Sunday, November 30, 2008

Boeuf Bourgignon...or something similar

This came out of my new James Beard cookbook. The late, great Mr. Beard pointed out that the most common mistake for beef burgundy is that the little beef cubes overcook, so he came up with this method of cooking it. Now, as usual, I didn't exactly follow his directions (which were to braise the meat), but I did use his ingredients and his order of progression, so this counts as a James Beard recipe, right?


5 pound bottom round roast
1 stick butter
1/2 cup flour or cornstarch
1 leek, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced

1-1/2 cups burgundy
1-1/2 cups beef broth
1 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
12 mushrooms

Melt the butter in the bottom of a covered roaster. Sautee the leeks and garlic in it, whisk in the flour, followed by the burgundy, beef broth and spices. Whisk until smo
oth. Add the roast, cover, and roast at 325F until it reaches its desired degree of doneness on the meat thermometer. When done, remove the roast to a platter. Slice the mushrooms, saute in 1 tbsp butter, and stir into the gravy. If needed, whisk in more flour or cornstarch to thicken the gravy. Serve with boiled potatoes and a lovely green vegetable for a picturesque plate.

I'm sorry I can't show you my picturesque plate, but my troops showed up and gobbled it all. So, here's Thor instead. This served 12 with no leftovers, just scrap for Thor.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving was great!

Well, I must confess that I was forced to break with my Thanksgiving week food schedule. After my third son discovered that I'd spent about 8 hours pre-preparing Thanksgiving foods, he put his foot down, announced that I was working too hard, and he was getting pizza for dinner. I don't like pizza, and protested, by my dearly beloved announced that he was on my son's side, and, of course, the other boys joined the clamor, and then they simply went and fetched pizza. (I was relieved; that much less to do, but don't tell them I was happy to wimp out.)

Dan's girlfriend was excited about peeling the potatoes. What kind of girl loves to peel potatoes, anyway? And this is the second year in a row she's come for Thanksgiving. Do I sense something going on here?

Thor helped set the table. He was sure something good would come of his a
ssistance.Of course, the traditional picture of everyone in front of the front door. My dearly beloved is the guy hiding behind me, in the yellow sweater. I think he's a great looking guy; he always maintains that he's an ugly guy with a great looking armpiece. Our friend Greg brought his brother Steve this year, for the first time; Steve was amazed at how much food we forced on him, and really seemed to enjoy sitting beside my youngest son and chatting with the kid.

Thor came to the table, but got bored waiting for the serving dishes to start moving, and went to sleep.

I forced everyone to sit for numerous pictures "at the table". Sorry, guys, but you know this is how it is around here!

Did someone want dessert? Greg's daughter in law made the chocolate frosted cake. She spent at least 90 minutes assembling this thing. It was beautiful, but I'm just not going to put that much effort into a cake. I'm glad she wanted to!

One more look at my girls and me: Cass, Shannon, Kellie and Mom. Thank you for the compliments on my dress. I do have to warn you, if you ever buy a sparkly dress or sparkly fabric, the sparkles will melt on your iron if you don't use a good towel between the fabric and iron to diminish the heat. Sparkles are also itchy. But it was fun fabric!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Food was a success. Kids watching TV, playing board and card games. Kitchen clean after four dishwasher loads.

Happy Thanksgiving from my beautiful daughters and me. More tomorrow, or whenever I regain consciousness!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving Week

Following the lead of The Blonde Duck, I thought I'd make a list of the things for which I'm thankful (yes, I'm such a grammar nerd I can't stand the "dangling preposition").

1. I am thankful to have found a man who has happily tolerated me for nearly 30 years, despite my often dour disposition and fiery temper, because our personalities are exactly suited to each other. He has made an unhappy person into a very happy one, a
nd for that I give thanks every day.

2. I am thankful to have nine children who all healthy, intelligent, and good-looking to boot. How much better can life get?

3. I am thankful to have had three "gentle giants" with which to raise my children. There is nothing like a calm dog to soothe everyone's nerves, and smooth over ruffled feathers and hurt feelings. There's also nothing like the security of knowing that no one will come in your yard because there's a dog the size of a bear in that yard!

4. I am thankful that I found my Readers Digest cookbo
ok at a tag sale for a quarter when I was 15. I'd never have known that food didn't have to come from a box, and could taste good, without it (I suppose I should be happy that I can read well, too!).

5. I'm thankful that I took that one sewing class in high school, and decided I could teach myself to sew as well as my maternal grandmother did. (And I finished my Thanksgiving dress this afternoon, so all is right in my little world!)

6. I'm thankful that my parents were so irresponsible that I became a compulsive saver, making my own life so much more comfortable.

7. I am thankful that my children are all eager to arrive home (if they haven't already) and spend time with us, and, more importantly, each other. To have raised children who have grown up to be each other's best friends is the greatest accomplishment anyone can have (just ask the parents of the lovely and talented Mrs. Prudence Pennywise how wonderful they feel!).

