Friday, November 20, 2009

Mommy and Me!

As the daylight wanes, so too does my residency at the domestic violence shelter. Over the last few months, many recipes and hypotheses have been tested. The results are as follows:

*Parents and children benefit from time spent together, interacting with one another, creating cupcakes and memories to be shared. Kitchens/food help nourish the soul and the stomach.*#*

*Baking makes the world better. And, it makes me better. Through the Mommy and Me cupcake workshops, I'm reminded that social change and community activism are of primary importance. These activities are often enhanced, like most things, with a spoonful of sugar.

*Kids don't like chocolate cupcakes with orange icing. Kids like double chocolate, or chocolate and vanilla, or chocolate cherry.

*Rainbow sprinkles are like magical unicorns of glee!

*The bigger the mess, the more fun was had.

*#*This bears mentioning, some of the families were unable to transition to more permanent housing within the 90-days normally allotted, so I had an opportunity to see them over a longer period of time. In early sessions, parents would often critique their children's behavior or cupcake decorating. By the end, however, parents encouraged free creativity, using positive feedback and supportive language. Smiles seemed less strained and more joyous. It was delightful to take part. :)

It is with icing on my nose that I approach 2010.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Team Catserole: Hooray!

When my friend Andrew asked if I would collaborate with him on a casserole cook-off, I was reticent. My culinary skills are best served in a cake pan or with frosting. I relented because it was, after all, casserole and I'll do just about anything for cheese.

The guidelines were simple. A casserole was defined as anything consisting of at least two ingredients, one being a starch, and baked in a casserole-type pan. Because I'd never really thought about it before, my brain started reeling with the possibilities. What kind of starch? If I were to develop a casserole recipe from scratch, a dream-casserole, what would it taste like? What textures would be most pleasing?

Andrew had his mother's King Ranch Chicken in mind. Growing up in Wisco means that I wouldn't have considered using chiles for flavor or corn tortillas for starch. We hosted a tasting party to perfect the recipe; the alterations appear in Italics below.

Andrew's Mom's Recipe for King Ranch Chicken

1 boiled, boned, chicken: cut into bite size pieces (we used boneless chicken thighs and 2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks)

Cumin and Chili powder

1 dozen corn tortillas, cut into bite size pieces

2 large yellow onions, chopped fine

1-2 bell peppers: we used red, orange, and green for additional color

2 cups grated cheese (cheddar and pepperjack)

1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes with chiles
1 can chicken broth (or that reserved from boiling chicken)

Preheat oven - 350. We prepped everything in advance so assembly would be easy. To enhance the flavor, after chicken had been cut into bite-size pieces we coated it with a dusting of cumin and chili powder.

Saute onion and pepper with a clove or two of garlic.

Mix sauce ingredients in glass bowl. Like most other delicious things, it starts out looking pretty gross:

Grease casserole dish, put layer of chicken, tortillas, cheese, and sauteed pepper and onion. Mix tortillas into sauce and pour on sauce. We deviated from the original recipe in that we assembled the casserole like a lasagna, layering sauce between tortillas and cheese. We topped the casserole with crushed Fritos, blue and yellow tortilla chips, roasted jalapenos, and finely shredded cheese. Bake for 35 minutes or until hot and cheese is melted.

We didn't win, but we were one of few casseroles that included any amount of spice or heat. We lost to a casserole with duck confit, which had you tasted it, would make sense. The rich duck fat melted on your tongue.

Also, I made us team-aprons, for awesome:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Last Supper Festival: Nearly Here

If you're in New York (or the area) on September 26th, check out The Last Supper Festival at 3rd Ward (195 Morgan Avenue, Brooklyn), from 6pm to 2am. It's a multimedia, multisensory feast, nourishing your visceral and intellectual appetites! Proceeds from the Festival go to the Food Bank for New York.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Last Supper Festival: Get your Tix

13 Short Films, 13 Artworks, 13 Dishes, 7 Bands & DJs

The Last Supper Film Festival is an indoor-outdoor film, food, music and art festival occuring in Williamsburg, Brooklyn during the crux of seasonal change at the end of September. Referencing the celebratory nature of the feast, and the symposium of genres, the festival kindles the creative miasma sparked by NY’s peppery fall and inventive community. The last exposure to outdoor interaction before the shearing winter, The Last Supper uncovers the cornucopia of creative genres in our backyard, and creates an atmosphere for open dialogue and collaboration between the mediums. 13 short films from emerging directors, 13 artworks from budding artists, 13 dishes from brilliant culinarians, and Music from several local bands and djs will grace the dinner table at a venue in Brooklyn.

