Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Sweet Tea Bread

It took me a long time to come around to being a coffee drinker because I started out as a tea drinker. When I was a child I remember I was given a very milky, weak tea when I was sick. Later, one of the highlights of my day was the time spent after school sitting at the dining room table enjoying a cup of tea and some conversation with my Mom. She would stop her busy schedule most days in the afternoon for 'tea time' and it was a great opportunity to discuss anything from problems at school to events of the world. She and I were both very interested in politics, so often the conversation turned to that topic. I'm grateful that she isn't alive in 2017 because I believe that the upcoming inauguration would be a trial for her. She was a supporter of equality for minorities and both genders most of her life and she was not a hater, although she wasn't a fan of the last President Bush, either.

In college I started to have coffee some of the time, although tea was still my favorite hot drink. Once I started working it was far easier to drink coffee when I was on the go, so tea became a drink for the afternoon only.

Lately I have discovered that coffee and my body don't get along, so tea is my hot beverage for the whole day. I have all kinds...black, green, red, caffeinated, decaf, fruit infusions and so on. My favorites are English or Irish Breakfast, Earl Gray, and Peppermint, plus a ginger/honey combo from China that is both sweet and hot.

Recently I baked a lovely quick bread that has tea as one of its ingredients. You soak some dried fruit overnight in the tea which really gets the whole loaf infused with the tea flavor. For that I used English Breakfast since it is hearty and the flavor doesn't get lost in the other flavors of the bread.

You can mix up the dried fruits you use, but be sure to include some candied citrus peel for the special tang that gives. I baked this recipe as four small loaves instead of one big one and just reduced the baking time (45 minutes instead of 1 1/2 hours). Either way, this is a lovely bread to have with a cup of tea!

Tea Brack
one medium loaf or 4 small loaves
from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads

1 cup white raisins (I used golden raisins)
3/4 cup dried currants (didn't have enough, so added 1/2 cup dried cherries and 2 tablespoons candied ginger)
1/4 cup chopped candied peel (I used half lemon and half orange peels)
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups cold tea (I used English Breakfast)
1/4 cup rum or brandy (I used Irish Whiskey)(optional but nice)
2 cups bread or all-purpose flour (I used 1/2 all-purpose, unbleached and 1/2 Irish whole meal flour from King Arthur Flour)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon EACH ground cinnamon, grated nutmeg and salt
1 egg, room temperature, well beaten

Grease and line sides and bottom with buttered waxed paper - 1 medium (8" x 4") loaf pan. Leave the paper ends sticking out about 1/2 inch so the loaf can be pulled from the pan. Set aside. (You can prepare the pan the next day after the fruit is marinated.)

In a bowl combine the raisins, currants, candied peel, brown sugar and cold tea. Add a dollop of brandy, rum or whiskey to give it a secret goodness, although this is optional. Cover tightly with plastic wrap so that no moisture escapes and let marinate overnight.

The next day...Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. while making the batter.

In a clean bowl mix together, with your clean fingers, or a spoon, the dry ingredients: 2 cups flour, 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Pour the dry ingredients into the marinated fruit mixture, stir well to combine, and add the egg. The mixture will be on the thin side. Pour or spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the loaf slowly in the 325 degree oven until a toothpick comes out dry when pierced into the load, about 1 1/2 hours. If using a convection oven, reduce heat; bake at 300 degrees F.

Remove the bread from the oven. Place on a wire rack about 5 minutes to cool, then remove the bread from the pan, discard the paper, and let cool completely before slicing.

Serve with butter or cream cheese...and tea!

I suspect that you could marinate everything and keep it in the refrigerator (for at least a few weeks) until you wanted to make the Tea Brack. That would mean that it would all be done in less than two hours. That's still not as fast as Irish Soda Bread for unexpected guests, but pretty fast for expected guests and family!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Wonderful With Jam

Elizabeth of Blog From Our Kitchen is our Kitchen of the Month for this new year, January 2017. She chose a bread she heard of from another BBB, the lovely Jaime. Jaime has a bed and breakfast property in France and one of the impressive things about the breakfast she serves is the amazing variety of homemade jams.

These rolls are wonderful with jam! They have a rich taste, have a tight crumb, and a nice crust, and are light and flavorful. If you don't like jam, that's OK because they are fine all by themselves (or with a little butter).

I did the orange version. The orange is just hinted at, but I think it is lovely. I also used wheat germ and Irish Wholemeal Flour (instead of whole wheat flour) because I like the flecks of germ and bran in it. I did use the orange blossom water and a bit of dried orange peel, plus the orange liquor.

