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It's been a while since I wrote about food. It seems a little wrong to natter about my dinner while we have sociopaths and psychopaths taking advantage of the surge in the class war (that is, the ruling class's war against the other clases), but okay, I'm doing it anyway.

From time to time I write a post about "how I'm eating now." Sometimes the motivation is managing my "multiple issue" health, sometimes it's something else. Right now my motivation is largely frugality again. I refuse to be deprived of deliciousness by mere poverty. I live in the middle of such abundance, and I have all the time in the world since I can't work & lack the strength to do anything else in a sustained way, so making food that meets my nutritional needs, is tasty, and is cheap--though it may be time-consuming--is a reasonable path for me.

A few years ago I discovered that it is quite easy to make a kind of soft cheese from whole milk and an acid (that first time it was inadvertent, my coagulant was yogurt because that was what I was trying to make). At the time I didn't pursue it much because I had no idea what to do with the whey that was left over--depending on details it can be three or four times as much whey as cheese.

Last year I experimented with using whey as the liquid when making bread (using the sponge method outlined by Gail Sher in From A Baker's Kitchen). The results were so good that I started making the cheese (and sometimes yogurt) on purpose to get the whey. I've ended up with enough cheese that I've had to experiment with uses of it. Though sometimes I have more whey than I need for bread, too, so I've gotten in the habit of using whey for any baking and much grain cooking. Since my usual coagulant in Meyer lemons (that being what I have in my yard), all of this food has a little of that fragrance in it.

So all last fall and winter my routine has been, about twice a month or once in three weeks, to make about a pound of this cheese and enough dough for three or four loaves of this bread. I started out with half-white & half-whole wheat all purpose flour, but now I use bread flour for the sponge and a variety of other flours in the later stages. The amount of dough I make has increased, since I now make pizza and dumplings loosely based on pirozhki, or fried bread, or whatever. I bake two or three loaves and put one or two lumps of dough in the freezer for later.

Obviously I haven't done it this month since I am trying not to leave a lot of stuff around when I fly out on the 24th, but I still have two lumps of dough in the freezer which I will bake up this weekend: one will be a pirog (like pirozhki, only large), to form my dinner, breakfast, and lunch while I am traveling. I have half a roast chicken in the freezer, some of which I will eat on the weekend and some of which will go into the pirog along with what else I have (a lot of dried store mushrooms because the Grey Bears bag had way too many mushrooms several weeks in a row, many onions,  some carrots, some pickled cabbage and kosher dills, and a yard with a lot of small overwintered greens of various types, some herbs, and green garlic in it. I say pickled cabbage instead of sauerkraut because I only let it try to ferment naturally for a few days and then I packed it with vinegar and stuck it in the fridge. It wasn't very nice at first and I was going to throw it away but after sitting in the fridge for a bit it has developed, not the best sauerkraut flavor, but something nice enough for sandwiches and so on).

Gosh, the parenthetical was longer than the rest of the paragraph.

I can say it's really a relief that some of these greens have naturalized in my yard. Most of the year I can honestly take or leave arugula, but right now I can throw it into any melange of food, cooked or raw, and it lends a nice nutty and pungent note to the whole, not to mention being the greenest thing you ever did see and it also grows in pretty little clumps all over the yard which will become immense patches later. I also have some determined feral kohlrabi and celery root that never made roots but which have really nice leaves and stems. The kohlrabi leaves are mild and tender, rather like kohlrabi the root, while the celery root leaves are strong tasting. Zack never saw much point to celery till I made him taste these leaves. I also have parsley, though not much yet, and this year's turnip greens in baby form, and dill seedlings. Since dill never lasts long for me before going to seed (cilantro neither), I decided this year to plant it densely and eat it young.  There are still a few kale plants I missed when I cleaned up the old (three and four year old) ones, and I just grab them whenever I see a nice leaf. 

I also have the usual perennial herbs for my region: oregano, sage, rosemary, lavender, thyme, spearmint and also persian mint and lovage and horehound (which I mean to make throat drops of but I haven't acted at the right moment yet). Basil doesn't do spectacularly well for me, but I find mint takes its place quite well especially when mixed with parsley. Parsley is the Great Underrated Herb. I think we're accustomed to seeing the tightly curled kind used as a garnish, where it hasn't been treated kindly before serving because nobody's expected to eat it, and occasionally dried flakes. Its flavor does not keep all that well even when you buy it flatleaved and fresh, but when it is new and lush it has a flavor like heaven. I really like it more than most herbs and vegetables. I keep trying to increase my stock of it but some years it all goes to seed in its infancy and I can't figure out why. 

So these 2 or 3 weeks I didn't buy groceries and I didn't go to pick up a Grey Bears bag. This means I'm being inventive with what I have. I ran out of milk, cream, and even cheese, and then discovered how dependent I normally am on dairy products in general. I still had a pound of chicken livers, so that and onions, green garlic, quantities of greens and herbs from the garden, and three asparagus spears (my asparagus is delicious but not prolific), made three meals. Lentils and mostly turnip greens and arugula but also those same herbs made a nice stew. I'm attempting to cook these recalcitrant pinto beans to make an almost vegan tamale pie. I don't know what I'll do if they refuse to soften (I think it's because I put the dried tomatoes in with them when they were still raw). Maybe drain off the delicious juice and toss the beans and start over with-- what do I still have, garbanzos? I made a salad of tuna, potato, carrot, peas, and all the pickled things I had at the time (the last of the artichokes, some beets, some kosher dills, I didn't think of the cabbage though now I can't stop thinking of it)-- sort of like if you started out thinking maybe you'd make a Salat Olivier and couldn't find all the exact things and then couldn't stop putting other things into it. I made a Waldorf salad (which if you make it right-just apples, nuts, raisins, celery and mayonnaise-or-whatever-dressing-you-prefer, is much nicer than most people think). I made apple fritters. I used up the pizza things I had stashed to make pizza. I used the rest of the tomato sauce I made for that to cook carrots in. 

So most of those things came out well and I've had a good time eating them. The pizza was a little eccentric but I get to have eccentric pizza, right? I made a weird coffee tapioca, having sieved the tapioca to try to prevent the frog-eggs texture which I thought would be weird with coffee, and it tastes good enough but it does have a bit of frog egg to it and it kept me up ALL NIGHT LONG so maybe I won't do that again?

The beans I'm cooking are really really yummy and I think they are cooked but they will never be really soft. I wonder if they will cause stomach distress if I use them anyway?
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When I got Zluta I got her for her personality. I've been telling people I got her because I knew she'd be a pain in the ass--demanding lots of walks and exercise and playtime. It's true. And she does. She demands a lot. Though as she gets older she also hangs out companionably with me for hours too. I've mostly convinced her that coming when called at the dog park is a lovely, joy-filled occupation but she has a new evasive action she pulls in the yard at night. I rarely let her out after dark because I'm afraid she'll mix it up with the wildlife (mostly rats, raccoons, and opossums, at night: but fox and coyote and even mountain lions have been seen within a block or two of the house. No, I live in an urban neighborhood, I promise, it's just that there's open space in it that connects by way of the San Lorenzo River and various other bits to highly-impacted wildish habitat).

