Sunday, September 30, 2012

My Weekend in Concord...


Sixteen half pints of jelly, a quart of juice, fruit leather, dehydrated into raisins, and tomorrow, the last quart and a half of grapes will become the annual harvest grape pie. I am So. Bloody. Tired.

But we'll have grape jelly to last through the year. I hope. Grape tends to go quickly.

Oh yeah, I also bought a ton of fresh figs, but I ate most of them. God, I love figs. Fresh ones are a rarity around here. I did manage to dry a few, but they won't last.

I still can't get things to work well at Blogger, and I'm loathe to download a new browser as I'll have to install a new version of Linux to get it to work. *shrug*. Maybe I've cooked-blogged-said all I needed to.

Go grab some grapes before the (short) season is over.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Anyone Have Hedgeballs?

If you're a local reader, and have some hedgeballs you're not using to repel swarms of box elder bugs (known locally as, "Democrats" because they only come out in droves around election time. Yeah, I didn't laugh the first time I heard that either), I'd be happy to take them off your hands. I'm willing to swap for something from the kitchen (bread, pie, jam, etc.). Hy-Vee wants a buck each, which is insane. Drop me an email if you want to arrange a swap.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Things They Won't Teach in Civics Class

Oh for heaven's sake, the only thing you should be saying is, "I want a lawyer." Then, you shut up.,0,1390149.story

I'm having trouble getting links to work with new blogger interface, browser, etc. sorry.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


The new Blogger does not like my browser. I rather like my browser more than I like Blogger. Time to relocate, perhaps?

Anyway, I'll just post this to see how it looks.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Deep in the Bowels of Your Colon (Nebraska)

By the title, you can probably guess where I went today.

It wasn't all that deep in the bowels as there are only four streets, and they're kind of short. There's a bar (there's always a bar), a bank, and a church (there's always a church). It was only a few miles from Lake Wanahoo, which we'd been curious to see, to we had ourselves a bit of an adventure.

We also visited the Saunders County Museum, the Wahoo library, the Ceresco Library, and the farm store where I bought Mr. ETB some excellent braces in brown and beige stripes. He's gonna love those. And socks, because his socks seem to disappear. Me? I've had the same socks for fifteen years, but his keep vanishing. Strange, eh? I also caved, and bought tulip and daffodil bulbs (I said I wasn't planting any more-well so much for that insistence). My child is dangerous around the farm store-he'll plant anything.

As much fun as that was, the best part of the day was stopping by the brand new playground in Ceresco. It still has that, "new playground smell" which is mostly recycled tyres and moulded plastic. Danny met another child his age also named Danny, who lives on a farm outside town. They both like green beans (the funny stuff these kids talk about today) and swings, even if the swings were kinda low (they need to fix that). I like having my pick of a few playgrounds in the area (Wahoo and Ashland also have nice playgrounds if you live in the area).

This is Exciting

-or maybe I just need to get out more, I dunno....but hey, did you know that fine sandpaper will remove rust stains from the toilet bowl? OK stop laughing, we have very hard water in the well, and no matter how much I clean, the rust stains are a pain to get rid of. I've used stromg cleaners, vinegar, pumice-and today I took some fine grade sandpaper to the bowl and know what? Like new. That's what.

Keep in mind you need the fine grade paper, and you can't scrub the hell out of it or you'll ruin the finish on the bowl, but otherwise, this is a nice chemical free way to deal with rust stains. For regular old hard water build-up, I like white vinegar. If you soak a rag in it and leave it on the tap overnight, it will be sparking by morning. That works great on chrome, but the toilet bowl was really bothering me (look, I don't ridicule the stuff that keeps you up at night).

Sandpaper-go get some and marvel at the results in your own loo.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

L'Shonah Tovah

I'm off to dip apples in honey, and celebrate the new year. I hope yours is filled with sweetness, good health, and all sorts of wonderful things.

Applejack Festival, 2012

I like the determination of this single, perfect apple on an otherwise dead tree.

