Birthday Cakes

Well, my goodness it certainly took me all day to make those darn cakes….I was watching myself AGE just getting them done.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely not.  First off…really time consuming.  The flavor was “greasy” in my opinion.  The white chocolate and egg yolks for the center “goo”,  just that, goo.  The ganache was fine and the white chocolate squiggle was fine.  I couldn’t pipe the interior in I had to cut a plug, pipe it in and then shorten the plug to lay the cap on flat.  Lot of work!  Tiresome.  And then, I didn’t like them; much too sweet.  The Chocolate & chocolate and egg yolks and all just made it inedible.  My husband loves them – oh, top it off the cake has coffee in it.  Geech.

cupcake holes

cupcakes

I think this may have been my messiest job yet.  Perhaps my heart wasn’t in it although I thought it was.  If I were to do it again – go with a decent box cake mix, pipe in one of those canned frostings, cover with a good ganache and buy one of those frosting pens for the squiggle.  Or just hope to hell Hostess comes back!

Last night there was some nice organic green cabbage lurking in the fridge…..thin sliced it, sautéed with a really crisp Macoun Apple.

cabbage saute

Really nice.  We had it with pasta & parmesan and sautéed first then baked chicken thighs…..crunching on celery while drinking wine while cooking gave me the full basic food groups.

My friend Heather got me hooked on watching The Palace, a TV show I get from Netflix – love it.  I lose Paul about 15 minutes into it but that’s o.k. cause then I get to watch many episodes (without criticism) a novel idea.

This morning while watering the house plants I decided to trim our tiny hydro kale plants….what do you do with just a little?  Put them in a saute pan, bunched together, lay down a slice of bread on top, turn over till the other side is browned and top with poached eggs.  Yummy.

poached on greens

It’s hard to see the greens in this shot but they get nice and crispy first.  I didn’t move them around at all, just put them together and when they started to brown added the bread for about a minute then flipped it over.  Wicked full.

o.k. now I’m stalling…..I have to go out for a walk but it looks so darn cold out there….I can do it, I can do it (perhaps).

Birthday Girl

Oh man, another one!  They just keep creeping up on me so I suppose it must happen to everyone else too.  Years ago I used to just wait, and wait and wait, so anxious for my birthday although I have no idea why it was never a big deal then.  So, now I make it a big deal for myself.  One of my activities today is to make my cake…..I’m making Hostess Cup Cakes.  I saw the recipe years ago and made them – fabulous and then as luck would have it, it was listed in the paper a week ago again.  I’m on it.  My sister saw this piece in the newspaper where she lives:  Interesting.

Wedding cakes have played a role in British marriage ceremonies since medieval times. They used to be made of wheat, a symbol of fertility. Stories suggest that they were thrown at brides, or broken up over their heads.

Tiered wedding cakes first became popular amongst royalty and nobility in the 1600s. To stop them from drying, they used to be stored in lard, which was scraped off when it was time for them to be eaten. Later, sugar was added to the lard to make it taste better and it was left on the cake.

Icing as we know it emerged in Victorian times. The whiter the cake, the richer the bride’s family was seen to be. This is because the finely refined sugar needed to make a lighter mixture was more expensive.

Yesterday I made chili with a Buffalo Chuck Roast – now Chuck roast out of buffalo has zero fat so I always blow it roasting it.  We end up with this tough, dry thing.  But, yesterday I cubed it, seared it with lots of olive oil,  then put it in the crock pot.  In the roasting pan I cubed three onions, 6 cloves of garlic, a Mario’s hot pepper, 1/4 Cup of Rancho Gordo Chili Powder, 2 Tbs. of RG dried Oregano, a bottle of dark beer (some Oktoberfest thing hanging around), 3 Cups of water.  Brought that to a boil then added it all to the meat on slow for 6 hours.  In the meantime I used the same sauteing pot to boil some Gordo little red beans, water to cover by 2″ and a handful of dulse – that seaweed trick.  About 2 hours later, put the beans in with the meat and cooked again until dinner time.  Awesome.  Absolutely delicious.  Zero effect from the beans, that seaweed trick is a god send, very cool.  It doesn’t leave any flavor either, perhaps adds salt, not sure.