But lately I've not always gotten the back door closed before I wander upstairs and she notices access to the dark yard. She goes out quietly and just hangs around until we cajole or force her inside. Sometimes I can't see her at all because she's ghosting around in the foliage and she seems to know this and keeps shtum for a long time. Once I find her she starts evasive maneuvers and will not come just because I call her. I can always flush her by throwing windfall apples in the opposite direction from where she is. She can't resist chasing them for long. It might take a few lobs before she falls for it though. Once she does that, it's only a matter of time before I get her on the deck by lobbing apples up there. The first one in that direction might not do it, but the second will.

She knows the jig is up at this point. You can see it in her body language and the fact that she drops her evasive efforts. When I catch up to her at the base of the stairs or on the deck she goes into the posture that says "I know you're going to pick me up. I don't approve so I'm not leaping into your arms but I will lift my body a bit to make it easier because that's more comfortable for me."

Last night she didn't sleep with me at all. This is interesting because she usually sleeps almost the whole night with me, and sometimes sleeps part of the night with my roommate K and part of the night with me. She slept on the livingroom couch downstairs all night, something I don't like to allow because if she wakes up alone down there she gets weirded out by some noise and starts barking in the wee hours of the night. Or if I get up to pee she hears me and wakes up disoriented and starts barking. But last night she was quiet all night--I know because I slept not one minute. Between the dexamethasone and a glass of jasmine tea and overeating from the stress of meeting the sleep doctor yesterday I couldn't even close my eyes. The sleep doctor was a weird thing. I have had excellent luck with all my doctors the last few years, in that I've not only like their medical practice but our conversations have been mutually pleasant. With this doctor, I have nothing to complain about as far as he goes, but I kept feeling like I was insulting him or making other gaffes in our conversation. It was exhausting.

At least my meeting with his scheduler was pleasant.

I'm going to have a sleep study on August 18. I started having my doubts about doing it now because of the chemotherapy and things like the dexamethasone adding their own level of disruption to my sleep, but Dr. Takahashi Hart said the information they'll be gathering will be informative either way and anyway they don't expect me to sleep well during the study. He says if I do sleep better during the study than at home, that's information too. Like I said, I felt that he was being polite and appropriate, and giving me enough good quality information and asking me for questions and opinions, but I felt like I was rubbing him the wrong way, which is an unsettling feeling. I did say I'm skeptical about sleep apnea because it sounds like a one size fits all solution these days, to which he said, you could say "but almost everybody wears eyeglasses too." and I said he had a point.

On another front, I made a plain cake (one of those buttermilk types though I used whole milk yogurt because that's what I have) and put lots of thin cut rhubarb in it and I think it is the most successful rhubarb thing I have ever made. I used more sugar than I would have because rhubarb, but I could have gotten away with less sugar. I'm pretty sure anyways. I can taste sugar again. Somewhat. Sweet things no longer taste nasty, flat and bitter. And kale tastes almost normal. But I still have a strange plastic taste in my mouth that makes me mistrust my senses.

There was a reunion potluck for Good Beginnings people last night, which is where I had the tea--I thought it wouldn't make any difference but zero hours sleep is substantially less than four! I hadn't seen some of these people for twenty years, but we fell right in and told each other our stories. I as always talked too much.
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The satsuma plum tree is, the woman at the nursery said, an old man plum tree now, and lacks resilience to fight disease. I didn't ask her to tell me why an old man instead of an old woman--after all, it has babies--I think I know. I think it is an old man because of drunken old classical Chinese poets, who write about plum trees frequently. I think the plums trees are Chinese poets.

Anyway, she says I should be preparing for its demise a few years from now (by buying a baby plum tree next winter so it will be bearing when my old man gives up the ghost), and coddling it fiercely in the meantime. That will mean pruning it generously to bring a lot of sun and warmth into the center of the tree and also to keep the whole thing in close reach I can practice more focused cleanliness next year and after.

The background: suddenly, four years ago, my plums started rotting instead of ripening. I tried various lesser measures, and I suspected a parasite, but having nearly eliminated the signs of that cherry fly, the rot was even worse than before.

I did manage to harvest a lot of plums though. I made nine jars of plum jam, three jars of plum butter (which is more concentrated and uses less sugar--it took the same quantity of plums to make the three jars of butter as the nine jars of jam), thirteen racks of dehydrated slices, three bags of frozen slices for cobbler, a fresh cobbler, and some stewed plums I ate with cottage cheese because in some ways I am an old-fashioned old lady. I did this wrapped around chemo day, too. That's misleading. Chemo day itself is not a low-energy day, because I get dexamethasone the day before and the day of. It's a steroid and makes me a busy girl, at least for some hours at a time until I crash.

I also had strawberries from Grey Bears and a handful of alpine strawberries from the garden so I also made four jars of strawberry jam, bringing that to eight with the strawberry jam from May. I think I am done with jam for the year unless we get a couple-few quarts of blackberries. These are eight-ounce jars and I think it may be a bit of a haul to get through a couple dozen of them.

The woman at the nursery said in general plants are having a hard time this year even though the drought is over. She believes the plants and the soil are just so stressed by the long drought that they can't just grow on their own the way they used to. She says she's coddling everything, feeding things more than in the past, watering them more than in the past, and that it's been harder to get things started. I must say that sounds a lot like what I've been experiencing--losing that Italian prune (which I'm going to try again with this winter too), my vegies just poking along, and my parsley! Which usually by this time of year is rampant, I've had to restart several times and it's barely poking along. This is unacceptable. A person needs plenty of parsley at hand. I've had so little this year, and now that I finally have enough to pick a little it just cuts right through all the weird tastes in my mouth and makes me feel much better.

I suppose the apple tree, which is also nearly forty years old, is probably also marked for senescence and death. I'll ask about that this winter and see what I want to do about it.

Today I trimmed the front yard roses and things. Advice to the young: roses are nice but they are overrated. You do not need their thorns and their overenthusiastic growth habits. There are many flowering shrubs which do not snag your clothes and make you bleed. You could consider growing salvias, passionflowers, abutilons, fuschias, or even hydrangeas if you don't mind hideousness or snails.

Other than that, I considered writing, and worked out what a sentence ought to be, and messed around online and snored a little. Monday I'm having a consultation with the sleep doctor but I wonder if that's premature? Because whatever my sleep problems are, they are surely different in some significant ways while I am undergoing chemotherapy.

Zluta is put out by not having had her morning walk, but it's honestly too hot for her, so she's not campaigning very vigorously. In an hour or so I'll take her to the dog park and that will satisfy her.

Oh, and an irreproducible (not really) recipe, just because I haven't done one for a while. It's potentially a kind of luxury dish, though it's also a leftovers-and-oddments dish.

I took five skinny little green onions and a scant scant handful of giant parsley from the yard, and I sauteed them in probably too much olive oil along with a handful of sliced mushrooms, some diced leftover lamb, some chopped Costco marinated artichoke hearts, a few canned garbanzos, and some frozen peas. When the green things were wilted, the mushrooms lightly browned, and everything else heated, I said it was done and I ate it up yum. It was nice and the parsley made me feel better.

