Stuff and Nonsense: January 2012


Oatmeal Scotchies -- I Blame Netflix

Ever since Netflix sent us the first season of Warehouse 13 a couple weeks ago, I've been jonesing for oatmeal scotchies. While they're referenced very briefly in the pilot episode, that was just enough to trigger a very persistent craving for what was once a favorite cookie I used to buy, still warm, during my mad, bad college days. Oh, oatmeal scotchies, I didn't even realize I missed you, but now you're all I want to bake.

Oatmeal Scotchies

So (obviously) I baked some! I used Nestle's recipe for "Oatmeal Scotchies" (recipe is on the back of the butterscotch morsels' bag) and, woo, these were tasty cookies. Crispy on the outside with chewy centers and lots of delicious butterscotch bits.

Oatmeal Scotchie

This recipe is supposed to make 48 cookies, but I was a bit heavy-handed with my cookie scoop and only managed 35 large cookies -- of which I took half to work and kept the other half for us. This turned out to be an error on my part as The Husband and I could definitely have used more cookies at home. Cookies, om nom nom!

(My co-workers really enjoyed the cookies and certainly didn't think I brought them too many!)


A Tale of Two Cities, Four Ways

Charles Dickens's birthday is coming up next week so I thought I would celebrate and break in my snazzy slip-cased clothbound set by reading A Tale of Two Cities. Because I don't like to do things by halves, I've tried to completely immerse myself in the novel (and, possibly, drive myself barmy) by reading it in every format possible.

A Tale of Two Cities, 4 Ways

  • At home: I read the clothbound 2011 Penguin edition
  • At the doctor's office: I read on my Kindle Keyboard
  • At work: I read on my phone using the Kindle Android app
  • In my car: I listen to it CD (Tantor Audio, 2008)

I like the audiobook best, so far. Simon Vance is doing a brilliant job bringing the characters and story to life -- the audiobook just rips along, while the novel fairly plods in places. Dickens is one wordy mother and sometimes, frankly, I don't know what he's driving at with some of his more long-winded passages. Following along with the audiobook clears up most of my confusion!

Anyway, I expect things will soon become very exciting. What with Monsieur the Marquis being killed in his bed for crimes against humanity, Charles Darnay obtaining Dr. Manette's permission to wed Lucie, and Mme Defarge all busy-busy knitting, the Revolution can't be far off!


Christmas Pudding

'Oh dear,' said Paul glomily, 'it really is rather disillusioning. When one's friends marry for money they are wretched, when they marry for love it is worse. What is the proper thing to marry for, I should like to know?'

Paul Fotheringay is in a funk. He has written a heartbreaking tragedy which everyone else seems to think is a ripping good comedy and this has made him very, very unhappy. His good friend, Amabelle, suggests he try nonfiction next time, because no-one could possibly misread nonfiction. Cheered, Paul decides to write a biography of the Victorian poetess Lady Maria Bobbins ... but is denied access to her letters and diaries by the current chatelaine of Compton Bobbin. Of course, he goes undercover (thanks again to Amabelle) as Bobby Bobbins' tutor and worms his way into the bosom of the Bobbins. There Paul thinks he falls in love with the lovely Bobbin daughter, Philadelphia, who is also pursued by one of Amabelle's old flames.

Witty and slightly absurd, Christmas Pudding was an extremely satisfactory read and I look forward to picking up Pigeon Pie and Don't Tell Alfred at the next opportunity.

Christmas Pudding by Nancy Mitford (Carroll & Graf, 1976)


Pantry Challenge Update: Week 3

Still plugging away at the pantry challenge. Did pretty well, I think, last week -- not only did I made everything on my menu plan, but I was also inspired to make two extra recipes! Admittedly, one turned out pretty pants, yes, but I tried.

Pork chops with Taste of Home's "Gnocchi with White Beans." Pantry Challenge Ingredients: shelf stable gnocchi, canned diced tomatoes, and cannellini beans. Delicious and so simple! Look forward to making it again with the remaining package of gnocchi.

Monday Supper

Taste of Home's "Vegetable Bean Soup." Pantry Challenge Ingredients: canned diced tomatoes, black beans, quick-cooking barley, (very old) low-sodium beef bouillon granules. I know I said this couldn't hold a candle to the pumpkin curry I made (and it can't), but it is still a very good, very filling, very simple soup.


