Friday, October 30, 2009


You have to see this! Oh, and its safe for the kids!

Update on My Baking Ability - I REALLY SUCK AT IT!

My sister was coming for a visit with my nephew and his wife and their three daughters, all under four! He was moving from GA to Maine where he grew up and my sister and her husband flew down to help drive them up. A stop at my house was in order for a one night-quickie sleep over visit! It was fun, crazy and loud as my family often is. I was in heaven!

So, before they came, I decided to make some quiche for their departure morning...easy to slip in the oven and bake off in the AM and some cornbread and ham (they are meat eaters, so I obliged) and for dinner the night they arrived it was TAKE OUT! These guys love coming here and having hoagies and cheese steaks. Something they can't get at home that are this good.

So, the weekend before I decided to make an applesauce cake and a Jewish Apple Cake.

The latter I'll write further on at another time, but as for the applesauce cake, it is a perennial favorite of mine and comes from an old Betty Crocker book that asks you to place everything in one bowl. Just the kind of baking I like!

There I was on a Sunday afternoon, making soups and salad needed a payment to my friend was helping me with a computer connection problem. His wife was chatting with me and I finished up the batter and poured it in the pan, slipped it in the oven and thought the batter to be a bit thick, but baked it anyway.

About 30 minutes in, I took a peek. Something didn't look right. It wasn't rising up and glistening like it usually does. Kinda sunken in the center. It smelled great with all that cinnamon and cloves, nutmeg and vanilla wafting out of the oven.

I pulled it out after using the toothpick method and set it on a rack. I turned to the left and there's a whole jar of applesauce I never opened!

You got it! I forgot the applesauce in the applesauce cake! How lame is that? What a goober!!!

The pigs and chickens had it as a treat and I have to say, they are my biggest baking fans!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Baking and Caking Horrors...

I suck at baking. No, really I do! I can't measure well and I don't follow directions very well, so those qualities do not make a good or even adequate baker.

I do, however, want to learn and will be focusing more on this in 2010. I have to give myself challenges once in a while.

In the meantime, I watch baking. You know, The Food Network has tons of shows where people get in front of cameras and bake stunning examples of cakes, tarts, tortes, bread, pies, galettes, merengues, sweet rolls and the like.

I think my favorite show on that channel is Ace of Cakes. Not that they show you much baking, but they show these wonderful cakes and the process by which they make them. That's the part that facinates me. All the quirky, technical details they work out to make things like stadiums, The Stanley Cup, an giant replica of an Old Bay seasoning can and the planet Jupiter. BTW, I love the cast of characters!

Well, seems there's a woman out there with a blog called Cake Wrecks that is just hilarious! I've included the NYTimes link to a story about her and her blog link as well.

Wish me luck...making a Jewish Apple Cake and Applesauce Cake this weekend for the family's visit! I may just post some pix here!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Another Important Article from the NYTimes

This time it's about foodborne illness and worth a read. The link within the article is very interesting too, about the ground beef...all the more reason for my decision to be vegetarian!

Sister Stuff

My sister is one of the best cooks I know and a woman who can bake anyone under the table with her delicious homemade goodies at holiday time. There are some signature dishes she makes that when we get together, she has to make them for me.

Kath is in Maine and I am in Pennsylvania, so we don’t get together as often as we ought or want to, considering we are the only siblings in our family of deceased parents. We share a father and have different mothers. She looks exactly like her mother (who died before Kath was a year old) and I look just like mine. We both have our father’s sense of humor, which seemed to help us survive some very difficult times over the years.

Mom and Dad married when Kath was about 8 years old, so there’s quite a difference in age, but you’d never, ever know it.

My mother wasn’t terrifically enthusiastic about cooking, but her mother was and took my sister under her wing and showed her some tricks. Along with her high school home economics classes (yup, we’re so old we can remember them) and Grandmom, she turned into quite the capable cook.

Kath has quite the repertoire of dishes…let me see if I can list them here…

Spaghetti – made with homemade tomato gravy
Jewish Apple Cake
Creamed Cabbage
Beer Bread
Baked Beans
Thumbprint cookies
Kilbasa and Sauerkraut
Conga Bars
Fried Chicken
Meatball sandwiches
Chicken Salad
Fried Cabbage and Noodles
Macaroni Salad
Potato Salad
Broccoli Casserole
Did I mention Jewish Apple Cake?
Cheese cake --- she could go into business and retire in a year with this recipe!
Russian Tea Cakes
Apple Pie
Summer Squash Casserole
Meat pies
Lobster rolls

She is always making something when I call or just made something in the past week for someone’s birthday party, baby or bridal shower or someone’s funeral. Kath loves to cook and bake for others.

Food is not only part of our culture as a people, but for many of us, it’s a display of love and affection for those around us. Do something nice for me and I’ll cook you dinner to show my appreciation. Holidays are the times to be with loved ones and food is just one way of expressing love. I don’t bring lots of food to a gathering to show off my talents. I bring it to share what I love with those I love. My sister is the same way and how I appreciate getting together with her!

As a cook myself, it is hard to not cook for her when we visit one another, but she wants to make the meals…starting with breakfast and while we’re eating that, she’s planning what to have for lunch or if we’re going out that day, we’ll eat out, so we discuss the items we need for dinner. I have to slow her down, but with her energy it can be hard. When she’s on the prowl for something yummy, there’s no stopping her.

