Saturday, February 13, 2016

Four Annual Celebrations and a Funeral 6WS

The four  winter celebrations, all crashing about over each other this weekend are Chinese New Year, year of the monkey, Valentine's Day, and Presidents' Day which I count as two because Lincoln and Washington are jostling about having to share.

So the weekly family dinner had to acknowledge all of them, yesterday.  Big bowls of pasta e fagioli, because it's winter, followed by roast chicken (one in every pot, you know) with roast french fries, peas and carrots, and finally cherry and apple crumble. The cherries were in honor of the tree Washington never actually cut down, and the apples because Abe probably liked them. We noted Chinese New Year with an extra dessert of chocolaty wafer roll things from the Asian store, which also brought in the chocolate theme for V day.  And there were a few M and Ms around the place.

No pix, sorry, too much cooking going on!

However, I'm sad to say we had a little funeral today, as you see. My trusty old phone, the one that's been through so many adventures with Handsome Son for several years, then me for several more, is about to be replaced.  Now this is an odd thing, and don't tell me electronic items have no feelings.  

Last week came a note from Tracfone, the carrier I use, to say that they were going to replace my old 2G phone with a free 3G one, since the networks were all going to stop servicing the 2Gs.  Up to then no problems with this phone.  

And the very day the news came, she started to fail.  First she let me text but not send.  Then her navigation buttons stopped steering, so I couldn't call nor answer.  So I thought I'd better copy off my contact list quick. I administered first aid: took the back off, took out the battery and the SIM card, then replaced them in case they'd got jolted out of place in one of our adventures.  No improvement in the patient.  Her screen lights up bravely, but there's no action.

We think she knows her replacement is on its way, will arrive Monday.  Meanwhile, friend lent me a handset from his landline, because he doesn't want me to be without a phone at all, and here you see the funeral for Phone.  She served me well.



Reading clockwise, aside from the phone lying in state  in the middle of the hand crocheted shroud, you see her friends marking her passing.  Bottom left is the fireplace remote, then the Ipod touch, even older than Phone, then the ancient tv remote, then the handset standin wanting to be included, and the DVD player remote.

These are all ancient themselves,so it seemed tactful not to be too heartless about the passing of one of them.  She has a selection of purses which she will leave to her successor, depending on whether they will fit.

Sic transit gloria phoni.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Tamarind chutney and begonia blossoms

I was supposed to be baking crackers and going to the library, and framing art and working in the studio and various other things today.  So I found myself making tamarind/date chutney..so it goes. And here's the cast of ingredient characters posing in front of their script.


 
This is from the Edward Espe Brown book the Ds showed you the other day.  I have been wanting to use tamarind again for some time, found some tamarind extract at the Asian store, and thought it might be easier than the from scratch processing of the fruits that I did before.  After trying it, I think I'll pull back on the amounts next time around.  Or I might even make the pulp from scratch.

So today, since there was also a special on lemons, I was able to get into this.  I like the meditative aspect of making jams and pickles and chutneys, the kind of foods where you chop and squeeze and mince and  combine some very powerful and great smelling ingredients and stir quietly and let them blend. 



 Here in process, where you can still see the lemon peel and dates not yet softened to blend in



Here, almost cooked, and with mason jars sterilizing in boiling water in the background ready to be lifted out, drained and filled with hot chutney.  I sterilize even though I'm putting the chutney, once totally cooled, into the fridge, just because you never know.



This recipe made one small plus part of one larger mason jar of chutney. I made some adjustments to this recipe: added more dates after I saw it was too liquid at first (problem here was guessing how much was half a pound, since he didn't give a volume equivalent), and I added in more honey since the tartness was too much, then some granulated sugar to get the balance working better. Which it did.  He's good about reminding the cook to taste at intervals.

You'll see recipes for this which involve jaggery.  No worries -- it's the equivalent of equal parts of honey and molasses.  And this recipe has honey and molasses, so clearly he was onto this. And the flavors do better if they sit for a day or more after they're made, to blend and get acquainted.

This is spicy, sweetish, very tangy, and will go great with all kinds of foods.  A cheese sandwich is great with a spoonful of this added.  And when Handsome Son next comes over, there will be roast chicken and roast fries with chutney on the side.  If you're a meat eater, the red kind, it goes well with all kinds of meats, especially cold cuts.




And just to show I'm not the only worker around here, one of the upstairs begonias suddenly put out her spring pink blossoms, just what you need to see in the depths of winter.  So I moved her to a primo place, in the living room near the window along with the big plants. The other begonia, not blossoming, took her place upstairs and maybe that location will inspire her to blossom, too.

 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

An Angela Sighting!! this time by me, for the first time



An Angela sighting!!  Today we met, after many years of being mistaken for one another. The excitement was intense, since we were in  a group of my stitcher friends who all know the story. 

So here we are together, me on left, Angela on right. I also met her husband  who says he's pretty sure he could tell us apart!

 We were at a stitching event in the community where she now lives, and she just happened to stop by. So the long mystery is solved. She's Welsh with Yorkshire relatives, one aunt a stitcher who worked on vestments for York  Minster.

We exchanged stories of the many people who've mistaken us, one of whom tried to give me club dues owed to Angela, another who introduced Angela to her husband as her art teacher, and got very miffed when Angela explained she wasn't Liz!

I don't think our facial features are very alike, but our facial expressions are, and our voices are practically identical.  We agreed that we might be distant relatives, who knows, but in typical brit fashion, neither was interested in doing the research! And Angela pointed out that our eyes are different colors,so we concluded that people go by general impressions rather than little details like that..

