Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Wassail




From the book entitled:
 Revolutionary Recipes Colonial Food, Lore &  More.

An old English custom which is part of the New Years celebrations, this Wassail recipe is non-alcoholic. Spike it up to your liking! The master of the house would be offered a bowl of Wassail from which he would drink and then pass the bowl around to the guests. Hmmm I don't suggest this part of the custom but, please feel free to cheerfully repeat the phrase Wass Hael, it's Saxon and means "be whole" or "be well". 
I drank the first half of this glass full of warm, sweet beverage. As it cooled, it became incredibly sweet. Hence the addition of booze, I do believe. Or lots of ice cubes and enjoy it cold. I'll be refrigerating and or possibly freezing the remainder and serving chilled from now on. If you aren’t making this for a crowd you might want to only make half of the recipe. I did. Now I have Wassail and leftover juices in my refrigerator for the rest of the week. Modest and frugal! 

Here's what you'll need:

Wassail

3 cups of boiling water
3 black tea bags (or family size tea bags if you have them) 
2 cups of white sugar
1 quart of apple cranberry juice (or 1 pint of cranberry juice and 1 pint of apple cider)
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 1/2 cups of orange juice
1/2 cup of lemon juice

Steep the tea bags in the boiling water for five minutes. Add the sugar, apple cranberry juice, and spices, then simmer for 5 more minutes. Add the citrus juices and heat until simmering again. Serve warm....but you know...I'll be serving mine over ice.





Friday, January 11, 2019

Split Pea Soup

This soup is devoured every time I make it. But, every time I make it, the recipe varies. I’ll tell you how it came together tonight. The result was as great as every other time! Making the soup and enjoying my kitchen because it smells like life! 
What you will need.

Split Pea Soup 

Half pound of dried split peas 
6 cups of chicken broth
2 bay leaves 
1 tablespoon of dehydrated onions 
1 carrot peeled and chopped fine 
1/2 pound of lean chunks of ham
1/2 cup of heavy cream (or milk, or tonight I used half&half) 

Prepare the peas according to package directions. Chuck all of the ingredients except the heavy cream into a nice sturdy cook pot. 
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 1 hour. Purée to the thickness you desire and leave chunks or don’t purée at all. That’s the beauty of soup. Make it how you best enjoy it Add the heavy cream and as much black pepper to your taste.

There’s something so earthy and satisfying about this soup. I’m pretty sure if you read the nutritional label on the split pea bag you’ll understand. It’s healthy ( minus the hog)  The hog tastes good though, I think you’ll agree. 

It’s not exciting to look at in the bowl. We might eat with our eyes but, this is best enjoyed by your tongue. Hoping you’ll make this or any version of homemade Split Pea Soup soon. 


Monday, December 31, 2018

Cheese Puffs

Nothing but love for these little delights. Perfect for a dinner party or indulge yourself in their scrumptious flavor just for you. The choux pastry can be made ahead and frozen until ready to use. The make ahead quality makes this recipe work for me. I can throw together the pastry, enjoy a few puffs with dinner and freeze the rest for another meal. I think you'll love them.

Here's what you'll need.

1/2 cup all purpose flour (sifted)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs beaten
1/2 cup hard cheese of choice (I used Parmesan)
Beaten egg for glaze
Seeds of your choice ( I used poppy seeds. Sesame is a good choice as well)

* If you are planning to freeze these, do not brush with egg prior to freezing. Instead, take them straight from the freezer, brush with egg, top with seeds and bake them right away.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place the butter in a heavy bottom saucepan on medium heat. As the butter begins melting add the milk, water, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil. Add all of the flour at one time. Stirring constantly. Cook over low heat for about 1 to 2 minutes or until the dough forms a ball and leaves the sides of the pan.
Congrats! You just started some choux pastry dough.
Place the dough into a bowl and using a mixer, beat until cooled to lukewarm. Add the beaten eggs. Mix well. The dough will look sloppy but it'll come together. Add the cheese. Or also throw in some of your favorite herbs at this point. A tablespoon of chives would do nicely.
On a parchment lined baking sheet, make 8 gorgeous mounds of dough. Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with seeds. The seeds give a nice crunch.
Bake for 10 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 25 -30 minutes.

Bake just two for you or double the recipe and bake sixteen for a crowd. It's up to you!

Happy New Year! 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Swedish Cinnamon Slices

This recipe originated from the book entitled Biscotti by Lou Pappas. I made the change of using Greek yogurt in place of the sour cream specified in the recipe. Here's what they look like.
For helpful hints about this recipe please read the information following the instructions.