I often think I’d like to go into business with her and open a small breakfast/lunch place up in Maine. She’s a hard worker and takes an almost severe sense of pride in her cooking and baking talents. We could clean up, that’s for sure! Her with the cooking and baking, I with my marketing experience and my restaurant/cooking background, we could have a grand time and really enjoy being with one another.

I just know Maine would be so much the better for it!

Monday, October 5, 2009

American Food

Joanne and I were talking a couple weeks ago and she is working with someone who is here on an educational exchange from Germany and she and her coworkers are trying to get her to try some American food.

I started thinking...what's really American? Aren't we the melting pot? Or referred to as the Salad Bowl of the world with all sorts of cultures adding to our culinary repertoire?

I thought of course of two so-called American favorites - Apple Pie and Hot Dogs, but we're talking about a woman from Germany...she has bratwurst and can ours be any more original for her since they've both derived from the German cuisine.

So, here's my project to those of you who are reading this...what is American Food? Can you give me some ideas?

Fig Season is Here!

I love watermelon and it truly is my favorite 'affordable' fruit that I can enjoy for a long time starting in late spring and through the summer. So, what's this have to do with figs, you ask?

Figs are an indulgence for me. First, I have to find somewhere to purchase them that they aren't all mushy, over weepy and moldy. That's a big challenge as my local grocery store's produce folks get few in, as I suspect they aren't a big seller here on the East Coast and they tend to be handled by many people who don't know what they are nor understand their fragility.

So, when I can find them at a produce dealer that treats them well they are somewhat pricey and I can often only afford about 2-3 of the precious fruits, leaving me with little to indulge in a recipe other than maybe some goat cheese or with some good ice cream.

I found this link from the Serious Eats Newsletter and thought maybe, just maybe I'll indulge a bit more and make something I'm passing it along...

Take a read and tell me what you think!

The Chili Tasting Contest that Wasn't

I do lots of volunteer work for our township committees here in Springfield Township, Bucks County and for the most part, its fun and a great learning experience. One of the things I take part in is our Community Day, of which I chair the committee. I’ve finally decompressed from this year’s event and can write a bit more for the blog now that the autumn season is upon us!

This is an enormous undertaking and although it can have its ups and downs, my committee is absolutely superb. I’ve been on other committees, volunteered at other non-profits, but this group of folks is a dream to work with. There has never been a truer example of teamwork than I am experiencing with this group of six others that work with me.

One of our goals is to give back to the community. We collect food for a local pantry, held a silent auction of about 35 items and had our police department take time in a dunk tank, all for charity.

Since I’m vegetarian and wanted the Springtown Volunteer Fire Company who does our food for the event to have something for those of us that don’t eat meat…I offered my Famous Vegetarian Chili. It sold like gangbusters and sold out…I now offer it every year as the alternative for the former carnivores who need some other option. The Fire Company gets the money, vegetarians who are typically forgotten get to eat something really yummy and even some die hard carnivores take a bowl for lunch and we all win.

Last year, one of our fire police who is now on my committee with her husband (also a fire police & fire fighter) mentioned she had always wanted to do a chili contest to raise funds for the fire company. After some discussion, we decided upon something a bit less elaborate than a chili cook-off, since the contestants would have to make their own chili at such an event and we didn’t have the staff/volunteers to run that.

We came up with a Chili Tasting Contest. Not bad…they’d bring their slow cookers with chili already heated and needing to be plugged into electric. That was the tricky part…we could only accommodate 20 pots on the electric at this facility where we hold our event. We would have it judged and then sell the bowls for $1 each for the benefit of the fire company who was already selling food for our event out of the kitchen at the facility.

Well, the day before the big event, my one committee member who is our ‘electrical wizard’ and was an electrical engineer in a former life before retiring had two huge electric panels he set up in anticipation of a windfall of slow cookers.

I stopped at the Dollar Store and purchased half a dozen ladles, spoons, bowls and even a bottle of Pepto Bismol for the event.

The big day came and we were ready for the onslaught with chili registrations, rules and judging forms.

One pot of the Anything Goes variety showed up. Yup, you heard it right. One, lonely pot of chili.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about one pot. I’m not complaining at all. We were happy with that one pot of what I hear was a delicious, hearty, chili from a local epicurean who made his own Adobo sauce for it. It was this single contestant I felt bad for. And the local fire company for whom we wished to support with the proceeds.

Pat Bowersock, a great friend and fellow foodie won’t mind me mentioning his name here as he’s been featured in the local newspapers for his cooking and other food-related topics brought the chili and said he had worked for a couple weeks on the different aspects of this recipe.

As a transplant to Arizona, Pat learned to make authentic Southwest chili using the regional spices and herbs found there. He later brought them back home with him to Pennsylvania to replicate the flavors of the land where chili and deep, robust, spicy flavors have been present for centuries.

Well, of course Pat was the only winner of the Chili Tasting Contest, despite the fact that there was no formal judging and our member who had the idea had organized some donations for the contestants and judges thought Pat ought to get something for his efforts. She unveiled a basket of spices and herbs she had put together from The Larder in Doylestown. His eyes lit up and he swooped in to see what was there and now his pantry is full!

So, the Chili Tasting Contest that Wasn’t turned out pretty good for Pat. The Fire Company sold his next to mine and he offered an idea for next year, chili dogs! Wonder if I can talk him into it?