Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Headed to Fall Color


Having just returned from a quick visit to Portland, the city that embraces the unusual, maybe even weird, now I'm headed to Colorado for some fall color (I hope) and family time. Sweetie and Pi will keep the home fires burning. The painting above was on the wall of the home where I stayed in Portland and is quite lovely, as are other pieces of art there.

No recipes, just a note that the quince are almost ripe and that they will be plentiful this year. Maybe I'll actually get around to making the recipes in the Quince cookbook I purchased 3 years ago. Hope so. The walnuts are falling, making noises in the night on the new deck. The acorns ping on the barn roof, then slide down toward the driveway.


Gravenstein apples are still with us but will soon be gone. Perhaps there will be a pie when I get home.


The zucchini are still producing but the squash stay smaller. The time for 'baseball bats' squash is probably past. Love that the bees are dancing around the tiny flowers on the sunflowers where the seeds form. A lovely fall treat. Soon there will be seeds like these.


That's all for now. Stay warm, stay dry, and stay safe.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Lentils and Eggs


When I was visiting Los Angeles in the summer (yes, it's still summer but it's beginning to feel like fall and school has started again, so summer seems like it's in the past) we went for brunch to a place called Playa Provisions in Playa Vista (I think). They had an eclectic menu but not a lot of items that were non-dairy. One dish that sounded good was lentils with tomatoes and egg and kale. It was outstanding! A touch of vinegar when served added just the right note against the beany flavor of the lentils and the richness of the soft boiled egg. I came home and decided to see if I could replicate the dish, or at least come close.

After searching the Internet I found a recipe by Bon Appetit that was close so I made a few tweaks and served it for dinner a few nights ago. It was delicious and filling and Sweetie enjoyed it, too. One of the key elements is a soffritto of onion, carrot, celery and garlic (the Bon Appetit recipe had fennel and not celery but I don't like fennel flavor) which is cooked almost into a paste. This plus the tomato sauce really flavor the lentils in a great way!

This is a vegetarian dish but could be vegan if you skip the egg. The Bon Appetit recipe called for serving it with bread that had been fried in olive oil, but I just toasted some seeded sourdough and put on some non-dairy margarine for me and butter for Sweetie. I also sprinkled on a bit of Parmesan cheese on his serving and he said that made it even better.


You could probably serve this the day it is cooked, but I like to 'age' dishes with onions, so I put it in the fridge in the pot it was cooked in for a couple of days. That made reheating it easy. The already cooked spinach was reheated in the microwave and spooned on top of the lentil mixture before I added the egg. I actually forgot to add the red wine vinegar, but plan to do it next time (there were leftovers) since the sharpness is a great foil for the relatively bland legumes. The bread is nice for sopping up any juices. I served it in a shallow, wide soup bowl and that works really well because there are some juices.


Lentils and Tomato Stew with Egg and Spinach
serves 4

1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
sea salt to taste (I used about 1/2 teaspoon)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 cups lentils (preferably French green), picked over and rinsed
water
1 cup baby spinach, rinsed
4 large eggs
4 sliced crusty bread
red wine vinegar and grated Parmesan cheese (for serving)

Pulse onion, celery, carrots and garlic in a food processor until soffritto is finely chopped.

In a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and add the soffritto, stirring to coat the vegetables with the oil. Season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally for 10-12 minutes, until soft.

Stir in the tomato sauce and cook, stirring occasionally until golden brown and very soft, about 10-12 minutes. Add a splash of water if it is browning too quickly. You want to caramelize the vegetables.

Add the lentils and 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until lentils are almost tender, 30-35 minutes. Uncover and simmer for another 10 minutes to reduce the liquid.

Skim about a cup of the liquid at the top of the pot and place it in a microwave safe dish. Add the spinach and cover with foil. Let sit to wilt the spinach. Refrigerate this spinach mixture.

Taste the lentil mixture and adjust for salt, if needed.

