Monday, December 27, 2010

MFK Fisher's War Cake, How to cook in a time of war

When I returned to work this November, I found myself in an old yet distinguished building, built in 1863. It has been remodeled and updated per need and change of law, as years turned to decades and decades turned to centuries. This is home, to many people. Each of them with a past, personal history and stories to tell. These lives, also having been updated as life changed and personal decisions made, took effect. It is rare to find an unchanged person, for change is the only constant in this journey.

This building is owned and operated by the Oddfellows. Knowing the history of the International Order of the  Oddfellows, mandates that you be a kind person, who has a silent yet strong desire to serve others. The service you provide may be hands on, such as care giving, cooking or cleaning. Or you could be one of the necessary folks who process paper, enforce rules or oversee the day-to-day operations that a Senior Housing complex might need. All positions however, are service and caring orientated. I am one of those who works on the day-to-day operations, and lots of paperwork!

There is a woman who lives in this building; she is soft spoken, traveled and very kind. Anna walks her dog Lady several times a day and cares for the dog deeply. Lady is also in the older category, prone to falls and has at time simply fallen over. Lady’s sight is also failing, yet she “knows” where the treats are kept in the office I currently share. Lady, like the rest of us needs to be concerned about her weight, so her treats are broken in half, that way she gets “two” treats when she visits. I have yet to share this "tip" with those at home, I have concerns it might affect the cookie jar!

When I first began working, it was casually mentioned that Anna’s mother had written a book. I was at some point going to research that bit of information, to help me, get to know Anna better. I would then have a bit of knowledge, that I thought might act as a commonality for us to chat about, when she and Lady dropped by. Shortly after that I learned the title of the book, at that point I had enough information to help me in my search, and the rest as they say, is history.

St Helena, CA
My personal philosophy is that you should always be kind, because you never know to whom you are talking to. Not that all folks don’t deserve kindness, but some folks have very interesting histories that they bring along with them. However if you have not been kind from the beginning, it is very difficult to take back any unkindness when you find out something interesting about someone and then want to chat with him or her about it. And such is the case with Lady’s owner.

Remember all this started with a simple remark that a book had been written.

Oh do you want to know the book that was written? I must tell you right now; in actuality it is a book among many books written. The third book written from more than 20, in a lifetime lived with passion, hard work and some sharp witted humor. The book title was,


I must confess right here and now, I was not familiar with the title of this particular book. But I clearly knew of M. F. K. Fisher the writer. When I brought up the title of the book on Google search that evening, I was flabbergasted. I even shouted out, not my usual method of communication, to describe my enthusiasm! I was stunned and thrilled at the same time. For instance, what on earth would I do with this information?

Fortunately I already had had several enjoyable encounters with Anna and Lady to develop a very nice rapport. In a short time we had learned of several commonalities shared. I knew instantly I would want to write about this, yet also wanted permission from Anna, in order to do so. So I did what any bold person does, I asked for permission, and she said yes. Yes! When I got home I could not contain myself and told Honey all about it! 


"First we eat, then we do everything else."

On Christmas Eve my granddaughter and I paid a visit to Anna and Lady. We took a small gift of rhubarb jam and a clove studded orange pomander for Anna and a dog bone treat for Lady. We stayed only a brief time, as Anna had guests coming for dinner and there were tasks left to be done. During our stay, we also got to meet Mr. Elliott. A feisty apricot colored cat, with his own multi-story cat tower. My granddaughter was very interested in playing with Lady and Mr. Elliott, but in a short time we said our good-byes and made our way home to wrap presents.  

“People ask me: "Why do you write about food, and eating, and drinking? Why don't you write about the struggle for power and security, and about love, the way the others do?" . . . The easiest answer is to say that, like most other humans, I am hungry.”

Last House, Sonoma CA

I am excited for the opportunity to learn more about Anna and the life she lived. I already know from our Christmas Eve visit, that her daughter is a performer with an all woman circus (Circus Artemis). She has three grown children, two that live close by and one in Virginia. She is a mother, a grandmother, a sister and for me, now a friend.  There is more, as there always is, when learning about someone and the life they have lived. Alas this story today is simply an introduction, to my friend Anna. 
"When shall we live if not now?"
M.F.K. Fisher



MFK Fisher's War Cake
adapted from:
How to Cook a Wolf
350 degree oven
 
1/2 cup shortening - (note: you may use part bacon fat**)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon other spices (cloves, mace, ginger..)
1 cup chopped raisins or other dried fruit (prunes, figs, etc.)
1 cup sugar, white or brown
1 cup water (note: you can substitute coffee for part of the water)




Bring to a boil, cook 5 minutes. Cool thoroughly. 

