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feeding maybelle



eating, cooking and dreaming in Cleveland



Updated: 2017-06-21T19:20:47.268-07:00

 



Roller Calotypes

2014-01-20T19:17:34.570-08:00

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Every parent is overjoyed by their children's successes.  I, certainly, feel very proud that since last year I have, not one, but two readers. That said, their reading has caused me certain inconveniences.

(image) Each Advent season, my girls and I forego chocolates to spend 24 evenings trying out things that interest us.
Last year, I found myself the only literate member of our little crafting circle, so I was able to make all the choices without impunity. This year the girls have the added ability to be able to make meaning of what was just gobbletygook under those pretty pictures on Pinterest.  Research plus volition equals trouble.

We made a list. I bought some supplies.  And, we got to getting on.  Or rather, more accurately, we tried to make bouncy balls at home, attempted to make a snow globe that didn't leak, and made terrariums that could more aptly be called sedum genocide. In the end, we came to an important conclusion--the internet lies.  Lies.  All lies.

The challenge about home craft compared to my day job making art with students is that you are often trying things for the first time with your kids.  In the classroom, you always pre-try your project.  There is nothing more horrifying that sitting in a room with 35 high school students when you don't quite know if your paper-making project is going to work. Rather than experience anarchy or embarrassment, you always pre-test your project.

At home, you would basically need to craft by night and parent by day (and take something special to sustain that pace) to be able to try out the project before doing it with your children.  So, instead, you and your children become intrepid explores in the wilds of the internet how-to-verse.  With that in mind, we have started testing things and assessing the success of these little projects.

(image) Our first experiment was with roller callotypes.  I have seen people us sticky/foaming stuff on rolling pins.  But, I am not quite willing to give up a rolling pin.  So, we were on the look out for other things that can roll.  We considered cardboard rolls and lint rollers.  But, in the end, we went with water bottles.  There definitely benefits.  These are a great size for little hands.  And, if you are trying to get an even pattern, you can see through the bottle so that your columns line up.  The challenge with water bottles is that they are light, so you need to apply pressure to make an even print.

And, if you want to see this test in action...

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Slushy Shirley Temple or Very Cold Virgin Vortex

2014-01-07T20:43:17.099-08:00



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As an only child, I didn't have the benefit of comparison.  My behaviors, my reactions, my nature could not be benchmarked against another incarnation of my parents.  And, it is my inexperience perhaps that leads me to notice the many differences between Maybelle and Tigerlily.  Where one is cautious, the other fearless.  Where one is salty, the other sweet--both of behavior and taste.

Today, we were reading Anthony McCall Smith's new series about Precious Ramotswe's Botswana.  When the father of Precious recalls being confronted by a lion, I asked the girls what would they do had they been in Obed's shoes.  Maybelle considered her actions, while Tigerlily yelled out that she would eat him.  I countered, "I think the lion would want to eat you."  Then, she retorted, "I would use my gun, and then make him into meat."  Maybelle remained silent, astutely pondering her course.  Finally she said, "I would run for shelter and barricade myself in."  And, there they are, often one is action, while the other is potential energy.

At other times, there reactions are shockingly similar.  In the throes of the evil chill vortex that has made me think of Jack Frost as a charming, warm hearted fellow, we have been all but agoraphobics.  We are starting to feel like the weather is sentencing us to house arrest. I have moved from mother to camp counselor, filling every moment with something, anything, that might prevent mutiny.  After all, if I had to walk the gang plank, I might freeze before I fell off.  

So, today, when NPR posted about chilling experiments, we got to going.  A little ginger ale, some grenadine, rose water, and of course, insanely, unseasonably, ridiculously cold weather, and you have a drink that both of my girls devoured with equal vigor.   Watch the video at the end of NPR's post for directions. 
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Paper Bag Advent Calendar

2012-12-04T14:50:11.244-08:00

(image) During the Thanksgiving preparations, I had my mind on many things, most of them not food. I certainly ate.  And, ate.  And ate.  But, I found my mind combatting tensions, stresses, and other banalities.  Finally, my mind began to fixate on lunch bags. 

We had a number of lunch bags around.  At Halloween, we had thrown a crazy bash that rotten many a mouth within a ten mile radius.  In order to encourage the guests to take the sugar home and away from our own children, we had an activity where children could decorate hand lino-printed bags.  It was these leftover white bags that were singing to me.

Cooking has always been a joy for me; its inherent creativity and relationship to conviviality enrich me.  However, the food blogging scene, with its competition and cliquishness, were challenging. I always felt like I was in middle school.  But, in the midst of radio silence, I was certainly cooking.  Though rather than trying to find new combinations and frankly win adoration from unseen, unknown followers, I went back to regulars.  I just cooked for myself and my family.  And, then I also allowed my many interests to live unobserved. 

Making things, in whatever form that takes, continues to enrich me at home.  I continue to write and photograph.  But, I have been doing it for myself. And, this takes me back to the moment, where I was standing at my pantry door, as if eying a conquest.  The bags were just sitting on the shelf.  Lets face it.  They were asking for it. 

A couple hours, a few snips, and a little bondage, and voila, a paper bag Advent Calendar.  The spare appearance began a whirlwhind of further Advent making.  Felt and mason jars were harmed, to be sure.  The children can now certainly count up to 24.  If they are doing anything other than hours in a day of a portion of the month of December, it could be a problem.  But, hey, why put too much pressure on your young?

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Chocolate Marmalade Mini-cupcakes

2011-03-06T17:54:45.824-08:00

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Perspective.

I have been thinking long and hard about this word. Stop a second and actually think about it. Let it roll of your tongue. Try saying it fast so that you swallow the “s.” Then say it a little slower. Roll that “r”, and then ramp up as at the “s.” Then notice that you just spent the last minute not thinking about anything but sounds. You were putting the concept of that word into practice. You just found a moment where everything was in perspective.

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I can’t say it is something I myself put into practice with any particular frequency. For the majority of the last two months, I have almost lost sight of a concept so noble as perspective. Work has consumed me, eaten me from the inside, and left me wholly unsatiated. In some meager response to the pressure, I have cocooned myself in even more work hoping the mountain of papers would somehow inure and protect my soul. If only at some moment in that month, I had realized that my soul needs no more protection than perspective. That one day off, one evening away from the labors of the office, would mean nothing more than my own sanity. Or, that taking the snow day to make a small batch of cupcakes with your girls is so much more cathartic and so much more real than anything work has to offer.

