Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Dogs Ate My Homework, Part 2 (ha, ha, get it? Ate?)

This one is for RubyisComing, who following my meme, asked me to share my 5 favorite cookbooks. I really do have several hundred (counting all the grocery store pamphlet style ones, but not counting all the cooking magazines), so picking just 5 was hard. So hard, that I have to preface this by saying that these 5 are some of my favorites...right now.

With so many, I don't have the space to display them ALL all the time. I only wish I did. I have dreams of a custom kitchen with a huge island, just enough cabinets to store all my cooking utensils and food, and the walls lined with shelves and shelves and shelves of cookbooks. I dream of how I would organize them. By author? Nope, too many. By type of cuisine? Maybe, but then what to do with all the eclectic ones. And so on...and so on...and so on... God, I wish how to organize my cookbooks was my biggest worry. But it's fun to dream about.

Anyway, here are five of my current favs with a recipe from each (my comments in italics). Manga!

Hershey's Classic Recipes. A girl can never have too many chocolate recipes and these are, well, classics.

Hot Fudge pudding Cake - this makes an ooey, gooey hot fudge sauce right in the pan. Why would you want to resist??

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or more, more vanilla never hurt anything!)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/4 cups hot water
Whipped Topping (or even better, real whipped cream)

Heat oven to 350. Stir together 3/4 cup granulated sugar, flour, 1/4 cup cocoa, baking powder and salt. Stir in milk, butter and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Pour batter into ungreased 9 inch square baking pan. Stir together remaining 1/2 granulated sugar, brown sugar, and remaining 1/4 cocoa. Sprinkle mixture evenly over better. Pour hot water over top. DO NOT STIR. Bake 35 - 40 minutes or until center is almost set. Let stand 15 minutes. Spoon into dessert dishes, spooning sauce from bottom of baking pan over top. Garnish with whipped topping or whipped cream.

Cooking for Comfort, by Marian Burros - These are recipes for the weekend. When you have time and really want to cook. They understand the soothing quality of making a meal by hand.

Mushroom Barley Soup - This soup is one of our favorites. It is hearty and rich and so worth the good mushrooms. I wish it were autumn so I could make it again. And it freezes really well.

1/2 cup dried mushrooms, such as porcini
1 cup hot water
2 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound white mushrooms, washed, trimmed, and coarsely cut
1/2 pound shitake, cremini, portobello, or other fresh mushrooms, washed, trimmed and coarsely cut (a mix of the all makes for wonderful texture)
1/2 cup pearled barley
6 cups good quality beef broth or stock
3 tablespoons dry sherry
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon wine vinegar

Cover the dried mushrooms with the hot water and set aside for 20 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid, and finely chop the mushrooms.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed deep pot. Saute the onion and carrot in the oil over medium heat until the onion begins to color. Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add the fresh mushrooms and saute for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms soften and begin to release their liquid.

Raise the heat, add the barley and saute until it begins to color slightly. Add the broth and the sherry. Strain the mushroom soaking liquid through a fine strainer (a coffee filter works just fine) and add to the pot along with the reconstituted mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for about 40 minutes, until the barley is tender. Stir in the wine vinegar, adjust the seasonings and serve.

Shakespeare's Kitchen: Renaissance Recipes for the Contemporary Cook, by Francine Segan. I haven't actually made anything from this one yet (it was a recent gift from G.), but it is so beautiful and different I had to include it. All of the recipes are based on actual Renaissance food, with lots of interesting side notes by the author. Although most of the ingredients are ones we see every day, the flavor combinations are not. It's fascinating (at least to me, but I'm a food dork.)

Almond Saffron Chicken in Bread - I wish you could see this picture. So lovely. Ooh, you can. It's the recipe on the cover!

4 saffron threads
4 ounces almond oil
1 large egg yolk
1/4 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons almond paste
salt and freshly milled black pepper
8 oz cooked chicken
12 almonds, chopped
2 cups finely chopped assorted fresh herbs and greens (sorrel, endive, flat-leaf parsley, baby spinach, mint, etc)
1/8 tsp dried marjoram
1/8 tsp dried sage
pinch of cinnamon
1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 cup currants
2 tablespoons ground pistachios
1 round loaf of day old French sourdough country bread (about 10" in diameter)
1 tablespoon butter, softened

Soak the saffron threads in the almond oil for 30 minutes. Combine the egg yolk and the mustard in a large bowl and slowly whisk in the almond oil until a mayonnaise forms. Whisk in the almond paste, season with salt and combine with chicken and almonds.

Preheat over to 375. Cut a 4" circle in the top of the bread, remove the top circle of crust and scoop out the soft bread inside the loaf. Place the fresh herbs and greens, marjoram, sage, cinnamon, nutmeg, currants and pistachios in a bowl and mix well. Spread the herb mixture in an even layer in the bottom and up the sides of the bread bowl, reserving about 1/2 cup for the top. Spoon the chicken mixture over the herbs, completely filling the cavity. Spread the reserved herb mixture over the top and replace the top crust of the bread. Spread the butter on the bottom of the bread, wrap it tightly in aluminum foil and bake for 50 minutes.

1000 Chocolate Baking and Dessert Recipes from Around the World, by Parragon Publishing - I know I already listed one chocolate cookbook. Sue me, sue me, what can you do me...(okay, I'm also a musical theatre dork)

Banana and Chocolate Chip Loaf - I adore fresh banana bread, so when I found this recipe that added chocolate, I was in love. Plus, its an easy one to take to work for the endless birthday parties. I swear, I don't understand how the whole firm doesn't waddle.

