Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween Apple Tart (by Kat)

Here it is, folks, the easiest apple tart in the world!

The inspiration came from Pioneer Woman, the perspiration came from Daring Cooks.

Roll out puff pastry dough to and approximate measurement of 6" by 12". You can use the frozen store bought variety, or go hog-wild and make your own as I did.

Cut a few apples in half, remove the cores, and slice up nice and thin. Don't peel the apples, because that's too much effort. In a bowl, combine the apple slices with a handful of brown sugar and let macerate (sit and get juicy) for about 15 minutes, or until your oven heats up to about 425F.

Layer the apples on nice and pretty-like if you're serving for brunch, or just heap 'em on if you're putting one in the oven to send off to school with a late riser for breakfast.

Cook until the pastry is puffed, the apples are soft, and the sugar shows some carmelization action. Cut with a very sharp knife or a pizza cutter. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve.

PW dished these up with vanilla ice cream and called it dessert. I called it breakfast.

I'll let you choose the right answer here, if there is one.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Last Weekend (by Bet)

Last weekend my daughter and I were alone.  The boys had gone away to do what boys do and we were alone.  This never happens.  For moments we just stared at each other.  No little brother?  No dad?  What should we do?  We could do laundry.  We could wash the windows.  I could grade papers.  Nope, it was definitely the time for a letterboxing adventure.

(Does this girl with the two different socks have a mother? It certainly could not be me! I would never let my daughter leave the house in such a state.)

After an exceptionally muddy soccer game  in which our team, the Go-Go Girls got creamed, again, we loaded up the car.

We took the dog, Dozer.

We left the nameless chickens to their endless pecking.

We put Jen and Wendy on the stereo so we could sing along to our favorite tunes, "What do you want to do?" and "Chicken in a Can".  We headed out into the wilds exactly 2 miles from our humble homestead.

This is where we landed after crawling down a silly steep bank when we could have used the hidden stairs.  Actually this is the second time because on the first trip I left the camera in the car.

Our directions said to climb up the other side.

Then just past this fairy theatre

  and this fairy house

we found our stamp.  It was a beautifully carved logo by Campfire Lady.  Stamped into the log book was some of our favorites:  Curous Jo and Kokoman.  I wish I could show you a picture, but in all the stamping excitement I forgot. 

Afterwards we went home and had tuna nood casserole for dinner.  A fantastic ending for a day without boys.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sweet Feat: Macarons with Feet!

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

This month's Daring Baker Challenge was the hardest challenge yet for me. We all made macarons, or something kinda like macarons, anyway. I've never tasted a macaron, but I keep seeing them all over the 'net. David Lebovitz makes some beautiful creations, as does Aran of Canelle and Vanille, and Helen of Tartelette fame.

Essentially, a macaron is a cookie, albeit a double decker. How hard can that be, right?

Getting to the point you see in the photo above took four very laborious tries.


The first time I didn't fold my batter (referred to as macaronage) enough times, so I ended up with flat little failures. Very tasty, but very flat.

The second attempt also fell flat, this time due to my mathematical skills. Macarons are all about ratios of ingredients. So yes, math is involved. Oy.

Third attempt, I aged the eggwhites for too long, and they just wouldn't beat up.

On the fourth attempt, I finally found my feet. Perfect macarons are smooth on top with vertical walls. At the very bottom of the cookie there should be a ruffled edge, called the foot.

You can't do the happy dance without feet, you know!

So, on this fourth attempt, I abandoned the recipe given to us in the challenge, and used Tartelette's ratios instead.

Here's the macaronage piped onto the baking sheet:

After drying for one hour:

In the oven for about eighteen minutes.
Nothing is happening.
I'm sad.

Two minutes later...

My variation on the recipe is flavored with cinnamon.
It smells heavenly!

And here's the final product, filled with bittersweet chocolate ganache.
Served with a little hot mocha.

