Archive for the 'Baking and Cooking' Category

La La La La La

tall canna lily front garden

Isn’t that what you say when you cover your ears so you can’t hear what someone is saying to you? La la la la la la la. I do NOT have the energy today to deal with macro issues: return to school? presidential election? senatorial elections? college football? eating out? La la la la la la.

1st mushroom sighting

The first sighting of the mushrooms. They look harmless, don’t they?

Unfortunately for me, my little micro concerns were also difficult this week. Sigh. So no cat pictures today – still a little bit too sad about GC for that. Which leaves me only the garden and yard for an escape. Oh – and food. There is always food, right?

crustless quiche

crustless vegetable quiche

Let’s do food first. My husband has been cooking. His new obsession is making pot stickers from scratch. I can assure that yes, you CAN get bored with eating pot stickers. The last two times he suggested it I vetoed the idea. That got me homemade pasta with sauce (oh yum yum yum) and a delicious flatbread pizza. I also got a crustless quiche. You can tell from the photo that he LOVES cooking tomatoes. I’m not as fond of cooked tomatoes as he is but at the moment they are still preferred over yet more pot stickers. The night he made the pasta he made a tandori sauce to go on it. Out of this world delicious. Remember Snuffles, the treat loving dog from Quick Draw McGraw? That describes the 4 of us having dinner. My brother-in-law is usually the bread baker, as I’ve told you. His breads are beyond compare. He was busy all day, however, so baking the challah fell to me. It was good, but it convinced me to get myself a bread thermometer. I worried about it being under-baked so I gave it more time than I thought it probably needed. I’d rather have it that way, even though over-baking means leftovers dry out faster.

Ahuva's challah

That is a 5-strand braided challah. Haven’t done one in years and so my strands were not as evenly thick at the end of the braiding.

The local news reported today that July was the hottest month on record for New Jersey. As everyone commented – tell us something we DIDN’T know. When I was a young lass, maybe all the way up to my 30s, NJ summers were my favorite weather. Hazy hot & humid did not faze me. Now that I am older, I have more empathy for those who complain about NJ summers. The humidity wipes me out. I learned in Arizona that temperatures above 100 are probably more heat than I enjoy, but I can go up into the 90s and have no problem if it is dry. I finally understand the phrase “it’s not the heat it’s the humidity”. Yes, it’s the humidity. And the dratted no-see-ums that are eating me alive every time I water the plants. My legs are covered with scratched bites and scabs. My legs look like the legs of a grade schooler (if there were still such a thing as grade school – oh wait – do NOT go there). My wonderful husband heard me moaning every night after watering the plants and bought me mosquito netting pants!!!! They do work! The problem, I think, for me is that I sweat so heavily from the humidity, that it is still attracting them through the pants. The number of bites is greatly reduced but I still got bitten the other night. I think I’ll try spraying the pants with insect repellent and see if that makes any difference. I could try to get up early when there are fewer bugs about but mostly I get up that early to make sandwiches.

mosquito netting pants

You may laugh but everyone who has seen them or heard me talk about them has asked where they can get them (search on mosquito netting pants)

I came home from making sandwiches yesterday and went to pull into my driveway. And I stopped. There was a man from the utility company walking out of my driveway and 5 orange cones IN my driveway. I rolled down my window and looked at him, and asked “What are you doing?” He explained that he had cleared it with the man in the house (*grin* I said – my husband, he said – I didn’t want to presume, I said – wise approach these days). The apron of the driveway was damaged when we got the new gas and electric to the house back in February or whenever it was. They are finally getting around to repairing it. He said we couldn’t drive on it for 3 or 4 days. That means no convertible – it is in the garage. Too bad, because the temperatures are only supposed to be in the 80s for the rest of this week. Of course, the humidity is also supposed to be in the 80s. It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.
driveway before and after

Last year I mentioned that I should plant lots and lots of canna lilies because the butterflies seemed to really enjoy them. I have only seen 2 butterflies this year so far. I showed you the monarch butterfly on the butterfly weed. There has also been a black swallowtail I’ve seen periodically. The swallowtail seems to check out everything but the things I planted specifically to make butterflies happy. It seems to really like the echinacea. I saw it today checking out the herbs, tomatoes and superbells, but it flitted away before landing anywhere. Camera-shy I guess.

