Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My mornings

I adore the end of summer. I revel in its vivid blue skies and sharp, cool nights, so tangy and sweet like fresh apple cider. I luxuriate in my sated cellar and freezers and call up my friends to come pick the tomatoes and red raspberries and take them away because I’m done with them already. I dream no longer of cucumber salads and ice cream, but of spicy chilis and cinnamon rolls. And there's gradual realization that I am ready—and eager!—to spend time with my little pipsqueaks doing cozy inside things.

It’s invigorating, this shift from hot to cold, from outside to in, from hustle to hunkering down.

Most mornings, I’ve been going for walks. During the heat of the summer, my husband would be up and out of the house before the sun crested the ridge, but these days I’m often the first to rise, leaving him to savor the warm bed for a few more minutes before having to face a day filled with hammers, saws, and poopy toilets or new shingles, or whatever it is the brave man has to face. (If I were in his shoes, I wouldn’t get up.)

This morning the skies were crystal clear but there was mist in the valley. I had to run back inside for my camera.


I don’t exactly look forward to heading outside as soon as I wake, but once I’m out there (and the compulsive yawning stops), I enjoy myself. Sometimes I give my mind free rein to wander, letting it nibble at a variety of ideas, and other times I force it to go where I want, slogging over rocky terrain or through the thick muck, so to speak. I always come back energized.

(Not all my walks are pleasant. Last week I had two bad ones. One walk involved two skunks—one of which was in heart-stoppingly close proximity to me—and the other involved a full bladder, a sneeze, and a cornfield.)

When I get back from my excursions, most of the kids are still sleeping, so I fix my coffee, check emails, and plan my day. This morning I made the kids eggs-to-order for their breakfast. For myself I made Oatmeal Jacked Up.


Every other morning I cook a heaping half cup of rolled oats in a salted cup of boiling water. When it has finished cooking, I scoop half of it into a bowl and the other half goes into the fridge for the next day’s breakfast.


Then comes the jacking-up part. I add a scoop each of flax meal, raw wheat germ, and nuts, in this case pecans. I sprinkle on a bit o' sugar, either maple or brown, and, as a final touch, crown the mountain of goodness with chunks of fresh nectarine or peach. A glug-glug-glug of milk, and I’m ready to chow. It’s delightful.


What are your mornings like? Do you eat the same breakfast every single day, or do you like variety? Have you tried jacked-up oatmeal? If so, what enhancements do you suggest I try?

Oatmeal Jacked Up
Inspired by Aimee of Simple Bites

cooked oatmeal
raw wheat germ
flax meal
sweetener, like maple sugar, brown sugar, honey, etc.
nuts
fresh or dried fruit
coconut
milk

Top the cooked oatmeal with whatever you like. Enjoy!

This same time, years previous: why I don't teach my kids science, losing my marbles

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday cake

It’s Monday and I’ve brought you cake. A chocolate yogurt cake, to be precise.


Actually, this cake is No More. It was No More on Sunday, and it was No More on Saturday. (Yes, I use chocolate cake to mark the passing of time.) The last we saw it in these here parts was on Friday when it made a grand appearance at dessert time, mini-mounds of cream cheese-spiked whipped cream dotting its glossy top. All in all, it was a too-short visit—six eager forks were no match for its tender crumb. I remember The Cake That Is No More with great fondness and a touch of giddy because it was so darn good!

The time between the recipe discovery and the day of reckoning stretched pretty long, especially considering how I could hardly wait to make it. Since it’s a chocolate yogurt cake and we had just finished up the last of the homemade yogurt, I had to get to the store for plain yogurt to use as starter. That took a little while. Then I had to make the yogurt and that took another little while. The days whiled away. While, while, while, la-la-la. I got antsy.


I made the cake on a Thursday, the same evening I made a nectarine cobbler, drank a glass of red, and listened to NPR in the glow of the setting sun. It was Most Pleasant Indeed. But by the time the cake had finished baking (and resting for the prescribed 30 minutes—I set the timer), and I finally got to the cutting and tasting (mouth fireworks!), the sun had dropped out of our sky and I had to crank up the ISO speed on the camera to get a decent picture.


