Archive of ‘frugal’ category

Raspberry Blancmange, Boob Pudding & Biopsies

This is a cautionary warning. If you are offended by crayon drawings of boobs or pudding shaped like boobs, please stop reading now. Also – never pick up a copy of National Geographic again. Sometimes there are real boobs in them.

Note: All of these pictures have been taken with an iPhone  This week has been stressful enough that I was not about to even attempt Lightroom or futzing with my camera.

This is my boob:

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These are my boobs with possible cancerous nodules on them:
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The above shape of my boob was drawn at my request by a young child who I will not identify, so none of you who take yourself too seriously will call CPS on his/her parents. The picture was also not drawn to scale or in any realistic way at all. And I put in the weird areas. Even I’m not twisted enough to have a kid do that.

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Last week, I alluded in my post that I was dealing with a scary medical issue. On Thursday afternoon, I will be having a mammographic stereotactic biopsy. This whole process does not seem real. This was supposed to be a a checkbox on a list of things I needed to do (pap smear, vaccines, dealing with other health issues) to be healthy and live a healthy life.

On the 14th, I went in for a screening mammogram. Since I have a family history of breast cancer, a base line mammogram is a good idea. As I get older, these x-rays will be something that will be used to compare later mammograms to.

I come home and work on stuff around the house. Little flutters of anxiety flit in and out of my head. It was like that when I waited for a pap smear test to come back. Around 3:30, I get a call. A very calming, reassuring voice tells me over and over that there’s no reason to be scared, but I need to come back in for a follow-up mammogram and ultrasound.

 It’s not until later that evening that a scene clicks into my head. I can see it in my mind like I’m watching a movie. Earlier that day, this beautiful Indian woman and I were brought back to the dressing rooms and given our little tie front robes. I was directed to the waiting room on the right. She was directed to the waiting room on the left. My sign said “screening”. Hers said “diagnostic”. I burst into tears so heavy that I make my t shirt damp. I wish I could have gone back in time and hugged her. She flits in and out of my mind every damn day, and every time I think about her, I ask God to help her, to get her through this, to help her family get through this.

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I sat in the diagnostic waiting room with my mom when I went back for a follow up mammogram. My first series of mammograms was fine. I mean, it’s not a breast handling technique I want my husband to learn, but it was more uncomfortable than painful. The very last x-ray done makes me dizzy with the pain. It’s like my boob was a zit that they were trying to pop. These mammograms still show suspicious issues, so an ultrasound is done. There is nothing like having your boobs lubed up and pressed firmly with something that feels like a giant computer mouse for a good time. The food scene from 9 1/2 weeks flashes through my head, and I remember that I was never very turned on by the honey scene even when I was 23 and stupid. I still think of how many ants that would attract and what a mess it would be to clean up. After that, a very nice doctor tells me that I have two areas of concern on my right breast. One is merely suspicious. The other is very suspicious, and I’ll need to have a biopsy where actual tissue is removed using a special tool that will collect larger fragments of tissue and uses a vacuum. In my head, I imagine one of the prize toy claws with a Dyson attached to it.

 After this visit, I go home and curl up on my bed for a few hours. I make myself get up, put on a black dress and go to the funeral of my friend’s 46 year old sister who died from complications from Type 1 diabetes. This was a woman who did everything she was supposed to do to manage her diabetes. This was a woman who was deeply loved by her entire family, but especially her brother. I hear a sermon telling everyone not to be sad, that this woman is in a better place. I feel my husband grow rigid beside me because this is the kind of thing that broke his faith for a while – this “be happy” approach without much regard to the grief and the sadness that all of those who loved her will be going through. Yes – they’re all relieved she’s not in pain anymore. But they’re really going to miss her.

I spend the next few days trying to make it through with black humor. I horrify my mom by telling her that I’ve never been felt up by so many different people since my junior year in high school. I tell Marcus that he has to scoop the litter boxes because he should feel guilty that I might have cancer. I find out I might have a titanium marker left in my boob, and I ask my husband if this makes me part Gobot. Someone leaves a bitchy comment on the Facebook page for this blog, and I totally want to reply “Man – you are going to look like such an asshole when you see my post on Tuesday.”

