Thursday, April 30, 2009

Helper Dog!

"Hey! What are you kids doing riding in the back of my truck? It's not moving? OK, then. Yes. I said MY truck. Everyone knows dogs own all things which enter their domain. Can I rest a while with you?"

Construction supervisor at his best.
Garden supervisor. Kids these days need a lot of supervision.

Happy Thorsday, Everyone!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Not-What-I-Wanted Chicken

Waaaay back, nearly a quarter of a century ago, we used to frequent a Chinese restaurant in Waterbury 2 or 3 nights a week. I forget the name of it, because we called it "Jack's", in honor of the proprietor. One of my favorite things there was Moo Goo Gai Pan, in no small part because the name is so much fun - almost as much fun as Kung Pao Chicken. Anyway, I was very excited when I found a recipe for Moo Goo Gai Pan in a cookbook I bought at the little library's book sale, but quite disappointed when I realized I didn't have most of the ingredients. I had, to be exact, the chicken and the garlic. (sigh) Some days go like that.

Well, yesterday was another scorcher, so I decided not to turn on the oven, because I haven't turned on the central air yet. It's a rule. Furnace off May 1, central air on no sooner than May 2. The obvious thing to do was use my "entertaining" everyday pan, and go from there. So I came up with this....

UNNAMED CHINESE INSPIRED CHICKEN (name suggestions welcome)

3 pounds boneless skinless chicken
2 tbsp oil

1 pound french cut green beans
1 can water chestnuts
1 very large carrot, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp chicken bouillon powder

fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup sherry
1/2 cup water whisked with 1 tbsp cornstarch

Pour the oil in the pan, and heat it. Cut the chicken into 1/2" strips, and add to the pan, with the garlic. Brown on both sides, then lower the heat a bit, cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Add all of the vegetables, sprinkle with the ginger, bouillon powder and pepper, and stir. Add the sherry and cornstarch mix, stir well, cover and cook for 6 to 7 minutes. Serve over
a bed of rice, or, as I did, a rice pilaf mix. My dearly beloved thought this was great. My youngest fussbudget told me he hates chicken because it's "blubby". Thor got no leftovers, except about 4 bites of rice I left for him, so I guess that tells you something.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Garden Tuesday

(with thanks to Pam in Tennessee for the idea.)

Well, this is either Paula's brilliant idea or all her fault. I decided about a week ago I needed to try gardening by the square foot, which she raved about all last year. Friday night, I stuffed the little boys in the new (OK, 10 year old but still beautiful) truck we bought from a friend about a month ago. Ostensibly, it's for one of my sons for a college graduation present next year, but he can't drive stick (I can see myself getting ready for lessons already). But the little boys like it, and my dearly beloved has realized that a pickup truck is quite handy, especially when he doesn't have to bounce around in it.

So, off I went to the local lumber yard Friday night. Some 2x6's, wood lath and 25 bags of potting soil later, I was on my merry way. When I told my dearly how much soil I'd purchased, he bellowed, "That's 1000 pounds! You'll break your truck!" So, I guess we know whose truck it really is, don't we? Anyway, I pointed out to him that if a half ton truck wouldn't haul half a ton of dirt plus a few lousy sticks, Dodge ought to rethink their whole program.

Saturday, we cut up the lumber where necessary, and screwed together two boxes, each 4' by 8'. We had two cordless screw guns, and so were able to teach the boys to operate them. When I demonstrated for Mark how it was done, his reaction was, "Wow! I thought you'd be useless as a carpenter, Mom, but you have some skills!" Yeah, even a girl in a dress can run a screw gun.
Well, after the boxes were assembled and placed, we discovered that we needed more dirt. So, back to the lumberyard Sunday, where I joked with the owner that I was here to clean him out of dirt. 8 bags of potting soil and 4 of cow manure (hey, Ryan was bellowing that we should have it, although he wasn't thrilled about spreading it in the garden beds) later, he really was cleaned out of the locally made soil, and our truck was rolling back up the road to finish our gardens. (And we supported 3 locally owned businesses: the lumber yard, the dirt monger and the manure monger.)

