Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ready, Set...Oh Hell I Don't Have Time for This...GO!

I'm halfway through Danny's yearly Birthday Quilt, I have a batch of Lebkuchen dough chilling in the fridge, the Christmas cards are written, the presents are (mostly) finished, and all that's left is baking the Birthday cake and making the Periodic table out of individual decorated sugar cookies. Yes, I am starting to freak out, thanks for noticing. Add to this plans for nearly every day from now until New Year's day. I'm getting my teeth cleaned Thursday morning at 7:30 AM as that was the only time I could fit in-but I'm really looking forward to it as I will have about 40 minutes where I'm unable to do anything except shut my eyes and listen to the soothing sound of plaque being chiseled off enamel. If that ain't relaxation, I don't know what is.

What was I thinking, having a baby five days before Christmas? I mean, he was two weeks early but that turned out to be an unnecessary c-section. Have I told this story before? I went for an ultrasound and everyone began freaking out that I was having some sort of gigantic baby and that I needed to have a section ASAP or he'd get stuck, etc. They measured him at over ten pounds.

Yeah, ultrasounds are only as good as the people reading the scan. Danny was a whopping 6 lbs. 11 oz. at birth. That's pretty well outside the typical margin of error for reading scans. Anyway, if I'd known what a pain in the arse a birthday right before Christmas would be, I might have risked giving birth to Shamu the Killer Whale. I still imagine the technician staring at the scree, and groaning about the difficulty of maths.


Someone searched for, "Gingerbread St. Basils" and for a moment I got all excited, and wanted to try it. St. Paul's Cathedral was an accomplishment, but St. Basils? Complete with colourfully decorated onion domes-all from gingerbread? Oh my god, I was so tempted. I don't think I will-I'm pretty sure I won't...probably. Nah, I really shouldn't.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Something to Consider...

...as you draw your Christmas cards and decorations.

Sometimes, I get a glimpse through others of what Danny will be like in forty years. I have no difficulty imagining him outraged over some similar issue.

I'm going to print off copies of this, and take it to the observatory tonight. Live in Eastern Nebraska and having nothing to do on a Saturday night? If you show up a bit later after the small children go home to bed, there's less of a crush for viewing. The observatory and the library are the only places I go that I don't feel like a complete freak, and no one expects me to talk about football.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Holiday Review-so far

Streetcar at museum
Lighting of the Christmas tree
French toast on Sally Lunn filled with apples and cheddar cheese. People have been canonised for lesser miracles.
The Thanksgiving fish pie
Danny's wild rice and mushroom casserole
Sally Lunn
Homemade cranberry juice
A very serious looking Danny wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pumpkin Cordial Update

Today, I strained the pumpkin, cinnamon stick and cloves and added a cup of simple syrup to the batch. It tastes exactly like pumpkin pie-a really boozy pumpkin pie. I'm still kind of in shock it worked.

I can't wait to see how the licorice turned out.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Nut-Free Thanksgiving-Pt. II Breads

More in my series of nut-free items you can make/bring for Thanksgiving. Most breads don't contain nuts to begin with, but if you purchase it at a bakery, odds are it has been exposed to/manufactured with the same equipment. These are all fairly straightforward recipes that don't require a great deal of skill to prepare (save for the pineapple Danish which are really worth the effort).

Wheat Bread with Potato Water

Pumpkin Bagels

Chewy Breadsticks

Tri Colour Braid

Pumpkin Raisin Bread

Tapenade Rolls

Sweet Potato Rolls

Dill Bread

Perfect White Bread

Pilgrim's Bread

Squash Bread

Georgia Molasses Cornbread

Crusty Water Rolls

Grape and Apricot Foccacia

Potato Starch Muffins

Sourdough Struan Bread

Chili Casserole Cornbread

Yeasted Cornmeal Loaves

Oatmeal Bread

Corn Pone

Sally Lunn

Wild Rice Pancakes

Pineapple Danish

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream and Pumpkin Bread

Last week, I purchased four tins of evaporated milk figuring it would be a good thing to have on hand through the winter if we were snowed in. It was on sale, so it seemed a good idea. Today, I realised it was expired. Only by a few days, but still. This annoys me. The store obviously knew they were getting rid of expired merchandise, and frankly, I would expect that to be noted. I don't automatically associate an item going on sale with it being unsaleable. This is not the first time this has happened at Peony Park Hy-Vee. Cod on sale? Mushy, frozen, thawed, and re-frozen. Chocolate on sale? Chocolate inside was so decomposed it had literally collapsed. Expensive apples piled on the same table with the sale ones. After a while, it seemed like less a coincidence and more a deliberate deception. I'm not shopping there anymore. I've shopped there for years, but in the last six months or so, the store has gone seriously downhill. I live too far away to be schlepping back to return items.

