Friday, March 25, 2016

Hell in a bottle. It's not so bad.

I was conscripted into helping with dinner.  I didn't feel like it.  I was told to make salad.  Salad--not my area of expertise.  I don't really like it, so I suck at it.  Lettuce, tomatoes. Boring.  The hooligans ate all the croutons because there were no chips.

Then I dug around in the fridge hoping hoping hoping YES!! Bottled dressing.  We never use bottled dressing.  The Man Who Lives In My House makes special delicious dressing with secret ingredients and shit.  (The secret is mustard powder.)

"YES!"  I said, "Bottled dressing!  We are going to hell, Clearly!  because I am going to use this stuff!  it has multi syllabic chemicals, and probably sugar.  Could it get any worse?  I doubt it!"

"It could get worse," said the Man, stirring the pasta.  "Donald Trump could be president.  That would be much worse."

Well he does have a point.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

the best fudge. really.

I can't remember where this recipe came from, but I did not invent it.  It came into my life around the time I decided I liked The Man Who Now Lives In My House so much that I would give up my tiny apartment (over which I had total aesthetic control) to live with him.  So I've been making this during the Holidays for the last 18 years or so.

I wrote it down on the front page of my Joy Of Cooking, which is falling apart because really, what other cookbook do you need?

Here it is:

pour 1 can of condensed milk (unsweetened)
and 3.5 cups sugar
into a large heavy saucepan.

(if you don't have a really good pan, maybe this is the year to request one.  My favorite is le creuset, which turn up in thrift stores from time to time.  I figure it the pan is a little bit chipped around the rim, I won't feel terrible when I chip it a little more.  It's called patina.  )

bring this to a boil and start stirring NON STOP for SIX MINUTES.

set a timer.  if you do this the fudge will turn out perfectly.

after SIX MINUTES of NON STOP stirring (got it?), take the mixture off the heat, dump in 18 oz of chocolate chips or chunks--the better quality the chocolate, the better the fudge.

 If you like dark chocolate you can use 9 oz (or more!) unsweetened chocolate and the other 9 could be bittersweet--you could even do all 18 oz unsweetened, but I haven't tried that so I make no guarantees.

also add:
 1/4 t salt,
 2 t  flavoring--vanilla, grand mariner, peppermint, coffee, whatever you prefer,
and 3/4 C butter.

Some people like to add stuff--nuts, mini marshmallows, chopped up candy canes, candied orange peel, whatever, as well.  I'm a purist.  I add grand mariner instead of vanilla sometimes, but no stuff.

stir everything together until the chocolate and butter have melted and then pour into a shallow rimmed pan lined with parchment paper.  refrigerate for several hours to set.  then cut into squares with a pizza cutter and share with everyone you like.

you can also line small boxes (the ones checks come in are the perfect size) with parchment, pour the hot fudge directly in, refrigerate and then give away (or hoard and devour--because this is so good no one could blame you).

It's also easy.  The smaller hooligan made a batch the other night all by himself and gave a big box to his cello teacher.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Staying focused ha ha

Suffering from extreme scattered-ness around here.

BUT I have been managing to cook a lot.  A friend of mine is struggling with an autoimmune disease which has left her unable to work.  A more organized parent from our sons' soccer teams set up a schedule to bring the family dinners most nights.  I am seriously so computer-phobic and spacey that I never actually signed up for an official time.  Instead I just read some cookbooks or cooking blogs on Sunday morning, make a grocery list, and call her to see if she wants a dinner on monday or tuesday.  This seems to work.

AND while I am terribly sorry my friend and her family are going through this, I am grateful for the cooking inspiration.  It's fall!  It's a good time to cook!  And it's a good time to cook big pots of things that you can share with a friend or freeze for later.

Last night's dish was, tho I say it myself, exemplary:

Braised beef with cumin and carrots--enough for 8-10 people, or 2 dinners for 4-5.  

(To start I have to say that I made this one up BUT I had inspiration long ago from our Baltimore friend, Charles Eberhardt who used to make these incredible buttery cumin carrots for a side dish. I could not find the recipe.  You will be shocked to learn that I keep recipes from friends, magazines, etc in a jumble.  Fortunately my tongue has a taste-o-graphic memory so I can usually replicate stuff)

olive oil
big lump of butter
6 onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, mashed and chopped
zest of one orange
1T ground cumin
2t cumin seeds
pinch of red pepper flakes if you want a little kick

2-3 lbs chuck roast or stew meat, chopped into 1-2 inch pieces,

2-3 bunches carrots, chopped

bay leaf
2c red wine
juice of the orange you zested,
chicken stock (I used canned.)

sauté veggies, meat herbs and spices in the oil and butter, add the red wine and orange juice, cook down a bit, cover with chicken stock, put the lid on the pot and leave it on low for a couple of hours, before serving, adjust seasoning, garnish with parsley and serve over noodles.

you could also make this up to the point of adding the chicken stock, refrigerate, and finish the next day.  lots of options here.  all measurements and quantities could be modified to your tastes.  Also you could skip the beef and chicken stock and use those giant white beans and veggie stock if you're a vegetarian.  Gluten free folks could use potatoes or serve over get the picture.

