Sunday, September 27, 2009

October musings and plans

The barm for BBA bread No.2 is in the refrigerator.  Next weekend we will be baking Greek Celebration bread after refreshing the barm twice during the week.  This weekend was rainy and I didn't get my roses planted.  I couldn't paint the bathroom yet because the spackling still has to be sanded a final time.  SO, I took a long walk and thought about October.  The leaves are starting to change--the poison ivy and the sumac are among the first to begin turning red.  The crabapples are red and there are a few flowers still blooming in the garden.  Some coral mushrooms were peeking through leaves in the woods.  I always love the path I walked because there is an intense fragrance of pine from the cedars and yellow pines.  The path is soft underfoot from pine needles and moss.  I flushed out a bird but didn't see it. There were fresh tracks from a deer that heard me before I got there.  I thought about how much I love woods, fresh air, blue skies and freedom to enjoy them.  I came back from my walk, picked up a pad and a calendar and made a plan for October.  I listed all the things I love to do and the things that always make me feel stressed.  I decided to schedule my month on the calendar to find time for what I enjoy, for what I need and to begin to handle the stressful jobs that are always on my mind.  Karen and I agreed to follow this plan together.  We both have our exercise plan--mine will be to dance in the morning again and walk while the evenings still have some light.  We both want to have a home that's a pleasure not a chore because it's never organized and "company ready."  Those are the things that get in the way of having the energy and time to do what we find really important to us.  On my calendar I picked a room for each week of October to clean completely, but, more important, to organize everything in it in a way that should make it easy to maintain and to find what I need.  I'm not doing any of that on the weekends--I'm not missing the fall--I'll be baking, knitting, and spending time outside on weekends.  The evenings will be really busy.  The first week of October I'll work in my sewing/knitting room upstairs. My knitting needles need to be organized and I could use a better system for storing my yarn and fabrics.  While I'm at it, I'll reorganize my "linen closet."  Both rooms will take a lot of work--don't know if I can get done in one week.  I want to paint and redecorate but that'll be round two after all the rooms get organized and cleaned.  The key to this plan is that the things we love to do are also on our October calendar to make sure they aren't lost in the usual shuffle of "too busyness."

Baltimore weekend

I took a long weekend to spend in Baltimore for my daughter's birthday.  It turned out to be a little holiday for me.  While she worked I spent the day in Fell's Point.  I visited all the little shops there and walked along the water and hung out in coffee shops.  We met for lunch at Shucker's on the water.  I had no problem filling the hours.  I particularly enjoyed a little yarn shop on Aliceanna called A Good Yarn.  I would spend many hours in this shop if I lived nearby.  They hold knitting classes and allow knitters to just come in the shop and knit with others to learn from and share with.  The yarns were beautiful and I came home with a new supply of sock yarn and a kit to make a really cute hat.

 In the afternoon I walked up to Harbor East where there are more nice stores.  I found coarse grind cornmeal and almond flour for baking in Whole Foods Market, a store I wish we had here in our area.
We worked on Laura's new house over the weekend and got another room painted.  It turned out really pretty and will appear on her site later.  The highlight of the weekend was dinner at Volt Restaurant in downtown Frederick, MD. 

Monday, September 21, 2009

BBA Challenge--Bread 1

We made the first bread in The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart this weekend.  We are now in the Challenge.  Our goal is to make all the breads in the book by baking one every other weekend.  This was Anadama bread.  It turned out really moist and hearty.  I would make one small change the next time I make this bread.  The recipe says to sprinkle the top with cornmeal before baking.  I used the same coarse cornmeal that I used in the dough.  I would use a finer cornmeal for that step next time to prevent biting down on occasional little hard pieces that are present in the coarse-grind cornmeal.  I did have to add some extra flour while kneading to get the dough to the non-sticky stage.  Karen kneaded her bread by hand.  I used my Kitchen-Aid.  We seemed to get the same results.  This bread was delicious with our seasoned pinto beans for dinner.  A cold glass of buttermilk added a delicious refreshing tang to the meal.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Volt Restaurant, Frederick, MD

Being a foodie as I am, I was thrilled this weekend to go with my daughter and her husband to dinner at Volt restaurant in Frederick, MD.