Proceeds go to Food Bank for New York.

September 26, 2009 / 6p-2a
3rd Ward / 195 Morgan Ave, Bushwick, Bklyn
Admission $10 with donation of 3 canned goods OR $15 (sans cans)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Black Beans, Bacon, and Bartering

This Black Bean Soup recipe actually reminds me of two things, both delightful: one past, one present. Cynda, my sister, and I used to be obsessed with bean and bacon soup, I think mostly because we liked to say "bean and bacon" loudly. We'd also get the giggle fits so hard I would pee my pants playing Star Wars Monopoly: word. Remembering that made this chili-alternative even more fun to make.

Secondly, last weekend's Domestic Labor Dinner got me thinking about bartering. We begged, borrowed, and bartered for just about everything for the event, from the space itself to the produce we served. So, when I needed someone to hook up my roommate's telly, I thought: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." My friend Andrew is excellent at A/V-itude; whereas my time is better spent in the kitchen. By night's end, my A/V is such that we can watch VHS tapes and listen to CDs (stuck in circa 1995, when Cynda and I were having our best giggle parties) and our tummies were stuffed. Yay!

On the menu: Black Bean Soup (with Bacon), grilled cheese sandwiches, and apple galette.

Black Bean Soup
Taste the Rainbow
1 lb dried black beans (2 c): rinsed, soaked in 4 quarts water overnight or for 6 hours
1 lb smoked ham hock or shank (I used 1 lb bacon)
2 bay leaves
5 c water
1/8 teas baking soda (helps the beans retain the color)
1/2 teas salt
4 Tbls olive oil
1 lg onion (chopped)
1 med sweet potato, chopped into 1/2 pieces
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1/2 teas salt
4 med garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbls ground cumin
1 teas chili powder
2 c chicken stock
1 Tbls molasses
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3-4 Tbls fresh lime juice (or lemon)

Garnish: chopped fresh cilantro, sour cream, avocado (peeled and chopped)

Cook bacon, drain bacon fat. Add 1/4 lb of cooked bacon to beans in 4-qt, thick-bottomed pot. Add 5 c water, bay leaves, salt and baking soda. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low simmer. Cover and let cook 75-90 min, til beans are tender. Remove bay leaves. Bacon will be black (ignore this).

Heat olive oil in large 8-qt, thick bottomed pot on med-high until the oil is hot, but not smoking. Add onions, celery, sweet potato, carrot and 1/2 teas salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned (about 10-15 min). Reduce heat to medium, add the cumin, chili powder, and garlic. Cook for 2 min, stirring constantly.

Add the beans, their cooking liquid, chicken stock, molasses, and bell pepper. I threw some green pepper too. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally for 20-30 min.

Remove 4 cups of soup (about half) to a blender. Puree til smooth and return to the pot of soup. Add the remainder of the 1 lb of bacon. I also added corn sliced fresh from the cob. Add 3-4 Tbls lime juice. Let cook long enough for the corn to be tender.

Apple Galette

I've said it before and I'll say it again: sometimes fancy French titles make something simple seem (needlessly) fancier and more complicated. I prefer to think of galette as peasant pie, because it's so simple and rustically wholesome.

Preheat oven to 400. Prepare the apples. I prefer tart (granny smith, cortland, mcintosh, paula red). You can peel or leave the skins on. Most importantly, quarter them, remove the seeds and slice them evenly. I think I did this to 5-6 apples. I didn't measure the resulting quantity. Place sliced apples in bowl. Add a 3-4 Tbls all-purpose flour, 1/4 c sugar, and cinnamon to taste. Stir to coat.

Galette Pastry:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 cup chilled butter, cut into pieces (one stick)
3 tablespoons ice water

Whisk to combine flour and salt in bowl. Add chunks of butter. Use your hands to incorporate until it resembles a coarse meal, wherein the largest butter pieces are the size of peas. Add the water one Tbls at a time; mix with wooden spoon. It will start to clump together.