The hooligans often are somewhat disparaging of stew-type dishes but they gobbled this one up.  We actually devoured all of it (everyone was hungry).  Next time I will make lots more.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


I have a long and tedious list of errands and chores, but I am opting to ignore it and go search for chanterelles instead.  I have to be home by three to help finish Halloween costumes.  Wish me luck.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


I just came across the expression:  "Not my circus.  Not my monkeys."

It struck a chord.

Only my life is kind of the opposite:

My book title (if I ever write one) will be: My Circus, My Monkeys. 

(side note:  I can't find that yellow scarf anywhere.  and it's perfect scarf weather today!  My circus is disorganized. I blame the monkeys.  Curses.)

Friday, October 24, 2014

While I was out on leave.....

I got to officiate a wedding this summer.  Our beloved onetime babysitter Trish moved to Norway to do a Phd. in Comparative Lit (beloved and brilliant).  While there she met an amazing and lovely Norwegian (read: Viking!!) named Trond.  In addition to being kind, clever, hardworking and handsome, he is a rock star.  

His band is called Dark Times.:   Trond is the one with long curly hair.  They tour and everything. So add talented to his list of attributes.   When Trish asked me if I would be an officiant at their wedding I was as flattered as I have ever been in my life.  

I started trying to write down some profound thoughts and they were really annoying.  So I decided not to overthink it.  Which, it occurred to me, is a good policy for marriage in general:  Don't overthink it.

I did need to say something semi coherent, though, so this is what I came up with:  

Marriage is the collision between romance and real life.   (Maybe I should have said intersection? a much gentler word choice.  Oh well, it is too late. )  

I went on to say what our preacher said to us:  which was:   

Have fun together.  Prioritize it, even when you are broke and stressed and surrounded by screaming babies.  Build some fun with into the budget and budget the time together.  Spending joyful, relaxing time together is not just a "bonus."  If it doesn't happen, how will you remember why you're together?  It's more important than a clean house.  And while a little money in the bank is important, spending a little bit of it on a bottle of wine or a weekend away now and then is also of great value. 

Make each other laugh so hard you are hyperventilating.  Cook for each other, make coffee in the morning, do the dishes at night.  If both of you act as if all the logistics are your job, neither of you will ever have the opportunity to resent doing the logistics:  you will think, oh, I should do the the dishes, oh wait, they are already done.  Was it the elves?  no, it was Trond/Trish.  How nice.  I must thank him/her, with a kiss, or something :).  

Pragmatic and mundane ideas, but marriage is a philosophical state put into practice.  It is easier to be happily committed when your partner sets a cup of hot coffee and the paper on your bedside table on his way to the shower.   A long time ago, Denis said to me, Love is a verb.  

Love is a verb.  And I am deeply appreciative of the coffee.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

More bits from the summer: Deaf as a post post

I did actually write a little bit this summer, I just never got around to adding pictures and posting.  Here is one example:

We went out to the sailboat (have I mentioned the sailboat?  We have acquired my folks' pretty wooden day sailer since my dad's balance has become so poor--we keep it at the local reservoir in the summer.  Lucky us!)  the other evening.

The smaller hooligan brought his remote control speedboat. The wind was light and we were just tooling along very peacefully.  He stood by the mast and ran his demonic little vessel alongside.

Some big tattoo'd dudes and their neon thong lady friends in a speed boat were amused.  They hollered  "Send that thing over with a beer!"  Ha ha.  That was sweet, actually.  Often the sailboat people and the speed boat people have nothing to say to each other.  We do not like the big wake they create.  They do not like that we have right of way if we're under sail.

As we sailed away from our new speed boat friends the Man Who Lives In My House and the Smaller Hooligan were bobbing their heads in time to something.
"I hate this song."  Said the smaller hooligan.
"Me too, but it's horribly catchy."  said TMWLIMH.
 "What song?"  I asked.

They looked at me quizzically.  You can't hear that?  aske THMWLIMH.

"Hear What?"  I responded.

The smaller hooligan chimed in  "Mom you really are deaf!"

Oh dear.  I thought having to get progressive lenses in my glasses would somehow protect me from other areas of sensory deterioration.  I guess I can look forward to being more oblivious to irritating background noise.