I had never eaten in this type of restaurant and had never tried some of the food I had. The restaurant is classy and the service was excellent. Not being sure of myself I just looked at the waiter when he came with two carafes and asked "sparkling" or "still?" While I looked at the carafes, my daughter responded with,"still," and I got that it was water. We had "still" all around. Then he appeared again with a small white dish and 3 spoons with compliments from the Chef. He announced it was Arctic Char Tartare with chives. He brought an amazing selection of warm rolls with that. I thought, ok, I can eat raw fish--even though I never have. It was SO good! I knew I could trust the food. Laura and I decided to share the first two courses. The first one was Duck liver with pears, pistachio and tiny lettuce. It was accompanied by toasted vanilla brioche. This was a surprise. The liver tasted nothing like any liver I've ever eaten. It was creamy, light and smooth. The little dollops of pear butter were so good over it and it went suprisingly well with vanilla brioche. It was the most surprising combination I've ever sampled. We decided it was good that we had split it because it was rich. For our second course we ordered Goat Cheese ravioli with sweet corn, chanterelle mushrooms and beans. Once again we had split the course and found it was enough for us. The ravioli was tender and the sweetness of the corn was a perfect complement to the very pronounced flavor of goat cheese. The tiny chanterelles were delightful as was the puff of white corn foam that topped the dish. It was time for the main course. Mine was perfect Roast Chicken--crisp on the outside, tender inside--with fingerling potatoes and Hen of the Woods mushrooms. I had eaten Hen of the Woods many years ago when I found some in our woods. These were the best. Mustard greens balanced out the course. For dessert we chose vacherin with pistachio gelato, raspberry and lemon rosemary. At the end of the evening we were given a tour of the restaurant and met the Chef, Bryan Voltaggio--a contestant on "Top Chef," and, we HOPE, the winner. For people who love food-tasting, excellent service and "Top Chef" it was a totally memorable experience. We absolutely loved it.  We plan to come back one day and treat ourselves to "Table 21."

Monday, September 14, 2009


My mother made pierogi filled with potatoes, saurkraut, sweet cheese, meat, or plums.  My daughter-in-law and I made potato cheese and potato mushroom pierogi tonight.  This recipe is similar to how Mama made them but has sour cream added to the dough, which makes the dough easier to work with and more tender when they're cooked.
Notice the method of pinching the edge shut involves using your thumb and the first two fingers.
The filling on the picture is potato/mushroom.  Watch for recipes for other fillings in future blogs.

   Potato/Mushroom Pierogi


4 eggs
1/2 c. melted and cooled butter
1/2 c. sour cream
1 tsp. salt
5 c. all-purpose flour

Put the flour on a dough board and make a well in the center.  Whisk eggs, butter, sour cream and salt in a bowl.  Pour into the center of the flour.  Use a fork to work the flour gradually into the liquid, working in from the edges to form soft dough.  If the dough is too sticky, add a little flour.  If it's too dry, add just a bit of water.  Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.  Form a ball and cover with plastic and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.

On a floured board, roll out 1/2 the dough at a time to about 1/8 inch thick.  Cut out circles with a 3-inch cookie cutter or drinking glass.  Place about a Tablespoon of filling into the center of each circle.  A little water brushed on the edges will help the dough stick.  Fold the dough over to form a semicircle.  Pinch shut with your fingers.  This should make about 3 dozen pierogi.  They may be cooked right away or frozen.

To cook boil a few at a time in a large pot of boiling water for about 8-10 minutes until they float.  They may be served plain, topped with butter, or rinsed and allowed to dry a few minutes and then fried in butter in which chopped onions have been sauteed, if you prefer them a little crisped.  If you like, you may serve sour cream along with them.