So that’s the story on the cake. Rather uneventful, I suppose. So let’s talk about the actual cake, shall we?

Like I said, it’s a yogurt cake. (I bet you could turn it into a sour cream cake, if so inclined.) It’s meant to be eaten un-iced, kind of like a sweet bread, like lemon or zucchini bread. The cake itself is a no-brainer to mix up—just the basics like flour, cocoa, eggs, and oil, no heavy machinery involved.

The special part comes after the cake has baked, when you pour a hot chocolate syrup over the cake, oh sweet heavens! The velvety dark liquid seeps into the cake, turning it even darker, shinier, and moister. It’s magic.


My non-chocolate lover of a husband scoffed at my feverish excitement, at all my oohing and aahing and prancing about. Oh-so-resignedly, he sat down at the table to eat the piece of cake I'd served him. He took one bite and a sheepish, oh-crap-now-I-have-to-eat-crow look flashed across his face.

“Whaddaya think, whaddaya think, whaddaya think,” I chanted.

“It’s ... not bitter,” he said in his standard I’m-saying-something-positive-while-still-managing-to-be-negative manner.

“Yeah? You like it?” I egged him on.

“It’s ... moist.” (Bless his heart, the man knows how to eat crow gracefully. He’s had a lot of practice.)

“I know! Isn’t it awesome?”

“Jennifer, it’s a cake. Calm down.”


The recipe hails from the blog Ideas in Food where they cook with centrifuges and dry ice and chemicals that I don’t know how to pronounce. But every now and then they put up a normal recipe, like chocolate cake. The only non-normal thing about this recipe was that it called for chocolate extract. I don’t think I’ve ever seen chocolate extract, let alone used it. (Have you?) So I did what any decent cook would do and added a large glug of coffee liquor. Because, you know, just because.


Chocolate Yogurt Cake
Adapted from Ideas in Food

You could make all sorts of variations, like spike the chocolate syrup, or add some instant coffee granules to the cake batter. However, I think the cake’s beauty comes from its unadorned simplicity, so embellish with caution.

By day two the cake was so moist it was almost wet. Which was not exactly a bad thing... no, no, not at all. But I think this cake is at its glorious peak while still slightly warm.

for the cake:
1 cup flour
½ cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain yogurt
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon coffee liquor, optional
½ cup canola oil

for the chocolate syrup:
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
1 tablespoon cocoa

Whisk together the first five ingredients (flour through salt) in a large bowl. Add the yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and optional liquor and whisk gently to combine. Add the oil and stir until incorporated.

Pour the batter into a greased, 9-inch springform pan. Thunk the pan firmly on the counter to remove air bubbles. Bake the cake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

While the cake is baking, combine the ingredients for the chocolate syrup in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Simmer for a couple minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar and cocoa are fully dissolved.

Stab the freshly-baked cake with a toothpick—about 30 good pokes—and spoon the hot syrup over the cake. Allow the cake to rest for 30 minutes before serving.

This same time, years previous: roasted tomato sauce, pasta with sauteed peppers and onions

Sunday, August 28, 2011

2011 stats and notes


Here’s what jumped into jars over the last 10 days or so:

roasted tomato sauce: 47 pints
tomato juice: 13 quarts
salsa: 27 quarts, 2 pints
plain chopped tomatoes: 26 quarts, 10 pints
tomato and red wine sauce: 8 quarts
Summer Rambo and Ginger Gold applesauce: 80 quarts
sliced nectarines: 13 quarts
chopped nectarines: 39 quarts
sliced peaches: 31 quarts

And into the freezer:
nectarine wedges: 4 quarts
dried nectarines: 10 6-cup quarts
peach slices: 12 quarts

That was the main big push. Before August came along, my shelves were fairly bare. But now? Now they’re all red, yellow, and green.


