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Posts Tagged ‘recipes’

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.

Sherbet

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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Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.  –  “a great princess” (according to Rousseau)

I like cake, and I’m sure you do as well unless you’re some sort of disguised alien (just kidding)(not really).  But I wonder if you’ve considered the amazing variety of cakes that there are?  They come in many shapes, textures, flavors and presentations, and the familiar chocolate cake, wedding cake and the like represent a very small region of the cake world.  Recently, I realized I hadn’t done any recipes lately, and since a couple of sex workers I follow on Twitter often mention how much they love cake I was inspired to share some favorites you might not find in the typical cookbook.  I’ve assigned each of these recipes to one of the demi-seasons as I count them (each anchored by one of the sabbats), but you can really make most of them any time you like.  Some of these recipes are easy, and some a bit trickier; the first two are actually brioches, and two others (one today and one tomorrow) could even be made with a box cake (just don’t tell me if you do that).

There are a few general things I should note before we start; if you’re an experienced baker you can skip this paragraph.  First of all, DO NOT be tempted to replace butter with margarine; butter is pure fat, while margarine is an emulsion of fat and water which does not behave the same way in cake recipes and may ruin the results.  If you want low-fat, I’ll be happy to share my recipe for angel food cake if you haven’t got one (it has no fat whatsoever).  DO NOT omit salt if a recipe calls for it; it’s there for a reason, especially in the brioches (yeast needs a slightly saline environment in which to grow).  Use large eggs, and unless a recipe says otherwise add them one at a time, beating for about a minute after each.  You don’t need to use cake flour for any of these recipes, though you might get a slightly finer result from Moss Ross Cake (tomorrow) if you do.  Though I’ve provided metric equivalents for most ingredients, I don’t know whether sticks of butter are the same size in other countries as in the US, where a standard stick is 4 ounces (113 grams).  The same goes for pans; a 13” x 9” rectangular pan would be 33 x 23 cm, so use the closest equivalent.  Test most cakes for doneness by inserting a wooden toothpick or skewer near the center; if it comes out clean, it’s done.  Test sponge cakes (like Moss Rose) by lightly touching the top; if done, it will spring back.  And since brioche is really a sweet bread, panettone and king cake are tested as bread is: by tapping on the top, which sounds hollow when done.

Yuletide  (late November – January 5th)

Panettone is an Italian brioche traditionally eaten during Yuletide; you can buy it imported from Italy in a box, but making it fresh is so much better.  You’ll need a peculiar baking tin for this one: a large, clean coffee can with a volume of about 3 liters, or something similar to that.

4½ to 5½ cups (1 to 1.3 liters) flour
1 package fast-rising yeast
1 teaspoon (5 ml) nutmeg
1 tablespoon (15 ml) ground orange peel (orange zest)
1¼ cups (300 ml) milk
½ cup butter (1 stick)
¼ cup (60 ml) sugar
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 cup (240 ml) raisins
½ cup (120 ml) candied orange peels

panettoneCombine 2 cups (480 ml) flour, yeast, nutmeg and zest in a large mixing bowl.  Heat and stir milk, butter, sugar and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat until butter almost completely melts, then pour the mixture over the flour mixture and beat with electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix on high speed for 3 more minutes.  Stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can, plus raisins and peels.  Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough; this will take about 3 to 5 minutes and will still be slightly sticky when you’re done kneading.  Shape the dough into a ball, put it in a lightly greased bowl (cooking spray is perfect for this) and turn the ball to grease the surface of the dough.  Then cover it with a clean towel and let it rise in a warm, draft-free place for about an hour.

Meanwhile, grease and lightly flour the coffee can, then cut a circle of waxed paper to fit in the bottom of the can and sprinkle a little more flour on it.  At the end of the rising time, make a fist and punch down into the uncovered dough (it will deflate as gas escapes), then gather it up and put it into the prepared can.  Let it rise until double again (another hour), and near the end of the time preheat the oven to 350o Fahrenheit.  Bake the loaf for 35 minutes, then drape a piece of aluminum foil on top to prevent overbrowning and bake 15 minutes more (50 minutes in all); the top should sound somewhat hollow when you tap on it.  Immediately remove the panettone from the tin to a cooling rack and dust the top with powdered sugar; when ready to serve, cut it with a bread knife.