2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder

Sift dry ingredients together and set aside. 

When the raisin mixture has cooled, add sifted dry ingredients, mixing well. 

Turn into a loaf pan and bake 45 minutes or until done in your oven. Let cool 15 - 20 minutes then turn out from pan, if desire.

Recipe rating:  It's Ok. (tasty but not special)

As always, thanks for stopping to say hello. I appreciate your visits more than you know.

This post is shared with:
Hearth n Soul Hop @ a moderate life

weekend cooking@beth fish reads

Tuesday Night Supper Club @ fudge ripple

** I adore bacon, yet have found that personally I do not care for the taste of the bacon fat in baked goods. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ricotta Nutella Chocolate Frangelico Cookie Cake





Ricotta Nutella Chocolate Frangelico Cookie Cake
adapted from:  What's Cookin Italian Style Cuisine
320 degree oven


Cookie Dough:

2 1/3 c flour
3/4 c sugar
11/2 t baking powder

1 egg
1 T milk
1 T Marsala wine

1 c cold butter - cut each stick into 4 pieces

Stir together the flour, sugar and baking powder to combine. Place in large mixer bowl (I used my stand mixer)

In small bowl, beat egg, add milk and wine. Beat again to combine well.

In a microwave safe bowl or measuring cup, place the butter pieces and microwave 20 seconds ONLY. (you want to soften the outside surfaces of the butter)

Working quickly, add the egg mixture and softened butter to the flour mixture, beat on low speed until combined and no streaks of any of the 3 different components are present, take care to not over mix.

Divide dough into two parts, one of the parts will be slightly more than half. Or as we use to say when we were kids, I want the bigger half!

Using the larger portion, divide into 2 equal parts and press into the bottom of two pans, I chose to use pie plates.  Place pans in refrigerator and chill for 20 minutes.

Ricotta filling:

1 pound (16 oz carton) ricotta cheese
3/4 c sugar

1 c mini chocolate chips (I used regular size chips and it worked great)

2/3 c Nutella

2 "shots" Frangelico or hazelnut liqueur

Beat cheese and sugar together until smooth, stir in chocolate chips. Divide mixture evenly and spread over the chilled dough.

Spread 1/3 c Nutella over the top of each dessert.


Drizzle a shot of Frangelico over the top of the Nutella.

Crumble (break into small pieces, it is a dense dough that will not crumble) the remaining dough and scatter over the top of each dessert.


Bake at 320 for 1 hour.











Cut each dessert into 8 pieces, serve with whipped cream.

Please don't let what appears to be many steps involved prevent you from making this wonderful dessert! It is very good and just right for those special occasions, where you want to treat family and friends to the best.

Recipe rating:  Oh Yes! (will make again)

As always, thanks for taking a moment to stop and say hello, I appreciate your time.

This post is shared with:

Make it with Nutella @ Couscous & Consciousness


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Believe it or not, this is recycled tee shirts!

I have shared and posted direction for making tee shirt yarn, but look this is made from tee shirt yarn! I made this table runner for my sister, she has a very beautiful and large dining table built by her husband.


This shot shows the length of the table, and help to illustrate the need of a rustic runner for everyday use.

The runner was at the far end, so that we could spread out and visit while eating dinner!

It is not as attractive on my table! It was made for the richer wood tones of her table.


Close up for detail.

Thanks Kathy for a wonderful dinner, enjoyable conversation and letting me take photos of your runner!

This post shared with:

Simple lives Thursday @ GNOWFGLINS

well made wednesdays @ an oregon cottage

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Slice and bake gingersnaps with lemon glaze


I decided to make the shape of these cookies rectangle, primarily because I am so much more successful with that shape! The Gingersnap Cookie Dough is easy to work into an attractive shape, directly from the refrigerator. It is firm, but not hard.

