Sunday, May 19, 2013
I had company this weekend and so I got to go off my diet. YAY for company! It is a self-imposed diet, partly determined by my upcoming high school reunion and partly by the fact that my pants are getting tight. I don't know most of those people well, but they have likely been living in the LA/Orange County area and there is a strong chance of embarrassing my not-so-slim/wrinkly self. So the diet. But blueberries are so good for you that I have convinced myself that this is a health food and I should be able to eat health food on ANY diet, RIGHT?
6 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed and drained
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons butter, cut up
2 uncooked pie crusts. Treat yourself and buy them!
If you are going to make this using frozen blueberries, give yourself enough time to thaw them. They will end up sort of soft and squishy and you will have to drain off a little blueberry juice. IT WILL STAIN, so be careful!
AFTER they are defrosted and drained, get out the pie crusts, I like the Kroger and the Pillsbury version, and let them warm up a bit. Assemble all the other ingredients.
Preheat the oven to 425. Spray a pie plate with Pam. Unroll one of the crusts and place in the pie plate. Press it gently in place.
Place the blueberries in a large bowl and add the lemon zest and juice.
You can carefully zest a lemon and measure it and then juice the rest of the lemon and measure that. But I didn't. I just zested the whole lemon and then squeezed the lemon and used the whole shebang. I love lemon after all.
Sprinkle the flour, sugar and cinnamon on the blueberries and gently mix. Spoon into the prepared pie crust. Cut up the butter and dot the top of the berry mixture.
Unroll the last pie crust and center on top of the berries. You can make cute cutouts with a small cookie cutter first, but I didn't have any so I just stuck the top crust on and crimped the edges together. That's faster anyway! Don't forget to cut a few slits in the top to let the steam escape.
If you wish, you can add an egg and milk wash on top
To do this whip up an egg and a Tablespoon of milk and brush the top of the pie. I sprinkled a Tablespoon of sugar on top of the egg wash. None of this is necessary, but it gives the top a shiny surface and the sugar adds a little bit of sweet to the crust.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the crust is turning a golden brown. Mine got a little too brown at 35 minutes, so check at 30 minutes. Let the pie cool until just warm or the blueberry filling will ooze all over the place and will not stay in a pie shape. And you might burn your tongue. So curb your cravings and let it sit, at least 30 minutes to an hour.
Serve with vanilla ice cream. The ice cream will melt from the warm pie and ooze all over the plate. When you are done with the pie you will be tempted to lick the blueberry cream puddled on your plate. Use a spoon, unless you are by yourself and no one will see your blue nose and chin. Why not? You have totally blown your diet and the next week will be boring, so indulge for now.
Friday, May 17, 2013
I just spent $39.00 to entertain the cat. As luck would have it, the dog is not quite as entertained. He just barks at it.
I have been enthralled by the idea of getting a Roomba This is a small robotic vacuum cleaner. It roams around a room, over carpet and floors and does the vacuuming. Then, when it is done or the charge is running out, it goes and plugs itself in. I have no idea how well these work, but I love the concept. I love the idea of going to bed and waking up to a clean house.
I don't know if the Roomba works, but I do know the various models sell for $400 to $700 dollars. I hope thousands of you go out and buy some, so the price can come down for me. I won't be spending that much money anytime soon. For that kind of money I could just hire some one to come in at night and clean. They could do the toilets, too. Well, except for the creepy part having people sneaking around the house in the middle of the night.
Now O-Cedar makes an O-Duster. I guess it is the poor man's version of a Roomba, assuming a poor man would buy such a silly thing, when he can just use the vacuum and be done with it.
The O-Duster is rechargeable and uses a disposable cloth to pick up hair and small debris off of hard surfaces, like wood floors or tile. The cloth is held in place by a Velcro kind of ring. It is able to go under my couch and some cabinets so that it gets the hair I can't get. Well, I CAN get it, but I don't always flip up the couch when I vacuum.
When it hits an object or the edge of the rugs, it goes back the other direction, ricocheting around the room, until, the theory is, the whole floor is covered. I had to rescue it once from under a rocking chair that was part way on a rug. Poor thing got trapped on three sides and couldn't figure a way out..
I like the concept of setting the O-Duster and letting it run while I do something else. It doesn't replace vacuuming, but may keep the house a wee less hairy on the days I am NOT going to vacuum. There are a bunch of those. It doesn't get everything, but I am happy for every hair picked up.
And, like I said, the cats are fascinated. I just wish the cloths were washable.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
I has been so cold for so long that I didn't even try to start the garden. I don't grow a lot of things, but I love to grow zucchini, yellow squash, herbs and tomatoes and then I can make some fried green tomatoes. I rarely find green tomatoes in the market. Hmmm. I wonder if you could make BAKED green tomatoes. Gotta look into that.
