Thursday, March 23, 2017

Asparagus Season


We have gone to daylight savings time and the calendar said that this past Monday was the first day of spring, but many days have still been chilly and last night the temperature was in the upper 30s, so winter is having trouble letting go. Friday is supposed to bring a big storm with a lot of rain and maybe some thunder and lightning. Even so, things keep blooming. The plum trees are finished with their flowers and are sending out lots of lovely light green leaves. The pear trees are in bloom right now and the apples are in the bud stage, ready to bust out all over this weekend if it warms up a bit. This afternoon I re-potted some of the squash seedlings into larger pots since they were getting too big for the tiny cells of the seed starting trays. The tomatoes will need to be re-potted soon. Spring is all around.

One of the joys of spring are the fresh asparagus that show up in every market, often at a reasonable price. I love them just steamed lightly, but they are great grilled with just a mist of olive oil to keep them from sticking, in an omelet, added to a stir fry, as part of a pasta dish, with Parmesan cheese and ricotta, and even as the star of a yummy bread.


Today I made a flatbread with halved asparagus spears that I cut into 2-inch long pieces. First down on the parchment was a sourdough pizza dough made with Italian 00 flour instead of all-purpose flour. It is very easy to work with, stretches thin for a nice crust, and tastes great, too. On top of that I put some almond milk ricotta cheese (thank you T-Rose for helping me find it at Community Market), very thin slivers of red onion, and the prepared asparagus. A drizzle of olive oil finished it up, ready for baking in a hot oven. Since Sweetie and I prefer different amounts of salt and pepper, we added it at the table. I used my baking stone, well pre-heated, and slid the parchment paper holding the flatbread right onto the stone. You get a really nice bottom crust that way.


The asparagus flatbread went really well with a green salad that had fresh orange segments and avocado, dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette. What did you have tonight?

Monday, March 20, 2017

A Lovely Banana Loaf with the Cake Slice Bakers


Happy first day of Spring!

The 20th of the month is always a fun day to check out this blog because I often have a post for a recipe from the Cake Slice Baker group's latest book, this time Roger Pizey's World Class Cakes. 

Although we had four choices this month, the multi-layer chocolate cake used a mousse as filling, which is hard to do for the dairy-impaired. The cake with coconut on top was no good because I had a guest who hates coconut. The mandarin and macadamia cake is too similar to my favorite orange cake from Orangette, so I went with the Banana Loaf. I didn't really expect much, but Sweetie went wild over it and he really isn't a big cake fan. I thought at first that it was because I served slices still a bit warm from the oven, but he enjoyed it just as much this morning when it was cold.


This cake is not too sweet and it's very moist. I goofed and used both bananas in the batter when you are supposed to put one, sliced, on top of the loaf. That probably made it too liquid a batter and definitely made it too much batter...it overflowed quite a bit. Fortunately I put a sheet pan underneath to catch any drips, so no harm done. I did use ground almonds instead of hazelnuts because that was handy and I did add 1/2 cup chopped pecans to the batter. No banana on top, no glaze. Still an awesome cake! The half pecans I put on top for decoration just sank into the batter, so I photographed the upside down cake...it looked better. Not the best photos in the world, but a delicious banana loaf!


Banana Loaf
serves 8

2 really ripe bananas
2/3 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup ground almonds
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a loaf pan (I used a 8.5 x 4 x 2.5 pan...a larger one would be better). Set aside.

Mash one banana in a bowl. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add the ground almonds, followed by the eggs. Scrape bowl and beaters and mix a little more until well combined.

On a piece of waxed paper or parchment, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder. Add to the batter and mix well. Mix in the sour cream, then the banana puree, and pecans.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes.

Removed pan from oven and add the remaining banana, sliced lengthwise, in a long along the length of the loaf. (I missed this part and had both bananas, mashed, in the batter...the pan overflowed, so go with the correct directions!) Return pan to the oven and bake and additional 45-50 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean.


Remove to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes, then turn out of pan and turn right side up. Serve warm or cool.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Apricot Tart So Sunny


No, it isn't apricot season, but I've always wanted to try an apricot tart using canned apricots, so I actually had two cans in my pantry waiting for such a day. Finally, the day came last weekend. I used a sweet tart dough from Dorie Greenspan and a frangipane for the filling. It's made with ground almonds and puffed up around the apricots.



Almonds and apricots are a great flavor combination, so it was bound to be delicious. I took it to Natasha's for a lovely lunch with Natasha, her hubby, my hubby, our older brother, and Lex. There were even a few candles since Sweetie and I were jointly sharing a birthday, even though mine was last month and his is days away. Birthdays are very movable feasts in my family!

