Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hot Water Sponge Cake

So, what does one do when one has relatively few eggs in the house, and *gasp* no powdered sugar? Well, how about making a sponge cake which doesn't require 7 to 10 eggs? This was adapted from Fannie Farmer (hers was 1/3 smaller) and quite good, despite the fact that some dope let me run out of powdered sugar. I'll figure out who that was as soon as I find a mirror, I think.


3 eggs, separated
3/8 cup hot water (6 tbsp)

1 tsp almond extract
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/4 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder

Beat the egg whites until stiff and set aside. Beat the egg yolks a bit and add the hot water, beating vigorously until they're thick and fluffy. Add the extract, sugar and salt and beat a minute longer, then beat in the flour and powder until just combined. Fold the egg
whites into the yolk mixture until well combined, then turn into a greased bundt pan. Bake at 350F for 25 to 30 minutes; cool completely while inverted. Dust the top with powdered sugar (if you haven't run out) and serve.

I love almond, but, truth be told, I think next time I'd use only 4 tbsp hot water and add 2 tbsp lemon juice, and change the almond extract for lemon extract. I simply think sponge cake needs a citrus flavor to it. I'm not sure my guys agreed, however, because this is what remained of the cake after breakfast:

Oh, and anything under 3 dozen eggs in my house is low; 2 dozen or fewer is "crisis".

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Garden Tuesday: A Hint of Sun

It's been pretty dark and dreary here for days. I didn't think I'd get any outdoor pictures. Then, lo and behold! The sun came out for about 12 minutes around 6 last night.

This is Thor's corner of the yard. He loves it here. The peek of red beyond the trees is our swingset. While the kids are all too old for it, I'm a sentimental fool. The swingset stays.

And, while the boys and Thor have been unable to enjoy the great outdoors, we enjoyed Ryan's leaf chromatography experiment last week. From left, maple, oak and plum leaves, cut up and doused in rubbing alcohol, with coffee filter strips to catch the color coming out of them. A reminder that the leaves will soon be but a memory, and Thor will cry about going outside in the cold.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Beans Chicken

It was a rainy weekend. Now, I have no cause to whine; it was much rainier in the Southeast. Still, I find it hard to get motivated for much of anything when the world beyond my windows is gray, and there's water bouncing off my windows. And when it's damp and cool, well, I just want to take an example from bears and hibernate.

This dinner is a good reason to come out of hibernation for an hour or 2. It's colorful and flavorful, it's easy to cook, and can be done on the stovetop for those of you lucky enough to still have warm weather, and in the oven for the rest of us.

(Small Family Version)

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken (I use thighs)
1 onion, minced
1 to 2 tsp garlic powder
small amount of salt (less than you'd normally use)
1 chicken bouillon cube
1/2 cup cold water
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 pound whole green beans
1 can (28 ounce can) diced tomatoes
1 pound angel hair

Sprinkle the chicken with the garlic powder and salt, and cook it with the onion in a skillet or in the oven, until nearly done. Pour the pan drippings into a sauce pan (or remove the chicken from the skillet for a few minutes) and add the chicken bouillon cube and enough water to make 2 cups liquid; heat to a boil. Whisk the cornstarch into the 1/2 cup cold water, and add to the pan juices after they come to a boil. Whisk and cook until the sauce thickens. Stir the green beans in with the chicken, top with half the can of diced tomatoes, and pour the sauce over the top. Note that the sauce will be exceptionally thick; juice from the beans and tomato will thin it. Cook the chicken about 10 minutes more. Meanwhile, cook the angel hair; drain, add the other half of the can of tomatoes, 1 cup milk, 1/4 cup chopped parsley (fresh or dried) and 1/4 cup parmesan to the angel hair. Serve with the chicken.

I'd love to say I named this in honor of Pam in Chattanooga, whose dishes are named with a basic ingredient list, but my kids named it 20 years ago. Sometimes simplest names are best, as are simplest dinners. And Paula, use your GF pasta, and your baby will enjoy this, too!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Calvert School: Guest Starring my Youngest

One of the things I really like about Calvert School is that it drills composition skills into children. Second grade starts with fill in the blanks compositions, and it gets successively harder every year thereafter. With that increase in difficulty come some more interesting assignments. One of the ones at the end of fourth grade was, "If you could have dinner with a famous person, who would it be, and what would you do?" Here is the answer from my youngest, written when he was 9-1/2 years old.

If I invited someone famous to my house, ti would be Thomas Jefferson because I think he's a good president.

