Friday, February 26, 2010

Bare feet, raw eggs, and garlic water

I let my children run around in the snow in their bare feet. Actually, I encourage it. I tell them, “Kids, go outside and run around in the snow. NO! Do NOT wear shoes! What are you, crazy?” And then, because they’re gaping at me, I have to explain, “It’s more fun without them, didn’t you know?”

The other night Yo-Yo and Miss Beccaboo ran out to collect the eggs in their bare feet, of their own volition. It appears I’ve trained them well.

They charged down the path to the pen, leaped inside, raided the nests, and plunged back out the door and up the path towards the house. As they got closer to the porch, they started yelling, “Open the door! Someone open the door!”

By the time they got on the porch they were shrieking, their voices edged with pain, “OPEN THE DOOR NOW! PLEASE OPENTHEDOORNOW! ”

My mom did the same bare-feet-in-snow thing to me when I was a lass. She only did it to me once, but I remember her dare that snowy night when I was about fifteen. I dare you to run around the house in your underwear! I took her up on it, but I don’t think I got anything from her for it, other than a fit of giggles. Goes to show I wasn’t a very smart lass.

(My mom had a thing for dares. She once dared our neighbor girl, a sweet child of about nine, to eat a raw egg. Mom said she’d pay her twenty-five cents if she did. The girl took the dare and got the quarter. [Come to think of it, the same girl said her mother wouldn’t let her and her brothers eat the apples we gave them for Halloween. We thought that was totally ridiculous considering we played at each others houses all the time, but in light of the egg incident, maybe she had a valid fear?]) (I sometimes feed my kids raw eggs, too, but I don’t give them money for eating them. In fact, they don’t know they’re eating them ‘cause I hide them in creamy fruit smoothies.)

On to other topics... like garlic and soup (rocky transition, no theme, so sorry.)

Oh yes, now I remember the connection between bare feet and snow and eggs. This soup has garlic in it and garlic is healthy. Some people say running around in the snow buck naked is healthy. (When I was a kid—before I was a lass—we had a neighbor, a doctor, who would steam himself in his sauna and then crack the ice in his pond and jump in. Naked, of course.) And some people say raw eggs are healthy. This soup I’m going to tell you about (when I finish with all the preambles) has lots of garlic and some eggs (only tempered, not fully cooked); it’s fabulously healthy for you. If you want to be fanatical about it, I suppose you could slurp it down while soaking your feet in a tub of snow, but as for me, I’ll eat it like a normal person, in a warm house with slippers on my feet.


I must tell you, Mr. Handsome was disgusted when he heard he was going to have garlic soup for supper. “Garlic water? You can’t be serious!” he pleaded.

But I was serious. “It’s soup, honey, soup,” I corrected him. “And it has chicken broth and cheese and is absolutely delicious, so just shush up, will you? Geesh.”

As he hesitatingly took his first bite of soup (he always tastes new food with a great show of hesitation which is totally ironic—one minute he praises me for being a gourmet cook and spoiling him rotten, and the next minute he acts like I’m out to kill him), a look of pained sheepishness crossed his face and I burst out laughing. This was no garlic-water soup and he knew it! I think I might have crowed.


I thought about this soup for a number of months before breaking down and making it. I thought it seemed complicated what with all the chopped garlic and herbs and the tempered eggs. But it’s not difficult at all; in fact, I’ve made it twice in the last week and it gets easier each time. The next time I’ll probably be able to make it blind-folded.

Simply throw some herbs and chopped garlic in a pot of broth and give it a leisurely simmer. In a small bowl whisk together some eggs and cheese, add a bit of olive oil, and then, whisking steadily, add some of the hot broth. Whisk the egg mixture back into the broth, heat through, and—voila!—supper is served.

Don’t make the same mistake I did, hear? Please, hasten to the kitchen and whip yourself up a pot of this soup. It’ll keep you healthy, and it’s a lot more pleasurable than running around in the snow in your bare feet.

Creamy Garlic Soup
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

This may seem like a lot of garlic, and it is, but it does not overpower. However, if you have a shaky relationship with garlic, you can dial back the amount considerably and the soup will still be quite yummy—like a creamy, herbed chicken broth with a hint of garlic.

