Wednesday, November 29, 2006

wordless wednesday

Hey, dog lovers! This Sunday night, we can expect to see lots of canine hijinks over at Weekend Dog Blogging at Sweetnick's place. Head on over for head shots, tummy shots, jump shots and what nots!

Follow the links in the sidebar to lots more wordless wednesdays. This is #24!

Monday, November 27, 2006

cloudy monday #5

I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving holiday. The Huz and I flew to the heartland, as usual, to hang out with my extended family, overeat, laugh, and play a lot. The place where we were staying had not just a modem, but a very slow modem, so blogging was out of the question. But now that the holidays are over, I have lots of ideas for new posts so you simply MUST come back soon!

Meantime, isn't this a stunningly brooding scene?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

wordless wednesday

Hey, dog lovers! This Sunday night, we can expect to see lots of canine hijinks over at Wkend Dog Blogging at Sweetnick's place. Head on over for head shots, tummy shots, jump shots and what nots! Follow the links in the sidebar to lots more wordless wednesdays. This is #23!

Monday, November 20, 2006

cloudy monday #4


... or clouds?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

"honeyed" walnuts (sugared walnuts)

A few months ago, I posted a recipe for a salad that I called "greens, gorgonzola, and sugared walnuts." Recently I've noticed quite a few hits on that page coming from search engines. Not that folks are looking for salad recipes, although a few are; no, mostly they're looking for those sweet nuts.

There are a lot of ways to make sweet nuts. Some of them leave the nuts coated with sugar crystals, like the recipe I just mentioned and pictured left. Some are sticky and buttery. Others are light, crunchy, and just slightly sweet. Any of them can be eaten "out of hand" or sprinkled on salads, ice cream, desserts, or even meat dishes, and as snacks go, there's much to be said for eating nuts instead of candy or greasy chips.

Some years back, I found this recipe for "honeyed" walnuts in my favorite Chinese cookbook, Susanna Foo's Chinese Cuisine. They fall into the third category of sweet nuts. They're not the least bit sticky, so they're great for eating with your fingers. Something about the cooking process seems to take some of the weight out of them, somehow; they seem lighter than regular walnuts. And, bonus: walnuts are good for you. Just read this ode to walnuts from The World's Healthiest Foods:
When it comes to their health benefits, walnuts definitely are not a hard nut to crack. This delicious nut is an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, a special type of protective fat the body cannot manufacture. Walnuts' concentration of omega-3s (a quarter-cup provides 90.8% of the daily value for these essential fats) has many potential health benefits ranging from cardiovascular protection, to the promotion of better cognitive function, to anti-inflammatory benefits helpful in asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis. In addition, walnuts contain an antioxidant compound called ellagic acid that supports the immune system and appears to have several anticancer properties.
These walnuts in particular don't end up with quite as much sugar on them as the other kinds. And now I'm thinking ... light and crunchy ... good for eating with your fingers ... wouldn't this be a nice gift to make for Christmas, piled into a tidy little plastic bag and then plopped into a sheer organza gift bag like this? Hmmm....

So, anyway, here's a recipe that makes 2 cups of the nuts, from Chinese Cuisine. Of course you can cut the recipe in half if you just want to try them. Don't be put off by the length of the recipe; it's really quite simple!

"Honeyed" Walnuts (Sugared Walnuts)
1 lb shelled walnut halves
1½ c sugar
~ 1½ c water
2 Tbsp corn oil
  • Wash the walnuts in lots of running water. Soak them for 10 to 15 minutes in water to cover; drain well.
  • Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the nuts and cook for 10 minutes, or until the water turns dark and the nuts are beige-white in color. Drain and rinse under cool water until the water runs clear; drain.
  • Bring the sugar and the 1½ c water to a boil in a medium pot over medium high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the walnuts, reduce the heat to low, and stir well with a wooden spoon. Simmer the nuts in the syrup for about 15 minutes, stirring often, until they are well coated with the syrup. Add ¼ cup hot water if the syrup becomes too sticky. Turn off the heat and let the nuts cool in the syrup for another 10 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (I usually do this step at 300).
  • Strain off the excess syrup and toss the nuts with the oil. Spread the nuts on a large nonstick baking sheet.
  • Bake the nuts for 30 to 35 minutes (of course, at 300 it takes longer), stirring occasionally, or until they are crisp and dry. If they are not yet crisp, bake them a little longer.
The nuts can be stored in a tightly closed container at room temperature for 1 to 2 days, kept in the refrigerator for several weeks, or frozen in a sealed plastic bag for up to 3 months.

