Blueberry vanilla lava cake (it was supposed to be a cobbler)
Thursday July 26th 2018, 9:29 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Recipes

In their picture, using an iron skillet, the fruit still shows in the center when they took it out of the oven. 

For mine, using an 8×3 (interior measurements) round stoneware pan by Mel and Kris, the last of the blueberries disappeared beneath the waves sometime between the 35 and 40 minute mark, and I probably should have gone to 45 to get it solid like their video. Although note that I didn’t have any whole milk and substituted half 1% and half heavy cream.

We got a crispy-edged vanilla lava cake with blueberries and goodness flowing from the center. Which is setting somewhat as it cools–what there is left of it.

I might tone down the amount of sugar slightly next time, but this is definitely something I’d feed to company.

Pork in, pig out
Saturday July 21st 2018, 9:53 pm
Filed under: Recipes

Re that Instant Pot yesterday: I got a 3 qt Mini on Black Friday last year and had enough Target gift cards that it cost $11 cash. Note that Target is increasingly giving out small gift cards with purchases of multiple items to entice people to come shop in their physical stores.

Costco sells sets of individual pork sirloin tips. I’ve learned they’re perfect in an Instant Pot–if, but only if, they’re thawed when you put them in; frozen ones come out really tough. (Or at least mine did.) Thawed, it came out as tender as you could ask for even though there was practically zero fat in that dish.

So, recipe: one chopped onion. A bunch of small apples (I was trying to use up the last of my tree’s Yellow Transparents) or one or more big ones, peeled and chopped. A cup and a third to a cup and a half (somewhere in there) of fresh apple juice from Trader Joe’s or any variant thereof. And here’s what totally makes it: cherries on top. The more the merrier. I used (frozen) sweet cherries and sour apples. Note that all this went into my little Mini. It was tight, but it made it. Meat setting, 19 minutes.

I’m no great cook, and I’m sure there is some spice blend out there that would make this fabulous, but this made a good throw-and-go main course that had us coming back for seconds.

And it can cook your dinner on its own and then turn itself off and keep it hot but not too hot while you sit under the trees locked out waiting for help.

I replaced my spare key today. Horses and barn doors and all that.

Blueberry and cranberry
Wednesday August 09th 2017, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Food,Knitting a Gift,Recipes

This version of blueberry clafoutis. Half a cup of sugar was plenty. Other than that, that’s the one I want to make again. (These are by far the best 8″ cake pans I have ever owned. Highly recommended.)

Meantime, just finished, another cowl in this pattern because it’s an easy one to widen out at the bottom so that it will ease into perfect folds around the neck without messing up the continuity of the lace within.

It takes the cake
Saturday June 24th 2017, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Knitting a Gift,Recipes

I was in the home stretch, one eye on the clock, thinking, I can get this done before bed and even still get a little blogging time in.

Michelle, who’s in town for her friend’s wedding, texted me: could I? Pretty please?

She’d been going to make an almond cake from the fresh almond paste she got at Milk Pail this afternoon: one of the perks of a trip home. But there was no way she was going to get back from that reception in time tonight–it takes an hour to bake.

Well, hey, I can make one of those really fast… (The recipe says baking powder in the list of ingredients, baking soda in the instructions. Do it in baking powder.)

The cast-off was finished at 10:55. The cake came out at 11:00 pm. I did it!

Memo: While You Were Out
Friday June 23rd 2017, 9:22 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden,Recipes,Wildlife

Cooper’s hawk. Adult. Right there, intently watching my patio and back door as I came around the corner of the yard from trimming back the kids’ old climbing tree that had been shading my tomatoes a bit.

I stepped quickly back behind the house–but I think my startling it cost it its dinner. Sorry about that.

I came inside a few minutes later with  these Yellow Transparents. It is a sign of how different things are this year, drought-wise, that I still have plenty on my tree, proof that the squirrels don’t touch the tart stuff unless they’re starving: this year they have better options.  (Whatever they are out there, starting with my California Coffeeberries).

A little apple juice, four small quartered apples, cover, zap five minutes, cool, scrape off the skins and voila! Apple sauce for two.

