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Bird Nest Cupcakes & Running in Circles Naked and Screaming 2

Posted on March 18, 2012 by crankycheryl

Today was the second day of our school’s production of Sound of Music, a rip-roaring production filled with costume changes, huge sets, and a cast of 140 elementary school students.  And that meant that it was the second day of the bake sale, and since my attempt at highly appropriate linzer torte cookies was an utter failure, I decided to whip up some ultra-cute cupcakes.

Why not cute little things with birds’ nests on top, with jelly bean eggs?  It’s spring!  So cute!

Great.

I scrounged the cupboards for chocolate, and mixed together about a cup of what I found (this consisted of whatever was left from some grain-sweetened chips I had bought, a decapitated Easter bunny that was forgotten in the freezer last year, and two squares of semi-sweet baking chocolate) in a make-shift double boiler (metal bowl over sauce pan of barely simmering water).  I let it melt, stirred it up, and then mixed in about two cups of those weird chow mein noodles from a can.  I gave it a good but careful stir, just trying to get the things basically coated but not wanting to smash the crispy noodles up.  With the noodles coated, and my hands clean, I took a medium pinch of the noodles, gathered them into some sort of nest shape, placed a couple of naturally colored jelly beans on top, and then set them on parchment to cool and set.

They were sweet.

The phone rang.  My friend was on the other line, reporting what another mom had found in the boys’ locker room as the kids were getting into their costumes the night before.  My son, E., naked, running around yelling in people’s faces.  Girls outside the locker room shrieking, “Call the police!  Someone’s naked!”  Boys looking nervous.  Chaos, of course, ensuing.

It was time to mix up the cupcakes, which I did, doubling this recipe to make a scant 2 dozen (22, to be precise).  With a pit of anxiety in my stomach and icy fingers, I was listening to my friend talk while I creamed the sugar and butter, preheated the oven, measured and remeasured as I forgot which step I was on.

As a kid, I remembered an awful lot of boys running around naked in locker rooms and at beaches and the like.  Maybe that part wasn’t so bad, even though it freaked out the other kids.

There was more.  Because during intermission the friend on the phone had gone backstage to find E. with a broken prop, surrounded by third grade boys, all of whom, upon seeing her, pointed at him and yelled, “He did it!”  Which, being no dummy, he completely denied.  My heart broke, picturing him there all alone.

These are familiar moments with this boy of mine.  While his brother collects and treasures and attracts friends, E. just seemed to spring from the egg ready to go at the world kind of askew.   With deep and relentless loves of dinosaurs and superheroes and villains and far off places.  With questions about why and why not and how and what does this mean, and don’t you want to know everything I want to tell you?  With a pure little spirit, who still holds my hand on the way to school and keeps his big feelings pure and strong.  With an imagination that has him outside creating worlds as long as the day will allow.  And without one true friend at his side.

On the phone my friend asked if I could come to the performance to help out, to keep an eye on my guy and “ride herd” on the rest.

Sure.

I made frosting from this recipe (yeah, the same as the post that had the cake above), maybe doubling it, and making it vanilla instead of lemon.  The boys came home and I asked what had happened with the prop, and E. told me that two other boys had told him to get it, but that when it broke they started yelling and “stopped acting like they were playing with me.  It was like they forgot.”

He told me who was there, and how he was surprised when the rest of them acted like they didn’t know what was going on.   Predictably, we talked about making good choices, and stopping and thinking before acting, and about deciding whether someone was acting like a friend or not.  I talked until his eyes glazed over, and then I kissed him and told him I was on his side.  And that I love him.

I sent one boy’s mom an email to let her know I wanted to talk.

I put the nests on the cupcakes, the cupcakes in the carrier, and the carrier next to the door.  I was thinking about how I pushed him to do the play because I wanted him to be part of something at this school of ours, that I wanted him to have shared memories with the other kids.  I thought back to kindergarten and how the teachers had told me that I’d better help him figure out how to navigate socially by third grade, because that’s when the cliques are really established and roles are determined.