This is my entry for Sweetnick's "ARF 5-a-day Tuesday." Stop by tomorrow night to see what other anti-oxidant-rich foods are showing up in folks' recipes!

i have an inner european?!? who knew?

Your Inner European is Spanish!

Energetic and lively.
You bring the party with you!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

on another note ...

... this is the first week in a long time that I've missed doing a Wordless Wednesday post. Or, more accurately, I did a COMPLETELY wordless Wednesday! I've been travelling a bit and then playing catch-up in between. That's my excuse, and I'm sticking with it! I have a post all queued up for next Wednesday, though, and even though I'll be away I'll try to post it on time this time. Just in time for Thanksgiving, and as you all know, I'm very Thankful for my little dawg.

no wonder i feel inadequate!

Even over a modem, this downloads fairly quickly. Watch it all the way till the end ...

Monday, November 13, 2006

Thursday, November 09, 2006

butternut squash and chocolate chips? oh, yeah.

I was inspired recently by Joe of Culinary in the Desert/Country to make a very large batch of (deep breath) "Chocolate Chip Butternut Squash Spice Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting" for, believe it or not, morning snacks at our church. I know, it's not technically a breakfast dish, but I figured anything cakelike in a big Pyrex baking dish qualified as a coffee cake, and my pals didn't disagree with me. Far from it.

Joe's recipe was my inspiration, but he made his with pumpkin. Great idea! I had squash. Thought I'd try it. It was bonzo. Gone in minutes, and I think I got more compliments from this than I usually get from my scones. Or at least an equal number. So let that be an indication to you!

So, here's my slightly-modified recipe for Joe's wonderful bars. Other than the squash substitution, the only other thing I changed was to add more chocolate chips. For breakfast the mini ones were fine; for a dessert I think I'd go for the bigger ones.

Go check Joe's blog, folks. He keeps insisting he's a beginner, but we know better. He makes some great stuff, and his pictures are getting really nice!

Chocolate Chip Butternut Squash Spice Bars with
Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes about 42 bars

1¾ c cooked, pureed butternut squash (I actually used the puree I had in the fridge, which had a little butter and salt in it ... no problem!)
1 c flavorless vegetable oil, such as canola
4 large eggs
1½ c granulated sugar
½ c light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 c all purpose flour
1 c whole-wheat pastry flour (I'm sure you could just use more white flour here)
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 c mini chocolate chips
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs, and sugars until combined.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, ginger and cloves.
  • Toss in mini chocolate chips and stir to combine.
  • Add dry ingredients to the wet and stir until moistened.
  • Scoop batter into a 10 x 15" baking pan coated with nonstick spray.
  • Bake until the center springs back when lightly pressed in the center - about 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
8 oz cream cheese, softened
4 T butter, softened
2 tsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
4 c powdered sugar, sifted
¼ c chopped walnuts, toasted - optional
shaved chocolate, or more mini chocolate chips
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese, butter, milk and vanilla.
  • Slowly add the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, and mix until smooth.
  • Frost bars and sprinkle half with walnuts and grate some chocolate over the other half if desired.
I don't know if anything this patently loaded with fat and carbs will be allowed into Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging, but I'm going to submit it and see what they say. It's got squash in it. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it! Head on over to What's For Lunch, Honey? Sunday night to see if I got in and to see all the other, much more proper veggie and herb recipes on view for Weekend Herb Blogging this week.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

wordless wednesday #22

Loose lips
Hey, dog lovers! This Sunday night, we can expect to see lots of canine hijinks over at Weekend Dog Blogging at Sweetnick's place. Head on over for head shots, tummy shots, jump shots and what nots!