Helene's ingredients are:
90 gr egg whites (about 3)
30 gr granulated sugar
200 gr powdered sugar
110 gr almonds

Following the lead of Audax Artifex, Daring Baker Macaron Extraordinaire, it's better to use ratios. So, measure the weight of your aged eggwhites and adjust your other ingredients to suit.

To make the macarons, beat the eggwhites until soft peaks form, then add granulated sugar and beat to very stiff peaks.
Grind up the almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor until smooth. I added one teaspoon of cinnamon per eggwhite at this point. Fold dry ingredients into the eggwhites rather vigorously, in three parts, just until the macaronage falls from the spatula in a ribbon.
Pipe onto parchment paper or a silpat and let rest at room temperature for one hour.
Bake at 280F for about 20 minutes. When they're done, turn off the oven, crack the door open, and let them return to room temperature slowly.
Fill with your favorite creamy substance (ganache, jam, buttercream frosting, etc.).

They're awesome right away, but improve with age up until about 4 days. On day four you must sit down and finish them off. Trust me, you won't this chore mind at all!

That's it.

I'm sorry this post doesn't capture the full amount of enthusiasm I actually had for this challenge. Three failures followed by a fourth success was a glorious victory.

Yes it was.

Let's just say that the Dr. Seuss hand I feared from yesterday's post slapped my upside the head a minute after yesterday's post. I can't post about it, but my very roots were shaken when the the rock of the family called me (me!?) in a heart-breaking panic. It's taken care of. It's all ok. But we're all feeling a little bit more fragile today. You could say we're nearly back on our "feet" again :~)

Monday, October 26, 2009

I'm buying a lottery ticket (by Kat)

I'm not one of those people who likes buying lottery tickets. My boss collects a few dollars every Friday from people in the office and buys lottery tickets. They sit up there (I'm in the basement, they're upstairs, with windows), each scratching their tickets in some sort of meaningful voo-doo-like order. They hope to recoup the money they've previously lost to the state by buying those same silly pieces of paper.


When I was sent off to Las Vegas to make a presentation to the Western Governors' Conference a few years back, the gub'ment put me up in the Golden Nugget Hotel. I walked around the casino a little bit, decided it wasn't for me, and went back up to my room to gaze at the television. We don't have a TV at home, and I'm married. Ergo, laying in bed without fighting for blankets AND watching old I Love Lucy episodes was absolutely thrilling!

When I came back from the trip, my board of directors wanted to know how much I'd won. I told them I had a king-sized bed and a color TV. Jackpot! They were really disappointed in me.


I'm not known for my luck at all. I did win a beautiful duck made out of cloth once as a door-prize at a 4-H event. I really wanted that duck. So many people were jammed into our high school cafeteria for the yearly awards ceremony, I knew I didn't stand a chance of getting that door prize. I really wanted it, though.

"Okay folks, the duck goes to the person holding the program with the stars printed on either side of the page number on the second page of the program. " I looked, but didn't have any stars. I only had some stupid asterisk marks.

"Okay folks, someone has the stars, come up and claim your prize." I looked over at Bet's program. She didn't have stars on hers, either.

"Folks, this is the top prize, this is beautiful, handmade, one of a kind. Everyone look again at your program. If you've got the stars, this duck is yours."

Obviously, nobody went up to claim the prize, so they gave it to someone with an extra line under the "Thanks" section, or something like that.

After the event was over, Bet looked at my program and pointed out that I had stars.

"Nuh-uh! Those are asterisks! Right? Oh geeesssh." I actually cried that night.

So, even when I win, I don't. Even though I won that duck, I didn't.


So what the heck is happening, folks?! I've won two books in one week from two of my favorite bloggers!

Little House in the Suburbs, the second blog I ever started to read, was having a giveaway and I put my name in.

I won!

Ivory Soap (she took a vote and the name stuck) is a children's book author, and she was giving away a signed copy of her book, First Ballet.