Any way, I decided to spend some time in the garden. Lee had some other things to do, so I didn't have the usual help. He generally gets giant scoop from the compost pile with the tractor and dumps it in the garden for me to work in and refresh the soil.
The fruit "orchard" (Is 8 trees an orchard? Yes, I decided.) is on the way to the fenced garden, so I had to get a bucket of bleach water to take with me. Last year I had a bout with fire blight on the apple trees. Fire blight kills the leaves and branches and they look dark brown and burned. I didn't spray for it this year and now another tree has it. You have to spray just when the blossoms are out and at no other time, or it doesn't work. You don't even know if you have it then. We weren't here when the blossoms first developed, so no spraying. But now one apple tree is badly infected. Fortunately, the Granny Smith apple trees seem to be OK this year.
I discovered ( I love Google) that you can cut off the infected branches, but you have to use a mix of bleach and water to disinfect the blades in between each cut. You don't want to spread the disease. Sadly, some of the largest branches of the tree were the most affected. I had to make some pretty severe cuts and I hope the tree can recover. We may not live long enough to have a decent crop from our fruit trees. Every year is some new disaster. At least this year the spraying I did over the winter kept the peach leaf curl at bay.
After butchering my apple tree, I went to the compost pile and filled the back of the Mule. There was still some remnants of the black weed cloth I had used in the garden from two years ago. Last year I just added a huge pile of hay on top of the existing weed cloth as a mulch, and it worked all right. But now the weed cloth has broken down and I have to start fresh.
After clearing all the dead debris and weed cloth, the hard part began.
The Mule is great for moving things around, but it is too wide to fit into the garden. I had to scoop and fling to cover the entire area with an inch or two of compost. I do this every season to add nutrients back to the soil that the plants removed. I hesitate to call compost made mostly from horse manure, nutrients, but there you have it. Plant nutrients.
When we moved here about 5 years ago, the soil was pretty bad and rock hard. We have been working in amendments every season and now the shovel just slides in. But it is still a chore to work in the new compost each year. I spread it all over the raised beds and then did some digging.
Essentially you just take a big bite with the shovel and turn it over in place. If the soil clumps a bit, I chop at it with the shovel, move over and do it again.
I do this every foot or so . It isn't a big garden, but it feels that way when I am digging in it or weeding it. I am actually pretty good about getting a garden ready. It is the follow through where I fall down. I hate the constant weeding. That is where the weed cloth comes in. It lets water through and allows the plants to breathe, but keeps the weeds out. The only bad part is that it doesn't last for more than a season or two.
I raked everything smooth and decided to finish another day. Maybe a day when I start the work at 7 AM rather than 10. It is hard to imagine it was freezing just a few days ago and now it is in the 90's. Plus I got a boo-boo.
This is not indicative of all my hard work. It is indicative of my NOT working and keeping up my calluses. So I bought a lottery ticket in the hopes of hiring out the physical labor around here. It would be my own personal effort in job creation. And that would be good for the country and I am nothing if not a patriot.
I guess I better not say that too loud. Wouldn't want to attract the attention of the IRS.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
I just spent an hour or so updating all the recipes on this blog. I didn't realize that I couldn't search for a specific recipe on my blog unless I had put the name in the label section for that particular posting. I believe it was fellow blogger and all around computer genius at www.theblueridgegal.com who pointed that out. I am so glad to know how to search as I have tried and failed in the past.
While doing that I was on my lemon blueberry coffeecake recipe and thought I would check it out. My sister in law mentioned that hers didn't turn out as promised. Gulp! And there was what I think is the culprit. I wrote about creaming the butter for the streusel topping, but never put the butter in the list of ingredients.
Fort all those that have tried it and failed...I am so sorry!
I am my own editor. I wish I was better at it! I promise to double check the ingredient lists. Maybe triple check them because I thought I WAS double checking them.
Is that from Rowan and Marin's Laugh-In? Have I just dated myself?
A few weeks ago we put up a birdhouse made by Thomas Hearn. It is supposed to be made just for bluebirds. I think they need houses with smaller holes to protect themselves from "predator" birds.
This guy was hanging around the "house next door" and looks blue. He also looks too big to be a bluebird, but maybe he is a chubby one.
There is a fun little door with a plastic window to peek inside the bird house and there is a nest! I thought it might take a year or so for a bird to find this lovely one bedroom "ranch".
And now there are three sweet little blue eggs. I took a bunch of pictures and , believe it or not, this is the best one. I keep getting a glare from the window. Maybe I need to try again at another time of day when the sun is going down, but I think I'll just leave them alone. Don't want them to abandon the nest. I don't want to become an incubator for birds.