Also, I am grateful for you, my "invisible friends", for stopping by to visit me and enjoy my little corner of the world.

Time to stop feeling happy, chase those kids out of my kitchen and make them stop making cookies under Thor's supervision, and begin some serious cooking!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Poached Chicken

Before we get to the chicken, Thanksgiving progress updates. My dress now has a body, although the fit isn't quite right (which is what I get for trying a pattern for the first time on something that matters!), and I really think that a few details like finishing the neckline and hem, and adding sleeves, will really spiff it up (if I get it to fit). Nonetheless, progress! I won't have to pin pieces to my undergarments, after all!

For those of you who asked, I have 2 big refrigerators upstairs which hold food, a large underbar sized refrigerator for milk & salad dressing only, and last week my third big fridge (in the basement) bit the dust. Poor timing. I'll survive. I also have two freezers. Hey, a girl has to do what a girl has to do to feed 7 guys, now, doesn't she? My shipment Friday included $100 worth of turkey...fresh turkeys, because I hate thawing the frozen ones. It was about 6
0 pounds all told between birds and legs. No one leaves my table hungry! I also have about 3 weeks worth of food, excluding milk, and I do need some of those Pillsbury roll out pie crusts. Other than that, my stock is good, for a total of $649.76. And that is why I can order from a restaurant supply house, and have them send a refrigerated 10 wheel truck and a guy with a hand truck to bring it right into the kitchen, where Thor inspects it, determines that it's uncooked, and therefore not food, and goes to sleep.

Most of the college aged troops are home, and life is good in Thor world. Pictures will surely surface at a later time, but suffice it to say, there is a large crowd of people playing Risk in my family room, with the dog keeping the peace while chewing his new dinosaur femur.

And, now, what you are waiting for: A new recipe from James Beard! OK, maybe it's not new, since he died about 20 years ago, but it's new to us, right? And my troops tried and approved it (and, trust me, these are not people inclined to be kind with criticism), so it's worth your effort.


1 whole chicken (roaster of whatever's handy)
1 large stockpot
1 onion stuck with 2 cloves
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs parsley
1 to 2 whole garlic cloves
1 sliver of lemon rind
1/2 tsp pepper

1 tbsp salt
water to cover the bird

Plop the chicken in the pot with everything else. Cover with water. Bring to a simmer and skim off the foam. Simmer until done, probably about 90 minutes. Lift the chicken out, and strain the broth. Save it in jars to use! Cook your rice in it! It's good, trust me! Make gravy out of some of the broth, or try this splendid creamy sauce, also suggested by Mr. Beard:

2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 cup warm milk
salt & pepper
3 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream

Melt the butter in a sauce pan, and whisk in the cornstarch, t
hen the milk. Add salt & pepper to taste and cook until thickened (this is bechamel sauce). Whisk in the egg yolks and heavy cream, and heat through, but not quite to boiling. Pour some over the chicken pieces on the platter, and pass the rest.

Serve the chicken on a bed of rice. I added green beans, because there must always be green food with every one of my meals. Poor Thor only got some rice and chicken skin; there was nothing else for a starving little doggy even though his Mom cooked two chickens.

And we will close with a newly tested thing from Ryan's "How to Repair Food" book. I can smell milk getting ready to sour 2 to 3 days before anyone else can. So I got the opportunity to try this "repair" out. If your milk is turning sour (but not yet curdled, YUK!), you can add up to 1 tsp baking soda per quart of milk to return it to sweet. Yes, it does work! Also, if you add baking soda to sour cream, it turns the sour cream sweet for use in cooking. There, I've helped you solve a potential Thanksgiving crisis, and you still have nearly a week before the big day.

Oh, yes, and everyone who's flying in should plan to arrive Tuesday. Dinner Thursday's somewhere between 6 and 7...I can't nail it down closer than that.

Have a great evening!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thanksgiving Dinner Plans

Does anyone else remember Chernobyl? The nuclear accident in the Ukraine in the early 1980s? For many years, because I have so many fans of dark meat, I've cooked whole turkey plus extra legs. One year, someone asked me why two turkeys had 14 legs. I responded, "I got them from Chernobyl, of course!" Everyone old enough roared with laughter. From the "under 21" set, blank stares. So, in case any of you are under 45, or just don't remember, that's the explanation for my turkey.

In addition to about a dozen hungry men (maybe more; the list is still in flux), I have a vegetarian who doesn't eat salad. She confuses me. Looks like about 18 total; we shall see. Some will go skiing that morning, and probably want warm food when they return.