I was getting all geared up to try to force more potassium in my diet because last week's blood test showed me a bit Low, but checking up on the significance of it reveals that low potassium and low serum protein pretty much just indicate that I've being taking steroids. I'm still going to gobble up a couple potatoes and bananas and things but I'm not stressing it any more.
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I know I've been slagging on the people who want to sell me that we can "fight cancer with nutrition." Every word of that phrase sets my teeth on edge. I do believe in nutrition in a sort of general way, though I'm pretty well convinced that for everyday purposes most people's metabolisms are pretty flexible and if you're giving yourself a pretty good diet with enough of the basics, you'll do okay for a long time. When you have various physiological challenges including genetic dispositions and acquired deficiencies or metabolic disorders, you have to pay a little more attention, naturally. And then, on an entirely different hand, nutritional chemistry is fascinating, so I don't blame people who get wrapped up in it for reasons of enthusiasm.

But the nutritional cancer treatment people tend to push one of two overlapping agendas--one that boils down to variations of the regular "healthy diet" versions that are duking it out in the marketplace, or one of several crazy crank diets that eliminate whole categories of food or that ask you to ingest megadoses of micronutrients. As for the first: if a healthy diet worked against cancer, I wouldn't be here today. As for the second: just no.

I am, however, eating well. (woops, I scratched the back of my head and came away with another little clump of bristly grey hairs) I'm paying attention to protein and vitamin-rich vegetables, most of which are coming from the Grey Bears bag or my garden (or kitchen, as I have suddenly become entertained by sprouting peas and alfalfa, and I got a little mushroom kit for ducks). This is only a bit ramped up from my usual. I'm back to eating somewhat less starchy food, but that's because I was told that the cancer treatment could raise my blood sugars, and I don't want to cross over from pre-diabetes to diabetes if I can help it.  But I'm not up to doing a severe no-carbohydrate diet unless I have to.

So what am I eating? That's the fun part. Last week's Grey Bears bag had triple mushrooms because the driver doesn't eat them and neither does his wife, so I dried all the prettiest ones and made a big mushroom-green onion omelet out of what was left and I am still working my way through that for my breakfasts. I also got a two-pound bag of cauliflower florets, so I made cauliflower moussaka which I have been eating for lunch or dinner. My pea sprouts came due so I harvested them and ate half of them in chicken broth with sesame oil and tapatio salsa, with snow peas and kale flowers and green onions from the garden along with some turkey meatballs that fell apart. I'll eat the other half probably tomorrow, I don't know exactly how. I also had a pile of broccoli, which I finally cooked today and grated cheese for the traditional broccoli-and-cheese casserole I will make tomorrow. Today I made split pea soup with precut coleslaw from last week's Grey Bears bag and herbs from my garden and dried tomatoes I made last summer in it and alas dried onions because there were no more ready green onions in my yard and no fresh ones in the Grey Bears bag.

Every week for the last month or so I have also done a wee bit of baking. I still do this simultaneously with a casserole-or-something in the oven (one week it was a lamb pot roast) to conserve the use of gas and stack up the kitchen time. Anyway, what I make are lightly-sweetened cookies or bready cakes that fill the place of treats without overstimulating the sweet tooth or giving the body too much sugar at once. They are often peanut butter or oatmeal variation cookies with dried fruit or carrots or something in them. Those are easy to make, K and Zack like them, and so they are good for my purposes. Like I say, they don't make me want to clear out the whole lot in one sitting, though they do taste nice to me, and so I think they help me eat in a more balanced way,

When I want something like ice cream I have either yogurt or cottage cheese--whole milk in either case, which I'll explain in  moment--with fruit, or my homemade lower-sugar jam, or a bit of both. Or I might mix a spoonful of peanut butter and jam, or peanut butter, a bit of honey, and sunflower seeds. These things are not a lot less calorie-dense than ice cream, but they don't make me want moremoremore, and they please me very much, and they are pretty nutrient-dense.

There are a few reasons I use whole milk products. One: they make fat-soluble vitamins more available that are implicated in the absorption and use of the minerals that dairy products are good for. Two: they taste good. Three: they seem to me to be better emulsifiers. Four: they seem to satisfy my appetite more quickly in most cases, though there are times when I can eat nice crackers with butter or blue cheese on them much longer than it seems is reasonable. So when I am being sane I just don't start those things.

I was going to go on with a precis of the garden but this has gone on long enough, so that will have to wait for another time. I would like to say for the record that I moved the coral bells and a nice baby parsley plant today and finally got the basil, cardoons, and mignonette into the ground, leaving the purple clematis, the miscellaneous blue salvia shrub, the white passionfruit,and  the purple flowers from Ellie, still to be planted out or transplanted, as is appropriate for various reasons.  I spent nearly two hours in the yard and ended up a bit short of breath, which I think is because I'm anemic again but the oncology nurses do not think I am anemic enough to treat--but the labwork was just before the last infusion and the shortness of breath is after. In any case it's not severe enough I can't wait a few days.
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We are heavily into Windfall Apple season here. My yard is normally some weeks behind the usual harvest of this region, and also I hae a Newton Pippin tree, which is a later apple. Ripeish apples drop from late August on, though they continue to get better and better into October.

Still, September is when I have to contend with a mess of windfall apples. This year the codling moth is finally a bit better, which is not to say that a majority of the windfalls don't have it, but the extent of each apple's involvement is less and the various infections that seem to follow the moth tunnels are almost nonexistant this year. Meaning most of the apples that fall and are of the normal size are usable. I've been attending more to cleanliness since I've apparently been coming out of mourning (I guess that's what's happening, anyway: though later when I have the will to do it I'll tell you about the qualification on that), and maybe the dry year is helping too, though the apple tree may have paradoxically been getting more water indirectly because of the expansion of the garden.

Anyway. What I've been doing this year with the apples:

Apple pie
Apple cobbler X2
Apple crisp
Apple walnut cookies X2 (more on that later)
Apple sauce
3 quarts of apple slices frozen for pies later in the year
Aplets (more on that later)
Apples in red cabbage
Dried apple slices (I'll probably do a bit more of this)

I'm planning on making apple butter at some point too, and I'll be cutting up apple into the rose hip jam when I make that. I'm going to freeze the rose hips first because all sources say freezing improves them.

More on the apple walnut cookies. I followed an old recipe for canned apples, just cooking mine beforehand. The first batch was kind of bland. The second batch is made from half and half whole wheat and white flour because apparently white flour tastes like paper to me now: also I added raisins. Now it is not quite unrecognizable, but it is a better cookie. Next time, spices, because it's still less flavorful than I want.

This is what I am calling "Cup and a Half Conglomerate Cookies"

1-1/2 c. tiny chopped apples in a  minimum of water with lemon juice or ascorbic acid crystals* and 1 c raisins, cooked together till the apples are quite tender and the raisins have expanded to equal the apples. Set this aside

3/4 c. butter and 3/4 c. sugar, creamed

3 eggs, mixed in smoothly

1-1/2 c. mixed flour and 1-1/2 c. oatmeal, mixed in smoothly

The apples and raisins, and 1-1/2 c. coarsely chopped walnuts, mixed into the batter

Dropped as 1-1/2" balls onto buttered paper on cookie sheets, baked at 365 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. They don't spread, so you can get a couple dozen onto a sheet. Makes about eight dozen if you don't eat much of the batter.