Pasta loosely based on Rachael Ray's "Gemelli with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce." Pantry Challenge Ingredients: random open box of whole grain pasta, jar roasted peppers, open jar of tomato sauce, open bottle of wine (admittedly, more of the wine went in me than in the sauce). I liked this a lot, but I should try the real recipe one day.


Cooking Light's "Couscous with Artichokes, Feta, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes." Pantry Challenge Ingredients: canned quartered artichokes hearts, julienned sun-dried oil-packed tomatoes, Israeli (pearl) couscous, low-sodium chicken broth. This was really quite good (and easy).

Chicken Artichoke Couscous

Betty Crocker's "Oven-Fried Chicken Tenders" with Rachael Ray's "Baked Beets" and peas. Pantry Challenge Ingredients: panko, canned beets. Enjoyed the chicken, but thought the beets would have benefited from a splash of balsamic vinegar. (I baked the beets at the same temperature and time as the chicken -- did them no harm).

Chicken & Beets

Campbell's "Classic Tuna Noodle Casserole." Pantry Challenge Ingredients: tuna, cream of celery, whole wheat bread crumbs. This was not a good idea. Even after I jazzed the recipe up with salt-free Italian seasoning blend, garlic powder, black pepper, paprika, and parsley ... it was bland. Boring. Meh.

Bowl of Meh

Plimoth Plantation's "Indian-Meal Pudding." Cornmeal isn't actually on my pantry challenge inventory as it's a baking supply and I'm not (yet) doing a baking challenge, but I'm counting this dish toward the pantry challenge because I wouldn't have made it if I didn't feel inspired by the challenge to try new things in my kitchen. It was really good stuff, too.

Slow Cooker Indian Pudding

Unfortunately, I won't be cooking nearly as often this week and inventory reduction is going to slow right down. It's not a big deal -- there's always next week -- but it irks me because I've been doing so well. However, I must admit I'd much rather fail a little big at the pantry challenge than give up Taste of Hartford!


Behold! The Adorable Baby Pineapples of Antioch!

January's selection from Melissa's Exotic Fruit club arrived last week and it was ... baby pineapples! Adorable baby pineapples. If the crowns weren't so darn prickly, I'd be tempted to cuddle the wee things. Seriously, aren't they cute? (Also, for some unfathomable reason, they make me want to quote from Monty Python and the Holy Grail whenever I look at them).

Baby Pineapples

Not the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch

While The Husband tried to feed me some nonsense about how they're to be eaten rind and all, he was clearly confused (he also thought they came from trees). Because the baby pineapples are so small, the cores are quite tender and can be eaten, but the crown and rind cannot. The core is firmer than the surrounding flesh and reminded me a bit of eating a crisp apple.

Baby Pineapple

These baby pineapples were delicious and we ate them up, yum! Can't wait for February's selection from Melissa's exotic fruit club -- blood oranges! (Blood oranges and satsuma mandarins are my favorite citrus fruits).

Manga: Nightschool, Volume 1

Nightschool: The Weirn Books, Volume 1 by Svetlana Chmakova (Yen Press, 2009)

Sarah was recently hired as the Night Keeper at Nightschool. A Night Keeper seems to run around the school, up holding school rules and making sure magic doesn't get out of hand. Sara is new at her job and frequently seems nervous or uncertain when interacting with students or staff (some of whom take advantage of that uncertainty).

Sarah has a younger sister named Alex whom she home schools. This seems a little odd -- surely Alex should go to Nightschool -- and I get the sense there's an unhappy back story just waiting to unfold in later volumes. Anyway, while Sarah is away at work, Alex gets in to some mischief in a graveyard. She manages to escape (she can't remember how) and get home. Alex thinks things will be okay as long as Sarah doesn't find out and she bribes her astral companion with cookies to not rat her out.

Then Sarah disappears. Seriously disappears. As if she never existed. Only Alex remembers her. And, of course, this means Alex must go to Nightschool and find out what happened to her sister!

Meanwhile, there are seers and vampires and Hunters all running about doing things that will probably make more sense in later volumes!

