Monthly Archives: November 2012

500 Very Important Words

Applying to college has changed completely since I was in high school. The internet has opened up a whole new world to students, and the “Common Application” website makes applying to college a lot easier for many. Not all colleges and universities use the common application, and I’m pretty sure state schools do not. Applying to member liberal arts college or private universities is a lot easier. Students are applying to far more colleges than ever because the “Common App” has made it so easy, and yet students can only pick one in the end. It’s causing some backlogs in the system, and we were counseled to just apply to six or nine schools, not twenty.

Twenty? I applied to three. I’m trying to remember my application process, but my memory is pretty dang hazy on the whole thing. I wanted to go to Barnard in New York, but this was in the 80’s. Remember what New York City was like in the 80’s? My parents flat out refused to let me apply. Since I was going to college on their dime, I stuck to West Coast options. I remember having just one interview and was accepted at the three schools I applied, but I honestly can not remember anything about an essay let alone the topic. I probably had to write one, but it’s…gone…just *pooft*. A couple of decades can wipe away a lot of details.

The whole process is living large in our household right now. Some of the college applications are due on Saturday. There is no denying the fact that there is a lot of pressure on writing a really good essay. In a sea of numbers, the essay is the one truly unique factor in the application. I cut off part of the instructions on my little picture above, but it tells applicants to write 250-500 words on the question of their choice from the list below. It’s an exercise in wordsmithing that I would find tricky. ONLY 250-500 words? I spent four years in college learning how to write pithy seven word advertising slogans. I tend toward a lack of words in my writing. Am dinged constantly for not saying enough. And, all I can think when I look at that is, “wow…ONLY 500 words? Really?”

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Thanksgiving Leftovers and Guest Blogging at FCF

A few people I’ve chatted with in the last couple of weeks know I was invited to be a guest blogger at Full Circle Farms this weekend. They know this because I have been talking about leftovers and making leftovers before Thanksgiving to prep for the blog. Even if I had recipes I had made before that I knew would work (like Turkey Corn Soup) I didn’t have any pictures, so I spent the week before cooking turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing to see what I could come up with.

The link above takes you to Full Circle Farm’s blog, and the recipes will be put up over the next couple of days. You might note that the FCF blog doesn’t have any recipes that included mashed potatoes. I chose the five that I did because they weren’t particularly involved recipes. Who wants to spend two hours or more to make a leftover dish? Well…I do, but this one seemed a bit much in some ways. If, however, you are looking for a way to have that last cup or so of mashed potato on a cool weekend morning, go ahead and give these a try.

Grandma Herbert’s Potato Donuts
My grandma ran the little café in Roberts, Montana for years. We used to visit during summer vacation, and she always had some donuts in the case. Of course, this was the 70’s and she also had a deep fryer. Today’s kitchen doesn’t usually deal with a lot of hot fat, but we’ve learned that using a wok makes for a decent alternative. Paying attention to the temperature isn’t as hard as it seems. (Plus it gives my husband the perfect excuse for pulling out his point and shoot thermometer.) My grandma’s original recipe was pretty vague, so I’ve taken her notes and played with it a little bit. It’s kind of funny to take a cup of leftovers and spend an hour (or more) on them, but it’s also pretty dang tasty. Healthy? Okay, so maybe it’s not the most health conscious menu item, but it sure is delicious. (You might skip this recipe if you are one of those non-traditional turkey day cooks who adds things like garlic or truffle oil to your mash.)

Potato Donuts
1 cup left over mashed potatoes
¼ cup butter, melted and mixed into potatoes
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
5 tsp. baking powder
Enough flour to make firm enough to roll out
½ to 1 tsp. nutmeg
salt
3 cups oil for frying (Canola or other lightly flavored oil)

Mix the ingredients together and add flour until it is firm enough to withstand rolling. The smaller the amount of flour, the lighter the donuts will be. (I left the amount of nutmeg up to you. Some people like it better than others, so if you love nutmeg use the full tsp or more.)

Heat the oil in a wok to 375 ° F. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can tell the oil is hot enough when a bit of dough dropped into it drops toward the bottom but immediately zooms back up to the top.

While the oil heats, roll out the dough and cut into shapes using a donut cutter or a large glass and a small biscuit cutter. Gathering the leftovers of each rolling and re-rolling and cutting until you have used up the dough.

Cook two-three donuts and a time, depending on the size of your wok or fryer. You want each piece to have some room around them. Let each side cook until golden brown, flipping as needed. I put my fried foods on a metal cooling rack over paper towels, rather than directly on paper towels so they don’t sit in cooling oil. Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkle with powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, or leave plain and eat with jelly or jam.