Just before dinner (I just love that old crock pot….I can leave it and come home to something not only done but hot and ready).  So, before, around 4:30 we went into a little, tiny bookshop we love in Portsmouth (NH) called Sheafe Street Books (Center for Pointless Knowledge).  This little store is awesome – lots of new and used books.  It’s in such an offbeat place, the owner is awesome, we chat and chat about lots of ideas, he’s very cool and knowledgeable.  And, the best part, you know how you go in those cutey, trendy book stores and everyone is trying so hard to look intellectual and friggin COOL, not here, it’s just us chickens, we are what we are, readers!  I like that.  After buying all sorts of used books for my family I did find one new book that I couldn’t resist……Louise Erdrich, The Round House.  I have read a lot of her books and am currently in The Plague of Doves but this one, Hello, it is awesome.  I can’t put it down.  I do notice my shoulders are up around my ears – it’s suspenseful and I’m worrying.  Like I really need something to worry about? Probably not but the book is affecting me this way.  Her sentences are really beautifully displayed.  It’s kind of like sitting with a piece of good chocolate in your mouth, just kind of flows and moves along till the next sentence.  Buying books for Christmas gifts is a tradition for us – we both feel good about the cost.  I got a nice book about Buddhism for Paul Jr.s girlfriend, Allie.  Great intro with the addition of someone else having highlighted certain sentences for effect or memory.  Nice, I can skim and skip to the important thoughts (of someone else but….I’m easy).

This mornings paper had an interesting article about movies before “the code”, time period of end of silent films late 20’s and early 30’s golden age.  The code came into effect in 1934 called the puritanical production code.  In that little space of time, first talkies, the movies were depicted as “These escapism entertainments were united by loose morality, sustained titillation and fascination with all things insalubrious”.  Paul heard that and was ON IT.  But really, almost every single one has Barbara Stanwyck in it.  I would like to see Forbidden (1932) regarding a romance to Cuba.  The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933) sounds good.  The Red Headed Woman with Jean Harlow (1932).  I love old movies.  A little while back I found my mothers Diary from the early 30’s, she has listed each movie she has seen.  I’m curious now to go back and see if she saw any of these “dark” features.  She was on her own quite a bit, went to the movies each day, hummmm.  She was 14 in 1932 – perfect age!  Little devil.

It’s snowing outside.  My birthday tradition is to weave all day!  I have one warp on the loom to weave a bit of, another warp that I wound yesterday that is going to be dish towels 50% Linen/50% Cotton. I wound so much that I ran out of fiber for weft – but, that’s on order so perhaps by Monday I’ll be weaving that one.  It takes me a few days to get the warp on the loom; it’s 8 yards of winding, then threading through heddles and then threading through the reed and tie up.  It’s a labor of love – each towel will be worth a million bucks by the time I’m done.  Speaking of millions…..today is the drawing for Power Ball, 245 million (I think).  Since it’s my birthday don’t you think I should win?

Well, I’m full.

Love that holiday but I always feel gross afterwards.  We drove the hell drive from our home in Maine to Cape May, New Jersey.  Actually, it’s a nice drive but there is New York City in between and with the state it is in now it was even worse.  How can it be just a perfectly sunny, kind of warm day and when you are in the Bronx approaching the George Washington Bridge everything completely shuts down and turns to a solid disgusting color of grey?  The traffic, the fighting for line space…..it’s like zombie land.  Horrible.  I wasn’t driving, as usual (Mr. hog the steering wheel was with me) so I did the head down, knit thing all the way through the city.  Check this out.  Remember, sunny day, about noon.

That was on Tuesday.  Things got better for us once we got over into Jersey…..we stopped off in Bradley Beach, just north of Sea Side Heights and south of Asbury Park.  My friend Patti and I found a pizza place there called Vic’s.  Two beers and a garlic pizza EACH was all we needed to de-stress from that trip.  Fabulous Jersey pizza, thin and spicy.  The crust cracks when you bite into it.

