Feed His sheep
Sunday January 24th 2021, 11:37 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Finished a hat last night.

One thing said in church today was that in this time of so much isolation, write someone a note. Reach out.

And so a note showed up on the doorstep next door, thanking the neighbor for opening the door to my daughter at 11:00 at night so that we could retrieve our groceries that had been dumped there, and with the note, a plate of homemade biscotti by said daughter. Who took great delight in going over there again, and then in anticipating their coming home to the surprise.

They were gone all day. They called to tell us that that plate of excellent cookies had been devoured the moment they’d walked in the door.

Second thing said in church today: one of the members had splurged on some food that was to be a particular treat for the husband, who’s been working covid cases in the ICU for long, long hours–but it got stolen off their porch.

The first reaction was anger and upset; the second was, but what if it was because someone is hungry? Because there are a lot of people going hungry right now. She tried to do a little something about it.

The end result was–well, it made the local paper.

And now excuse me, I’ve got me some more note writing to do while there’s a little time left in the day.



Over on the coast
Saturday January 23rd 2021, 11:31 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Were they open? Yes they were, for pickups and deliveries. No the pandemic had not done them in. Hallelujah. So let’s help them stay that way.

There’s a week-long storm rolling in and you do not want to drive Highway 17’s twisty steep narrow mountain passage in the rain and next Saturday looks like a really bad idea. But today was going to be dry and the fire-damaged trees haven’t fallen across it–yet.

I grabbed a hat project that had a second ball of Mecha for the next one in the bag because you never know, right, and we headed out to the car.

I did not knit a stitch. I wasn’t going to miss a moment of seeing every moment of every sight out of sight of the house. (Wow that reservoir is low for January.) We have now been in quarantine for a solid year here.

To Mutari Chocolates in Santa Cruz. Where a dairy allergy is taken good care of and the small-batch chocolate is the very best. It’s a splurge we try to do a few times a year, and the daughter is here for the moment, so, of course.

The hot chocolate.

The chocolate covered orange rinds that are her absolute favorite.

The wild Bolivian bars were mine.

The wild bay laurel truffles we tried were…different, and curious, but declared good.

I confess we did not try the douglas fir truffles. I decorate Christmas trees, I don’t eat them.

Chicken.



Pandemic kitchen soup
Friday January 15th 2021, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Recipes

A box of chicken stock, a stalk of celery, green onions, let simmer while deciding what they want to be when they grow up. A little extra virgin California Organic olive oil (insert long lecture about how the Feds allow adulterated and lesser grades to be labeled EVOO but California’s grandfathered law requiring California Organic EVOO to be exactly that means that if you buy Californian-grown and organic and extra-virgin olive oil, that specific combination on the label, then you know you got what you paid for.

And it is revelatory if you are new to such.

Apollo‘s varietals are the best I’ve found. It’s like the difference between freshly grated real parmesan cheese and the (delete the phrase hamster bedding) that shakes out of the green can.

Hey, when you live this close to where so much of the country’s food is produced for so long it rubs off on you. Last I saw the baby artichokes 10/$1 sign was still up along the coast.

A few shakes of gumbo file powder for thickener and flavor.

Hmm, a half hour of simmering later, how about a good long squeeze of Costco Californian tomato paste in a tube. We’ve seen those trucks in the Central Valley, stuffed bottom to top with tomatoes and a few red bombs flying off the back (don’t get too close) and splatting on the road behind them as they go. A few bounce. We saw no pallets, no divisions, and no covers (I bet that’s changed now), just open beds piled high like a giant heaping tablespoon of a truckload.

That’s what I always picture when I see tomato paste.

A half package of frozen okra, stir, and let it simmer another half hour.

Here’s where my mom goes, You’re finally eating okra? On purpose?

Then take a small package of precooked Teton Ranch beef sausage links out of the freezer, in my case, which adds a little pepper to it too, or ham, chicken, whatever floats your boat, slice and throw it in and let it keep going till the meat is nice and warm.