At the end of the post is a photo that shows the three views of one scene that I am using as the inspiration for a painting I'm doing in the refurbished studio. Great fun to work there, especially now that the weather is warmer. I'll post the finished art when it is done.



Apricot Tart

Sweet Tart Dough from Dorie Greenspan's Baking; From My Home To Yours


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. 

Scatter the cold pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in. 

Stir the yolk to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses, about 10 seconds each, until the dough forms clumps and curds. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that still exist in the mixture.

Gather dough into a ball, then flatten it and put it into a 9-inch tart pan, using your fingers to push the dough into the corners and flutes of the pan, while keeping the thickness as even as possible. Use a rolling pin, rolled over the top rim, to clean the top. Gather up any leftover pieces and wrap in plastic wrap, and put in the fridge for patching, if necessary. Prick all over and freeze for at least 30 minutes, but longer is O.K.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Put the rack in the center of the oven.

Remove tart shell from freezer. Spray a sheet of foil with cooking spray/oil and put, oil side down on the tart, pressing down to mold the foil to the tart shape.

Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil carefully and use the back of a spoon to gently press down any puffed crust. If necessary, use the extra dough from the fridge to patch any holes, then bake another few minutes. Let crust cool.

Chop up 2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate. Put in a microwave safe bowl. Add 1 teaspoon butter or margarine. Heat on high in the microwave, a half minute at a time, stirring after each heating, until mixture is melted and smooth. Use pastry brush or silicon brush to coat bottom of tart with the chocolate. Let cool until hardened. This layer prevents the filling from making the tart soggy on the bottom.

Prepare the filling:

3 tablespoons soft butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 large eggs
3/4 cup almond flour or finely ground almonds
1 can apricot halves, drained and patted dry

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.

To make the filling:  Beat together the butter, salt, sugar, flour, and almond extract.

Beat in the eggs, then add the almond flour, stirring just to combine.

To assemble the tart: Spread the filling in the bottom of the crust.

Place the apricot halves in rows on top of the filling, pressing them down gently so the bottom of the fruit is covered.




Bake the tart in the preheated 350 degree F oven for 45 to 40 minutes, until the top is lightly browned. Cool slightly before serving. 



Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sweetly Fragrant Sturdy Cinnamon Raisin Struan Bread



Sometimes doing a end of year clear out of the bookcases brings a surprise. That's what happened to me. I found a small paperback by Peter Reinhart mixed in with the mysteries. In it I found what I think is the perfect March bread for gathering round our Bread Baking Babes kitchen table. Since I'm Kitchen of the Month, I'm inviting you, dear reader, to bake it too.

Peter Reinhart has been encouraging bread baking for a long time, especially slow food bread baking where the dough is given plenty of time to develop its flavor. When Struan bread was available commercially at the market in the 90s, I often bought it for making sandwiches. I loved the complex flavors and the substantial body of the bread, still rare at a time when most sandwich bread was soft and squishy. 


I have a copy of a book he wrote in 1994 called Sacramental Magic in a Small-Town Cafe - Recipes and Stories from Brother Juniper's Cafe'. In it he gives the recipe for his (at the time) all time favorite bread - Cinnamon Raisin Struan, which is a variation of Struan bread.

This is supposed to be a complex bread, consisting of lots of grains and ingredients. Brother Peter says, "Struan, incidentally, aside from being the name of a Scottish clan, also means "the convergence of two or more streams" which he feels is quite appropriate considering all the different convergences of ingredients. You will need to cook some brown rice ahead of time and allow it to cool to room temperature and be prepared to knead longer than usual. You might have to make a trip to the store for polenta, wheat bran and/or buttermilk, but most of the ingredients are probably already in your pantry.

This recipe makes a lot of bread - three 1 1/2 pound loaves. As long as you keep the ingredients in proportion, you can reduce the amounts of ingredients to make less.

In keeping with my no-dairy regime, I substituted a combination of soy milk and plain yogurt (which doesn't seem to bother me, probably because of being fermented) for the buttermilk. I also forgot all about doing oil and cinnamon sugar on the top of the loaf (probably because I was baking these well after dinner time and my brain turns off, mostly, after about 7 pm). I also divided the recipe in half and still made two smaller loaves. This bread is fragrant with the cinnamon...a full tablespoon per loaf!...and has a nice sturdy crumb and thin but delicious crust. One loaf received only cinnamon...I forgot all about the sugar...and the other loaf received some melted butter and brown sugar along with the cinnamon. Both were delicious in different ways.