I made the dough as the recipe was written, making sure that the milk mixture was body temperature and everything, but it's been cold and damp around here...lots of rain and wind and power outages...so I found that the dough really wasn't rising. It wasn't part of the recipe, but I decided to boost the dough a bit by taking a cup of all-purpose flour, some additional dry yeast (maybe 1/2 teaspoon...not sure, didn't measure it) and adding enough water to make a soft dough. I let that dough sit for about an hour to let the yeast get feisty, then kneaded it into the recipe dough until it was pretty well combined. Then I let that dough rise as if it were the first rise. I think that all of the butter, milk, eggs and alcohol might have bested the original yeast a bit, so the reinforcements were needed. From that point the dough rose really well and the resulting rolls were heavenly.

I shaped the rolls just as the recipe called for. Because I had added more dough, they were pretty large. Next time I think I'll make eight or nine rolls so they are a bit smaller. Might put them in a cake tin, too.

So try this lovely French roll bread, especially if you like some jam (and butter) with your rolls.
If you want to be a Buddy, let Elizabeth know how your rolls turned out and be sure to include a photo for the roundup. She needs that by January 29th. Check her blog for details.

Check out what the other Babes have baked this month, too.
A Messy Kitchen - Kelly - Fouace-Nantaise -an Orange Scented Bread 
Blog From Our Kitchen -Elizabeth - Dreaming of Orange Blossoms
Bread Experience - Cathy - Fouace-Nantaise Orange Star Bread
Judy's Gross Eats - Judy
Karen's Kitchen Stories - Karen - Fouace-Nantaise /Two Ways
Life's A Feast - Jaime - Life's A Feast
My Kitchen in Half Cups - Tanna  - BBB Fouace- Nantaise
Notitie van Lien - Lien - BBBabes Give You An Orange Flower 
and our queen of the round-up:
Thyme for Cooking - Katie  -  http://thymeforcookingblog.com

Here is the recipe that Elizabeth gave us:

Fouace Nantaise 

based on Jamie Schler's recipe for Fouace Nantaise


·                     50g (3+1/2 Tbsp) unsalted butter

·                     60g (60ml) milk

·                     3g (3/4 tsp) active dry yeast

·                     250g (~2c) flour
   » 50g (6 Tbsp) 100% whole wheat
   » 185g (1+1/2 c) unbleached all-purpose
   » 15g (2 Tbsp) wheat germ

·                     4g (~1/2 tsp fine) sea salt

·                     25g (2 Tbsp) sugar

·                     45g (45ml) orange liqueur (Grand Marnier or Cointreau)

·                     7g (~1+1/2tsp) orange blossom water

·                     2 eggs, body temperature, lightly beaten

·                     zest of one orange, optional

·                     milk or cream, for wash on shaped loaf


1.             mixing: Melt butter.
2.             Pour milk into a largish mixing bowl. Add the melted butter to the milk to raise the temperature to body temperature (check with a thermometer OR by placing a drop on the inside of your wrist - if the milk feels cool, it's too cold; if it feels hot, it's too hot; if it feels like nothing, it's ju-u-u-st right). Add yeast and whisk in until it has dissolved.

3.             Adding them one at a time, whisk in eggs, then pour in orange liqueur and orange blossom water. Place flours, sugar, salt, and orange zest (if using) on top. Using a wooden spoon, stir until the flour has been absorbed. (Traditionally, the bread is made with rum rather than orange liqueur. The first time I made this, I did use rum, but I really wished that the flavour was more orangey so decided to use orange liqueur instead.)

4.             kneading: Using one hand to turn the bowl and the other to dig down to the bottom to lift the dough up to the top, turn, fold, turn, fold, etc. the dough until it is smooth and elastic. As you knead, resist the temptation to add more flour or water.

5.             Once the dough is kneaded, cover the bowl with a plate and allow the dough to rise, until almost completely doubled, on the counter in a non-drafty area.

6.             shaping: When the dough has doubled, it's time to shape. (To check to see if it's ready, poke a hole in the top of the dough. If the hole fills up, it hasn't risen enough. If there is a whoosh of air and the dough deflates a little, it has risen too much. If the hole stays in exactly the same configuration and the dough remains otherwise intact, it is ju-u-st right.) Turn the risen dough out onto a very lightly floured board (just the smallest dusting will be enough). Divide the dough evenly into 7 pieces.

7.             Shape each piece into a ball. Place one ball in the center of a parchment-lined cookie tray. Arrange the other six balls of dough loosely around the center ball - to form a flower. Cover with a damp (clean) tea towel followed by plastic grocery bags and leave to rise until almost doubled. (To test, using a floured finger, gently press against the side of the shaped bread. If the indentation immediately jumps back, it's not ready; if it stays indented, it has over-risen; if it gradually fills in, it's ready to go.

8.             baking: Preheat the oven to 350F. Gently brush the top of the risen bread with milk (or cream). Put the tray onto the top shelf of the oven (to prevent the bread from burning on the bottom) and bake for about 30 minutes until the bread is a "deep golden brown". Jamie also writes that the outer "petals" of the flower "will have just started to pull away from the center ball".