Swedish Cinnamon Slices

2/3 cup blanched slivered almonds
1 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar packed
2 eggs
2 tablespoons of plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tablespoon of cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the almonds on a bake sheet and toast in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes until slightly brown. Set aside to cool.
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the extract, yogurt and eggs.
Mix together the cinnamon, salt, baking powder, flour and soda. Add this to the cream mixture and stir gently until mixed together. Fold in the almonds.
The next part is a little tricky if you've never made Biscotti before.
On a greased and floured bake sheet or use parchment paper. You are going to form two logs with the dough. Divide the dough in half in your mixing bowl. Forming two logs about 1/2" high. 1 1/2" wide and 15" long.
Bake in the middle of your preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the biscotti, reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Allow the biscotti to cool for 5 minutes then transfer to a cutting board or flat surface.With a serrated knife, slice the logs into 1/2' slices on a 45 degree angel. Stand the slices upright on the baking sheet and return to the oven for another 10 minutes or longer. Let cool on rack. Place in airtight container.Makes about 3 dozen.

Helpful information.
The dough is sticky. Moisten your fingertips with water throughout the process as needed. Start forming the logs by placing dollops of the dough in a row. Don't worry about being totally accurate here.

You can smooth these out later with your moistened fingertips.



As the recipe suggests, after the bake time, as you are slicing these, make sure they are thick enough. I cut mine too thin and it made them harder to handle when placing back on the bake sheet.

Tender for a biscotti. You won't break a tooth on these bad boys. No dunking needed.

One final note. I didn't have slivered almonds on hand. I just finely chopped whole almonds. I think the end result would be better had I used the slivered almonds. Maybe don't skimp on this. I'll use slivered almonds next time.
But, alas when a broken heart is needing a baking fix, like a junkie... you'll turn to any supply you can get your hands on to get you there.
No sour cream, no slivered almonds, no problem.
HUT 2...3...4...


Perseverance

If you're new here, take a minute to check out the tab entitled "About", The words written today will be better understood as you read.

Columbia Creations... do I look for the connection therefore I find it, or does this reoccurring theme truly seem to unravel?
As I sat on the phone with my local gas company today, switching the bill from Mister's name to my own. The surreal reminder of this blog shot through me like an electric pulse. Right through to my very core.

It's been nearly two years since my last post.

During this time period, I have endured and been grieving the loss of my mother, the death of my brother, the death of both of my beloved dogs, the end of my marriage to Mister.

I tell you this list of personal catastrophes not looking for comfort as there is no earthly way to overcome. Breath. Accept. Release. Let Go. Repeat. Daily if not hourly at times.

So, good old Columbia Gas Company turned my writer bone back on. I considered starting a new blog. A fresh, updated, solo venture blog.

 Yet, every post.
 Every triumph in gardening, Every adventure in travels. Every recipe tasted and enjoyed, were and still are the shining truths and accomplishments of my experiences.

I fired up the oven today, dusted off the cookie sheets.
I will come back to this place.
This place is my home.
This place is my expression.
 Columbia Creations and I have been stagnant. But, like the Dahlias I've grown. We both will bust open in bold bloom once again.


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Pot Roast


Okay let's make this.

What you'll need: Here's your list

Beef Roast (rump, chuck, whatever is one sale)
Potatoes (Russet preferred)
Onion
Celery
Carrots
Bay leaves
Marjoram (Dried)
Oregano (Dried)
Tomato Paste
Beef Broth

Here's your measurements: Your procedure

2 to 3 lbs. rump roast cut into one inch cubes
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. marjoram
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

1 tablespoon of tomato paste
6 cups of beef broth ( I used chicken today cause that's what I had on hand)
1 Tablespoon of bacon fat or olive oil or whatever oil you have
1/2 cup carrots finely diced
1/2 cup celery finely dice
1/2 cup onion finely diced
4 large carrots cut into chunks
7 potatoes peeled and cut into chunks
1 teaspoon of oregano
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. marjoram

Finely dice a stalk of celery, half of an onion and one of the carrots until you have a 1/2 cups of each vegetable.
 Cube the meat into bite size chunks.
 Mix together the flour with the first measurements of oregano, marjoram, salt and pepper.

While your fat is heating in a large cook pot, dredge the meat in the flour.

Working in small batches brown the cubed meat just enough to brown the flour and remove to a plate for a few minutes. Leave the drippings in the pan as you move onto the next step. We just want to brown on all of the sides. Don't get crazy about this, just work in small patches. Take your time, shake the pan, move the meat around until it's brown and the white of flour is gone.