Whoosh. Volume 1 just galloped along with fast-and-furious character and plot introduction. I'm not sure who everyone is yet or quite what's going on beside the whole "face the thing I fear/find my sister" storyline, but I'm having a lot of fun. Despite the rushing about and too frequent "hello, new character!" moments, my interest never flagged and I can't wait to get the next volume from my library system.

Nightschool seems a little like Hogwarts meets Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters with some Buffy thrown in for kicks. Really, it's whole lot of fun ... even though I suspect Alex is supposed to make Something Horrible happen later.


Indian Pudding in My Slow Cooker, Pilgrim-Style

Friday, the weather actually felt like proper January weather. There was snow on the ground and the wind had a bitter edge to it. It was the kind of day that called for a hot bowl of Indian (corn meal) pudding. I'd never made Indian pudding before, but I had molasses, corn meal, eggs, and the Internet. How hard could it be? Not hard at all!

I used the slow cooker recipe for "Indian-Meal Pudding" from Pilgrim Seasonings, a Plimoth Plantation blog, as it had lots of photos to follow along with. I like lots of photos if I'm making a dish I'm not really sure of. I want to be able to look at my pot and then the pot in the photo and see that we have arrived at the same results.

Slow Cooker Indian Pudding
Gather all your ingredients!

Slow Cooker Indian Pudding

Bring corn (Indian) meal, milk, and salt to boil. 
 Cook, stirring, for 5 min. Cover and simmer for 10.

Slow Cooker Indian Pudding

Remove from heat and whisk in butter.

Slow Cooker Indian Pudding

Mix your molasses, eggs, and spices together. 
Whisk in a little cornmeal mixture to temper.

Slow Cooker Indian Pudding

Add molasses mixture to cornmeal mixture.

Slow Cooker Indian Pudding

Dump in hot, buttered, slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Indian Pudding

Come back after 2 hours & check your pudding. 
Panic, because it looks burnt.

While my pudding only cooked for two hours on High, it looked overcooked. The recipe said "the finished pudding will be firm around the edges than the center" and my pudding looked uniformly firm with brown edges that had pulled away from the slow cooker insert. When I took the lid off my slow cooker at the two hour mark, I could hear the pudding sizzling. I freaked out a little bit, you know, and was quite certain I had burnt the pudding.

Happily, my pudding still tasted very good. Redolent of spices, the pudding was soft and custard-y with a strong molasses finish. I ate some of it warm with unsweetened fresh whipped cream and the leftovers were tasty reheated for breakfast with a splash of milk. I'd guess this pudding makes four generous servings or six more healthful ones.

Slow Cooker Indian Pudding

(I fed some to The Husband and he said, in very snooty British tones, that it wasn't the worst thing I'd ever fed him so ymmv, etc).

Little Red Riding Hood

For Christmas, The Husband gave me two children's picture books with illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman -- Hershel and the Hanukkah Demons and Little Red Riding Hood. While Hershel is an old favorite, I didn't remember ever reading Little Red Riding Hood, but looking forward to it as Hyman remains one of my favorite children's illustrators. There are so many books I picked up as a child because of her drawings!

Well, Little Red Riding Hood turned out to be fantastic read. The richly-detailed illustrations are lush and evocative -- the woods off the path are sun-dappled, green and tempting and Grandmother's zinnias practically bloom off the pages. I could look at the illustrations forever, I think, and notice something new in them every time. I was half-way through my third go-round when I finally noticed the half-hidden cat following Little Red Riding Hood through the woods. Little Red Riding Hood makes for a terrific game of I Spy and it's really no wonder it is Caldecott Honor Book.

Hyman's superb retelling is not sanitized, by the way. The wolf does eat Grandmother and the huntsman does kill (and gut) the wolf. However, Hyman's retelling isn't gruesome in its details and the illustrations describe the intent of the scenes, but not the action (the huntsman stands over the sleeping wolf, etc).

Little Red Riding Hood written & illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (Holiday House, 1983)


Cookies, I Baked Them

I had promised The Husband cookies over the long weekend, but ended up using the last of the all-purpose flour in Sunday's silver dollar pancakes. I considered going to the store for flour, but in the spirit of the pantry challenge, it seemed a bit lazy to go buy flour when I had a mostly-full bin of King Arthur Organic White Whole Wheat Flour on hand. Surely I could make cookies with it? I use white whole wheat in roux, cakes, brownies, and quick breads so why not cookies? But could I find a recipe The Husband would like?