She's a very good person to be mixed up with!  nice lady, and great company.

 

















Friday, February 5, 2016

The Rule of Three Brings a Great Day!

So we had another snowstorm,a  surprise one, several inches, wet and heavy, but not traffic stopping.  And later this morning, after the sun had started to slide the snow off my car, I went out with trusty shovel, and pushed the rest of it onto the road, then trotted back and forth pushing a lot more out to where the plow would collect it. 

And suddenly realized I was doing the snow shoveling just as in old times, no pain, no stress, and was a great moment it was.  I didn't go crazy doing it, but just to be able to was a treat.  After a certain age you can't help wondering if any injury will ever really go away, and now it seems that my shoulder, for the most part, has decided to play nice again.  Yay.  So that was Great Thing One.

Then after shoveling around, I went to the mailbox and among all the junk mail was a local tax assessor's notice. Oh-oh.  Got it home, to see what this year's reassessment, first in many years, had done to my budget.  And discovered, to my astonishment that they're predicting a reduction in real estate tax!  this is a total first in all my years of owning property, unheard of.  This state has the highest real estate taxes in the nation, and for them to reduce the rate, well, I read it twice to be sure. And that was Great Thing Two.

And the beech tree, what a gift out there.  To see more, go to http://beautifulmetaphor.blogspot.com 

But here's a preview, beech tree, trunk wet from snow, sun coming out and creating shadows and shapes


This was Great Thing Three.

I rarely talk about exactly why I do these blogs, because it often seems self evident, but recently a question reminded me that maybe it isn't.  This was the question I've had many times: why do you just blog? why not convert it into an illustrated book?  it would be lovely.

Well, from the practical standpoint, eight years of blogging, even with editing for current interest, would, translated into paper, fill a small bookcase with volumes.  And kill a lot of nice trees. But from the standpoint of art, it would not be the form I'm working in.

The idea is that, aside from the permanence of the blog material, since, compared to printed volumes, it never goes away,  it's an artform in itself.  It's the way a writer and artist, that would be me, breaks through what people in the theater call the fourth wall.  That's when the actor turns and addresses the audience, bringing them into the action breaking the fourth wall between audience and proscenium stage.

In my case, the dimension is that of time.  You can continue reading this as it comes. You can look back, but you can't look ahead as in a book, since it doesn't exist yet.  I haven't written the future posts yet.  And this is a continuing artwork, given to you as a gift.  That's what the art blog is all about, a continually evolving form, where you're invited to come along, step in and out, read, or comment or not, respond or not. But it's being written by a person who is changing as you read.

Books have their place, as you know from my own large reading habit.  But the blog is a different form entirely, and stands for itself. It's not a Thing that you can shelve and maybe read or not one day, and meanwhile have to dust.

And blogging is the best way to celebrate a Three Big Thing Day!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Lemon, Coriander and Cumin Trio

Making a soup from yesterday's cookbook, brown lentil, carrot and celery, but I had only red lentils, and pumpkin and watercress, so I subbed them.  

Pretty good, but the best part was grinding and admiring the spices, seen here.  In fact lemon zest (from the freezer, still going strong), coriander seed and cumin seed, seen in that order reading left around to right.  I ground the seeds in the coffee mill.





The scent is so good that I wonder if Nick Park can arrange for Wallace and Gromit to invent a techno-smell app. This little bowl is like a trio of sound, each scent distinct, then they blend when you sniff from a bit further away.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Espe Brown, Knives, Procrastination and Dollivers

The title is a bit shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings, to mangle a quotation. But it all makes sense, stay with me.

The decision to frame all the planets in the planet suite, as explained in http://beautifulmetaphor.blogspot.com
led inevitably to several other conclusions.  One is that I need to take a little break from headlong work in the studio, just to digest what's been happening in a very productive period, and to find my feet for the next pieces that need to happen.  This is while awaiting the frames on order and on their way.

So that meant learning to procrastinate a bit.  I'm not very good at this mostly, except where knives are  concerned.  I got into considering knives via Quinn, owing to a reference in her blog to Edward Espe Brown, a Zen priest and food person.  Not that I'm blaming anyone.  I'm just saying.

I do look on food as a meditative experience, and cooking as a process, not just a way of getting meals made.  So my attempt to just be, and to read a meditation/cookbook and kick back, seemed just about right for now.

So I checked out this book,  nice little essays interspersed with recipes some of which I already make, thought I'd invented, heh, nothing new etc.  But as I read, I realized after reading his chat about knives and sharpening and why you should, how can I do the process with blunt tools?   I thought, oh well.  No use just thinking about sharpening, I should just do it.  My kitchen knives are as blunt as anything. Not very Zen.

But Inner Self insisted that it's too much to do,there are tons of knives in that drawer, can't manage, sharpener too noisy, special snowflake and so on.  Outer Self said, oh shut up and check.  How many knives to you actually use?  welllll, chef's knife, one, poultry knife, one, paring one, breadknife one.  Whereupon Outer Self pointed out that means sharpening TWO knives.  Two.  The parer is sharp, the breadknife doesn't need sharpening. All the others can go to goodwill, never used.

So Inner Self heaved a sigh, got out the sharpener and in about four minutes give or take, the knives are sharpened, put where they won't bang into anything, the drawer is sorted, and there's a batch of knives to give away.



This is all your doing, Quinn, you and Brown.  The Dollivers were happy to pose with the book, far away from all the knives flashing about in the kitchen.  Anything for a quiet life.