I needed to use up a quantity of evaporated milk quickly, and ice cream sounded like the obvious solution. I had quite a bit of pumpkin on hand, so that was what I did. Unfortunately, after a couple batches of ice cream, I was left with six egg whites. Not enough for an angel food cake, but too many for meringues, I threw together a quick bread that also made use of some leftover pumpkin puree. In the end, I was able to put everything to use without waste, but I would have appreciated being able to plan for it. I had better things to do today than bake and make ice cream. OK, baking, and making ice cream are perfectly fine things to do any day of the year, but I had more pressing chores.

I also made a batch of grape nuts ice cream with the homemade grape nuts. Because. Look, I don't need an excuse to binge on homemade grape nuts. What are you, my mother?

For the ice cream:

1 cup pumpkin puree
3 large egg yolks
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
Coarsely chopped butter cookies (optional)

In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, egg yolks, and brown sugar until smooth. In a saucepan, scald the evaporated milk, cream, and spices. Whisk it slowly into the egg/sugar mixture in a thin stream (or temper it if you aren't skilled with this sort of thing) and then return it to the saucepan. Cook to 175 degrees F. Strain into a heatproof bowl and cool in an ice bath. Place in a metal tray and freeze, stirring with a fork every 30 minutes until firm. When it is almost too hard to mix, fold in the chopped butter cookies. Transfer to a freezer container to firm up.

For the pumpkin bread:

2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon mixed spice (more or less to taste)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup soft shortening (I used half butter, half margarine
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
6 egg whites
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a loaf pan (I use a large pullman loaf as it keeps the top from doing up too large and cracking deeply. It makes a long, flat-ish loaf) and flour it lightly. Set aside. Sift together the flour, sugar, spices, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, beat together the shortening, milk, and pumpkin. Beat in the dry ingredients well (about 1 minute). Beat in the egg whites well (another minute or so). Fold in the raisins. Pour into pan and bake about 40 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on rack, then cool completely on rack. This cake will be better if stored before serving for 24 hours. I wrap it tightly in wax paper and then in cling film. It also toasts well once it begins to go stale. I've made this loaf in every flavour from cherry, to orange to chocolate with fantastic results. The evaporated milk was a first as I had it, but it is hardly noticeable. If I had to call something my "go-to recipe" for using up egg whites, this would be it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Homemade Grape Nuts Style Cereal

Made with hand grinder
Made with electric coffee grinder.


This stuff is incredible. Mr. ETB had his with yoghurt, Danny tried it with warm milk. Both thought it was superb. We all agreed that the flake-like texture from the hand grinder made for a more interesting cereal, but no one refused the finely ground ones either. I think a jar of this would make a lovely gift, perhaps with some homemade candied fruit.

Recipe, HERE.

For one batch I used the coarse blade of the meat grinder. That gave them an almost flake-like quality. For the other, I ground them by pulsing a handful at a time in a coffee grinder. I don't own a food processor. Both worked.

Tasting a nibble of each straight from the oven, the flakes have a more interesting texture, but that can change upon cooling and the addition of milk. I'll update this tomorrow after breakfast with more observations, and the recipe.


Holy crap, I made my own cereal!

Dried Figs are Better Than No Figs

Fresh figs are impossible to get here. This is the case with most seasonable, highly perishable produce (can't get Seville oranges either). We do get dried figs from California, but they are always a bit disappointing, and often old. The better stores stock the dried figs on a string from Greece, but they are typically around $9.00 USD.

I love figs, to the point of obsessiveness. Most foods I can take-or leave, but figs are without argument, my very favourite food of all.

Last weekend, Mr. ETB spotted the packages of Greek figs. They were pliable through the package which is always a good sign. He insisted on buying me a packet-then he bought another. For the sake of politeness, I refused them a couple times just so it would be clear I had a decent upbringing, and know the proper etiquette. After a suitable amount of, "Oh no, really I couldn't" I clutched the packets of figs in my hands and made for the check-out.

