Posts Tagged ‘recipes’

Diary #537

I think I’m just about done processing apples for the year. There’s a gallon carboy of cider fermenting out in the garage, and three jars each of apple jelly and apple butter in the larder. That does not count the open jars in the refrigerator; when I make jam or jelly I put all of what’s in the pot into jars, even if the last one isn’t full enough to form a proper vacuum once they cool.  I then open the underfull jar the next day so we can sample the contents.  This way, I not only avoid waste, but also test the product to make sure it’s up to snuff.  Next year, I’d like to make about twice as much; considering that we should be finished the bathhouse project well before next harvest season, I think that’s doable.  See, the limiting factor isn’t really the amount of fruit, but rather the time and effort it takes to pick it, sort it, prepare it (pitting plums, coring apples, juicing, etc), and prepare the preserves.  Next year, I should even have enough fruit and time to do mincemeat.  And even though the pectin I extracted performed perfectly, I think next year I’ll just buy it; it was a lot of effort for just enough pectin to make 31/2 jars of apple jelly, and the animals seemed less enthusistic about eating the pomace which had been boiled than that which had merely been juiced.

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Diary #532

It’s been years since I made jam; I believe the last time was in 2013, because the year after that I was on tour all summer, then in 2015 I moved to Seattle.  But we had a bumper crop of plums and blackberries, and the apples are almost ripe as well; Jae picked a big basket of plums last week, and even after making two huge plum cobblers I had plenty left.  So on Thursday I made plum jam, then on Friday blackberry, and both came out perfectly!  I have to admit I was a bit daunted; I like making jam, but it’s a lot of work, and, as I said, it has been a while.  But it was a lot easier this time than it was in Oklahoma, for several reasons.  First, Jae picked and pitted the plums for me, and she and a visiting friend picked the blackberries.  Second, I have an electronic cooking thermometer now, which makes monitoring the jam mixture’s temperature much less of a hassle.  And speaking of heat, the Washington coast in September is dramatically cooler than southeast Oklahoma in June, so I wasn’t stuck in a sweltering kitchen while working.  Today I’m going back to Seattle and I’m going to visit the gent I call Dr. Quest this weekend.  But on Monday I’ll be back at Sunset, and soon I’ll be using our apples to make apple cider, apple jelly, apple butter, mince meat, and other lovely treats.

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I’ve always been dedicated to the idea of this as the time of year for spooky fun.  So every year I collect all the spooky, creepy or scary links and other content from the previous year into one place just before Halloween.  If you’ve come to my blog in the past year, or don’t remember previous editions, they are “Trick or Treat”, “More Trick or Treat“, “Tricks and Treats“, “This Trick’s a Treat”, “Tricky Treats“, and “A Trickle of Treats” (because I also love wordplay).  Horror, death or Halloween-themed columns of the past year include “Eros and Thanatos“, “Not Your Costume?“, “Its Own Reward“, “Frozen Smoke“, “The Science of Sin“, and the short story “Wheels“; there are creepy or spooky-fun videos in Links #433, #435, #445, and #447; and here’s a collection of spooky or Halloweeny links:

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Diary #449

I haven’t made gumbo for a long time, and because it used to be the centerpiece of my Imbolc feast I decided to go out to Sunset over the weekend and make some.  I remembered to order the andouille from my favorite supplier, Bailey’s in LaPlace, Louisiana, on Monday so it would be sure to arrive on time, and prepped the chicken on Wednesday (see my gumbo recipe, linked above) so on Saturday all I had to do was chop up the sausage & onions, make the roux, combine the ingredients and wait.  Well, I also had to make potato salad, which many Louisianians (including Grace) enjoy plopped down right in the middle of the gumbo.  I did share my potato salad recipe on Radley Balko’s old Agitator blog years ago, but since that, sadly, is no more, here it is again: cook as many peeled potatoes as you like until soft, and hard-boil one egg per potato. I use small russet potatoes; you don’t want too little egg in proportion to potato.  Crush the eggs with a fork as one would for egg salad, then add the potatoes and mash it together with a potato masher.  Add 1 heaping tablespoon of mayonnaise per potato, then one heaping tablespoon of prepared mustard per two potatoes, then one heaping tablespoon of pickle relish (I use sweet relish) per two potatoes.  You are going to have to fiddle with the proportions a little to get it the way you like it; I usually end up adding more mustard.  You’ll note that south Louisiana style potato salad is much creamier than the styles from other parts of the country, which use much less thoroughly-cooked potatoes for a chunkier texture.  Oh, and most down there like it cold, though some (including a couple of my sisters) prefer it soon after it’s made, while it’s still warm.  Speaking of cold, I headed back to Seattle on Sunday, a day earlier than planned, due to the snow; Seattle drivers in snow are as stupid and dangerous as Los Angeles drivers in rain, and I had no desire to see the effects multiplied by an overnight freeze.

