Tag Archives: husband

Baking to beat the cold and stress

In many ways, yesterday was a typical January day in northwest Ohio. Sort of. There was nearly one foot of snow on the ground, and extremely high winds had created large drifts up the sides of houses and parked cars. Icy roads made driving dangerous.

Okay, so if you live in Minnesota or North Dakota, you might be yawning by now. But hey, this is Ohio. We get snow. Some years we get a lot. Some years we get none. This is one of those “a lot” years. Windchills of 40 below didn’t make it any more palatable.

So there we were. Stuck in the house. Even Bluffton University shut down for two days. So…what to do?

One of my favorite rooms in the house is the kitchen. It’s bright. It’s yellow. And it gives me a nice view of the back yard, and the little A-frame that my dad built 20 years ago. He insisted it would probably fall apart after two years.

Backyard
Looking at the A-frame sparked a memory of Dad baking bread on cold winter days. So? I baked bread.
Bread-baked

While that was rising, I figured I could log on to my work desktop and get some work done. But since I’m really good at procrastinating, I shoved that thought to the back of my brain, and instead baked cookies.
Not just any old cookies. It’s January. I hate January. In fact, my stress level rises just thinking about January. So…since whoever decided that dark chocolate and antioxidants are good antidotes to stress, I’ve resorted to the perfect cookie, Anti-Stress Cookies.

Chock full of ingredients like whole wheat flour, olive oil, dark chocolate chips, raisins, dried sour cherries, walnuts, oats, yogurt, brown sugar, butter, and whatever else you feel like adding.  I added 1/4 cup of flax seed this time. You can’t ruin them…unless you leave the room and forget they’re in the oven. Doesn’t matter. Surely, someone in your house likes dark cookies. If not, call my husband.

cookie-plate

Anti-Stress Cookies
1½ c. white flour (or white whole wheat flour)
¾ c. whole wheat flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
¾ teaspoon salt
½ stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 c. olive or canola oil
1 c. packed dark brown sugar (I actually use 3/4 c.)
1 large egg
2 egg whites
¼ cup molasses
¼ cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
½ cup oats
1 ¼ cups Monukka raisins
1 ¼ cups dried cranberries or dried cherries
1 ¼ c. DARK chocolate chips (i.e. Ghirardelli)
1 ¼ cups chopped walnuts
Directions
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt in a medium bowl.
Beat the butter, oil and brown sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and egg whites  Add the molasses, yogurt, ginger and lemon zest and beat until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the flour mixture to make a sticky batter (do not overmix). Fold in the oats, raisins, cranberries or cherries, chocolate chips and walnuts.
Chill dough for at least 30 minutes. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of batter onto prepared baking sheets. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Bake the cookies until dark golden but still soft, 10 to 12 minutes; cool on a rack. Store in an airtight container for up to one week. May also be frozen (I like my cookies hard!)

By the time I was done with all the baking, I’d warmed up the house, and the frigid temps outside didn’t seem nearly so daunting.

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Letting go: Saying goodbye to an old friend

Two days before Christmas we said a sad goodbye to an old friend. Truthfully, it was really just me who was sad. No one else seemed even mildly perturbed.

But really. She’d been a part of our family since 1997, carried loads of kids to various locations; created peace on long trips with each daughter claiming her own seat; later ferried clothing, furniture, and other items necessary for college apartments; and trucked leaves, branches, and weeds to the local dump.

She was an apple-red Dodge Caravan with seats as comfortable as a favorite recliner. Despite her age and nearly 200,000 miles, she was still as shiny as the day we’d picked her up.

0226121329_0001But with more replacement parts than original ones, she began making noises that suggested she was in need of yet another repair. Around Thanksgiving, she sprung a leak, and left puddles of antifreeze on the driveway.

Our local mechanics who’d babied her along for the last few years finally delivered the bad news. It was, they informed my husband, time to stop putting money into her.

For a few weeks, though, we were in denial, or maybe it was just me who was  me who was in denial. A large jug of antifreeze became a permanent fixture in the car…in case of emergency.

While I dragged my feet, hanging on to Red and my memories, my husband began the search for an appropriate used car. With some wheedling, he convinced me to test drive first a Honda Civic and then a Toyota Camry. In the end, the Civic won out.