Come on, become a Buddy! Bake this bread and then email me at plachman at sonic dot net, along with a photo of your bread and a short description of your baking experience. Get it to me by March 29th to be included in the round-up. Don't be surprised if this bread is gone in a flash. While it is baking in the oven the kitchen begins to smell like those cinnamon rolls at the mall and soon everyone wants a taste. Just let it cool a bit or you might get a burnt tongue from the hot sugar!

Be sure to visit the blogs of the other Bread Baking Babes, too, to see what they have done with the recipe. I'll do a post tomorrow with links if you don't have them already.



Cinnamon Raisin Struan Bread
makes three 1 1/2 pound loaves
from Sacramental Magic in a Small-Town Cafe by Br Peter Reinhart

7 cups high-gluten bread flour
1/2 cup uncooked polenta (coarse ground cornmeal)
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup wheat bran
4 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons active dry yeast activated in 4 tablespoons lukewarm water
(alternately, use 2 tablespoons plus one teaspoon instant yeast, mixed with the dry ingredients)
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup buttermilk
About 1 1/2 cups water (be prepared to add more if needed)
3 cups raisins
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar (1 part cinnamon to 2 parts granulated sugar)
4 tablespoons melted butter, margarine, or vegetable oil

In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, including the salt and yeast (unless you are using active dry yeast, which should be activated in warm water and added with the wet ingredients.)

Add the cooked rice, honey, and buttermilk and mix together. Then add 1 cup of water, reserving the rest to add as needed. With your hands, squeeze the ingredient together until they make a ball. Sprinkle some flour on the counter and turn the ball out of the bowl and begin kneading. Add small quantities of water as needed.

Because Struan has so many whole grains, it takes longer to knead than most breads. Allow at least 15 minutes, but be prepared to knead for 20. The dough will change before your eyes, lightening in color, becoming gradually more elastic and evenly grained. The finished dough should be tacky, not sticky, lightly golden, stretchy and elastic, rather than porridge-like. When you push the heels of your hands into the dough it should give way but not tear. If it flakes or crumbles, add a little more water.

When the dough seems ready, add the raisins and knead for 2 more minutes, until the raisins are evenly distributed. (I kneaded my raisins in after the first rise.)

Wash out the mixing bowl and dry it thoroughly. Put in the dough and cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap, or place the bowl inside a plastic bag. Allow the dough to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, until it has roughly doubled in size. (Mine took longer...closer to two hours. Once I kneaded in the raisins, I put it in the fridge overnight for more flavor.)

Cut the dough into 3 equal pieces (or more if you want to make smaller loaves). With a rolling pin, roll out each piece into a rectangle. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of cinnamon sugar over the surface, spreading it evenly (used brown sugar and some melted butter on one loaf at this stage). From the bottom of the long side, roll up the dough into tight loaves, tucking and pinching the seams into one line on the bottom. Put the loaves, seam side down, in greased bread pans (for full-sized loaves your pan should be around 9 x 4 1/3 x 3 inches). Cover and allow the loaves to rise until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. When the loaves have risen, cresting over the tops of the pans, place on the center shelf and bake for about 45 minutes. The loaves should be nicely domed and dark gold. The bottom and sides should be a uniform light gold and there should be an audible, hollow  thwack when you tap the bottom of the loaf. If the loaves are not ready, remove them from the pans and place them back in the oven until done. They will bake quickly when removed from the pans.

When done, brush a little butter, margarine, or oil over the tops, then sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon sugar, coating each loaf with a layer of cinnamon crust. (Didn't do this part.)


Allow the breads to cool on wire racks for at least 40 minutes before slicing. This bread makes exceptional breakfast toast and French toast!

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Busy Times


Not sure why I used this title, since most times seem to be busy times in my life, but lately has been busier than usual and looks to continue that way for a while. Although baking and cooking are always near the top of my list of passions (along with Sweetie, Kate and Pi), at this time of year the growing season starts taking up some of my time and thoughts. I have flats of cells of soil with tiny seedlings in the sunspace and more seeds to plant in others.


Not only is the ground saturated from all the rain, but the nights have been cold, so it may be another month before anything goes into the ground. During the next week or so I hope to do the annual check-up of the irrigation system with Sweetie so that I know where I can plant things once the soil is warm.


My involvement with the women's scholarship group P.E.O. continues to be complex and rewarding and even more time consuming (is that possible?) since I'm currently wearing three hats, one at the local level, one at the regional and one at the state level. At the state level we just awarded over $76,000 in post-secondary education scholarships for the 2017-2018 academic year, and that was just my committee! Pretty gratifying to be able to help women reach for their educational goals.

