Sugar splurge
Sunday August 08th 2021, 8:37 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Recipes

I needed to use up that cream so even though we definitely didn’t need to eat such a thing, a recipe for Instant Pot creme brûlée got the better of me.

I even found where the rack to the thing went back when I was moving everything out of the termite guys’ way. Separated the eggs, started whipping the yolks, reached for that cream and opened the carton.

Holy moly guys nope nope nope.

So I fudged it. 2% milk with melted butter? I wasn’t at all sure of this, so only a tablespoon’s worth of the fat we suddenly really didn’t have to eat but hey we’ll see what we get. Seven minutes on low pressure, half an hour on natural release, ta daaah…

Huh.

What we have, I told him, is hot egg nog. But it’s cooked!

Well? He asked. Where is it? I’d like some! (Have I mentioned I love that sweet man? He’s a trooper.)

He also got almond meringues from the egg whites because if you’re going to do Christmas in August in the kitchen you might as well go full-on weird.

Those turned out to be worth repeating.

Almond meringues:

Four egg whites, beaten till frothy with about a quarter teaspoon cream of tartar, then 3/4 c powdered sugar and a tbl or so of plain sugar, then when that gets to pretty stiff peaks, beat in 1/3 c almond flour and quickly start doling it out on parchment paper over a cookie sheet. 275F, and the original recipe I totally fudged from because I didn’t have slivered almonds said 35 minutes but I left them in longer, didn’t hear the beep, don’t know how long it was, but I still put them back in for another five.



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.



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.



Scary ghost story for jack o’lanterns
Friday October 30th 2020, 8:30 pm
Filed under: Food,Recipes

Don’t use homemade pumpkin, it said.

Okay, I’ll use leftover homegrown butternut squash that was baked intact so that it steamed itself and roasted its sugars nicely. Into the Cuisinart!

I didn’t have quite enough.

Wait–but I did have a few of Andy Mariani’s ripe-dried Golden Transparent plums that had gotten a little too dried out over time so I’d been soaking them in apple cider in the fridge for several days. I took a small taste: spices (I had added none) and Thanksgiving, with a depth that was quite a surprise–just perfect. So that, pureed with what now seemed more syrup than juice, made up the last quarter cup.

It said oil. I melted butter, because I can now, because the allergic person isn’t here for it to taunt.

It said a glass pan. I used ceramic and went for the max 36 minutes before testing because of it.

It came out just right.

I want to be able to not do it like they said again because it’s so good, so, partly as a note to myself, here’s the link to their pumpkin cake recipe. Which sounds really good, too.



Chocolate hazelnut raspberry
Friday July 24th 2020, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Recipes

With a superfluous pomegranate picture just because I thought it was pretty.

I was ordering some pre-tempered powdered cocoa butter for chocolate making, as one does to help seed the right type of crystal formation, while wondering how summertime temps in transit might effect what I was buying it for… Well I guessed I’d find out.

The baking supplier dangled a half pound of hazelnut praline on my screen, and it wasn’t going to cost me any extra on the shipping so hey why not.

When it came it said 50% hazelnuts and it was sweeter than I would have made it. Y’know, all I had to do was throw toasted no-skins-on hazelnuts in the food processor and an equal amount of sugar (or less, for us) and then I wouldn’t have had to work all the oils back through the heavy substance of the stuff. Done. Gotta admit that is tasty, though. Into the fridge with you.

So here I was a few days later and there was this batch of homemade chocolate, quite dark. We’d just eaten a small lunch that definitely needed more to it.

I wondered…

So I nuked a little of that chocolate for 20, 30 seconds or so so it wouldn’t burn, just enough so that when I smashed it with a spoon it gave way and became stirrable.

And then stirred in a larger spoonful of that hazelnut praline.

And then folded a large number of raspberries in.

I got asked if I could go do that again? Please?

We didn’t quite eat the entire twelve ounces of raspberries but we came close.



Holiday baking
Friday December 20th 2019, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Recipes

Here’s Sunset’s recipe and pretty pictures.

And here’s what my daughter came over and made with me this evening: using TCHO’s 81% for all of the melted chocolate and with peanut butter in the filling. We used Earth Balance because of her dairy allergy, and (quietly) if they came out this good one could only imagine what butter would be like in them.

Like bite size pieces of chocolate torte, is how she described the cookies. Portion-wise, you could almost not feel guilty.



Turkey spinach mango barbecue soup
Saturday November 30th 2019, 8:44 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Recipes

Yeah, sounds weird. I would show you a picture but it all disappeared too fast.

Richard’s aunt always asks at the end of Thanksgiving whether I want to make stock out of the turkey bones or if she should toss the carcass. There’s only one answer.

This afternoon I shredded the most obvious meat off it and then boiled it down, stopping when the broth tasted good about two and a half hours later. Note that it had been stuffed with mandarin orange slices, and they went into the pot, too, along with a bit of pepper.

Good thing I had an extra large strainer–it had been a big bird.

I had some small yellow mangoes that had been picked too early to be very sweet; they were okay, but even after ripening for a week they were still more cooking mangoes than the dessert type they’d been raised to be.

Which would be perfect, right? I debated, standing looking around my kitchen, and then thought of my father’s description of my more adventurous mother’s cooking: “You’ll never be bored at Frances’s table. It might be INTERESTING,” and he would laugh his big laugh for sheer joy and pride in her.