Saute the half cups of vegetables in the cook pot that you just removed the meat from, add the tomato paste and stir until you can smell the paste has cooked and doesn't have a raw smell and until the onions are sorta soft looking. Add the additional oregano, and marjoram and  the bay leaves.


 Return the meat to the cook pot. Stir and slowly add only 4 cups of your broth. You can use water, a little beer, a combination of all. Just so that you have about 4 cups of liquid. Bring this up to a boil and immediately reduce the heat to a slow simmer. Cover the pot with a good fitting lid. Set your timer for one hour. Relax and smell the yummy cooking. Check on it in an hour to make sure there's enough liquid still and see if the meat is tender. Set your timer for another 30 minutes.

 Meanwhile peel your potatoes and carrots. Cut into nice chunks. Wait for you timer to tell you the 30 minutes is up and toss the second round of carrots and potatoes into your soup pot, along with another 2 cups of liquid. Cook for another 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender when a fork is inserted. Serve with your favorite bread.

 This has a nice layering of flavors. You'll find the first addition of vegetables have cooked into the broth and are all but unrecognizable, just all flavor. You will end up with a nice broth that's slightly thickened because of the flour on the meat and the slow cook process in which the finely diced vegetables have become a part of the broth. A real comfort food. For me this is best served with a few slices of toast. Toast is a comfort food too in my book.

When using the canned stock the sodium can be high and for this reason very little salt is used. The vegetables and herbs create a nice flavor and I don't need additional salt. If you use homemade stock or water, additional salt may be needed. As always season to your taste.

 I dumped a cup of frozen corn in there today because it was in my freezer I just emptied the bag in, you could add some frozen peas too in the very last 5 minutes if you wanted. This is my reincarnation of a recipe from the Joy of Cooking cookbook.

It's January here in Ohio and slowing down is made all the easier with the frigid air outside. Let's cook again soon.


Sunday, December 25, 2016

Meaningful Connections

Meaningful connections with people.
There's an old expression "barking up the wrong tree." This idiom is pinging around inside my brain. Sincere human interaction seems to have fallen away and has been replaced with pitiful empty popular culture. Have we become content with an emoji and a "like" as our sole source of approval, acceptance, and interactions? Is this the culprit of young adults being unable to truly connect in meaningful ways?

 Dwelling in the trees of humanity.
 I know there are genuine attributes to be found. Surely, I've been standing at the bottom of a tree barking. Barking... where those qualities are off limits to me. They exist in another tree. We all deserve to have meaningful connections with people.

On this day. This very Christmas Day. The best gift of all has been the acceptance of knowing that it's okay to stop barking. Because that tree does not provide what it is I need.

Mister and I have big plans for the New Year. We are kicking off the holiday with a fun trip close to home. Aging in spirit, mind and body. Still relishing in the youth of our youngest child who keeps us current and involved. Otherwise we could surely become reclusive relics and be just fine doing so. Guarding our youngest from the traps of popular culture and the stagnant emptiness of social media. We have grown. As individuals and as a family.

If you're finding a relationship in your life is leaving more of a broken feeling than genuine acceptance, consider pondering what you are hoping to find with that individual. Perhaps those qualities are no where to be found. Forge meaningful connections. Do yourself this kindness.

This is my gift to me this Christmas 2016.

Merry Christmas to you!



Sunday, August 14, 2016

Tunnel vision from the outsider's screen

Grief makes us cognitively impaired. Mid July of this year, my Mom past away due to dementia. The grieving process thus far has made me care less about my mental sharpness and more concerned with my own inner dialogue. I'm temporarily impaired with the swirls of grief.
 Of course, if you have dementia in your family tree, as you age, you start to analyze and over criticize any forgotten task or lost name. It could become debilitating if left to run amuck.

 With my grief, hours turn into days.
 While I've been busy with the tasks at hand, there's always this program running in the background.

The main operating system of my brain is carrying out the daily tasks. Barely noticeable to the observer would be the internal errors my brain is experiencing as I maneuver through my grief.

 It's not sadness exactly, not yet.

 It's as if a short circuit has occurred internally and I'm only partially present. There are silhouettes and ghosts and scents and echos. Running in the background.

 Ohio was devoid of rain for quite some time this summer. I think the intensity of heat and humidity made the matters of Mom's death worse. Being held up in the air conditioning for days on end left my garden to suffer a little. It left me to suffer too because without the release of stress among the plants and weeds, I just sat and stewed.