Travel and picnics start to become interesting now that the weather is nicer, and home project are also coming to the top of the list. Hope to be posting picnic-worthy recipes soon.

I finally have a studio to paint in and a painting started, plus the next one being planned in my head.

I'm the Kitchen of the Month for the Bread Baking Babes in March, so be sure to check back on the 16th for that post! Sweetie has a birthday coming up and my brother from Denver area is visiting California, so we hope to see him in the Sacramento area this coming weekend. With luck that will be when I bake the cake for the Cake Slice Bakers, which is revealed on the 20th.


Last weekend we visited Kate in the LA area and had a great time. It was a very short visit, but we got to meet her excellent neighbors and their friends, have some cocktails and BBQ, play with some dogs and a puppy. We visited the Manhattan Beach pier and had breakfast with Adam, Julia and the kids on Saturday. There was time to talk, hear about  jobs and, later, watch some videos showing the good that EcoMedia does in the world, discover a new TV series, learn about Uber Eats, have a little birthday celebration with a tiny cake I brought along (I was too sick on my real birthday to even think about cake!), and we even helped hang some art. Good times!

So, as you can see, nothing earth shattering in all this busyness, but no time to get bored, either.

Hope that your days are filled with your own busy times, as long as those times are good times.

Monday, March 06, 2017

No Knead Sort of Irish Bread


Every once in a while I return to the No-Knead kind of bread because it is easy and you get a very artisan looking loaf with not much trouble. This time I used a good amount of the King Arthur Flour Irish Wholemeal Flour to make the bread, plus some nice sourdough starter, so it isn't an authentic Irish bread, but surely similar to some that might have been made on that green, green island.

It makes wonderful sandwiches and toast and French toast and can be eaten with pleasure, while still a little bit warm from the oven, without any butter, jam, topping of any sort and as just the simple, unadorned, unprocessed slice to enjoy.

I sort of poured the dough after the first rise onto a heavily floured sheet of parchment, then used that to flip half of the loaf over the other half, then it all went into the preheated Dutch oven which I had sprayed lightly with oil. I put the lid on for the first half of the baking and then removed it so that the top crust crisped up an became a lovely golden brown. It didn't fill the whole pot, but that was OK.

Oh, yes, below the recipe is a photo of the two little black lambs born in our field this morning. Sooo cute! Kinda hard to see them, but we were keeping well away until they bonded with their ewe. No interest in bummer lambs.



No-Knead Bread in a Pot Elle's Way

makes 1 large loaf

1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup Irish Wholemeal flour
1 1/2 cups water
2 -3 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Put the sourdough starter in a large bowl. In another bowl whisk together the wholemeal flour and the water. Add it to the starter and whisk to blend. Let bowl sit, uncovered, on the counter for at least 1 hour...it's OK for it to sit longer (another hour or two is OK) for a stronger sourdough flavor.


Stir the bread flour into the starter mixture 1/4 cup at a time with a wooden spoon, stirring until all the flour is mixed in before adding any more. You should have a shaggy dough that doesn't hold a shape. When you have added 2 cups of flour, sprinkle in the sea salt, then another 1/4 cup of the flour and finish stirring it in. You will have a very slack dough. You can stop here or add more flour, 1/4 cup at a time but the less flour the more holes.


Let the mixture sit, uncovered, on the counter for 1 1/2 to 4 hours. Mixture will be bubbly.


Place a large piece of parchment paper on the counter and flour it heavily. Place/pour the sourdough mixture over the flour. Using a bench scraper, lift up the dough all around the edges and sprinkle heavily with flour under the edges, then let dough fall on top of the flour. When you have gone all around the dough mass, use the bench scraper to flip half of the dough on top of the other half. Sprinkle top heavily with flour and let sit until pot is ready.


Place heavy cast iron pot or Dutch oven, with lid, in the oven and preheat for 20 minutes to 450 degrees F. When 20 minutes have passed, remove pot and lid from the oven and slide the dough into the pot, discarding the parchment paper. Cover with the lid (remember to use oven mitts for all of this...the pot is very hot!) and return the covered pot to the oven.


Bake for 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 -25 minutes or until loaf is dark golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Let cool, outside of the pot, for 10 minutes on a rack. Serve warm or cool before eating.



Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Cranberry Chicken For A Chilly Evening


We finally have gotten a few days of sun, but it's still pretty chilly, so I decided to make a baked chicken dish last night. I found it in a Rachel Ray magazine and it is a keeper! The skinless chicken stays moist under a shingling of bacon, plus the presence of a mixture of chicken broth and red wine. In general I can't drink wine, but I have found that I can eat things where the wine has been cooked. Yay! All the alcohol gets cooked off, but something else must get mellowed, too.

The components, besides the chicken and bacon, are sweet from the dried cranberries, savory from the broth and wine and balsamic vinegar, mellow from the translucent cooked onion wedges, and hearty from the red potato chunks. Add in the flavors of garlic, thyme, pepper and bay leaf and you have a dish that smells wonderful and tastes even better. All you need with it is a small salad or steamed veggies and, perhaps, some bread to sop up the delicious juices.

Because I never make anything quite how it is written up, I did change the chicken to boneless thighs, I added a 1/4 teaspoon fresh orange zest (cranberries  and orange are a match made in heaven), and I reduced the dried cranberries by 1/4 cup...and will reduce them by another 1/4 cup next time. I also didn't have fresh thyme, so I used dried thyme...2 teaspoons in the broth mixture and none for garnish.

There are a number of good reasons to make this dish besides the fact that it is yummy. First of all, it is relatively inexpensive. Then there is the bonus of a short prep time and about 30 minutes cooking time. Add to that the easy clean-up, especially if you line the casserole with heavy duty foil like I did. Last, but not least in my world, there is no dairy in this dish...and you don't miss it either. With no added oil, butter, cheese, or cream, it is fairly healthy, too...well, except for the bacon, but that adds so much flavor and fragrance that it would be a shame to leave it out. Sweetie helped me out by eating half my bacon. Isn't he the best?


Roasted Cranberry Coq au Vin
Serves 4
from Rachael Ray Every Day, March, 2017

1 1/4 cups dried cranberries (I used 1 cup but 3/4 cup would be better)
1 cup red wine, such as Pinot Noir or Beaujolais (I used Zinfandel)
1/2 cup chicken stock
6 large cloves garlic, chopped (don't worry, the garlic gets mellow in the oven)
4 bay leaves
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons onion salt
Optional: 1/4 teaspoon orange zest
3 tablespoons fresh thyme, divided (I used 2 teaspoons dried thyme)
4 bone-in chicken thighs (about 8 oz. each), skin removed (I used boneless skinless chicken thighs)
1 pound red potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 large yellow onion, cut through core into 3/4-inch wedges
4 slices thick-cut hickory-smoked bacon, each cut into 4 pieces
8  1-inch thick slices French bread (didn't have any...didn't miss it)

Position oven rack to upper third of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F.

In a bowl, mix the first 7 ingredients and 2 tablespoons thyme (or all the dry thyme if using). Optional, but good: add 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest to the mixture.

In a large baking dish, arrange the chicken, potatoes and onion in a single layer. Shingle the bacon on the chicken. Add the cranberry mixture, pressing cranberries to submerge. Season with salt and pepper.


Roast in preheated 460 degree oven until an instant-read thermometer inserted into a chicken thigh registers 165 degrees F., about 30 minutes. If using fresh thyme, garnish with remaining 1 tablespoon.

Serve at once. If desired serve with bread to mop up the juices.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Intensely Lemon


This post has been sitting in my files, waiting until I'm feeling better (have had a nasty cold since about Feb. 10), but I think it is getting stale, while I'm still coughing, so posting it anyway! I would probably be completely back to normal but I have kept doing scholarship group work and have even gone out for a couple of meals, so not everything has been on hold. True, I've read a lot of books and spent time in bed...never a terrible thing, right? The lemon bread is long gone, but I will make it again...it was really good!

I've always loved the flavor of fresh lemon. Lemonade is still one of my favorite beverages and lemon sugar cookies were my favorite as a child, even more than chocolate chip. Our local dairy made a lemon custard ice cream to die for. There is something fresh and bold about lemon that wakes things up.

Recently a friend gave me some Meyer lemons from her home garden. It took me longer than I would have liked to get to this next recipe, but life has been super busy, so what can you do?

Although I've made lemon quick breads before, this time I tried a new recipe from Rosemary of An Italian In My Kitchen. I was intrigued that you cut soft butter into the dry ingredients as you do for pie crust, then add the egg-milk mixture. I really wanted to see how that turned out! It also meant that I could do everything by hand and in just two bowls...one for the egg-milk mixture one one for the batter. Of course I used soy milk and cut in soft non-dairy margarine, but I'll bet it would be even better with unsalted butter and whole milk. Keep an eye on it toward the end of baking time. There is enough sugar in the batter that it burns easily. Check it with a toothpick earlier than the suggested time, just to be sure.