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Diary #422

As you may have already guessed from this picture, my chickens have begun to lay!  And not just a few measly pullet eggs, oh no; they all seem to have started laying simultaneously and at full adult rate!  Nor are the eggs all tiny; though some are small, others are normal-sized and one of them is consistently laying big double-yolk eggs!  Those are noticeably larger, which is how I managed to get two of them into my skillet at the same time; for those interested in such things, these went onto a nice piece of sourdough bread, topped with two slices of cheese, two strips of crispy bacon and another slice of bread.  Such are the simple, homely meals I prepare for myself when I’m alone; they make a nice contrast to restaurant meals I share with friends or clients.  I’m learning to enjoy my time alone much more than I did in the past; I’ve even managed to figure out a work schedule that neither overwhelms me nor triggers my inner nun to start shaking a ruler at me and calling me a “lazy creature”.  But anyway, back to Sunset: the new (smaller & more fuel efficient) pickup Grace put together is out of the shop & ready to run, and I bought a new chainsaw & brush cutter so Chekhov can extend the animal fence to take in a dense brush patch on the east side of my property.  By the time you read this Grace should be digging new French drains in preparation for repairing the floor, and soon we’ll be opening up another protected chicken yard.  And this autumn, I’ll have some lovely pictures of fresh apples from my trees.

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Als Gregor Samsa eines Morgens aus unruhigen Träumen erwachte, fand er sich in seinem Bett zu einem ungeheueren Ungeziefer verwandelt.  –  Franz Kafka

Even though it’s in German, I think you’ll appreciate this short animation of Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” provided by Ed Krayewski (or else you won’t).  The links above it were contributed by Nun YaScott GreenfieldWWAVMike Siegel,  Brooke Magnanti, and Michael Whiteacre (in that order).

From the Archives

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Grace’s Chili

Next to jazz music, there is nothing that lifts the spirit and strengthens the soul more than a good bowl of chili.  –  Harry James

One of the things I really missed on the road was my own cooking.  I don’t mean that in a vain sense, as though my cooking was better than everyone else’s; what I mean is that I am, as I reminded y’all on Tuesday, a creature of habit, and it feels weird to go that long without cooking.  It’s part of the rhythm of my life, something that shapes my days, and my husband and Grace will both attest to the fact that no matter how tired I am or how busy my day, I insist on preparing a proper evening meal for my family unless I’m either too ill to stand up or we’ve already planned to do something else.  In fact, when I arrived home a week ago today I insisted on fixing dinner, despite having just driven for more than eight hours; it was part of the process of re-orienting myself to my normal life.  That’s not to say that Grace couldn’t have done it; she’s a competent cook herself, and though her repertoire is very limited she does what she does very well.  Today I’d like to share her recipe for chili; though I’m the one who cooks it for us nowadays, she developed it all by herself over 20 years ago and in my opinion it’s the best chili ever.