Well, I'm back from the Applejack festival in Nebraska City, Nebraska and I have (a few) apples, some Western wear, and tons of photographs. We made a side-trip to Missouri because Danny wanted to see a state he's never visited (he was kinda unimpressed) and managed to clip a corner of Iowa making it a three-state-weekend. What sort of parents would we be if we didn't, yanno?

We came back by way of the "troubled" nuclear power plant. Does anyone else feel that, "troubled" isn't really a good way to describe a reactor that had to be shut down, and subsequently taken over by a private company-and it still isn't operating? I mean, "troubled" makes it sound like we're talking about a celebrity. Lindsay Lohan, is "troubled." A nuclear reactor that had to be shut down is "dangerous." They make it sound like the plant needs a step programme or something.

Because we are the sort of people we are (I mean hell, why pretend, right?) we found a library having a book sale. The books were pretty awful (lots and lots of self-help) but the CD's were half a buck each, and incredible. We bought just about all of them. I did get an opportunity to display my, "nerd cred" when the woman ringing us out couldn't get her calculator to work.
"I have a slide rule!" I offered cheerfully, which got a laugh until she realised I was serious and then she kind of looked at me like I just dropped in from Mars, but I'm used to that.

Danny was able to view his first real parade complete with political candidates, marching bands, and beauty pageant winners. Many, many, beauty queens. I had to explain that to Danny, and he was...what's the word...transfixed? So later, at a science exhibit for children, he finds himself at a table playing with a circuit board beside a beauty queen(she was wearing many yards of pink tulle, a crown and a sash declaring her winner of something). I watched him stare at her, again fascinated (in both senses of the word) and as she was a few years older than he, she seemed aware, and amused by it. Then, she put together one hell of a circuit that not only blew a fan, and lit a light bulb, but hooked up an amplifier to boot. I'd like to see Honey-what's-her-face do that. There's nothing more beautiful than a well-organised circuit board. Nothing.

Other highlights from the trip were the Civil War Museum in Nebraska City (excellent collection for such a small museum, with great staff and plenty of information to accompany the exhibits. Worth the admission which seems steep until you see what they've been able to do with the money).

Ceramics Studio Tour at Jenni Brant Ceramics
I wish I had grabbed some info on her friend who was making lovely animal sculptures-he was very talented, and generous with his time talking to a seven year old (they both were). If anyone knows his name, and if he has a website let me know and I'll post it.

I'm not going to recommend the orchard we went to because it was a rip-off, a zoo, and a great big blight (well, we're talking about apples) on an otherwise lovely weekend.
Oh look everybody, it is yet another photograph of Mr. ETB wearing braces, and peering through a window! I thought it would make a good series-my husband wearing braces peering through windows. This makes the second installment. This window was in an alley in Nebraska City, and there was a 1960's Thunderbird inside. He could almost look Amish in that get-up were it not for the ponytail. Maybe he could cut it off and glue it to his chin or something. Amish computer programmer-I'll bet that doesn't come up too often.

Nebraska City is a lovely place with plenty to do when it isn't Applejack Weekend, and I would love to get back and take the Windmill Factory Museum tour.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fabric Help

For his birthday quilt this year, Danny wants a Monopoly quilt. I'm having a difficult time locating the fabric with the image of the titles on it, which I would like to use for a backing. The money fabric is common enough, but not the titles. I need about 6 yards (for pillows, etc.). If anyone knows where I could get my hands on some in quantity (ebay wasn't much help)I'd be really grateful.

The top is going to be pieced, and embroidered which I know is insane, but he gets a fancy quilt every year and well...ugh, this is not going to be a fun project, particularly now that he has a full sized mattress.

Anyway, thanks in advance.

High Holidays

The holidays really did sneak up on me this year, but I have a honey cake in the freezer, and tomorrow I will do a marathon challah baking session. I probably have some kreplach lurking in the freezer as well. I don't feel like doing anything. When my best friend died four years ago, I lost my last Jewish friend. In a strange way, I lost the last person that "got" my cultural and generational stuff , although she was a bit older. She understood my family better than I did-and strangely enough, liked them anyway. I could handle most of my family being dead, but losing the last friend I didn't need to explain things to was devastating. What's more, I can't count on my husband to tell me if I'm putting on weight.

