Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cake of Angels

Fluffy, carefree people, melting in the summer heat and picnicking by the river,

This cake is best doused in piles of berries and heavy cream.

Or plain, eaten by the handful.  Delicate, puffy, moist handfuls.

It is important to use an ungreased pan, so that the cake batter can cling to the sides of the pan as it cooks; otherwise it'll slither down and have no structure.

If the bottom of your pan is not removable, as mine is not, you can lay the pan on parchment paper or foil and trace around it and inside the tube with a marker.  Cut out the circle and lay inside the pan before pouring in the batter.

Crack the eggs into a separate bowl before adding to the mixing-bowl one
at a time, in case a yolk breaks.
The key with the batter is to treat it with a soft, gentle hand; if you dump in the sugar or flour all at once, you'll crush the beautiful mounds of egg whites you just labored over!  (As if pushing the button on a mixer were labor ...)

Cake of Angels 
This is from Judith Fertig's book on Heartland food, Prairie Home Cooking.  I have a first edition that my grandma gave me in 1999, but Fertig has since come out with later versions.  Not only is the book full of information on rural America and our immigrant heritage, but every recipe I've ever tried from it has been a stunning success.  I've changed her preparation instructions, but the measurements and ingredients remain the same.  

Warning: After trying this, you'll never be able to return to the store-bought cake again - it is cardboard by comparison!  So ... sally forth at your own risk.

8 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup cake flour (NOT all-purpose flour!)

Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare an ungreased 10-inch angel food cake pan.  Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt until stiff peaks form.  Gradually add the sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, beating constantly.  When stiff, glossy peaks form, beat in the vanilla.  Gently fold in the flour, 1/8 cup at a time.  Pour batter gently into the cake pan.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and invert, letting cool for several hours.  This allows the structure of the cake to become strong; remove it too soon, and it'll sink down flat.

Did you ever wonder what the little prongs on the side of a tube cake pan were for?  So that you can cool it upside down!


Heavy Cream (if beating) or half-and-half
A few drops each of the following extracts: Lemon, Orange, and Vanilla
White sugar, to taste

Option 1: Beat the cream until it begins to thicken, then slowly mix in the sugar and extracts.  Continue beating until stiff peaks form, and mound on top of the cake when serving.

Option 2: Whisk cream or half-and-half with the extracts and sugar and pour over slices of cake.

Homemade extracts are easy and inexpensive to produce.  
Sinful this though this cake may be, it is indeed angelic.

Mrs H

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Dinner Menu XI

It's interesting trying to accomplish chores with a newborn - not only does he need lots of loving attention during these early days, but I am so in love that often I am loathe to put him down even when I could!  However, with a husband who works long hours and comes home savagely hungry, I need to keep dinner on the table...!

Purple and Orange Beet Borscht
Rye Bread (store-bought)
Jell-O Fruit Cups
Brownies and Ice Cream

Vegetable Lasagna
Sour Cream
Rye Bread

Shepherd's Pie
Jell-O Fruit Cups

Thursday - Mom and two of my sisters, Mandatory and Kejmo, arrived this morning!
Okra and Eggplant with Caraway


Picnic Lunch at the Zoo:
Chicken Salad Roll-Ups
Celery and Carrot Sticks, Radish Medallions
Ranch Dip
Molasses Cookies

Hot Dogs
Homemade Mayonnaise and Ketchup
Root Beer

Grilled Cajun-Seasoned Marinated Pork Kebabs made with...
Onions, Homegrown Banana and Anaheim Peppers, Pineapple Chunks and Homegrown Indigo Tomatoes
Peach Crisp

Planning another full week,

Mrs H

The native man with manchild in his natural  environment - at the zoo!!
A karissa tuttle lodged high in the treetops
Mr H grilled kebabs for a Sunday dinner after church and the beach

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Food Group: Cowshare

Thanks for reading this post, I'm so excited to visit with you!  

After you've gleaned all the good information you need, visit our new blog platform at www.farmandhearth.com to read even more fascinating tidbits from the kitchen and the fields. 