The storm damage was pretty amazing there.  All the streets were loaded up with tree debris, neatly stacked to the sides waiting removal.  I’m thinking they must have had some help, like special FEMA people or something as the debris was huge yet neatly stacked really high from every single yard.  It was kind of scary looking.

Wednesday a.m. we took the Jersey dogs to the beach….they have this really quiet, very long beach on the Delaware Bay side of Cape May…stunning.  Not a soul in sight.  But, a few jellies on the beach…hummm.

I have never seen one like this….and there were many just like this.  Ewww.

Here is my big size 10 foot measuring it.  What the heck is inside these things?

We had the best time with Gomer & Easter that day….just trotting along.  Gomer is my walking buddy from when he lived up here; he was very excited to be walking with me.  He’s blind on one side so he walks snug up against me on my right, his left good eye, so cute.  You look down at him and he’s just looking up at you saying “I love you Nani”.  Really.

That afternoon was pie baking time.  Ruth couldn’t find her pie plates so I used casserole dishes.  It worked really well.  We all liked seeing pies in weird shapes, especially deep dish, kind of fun.

Thanksgiving day my sister in law brought the appetizers…..”just a small amount Sandi, don’t forget we’re having turkey dinner” well, classic, enough as dinner for the next few days.  She should work with me catering I think.

 

South Jersey is kinda like being in THE SOUTH.  Very warm, temperate.  We had our apps. outside while Matt cooked a fried turkey in the driveway.  Very skeptical but you know what – it was the best I have ever had.  Moist like no tomorrow.

Of course we kept moving our chairs further back as the various neighbors came over with their “Jersey Sage” about who they knew that had it and it blew up, etc.  But, 1 hour 20 minutes later we were still unscathed and serving it in the house.  Whew, made it through that experiment.  Delicious.  Matt you can do that again!  At your house.

Other than the usual items Ruth made the famous Green Bean thing (which I still don’t like and don’t eat).  Even though she said it’s terrible the day of but awesome the day after….wrong, it’s yucky.

 

One year, hoping to improve the situation, I made it with all real, fresh, homemade stuff, i.e. a real mushroom roux, fresh green beans, etc. still nasty.

We had a wonderful day though.  It was nice being with family.  The problem I have is missing other parts of our family, our cutie pie grand daughters, sons, their wives and girlfriends.  Loved being with Ruth and Matt and Gomer and Easter.  Luna our dog was home with Paul and Allie so I missed her too.  Geech.  It is a sentimental holiday for me.  Our family, forever, always had a huge Thanksgiving…..grandparents, kids, pets, neighbors, very old school, old family type of stuff.  So, we watched the Godfather I & II – a bit of a different kind of family but family. It’s my idea of a great time.  I’m always really sad I didn’t meet Robert DeNiro when I was young and he was young living in the same town…..dam, he is friggin cute.   He looks a bit different now but then again so do I but I think I’m still 19 anyway.

Here we are at home again after having driven through the Black Friday fiasco.  It was actually a good day for driving the 8 hrs. home as everyone else was in the shopping stores we passed.  Mobs.  Stuff, all stuff, how come people don’t get this stuff as the year moves along and save it?  I was hyperventilating at the thought of going into a store; particularly in New York/New Jersey, are you kidding?  Those guys fight over crap and are nasty about the “bargains”.  Not for me.

I am just going to hole up in my sewing room and make the little girls some dresses for Christmas.  In one of their surprise bags (which they will be opening daily) it says there is a surprise out in the back yard that they have to go look for with the flashlights I put in the bag….that’s the dresses I have yet to make and ship.  So, I’m on it.  Also, I’m working out a warp for dishtowels as gifts for friends at Christmas; has to be something fast yet colorful, cotton & linen in guess what?  blues & greens no doubt.  Have a lovely day!

