Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My New Chocolate Bar

This is one of my birthday presents! A ten-pound bar of chocolate, have you ever seen such a thing? My husband tells me that this is baking chocolate, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't know what he's talking about. I think this is snacking chocolate.

In reality, if I ate this chocolate the way I am tempted to, I'd have to visit with the dentist, the dermatologist, and likely hire a personal trainer, as well. (To be honest with you, I should be making appointments with all of these types anyway, but for different reasons. )

Ahem. I do hate the dentist, though. I bring my kids when I am supposed to, but find it very difficult to make an appointment for myself.

So, back to topic--now that I have a gigantic chocolate bar, I am going to bake and bake and bake chocolate things. If I ever get off the couch, which isn't looking to be any time soon. Is anyone else really tired? I swear it's the season. Possibly the fact that I am getting an average of 6.5 interrupted hours of sleep a night has something to do with it, also; the interruptions being random children visiting at odd post-midnight hours. Or the phone ringing (no, not from you calling, sister, as I didn't even wake up when that happened...)or other random noises disturbing me, although now that I'm so sleep deprived the possible disturbances are not waking me.

Aargh. I'm going to bake. Chocolate things. And I want some ideas. Give me some ideas!

(Please.)

PS. Shout Out, apple picka--Happy BirthDay!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tea and Scones



Having become bored with healthy food (see also the vegetable soup entry) and the recently-acquired-Halloween-oreos-with-orange-filling having also lost their shine, I turned today to one of my favorite cookbooks, The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion. This is a great book with a zillion recipes (maybe less) and lots of interesting facts and helpful advice.

A while back (like four or five months ago) I picked up some clotted cream while shopping at Whole Foods, with plans to make some scones for a brunch that was coming up. The scones never happened and during a recent fridge clean-out (actually, it was an emergency fridge clean-out, as a large jug of maple syrup on the top shelf spilled, right over the little shelf lip and down onto the rest of the shelves,)I found the clotted cream, which, luckily enough, had not expired.

So today, in a rare moment when everyone was either asleep or at work or such, I finally got a chance to make some scones, which, in fact, I've never made before--partly because I've never gotten around to it, and partly because I never really liked scones, as they always seem too dry. I settled on the Christmas Scones recipe because I had all of the necessary ingredients.
These scones have a nice buttery taste and a slightly rustic texture, due in part, I think, to the oat flour. They're very moist, too, and just a little bit heavy. The kids and I had a nice afternoon snack of Tea And Scones (and clotted cream.)
I altered the recipe somewhat, out of necessity and laziness. First of all, mine are nut-safe; I substituted 1 C chocolate chips for the pecans. I used oat flour, too, because I bought some for a recipe I never made and now am trying to get rid of it. Furthermore, I added two tablespoons of granulated sugar. It may somehow seem that I did this for a reason related to altering the recipe in a way that might better suit me and my family, but in fact I erroneously started reading the recipe on the next page and added some of those ingredients to the bowl. Luckily several ingredients overlapped, so only the sugar was extra. I didn't have any buttermilk around so I used this recipe: one tablespoon of vinegar and enough added whole milk to make one cup, let that sit for a few minutes and call it buttermilk.
Also, I hate hand-mashing butter into dry ingredients so I mixed all the dry stuff with my stand mixer and then added the butter, which I had cut into cubes, and once it looked like it should I added the fruit and chocolate. I also let the stand mixer mix the buttermilk but I was careful about the 20 second rule.
The recipe: makes 16 scones.
2 C unbleached all-purpose flour
1 C rolled oats or oat flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 to 1 tsp salt, to taste
1/2 C brown sugar, packed
8 tbsp butter, room temp
1.5 C cranberries cut in half, or 1 C dried
1.5 C pecans, halved
1 C buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
Mix the dry ingredients, including the brown sugar, together in a large mixing bowl. With a pastry cutter or your fingertips, gently cut or rub the butter into the dry ingredients until it looks like cornmeal. Mix in the fruit and nuts until they're fairly evenly distributed.
Stir in the buttermilk, taking only 20 seconds to do it. Turn out the dough onto a well-floured board and, with floured hands, knead gently 8 to 10 times, just enough to bring it together.
Cut the dough into two pieces. (Keep sprinkling on flour if you need to.) Form each into a disk and, with a floured rolling pin, gently coax each disk into a round about 7 inches in diameter. With a bench knife or sharp knife, cut the round into 8 wedges. Do this by cutting straight down through the dough so you shear the edges. If you saw the dough, you tend to press the edges together, which keeps the scones from rising as they bake.
Place the wedges on a lightly floured baking sheet (two pizza pans are perfect for this), turn down the oven to 450 degrees, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they just begin to brown. Remove from the oven and serve warm with butter or double cream.
It's a pretty easy recipe, and the dough's not difficult to work with. Enjoy!