And then I burst into tears and scare the cats.

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I worry about my Mom. No one who had to endure the hell she went through with her two battles with cancer should ever have to worry about their daughter going through this. I worry about my dad. He keeps his emotions locked in very tight, but when my mom tells me he stayed up until 11:30 cleaning the night we found out I needed a biopsy, I know he’s trying to wrestle whatever control or solution or approach he can over this situation. Everyone hugs me more and holds me longer.

I worry about my husband. Helpful support from his family is pretty much a pipe dream. He has my family and his friends to lean on, but he’s also been beaten down by life in the last couple of years. He is terrified of losing me. He wants to fix this, to make it better, and he can’t.

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I worry about me. The thought of have successive needles stuck into me, so they can vacuum actual tissue out has caused two actual panic attack and brought me to the verge of others several times. Despite a phobia of needles that set in when I was 13, I have gotten much better through the years and have dealt with the last few blood sticks like a boss. I was doing so well. I got a flu shot a few weeks ago and didn’t flinch. The nurse gave me a hug, a sticker and a lollipop. I got a cortisone shot in my back two weeks ago, and while I was nervous, I got through it fine with only one reminder from my mom “Those are really good deep breaths you’re taking. Try taking them slower.” Now I feel terrified and ashamed that this irrational feel has taken control over me again. I made an appointment with a doctor for guidance on how to deal with this on Thursday. Easy answer – I will be gorked out of my mind on Thursday. Marcus is hiding my iPhone so there’s less of a chance I will “drunk” tweet. Sometimes he’s quite the killjoy.

Some quick tips if you have a friend that gets an abnormal mammogram or has to have more extensive testing done. Don’t tell them not to worry, or that they’ll be fine; that lots of other women have had this done and it’s nothing. Seriously - don’t do that, especially if you’ve never had this happen to you. Internet statistics are not what your friend needs. Your friend is scared. Let her be scared. Hug her. Let her cry. Let her rant. By insisting that everything is going to be OK, you minimize her fears and experiences, and you have no right to do that. After they’ve cried and freaked out a bit, then it’s OK to remind them that it is very likely the outcome will be OK, but that you also understand why they’re so scared.

Another tip – you have no idea what a person going through this brings as baggage on this shitty, shitty roller coaster ride. You may have had an abnormal mammogram and a needle biopsy and yours turned out just fine. That’s truly wonderful for you. But for other women it stirs up so much emotion that they feel swept up in a tidal wave of fear and déjà vu. Maybe their mom wasn’t at their wedding day because she died from breast cancer. Maybe they watched a friend fight and fight and fight and eventually had to watch her succumb to the disease. Maybe they’ve had to watch their sister go through chemotherapy and have seen how awful the process was for her.

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I have a mom who made it through two occurrences of cancer. The first one almost killed her. The second one was no walk in the park. And the phrase “Hopefully, the chemo kills the cancer faster than you” comes to mind. She has nerve damage and when it’s not causing her pain, she experiences times where she can’t really feel her feet and hands. She’s fallen down and knocked herself out. She’s broken her ankle. Every time I’m with her I make sure to follow her up the stairs and go first down the stairs. I know it annoys her, but I will never not do it.

A friend who was diagnosed with cancer in her early 30s was with us when Marcus and I got engaged. I remember her having to keep her intravenous port above water in the hot tub at the cabin. She read our favorite passage at our wedding. I see pictures from our wedding with her in them, and I cry. She fought cancer. She fought it hard.  Cancer won. A couple of weeks ago, my husband got all choked up and said “I really miss April. The world is worse off without her here”.