·                     Other recipes for Fouace Nantaise:
» Foodista:
 Jamie Schler's Fouace Nantaise
» Trouver en Bretagne:
 Fouace Nantaise (en français)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What Smells SO Good?

That's what Sweetie asked after he came in from cutting up the Christmas tree to put it into the green recycle bin. We finally took down the tree today and put all the decorations and ornaments and lights up in the attic until next year. Usually I would have done it on January 7th (the day after Epiphany), but we have been having terrible wind and rain since the weekend and it was nice having the lights and soft glow of the round ornaments during the rain. Of course we also had some blackouts with no power - 3 hours and then about 6 hours, plus a few brief ones, (less than a minute), so no comfort from the tree lights then. Still, we are on high ground, so no flooding here. We didn't lose too many tree limbs, although our old apple tree did fall over, which is very sad.

Our friend and neighbor Phil also asked, "What smells so good?" when he came by this afternoon to borrow a few gallon jugs of well water. Our neighbors are on a different power line and had been out of power for about 14 hours by then and needed a little extra. Fortunately, I usually fill up about a dozen during December for times like these. We have our well water treated with a salt, so for tea and coffee I use bottled spring water because it has more acid than the treated water, so it's better tasting, for tea especially. I just fill those as they empty and label them with the date and "Well".

So what did smell so good? The Country Bean, Ham and Cabbage Soup that took most of the day to make. This is one of those recipes that are good to do when you're going to be hanging out at home much of the day. We did get a walk in with Pi between storms,

and saw how flooded the Laguna de Santa Rosa was on High School Rd. in Sebastopol. Many roads in the Santa Rosa area have flooded and there have been mudslides and evacuations from low lying areas. We have had over 11 inches of rain since Sunday. A good time for soup since there is more rain today and will be a little more tomorrow. Taking care of the Christmas tree was also a 'between the storms' thing since we finally had a day where there was a break between storms.

You actually start this soup recipe the night before. You rinse dry white beans and put them to soak with water covering them. (Actually put at least an inch of water over them. They soak it all up during the night). The next day there are draining, rinsing and simmering sessions. The longest is for an hour and a half. Most of the rest are for 15 minutes or a half hour. It does take a little time to chop the veggies and to make the herb bouquet. Towards the end of the process you have to take a few minutes to fish out the herb bouquet to discard and to cut the ham into bite sized chunks, as well as to slice up the cabbage. The recipe calls for a roux of cooked flour and butter to thicken the soup, but mine simmered so long that it didn't need any thickening.

Give this a try. The recipe is from my Mom, but I don't know where she got it from...I just make it and enjoy it. It is hearty, tasty, stick-to-your-ribs good, and pretty healthy, too. It makes lots, so there are leftovers which are even more delicious than the original meal. Just be prepared for that question: What Smells SO Good?

Country Bean Ham and Cabbage Soup

2 1/3 cup dry pea beans (Great Northern, white beans)
1 3-lb cooked picnic ham, bone in
1 celery stalk, sliced
2 carrots, quartered and sliced
5 sprigs parsley + 2 bay leaves tied together
2 medium onion, sliced, plus 1 onion stuck with
3 whole cloves
4 garlic cloves, mashed
½ teaspoon EACH dried thyme & ground pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 can tomatoes
1 small head green cabbage, sliced in 1/4” slices

Cover beans with cold water by at least an inch and let stand overnight. 

Drain, rinse, return to pot and cover with fresh water and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and soak for 1 hour. 

Drain & rinse & return beans to the pot. Add ham. Add enough water to cover the beans. Bring to a low simmer and simmer 15 minutes. 

Add the vegetables, herbs, onions and seasonings to pot. Cover and simmer 1 ½  hours. 

Add the tomatoes and simmer ½  hour. If tomatoes stay whole, chop them up with a spoon. 

Remove herb bouquet and whole onion. 

Add the cabbage, stir, and simmer ½ hour. 

Remove any ham bones and discard. Cut up any ham chunks into bite sized pieces and return to the pot.

Make a roux of 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons flour, cooked in a small pan until light brown. Add it to soup. Simmer 15 minutes. 

Taste and season with more salt and/or pepper as needed. Serve hot.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Bread For The Storm

It's funny how the prediction of a major rainstorm coming our way spurs different folks to do different things. We are lucky enough to live up a hill, so flooding isn't a problem. We did move the cars out of the way of potential falling cedar trees and we made sure to have flashlights ready and extra bottles of well water for power outages, but beyond that there wasn't too much to do.