And a Mathias picture just because.

Death Star butternut
Tuesday January 03rd 2017, 11:47 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life,Politics,Recipes

So today the House of Representatives, having decided that, Ethics Committee? We don’t need no stinkin’ Ethics! found that having the voters storm the gates by the thousands and thousands in protest meant that, Oh wait, what we meant to say was of course we do!

Meantime, we had one last Pilgrim butternut squash from the garden. It had been sitting on the kitchen counter for months. There was no way my still-broken right knuckle was coming anywhere near the size of knife and amount of oomph it would take for me to break into that thing and I didn’t like that stringy variety enough to ask Richard to bother–we’d tasted those.

It was left for last because it had a bit of a Death Star look to it: a squirrel had taken a bite out of the bulbous end when it was quite young and it had crusted over and healed while the rest of the bulb part swelled and grew huge around it. I figured there was no squirrel spit inside, but still…

Sunday, the Merc ran this column. Don’t slice your fingers. Just put the whole thing in the hot oven like a baked potato. Simple.

Well, that would finally get it off my counter, at the very least. I tried it. No foil, it didn’t deserve it and it kinda came in its own anyway, I just threw it in and on second thought grabbed it back and put a cookie sheet underneath. Good thing.

I’d felt a bit conned by the ad copy claiming it was one of the best-tasting.

Well let me tell you. It is now. Or at least til I grow me some Walthams later, as someone suggested here for next time. But man that was good! It steamed and caramelized itself and the shell peeled off like paper. Still slightly stringy inside, but I could Cuisinart the leftovers (it had been six pounds) into a pumpkin pie that wouldn’t need much or any sugar added; it’s got its own this way.

It did try to live up to that Death Star persona one last time, though: it exploded at the flaw straight down onto the cookie sheet, where the sugars blew up like a marshmallow and then blackened into a finely molded dust while the smell let you know that that squash really did need to come out of there!

Oooh, but the rest of it…! I am definitely growing squashes again and I wasn’t sure of that before.

I am reminded of the time when I was a young mom of thinking I would finally put the actual fillet knife someone had given us to its purported use and I bought a live fish from an Asian market. I chose it, they cleaned it, and then I painstakingly tried to follow James Beard’s instructions on how to carve the scales off. I spent quite a bit of time ever so carefully hacking away while trying not to damage the thing and finally, feeling like an utter failure, looked at how little I’d gotten done and how bad it looked, said nuts to this, and simply threw foil around it and let the oven take care of it while I caught up with whatever my kids had been getting into during my distraction.

I pulled it out of there with the skin falling away with the foil. The idea of trying to ditch the scales and keep the skin for the perfect restaurant presentation had been ridiculous all along. It didn’t have to be the hard way at all.

Fish, squash, and Congressmen: they can come out right after all, all you have to do is surround them with heat.

Peach sorbet
Monday August 22nd 2016, 11:12 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Recipes

“Oh, you do it fancy,” said Michelle as I got out the wire basket to lower the peaches into the boiling water with; “I just use a ladle” at her house.

One one thousand two one thousand…  Sixty seconds, lift, and quick into the icewater.

And then the peels just kind of melted off. I squeezed one lemon from the tree, she added just a touch of sugar–not much–a taste test all around, just a spoonful more from the sugar container and then we food processored the heck out of those four or five pounds of perfect peaches.

Plug in and wait.

Direct side-by-side comparison between the plain pureed mixture and what came out of there and all I can say is it was magic. That electric ice cream maker is suddenly going to get used a whole lot more.

So we’ll see how it goes
Wednesday July 20th 2016, 11:07 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,Recipes

I think we can officially call it eighteen fruit trees now.

Last year’s volunteer fig seedling that I dug out on a whim from under a tomato plant got put in a small pot and paid only just enough attention to to keep it alive.

If that. But it wanted to survive. It didn’t grow much at all but no matter what I did or didn’t, it hung in there. It even added a third leaf when the weather started warming up again. It had demanded a chance, so I moved it to a #10 pot the end of this May.