However, learning to procrastinate has now been put off for a while..but the Ds probably have a few plans afoot regarding Valentine outfits, or maybe jewelry.

Monday, February 1, 2016

White Rabbits and Candlemas Day

February 1, which means Candlemas Day.  

Candlemas, candlemas, candlemas Day,
Throw All your Candles and Candlesticks Away!

And white rabbits, of course.  My inner Yorkshirewoman at work.

Yesterday I made apple streusel, which I made to use up all my Granny Smiths, plus try out my new cinnamon and whole nutmegs, and a new recipe, less fussy than Martha. 

I used oat flour (made from oats in the coffee grinder) so it's also gluten free for people for whom that's an issue. I macerated the fruit with the spices, a la Rose Birnbaum, then did a reduction of the resulting liquid which I added back in to the fruit.  



This was the first use of the new Ceylon cinnamon, and it's lovely, very fragrant and delicate, and not too hard to reduce to powder.  Also it marked the first time I ever used the nutmeg part of my grater. I'd forgotten what the inside of a fresh nutmeg looks like, very interesting abstract in there.

A few minutes  after the streusel was out of the oven, a friend stopped by with goodies from her kitchen, so I retaliated I mean reciprocated, with a hearty helping of streusel for her to share with her husband whose birthday it was.  

A few minutes after she left another neighbor stopped by with messages from yet another person, and left with a slice of it.  Then this morning I ran a helping over to the friend with the broken elbow (she's doing better, but very hampered), and visited a while.



All in all I'd better try this myself before it's all gone!  this is why I wonder when people who live alone say oh I don't like cooking for one.  I hardly ever seem to cook for one!  at least that's how it works out.  I sometimes wonder if my neighbors have some sort of surveillance mechanism, since someone so often shows up as something is cooling from the oven..

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Upcycling and southern wisdom

There fell into my hands today a thrift shop purchase, not by me, which turned out to be not the right size for the buyer, and I undertook to alter it and make it into something wearable.



It was a 3X size velour jersey shirt, that's like a knitted soft fine fabric, nice hand, placket front, long sleeves and cuffs.  So after I slashed right up the fronts, removing the placket, too, trimmed back the collar, cut a swathe off the sleeves and hemmed it to make a very narrow cuff, it is now a nice long coat, lightweight, to go over sweater or shirt or something.  Nice soft grey.  Very nice drape, too.


So I posed it here with one of my circle scarves just to give it a bit of dash, and I think it will do nicely.  Half an hour's work.

Then from the southern cookbook, which I may or may not cook from, I did get a terrific piece of info: the best cinnamon is not the hard, rather harsh and gritty stuff from the supermarket, even when you can get the sticks, which is not always, but is Ceylon cinnamon.  

So I sent away for some thinking, well, yes, more expensive, but worth it if it's good, in my apple dishes and other things. And it's every bit as good as they said. 



Heavenly scent, very delicate, and the sticks are much more fragile than the ones I've used before.  You can break off a bit and grind it using the mortar and pestle to make the right amount for the recipe. The shapes are lovely just to look at.

Then while I was at it, I invested in a jar of very good whole nutmegs, again, amazing scent, and I've been wanting to grate my own nutmeg for ages, so now I can.

On the way still, yes I did get a bit carried away, is a jar of tamarind paste, supposedly good.  I like tamarind but wasn't up for starting again from scratch as I did last time out.

And I rationalized my expenditures on these items by pointing out that my new duster coat for $4 is a good counterbalance. That's my story, anyway.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Current reading -- like a good menu! 6WS

For the benefit of new readers, of whom we have a few, thank you, the 6WS you see above is Six Word Saturday, which is a fun idea, Judy aka Mittens, led me astray and I got involved in it.  

It's about current life in six words, and some brainy blogistas even respond in six word comments, very impressive stuff.  A number of blogs take part, just a fun idea.  Judy's are particularly good, click on any comment by Mittens and it will take you there.  Not every Saturday, just ones that work out.



Anyway, today it's about reading and what I'm up to and why. I read recently that your brain operates differently when you read on your Kindle than from print material.  The idea is that we are so trained by the fast moving techie stuff to fragment our attention that we even read novels that way on the Kindle, rather than sinking into long periods of focus as we might with print.

Well, as a person who has always has intense focus for brief periods,  and it's in fact, as you may have noted, a productive way to live, I think maybe the jury's out on this one.  But anyway, I decided I'd better not lose my long distance reading chops, as if, and noticed what I'm currently reading.

Like a nice menu, on the Kindle I had The Book of Joan, a hilarious, very lightweight sort of bio written by daughter Melissa (Rivers, we mean, that Joan), which worked like a kind of amuse- gueule, to put it poshly.  Meaning something fun that keeps your mouth busy, more or less.  Now, now, this is a family blog. Reading with your mouth full, maybe.  

Anyway, that was the frivolous stuff. Then in print I'm studying Southern cooking for Bite Club, my cookbook book club, and hoping to find something to like in it.  Not at all into the meat emphasis, and I don't think sugar should be allowed near iced tea...but there's a lot more to it to discover.  The best recipes, though, are for seasonal produce, and February, where we will soon be, is not the season.  Anyway, we'll see what we can do. Probably a relish or jam or something.

And there's  another Kindle one, which I do sink deeply into, so there, The Boleyn Deceit,  the second in the Laura Anderson Boleyn trilogy, really well written, Tudor period, what would have happened if Anne Boleyn had in fact had a healthy son, then what.  Very well done, and highly recommended. Easy but not too light reading.

