Tuesday, December 28, 2010

nook color

I got a B&W nook for my birthday in September, and I just got a nook color for Christmas. (They were both from my husband, who now quite happily owns the B&W one.) Plus, I got about $150 in B&N gift certificates!

Because we were snowed in, I read cover-to-cover The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (purchased months ago on my B&W) and Denial: A Memoir of Terror (same). Now I've started Garnethill, a Scottish crime novel. Aaaah, this is the life.

Down to One

I have only one more day of work, and I am HAPP-EEEE to be able to say that.

I am nearly free. Except that now I am supposed to do family care. [Sigh.] What will be, will be.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Figgy Pudding

Found this online:
Traditional Christmas pudding referred to in the carol "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." Recipe (and text) by Mitchel Whitington
That 16th century carole from the West county of England we sing every Christmas repeatedly refers to figgy pudding. And I've always wondered, "what the heck is figgy pudding?" My research not only turned up a great pudding recipe but it also revealed just what pudding really is and what it isn't. Puddings didn't used to be the artificially flavored custard-like desserts found in plastic cups that are inserted into kids school lunch boxes. They were more like the bread pudding we make today.
You really need a pudding mold for this recipe [Note: Sarah used a Pyrex bowl]. You can buy an inexpensive metal one from any kitchen supply store. Just make sure the mold will hold at least 2 liters or 2 1/2 quarts.

1 pound dried Calimyrna figs, stemed and chopped
1 3/4 cups milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup melted butter
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
Brandied hard sauce, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 F [Note: Sarah used a steamer insert in a big, lidded pasta pot on the stovetop to steam pudding]. In a 2 quart saucepan over medium-low heat, simmer figs in milk, covered, 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not boil.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Next in a large bowl, with mixer at high speed, beat eggs 1 minute. Reduce speed to low; add butter, bread crumbs, orange peel and warm fig mixture. Gradually add flour mixture and beat until just blended.
Spoon pudding batter into well-buttered mold, cover and place mold in a large Dutch oven. Pour enough hot water into the Dutch oven to cover the bottom 1/3 of the mold. Steam pudding for 2 hours, invert and unmold onto plate. Serve warm with hard sauce drizzled over each serving.
Serves 8

Brandied Hard Sauce
1 1/2 cups confection sugar
1/2 cup butter
4 tablespoons brandy
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar at medium speed. Add brandy and vanilla and continue to beat until fully incorporated.
Yields 1 cup

Crookneck Casserole

This recipe came from a Pepperidge Farm box, via my eldest sister (Gillian), more than 30 years ago!

Enough squash (crookneck/yellow/summer and zucchini) to cover bottom of casserole dish 3 deep when sliced thinly.

Salt and pepper it. Cover with grated carrot or parsnip.

Mix 1 can cream of mushroom soup with 8 oz sour cream. Spread out evenly over squash.

Cover with thin layer of seasoned bread crumbs or stuffing mix. Melt 1 stick butter or margarine and drizzle over top.

Bake 50-60 min at 350.

Vanilla and Cardamom Glazed Beets

Courtesy of Adam Reid, Boston Uncommon: Cooking (Boston Globe Magazine). Slightly altered for our kitchen. Note that we took two days with it, due to the need to roast the beets.

2 lb red and golden beets
1 orange
1 1/2 tbs sherry vinegar
2 tsp light brown sugar
2 tsp butter
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
Fresh-ground pepper

Heat oven to 400. Wash beets (do not peel) and wrap in foil. Put in roasting pan and cook about 1 1/2 hrs. Remove and cool.

Peel beets (peels will rub off after roasting). Wedge or cube them. Zest and juice orange.

In large skillet, combine orange juice with zest, vinegar, and brown sugar. Simmer over medium until syrupy, about 4 min. Stir in butter, cardamom, and vanilla.

Add beets and coat them with sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. Heat beets through, about 2 min. Serve at once.

Lobster Risotto

Don't remember where I pulled this from -- sorry, whoever the fine chef/author may be!

1 lb lobster meat
at least 4 1/2 c chicken stock
4 tb butter (room temp)
1 c onion
1 1/2 c Arborio rice
1/2 c brandy
1/2 c grated Parmesan
1/4 c fresh chives
Kosher salt
fresh-ground black pepper

In medium saucepan, bring stock to a boil. Chop onion and chives. (Keep stock over low heat after reaching the boil.)

In large saucepan, melt 3 tb butter over medium. When butter starts to brown/foam, add onion and cook about 3 min. Add rice and stir to coat.