Turns out that my neighbor and I both decided that fresh bread was a necessity if a storm came, plus soup of one kind or another. I made a loaf using my sourdough starter (100% hydration), some Irish Whole Meal Flour from King Arthur Flour, and some unbleached bread flour. The Irish Whole Meal Flour has little flakes of bran and bits of wheat germ in it so you get a nice texture and flavor. The bread flour gives that added gluten for rising. I've been feeling like a failure lately with my sourdough breads (too dense and too flat), so this time I kneaded it by hand to make sure that it felt right as well as looking right. I also beefed it up with a bit of added dry yeast in the flour mixture. The crumb was somewhat airy as a result.

Now I could try to give you a recipe, but the truth of the matter is that there were many parts that I didn't really measure.

Basically I took 1 cup of sourdough starter and added a mixture of half wholemeal flour and half bread flour, plus water. It was about a cup of the mixed flours and a cup of water. I let that mixture sit and bubble for a couple of hours, then stirred in another cup of the mixed flours and some salt. I let that sit an hour, then kneaded in more of the flour mixture (here is where the measurements don't happen), until the dough was soft but firm. I let that rise until doubled, then turned the mixture out onto a floured board and degassed it, then rolled it up into a loaf shape, put it in a loaf pan and let it rise until it barely rose over the top of the pan. I painted it with soy creamer and slit it across the top in three places. I think I messed up on the slits because the top sank where I had cut the slit.

Into a preheated 350 degree F oven it went for about 40 minutes. I cooled the baked loaf on a rack for about 10 minutes, then tried a slice while it was still a little warm. Delicious!

The next morning I woke to the generator running at the fire station next door, which usually means that the power is out...and it was. How nice to have fresh bread to enjoy with a cup of tea made with water heated on our gas stove. If you live where the power goes out during storms, a gas stove that you can light with a match is a great thing to have!

The power came back on in about three hours, but the winds were so fierce and flooding of the roads around the area so bad that we didn't even think to venture off the property. Still, we had the Sunday paper to read and enough light coming in to read by, so we were the lucky ones I think.

My neighbor just came over a little while ago with some of her porridge bread, based on a recipe I baked, but she went even further and ground her own flour with rye berries and a red hard wheat called Fife as the grains to use.

It is a delicious, hearty bread with the moisture typical of porridge bread and of rye bread. The flavor is phenomenal and the grain tight and crust dark and lovely. If you look closely at the slice you may be able to see some of the bits of grain. It has a nice chew, too, which mine didn't.

Hope you are staying warm and dry wherever you may be!

Friday, January 06, 2017

Wise Guys

The twelve days of Christmas are over and we have reached the Epiphany, commemorating the story of the wise men from the East, who followed the star to Bethlehem and presented gifts to the infant Jesus.

During the days I've had the Nativity scene on my hutch, the figures for the wise men, affectionately called the 'Wise Guys' by me, have waited on the side. Today they were able to take their place, front and center. This weekend the holiday decorations will be packed up and returned to the attic for another year, the tree will go into the green recycling bin, and each of the figures for the Nativity set will get wrapped up and stored together with the stable until next year.

I feel blessed that no one else in the family wanted this set. I remember it on my Mom's mantle in the living room and even though I didn't make it back to Virginia for Christmas very many times, having it here makes me feel closer to my family; those still living and those who have gone on to the next life. I don't know how old this set is, but I think it is at least 25 years old...maybe older.

I really do plan on getting back to posting recipes soon. So many of the things I've been cooking and baking lately are old favorites that have been posted before...so you get old wise guys instead.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Life As Tapestry

I discovered something about myself the other evening. It gives me a kick to have a tapestry of a life rather than a literary life or a painter's life or a baker's life or gardener's life. I spend a lot of time on philanthropy in the form of helping raise money for and award scholarships, but I'm not a philanthropist...it's just a thread in the tapestry. I wonder what the weaving will look like when I'm finished?

I guess there are some days when I envy the kind of person who says to themselves, "I'm a historian" and then that is the main passion of their whole life. For one thing, if I could do that and just focus on one passion, I wouldn't have the accoutrements of so many different passions taking up storage space around the farm. I wouldn't have a spot for mosaic tiles, another for stained glass and all the tools that go with stained glass window making, another for gardening supplies, another for painting supplies, and another for cookbooks and cooking equipment and baking supplies.

I might have walls of history books, instead of walls of books on subjects like The Romans in Britain and Tea and Tea Parties, on Square Foot Gardening and Garden Structures, on Building Decks and Renovating Bathrooms, to say nothing of Just My Type (typography) and Making a Literary Life. The newest additions are on Cookies and Pies, so recipes will be coming shortly.