Here’s the rest of the stuff we’ve put up:
spinach, frozen: 3 quarts, 6 pints
strawberries, frozen: 13 quarts
blueberries (from a vendor), frozen: 29 pints
red raspberries, frozen: 14 quarts, 5 pints
basil, frozen: 6 recipes butter-walnut pesto
Lodi applesauce: 54 quarts (22 frozen, 32 canned)
onions, caramelized, frozen: 2 pints, 6 half-pints
corn, frozen: 12 quarts, 14 ½ pints
blackberries, frozen: 16 quarts, 4 pints
chickens, frozen: 23
green beans, frozen: 21 5-cup quarts

Yet to come are more tomatoes, red raspberries, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, and grapes.


Some notes to my 2012 self:

*Drying nectarines at lower temps for longer times results in chewier, more candy-like nectarines. Fast and furious gets ‘em too crispy.
*Good job watering the tomatoes regularly—no dry rot!
*I am so in love with this roasted tomato sauce that it’s practically sinful. I’m not sure 47 pints will be enough.
*When choosing between two local orchards, always go with the one that starts with O. The one that starts with an R lets you down every. single. time.
*Sun High peaches are really, really good. Maybe even better than nectarines.
*Leave a little extra space in the top of the jars when canning salsa—the raw veggies do a funky expansion thing that causes the insides to leak out and then you have to recan the jars and you know that that’s always a bummer.
*Tomato jam—make it.
*Cut-into-pieces chicken is easy to do and much more accessible for meal prep.
*I know you’re frustrated with green beans—3 separate plantings and 3 pounds of seed for a paltry 21 quarts, I know. But you need green beans, like 100 quarts. So keep trying.
*Plant ounces of spinach, like 2 or 3 of them. Be extravagant. Aim for at least 30 quarts.
*To make tomato juice, put the tomatoes through the Victrola cold! There’s no need to cook them first! The uncooked juice, despite separating out in the jars and looking kinda gross, has a fabulously fresh taste.
*Too much sugar in Lodi sauce will ruin it, doofus.

This same time, years previous: topping for apple crisp

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Slightly obsessed

This is what I’ve had for lunch for the past two days. It makes my heart sing.


I got the idea from the trailer for Pioneer Woman’s cooking show. It’s just chunked up tomatoes and minced onions with a vinegar, oil, and—this is key—brown sugar dressing. Plus, basil and parsley.


When I fix it for my lunches, I add feta and perhaps some green olives (black would be good, too), and I butter a piece of sourdough toast and use it like a spoon to scoop up the tomato chunks and to sop up all the juices at the end. Though yesterday I just picked up the bowl and poured the vinegary sweetness directly down my throat.


This dish is reminiscent of a tomato platter my mother used to make. Except that my clearest memories are not of her making it, but of my friend Amber’s mother, Ann, serving it at lunch (or supper) one day when we were visiting. I see the large kitchen table, a picnic table, planted squarely in the middle of the blue and white linoleum checkered kitchen floor, a quaint, well-worn cloth draped over the red wooden slats, little cloth napkins at each plate and jelly glass jars to drink out of. As for the tomatoes, the giant, juicy red and yellow slices were dotted with minced onion and celery, sprinkled with brown sugar and S&P, and drizzled with cider vinegar. Eye candy, they were.

(I’m cringing because Amber, Valerie, and Shelah, all sisters, read this blog and are probably yelling at their computer screens: YOU HAVE IT COMPLETELY WRONG, DORK. Oh dear. I can’t help it that I’m getting old and each new year stretches my memory just that much thinner. I do my best, promise.)


Maybe my mom learned to make this recipe from Ann? Maybe she moaned and smacked her lips and asked questions and took thirds so enthusiastically that that’s how I remember the tomatoes? Perhaps.


Anyway, Ree’s little tomato salad invoked all those old-fashioned flavors and sweet memories and now I’m slightly obsessed with it.

