Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Color and light

For some reason I like doing art.

I use the term loosely. I do not have any pretentions as an artist. But late at night, or of an afternoon when I have been busy with work most of the day, it is fun to sit down with watercolors and relax. What is it about watercolors? They are just so cheap and easy.

Especially cheap. I have this $5 watercolor set I have been working off of forever. That is it in the picture above! I also have a sneaking affection for oil pastels because they, too, are cheap. That masterpiece in the sketchbook visible in thePain back on the right was done with oil pastels.

Not only that but they were oil pastels I purchased in Tupperware at a garage sale! I think I paid a quarter. The brand is Loew-Cornell, which despite the patrician name is made in China, let's not kid ourselves.

I remember my mom telling me at that garage sale that buying the pastels was worth it just to get the Tupperware! LOL! Anyway, those are the pastels that painted that picture in the picture.

HOWEVER. Once at another garage sale I bought a little wooden box of oil pastels of the Van Gogh brand. Van Gogh is not an exalted brand. Looking it up, I see it is a "student brand." However. sets of 10 or something (mine has 15) go for a cool $30 or something. So when I get better at oil pastel I will let myself use the Van Gogh pastels instead of the Loew-Cornells.

I will be the Leonard Pennario of pastels!

Jeoffry also enjoys art.

Good boy! Good boy!!

We are artists!

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Bundt baker

Last week I made my second Bundt cake for church. The first, a week before that, was a big breakthrough.

I know, Bundt cakes are not supposed to be a huge challenge. However, years ago, I had attempted a Bundt cake, and it had stuck to the pan. I did something with the cake, I made a bread pudding. But I never forgot the outrage.

And I never attempted another Bundt cake. Until just recently. This is the beauty of participating in our church coffee hour, at St. Anthony of Padua Church. I like to make a game out of it and try to do new things.

I made a Whiskey Squash Cake out of a Reader's Digest cookbook I have. It was a recipe I had had my eye on for some time. Whiskey, got to love it. I almost subbed rum because Rum Squash Cake sounds good too, and I am sure it would work. But I had to go with Whiskey.

I baked the cake in my Kugelhopf pan which previously I had used only for yeast breads. Hmmm. Consulting Wikipedia just now I see that Kugelhopf -- well, they say Gugelhopf -- is the original Bundt pan. Nordicware copyrighted the name Bundt in the 1950s and '60s.

Whatever my pan is called, let me tell you, I oiled and floured that pan half to death.

That cake came out with its hands up!

I sugared it up and took this picture.

So, success!!! Drunk on my success I made the cake pictured at the top of this post. It is a Banana Cream Cake. Oh, excuse me, Banana Creme. It has sour cream in it, is the reason for the name.

I used my other Bundt pan for that. Remember that pan? You can make cakes in it from all over the world.

I took the cake to coffee hour. Gone in 60 seconds!!

I never had a bite!

But I can assume it was good. And so forward I will go as the Leonard Pennario of Bundt cake bakers.

Fire up that oven!

Monday, July 10, 2017

The rebate from the black lagoon

Hahaha... a long time ago, I wrote out one of those satisfaction equations.

Finish story for work: 10 satisfaction points.
Finish book on Leonard Pennario: 50 satisfaction points.
Send away for liquor rebate: 10,000 satisfaction points.

Still true, that!

Today I came home from work and I was going to get a jump on tomorrow's work. But the computer had other ideas. It kept bouncing me in and out of WiFi and I could not get anything done. And so ...

I did my rebates!

They had been collecting and one had actually expired. But watch it, if you see that a rebate has expired! Odds are you can still send it in. The receipt has to be before the expiration date. But the postmark does not.

Read the fine print! And it is fine.

And so I sent away for that rebate and for five others. Here is the winner in the sharply contested field of Rebate Addresses.

BBX Rebate Offer
NTH-BBX 18005
PO Box 752885
El Paso, TX 88575-2885


What computer barfed that up?

Another funny thing was, one of the bottles purchased today was the same one that I was talking about that other time. It is the Evan Williams Honey Reserve!

The Cherry kind is no good. It tastes like cough syrup. But that Honey Reserve! Mmmmm.

That is it pictured above. That is it!!

A deliciousness topped only by when you send away for the rebate. I mean actually get it stamped and into the mailbox.

How sweet it is!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A lotta ricotta

You know me, I cannot resist a bargain, which is how I wound up with a gigantic tub of ricotta cheese. We are talking five pounds! That is it up above. That is it! And it was just as large as it looks.

The five pounds were $5.99 which is pretty good, I think. Plus, it is fun to do something like this. You have a huge amount of something and then you get the adventure and challenge of using it up.

