Archives for November 2010
|Better Homes & Gardens Salad Book, 1958|
Y’all have to see this.
A random hunt for an old Thanksgiving cardamom roll recipe sent my skipping down the catacombs of my cookbook collection. You know what I found? I’ll tell you — I found 128 pages of Straight Up Crazy.
#1 Why is the word meat in quotation marks?
#2 If you were preparing to party down, would really want to whoop it up with meat? Much less meat in quotation marks?
#3 The photo above it on the page features ham and olive jello pâté. Seriously. Jello with ham and olives. I know food trends change, and you would probably be grossed out by some things that I find appealing, but seriously. Ham and olives in jello?
It blows my mind.
Who thinks of these things? And more important, who buys these books?
Oh, crap. I buy these books.
I don’t have a lot of warm and fuzzy memories of Thanksgivings of yore. As an adult, I have usually needed to work that weekend, and as a kid, Thanksgivings at Grandnanna’s house were usually spent locked in the basement with Orange Crush soda and a bucket of fried chicken. Don’t get me wrong, neither one is a bad way to spend the day but they are certainly a far cry from Norman Rockwell-esque images of a cozy family gathered around a lace tablecloth strewn with harvest bounty.
Thanksgiving at Grandnanna’s house was always something of a dichotomy; the adults would enjoy elegant food and football upstairs while the kids would play Chucky Cheese style in the basement. Since no adults wanted to spend their holiday supervising the basement chaos, the room had to be thoroughly “kid proofed” with tarps and duct tape. The Franklin Mint collector plates were relocated to higher ground and the gun rack was double bolted. Even the ping pong table was put away for fear someone would misuse the paddles. Little did they know Tiny Alice was always crafty enough to unbolt the table legs and use them as stilts, repeatedly bumping her head on the basement ceiling tiles until that one time when she got a clump of hair caught in an air duct…but that’s a story for another time.
Early on in the day, the games started peacefully…Parcheesi, Yahtzee, Duck-Duck-Goose, Hungry-Hungry Hippos…by the time the food arrived we were on to Cowboys and Indians….eventually the little kids would hit their sugar crash and doze in the laundry room while the big kids would start playing dodge ball with Grandnanna’s bomb shelter supplies. Fun was had by all! Canned ham and old batteries would whiz across the room until someone, inevitably, chipped a tooth on a projectile can of fruit cocktail and the sight of blood would be enough for the door at the top of the stairs to unlock.
A stampede of kids would rush the steps and within a minute, the elegant party was overrun with sticky fingers and questions like Who is Tom Collins and why can’t I have one?
The rooms were lined with card tables displaying tall, gaudy flower arrangements clustered by colorful platters of finger foods. Blue daisies and Hawaiian themed appetizer trays were a particular household favorite, as was anything suspended in gray Jello or nestled in a ring of cheese salad. Mmm….who’s hungry?
Thanksgiving y’all – it drudges up all kinds of strange. The good. The bad. The gelatinous.
- Lay some clay on the animal’s back.
- Stick some candles in the clay.
- Let the candles dry.
- Paint it up.
- Snazz it up.
- Light it up.
Coat 1: Slather your creature with glue and liberally apply glitter. Dry.
Coat 2: Mix together equal parts glue, water, glitter in a shade slightly different than the first coat, and paint the mixture all over. Dry 24 hours.
|Chocolate Turkey Cake, aka “belly ache on a plate”|
Thanksgiving belongs to roast turkey and pumpkin pie, but Black Friday belongs to the Chocolate Turkey. He is rich and decadent and gooey and he’s all Neil Diamond’s fault.
May have mentioned this before… I grew up listening to a lot of Neil Diamond. A lot. If your Mom was half as crazy about Neil Diamond as my Mom was, you know every word to the Hot August Night album, including the song Porcupine Pie. Look, it’s not his musical manifesto, but it includes as reference to chicken ripple ice cream, thereby making it Officially Awesome.
Inspired by the song, porcupine pies have been a common occurrence throughout my life. So common, in fact, up until 5 minutes ago, I assumed everyone knew what they were. A quick google image search for “porcupine pie” has just revealed otherwise. Apparently, they are a little more unique than I thought.
Assuming they are new to you, I’ll explain, in a nutshell, a porcupine pie is any sort of dessert with spikes. Sometimes a simple cookie crust filled with ice cream and shards of chocolate inserted all over the surface….sometimes a buttermilk cake that looks like a Thanksgiving turkey…sometimes a cheesecake rimmed with a mountain-like skyline of dark chocolate peaks…
Fun to make. Fun to look at. Fun to eat.
