Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pizza

Wait a second. The first paragraph in that last post was supposed to go with this post. I had made a healthy summertime pizza and was going to tell you about it to prove that I don’t only make sugary foods. But I got sidetracked. Apparently.

Anyway, here it is.


Summertime Pizza
I think it was Barbara Kingsolver who gave me the idea of putting the cheese down first on the pizza crust, so I should probably say this recipe is adapted from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

your favorite pizza crust recipe (mine follows)
one pound of mozzarella cheese, shredded
some shredded Parmesan cheese, if you wish
about five Roma tomatoes, sliced
several handfuls of fresh herbs, a variety of whatever is growing in your garden (basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, etc)
cornmeal for dusting
good olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400-450 degrees. Brush a large cookie sheet (preferably one with sides) with lots of olive oil and then sprinkle it with cornmeal. Place the pizza dough on the cookie sheet and flatten it out with your fingers, gently pressing it into the corners of the cookie sheet. Sprinkle the grated mozzarella cheese over the crust. Lay the tomato slices on top of the cheese. Roughly chop up your herbs (no need to wash them if you grew them yourself) and sprinkle them over the tomatoes. Top with some freshly grated Parmesan. Drizzle olive oil over the whole thing. Be generous, now!


Bake the pizza for ten minutes, or until the cheese is brown and bubbly and the bottom of the crust is a golden brown. Remove the pizza from the oven and brush more olive oil on the crusty edge—the oil softens the crust and makes it yummy. (I really like olive oil.)

This recipe makes one large pizza, and serves 4-8, depending on what else is for supper.

Pizza Crust
Adapted from the More-With-Less Cookbook.

1 tablespoon yeast
a pinch of sugar
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoons sugar
About 3 cups of flour (part of which may be whole wheat), and then a bit more

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast, with the pinch of sugar, in the cup of warm water.

In a larger bowl, measure in the oil, salt, sugar, and a cup of the flour. Add the dissolved yeast mixture and stir well. Add the rest of the flour. Knead the dough until it is soft and elastic. Let it rest for at least five minutes before shaping it into a pizza crust.

This recipe makes one thick crust, or two thin crusts.

Experimenting

I’m a little concerned about what you all think of me. I mean, I posted about gingerbread and cobbler and chocolate chip cookies and chocolate beet cake, all in a row. You probably think that all I eat is sugar and more sugar. And you’re right. Just kidding! See, a lot of what I eat is too boring to mention. Leftover salad for breakfast, oatmeal, peanut butter and jelly, more leftover whatever, granola, tomato sandwiches, eggs. It’s just not note-worthy.

And then when I get it into my head to fix something different, something unusual, something gourmet, then my whole family suffers.

Take, for instance, last night. Late in the afternoon, I dug a bowlfull of fingerlings, boiled them up, and then turned them into Smashed Potatoes (more on that recipe later—it’s a good one). While the tators were in the oven, I fled the house to go on a jog-slash-walk. Mr. Handsome kept an eye on the potatoes and the kids, and then he fed the potatoes to the kids, along with some ketchup. Everyone was still hungry when I got home, which was totally understandable and expected, so I made Supper Part II: Fried parsley and lemons wrapped in corn tortillas.

Yes, you heard right. I fried lemon slices


and parsley


and wrapped them in warm corn tortillas,


all because Gourmet magazine told me to.

It was actually quite yummy. Different, refreshing, and definitely gourmet. Not something the kids ate (I didn’t even do any insisting as I knew my offering was a little over the top), and not something that could stand in for an actual meal. But hey, I (rather, Mr. Handsome) had already served those smashed potatoes, and the kids were happy enough about gobbling up plain tortillas with ketchup. Mr. Handsome had a rather sour look on his face (from the lemons, maybe?), so I fried up some of the leftover boiled fingerlings in the lemony oil (Yo-Yo Boy said they tasted like a carnival—I’m still not sure if that was a good or bad thing), and Mr. Handsome ate some of the potatoes wrapped up in a tortilla, along with cheese and ketchup.