black swallowtail butterfly on echinacea

Black swallowtail butterfly

I planted 2 gardenias this year – one in a hanging pot and one in a pot along the front walk. I believe that the one in the hanging pot was burned out by the hot weather, after managing to produce 2 flowers in the late spring. The one along the walk has produced one full bloom. It does smell heavenly.

gardenia

Gardenia

Not only has it been humid, we’ve gotten a lot of rain. The fun part is when it rains in the evening so I don’t have to brave the no-see-ums and can skip watering the plants. Apparently it has been even wetter than I realized. This week my neighbor’s lawn has sprouted mushrooms. Every day they have gotten larger and larger. There must be a good story to write there but at the moment I only have the illustrations. ๐Ÿ™‚ If they get much larger they are going to cross the line from impressive to creepy.

mushrooms day 2

okay, a little wider, but still not too creepy

Then of course there are the canna lilies. The “rescued” cannas have been thriving in the pots along the walk. FINALLY one of the ones I planted has begun to bloom. I get very impatient in the spring. Even knowing things will grow, I don’t want a lot of empty space that needs weeding and looks neglected. I cram way too many plants into one area. I have this gorgeous stupendously tall canna right smack in the middle of the lawn garden. Beautiful. BUT – crammed in that spot are 2 Rose Mallows, perennials that are in the hibiscus family. One of them was doing quite well before the canna began shooting up. The other is nestled under a canna leaf. When I can brave the biting-bug-filled lawn to go there, I rearrange it to be in front of the leaf. But somehow it always resets to under and behind. I hope it is sufficiently rooted to survive.

Mushrooms day 3

There are actually 5 of these things in the yard. These 2 are about 6 inches across at a minimum.

I like so many flowers, and I’ve now got so many perennials. I want MORE rudbeckia laciniata hortensia, but I’m not sure where I can put them. I will have to pull out the firecrackers or chop down the variegated grass. Or pull out the rudbeckia laciniata (single bloom rudbeckia). That might work, except I also have the goose neck flowers there and I added the swamp milkweed as well. Sigh. Maybe I should put a border garden along the walk? That gets lots of sun.

rudbeckia after the rain

Rudbeckia laciniata hortensia after the rain. do you see the HUGE mushrooms?

Whatever it is that snuck into my planters now has flowers. I can’t wait to see what I’m growing. I thought that purple-edged leaf vine was a sweet pea vine – that’s what I was calling it in my head. But it’s not, according to my search. According to my search I have no idea what it is, other than beautiful. I also have no idea what to tell the lad who cuts my grass. I’m tired of moving pots and putting them back. I think I’ll tell him to just ignore the grass under the vines. *laughing* There isn’t really any grass, is there? My lawn is really nothing but weeds. ๐Ÿ™‚
vines in the grass

tall canna lily and rose mallow

Rose mallow, canna lilies and dahlias

Birthday Lunch Down the Shore

highlands beach

I know I’m getting older. Time was if I’d planned to go to the beach, nothing would deter me. But despite having plans to spend Thursday down the shore, I could sense my heart wasn’t really in it. I’ve been hearing horror stories about the traffic and the lines to get into the national park. It’s been so humid that it sucks the life out of me. Late Wednesday night I emailed my sister and said – let’s not go. She was astounded and concerned. The truth was that I’ve been doing so many things that I’ve wanted to get done for so long, and I wasn’t ready to take a day and do nothing. I wrote back and said that nothing was wrong, I really was still her sister Ahuva, and that I was planning to go down the shore for lunch. She was amenable to that change so down to the Highlands we went, back to Inlet Cafe. That place is really becoming one of my favorite spots.