Fortunately I have a good sized set of storage areas and I enjoy all the different threads, including my newest plan, which is to grow seedlings to give to the local Grange folks for their spring plant sale. In the past I have grown up to a dozen different kinds of tomatoes in one year, plus three kinds of squash, a few kinds of cucumbers and a few more kinds of beans. I ended up giving a lot of seedlings away and having way too many plants, so some produce went to waste. Growing all of those seedlings for the Grange will let me try some new ones and pass along some that I know grow well here. That way I can enjoy growing all kinds of different tomato seedlings, for example, but I can just plant two or three actual tomato plants in my own garden. The rest will find homes elsewhere. Wonderful!

If you are reading this it is likely that you, too, are a tapestry sort of person since I think we tend to attract like-minded folks. What is your blend of threads? If you have one blazing passion, what is it? I know that there are a fair number of folks who read these posts, but I know little about you. Care to share?

Monday, January 02, 2017

A Little Lemon Sauce

Although we love the richness of Christmas foods and sweets, Sweetie has been giving away the things that are left and asking me to take a break from baking. With the coming of January I start thinking of healthier options. Not a diet exactly, but more soups, salads and things like grilled salmon. Grilled chicken or shrimp would also work well with the lemon sauce we had with our New Years Eve fish.

We are fortunate because fresh wild salmon is available in the regular market for a somewhat reasonable price at this time of the year. When fresh salmon is $17-20 a pound, as it often is, I turn to less expensive fish like rock cod. Last week it was $12 a pound, still a lot more expensive that most meat choices and much more expensive than veggie choices, but I tell myself that it is the best kind of fish oil and good for the heart. Sweetie grills the fillets after giving them a thin coat of olive oil and a sprinkle of herbs and pepper.

Because it is also lemon season and I wanted to see if I could make a non-dairy, creamy lemon sauce for our New Year's Eve salmon feast, I played around with one. It turned out to be sweeter than I wanted it to be, but Sweetie loved it, especially with his Ponapean rice, which has steamed white rice mixed with ripe banana. I think I'll try almond milk or a combination of almond milk and broth the next time I make it to see if it turns out more savory. There is some inherent sweetness in the soy milk that didn't appeal to me when it was part of the sauce. If you like your sauce thinner, just add more liquid.

Creamy Non-Dairy Lemon Sauce

4 tablespoons non-dairy margarine
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
zest from half a lemon
juice from a full lemon
1 cup soy creamer
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan melt the margarine. Whisk in the flour and cook over medium heat for a few minutes. Add the lemon zest and stir for a few seconds. Mix the lemon juice and soy creamer, then add all at once to the saucepan, stirring constantly. Continue to stir and cook over medium-high heat until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.

If holding the sauce for a short while, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the sauce to keep a film from forming. Remove to reheat or to serve is sauce is still hot enough.

Serve hot.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year!

The best part of 2016 for me was going to Ireland and France. I bought a new ornament for the Christmas tree to commemorate that...a bag of baguettes.

Somehow 2016 seemed like a long year...probably because of the Presidential elections here in the U.S. Not thrilled with the outcome, but perhaps there will be positive foolishness and not just negative foolishness. Already hearing some who were thrilled the day after the election who have changed their minds. That's a pretty quick turn around considering that we heard practically nothing 24/7 but Trump this and Trump that. Anyone who was paying attention pretty much knew that we were going to get what we are starting to get. The inauguration is still almost 3 weeks away!

On to more positive things. Not sure if it is Pollyanna or ostrich behavior.

Santa gave me a new fitbit for Christmas since my old one conked out on me. The old one was sweet and simple. This one is so complicated that I haven't been able to complete setup so far. I'll try again tomorrow morning. I have to decide on using my iPhone as the dashboard or a Windows 10 computer. I somehow thought that I could use both. I used the iPad and my computer with the old, simple one. Perhaps Santa should have just given me another simple one. I'm a simple kinda girl. Oh, that's right....positive, positive, positive. Well, when it gets going I'm going to have access to more information to encourage me to have healthier habits. There, positive enough?

It truly is a beautiful day/evening and I truly wish each and every one of you a most Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2016


One of the signature dishes that Katherine is always asked to bring to parties is what started out being called Christmas Crack. She made it one year for our Boxing Day Party and then figured out variations for other themes, like Super Bowl, New Year's, and the Oscars. This year she showed me how to make it. It's pretty quick and easy, although making sure you have all the elements may take a bit of doing. I found everything I needed at Target, plus I already had red and green sprinkles and some silver decorating edible dust.

First you gather your ingredients: Boom Chicka Pop Sweet and Salty Kettle Corn popcorn, mini pretzels, Candiquik vanilla melt and make, M&Ms (here is where you can go with a theme...for Christmas red and green works really well),

sprinkles, sea salt. I added some silver culinary dust for extra sparkle, plus we had some sparkle M&Ms and tiny red and green Christmas tree sprinkles.

Next lay out two long sheets of plastic wrap, overlapping slightly, on a clean surface. This is where the mixture will cool.

