Friday, October 29, 2010

Campfire Orange Cakes

This post is a tad belated, as this little culinary adventure was developed at our camp earlier this fall, but I was sans camera both times we made it and it's just not the kind of thing you can write about without a photo. Many thanks to M&K for supplying this particular fire, photo and a great evening of conversation. Thanks to mother nature for the setting.

I'm taking credit for this, even though it is entirely based on a childhood memory of Western One's. He vaguely remembered making oranges filled with cake over a campfire as a kid back in the dark ages. But he was a kid and he didn't actually do it then, nor did he implement this time. I'll warn you now, this is a bit labor intensive, but if you do it right, you get some nice, fresh-squeezed oj out of the deal too. (which Western One used to make a fantastic fizzy orange tequila drink - will TOTALLY give him credit for that).

Basically, here's what you do: Halve oranges and dig out the orange. Ideally I suppose it would help to keep specific halves together, but I neither had the space nor patience for that at camp. You'll need to run a knife between the flesh and the skin, so don't drink too much before this step. Fill one half of an orange with cake mix prepared according to the instructions. We used white the first time, this picture is of our chocolate attempt, which was awesome. The batter can heap a little bit over the top, but not much. Place the second half of emptied orange on top and wrap tightly with foil. It helps to have an extra set of hands for all this. Ahem.

Stick the foil-wrapped oranges in hot coals/around the edge of the fire. Take care to keep them right-side up (as in, batter-filled half on the bottom) Crack a beer. Move the oranges around a little bit every now and then to cook evenly. Have more beer. After 30 min or so, they should be good to go. I'd say this is more art than science, so check a test orange. The cake will be moist and flavored with just enough orange essence. (which is why the chocolate was awesome). Is it the best cake you'll ever have? No, but it's certainly a fun campfire trick!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

'Til next year, dear farm.

Tonight was our last CSA delivery of the season. Western One made a fantastic tarragon potato soup, of which I did not take a picture (sorry). But trust me, it was something to behold. It's important that I acknowledge the awesomeness of this soup to set things right with the world. I was leaving my workout a little after 8 tonight, famished and exhausted, and some of my fellow torture victims and I were discussing dinner. I said "I really hope dinner is done when i get home, I'm dying. But with my luck he will have prepared soup. He seems to have a knack for making soup when I could just about eat my right arm." Not that Western One doesn't make a fantastic soup, because he does. But you know what I mean. I instantly felt guilty because I'm super lucky to have someone at home cooking dinner for me in the first place, but my growling stomach did give me a little punch when I walked in the door and saw soup was on. But this was a nice, hearty soup that really worked as a meal. Especially when coupled with half a brick of pepper jack inhaled while it was cooking.

So this final delivery (and some vicious insomnia) has caused me to reflect on the growing season. I feel like we were even worse about utilizing our share than we were last year. I could be wrong, but it feels that way. I didn't get much done in terms of preservation - I have a few jars of pickles, some frozen sauce and maybe a baggie of frozen green beans.

Still, I don't regret participating in the CSA and I will certainly do it again next year. I have a slight urge to espouse all sorts of resolutions about being better next year, learning to can, cooking every night, etc etc etc., but it's 3am and I don't really have the energy for bullshit at the moment. Even considering the fact that we are not able to consume or preserve all that we get from our share, I find the whole experience worth it. We've had some fantastic meals, many of which were the direct result of needing to come up with something to use CSA bounty. There were at least a few nights we stayed in to use share veggies instead of eating out or ordering takeout. And, of course, it feels good to support a local farm.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Turkey Time

I learned today that my family will not be holding big Thanksgiving festivities. I tried to contain my squeal of joy as my mother mentioned that 3 of 4 of the folks still living at home will be working, and that it's just not in the cards. Don't judge - let me explain.

My family is, well, like most I assume. Trying. I feel safe saying this here because I do not believe anyone from my immediate family reads this blog. If I am wrong, I will pay. There is always drama, there is always noise and Western One and I are not the type of people that thrive on that. So after a recent family wedding which was full of drama, noise and discussion about Thanksgiving, I couldn't shake the thought of a holiday in my own control. I am an adult, in a committed relationship complete with house and dog. I work hard, I'm tired and I'm entitled to a holiday on my own terms every now and again, right? Does this desire make me a bad person?

I'm also Irish and loaded with genetic guilt. So while I'd been fantasizing about my very own holiday, in my own home, without anyone to answer to, I knew I would never have the guts to say "Yeah, I'm not coming home. No, we don't have other plans, I'm just not coming home." It's tough when one family is close and the other is too far away to garner equal holiday time. Then, today, while driving beautiful Rte 7 between Manchester and Bennington, VT (complete with a 6-pointer AND a flock of turkeys hanging by the side of the road) I get the news that indeed I am in control of my own holiday. I feel a little bad for saying this, but, yay! We may cook and have people over, we may go out, we may drink beer, eat pizza and watch football. I have no idea. But for the first time, I get to decide.

Fungi part duex

This picture isn't the best. It was taken surreptitiously on my phone in the middle of a restaurant. (Western One gets embarrassed when I photograph my food in public) But it's important nonetheless because it captures two very special moments. This is a photo of the remains of a gnocchi dish at The Gingerman. I love gnocchi. I love the Gingerman. I love this gnocchi. It made my week. It was light, flavorful and autumnal. That in and of itself is wonderful.