Dearest homogeneous (but not homogenized) reader,

We are loving our cowshare!

We purchased part of a cow for a one-time fee, and every month pay a "boarding fee" for that cow.  In return, we received a weekly supply of milk.  A group of us that all live close to each other and all purchase milk from the same farm take turns once a week going out to pick up the milk - one person will pick up about 23 gallons, each personal jar labeled with the recipients' last name, as well as any eggs or meat that others in the group ordered that week.

Then, the day milk is picked up, we all go from our homes to the house of our group coordinator and pick up the milk from her, where it is kept buried in ice in chest freezers.

The milk is rich and creamy, with three to four inches of thick yellow cream on top of each half-gallon jar when we pick it up.  Sometimes we skim it off and use the cream for butter, whipped cream, ice-cream, or other applications.  Other times, we just shake it into the milk and enjoy the foamy, fatty goodness.

If you are wondering why we've chosen not to drink pasteurized milk, you can read more about raw milk in this (biased, but nonetheless interesting) book.

With our raw milk, we make yogurt, kefir, cheeses, and other cultured treats that cannot be made with dead, cooked milk, which lacks the necessary enzymes to make all that healthy probiotic yummy culture that nutritionists are always telling you to get more of.

Not to mention raw tastes eighteen-hundred-thousand times better than pasteurized (based on a scientific assessment by myself)!

We also get eggs with our milk supply, and these eggs - being pasture-raised, organic, local and fresh - can be used to make tiramisu, eggnog, and other raw-egg treats that would not be safe to eat with factory-raised eggs.

The milk is devilishly good when mixed with Trader Joe's Organic Midnight Moo syrup, to make the thickest chocolate milk you'll ever enjoy.  Mr H can easily put away a quart of this with his dinner, and go back for more!

I know exactly what is in our milk.  I know how much bacteria is allowed, where the cows are raised, how they are treated.  I know who is milking them, I've talked with them, I've shaken their hand, I've enjoyed their farm.  I know what my dollars are supporting, and who they are buying dinner for.  I know the nutritional properties of the fats and enzymes in the milk.  I know exactly how many miles the milk traveled to get to my house (forty-seven, if you're wondering).

What's in your milk?

Mrs H

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Find milk near you!

Ice cream isn't deadly when it's made with real, fresh cream, milk, and eggs!
101 uses for soured milk - that's right, when raw milk turns sour, it hasn't gone bad - it has just changed into a new product!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Death to Cockroaches!! ... or, Two Ways.

To the timid and intrepid alike,

On the East Coast, there is a phenomenon not known in the cooler states of the West Coast.  This phemon single-wingedly wreaks terror and havoc upon an innocent population, and their presence has created a market for enterprising exterminators who, pardon the pun, prey upon the weak-mindedness of the average person.

I speak, of course, of the cockroach.

I have had more encounters with them than I care to (that is to say, one or more)) since moving to the fair state of Virginia.

Most recently, I was stalked and chased by a large example of said species, Periplaneta americana.  It should be noted here by the gentle reader that this particular variety bears the celebrious distinguishment of being the fastest of his kind, reaching speeds of up to two miles per hour.  For a 1.2" average length creature, that is pretty distinctive - adjust for his size and were he, say, a lion, he would be running at speeds of 50 MPH.

In other words, the flat, nearly indestructible pest of the order Blattaria is the cheetah of bugs.

I tried to put up a picture of a cockroach, but I almost gagged and died.
So, you get the PG version.  A big X! 
I had gone into the laundry room to fetch something - Lord knows what, only that I did not emerge with it.  I flipped on the light, moved a box and like a speeding devil, out came the black shape of a cockroach.

I screamed.

Wheeling, I ran for safety.  I dashed into the kitchen.  Tail waddling from side to side, he followed.  I made a hard turn around the fridge and headed for the dining room; I could almost hear his heavy breathing, rattling through the exoskeleton as he scuttled across the linoleum, dodging the produce box and the kitchen stool.  I sped into the dining room, wailing for Mr H.