Dump the flour mixture onto a floured table. Gather it together and form a disk. You can refrigerate (wrap the dough in plastic) or roll out immediately.

Roll dough in large circle, until about 1/8" thick. Add flour underneath dough and to the rolling pin, whenever needed.

Wrap dough around rolling pin and transfer to sheet pan. Dump apple mixture into the center; spread them evenly around the center of the dough. Fold dough over the apples, making sure it overlaps itself, but doesn't cover the apples entirely. Seal any holes and cracks so the juices don't escape while baking.

Using an egg wash (one beaten egg, plus some water), brush the surface of the pastry.
Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes. It will be amazing. Uncooked version below. Please see first photo (top) for finished--and delicious--product.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Good Food: What does love taste like?

Baking makes the world better; so does my friend Dave*. Yesterday, I made double chocolate cupcakes (chocolate, with chocolate chips) for today's 'Mommy and Me' workshop at a domestic violence shelter that serves women with disabilities (some caused by trauma and domestic violence) and their children. Around the table, women sat next to their children, all smiles, as they smelled the buttercream icing, which had been divided evenly among the bowls before them. We began with a story Dave wrote. Each of us, kids included, read a short section. When we finished, the kids dyed the icing and we began decorating. Lovingly, mothers presented cupcakes to their children and vice versa. Sticky fingers embraced. We joyfully finished with sprinkles, smiles, and cupcake moustaches.

Here's the story, with Dave's permission:

Once there was a little girl. She had the loveliest singing voice. She would sing and people would smile and relax, and every day she sang would be like a holiday. On her 8th birthday, she caught a cold and her singing voice was never the same again. This made everyone in her town sad. The townspeople didn't know what to do without their happy voice. The girl became very sad because she would love being able to cheer up the people with her talented voice. She started crying one day and when her mother heard her, her mother started crying. Then the whole village started crying. Everyone except for her grandma. Her grandma took her to the side and told her that she was going to teach her the secret to making everyone happy again. The grandma told the little girl to go to sleep early and sneak out to the kitchen after midnight. The little girl choked back her tears and agreed.

The little girl came to the kitchen in her pajamas and her grandma wrapped her up in an apron. The little girl asked what they were going to do. The grandma told her to stop asking questions and get to work. The grandma put the little girl's hands to work sifting flour, pouring sugar, cracking eggs, shredding lemon peels. Before the little girl could realize what she was doing, she was covered; her face was white with flour and her hands were sticky with eggs. Then her grandma turned on the oven and gave the girl cream cheese and milk and colored food dyes, sprinkles and colored sugar crystals, even gummy dinosaurs. The grandma filled trays with the batter, and as the oven was opening one hundred beautiful cupcakes were in the little girl's sight. The grandma told the girl that she had to go and that the girl needed to get to work. The little girl said, "No. I don't know what to do." Her grandmother said, "Yes, you do, sweetheart, you always did."

The little girl cried and banged on the table. She knocked over some frosting and sprinkles and looked down. All of the cupcake decorations made the top of a cupcake look just like a sunflower. The little girl stopped crying and said, "That can't happen again." She hit the table and BAM! another cupcake was decorated; this time it looked like the face of clock. She started working harder; the cupcakes looked like panda bears, roses, eyes, jewels, the sun, rainbows, even little baby faces.

Soon the sun started coming up and the little girl ran down the hall to her mother's room, screaming "Mommy! Mommy! Look what I made for you!" carrying the most beautiful red rose cupcake. Her mother wasn't in her bed. She wasn't anywhere to be found. The little girl heard a stir from the bathroom. Her mother came out wearing a bathrobe, her eyes were drawn and blue she looked so tired. The little girl passed the cupcake to her mother whose face brightened up when she saw the cupcake; her smile turned bright red, her eyes opened and she hugged the little girl who had a gigantic smile on her face.

The little girl put the cupcakes in the front window for all to see. The townspeople cheered and she even heard one man say "Those cupcakes smell like a a beautiful song." The little girl saw her mother's bathrobe and saw a little white powder and asked, "Mommy, what's that spot?" The mother pulled the robe to the side and said, "Nothing, sweetheart, I think we both know a very sweet way to say 'I love you.'"

