28 February 2005

Reads & Listens, February 2005


Vaginas: An Owner's Manual by Dr. Carol Livoti & Elizabeth Topp
Even better than The V Book! Funny, honest, and extremely informative. (Excellent for reading aloud to cornered spouses). Buy it for Valentine's Day.

Guji Guji written & illus. by Chih-Yuan Chen
Charming story about a crocodile brought up in a family of ducks. Also contains one of my favorite lines: "Mother Duck didn't notice. / (She was reading)."

Something About Emmaline by Elizabeth Boyle
Complete and utter candy floss. A dull baron invents the perfect wife and is then appalled when some fraudulent chit starts running around London claiming to be his wife. All the plot twists are quite predictable (I mean, if any of it astonishes you, you're rather dim) and the premise is utterly preposterous, but rather cute. A nice candy floss book for a "when the fuck will winter end??" kind of afternoon.

Q Pootle 5 written & illus by Nick Butterworth
While on the way to a party, little green dude named QPootle5 crash lands on Earth. He tries to enlist aid from the Earthlings he meets, but none are particularly helpfull until he meets Cat. The illustrations are charming and the construction materials used to build the space craft are really quite clever. (It was like reading a book inspired by Pikmin!)

Feast: Food to Celebrate Life by Nigella Lawson
Probably, the most attractive and tempting cookbook I have ever read. I must own it. (A bit surprising to me, because How to be a Domestic Goddess just infuriated me).


I Don't Know How She Does It: The Life of Kate Ready, Working Mother by Allison Pearson (read by Emma Fielding)
I read this novel two years ago and loved it very much. I was a bit leery about listening to the abridgment, but should not have worried because this is an excellent adaptation. I am in love with Emma Fielding's voice -- she is Kate Ready. My only quibbles are with the story itself, but that has more to do with a personal reaction to Kate's choices and less with plot or style.

15 February 2005

Upside Down Bundt Burger of the Apocalypse

So, I made one of the stimulating entrees from the Bundt cookbook. It was hard to narrow the choices down to only, but I finally ended up making the "Upside Down Burger Biscuit," because 1) I had all the ingredients on hand and 2) the "Party Meat Ring" seemed a little too fancy for a weeknight supper. Best to save that little darling for company.

The "Upside Down Burger Biscuit" is a pretty innocuous recipe: browned ground beef, chopped onions and celery, chili powder, catsup, Worcestershire, horseradish, tomato sauce, and oats (I presume the oats give it more of a meatloaf consistency). Just stuff the meat into the Bundt pan, layer with cheese/biscuit topping, and bake for thirty minutes.

Now, I forgot to add the oatmeal, so it didn't hold the Bundt form very well, but it still stayed pretty ring-shaped on the platter. Yes, I will grant that the sight of the glistening ring of meat sliding out of the pan was a little disturbing, but its taste more than made up for that. It was good. Surprisingly good. The Husband said it tasted the way he had always thought a sloppy joe should taste and he would eat it again.

(On the other hand, he may well of said that because we were experiencing a wee bout of disgruntlement in our happy household and it was either compliment The Wife's cooking or get poked with something sharp and pointy).

10 February 2005

Bundt Cake Goodness

My kitchen order arrived this afternoon! Bundt keeper et al. Plonked the oven thermometer in when I was making supper and, yes, the oven is off by fifteen degrees. Precision calibrated at the factory, my tuckus. Calibrated against what? Somebody's best guess at what 350° looks like?

The little 6-cup Bundt pan is just so ickle and twee. I am dying to bake something adorable with it. Of course, I do need to test the oven after I reset the temperature and it seems positively wasteful to just run the oven for the thermometer's sake when I could just as easily stick a cake inside. Mmmm. A chocolate cake. Mmmm. Split in half and filled with sliced strawberries and unsweetened whipped cream. Mmmm.

Yesss, preciousss. The chocolate cake. We wantsss it. We wantsss it now.