Monday, May 13, 2013
Mother's Day was our 34th anniversary. No, I don't have any hints for you on staying married. Other than pick well...and don't plan on a divorce if things don't work out as you thought they would. They NEVER turn out the way you thought they would.
That being said, I decided to make Lee a cake for our anniversary. I had bought him a gift or two and ended up giving them to him earlier, and now I only had one small gift to give him. He loves chocolate cake (but who doesn't?) so that would have to suffice. It is a very involved cake, taking up FOUR different pages in my purchased, but unused Tea With Bea cookbook. I planned on making that and then another gift of food from another cookbook that the kids (can they be kids when they are all over 21? ) gave me for Mother's Day. Or, as they call a similar day in the UK, Mothering Sunday. That did not work out as planned.
First I made the cake. It took almost every bowl in the house. And then I had two more things to make for the cake, the buttercream filling and the icing, but the Italian buttercream kicked my...well, it was very difficult. I have made the Wilton buttercream many times and it always turned out perfect. This time I wanted to make the fancier version. I may never try it again. On the other hand, I HATE not being able to do something I start out to do, so I may have to revisit that decision.
The Triple Chocolate Cake starts with the Chocolate Buttermilk Cake. Then it is filled with the Italian Buttercream, which is also used for a crumb coat and chilled. Then the Fudge Icing is poured over the chilled cake. THEN you decorate with honeycomb candy. I was going to make some honeycomb, but Trista brought me some from England I decided to just crumble them up and have done with it!
Feel free to make a portion of this recipe. Just the cake or just the buttercream or just the icing. Or substitute a Wilton buttercream. But if you REALLY love someone, do the whole thing and maybe you, too, will be married for 34 years!
Triple Chocolate Cake
Before you get started, notice that you will need a BUNCH of eggs and unsalted butter. And a BUNCH of chocolate. Make sure you have enough.
Chocolate Buttermilk Cake
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate bar, cut into peas sized pieces
4 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar (the recipe called for superfine sugar, which our market does not carry)
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
Prepare one 10 inch or two 7 inch cake pans by greasing them and then cutting parchment paper to fit into the bottom. Gently grease that, too. The easiest way to cut the paper is to place the pans on the paper and then draw a line around the pan. Cut the paper and stick it to the greased bottom of the pan. I only had 8 inch cake pans and that is what I used.
Preheat the oven to 340.
Put the cut up chocolate and cocoa powder in a large, ceramic or glass bowl. You will be putting hot stuff in it.
Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium high heat. Keep a close eye on it. You don't want it to brown. Pour it on top of the chocolate and stir until smooth.
In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and the sugar. The superfine sugar would probably dissolve into the eggs easier than the regular granulated kind, but that is not what I had or used. By the time it is thoroughly mixed, the chocolate should have cooled sufficiently. I did put a small bit of the melted chocolate into the eggs and stirred. Then I added another small bit of the melted chocolate into the eggs and stirred that in. This helps to temper the eggs and warm them a wee bit without making scrambled eggs in your dish. Add the egg mixture to the chocolate and mix until well combined. Set it aside.
You will need two mixing bowls and one sifter for this next part. Place the sifter in a bowl and measure in the flour, soda and salt. Sift it into the bowl. Now place the sifter in ANOTHER bowl (see what I mean about the bowls?) and scoop the sifted flour into the sifter and sift again.
Add about 1/3 of the flour to the chocolate mixture and mix it in. Add 1/2 cup of the buttermilk, mix. Then add another half of the remaining flour to the chocolate, mix. Add the buttermilk, mix and then the remaining flour and mix until thoroughly combined.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pans. I used two pans because I didn't want to try to cut the 10 inch cake into layers. It seemed easier to already have the cake in layers!
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. You will probably need the longer time for the larger pan. I used the shorter time for the two pans. Check to see if it is done with a toothpick. If it comes out with just a few crumbs on it, it is done. I used this time to wash pans and get the kitchen cleaned up to start on the rest of the cake.
Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes. Then gently slide a knife around the edges and tip the cake out on a cooling rack. Cool for one hour. You will need it for the buttercream! If you used the 10 inch pan, cut the cake into layers after cooling.
Chocolate Italian Buttercream
Temperature is the key to this working out. Do not have the TV on or get distracted by talking to people or reading a book, even a cookbook for the next step, while waiting for the sugar to come to the right temperature. Don't ask me how I know this!