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for *cough cough*:

Marjie's Thanksgiving Menu

2 Chernobyl Turkeys

8 pounds of stuffing
10 pounds mashed potatoes
10 pounds mashed sweet potatoes
acorn squash
steamed broccoli
white corn
whole cranberry sauce

jellied cranberry sauce
gravy (it will only seem like 5 gallons of gravy)
French bread
Milk bread
Whole wheat bread
Pumpkin pies
apple pies

lemon meringue pie
chocolate cake
yellow cake
silver white cake

Before dinner snacking will include Greg's 5 pounds of shrimp and bucket of cocktail sauce, cranberry bread, banana bread, squash bread, apple filled coffee cake and anything else I might feel like producing. Because I'm sure I'll have so much extra time, who knows what might occur? (Right. And I don't plan on sleeping for 3 days to get all this done.) At least I can count on my sons to carve the darn birds for me. And if the girls think they aren't peeling 20 pounds of potatoes Wednesday night, they've got a surprise coming!

But first, I need to finish my Thanksgiving dress. Right now, the front isn't even complete. I'm going to look pretty silly with pieces safety pinned to my undergarments if I don't make that machine sing!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thanksgiving Week planning

The first of the kids come home from college tonight. Jeff just called and said he's going to get his sisters, and they'll be on the road at 5:30, with an ETA of 11:15, and, by the way, what's for dinner? Of course, being the doting Mom, dinner will be served at 11:30PM. Yup, I'm nuts.

So, since all of you are just dying to know (choke, choke), here's the Thanksgiving week menu. Thanksgiving's menu will probably be finalized and posted tomorrow.

Friday (today)
2 poached chickens (James Beard, don't fail me!)

green beans
ciabatta bread
chocolate cake

Penne with meat sauce
orange almond salad

orange ice cream and kisses


Pork butt a la Wall Street Journal
milk bread
silver white cake

Chicken parmesan

mini penne
green beans

Italian bread
chocolate cake

Roast beef (another new James Beard recipe)
Rock potatoes
wheaten bread
Brownie Tuesdays

Steak for the kids, fish for the parents

angel hair in carbonara sauce

French bread
Peppermint Patty cake

Thanksgiving - To be Determined

Leftovers. I need a day off!

Dan's birthday celebration - a marble cake will be in order

2 roast chickens - lemon tarragon

steamed carrots

homestead bread
dessert to be determined (there will probably still be stuff)

Chicken Newburg
angel hair
French Bread
dessert to be determined

You will find that I've made many of these before; recipes can be had by searching my side listing.

Breakfast every day will be waffles of whatever flavor I choose to make, or oatmeal, or eggs cooked however the person who's going to eat them desires. No, I do not cook breakfast for my giant sons; they can feed themselves! And since the little boys will have next week off from school, they can feed themselves right beside their larger brothers and sisters.

There will obviously always be homemade bread and "stuff" in the fridge for lunches, along with tortillas and cans of soup! Again, lunch is "DIY" - don't dare to whine that you're hungry. My third son has been known to peer into the refrigerator and announce, sighing, "No one has come to sneak more food in from the back of this box; there's nothing good in here." You'd think after a couple of years of college food and another of his own cooking, he'd quit griping, wouldn't you?

Butternut Squash & Squash Bread

If you like pumpkin pie, this is the way to claim you're eating your veggies and have the flavor you love! I made this to go with chicken last night - after flu shots, we needed something simple - and there was very little left.


1 butternut squash
1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp brown sugar
liberal amounts of cinnamon

Peel and cut the squash and boil it until it's fork tender (I don't remember ho
w long that took). Drain, return to the pan and add the butter and milk. Mash with a potato masher or a hand mixer at low speed, then add the brown sugar and cinnamon and stir in. It really does taste like pumpkin pie without the pesky crust!
This morning, there was just this small bowl of squash left over. Should I microwave it and eat it? Hmmm. Wait, there was Duckie telling me about her pumpkin bread. What an idea! So I created a recipe based on a conglomerate of nut bread recipes swirling around in my brain and cookbooks. This is really moist; try to share with your family (although it's hard)!


2 cups flour

1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
dash ginger
1 cup (or so) mashed butternut squash

1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup walnuts

Sift together flour, powder, soda and salt, and set aside. Beat the butter and brown sugar, and add the eggs. Pour in the dry ingredients and squash, and stir together, then add the milk, walnuts and spices. Stir until mixed, then pour into a loaf pan and bake at 350 for about an hour. My dearly beloved ate 3 slices still warm from the oven, and he would have stopped at one if it wasn't great! Trust me, he's not afraid to tell me what he thinks!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Spotlight on Thor

Thor is the featured celebrity for Dogs on Thursday!
He is very honored to have been chosen! Thank you, Paula!There are lots of other friendly 4 footed "people" to visit at DOT! Stop by!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lemon Sherbet

It is cold here today. When I got up it was 21 degrees, and I had no heat on the first floor of my house. Talk about incentive to go back to bed and stay there! School has been postponed due to a lack of heat - if I can't concentrate at 64 degrees inside, then neither can the boys. After only 6-1/2 hours, the furnace repair man has finally arrived, and I can but hope that I won't have to freeze to death!

So, of course, in this cold environment, it's only natural that I'd want to talk about ice cream, right? I told Cidell last week that I'd be trying an ice cream that required cooking soon, and here's my first effort. This is the reason that I wanted an ice cream maker in the first place. My dearly beloved simply adores lemon sherbet, and I haven't been able to find it anywhere for him in about 3 years. I found this recipe nearly two years ago, and have held onto it for all this time, knowing that some day I'd convince him that an ice cream maker was not stupid, and be able to create something he dearly loves.