The story, and today's session, remind me of why I love baking. Homemade sweets, especially colorful cupcakes, bring smiles like April showers bring May flowers. I dare you to give a cupcake the stink-eye. When I bake, I don't think or worry. I just love...and stir. It's magic.

*My friend Dave is admirable and awesome and - he would say - ordinary. Please see photo below. Even when I'm at my very best (caring, thoughtful, generous of spirit/time/energy, and kind), I approximate Dave at what I imagine to be his worst. He lives to make others' lives better, and he regularly--without fuss or attention--succeeds.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Good Food: The Last Supper

"Somewhere between a classroom and a disco."

My friend Coralina, who has recently allowed me to become co-conspirator, created The Last Supper Salon five years ago. What started as creative folks sharing art, film, music, and conversation over a homemade feast has blossomed into an annual event with an ever-increasing audience; last year's was somewhere between 600 and 800 people. This year's theme, as it is on everyone's minds, is "means." Artists (some using food as medium), musicians, and filmmakers will present their work at 3rd Ward (in Brooklyn) on September 26th. For more information, please see the website: The Last Supper Festival We hope you'll join us!

As director/manager of the Fundraiser, I'd originally been interested in domesticity, gendered labor and gendered space, the body, and value. Further contemplation (and a resurgence of my fixation on the WPA) resulted in the following meditation on rustic living:

Drawing inspiration from past periods of economic hardship, the Domestic Labor Dinner + Dance Hoedown celebrates simple pleasures and simple measures: the fruits and labors of local artists, farmers, craftspeople, musicians, djs, filmmakers, and writers. With earnest appreciation, we turn to the local-pastoral in order to revisit the past and re-imagine the future. Please join us in conversations about labor, value, and alternative economies of means, while enjoying a farm feast inspired by the Food Files and Films of the WPA.*

The event will feature canning demonstrations and clips from WPA films about conservation, rationing, and sustainable food practices, toe-tapping tunes, and a delicious farmhouse dinner prepared by Lila Dobbs.

*Shout out to John Mattioli for those years spent living frugally: finding sustenance in conversations about alternative means and economies.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Grandpas are Nice*: Toasted Walnut Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies

*Or what happens when you Google "oatmeal, butterscotch, walnut"

I have a thing for old men: grumpy, dirty, or otherwise. Butterscotch reminds me of them and, more specifically, grandfathers. I've been lucky enough to have 4, though I've only known 3 (my paternal grandfather died when Dad was 17, but that's a story for another time).

My maternal grandfather was a barrel-chested, tall, jolly sort. When not in the yard making slip-and-slides out of tarp and cinder blocks for his older grandchildren, he was in the woodshop making toys for the younger ones. Though he bore no physical resemblance to one, I will always associate him with the Muppets; he often fell asleep on the living room floor--feet up on the davenport--while watching Sesame Street. I used to do my homework in the kitchen; his snoring adding a little something to the sing-a-longs. I think he smelled like butterscotch.

Grandpa Bob, my stepmom's dad, was similarly jovial and kind. And better still, generous with the butterscotch candies he kept in his pants-pocket.

Dick married my paternal grandmother before I was born. He had a tough act to follow and though we always knew he was not our "real" grandfather, he surely acted the part: silly jokes, awkward tickles, stories about nothing. A kindly chap who liked a bit of cribbage and a bit of booze. Nothing wrong with that.

Toasted Walnut Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies
*1 c all purp flour
*1 teas baking powder
*3/8 teas baking soda
*1/2 teas salt
*3/8 teas grated nutmeg
*Tiny pinch teaspoon allspice
*8 T butter, room temperature
*1/2 c brown sugar, packed
*1/4 c gran sugar
*1 egg
*1 1/4 teas vanilla
*3/4 c rolled oats
*1 c butterscotch chips
*1/3 c chopped walnuts, toasted and cooled
*1/2 c coconut

*I doubled the recipe and added toasted coconut. To toast the walnuts and coconut, set oven to 400F. Spread walnuts and coconut on pan with 1+" sides. Bake for 5 minutes, check, stir, etc. You want the coconut brown, but not too dark. Let cool before adding to cookie dough.