On Dec. 23, we took a final drive in the van, ending at its final destination — the auto recycling center. But before we weighed it and let the attendant take over, we had an important task. I needed a memento. Turns out it’s pretty easy to pop off the radio controls.

photo(12)Oddly, black dials conjure up a CD of 16 years of memories. If I turn them just right, those memories keep playing loud and clear.

Gordon Lightfoot and a really Wacky Cake

It was 1969 when Gordon Lightfoot wrote “If you could read my mind, love, what a tale my thoughts would tell….” The song may have been about the breakup of his marriage, but the lyrics were solid gold for even the teenyboppin’ crowd. I know this because I was 13 years old and in the 8th grade.

So yesterday when I read in the New York Times that Lightfoot would turn 75 this week, that was the song that immediately came to mind. All through the day as I graded papers, walked the dog, cooked and baked, the song replayed in my head. Over and over.

Maybe it was good luck. Maybe not. Because my success in the kitchen was two for three. The vegetable soup and bread both turned out perfectly.

image (4)Of course, there is no recipe for either one because I pretty much threw both together with whatever was around.

The wacky cake, however, was another story. Actually, the cake itself was perfect as usual. It’s a can’t-miss recipe. But it’s what you decide to do to glitz it up for someone’s birthday that impacts the outcome. Here’s how it looked first:

imagePretty ho hum…unless you can smell it. So just close your eyes and imagine the amazing smell of warm cocoa.

But…it was the hubs’ birthday and I decided to replicate something the girls and I invented long ago. As soon as it comes out of the oven, you cover it with mini-marshmallows and chocolate chips. They quickly melt and you kind of blend them together with a icing spreader. This works well UNLESS, of course, the marshmallows have outlived their shelf life. Apparently, if they’re old and dried out, they won’t melt.

Nothing worked….not putting it back in the warm oven and not a quick zap in the microwave. I was really beginning to feel frustrated. Lucky for me, I don’t have a picky husband. He took one look and knew what I was thinking because he started humming “If you could read my mind, love…”

Just proves at least some of those lyrics can apply to just about every situation.

photo (11)

Wacky Cake
(Makes one 8X8-in. square cake)

1 c. white sugar
1 1/2 c. flour
3 tbsp. cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
In the 8X8-in. square pan in which you plan to bake the cake, mix dry ingredients with fork. Make three holes. Pour in 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 tbsp. vinegar, and 6 tbsp. canola oil.
Pour one c. cold water over and mix up with the fork. Bake 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Note: This can be eaten as is, dusted with powdered sugar, iced with your favorite icing recipe, topped with marshmallows and chocolate chips, or with the following:

1/3 c. butter, melted
2/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. nuts
2 tbsp. water
Mix and pour over cake and brown until brown.

The pinch hitter and his Dead Sea Scroll pear/cranberry/blueberry pie

Pies are not on my list of favorites to bake or eat, but I’m pretty sure my husband’s first solid food was pie. So this weekend, I realized it was time to call in my pinch hitter since I’ve been in a no-blogging zone for the past five weeks while teaching.

On Saturday night when I returned from the Country Living Fair in Columbus, there was another Dead Sea Scroll pie cooling on the counter. The pie baker had been busy, so I took a photo and begged him to send me the recipe to share. He did more than that — he expounded. What a guy!

photo (10)Fred’s Dead Sea Scroll
Pear-Cranberry-Blueberry Pie

I call these pies my “Dead Sea Pie Scroll” series. That’s because I use Phyllo dough as crust. It’s frozen and rolls out looking like I think the Dead Sea Scrolls probably looked when they were unrolled after 2,000 years in the desert.

I followed the opinion that it’s very difficult to bake a bad pie.

On Saturday someone placed a bag of Bartlett pears on our back porch. So, I peeled them (about 7). Sliced them and started rummaging through the freezer to see what needed to be dumped.

I found a half bag of cranberries from Christmas and a bag of blueberries. I nuked them for 2 minutes, dumped them into the pear slices and started to think.

What else would go with this? So, in went one-half cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of corn starch and some random spices – ginger and something else that I don’t remember. You can never lose with sugar, but I like to try to limit it – most pie recipes call for lots more sugar than this.

While lemon juice is always good with cranberries, I had none, so I added a slug of OJ.

I wasn’t in the mood to make a crust, but luckily I had Phyllo dough frozen from a previous project. I used that for my pie crust and pie topping. After all, Phyllo sounds like “pie,” so why not use it as a crust substitute? It works.