Fortunately, neither of the boys like figs, so I'm less tempted to use them for anything other than shoving into my fat face. Being dried fruit, I know better than to overindulge (apricots are worse) so I'm rationing them two per day to be enjoyed after dinner. I am really enjoying them.

I have an appointment for teeth cleaning in a couple weeks. Am I a bad person for thinking I should eat as many as I can the morning of the appointment just so I can get my money's worth from the cleaning?* Those tiny seeds are difficult to dislodge you know...

A while back I saw a jam with figs and cocoa at the grocer. It was interesting looking, but absurdly expensive. I never thought of using figs with cocoa before-I wonder if I could concoct a similar chocolate/fig spread from the dried fruit? Who am I kidding? The fruit will never last long enough to cook with.

* Oh come on, you know I wouldn't actually do that.

Nut-Free Thanksgiving Favourites -Pies and Puddings

If you're nut-allergic, or hosting someone that is for Thanksgiving, have a look through some of these favourite recipes from years past.


Sweet Potato

Savoury Carrot Pie

Cider Pie

Caramel Apple Pie

Mock Pecan Pie (nut free)

Long Island Pumpkin Pie

Maple Sugar Pie

Mock Mincemeat and Cranberry Apple Pie


Plum Duff

Steamed Carrot Pudding

Nesselrode Pudding

Steamed Cranberry Pudding

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Johnny Cake and an Apricot/Apple Cake

Both recipes are from my 1959 edition of Farm Journal's Country Cookbook. I paid .25 cents for it. At the same book sale I also scored the Farm Journal Pie Cookbook. The Farm Journal Freezing and Preserving cookbook is also worth grabbing if you find a copy.

If you happen to be looking for a lardy cake recipe, this book boasts several. There's a fair number of cooked minces moulded in aspic with olives as well. I adore aspics, but cold mince would give me pause, cooked or not. From the same era, I remember seeing a cookbook that featured a ring mould with hot dogs shimmering away in in aspic. I'm somewhat amazed my mother never tried that one.

The Johnnycake comes from the section of, "Old Fashioned" recipes. It was very simple, and for a baking powder bread, rather heavy. I'm serving it with chili, which will be a terrific match, but I don't think I'd care for it warm with butter at breakfast.

The Apple cake called for cinnamon and nuts both of which I made substitutions for. I will note these in the recipe. When a small amount of nuts are called for in a batter (in this case 1/3 cup) I often substitute quick cooking porridge oats. It provides the lightness of nuts. A few drops of oil can also be added to compensate for the fat, if you like. I skipped the cinnamon as we tend to like ginger with our apples, and I added a dash of nutmeg. I suppose most apple cakes are adaptable in that way.

For the Johnnycake:

3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease a 9 inch pan (I used round). Sift dry ingredients together. Beat the eggs and milk together. Stir milk and eggs into dry ingredients. Mix well. Pour into pan and bake about 30 minutes or until it tests done. Makes 8 servings or two if your husband and son are on the greedy side.

For the Apple Cake:

2/3 cup boiling water
1 cup chopped dried apricots
2 cups sifted plain flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (I used 1/2 teaspoon ginger and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg)
1/2 cup shortening (I used butter)
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 cup finely diced, unpeeled apple
1/3 cup chopped pecans (I used porridge oats)

Pour boiling water over apricots and let sit. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 inch ring mould (I used a bundt cake pan). Combine dry ingredients. Set aside. Cream shortening and sugar. Beat in egg. Drain apricots reserving liquid. Add milk to total 2/3 cup liquid. Add dry ingredients alternating with water/ milk. Fold in apples, apricots and pecans.

Pour evenly into ring mould and bake 30-35 minutes or until it tests done. You may also bake the cake in a 9x5x3 loaf pan for 50-55 minutes. Cool ten minutes in pan on rack, then loosen and let cool completely on rack. I glazed mine with a mixture of icing sugar and water. A dusting of sugar would be nice as well. If you have apple cider, it makes a lovely glaze with icing sugar and a dash of spice.

I Guess This Means I Can Call Them My, "Famous" Caramels

My caramels are in the Omaha World Herald today.

It is satisfying to see that a professional photographer couldn't make them look any better in a photo than I can. Food photography is a difficult genre for all but the real devotees. I don't look any better than the caramels, but that's just my big, fat face. I should really do something about my eyebrows though. *Shrug*. They actually spelled my name correctly.