-Preheat oven to 375F.
-In small-medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, salt, and allspice.
-In mixing bowl, beat butter on HIGH 'til smooth. Add brown sugar, beat until incorporated before adding granulated sugar. Beat 'til combined. Add egg, then vanilla.
-Add the flour in two additions, beating on LOW-MED each time, until combined. Scrape the bowl with spatula.
-Add oats, then butterscotch chips, and toasted walnuts and coconut.

-Drop on cookie sheet, 3" apart.
-Bake for 9-12 minutes, or until brown on the edges.

The finished cookie, both salty and sweet, was washed down with a glass of milk. It was almost as good as the best awkward tickle/hug my grandpas ever gave me. Definitely as good as, or better than, a Werther's.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Drool Variations: Lemon Sandwich Cookies, Version 1

Lemon Sandwich Cookies with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

To celebrate all things summer, including my homecoming, my family decided to get together and gluttonously gorge on all things Wisco: brats, pasta salad, corn on the cob, fresh blackcaps atop ice cream, milk, beer, cheese, etc. This was to make sure I gained my winter weight, to show what NY lacks, and to remind me that home is only a short plane, train, or tractor ride away. It was a delicious and successful feast! My contribution is below.

I like lemon. A lot. Because I hadn't *yet* posted my Lemon Sandwich Cookie recipe (sorry Caroline!), I had to scrounge the internet for one to make for the family. Lo and behold, I found Martha Stewart's. It's a good thing.

Martha Stewart's Lemon Sandwich Cookie
*2 sticks butter, softened
*1 c powdered sugar
*1 T grated lemon zest (approx 1 lemon)
*1/2 teas salt
*2 c all purp flour (plus more for rolling)
*2 T gran sugar, for sprinkling
*Creamy Lemon Filling

--Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat on HIGH, in large bowl, butter, powdered sugar, lemon zest and salt 'til combined. On LOW, add flour. Finish with wooden spoon; dough will be stiff.
--Place dough on piece of plastic wrap. Shape into disk about 1/2" thick. Wrap, chill for 1 hour, 'til firm.
--Unwrap dough. Place on lightly floured surface. With lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough to 1/8" thick.
--Cut cookies with 1 1/2" round cutter. I used a shot class). Reroll scraps, chilling if necessary. Place 1" apart on cookie sheet. Sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake 'til beginning to brown; 12-15 minutes. Transfer to wire rack.
--Using CREAMY LEMON FILLING (see below) make sandwiches, sugared sides facing out. Gently squeeze.

Creamy Lemon Filling

* 1-4oz pkg cream cheese, room temperature
* 1 T finely grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
* 1 to 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

--Mix cream cheese and zest until smooth, in small bowl. Slowly add 1 c powdered sugar, mixing 'til smooth. Desired texture: firm, yet spreadable. I also added a little big of lemon juice.

Though my family liked them, I thought the texture was too delicate (because of the powdered sugar and lack of eggs in the dough) and the flavor too cream cheesy. I like more lemony snisket.

Shout Out: New Glarus Brewing Company's Dancing Man Wheat beer: yum! Though I don't think the cinnamon would pair well with the eating of the cookie, the beer was nice accompaniment to the baking of the cookie.

Home Fries: Foods Most Missed

Here's the first of many posts about my favorite midwestern flavors. Woot!

Culver's ButterBurger
It has butter in the name. What's not to like?

Root Beer or Orange Cream Soda: so good!

Pearson's Nut Rolls
I like these as much for the memories--finding them between the dusty, concrete-caked seats of Dad's ginormous pick-up, like buried treasure, when he'd take me on jobs--as the flavor. The peanuts are usually made stale by the cream in the middle, but I still love 'em.

Babcock Ice Cream
Memories and flavor. In addition to being a campus that serves beer at its student union, UW has its own dairy lab that makes ice cream and cheese. It's delicious: creamy, not cloyingly sweet. Union Utopia is vanilla ice cream with swirls of peanut butter, caramel and chocolate. It's my favorite!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Last Supper Festival: Call to Creators

Greetings Creators,

It's officially Last Supper season! Incubate, Roast, and Ready your creative juices for 5th annual Last Supper Festival. This year's salon of ideas will bigger and better than ever, with an excellent cast of projects/planners/curators, pre-Season events (upcoming fundraiser, symposium), and more community interaction. Spark conversation, engage in critical analysis, gain exposure to a diverse audience, and enjoy your work in the context of other media by submitting your emerging projects to the 2009 call.
Submission Deadline: August 21, 2009
Submission forms available for download at:
For more information:

The Last Supper is a multimedia, project-based collaborative festival that addresses the act of consumption. Viewing the creative process as a cyclical, communally interactive conversation between media, it is a non-profit benefit event for the Food Bank of New York City. The Last Supper is an indoor-outdoor salon of ideas occurring in NYC during the crux of seasonal change at the end of September. As a feast for the senses and a symposium of genres, the gathering kindles the creative miasma infused by the city’s autumnal shift, harvesting the cornucopia of media in our own backyard and sparking an atmosphere for open dialog and collaboration. Short films and works from emerging directors and artists, edible installations from creative culinarians, performance, design projects, writing and music from several local bands and DJ’s will grace the dinner table. Each year, the show sparks dialog about consumption by curating projects based on a theme of global and local import. This year, more than 50 creators and volunteers will discuss ideas about “Means” with an audience of peers to evaluate our state of consumption. The decay of Summer and the emergence of Winter will be celebrated at the Fifth annual Last Supper.

Curatorial Theme: Means

In an atmosphere of political and economic crisis, along with dwindling resources, our precarious societal climate demands a review of the way we consume locally and globally. An artist’s resource, whether medium, message, or muse, is the voice of its cultural language. Creating is making something from nothing. Consuming, like all laws of matter, transforms the states of products. As creators, we must cherish this cyclical process and consider its affect. Repurposing traditional practice to our contemporary needs and desires has become vital to both aesthetic and functional life. Whether in the form of urban victory gardens, reclaimed handmade objects as art and design, DIY techniques, prevailing independent films and bands, the self-sustaining artist is a simultaneously complex, imperfect, and idyllic model for contemporary life. The Last Supper’s 2009 salon is the creative dialog about consumption where Means as motive, economy of Means, ways and Means, and Means of production are all tools for storytelling.

What began four years ago as an intimate word-of-mouth dinner party in a small backyard has evolved organically into what is known today as The Last Supper Festival. The event, which falls in late September--thus symbolically marking a change of seasons--is a multimedia experience that challenges the traditional methods of exhibiting and viewing artwork. Instead of singular artistic moments, the festival presents, in concert--just as it unknowingly did at the original backyard dinner party--a range of artistic mediums from local emerging talent including visual art, culinary art, film, performance and music--ie: a stimulation of all five senses. This unique approach to curation blurs the defined creative boundaries, thereby facilitating an exchange and connection between various artists, communities and audiences.

"..a feast for all five senses that will likely leave you with an unbuttoned fly." -Village Voice
"Will edible art give ‘artsy fartsy’ a new meaning?" -NY Magazine

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Wisco Disco: Farmer Tan and Farmers' Markets

My hometown has 1000 people in it and looks something like this:

As the crow flies, it's an hour or two from where "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average." In Spring Valley, all the women are unassuming, the men soft-spoken, and the children blond.

Farmstock on both sides, Sara, Brent and I spent our childhoods with skinned knees, scarred chins, and dirty fingers. Going home now is no different. After gamboling through the Minneapolis Farmers' Market, Sara and I planted apple trees, laughing at the idea of bagged manure, in her backyard.

Cultivation--whether trees or souls--is a magical process. Much like baking, it requires care, a few simple ingredients, wonder, a little bit of luck, calloused hands...and time. At home, time passes differently; life is measured in seasons not seconds and the adventure is more important than the destination. Every so often, I need to be reminded of that.

These lessons are best learned over a rustic feast: fried red potatoes with fresh sage, mixed green salad with strawberries and balsamic vinegar dressing, tender cherries, turgid plums, and leftover Thai. We followed it with a variation of my favorite dessert: vanilla ice cream with fresh berries and Grape Nuts sprinkled on top. (Mom is a hippy-sort who didn't let us eat store-bought sweets. Grape Nuts were our Magic Shell). It's also good with pure maple syrup in place of the berries.

Below, please find a photo essay of our adventures.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

ButterSuite Delivers: Coming Soon to a Kitchen Near You!*

*If your kitchen is in the 5 boroughs: WOOT!