Happily, I found a Betty Crocker recipe for "No-Roll Sugar Cookies" which used white whole wheat flour. Since sugar cookies are the most basic, bog standard cookies I figured there was nothing about them The Husband would find displeasing and gave the recipe a go.

Sugar Cookies

And, you know, these turned out to be really lovely cookies -- crisp on the outside, tender on the inside, and richly perfumed with the heady scent of Penzeys Mexican Vanilla. I'm encouraged to try white whole wheat flour in more cookie recipes!

Manga: Chi’s Sweet Home, Volume 4

Chi’s Sweet Home: Volume 4 by Kanata Konami (Vertical, 2010)

I swear that, right up until the end, this volume felt like nothing but pure, undiluted kitty-loving fan service. And that's not a bad thing! If Volume 3 left you feeling sad, Volume 4 will have you grinning from the first page!

Chi and the Yamadas move to a pet-friendly apartment where Chi no longer has to live in hiding. In the beginning, while the Yamadas pack everything into boxes, Chi’s attempts to play only get in the way and she suffers an (adorable) misadventure. After the move, everything at the new apartment is strange and Chi is confused and uneasy, but then she figures out how to make everything smell familiar and (sort of) masters the stairs so life is once again peachy-keen.

The chapters where the Yamadas introduce themselves to their new neighbors are my favorite, as every neighbor (and their animal) has a distinct personality and look (in some graphic novels, I have great difficulty telling secondary characters apart -- this is not the case with Chi). I am looking forward to more interactions between Chi and her new neighbors -- especially the snooty-looking purebred, Alice, and the enthusiastic beagle, David.


Wordless Wednesday: A Transparent Partition

Chagall Windows @ Fraumunster
The three central Chagall windows at Fraumünster, Zurich.
"For me a stained glass window is a transparent partition between my heart and the heart of the world. Stained glass has to be serious and passionate. It is something elevating and exhilarating. It has to live through the perception of light." -- Marc Chagall.

Pantry Challenge: Clean Out The Cupboards With Soup

Trying to stay on track with the Pantry Challenge, I made a couple soups. There's nothing as comforting or forgiving as soup, after all, and it's always an excellent way to use up odds and ends.

First I made a batch of Pillsbury's "Curried Pumpkin-Vegetable Soup." It was a really tasty, easy soup with lots of good curry flavor. I admit I used 1 tsp more curry than called for and I bloomed the spices with the sauteed onions before adding the remaining ingredients, because that's what I learned from Cook's Illustrated -- always bloom spice blends like curry powder to help develop their rich, complex flavors. I wanted a flavorful soup, so I bloomed.

Did it work? I think so. Certainly, I was so interested in eating it that I never stopped to take a picture of the finished soup! This is one of the best recipes ever! Simple and healthy and yet also so rich and flavorful.

Curried Pumpkin-Vegetable Soup, Ingredients

Ingredients: pumpkin, frozen mixed vegetables, broth, curry powder, paprika, onion, garlic, diced tomatoes, salt, black pepper.
Pantry challenge items used: 1 can pumpkin, 1 can diced tomatoes, 1 can turkey broth.

Emboldened by my success, I went on to make a big pot of Taste of Home's "Vegetable Bean Soup" which not only allowed me to use pantry challenge ingredients, but also some limp celery and ancient frozen chopped spinach.  Unfortunately, this soup was not quite as tasty as the pumpkin soup. Rich and hearty, yes, with lots of vegetable goodness and I'm sure I'll make it again, but ... the pumpkin soup was just the bomb, you know?

Vegetable Bean Soup, Ingredients


Ingredients: black beans, onion, garlic, celery, carrots, diced tomatoes, garlic powder, black pepper, salt, no-salt powdered beef bouillon, quick-cooking barley.
Pantry challenge items used: 1 can black beans, 2 cans diced tomatoes, partial box of quick-cooking oats.