Danny was lucky enough to get a tour of the newsroom (thank you notes are en-route) though he's kind of bummed that reporters can't smoke and drink in the office anymore. The police scanners were a source of fascination as well.

OK, my caramels had their 15 minutes. I've got laundry to do, and toilets to scrub.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sweet Potato, Smoked Mackerel and Beetroot Salad

Click the photo to see how pretty the beetroot tints the mackerel.

The recipe comes from Angela Hartnett, and may be found at The Guardian website, HERE.

I made a few changes and it was still brilliant. I made use of some tinned smoked mackerel I had, as well as tinned beets. What I did not have on hand was horseradish sauce, so I made my own. The recipe will follow at the end of the post.

When I mentioned that dinner would be smoked mackerel with beets, and sweet potatoes, I did get a bit of wincing from Mr. ETB. I'm pleased to report that the boys both cleared their plates, and would have had a second serving were it available. You may wish to take this into consideration and double the recipe. I also served mine on a bed of lettuce as my family have very middle class ideas with respect to what constitutes, "salad." I harbour no such ideas of course as "salad" in my mother's home was a plastic tub of macaroni in sauce purchased at the supermarket. It was the 70's.

For the horseradish cream:
(This will make quite a bit of cooked mayonnaise. I turned half of it into horseradish cream, and left the rest to be adapted into salad spreads/dressing as needed. It will thicken quite a bit on standing, but is easily thinned with either cream or sour cream. Some paprika stirred in makes a wonderful French dressing).

You Will Need:

1/2 cup sifted plain flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
1 cup water
3/4 cup cider vinegar or lemon juice
4 egg yolks or 2 whole eggs (I used 2 whole eggs this time)
1 tablespoon butter

In a saucepan combine the flour, sugar, salt and mustard. Slowly whisk in the water and vinegar. Cook over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Cook 1 minute longer. Remove from heat and with a hand mixer, beat in the butter and eggs until smooth. Remove to a bowl, cover with cling film on the surface to prevent a skin forming and cool. When cool, add well-drained horseradish to taste (I used about 1 tablespoon) and enough heavy cream to thin. Drizzle over the salad. The remaining mayo and horseradish cream will keep in the fridge about 5 days.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Tofu Kiev

Well, someone had to do it. I didn't think these would stand up to butter, so I filled them with brown rice, onions and herbs. That worked really beautifully. I mean, look at them! Look at my achievement! Why? Well, if you have to ask...

I'll get the full recipe up tomorrow, but it is basically tofu marinated in a fake chicken soup base and oil, then baked until firm. I filled the slices with rice, mashed them together, coated them in egg, then dry breadcrumbs and chilled them for an hour. Then, a deep fry. It sounds like a pain in the behind, but really, it wasn't.

Cranberry Orange Challah Loaf

I can't braid well, so today I gave up and baked my Friday challah in a large Pullman pan. As you can see, it turned out nicely.

This is just my standard challah with a handful of chopped cranberries, some raisins, and the zest of an orange kneaded in at the end. Nothing fancy at all, yet it really looked impressive at dinner. Anyway, something to try if you're feeling unable to fiddle about trying to braid a bread at 4 AM. Yes, I'm still waking at 3AM. This is just payback for all the years I didn't suffer jet-lag, when everyone else was stumbling around like a zombie.

Moulded Vegetable Mousse

This is adapted from The Herald Tribune Home Institute Cook Book, 1947 ed.

The original called for Roquefort, but I didn't have any. I didn't think it was worth wasting good Stilton on, so I er...repurposed some dull goat cheese Mr. ETB picked up at Aldi. He can't help himself. He never buys anything there he likes, yet he keeps trying. This was the kind of salad you'd use goat cheese from Aldi for.

I went ahead and added shredded carrots because I thought olives, celery, and a bell pepper sounded a bit thin on the five a day front.

The boys liked it.

Mr. ETB: This reminds me of something.

Me: Oh, I know...1974.

As it isn't actually 1974 I went ahead and skipped filling the centre with chopped apples in French dressing. The 70's were the 30 year cycle for wartime ration card food fads. I don't know if it was brought on by hours spent waiting to buy gas, inflation (bonus points if you remember what, WIN stood for), FM radio...but money saving recipes using every last bit of grass clippings in the veggie bin were everywhere. I seem to remember leftover boiled chicken showing up in meals long after anything good was cooked out of it for soup. I don't think that was how coronation chicken was supposed to be made. Actually, I don't think that was how anything was supposed to be made. Younger self? Why didn't you ever volunteer to take over kitchen duties? We could have all made it through the 60's and 70's with considerably less food stewed beyond recognition in V-8 juice.