Hello Friends!
For as long as I can remember (Madison peeps can attest to this), I've been giving away baked goods. While collaborating on SweetTooth it was clear that my heart was in the sharing and caring as much as the baking and making. So, it is joyfully that I announce my plans for belligerent kindness: Watch out world! Here I come with sweet treats and hugs!

For a small fee, you can enjoy some of my tasty morsels. In exchange, I get the pleasure of making strangers smile (one of my very favorite things ever)!

Click to enlarge the menu below. Details, logo, and photos forthcoming.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sticky Fingers: Upside Down Apple Cinnamon Muffins

What started as an attempt to use up yogurt, honey, and apples before a trip home ended up as it so often does in my kitchen: a delightfully sticky-fingered mess.

It began with the honey.

I have the worst/best luck with sticky things. Once I knocked over a jar of molasses, with the lid unscrewed, in the cupboard above my sink. I didn't notice until doing the dishes, when the brown plop-plop-plop of molasses slowly drip-dropping into the dish water made me think I was in a Korean horror movie: EEK! This time, the plastic honey-bear had cracked, oozing its contents all over my baking cupboard. Hence the plastic (sleeping?) bag this bear finds itself wrapped up in.

Upside Down Apple Cinnamon Muffins
4 Tables sugar
1 teas gr cinnamon
2 apples, chopped (peels optional)
2 Tables honey
1 1/2 c all purp flour
1/2 c sugar
2 1/2 teas baking powder
1/4 teas salt
2/3 c lowfat yogurt
1/4 c butter, melted
3 Tables skim milk
1 egg, lightly beaten

*Mix the 4 Tables sugar with the cinnamon. Set aside.
*Grease/spray 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle less than 1 teas cinnamon-sugar into each cup (I used about 1/2-2/3 teas in each). There will be some left over.

*Mix chopped apple with honey. Divide equally among muffin cups.

*Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in medium-sized bowl. Put well in center.
*In another bowl, mix wet ingredients.
*Add wet into dry, mixing only until combined. It will be very thick.
*Spoon muffin batter into each muffin cup, about 1 Tables per cup. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar. Put another layer of batter on top. Then finish with the remaining cinnamon-sugar. I added a pecan for good measure.

*Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
*Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes before turning upside down on a wire rack.

The apples are tart, the honey doesn't oversweeten them, and the muffin texture is not too dense nor too cakey: damn fine muffin!

Now I need to figure out how to unload 12 muffins in 24 hours...Woot!

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Last Supper / Call for Lady Bakers and Domestic Damsels

Last fall, Tracy and I (as Sweet Tooth of the Tiger) participated in The Last Supper as food artists. It was pretty neat to take part in a gustatory gesamtkuntswerk: a feast for the eyes, ears, tastebuds, and more!

Coralina and I are collaborating in two ways in 2009: Wahoo! First, I'll be working as Community Development Planner/Liaison, enhancing the educational (for all ages) components of the festival, while reaching out to emerging artists. Look forward to updates about upcoming events and fundraisers! Yay!

Second, and equally exciting, I'm working on a piece for the show/catalog/website that combines my intellectual and baking pursuits, while simultaneously telling stories, probably in video/essay format. Because much of my academic work has focused on performance (cabaret/burlesque and pornography in undergrad, disabled dance performance in grad) and has been heavily informed by Judith Butler's notions of gender performance (and the resistance possible in each performative iteration), I've wondered about the cultural meaning in the resurgence of lady bakers and lady crafters (quilters, knitters, etc): Are these activities simultaneously feminine and feminist? How can this re-domestication be theorized as feminist art and labor practice? Are these practices always already gendered?

I look forward to finding out :)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sourpuss: (Adventures in) Vinegar Pie

At the suggestion of Ivy and Kim, I'll periodically try out recipes that seem to appeal to some tastes rather than others, most often due to familiarity or lack thereof with the ingredients/flavors. That is to say, I'll make things that I think sound gross, just to get over my food-borne prejudice. We'll call these experiments "Sourpuss" honor of what tops the list: vinegar pie

But first, the crust.

