04 am
Filed under: Family
Michelle wanted to make gingersnaps: make the dough, roll thin, refrigerate, wait.
What I didn’t know was, she’d bought a cherry-blossom cookie cutter in Japan and so she just showed me the finished cookie sheet covered in dozens of tiny little cherry blossoms (even if not exactly pink), ready to pop in the oven; a conversation followed of cherry blossom festivals and of my childhood memories of the magnificent trees around the Washington DC tidal basin, a gift from the Japanese.
Meantime, the computer is just not cooperating with the newly-arrived Parker pictures tonight, so I tried trouble-shooting with this old photo–which did work, and then it was just too cute to put back on the shelf when I didn’t have anything else that would show up.
Elmo’s his favorite these days, but Cookie Monster’s right up there.
Oh, and: how a dirty diaper saved Christmas night and my cousin’s house.
What comes round goes round
The phone rang about five minutes ago. At this hour? I wondered. (Actually, not, I need to fix that time stamp that didnâ€™t change with the daylight savings change last month.)
â€œThis is your daughter,â€ pronounced She Who Can Hear Across The House (but is toiling away on a tight work deadline), â€œdo you want to take the cookies out of the oven? Theyâ€™ve been beeping for awhile.â€
I had made them to help lighten her load a bit for the evening. Theyâ€™re a little more golden around the edges than they might have been. Perfect.
Almond Meringue cookies
Mix 1 1/2 c almond meal (thank you Trader Joeâ€™s) with 1 1/2 c powdered sugar, set aside. Whip three egg whites till they hold a stiff peak, fold in the almond/sugar mixture. Tablespoonfuls onto parchment paper on top of a baking sheet, bake at 350 forâ€“well, it was supposed to be 15-18 minutes. And yes you can just use a heavily-greased cookie sheet, but with these, parchment paper really is the way to go.
If you want, dip these in melted bittersweet chocolate and then refrigerate.
The funny thing about these is that my daughter once asked my friend Miriam for her almond cookie recipe and Miriam, bemused, answered, Theyâ€™re your momâ€™s recipe.
Good and fast and healthy (not to mention addictive.) Enjoy!
Happy Dozens Day!
I signed up for freecycle.org awhile ago to give away something, and so now I get the local posts in my inbox.Â So it happened that one caught my eye last night: someone had a tree full of Hachiya persimmons, my favorite type, and was looking to give them away.
You can find the hard Fuyu ones in the stores but the fragile, very-soft-when-ripe Hachiyas, not so much. I love them but my husband does not and so we do not grow our own.
I waited hours to let others go first.Â And then I sent off a note, saying that I remembered the days when my children were young and my food budget tight but that was not the case anymore; please put me in the back of the line, but if there were a few left after that, then I would love.
When the man responded, his name showed up in the email; there was plenty, and he would love me to have some, answered Eric.
While I was thinking, wait, are you…!?
I decided to take the plunge: are you Walt’s son? (I could not remember having ever met him, just Walt bragging on his kids and grandkids happily.)
He answered in the morning: yes, I am.
I adore your parents! I told him. Small world.
I offered to come pick up the fruit but he asked for my address. Shortly after, my doorbell rang and I opened the door.
And then we both stood there in surprised delight. I *have* met you once before! I thought. What a good man from such a good family!
He had the same wait–I’ve seen you before, I’m sure of it! look on his face, though I don’t know that we’ve ever actually had a conversation before. He asked for a box and I grabbed a mixing bowl from the kitchen; he opened his trunk and filled it up, then asked if he could give me more and filled a second large bowl. He assured me there was plenty for everybody. Pointing to the tree down the street that was all winter-nakedness with bright orange dreidel shapes hanging, he said his tree was even bigger than that one (and it was a good size.)
I told him those neighbors, after they’d moved in, had asked around what on earth to do with all those and I had told them, Call Second Harvest Food Bank; their volunteers will pick them, clean up the drops, and put the crop to very good use. “But I haven’t had the chutzpah to knock on their door and ask for a few for me,” I laughed, grateful for his. There is nothing in the world like a homegrown Hachiya persimmon, something I had to move to California to experience.
Wait–there was that one time they were giving out samples in New Hampshire of this new shipment of exotic fruit, only, they didn’t know the difference between the two types and the woman was sawing off rock-hard pieces of the very unripe, very astringent Hachiyas. I, uh, don’t think they sold too many.