Poured the fruit-sugar glop into the Pyllo crust, already placed in the deep dish pie plate.

I’d preheated the oven to 350. Placed the pie in the heated over and ignored it for one hour. I added an aluminum sheet on top of the pie so as to not burn the crust after one hour. 

Waited 30 more minutes and took it out of the oven. Didn’t wait to eat.

 

 

Episode 1: The man who cooks in triplicate

Having been raised in a fairly “non-traditional” family — at least for the 50s-60s, my husband learned his way around the kitchen at an early age. His dad often cooked — in fact, his fried potatoes are legendary. Technically, they’re probably called rosti, which is a Swiss concoction made with coarsely grated potato, either cooked or raw.

Pies, on the other hand, were his mom’s specialty. When we first married, I was confused by the fact that these pies always arrived at the table with a very thin sliver missing. And she always delivered them to the table with the same disclaimer: “This is the worst pie I’ve ever made.” Her adult children rolled their eyes and in fact, often spoke the words at the same time or tried to beat her to the punch.

About 10 years ago, the hubs embarked on his own pie project — baking a different kind every Sunday. By this time, our daughters were off at college and since I don’t like pie, he knew he wouldn’t offend anyone if one failed. My mom happily joined him in the tasting/rating process.

A few weeks after the failed attempt at vinegar pie (I’m serious) he said he was completely out of ideas and asked ME to suggest something. I knew we had applesauce so suggested he attempt to create something from that. He was so pleased with the result that he developed a whole new attitude toward baking and, subsequently, cooking. He became Invincible Man in the Kitchen.

Sunday has become baking and cooking day in our house. A few weeks ago, I asked what his plan was. His response was that he “likes to cook in threes.” How could I pass this up? Fortunately, he’s a good sport and went along with the deal.

So….that day began a series of “The man who cooks in triplicate.” Most weeks this includes a variation on granola, which he began making after I raved too many times about my mom and dad’s granola, which they began making in the 70s after reading Francis Moore Lappe’s “Diet for a Small Planet.” Someday, I’ll share his recipe — if and when he actually creates one.

The first day in this series included granolaIMG_0169[1], a simplified version of eggplant Parmesan,IMG_0170[1]                                                       and blueberry pie. Each year we buy a case of blueberries from Michigan and he freezes them in small amounts. The new case was due to arrive so he needed to use up the leftovers from last year. IMG_0168[1]

His explanation is SO much better than anything I could duplicate, so here it is. Understand that he — and sometimes my mom, a daughter, a significant other-in-law, a niece or nephew, or some other lucky guest — are the testers and rarely do his pies see the public eye.

Blueberry Pie
The recipe calls for 2 cups of blueberries. I like pies to be really tall, so I put in about 4 cups. That’s probably why is was runny. Just added 2 tbsp. of corn starch. Plus had had to get rid of the blueberries from 2012 to make room of the 2013 batch.

Basic fruit pie recipe for me is:

Fruit
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup sugar (I don’t like to put too much in)
Sometimes corn starch
Crust (sometimes homemade from whole wheat flour — which is all we have; usually made from oil, not butter or lard; sometimes purchased.) On this day, he got really creative and used phyllo dough which produced a top that resembled corn husks.

Bake at 350 until I’m hungry.  Sometimes the pie is overdone, sometimes underdone, sometimes just right.  Sometimes I add a top if I have enough pie crust left.

Editor’s note: Yep, it looked this strange. Apparently, it was perfect.

IMG_0166[1]

 

 

 

 

What questionable leftovers have to do with being buried “in straight lace shoes”

My husband and I have a recurring conversation when we eat a leftover that is a bit past its time or if we are about to have a medical procedure we think we may not survive. Actually, I’m the only one who worries about not surviving the medical procedures but that’s probably because I’ve had more experience with those…like emergency surgeries.

Anyway, this is how the conversation starts:

“If I die, do you promise to…?”

Okay, so I admit it’s a bit morbid, but we share a rather warped sense of humor and sometimes that’s the only thing that keeps us sane. The upside of this is that we both usually end up laughing so hard we forget why we were worried in the first place.

Last night, we were each fixing something for supper. He held out some potatoes and asked if I thought they were safe to eat. They were a little on the green side, which I always thought meant they weren’t really ripe. Still, they weren’t sprouting and they looked okay when he cut them, so we figured they were okay. Just to be on the safe side, I posed the “What do you want me to do if you die?”