I tried to load up the mom bag with fidget toys and things to keep them busy, and clothed, and engaged enough to stay away from crucial props.  We left for the play.  Driving, I was thinking about how seriously I had taken the warning, and the therapist and the classes and the groups and the training and the parenting classes, and now none of it turns out to have been enough.  And when was someone going to give this kid a break and be his friend for all the great traits that he has?

Arriving, I found myself a.  without the cupcakes I had left there beside the door and b. feeling so angry and isolated and protective that I could barely talk to other adults.  Both boys needed help getting ready, and I’m surprised I didn’t stab myself or a child with a safety pin as I tried to keep it together so I could get them into their little lederhosen.  Z. and another boy had words and slapping and I intervened, and before I could really even say anything, the two of them apologized and agreed to be friends.  They ran off to join their group, and E. and I got him ready and in place for his opening number.

The director had created a special, small, part for him because he couldn’t handle the length and intensity of the long rehearsals, but wanted to be part of the play.  This left him with a role that he adored, and with a lot of time offstage.

While his brother sang and had his most adorable and excellent dance number, E. and I were mostly in the back of the room.  The best item in the bag turned out to be the sleek green booklight I had picked up at the bookstore.  He drove it along the lines in the gym floor, making motor sounds, and attracting the attention of passersby.

To my credit, I did not jump up and scream, “What the hell are you looking at?  Can’t a 9-year-old boy pretend that the damned light is an alienmobile instead of trying to figure out whether the hills really are in fact alive with the sound of stupid music for the 7th time this week?”

I did a lot of wandering around and breathing deeply.  I bought flowers to give to the boys after curtain calls.  I described the beautiful cupcakes I had left at home to anyone who would listen.  I whispered to a friend that at least I wasn’t going up to the mean kids and telling them about how people who peak in elementary school find themselves with shallow lives without a shred of substance.

And I watched my son, happily and obliviously playing with this stupid little flashlight, and wondering which of us was actually acting crazier.

We got through the performance without a hitch, and both boys were delighted, tired, proud.  On the way home, Z. started crying and said that they just had to do the performance again, and he wasn’t ready for it to be over.  Which is exactly how I remember feeling about every play and dance recital I ever did growing up, and it made me think that maybe putting them in the play hadn’t been such a terrible idea.  Probably.

Plus we had 22 cupcakes at home.

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Zucchini-Cheddar Muffins 0

Posted on August 22, 2011 by crankycheryl

What kills me is that when I consult this blog as a record of my days, it’s going to look like I did practically nothing this summer.

Friends, I did everything this summer.  The boys and I have been out and about, camping and playing and exploring. We’ve read a ton and seen movies and visited family and friends.  I’ve been cooking up a storm.  Canning, freezing, snacking, everything.

I’ve been working, and even (sound the trumpet) am preparing to start a brand new full time job with the University of Vermont’s Center for Sustainable Agriculture.  (Which, let’s face it, I wouldn’t jinx by advertising in advance, except the director has called and gotten my social security number and birthdate to get my paperwork started, so I’m pretty sure it’s true.)

I’ve written articles and emails and lots and lots of copy for a variety of projects.  Just not here, somehow.

Ah well.  We’re here now.

Among all of these other things, I had the good fortune to be able to provide the food for a friend’s brunch on the day after his summer wedding.  They had friends and family coming from all over the country, and they wanted to show off Vermont’s great food with a big Green Mountain brunch feast.

We got planning, and I scored some help from a friend who’s a NECI grad, and we spent a couple of days making all manner of piecrust and waffles and slicing fruit and making currant lemonade and steeping fresh mint for iced tea.  And maybe the most humble-appearing item of our line-up were these muffins, more like scones because they were so rich.  And containing zucchini because Pike said, “Well, it’s summer in Vermont.  We’ve got to have zucchini there.”  Which is totally true.