2 1/2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1 3/4 sugar, if you found superfine, use it here
1 Tablespoon corn syrup...the recipe calls for golden syrup, not available here, so this is acceptable
1/2 cup water
6 egg whites
5 sticks unsalted butter...you can diet next week. Cut the butter into big chunks and let it soften
If you want another flavor rather than chocolate, leave out the first ingredient and add vanilla or another flavor at the end.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and set aside to cool. I don't have a double boiler, so I used a metal bowl loosely on top of a simmering sauce pan half filled with water. Do not let the water touch the bowl with the chocolate.
Place the sugar, syrup and water in a medium sauce pan. The first time...yes, I had to do it TWICE, I think the pan was too big and the thermometer wasn't deep enough in the boiling sugar mixture to register the proper temperature. The second time I used a smaller pan and got a better reading.
The temperature seemed to stay around 225 for the longest time and then it popped up and I almost ruined the second batch. Watch closely and remove the sugar from the heat as soon as it hits 248 degrees.
While the sugar cools, start on the egg whites. You can get everything ready, but don't start them until the sugar is cooling. It needs that time to cool down and if the sugar doesn't work the first time the whipped egg whites will sit too long while you fix the sugar syrup again. Don't ask how I know this.
NOW you can use your Kitchen Aid mixer. Before, everything needed to be done in such a way as to make it unnecessary. Whipping eggs is a GEAT use for the Kitchen Aid. Plus, you need to use a heat proof bowl for the egg whites and you will have that. If you don't have a stand mixer, you will need someone to help you later. Use the whisk attachment and whip the eggs into soft peaks.
I saved the yolks for breakfast the next day and just added a few extra eggs to them for a nice scramble. Actually, Lee did, for my breakfast in bed. Remember where I mentioned the picking the right husband?
Now the sugar syrup will have cooled sufficiently. While the whisk is running, pour the syrup in a steady stream into the whipped eggs. This is where you will need help if you are using a hand held mixer. Try to keep the sugar syrup from hitting the whisk. Continue whisking until the meringue cools slightly.
If it is too warm, the butter will melt and it will not come together. Then you will have to use the refrigerator trick two paragraphs down!
Add the softened butter one third at a time and let it whip until fully incorporated. You can add the flavoring of your choice at this time. I added the melted chocolate and kept the mixer going until it was a lovely mocha color.
Because I had to remake the sugar syrup, the eggs sat too long and the whole thing did not come together well. Do not despair! There is a fix. I put the buttercream into the refrigerator for one hour and then whipped it again. Perfect.
The instructions say it will keep for a week at room temperature. They obviously have not met Lee. Left over buttercream lasting a week? Suuuure!
Place the first layer upside down on a cake stand or plate. Use a bit of the butter cream first to hold it in place. You DID peel off the parchment paper off the layers, right? Put a big glop of the buttercream on top and cover it in an even layer.
Then place the other layer right side up on top of the butter cream and spread a thin layer of buttercream on the sides and top. Place the cake in a refrigerator and chill for an hour.
Do not take too long of a break. You still have work to do. Grab a bite to eat and get started on the...
1 cup whipping cream
3 Tablespoons golden syrup or just use corn syrup, like I did
12 oz. semi sweet chocolate, chopped into pea sized pieces...see what I mean about having enough chocolate for this recipe????
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes and chilled
Place the cream and the syrup in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
You did wash everything during your meal break, right???
Put the chocolate into a large heat proof bowl (ditto on the washing). As soon as the cream comes to a boil, pour it over the chocolate. Wait for one minute.
Use a small balloon whisk and start in the middle of the bowl. Gently whisk in small circles. Don't stray from the middle of the bowl. You are slowly adding the cream to the chocolate.
Large motions and heavy stirring will break down the emulsion and you will end up with a grainy mixture. You also don't want air into the mixture as it will make unwanted bubbles and will shorten the life of the icing.
Keep stirring with small motions and slowly stir in wider circles, incorporating the cream into the chocolate until it is fully combined. It will look like nothing is happening and then it will turn into a very shiny, thick mixture.
Add the vanilla and the butter and mix until well combined. Take a clean spoon and dip it in the mixture and taste it. Not to make any changes. You will just want to taste it! Let it cool.
Clean all the bowls in the house AGAIN!
If the icing has cooled too much, you may need to warm it gently in the microwave for 10 seconds at a time. You want it to be smooth, and a pourable consistency.
Take the cake from the refrigerator. Cut strips of parchment paper or waxed paper and fit them under the edges. This will help you clean up later.
Carefully pour the icing over the chilled cake, making sure the sides are covered all around. Carefully remove the waxed paper strips with the puddles of icing. Let it cool and set slightly and the decorate with chopped honeycomb or other chopped candy bars.
Then eat a slice, accept accolades, and go into a chocolate coma to rest from your labors.
And don't worry. I wasn't left out. I got an iPad!