When he came to the door I'd say improtant things like "Nice outfit," and "After you Mr. Jefferson."

When we went to the living room, he would say "This isn't as nice as Monticello." Then he'd see the picture of him signing the Declaration of Independence and say "NO NO NO, I WAS IN THE CHAIR NOT JOHN HANCOCK!!!" After a moment of silence I'd say "Pardon me."

At dinner, I'd have a 50 course buffet, and he'd say, "Where is the cornbread?" "Cornbread? I know nothing of this mythical cornbread." "THEN WHAT TYPE OF FOOD DO YOU EAT?!?!?!?" "Turkey," I'd say. "When I was a boy, I had to wrestle a grizzly bear for food." "We do it different nowadays," I'd say.

When it was time to leave, I'd say, "Well, I guess this is it." "Yeah," he'd say.

If you could meet a famous person, who would it be?

I typed all of his punctuation and spelling exactly as he wrote it. While his paragraphing of the dialogue was wrong, I did enjoy his conversation. And I was proud that my kid wouldn't want to meet an athlete, musician or movie star.

So, answer Mark's question: If you could meet a famous person, who would it be?

Friday, September 25, 2009

No Bake Cookies

What are boys to do on a rainy afternoon? Especially if they want a snack? How about make cookies? Mmm hmm. Just what I need: a mess, and kids playing in the oven. Then I recalled that I had found this recipe. I adapted it to be made in the microwave, which seems to me to be safer for the kids, and it was a huge hit. The boys enjoyed the process, and everyone enjoyed the cookies. Even their 24 year old fussbudget brother thought they were addictive.


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup peanut butter
3-1/2 cups quick cook oats

In a glass bowl, melt the butter. Add the sugar, cocoa powder and milk
, and microwave until they boil. Stir in the peanut butter, and heat until it melts. Stir in the oats, and stir until well combined. Drop by teaspoons on waxed paper on cookie sheets, and let them cool to harden. Makes about 30 cookies.

Note that I put these in the fridge to speed the cooling process.

You can see how popular they were. These are all that were left the next morning.

And a special note to Paula, these are safe for your baby. And given that the twins are taller than you, they can reach the microwave, so the three of them can have fun making these together. I'm just saying....

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Guard Thor

On sunny days, Thor sits in his yard looking one way...

and the other.

Today is rainy; Thor has to dream of sunny days, when he and his boys can go play in the yard again.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Yesterday, Sean the UPS dude walked in with a big box (and, of course, a cookie for Thor. He's not stupid). Chan had written about making a microwave cake in a stoneware pan recently, and I commented that I have never had stoneware. Well, being the Pampered Chef sales lady extraordinaire, and a great blog friend, look what Sean dragged in!

Of course, Chan's Gretchen and Sissy made certain that she didn't forget Thor.

Naturally, with two new toys, I had to use both. I'm a mother many times over, and I just can't play favorites with kids or kitchen stuff. The medium bar pan instructions said it is perfect for a box of brownie mix, and indeed it was! For the small one, I concluded that the lemon bar recipe is for an 8"x8" pan, which is 64 square inches, and my new small pan was 7"x9", or 63 square inches. Sorry, I'm just an engineer at heart; the differential is statistically insignificant, right? Wrong. The new pan isn't nearly as deep. Oh, well, next time I'll make a thinner crust.

Thank you, Chan; I'm thrilled. And if anyone needs new Pampered Chef stuff, I can recommend someone who ships very quickly, with great packaging, and even remembers our four footed friends!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Garden Tuesday: Nearing the End

Alas, I fear we're nearing the end of the summer that never really came.

So, Ryan dug up another square of carrots, and at Mom's insistence, washed away most of the dirt outside. The guinea pigs were grateful for the carrot tops. The carrots themselves will become a veggie with tomorrow's dinner, and maybe a loaf of carrot bread, too.

And my peas look weird. I don't know if they will turn green, or if they turned yellow before they got to be full sized. This gardening stuff is confusing.

I still have a couple of zucchini to go. I also have another square of carrots and, of course, my chives are plugging right along. In a week or 2, I'll reflect on this garden thing. Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to getting some apples and grapes!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lemon Amish Pie

I don't know what makes this pie Amish. The original recipe called for Cool Whip. Somehow, I can't see the wife in the long black dress and bonnet saying, "OK, Jacob, just take the horse and buggy down to the Giant Market and snag me a tub of Cool Whip, so I can make a truly authentic Amish pie, now. Chop, chop, this stuff has to thaw and we don't have all day!" Anyway, I made it with real whipped cream, and am pleased to present it to you.


