Sunday, November 30, 2008

Two Year Old Black Cake

Back in 2006 I made a black cake to hold over to see how it would age. In that time I have kept it wrapped in a few layers of wax paper and then one layer of foil.

It's been in and out of the fridge depending on storage needs, it's been kept in a drawer, it's been left on the shelf, it has pretty much been abused.

I always meant to rewrap it but I honestly never quite got around to actually doing it.

Until yesterday.

I was sort of afraid at first because the foil had corroded away in spots, but to my complete amazement the wax paper layers were completely intact!

And it was perfectly perfect! So I popped into a pan and doused it with rum and let that soak in. Then I rewrapped the whole kaboodle and now I have a gorgeously aged black cake for Christmas.

(And yes, I did take a little sliver off for investigative purposes and I am delighted to report that it tasted exactly like black gold!)

Huzzah for Black Cake!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

OBG Round 5 - Last Call

Attention all bakers, baker wannabees, and slice & bakerz!!!

I am still recruiting for Operation Baking GALS and I want YOU to join! Team Calamity Shazaam is currently seeking new recruits and guess what? No experience necessary!

All you need to be able to do is fill a box with cookies and mail it off to Kevin, who is currently serving over in Afghanistan.

You can make fancy cookies from scratch, you can make Grandma's spice drops, you can make cookies you simply slice and bake. It's whatever you are comfortable with.

Because in the end, there is someone who is going to be really happy that you did.

All you have to do is go to the www.BakingGals.com and register with Team Calamity Shazaam.

You'll be glad you did. :)

Post Thanksgiving Deliciousness

I made a really delicious turkey stock today and have been eating all the carrots out of the pot and out of the strainer.

It is going to make even more delicious soup with a little rice and some diced carrots and a few drops of lemon juice.

Turkey Shoot & Thanksgiving Photos!


Turkey "Shoot" at Diemand Farm is followed by a trip to The Old Mill.


The Old Mill is famous for such things as their corn fritters and their pecan rolls.


Thanksgiving loot!


The Thanksgiving table. This year we were 14 people.


I forgot to get centerpieces so I improvised with crab apples, quince, and Baldwin apples from Westward Farm.


And this is the only food shot I got. :(
Two pumpkin pies and an apple cider pie at the bottom.

But in case you were wondering, here is the Thanksgiving 2008 menu:

- Gougeres with smoked cheddar from Smith Country Cheese
- Shredded sweet potato with brown butter and sage (NYT recipe)
- Brussels sprouts with shallots
- Four Onion Gratin (epicurious.com)
- Sage & Sausage Stuffing (my own recipe)
- Roast Turkey
- Turkey gravy
- Cranberry sauce
- Pecan pie x 2
- Pumpkin pie x 2
- One apple cider pie

And from what I recall, it was delicious! But frankly the food coma struck early and mostly it was a blur of forks and elbows.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Eve

So here I am, sitting in my parents dining room, waiting to put the last of the pies in the oven and thinking.

Radiohead is playing and this particular tune is totally reminding me of the music to Bladerunner - one of my all time favorite films ever. And because it is a mix up of songs, occasionally some CSN&Y will come on, or Pinback, or Beck.

I am very contented right now. My life is pretty good, if I do say so myself. Luckily I am friends with really wonderful people who are smart and funny and goofy and honest. I have a family that I enjoy hanging about with. I like where I live, I like my things, I like my life. I am fortunate that I have such an easy life, and I appreciate it very much when I actually stop to think about it.
Some people don't have it so easy.

Some people have it wicked hard. So hard that sometimes they go hungry. Sometime their kids go hungry. And I've seen a hungry kid whose parent is trying to make the ends meet and can't give their kid enough to eat.

And one hungry kid is too many, as any parent will tell you.

I am not going to tell anyone to give to charity this holiday season, but it would be so awesome if people would consider sending a few bucks to their local food bank.