Refrigerate the pot of lentils at least 24 hours and no more than 48 hours. You can also just make the rest of the recipe from this point without refrigerating the stew, but the flavor is better with a rest.

On serving day, reheat the lentil stew over low heat, stirring as needed to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the eggs and cook at a simmer for 9 minutes. Removed from the pot and run under cold water until just cool enough to handle. Carefully remove shell while keeping egg whole. Place on a cutting board.

Reheat the spinach mixture while the eggs are boiling. Toast and butter the crusty bread.

Put about a quarter of the lentils in a bowl. Top with a quarter of the spinach mixture. Slice the hot eggs in half lengthwise and place, yolk side up on top of the veggies in the bowl. Add a splash of vinegar and sprinkle with Parmesan, as desired. Serve with the toasted bread. Serve at once.


Monday, September 03, 2018

Dusky Blondes


It felt a little bit like fall today, which is great. I've always liked the season of fall best of any season. It wasn't too hot this morning, so Sweetie and I went downhill to the pear tree and picked some pears. They are colored greenish gold and gold, but still hard, which is exactly right. I'll wrap them in newspapers and check them regularly until they are the perfect, juicy ripeness. If you pick them off the tree when they are ripe the inner part of the pear is usually gritty and overripe. Picking them early solves that. We also picked some Gravenstein apples from the two trees that are left. When we moved here there were more apple trees, but they were pretty old. I plan to make applesauce and maybe a pie or apple crisp. I love them baked, too. They tend to turn very soft when cooked, but have a wonderful, sweet-tart flavor.


Gravenstein apples are part of the Slow Food movement because they are dying out. People want apples that they can store and that ship well. Gravensteins are easily bruised and don't keep well at all. If you can find them, do enjoy some fresh or baked into your favorite treat. But this post is actually about cookies...bar cookies that are almost, but not quite, as dark as brownies.


Yesterday I baked  a version of blondies bar cookies. This time I added some espresso powder, which made them almost as dark as brownies, but not quite...I'm calling them Dusky Blondes. The flavor is still richly butterscotch, but the addition of coffee makes them more sophisticated. The coffee addition inspired me to use prunes for the dried fruit and walnuts for the nuts. I used only dark chocolate chips and the results were absolutely wonderful...and sort of fall-like. The chocolate is a supporting player here so they really aren't at all like a brownie. They are moist, rich, chewy and addictive. I froze about half of them so that I will limit how many I eat. Straight Shooter is visiting, so I know he will eat four or five of them this weekend and Sweetie likes them, too. Bet you will too, if you make them!



Dusky  Blondes
A variation of a recipe by Jill O’Connor in Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey, Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine
2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/4 cup plain applesauce
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons espresso powder


MIX-IN INGREDIENTS:
1  cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup dried plums (prunes), chopped
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Use cooking spray to lightly coat a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

Melt the butter and sugars together in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the butter and sugars are blended and completely melted and starting to bubble gently. Remove the pan from heat and let the mixture cool slightly.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, applesauce, vanilla and salt.

In another bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and espresso powder.

Slowly whisk the cooled butter and sugar mixture into the eggs mixture just until combined. Whisk in the flour mixture to form a loose batter. (Make sure the batter is cool before stirring in the remaining ingredients, otherwise the chocolate will start to melt before the bars are baked.)

Stir the chopped  nuts, chopped prunes, and dark chocolate chips into the cooled batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake until the top is shiny and slightly crackled and feels firm to the touch, 30 – 35 minutes. A wooden skewer inserting into the batter should come out with moist crumbs clinging to it. Let cool on a wire rack to room temperature, then cut into bars and serve.

Makes 16 large or 32 small bars.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Summer Is Winding Down



Have not been posting here much because I've not been baking and even our meals have been pretty simple...sliced tomatoes with a scattering of fresh basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar plus salt and pepper, baked potatoes, grilled zucchini with some herbs and pepper, grilled meats or chicken, the occasional salad with fresh veggies in it.