For a long time, we made porcupine pies for all kinds of special occasions…birthdays, report cards, first day of school, big business meetings…any time Mom wanted to make someone feel appreciated and celebrated. She didn’t cook a lot, but she would fancy up ice cream at the drop of a hat. One time a guy came to read the gas meter and they got to talking…turned out his wife had just miscarried a baby…ten minutes later they were at our kitchen table having a heart-to-heart, both of them with a glass of chardonnay and him with a soup bowl of rocky road ice cream topped with a flourish of whipped cream, three projectile oreos, and, as always, a maraschino cherry speared on a plastic cocktail sword.
To this day, I am positive maraschino cherries served on plastic swords will cure just about anything. Served on ice cream or in a good stiff drink, their magical healing powers know no bounds.
Back to the turkey….these days I reserve ice cream as a comfort food and stick to making cake. A post-Thanksgiving turkey cake is one of my favorite things. It goes great with leftovers.
One year I tried to make this on Thanksgiving day, to serve as dessert and a centerpiece. Big mistake; #1 the heat from the candles and other food wafted up and melted the chocolate spears, and #2 no one wants to each chocolate after a big heavy Thanksgiving meal. Except me. I can eat chocolate any time. No time like the present!
To make chocolate turkey cake, you will need:
- 1 bag of chocolate chips
- wax paper
- 1-2 flat aluminum pans
- freezer space to store a flat aluminum pan (hot commodity in my house!)
- a cake
- template* optional…(I used a turkey head template but you could skip that and draw it free form, or use any animal; what about about a dinosaur cake or a hippopotamus pie? Just about any creature with a strong silhouette and a lump shape in the middle would work!)
******** Pardon the photo quality here folks. My camera does not cotton to kitchen lighting 🙂
Layer your template between wax paper and an aluminum pan. Follow the outline with a piping bag of melted chocolate (you can also skip the bag and use a spoon). Fill in the gaps,and freeze for 30 minutes. The end result will look like a hardened, lumpy turkey head. Just what you always wanted!
Spread the remainder of the chocolate over another aluminum pan lined with wax paper. After 30 minutes in the freezer, it should be hard and you can use a knife to draw vertical stripes down the length of the chocolate. Expect it to shatter. It’s ok. The little bits are the tastiest.
Any cake or pie base will work, just make sure it is cool. NOT WARM. You will find that the chocolate shards slip in the cake easy, unless your cake is warm, in which case, it will all fall apart. It will still taste real good, but it will look all droopy like you left your cake out in the rain.
Slice, eat, enjoy.
Gobbly Gobble ya’ll!
High winds and a recent cold snap have ruffled up the bark on my neighborhood birch trees. It’s gorgeous. I can’t get enough of it.
The bark is every bit as beautiful as the foliage, and best of all, it peels off like paper! Honestly, you can grab yourself a hunk of birch bark and write your grocery list on it. Try it! The clerk at the check out line will look at you like you are crazy, but let’s face it, the holidays are here and you probably are kinda crazy. So let’s have fun with it 🙂
In addition to grocery lists, birch bark can be a great material for making art projects or dressing up your table. Here, I just hot glued to an empty ice cream bucket and Ta Da it’s a rustic vase for a Thanksgiving centerpiece! Or glue on to cardboard paper towel tubes and you have some nifty new napkin rings. What about pictures frames? Or candle sticks? Or Christmas ornaments? The possibilities are endless!
Remember: Only grab the loose bark off the birch trees. Don’t damage the tree by leaving big bald patches all over the trunk. That’s not nice!
Tip: Birch bark carry dust and teensy weensy bugs. Generally nothing to worry about, but if you are going to use it on something used near food service, I suggest you dunk your loose bark pieces in a big bowl of water with a cap full of bleach, then let it dry out before gluing to your surface container. I used this all over a table service a few years ago and never noticed a problem, but you can never be too safe with it comes to tree critters.
Tip: Birch bark will eventually dry out and crack. To enfuse durability, soak your part pieces in a mixture of 3 parts water to 1 part Mod Podge (matt finish) or Acrylic Matt Medium for 1 hour, then use regular white glue to adhere to your your base. It’s messy but that sucker will last for years!
Would you look what my Lola did while I was out?
She got a hold of a ten pound Target bag, knocked it off the chair, dragged it across the floor, shred the plastic bag, then tore a hole on the paper bag large enough to fetch herself some supper.
Only reason I bought this bag of Purina was because it was on sale and I heard good things. How was I to know she would go at it like a mange plagued raccoon?
Just look at this.
This, coming from a cat who hardly ever touches her fancy/healthy/expensive/vet recommended food. This, from a cat who turns her nose at the gormet Boeuf Bourguignon I prepare special for her birthdays and post-veterinary adventures. This, from the cat who spent her first night home from the shelter on the kitchen counter tearing up a cold rotisserie chicken just for the fun of it (didn’t eat a bite…just loves to hear the bones crunch!)
