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August 02, 2013

Candle Cake Design ~ A Work in Progress



Light one candle for all we believe in,
That anger not tear us apart;
And light one candle to bind us together
With peace as the song in our heart!
Light One Candle ~ Peter Yarrow

One of my friends is having one of those roundy birthdays soon. Those milestone birthdays still mean something, even at 40, 50, or 60 when the annual ones lose their luster. In this case, part of what it means is an excuse to throw a party. A huge one.

Hours of live music, potluck dinner, friends from near and far. someoneElse had a rehearsal yesterday. From what I hear the music is a fantastic assortment of (mostly local) talent. The cooks out here get serious when it comes to potlucks and midsummer means their gardens are bountiful.

This is going to be fun.

Not being a musician but still wanting to contribute something more significant than a side-dish, I offered to make the cake. At the time, the guest count was ~50 and the party had no particular theme. Fifty people means a lot of cake so I started playing with ideas for how to make it all work.

Fast forward a bit and plans have firmed up.

Continue reading "Candle Cake Design ~ A Work in Progress" »

November 23, 2011

A Thanksgiving Note to Parents

Thanksgiving preparation is in high gear across America this evening. Most of those people are also on twitter so my twitterstreams are full of people, many of whom are parents—mostly moms, but that's another rant—working to get the pies baked, clean house, cook some side dishes and do something with kale. (Seriously, every fourth tweet is "Sous-vided bacon-wrapped kale infused with baby, free-range...") I am getting hungry reading and knowing that there is turkey tomorrow isn't helping much at the moment.

But that's not why I am here. I want to talk to the parents...

I keep reading a variant of "Kids SUUUUCK! Can't get anything done. Crap! I'll wait until they go to bed."

What the hell, y'all?

You had children so they could participate in your family life, right? So let them.

When it comes to helping with party prep (and general household chores) I believe in No Child Left Behind, aka Being a Slavedriver. No wait, make that SLAVEDRIVER. It's a job title more parents should embrace from time to time. Your kids will thank you when they are all grown up and coping with the activities of daily living without undue vapors.

  • Tweens and older are treated like almostAdults when it comes to work.They are fairly independent, getting some directions to get started but no hovering like I might with a smaller child.
  • School-age kids are extremely helpful sous chefs. They can read recipes, gather and prep ingredients and do a lot of the actual cooking.Teach them to work with heat and blades safely and
  • Kids love to stir things. If all your stirrables are simmering away, give the toddler a bowl with a fistful of rice and dried beans and ask them to stir that.
  • Small kids can do a lot of stuff if you give them a nudge and a wee bit of direction. Get them to pick up toys and other clutter, collect dirty laundry, wash vegetables, shell beans, set the table, load/unload the dishwasher and a thousand other things.
  • Taster. This one is a double hit because your child is busy and happily eating (mostly) healthy treats. Do it right and you don't have to make them dinner tonight. Triple win!
  • If all else fails, give your monstrrr a stack of paper napkins and ask them to fold them in Thanksgiving shapes. Praise whatever they do.
  • Babies are tougher but I decided their job is to be adorable and provide toes to be nibbled. If you have a better job for them, please share it in comments.

How are the kids in your house helping? Give other parents a hand by sharing your secrets in comments.

Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


November 19, 2011

8 Things You Can Do For Thanksgiving Dinner Right Now

If you are like many Americans, you are probably buried in Thanksgiving recipes and wondering why you bother to look at new dishes since the family will boycott if you don't make every traditional bit of dinner. Personally, I am a child when it comes to sweet potatoes (with marshmallows please) but I have never understood that green bean thing. What is up with that?

This weekend is a good time to check on some critical, and often overlooked, things so you have a chance to fix any problems you find before Thursday. You should actually get the dishes out and do this exercise; of course you think it all fits, I want you to know. Make notes as you go so you don't find yourself trying to remember what you figured out.

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December 17, 2010

How to Shape Christmas Tree Bread

From the archives...

