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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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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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Valentine’s Day Meringues 0

Posted on February 12, 2011 by crankycheryl

They’re pink, they’re sweet, they’re simple and light as air, and they’re my entry for the City Market We Love Local Food Dessert Recipe Challenge.

City Market is acceptng entries until 2/20 and you should feel free to go ahead and enter, but don’t make anything better than this because I want to win the year of maple syrup, okay?

A couple of notes in advance:

  • Make sure you’ve got parchment or silpat sheets ready ahead of time.  You really need the easy-release feature for meringues.
  • Have a roasted beet around and this will come together very quickly.
  • For the purposes of striving for an extra-beautiful picture, I decided I was going to try to make really beautiful meringues and went to the trouble of loading up my pastry decorator-tube thing and attempted to pipe out shapes.  I didn’t get better results than I do just using a spoon, but you should give it a try if you want.

Naturally Pink Meringues
About 30 meringues

1.  Preheat oven to 250.

2.  Have ready:

  • 1 medium roasted beet, pureed until exceedingly smooth with 2 T. maple syrup
  • 1/2 c. maple syrup

3.  Beat until they stand in firm peaks:

  • 6 egg whites
  • 1/8 t. cream of tartar
  • tiny pinch sea salt
  • (optional: 1 t. vanilla or rosewater)

 

4.  With the beater still going, add in:

  • 2 T. beet puree, one tablespoon at a time
  • maple syrup, in three slow pours

Beat well until well incorporated and a lovely shade of pink.

5.  Drop by heaping tablespoons on parchment-covered baking sheets.  Place in oven and turn heat down to 225.  Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, then turn off heat and leave in oven for several hours (I always leave them in over night).

Gently remove and store in a covered container for up to 2-3 weeks.

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Thank You Cookies 0

Posted on December 17, 2010 by crankycheryl

These are the cookies we make to give our letter carrier, garbagemen, firefighters and our other year-round helpers.   And when Z.’s teacher asked his class to bring in something from a family holiday tradition, these were the first thing that came to mind.

They are chewy and fudgy, somewhere between brownies and cookies, delicious and chocolate-y and very addictive, which is why I only make them once a year.   (Though, full disclosure: 5-year old “Stewie” in Zander’s class didn’t like them because he doesn’t like fruit with his chocolate.)

Whatever, kid.

Herrick Family Thank You Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart Everyday Food Black Forest Cookies

Makes 36

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat liners and set aside.

2.   In a medium bowl, whisk together:

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour, spooned and leveled
  • 2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
3.  Place in a large glass or otherwise heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water and stir until melted and smooth:
  • 8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

4.  Remove from heat, then whisk in separately and thoroughly:
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 T. molasses
  • 2 large eggs
Whisk until smooth.
5.   Whisk in flour mixture just until combined. Fold in:
  • 1 package (about 12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chunks
  • 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries or tart cherries
Cover well and refrigerate until firm, 30 to 45 minutes.
6.   Drop mounds of dough (equal to 2 level tablespoons) about 2 inches apart onto prepared sheets. Bake just until edges are firm, 11 to 13 minutes. Cool on baking sheets 1 to 2 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Guilty Tamale Pie 1

Posted on December 03, 2010 by crankycheryl

So I really meant to tell you about my Thanksgiving prep, CrankyReaders.

There were the turkeys that the fabulous Paula slaughtered (humanely) on the Sunday before, and there was my quest to find someone who would rotisserie a turkey for us.   But there were articles and deadlines and work and I had to go teach 6th graders about death at church and 2nd graders about seeds at the boys’ school.  And then I was tired.

Plus I got a cold.

But what kind of food blogger doesn’t write about food at Thanksgiving?  Like the brine I was planning.  The pies.  How it was a mixed sort of bag that the boys would be with their dad.

So then there was guilt, and then it was Thanksgiving itself.  Sara had wanted to roast a turkey so she’d have the house smelling like it should, and I was still stuck with the rotisserie obsession.  We had a very pleasant stand-off that resulted in two birds – 43 pounds – for eight of us.

There were more leftovers than usual, which around here wasn’t a problem.   And though I don’t feel like it’s necessary to transform leftovers into something unrecognizable, I liked the sound of a Thanksgiving tamale I had heard about on the radio the day before, involving sage in the dough and a turkey filling.  But I just didn’t feel like rolling all those tamales, and so I turned it into a couple of tamale casseroles that were so very delicious.  I doubled it and made one vegetarian with sweet potato in the dough and a filling of shredded cheese, and one with plain masa and sweet potato and turkey filling.   But you should – as always – use what you’ve got.

