Smitty & The Girl
The Murder Mystery Year: Chapter 6
It didn’t take long for Clemmons to get the kid alone. Gibbs simply walked into the room where the suspects gathered, made a big fuss over everyone heading into the kitchen for something to eat and hustled Mike Newell and his mother in first; no one noticed Clemmons hang back with Freddie.
“Look, here’s the deal,” she told him frankly. The kid looked at her with eyes that were glazed over from a combination of tired and shock. “I know this is rough. I want you all to be able to go home as much as you probably do. I can’t do that until I get statements from everyone.”
“I’m a minor,” Freddie Newell said quietly. He was skinny as a rail and had a streak of blue hair but he spoke with an assurance of a man twice his age. “If you want to get my statement, my father needs to be here.”
“Right.” Clemmons narrowed her eyes, interested in the way he watched the two redheads trail out of the room. One of the women, the one who was distinctly not a former cop, glanced over her shoulder, caught Freddy’s eye and looked away, her face flushed red. Clemmons thought back to all the town gossip she’d heard over the years- wasn’t there something about the Newell kid and the Mathers, she thought. “Petunia Mathers is your mom. Isn’t she?”
“Petula Mathers,” Freddie replied. He’d gone slightly pale. “She left when I was born.” He cleared his throat and she didn’t miss the disdain in his eyes when he looked at her now. “I guess everybody in town knows.”
Clemmons nodded. “If it makes you feel better,” she said. “I know a little bit about that. My family had its share of the town gossip around the time I was born.” He had no response to that but she knew he was listening. “I didn’t know my mama either. My gran raised me. She wasn’t a stranger to the Mathers either. Used to work in this house, in fact.”
Freddie looked at her now. “Did she know my gr- did she know Frank Mathers? The guy who d-died?”
“A little.” Clemmons offered him a grim smile. “I just want to help, Freddie. I want to know what really happened here. Can you help me? Shed a little light?”
Let me sum up life for you- there are tomato slices slow-roasting in the oven. There is banana bread cooling on the counter. It’s raining (drip-drip-drip). And someone just discovered that this is currently free on Amazon Instant Video.
What I’m saying is, as of now, June could be a lot worse.
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Marnie opened one eye and looked at the clock. 5:45am. She groaned and turned it off, 5 whole minutes before it was set to start ringing. Beside her, Ed stirred. She rolled over onto her back and into his shoulder, looked into the one eye he had open and said, “I don’t know if I can handle going into work today.”
He was on his stomach, his arms shoved under the pillow. He shifted closer so his bare shoulder leaned up against hers and closed his eyes. “This week sucked.”
“Don’t say ‘sucked’,” she said automatically.
She snorted. “Right. Sorry.” She let out a sigh that shook the bed. “I think I need a mulligan.” Ed opened his eyes. With a grunt, he rolled over and pulled a piece of paper from beneath the mattress. They looked at it together. “Tiger’s next,” he said, pointing to the list of their children’s names. Beside each name was a few dates. “I think she’s good- no tests or anything at school today, no projects due.”
“Great.” Marnie let out a pitched yawn.
“What are you guys going to do?”
“Let’s see. She’s been yapping about Asia since she did that history paper. We’ll get Thai food for lunch downtown. It’s a good day for fried rice.”
“It’s always a good day for fried rice.”
“And then we’ll walk around Chinatown. I haven’t been there in ages. And then, you know, whatever we feel like.” She let out another sigh, this one happier than the first. “I feel better all ready. Think you can you help me with the extraction?”
“Sure.” Ed tucked the paper back under the mattress and wrapped an arm around her, thinking. “I’ll tell the kids she’s got a dentist appointment before school. And I’ll volunteer to take her but whoops, I’ve got that meeting by the school and the dentist is across town. So maybe you should get her and I’ll run the lunatics to the school.”
“Perfect.” Marnie lifted a hand and he gave her a high-five. “Perfect day.”
So the heat. The heat is happening. The dog basically feels the way I do which is “can we just… stop moving… altogether?” He’s become so immobilized, my furry grandpa of a beast, that it feels like he’s moving underwater. And it’s not even that hot out yet- by July, we’ll both be walking around with ice packs tied to our heads.
I’m slooooowly transitioning to “summer food town.” My body, as I’m sure yours is too, is starting to crave really crisp, cool tasting things. This afternoon I ate a salad without complaint. I know that won’t last (like Leslie Knope, I just cannot feign interest in salad) so I’m stocking up on dishes that satisfy my summer requirements (crisp, clean, flavorful and spicy) and this fried rice is perfect. Nicole can’t stop eating it and neither will you.
Thai Pineapple Fried Rice
Source: Cookie and Kate | Makes: 2-4 Servings | Print Recipe
2 Tablespoons of coconut oil or quality vegetable oil, divided
2 Eggs, beaten with a dash of salt
1 and ½ Cups of chopped fresh pineapple
1 Large red bell pepper, diced
½ Bunch of green onions, green and white parts, thinly sliced
2 Cloves of garlic, pressed or minced
½ Cup of chopped raw, unsalted cashews
2 Cups of cooked and chilled brown rice, preferably long-grain brown jasmine rice
1 Tablespoon of reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 to 2 Teaspoons of chili garlic sauce or Sriracha
1 Small lime, halved
Season with salt, to taste
Handful fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, for garnishing
1. Heat a large cast-iron skillet or non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot enough that a drop of water sizzles on contact, add 1 teaspoon of oil. Pour in the eggs and cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggs are scrambled and lightly set. Transfer the eggs to an empty bowl. Wipe out the pan of excess oil.
2. Add one tablespoon of oil to the pan and add the pineapple and red pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid has evaporated and the pineapple is caramelized on the edges, about 3 to 5 minutes. Then add the green onion and garlic. Cook, while stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds or longer. Transfer the contents of the pan to your bowl of eggs.
3. Add the remaining two teaspoons of oil to the pan. Pour in the cashew and cook, stirring constantly, until the cashews smell fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the rice to the pan and stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is hot, about 3 minutes.
4. Pour the contents of the bowl back into the pan and stir to combine. Once the contents are warmed through, remove the pan from heat.
5. Add 1 tablespoon soy sauce and sriracha, to taste. Squeeze the juice of ½ of a lime over the clean dish and stir to combine, if you are having problems with the dishwasher performance you should look for this dishwasher repair near me. Season to taste with salt. Garnish with a sprinkling of torn cilantro leaves, with Sriracha on the side.
Note: Cookie and Kate has fantastic notes on how to make this vegan and gluten free! She’s become one of my go-to sources since I’ve started cutting back on gluten and dairy for stomach reasons. Check it out.
Maddie hovered beside the food table, pretending to mingle.
She had walked into the party so casually, with such grace and ease, but somewhere between her third and fourth vodka tonic she had become somewhat obsessed with the fact that her offering to the party, an asparagus and green onion tart (in a freeform galette pastry that Maddie had been assured would make her look both rustic and elegant) was still completely and utterly untouched. Well, aside from the small square in the corner that Maddie had cut off herself, in a vague attempt to prove that the tart was edible! Oh look, someone took some of the tart, now I can join them and I won’t be the first person to cut into this gorgeous and so thoughtfully-vegetarian dish and look how pretty it is- it’s so, what’s the word, rustic. And yet fancy. Who did this? Who made this? The woman who made this clearly has her shit together, I bet she didn’t even have to take off her rings while putting it together, this rustic and elegant and vegetarian (so thoughtful!) dish, have you tried the asparagus tart? It’s so good. Here take mine, it’s so good. Get some before it’s gone.