Heidi uses water in her soup, but I use chicken broth; I have tons of broth-filled jars rattling around in my freezer and I seize every possible opportunity to use them up. I think the chicken broth gives the soup depth, not to mention it adds all those wonderful chicken-y nutrients. Cluck-yum.

1 quart chicken broth
1 bay leaf
8-12 cloves garlic, minced, or ½ cup minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
14 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
1 egg
2 egg yolks
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup olive oil
Crusty bread, dry (or buttered, or olive-oiled) toast, matzo pancakes, croutons, etc

Combine the broth, bay leaf, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and sage in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover with a lid, and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and discard.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and egg yolks and cheese. Drizzle in the olive oil, whisking steadily. Add about a cup of the hot broth, a little at a time, whisking steadily. Pour the tempered egg mixture into the pan of broth. Keep whisking. Heat through (do not boil). Check to correct seasonings.

Tear the crusty bread (or one of the other choices) into a bowl and ladle some soup over top. Sprinkle liberally with more Parmesan before devouring. (Or, more simply, serve the soup in a mug sans the bread, and consume via vigorous slurps.)

About one year ago: Butterscotch Ice Cream.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Food I've never told you about: part three

Continuing on with foods I've made but never posted. There are so many! (I think I've already mentioned that before, but still, it bears repeating.)

I kind of like this little series. I work on it when my brain is empty, when I can't summon the energy to spout off on important, life-changing topics like, like, like... Oh never mind. Like I said, I work on this when my brain is empty. I wasn't kidding.

These posts are kind of therapeutic. They make me feel like I was once, a long time ago, productive. It's a resting-on-my-laurels-type post. Not that anybody gave me any laurels when I first cooked these dishes. But still.

Enough of the empty chatter. Let's get on with the food.

Oh, and one more thing. There is nothing healthy in this post, and almost everything was a flop. If you want to go hang out at some other place in bloggyland, I'll understand.

Okay, now where is that "unposted food" folder? Ah-ha, here it is.

Nectarine Coffee Cake. Too sweet, too gooey, too bland, too yuck.

I can't quite tell from where I'm sitting, but I think this is a Sour Cream Nectarine Pie. Or maybe it's peaches instead of nectarines. In either case, it was no good. Perhaps the sour cream curdled, but I'm not sure about that.

Peaches in White Wine, with a couple red raspberries thrown in for color and Just Because. I liked it, but not too much. I enjoyed it more when I added a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Then it was like a fruity-wine-y ice cream float. Come to think of it, I really did like that combination. Maybe I'll try it again next summer.

What do you think these are? I'll give you three guesses.

Taffy? Nope.

Pickle Spice Taffy? Nope.

Snot Balls? NO! (That is so gross.)

Before you go any lower, I'll tell you what it is: Vinegar Candy. I think it came about after the pickled taffy event. Yo-Yo was repulsed by the sinus-cleansing vinegar smell that infiltrated the whole house, so I informed him that there is a candy that's made out of vinegar. Of course he wanted to try it. He made it twice; the first time we undercooked it. He ate a bunch, but the majority went to the compost.

Peanut Butter Banana Pie. Just all around totally disgusting. Period. If you want a peanut butter pie, make this instead.

Glorified Gingerbread. I made this when I was floundering around trying to discover my shoofly cake recipe. It was certainly no shoofly cake, but it was a very fine gingerbread, better than the one I already posted. But wouldn't you know, I returned the cookbook from whence it came to the library before I copied the recipe down. Shame!

Ah, now this. This is a Red Wine Pear Tartin, and it was lovely all around. It was lovely to prepare (a reduced cinnamon-spiked and buttery red wine sauce, oh my) and lovely to eat. In fact, we ate all but one piece in one sitting. There was plate-licking involved.

Date-Nut Loaf. I first ate this at a friend's house and loved it, but I changed it up a bit (too much so?) when I made it myself and as a result didn't appreciate it as much. Instead of dates, I used some of these that I had made and didn't like (perhaps this is a bad starting place—using something I already don't like as the foundation to another recipe?) and it just wasn't the same. I don't know how I could've expected it to be, under the circumstances.

Date Nut Balls, from a recipe that MAC gave me. These were good. Mr. Handsome adored them, actually. They are addictive—crunchy, chewy, caramelly, coconutty, yum-yum-yummy-yum-yummy.