Break the mini pretzels into smaller pieces and measure out two cups of them.

Place the popcorn and pretzel pieces in a large bowl. Add about half the M&Ms. Set aside.

Break up the Candiquik into chunks and put them in a microwave safe bowl to melt. We goofed and used a bowl that heated up too well in the microwave, so the candiquik started to brown! Should have used a Pyrex bowl. Live and learn. I'm sure to make this again.

Melt candiquik in the microwave, a minute at a time, stirring after each minute, until the candy coating is smooth and melted.

Pour about half over the popcorn and pretzels and M&Ms, stir to coat those with the melted candy. Add another quarter of the M&Ms and stir again.

Keep stirring to coat everything in the bowl well.

Pour the mixture out onto the prepared plastic and nudge with a spatula into a pretty even layer.

Sprinkle on the rest of the M&Ms and drizzle on the rest of the candy coating. Sprinkle with colored sprinkles, sea salt and the silver dust, if using. Use the toppings that make you happy, but don't forget the salt. The sweet/salty results are part of the addictiveness.

Let the mixture cool and become firm. Pile into a bowl and be prepared to become instantly addicted!
The crunch of the popcorn and pretzels goes so well with the creamy coating, the sweet M&Ms and sprinkles and crunchy sea salt. Sweet, salty, crunchy, YUM.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Comfort Food Like It's The 1960s

We are coming to the end of 2016 and I am delighted that NoHandle has given us the gift of another guest post:

My eclectic reading led me to a discussion of the national cuisine of Great Britain not being Fish and Chips, but rather Curry. This brought back some memories of a dish that didn’t make it into Elle’s cookbook, but was served at home at least a few times. Internet searching suggests it was somewhat commonplace into the 1960s. It was called 9-Boy Curry, where the 9 might be any number between 5 and 12, and signified the number of servants (boys) that would have been needed, in England’s far-Eastern empire, to serve the condiments that enlivened the dish, and that topped the curry after it was served. A quick survey of the Internet yielded the basic recipe, a chicken curry, and that it was traditionally served over white rice (at least in the U. S. of the period), plus an extensive list of condiments, with which you can go wild. They are listed at the end of the recipe and narrative given here.

That curry is archetypically British was already known to me. There is no curry native to Indian cuisine as such, and in fact the composition of this melange of spices, apart from the “5 Cs” and turmeric, is highly variable. The closest Indian mixture is probably Garam Marsala. Curry was composed for the British occupiers, and exported home when they left. In my brief visit to London a few years ago, I didn’t notice any particularly large number of curry shops, but I wasn’t looking for them either. My friend Butterfly spent several months in London, and assures me the British eat a LOT of curry.

With that preamble, here is a quick trip through preparing this exotic comfort food. Like curry powder, this recipe is a blend of several sources. It’s all good. The list is long, but preparation is quite simple:

2 three-lb. roasting chickens or 8 chicken breast halves
            (It has been noted that this is also a great way to consume turkey leftovers.)
1 yellow onion, quartered
4 whole cloves
1 carrot
2 celery stalks
2 Tablespoons of parsley
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
½ Cup butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons curry powder (or to taste)
½ teaspoon ground ginger (fresh ginger is even nicer, about 1 Tablespoon shredded should work)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon ground pepper
dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
2 green apples (Granny Smith will do) peeled and sliced
2 onions, chopped
1 14-oz. can of tomatoes with green chillies, drained
3 Tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon salt
4 Cups (reserved) chicken stock
1 lemon’s juice
½ Cup dry white wine
½ Cup half and half
Cooked rice (basmati is nice for this)


We are starting with a chicken stock, so in a deep stock pot, place whole chickens (or breasts) with the next eight ingredients (above the line above). Add enough water to cover the chickens plus a couple of inches. If you are using chicken breasts, layer the seasonings with the chicken. Cover and simmer until just tender, but not falling apart. For me, at altitude (Denver, U.S.A. area), this was about two hours from a standing start. The only attention was to turn down the heat once it boiled (about 30 minutes). Chickens cook quickly, but stock pots vary wildly. Skim the stock if foam collects. 

When done, remove the chicken to cool; skin, bone, and cut into bite-sized pieces. A pair of tongs was my most useful tool. Strain and reserve the stock. You will have lots more than you need.

Next prepare the sauce; this part takes about 45 minutes. Sauté garlic in the butter, then the flour and seasonings. This blooms the spices before the other ingredients dilute the effect. Add the onions, apples, tomatoes, and cover. Cook for 10 minutes, then add stock (4 cups), lemon juice, and wine.

Cook an additional 15 minutes until smooth and fairly thick. Divide this sauce into two batches and blend. 