A half a bag of spinach (grocery store size, not Costco’s) rinsed and nuked for two minutes.

I poured three+ cups of that broth into the blender, followed by the drained spinach and several glugs from a bottle of smokey Trader Joe’s Apple Bourbon Barbecue sauce and let’er rip.

I poured my green soup into a large bowl and added one of those mangoes, diced fairly small.

I nuked that for two minutes or so, added a bunch of the turkey, and put it back in for about 20 seconds.

And then came over here to write it down. Because that was very, very good and I definitely want to do it again.

Maybe thicken it next time. Or not.

Right now there’s more of all of where that came from. Yum.



Appears to be edible
Sunday November 17th 2019, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Food,Recipes

SWEET CHERRY PIE FROM FROZEN CHERRIES. (Announcing it with bells and whistles so I can find it later.)

One quart glass Corning measuring cup filled to the top with frozen sweet cherries–so, between five and a quarter and five and a half cups’ worth. Thawed in microwave.

Meantime, 3/4 c. sugar, the juice of one large juicy Meyer lemon plus its yellow (only the yellow) zest (the whites are bitter), was supposed to be 2 tbl of the juice but I threw the whole thing in and it was probably a fair bit more than called for so I upped the cornstarch from 3 tbl to an extra half teaspoon. Add 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and 1/2 tsp almond extract. The random internet recipe didn’t have almond extract in it, and man, how do you live with yourself if you don’t put almond with cherry? Right?

It said to let all that sit absorbing for a few minutes, and I was doing that, not liking the lumps in the cornstarch nor the fact that baked, previously-frozen sweet cherries don’t have a super-lovable texture–and nuts to that, I just threw the whole filling thing in the blender.

That time, when I dipped a spoon in to taste, I felt like, I got it!

Poured it in the crust in the new pie pan and it’s in the oven.

Update: it’s not burned, that’s just the camera.

I whipped some cream to cover any faults and make it look pretty in layers and took it to the potluck, where people swooned over it: “You MADE this?!”

Hah. And I’d been worrying about experimenting on my friends. This is definitely how I’m making from-frozen sweet cherry pie from here on out.

This is your better-than-random Internet recipe for the day.



Blueberry almond cake
Saturday June 01st 2019, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Food,Life,Recipes,Spinning

Writing it down so I can find it later: I experimented to see if I could adapt my favorite blueberry cake recipe from chocolateandzucchini.com to use some of the freshly- made almond paste they sell at Milk Pail, with a higher almond and lower sugar content than any I know of.

For a few more weeks, anyway, till they shut down because Steve wants to retire. I need to find out where he sources it.

Okay, here it is:

Highly-Requested Blueberry Almond cake

Mix in one bowl:

1 2/3 c. flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

In Cuisinart: the almond paste is sold in small random packages; I used .35 oz the first time and about .5 oz the second. Both worked, they were just a little different. So, pulverize it in a Cuisinart; add in 1 stick butter, sliced and at room temperature. (Note that Wayfare brand dairy-free vegan butter worked great, too. Now I have to find someone besides Steve who stocks it.)Whirr. Add 1/2 tsp almond extract and 1 tsp vanilla, whirr, 1/2 c heavy cream (sour cream, plain yogurt, or going dairy-free, Kara brand coconut cream worked, too), then add 4 eggs and 1 c. sugar and whirr some more.

Add dry ingredients in. If you have a small food processor you might want to pour the wet ingredients into a mixing bowl first and add the dry in over there; one more thing to clean but easier to scrape into the pan, your choice.

Pour half into a greased 9×13″ pan. Cover with four cups (don’t be stingy) of fresh, rinsed, patted-dry blueberries, then add the rest of the batter on top. Sprinkle 1/4 c of brown sugar across the top and bake at 350 for 50 minutes or till a toothpick comes out clean.

I made this for Richard on Monday and it was so good that he and Michelle asked me to make it again, dairy free so she could have some, and the Wayfare dairy-free whipped butter (butter beans are an ingredient. Who knew) with the coconut cream worked both in texture and flavor. I also happened to overdo on the almond extract a little that time and it obliterated any mention of coconut flavor.

Blueberries, almond paste, Wayfare, Kara coconut cream, sour cream, butter, and the particularly good versions of almond and Bourbon vanilla extracts: I have no idea what I’m going to do when that place shuts down. They are small but they have all the best stuff.

A funny story on the side: twenty-five years ago there was one single herd of Wensleydale sheep left in the world. Handspinners pitched in to try to help save the breed; I’m not the only one who bought ten pounds of their wool, and I’ll have a hand spun coat just as soon as I finally finish that button band in time for the SpinOff Magazine Rare Breeds Contest. Of 1999. Well anyway. So, I was at the doctor’s waiting room working on it once and someone with a British accent came over to sit next to me and ask me about my knitting.

The yarn was a new thing to her, and so I told her it was Wensleydale I’d spun.

Wensleydale! She smacked her lips loudly. That’s good eating!

I was so not expecting that reaction. I was speechless. I knew they ate a lot of mutton over there… I had no way to respond to that.

It wasn’t till years later that I found out what she’d been talking about and had a good laugh at myself and wondered what she’d thought I’d been thinking.

All of which I was reminded of last night as I made toasted cheese sandwiches with Wensleydale with cranberries. From Milk Pail.

Thank you for all these ingredients all these years, Steve!



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.