Anyway, it feels sad not to be shipping a challah off to Newton, Mass. I'll use her tablecloth like I have done for every Jewish holiday since she gave it to me twenty years ago, and I still have a set of hideous glassware her mother had imposed on her in the 70's (which she imposed on me in the 90's)but really, it feels a little lonely. Sure, you make new friends, but you do so with the knowledge that they can croak at any point-something you don't typically take into consideration when building friendships in your youth.

Someone make me feel better, and tell me I look fat.

I'm Going to Say Something Nice About the DMV

I'm going to say something I would have had a difficult time imagining myself uttering before I moved to rural Nebraska-I had a positive experience at the DMV.

Halfway through the month when my car registration is due, I realised the card never arrived. I knew this would require a trip to the DMV, and I was really dreading it. In Chicago or Boston, this would have been a gigantic headache, with hours spent waiting before finding out you didn't have all the proper documentation, etc. Admittedly, I've never had to wait more than five minutes to do anything government related in Saunders County (hell, I think that's about how long it took us to get married at the courthouse-and that's not exaggerating), but I was still bracing for a hassle.

I brought my birth certificate, my insurance card, last year's registration, my passport, driver's license-I even brought my kid along in case they needed someone to verify my identity. I needn't have worried. In under five minutes I had my new registration and was out the door to put the sticker on my plates.

Don't try that in Cook County (geez, the memories I have of hours spent in line at Elston Ave. because my dad would wait until the day before he needed plates, and then freak out in a panic that someone had to go do it for him because he couldn't spare the time. Why he never renewed by post, I'll never understand, but once he actually suggested I fly halfway across the country on two day's notice to renew his registration so he wouldn't have to go stand in line. I didn't do it. I'm pretty sure my sister refused as well. It was worth an expensive airline ticket to him avoiding the DMV, which should give you an idea of just how much it sucked).

So here goes:
"I had a great experience renewing my car registration today!"

That still sounds weird, like some out-of-body thing where it sounds like my voice, but the words don't make sense.

Life Imitating Dumb Jokes

Observed outside Yutan, Nebraska:

Driving the main highway through town we see a sign for a chicken fry tomorrow. Suddenly, (And I mean suddenly) a chicken is running along as fast as little chicken legs can go, away from town.

"Danny? Did you..."
"Yep. Saw it."

We drove in silence about ten seconds before we cracked-up.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Mancorialist

Another Tumblr to take up all your time.

Frosting Flavoured Candy Corn

I noticed recipes making the rounds on the internet using these stir-in packets for pre-made frosting to flavour candy corn. I liked the idea, but not the technique, so I used it with my regular candy corn recipe, replacing the brown sugar for white and omitting the vanilla.

It worked. The flavour is...strange, artificial, a bit heavy on the cinnamon (we made the Mocha flavour) but still kind of addictive once you start nibbling at it. I'm curious what the purple crap will be like.

3 1/2 quarts popped corn kept hot in a 200 degree F. oven
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup margarine
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon bicarb.
Flavouring packet

Combine everything except bicarb and flavouring packet in a saucepan. bring to a boil, then cook 5 minutes longer. remove from heat and whisk in bicarb and flavour packet. Toss mixture into popcorn in a roasting pan and bake 1 hour, stirring after each 15 minutes. Cool, crumble into smaller pieces.

Mamie Eisenhower's Sugar Cookies

"Ike said you might enjoy some cookies, so I baked these. I hope you like them. I took time out of arranging my hair to roll them out and all."

As predicted, they're kind of plain and dry. A bit on the heavy side. Not bad, mind-just nothing terribly exciting. I made sandwich cookies from half the dough which at least made them look attractive. Maybe she shipped them to Ike in Europe during the war to catapult at the enemy. I could see them as a weapon.

Interestingly, the book has a fudge recipe attributed to Mamie that sounds positively indulgent with marshmallow fluff and condensed milk. There's also a fudge recipe from Martha Washington that calls for paraffin as an ingredient (my guess is that chocolate was not of the same smoothness we get today and the wax would help even it out, but that's just a guess).