The dough was shaped and cut into 1/4 inch slices. Baked, and cooled.


To glaze:

Juice of 1 lemon, strained
1 T coconut oil (melted)
1 1/4 - 2 c powdered sugar

Melt oil, stir in lemon juice and 1 1/4 c powdered sugar. Whisk until smooth and mixture will "drizzle" from a fork. Additional powdered sugar may be needed to get that just right consistency.



I love the flavor of lemon and gingersnaps, so I had a heavy hand and put a puddle of glaze in the center, then did a partial spread/smear and decorated with some very old fashioned garnishes, currents and sliced almonds.


When Honey left after his meal break, he said "the lemon is a nice touch".


Yum.

There is another roll of dough ready when I need it. I want to make some whipped  cream stacks, and serve with poached pears. Stay tuned...........

As always, thanks so much for stopping by, I do appreciate your time.

This post shared with:

Tuesday Night Supper Club @ fudge ripple



Saturday, December 18, 2010

Old time Gingersnaps

I work in a noisy world, so I like quiet at home. Especially in the morning, quiet sets the tone of the day. I purposely have my alarm set to wake me at 4:00 a.m. But…….I rarely sleep that late. I will naturally awaken between 3:15 a.m. and 3:45 a.m. This little game between the clock and me has been going on for about 10 years, always nudging earlier and earlier. Soon I am thinking, I won’t even have to go to bed!

I move around the house, quietly as well. I realize others are sleeping, and wish to let them continue to do so. While others sleep, I have my morning coffee, check email, or even bake or cook something. Then finally getting ready for work and leave the house at 6:45 a.m. to begin the commute to work. I could say very dramatically that I work out of state, and it is true of course, but I also live right on the border where the two states meet.

Quiet is an ideal, not a command. For me it is the absence of harsh. No loud or harsh sounds and no bright or harsh lights, in those early hours. I need this time, alone and quiet to allow natural thinking to happen and processing to begin. I refer to it as “meditation with coffee”!

It also allows for creative thinking, without interruption. How many times have you had a great idea, only to have it evaporate when interrupted? The morning quiet is perfect for creative thinking and planning. Thus allowing your complete concentration on work, while at work, where ever your work may be. 

My favorite quiet time is during Christmas. I will light up the tree and bask in the simple glow of the tree lights while enjoying my coffee. Sometimes I will play music, but usually it is just the tree, some coffee and me. It is always an added bonus if the day is Saturday or Sunday, as I do not have to go to work. I love being able to stay home, enjoy the quiet and bake. With Christmas fast approaching, I will be baking cookies, on those quiet mornings.

These cookies are not overly sweet, with only 1/2 c sugar. They are rich in molasses and two kinds of ginger. This is a convenient slice and bake cookie, which has the benefit of being baked when needed or giving a wrapped portion as a hostess gift, along with baking directions. The cookies bake with a smooth top and will take a lemon glaze or decorating, your choice. You can also frost and stack with whipped cream between the cookies in pretty lined muffin tins. The next day you may serve from the paper liner on a plate or remove and serve with simple brown sugar syrup poached apples or pears.  And because it I love it so, more whipped cream.


Old time Gingersnaps (with a modern twist)
Adapted from: New England Cookbook
By:  Eleanor Early

4 c flour
1/2 c sugar
1/2 t salt
1 t ginger
1 c butter OR 1/2 c butter and 1/2 c lard
1/4 c finely minced candied ginger
1 t baking soda
1 T hot water
1 c molasses

Combine flour, sugar, salt and powdered ginger in a large bowl. Whisk to combine. Cut in butter until mixture resembles cornmeal.

 

You can use your stand mixer to "whisk" and "cut in" the butter, the secret is slicing your butter into thin pats and adding to the flour mixture while the mixer is running on the lowest speed. In about 3 - 5 minutes using the low speed, the mixture has the correct "cornmeal" look.


Stir in minced candied ginger. Dissolve the baking soda in the hot water. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture; add the molasses and hot water mixture. Mix well.








Divide dough into two parts. Roll each part into a log/roll. Wrap in wax paper, place in refrigerator.

 
The dough is soft at this point, I will refrigerate overnight and do a final shaping while chilled, before baking.


