Monday, April 27, 2009

We Built Excitement

Having grown up on the outskirts of the great chief's beleaguered namesake city, I grieve today.

Rest in peace, Pontiac Motor Division.

Photo of 1974 GTO from

Friday, April 24, 2009

Amaretti Cookies

Elan suggested this recipe, from The Smitten Kitchen. Sandwiching suggestions are from the original recipe. Let me know how these turn out -- we've got Toll House Cookies on the agenda this weekend.

1 (7-ounce) tube pure almond paste (not marzipan; 3/4 cup)
1 cup sugar
Pinch of Kosher salt
2 large egg whites at room temperature for at least 30 minutes

Preheat oven to 300°F and place racks in the upper and lower thirds of your oven. Line two large sheet pans with parchment paper.

Pulse almond paste, sugar and salt in a food processor until broken up, then add egg whites and puree until smooth. Transfer batter to pastry bag fitted with a 3/8-inch tip and pipe 3/4-inch rounds (1/3 inch high) about 1-inch apart in pans. Dip a fingertip in water and gently tamp down any peaks.

Bake, rotating and switching position of pans halfway through, until golden and puffed, 15 to 18 minutes.

[When you rotate the pan midway through baking, you'll wonder why you left so much space between the cookies. Suddenly, at 15 minutes they'll puff up and you'll be happy you left that space!]

Let cookies cool almost completely in their pans. Once cool, they’re much easier to cleanly remove from the parchment. You can make them into sandwich cookies but spreading some jam (I used raspberry) between them or ganache (3 ounces of semi-sweet chips melted with 1 to 2 tablespoons of cream, then left to thicken a bit would be enough to sandwich the whole batch).

Cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for a day or two or frozen up to one month.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day

You are a part of the Earth.
Honor the Earth.
Honor your Self.

Photo of Meryt Bast by Wayne Swilley

Friday, April 17, 2009

Rice Pudding

Comforting, wholesome, and delicious. We have a winner!

Rice Pudding

2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup long or short grain white rice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
whipped cream

In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan combine the milk, rice, and salt. Place saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium to medium-low and simmer until the rice is tender (about 25 minutes). Stir the milk mixture frequently using a heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spoon to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
When the rice is tender, remove from heat and add the sugar, vanilla extract, and cinnamon.
Return to heat and cook until the rice pudding thickens, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add the raisins (if desired).
Serve warm, or refrigerate until cold.

I'll be using basmati rice in mine and substituting sliced almonds for the raisins. And topping my bowl up with plenty of unwhipped cream. And eating it for dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow. I hope you like it, too.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Growing Pains

My mother says, "If you're not going forward, then you're going backwards." It's true. Still, growth can be painful. Mine is. I'm considering making my next mascara selection a waterproof formula so I don't involuntarily turn into Alice Cooper in the middle of the day. So many tears.

This is the hardest work I've ever done. I'm about three weeks in, and I want to stop, but I don't really want to stop. I know that I can't. Rather, I can't stop and be healthy. As healthy as I am now, I know that this wound will periodically fester and hurt me and, by extension, those around me.

My dreams are vivid and many and richly symbolic. My joints ache and so does my head. I bounce from hilarity to despairing tears. I don't eat very much or very often. I wish I didn't have to do this, but I think it will end. The way out is through. I keep walking and digging and swimming in the boundless unconscious: here be monsters.

All this is to say, that I don't have much to say these days, besides SGED Fridays. We'll have something yummy tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Susan Boyle

It seems like everyone is talking about this sweet-faced lady from Scotland. Grab a hanky and click the link to watch her dream of singing for a large audience come true.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Natural Beauty

Last week, I posted my recipe for flaxseed hair gel. It occurred to me that not everyone is into making their own cosmetics (weirdos, huh?), so here are some links to handmade and/or natural cosmetics and styling products.

Botticelli Botanicals
Minnesota-based Botticelli Botanicals invites you to select from a list of natural ingredients to create your perfect styling product. Check out the huge list of available scents. More products are coming soon.

Chagrin Valley Soap and Craft Company
Widely loved for their shampoo bars, Chagrin Valley has balms, butters, and lotion bars with which to pamper your skin and hair. They've even got all-natural soap for dogs!