Part of that is due to hot weather, part due to time spent traveling and in the garden, and part because Sweetie asked me to slow down on baking while his back gets better. He has little resistance to my baking and right now can't be active enough to burn off the calories. He is doing much better and we took a good walk at the Laguna this morning.

So instead here are some garden photos:


I have so enjoyed the day lilies this summer. They are all gone now, but I had bright orange greetings each morning for over a month!

The morning glories are taking over this yellow rose bush but soon everything will get pruned back and the annuals will get tossed in the compost, so I'ts OK.


I've been weeding and cleaning up but there is soooo much garden to get to. No photo of it, but the main planting of bearded iris have all been weeded and the leaves trimmed, ready for winter.

Sunflowers are really just getting going, with two in full bloom and another about half way open. There are a few more that should bloom in September.


The lovely red rose by the barn, which I purchased years ago at the Russian River Rose Garden in Healdsburg, just loves the spot where it is planted and it keeps getting bigger and taller each year.


 Last in the alphabet, but not in my heart, are the zinnias. I planted them in the big pots with the flax and some herbs and another flower whose name I forget, and they are constantly blooming, making the front walkway a very cheerful place.


The flower at the top is a red California poppy, one of a number of different colors of poppies I grew this year.

That's all for now. Hope to have something food-ish to post soon.
Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Yeasted Peach and Berry Coffee Cake for the Bread Baking Babes


Usually I try to post the BBB recipe on the 16th of the month along with the other Babes, but this month my back didn't cooperate (probably because of too much work on fixing up the back deck) so it took me until today to bake this delicious, impressive coffee cake. Our Kitchen of the Month is Judy of Judy's Gross Eats. She chose a delightful treat with yeast bread and jam.

I had eight egg yolks in the fridge from prior cooking, so I decided to use the Challah recipe from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day book. It needed exactly the number of yolks I had, plus it doesn't use milk, and it used oil instead of butter...all items that work for me. I've never made the traditional Challah braid, but half of the dough is now in the freezer so I can try that at a later date. The recipe from Judy is very similar but it uses melted butter and whole eggs.

This is a rich, smooth, tight crumb bread with a tinge of yellow from the yolks. It is easy to work with so I decided to use a tube pan as Tanna did, hoping to avoid the fallen center. Well, it rose to the top of the pan, making an impressively high coffee cake at the sides,


 but when it cooled, the center still fell. I think that all that home made jam was a destabilizing influence.



For the jam I had three peaches, a bag of frozen raspberries in the freezer, and some blackberries picked down the driveway on Sunday. None of them yielded 5-6 cups required for the jam, so I made two batches of jam; one peach and one berry using both the raspberries and the blackberries. It was a little more work and more pans were used, but I think having the two colors was pretty and the two flavors went together really well. On top half the cake had peach and half had berry. The raspberries in particular made the house smell wonderful both when I made the jam and when the cake baked.



Sweetie really liked this cake. I served it barely warm and one slice was enough, so we still have about 8 servings left! I suspect that a neighbor, the librarians or firemen will get a treat soon.

Check out what the other Bread Baking Babes have done with this recipe.


If you'd like to be a Bread Baking Babes Buddy, just email Judy by Aug. 29th with a photo and a brief description of your baking experience. The original recipe can be found on her blog, and so can her email.


Challah (to be used for the Yeasted Fruit Jam Coffee Cake)
from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day

(Note: I used the grams weights and did weigh my ingredients on a scale with a tare...highly recommended.)