We're using nothing but heirloom seeds this year. If I'm going to all of this trouble, I want tomatoes that taste wonderful, not those lovely gems that look picture perfect and taste like cardboard. I found some at Agway, along with the garden gnome you see in the picture below, and I've ordered the rest. I'll report on their customer service and quality, if anyone cares, at a later time.

Anyway, here's what's planted:

Simpson Black Seeded Lettuce
Burpless Cucumbers
Nantes mini carrots
Half long carrots
Pink tomatoes

Beefsteak tomatoes
Cherry Tomatoes
Dark zucchini
yellow summer squash

Ordered, to be planted when they arrive:

Red Leaf Lettuce
Swiss Chard
Yellow Tomatoes
Mesclun Mix Lettuce
Minnesota Midget Melons

Sugar Snap Peas
5 Other kinds of tomatoes (They were a package deal)

If anyone knows how long it takes to grow onions from onion sets, let me know. And some day I'll need to know what to do with kale and swiss chard, but not today.

And, if this isn't enough yard information for all of you, our first flowering tree, a cherry tree, is out in full force as of Friday morning. Many more will bloom this week!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Maple Walnut Has Been Displaced..... the greatest ice cream ever. Ah, how fickle is the heart of man.

Last week, when I went to the book sale, I found a "Weekend Cookbook". Now, unless company's coming, I really don't get why I want to cook more on the weekend, instead of doing what I want. But that's a philosophical difference between me and the rest of the world, doubtless exaggerated by the fact that I work from home, and so can just race to the kitchen if inspiration hits. (I found 2 more cookbooks this weekend,
so I guess I'm searching for a lot of inspiration.) Anyway, in the Weekend Cookbook was a recipe for strawberry-lemon sherbet. I read it, and promptly changed it a lot. This ice cream was made Friday afternoon, and gone Sunday afternoon, and my dearly beloved is whining at me to make more! more! more! I have to admit that it's outstanding, and relatively low calorie besides. There you go - diet ice cream! Who could ask for more?


4 cups frozen strawberries, piled loosely in the measuring cup

1-1/2 cups sugar
3 egg whites
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup milk

Rinse the frozen strawberries, if necessary, to remove any frost from them. Sprinkle 1/2 cup sugar over the berries and let stand to thaw, or microwave for 3 to 5 minutes to thaw. Stir the sugar in completely. Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until stiff with 1/2 cup sugar. When the berries are thawed, puree them with the last 1/2 cup sugar and lemon juice, and chill both the berry puree and egg whites until cold (1 to 3 hours). Stir the milk and cream into the puree, beat this mixture into the egg whites, and turn into your ice cream maker. Process according to manufacturer's directions.

And there you have it. With under 1000 calories in the whole batch, this is as close as one can get to "diet ice cream" and still have excellent flavor. And since I'm currently thawing berries for another batch, at the urging of my dearly beloved, I suppose this may indeed be "the greatest ice cream flavor ever!"

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Baba Cakes

This is my ideal plate. Not only is a pretty pink, it has defined sections, so the food can stay away from each other. This will be important information later. (Note that since this is hubby's granny's depression glass, it's never been used in our house. But it's cool anyway.)

I found this recipe in the Fanny Farmer cookbook, and I was excited. I like yeast risen foods, because they are often lighter than baking powder based cakes. This is the second time I've tried Baba Cakes, and I'm done with them. They aren't terribly difficult to make, as long as you're willing to ignore a bowl on your counter for a long time, like a couple of hours. They also aren't terribly sweet I used half the batter to make baba cakes, and the other half, with flour added, to make a Savarin ring, and can't say either disappeared quickly or enthusiastically. So, here's the recipe, and you can decide to try it - or not!


1/2 cup warm water
2-1/2 cups yeast

1/2 cup flour
4 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
dash salt
1 cup flour
1/2 cup softened butter

Soften the yeast in the water for 5 minutes, then beat in the 1/2 cup flour with an electric mixer. Beat the eggs in, one at a time, then add the brown sugar, salt and balance of the
flour. Beat for 1 to 2 minutes, until combined. Cover the mixing bowl and let the batter rise for about 45 minutes, then beat in the softened butter by the tablespoon. Spoon 1 to 2 tbsp into greased deep muffin pans, and let them rise for 15 to 20 minutes. Bake at 400F for 15 minutes.