This is a delicious, intensely lemon flavored loaf, with the texture of a pound cake. I doubled the amount of lemon zest called for and doubled the amount of syrup for brushing on after the loaf is finished, while still warm. I also poked some thin holes all over the top before adding the syrup, so that it could penetrate into the loaf. All of that added to the lemon effect and to making each bite moist and delicious. With a cup of hot tea it's pure heaven!

If you only have one lemon, I'm sure that you could follow the recipe and it would still be a yummy lemon loaf. This would make a wonderful gift, too, and it is dense enough that it would probably ship well. Extra lemons? Make one to give and one to keep!


Fresh Lemon Bread
adapted from Rosemary at An Italian In My Kitchen

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (zest from one lemon) (I used zest from 2 lemons)
4 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice (22 ml) (I used about twice this amount, juice from two lemons)
2 1/4 cups flour (270 grams)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (7 1/2 grams)
3/4 teaspoon salt (4 grams)
1 1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons sugar, divided (276 grams)(I added another tablespoon for the pan)
3/4 cup butter softened (170 grams) (I used non-dairy margarine)
3 eggs, large
3/4 cup milk (177 ml) (I used soy milk)

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C), grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. (I sprinkled a tablespoon extra of sugar over the part I greased, but it would be fine without and might not burn so easily).

In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and 1 1/4 cups sugar, add the softened butter and, with a pastry blender, blend until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the lemon peel.

In a small bowl, put the eggs and beat lightly with a fork, add milk, and mix until combined, then pour this mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until flour is moistened.

In the prepared loaf pan add the batter. Bake for 1 - 1 1/4 hours (or until toothpick comes out clean). Cool, then move to a wire rack.

In a small pot add 4 1/2 teaspoons of lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Stir to combine. Over medium heat, stirring constantly, bring to a boil until thickened. With a pastry brush, brush syrup over the top of the bread. (I poked holes with a wooden skewer while bread was warm and then brushed on the syrup over the warm bread until it was all absorbed. I let it sit in the pan until cool, then turned it out onto a serving board.)

Tightly wrap any leftovers and store in the refrigerator.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Catching Up


Lots happening last month and this month. I used to periodically do a post like this for my Mom, but now I have my dear sister in law in Virginia who reads this blog often and has asked for an update, (especially on the studio remodel - above photo) so here goes.


Very busy on the scholarship front. The deadline to send me the applications (this is for a State of California level scholarship) was February 1. I was amazed at how many women (because these scholarships are only for women going to college) waited until the last moment to mail the applications. The postal delivery woman had to bring the last batch in a carrier box because there were so many. Considering that applications can be sent as early as September, it was interesting to see that the almost all of them arrived during the last five days.


For me the process included opening over 80 envelopes, collating parts of the application as needed, lots of stapling, checking a whole bunch of things to make sure that the applications were valid and complete, preparing them for the committee members, logging them on the spreadsheet, making sure that there was a digital copy sent to the email address reserved for the Ethel O. Gardner Scholarship Committee's use, then mailing the prepared paper applications to the committee and filing mine for review and scoring. This doesn't even take into account all of the emails that flew in during the couple of weeks with questions. I actually was happy to see those because I had been wondering if we were going to have any applicants, but questions usually mean interest! We will meet for the selection process in a few weeks, so I have to get busy scoring them and logging the comments and scores.

On the project front, my studio remodel has been going really well the last few weeks. There have been lots of changes to the old place during the last four months or so. The French doors that were old when we got them second hand years ago were replaced with a window plus new exterior wall, and part of the wall closer to the parking area was opened up for a new outside door. The steps were moved over to the new exterior door and one half of the French doors became the new interior door between the storage area and the studio area. You can see the new window, old French door with multiple panes, and (through it) the new outer door in the photo below where Sweetie is using the nail gun on the ceiling with the help of Anne Marie (second photo down).


We insulated the ceiling with Kate's help and


put up shiplap ceiling boards, insulated the wall between the studio and storage and put up a plywood wall. Sweetie installed new LED lights and created and installed lots of new trim and I did lots of painting of walls and trim. Last weekend, since we finally had a couple of days without rain, we moved everything out and made a template for the flooring.



On Sunday our sweet neighbors Glenn and Anne Marie helped us move the flooring to the back deck, place the template, cut it, move it to the studio, and install it.


I painted the baseboards and Sweetie installed them and some threshold to hold the 'floating' Tarkett fiberfloor in place. It's a nice sandy color and looks like stone. Should be easy to mop up when the painting gets colorful.