Follow the links in the sidebar to lots more wordless wednesdays.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

warm comfort in a dish

Precious Mushy Apples

Think of mushy apples. Think of biting into one. You're anticipating a nice, crisp, juicy bite, and you get a mouthful of mushy, mealy, yucky apple. Ptheh! Do you finish eating it because you're a waste-not, want-not sort of a person, or do you immediately chuck it in your compost bucket/trash can/back yard? (This last one's not as far-fetched as you might think. There's a forest about 15 feet from our back door. We always figure there's some wild animal who will find a mushy apple quite appetizing.)

Now here's a third option: When life gives you mushy apples, make applesauce! It's so incredibly easy. And the smell! To walk in a house that has applesauce simmering on the stove is to experience immediate bliss. The Huz has sweet, comforting memories of his mother making applesauce and serving it warm. It's a shame I haven't made this for him before.

For this recipe, quantities are approximate. If you increase the number of apples, you don't need to increase the amount of liquid. Flavorings are yours to experiment with. And, by the way, your apples don't have to be mushy to make applesauce! And you don't have to peel the apples if you're serving it warm; they just add nice texture and color. If you're planning to store the applesauce in the fridge, though, it's probably best to go ahead and peel them.

Homemade Applesauce

8-10 medium apples, tart if you like tart applesauce
½ c liquid (apple juice, cider, water, other mild non-citrus juices)
1 or more small cinnamon sticks, to taste, or use ground cinnamon to taste

Peel (optional if serving warm), core, and chop your apples. If you like smooth applesauce, try to make the pieces all the same size. That's easy if you have a handy-dandy apple peeler/corer/slicer! Place all ingredients in an appropriately sized sauce pan, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer for about 15 minutes or so. That's it!
Our apples were quite tart, and I considered adding some sugar but consulted with The Huz first and ended up deciding not to. It's refreshing to have it tart, we thought. We imagined putting it, all tart and warm, on oatmeal or ice cream. Yum!

This batch sat on the stovetop on low for quite a long while, waiting for The Huz to come home (more truck issues, life with a 79 Ford is a bit of an adventure) and it was none the worse for it.

This is my entry for Sweetnick's ARF 5-a-day Tuesday. Stop by later tonight to see what other anti-oxidant-rich foods are showing up in folks' recipes!

Monday, November 06, 2006

a/s/c: a neglected gadget a la WCC #10

In one of the hard-to-reach upper cabinets of my kitchen sits my apple peeler/slicer/corer. Lonely most months of the year, during apple season it becomes a veritable whirling dervish of activity. It's a wonderfully efficient little machine. You won't mind making a mile-high apple pie if you use one of these to prepare your apples. You can use it to core and slice and peel, or you can pull back the peeling arm to just core and slice. If I could choose to just peel and not slice, it would be perfect, but as it is, it makes short work of slicing up mounds of apples.

I was inspired earlier this fall to try making apple chips, the fruit cousin to potato chips, by a post written by Stacey on Just Braise. I made just a few apples as an experiment, trying them just plain, with salt, and with cinnamon sugar, as Stacey suggest. I'm a salt-aholic, so I expected to love the salty ones. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that I actually preferred the plain ones over the ornamented ones. In fact, I scarfed down so many apple chips that I realized these things are a little dangerous: with all the water removed, they seem rather insubstantial. In one sitting, you could easily eat the equivalent of three or four apples' worth!

Feeling further inspired, I went to our local apple orchard and purchased a half bushel of apples (them's a lot of apples, folks!) for $15 and just went to town making loads of apple chips. They're easy. They're delicious. And with my trusty apple p/s/c, every slice was precisely the same size as the one before it, so they all dried up perfectly at the same time. It's nice to have such a healthy snack in the house. Now I just have to figure out how to eat only a reasonable amount at a sitting.

