Welcome to my kitchen

A while ago, I realized I was serious enough about bread baking to stop diddling around with the 3-packs of yeast from the grocery store, or even the small jars for a small fortune. So I pulled up my big girl pants, and ordered "A Pound Of Yeast". It's in my freezer, and I use it regularly, and I guess that makes me "A Baker". Even though I always said "I can't bake". So, join me on my journey, and let's see what that pound of yeast makes, and where we go next....

Friday, November 25, 2011

Quick ! Go To The Grocery Store NOW !!

OK, I know we’re all on the wrong side of the turkey coma right now, and we’ve got such full and satisfied bellies that the last thing on our minds at the moment is more food.  Especially if it involves getting into potentially *tight* clothes, rousting ourselves up off the couch, out from under the Snuggie and foisting ourselves into the cold, menacing BIG BAD WORLD of crazed shoppers.

Trust me.  I’m as agoraphobic and hermit-like as the next person.  Never in my life have I participated in the scrum that is after-Thanksgiving shopping.

But I will be going to the grocery store tomorrow.  And you should too.

Because we need to stock up on cranberries people, during this brief window of opportunity when the little critters are available.  Come December 26th, cranberries will be gone with the wind, like the ghosts of holidays past, not to be seen again until mid-November 2012.  And we’re gunna want them before then.  Oh.  Yeah.  We’re gunna want them again.

Lay in the stock of cranberries folks.  Stash ‘em in the deep freeze and then you can make this ridiculously easy, ridiculously delicious, ridiculously amazing Cranberry-Pepper Jelly whenever you want it.  Because once you taste it, you’ll be looking for ways to eat it, in addition, that is, to simply shoveling it into your mouth with a soup spoon, while you’re standing shoulder-deep into the fridge.

It’s that good.  No.  It’s better.

Now, don’t be afraid.  We’re gunna make a jelly.  Another one of those scary *BIG* culinary projects (like pickles…..).  Well, we saw how easy pickles can be, and this jelly is in that same league.  No hot water baths, no exploding jars, no sugar syrup dripping from the cabinets and your hair.  Just a zesty, sweet, tart, hot burst of flavor in your mouth.

Time to jell, folks….

Thursday, November 24, 2011

With A Gobble Gobble Here,

And a gobble, gobble there.

The circling vulture dogs (who are already plenty excited about the smells to be smelled in the little kitchen tomorrow, LOTS of veggies !) and I wish all y'all a most happy and wonderful and fulfilling Thanksgiving.

Eat lots.  Let your belt or waistband out a notch.  And be thankful that you have the food on your table, and in your larder, to do so.

Revel in your families, all their glories and foibles.  If your mother pours gravy over the date-nut bread (don't ask me how I have this story.....), resist the urge to dive under the table and die of embarrassment.  Remember that in a few years' time, this will be a beloved family memory, which even Mom will enjoy and laugh about.  And in more years' time, when Mom isn't around to embarrass you any longer, you'll wish you had some date-nut bread and gravy around.  Not to mention Mom.

Relax and enjoy the moment.  The smells of the turkey roasting, the sound of the sizzle of the veggies sauteing for the stuffing, the color of the cranberries, the aroma of bread or dinner rolls baking or the precious yeastie bugs doing their magic in the dough on the counter before anyone else is up.  The satisfaction of looking around the table, seeing everyone happy and relaxed and stuffed, and knowing it was a good day.

Pour an extra glass of wine (or sparkling cider, or whatever) and congratulate yourself for delivering a wonderful meal, or, if you didn't cook the feast, for participating in a wonderful meal.  Then put your feeties up and let the kids (even if the "kids" are 30-somethings) clean up the kitchen.

Resist the urge to join the stampede at the mall at 6:00 p.m.  I saw one woman on the local news today, she's already camping out, and the reporter said, well what about Thanksgiving?  Her reply...."it's just dinner.  We eat dinner every day".

No.  It's not just dinner.  It's a celebration of us, Americans, in all our beauty and with all our warts.  More than any other holiday, it's about us.  And our families.  Coming together over the table to celebrate us and our relationships and each other.  And no high-def TV, no matter how ridiculously cheap it is, can replace that.  In 30 years, will you remember that TV, or will you remember your Thanksgivings, around your family table, with those you care about?

Watch the parades, watch the football games, watch the dog show (guess which one The Grrrrlz and I chose?), and savor the day.  Be thankful for what you have, and what you've been given, and figure out a way to spread that fortune.

Happy Thanksgiving folks.  We'll return to your regularly scheduled food blog over the weekend.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

In Praise Of Iceberg Lettuce

As far as I’m concerned, it’s time to stop hating on iceberg lettuce.

OK, I’ll cop to it.  I’ll fess up, I’ll come clean.  I was one of the foodie trendoid herd that turned their finely calibrated palates up into the air, along with their oh, so sensitive noses, and shunned the humble head of pale green crunch as *ahem* (be sure to use über-snooty, très chi-chi voice here) “tasteless” and “watery”.

And, frankly, yes, it can be.  But, you know what else the lowly iceberg can be?  Crunchy.  Hearty.  Sturdy.  Able to stand up to really strong, acidic dressings, or heavy, thick ones, and hold it’s own.  It’s like a great supporting actor.  You don’t realize what a fabulous job they’ve done until the movie is long over, and you’ve fawned all over the star.  Then you realize the star looked so good because of the work that the supporting actor did.