3# (1.4 kg) ground beef
2 (8 oz/225 g) cans tomato sauce
2 (6 oz/170 g) cans tomato paste
2 sauce cans water
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies (Ro-tel tomatoes)
1 medium onion, minced
¼ cup butter (½ stick)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) chili powder
2 tablespoons (30 ml) brown sugar
1 tablespoon (15 ml) Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons (10 ml) paprika
½ tablespoon (7.5 ml) black pepper
1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) granulated garlic*
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) prepared brown mustard
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) sage
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) mace
Tabasco sauce to taste

*If you don’t have granulated garlic, use half as much garlic powder or twice as much finely-minced garlic or garlic flakes.

Brown ground meat thoroughly in a large, deep skillet, then add onions and saute until tender.  Transfer to a large pot and add all other ingredients, stirring well after each addition.  Simmer over low heat for one hour, stirring occasionally.  Serve with crackers.

You will notice that the recipe contains no beans; that’s because we prefer beanless chili.  If you like beans, there is an additional step which must be performed first:  in a large pot cover one pound of pinto beans with water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and boil for two minutes.  Remove from heat, cover and let sit for an hour.  Then drain the beans completely and add two liters of fresh water; bring water to boiling, then reduce heat to medium and cook for 90 minutes.  At the end of this precooking process, drain the beans again and add them to the chili with all the other ingredients; increase the chili’s cooking time to 90 minutes or until the beans reach the desired degree of tenderness (it won’t hurt the chili to cook longer).

One thing that’s really good about this chili is that when prepared as directed it’s spicy, but not blisteringly hot; however, it’s really easy to turn up the heat if so desired.  You could use the hot Ro-tel tomatoes instead of the original ones, use a hotter type of chili powder (or increase it to three tablespoons), use hot Hungarian paprika instead of the mild Spanish variety, substitute red pepper for the black, substitute horseradish for the brown mustard or increase the amount of Tabasco…or if you really like to live dangerously, all of the above.  The recipe makes enough for six people (nine if you make it with beans), but it also freezes well so don’t hesitate to try it even if there are only two of you.

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There may be people who like centipedes.  I have seen people handling tarantulas and scorpions, but never a centipede handler.  Personally, I would regard such an individual with deep suspicion…If such a man exists, I say kill him without more ado.  He is a traitor to the human race.  –  William S. Burroughs

The first video this week was contributed by Angela Keaton; it’s really the only important comment on Arab-Israeli hostilities you’ll ever need.  The second video, and the links above the first, were provided by Jesse Walker, and the links between the videos by Korhomme (“buttocks”), Dave Barry (“recipe”),  Saladin Ahmed  (“Venn”), Michael Whiteacre (“accident”), Grace (“Nazca” and “dog”), Radley Balko  (“satire” and “ticket”), Luscious Lani (“employee”), Cop Block (“police state”), Nun Ya (“rescue”), and Police Misconduct (“medal”).

From the Archives

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I Scream, You Scream

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.  –  Howard Johnson, Billy Moll, and Robert King

boys making ice cream, 1940Here in North America, summer has started and the weather is starting to get hot; one of the nicest ways to beat the heat is with a dish of homemade ice cream.  You may think it’s hard to make, but you’d be very wrong; modern electric ice cream freezers are quite inexpensive, and most of them use table salt now instead of rock salt.  The freezer can sit in the sink while running to catch any spill, and the canister can be placed in the freezer to harden the ice cream.  Nor do the recipes have to be difficult; while custard-style ice creams (like French vanilla) require cooking, simple fruit- or syrup based ice creams or sherbets do not, and are both simple and delicious.  Here are three recipes I always use; note that these are for a two-quart freezer, so if yours is larger or smaller just adjust everything in proportion.  It won’t look like enough when you pour it into the canister, but it expands considerably during the freezing process.

Syrup-based ice cream

2 cups half-and-half
2 cups whipping cream
¾ cup syrup
¼ cup sugar

Pour all ingredients into container and process as directed by your freezer’s instructions.  Yes, it really is that easy, and the results are delicious.  You can use any kind of syrup, thick or thin; I like to use those Italian syrups that go in sodas or coffee.  Note that if you use a syrup stored at room temperature, the freezing time may increase somewhat.  Also note that this recipe is fully compatible with the fruit-based one, so you can make, say, chocolate banana or cherry vanilla by simply mixing a half-batch of syrup-based with a half-batch of fruit based; the machine will do the rest.