Right, so the mousse. This is really simple (I swear, it is).

You Will Need:

1 tablespoon unflavoured gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound goat cheese (or Roquefort if you have it)
1 green pepper, finely minced
2 carrots, shredded finely, and squeezed dry
1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
2 stalks celery with leaves, finely minced
1/4 cup sliced green olives with pimentos
1 cup heavy cream, whipped

Soften the gelatin in the cold water. In a large bowl, dissolve it in the boiling water. Add salt, whisk until dissolved and chill until gelatin begins to set. Meanwhile, mash the cheese and mix with the vegetables. Fold in the whipped cream, then fold all into the gelatin mixture. Pour into a rinsed ring mould and let chill several hours. That's it.

Whoopie Pies

These come from Cooking From Quilt Country by, Marcia Adams. The recipe sounds difficult, but once you start it goes rather quickly. I like how the recipe is organised indicating things you can do in the next step as you wait for the cake to bake, etc. All cookbooks should be that precise.

The cookies freeze well but let's be honest (we're all friends here) freezing won't keep you from standing over the sink eating them at 3 AM. I suggest making them, and immediately giving most of them away lest you be tempted. These cookies are that good.

I used a rather dark cocoa powder for these. Adams doesn't indicate what to use beyond calling for powdered cocoa, but if you have it, this is as good a use for dark cocoa as any. I also used 1% milk which didn't seem to matter in the end with all the butter.

You Will Need:

4 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cream of tartar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup lard (I used shortening) softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs (I used large)
1 1/2 cups soured milk (add 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cider vinegar to milk half an hour before using)


1/3 plus 3 tablespoons AP flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups icing sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with foil.

In a large bowl sift together the flour, soda, baking powder, salt, cream of tartar, and cocoa. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl cream the butter, lard, sugar, and vanilla together until light. beat in eggs one at a time. Adams warns that the mixture may curdle but that it is OK. Mine did not curdle. Add the flour alternating with the soured milk starting and ending with the flour. Blend well, but don't overmix.

Use a 1/4 cup measure for each cookie. Place one in each corner of the sheet and one in the centre. This sounds crazy, but really, these cookies will spread. Try to make them as round as possible. Bake 6 minutes on the centre rack. Rotate pan, then bake an additional 10 minutes or until when pressed lightly on top the indentation springs back. Pull foil off baking sheet and let cool 2 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack lined with wax paper. As the cookies bake and cool, make the filling.

Place the flour in a medium saucepan and slowly whisk in the milk until smooth. Cook over medium heat, whisking until it thickens and boils. Reduce heat to low, cook 2 more minutes until thick. Remove from heat and let cool.

place the butter in a large bowl and beat until slightly softened. Add salt, vanilla, and sugar gradually and beet for 2 minutes. Add the cooked mixture a large spoonful at a time and beat well. When all is added, beat on hight speed for 1 minute. It should be smooth, light and fluffy. If it is too loose, put it in the fridge for a few minutes to firm up (mine stayed perfect).

Arrange the cookies in pairs and place a generous 1/4 cup filling on one. Top with second side and press until filling reaches the edge. Chill on plates. When firm, wrap in plastic and store in the fridge or freezer. Let stand at room temperature for a few minutes before eating. Makes 15 very large whoopie pies.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Slide Rules at the Ready!

I scored a book at the Swanson Branch weekly library sale that covers every imaginable thing you could ever wish to calculate with a slide rule. That cost me .25 a bargain compared to the 1950's arithmetic text I paid a dear .50 for. My younger self probably never imagined herself a maths teacher. Is it some sort of character flaw that I get excited by slide rule manuals? I need to get out more.

The time change is kicking my arse. I can't recall ever being disrupted by the switch, but this year-this year has been hell. I wake at 3 AM and that's it-I can't get back to sleep. After a couple nights of this, I started going to bed at 9 PM, and when I find myself wide-awake at 3, I get up and bake. And bake. And bake. Dear god, I've baked. It has grown so out of control, this insomnia-induced cookery, that I brought a large box of biscuits to the volunteers at the library sale today. I've made mandel brot, homemade Hob-Nobs, spice and currant muffins, sour cream bread, butter cookies, coconut washboards, an apple/cranberry pie, flatbreads, more candy than I care to think about, chutney, mustard, pumpkin curry...I really ought to be tired. I've written lesson plans for the next few months.

