Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cute Puppy Interlude

The time has come for some cute puppy pics! I've gathered quite a memory card full and am going to dish up the most adorable ones I can find for your (and my) viewing pleasure.


I have always gotten a kick out of seeing dogs sleep with their tongues sticking out for some reason. It's just too funny and cute. This was taken back on 2/6/10 and is the boy, Peace, at rest in his sister's crate. Don't forget you can click on the pictures for full size images.

This was taken 2/23/10 and is the girl, Harmony, sleeping "cheek to cheek" with Peace in her crate. The other night we heard this loud sucking sound and were looking around for it and I noticed she was fervently nursing/swallowing in her sleep. She is by far the better adjusted dog
in many ways.

She often looks at us as if to say, "Yes, I am that smart, so do as I say and all will be fine."
Taken 3/16/10

"Whazzat?" *sniiiiiff* This is one of the rare times I have been able to get him with his eyes open during a flash. I was actually trying to get a pic of him snuggled in his bed, but he was
too nosey. Taken 3/6/10

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Porky Pig P-p-p-pulled Apart

The other day I was desperate for something interesting to make out of a hunk of pork roast that had finally thawed in the fridge so I went to some of these new food blogs I keep finding and started browsing. I found an awesome recipe for Pulled Pork on Simply Recipes, but I didn't have all the ingredients. No sweat! I'll improvise! And so I did.

It has turned out quite deliciously if I do say so myself. I was lacking the pickled jalapeno and the chipotle chile powder and the tomato paste (which is weird 'cause I usually have some on hand).  So in place of all of those, I threw in about a half bottle of the Chipotle style Tabasco sauce, some extra ketchup, some regular ol chile powder and a couple cans of green chilies for good measure in addition to whatever else the recipe said.

I marinated over night, because that's always a good idea. I thought I was going to cook it in the Crock Pot instead of how she (the blogger lady) says to, but I got impatient and decided to go the 2 hour route like it recommends. I don't know if my cut of pork was just worse than hers or what, but two hours did NOT do the trick. I cooked it until I could pull it with a fork, which I did, but some of it seemed so flavorless and kind of tough that I put it right back in the sauce without reducing it at all. I cooked it probably another couple hours, then turned off the heat and left the lid on so it would kind of steep.

Now that did it. However, I didn't have the benefit of time to reduce the sauce by the time I got to it, so I strained out the pork and added just a bit of corn starch to barely thicken the sauce so it would stay with the pork better on the sandwich and give it some body. So we feasted on pulled pork atop soft kaiser rolls with spears of cold, crunchy good kosher dills and home made coleslaw and don't forget the chips. I think I would like to slow smoke/grill the pork next time and then soak it in the sauce after pulling it. But that's way more involved.

There's really not a lot of hands on time for this sort of thing if you don't mind ocassionally turning the meat as it cooks between doing other things. Probably the hardest part is pulling it with the forks or whatever utensils you choose to use. My hands get crampy sometimes. My brother said that's why they don't have little Spongebob-type teenagers in the back of these serious BBQ joints pulling the pork apart, but the guy looks like Popeye or Bluto instead, complete with bulging forearm "muskles". I couldn't help but laugh at that.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Okie Dokey Tapiockey

More than just okie dokey, I think I have found the most superb recipe for tapioca pudding. Up until I found this, I didn't much care for tapioca pudding. In fact, I would say I had quite a disdain for it due to a run in with a bad batch from "Swiss Miss" where the bits didn't get cooked right and were grainy and crunchy. I thought it was vanilla at first, boy what a let down.

Fast forward/Rewind to a couple years ago. My family and I are on a small summer trip which takes us through the (misnomer alert) Pennsylvania Dutch country. Before I was born, they had been to, and enjoyed stopping at the Shartlesburg Hotel. However, by the time we got there with me alive, we discovered that it had closed a couple summers earlier. No worries though, we were informed that something similar was just down the road, Haag's Hotel. Oookay.

Well, it was alright. The best thing I remember was their roast chicken and gravy. It HAD to be from scratch, and if it wasn't, color me impressed with whatever company it came from. But anyway, this is where Mom gets me to try some of their tapioca pudding. I remember thinking that it had potential likability..if it were just made better. I got the feeling that it was Not from scratch, and no wonder, the stuff takes at least an hour for one batch not counting over night soaking of the pearls.

After that, I decided we needed to know what really good tapioca was like and using my family as willing guinea piggies, I set forth on the quest. It has been two years in the making and I had all but given up because of the shoddy results of many recipes instructions. It just so happend that I was browsing my favorite section (desserts) on a new food blog I found not long ago - ("Simply Recipes" see the link to it on my sidebar. ) and there happend to be a recipe with a way of making it that I had not attempted yet. It is, I would say extremely easy, at least in a comparative manner. Others may not require you to stand there and stir nearly as much, but considering you actually get an outstanding product at the end that you "MMM" and "Ohh" about, it's worth it.

Before I describe any alterations I have made, know that it is for a double batch of the pearls because there is no way we'd have any left over for the next day if I didn't. And, I only have access to pearls that require an over night soak. I do not reduce the milk for cooking as suggested by the recipe when soaking pearls over night. I felt it made it too stiff.

The only changes that I have made are to increase the salt by maybe 1/8 to 1/4tsp more. I don't know, it just felt like it needed a touch more, so it's up to you if you want to try it.

I double or even triple the amount of vanilla I use. I would love to try a vanilla bean in it, perhaps steeping it in the milk a little bit before putting in the pearls. (After removing the paste from within the bean first of course).

I have been making this with 4 cups milk (from 2% up to whole) and 2 cups Half n' Half. I imagine using just whole milk would be fine but I was being decadent.