I’m going to feast on this salad as long as summer lasts. And that’s a fact.


Fresh Tomato Salad
Inspired by Ree of The Pioneer Woman

I do not measure for this salad. The tablespoon jargon is just to give you a feeling.

The list looks way longer than it actually feels. Don’t be daunted.

1 large, fresh, juicy red tomato, cut into large chunks
1-2 teaspoons minced onion
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1-2 teaspoons brown sugar
salt
black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1-2 tablespoons feta
2-3 olives, green or black, torn into bits, optional

Toss together the tomato and onion. Put the oil, vinegar, sugar, and S&P into a pint jar and shake till combined. Drizzle over the tomato. Sprinkle with the herbs, feta, and optional olives. Serve with buttered toast for scooping and sopping.

Serves one very happy camper.

This same time, years previous: buttery basil pesto, basil pesto

Friday, August 26, 2011

On not rushing it

“Do your kids ever wish they could go to school?”

This question, most recently posed to me by a friend, is something that I often wonder myself. I mean, I happen to know the answer so I don’t actually wonder, but back when I started homeschooling I kind of assumed that the kids would go through spells of wanting to go to school and it’d be me against them and I’d have to either put my foot down and say This Is The Way It Is or I’d eventually cave and let them scamper off to join their peers.

However, they are extremely vocal about not wanting to go to school. They say things like, “I’m NEVER going to school.”

And then I think, Oh dear, I’ve totally brainwashed them!

This year, day one of real school (public school, that is, not our homeschool) found us sleeping in, eating breakfast at 9 am, and then jumping into the canner and staying there for the rest of the day. Mid afternoon I suddenly hollered, “Look at that! The bus!” (except it wasn’t the bus but I thought it was), and then I lapsed into a dreamy speech, “Do you guys realize that if you went to school this would be the first year that all of you would be out of the house? Do you know what that means? It means that I would’ve just spent the entire day in the house by myself. Alone, all by myself, doing whatever I wanted, all day long...”

Through my half-closed lids, I could see the children, each of them standing still, watching me closely, trying to comprehend what I was saying. Then my oldest tentatively, almost fearfully, asked, “Do you wish we were in school?”

I snapped my eyes open wide and said firmly, slowly, “No. I want you right here with me. I like hanging out with you guys.”

My son exhaled sharply (had he been holding his breath?) and muttered “Good.”

The moment gone, the kitchen was once again a blur of flying feet, flashing knives, and fruit.

But my heartstrings were wrung just a tiny bit because my son sounded so genuinely relieved. Like he was unsure of his place in our family, and actually believed that I might send him away—regardless of his preference—for just a few hours of coveted alone time.

I felt kind of flattered, too. My kids, social animals that they are, actually want to be here at home with boring old me. What a pleasant surprise.


It won’t always be this way, I know. Eventually they’ll be chomping at the bit to get out of this house and on with their lives. They’ll get jobs and buy cars and higher education and fall madly in love and leave me to go make their own nests. All that will happen, sure enough, but just because it will happen (and should happen, hallelujah!) doesn’t mean I have to rush it.


So I won’t. I’ll savor our mid-morning breakfasts and hodge-podge lunches with all of us crowded around the little kitchen table and these late summer nights where they run pell-mell through the yard shrieking their fool heads off.


These years are fast and furious, so saturated with both exhaustion and exhilaration that I can hardly comprehend it.

But that’s not going to keep me from trying.

This same time, years previous: chocolate malted milk frosting, nectarine cobbler, odds and ends

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Not jam jam

I want to do a post about this year’s garden stats and notes, but we’re not quite there. Tomatoes and raspberries are still coming strong, and the potatoes and grapes haven’t even happened yet. But in the meantime, before the tomatoes are all gone (boo-hoo), I gotta tell you about tomato jam because you just might want to simmer yourself up a pot for your end-of-the-summer cookouts.