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But sometimes when you are standing at the edge, you can’t find your bearings. It is when you step back, way back, when you see the wide vista of possibilities ahead, that the lines of perspective become so obvious. You can see your present in your peripheral vision but in front, small but nonetheless there, your future reassuringly beacons you forward.

Chocolate Marmalade Mini-cupcakes:
adapted from a recipe from the Cookie Shop

Combine:
1/4 cup flour
3 T chestnut flour
Pinch baking soda
Pinch baking powder
salt
4 T cocoa power
¼ sugar
2 T brown sugar

Add:
4 tbsp buttermilk
1 egg
Couple drops espresso
½ tsp vanilla extract
4 T olive oil
1 T marmalade

Bake in mini-cupcake tins (buttered and floured) for about 8 minutes. Top with chocolate ganache.



Sweet Potato Whole Grain Waffles

2011-01-10T06:55:09.428-08:00

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Fake seems to have become a real fact of life these days. Think about it. No one is who they purport to be on facebook or twitter. In fact, on the internet, not being your real self can be a major selling point (ruth bourdain anyone?). And, as food goes, sure there are all the artificial flavors and colors. But, even with the new “real food” movement, think about the pictures. Many of those pictures have been styled, artificially lit, and preened to within an inch of their existence. For years, there have been accusations from psychologists that the plethora of airbrushed, surgically enhanced models in magazines and in video games would make young men unable to appreciate the normal female body. I am starting to think the power of food photography is affecting how I see regular food.

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These waffles spring forth from their iron looking a little like a patio tile. Not the pretty Italian-made ones, mind you. More like the ones at the edge of the patio that have crumbled after putting up with one too many cold winters. And, if you aren’t used to whole grains, their bespeckled nature might concern you. And, then there is the sort of unfortunate orange of the dough. The marketer in me might call it terracotta. In other words, these are not the prom queen of waffles; instead, they make the wallflowers of waffles look like Miss America. And, then here is where my brain thinks societal conspiracy. I actually thought they are so ugly I wonder if they taste good. What? Why? My brain somehow placed visual data ahead of smell when it came to food. Who the heck cares what it looks like? I guess some food stylist/ lizard part of my brain. Luckily my husband, who abstains from all types of food porn on principle, is immune from such stupidity. He dug in and quickly attested to their deliciousness.

Recipe:
Whole Grain Sweet potato Waffles
In a blender combine:
250 grams cooked sweet potato
1 buttermilk
2 eggs
2 heaping T oil

Cook 100 grams bob's red mill hot cereal plus 3 T chia seeds with 1 cup almond milk. Cool and add to the wet. Mix.

In a large bowl combine:
145 g whole wheat flour
40 g chestnut flour
15 g flax seeds
10 g oat bran
60 g corn meal
1 T yeast
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
2 T brown sugar
2 T white sugar

Add the wet to the cold. Mix heartily. Let rest in covered in the refrigerator overnight. Bring to room temperature. Add 1/2-1 cup more buttermilk (or almond milk if you wish) to create a batter like consistency. Cook in a waffle iron at medium for about 5-7 minutes. These take longer to cook than other waffles we have made. Ours dings when it thinks they are done. So, we went through three of the regular cycles.

I am submitting this recipe to yeastspotting run by the lovely Wild Yeast.



Egg-less Chocolate cake

2011-01-02T19:21:23.482-08:00

There were times when I was pregnant with Belle, when I was alone in the house and all was still outside. I would lie down on the couch hands cupped around my hard belly. I would breathe in and out as purposeful as possible. I would wait and attempt patience. And, I would wonder who this little person would be.Then with a wallop, Belle would kick with all her might at anything in her way with an impressive lack of rhythm. Then, she would gurgle and swim casually brushing her hands across my belly in broad gestures.Four years later, I wished I had written down who I thought that little person was. I am fairly certain whatever I thought was nothing like the true Belle. She has a finely attuned design sense. She would have you know, stripes work well with hearts but not polka dots, and not all pinks match. She loves all things dolly—prams, changing tables, and bottles. But at the same time she can build a mean tower. Mostly, she reminds me every day how important observation and curiosity are in feeding the human soul. She smells everything from food to scarves. She wonders about clouds, snow, heaven and God.Every day is an investigation for her. Dessert is one of her particular specialties. Why is it that some cakes aren’t chocolate? Why is it that some cakes are deficient in frosting? Why are some cakes only one layer?Belle’s love of chocolate is something that I anticipated bodily during pregnancy. I was not much of a sweet person until Belle resided within me. During my pregnancy, I would fanaticize about decadent chocolate cupcakes. Now, Belle is a woman who relishes the idea of visiting her grandparents, in the magical land of Cincinnati, where cupcakes are alright for breakfast.This summer we experimented with the ideal chocolate cake. While I have more experience tasting chocolate cake, I think Belle has a natural insight. We make an ideal team. We tasted cakes. I talked, perhaps idly, about the required a balance between sweetness and bitterness; moistness and denseness. Though, Belle really summed it up, “it has to be super chocolate and good.”Our first try at this cake was one that was basically a large brownie. When topped with cocoa butter cream, Belle was very satisfied.When birthday time came around yesterday, I turned to this cake. Parenting is something that is harder when you pay attention to what you are doing. I probably should have just made the cake that she liked, but instead I decided to increase the buttermilk so that I would have a moister cake-like result. After all, sometimes a mother has to make decisions for their children.I also decided to use three frostings, because sometimes a mother gets to break the rules. First I separated the two layers with marshmallow butter cream , added a crumb coat and then some with vanilla butter cream, and then frosted with cocoa-cream cheese butter cream. The result was a cake that would make your dentist call you to set up an appointment.As we cut the cake, I waited to hear her observations. She sat down to her slice with almost religious fervor. She eschewed the paper napkin so that she might lick the frosting from her fingers. She then requested seconds and thirds (though both requests were denied.) And, then she played.In the last four years, one of the few things I have learned about parenting is that often it is the quiet off-minutes, when socks are being pulled up or blocks being picked up that your children share. Today, when the house was quiet, and Belle and I were cleaning up her room, she said to me, “There was much more frosting on that cake. I am glad.”Recipe:Chocolate Cake:Cream together:4 oz cream cheese, softened4 T butter, softened1 3/4 cup sugar1/2 cup brown sugarIn the microwave, melt 1/4 cup chocolate chips (or a little more)Into the bowl of the stand mixer, add:1 cup buttermilk1 T instant coffee granules2 tsp vanilla extract1 tablespoon olive oil1 tsp cider vingermelted chocolate chipsIn a b[...]



