Tag Archives: baking

Nothing is….

6 Nov

black and white.  Except:  Old photographs, some films, and these quintessentially New York cookies.

We lost a dear friend last month.  I made these for the celebration of his life that his wife threw.  I closed my eyes and tried to image what foods remind me most of NY (where they are from and where I am from) and Black + White cookies at the diner are what came to mind.

All of these friends of his came together, old friends met new friends, and new friendships were formed.  His son (and sworn protector of my son) and Alex horsed around most of the day while the grownups shared tales over beer and comfort food. The kids made us laugh.  It didn’t feel odd or inappropriate.  It was indeed a celebration of his life.

There is sadness, as he died too soon.  There was so much laughter because everyone had a story to share.

I keep looking at the photo I took of the river, and I decided to rename it.  I am calling it Broke-down Palace, in honor of our friend.  He was a huge Grateful Dead fan.  The lyrics of Broke-down Palace always seemed gentle and lovely to me, but they never up and sat right in  the middle of my chest like a curling stone, until a few days before John left this life.   I listened and was paralyzed and I listened again.  I had another copy of my image, “Brokedown Palace”, on a stretched canvas, that I planned to bring to Hospice House, to share with him and his friends and family.  I never made it there in time.  I still have it here, and I think I will send it along to Hospice House as a donation, because it is such a serene image.

(the image links to imagekind, where prints of this particular image are for sale)

The song just works so well with this…(click here for a neat page on the lyrics)

“River gonna take me
Sing me sweet and sleepy
Sing me sweet and sleepy
all the way back back home
It’s a far gone lullaby
sung many years ago
Mama, Mama, many worlds I’ve come
since I first left home

Goin home, goin home
by the waterside I will rest my bones
Listen to the river sing sweet songs
to rock my soul

Goin to plant a weeping willow
On the banks green edge it will grow grow grow
Sing a lullaby beside the water
Lovers come and go – the river roll roll roll

Fare you well, fare you well
I love you more than words can tell
Listen to the river sing sweet songs
to rock my soul”

We have this on a huge canvas in our kitchen.  Makes me feel at peace with the universe. This is the happy place I imagine when I meditate to fall back asleep or when the pressure is too much.  Oddly, I picture this place in black and white, just as presented here.  Color seems distracting to me, and particularly with this shot, it had a feeling of concealing the emotions.

Anyway, I meant to blog about my birthday but apparently I needed to share this instead.

Kiddo was feeling cold and goosebumpy and wanted to snuggle, so he’s curled up next to me, while I sit and type, with one arm getting achier from the weight of kiddo’s spectacular noggin.






Midnight, moonbeams, and polka dots

28 Oct


Midnight chocolate cupcake dipped in moonbeam icing. A dozen of these and some tasty chocolate dotted brown sugar blondies (all of it soy-free/g6pd-d friendly) are going to be used as prizes to raise money so Alex’s ESE class can go on a field trip this year. Sweet!


Say Cheesssssssssssssse.

30 Oct

Behold, the Cheesssssssy Bread that I conjured up for Alex’s Halloween luncheon at school…

I was thrilled that I was up for making something from scratch for the festivities, and also grateful that the Vermont Cheese Bread recipe in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day had proven itself to be an easy beast to get just right, and also one that I could tweak a little bit without *poof* complete kitchen disaster.

In this case, I stretched the dough into a large rectangle.  I then sprinkled even more cheese over the surface (the recipe says to use good cheddar, but I made this with the part skim kraft shreddy stuff the first time around and the taste was pretty nice- tasted, with the slight sourness of the dough, more like the asiago bagel of my ABP frequenting days in New England)… Then I rolled, stretching the dough even more (in all directions) until I was left with a long, fairly thin log.  After resting for an hour, the log was big and puffy, so I gently pulled on it some more and realized that ovens should really come in letterbox.  So I bent it into a squiggle, said “Eureka!” aloud, and then I went off-recipe again and brushed the top with an egg-water wash to give it that slight hint of change of color that snakes have between their topsides and undersides… I was thinking of putting almonds in for eyes (and then I thought of making scales with sliced almonds) but decided against it because the whole point of this project was to make a food for the luncheon that Alex likes and could enjoy with his classmates, as he has been a trooper but still seems to feel a little isolation at school as far as his dietary needs go (due to G6PD Deficiency).  I also thought of burning a screen with the gocco to egg wash on a scale pattern.  Then I realized (and this is a major development in the world of my head and creating) that I was heading down my usually disastrous path of gilding the lily.  So I….


I did.