I made him a coffee shake afterwards. To compensate.

I think he feels towards my gourmet cooking as I feel towards his smashed applesauce. See, we’re a good team—we are each adept at doing dumb things, so we each have become skilled in the art of Dumbness Survival. Maybe that, surviving your spouse's dumbness, is the bottom line to a happy marriage? Ooo, now there’s a deep thought. I’ll have to ponder that for a bit.

Okay, I pondered. Now allow me to elaborate:

Here, here! In order to survive a marriage you must know how to survive the other person's dumb ideas, dumb mistakes, and dumb experiments---in other words, the sum total of his royal Dumbness! (And remember, at the same time you are surviving his dumbness, he is also surviving your's.)

I have a feeling I could write a book about this. (Mr. Handsome could, too.)

Ps. I think the lemon-parsley tortilla wraps would be better, more acceptable, if they were served with shredded, spicy chicken and sour cream.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Monkey See, Monkey Do

I am such a copycat. I read a recipe and then I make it and then I post it, just like that. It’s so unoriginal.

I was pondering the question of why I do so much cooking from blogs rather than from cookbooks (though I certainly have more than my fair share of well-thumbed cookbooks) and why it is that I end up really liking so many of the recipes that I find on the blogs. I think the reason is that people who blog about food are generally talking about and cooking food that fits the time of year I'm experiencing; in other words, food that I'm already thinking about and hankering after. For example, I read about a friend who’s making zucchini bread and so I take making zucchini bread into serious consideration. (Unfortunately, my zucchini plants are dead—curses on bugs and diseases.) I read about blackberry cobbler, so I make it—a couple times, for good measure.

And then I read about Chocolate Beet Cake. I have leftover cooked beets in the fridge. Out in the garden there are more beets, nearly pumpkin-sized. I study the picture. I contemplate the ingredient list. I compare the new recipe with the chocolate beet cake, called Secret Chocolate Cake, in Simply In Season that I had made last year. At the top of the page I had written “Yummy!” and, “good everyday cake”. I had even frozen the beet and applesauce puree, pre-measured, so I could easily turn out a cake come wintertime. But I never did. I guess the cake just wasn’t good enough.

But this beet cake looked like it just might be good enough.


So last night I melted the chocolate and butter, pureed the beets, stirred everything together, and baked the cake. I didn’t get around to assembling and frosting it until this morning, and as soon as it was done, even though it was only 10:30 in the morning, I cut into it, forking bites into the kids’ gaping maws. I chewed my bites slowly, thoughtfully, scrutinizing the texture and flavor. I thought I could detect a beety-ness, but I wasn’t sure. So I had another piece with my afternoon cup of coffee. I didn’t taste any beety-ness that time, just moist, fudgy, chocolatey-ness. Mmm. I don’t think I’ll be sharing pieces of this cake with anyone anytime soon. Just the recipe.

Chocolate Beet Cake
Adapted from Rosanna's blog, Paprikahead

Updated, July 26, 2017: I made this last week and it turned out disturbingly dense. I'm not sure what went wrong, but no one wanted it, so I gave it to my brother's family. On a scale of 1-10, ten being the best, my brother (who eats anything) gave it a four.

2 cups pureed beets
1 cup butter
8 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

Cook up several beets, peel them, and use a food processor to puree them. Set them aside.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, on low heat, melt the butter and chocolate.

In a large bowl beat the eggs and sugar together; add the chocolate and beat some more. Add the rest of the dry ingredients alternately with the two cups of beet puree. (I didn’t have quite enough puree, so I added a couple tablespoons of applesauce to round out the two cups—it worked just fine.)

Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottom with wax paper. Divide the cake batter into the pans and bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes. Let the cakes cool for ten minutes before running a knife around the edges and turning out onto a cooling rack. Peel the wax paper from the cake bottoms. Allow the cakes to cool completely before frosting.


Buttercream Frosting
1 stick butter, at room temperature
3 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-3 tablespoons milk

Beat the butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla together. Add the milk, a tablespoon at a time till it is a spreadable consistency.


