Category Archives: food and cooking

Morning Melange

As I was getting dressed and forgetting to make my bed this morning, I listened to Fr. Michael Gillis of Praying in the Rain blog, on his podcast of the same name, an episode in which he “deconstructs the notion that choice translates into freedom.” I really liked him, and the message. His recent blog post about fleeing to the desert (a little bit), is really helpful, too. How can we flee to the desert when many of us aren’t leaving our houses? It’s a provoking meditation, in the best way.

Before sunrise, I had trekked downstairs in my slippers to check on the greenhouse heater that I finally installed last week. The thermostat was set so that it should have come on, going by my phone, where I read that the outdoor temperature was 32 degrees. Yes! Success!

Last night I had defrosted a container of the tiny snow peas I toiled over preserving last spring. They were incredibly labor intensive at every stage, and I vowed never to buy from that seed company again, and only to use seeds that were likely to produce large pea pods.

But this morning the peas I’d saved were a welcome addition to the pan to which I added eggs, and this seasoning mix from Trader Joe’s that I seem to be sprinkling on everything lately.

I ate a giant pink grapefruit, too, which made me think about my childhood when I didn’t like that fruit, and about the funny name of it, which was easy to learn in Turkish because they call it greypfrut. Who named it first? I couldn’t remember, so I looked it up in this wonderful book that was my grandfather’s. He was a citrus farmer, too, and when he was visiting our family, there was no chance of any child getting out of eating grapefruit for breakfast. We were allowed to put honey on it, but in my case that didn’t help much.

That book, The World in Your Garden, is the source of the pretty picture at top. It says that the name originated in Jamaica!

Grapefruit is one thing I wouldn’t try to eat while sitting at the computer, so I watched the birds. All the larger species were visiting, doves, and the blue jay, and even the flickers. I’m pretty sure I saw the Cooper’s Hawk, too, spying out his breakfast.

I’ve been trying to find the right food to scatter on the patio for the doves and other ground-feeders. So many blends I have tried in the past have some ingredients that are ignored, and go to waste. My latest offering is something designed for pigeons, and many of the birds have been eating most of that mix. There are still some split peas, they look like, that go untouched so far. When this bag is gone, I will just buy some plain millet; that’s what I have been looking for for a year, but haven’t found it yet.

I’m leaving soon to drive to the beach — again! I have been doing it a lot, and plan to start a sort of Beach Diary page here on my blog. But being on the beach is taking time away from writing… By the time I get there, morning will have turned to afternoon, and I hope the sun will be shining.

Blessings to all from my corner of the cosmos.

Salted Toffee Cookies

Here they are, Bakers, the cookies you have been waiting for! I’m sorry it’s only a recipe; I’d have liked to give you each a cookie with a glass of milk. As it was, I barely finished them in time to give a few (12th Day of) Christmas cookies to two neighbors. Today most of the Eastern Orthodox begin their celebration the Nativity of Christ, so I may prolong my cookie baking in solidarity with them.

You may recall that I created this recipe more than five years ago, to make use of part of a bag of mini Heath Bars. Normally I’m not attracted to recipes using brand items of that sort, and I doubt that I personally will make another batch of these; I have too many other true favorites, and new recipes to try. But I wanted to get them just right (not too salty) in case one of my children wants a repeat performance enough to need the recipe — and for those of you who expressed an interest. They are yummy, there’s no denying that!

Salted Toffee Cookies

1 cup room temperature butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
4 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons hot water
3 cups flour
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
A bag of mini Heath Bars, chopped; or a bag of Heath milk chocolate toffee bits – (1 ½ cups)

For topping mix in a small bowl:
2 tablespoons coarse raw or Demerara sugar
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1 – Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
2 – Add the egg yolks and vanilla and beat more. Scrape bowl.
3 – Add 2 cups of flour. Dissolve the soda in hot water. Add the baking soda mixture, the last cup of flour, salt, and cream of tartar to the bowl.
4 – Add the toffee and mix until just combined. Make little balls and dip the tops in the sugar-salt mixture, and place on parchment-lined cookie sheets.
5 – Bake at 350° for about 15 minutes. Let cool before eating.

Our Glad people eat cookies at Christmas.

This Christmas I may not bake anything, though when I look over this post I start to think that if Trader Joe’s has their cranberry relish in stock, I might make the cranberry jellies… maybe just half a batch….

I do love cookies and cookie-baking, and am loving the memories of them in this new era when there are other things I want to do instead. It’s likely I’ll get excited about baking again some Christmastime in the future, but for now, I want to share this post that I hope I haven’t republished too recently. If you like special cookies at Christmas, you might check out the recipes I’ve shared on my Recipes page, because over the last nearly 50 years ! I’ve collected some great ones. Last week my son-in-law mentioned a Lemon Poppyseed Sandwich Cookie that I served only one Christmas, which he said remains his favorite years later.

Trader Joe's Sugar Iced LebkuchenOn the platter below are a few of Trader Joe’s Pfeffernusse which they didn’t carry last year. They were very different from my own peppernuts but awfully nice. I did think of buying a few cookies at Trader Joe’s to eat when the actual feast of Nativity arrives. Pippin had their Lebkuchen at our early Christmas when I was up there, and I’d eaten them last year as well; they remind me of honeykuchen that Mr. Glad’s German grandmother and aunts used to bake at Christmas. While looking for a picture of them to show you I found this site with reviews of Trader Joe’s products.

But now, here is the post from the archives; I hope it might be useful to you in some way:

The new favorite cookie this year was Salted Toffee. This was a happy accident sort of thing. We had come by a bag of mini Heath Bars, not something we normally would buy, and I didn’t want to end up eating them one-by-one, so after we ate a few I thought I would make cookies with the rest.