The Greater Boston Food Bank says that every $1 donated buys $4 worth of food, and that one single dollar can help feed one single person TWO meals. Nationally FeedingAmerica.org has partnered with Kraft in a matching program that will double donations, up until they reach $200,000.

Since I am a bad one for donating online (I never have my wallet near the computer for fear that I will order everything on site during the J Crew sales) I am including the addresses for both organizations, and perhaps you can drop a little love in an envelope... :

For nationwide donations:

Feeding America
Donor Services Department
35 East Wacker Drive
Suite 2000
Chicago, IL 60601

For Boston area donations:

The Greater Boston Food Bank
99 Atkinson Street
Boston, MA 02118-2701

Alternatively, if you are broke like me, you can go to FreeRice.com and answer vocabulary questions to earn rice donations through the UN. Be warned though, it's not easy and it is highly addictive - if you're a word nerd like me.

And I hope you and yours have a happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving 2008 Part One

Don't worry, I have plenty of photos to post. However I am the opposite of a technical wizard so until I find the doohickey that I need to transfer the photos from camera to computer, this post will be like a dry piece of toast with no butter.

So Thanksgiving is kind of a big deal for me personally. It is the one thing I can do to give something back to the people I love in my life. I put all my heart into the meal that I make and I thoroughly enjoy myself in the process, so pretty much everyone wins.

Typically Thanksgiving starts in October for me when I put in my turkey order at Diemand Farm. In case you have been asleep through this entire blog, I am obsessed with Diemand Farm. It is an obsession that I try very hard to keep under control, especially when I am at the farm. I am 100% the Diemands think I am a nutball.

Whatever. So long as I get my turkey, right.

Then usually the Sunday before Thanksgiving, Grandpa and I load up the blunderbuss and head out for Turkey Shoot Sunday. It involves deviled eggs, a fresh turkey, petting the donkey, and a visit to the Old Mill.

This year I moved Turkey Shoot Sunday to Turkey Shoot Monday, but I forgot about Kimmmmmeeeee who is the other member of the Turkey Shoot Party. So Turkey Shoot was moved back to Sunday.

But then my sisters booooyrfriend, the Gentleman Caller, said he wanted to go out to the farm too. However he wasn't able to go on Sunday, so I decided that Turkey Shoot Sunday had to be followed up with Chicken Run Monday.

(The Gentleman Caller is a Diemand Farm chicken fan and wanted to stock up. Diemand Farm chickens are probably the best chickens on earth. So there.)

SO out the first group went on Sunday. And what a great time it was. Yeah, it was bitter cold, but the car was nice and cozy and we had coffee and donuts and deviled eggs to keep us happy. Then on the way home we stopped off at The Old Mill (as we've done EVERY Turkey Shoot) and I had what I always have - chicken pot pie. It was delicious. And you know what I love? I love spending time with Grandpa. And with Kimmeeee. On Turkey Shoot Sunday.

As for Chicken Run Monday. Well this time I decided I wanted to hit up some of the area farm stands. Fortunately Gentleman Caller is game for whatever nutballness we throw at him, so he offered to drive. And I recruited Pam from Cave Cibum to come along for the laugh.

We made sort of a zig-zag along Route 2, hitting up Verrill Farm for some veg, Westward Orchard for some apples and cider, Smith Country Cheese for some, uh, cheese, and then finally onto Diemand Farm where I think they were like, "hey, it's that crazy turkey addict girl again".

We picked up G.C.'s turkey, my turkey, a couple of chickens, Tammy's turkey, F-Baums chicken, a couple of dozen eggs, several pounds of delicious turkey sausage, and a pack of deviled eggs (just for me apparently, because neither Pam nor G.C. likes them!Bizzah!)

Then we headed home.

I think that it was at this point that the G.C. finally realized that I had picked up a turkey for someone I'd never met. I would use the word "incredulous" to describe the look on his face at that moment. He simply could not understand that I would buy a $40 turkey for someone I'd never met. However in MY mind, since I read Food on the Food like everyday, I totally feel like I know Tammy already. In fact, there are times when I sort of thought Tammy and I were the same person.