Dish and sprinkle grated fresh parmesan on the servings, not in the pot, because there might be some leftovers (there was, though not a lot) and Michelle’s driving down from Washington State for a visit and it would be nice to be able to hand her something dairy-free and good within a minute when she walks in the door tomorrow after that very long drive.

I can’t wait.



Landlubber
Thursday January 07th 2021, 11:34 pm
Filed under: Food

Nope, no 25th yet.

Milk Pail is on vacation for five weeks, so I decided to try out the fishermen again who’ve teamed up with a few local farmers.

Oysters harvested Wednesday were on their list. I was curious. They were hand-delivered today and I realized I suddenly had to get serious about figuring out what to do with the little ocean geodes.

We hadn’t bought rock salt since making ice cream the hand-crank way when the kids were little and we replaced that with an electric one pretty early on, being, y’know, fast learners and all that.

The rock salt is to smush them into to hold them in place curvy side down so the juices don’t leak out. Oh. Huh. I ended up balancing them on each other just so, sort of like a preschooler experimenting with a tinkertoy set, wondering if I could move them into the oven without–whoops, try again.

On the third wobbly try I had them all on their backs facing upwards and I put a small rack across the top to keep them that way. It sorta/almost worked.

I remembered my mom once tackling a huge bag of mussels big enough to feed our family of eight when I was a kid and her telling me, if one is opened before you cook it you throw it away–that one’s dead and it could give you food poisoning. You check to make sure they’re shut tight.

These all looked shut tight to me.

The internet said in multiple places that you could just roast them in the oven at high heat and then the shells would pop right open.

Good, because we’re right out of oyster knives if I even knew what one looked like.

450F seven minutes and then you can have your still-raw oysters!

Uh…

Ten minutes. Checked. No popping open. Put it back in for another minute. As if. Then, what the heck, four more.

At that point it smelled wonderful and there were signs of bubbling juices so I figured they were done.

You know how many had cracked open?

One. A second one teased that it might. There were thirteen.

Well huh.

I went looking for a camping knife: I once bought a bunch of random mismatched silverware at Goodwill for not caring if a piece got left behind outside some tent somewhere. Turns out I’d long since let them go back to where they’d come from.

I had one dinner knife–Magnum Lauffer, no less, but still–whose handle had separated slightly from the blade, which I had long rued. It never fell apart but it never felt good in the hand. So that one was the victim, and I went at it.

Most of them actually opened without too much hassle. There were a couple where the oyster was bigger than its outer shell was letting on and they weren’t letting go that easily. I now understand whoever created oyster knives. I don’t *think* the very tip of that rounded blade was broken off before but it is now and I’m just glad no shards, not shell nor metal, hit me in the eye. But they tried. Yay glasses.

So were they way overcooked? I’d say the texture was actually pretty surprisingly perfect. And the flavor was as fresh as I’ve ever had.

Chewy seawater.

I’d order more, but I think next time Costco is going to do the work. Even if those jars won’t give me the shellfish stock that’s in the fridge waiting for tomorrow’s chowder.



The hand-dyed look
Friday January 01st 2021, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Food

I’m not a big sweets person but I’d still add a bit more sugar and a bit less salt to the recipe I linked to yesterday. But it was good and between us it’s half gone now.

I refrigerated it till it was just a bit cool, not cold, and then got impatient and turned it over and unmolded it unsure just how this was going to work at all when the edges curl in over the bottom of the cake but then it just did it all on its own, it felt like. That was easy!

When the local yarn stores can have gatherings again, when the pandemic is kicked out of here, we should definitely celebrate with yarn cakes. Lemon raspberry like this, chocolate, chocolate hazelnut; anybody’s favorite is good by me.

(Y’know? That last photo? Kind of looks like a relaxed Shar-pei curled up in its favorite spot.)



Cliffhanger year
Thursday December 31st 2020, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Food,Life

There’s this phenomenon where, when you’re driving, you have a tendency to steer towards what you’re looking at whether you intend to or not.

