Thursday, November 30, 2006


I've just cleaned up the sidebars a bit. You can still find all the recipes just by clicking the label "recipes" over there, and you can find my reading and viewing lists over in the commonplace book (which I will try to update more regularly). Otherwise I'm hoping it all still makes sense. I still need to put labels on some old posts--surely there's more than one about knitting!--but all in good time.

lazy daisy cake

Last year for my birthday I received this great little cookbook: Lost Recipes. Marion Cunningham is also the name behind Fannie Farmer, and she has a nice touch with homey recipes. I made terrific biscuits from this book the other night, in fact--maybe I'll post them later.

I've been intrigued by Lazy Daisy Cake for a long time--I think I probably first saw it in Fannie Farmer, as a matter of fact. A quick cake with a broiled topping seemed like such a good idea! But I'd never made it.

Until last night. Mark and Mariah were very late coming home, dinner was made, and Nick and I decided we'd keep it warm and wait for them. I could, I suppose, have knit a few rows on a Christmas something, or graded a paper or two, but this was what I did instead. It was a good choice.

Here's what you do:

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and flour (or spray) an 8-inch square cake pan.

Beat together two eggs with one teaspoon of vanilla. When the eggs have thickened slightly, add in one cup of granulated sugar. When the mixture is thick and has lightened somewhat, stir in a blended mixture of one cup all-purpose flour, one teaspoon baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. In a microwave safe cup, add one tablespoonful of butter to 1/2 cup milk--microwave until the butter melts. Working quickly, add the hot milk/butter to the egg/flour mixture. The batter will be very liquid. Pour it into the prepared cake pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.

While the cake bakes, melt 3 tablespoons butter. Add 3 tablespoons brown sugar and 2 tablespoons cream, then mix in 1/2 cup chopped nuts. When the cake is done, spread this topping on top and run the cake under the broiler for about a minute (not two, as I did!). Let cool briefly then cut and eat.

(And now, I believe, I have indeed posted something every day for a month. If not here, then on the other blog. So it can be done!)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Missing the bus

As I'm sure I've posted about before--but am too lazy to link now--I drop Mariah at her school bus stop every morning at 7. Or, soon thereafter. The time has been slipping all fall, and now if we leave the house by 7 we figure we're doing all right. In fact we often sit and wait at the stop for a few minutes even so.

But this morning the radio commentator noted that it was 7:10 as we were pulling away from the house, and that made me nervous. There are more cars on the road at 7:10 than at 7, and we didn't hit the lights right, and by the time we got to the stop there were no kids waiting, no other cars, no bus. So we turned around and headed out towards the other bus stop--15 minutes away, across the river. (The geography here makes it so that we're actually about equidistant between the stops, but there's a toll and a river between us and the second stop, so we always go for the first.)

We made it to the second stop just behind the bus. As we pulled up I saw one of the kids we carpool with getting out of her dad's car, and laughed: apparently the long weekend had delayed them as well. And before I pulled away two more kids (siblings) who usually take the north side bus jumped out of their car and ran to get on the bus as well.

Break's over.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I love Thanksgiving leftovers... much that I made a Thanksgiving dinner for us tonight. We had a lovely, elegant meal with friends on Thursday; everything was delicious, and we all had lots of fun. I brought home the leftover hickory pie, but the rest stayed there--as it should. That meant no turkey leftovers, no stuffing, no gravy, no sweet potatoes in my refrigerator.

So last night I put a pie crust in the fridge, and I rolled it out and filled and baked it this morning: pumpkin pie, ready before church.* I peeled and chopped sweet potatoes and nuked them long enough to mash, beat in eggs and butter and sugar and milk and vanilla (avert your eyes, all you lovers of savory sweet potatoes) and topped with pecans and brown sugar and butter and flour: sweet potato casserole, ready to bake.

Then after lunch I went on a bike ride with Nick and Mark and various other folks to celebrate the birthday of one of Nick's friends. It was a great day for it, and a couple hours of exercise was just right for this weekend.

Back home, I put a turkey breast in the oven, then chopped onions and apples and sauteed them up to add to cornmeal stuffing. There were still rolls in the freezer from Thanksgiving so those came out to thaw. I toasted almonds and cooked green beans and pulled the leftover cranberry sauce out of the fridge.

Turkey breasts, of course, cook quicker and more evenly than whole turkeys, so in about two hours it was done and I had gravy going while the stuffing and sweet potato casserole and rolls heated up. And now we've eaten our fill and there's--hallelujah!---enough left for a couple more dinners, and maybe a lunch or two as well.