2 /14 cups (18 oz. / 510g) lukewarm water (about 95 degrees F or 35 degrees C)
1 1/2 tablespoons (0.5 oz. / 14g) instant yeast
8 - 10 egg yolks (6 oz / 170g), depending on weight
5 tablespoons (2.5 oz / 71g) vegetable oil
6 tablespoons (3 oz / 85g) sugar or 4 1/2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
1 tablespoon (.075 oz / 21g) vanilla extract- optional (I used 1 teaspoon almond extract, measured, not weighed)
7 1/2 cups (34 oz / 964g) unbleached bread flour
2 1/2 teaspoons (0.66 / 19g) salt or 4 teaspoons coarse kosher salt

Combine the water and yeast in a mixing bowl and stir with a whisk to dissolve. Add the egg yolks, oil, sugar, almond extract (if using) and whisk lightly to break up the egg yolks, then add the flour and salt. If using a mixer, use the paddle attachment and mix on the lowest speed for 2 minutes. If mixing by hand, us a large spoon and stir for about 2 minutes. The dough should be coarse and shaggy. Let dough rest for 5 minutes.

Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium-low speed, or continue to mix by hand using a large, wet spoon, for 4 minutes.

Use a bowl scraper to transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, then dust the top of the dough with flour. Lightly knead for 1 - 2 minutes, adding more flour as needed to prevent sticking. The dough should be soft, supple and tacky but not sticky. Form the dough into a ball, place it in a clean, lightly oiled large bowl, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap (or a clean shower cap). Immediately  refrigerate the dough overnight or for up to 4 days. It will double in size as it cools.

On baking day remove the dough from the refrigerator about 2 hours and 10 minutes before you plan to bake. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and divide in half. If possible, use a scale to make sure the weights are very close to the same. Set one half aside for another use and use the other half to follow the recipe for the Yeasted Fruit Jam Coffee Cake on Judy's blog.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Lemon Blackberry Cake with #TheCakeSliceBakers


Unfortunately my back has been acting up for the last few days, so no blogging for a while. Even the making of this cake was affected because I needed a cake for a birthday party but needed to simplify it. I know it looks fancy, but the blackberries were picked and the jam was made before my back went out and the cute piped icing at the bottom and for the candles was done on Sunday when I was feeling better.


We are baking from The Perfect Cake from America's Test Kitchen and in that cookbook this was a four layer cake (four full layers, not two cut in halves horizontally) which means a longer baking time since two are baked at a time, not four. It also used mascarpone cheese in the icing, which is not something that I can eat due to severe dairy allergies. It's also something that I haven't found a substitute for, so I made a 'buttercream' icing using non-dairy margarine and a different recipe entirely. Because the margarine doesn't whip as light as butter and because it also has more moisture in it than real butter, the icing isn't as stable, so a two layer cake made more sense as well as being faster.


I did make the fresh blackberry jam from the recipe in The Perfect Cake, although I strained it to remove the seeds and most of the skins. Blackberry seeds just seem wrong for a fancy cake. Because I only had two layers, I was able to put some of the jam directly on a cake layer and then put the blackberry flavored buttercream on top,


plus on the top and the sides. The sides looked much better with plenty of icing instead of the veil look recommended by the Perfect Cake recipe. Since there were only two layers I felt that the extra icing was needed to balance out the cake. I got raves for the icing because it was delicious, using some lemon juice and the blackberry jam and not a lot of sugar, so it wasn't overly sweet. I used a circle of fresh blackberries on top for decoration.



The cake has both lemon zest and lemon juice. Because the extra step of whipping the whites and folding them in was too much time on my feet, I used the Perfect Party Cake recipe from Dorie Greenspan's Baking; from my home to yours book for the cake. It uses the dry/wet/dry/wet/dry method for adding the dry and wet ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg mixture, which goes quickly and still produces a moist, tender, fine grained cake.



Next month I hope to go back to following the recipe exactly, but I have to say that this sure did make a pretty and delicious layer cake...and it was perfect for a party of 5. We ate all but two or three slices and all the plates were clean of both cake and icing when we were done...I think everyone loved this cake!



I particularly enjoyed the lemon. It's fresh flavor was a great counterpoint to the sweet blackberries in the jam and icing. Here's a slice for you.