One morning this week I made a ricotta omelet. You mix eggs and ricotta and cook it on the stove in a skillet until it is set and then broil it until it is brown.

Yum! That came from Deborah Madison's "Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone" and it was so good I made it another morning, too.

I also did a pasta with broccoli and ricotta. That was good, too!

Then it was time for church coffee hour.

I made a ricotta zucchini tart I found on Pinterest.

That is it to the left, pictured on one of the prized funky vintage tablecloths our church coffee hour boasts. It was supposed to be a galette but I fit it into a pie tin and called it a tart. That was a hit at coffee hour! Gone in 60 seconds. Next time I will make two because it really is easy to make.

May I interest you in my fine Church Coffee Hour Pinterest board? The recipe is there in case you want it.

Finally I made Lemon Ricotta Muffins, from a recipe I found I forget where. They were a success! And they have olive oil in them and not a ton of sugar so they are healthy.

Oh wait! That was not finally. I still had some ricotta left. I made Ricotta Bread. It is a yeast bread with ricotta in it. It is good!

And may I say that Msgr. Sicari at St. Anthony's ...

... complimented me most kindly on my ricotta dishes. That made my day! Coming from an Italian that meant something.

This is Leonard Pennario's birthday. If he were alive he would be 93. He also would not mind me writing about ricotta cheese on his birthday, I will tell you that. Pennario loved his food and he loved his Italian food in particular, God love him.

I will be the Leonard Pennario of ricotta.

Where can I find another tub?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Paris Can Wait ... 'It's just my ears, you know?'

 There is this new movie "Paris Can Wait" that my colleague Jeff Simon reviewed. 

Jeff and I were discussing it in the office the other day and he told me the gist of it, this woman risking this kind of illicit affair, gadding around France with a seductive French friend of her husband's. And there are all these mouthwatering scenes of food.

I said, "Oh, no. I can't see it."

I said, "I can see a movie about an illicit affair without wanting to have one of my own. But when I see a movie about food..."

... It is not pretty!

But now I am changing my mind.

Because I have learned that the movie's leading lady, to use Leonard Pennario's term, has a problem with her ears and that is what sets the plot in motion.

"It's just my ears, you know?" she says in the trailer.

I just had a problem with my ears! I had to go to Immediate Care yesterday and get it taken care of.

Rashly I jumped into the pool at L.A. Fitness and I got water in my ear. It is something I am prone to. I was deaf!

Oddly enough Paris comes into the story at this point. One time I was afflicted with this was right before I was going to go to Paris. I had to go to Urgent Care and get my ear taken care of.  Otherwise Paris would have had to wait!

Anyway, yesterday morning, I went into Immediate Care. There is something almost nice about this ear thing. You are blissful in the waiting room! There was this gal right next to me yakking on her cell phone and I could hear her only in a faint blur. Instead of being annoyed I was happily practicing my brush lettering. It is a new hobby I have, and very portable. I took this picture. That is the instruction book at left and my attempts on the right.

It is thrilling, how the ear situation works out. A couple of nurses position themselves around your ear and point this kind of water gun into it. And one of them goes, "OK, ready?"

And then they blast you!

I started laughing and couldn't stop. It just felt so weird! Then it got uncomfortable but it was too funny really to feel pain.

Then they went, "We got it!"

They tried to get me to look at something but I waved them away.

"Gross!" I said.

I felt like a new person, though, I will tell you that. My ear had been getting stuffier and stuffier. I am prone to this condition in only one ear, I must point out. The other is fine.

Now I could hear again!

And so "Paris Can Wait" must not wait. I have to see it, on account of my ears.

"It's just my ears, you know?"

I know!!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The surprise birthday present

Today is my birthday! I have been having a great day. I had off from work and this morning I made great progress on the book I keep writing and writing about. It is in the home stretch but there were several things that had to be tied up and today I tied up a couple of those things.

Then I worked in the garden. Miraculously I have succeeded in weeding my garden and actually turning a corner on it. There is a story as to how I was able to do that, but that will have to wait for another day. But today my neighbor told me the garden looked great! I am so proud of myself!

My friend Lizzie treated me to a pedicure. I have never had a pedicure! That is another story for another day. I felt like such a princess, getting that pedicure!

And then my mom gave me these two Japanese teacups. These are beautiful delicate teacups and saucers from Occupied Japan.

I know, my mom passed away a couple of years ago. But that does not mean she cannot give me a birthday present!

What happened was, there was this grungy box in my garage. I found it a few days ago when I began my gardening and was looking for weed clippers.

I was not thrilled to find this box. I figured out pretty quick what it was. It was stuff from my mom's house, a box my brother George had brought over and stashed there when he thought I was not looking. Either that or probably he told me, who knows. I am the keeper of the family junk so what nobody else wanted ended up with me.