1 unbaked pie crust
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated
3 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp lemon rind
1-1/2 cups hot milk
Whipped cream

Beat the egg whites until very stiff and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar, and beat in the egg yolks until well combined. Add the flour, salt, lemon juice, rind, and milk, and beat until smooth. Stir the beaten egg whites into the lemon mix, and pour into an unbaked pie shell. Bake at 350F for 35 to 40 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely and top with whipped cream (or maybe genuine Amish cool whip).

Notice how runny my pie is. This is because I got impatient, and didn't wait until it was cold to cut it. After serving 3 runny pieces, I put the rest in the fridge, and it firmed up beautifully. So, learn from my error - or just have soft pie!

My 24 year old fussiest person on the planet said this was quite good. My 13 year old said it was a little eggier than normal lemon pie. My 9 year old fussbudget just ate it. And my dearly beloved commented that it only had a vague lemon flavor; it was really more just a custard pie. That comment notwithstanding, he and the fussiest person on the planet finished it the next morning for breakfast. Maybe a touch of lemon extract would give it more lemon flavor. Either way, I've been given permission to make this pie again.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Orange Pie

Well, when I decide I must learn to do something, I am nothing if not persistent. I found a recipe for orange pie, and decided that my dearly beloved would greatly enjoy it. So, I made it. The original recipe, as presented by the Fannie Farmer cookbook, was absurdly small. Geez, even with the meringue, it barely filled the pie plate.
Undeterred, I tried again. This time, I greatly increased the quantities, changed the procedure, and, voila! Excellence! Despite the fact that it's so easy, I felt like a member of the "Pie Special Ed" class. You'll see why at the end.


1 pie crust, baked (use store bought, or rolled out, or even my new found recipe)
5 eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sugar
5 tbsp flour

1-1/2 cups orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a 4 cup pyrex measuring cup or similar sized bowl, beat the egg yolks. Add 3/4 cup sugar, the flour, orange juice and lemon juice. Combine thoroughly. Microwave 5 to 6 minutes, stirring every minute or more often, until cooked and thickened. Pour into the baked pie shell. Meanwhile, beat the egg whites, 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract until stiff. Spread the meringue on top of the filling, and bake at 425F for about 5 minutes, until the meringue is browned.

Note: Do not be a multi-tasking dumb**s like me. Set the microwave for 1 minute increments. That way, if you get stuck tending your meringue, bread, rice or chicken, your orange filling will not boil over into the inside of your microwave and give you another thing to clean. If you really, really want another thing to clean, well, ignore this note. Then you, too, can feel like a member of the "Pie Special Ed" class.

I also borrowed Paula's mother in law's idea for pie crust cookie chips. I just took the extra dough, rolled it out, plopped it on a baking sheet, topped it with sugar and cinnamon, cut into squares, and baked for a few minutes. (A few plain ones were set aside for Thor, of course.) The three boys took their cookie chips outside for lunch today, end enjoyed them. Than ks, Paula!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thor in School

It has been raining the past two days, and Thor knows it. So he's been paying better attention in school. See? Algebra isn't hard, especially if you don't have opposable thumbs, so no one can prove you haven't learned the material!

And when your boy needs to do workbook pages, his dog needs to help him read them.

Keeping your boy's page is a necessity.

Happy Thorsday, Everyone!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Shaker Lemon Pie

The moment you've all been waiting for: my first ever pie with a double crust, and it was homemade crust, to boot! OK, maybe saying you've all been waiting for it is an exaggeration, but I'm entitled to a bit of poetic license, right? Please?
This needed a little thinking ahead. I'm excellent at planning ahead, but I don't like to do step 1, then stop for a while. Nonetheless, I do believe my dearly beloved wants this again. Soon.


1 double pie crust
3 lemons, unpeeled, sliced paper thin (toss only the very ends)

2 cups sugar
4 eggs

Combine the lemons and sugar in a bowl. Let it sit for a minimum of 2 hours. After that time has passed, preheat the oven to 425F. Beat the eggs well, and stir in the lemon mixture. Pour into an unbaked crust, and add a top crust. Cut slits in the top crust.
Put in the oven at 425F for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350F without opening the oven door, and bake another 40 minutes. Put a knife through one of the slits in the crust to check; when it comes out clean, the custard inside is done. Let the pie cool before cutting, and serve with very sweet whipped cream.

