Saturday, October 29, 2005

At the End of the Day

A day is just a day. Of course, there are things that have not gotten done and, of course, there are the inevitable disappointments that all humans face. But to live with joie de vivre arms you to better face those things. I know that this is true and I know that a happy life is the one big thing that everyone wants. So look for ways to find that and remember that another day dawns tomorrow. A demain.
The perfect perspective on the day.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Food Encompasses Everything

As cooking becomes less and less an everyday activity, there are those who tend to idealize it, and the cook is vaunted as the nurturer, the provider of good things and the person who gives an essential embrace. All that's true, but the shortcomings of the food-as-love brigade are to that too much emphasis is put on food, but not enough. Food isn't just love, food encompasses everything: it may be only a part of life but in an important way it underpins the whole of it. Basic to the whole ting of being human is that we use food to mark occasions that are important to us in life. Feast is not just about the way we cook and eat at the great religious festivals or big-deal special occasions, but about how food is the vital way we celebrate anything that matters -- a birthday, a new job, a anniversary; it's how we mark the connections between us, how we celebrate life.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Salsa Dip

I can't remember where I got this. It may have been from the newspaper. Regardless it is so simple and evryone always loves it.

8 ounces cream cheese
Salsa, as much as you want
8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack (or another good melting cheese that will stay soft - NOT mozzarella)

Spread cream cheese over bottom of a ceramic or glass baking or pie dish. Spread salsa over, then top with shredded cheese.

Bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes, till heated through and bubbly. Serve with tortilla chips.

How to Spend $90 for Spices

You go to Penzey's, home of the freshest, best spices anywhere, and order:
  • Chili Ancho Ground - 8oz bag (a nice change from chili powder sometimes)
  • Chili Powder Regular - 16oz Bag (I can't run the kitchen without lots of good chili powder)
  • Cinnamon Vietnamese Ground - 4oz bag (Christmas baking is coming up!)
  • Cumin Ground - 8oz bag (I can't run the kitchen without lots of cumin either)
  • Ginger Crystalized - 16oz bag (I cook with this occasionally but Hannah eats it for snacks ALL the time)
  • Shrimp/Crab Boil - 4oz bag (Cold, boiled shrimp is Tom's favorite so we have it a lot)
  • Vanilla Single Strength 16oz bottle (year round baking and ... Christmas is coming)
  • Cocoa Natural 16oz bag (qty. 3) (the best cocoa I've ever found ... accept no substitutes!)

Monday, October 17, 2005

Paddington Nooner

When Hannah's friends all came over after Homecoming last week for a scavenger hunt and late night movies, this is the cake that I had ready to give them that extra blast of energy.

I got it from the newspaper many years ago and I remember that it originally won second place in a chocolate recipe contest. As for the name, I know there is a character called Paddington Bear but never read the books.

What I do know is that this is hands-down the easiest, most chocolatey, not-too-sweet chocolate cake I have ever made. It always turns out perfectly and is a favorite with everyone.

Step 1:
Cocoa powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 12-cup tube or bundt pan and dust sides/bottom with cocoa.

Step 2:
1-1/4 cups strong black coffee
1/4 cup dark creme de cacao or other liqueur (I have used Grand Marnier, creme de menthe, and cherry liqueur ... basically any flavor that goes with chocolate will work here)
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup butter, softened
Heat the coffee and creme de cacao over low heat; add the chocolate and butter. Cook, stirring constantly, until smooth.

Step 3:
2 cups sugar
Remove from heat; stir in sugar. Let stand 5 minutes.

Step 4:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Sift together. Add chocolate mixture to flour in small parts.

Step 5:
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Pour into prepared pan. Bake approximately 1 hour or until cake tests done. Cool completely on rack before unmolding. Best if served cold.

UPDATE: Photo now included, per ukok's request. Much thanks to Veronica on the Verge who provided food photography (along with rave reviews ... she used peppermint schnapps as a flavoring liqueur).

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Nap

When I told you about the normal working-day lunch in France, I mentioned that it is customary after le dejeuner to take a few moments alone to read, relax on a bench, or to have a quick snooze under a tree. A nap is simply an extension of this idea and is customary after a big meal like a Sunday lunch.

A nap is not actually about sleeping, it is more about resting. It requires privacy. This is my ideal nap situation: When I have cooked and enjoyed a big lunch for my family, I really look forward to a small break. I have a daybed tucked into a cool, dark corner of the family room in our house in France. I take off my shoes, unbutton my collar, loosen my belt, and maybe even undo the top button of my pants. The idea is that I want to have plenty of room to take slow, deep breaths. Sometimes, I put a little cover over my legs, but in no way do I settle in for a long time. A perfect nap is about twenty minutes to half an hour.
I feel more relaxed just reading about this much less actually getting to lie down for a bit. I always loved the story about Winston Churchill who took his apres lunch nap so seriously that he would change into pajamas.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

G is for Gobstopper

The vulgar British term for a huge spherical, hard-boiled sugar sweet, impossible to crunch up so that it has to be sucked. It is often made with concentric layers of different colours, so that it changes colour as it dissolves.
Don't you just love that name? Somehow so much more vulgar and still so much better than "jawbreaker" ...