The Kindness of a Rogue: Just Regular Folks Distracted by Kisses

Sara Cobb has taken a position as governess at Tregallion House in Cornwall. Her charge is a very spoilt and impetuous miss she had the misfortune of instructing at Miss Bonnet's Improving School. Missing her old job, her friends, and a life she saw some future in, Sara is full of doubts about her new position. Doubts which are certainly not allayed by the cryptic warnings of a roguish stranger...

I enjoyed the "commonness" of our protagonists -- they're just "regular folks" thrown together under extraordinary circumstances. No nobs. No heiresses. Admittedly, Martyn's constant cryptic warnings got to be a bit much! Like Sara, I wanted him to speak plainly or shut up. Unlike Sara, I wasn't in love with him and couldn't be distracted from his annoying "man of mystery" airs by kisses. Much of the mystery hinges on the trafficking of young country women to brothels in London, and some of the dramatic twists that plot line took to its resolution seemed out of tune with the rest of the novel -- although that certainly didn't detract much from my overall enjoyment!

The Kindness of a Rogue by Nancy Butler (Signet, 2004)


Pantry Challenge Update: Week 2

I think we're doing pretty well with the pantry challenge. My cupboards definitely have fewer things in them and we're even managing to eat down the freezer a little bit as I try to come up with ways to use pantry stuff. I think, actually, that is what I am most loving about this challenge -- that it encourages me to stretch my cooking muscles and really think about the food I have at home and the ways I can use it instead of running to the grocery store for "just one thing" (which always becomes several things).

Today, I was off from work so I spent the morning puttering around the house, baking cookies, and annoying the cats. Come lunch time, I realized there wasn't anything "lunchy" on hand. I had a choice -- I could get dressed, go down to the corner store, and buy a grinder to split between us. Or I could stick my head in the freezer.

Lo, I stuck my head in the freezer! Found two packages of chicken dumplings we'd bought for New Year's and forgotten about. I made up one package for lunch and they were quite good. Now that's a tiny bit of freezer space freed up and I didn't have to get out of my jammies.

We also had cookies for lunch, of course. There probably wouldn't have been cookies without the pantry challenge. I'd run out of all-purpose flour when I made silver dollar pancakes on Sunday (another thing I tried because of the pantry challenge -- no pancake mix left, but surely I could make them from scratch?) and I didn't want to run to the store for "just one thing" so I looked about for cookie recipes made with white whole wheat flour, found one The Husband would probably eat, and baked delicious cookies.

Now, I know, the charm will wear off at some point and I'll be all "To heck with this! Let's go to Whole Foods and buy all the things!" and that's okay, too, because this challenge isn't about not grocery shopping, it's about making better use of what I have on hand and figuring out what I really use. By the time I have my Whole Foods moment, I'm pretty sure I'll know exactly what I need for an us-appropriate pantry. Right now, it's looking like a lot of Muir Glen tomatoes!


Scratch Silver Dollar Pancakes

As a child, pancakes were the first thing I learned to make. I wasn't actually allowed to cook them, of course, but I could be trusted to get out the Bisquick and follow the instructions on the back of the box. Even now, as an adult who is comfortable in her kitchen, I still turn to mixes when I want pancakes. Until today.

Today I woke up craving buttery, maple syrup-soaked silver dollars of deliciousness. But I had no pancake mix and couldn't be arsed to leave the house. What to do? With more than a little anxiety, I pulled out my trusty red-and-white Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book and made a batch of silver dollar "Buttermilk Pancakes." They were awesome. And easy. Too easy, maybe, for I can see myself making them every Sunday!

Silver Dollar Pancakes

I suspect some of my success was to do the quality of the ingredients I used -- King Arthur Organic All Purpose Flour, Butterworks Farm Organic Cultured Nonfat Buttermilk, and Farmer's Cow eggs. Obviously, you can make these pancakes with whatever brands you prefer, but I am superstitious and am going make them exactly the same way next time.
Easy Silver Dollar Buttermilk Pancakes
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 egg
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 cup buttermilk

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside. In a smaller bowl, beat egg and whisk in buttermilk and oil. Dump egg mixture into flour mixture and whisk until just moistened, but still lumpy.

