Monday, September 29, 2008

Grape Jam

Well, it was a rainy, dreary weekend. So what, you ask, could be better than inviting two bored, squabbling boys into your kitchen?

Inviting them and their dog, of course.

Wait, you really didn't think I was going to peel grapes myself, did you?

Well, the boys had fun, the dog had grapes, and the whole project only took about 3 hours - 2 hours longer than probably necessary. Such is the price of helpers. It was very easy, though. We did get a break in the rain Friday afternoon, and they got enough grapes to make a small batch of jam on Saturday afternoon. If you should get your paws on some concord grapes, this is well worthwhile for the jelly lover in your house!


(Adapted from the red checkered cookbook, late 1980s vintage)

About 2 pounds grapes - 5 to 6 cups whole grapes
1 cup water
2-1/2 cups sugar

Remove the grapes from the stems. Some should be underripe. Put half in a large kettle, and peel the other half, reserving the skins, and put the peeled grapes in the kettle. Cook, covered, for about 10 minutes, over medium heat, until the grapes boil and soften. Strain the grapes, pressing the mix through the strainer; discard the seeds and such.
Measure 1-1/2 cups of the remaining juices, and pour back into the kettle with the grape skins and water. Bring to a boil, then add the sugar and stir to combine. Cook about 15 minutes, uncovered, until the mixture thickens. Meanwhile, boil water in a canning bath or deep stockpot for processing the jam.

Handy information: if you have a candy thermometer, use it. Cook the jam until it's 8 degrees above the temperature of boiling water. You can check the temperature of the boiling water in your stockpot to make sure your candy thermometer is properly calibrated; mine said my water was boiling at 200F! I'd have been waiting a whole lot longer for the jam if I hadn't checked that temp against my boiling water. I digress.

After the jam is finished, ladle it into hot, sterilized half pint sized jars
(I poured boiling water into mine a few minutes before I used them, then poured it out when the jam was ready). Put the lids on the jars, and place them into the stockpot of boiling water. Make sure the water covers the lids of the jars by 1", and boil for 5 minutes. Remove the jars from the boiling water with tongs at the end of 5 minutes, and set on the stovetop or a cutting board to cool. The boys haven't tried this yet, because it's not yet lunchtime, but if the smell is any indication, this will be a surefire crowd pleaser!

Friday, September 26, 2008


About 3 years ago, my son Jeffrey planted some grape vines at the edge of the area where the kids park their cars. First, he thought it would make it look nicer, and, secondly, Jeff is a fan of "free food". And fruit bearing things constitute "free food," of course! I know my grapevines are overgrown, or too bushy, or something, but I don't like to cut down green plants. Besides, I think the bushiness of the plants protected the grapes from the birds.
Fast forward to this summer, when Jeff was complaining that he's never gotten any of his grapes, because he was in college the fall when they bore their first fruit. So when the boys announced on Tuesday that there were ripe grapes, I gave them a colander, scissors, and sent them to harvest!

Wrapped in white muslin, and carefully packaged to avoid bouncing around in the box, 5 pounds of grapes winged their way toward Jeff. These are concord grap
es, which is what grape juice is made from, and the flavor is unbelievable. Aren't they delectable looking?

Well, if we get a break in the rain, the boys are going out to get more grapes this afternoon, and we'll try our hand at grape jam. I will let you all know how our experiment goes!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Lobster Issues

No, I'm not cooking lobster. I'm not in Maine after all, and to cook Thor's Larry would be rather cruel and pointless, wouldn't it?

The lobster issue is this great big doggy expected to play with toys sized for small breeds.
No, he does enjoy Larry the Lobster. And Thor's always up for a good game of rope, although he has shredded 3 ropes this year. But look at poor Larry today!
He probably needs a couple of surgeons: an internist to put his abdomen back together, and maybe a plastic surgeon to reconstruct the claw? But, somehow, the boys think I'm up to the job. Poor Larry.

(And, confession being good for the soul, I did not wash my floor last night. Since it's raining, I may skip it tonight as well. The muddy footprints will wait a couple of days....lazy me!)

Edited at 8PM:

Update: Larry's orthopedic surgeon was a roaring success with the damaged claw. The internist, not so successful. It's hard to suture a crusty crustaceon when a big doggy's drooling on the hand that's trying to fix his toy!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Amy Wants to Know More About Meme!

Here and I've always found myself boring, but Amy, who's been following me, but doesn't comment, has tagged me with a "Meme". Now, I've got to love Amy. What's not to love about a lady whose self description reads, "I'm short. I'm fat. I sew"? I love it! Honesty! She wants me to tell you 7 things about myself that you don't know. I promise, this will be a great replacement for those Sominex tablets you were hunting for....

1. I always thought I was pretty smart, but not that pretty. When my dearly beloved met me, he thought I was really pretty, but it took him "several years" (his admission to one of our sons recently) to figure out that I had more brainpower than your average sugar beet.

2. I married the only redhead I ever dated; I knew I'd marry him after a week. Happily, the fact that we're both red means we've not been sunburnt in 30 years, and haven't suffered the annoyance of explaining to anyone why we won't stay in the sun for more than, say, 6 minutes!