Then in print, a wonderful work, The Quickening Maze, by Adam Foulds, Booker prize level, which is so dense and intriguing and demanding that you can't stay with it for too long at one time.  You need to come up for air.  It's based on the true life of John Clare, a countryman and pastoral poet, whose heart, and mental balance, were broken by the Enclosures Act.  

This was a cruel piece of nineteenth century English legislation, which fenced off common land, depriving ordinary people of the centuries old traditional rights of grazing and open land for their animals, and resulted in mass migration to the towns, rather than face starvation.  The one per cent taking public property for their own benefit.  

Clare ended his days in care, mentally broken down.  But his mental and physical wanderings, like that of other residents of the institution are limned so astutely by this writer that you are carried along. I was stunned to learn how young the writer is, amazing wisdom already in life.  It's a novel, not a biography, though, so there's a lot of room for some of the most riveting prose you'll see in ages.  

Even the title has multiple meanings.  Quickening can mean speeding up, getting out of control, as the world appeared at that period, and John Clare's increasing plunge into insanity.  It is also the old word for the first sensations of the baby in the womb. That flutter is known as quickening.  It refers to the meaning of quick as life.  You know the old saying: only room for the quick and the dead?  quick doesn't mean fast, it means living.  

And there are other signs of comings to life of various sorts, young girls awakening, in the novel. Tennyson gets into it, too, and his brother.  Well, just go there and find out, it's worth it.

So you might say that the Book of Joan was an hors d'oeuvre, the  Clare book is the main course, the cookbook the savory course, and the Boleyn book dessert. Except that I'm reading any one that fits the time available and the mood.

But I do recommend any or all of them.  Winter is the time to seize, when you're snowed in, or iced in, or just all in.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Everything's Relative

So, after the day of boredom with an undercurrent of fear which is how it is in a major snowstorm, even when you're among friends, despite cheerful blogging to keep your spirits up, today was a bit different.  

Because one of the overriding emotions around here yesterday was rage -- the plows never showed up.  Which meant that my friends and I had to dig out an enormous amount of snow by hand.  We release our cars so that when the plows come, they can be moved to allow the parking lot to be cleaned up in sections. Pictures of my friends digging were ironic -- there was nobody else.

Except they never came.  No amount of emailing and calling management resulted in any action, nor any explanation, whatever. 






Until this morning, when the whole shebang swung into action, cats, plows, graders, and started the work that should have happened yesterday.  At this point, a lot of owners are calling for new management and firing the old one. I have been through a few management teams in my ownership of condo and townhouse, and have to say there's not much to choose between them.  They're all hopeless, as far as I can see.  Evidently they let the contractor decide to do one entire development one day, another the next, and so on, rather than the usual method of spreading the crews around to take care of everyone on the first day after a major storm.  We drew the short straw, it seems.

So, mad as a snowed-on hen, I decided to calm down and cook this morning, roasted a nice chicken breast, pounded then breaded with egg and panko plus hot Indian spicy things name escapes me, and sea salt.  Sliced, this will work in several meals in the next few days.

And I made a big soup, involving onions, turmeric, spearmint pesto, chicken stock, tomatoes, cilantro, pumpkin, bell peppers, and, after cooked and blended, a can of cannellini beans.  And it's great.  Spicy enough, very thick, and just good.  I do like the addition of beans, adds interest.




It's a good thing I made soup, since shortly after that I found that one of my neighbors, one of the people busy helping dig out my car yesterday, took a terrible fall in the evening, broke and dislocated an elbow, hurt her face, and quickly needed another neighbor to get her to the hospital.  Because there had been no plowing, ambulances could not get through, and he had to put her in his own car and get her  to the ER.

So, she's home today, awaiting surgery tomorrow, and the soup came in handy.  I ran some of it over to her for lunch, and it worked out fine.  After that I found I wasn't mad about the snow removal any more, beyond indignation that she hadn't been able to get the ambulance to get her in for treatment.  So I guess it all depends on the context.  

K. has so much more than snow removal to suddenly be concerned with, that it puts it in better proportion.  She has to figure out how to manage, a left handed person with a broken left elbow, single parent, teacher, needing to function and work, and drive and how to do all of this with one working arm.  Her daughter's old enough to drive, so that part's okay.  But still.

So that's the latest in this never a dull moment part of the world.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Apres, and pendant, snow

So the sun returned today -- we're missing the excitement of the planets being in alignment, because of all the stuff in the sky, so I hope it doesn't impact on all the plans I made for when the planets were in alignment.

Meanwhile, the final official total is 23 inches of snow fallen, many roads still almost impassable, local police strongly suggesting to stay off the roads anyway, and darkly telling of all the collisions and breakdowns and rescues caused by people who didn't listen.



And my car is almost totally buried.  A couple of hardy neighbors whose paths have been dug are out digging away at cars, but on this side of the street the front walks have not been dug out yet, and I can't open the front door. 




In order to get to my snow shovel, I have to open the front door.  Usually they shovel out the paths in no time, but today not so much. Good thing I don't have to go anywhere in the next day or two!

This is where I stand and wave my arms and my hat and cheer loudly for our power company which once again kept power up throughout a huge event, unlike its counterpart a few miles south of here which goes down if there's a severe mild spell.  PSEG actually has infrastructure and hires people who know what they're doing.

I did manage to assemble my various flashlights and battery radio and LED lamp in case I had to stitch by it, but it's all back in the drawer now.