Add enough cream to reach the desired consistency (fairly thick; you know, covers the back of a spoon). Restore the chicken pieces to the sauce and heat gently for 10 minutes. You could put this in a warmer on the table so people can serve themselves small portions as they mix and match the condiments. 

Serve with a side steamer of rice, and of course your selection of condiments. Pass them around, family style, or place in the center for easy access. You won’t want to try everything together, but you might choose a few, server yourself a little more and try a different selection, repeating until you have found your favorites. Some combinations will be surprisingly good; who knew that this paired so well with that? It’s an adventure!

At about the same time as you start the sauce, you will want to start the rice (unless your using MinuteRice, which I do occasionally). Here I used James Beard’s technique for “steamed” rice, done in a skillet. Cover the rice (1 cup here, but probably 2 cups or more with a full recipe) with about an inch of water, and heat to boiling. Then reduce to a simmer. Takes about 20 minutes. It came out slightly gummy.

Condiments (choose a dozen or less from this list):
Crumbled bacon
toasted coconut
grated egg yolks
grated egg whites
chopped toasted peanuts (boiled peanuts toast really well)
sunflower seeds
chopped crystalized ginger (or sweetened dried ginger slices, chopped; check Costco)
sultanas (golden raisins)
chopped celery
diced carrots
chopped onion (red or yellow)
diced pickled onions
strips of citrus zest (both lemon and lime; experiment with grapefruit)
chopped scallions
chopped toasted (or smoked) almonds
chutney (lots of choices here)
dried (or fresh) pineapple shreds
avocado pieces
chopped olives
orange marmalade

This is a great family or friends experience, seeing how your flavor palates compare, and trying new flavors from a land that is not traditionally known for rich spices. By the way, this is not bland, but neither is it as spicy as most dishes at an Indian restaurant. My wife (sorry girls ;-) is not a fan of strong spices, and she liked this a lot. Experiment with the amounts of spices too. Enjoy! ~NoHandle

Monday, December 26, 2016


I hope that your Christmas was filled with joy, and that the time didn't fly by quite so quickly as it seemed to here.

The time with our daughter here at home just flew by. It didn't help that her flight was cancelled, so she arrived the next morning, which meant less time together. Still, we had fun decorating the tree together, much to Sweetie's amusement. Some years we go with a color theme and this year we agreed on red and gold, so the multi-colored lights and ornaments we have used in recent years were left in the attic, but we still had plenty of lovely ornaments, strings of tiny white lights, and barely enough non-breakable decorations for the bottom branches where the lethal black lab tail of Pi would wreck havoc with breakable ornaments.

We listened to Christmas music,  and moved things around until everything looked balanced (and this process was greatly amusing to Sweetie who is still mystified as to why this ritual is so enjoyable for us. He does, however, enjoy the finished product and told us so a number of times). The photo at the top of the post is the finished tree. See the new French baguette ornament I got to remind us of our trip? Notice the gorgeous hot air balloon ornament from Kate? Hot air balloons are very Sonoma County. It's fun to add an ornament or two each year.

Then we moved on to getting ready for the tea!

Christmas Eve was peaceful and we enjoyed a relatively fancy dinner of coq au vin, mashed potatoes and peas. I also baked a goodie for Christmas morning.

Christmas was even more laid back. Coffee and tea first, of course. Then we gently reheated my version of the Kringle recipe that is this month's #bakealong recipe at King Arthur Flour. Theirs was a pecan and caramel Kringle. I went with almond and raspberry, including putting a thin rope of almond paste between the bottom and top layers which was not in the recipe at all. The Kringle was moist and almondy and perfect! Looks like I have found our 'new tradition' recipe for Christmas morning. We also had fruit salad that Sweetie made, mimosas that Kate made and some delicious ham.

In the afternoon we had some friends and neighbors drop by. The table had been set up with an array for foods that can sit out as a buffet, like roasted peppers, kale salad, bean and corn salad, bread and cheese and a tray of mixed dried fruits. When they arrived I added things from the fridge, including potato salad, hummus and chips, and an assortment of salamis. The two couples each went home with a plate of Christmas cookies, too.

It was nice to just have a few folks over. We'll do the Boxing Day Bash next year and have lots of people to visit with. It would have been too much this year.

So Kate flew home today, I visited with Straight Shooter (since when he arrived in the late afternoon Christmas Day we were already visiting with those who had dropped by), had tea with a friend who brought a new, gorgeous doggie bed for Pi (thank you Paula...he loves it!), and took a nap. Did some laundry, ran the dishwasher, helped take out the trash...that sort of thing.

It would have been hard to have a better Christmas (except for having Kate and Straight Shooter here for another day or two).

Tomorrow or the next day I'll have a guest post for you...with a recipe that I would never make, but one that looks delicious!

