31 October 2014

Greetings From the Great Pumpkins

Happy Halloween!

Today is the third anniversary of the Halloweener cats coming into our home.  Trick (far left) and Treat (in the middle) joined Teddy and Kitty Carlisle in our little family.  Kitty Carlisle is far too dignified to dress up!  Even thought they were supposed to go to the kitty jail and be put up for adoption, they somehow prevailed in joining the family.   They have been fun!

30 October 2014

Halloween Eve Supper

Twas the night before Halloween...

We made a nice chicken stew with blackened cornbread...

It was bootiful!

28 October 2014

Blue Hill Yogurt Cakes

Here is our yogurt rant. It always comes up when yogurt commercials come on the television.  One large yogurt company did a commercial bragging about REMOVING high fructose corn syrup from their yogurt.  Wait?  High fructose corn syrup?  When did that become an ingredient in yogurt?  Well, of course, it is not, but then neither is sugar.  The other pet peeve is yogurt bragging about "putting" probiotics into their yogurt.  Wait -- isn't that what yogurt is?   If you produce some over-pasteurized, over sweetened, milk by-product in a cup with spoonful of candy -- it ain't yogurt -- don't tell us it is!

When we first saw Blue Hill savory yogurt we fell in love.  It is real yogurt.  Who wouldn't love savory yogurt?  We also pulled out all of our yogurt cookbooks, because we knew we had a goldmine in these little dark containers. 

Then, we had to find them in stores.  We lucked out at one of the Wegman's in Virginia.  There is always a cooler positioned in the back of the Element to smuggle goodies into West Virginia. 

Our last batch, we decided to make a couple of yogurt cakes.  We had never made a yogurt cake before.  After looking at dozens of recipes, we came up with a recipe that used a six ounce cup of yogurt, since we didn't want to mess with measuring the the yogurt.  The other thing we really wanted to use were some really big raisins that we had on hand.  None of the yogurt cake recipes we looked at featured an addition of fruit  into the batter, but we wanted to give it a try.


We made one cake with butternut squash yogurt and one with beet yogurt.  In the butternut batter, we added raisins.  In the beet, we added chopped, candied ginger.  We cooked them in one of our wooden cake boxes, so we cooked the cakes for nearly two hours at 300 degrees.  The surprise was how much these cakes resembled an old-fashioned pound cake, but with not nearly the work that goes into a pound cake. Here are some thoughts:

These cakes were mixed in a bowl with a fork, no mixers were used.   A definite plus.

The ginger was a bit too chunky. The raisins were too big. Next yogurt cakes will feature a glaze on the outside instead of fruit on the inside.

Here is the basic recipe for one loaf cake. This is the butternut squash cake, with instructions to change it to the beet cake.

Blue Hill Butternut Squash Yogurt Cake

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 6-ounce carton Blue Hill Butternut Squash Yogurt (3/4 cup yogurt)
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.  In another bowl, mix the sugar, eggs, and yogurt and mix well.  Fold the flour mixture into the yogurt mixture until just incorporated.  Do not over mix.  Fold in the olive oil until just incorporated.  The oil likes to float on the top, so make sure it is incorporated.  Finally, stir in the raisin.

Pour into the lined loaf pan and bake for 1 hour.


For the Blue Hill Beet Yogurt Cake replace the butternut squash with the beet yogurt.  Replace the raisins with chopped, candied ginger.

Next time out, we are leaving out the fruit and going with a glaze.  We are already working on a beet and yuzu glaze for the next Blue Hill Beet Yogurt Cake are looking forward to more time experimenting in the kitchen with Blue Hill Yogurt.


23 October 2014

Pickle Brine

Since we spend a lot of time in the kitchen, we are always getting gifts of produce.  We love getting produce.  The problem is, most of the time said produce needs to be dealt with expeditiously.  And we are not always expeditious.

Last week, we got large bag of jalapenos.  My friend, Art, is friends with the boys that run the farmer's market and he rarely misses a trip.  It is his one weekly outing.   After pickling several jars, Art left the rest of the bag for me.

We were in that period of time that the peppers had to be dealt with or we would lose them...so the pickling began.  (Yes, we know we should have made the pickles the day we got the bag, but we were too tired and it was pickle now, or toss the bunch by the weekend!)

Every time we pickle, we go through the same process: we look at 15 or 20 recipes and are happy with none.  Seriously, a brine is vinegar, water, salt, a bit of sugar, some spice.  It's not rocket science.  Making refrigerator pickles is simple, but the abundance meant that we would have to process them, as there is no way to eat that many peppers in a few weeks.

We sliced the jalapenos, onions, carrots, and chopped several cloves of garlic. We ended up with about six cups of cut vegetables.

Pickle Brine

2 cups cider vinegar
2 cups water
2 tablespoons canning salt (or kosher salt)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano

Place everything in a non-reactive pot and bring to just boiling, stirring to make sure the sugar and salt are dissolved.

Pack the vegetables, tightly,  into sterilized jars.  Pour the hot brine over the vegetables, leaving a 1/4 inch of heard room in the jars.  Place the lids on the jars, and hand tighten.  Process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

With every recipe, there is a brine and with every recipe, there is almost, always, too much brine.  (Actually, too much brine is a lot better than trying to pickle something and finding out there is not enough brine.) The great thing about a brine is that one brine can brine most anything.  We had our bowl of jalapenos, carrots, and onions.  We made the brine.  Filled sterile jars, poured the brine and sure enough there was about a cup left.  We let the brine cool, as the jars processed.
In a pint jar, we stuffed slices of cucumber and red onions.  Poured the remainder of the brine over them, and in addition to the canned jalapeno peppers, we had a jar of refrigerator pickles, too.