Be sure and check out the other Cake Slice Bakers posts to see which cake they made. #atkcake



The Cake Slice Bakers are baking from a new book "The Perfect Cake" from America's Test Kitchen.

Our choices this month are...

August 2018
  1. Blueberry Boy Bait
  2. Raspberry Charlotte
  3. Blackberry-Mascarpone Lemon Cake
  4. Peanut Butter and Jam Cake.
Visit our members to see what cake choice they baked up! 


Monday, August 13, 2018

Quick Peach Crisp



The other evening I had some very ripe peaches on hand. Unfortunately I didn't have the energy to make a peach pie, which is what I had gotten the peaches for. Still, they weren't improving with age, so I decided to make a peach crisp. It goes together much more quickly than a pie and still gives me that hit of warm, nutmeg scented peaches. The day before I had made a bowl with nothing but warm, nutmeg scented peaches and that was great, but adding a crisp topping makes it special.


I started with two ripe, peeled and pitted peaches. I cut them into chunks and layered them in the bottom of a rectangular baker. In the microwave in another heat safe container I melted butter and added brown sugar and the nutmeg. Then I did the 'quick' part by adding plain granola to the butter mixture (well, not really butter - non-dairy margarine) and stirred it well to coat the granola clusters with the mixture. Usually I would have had to measure out oats and flour and salt, etc., so this was faster.

The crisp topping went over the peaches and it all went into a preheated 350 degree F. oven for 20 minutes. The result? Hot peaches, browned topping, peaches juices scented and flavored with nutmeg. What could be better? A scoop of vanilla soy ice cream. Ooops, Sweetie ate it all, so we went with some soy creamer instead. Delicious...and quick dessert for two.


Quick Peach Crisp
Serves 2

2 ripe peaches, pitted and peeled and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup plain granola (I used Bob's Red Mill)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Layer peach chunks in an even layer in the bottom of a 6 x 9-inch baking pan. (You could use a 9 x 9-inch pan and double the ingredients and have enough for 4 people.)

In a medium bowl microwave the butter, brown sugar and nutmeg until the butter us melted. Stir well. Stir in the granola until all the cereal is coated with the butter mixture. Evenly distribute the granola mixture on top of the peach layer and bake for 20 minutes, or until the crisp topping is golden brown. Serve at once. Garnish with ice cream, whipped cream, or cream.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Fresh Basil in Pesto


Most years I plant basil seeds in a wide and somewhat shallow planter. Some years the basil does well and fills up the planter. Some years I get a few spindly plants. This year the basil is happy and the planter is packed and the plants are getting tall. Time to use them and a great way to use basil is in pesto. Normally I'd make a mixture of basil, pine nuts,olive oil and parmesan cheese, with some salt and pepper added to taste.

Now that cheese is in my past, I decided to try making it without parmesan. I used fresh lemon juice and lemon zest to add some zing and some almond flour for body. Of course the star is the basil, which is as it should be. We had it mixed with some potato gnocchi that were a bit unstable so that half turned to mashed potatoes when heated in simmering water. It was a new brand of gnocchi. Wonderful in taste but I think I'll go back to the more stable kind.

The pesto was just right...lots of basil flavor heightened by the lemon and mellowed by the nuts. I toasted the pine nuts a little too much but with all that basil you would never know. The olive oil wasn't the real fancy kind used for finishing...it would be wasted for the same reason...it's all about the basil. You could taste the lemon, mostly as an afternote. A touch of salt was necessary. There is still enough in the fridge for another pasta or gnocchi dish...YAY!

No Cheese Pesto

1 cup, packed, fresh basil leaves...stems discarded
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1/3 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon lemon zest
juice from a lemon
1/3 cup olive oil, or to taste
salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor bowl fitted with the steel blade place the basil, pine nuts, almond flour, lemon zest and lemon juice. Process until fairly smooth, scraping down sides as needed. With machine running, use the feed tube and add the olive oil in a thin stream until pesto is to your liking. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve at once.

