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Friday, December 30, 2005

In Praise of the Store Cupboard

It's been wet here lately. As I was going home tonight I was wondering what to have for dinner. I had a slight hankering for tuna-noodle casserole, but that would have involved going to the store for cheese. Other supplies are a little bare at the moment because I "ate down" before Christmas and have eaten through the turkey breast that I got sent home with.

But en route I thought that I could make myself something noodly ... with either a broccoli sauce, a simple tomato sauce, and I might have the ingredients around for spicy peanut sauce, which I could eat with the broccoli.

And then when I opened up the fridge door, I had slab bacon (from my stop at Pedrick Produce), so I could have bacon-and-avocado sandwiches.

Life is good!

The rain started bucketing down shortly after I got home, and is really making the radio fuzz at the moment, so I'm glad to not be out in it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas Goodies!

I had a Most Excellent Christmas from a foodie perspective - good food, good wine, and great gifts.

Brother got me some goodies from the Baker's Catalogue (*Go King Arthur!*)

Mom and Dad got me a KitchenAid mixer bowl and two wonderful cookbooks I had requested - More from Magnolia (mmmm cupcakes) and Cooking One on One.

Santa left me lots of lovely coffee from Boulevard Coffee and Tea, Dad's favorite coffeehouse in my stocking.

And I swung by to visit a pal on the way home and got two bags of Meyer lemons, AND some of her homemade spice mixes ... what fun!

When this storm at work clears and gives me some energy back, I am looking forward to using them.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas Cooking Report

As my grandmother Alice always said, "It's the day before the day before".

I got to go home early today. I wanted to, because I am providing goodies for the Christmas coffee hour on Sunday.

After the incredible stress of the past week and more, it was good to get home and do something relatively uncomplicated like BAKE.

My efforts were not met with unmitigated success - I burned my first batch of Robert's Chocolate Cookies and I underbaked the orange-cranberry bread. (Test in the center, Charlotte.) But the peanut butter cup cookies went well, and I also figure I've worked out the True Proportions for some very festive


Peppermint Bark

12 oz bag Ghirardelli "UFOs" (mint wafers) or 12 oz other good dark or milk chocolate
1 lb (approximately) white chocolate
Scant 1/4 teaspoon peppermint oil
about six regular peppermint canes

Unwrap the canes and put them in a ziploc baggie. Double-bag that bag. Pound into usefully small bits with a hammer or other blunt object. (this was fun!)

Line a quarter sheet pan with waxed paper. Melt the milk/dark chocolate. (I use my trusty Pyrex containers and the microwave.) If it does not already have mint flavoring, add a scant 1/4 tea peppermint oil to it too (careful .. it is strong) and mix well. Pour over waxed paper in pan and even out to cover - an offset spatula is great for this. Pop pan in the freezer for at least 10 minutes to set.

When you are ready to take the pan out of the freezer, put the peppermint bits in a small bowl. Melt the white chocolate and stir in the scant 1/4 tea peppermint oil. Mix well. Pour over dark/milk chocolate and even out (again, an offset spatula is great).

Sprinkle the peppermint bits evenly over the top. Press lightly with the palm of your hand to push the bits down into the white chocolate.

Put pan in fridge for at least an hour.

Remove from fridge and break into serving size pieces with your hands. This hurts a bit because the peppermint bits are sharp but is well worth it.

Can be stored at cool room temperature.


From here on in someone else will be doing the cooking ... turkey Christmas Eve lunch, prime rib for Christmas Day lunch, and a party at the house of a great cook on Boxing Day. I am hoping that Santa leaves a KitchenAid mixer bowl under the tree for me :) and is as good to you all.

God bless us, every one!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Menu for Hope: Chocolate and Lemons!

Menu for Hope

The fabulous Pim has once again blown me away with her energy, enthusiasm, and her GREAT BIG HEART.

A Menu for Hope is a foodblogger event in support of Unicef's relief efforts for the Kashmir earthquake. "Donation fatigue" seems to have set in post the tsunami and American hurricanes, and many people are still in desperate need of our help. Some absolutely fabulous prizes are being raffled off - tea with Clotilde, a fab shopping trip at the Ferry Market courtesy of Sam and the generous merchants, and more. For a whopping $5 a ticket, you too can participate.

In the spirit of the event, I would like to offer the following item for raffle, in two versions (one, if you live near enough to Berkeley, California, to arrange delivery, the other if you don't).

For "local delivery" I would like to offer my homemade chocolate truffles and my mom's famous lemon curd, in quantities suitable for storage (or a great blowout party). Both treats freeze divinely if you want to keep it all to yourself.

For "mail order" I'll offer a selection of Scharffen Berger chocolates (made here in Berkeley!!) and (if you're in the US) hard-to-find-outside-of-Northern-California Meyer lemons so you can make your own lemon treats.

In either case I'll share my recipes, and if you're missing some of my favorite truffle-making or lemon-processing gizmos, I'll throw those in.

If you want this particular prize, please mention Love and Cooking on your donation form. Check Chez Pim for the full list and the full rules.

Donate early, donate often till December 23. Pim will announce the results on New Year's.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Busy Baker

Well, no more disasters after Friday night. I was unable to find the Medrich lemon bar recipe I copied out on T-day, so ended up making something from Luscious Lemon Desserts instead.

It's cooling now. We'll see if it works. The locusts will no doubt devour it.

Friday, December 09, 2005

I don't want to set the world on fire ...

I finally made something in the Actually Functioning Oven last weekend - Delia's Christmas Cake. I (stupidly) forgot to put a pan under it, which apparently caused some leakage.

Tonight I went to Trader Joe's after work and picked up some eggs for this weekend's baking adventures - I am going to try Alice Medrich's lemon bars and hope they are as good as the ones at Bake Sale Betty's - and I got one of the Alsatian savory tarts advertised in the last Flyer..

So I got home and turned the oven on to 475 F.

A few minutes later I noted it smoking. I bunged the cat in the back room, turned on the fan, and opened the windows and the doors.

Then I turned the oven back on (determined to have my "pizza" for dinner).

A couple of minutes later I noted flames on the oven floor through the glass window! Oh shit! I removed the teatowels, got some water ready, but decided to see whether not allowing it new air would allow it to burn out. And diminish it did.

After some airing out, the tart went in uneventfully.

I think a cleaning cycle is in order tonight. But I'm hoping it might be a metaphor for my life right now - there are things that look scary but will blow over quickly.