Write something! said my previous post. So I did…

So I was assembling photos of my dogs…

The images seemed to ‘speak to me’. And I found myself smiling every time I worked on the project. So, I figured, why not take the extra step and make it a New York Times best seller?

Getting these 39 pages into Kindle format is a complete headache, so for the time being, the $2 masterpiece is being sold here.

Here are two sample pages…


I should be writing.. Instead, apple crisp…and apple cake.

This off-kilter shot is all about featuring our beloved former dog Bear’s watchful eye.

I really had no choice.

It’s officially apple season and the golden delicious tree is burgeoning.

So, last Sunday I slapped together an apple crisp sans recipe, though my trusty assistant in culinary crimes–my wife and herder of Buddy the Rescue Dog–pulled up an Epicurious recipe for a crust topping as a guide. For the filling, I just knew what ingredients I wanted and went from there.

Result: a caramelly ooze —gee, go figure, when the cook indiscriminately tosses in plenty of brown sugar and enough flour…well, there were the sweet cherries and their juice, and the chunks of golden delicioius–well, you get the picture… and the crust was as good as the apple-goo. 

Autumn…I love you.**

***

A few days later, within hours of finishing the crisp, and with plenty of Act of Kindness Writing chores I could/should be dealing with, it was time for an apple cake…or, as the recipe calls it, a ‘moist’ apple cake.

On its own, this is a ‘will bake again’ item. As always, though, I did stray ‘just a bit’…

  • I added allspice to both the apple mixture and the flour mixture.
  • When it comes to cinnamon, I just don’t get the low doses in most recipes. Can’t remember the last time I actually measured cinnamon.
  • I added rehydrated Craisins.
  • I made my own ‘apple sauce’. I just mashed away at, and then seasoned, chunks of golden delicious with the pastry cutter. And mashed away some more.
  • Figuring on a more moist result, I used a loaf pan instead of a 9” x 13” pan.
  • Fearing there might be spillover, I scooped out about a cup of the mixture and slathered that into a greased pie pan. Gotta say, when revisiting this recipe, I’ll be tempted to go exclusively with pie pans. It’s a quicker bake and four smaller cakes open the door to more experimentation, say a little creme de cassis reduction for one of them…and Ree Drummond’s Easy Caramel Sauce for another. Come to think of it…I guess it wouldn’t hurt to have those on hand for slices of this current version…

The problem with a spillover cake is its insistence on immediate measures for quality control.
Buddy anxiously awaiting ‘his’ afternoon coffee time.
He fully approves of fall flavors.

**“No, deeeear! I don’t know anyone named Autumn!”

I should be writing. Instead, drifting…toward chocolate cake.

  1. Raise your hand if:
  • you’ve ever left a measuring cup in the bag of flour or sugar.
  • you’ve intentionally left a measuring cup in the bag of flour or sugar for the next baking venture.
  • you skipped the ‘firmly pack the brown sugar’ step and instead just poured in an extra tablespoon or two of the stuff.
  • you would consider breaking off a hunk of this cake rather than resorting to a [pinkies up!] utensil. Recipe below…Note: Feel free to overdo both the chocolate chips and the cocoa.

2. Best way to get rid of the redolent odor of wildfire smoke in your kitchen? Four batches of roasted tomatoes, with generous supplies of garlic chunks, rosemary sprigs, etc. [It ain’t pretty here in Oregon right now…]

3. And then there’s this: Do you think dogs lying peacefully on the floor know the difference between our giving them half our attention [one hand scratching their chin and one hand clicking links or entering a passcode] vs. our full attention? Do we send out a ‘semi-distracted’ vibe when we are, in fact, semi-distracted?

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

**

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

**

  • 2 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 4 TBLSP cocoa

**

  • 3 six-inch long zucchini
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Cream first four ingredients together in large bowl.
  2. Add next three ingredients and stir well to mix.
  3. Measure next six ingredients into sifter; then sift into bowl of other ingredients.
  4. Finely grate zucchini into bowl; stir until blended. 
  5. Fold in half of the chocolate chips to mixture.
  6. Pour into greased 9″ x 13″ pan –or- two 9″ cake pans.
  7. Sprinkle rest of chocolate chips on top of batter.
  8. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. [Check it about the 37-minute mark. Hey, different ovens, right?]

*Cutting the oil in half barely changes the final result.

I should have been writing. Instead, a kitchen marathon

This is me…except he is smiling, has tons more hair, and his kitchen is clean. [Oh, yeah, I don’t wear that dorky hat. It would fall into the Instant Pot anyway.]

So, back to procrasticooking... Result: 35 new recipes in 30 days. Note: A few sites were repeated. Hard not to fall back on epicurious.com.

Discoveries:

1. I’m not sure I followed any of the recipes to their exact specifications. More and more, I’ve been treating recipes as general guidelines rather than strict instructions.

2. I ‘created’ a few of my own — simple ones where I combined new ingredients/seasonings. Example: Avocado oil-roasted potatoes with a favorite Moroccan spice mix, ras-el-hanout.

3. New cooking questions arose in that vast abyss otherwise labeled ‘my brain’, like…if I oil the veggies before seasoning them for roasting, will the oil serve as a barrier to absorption and reduce the flavors? And no, I stillhaven’t looked it up. Sometimes, you just want a mystery to linger.

4. Oh, lord, some of those recipe sites take *forever* to load up all the ads and videos. I know these folks want to make a little money, but I had no problem just closing them up and looking for faster-loading alternatives.

