Sunday, May 31, 2009

Scenes from Sunday

"God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble."
Psalm 46:1

Friday, May 29, 2009

Firemen, Dragons and Gargoyles, Oh My!

The morning Violinist and I were to leave Ottawa, Ontario - Canada's capital - we walked down to the Byward Market for breakfast. The rain began to pick up, so we started to run, dashing in and out of doorways, when... Violinist shouted, "Look! A dragon has escaped from the Castle!"
"Hmmm. Left my glasses - o my - a dragon."
Any boys dream, except we'd already been undone by the gargoyles of Parliament Hill the day before.
So we ran behind some flowers thinking the dragon wouldn't notice us. "I don't believe this, Violinist, - goth, knights, fair maid, castle, moat and now a dragon!"Oh. I guess he's on his way to breakfast too. Silly dragon.
The dragon may have missed us but this didn't.
I don't know what they were celebrating. But it was fun despite the rain and gave us something to giggle over at breakfast. We did not eat where the dragon did. We sat alongside herbs and pansies eating freshly prepared crepes and shared a mango smoothie. And then to cap it off, we found a bookstore - Canada's largest used bookstore. "Do you think it really is Canada's largest used bookstore?" asked Violinist. "Do you think anyone will take their time to dispute it?" I replied. But I haven't a photo for you to decide, as by this time we were standing out of the pouring rain in the doorway of the Swedish Consulate waiting for a taxi to take us away from this fairy tale.
The End.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Daily Decadent Cheesecake

A long time ago, GG and I came across a Jarvis Street eatery in Toronto, The Groaning Board. They served cheesecake to die for and all the four hour drive home, that cheesecake was all GG could talk about. It was topped with preserves, fresh fruit, and plain yogurt. Previous to that, I thought cheesecake meant overly sweet, gluppy stuff, with a ubiquitous crown of commercial canned cherry pie filling swimming on it's head. My mother never made cheesecake. No wonder.

Saucey Chef was living and cooking in Toronto and she went to The Groaning Board and did her saucey best to get the recipe from the staff, each time coming away empty handed. She kept going back ordering the cheesecake and each time "oohed" and "ahhed" and then asked ever so politely for the recipe only to be repeatedly denied because this was apparently a huge secret until - finally - it was revealed - an Italian lady made it in her home and brought it into the restaurant.Encouraged by this, Saucey continued her little visits until - finally - this happened - a torn piece of paper thrust into her hand with these instructions: "3 litres ricotta and cream cheese, 2 dozen eggs, 2 - 3 cups sugar, lots vanilla/lemon extract." Now to Saucey that was gold. To me? What was I supposed to do with that? Well, you can see above what sleep deprivation does as I erroneously equated volume with mass when copying the instructions onto one of my recipe cards. I compared the "instructions" with other cheesecake recipes, brushed aside all which seemed gluppy and this is what I eventually came up with. It's a solid cheesecake not gluppy, not overly sweet. It slices, remains firm and is creamy. After some reading I've learned that the Jewish tradition is to use cream cheese whereas the Italian tradition is to use ricotta. The Italian lady baking for the Groaning Board apparently combined both. I use only cream cheese and only Philadelphia brand.You can actually taste the cheese and the lemon and the fresh fruit and the delightful preserves and slight contrasting tang of yogurt, if you choose to add a dollop, or the incredible calm compliment of white chocolate icing if you ice it. My cheesecake is not perfect here, it got a bit browned and cracked on top, problems which can be eliminated by not overbeating, using a bain-marie. I know this but sometimes still skip steps and well, you know how it is. Nevertheless, it still was creamy, tasted fine and the wolves howled for more.I always leave off a baked on crust too. No. No soggy crust here. I pat on some crushed gingersnaps or crushed chocolate cookies after the cake is baked and cooled and ready to serve. If I'm icing, I pat the crumbs only onto the bottom. Also, remember to beat the sugar into the cheese first. DO NOT add the eggs until that sugar is beat in there first. Otherwise the texture will be grainy and that is as verboten as gluppy in cheesecake.Daily Decadent Cheesecake
  • 4 pkgs. - 8 oz. cream cheese, use the best
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 tsps. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsps. lemon extract
  • finely grated rind of half a lemon
  • strained juice of half a lemon
  • freshly grated nutmeg, optional
Toppings
1. Preserves of your choice, pushed through a strainer - enough to cover the top of the cake.
2. Fresh fruit of your choice to match your preserves
3. Plain yogurt to spoon onto each serving

White Chocolate Icing - I'll post this recipe separately, but I only use it for special occasions.