 

 

I’d seen recipes online for Heath Bar cookies, and I used one of them that didn’t have nuts. My version had a little less Heath ingredient, since we had snacked it down. The specialness I added was to combine some large-crystal sugar (Demerara) and coarse sea salt and roll the tops of the cookie-dough balls in that before baking.

Everyone loved these cookies. If that bird were real, he would have eaten the whole cookie by now. But he is painted on a pretty tray that May gave me for Christmas.

Soldier’s Joy brought the darlingest delicious thumbprint cookies that were filled with strawberry and rhubarb, and some chocolate-dipped dried apricots that combined to add to the visual appeal of the cookie platters.

Those bright-white round cookies are our only store-bought item, Pffernusse from Trader Joe’s that Mr. Glad wanted to try in memory of the cookies his German grandmother used to make.

The coconut-y balls are Date Delights, for which I’ll give you the recipe here. They are another chewy toffee-ish experience we have been creating ever since my grandma gave our family a tin full of them one Christmas past.

Date Delights

1 cube butter
1 cup cut-up pitted dates
1 beaten egg
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups Rice Crispies
sweetened coconut flakes, about 7 oz.

In a 9×12 baking pan mix the walnuts and Rice Crispies. Set aside. In another bowl put the coconut flakes. 

In a saucepan melt the butter, and add the dates, egg and sugar. Stir all together in the saucepan and boil over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and beat in the vanilla, and immediately pour the candy mixture over the walnuts and cereal. Stir well. As soon as the mixture is cool enough to handle, form into balls and roll them in the coconut flakes. Cool.

The red squares in the foreground are Cranberry Jellies. I adapted a recipe from a past Sunset Magazine to make a treat that Pippin and I especially like. It’s refreshingly lacking in any fat except for walnuts, and is a nice chewy way to get your cranberry fix and add color to the display.

Cranberry Jellies

3 cups Trader Joe’s Cranberry-Orange Relish (2-16 oz. tubs)

2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
13 envelopes plain gelatin
3 cups chopped walnuts

Combine the first three ingredients in a bowl (I used a stand mixer) and while the paddle is turning, gradually add the gelatin. When thoroughly mixed transfer to a saucepan and heat just until the gelatin is dissolved. Stir in the walnuts and pour the mixture into a 9×12 pan. Refrigerate until firm. Cut into small pieces and dust lightly with cornstarch. I don’t refrigerate them after this point.

Many times I’ve told myself that I must make fewer cookies at Christmas, but this year I realized that it’s one of my favorite things to do. I have so much fun thinking of the collage of different flavors and forms of the little sweets that I don’t even feel the need to eat them. It was long after Christmas Day that I even tried one of the new Peppermint Cream Cheese cookies I made this year.

But now by what is the Seventh Day of Christmas, as I finish up this post, and also New Year’s Eve, I’ve expanded the festive feelings by eating lots of cookies, too! They all taste as good as they look, or better. The last red plateful will go out of here this evening — I wish I could bring one to your house when I say Happy New Year!

Fallish like nightgowns and pumpkins.

One of my favorite categories and species of food is Cucurbita, that is, its squashes I have known; in the garden that’s nearly all been zucchini and butternut. But last month I got a vision for pumpkins trailing the paths of next summer’s garden. After browsing seed vendors online and debating with myself till my eyelids drooped, I narrowed the field to two romantic French varieties. Probably their long French names contributed to their appeal. One is often nicknamed the Fairytale Pumpkin and the other the Cinderella Pumpkin. But those names are not consistently applied.

Did you know that there is no botanical category for pumpkin? It’s more of a cultural or linguistic grouping, and at least in English seems generally to be based on its shape. The majority of pumpkins are Cucurbita pepo, but there are pumpkins in the C. maxima and C. moschata species groups, too.

In this Wikipedia photo, they note that the two bright orange ones in center right are C. pepo, and all the others C. maxima. The botany of squashes, as seen in brief on that Wiki page, is complex and historic!

The one above is what I bought this year at Trader Joe’s, and it was merely called “Heirloom.” I think it is a Rouge Vif D’Etampes. Last year I found one at a farm stand, and was impressed by its sweet, deep orange flesh.

I decided on seeds for the Rouge, but it was nip-and-tuck until the end between it and the lovely Musque de Provence, which is a Cucurbita maxima:

Last week I tried these Carnival squashes and my goodness, aren’t they tasty, right down to their crispy and colorful skins. I began to wonder if I should plant them to grow on my trellis….

But they do say that of all the Cucurbits, butternut squash are the best keepers. I must keep that in mind; after all, I want to store other things in my freezer besides squash.

It’s the time of the year when I start to have wood fires — now in my new stove, an Ironstrike — and to discover how many flannel nightgowns need patching or cannibalizing. Always the sleeves, at the elbows, get thin and holey while the rest of the garment is just fine. All of these pictured have the same need for mending, and only one of them is too far gone, so I will use pieces of it on the others.

Four newly refurbished nightdresses will be restored to use, after having sat in a basket, some of them for years, poor neglected things.

A church in southern Oregon, at which I have worshiped at least twice, is renting space in a strip mall while they work on building their permanent temple. In this year’s Alameda Fire much of the town of Phoenix, St Gabriel’s current locale, was burned, but their space was untouched. Here is a photo of the land where the new church is going in. The fire came so close to the icons and cross marking the spot, I thought it worth sharing:

I put my air purifier in the closet today, and thought, Wouldn’t it be so truly normal if I don’t need it next year…. We are getting a little rain this weekend, and cozying up to the hearth.