Waste not, want not.


22 October 2014

Bet You Can't Eat Just One!

This year in the garden we tried to grow delicata squash.  We had one little squash.  During the height of summer, care and concern went into the summer squash and by the time, we realized the winter squash was up, it was consumed by weeds.  So while we were on the road, we bought a couple of lovely delicata squash, returned home, found a leak, ran errands for the sick, and crashed for a couple of days, and then we thought of the delicata squash and knew we needed to cook it soon. 

This morning was one of those rainy, cold, dreary days; a sad precursor to the coming winter.  It was a kind of nesting day and there was much to do.  First we turned on the oven...

This may seem like a simple thing.  Most ovens are set to offer the very general 350 degrees.  We rarely cook ANYTHING at 350 degrees.  We cook hot!  We cook low and slow.  Several years ago at Cookbook Of The Day, we wrote about The Splendid Table's How To Eat Supper.  As we said then (and it still holds true) it had the best advice we have seen in a cookbook which we will paraphrase (and you can read the review later): when you walk in the door, turn the oven to 450 degrees.  So while you are contemplating what to cook, an staring into the fridge, by the time you do decide, the oven will be ready!

So we turned the oven to 450... cut the delicata, added a bit of salt and olive oil and into the hot oven it went.  In about 10 minutes the kitchen was filled with a carmely aroma, so we turned the oven off, turned the squash rings, and let them sit.  About 15 minutes, they came out of the oven and there was still no clear plan as to how we might serve them, but they were cooked and then...

Well, the title of this post is from an old potato chip add -- a phrase to make you think about how addictive chips are.  The squash rings were just that addictive.  Every step past the pan, was followed by another ring gone.  Needless say,  it was a delicata brunch!
 And since we live on a farm, we saved the seeds.  Next year we will be more diligent with our winter squash!




21 October 2014

Florence Nightingale

Several years ago, I wanted to buy a very expensive rug from Britain that bore the 1939 propaganda phrase: "Keep Calm and Carry On."  I am now soooo glad I didn't.  Alas, a perfectly good propaganda statement has been so abused that when I see the words, "Keep Calm" together, I do want to punch someone!

I have recently been thrust into the role of Florence Nightingale.  That and a big deadline have kept me from keeping clam.  But now we are back on the farm, deadline met, patient on the mend, cats happy, and I have a new found respect for Ms. Nightingale and all those men and women who actually choose nursing as a profession.  Bless them.

04 October 2014

Cookie Rings

 Baker extraordinaire, Dorrie Greenspan, is famous for her cookie jammers.  Basically they are shortbread cookies with jam and streusel on top.  What makes the cookies very distinctive is the way Greenspan baked them.  The cookies are baked in individual ring molds, giving them a uniform shape. They were so popular they spawned pop-ups, a cookie shop, and even a set of individual cookie baking rings. 

As the owner of a couple of dozen 2 inch baking rings, I though a lot about Greenspan's jammers.  I though, if one could cook shortbread cookies in individual rings, could you cook other cookies that way?

My personal cookie preference is chewy, neat cookies.  I was never one for those cookies that spread out on the cookie sheet leaving crispy edges.  I hate it when baking cookies run into each other.  I was that kid who wouldn't eat if the food touched each other! 

My "go to" cookie is a peanut butter, chocolate chunk.  When a visiting friend asked if I would make them, I thought it would be a good time to experiment.  I had tried before with good results, so I thought I would give the rings a try.


I have two dozen 2 inch rings.  I set them on a cookie sheet lined with a silpat.  Filled the rings and baked.  The cookies were perfect little 2 inch, fat, soft cookies.  I have toyed with idea of getting another dozen of the little rings and filling the tray.  I don't know if being that closely aligned would change the baking time, but it would be nice to bake an entire recipe of cookies all at once.  Right now, however, 24 at a time is fine.

02 October 2014

Happy Birthday Chuck Williams

Today is Chuck Williams' 99th birthday. 
 
  As the founder of Williams-Sonoma, he has transformed the way we cook.

Not to mention, the way we set a table.

From a personal standpoint, there are so many tools in my kitchen that I didn't know I needed until Chuck Williams told me I needed them,  Really, everyone needs a folding fish cooker!

Happy Birthday, Mr. Williams. 

17 September 2014

Happy Birthday Willy Wonka...

and Charlie and his chocolate factory.
The year marks the 50th anniversary of two of Roald Dahl's most endearing characters.  In the final analysis, Roald Dahl was perhaps the most enduring Roald Dahl character.  If one could step back and take a long look at the truly great children's authors, one might be quite shocked.  Frankly, they are not the kind of people one would actually leave children with.
I imagine that the very thing that makes children continually adore their work is a darkly violent undercurrent that is not always visible to the adult.  To be a truly great children's author one needs to retain the petulance of a child, a trait not greatly admired in the adult population.  Roald Dahl retained his childish petulance.  He was no paragon of virtue, but he innately understood the evil that lurks in the mind of a child.
He rarely let anyone in his writing hut, but once a year it was opened as children flocked to see the inner sanctum of Dahl's creativity.  A favorite object was his hip bone, removed during a hip replacement.  While adults seemed bewildered, children loved it.
This week, to mark the 50th anniversary of Willy and Charlie, 50 Irish bakers gathered and created cakes in honor of Dahl.   The Telegraph featured a large selection of these amazing cakes here


11 September 2014

Requiescat in Pace -- My Darling Clementine

Little did I know when I picked up this little sprite of a kitten, with ribs like fish bones that she would grow into the big bruiser of the cat she did. 
I've had Clementine for nearly 20 years, which is longer than most of the people in my life! 
She will be missed.


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