3. I watch the clothes in the movies, not just the movies, and sometimes find things I want to replicate. If you've seen the movie Atonement (which I rented a week or 2 ago), I want the green dress on Claire in the pivotal scenes of the movie. I even have luscious green satin in just that shade. Now, if only I had somewhere to wear it!

4. I'm allergic to peppers of all kinds. I'll only eat small amounts of cooked, minced onions in my food. I don't like olives; I don't eat purple foods or fungus. I know, that's a lot of food rules.

5. I like big dogs and orange cats. Most dogs aren't big, despite what their humans think.

6. I taught myself to wallpaper in 1996, after spending about 3 minutes watching a demo at a (name your big box building materials store). I've since redone 8 rooms in the house.

7. I would like to drive a Rolls Royce with the new, big V-12 engine. There are only a couple of minor problems: first, the roads around here won't let me drive it the way it deserves to be driven; second, I can't justify paying the price of a house for a car, and, third, I don't know anyone who will loan me one. Ah, heck, since I work from home, I don't need another car anyway. And I like working from home, and never having to leave the house. Yes, I'm just that boring!

Thanks for reading! Leave a comment, if you wish! And I won't tag anyone, but if you'd like to tell me one thing about yourself in a comment, I'd love to hear it!

My Poor Daughter Was Drooling on her Phone...

...because her Daddy had put her on speakerphone while I finished cooking and served dinner. You see, this daughter just loves chicken. So much so that, since her classes run late on Tuesday/Thursday, she had gone to a university cafe to get a plate of chicken fingers, and eat them while she talked to us. Of course, she didn't know that this Craig Claiborne delight was hitting our table! The tiny amount which was left served me as a fine Wednesday lunch (my dearly beloved and the boys were eating turkey grinders on whole wheat french bread).

Note that while the ingredient list is all Mr. Claiborne, with minor adjustments in quantity, the technique is all mine. Feel free to cook this in a skillet on the stovetop, if that's what you desire! But since I cook too much at a time to run less than several skillets, I must stick with oven preparations.


3 to 4 pounds boneless chicken pieces (I used thighs cut in half)
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/2 onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced, or garlic powder

2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup flour or cornstarch

2 cups chicken broth
1-1/2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup grated parmesan

Spray the bottom only of a broiler pan, and arrange the chicken in the pan. Broil on each side for 4 to 5 minutes, until the chicken is browned. Remove the chi
cken to a plate, and turn the oven temperature to 400F. In this broiler pan, on the stove, melt the butter, and in it saute the onion and garlic until they are soft. Whisk in the tomato paste, then the flour or cornstarch. Slowly add the chicken broth, whisk until thickened and smooth, and turn off the stove burner. Put the chicken back in the pan, along with any juices which have accumulated on the plate. Cook in the oven about 30 minutes, or until the juices running from the chicken when stabbed with a fork are clear. Again, remove the chicken from the pan for a minute, and whisk in the sour cream. Replace the chicken in the sauce, and sprinkle the almonds and cheese on top. Run the chicken under the broiler for a minute or two, until the cheese lightly browns. I served this with buttered mini penne, and the guys just loved it!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Silvery White Cake

Yes, it's the cake I've been promising you: the companion to the Gold Cake from last week. This came from the same McCalls cookbook, and everyone except my youngest loved it. I guess he just doesn't like almond extract. (I was so excited to find real organic almond extract at; I've never been able to find anything except imitation almond extract at the grocery store!)

Anyway, without further ado, I present for your culinary delight,


2-1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1-1/2 cups sugar

3-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
5 egg whites
1 cup milk

1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Let the egg whites you've saved from your delectable gold cake c
ome to room temperature, about an hour. Preheat oven to 350F. Generously grease and lightly flour 2 layer pans or a 13x9 sheet pan.

Sift together the flour, sugar, powder and salt. Add the butter, 3
/4 cup milk and extracts. Beat just until ingredients are combined at low speed, then beat at medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping side of bowl often. Add the unbeaten egg whites and the rest of the milk, and beat for 2 minutes longer. Pour the batter into prepared pans, bake layers 30 to 35 minutes, or oblong 35 to 40 minutes. Cool and frost with buttercream frosting flavored with almond extract instead of vanilla.

And, Paula, I don't find it necessary to store cakes with buttercream frosting in the refrigerator, although they rarely last more than 2 days anyway. However, I admit that when I make the kids' birthday cakes, they always store the remains in the fridge; they love the frosting cold!

As you can see from the color in this picture, the cake really does have a silver cast to it!

I ate sort of a lot of this cake over the 2 days it lasted, but my dearly beloved and 12 year old just tore through it! My youngest did prefer the gold cake. Well, at least I know I can make them both back to back again, and have them all consumed!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday Night Notes

I'm ashamed to say I've been a sewing slacker of late. I made most of this yellow dress a couple of weeks ago, and finally got to setting the sleeves and putting in the hem last weekend. Don't pay much attention to my appearance, since I took this picture at 1AM, after 17 hours up and about, but Gaylen was recently asking what's coming out of the sewing machines, and I'm ashamed to admit that it's precious little.

