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CrankyCakes


Archive for the ‘Cohousing’


Dandelion Fritters 0

Posted on May 10, 2011 by crankycheryl

It’s May in Vermont so I’m looking at leaves.  With the rain, all the rain, and the sun the world just seemed to bounce into technicolor overnight.  Now the trees are all blossoming in that golden green of spring, vibrant everywhere.  Chartreuse fuzzy leaves, new red maple buds, dogwood and flowers suddenly there.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit how amazing I find plants.  Really – a tomato plant in fruit can leave me speechless.  How do these simple life forms know to do what they do – a petal here, a bud there, a leaf that curls just so.   How does a bud know when to open?  How does it turn that tightly curled bead into an unfurled leaf overnight?

But this year I’ve been teaching in our school’s environmental education program and I’ve learned that I had that point wrong.  The bud forms slowly in the year before it blossoms.  It spends the good growing days using the plant’s resources to build the leaves that will appear next year.  It’s not a miracle, or maybe not a sudden miracle:  it’s slow growth under the surface.  The plant doesn’t have to spring into action when the weather is most in doubt and turn itself beautiful.  It just had to do a little bit at a time when light and food and water were plentiful, and then sit tight and wait through the hard times.

And when the sun is good and strong get out there and stretch and reach and grow.  And, if you’re in my family, get out there and forage for what you can freely find – like the dandelions just after they burst bright and yellow into the spring.

Dandelion Fritters
Serves 2

  • 2 cups of dandelion flowers, rinsed gently but thoroughly (make sure to pick them where the dogs haven’t been and nothing has been sprayed on them)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour (I used chick pea flour, but just about anything would be fine)
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. black pepper

Whisk together eggs, flour, salt and pepper until smooth and free of lumps, then beat in the dandelions.

Heat up 2 T. butter in a medium skillet until bubbling and fragrant, then pour in dandelion-egg mixture.  Cook for 3-4 minutes or until firmly set on bottom, then flip and cook 2-3 minutes more.  Serve immediately.  It’s nice with a salad, and a little hot sauce won’t hurt a thing.

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Pink Potato, Chicken & Vegetable Pie 3

Posted on February 15, 2011 by crankycheryl

Dairy free, gluten free, nut free, bovine free, soy free, low salt.  Plus Vermont localvore, and bright pink.   It was a potato-crusted chicken (or chick pea)  and winter vegetable pie for 40 for Burlington CoHousing’s Valentine’s Day dinner.

This recipe definitely exemplifies my “smoke ’em if you got ’em” theory of cooking.  In the cohousing kitchen we nearly always have leftover unused ingredients from previous meals:  my scavenging yielded peas and frozen brussels sprouts for the pie, plus some bonus greens for the slaw we served on the side.  I had wheedled vendors at this weekend’s farmer’s market for their less-than-perfect roots, and combined with what we had around.  The quantities and specific vegetables below are just a guide to get started – use what you’ve got, or can get cheaply.

Advance notes:

  • If you’re doing a meat version, make sure you’ve got the meat itself cooked and ready ahead of time.  Because we were cooking for 40, I used two large chickens; for 8 people about a half chicken should be enough.
  • Will your children eat pink mashed potatoes?   Do tell.   Z. kept both objecting to the food on his plate and eating the food on his plate, spearing Brussels sprouts and squealing “cabbage ball!” while giggling and eating away.

Chicken & Winter Vegetable Pot Pie with Pink Potato Crust
Reprinted from February 2011 Vermont Woman
Serves 8
1.  Starting your engines:
Turn on oven to 400.  Generously oil two rimmed baking sheets and set aside.

Put large pot of salted water on to boil.

Butter the bottom and sides of a nice deep lasagna pan, or other fairly large baking dish.  Set aside.

Cooked vegetables all heaped up in a gorgeous Vermont winter type of pile.

2.  Get those vegetables ready:

Chop into 1” pieces and place in large bowl:

  • ½ butternut squash (peel if you like)
  • 2 peeled beets
  • 3 medium-large peeled parsnips
  • 3 carrots

Clean outer leaves, and cut in half if very large:

  • 1 lb. brussels sprouts

Add sprouts to bowl along with:

  • ½ t. salt
  • few grinds fresh pepper
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. balsamic or apple cider vinegar

Toss well (it’s easiest if you use your hands)  Spread onto prepared baking sheets into single layer, and place in oven.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until sizzling and very tender when poked with a fork.  Leave oven on.