So awaiting the glad sound of men shoveling, I'm tending to my knitting, or stitching.  And accompanying this with pots of English Breakfast tea or, for a Viennese touch, lovely rich Vietnamese coffee,  and slices of zucchini bread from the Silver Palate.  



This page has a few notes about subs I've made over time to this recipe




I baked this yesterday, and added in the leftover nut and fruit filling from the Mother of Invention Tarts, plus a bunch of rum-soaked raisins.  Very good stuff.

And while I was at it in the kitchen, I soaked and cooked a batch of chickpeas, which are now in the freezer awaiting orders.  And did a cauliflower, good price on cauli this week, a new way for me, mashed, with various spices.  Not bad at all, might also go well in soup.  Also I nuked a giant sweet potato and enjoyed half of it mashed for supper, with nutmeg, yogurt and capers, half in fridge for next go.  Easy but interesting food.

If you've never tried it, a good  dessert is plain unsweetened yogurt over dates.  Lovely combo of sharp and sweet, in fact it wouldn't surprise me if this weren't an ancient recipe, since both come from similar parts of the world.  And a spoonful of New England maple syrup doesn't hurt, though it's from a different climate.

While I was writing, I heard the glad sound of shovels out there.  But before readers can jump in, yes, I will be very cautious about what I do with snow.  My neighbor will probably help, but I have to get my car at least drivable for when the bigger plows need us to move cars for their blades.  He'll grab my keys and vanish with my car, and return it to me later, I expect.  He usually does!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Snow. A lot.

I must say that when we delay the first snowstorm of the winter season, when it comes, it really makes up for lost time. We're about one third through this one




As of now, we have power here in central NJ, people at the shore not so lucky, and there's about 10 inches of snow down, blowing sideways, on top of that, and that we may get up to 30 inches before it stops.  No chance to do anything but watch today, I think. And hope the rest of the cherry tree doesn't come down.

I signed up for emergency texting and emailing for power, emergencies, etc., and I wonder if it was wise, judging from the blow by blow texts and emails I've been getting reporting everything from outages at the shore and hour away, to traffic accidents since last night, people incautious enough to try driving. 




I was really only looking for some information, if we lost power, on when it might be back! Even my tiny Ipod got all over-excited and used its biggest possible graphic to emphasize HOW MUCH SNOW there is...like an excited parakeet.



You'll notice that the temps are not severe, and that the next few days will give us a chance to dig out.
 
Meanwhile, Handsome Son is safe home, was in touch this a.m., neighbor next door safe home from the city last night, there's soup and bread and red wine and a rattling good novel on the Kindle -- The Boleyn King-- and stitching to do.  I'm hoping to complete a big textile work today, all being well, and my arm holding up.

Take care everyone in the path of the storm, and let me know how you are. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Socrates and Elsie the Cow, Perfect Together

Socrates Louvre

Bust of Socrates in the Louvre,

Hanging out with Socrates last evening.  I went to the first meeting of our local Socrates Cafe, and had a great time.  Nine people showed up, which is about eight more than I expected, and we had a very civilized discussion of, on this occasion, color blindness as it works in everyday life.  The kind that relates to people of different races and ethnicities.  Very lively, energetic conversation, and I think this is a keeper.  Once a month. These discussion groups, with ideas decided by the members, operate all over the country, maybe elsewhere, too. Volunteer run and attended.

I just felt like dealing a bit more with ideas and not always with materials, of art and stitching and food and renovation. I'd like a bit more diversity in the group, but maybe that will come.  I know I learn a ton from talking with Indian friends, for one example, and would like that sort of different cultural outlook.  

And of course, the group consisted of people free to come out at 7 p.m. on a weeknight, not of the commuter crowd who are not even halfway home at that time, nor parents of young kids who are in the midst of evening madness.

We adopted the talking stick concept, where the person holding the stick has the floor until another person's turn. In our case, since Walker Gordon farm, and Elsie, the Borden cow, are local icons, we had a bookmark with a cow's head on it as the talking stick.  So "Wait, I've got the cow!" became the evening's mantra. 

And "You'll do, Lobelia!" was explained to township newcomers who were asking why all the references to cows in the library!  see here for more about that.  Elsie was just her stage name.

The Rotolactor in the article is where we used to take little kids, including Handsome Son, to watch the cows being milked on the giant turntable milker, from a glassed in warm balcony, perfect for cold miserable Sunday afternoons with kids. 

So once a month, the stitchers have to somehow manage without me, because Socrates beckons.  They are likely to have no trouble at all with that. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Food and musings thereon

A couple of friends have commented recently on the food posts I do in here, among all the other kinds of  thoughts, which they follow with interest but not always to the extent of doing likewise, though they think about it.

It made me realize a couple of things. One is that cooking nowadays is such a pleasure, because so little pressure is involved in it now.  Compare this to the years of cooking from scratch because of health issues of both family members, one of them very serious, urgent need to avoid additives or any unknown ingredient.  And of the many years of cooking for a partner whose sense of taste and smell had been destroyed by a medical decision, and whose paralyzed hands were less and less able to manage table implements.

I was then challenged, to put it mildly, to make interesting meals which could be handled without a knife, which didn't look like baby food, and which had texture to make up for the absence of most ability to taste.  That's when I started doing the crouton sizzle -- hot soup ready on the table, croutons of homemade bread red-hot in the pan, toss them into the soup, and the sizzle made Handsome Partner interested in the food.  Hard to maintain appetite without taste, but sound effects help.  

