Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Locavore logic

Eating locally can be a challenge and it can also be more expensive. It isn't for everyone, and it is important to me to respect other's circumstances and choices. But Dan and I are choosing to buy locally when we can, because we like our neighbors and I'd rather support them than some California mega-farm. (That said, however, I'm not giving up exotic spices, olive oil, or citrus fruit, etc.)

Kim at Yankee Food over in NH recently had a great post about eating locally. She really articulates many of my feelings about eating locally. What it all comes down to, however, is this: I'd rather give my food dollars to my neighbors, and in so doing, support them and their farms, and thus preserving the Maine I know and love.

Backyard gardeners rock

There was an interesting article in the NY Times today about the role of European backyard gardeners in protecting genetic diversity. Long live the backyard gardener! We're saving humanity from supermarket tomatoes, one garden at a time.

Monday, November 26, 2007

What was lost is now found: Double Chocolate Pound Cake

I was beginning to panic --my chocolate pound cake recipe had gone astray. It was based on one of my mother's recipes, but I'd made several changes to it, tweaking it here and there to better accommodate my taste and including new techniques I've learned along the way. It would take me many tries to recreate my changes, even if I could find the cake recipe again.

And then Holly called and said she'd found a pad of paper. She laughed, saying she knew it was mine because it contained many lists. She didn't realize the cake recipe was in the middle of the lists. I was so very glad to lay my hands on this recipe again!

Double Chocolate Pound Cake
1 ¾ c flour
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 ½ sticks butter, divided
1 ¾ c light brown sugar
1 T vanilla
5 eggs
¾ c cocoa
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
¾ boiling water
1 c sour cream

Pre-heat oven to 350ยบ F Grease bundt pan with a mix of 1 T each of melted butter and baking cocoa, blended into a paste. Heat ¾ c water to a boil. Add cocoa and stir together. Add ½ stick of butter and chocolate and stir until melted. Allow to cool slightly, then stir in sour cream. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour baking soda and salt. Beat 1 stick butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about four minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and chocolate mixture alternately. Bake until just pulling away from the pan, about 60 minutes.

This is a very adaptable cake. For Holly's wedding, I used organic dark chocolate with orange, added the zest of a large, organic orange, and made an orange sauce from the juice of the orange to use as a glaze. It was a terrific combination of chocolate and orange. I had hoped to make candied orange peel for a garnish, but ran out of time. This summer for Dan's and Michelle's silver birthday celebration, I flavored the cake with cherry liquer and made a cherry glaze for the top. I am so glad Holly found the recipe!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A tale of two turkeys

We had a marvelous visit to Dan's parent's in NY over the Thanksgiving holiday, with time to cook, to chat, for me to get a crochet refresher from Mom, and do a few chores for Mom and Dad, too.

We drove over on Tuesday, departing just as the snow started here in Maine -- fortunately just a dusting but enough to make me wish I'd purchased new windshield wipers before the trip. Traffic was not terrible, but busy enough on the Mass Pike to make me really glad we were driving over

Instead of driving west with a zillion other crazy Mass drivers, on Wednesday we did a few chores and in the afternoon, I made pie --pumpkin, pumpkin pecan, and apple. It went pretty quickly as I had made the dough ahead of time -- which also made the dough a little easier to work with, I think. Whatever the reason, these pies turned out pretty well, the bottom crust was crisp and they were beautifully flaky and tender.

We did have a pie tragedy. A piping hot pumpkin pie was knocked off the counter, did a mid-air flip and landed right-side up on the floor, but with much of the filling jolted out of the crust onto the floor. Fortunately, the pie plate did not break, but chaos ensued as we scurried to get the hot pie filling off the floor before the dog ate the filling, or the hot plate burned the linoleum. It was heartbreaking, (all those Henbogle eggs gone to waste!) but no one was hurt, we got to a sample the filling and crust without guilt, (see the before sampling photo, below left) and we have a new anecdote for the family stories archive. Perfect!

There was plenty of pumpkin puree left, and I had enough dough left for another crust, so I whipped together another pumpkin pie. I am just glad it wasn't the pumpkin pecan pie that crashed, as that would have been one sticky mess!

Making the pies the day ahead made cooking the actual dinner go pretty smoothly, even with the disadvantage of being in a different kitchen and using an unfamiliar smooth-top electric stove. It is crucial to plan backwards from the time dinner will be served, and make as much ahead as possible. I like roasted vegetables, so I usually try and make as much in the oven as possible, which also leaves the burners free for gravy and mashed potatoes, etc. Things were a bit tight in Mom's oven (note the oven rack mark across the turkey breast on the above photo), but I managed by cooking the squash ahead of time and reheating while the turkey rested. Of course, kitchen staff makes life easier, too.