Maddie hovered beside the food table, wondering if she should cut another slice of her poor, lonely tart. She cast a baleful eye on the other plates. Brenda’s deviled eggs were going fast. Kyle’s guacamole was a hit, yes, but guacamole was always a hit; Kyle was playing it safe with his monochromatic tie and he was playing it safe with his party offerings. Nan’s coconut kale salad was a towering monstrosity but people dug into it with giant spoons, like they were in the last Whole Foods on earth. Even Tonia’s pathetic contribution of cashew hummus and carrots had attracted the majority of Patty’s book group, who were all on Whole30 and raving about it as they gnawed on carrot nubs and their pale eyes roved over everyone’s small plates as they slid past. But no corner of the table was as populated as the dessert section. Maddie watched with envy at the crowd of laughing, giddy people who were tucked over a plate of brownies, a mountain of thick and chewy bakery cookies and two monstrous cinnamon roll bread loaves.
She leaned over her sad tart and gave in, cutting it into small squares so that it might become more appealing, more accessible, more like the person she was trying to be. She arranged them on the plate and spaced them out, saying good-bye to rustic and elegant and going for ease-of-grab, vowing to make and bake cinnamon bread next time, great big loaves of them.
Do you know how long I have wanted to make pull-apart bread? Do you know how long I have wanted, desired, ACHED to make pull-apart brioche cinnamon roll bread? Way too long. It makes me sad to admit how long. Don’t be like me, kids! Don’t wait! Do it. FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS.
One year ago: Ottolenghi’s Classic Hummus
Two years ago: Sweet Whiskey Lemonade
Three years ago: The Twix Tart
Four years ago: Pretzel Bites with Honey Mustard
Pull-Apart Brioche Cinnamon Roll Bread
*Overnight alert! The brioche dough comes together easily but needs 1-2 hours to rise and then an overnight rise in the fridge.
1/4 Cup of warm water
3 Teaspoons of instant yeast
3 Tablespoon of granulated sugar
1/2 Cup of warm whole milk
1 and 1/2 Teaspoons of salt
3 Eggs, beaten
12 Tablespoons of butter, melted
3 and 1/2 – 4 Cups all-purpose flour
Half a vanilla bean, seeds (optional)
6 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
1/2 Cup of brown sugar
2 Tablespoons of ground cinnamon
Half a vanilla bean, seeds (optional)
Pinch of sea salt
2 Ounces of cream cheese, softened
1 Cup powdered sugar
1-2 Tablespoons of milk or cream, to thin
1 Teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1. In a large bowl, combine warm water, yeast and sugar and mix until well-incorporated. Allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes.
2. Add the warm milk, salt, eggs and melted butter and mix until combined. Gradually mix in the flour until the dough comes together. (Tip from my bread-making class: add 3 cups of flour and then add the remaining flour in 1/2 or 1/4 cup intervals, gauging the wetness of the dough and its need for flour as you mix it together.)
3. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Kneed into a smooth ball for a few minutes (the butter will make the dough very soft but it shouldn’t be overly sticky). Grease a large bowl and add the dough to the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit 1-2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size.
4. To make the filling: add the brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla beans and salt to a bowl and mix well.
5. Lightly dust surface with flour. Once the dough has doubled in size, punch the dough dough and roll the dough into a rectangle (about 9×24 inches). Spread about 6 tablespoons of the very soft butter evenly over the dough. Spread the brown sugar + cinnamon evenly over the butter and lightly push the brown sugar into the butter. Starting with the long edge closest to you, pull the edge up and over the filling and carefully roll the dough into a log, keeping it fairly tight as you go. When you reach the edge, pinch along the edge to seal.
6. Place the log seam side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. With a pair of sharp kitchen scissors cut diagonal slices almost to the bottom of the log. Arrange the cut sections so that they lean to alternating sides. Use your hand to gently push the dough together to help compress the log better.
If using the loaf pans: Cut and shape the dough as directed and then use your hands to push the dough together to almost the size of you bread pan. The dough will zigzag slightly. Using the parchment paper, lift the dough up and into the bread pan.
7. Immediately cover the dough and place in the fridge overnight. (Note from Half-Baked Harvest: do not let the dough sit at room temperature long or it will start to get very big.)
8. The next morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the dough from the fridge while the oven preheats and brush with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Bake the bread log for 20-25 minutes (the bread in the loaf pan needs about 45-50 minutes) or until lightly browned on top- do not over bake.
9. While the bread is baking, whisk the softened cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla together until smooth. Add milk until your desired consistency is reached.
Serve the warm, gooey, sticky, sweet bread with a drizzle of frosting. Everyone loves you.
When the alarm kicked off, Sandra didn’t hesitate- she could feel the tired still ripping through her in waves. It was an exhaustion she could not ignore. She checked her phone to see if any morning meetings had popped up overnight (aka the worst, aka this better be important, aka are-you-aca-kidding-me-with-this shit) and they hadn’t. She promptly patted George the dog on his big, dopey head, climbed back into bed and was asleep in minutes.
She walked into work humming under her breath. It had been a glorious morning. She’d taken George to the beach, an impromptu treat and he’d sorely needed the run. After, she’d done yoga, drank a giant cup of coffee and read a magazine. She’d taken a few minutes in the parking lot at the office and just stared at the light coming through the trees. She was an hour and a half late to work. When Sandra walked in calmly with her lunch in her hands for later, Carly the receptionist stared.
As soon as she made it to her cube, he was on her, in an instant. Tyler, the little tyrant, who had been promoted far too many times at the age of 27 because he’d chosen to abandon his condo and move into their boss’s butthole. His head barely edged over her cubicle wall, the dark hair slicked back. He must’ve just watched Boiler Room again. Sandra took her time removing her coat and took off her sunglasses last, ignoring the way he tapped her wall impatiently. She put her things in order and finally smiled warmly at Tyler. “Good morning. Oh.” She picked up her delicious salad and tapped the edge of the container. “Better put this in the fridge.”
“You’re late,” he hissed in a huff as she walked past him toward the kitchen. He was on her heels like her neighbor’s yipping shih-tzu. “Over an hour late. I had a question about your report from yesterday and you weren’t there.”
Sandra pursed her lips thoughtfully. “The report that I gave you yesterday? The one you suddenly told me about on Monday that was due on Friday, today, even though it was easily two weeks worth of work and I had four days to get it done? The report that required me to stayed late at the office, until nine or ten, all week to finish? That report?” She turned on her heel (they were new and tall, she towered over him now and she loved them. She considered bronzing them for her wall) and raised an eyebrow.
Tyler’s eyes darted around. People were watching. Ben was practically on the edge of his chair, she was surprised he didn’t have popcorn in his hands for the show. Tyler cleared his throat. “Yes,” he said, his smirk still up and defiant. “That report.”