She's inscribing it to my daughter, now twelve, who still hasn't learned the joy of dancing. My daughter has mastered the art of staring at me with a pained expression on her face whenever I dance, mind you.

Hasn't stopped me from dancing yet, and likely never will! Take that, preteen!

I am so excited about this book. I can't wait to get my grubby little hands on it. But don't worry, I'll (begrudgingly) hand it over to my girl on Christmas morning.

I *just* might make her dance for it, though!

So what do you guys think? Do you think this luck will hold, or will some giant equalizer (in my mind, it's shaped like a giant Dr Seuss white-gloved hand) come and take it's due? I'm a bit scared to leave the house...

But if I do, I might just go buy a lottery ticket!

P.S. Blogger's spellchecker insists that 'blogger' isn't a word.
P.P.S. Brunch was great, but instead of getting the pics and recipes today, you were stuck with this. Sorry. Daring Bakers Reveal is tomorrow, so brunch will be later in the week.
P.P.P.S I can't wait to show you what I learned to make this month for Daring Bakers!!!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Three extra screws (by Kat)

I've spent the day cooking up a storm and cleaning my house.

This is a yearly event, preceding the Scholarship Brunch.

There lives a wonderful woman in our town, who, in 1980 or so, started a local phenomenon called the Scholarship Dinner Group. Six couples met monthly at one of their homes for dinner, and pitched in a few dollars going toward a scholarship at the local university.

The idea blossomed, and spread into not just dinner groups, but lunch, breakfast, and brunch groups as well. This wonderful woman has raised millions of dollars in our tiny community, welcoming every newcomer into town and putting them in a group of people she thinks they'll get along with. I tell you, this woman is incredible.

My mother-in-law received one of these scholarships as a young mom, newly single, entering the university to get her teaching degree. My husband received one of these scholarships when he entered the school, too.

My grades sucked, so no scholarship for me!

Anyway, once a month, the twelve women in my group meet up for brunch. Can you imagine the chatter? Can you imagine the food?!

This month, brunch is at my house. This weekend, I've cleaned the house to within an inch of its life. Windows were washed, inside and out. Furniture was moved and the floor was polished. The china is washed and my glassware is immaculate.

Glassware. Heh. That's what we call our daily drinking glasses when company comes...

So, today I was looking at the front of my oven. Sure, I'd cleaned the poor thing inside and out (and thank you, whoever you are, who invented self-cleaning ovens!), but the window was still hard to see through.

Ah Ha! The mess was on the inside of the outer pane of glass. I undid a few screws, and pulled that pane off so I could wash the inside surface.

Huh. There's yet another window pane. Alrighty, a few more screws and I get the handle off. Now I can get to that inside pane. Oh. Guess I didn't have to take the handle off. Ok. No problemo, put that back on, unscrew the other screw, take off those brackets, do the hokey-pokey and there ya' go. Another pane of glass!

At this point, I think they should be called "pains" of glass.

Ok, everything cleaned up, put back together, and there are two screw left.


Oh well.

Later on in the day, I opened up the door, and a third screw came out from I don't know where and I don't want to know.

So, while the door may fall off of my oven during brunch tomorrow, at least the glass shards will be pristinely clean!

Back to baking. I'll let you know tomorrow how it went, and show you pics of all the yummy food.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tuna Noodle Casserole (by Bet)

You either love it or hate it and I happen to LOVE it.  My husband HATES it, but he's away so...

Kat asked me to post this recipe as I was making it while we were talking.  This is my non-scientific recipe.

Boil enough egg noodles (I used whole wheat) that it looks like it won't overload the tuna.  Put a can of tuna in a casserole dish.  We can ours fresh and I am not sure if it is the same with store bought.  Throw in some sour cream, a lttle milk and a can of cream of mushroom soup.  It should be the consistancy of tuna when you spread it on a sandwhich. Add your noodles and some peas.  Sprinkle in some salt, pepper, and seasoning salt.  Crush some potato chips for the top (make sure your children can't find the bag before hand, otherwise you will have an empty bag of chips).  Put it in a 350 degree oven until it is hot all the way through and eat. 