Aplets, well, you might recall I wanted to make Turkish Delight (Loukoum) because it's difficult to get here and I love it. Well, that's too complex for me, I decided after much research. I saw recipes for aplets this year, though, which are pretty close to loukoum and I love them too. Some recipes were for juice which is more trouble than it's worth especially with my stupid little juicer. But others were for smooth applesauce which is a little trouble (because I have no blender and I have to put the apples through a sieve if I want them smooth).

The recipe I followed made me uncomfortable on too counts: one was that it called for four!! envelopes of gelatin and the other was that it called for four!!!! cups of sugar for two cups of applesauce. I decided to follow it as is. The gelatin was not too much but oh my the sugar is, especially considering you have to coat the little buggers in confectioner's sugar when they're done...next time, three cups. These are not inedible but they are miles too sweet.

Here's the recipe I followed, except I didn't grind the walnuts because that's dumb, normal aplets have walnut chunks in them.  Also I didn't add lemon juice because I made the applesauce with ascorbic acid.  Also, this recipe makes too much for an 8X8 pan and not enough for a 9X17 pan. I ended up putting it into a non-standard pan that was a wee bit bigger than the 8X8 pan (not bigger enough, in my oipinion: the stuff was still too deep). Eliminating that extra cup of sugar might make it fit better into my pan. Another problem was that the method of dissolving the gelatine was difficult.

So next time:

2 cups ultra smooth applesauce: heat this lightly. Sprinkle 4 envelopes of gelatine slowly onto the applesauce, stirring constantly until it is all uniform. Stir 3 cups of sugar in gradually the same way. Let it simmer 15 minutes or so. Add flavorings (I used almond extract and rose water: next time, even though there's ascorbic acid in there the way I make the applesauce, I will add lemon juice and possibly lemon rind: also, maybe, cinnamon and/or allspice or nutmeg), stir as you turn off the heat, pour into buttered pan (maybe 9X9 would be better?), chill overnight.

I wanted to turn the thing out onto a cloth coffered in cornstarch but it wouldn't come out whole even after having its bottom warmed in water, so I cut it in quarters and got it out that way. Consequently the pieces are uneven, but they probably would be anyway. I made them about 1 inch by 1 inch by 3/4 inch and got about seventy of them. I was trying for more like 3/4X3/4X1, because they are so sweet. Much sweeter than "real" applets.

I have a tremendous sweet tooth, and I like to eat sweets very often, but I prefer sweets that are mildly sweet to ones that are very sweet for their type. Also I tend to prefer rustic sweets with a lot of texture and recognizable fruits and nuts in them. And here lately I'm just not drawn to chocolate at all. I don't dislike it but I never really want it.
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So I bought peaches at Costco. K likes great big juicy peaches and is not impressed with the wonderful little ones from the farmer's market. So I thought, these are big and beautiful, and surely if you're selling produce to restaurants, you'll have good produce, right?

The peaches were "organic." But I believe they have been bred to have that sweetcorn sugar in them, because they are sweet and grassy flavored when they are crisp, but once they get tender they are neither sweet nor flavorful. At no time--with an exception I'll explain in a moment--do they taste much like a peach.

So I was desperate. And I experimented, as I always do when my food is problematic. Well, a lot of the time, anyway. First I microwave the peaches in batches of four for nine minutes (I had eight). Then I poured the beautiful but not very intensely flavored pink juice into a pot, and peeled the roasty peaches and cut them up into the juice and cooked them until everything was much darker and thicker and tasted more like peaches. Also I added lemon rind and lemon juice because that's what you always do with everything, and also a tiny drop of vanilla and almond extract and a sprinkle of cinnamon and there you have it the four spices of my baking most of the time. Then I made a regular sugar cookie dough which I flavored similarly and I lined the bottom of a glass baking dish with that and set it and the leftover crumbly bits (maybe a third to a half of the dough, actually) aside till I was ready to bake and while I was waiting I mixed a pint of ricotta with an egg and the usual suspects only a grated orange this time. Did I forget to mention I used sugar in these various parts? A wee bit more than I might have if K did not live here, actually. Then when I had the chicken and potatoes I was going to roast and the beets ready to go I turned on the oven to 380, don't ask why that number, and put the dough and the chicken adn the beets into the oven in their separate dishes and let them cook until the dough had integrity but was not brown. And then I put the ricotta in a layer over the dough and then the  cooked-down peaches (leaving most of the juice behind in the pot--there wasn't a huge amount anymore, but more than I wanted in this dish) and last the crumbly stuff and finally a sprinkle of more sugar because K. And then I baked it until it looked right. The cookie dough had turned brown top and bottom but had not burned, and the ricotta had cooked into a thing and the whole thing was pretty successful.

Meanwhile there was a scraping of ricotta stuff in the bowl yet, and the rest of the peach juice and a few pieces of peach, and I put the peach juice and pieces into the ricotta bowl with a handful of walnuts and that was my snack--"peach and walnut soup"--sounds very old country, doesn't it? Not telling whose old country it sounds like.

This, and watering the back yard, and the laundry, took me I swear to all that listens all dogdamned day. And I still haven't brought in all the laundry or cleaned the kitchen (tomorrow is another day). I did put all the finished food away in their separate containers. Tomorrow's lunch will be a soup made of the stuff from under the chicken (potatoes and onions) and some elderly broccoli and some of the chicken. Yesterday's lunch was semolina cooked like polenta with asiago cheese and then topped with sauteed yellow beans,parsley, and red bunching onions from the yard.

I did some snooping around online and it is apparently normal to be insomniac and exhausted for some weeks after knee surgery. The frustrating thing is that I am doing really well and I'm mentally ready to forge ahead into my new life with a long straight left leg but my tether is too short to have much in the way of adventures. And I thought I was low-energy before! Also, my readings indicate that the reason I am desperately hungry all the time is that I need a tremendous amount of food during this period. Well, all right. I'll eat piles of food if I have to, I guess.
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Another one of those dishes I improvise from time to time. Apparently lemon and cream are my default seasonings right now. This time it was red cabbage, sliced and cooked till barely tender, with a lemon squeezed over it, salt, pepper, and a splash of cream. It looks like a lot more than that because the cabbage is wettish from cooking and that liquid joined with the cream for a thin thin sauce... the lemon is prominent, tastewise, but why doesn't the cream curdle in these affairs?

I could have made this more complicated with herbs and/or candied orange people and/or dried plum wafer and/or nuts, but I didn't, and it is still food, very nice food.