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And then I sit here and think about the state of healthcare in this country, and I am filled with rage. I rarely bring politics onto my blog, but there is something indecent, immoral and un-Christian about a country that lets people die because they don’t have health care. Those of us without healthcare? Very few of us are the lazy bums some people like to think we are.  Some of us have tried for years to buy insurance. Some of us have been told that it’s obvious that after seven different agents and applying for the same companies over and over again because our papers keep getting “lost”  - that we’re being illegally discriminated against, probably because of familial history. There’s no point in suing because we don’t have the money or teams of lawyers that insurance companies do. Some of us are uninsurable. Some of us don’t have the money to pay for insurance coverage because of the cost, while the insurance companies’ CEOs are being rewarded with millions in salary and millions in bonuses. Please don’t bother arguing with me about this in the comments. You’re entitled to your point of view. I have lived through this, and you will not bring me around to your way of thinking because of a comment left on my blog.

Sure – there are some programs for those who can’t get insurance. Good luck navigating your way through them. It’s taken us two years to be able to get affordable general health care. It’s taken eight cancelled visits to try to access a state program that is supposed to help women with cervical, ovarian & breast healthcare. It took so much time that my mom told me to just go ahead and schedule a mammogram, and she would pay for it. I’m glad I didn’t wait to get the mammogram done through this state program. A very kind woman at the center where I got my mammogram done cuts through the red tape. I have to sit in an office and be told “Now I don’t want to offend you, but God is there with us through every step of the way, and you need to remember everything is a part of God’s plan”. I am Christian. If I had not been, her words would not have brought me to Christ. This woman works in a government office and holds a lot of power over what kind of cancer screening I’ll have access to. I find the fact that she had decided to talk about God with me, when she had no idea what religion I may or may not have been, abhorrent. On the way out, this same woman tells me to look for the silver lining in this black cloud. I’m lucky that if I have breast cancer, I’ll be able to get on TennCare. Other cancers are not covered, and you’re shit out of luck if you have them and don’t have insurance. After subduing the strong urge to punch her in the throat and tell her that I was glad Allah was there to guide me through this journey, I quickly thanked her and left. photo (7)

Right now I want to take my boobs off, put them in a box for safe keeping and take them out for special occasions, like our wedding anniversary or Marcus’ birthday. It would be even better if I could send them out for repair and maintenance.

I chatted with a friend last night. After she pretended to be aghast with me when I said I just wanted to have a normal, boring life, she put it into perfect perspective. I want to be beige. I want to have a beige life for a while. I’ll still wear fuchsia because I look horrible in beige, but a beige life sounds wonderful right now.

I realize that the outcome from this biopsy has a very good chance of being a good one. But I am 39 years old. I should not be going through this. No one should be going through this. Fuck Cancer.

photo (11) My pimp hat seemed appropriate for this picture.

I have wonderful friends and a wonderful family that have been hard at work keeping me busy and diverting my attention away from Thursday. One of my friends who I have given the alias, SchmArin, brainstormed with me on ways we could make boobs out of food. Cupcakes seemed way overdone and not much of a challenge. Plus a 3 year old frosts cupcakes better than me. I also thought about rice krispy treat boobs, but they seemed to be too lumpy for my comfort. He’s been cooking his way through the pudding section of the The Essential New York Times Cookbook, so we pondered pudding options. He thought blancmange (A sweet dessert commonly made with milk and/or cream and sugar thickened with gelatin) would work best. He had breast shaped bowls, so I planned to go over to his place to make this magic happen. Raspberries seemed like our best bet for nipples.

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First, I ran to the closest grocery story and our local food co-op. Neither place had raspberries. I called SchmArin and asked him “Would strawberries work as nipples if we just used the tip?” He told me that was the strangest question he had ever been asked. I told him I was sure it wasn’t the strangest question I had ever asked, but it was up there on the list. We decided to make our blancmange first and then worry about nipples later.  SchmArin went off on a weird tangent about doing some kind of raspberry center or drizzle. After a few minutes I was able to convey that while I wanted these puddings to look like my boobs, I wanted them intact and not portrayed as they would be during the biopsy. I have very little shame, but that seemed too much even for me.


Please forgive me for flipping the video the wrong way. I’ve been a little nervous.