This is a savory jam, not regular bread-and-butter jam. Which is what my mother was thinking it was when she sampled it. But I didn't know she thought that, so when she squealed like I'd stuck her with a pin and spat it in the sink, I was shocked and crushed. It wasn't until she said, in a horrified and accusatory voice, “You really eat that on toast?” that I realized we'd had just a simple misunderstanding, and quick-quickly, I explained that it’s not jam jam, but more of a relish jam, You know, like to eat on hot dogs. And then she was all like, Oh, well THEN. Give me a spoon. I want to taste it again. The second time around, she liked it, and my shaken pride was (mostly) restored.

There are all sorts of tomato jam recipes out there (and some people do eat it on biscuits), but the one I used is as straightforward as they come: tomatoes, sugar, salt, black pepper, and paprika. It makes an ample pint that stores nicely in the fridge for several weeks, at least. Or, you can can it.


To serve, mound it up real high on hot dogs and burgers (my plan for next weekend!). Both me and my man much prefer it to regular old ketchup.

Tomato Jam
Adapted from the August 2011 issue of Bon Appetit

The recipe calls for smoked paprika, of which I sadly had none—regular worked just fine.

4 pounds paste tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon (smoked) paprika

Stir together the tomatoes and sugar and let rest for 10 minutes. Bring the sweetened maters to a boil and cook for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Add seasonings and continue cooking (reduce the heat, if needed) until the jam has thickened and reduced to about 2 cups. Refrigerate, or can.

This same time, years previous: basic oatmeal muffins (I've been making these for a year now and they are still my favorite), earthy ponderations, part three

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Coming up for air

It’s been intense and desperate, folks. Downright dire. For a few days there I felt like a little white mouse with a pink tail on a treadmill, peddling frantically but never going anywhere. But now things are slowing down. I’ve caught up in the race against ethylene oxide production and time, and the jars are filling up. I don’t have the final stats yet, but I'm pretty sure we’ve emerged victorious.


some of the haul

Yesterday, the kids were amazing. So often I kvetch about their bad attitudes and bickering but not yesterday. Yesterday was golden. They stuck with me all day long. In fact, the eldest was at my elbow up until 7:30 last night when he finished up a huge stack of dishes and we booted him out the door to go play.


The kids unscrewed the jar rings, chopped the peaches, nectarines, tomatoes, and peppers, peeled garlic, filled and emptied the dehydrator sheets, halved and pitted the nectarines, hung up and folded laundry, emptied trashes, washed dishes, and opened doors for me.


One of them also managed to break two glasses on two separate occasions and I managed to keep my cool. (Though the second time around I did contemplate screaming, "Forget about cleaning it up. JUST WALK ON IT.") Silver lining? The kitchen floor stayed fairly clean.


Their helpfulness was so impressive that I called Mr. Handsome at work and told him to pick up a treat for the kids. He brought home a box of Froot Loops (with sprinkles—the newest fad), and they ate almost the entire thing for dessert whilst I showered them with lavish speeches detailing my deep and abiding appreciation.



***

So how about that little earthquake, yeah? I had just gotten the kids settled for rest time and was walking back out to the kitchen for my coffee when I heard a roaring sound like a logging truck driving by. But everything was rattling and shaking like when the washing machine gets unbalanced and starts wigging out. And then I thought, Oh dear, the kids are all out of bed and silently—that's odd—jumping up and down really hard—and that's when it hit me: EARTHQUAKE! I froze in my tracks, a Get Out of the House Right Now scream poised in the back of my throat, just waiting for permission to let loose, but then I went to the bathroom to make sure it wasn’t the washing machine (‘cause you don’t want to interrupt rest time unless it’s absolutely necessary), and it wasn’t, of course, because I wasn’t doing any laundry, and by then the shaking had stopped.

Mr. Handsome was so bummed he missed it. He talked about it all evening long. He even declared he was going to have a t-shirt made that said: “August 2011—Where were YOU when It Happened?”