 

They're so beautiful. Let's look at another shot of those veggies.

4. Next stages of construction:   Take 3 or 4 pieces of beet, puree in a blender or with a hand-held immersion blender, and put puree in a medium-large bowl and set aside.  Place other vegetables in your prepared baking dish and toss with:

  • 3 c. cooked chicken (or turkey, or chick peas, or cubed firm tofu – Vermont Soy’s Maple-Ginger is perfect in this)
  • ½ t. ground thyme or 1 t. dried thyme leaves or whatever herb you feel like.
  • 1 T. flour (or rice flour, if you want to keep this gluten free)
  • ½ t. salt
  • ¼ c. broth or water

4.  And the potatoes:
While pot of water is heating, peel (if you like, or if your potatoes aren’t organic) and quarter:

  • 3 lbs. potatoes

Once water is boiling, add potatoes to water and cook at a gentle boil until tender, about 20 minutes.  Remove potatoes to bowl with beet puree.

5.  The mash:
Add to bowl:

  • ¼ c. butter
  • ½ c. buttermilk
  • ½ t. salt (or to taste)
  • beet puree

Then mash or whip until very smooth and creamy.  I like to use a hand-held electric mixer and beat them until they’re smooth and kind of gooey, but you should use whatever method gives you the potatoes that feel right to you.  (Vegan/dairy free version:  1/4 c. olive oil, 2 T. tahini, salt, reserved beet puree, which is what we made and it was deeeeeeeeeee-licious.  Look how adorable those pink potatoes, not to mention the fabulous Ming and Melinda with whom I was cooking!)

 

6.  Putting it all together:  Here’s where you can be fussy or not fussy.  There’s nothing wrong with taking a big spoon and dropping spoonfuls of the potato mix in a rustic fashion over the top of the vegetable and chicken mix.  Or you can use a pastry bag and pipe it on.  They’ll both taste great.

We used chick peas to indicate the vegetarian version.

7.  Cooking it up:  Bake for about 25 minutes at 400, until edges are starting to get golden and the filling is bubbling.  Let cool for a couple of minutes and then serve.

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Peach, Maple & Clothbound Cheddar in Phyllo 2

Posted on September 08, 2010 by crankycheryl

Poor crankyGreg.  Last week he looked at me plaintively across the kitchen as I was preparing to blanch/can/freeze/pickle something or other and asked, “Can’t we just eat it?  Like just enjoy it now?”

Oh dear.  He’s right.  I’ve been far too focused on food preservation and too often forgetting to just enjoy the harvest, the end of the warm weather, the flood of funny things E. & Z. emit every day.  (E., on Monday:  “Mommy, I know what I want to be when I grow up.  Now I just need a herd of really fierce goats.” Z., on Tuesday:  “This is a picture of me with Josie from Josie and the Pussycats.  But I still don’t know whether to marry her or Daphne from Scooby Doo or (our 16-year old neighbor) Marlena!”)

Then yesterday E. came into the kitchen carrying one of those wiggly wooden toy snakes as I was working on dinner for a growing number of neighbors.  “Mommy, I want you to make Snake Cake,”  he told me, flopping the snake on the counter.  Chopping furiously, I asked him what should go in it.  “You know, cake dough, flour, milk.  And the snake.”  Sure.  I told him I’d fit it in if I could, and when dessert was served, that’s what he told his friend she was eating.

In reality, it was a lovely and sophisticated (i.e. “not too sweet)  little harvest confection:  sliced just-off-the-tree peaches, caramelized with butter, maple syrup and ground cherries, topped with just a bit of crumbled clothbound cheddar, all between layers of crispy phyllo.  Quick, as easy as phyllo gets, and I didn’t freeze or otherwise preserve one bit of it.

Peach, Maple & Clothbound Cheddar in Phyllo
20 small servings

Before you start, make sure your phyllo has been defrosted and brought to room temperature.  Have at hand a barely damp tea towel for keeping the wrapped sheets covered while you work.