Hey, I created a post with pictures!  I guess I'm moving up in the world. 

Friday, October 23, 2009

A new book (by Kat)

A certain book keeps popping up, and I haven't been able to get my hands on it!

"The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society," has received good reviews by a few people I know in the real world, as well as

Alicia at Posie Gets Cozy

Rechelle at My Sisters Farmhouse

and Suzanne from At Home with the Farmer's Wife

So imagine my hopefulness when Suzanne posted a giveaway for the book!

And imagine my glee when I found out this morning that I won!!


So, in the near future, look for me to pass this book along to one of our readers...It will be our first blog giveaway. I'm excited about that.

Now, I'm going to set up a chair right next to the mailbox and wait.

Oh, and you really should click on over to see today's post at Suzanne's, I mean "Grace's" site. Hoo-boy golly can I ever relate!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A good day to get out (by Kat)

Today was a really good day to get outside.

We started early, but not too early.

Recent rains turned the lichen green,
and the sage and bitterbrush perked up just a little bit.

See the little cups in the lichen?

It means we need to give it a little privacy...
Baby lichens are being made!

The hills rolled on and on all around us.

Pockets of color appeared over the dullest of rises.

Yep, it was a good day to be outside.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Put the oil in a pot (by Kat)

Anyone remember this little ditty?

You put the oil in a pot
And you let it get hot.

Put the popcorn* in and you start to grin!

Sizzle sizzle, sizzle sizzle
Sizzle sizzle


Wipe out the pan and then enjoy your late night snack of
Kinda Kettle Popcorn.

*Even though it doesn't fit the rhyme, I add a sprinkle of sugar and salt,
and half a sprinkle of pepper.
Oh, and be sure to cover your pot as the corn cooks!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

SSssshhh (by Kat)

Yesterday a sentence was uttered in the woods.

It was uttered by a man. My man, as a matter of fact.

The sentence was a truly strange specimen, and is worthy of far-reaching heraldry.

"Sshh honey--this is hunting, not opera."

Let's all ponder this.

Or not.

Monday, October 19, 2009

10 minutes (by Bet)

In ten minutes it is possible to ruin someone's day or completely change the course of their life. 

Think back to when you were in school.  Was there one moment that helped define who you are as a person?  One of those moments for me was when a science teacher decided to put Kat and me next to each other.  Another was spending an entire semester writing one paper.

In our classroom I work with lots of students who don't particularly enjoy being at school.  One of my many jobs is to help them make the choice to cross the threshold of our classroom door each day and learn something that will help them better their lives.  It is a choice that can make the difference between having many options when they leave high school and being left with very few. 

As a result I spend a lot of time pondering how what I do and say affect what choices students make and how they feel about themselves as students and as people.  This is probably true in all parts of my life, but it is particularly in my face every day in class.  I try to keep my temper under control (which Kat will tell you is not the easiest thing to do), I have my students read every day, as they leave I remind them to "make wise choices, be safe and be kind to someone who is not", but most importantly I take them outside of the classroom.

One choice my students have is to be a part of the Older/Younger program at our local daycare.  I round them up every friday and we walk down the road in a single file line.  In the ten minutes it takes to get from the high school to the daycare I can forge a bond that lasts all four years they will spend with me, I can learn what is happening in their family and I can change a decision they might have made.  That is just from the walk.

Once we get to the daycare those students can change how a little person behaves, they can change my perception of them as people, and they can change their lives because for many of them this is the most responsibility they have ever been given.  They thrive. 

Plus, there is nothing like watching my son play "catch-a-me" with Johnny. 

I hope you have a great day made up of many productive ten minutes.  I know I will.  We're competing in our first Poetry Slam today.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

$5.50 (by Kat)

What can be bought for $5.50 these days?