Which, I confess, made me a little nervous to meet her in person. Kind of like firing up the Hadron Particle Blaster - we'd tear a hole in the space & time continuum or something.

But guess what? We aren't the same person, so thank goodness for that. Aren't you all so glad.

So we dropped off her turkey, and gave her a pair of eggs, and headed for home. I think at that point the G.C. was done for the day. Done with my babbering, done with farm stands, done with poultry buying for strangers. Done. Which, all things considered, makes him a real trooper in my mind because he did not complain once. Not even a little. Not that I heard anyway.

We dropped off Pam, and then he dropped me off and then he took off like a shot. Well not exactly like a shot, but fast.

Which brings me to today. I have been cooking for the most part of the day. And I am as happy as can be, with the tunes keeping me company.

So far I have the stuffing together, the creamed onions ready, 2 pumpkin pies, 1 apple cider pie, and when I am done with this post I am going to put the pecan pies in the oven. Then I am just going to make the gravy base, and get everything ready to assemble the two other sides - the shredded brussel sprouts, and the sweet potatoes with brown butter and sage.

I think that quite possibly this will be the first day before Thanksgiving that I get to bed before 2am.

Well, that's what I've got for now.

I hope all is well with you and yours this Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ok, I am just going to go ahead and say it.



What is with "Prize-winning noodle kugel"?

Because it has been emailed A LOT from the Boston.com website.

To the point where I kind of want to make it. Although see the post below which explains why I won't, for the next few days anyway.

In the past hour (about 11pm to 12am ish) it was emailed a total of 32 times. That is a lot of people making noodle kugel out there.


But then in the past month it was emailed a total of 4762 times! Holy crap! That is 158 people a day, or so, getting revved up for kugel.



I feel like everyone is at a party and I am sitting at home wondering where everyone is.

As soon as Monsieur Le Virusse is done with his little holiday in my intestine I am totally all about the "Prize-winning noodle kugel".

I have met my match.

I think that the ultimate injury someone like me can suffer is a virus in the gut.

Seriously, I feel like I am being punished or something. After three days of unmentionable gastric distress I FINALLY went to the doctor.

Let me just say that I have the best doctor. I love her. She is no-nonsense, very matter of fact, and always willing to go with less medicine rather than more. I can't say enough nice things about her.

Anyway, Doc said that I ought to stick with the B.R.A.T. diet for a few days and take some Kaopectate.

If you don't know what the B.R.A.T. diet is, let me enlighten you. It is the Boring, Repetitious, And Tedious diet.

No, no, I am kidding. It's the I-hate-my-life-right-now-diet. In other words it is the Banana, Rice, Applesauce, Toast diet. I feel like a toddler.

It hasn't had much affect yet. Last night I had some rice and applesauce. And today I was very B.R.A.T. virtuous until about lunchtime when I went out with the Evil Twin for her Happy Birthday lunch at the Haley House where I promptly fell right off the B.R.A.T. wagon. We split a delicious mozzarella, tomato, and pesto grilled sandwich, a chocolate chip cookie the size of sis's face, and jasmine tea.

The tea was about the only virtuous thing on the list.

And honestly I really thought I would get away with it. But no. Sadly by 6pm Monsieur Le Virusse was back with a vengeance.

So, never say die, I made some very plain chicken and Rice soup. But Monsieur Le Virusse didn't appreciate the chicken part of the soup. And banished me back a la toilette for my effrontery.

I guess this means that starting riiiiiiiiiiiiight..........................now I will try much harder to stick to the stupid B.R.A.T. diet for a few more days.

Just until I can finally banish Monsieur Le Virusse once and for all!

Oh - and another thing. Kaopectate is vile stuff.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

It must have been something I ate....

And that's a frickin' long list over the past few days.