1.  Preheat oven to 350.

2.  Melt in a large saucepan:

  • 2 T. unsalted butter

3.  When butter is melted and starting to bubble lightly add:

  • 3 chopped fresh peaches
  • (I had 1/2 cup of ground cherries around, which I added after husking and washing, but they’re optional)
  • 3 T. maple syrup

Let cook until fruit releases juices, but still holds its shape.  Remove from heat.

4.  Spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray.  Lay one sheet of phyllo in the bottom, then spray thoroughly.  Repeat four times.  Spread peach filling on top, then crumble over it:

  • 1/2 c. finely crumbled clothbound or other aged cheddar

Lay another sheet of phyllo on top, spray, and repeat four more times.  Spray top of the phyllo generously, then score into serving pieces.  The easiest way to do this is to take a very sharp knife and cut lengthwise into thirds, then diagonally across in six cuts.

5.  Place in oven and cook until top layers are browned, and filling is visibly bubbling.  Cool for at least 10 minutes before attempting to remove individual portions from pan.

To re-freeze any remaining phyllo, wrap in double layers of plastic wrap and return to box, then place in freezer.

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Insalata Caprese – Vegan 0

Posted on August 03, 2010 by crankycheryl

The vegan minister at our church retired recently, and we sent him off in fine Unitarian style with a big potluck picnic, music, bounce castle, and all manner of wholesome fun and well-wishing.

Though I knew most people in attendance are happy omnivores, I couldn’t bring myself to make something that the guest of honor wouldn’t eat.  And a quick review of what was in the fridge turned into this take on the summer classic, which seemed like one of those why-didn’t-I-think-of-this-before sorts of dishes once it occurred to me.   There was something especially fab about having it on the church picnic table right next to the genuine orange carrot-Jello mold, which I did indeed help myself to a big day-glo scoop of.

Vegan Insalata Caprese
Serves 8

Prepare tofu:

  • 1 lb. package extra firm (not silken) tofu, pressed, then sliced fairly thickly, and marinated for 1 hour in 1 cup of water with 1/2 t. kosher salt and 2 cloves chopped garlic

While the tofu’s marinating, reduce to 1/3 cup over low simmer:

  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar (don’t waste super-high quality stuff on this – run of the mill stuff will be fine)

Pat the tofu dry, then layer it in whatever shape suits you and your serving dish with:

  • 4 ripe tomatoes, sliced into pieces about the size of the tofu
  • 1 cup large basil leaves

Drizzle the vinegar over the top, then top with:

  • 2 T. olive oil
  • kosher salt & freshly ground pepper to tastev

Voila.  Now you’ve made the vegans happy.

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Rhubarb Baklava for CoHousing 2

Posted on April 30, 2010 by crankycheryl

What I probably should have made was strudel.   Sticky soft things do not go into baklava.  Nutty, crunchy, crumbly, sweet: yes.  Gooey and tart: no.

But today it was my turn to make the meal for our cohousing neighbors and I found myself stunned with spring sunshine and a taste for fresh food.  There was dessert to consider.  What if I made something with rhubarb?  But not a cake, and I didn’t feel like custard, and I wanted something to go with the Greek veggie burgers I was making.   Baklava is actually so easy to make, and why not with rhubarb?  Why not maple?

One of the great things about living in cohousing is that my neighbors tend to be an adventurous sort.  There are hard things too, of course, because we’re a feisty and passionate bunch.  But we’re very, very good at eating food around here, at trying new things, especially when they’re sweetened.  So why not rhubarb baklava?  I couldn’t think of a good reason.

Rhubarb Baklava
about 40 gooey pieces

Defrost 1 box of phyllo dough according to package directions.

Place in a heavy pot, bring to a boil, and then cover and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes or until very soft:

  • 2 lbs. rhubarb, chopped into 3/4″ pieces
  • 2 cups maple syrup

Strain the rhubarb very well, saving the liquid.

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix together in a medium bowl and place aside:

  • 6 C. chopped walnuts
  • 2 T. maple syrup
  • 1 t. of ground cinnamon

Pour into a small bowl:

  • 1/2 c. olive oil

Have a pastry brush ready.

Oil the bottom and sides of a large baking pan, at least 10 x 15. Place a sheet of phyllo in the pan and brush with a little oil.   Allow any overlap to hang out the sides. Repeat until there are 4 sheets on the bottom.