Bad Weather Cupcakes

2010-12-13T11:48:18.369-08:00

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It’s a snow day. Every snow day my mother in law made a particular sugar laden cake. Why would a woman with 4 kids would want to hype up her children when they were trapped at home? Well, at least here, have devoured the cupcakes, danced a jig, and tore up the house, they settled into a nice nap. Maybe she was onto something.

Snow day Cupcakes
My mother in laws recipe with my changes in parentheses
1.5 cups bisquick (or 1.5 cups flour, 1 1/2tsp Baking Powder, 1/2tsp Salt)
2/3 cup milk (or eggnog)
½ cup sugar, feel free to be heavy handed
2 egg whites
2 T oil (plus 1 T more oil)
1 tsp vanilla

Topping
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 T chopped nuts (optional)
1 T butter
1 T milk

Beat all the cupcake ingredients at low for 30 seconds. Then beat at medium for 1 minute. Spoon into lined cupcake tins. Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes.

Mix all the topping ingredients. Top the warm cupcakes. Broil for 2 minutes with the cake 3 inches from the coil.



Gluten Free Carrot Candied Orange Madeleines

2010-12-08T20:14:15.421-08:00

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Someone once told me, “You know, writing is like riding a horse.” They stopped there. Now, I am starting to wonder. Was it because if you rode once you can ride again and similarly if you strung together sentences before you will again? Or was it because riding a horse, and writing similarly, takes practice but the practice is well worth it? Or was it because riding a horse, and writing as well, can be a terrible pain in the behind?

I would like to believe the answer to all three of those questions is yes. I am starting to believe most things take practice and are often a pain, though once learned are so familiar they can never be forgotten.

After a frustrating week when the skies have chosen to offer inclemency of some kind, I find myself itching to have a quiet minute in the kitchen. I don’t mean event-cooking or dinner making. I mean quiet mixing chopping joy; the kind of cooking where you don’t need to look up the recipe or pull out a scale. You just drop that measuring cup into the flour, feel the smoothness of the ingredient, and then satisfied sweep the knife over the cup. Chopping, whisking, moving. Then you bite into your creation and remember, hey, I can cook. Maybe cooking is like writing—oh, I mean like riding a horse.

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Recipe:
Gluten Free Carrot Candied Orange Madeleines
Based on a recipe by Seattle Local Food
Melt ½ a stick of butter. Let brown. Strain and cool.

In a large bowl, beat together:
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Add:
¼ cup grated carrots
2 T candied orange peels, chopped
1 T candied ginger, chopped (optional)

In a separate bowl, mix together:
½ cup GF mix
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp xantham gum
1 tsp ginger powder
½ tsp Chinese 5 spice
½ tsp cinnamon
2 T brown sugar

Mix dry into wet. Add butter.

Let sit for 5 minutes. And then pour batter (it is wet) into greased Madeleine pans. Bake 8 minutes at 350. This makes about 60 mini-madeleines.



Dry curry Brussels Sprouts

2010-11-28T18:31:57.104-08:00

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Knock knock. Let me be your friendly Brussels sprout evangelist. If you don’t like the sprouts, I would suggest your taste buds have been lied to—or even worse those sprouts have been tortured. Here is a handy guide, if your Brussels sprouts have been cooked until they are yellow, sulphuric or soggy, then pass them right on. If they are firm, green, lovely, pleasing to the eye and nose then grab yourself a double helping. For a couple years, I made vadouvon Brussels sprouts, this year I went with a mustard dry curry.

Recipe:
Dry curry Brussels Sprouts


Steam:
1 lb Brussels sprouts
½ lb tiny potatoes

In a skillet or wok, add:
2 T oil
1 t turmeric
1 t black mustard seeds
1/2 t cumin powder

Once the spices brown slightly, add:
1.5 T tomato paste
1.5 T whole grain mustard
2 small onions sliced in thin rings
Pinch sugar
Salt
1 T ginger
1.5 T garlic

Let onions caramelize. Once onions have browned, add Brussels sprouts and potatoes. Let brown slightly. Then add ½ cup water or coconut milk. Simmer.

In a separate skillet, dry fry a handful of tomatoes.

Add the browned, wilted tomatoes to the brussel sprouts. Serve warm.

The gang at Guerilla Gourmet were kind enough to include me as the Ohio rep for their holiday round up. And, I rarely turn down the chance to represent the glory of Ohio produce. Go over and check out the rest of the states.



Cheddar Cheese Apple Mini Pies

2010-11-26T18:56:38.590-08:00

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Belle seems to dislike the number 14. I am not quite sure what it did to her. She is plenty enamored with 4. And, that 10 is a good round number is something upon which we can all agree. But, 14 is turning into a bit of a bother. Fifteen through twenty are really a breeze. And, anything up to 13 are so easy they aren’t worth discussing.

What does a mother do? Well, honestly, first there is a little worry. If you don’t, more power to you. Worry, then admitting to it, and then moving on is what makes me human (that and a couple of other things including the fact that I bore children.) The next step for some of my parenting woes usually springs from some strange “call in the troops” mentality. Strange because I barely remember what ROTC stands for and look terrible in khaki; but more importantly because metaphorically screaming “charge” is really the worst sentiment when it comes to dealing with your children. In this case, I attacked with colorful books and rote memorization. This tact was actually quite fruitful—it saved me from my gung-ho tendencies for a little while. Belle must have been relieved when I gave the whole number thing a rest. For a little while I suggested she just count to ten, and then go back to one. I went back to being my less crazy self.

Life ramped up. I made 300 mini-pies for a wedding reception. When we stood at the counter packing up my cheddar cheese apple pies, my Belle told me “Mommy, you already have four-teen pies in the box. Can I eat one?”

“Sure,” I said, in a voice that was just below a cheer.

“Well, now that I put another pie in the box, can you count them?” I asked.

“Now I only get to fourteen.”

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for the apple cheddar pie recipe go to epicurious--but add chinese 5 spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground star anise



Brains or Char Siu Bao

2010-10-13T19:21:34.295-07:00

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(For the recipe for the dough, go to She Simmers. Filled with soy, ginger, veggies and turkey.)