I added about a quarter cup of leftover cream cheese frosting that was languishing in my refrigerator, which resulted in a spectacular frosting. You might want to experiment with just adding a little chunk of cream cheese to the frosting...

Taking Matters Into Their Own Hands

About a year ago, Mr. Handsome started building a clubhouse/fort/playhouse for the kids. He didn’t get very far. The kids have periodically asked, begged, and pleaded for him to do more work on it, all to no avail. The wooden framework has remained just that, a framework, while Mr. Handsome has busted his tail finishing up our house.

So yesterday the kids took matters into their own hands. They loaded the wood that was in the barn onto the trailer, secured it with rope, and drug the very heavy trailer down to the fort...


where they worked together to lift the boards up onto the beams.




Then they erected some sort of tepee.


Today they have busied themselves nailing the boards down.




Yo-Yo Boy and Miss Becca Boo have had some in-depth discussions about how they want to sleep out there, have their own kitchen, put in electricity for lights, make their own garden; in other words, live out there. When I told them that then I would miss them, they were quick to assure me that they would come visit me. “We’ll just be right here, Mama.”

Monday, July 28, 2008

To My Brothers

I'm a bad one for remembering important dates, such as birthdays. And I'm even worse for remembering them and then not doing anything about them.

Last Monday was my Little Brother's birthday. I thought about him several times that day, but then never phoned him up (if you'll recall, we were in the middle of the Californian Company). It was his 25th birthday, too.


Now, today is my Balding Bro's birthday. His 30th.


If they lived close by (and starting at the end of this week, my Balding Bro will), I would definitely bake them a cake and invite them over to gobble up the whole thing.

But, because they live far-ish enough away so that I can't bake them a cake, and because I am bad with cards and phone calls, I'll dedicate this little post to them instead.

So, here's to the July Birthday Boys! Happy birthday, my dear Brothers! May you live long, happy, fruitful, productive, fun-filled, beautiful lives! I love you!

-Your Big Sis

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Productivity Realized

So, you ask, how did it go? Was I productive, or did I slip over the edge and go for a breezy ride? The short answer is: I got my rear in gear, yesserie, I surely did. The long answer is as follows...

Part One: The Blackberries


I picked berries for about an hour and a half. I was all by myself, out in the woods. You would think this would be a good thing because it’s quiet and meditative and all, but I have a problem with a wild imagination, and my imagination was stuck on snakes. Rattlesnakes, to be specific. I kept imagining that there was a snake down at my feet in the undergrowth and that when I reached my hand down to pick a blackberry—ka-zing!—it would bite me. It was a little unnerving, to say the least. At one point I was sure I heard the warning rattle. I knew it was just the brambly bushes rubbing against my bucket, but I was certain it was a rattlesnake. So I quickly left that spot, all the while laughing at myself for being so foolish at the same time I was congratulating myself for such quick thinking.

It’s a confusing job, being me.


Seven pints of blackberries, nuggets of gold.

Part Two: The Applesauce
Back at the ranch, Mr. Handsome was in the middle of making applesauce with all four little ones underfoot. Mr. Handsome has an interesting (isn't that a nice way of putting it?) trait of always trying to reinvent the wheel. This time around he got it in his noggin (kind of like I had snakes in my noggin) that it would be faster to cut the ends out of the apples before cutting them in half, and then, instead of cutting them, to smash them.


I took a gander at his process and went inside to cut up apples the real way. After scorching his 16 quart pot of sauce (not necessarily because they were mushed apples, but we don’t know that for sure), and after a temper tantrum (we won’t go into detail here), he slunk in and silently joined me in cutting up the apples in the good old-fashioned way.


The following photograph is deceiving. It looks like we are all working calmly and quietly together, right?


Actually, everyone is talking loudly, apples and seeds are flying, arguments are breaking out, orders are being shouted. Now you have the real picture.

Mr. Handsome made a big show of checking the temperature of the water and the temperature of the sauce before putting the jars in the canner. I scoffed at him, told him I just did it by feel, so the second time around, he didn’t use a thermometer and the bottom of one of the jars broke off, releasing a quart of applesauce into the boiling water. Apparently, he didn’t test the temperature of the water with his finger, either.