You know who you are department: since you're thinking seriously about doing a food bloc, if you need a guest contributor who will tell your readers eccentric things to do with vegetables and fruits, I'm yours. (I almost said "I'm your Hobbit," because that is what friends and family call me when they see me making little concoctions with, say, beets and rosemary, or wild plums and rhubarb, or whatever demands attention at the moment). I'm not that good at pies and roasts, and yesterday my pizza stuck to the brown paper I put down to keep it from sticking to the pan because apparently my intelligence is limited in scope, but if you need a kohlrabi enthusiast...
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I thought I had an unusual affinity for bitter things, but if that's the case how come I have a hard time eating radicchio and other people don't? Anyway, my gardener friend also works for a local organic farm helping with distribution, and she often brings me lovely things. Yesterday one of the things was an oblong radicchio about half the size of a big old romaine lettuce, and another was red romaine about half the size of that. The little lettuce I devoured immediately with things sprinkled on it and the juice of half a wee meyer lemon (this is not a trendy meyer, it is the consequence of living on the coast where it is never hot enough for a high-acid proper lemon: though I admit I loive meyers best anyways). Akso, the dill and mint will be easy to dispose of.

So anyway, the radicchio. I had a vague memory of successfully doing it up in a sort of bastardized ala Catalana, so I figured I would do that again. A word about ala Catalana is in order. This is a Spanish spinach dish: you saute it fast fast with a sprinkle of raisins and pine nuts and splash it with red wine, and serve it forth. It is heavenly, but of course I cannot eat spinach anymore because I failed some universal test of worthiness and lost an enzyme or gained an antibody or some damned thing and now I must suffer without spinach forever and forever. I can hardly eat an occasional bite of chard or a bit of beet greens, but if I push it, the results are not pretty, and one spinach leaf destroys me and my immediate environment for a couple of days if not longer. We are speaking of dysentery here and now let's stop speaking of it. Oh, and I can't even eat pine nuts either, they turn my mouth into unbearable bitterness for weeks nowadays. I am not exaggerating. I think it was six weeks, the time I found out about it.

The point is, there is this lovely tecbhnique for cooking greens, which can be generalized as so: greens, dry fruit, nuts, liquor or acid, sauteed, as simple as that. I had a revelation and I thought, radicchio and a milder green, mixed, and use some candied orange peel and some wafer-dried plums (m y own invention because I don't trust the plums to dry in traditional prunes or halves without molding in our foggy climate, even in the dehydrator), and walnuts (often I use almonds or even sunflower seeds which are nice and resinous). And I thought, wouldn't a sweetish, salty sort of meat be nice too? And how about a shaving of asiago at the end, for a blander note? The meat was some ham because it was the thing I could get in the smallest amount at the big grocery store. And I used red chard, but just a little because it is in the spinach family and I don't quite trust it.

Reader, it was heaven on a plate. I slivered everything in thin thin slivers so it would all look the same. Except the asiago, I shaved it in wide thin  flakes. If you eat noodles as I pretend I don't but really I do now and then, it would probably be nicer on something like orecchiette than on something like angel hair. Or you could do it with polenta, perhaps. I just did it as it was because I had already had starchy food three times today: half a big sandwich roll for breakfast, two flour tortillas! for lunch, and the breading of the emergency fried chicken I bought the dog.

I still have more than half the radicchio left. I'm going to make green soup from some of the broth left from cooking chicken for the dog. Should I put that in there?

On another front, I planted red bunching onions, some kind of old carrot seed, celery root, and turnip today. Also campanulas. I got home too late from getting chickens for the dog to water so I must must must in the morning.
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I microwave-roasted three small yellow beets and let them cool off while I lived my life, put them on a plate with a sectioned mandarin and a palmful of walnuts, and dressed this all with a spoonful of plain heavy cream. It was delicious and Truffle finished off the cream for me.

What do you call a dish like this?
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Mostly so when I have forgotten that I did this or how I did it I can stumble on it later and remember.

I had four small delicious-looking purple kohlrabis. A note about purple v. green kohlrabis: the color of the skin has not much bearing on the end product, since you peel it. Though, that being said: I think perhaps the purple kohlrabis are greener inside? That's a plus.

Anyway I had seen in passing the fact that it is not unknown to make kohlrabi fritters. I wasn't in the mood for marinated kohlrabi salad, which is my usual way of eating them, and I wasn't wowed by the North Croatian stewed kohlrabi recipes I found under the name Nitko at Food.Com. Yes, plural. Nitko has quite a few only modestly different ways of serving cooked kohlrabi, mostly labelled as North Croatian. In his notes he says that they come from a school cookbook from Zagreb They are mildly interesting, but they look a wee bit blandish.

I lost track of the recipe for kohlrabi fritters but I have a general outline in my mental cookbook, so I went ahead with an experimentation. This is what I did (obviously I liked the result because I am recording it):

Slivered 4 small young fresh kohlrabis about as thick and long and twice as wide as a matchstick.
Cut up 1 large young spring onion (about as much onion as 3 scallions) in thin slices.
Chopped a handful of parsley (it would have been more if I hadn't been too lazy to go down in the yard and pick more)
Picked a bit of thyme

Put maybe 1/2-2/3 cup of garbanzo flour, a tablespoon of oil, two eggs, 2-4 tablespoons of water, a pinch of salt, a pinch of pepper, a pinch of cumin, a splash of Tapatio, and a pinch of baking powder into a bowl and mixed them up so they were nearly smooth and then added the kohlrabi and herbs,

I fried them in about half an inch of oil untiul the batter was done and they were a lovely shade of light brown, drained them on paper, and ate them with slt and ketchup because I had no chutney.

It was a lot and a lot of fritters. I was able to eat them because they were both breakfast and lunch and I had nothing else to eat with them but water. Allso because I am a glutton or at least maybe a gourmand. Also, they don't retain their wonderful just-fried texture for long.
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I told myself that I would return to not-Poland in March, and I have, armed with the realization that there are several stories in there and I need tell only one or two of them in any particular volume.

Also: this morning I pitched an idea to a website for a "personal essay," which I think is a pretty likely subject. I am going to try to do more of those.

Truffle update: she had her 2nd followup visit Monday and the vet said her sutures look very good, and she could go back to eating normal food. But even though her appetite has returned in full glory, Truffle is amazingly picky just now, and will not eat any form of commercial dog food: for this reason, Dr. Hoban said "Go to the drive through and get her a plain hamburger with nothing on it but the bun." And so I did. And then I stopped at the grocery store for ground beef and potatoes, which she also recommended, and while I was there I got her fried chicken thighs (she has lost a lot of weight over the last year and a couple-few pounds the last week or two, and I think her refusal to eat anything but boiled chicken breast has given her a diet that is too lean, so that's why). Of course I fed those to her in little pieces to avoid bones and globs of fat. When we got home she explained to me that she was still quite hungry and no, boiled chicken breast was no longer very interesting, couldn't she have more more more of the rich stuff? With some trepidation I cooked her some of the beef and potatoes and she inhaled it and went to sleep, making the air around us quite fragrant.

Needless to say, I'm not indulging her to that degree every day. Particulary since I spent a half hour yeasterday cleaning up the evidence that it was too much. She got tuna and potato for last night's dinner and this morning's breakfast largely because yesterday she found my stash of cooked beef and potato when I was cleaning the refrigerator so there was nothing ready (the rest of the beef was frozen because I thought I had made enough to last for a bit). I would have let her have no supper because she had eaten so much but her argument that she was verrrrry hungry and neeeeded mooore fooood was quite compelling. This morning she appears to have decided that tuna is not delicious enough, or that she is not hungry enough.