You Will Need:

2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla

Sift dry ingredients together. Cream the butter and sugar until light. beat in eggs. Add cream and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients. Wrap dough in wax paper and chill several hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. The recipe said to grease the sheets, but that sounded absurd for this type of cookie so I skipped it-mine did not stick.

Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with a 3 inch cookie cutter. They don't spread much, so you can place them close on the pan. Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly bropwned (mine were done at around 8 minutes, so check on them early.

Write Galaxies

THIS is the coolest thing I've seen in a while.

Monday, September 10, 2012

First Ladies Cookies

In my copy of America cooks, many of the recipes are attributed to the First Ladies (the book was a collection of women's clubs recipes, so it sort of makes sense). The cookie section featured three. At present I have the dough for Mrs. Eisenhower's sugar cookies chilling, though I must say, they seem kind of plain. Still, I can picture her making them. I wonder if perhaps the recipe came via her mother-in-law. I've visited Eisenhower's childhood home in Kansas, and stood in his mother's kitchen. I could see these originating there. I know one thing for certain-I don't dare embellish these cookies. No extra sanding sugar on top, no brushing with egg-these are mid-century, mid-American cookies that are, "just enough" for family, but probably not for company. I know that sort of cookie, for I am of mid-century-mid-American bakers that wouldn't waste expensive dragees and such on children. My Gran would have appreciated Mrs. Eisenhower's cookies. She does use a hefty tablespoon of vanilla extract in the dough.

The cookbook also has a recipe for chocolate butter cookies attributed to Mrs. Nixon. Again, they're pretty ordinary sounding, conservative even in the use of butter, but I can summon a mental image of Pat rushing in the house, tossing her cloth coat on the chair, pitching Checkers a biscuit, screaming at the girls to pick up their room, and getting down to work rolling butter cookies. I have to work a bit harder at this, but it isn't impossible.

Finally, we have a recipe for some incredibly fussy meringues from Mrs. Kennedy. This requires too much imagination, as we all know Jackie never got anywhere near a cookie, and she probably didn't let Caroline either (at least not until she grew out of the awkward teenaged years). John John probably got cookies, but I still don't believe she baked them. All that beating sugar slowly into egg whites with the stuff flying off the beaters all over her designer clothes? Unlikely. I don't think they taught Home Ec. at Miss Porters.

Tomorrow I'll bake up Mrs. Eisenhower's cookies, and report back.

Roasted Red Pepper Salad

I had some exceptional red peppers I thought deserved a special treatment. This fit the bill.

You Will Need:

5-6 Sweet red peppers, seeded and quartered
1 bulb roasted garlic
A handful of good black olives
Olive oil for roasting-a couple tablespoons plus a few more tablespoons for the dressing (see below)

In a 425 degree F. oven, combine the peppers and oil, roasting about 30 minutes, or until skins are starting to char (you can roast the garlic bulb tightly wrapped in foil at the same time). Remove to a plate, and let cool. When cool enough to handle, peel away skins, and place in a bowl. Add as much garlic as you like (The rest is super just spread on bread, or in hummus)and mix in the black olives. Make the dressing, and combine.


2-3 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon thyme
Black pepper
1 tablespoon honey

Whisk together and pour over cooled vegetables. let sit and chill about an hour before serving with a good bread. You aren't going to waste your beautiful pepper salad on mediocre bread, are you? I didn't think so.

Well, Which Is It?

Because you can't be both.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Cucumber Radish Salad

I made this salad to go with a Southwestern style salmon and black beans dish. It was such a hit, I've been asked to make this as a regular salad to serve with beans. If you have any salsa/tomato haters at home, this might just suit their tastes.

You Will Need:

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
A handful of radishes, chopped
1 bunch scallions, chopped
A handful torn basil leaves


1/4 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon corn oil
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon honey
Pinch tarragon
Pinch dill
Black pepper

Toss together, chill before serving.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

The Weekend So Far

Ed: I've just been informed that blue skies bringing tears was a song by Smashing Pumpkins. In my defense, Smashing Pumpkins were waaaay after my time, and I don't know the song, but something makes me think they probably weren't admiring the Autumn skies over Nebraska. I'm so damn old, and so damn out of touch with the popular culture it is pathetic.