These muffins are so buttery, cheesy and good that they would have deserved to be on the menu anyway.  Just today, weeks later,  Z. helped himself to one right out the freezer from the few leftovers we’ve still got.  He would have eaten it that way, but Greg took pity and got him to thaw it in the toaster oven first.  Good.   Good either way.

Zucchini-Cheddar Muffins
Makes about 12
Adapted from Joy of Cooking

  1. Preheat an oven to 350.
  2. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin and set aside.
  3. Whisk together in a bowl:
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 4 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
       4.   Add and toss to separate and coat with the flour mixture:
  • 1 c. shredded zucchini
  • 1 c. shredded cheddar
  • 1/4 c. chopped scallions
  • 3 T. chopped fresh basil (we had purple, so that’s what I used)
      5.   Whisk together in another bowl:
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 c. buttermilk or yogurt
  • 4 T. melted unsalted butter or vegetable oil
       6.  Add to the flour mixture and mix with a few firm but gentle strokes, just until the dry ingredients are moistened.       (Let the batter stay lumpy.)   Scoop into cups of pan, then bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until a skewer comes out     clean.  Let cool in pan for a few minutes, then enjoy while a little warm, or else cool on rack.

 

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Lobsters, Cheesecake, Burial Plans: Summer 2011 2

Posted on July 20, 2011 by crankycheryl

It’s turning out to be kind of a crazy summer around here.

Z. turned six two weeks ago.  He’d been planning his birthday for a year, and actively fixating on it for at least six months, encouraged by the constant flow of birthdays in his kindergarten class.

After extensive negotiations we decided to go camping, and that I’d go into a nearby town and find him a cheesecake.  And I’d get him lobster.  So we went camping.  I had contacted the Barnard General Store, who ordered and cooked lobsters for us at a ridiculously cheap price.  I picked them up and brought them back to our campsite to eat with corn and potatoes for dinner.


I had been worried about the boys’ sensitive little hearts.  This was going to be the first time that they had eaten something while actually looking at its face.   I placed a lobster on each plate, and started helping the boys crack them open to get to the meat.  After I had removed a claw and handed it to E. to start to get the meat out of, he took it, pinched the lobster’s still-attached antenna eand started singing,

Why are you pinching yourself, why’d you do that?!  Why you pinching yourself, huh, huh?!

And cackling wildly.  I realized they were made of tougher stuff than I had given them credit for.

After dinner it was on to dessert.  I hadn’t been able to find a cheesecake in even one of Woodstock’s precious little bakeries and stores.  So I had bought gelatin and sugar and cream cheese and, along with crushed up pretzels and fresh cherries we had back at camp, turned it into one of  those silly no-bake ones.

And I got out the candles and we sang and there were presents and then we tried the cake.  I thought it was pretty good, considering how it came into being.

Z. tried it, and then set me straight, looking earnestly at me and saying, Mommy, I wanted a cheesecake like this (shows me both thumbs up), but this one is like this (thumbs sideways, reproachful look).  I think I sort of mumbled something about how it may not have been perfect but wasn’t it cool that he had a mom who cared enough to make him cheesecake?  While camping?  With no oven?

Whatever.  He was right.  The only cool thing about it was that it actually happened.

And then a few days later, just about the time I had gotten the camping stuff put away, the boys hit me with this beaut as we were leaving the Y after swimming:

Mommy, when you die do you want to be all burned up or buried in the ground in a coffin?

What the hell?  Can they hear the hypochondria streaming between my ears?  My mental reviews of the state of my will because my foot hurts and PT isn’t working and my restless leg syndrome is getting weird again?

I asked them if they really wanted to know.  They assured me they did.

I could have done what the textbooks say, which would have been to answer the question as it was asked and then shut up.

Instead, I took a different route.