(For an apple cider version of the above, take two cups grated apple and sauté with a tbsp butter and a Tbsp Calvados until the apple is soft but not mushy. Let cool. Make the above recipe using apple cider instead of milk, add 2 Tbsp. Calvados and add 1/2 tsp. baking soda and 1 tsp. cinnamon to the mix. Stir the cooled apple into wet ingredients, add the dry and proceed to cut and fry. Then devour.)

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My Mom’s Super Yummy Stuffing

Thanksgiving is just over a week away, and people are gathering their recipes and consulting with their guests about pies. Okay, maybe that’s just me, but knowing the pie menu is the most important aspect to the meal for this family. I’ve gone on about pies many times in this blog, so today I am going to put out my mom’s recipe for stuffing. She called it that, so I will just keep the name, though I use it as dressing not a stuffing. She used to stuff the turkey back in “the olden days”–what my kids call the time before their births. I don’t do that as my turkey cooking technique requires an empty bird.

What you need:
One large loaf plain white bread. (I use a country-style loaf.)
one half cup butter (I use buttery sticks, but my mom used cow butter)
two large onions
one large head celery
two cans sliced water chestnuts
1 cup slivered almonds
1-2 cups broth (Turkey homemade, or canned chicken)
poultry seasoning
Salt
Pepper

The method is simple, melt the butter, add celery and onions and cook until very soft. 15-20 minutes. (Use your largest pan for this.) Add in the almonds and water chestnuts. Stir until coated. Sprinkle with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Be generous here…it should smell very fragrant at this point. Stir in the toasted bread until coated in the base mixture–continue to stir and cook for a few minutes. Begin to add broth 1/2 a cup at a time until the stuffing is as moist as you like. Put in greased casserole and cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350®F for an hour. Check after half an hour to see if the top is drying out. If you like a crust, just leave it. If you like things to be moist, stir it up and add extra broth.

(If your largest fry pan isn’t big enough to hold all the ingredients, it’s okay to pour the bread into a large bowl, dump the hot ingredients on top and mix in the bowl. It’s better if you CAN fry the bread with the rest, but it’s a big mess if you don’t have a big pan.)

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Bring out your dead!

Plague Doctor

Because, this kind of doctor isn’t likely to help a whole heck of a lot. It turns out a lot of my blog posts are more like a journal for me. I like to blog about things I’ve done so I can go back and replicate a process or remember how I did something. If I were to simply write them down on paper, it’s very likely I would just forget where I put the paper. This year, my son asked to be a “Plague Doctor” for Halloween. I am always up to the challenge of sewing or creating costumes for my kids, but haven’t the last couple of years for him. I’ve made some pretty fun costumes for my daughter–little bat with wings, a scary clown, a cute gray cat, medieval dresses, fairy wings and skirts, wigs out of rubber snakes for a modern-day Medusa etc….) over the years and end up enjoying it each time. Sure, I might curse a bit while fiddling around a broken needle or not having things go exactly as planned, but there is something about creating things that excites me.

I looked up some images of the medieval plague doctor and found that there are a huge number of variations on the costume. Since many of them are full facial masks, I opted to make my own because I didn’t really think that was such a great idea for a ten-year old. Half a mask would do. I wanted him to be able to breathe while out trick-or-treating. The plague doctor mask came from the notion that the disease was carried by birds, and by wearing the mask, the doctor would somehow fool birds into thinking they didn’t need to bother with him. Or, something along those lines. The fact is, it’s sortta creepy, and dang it…I had a ton of fun making it.

First off…leather. LEATHER!!! I love working with it. I wasn’t sure if I would like it, but a quick tutorial on youtube gave me some basic ideas of what I wanted to do. I hit Tandy leather over in Shoreline. The guy there was very helpful, and I could have spent hours in the store pouring over the varieties of leather and finishes. Like I need another hobby. I ended up buying a piece that would do for the mask plus probably three or four more of similar sizes.

I started with some goggles and paper to form a basic pattern around my son’s head.

After getting the paper pattern close, I cut the pattern out of leather and got the leather all wet so I could start molding it into shape.

Got the initial head shape done and let the leather dry until hard before proceeding.

I kept wetting and molding and letting the leather harden in place. The image here shows the fourth or fifth bit of molding. I had to get creative about how to hold the mask in the shape I wanted since I didn’t really want to sit with the wet leather for hours at a time. Turns out the kitchen has a huge range of shaping possibilities.

The padding is made out of four layers of cotton patting wrapped in lightweight white silk.


Here, I’ve painted the mask with some brown and black paint to give it a used look. I cut some red plastic to put in the eyes–the original masks had lenses colored red, but I don’t know exactly why. The little wand in the foreground was my addition to my daughter’s Bellatrix costume. She wanted a wand, so I just played with some scraps of leather until they were in the right shape and painted them.

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