Make a syrup of 1 cup water cooked with one cup sugar until thickened. Let it cool, then stir in 1/2 cup run. Dip the tops of the baba cakes into the rum mix, or top with marmalade. I used mine in lieu of shortcakes, topped with some of the strawberrie
s I froze last summer, and fresh whipped cream.(This was my helping. Note that the cakes are at the side of the bowl.)

I made 12 baba cakes, then added 1/2 cup flour to the remaining half of the b
atter. This I poured into my springform ring pan, and baked for about 20 minutes. Again, they suggest spooning the rum mixture over it. I made a simple glaze and drizzled it on top, then sprinkled praline powder over it. I was less than impressed, because the cake was quite eggy tasting, and not really sweet enough. If you like rum, and are willing to wet your cake, you might well like this.
Now you see my problem. Take a quick peek at my ideal plate again. Then realize that my skin crawls when I see people dunking cookies or donuts. Yes, I have issues; please don't judge me.

Tonight, I take the truck to the lumberyard. Tomorrow, another book sale, and we start building garden beds. Updates some time; happy weekend, everyone!

"Let Them Eat Cake!"

"Isn't that what the French Revolution lady said? No? Well, I tried." (Yes, that's on a 4th grade Calvert test.)
Testing is never a happy day, but it's better with your dog to help.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chocolate Dessert #191

Last night was Brownie Tuesday night. for those who don't know (and maybe don't care), a Brownie Tuesday is a brownie topped with vanilla or butterscotch pudding and whipped cream. I generally use boxed brownie mix, because the kids like it better than scratch brownies, and, of course, it's a lot less work. However, in my endeavor to use Mark's new cookbook, I found these. 10 minutes from start to finished product, folks, and the oven doesn't even get turned on. What's not to love?


1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla exgtract
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Line an 8" square glass pan with waxed paper.

Beat the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla at high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the mixer down, and beat in the cocoa powder, then the flour. Stir in the pecans.

If your microwave has a turntable (like mine), microwave at high power for 5 to 6 minutes. Otherwise, cook for 3 minutes, turn 90 degrees, and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. These will test done with a toothpick, just like in conventional baking. The flavor was excellent, although if you overcook even by 30 seconds, the edges will be quite crunchy. They will, however, soften overnight, if you wrap the brownies in plastic wrap.

Paula, you might be able to substitute a mixture of non-gluten flour and cornstarch to make these work for your baby. I suspect rice flour doesn't have much flavor, and I'd replace a couple of tablespoons of the rice flour with cornstarch just to lighten it up a touch. It would be worth a try, right?

Happy Earth Day, everyone; go plant a tree, or at least admire one!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chocolate Dessert #143

What do I mean, #143? Well, did you really expect me to start with #1? I've always been a non-follower, after all. But my little guy was campaigning for a dessert from his cookbook, and I had to provide one which didn't require the melting of chocolate (which I don't have). And, sorry, Sue, but I don't think the little bugger is going to allow me to send this cookbook to you before I try at least half the recipes in it.

Dessert #143 is Streusel Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake. It was easy, because the basis for it is boxed goods. Personally, I found it heavy, but the boys liked it. And since they're kids and can afford the calories, whereas they linger on my butt for years to come, I prefer to make desserts that the boys enjoy. As usual, I had to make some changes to the recipe to suit my foibles and/or what I had in the house, but, again, don't you expect that by now?

1 box yellow cake mix without pudding
1 box instant butterscotch pudding
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon
2 cups chocolate chips

Beat the first 5 ingredients together for the cake. The batter is very, very thick and shiny. Stir the last 4 ingredients together. Spread half the cake batter in a generously grease
d Bundt cake pan, spread all of the streusel ingredients atop that, and top with the balance of the cake batter. Using a knife, stir the streusel and batter together in a circular motion. Bake at 350F for 50 to 60 minutes; let cool for 20 minutes before removing from the pan. Sift powdered sugar over the top or (as I did) drizzle a glaze over the cooled cake.

Monday, April 20, 2009

"The Best Ice Cream Ever!"

Well, I probably haven't heard this line before. But so said my dearly beloved when I gave him a bowl of maple walnut ice cream.