Actually, some credit should go to the squirrels: they tried to stand on the flimsy #10 that I forget what had arrived in and dug holes and they’d pretty much knocked the fig half out of the pot. There wasn’t much root structure and I didn’t think it would make it but I couldn’t bear to just let it be destroyed for no reason–not when I didn’t even know yet…

I mentioned the large ceramic pot the other day that was given me by a friend moving away; there were two others as well (but they didn’t require the dolly.) One was this big, very lightweight, plastic gray one. I would never have bothered with the expense for a tree with no knowable payback and given that some fig varieties hit 40′ high in our climate I would never have planted it in the yard, but a free pot big enough for it to stay in, yeah, I can buy a bag of dirt and try and if it doesn’t work I’ll plant something else in there.

So tonight I filled it up (which took more than one big bag), soaked the soil, scooped out the center, and went to go get that little fig tree.

In just those two months after staying tiny for a year and despite having been partly exposed to the air till I rescued it that rootball had grown to fill that much space that fast. It was highly gratifying–and it took some doing to get it out. Who knew? And the tree, still only a foot tall or so, had grown thicker and happier and leafier, which is why I’d finally decided I really really did want to see what it could do. It was my first thought when Sheryl said she needed to give away large pots.

All we can do is wait now to see if the variety is any good, or if it produces at the exact time my Black Jack is going whole hog. If the figs are no good (how can a fig not have at least some goodness) then no great loss, it’s just fun to find out what life has randomly offered us. I’m assuming it’s the offspring of my neighbor’s, which means it may even be another Black Jack.

But from what I’ve learned so far, we probably won’t have long to find out. And if I’d given it this much room at the beginning of the spring we’d probably be seeing fruit on it by now.

Visions of rolling them in butter, roasting them, drizzling with honey, and serving them hot out of the oven…

The idea behind using the very lightweight pot for it (although the soil certainly isn’t) is that if it does turn out we’ve got a good one but it duplicates what we have, it’ll be much easier to wheel it away on the dolly to hand it down to someone else and spread the joy.

Call it my inner squirrel.

My chocolate hazelnut torte recipe
Thursday February 25th 2016, 11:48 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Recipes

With thanks to Catherine B for prompting me to finally type this out. My one single written-out copy was getting pretty beat up and was the only place I had this with all its updates and notes. And so:

My personal version to add to all the other ones floating around out there. I promise you it is well worth the effort.

Take a 9″ springform pan and cover the bottom with parchment paper and butter the bottom and sides. Or just the sides, but then you’re going to have to peel it off really, really carefully. You can buy it in 9″ rounds or, I often just put the pan bottom against the paper and cut around it to fit. A little too big is better than a little too small. I do *not* just tuck a length of it between the pan and the sides and snap it in because I don’t want to damage how they fit together–learned that the hard way a goodly while ago.

Set the oven to 325 (my old oven) or 350 (my new oven, which by all evidence as well as expectation is far more accurate.) My pans are a bit on the dark side and are nonstick– a gift from my late friend Don, delivered by him and his son Cliff, and I think of them every time I use them.


10 oz really good dark chocolate. If you have a Trader Joe’s store handy, that would be 22 squares from one of their Pound Plus (500g) bars. I use their brown-label bittersweet but their red-label extra bittersweet would be really good, too.

6 eggs, separated

1/2 lb hazelnuts and

1/4 lb hazelnuts, roasted and the skins rubbed off as much as possible. Blessings on Trader Joe’s for selling toasted unsalted ones now with most of the skins off.

1 c sugar

1 c powdered sugar

2 tbl (or tsp, I won’t tell) sugar

1/4 good cocoa. I use Bergenfield Colonial Rosewood. Don’t use one that’s dutched. The dutching process generally speaking is a cover-up for inferior beans, according to a lecture my husband attended given by Mr. Scharffenberger of Scharffenberger Chocolate (which more recently has been bought out by Hershey) and it removes the flavinoids that justify the cocoa.

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 c butter or, if you prefer, coconut oil. For good or bad you will taste the coconut if you do, though, just be forewarned.