And I would use as much color on the plate as possible, for the same reason.  And vary textures where I could.  This in fact makes for interesting food anyway, when you think about it, but most of us have the additional pleasure of taste, and the smell of the food cooking.  And then as HP moved into total paralysis, cooking was fitted into a final three years of hectic days, of invalid care running from 7 a.m. to 10.30 p.m., bracketed by medications, aide visits, doctor calls and emails, and endless phone arrangements, and various procedures to keep HP as happy as we could manage. And making art, always making art.

This is not a complaint or a petition for a halo, just a recital of facts to show why today's cooking is so much more play and less of a work event.

Anyway, all this makes today's sort of prep so easy by comparison. And I made a good soup today -- no pix, not appetizing-looking, though it tasted great -- corn, pumpkin, dried seaweed, cannellini beans.  Flavored with oregano pesto, salt, pepper, cumin, curry leaves.  I blended it after the other vegetables were tender, and before I added in the beans, to make an interesting texture, and added in a couple of ounces of lemon juice to brighten it all up.  And that with caraway seed crackers was pretty good on a bitter day with a wind that keeps the house from getting very cosy.

Dessert was fresh (not dried, I mean) dates, split and spread with yogurt cheese.  Lovely tangy combo of the yogurt cheese with the sweetness of the date.  




This went over well with my guest yesterday, as she buttered her Mother of Invention tart with the yc.

If you are not familiar with yc, it's very simple:  regular, not Greek, yogurt, plain, which you strain through a cheesecloth or linen napkin-lined strainer, balanced on a bowl to catch the whey.  After a few hours, the curds  can be rolled off the cloth, and the whey goes into soup.  The cheese works like cream cheese only better, because tangy, and very easy to make and have around for a spread.

And the addition of lemon juice to the soup was a trick I learned from my Indian vegetarian cook friend, as well as using curry leaves in soup for better flavor.

About writing -- the response I get from the food posts is great, too, always a big incentive to the lone blogger!  particularly when people give me more tips and ideas, or try out what I've been writing about. Food unites!  So please keep reading and commenting and generally taking part.

 

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Dollivers Throw a Teaparty

A friend I haven't seen for ages but I often think of, was able to come to tea this afternoon, to join me in sampling the Mother of Invention Tarts with a dab of yogurt cheese on each, and the rum raisin banana bread, and a few tastes of egg salad on homemade bread.  English Breakfast Tea.  Best cloths, interesting dishes,great fun to prepare for and enjoy. I love a tea party, even with the direction of the demanding Dollivers.





She's an actress, and enjoyed the audience of the Ds who had heard that she might be bringing interesting little items for Boud to use in art, and showed up en masse in case there were diamonds.  After she left, they plunged in to the two boxes of jewelry pieces, and that will be a story for another day...


 
The champion dogs of the  Dolliver Kennels, banished from the table by wrangler NameMe, sat up patiently on the pass through and watched the proceedings.  

The only miscreant was Duncan who leapt up onto the table to see if there was any milk for kitties.  He waited till after tea, figuring nobody would notice a 15 pound fluffy black cat in the middle of the dishes..no picture, it only encourages him.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Mother of Invention Tarts

This week I expect a two lots of company, and the Bite Club meets on Tuesday.  Greek food.  So all this means some action in the kitchen.

So I took a look through various Greek cookbooks on the suggested list, and the only one that didn't involve lamb, ew, and eggplant, ew, and other items I'm not so fond of, was a vegetarian one, in which I found a recipe for phyllo dough.  Now I don't like buying prepared food at all, reluctantly once bought phyllo dough to make an Ottolenghi recipe, and thought hm, why not try making this and trying it on the Bite Club guinea pigs, I mean members.

So I checked it out, watched a YouTube video, and though I was dying to do it, quickly realized that minutes and minutes of kneading would do me in, and not be a smart move. Sigh.  But there was a nice recipe for a fruit and nut filling for a phyllo coil.  Perhaps I could make that...

Then I read the ingredients.  Dried apricots (can't use, they give me asthma, the sulfur) and almonds (didn't have).  So I decided to sub fresh pitted dates and chopped walnuts.

Then I thought maybe a regular pastry, which I can make, very little handling, would not work so well for the coil, might be heavy.  Sooooo. Why not make individual tarts and fill them with the mix I sort of invented?

So far so good, but it took a lot more fuss than I expected to get the pastry to pick up in a nice ball to roll out gently.  I eventually managed it without making it too tough to eat.  And then came the decision about oven heat and time.  This was not like the pastry recipe nor the coil recipe. Hm.

So I put them in muffin tins, at 375F for 20 minutes, tested, then turned the whole thing around (you do know to do that, no? when baking, at some point turn the pan 180 to make sure the baking is even, ovens not being even).  Anyway, tested one after five more minutes and in fact it's okay.  Mother of Invention Tarts.




I plan a little drizzle of great maple syrup over each one once cool. The filling, if you want to know:  about a cup of chopped walnuts, all I had, a cup of whole dates, which when cut up fine made a lot more, oh, ah, about quarter cup of brown sugar (made by drizzling molasses over white sugar, I never buy the brown) three tablespoons good honey, two tsps ground cinnamon.  All cut up together and mixed with a wooden spoon in a big bowl, to give room to push it about a bit.  Notice how crumbly the pastry looks. This is a good sign, means it's tender to eat.

Astute readers will note that this leaves me with nothing but excuses to take to Bite Club, oh well.  I'll give them an IOU for the phyllo dough, which I am determined to do at some point.

Yesterday, after a wonderful day out with friends, was just right for being home alone and cooking for company.