Ode to the End of Summer Market

2010-10-03T08:25:41.689-07:00

There is that moment when the warm of summer begins to be tinged slightly with an edge of crispness. Walking down the sidewalk, you start to question if you saw that right. Wait was there one jaunty yellow leaf peaking out of a fully green tree. No, it’s still summer, you reassure yourself. Summer hasn’t just passed you by, you promise yourself. Fall is well in the distance, you start thinking. After all, your toes are freely traveling in flip flops; your skin is still tan; the rain still smells warm. You forget about this whole thing and keep walking. Then crunch, a brown leaf sticks to underside of your summer shoes. Fall is arriving—in the active tense. It’s a janus moment, fall at the front, summer at your back.At the market, the last of the summer melons sit almost anachronistically beside winter squash. Tomatoes, those summer jewels, elicit in you equal parts joy for the wealth of summer and melancholy for the bareness of winter. You caress the soft, satiny skin; enjoying it summer bareness. You walk down the farmer’s market allee surveying not just the wares, but the end of the season, the joy of the moment. You look into the face of the farmer’s that you have come to count on over the summer (over the years.) You linger over the radishes reveling in this Easter-bonnet happiness. You chew on beans, raw and redolent of the earth. Then you spend a few minutes coveting, fondling the heirloom pumpkin, tapping on its hard skin you mindlessly pull at your cardigan. As you leave the market, you revel in the mental snapshots of summer, of the farmers, of the food, that you have preserved to hold you through until spring.Standing in your kitchen, you hesitate over the vegetables. After all, when that last tomato is gone, summer is too. Steeled by anticipation and a little guilt about wasting such loveliness, you set to. You slice into the flesh of a squash, and smell in its fall earthiness. You tear into basil and remember the laughter of running through wet grass. You try to do those farmer’s proud, showcase the truth of those vegetables. Your guests bite into your food and feel the changing of the season.Menu in Celebration of My Farmer's Market at the Change of the Season:Rice, miso-lemongrass corn chowder, and red pepper sashimiRaw tomato raviolo with Almond Cheese in brothBroiled Hungarian finger food with pickled radishes, pickled beets and crisp daikonMiso fried mushrooms5-spice, star anise infused grilled eggplant into red miso garlic sauceSoft tofu in genmatch teaVegan Cincinnati chili of cranberry beans and kidney beans on buckwheat noodlesAll-american potato salad with homemade bread and butter picklesQuick pickled homegrown carrots, celery, radishes and spicy pickled tomatoesApple sauce infused sweet tapioca with almond brittleKabocha “pie” filled homemade mochaMatcha[...]



Daring Bakers Sugar Cookies

2010-09-27T20:51:59.591-07:00

I am all out of the words tonight, so lets leave it with dancings bootss and baby chicks....

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The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

For more words, go to my #pfb2010 entry Silk Route Feast. You could even give me an early Arbor day gift and vote for me.



Ricecooker Tibetan Rice Pudding

2010-09-16T19:20:22.541-07:00

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Apparently, Tibet is a fairly sunny place. It is the top of the world after all. That has to make it a little closer to the sun. Per capita, Tibet is said to be much sunnier than say Buffalo. But, in your mind, what is Tibet like? Here is how it resides in my mind’s eye:

You are quietly nestled into a silken quilt. Your toes are tracing the embroidery, while at the same time, dipping into the yak fur rug underneath. The cold of the ground is close enough, but in your quiet repose, you are safe. There is a faint hint of earthiness on your lips. You mindlessly lick the last unctuous, salty remnants of the yak butter tea from the crease of your mouth. The wind rustles outside your portable home. It whips and churns, picking up speed in every rocky crag, returning with renewed vengeance. The sound of wind and rock and wind resonate. In your quiet bed, you look over to the small red lacquer stand, with its one cup, spoon, prayer scroll. Your mind follows the curlicues marked on its surface in time with the wind. And, slowly, you fall asleep, as if you are alone on the moon.

(Also, I joined a contest called Project Food Blog 2010. Find my entry here, and begin voting on September 20. If you plan to vote for someone else, the voting starts September 30.)

Recipe:
Tibetan Rice Pudding
Adapted from Beyond the Great Wall by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
In a rice cooker set to make white rice, add:
¾ cup brown broken rice/ rose matta
1 cup evaporate milk
1 cup whole milk
1 cup water
1 T brown sugar (or less)
½ tsp cardamom
¼ cup golden raisins
¼ cup dried apples
¼ cup unsulfured apricots

Top with pistachios that have been browned in ghee



Ginger Curried Fried Chicken -- Perfect for Picnics

2010-09-14T16:25:00.171-07:00

You must know that feeling. When you are horrified right down to your toes, I mean mortified, at the actions of your family. Somehow they have taken it as their personal hobby to embarrass you and you are suffering for their thoughtless actions. This embarrassment is a condition that peaks in middle school, though you might find you have short breakouts at important milestones like graduations, weddings, and births.Families are at their most embarrassing when they are just being themselves. You know, when your dad hugs you before you drop your backpack in the front seat and slink into the car. When your mom calls you sweetheart at the top of her lungs in front of your sixth grade classroom. Or, when your whole family camps out on the waterfront in Monterey, and pulls out their tiffins of stinky, boring Indian food. Not only do they dig into their poha bhaji and butter and chutney sandwiches with unrepentant gusto, but they actually offer you a plate. As if. Ugh, could they be lamer?Be warned, it gets worse. You might work as hard as you can to create a delicious picnic. You stay up late to make homemade pita and your child’s favorite masoor dal/ canellini bean hummus. You make ginger/ chilli fried chicken. You pack it all up in a lovely, festive pink lunchbox. And, then when you take out the lunchbox at the picnic site, asking your “sweet baby” if she would like some chicken, she turns and looks at you. I don’t mean a casual look. I mean she stops you with a stare, one that looks eerily like your own. Her eyes have a mature aspect that surprises you. She looks at you without a smile, in fact, her little lips curl down ever so slightly. All of sudden you realize its true, families are embarrassing—even you.Recipe:Ginger Curried Fried Chicken:For two whole chicken cut into pieces…In a large bowl combine, marinate chicken in:2 1/2 cups buttermilk2 T Malaysian curry powder1 t ginger powder1 t turmeric2 t kosher salt1 t chili powder2 t coriander seeds crushed2 1.5 inches ginger cubed large, don’t worry about peeling3-5 cloves garlic crushed, don’t worry about peeling1 small onion choppedMarinate the chicken overnight (at least). Turn chicken at least once.Make the coating. In a deep plate or shallow bowl combine:1 cup white flour1/2 cup whole wheat flour1/4 cup chickpea flour (roasted in a dry skillet)1 T paprika1 t ginger power1 t cumin flour1/2 t chili powderDredge the chicken in the flour. Let rest on a rack. Shake the chicken slightly to remove excess. Let rest. And, then dredge in the flour again.Par-fry in 2 inches of oil in a cast iron skillet. Use shortening. I know that there are those who would use lard. I support that, but I didn’t grow up with lard, and then taste doesn’t work for me. Fry 4-5 minutes on each side or until golden brown.Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.Serve warm, cool, or standing right next to the oven.[...]