Instead I said something like,

Well, you know how I really care about other people and about recycling and taking care of planet Earth, right?  See, you can be what’s called an organ donor when you’re done with your body and that’s really cool because they take like your eyes or your liver and they give it so someone else so they can use it.  And you can even let people learn from you after you’re done living by letting them use your body for experiments and stuff and then they get to be really good doctors and help other people and that’s super great because it’s like you helped those people too.  And then when everything useful is gone I want to be all burned up and put on the compost pile at cohousing so I can be part of the garden forever.  Cool, right?

My final resting place. Or maybe it'll be over by the tomatoes.

You’re probably as surprised as I was to learn that they didn’t think it was cool at all.  They started wailing and yelling with their eyes all wide and welling up and everything, and then they swore they’d use swords and guns to defend my dead body so it could be in the ground in a coffin like it should be.  And that they could put their own coffins next to mine when they died.  And that we’d all spend eternity lying in our boxes next to where their dad buried his dead pet rats.

I’m pretty sure I agreed to all this.

After the crappy cheesecake, it only seemed fair.

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The Vermontito Mojito 1

Posted on July 02, 2011 by crankycheryl


I’ve come late to liking rhubarb, but I’m making up for that with gusto now.  And with alcohol.

The spring favorite is a nice Vermont approximation of citrus flavors and along with booze and some mint and maple, it makes a great mojito.*

 

It’s also a really nice pink rhubarb lemonade if you leave the liquor out.

Vermontito Mojito
makes 4

  • Ice
  • 6 ounces light rum (you can use some Vermont vodka if you really want to keep it local)
  • 12 mint sprigs, or spearmint, 8 roughly broken apart
  • 4 cups chopped rhubarb stalks (toss out those leaves – they’ll give you a tummyache)
  • 1/3 c. maple syrup (or more to taste)
  • Club soda

1.  Cook the rhubarb with 2 cups of water on a low simmer until very soft, then either strain to get the liquid (mashing up the rhubarb well to get out all of its sour goodness) or blend in a blender.  Cool liquid before using.

2. Place ice in beverage shaker then add in the rum/vodka, 8 broken up mint sprigs, 1/2 cup rhubarb liquid and maple. Shake well, taste and adjust with more rhubarb juice or syrup as necessary.  Serve over ice in a high ball glass, topped off with a splash of club soda and a sprig of mint.

4.  Get ready to make a second batch.

* Purists could quibble about my appropriation of the term “mojito” for a drink with no lime and no rum.  I don’t disagree, but would just suggest that this is a lot closer to an actual mojito than, say, a green apple martini is to that actual cocktail.

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Tuesday Tip: Don’t Buy Brown Sugar 4

Posted on June 14, 2011 by crankycheryl

The other day, I ran into a neighbor with a decidedly fretful look on her face.  We were both in the cohousing pantry and she was looking for the brown sugar for a recipe she was making at home.  There was none on the shelf.

It made me realize that I have not been properly shouting out one of my favorite kitchen tips:

Don’t buy brown sugar. 

Brown sugar is sugar that’s been processed (i.e., granulated and had the molasses separated out) and then had a certain amount of molasses added back in.  You can buy it, but Cheryl’s Law of Pantry Inhabitants dictates that then you will forever have the wrong grade of darkness: dark when your recipe wants light, light if it calls for medium, etc.

But you can avoid this.  Instead, buy plain old sugar (if you’re a Costco member you can get a great deal on fair trade turbinado-type, by the way)  and a jar of plain old molasses.  Then, when a recipe calls for brown sugar you just combine the two.  Here’s what I do (and I’d love to know if your ratios differ):

  • For light brown sugar, I add 1 T. molasses per cup of white sugar
  • For medium brown sugar, add 2 T. molasses
  • And for dark, add 3 T.

Nice, right?

Tuesday Tip is a new feature I’ll be offering weekly, focusing on ways to make your food life more simple, thrifty, healthy and family-friendly.  If there are things you’re seeking or would like to know more about, do send a note!

