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.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

94 Candles


It was Dorothy's birthday recently at St. Anthony's. She is 94.

Remember Dorothy? As in Driving Miss Dorothy? I am not driving Miss Dorothy at the moment. My friend Lizzie is driving Miss Dorothy because I am doing the baking for the coffee hour and because Lizzie is just a cool person.

As it happened Dorothy had two (2) birthday cakes. One for each of her 47 years which together makes 94. I made one covered in birthday sprinkles. I love making birthday cakes and the icing on the cake is when you get to use those rainbow sprinkles! Remember, I did that last year for Dorothy's birthday. This year Lizzie  stepped in and in addition to my cake made something fancier.  She made her famous carrot cake! To cakes are better than one! I am not complaining, I will tell you that right now.

Dorothy cannot claim, as Leonard Pennario could, to have been baptized at St. Anthony's. She is an immigrant! She remembers being a tiny girl and seeing the Statue of Liberty. That was literally 90 years ago.

Dorothy blew out the candles which means she will get her wish. I know that her wish must be wonderful.


I am getting back on my feet after not keeping up with this Web log so I will be sharing some memories going forward. Recent memories, not distant ones.

A closeup of my cake. Hey, with candles it looked really cool!


The Work in Progress.


What fun it is, baking a cake, you know?

Whose birthday is it next?


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Concerto at Amvets


One of the many highlights of my week was finding Leonard Pennario's Grieg and Rachmaninoff record. He plays Grieg's Piano Concerto and Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with Erich Leinsdorf and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

I found the record at Amvets!

That is it pictured at the top. Study the picture so you will know this record if you see it. But you will not! It is a rare score.

You never find Pennario records at thrift shops, not even his best-selling "Concerto Under the Stars." People hold on to these records. As Howard said they are heirlooms.

And the beautiful thing was, I had stopped into Amvets after work, to chill before I got home. That is a strategy I have had for years. Other people have it too by the way. I always see people in office clothes, walking around looking at stuff, just unwinding.

One woman in office clothes, we got talking a few weeks ago by the cake pans. She was trying to decide between one Bundt pan and another. One was a style I had had my eye on, and I explained to her why it was superior.

Then she bought it! And she went away all happy and beaming. And I was thinking, Why did I talk her into buying that pan??

I wanted that pan!

Oh well, I do not need another cake pan.

But I always need another Pennario record! And it was funny, before finding the record the other day, I had been stressed out, antisocial. I had even been on the fence about staying in Amvets another five minutes. And suddenly everything changed.

In the checkout line I realized: It changes you to be holding a Leonard Pennario record. You become graceful and smart and inspired and you smile.

That is a wonderful thing to happen to you.

And for just 99 cents!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Spring surprise


As soon as my Christmas tree is down I declare it spring. And from then on, I cheer spring on.

The tree came down around Candlemas. Me being a schlep, my wreath is still up. But other people's wreaths are up too. I am not alone.

Still it feels great to feel spring in the air, or imagine I do. That picture up above that I took the other day does not exactly scream spring. And yet... and yet ...

The daffodils have been inching up for a few weeks. Today I spotted the sorrel plant! And I bit into one of the leaves. That sour-lemon taste! That is spring!

And now for the big surprise. Remember those pathetic containers I put into the bishop's weed? They are covered in dead leaves.

Idly I brushed the leaves off this one tub. And lo and behold ...


It was brimming with oregano!

It is not as if I can get everything right. A stick stuck in the pot read "Apple Mint." Perhaps I might see some apple mint later. But for now, oregano! A lot of it! I think the leaves were making the planter into some kind of a greenhouse.

Because I did not have this oregano last summer. But I sure have it now!

Now I can see hope inching up with me like those daffodil shoots. Every year I have garden ambitions. Every year, because I have too many irons in the fire, the grand plans end in chaos.

Oh well.

It makes for good entertainment!





Monday, February 6, 2017

Blaise of glory


After Mass on Sunday we got our throats blessed in accordance with the Feast of St. Blaise. Technically the feast of St. Blaise was Friday, Feb. 3, but you do the best you can, you know?

I was one of the stragglers because I was up in the organ loft. I snapped that picture of a few of the other last folks in line. The line was long! Many many throats were blessed by both Father Justus and our new pastor, Msgr. Joe. That is Father Justus doing the honors in this picture.

One reason I was late to the throat blessing was that after Mass I got gabbing with Josephine, the organist.

"St. Blaise is one of the 14 Holy Helpers," I told her. And I explained how the 14 Holy Helpers are saints turned to since medieval times for specific purposes. There is St. Blaise for the throat. St. Christopher for travel. St. Vitus for, I don't know, St. Vitus Dance. St. Barbara for fever. St. Elmo for, I don't know, St. Elmo's Fire. And I forget the rest, but with a little thought they will come to me.

Josephine said, "Mary, I never would have known that."

I said, "Nobody in the world knows that but me."

Which is true! With the exception of anyone who shared any of our previous 14 Holy Helpers adventures. Those folks would know that St. Blaise is a 14 Holy Helper.

And then. To top things off ....

Today I had to go to the endodontist. And I passed Fourteen Holy Helpers!

It was just like that other time a million years ago when I went to the same endo.

Holy West Seneca, Batman!

The 14 Holy Help is where you find it!



Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The new January


February is the new January!

It is the fresh fresh start to the New Year. That is how I see it anyway.

January is not all it is cracked up to be, in my experience. You go into it with resolutions and good intentions. You wind up just sitting around, eating chocolate. It is comfy but sleepy.

But then ... February!

You awaken. The year is a twelfth gone! What have you been doing? But now there is this bright new month. Literally bright. Feb. 1 has brought sun. With Valentine's Day. Hot chocolate. (OK, so you do not get away from chocolate.) Ice skating, now that I have learned to love it. New energy. New promise.

Not only that but February happens to be the shortest month. Tight deadlines are great when it comes to getting anything done. The less time the better. Take it from me. I have been to the mountain and back.

It is not too late to make something out of your year!

You can go back to your resolutions starting Feb. 1!

A fresh page in your bullet journal.

A new page in the calendar.



A new start!


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

In the bleak midwinter


Technically the Christmas season lasts until Candlemas which is still a few days from now. That means you can still listen to Christmas music.

And it is apt!

I was looking over the photos I've taken over the last few weeks. Bleak, bleak, bleak!

But beautiful, you know?

I took the space age picture up above just today. That was this morning when I pulled into the parking lot at work! And here are a few others.


That was when I was in the car with my friend Sharon. We were working on a story for the Western New York 100 Things series in The Buffalo News.

I took this one in Delaware Park.


It is as if I have a black-and-white camera!



That was when I went ice skating, an event that proved newsworthy. It was part of our 100 Things series. I have been having the greatest time with that.

Back to black and white.


Oops, a little green got in there. How did that happen?




It never ends.

In the bleak midwinter!