Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Thanks

I love Thanksgiving. I love that there is a day set aside for everyone in this great land to celebrate, regardless of personal politics, religion, orientation. A day to come together and enjoy a good meal, a meal that is often a group effort. It is a day that promotes gratitude and thankfulness, an attitude that I try to keep going throughout the year, but often fall short on. There is so much to be grateful for, even when the day is gray and prospects feel bleak. When I was a teen, and living in Australia, I started a running list of things to be thankful for, it was after a particular trying day in salt mines of highschool. The idea was to focus on the good stuff. Back then I think Johnny Depp, the Beatles, and cornetto ice cream cones were on the top of that list.
On my revised and updated list of things to be thankful for I'd place the kiddles, Hub, my parents and brothers. Our good health and our good fortune is huge. My friends also deserve a shout out. And then of course there are things like good music and good food that really enhances the quality of life. I've been really enjoying Feist and Bach lately. I am totally grateful (and relieved) that I got a few nice-sized chocolate orders for this holiday season. The Kiddie Cooking Class is also something that I'm happy about- it allows the kooky cook in me some play time, and a few bucks to boot! And I'm grateful that I found a paper that will publish me, a dream I've had for a long time ever since those highschool days.
But beyond the personal and specific, I am thankful for the beautiful world we live in, and for the majority of people that inhabit it who are good. I am grateful for the seasons. I give thanks for living in this country and enjoying all the comforts, riches, freedom, and beauty that it offers. I am grateful that I am allowed to be me; in a different place and at a different time it would not be so easy.
OK so there's my Thanksgiving benediction. Now enough talking and lets start eating.

Pecan Fudge Pie
Preheat oven to 375F. In a saucepan over med. high heat combine 1/2 c. butter/marg and 1 c. packed brown sugar, stir until a thick amber syrup occurs. Add 1 c. chocolate chips and stir until melted and smooth. Remove from heat, whisk in 2 beaten eggs, 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Once a thick chocolatey batter happens, add 1 1/2 c. chopped pecans. Spoon into prepared pie crust, smooth until even. Place in oven and bake for 35-40 mins.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I am burnt to a cinder. Sizzled to a crisp. Ready for an extended vacay in a land with no kitchens. If I never see the innards of another supermarket it'll be too soon. If I have to wash another pot, I will flip my lid. If this week was a book it'd be the Berenstain Bears and Too Much Cooking! Kiddie Cooking Class was the final spatula. I am coming off quite a bender of Kitchenicity. I spent the majority of the past week testing a jelly donut muffin recipe for an article I wrote. I finally figured it out after the fourth batch. I should have known all along that the testing is the easy part, the writing is where it gets rough. How many ways can you say yummy? How to describe messy projects as tidily as possible? Sometimes I feel like I am sifting through a pile of junk searching for a gem.

Kiddie Cooking Class project was tomato soup with crispy parmesan croutons. I improvised by using tomato sauce instead of whole canned tomatoes the recipe called for, knowing full well that lots of kids have issues with chunky textures when it comes to soup. I should've substituted it with tomato puree instead. The kiddies swallowed up the soup, due in no small part to the fact that I threw handfulls of parmesan cheese into it in addition to the DELICIOUS parmesan croutons. But the soup was unnecessarily salty, next time-tomato puree.
This morning I did a chocolate project with Girlette's class which was cute and fun and really easy. Cleaning up after a chocolate project with kids is like dealing with the aftermath of a chocolate tornado. No matter how much fun it is to witness the unfettered glee of kids wrist deep in chocolate, the scraping and scrubbing still sucks.
I was thinking that I would get a head start on the eggnog cheesecakes I'm giving our neighbors for Xmas (they freeze beautifully)- but there's no #$%*& way that's happening tonight. Tonight I am watching Top Chef and eating cereal.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Brown Butter Apple Pie