Bring the eggs to room temperature by putting them into a bowl, cover with very warm water and set aside.
Unwrap the cheese and pop it into the mixer bowl and let it stand until room temperature. Peel the lemon being careful to leave behind the bitter white part. Finely mince the peel. If you have a proper zester, use that - I don't - one more gadget running around in the drawers.
Squeeze the peeled lemon and pour the juice through a coffee filter set into a bowl. Carefully lift the filter gathering up the top together and strain the juice out through the bottom. It will take a little bit of forcing, as coffee filters are more dense than cheesecloth. I didn't have any cheesecloth.
Add the lemon and vanilla flavourings to the strained fresh lemon juice. Add the minced peel and set aside. When the cheese is room temperature beat until creamed.
Add sugar and beat until creamed.
Scrape down the bowl and beaters as necessary. Use your fingers to scrape down the wires of the beater.
Break eggs into a separate bowl and beat them until just well mixed. Don't overbeat the eggs. This is not a flour cake where eggs are an integral part of the cake rising. I've found it better to use a hand held mixer with a rotating cutting blade doing the mixing, not classic beaters which will incorporate air.
Add the flavourings to the cheese and mix in. Mix the eggs into the cheese and sugar mixture until thoroughly mixed being careful to not overbeat.
Pour the mix directly into buttered paper lined pan which I talked about here. Use an 8 or 9 or 10 inch springform pan for this recipe. The bake time is the same. Just the height of the cakes will differ. I happened to double this and am making two cakes here of different sizes. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Fill a shallow roaster pan with an inch of hot water, place the cake into it and then put that in the oven. I can't show you this as I actually gave my pan away to One Old Man. He needed it for a duck or something. Bake for 50 minutes, turn the oven off and keep the cake in the oven for another hour leaving the door shut. Take it out and let it cool at room temperature. Cover and put in the fridge overnight.
If you have wolves you may have to leave a love note and food elsewhere. Peel off the paper, pat on crushed cookie crumbs and serve as directed above.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

More Fun

This is how not to be nice to your mother.
Work eighteen hour days.
Leave these photos on her camera of a car looking a whole lot like yours.
Say nothing and go to bed. (Photos by Fun)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Leaves of Three, Poison and Me

Poison Ivy. Shiny. Pretty. The smooth black grey vines are interrupted by "knuckles" and a change of direction by the vine. The photo below shows a knuckle on the lower right. My first encounter with this lovely was as an eight-year old camping in Point Pelee National Park, Ontario, Canada. Camp Henry. Every evening the head camp counselor made rounds with a little hand operated pump filled with DDT. While we were out at the bathrooms in our jammies brushing our teeth, he would be misting our cabins with clouds of DDT so we wouldn't be bothered by anything nasty or harmful like clouds of mosquitoes. Psscht. Psscht. Psscht. I thought I could actually taste it when we got back to the cabins. But I didn't really mind the smell.
In the early years my mother made a point of packing us kids and our supper and driving to the point - Point Pelee, to escape the farm when Dad was spraying in the evening. After he sprayed poison he would come into the house, sit at the kitchen table and drink about a quart of milk. It was suppose to counteract any harmful effect of the poison. Decades later you could still smell DDT in the rubber hoses used to deliver it onto the fields. Back at camp, every morning after devotions we were marched down to the west beach for a swim. I hated it. I did not like large bodies of cold deep water. Lake Erie is a large body of deep water and it is cold at ten o`clock in the morning and we would for some odd reason have to bob out to a sandbar and then bob back. Anyway, I must have brushed against some Poison Ivy on one of these morning excursions because after a day or two of being in camp, my right ankle developed some weeping little spots all in a running row as if a leaf tip had traced across. Itch and itch and itch.
I put up with it and the DDT until when I finally got home at the end of the week and plastered Calamine lotion onto it which dried the stuff right up. Calamine today is thin and watery and I'm afraid to say, not as effective as the thick goopey Calamine of old. DDT has long been banned. And we were not given milk to counteract it's effects at Camp Henry. I often wondered as I nursed my babies. DDT and milk and poison ivy. In my mind it's all connected.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Scenes From Sunday

The morning was coolish dampened by an overnight rain. By noon the air was softly warm and typical with humidity - not much but it is starting. The boys were canoeing in the pond while I walked through the bush.The canopy has filled in but still the bush was warmish and the mosquitoes are out now too. The Trilliums are gone for another year. I saw a few Jack-in-the-Pulpits, the Mayapples are blooming - a single creamy white blossom - beneath each plant. The flowers shown here are Cranesbill or Wild Geranium.
Afterward puttering about in the kitchen I made two pies - we wanted Rhubarb Custard Pie but will do that later in the week. GG made Raisin Chocolate Chip Cookies. I am thankful for Sundays. A day to relax, to listen, to enjoy those little things that would be work any other day of the week. Church in the morning, an easy dinner, a ramble through the bush and home again to a makeshift supper. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name. 1Chronicles 29:13