I’m guessing with the out-of-state plates that someone was in awe of the Pacific ocean laid out at last before her…and realized a moment too late to correct. (Don’t look if it’s too hard.) But the bumper in a pocket of the cliff suggests that bounces along the way down absorbed a lot of the momentum and saved her as she landed cushioned at last by the sandy beach. The tide had deposited just a bit more specifically there, waiting for the moment.

The road was a hundred feet above her but she lived and her injuries were deemed serious rather than critical. I so feel for her and wish I could do something to help her healing, an afghan to wrap herself in to know she is cared about, whoever she is, but then those who attended to her clearly did a great job in the way that was actually needed.

I guess those pictures for me stand in for all those we’ve prayed for this year, all those we’ve worried about, and in too many cases lost and grieved. We’ll be telling Brad’s koi story forever–and in his memory we have been relentlessly careful about sheltering in place.

The vaccines are coming.

The woman’s Prius (I have an old one too) will never drive again: but it got her through it.

2020 is an utter wreck and thank heavens it’s about to be hauled away into history. But for all of us still here, somehow it saw us through.

I wrote all that out, came away thinking, y’know, that’s a bit moody, but it’s been a pretty moody kind of a year–

–and went in the kitchen. Looked at that cheerful pan that’s been waiting for me to get out of the funk I hadn’t quite been admitting to myself. Looked at what I had in the fridge and freezer–raspberries, oh even better. Grated the yellow off a newly-ripened Meyer lemon from the back yard and smelled that beautiful scent of California winters, picked the bits out into the mixing bowl by running a toothpick between the sharp ridges again and again, with the feeling, let’s do this, let’s do this, let’s do this, keep going.

One lemon raspberry creme fraiche  yarn ball cake just came out of the oven, with 65 minutes being just right. (I never have creme fraiche in the fridge. It was my one Christmas ingredient for the year.) I’ll let it finish cooling. Then I can put it in the fridge to solidify the edges enough that I can peel it out of there in great hopes of being able to show it off here–it’ll taste good but I want it pretty, too, darnit, it’s got expectations to live up to.

Turns out the little splatters on the pan turn into crunchy enticing little bits that flip right off into your hand or rubber band across the counter if you’re really into it. Hmm, I think I’d go to a half tsp salt next time. Not hugely sweet. Good.

At the turn of the year the cake should be ready and perfect for a triumphant midnight snack. Get things off to a good start.

Happy New Year!



The celebrations rolled over
Wednesday December 30th 2020, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

Last Saturday I was actually starting to feel like baking something festive, y’know, try out that new yarn ball cake pan at last (I’d been avoiding the calories), or make some caramel sauce like my mom always made this time of year and all the possibilities of what I might do with it. Mom always poured it on homemade figgy pudding, but what if I lined my new silicone mini-cupcake molds with chocolate (so they could pop right out after cooling), poured in some cooled sauce, added ganache and chilled it with a raspberry on top…

The oven mitt stockings that a friend laughed and called “The most 2020 thing yet!” came down from the mantle.

The doorbell rang. It was a Christmas present order both for me and for the sake of the local bakery that my kids remember fondly and want to have still be in business when they come back into town.

The youngest on the phone later: Was it from…? Me: Yes. Him: Oh good!

I do believe that was the owner of the bakery himself, masked and handing it to me from arm’s length. He retreated down the walkway and turned: clearly he was hoping to see the look on my face when I opened the box and saw what they’d created. He definitely got what he’d hoped for–my jaw dropped. I looked back up his way and went, Wow!! THANK you!!

He drove off with the biggest smile on his face.

When there are that many calories hanging over you you don’t go making competing ones.

The photo doesn’t quite get the height and depth of the thing. The box stretched across the fridge. It was huge–and very good.

My sweetie enjoyed it for breakfast these past five days; I’m not a big breakfast person and couldn’t bring myself to touch all that sweetness before eleven a.m. but I sure did then. We had it for dessert a few nights. Snacking happened.

Finally, somewhat reluctantly, we watched the last morsels disappear after lunch today. It was time.

