Saturday, June 27, 2009

Daring Baker Challenge - Bakewell Tarts - I'm late, but I wasn't

Psalm 16:11  
You will make known to me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.
At first I thought that I couldn't posssibly make Daring Baker project this month because of going through chemo.  But after my first treatment I did pretty well, except for the first Sunday after treatment.  So I planned it out that I would get help.  I invited my #2 daughter to come over on Thursday after I had the chemo to do the project with me.  She brought along my grand-daughter Emily because she's now the one babysitting her.  She also brought my grandson Christian.  He was hoping we would play a game of cards.  He doesn't yet realize that my energy is limited.  He wants to beat me at 10 to 1 or rummy.  

So slowly but surely we got working on the tarts.  The first thing of course was to make the pate sucre.  Emily was keen to help in all things, and she was keen to play with all her toys that she'd been missing because of not being at my house every day.  It was fun to see her get to excited about her books and her dolls.  She loaded all her dolls into the antique doll carriage that we had given her for Christmas.  And then she got out all her books.  And then she got into her great big toy basket trunk and looked through everything.  When Riley got home in the evening he said to me "Either you lost it, or Emily's been here."

I told Christian that he could take the pictures, as I didn't feel like I had the energy to keep Emily under control and take pictures.  Well it seemed to be going okay, though he's not all that good at taking pictures, but what I discovered later was that he was a rather naughty boy because he changed the lens.  Now this is no cheap camera, and I was really quite upset with him for doing that.  In part that also explained why he was having trouble getting the pictures to shoot.  He had the big zoom lens on.  I'm still hoping there's no damage to the camera.   Christian has a problem thinking that he's as old as he is big.  Being 5'8" at the age of twelve is confusing.

Christian on his 12th birthay

Making the pastry dough was very easy, but slow going with Emily involved.

She was upset that I didn't let her sepparate the eggs.

But she really has absolutely not tallent in that area and I did it myself, all the while trying to prevent Emily from opening up all the butters on the table.  She didn't understand that some were for later.

So when the pastry dough was wrapped up and in the refrigerator, I started in on the frangipane. But when I got out the almonds Annie spied a bug in the bag. So into the garbage with the nuts, and I went off to the store for almonds. But not long after I returned Heidi showed up to collect her children, so it was decided that we would continue the next day.

So this was the morning that I had my hair wacked off. A very distressing event, but necessary. But anyway, after the hair cut I picked up Annie and Emily so we could finish the tarts. We got the frangipane made, now that I had new nuts.  We tasted it, and it was yummy, even to my dulled taste buds.  To Annie it was heavenly, and she was glad to know about it.

Then we got out the pastry dough, and rolled it out.  I let Emily "help" me roll.   She going to be a good party roller one day.

Then while I hunted around for something to cut the circles of dough out with, Annie and Emily discovered a little bag of very unusual candy on the counter, and they were into that until all the candy was gone. So I took a picture of the lovely jam that Lauren (my sister-in-law) had sent down to me earlier in the week.
Annie and Emily finishing off a little bag of candy

Emily wanted to help cut the discs out,

And Annie was keen to put the dough into the molds once she saw the tool I was using to do it with. So I gave her some instuctions and off she went.

And she was also keen to help put the strawberry-rhubarb jam into the molds.

We then heated the oven to 400 degrees, added the frangipane on top of the jam, and put the tarts into the oven for 15 minutes. They turned out perfect, if I say so myself. Now everyone who ate these thought they were fantastic, but I must confess I couldn't really tell what they tasted like. Almost everything tastes terrible in my mouth.

I gave Annie and Emily six tarts and I kept the other six. I was going to take a picture of the insides on one, but they were gone before I got around to it. I still have stuff left to make more, and I think I will get onto that as soon as possible.

But anyway, when all was said and done, on Saturday I suddenly hit the wall at about 1 o'clock, and all I wanted to to was nap, and that's just what I did.  All day and into the evening.  I completely forgot to post the Daring Baker project.  I couldn't believe it.  There I had finished the project on time under difficult circumstances and what do I do, I forget to post it.

"Slump? I ain't in no slump... I just ain't hitting." Yogi Berra

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

You could think I'd dropped off the face of the earth

"There is an appointed time for everything. 
And there is a time for every event under heaven-- " 
Ecclesiastes 3:1

But I didn't.  Most of my blogging of late is done on anther blog called Molly's Trouble.  That's because I've been diagnosed with a rather odd form of breast cancer, but according to several sources I will eventually be just fine.  Christmas is the soonest however.