Of course it is in my mind that when an animal is ready to die they generally stop eating but this is clearly not that. She'll still come running for a liver treat and she represents quite effectively that she is hungry: she's just picky.  She's always had her opinions about food, this is just more defined.

Lest you think I do nothing but dog stuff, I'm also working on the garden. I have hired a friend (Zack's ex actually) to help me with the stuff that requires more leg stability than I currently have (because we all know how well "I'll do that after I recover from surgery" works out), like pruning and so forth, and while she's here, I weed and plant and so on. I planted kale and radishes last week, and this week I planted some irises that somebody was giving away a while ago. I don't know what kind they are but I have rarely met an iris I didn't like. When I asked the person what kind of iris they were she said "They're real!" and also that they were blue and brown (by which I think she means maroon, but we'll see). I asked her if the petals looked like they had caterpillars on them and she didn't know what I was talking about. The leaves are kind of short and stocky for irises, and the corms are big and stout. So altogether it's a mystery.

Phenological observations: the Satsuma plum tree is in full bloom and the top half of it has leaves burst out but not completely unfurled. The Italian prune has buds only, but it is yet an infant.

A few days ago I made a cake of lemons, walnut flour and poppy seeds. I may not do the poppy seed part again: I have so much trouble getting them out of my teeth. I cut the cake into witsy-bitsy pieces, which is enjoyable, but now I am finding that my favorite way to eat them is with heavy cream poured on them. Not frosting: not sweetened whipped cream: just plain, unsweetened heavy cream.

Last night's musical discovery is "Lemonade Joe" (Limonadovy Joe), a Czech movie from 1964 which is an affectionate parody of the American Western. Cinematically it is interesting in the way it tints the film to match the content of the scene (mostly yellow--for sunshine, I think--and red for when the barmaid sings, and blue for when the bad guys gather) and the way that it uses deep focus and active cameras at the same time to set up Breughel-esque busy crowd scenes in the saloon and on the street. But musically! I'm actually shocked I have never run into that soundtrack before. Whoever wrote the music had a much more than passing familiarity with the standards of American popular and folk music, and also really, really loved every note of it. There would be just enough of a familiar tune to get your expectations in gear, and the next notes and chords would be totally unexpected and completely, perfectly right.  The exceptions would be the songs sung by the missionary girl: they sound sort of, well, Czech, to me. To add to the hilarity, the title character sings in word-salad English.

Oh, I should add: I owe this discovery to Kip Williams, who tweeted a mention of it in context of discovering that the movie has its own TV Tropes page. In the interest of public service, I am not linking to that: if you have a block of time you can sacrifice to TV Tropes, you can search it yourself.

Alas, the streaming version I was able to find has subtitles in Greek. I believe you can find subtitles in Russian and German also, and Kip has it in English. He says the dialog is priceless, and I believe I will soon discover that for myself. But I can attest to the fact that the movie makes quite as much sense as it needs to if you don't understand the dialog (I got "please," "thank you," "one,two, three," and a few other words. Yay for studying Czech inconsistently off and on for five years!)
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I just made the best beans I ever tasted and the texture is perfect too. I pureed them for refritos and they need nothing added to be heaven.

Also almost the simplest ever too. All I did: overnight soak with salt, cooked at a low simmer for several hours, run through the blender with the cooking water and a couple tablespoons more, blend blend blend until it is as smooth as sour cream.

Small red beans.

I'm in paroxysms of yum.
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I love liverwurst but the store sells only kind of gross kinds now and I get oversalted and icky feeling if I eat it in any quantity, which if I eat it at all, I do, because who else will eat it beforee it goes bad?

I decided to make my own. I have a meat grinder (the kind made out of coarse-grained galvanized cast iron, which you turn with a crank). I read some recipes. I decided I was well enough prepared.

I'm writing down what I did, because I like it, even though it is definitely not liverwurst.

I had one of those containers of frozen beef liver that holds about a pound. I got a pound of ground pork. Those were all the unusual ingredients. I semi-caramelized a large pile of assorted alliums (yellow onion, shallot, and garlic) and grated maybe two teaspoons of fresh horseradish (alright, that's maybe a slighty unusual ingredient), chopped a stack of fresh parsley, thyme, and sage (like to fit into the palm of my not-very-large hand), and ran everything throuh the grinder a couple of times along with three-quarters of a stick of butter (instead of the bacon people keep urging you to use because I do not want to deal with bacon). My grinder has only two plates. I used the finer one and could not get the extremely fine texture that liverwurst is supposed to have, but on the other hand, it was kind of slow going with that plate, or it seemed like it sometimes. Maybe a finer plate would have been a drag to use? Anyway, I did send it all through a few times to try to get it finer and also to mix it a bit better.

When I was sick of that I mixed it up some more and stuck it into a buttered standard loaf pan (I have glass), buttered a piece of grocery bag cut to fit on top of it, set it in a larger pan with about an inch of water, and stuck it into the oven at 350 until I remembered it again maybe two hours later? I forget what temperature it reached, but it was definitely out of the danger range.

It's-- not liverwurst. I guess it's a pate? It tastes nice. Most people would probably salt it. I forgot. It could have used pepper and/or something of the chile/capsicum persuasion (paprika, cayenne, whatever). I forgot my intention to put in ground coriander seed. Maybe it would have tasted more like liverwurst if I had remembered. Now that I think of it, Shichuan pepper would probably make it taste more like liverwurst too.

Even though it isn't as fine-grained as liverwurst and doesn't taste like liverwurst, it is finer than meatloaf and tastes really quite yummy. I will eat it up gone before too long, and this will keep my blood rich and red and abundant before surgery.

Cleaning up is a drudgery, but Truffle was only too glad to help get the remains out of the cutting plate and the receiving bowl and anything else I would give her  and why isn't there more of this delicious stuff why are you holding out on me can't you hear me? The vet had said not to give her bits that had been in contact with alliums, but she's thirteen and she has exhibited no tendency to accumulate the stuff or acquire hemolytic anemia, so I don't feel guilty about a rare treat of the sort. Just no garlic pills like in the old days.

on another front, still no rain, but the earth in my yard is still wet.

edit: the butter was utterly wasted. It melted and ran completey out of the loaf.
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So, my Grey Bears bag this week consisted of two large bags of baby spinach (which I can't eat ever since I had an intestinal infection three years ago), two heads of radicchio one of which was as large as a standard head of cabbage and bitterer than almost anything I have ever eaten, a couple blood oranges, some potatoes, some yellow onions, a medium portabella mushroom, and a tiny anemic heart of romaine, This may sound like I am going to be complaining, but no! I am going to brag.

