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Thursday, August 7, 2014

My Happy Place

I'm a baker. From the time I won the school wide cooking contest in the 5th grade with a decadent Cherry Coke Cake with Chocolate and Cherry Coke frosting, to the time I decided to tackle the mysteries of bread, I have known that is my core. I cook, I saute, I have even deep fried on occasion, but in my heart of hearts I'm a baker. Maybe it started before 5th grade. Maybe it was making cookies with my great gramma, or kneading masa with my abuela, or watching my Mom make perfect buttercream roses on scraps of wax paper. Whatever else is happening, I am usually thinking about what I can bake next.

We have been renting houses for the last seven years, feeling a bit rootless and at loose ends, but now I know where I truly want to live.

Inside the pages of the King Arthur Flour catalogue. BAM!


There ya go. Do little Easter people holding eggs not do it for you? Okay, how about this?


The gorgeous organization of it all, a place for all of your flours, see through storage with labels. Oh my gosh. I feel faint.

Oh, hello gorgeous, are you flour flavorings? Come to Mama.

I just want to live in a world where there are organized shelves, containers for every possible type of flour or ingredient and possibly a pizza stone, ($54.99 shipping not included) to call my very own.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Running Face


Running Face, a haiku

Sweaty, pores glisten
Chernobyl tomato face
Running sucks so bad

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Leftover Roast Beef -- What To Do?

Leftover roast beef is a lovely problem to have, but if your family doesn't want the roast beef as is the next day, or you don't have enough to go around, a well planned leftover recipe can help.

Beef stew is probably the easiest way to use up your leftover meat and veggies.

The first thing is to chop up at least 4 cups of raw mixed vegetables, tonight I used carrots, celery, garlic, and onions. I had more onion and celery than anything else, probably only 1/2 C or so of carrots all told, and only 2 cloves of garlic. You use them in there proportion you see fit! Melt some butter or heat some oil in the bottom of a stock pot, sprinkle the veggies with salt and pepper. Cook your veggies over medium heat till they are fragrant and your onions are getting translucent. You will need some beef broth of some kind. If I don't have frozen homemade broth on hand I use bullion, "better than bullion" soup base, packaged beef broth or some combination of the two until I have about 2 C of liquid. Tonight I used 1 can of golden mushroom flavored soup which has a beef broth base and 1 cup of beef bullion, I also added in one of these small bottles of Sutter Home red wines which are fantastic for cooking, plus a tiny can of V8 vegetable juice which I would rather die than drink, but works marvelously well in soup bases. If you were adding potatoes to this soup, now would be a good time to add them. You could also throw in a bay leaf or two. Let everything come to a good boil and mix a 1/4 C or so of the broth to 1 TB of corn starch, make a slurry and then pour it back into the soup. Turn the heat down and let everything come together for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile chop your leftover roast into bite sized pieces, add it to the soup and allow everything to simmer until the meat is heated through and the vegetables are tender. If your leftover roast has leftover veggies with it (more carrots, celery, onions etc) go ahead and add them in when you add in the meat. Also add any drippings or juices from the container where you stored the roast.

And there you have it, roast re-used, and dinner on the table in about 30 minutes.

Other ideas for leftover roast beef.

*Thinly slice the beef, make a gravy from reserved drippings, make a hot open-faced roast beef sandwich.

*Grind together leftover roast with raw potatoes and onion and fry in a cast iron skillet to make beef hash.

*Chop the beef small, mix with frozen mixed veggies, make gravy from drippings and top with uncooked biscuits. Bake until biscuits are done for a sort of "pot pie".

*Thinly slice beef against the grain. Cook thinly sliced bell peppers and onions on oil and worcestershire, sprinkle with chili powder and cumin, when soft and fragrant, add slices of leftover roast beef and fry together with pepper mixture. Serve as fajitas in tortillas or on top of salad greens.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Improvisations

So, Easter somehow or another crept up on me this year. I managed to get some cute things for the kids' baskets while they were at a birthday party, but I didn't buy actual baskets until the Saturday before the big day. When I inquired at the grocery store where I was buying the fixings for our Easter feast if they had any egg dyeing kits I was met with an amused laugh and "No."

When we got home my husband and I used a cheesecake recipe from YumSugar to make a classic New York style cheesecake. I also had some strawberries that needed using up so I made a basic compote with them, the general idea for compotes is to combine berries, water, lemon juice, sugar and a wee bit of cornstarch in a pan and heat on medium until thickened. For bigger berries, cut them in half and then proceed. We poured the cheesecake mixture into the spring form pan and realized to our horror that it was WAAAAAAY too full, so we pulled some of the mixture out and put it into buttered ramekins which we then baked as miniature cheesecakes alongside our main cake. Winning!

Saturday night was our night to dye eggs, but I think I mentioned before that I had forgotten to get any of the dye kits? I hadn't panicked about it because I thought, "Oh, I have food coloring at home." Yeah, turns out I was down to red and green food coloring, which I made the usual way, 1 tsp of white vinegar in ceramic ramekins, 1/4 tsp dye and 1/2 C warm water. My daughter Sarah suggested we try using orange Gatorade to dye the eggs, so we added a heaping spoonful of the powdered drink mix to our water and vinegar mixture. Perhaps unsurprisingly this worked very well. I cannot say the same for yellow Jello mixture. It looked great in the cup, but didn't dye the egg at all. I crushed some blueberries in a small amount of water and that gave the eggs a sort of lavender/grey color that was very beautiful. I taught the kids that we could use a white crayon to mark the egg with their initials or to make designs, which gave me the opportunity to teach them the term "wax resistance". Raspberry tea makes a lovely color in the mug, but didn't give the eggs much color. Yellow or purple onion skins make a fantastic egg dye, but I was out of the right color onions. Egg kits usually come with little paper collars that you place the eggs on to dry. I improvised some by cutting a paper towel tube into rings. After the eggs were dry, the kids colored on them with food coloring markers and they looked great.