1/2 cup cold water
1 packet unflavored gelatin (0.25 ounce)
1-1/2 cups warm milk
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups cold milk

3/4 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp fine lemon zest
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 drops yellow food coloring

Sprinkle the gelatin on the cold water and let it rest to soften.

Heat the warm milk in a saucepan until bubbles form around the sides, b
ut do not boil (or, be like me, and microwave it; it worked for me). Whisk in the sugar and salt until combined. Remove from the heat, whisk in the gelatin mix, and let it sit for 5 minutes to cool somewhat. Put the warm mixture in the blender or food processor, and add the remaining ingredients, blending until smooth. Note that I couldn't fit all of the balance of the milk in the blender, so I simply whisked the blended mix into the balance of the milk, and it worked fine. Return the mix to a large container, and place in the refrigerator until cold, about 2 hours (it can be stored for up to 2 days). Pour into your ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's directions.

My husband found this a little bit tart the first time around, so I made it again with 1-1/4 cups sugar, and he pronounced it "perfect!" I do believe I need a second Pampered Chef 2 quart batter bowl thingy, so I can keep lemon sherbet in the house, and still make other kinds of ice cream!

Edited to add: We finally got the heat back on at 5:30 PM. Only 10 hours that I know of without heat. Fortunately, since my house was constructed in 1928, the walls are 12" to 18" thick, and very well insulated, so it only got to 64 degrees inside. I still was not pleased. My toes are beginning to thaw out, and you can bet I'm roasting a chicken tonight! Also bread and dessert. One oven has already been running, and the second is about to start. Happy winter, everyone!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

James Beard's Turkey Breast

Every Sunday night, I roast a turkey breast. Really, it's laziness on my part. I buy boneless restaurant style turkey breast, cut it into halves, thirds or quarters (depending upon how many of us are home), prepare one piece for that night, and season and foil wrap the rest, to be frozen and cooked at a later date. So, in my new James Beard cookbook (from the library book sale), I happened upon a recipe for turkey breast. Since it's the same meat no matter what, it's really a difference in seasoning, but this was very moist and flavorful. I'm sure a bone in turkey breast could be seasoned the same way; give it a whirl - after you're over the Thanksgiving turkey!


1 Turkey breast
2 tbsp butter (frozen)
1/4 cup white wine
salt & pepper to taste
(water for the bottom of the pan)

Place the turkey breast in the pan. Pour the wine over it, then sliver the butter and place it all over the top of the turkey. Sprinkle with salt and pepper as desired, then roast 20 to 24 minutes per pound or as recommended by your personal turkey vendor, until it reaches 165F on the meat thermometer. Notes: first, I always pour some water in the bottom of my pan (about 1/4") to keep it from scorching. Also, I used my tea cup, rinsed out, of course, to measure out the wine. Since it's really big, I probably used closer to 1/2 cup wine. Ah, so what? The alcohol cooks off, but there was a lot of flavor to this sucker. Finally, I have this cute little enameled roaster with a lid on it that's just the right size for a turkey breast, and I roast mine with the lid on, to keep the moisture from evaporating. It was really very moist, likely due to the butter on top.

I served this with spaghetti squash, which I don't have a picture of, because people were starving to death! To cook the squash, I cut it in half and removed the seeds, put it in a buttered baking pan cut side down, put 1/4" of water around it, and baked at 350 for about a half hour. Then, I melted 1/4 cup butter in a pan, sauteed some leeks until soft, added a diced tomato, and shredded the spaghetti squash in with the leeks and tomato. A touch of salt and pepper, and my guys loved it! I also included rice, but that's really boring, now, isn't it?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Kisses, Kisses, Kisses

While reading my "new" James Beard cookbook last week, I happened upon a recipe for meringue kisses. Well, I have at least three meringue fanatics in my household, so these had to be the right thing to make. Beyond that, how can you go wrong with a five minute, five ingredient recipe?


3 egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
pinch salt

1 tbsp vanilla, rum or brandy extract (I used half vanilla & half almond extract)

Beat the whites with the cream of tartar until they form soft peaks. Add the salt, then the extract, then beat in the sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, until it forms stiff peaks. Drop by the spoonful onto greased cookie sheets, and bake at 275 for 20 to 22 minutes, until very lightly browned. Makes about 3 dozen.
My guys were laughing about the fact that meringue "explodes" when you bite it; I'm not sure that the explosions weren't just as much fun as the cookies. I think I got 3. Next time, I do believe I'll have to make more!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Two Games of Tag

Here and I thought I was too old for tag. I guess you never know.

Katherine at Smoky Mountain Cafe tagged me for a "7 Things" game. You may recall that Thor played "7 Things" a couple of weeks back. He's probably more interesting than me, but here goes.