They sky was so beautiful, blue, and shining today, it could bring you to tears. I love the way the light looks this time of year in Nebraska.

We had a beautiful, sunny, not-too-warm day to explore some new places in Saunders and Butler Counties.

First up, was Valparaiso. I've lived just across highway 77 from Valparaiso for eleven years, yet somehow managed never going there. It isn't the sort of place one needs to go through to get anywhere else (unless you're headed to Touhy)but we finally went to have a look around. It is a smaller town than ours, by about three hundred people. The fact that residents can be counted in hundreds should give you an idea how small the place is. Still, they have a Post Office, a couple bars, library, and a bank. It certainly appeared a thriving community.
I love the children's decorated banner across the front desk.

The old bank has been converted into a lovely little library, with the shiny door to the safe still a prominent feature of the building. The children's reading room is just adorable, and I (almost) wish I could go back in time, be a child again, and sit in that warm room of tables and little bookcases choosing books from a thoughtful collection. Someone put some real effort into making the best of a small space, and succeeded.

We walked down the main street, got a somewhat incoherent outburst from an inebriated young man in front of the bar mid morning (To Mr. ETB, "You better take care of that girl there.") I dunno, maybe I look like I need, "Taking care of", but I don't think he was in much condition to do it for him, in case he wasn't up to the job. We assume he meant sex, not setting up housekeeping, paying bills, and maintaining employment. So that was interesting.

Next, we went to visit Touhy, which is even smaller (a handful of families, though they have a tavern that serves food). We walked around the grounds of the large church (suggesting the town was once more populated) and peeked inside (in rural America they still leave the Catholic churches open in case someone wants to go in and you know, pray. I'm old enough to remember when this was the case in the large cities as well. When the neighbourhood church in Boston started locking the doors at night to keep out the homeless, I knew we were doomed, and it was time to leave. I'm glad there's still places where they probably don't even have a key to the church). The view from the hill is unexpected. Once you cross highway 77 heading west, the land gets more hills, and contrary to the image eastern Nebraska has as a flat, cornfield laced environment, there's quite a bit of hills and prairie. I feel silly suggesting tourists head to Touhy, Nebraska to view a scenic vista from the parking lot of the church-but that's exactly what I'm suggesting. Bring your camera.
Yes, that's Mr. ETB in the braces. Not some, "I work as a stockbroker, and drive a Cadillac" braces, but "These here hold up my pants" braces, which in these parts are called, suspenders. In these parts, what I'd call, suspenders is called, a garter belt. Anyway, I like the photograph because it looks like he's trying to get into the church, which would be rather unlikely as he hasn't darkened the doorway of one since primary school. He always got in trouble anyway carrying out mock crucifixions on the giant roaches they had in Hawaii, and drawing nipples on the pictures of Jesus.

Leaving Saunders County behind, we headed to David City in Butler County to buy a fly swatter. Ten years ago, I bought a metal mesh fly swatter at the hardware store in David City, and I liked it. We were halfway there, so we went back, bought another fly swatter, a nice hand-grinder for chocolate, and a spatula for canning. I should be good for another ten years. Since we were there, it became a two-library day as we went to see the building. Oh goodness, as lovely as the Valparaiso library was, the children's reading room at David City made me wish I lived there-in the library, not the town. Sun pouring in through large picture windows, an enclosed courtyard rose garden to peer out on, a box of checkers on the table for children to play-and books! Not a row of electronic media, not comic books...but books, with print, and binding, and interesting titles. Unfortunately, you don't see enough of that in libraries these days. They still use Dewey Decimal, which also makes me happy because I don't have warm childhood memories of wandering my local library using Library of Congress shelving. So yes, another destination worthy of the road trip-go on a sunny day to make the most of the natural light. Don't forget to stop at the hardware store and pick up a fly swatter.
I like how the architecture begins to look Western once you enter Butler County.