Sandra smiled. “Well, I’m here now. And I was an hour and a half late into work because I decided to stay late in my own life, at home. I felt that really needed serious attention. I’m glad I did because I feel wonderful now and ready to answer any questions you might have about the outstanding, thorough and well-written report that I worked so hard on this week, per your request.” In one swift motion, she put the salad in her fridge, twirled around, grabbed a bottle of water and relished the sound of her heels on the tile as she walked away. “If anyone needs me, I’ll be at my desk.”
Happy Friday sunflowers!
Did you have a good week? Did you make stuff? Did you take care of your own heart? Did you ask for help when you needed it? Did you eat delicious things? I hope you did all of those things. If you didn’t and the week was very long and difficult, I’m happy to remind you that it is now practically over. If days of the week were food, Saturday would be your favorite food. Saturday is a chocolate peanut butter cake and you get to have it tomorrow, yay.
Actually, I’m going to take this pep talk one step further and say that if you had a long and difficult week, the question “did you take care of your own heart?” still very much applies- in fact, it matters more during hard weeks than it does during easy weeks. Women tend to put themselves last on the care list when there’s so much external stuff to do.
Nicole is on a well-deserved vacation with her family, frolicking on a beach in the Carolinas. I hope she’s sincerely not reading this. (Or am I the only one who views a vacation as a terrific excuse to flee any and all screens that don’t have the letters T and V attached to them? Just me? Fair enough.) But I hope she packed up and brought more of this delicious, flavorful, protein-rich salad with her. I’m having it again next week, myself. Maybe adding some dried apricots to it or cherries. Whatever my heart wants, that is.
Garlicky Salad with Crispy Chickpeas
Source: Minimalist Baker | Serves 2-3 | Print Recipe
10 ounces (6 cups) kale, baby spinach, green leaves- loosely chopped or torn
1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed, drained and thoroughly dried
1.5 Tbsp of olive oil
2.5 – 3 Tbsp of tandoori spice*
1 Head of garlic
1/4 Cup of tahini
2 Tbsp of olive oil + more for roasting garlic
2 Lemons, juiced (1/3 cup)
1-2 Tbsp of maple syrup or honey
Pinch each salt + pepper
Hot water to thin
1. Peel apart garlic cloves but leave the skin on. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Add drained chickpeas to a mixing bowl and toss with oil and seasonings.
3. Add garlic cloves and seasoned chickpeas to a baking sheet. Drizzle garlic with a bit of olive oil. Bake for 20-23 minutes, or until the chickpeas are slightly crispy and golden brown and the garlic is fragrant and slightly browned. Remove from oven and set aside.
4. Squeeze garlic out of skins / peel away skins and add to a mixing bowl. Add all remaining dressing ingredients and whisk vigorously to combine, smashing the garlic with the whisk. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired, adding more lemon for brightness and maple syrup/honey for sweetness. Set aside.
5. Add kale to a large mixing bowl. Before adding dressing, add 1 Tbsp each lemon juice and olive oil to the kale and massage with hands to soften the texture and lessen bitterness. Then add as much dressing as desired (some may be leftover) and mix with a spoon.
6. Top with chickpeas and serve immediately. (If making ahead, I’d go only as far as to massage the lemon and olive oil into the kale- it’ll help the kale break down and taste better. Then, stash the components in the fridge and just assemble right before eating.)
* Make your own Tandoori Masala Blend: 3 Tbsp cumin, 2 Tbsp garlic powder, 2 Tbsp paprika, 3 tsp ginger, 2 tsp coriander, 2 tsp cardamom. Multiply as needed.
We are never far from our 20 year old selves, Deena thought. She stood at the edge of a bar. She was forty-one and the simple act of standing at the edge of a bar was all it took to find her 20 year old self. Why wasn’t anyone talking to her? Should she break in? Is that rude? Where should she put her bag? On the stool? Did she sit or stand? She could stand but she’d worked on her feet all day at the plant and they already ached from all the standing that had been done. But if she sat, her thighs would spread like a dropped bean bag chair. Was she going to strike up a conversation with someone too young to know what a bean bag chair was? Her 20 year old self caught Deena’s eye in the mirror behind the bar.
Deena sipped her drink and decided to stand. She chatted with Beth, her coworker who had long dark hair and was closer to the 20 year old version of Deena, who hated this scene then and even more so now that she was forty-one and the resounding word in her life had become “settle.” Her body settled. Her heart. It was the word that chased after her when she told people at work that she was unattached; unspoken but there in Beth’s eyes. “Shouldn’t you just settle now? For anything?” Beth who was so beautiful that the equally beautiful bartender stumbled in his haste to get her drink order. Or maybe Deena was just imagining that happened. Her 20 year old self, she thought, could not be trusted on such matters. She was forty-one and had learned that much.
Why don’t bartenders have an emergency stash of brownie cupcakes behind the bar? Isn’t that something we can make happen? Guys? You’ve got all those fancy cocktails with your rose hip syrups and your locally distilled gin and that dashing suspender/handlebar mustache combo- is it really such a stretch to keep a plate of warm-out-of-the-oven brownie cupcakes just behind the bar? So that when you see a person has had a really long day (week/month/how is it May already?) and they’re frowning over the menu that you really, truly made so much more complicated than it needs to be (if you know the majority of the drinking/eating population has no idea what the hell “eggplant-raisin agrodolce” is, can you at least describe how it tastes on the menu? So I’m not sitting there squinting at it, trying to guess the origins of the word like I’m in some restaurant spelling bee instead of putting delicious noodles into my face?) you can put a manicured hand on the bar, wait until that woman’s glassy, too-long-staring-at-the-screen eyes meet yours and utter the words, “do you want a mini brownie cupcake? Will that help?”
Yes. Yes, I believe it would. And even flourless and dairy-less, to boot, it’s just the thing you need. At least we can make them at home, at the end of that long day/week/month. At least we can do that.
Flourless Brownie Cupcakes
6 Tablespoons of coconut oil
7 Ounces of semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 Cup of coconut (or granulated) sugar
2 1/4 Teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/4 Cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
3 Tablespoons of arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
A dash of salt
1. Preheat oven to 350°F and prepare your cupcake tin with liners.
2. Over low heat, combine coconut oil and semisweet chocolate chips until melted. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. Combine the eggs, vanilla and sugar for 3 minutes with a handheld or stand mixer.
4. Add the melted chocolate and coconut oil and mix.
5. Add cocoa powder, arrowroot and salt. Mix until batter is smooth.
6. Scoop batter into cupcake liners, about halfway. Bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on your cupcake size. Remove from oven and let sit in the warm pan for a few more minutes and then enjoy!
*I wrap these up and popped them in the freezer. Makes for a great emergency dessert. – J
Smitty & The Girl
The Murder Mystery Year: Chapter 5
The other officers came and the coroner with them. Clemmons sat in the study with Gibb, alone, and frowned over her notes. “Something’s fishy here.”
She tapped her pen against the paper. “I interviewed all of them, alone, and they all had different stories about how they ended up in the house with the body. As expected. But-“
“They all said they found the body first.” Clemmons shook her head. “They all made it sound like they walked into the parlor and Mathers was dead on the floor. No one was alerted by screams or shouts. They all claim to have found the body.”
“What about the ruckus that Bobby Mulpepper reported?”