1. I talk in my sleep. I've also been known to wander around in my sleep. Oh, well, only the time I yanked all the bedcovers off at 3AM and told my dearly beloved to get downstairs now and call the fire department because the bed had sprung a gas leak was it really disruptive.
2. I'm allergic to bees, and hate all bugs in general. Finding a creepy crawly thing anywhere around me causes me to come unhinged.
3. Excluding my road trips to colleges, I've only driven about 500 miles this year. Yes, five hundred.
4. I work from home. I have a UPS pickup every day. My UPS men love Thor.
5. I read cookbooks, but rarely follow the directions. I treat them as suggestions.
6. I'm afraid of turtlenecks. They make me claustrophobic, and I start to hyperventilate. I also can't watch movies or TV shows where people go into small spaces, because the thought of small spaces makes me claustrophobic.
7. I like cats, especially orange ones, and big dogs. Small dogs are cute, but I can't live with them.

That's it; I believe this should have been good for you in place of your "sleep-eze"!

But, in case you're still awake, The Blonde Duck also tagged me to say something about the last 10 people who commented on my blog. Now, if you aren't one of those 10, you know I appreciate you anyway. I never thought people would come back to see what I had to say, and I am humbled and honored that so many of you do. The last 10 of you are:

Pam in Portland, who takes beautiful pictures and cooks wonderful food. She even takes this beautiful food to her friends for their birthdays and other get togethers. She has 2 adorable little kids, too.

Paula. My Calvert homeschooling friend for almost 2 years, and who I'm sorry couldn't make her husband's giant corporation transfer him here so she could move in across the street this summer. Her kids are the same ages as my little guys, she cooks interesting foods, and writes great stuff!

Doggy Bloggy, a stream of consciousness writer who loves all things food and throws interesting tidbits about NYC life into his blog upon occasion.

Grace, a southerner transplanted to snowy upstate New York, who makes us all laugh, and who shares my love of baked goods, chocolate, cinnamon, apples and many other things, in no particular order. Funniest of all was her Halloween costume. Go find it; I'll wait.

Dunadan, who found me just yesterday. She has three beautiful little boys, and I enjoyed her family magazine. Dunadan, I hope you come to visit me often!

Katherine, a transplant from New Orleans to an area in which I've lived, cooks great food, has a couple of nice girls, and family who visits her regularly. I'm always happy to pay a visit to Katherine (who tagged me for the "7 things").

Kitty, a delightful entrepreneur from England. I love her pictures of everyday life "across the pond", her take on styles, and her comments on life, food, and whatever else is on her mind.

Chan, who has dogs, knits, and enjoys tea. Life doesn't get a lot better.

There are so many more of you who commented about Thor on Thursday - all the dog lovers out there - Thor sends big, slobbery puppy kisses and nudges (or pushes) with his giant head. And he wants to know if anyone wants to play rope?

Brown Sugar Ice Cream

Appearances notwithstanding, we have not been eating only ice cream this week. Just ask my boys; they're crying over it!

Anyway, this was another easy, no planning, no cooking ice cream. And until I can get my ice cream feet under me, I'm going the easy, no cooking route. Ah, who am I kidding, I'll probably try more complex flavors by the weekend! This ice cream tasted rather like caramel or butterscotch, either of which is a good option, in my book. Since it's very rich in cream, even
Ryan was fun complaining that this was really filling. I'm sure this recipe will be called upon again. So, from the ice cream recipe book I bought at a recent used book sale, I present...


3 cups heavy cream
1 cup light cream (or 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1/2 cup milk)
1 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp vanilla

Whisk the flavors together in a bowl. When completely combined, p
our into your ice cream maker and "process according to manufacturer's directions." (I love the easy way out of the directions!)

My camera was probably confused by the moving beater in the bowl, but it doesn't matter, because mine's not as pretty as Pam's cranberry sorbet from Wednesday. However, look how much fun my little one was having cleaning up the beater for me!

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Thor was watching my dearly beloved, hoping for handouts of cake. Of course, he doesn't get fed from the table. When your dog can put his head on the table without stretching, you do not want to admit that any food ever gets to the table.
And, since Thor missed his day last week, here's a picture of him helping Mark carve his jack o'lantern. Thor helps by eating any seeds or pulp left on the floor, which
we tried to keep to a minimum. Evidently, dogs can be herbivores, too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Calvert School's Greek Almond Cakes

In 4th grade history, we've been studying the ancient Greeks. Leonidas, Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Athens, Sparta, Thermpylae, etc. OK, so it's not terribly in depth, but the child in question is 9, and I'll bet he knows more about Ancient Greece now than most high school kids. Anyway, sometimes Calvert School provides recipes to go along with some subject area; in this case, it was "Greek Almond Cakes." Now, I'm not Greek, although I once met a restauranteur who was Greek. Call them what you want, they were awfully good. I ate 6. I probably should have then run around yelling "OINK!" because they were filling, but I'm happy I ate 6. So, in lieu of a history lesson, I bring you


1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt
1 cup of finely chopped almonds
1/2 tsp almond extract (I doubled that, because I love almond flavor)
powdered sugar

Cream the butter, and beat the sugar in. Add the egg yolk, and beat until thoroughly combined. Sift together the flour, powder and salt, and beat them in gradually, followed by the almonds and extract. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, or, if you're lazy like me, let the mixer do it at low speed. Roll pieces of the dough into small balls, and place on buttered baking sheets. Bake at 350F for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies. Remove the sheet from the oven, and let the cookies cool before you take them off the sheet (or they will crumble; trust me). Roll the cookies in powdered sugar, or, again, be lazy and sift the sugar over the cookies. Then stand back, because the hordes will trample you on their way to these!