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Yellow Jacket Cake 0

Posted on June 11, 2011 by crankycheryl

Considering how he’s not really a foodie, E. invents an awful lot of new recipes.  There have been cheese soup suggestions, a lobster and strawberry thing, a hotdog and watermelon soup, and there are always ideas for cakes.  I slightly wish I was one of the moms who let their kids make whatever they dream up, could indulge all of his imaginings, but I can’t afford fantasy groceries.  And I hate wasted food.

Z. is different, a guy who likes to access information he knows is good.  When he asked for oatmeal the other morning, he was excited to run to our Fairy Tale Feasts book and find the recipe associated with it before running off for his little step-stool so he could watch it bubble away on the stove.  He nodded in satisfaction when it tasted right.

Every now and then we all agree on something that E. has dreamed up, and that’s how we came to make the Yellow Jacket Cake he’s been suggesting for some months now.    He kept telling me about the yellow lemon cake that had “sugar … milk … and eggs.  And flour, mommy.  And it looks like a yellow jacket.”  We needed a cake for our big school spring event, something that would have great kid appeal, but not send me into a state of cringe with its ingredients.  The usual thing is to make one from a box, cover it with frosting from a can, and then dump leftover candy all over the top.  (The tip from other moms is that it’s your ticket to moving out all the leftover Easter candy you still have around.)  But cake is easy, and I don’t like to bake from a mix unless I’m cooking for a highly allergic type person and I need to make sure that there’s been absolutely no contamination from offending ingredients.

Buzz buzz.  This recipe made one single-layer lemon-marshmallow cake and a half-dozen cupcakes for home.  E took a look at the cake  and said, “It’s okay, but I was expecting it to be a lot taller.  Next time: five layers, Mommy.”  I nodded.  Maybe.  But I noted that our cake was among the first ones chosen at the big school shindig, so I’m declaring it officially good enough.

Yellow Jacket Cake
Serves 8-plus
I made mine as one single-layer cake and six cupcakes, but for simplicity’s sake am writing this as if for a double layer cake.

Lemon Cake:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 1 t. fresh lemon zest or 1/2 t. dried lemon peel
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 6 tbsp. milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  1. Preheat oven to 325° F. Grease and flour 2 8-inch layer pans with removable bottoms.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Beat in egg yolks, then lemon juice and zest.
  3. Mix together flour and baking powder. Add to butter mixture. Add milk and vanilla and mix well.
  4. Spread batter into pans, then bake 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  5. (While cake is baking, make the ridiculously easy and vaguely naughty frosting below.)
  6. Remove cake from pans and cool on racks.

Lemon-Marshmallow Frosting

  • 3 c. Fluff (or Ricemellow, if you’d like to be reasonably pure)
  • 1 1/2 c. organic non-hydrogenated palm frosting
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • pinch of lemon zest or dried lemon peel
  • Optional: tiny dash of yellow food coloring
  • Optional: black and yellow colored sugars and yellow and black candy
  1. Beat all ingredients together until fluffy and thoroughly combined.  Taste and adjust flavor to your palate, with more fluff or lemon juice as necessary.
  2. Frost the cooled cakes:  place one upside down on a large plate, and spread a layer of frosting over the top of it.  Place the other layer, upside down, on top.  Spread a thin layer of frosting on the top and sides of the cake – this is your crumb coat, so don’t worry if it does in fact have crumbs and bits of cake in it.  Then cover that first coat with the remaining frosting, making it as swirly and fluffy as you like.
  3. To make it yellow jacket-ish, sprinkle black and yellow sugars in stripes across the top, then toss on any appropriately colored leftover stale crappy candy you can’t even believe you bought in the first place.   Voila.

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Fan-freaking-tastic Faux Eggplant Parmigiana 4

Posted on April 27, 2011 by crankycheryl

I needed something delicious, vegan and gluten free to bring as the alternate entree for a dinner at our church recently, and I scored some very slightly roughed up eggplants for a good price at our co-op and off I went with this.  It’s got a couple of steps, but the results are seriously great.  Isn’t it nice when your friends are chasing you down for a recipe for something you’ve brought?  Sure, and here it is.