Sweetie put together a great workbench with drawers and mounted the old shelves from the old kitchen pantry above it.


He made some narrow shelves by the door to the storage. I put an array of acrylic paints...48 colors!...on them so far. Still figuring out where things should go, so changes can happen.


I'm starting to move my art supplies back in and putting a few things on the corkboard, but that will likely change, too. The drafting table still has its covering that protected it during the construction, but it will be gone soon.



I now have the most magnificent place to draw, paint and do crafts. I have an idea for a three part piece for our daughter's new place, based on a photograph she took at Manhattan Beach which I'll paint in acrylics on three panels.



Oh, yes, I've been reading a lot, too. Rainy weather often gets me reading and it has been very rainy. My new favorite series is by Martin Walker and the series is about Bruno, Chief of Police in a small town in the Dordogne in France. Well crafted mysteries, great characters, and good cooking.



No recipe this time, but I know that some of my regular readers have been wanting to know how we have been spending our time.

Last, but not least, Sunday we pruned the walnut tree by the back deck. The branches were getting too close to the house and this is a good time of year to prune. The rain held off all morning so we got quite a bit done. Here is the pile of limbs and branches, ready to be put into a trailer to get recycled. As you can see, Pi keeps an eye on us and is never far away. Hope you have been pleasantly busy, too.


Sunday, February 05, 2017

Meatballs For Pork Lovers


Meatballs can be such versatile little bites. You can serve them with a dipping sauce for appetizers, put them into a soup or use them to adorn a salad. A favorite way to serve them is with a sauce on pasta or rice. You can serve them on their own, perhaps with a sauce or dip on the side. And of course you can use them in a sandwich, too.

Recently our favorite neighbors thawed out too much ground pork from their home grown pig. What a problem to have, right? Anyway we were suddenly blessed with a good sized quantity of ground pork, so I immediately thought 'meatballs'! These are baked and are very simple and delicious. The recipe calls for cooking the onions and then mixing the cooked onions with the meat and other ingredients. I managed to overlook those instructions and added raw onions, but they cooked in the oven and I liked that they still kept their character and weren't wimpy caramelized onions, even though I do love onions that way. They also have chopped fresh rosemary, but you could also use another herb, dried or fresh. Imagine them with green onions, ginger and cilantro for an Asian take on meatballs. You can also use any mixture of meat. I mixed some ground turkey with the ground pork, but ground chicken or beef would also be good. Just keep the proportions the same.

By the way, I was just looking at the blog history and last October 22 I finished ten years of blogging...and I'm already 52 posts past that. Lately about 500 people a day are looking at my posts. I know that lots of people who read this blog don't leave comments, so it was really nice last week when we called to wish Sweetie's East Coast sister a hearty Happy Birthday that I found out she had made the Bean Ham and Cabbage Soup and liked it. It's very gratifying to know that someone makes these recipes and that they like them. If you missed that post you may want to check it out. The soup is one of my all time favorites and great for cold weather.

Are you ready for meatballs? Once these were baked, I cooked up a simple 'cream' sauce with non-dairy margarine, mushrooms, minced garlic, flour, thyme, salt and pepper and some soy creamer. I boiled some noodles al dente, stirred them into the sauce and put the meatballs on top. Steamed fresh spinach on the side filled out the plate. These meatballs would go well with a nice tomato sauce and pasta, too, or on top of rice with some steamed sugar snap peas and a little soy sauce and ginger...you get the idea. If you are worried about fat, you can put the balls on top of a rack which has been placed in the baking sheet instead of baking directly on the sheet as I did.


Easy Oven-Baked Meatballs
from Stupid Easy Paleo.com

2 pounds ground lean pork (or other ground meat)
(I used a combination of pork and turkey)
1 medium onion, chopped finely
3 tablesppons fresh rosemary, chopped (or 3 teaspoons dried rosemary)
1 tablespoons dried sage
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fat of choice (I used olive oil)

Preheat the oven to 400 Degrees F (204 C). Line a sheet pan with foil or parchment paper (or silpat mat as I did).

In a large skillet, over medium heat, saute the onion in a spoonful of your fat of choice until softened, about 5 minutes. Let cool. (this is the part that I skipped over!)

In a large bowl, combine the ground meat(s), onions and all the spices.

Form into 2-inch balls and arrange on the prepared sheet pan. (If you have a sturdy disher or scoop it helps to keep the size even. Otherwise use a heaping  tablespoon measure.)