Heat a heavy non-stick skillet. Add a dab of butter and slide it around until melted. Pour about 1 tablespoon of batter onto the skillet (mine held 4 tablespoon-sized splodges) and cook over medium heat about 2 minutes until the pancakes were dry around the edges with bubbly surfaces. Flip and cook for another 2 minutes or until pancakes are golden brown.

Drizzle with melted butter and warm maple syrup. Eat!

Making Sunday Pancakes
Yep, thirty-five years old and only just now learning how to make pancakes from scratch.


Manga: Chi's Sweet Home, Volume 3

Chi’s Sweet Home: Volume 3 by Kanata Konami (Vertical, 2010)

Volume 3 is a little darker and sadder than previous volumes. Still overwhelmingly cute, yes, but sad. In this volume, Chi spends more time with the bear-cat, Blackie, and learns how to do proper cat things like stalk prey, open doors, and steal fried chicken. Despite their differences in age and attitude, the two cats become good friends and Chi is very happy. Alas, the apartment building super finally discovers Blackie's home and his owners are told to chose between their apartment and their cat. They chose their cat and move away, leaving a confused and saddened Chi behind. It's a heart-breaking scene and things only get sadder when the Yamadas decide they must send Chi to live with friends in the country ...

You're all depressed now, aren't you? This volume does have a happy ending! Promise.

Look, a kitty!


Bulgur in a bottle is better.

Our trips to Whole Foods have recently become even more dangerous as we have discovered Cocoa Metro Dark Drinking Chocolate. It's yummy, decadent stuff and a little bit goes a long way. It comes in glass milk bottles and, as I've been loathe to simply recycle ours, I've acquired quite a collection of them over the past few months. Surely, I thought, I could do something with them? If it were summer, I would use them for storing homemade salad dressings and marinades, but it is winter and we are no longer Salad People.

If I had dried beans, they'd make perfect storage jars, but I am lazy and only buy canned beans. Then I opened a new bag of bulgur and had a brilliant idea ...

Better Bulgur Storage

The bottle fits in the cupboard so much better than the bag ever did, too.

Better Bulgur Storage

I feel all smug and organized.


SoundCloud, I Think I Love You

As an audiobook lover I must have been living under a rock for the last few years, because I only just recently discovered the awesomeness that is SoundCloud, and I’m in love with it. I probably would have remained ignorant of it, except that I happened to read Simon Vance's blog where he wrote about #GoingPublic on Twitter. One thing led to another and I somehow ended up on SoundCloud, paging through all the tracts in the Going Public group. There are some real gems here and I strongly suggest you spend some time browsing the group -- Xe Sands reading of Frost's "Home Burial" is an excellent place to start.

Home Burial, by Robert Frost (read by Xe Sands) by Xe Sands

The Audiobook Lovers group, an interesting mix of adult and juvenile books, is also worth browsing. I was pleased to find The Velveteen Rabbit listed as it was one of my favorite children's books, but I'd never heard it read aloud. I spent a delightful 24 minutes listening to Xe Sand (yes, I have a crush) read it and it was really quite wonderful.

The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams (read by Xe Sands) by Xe Sands

And, if you like Penguin Books, Penguin Books UK is on SoundCloud with lots of delicious samples!



cookies and milk after lunch

I brought Better Homes and Gardens' Very Merry Cookies (Wiley, 2011) home from the library last week and told The Husband to pick out a couple cookie recipes he liked. Ten minutes (and one chapter) later, the book was studded with sticky notes. Among others, The Husband desired "White Chocolate and Raspberry Cookies," "Mini Raspberry and White Chocolate Whoopie Pies," "Strawberry Cheesecake Tartlets," and "Raspberry Cookie Sandwiches." While they all looked delicious, I thought I should start with the simplest recipe -- the one for "White Chocolate and Raspberry Cookies."

Maybe it's because it's been a while since I ate a cookie, but these were really good cookies. And so easy to make! I will definitely be making them again -- perhaps next week? Or is that too soon?

Rasberry White Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients: white chocolate morsels, unsalted butter, sugar, baking soda, salt, all-purpose flour, seedless raspberry jam, shortening, red raspberry extract.