Tamale Pie

1.  Combine in a large bowl and beat with a handheld mixer until very light and fluffy:

  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 2 cups lukewarm broth (or salted water if you’re caught without)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening, or lard if you like
  • (I added 1 c. mashed sweet potatoes to the vegetarian ones)

Combine masa, broth, baking powder, salt, and oil in a large bowl, Mix together until dough has the consistency of soft paste. Cover & let rest for at least 15 minutes at room temperature so the dough can thoroughly absorb the moist ingredients.

2.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Press half of the tamale dough into the bottom of an 8 x 8 casserole dish. Press the mixture evenly on the bottom and up the sides.

3.  Spread your choice of fillings evenly across.

  • 1 1/2 c. – 2 c. finely chopped turkey, chicken or other meat
  • 1 1/2 c. cooked and drained vegetables
  • 2 c. shredded cheese
  • 1 c. chopped green chiles

The top layer of masa is hard to get on too neatly.  The best method was to use both hands to create sort of patties to place side by side on the top.

4.   Put an inch or so of hot water in a baking pan that will accommodate the casserole,  Place, covered, in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the masa is soft but set.  Remove from oven, let sit for five minutes and serve.

And now: back to work.

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S’more Cupcakes 2

Posted on October 16, 2010 by crankycheryl

I’m never sure what’s going to happen when I offer to donate goodies for charity auctions.  Sometimes they end up uncollected, and sometimes they end up being great big jobs that take days to prepare.  Still, we’ve got so many good causes around here, and it’s fun to be creative in unexpected ways.

I was happy to donate a couple dozen custom cupcakes for our beloved Intervale Center’s recent auction.  The order turned out to be a rush job for an 8-year old’s birthday.  Lucky for me, she knew exactly what she wanted: s’more cupcakes – vanilla cupcake, marshmallow frosting, chocolate, and topped with graham cracker crumbs.  Super easy, and it gave me a chance to work with Fluff, which is very likely my favorite guilty pleasures.

S’more Cupcakes
1 dozen

For cupcakes, follow this recipe, which is as easy and yummy a regulation vanilla cupcake I’ve ever found.

Marshmallow Frosting
Whip together on high speed until fluffy (-er) and well combined:

  • 2 cups Fluff (our health food store also carries a vegan rice fluff-ish thing)
  • 1 cup organic non-hydrogenated type frosting (you can substitute unsalted butter if you prefer, but shortening will give you a firmer set and will hold better if you want to make this a day ahead
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar

To decorate:

Frost the cooled cupcakes.  Roll them on a diagonal in finely crushed crumbs from about:

  • 8 graham crackers

Then top with:

  • 1 small piece of chocolate (for my own family I would have used some Lake Champlain Chocolate squares, but I didn’t know if the birthday girl would tolerate deviation from regulation s’more ingredients)

Make ahead note:

  • You can make everything up to a day ahead, but don’t construct more than a few hours before you plan to serve.  Otherwise your crumbs will lose their crisp.
  • The cupcakes can be baked and cooled farther ahead and frozen.
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Peace of Cake 3

Posted on September 13, 2010 by crankycheryl

Because it’s Rosh Hashanah and who couldn’t use a sweet NewYear?

And because it’s Eid and too many people in Burlington are outraged that the schools were closed for one of Islam’s most important family celebrations.

Because the peaches on the tree 10 feet from my deck are ripe and outrageous and demand to be eaten.

Because it’s the start of northern Vermont’s Eat Local Week, and this cake is pure Vermont.

Because my great-aunt Trilby died, at 89, in her sleep.  She was beautiful like it hurt your stomach to look at pictures of her on the boardwalk at Atlantic City in the 40’s, right after she married my great-uncle Harry.  She was the one who at last shamed me into learning to drive in my mid-20’s with the exhortation, “GAWD FORBID SOMETHING SHOULD HAPPEN TO YOUR MOTHAH AND YOU SHOULD HAVE TO DRIVE HER TO THE HOSPITAL,” during a visit to her home in Fort Lauderdale.  She’s the last of my grandmother’s generation, and my family’s place in the world  is smaller without her.

Here’s my honey cake, in celebration and remembrance.  And in hopes that we may all be granted peace, and mercy, and more time with those we love in the coming year.    It’s a mashup of Vermont localvorism, of the honey cake tradition, and it’s flavored with mahlab, an Arabic spice made from the ground pits of sour cherries.  The cake keeps getting better every day, so it’s a nice one to have around to nibble on.  And hopefully a nice sign of the days ahead.  L’shanah tovah.