Saturday was, as one would like to have every weekend, a picture perfect day. Sunny and 68, birdies singing outside the windows, little boys and dog frolicking in the yard. Of course, that meant only one thing: Make Ice Cream! As Pam says, there's never a wrong time for ice cream, and Saturday seemed even more right than many.

A couple of weeks back, my milkman offered quarts of pure maple syrup for $17.50. Well, I thought, locally produced maple syrup should be dandy! This is what I got. Isn't it beautiful?

Anyway, every time we have taken the kids to a local dairy farm which makes
awesome ice cream, my dearly beloved has gone looking for maple walnut ice cream. So, with that lovely mason jar of maple syrup staring at me, inspiration hit. Since my dearly beloved declared this the best ice cream he has ever had, you should all give it a try!


1-1/2 cups milk
2-1/2 cups heavy cream
2 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup maple syrup
pinch of salt
1 tsp maple extract
1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts

Toast the walnuts by spreading them on a baking sheet, and cooking at 325F for 4 to 5 minutes, turning once or twice. Set aside to cool, then put them into a bowl and into the freezer.

In a microwavable pitcher, heat 1 cup cream and the sugar for 1 minute. Whisk in the egg yolks, and microwave for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until the mixture thickens. Be careful not to let it boil. Stir in the remaining milk, cream, syrup, salt and extract, and chill until cold. Pour into the bowl of your ice cream maker, and process until it's almost done. Add the walnuts from the freezer 1 to 2 minutes before the ice cream is finished.

And rain notwithstanding, you can see out my kitchen window that spring is finally on the way. If we can keep having sunny weekends, my little corner of the world will be a happy place indeed!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Book Sale Time!

And, so, as usual, it was off to one of the book sales with us. The other is next week. I found a couple of cookbooks, of course, and if I don't love them, I'll pass them on. But at a buck a book, how could I not support this adorable little library?
The boys each got a few books, and a photographer from the newspaper was wandering through. Evidently he thought my little guy was cute selecting books, because he took a picture. (Of course, I think he's cute. Especially when he selects the biography of President Eisenhower written by David Eisenhower because he likes long biographies.)

Forsythia's now in bloom,
I saw some daffodils (although we don't have any), the lawn is finally green, we have pretty purple flowers in the lawn along with the dead leaves that didn't get cleaned up after they fell in the snowstorm at Halloween, and I got to take the Mark V out for his inaugural ride this spring. Yes, I cautiously believe spring is in the air. And if I get snowed on for saying that, I'm going to be mightily honked off.

One of my sons told me recently that I should write a college kid cookbook, because many of his friends can't figure out how to feed themselves after they get apartments, except with Ramen noodles and fast food. Any ideas or suggestions? For all the young folks out there who don't read what I have to say anyway, what would you like to see if I did write it?

And, now, with new cookbooks in hand, I'm off to do the obvious: sew!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Poulet en Papillot

Yeah, I made that one up, and I'm not entirely certain I spelled it right. But isn't it much more entertaining than titling this "More Chicken"?

After income tax day, a day spent by my dearly beloved roaring
that "Al" had to be all wet about how much more we owed and why didn't I (the wife) know more about AMT, and my researching for the entire day, and ultimately concluding that Al was indeed all wet (but we should overpay anyway), I decided to cater to the man who dreams of a world with no pans. You've heard this rant of his repeated before: "We can send a man to the moon, but we still have to scrub the damn pots???" This chicken was really easy, and easily personalized for those of us who are sensible, and those who like fungus (Hubby and Ryan). Served over rice with a lovely green salad, it did go a long way to soothe the soul of the savage beast, who is, once again, as calm and cheerful as a redhead ever gets to be (said his red headed wife).


2 pounds chicken, cut into 1/2" x 1/2" strips
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
zest from 1 lemon
2 tsp dill
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 large carrots, quartered lengthwise & cut into slivers
6 ribs celery, prepared same as carrots

Sliced mushrooms
1 onion, minced finely
lemon slices (from the zested lemon)

Cut the chicken into strips. Stir together the lemon juice, zest, olive oil, dill, salt & pepper, and pour over the chicken. Let it all sit for about 15 minutes.