I am sick, sort of. I have somehow poisoned myself and now my body is purging itself in the most vile way. Every 20-30 minutes I have to dash to the loo and the lovely roast chicken I made for supper is now lounging in the fridge because I ate two bites and that was two bites too many.

Which is weird because I am not at all nauseous, but the stomach cramps are fierce and just when I think they've dissipated and I can eat something, they come right back.

I did eat breakfast this morning and had some french fries with my buddy Ennairda this afternoon. But then the cramps came back full blast and so I ate an apple and had some cider because according to La Maman the pectin is a binder. Oh brother. I feel awful and now my stomach is getting more and more puffed up. Blurg.

Anyway, as I mentioned, it must have been something I ate.

Anyone have any remedy for this?

Soup for sick people

The Evil Twin is sick, and I've got something going on myself. So yesterday I made soup.

It was invented soup.

First I oven-roasted a bag of carrots, a bag of parsnips, a few cloves of garlic, a butternut squash, and four whole beets until they were nice and soft.

Then I sauteed two onions and a leek in a large pot.

Once the onions were nice and limp, I added in about 6 cups of water, a generous pinch of the Maine sea salt I got yesterday, and all the roasted veg, cutting up the beets into chunks. I let that simmer for a while.

Then I pureed the whole thing with some olive oil and let me just say that not only is it delicious, it is the most gorgeous color too.

I might make some tofu croƻtons to go with it.

Hooray for soup!

What's with the surliness?

Twice this week I've had pretty surly service at places I thought would be least likely to have cranky pants waitstaff.

The first was at Tremont 647 where the waiter was either annoyed that we were friendly with the owner, or perhaps just didn't like the looks of us.

The second was today at the Beehive where the waitress was annoyed with us, or just annoyed in general to have to be at work.

I just don't get that at all. I am not likely now to go back to either place as a first choice. No place is that good that I would brave an aggravated waitperson for the food alone. And I am like the easiest patron ever - easy going and good tipper. If you forget to put in my order, or drop a drink on my lap, I am pretty unlikely to cause a scene because I have faith that it was unintentional and can be sorted out. Both these things, and worse, have happened so I know what my reaction would be.

But the one deal breaker for me is someone who hates their job that day for whatever reason. Don't take it out on me. If you don't like people, don't wait on them. It's unfair to the customer and to the owner of the restaurant.

And not to just complain about sh*tty waitstaff, let me say that the waitstaff at Cafe Marliave have been great every time I've been, and the folks at every Vietnamese place have been great, and I can't complain about the staff at the Ashmont Grill, nor about the hundreds of other folks who've patiently and kindly waited on me over the years.

It's just that this kind of surliness seems like such a standout in a sea of professionalism.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I hate that I love Russo's so much

Dagnabbit all. Seriously, if you haven't been to Russo's you don't have any idea of the kind of hate/love I am talking about.

Every time I plan a trip out there I dread it. It's always a parking frenzy and jammers once you finally get in there. The aisles are just a tiny bit too narrow to navigate and the mean old ladies who shop there are spiteful of anyone under 80 and ram their carts straight into your backside whenever possible.

And of course you can't ram them back because, well, they are olllllllllllllld.

*sigh*

I am ALWAYS looking for a reason to not go there.

But the fact that I can buy twice the amount of stuff for the same price as I would spend at Whole Foods means that I can't quite do it.

I have had the best luck with all the produce I've ever bought, the fresh pasta make me happy, and they carry enough local stuff to keep me happy. And face it, the lines are always long, but they do move fast.

However today I almost had my chance to break away. Almost.

Russo's is in Watertown. I live in Boston. The drive out there is annoying. When I got home today I realized I had been charged twice for some cheese, and twice for a bunch of scallions.

Totally annoying. The cheese was $5.45, enough to be annoying. I was not in the mood to schlep back out there, but what was I expecting them to do? Send it via carrier pigeon? Yes, I sort of was.