But before that, a meditation on butter. Oh, how I love thee! I've loved butter since early childhood in Wisco. Perhaps it is due to an ingrained desire to support local farmers. Or, perhaps because it is tasty and its texture so smooth. Regardless of the reason, the result is the same: Butter has made me who I am today. While other kids were doing cool-kid things after school (like playing sports and interacting with each other), I was probably eating butter by the tablespoon while reading... or talking to myself... or daydreaming (about butter). I love(d) the creamy, salty, sweetness of good butter. My fingers would slicken as it melted in them on the way to my mouth. I couldn't imagine a better afterschool snack, especially when chased with a cold glass of milk. And while I now hesitate before eating a tablespoon straight from the stick, I do enjoy baking with it.

Making pie crust, and incorporating the butter and flour with my fingertips, always reminds me of those halcyon days. Especially when the recipe is as involved as this one. Because I get to touch butter at least 3 times while making it, it may become my new favorite.

Flaky Pie Crust
2 cups all-purp flour
1 teas salt
14 Tables butter (1 3/4 sticks), 11 Tables in 1/2" cubes
5-6 Tables ice water

Blend together flour, salt, and half of the cubed butter with your fingertips (or pastry blender) till it resembles coarse meal. Blend in remaining butter til pea-sized lumps form. Drizzle 5 Tables ice cold water and incorporate. (If a small handful doesn't hold together, add remaining Tablespoon, 1/2 Tables at a time)

Form dough into a ball, flatten into a 5" square. Wrap in plastic, chill for 30 minutes.

Roll out on a floured surface with (floured) rolling pin, so that it's 12" x 9" (1/3" thick). Cut remaining 3 Tables of butter into thin slices and arrange over dough-rectangle. Fold in thirds, like a letter (each section 4" x 9").

Roll out, again, to a 12" x 9" rectangle. Fold like a letter (in thirds, each 4" x 9"). Wrap in plastic and chill for 3 hours. Let dough soften at room temperature for 30 minutes before rolling it out to line pie pan. Trim and fancy the edges, poke holes in the base using a fork, and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes (with foil and pie weights or rice in the bottom). Remove foil and rice, bake for an additional 8-10 minutes.

While the crust bakes, prepare the filling.

2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup cold water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Cinnamon for dusting
Nota Bene: the recipe calls for a 9" or 9 1/2" tart pan, with 1" sides. I substituted a glass pie pan and wound up with an empty-looking pie.
Coulda/Shoulda/Woulda doubled the filling.

In bowl of medium size, whisk eggs and 1/4 cup sugar until frothy. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk flour and remaining sugar. Then add water and vinegar. Whisk constantly, until sugar melts and mixture boils, over medium-high heat. Pour into egg mixture, whisk constantly.

To make it magically custardy, pour contents from bowl into saucepan. Heat over medium flame, stirring with wooden spoon until the mixture coats the back of it, or it registers 175 degrees. Should take 12-15 minutes. While it simmers, reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

If you've timed it correctly, the crust will be ready at the same time as the filling. Pour filling into crust and bake another 15-20 minutes (at 350).

At this point in the baking process, I grabbed the pan with my bare hands: awesome!

Having just pulled it out of the oven--even with a dusting of cinnamon--I'm dubious. This could be the least appetizing thing I've ever put in my mouth. We'll find out tomorrow.

30 MINUTES LATER: Penny loves it. I still think it's weird. Having used cider vinegar (along with the dusting of cinnamon), the custard tastes vaguely of apple pie, sans apples, or variations in texture. The vinegar gives it bite, but there's nothing to bite into (eek!). However, the crust IS best ever.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tube Steak! A Photo Essay

Anne, Ivy, and I just returned from a trip to the Catskills: Weenie Weekend!
When I was growing up, we'd spend Memorial Day weekend camping with my dad's family. I always enjoyed the self-sufficiency of carrying everything in and out on your back or in your car. As novices, we ladies did our best to keep it simple.

Day One:
hummus and pita, carrots, strawberries, grapes, gorp, chips and salsa, hot dogs, smores, lime sugar cookies. Oh...and booze.

Ganache left over from peanut butter-oatmeal sandwich cookies. So decadent and delicious!

Day Two:
same, with addition of bananas. Not even worth documenting

Day Three:
We avoided weenies for breakfast in favor of hot food, seats, and electric lights at Johnny G's diner. Diners are best ever: I was clearly the most excited about this.