Sunday I cut out a white dress from the same pattern as the yellow one (it's my favorite princess seamed dress). I got the body of the dress together, and then discovered that I had completely botched the facing. And, WHAM! Just like that, progress is over. I did make the facing, again, from a different fabric, because I had absolutely nothing left of this fabric, and got it pinned in place, but the rhythm was gone. I do want to finish this dress soon. The fabric is a heavy knit, not sweater weight, but certainly reminiscent of a sweater, and I've been dithering for several years while deciding which pattern is exactly right for this fabric.

On board afte
r the white dress, another white dress from a different fabric and a different pattern, then the Thanksgiving dress. I have this fabric for that, just haven't decided what I want to turn it into. The fabric is a darker color than the picture shows, but it does have the sparklies on it. I'm not entirely sure I'm a sparkly girl, but my daughters found it for me last winter, and they loved it, so I have to use it for something. I suppose that next weekend I will have to drape the fabric around myself and wander around for a little while, figuring out what it wants to be.

Also, before Thanksgiving, I want to do something with my family room drapes (these are only 2 of the 4 windows in there). I think I have a plan, involving the drapes, hunter green chintz, and several hours of machine time. Updates as I go along, but, having told all of you that I want to get this done in the next 2 months, I may actually shame myself into completing the project.

Lastly, for Pa
ula's picky eaters, look at this lovely plate! My husband's grandmother bought this depression glass new, and he got it when the family moved her to a nursing home. Myself, I don't like food touching, either, but I'd be afraid to use 75 year old plates just because I don't want my food in association with other foods. But, Paula, if you were really, really, really considerate of the twins' feelings, you'd hunt down antique plates like this for them! Just kidding, tell them to suck it up; it will help with their intestinal fortitude down the line.

Tomorrow, I'll bring you silver white cake. Until then, sweet dreams in blogland.

Autumn Friend

Thanks to the Blonde Duck for this award. I appreciate it very much. If you haven't stopped by the pond to visit her flights of fancy and amusing characters, you'll enjoy it. Those of us who have daughters, little or grown, are especially likely to keep going back.

I'd like to pass this on to Paula, Pam and Gaylen in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

Thanks, Duckie!

Happy Autumnal Solstice!

In honor of the last school day of summer on Friday, the boys and I decided to make strawberry ice cream using a recipe given by the talented Mrs. Prudence Pennywise. This decision was not hurt by the fact that I still had 12 quarts of frozen strawberries from the boys' expeditions to the strawberry fields this summer with their sisters. Being the basically lazy person I am (translation: make enough to last another day), I doubled her recipe. This was excellent ice cream, and coming from a person who only eats vanilla ice cream (me), that's high praise indeed. I will publish the doubled recipe here, as I made it, and you can go visit Prudy to see the original.


2-1/2 cups strawberries - fresh or frozen
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp orange juice
1/2 tsp orange zest
1-1/2 cups sour cream
1-1/2 cups whipping cream

(she also called for white chocolate, but it turned out I didn't have any - SOB!)

Stir together the strawberries, sugar, juice and zest in a saucepan, and heat on the stove until the sugar is all melted and the strawberries are soft. Remove from the heat, cool slightly, and put in the blender or food processor and turn until smooth. Place these in a nice, big bowl, and whisk in the sour cream and whipping cream. Put it in the freezer; take the bowl out every half hour to stir with the whisk. Ito took about 3 hours for mine to be solid. If you are fortunate enough to have the white chocolate, after the ice cream is nearly solid, melt the white chocolate in the microwave at half power, and drizzle on the ice cream, letting it sit about 30 seconds to solidify and be stirred in before melting more. I am so distressed! My daughters must have eaten my box of Baker's white chocolate when I wasn't looking!

My husband commented that he would have liked this ice cream better if it had been sweeter, but he then proceeded to polish off a nice, big bowl of it; I very much enjoyed it, as did the boys. Word of warning, however, for those who try to make extra, as I did: it
gets really, really hard in the freezer overnight. Like, let it sit on the counter for 15 or more minutes before you even think about trying to dig into it, it's so hard. (Does ice cream made with an ice cream maker get this hard? I was thinking of getting one for my birthday, for the kids to give me, of course!) However, let me also assure you that it was still tasty!

Additional warning: if two children are "helping" with this recipe, be absolutely certain to let them each measure the same amounts of everything. Stirring is harder to split up, but my boys managed to squabble their way through it nonetheless. And if Mommy drank, this would have been the perfect time to break out the libation of choice, to assist in maintenance of sanity. There, I've admitted I'm not perfectly sane; doesn't everyone feel better now? And look at this pretty little dish of ice cream I ate. Yes, that's all I ate. Fat management, remember? Thanksgiving is coming soon!

Friday, September 19, 2008

McCall's Best Gold Cake, Revised

This is the first part of a 2 cake series; the second one will follow in a couple of days.