2 tsp bourbon vanilla, the best variety for using with chocolate.

And now you:

In the Cuisinart: pulse 1/2 lb hazelnuts. Once it’s at the nut meal stage add the 1/4 c cocoa and the 1/2 tsp salt. Whirr till almost nut butter, or less far along if you want a more rustic texture to the finished cake. Scoop this out of the Cuisinart and set aside.

Next in the Cuisinart: make the hazelnut paste. Pulse the other 1/4 lb hazelnuts till quite fine.  Important note: start ONLY with the hazelnuts, because if you try to grind whole hazelnuts with egg yolks you may well destroy your motor. Once the nuts are nearing the nut butter stage it’s not a problem. Okay, so: now add the 6 egg yolks and the 1 c confectioner’s sugar and whirr till it’s pretty smooth.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave in a container not much bigger than it; I do one minute, stir, then ten seconds more, sometimes twenty. Stir a lot to make it smooth. Chocolate burns very easily, better to stir more than heat more.

Meantime, in the KitchenAid or whatever mixer you may have, beat the six egg whites, adding the two tbl sugar gradually after it starts getting frothy. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat the 3/4 c butter, 1 c sugar, and the 2 tsp bourbon vanilla till light. In my KitchenAid mixer I now change the beater from the wire whisk-type beater to the heavier white beater (not the bread dough hook). Spatula in the melted chocolate, beat some more. Then the hazelnut/cocoa mixture. Beat. Then the hazelnut paste with the egg yolks.

Then by hand carefully work in those egg whites, starting with a large spoon. If you squish some of the whites into those last stubborn hazelnut globs through your fingers you’ll be in good company. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 45 minutes, to as much as 50 minutes if you’re baking at the lower temperature.

Cool, unsnap the pan sides and remove, put a flat plate on top of the cake, flip it over, peel the parchment off, put another flat plate there and flip it over again so the top is back at the top and the cake is on a serving plate: tadaah!

Refrigerate, especially if the hazelnut-and-cocoa mixture was whirred only to the gritty stage–it’ll help hold it together as you slice.


Allergy notes: powdered sugar almost always comes with a bit of starch to keep it powdery, usually cornstarch but you can get it with tapioca starch instead at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and various health food stores if this is to be served to someone with a corn allergy. Coconut oil substitutes straight across very well for butter for the dairy allergic. This recipe is definitely gluten-free to the best of my knowledge, since wheat comes nowhere near it. Freezes beautifully, including in individual slices separated by two layers of wax paper if you so choose. Makes a great breakfast.

Wednesday November 25th 2015, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden,Recipes

Last night I made the spiced pecans and baked the chocolate tortes and bought the apple cider and was glad my part in Thanksgiving dinner was done.  All but the glaze on the tortes, no biggy.

Only, I hard-crack-staged the sugar syrup and those pecans were right at the edge of too caramelized. Crunchy, though, and I really liked them, but there was a bit of fussing while someone here was trying not to be unhappy but they just weren’t quite…

No problem, I can make more.

No I couldn’t. We didn’t have enough sugar. We always have sugar. (Can you make this with that grainy organic Trader Joe’s stuff? Better not experiment and mess any more with his family’s tradition.) You know what this means, don’t you? We had to go to the grocery store the day before Thanksgiving.

I toasted more pecans, but that was the easy part. We put it off and put it off and finally headed to Costco about an hour before they closed.

It was actually less crowded than a typical Saturday, to my great surprise–but even better, people were being mellow. Clearly anticipating the next day’s meal and company, and people seemed to be picking up that one last thing they’d forgotten.

There was one mom with a crying one year old and a toddler and she–the mom–absolutely melted when I pulled out a Peruvian finger puppet for each of her little ones, an orange lion with a furry mane and a vivid green octopus with a hat. Handknit as always.

So. The tortes got glazed. The pecan coating got done to the soft ball stage only, the way Richard likes it: because after I got the 1/2 c water/1 c sugar/1 tsp cinnamon boiling, there could be gadgetry involved and there is no better way to get a geek to take over than putting electronics into the process. He put a glass thermometer on the side and with the laser thermometer in his hand pointing constantly at the center of the pot he compared temps and kept up a happy running chatter and soon announced, There! It’s 238!