From the photo above, I suppose the best answer would be new socks for my husband.

The answer you get, however, is a bag full of books! Our local library has an auxiliary group called, oddly enough, "Friends of the Library." The group raises money, mostly through used book sales, which helps support the purchase of new books for the library as well as programs offered to the public through the library.

Yesterday they had a HUGE blowout sale. Table after table after table of books, all for $1.00 a piece.

Mathematically minded folks are now wondering how my total came to $5.50, then, right? Well, one of my favorite finds at the sale was a little magazine they gave me for 50 cents.

Years ago, an extremely introverted and shy friend of ours wrote a wonderful short story that was published in the local university's English department yearly publication. He was subsequently asked to read the story aloud at a downtown establishment.

Now, my husband and this guy were roommates for a few years. My husband heard maybe two or three incomplete sentences from our friend per week. Sure, he'd smile, grunt, maybe even laugh a little during a conversation among friends, but that was about it.

So of course we went to hear his reading, and it's a night I'll never forget. Not only did he read the story, he did the voices as well. Holy Cow!!! He performed it so well, he received a standing ovation. I really wanted him to read it again. I wanted to hear him over and over again.

Once off the stage, he was back to himself. Very quiet, smiling, a happy presence to be around.

Somewhere in the shuffle of life, we've lost touch. I think he's somewhere in Oregon.

Well, when I found the publication tucked amongst some books at the book sale yesterday, I was floored! It was the edition with his story. I read through it quickly, and heard it in his loud, strong voice. The voice he used on a stage, with a mic, in front of a room full of people.

They charged me 50 cents for it, but it's value was exceedingly more.

In case you're wondering, I also picked up "All the Pretty Horses," a book Bet has recommended to me in the past, but is never available at the library; "The God of Small Things," recommended by a fellow shopper; "Hurry Sundown," volumes one and two, recommended by a friend I ran into at the sale; and "Better Homes and Gardens Garden Book," 1951 edition.

So, for $5.50, I bought a memory, some good reads, and a fun garden book to boot.

Next trip downtown I'll get my man some new socks...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Aebleskivers (by Kat)


As a very young girl, I lived in a magical town with large oak trees and beautiful fountains. There were more bakeries than I could count using all my fingers, and all the men and all the women wore bright and beautiful clothes. The women's skirts twirled when swirled, with layers upon layers of petticoats underneath. I know, because I was just the right size to see.

It was a long walk into town, I think five whole blocks, and on the days we walked I would be late getting home for my nap. The park was between us and the town, and the park had a stream. I never wanted to leave, knowing that "home" also meant "naptime."

Every year in this magical town, there was an aebleskiver festival. The cars in the town had to go find another place to be, because during the festival only us people were allowed to be in the street, and we didn't even have to look both ways, either. It was pretty big magic.

I was very sad to move away from our magic town, but maybe I was lucky at the same time. How and when would the magical veil be lifted from my eyes had we stayed? Because we left when I was six, and because I haven't ever been back, I only know it as a fairyland.

You can't tell me it's any different.

One tradition that stayed with our family after we moved from Solvang, California, was aebleskivers. I eat them with the same zeal I did as a kid, and I swear they taste a little like magic to me, even after all these years.

If you're lucky enough to find one of these pans at a junk store, buy it! They're often labeled as fritter pans or egg poachers, but they're neither one. Don't try to explain what an aebleskiver is to anyone, because the human mind just can't envision the magic that goes into making a spherical food out of batter.

Believe me, I've tried to explain so many times...

First of all, measure 2 cups of flour into a large bowl.
Add 2 teaspoons baking powder and 1 tablespoon sugar.

Add two cups of buttermilk and mix together, lumps are okay.

Beat 2 eggwhites until stiff and fold in.
Then add 1/2 cup of melted butter.