I found this recipe in a 1960 or so McCall's cookbook, and the one that will follow several pages later. If there's one thing I love, it's a good yellow cake. And trust me, this one is rich and good. Bear in mind as you read it that I do not, for any reason, cook with shortening. It's just one of those things that simply can't happen in my world, having nothing to do with reason, and everything to do with hearing someone refer to Crisco as "fat in a can" when I was very young, maybe 5. Well, in the deep, dark recesses of my pea-sized brain, I don't want any fat in my can, and so can't cook with the stuff. Thanks for playing shrink, and letting me explore my aversion to Crisco, but please don't send the psychoanalysis bill, because I'll be too busy realigning
my fat management program. Anyway, on to why you're really here.....


2-1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter

1-1/4 cup milk
5 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease & flour a 14x9 cake pan, or two 9" layer pans. In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients together. Add the butter and 3/4 cup milk; beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Add egg yolks, remaining milk and vanilla; beat 2 minutes longer. Pour the batter into prepared pan(s), and bake 30 to 35 minutes for layers, or 35 to 40 minutes for oblong, my cake of choice for this recipe. Cool the cake in the pan(s) before removing. Coo
l thoroughly before frosting.

Where I used butter, the original recipe called for shortening. This was a very flavorful cake, although my youngest was griping that he prefers my mint chocolate buttercream frosting over my vanilla buttercream frosting. Well, I guess I can't please everyone, although I try.

This was the last corner of the cake. While I made it a couple of days ago, I couldn't get a decent picture of it, because no one would let theirs sit so I could take its picture. And I certainly wasn't going to cut myself a piece, preferring to instead eat only 2 bites of the corner of my dearly beloved's piece. He doesn't gain weight, but I do, so I limit my food "sins" to sharing his!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

We Do Too Feed Thor!

I gather from the pretzel reaction that no one believes Thor is fed his full due. This picture would seem to bear out that conclusion.
However, please note this picture from last Christmas. One of the kids got the bright idea to throw him a green M&M (because that's the healthy color for food), and my daughter got the picture.

Great view of those teeth, eh? Gotta love that dog.

And, to update you all, a few weeks back, I posted that Thor was having trouble walking. After discounting the vet's statement that it was all because he's too fat (does he look too fat to you? because he doesn't to me; just happily fed), I bought him some Glucosamine and Chondritin, which is supposed to be good for joints that don't work so well any more. And I am pleased to report to all of Thor's friends that he does seem to be getting up and down better! All you furry friends out there can remember this for your human mommies, in case you get to be a bit arthritic, too.

Everyone have a great weekend, and get out there and romp with your human/four footed friends!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Caramel Banana Coffee Cake

I was going to write about the cake I made Monday night, then discovered I didn't have a picture of it in my computer. And I'm not going to cut one of the last pieces of it, because then I'd be forced to eat it. And none of you would want me to make that sacrifice for you, would you? I thought not. After all, if I lose 5 pounds before the holidays, then I can gain them back during the holidays. HAH! As if I can preplan my fat management! Hmfff. Anyway,

I made the coffee cake this weekend, when a friend was here with his son's friend to pick up a car. I know what to do when men walk into one's house: Feed Them. Early and Often. This is really easy. It requires the following mess equipment: One pie plate, one measuring cup, one fork, one knife and a couple of measuring spoons. No Mess! Who could ask for anything more?



1-3/4 cup flour
6 tsp or 2 envelopes yeast
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees or so, or slightly warmer than your hand)
2 tbsp melted butter

Don't preheat your oven!

Melt the butter in your trusty measuring cup, in the microwave, of course. Meanwhile, pour the dry ingredients in a greased or sprayed pie plate, and stir together with the fork. Pour in the butter and the warm water, and stir together with the fork. It'll form a loose dough ball; press that evenly into the pan with your trusty fork. Are you ready to reuse your measuring cup? No washing required.


2 tbsp melted butter
1/3 cup corn syrup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 banana, sliced (I took one out of my freezer)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Melt the butter in the microwave in your measuring cup. Pour in the corn syrup. The butter will float on top of the corn syrup, so you can pour the syrup in with the melted butter. Add the brown sugar and stir to combine, then add the walnuts and banana slices. Pour over the top of the dough. Sprinkle 1 to 2 tsp cinnamon and 1 to 2 tbsp white sugar over the top, just in case this topping wasn't sweet enough for you, and put in a cold oven. Turn the oven on to 350 and bake about 25 minutes. What you see in this picture is what was left from 2 coffee cakes after 4 men who said they'd already had lunch got through!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Greasing Pans

Greasing pans is the bane of my existance. OK, maybe not THE bane, but it's close.

I really can't stand buying those cans of spray for the pans. Every time I turn around, they're empty, and I have a fairly large can to get rid of. You may think, "Big deal! With a household of 11, they must have truckloads o
f trash!" Nope. One can per week. I rarely use cans, never use glass jars, and my single biggest trash luxury is the Wall Street Journal. Meats are wrapped in plastic wrap by the butcher; no styrofoam trays for me! But I digress.