So I called them up, fully expecting to have them tell me that I was S.O.L. , instead I spoke to Karen and she kindly gave me instructions as to how to get a refund the next time I was in.

Like I might have mentioned before: Dagnabbit all.

Oh dear.

I have discovered a new love.

It is apple smoked sea salt from Maine and I am in love.

I've been eating it out of the jar, a few grains of smoky deliciousness at a time. It's a very good thing that I have blood pressure on the lower side!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Operation Baking Gals: Round Five


FINALLY!!! I get to be a OBG hostess. I am so excited!

As you may have read here before I have been a baker for rounds 1 - 4 because the military folks I know are all safely back in the good old U.S. of A.

However, I got to talking to Lisa, one of the officers who comes in to our office occasionally for business. Truth be told I met her mostly because I was making her nuts (for various reasons outside my control, I swear!) and she came in to straighten things out.

We go to talking and I found out that she'd done a two year tour in Iraq and that her husband had been shipped over and that he'd be coming back for like a minute, before turning around and heading back out for Afghanistan. Phew!

So anyway, turns out that Lisa is a really nice person and now I have a big soft spot for her because that's a big sacrifice and this is a teeny weeny way to acknowledge that.

Without further ado, let me introduce Kevin! (At least I hope that's Kevin! Lisa sent me the pic and said "He's the one kneeling on the left". Everyone who knows me, knows that left and right are sort of abstract concepts for me.)

This is the group photo. If I was able, I would send them all cookies.


If you are interested in joining my team, please email me and I will send you the details. The ship out dates for this round are December 5th through 18th.

You'll be glad you did, I promise you.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Simple Sunday Supper

My friend the Spruce Goose is one of the finest cooks I know. We met because he was a neighbor of my parents and one birthday of mine he showed up with a massive pink cake studded all over with imported crystallized violets.

Love at first sight.

So then last night I went over for what he calls a simple Sunday night supper. Let me just say that my idea of a simple Sunday night supper involves Saltines, beer, pate, butter and cornichons.

Which is why Spruce is Spruce and I still eat stuff out of the can, sometimes.

Also, let me just say that he lives in my dream house. I need to do something about that.

Here is his kitchen:

Ok, well that's just a part of the kitchen. But really it's the important part!


He made us chicken with white wine and mushrooms.


And salsify with parsnips and dried cranberries. The other side dish was dried Amish corn pudding with prosciutto and Parmesan.

Then for dessert he made a sort of Tarte Tatine with Winesap apples:

First he cooked the apples with a little sugar and some lemon zest.

Then he covered it with pre-made pie crust:



The pie crust is from Stop & Shop and made with lard and was far tastier than I would have ordinarily thought, seeing as how I am sort of a crust-snob.

We all sat down at this table:


And at the end of this "simple" supper we were STUFFED.

I think the Cheese sums it up best!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Lazing on a lazy afternoon

Soooooooooooooo I've been lazy today. It was gray day which made all the leaves saturated in their own color and that was pretty distracting.



I tried pretty hard to clean up the house and that went well enough until I gave up entirely to go get pho and beer. On the way I stopped at LiquorLand because for some reason I really wanted a cold beer with the pho.

And look what I found!



Locally distilled vodka and Miller High Life teenys!


Then I decided to make Concord grape jelly and also some apple butter. I really should drink less beer and eat more fruit, but until then I'll just cook it before it really rots.


I had about half a container of grapes in the fridge. I stemmed them, rinsed them, weighed them, then put them in a pot with 3/4 weight of sugar. And a few squirts of lemon.

Then I cooked them over medium-ish heat, stirring and popping the grapes against the side of the pot. I have to say that it smelled gorgeous, but then again I love the smell of grapes.

After about 25 minutes or so, I pulled them off the heat and pushed them through a strainer. The result went back on the heat for about another 25 minutes.



Personally I think that this color is awesome. I want to color everything purple, it looks lovely and tastes lovely too.