Oh, Peter, if these aren't really Greek, pretend I called them "Great Almond Cakes!"

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

When I was 6-1/2, just before 2nd grade, my parents moved into the first house I'd ever lived in. To me, it was beautiful. Sure, the paint was peeling off the clapboard siding, and the sunporch sagged quite a bit. But it had an upstairs! And it was down the hill from the housing project, not in it - a big step up in my world!

But the best thing of all about the house was my new best friend. Mine was the last house on the dead end street. The one 3 doors back and across the street belonged to a little old couple, and Papa became my best friend. He taught me to play checkers in second grade. He taught me to play chess in third grade. But his best stories were about Europe in the Great War. Papa was Swedish (and his wife, Mamie, was American), and had a thick accent. He never told me much about Sweden, but he did tell me about marching across Europe in the War to End All Wars. And on Veteran's Day 1967, when I was in 2nd grade, he taught me La Marseillaise, and we marched back and forth across his porch singing, "Alons, enfants de la patrie, le jour de gloire est arrive..." Yes, I took French in High School so I'd have a prayer of spelling that.

On Veteran's Day 1968, the 50th anniversary of Armistice Day, I rounded up all the little kids on the street, who were 2 to 5 years younger than me, and with Papa, we had a little parade in the middle of the street for about 3 houses' length. Of course, Papa, the veteran, and I led the parade, singing La Marseillaise, and the little kids just sort of "dum dum dum-ed" along. We moved before Veteran's Day 1969, but I never forgot the wonderful World War I veteran with such a spirit for life.

Papa died in 1978. I saw his obituary in the paper, and arrived at his funeral that Saturday morning. Mamie recognized me, and cried tears of joy that I remembered her beloved Papa. And I quietly sang him one last rendition of La Marseillaise beside his casket.

Thank you, veterans. May you all impact someone so wonderfully as Papa did me, after defending our world as valiantly and selflessly as you do.

"But It's Not an Ice Cream Flavor!"

Yes, I made plenty of ice cream this weekend. And, yes, the troops were forced to eat ice cream. Darn it! I'm so mean!

I saw this also in my Fanny Farmer cookbook. Since this is still the initial foray into the wonderful world of ice cream, my second flavor was also a "no cook" type. L
ike yesterday's flavor, try whisking it by hand every 20 to 30 minutes as it freezes, if you don't have an ice cream freezer yet. And for pity's sake invest in one! Everyone should "tubb up" with me!


2 cups thin cream (or 3/4 cup whipping cream, 1-1/4 cups milk)
2 cups bananas pureed with 1 tbsp lemon juice (about 3)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar

Whirl the bananas and lemon juice in your blender or food processor until they're a fine pool of mush. Add half the cream and whirl a bit longer, then pour into your ice cream maker, as it's running, followed by the balance of the cream, and "process according to directions." Look at those banana flecks in this ice cream! Aren't you at all hungry? (Yes, Peter, I'll send you some of this, too, lol)

My title is because my dearly beloved was very dubious about eating this, and that was his comment. Afterward, he did admit that despite banana not being an ice cream flavor, it was good. As a matter of fact, he's enjoying all of this so well that I might have to invest in another Pampered Chef pitcher to store it, so I can make ice cream more often than "when we finish the preceding batch.

Incidentally, with my last box of store-bought ice cream, I decided one night to make banana splits. Of course, I knew that I could make marshmallow sauce using fluff. Learn from me! Do not nuke your fluff for more than 10 to 12 seconds, and only with cream added, or it makes a terrible tragedy on the inside of your measuring cup. We're talking "scrape it off with an industrial grade tool" tragedy. However, ice cream plus sliced bananas plus marshmallow sauce plus hot fudge sauce if you like it (I don't) equals decadence unbounded!

And Happy Veteran's Day, everyone! (Or, Happy Armistice Day to the 4 remaining WWI veterans!) Let's not forget those who defend our freedoms, that we may spend our days in comfort and happiness.

Monday, November 10, 2008

7th Grade Math Lesson 50: Algebra & Ice Cream

Today, students, we are learning how to convert simple statements in single variable and multi variable equations. Let us begin here: Let R stand for oranges and L stand for lemons. The sum of 2R + 2L = ? Yes, citrus fruit salad. 2R + 2L + C + M + S = ? Surprise! Math class begins with Ice Cream! Science class is included at no extra charge, along with review of basic measurements. No, conversion to metric system isn't in today's lesson plan.