Once again, it's hard to tell what this is exactly, but I think it just might be a Caramelized-Nectarine Pie. I can tell because of the black boot lying there on the deck. I don't think we liked this. There was too much crust and too little fruit and the fruit there was was bland.

Sour Cream Rum-Raisin Pie. This was a recent creation. We didn't like it. The rum was too rummy, the raisins too raisiny, the meringue too meringue-y. But the concept was really neat so I have plans to play around with it. I have twenty-some quarts of raisins in the freezer, so I kind of have to find a good pie recipe. Any suggestions?

These are the Mini Pavlovas that I told you about. They were delicious.

Lemon Tea Cookies. I used to make these when I was a kid. Lemon-y and buttery and thin and crispy, these are very good. The dough is shaped into logs and then sliced, and each slice is topped with a sprinkling of sugar-lemon zest mixture before baking. They're addictive.

Joy Cupcakes. These come from Joy the Baker. Overall, I haven't been impressed with her recipes (though the honey-whole wheat cake I got from her has justified all the time I've spend skimming her posts), but this one, though a bit too time-consuming, was tasty. The process is simple: make a thin layer of gooey brownie in the bottom of a lined muffin tin (do not over-bake), freeze it, top with ice cream of your choosing (I used mint chocolate chip and butterscotch), freeze, and then top with a creamy ganache and freeze again.

Chocolate Truffles. I made several kinds, but in this picture you're looking at rum-coconut. I wasn't sold.

Shoofly Pie. This recipe came from The Pie and Pastry Bible and it involved coffee, cinnamon, and nutmeg, as well as molasses. It was quite exotic, but it wasn't what I was looking for.

And that wraps it up for today. If you're the type of person who puts on weight via your eyeballs, I'm sorry. And I'm sorry that you wasted valuable calories on such unspectacular food. Well, except for the pear tartin. That was worth every single calorie.

Next time I'll post something with green in it. Maybe.

About one year ago: Reverse Cleaning.

Monday, February 22, 2010

My kind of girl cake

I made this cake.

I call it "girl cake" because only the female half of the family liked it. The male half turned up their noses and pushed their plates away. (Not really—Mr. Handsome finished his piece like a real man before thumbing his nose in the cake's general direction.)

I wasn’t too surprised that they didn’t like the cake. “It’s kind of complex,” I admitted. (Please note: it's highly unusual for me to sympathize with family members over their food hang-ups.)

“And nutty,” Mr. Handsome added.

“Like women, huh,” I said with a snicker. (Please note: I do not condone sexist comments. That said, I occasionally make them.)

I started feeling a little doubtful about the cake after watching the boys turn up their snozzes. Was the cake really any good, or was I just enchanted with it because it involved unique prep methods? Were my tastebuds going all haywire on me?

But then I served it to my sister-in-law and she claimed to like it. I fed it to one of my girlfriends—she smacked her lips appreciatively and then tucked away a second piece. That settled it. This cake was clearly a girl thing.

You know how some cakes, like some girls, are all glitz and glamour? These are the easy cakes: easy on the eye with their thick, glossy swirls of frosting and easy on the tongue with their copious amounts of butter, chocolate, and sugar. These babes are fun to hang with—they know how to whoop it up good—and nearly everyone falls for them at one point or another; but, after courting them, the ones indulging begin to feel a little empty and maybe even slightly ill, off-kilter from too much sweet and too little substance. When they eventually crash and burn, the fallout can be pretty ugly and the rebound even worse.

This cake is like another type of girl all together, one that is at first glance modest and maybe even a little homely, but when gently encouraged, she reveals her true nature—complex, nuanced, and ... deep. She doesn't have gaggles of friends, but the few she does have (oh, the luckies!) will remain her friends for life. This cake is like that type of girl, my kind of girl, sweet, wholesome, and exciting in an understated sort of way.

So maybe the analogy is a little over-the-top, yes? Even illogical? Riddled with weak sentence structure? Ah, well. Seeing as I'm a little over-the-top about this cake, I guess it's only fitting. I'm not even going to apologize.

Instead, I'll offer you a challenge: take this girl cake for a little spin and see if you don't end up falling in love with her yourself. I have a hunch you might.

Molly’s Marmalade Cake

Adapted from Molly Wizenberg’s blog

The only change I made was to use half whole wheat flour and, in retrospect, I think all of the white flour could be subbed out for whole wheat. And then, except for the sugar, this could be counted as a nutritious cake, what with the fruit, nuts, and olive oil.