Did you see the picture above?  That was the first try. Even after my fantasies of silk screening my meandering length of cheesy dough.

I really did.  See what I mean?  I think that turning 35 next week has me suddenly having great moments of clarity and I’m really embracing all of my quirks these days, instead of putting on “the normal”…  Now I feel like I can use my quirky powers for good, and not derail myself completely.  I have to work smart, conserve what little energy and strength I have, and not go full on sparkle, glitter, laser show, sequins, fog machine, showgirls, hydraulic lift apeshit on everything.   But sometimes I will, because I’m a behind the scenes- make stuff happen- challenge myself (seriously. You know Barney in How I Met Your Mother and how he is always saying “challenge accepted” but nobody actually challenged him… Yeah. I do that. Or I used to. I guess only time will tell.) kind of creature.  And you can take the craft supplies away from this chickadee, but face it glitter freaking sticks to and gets in everything, so really, you can’t totally take away the craft supplies.  That and inspiration is everywhere.  Ooooh. Mah pain meds seem to be kicking in.  Mama is getting more verbose than usual.  Please tell me that you could tell and not that this seems like regular, ol’ me?  Please?!?!?  Pretty please with some demerara sugar and some edible glitter on top?

Where was I?

Oh… So when kiddo came home from his festivities at school, it was reported that 1. the kids and adults loved the bread and it was devoured fast as a wink and 2. the teachers told Baldguy that he should let me know that I am welcome to make this bread and bring it in any time I have the urge to do so.   I knew it was good, but Yippee! Other people actually like it and think it is *that* grand.  Kiddo reported that he was so proud of the reptile themed bread because it was tasty and all of the kids thought it was the coolest food ever. Woohoo!  And then he said that he is proud of what a good bread baker I am (he has plans for us making bread for the whole world!  I’m barely managing a loaf a day for us!)

Oh and the cookies we spent forever decorating? Nobody ate them! They were all stuffed with cheessssssssssy bread!

Remember, sometimes what looks like a trick is actually a treat… and vice versa.
Happy Haunting!


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Baking 2: Electric Boogaloo

10 Oct

The danger is not lest the soul should doubt whether there is any bread, but lest, by a lie, it should persuade itself that it is not hungry. -Simone Weil

The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.
Mother Teresa

Bread for myself is a material question. Bread for my neighbor is a spiritual one.
Nikolai Berdyaev

The wretch who digs the mine for bread, or ploughs, that others may be fed, feels less fatigued than that decreed to him who cannot think or read.
Hannah More

To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the making of bread.
James A. Baldwin

(love love love BrainyQuote.com)

Bagels/ Laugen (pretzel)Bagels (by me!) The grey/weird speckles are Celtic grey sea salt. Yum!

We found out rather quickly, that all commercially available breads at our local supermarket (Publix) contains either soy, a soy derivative, or ascorbic acid.  All of these ingredients are on our list of forbidden foods as Alex and I try to build our health and learn to live (and hopefully live well!) with G6PD deficiency.  The only bread we have found is pita bread, and while we enjoy it sometime, we both had been craving some fluffy, more leavened bread.

First off, I ordered an inexpensive Sunbeam bread machine from Amazon.com.  That solves the daily bread issue- I can make a 1.5lb express loaf in an hour, without any kneading or oven heating to make my arms and hands hurt more (from the kneading and the hand-wringing when I get another sky-high electrical bill…thankfully the cooler season is almost here, so I will be able to shut off the air conditioner. Woohoo!).   This is a pretty good solution, and allows me to make a loaf every day.  We usually have fresh bread at dinner (the express loaf, while still warm, tastes just like Carabba’s bread according to Alex) and the rest of the loaf is used to make Alex’s school lunch for the following day (now that Smucker’s Uncrustables are off our menu. They were a staple during my pregnancy with him and have been a staple for him since starting school.)   However, I noticed a neato looking book on bread on Amazon.com and coincidentally, my friend Marissa mentioned it the next day.   So I considered that a sign and bought it.

It is called “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”  and it is fantastic.  All of the breads are for the most part, “no knead”.  Basically you mix up a base dough in a large batch, using a mixer with a dough hook or just a large spoon or your hands.  You mix just enough to combine the ingredients, but not enough to actively knead it to develop the dough.  Most of the doughs can be kept in the fridge for up to 14 days, and the book features many recipes and suggestions for using those doughs. All of the doughs can be used to take multiple types of breads, so it’s not like a person who actively bakes using this book will get bored over the 2 week period, from eating the same loaf constantly.