***

When I came downstairs this morning with my hair sticking straight out on one side because I went to sleep with it wet (after three days of very little personal hygiene, I absolutely had to wash my hair even if it meant I’d be stricken with a frightful case of bedhead), Mr. Handsome was puttsing around the kitchen, a sheepish look on his face. I glanced at the calendar and then said real quick, “Happy Anniversary!” because I’m always the first to remember and he always forgets. He calmly returned the platitudes and smiled. Weird.

“Did you check the canning?” I asked, referring to the previous night’s canning that was still out on the picnic table.

“Yeah, they all sealed.”

I was fixing my coffee when I happened to glance out the window and see that the canner was belching steam. HUH? I shot a glance at my husband but he kept his eyes lowered, and then, understanding dawning like a bright new glorious day, I raced out the door and peeked into the canners: twelve quarts of nectarines, hoo-boy!

When I returned to the kitchen, he said, “Now you don’t have to do nectarines. They’re all caught up for the day.”

So of course I made him his lunch: three hotdog buns (we were out of bread and the first loaves wouldn’t get baked for another couple hours) filled with eggs, ham, and cheese, plus sides.

And then I sat down at my computer and discovered an email from myself, or rather, from my account. It read, “ Thank you for 15 years of friendship, wonderful food, 4 creative children, love, and a willingness to work thru life’s challenges with me. I love and respect you deeply. Happy Anniversary!”

So then I was left with no choice but to go give him a bear hug and get his neck a little wet with my eyes that had suddenly sprung a leak.

This same time, years previous: whole wheat buttermilk waffles, wedding memories, so why did I marry him?, Valerie's salsa (made 5 batches of it this year!), canned tomatoes, how to make butter, earthy ponderations, part two, cold curried corn soup

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Undecided, so help me

So I’m in the middle of making enough applesauce to last a year (that's a good thing) and my feet are killing me (that's a bad thing) so I plunk down at the computer for just a sec to catch my breath (that's a stupid thing) and then I spy a post for a two-minute peanut butter chocolate cake (that's an exciting thing). (And now I'm going to stop with the parenthesis. That's a smart thing.) Quick like, I (mostly) commit the recipe to memory, and then, all sneaky like so my husband who has been working even harder than me for even longer doesn’t see, I grab a bowl and some measuring spoons and set to. When the phone rings and my friend—the one who has spent her whole day putting up all the juice tomatoes I threw at her the night before—chirps, “Whatcha doin’,” I hiss into the phone real quiet like and say, “Making peanut butter chocolate cake,” and then I cringe while she screams in my ear, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING MAKING A PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CAKE ON A DAY WHEN YOU’RE MAKING APPLESAUCE? WHEN YOU MAKE APPLESAUCE YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO DO ANYTHING ELSE! DON’T YOU KNOW THAT?”

“But it’s two-minute peanut butter chocolate cake,” I whisper defensively. “I’m almost done right now!”

A measure, stir, and beep-beep-beep later, I am dumping the ramekin of cake onto a plate, and the kids and I are stuffing it into our mouths. My husband never even knew enough to bleet. Shazaam!

Later, after the mountains of clean-up (most of which my husband did while I took the kids to the pool for a little blow-off-steam time), I turned out another two-minute cake. I was rather tickled with my new skill, but there were drawbacks, too.

Like the little problem of texture. The cake is kind of spongy and boing-oing-oingy, like what I’d expect microwave baked goods to taste like and thus the reason I’ve never baked with microwaves before. Perhaps it needed less time in the zapper? Forty-five seconds? Thirty?

Also, the cake turned an unappetizing gray—perhaps due to the type of cocoa I used?

But the flavor was yummy, and the pockets of melty chocolate were pretty close to glorious. And then I realized that, hey, the cake is practically GOOD for me what with the egg, peanut butter, and only one tablespoon of brown sugar, whoa baby.