I found this recipe tonight and thought, someone was thinking like I was thinking. Maybe I should stuff those chocolate shells-to-be with whipped ricotta instead? Y’know, fewer calories?

Nah. I still want some of Mom’s caramel sauce.



Stand up or deliver
Wednesday December 30th 2020, 12:04 am
Filed under: Food,History,Life,Lupus

Ooooh, thaaaaat’s it… Maybe.

A friend sent a text a little while ago that randomly mentioned the curfew. I checked: yes, we are in the purple tier now with ambulances being turned away from most hospitals so from 10pm to 5am, she’s right, that applies to our county too now.

Meantime on the immunocompromised front, the grocery app said 7-9 pm was the only available delivery slot today. I was hoping for earlier because last time we took that the guy never showed up other than to cancel at 10.

This time they messaged at 8:15 asking about a substitution and got my okay, so clearly someone was at least checking inventory.

At 9:00 it said, “Your shopper has finished working on your order.”

It’s 11:03, we are a mile from the store, there are no groceries, no updates, and it’s past curfew.

If he/she had to drop off to too many places and ran out of time, what happens to the orders remaining? Please please tell me they don’t make the lowest-ranking guy in the system eat the cost?

(Hope he’s got fridge space for it?)

 

Update, just before we hit lights out for the night a half hour later: he was on his way. It came!



Someone Merry Christmased the whole city
Saturday December 26th 2020, 9:21 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,History,Life

You know those monoliths that have been popping up, starting with the metal one in the Utah desert?

Someone set one up on top of, where else could be better, Corona Heights hill in San Francisco. Made of gingerbread. (BBC link.) Frosted around the edges and gum drops for nails.



At sixteen months
Saturday December 26th 2020, 12:09 am
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

There’s got to be a word for the type of wide shipping box that opens like a lid and closes with flaps at the end tucking inside their slots.

Turns out that if you’re little enough, and the present is still inside the box after the lid has been opened all the way and it’s heavy enough to counterbalance you, you have an impromptu slide just your size and then you do it again because that was fun and the people on the screen are clapping and cheering you on and this box is the best present ever!

The phone is being its usual slow self re photos but meantime here’s last night’s glamour shot of our Christmas stockings before the Chocolate Cherry Fantasies and Sugar Plums from Andy’s got tucked in there.

 



Superballs (boing!)
Wednesday December 23rd 2020, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Food

Wait, what?

Two dozen Costco hard boiled eggs: shelled, so at least there’s that.

It was supposed to be liquid egg whites so I could more easily experiment with cake recipe amounts for my yarn-ball Silikomart mold. Going to be just a bit hard to whip those.

(This one’s a buche de noel for weavers. Just linking to it because, clicking on that yellow cake to embiggen the picture, wow. Hey, I could pour some homemade chocolate into that in a big flat bar, I have lots of friends who weave.)

Two two-packs later we still have twenty freaking bouncy hard-boiled eggs in that fridge. I wondered if you could freeze them and googled: turns out the whites become super rubbery and at the same time super hard. Which is exactly what we already have.

What does one DO with such things? Other than, y’know, throwing an Easter egg roll for all the raccoons and skunks and possums. Cuisinart them into an egg loaf? That just…doesn’t… yow. Those whites do not want to be chopped, not by your knife, not by your fork, not by your teeth.

I did my best to mash them with some Durkee’s and sharp cheddar on toast and settled for, frankly, more like strips.

Texture, the texture of those whites in this, it was a little like… Like…(I really don’t know if I should say this…) my sister’s description of her brother-in-law’s wedding where the caterer served escargots but forgot to cook them first.



Clafoutis for all that ails you
Friday December 18th 2020, 12:14 am
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Family,Food,Friends,Recipes

At 9:55 this morning there was one customer being helped and three clerks, the easiest December post office run ever. I told Anne her apricots were on their way and she told me those are the best she’s ever had, she can’t wait. She made my day.

That was just the start.

This afternoon I got a text from a friend: he’d heard Richard was sick; how was he doing?

Definitely getting better, thanks.

