Baking · positive directions

Make the world better

I have written before that my life was always “half a block away.”  We lived half a block from a very affluent neighborhood, and the geographical distance was a metaphor for so many aspects of my life.

One of those areas was obviously money.  While my “other side of the street” friends had parents who drove them to school, I walked or paid my own bus fare.  They bought lots of new back to school clothes every fall.  Many of them were given cars when they turned 16, and so on.

As children on the wrong side of the street, we were given an allowance, just so we had money.  It was $1/week.  It wasn’t a lot, but my parents wanted us to understand the connection between work and income.  We had money making opportunities, which were chores with a choice.

shirt-iron-8-front Continue reading “Make the world better”

Baking · Bread

Local Crisis

A layer of kefir milk with the "grains" on topMy former mother-in-law (FMIL) worked, many years ago, for a company which makes plastic bags. You know, the kind you find at your local supermarket when you are buying produce. They come in rolls, mounted in dispensers above the glistening array of fruits and vegetables you want to take home, but don’t want to have moisten your check stand impulse copy of Beautiful Bodies and How You Can Get One (subtitle: You Obviously Don’t Have One or You Wouldn’t be Reading This Drivel).  I digress.

The bag company used to occasionally make a mistake or have a client return a batch of bags.  They were always quite serviceable, the wording was not what the company wanted.  Finest Prosecute Available never sold many Bartlett pears.  The “oops” bags were placed out for the employees to take home, gratis.  FMIL took advantage of the offer, sharing rolls of bags with us as well.  It was a sad day, sometime last year, when I used the last of those roll bags.  It was so incredibly handy, especially when the kids were in diapers, to have bags whenever we needed them. Continue reading “Local Crisis”

Baking · Cookies · Practical

Perfect cookies

This morning, King Arthur Flour posted a treatise on baking the perfect cookie.  It is a fabulous post and I highly recommend it, especially if you’re having issues with things being over or under done.

The other tidbit of advice is to be aware of the fat inculcation.  Overmixing the butter will result in too warm a dough and it will spread quickly and burn more easily.

Britain · Cake · Candy · Holiday

Green and boozy

Chocolate Irish Creme TrifleGeneral rule: if you’re going to make something special for your family, don’t take cheap and sleazy shortcuts. That’s my rule, and I’m going to stick by it. That doesn’t mean I never cut corners, but doggonit, if I’m going to make something which says, “I really care about you,” it won’t have non-dairy whipped topping out of a plastic tub. The exception to cutting corners is Chili Cheese dip, which is a football tradition.

So this morning, being St. Patrick’s Day, I was sent a recipe for Irish Chocolate Trifle.  My husband doesn’t like chocolate, but with enough liqueur, even he might be tempted.  I clicked through to the proffered recipe and said, “ewwwwww.”  I’m posting the link if you want the dumbed down version.  There you go.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

So let’s take a good idea and do it right, OK? Continue reading “Green and boozy”

Bread · God · Health

At ease disease, there’s fungus amongus

Alexander FlemingI was born in a time when the miracle of all miracles had been invented.  Alexander Fleming is credited with discovering what is called penicillin, a drug derived from the Penicillium fungi; health from mold.  What a concept.

Had this drug been available earlier, things like the Black Plague may never have made it into the history books, and consequently left us devoid of plague monuments throughout Europe.  STD’s like syphillis and gonorrhea would have become diagnoses, not death sentences, and leprosy, the scourge from the beginnings of recorded history, would have deprived Jesus of walking among the physically outcast from society. Continue reading “At ease disease, there’s fungus amongus”

Christmas · Cookies · Desserts

Christmas in July

Every year the retail industry “helps” us to think about Christmas earlier and earlier, hoping to score a larger portion of our Christmas dollars.  When I was a child, it was virtually hereasy to have decorations out before Thanksgiving.  Now you’re lucky if you make it through Labor Day without Santa cutouts for your lawn showing up in the home improvement store.  Really?  Why this isn’t Christmas is a whole different discussion, but we’ll just say Home Depot lighted reindeer are NOT the reason for the season. Continue reading “Christmas in July”

Britain · Cake · Christmas · Desserts

The cake which takes all year, part 3

A whimsical example of how to decorateSubtitle: The devil’s in the details

Having made the mixed peel, cooked the cake, bathed the cake in alcohol weekly and now anticipating Christmas, it’s time to decorate your cake. 

I have previously made valiant attempts, but so far have failed to wow.  That’s all got to change!  Regardless of my lamentable efforts, the Christmas cake in England is not only enjoyed for its taste, but also its visual presentation.  The cakes are whimsical, elegant, simple, traditional, non-traditional, white or colored.  What matters is the ooh and ahh factor when brought to the table.  Click on the picture to link to the blog where they show how that one was made.  The recipes given to me for completing the decoration are below, but creativity is an intangible.  If you’re stymied, start with something simple and see where you go next year! Continue reading “The cake which takes all year, part 3”

Alcohol · Britain · Cake · Christmas

The cake which takes all year, part 2

You’ve made your mixed peel, you’ve used the syrup to make fizzy drink and the flesh to make citrus preserves and now it’s September.  [insert majestic music].  It is time to make the cake [dom dom dom].

This recipe is from the father of my friend Karla.  Karla, although having lived here virtually all her life, is a green card, being proud of her British birth.  Her father likewise, and with a very lovely Yorkshire accent.  Several years ago he compiled a cookbook of his region’s dishes and she let me copy this one. Continue reading “The cake which takes all year, part 2”

Britain · Cake · Christmas

The cake which takes all year, part 1

Last night we had, among other things, boxed macaroni and cheese.  Ghastly, but the kids like it.  It’s 10 minutes to the plate once the water starts to boil.  Quick and dirty.

Christmas Cake is the polar opposite of quick and dirty.  It is a laborious process, occupying many months and lots of loving care.  Why do it?  Because my sweetie is English and unlike his countryman still on the isle, cannot scamper to Tesco’s to purchase one.  To keep his holidays festive, I learned how to make a Christmas Cake and aside from the decorating (more on that later), I’ve been given high marks for my confection. Continue reading “The cake which takes all year, part 1”

Baking · Fruits

Hiking Bars

A quick and dirty, but quite edible recipe.  I posted it because I didn’t want to have to go looking for it again, and I think I’ve reached the point where I no longer write things down.  Heaven help us if the Internet dies!

2 cups Quick Cooking Rolled Oats (1-minute, instant, etc.) If you have regular rolled oats, process them in a blender or food processor until they are broken down a bit.
1/2 cup (1 stick) Butter or Margarine
1/2 cup Brown Sugar or Raw Sugar (plain [caster] sugar works fine, too)
1/2 cup Raisins
1/2 cup Coarsely Chopped Dried Fruit (cranberries, cherries, apricots, blueberries, figs, prunes, etc. – but avoid dried pineapple bits (they turn hard as rocks when cooked!)
1/2 cup Coarsely Chopped Salted Peanuts or Mixed Nuts Continue reading “Hiking Bars”