I don't suppose buying a large stack of cookery books at the sale is going to help any.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Coconut Washboards

These are from Maida Heatter's cookie book. They were simple to put together, despite the complicated sounding instructions. As the recipe is already posted all over the net I'll send you HERE for the details, and HERE for another baker's experience making them. I used a bag of sweetened coconut that was on the dried-out side. That seemed to be a good fit. Mine came out very crisp.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Pumpkin and Licorice Cordials

We'll see how these turn out. At this stage, I'm just infusing in vodka. I will sweeten them after a couple weeks. I have some ginger syrup that would be lovely in the pumpkin.

That's real licorice root in the small jar. I plan to use that as an extract rather than a drink.

Updates in a few weeks.

Apricot/Hard Cider Mustard

I knew I'd find a use for the hard cider. I wasn't in love with it as a drink, but the cider really works for mustard. As with the chutney, I did not bother with a water bath canning as it only made about 1 1/2 pints. It will store well in the fridge for a few months.

You Will Need:

1 pint hard cider
1 1/2 cups dried apricots, finely diced
1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds
1/4 cup brown mustard seeds

Combine all above in a bowl, cover and let soak at least 6 hours or overnight. My kitchen is around 62 degrees F. so I didn't bother with the fridge, but in a warmer clime you may wish to chill it as it soaks overnight.

Drain the soaked mixture reserving the liquid. Puree the fruit and seeds adding reserved liquid as needed. Eventually work it all in. To the pureed mixture add:

1 tablespoon dry mustard powder
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cider vinegar
Water if needed

Mix all except water. If it is too thick, use some water to thin it down keeping in mind the mustard wil thicken again after cooking and cooling. Stir well and bring to a boil over medium heat. It will splatter, so use a long spoon and stand clear. Cook until thickened-about ten minutes. Cool, store covered in jars in fridge.

Beard on Bread Sour Cream Loaf


This was the loveliest, softest bread I've ever baked. I still cannot believe how feather light it is, while still being firm enough to cut into slices. I made Mr. ETB a couple sandwiches to take for lunch of this bread, the apricot mustard, Swiss cheese, and tomato. It took every bit of will power to resist eating both sandwiches before placing them in the paper sack. I did think about leaving a note in the empty bag that read, "sorry." with some crumbs glued on-but that would have been cruel. Danny had a similar version with cheddar and chutney.

I suspect this would make incredible French toast.

I made this one with creme fresh. I'll post an up[date when we cut into the loaf, but it looks and smells great.

Cranberry/Pear Chutney

This makes a small batch-about 1 1/2 pints. I did not bother running it through the canner as it will last several weeks in the fridge.

You Will Need:

1 cup cranberries
2 large pears, peeled and diced
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 cup cider vinegar
water if needed

Place all in a stock pot and cook rapidly, stirring until sugars are dissolved. Give it a stir as it reduces to prevent sticking. The entire thing should take no more than 15 minutes. If the cranberries haven't popped in the cooking, give the whole thing a good mash with a potato masher or a wooden spoon. Store in the fridge.

Veggie Calzones

A bit of everything went into these. All the fillings can be made well ahead and then assembled at the last.

For The Dough:

2 1/4 teaspoons dry regular yeast (not instant)
2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
3-4 cups bread flour (strong flour)
Egg yolk plus 1 tablespoon water for wash

Dissolve yeast in warm water with sugar. When foamy, add salt, oil, and two cups of the flour. Beat well with a wooden spoon. Add additional flour a cup at a time until you have a dough that is no longer sticky and can be kneaded until smooth. Place in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled. Punch down, divide in fourths. Let stand 10 minutes before rolling each out into a thin rectangle. Proceed to assemble with filling below.


I used a number of fillings layered in for a nice effect. Any or all of these would work.

For the cheese layer:

2 cups cottage cheese drained and sieved.
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, finely shredded
1/2 cup Swiss cheese, grated
Black pepper
Mix all together, and chill until ready to use.

For the Carrots:

6 carrots, peeled and finely sliced on the diagonal
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon oil

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the carrots and cook until softened. In last two minutes of cooking, add the garlic. Adjust salt/pepper. Chill until ready to use.

For the Mushrooms:

heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a pan with 1 teaspoon dried thyme. Add 1/2 lb. mushrooms thinly sliced. Cook over high heat until browned. Remove and chill until needed.