After it came to a second boil I took it off the heat and jarred it. Yes, I definitely burned my tongue tasting it for, uh, well uh scientific purposes.

Next up was the apple butter. I bought a bag of apples thinking that I would use them up for my mince project last week. But I really only just used one, or wait, maybe two and then of course I thought I would have one every day with my lunch. Whoops, not this week.





Currently the apples are still cooking. I have a perforated metal flame tamer and I have to say that a flame tamer is a kitchen must. I just put the pot over a fairly low gas flame and just leave it to burble away until it turns dark brown.

When it gets a little caramelly looking, I stir in a little cider. And my house smells fricking good.

All in all a rather satisfying lazy day.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I am SO gonna be sick.

Because I just ate a one dollar bucket of cotton candy.

Don't even pretend that you've never secretly wanted to buy one of those little plastic buckets filled with cotton candy in either pink or blue.

They are only a dollar and finally today I caved and bought one. It's made by Old Tyme Foods, and is apparently manufactured over on Avocado Street in Springfield, MA.


Yep, that is the image I will be seeing in my nightmares later tonight!

Grandpa's Birthday Present

My Littlest Auntie came up this weekend to see Grandpa/her Dad for the weekend and to make him his birthday present.

Hmmmm, what do you possibly give a person who is 93, who needs nothing and has probably already gotten every gift imaginable???

How about a freezer packed full of homemade deliciousness?

I myself would say "yes please" to that.

Check it out:


I do b'lieve that is about 50 chicken pot pies. Not only that, but she is an organizational wizard. I definitely know what I am asking for at Christmas this year.

Yes, this is the same Auntie who is also an amazing potter and who makes me the best mixing bowls ever. I am lucky, I come from a pretty arty family.

Operation Baking Gals: Round Four

Now that the very awesome Susan of She's Becoming Doughmesstic has turned Operation Baking GALS into a major operation with a dedicated website and lots of team leaders to pick from, I am even MORE excited about being a baker for OBG.

Not that I wasn't before, it's just that when I try to point other potential bakers to a blog, they get this confused or disdainful look on their face and I know I've lost them. The website just makes everything so much easier.

Anyway, I went and signed up with Team SugarBakerz Sweeties. I think it is because the team leader is ex-Navy like my Dad.

The soldier we are baking for is apparently extremely excited to get some home baked sweetness and will apparently eat anything! Exactly my ideal recipient!

So I decided to send him a "Coffee Break" package.

The first thing to go in the box was a coffee cake:


Hmmmmm, what's under the bundt pan???

Ahhhhhh!!! The BIG reveal!



Yay! It's super moist delicious triple chocolate cake!

Sorry again about the crappy photos:


(Please note that the concord grape wine in the background was for a different project. As instructed this cake contains neither alcohol, nor pork product)

I wrapped it first in freezer paper, and then in a few layers of plastic wrap.



Then I wrapped that all up in aluminum foil, which La Maman still calls "sheffoil" and so do I usually and I have no idea why.


Weirdly the previously round bundt became a square bundt in the wrapping process. I know there is a lesson in this.

Then into the box the cake went, along with a box of Tasters Choice instant coffee packets. I am quite cross with myself because I forgot to include sugar packets.



BUT I did include milk! There are two reasons for this. One, I like a little milk in my coffee and two, the chocolate cake is rich and would be good with a little milk. Those small cartons are shelf-stable and pretty indestructible and so I got four packages to also act as a brace for the cake.


Two whole milk and two chocolate milk.

And then because EVERYONE hates nasty coffee breath, I threw in a package of Life-Saver mints. But now that I think about it, I am pretty sure that in a combat situation, having sweet breath is probably not a concern. Eh well, they taste good and are non-perishable.



All in all I am pretty happy with this package. It clocked in at a whopping 11 lbs of love in a box, although I am sad to say that the note that I usually include with instructions on how to re-order was left on my kitchen counter.

Happy trails "Coffee Break" box!