But see all that junk left on the plate? Um, yeah, those would be mushrooms. Well, there's some pancetta in there too, but still, mushrooms. Most of you know how I feel about mushrooms. But I was a big girl and a gave one (an oyster) a try like an adult. I did not squeal or gag at the table. I chewed, swallowed and was done with it. Baby steps.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A little Friday inspiration

Speaking of sticking with something, even when it's a struggle ... (and who doesn't love a sweet dad story!??)

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Last night was so frustrating. I got home late - tired, hungry and grumpy so I succumbed to Western One's suggestion we go out to eat. I could hear the angel and devil on each shoulder:

A: "There is plenty of food in the house, you can come up with something quick. You should cook that burger."
D: "No cooking, no dishes, no problem..."
A: "Seriously, it's cold. Who the heck wants to go back outside?"
D: "Cold? As in beer? There's no beer in the house...."

And out it was.

I got over my guilt fairly quickly and we had a lovely meal at one of our favorite places. But then, this morning on the way to work, I realized we both totally forgot the farmshare. So not only did we spend money, waste the meat I should have cooked (because I also didn't make it tonight and now I have it in my head it's been thawed too long....), but we left veggies out in the cold. Not my most efficient evening. But the frosty pint of Brooklyn was great.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ok, so I shared my sweet cooking from the weekend already, but that just barely scratches the surface of my kitchen toils on Sunday. I was happy though that my coworkers enjoyed the tray of crisp I brought in. It's hard to go wrong with a boatload of butter, sugar and spices.

A few weeks ago, Western One and I realized how insanely off-track we'd gotten with eating at home. Out had become the standard, hence the dearth of blog posts about balancing work with cooking at home. Anyway, we made a deal that we were only allowed to eat out once a week for the month of October. I realize this is an obnoxious deal and that we're crazy lucky to be able to eat out once a week, but it's our deal nonetheless. While we've been fairly good (I think we've stuck to it, although that's not a huge accomplishment as we're not even on week 3) I realize I've been really bad about lunches at work as well.

So during my massive shopping/cooking adventure yesterday, I resolved to make and package up some lunch foods. First on the list - a big ole pot of chili. I make pretty basic chili - ground meat of choice, tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic, a healthy dose of chili powder and red pepper flakes along with a few choice secret ingredients. A good, hearty dish. I am super excited though because my mom booked a cooking class for me as a birthday gift. I will be celebrating the first anniversary of my 30th birthday learning to make chili. My technique, like most of my cooking, is entirely self-taught, so I can't wait to learn what I've been doing wrong.

But this batch came out pretty good, and made for a nice, packed up and ready to go lunch today, Western One had some for dinner tonight and gave it a 7 out of 10. From Mr. Southwestern food snob, I will take it as a compliment.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


My house has smelled awesome all day, if I do say so myself. Apparently I'm back to cooking with a vengeance. I whipped up a batch of chili for lunches this week and roasted a chicken for Sunday dinner. But the best part of marathon day in the kitchen is the apples! It was such a beautiful fall day that I just had to go to the orchard and came home loaded down with a bushel of apples, cider and doughnuts (of course).

I'm not much of a baker because I am not good at following recipes. I get too distracted, or bored. But crisps are something I can make without (usually) ruining or rushing. I can experiment and try different things that I'm not usually comfortable with in other types of baking. Although I toyed with throwing some blueberries into my crisp, I decided to stick with straight apple. Thanks to Penzey's, my apples were well spice. I tried a new crisp topping - oat based with chopped toasted hazelnuts. It came out good, and my only regret is I forgot to have Western One pick up vanilla ice cream when he was at the store.

Between two trays of crisp and a big ole' pot of sauce, I think I'm done with peeling apples for a while!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What's wrong with this picture?

Let me count the ways I find this disturbing...

1. A dear family member thought it was appropriate to send me this picture before 9am. (I get the whole clam/tomato juice bloody mary connection, but still ... I think this explains many of my problems).

2. It contains "Natural flavor and certified color". What is God's name is certified color?

3. It's BUDWEISER AND CLAM JUICE. Not vodka. Budweiser.

I'm not one to begrudge anyone a cultural speciality (yes, I'm making some assumptions here based on the packaging). I mean, I'm Scottish and eat haggis, I don't get to judge. But, it's BUDWEISER AND CLAM JUICE. Wow.
Anyone out there wanna set me straight on this? Am I missing the only tolerable way to consume bud?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Oh my gosh, has it really been two weeks since I last wrote? I wish I could blame the hiatus on wild and exotic adventures that took me far away from internet access. Alas, no such luck. It's partially work's fault but mostly I have COMPLETELY fallen off the "good food prepared by my own hand" wagon and I've been too embarrassed to admit it. You folks don't want to read about the fact that I had mozzarella sticks and beer for dinner on Friday. I can't tell you the last time I set foot in a grocery store, although it couldn't have been that long ago because my milk hasn't gone bad yet. Yikes. For all my musing about fall meals, I have yet to prepare any.

I suppose this is proof that I'm human. Making an effort to eat well and maintain some sanity in life wouldn't be a narrative if it were easy, right? I do have to say that although I did eat out tonight, I shared a beer and a good meal with two of my oldest friends. Friends that I have let languish on the "I need to call her" list way way way too long. You know good friends when, despite a too-long absence, it's like a week went by. That was absolutely worth skipping a home-cooked meal for!