So this afternoon I made it again, but this time without the cocoa. The cake was much easier on the eye, but the texture was still spongy, and the insides were drier while the edges were gooey. Weird. But good? Maybe?

I’m still not sure what to think. Is this cake a good idea, or a super-duper bad one and I’m just too mired in applesauce to see clearly? Am I going all cliché on the world if I start nuking my desserts? Is it like getting giddy over jello? (No offense, jello lovers. Jello's just not my thang.)


I can’t seem to get a grip on the matter, so I’m passing it off to you. Pretty please, go hang out in your kitchen for two minutes, make a cake, and then report back here so we can talk about this microwave baking phenomenon, will you? It’s all for the noble sake of science (and my insatiable curiosity).

Thank you, darlings. I’m much obliged.


Two-Minute Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Dinner with Julie and Back To Her Roots

I’d like to try whole wheat flour next. Also, a much higher ratio of chocolate chips might be a good thing, like maybe ½ cup?

This is supposed to make one serving, but I think it should be divided between two small ramekins, or maybe even three.

1 egg
1 rounded tablespoon flour
1 tablespoons brown sugar1 tablespoon cocoa, optional
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2-4 tablespoons chocolate chips

Dump all ingredients into a cereal bowl and stir with a fork. Dump into a greased ramekin and “bake” (zap, nuke...) in the microwave for 30 to 60 seconds. Invert onto a plate and top with a scoop of ice cream or some whipped cream.

Eat and report back. Thanks.

My updated version, August 28, 2001
After multiple experiments and reading through your comments, I've come up with the perfect recipe. It is GOOD! The recipe is as follows: 2 tablespoons beaten egg, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 1 tablespoon flour, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/3 cup chocolate chips. Divide the batter between two small, greased ramekins and microwave on high for 30 seconds.

This same time, years previous: red raspberry ice cream, oven-roasted Roma tomatoes, earthy ponderations, part one

Saturday, August 20, 2011

This is what crazy looks like

Not only did my last post bore you to tears, it may have killed you. Or at least left you speechless. For not a one of you made a peep.

Which confirms what I’ve feared all along: my unadorned life is woefully dull, boo-hoo.

But I’m not crying about that today. No, today there was no boredom to be found. Just lots of crazy.

This, my bored-to-tears dearies, is what crazy looks like.


Ain't she purdy?

Crazy is four-and-a-half bushels of apples getting mushed into 81 quarts of sauce.

Crazy is four bushels of nectarines and three bushels of mini cantaloupe-sized peaches spread out all over the downstairs room.


Crazy is red raspberries getting picked and tomatoes getting ignored.

Crazy is my new best friend, cuckoo!

This same time, years previous: how to get your refrigerator clean in two hours, two morals

Friday, August 19, 2011

An August day

Otherwise known as The Day That I Carried My Camera Everywhere And Took Far Too Many Pictures.

It was more work than I expected, too, trying to keep track of everyone and hit the high points of their day. (Not "high points" as in rah-rah-yay, but "high points" as in it was a listable and photographicable moment.) (And there's two new words for you, you're welcome.)

You'll notice that many of the pictures are taken in the kitchen, on the porch, etc, and not in the orchard picking the pears (off the dying tree) or at the chicken coop dumping the compost over the fence or in the garden digging potatoes because I would've made myself crazy-insane following the kids around while they did the chores. For most of what goes on around here, I station myself in the kitchen and monitor the flow of people in and out the doors as they go about executing their tasks. (It sounds almost gory when I say it that way, "executing their tasks." I like that.)

I still missed bunches of stuff, like the kids waking up in the yard and riding their bikes and me on the phone and doing paperwork and giving orders, but this is entirely too long as is. And probably way too dull, as well. You'll all be sobbing with boredom by the time you reach the end. I'm sorry.

On the other hand (I just can't seem to stuff it with the preambles, can I?), this is the Ordinary that makes up my days. It's my life as is, no bells and whistles, profound thoughts, or glamor included. And that's gotta be worth something, I think. (At least I tell myself that, since it's what I do all the freaking day long.)