Vegetable Soup, or Something Like It


Finally, a bounty from the garden! I even have cucumbers growing after my first crop failed at the end of July. Everyone else in the neighborhood has a garden this year, so now that all the vegetables are ripening at once, I had to find something to do with them. In an effort to get the kids to eat them, I tried a new recipe from a cookbook I recently bought called The Garden-Fresh Vegetable Cookbook, by Andrea Chesman. It's a great book, arranged by season and vegetable. The recipes I've tried have come out really well.


Tonight's recipe is: Tomato-Vegetable Soup! Not that exciting. I know. Very easy to make, and eaten by everyone in the family. I don't have a food mill so I simply strained the tomatoes. I also added a pound of elbows instead of the 1/2 cup of soup pasta (it's the only way I could think to get the kids to eat it, although they were so proud of themselves for having picked the vegetables that went into it they probably would have eaten it for that reason alone.)It took me about an hour to make it, and I managed to control the masses at the same time. Granted, it was more like some sort of noodle dish then soup because of the overdose of elbows, but


Here's the recipe to serve 4-6:


8C chopped tomatoes
5C vegetable or chicken broth
1-2 leeks or 1 large onion
1-2 carrots
1/2 pound shell beans in pods (1C shelled) or 1C chopped green beans (I used chopped wax beans)
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
3 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
kernels from two ears corn
1/2 cup small soup pasta (optional)
sugar (optional)
pesto (I didn't use any pesto)


Combine the tomatoes and 2C of broth in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the tomatoes are completely tender, about 30 min.


Meanwhile, thinly slice the leeks and carrots. Shell the beans.


Pass the tomatoes through a food mill to remove skins and seeds.


Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and carrots and saute until the leeks are soft, about 4 minutes. Add the shell beans, remaining 3 cups broth, tomato puree, oregano, thyme, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the beans are completely tender, 20 to 30 minutes.


Add the corn kernels and soup pasta, if using. Continue to simmer until the pasta is cooked through, about 10 minutes.


Taste and adjust the seasoning. If the flavors do not seem balanced, consider adding sugar, 1/2 tsp at a time, as well as more salt and pepper. To serve, ladle the soup into individual bowls. Top each with a spoonful of pesto and serve.




Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Ten reasons to Not Food Shop with Children.

1. If you've never dropped a glass jar of tomato sauce, you will when the kids are with you. And then you'll have to be all "good example" about it and go and get a manager, etc. If you don't drop tomato sauce, you will drop a container of those little mozzarella balls in liquid. Those guys can Bounce. Kids will chase them helpfully and then stomp them into a slippery trap for those shoppers not accompanied by children.

2. Kids can tip over a pretty much full shopping cart.

3. My children enjoy the acoustics of the local market, exercising their vocal cords, and false vocal cords, usually in rage.

4. If you are food shopping with kids, you will definitely run into your arch-rival from high school. Or junior high. And she or he will recognize you and you'll have a conversation. Interspersed with little phrases like, "How come you dint take a shower today, mommy?" and "Why that lady have a big black mark on her face?" and "I thought you said she's not your friend."

5. Kids do not choose produce the same way adults do. They prefer to test produce by squeezing it. Testing it's explosion factor. What I mean is, squeeze produce until it explodes. Some kids prefer to stick their finger as deeply into the produce as possible, creating a testing tunnel, so to speak.

6. Children have the engineering skills to dismantle the ticket dispenser at the deli, unwind approximately twenty tickets, rip them off and hand them to you. They're too short to be seen over the counter by the deli clerk, so you will bear the brunt of his angry glare.

7. Occasionally a child will have an unexpected reaction to lobsters in a tank, screaming "Bugs, Bugs!" and becoming hysterical while trying to escape from the giant attacking bugs.

8. If you have children with you, you will get into a checkout line with a benign-appearing cashier and bagger, but the bagger will turn out to be a creepy kid-scaring type who will say something to cause each child to attach themselves to your body or clothing and stay attached until you pry them off and put them in the car. Along with the groceries.

9. For some reason, kids feel compelled to taste test any edible samples being offered, but will refuse to swallow any sample, thus causing you to carry the spit-out and masticated sample in your hand, as there are no trash barrels in the supermarket.

10. Children lose things like mittens, hats, shoes, socks, and sunglasses, not all belonging to themselves, in the market. Even if you go right back into the store, you will never ever find these objects again. I think the creepy bagger guy has a single-sock collection. Beware!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Peach Pie in the Summer


I made Peach Pie today.

I grew up in New England, eating apple pie and cherry pie, but I don't think I ever had peach pie until I made it for myself a few years ago. I like it. I like most any pie, to be completely honest with you, though.
I was so taken with the peaches we got at the orchard a few weeks ago that I made a second trip out today to pick up some more before they go out of season. Gravenstein apples are in season too, so I bought a bunch and I'm hoping to make some apple pies later in the week. Once I finish with the peaches, that is--I bought a 1/2 bushel today, and still have 18 peaches left; I made four pies today, and can probably make one or two more.
Have you ever heard of Gravensteins before? I never had, but apparently they've been around in North America since the 1700's. I guess they're making a comeback now. Although how you can stage an apple comeback when they grow on trees that take a while to grow to fruit bearing, I can't quite fathom. hmm.
I'm going to taste test the peach pie now!

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