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A Christmas Miracle

from the archives ...being the true story of a Christmas Miracle, for Megan and other foodies at the 'rents for the holidays, with apologies to everyone else...
Barn

Come on over and sit with me Megan. Let me tell you a story. Now this is a true story, though some folks doubt it. But I was there that Christmas Eve and it happened just like this...

Way back when your mama was just a wee thing, there was a great storm. You can find mention of it in the history books, things like this:

"On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 1945, 20 hours of continuous snowfall blocked roads and required snowplow operators to work the holiday in southern Minnesota."

But they don't tell the true story. Not the whole story.

They don't tell you about The Thing that happened on a dark road, way out of town...

Picture it. A small town in southern Minnesota, Christmas Eve, 1945. It wasn't like now, where you can order everything under the sun with just a click of your mouse. No, in 1945 if you wanted something you had to go to a store, so near everyone in town was out that fateful day.

The war was finally over and the troops were starting to come home to their families. After the last few holidays which, as you can imagine, were not festive affairs, it seemed that the entire town was having a party...

Continue reading "A Christmas Miracle" »

Friday Fun: A Few Of My Favorite Things

Favorite-things

I have written a dozen intros to this and don't like any of my explanations. Let's just say that a Friday during the official buying holiday season is not a good time to watch what passes for conversation online. Every other photo on my twitter timeline is a free thing someone was given (without disclosing the free part) and there's a constant stream of giveaways and gift guides that consist of things the blogger got gratis to review.

Then someone said they missed Oprah's favorite things and my inner cynic grabbed the keyboard from my better angels and started typing furiously...when you sing along in your head (and you will) pick a blogger or two to imagine singing it. I know I do.

A Few of a Blogger's Favorite Things (with apologies to pretty much everyone)

Readers who love me in comments that leghump,
Tweets from a big blog that gives traffic a bump,
Videos proving I really can't sing,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Junkets and coupons and samples from brands,
Posting a photo I made with my hands,
Hanging with people who think I'm a king,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Snitfits on twitter and long sullen flounces,
Having a baby so web traffic bounces,
Home from a conference all piled up with bling,
These are a few of my favorite things.

When the twit snarks,
When the troll strikes,
When my traffic's sad,
I simply republish my favorite things,
Then I don't whine so bad.

disclaimer: This isn't about anyone in particular. Really. If you think it's about a blogger you love, discuss their bad behavior with them, not me. If you think it's about you, trust me, it's not.

Wordless Wednesday: It's Very Beautiful Out There

Sunset-maple-orange2

Once upon a time a small person who was having a rough time came to stay at our place — her self-designated Happy Place — to get a break from the hot mess difficult times at home. Early one morning, while the world was barely awake and nearly silent the girl gazed out over the small lake next to the house, sighed a sigh as big as her whole body, and solemnly said, "It's very beautiful out there."

We looked, seeing it through her eyes. We looked at the purple and rose fuschias leaning over the edge of the lake; the fractal-flock of birds swooping and dipping until it seemed their wingtips must be wet; the splashes of cloud poufs reflected in the still water.

Mostly, we looked at the wee one's quietly shining face and one of the first few smiles she had shown that visit.

She was right. It is very beautiful out there.

The house by the lake (sadly, a rental) is long gone and the small one is happily grown. My morning color is less dramatic here, being mostly hidden in mist that rises from the creeks that run amok on the valley floor but the sunsets...oh my, the sunsets.

They are very beautiful indeed.

Download a larger, slightly different, version of this picture scaled (1600x900) to use for your desktop image.

Adapting Bread Recipes for a Slow or Cold Rise

Cold-rise
Those of you who have read a few posts here may know that I am a huge fan of slow, cold-fermentation. The long, slow rise allows the flavor of the grain to fully develop without the yeast eating all the tasty sugars and enzymes. The ability to bake bread on your schedule, rather than the dough's, is also extremely useful.

Most recipes can be made using this method, just start with cold ingredients, keep the dough cold while rising (use your refrigerator) and.reduce the yeast a bit — quite a bit it turns out. Therein lies the rub, or the knead. How much do you reduce the yeast? What is 'a bit' anyway?

While wandering the tubes of the internet, a comment at The Fresh Loaf caught my eye. It contained, in theory, an actual formula for calculating the amount of yeast when adapting a recipe to slow fermentation. Since cold fermentation is, by definition, very slow, this seemed like a great starting place.

Curious about the accuracy of the math, I tried it on a handful of recipes that I am familiar with and it worked. This is kind of exciting because it means most bread recipes can be made tastier and more easily. Seems like a win-win to me.