About 25 quarts of applesauce.

Intermission Number One:
For lunch, while I was making egg-bacon-and-cheese sandwiches on toast, I carelessly sloshed a bunch of uncooked, scrambled egg and it immediately disappeared down the crack between the stove and counter. At the end of the day, Mr. Handsome had to pull the whole stove out and then he cleaned up my mess, like the dearie he is.

Oh yes, I also made another cobbler, using blackberries and peaches. It’s a really good recipe, my friends—you gotta try it.

Part Three: The Swiss Chard
Miss Becca Boo helped me pull some of the Rainbow Swiss Chard.




I washed it in the big metal tub out on the porch, cut the long stems off, dried the leaves on towels, cut out the tough center stems, rolled the leaves up and cut them in thin strips and then cross-wise, and packed the chopped chard in freezer boxes. Come winter, we won’t die of scurvy now.


Nine quarts and four pints of Swiss chard.

Intermission Number Two:
In our family it is mandatory that you make a gingerbread when you make applesauce. Quoting from Applesauce, the children’s book my mother wrote:

There was gingerbread to stir up, too. The mother always made it on applesauce days. Supper would be just a whole big gingerbread, and milk, and all the sweet, wonderful applesauce everyone could hold.

So see, I had to make it. So I did. And that was supper (though later, when it was getting close to bedtime, the kids did have tomato sandwiches).

Grace’s Gingerbread
(Yep, the same Grace of the Vanilla Pudding recipe)

½ cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup baking molasses
3/4 cup hot water
2 1/4 cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and beat well. Add the molasses and hot water and mix well. Add the dry ingredients and mix until they are incorporated into the wet ingredients. Pour the batter into a greased 9x9 pan (it will be quite full), and bake at 325 degrees for about 45 minutes.



Serve warm with fresh applesauce.

Part Four: The Bread and Butter Pickles
At five o’clock I was about ready to call it quits, but unfortunately, I had mentioned the cucumbers to you all and so I felt obligated to do something with them. I mean, you all were watching and waiting, wondering if it could get it all done, right? It felt like a sort of test. Was I strong enough? Could I handle the pressure?

So, I whipped up a batch of bread and butters. Considering all I had already accomplished that day, it didn’t feel like any big deal.

Mr. Handsome and I got the kids tucked in bed, and then, while the pickles were in the canner, we finished watching the DVD we had started watching the night before, Amadeus. All I have to say about that, besides the fact that it is a very good movie, is that I’m very glad I’m not gifted. Three cheers for mediocrity! (Mr. Handsome and I keep trying to imitate Wolfie’s high-pitched giggle—it’s harder to do than you would think.)


Nine pints of bread and butters.

In conclusion, it appears that my bossy head won out over my lazy butt, at least this time.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Internal Warfare In Regards To Productivity

I have been pretty lazy with putting up food this year. We still have leftover broccoli (I put in 90-some plants last year) and pickles (I had put up 28 quarts of sweet and 27 quarts of dill, and, except for me, no one in my family really likes dills) and tomato sauces and chutneys. But canning and freezing is a lot of work, as you can imagine or already know—it’s easier just to pretend all that food isn’t out there. However, we’re moving into August where it won’t be as easy to evade the mounds of produce. Plus, I’ve been convicted by my amazingly productive friend.

So I suppose I best be getting my rear in gear. Things I should do today:

*Turn two bushels of Lodi apples into sauce.
*Turn a bunch of cucumbers into something... I’m not sure what yet.
*Harvest and freeze Swiss chard.
*Go pick more blackberries.

Now, the only thing I really must do is the applesauce, but I have got to push myself on the other tasks or they will all slide. And once they start slipping, they are pretty much gone. Didn’t get to the blackberries? Oh well. Missed the zucchini? Such is life. Didn’t keep after the basil plants? Shucks, I guess we just won’t have pesto this year. And so on. Like I said, it’s a slippery slope. Once the produce starts shooting down it, I might just as well join them for the ride because the gardening game is over. Whee!