We followed the recipe from the cookbook pretty closely. We decided to flavor the blancmange with a little bit of raspberry jelly. I’m pretty pale but not vampire pale. We thought the jelly would be nice with the lemon and would warm up the color a little. We had a very scary grey stage at one point, but the addition of a tiny bit more jelly got us back into flesh colored territory very quickly. We poured them into the bowls. We wanted to make them a little fuller, so we had enough blancmange for 5 1/2 bowls. We threw the boobs into the fridge and went out in search of nipples.

After perusing many fruit options, raspberries still seemed like best idea. I tell you, there’s nothing that makes me feel more like a locavore than buying fresh raspberries in March in East Tennessee.

On Sunday, we unmolded the first halfway filled bowl (stick the bowl gently in hot water until it unsticks a bit from the sides) and plopped it out on a plate. Marcus, SchmArin and I dug in. We all agreed; my boobs were pretty damn tasty. They were a little too see through around the top area. If we ever make boob pudding again, we’ll use more cream for part of the milk (and I made the adjustment in the recipe posted here). For some reason, SchmArin decided to toast some almond bits and add them to the top of the boobs. I think this makes my boobs look dusty, but it made SchmArin happy, so I went with it.

This is the way I cope. The more I can laugh at a problem and the more that I can mock it in a ridiculous fashion, the better I feel about the whole thing. Thankfully, I have a husband, family and friends who indulge me when times get tough. No matter how everything works out, that is one thing that I will always be grateful for.


This is my husband. You should feel sorry for him because this is one of the least embarrassing things I’ve made him do.

 

New Jersey BlancMange
Serves 6
Adapted from The Essential New York Times Cookbook

3 cups whole milk with a layer of cream or use half milk & half cream
5 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons gelatin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Grated zest of 1 lemon
5 teaspoons raspberry jelly
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
Optional – toasted almond crumbs and/or fresh raspberries

In a medium saucepan, combine the milk (or half milk, half cream), sugar, gelatin, salt, zest and raspberry jelly. Bring this slowly to a boil, Making sure to whisk so that the sugar and gelatin dissolve. If your jelly seems clumpy, use the whisk to push down on the clump. When bubbles form on the milk, remove from the heat. Strain through a fine seive (the one we used wasn’t fine enough). Stir in the almond extract.

Pour the liquid into six 1/2 to 3/4 cup bowls or ramekins. Chill until firm – that took about 3 hours for us. Dip the bowls in warm water to loosen and unmold onto plates.

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Anniversary Apple Butter & Loving the Wrong Person

 I’m on a brief blog hiatus for the next little bit, so I thought posting some of my favorite posts from the past would be a good way to fill in until I got a new blog post up.  This post is from November 17, 2010

 

Loving the wrong person

We’re all seeking that special person who is right for us, but if you’ve been through enough relationships, you begin to suspect there’s no right person, just different flavors of wrong. Why is this? Because you yourself are wrong in some way, and you seek out partners who are wrong in some complementary way. But it takes a lot of living to grow fully into your own wrongness. It isn’t until you finally run up against your deepest demons, your unsolvable problems – the ones that make you truly who you are – that you’re ready to find a life-long mate. You’re looking for the wrong person. But not just any wrong person: the right wrong person – someone you lovingly gaze upon and think, “This is the problem I want to have.” – Andrew Boyd, Daily Afflictions.

You know, I had this lovely post all worked out for our anniversary.  I was going to post our recipe for apple butter because when my husband and I got married, we made apple butter for our guests.  I figured they all probably didn’t need another engraved-with-a-random-wedding-date-cheap champagne flute so we went for something practical. And our guests seemed to be happy with it – I actually saw several guests drinking it like a shot.  Either we made a damn good apple butter or those guests were drunk.  Probably both.

My husband and I have turned making apple butter into an anniversary tradition and I had this wonderful blog post idea about how marriage was like a jar of apple butter.  And it was so cute without being retch-inducing and I’m sure it would have totally gone viral in a major way and at this point in time, I’m sure one of Ellen’s producers would have been calling me, asking me to make apple butter and be witty on her show.

Life has this funny way of getting in the way.  Instead of writing that post, we painted our bedroom blue.  And worked on code.