I still don't know how pie plates are measured: top or bottom, outside or inside diameter. I do know that this didn't really fill my pie plate, so next time, I'll be using 4 lemons and 6 eggs, along with about 3 cups of sugar. I do have to say that everyone was enthusiastically pleased with this. And, finally, who can complain about a 3 item ingredient list?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Garden Tuesday: Hydrangea

Remember this picture of my hydrangea, taken 10 days ago?

Well, I don't know what happened, other than we had a rainy, cold weekend, but look at it now. From whence came the color?

(And, yes, Buff, I know it's overgrown. But I love it.)

In the real garden, I have baby pea pods. I'm a dope, and initially planted 2 pea plants. How was I to know they produce next to nothing per plant? This is my second try; they're looking promising.
Sadly, given the cold summer, and the fall turning cold again, I won't have time for a second planting of much of anything.
See you tomorrow with that pie!

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Best Pie Crust Ever

This is what you need to know about dessert in our house: It's the fault of my dearly beloved and his mother, or to their credit, depending upon your viewpoint. You see, he explained to me many moons ago that while his mother was an adequate (but not good) cook, she was a great baker. That, in his opinion, is what gives children fond memories of meals at home. Since I have no fond memories of childhood meals, I have to take his word for it.

When I started making dessert every night, I used a lot of boxed mixes. I still think highly of boxes; they are one of mankind's greatest inventions. It's just that sometimes I want something else. And, since I bought a pie and pastry cookbook at a used book sale this spring, I've been timidly inching toward trying my own pie crust. (Don't you just love old cookbooks with other people's notes in them? It makes you feel like you almost know the previous reader!) My dearly beloved adores pie above all other desserts. And with fewer people in the house, I can make pie. Let's face it, with 9 or 10 or 11 people in the house, if I don't have 2 pies for one dessert, people are going to be seriously honked off.

Lots of you left me helpful suggestions and encouragement last week. So, r
emembering that Paula was put in charge of pie crust as a little girl, and Linda said to use the food processor, and skip the fool pastry cutter, and Annette said butter can be used, I happened upon this pie crust recipe. Trust me, it's worthy of its own post.


1/4 cup butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup shortening, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2-1/2 cups flour

1/8 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp lemon juice

In the food processor, pulse together everything except the lemon juice and milk for a few seconds. Then, with the processor running, drizzle in the lemon juice and milk. Let it form into a ball. Roll it out. This recipe makes 2 crusts - top and bottom, or 2 glorious pies.

Of course, I had issues in rolling out the crust - sticking, lack of symmetry, lack of roundness, stuff like that. I tried to beat it to death at one point.
But I persevered, and made two decent pies, and one that I considered a failure (although there were no leftovers). All of this leads to the question, from whence is the size of the pie plate derived? Outside diameter? Inside diameter? Top or bottom? Believe me, I have 4 different measurements on one pie plate, and I don't like this. The engineer in me is searching for precision in this endeavor.

Oh, and my dearly beloved, the world's greatest fan of pie? He hates pie crust. And he ate every bit of this, declaring that it is the best pie crust he's ever had. High praise, indeed.

Here's a hint as to what my first pie was. See you then.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Calvert School 5th & 8th Grades

Well, school is started again. I've had the curriculums since late June, and never opened them until last weekend. Because Calvert School was changing their eighth grade reading selections, and I wanted to retain the classics, I ordered at the end of "last year".

My baby is doing Calvert fifth grade with 6th grade math. *sob* Where has the time gone? I want the tiny squalling pink creature back! That's not to say that my baby isn't brilliant and wonderful; of course he is (and I'm sure all of yours are, too). But the time passes too swiftly.

Included in Calvert's fifth grade course are several novels, including Shiloh
(the first one we're reading), The Secret Garden, Sing Down the Moon, Sign of the Beaver and American Tall Tales. We're also studying US History and Geography. Science expands on what we've done in past years, Grammar and Composition are givens. Art History is a wonderful course. For fifth grade, it's the study of the history of painting. It's funny, but Ryan recognizes styles and many of the paintings he learned about in this course. I hope Mark enjoys it as much.