Shevai with Balsamic Tomato Sauce (Indian and Italian Fusion)

2010-09-14T09:40:28.416-07:00

As a fairly small child, sitting in the vestibule outside temple biding time until lunch, I asked my mother about the caste system. To which she answered, “You know, it used to be that if you left India across the ocean, you were out of it all together.” There I was not even in middle school yet, and my mother was basically explaining that my soul was lost. We have a wacky dark streak in our family that stretches back generations.As unreligious as I was, excommunication from faith was not what struck me. It was the vastness of the ocean. The fact that these people were walking onto boats and later onto TWA planes, hopes in their hearts and scraps of their material lives in their hands. And, for their trouble, they were given basically given a ‘see you later’.I can only imagine it was eternally freeing—frightening and freeing. In that moment the verboten became delicious. We often joke that it must have been a moment verging on the spiritual awakening when my bad-Hindu father tasted his first bacon double cheeseburger.My girls, Maybelle and Lily, are heirs to a rich heritage of those who quit faraway homes, picking and choosing what food tastes to keep and what to chuck. An accent-lilting Indian grandmother often makes them home food for dinner but then takes them out for grass-fed burgers. On their father’s side, they are descendents of the hard-scramble mountainous spine of Italy. Their great-grandfather’s whole town left Italia because they had apparently lost their taste for rock farming.But, here is the where the math starts just muddy. If it were only some Lamarkian genetic food memory that exercised its powers on the taste-buds, my children would want Indian food ½ the time. Anyone who has fed children knows that they are capricious little beasts, who demand food that is at moments banally monotonous and at others perplexingly new. My first came out loving beans, and my second seems to think cauliflower is the bee’s knees. I like both, but the fist-pumping strength of their desires to eat these foods every night of the week seems amazing. Where did these loves come from?In my short parenting history, I have learned just a smidge about feeding little ones:*Fuel, engage in, and cultivate their healthy food desires (We grew eight kinds of beans from seed this year.)*Introduce foods that you love—and then don’t be broken hearted when they don’t share your tastes.*Let them help you cook. Have them help you cook. (These two are different.)*If you blog, have them help with picking the menu, plates, etc. Talk about your pictures. Let them take pictures. (Even at three and a half, Belle helps with this.*Make some foods over and over. Kids like routine.*Play lots of dance music while you are cooking. (This is the equivalent of a Julia’s glass of wine while you cook with the toddler set.)*And, the last bit of advice, mix it up. Don’t assume they won’t eat something because it is new.One day a few months ago, my mother got it in her head that she would make shevai (sounds like if you say Chevy said with a cross between a southern twang and a French nasal). She served those noodles up without even worry if the girls wouldn’t like them.Shevai are rice noodles from south India eaten by many ethnicities including my own Konkani people. The process is fairly simple. Soak rice until the grains are sopping and translucent (overnight), grind with water or coconut milk, steam into a gelatinous mass, and then extrude through a press.The difficulty rating on this dish, for me, occurs because of the extruding. Think of it as the equivalent of pushing drying cement through a tea strainer. Making shevai alwa[...]



Vegan Waffles

2010-09-09T20:43:53.405-07:00

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I want to like pancakes, I do. When I was pregnant with Belle, my husband would make plans for Saturday morning pancake mornings. In his world, we would all work together to make pancakes, music playing gently in the background. Dad would flip. Belle and I would sit at the table anticipation in our voices. Then, we would all saddle to up large stacks of pancakes, drenched in maple syrup, Belle cuddling on her father’s lap. With pancakes described to you in this way, who wouldn’t want to like them.

If you have no offspring, you really think you can make plans; that you can predict who they will be. You can’t. Belle came out disliking pancakes intensely.
J—thought that maybe it was a case of tasting pancakes at least 10 times. Then he thought it might be need 15 times. Let’s just say, it’s a couple years in and neither mother or daughter have come to love the pancakes.

Though the girls in our family must be incredibly susceptible to marketing. Take that flour and milk mixture, and put it in a waffle iron, and well, we are sold. Sold, I say. If I decide to dissect this thing, I think it’s because waffles are fluffy pancake-iness encased in crunchy, browned happiness. It’s the crunchy, plain and simple.
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Recipe:
Vegan Yeasted Whole Wheat Oat Waffles

This recipe is the best vegan waffles we have ever made.

I am passing this recipe onto yeastspotting from Wild Yeast.

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Daring Bakers Petits Fours

2010-08-30T19:49:39.430-07:00

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.I have been a bad little daring baker. Stop it you, this is a food blog, keep your mind on topic.I haven’t been altogether following the DB rules. There are some that I have been following very well. So, let’s try doing a little keep/ change analysis on my Daring Bakers technique.On the first of the month, I forget that I am a daring baker—Change.On the 13th, I think , “Oh darn, right, I forgot was giddy with excitement about the next recipe. I was planning to be on time. I was.” So I go into the forum, read the challenge and run off to buy the ingredients.—KeepAround the 15th of the month, I wonder what other DB gals (and guys, but I don’t really know many bloggy guys) are doing. But, I keep mum cause that’s a secret society works.—Keep and change (Be secret, good. Don’t communicate and foster community in the Daring Bakers forum, bad.) On the 17th or so, I start planning my entry. I think about how to change this recipe up, make it my own. Then I think about what personal event I could take my challenge recipe to, because there nothing is worse than having one of those sugar-laden DB challenges lurking, smirking at you from your counter.—Keep (sharing is always nice.)On the 24th or so, I get the challenge done. I take a few pictures. I have done every challenge for 2010. I mean every one. And, I think I have posted just one. Sure, these days there is no more setting up the shot, making two different versions, attempting to really outshine. But at least I finish the challenge.—Keep. (Daring Bakers might be a challenge but not a competition. Just get it done.)On the 27th of the month, I completely forget to post. I usually realize I have forgotten on the 26th when those Aussie posts show up in my reader. I know it is just the international date line and all, but those Aussies start to strike me as overachievers. I usually make a half-hearted attempt to start a post. But then a child breaks out of their room or a work email comes, and I am off the DB momentum.—Change (Really, jealous of the date line, what is wrong with you.)On the 30th of the month, I start getting giddy about the next challenge. I imagine I will get it all right next month.—Keep. (We all need things to look forward to in life.)And, so, the cycle continues.I have actually completely all the challenges since January. I just haven’t posted and now I have even lost some of the pictures, but here are a couple I could find. Here is what I missed from 2010:Nainamo Bars--delicious. gluten free graham crackers--right on. serving them for a just 3 years olds play date--adorable. pictures--gone.Lady fingers--a breeze. Homemade tiramisu heavy on the liquer--yes siree bob. Pictures--alas, bye bye.March--Orange Tian (posted, must have been a good month, can't remember it, but it must have been.April--Steamed pudding--okay fine. Actually thought I posted, then apparently didn't. HMN. Pictures bye bye.May--Croquemboche (did pretty good on this one, check out the tiny ones)June--Chocolate Pavolva--good enough, camera ready dessert. Turn them pavs into tiny cookies--brilliant.July--Swiss Roll-[...]