I continued on my quest for apple recipes, to use up all those apples. I was captured by the very next post of Stacey's (I **am** going to give you a recipe that didn't come from her, I promise!) for apple spice cake. This is no ordinary apple spice cake, people. Oh, my word. I tasted it warm, and it was fabulous. But most cakes are wonderful when warm, so an hour later I tried it again when it had cooled off. Still fabulous. When the Huz came home for dinner, we had a nice bit of apple cake for dessert, with a bit of whipped cream, and he readily agreed to take the rest to work for his lunches and to share. But he failed me. He cut it in half and left some here. So I tasted it again the next day, to see how it had held up over time. Yep, still good. And it was still good that night. And the next morning I had to insist that it be taken out of my house, because by then I knew I was no match for its siren call.

I also played around with some baked apple recipes, but either my apples aren't the right kind or I haven't found the right recipe yet. Does anyone have a baked apple recipe that you adore? I'd love to try it!

Later that week, at a weekend cooking gig, I used my trusty apple p/s/c to make the apple spice cake as a coffee cake for 20, adding even more apple chunks than the recipe calls for and sprinkling powdered sugar over the top. Needless to say, it was a hit. I also made my "easiest apple tart" for a side dish for breakfast the following day. (For whatever it's worth, the whole menu was: individual shirred eggs with cream and cheese, warm ham ribbons with shallots, english muffins, easiest apple tart, yogurt, and fruit salad.)

The apple tart is indeed easy, especially since I use a refrigerated pie crust to save time. (Not being a morning person, I've gotten pretty good at figuring out shortcuts so I can get up at the last possible minute!) You just slice the apples, toss them with a mixture of sugar, flour, ground cloves, and cinnamon, and then arrange them in concentric circles over the pie crust. When it comes out of the oven 45 minutes later, you brush melted apple jelly over the top, let it sit for a couple of minutes, and then carry it to the table.

It looks like a fancy french tart, without all the fuss, and because it's just a pie crust with some cooked apples on top of it, it's not unduly rich for breakfast. If there's any left over, I put the slices on individual plates with a salad fork, and put them on the buffet table with whatever scone or coffee cake or muffins have been cooked for morning snack. Next thing I know, the empty plates are next to the sink ready to be washed.

The other recipe that I made with apples that weekend was my Blushing Apple Cream Pie, but that story will have to wait for another post. Gotta hurry up and get this over to Breadchick, who has kindly offered to allow me to enter it in the Weekend Cookbook Challenge even though I'm past the deadline. (See all the other entries, too, at The Sour Dough, where Breadchick has ably hosted the WCC this month.) So come back in a few days and I'll share that fabulous recipe, too!

P.S. If you're considering buying your very own apple p/s/c, it pays to buy a good one. I got my first one as a gift, and it wasn't worth the time I spent on it trying to get it to work. If the apple wasn't perfectly round and perfectly crisp, it would just shred the peel or not peel at all. It was purchased from LL Bean. I saw this one when a friend brought it to my weekend cooking gigs. It's from Pampered Chef, and it's a keeper!

cloudy monday #2

Late October
As you can see, I pulled over to the side of the road (always nice when I remember to do that) to catch this confluence of layered puffy clouds, browning grass, rusty trees, and mountains. I figured I would edit out all the asphalt in the foreground, like the picture below.

But I discovered I loved the triangular slash of the road more than the purer beauty of the edited photo. For those of you who know/care about such things, which composition do you think is better, artistically speaking? I have no training in this stuff, so I'm sure my eye is pretty, um, uneducated!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

you speak WHUT?

Your Linguistic Profile:
55% General American English
25% Yankee
10% Upper Midwestern
0% Dixie
0% Midwestern

wordless wednesday (almost)

Heads are highly overrated
Hey, dog lovers! This Sunday night, we can expect to see lots of canine hijinks over at Weekend Dog Blogging at Sweetnick's place. Head on over for head shots, tummy shots, jump shots and what nots!

Follow the links in the sidebar to lots more wordless wednesdays. This is #21!