I made a tomato and chickpea soup, a banana rum raisin loaf, and put Alaskan pollock in Worcestershire to marinate.  I'll bake it for this evening's guest, with panko crumbs, together with mashed potato, I think. Soup, fish, and now a choice of desserts should do it!

Handsome Son reports that he has found a job, is doing orientation tomorrow and will start very soon, yay!  thanks from me to everyone who was supportive during the Big Quest.  He is continuing with the consulting work and with his own small computer assistance biz, too.   So I hope he's all set now after a difficult year.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Crackers. At last.

You know how you think about a thing, then don't do it, then think later, and don't do it, and wonder why you thought about it anyway, and then finally after maybe years, do it? 

No, I'm not talking about sorting the catchall drawer in the kitchen, though I have thought about it, the profusion of seed packets and batteries and magnets catching all the little nails and screws, and rubber bands, and bits of coax cable, and curtain rings tangling in there. Thinking took all the sorting energy, so I haven't done it.  Yet.

What I'm talking about here is making my own crackers.  As you know, I don't like buying ready made food, because who knows what's in shop crackers to keep them crisp and good for decades on the shelf.  But making my own seemed unlikely. Possibly complex and time consuming.  Until I came into possession of a couple of Moosewood cookbooks.  And in one is a recipe for -- crackers!





So I made them yesterday, using caraway seeds, which I like, in place of their sesame ones which I don't.  And they came out surprisingly good.  Not as shrapnel-crisp as the shop kind, but okay.  Also fun to do, involving a very slight amount of kneading, and some fun rolling out and pricking with a fork and cutting up and so on.  Used my rolling pin for the first time in I dunamany years.

The only thing I would do differently is that they use a lot of butter to toast the seeds, and I would use less, also I'd use a castiron pan instead of the tiny saucepan they use.  I have a lovely tiny copper saucepan, holds one cup, I think, so this was a good time to use it.  But I think the castiron would be better.  I would also roll them thinner, to get more crisp going.

So in future my homemade soup will have homemade crackers at its side.

 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Dollivers Are Seeing Green

Sea green? isn't that a color, asks Blondie Firstborn.  It would suit me a treat.

Meanwhile they all got into position with their chosen numbers, for their Powerball photoshoot.  



However, they soon got into a dispute with the pedigree Dolliver Kennels dogs, since the Dollivers insisted that their understanding is that it's the Powerdoll drawing.  The dogs of course point out, noisily, that it's the Powerdog drawing.

They are united in wanting to win, and picked out the random numbers, which Boud had to write down for them. At this point it's not clear that they realized they needed a ticket.

In fact once it was explained that if it's a Powerdoll drawing, they might get a billion dolls, and the dogs might have to compete for dinner with a billion dogs, and that a billion is a lot, they all settled for just the photoshoot, never mind the ticket after all.

The rush of thinking about it and posing for the picture is the best part anyway.  Statistically, there's not much to choose in terms of chances of winning between having a ticket and not having one.

Monday, January 11, 2016

It's Me or It. Boud vs. last of the pumpkins and squash

So yesterday, since we had a freeze or two, I thought I should do something about the two giant pumpkins on the front step. Not before time. They were getting close to their sell by date, ready to collapse on me.  They were huge, big enough to turn into a coach.

But, after scooping and cutting and slicing and generally doing, I now have several bags of frozen pumpkin in the freezer ready to make soup. The squirrels had gnawed a small bit, so I guess they were getting ready to take over if I didn't.  Or possibly it was mice sizing it up for when they turned into horses to pull it to the ball.

Then there was one last butternut squash in the house.  Sigh.  I boiled it to fairly tender, then peeled and deseeded it. Honestly, recipes for squash always seem to me more like rescue attempts than actual meals.  It's such a hopeless vegetable really, very dull despite being worthy and packed with nutrients.  Like an improving book in a way.

However, I did what I could with spices, including sumac and that Ottolenghi spice mix, name always escapes me, plus a sprinkle of capers, always a good bet to cheer up a dull food. And some giant crystals of sea salt.  And a nut of butter.



And here it is.  That's actually two complete meals for me but I thought I would just set it up all at once with the statutory glass of red wine.  Most of the butter will go back into the fridge, too.

Capers are cheerful additions to dull noodles, too - I made a nice buttered noodle supper recently with addition of capers and little cubes of fresh ginger.

And that is the last of the cucurbitaceae family processing happening around here for a while.

On the subject of single ingredient meals -- this is one of the lovely advantages of feeding yourself solo.  If you want just one item, you can have it.  I wouldn't offer a plate of squash as a full meal to anyone else, but I like it.  I do likewise with broccoli.  Or a single baked potato, split and buttered and salted and peppered.  Over the course of a few days I have no doubt it all balances out.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Warms the kitchen, cheers the cook! 6WS






All out of regular bread, so I made a loaf, partly from the Healthy Bread book and partly using tips from Jacques Pepin.  Healthy Bread has recipes for great wholegrain bread which is genuine yeast-risen bread, but no kneading, which is good because my hands can't do that very well.  You can use the same recipe to make buns or breadsticks, just shape it at will, figure out the baking time. I make one giant loaf from a recipe, and bake it, this is where Pepin comes in, in a nonstick casserole.

Mix the dough in the same container, let it rise to double, scrape the sides down a bit, make a cross on it, bake, and it practically jumps out of the casserole when done. Very nice crust, too.

My mom used to cut the sign of the cross on her bread as a devotion,  but I just do it to break the surface and make it easy to cut into four loaves when done.  So easy.  It must be six or seven years since I bought bread.  It's great to make, because it's alive, and the dough works with you. And the house smells wonderful.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Advance alert: Google Friend Connect may be going away!