This blog has been used for my Daring Baker, Daring Cooks, Tuesday with Dorie, and Family events.  For the time being I do not think I will have much energy for any of those things.  And when I found out that cancer cells feed on sugar, there was no way I was going to make something sugary, no matter how good I thought it was.  

I'm really doing pretty good, as you can see on my other blog.  But then that's today.  I start chemo in a week, and I imagine it will really be downhill for a while.  But I preparing for the best.  I hope to have enough energy to go for walks from time to time, and I really hoping to eat as well as possible, even if it feels like being force fed.  We shall see.

But if I have things to blog about that appropriate to this blog, I will surely do them.  There's actually things to be put on this blog that are in past time, but that I really must get on here.  Before I was diagnosed with cancer I was sooooooo tired, and little was getting done besides what had to be done.  But I did manage to make two big cakes and a big batch of cupcakes for my Dad's 90th birthday, and put on a dinner also for his birthday.  And I had dinner parties that have not been blogged about.

The hardest change is that I don't have Emily any more.  She's rather hard to take care of, but still a joy at the same time.  When she sees me now for a while, she cries such cries when she has to go.  It really tugs at my heart.  She's very aware that things have changed.  Trying to tell her that I'm sick is rather hard.  Wait till she sees me with no hair.

"It ain't over till it's over."
Yogi Berra

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Daring Cooks first ever challenge - Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi

1 Peter 5:7 
"casting all your anxiety on Him, 
because He cares for you."

I joined the Daring Bakers because it looked like so much fun and I love to bake. But I joined the Daring Cooks because I really needed to be challenged to be more adventurous when it comes to cooking. The first challenge is right in line for that - I've never made gnocchi before, and I've only eaten it once. It was at a well known restaurant, and I didn't think it was all that good.

Well I have to say that this gnocchi was much better than the one at the restaurant. It was so delicate and pleasant. AND ..... it was actually quite easy and I'm definitely going to make it again - as an entree. I had meant to make it for dinner last night, but I had had such a stressful day with Emily that I forgot all about it, and I was quite happy so settle into watching a baseball game. But by the end of the game I was doing much better and at that point I remembered the gnocchi and I talked my husband into being willing to eat gnocchi at 9 o'clock.

Not only was he willing to eat the gnocchi, he was willing to help straighten up the kitchen for me, so it would be easier to cook there. He is really a terrific husband. So after it was cleared up I set up everything I needed for making the gnocchi. I didn't have large eggs, only extra large. My Parmigiano-Reggiano was of a course shred, so I needed to try and get it smaller in the food processor. When I weighed out what I had it was an ounce, so I went with it, particularly because my eggs were bigger than called for. My mixture seemed like maybe it was too wet, so I added three tablespoons of flour. This was to compensate for the big eggs.

It still seemed a bit wet, but then I made the test gnocchi and it came out really nice. So at that I did up a batch of gnocchi.

And at that my mind began thinking our what I could add to the gnocchi to make it a finished dish. I had made 4 quiches on Mother's Day, and I still had vegies left-over from that. I decided that I would fry up a bit of zucchini in a little butter and olive oil with a light sprinkle of garlic salt and some pepper. I also added to sea salt, and when I opened the container I picked the wrong side, and almost ruined the zucs, but luckily i shook lightly. Then when the zucs looked nicely cooked I added six grape tomatoes cut in half and sauteed them just a teeny bit. Then I scooped out the gnocchi from the boiling water after about 4 minutes and put the vegies on top.

I love all the possibilities for this dish, and I think that it's the perfect entree. The gnocchi were really light, even with my addition of flour. Riley really liked the zucchini and I really liked the grape tomatoes with the gnocchi.

One thing that I found very interesting is that the recipe is almost exactly the mixture that I put into my Christmas lasagne. That really gave me some ideas. For an herb in the Christmas lasagne I put in sweet basil. So what if I boiled up my mixture into gnocchi before putting it into the lasagne?

This recipe was brought to us by the Zuni Cafe, and the recipe can be found in The Zuni Café Cookbook.

"What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step." 
C. S. Lewis

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Teaching your children to cook - and then they teach you how to cook

 "Train up a child in the way he should go, 
Even when he is old he will not depart from it." 
Proverbs 22:6

Today I had my first public article printed. It was just a volunteer project - in other words, I wasn't paid. But it was still kind of exciting to see what that feels like - having something you wrote printed up. The article was on "Teaching Your Children to Cook", and it is on the Daring Kitchen site, and can be found here, or here, or lastly here, on one of my blogs.