Why did we do this?  Because it had to be done.  My husband and I run an online shopping board and we’re heading into what we refer to as crazytime.  We’re getting over 200 non-spam emails a day and the posts on our site and traffic to it are going up.  We’re also getting ready to make a MAJOR update in our board software and that’s been causing us to tear our hair out,  especially since it has to be done before the week of Black Friday.

Add to this stress the fact that we’re also in the middle of some pretty big home renovations.  We have this beautiful, big house and we’ve spent the last two years crammed into three rooms.  We made some progress a couple of weeks ago and got our office opened up but I’m jonesing to have our bedroom back.  Especially since I’m sick of our clothes being scattered to the four winds throughout our house.  And especially since we’re working on a deadline and have to have a certain amount of our house finished by the time we re-finance.

So instead of some swooningly beautiful prose about my husband, I’m going to say this.  I love him.  And the man drives me crazy. And I drive him crazy. And sometimes that crazy is even in a good way.  I would have rather been on a tropical beach, sipping on a frosty tropical drink while we lounged in the sun together.  Hell – I would have rather been hiking in the rain.  Instead, we painted our bedroom blue.  And I threw a hissy fit about not being where I wanted to be and being where I was.  And my husband waited for me to finish and then said he was going to finish painting the trim now.  And I sighed.  And realized that where I was, was where I was.  And I was lucky to be there with the man that I was with.

So we ate cupcakes & drank red wine from our anniversary champagne flutes.  And painted.  But I still made apple butter.  And I had the problem I wanted to have.

The key to really good apple butter is really good apples.  Stayman Winesaps are my preferred apples for this.   If you’re not sure what kind of apples to use, buy lots of different kinds and mix them.  Please understand that the measurements below are flexible on purpose.  There is no way for me to give you an absolute recipe for this – every batch of apples are different so you’ll need to season this as you go.

If I can get my hands on organic Stayman Winesaps, I simply quarter them and cook them with skins and cores.  This takes a lot longer to cook down and you can’t do chunky-style applesauce this way but as long as you put everything through a food mill, this is my favorite way to make apple butter.  It’s next to impossible to find organic Stayman Winesaps locally though so the method I have detailed below is the one I regularly turn to.

I don’t like to keep a slow cooker going all night (and it’s really not smart to do this while the apple butter is cooking down) so I start this on the stove, stick it in the fridge overnight and heat it back up again on the stove.  And then I pour the applesauce into the slow cooker to cook down.  Again – this is not something you can really leave because you need to leave the lid askew in order for it to cook down.  You’re also going to need to scrape down the sides of the slow cooker every hour or so.

Anniversary Apple Butter
8 lbs apples
2 cups apple cider
1 – 2 cups packed dark brown sugar (my batch I used 1 1/2 cups)
Juice from 1/2 to 2 lemons (I used one lemon which was about 4 tablespoons of juice)
2-4 teaspoons cinnamon

Making Applesauce:
Core & slice apples.  Place in large saucepan with apple cider, one cup brown sugar and two tablespoons lemon juice.  Bring to a simmer over low heat and simmer for 2 hours or until apples are tender and falling apart.  Season to taste with cinnamon.  Correct the seasonings again – if the flavor seems a little flat, add more lemon juice.  Now you can eat this as applesauce or you take the next step and make into apple butter.

Making Apple Butter:
Put apple butter through a food mill.  You can also puree it in a food processor but I think the food mill gives it a really silky consistency you can’t get anywhere else.  If this is cold, I usually heat it back up on the stove and then pour it into a slow cooker on low.  Make sure that the lid to your cooker is askew and cook for about 12 hours.  Make sure to scrape down the sides as it cooks.  Let most of the liquid cook out.  It will get very dark.  About 6 hours through cooking, taste and add any additional sugar or cinnamon that you think it may need.

Allow it to cool completely.  You can refrigerate this for up to three weeks or you can can it.  To can, ladle hot apple butter into prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Process in a hot water canner for 10 minutes.

Please click here for a printable recipe!