Finally, we dragged ourselves over to Brainard for a tour of Fox Run Farms. I'll be honest, I didn't want to go. I see enough farm all week- at the weekend, I'm ready to see something that isn't fly spattered, and covered in dirt. I think I'm suffering, "farm fatigue" but after eleven years, I don't see being able to tolerate city living again. Maybe I need suburbia. Anyway, we were drawn by the promise of a vineyard tour, and bubbles. Homemade bubbles, which they specialise in. Oh, I know what you're thinking, but if I caved, bought a gigantic bottle of the stuff, and a handmade wand to dip in the liquid, you know they have to be pretty special bubbles. We had a difficult time dragging Danny out of there (I mean, they had a swing, and bubbles, and chickens, and grownups to pester besides his parents-why would he want to leave?). A couple hours later, we did finally depart, Danny sniffling back tears that were only held in place by the promise that we'd probably need to go back to purchase bubble refills. I have to return, as I forgot to snap a photo of the gorgeous historic barn. We also came home with two aubergines, and several red peppers which are destined for caponata tomorrow.

When I was a child my stoner-drum playing-teenaged neighbour tried to do something similar for us kids from the tree on our parkway. It would have been OK, but he hung the thing too close to the tree so that we were basically swinging into the tree. He was a nice guy, but not too bright, or at least, kinda impaired. Anyway, this swing worked much better. Would you look at that smile on kiddo? He never smiles that way at home when I'm screaming at him to clean his room.
You know you want one of those bubble wands-admit it. I'll bet they could ship you one. Or twenty. You'll want the soap as well.

Today was so nice, I'm almost afraid to leave the house tomorrow for fear of jinxing a terrific weekend.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Dried Fruit, Garden, Etc.

I'm putting the dehydrator to good use this week drying pears, apples, black grapes, plums, and tomorrow-rosemary. Tons, and tons of rosemary.

Does anyone know if lime leaves can be dried? I have tons of those as well (who knew you could get a lime tree to thrive in Nebraska?). I like curry, but not that much.

The cantaloupes are hanging in there, as are the watermelons (evil, evil, watermelons that put me in hospital) and the preserving lemon. We have courgette flowers, but no courgettes. We have thriving yard long bean stalks-but no beans. They never podded. This has been the freakiest summer I've encountered here, and this is my eleventh year (this week) in Nebraska.

I have fall crops ready to go-purple sprouting broccoli, baby turnips, spinach, garlic. I want to dig in a few more tulips this fall, but not too many. I need to pull out the glads. Dig out the day lilies. I still have bell peppers growing, and new flowers on the plants. Such a strange summer.

Hopefully, my new found melon allergy won't extend to all varieties, and I'll be able to enjoy at least a few bites of the cantaloupe I've been babying all season. I'm interested in drying some of that as well-I've seen it in Asian grocers and been intrigued. Why the hell couldn't I be allergic to durian instead?

Anyone planting a late garden this year?

Caramel Apple Syrup

I couldn't bear to pitch my apple peels and cores left from drying slices, so I made syrup.

You Will Need:

Apple peels, cores, scraps

measure your peels, cores, etc. Add 1 cup water for each quart of peel. Cover, bring to a simmer and cook until very tender. Strain through a jelly bag, or a colander lined with cheesecloth. Measure your juice. Add an equal measure of brown sugar. Bring to a boil and reduce until thickened, but not gelling. Strain into a jar, stir in a teaspoon of lemon juice if you like, and cool. When cold, cover tightly and store in the fridge. Serve with a splash of soda and brandy.if you like.

Squirrel Brains

OK fine, they're not-but look at 'em. I guess they'd have to be pretty big squirrels...anyhoo, these are prune plums that have been packed in a coarse salt for two weeks. Today, I rinsed them, patted them dry, and then they will go in the dehydrator until they look like turds. Squirrel turds. That's how you make salted plums. Testicles, maybe...if a guy was really sick.

I would love to float a few of these in a jar of fat and post it as, "confit of squirrel brains" because some foodie douchebag would think me serious.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Thanks A Lot, Amy Goodman

Democracy Now is doing two hour broadcasts during the conventions, so I let Danny listen during lunch. In a segment about PACs the guest mentions Planned Parenthood is handing out condoms that read, "Protect yourself from Romney and Ryan."