Dan was a big help, doing dishes, washing the turkey and prepping the squash. He even julienned the carrots for me. I was trying to make life easy for Dan's mom, but needed her help with a few things, readying the potatoes and especially with finding the various dishes needed to cook everything.

I only swore twice, once when I turned off the wrong burner, causing the gravy to boil over, burning on the stove, and again during the emergency response that followed, when the roux for the gravy hit the floor, arghh. I'm getting better at producing these dinners, but by this point, with dinner mere moments away, I was on the edge.

Lucky for me, Dan's sister Jean was on hand to help out, she made a flour-water paste to thicken the gravy, and with that, dinner was served.
Of course, this means that I was so wigged out I forgot to take the group photo I had planned, but we all enjoyed dinner and good company, and that is, after all, what it is all about.

Capping off the holiday was a flying visit to my friend Mrs. Holly to see her and get a taste of a second Thanksgiving feast. We had my favorite, little turkey sandwiches made on Holly's fabulous homemade dinner rolls. Holly is still enjoying her newlywed status, and we got to ooh and ah over photos and wedding gifts. The visit was far too short, but I hope we'll see her again soon for a visit here at Henbogle. Maybe for a solstice celebration? I can hope....

Monday, November 19, 2007

Turkey Time

In addition to getting all the fall chores done, we are getting ready for a visit to NY with Dan's family over Thanksgiving. It will be a real harvest meal, featuring our carrots, potatoes, pumpkins, herbs and some locally grown squash and onions from Carlson's Farm just across the river.

I'm going to be doing much of the cooking, and have been busily preparing here at home, making turkey stock and roasting pumpkins for the pies. I used two medium sized "Winter Luxury" pumpkins, (seeds from FEDCO) roasting them in a 425 degree oven until very tender. I'm curious about whether they live up to the catalog hype.

I'm planning on an apple pie, a pumpkin pie, and for Dan, a reprise of the Pumpkin Pecan Pie from last year. In addition to dessert, roast turkey, sausage apple stuffing, roasted squash, baked stuffed Brussells sprouts, and more. I'm looking forward to dinner already!

Hen Dome v.2

Whew, it has been busy here at Henbogle, and I've been a blog slacker. I need to get back in the groove of an almost daily post. I don't know where the time goes, but I sure don't feel like there's enough to go around.

This weekend was cold but clear after a particularly rainy week --perfect weather to try and finish up some outdoor chores and the pressing fall chores, like storm windows and preparing the hen dome for the winter.

The hen dome is basically our simple, portable hoop house set up in the chicken yard for the hens to use during the winter. It gives them a covered place to hang out that is free of snow and out of the rain. We set one up last year and it worked great until the big April snow storm
collapsed it and tore the plastic.

We made some modifications this year, making the sides more vertical and banking the sides with straw bales to (we hope) prevent the plastic from blowing out in the wind, and maybe even providing a little insulation for the chooks.

Naturally, we had a team of hengineers consulting on every aspect of construction.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Create a cookbook

I'm so excited I just have to write about this (and no, I'm not getting a kickback from the company). There's a new website, Tastebook,which provides a template for self-publishing a cookbook!

I long ago promised a friend a cookbook as a wedding gift, and did give her a crude pile of pages from the laser printer, but have yet to get the book formatted to go to Kinkos for printing.

Now, I don't have to. It is so easy to upload recipes, that I'm halfway finished (54 recipes) uploading all my recipes from my book. In addition to uploading your own, you can import favorites from Epicurious as well.

Finally, no more frantic shuffling through the clutter to find a recipe drafted on the back of an envelope. They will all be neatly bound in an organized manner. Now if I could just find the recipe for the chocolate pound cake....

Sunday, November 04, 2007

More wedding photos

Gold lame socks for the bride -- to match the gold lame sneakers!

Sarah, Holly and Mom

Holly and Pop

Holly and I

Mom & Pop escort Holly

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Congratulations Holly & Dave!

A lovely bride with Mom & Pop, Esther & Bill

A done deal!

Dancing with Pop

A little bridal exultation

Cutting the delicious chocolate orange wedding cake, (Dave's flavorite) made with love by me and the hens. I made sure to keep a chunk for freezing to share on their first anniversary.

There was a lot of hairspray involved in that hairdo.

The stage crew rejoices, our friends are wedded.

Friday, November 02, 2007

My best friend is getting hitched tomorrow!

Congratulations to Holly and Dave on their upcoming nuptials. They have been together many years and are finally going to celebrate their togetherness with family and friends.

I've known Holly since 1983, when we met in Professor Ronald Koperski's public speaking class at Bradley University. Until that moment, I had been questioning my sanity in departing Maine for Peoria, Illinois, but once I met Holly, I realized why fate had sent me to Bradley.

We've been through good times and better times together, and I'm looking forward to many more years of laughter.

Best wishes to both of my friends on this happy day.