Bake for 15 - 20 minutes until cooked through.  Serve at once or store in fridge or freezer for quick protein in your favorite recipe.


Ideas: Chop and use in and egg and veggie scramble or omelet or frittata.
Chop and toss over a salad and toss with your favorite dressing.
Use in your favorite soup.
Mix with a tomato sauce flavored with Italian spices and put over steamed spaghetti or spaghetti squash.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Good Bread For A Cast Iron Skillet


I love my cast iron skillet. I have a small one and a large one and I use one or both almost every day. The little one is great for the breakfast egg and the big one is perfect for so many things, from pan-seared pork chops to home fries. It has been rainy around here for so long that most meals are cooked in the kitchen, not the BBQ, and they have to be ones that warm you up.

A great way to make cornbread is in a cast iron skillet that you pre-heat in the oven while you mix the batter. You get an amazing crust that way, but the bread in the middle stays soft and moist. It's the way my Mom learned to make cornbread in North Carolina when she was a new bride.

I made this recently to take to a dinner party where the menu included smoked chicken and brisket, steamed mustard greens, delicious slow cooked beans and some dilly bean pickles that were familiar. I used some stone ground cornmeal from a friend and instead of buttermilk used 3/4 cup soy creamer mixed with 1/4 cup plain yogurt. So delicious! Didn't need butter or anything.

This is a quick, easy bread to go with soups and stews, so it's perfect for this time of year.

Here is Mom's recipe:

Mom’s Skillet Corn Bread

 1 ¼ cup yellow corn meal
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt (I used just a bit more, but not quite 1/2 teaspoon)
1 egg, beaten or 2 egg whites
1 cup buttermilk (or 3/4 cup soy creamer and 1/4 cup plain yogurt, mixed)
¼ cup vegetable oil, divided

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place 1 tablespoon oil in a large cast iron skillet and place in preheated oven for 5 minutes.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the egg, buttermilk and 3 tablespoons of the oil. Pour batter into preheated skillet and for 20 minutes. Top will be barely golden brown and edges by sides of skillet will be brown.


Serve hot.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Devil's Food For The Cake Slice Bakers



I love this time of the month because being part of the Cake Slice Bakers means that I have a great excuse to bake cake. Since January usually means cleaner eating after all of the holiday richness, it takes a bit of doing to figure out how to combine that with cake.

Since we have been invited to dinner tomorrow evening by a couple who are also trying to reduce their sugar intake, I decided to make tiny cakes in my antique gem pan. Each of us will get one little cake, which is about four or five bites. That will be enough to feel like we've had dessert, but will also only be a tiny amount of cake, so we can feel virtuous.

I am greatly indebted to fellow Cake Slice Baker Hazel of Procrastibake because she baked this, too, and she made donuts. Best of all she created a dairy-free version, which I only changed slightly. It is roughly half the original recipe, too, so just enough cake! Thank you Hazel!

Traditionally Devil's Food Cake has a decadent icing, too, but I went with just a sprinkle of confectioner's sugar because it's pretty.


Devils Food Gems

Based on World Class Cakes by Roger Pizey  and Procrastibake's recipe

35g cocoa powder, plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, divided
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs.
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
65 ml boiling water
1/2 cup non-dairy margarine
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
230 g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs at room temperature
225 g self-rising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
85 ml soy milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray gem pans or small muffin tins with baking spray. Mix together 1 tablespoon cocoa powder and 1/4 cup dried plain bread crumbs. Sprinkle cavities of pans, rotate pans to coat and then tap out excess onto waxed paper. Discard excess or use for another pan. Set pan(s) aside.

Mix the cocoa powder with the boiling water and stir until smooth. Let cool.

Cream the butter and the sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping bowl as needed, to incorporate eggs. Add vanilla and beat well to combine.

Sift the flour, salt and baking soda together on a sheet of waxed paper or in a bowl. Set aside.
Stir the soy milk into the cooled cocoa mixture and stir until combined. Mixture will be thin.

Alternately add the flour mixture and the cocoa mixture to the creamed butter/sugar/egg mixture. Start with 1/3 of the flour, add half of the cocoa mixture, another third flour, the rest of the cocoa mixture, the rest of the flour mixture. Scrape sides and bottom of the bowl and then beat to fully combine mixtures.

Scoop batter into prepared pans, filling 2/3 full. Place a baking sheet under the filled pans.

Bake until center springs back when pushed, about 15-25 minutes, depending on the size of the cavities of the pan.  Remove from oven and cool on a rack 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out to cool completely.

Decorate as you please. I used sifted confectioners' sugar (icing sugar).