Good husband that he is, he came running with the Cockroach Killer - a spear that puts the Masai warriors to shame with its lethal effectiveness and household versatility.

Kill 'em and clean 'em with one handy tool. 
Raising it high like a mandrill dedicating a baby lion king, he brought it down with a thunderous crash, flattening the panting vermin in its tracks.  

Death to cockroaches!!  

For a slightly less violent, but just as deadly approach, you can spritz them with soapy water - it dries out their exoskeleton and, apparently, they can't breathe and die.  When the baby boy was just two weeks old I was feeding him in the middle of the night when I caught a huge cockroach running over his clean diapers and burp rags beside the bed.  It was dark and Mr H was asleep but I unloaded almost an entire bottle of soapy water on him ... it took some minutes but he eventually expired.  

Death to cockroaches!! 

Mrs H


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Purple Food

Soup lovers, food lovers, lovers,

It is a truth universally known that there are as many recipes for borscht as there are Jewish grandmothers.

So I should probably confess two things here - 1) I am not a Jewish grandmother.  2) This is probably not a true borscht.

It is just a soup with beets in it, hence, this American calls it borscht.

It is the simplest soup I make, and it is hands down my favorite.  When we made this for dinner a week after I delivered our son, I ate almost a half-gallon of it.  It's that good.  Forget the biscuits - pour me more of that purple stuff!

All of this went into the pot for our big soup!  Yes, every leaf and twig!

Un-True Borscht
I make a huge pot of this and put the leftovers in jars for later - it never lasts more than a day in the fridge.  The good thing is, I don't feel guilty pigging out on this ... read on to know why! 

Beets, including the greens (if organically grown)
Two or more of the following:  Carrots and their greens, turnips and their greens, leeks, green onion, potatoes, cabbage, kale, bok choy, escarole, mushrooms, tomatoes, canned tomatoes, use your imagination
Salt and Pepper
Optional: Heavy cream or sour cream

Chop, slice, or dice the vegetables (I prefer slices for some reason).  Include the tails, greens, and skins of the beets and other root vegetables.  Chop the greenery finely.  

Put it all into a pot and cover with water, with an inch of headspace.  Bring to a boil and boil for twenty minutes or until the root vegetables are soft.  

Add salt and pepper as desired.  Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream, or a pour of heavy cream.  


Mrs H 
Life as a Wife on Facebook

This post shared at Wednesday Fresh Food Link-Up

Monday, July 23, 2012

Dinner Menu X

Since Dinner Menu IX overlapped into this week, this menu is a little short.  This week, a few family members are coming into town to visit - my mom and two sisters!  I am so excited - I anticipate more "interesting" food with their avid assistance and ideas!

Escarole and Bean Minestra
Trader Joe's Croissants
Sour Cream Spice Cake

Pasta Inverno (as we sit in the AC sweating, the irony of this is not lost on me)

Oven-Braised Root Vegetables
Oven Baked Basmati Rice (we used sesame oil)
Ice Cream

Teriyaki Take-Out!

Fried Egg Open-Face Sandwiches

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Custard's Last Stand: Banana Custard

Dear sweet ones,

I do love pudding.

He was a bit of a pudding himself.  He may be famous, but
he's not exactly a war hero.  
Our family visited the Little Bighorn Battlefield in 2007.  Quite the remote place!
Pudding is very easy to make from scratch - more or less just a creamy custard with whatever various flavors you want - vanilla, chocolate, banana. 

In this case, banana.  Mr H's favorite!  He prefers it chilled; I prefer it hot.  But somehow, our marriage stands.

Banana Custard
This recipe is based on one I made a long time ago, found in a magazine.  The riper the bananas are, the sweeter they will be; if they are very black, you will only need 1/4 cup of sugar.  This recipe makes about four cups, a little more depending on the size and quantity of bananas you choose to mix in.  