Roasted Cauliflower and Tahini Spread and the Transit of Venus

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Cauliflower has never been my favorite vegetable.  Oh, I don’t dislike it but I’ve never been one to get all worked up about it.  Until I roasted it.  Roasted cauliflower is a vegetable to get passionate about.  My husband refers to it as the popcorn of the vegetable world and I think he’s right.  It’s insanely addictive and I can’t stop eating it.

This is what happens when you drink too much gin. You put garlic in your prep photo even when there’s no garlic in your recipe. Let that be a lesson to you, boys and girls.

This spread takes all the popcorn-y goodness of roasted cauliflower and adds an Asian flair to it, turning it into a luscious spread that I couldn’t quit cramming into my mouth.  It’s toasted and salty and has that umami quality that keeps you coming back for more.

This spread tastes best with a good, sturdy cracker, a crusty loaf of bread or steamed pea pods.  It would be wonderful on cucumber slices and is a perfect picnic food.  Eat while drinking gin cocktails when sitting out on your upper porch while watching the transit of Venus.  Or since that won’t be for another 105 years, just make the gin cocktails and sit out under the stars.  Whatever you do, make this.

Roasted Cauliflower and Tahini Spread
Makes around 2 cups
Adapted from Food and Wine

1 head of cauliflower (2 pounds), halved crosswise and thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
Kosher salt
3 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Toss the cauliflower with the olive oil, coriander, ginger and salt.  Spread onto a large rimmed baking sheet and roast, stirring once or twice. Cauliflower is done when it’s tender and beginning to lightly brown in spots.  The recipe says this takes 40 minutes but I’ve made it three times and I’ve never had it take more than 25 – again, this depends on your cauliflower.  Just keep on eye on it and see.  Let this cool slightly.

In a food processor, combine the cauliflower, tahini and lemon juice and pulse to a chunky puree.  Season with salt.  Add the cilantro and pulse just until it’s incorporated into the spread.  Transfer to bowl and serve warm.  If you have leftovers, let them warm up a bit before serving.

 

Buttermilk Pudding Cakes with Sugared Raspberries are Better than Eastern European Facelifts

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Last week I celebrated a birthday.  I suppose I could be coy and not name the actual birthday but screw it, I’m 38 and all the secret Eastern European face lifts and Botox in the world isn’t going to make that change.  But lots of delicious cakes make it less painful.

I’ve never held back in proclaiming my love for the golden elixir that is Cruze Farm Buttermilk.  I’m pretty sure the cows that this buttermilk comes from are fed rainbows and daisies.  So when I saw a recipe for Buttermilk Pudding Cakes from The Lee Brothers’ new book, Simple Fresh Southern Knockout Dishes with Down-home Flavor, I knew I had to make them.

My little sister is staying with me for a while and while these were baking, she came into the kitchen and told me that my kitchen smelled like angel breath.  While eating the cakes, she told me that the cakes made the raspberries taste like candy.  And later I’m pretty sure I could decipher the word ‘awesome’ as she mumbled it around a mouth full of buttermilk cake.  She is so right.  These cakes are awesome.  They’re rich and buttery without being heavy.  They’re the perfect size for a light summer dessert and if you’re not feeling like eating light that night, eat five of them.  I can’t wait to try these cakes topped with blueberries and lemon curd or maybe with a peach sauce.  These are a dessert that you’ll make over and over, simply because they’re so easy and quick to make.  And because they make your kitchen smell like angel breath.  Add to that the fact that they’re wonderfully delicious and they’re just about the perfect summer dessert.

Based on my extensive research, I’m pretty sure that eating these cakes makes you younger.  So forget subjecting myself to skin pickling and cat-eyed makeovers of the Kardashian clan. I’ll be warding off the old with these babies.

Buttermilk Pudding Cakes with Sugared Raspberries
Adapted from The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern Knockout Dishes with Down-home Flavor
Makes 8 cakes

Buttermilk Pudding Cakes:
3/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

Sugared Raspberries:
8 ounces (2 cups) raspberries
1/4 cup sugar

Whipped cream (optional)

1)Heat the oven to 425 degrees with the rack positioned in the upper third of the oven.  If you don’t have a nonstick muffin pan, grease the cups with butter and dust with flour. Set pan aside.