The recipe doesn't actually call for red raspberry extract, but I thought a cap full couldn't hurt (and it didn't). Also, the recipe says not to fill and decorate these cookies in advance but to wait until you were going to serve them. I don't know why it says that as I filled and decorated mine as soon as they had cooled and they kept fine for a week in snap/lock container. The trick seemed to be to poke little wells in the cookies' middles as they came out of the oven to hold the melty jam in. I didn't have this brilliant idea until my second cookie sheet came out of the oven, so some of my cookies didn't get wells and I didn't fill them with jam -- just drizzled the white chocolate over them and called them good enough. And they were.

Raspberry White Chocolate Cookies

Anyway, the wells keep the jam from running about and, once everything is properly cooled, the chocolate hardens up and there's no reason you can't store these cookies all filled and ready to go. They don't stick to each other. They don't ooze. They just sit in the container and say "Eat me! I'm delicious!"


Pantry Challenge Update & Menu Plan: Week 1

I came late to Good Cheap Eat's Pantry Challenge so the first week(end) was mostly just me taking inventory and complaining to myself about my shopping habits. I assure you that, at various points, the air in the kitchen was quite blue and the cats had all taken refuge in the living room as I liberated yet another unexpected canned food from the dusty depths of a cupboard. Some women have a weakness for shoes and cosmetics. I appear to have a weakness for groceries. And it's so easy to justify grocery purchases, you know. Probably much easier than with shoes. A family has to eat, after all, and it would be terrible to open the cupboards one day and find them bare ...

As if that would ever happen in my house.

While I'd written up my weekly menu plan well before deciding to go on the challenge, I still managed to use some things from my inventory:
  • straw mushrooms, 1 can
  • baby corn, 1 can
  • tomato sauce, 1 can
  • bulgur, partial bag
  • boil-n-bag brown rice, 1 packet
Tonight, I had planned to use up two cans of minced clams, an open box of whole grain linguine, and a large can of diced tomatoes to make Betty Crocker's "Linguine with Red Clam Sauce," but my post-work meeting ran long and I was tired so we had Chinese takeout, instead.

Go, me.

Anyway, I just moved Monday's linguine to Wednesday and I'll make a batch of Betty Crocker's "Curried Pumpkin Vegetable Soup" tomorrow morning to take to work since there will be no Monday leftovers for Tuesday's supper.

Pantry Challenge Menu Plan, Week 2:

Betty Crocker's "Curried Pumpkin Vegetable Soup." Ingredients: frozen mixed vegetables, diced tomatoes, curry powder, pumpkin puree, low-sodium fat-free chicken broth, onion, garlic, paprika.

Betty Crocker's "Linguine with Red Clam Sauce" with green beans. Ingredients: tinned clams, 28 oz can whole tomatoes in sauce, garlic, whole grain spaghetti, red pepper flakes, parsley, salt, black pepper.

Leftover linguine with random yoghurt and fruit.

"Betty Crocker's Tex-Mex Beef-Topped Potatoes" with green beans. Ingredients: potatoes, lean ground beef, chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, tomato sauce, chopped green chiles, shredded Mexican cheese blend. (Serve half the filling on two potatoes and save the remaining filling for lunch wraps).

Goya's "Chicken Veracruz" over brown rice with peas. Ingredients: sliced pickled jalapenos, capers, tomato sauce, boneless skinless chicken breasts, adobo, onion, garlic, oregano, cooked rice, lime.

Pantry items to be used this week:
  • tinned clams, 2 cans
  • 28 oz can whole tomatoes in sauce, 1 can
  • chipotles in adobo sauce, partial container
  • tomato sauce, 2 cans
  • chopped green chiles, 1 can
  • sliced picked jalapenos, partial container
  • capers, partial container
  • pumpkin, 1 can
  • chicken broth, partial container
  • diced tomatoes, 1 can

Bride of Pendorric: Marry in Haste, Repent at Leisure?

I shall never forget that September day because it brought the beginning of the real terror which came into my life, and it was at this time that I began to understand how the pleasant picture had changed piece by piece until I was confronted with the cruelest of suspicions and horror.
On the island of Capri, Favel Farrington falls in love with the dashing and mysterious Roc Pendorric. After a whirlwind romance and hasty marriage, Favel's artist father dies unexpectedly and Roc brings her home to his family estate in Cornwall. As Favel accustoms herself to her new home and family, she becomes increasingly suspicious of her husband who is just a little too familiar with the local ladies and a little too elusive about his own past. And then there are all the rumors about the previous Pendorric brides and the bad ends they came to. Does Roc really love Favel? Or did he marry her for other reasons? Is someone out to harm her? Or are those accidents just coincidence?