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sew Sorry

Over the course of several decades of sewing - okay, I'll admit it - forty years and counting - the occasional sewing boo boo happens. Don't believe anyone who says or pretends otherwise. I once watched Julia Child fire a chicken across her kitchen in despair over something gone wrong. I sympathized with her. I have had more go wrong in the kitchen than in sewing, despite the amount of time I spend in there. Decadent Housewife controlled herself better than that though. When I saw what I'd done this time, I merely banged my head against the table - cried - apologized. I then poured some tea, sat down and said, "Well...I guess it's time to start Roll Kuchen's wedding veil."So. We have this mess above in View Two, the result of one, too hot of an iron pressing through the right front lapel of a man's unfinished waistcoat now taking up space and time and thinking in how to salvage it - this fine specimen of Indian sari fabric from which I decided to make Buff a tailored vest, to match the gown of his date, for the prom - the one he went to last week. Violinist, present when the awful thing occurred, tried his best to help, "Don't worry Mom, it's so dark in there, nobody can see anything anyway. Those kids will think it's supposed to be that way even if they do see it." Observing the lapel more closely, he then said, "Have you started Roll Kuchen's veil yet?"
I figured I could get it done in a week. It's not like I have babies to tend to anymore. Things began to go wrong with the pattern itself. The front interfacing was not designed wide enough and the instructions show a completely different pattern piece. I discovered this at one o'clock in the morning after cutting and tailor tacking, but thankfully was able to scarf more fabric from Fun's stash to fix it. I contacted the company to let them know of the design fault but have not heard back. I will not say what company it is, however, you can see the pattern above in View One. Their patterns usually run small, they have a lot of top name designers and they are notoriously spare and often oddball in their instructions. And then, distracted by an equally distracted and hopefully temporarily laid-off GG - "Am I bothering you right now?" - I accidentally cut the wrong pattern size in a crucial area - that same lapel which I later fried. So, in fact, I banged my head on the table twice.
"Mom, have you made a vest before?" asked Buff.
"Of course I have - just never put an iron through the chest and been out of extra material, or had a defective pattern or had your unemployed father underfoot distracting me all at the same time. Ever."
"Maybe I can wear it to Violinist's wedding."
"They are wearing red not blue.
"Maybe I can wear it again - to another prom."
"You told me this last prom was going to be your last prom, remember? You used the word, "Brutal."
"I was talking about the tuxedo rental."
Being this is fabric meant for a sari, there is a wonderful pattern flowing down each selvedge which I originally tried to incorporate into the vest design and was sorry that I could not. Playing around with all the little scraps, I laid the selvedge design by the boo boo and Fun, who has been working around the clock and is completely out of the loop, saw it and said, "Cool! What's this for?" Only Fun would think something with rips and burns looks good. I am tempted to pass it off to him to reconstruct, given I've already done the deconstruct. I have other pressing matters - a bridal veil for Roll Kuchen - a Mother of the Groom dress pour moi - and Speedy wants a training vest. What's that you ask? I did too. Nevermind, we'll talk about it later. Speedy, slightly less out of the loop, sped in the other night, looked at the vest pieces laying about the table and said, "Cool! You used the pattern I bought! Does Buff like the fabric we got him? When's the prom?"
"Two days ago."

(Observant readers will note that Decadent has not posted any recipes of late. Anyone who sews can attest to the fact that it is either sew or eat.)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lilac Memories

Yesterday morning, the wind was strong from the southwest across the field and through the lilacs. I flung open the windows letting it all blow in. The fragrance was intoxicating. I thought of Edna Mary, a Victorian great-auntie on my father's side. She maintained a classic Edwardian 'S' curve even beneath her usual carefree '40's, floral dresses and white butchers apron. I never saw her without thick medium taupe support stockings and black oxfords. She baked date pie that would put you into a coma, kept little blue lovebirds in a tall white wire bird cage atop a marble pastry table at the backdoor of her white kitchen. And there was a crocheted doll with picture hat - turquoise - hiding the TP in the white tiled bathroom upstairs. Lilacs. The house always smelled of lilacs. It was my great-uncle's funeral luncheon - must have been - the house was alive with people I'd heard about and seen in pictures. Old mens' voices drifted up from the parlour - tinkling silver and china from the kitchen. Buxom Auntie stood at the top stair carefully wiping her eyes. She was a sheath of tiny black pleats, high neck with a single gold bar pin clasped at her throat and flowing down her entire length, a row of tiny black buttons. She smiled at me and patted my head. Her teeth were brown from tea and the dates, too, I think. I liked her. She tucked a white linen handkerchief beneath her left cuff. "Come with me," she said, "Fanny brought sugar cookies." She smelled of lilacs.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Warm the Eggs!

Before starting a recipe get the eggs out of the fridge and set them into a bowl of warm water. Let them warm for about half an hour while you assemble and begin the rest of the recipe. The eggs will mix easier for doing this.