There were things in the box wrapped in newspaper from the time my mom died, which is how I was able to put two and two together. Plus, I recognized these mushroom salt and pepper shakers. There was this one garage sale where someone was selling off a Smithsonian-sized collection of salt and pepper shakers. My mom and I decided we would both select one pair. We had fun choosing. I chose these cute light bulb shaped shakers. Howard has them now downtown at Big Blue. My mom had chosen the mushrooms and now here they were, in my garage.

That kind of made me sad. So did the other stuff. There were some OK things but nothing great that I saw, and all I could think was, now I am stuck with this stuff, I an sentimental about it and so I will have to make room for it somehow.


Today I felt obliged to go back to the box, clean it out. And I found a Japanese teacup. So beautiful, this delicate blue and white and gold. I washed it up and then I found a saucer that went with it.

This is pretty cool, I thought. I love Japanese things. It comes from my liking for bento boxes. Then... it was funny but something told me there was another teacup in that box. I went out and gingerly, because you had better believe this box was grungy, I began digging around.

What did I find but another teacup, in another pattern!

And, after a little more digging, a matching saucer!

I washed these treasures carefully and then started gloating over them, admiring them from one angle and then another, the way you do when you get a present you love. I thought of how I would use them, how I would show them off to my friends.

Then I remembered it was my birthday. I had found this on exactly my birthday.

I got a birthday present from my mom!

I have this tradition with myself that goes way back. I get birthday presents out of nowhere. Once I found a black dress, in my size, on the sidewalk on my birthday. I had just said I wanted a dress like that and there it was. This morning when I woke up I was wondering if I would get something out of nowhere, this being my birthday.

I did!!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Sugar and jazz

We had Office Cooking Club downtown at Big Blue. It was the first barbecue of the season! Above is my friend Melinda's husband, Mike, tending the grill on the front lawn.

This is a club we have had going in various permutations over the years. In its current incarnation we have a handful of people from work, people interested in cooking, and we might have a celebrity guest, a person who has distinguished himself or herself in the culinary field.

Last night the theme was Mexican. I made caramel ice cream!

Here is the caramel under way.

Isn't that wild? You had to heat up sugar and water and then let it boil.

"I'll believe this when I see it," I said, out loud.

But it worked! First you had to boil it unattended. That is something I have a problem doing. I always want to attend to things. You wait until it turns brown around the edges and then you stir it until it is a deep amber.

All went according to plan!

Then, zut alors, I realized the heavy cream in the fridge had gone south, despite the expiration date being still two weeks away. Forbid it, Almighty God! I had to run to the store and get more heavy cream. By the time I came back my caramel had hardened into this disc. That was all right! The Joy of Cooking said just to heat it gently and soften it.

The Joy of Cooking's directions were not perfect and kept me guessing. But you know the slogan, stand facing the stove! That is what I did and the ice cream was a hit.

It is fun to have cooking adventures! Which is what I did over the weekend. Friday it was our friend Dan's birthday, hence this cake. Which, I was proud of it! Thank you again, '80s Betty Crocker! Plus, I love birthday sprinkles.

And then came church coffee hour Sunday morning, and cooking club was Sunday night.

Speaking of caramel and the Catholic Church, one thing that cracks me up is when people write "Carmel" instead of "caramel." It happens all the time!

Hence, Carmel Ice Cream.

If you love it you are a Carmelite!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Pie Academy

So... today, over a week after Easter, I finally find this cookbook "Pie."

I had been looking and looking for it!

Today I was not looking for it. Easter being behind me I was doing my other work. But while I was looking for certain documents I saw this big book. Even before I could see what it was, I thought: That is it!

That is "Pie"!

After I got through Easter without it!

"Pie" is by Ken Haedrich whom I have never heard of although I admire that German name. He has an, ahem, online community called The Pie Academy. It is dedicated to the idea that anyone can make a pie from scratch.

I like that!

As it is, it is just as well that this book stayed lost in my chaotic house until now. Who knows, had I had it, I might not have made Divine Lime Pie.

Cookbooks stay lost until you need them!

Now, let's see what's in this.

I want to make Fresh Plum and Port Pie. And Calvados-Apple Custard Pie. Yikes, Sweet Summer Corn Pie! Could that be in the offing this summer?

Golden Delicious Apple Pie with Oatmeal Crumb Topping. Honey Apple Currant Pie in a Whole Wheat Crust. Very Cranberry-Pear Pie. I will have to remember these come fall.

Perhaps by then I will be a student of the Pie Academy. Oh, wait! It is free! Where do I sign? I just signed up using that link up above.