Purina, you have a new customer. If you carry any other cat food specifically manufactured for cats with a penchant for elaborate hats and Barry Manilow music, send me a coupon.
|Wine bottle + paper towel tube + plastic forks + rag scraps + glue + glitter = Happy Chanuakkah Y’all!|
For an old wine bottle and paper towel tube, this menorah is pretty darn snazzy, not to mention ancient.
Out of my many menorahs, this one is by far my favorite. It’s an arts and crafts project from Ms. Finson’s 4th grade classroom. Yes, a classroom. Yes, a menorah in a public school classroom.*
* If that statement is controversial enough to get your girdle in a bunch, you should probably stop reading this before I get to the corn husk angels and Baby Jesus in a walnut shell. GASP!
Even back then it was unusual for a public school teacher to encourage kids to make religious objects, but Ms. Finson wouldn’t hear of it. She was 24, fresh out of the peace corps and didn’t take crap from anyone. She was a devout Christian, raised by Baptist missionaries in Equador and could quote the bible like it was a party game. She wore embroidered vests and let us listen to Marvin Gaye music at lunch time. She was cool.
Regardless of her own faith, she recognized there were a couple Jewish kids in the class who felt a little neglected around the holidays. It’s not like anyone complained, but after all the years of making mangers and angel ornaments, Ms. Finson recognized the need for change. Diversity is a good thing.
Lo, the wine bottle menorah was born!
Parents gave her flack. They didn’t like their kids making other people’s religious symbols or taking empty booze bottles on the school bus. Good arguments, to be sure, but Ms. Finson shut them up right quick by quoting some bible passage about Jesus celebrating Chanuakkah with a menorah and wine and spicy velveta dip or some business like that. I don’t really remember. All I know is that I made two mental notes; 1. Jesus was Jewish, and 2. Adults are far too easily impressed by people who can directly quote fancy words from fancy books. Guess that’s why attorneys get paid so much.
I could make a lawyer joke right now, but in the spirit if the season, I’ll pass.
If you want to make a wine bottle menorah of your own, just make some holes and slits in a paper towel tube and insert it over the neck of a wine bottle. As I recall, we covered the hole thing with scraps from a rag bag dipped in starch (I think this lovely striped piece was a man’s shirt at one point). The forks were originally cafeteria sporks with red tissue paper, but they got lost years ago and are now been replaced with glittered orange forks. The forks can be inserted and removed same as real candles. The shamash in the middle is inserted in a cork. Easy peazy and it stores nicely.
School crafts usually fall apart or get thrown out with January garbage, but this one is a keeper. Its been on display right next to an expensive store-bought menorah that no one ever notices…everyone asks about this menorah. Where did it come from? How did you make it? Can I play with the forks?
Kids and adults enjoy it equally. I enjoy it too. I love it. It’s my favorite.
I have been so caught up in holiday hoopla that I was really struggling to come up with something floral to feature as a “Friday Flower” for today…but then, early this morning, Anne in NC made a comment on yesterday’s pumpkin seed necklace post; Just yesterday I saw someone with a beautiful brooch made from pumpkin seeds, painted maroon with tiny pearls in the center. It was beautiful. I guess I’ll need to get a pumpkin!
An hour, 35 pumpkin seeds, some cardboard, dental floss and two glue gun burns later, guess what I’m wearing to work today!
The back is messy and Lola keeps trying to eat on the dangly bits…so I’ll make a few changes next time around, like incorporating some paint and pearls, but all things considered this has been a very productive morning.
What I love about Maya’s necklaces is the contrast. She infused these bright, happy, clean colors into the natural, pale seeds. Don’t think I ever realized how beautiful seeds are until I saw those necklaces. They have the most interesting shapes and earthy, almost wood like tones.
I wanted to try making one for ages but haven’t seen a decent cantaloupe in this neck of the woods from months. Luckily my jack-o-lantern provided ample seed for just such a project. Pumkin seeds are big, bountiful and free!
Initially I was going to dye my seeds, but then I got on a gold leaf kick and well, you can see what happened. Before this year is out you’ll probably see me gold leaf the light switches. That’s not sarcasm, folks.
Regardless of any gold leaf or magic marker dye jobs, if you have never tried stringing pumpkin seeds, check out Martha’s turtorial first. They are pretty easy to work with, but pumpkin seeds can split if you try to string them when they are 100% dry. I ended up leaving mine soaking in tea with a little vinegar and Mod Podge mixed in for added durability. Once the seeds are ready to go, piercing and stringing couldn’t be easier. The process goes fast, especially if you mix in your own beads. I love me some pearls but I could imagine making this necklace with some nifty glass beads or even just some decorative knots.
I love the glitzy golf leaf next to humble seeds. I love the weighty, jagged edges contrasting against the delicate waxen floss. I love the way this pale and pretty piece looks on a dark and wooly grey sweater.
It’s all about contrast.