Add brandy and simmer until evaporated, about 3 min. Start adding the stock: 1/2 c at a time, stirring until fully absorbed before adding next 1/2 c. Cook until rice is tender but still firm to the bite, about 25 min. Remove from heat.

Stir in parmesan and last tb butter. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer to large serving bowl. Carefully fold in lobster and chives.

Charred Serrano Sea Bass (think this is also Bobby Flay/Food Network)

This one, written for the grill, was changed to suit our kitchen and, instead of using a few 1-lb stripers, we used a hunk of sea bass. Also, the vinaigrette is supposed to be serrano-basil, but we forgot to put in the basil (3 tb finely chopped basil leaves, meant to be added after processing is done, at the end). The sauce was amazing nonetheless -- a homemade hot sauce!

Charred Serrano Vinaigrette

2 serrano chiles
3 tbs red onion
2 cloves garlic
2 tb Dijon mustard
1 tb balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

Dice red onion. Mince garlic. Grill serrano chiles under broiler, or on rack over gas burner.

Peel and seed chiles, then place them in food processor with onion, garlic, mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Blend well, then slowly pour in oil until sauce emulsifies.

=Grilled Sea Bass=

2-lb piece sea bass
1 tb olive oil
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
6-8 fresh basil leaves

Rub both sides of fish with oil and season each side with salt and pepper. Cut deep slits into fish and stuff each with 1-2 leaves basil.

Put under broiler 4-5 min on one side, then 6-7 min on the other. Serve with vinaigrette.

Shrimp and Crab au Gratin

I'm sorry, but I don't remember where I found this recipe:

1/2 c butter
1/2 c flour
1/2 c whole milk
1/2 c dry white wine
1 lemon
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 lb shrimp
1 lb crabmeat
1 1/2 c sharp cheddar cheese

Juice the lemon. Pick crab over for bits of shell. Peel and devein shrimp. Grate cheese.

Melt butter over very low heat in heavy saucepan. Stir in flour with a wooden spoon. Cook about 1 min, then slowly start adding milk. Switch to whisk and stir until sauce is smooth, about 2 min. Add wine, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and cayenne, then whisk until sauce has a mayonnaise consistency. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 350. Bring 2 c water and 1/2 tsp salt to boil and add shrimp. Bring water back to boil, then let shrimp cook 1 min longer. Drain immediately.

Put crab in large mixing bowl. Chop shrimp coarsely and mix with crab, tossing gently. Add sauce and combine without breaking up crab.

Place mixture in 11x7 casserole dish, spreading it out evenly. Cover completely with grated cheese. Bake 25-30 minutes, until bubbly.

Potato-Parsnip Brandade (courtesy: Bobby Flay/Food Network)

Recipe is altered a little to suit our kitchen!

4 cloves garlic
1/2 c olive oil (divided)
8 oz baccala
3 potatoes
3 parsnips
1/2 c warm milk
2 tb butter
salt and fresh-ground black pepper

Rehydrate baccala 18-24 hrs, changing water as directed on packaging. Note that package is probably twice as much as you'll need.

Peel and cube potatoes and parsnips, then boil them until soft.

Chop garlic coarsely. Saute over low heat in 1/4 c olive oil until light golden brown. Put garlic mixture in food processor with baccala and process until smooth.

Mash the potatoes and parsnips well together in large bowl. Add baccala mixture, warm milk, the rest of the olive oil, butter, salt, and pepper. Blend well; form patties, if you wish, tho' they will be quite soft. Keep warm. (We panko-dusted our patties and pan-fried them.)

=Pepper Saffron Sauce= (for the brandade)

2 shallots
1 c white wine
1/2 c white wine vinegar (I used only 2 tsp)
large pinch saffron
2 sticks cold butter (I used only 1 stick)
1 roasted red pepper (or 2 piquillo peppers)
salt and fresh-ground pepper

Mince shallots and put them with wine, vinegar, and saffron in small saute pan over medium heat. Reduce liquid by at least half. Meanwhile, finely dice pepper(s).

Whisk small cubes of butter into sauce until it emulsifies. Season with salt and pepper, then fold in pepper(s).

Sarah's Mussels

This is my own recipe, but it's not radically different from others' recipes (tho' notice, I use no water). What makes the product outstanding is that we purchase mussels from InterShell.