Okay, so I put in the vanilla (one teaspoon) and stood back as hot steam burst forth, and then–hey, you have to put in the *pecans immediately now, honey, not just admire them.

Right, right, and he dumped them in and stirred hard and it takes some doing at that point. Finally, he poured them onto the cookie sheet the pecans had been toasted on.

See? To softball stage and it comes out like this!

I grinned. He preferred his and I liked mine and Aunt Mary Lynn will be quite happy to have both. Trust me.

(Meantime, it’s 9:50 pm and 33F already and the mandarins are covered, too, tonight. It is COLD out there.)


*Fanny Farmer says two cups. I put in closer to four. Stretch that sweetness across as many nuts as possible as far as I’m concerned.

Well, if you can’t have lobster…
Wednesday November 18th 2015, 11:25 pm
Filed under: Food,Recipes

An old New England dish for cold nights: chopped onions and peeled chopped tart apples, sautéed awhile with some good sausage (fat drained). Take off the heat, pour a little maple syrup over it–grade B if you can find it has more flavor than A–and that’s it.

Except that the sausage had a bit too much sage to it. It needed…something. Hmm. I have tiny frozen cubes from Trader Joe’s that are a teaspoon each of pureed basil and I let one melt into the pot, trying not to let it actually cook since that can make basil bitter.

I had no idea how it would come out–basil and Granny Smiths and maple syrup? But just a bit, and it totally made the dish and I am definitely doing that again. Writing here to remember.

And then the other discovery: Trader Joe’s small chèvre cheese logs rolled in blueberries and vanilla. I put a slice on one of their crunchy little Triple Ginger Snap cookies on impulse rather than a cracker.






WOW that was good.

Lots of places sell such a goat cheese in various sizes; Trader Joe’s is just the right width for those small snaps with bits of candied ginger in them.

Thanksgiving table here we come. Definitely earned its spot.

Flour power
Friday August 28th 2015, 9:19 pm
Filed under: Recipes

Pansy cookies. Seriously. I have to try these. Only, would you trust a flat of pansies from the garden center to be pesticide-free? We seem to be quite out of homegrown this year… (With a shout-out to Margo Lynn for the link.)

Here, have some
Thursday August 06th 2015, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Knit,Life,LYS,Recipes

I dangled what I hoped would be happy anticipation: I put this picture on Facebook with how to make it and said I had a lot more of these zucchini/pattypan hybrid squashes to bring to knit night.

So. Cut cupcake squash in half and place cut side down on plate.  Add a spoonful of water; nuke for three to four minutes till soft. Turn right side up again and scoop out seeds. Fill each with a big spoonful of Alfredo sauce mixed with one egg, sharp cheddar (or blue cheese and/or parmesan as you choose) and cherry tomato halves. Bacon bits if desired. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

Found one more squash this morning, but to be sure before heading out tonight I checked under those huge leaves one more time and found two more of a good size: how on earth had I missed those? (Well hey. Zucchini.) Seven went into a cloth bag.

All the way to Purlescence I was seeing the most unusual cloud formations–dalmation dog. Leopard print. Lots of little clouds against lots of blue.

Reactions when I put those green balls on the table ranged from oh cool! to oh okay to facial expressions of no no no please keep those far far away from me.

David came out of the back at the last and his face totally lit up when he saw those last two squash and I thought, okay, now I know who saw that post and was hoping. All yours, hon, please, take them–I have five more tiny ones and these have got to go. (I did not count the blossoms. I couldn’t bring myself to. I know you can stir fry those but an awful lot of them seemed to already have even tinier squashes already attached.)

He totally made my day as he made off with them in great delight.

Just before the shop closed down for the night, someone threw the doors open so we could hear the sounds and smell the ozone: it was RAINING! In August! And no it had not been in the forecast. A little, then more, then a good steady rain and lightning as I drove home. Rain rain actual rain, .04″ worth.

