Thursday, February 16, 2012

We're All Bad Catholics Now (...I Wish)

If you've never read Bad Catholic, you should; if you're an occasional reader (like me), you should start checking in more often (as I have this past week.) Of all the enjoyable stuff I've seen there, I don't think anything has given me the pleasure of a simple picture he posted three days ago. After pointing out that, "Your plan backfired, Barry: Instead of painting the Church as ridiculously oppressive, you managed to usher America into an incredible zeitgest, in which NPR dislikes you and Mike Huckabee can declare “We are all Catholic now,” without being damned to hell thrice over.", he offers this picture:

with the legend, "When any creature that normally takes half a century to form a complete statement starts a united effort to destroy your plans, think twice about your own brilliance."

Good advice to Saruman, good advice to all the proponents of this horrible HHS mandate.

How horrible is it? When this came down, I--the queen of mean-spirited pettiness--could not direct even a millisecond of "told you so" schadenfreude toward the bishops who had supported the passage of Obamacare.

So, inspired by the above and some of Bad Catholic's other recent pics, here's my less-good picture contribution:

St. Thomas More

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Quote of the Week

"Old gum has hidden flavors."  (Sgt. Frog)

Now that's deep.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Yet More Food

I'm still playing with bread. Earlier this week I made my best loaf yet of "sarah in nyc"'s peasant bread, and yesterday as I was driving home from work I suddenly got the idea to see if the universal bread recipe would make cinnamon rolls. It did. I followed the amount of sugar recommended for sweet doughs, I used milk for the liquid, and I added some butter for the (optional) fat, to make the bread softer. After the first rise, I rolled the dough out into a big rectangle, spread it with 3 Tbsp of softened (nearly melted) butter, and then shook on a mixture of brown sugar (close to a cup, but not packed down) and 4 tsp of cinnamon. I rolled the whole thing up long-ways, sliced it into twelve more or less equal pieces, plus a wonky bit off each end, and then put all the pieces into butter-sprayed baking tins to rise again. After baking, I iced them while they were still warm.

For the icing, I had some sweetened condensed milk leftover from something else and I didn't want it to go to waste, so I melted it together in a small skillet with two capfuls of vanilla flavoring until it started to thicken up. This was surprisingly yummy in a diabetes-inducing way, but only yielded enough icing for a third of the rolls, so I had to make a sugar glaze for the rest.

UP and I had a couple each, and the rest have been given away. My mother pronounced them as "like Cinnabon", so I guess they were a success. Besides which the whole house had a warm, sugary smell by the time they were pulled from the oven.

UP's mother used to serve French onion soup (originally with homemade, later with Campbell's) by putting a thick piece of French bread covered with a slice of Swiss cheese in the bowl before she poured the soup over it. Occasionally UP will get a hankering for this, so I make it maybe once or twice a year. Recently I made a slight twist on this by using thin sliced French bread to make grilled sandwiches. I scooped some onions from the warmed up soup with a slotted spoon and added them to the Swiss cheese in the sandwich. Then, even though I was using a non-stick surface, I added butter to the surface and sprinkled Italian seasoning into the butter so the spices would stick to the bread as the sandwich toasted. Obviously meals don't come any quicker and easier than grilled cheese and canned soup, but this was tastier than the usual grilled cheddar and tomato or vegetable soup. UP said that he definitely wanted to have the same meal again.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

This Needs No Further Commentary

Random Thought

You sometimes hear (or used to hear) variations on "Always give a lady what she wants". But you never hear, "Always give a man what he wants."

There's a mystery there.

More Food

For much of the past year, I've been working odd hours and letting it affect how I cook. There's been a fair amount of box macaroni and cheese and other convenience foods served here, even frozen entrees because UP doesn't mind heating those up to be waiting for me when I get home. Not the best thing financially, let alone health-wise, and I've been feeling kind of bad about this slipping of standards; when I was young, the only convenience food I would buy was a box of mashed potato flakes once or twice a year (for my husband, who loves m.p. and can't tell much difference between instant and homemade). I can't even do as I used to sometimes do and cook several entrees at once and freeze meal-size portions for the coming month, because I now have a very small freezer space.

