Friday, February 27, 2009

Key Lime Pie

It seems that a lot of folks are depressed this time of year. Walking around my city, I see long faces, furrowed brows, and stiff upper lips. Maybe they feel like winter will never end. If you're one of these seasonally-affected souls, maybe something cool, tart, and tropical will raise your spirits. I present to you my recipe for Key lime pie, one of my favorite desserts (and breakfasts!) and beloved by those who have sampled it. The recipe makes two luscious, rich-rich pies. Eat them up within a few days, or share with friends.

Key lime pie

1 ½ cups Key lime juice (I like Nellie and Joe's brand)
3 cans sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs
2 crumb crusts (purchased or homemade)
Whipped cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.

Pour milk, juice, and eggs into a large bowl and beat at medium speed until blended, then at medium-high speed for a good 7-10 minutes. This keeps the pie from seeping and sogginess under refrigeration.

Pour mixture into pie crusts, dividing evenly.

Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes (10-12 minutes if you’re only making one pie). Cool on wire rack until room temperature, then refrigerate until cold. Serve topped with whipped cream if you like.

If making your own crust, try substituting ground almonds for part of the crumbs. Mmmmmm!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Luxurious Rest

I rest guiltlessly, luxuriously.

I allow my body all the time it needs to heal itself.

I love my body.

I am beautiful.

Top to bottom: Poly, Utah, Geronimo and Mirando, and Cassiopeia.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Chocolate Chili Cookies

Feeling robust? I know I am, and not just because it's Sexy Girls Eat Dessert Friday. I seem to have turned the corner with my healing, and I feel really good, even though my tummy is still a bit sore and the incisions are itchy. Nourishing myself with good food and nurturing myself with long, guiltless naps have made me almost well again. I am amazed at and thankful for my body's power to heal itself.

With snow predicted for tomorrow, I think it's time to make another batch of these magical cookies. At Christmas, these were a big hit with the men in my family; my uncles snapped them up so quickly, I was lucky to have one for myself. Another smash hit from Kristina!

Kristina says:
"This recipe is from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts. I tried to give the cookbook away to a friend who loves to make chocolate desserts but he forgot to take it home. Then I discovered the Chocolate Chili recipe, and this book’s not going anywhere now. I was in search of the perfect chocolate/lime combination in a dessert, and by adding lime juice to the cookies, I think I’ve found it."

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
Pinch ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 sticks sweet butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 egg
Lime juice

Sift together the flour, cocoa, salt, pepper, cayenne, and cinnamon and set aside. In the large bowl of an electric mixer cream the butter. Add the vanilla and sugar and beat to mix thoroughly. Beat in the egg, then on low speed gradually add the sifted dry ingredients, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula and beating only until mixed.

Shape the dough into a cylinder about 10 inches long and about 2 inches in diameter.

Wrap the dough in wax paper and place it in the freezer until firm. Or it may be kept frozen.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. With a sharp, heavy knife cut it into slices 1/4 inch thick.

Bake 10 or 11 minutes, reversing the sheets once during baking. Watch them carefully to make sure they do not burn.

Let them cool for a few seconds on the sheets until firm enough to be moved. Then, with a wide spatula, transfer cookies to racks to cool.

Brush the top of each cookie with lime juice.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Translation: Irish crochet

Since I was a little girl poring over my mother's copy of The Complete Guide to Needlework, I have loved the crisp, intricate, organic style of Irish crochet. About a year ago, Kristina showed me the Antique Pattern Library, making very old patterns available to me (and to all) in the form of gigantic PDF files. After excitedly printing two DMC Irish crochet books (circa 1900) and making a special trip to Busy Hands yarn shop for a #14 steel hook, I was all ready to plunge in and create beautiful lace of incredible delicacy. Except for the abbreviations. What the heck is a "d," anyway? Is it the same as a "plain?"  

Turns out, yes, a "d" and a "plain" are old names for what American crocheteuses know as "single crochet" or "sc." Apparently, in the Old Days, no standards existed for pattern abbreviations. Experimentation and careful comparison of my work with the photos in the DMC books showed that I knew much more than I had imagined upon my first reading of the patterns.

The photos in this post are themselves experiments, depicting the results of my Irish crochet experiments; I've not used my computer's on-board camera much. I yearn to fill this blog with beautiful photographs, but I fear that time is not yet come. I will, however, offer you my translations of antique Irish crochet motif patterns. You can read them in their original form at the Antique Pattern Library's site. The large motif (called "second wheel" in the book) is from DMC Library Irish Crochet Lace by Mme. Dillmont (c. 1900), and the leaves are from Priscilla Irish Crochet Book No. 2 by Eliza Taylor (published in 1912). The books are listed alphabetically by author last name.