When ready to bake, cut slices 1/4 inch thick. Place dough slices on prepared baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees 9 – 12 (add a couple additional minutes for a crispy cookie) minutes or until tests done in your oven. Let cool 5 minutes, remove from baking pan and let cool completely. 

Recipe rating:  Oh Yes! (will make again)

As always, thanks so much for stopping by.

This post will be shared with:
Cookbook Sundays @ Brenda's Canadian Kitchen
 and
Tuesday Night Supper Club @ fudge ripple


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Like a candy bar, sandwich

Yes I do eat this, it is delicious and filling and convenient!


2 slices whole grain bread.


Spread one side with peanut butter.


Spread the other side with Nutella.


Cover the peanut butter with a single layer of raisins.


Put the top on!

Cut into quarters to package because the day is busy, usually a quarter sandwich is the only amount eaten before being needed, somewhere for something by somebody.

As always thanks for stopping by!

This post is shared with:

Make it with Nutella @ Couscous & Consciousness 

The 12 days of Bloggie-mas @ a moderate life

Monday, December 13, 2010

A kettle full of kindness

I met her briefly a few weeks ago. We were having an early Thanksgiving lunch, for the tenants and their guests. She had just returned from being away. It would have been fun to say that she had just returned from a cruise, where she got to see the rest of the world. Or knowing what I have learned recently, to say she had returned from overseas, helping others. As a nurse, helping others had been her life. She also knew that being a nurse allowed her to have the independence she wanted. As well as finding employment easily, to keep moving on.



But no, she had returned from a skilled nursing unit, to her little apartment in the Senior Housing complex that I have the privilege to work at. She had had open-heart surgery. She was gracious, full of kindness and she also had red hair. She loved to garden, and did so in the courtyard for everyone to enjoy. Meticulously marking out the grounds to know where the most sun was during the day, in order to plan well, and have the best flower garden.  For Kathleen, independence included her enjoyment of time spent alone. It is difficult to get to know folks who enjoy such an activity. But I respect their ways and their choices.
 

It is also a difficult office task, to locate family not listed on paperwork, when the independent are in charge! When we finally met that afternoon, I was both enriched and saddened by the memories shared by a brother who came to collect what he could, by way of our memories and information, of a sister not seen for so many years. During his visit was my only opportunity to really get to know her, and what a kind lady she was.

I have worked in one capacity or another for over 10 years, caring for people. By extension that includes caring about the people, that care about, my people. This work is different than one would expect. Personal emotions are honed daily, in the living and some days in the dying. I have learned so much, during these years and there is one truth that must be shared.  

Love does endure

Kathleen was just one of those folks, who helped me to grow, even more. Such quiet strength and determination to be independent, displayed with kindness and grace. I am not able to thank her, except by my future choices and behaviors.  I work hard now, but I have even bigger shoes to fill tomorrow.

As you know, there is always something to clean or something that needs to be taken care of. We don’t see it that way at the time, but these tactile tasks keep us in check. We need them, we really do. When you cook, after wards you need to clean the kitchen. When you have a child's birthday party, often the whole house! And when you lose someone, a complete home. Their home.


It is a different cleaning, than the soap and water kind. It is soft and quiet, a wandering through their life, as you carefully pack personal items and, the entire household up. Most for family and friends, and the rest for charity* or those in need.



 
This kettle was in her kitchen. I knew immediately, I needed this kettle. It is durable, scrubs up good as new, and is strong enough to last for many more years to come. Positive traits, in kettles and human beings as well. I look forward to scrubbing, a little re-seasoning on the inside and cooking with it. For a meal shared, around the table, with my family.  Until then........ food to feed the soul. A recipe for kindness, so that love may endure.

 

Kindness
Serves all, as many times as desired.

Ingredient list:
A whoop of happiness, within your heart
A smile given freely, to others
A life of work, that is pride driven
A family to be connected to, even if miles apart
A meal shared, the food does not matter
A love of music, a feast for the ears
A desire to learn, so that you may teach
A natural curiosity, fuels a spring in your step

Stir together gently, as the separate ingredients are special. Enjoy it all, to the last drop. You will not be over fed. Mix and repeat, tomorrow and each day forward.

I thank you for this time to share at Hearth n Soul @ a moderate life

* a donation has been made to a designated charity, in exchange for the kettle.