Leftover can be stored in a small glass jar. Pour a little additional olive oil gently to create a thin layer of oil on top of the pesto. This keep air out and prevents the pesto from turning brown.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Shrimp on the Barbie


Sweetie absolutely loves shrimp. When we go to Costco he always buys some cooked shrimp to have for lunch that week. They cook the kind he likes with garlic and butter, so I have something else for lunch, but I like shrimp, too, so sometimes we get the plain kind with cocktail sauce for dipping.

Last night we had a made-up recipe BBQ Shrimp. The marinade is the made up part, since the shrimp were purchased already cleaned and with all the shell except for the very last part of the tail removed.

The marinade used both regular and Meyer lemons because that's what I had on hand. I used Penzey's Spices Greek Seasoning blend, which contains salt and pepper, garlic, dried lemon peel, oregano and marjoram, all great flavors for shrimp. If you don't have that, season the marinade to taste with minced garlic, dried oregano and marjoram, salt and pepper as well as the lemon juice.

I marinated the shrimp for about a half hour, 15 minutes, then I turned the bag over for another 15. Much longer and you start 'cooking' the shrimp with the acid in the lemon juice, like with ceviche.

While the shrimp were marinating, I soaked wooden skewers in water. Once it was time to cook the shrimp, I threaded them on the skewers, starting with the tail end and going through the largest part last. The marinade also had olive oil in it, so all Sweetie had to do was put them on the barbie and make sure to not overcook them. Shrimp only needs a couple of minutes per side.

We had them with grilled zucchini from the garden, sliced tomato from the garden dressed with olive oil, garlic and pepper and balsamic vinegar, and store bought potato salad. It was close to 90 in our neck of the woods yesterday and still around 80 when Sweetie was barbecuing, so only having to be out in it for a short time was perfect.



The shrimp were moist and succulent and lightly flavored with the citrus and herbs. These would work well as an appetizer, too. You could have a thin slice of cucumber or zucchini, pepper, a dab of yogurt or smashed avocado and a shrimp on top.

Hope that you are staying cool (or warm the the Southern hemisphere) and enjoying the summer.



Shrimp with Citrus Marinade

1 pound shrimp, cleaned and shell removed except for tail, rinsed and drained
juice of two lemons
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Penzey's Greek Seasoning blend
or
to taste: salt, pepper, lemon zest, garlic, dried oregano, dried marjoram

In a large ziploc bag place the lemon juice, olive oil and seasoning(s). Shake to distribute and let sit five minutes for the herbs to rehydrate.

Add the shrimp and shake to coat with the marinade. Lay the bag flat and make sure that the shrimp are in one layer. Let marinate for 15 minutes. Turn the bag over and marinate for another 15 minutes.

While the shrimp is marinating, soak 6-8 wooden skewers in water ( I used a broiler pan, but a rimmed baking pan would work, too) for at least 30 minutes. You can soak them longer if you like, but the shrimp cooks so quickly that 30 minutes seems to be enough.

Once the shrimp have marinated for 30 minutes, remove from the marinade. Discard the marinade. Thread the shrimp on the skewers, starting with the tail end, just above the shell and being sure to pierce the upper part of the shrimp. This will make curled shrimp, which is what they do when they cook anyway. I put five on a skewer, but you may do more or less depending on the size of your shrimp.

Grill on a preheated barbeque for about 2 minutes per side. Cooked shrimp will be opaque and pink. Don't overcook. Serve at once with lemon wedges and/or cocktail sauce, although we had them just as they came off the grill and they were delicious that way!

Saturday, August 04, 2018

The Deck and the Garden


Recipes have been scarce on this blog for a while and posts, too. I blame our work on the back deck. Sweetie and I have been spending every day for the last two weeks (minus, for me, the three days last weekend when I was in LA) taking apart the old deck and refurbishing it, then putting down new deck boards and putting in new posts for railing. As is normal in the summer, this has been hot work. By dinner time there is no energy for new recipes, either savory or sweet.