So, it’s been years, years I say, since I’d had an iceberg lettuce salad.  Now, you have to understand.  In my “formative” years, when we talked about “salad” we meant iceberg.  Until I was 20-ish, I really didn’t know there were other lettuces than iceberg.  OK, we had the occasional spinach salad (usually when we went out to a fancy dinner), but at home, salad was iceberg.  It was just….what was around in the late 60’s and 70’s.

Then, I discovered other salad greens.  Romaine, Bibb, red and green leaf, escarole all came into my salad vocabulary.  Then came the baby greens and the micro greens and the field greens and the bitter greens and the arugulas and the oak leafs and the Cos and the limestones and so on.  And they’re all good !  They’re all spectacular, especially in the Spring when they’ve just been cut from the head, and are so sweet and tender.

And poor iceberg, well, it was discarded like a bad prom date.  Tossed aside on the pile of “things I’ve outgrown”.

Which is a shame, really, because with some care, and in the right circumstances, iceberg can be just as fulfilling and satisfying as that spinach salad with the hot bacon vinaigrette, or the perfectly dressed Caesar, tossed table-side (with anchovies, please…) or the delicate Spring greens candied pecans, bleu cheese, sliced strawberries and a light dressing (my all time favorite salad).

About two years ago, I had splurged and purchased a lovely, huge rib-eye steak I planned on grilling over a screamin’ charcoal fire.  I also wanted a baked potato, with all the “goods” (sour cream, chives, maybe a hit of shredded Cheddar).  So, in a nutshell, I wanted a steakhouse dinner.  What’s more in keeping with a steakhouse dinner than a wedge salad ?  Usually, I’d been making them with Romaine, after all, iceberg, feh !  But Romaine wasn’t speaking to me, and didn’t look all that great at the MegaMarts, so I thought, hey, what have I got to lose if I get some iceberg?

Well, actually, nothin’.   In fact, I had a lot to gain.  And learn.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Little Sweet Interlude After A Prolonged Quietude

Hey.  I sorta rhymed.  “Interlude”…”quietude”.  Yeah, I know, keep my day job.

Sorry I’ve been MIA for so long.  Haven’t been feeling the blogging muse, although I have been cooking, and making some yummy stuff.  And I’ve been documenting it, so we have some nummies stashed away waiting hopefully for an influx of the enchanting prose you’ve come to expect from me (kafff, kafff, kafff…..).

Seriously, I know I’ve promised, publicly, that I’d keep this puppy going come Hell or high water, and I feel really, not guilty, I try not to do guilt, but “loser-ish” for dropping the ball for so long.  Pinkie swear I’ll try not to do that again.  And I really promise not to bore you all with any of the ultimately inconsequential reasons for my absence.  Let’s just say I missed all y’all, and hope you felt even an iota of the same.

All rightie then.  Keep calm and carry on.

OK, so now that we’ve cleared the air, sort of, let’s talk about sweet little nibbles that are nice to have around the house.  Desserts, mid-afternoon snackies, tea-time goodies, a little sweetness with that cuppa first thing in the morning.  All of them are pretty damned nice treats.  Lord knows, I have a sweet tooth a mile wide.  Several sweet teeth actually.  I do loves me my sweets.  Candy, cookies, cakes, fruit crisps and crumbles, icey creams, sweet scones and biscuits and buns, pastries, all those little delicacies, save pies.  Not a huge pie fan am I (there I go rhyming again….).  But don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat a nicely made pie in a New York minute.

That said.  I don’t cook a lot of sweet stuff.  My sweet temptations are usually purchased.  Why?  Good damn question, and one I’m working to correct, since home-made stuff’s sooooooooo, so very much better than MegaMart purchased, and has better ingredients.

Part of the issue is that, as we know, it’s a single-Homo sapien household.  While the little fuzzbombs would dearly love to take excess cupcakes or doughnuts off of Mazziedog’s hands, I don’t want either the veterinarian bills or the 300-pound dogs sharing my bed that would come with such garbage disposal duty.  So no sweets for them.

And I also don’t want the 300-pound Mazziedog either.  Given the proper sweet inputs, I’d blow off breakfast, lunch AND dinner, and just scarf the sugar plums.  Or…..I make something that serves 12, have half of it, and then it either gets too stale to eat, or I get tired of it (me and that leftover thing….).  So, I don’t cook sweets as often as I would like.

I’m trying to change that.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

There's TONS Of Joy In Mudville....

....Lord VoldeCourt has been thrown out !!!!   FINALLY !

The long, civic nightmare for the citizens El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Angeles de Porciúncula (yes, that's what Los Angeles' true name is.....), at least the citizens of The City of The Angels who are baseball fans, is over.  Finally.

New owners for my Beloved Boys In Blue, My Bums, are on the horizon.  The most vilified (deservedly so) and detested owners in the history of any professional sports league have finally, finally, FINALLY been run out of town on a rail, just before being tarred and feathered and probably indicted for tax evasion.

I can finally feel pride to show my True Dodger Blue again.  As can these two little ragamuffin Dodger Dogs.

They're happy too !

GO DODGERS !  Walter and Peter and Walt and Tommy and Vinnie (ahhh, Vin) are happy tonight.  Good has triumphed over evil.