Right now I’m perched atop that slippery slope. My toe is right over the edge, in fact. My butt would like to sit down and go for a breezy ride, but my head is frantically screaming instructions: Get that toe back! Back away from the edge! Turn around! Get busy! I normally respond very well to my head’s instructions. But my head is telling me to do a lot of work. And my butt is very comfortable sitting here on this wooden chair.

Oh yes, a couple more things my head is reminding me of: I need to call about getting corn and I would like to find a farmer who has extra green beans to sell, as we did not plant any of either crop this year. And I do so like green beans and corn. And peaches are coming in. And I want to do more applesauce later on, from a sweeter apple. And I have not yet mentioned tomatoes, have I? Why am I sitting here typing? I can hardly think for all the shouting going on in my head.

Before I go change into jeans and Mr. Handsome’s old flannel shirt and head out to pick berries, I have to show you a picture of what we had for dessert last night.


Remember the blackberry cobbler? This is simply the peach version of it. Yesterday, at the orchard where I got my apples, I also picked up a little bag of peaches, just to give us a taste. But, they were so good, and this cobbler was so delicious that now my head has gone absolutely berserk, telling me that we need to get at least four bushels of peaches to dry, can, freeze, and turn into jam. I would have been better off just ignoring that little bag of peaches. Now there is no possibility of discreetly nudging the peaches over the edge of the slippery slope. At least not this year.

So be careful. Once you start taking little tastes of fresh produce or putting some fresh fruit into a cobbler, you may just have unwittingly helped yourself to a big ol' pile of work.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Tackle Papa Game


Get him! Hold his legs! Don't let go!


His feet! Grab his feet!


Yes! We got him!


Wah!

Hold up, guys. That's enough.

It’s all fun and games until someone (in this case, The Baby Nickel) gets hurt.

The End.

Picking Up

This is my two year old's version of cleaning up.


As long as it's off the floor, I've done my job, he thinks.

I have yet to point out the error of his ways, because, the toys are, after all, off the floor.

And he is only two years old.

Sunday Blackberries

We skipped church (gasp!) on Sunday. Mr. Handsome puttsed around the house getting ready for Monday’s house inspection (everything passed), and I popped the girls in the car and drove several miles to the property where some friends are building their house. They have a long-ish driveway that meanders down into a little valley and then up again, through trees and shrubby meadows; the whole place is pretty much covered with blackberry and wineberry bushes.

I parked the van, and we tumbled out. The girls ran off and I set to picking blackberries. Some of the berries were small and dry and others were large and juicy. It was sweltering hot and it didn’t help any that I was in sweats and one of Mr. Handsome’s old flannel shirts. Actually, it did help that I was in those clothes because those brambles were downright nasty. Next time I’ll wear jeans, I think.

I only picked a couple quarts because it was getting on towards lunchtime and I was hot and the girls were fussy. When I got home I immediately went into the kitchen and whipped up a blackberry cobbler.


I highly recommend that you go follow my example. Not the skipping church part, necessarily, though there is something refreshing about meandering through bramble bushes on a hot, sticky day instead of sitting on cushioned chairs in an air-conditioned sanctuary, but the acquiring of blackberries part, and the making of the cobbler part. It would be wise to have vanilla ice cream on hand, too.

Blackberry Cobbler
Adapted from Sarah Beam's blog, Postmodern Feeding

Note: this recipe was also posted here.

1 quart blackberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
6 tablespoons butter, melted

Grease an 8x8 pan and dump the berries into it. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the berries.

In a medium-sized bowl, stir the flour and sugar together. Add the beaten egg and stir together. The mixture will be crumbly.

Sprinkle the topping over the berries and drizzled the butter over all.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes.