BLT Tacos and Summer Salsas

2010-08-25T20:09:20.139-07:00

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Cool, sweet, piquant, ripe, juicy…criminally juicy. Real. What are the words you would use to describe the taste of a tomato?

I would have said, how would you describe a tomato to a Martian, but really, how would you describe a tomato to anyone who eats the industrial variety? You know the ones that can be described as plastic, mealy and watery. Those are usually a sicky dusty red, or even worse, a sort of red that is at once the ideal of tomatohood and a mockery of that state.
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But, tomato, a true tomato, is the stuff that summer food joy is made of. I serious wait all year long to bite into a sun-ripened green zebra. I get giddy thinking about colanders full of yellow cherry tomatoes. I dream of the first black krim of the season.

While a tomato cooked, dried, sauced, souped, and Indian-fooded makes me joyful, the truest expression of a summer tomato is in the raw, salted, period. Next to that, then there is the salsa. Salsa with yuck tomatoes needs to be spicy, salty, cooked. With good tomatoes, it need only be diced tomato, a bit of onion, salt, and minced green chili. Get a little nutty, add some cilantro. Go wild, add sweet corn. Then mix in up, use grilled zucchini, thyme, raspberry and cherry tomatoes (or green zebras, cantaloupe, mint).

Then how do you serve these salsa up? Well, first, you should try to keep from slurping it all up at the kitchen counter. You should like the part that dripped down your wrist. You should dip in a chip. You should shovel it into your mouth with a spoon.

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Or you could make a fancy BLT taco, as we did. Flour tortillas, homegrown tomatoes, grilled zucchini, grilled chicken, lovely local bacon, and some homegrown lettuce…

This post is part of Summer Fest 2010, which is a community food blogging event to write about (and eat!) seasonal produce. Today's Summer Fest theme is the lovely tomato.

I particularly like these other ones that I have read: from a dollop of cream, from white on rice couple (an organizer), from gluten free girl and the chef (another organizer), from a way to garden (organizer too), from pinch my salt , from tigress in a pickle . We you go around, read the comments to find more links.



Pav Bhaji (in a roll)

2010-08-25T19:08:53.162-07:00

This post is a draft of some fiction I have been playing around with. Not a literary sort, thats okay. here is the link to the recipe for the food.“Paging Dr. Rajabalasubramaniam.” Fifteen years, thought Sanjay.“Paging Dr. Cohen.” Eight years.“Paging Dr. Khan. Stat.” Twenty years younger than me, Sanjay concluded, with a slightly audible sigh.He mindlessly flicked two little yellow packets with his thumb and forefinger. He carefully creased the edge, pinched down, and precisely trimmed off the top. Then he watched the sweet white crystals of whatever drop into his coffee. He would have preferred to have three spoons of real sugar. These faux sugars were a concession to his wife and his cardiologist. Last year, when he fell ill, his cardiologist, gastrologist, GP, and wife all conspired, like an AAM funded coven, to keep him from pleasure. After he was released back into his life, Sanjay sat down in his study with the various discharge orders. He folded them up, and placed them under an unread book. Then, he took out some of the stationary his wife had purchased from his niece during a fund-raiser for her band trip to China. At the top, in obscenely curly letters, it said, Dr. Sanjay Nayak, M.D. Underneath his name he carefully wrote a vertical line. On the left side he wrote butter, cheese, eggs, steak, fries, doughnuts, sugar, pie. On the right, he wrote coffee, cream, cake. His pen hung over the “e” in cake as if pondering the magnitude of the work. Then Sanjay folded up the sheet of paper, placed it over the discharge papers, and stood up, as if anticipating that his wife would call him.The next few months were filled with unbuttered chappatis, cheese made of rice, tofu, baked chips, and sliced fruit. His wife had a wide reach and a strangely knowing look, but she did not have spies at the hospital cafeteria. Every morning, he accompanied his wife to the gym for aquatic aerobics. He kicked and turned and avoided seeing any of the voluptuous jiggles that surrounded him. He dressed, bid his wife goodbye, got into his car. For the ten minutes from the gym to the hospital, he would prepare for breakfast. In his younger days, he always had breakfast after rounds, if he had time for anything to eat at all. But, now, there were fewer surgeries, more paperwork, less patient care, and more time for a bite to eat. Plus, he felt imprudent treating patients with his mind occupied elsewhere.That is how he found himself listening to the overhead pages, drinking coffee and reading the paper, intermittently gazing at the cherry blossoms outside. Every morning, he started with the business pages and coffee. Then, one egg, poached. Finally, he would dig into hash browns, crunchy at the edges, melty buttery in the middle. On a regular day, he would refill his coffee cup and then go into the doctor’s lounge to read his patient’s charts online. But, today, there was less time for rounds. Today was not a usual day.He left the first cup of coffee barely touched and an eggy puddle in the bowl. The plate of potatoes however was clean.Today, he only had a couple of patients to view. His partner had suggested he forego rounds altogether. Routine had served him well for forty years, and Sanjay saw no reason to deviate.Sanjay swiped his card at the elevator and pressed floor two. An older lady in a wheel chair glanced at him and smiled. He smiled back. Behind stood an assortment of daughters and granddaughters, all struck with the same grave, unpleasant look. Just as the elevator started to close, a lanky arm snuck in[...]