His response was classic. “Dress me in straight-laced shoes.”

After 33 years, you’d think I’d have heard all of his responses, but this was a new one. He caught my doubtful expression and (acting stunned) said, “C’mon, you know that one, don’t you? You know (cue the trumpets)…The St. James Infirmary?”

He knows perfectly well that I did not grow up on the jazz music that he did. So our supper prep morphed into a quickie lesson on yet another Louis Armstrong  classic…”I went down to St. James Infirmary, saw my baby there, sat down on a long white table, so sweet, so cold, so fair…When I die I want you to dress me in straight lace shoes…

I must have looked completely clueless, because he insisted on playing the song for me. I mumbled something about it sounding like one of those New Orleans jazz funeral marches, which apparently is exactly what it was.

Seems I have learned something after 33 years of listening to his jazz lectures. Oh and by the way, no one died from eating the potatoes.

Curious enough to hear the real thing? Here you go…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-hIplBbiCc

 

Yes! We have no bananas

There is that delicious moment when you feel yourself dropping off to sleep, knowing that in just seconds you will be oblivious to the world around you. Then there is that moment when your senses are startled awake by some unwelcome interruption.

This happened to me a few nights ago. I remember hearing a question entering my subconscious and wondering WHAT THE HECK? My pleasant drift into slumberland was jolted awake by my husband, asking…”What happened to the bananas?”

Here’s the thing: I hate bananas. My husband knows that. My mother knows that. My children know that. Even my 20-year-old niece knows it and in fact, if she reads this, she may not speak to my husband again because she claims her dislike for them far outweighs mine.

My response to him was a chilly, “You’re asking ME? I didn’t buy any.” And then thankfully, for once, I drifted back to sleep.

Toward morning, I woke up to an aching shoulder, so fetched an ice pack. When I opened the door of the freezer, guess what was hanging from the inside rack of the freezer door? Yep.

A bunch of FROZEN BANANAS.2013-02-19 06.59.18 Somehow they’d slid off the top of the fridge into the freezer. I couldn’t help myself. I had to laugh. Clearly, he’d not located them. Before removing them to the counter top, I took a photo.

When I returned to bed, I nudged the sleeping husband and said “Found your bananas.”

No response….just a slight snore.

You’ll have to ask him what he did with them.

Oooooops Crackers

As I headed out to yoga, I took one last peek at the bread dough rising in a bowl on the register. Looked great and smelled great. Two hours later when I got home, the dough appeared to (a) not have risen at all, or (b) risen and fallen. I was pretty sure it was (a).

A little thought niggled at the back of my mind. What had I done wrong? Smack to the forehead….of course….no yeast. As any self-respecting baker knows, bread won’t rise without some sort of leavening agent.

As I stood there, berating myself for being careless (s0 much for that hour of restorative yoga), my husband saved the day. He would make crackers with the dough. Which he did. And they are scrumptious.

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This was intended to be whole wheat bread with seven grain and flax seeds. I’d mixed the dough in the bread machine to save time. So the recipe is written for a bread machine. If you were mixing it up by hand, you’d proof the yeast first by mixing it with the water, then adding the dry ingredients.

7-Grain/Flax/Whole Wheat Bread
(AKA Oops Crackers)
1 1/2 c. warm water
1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. salt
1 c. white whole wheat flour
2 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. 7-grain
1 tbsp. flax seed (or more)
1 tbsp. yeast (I use bulk yeast)
Set bread machine on dough cycle. When it completes the cycle, remove and place in an oiled bowl, turn dough over a few times to coat with oil, then cover bowl and set in warm place to rise.

After a few hours, remove dough and place in oiled bread pan, let rise f0r 40 minutes or so, then bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes. (This is an estimate, since everyone’s oven is different.)

NOTE: IF YOU FORGET THE YEAST or if you just want to make crackers, you can skip the yeast and they’ll turn out fine.

Roll out the dough and fit into cookie sheets. Score with a knife, poke holes with a fork. Sprinkle with salt, garlic salt, sesame seeds, or whatever you like, and bake at 300 for 10-15 minutes. (Again, this will depend on your oven.) Let cool if you can stand to wait. Otherwise, eat them!

Letter to Dad, part 2

Dear Dad,

Guess what. It’s fruit fly season again and you know what that means. We’re inundated and you know how happy that makes me. But I have to thank you for taking Fred under your wing and teaching him the fine art of fruit fly food production.