The Bundt cookbook is a little creepy. Yes, it is full of cake recipes. Yummy cake recipes I will probably never make, because I am all about the mixes, people. Give me a mix, some pudding, and a bag of chocolate chips and we have cake. None of this sifting cake flour and bringing butter up to room temperature.

So why did I buy the cookbook? How could I resist buying a book that also includes recipes for molded salads and, yes, entrees. How could I resist something that would tell me how to make the "Lazy Days Meat Ring?"

Dude! Theme supper! Perhaps, the "Party Meat Ring" with the "Golden Avocado Ring" and the "Deluxe Cheesecake?"

04 February 2005

Bundt Cake Madness

My Saturday library came into several hundred cookbooks last year through the death of a patron who had owned a catering company at one time. Most of the books were very current and very crisp and we built a special memorial collection out of them. In order to publicize the collection, we were going to hold a cooking contest that would be judged by two area chefs and a food critic. Entrants were to chose and prepare a sweet, soup, or starter recipe from any of the memorial cookbooks. People who didn't want to cook could purchase tickets for tasting. All funds raised were to benefit the we-need-a-new-building-before-this-one-collapses fund.

Registration deadline was this past Tuesday and the contest was to be held on the 13th. Unfortunately, not enough people entered and we've canceled. It's disappointing, because we thought it would be a lot of fun, but it's hardly surprising because this is a town where community participation is nil. I sometimes think the only way to get residents interested in the library would be to start a rumor we're going to bulldoze the orchard and build a cell phone tower (cell phone towers being bad shit, but collapsing libraries being completely ignorable).

Well, I don't need to be worrying about perfecting that lemon pound cake recipe, do I? This is good, as I made a test version earlier this week which did not bake all the way through. It passed the toothpick test and certainly looked a nice golden color, but the insides were undercooked. Had the texture and look of yellow marzipan. Very disappointing. I'd suspected the new oven was running cold, but couldn't quite believe it as it is part of a new stove and supposed to have been carefully calibrated. After the pound cake failure, I broke down and ordered an oven thermometer so I can see what the temperature really is. Yes, I had to order it off the Internet as no-one seems to sell them locally (by no-one I mean the four shops I've been in).

And of course, whilst ordering the thermometer, I ordered a 6-cup Bundt pan, a Bundt keeper, and a paperback copy of NordicWare's Bundt Bakeware Cookbook, because I am becoming some kind of Bundt fanatic. Which I guess makes me either all hip and retro or just really sad. All I know is, Bundt cakes look fine straight out of the pan and I'm all for sweets that make themselves look pretty.

03 February 2005

Almost Mom's Pork Ribs & Sauerkraut

Tonight, I made sauerkraut and spare ribs. Earlier in the week, I saw this recipe for spareribs and sauerkraut soup and it got me all nostalgic for the ribs and sauerkraut my mother used to make. I couldn't find quite the same recipe she used and I was reluctant to call her up knowing she'd say something to the effect of she didn't have a recipe, but just sort of threw things together. Which is pretty much what I did, come to think of it.
Almost Mom's Pork Ribs & Sauerkraut

2 lbs country-style pork rubs
2 unpeeled apples, cored and diced [McCoun]
1 medium onion, diced
28 oz jar of sauerkraut, do not drain or rinse
¼ cup brown sugar
Caraway seeds, as needed
Ground pepper, as needed
White wine, as needed [Riunite D'Oro, because I have no taste]

Arrange the country style pork ribs across the bottom of a 13x9 baking dish. Rub ribs with ground pepper. Scatter apples and onion around ribs. Sprinkle generously with caraway seeds. Cover ribs, apples, and onions, with sauerkraut. Sprinkle with brown sugar and more caraway. Add a glug or two of white wine . Cover with foil and bake at 350F° for 3-ish hours or until ribs are falling apart. Serve with garlic mashed potatoes and fresh green beans.
(And it turns out my mother does have a recipe -- it's from Cooking From Quilt Country: Hearty Recipes from Amish and Mennonite Kitchens by Marcia Adams. A book I own, but did not consider consulting!)