Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Culinary Day

A grocery list made by my darling girl when she was wee. I  recently found it hiding in the cookbook.

I have been a vegetarian for about forty-five years.  These days, it is a pretty normal to eschew meat, as do so many of my friends.  When Dennis and I decided to stop eating meat those many years ago, however, we didn’t know a single other vegetarian.  It just was not done!  When friends invited us to dinner, we inevitably got macaroni and cheese.  Our restaurant life was limited to Chinese, Mexican, or grilled cheese sandwiches.  And vegetarian cookbooks?  Well, there were a few.  One of the few was by a woman named Elsa Michaels. It is so not-hot now, that you can buy it for 1¢ on Amazon.  I was thrilled at the time to find it. Dennis and I marveled at the weirdness of the recipes, and a bit at the authoress too.  We decided that, given the peculiarity of the food, she must be English.  Vegetarianism seems to have been popular in England far longer than here.  Vide, GBS.  We also found her  somewhat fantastic hair and lack of makeup fascinating.  We thought that this indicated some strictly no-makeup religion.  Or maybe she was a country western singer.  But then, there would have been lots of makeup. 

As I said, the recipes were odd, and many would qualify as hippie food these days, but Elsa was definitely not a hippie (see photo.)  While almost universally mundane, and often unattractive, the recipes were invariably delicious.  Just not the sort of thing one serves to impress.

I was trying to think of something to fix for my Aunt Dakki, whose approved list of suitable ingredients is very short. It excludes almost all vegetable matter except cauliflower and onions. I consulted Rebecca and she suggested a cauliflower and nut dish that she had particularly liked when she was little.  I was pretty sure it was from the above mentioned cookbook, but when I looked for “cauliflower” in the index – nothing. Same for the other main ingredients - “nuts” and “cheese.”  I flipped through the whole book and finally found “protein loaf.”  I prepared it for Dakki, and it was a great success.  As I had the ingredients left and it had been so good, I made it again for Ana. 

You can try it too.  It’s really tasty.  Here is the recipe:

Cauliflower Protein Loaf

1 cup cauliflower, chopped quite small (easily done in the food processor)
1 cup cashews, chopped ditto,
1 tbs butter or marge
1 cup grated cheddar cheese,
1 large onion, chopped
2 eggs
teaspoon Marmite
½ cup chopped parsley
salt, pepper

Sauté the onions and cauliflower until softened.  Mix in the other ingredients.  Bake in a greased loaf pan for about 30 minutes

Elsa serves it with a chive white sauce, but I thought a nice tomato sauce sounded better.  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Sporty Day

Beauty on an early morning run

On my last day of my nursing job, I took my pocket camera  to work so that I could take snaps of my wonderful colleagues. As I was leaving, I dropped the camera onto the concrete. Fortunately, the pictures I had taken survived, but the camera did not. This meant that I needed a new camera to carry about in my pocket (me being one of the few creatures left on earth who has a minimally functional absolutely not smart phone, and thus no photographic constant companion.) I asked Becca to investigate and select a replacement camera for me and order it.  So she did. When the camera came, it was amazing. I had given her my camera parameters, and they added up to a fabulous, and hence, fabulously expensive, by my humble standards, camera.  Way too posh to carry about in one’s pocket. So my best camera became my second best camera, and my intended pocket camera became my camera to cosset and to only take safe places.  And there I was with still no “take everywhere” pocket camera, a sine qua non of my blogger life.  This time, I took more of a hand in selecting the new pocket camera, with an eye to the bottom line – i.e. “el relatively cheapo.”  Yay!  It came, and as cameras go, is very cute.  I took it on its first outing, a trip to the hardware store with Michelle. One thing I love is a hardware store.  They seem to be disappearing these days, only to be replaced by hideous big personality-less monsters.