Dixie Falls designed the mitts (free registration is required to get the pattern); I made adaptations to suit my chosen yarn and my own hand size. I arranged the motifs on a scarf I crocheted from my favorite silk/bamboo yarn; it's a plain, long rectangle executed in V-stitch, with 7 rows of hdc at each end.

The roses are among the easiest Irish crochet motifs to execute, and you can find many versions of them everywhere. I kept it simple and used Ms. Fall's instructions. The smallest roses on the scarf are made from the same pattern, but I only completed two rounds. I also omitted the last round from the larger roses; as written, the pattern yielded roses I thought were overwhelmingly large on my wrists. I substituted the antique leaf pattern for that given in the mitts pattern (they come out looking about the same, in case you prefer Ms. Fall's more complete instructions).

The crocheted balls were a popular embellishment in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and their instructions are included in the mitts pattern. I made ten of them to use as fringe for the scarf, and their weight keeps the scarf nicely in place. I decorated each motif with glass seed beads, and capped the end of each ball with a larger silver bead.

"Second Wheel" (topmost white flower on scarf) is a two-layer motif.
Main layer:
Wrap cord three times around your finger to form a type of magic adjustable ring. Leave a long tail (12") to use as a foundation cord while working the rest of the motif.
Round 1: Work 20 sc over cord, pulling the free end occasionally to nudge the stitches tightly together; sl st to 1st sc to close; ch 1.
Round 2: Pull up "tail" of adjustable ring and lay it over work. 1 sc in 1st sc and over cord; * 14 sc over cord only; sk 3 sc; sc in next sc (scallop made). Repeat from * 4 times, pulling cord to nudge stitches together and to help each loop lie flat. End with 1 sc in last sc of ring, sc in 1st 2 sc of petal, ch 1 (5 scallops).
Round 3: Holding foundation cord over work and working in back loop of each sc, * sc in next 2 sc, picot (ch 3, sl st in 1st ch), 3 sc, picot, 3 sc, picot, 2 sc. Sk next 5 sc. Repeat from * 4 times. Fasten off.

Top layer: Begin as for main motif, wrapping cord three times around your finger to form an adjustable ring.
Round 1: * 4 sc in ring, picot. Repeat from * 5 times. Fasten off.

Position top layer atop main layer, matching center holes. Sew them together with matching thread.

Ch 10. 1 sc in 2nd ch from hook, sc in each of next 8 ch, ch 3. Continuing down other side of foundation ch, sc in each of next 7 sts, * ch 3, turn. Sc in each of next 7 sc, sc in 3-ch sp, ch 3, sc in 3-ch sp, sc in each of next 6 sts. *
Repeat between * *, working back and forth, until you have 6 "ribs" on each side (or until the leaf is the size you prefer). I chose to fasten off with a sl st in the 3-ch sp, in order that the leaf would be even, but you can fasten off wherever you think it will look best.

My materials:
Mitts, scarf ends, ball fringe, and leaves: 3 skeins Berroco Seduce in Verdigris; small amount of fiberfill to stuff crocheted balls
Scarf: 3 balls Patons Silk Bamboo in Sea
Small roses: 1 ball Patons Silk Bamboo in Almond (very small amount; I used leftover yarn from another project)
"Second wheel" and large roses: 1 ball J.P. Coats Royale Silkessence Microfiber in Natural (#2262)
Silver or silver-lined glass beads in two sizes (about five hundred seed beads and a larger silver bead for each crocheted ball)
Steel crochet hook, size 7 (for mitts, "second wheel," large roses, leaves, scarf ends, and crocheted balls)
Aluminum crochet hooks, sizes G (scarf body) and B (small roses)
Tapestry needle
Beading needle
Sewing needle and thread to match yarns

Friday, February 13, 2009

Feel-Better Cherry Crunch with Cream

Even though I've got a sore tummy, it's still Sexy Girls Eat Dessert Friday, and by golly, I'm eating dessert! We threw this together today in the kitchen; I'm still not up to standing up very much. It's sweet and full of good nutritional stuff, like vitamin E, B-complex vitamins, fiber, and vitamin A -- all good things to eat while recovering from intestinal surgery. It's also divinely delicious. Eat and feel good!

Double the amounts for two servings; my husband doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, so he fixed this just for me, with my help. Yes, I am very lucky.

1 cup frozen dark sweet cherries (unsweetened)
1/2 cup shredded wheat cereal (we used Frosted Mini-Wheats; granola would be good, too)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
whipped cream (as much as you'd like)

Thaw cherries in the microwave; we let them get pretty warm so they'd be plenty juicy.
Pour cereal in a bowl and top with cherries. Sprinkle sunflower seeds over everything. You can stir it up before topping it with whipped cream, but we put the whipped cream on and then stirred it. Mmmmmmm!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A link change

I have deleted the link to the Organic Beauty Expert blog because of its promotion of a lip gloss containing an alleged appetite suppressant. I thought you should know the reason why the link is gone. I am very disappointed in the OBE blog, and am eager to find a wholesome beauty site that does not promote body hatred. If anyone knows of one, please drop me a line. Thank you.