I pulled this cake out of the oven a little too soon. I thought it was burning and got worried. I needn’t have—the edges were just fine—and it sank a little, but even so, it was still delicious and didn’t taste underdone at all. Which leads me to believe that it doesn’t require a full sixty minutes in the oven, but a bit more than the forty-five minutes I gave it. Fifty to fifty-five minutes should be perfect.

1 orange
1 lemon
6 ounces raw almonds
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
4 large eggs
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups sugar
2/3 cup olive oil
confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Spread the almonds on a cookie sheet and toast them in the oven at 300 degrees for about twenty minutes, stirring them every three minutes or so until they are dark golden brown. After the nuts have cooled a bit, put them into a food processor and pulse until they are the texture of sand. Dump them into a bowl and set aside.

Put the lemon and orange in a kettle and cover with water (they will float, but never mind that). Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat a bit, top the pan with a lid, and simmer the fruit for thirty minutes. Drain the fruit and cool.

Cut the lemon in half, remove the pulp, and cut off the tough stem ends. Put the lemon rind into the (still-dirty) food processor bowl. Cut the orange in half, remove any seeds, chop each half into several more pieces, and dump the bits of orange in with the lemon rind. Pulse till the fruit is thoroughly chopped up. The resulting mixture will be partly pebbly and partly pasty. It doesn’t need to be completely smooth. Set aside.

Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat them for a couple minutes with a handheld mixer till they are frothy. Beat in the sugar and then add the flours, salt, and baking powder. Add the olive oil, nuts, and fruit puree and beat briefly.

Pour the batter into a greased nine- or ten-inch springform pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes (see above note). Cool completely. Sprinkle liberally with confectioner’s sugar immediately before serving. (The cake improves with age, so make it a day or two ahead of when you plan to serve it.)

About one year ago: Caramel Popcorn. I've made this two times in the past couple weeks. We've taken to calling it crack. One day I even made Mr. Handsome hide it from me before he left for work.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The morning after

The best part—and there are many—about going to the library is the morning after.

When I arrive home from my evening trip to town with my gigantic canvas tote brimming over with books, magazines, and videos, the kids are usually already asleep, and Mr. Handsome and I get to sort through the loot together.

The videos and educational books (ie, ones that the kids aren't allowed to look through because I plan to read them out loud later) are stored up on a high shelf. (Not that they can't get up there, but still.)

My reading material gets stored on a lower shelf, and we fill up the book baskets with the remaining picture books.

The next morning the children come downstairs, groggy and tousled, and I whisper, There are new library books in the baskets. It’s like I switched a magical button. They scurry wordlessly to the baskets, drag them over by the fire, switch on the lamps, grab the ratty old throw blankets, and disappear into the world of pictures and words. There is no fussing. There is no begging for breakfast. There is no bickering.

I let them lay around longer than normal, mornings after library trips, and I read to them more, too. This last time around I pulled out the stack of read-aloud books and showed them to Yo-Yo and Miss Beccaboo. They were, understandably, impatient to get started, so after our Bible reading (Joshua is a earth-shattering book for my kids; Yo-Yo has decided that the Bible is not a good book after all and that Joshua’s God is not our God) and chemistry element (nickel), I read to them about the history of ice cream, the first seeing eye dogs, how to draw faces in profile, and some prayers and rhymes. Next week we’ll delve into Greek mythology and world religions.

Tonight Yo-Yo is going out with his mentor to see a play, so I will not be able to read from our evening read-aloud, All Creatures Great and Small. Instead, I'll be reading the library picture books, something I don't do all that much anymore. I plan to read until my voice gives out, and then Mr. Handsome can take it from there.

If we read fast enough, I might be able to justify another trip to the library as soon as next week.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Myselves and muffins

I have got to get these muffins off my brain. They’re taking up valuable cerebral real estate in the space back there behind my eyeballs. I can’t tell you where exactly, since my eyeballs don’t do complete one-eighties or three-sixties or whatever, but all I know is that ever since I made them, I’ve been saying to myself, “Self, you have got to blog about those muffins.”

And I say back to myself, “Yes, Master Self, you're right. I do.” And then I go do other incredibly important things like chronicle all the food I’ve never chronicled before and experiment with pancakes (I love pancakes) and scour the toilet.