*I maybe should have waited until I was a little wider awake: following the recipe on the can of pumpkin, which was (I'd checked earlier) exactly the same as the one in the Joy of Cooking, I was fooled by the tiny type and used 1/4 cup of brown sugar where in fact 3/4 was called for. Even with my glasses on this just didn't register with me. The pie was fine, though--not as sweet as usual, but still fine.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

hickory pie

This is pecan pie, New England style--a family tradition in my family, where my dad shells hickory nuts every fall/winter and makes maple syrup early every spring, thus supplying the basic ingredients. You could make this one with pecans if that's what you have, though.

I got the pie crust recipe from the New York Times. If you've seen my peach pie recipe (or even if you haven't) you may note that this one has more butter than usual. A lot more. And you know what? It's really, really, good, and easier to manage than the other one. So you can choose, but know that this is good.

Here's what you need:

for the crust:
10 tbl. very cold butter (up to 3 tbl. can be shortening if you prefer; I think I actually only ended up with 8-9 tbl. in all, 2-1/2 of shortening and the rest a very nice Irish butter).
1-1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2-5 tbl. cold water

for the filling:
5 eggs
2 tbl. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup brown sugar
1-1/4 cups maple syrup
2 cups hickory nuts (or pecans)

Cut the butter/shortening into 1/2 inch bits. Pulse the flour and salt briefly in the food processor, then add the butter/shortening. Pulse until the butter is in pea-sized or slightly smaller pieces. Add water slowly through the feed tube until the dough starts to come together. Dump it out of the processor, form into a ball, flatten into a disk, and wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate until you are ready to make the pie. (Overnight is fine.)

Roll out the pie crust* and fit it into a 10 inch pie plate, preferably glass or pottery. Place the nuts in the crust.

Mix together the eggs, butter, syrup, vanilla, and sugar until the eggs are beaten and the sugar is mixed in, but the mixture is not yet frothy. Pour over the nuts in the pie shell.

Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 and bake for another 35-45 minutes, or until the top puffs up. (If the crust looks like it's browning too fast, cover it with a narrow ring of aluminum foil or one of those things designed for that very purpose. Hmm, that looks like a useful gadget!) Cool and serve with whipped cream.

*Rolling out a pie crust used to scare me to death. They didn't hold together, they stuck to things, I couldn't get them the right size. Then I bought a pastry cloth and rolling pin sock, et voila! Much easier. (The more butter thing helps, too!)


On this Thanksgiving morning, I am thankful for:

The quiet of a holiday morning, when I am the only one up. (Because we're being thankful here I won't go on about the conditioning that has me up at the same time--o'dark-thirty--every morning.)

The thanksgiving feast we'll eat later today, most of which I won't prepare.

The friends with whom we'll eat it. And the many friends we won't see today, too many to link, some known only in cyberspace.

The foods I will prepare, including sweet potatoes anna and hickory nut pie (recipe tomorrow if it turns out well).

Family, both scattered and close (and including, of course, un-linkable family).

Knitting. (One Christmas project down, many to go!)

Tae kwon do.

Butter. (See foods, above.)

Robin Williams's Barry White imitation in Happy Feet. (While I'm on Happy Feet, how did George Miller go from Mad Max to Babe and Happy Feet?)

My students, and the syllabus design (mine!) that means most of them didn't turn papers in Monday for me to grade over the break, so that I can, instead, do this.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

weekend report

Christmas knitting has begun. And that's all I have to say about that. (No peeking!)

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Nick started studying tae kwon do, a Korean martial art, about two and a half years ago. At first it was a once-a-week after school class at his school: little kids in the basement yelling and kicking. It was actually pretty fun to watch them all work on their patterns, but we weren't sure it would last.

When that class ended, though, he wanted to find another one. He'd tested for his first belt at that point, gotten over the jitters of being in a big room with strangers and working through his routines, and he was ready to do more. So we called around and found a class only a few blocks away. Perfect!

We didn't know quite how perfect. While the first class had taught him some basics, in the new class he was getting real discipline. I knew I'd love this class when I saw the teacher get his small group of boys to sit cross-legged and meditate for a few minutes after stretching and before beginning their practice. (I still wonder what goes through their heads at that time.)

Nick quickly advanced, earning a new belt about every three months. He memorized complicated patterns of kicks, punches, blocks, chops, and turns--sometimes as many as 38 moves in a single pattern. He focused his sparring techniques. He (mostly) kept quiet when the teacher asked, stood, bowed, and addressed him as "sir," and helped the other kids. He broke a board or two.

After a while I started noticing adults in the class. Apparently parents of the kids had asked if they could take the class rather than just sitting and watching, and the teacher agreed. (Actually, to be more accurate: moms of the boys in the class joined up. Although there's one small girl in the class, and more recently one adult male, there's an interesting gender dynamic going on that I'll analyze another time.) So this summer, I joined too.