old rusted anchor

local color

We drove down in the luxury car, not the convertible. Neither of us was really up for the 96 degree heat and humidity. I love my new used car – it rides so smoothly and is so powerful. I’m enjoying all the luxuries and appreciate the fine tuning. Unlike dinner on a Saturday night, there was no wait for a table. I probably made a mistake by asking for a table in the shade. We sat close to the building and there was only an occasional breeze. I’m not sure that it would have been better at the tables by the water, however. They are separated by walls of clear plastic now and it’s possible that the plastic would also break the breeze. It didn’t really matter as the food was great, excellent service and a lovely view of the water.

sign board at inlet cafe

sign board at inlet cafe

While we were there I had birthday calls and texts from my niece and my son, so it was a little family lunch. For many years the 4 of us had what we called “our beach day”. Over the years we had traditional stops on the way, traditional conversations, and lots of memories of good times together. Time passes, children grow up and move away, and it’s been awhile since we had “our beach day”.

NOT spqr

NOT SPQR ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

My sister CLAIMS she reads my blog posts, but she was astounded when I parked the car in the tiny municipal lot by the tiny little beach. Despite signs claiming it was an unguarded beach there WAS a lifeguard on duty. I’d noticed the lifeguard stand when we’d been down there for dinner. There were letters on the back but they were partly covered by signs. My liberal arts Roman history major mind looked at what was visible and was sure the letters were SPQR – Senฤtus Populusque Rลmฤnus. For those of you who did NOT study with our beloved Dr. P. B. Harvey at PSU, SPQR is “The Senate and People of Rome”, an emblematic abbreviated phrase referring to the government of the ancient Roman Republic. It appears on Roman currency, at the end of documents made public by an inscription in stone or metal, and in dedications of monuments and public works. I had no idea why a lifeguard stand in the Highlands should have SPQR painted on it, but it definitely struck my fancy. ๐Ÿ™‚ Since there was someone ON the stand, I couldn’t resist. I walked over and asked the young (cute) life guard what it said. He replied that it was SBOR – Sea Bright Ocean Rescue. I told him I was crushed and started to explain and he nodded and finished the explanation. *grin* Not only cute but learned. Impressive. Ah well, we must learn to live with disappointment.

joe's salt sticks

my brother-in-law’s incredibly delicious salt sticks

I pointed out to my sister some of my other favorite little discoveries around the restaurant. I have always been an LBI fan, especially drawn to Beach Haven, but I could really envision renting down in the Highlands. Actually, I could envision retiring to the Highlands. Too bad my husband is set on moving further south when we actually do this retirement thing.

joe's rye bread

Incredibly moist tasty rye bread

Driving home we had one of those “sister experiences”, where we end up laughing so hard we are crying, our sides hurt from laughing, and we worry about not having a change of clothing. ๐Ÿ™‚ I do believe my sister is the only one who makes me laugh like that, where I am crying from laughing, and I scream with laughter. It felt good. I begged her to write a post for this, because she writes so well and we were so out of control, but she decided it simply would not translate properly. We had dinner at her house, as her husband offered to make me anything I wanted for my birthday dinner. He and I cook for each other now it seems. He is always making me bread that is so delicious I cannot stop eating it. All his bread is good but his salt sticks and rye bread are sublime. Many many many years ago I traded my Thanksgiving dinner rights for a yearly loaf of rye bread. On the other hand, *I* make him sugar-free desserts. One of the things I wanted to do on vacation was try a new recipe – a flourless chocolate cake. Since I now have FIVE boxes of Tagatesse, I wanted to see if I could make a SF chocolate cake. I knew once I licked the batter that I had a winner. Flourless cakes are much like thick brownies. We brought over some SF vanilla ice cream and had a fantastic dinner with my favorite breads (and hot pastrami) and a great dessert! Birthdays are fun. Just a shame that they come with aging bodies. ๐Ÿ™‚

sf flourless chocolate cake

SF flourless chocolate cake dusted with powdered Tagatesse

Berry Good Baking

fresh baked berry galette

Fresh baked berry galette

Ahhhh – summer! Time of fresh berries straight from the farm! Most of you probably DON’T know that NJ is the Garden State. We have (or at least had) large and small farms all over the state. Everyone grows something edible in their garden. There is nothing as refreshing and wonderful as a fresh fruit salad made with blueberries, strawberries, nectarines, blackberries, raspberries and maybe a kiwi or two. Yum! When I put the berries into my cart somehow I can’t stop, and I find myself at checkout with LOTS of berries. As much as I like snacking on berries, even I can’t always keep up with the amount I’ve brought home. That means pies!