For more than ten days my poor little garden never saw my shadow or a rain drop or a watering can. Thankfully, quinoa doesn't care about the water and just kept right on growing, tall and triumphant. This lanky tall plant requires less than an inch of a rain during it's growth.



My quinoa is becoming a stunning shade of pink. It's nearly mid August and this crop has been a source of amusement for me all summer long.


 The pepper plants have under produced, except for those jalapenos. I swear, those things must be straight from the hallows of hell because those hot little suckers grow and hang heavy with fruit. As I toiled about the tasks of death and sorrow for those ten days. The garden continued to live.

So, here I am. Less than a month from the day that I became parent-less. I sit, in the air conditioning  shelling my dried lentils.
 Brown lentils.
 From my backyard.
Oh, how I love them. Most are still hanging on the vines waiting for me to pick them. My uncle who is 76 years old told me that back in the day beans during this stage of growth and drying were called
"leather britches" I'm not sure if that was just a family expression or a regional term. I rather like it though!
Before they were leather britches, the lush plants of June looked like this. Brown lentils in their tangled glory.



We picked our corn. Small ears.Without the use of pesticides or miracle growing additives the plants still produced. No, not the humongous ears with giant kernels, like at the grocery store. Just small  ears of pure simple corn.

My chickpea plants are brown. It's time to harvest. That's the thing about planting a crop I've never grown before. I'm clueless. I watched the pods turn from a hard, fuzzy, green crop into something that is ready to shell.



The first time I peaked into one of the pods, I was certain something had gone terribly wrong. Did the seed company mislabel the package? Did a garden gnome stroll into my yard and pull a horrible prank?
 These are not chickpeas, or so I thought!
In my despair of grief, I had wandered out to the garden in hopes of finding some sort of order. Something of normal and right.
 A balance in the cosmos.
 A key stroke of familiar.
 So I plucked a still fuzzy green chickpea pod.
 Busted it open.
What I saw was wrong, completely wrong. I had no idea there were so many varieties of garbanzo beans.
 I expected to see the creamy white, fully rounded chickpeas, you know, like the ones in the cans from the grocery store. Instead I found small little green odd shaped looking things. These are Desi chickpeas.
Nonetheless the plants have turned brown, as they should.
Super food from the backyard.

For now, I miss the little old woman in the nursing home. Denial maybe, I just do not feel as if I'm mourning the loss of my mother. The person whom my Mom had become is the person I have lost. Dementia changed her in many ways. As her dementia progressed, the mother daughter relationship changed. She had begun to call me Mommy. Prior to the extreme changes, she said " I don't feel much like a Mom" That's when my grief process began for the woman whom I had known as my mother. She was gone. She knew this. It's a relationship that is never replaced, for good or bad, this is one person who knew me and had memories of me, from the beginning. Before I even knew who I was, she did. That was fading. And now is totally gone.

My one place of solitude throughout life has always been in the garden. Dirt therapy. Pulling weeds, tidying rows, and turning over the soil. Pure silent therapy.

Thankfully we've seen a break from the heat and humidity. Our weekend has been filled with rain. As I process the endless tangle of emotions, the leather britches and weeds will remain true and reliable.

Our wonderful little blue cream tomatoes. Mister nurtured the plants from seed. We were skeptical in the beginning that any of the plants would make it, let alone produce their golden and purple and blueish tomatoes. Yet, they did produce. An abundance of sweet uniquely flavored fruit.

Rows are emptying in the garden as we harvest the plants. I'm considering which winter crops to put in the ground. Cooler autumn weather brings the chance for peas, sounds like an ideal way to escape into a healthy inner dialogue. Turning over the dirt and coming to terms with the aftermath of Mom's dementia.




**Bill Perry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe wrote "What's The Frequency Kenneth?" shout out for the lyrics used in the title of this post.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Pignoli Biscotti

AKA Pine Nut Biscotti



This recipe makes a lot of fine delicate cookies. These are tender, and I rather like the crunch of the pine nuts. Some biscotti are not necessarily easily eaten unless they're dunked in a cup of coffee or tea. This recipe however produced a cookie tender enough to snack on yet still stand up to a dip in the ole' morning cup. They last for weeks if wrapped in wax paper, refrigerated and stored in an air tight container. The flavor is actually best after about a week. I guess the oils from the pine nuts permeate the cookie and the flavor is more intense. It's just a guess though.


  From the book Biscotti by Lou Seibert available on Amazon (as of the time this was typed). I ordered my copy online. I've made several of the recipes and like them all. There's something incredibly rewarding about taking the time to shape, bake, slice and bake again.

 I bake biscotti on a day when there's time for whimsy.