"I don't get it. What's a condom?"

I tried to explain it as something that can prevent pregnancy or the spread of venereal disease.

"But how does it work?"

I remembered being about his age (seven) and posing a similar question to the shampoo girl at my mother's beauty parlour. I tried to remember Poppy's response, but I think she kind of shrieked with laughter, and told me to ask my mother.

So I got all matter-of-fact and explained it to him, though I thought about shrieking with laughter, and telling him to write Amy Goodman and have her explain it. But she would have gotten all matter-of-fact about it too, so it came down to a balloon to catch sperm. That was the best I could do, considering I was expecting to answer questions about wage inequality, undocumented workers, and political fundraising-I wasn't expecting condoms. But that's fine, better he hears it from me than some political action committee.

" But they're going to give them rights, aren't they?" Danny wanted to know?
"Sperm. If the fetuses get rights, then the sperm are going to get them too, aren't they?"

So I guess we know which Monty Python bit Danny will be hearing tomorrow.

Thanks a lot, Amy Goodman.

That's Not, "Simpler"

I saw an article in the newspaper food section today discussing how chic it is to use canning jars to serve food, drinks, etc. OK, stop laughing. Anyway, the best part was the author noting that canning jars reflect days gone by when things were easier and simpler.

Right. Nothing is simpler and easier than standing in an un-air conditioned kitchen over a boiling water canner, shoving food into jars that you had to prepare without the aid of modern appliances. Sure, I love my Foley Food Mill, but it isn't easier than a food processor.

Hipsters ruin everything.

Sunbutter Pie and Pear/Cherry Tart

At my house, you get two kinds of pie even when it isn't Thanksgiving.
Yeah, I can't cut a slice of pie neatly to save my life, but I have worse failings to concentrate on.

Both pies are based on recipes in the wonderful book, Sweety Pies by Patty Pinner, who I'd like to have for my neighbour. Even if you never intend to bake a pie from scratch, pick this book up if you see it, the stories are terrific.

I've had excellent results substituting Sunbutter for peanut butter, and this pie was no exception. I did not have dark corn syrup either, but I combined Steens boiled cane syrup and Golden Syrup together and were I going to bake a pecan pie (which obviously, I'm not) I'd forgo the dark corn syrup entirely in favour of half Steens and half Golden Syrup. How it is that by-products of sugar refining can be so delicious is beyond me, but damn! I'm not being compensated by Sunbutter, Steens, or Lyle's and my opinions are my own. I use these products, and like them.

Subutter Pie:

1 nine inch pie crust, unbaked (I used an all butter crust, but use your favourite)
1 cup Sunbutter (sunflower seed butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter, unsalted
3 large eggs
1/2 cup Steens boiled cane syrup and 1/2 cup Lyle's Golden Syrup (or 1 cup dark corn syrup)
2/3 cup granulated sugar (yes, more sugar I'm afraid this isn't suitable for diabetics, or people fearful of becoming diabetic)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare pie crust, fit into plate and flute edge up high. I chilled mine as I worked because it was warm in the kitchen.

In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer beat together the sunbutter, vanilla, salt, and melted butter until well blended. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, syrups, and sugar until light. Fold sunbutter mixture into egg mixture really well making sure they are combined. Pour into shell. Bake until crust is golden brown-about 40 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or chilled.

For The Pear Tart:

1 nine inch pie crust (I just made a double crust recipe and had it left over)
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
5 cups peeled, cored and thinly sliced pears (I had tiny Seckel pears)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup plump, dried cherries
Heavy cream and pearl sugar for decorating

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Roll out pastry to a 16 inch circle. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch, pears, vanilla, and cherries. mix well. Pile into pie crust leaving 2 inches around the perimeter. Pleat and fold the crusts up part way. Brush lightly with cream, sprinkle with pearl sugar, and bake until crust is nicely browned-mine took about 35 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack before serving.

Buttermilk Rolls-the Faster Version

I wanted to teach Danny how to shape rolls into cloverleafs, crescents, etc. So we made a batch of rolls for dinner. These came up light, only needed one rise, and re-heat nicely in a warm oven.