I've always used crisco and paper towels to grease my pans, but that can be sloppy, too. So, when I saw this little gismo at for under 10 bucks, I had to try it. I've had it 3 weeks now, so it's probably safe to say that it works pretty well. Yo
u simply pour about a cup of plain vegetable oil in it, pump it up with the cap (sitting beside it), and spray your pan. If you look at my pan of butterscotch fingers, you'll see that they came out of the pan nicely.

This is the best solution I've found to greasing pans. Has anyone found a better one?

Butterscotch Fingers

My dearly beloved loves butterscotch. So do I, but I don't bake for myself; I must protect my hindquarters from overload to whatever degree I can, after all.

For many years, I had a little index card sized box. Wrote recipes on cards, cut some out of newspapers or magazines and stuffed them in the box, whatever I needed to do. Well, about 2 years ago (maybe longer - time runs together) I found a little binder with pages for holding recipes in sleeves, and lightweight cardboard pages on which to
write recipes, and cute little dividers for different types of food, and it was on a clearance table for $2.00. Of course, I knew it had to go home with me. A long time later - last winter, I think, but maybe the winter before - I took apart my box. It took 2 afternoons to go through, throw out recipes I knew I'd never make and organize the rest. Some were so disheveled that I put several to a page and xeroxed them; others lived to be glued to a page, but it's worked out pretty well. Anyway, last weekend I was looking in my book for a recipe for lemon bars, which I knew was in there, and stumbled upon this recipe, which was doubtless cut out of a magazine, and in rough shape when I put the book together. And I knew my husband and boys would love it, so it appeared Saturday.


1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg

1 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

In a mixing bowl, pour the butter over the brown sugar, and stir together. Mix in the egg followed by the flour, powder and vanilla. Note: the batter will be quite stiff. Stir in the chopped nuts and press into a greased 8x8 or 9x9 square pan. Bake at 325 for 22 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
My dearly beloved helped me out on Saturday. After the little guys had gone to bed, he cleaned the pan for me. Sunday he was bemoaning the fact that "someone" had not made more butterscotch fingers, so more appeared for Sunday dessert, with butterscotch pudding (made from my butterscotch meringue pie filling recipe).
That batch lasted until Monday morning's breakfast.

Monday, September 15, 2008


In Calvert Kindergarten, for one art assignment, Mark (translation: mostly Mom) made number pretzels. They provided a recipe for pretzel dough, and the child formed them into numbers. Well, he loved them, as did everyone else in the household. Friday night, he wanted to make number pretzels again; why not?

I used to bread machine to mix the dough, and let the boys measure out the ingredients. These are really good. While you don't have to shape your into numbers or letters, as my boys did, you certainly can - doesn't that make them more fun anyway?


1-1/2 cups warm water
4 cups flour
1 tsp salt

3 tsp yeast

Sprinkle the yeast into the water to soften. If using a bread machine, add the flour and salt and let it run for about 10 minutes, to combine the dough. To mix by hand, s
tir in the flour and salt, then knead on a floured surface for 5 to 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth. Let it sit 15 minutes, then break off pieces and roll into 1/2" diameter tubes. Twist them any way you'd like - letters, numbers, even the traditional pretzel knot! Beat one egg with 1 tsp water and brush on top of the pretzels, then sprinkle with sea salt or kosher salt. Let them rise until doubled in size, about 20 minutes, then bake at 375 for about 12 to 14 minutes, or until golden brown. Ours are not that dark, because the boys were impatient.

Ryan brought them to the family room for a Friday viewing of the Hurricane Ike coverage.
The boys and their Dad made pigs of themselves
Notice how hopeful Thor was.Too much salt for a dog.

There were none left.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Thank you, Katherine

For some reason, Katherine at the Smoky Mountain Cafe has chosen me as a blogger worthy of mention. Katherine makes great, easy everyday foods (and she has nice legs). It's an honor to be chosen by her as a kick-*** blogger.

The rules:

Choose 5 kick-*** bloggers
Let them know they've been awarded
Link back to the person who awarded you
Link back to MammaDawg

I choose:

Paula - Best Cyber friend ever! Great cook with nice kids! and a fellow Calvert mom

Blond Duck - read her stories! Can that girl write, or what!

Pam in Oregon - good food, great pictures, and her directions aren't too complex! Great for those of us who just don't want to invest 18 hours a day in cooking!

Cathy - Who has a planet-wide following, and often starts thought-provoking discussions

and A Southern Grace - funny, with good food, and great pictures!

If you've not read any of these people, check them out; it'll be worth your while!

And now, back to our regularly scheduled activities - cleaning, cooking, sewing, selling a car...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Whole Wheat French Bread

The best thing for my relatively recent (about 10 years) love for making bread is that my little guys don't realize that kids are "supposed" to love WonderBread and hate whole wheat bread. The worst thing is that I'm easily bored by making the same old thing, and have a tendency to make different breads often, even if I'm being raucously cheered toward the "same old" by my legions (ha!) of fans (or, at least, forced consumers). So, last night I said to myself, "Self," I said, "If I can make French Bread, why not Whole Wheat French Bread?" That was all it took for this to become reality. One loaf got consumed at dinner, and my dearly beloved had eaten the end pieces (well buttered, of course) before dinner because the poor man was starving to death.