This is sad news if you are getting this blog through a feed using anything other than Google.  However, if you access it via Google, no problems, likewise if you get the feed via Bloglovin, fine.  Or if you're on my direct mailing list, fine.  You can sign up for Bloglovin on the right there, where it says Bloglovin, or you can request to be on my mailing list, by leaving a comment.  I just need all my readers and don't want to lose you!

Google apparently is making this change after the weekend, so, sigh, if you need to act, now's the time.  



The Dollivers insist that they must not lose their fans!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Soup, zucchini bread and Miss Emily

It being the bleak midwinter, cold, and sort of dull skies, not a lot happening, it's good weather to make soup and bake and read.  Which is what I did this morning.

I foraged in the freezer to round up a lot of farmshare vegetables for a soup, and emerged with corn, shredded cabbage, sliced red bell pepper, cilantro, various broths from previous cooking involving spices, and decided this would make a good soup, thick and wintry. And with a few chunks of roast chicken added in at the end after it's been blended, pretty good.

While I was in there I found, sigh, a (large) stash of grated zucchini, so figured zucchini bread might be a good thing, too.  I still have two giant pumpkins out on the step looking decorative while waiting, and a giant squash in the kitchen looking like a permanent fixture.

Anyway, thanking my planning in doing all the shredding way back in the summer when I first brought these items home from the farm, I made a nice big soup.  Garlic, onions, tomato paste, oregano pesto, curry leaves for the base, then all the other items listed above except the zucchini.  

On the subject of onions, my latest method for chopping without tears is to halve them across the equator when I first bring them home and remove the papery skins (which go into my dye stash).  Then freeze them, and when I need them, chop while frozen.  This is surprisingly doable and tearfree.  Just sayin'.

This has made enough soup for about six meals, including one with Handsome Son, who will be here at the weekend for dinner.

Here's the lineup as it gets under way




and here's the lunch that emerged, with lemonade using lemon slices from the freezer


And the zucchini bread, from the Silver Palate cookbook. 



Note the oven door left ajar after the oven's off, to let the heat into the house and assist with the fuel bill! frugal housewife...I'll shut the door once it's cooled, so that the lit electric bulb inside the stove won't cancel out the savings.

And when I have a slice of z .bread with a pot of tea in a while, I'll continue reading a rattling good novel, Miss Emily by Nuala O'Connor.  New to me, this writer is a really good narrator in the tradition of great Irish writers, and worth noting.  The subject of the novel is Emily Dickinson, and it's written from the viewpoint of a young immigrant Irish maidservant in her house


It occurs to me now that the scenes of Emily and Ada baking happily together, Emily being fond of baking, might have worked on me to bring about the zucchini bread.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Brief Encounter in the Cold

I got a day ahead of myself yesterday, blame Simon's Cat, who announced 12th Night a day early...but moving right along, very cold again today.

I had thrown out the pumpkin seeds when I made the soup, about the time I moved plants around and a little outdoor table ended up outside again.  And this morning found a squirrel collecting the seeds, setting them on the table, and tucking in.  They know how to live.




Then her friend showed up, and there was a series of brief encounters all over the patio.  In awe of their energy.  It's the life force at work, this being the season.

 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Dollivers at home for Twelfth Night

The Ds and Greensleeves are back in their apartment on the bookcase now, along with tinies and Elton.  Everyone voted to keep on the red dresses since they are now getting ready for Valentine's Day, I shoulda known.  But they are not agitating for new dresses, so that's something.  On the other hand, it's a while till then so you never know.  They may be checking the market price of diamonds..  Canadian Doll has made a new friend of Victoria in the rocker.


Elton, almost buried under his fan club, played them out with We Three Kings, since it took those benighted monarchs this long to find the place, probably wouldn't ask directions..and Boud remembers long ago making the Three Kings circle cake, like a crown, for Handsome Son and having him wear a paper golden crown to help cut it.

This is where the recipient of all the gifts of Christmas is wondering how to house all the drummers and leaping lords, not to mention the turtle doves, calling birds and swans.  The five gold rings didn't pose much of a problem.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Actual cold weather arrived. Amazing. Must cook.

Yesterday was the first day I had to scrape my windshield before I could drive, but today was cold and I guess it's actually winter at last.

Good day to stay home and stitch and make stuff and cook. If you want to know more about the stitching, go here.  Cooking warms the house and my spirits, too.

So I roasted two large chicken breasts, seasoned with simple pepper and salt, but with chopped chestnuts all around.  




They'll make a few meals, what with just eating chicken with vegetables, and then some in soup, and some for chicken salad, but not today. The chestnuts were a very nice sort of starch to serve for lunch with the chicken slices, along with green peas.

And I needed a little something for afternoon tea, since I was listening to an Agatha Christie while stitching my wool on wool,  so I baked a sort of teacake thing. Very British!!




That nonstick pizza pan thing is getting a terrific workout.  I use it all the time for baking everything on, and roasting various items, too. Today it came into play for the hot biscuit recipe from Silver Palate which I make all the time -- 12 minutes from getting the idea to eating it hot, perfect -- but added in golden raisins, golden delicious apple chunks, and chopped walnuts.  It needed baking a bit longer than the statutory 10 minutes, owing to the extra liquid in the additions, but came out a treat.  Nice for breakfast, too, always a plus, not sweet, I don't put sugar in.

I like to have a little something in the house, because people do stop in now and then.