Spread one half the nut mixture across the phyllo, then repeat the layers of phyllo and oil until 8 more sheets are on the top.  Spoon the drained rhubarb on the top, then cover with 4 layers of phyllo and oil.  Spread the remaining nut mixture, and then place the remaining sheets of phyllo on top with olive oil brushed between.  Do not oil the top sheet.

Score the pastry in pieces using a razor blade, and follow up with a sharp knife, cutting all the way through. To make triangles: cut the pastry into squares, then, cut squares in half diagonally to make triangles.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden.  While it’s baking, heat the reserved syrup.

As soon as the baklava comes out of the oven, pour 2 cups of the hot syrup carefully over the entire pan.  It will crackle as it absorbs.  This is one of the most exciting parts of making the whole thing so be sure to take a moment for a satisfied grin.  But don’t burn yourself.

Allow the baklava to cool thoroughly and absorb the syrup before serving (at least 3-4 hours).  It’ll be a little goopy, but neither you nor your eaters will mind.

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200th Blog Post! Deviled Eggs Three Ways 2

Posted on April 05, 2010 by crankycheryl

[4/8/10 — This picture was included in the march of gorgeous spring holiday food over at Photograzing.  If you too are a lover of food-porn take a look!]

I’d like to nominate deviled eggs for the next food craze.  They’re cute, only slightly naughty, portable, adaptable, and individually sized.  What’s not to love?

For our annual Easter brunch-egg hunt extravaganza, I wanted something simple, special and spring-like and this is what we got.  They went fast, and I think I’ve found my brunch potluck standby for the season.

Do remember that the freshest eggs are harder to peel.  If you have time to think ahead, get the eggs you’re likely to want for this a week or so before you make them.

Deviled Eggs Three Ways
yield: 36 halves

Boil eggs your favorite way, or else try this technique that allegedly preserves more of their protein and other nutrients.

Place in cold water to cover by at least an inch:

  • 18 room temperature eggs

Bring water just to a boil, stir vigorously once or twice, then cover and turn off.  Let sit for 20 minutes. (I’ll admit that I often let them sit for an extra 5 to ensure they’re done.)

Prepare a platter by rinsing and arranging:

  • about 4 c. torn lettuce or mesclun salad on a large platter

Cool the eggs by plunging into a bowl of cold water with some ice in it.  Peel, cut in half lengthwise, and scoop out the yolks into a medium bowl.  Add to the yolks:

  • 3/4 c. mayonnaise
  • 2 T. yellow or other fairly mild mustard

Beat with an electric mixer until very creamy and smooth.

Using a spoon or pastry bag, fill 24 of the egg white halves with the yolk mixture.  To the remaining yolk mixture add:

  • 2 – 3 T. pesto (I used the local Bella Pesto I picked up at a recent winter farmer’s market, which was incredibly fabulous), depending on how strong and green you want the flavor and color.

Fill the remaining 12 egg halves with the pesto mixture.

Slice or rip into 12 small square-ish pieces:

  • 1 1/2 oz. good quality smoked salmon

Curve into a small roll and tuck next to the yolk mixture in 12 egg halves.  Place next to each salmon piece:

  • 1 caper per egg

Serve, and watch ’em go.

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Apple Pie Muffins for My New Favorite Person 2

Posted on January 29, 2010 by crankycheryl

Everyone, meet Glen.  Although he wouldn’t let me take his picture head-on, Glen is my new favorite person.   Why?  Because Glen (there in the purple) is bringing to a lovely and so far uneventful close the “Leaking Bathtub, Buckling Floor, Toxic Mold of Death,” chapter of our lives.

Allow me to recount:

We purchased our unit before it was even constructed as part of this new cohousing community.  It’s a great location, with trees out every window, lovely.  It was also the first unit to be completed.  We didn’t consider that we would be moving into the beta version of the development.  Instead I simpered, thinking how precious it was that our condo would be the ground-breaker in this little eco-communitarian paradise.

Over time, various problems arose, some large, some less so, mostly of the seems-normal-for-new-construction variety.  Then, in spring 2009, I noticed that the floor of the bathtub was feeling a little soft.  I invited neighbors over and we climbed into the bathtub in our socks, springing up and down a bit.  “Hmm,” we said.  Hmm.  We shrugged.