Serve hot. But not too hot, because you will burn your tongue. So scoop it into bowls and set before the fan to speed up the cooling-down process.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Not Cereal For Breakfast

I’m pretty big on serving a decent breakfast to my kids. I like to feed them something solid and homemade, something that will jumpstart them into having a productive and happy day (yes, I’m an optimist), so naturally, I try to stay away from bought cereal. It really is a ridiculous food, don’t you think? Whole grains processed to death, spritzed with vitamins and minerals, stuffed into brightly colored boxes, and sold at high prices. It makes much more sense, financially and nutritionally, to cook up a breakfast from unadulterated whole grains. So, most mornings I cook breakfast. (I do keep a couple boxes of cereal on hand for emergency meals.)

[Now, lest you think I’m a holier-than-thou health nut, let me assure you, let me confess, I love bought cereal. Nights, after the kids are in bed, Mr. Handsome and I often settle ourselves at the kitchen table, crack open a box of cereal and eat bowl after bowl of the crunchy, golden goodness, adding more fresh cereal to the leftover milk, till we’ve slurped the last drop of milk from the bottom of the bowl. Then, we help ourselves to another giant serving. My favorite cereal is, don’t gag, Captain Crunch, or Peanut Butter Captain Crunch (my kids even give it to me as a birthday present), but I’ll take anything—Cheerios, Rice Chex, Corn Flakes. It’s the crunch, the cold milk... Sigh.

The kids aren’t supposed to know about our little late-night cereal fests, so I’d be much obliged if you’d keep your yapper shut.]

I try to keep our breakfasts varied, and while everyone here loves pancakes and French toast, I especially like breakfasts that can be assembled the night before and then popped into the oven first thing in the morning.

Dutch Puff
Adapted from Large Family Logistics.

Note: this recipe was also posted here.

8 eggs
2 cups flour (I use one cup of freshly ground whole wheat pastry flour and one cup of all-purpose flour)
2 cups milk
½ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons butter (more or less, depending on how comfortable you are in your relationship with butter)

Before going to bed at night, crack 8 eggs into a bowl and whisk well. Whisk in the flour, and then the milk and salt. Don’t worry about getting all the lumps out—they will soften overnight. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, or a shower cap (something my creative mother taught me to do), and let it sit on the kitchen counter overnight.


In the morning, put the butter in a 9x13 pan and slip the pan into the oven. Turn the oven to 350 degrees. When the butter has melted (keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn), carefully swirl it around so that it coats the sides and bottom of the pan. There will be extra butter floating on the bottom, but do not worry—it will make the puff taste very yummy.

Now, take the shower cap off the bowl and aggressively whisk the puff mixture. It probably looks a bit gross, all brown and gloppy, but as you stir it, the color becomes more palatable. There should be no lumps. Pour the mixture into the pan with the melted butter and then pop the pan back into the oven.


Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until the puff has risen sky-high. The sides will get high pretty quickly (and they tend to get fairly dark), but the middle needs to also rise up and turn golden brown.


Have your family sitting down at the table before you remove the puff from the oven. Since it falls within the first several minutes, you need everyone there so they can see it right away. Teach them to ooh and aah—it enhances the flavor.


Serve with maple syrup. Or, if you want to make it extra fancy, serve it with Grace’s Vanilla Pudding, whatever fresh or frozen fruit you have on hand, and maple syrup poured over the whole mess; in this manner it rather resembles a cream puff.

Why I Wasn't Here

I kind of disappeared there for a little bit, didn’t I? Sorry about that. I hope you weren’t too worried.

I was doing a lot of things, like staying up till midnight almost every night, visiting with our dear friends from California, cooking (bean dip, honey-baked chicken, potato salad, cheesecake, nutmeg donut muffins), visiting with friends, more cooking (pizza, beet salad, mac and cheese, pancakes, homemade ice cream), more visiting...






After such a long break, I have a lot to say. Recipes and ideas are banging around in my head, screaming to get out. Stay posted!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

One Smart Cookie

Mr. Handsome hates to do lawn care, especially with a rinky-dinky push-mower. Therefore, I'm the one who periodically tromps all over the yard; I really don’t mind it so much.

Still, it bugs Mr. Handsome that so much time is spent inefficiently. So today Mr. Handsome got smart.


Really smart.



