Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

I started 2013 gleefully telling my Big Boss that I planned to retire in September.  Looking down the months from January to September I thought the time would never pass. 

I was able to look around and say goodbye to the library and its denizens and think warm fuzzy thoughts, especially at the end. 

My plans for how to structure my days have worked out perfectly.

As I look back on the year, everything is suffused with a very happy feeling of contentment that I have been able to snuggle down at home, cook, bake, plan my garden, work on crafts, take lots of breaks to daydream...

I have been in one of those odd periods for awhile where I didn't read much, but now I'm in that ideal state where you put down one book and happily pick up another.  That's the life for me.

Wishing you the very best in 2014,   Librarian D.O.A.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Review at Merlyn Perilous for Death In the Time of Ice by Kaye George

My book blog Adventures of Merlyn Perilous is finally perking along.  I decided I should just say what I want to about books I enjoy and not try to have a formal review.  Books and my reaction to them are very personal so the recommendation should be that, right?

Off to the ice you go!

Kaye George on the Web

Waldorf Salad (Fannie Farmer)

Some of my former co-workers used to bring the tastiest salads to staff potlucks using apples and other fruits in the salad, and since salads are another of the things I'd love to do well, I looked through my small cookbook collection to see what there was and for some reason Waldorf Salad sounded elegant and tasty all at once.

Looking through cookbooks is a pleasant pastime if there ever was one.  So many possibilities.  I also really like that they often offer a bit of history or commentary.  My Fannie Farmer cookbook does not, but it does off a lot of basic cooking instructions, and I've never taken time to really sit back and try to learn the basics.  It is eye opening, really, and I highly recommend it. 

My skills are slowly improving as I try different recipes of all types.  My spice cupboard is quite intriguing.  My weekly menus are fun and are (mostly) tasty.  The Waldorf Salad is simple, with a nice combination of flavors and textures.  Very quick to make.

Fannie Farmer Cookbook (1979c)  Waldorf Salad

2 firm ripe green apples
1 firm ripe red apple
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons honey (optional)
Iceberg or Bibb lettuce leaves

Core and quarter the apples (leave the skin on unless it is tough) and slice thin.  Put in a bowl and toss with the lemon juice to coat.  Add the celery and walnuts.  Cover and chill.

Mix the mayonnaise and honey (if you like a little sweetness in the dressing) together until smooth, add to the apple mixture and toss.  Serve on a bed of lettuce.

DOA Notes:   You only chill the apple mixture while you mix the mayonnaise.  I used honey.  I expected this to be a bit sweeter, and would prefer it that way so next time I make it I will use two red Macintosh apples and one Granny Smith.  I used mayonnaise here but will use Miracle Whip next time which is just a bit sweeter and I think I'll have a perfect salad.  The apples did not turn brown or the salad spoil in any way over the 3-4 days it took me to eat all the nice tasty salad.  I don't think the bed of lettuce adds anything unless you're being fancy.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Holy Basil, Batman!

Since I've decided to grow and use herbs in abundance next season, I thought to grow Holy Basil  "Ocimum Sanctum."   It has culinary and medicinal properties, including perhaps being an immune system booster.

Pinetree Garden Seeds had it listed but was sold out when I went to place an order.  Other seed companies either don't list it or are sold out.  In December?   I found another company that has it listed but their catalog hasn't been updated for 2014.  Another had comments that the seeds did not germinate for them.

Quite the hunt for this bit of semi-mystical treasure, don't you think?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

I Guess I Need the Library After All

As you may recall I wondered about finding a new library for myself once I wasn't in one everyday.  Since I retired in September, I've been in my local library once to pick up a request.  I haven't been anywhere else.

I have a wondrous pile of my own to be read books.  I keep getting recommendations on Facebook for ebook versions of mysteries free or on sale.  My shelves also happen to runneth over with many books I haven't had the time to read, and now I do have it.

My baking fiendishness has made me appreciate a nice cookbook, with those small essays about the author of the book or the recipes themselves.  I have a pretty small cookbook collection and usually any given cookbook yields only a few recipes you want to make over and over.

Here is where the library, that venerable institution, comes in handy.  I can go there with my coinage and copy the recipes I want, or check the books out and enjoy the essays, copy recipes and return them.

The other big topic where I would want to read and return the books is gardening.  I have a lot of books on gardening, but you just never know what neat idea someone may have or what distinctive new gardening voice there may be.

Off we go to the library!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Picky Palate's XXL M and M Chocolate Chip Cookies

I thought I'd report on my monster cookies.  They turned out great and are perfect dunked in milk.  Nice soft cookies.  Very chocolaty.  I personally was mongo impressed by scooping up a quarter cup of dough for each cookie.  I managed to space them well so they didn't conjoin.