5. Despite the physical separation from my writing tools and settings, I did get some good prewriting and first draft material churning as I cleaned up afterwards.

6. Speaking of clean-up, yep, even with my wife doing her part, dishes and counter mess were the bane of my existence. I even took a couple of days off in mid-challenge just to dodge the scrub-and-soak-rinse-and-repeat detail. Plus, the horrors of dishwater hands…

7. Some utensils, pots, and dishes never really made it back to the cupboards. They were used, washed, air-dried or towel-dried, and put back to work.

8. Based on my ratings below…well, I’m easy to cook for.

9. Even after the challenge, I can’t seem to stop cooking new stuff. Just yesterday, on a whim, I baked a mango pound cake from Pati Jinich and made my version of Mexican street corn grits . Someone! Please stop the madness.

10. There was an added challenge this year…My gastronomically-devoted ‘shoo! chef’, Buddy.

black dog looking up at the counter

Passing through the work area, my wife would step around our furry child and mutter, “not quite a certified kitchen, I see.”


Here are my first five recipes with a few added comments, a letter grade, and a ‘Yes’ [would repeat this recipe] or ‘No’. Note: The letter grade is just as much a comment on how well I delivered as a cook as it is on whether I liked the recipe itself.

  • Bear Batter Bread by way of New Tastes from Texas by Stephan Pyles. B+ — Yes.
  • Slow-Cooked Garlicky Greens by way of Bon Appetit. A — -Yes.
  • Three Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies
  • Added dried cranberries and some almond flour to give them a little structure. In four of them, I added generous dabs of cold-hardened chocolate sauce. Result: Downright ugly, but cooked just right and resembling florentines. A- — Yes.
  • Savory cheese pancakes with half almond flour and half all purpose flour and the rest of the traditional pancake ingredients. I liked the nuttiness of the batter and the Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute. B+ — Yes.
  • Southern Fried Cabbage B+ — Yes

Links to procrasticooking:

https://www.instagram.com/procrasticooking/?hl=en

https://procrasticooking.wordpress.com

http://www.bakingequalslove.com/2014/10/procrasticooking-grilled-paneer.html

I should be writing. Instead…mini-pies.

dog looking up at counter with pies
Other than the restricted access, we think Buddy approves.

Yep, not getting out much over the last week, so…

Substituted one cup of almond flour. [2:1 ratio–all-purpose:almond.] It added a nice [no surprise] nuttiness and richness to the crust. I’d do it again.

Filling: caramel-dried cranberry-pecan-apple.

Topping: a basic streusel I threw together [flour, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon]

Caramel: I think I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s actually what Ree Drummond calls her ‘brown sugar sauce.’

Why mini-pies?

  • Lots of different flavors.

  • ‘Fails’ aren’t as drastic. Therefore, it encourages experimentation.

  • Practice with different fluting techniques [though–as the photo shows–the almond flour gives the crust more of a ‘mind of its own’ once in the oven.]

  • Built-in ‘portion control’.

I do like the America’s Test Kitchen approach of high heat on a pre-heated cookie sheet for the first ten minutes. I go with 450º, then drop to 375º.

When was it done? We just waited for the inevitable ooze from the middle.

Need a justification for stress-induced baking? I’ve got it covered.

Stay safe, you all.

Rants and Riffs Installment #17: Face-touching outlawed and other Gordian knots

 

1. Yep, I’m all for health and safety precautions in these Covid-19 times, but a news article reminded readers of the health risks of face-fondling and offered some solutions.

Another solution…masks. And really, wouldn’t it make life more interesting?

2. As for the article itself, nowadays, it’s not all that easy to find a straightforward objective just the facts, ma’am’ article. Everything has morphed into ‘commentary’, ‘analysis’, or ‘opinion’. Gggaaaaaahhhhh! Just give us information! [and without the ‘Breaking news!’ notices…]

3. Please don’t make me compare ‘apples’ to ‘oranges’. It’s just not fair to either one.

4. Used car prices…insane.
wrecked carYou expect me to match your price for that unsafe-at-any-speed death trap with mushy brakes and a not-as–serpentine-as-it-should-be belt? I’ll show you*…right this minute I can saunter into a showroom and pick up a new model, complete with the dozen soon-to-be-released-at-inconvenient-intervals recall notices.

5. We can put a man on the moon, but most veterinarians still prescribe those insane, post-surgery e-collars. The poor dog is probably groggy and waaay unsettled and the technician snaps that opaque inverted dome around the patient’s head. Yep, real vet training would include putting students inside one of those for a day and expect them to follow through on daily tasks–yes, all daily tasks–and then sleep through the night.

Queen Elizabeth I
This is a start. I wouldn’t even expect vets to wear the jewelry or puffy shirt. I’m not a complete Philistine.

6. And those dumb hypersensitive Chromebook/laptop track pads? One brush of my lithe and slender pinky knuckle and, unbeknownst** to me, the cursor wanders off to some obscure location in my latest masterpiece. At least with handwritten work, there is no roving cursor to track down. And if there is, well, I have bigger problems.


* Who is ‘you’, anyways?

** Hey, when I use the word ‘unbeknownst’, you know I’m fired up!

The struggle to create continues…

Some ‘colleagues’ just don’t appreciate the need for consistent effort.

Interesting related item: How to Write Like a Dog

My research also led to https://www.doesthedogdie.com/ . It’s all about spoilers and avoiding distasteful [subjective term, of course] events in entertainment media. Honest, I turn to the last page of a book about dogs. If it’s not still alive, I’m outta there.