And in a funny little twist of irony, it was today that one of my daughters taught me how to cook something. It all started when Riley and I were at Winco and he spotted tomatillos. It seems his mouth began to salivate at the thought of Sarah's chicken tacos. Next thing I knew he was on the phone to Sarah, who incidentally was going to be spending the evening at our house, because her husband was going to a wrestling banquet. Wrestlers seem to have lots of banquets.

We then proceded to gather up all the food items we would need for the tacos, as well as gathering up the things needed for the birthday dinner for my Dad tomorrow. He's actually 90 today, but Sunday was a better day for the dinner.

"You can observe a lot by watching."   Yogi Berra

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dinner with my sister Nancy and her friend Russ

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, 
that he may lift you up in due time. 
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." 
1 Peter 5:6-7

The really unique thing about this dinner is that there were only 6 of us at the table. I really like a dinner party that size, but it rarely occurs.

Nancy and Russ
Peter and Debbie
Molly and Riley

green salad with spring onion vinaigrette
French bread
meatballs in spicy tomato sauce
egg noodles
pear tart

I managed to keep the menu simple, though it was not an easy menu. Making the meatballs takes time, as does the pear tart, but if I say so myself, everything turned out very nicely.

We had never met Russ before. He came up from California with Nancy to attend my dad's 90th birthday party. He particularly wanted to see my Lacanche stove. I'm not sure, but it seemed that he was tremendously underwhelmed by it. But he did like the dinner, especially the pear tart. Actually, everyone liked the pear tart. I had modified the recipe a tiny bit, adding 1/4 tsp orange essence to the cream cheese mixture.

I had hoped I would get to work on the birthday cakes for my dad after they left, but I was way too tired, and I just went to bed. Actually, I probably fell asleep while watching baseball, and then went to bed.

"Flattery is all right so long as you don't inhale."
Adlai Stevenson

Monday, April 27, 2009

Daring Baker's Cheesecake

"Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? 
Yet not one of them is forgotten before God." 
Luke 12:6

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. 
She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

I can't believe I almost missed this post. I was so busy today catching up on past posting, mainly Easter, that I didn't post this. The irony is that I made the cheesecake for Easter dinner, and I was avoiding putting a picture of the cheesecake on the post, because I thought the post date was Thursday.

I don't like cheesecake, but a lot of other people do, so Easter was just perfect for this dessert. Since I never think much about cheesecake I wasn't sure what to do with it. But I remembered the strawberry mirror cake that the Daring Bakers made before I joined. I thought that topping looked pretty impressive, so I decided to give it a go.

I also decided that I'd make two smaller cakes, one plain and one strawberry. The hitch in that plan was that I couldn't find two small pans the same size in my baking pan arsenal. But I found two that are pretty close in size. One is a typical German springform pan, and the other is a tall loose bottom pan from England that I bought in Hong Kong years ago. I wrapped both pans in double foil, though I had read somewhere that even that doesn't prevent the crust from getting soggy.

My filling was just as the recipe said - no added anything. I selected a bigger pan that the two pans could fit into, but unfortunately I forgot to take into account the dimension of the foil, so they were in there quite snuggly, which proved to be not a good thing, as one of the cakes was done before the other, and it was darned hard to get it out of the hot water. Live and learn.

The one in the front is my English pan, and it did not get a soggy crust. The one in the back in the springform pan did get a slightly soggy crust. I have no idea why. You can see the evidence of this in the picture below.

On Easter I found the recipe for the top of the mirror cake, and made it up and placed in on my bigger cheesecake. I think that I let the mixture get just a bit colder than I should have, and the gelatin was a bit too set when I put it on. But no harm, everyone liked it any way. My daughter who really likes cheesecake said that it was the best on she'd ever tasted.

"Remember you humanity and forget the rest" 
Albert Einstein

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Dinner with the Mellis

"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly 
beyond all that we ask or think, 
according to the power that works within us, 
to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus 
to all generations forever and ever. Amen." 
Ephesians 3:20-21

It's always so nice to get together with old friends, especially ones as cool as the Mellis. We were not of us quite sure, but we think the last time we got together was in 2001, and we visited them in Germany in 1999. This day was chosen for the dinner because it was the only one when all our children could come. Sarah and Zac were in Tennessee until last night, when we picked them up at the airport at midnight. I'm surprised at how well everything went, considering how little sleep Riley and I got last night. For myself, I got 5 1/2 hours sleep. It was something like that for Riley.

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: 
not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." 
C. S. Lewis

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday - a family dinner

"He is not here, but He has risen 
Remember how He spoke to you 
while He was still in Galilee, 
saying that the Son of Man 
must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, 
and be crucified, and the third day rise again." 
Luke 24:6-7 

Yesterday I was feeling just a sick as ever, thinking that I was never going to get well. But today I really felt pretty good, which is great, as I needed to hit the ground running at 7:00 AM. We decided to go to the first service at church, and it was scheduled for 8:15, instead of the usual 9:15.  