I found this recipe in my "new" Fanny Farmer cookbook. Knowing that the boys were itching to try out my birthday ice cream bowl, and further knowing that they are just little kids (despite Ryan towering over me), it had to be a "no cook" recipe. Everyone loves orange, so what could be better? I tried the recipe as written, but it didn't have enough orange flavor for us, so I changed it a bit (aw, come on, aren't you even a tiny bit surprised?), and now the troops want more. This can be done with the ice cream maker, or by hand the way we did Prudence Pennywise's strawberry ice cream this summer, with a lot of stirring. Paula, put those kids to work! You know they want this!


1 cup heavy cream
3 cups milk
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
juice of 2 lemons (1/4 cup or so)

Whisk the sugar into the cream, then add the milk and salt. Whisk in the orange juice concentrate and lemon juice, then pour into the ice cream freezer and let it do its thing. More properly put, "process according to manufacturer's directions." The mixture may look curdled when you begin freezing, but don't worry. It all works out.

Look how happy these boys were with their math/science proj
ect. (Actually, they weren't happy being made to have their picture taken before eating.) Makes you kinda wish you'd been homeschooled, too, doesn't it?

Edited to add: Of course, Peter's right, and I can't let a spelling error stand. It would drive me nuts! So my title is now correct.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Random Notes

I bought this Seventh Generation dishwasher detergent a while back. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I'm not big on environmentally friendly - I need things that work - but if I can put both in one package, that's cool. Well, I only have two problems with this, after having used 3 boxes: First, if you do not wash the dishes thoroughly before putting them into the dishwasher with this detergent, they will come out dirty. So where's the labor savings there? Secondly, all of my dishes have a coating of something on them after using this detergent. I have never in my life used a rinse aid, and have never had a problem like this when using Cascade. So, while the idea is good, the execution in this product is bad. Save your money folks; I wasted mine for your benefit.

Another point of personal pride: My first and third sons started building a house on speculation in February, while my oldest was working as an economist at a "big financial house" (from which he's been downsized, along with tens of thousands of others). Son #1 was the money man, son #3 can do anything with his hands. Anyway, they finished this house, sold it, and closed it on Friday. In this economy especially, you can see me swelling with pride.

Finally, to make you laugh, a couple of weeks back, a guy came door to door selling aerial photos of houses. I looked at the tiny sample print he had, studied it, and said, "You must have taken these last October?" He asked how I knew, and I pointed out the coloration of the trees and the cars in the back yard. Then, out of the blue, I said, "I'm glad I wasn't out dancing naked in the back yard on that day!" Poor guy didn't know what to say. Of course, I never bothered to tell him I can't dance.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fricasee de Poulet

Another night, another package of chicken parts. What to do? Well, Pierre Franey usually offers me some good suggestions, so off to his cookbook I went. Fricasse of chicken? That sounds like fun. "Swing your partner and fricasse"? Or, "Let's go outside and play Frisbee and Fricasse!" Drag the final syllable out - "Fricasseeeee!" It sounds like it should be fun. Or, maybe I've spent too many years hanging around with little kids.

Anyway, after Paula posted yesterday about me cooking many things in the broiler, I knew I had to adapt Pierre Franey's recipe to suit my own peculiar way of doing things. So, without further ado, I bring you,

(Fricasse of Chicken with Tarragon)

3 to 4 pounds chicken pieces (I used boneless, skinless thighs)

Salt and pepper to taste
4 tbsp butter
1/2 onion, chopped
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp dried tarragon
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup water whisked with 2 tbsp cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream

Melt the butter in the bottom only of the broiler pan. Cut the chicken into smaller pieces, if desired; I find that pieces about 1-1/2" square by 3" long work very well. Arrange the chicken in the pan, and salt and pepper the pieces. Broil for 8 minutes, remove from the broiler, turn the pieces, and broil another 8 minutes. Remove the pieces from the pan to a bowl to stay warm, put the broiler pan on a burner, and add the onion and garlic; saute them for a minute until softened (Pierre also calls for mushrooms at this point, but I just didn't feel like playing with fungus last night). Whisk in the cornstarch mix and chicken broth, and heat until the sauce thickens. Whisk in the cream and tarragon, and return the chicken to the pan. Broil for another 2 to 4 minutes, until the sauce bubbles. Serve over a bed of rice.
This was my dinner last night, with the rice, whole green beans and acorn squash. I'd expect to see this hit my table again soon if I were my family!

Kreative - Me?

Thanks for this honor, Katherine. I think of myself as many things, but generally creative is not at the top of the list. I will be back later today with a good chicken dinner for everyone.
On a humorous note, some of my kids sent me a belated birthday present. I thought this bowl looked a lot like a flower, maybe a chrysanthemum.
Ryan said it was a medusa, and flipped it upside down.

"Oh, like the Greek goddess?"