Actually, its real first outing was earlier in the day on my run with Becca.  But I didn’t count it as a real camera outing, as I only took one picture.  Having gone on an early morning run would qualify this as a “sporty day,”  don’t you think?  Our runs are really not runs, but trots. “Run” sounds better though.  There is lots of gasping, whining and complaining on my part. The whining is slowly abating, but not the gasping.  I no longer feel that I am going to die any moment, and can usually speak in complete sentences as we jog along.  These are sporty improvements.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Crafty Day

Peggy's robin, Maria's bunny, Corinna's Mother Joseph's head, and my amorphous mass

The Dear Twins are both hyper clever and hyper artistic.  Everything they do is wonderful.  Everything they make is wonderful.  Their latest hobby-let is needle felting, and of course they are champions, making items of complexity and cuteness that I can only gasp at and admire.  Their latest efforts have been depicting favorite literary characters. Recently, they invited Peggy and I to come drink tea and have a go at it.  Needle felting is something that I have read about, and wondered about, but never tried to do. I did some preparatory thinking about what cute thing I could possibly make, but came up with a blank.  As to literary personae, they are, in general, pretty complex – at least in their physical make-up, if not in their characterization. 

One of my favorite novels is The Woman in White, and it does have some characters that I might possibly be able to sculpt – Count Fosco’s mice.  Sigh!  My mouse so far is looking more scatological than murine.  Maria made a brilliant bunny, and Peggy made progress on a robin.

Setting out the supplies.  

Starting to get crafty!

Mother Joseph's eye is taking shape.

Peggy's bird will look more bird-like in a few minutes.

The bunny is emerging from the floss.

What I lacked in felting skills, I made up for in eating skills.

Big added bonus!  Zizi joined the party.

She is working on her eating skills too, and doing a good job with Peggy's yummy molasses cookies (my favorite!)

Her Aunties adore her! She is indeed pretty adorable.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Trying but Ultimately Triumphant Day

Anyone who has tried to open my front door, realizes that it can be a devilish task.  For at least thirty years, this door knob and its lock have been a trial.  Their antics are many, and their various problems wax and wane.  For weeks at a time, everything works perfectly. Well, never entirely perfectly, but relatively so. I come home, put my key in the lock, turn it, and the door is magically unlocked.  Then I turn the door knob, and after carefully looking for animals poised for an escape attempt, I push the door open, and it opens.  This is as it should be, but all too frequently, is not how it actually is.  Usually, after manipulating the key this way and that, I can get the lock to work, but there are occasions when its little innards just will not drop into place.  Other times, the lock works, but the door knob doesn’t.  I used often to come home with Rachael, try to open the door, to no avail.  I would moan.  Rachael would sigh, grab the door knob, turn it, and open the door, meaningfully rolling her eyes at me.  I attribute this to the same phenomenon, by which a macho guy struggles with a jar lid, puts the jar down in disgust, and his ninety year old auntie steps up and easily opens the lid.  We all know (especially the macho guy) that he really got it started, and then the merest touch was all that was needed.  Knowing this does not decrease the humiliation.