One of the ways I'm working through my guilt on this lately is to make homemade bread. So earthy, so wholesome, so filled with awesome guilt-fighting power. It smells sooo good you just know it means you are still a good homemaker. (Yes, I'm laughing at myself.) I've made several batches of a bread recipe from "sarah from nyc" (her blog is here, but I found the recipe on PatternReview). It's a super easy no-knead bread, that is even easier to make than my favorite Cuban bread and uses a lot less yeast. Not having one of those cool enamel-covered cast iron Dutch ovens, I make it in a large casserole dish with a glass lid, and it comes out fine.

I also decided finally to try the Universal Yeast Bread recipe from the latter days of the Tightwad Gazette. Why I never tried it back then, I don't know; I loved the Universal Muffin recipe, quiche recipe, and casserole. (A "universal" recipe is a sort of master recipe that gives you proportions or a sort of outline that you can plug the ingredients you currently have on hand into and have it come out right because the right proportions are there.) The Universal Yeast Bread recipe turns out to be just as good or better than any of those other recipes. I have made it twice so far, once as a honey oat bread (good, although I don't actually like honey-sweetened bread myself) and once an onion bread that made delicious sandwiches as well as being really good on its own. I intend to make it again. It's more work than sarah in nyc's recipe, but I like it and can get a success even with my poor kneading skills.

While the dough was rising on the first batch, I found the website of someone who's not only familar with the Universal Yeast Bread, but with the others I mentioned, plus a Universal Pilaf recipe that seems to be her own invention. Moreover she's gone to the effort of posting these on her site, making them really easy to print out and use. I also found a Mock Alfredo sauce recipe on her site that, if it turns out as tasty as it sounds, will have both me and UP singing her praises.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

In Which I Buy Cake Mix

Last month Uncle Pookie saw and thought he had to have a castle-shaped bundt cake pan. (My mistake for showing it to him!) So then he wanted to show off the pan by using it to make cakes for a couple of pre-Christmas gatherings. This necessitated my coming up with something to put in the pan. Because I gave up most baking years ago, the only cake recipe I have made enough times to know it's utterly reliable is the Gingerbread Cake recipe from Home Cooking (mentioned here) and I didn't want to use that. So something easy and quick that UP could make himself if I didn't have time? Cake mix to the rescue?

I don't like cake mixes. I'd only ever bought two cake mixes in my life--one bought when I wanted chocolate cake in what was then a bachelor's kitchen (hence no basic ingredients for cake) and another years later when I saw this thread on Pattern Review about pie filling cakes and was overcome with a curious desire to try the chocolate cherry version. I couldn't deny that the pie filling cake was easy and just tasty enough to pass muster. So I picked up some mixes and the the resulting cakes were okay--cute as (moderately attractive) buttons, in fact, with maraschino cherries resting in the towers and, on one cake, the door and windows outlined in frosting; the Nordic Ware people make a good pan.

Now here's the warped part. Afterward I found myself think of this non-event a few times with embarrassment. Apparently, without realizing it, I'd gotten some sort of small charge out of being able to say I'd only ever bought two cake mixes (as if that made me better than anyone who couldn't say it!) and here I'd gone and doubled the number  of cake mixes I'd bought. I'd contributed a dessert  to a gathering that wasn't homemade, but a mix. Twice! I was disappointed with myself for doing something that isn't remotely a sin or even mildly unethical.; it isn't even socially unacceptable in most places.

Noticing this, I said to myself, This is stupid, and I went out and did the only thing I could think of: I bought another cake mix. I bought a spice cake one, I mixed it with caramel apple pie filling and an extra spoon of cinnamon, I dotted brown sugar on top of the batter before I baked it, and I served the resulting pieces of cake with a dollop of poor man's whipped cream (Cool Whip). It was pretty darned good. And I'm over whatever the hell was wrong with me.

What does it all mean? Damned if I know. Probably that I spend too much time on minutiae. Maybe that I'm neurotic. Maybe that I just need more going on in my life.

Anyway, for anyone who's not subscribed to Pattern Review, here's the recipe:

1 cake mix, dry [regular 2 layer size]
3 eggs
1 can pie filling [21 oz]

Combine ingredients till well blended. Put in greased and floured pan.
Bake at 350ºF. Toothpick test for doneness.

9 x 13 pan........35-40 min.
10 x 15 pan.......25-30 min. [jelly roll pan]
12 x 17 pan.......20-25 min
12 cup bundt pan.........40-50 min. [Cool in pan 25 minutes before turning over.]