However, being creatures of habit, we have found that the Olive Oil Bread is our favorite and it is perfect for pizza, focaccia, calzones, even a simple rustic round.  I do find that one batch of the Olive Oil bread dough only lasts us a couple of days as I’m definitely not on my feet yet, so when I am I like to get as much done as possible.  It’s hard for me to cook anything, but if I make pizza for Alex on one day, I’ll set up a few mini-pies so he will have lunch for school and a snack the next day, and Jeff will have leftovers.

Anyway, just wanted to share this awesome cookbook with all of you…. It has definitely put artisan bread within the grasp of this arthritic old gal, and in the mouth of my little one with all of our “contraindicated” foods.

Oh and the best part?  You should see how much Alex is eating now and how happy he is!   It’s an incredible change and it just makes my heart smile to see how strong he is getting.  It’s making-me-all-teary-wonderful!



P.S. Thanks to my friend Marissa, for suggesting this book!  Please check out her amazing art & visit her Etsy shop!

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P.P.S. Does anyone have an easy to use ice cream maker they really like? (I’m thinking an electrical one, to preserve my energy)

Mushrooms, bowling, and chocolate…

10 Oct

Awesome kid and possibly the heaviest thing I have ever created (outweighed kiddo’s birthweight, definitely) both went to the bowling alley yesterday for a very belated (due to me being extra sick lately, holidays, other birthday parties, etc) Birthday celebration!

He asked for a Mario themed cake…Our local purveyors of baked goods all have soy or ascorbic acid somewhere in their cakey creations, so we originally decided to bring Alex a cupcake from home, and have a themed cake for the rest of the kids.  Alex was totally down with this plan (it’s amazing what he is flexible with lately… really makes me appreciate the amount of progress he has made).  Then I found out that Publix did not have a Mario theme in their catalog, so the plan was switched to get the cake and put Mario figurines on the cake…

But he had his heart set on a really awesome cake and that seemed a little too pieced together for this gal and her creative tendencies.

And the kids loved it!  The cake itself is fantastic (from Sur la Table’s Baking Kids Love)… The mushroom “stem” was more of a brownie to offer increased support for the weighty mushroom “cap”… As probability would have it, one of my kitchen accidents would have to be a happy one- last week I tried to make the chocolate cake with Alex but because of constant narrating and ironically, the Mario theme song as Alex danced around, playing with his Nintendo handheld, narrating every moment and demanding I look (and me refusing and trying not to get more distracted) I forgot to put in the baking soda.  Ooops.  The “cake” came out more like very dark chocolate velvety brownies… Tasty (especially when garnished with a bit of finely ground Celtic grey sea salt)…. So when I was building the mushroom then EUREKA!  I set aside 1/4 of the batter and left the baking soda out…..

Here are the “failed” cupcakes (they were still tasty, but not cakey…very dense) that inspired the stem…

The fondant. Well, it was my first time working with fondant, and I felt guilty about all of the red food dye (but I was making this under a major time crunch)…I did darken the red fondant with some dark cocoa powder first, which seemed to help and gave the fondant a nice buttery and slightly chocolatey flavor….

So here is what I came up with.    I have seen other mushroom cakes online and they look much more professional (smooth fondant is something that just boggles my mind.  With RA I can’t chill the fondant and then roll it, and with hand tremors placing it neatly is another issue (and sensory issues?  Yeah. Fondant (and the post-cake making aftermath that was my kitchen and kitchen floor that I finally excavated using the steam cleaner) is definitely some sensory mayhem…Albeit, sweet sensory mayhem))

All in all, it was a nice birthday party.  We had five of the nicest kids show up, Alex was happy (I don’t think I have blogged, yet, about last year’s party…Soon I will. It’s on the “to blog list”)… A good time was had by all….

And now we have the leftovers of the beast of all cakes taking up all of our top shelf in our fridge…The little figures are all on the space left by the part of the cake that was eaten.  It’s like a Super Mario Land massacre… Or maybe a parallel to Boston’s Molasses Flood would be more appropriate, as the Mario, Luigi, Shy Guy, and a turtley thing are firmly encased in sweet, paralyzing fondant…

(I definitely recommend the chocolate cake recipe… I used “Special Dark” cocoa powder- which is super-chocolatey, and with the sea salt I use in all of my cooking, I think it made it perfectly yummy.  And soy free, so Alex could eat the same food as his non-G6PD deficient friends. Which is why we undertook this adventure to begin with.)

Sometimes we put on our “normal” to fit in and sometimes we bring the circus and invite everyone to grab a trapeze and join in.



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