The caulking on the side of the tub kept pulling away and I keep dutifully replacing it.  Then, sometime in June, a small hill appeared in the linoleum near the tub.  Though I tried to ignore it for a couple of days, it was hard to keep that up.  Greg tapped his foot at me, and I started asking around for recommendations for a contractor.  My mother recommended Glen, who’s a friendly and burly Australian native.  We walked around the bathroom and started talking about likely causes.  If I was lucky, said Glen, it would prove to be a leak from the toilet’s gasket.  If we were unlucky, it would be a leak from the tub.  The only way to find out the cause would be to take up the floor and look, and he’d have to line up a plumber to assist.  Hmm.

A couple of days later, CrankyGreg came into the bedroom and said, “Um, I just tried to scratch some dirt off the tub, and I poked a hole in the tub.”  A hole in the tub was not something I’d ever really considered before.  We went to look at it, said, “hmm,” a couple of times.  I got on the phone to cancel a camping trip we’d been planning, since I’d have to stick around and get this fixed.

So I started making phone calls.  I left a message with the project’s general contractor, who never returned the call.  I spoke with the foreman of the plumbing subcontractor, who was the linchpin in getting to the tub’s manufacturer, but it took him 6 weeks to write three sentences on a piece of paper and submit it to the right people.  I called my insurance company, who promptly told me that my policy excluded damage incurred over time.  I contacted the condo association’s insurance company, who told me the whole thing would take about $1,200 to fix, including a new floor, new sub floor, new bathtub, and any necessary repairs.   We said, “No, thank you.”

I reported this to Glen, who told me to call back when I knew what I wanted to do.

In the meantime, we had a hole in the tub, but it was summer and kind of fun.  I sent the boys outside in the sprinkler to get clean, or else we went swimming.  A couple of times, I borrowed neighbors’ bathrooms, which was a chance to marvel at how clean other people’s homes are.

But time went on and the leaves started turning and now I really wanted some action.  Every time someone coughed or sniffled I became surer that we were sick because of mold spores.   I contacted the supplier of the tub, who had me talk to the quality assurance person at the manufacturer.  I’m pretty sure I’m the only homeowner he had ever spoken with, because what he mostly said was that I couldn’t call him, and had to deal with the supplier.  I called my lawyer, who came over and stood with me and looked at the tub and said, “hmm,” a few times and then told me I really should make some phone calls and get it fixed.  But that now he’d know what I was talking about when I called.

I really needed help.  In desperation, I called my insurance company and asked if there was someone who could just help get something done, like quarterback this for me.  From the other end of the phone came chirping crickets, silence, more silence, then, “You want us just to help you?  No.  We don’t do that.”

If there was a bright spot in my dealings with this wacky cast of characters, it was Donna at F.W. Webb, who had purchased the unit.  Although neither of us knew what to do, she made suggestions and gave me names and phone numbers.  Finally, now in October, I told Donna that I had had it, and asked her to relay to the tub’s manufacturer that she had an extremely irate homeowner who was ready to call the state’s attorney.  A few minutes later, Donna called back with the name, phone number, email and fax number of the person who handled such claims.  She told me what I needed to do.

It took me until December to have the two necessary estimates (in Vermont, we don’t do much in the way of home repairs in November because it’s deer season), and send them off to the company.  Then just before Christmas, I got a call from Scott, one of The Big Bosses at the manufacturer, who was telling me that they were of course going to replace the tub and pay for all necessary repairs.

So as I write this, I have a newly installed tub, and am picking out new linoleum (this, I think) and paint (Misty Memories, 2nd row from bottom, 2nd column from the right).   The toilet isn’t attached, and Greg says I’m on dukey duty if the boys decide to use it anyway.

That aside, things are looking up. The damage was fairly contained to one area, and there was no actual toxic mold.  I even heard words I’ve never before heard in this context, “You know, everything went right for you that could have.”  and now Glen is leaving for the weekend.  But not without having had some Cranky Love in the form of Apple Pie Muffins, really the least I could do.

Of course, the job isn’t quite done yet.

Apple Pie Muffins
Makes 12

Preheat oven to 350.