Carnival  (January 6th – Mardi Gras)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In New Orleans, the traditional dessert of this season is king cake, the very first recipe I ever shared on this blog (on Twelfth Night, 2011).  Of all these it is the one most firmly attached to the season I’ve assigned it, though panettone is a close second and pumpkin cake third.

Lent  (Ash Wednesday – Easter Eve)

When I was a lass, Easter baskets in the Deep South could be counted on to prominently feature products from the Elmer’s candy company of New Orleans, and among the most prized of these was a chocolate, marshmallow and almond confection called Heavenly Hash.  Here’s a cake based on it, though it uses pecans rather than almonds; if you can’t get pecans I’m sure almonds would be just as nice.

Heavenly Hash Cake

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
2 cups (480 ml) sugar
4 eggs
1½ cups (360 ml) flour
1½ teaspoons (8 ml) baking powder
¼ cup (60 ml) cocoa powder
2 cups (480 ml) chopped pecans
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract
3 cups (720 ml) miniature marshmallows
1 recipe icing (see below)

Heavenly Hash cakePreheat oven to 350o Fahrenheit, grease a 13” x 9” baking pan and sift dry ingredients together.  Beat butter with an electric mixer for 30 seconds or so, then add sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each one, then add flour mixture and mix well.  Add vanilla and pecans, mix just until combined and pour into pan.  Bake for 40 minutes or until done; remove from oven, immediately cover cake with marshmallows and prepare icing.

3½ cups (840 ml) sifted powdered sugar
¼ cup (60 ml) cocoa powder
½ cup (120 ml) cream or evaporated milk
¼ cup (½ stick) butter, melted

Beat together all ingredients until smooth; pour over hot marshmallow-covered cake.  Allow cake to cool thoroughly in pan, then cut into squares.

Springtide  (Easter – late May)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe arrival of spring meant Maman “would pay me far too much money to cut her lawn every week, and usually made a cake for me; my favorite one was a simple yellow cake made in a ring pan and drizzled with powdered-sugar icing flavored with a powdered drink mix.”  I now call it Love Cake in memory of my beloved Maman.  Just bake a regular yellow cake in a tube pan (an angel food cake pan); you’ll probably need to add 5 minutes to the baking time.  Cool it for 20 minutes in the pan before removing it, then combine 2 cups (480 ml) sifted powdered sugar with ½ a packet (just under a teaspoon, about 4 ml) unsweetened powdered drink mix and 2 or 3 tablespoons (30-45 ml) milk and mix well; drizzle it evenly over the top of the cake, letting it pour down the sides.  You can use any flavor, but I like orange best.

Tomorrow:  Four more recipes for the other half of the year!

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There is no spectacle on earth more appealing than that of a beautiful woman in the act of cooking dinner for someone she loves.  –  Thomas Wolfe

What's Cooking by Gil Elvgren (1949)I’ve often said that though I’m fairly good at many things, there are only three that I’m really good at.  The first one is the reason so many of y’all think this blog is worth reading; the second is the one that allowed me to make a career out of my primary topic.  And the third is one I have used nearly every day, year in and year out, without fanfare, since my late teens; it’s the only one of the three I’ve never been paid to do, and the only one I wouldn’t even consider a job in because unless one is strikingly proficient at it, nobody’s going to offer enough money.  But that’s probably because unlike the other two, nearly anyone with the desire and the practice can get good at it.  At this time of year I usually do a lot more of it than the second and somewhat more than the first, and so I’ve decided to write about it today.

I am speaking, of course, of cooking.  Unlike many good cooks, I do not embrace pretension; I roll my eyes when a recipe insists that sea salt or vanilla pods will make a major difference in the taste of the finished product, and though I do indeed prepare a lot of dishes with French names I do not believe that the presence of such a name improves it.  Few of the dishes I prepare often use any ingredients unavailable from a typical supermarket, and virtually none use anything more exotic than tahini or fish sauce (i.e. easily obtained at an ethnic market).  And though a number of my family’s favorites do have foreign names (such as kang Musmun, moussaka, gnocchi and enchiladas), few of them would be considered “gourmet” in their countries of origin; they are generally humble dishes with humble ingredients, and require no advanced culinary techniques for their preparation.  A typical week of dinners at my house (starting on Sunday) might be fried chicken, red beans and rice, sandwiches and soup, creamed ground beef on toast, lasagna, fish & chips, burritos (Tuesday is my traditional “night off” from doing a full dinner).  And the dessert is much more likely to be apple pie, bread pudding or cookies than crème brulee or doberge cake…though I can prepare those if requested.