Pause here to remember that I'm not an athlete. I have no storied past as a runner or swimmer or softball player to regret. I started taking yoga classes about seven years ago and had recently fallen out of the habit. I don't like to sweat. But I was feeling the lack of exercise, and it seemed like time to start something new. And I was a little frustrated at work, and I thought maybe a more active, aerobic exercise practice than yoga would be a good release. Maybe I'd even learn how to break a board.

So far I'm nowhere near Nick's level--like most of the other parents in the class, I lag behind my son, which makes for an interesting dynamic: the sons outrank the mothers, but the mothers are bigger and stronger than the sons. We used to laugh when we first started sparring--it seemed so silly, trying to hit someone else! But now we don't. We practice our spin moves, our kicks, our punches, and we ki-ya (shout) as loud as the kids when we have to. We take our tests and advance through the ranks. I know three patterns now, and my kicks are getting more focused and stronger.

And yesterday, when I tested for my orange (third) belt, I broke a board with my foot. Didn't hurt a bit.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Thanksgiving recipes, #2: Garlicky Cranberry Chutney

It looks like I don't quite qualify for NaBloPoMo because I'm posting on two different blogs. Ah, well. I didn't sign up in time, anyway, so I'm really just doing it for the glory, not the prizes. Or something. (I'm on the list anyway...scroll down from that above link, if you care!)

And I am really trying to post every day, just to see if I can. So here's today's effort, another Thanksgiving recipe. You need to know that my family thinks cranberry sauce is one of the vegetables on the Thanksgiving table. Or two or three of them, actually. We do usually try to provide something green, but there's lots of the red stuff: often three or four varieties. My dad likes cranberry-orange relish. Others like Mama Stamberg's cranberry-horseradish concoction--something I have to confess I have never tasted, though it certainly looks pretty. Then some plain whole-berry sauce (but I said "plain," so skip the orange zest!) is nice, and I even really like the jellied cylinder that comes right out of the can and can be cut into neat round slices.

But my own favorite is this garlicky chutney, loosely adapted from a recipe Susan Stamberg posted along with the horseradish one (in fact if you scroll down from the above link you'll find her version). Here's how I do it: easy and delicious.

1 12-oz. bag cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

1-inch fresh ginger (or 2-3 tbs. chopped ginger)
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
4 tbs. sugar
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. salt (or less)
ground black pepper
1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pecans (optional, but I think they make the dish)

Combine the first three ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer for 10-12 minutes, or until the berries pop. Let cool. (If you're in a hurry, just use a can of whole-berry sauce here.)

Cut ginger into paper-thin slices, stack slices and cut into really thin slivers (or, use the pre-chopped stuff in the jar, as suggested above).

Combine ginger, garlic, vinegar, sugar and cayenne in a small pot. Bring to a simmer, then simmer over medium heat until there are about 4 tbs. of liquid left. Add the cranberry sauce, salt, and pepper; mix and bring to a simmer. Simmer on gentle heat for about ten minutes. Cool before serving. If desired, stir in 1/2 cup toasted nuts, just before serving.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Thanksgiving recipes, #1: sweet potatoes anna

I think we're gathering with friends this year for Thanksgiving, so I'm starting to think about the various fabulous sides and desserts I can bring. This one has been a family tradition on my side of the family for over a decade now, I think: I just tracked it down in an email from 1999, at which point we'd been making it for a while. It is for those people who prefer their sweet potatoes savory--I have another terrific sweet potato recipe for a more dessert-like concoction--and it does take some time, but it's well worth it. Here it is:

Sweet Potatoes Anna

5 sweet potatoes, peeled
2 leeks, whites only
6 tbsp butter, melted
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375. Slice potatoes very thinly (1/8"); cut leeks in half lengthwise and slice those thinly as well. Butter a round, shallow 10" baking dish. Arrange a layer of potato slices in the pan in overlapping circles. Brush with 1/4 of the melted butter, top with half the leeks & thyme, s&p. Repeat with another layer of potatoes, the remaining leeks & thyme, then a final layer of potatoes. Brush the top layer with melted butter. (Yes, you are using a lot of butter. It's worth it.) Cover the pan with foil, and weight it with a heavy skillet to bake for 30 minutes. Remove the skillet & foil, baste with the remaining butter, and bake uncovered for another 30 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes and then turn out of the baking dish onto a plate before serving, and prepare for compliments.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

weekend update

That title still makes me think of Dan Ackroyd and Jane Curtin, which I guess dates me, but so what? This was a quiet weekend--with the teenager out of the house most of the weekend the rest of us spent a lot of time quietly reading. There were things we could do (and we did a few, like go to the library and to a concert on campus) but mostly we were quiet. And we caught up on sleep, which was nice.