“Oh, right, the ruckus. Sylvia claims it was a result of them ‘breaking into her house.'” She leaned back on the loveseat and clutched her pad in her hand. “Everyone except the kid.” When Gibb looked at her, she shrugged. “He’s a minor, I couldn’t talk to him without his parents present and that Mike Newell wouldn’t let him say a word.”
“Let me see.” She handed the pad to Gibb and he studied her shorthand. He flipped through the pages. “Maybe they all walked into the room together, at the same time.” She snorted. “We ask them any more questions and they’ll lawyer up.”
“I know it.” Clemmons sighed. “If I could just get to the kid alone…”
“I know, I know.” She waved him off. “This is crucial, Gibb. As soon as they go in different directions, we’re sunk. I need all the pieces now. They can’t have time to corroborate their stories.”
“What if it was just an accident?” Gibb asked. He let out a grunt and removed a granola bar from his pocket. She stared at him. “What?”
“First of all, the man was clearly bludgeoned with something, did you see the angle of that head wound? Second, didn’t you eat a little while ago?” When he looked at her blankly, she prodded. “You ran out for Chinese, remember? When we first got on shift? Give me that.” She took a hunk of his granola bar and chewed on it for a minute. “I gotta talk to that kid.”
“You need to eat something too. Getting cranky. Here.” He handed her the rest of his granola bar and stood up. “All right, let’s go.” When she didn’t move, he hiked up his belt. “You want to talk to the kid, I’ll get you the kid. Let’s go.” He cast a glance around the study and shook his head. “This place gives me the creeps.”
I have to say, April was a pretty good month. I worked a ton (but got to take a little vacation, which felt decidedly earned, always a good feeling). I reorganized my kitchen and now have more counter space and it is AMAZING how that one small change has made me want to cook and experiment so much more than I did before. The insane amount of snow we had in Portland finally melted all the way and now I’ve almost forgotten what the streets used to look like (oh right, like this). And speaking of Portland, Tandem Bakery got a nice write-up in Bon Appetit this month, yay. (I may have cancelled my subscription to Bon Appetit this month because of #UnrelentingHipsterNonsense but still!)
Bring it on May! We’re ready for you.
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Gerald, you don’t need a cookie.
You don’t need a cookie, Gerald.
Gerald, listen to me. I am your brain. I know what’s best for us. What’s best for us is… not to eat any more cookies.
You made them for your nephew’s birthday party, Gerald! Those cookies ARE NOT FOR YOU.
What are you doing? Gerald, sit down. Don’t pretend like you’re “just getting water” and “you must be thirsty.” You think I don’t know your tricks, GERALD? I invented the “I’m just getting up to get some water and oh, look, the cookies are right here.” I also invented the “I mean, we should probably try them, we don’t want anyone to get food poisoning.” No one has ever gotten food poisoning from properly prepared cookies, Gerald. Did you put shrimp in the cookies? Old shrimp? I must’ve missed that when we were making them. Also, if anyone’s going to get food poisoning, it’s going to be you because you ate some of the cookie dough even though it has raw eggs in it.
Gerald, no, don’t…. huh… God, cookies are amazing. You were right, Gerald. This is good, I’m glad we did this. No, no, you were right. You always are.
Okay buddy. Let’s go back to Netflix.
Cookies… see you in 15 minutes.
And I’m off! Three days in beautiful Vermont to spend some quality time with my mama, eat way too much food, get massaged and hopefully not cry in the masseuse’s arms when she comments on how “tense” I feel in my shoulders (it’s… happened). I hadn’t planned this mini-vacay for very long but I knew I needed it. I plan on enjoying every second of it.
Until next time…
Red Pepper and Baked Egg Galettes
2 large or 4 small red bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch strips
2 small onions, (red or white) halved and cut into 1/2 inch wedges
fresh sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
6 Tbsp olive oil
handful fresh parsley, chopped
handful cilantro, chopped
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten, for brushing the pastry
12 tsp sour cream
4 large fresh eggs
salt and fresh cracked pepper
1. Set oven to 400F°
2. Mix together the pepper, onions, thyme and spices in a bowl. Add the olive oil and toss well so that everything is coated with the oil and spices.
3. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes, stirring and rearranging the veggies a few times so they don’t burn.
4. Sprinkle the veggies with half the fresh herbs and set aside.
5. Turn the oven up to 425. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface until it reaches a 12×12 inch square. Cut into four 6 inch squares. Transfer to two parchment or silpat lined baking sheets.
6. Take a dull knife and score a little 1/4 inch frame around each square of pastry. Don’t cut all the way through. Prick the inside of the squares all over with the tines of a fork. Put back in the fridge for 30 minutes.
7. Remove the pastry from the fridge and brush all over with a beaten egg. Spread the inside of each square with 3 tsp of sour cream.
8. Top each with some of the veggie mixture, spread it out evenly, leaving the borders free, and leaving a shallow depression in the center for the egg, which will go in later.
9. Bake for about 10 minutes until rising and starting to brown.
10. Remove and carefully crack in egg into the center of each galette.
11. Put back into the oven for about 10 minutes until the egg is set.
12. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and remaining herbs. Drizzle with some good olive oil and eat right away.
Aunt Lulu had been dying for years.
“Marybeth,” she croaked to her niece from her chair by the window. One long, skinny arm was outstretched. No matter that Marybeth was in the kitchen, rolling her eyes over a mound of dough on the counter. “Marybeth, I have something to tell you.”
Marybeth and Lulu had been paired up for years, since Marybeth’s own mama had passed on and left her daughter in charge of her sister’s care. Before that, years and years before, Aunt Lulu had been dying under the watchful eyes of Miss Henry from Pawtucket and before that, she was moaning and casting life advice to her fellow residents at The Carter Boarding House for Single and Widowed Womenfolk. As far as Marybeth was concerned, Aunt Lulu was somewhere between 85 and 125 and had been dying for at least half her life. She doled out life advice like her niece doled out baskets of baked bread, to anyone near enough to take it.
Ever the dutiful niece, Marybeth plunged her hands in and around the dough and turned it around in the flour. One more turn, pat, pat. “You hear me in there?” She had to move fast or the pockets of cold fat would melt. “Marybeth!” She had half a mind to keep going. Get the biscuit cutters out, cut, cut. Move them fast. Pretend like Aunt Lulu’s croaking voice couldn’t be heard over the whir of the kitchen fan. “MARYBETH.” And there it was, that pang in her chest. Maybe this was it, she thought. Maybe this was really it. With a sigh, Marybeth scooped the whole armful of dough onto the baking sheet and rushed it into the icebox. She wiped her hands, and the refrigerator handle, and marched into the sitting room.
Aunt Lulu beckoned her close. She’s still breathing, Marybeth thought sourly. What would it be this time? A word or two about how Marybeth could snag a man of her own (“Lemon juice in your hair! Makes it shine and smell pretty! Listen now!”) A platitude about the poor and feeble-minded (“Well, everybody’s got their mountain to climb. Make sure they got the right shoes, all you can do.”) Her tight-lipped response when politics was on the TV (“makes better talk in the bedroom than it does in the living room!” Which Marybeth still didn’t understand). Marybeth took a deep breath, reminded herself of the promise she’d made to her mama and crouched down beside her aunt’s chair. “What is it, Aunt Lulu?”