Yesterday I had managed to make two cheese cakes and a batch of meringues for an Eton Mess.  But that was about all. Well actually we had cleared off the table and counter in the back room. That in itself was a good accomplishment, as it seems that every surface needs to be covered with stuff in this house.

And I also got the salad dressing made, because I was cleaning in the kitchen and I saw that my gallon of rice vinegar was down to about a half cup.

So I got up this morning, washed my hair, started the French bread, got the cheesecakes into the downstairs refrigerator, and then dear sweet Riley said he'd iron my dress while I dried my hair. Everything went quite well, really, and we were only about 5 minutes late for church.

Guest List:
Heidi and Stephane
Christina, Emily, and Parker
Ken and Marilyn
Annie and Corey
Gramma and Grampa
Bill and Jill


French bread
green salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, and pears
with an orange vinaigrette dressing

baked ham
scalloped potatoes

gateau au fromage classique
strawberry glazed cheesecake
orange flan
Eton Mess
coffee and tea

After church Riley and I stopped at the grocery store for some half and half and an orange for the flan. When I had made the meringues I had six egg yolks that needed to be made into something, so I chose Orange Flan. Somehow, in between everything I worked on setting the table, cleaning up the toys, and keeping the kitchen mess in order.

We got home, ate a little breakfast, and then we started right in on all the things that needed doing. I started right in on the flan, then I moved on to putting a strawberry jelly on top of one of the cheesecakes. By one o'clock I started the ham. By the time it was in I began to worry about the scalloped potatoes. I had thought that Annie wanted to do it, but I called her and somehow she thought I was going to do it. So I realized I had better get going fast on the potatoes. That was a lot of peeling and cutting. But I finally got it into the oven about 20 minutes late.

So I had the ham in the gas oven, the potatoes in the Miele, the meringues were in the warming cupboard just chilling, and the electric oven was heating up for the bread. I got out all the things for the salad, and just about then Ken and Marilyn showed up. Marilyn volenteered to help with the salad. She also offered to put the bread in the oven, slashing the bread in her own unique little way.

Soon everyone else arrived. My Mom brought me a lovely bouquet of flowers from her garden. Emily arrived in a beautiful dress that had a Central European look about it. And Heidi arrived with eggs for the hunt. Things were fast winding down as people began to settle in. I don't know what they all did, but I did see Riley handing out classes of Scotch. Unfortunately Riley was really tired. I think I should have insisted that he eat a proper lunch.

We all sat down to salad and bread at about 3:30 - not bad really.
Everyone loved the bread. It could have been the new flour that I used - Stone-Buhr Unbleached White Bread Flour. Everyone went right through the bread. The pears were great in the salad. I used some little yellow ones. Parker gave thumbs up to the bread, but he didn't want any salad, and neither did Emily.

By the time we finished the salad course, the main course seemed quite ready. We cleared off the salad plates, and I quickly heated up the asparagus, and got it all on the table, the ham, and scalloped potatoes and asparagus.

The ham was purchased at Costco, and it was labeled Martha Stewart, and the scalloped potato recipe was a modification of on in Martha Stewart's book Entertaining. This was a coincidence, but in fact we found a video on the internet of Martha preparing both the ham and the potatoes. I did not use as much cream as she called for.

I think that it was all just the perfect amount of food. This needs to happen to Thanksgiving. Maybe for Thanksgiving what we need is to have more than one day for eating the food. But that's another talk. People cleared off the table when we were done, and I went into the kitchen to make Eton Mess with the little kids. We had a lot of fun.

Emily broke up the meringue for a while, and then Parker took over and finished the job. We then moved on to assembling the whole think is a big bowl, with Emily on whipped cream, Parker on strawberries, and me on the meringue.

They were pretty proud of the work.

For dessert we also had cheesecakes and orange flan.  The flan was a really big hit.

And to end it all we had an Easter egg hunt. Actually, only Emily and Parker participated, as my children have decided that they don't like doing an Easter egg hunt. This was the first time in 35 years that I did not make Easter baskets for my girls. A bit sad that. But anyway, Christian had great fun hiding the eggs. He too felt that he was too old to hunt for eggs.

Emily and Parker each had very different views of what the hunt was all about. For Parker it was all about the chocolate, and for Emily it was all about the Eggs. So she gave him her chocolate, and he gave her his empty eggs.

"I'm not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. 
Let them walk to school like I did."
Yogi Berra