The link for the recipe is here.  I cooked them for 15 minutes at 350 and did give them the extra ten minutes on the pan. 

Just delightful.  I'm giving them away tomorrow never fear or I would have to roll everywhere I go.  It was important for me to taste one for scientific purposes.

I hate to say but I think mine look nicer than the originals.  No brag just fact (Walter Brennan?).

Before cooking on right, after cooking on left :)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

What's Cooking? You Ask.

Well, since you ask, there is a nice stew in the crockpot simmering away on low.  It smells heavenly.

I have all these recipes I'm twitching to try, but there is just me and Mr. DOA so I can't fill the place with baked goods, can I?  Noooo.

I can find opportunities such as a family gathering this weekend to bring the expected cranberries and 7 Layer Salad, and more.

Trickily, I can try a few other recipes and slink in the door with them, letting my unsuspecting family test these things out.

First, a recipe I have used before for coleslaw that is very good but not necessarily just like KFC's slaw.   It makes way too much so I'm going to halve it this time:


I confess when I made it last time I used Miracle Whip because I grew up with it and I love it to death.  I find regular mayo to be comparatively tasteless.   The new Uber Cook me is going to use Hellman's in the recipe to see what difference it makes, if any.

The butter is softening as we speak for Whipped Shortbread Cookies  from Taste of Home. The recipe seemed simple, looked pretty, and delicate.  3 cups of butter is putting a serious dent in my butter supply.

My cookies came out perfect.  I wanted something light like a Russian teacake but not a Russian teacake.  They seemed as if they might be soft given the texture of the dough, but they are not.  A burst of powdery cookie-ness explodes  in your mouth then it immediately melts away on your tongue in a lovely buttery bit of heaven.  I am a soft cookie person so I think these need milk or coffee to dunk them in.

These are mine:

I found Christmas colored M and Ms  for Picky Palate's http://picky-palate.com/2010/05/10/xxl-mm-chocolate-chip-cookies/

I did not find those pans she used that are like muffin pans but very shallow.  I looked at various advice for baking cookies in muffin tins.  There was such a wide variation in baking times and temperatures, I think trying this for the first time I will use her directions for baking on a regular cookie sheet.

From a site I increasingly love: Two Peas and Their Pod  we're making Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake.  I've never made a bundt cake before, and always think of them as being sort of dry and frosting-less.

This sweet recipe looks very moist and has a nice chocolate glaze.  http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/chocolate-sour-cream-bundt-cake/

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Get Spicy!

There is usually an article in the paper or elsewhere at this time of year when so many of us are blissfully cooking our little hearts out telling us to look at our spice cupboard and check for old spices.

I did a massive weed of mine recently because I've been using spices in my cooking experiments and I wanted to be sure I had nice fresh ingredients.  I found a couple with no expiration dates at all, and you know that can't be good.

This is definitely the time to reorganize, revitalize and restock since there are so many sales and coupons available and spices are expensive.

List making fiend that I am, after I weeded I wrote what I had that was current and what I needed to restock then just picked up a couple each week on sale.  I carry it with me when I go to the store so I know if I am already nicely stocked or not.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Talking Volumes

I attended some of the Talking Volumes author programs this fall for the first time.  I wasn't sure if I liked the interview format but it has grown on me over the course of the series.  I think many interesting stories are told as the authors respond to questions about their work.

These are at the  Fitzgerald  Theater in St. Paul and I just love the theater itself. It is a very charming building.  Plenty if parking (especially during Rick Riordan's when most of the audience was too young to drive.)

There is a musical interlude which comes right after the author has read a powerful passage from their work which I find quite jarring.

All in all, quite a charming experience, and it is a real treat to be in a big audience full of book lovers.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Christmas Card Production Begins Now!

I have all my Christmas stamps and pads out.

Have my various glues, dots, and embellishments...

Snowmen signed by my boy while he was here for T-Day

Now to just customize as much as I can each card to fit the person receiving it, and to have fun using my many supplies.  Ho ho ho.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

You Say Tomato

My favorite soup is Tomato.  I grew up with Campbell's and love it but oh how I want to make my own with fresh ingredients and a bit more flavor.

I tried one recipe that tasted too much like tomato juice, just shy of V8. Agh.

Today I went for a creamy tomato soup. I thought as I was making it that it had too much basil. The basil kind of smacks you, then when that passes it tastes near perfect.

I have yet another recipe to try and if it fails I'll drop back to today's recipe and pare the basil down to something like a quarter tsp.

It was a rather tragic meal all around.  The electric fry pan went kablooie but not before just burning the bajee out of the grilled cheese sandwiches.

My husband proclaimed that he doesn't like tomato soup at all and "you can eat it if you want to".

You know what mom would say, right?  "We are not so easily defeated".