Part One: The Pictures
Not in any particular order





















































Part Two: The Words
Also not in any particular order (and not necessarily to correspond with the pictures)

*Waking up in the yard where they had spent the night (just the older two) and then putting away all the bedding
*Finding matching shoes in the back hall (always a struggle)
*Hanging laundry
*A six mile round-trip bike ride to the post office for stamps, and also exercise—just the older two kids
*An imaginative game of the most engrossing variety that went on for hours.
*Checking the pears (and eating one!)
*Emptying the compost (many times over)
*Playing typing games on the computer
*Dish washing (and accidental glass breaking—lately we've had far too many of these—I better make a run to the thrift store or we'll soon be eating off the floor)
*A drive to a local orchard for two bushels of Summer Rambo apples and a half bushel mix of Ginger Golds and Gala.
*Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes—roasted tomato sauce (it's my fav, make it) and stewed.
*Quiet reading time (he's plowing through Little Men, his choice)
*Eating: oatmeal and canned peaches, leftover buttermilk donuts from a failed cake donut experiment (the picture is from the night before), peas, leftover mac and cheese, apples and peanut butter, pb&j sandwiches, the last drops of flat root beer, one fluffernutter graham cracker sandwich shared four ways, coffee, both hot and iced, green beans, corn, baked potatoes, apple crisp, vanilla ice cream, milk, etc (it takes a lot to fill our tanks)
*Major freak out thoughts about the three bushels of peaches and four bushels of nectarines that are due to hit my kitchen on Saturday
*Computer time, oh happy computer time
*Rest time (why does she have a toothbrush in her mouth?)
*A rest time treat of one stale and chewy candy cane, divided four ways
*Vacuuming up the little bits of styrofoam he mashed into the floor
*Mowing the lawn
*Intense negotiations revolving around the aforementioned lawn mowing
*digging potatoes for supper
*Wine, yes
*Setting the table
*Tomato picking (and picking and picking)
*Play dough creations proudly presented to the weary mater pickers
*Zonking out, finally

***

I've taken pictures in preparation for a post about my standard apple crisp recipe on three separate occasions, so it's ironic that this time, the third time, the time when I finally get around to posting it, the pictures are so bad. It's because the kids were taking them, the lighting was weird because the shades were drawn against the blinding sun, and I was getting sick of snapping pictures of every little thing that happened.


Plus, my hands were all gunked up with buttery crumbs so I couldn't exactly wield a camera very well. (Some of the pixs are mine and I have no excuse except sloppiness. Oh well.)


But about the crisp. I dig all sorts of cobblers and crisps, but when it's time for supper and I have fruit on the counter and don't know what to do with it, I invariably resort to this recipe. It's quick—just oats, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter, all rubbed together till crumbly—but it delivers all the oatmeal crunch and buttery-cinnamon lip-smacking flavor you could wish for.


We topped our apple crisp with a little vanilla ice cream left over from the weekend's root beer floats, but usually we simply drown it in cold milk and then eat till we bloat.


Basic Fruit Crisp

This makes enough topping for four cups of chopped fruit. When doubling the recipe I don't fully double the butter, using only 14 tablespoons instead of the called for 16, or thereabouts.

Also, I like to sneak more fruit into the pan, maybe five ample cups instead of four.

I used Gala apples for this crisp and they were delicious.

1 cup rolled oats
½ cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick butter
4-5 cups prepared fruit (apples, peaches, nectarines, berries, etc)

Put the fruit into a greased 8x8-inch pan.

Dump the remaining ingredients into a bowl and rub them together with your fingers until incorporated and crumbly. Sprinkle the crumbs over the fruit.

Bake the crisp at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling and soft and the crumbs are a crunchy golden brown.

Serve warm, with ice cream or milk.

This same time, years previous: drilling for sauce, barley and beans with sausage and red wine, peach and/or nectarine tart, thoughts on breastfeeding