berry galette before baking

Galette before baking – neatly wrapped up ready for the oven

Way back in the fall I discovered the rustic apple cranberry tart recipe. What I loved about that recipe was the crust. It’s a galette – a one crust pie where the bottom crust is overly large and just folds around the filling, no need to cover the entire pie. I used that crust recipe and filled it with berries, using a Bon Appetit Berry Galette recipe for guidance on the filling. I like that crust recipe a lot. I’m not sure why but it always feels just a bit easier than my normal 2 crust recipe, maybe because I am working with less dough. I also made a pie one time with the leftover dough from the 2-crust recipe. I had to stretch that dough to make a rough lattice. I was in a hurry to have it ready for dinner so I didn’t weave the strips, but I assure you that it tasted just fine anyway! ๐Ÿ™‚

WC napping

Not all of us get excited about berry pie

A Family of Food

Oreo Cheesecake Bar

Oreo Cheesecake Bar pre-cutting

My husband loves to cook. He loves watching cooking shows, reading cookbooks, and creating marvelous yummy entrees. I like to cook MUCH more now than I did prior to renovating the kitchen (it’s so EASY and fun to cook in the new kitchen) but I consider myself more of a baker than a cook. Naturally our son both cooks and bakes. He will often send me photos of his meal or of some treat he’s baked. His specialty seems to be baking for his coworkers. I think it began innocently enough. A good friend there had a birthday. This friend apparently loved the movie (Mean Girls) from whence we get “On Wednesday we wear pink!”. My son baked a birthday sheet cake and frosted it with pink icing. His coworkers devoured it. I think the next birthday was someone who likes bread, so my son baked a gorgeous challah. Also devoured. His office has pot luck meals at holiday times so my son has brought in potato latkes (devoured) and challah (devoured). I know he’s brought cookies and biscuits as well. Hope they all have memberships at a gym. This week’s office birthday treat was Oreo Cheesecake bars. They were apparently a big hit – devoured. ๐Ÿ™‚ Now if I can only teach my son to take food photos as great as his baking!

oreo cheesecake

Yes it IS blurry but it still looks yummy!

Flatbread for Dinner

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fresh homemade flatbread with homemade topping – YUM!

This weekend my husband announced on Saturday that he would be making flatbread for dinner on Sunday. I wasn’t really sure what that meant but I’ve learned over the years that if my husband is cooking, I’m enjoying (okay, there was that one time over 30 years ago when he made fried rice and none of us could feel the inside of our mouths for the next 2 weeks). I was given instructions to pick up fresh yeast (not dried yeast) and some more mushrooms. We had, according to the chef, sufficient plum tomatoes and onions and tahini and parmesan cheese. He likes to talk to me to tell me what he is going to concoct. I don’t always listen in detail because these conversations often occur when I am in the middle of doing something else. ๐Ÿ™‚ I listen for the “do we have any” and the “can you pick up” phrases. I went about doing a zillion errands and chores on Sunday – dusted his office (no wonder why he is always coughing up there), cleaned the bathroom, did the laundry, grocery shopping, got books from the library, and emptied garbage cans. I figured after that day I was entitled to sit back and let someone else make dinner. It was, of course, totally delicious. Other than what I mentioned above, I have no idea how he made it or what was in it. But now it’s in us and our tummies are oh so very happy!