Fruit-based ice cream

2 cups chopped or pureed fruit, as you prefer
2 cups whipping cream
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup sugar (if fruit is already sweetened, reduce to ¼ cup)

I prefer to use pureed fruit because it gives a more even consistency and flavor.  Note that if you use frozen or near-frozen fruit, the freezing time may be shortened somewhat.  See above for comments about combined flavors.


2 cups fruit juice
3 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar

You can use any drinkable-concentration fruit juice; if it’s too concentrated to be a pleasant drink (lemon juice, for example) you’ll need to dilute and/or sweeten it to beverage strength before using it or your milk will curdle and the sherbet will be much too sour.  Of the three recipes, I have tested this one the least; it works perfectly with orange juice, though.  The first two recipes I’ve made many, many times and the only time the results were less than perfect was the time I used insufficiently-pureed frozen bananas, resulting in more banana chunks than I personally care for.

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Cake is happiness!  If you know the way of the cake, you know the way of happiness!  If you have a cake in front of you, you should not look any further for joy!  ―  C. JoyBell C.

Since it’s been far too long since I published a recipe, I decided to make up for it with seven new ones: all different types of cake, arranged one per demi-season.  Yesterday we covered winter and spring, and today cakes for the summer and autumn.  I would only consider one of these (Moss Rose Cake) difficult, and even it isn’t all that tough.  But if you aren’t an experienced baker, make sure you read my general tips in yesterday’s column before proceeding.

Summertide (late May – early July)

Texas BrowniesI first discovered this recipe in the early ‘90s, and I don’t know why they’re so named; maybe because they’re big, or maybe it’s the buttermilk, but they’re delicious in any case.  If you don’t have buttermilk handy, put 2 teaspoons (10 ml) of lemon juice or vinegar into a glass measuring cup, pour milk in until it’s just below the ¾ cup (180 ml) line, stir, and let it sit for 5 minutes before using (the usage is divided between cake & frosting, so be sure to measure).  Note that the coffee need not be freshly brewed; I always use whatever’s left from breakfast.

Texas Brownies

2 cups (480 ml) flour
2 cups (480 ml) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking soda
¼ teaspoon (1 ml) salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1/3 cup (80 ml) cocoa powder
1 cup (240 ml) coffee (the stronger the better)
2 eggs
½ cup (120 ml) buttermilk
1½ teaspoons (8 ml) vanilla extract
1 recipe frosting (see below)

Preheat oven to 350o Fahrenheit, grease a 13” x 9” baking pan and sift together flour, sugar, soda and salt.  In a medium saucepan over medium heat combine butter, cocoa and coffee, stirring constantly until it boils.  Add the chocolate mixture to the dry mixture and beat with an electric mixer at medium to high speed until well-combined.  Add eggs, buttermilk and vanilla and beat for 1 minute more, then pour into the pan (batter will be thin).  Bake for 35 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean, then remove from oven and immediately prepare frosting.

¼ cup (½ stick) butter
3 tablespoons (45 ml) cocoa powder
3 tablespoons (45 ml) buttermilk
2¼ cups (540 ml) sifted powdered sugar
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) vanilla extract

In a small saucepan over medium heat combine butter, cocoa and buttermilk, stirring constantly until mixture boils.  Pour over powdered sugar in mixing bowl, add vanilla and beat until smooth, then pour over hot cake.  Allow cake to cool thoroughly in pan, then cut into squares.

Lammastide  (July and the Dog Days)

refrigerator cakeIt’s true that sheet cakes aren’t as fancy as layer cakes, but unless you’re trying to impress company they taste the same.  Here’s another cake Maman used to make; it’s wonderfully refreshing in an oppressively-hot Louisiana summer.  Just bake a white cake in a 13” x 9” pan, and when it’s cool use a wooden skewer to poke holes at about 1-cm intervals over the whole top of the cake.  Pour the proper amount of boiling water over two regular-size packets of any flavor of dessert gelatin (in the US this would be two cups [480 ml] of water ) and stir until dissolved, about 2 minutes.  But do not then add cold water as one normally would when preparing the gelatin; instead pour it evenly over the top of the cake and set it in the refrigerator for at least four hours before cutting.