Aunt Lulu looked her own from head to toe. Her mouth opened and shut again. Dammit, Marybeth thought as she fought a smile, the old bat forgot what she was going to say. And then Aunt Lulu caught a glimpse of the flour on her niece’s hand. “You let that butter melt?”
Marybeth looked her aunt in the eye. She didn’t have her own platitudes about men or the poor or politics but if there was anything she was sure of in this world, it was flour and fat. “No, ma’am, I did not,” she replied to Aunt Lulu. “As God is my witness, I will not let that butter melt.”
There is nothing quite like a fresh-baked scone. The beauty of most scone recipes, too, is how easy they are to customize. Different herbs, fruit, spices. Today I saw one with dates, this is one of my all-time favorites but I was surprised to see we didn’t have a savory scone option on SKS until now. “Let’s see what Ina has to say about that,” is what you mutter when you realize you’re missing a baked good whose primary components are flour + fat. Good thing we did. These are crazy good and at 16 years old (!) they could even be deemed a classic.
Cheddar Dill Scones
4 Cups plus 1 Tablespoon of all-purpose flour, divided
2 Tablespoons of baking powder
2 Teaspoons of salt
3/4 Pound of cold unsalted butter, diced
4 Extra-large eggs, beaten lightly
1 Cup of cold heavy cream
1/2 Pound of extra sharp yellow cheddar, small dice
1 Cup of minced, fresh dill
1 Egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon water or milk (egg wash)
1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
2. Combine 4 cups of flour, the baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is in pea-sized pieces.
3. Mix the eggs and heavy cream and quickly add them to the flour-and-butter mixture. Combine until just blended.
4. Toss together the cheddar, dill, and 1 tablespoon of flour and add them to the dough. Mix until they are almost incorporated.
5. Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it for 1 minute, until the cheddar and dill are well distributed.
6. Roll the dough 3/4-inch thick. Cut into 4-inch squares and then in half diagonally to make triangles.
7. Brush the tops with egg wash. Bake on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 20 to 25 minutes, until the outside is crusty and the inside is fully baked.
All day long, Frances prayed that she would hear words she knew.
She sat on the bus with her flashcards, barely noticing the trees that flew by, their new buds slowly emerging, little nubs jutting into the sky. She looked outside but didn’t look outside at all and mouthed the words on her cards. She spelled some from memory, anchor words, words like luxuriance and dulcimer and guerdon. She’d always loved words, the long ones, the ones that tripped over in her mouth. Frances tapped her fingers against the flashcards and timed her spelling. Tap, letter, tap tap, letter. Syllables were drops of rain.
Frances looked at the next card and smiled. Panzanella. Her mother had surprised her with it for breakfast, put it on the table in front of her daughter and nudged her cards down, just for a second. “Panzanella,” her mother said with her eyebrows up. “Bread salad!” Frances could spell the word forwards and backwards but hadn’t known what it was. It was Italian, she knew that. All she needed was the origin of the word, not the meaning.
She had speared a cube of toasted bread, drenched with dressing that was a little too sour, and popped it in her mouth, enjoying the sensation as she rolled the old word around on her tongue.
Technically, panzanella is made with tomatoes but you’ll forgive us, won’t you? All we want is green. Green, green, green. We’re greedy for it. We bet you are too.
Spring Panzanella Salad with Lemon Dressing
For the Salad:
8 Cups of cubed bread, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 Stick (1/4 Cup) of butter, melted
1 Teaspoon of finely chopped chives
1 Teaspoon of finely chopped parsley
1 Large bunch of fresh asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 Tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 Cups of baby arugula
1 Cup of fresh or frozen (thawed) peas
1/2 Cup of crumbled feta cheese
For the Lemon Dressing:
1/3 Cup of extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1 Teaspoon of white or golden balsamic vinegar
1/2 Teaspoon of honey
1 Tablespoon of minced shallot
1 Clove of garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon of chopped chives
1 Tablespoon of chopped parsley
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Place bread cubes in a bowl. In a small bowl, combine melted butter, chives and parsley. Pour herb butter over the bread cubes and toss until well-coated. Pour bread onto a large baking sheet. Season with salt and black pepper. Bake in oven for 10-15 minutes or until bread cubes are crunchy and slightly golden brown. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.
2. When bread is toasted, increase heat to 400°F. Place asparagus pieces on a large baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast, turning occasionally, 18-20 minutes or until asparagus is tender, but still crisp. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.
3. In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes, asparagus, arugula, peas and feta.
4. To make the dressing, in a small bowl, combined olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, honey, shallot and garlic. Whisk until well combined. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste.
5. Drizzle dressing over the salad and gently toss. Garnish panzanella salad with additional chives and parsley. Serve. (Best the day it’s made.)
Smitty & The Girl
The Murder Mystery Year: Chapter 4
Officer Clemmons led Sylvia Mathers through the kitchen and down the hall until she found the right room. It appeared to have been an office once, though most of the furniture was covered with sheets to protect them from dust and it didn’t have a desk. She was surprised when the woman hesitated in the doorway. “Problem?”
“N-no.” Mathers narrowed her eyes. She was fair skinned and so pale that the few freckles on her skin stood out. “Why this room? There are other rooms.”
“We don’t want to get too far from the scene,” Clemmons replied coolly. “And I can watch the street from here. There are more police offers coming,” she added when the woman stared at her blankly. “You have a dead body in your parlor, Mrs. Mathers.”
“It’s Miss and I’m fully aware that my brother is dead.” Some color had returned to the woman’s face and heat to her voice. She’d squared her shoulders and lifted her chin. Was there a place rich people went to practice that haughty look?
“I’m sorry for your loss.” Clemmons lifted a sheet that covered two chairs and pulled it down to the floor. “Have a seat.”
Sylvia Mathers complied and for the first time, Clemmons realized she was in a nightgown and a light robe. “I suppose you’ll want to change.” She pursed her lips and took a cursory look at the woman’s sleeping clothes, saw no smudges of blood or grime. When she raised her head once more, Mathers was frowning.
“You look familiar to me.”
“There’s six cops in this town,” Clemmons replied. “And you get a lot of speeding tickets, Ms. Mathers.” She flipped to a fresh page in her notebook. “They stand out because they’re usually on account of your jalopy going too slow. Don’t see a lot of those.”
Mathers’ frown remained. “What’s your name? Last name?” When Clemmons told her, the woman’s eyes trailed down to her hands. She wore no wedding ring there but a loop around her neck. It wasn’t long before the woman’s raving eyes sought it out. “Your maiden name.”
“Marrion.” Clemmons dropped her hands and her notebook and stood, her back straight and her own chin up now. “My grandmother worked in this house. For you.”
There was shadow over the woman’s eyes. “Marrion. Esther Marrion.”
“That would’ve been during my mother’s reign,” Sylvia Mathers said. Her voice was still cool. “You must give her my apologies, the next time you see her.”
Clemmons blinked. She asked the question, despite herself. “For what?”
“For everything,” the woman replied. “Absolutely everything.”
It’s spring! Sort of! It’s getting there!
Thank you to everyone who celebrated our 4th Blog-iversary with us. We have a lot of great stuff planned for this year. This weekend, in particular, I plan to tackle this and this. (I’ll share the results, good and bad, on Instagram.) Wish me luck. If you’re celebrating Easter or Passover this weekend, hope it’s lovely and filled with family and FOOD. Mwah!