Just Fiber

It’s been interesting….resting.  I’ve been out of commission for a bit with some back issues, told to rest, no more standing.  So, I haven’t cooked much.  I have cooked but nothing experimental.  I’m missing it and feel like I should jump back in again but as I don’t know restraint I’ll start up full bore and then be down for the count.  So, I am using big time restraint.  I may be going downstairs in a moment and making some Pecan/Maple Brittle though; any minute, I think that would be yummy for Thanksgiving – something different.  Oddly enough I have been assigned desserts!  Well, Hello, makes me happy.  For me that means…..a pumpkin swirl (swirl with thick yogurt & tiny bit of cream cheese) and a ginger snap crust; I’m thinking a Pear/Custard/Crusty type of pie; and perhaps some Hand Pies, Apple, Cranberry and even Mincemeat.  We’ll see.

What I have been focusing on is my weaving:  I belong to a Weaving Group on Ravelry and our September Project was a Table Runner.  Well, here I am 1.5 months late but completed.  I loved this Tartan Plaid so much I couldn’t bear to give away the whole 2.5 yards as one runner so….the ol sizzors came out and I snipped in two.  It’s usually very hard to cut a Handwoven in two as believe me, every thread is precious, painstakingly laid.  But, snip away and here they are:

100% cotton, very easy to wash, dry and iron….no problem, no shrinkage.

Another project I’ve been working on while sitting with the heating pad on my back every morning upon waking.  A cabled head wrap that doubles as a neck wrap.  I put three buttons on it to shorten it up for when I wear it around my neck.

This wrap/head thing is made from beautiful hand dyed wool from String Theory Yarn Store in Blue Hill.  Eye Candy!

Another thing I’ve been working on is Christmas stuff for our Granddaughters.  I had all these great ideas for the girls but it just didn’t work out with them in California and us in Maine.  Someone sent me a link to Pinterest and I saw a advent calendar.  Now, Advent Calendars have always been intriguing to me but I could never quite figure out the what goes in each little box or envelope that is that small.  This one was in paper bags…..works for me.

I’m slowly filling 24 small brown lunch bags with 2 small things in each so every night of December prior to Christmas they get to get a little present.  Some of the things are hysterical – two Rudolph noses that attach with a rubber band around your head and once it’s on it starts to blink.  They are going to love that.  Two Dora The Explorer dolls from The Christmas Tree Store – love that Dora scene.  I found two small flash lights at the Dollar Store – those are going to have a swatch of fabric (now, stay with me on this one) each will have fabric attached and there will be a note that says to go out in the backyard and hunt for something that matches the fabric.  The Mom or Dad will be alerted to the day and hopefully they will go out and hang these two dresses I’m going to make for them.  A little Treasure Hunt!  I used to love neighborhood Treasure Hunts.  I’m thinking of doing the hiding thing with a few other bags also.  I think the girls will love it, all very exciting.  So, who’s excited here?  It’s the spirit…..a three and five year old.  Fun.

There are only 13 or 14 made – it takes a lot of stuff when your building for 2 kids.  Thank goodness for Dollar Stores.

So, the plan is…..they will string a clothesline across their fireplace area and these bags will clip on with clothespins.  Some of the bags are double days as some of the toys didn’t fit into one bag – Dora for instance, she’s too big so there are two.  I’m hoping they will run ribbon around to decorate the whole thing, maybe lights.  Quite ambitious taking on 24 days but if I was a kid – this would be exactly what I would want!  Way better than a bicycle, no?

Word of advice….if you think you may want to do this sometime, start collecting stuff early so you won’t be tempted to spend too much money.  It can be cheap.  One of the bags has two small boxes of animal crackers, one has two bags of “gold chocolate coins”.  I wanted to eat those.  Another has a kazoo and wooden flute, many have stickers (fairies, farm animals).