I gave away the spinach and set about concentrating on the radicchio. It comes about its bitterness naturally: it's one of the chicory cousins and it inherits bitterness as a birthright. So I set about reading radicchio recipes online, finding that most of them are rather better suited for the milder instances of the herb rather than the bitter manifesto I had in hand. But I found one recipe that intrigued me. It called for radicchio to be sauteed with mushroom, onion, garlic, and walnuts, and finished off with lemon juice and parsley. So I made that and it was still too bitter (I mean this. I like bitter, so if I say something is too bitter, I do not say it lightly). Well, I was not done. I thought about what Jozseph Schultz said in his mushroom cookbook about how to adjust for flavors that are too strong in the balance, and started tinkering. My roommate who will never get that being pre-diabetic means that I am screwing up when I use sweeteners suggested honey, but I went with raisins (which have sugars in them but also fiber and delicious, delicious nutrients) (also notice I don't say I never use sweeteners, only that I am screwing up if I do: but I don't feel I am screwing up if I make jam, wine, etc., because I can use these items to deal with the human need for sweets while exposing myself to less actual sugars). Then I served this delicious but still too-bitter concoction in a quesadilla and the extra blandness from the tortilla and the cheese put it right over the edge into heaven territory.

Today I have more radicchio, but no more raisins or garlic, and I don't want to use a tortilla because the ones we have are for Keith and they are white and I'm trying to be a little better every day. So I had the idea of putting sliced potato in for blandness and torn-up dried Satsuma plum slices for sweetness. I also had the idea of putting in kabocha squash to help with umami, blandness, and sweetness, but that got sidetracked because I was so hungry when I was cooking (it was eleven and I had not eaten yet), so I just ended up microwaving (shut up, it's actually a good technique for vegetables you want moister than grilled and drier than steamed) the kabocha squash (half of a tiny one) and eating it plain plain (soo good while it is still hot) while I cooked and now I am too full for the radicchio so I can't tell you how today's came out until supper time, when I will reheat it with (meyer) lemon juice, parsley, and cheese, and that will be my dinner.

On a related note, I have a wild mushroom cookbook in French. I find that with my forty-five year old high school French I can actually read some of it in a useful way, but if you are fluent in French and would like a wold mushroom cookbook, let me know and I will send it to you.
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I had a lovely brwakfast in mind. I had some leftover homemade pasta with candycap mushrooms, shaved parmesan, and carmelized shallots and I mixed that with an equal amount of peas and put them into an empty pot I found on the stove to heat and I didn't burn them even though I got a phone call.

The problem is: the pot wasn't empty. My roommate had used it to make chai and somehow I missed all the woody little bits of barky spices...

The flavor is not too bad, though it is not what I was expecting, but all the little wooden bits are making it pretty much inedible. I haven't quite given up yet.

edit: yeah, it's inedible.

also, I wish the livejournal spellcheck wasn't unusable. Honestly, I don't make this many typoes because I don't care and don't try. It's because I can't type and I can't see. My manuscripts are pretty clean because I do use spellcheck and I don't make many homophone and wrong word errors. But my online writing is atrocious.
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appetizer: quince paste I made a while ago, with possibly nut candy to go with if I can promise cross my heart and hope to die that I won't eat it all before we get there.

dinner: romanesco trees (slice florets vertically, steam lightly, marinate)
some pickled veggies I have in the fridge, arranged as garnish
cabbage rolls stuffed with pumpkin, pumpkin seed (somehow I think eating pumpkin flesh and pumpkin seed at the same meal is probably treyf to the ultra-orthodox: anybody know?), drained and sieved cottage cheese (on principle, thank you, and not because I'm not cool enough for ricotta), caramelized red onion and shallot, freesh sage, assorted dried herbs, and of course a wee bit of tapatio, cooked in tomato sauce made with oregano and cinnamon the way certain greek recipes do it
probably some carrots sliced to look like trees too, to try to tempt that one niece whose only vegetable is carrot and then not always (she is a grown woman, but why shouldn't I try to seduce her to the world of yummy vegetables?)

My brother in law makes a ton of meat things, so I don't.

dessert: probably nothing. There's always too much dessert. And the appetizer I'm bringing is pretty sweet anyway.

I've parboiled and separated the cabbage leaves and made the filling. I may decide to put more flavor things into the filling. I believe I parboiled the leaves a bit too long, but not so long that the project is impossible. If they won't do the trick, I'll make a lasagne-shaped casserole instead.

Someday when I am really feeling grand I'll make a dinner for somebody, which will feature Svickova, Chartreuse, and mushroom dumplins in yellow beet clear borscht (I made that last thing once and it was heaven). Svickova, as my constan readers will remember, is a Czech dish involving marinating a hunk of beef with root vegetables, roasting them together, and then pureeing the vegies into a smooth velvety earthy almost-sweet sauce which you may or may not enrich with cream. I have been playing with this method and it kept coming out way too sour, even as I cut the vinegar to a smaller and smaller proportion of the recipe I had. Then I went online. I found recipes posted in North America and recipes posted in Prague. The ones posted in the US or Canada had the vinegar measured in cups or fractions of a cup. The ones posted in Prague had a couple of tablespoons of vinegar. So now I know the secret to good Svickova: less vinegar!

As to the chartreuse, I have a recipe that involves layer after layer of mashed things in a reconstructed head of savoy cabbage: rather like those layers of color we used to uncover in the candy called jawbreakers. I imagine they still make those, sadly. Anyway, when I wanted to link to the recipe, I found that none of the recipes online, including the ones from sites about Thomas Jefferson, whose recipe it is supposed to be, had that form, and none of them had ground meats in the layers either. Instead the vegetables were variuously mashed and whole and were arranged decoratively in a charlotte mold, held together by mashed potatoes and cream. I can't figure out which is the more attractive starting point, actually.

The point is that usually I don't make fancy pants food, just kind of eccentric food, and someday I want to make a large festive meal of all fancy pants, all obscure food that appeals to me.

That's the sort of thing I would do more often back when I had the nice fellow around to egg me on.
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I have downloaded Twine so I can hypertext Bella and Chain the way I have allways envisioned (and finish it). However, the instructions appear to be--well--missing might be the word for it. There's a wiki, but it is very broad and has no specifics in it, And there is a forum, but the questions people are dealing with are quite advanced,

Right now the questions I'm trying to answer are so basic:

1. How do I make a link to a previous passage (which may be on another branch[honestly, I have made this word up because the terminology list doesn't include this concept], or earlier in the same one)? I want to be able to link back to Nonyomni's threads from anywhere in the story so that if for example a person is following Bella's thread they can find a link to the passage where Nonyomni tells some background information about Harry Smith. But the instructions only tell you how to create a new passage to link to. Also I think maybe the passage has to be linked to from the same words as its title? There appears to be a way to code it so it displays a different title, which might solve that problem if I figure out the way to do this at all. It would seem like a pretty primary thing to do, though, right?

Also, I want people to be able to read the whole thing chronologically, or read each character's thread individually, or to follow other threads I will make for them.

2. How do I fix a broken link? I can't even figure out why these links are broken in the first place. I can find them because Twine kindly colors them red instead of blue. But when I try to fix the link I get a new passage instead. For now I'm copying the material into the new passage, but this is dumb. There has to be a way to just fix what I've got.

Also, this time around I'm going to make a thread of her own for Forager Girl, and highlight the growing friendship between Forager Girl and Bella.

Fake edit:with broken links I'm just deleting them entirely and redoing them. Cut and paste means it's not that time consuming, I wish I could see what's wrong with the links that are broken: I think I'm making them exactly as I do the others, and I can't see anything different about them.