Cinnamon Scones Make Rainy Days Sunny

beating a rainy day with coffee and scones

beating a rainy day with coffee and scones

Yesterday was hard, very hard. I was soooo tired physically, afraid that I might be relapsing with this dratted PND syndrome. I wasn’t handling work stress well either, I’m sure because of the fatigue and fear. The day ended well, however, with my friend/coworker giving me a much desired and needed 90-minute coaching session while he drove home (a 5.5 hour trip for him). My husband heated up the leftover game hens for dinner, and I had a glass of wine. We watched the next Mrs. Maisel episode (we’re in Season 3, but we only watch one or two episodes a week). I was in bed by 10:30 pm and had no trouble falling asleep.

cinnamon scones before shaping

i love how easy it is to shape scones – just pat a circle and cut

This morning the cats gave me a present and let me sleep until 9:00 am. Not a single meow or mrrrrp or head butt. It was delightful not to be nudged. ๐Ÿ™‚ I had great plans for today. Well, great is a matter of interpretation. I PLANNED to get a lot of cleaning done. Next week is our big Super Bowl party and I have GOT to get started on cleaning that has been ignored for far too long.

cinnamon scones with raw sugar sprinkled on top

you can see the raw sugar sprinkled on top – a little sweet for us, so I’ll probably leave off the topping next time

Unfortunately I seem to be a child of the weather. It was pouring rain. It was gray. It was VERY difficult to motivate myself to start cleaning. At moments like these, playing cards on the computer seems to be the best way to spend my time. As I lost game after game of solitaire (my way of both zoning out and waking up) I thought about what I might want to eat for breakfast or brunch. I decided I was in the mood for a scone. I thought at first cranberry scones, but when I read the recipe I decided it required too much effort. I’m not sure what about it was too much effort, but I guess it just didn’t sound good enough today for any effort. ๐Ÿ™‚

baked cinnamon scones

baked cinnamon scones ended up being brunch – very filling!

I have a very simple cheese scone recipe and I make it often, without the cheese, just throwing in cinnamon. I decided to look for an actual cinnamon scone recipe and found one that seemed perfect: Cinnamon Scones (with cinnamon chips) on the JoyFoodSunshine.com website. I mean – the website name alone was cheerful. They were easy, quick and totally scrumptious when they were done. I brought one to my husband as he was reading the paper. When I wandered through the kitchen a short while after that, I noticed that another scone seemed to have vanished. *grin* He confirmed that they were fantastic scones and he’d gotten himself another. ๐Ÿ™‚ Now THAT’S the way to wake up and get motivated!

bc under the snack tables

sweet BC allowed me to sleep in this morning so she gets her picture on the post

Cooking Beats The Blues

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Yesterday was NOT a good day. There are some ‘things’ that are making me less than happy at work. I expect those to clear up, but in the meantime I’m not enjoying the state of things. I can tell that I really am fully healthy again because I have the energy to be grumpy. I’m aware of all the things that NEED TO GET DONE and all the things about myself that are not satisfactory. Gee, almost makes me wonder if being sick DOES have an upside. ๐Ÿ™‚ I know – be VERY careful what you wish for.

To top it off I went out at lunch to try to find paint for several of the rooms in the house that still need finishing after taking apart the house for the new electrical wiring in the renovated kitchen. The paint is annoying for a few reasons. First, I can’t believe it’s been over a year and I still haven’t done anything about it. Well, that’s not fair. I DID engage someone to do the painting but he never got to it before I had to tell him to cancel the request. But I HAD picked out paint colors. I thought I’d run over to the big box stores and see if I could pick up the paint myself. Maybe my husband and I would be inspired and tackle one of the walls. I cannot find the colors I selected off of the contractor’s color wheel. I remember the numbers and some of the names. They were NOT at the first big box store I checked. I grabbed a multitude of color samples but none of them look right. I went to the other big box store yesterday to see their colors. While I was standing there the screen over the lights fell on my face. Yes, that is correct – on my face, cutting my nose and hitting my lip as well. I was very taken aback. It is indicative of my mood at that point that I wanted to cry. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ When I went to Customer Support to get the cut cleaned and bandaged and some ice for what felt like it might be a swelling lip, they were completely nonplussed. It was if no one had EVER been injured in that store before nor had they personally ever seen a bleeding cut. Really????? Anyway, the woman got me a wipe from the entry way (the kind you use to sanitize your shopping cart handle) and the man ultimately found me some ice, which he delivered in a napkin. And HE was the manager. Honestly, what passes for training these days? You can see why THAT errand left me grumpy and frustrated.