Won’t Miss What Isn’t In It Eggplant Parmigiana
Adapted from Barbara Kafka’s Vegetable Love
Serves 4

Preheat the oven to 500 (yes 500).

1.  Slice lengthwise into 1/4″ thick slices:

  • 1 eggplant

Soak in well-salted water for 1/2 hour.

2.  Put a metal (no plastic at all) rack on a baking sheet and put them in the oven to preheat as well.  Once the oven is hot, drain the eggplant, pat it dry, brush generously with:

  • olive oil, about 1/4 c. in all

Put slices on the rack and roast for 20-25 minutes, turning once.  When done, the skin will be a bit crisped and the flesh will be soft and tender and not feel as spongy as it did starting out.  Remove from oven and place aside.  Turn oven down to 375.

3. Generously oil an 8″x8″ baking dish and set aside.

4.  Puree together in a blender or food processor or whatever your favorite such device is:

  • 1 lb. package extra firm tofu (get organic so you can avoid Frankensoy, ok?)
  • 1 T. fresh basil leaves
  • 1 t. chopped garlic
  • 1/2 t. salt

5.  Measure and place aside:

  • 1 1/2 c. homemade or storebought tomato sauce.

6.  Spread 1/4 c. of the sauce on the bottom of the pan, then top with eggplant slices just to cover the pan.  Spoon a total of about 1/3 c. tofu mixture on the eggplant, then top with another 1/4 c. tomato sauce.  Repeat with eggplant and tofu once more, then combine remaining tomato sauce and tofu and pour over the top.  Bake for about 25 minutes, let cool just a little and serve.

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Apricot-Coconut Macaroons (with sugar or not) 1

Posted on April 21, 2011 by crankycheryl

 

I don’t seem to have landed any seder invitations this year, but I still want a taste of Passover.  When she was alive, my grandma Ruth would buy boxes of matzo that we’d eat with margarine, along with little almond macaroons out of the can and jars of Manischewitz gefilte fish.

For better or worse, that’s what Passover tastes like to me.  We weren’t religious at all so there was never a seder – just a trip to my grandmother’s pantry and companionable snack at her kitchen table.

But now I don’t want processed foods so much, and I’m not having flour and sugar.   Still, I wanted something Passover-ish, and these occurred to me.  They just couldn’t be easier (just make sure to soak those apricots ahead) and they’re really good.  If, like me, you’re off sugar, make them with the unsweetened coconut for a treat that’s fruity but barely sweet.  And if you’re a normal sort of eater, go ahead and use the sweetened coconut.  Yum.

Apricot-Coconut Macaroons
Makes about 20

1.  For at least 2 hours or overnight, soak in just enough warm water to cover:

  • 1 c. dried apricots

When very soft, puree with just enough of the soaking liquid to allow it to process into a smooth paste.

2.  Preheat oven to 325.  Oil a baking sheet or cover with parchment and set aside.

3.  Beat until stiff and dry in a medium bowl:

  • 2 egg whites

4.  Add to the egg whites and combine well:

  • 2 1/2 c. unsweetened (or sweetened) shredded coconut
  • 1 c. of the apricot puree
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • (pinch of cardamom, ginger, cinnamon or dried orange peel: optional)

The mix will be thick and fairly chunky.  Just make sure the ingredients are well incorporated.

5.  Form into small balls and then flatten one side.  Place on the baking sheet a couple of inches apart (they don’t need room to spread, but you do want good air flow between them so they can cook evenly and brown well).  Bake for about 25 minutes, or until fragrant and golden.  Let cool and eat.

They’ll keep for 3 or 4 days at room temperature, and freeze well too.

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Homemade Chocolate Syrup 1

Posted on April 09, 2011 by crankycheryl

E. & Z. regard chocolate milk as a birthright.  And I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that the big old standard Hershey’s bottle has been the only way that high fructose corn syrup has entered our house for several years.  Given the cost of the organic stuff, and the daily habit of consumption, I rationalized.  Having read the label, I also concluded that emulsifiers and sweet syrups were probably necessary to get something that would mix with milk in a satisfying way.