Next thing you know there was a second text saying he’d dropped off a little something for us.

I opened the door. He was already gone–which makes sense, because, exposure. There was a bag with eggs, veggies, grits, butter, juice, milk, just because he could. Wow! I was gobsmacked, and so was Richard.

His stomach’s still a bit tender, eggs are easy on it, we were running low, and now we aren’t.

A little history: years ago I got sent to Urgent Care with what was clearly the start of a Crohn’s flare. It’s not like I didn’t know what that was at that point.

To my great surprise the doctor who saw me was dismissive of anything I had to say about that; all he wanted to know was, had I eaten raspberries.

A day or two ago…

He insisted I had salmonella poisoning from Mexican raspberries (who says they weren’t US grown? There was no recall nor mention in the press in either case) and he sent me home without doing anything about the Crohn’s, which is indeed what it was. My GI doctor rolled his eyes with a bit of suppressed indignation at that when I ended up in his office, which made me want to say oh thank you thank you.

So. I found myself thinking, well, you know, though. My husband does not have Crohn’s and he did eat a lot of raspberries when I didn’t.

We had more of them. I wasn’t taking any chances–I baked them into a clafoutis, with some blueberries to get it up to four cups of fruit. Cook’em. They’re probably innocent but this way I wouldn’t have to worry about it.

The recipe calls for whole milk. I substituted the last of some cream 50/50 with the 1% that’s always around and was surprised at how much of a difference it made–it definitely improved it over my usual low-fat ones.

And it’s a good way to get fruit and protein down a whiny stomach.

Thanks to our friend, if Richard wants more, and he’s quite fond of it, I have whole milk in my fridge now and I can make it come out that way again tomorrow.

Clafoutis recipe: butter a 9″ deep-dish pan, not smaller, whip three eggs a goodly while, add 1/2 c sugar, beat, then 1 c whole milk, still beating, a small pinch salt, 1 tsp vanilla, a tbl melted butter, still beating, and then at the last beat in 1/2 c flour. Pour it in the pan quickly, put the fruit on top, bake about 40 minutes, 45-50 in my ceramic pan or till a knife in the center comes out clean. (Ed. to add: oven at 350.)

And then try to wait till it cools, but I won’t blame you if you don’t.



A fortunate mistake
Thursday December 17th 2020, 12:07 am
Filed under: Family,Food

We seem to have talked the hand splint people into restocking. Good, and thank you for the help. If my husband should ever happen to step on one and explode the beads everywhere I know where to go, and I’m glad others can get those, too.

Meantime, I walked into the main post office about 4:00, looked at the long line of people stretching across inside the building and starting to double back, masked, but, Nope! Nope nopeity nope, not today.

My family of origin does a round-robin at Christmas, one sibling each each year. There are six of us.

I can never remember whose turn is whose–except that Morgan, when offered, loved the idea of a peach tree for his new house last year and proudly told us this summer that he’d eaten his first three Kit Donnells from it already: they were small but great.

One of my older sisters had a huge pine fall in a big wind storm a few months ago. It missed the main part of the house but there was a crane involved in lifting it off the destroyed patio awning and they did some remodeling in the aftermath.

So there was this big bare newly sunny spot in her back yard.

I asked her what she thought and got a good bit of enthusiasm back and so a bare-root Baby Crawford peach tree will be coming her way, a variety that ripens a few weeks off from Morgan’s so they can extend each other’s seasons in the sharing–and I sent her a pound of Andy’s dried extra-ripe Blenheim apricot slabs to hold her till it comes in a few months.

That Baby Crawford variety exists thanks to Andy. My siblings have/will have the varieties I most love from his farm.

So. I was all done with the Christmas shipping and I recycled a bunch of boxes I’d been saving just in case anything else popped up.

My little sister happened to mention on my birthday Sunday just to make sure I knew it that it was my turn to give to her this year.

Wait–but I thought–

–she was right.

Thanks, no trees for her–what she *really* wanted was some of those apricots. She knew how good they were.

She clearly had been really looking forward to them.