Download your April 2015 Calendar- Pasta Primavera here:
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Looking for the recipe? Check it out here.
Together, they stood on the lawn with a pressure washer from unclutterer and stared up at the roof. Clint Barner peered up with a critical eye. Mel Hallowell had no clue what she was looking at but she hoped she did.
“Well,” old Clint said with a scowl. He wasn’t friendly but he wasn’t unfriendly either. As neighbors went, he was a solid B. “You didn’t shovel the roof, didya?” His accent was thick, even for their rural town, forty miles inland and twenty miles due south of Bangor.
Mel shifted slightly. Did he say “shovel the roof?” “I shoveled,” she said and beside her, Rufus the dog glanced at the driveway as if he knew exactly what she meant. She waved a hand and he trotted back to the house.
“Well,” he replied. “You didn’t do it recent, I’d say.” He put his hands into the pockets of overalls that were likely older than Mel and leaned back on his heels. He took a deep breath and whistled.
There were many things Mel wanted to say in reply. She wanted to tell him that she was cold and could they please go inside and discuss her shortcomings in the warmth of her woodstove. She wanted to leave him there, mulling things over and pondering the next thing he wanted to say because this was Maine and you have time, doncha? and go back to that woodstove and her Greek yogurt and granola and half of a banana that sat on the counter. She wanted, badly, to remind him that she didn’t want this house, that she was left this house, and that no, she didn’t know she had to shovel the roof, is that what people did around here, climbing up on their roof with a shovel and did they have snow blowers, did they haul that up there, was this really something people grew up knowing? Mel imagined what would happen if she unleashed that torrent of words on old Clint, if it would be like dumping a bucket of old hair on a turtle. How long, she wondered, would it take him to shake it off?
Mel had been in Maine for two years. She tilted her head back, surveyed the roof and matched the length of her word to Clint’s slow drawl. “Well,” she said. “Yup.”
Congratulations to Amber P., the winner of our giveaway! Amber has won a delectable ice cream sundae kit from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. Thank you to everyone who entered and thank you for telling us what kind of recipes you’re loving right now- this will be a big help in deciding what we should make for you in our 4th year!
Here in Maine, winter is long. I couldn’t help but laugh when I read a blurb in Bon Appetit this month (and I agree with Luisa completely, by the way. Not sure a subscription renewal is in my future. The recipes are great but oiy.), something about how Mainers don’t complain about the cold even though March is especially brutal here. So tough, we are up here where the ground is still frozen solid and the snow lingers. Yeah, okay. I don’t know who they interviewed (maybe it’s that one guy in the BA office who is very smug about his Bean boots? I don’t know) but the people I’ve met here love to talk about the weather and OH, they are not afraid to bemoan it with the best of them. Sure, you meet tons of people who love the cold and embrace it but there’s just as many who step outside to a 20 degree day at the end of March and throw a complete and utter temper tantrum to rival anything you might hear echoing in Boston or New York or Chicago. Mutual survival of the long winter is how we bond with each other and complaining about it is a crucial component of that bonding.
Having said that… there is a part of living in Maine and the dregs of March that I’ve embraced completely and utterly, with an open, fluttering heart. And that is Maine Maple Sunday. On the fourth Sunday of this cold, bitter month, the sugarhouses in Maine open their doors and host pancake breakfasts, offer up maple cotton candy and smothered ice cream, hayrides and the like. It’s… magic. This year it was incredibly cold but thousands of us were undettered and lined up for smoky, sweet treats. Because syrup. Syrup.
On the crowded list of things I planned to make with my haul, this granola was firmly at the top. It satisfies all of my maple requirements- salty, sweet, and crunchy and you can eat it by the handful. The only thing I’d add is a sprinkling of dried blueberries (Maine all the way). And Joy made it when she came to visit Portland, to boot. For our fourth year, it’s a very good place to start.
Maple Pecan Granola
1 to 1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
8 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 heaping cup coarsely chopped dried apricots (or blueberries, if you’re a Mainah)
1. Preheat oven to 325° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, toss together coconut, pecans, rolled oats, cinnamon, and salt.
3. In a medium suacepan over low heat, stir together the oil, maple syrup, and honey. Stir until melted together. Remove from heat and add vanilla extract. Stir together.
4. Add the wet ingredients, all at once, to the rolled oat mixture. Toss to coat, insuring that all of the dry ingredients are coated in the maple syrup mixture. Divide the mixture between the two prepared baking pans. Spread into an even layer.
5. Bake granola for 30 about minutes (original recipe said 45 minutes but one of the pans burned. The other was done at 30 minutes so watch your granola, people!), removing the pans from the oven twice during baking to toss and stir. Once mixture is evenly browned and toasted, remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Add dried fruit and stire granola in an airtight container at room temperature.
Hello world… SKS is officially 4 years old!
4 years of blogging. 246 published recipes. 4 years of recipe triumphs and fails, some disasters so epic that pans (whole pans) have been ruined and tossed into the trash (that would be me), at least one occasion of REPEATEDLY buying the wrong ingredient for one single recipe (that was Nicole, it was either self-rising flour or cake flour and it was ridiculous), I still remember when I did my first shop online to get my commercial freezer. 4 years of dragging whole cakes, loaves, bars, cookies and pies into the office (some office, any office) to pawn off on anyone who would take them.
At least a handful of nights with one of us standing at the counter at 9 o’clock at night, covered in flour. 4 years of blog calendars and feverishly sent emails, cookbook trading, way too much sampling of Eat Boutique goodies, cookies, cookies, cookies, salad, cakes, cookies, “When was the last time we made cookies? Should we make cookies”
There are many products out there; from cars to light bulbs, that claim to be green, eco friendly or less harmful for the environment. But as there are no hard and fast rules as to what makes an eco friendly product or not it can be quite difficult to discern between something that claims it is green and something that actually is.
However, there is a good rule of them and four aspects that make up most eco-friendly products and checking for them can give you an idea if the product you are looking at is environmentally friendly or not.
By selling eco friendly goods made from manufacturers who are serious about this industry and not try to label a product that is partly eco friendly. To have a greater chance at getting your current buyers to re-order from you, you should provide as much information as possible. Your partners will keep your advertisements and product reviews on their websites if your “percentage of returns” minimal. Your customers will be happy to shop again knowing they are getting a quality environmentally friendly product. You can buy eco friendly products from QBamboo to make your home eco friendly.
As an eco friendly product review marketer, I like to find websites that provide as much information as possible. This saves me from having to contact their customer service department and ask them what fibers and colours are used to make their clothing, home wares or body care products. Eco friendly shoppers also want to go online, find that product which fits their needs and order it without having to verify first if the product is truly “eco friendly”.
And ice cream. So much ice cream. Of all the experiments and trends and food-related crazes that have swam up and past us over the last 4 years, homemade ice cream has stuck the hardest. Other blogs have kale. We have ice cream.
So it seems only fitting to celebrate with a recipe for outrageously festive Butterscotch Bourbon Ice Cream Pie with Graham Cracker Crust (a Melissa Clark recipe! We’re branching out!) (Jeni’s is still the best but it came out pretty great!) AND the chance to gift one of our readers a Build Your Own Sundae Kit from Jeni’s (our favorite ice cream, did I make that obvious to you?).