1 tb olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic

--> Mince the garlic and saute it in olive oil in a broad frying pan.

white wine, enough to cover pan bottom
1 tb lemon juice
1-2 tb fresh parsley

--> Mince the parsley. Fling the wine in the pan, followed by the mussels (1 to 2 bags) and then the lemon juice. Quickly top with minced parsley.

Cover the pan and cook 3-5 minutes. When you uncover the pan, all the mussels should be open. Sever in a massive bowl, being sure to pour the cooking juices over the top.

7 Fishes

We didn't quite make it up to 7 for Christmas dinner, but we came close. We had mussels (best ever), salt-cod cakes, shrimp and crab au gratin, serrano-pepper-sauced sea bass (the sauce, courtesy of Bobby Flay, was voted amazing), and lobster risotto (the only offering that =completely= disappeared). We also had orange-cardamom beets (just for you, John), crookneck casserole, and traditional figgy pudding. Mmmm.

Recipes to follow. I'll include the one for Morrocan cod (we use haddock), which we prepared -- all but the cooking -- and then did not serve. Everyone was too full.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Age of Consent

By which I mean the Bronski Beat album. I acquired it in 1985. I was stunned to see, on the inner sleeve, data and statistics on laws regarding homosexual activity, country to country and state to state. In 1985, people hoped to legislate homosexual activity out of existence.

This week, in 2010, 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' bit the dust. Honestly, I nearly wept. It is a simple and basic thing to permit individuals to be who they are. It lessened us all to have a country in which DADT held sway.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Love Actually

Tonight, after a holiday party for the kids at work, I had to use the hot tub. I wrapped up my classes first -- just details -- then had dinner, then soaked. Afterward I took a shower and settled in front of the TV for our annual Love Actually viewing.

This all feels NORMAL -- am I really not sitting in the office all night, working on ABA stuff? Oh my goodness.

All Done

I am DONE with my online courses. And I will never take another one.

I forgot to mention before, this week I also got an NSF notice from my bank. The debt that I'm carrying at the moment because of the friggin' online courses! Ack.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


In the 2 minutes before I go to bed, can we talk about Underdog?

I used this image on Facebook last weekend to signal support of an anti-violence against children initiative. I've had the theme song in my head ever since.

I just looked on imdb, and Wally Cox voiced the dog! Reading that and reflecting, it's clear that he did, but I was about 6 years old, so who knew? Odd that I loved the skewering aspect of the show when I was that young. It didn't end until 1974, so probably I was actually a good bit older than 6.

Perfect Storm

This week is a perfect storm of commitments and responsibilities. I haven't even touched my Christmas cards! I have 3 pages done of a 10-page paper...and I'm hosting the holiday this year! Today I completed 2 assignments, got a good start on a 3rd, completed a test, put together 5 monthly reports for a state agency for work, and attended a class meeting. Tomorrow is paper and so is Friday (when it's due), so I just don't know when I'm going to get back to the 3rd assignment. But it's also due Friday, so I have to fit it in. Except I work tomorrow in Lawrence, an hour-long commute each way.

Thanks for reading this far. On top of the above, I have a parent who is going to require 24/7 assistance with daily living upon discharge, probably next week. As soon as my classes wrap up, a new responsibility arises.

The class meeting tonight was for thesis guidance, so of course I'm also supposed to be producing my thesis (75 pages), and a new online course began last week. I haven't even =thought= about the 4 papers that it requires. AAAAAAAGH

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Water Balls

When Vic and I were in New Zealand this year, we expressed how impressed we were with the accommodations for children: skate parks, bungie rides, traditional playgrounds, and...the dreaded water balls.

Today in Massachusetts, because a five-year-old had an as-yet-unexplained reaction, water balls are on their way to being banned. Personally, I do not believe that they are essentially "giant plastic bags" that children can put over their heads, as some-or-other commissioner said on the news. What I think they are is wicked fun.

So now I guess the number of inches of padding that a playground must have below its equipment gets larger.


I think that meatballs are the perfect food. My favorites are beef, but I also like turkey, lamb, chicken, pork, and veal meatballs. When I was in high school, and my friends went out for pizza, I would order a side of meatballs and skip the pizza. (I don't like standard pizza, never did.)

They contain just a little starch and plenty of protein. In sauce, they can feature veggie nutrients. Yum.

I now know two places in Beverly with very good meatballs, one in the Cummings Center (bldg 100, Il Tramminzo or similar), and one on Cabot Street near the bridge. So how come I don't know where in Gloucester makes great meatballs? People, I need to know!