Continue reading "Adapting Bread Recipes for a Slow or Cold Rise" »

Wordless Wednesday: A Very Special Deal on my Cookbook.

99999book

Just for you, my faithful readers, a special price of ~16 bucks on Picture Yourself Cooking With Your Kids — a 98% discount from...well, from whatever the heck that thousand dollar book is about.

Conjuring a New Logo for kitchenMage

640KM-Wand-Logo-Final

Allow me a momentary bit of self-indulgence but this logo has been a long time in the making. There is a pile of wands made from maple, alder, magnolia and other branches my trees have sacrificed in my studio. Photographing the fireballs while casting them, however, well that is work for a mightier mage than I.

While playing with Photoshop and contemplating the summer of my discontent (illness, injuries, and other general WTFery) I rediscovered that I am, at my core, a long-form writer. Fact-checking amuses me and I am happy when I find a new side to an argument. My need for willy-nilly babble is well met on twitter and I find myself with little patience for creating more off-the-cuff content here.

I sense changes in the offing.

There is actual writing going on behind the scenes, late at night when the house is quiet save a distant guitar and the coo-purr of a very happy cat. Thousands of words on a single topic even.

Outlines...

Bullet lists...

NESTED bullet lists...

Those things will start showing up here soon, I promise. The logo victory has energized me. I mean "energized" in a theoretical way...it's 3am and sleep beckons for now.

Laugh and Learn, Learn and Laugh...and My New Thing

First up: Laugh as you learn how to open a milk carton. Seriously. A high-ranking official of the Austrian Milk Board is called upon to demonstrate how to open the sort of milk carton Americans give our small children. (The style is new there.) Hilarity ensues.

Learning with a few laughs along the way is the intent of my newest feature, launching this week.

The Food Blog User's Guide (FoodBUG) is a new series in which I will use my expertise at explaining strange and arcane technologies to Fortune 50 companies to take a good hard look under the apron of food blogs. People have many questions about how this "new media" works and FoodBUG will help to answer them.

Most of the information will apply to blogs and other non-corporate (i.e., relatively independent and unregulated) web sites in general, so if you read web media, it might be worth a follow.

Feed for Food Blog User's Guide posts

Follow theFoodBUG on twitter.

(There is a slight technical delay due to fresh cat gouge in my hand. First post should be up shortly just as soon as things around me stop coming unglued.)

5 Reasons GMO Labeling Doesn't Matter

I don't want to eat genetically modified (GM) food but I do.

You probably do, too.

According to recent surveys, about 90% of the Americans they asked would like GMO food to bear labels declaring that fact. Presumably, if the label says the product is GM then people won't buy it.

Yeah, right.

Call me cynical—and believe me, you won't be the first—but I think consumers will continue to buy food products with GM ingredients. Yes, even if it's labeled.

Besides, the major GM foods are already labeled, just not the way you think...

Continue reading "5 Reasons GMO Labeling Doesn't Matter" »

Old Cook's Tale: You Can't Whip Egg Whites With a Speck of Yolk in Them

EggWhiteDebunk-15
You can't whip egg whites if there is even a tiny speck of yolk in them. It is known.

According to the common wisdom, that tiny drop of yolk in the photo is enough to stop a bowl of egg whites in their tracks and reduce them to a weepy, watery mess.

Ask any baker and they will tell you this is true. They may go on to recite the rest of the basics, described here by King Arthur Flour:

  • The bowl and beaters must be clean and grease-free.
  • Use a stainless steel, ceramic, or glass bowl, not plastic.
  • Egg whites will whip higher if they’re at room temperature before beating.

Admonitions to ensure everything is dry, lest a drop of water render the whites too runny to whip, are often included.

Truth be told, this isn't a particularly onerous list. If you wash your dishes, they won't be greasy; separating eggs is not rocket surgery; most of us have glass or stainless bowls; and a few minutes in warm tap water fixes cold eggs.

Still, it bothered me. Such exacting instructions coupled with dire warnings if not complied with exactly.

Continue reading "Old Cook's Tale: You Can't Whip Egg Whites With a Speck of Yolk in Them" »

Happy Blow Things Up Week, America!

Flag

If it's the Fourth of July, it must be time for my traditional celebratory photo.

Marshmallow, meet the first amendment. First amendment, meet a marshmallow (homemade raspberry marshmallows with a layer of bittersweet chocolate in the middle, to be precise).

That thing in the background, btw, is my old military insignia, from when I swore to protect and defend the Constitution (of which the 1st amendment is perhaps my favorite part) from all enemies foreign and domestic. Nobody said a thing about protecting flags from flames and graham crackers.

Have a hppy and safe holiday, everyone!

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