Just returned from paying a shiva call. Shiva is the 7 days of mourning immediately following the funeral. The mourner sits on a low stool, in their stocking feet, and accepts visitors who pay their respect to the passed and the family in mourning. I never know what to say. Today's visit was particularly difficult as the woman who lost her mother is a year younger than I am, with kids that are similar in age to mine, her mother was the same age as my mother. She still had a lot of living to do.
I baked a pie, because that's what I do. I felt almost embarassed as I placed it on the table alongside the other bakery stuff. What good is a pie when you're facing the rest of your life without your mother? Inevitably I started thinking about my mother and I how I just assume she'll always be here. If I'm a little abrupt on the phone- no matter I'll call her tomorrow. Sometimes when she's dispensing motherly advice I tune out, because I can always get more.
One day I will be on that low stool, in my stocking feet and I will have to face the concept of my life without my mother. My mother is always on my side, even when I'm wrong. She is like a soft and comfy chair in a world that can sometimes be harsh and unyielding. The world without my mother will be darker with more hard edges. All the brown butter apple pies in the world won't be able to sweeten that.

Brown Butter Apple Pie
Preheat oven to 400F. In saucepan melt 1/4 c. butter over med. high heat, stirring often until lightly browned. Set aside and cool for about 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, peel and core 3 large apples, cut into 1/2" slices. In a small bowl and with wire whisk beat 1/2 c. white sugar and 1 egg until yellow and custardy. Stir in 2 tbsp. all purpose flour and 1 tsp. vanilla. Beat in browned butter with whisk. Pour into pie crust, and smooth over bottom. Arrange apple slices on top. In a medium bowl mix 1/2 c. all purpose flour, 1/4 c. white sugar, 1/4 c. brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. apple pie spice together, then with a pastry blender or fork cut in 1/4 c. butter until coarse pea sized crumbs occur, add 1/2 c. chopped pecans. Sprinkle streusel over top of apples. Bake for 50-60 minutes until apples are tender. If necessary, cover edge of crust with strips of foil to prevent burning.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Kiddie Cooking Class Chronicles

Kiddie Cooking Class Chronicles: Chapter 5

Maple Syrup Pudding & Fall Leaf Cinnamon Sugar Cookies

Autumn is almost gone: the leaves are lying everywhere in dry heaps, daylight savings is darkening the days early, and jackets are required when leaving the house. I decided we might as well get one last look. I found a bottle of Grade B maple syrup from the new foodie emporium. After making a maple syrup cheesecake a few years ago I came to realize how rare it is to find Grade B syrup. Grade A maple syrup is good, but grade B is great- richer, deeper, smokier. I found a quick and simple recipe for Maple Pudding, and knew that I needed a baking project as well to go along. I decided to use refrigerated sugar cookie dough from the supermarket for this one, busted out my fall leaf cookie cutters, melted 2 tbsp. of butter and mixed up a cinnamon sugar for sprinkling. They painted the butter on top of their leaves and covered them with a dry dusting. On the cookie tray they looked like the dead leaves scattered on our patio. Which led us right onto our mini art project, using fallen leaves and acorns, glitter and googly eyes they made end-of-autumn collages. Before long the pudding had set, albeit with lumps, and the cookies were golden and smelling like a warm bakery. The pudding was slurped up instantly, and I'm dissappointed in myself for underestimating these little gourmands by adding a redundant dollop of whipped cream to the treat- the syrup stands alone. The cookies were snarfed down at a respectable rate.
Came home and it was almost night, made a filling dinner of shakshuka, greek salad, and garlic naan. Let hub bathe the kiddles and watch the Yankees with Kid1. Slipped out and went to Eustacia's Grilled Vegetables and their many uses demonstration. A warm and yummy day.

Maple Pudding
Beat 2 c. milk, 2 c. real maple syrup, 2 beaten eggs, 5 tbsp. flour, 4 tbsp. butter, 1 tsp. vanilla in a large saucepan until well blended. Place saucepan on top of pot of boiling water stirring regularly until thick.