We have house painters coming on Monday, so we have stopped the deck work for a while (although we might work on railings) and our perseverance paid off. Both the lower and the middle deck are done, leaving only the steps, railings, and some of the upper deck! Exciting. Here is how it looks:


It might not look like much, but the larger deck is 11 x 16 feet.

The garden is the other thing that has my attention. The squash, cucumbers, beans and...finally!...tomatoes are gradually ready to harvest (see top photo for all but beans), but I find that I need to harvest the beans daily in  order to have beans that aren't huge and tough. The basil is getting big, too. The flowers are also a joy, but need deadheading and today I began the process of weeding out the old, spent wildflowers and trimming the tops off the iris leaves. Soon it will be time to put down more bark chip mulch, too. It's certainly needed near the potted zinnia and flax in the photo below. Someone gave me a sign that says, "A garden is a thing of beauty and a job forever" and they spoke the truth.



Tonight we are having grilled shrimp, grilled planks of zucchini squash, sliced tomatoes with balsamic, olive oil and basil chiffonade so maybe I'll have a shrimp recipe to post soon.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Surf


When I first started to blog, waaaaaay back in 2006, a popular pastime was to 'surf the web'. There was a lot less on the internet and not so much in the way of social media that there is now...no Twitter, no Instagram or Snapchat for instance. People had more time to just wander around from link to link and check things out.

Recently when I was looking for a recipe on my blog (which is not easy since I have been truly terrible at keeping up any kind of current recipe index...sorry) I started really looking at, and in some cases reading, old posts from years ago. It was fun! My sister recently did the same thing and told me that she really enjoyed reading some of my old posts. So I checked my stats and found that only one post in the top 10 was older than 2018. Most people looking at this blog are only reading the most recent posts. I'm glad that you are visiting, but do consider wandering around and seeing what else is here. I've posted over 1,000 recipes over the years. A lot of them are for bread, cake, cookies and scones, but there are plenty of others, too.

Don't know how to check out the old posts? Find the 'view web version' link, usually at the bottom of the posts that your computer, browser, or phone shows. If you click on that it takes you to the version which included my flawed recipe index (which looks like a photo of a table set for dinner...just click on the photo to go to the index) on the right, plus a set of links for each year I've blogged. If you click on the triangle to the left of the year, all the months in that year are listed. Click on the triangle to the left of the month and all the posts in the month appear.


Here are some links...match them with the photos above and at the top of the post, then check them out if they look interesting and look at a few posts before or after to get your 'surf' going!!

96-Proof Chocolate Bundt Cake8 Ingredient Mediterranean Couscous SaladGrilled Cheese and Basil Polenta, Quiche with Swiss Chard, Swiss Cheese and Bacon, Stuffed with Berries Summer Pudding

So try it sometime; surf this blog and see what you find. Make a comment if you find something that has an error (I know there must be some) or that you really enjoy. I look forward to hearing from you!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Lemon Sheet Cake #TheCakeSliceBakers

A little late to the party, but summer is never an easy time to find the right time to bake. As usual, we have a project for the house going on. This July it's a refurbishment of the back deck, which is a three level affair connected by steps. Sweetie and I built it together over 25 years ago, so it has aged enough to no longer be beautiful, nor totally safe.

Today we stopped early enough that I whipped up the Lemon Sheet Cake from The Perfect Cake cookbook (no 'buttermilk' in the title since I didn't use buttermilk). Except for using non-dairy margarine and soy creamer as substitutes for the butter and buttermilk, I followed the recipe exactly. Those substitutions are necessary if I'm going to eat any of the cake, and I soooo enjoyed this cake that I'm glad I did.


This cake is tender, moist and has a heavenly true lemon flavor. The crumb is fairly tight and the crust delicate. I love the lemon sugar glaze even though it does make the cake pretty sweet. The sprinkle of lemon zest enriched granulated sugar over the glaze adds just the right touch of crunch, and even more lemon appeal and sweetness.