The lucky SKS reader/winner will receive a festive kit that contains:
- THE MILKIEST CHOCOLATE IN THE WORLD
Luscious milk chocolate with superior creaminess mixed with Ohio wildflower honey and grass-grazed Ohio milk. Refined and just sweet enough, like a bar of fine Swiss milk chocolate.
- SALTY CARAMEL ICE CREAM
A perfect balance of salty and sweet: sugar caramelized by hand, blended with sea salt and grass-grazed Ohio milk. Initial notes of burnt sugar give way to mouthwatering saltiness.
- NDALI ESTATE VANILLA BEAN ICE CREAM
Voluptuous vanilla ice cream. Rich and full-flavored, with notes of jasmine and honey. Made with Direct- and Fair-Trade-Certified African vanilla beans reserved exclusively for Jeni’s by Ndali Estate in Uganda.
- EXTRA-BITTER HOT FUDGE SAUCE
Very thick, extra-bitter, intensely flavorful chocolate sauce. Served warm and drizzled over a favorite ice cream.
- SALTY GRAHAM GRAVEL
Sweet, crumbled graham crackers baked with butter and a heavy pinch of sea salt.
- CHOCOLATE BLACKOUT GRAVEL
Rich, little buttery baked nuggets of cocoa. Airy, sweet, and salty, with deep, rich cocoa flavor.
I’ve made all three of those flavors from Jeni’s amazing cookbooks and can attest that they are perfect in every respect and that you will swoon over them, especially since SOMEONE ELSE MADE THEM. I think we can all attest that delicious things taste better when someone else makes them, right?
How to Enter: Leave a comment and tell us what kind of recipes are you loving right now.
Dates: Thursday, March 19 to Thursday, March 26, 2015 (contest ends at 12:01am EST on March 27, 2015)
Selecting a Winner: Winner will be selected on Friday March 27, 2015 using random.org, a random generator. The winner will be notified by email and will have until Tuesday to respond. If the winner doesn’t respond to the winning notification email, another winner will be chosen.
Boring/Horrible Disclaimers: You must be 18+ to enter. We will only be shipping within the continental United States. SKS reserves the right to disallow comment submissions for the following reasons:
- Any rude or obscene comments will not be approved. (But I will laugh at them silently before deleting them.)
- All spam comments will not be approved. (Again, some of these make me laugh. But they will not be approved.)
- No purchase is necessary to enter. A purchase will not increase your chances of winning. I’m not even sure what you would purchase to win, honestly. Wait, was someone going to send me money to increase their chances? Maybe I should rethink this disclaimer…
Butterscotch Bourbon Ice Cream Pie
2 Cups of heavy cream
1 Cup of whole milk
1 Cup of sugar, divided
⅛ Teaspoon of fine sea salt
6 Large egg yolks
1 Tablespoon of bourbon
1. In a medium pot over medium heat, melt 1/2 cup sugar with 3 tablespoons water, swirling pan frequently, until sugar turns reddish brown in color.
2. Add cream, milk, 1/2 cup of sugar and salt to caramel until sugar completely dissolves and cream mixture is completely smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove pot from heat.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk yolks. Whisking constantly, slowly whisk about a third of the hot cream into the yolks, then whisk the yolk mixture back into the pot with the cream.
4. Return pot to medium-low heat and gently cook until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer).
5. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl.Stir 1 tablespoon bourbon into base. Cool mixture to room temperature. Cover and chill at least 4 hours or overnight.
6. Churn in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. Serve directly from the machine for soft serve, or store in freezer until needed.
My sister Jenn called me just now, somewhat sheepishly. She was going to wait, she said, but she needed me to send three chapters of my first novel to her. Her friend Mary (who I think has known me since before I could walk) had been chatting up the book with a friend, an author, who very nicely offered to show it to her agent.
(The fact that I’m writing it this way, so matter-of-factly, should hopefully imply that this is not the first time this conversation has occurred.) “I told her you aren’t really shopping it around,” my sister said to me. “That Dad tries but you aren’t really sending it around anymore.” I tried to stamp down my annoyance. At that very moment, I was trying to wrap up a ton of work at my job so I could run home, get my house in order, jump in the car with my brother and drive four hours to her very house, for our mother’s birthday this weekend. Wrestling, among a mountain of clothes I haven’t been able to clean and a giant dog who hasn’t seen me in days, the nasty remnants of a truly terrible work week which have settled into a sturdy pit in my stomach. (And, oh yes, I need to send her three chapters and write this blog post before I leave.)
The reason why I just smiled and said thank you and sure, I’d send the chapters, no problem, you never know, thank Mary for me (she really is the best) is that I am profoundly grateful, insanely grateful, to have my family in my corner when it comes to my books. Do I think they’re maybe a little biased? Sure. But there are worse things (I could list a million, I’m sure you could too) than having your big sister pitching your book every chance she gets. Just because she believes. And because I know she truly didn’t want to tell me just yet about this possibility, knowing full well that the rollercoaster of “someone’s going to look at your book!” only to then follow up with news that they passed is one I’ve become so accustomed to that I’m fully numb by it all by now. I hung up the phone, crossed the next item off my to-do list and sighed. Still, she believes. That’s something. This week it’s hopefully enough for the both of us.
It’s fitting, in a way, that this week’s recipe is for delicious homemade corn muffins. They were always big in our house when we were growing up and seeing the photos makes me think of my siblings, and our mother (happy birthday Mom!) with a smile. Except we called them Corn Cuffins at the time. Be sure to use finely ground cornmeal or they could be a little gritty for your taste.
Homemade Corn Muffins with Jam Butter
Source: Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, January/February 2015 | Makes 12 muffins | Print Recipe
2 Cups (280 grams) of finely ground yellow cornmeal
1 Cup (130 grams) of all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 Teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 and 1/4 Teaspoons of fine sea or table salt
1 and 1/4 Cups (300 ml) of milk, whole is best here
1 Cup (240 grams) of sour cream (full-fat plain yogurt should work here too)
8 Tablespoons (115 grams) of unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3 to 5 Tablespoons (35 to 60 grams) of sugar
2 Large eggs
Favorite jam, seedless and fruitless
- Heat oven to 425°F (220°C). Either grease or line a 12- cup standard muffin tin with disposable liners.
- Whisk 1 1/2 cups cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl. In a large bowl (if you have a microwave) or a medium saucepan (if you do not), combine milk and remaining 1/2 cup cornmeal. In a microwave, cook cornmeal–milk mixture for 1 1/2 minutes, then whisk thoroughly, and continue to microwave in 30-second increments, mixing between them, until it’s thickened to a batter-like consistency, i.e. the whisk will leave a clear line across the bottom of the bowl that slowly fills in. This will take 1 to 3 minutes longer. On the stove, cook cornmeal mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it thickens as described above, then transfer to a large bowl.
- Whisk butter, then sugar, then sour cream into cooked cornmeal until combined. At this point, the wet mixture should be cool enough that adding the eggs will not scramble them, but if it still seems too hot, let it cool for 5 minutes longer. Whisk in eggs until combined. Fold in flour mixture until thoroughly combined and the batter is very thick. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups; it will mound slightly above the rim.