Prepare the carrots and celery. Arrange them on an appropriate number of sheets of parchment paper or foil (which I don't use, because I'm obsessive about scrubbing it clean before discarding it), approx. 15" to 18" long, depending upon the portion size. Arrange the chicken strips atop the veggies, and top with the onion and, if desired, mushrooms. Spoon the marinade over the chicken, top with lemon slices, and fold the parchment or foil over, crimping tightly to seal. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake at 500F, or (if using foil) cook on the grill for about 20 minutes, until the rice is done. Give everyone his or her own personal packet, and they'll have no excuse for griping about some ingredient that they don't like. Unless, of course, we're talking about my youngest, who can gripe about everything. Yes, my chicken was "blubby". Ah, well, we strive for perfection and fail, don't we?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thor's Easter

I had a lovely Easter, thank you. Instead of the traditional "follow the clues to the basket" hunt, Mom hid plastic eggs full of candy through the house. Jeff and Cass started out jogging in place to get me fired up for the hunt!

Jeff and I found lots of goodies!

There were even a few plastic eggs of pupcorn for little old me! Mom put them in the basket!

And yesterday, Mom was so distracted by tax day, and Dad yelling about the accountant wanting too much money, and something called "IRS" and "AMT" and many forms with numbers that it was a school holiday! My boys and I spent a lovely, sunny day frolicking in the yard! Little purple flowers that don't smell like food are blooming, and so are those dandy yellow forsythia!

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hot Cross Buns

I know this is too late for all of you to get ambitious and make Hot Cross Buns for Easter this year (unless you celebrate the Orthodox holiday, of course), so consider this your year in advance drool warning for next year. I promise, I'll repost these before the fact next year; my computer will till be under warranty, so there won't be any reason to not do so!

I've found through the years that regardless of how many Hot Cross Buns you plan to make, the best way to do it is to make one batch the size of this recipe at a time; that way, the next batch is mixing while you form your cute little dough balls. I made 4 batches: 1 on Friday, and 3 on Saturday, one of which was baked Sunday morning.


1 cup warm milk (around 100F)
2-1/2 tsp yeast

4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup melted butter
5 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 eggs
1 cup raisins

Put the milk in the bread machine mixing container, or in a mixing bowl, and sprinkle the yeast over it. Add the other ingredients in the order given, reserving the raisins until after all of the ingredients are well combined, and the dough is forming a nice, stiff ball. Turn the bread machine on to mix only for 15 minutes, or mix in the Kitchenaid stand mixer (stirring the ingredients together by hand will be hard, since this is stiff dough). 5 minutes before the mixing is done, pour in the raisins. Let the dough stand for 5 to 10 minutes, then divide into 16 pieces. Form each one into a ball, and let rise until nearly doubled in size. Brush with 1 egg yolk mixed with 2 tbsp water, and let the dough rise a few minutes longer. Bake at 400F for 22 to 25 minutes, until the desired degree of brown is reached.
For my Easter morning Hot Cross Buns, I made the dough using cold milk, formed the buns, and put the baking sheets into the refrigerator on Saturday night. It took a while for them to finish rising on the counter in the morning, so they could probably be laid on the counter, with a towel over them, on the way to church. 25 minutes after your arrival home, you
will be blissfully enjoying these marvelous, not too sweet treats!

Note that for the frosting to stay in the form of a cross, the buns have to cool. Otherwise, they look like this. They still taste great.

Of course, since the kids had to leave early, I wrapped some of the Hot Cross Buns I made Saturday, so they could pick at them on the way back, and after they had returned to college.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bean Cake, Anyone?

Three of my college kids showed up Thursday night. Since they called at 5 to say they'd be leaving shortly, I gave the little guys some sustenance, then held "midnight breakfast buffet" for dinner when they got home. I don't have to tell you that Thor was ecstatic to have some of his people back, even for a few days.

Friday I got my new computer, and worked at setting it up between batches of
hot cross buns. But the really required classic Easter dessert is Bean Cake.
No, this isn't something strange, disgusting or just plain weird. Years ago, when some of my bigger kids were in the local elementary school, the lunch menu came home with the Easter dessert listed as jelly bean cake. However, they typed it such that jelly was on one line, and "bean cake" on the next. Hence, we've had "Bean Cake" ever since. It's always good for a giggle hereabouts.