I’m quite glad I got it wrong because trees need all the head start you can give them and I would have wanted to give that one anyway and Christmas gave me an excuse, so, no regrets–more like total glee that two of my siblings get to grow their own peaches now, three, because the oldest already has her own.

And that is how I ended up back at Andy’s today.

I picked up a bottle of poison oak honey there, too, because that deep caramel not too sweet flavor and how else would she ever find out it existed? Or trust that with a name like that it would be okay to even try?

I don’t know how often the Honey Ladies rescue bee hives from that particular plant or want to and that is the only variety of honey I’ve ever succumbed to utter squirrelhood over: there’s a half gallon bottle of it buried deep in the cabinet to make sure I never run out.

Which I keep sure of by occasionally buying another small jar to actually, y’know, eat. But this one’s going to Anne.

Tomorrow. Along with three pounds of apricots. Hopefully there’ll be a less busy hour to ship them out.



Christmas tree farm in flour
Wednesday December 09th 2020, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

My husband grew up making spritz cookies with his mom and siblings every Christmas: most often done with the Christmas tree mold, green food coloring in the dough for that certain parched-pine look and red hots for stars. Add sugar glitter.

It was a wonder to him that my family had done no such thing. I didn’t even know, when we got married, what a spritz cookie was. Oh, that’s the name for those. Oh okay.

Food coloring and kids was enough of a potential and a few times actual disaster (on the bathroom cabinet! On the outside wall! It’s paint on wood!) that–yeah, and so most of the time when he wanted his Christmas spritz he got them because he went out and bought that food coloring and he made them with the kids himself. Me, I’m more the chocolate chips in oatmeal or cranberry-pecan pie bar type. I did at least pitch in occasionally, but most years they did it all.

We went through at least three different spritz makers, including a battery powered one to shoot them out of at one point so they could mass-produce them faster to take to the neighbors, but getting them not to come out too thick was hard and the more easily controlled hand-press type was just the way you do it and the imposter was abandoned.

But the best part, always, always, was making paper plates of them and ringing the neighbors’ doorbells and seeing their faces light up that the kids had done that for them.

The next generation has now taken on the task and declared it good. You put the stars just so.

 



Turkey leftovers
Sunday November 29th 2020, 8:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

He said he didn’t mind having turkey again, so I decided to try to be creative about it.

I had bought a single jar of cherry fig savory jam from Cherry Republic in Michigan to try out–kind of a token purchase for the year towards keeping the Michigan farmers in business, as one does in 2020 if one can. I opened it: it was lumpy but really not jam-sweet. Spices. Hmm.

I diced up a bunch of turkey, cut some seedless green grapes into quarters so they would cook faster, scooped out less than half that jar of jam into a separate bowl and whisked it with maybe a quarter cup of leftover plain cream, there you go.

I used one of Mel and Kris’s ceramic cake pans, which always take just a little longer to bake with but always seem to improve the texture of whatever I put in them over anything else. In with the turkey/grapes, mix in the lumpy attempt at a sauce, then I grated some fresh Gouda cheese from Milk Pail on top.

It looked pretty but it didn’t feel done.

So I took a heaping spoonful of their fresh grated parmesan and sprinkled that around on top of the whole shebang and called it good.

Now, it must be said that theirs is nothing like the room-temperature supermarket stuff in the tall green cans: fresh authentic parmesan totally rocks.

Oven, 350, shooting for 20 minutes since all I really needed to do was melt the cheese, checked it a few minutes late…

I’d had no idea. This was glorious. This is like, like, my MOM’s cooking, which is the highest compliment you could ask for. It was good, and it came out with a deep red rich sauce pooling at the bottom that you’d want to serve to company, and the turkey (thank you ceramic pan) had not come out overbaked nor tough from its second go-round of cooking.

Richard wanted a generous helping of seconds. So did I.

So I’m writing it down here, because it’s the one place I know I’ll be able to find it next year when I’m trying to figure out what on earth I did.

Suddenly realizing that–thinking of yesterday’s post–yes, yes, it would be good over pinto beans, too.