1-1/2 cups water
6 tsp yeast
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups white flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp honey

For the bread machine, add ingredients in the order listed and let it mix. For a Kitchenaid mixer or by hand, pour the water into the bowl and add the yeast and honey; let sit for a couple of minutes. Stir in the flour and salt, and add the olive oil before the mixing is complete. Knead by machine or by hand about 10 minutes, until the douh is smooth and elastic. Let it sit in a warm place, then, on a floured board, form into 2 long loaves. Bake at 375 for 16 to 18 minutes, depending on the darkness desired for the crust. Makes 2 one pound loaves
of bread.These also made dandy cheese and tomato, or turkey, cheese and tomato (depending upon the child) sandwiches for lunch today. Sorry, but there are only pictures of the bread cut open; the three boys were impatient to get outside for their chilly, cloudy picnic. Hey, after all, what are a few clouds for a couple of boys and a dog who just want to run and eat?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thor In School

Rainy Tuesday. Sad dog. No recess today.Ryan reading Around the World in 80 Days.
Mark Reading
Robinson Crusoe.
Thor moping under their chairs.

9/11/2001: I Will Never Forget

Americans are a generous and tolerant people, although widely considered rude and obnoxious through the rest of the world.

I do not understand the intolerance of the religious extremists who sought to wreak such havoc on our country 7 years ago today. Today, I mourn on behalf of the thousands of families whose lives were forever scarred. I will never forget your losses, nor the hatred which caused such heartache. I remember the funeral procession for the young woman who had graduated from high school near here a few years previously.

I remember my young second cousin, 3 months into her first job in NYC, who was so frightened by 9/11 that she abandoned all of her possessions and fled home.

I remember the attorney for the firm against whom we had filed suit, who escaped the towers, and immediately thereafter called our lawyer and gave us exactly what we sought.

I hadn't been in NYC for in excess of a decade before 9/11, but I can never forget.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Chicken With Tomatoes

Inspired by Pam's roasted chicken with summer veggies, and Katherine's Chicken Pastina, last night's cool weather inspired me to make something similar to what they both did last week. Of course, I never have the same things in my kitchen as other people. I also cannot possibly cook my starch with my meat (with exceptions for roasted potatoes), because I'm pretty sure that degree of food mixing is illegal or at least stomach-damaging. Hmmm, maybe I should be eating off my dearly beloved's grandmother's depression glass with separate food sections? Naaah, that would just be way too food segregationalist, wouldn't it? I digress. Anyway, this is what I did. After you drool over Pam's and Katherine's lovely contributions to food world, this isn't all that great, but it's the best I could do last night (and it also warmed the kitchen on a rainy 50 degree night).

Chicken With Tomatoes

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken, cut into large chunks
olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
2 tomatoes, diced

4 green onions, diced
12 basil leaves, snipped
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup water whisked with 6 tbsp cornstarch or flour
mozzarella cheese slices

In the bottom of the broiler pan, drizzle olive oil. Place the chicken chunks in a single layer, very lightly salt and pepper and broil for 5 to 6 minutes per side, depending upon the size of the pieces; it won't quite be done. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat the chicke
n broth, and whisk in the water/cornstarch or flour combo. It will be very thick; don't worry, that will get sorted out. Stir in the tomato, onion and basil, and cook a few minutes, until the chicken has cooked sufficiently. Pour the sauce and vegetables over the chicken, and return to the broiler for 3 minutes. Top with thin slices of mozzarella, which will melt in but not disappear. Serve with a side of buttered pasta and a green vegetable (I chose broccoli). Serves 5 (yes, I'm sadly back to small family cookery).

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Banana Muffins

Some of you may remember that I love muffins, especially mini muffins. There is nothing like a great, warm stack of semi-sweet goodness. Everyone can have as many or few as he wishes, and the variations we, the cooks, can make are endless!

So, with my motherlode of bananas, what would be more natural th
an to think, "Quick! I shall make banana muffins!" These were dessert, and both late-night munchies and breakfast for my dearly beloved. I ate two: one for dessert, and one for breakfast. I was happy. And, at those quantities, these are not a butt-enhancing experience!


1-3/4 cups flour

1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 banana
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped nuts

Sugar to top

Preheat oven to 400. Grease or spray 24 mini muffin pans, or 12 regular muffin pans.

Break the banana into pieces, and beat it with the egg and sugar. Stir in the flour, baking powder, milk and oil, and combine well. Stir in the nuts, and spoon into the muffin cups. Sprinkle a bit of sugar over the top of each (my experience is that less than 1/2 tsp sugar per muffin is plenty!). Bake the mini muffins for 11 to 14 minutes, or regular sized muffins for (as a guess) 15 to 17
I promise, you will enjoy these.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Banana Waffles

Who remembers when I ordered a case of bananas? Yeah, I do, too. The thing is, I just love bananas. And for some insane reason, although my dearly beloved swears that they're supposed to put weight on people, they actually take it off me (maybe part of the reason for the adoration of them?). So, every few months, I forget the previous lessons, and buy a case of bananas. I did it again last Tuesday. Of course, this means banana cake, this one in two layers with bananas and whipped cream between them and buttercream frosting on top (oh, be still my growing butt), banana bread, including loaves shipped to several college students, and, this weekend, a new creation: Banana waffles!