I really dislike posting a recipe I have only made once. What seems to be a simple bit of culinary magic one day may fizzle on second try. Even well-tested recipes can run into problems when moved from one region of the country to another: the moisture level of flour changes noticeably from a wet climate to a dry one, for example, and altitude screws with baking and boiling, not to mention your alcohol tolerance. (My brother-in-law who works as an EMT a mile up in the mountains tells great stories.)

There are, however, a few writers whose recipes I trust enough to go with a single pass at a recipe when I am short on time and I turned to one of them for the sweet roll dough I used for the tree. Modifications were made, of course: I zested an orange, toasted and ground cardamom, sprinkled in cinnamon, and tipped in a splash of vanilla; milk became buttermilk; sugar was reduced a little bit - there was a LOT of sugar. Ten minutes after I put it in the oven the house was filled with a heady mix of spices and I was regretting not putting an extra 'tasting' loaf in the oven. (After I took photos, I tore into a golden ball of dough; I can report the flavor lived up to its aroma-vertising.)

The crumb, sadly, did not. Dense and chewy, not tender and light. Totally wrong.

Continue reading "How to Shape Christmas Tree Bread" »

October 28, 2009

Halloween - The Whole Human: Head to Toe Eating

With apologies to Fergus Henderson.

Halloween approaches, bringing a seeming need to cook food that looks decidedly inedible. Web sites that usually have lovely pictures of tempting treats now drip with body parts, some of which drip with other things. Things we may do well not to look at too closely.

A trip around the web netted a body's worth of disgustingly realistic creations ready for the Halloween table. I give you the Whole Human:

Continue reading "Halloween - The Whole Human: Head to Toe Eating" »

June 21, 2009

Look what we can do! Cupcake kebabs.

cupcake kebabs
inspiration from Nibbles by Nora, seen on Cupcakes Take the Cake and Serious Eats.

Inspired by those cupcake kebabs that have been making the rounds, theKid and I put together our own version for a Solstice party yesterday. theKid did the heavy lifting, baking about 250 mini-cupcakes from five different recipes, each with its own frosting. More amazing, she got just the right amount of frosting for each type of cupcake.This impressed me at least as much as doing all the baking.

Continue reading "Look what we can do! Cupcake kebabs." »

January 17, 2007

Blue Cheesecake Recipe

This savory blue cheese cheesecake has become one of my go-to appetizer/potluck dishes. I usually serve it with Pain la Ancienne baguettes and some of the infamous Blueberry Habanero Chutney. The sweet and tangy chutney complements the creamy cheesecake and a bread like the ancienne - a simple white baguette with a well developed, nutty flavor - provides a neutral, yet not bland, base.

At a party, the bread, cheesecake, and chutney invariably end up getting swapped in with other dishes too, which is always amusing. I knew this was a great thing the first time I took one to a party (sleepover Saturnalia bash at a friend's B&B) and could overhear "OMG! Have you tried the chutney with that?" and, in response, "...and the cheesecake with that...!" from the next room. (I have no idea what they were pointing at, but I swear that many a combination was tried and they were mostly very, very good...)

Continue reading "Blue Cheesecake Recipe" »

December 20, 2006

pizza face!


Quick report from the first day of Thump Thump Giggle Giggle 06. Make your own pizza night was a hit, with a well organized assembly line (if I do say so myself) with each pizza crust on its own sheet of parchment and all the toppings lined up behind them.  Except for the rum. I have no clue where that came from...well, I know where it came from, just not why it was out with the pizza makings, nor why I didn't get a drink!

This is a great way to make individual pizzas for parties, especially for kids. The parchment gives you something by which to manipulate the floppy while raw, and then extremely hot when cooked, pizza; plus you can write the name of the person who made the pizza on the paper. These were labeled with the names that everyone is using on the network: Kat, Monstrrr, Dracomiss, BabyDuck, and Dead, I mean Dad.