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carrots & onion

I came home early, resolved to bake or cook or something to beat the blues. I was expecting my husband home around 5:30. I knew he had an appointment far away and almost called him around 5:00 to ask where he was so I could judge arrival time. Imagine my surprise when he called a little after 5 to tell me he had only just left and wouldn’t be home until maybe 7:30. Ouch. That’s a bit late for me to eat. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Good thing I had NOT called when I thought of it, as he would have still been in the meeting.

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carrots, onions, lentils, thyme, bay leaf, red pepper, tomato paste, salt, pepper

I poured myself a glass of wine and sat down to read and think. That all led to me feeling more relaxed and positive about cooking. I decided to try a lentil recipe that I’d found months ago when I was looking for dishes to serve for Sukkot. I wanted something with flavor and texture but uncomplicated because I wasn’t in a mood to fuss. I went with the Pasta e Lenticche recipe. I liked that it cooked in one pot. I hate doing dishes. *grin* I had nearly all the ingredients. I only had green lentils, not brown lentils (note to self: buy brown lentils) and I didn’t have the suggested pasta – I had rotelle, not any tubular pasta, and only dried bay leaf, not fresh. But I did have fresh thyme because that is one of my porch pots that is still producing. ๐Ÿ™‚

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water added per the recipe; ended up adding probably another 2-3 cups because of using green lentils

The dish was very easy to make and very tasty. I had to add much more liquid due to the use of green lentils, but it was easy to judge how much to add. The use of rotelle seemed not to make a difference. I had to add salt to my dish but that is always the case as my husband watches his salt intake. Just as I finished the dish and began to move it to the smallest burner to keep it hot, my husband came through the door. Perfect timing! I’d even had time to put together a fresh salad. Delicious dinner, recipe well worth keeping and repeating, and I was no longer so grumpy. Food, wine and thinking creative thoughts beat the blues yet again!

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pasta e lentichhie all ready!

Perhaps This is What “Health” Feels Like

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Baking powder biscuits made with cream and butter. Yum.

I’m not sure anymore what “healthy” feels like. Are you allowed to have a little bit of sniffles and still be healthy? This weekend I had more energy than I’ve had in weeks. My sister and her husband were coming to dinner on Saturday. I gave myself the luxury of sleeping late (or as late as BC allowed).ย  When I got up, I fed the cats, put away the dry clean dishes from the day before, made coffee and made up a batch of biscuits!!! I haven’t really felt like baking in WEEKS!
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Have I mentioned here what I’ve been doing with my coffee these days?ย  I’ve been adding chili powder and cayenne pepper to the grounds before brewing. I sometimes add cinnamon as well. I find the heat really helps to clear my sinuses and cut through any PND syndrome that is present. I learned that I liked the chili/cayenne/cinnamon combination added to chocolate so I figured that it might work well with coffee as well. I think it was on one of Jinjer’s posts that I ended up in a discussion about those flavors, and the fantastic designer chocolate that introduced me to the combination – Chuao Spicy Maya dark chocolate. I love their website as well. How can you resist the slogan: “For when wine just isn’t cutting it“? They sure have me pegged. ๐Ÿ™‚
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Anyway, once I had my coffee, I was a fountain of energy. I had the energy to have a text conversation with my niece, I cleaned all the counters, wiped down the white cabinets, swept the floors, damp mopped the floors, and cleaned off the dining room table. I then took an hour to relax and make sure I hadn’t pushed beyond my reserves. Then I started baking the spice cake for dessert, and preparing the vegetables to go along with my husband’s cornish game hens. He was also making potatoes au gratin. Dinner WAS delicious. Apologies that I did not take a picture of the cooked hens & potatoes – you will have to trust me that not only where they delicious but they were beautiful as well. My brother-in-law made TWO delicious loaves of bread – a grainy bread with pine nuts and seeds. Also fantastic and we’ve been enjoying the bread since then. ๐Ÿ™‚ They left BOTH loaves with us.