For the spinach:

cook 1 block frozen spinach, then drain and squeeze dry in a dishcloth. Chill until needed.

Put It All Together:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet.

Roll out sections of dough one at a time. It should be no more than 1/4 inch thick. In the centre, begin layering the fillings ending with carrots at the top. This will become the bottom and the carrots are the sturdiest of the fillings. Fold and pinch closed. Invert onto baking sheet. Pierce top with a sharp knife to vent. Brush with egg wash. Bake about 30 minutes or until deeply golden. They may run some liquid out as they bake-this is OK. When done, remove them to a rack to cool slightly, but place another baking sheet beneath to catch any drips. leftovers can be stored in foil and re-heated in a hot oven for ten minutes. They do not take well to microwaving.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Mock Mincemeat and Cranberry Apple Pie

This might be the best pie I've ever baked. Oh, I know I said that when I made the blueberry rhubarb-but I'm fickle and now I love this one instead.

I tried to get the best parts of an apple pie, and mincemeat without going to the trouble of making mincemeat. The texture is much lighter than mincemeat, but the flavour is there. I used only a tablespoon of brandy to the pie, but it was enough to give the overall filling some depth against the brightness of the tart apples and cranberries. I didn't plan to make this pie, rather I used up odds and ends in the pantry and what I pulled from the oven was the best pie I've ever baked. Even the crust was unusually flaky.

You Will Need:


2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter
4-5 tablespoons ice water

Sift together flour and salt. Cut in butter. Toss in water a tablespoon at a time until you can gather dough together lightly. Roll out. Unlike many pie crusts, this does not require pre-chilling, but I often do set the bottom in the fridge as I make the filling. It certainly won't hurt it any to do so.

For The Filling:

(about) six firm apples for baking (I used Golden Delicious and Granny Smith with the odd Cameo tossed in)
1 cup raisins (half sultanas if you have them)
1 heaping cup chopped fresh cranberries
1/2 cup chopped candied peel (I had grapefruit, lemon and orange)
2 tablespoons chopped crystalised ginger
1/4 cup dried currants
1 tablespoon brandy (or rum if you prefer)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour (I used Wondra, but any finely sifted flour will do)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 tablespoons butter cut in tiny pieces

Heavy cream
granulated sugar
coarse sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a 9 inch pie plate with the bottom crust. Make the filling by tossing together the apples, dried fruit, cranberries and brandy. In another bowl, combine the sugar, flour and spices. Mix well. Toss with the fruit. Pour into pie crust and dot with the pieces of butter. Seal with the top crust and then brush it generously with the cream. Sprinkle it with a mixture of fine and coarse sugar for a sparkling, crunchy topping. Pierce the top to vent in several places, or make a hole in the centre. Bake about 40 minutes, or until it looks done. It will bubble over, so remember to place the dish atop a baking sheet-unless you enjoy cleaning the oven in which case, you should come over and clean mine.

This pie is good at room temperature, or slightly warmed, but hell, I'd devour it ice cold from the fridge it is so good. Mmmm, pie.

Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell

I'm posting a link to THIS as I know you'll want to set that photograph as your desktop wallpaper.

You're welcome.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

I Drove to Hobby Lobby...

...alone. It is far from home, and in an unfamiliar part of Omaha, but I made it there and back without getting lost which means I can go there any time I please. That can become dangerous. I went for black food colouring, and came home with fabric, ribbon, candy making supplies, and a set of historically accurate Civil war toy soldiers for Danny. The fabric was $2.00 a yard for black watch plaid. I'm a sucker for blue and green. I know what I'm backing Danny's yearly Birthday quilt with.

I adore Hobby Lobby, and they are not paying me to say so. They sell sanding sugar and candy flavourings that are made on a nut-free production line, as well as an incredible assortment of educational toys and science kits for children. Sure, I'm not fond of dried flowers, crappy faux-luxe artwork, statuary, and the like-but they have a bit of something for everyone. The prices are good, the stock unique, and really you can't do much better than two dollars a yard for decent weight cotton fabric. I leave there happy, which isn't something I can say after most retail experiences. The help seem to like working there.