Eric so enjoyed my anticipation. He mentioned a site with persimmon recipes, and afterwards I looked it up and then some more and emailed him that I was intrigued by the jam idea. He wondered if I might share a jar with him if/when I do?
Ever since, I’ve been thinking, Hurry up and ripen, you guys, c’mon, I’ve got me some jam to give back. I can’t wait!
Monday December 10th 2012, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Food
The first batch of chocolate tortes in thanks to those who gave us all those rides to and from the airport is now cooling on the counter. Ganache shall commence in the morning, and then doorbell ditching (but only if they’re home, since they need to be kept refrigerated when not being eaten.)
I’m not sure how but I forgot to mention the honey.
Lynn, the friend who took me to the Madeline Tosh shop, gifted me before we parted with a jar of orange honey that had come from her late mother-in-law. I’ve wondered if there was a story behind it–did she have hives? Orange trees? And did I mention to Lynn that the fresh orange juice we bought in Ft Worth was better than any we have had this yearÂ in California? There was this surprised moment of, Wow, that’s good. The $8 a gallon organicÂ stuff at Costco doesn’t begin to touch it–Texas does oranges right. (And Dallas Fort Worth airport very, very badly–the GPS kept trying to steer us onto former roads that were now concrete crumbles, to chained-across no-man’s lands; we spent an hour in long circles trying to get to the car rental return in the dark alongside a few other wanderers just as lost. The place is city-sized unto its construction-mangled self.)
But enough of the whine. It was so good to spend time with those we hold dear.
And Lynn’s honey was as exquisite as the oranges it came from. I had to put down the computer, typing that, to go sneak another twirled-forkful.
A piece of the pie
Helpful hints for your significant others: qiviut blend yarns starting at $9.95/25 g/200 yards of laceweight, very soft stuff, and this giveaway on cottagecraftangora’s blog. Way more fun than beating back the crowds at Crazed-Mart.
We got a note today from the friend who, a little to my (albeit grateful) surprise given my recent flu, had invited the two of us for Thanksgiving, even after finding out Richard had had a fever on Sunday: her email said carefully, tentatively that she’d found her daughter had invited a friend who had a newborn. How was Richard doing?
He’s fine, I told her, I’m the one that hasn’t entirely shaken my germs off. I told her not to feel guilty; keeping a newborn healthy was far more important–just like I like people who are sick to stay away from my immunocompromised self. It was the right thing to do.
So here it was Wednesday. He and I looked at each other and I decided I felt better than he did–I wasn’t the one who got up in the middle of the night to drive to the airport.
Trader Joe’s it was: cranberry-stuffed turkey breast, which will leave us with plenty of the obligatory leftovers. Pecan pie for me, am absolute must, pumpkin for him, the only real Thanksgiving pie as far as he was concerned. Frozen gratin greens, totally cheating boxed turkey gravy and scalloped potatoes–and a sugar pumpkin for the sake of the possibility of homemade. There you go: Thanksgiving dinner for the energy-impaired. Bake an hour-ish. Boil a bag of cranberries and a cup of sugar and a cup of water (or orange juice) for one minute if we want sauce.
And since pecan pie is not necessary for the real dinner as far as he was concerned, we didn’t have to wait to try it.
In the time of the dreaded Twinkie-epoch-collapse
I can’t vouch for these, but the picture looks good and with that much sugar and butter you can’t go too wrong. Here you go: make your own Twinkies. (For those who haven’t heard, the market share of the Hostess ones had been going down for years and at the workers’ strike the company declared it the end.)
And then there was this article, while I was looking for the Newsweek one I read a few years ago. Ingredients mined in Idaho. Fourteen of 20 top industrial chemicals. Yum. Note the January date as it says that Hostess had just filed for bankruptcy.
And now I need to go cast off that shawl. (Edited to add: done!)
Dodging that bullet
Thursday November 08th 2012, 9:58 pm
Filed under: Food
I bought a rotisserie chicken last Saturday, kept it in the coldest part of the fridge, and today plunked what was left of it in a pot and boiled it down.Â Chicken soup. (Michelle was home sick too.) Actually, Richard would have been happy to do it for me; he worked from home in case we needed anything but I had this decisive toddler moment as I opened the fridge door of, me dooz it.
I kept thinking if I just go knit something, too, I’d be energized for sure, but I haven’t quite made it there yet. Eh.Â It’ll come. The Crohn’s early-warning flare that hit with this flu seems almost over, and for that I am very very grateful. Pass the soup. And thank you, everybody.