1/4 - 1/2 cup sugar (see note above)
1 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot
Pinch salt
1-1/2 cups whole milk (preferably)
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 - 3 bananas, chopped

Whisk together sugar, starch and salt in a saucepan.  Beat the egg yolk in a bowl and set aside.  Whisk in milk until smooth; heat, stirring continuously, over medium-high heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat to low; cook and stir for two more minutes. Remove from heat.  Slowly pour the hot mixture (most or all of it), in a steady thin stream, into the egg yolk - beating the yolk continuously.  Return all of this to the saucepan and, stirring constantly, bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat.  Cook for two minutes again. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, if desired.

Pour in chopped bananas; beat with a mixer or fork.  Chill in bowls, if desired, or serve immediately!

Top with more sliced bananas, or pour over wafers for an extra treat.

Standing still,

Mrs H
Life as a Wife on Facebook

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dinner Menu IX

This menu will be a little longer than usual, as I'll just merge the last few weeks, what scrappy record I do have of them.

Mr H tackled the dinner menu for the week Little Cowboy was born, and I was so grateful that I had already shopped, created a menu, and had everything ready to cook!  It made life easy as we didn't need to hunt up grub or go to the grocery store.

I sat in the kitchen nursing the baby, and Mr H would chop this and that while I directed (if needed) from my perch.  Despite the fact that the kitchen was usually over 100 degrees with 90% humidity (it was 105 outside the day after our son was born!), we had a good time.

Most of the menu devolves into just a listing of main dishes, but it will hopefully still help you to generate ideas for your own menus.

Oven Porcupines
Volcano Potatoes
Tossed Salad
Banana Cream Pudding

Tuesday (I put together the menu for the week forward, did the grocery shopping, and light contractions started this night ...) 
BLT Salad
Tapioca Pudding

Fruit Bowl
I was in labor and do not recall any interest in food :D Although I did eat some incredibly good chocolate that Mr H brought me, and at the urging of the midwives, around 2AM I had some tapioca pudding that I had made on Tuesday.  I had other things on my mind! 

Thursday - the day little cowboy was born! 
I cannot remember what we ate for dinner! 

Thai Peanut Chicken Salad

Chopped Cobb Salad 
Homemade Popsicles

Creamy Chicken Fettuccini and Peas
Braised Turnips and Beets
Sauteed Turnip Greens
Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chicken Runsas (Mr H's first experience making yeast dough!) 
Tossed Salad

Enchiladas* and Sour Cream

Green Beans

Thursday (My first time back in the kitchen since Tuesday!  Yes, Mr H made all those meals!  He continued to make many of the following dinners, as well.) 
Cream Biscuits

Sub Salad
Orange Fizzy Drink

BLT Salad

Bratwursts with Trader Joe's Brat Buns
Baked Beans with Bacon

Cottage Pie*

Spinach-Beef Macaroni Bake

Italian Pasta Salad

Crazy Quesadillas and Sour Cream
Root Beer

Baked Macaroni & Kale

Cottage Pie*

Buffalo and Blue Cheese Chicken Salad Wraps


Sour Cream
Blueberry-Peach Crumble with Ice Cream

*These meals came from the freezer - we prepared multiple batches of them in advance!

These quesadillas, cooked by Mr H, were loaded down with everything from
chicken to mushrooms, turnips to onions, cheese to beans - and they were
GOOD! The best I've ever had!!
Must have salad in this heat! 
The baked beans cooked outside on the porch in the slow-cooker,
as a friend had suggested - since temps were in the 100s! 

I can eat this borscht by the gallon!!

A lovely cottage pie from the freezer

Mr H cooked turnips and beets and I couldn't stop eating them

Cooking the greens from the turnips and beets

Fettuccini dinner

A full fridge is a happy fridge!

Chopped Cobb Salad - I ate almost the whole thing ...

This lovely fruit bowl, composed by Mr H, was the 
perfect snacking material for us while I was in labor

What happens when you leave a popsicle on the counter and get distracted
by changing diapers ... 

And so, we head into another week!

Mrs H



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