The next few weeks (well, maybe the next eight weeks) are so over-scheduled I don't know how I'm going to live through them. I'll go ahead and apologise in advance as I know posting here will be somewhat sporadic. I'll try to stop myself when next I feel compelled to volunteer a couple pounds of caramels, or to make a Periodic Table of the Elements from decorated sugar cookies (insane, I know) while still homeschooling seven hours a day, but I likely won't succeed. I still haven't replaced the button on my winter coat, or planted the garlic-but I have a good supply of gel food colouring and pastry bags! Priorities.

Tomorrow-four more bookcases for the next section of the reading cube.

My Son, The Little Old Man

Danny: (radio is on) Mama? What is that song?

Me: That's, "Living After Midnight."

Danny: Why? What were they doing after midnight that they couldn't do before?

Me: I dunno...rocking 'till the dawn?

Danny: Well I don't know why they can't rock earlier. By the way, you need to set the clocks back tonight. (muttering) After midnight. That's just so stupid when they could be sleeping.

I swear, it is like living with an eighty year old sometimes.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Getting Ready For Bonfire Night Saturday

Yes, I'll be roasting potatoes on an open barbecue grill in place of an actual bonfire. I've made the masks, gathered the materials for a good effigy, and baked some cookies. Obviously, you can't get cookie cutters in the shape of powderkegs, or Guy Fawkes masks, so I had to improvise. The small round glittery ones are meant to be fireworks. The leaves I make every year just because I have the cutter and it is Autumn.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Bookcase Cube

The cases are joined together inside and across the top. They can also be bolted to the ground for extra security. These are simply put back-to-back to double the shelf space. Messy pile of maps atop shelves, optional.

Here's a better look at the short bookcases that will form a u-shape within the room of larger bookcases. The photo does not really show how large the room is, but it leaves plenty of room between the large cases and small for a generous pathway between the shelves. As the small cases are back-to-back, we get the benefit of space both inside, and outside the centre path.

Every couple weeks we're set to buy four more bookcases to complete a section. This way, we aren't tripping over boxes of unassembled shelving, and we don't feel that we're quite breaking our budget either.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

If They Want One

New guidelines have been issued in Britain regarding whether or not a woman should give birth via caesarean section. The conclusion is that even when not medically necessary, women should have one, if they want one.

Hear, hear. About time common sense prevailed over the impulse to micro-manage every aspect of the damned thing from the moment a woman falls pregnant. I'm told women now tear into each other over whether they had an epidural. Could you possibly act more self-important? Oh yeah, you probably could. There are the superiority stances of breastfeeding, home birth, vaginal delivery, organic babyfood, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, teaching ancient Greek in-utero*, swimming with dolphins, thinking correct thoughts, and swaddling baby in nothing but hand-spun and loomed flax that was locally grown in a former parking lot-turned urban agriculture cooperative around the corner from the off license.

Where I live, you can no longer have an optional C-section, and now we have something else to bully women over.

*Not that they do any better with it when they are six and a half, but at least you can send them to their room with flash cards and insist they call you, Olbios Tyrannos.

The Sourdough Starter is One

Yes, it is poorly decorated-thanks for noticing! I kind of thought that would go well with the whole, "Birthday cake for a jar of starter" thing. I didn't want anyone to think I put an effort into this because...well because that would be even stranger. I mean, come on-it is a jar of sourdough starter. I feed it twice a day, but it isn't a human baby.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the first loaves baked with our starter. I named him Petrarch, but Danny nicknamed him, Chuffy. Months later, Danny became aware of a frequent commenter at The Guardian named, Chuffy. For a while, I had Danny convinced the starter was sneaking out of the fridge at night to post comments on cookery articles. I mean, who knows-stranger things have happened.

Stranger things...like convincing me to bake a cake, and make party hats for a sourdough starter. The last starter met a terrible death in the tornado of 2008, so I guess we should be happy Chuffy is alive and well (and we haven't been hit by another tornado (fingers crossed)).

Unlike a human child, you can just shove a starter in the icebox, and ignore it when you're too busy to feed it.

"Hey Danny...? About dinner...?"

A Birthday Party...

...for the sourdough starter. Really, the child is serious-he noted the date on the calendar last year. By tomorrow, I need to make party hats, a small decorated cake, and gather the family round to sing "Happy Birthday" to a jar of starter.

Add to this, Guy Fawkes Day, A dental appointment (I'm dreading that), the optometrist, Corduroy Day (for real-11/11/11), and eventually Thanksgiving. Then I can begin getting ready for the December holidays, Birthdays, etc.

Really, I'm having a Birthday party for a jar of sourdough starter. Gah.