Here is the recipe for the Kringle as tinkered with by me:

Almond Raspberry Kringle
Based on a recipe from King Arthur Flour

  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) non-dairy margarine, cut into pats
  • 1 cup  all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  •  1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 4 oz. almond paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) non-dairy margarine
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  •  3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • about 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • 2-3 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • 1 cup confectioners'  sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy milk, enough to make a thick but pourable glaze
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • pinch of salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) a baking sheet that's at least 18" x 13"; or a 14" round pizza pan.
  2. To make the base: Combine the margarine, flour, sugar and salt, mixing until crumbly. I used a pastry blender to cut the fat into the flour mixture. Add the water, and stir to make a soft, sticky dough. I used a fork and added the water slowly as I do for pie crust.
  3. Wet your hands, pick up the dough, and shape it into a 12" x 8" oval ring on the sheet pan; or a 10" ring in the pizza pan. This will be messy going, but just keep wetting your fingers and pushing it into a ring. An easy way to approach this is to first divide the dough into four pieces; roll each piece into a 9" rope, then connect the ropes and shape them into a ring.
  4. Once you've made the ring, flatten the dough so it's about 1 1/2" wide; basically, it'll look like a train or NASCAR track. Make a thin rope out of the almond paste and put it over the dough, connecting the ends so that the whole 'track' has a ring of almond paste in the middle of the track.
  5. To make the pastry topping: Place the water, margarine, and salt in a saucepan, and heat over medium heat until the margarine is melted and the mixture is boiling.
  6. Immediately add the flour, stirring with a spatula until the mixture is cohesive and starts to form a ball.
  7. Transfer the batter to a mixing bowl. Beat in the eggs one at a time, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add the almond extract at the end.
  8. Spread the pastry along the ring, covering it and the almond paste completely; you'll now have a much wider ring, though it won't be completely closed in the center; it should still look like a ring.
  9. Bake the kringle for 50 to 60 minutes, until it's a deep golden brown. When the kringle is done, remove it from the oven, and allow it to cool completely on the pan.
  10. To add the filling: First, have the sliced almonds all ready beside the pan of kringle; you'll be sprinkling them atop the jam as soon as you put it on.
  11. Stir the jam with a fork to break it up and then spread it over the kringle in a thin, even layer, mostly in the middle. Sprinkle sliced almonds atop the raspberry jam, pressing them in gently. Allow the kringle to cool completely.
  12. To make the glaze: Stir together the confectioners' sugar, salt, flavor almond extract and enough soy milk to make a pourable glaze. Drizzle it over the kringle.
  13. To serve, cut the kringle in 2" slices.

If you prefer, you can bake the base, almond paste and cooked dough topping the day before serving, then wrap well and let sit on the counter overnight. In the morning add the jam and glaze. 

I baked mine and did the jam and glaze on Christmas Eve, then put it in the microwave overnight (out of sight, out of mind, so no one is tempted to try it early), then reheated it gently in the microwave before serving on Christmas morning.

Friday, December 23, 2016

A Christmas Tea

It's been years since I last hosted a Christmas Tea for family. Fortunately, today my sister, her husband and granddaughter, Sweetie and my own amazing daughter were all able to gather around the table laden with finger sandwiches filled with chicken salad and with egg salad, cold cooked shrimp, a wonderful assortment of cheeses (with crackers) that Natashya brought, hummus and pita chips, mixed nuts, and assorted Christmas cookies. Of course there was lots of tea, plus some spiced hot apple cider and some good strong coffee for their trip home.

One of the things I discovered during preparations for the tea is that I don't really enjoy making tea sandwiches. I love eating them, but the making is too fussy. Guess I'll never run my own tea shop! I also discovered that I didn't have a recipe for egg salad. There was one for Classic Chicken Salad in the Comfort Food cookbook, but I guess egg salad was left out. I looked at a lot of egg salad recipes online and figured out my own recipe, which is below.

There is something very graceful about a tea party. Conversation goes around the table, as does the food. Stories are told and jokes laughed at. I think I refilled the tea pot with boiling water and new tea bags (yes, I used tea bags when I need the convenience...like today) at least a half dozen times as cups were filled and refilled.

Because we were also doing a late celebration of Natashya's birthday, I baked Maida Heatter's 86-Proof Chocolate Bundt Cake, using bourbon instead of Irish whiskey. It was delicious and a nice ending to the tea party.

Egg Salad for Sandwiches

6 eggs, hard boiled, chilled and peeled
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon milk or soy milk
salt and pepper to taste

Finely chop the hard boiled eggs and put chopped egg in a mixing bowl.

Add the chopped celery and chopped parsley, but don't mix.

In a small bowl mix together the mayonnaise, mustard and milk. Stir to combine well. Add to the egg bowl. Stir gently to combine the egg, celery, parsley and dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix in. Chill until ready to use to make sandwiches.