You Will Need:

3 teaspoons granulated dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups lukewarm buttermilk
1/2 cup melted margarine (yeah, really. You don't want butter for these)
2 cups strong flour
2 cups wholemeal flour (more if needed)
1/2 teaspoon bicarb.
1 teaspoon salt

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water with a pinch of the sugar. Add buttermilk, sugar, and melted margarine. In another bowl combine the flours, bicarb, and salt. Stir into buttermilk mixture. Mix well, adding only enough flour until it is no longer sticky-you only barely knead this. Let stand ten minutes while you wash the bowls. Grease muffin tins and baking sheets. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Roll out, and divide the dough for whatever shape rolls/buns you prefer. Shape and let rise, covered for 30 minutes. I brushed some with egg white, some with yolk and water, and a few have seeded toppings. Do whatever you like. Bake 15-20 minutes or until nicely browned. Cool on racks.

Fennel Syrup

After making a fennel and apple salad, I was left with a pile of beautiful green fronds. A few fronds are nice chopped up in the salad, but I couldn't think of anything interesting to do with them. Instead, I made simple syrup, steeped the fronds for half an hour, then strained and added a few tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. The jar sat in the fridge until inspiration struck and I stirred some into a glass of Arancita (orange) soda. What I ended up with was a non alcoholic version of Pernod and orange juice. It was so convincing I had to remind myself that it wasn't going to get me drunk.

I could see buying a fresh fennel just to make this syrup.

You Will Need:

About 1 cup fresh fennel leaves
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice-strained

Bring sugar and water to a boil whisking until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, stir in fennel and let steep at least 30 minutes. Strain. Stir in lemon juice and cool at room temperature. Store, tightly covered in the fridge.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Allergyland, Cont.

As I suspected, Danny needed his daily medications increased, though he's still breaking out in hives, etc. I guess it takes time. The allergist was pretty calm about it, but I suppose that goes with the job description. Meanwhile, yesterday I sat down to a piece of watermelon only to have my throat swell, breathing become difficult, and by the time the hives were breaking across my skin we were en-route to the hospital. Yeah, that was bad. I've never experienced anything quite like it-the quickness of the onset, and the seriousness of the reaction. All I can say is thank god for liquid benadryl and epinephrine. And prednisone. Lots and lots of prednisone. That jab in the arse hurt, by the way.

I've never had a previous reaction to watermelon, and even when exposed to cashews I don't have reactions that severe. Poor Danny, I've just had a first hand experience with a life threatening reaction, and it completely sucked. So yeah, we're both heavilly medicated at the moment (two kinds of antihistamines means twice the mind numbing fun, except I don't like to play Monopoly with a head full of benadryl and Allegra, but Danny does) and even so, we're still breaking out in hives that come and go, and sick to our stomachs.

Anyway, I figured with school starting tomorrow, I'd want to put all this prednisone energy to work, so I went clothes shopping. It seems less sinister walking around a department store when you're slightly out of it-almost a fun house effect but maybe people always seem that grotesque-hard to know. I bought a greatly discounted gold lame pleated blouse with bat wing sleeves. I'm am sooo going as the Statue of Liberty for Halloween this year. I was going to buy the matching hot pants but Danny said he wouldn't be seen with me wearing them, even if I added tights and boots. Kids. They have really unshakable opinions about fashion at that age.

Ugh, I wish I were in more of a mood to start the school year. The thought of reading The Waste Land (aloud) for the next couple weeks is making me want to wretch...or maybe that's the allergies again, or the steroids, or maybe I really don't feel like teaching T.S. Eliot to a seven year old. Yes, I should have saved it for second semester (April really is the cruelest month) but we do the Classical world second semester.

Wish us luck, with poets and allergists.

I cannot believe I developed an allergy to watermelon. What sort of freak develops an allergy to watermelon that lands them in hospital? This sort of freak, I guess. It figures, it really, really does that I have dozens of the bloody things thriving-positively taking over in the garden.

Anyone want a watermelon?