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GC and WC helped my husband research how to cook the game hens

I did send the spice cake home with them. The menfolk told me that they loved the spice cake (made using Tagatesse and Sukrin Gold sugar substitutes) but neither of them much care for cream cheese frosting (in general – it was not a comment on the frosting recipe, which I found tasty). If I’d known THAT, I’d have skipped it and just served the spice cake with whipped cream. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ll know for next time. I have to agree with them. That spice cake recipe made a tasty moist cake that really doesn’t even need frosting. It would be perfect with coffee in the morning.

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very moist and tasty. sorry for the blur. ๐Ÿ™‚

So the thing that is totally frustrating me at this point is that it is becoming impossible to obtain Tagatesse in this country. I don’t even mind paying the outrageous price Amazon demanded – $18/1 pound box. (You do realize that white sugar sells for around $1.50-$1.99 for FOUR pounds???) I need to make friends with someone in Europe (NOT the UK)and/or find someone heading over to Europe. Damhert does not ship to the United States. I only have one more box of Tagatesse. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Venn-Diagram Menu Planning

Venn Diagram Menu Planning
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OR: The Dinner Party That Wasn’t

Once upon a time, there was a world where everyone could eat everything and anything, and menu planning was simple. Times changes, people aged, digestive systems changed and one day we woke up to the fact that whereas we picked our food from Column A, they picked their food from Column B. Some preferences were due to life-threatening allergies, some due to digestive issues, but no matter the source, we all had very specific dietary preferences and needs.

I’ve mentioned our ‘gang of 8’ on this blog before – 4 couples who have been getting together for decades (more than one decade lets me use that phrase). We started with only 2 food requirements: vegetarians and no nuts. Then we added kosher/kosher-style. Then we started with planning for diabetes and high-blood pressure (no salt). Add in gluten-free, low-carbohydrate and I think we’ve got all of the requirements. To date none of us have needed to avoid nightshades but that would not surprise me in the least should it need factoring in. Just for fun, 4 of the people do not drink alcoholic beverages at all.

Couple A are meat eaters, but avoid gluten and carbohydrates. That tosses side dishes like pasta & rice, bread, and potatoes but it also tosses many high-carbohydrate vegetables. Couple B are vegetarians (NOT Vegan, thank goodness). They like carbohydrates and gluten. ๐Ÿ™‚ Couple C have the severe nut allergy – puts her in the hospital. He can’t eat nut products either because should he kiss her with nut residue, off to the hospital we go. Couple D prefers kosher style and needs sugar-free desserts. What is a hostess to serve so that everyone feels like they have a variety of options and no one feels deprived???

I love to bake. I wanted to bake French bread and make desserts for my dinner party. I’m not all that big on potatoes but my husband loves them. I thought I’d bake gluten-free bread, but apparently gluten-free flour is still too high in carbs for Couple A. They WILL eat products with almond flour or coconut flour but see footnotes on couple C. Anything I baked would either kill Couple A or Couple C. *grin* I finally decided that I would bake with gluten, and Couple A would have their gluten-free cheesecake for dessert (which of course Couple C could not touch because the crust would be made with almond flour). Here is the final menu – I get to bake, my husband gets to cook, food for everyone and no one should be going hungry.

Appetizers:
cheese board with crackers and vegetables.

Dinner:
home-baked gluten-full French bread
roasted brussel sprouts
steamed cabbage/broccoli/cauliflower
spring salad
potatoes au gratin (which does NOT mean in cheese)
Cornish game hens

Dessert:
gluten-free cheese cake
apple-cranberry tart (sugar free)
sugar free brownies

It should have worked. It would have been a great dinner. Too bad I was too ill to make it happen. And as I am still too congested today, and now my husband has congestion and is coughing, we cancelled the make-up date too.ย  See everyone for the Superbowl party in 3 weeks!