Belated update

I had no recipes or other fun things to post yesterday because I was in the hospital. On Sunday, my dear husband took me to the emergency room because I was in great pain -- really terrible abdominal pain. Later that day, we learned I had appendicitis, and I had surgery on Sunday night. After the surgery, I was placed in a room decorated with a charming Victorian painting of Little Bo-Peep; at least, it depicted a round-cheeked girl resting on a knoll with a beribboned crook in her hand and a sweet lamb beside her. I wish I could find the image to show all of you, because it really is sweet.

I have just returned from the hospital, and though the pain medication is working well, sitting up still hurts a bit, so I fear my updates will be irregular for the next couple of weeks. Instead, I intend to rest and allow my beloved to pamper me a bit...okay, more than a bit. I'm looking at the flowers brought to me last night by two friends. Even with unforeseen problems like emergency appendectomies, life is very sweet.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Queen Mother Cake a la Kristina

It's Sexy Girls Eat Dessert Friday, and this is one of my favorites!

Kristina does it again with her adaptation of Maida Heatter's classic Queen Mother Cake. I feel sure that were you to look up "decadence" in the dictionary, you'd find this recipe. It's an ultrarich chocolate torte, and with Maida's thorough instructions and Kristina's notes (in italics), you can't make a mistake. I suggest reading it through once or twice before plunging in, just to be sure you have everything you need. Try adding your own "optionals" at the end. Most of all, savor the richness. Mmmmmmmm!

Queen Mother Cake

6 ounces (scant 1 1/2 cups) blanched or unblanched almonds (too much trouble, just buy almond meal)
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
6 eggs, separated
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice

First toast the almonds in a single layer in a shallow pan in a 350 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes, shaking the pan a few times, until the almonds are lightly colored and have a delicious smell of toasted almonds when you open the oven door. Set aside to cool.

You know I love all the directions that Maida gives; She makes it mostly foolproof, but this is too much work for me. I just buy almond meal and use about 1 ½ cups. It’s worked so far with no complaints.

Adjust a rack one-third up in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 x 3-inch springform pan and line the bottom with a round of baking pan liner paper cut to fit. Butter the paper. Dust the pan all over with fine dry, bread crumbs, invert over paper, and tap lightly to shake out excess. Set the prepared pan aside.

I don’t have bread crumbs and flouring the pan worked fine. Don’t skip the baking liner because you’ll die trying to get the cake out the pan without it. With the liner it just slides out.

Place the chocolate in the top of a small double boiler over warm water on moderate heat. Cover until partially melted, then uncover and stir until just melted and smooth. Remove the top of the double boiler and set it aside until tepid or room temperature.

Microwaves work wonderfully for melting chocolate. Just do it on a low power setting and make sure you pay attention and stir occasionally.

Place the almonds and 1/4 cup of the sugar (reserve remaining 1/2 cup sugar) in a food processor fitted with a metal chopping blade. Process very well until the nuts are fine and powdery. Stop the machine once or twice, scrape down the sides, and continue to process. Process for at least a full minute. I have recently realized that the finer the nuts are, the better the cake will be. Set aside the ground nuts.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter until soft. Add 1/4 cup of the sugar (reserve the remaining 1/4 cup sugar) and beat to mix. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating and scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary until smooth. On low speed add the chocolate and beat until mixed. Then add the processed almonds and beat, scraping the bowl, until incorporated.

Now the whites should be beaten in the large bowl of the mixer. If you don't have an additional large bowl for the mixer, transfer the chocolate mixture to any other large bowl. Wash the bowl and the beaters.

In the large bowl of the mixer, with clean beaters, beat the egg whites with the salt and lemon juice, starting on low speed and increasing it gradually. When the whites barely hold a soft shape, reduce the speed a bit and gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Then, on high speed, continue to beat until the whites hold a straight point when the beaters are slowly raised. Do not overbeat.

Getting the eggs separated without any stray yolk in the whites is critical. I was lazy one time and tried to beat whites with a dab of yellow and the whites stayed soupy and wouldn’t hold a peak. The cake still tasted like chocolate but it was much denser.

Stir a large spoonful of the whites into the chocolate mixture to soften it a bit. Then, in three additions, fold in the remaining whites. Do not fold thoroughly until the last addition and do not handle any more than necessary.

Turn the mixture into the prepared pan. Rotate the pan a bit briskly from left to right in order to level the batter.

Bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees and then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake for an additional 50 minutes (total baking time is 1 hour and 10 minutes). Do not overbake; the cake should remain soft and moist in the center. (The top might crack a bit -- it's okay.)

It must be my oven runs hot, but I’ve never baked it for even an hour. The cake always looks done when I check it early. I’ve never seen the top looking soft and moist so maybe my cakes have always been over cooked.

The following direction was in the original recipe, and although I do not understand why, I always do it. Wet and slightly wring out a folded towel and place it on a smooth surface. Remove the cake pan from the oven and place it on the wet towel. Let stand until tepid, 50 to 60 minutes.

Sounds crazy, but I am convinced that using the wet towel does something important. If anything, it makes a lovely sizzling sound when you put the hot cake pan on it.

Release and remove the sides of the pan (do not cut around the sides with a knife--it will make the rim of the cake messy). Now let the cake stand until it is completely cool, or longer if you wish.

The cake will sink a little in the middle; the sides will be a little higher. Use a long, thin, sharp knife and cut the top level. Brush away loose crumbs.

Place a rack or a small board over the cake and carefully invert. Remove the bottom of the pan and the paper lining. The cake is now upside down; this is the way it will be iced. Place four strips of baking pan-liner paper (each about 3 x 12 inches) around the edges of a cake plate. With a large, wide spatula carefully transfer the cake to the plate; check to be sure that the cake is touching the papers all round (in order to keep the icing off the plate when you ice the cake).

If you have a cake-decorating turntable or a lazy Susan, place the cake plate on it.

1/2 cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons powdered (not granular) instant espresso or coffee (recommended: Medaglia D'Oro instant espresso)

Ha, whatever. Espresso vs. Bailey's Caramel. Bailey's wins hands down. I use about 1/4 to 1/3 cup

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
Scald the cream in a 5- to 6-cup saucepan over moderate heat until it begins to form small bubbles around the edges or a thin skin on top. Add the dry espresso or coffee and whisk to dissolve. Add the chocolate and stir occasionally over heat for 1 minute. Then remove the pan from the heat and whisk or stir until the chocolate is all melted and the mixture is smooth.

Don’t eat it all before you frost the cake!

Let the icing stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or a little longer until the icing barely begins to thicken.
Then, stir it to mix, and pour it slowly over the top of the cake, pouring it onto the middle. Use a long, narrow metal spatula to smooth the top and spread the icing so that a little of it runs down the sides (not too much--the icing on the sides should be a much thinner layer than on the top). With a small, narrow metal spatula, smooth the sides.
Remove the strips of paper by pulling each one out toward a narrow end.

Do NOT carry the iced cake on a flat plate and tip it towards yourself and it slides into your shirt right at chest level unless of course you have a special someone handy. This caused a bit of marital tension at the last party to which I took the cake.

Chocolate curls or chocolate shavings
Whipped cream
Fresh raspberries

Decorate the cake or individual portions with optional chocolate curls or chocolate shavings (try chocolate shavings formed with a vegetable parer and made with milk chocolate). Place a mound of optional whipped cream (lightly sweetened with confectioner’s sugar and lightly flavored with vanilla extract) on one side of each portion on individual dessert plates, and a few optional raspberries on the other side of each portion.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Honey Almond Scrub

Honey Almond Scrub

1/4 cup almonds (or 1/4 cup purchased ground almonds)
1/4 cup honey, or enough to make a spreadable paste

Grind the almonds very fine in a coffee grinder or food processor. Place in a bowl and stir in the honey until you have a goopy paste. This will keep for about a week, covered, in the refrigerator.

To use, dampen your face with warm water, scoop out about two fingertips' worth (about 2 tsp.), emulsify in your palms, and gently scrub your face. Remove with a damp facecloth, rinse with warm water, and follow with your usual toner and moisturizer.

Also try this with ground oatmeal -- great for allover use to alleviate itchy, dry, wintertime skin.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Ginger Lemon Tea

I am home sick today with a very stuffy head and the dizziness and headache that accompany such a misfortune. At present, I am sipping on a cup of hot ginger tea, adapted from a favorite drink made by the good people at Espresso Royale. I'm not able to stay on long today, so I'll make this brief: here's the recipe.

Ginger Lemon Tea (four 12 oz cups)

2 cups lemon juice
4 cups water
3" piece of gingerroot, peeled
honey to taste

1. Slice the gingerroot thinly. Pour lemon juice and water into a saucepan and add the gingerroot.
2. Heat to boiling and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Remove from heat, strain, and stir in the honey.
4. Sip while hot.

This makes a very tart, spicy tea. Add more gingerroot if you like -- spicy! Or use less lemon juice and add more honey if you'd like a more mellow, sweet brew. This is loaded with vitamin C, and breathing deeply of the vapors as you sip helps open up the sinuses. Enjoy!

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