Today I spent the afternoon with my longtime (since we were 12) friend.  For our birthdays we meet in Portland, Maine and go to Soakology, a tea house that does feet soaks in herbs, etc. with other massage parts too, hands, neck.  It’s an hour of awesomeness.  Then we have lunch, today the German Restaurant – same as dinner with Paul last week.  Delicious, such nice people…..Schmidt & Herr.  Patti and I have been tracking each other all over the country and both of us settled here, she 40 years ago, me 35.  We’re about 1.5 hours apart but we don’t see each other often as we’re both busy guys.  But, when we do, that old New Jersey accent is back in full bloom for the time we are together.  It’s funny, it does not seem to go away.  It’s the most natural way for us to speak and I think when I’m not in the hang of it I’m more restrained somehow.  Jersey is just “fluid” for us.  Why does it have to be Jersey?  Why not something cool…how about Cuban or something.  Ah me.  Wear the hoop earrings and go with it I guess.

Gorgeous week-end.

A bit of food and a bit of fiber interest

First the food!  Always.  Paul is forever talking about snitzel; he’s a german guy.  With a name like Eitel go figure.  We had to go up to Portland the other night so my little tiny brain fired off a memory of reading a review of a German Restaurant.  After futzing with Yelp and Bing I called Ruth to find out how to find Google on my I-Phone.  You would think I was back in the 1800’s with the lack of technological expertise that I have.  Anyhow, got it squared away, found the restaurant and headed up……….

Oh my goodness….to die for!  This place is awesome.  You bring your own beverage so I brought a zip loc with a block of ice and two dark Beck’s (getting in the spirit).  We had everything we wanted, first in the door at 5 p.m. which means place to ourselves for an hour, perfect.  We started with Potato pancakes with applesauce & sour cream.  These potatoes were so amazingly smooth.  Paul had Pea soup.  Fresh bread with grains – ah, ha, the same recipe as I have been making which was from 101 site…..they used caraway and flax in theirs, I use walnuts and sesame seeds.  Same bread though.  Nice.  For dinner I had a pan seared spatzel – think mac & cheese flipped over in a skillet.  Paul had his snitzel and a cold potato salad (with oil & vinegar).  I had a cucumber/dill/vinegar salad.  Sad, we had that on the table at home just about every night, that and a bowl of cucumbers and a glass filled with scallions.  My mothers idea of salad every day.  What a memory!  It was truly fantastic.  We shared dessert which was a Gingerbread/Molasses square piece of cake with a dusting of powdered sugar and a Squash Compote (very nice, sweet) and whipped cream, two mugs of chamomile Tea.  All to the tune of $46.00  It’s a small place in kind of a weird spot…….Cumberland Street with Brown Street intersecting across which goes up to Congress Street.  If you live anywhere around here you should be traveling there!  Fresh Food.  Nothing fancy, nice people, real people.

A bit of knitting, again.  I found a pattern, sort of, it’s actually just a method for cables; I made my own sizing, etc.  It’s going to be a combination head band and neck band.  I’m thinking I’ll put a few large buttons on it and a loop on the other side then I can adjust it for how I’ll wear it.  The yarn is hand dyed from String Theory in Blue Hill.  We keep our boat up near there and every time I drive by on my way to and from I stop at their shop.  Wall to wall hand dyed wools – the colors blow me away.

I like both sides of this project.

We had beans the other night as I spoke about before, and hot dogs and Sour Kraut (still making it) so I thought we should have some yummy cheese biscuits.

These are ready to go in the oven.  I have posted this recipe before, I believe, but for my friend Ann who wants to make these, here you go!

Baking Powder Biscuits called Grandmother’s Southern biscuits from Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads……if you see this book at a yard sale, get it.  Everything you could ever want to make is in this book.  I make these, the dog biscuits, the Stollen and lots of other things all the time.  Actually, while flipping through this is where the original recipe came from for my Blueberry Muffins we served at the cafe.