Over the last few years I’ve already shared a number of my favorite recipes, so if you’d like to try chicken and andouille gumbo, turkey soup, potato salad, real (non-microwave) popcorn, chicken paprikash or king cake, I’ve got you covered.  I’ve also shared my recipes for chili and fried chicken via email, and would be happy to publish them if asked.  But today I’m going to share two very simple, homely recipes, the first in response to the season and the second in response to some folks who were concerned about the poisoned Chinese-made pet treats we read about last month:  cornbread stuffing and dog biscuits.

Cornbread Stuffing

This recipe is intentionally small so it’s easy to multiply.  Prepare it as is for very small birds, double it for a 10 to 12-pound one, and quadruple it for a large one (or if your family really likes stuffing).  Just in case you don’t have a recipe for cornbread, I’ve included the one I use at the bottom of the stuffing directions.  Leftover cornbread is actually best, but if you’re making a quadruple batch you’ll need a whole pan.  If you don’t have granulated garlic, use half as much garlic powder or twice as much finely-minced garlic or garlic flakes.  If you’re using this for a goose rather than a turkey or chicken, double the sage and omit the garlic.

2 cups (480 ml) crumbled cornbread
1 cup (240 ml) chicken bouillon or broth
¼ cup (½ stick, 60 ml) butter
¼ teaspoon (app. 1 ml) each pepper, paprika, granulated garlic, thyme, sage, rosemary & tarragon

Heat bouillon, spices and butter over medium heat until boiling.  Remove from heat, add cornbread, stir to moisten, then let sit (covered) for 10 minutes before stuffing bird.  Yes, it’s safe to stuff a bird no matter what the nannies now claim; just make sure it’s completely thawed before cooking and cook it for roughly 3 extra minutes per pound.

Cornbread:  Preheat oven to 425o Fahrenheit.  Combine 1 cup (240 ml) flour, 1 cup (240 ml) cornmeal, 2 tablespoons (30 ml) sugar, 1 tablespoon (15 ml) baking powder, and ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) salt.  Beat 2 large eggs; mix in 1 cup (240 ml) milk and ¼ cup (60 ml) cooking oil, then add mixture to dry ingredients and mix until combined.  Pour into greased square pan, bake for 20 minutes.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dog Biscuits

2 cups (480 ml) flour
½ cup (120 ml) cornmeal
½ tbsp (7.5 ml) granulated garlic
2/3 cup (160 ml) beef bouillon
6 tablespoons (90 ml) oil

If you don’t have granulated garlic, see recipe above.  Though dogs like garlic more than you might think, you can skip it entirely if you like; it helps protect them from fleas but inside dogs need that less.  I use a small cutter, about tea-cookie size, but you can use a larger one or a bone-shaped one if you like. You can substitute beef stock or any other meat-flavored liquid for the bouillon. For the oil, bacon grease or used fryer oil is best, but any cooking oil will do.

To prepare, mix all dry ingredients, then add bouillon & oil and mix well. Dump the dough out onto a clean counter and knead with your hands just until it’s all mixed and even-looking, then roll or pat it out to about ¼ to ½” (about 1 cm) thick and cut with the biscuit cutter. Gather the leftover dough together, roll out and cut again until it’s all used up. Bake the biscuits at 350o Fahrenheit for 30 minutes, then cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes. Store in a sealed container in a cool place; you can refrigerate them or even freeze them for longer storage. I have never met a dog that did not LOVE these, and since there’s nothing weird in them you might even like them yourself (I’ve caught Grace sneaking them on occasion).

That’s all for today, but I’ll keep sharing other recipes from time to time, and if you need a particular one please don’t hesitate to ask.

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