Some of you may remember that I wrote of my love for my waffle iron way back, about a year ago. I also gave you my insanely large recipe for waffle batter, in case you were planning to have 10 or 20 people sleep over at your house, or wanted to make your own "Leggo My Eggo" frozen waffles, or just really, really wanted to stuff your faces. Cut it in half; it'll be much better suited to a "normal" sized family. In my house, that recipe lasts less than 2 days.

You will notice that most waffle recipes call for the eggs to be separated, and the egg whites to be folded into the rest of the batter. That's too much fussing for my little world, where someone's always bellowing or wailing, "There's nothing to eeeeeaaaatttt here!" So this recipe is a "just dump it together and get it done!" thing; you can thank me later for saving you all that time.

I decided, given my case of bananas, that flavored waffles would be in order for the weekend's breakfast. So, I tried a small batch of this waffle batter. My youngest was most enthusiastic about this breakfast, and he is not a big fan of food. No one even noticed tha
t I replaced some of the white flour with whole wheat flour, making it much healthier than the original. You will definitely find me doubling this and making it again!

2 cups flour

1 cup whole wheat flour
1-1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp baking powder
2 bananas
3 eggs
2-1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup oil

Mash the bananas with your mixer, and add the eggs; mix well. Stir in the milk a
nd oil, then add the dry ingredients. Mix well, and measure into your waffle iron.; cook according to directions supplied with the iron Makes 6 to 8 waffles, depending upon the size. And, yes, this is my waffle on a "Pooh" plate. Doesn't Winnie the Pooh make everything more fun?

Oh, and Gaylen, I'm sorry I didn't finish my sewing, so I could post less food, as per your request. Remember, this is a healthy breakfast, and not fattening; I won't post a really fattening dessert tomorrow, either. Still friends?

I've Been Awarded!

I'm not really sure why, but the Blonde Duck saw fit to call me brilliant. Me? She writes about Miss Pickles. And she thinks I'm brilliant. Hmmmm. Thanks, Duckie, for venturing from the pond to visit me. Come on by any time to snarf up some of those desserts.
And from Gaylen, I received this award:

Thor would like to thank all of you, his friends all around the world, for encouraging Gaylen to give him this most prestigious Dog Award.....wait, are you saying it's not for Thor? Nonsense. Don't we all know Thor does the Thursday post? It's just that his human has to type it, because we're still working on making Thor's thumbs opposable! I'd like to pass this one on to the Blonde Duck and Queen Bitty, and to Linda and Notshy (with honorable mention of her cat, DoDad).

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Lemon Basil Chicken

There's been a lot of lemon in my world lately. I do love lemons. Sweetened, with meat, sliced and tossed in water or iced tea, whatever the case may be, lemons are a good thing.

So last night I had a chicken to roast. I've roasted them with lemon and tarragon, but I still had some of the farmer's basil left, so that became the obvious victim of my latest cooking scheme. This was really good; I had nothing leftover, and poor Thor only got a little bit of pasta with his Bites & Bones. (And that stupid human expects Thor to survive on Bites & Bones? Hmph. She must be even stupider than we gave her credit for being!)

Lemon Basil Chicken

1 Oven Stuffer Roaster
1 Lemon, zested and cut in half
15 to 20 basil leaves, most of them chopped coarsely
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Zest the entire lemon. Chop all but about 5 of the basil leaves, and mix them in a small bowl with the lemon zest. Gently squeeze much of the juice out of the lemon halves into the zest and basil, then stir in the vegetable oil.

Rinse the chicken cavity, then lightly salt it. Put the remaining basil leaves and the squeezed lemon halves inside the chicken cavity. Using your fingertips, loosen the skin from the top of the chicken, including the legs. Using your fingers, slide the lemon zest and basil mixture under the skin, distributing it around as evenly as possible. If desired, salt the outside of the skin, but I didn't; the lemon and basil was more than sufficient seasoning from my point of view (I'm not a really salt
loving person here). Roast at 325 until the bird is done (I think it's about 25 minutes per pound, but please, please don't quote me on that! I just wing it, folks!). Skim off the fat, then make a gravy using cornstarch and the drippings (gluten free for Paula's baby, and it doesn't distort or hide the taste of the chicken, as flour can). If you didn't use salt, as I didn't, you'll need to add a touch of salt to the gravy. Served with rice and a tomato & cucumber salad, this made everyone happy. And with fall on its way, everyone will be looking for more warm comfort foods; here's my offering for you!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Portguese Sweet Bread

This is an oft-made bread, requested by the little boys a couple of days ago. Portguese Sweet Bread is just what its name implies: neither too heavy nor light, somewhat sweet bread. It goes well with poultry and pork, makes a great jam sandwich, and superb French Toast. What more could anyone ask of a bread? Doesn't that make you want to try it now?