Bride of Pendorric made for an entertaining read. The mystery elements were quite satisfying with lots of red herrings and murder suspects --  the sexy nurse, slutty town girl, upstart governess, mad twin, etc. I was misled enough by Holt to suspect the wrong character for a very long time and then, suddenly, my eyes were opened and everything came together over a glass of milk. I remember thinking, "Favel! You widgeon! Don't drink the milk!" but it was too late. Favel drank the milk. (Good thing I remembered this was a Gothic romance and that Favel couldn't actually die).

Bride of Pendorric by Victoria Holt (Doubleday, 1963)


First Cake of '12

Started 2012 on a sweet note with "Raspberry Buttermilk Cake" from the June 2009 Gourmet.  This is  a dynamite emergency cake for those days when you crave a fast, fruity, homemade cake. What? You never have cake emergencies? Well, we have them a lot in our house! Cake goes with everything, you see. So everything needs cake.

Raspberry Buttermilk Cake, Ingredients

Although the recipe calls for vanilla extract, I used Cook's pure red raspberry extract for extra raspberry-ness. You could just as easily use orange or almond or what have you depending on the kind of berry you use in the cake. Yes, it's officially "Raspberry Buttermilk Cake," but there's no reason it couldn't be blackberry or cranberry, instead. The recipe is a forgiving one -- just mess about and make what you like!

Raspberry Buttermilk Cake, Oven-ready

While still warm from the oven, we ate this cake plain and then, when properly cooled, with vanilla ice cream and more raspberries. It's good either way. A lot depends on whether you're eating it as breakfast or as dessert.


The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming: "'I'm not hash browns!' cried the latke."

It is very frustrating not to be understood in this world. If you say one thing and keep being told that you mean something else, it can make you want to scream. But somewhere in the world there is a place for all of us, whether you are an electric form of decoration, peppermint-scented sweet, a source of timber, or a potato pancake.
Birthed screaming from a pan full of hot olive oil, the latke runs screaming through a village, encountering many Christmas decorations along the way. They are all friendly enough, but seem intent on fitting the latke somewhere into the Christmas tradition. The electric lights say the latke's basically a hash brown meant to be served with the Christmas ham, the peppermints thinks someone should write a Christmas carol about it, and the Christmas tree is all about hybridization/cultural appropriation. Is it any wonder the latke can't stop screaming? Happily, it's discovered by people who know exactly why a latke is and what it is for and it lives (a very short term) happily ever after.

This quirky little story does an admirable job teaching that Hanukkah is not a "Jewish Christmas" and remains one of my favorite Hanukkah stories (this is my third winter reading it).

An interview with David Handler (representing Lemony Snicket) and Lisa Brown:

The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story by Lemony Snicket with illustrations by Lisa Brown (McSweeney's Books, 2007)


Pantry Challenge: I'm On Board

Although I freely admit my lack of sticktoitiveness when it comes to these things, I've decided to join Jessica's Pantry Challenge at Good Cheap Eats because there's just too darn much stuff in my cupboards! Again. I need to start shopping with blinders on so I only see the things we need and not the extra, random things I want. (Although heaven only knows what I wanted with that jar of sorrel packed in brine. I have no idea how to eat it. Heat it? Chill it? Straight from the jar?)

I began this challenge by emptying out my food cupboards and creating a Google spreadsheet listing everything I found therein. While I initially intended this challenge to include the contents of my freezer, too, I found so much stuff in my cupboards that I never made it that far. Indeed, I'm pretty sure there's so much in my pantry that I'll need to do this challenge for more than a month to make a real dent!

And then, maybe, I'll move on to the freezer ...

Looking at my spreadsheet, it's already clear how some things can be used:
Anyway, I'm supposed to have goals for this challenge. Goals ... goals ... goals ...

Yes, cook all the things and end up with a smaller, better-shopped pantry (mostly) full of foods we regularly eat instead of random things that caught my eye.