Whisk together in a medium bowl:

  • 1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 c. unbleached white flour
  • 2 T. ground flax seed
  • 3/4 t. salt
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. cinnamon (I used cardamom, which I always do, but I don’t like to go on and on about it like I’m some kind of weird cardamom nut)

In a large bowl, mix together well:

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 5 T. melted butter or olive oil
  • 1 1.2 c. peeled, cored, chopped apple, or apple pie filling

If you use fresh apples, let them sit for 10 minutes to soften.

Stir the flour mixture into the egg-apple mixture, just until mostly combined. A few lumps (not just the apples) should remain.

Put into muffin tins and bake for 14 – 18 minutes.

When done, remove pan from oven and let muffins cool for a few minutes in their pan before removing to a rack to cool completely. Feed them to your contractor and any other people who might be hanging around looking hungry.

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Chai Cupcakes with Orange-Honey Frosting 2

Posted on January 26, 2010 by crankycheryl

I made these cupcakes because I had volunteered to help out with a Nepali fund raising dinner here in our cohousing community.  They were delicious, yes, if I say so myself, but hardly up to the meal they followed.  My neighbor Ming made an amazing feast of red lentil daal, and stewed chicken, and fresh vegetables, rice, daikon pickle, raisin-sesame pickle.  Amazing, beautiful food that I forgot to take pictures of.  (Hey – the buffet gets pretty competitive around here.  I have priorities.)

But before I made a glutton of myself, I had offered to make dessert, and chai leaped to mind and here these came.

Chai Cupckaes with Orange Honey Frosting
Makes 12
Based on the 1997 Joy of Cooking’s 1-2-3-4 Yellow Cake & Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting

Make the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Line 12 cupcake cups with parchment or foil liners.
  2. Sift together:
  • 2 1/2 c. cake flour (substitute part whole wheat pastry flour if you like)
  • 2 1/4 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. cardamom

3.  Combine in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer and then let sit for 3 or 4 minutes:

  • 1 c. milk
  • 2 crushed cardamom pods
  • 1 t. black tea

But don’t take a picture, or else it might look like this.  Really now, I couldn’t have wiped down the sides of the pan before I snapped this?  Jeez Louise.

4.  In a large bowl, beat until creamy:

  • 2 sticks (1/2 lb.) butter

Gradually add and beat on high speed until light in both texture and color:

  • 1 1/2 c. sugar, then
  • 4 egg yolks, one at a time

5.  Add the flour mixture, 1/3 at a time, alternating with the milk, and adding the last third of flour last, using a wooden spoon or an electric mixture set on low speed until nice and smooth.

6.  In another large bowl, beat until soft peaks form:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 pinch cream of tartar

Then gradually add while beating still:

  • 1/4 c. sugar

Continue beating until the peaks are firm but not dry.  (I have no idea what this really means, but the recipes always say it and so I am too.  I stop beating when the peaks hold themselves up without immediately flopping over.)

Fold the meringue  into the batter, first adding one cup, and gently folding in until well-combined, then folding in the rest.

7.  Ladle batter into prepared pans and bake until golden brown and done, 20-25 minutes, then remove to a rack and cool.

While the cupcakes are cooling prepare the frosting:

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
This makes about 3 cups, which is probably more than you’ll need unless you want to get wacky with it.  What I love about this frosting is how it’s both rich in flavor and light in texture; it’s no healthier than traditional buttercream, but it seems like maybe it ought to be.

1.  Whisk together in a stainless steel bowl:

  • 4 large egg whites (this is a super use for the powdered egg whites you can buy in the baking aisle)
  • 3/4 c. water
  • 2 T. water
  • 1/4 t. cream of tartar

Set the bowl in a large skillet filled with water so that the depth of the water is at least equal to where the ingredients inside the bowl reach.  Clip on a candy thermometer, and beat with an electric mixture on low speed until the temperature reaches 140.  Don’t stop beating while the eggs are in the pan, or else they’ll overcook.

Turn up the speed to high and continue beating until the temperature reaches 160, 3 or 4 minutes.  Remove from the heat and beat in:

  • 1/2 t. vanilla
  • 1 t. orange blossom water
  • 1 T. honey

2.  In a separate large bowl, beat until light and fluffy:

  • 3 sticks of butter

Fold in 1/4 of the meringue of the meringue mixture, then slowly and gently fold in the rest.  Keep at room temperature for frosting once the cupcakes have cooled, and whatever’s left is between you, your conscience and any kitchen helpers you may have around.  (Should you choose to do so, the frosting will keep for about a week in the fridge, or 6 months in the freezer.)