Honey Peach Cake
Adapted from Joan Nathan’s Jewish Cooking in America
Yield: One bundt cake plus 8 muffins

1.  Preheat oven to 350.

2.  Prepare pans by greasing and flouring one bundt pan and either one loaf pan or approx. 8 muffins.

3.  Sift together into a medium bowl:

  • 2 1/2 c. sifted unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. cream of tartar
  • 1 t. freshly crushed mahlab

4.  Separate:

  • 3 large eggs

5.  Beat together in a large bowl until very well combined:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • egg yolks
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • grated rind from one (0rganic) lemon
  • 1/3 c. olive oil
  • 1 c. honey
  • 1 c. warm black coffee

6.  Chop into 1″ pieces:

  • 2 ripe, sweet peaches

7.  Beat until fluffy and nearly stiff:

  • reserved egg whites.

8.  Combine parts:

  • Add flour mix in three parts, beating just until thoroughly combined with as few strokes as possible.  Fold in egg whites, then stir in peaches.

9.  Bake until an inserted skewer comes out clean, about 1 hour for the cake, and 30 minutes for muffins.  Let cool in the pan for 10 – 15 minutes, then cool completely on a rack.

Will last 4 or 5 days if it can, but it’s awfully nice for sharing.

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Baking Biscuits on a Cool Evening 1

Posted on May 07, 2010 by crankycheryl

It’s a cool night, the boys are sleeping, and the woolly caterpillar living in the bug house on the counter is nibbling on a clover leaf.  Why have I grown so fond of this thing?  Last night I actually found myself baby-talking it as I handed in new greenery.

Things are anyway mellow around here, and it seemed like a good night to start on my goal of using the cool nights to bake and freeze some stand-by favorites to have even when it’s too hot to bake.  I’m aspiring  to have a few dozen muffins, a big old batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, maybe a banana bread or two on hand.

Plus these biscuits, which are vegan, mostly whole grain, and a big favorite of E.’s.  With a kid like him, it’s nice to have a few argument-proof things in the freezer to throw on the table with some fruit and milk when whatever thing I’ve made for dinner is the cause of consternation.

Flax-Butternut Squash Drop Biscuits
Makes 24

Preheat oven to 475.

Whisk together:

  • 1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2/3 c. white flour
  • 2 T. ground flax seed
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. kosher salt

In a separate small bowl, whisk together well:

  • 1/4 c. pumpkin or butternut squash puree
  • 2/3 c. soy milk (or regular milk)
  • 1/3 c. vegetable oil

Add the liquid ingredient mixture into the dry ingredients and stir just until combined – it will still be sticky.  Use two spoons to form walnut-sized balls and place on a baking sheet about 1 1/2″ apart.

Bake 8 – 11 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown.  Cool and serve, or freeze.

While mine cool, I’m headed out for more fresh clover for our little pet.

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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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Spring Fever Weekend 0

Posted on April 01, 2010 by crankycheryl

This is the time of year when I always reflect on having a non-existent religious upbringing.

Spring celebrations in my family meant a new Easter dress (I have no idea why since we weren’t going anywhere but am sure I insisted on it), matzo, gefilte fish (I liked the Manichewitz stuff from the jar – what can I tell you?), and an Easter basket with marzipan fruit and a chocolate rabbit in it.

But no matter what we believe, doesn’t this time of year just demand a celebration?  The mud and the returning birds, the fuzzy buds just starting to emerge on the trees, and the tulips’ leaves reaching for the light.  Every day a bit more sunlight and some other animal or plant awakens.  The garden is calling and already the days of snowsuits are passing.  Every year, these spring days are their own renewing miracle.

Z. and I were driving around last week, and he asked me what Easter was.  I started talking about spring and how people have celebrated the Earth’s waking up from winter for thousands of years, and I talked about how half of our family is Jewish and how the Jewish people celebrate surviving a really hard time during Passover and I mentioned the seders we’ve been to, and then I talked about how Christian people believe that this is when Jesus Christ came back to life and that that’s a very important holiday for them.  I was pretty sure that I had talked entirely too much, when Z. said:

“Mommy – I know the true meaning of Easter.  The true meaning of Easter is an ogre in a bunny suit and he gives candy to kids.  He loves kids!”

“Loves like to eat, or to play with?,” I wanted to know.

“That’s silly!  Who would he have to play with and give candy to if he ate the kids.”  [disbelieving giggle]

I’m pretty sure he didn’t get this in his pre-school class at our Unitarian Church, but who knows?

And we’re gearing up for the weekend.  Today I’m shopping for ingredients for a flock of assorted macaroons:

I can’t promise that they’ll all be free of crazy flavors.  I’m having a minor obsession with the idea of orange and star anise in the maple, though I’m sure I should restrain myself.

And then there will be colored eggs and deviled eggs and a potluck brunch and an egg hunt and Easter baskets that contain marzipan though neither boy likes it.

And then there’s the matter of finding the ogre and a bunny suit that will fit him so he can join us as we cavort in the mud.

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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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