Homemade Buckwheat Mischiglio (Pasta) with Pickled Radishes

2010-08-23T18:49:09.347-07:00

August in Japan is the kind of hot that makes you convinced that your bones have liquefied. I should qualify that statement. The two Augusts, ten years apart, that I was in Japan, the heat was miserable. Somehow the heat struck me by surprise, both times. Sure, I had a childhood of visits to the miserably, mind-boiling heat of India to prepare myself. Sure, the fact that I was dumb enough to get stuck in the heat twice gives you the sense that I deserve it.But, I blame Japanese design. This is a culture, highly attuned to, actually reverential towards, nature with kami kindly abounding in this rock and that old tree. But, if you spent your time, as I often do, looking at prints of ladies at moon-viewing parties and the like, you will know that not one of those gals looked as if they were sweating enough to fill an inland sea.Each time, as I planned my trip to Japan, I packed my suitcases with whatever struck me as design forward. Long black pants, perfect. Collared shirts, okay. Cotton cardigan, yes sir. I would like to think my brain was being even more design forward than my rational self. After all, each time, first in my semester there, and then for a visit, soon after my arrival, I found myself scouring the racks for seasonal cloths.So, the first time I was in Kyoto, garbed newly purchased baby doll dress (accept that image for what it is), leaning against the white wall in some temple, my mother’s steps on preventing heat stroke started to cycle in my head. First, don’t go out between noon and three, I could hear her say. Alright, so it was half past twelve. Next. There was something about find shade quickly. I have always thought the Japanese prize nature on human’s terms rather than Mother nature’s. This is the land of square watermelons. The temple I was standing in had woefully few artfully manicured trees giving off enticing, though cruel, puddles of shade over a white sandy expanse. Alight, so find shade quickly was a surprising difficult proposition, considering I was standing in a garden.What other advice had my mother planted into my inner brain. Hydrate appropriately—not too quickly and with light food. As a completely non-Japanese speaker, I found the byzantine arrangement of streets exciting. I came to accept that I would never find the same place twice. When I found a café, I didn’t really care what was on the menu. I took a seat near the back of the restaurant. In my crumpled cotton dress and oxblood Doc Martens, I must have been a sight to the housewives with their pressed jackets and silk scarves. I took the omnipresent book from my pink purse, and began to settle in.The waitress was a kindly woman who assumed, rightly so, that reading the menu would be too advanced for me. With tasteful nods and gestures, she said that this restaurant really only served a few items, and the most popular was cold buckwheat noodles. Ice cold noodles, with their sooty grey look, didn’t strike me as particularly appetizing on its face, but then I began to look at the treatment of the dish. The noodles were arranged just so on a slatted lacquer tray that was festooned with gold leaves in silhouette. A small dipping bowl was set to the side. This was clearly a fashion forward way to stave off heat stroke.When the dish came, I was on a roll with my summer reading. I let the noodles sit a moment. It’s not as if they could get colder. I pulled the tray closer to me without thinking. I held the chopsticks mindlessly; and grabbed a few noodles without much care or thought.[...]



Handmade Pasta -- Lasagnette with roasted vegetables

2010-08-10T19:18:14.801-07:00

So for you is it late at night? In the car? When you brush your teeth?By that, I mean, when does stress hit you the worst. For me, the stress usually hits me right after the kids have gone to bed. I saddle up to the sofa, my mind ostensibly focused on the cup of tea and relaxation that is about to ensue. As the tea steeps to perfection, the stress begins to seep out of the deep recesses of my mind. First it comes in dribbles. My shoulders tense. I curl and uncurl my toes. I stretch out my limbs like a cat. At which point, my feeble mind begins to search for the source of the stress—work, work, work, family, money, work…? I begin considering how to deal with the source of the stress—but then, quickly disillusioned, I look for diversions. This is when I start searching for enablers. Friends lurking on Facebook with whom to strike up a chat; the amazing mind/ time suck that is Twitter; and then the most dangerous of all—Amazon.com. That one click shopping is an evil force, like a kindly librarian crossed with a drug pusher. One particularly stressful evening I found myself fantasizing about picking up the family and travelling through Italy to learn about artisanal pasta. I started to imagine our tiny little gypsy wagon and the quaint meals we would share in our cozy abode. In the end, I have too much of the bourgeois in my soul to chuck it all away. I am of the sort who approximates these far flung fantasies. (Knowing yourself is half the battle in life.) So, back to that evil, evil kitten Amazon.com. Within seconds, I was the proud owner of the Encyclopedia of Pasta and Silver Spoon Pasta. All of a sudden, the stress disappeared and my mind was lost in reverie of flour.And so began our weekly handmade pasta adventures.One of our first was lasagnette… The example in Silver Spoon was potatoes and flour dressed in butter. You can see why this was our first choice. Carbs with carbs with butter and joy.I can’t say I have a recipe (and I didn’t follow the one in Silver Spoon either.) I baked 3 large blue potatoes & 1 medium baking potato. Learn from my mistake--use only white potatoes. The blue just makes the lasagnette a sad, sick grey blue. It is the sort of color that you expect for DMV walls not dinner. When the potatoes are still so hot that they seared off my fingerprints, I peeled and mashed them. I then added 2 cups all purpose flour by the ½ cup amounts. Then finally I added 2 beaten eggs, 2 egg yolks, splash of milk, and a tablespoon of olive oil. Final, I played with the consistency by adding flour and water accordingly until a firm but supple dough resulted. After a one hour rest, we kneaded a bit; patted the dough down; and then gave it a final roll. This dough kind of makes me think of how your tongue feels when you get Novocain. But it with a ravioli cutter into wide strips. Boil in plenty of hot water for a few minutes after they pop up at the surface of the water. Then dress with browned butter, parmesan and roasted seasonal vegetables. Don’t be stingy with the salt. We served this with slowcooker turkey breast and gravy. It was like Thanksgiving in July.I am sending this lasagnette to Presto Pasta Nights hosted by Siri at Siri's Corner and run by Ruth for For Every Kitchen. [...]