Notice how calm Mr. Handsome looks. And cool. With just a wave of his hand the lawn is mowed. Such power!


He’s even grinning, pretty pleased with himself, I do believe.


Once he was confident that our slaves, I mean our children, were doing an adequate job, he donned a pair of old jeans and added to the cacophony of lawn-care machinery.


He even wore special glasses. They kind of look like cat glasses, don’t they?


You know, I think he rather resembles the Cheshire Cat. Meow!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

You're Going To Love Me

I have officially made it out of the Ice Age! My recipe index is up and running. The link is on the side bar: Mama JJ's Recipe Index.

If you have any problems with it, please let me know.

Hugs, kisses, applause, and flattery are all appropriate.

Yours Truly.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Loss of Innocence

I suffered a loss of innocence last night. I had been planning to write a post about how I feel like I’m a marionette, Orangette’s marionette, because I do whatever she says. She says to put chickpeas with chard, so I put chickpeas with chard. She says to mash up a cucumber and lime and add vodka and salt, and I do it. I love her recipes and her writing, but I especially love that she’s not afraid of butter and cream and chocolate and sugar. I feel a deep affection for anybody who is not afraid to cook with butter and sugar.

So when she told me to make chocolate chip cookies, I did. And now I’m no longer her marionette.

I was so excited for those cookies, too. I followed her recipe to a tee. I even used a scales to do the measuring (because she said to, of course). Mr. Handsome had to stop at the grocery store on his way home from work to dig the last bag of Ghiradelli 60% chocolate chips from the bottom of the bin. A lot of positive feeling and excitement went into those cookies.

And they were dreadful. Like freeze-them-and-forget-them dreadful. Like only-to-be-pulled-out-to-feed-children-and-company-you-don't-like dreadful. Like not-finish-your-cookie-and-throw-the-rest-of-it-in-the-compost dreadful. Crumbly and dry and flavorless. I obsessively kept tasting them to see if they would get better—hot, warm, room temperature, room temperature two hours later. Nothing.

I felt horrible. How could I possibly disagree with Orangette? I adore the lady, so what a crushing disappointment to discover that she liked mediocre chocolate chip cookies. What a betrayal. What a loss of innocence. What a... Okay, I'll stop.

I skimmed the 103 comments that she had on her post, and to add insult to injury, everyone was raving about the cookies. I was stunned. There was only one thing to do: Bake up a batch of my chocolate chip cookies, photograph them, type up the recipe, and send my offering out into the world, a dark, dark world, in dire need of chocolate chip cookie salvation. Please, people, please, make these cookies. And then share the recipe with everyone you know. We've got to spread the word, I mean, the recipe.


Salvation’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
I got the recipe from my mother, who in turn got it from my Cousin Karen

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ½ cups oatmeal, measured and then blended in a blender to a fine powder
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, plus another handful, for good measure

In a big mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars for a little bit, till well-whipped. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix some more. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients, saving the chocolate chips for last. Shape the dough into good-sized lumps, placing about twelve on each greased baking sheet. Press the dough down in the middle so that the middle part is lower than the edges.


You do this so the cookie doesn’t rise too high and so the edges don’t burn before the middle is baked. Bake them at 350 degrees for 8-12 minutes, depending on the size of your cookie. The key is to under-bake them; they should still be light-colored and a little moist in the middle.

Roughly set the tray down on the cooling rack, so the air poofs out, giving you a more dense, chewier cookie. Let the cookies sit on the hot tray for five minutes, allowing them to firm up and bake just a tad bit more, before transferring them to the cooling rack.


Devour, pausing between bites to admire the gorgeous crumb, the melting chocolate---your spectacular handiwork.


Freeze any that are leftover; they are delicious freshly-thawed (in fact, that is Mr. Handsome’s favorite way to eat them.)


Ps. I’ve started to see Orangette's betrayal in a new light. Just because she doesn’t make the best chocolate chip cookie doesn’t mean that she’s not any good. Even she has written about her falling out with Nigella Lawson, so I guess this can just be a temporary thing—just a little rift in our (one-sided) relationship.