But then we ran out a couple of weeks ago, and I thought I’d see what I could find for a recipe.   I was delighted to find this one over on Serious Eats, albeit further embarrassed to find out how easy it was to make with the simplest of ingredients.

Naturally, I’m a convert to the homemade kind and I hope you’ll give it a try to in the name of thrifty, homemade, kid-friendly deliciousness.

 

Homemade Chocolate Syrup
Reprinted from Serious Eats

Makes about 2 1/2 c.

1. Whisk together in a heavy saucepan:

  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

2.  Heat to medium and slowly add in:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

Keep whisking until thick and well combined.  Stir by generous tablespoons into your favorite milk and enjoy.  Store in the fridge for use as needed.

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Vermont Mulligatawny 1

Posted on March 25, 2011 by crankycheryl

I’ve had a cold for a week and all I want is soup.  Spicy soup, especially.  And the other day a can of coconut milk jumped out of the cupboard (probably literally, as you know if you’ve ever seen how I cram things in there) at me, and I had some chicken breast left over from a roast chicken (I always do, since I really don’t like white meat), and before I knew it, mulligatawny was on its way.

You know mulligatawny, right?  It’s the creamy curried soup with chicken and usually rice.  In this case, I had root vegetables about and used those instead; it was a nice change from the other ways we’ve been eating them all winter long.

And the soup was just right for this cold-riddled time of year: creamy, spicy, hearty and great for warming you up from the inside out.  Even our visiting 5-year old neighbor agreed … while E. & Z. were eating frozen Costco pizza and staring at him in a sort of confused surprise.

A couple of cooking notes:

  • I started with cooked leftover chicken, but if yours isn’t cooked, cut it into pieces and brown it well in the first step, removing it before you add the vegetables, and then returning it to the pot to finish cooking in step 4.
  • Go ahead and substitute in other vegetables if you like, but make sure they’re mostly of the mild and savory variety for best flavor.

Vermont Mulligatawny
Serves 3-4

1.  In a big pot, heat until rippling:

  • 3 T. mild oil (I had some palm oil around, which I used for the flavor.  This would also be a good place to use up any ghee or coconut oil you may have.)

Add:

  • 2 carrots, cut into small-ish dice
  • 1 celery root, peeled and cut into small-ish dice
  • 2 potatoes, cut into small-ish dice
  • 1 onion, cut into small-ish dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • one 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced (I was out and added 1 T. ground ginger instead)

3.  Stir, then add to it:

  • 1 T. curry powder

Which is what I totally would have done if I had had it.  Fortunately I had a lot of interesting bits of spices and seeds and things around and got out my awesome molcajete and ground it up instead, using approximately:

  • 1 small dried hot pepper
  • 1 t. cumin seeds
  • 1 t. turmeric
  • 1/2 t. coriander seeds
  • 1 cardamom pod

4.   Add 2 T. water, then cook the vegetable and curry mix over medium-low heat, covered, for 20-30 minutes, or until vegetables are easily pierced with a fork.

5.  Add to the pot:

  • 2 c. cooked chicken, cut into pieces about the same size as the vegetables
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 4 c. chicken stock (or vegetable stock, or water if you must)

Stir well, bring to a boil, then add:

  • 1 – 1 1/2 c. unsweetened coconut milk (if you’re calorie-careful you can use the light version of this)

Stir it some more.

6.  Ladle into bowls and serve, with fresh cilantro, or apple slices, or lemon wedges, if you like.  We had none of these and were just fine.

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    Cheryl Herrick's brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life. All original content (written, graphical, recipes or other), unless otherwise noted, is © and/or TM Cheryl Herrick. All rights reserved by the author. Want to reprint a recipe? Just get in touch and ask.

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