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We’re Back! And Celebrating with Warm Lavender-Honey Lemonade 0

Posted on December 29, 2009 by crankycheryl

I so meant to do daily posts through this season.  We’ve been cooking up a storm of good food around here, and I have so much to tell.  But then I had to go and try to install some bells & whistles here on the old blog, and I broke the darn thing.

But CrankyGreg and our webhost came to the rescue and identified the plug-in that crashed my homepage (WP users beware: it was wp-limit-posts-automatically), and here I am.

But perhaps I overshare.

I did anyway want to share a simple and easy drink that’s terrific warm or cold, for kids or grown-ups, can be spiked with some bourbon or other whiskey.  And in this case, it was a great non-alcoholic part of our Provencal line-up for Christmas dinner.  (A lovely day with 50 or 60 guests and enormous amounts of delicious food, I’m happy to report.)

A quick note from this former bartender about entertaining:  I think that the single best thing we can do for guests is to make sure no one who has to drive ends up drinking too much alcohol.   And the best way to do this is to offer interesting and delicious non-alcoholic alternatives.  For this particular dinner, I wanted to offer something that would reflect the flavors of southern France, and this was what emerged.

Warm Lavender-Honey Lemonade
6 servings

In a medium sauce pan, make a concentrate:

  • 1 c. lemon juice (I used half Meyer lemons, and half regular lemons)
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 1/4 c. raw sugar
  • 3 T. organic lavender (skip the lavender if you can’t find organic as the conventional kind may be unsafe for consumption)
  • 1 c. water
  • 2 sliced lemons, well scrubbed, for serving

Bring just to a low simmer, and then take off the heat.  Strain to remove lavender blossoms (it’s okay if a couple remain).  Add 3 – 4 cups water to dilute, and toss in the lemon slices.  Keep warm on a very low flame with cups and a ladle nearby.  And don’t forget to walk by every now and then to enjoy the citrus-y mist that’s perfuming the air.

 

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Gingerbread Trainwreck 5

Posted on December 20, 2009 by crankycheryl

I had spent the day feeling like a loser of a mom.  I yell too much and spend too much time muttering and sputtering.  Mornings are a nightmare and I have no idea how we get somewhere dressed and in somewhat presentable condition seven days a week.  I’m exhausted and they’re baffled.

Still, ’tis the season so we spent the afternoon making holiday crafts (more on that tomorrow) and then made gingerbread in the train-shaped pan I picked up at Williams-Sonoma a few years ago.  I went on and on about how I really would need their help doing our Very Important Job of decorating the train at the cohousing holiday party.

This is the train pan, which I’ve used many times (birthday train, Easter train, Christmas train, etc.) with great success.  So I was fully expecting to have little mini-cakes looking something like this:

But the cakes were wedged right into all the pan’s nooks and crannies, in spite of its space-age non-stick coating and the lavish greasing-up I had given it.  So what we ended up with was this:

Cringing, I said, “Boys, we have a trainwreck on our hands.”   I was expecting howls, but somehow they didn’t look too bothered.  I asked them to come decorate it, and they came scurrying into our community kitchen.  We started with sifting confectioner’s sugar over the top (snow – the cause of the crash), and then they started globbing leftover sparkly yellow and green icing everywhere.  Another friend wandered by and got involved.  We had those little sour fruits left over from E.’s birthday party, so we decided it was a fruit train that crashed, and they started placing the little pieces carefully around the pile.  We snipped up a piece of fruit leather into train tracks, and I had an ancient rock candy lollipop that was maybe a puff of blue smoke coming from the wreck.

I watched their total focus on the job, amazed at how captivated they were.  It was an imperfect product, but they didn’t mind.  And I wasn’t inclined to try to drive them to neatly outline the wheels with the icing, or put the pieces of fruit just so in one of the little freight cars.  It became theirs.  They proudly explained the project to anyone who wandered in, and then I heard my neighbors giggling and explaining the story to each other.  I started to think I maybe wasn’t so bad at this parenting thing after all.

And here’s the finished product, with my neighbor’s beautiful gingerbread houses in the background.  Beautiful, both.

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