4 oz butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
scant 1 cup light brown sugar
2 large ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs, beaten
5 tablespoons boiling water
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
whipped cream or butter to serve

Preheat oven to 325. Grease and flour the bottom and sides of a loaf pan. Sift the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a bowl and set aside. (I rarely bother to sift).

Place the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat together til light and fluffy. Beat in the bananas and then the eggs. Stir in the flour mixture, alternating it with the boiling water, until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Spoon into prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes or until well risen, golden brown and firm to the touch. Let cool in pan for 30 minutes. Turn out to finish cooling. Serve in slices (or huge chunks if you are me) with whipped cream or butter.

The Internet - Really. You can find a recipe (or 300) for almost anything you want. You can read reviews on them, the way other people tweaked them to suit, get ideas other dishes to go with, sources for the odd ingredients, and more. A couple of my favorite sites are and Both offer daily or weekly email newsletters, and more. No recipes for this one. Go find your own and report back.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Dogs Ate My Homework, Part 1

Atomic Mama, that retaliatory bitch, took it upon herself to assign me some homework based on my last post. And although she claimed to hate being tagged for a meme, she not only completed the damn thing, she added new categories and then demanded that I dish out the answers retroactively. I'm pretty sure that goes against all the rules, regulations and ethical mores of the internet, but I'm afraid she might kick my ass if I don't comply. In true procrastinator's fashion (and due to major power outages in the area) I've managed to put off completing my homework in a timely manner. But the power, and our phones, and our a/c (oh god I love a/c!) are all back on, and I have no more excuses. I feel I must complete these before she smacks my hands with a ruler or something.

7 things I can do:

1. Stay strong during a crisis. I may fall apart later, but I'm your girl for getting things done while all hell breaks loose.
2. Match people and dogs. I'm really good at it. Very few of the pet adoptions I help arrange fall through. I love steering people towards a pet that is really going to fit in well in their home. I really love steering them away from a pet that I just know won't work out. And I'm usually able to do it in a such a way that they aren't even aware they've been steered.
3. Kick butt at Trivial Pursuit. My brain is a deep well of useless knowledge.
4. Bake. You should try my Black Forrest Cake. Really. It's positively evil (in a good way.)
5. Be a good friend. I'm a great listener and I generally give good advice. I'll be honest with you and loyal to you. I've known my best friend A. since we were 3 years old, and love her like my sister. I don't have tons of close friends, but our circle is very close.
6. Run a really well organized document production. It's a boring skill, but it's mine.
7. Sew. It's a newfound talent and one that I'm proud of myself for learning. I'm hoping that one day, I can use it to help support my family.

7 things I say most often:

1. Oliver, get your ass in this house!
2. Not so much (a la Paul Buchman).
3. Jackass.
4. All righty, then.
5. Go potty, Greta.
6. Blech.
7. I love you.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Apparently, I'm It

That's right, I've been tagged. Lassie, a very funny mom-to-be over at Eggs Benedict Arnold, got me. So here goes.

7 things I'd like to do before I die:

1. Go to China and bring my daughter home (this one may actually happen!)
2. Have grandchildren
3. Do a month long B&B tour of Scotland and Ireland
4. Go up in the Gateway Arch (How sad is it that I lived in the St. Louis area all my life and I've never been up?)
5. Go to culinary school
6. Go back to school and become a L&D nurse. I think I'd be really good at it.
7. Star in a Broadway musical (so not going to happen, but a girl can dream can't she?)

7 things I can't do:

1. Deal with spiders in any way, shape or form
2. Sky dive. I just don't get what would make folks willingly jump out of a perfectly good airplane.
3. Math.
4. Understand racism. Nothing about it makes sense to me, at all.
5. Eat green peppers. Ick in a big way.
6. Stop missing my dad. He died late last year and I think of things I want to tell him everyday.
7. Play a musical instrument. I'm just not coordinated enough. I can carry a tune a bit, but I'm useless in front of a piano (or a violin, or a clarinet...believe me, I've tried.)

7 things that attracted me to my husband:

1. His silliness
2. His ability to relate to kids (probably related to 1.)
3. His family. They are wonderful and they have always been so easy to get along with. I really feel for those of you with IL issues.
4. His willingness to try new things
5. His hands (he used to be a massage therapist)
6. His laugh (totally infectious)
7. His sense of honor (he will always stand up for what's right. Always.)

7 books (or series of books) that I love:

1. Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, I'm on anxiously awaiting the #7. I have re-read them all numerous times.
2. Any cookbook (I have several hundred)
3. Love Story by Erich Segal
4. Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freeman
5. Watchers by Dean Koontz (I cry every single time I read it.)
6. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
7. Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi (fascinating)

7 Movies I'd watch over and over:

1. When Harry Met Sally for the soundtrack if nothing else
2. Deep Impact
3. Steel Magnolias
4. Charlotte's Web (again with the crying)
5. Guys and Dolls
6. 1776 (I'm late for my annual fix of this one)
7. Serenity (I've recently discovered a deep love for Joss Wheedon and all that he touches (Buffy and Firefly to be specific. I haven't caught Angel yet, but I'm sure I will.)

7 people I'd like to tag:

1. AtomicMama at The Atomic Ranch (who I'm sure I must be related to)
2. Stephanie at Emma-Bug (even if you don't go to read her list, go to marvel at the cuteness of her new daughter)
3. Karen at The Naked Ovary (She's an adoption blogging superstar. I'm sure she doesn't know I exist, but I lurve her anyway)
4. Lisa at Tate-R-Bug (waiting right along with me)
5. Stacey who is Waiting for Ingrid (to come home from Guatemala)
6. Tink at Fling-Poo (not what it sounds like)
7. Julia at Here Be Hippogriffs (who has possibly the most precocious 4 year old ever and from all accounts, cooks like a dream.)

Now, they're it!