Until suddenly I get a zinging pain up my back and it's Master Self again, pulling me up by my boot straps (though I am wearing strapless slippers), trying to get me to walk in the path of righteousness and muffins.

“WRITE ABOUT THOSE MUFFINS!" Master Self bellows. "If you don’t, you might forget about them and then where would we be? Huh? Besides, it’s not fair to keep them all to yourself!”

“Enough already,” I whine, rolling my shoulders in an effort to slacken the taut reins. And then I get a little mouthy. “Have you ever thought that maybe everyone already has their favorite muffin recipe? Or that just maybe, if someone really wanted this particular recipe, they could find it themselves? I—I mean, we—found it, so they could too, right?”

For my backtalk, I’m rewarded with a throbbing headache.

And so it goes—guilt and multiple selves don’t make for an easy life—until Master Self wears down Underling Self, and here I am (though I’m not sure which one of me, exactly), writing about muffins. Or at least I will be writing about muffins once I start writing about them.

I think I might be writing about them now. Yes?

The muffins being written about are Blueberry-Cornmeal Muffins. When I made them, I put blueberries in six of the twelve muffins; the other six I left plain. We loved both kinds, but the blueberry ones got eaten first—that’s how I know we like them best. (I’m good at connecting the dots, see?) It’s also the reason that some of these pictures are of muffins without blueberries—by the time I got around to taking the pictures, the blueberry muffins were well on their way to our tummies.

Cornmeal and blueberries were meant to go together. Did you know that? Together they warm the cockles of your heart. Like blue bathrooms with yellow highlights, so cozy and right.

These muffins are like that. Not like a bathroom, no, but like a yellow and blue bathroom looks, cozy and right. Rightly cozy.

Or something like that.

Blueberry-Cornmeal Muffins
Adapted from The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

I make my own yellow cornmeal from popcorn. Just toss the kernels in the grain mill and flick the switch. Yo-Yo watched me do it today and calls the resulting meal “popcorn flour.”

You can use all whole wheat flour, if you like. And feel free to use two-thirds cup of either plain yogurt or sour cream—I did half of each because I ran out of sour cream. The yogurt gives the muffins a deliciously tangy flavor.

½ cup cornmeal
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry four
1/4 cup white flour, slightly rounded
2 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons, sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2/3 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the egg, yogurt, sour cream, and butter. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir briefly. Fold in the blueberries.

Divide the batter into 12 well-greased muffin tins. Bake the muffins at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes.

About one year ago: I must have been on sabbatical or something because I wasn't saying a peep. So I'll just fill you in on cornmeal previously. Let's see, there's cornmeal whole wheat waffles, sweet onion corn bake, and Happy Pappy-style cornbread. One of those ought to float your boat. And if it doesn't? Well then sink. See if I care.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Now you know what I'm not giving up for Lent

I have a new favorite coffee drink.

I hardly ever make it for myself since it’s rather involved. There’s whipped cream and shaved chocolate and dissolved dulce de leche, so it’s kind of a production.

I made it for my mom. She liked it.

I made it for my friend. She liked it.

I made it for my husband. He liked it.

I made it for my cousin. She liked it.

I made it for myself. Again. Today. This afternoon. Because I needed to take pictures of it so that you can make it for yourself.

You’ll like it.

Dulce de Leche Coffee
From Pioneer Woman

I found dulce de leche in our Asian food market. It comes two ways: in a block and in a can (like sweetened condensed milk). I bought both kinds just to be on the safe side.

1 ounce dulce de leche
1 tablespoon Kahlua
1 large, very strong, very hot, cup of coffee
lots of whipped cream
shaved chocolate, lots

Dissolve the dulce de leche in a little hot water.

Try to pour the water into the glass, not beside it.

There. That's better.

Add the Kahlua and hot coffee. The coffee has to be hot. If it's cooling down, reheat it in the microwave.

Top with a mountain of whipped cream (I usually double this amount, but I ran out of cream). Make the cup overflow. The point is excess. Remember that.

Top with a blizzard of shaved chocolate. Lots and lots and lots of chocolate. You can't see it in the picture very well, but there is so much chocolate that I practically had to chew it.

So now. Go make this and then come back and thank me. I’ll be waiting.