I am still waiting for my email confirmation. Oh look! It is here! It begins, "Hello, fellow pie lover!"

It promises me recipes and insider information regarding the pie community.

I will report!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Easter feaster

This year at Easter things went well!

It is a funny thing when family occasions approach. There is the battle between cooking and cleaning. This year I learned a lesson. Cleaning takes a back seat. You need your house to be not disgusting, but beyond that, don't sweat the cleaning. Cook.

With which, here is what I did this year.

In our family we cannot decide between ham and lamb and so it is fun to have both. That is what I did. The lamb came from Tops. Yay, Tops! Best price in town, $5.99 a pound. The ham came from Aldi. This was a spiral ham. I am never not doing a spiral ham ever again. So much easier, and I doused it liberally with Spirit Glaze For Ham out of my ancient Joy of Cooking. It gave it a taste of bourbon and of orange.

I thought about scalloped potatoes but you know what? Baked potatoes. With sour cream and butter. The potatoes slid into the oven beneath the meat.

My sister brought a beautiful salad incorporating cucumbers and beets and Herb Gerard.

And for dessert.... here is where my 1980s Betty Crocker cookbook, the classic edition pictured at left, came into play.

I had in mind chocolate cream pie and some kind of lemon pie. Haha... opening up this old Pie cookbook I have, I saw that was my plan last year, too! There was a chocolate pie I had made and a lemon pie I had made. I had written notes. The chocolate pie had turned out to be more like a big cookie -- good, and Howard had liked it, but it was not exactly a pie. The lemon pie had been a nice twist. Not a lemon meringue pie, but very good.

This is why you write notes! Thank you, last year's self!

So I did the Chocolate Cream Pie out of Betty Crocker. The Lemon Meringue Pie was on the next page and so, no muss no fuss, I did that.

I love Betty Crocker and here is one reason why. Both pies asked for pre-baked crusts. Normally I try to avoid those because you need pie weights, or dried beans, to fill up the crust when you bake it. I don't have pie weights. I did have dried beans dedicated to this purpose but at some point, disgusted with my overflowing kitchen, I tossed them.

Betty Crocker just had you pop the crusts in the oven!! No pie weights! No hill of beans!

Is that the greatest or what??

Both the pies were a great success. I learned a new art, of making custard. And with a few leftover egg whites I made something else new, a meringue crust. Betty Crocker made it sound easy and, sure enough, it was.

Betty Crocker suggested two uses for the meringue crust -- Divine Lime Pie or Chocolate Angel Pie. I went with the Divine Lime, in honor of Christ's divinity.

The Divine Lime Pie was the hit of the dessert table along with Apple and Elderberry Pie, made by my brother-in-law David. Even now I remember my slice of that pie with pleasure. It had just a haunting taste, perfect fruit, beautiful spice.

It was fun, at work I got to talk to our food critic, Andrew Galarneau, about our Easter table. When I mentioned the Apple and Elderberry Pie, he went, "Whoa. Whoa!"

He has as great sense for food. Because that was my thought exactly. Whoa!!

You know me, always obsessing over what I eat. But there comes a time to indulge.

This was it!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Herb Gerard and me

The crop of bishop's weed is coming in. I think it is going to be a good year!

One goal of mine, among many, is to become a good bishop's weed cook. Looking back on my efforts a couple of years ago I am impressed by the idea of red lentil soup with bishop's weed. See, this is why I keep a Web log. Otherwise such details might be forgotten.

This evening bishop's weed stands in for spinach in Deborah Madison's mushroom and spinach stew. This is just a simple dish you throw together with a lot of butter, which of course is the secret to its deliciousness. Piously, this being Holy Week, I cut back on the butter somewhat. But it is still yummy.

To my shock, the latest issue of Eating Well sings the praises of the bishop's weed. It says to discard stems. When they are this small though it does not seem to matter. The tiny stems add a kind of texture. Harvesting the bishop's weed is very easy otherwise. You just wade into the field and grab huge handfuls! Then next day you have a fresh crop of young tender bishop's weed leaves. And the problem with this is what?

I am sort of collecting different names for bishop's weed such as Giersch (the German name), snow on the mountain, ground elder, and goutweed (because it is good for many ailments including gout). Today I found one I do not recall seeing before, Herb Gerard.

That is like a name! "Hi, I'm Herb Gerard, and you're sure looking good this evening."

Merriam-Webster offers the loveliest explanation.

translation of Medieval Latin or New Latin herba (Sancti) Gerardi, after Gerardus (St. Gerard) †1120 founder of the Knights of St. John

I was married at beautiful St. Gerard's Church.

I should start calling this beautiful plant Herb Gerard.