Anyway, a couple of months ago, my friend Carolyn had spent the night after choir practice, and was trying to leave in the morning, but the front door would not open. Nor would the back door, which has its own issues, but in general, is usually more cooperative.  She patiently waited till I got up.  I was feeling a little like Rachael must feel when she is about to show me up with her door opening skills, but such was not to be.  We were locked in.  I sadly called the locksmith to come let us out.  When he got there, he was the one with Rachael’s skills.  The door opened right up.  I felt foolish, of course.  Since he was there, and we couldn’t make that problem happen again, he fixed several other less pressing lock problems, the most onerous one at the time being the back door which had never been a problem until that day.  He also gave the front door a new lock, so that it would work easily.  Now the only problem was the door knob with its intermittent recalcitrance. I still was anxious every time I came home, or even went out to empty the garbage, fearing that I would not be able to get back in without breaking in – a tedious and stressful process.  This was becoming such a worry, that I decided that, with the help of Michelle – somewhat of an expert in household maintenance problems, I would take the whole doorknob mechanism out of the door and we would then try to find a replacement at the salvage place, or take it to the locksmith to see if he could fix it.  I had taken out the back door one – no problem.  Remove a couple of screws, and Bob’s your uncle. So I removed a couple of screws and took off a face plate.  Surprisingly, here was another underneath.  I removed that, to find a morass of iron bits, bobs, springs, and levers in there.  The door latch mechanism collapsed, the deadbolt dipped, the little buttons quivered with indignation and everything inside the mechanism fell asunder.  I could neither get it out, put it back in, or close the door.  As you may imagine, I was pretty upset. I called Michelle, and she rushed to my rescue, undid a few more screws and improved the situation a little, but we still could not get the mechanism out or close the door.  I called the locksmith, bless him, and with a teary voice, told him my troubles. “Well,” he said, “I can’t be there…….” My heart sank, “For at least an hour and a half.”  My heart sang.  He was actually sort of excited.  Did I mention that my lock is 112 years old?  He loves these old locks, he said, and was up for the challenge.  And he conquered.  A spring thing inside was broken.  He took the door innards back to his shop to find the best spring, returned, and had everything shipshape in a flash.  Now, every time I open my door, neither the lock nor the door knob groan in protest, and I am grateful to Craig the Locksmith of Bergman's Lock and Key.  He came when needed and did a superb job. On top of that, he was friendly, and made my initially terrible day turn into a sunny one, despite the snow.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

A Greedy but Healthy Day

Every animal companion (the new PC euphemism for “pet”) I have ever had has been a voracious eater.  My darling little Margaret was in a frenzy every morning, dancing around my feet as I started my tea, making certain that I would not forget that it was her breakfast time.  She was reasonably calm at four thirty every day, but five o’clock could not pass without desperate reminders that it was now dinnertime and she was starving – simply starving.  It would not have been possible to forget to feed her. 
When I say that every pet was like this, I mean every cat or dog I have ever had until my dear Tobias. He could not care less about his meals.   He takes hours to eat his breakfast and dinner.  All his predecessors have had it gone within approximately thirty seconds. He does not bother us at the table by trying to gobble food off our plates or by piteously staring up from a polite distance (i.e., on the floor, not the table.) No, not he.  He frequently jumps up to join us at mealtime, but courteously watches us eat and occasionally contributes to the conversation.   
A few days after poor Margaret went to heaven, I completely forgot to give Tobias breakfast.  He never mentioned it, and was totally blasé when I finally fed him about two hours late.  One evening I forgot his dinner, and once again, he didn’t say a word until about ten p.m.  At that time, he finally realized that dinner was not going to happen unless he took measures, so he came and sat on my bed and mewed angrily.  I realized my mistake, and since, have been far more careful to remember my kitty’s mealtime.
When I say that he has never been interested in human food, that would be until today.  I fixed myself some poached eggs with Hollandaise sauce, and he ambled over to take a sniff.  “Wow!” he said, and dug in.  “I really like this, Mum.  I want to eat it all. "   But then his true nature intervened and after a few bites, he ambled off again.  What a funny pussycat!

Yum, Mum!  I'll try some.

Healthy Hollandaise
1 tbs. butter
¾ cup buttermilk*
1 tbs. cornstarch
½ tsp. salt
pinch cayenne
1 large egg
1 tbs. fresh lemon juice

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat.  Cook, stirring, until the butter is golden.  Set aside.

Whisk together the buttermilk, cornstarch, cayenne and egg until the cornstarch is thoroughly mixed in. (You don't want lumps.).  In a smallish saucepan, whisk the mixture over medium heat until it comes to a simmer.  Continue cooking for 15 seconds.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and lemon juice.  Voila!  Hollandaise in a flash! 

*Ana and I decided to make this at the last minute, and didn't have buttermilk on hand.  Instead we used half yogurt and half skim milk.  It was fine.

This will keep for a few days in the refrigerator, and can be reheated in the microwave.