I did, of course, bake. With, I have to say, somewhat mixed results. I was intrigued by the no-knead bread in last week's NYTimes--I have a long love affair with no-knead bread, after all. But this one used less yeast and sat around a lot longer. In my case, about 20 hours. In the end, I was frustrated: the bread did not rise anything like as high as I expected, it stuck to the kitchen towel I was raising it on, and it didn't brown up in a lovely way. It did, however, make a more than edible loaf of bread. I'm thinking that maybe he really meant it when he called for "instant yeast," since that's the only deviation from the recipe I made. (Believe it or not!) And in some ways it was fine that it didn't rise up very high because I don't actually have a casserole big enough to bake a bigger loaf in. So we'll see if I try that again.

I also decided--because we had two pears, and because it seems to be pear baking season--to try this pear upside-down gingerbread. And it is very tasty, I must say, even if you bake it in the toaster oven because the regular oven is already full of pork tenderloin and roasted vegetables and bread. The toaster oven does, you will remember (a bit too late) bake a bit faster than the regular oven, so the cake may be a little, um, burnt on top--but that becomes the bottom anyway, so who cares?

All in all, a perfectly fine weekend, rain and wind and all.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

November 11

is not only Veterans' Day, and/or Armistice Day, it's also Corduroy Appreciation Day. On account of the 11/11 looking like corduroy wales, naturally.

Friday, November 10, 2006

the names of the trees

I don't know most of them. The big tree on our corner is an elm, one that so far hasn't succumbed to Dutch Elm disease. It's already lost most of its leaves. When I park the car on that side of the street I drive on top of a thick carpet, almost up to the curb. They're wet and springy and and slippery. What's left on the tree are brown and dead-looking.

In front of the house the crape myrtle still has most of its leaves. In the interior, among the multiple trunks, the leaves are still green, tipped with light yellow. Moving outward they turn more yellow, then gold, then orange, then almost red at the tips of the branches. This tree is only about as tall as I am; a few years ago it was taller, but there was an accident on our corner and a car ended up on top of the tree, pushing it down to the ground. Amazingly, it has come back, with more trunks than before.

In the backyard the dogwood still has leaves and they are a dark, burnished red. No matter how bright the sun they don't really catch the light as the red maple leaves do; they look dull but rich.

A block or so away there's a stand of gingkos. Their leaves are so yellow they look, from a distance, like flowering trees with blossoms as bright as forsythias. In the late afternoon, when the sun is low, they look lit up from within and below, glowing a deep bright golden yellow.

There are a few more I know but not many. And I can't quite capture the colors when I photograph them; that late, low light just doesn't come through in my pictures. They look almost on fire, some of them, and as I drive down the street away from the sun the remaining elms and their younger, newer cousins, whatever they are, lean across the street making a canopy of flaming color to drive through. I wish I knew all their names.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I'm just asking...

why is it that my box of 100% organic, whole wheat pasta had an extra layer of (non-recyclable) packaging? Normally the pasta is just inside the box; this time there was also a plastic bag inside the box--one that I had to cut my way into (no "easy open" here) and then discard.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

new column

check it out here, and leave me a comment!

And, then, go vote. Or, you know, vote first. The column will still be there when you get back.

(And, yes, this post is a duplicate of the one at my other blog. I'm busy today, ok?)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

must be the weekend

because I've been baking. Every other meal, I think, since Friday evening: casserole that night, (Nigella's granola) muffins the next morning, biscuits with dinner Saturday, (pumpkin) muffins this morning, and flatbread with dinner tonight. It's madness, but no one complains.

This morning's muffins, below, are shamelessly ripped off from Susan, who got the idea elsewhere. Yum.

BTW, this recipe is basically what I did, though I only just discovered that. I actually made mine from a recipe for pumpkin bread from a falling-apart paperback cookbook, The Art of Cooking for Two, that I always just scoop into muffin cups instead. So I didn't do the nice cinnamon-sugar top, but otherwise it's really almost the same, except that I used a cup of brown sugar rather than the 1-1/4 called for, and two cups flour (one each white & whole wheat).

Saturday, November 04, 2006

another thing about fall

in Virginia... you can go pet the alpacas here. Who knew so many people were raising (and showing) alpacas? Much cuter than sheep, and bigger...

edited to add a picture, just to prove cuteness (not my picture--and, actually, we saw even cuter ones!)

Friday, November 03, 2006

fall in Virginia

If I earlier disparaged the fall colors in Virginia, I now retract that false and erroneous statement and give you this:

Thanks to H for reminding me.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

where I'm not

I'm not at all sure I'm going to blog every day during November, though there are those who would encourage me to try. I'm definitely not writing a novel this month. Still, if I were going to post every day this month, I might do it this way, with pictures.

Here's someplace I'm not, today. It was lovely; I'd go back in an instant, and I get why Wordsworth wrote "lines" while he was there. I was inspired, too (but not to poetry).

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Very Scary

The headless wonder heads out for the night...