The pizza making rapidly moved into an art exhibition, with most people making faces of one sort or another. Dracomiss swears hers is a pig. Dead, I mean Dad made an abstract piece and mine was a self-referential wedges of wedges sort of thing. (I made mine last and when I picked up the scissors to cut the pepperoni, there was an audible gasp from everyone else; as if there had been rules or something!)

katPizza dracomissPizza monstrrrPizza deadIMeanDadPizza babyduckPizza selfReferentialPizza

We've been munching our way through a plate of densely chocolate brownies studded with craisins and drizzled with a lattice of very dark and white chocolates while screams of dismay and four letter words drift in from the next room, where the carnage continues apace. I hear Dead, I mean Dad asking for directions back to the fray from some back part of a dungeon in which he's if they'll help. Do you suppose that he'd listen if I told him I can tell it's a trap from here? grin

Tomorrow is a big breakfast of some sort, which I just may sleep through, since it's the meal someoneElse is responsible for. Lunch is light: prawns and roasted red pepper sauce, baguettes, olives, marinated artichoke hearts, maybe some chunks of cheese and some fruit. Dinner is chicken that's marinating in this lemon, rosemary, dijon concoction; pasta with citrus ginger cream sauce that I had the other night and want to try to recreate (wish me luck); salad with warm goat cheese, pear slices, and spiced pecans; and a variation on Bananas Foster for dessert.

Last I checked, the kitchen was only mildly thrashed and the cookies a bit more; we were probably down by a couple of dozen cookies, maybe more since Dracomiss brought a few dozen which are also disappearing.

And now I must go pour myself a glass of amaretto. I think I've earned it.

December 18, 2006

getting ready for my favorite december ritual


We are lucky enough to be the host for the great annual "Thump, thump, giggle, giggle" reunion, when a handful of young women gather to kill each other on our network. And Eat. Over and over and over. For days on end. Seriously. (both the killing and the eating)

This year's bash is six people for four days, which adds up to lots of virtual death and lots of food. Coming on the heels of the book, my schedule was tight...and then the storm of madness hit and the power went out and...well, so much for schedules.

Since we got power back two days ago, I have made:

  • 2 dozen Bagels
  • 4 Baguettes
  • 18 Rosemary olive oil pull-apart rolls
  • 2 dozen pita
  • 3 loaves oatmeal cinnamon twist bread
  • 2 dozen cinnamon rolls
  • double batch of brownies
  • double batch of cookies

I'm guessing that I'm going to be too busy to post much in the way here as it's happening, but I put up a flickr set just for this, in case anyone is crazy enough to want to follow along.  It does at least give you a little hint of the mess that is my kitchen.

Menu for the bash after the jump.

Continue reading "getting ready for my favorite december ritual" »

September 05, 2006

Summerset: the evidence

I totally forgot the obligatory lateInTheParty photo of people with their "Buy me or the puppy gets it" prints, so here's the very last shot of the revelers.

I also forgot to mention that, in the spirit of "geekiness" (they were Geek Dinners, after all) we came up with an additional use of technology for Stormhoek. See, they use screwtops (!) and, while I'll skip the technical arguments (how anti-geeky) we did find one aspect of the experience lacking. No satisfying pop of the cork coming out of the bottle. While we could (and did) argue for the use of corks, we did come up with an alternative: chip the screwtop.

It seems like those little chips they use to make music in greeting cards could be repurposed into a higher use. Create a realistic cork popping sound and design a means of triggering the sound when the screwtop "breaks" apart. Small touch, big effect.

Not wanting to offload the work for our idea onto Stormhoek, and in the spirit of international cooperation, we also offer to test the technology. Repeatedly. Through many beta cycles. Just as often as Stormhoek wants us to.

I leave you with a final thought, tossed out somewhere in the Pinotage (the last of the wines) by a wise person and agreed upon by all:

This would have been a lot less fun if the wine wasn't so good!

Thanks again Sam, Jason, Hugh, and everyone else at Stormhoek who helped make Summerset so much fun.

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