Yes, it's Ohio.... how can I not mention the Cavs. There, I mentioned them. An athletic achievement which is quite sensational for our state. World Champions, who would have thunk it. Congratulations Cleveland Cavaliers!

And just like that my mind turns to amber waves of grain! Ohio is alive due to the spectacular visions like this one, for me anyways...

 The geek in me is so excited to delve into this little ditty. Dated 1919-1920 The Rural School Lunch has interesting reading. I've done a quick skim. The thing which jumps out the most is a continued reference to placing hot pots on asbestos mats. Hmmm?? this could explain a thing or two! More research is needed. Happy Reading to me and
 Happy Weekend to you.








Wednesday, June 8, 2016

June in Ohio


Cooler evenings and the sound of a box fan in the window takes me back to childhood. Clearly I remember lying in bed as a child and watching the shadows dance across my bedroom wall as the train sped by interrupting the street lights glow momentarily between box cars. The sound is still comforting to me. In the stillness then, snuggling further under the blanket to ward off the chill of night air, then sneaking out of bed and whispering into the fan blades, only to hear my own voice become broken and scattered into the dark. How remarkable and precious to be carried away off into a time when I was me, a different me, like a black and white movie version of me.

During my childhood there were gardens, pigs, cows, coon hunting, chickens and clothes hanging on the line. The inner workings of a household which formed very much of the me I am today.
For so many years of my adult life I've identified myself as a mother of 4 children. Having had my first child at the young age of 20, I left behind childhood quickly. For the first time since becoming a mother, I'm learning to let go. Coming face to face with myself as I watch my aging mother struggle with dementia brings a greater sense of self, it's playing a role in my own understanding of what I need for me. Finding the black and white sometimes sepia version of me. Cutting the apron strings to my children to discover what's next.

My imaginary world as a child always had me being instructive. From cooking with the bubbles in the bathtub in my imaginary childhood cooking show or lining up blades of grass as if they were rows of corn in the vacant dirt between our two houses. I've always lived this life. Never really wanting more than to share with others about cooking, baking, and gardening. Not in a professional money earning capacity. Just a sharing of ideas and excitement for doing what I love.

This June evening in Ohio, it's cool. The central air is off and the box fan whirs away in the window. I sit back and look over the photographs I've snapped throughout this week. Of course, I come here to share them with you, the world, anyone who cares to know. My own children are grown and well on their way to grown. Their childhood imagination worlds are theirs for keeping. To this, I can only hope they find healthy creative outlets to share and grow from those ideals.

I'm happy to report in this modern day, real, non imagination life of mine, the quinoa has survived and appears to be thriving. Early in the growing process I struggled with thinning the plants. The seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company were exceptional and certainly every seed must have came up because I thinned them several times. Never knowing which plant to sacrifice. None of them seemed insignificant to me. I tried transplanting a few of the tender, thinned out plants with no success. Slow growers they were from beginning to now.






Ditto on my Lentils. I planted 15 seeds and have 13 plants. I think a Robin bird snacked on a few of the seeds the very same day as I planted them.



The chickpeas/garbanzo beans have reared their heads. Every single non-GMO seed is alive and doing fine. Small and fragile still.





No Cumin plants yet. At least I don't think so, I'm struggling with plant identification on the cumin seeds. This is a new crop for me. I planted the seeds in easily identifiable rows, but the weeds wanted a fair shot too. Rather than pull up the wrong thing. I've just let it go to see what happens. I planted more seeds today. In hopes of a better success.

Ditto on my Slo-Bolt Cilantro. Two plantings of the seeds. So far,only two little scraggly looking plants have emerged. Patience....I suppose.

And it wouldn't be real if I didn't remind you of the importance of taking breaks and living life. 
Slow down a minute.
 Have a Biscotti. 
In all of my childhood imaginations I never fathomed photographing food with my telephone. 
I mean, how could I have ever imagined such a thing, right?



Yes, we all know  I'm not talented at photographing food. It's my image though and I didn't stoop to horking some strangers photograph and claiming it as my own. Not perfect, just like me.

 Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti.
 To which all credit goes to my hero and youtube favorite Stephanie Jaworski of Joy of Baking.com

I've baked many of her recipes with never a disappointment. The Fruit and Nut bars are outrageous. I'm providing this link to her recipe for the Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti. 

I baked this biscotti for the entire recommended time allowed, they're dunkers for sure. Perfect for the cool morning air and my sneaking a cup of coffee. I've fallen off the wagon and had a cup or two lately. Shhh, let's not talk about that!

                                                        Our June in Ohio