Last night I arrived home to find Fred preparing assorted berries for a pie he planned to bake. As soon as he had that in the oven, he admitted that we now had a “little fly problem”. Something in the back of my brain kicked in and I could see your grin light up your face and hear your gleeful, “Oh goody, time to make fruit fly food.”

I remember all too well those hot summer days, coming home from the pool to find you stirring something on the stove….it usually turned out to be that thick syrupy concoction. Standing on the counter nearby was a bottle with a paper cone taped to the mouth, just waiting for you to fill it with…yep…fruit fly food.

So anyway, there was Fred, pouring goop into a tall bottle with the all-too-familiar cone…with that RFP evil scientist grin down pat.

Lo and behold, this morning, the fruit flies had abandoned the countertop and windowsills for the syrup and there they were, trapped inside. Gorging, no doubt.

Dad, you taught us so many useful things, like how to trap a fruit fly, how to back a car into a tiny campsite, how to give a really good foot massage, how to watch tv and grade papers at the same time, how to make the perfect angel food cake, and how to remove the tiniest splinter from a screaming child. I still have your forceps.

I’m sure you knew, but I’m sure I never said it enough. Thanks.

Love you,

Mary

Pieman strikes again…this time, “Sinking Dog Pie”

Pieman was back at it again yesterday….he was in the kitchen at least half of the day — first making a pie, then meatloaf, bread and rolls. Lest you think we wish to pack on the pounds, think again. This is all HIS stuff and it has to last him a week. Well, that’s not quite the truth. I do eat the bread and sometimes the meatloaf, which he tells me I will love this time because he added some “good” stuff (i.e. veggies and herbs) to it.

But, I digress. Let’s go back to the pie. I walked into the kitchen and found him covered in flour. The dog was on the floor, waiting for the first crumb to drop his way. Of course, I bit. “Whatcha making?” To which he answered, “Bread crumb pie number 2.” I kid you not. This is the truth. I think I scowled. He pointed at his pie cookbook (a Christmas gift courtesy of daughter number 2 who shares his love of pie).

My husband is a champion at skirting the issue and answering a question with a non-answer, so I figured this was not the entire truth. Sigh. Here we go. Okay, here’s how the conversation went:

M: What’s in it?
F: Bread crumbs.
M: That’s it? Just bread crumbs?
F: Yep.
M: Liar. No one — not even you — would eat a pie made solely of bread crumbs.
F. Welllll…okay, it has some brown sugar and eggs. And some other stuff.

Of course. “Some other stuff” is always part of the equation, but hey, who am I to argue? He bakes pie like I bake cookies. A little bit of this and a little bit of that, and pretty soon you have a completely different product than that appearing in the cookbook.

I watched for awhile, then left the room, returning when he asked me to open the oven so he could pop in his pie. Later, when it came out of the oven, I peered at it. Yep. It was a pie. Kind of resembled a shoofly pie.

Sinking Dog Pie

Later on, as we rode the tandem around town, he expounded on his latest pie creation. Turns out he added pecans and chocolate. The sinking dog part? Take a look…look very closely because the dogs sunk.

And now, for those of you who want to try baking your very own “Sinking Dog Pie”, here’s the recipe from the master. Keep in mind you may have to change the name if you don’t own dog-shaped cookie cutters. (Just for the record, I did not buy them. Dog, after all, is MAN”S best friend.)

Happy baking!

Sinking Dog Pie

This pie is so simple it makes me sick.  Wait until you have some dried up bread. Instead of tossing it, make a pie from it. After all add sugar to anything and it tastes good.

2 c. (ball park figure) bread crumbs
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 egg whites
2 cups of milk
Toss in some cocoa
Toss in some pecan pieces

Add bread crumbs, cocoa and pecan pieces to the pie crust

Cover the crumbs with the brown sugar

Beat the egg whites and add milk.

Pour the egg-milk mixture over the crumbs and brown sugar

Then, add cinnamon and whatever spices you enjoy.

For a real kick, place a drop of almond flavoring to the mix.

*Concerning the sinking dog, I had too much crust remaining. So, I grabbed a cookie cutter that happened to be in the shape of a dog and placed four on the top of the pie. As the pie baked, the shapes sunk into the pie.

Bake for 35 minutes at 350.