Potato Mushroom Filling:

1 lb. peeled and cubed potatoes
2 Tblsp. butter
1 onion, chopped
10 ozs. finely chopped mushrooms
salt and pepper
1 c. heavy cream

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until tender.  Drain and mash and set aside to cool.   Melt 2 Tblsp. butter over medium-low heat.  Add mushrooms.  Saute a few minutes and add salt and pepper.  Continue to cook until most of the moisture has cooked out.  Add cream and stir.  Remove from heat and add the mushroom mixture into the mashed potatoes, mixing well.  Allow the filling to cool somewhat before forming balls to place onto the dough.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Banana Pancakes

I tried out my new Cuisinart Griddler this morning.  I had made panninis in it, but this was the first time for the griddle.  The banana pancakes were delicious!

2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp.  baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1-3/4 c. buttermilk
4 eggs
1/4 c. melted butter
3/4 cup mashed bananas
3/4 cup chunky-mashed bananas

Blueberries  or other fresh fruit for topping
Pat of butter and maple syrup, if desired, for topping
Powdered sugar for garnish

Mix together the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, buttermilk and melted butter.  Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry mixture and stir just until moistened.  Fold in bananas just before placing on griddle.

Heat griddle to medium hot and grease lightly.  Drop about 1/4 cup batter for each pancake.  Cook on first side until bubbles appear.  Finish cooking on other side.  Add a pat of butter, if desired.  Sprinkle liberally with fresh blueberries.  Add maple syrup and dust with confectioner's sugar.

I also made a birthday cake for my daughter this weekend.  It was Piano cake

This was a challenging recipe.  The measurements were metric, which were no problem for me since I have a metric balance.  The recipe called for 2 packets of vanilla sugar.  I had some vanilla sugar that I had made a while ago.  But I didn't know how much was in 2 packets.  I checked online and found each packet contains one tablespoon.  The first time I beat the eggs and sugar for the sponge cake layer, I didn't beat them very long and the mixture was too thin and of low volume.  I made up a new batch and beat the eggs and sugar long enough to get the mixture thick and pale yellow in color before I added the rest of the ingredients.  That was perfect.  I didn't cook the custard mixture long enough to get it thick, which I didn't know until it had cooled--so I reheated and recooled it.  Next time I would cook it a little longer the first time.   I had trouble figuring out how to make the coiled layer with the sponge cake, but my son helped me figure that out.  The chocolate I used was Scharffenberger 99% cacao.  It gave a rich bittersweetness to the chocolate--not exactly for milk chocolate lovers, but if you like very dark chocolate, it was excellent.  By the time we had it all completed, we voted this cake a total success and delicious. It was worth all the effort.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cool Summer Salad

Dill is the official plant of Poland.  We've used it on potatoes and cucumbers for as long as I can remember.  I love its fragrance and ferny leaves--which are also enjoyed in the garden by the caterpillar of the Black Swallowtail.  We grow plenty of dill so we don't mind sharing.  We have to wait until spring next year to see both of them in our garden again, but, thanks to supermarkets, we can have Polish Cucumbers and Sour Cream anytime we want!

                  Cucumbers and Sour Cream

3 cucumbers (2 pounds)                      
1 cup sour cream                                 
2 T. apple cider vinegar                        
1 T. chopped chives                             
1 T. chopped fresh dill                          
1 T. Salt                                               
Extra dill to sprinkle on top

Peel and slice cucumbers thinly into a large bowl.  Sprinkle salt liberally through the cucumbers.  Place in refrigerator for 1/2 hr. to allow the salt to draw water out of the cucumbers.  Take the bowl out of the refrigerator and drain off the saltwater.  Rinse.  Press the cucumbers to remove the excess water.  In a separate bowl combine sour cream with vinegar, chives, dill and a little pepper.  Mix into the cucumbers and allow to chill at least 1/2 hour.  If desired, sprinkle extra dill on top and serve.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day Seafood

It's Labor Day. The sky is heavy with low grey clouds that blend with the mountain, turning it a hazy blue. Rain is certain. The sumac berries are full and dark red--their leaves are just beginning to turn to the scarlet that will come in a few weeks. Some trees have already dropped early leaves on the grass and Goldenrod is in full bloom.The gooseberry leaves are showing russet around their edges and between the green veins of summer.  Autumn is beginning. The cool air is perfect for bread baking and soup making.