I have made this with small pearl as called for and large pearl. The only differences would be a longer soak time in water for large pearl and also longer cooking time. I recommend taking a really slow creep up to the first boiling stage so that the pearls get a chance to get semi-translucent first and then boiling slowly for probably 10 minutes instead of 5. During this time you can never leave the pot and I recommend using a heat proof scraper of some sort, stirring almost constantly, (but gently) to keep anything from sticking to the bottom/sides. I can go for either size pearls texturally speaking, but the small pearl is less time consuming and there feels like there is more of them in the mixture to go around which is nice too. Large pearls are like chewing on nice little gummy bears kind of. All personal preference of course.

The Fam has decided that they prefer the pudding more custardy and would probably be happy if I didn't whip the egg whites before adding. I like it a touch lighter though, but not As light as the egg whites make it. So, I don't bother to fold them in too gently when adding. It keeps it light but puddingy all at the same time. It'll settle even more by the next day. IF you have any left. Oh yeah, and I do add a touch of cream of tartar for the egg white stability, but I guess I should try leaving that out since I'm so rough on them anyway. We'll see how that goes.

If you have a spare half hour to an hour and really love good tapioca, I seriously recommend giving this recipe a try. If you don't have that spare time....you're missing out. :(

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Lost Recipe

Usually, anyone who grows up around their parents has many and various stories of "when I was young" thrust upon their eardrums at regular intervals until none of them are new any more and they begin to repeat. Myself, I am no stranger to these and have heard ample amounts remembering most of them by heart. Some I have grown accustomed to enduring because they simply can't be helped, and others I tend to say "yes yes, you told me this before", because *I* can't be helped.

However, there's always a story or two that you don't mind and you wish had more details. One such story is of my Mother's parents running a restaurant in the early 50's. My Mom recalls how things were, the sounds, the smells, the cooking, the customers. She has been repeating this along with a strong desire to reclaim the lost recipe of a particular cake my Grandmother used to make and sell out of, on a daily basis. This is an infamous cake in our house and she fairly makes our mouths water to hear of its deliciousness. It was called something like "A Chocolate Mocha Layer Cake with Custard Filling".  Having her tell us the whole ordeal of watching her Mother make it for the umpteenthmillionth time, I couldn't take it any longer. I decided to take things into my own hands.

Since then I have been on the search for a recipe that seems to resemble what she remembers Grandma putting together, but she was such a young girl, it's hard for her to say. While the custard filling between the layers is undeniable, the cake and frosting are up in the air.

The custard was a deep yellow, cooked with cornstarch and made with a genuine vanilla bean.

The cake was two layers, believed to have been a butter cake, not oil, made with unsweetened bakers chocolate, not cocoa. She remembers seeing Grandma make coffee for some part of it, but not sure if it was for the cake or the frosting. It is also possible that she whipped her egg whites and folded them into the batter because she remembers seeing cream of tartar out (which helps stabilize egg whites when whipped). Additionally it may have been made with buttermilk.

The frosting was a definite buttercream as the cake had to be refrigerated or it would melt. She doesn't remember seeing cocoa powder used at any point and thinks that maybe semi-sweet squares were used in the frosting. I am inclined to think that the coffee was for the frosting which is what made it all Mocha.

Sounds delish, right? Well! I intend to get to the bottom of this, even if I have to bake 100 different cakes over time. Heh Heh Heh. Any clues or suggestions would be helpful. And yes, you can have some cake too.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Not enough interesting stuff

This past month life has been about the mundane. No experimenting, no trying new things or bettering old things. Ah well. March is upon us and it is time to think about, if not begin, planting seeds in multiples of plenty for this summer's garden. I will be revisiting several well known veggies again this year, staples of almost any garden really. Others are new to me and will require some study. It's all a lot of work, but seeing as I'm STILL cooking with my hot peppers frozen from last early fall, I'd say it's more than worth it, given the price of those things year round.

Here's some of the line up planned for this summer:

SeedSavers.org offerings:

Yellow Finn Potatoes (so tasty you can eat them without butter/salt/pepper)
Green Arrow Peas
Tigers Eye Beans
Copenhagen Market Cabbage
or perhaps Mammoth Red Rock Cabbage
Broccoli DeCicco
Dragon Carrot
White Cucumber for pickling (can't remember the specific name at the moment)
Garden Huckleberry (maybe)
Diamond Eggplant
Rainbow Swiss Chard (a must!)
Yellow of Parma Onion
Cipollini Onion (Borettana Yellow)
King of the North sweet peppers
Beaver Dam medium hot peppers
Persian Star (a.k.a. Samarkand) Garlic
Cilantro (from which also comes Coriander seed for seasoning)
English Lavender
Genovese Basil
Giant from Italy Parsley
Cinnamon Basil
Russian Tarragon (good with fish I hear)
Bees Friend Flower

Lateglow Strawberries - planted last year to get patch established

Julia Child Tomatoes

With the exception of the potatoes, peppers, beans, swiss chard and tomatoes the list above is subject to change according to how much time and energy I have to devote to the project. I doubt I'm going to do any melons this year, they just aren't my favorite. I adore sunberries but they're so abominably hard to harvest that it wastes my time and energy. The same with ground cherries, though I suspect I could manage a system to make them easier to get at, but maybe another year. I also have an apple tree that I ordered from a SeedSavers member last year that needs to be transplanted to a final destination this year. It may get fruit within 1-2 more years. So hard to be patient!

If anyone ever wants to get me a present I am in need of some good gardening gloves that will take some getting wet and will stay cool and are not bulky. I am probably a medium for women's glove sizing. ::whistles innocently to herself:::