Allow some time at the beginning to zest and juice the lemons...takes 5-10 minutes, but is well worth the effort. Otherwise this is a fairly basic cake recipe where you cream the butter with the sugar that has been enriched with the lemon zest, then you add eggs, then the dry ingredients in three parts and the wet ingredients in two parts, with the dry added last. Using cake flour is wonderful since it makes the cake delicate and tender.


I know that quite a few Cake Slice Bakers also make this recipe. Who can blame them? This cake if just fine by itself and even better with a few ripe strawberries or raspberries or blackberries or blueberries and since this is berry season that's easy to do. I added a few  strawberries from our garden and it was the perfect summer treat with the luscious lemon cake!


Do visit the other Cake Slice Bakers to see how their cakes turned out. There is at least on who did the cake pops and one who did the almond meringue layers with fruit. No recipe, but do consider buying the book because every recipe so far has been flawless.


Each month The Cake Slice Bakers are offered a selection of cakes from the current book we are baking through.  This year it is The Perfect Cake from America's Test Kitchen #atkcake.  We each choose one cake to bake, and then on the 20th - never before - we all post about our cake on our blogs. There are a few rules that we follow, but the most important ones are to have fun and enjoy baking & eating cakes!

Follow our Facebook,  Instagram, and  Pinterest pages where you can find all of our cakes, as well as inspiration for many other cakes. You can also click on the thumbnail pictures below to take you to each of our cakes, or visit our blog where the links are updated each month. If you are interested in joining The Cake Slice Bakers and baking along with us, please send an email to thecakeslicebakers at gmail dot com for more details.
The Cake Slice Bakers are baking from a new book "The Perfect Cake" from America's Test Kitchen.

Our choices this month are...
  1. Lemon Buttermilk Sheet Cake
  2. Apricot-Almond Meringue Cake
  3. Refined Strawberry Shortcake
  4. Party Cake Pops
Visit our members to see what cake choice they baked up! 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Screwing Around


Time can be a destroyer or a healer...strange that it works both ways.

This month we are focused on the destroyer aspect as Sweetie and I have begun to rebuild the back deck that we first built together over 25 years ago. Many rainstorms and lots of sun have aged the wood and in some cases weakened it. It's sort of like a jigsaw puzzle. We take some of the old apart and figure out what can stay and what needs replacing and if anything can be improved on in the process. So far we have added a couple of posts for additional handrails,  a bow to our advancing age...the deck isn't the only thing that has been affected by time. We've also decided to try leaving off a railing on the lower level and to leave off a step connecting the middle level with the lower level. There are still steps to each, but we were often a bit anxious about it when we had folks seated at tables on the middle level...so easy to scoot a chair too far back and have it go lower unexpectedly. Now there will be railing around much of the middle level which will actually feel nicer.


Twenty five or so years ago the quality of redwood available for decks was far superior to what is around today. We checked out a number of suppliers and none of them had anything as clear or with few small knots like there was then. It's too bad, but I suspect that with the major fires last October, there has been a run on materials and it's hard to keep up with demand.


We have discovered that we can also only work about 4-5 hours a day on the deck instead of 7-9 when we were so much younger. Being retired means that it really doesn't matter. Pi doggie really enjoys having us there since hanging out on the upper back deck has been his preference for many months now. He is keeping an eye on us and making sure we do good work.

I do hope to post a lovely cake in the next day or two since the 20th of the month is reveal day for the Cake Slice Bakers. Probably won't have a ton of other posts on food since the project takes precedence over baking and most cooking, too.

The healing aspect of time has been in evidence lately, too. On Tuesday we remembered our son Max, lost 19 years ago on July 17th in an auto accident. The loss is still great and sometimes overwhelming, but the years have taught us how to deal with it and healing has happened, too. Come August 12th, his birthday, we will celebrate all that he meant to us and to others while he was alive. In the meantime, we miss you Max, every day.