Those five tiny squash? With that extra water I’m guessing they’ll be full grown in time to try to ditch them at church.

Cherry-ots of fire
Monday August 03rd 2015, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Recipes

For the record: carrots well roasted in extra-virgin olive oil, then add a bit of cherry sauce that I picked up at Andy’s Orchard last week? (Andy’s grows cherries but they sell Cherry Republic’s bottled topping.)

A certain tall man is officially a fan. Pretty please with cherries on top and all that.

So I had to go looking for their website and now I really want my baby Montmorency tree to hurry and grow up!



The Grand Old Okra-y
Thursday June 25th 2015, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Recipes

My dad is someone who loves a good meal. He loves that Mom loves to cook a great meal.

And if you ever wanted to find that place where you discovered at sixteen what gumbo was, he’d be able to tell you not only the name of the restaurant you ordered it in but he would find the place forty years later. The seafood joint with the wavy floors on the wharf in Seattle, the barbecue joint in Florida where they’d sanded down picnic tables till they felt like velvet (and then trusted people with kids with barbecue sauce to sit at them!) I’ve seen him do it.

This one was somewhere in the deep South, a humble spot with fabulous food (there was an old jukebox, too, right, Dad? Or was that a different spot?) I remember blinking when he said traditional gumbo was made with squirrel meat as I looked at the chicken in mine, shrimp having been the other choice.

I confess to the occasional moment when my fruit has been stolen off my trees where I’ve thought at the bushytails, Just don’t you tempt me. I’ve always been curious to know.

My CSA delivered straight-off-the-farm okra today.

Now there are two responses to okra: there’s my Mom, serving it battered and fried and telling her squeamish kids, “It tastes just like” (or as my older sister would tease her later with a grin, Just! Like!) “popcorn!”

Maybe a better take on it might have been, This imposter thinks it’s just like popcorn but we know better–popcorn doesn’t taste better with ketchup, here, pass the Heinz, wouldja? (Then she would have had six kids asking for maple syrup instead and who knows, it might have won us over.)

Actually, my daughter reminded me that we had an okra dish in an Indian restaurant we took her to in Ann Arbor when she graduated with her Master’s there, and that it was very good. Alright, then, three.

So. Okra. It came. And me somehow fresh out of file’ (fee-LAY) powder. But all week I’d been remembering marveling over that gumbo soup of long ago, so I went over to Penzey’s spices where I absolutely knew I could find file’ powder. Gumbo File’, said the label for those not from the South; their Seafood Base, I already had that.

And I have finally, after all these years, actually made a gumbo. Bacon drippings, andouille sausage–there are a lot of variations out there; this one’s mine.


8 oz fresh okra, chopped

1 large chopped bell pepper (mine was orange)

1 small head of celery, chopped

1 large onion, chopped (mine was purple)

the corn from one fresh cob but more would have been fine

32 oz chicken broth and 1 c water

1 tsp file’ (sassafras) powder (yes they make root beer out of sassafras. No this doesn’t taste like root beer.)

1 tbl Penzeys Seafood Base

chopped chicken and/or shrimp

about 1/3 c flour, and

about 1/3 c California organic extra virgin olive oil.

Note that all other types of EVOO are suspect: Federal law allows lesser varieties to be so named and even other oils to be in the bottle without their being labeled. Yes it’s a scandal. California’s law precedes the Federal one, has been challenged and has stood, so, only by buying EVOO labeled California organic EVOO can you know that it actually is extra virgin olive oil. Which is great if you’re a California grower, and I buy from these guys. Good stuff.

So. You put the flour and olive oil in your pot, stir hard, get it up to bubbling and keep bubbling stirring hard for fifteen minutes: you want it to turn brown, really brown, without letting it burn. Then the recipe I started from said to cook the veggies a few minutes in that but at that point my arms said no, so, I just threw everything in all at once–except for the chicken or shrimp.

Simmer for at least an hour, stirring often. Add whichever meat you want till it’s cooked. Serve.

It doesn’t taste like popcorn. But maybe kids would eat more bites if they were still looking for that root beer flavor in there somewhere.