Founded by Jessica McGuinty and well known to regulars at, Jessicurl products are pure, natural, and gentle. The website includes styling videos and hair accessories like the Hot Sock diffuser and microfiber towels.
This is where I bought the first henna I ever used on my skin (back in 1994, it was called Tapdancing Lizard and was a much smaller site) and where anyone can learn pretty much everything there is to know about henna. I cannot overstate the amount of information on this site. Every time I visit the site, it seems the product selection has grown: natural soaps, perfumes (including attar of henna blossoms!), balms, Indian herbs, lipsticks, and top-quality henna are just some of the wonderful things you'll find here.

Thistle Farms
A small selection of natural body care products made by the women of Magdalene, a two-year residential program in Nashville, Tennessee, for women healing from lives of prostitution and addiction. Healing women making healing products to help heal other women -- what could be more wonder-full? All profits go to support Magdalene.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Very Berry Pie

This recipe comes from Sunny. When I asked her if she had a favorite dessert recipe, her reply was, "! Very Berry Pie! It's almost homemade!" She also said, "You can substitute any berries you like. I like blackberries and raspberries. It's not really mine, since I got it from someone else, but I love there!" It looks like a fast, yummy recipe -- good for when you feel like pie but don't feel like firing up the oven. Plus, it's fruity-fresh for spring.

1-3/4 cups whipped topping, divided
1 graham cracker crust (store-bought or homemade)
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup cold milk
1 package instant white chocolate pudding mix (I'd try it with vanilla - MB)

Spread 1/4 cup whipped topping into the crust.
Combine berries and sugar; spoon 1 cup over topping.
In a bowl, whisk the milk and pudding mix for 2 minutes; let stand for 2 minutes or until soft-set. Spoon over berries.
Spread with remaining whipped topping.
Top with remaining berries.
Refrigerate for 45 minutes or until set.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Project Updates and Miscellany

Over the weekend, I finished crocheting a dress (mine's dark green) and put a lining in a skirt I crocheted last year. My next project will be finishing a sleeve apiece on the Baby Doll Dress and the Baroque cardigan. Then, I hope to start on the Cecilia chemise and some baby clothes for my youngest sister's due-in-June daughter.

Last week, I cooked up some flaxseed hair gel in my kitchen. It's based on several herbal hair treatment recipes I've found over the years. I have attempted to make flax gel a few times before, but was never happy with the results. Basing the recipe on a good-for-hair herbal infusion seems to have done the trick. It seems to help encourage my hair's curl, which I love; I like my hair long, but the weight of it usually pulls the curl out and makes it wavy, with curls at the ends (still nice, in my opinion). It's a pretty liquid-y gel, so apply a lot of small amounts to keep it from pouring out of your hands. There's nothing in it that will build up on your hair, so don't be afraid of applying too much. If it dries crunchy, scrunch your hair gently with your hands until the crunch is gone. Here's the recipe.

Herbal Flaxseed Gel

5 cups distilled water
2 tbsp each of the following dried herbs:
cherry bark
burdock root
chamomile flowers
lavender flowers
1/2 cup (rounded) raw flax seeds
1/4 cup pure aloe vera gel (a health-food brand like Lily of the Desert, not the green sunburn-treatment kind)
smidge honey (1/4 tsp or less)
smidge jojoba oil (or other natural vegetable oil - 1/4 tsp or less)
10 drops lavender essential oil (or your favorite scent)

Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan (glass or stainless steel). Add the herbs and reduce heat. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take off heat and cover. Let steep until cool.

Strain the liquid into a glass bowl, squeezing as much liquid as possible out of the herbs. Wash out the pan and pour the infusion back into it. Reheat to boiling and stir in the flax seeds. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally (the longer you cook it, the thicker the gel will be). Strain into a bowl. Whisk in aloe vera gel, honey, and oil. Let cool to lukewarm. Add essential oil. Pour into a clean bottle and store in the refrigerator.

Vary the recipe to suit your hair type. Some people say Epsom salts encourage curliness; I've tried adding some and it makes my hair stiff and tangle-prone, but your hair might like it fine. I've also poured some of this into a spray bottle, diluted it with more aloe vera and distilled water, and used it to refresh my curls in the morning. It works!