2 C. flour

1 tsp. salt

1 Tbs. sugar

4 tsp. baking powder

1/3 C. butter, cut in chunks  (you can use crisco)

1 C. buttermilk (you can use any kind of milk, almond, rice, plain)

I sift everything together (after I set the oven at 500) then with my hands mix in the butter, squishing the lumps smaller, add the milk last with a fork.  When still not together plop out on board and carefully, but quickly, push it together into a flat circle ……pat, pat, pat sides and top until it is in an either circle or rectangle (which is what I do).  Cut them, put them on parchment and bake.  All this is fast work.  For cheese I just throw some in, usually we have them plain.  They bake quickly, like 10 minutes.  An added bonus when you make them…….the next day, cut them in half, dry pan saute and put poached eggs on top.  Really wonderful.

I’ve revised the Coffee Cake recipe from a few weeks ago.  This came out of Saveur October 2012.  originally I made it as it, followed the recipe but it was too sweet with waaaay too much sugar on top.  So, here it is more palatable, at least for us.

Make the topping:

3/4 C. flour

1/4 C. sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1 stick unsalted butter, cubed

1 C. toasted almonds

Do the usual, mix the dry, crumble the butter with your hands, add the almonds last, set aside.

The Cake:

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

2 C. flour

1 Tbs. powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 C. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 egg

2/3 C. buttermilk

3 pears in chunks.   This I put on top of the cake before the topping went on.

This is pretty much the same except less sugar.  Put the butter in a bowl, add the rest that has been sifted together then add your vanilla (or almond extract), egg and milk stirring with a whisk.

Crumble the top on, bake at 350 for 40 minutes.  The trick to this cake is to bake it in a larger pan.  I used a 9×13 to get it thin enough.  It is darn good.

It’s a beautiful day out….gotta go.  ciao

 

Yup, it’s winter out there.

Had our first nasty storm last night……not counting the rain from Sandy.  Yucky snow, rain, spit going on.  Our little visitor kitty went flying out the door around 5:30 and came to a screeching halt about 10 feet away.  She lifted each foot for inspection then looked at me.  I wish I had my camera, funny.  But, nothing deters her from hunting so off she went (and now she’s back in looking to hang in my lap for warmth).

My friend Vivian came over the other night with her Mom….a beautiful 83-year-old French Canadian woman.  The mom sang at the dinner table, gave us a grace in French and was pretty darn funny with the interactions between the two of them.  They have a great relationship and “call” each other on absolutely everything.  Very funny.

I made an Olive Oil Cake with Vanilla Yogurt and Carmalized Pears – straight out of Whole Living, November 2012.  Check it out.  Kinda healthy.

It was actually quite easy to make so don’t be shy.  The next day?  Oh la la even better.
We have tons of dried beans downstairs as I cannot resist when I’m ordering from Rancho Gordo.  I buy everything – they are so cool and interesting and fresh.  Not sure how dried beans can be fresh but they really taste good and kind of “crispy” maybe.  I’m thinking those regular dried beans we all buy are years old!

But, anyhow, the guy at the Health Food Store told me, while I was in shopping for Kelp, that if you put a big leaf of any kind of seaweed in your beans while cooking it makes them really easy to digest.  I did it.  It works.  Without going into details….you may know someone who would benefit from this idea?

I just made an old fashioned coffeecake which is half the recipe I tried last month from Saveur.  I thought the original was “to die for” but overly sweet and just much too fat for a piece of cake.  So, when it comes out of the oven, if it works, that will be posted soon.  Smells nice, I added three chopped pears and almonds this time in the topping.

I’m a tad disappointed, not in the Election (YEA) but with Craig’s List.  I posted a loom I have for Sale, yes, for those who know me, the AVL computerized loom.  I got back 5 requests for it immediately.  So excited.  But, oh no, they all had that same kind of verbage……my agent will pick it up, send me your pal pal account number, your phone and address…..scam!  All of them.  What a bunch of jerks.  So, I guess Craig’s List is off my radar now.  I did successfully sell my rowing machine but years ago when I was trying to sell my accordian….I got the same verbage and my senses were alerted.  Beware, very sneaky.

Today, weaving, knitting a tam for my friend Heather – her dad just passed away 4 days short of 100, he always wore his Scottish Tam so I’m thinking she may like one.  Adios