"No, it's sort of like jellyfish. We just learned about it in Calvert Science last week."

Oops. I spaced out on that one.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Cake

Well, Election Day is over. I took the boys to vote; one of them wanted to know why I was voting for so many Libertarians. Many people in the polling place chuckled as his brother "shooshed" him. I believe Mitt Romney would have been the best choice for our next president, and now I can only hope that Obama abandons his plans to raise taxes. The last president to raise taxes during a recession was Herbert Hoover in 1930/31, and that caused the Great Depression. Let us hope this history lesson is learned by our government.

On a cheery note, however, in my "new" Fanny Farmer cookbook, I hit upon a recipe for Election Cake. It is billed as a "Connecticut tradition", although my dearly beloved, who is from Connecticut, swears he never heard of it. Hmph. Must be because his mother is from Massachusetts. They are so far apart, you know, that traditions could never possibly cross the border to her family. Yes, I'm joking. I know my geography better than that. Anyway, this is called a "fruit cake", although it's much lighter than the ones which are fodder for so many comedians. And while the recipe called for whiskey, I didn't use any, because I don't like it. Instead, I soaked my raisins in an equal amount of warm water for a while before adding them. Also, plan ahead, because this takes a while to rise. You can double the amount of yeast without changing the flavor of the cake, and it makes the rising a lot faster.


1 cup warm water
3 tsp yeast
1 tbsp sugar
2-1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp oil

Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let soften. Add the other ingredients, beat together, and set aside to rise for 6 hours or overnight (I left it until it doubled in size).

1 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
1 tbsp lemon rind
1 tbsp lemon juice

1-1/2 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups raisins
1 cup whiskey*

Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside. Cream the butter with the brown sugar, and add the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the lemon rind and juice, then the dry ingredients. Then beat in the yeast mixture until thoroughly combined. Add the whiskey and raisins. Turn into 3 greased loaf pans, and let rise for about an hour, then bake 40 to 50 minutes at 350F.

I mixed up a glaze with powdered sugar, vanilla extract and heavy cream and drizzled it on top of the cake, then drizzled more over each individual serving. One of the three loaves disappeared last night, so it must have been pretty good. OK, I admit: my husband was sitting there raving about this cake. It reminded me more of a spice cake than fruit cake. I'll make this again next year, or maybe even before that!*Remember, I didn't use whiskey; I replaced it with water.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Fish Dinner

I wanted a fast and easy dinner last night. Nothing is quite as fast as fish, and this was very easy. I think the idea came from one of Pierre Franey's cookbooks, but don't quote me on that.


1 pound white fish fillets
salt & pepper to taste
2 tbsp butter
2 scallions, chopped

1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk

Melt the butter in a skillet. Season with salt and pepper and cook the fish until done, then remove it to a plate and put a pan lid over it to keep it hot. Saute the scallions in the butter in which the fish was cooked for a minute, then whisk in the cornstarch and mustard. Whisk in the milk and cream, and cook until thickened. Put the fish back in the skillet for a minute to reheat, and serve over a bed of rice.
When my husband asked what made this fish sauce taste so good, my little guy piped up that Mommy had put "grey pop-on" in it. I didn't correct his mispronunciation, thinking that telling him it's actually "grey poop-on" would cause gales of laughter among the 9 to 12 year old set.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy Halloween!

OK, I know my greeting's a little late. But the sentiment remains the same.

I finished the boys' costumes Thursday. To be fair, Mark's didn't require a lot of work. I had made this dragon costume 4 years ago for Ryan, and Mark wanted to wear it. Aside from needing to lengthen the legs, and make new mittens, because the original ones were too small for Mark's paws, it was ready to rumble. Just look at that tail! Who wouldn't want to be a dragon with a golden tail and horns?
Ryan wanted to be a wizard, although he had no idea of what a wizard should look like, other than blue with stars. So blue fleece came home with us last weekend, along with blue starred fabric. Ultimately, I decided on a starred tunic, with a belt in a different starred fabric, blue fleece robe with star trim, and pointy hat. Unfortunately for me, I can't just leave things alone, so while the costume had taken shape in 2 hours after I decided upon its format, I felt compelle
d to hem the neck, armholes and hem of the tunic, along with finishing all edges of the sash. I did get lazy on the hat, however, and used a witch's hat we had here. I simply dug some starry garland out of a drawer and warpped it around the hat. I thought it worked!
The boys went trick or treating with George Bush, John McCain, Sarah Palin, Joe the Plumber and a skeleton. I didn't get a picture of all of those kids with mine, but it must have been a funny sight. Their favorite house was the one where a guy had a pail of candy on his porch, and was hiding around a corner, then jumped out with a chainsaw, running (with no chain attached), and waved it at the kids, revving it. Now there's a guy who has fun on Halloween!

And because you asked, Paula, this is how tall Ryan's getting to be. Yeah, I'd need to stand on a chair to whack that boy.
Hope you all had fun last night, and that your goblins aren't collapsing from sugar overload!