Mabontide  (September and late August)

To make up for all those homely cakes, here’s a very fancy one that’s my husband’s all-time favorite.  It isn’t just two layers, but three!  Usually I add green and red food coloring to the frosting to get a sort of mossy color in keeping with the name.  The fresher the eggs, the lighter and fluffier the result with this cake; farm-fresh eggs give the best result.  It’s also much easier if you have a stand mixer.

Moss Rose Cake

2 cups (480 ml) sifted flour
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) salt
2 teaspoons (10 ml) baking powder
4 eggs
2 cups (480 ml) sugar
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) almond extract
1 cup (240 ml) hot milk

beaten whole eggsLet eggs sit at room temperature for half an hour while you grease and lightly flour three 8” or 9” round cake pans, then sift flour, salt and baking powder together three times.  Preheat oven to 350o Fahrenheit.  Beat eggs and almond extract on high speed for about five minutes, gradually adding sugar, until very thick; the mixture will cascade from the beater in a thick ribbon and mound up on the batter’s surface, then slowly vanish into it.  Gently fold flour mixture into egg mixture, then gradually add hot milk and stir quickly until the batter is smooth.  Divide evenly between the three pans and bake for 30 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly touched.  Cool layers in pans for 20 minutes while preparing frosting.

7-minute Frosting 

1½ cups (360 ml) sugar
1/3 cup (80 ml) cold water
2 egg whites
¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml) cream of tartar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) almond extract
Food coloring

In the top of a double boiler combine sugar, water, egg whites and cream of tartar and mix with electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds.  Place over boiling water and cook for seven minutes, mixing on high speed the whole time, until frosting forms stiff peaks.  Remove from heat, add extract and color, and beat for 2 or 3 minutes more until frosting reaches spreading consistency.  Carefully remove layer from pan, frost and stack layers, frost the whole cake and then sprinkle the top with ground pistachios (about ¼ or ½ cup of nuts ground up in a food processor should do it).

Autumntide  (October and November)

This is a simple but delicious seasonal cake; I used to make it often at UNO when friends came over to play Dungeons & Dragons.  As with Texas Brownies, you can use sour milk in place of buttermilk; put one tablespoon (15 ml) vinegar or lemon juice in a glass measuring cup, then add milk to the one-cup (240 ml) line and stir.  Allow to sit five minutes before using.

Pumpkin Spice Cake

2 cups (480 ml) flour
1½ teaspoons (8 ml) baking powder
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) baking soda
1 teaspoon (5 ml) cinnamon
¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml) each nutmeg, cloves and ginger
¼ cup butter (½ stick)
¼ cup (60 ml) vegetable shortening
1½ cups (360 ml) sugar
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk
½ cup (120 ml) cooked pumpkin

Preheat oven to 350o Fahrenheit, then grease and lightly flour two 9” round cake pans and stir together all dry ingredients except sugar.  Beat butter and shortening together with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for about 30 seconds, then add vanilla and sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each.  Add pumpkin, then dry mixture and buttermilk alternately in thirds, beating at low speed after each just until combined.  Pour into pans and bake for 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in pans for 20 minutes while preparing frosting.  Variations: Replace pumpkin with 1 cup (240 ml) applesauce and reduce buttermilk to ¼ cup (60 ml); or, omit fruit altogether and increase buttermilk to 1¼ cups (300 ml).

Browned Butter Frosting

In a small saucepan melt ½ cup (1 stick) butter over low heat, then continue heating until it turns a delicate brown.  Pour it into a mixing bowl with 4 cups (960 ml) powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons (30 ml) milk and 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla, beat on low speed until combined and then on medium to high speed until it reaches spreading consistency.

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