My husband and I had tickets to go see Jersey Boys on Saturday night, and bless that baby sitter, she did a fantastic job helping the kids clean up the egg dyeing mess. All we needed to do was get the kitchen in order and set and decorate the table for breakfast. We used stuff we had around the house and tried to make things look Spring-y and festive. The stuffed animals are pulled right out of the playroom and placed in a basket we already had.





Wednesday, February 19, 2014

An Open Letter to the Makers of 7 Pair Packs of Women's Underwear

To The Manufacturer/Packagers of Women's Underwear,

Dear Sirs or Madams,

Please allow me to introduce myself. I am a recent purchaser of a 7 pair package of women's underwear from your esteemed company. I chose your underwear because it came in a pleasing array of cheerful and bright colors, –raspberries, lemon yellows, a tempting tangerine! – that reminded me of italian ice flavors one might purchase of a summer day. I thought long and hard about my purchase, standing there behind the red shopping trolley, whilst other shoppers parted around me like fish in a busy brook. Other packages of panties beckoned, promising the dull but reliable joys of beige underpants that don't show through sheer fabrics, basic black with a no-roll waistband. A 5 pack of flowered panties also seemed promising, but their flowers, bud-like and pastel, seemed juvenile. With a rush of thrilling abandon I gaily threw your 7 pair package into the cart with my cereal and sandwich baggies and made my purchases, my heart gently floating skyward like a child's wayward balloon. The promise of new and pretty panties beckoned even as Spring seemed to recede into an unreachable horizon.

When I got home I hurried to the sanctity of my boudoir to avail myself of your shrink wrapped glories. The raspberries, the tangerine, the sunny lemon yellow, all there, glowing with a promise to lift the chill hand of this eternal winter. But beneath them? Oh! Shame and ignominy! 2 pairs of insipid "zebra" print by way of a child's scrawling and 2 pairs of a muddy, muddled print one can only describe as duck hunter camo! Should I choose to stand nude, saving my panties, in front of a duck blind in Arkansas, surely I will blend in! One assumes I will now need to fashion the tangerine panties into a tiny jacket to alert the hunters to my presence. Or perhaps you did have my 37 year old, suburban mother of two self in mind, perhaps in case of HOME INVASION I am to strip to panties and stand motionless in front of my potted ficus in the living room! The intruders will be unaware of my stealthy, though chilly, presence.

The zebra print pants were clearly meant for when I go on safari, as I am wont to do! I am forever trekking off to the savannah and as I pack I think to myself, IF ONLY I HAD ZEBRA PANTIES! THEN MY DREAM OF BEING EATEN BY LIONS WHILST IN MY ALTOGETHERS COULD COME TRUE.

I have few material joys in life, underwear packagers and manufacturers, my "disposable" income going to things like dental appointments and field trip fees, but one of the few indulgences we allow ourselves, the parents, the overworked, the underpaid, is a pair of well-fitting and good looking underpants. Panties that allow us the illusion of a carefree and energetic existence. Do not hide your off-brand factory-second bargain basement panty patterns in with the cute ones! This is the not the kind of surprise that delights. This is upsetting and disconcerting like a surprise pregnancy, or a surprise audit.

No thank you, sirs and/or madams, no thank you!

Good day.

I said GOOD DAY!

Disgustedly,

Suzanne

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Little Celebrations

It's easy to go all out for the big holidays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, but what about all of those smaller holidays that lend life a little sparkle, a little fun? It's been a long cold winter, maybe make Valentine's day a little special?


The above is the breakfast table setting we made last year. My husband and I stayed up after the kids were in bed and at their place settings we placed the gifts their grandparents sent them, plus small boxes of chocolate from us. The garland on the light fixture was leftover from Christmas, I dug the doilies out of a cabinet, the place mats are just red round placemats we have. We served normal breakfast foods, but the decor made it fun. My Mom used to leave our valentines outside our door so we saw them first thing in the morning. As February 14th is also my Mom's birthday we celebrated all day long from breakfast chocolate, to a special treat in our lunch boxes, to a nice dinner at home we would all make together. Maybe that's where I got my love of celebrating all the holidays?

We did a similar thing for St. Patrick's day as well.


We made rainbows out of assorted fruit and we served it with MAGIC yogurt. To make a fun color changing yogurt, simply place a few drops of food coloring in the bottom of a bowl. Gently spoon some vanilla yogurt over the food coloring, when your child stirs the yogurt, it turns green, just like magic! The centerpiece was a package of store bought hot cross buns, the leprechauns used some doll house furniture in the middle of them and had their OWN breakfast and then they left a trail of rainbow colored sprinkles leading out the door!

The bunting on the light fixture is some rainbow colored flags leftover from a summer party. We also used some old "Hello, My Name Is" name tags to invent Leprechaun names for all of us. My own was Patty O'Furniture, I think my husband was Jack O'Lantern. We had a few scattered "Pot O' Gold" chocolate pieces on the table as well. Very fun.

The table settings just take a few minutes the night before, we use almost all things we already have in the house, just buying maybe a few paper plates or special napkins. What do you have planned for yourself or your family this year?