Eighth Grade will be intense. We're studying Algebra for Ryan's math course this year (I read through the tests, and am happily stunned at how much I remember). Science starts with the study of cells, and will progress through 5 books. Ryan, too, is studying US History and Geography. If we get sunshine early next week, I'm going to send the boys out to draw a US map in the driveway. If you can't have fun, what's the point of school? Grammar and composition will doubtless be increasingly intense, as is spelling. There is a separate vocabulary study course, and, of course, reading. The course starts with Johnny Tremain. Other novels include David Copperfield, the Hounds of the Baskervilles and The Prince and The Pauper. We're also reading "story" poetry this year, such as Casey at the Bat. Hopefully we'll enjoy that more than "sissified" poetry like Emily Dickenson.
Of course, the Lesson Manuals for Calvert School can't be beat. I don't have to think so much as read and talk to the kids. I couldn't do this without the manuals.
I may be crazy, but I also ordered a Civics in America course for the two boys, along with Discoveries in Art and Latin I. We've started the art course (and we'll see if I can stick with it), I want to start Civics next week, and I don't know if I'll fit Latin in this year. I've been known to take on more than is humanly possible, and this just might be such a case.

I hope you've all enjoyed your preview of my school year. Now, off to some sewing, and pie crust making (I'm trying, I'm trying!), and whatever else happens in my little corner of the world. Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11, 2001: I will never forget

From The Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto:

"Because of its geography, its population, and the fact that it was under the control of the Dutch (even then its parent city, Amsterdam, was the most liberal in Europe), this island city would become the first multiethnic, upwardly mobile society on America's shores, a prototype of the kind of society that would be duplicated throughout the country and around the world. It was no coincidence that on September 11, 2001, those who wished to make a symbolic attack on the center of American power chose the World Trade Center as their target. If what made America great was its ingenious openness to different cultures, then the small triangle of land at the southerntip of Manhattan Island is the New World birthplace of that idea, the spot where it first took shape...."

I will never forget the unspeakable horror of that day, when innocent people were killed by those who do not like us. We survive and thrive; we will never forget.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thor's Back in School

Well, the boys started school on Tuesday. Thor wanted his picture taken for the first day of school, too.

Notice that Ryan has passed the 6 foot mark on the height chart. Mark's right at 5 feet, and the kid is 2 months short of his 10th birthday.

Later, Thor helped Ryan read his vocabulary lesson. (Lucky kid, being able to lay over a chair to read! Who else says, "My teachers would have had a conniption over that!!"?)

And Gaylen's Beau is home and recovering nicely from his emergency surgery. Thor is sending him arfs of empathy.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


It's the time of year when we need to send our kids off to school (and ourselves to work) with good, healthy lunches. Indeed, that was the subject of the primary column in the lifestyles section of our paper last Wednesday, "food day". Now, while I don't stuff my kids out the door the way others do, I do enjoy all of those interesting lunch containers out there. Aren't they inspirational?
Yes, my older kids tell me I'm a dork all the time. Thanks for not joining in.

The basic rectangular container is perfect for the 24 year old's grinder. He bellowed at me when I suggested it would be better with lettuce or tomato. I offered to hit him with a stick.

The little boys like to take lunch outside while the weather is nice. Of course, I like letting them package up a lunch the night before. Not only does it teach them to plan ahead, they learn about a well balanced meal. And Thor gets a peanut butter sandwich in the little flat container.
For an adult or a bigger kid, check this out. Filled with a small chef's salad, hard boiled egg, bread and some crackers, it's plenty of food. Of course, you know I would take "real" flatware instead of the plastic, but it's nice that it comes with a built-in fork and knife. You could also put a big helping of pasta salad, some fruit and a nice dessert in this lovely lunch box.

The container with 4 little sections is really 4 removable containers. It's a dieter's delight. The size dictates that unless you fill it with sugar and frosting, it has to be low-calorie! Filling each of the 4 sections with something like tuna, cottage cheese, carrot sticks and crackers would be plenty to keep you occupied. Of course, I didn't fill it; I really don't need to eat two lunches, do I?

All of these cute lunch containers came from Target. Lunch is a whole lot easier to imagine with them, isn't it?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Garden Tuesday

Well, the tomato plants in the garden are looking a little scrawny. Late blight is attacking them, sadly. The good news is that the local agricultural co-op says blight will be killed off during the winter, as long as I don't plant blighted potatoes. Since I never got to planting potatoes this year, it won't be a problem! Sometimes procrastination pays, after all.

And on the other side of my house, my hydrangea retains some of its pink color. Hydrangea is a strange plant; naturally white, they turn pink or blue depending upon the fertilizer applied. Some of you may remember that during an income tax day 2008 snowstorm, we lost a couple of giant arbor vitae, which we had stood back up a couple of days later by our lawn service, and they put plenty of tree spikes around them. One was near enough this hydrangea to change its color, and the aftereffects linger yet!

See you tomorrow for discussion of packing lunch.