Oven Roasted Mango Hummingbird Cake

2010-08-08T19:01:37.741-07:00

I always thought it was strange that I got an ice cream cake for my birthday. I wasn’t a big fan of ice cream. And, my birthday is dead in the middle of the coldest part of the Northeast Ohio winter. I kind of imagine it started with my pleas. I must have had ice cream cake at some warm sunny summer party and then begged my mother for the cake through the dog days of summer. My mom must have held onto my desire, waiting patiently, until she could make good. This was the tradition my mother had chosen for me. I probably could have stopped this train, but why?Then there was the tradition I chose. When I became school age, I learned of the expression “birthday treat.” Girls were allowed to bring their favorite dessert on their birthday. (It’s not as if boys were fed bread and water—it was a girl’s school.) Most of these mothers stayed home, or worked in a more social sense. So, the desserts were handmade. There were cupcakes with tiny pink flowers, brownies with nuts, and even baklava. With my birthday almost halfway through the school year, I had taken a mental tally of what would be the most prized dessert. These were the sorts of things upon which first grade reputations are made. It needed to have mass appeal. Chocolate was in order—obviously. But, chocolate cupcakes could be so, well, simple. There needed to be more. I wouldn’t say nuts. That was the sort of thing that divides an audience. There are those for whom the nuts are a welcome surprise, and then there are the other half who feel put out to have their teeth accosted by the change in texture. And, I wouldn’t say anything with fruit. Noone, I mean no one, brought fruit desserts for their birthday—they had the vague ring of nutritional soundness. Really the goal was to up the sugar content of the dessert. In the end, I went with chocolate cupcakes filled with marshmallow fluff and topped with chocolate frosting. I can still taste those cupcakes after all these years. If you asked me tastes like my birthday, what was my birthday tradition, well, I can almost hear the clink of the butter knife against the empty glass jar of fluff.So, this week with Tigerlily’s birthday, I have been thinking what will be her tradition? Born in the dead heat of the summer, with fruit at its best, I decided to make a sort of Hummingbird cake. I used roasted banana, peaches and mangos—all oven-roasted until their skins blackened. Mango is delicious in all forms, but roasting them in the oven, turns them into a rich jam. Tiger loves mango. She storms around mouth open clucking loudly like an irate chick when she sees you cutting into one. It seemed a fitting choice; a good way to start a tradition. If fifteen years from now, we have Humminbird cake, and she asks me why, will I remember this? Who knows? She will probably say to her from friends, I have no idea why my crazy mom makes this cake.So, next year at this time, will I be slicing into six layers of heaven again? Considering the scores of January ice cream cakes I have eaten, maybe.Recipe:Roasted Mango Hummingbird Cakebased on a recipe from Saveur magazineIn a 400 degree oven, roast:2 white peaches2 large mangos2 small bananasPeel the fruit, deseed peaches and bananas, and combine in a blender. Should make about 4 cups fruit pulp. The combination should be mostly mango, so pick your fruit accordingly, or add aam ras/ mango pulp if necessary.In a stand mixer, combine:3 cups flour, plus more for dusting1 tsp. ground cin[...]



Foodbuzz #bananasplit - White Chocolate, Mango, Blueberry Banana Split

2010-07-16T06:00:25.049-07:00

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I was a weird kid, which likely comes as no surprise. I wasn’t a big fan of ice cream. I blame my thin blood. The thought of consuming anything ice cold, chilling your teeth to the point of chatter,  was not that appealing to me. 

But, the banana split was something altogether different. The banana split was ice cream with a design sense. There were accoutrements. Standing in line, ordering a ‘split meant gave you an air of specialness. While the regular ice cream eaters were served and sent away with so little ceremony, the banana splitters would be asked to kindly wait. 

The girl behind the counter would pull out one of those molded glass trays that sat displayed with loving prominence on a shelf. Then she would return to ask about ice cream flavors. And here is where the fun began, for me. This is where eating started to blend into design. Careful choices could take you from the all American-chocolate, strawberry and pineapple standard to an exotic pistachio, mango sorbet, and chocolate. And, then after participating in the design process, your success was always greeted with whipped cream, an special extra long spoon, and a cherry.  And then at the end there was that sauce soaked banana.

(Sorry for the guerilla post, but foodbuzz has generously offered to donate money for Ovarian Cancer research.  I like, sadly, almost ever woman I know has lost someone to Ovarian cancer.  It is a brutal disease that takes vital woman and eats them from the core.    So, every small effort to raise money for research is a good one.  Thanks Foodbuzz and Kelly Ripa (yes that one), for more go here: http://kelly-confidential.com/foodbuzz )
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My Banana Split
1 banana
2 scoop white chocolate cardamom ice cream
1 scoop mango sorbet
Top with
roughly chopped salted pistachios (the salt is a requirement) & fresh blueberries
mango ras (I used canned)
whipped cream




Corn Pasta Primavera

2010-07-07T19:44:20.070-07:00

Cooking became easier when…I asked my husband to fill in the blank. ‘When I started to read recipes,’ was his answer. Figures. Exactly opposite to my own answer, ‘when I stopped reading recipes.’A marriage of opposites, attraction of polarities, is such a cliché, but stereotypes and truisms come from something. My husband and I are definitely such a pair—almost like a children’s book. He’s tall, I am short; he has blue eyes, I have brown eyes; he has white skin, I have brown skin; he has curly hair, I have straight hair; he’s neat, I’m messy; he’s shy, I’m outgoing; he’s quiet, I’m loud. Our path to a common kitchen was one of convergence from vastly different places.When I was first interested in cooking in middle school, our local PBS channel was auctioning off cookbooks from the local bookstore. The auctioneer was one of those types—neat short hair with carefully placed blond highlights, brightly flowered pants, and scarf knotted purposefully around her neck. She spoke in slow, unpunctuated, short sentences. You need these books, she told us. These are the cookbooks, she explained. As I lay on my mom’s bed, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer tucked under my elbow, I felt a little giddy. I would love to have the cookbooks of the year. In my mind, I was already flipping through the books, planning out my summer entertaining plans. Never mind that I was in sixth grade and I didn’t really have the wherewithal to host a summer garden party.Time was ticking at the auction in a quiet, calm PBS sort of way. Running down to my mother, I hatched a plan. This was a win-win for her. She needed the tax break. Who doesn’t? And, I would be able to learn to cook for her to relieve her of some of the load at home.My pleading must have worked; I still have most of those books. I also have the sense-memory of the giddiness I felt when the box arrived at my house. I spent many after-school days eating cereal and reading the books, marking up the recipes with ripped pieces of paper—kitchen napkins, notes from classes, paper previously used to practice my autograph. I loved those recipes. They were a promise. Soon I learned promises could be broken. The first recipe I tried was a raspberry barbeque sauce. The blend of costly fruit and molasses was surprisingly and completely flavorless. This failure was followed by a particularly sad primavera. I had been prompted to preboil the vegetables (rather than blanch them.) I was told to drizzle olive oil over the resulting soggy mass. The dish looked like fall leaves and twigs stuck in a mass of oily grey hair. And, it sorted of tasted like old lady too.This however was the beginning of a fabulously fruitful revelation that recipes are a suggestion to be thrown away at a whim and a fiction to be enjoyed for what they are. I started to just cook by feel and smell. I grew to learn when ‘brown slightly’ should be substituted with ‘roast until crispy golden’ and ‘sautee’ could be substituted for ‘serve raw.’ And, when pasta primavera could be delicious. But first, we need to pick up on my partner in crime.In his childhood, my husband was not camped out indoors watching television. His rural Connecticut life was the stuff of Norman Rockwell. He was wrestling copperheads, jumping fences and basically being Tom Sawyer. At sunset, his mother would open the door to beseech her children to return for dinner. The e[...]