Make sure your pan is very hot, and add just a little oil to each indentation.
Scoop some batter in, filling the hole entirely.
Immediately begin turning each aebleskiver about 1/4 to 1/3 turn.

When the last aebleskiver has been turned, it's time to begin
giving each another bit of a turn.

Keep going.

Eventually, they'll be flipped over entirely.
They should be tall and perfectly round.

It takes a while to find the right pace of scooping, rotating, and rotating.
Too fast, and they fall in on themselves.
Too slow, and you run out of liquid batter before getting back to the bottom.

But seriously, this is worth it, people.
Totally worth it!

Serve with jam and powdered sugar.
(and magic!!!!)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Italian dinner (by Kat)

When someone mentions Italian food, do you think of tomatoes and mozzarella?

I do. But I should know better. My favorite Italian food has neither. And as much as I love making and eating cheese, I stand by my comment.

Tonight's dinner was broiled lamb ribs, olive oil rolls, and red potatoes from the garden.

I don't make olive oil rolls very frequently because I can't stop eating them. It's an addiction stronger than fudge, or caramel, or even cheeeeeese.

The rolls come from this book, "The Italian Farmhouse Cookbook" by Susan Herrmann Loomis.

I just noticed that I've talked about two cookbooks on our little website so far, and both books have bright cheery orange covers. Hmmmm. Do I judge cookbooks by their cover? Am I that shallow?

My favorite recipe from this book, by far, is for olive oil rolls. So it's fortuitous that they're sooooo easy to make!

In a bowl, whisk together 1 1/3 cups of warm water, 2 teaspoons yeast,
1/2 cup olive oil, and 1 tablespoon salt.
Add flour, about one cup at a time, for an approximate total of 4 1/2 cups of flour.

Stir as much of the four in as you can, and then plop it onto your counter
and knead briefly, about 4 minutes.


While the bread dough rises, open your package of lamb ribs.
Mine was about 2 pounds.
Inspect the meat, cutting off any excess fat, and rinsing the meat
if that's the kind of thing you do.

I don't bother.

Gather some fresh rosemary from the garden, or dried rosemary
if you have that instead.
Grind the salt and rosemary in the mortar with the pestle until fine.

Next, coat the ribs with olive oil, and sprinkle liberally
with the salt and rosemary.
Check out this garlic from the farmers' market.
Mash it up, and rub that onto the meat as well.

See the salt crystals, the rosemary needles, and the garlic?
To me, it looks like candy.
This is true food porn!

Ok, let the meat sit on the counter and do it's thing while you go back to work on the bread.

When the bread dough has doubled in size, punch it down and let it rest for a few minutes on the counter. Tear off about an ounce at a time and roll into a snake.

Roll one end of the snake toward you, the other away from you, and then pick up the ends and move toward each other.

The dough will twist into a cute little spiral. Pinch the ends, and place on a sil-pat or parchment paper-lined cookie sheet to rise.

Bake at 350F for 25 minutes. Don't let them get too brown, just a teensy bit tan.

As soon as you remove them from the oven, brush with a little olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.

Can you handle a close-up shot?

Are you drooling? I am, and I already ate about a dozen of these guys!

When the bread comes out, crank the oven up to broil.
See the salt crystals on the meat below?
Nope! They've been dissolved and absorbed.
The rosemary still sits on the surface, as does the garlic, but their
flavor has infused the ribs throughout.
See how juicy that meat is now?

So, when the broiler has come up to temperature,
put the ribs in the oven and watch closely.
Test the rolls to make sure you've put on *just* the right amount of salt.
Flip the ribs over after 10 minutes, and wait for the other side to crackle and crisp.
Test a few more rolls for texture, for flavor, or for whatever you reason you can think of.


We ate our ribs and (more) rolls with fresh new red potatoes from the garden. This is a very traditional northern Italian meal, and perfect for a cold almost-winter dinner.

Excuse me now while I go eat another half-dozen rolls!