1-1/3 cups warm milk
6 tsp yeast*
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups flour
3 eggs
3 tbsp butter
1 tsp salt

Soften the yeast in the milk, stir in the sugar and half the flour. Add the eggs and melted butter, and stir in the rest of the flour and the salt. Knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic, and form it into two loaves. Let it rise until doubled in size, then bake at 350 for 24 to 26 minutes. (Or just let your stand mixer or bread machine do all the mixing for you, after adding the ingredients in the order I've listed here.) Note that if you have more than about 1-1/4 hours to make this bread, the yeast can be cut to 3 tsp. The crust is very dark because of the eggs and butter, but very thin and soft. This bread will keep about 3 days, again, because of the eggs and butter. I put a slice on top of the loaves, so you can see the beautiful texture and

When I make this bread, I think back to Isabelle in 3rd grade. She moved here from Portugal very early in the school year, although not at the very beginning. Our teacher assigned me to be her "buddy" and help her learn her way around the school, and start learning English, because our birthday was on the same day. Isabelle was beautiful, with gorgeous bright golden curls and a winning smile. We moved away after 4th grade, and I never saw Isabelle again. Until I was 17, at least, when I was shopping for wedding attendant dresses for a high school friend with a group of friends. We walked into a tiny bridal shop on Main Street, and the beautiful girl in the shop looked at me and exclaimed, "I know you! You're Marjie!" Ummmm..."We have the same birthday!" Yes, it was Isabelle. I was tickled that she recognized me, having not seen me for 8 years.

So, I saw an article in the paper this morning, stating that Oregon wants to limit ESL education to 2 years. And I remembered beautiful Isabelle, with no ESL, doing just great in school, and learning the English language just by following along in the classroom, in that first year. Then, I remembered that a boy named Uwe moved in from Germany in 4th grade, and, again, he learned English within that year. (There was someone with his first and last name on one of the news stations a couple of years back, who appeared to be about my age. I wonder if that immigrant boy is now on TV?). And both of these kids cause me to wonder if we aren't harming immigrant children by putting them into ESL classes, instead of mainstreaming them. Oh, well, politicians and schools don't want my opinion, and don't care for my anecdotal evidence anyway. Isabelle, wherever you are, it was great to be your friend in 3rd and 4th grade, and this bread still makes me think fondly of you, 4 decades later.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thor Had Visitors!

Well, these people really came to visit us. Just don't tell Thor that.

There was a golden retriever in this car. He's a very nice dog. He's just young, like about 2 years old. So when he was leaping around and trying to funfight with Thor, poor Thor just stood there looking around. After a minute or 2, he walked over and sat down next to my husband, as if to say, "Daddy! Protect me from this child who won't sit down and be nice!" Of course, I didn't have my camera outside at that time. The visiting dog was astonished at having acres across which he could simply run unfettered; he'd never actually done that!
When the dog and his humans were leaving, Thor went to inspect the back of their Jeep. You never know; they might have food in there! The picture's dark, because the flash went off, causing the taillights to make a bright spot in the photo.
After determining there was no food, Thor checked the backseat. Finding that young dog sitting there, he decided this was not his car, and wandered back to sit next to me. Sometimes visitors are just wearing on a poor guy!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Magic Cake

Everyone loves magic, right? And everyone loves cake, right? Those of us who make the cake love it even more when we don't even have to use a bowl to make the cake! And it can, and should, be served 5 to 10 minutes out of the oven, eliminating the need to plan more than an hour ahead. That's close enough to perfect for me.

This was not called "Magic Cake" by Betty Crocker, when she put it in her "Shortcut Cooking for the Smart Cook". I believe she c
alled it "Hot Fudge Sundae Cake" or something to that effect. However, Ryan, many years ago, in his infinite 3-year-old's wisdom, called it Magic Cake the first time he saw it. And magic cake it has stayed.

This is a p
erfect transitional (read: autumnal) dessert. It's warm, since it's a cake, but it's cool, served with ice cream. And it makes its own hot fudge to top off the cake and ice cream. What are you waiting for? Everyone in the house will enjoy this one.


1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp bak
ing powder
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

1 cup packed brown sugar
4 tbsp cocoa powder
1-3/4 cups
very hot tap water

ice cream
whipped cream

Heat oven to 350.

In a 9x9x2 or 10x7x2 ungreased pan, stir together the flour, white sugar, 2 tbsp cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Mix in the milk, oil, and vanilla with a fork until the batter is smooth. Stir in the nuts, if desired. Spread evenly in pan.

Sprinkle the entire top of the cake batter with the brown sugar, then sprinkle the 4 tbsp cocoa evenly over the brown sugar. Pour the hot water over the top of the cake. Yes, I know this sounds wrong. It goes against everything you know, but it does work.

Bake the cake uncovered for 40 minutes. The cake will not have a sunken top if it is fully cooked, but testing will not tell you if it's done. This is what you'll take out of the oven. It looks rather crusty, but it gets better when you serve it.

While it's warm, put the cake on serving plates. Top with ice crea
m, and spoon the hot fudge from the bottom of the pan. Voila! The Magic! Top each with whipped cream for a real sugar coma and caloric nightmare. I promise you'll love it. (Shown without whipped cream for the full mouthwatering effect.)