I have now watched what tutorial videos there are and none of them have mentioned, that I could see, "and here is how you create a link to an existing passage."

in other writing work I did today: some few hundred words on the villain story, some tens of words on the gestational specialist story. And some record keeping. I seem to have submitted 132 thousand words this year, and the longest piece was 52 thousand.

on another front, I am in the last stages of making membrillo (quince paste). My quinces were not perfect, but the membrillo looks like it will be heavenly. What did I do? chopped it up fine,  cooked the chopped part till it was gooshy and pink and the cooking water was almost gone, ran it through a mill, cooked it again at low temperature stirring every 3 minutes (with a timer because otherwise it would surely burn) until it was half the size and sticky and would hold a shape more or less, and then made it into a rectangular cake on the silicone sheet  that came with the dehydrator, and now it is running in the dehydrator. I have no idea how long till it is a sturdy, solid coke of quinced paste.

I still have two giant quinces. I believe I will stew one of them with lamb or chicken and candy the other for Chrismas cakes.

on yet another front: I have to confront my neighbors, alas. I have come to the realization that their skunkweed smoking on the balcony isn't just annoying (when I say skunkweed, I am understating how nasty their dope smells), but it's making me ill. I hate to be the nasty old lady next door, but this is out of hand. It penetrates all the way across my house and I believe that the reason I couldn't get out of bed till noon yesterday was the effects of passive dope intake.
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I bought too many carrots so I thought that was a good excusefor carot cake. I had been stung by a carrot cake recipe in the past so I reada number of them carefully. I kept encountering recipes that called for unconsionable quantities of oil and sugar. So I decided to sidestep this disgusting phenomenon and started looking for carrot bread instead. Still, usually much too much oil and sugar, But I found this one by Mark Bittman--a person whose recipes I usually scorn because he tends to be sort of precious and use too m any ingredients and methods that make me grouchy.

Anyway, I noticed the recipe was flexible about what kinds of milk and flour to use, so I made it with the last of the Trader Joes "white whole wheat" flour, which is not stellar but didn't harm this and nearly equal quantity of almond meal. For the milk, I took the tag ends of whole milk, cream, and some almond milk. I used pecans instead of almonds because the pecan bag was open , and added raisins. I cut the sugar by a quarter. And it was cakelike, and too sweet, but otherwise excellent. So next time, and there will be a next time, I'll cut the sugar to a quarter instead of by a quarter. Some of the extra sweetness was that I had used raisins, but since I'd rather have raisins than sweet batter . . .

so the recipe I want to usenext time looks like this (2 loaves or a sheet cake pan)
--a stick of butter rubbed into 4 cups flour of some sort which has been mixed with a half-cup of some kind of sugar, one and a half teaspoon baking soda, two teaspoons baking powder
--one and a half cups of some sort of milk mixed well with 2 eggs, poured into the flour-butter and mixed
--two cupsof grated carrots, two tablespoons of grated oraqnge rind, and about a cup and a third each of nuts and frried fruit, folded into thje batter/
bake at 350 for about an hour, don't bother to put frosting on it.

The occasion was our neighborhood block party. Objectively, it was a flop, but I had fun. I took the kids' old wooden train set out and the neighbor kids liked it, and also liked coloring.
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I got a little work done on the edits that are due next week (I am in good shape with that actually), bujt I spent most of the day outlining a story that has caught my imagination but which I do not have time to write right now.

Hint: a figure inspired by Yane Sandanski, a backdrop inspired by the Miss Stone Affair, and a protagonist/love interest/whatever who is an itinerant photographer with a shady past, drawn into the scene by being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Set, of course, in the world of not-Poland, but not in not-Poland proper.

Also, through a convoluted process involving a friend's fourth anniversary, I have discovered hwajeon, Korean flower pancakes, and now I want to make them. But I have to admit that I am astonished that azaleas are considered edible food.
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notes for the future because this worked.

I believe I started with a pound and a half of berries that I froze because Andrew Marvell thought it would be a nice serene joke to pelt me with Way Too Many Strawberries In Winter. I decided they must be used right now because it's about to be Crazy Fruit Season. So this is what I did.

First I researched strawberry cake online. Oh dear. I never saw so many recipes for cake mix and jello. There's even a school of recipes that are variously called "cake" or "salad" which involve a crust of crushed pretzels, followed by a layer of cream cheese and "whipped topping" and then a layer of frozen strawberries in strawberry jello. My brain  broke to see it called "salad."

So then I found a series of pages where the recipe was based on an adaptation of Hummingbird Cake which involves a mountain of sugar and self-rising flour. I do not understand the point of self-rising flour, and I do know this can be substituted for, but I didn't care to do it. After seeing many other recipes involving mountains of sugar I figured that these people must be using the sugar to sop up the juice of the strawberries and to hell with them. I thought about adapting applesauce cake, but in the event I couldn't find an applesauce cake recipe that wasn't meant to be heavy and spicy and filled with nuts (made me think how much I like applesauce cake, though).

I was about to do it anyway and then I had a flash and searched "berry cake" and found this "purple cupcake" recipe. I didn't make that though. I let it convince me that just using my base knowledge of how cakes are made would work.

I did read on a blog of a person who is apparently a guru of fancy-dancy pro-style baking that adding fruit puree to a cake disastrously alters the pH and ruins the cake, and that made me think "aha! that's why banana cake and many applesauce cakes have baking soda and baking powder in them."

This is what I ended up doing:

Put that pound and a half of unsweetened whole frozen strawberries into a pot and let them thaw. They will look terrible. Cook them gently in their own juices until they are completely mushy. Rub them through a sieve and get as much pulp as you can before you get annoyed and toss the rest. Cook it down at low heat for a bit until it is almost as thick as runny jam. Do not add anything to it at this point. You will have about one and three-quarters cup of puree. It will be a muted dark rose color, kind of quietly pretty, not brilliant like jam.

Cream 1/2-pound butter and 1 cup sugar, mix in 2 eggs.

Mix two and a half cups of flour (I accidentally bought that stupid white whole-wheat flour and I forgot to make it half and half almond, but it's pretty nice anyway) with a half tablespoon of baking powder and a half tablespoon of baking soda.

Add a teaspoon of vanilla and a teaspoon of almond extract to the strawberry puree. You could add a bit of lemon or orange juice or orange flower water too, but I didn't. Other common cake spices like cinnamon or cardamom might be nice too.

Alternate adding the flour and puree to the batter.

It fit into a buttered 9 inch by 12 inch pan and I cooked it at 350 degrees for about an hour, It tastes very nice, not too sweet: and it really tastes like berries. And smells like berries too! It is just barely pink. Also, I used half the sugar that most of the recipes called for.

I have whipping cream and fresh strawberries. So I am going to  macerate a few berries in sugar and use the resulting red goo to tint some whipped cream. Then I will make plate piles of pink cake, pink cream, and strawberries.

So there, people who think "strawberry cake" means box mix and jello, or people who think that strawberries are too acid to bake with.

I think it would be amusing to make this cake in batches: a strawberry batch, a blueberry batch, and an apricot batch. And make them in thinnish layers, and put different colors of jam or cream between them and pile mixed fruit on the plate with them.

October 2017

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