A Day in the Kitchen

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Rustic Apple Cranberry Tart (from thebakingpan.com)

Saturday was a gray, dull wintery day. I needed an escape. I contemplated driving down to the shore to look at waves, but decided it would be too cold and windy to get out of the car. I thought maybe escaping to the bookstore and finding a good, “real” book would be fun. So I headed to the mall. As I drove I thought that maybe I should have picked pampering instead – maybe I should have gone to the Korean spa and luxuriated in saunas and hot tubs. I was already almost to the mall, though, and didn’t feel like turning back. I remembered that there had been a hair salon for years at the mall. I decided that if it was still there I’d treat myself to having them wash and dry my hair. ๐Ÿ™‚ They were indeed still there, and HUGELY busy and bustling. I explained I just wanted a little pampering and they took me right away. Maria trimmed my hair and dried it so that all the waves and curls showed up. She even flipped my part to hide the roots that needed coloring. *grin* I felt ‘human’ enough after that to head over to Sephora and pick up the moisturizers I needed. Fortified with pampering and lotions I headed home to continue indulging myself.

There was a time when the idea of spending a day in the kitchen would have been considered obligation, not indulgence. That was pre-new kitchen. We are still both loving the kitchen. I had 2 recipes I’d wanted to try – one for lentil soup and one for a cranberry apple tart. I’d also been craving more French bread after posting about breads. ๐Ÿ™‚ I got home, had a bite to eat and set to baking.

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I started with the French bread. I really like this bread. It’s got substance and is chewy. It’s not all air and crust. I think that a “proper” French bread is SUPPOSED to be airy and crust, but mine does not come out that way and I’m glad. I’m not sure if I’m rolling it too thick, or some other deviation but I don’t care. I like how MY loaves come out. My husband likes them too so this recipe is a keeper for us. I forgot to brush the crusts with egg white before I put it in the oven, so these were not quite as shiny as the last loaves. They still tasted delicious. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Next I started on the cranberry apple tart. I’d found this recipe when I was looking for desserts for Thanksgiving dinner. I thought it could easily be switched to be sugar free, even gluten free if it turned out that was necessary. Someone else was bringing pies, however, so I put the recipe aside. I’d picked up some Granny Smith apples at the farmers’ market specifically for this tart. I ended up using 3 of those and one stayman (winesap) apple. I used the Sukrin Gold brown sugar substitute. I was a little impatient while making the crust. I knew I was using more ice water than I do usually but it did come out fine. I chilled it in the freezer instead of the refrigerator because I was not going to have a lot of time to let it chill. The dough was a little sticky when I rolled it out for the pan, but it held together and was tasty. One of the tricks I’ve learned recently is to use a grater to add butter to my crusts and biscuits. In the past I’ve cut tablespoons of butter into the flour, and then used a pastry blender to chop it further. Grating the butter saves me so much time and effort! I love this little hack. I tried it on margerine but it doesn’t work – margerine is simply too soft. Maybe it would work better if I froze the margerine first, but that probably has other consequences.

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Once I had the tart in the oven I started on the lentil soup. I’ve learned to read the comments on online recipes. I’ve gotten some helpful tips from other cooks. The first comment on this recipe was quite long and detailed, about doubling ingredients, adding a few things, but saying that the soup came out great. I decided to make the soup by following those comments (after all, anyone who adds port to the soup is cooking on my track, to mix several metaphors *grin*). Of course I modified it, because that’s the whole point of cooking, is it not??? Since I’ve actually made lentil soup before, this was not going to be a case of follow first and then tinker. I knew where I wanted to end up. I didn’t have port but I did have sherry and used that. I only used 3 carrots, not four. I used 1.5 cups green lentils and 1/2 cup red lentils. I used my immersion blender to break up the chunks of carrots and tomatoes (from the canned diced tomatoes – I did not have crushed tomatoes). After all of that, it still seemed just a tad too tame for me. I took a look at my red lentil soup recipe and added some cumin and chili powder for a little heat. Once I did that I was satisfied with the flavor.

I think I made a successful meal. *smile* The tart was half-gone by bedtime. The soup is nearly all gone today, only a day and a half later. The bread – well, there is one hunk of bread left from the 2 loaves. I guess I need to get back in that kitchen soon and indulge again. ๐Ÿ™‚

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mmm mmm good.


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