But today we're having one last celebration of summer with a Low Country Boil. We'll eat yesterday's Tomato Rosemary Bread and feast out on a picnic table--on the porch if it rains. I'll add a quick Peach Cobbler with ice cream and coffee for dessert.


 These are the booties that I cannot get a smooth kitchener stitch sole seam on.  I'll knit another one and try again.  I think it can be done because some of my seam looks nice and smooth.  Perhaps I'm seaming too tightly.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Year of Breads

The September bread:  Potato Rosemary Bread

 Potato Rosemary bread turned out sooo good.
It required making a biga (a starter) the day before and adding the bread ingredients to it the second day.  The dough was soft and easy to work with.  I added rosemary but left out the garlic, which was optional.  I wanted just the clean rosemary flavor in this bread and was glad I left it out.  I might add a little more salt to the recipe next time.  It turned out moist and chewy.  Dipping pieces in salted olive oil was delicious. 

We are going to make at least one new bread a month for a year.  When I make any with my own adjustments, I'll share the recipe here.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Comfort Food

We had extra peppers to use so I made stuffed peppers for dinner. This is a version I’ve been making for years:

Stuffed Peppers

6 peppers (or 3 large peppers cut in half)
1 lb. ground beef
½ cup chopped onion
1 1b. can tomatoes (sometimes I add a little tomato sauce if the mixture seems thin)
½ cup rice
½ cup water
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (4 ozs.)
Salt, pepper

Drop the peppers in boiling water for 5 minutes if you want them precooked. If you prefer crispy peppers, you can just leave them raw.

Brown the ground beef and onion. Add tomatoes, rice, water, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes. Stir in the cheese and stuff the pepper cups. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees about 25 to 30 minutes.


We decided on Potato Rosemary bread for September. The biga is in the refrigerator and the potatoes are mashed. Tomorrow I bake.


I have been working on making booties in the round with a neat kitchener stitch on the sole. My first pair made with variegated yarn turned out ok, but on the next pair I made, I wasn't able to get the kitchener seam neat. Perhaps I pulled too tightly. I'm starting another pair and hope I get the hang of it this time.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dancing Through My Sixties

I'm a Grandma now!! Booties are the most fun to knit! They're so cute and knit up so fast. These were knitted in the round with the sole closed up using the kitchener stitch. I admit I ran out and bought quite a supply of baby yarn immediately.

Since I can't have my little guy with me 24/7, I still pursue my passions--food, for example! My friend, Karen, sez to me, "I think we should both use the same bread book and make the same bread once a month for a year. Sez I, "Yes! And I'll blog about it!" Now before you think this is copying "Julie and Julia," I've thought about cooking and blogging way before I ever heard of "Julie and Julia." I've also thought about knitting and blogging about it and dieting and blogging about it and growing old and blogging about it. . .
Anyway--we're on our way. We chose The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart to make bread from. This coming year we intend to master "the art of extraordinary bread."
Expect to read all about it.

Along with my first overseas trip this spring to Italy (which was amazing and has changed my life) I spent a few days in Bar Harbor, Maine, this summer with my son. We went out on a lobster boat, saw harbor seals and ate lobster and blueberry pie every day. I had never spent much time in Maine--it was beautiful! I went sailing in Baltimore on our boat--first time out for me. It was quite breezy, but I was with two excellent sailors who were always in complete control. (I may have to make a little trip somewhere with boats and seafood this fall. ) Then, when the summer was almost over, along came this little, tiny grandbaby!