- Bake until tops are golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 13 to 17 minutes, rotating muffin tin halfway through baking to ensure even cooking. Let muffins cool in muffin tin on wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove muffins from tin and let cool 5 minutes longer.
- To make jam butter, mix softened butter with jam and serve with warm muffins.
“Olive oil, in a cake?”
The baker looked at his apprentice and lifted a dripping spatula far, far too high. Batter rained on them both. “To bake, and to cook, takes a leap of faith, Geoffrey.” He scowled into the bowl and pushed the thick batter aside, searching for pockets of flour. “It is like love, that way.”
Sometimes, many times (most times), I make something I know because I quite simply do not want to fail.
I buy just enough food, and ingredients, for one week. This tendency is not born of ideology but of budget- I buy what I can afford and then I stop. I am that person in the supermarket with a calculator out, adding up prices as I tick ingredients off the list. (My apologies to anyone lagging behind me as I push the cart slowly past the herbs, my face buried in my phone. I’m not texting or updating my status on Facebook but trying to calculate fractions of weight version price per pound in my head.) When I hit my number, I have to stop and reassess the items in my cart, wonder which ones will have to go back to the shelf. Actually, this rarely happens- for some reason, I have become very attuned to my budget and what I can afford and rarely end up more than a few dollars over.
So when I come across a recipe that’s a risk, I pause for dramatic effect. Because, see, if it fails, I have to eat it anyway or there’s nothing else, really, to eat. If a recipe has too many pricey ingredients, it’s immediately out- I can’t make one $40 meal for the week when my budget is $50.
This strategy serves me well. It’s a lot of work and it’s sometimes painful. On those rare occasions when I’ve put things back at the register, it’s downright humiliating. But it helps me save money so I can travel, go out, buy concert tickets on a Monday night, see a friend for a long weekend. (Food is everything but yet not everything.) So it’s worth it.
I make an exception with olive oil. A big, gaping, ridiculous exception.
Brene Brown has a whole section in one, or multiple, books on scarcity and our great, clamoring fear of it. I recognize the feeling well- when a recipe calls for 1/2 cup of olive oil, I pause and my chest gets tight. Watching the level of the olive oil bottle is frightening to me and it’s scarcity, that hum of a word, that’s behind it. I take a deep breath, remind myself how vigilant I am about food and price and ingredients and I say to myself, out loud, “When it runs out, I’ll buy another bottle.” And not a cheap bottle. A good bottle. The best I can find. The thing with olive oil, see, is that it’s important to me. I’m Italian American, maybe that’s part of it, maybe the biggest part, why that bottle is a source of comfort to me. I use it often and when I cook something spare and simple and good, the better the ingredients, the better the final product. Somewhere along the line, I decided to grant olive oil a pass. It sings, the stuff. If you know what to do with it, it goddamn sings.
Listen to me now- in this, you should not be afraid. Buy a really, really good bottle (imported or from California, pure olive oil, extra virgin, the best you can possibly afford) and use a giant-sounding, heaping 1/2 cup of it in a cake. This cake.
Do it. You won’t be sorry. It’s good.
You can always buy another bottle.
Almond Olive Oil Cake with Brown Butter Glaze
1 Cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 Cup of almond flour or meal
1 and 1/2 Teaspoons baking powder
1/2 Teaspoon of kosher salt
3 Large eggs
3/4 Cup of granulated sugar
1/2 Cup of extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 Teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1/4 Teaspoon of pure almond extract
Grated zest of 1/4 medium orange
1/2 Cup of orange juice
2 and 1/2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 Cup of confectioner’s sugar
3 Tablespoons of whole milk
A few drops of fresh lemon juice
1/2 Cup of sliced almonds, toasted and cooled
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan or springform pan and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond flour, baking powder, salt, and set aside.
3. Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk them lightly to break up the yolks. Add the sugar to the bowl and whisk it in very thoroughly. Add the olive oil and whisk until the mixture is a bit lighter in color and has thickened slightly, about a minute. Whisk in the extracts and zest, followed by the orange juice.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk until they are thoroughly combined, about 30 more seconds.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake the cake for 30 to 45 minutes, rotating the cake pan halfway through the cooking time to ensure even browning. The
cake is done when it has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan, springs back slightly when touched, 9 and a cake tester comes out clean.
6. Allow the cake to cool for ten minutes in the pan, then gently remove it from the pan and allow it cool completely on a rack.
7. When the cake is almost finished cooling, make the glaze: melt the butter over medium heat in a small, heavy saucepan. When the bubbles subside, lower the heat and watch the butter carefully, swirling it in the pan occasionally to distribute the heat. When the butter begins to turn a light tan color and smells slightly nutty, turn off the heat and let the butter sit. It will continue to darken as it sits.
8. While the butter cools, sift the confectioner’s sugar into a medium bowl. Whisk in the milk until completely smooth but thick, then slowly whisk in the butter. Taste the glaze and add a few drops of lemon juice to balance the sweetness. Stir in the toasted almonds. Spread the almonds and glaze onto the top and sides of the cake and let it sit until set and dry.
Smitty & The Girl
The Murder Mystery Year: Chapter 3
As soon as Clemmons left the room, Gibb lost control of it. Everyone in it started yammering at once, with the exception of the teenage boy and the corpse that lay at their feet.
A lot of the questions were for Gibb, he realized with a grimace as they descended on him. Sylvia Mathers was the loudest, blathering about lawyers and rights and before Gibb had realized what had happened, they had all taken out their phones and hitting keys frantically. “Hey. Hey!” He glared at them all and put his hands on his sizable waist. “Nobody needs a lawyer right now,” he barked. Not yet, he thought. He let out a breath to calm himself and the group of them seemed to relax a little too. Or at least they put their phones away just as two of the women started to cry.
Gibb looked at them, feeling somewhat helpless. He was a resolute bachelor, in part because he found the behavior of women to be outright befuddling and always had. “All right, all right,” he said gruffly. He shooed the two women toward the corner, relieved when they sat down. “Calm yourself, ladies. Jesus.”
It was the bartender who suggested, quietly, that he cover the body with a sheet. Gibb saw him glance up at his son, who had pulled out headphones from somewhere and continued to stare out the window as if something would appear to give him a clue as to what was happening inside. Gibb glanced down at the stiff. “We can’t disturb the evidence,” he replied and he was only partly sure this was the case.
“Shouldn’t we go into another room?” one of the younger women, the one in the leather jacket, snapped. “Wouldn’t that solve everything?”
“Nobody’s going anywhere.” Clemmons had rejoined them. She put her phone away. “Not until we find out what happened here. I don’t want anyone to leave my sight or Gibb’s, until we get all your stories down.” She glanced over at the Mulpepper boy. “You with them the whole time?” He nodded, still green around the gills. “Good. All right, ma’am,” she said to Sylvia Mathers. “If you’ll follow me.”
The murderer watched as she led the lady of the house out of the room.
We are 4 years old this month, you guys! I cannot believe this site has been up for 4 years. Without fail, our little blogiversary never fails to sneak up on us. It’s like we’re so busy griping about winter and brushing the dusting of snow off our hands that we completely forget that St. Patrick’s Day is coming, along with longer, sunnier days and oh, yes, a time for us to celebrate.
We’ve got fun stuff planned for our celebration so get excited! (bossy)
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