2) Sift the flour with the baking powder into a medium bowl.  In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until they’re creamy and yellow.  Then whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla, sugar and butter.  Batter will look curdled – this is ok.  Add the flour mixture and whisk until the batter is combined and smooth.

3) Divide the batter among 8 standard-size muffin-pan cups, filling them two-thirds full.  Bake for 9 minutes (We needed to bake for 11.5 minutes).  Check the cakes by inserting a knife between the rim  of the cake and the muffin cup so you expose the side of the cake.  If the side of the cake appears evenly browned, the cakes will hold together when inverted and are done baking.  If not, bake for another minute and check again.  Invert onto individual small plates.

4)While the cakes bake, place the raspberries in a bowl.  Sprinkle them with the 1/4 cup sugar and gently toss them with your hands so that all the berries are lightly dusted in sugar.

5)Top each cake with whipped cream (if using) and berries.  Serve.

Sweet Tea-Brined Chicken & Melting Our Way into Summer

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Today, I’m considering turning my food blog into the only non-cooking food blog out there.  I never want to cook again. I plan on living the rest of my life on cucumbers, sandwiches, sweet tea and frosty glasses of booze.  Or at least until the temperatures in my kitchen fall below 90.

Living in an old house is a wonderful adventure.  It also can bite the big one.  Our kitchen has no walls and no A/C.  So the only way we have to moderate the temperatures is to not turn the oven on and to only use the stove for short periods of time.  We also keep it as dark as a tomb.  Shades only get raised for pictures, then they’re closed again and we shuffle around in the darkness, praying that a cat doesn’t trip us.

I made pimento cheese the other day to post on the blog.  It’s delicious.  Two different kinds of cheese, piquillo peppers and all sorts of goodness.  And it looks like it was made out of Velveeta, red construction paper and glue.  It looks like a giant, gooey, orange hot mess.  All because it is so freaking hot in our kitchen.  So that recipe will come another day when I can make the pictures look as appetizing as they should.  Instead, I want to talk about chicken.  This delicious, amazing chicken.

It’s wonderfully moist and smoky and sweet and salty. The garlic, lemon, onion and tea add complexity to the brine that transfers to the chicken.  It’s fabulous hot off the grill and it’s equally delicious when you sneak into the kitchen late at night, stand in front of the fridge to cool off and eat it like a thief in the night.  It’s the perfect summertime recipe. You don’t have to heat up your kitchen and it is delicious. It also goes well with frosty glasses full of booze. What’s not to like about it?

Sweet Tea-Brined Chicken
Adapted from Southern Living
Makes 6-8 servings

2 family-size tea bags
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, halved
2 (6-inch) fresh rosemary sprigs
1 tablespoon freshly cracked pepper
2 cups ice cubes
1 (3 1/2- to 4-lb.) cut-up whole chicken

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Remove from heat, cover and let steep for ten minutes.  Discard tea bags.  Stir in sugar, kosher salt, onion, lemon, garlic, rosemary and cracked pepper.  Stir until the sugar dissolves.  Cool completely (45min to an hour) and stir in ice cubes.

Pour mixture into a large zip-top bag.  Add chicken to bag and let marinate in the fridge for 24 hours.  Remove chicken from bag and pat dry with paper towels. Discard marinade.

If you are using a gas grill turn on the burners on one side, close the lid until the temperature reaches approximately 350 degrees.  For a charcoal grill, place briquettes along one side and wait until they’re gray and no flame is present.  Place the chicken skin side down on the grill on the opposite side of the lit burner or charcoal, away from the direct heat, and put the lid back on the grill.  After 20 minutes flip them over and cook for another 40 to 50 minutes with the lid on.   If you have a meat thermometer, the chicken should be at 160 degrees.  Remove the lid and place chicken directly over the heat, skin side down to crisp the skin.  Remove to a platter, let stand for 5 minutes and serve.

 

 

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