Looking out the window, I see it's snowing again. Everyone seems crabby about it except me.

Best wishes and good luck to Kristina, who's traveling to China today (and tomorrow, too, probably!). See you in three weeks!

Friday, April 3, 2009


Saturday night, my husband and I dined for the first time at a restaurant that specializes in central and eastern European cuisine. The place is charming, all tin ceiling, antique fixtures, and framed sheet music. On Saturday evenings, the restaurant features a pianist, so we were treated to Beethoven sonatas galore as we dined. At the end of our meal, I ordered a slice of Sachertorte, a recipe I have often read but never sampled. Here is a version of the famous dessert. I can't claim authenticity (the original recipe, from the Hotel Sacher in Vienna, is a closely-guarded secret); this is just one of many variations you'll find out and about in search of chocolate bliss.

From The Joy of Cooking, including the charming legend of Frau Sacher (I can't claim authenticity for the story, either).


Makes one 9-inch cake

Frau Sacher, one of the great personalities of Vienna, fed the impoverished Austrian nobility in her famous restaurant long after they had ceased to pay. Today she is remembered throughout the world for her chocolate torte, for which endless recipes, all claiming authenticity, abound. We make no claims but think the following delicious. The extra egg white makes a lighter cake.

Have all ingredients at room temperature, about 70°F. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan or line with wax or parchment paper.


6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate

Beat in a large bowl at medium-high speed until light and creamy about 3 minutes:

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

Beat in one at a time:

6 large egg yolks

Add the grated chocolate and:

3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely ground blanched almonds
1/4 teaspoons salt

Using clean beaters, beat in a large bowl at medium-high speed until stiff but not dry:

6 or 7 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Fold one-quarter of the whites into the batter, then fold in the remaining whites. Scrape the batter into the pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Let the cake cool completely in the pan on a rack. Remove the sides of the pan and slice the torte horizontally into 2 layers. Should the top be mounded, reverse the layers so the finished cake has a flat top. Spread between the layers:

1 cup apricot jam or preserves

Cover the cake with:

Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze, below

which should retain its glossy sheen. For a really Viennese effect, garnish each slice with a great gob of Schlag, or whipped cream.

Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze or Frosting

About 1 cup

A very sophisticated glaze or frosting to use on rich chocolate or nut tortes. For an even more bittersweet effect, substitute 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate for 1 ounce of the bittersweet or semisweet chocolate.

Heat in the top of a double boiler or in a microwave on medium, stirring often, just until the chocolate is melted and smooth:

6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/ 3 cup water, coffee, or milk
pinch of salt

Remove from the heat. With a rubber spatula, stir in 2 or 3 pieces at a time:

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Continue to stir -- do not beat -- until perfectly smooth.

Optional: Stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons liqueur

For a pourable glaze, let stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until the mixture cools to 90°F. For frosting, let stand until spreadable. If the frosting becomes too stiff, set the pan in a larger pan of hot water and stir gently with a rubber spatula; or remelt and then cool to 90°F for use as a glaze. This keeps for up to 3 days at room temperature or up to 3 weeks refrigerated.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Finished: Lacy Sleeveless Top

From a pattern by Valerie Kurita, published in the first crochet magazine I ever bought (back in 2006), I have made this pretty white top.

I used some shaping techniques learned from articles and books by the marvelous Doris Chan, and it fits really well. It will have to wait for warmer weather to be worn, but I can wait.

I have still to finish (again) the baby-doll dress designed by Amy O'Neill Houck; I am reworking the sleeves to be shorter and puffier. I really love the dress and am eager to finish it so I can wear it again.

This month, I had an unusual amount of bills to pay, with more expenses to come in the next couple of weeks, so buying the beautiful yarn I intend to use for Jennifer Hansen's Cecilia chemise (both lengths!) will have to wait a while. Right now, my money needs to go towards caring for myself; buying pretty yarn is a great way to do that, but the care I need right now is of the inner sort. I am not afraid of heavy emotional and psychological work, but I am afraid to pry this particular monster out into the light where I can work on befriending it. Or slaying it. I'm not sure which it will be.

In the meantime, I will continue to live my happy life...there is so very much to love and to savor.

template by - header image (c)