Since the big kids had to leave early on Sunday (noon), the Easter Bunny set up an Easter Egg hunt for Saturday morning, and the Easter Mom cooked Easter dinner on Saturday. Lamb, heart attack potatoes, asparagus, salad and punch. Everyone was stuffed, and the girls even cleaned up for me.

But one of the more entertaining parts of the weekend was a gift from Gaylen. Because I was able to correctly name all 4 of her dogs from detail photos (i.e., one paw), she sent me an apron as a prize! I wore it like there's no tomorrow. For the first time, I wasn't a floury mess when making my hot cross buns, and didn't end up wearing any gravy splatter. My daughter a
mused herself by putting two full glasses of ice in the pockets of the apron, then handing me pitchers of water and iced tea, so I had 4 hands worth of stuff to carry to the table. While there aren't any pictures of that, there is this one of her clowning around in my new apron (which she thinks is also hers) with a pocket full of clean cooking implements to be put away. Thank you, Gaylen, for this adorable apron. Who knew an apron could provide such amusement?

And now, I must begin to catch up on the work that piled up on me last week. Tomorrow, hot cross buns.

Edited, for Ann:

The Bean Cake was a rich gold cake I made a while back. Here's the recipe. The frosting is just a decadent buttercream frosting. Do I have to say that each of the 3 college kids took a large slab back to school with them?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Thor and Rusty

There was a lot of amazement at my recent picture of Thor nose to nose with Cinnamon the Guinea Pig. Well, Thor likes the little animals. Obviously, they aren't food! They're not cooked and properly seasoned. No civilized being likes uncooked food....except carrots.

Thor's in the corner of this picture. After Rusty the guinea pig got tired of his carrot, Thor sat up, eyed it for a minute, then snagged the carrot for himself. Too bad the camera wasn't ready for that picture!

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Peach Ice Cream

Well, the computer's limping along, able to check emails and connect to the web, but I've spent two miserable days trying to reinstall my business software. A friend dropped by with his son, who's a computer engineer, and who informed me that my hard drive is ancient and cranky. Maybe, he suggested, I should create a new restore disk, format the hard drive, and see if I can get another 6 months or maybe even a year out of it. Yeah, then I'll make tea for the Queen of England. So I bit the bullet, called in a $500 order, and a new one should be here Friday or Monday. I don't know how much I'll be posting between now and then, because, after doing my payroll by hand today, I'm quite irked (to put it mildly).

Anyway, to put myself in better spirits, I made some lovely peaches and cream ice cream. It truly was wonderful, and made me long for summer during the snowstorm that hit us this morning. It's been a great week all around, folks, just magnificent. Well, drool over my ice cream, resolve to make some for yourselves, and maybe be a little envious that I think I'll have another bowl while I watch the evening news tonight.


1 pound frozen peaches, thawed
1 cup sugar
1 cup whole milk
3 cups heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract

Chop the peaches in the food processor until they're fairly small pieces. Put in a microwavable measuring cup, stir in half the sugar, microwave until the peaches develop a clear, somewhat thickened sauce around them, stirring every minute or so, then chill the peach mixture. Whisk in the milk, cream, balance of the sugar and vanilla, and put in your ice cream freezer. "Process according to manufacturer's directions," as they say.

Think spring and summer, everyone. Easter's almost here, and that's always a good harbinger of better weather to come!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Weekend woes

Last weekend's plans included a batch of hot cross buns, throw pillows and maybe curtains. Last weekend's reality included a virus attack on Friday, followed by days of figuring out how to operate in safe mode (F8), racing around to buy flash drives to save photos, business documents, etc (I filled 2 each 8GB and 2GB flash drives, plus 2 8GB SD cards), then formatting the hard drive and beginning to reinstall everything.

So my plans to offer you beautiful hot cross buns and other delectable delights are on hold. I am almost done with reinstalling my software, after which I have to reinstall all the crap on aforementioned storage devices. I will be back here soon, but I did want everyone to know I've not fallen off the planet. Happy Tuesday!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Pane Toscana

For some really unknown reason, I decided last night that I had all the time in the world to make bread. I can be really stupid that way, when I decide I want something. Anyway, I've tried this recipe in the past, and found the amount of salt and sugar called for left the bread tasting like cooked paste. So, in the usual "I-know-what-I-know" fashion which is mine, I decided to alter Beth Hensperger's recipe somewhat. This worked out pretty well. I might try it again with a touch more salt, but this at least had some real flavor. Note that this is not a bread you want to try to finish off in an hour; it's a good 4 hour plus project. Fortunately, most of that 4 hours is spent doing other things while you wait for the dough to do its thing, so try it if you're bored on a Saturday afternoon (ha! like you ever are! I know you are all exciting people leading vastly entertaining lives, and only check on me to see just how dull life can be!).



1-3/4 cups warm water
1 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1-1/2 teaspoons yeast

Put these ingredients in the bread machine mixing pan, and turn the machine on to knead for 10 minutes only. Then shut it off, set a timer and let it rest for one hour. Add:

2-1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

Run this on the normal bread cycle in your machine, or follow my instructions for mixing by hand or in a mixer. Note that this is a sloppy and soft dough if you're not using the bread machine, so beware! Messes will abound! And I didn't get a picture of this before much of it was eaten, because one of the boys showed up, cut it, and began snacking. So I guess you could say that this revised recipe works.
Monica, as to your hard crust, I've heard that if you don't let a loaf cool befo
re you cut it, the crust will be harder, because the moisture won't migrate to the crust. I don't know that for certain, because I almost invariably finish mine in the oven, but I do know that my English Muffin Bread has a thick, hard crust (which one of my daughters absolutely adores), and I always set that on the delayed timer, and let it bake in the machine.

Oh, and I made a sponge cake last night for dessert, which my husband
said didn't have the right texture. But then he assured me that I wouldn't have to throw it out, he would eat it anyway. This is what's left this morning.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Thor's Pocket

A few weeks back, I sort of goaded Gaylen into giving her bloodhound, Lucy, a purse. Gaylen had gotten it as a gift, and posted a picture of Lucy with her nose in the purse, which struck me as really funny. Of course, this then led to questions of where Thor's pocket is, and suggestions that he might need a cowl with a pocket in it to keep his ears warm in winter.

Well, Thor wanted to say that he doesn't go out in winter, so his ears are fine.

And he has manly pockets. Filled with tools.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Yesterday, before school started, my 12 year old read the newspaper. In it was a photo of a swingset installed at the White House for the Obama girls. He had two comments. The first was that the material below the swingset was dyed a disturbingly unnatural shade of green. The second was that he's sorry for those girls, and would not want to be the son of a president, because their childhoods can now never be normal, and they get nothing from it. Their father is the president, and they're just little kids trying to fit in, but forever regarded as some president's kids. I think that boy's developing a pretty good, analytical brain!

Of course, since yesterday was the nicest day forecast for this week, the boys and Thor took a 3 hour lunch/recess break, somewhere out in this ready to turn green yard (I am an optimist!)

But, on to dessert. My youngest boy is the biggest fussbudget on the planet. He doesn't like anything. Really. I asked him what foods he likes, and this is what he said:

-Brownies without nuts
-Lemon meringue pie without meringue

-Orange ice cream
-Lemon sherbet
-Peppermint Patty cake
-chocolate cake with no frosting
-nutella (no sandwich wanted)

Of course! How about Pineapple Upside Down Cake? It takes 5 minutes to put together, so here goes...


2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup brown sugar

8 ounces pineapple, slices or crushed (drained)
Maraschino cherries, optional
1-1/3 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup melted butter
2/3 cup milk

1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. In a 9" cake pan (not a springform pan) melt the 2 tbsp butter. Stir in the brown sugar, and arrange the pineapple and, if desired, cherry halves, atop the sugar/butter mix. Next, stir together the dry cake ingredients, then add the wet ingredients. Beat for 1 to 2 minutes, until well mixed. Pour into the cake pan, over the pineapple. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let it cool somewhat, then invert onto a serving dish. The sugar/butter mix will run down the sides of the cake a little bit, and it's delightful.
Oh, and my little fussbudget? Didn't like the pineapple. Said it tasted like something else, maybe oatmeal. *sigh* What shall I do with him?