While Visions of Sugar Plums Danced. . .

While Visions of Sugar Plums Danced. . .

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Day of the Dead White Russian Cupcakes with Chocolate Kahlua Frosting

El Día de los Muertos

El Día de los Muertos, originally uploaded by Celeste M.

The photographer tells us:

"Walking with my camera today in East Village Arts District, I came upon a special three-day installation showing a typical altar that might be seen in a Mexican home for the Day of the Dead.

I met the artist, Ivan Deavy, who kindly explained some of the customs observed during a time believed to allow spirits of the dead to enter the living world temporarily. Petals are scattered on the floor to give the spirits a path to follow. Photos allow the spirits to know they are thought of, and favorite food and drink are also signs of welcome. More about Day of the Dead at Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_of_the_Dead"

Un Mar de Calaveritas

Un Mar de Calaveritas, originally uploaded by John 3000.

Photo note:

"A sea of tiny sugar skulls for sale at Oakland's 2008 Día de los Muertos Festival. A traditional part of any Day of the Dead display, some of these calaveritas de azúcar have a foil strip on top--just waiting to be inscribed with the name of a favorite departed soul."

A long short course in Día de los Muertos

pumpkin pie cupcake

Interesting twist, and a great two-for-one!

Photo note:

"pumpkin spice cupcake with cinnamon cream cheese icing. fondant pumpkin pie slice. explored 11/10/08!"

Pumpkin cream spaghetti

Pumpkin cream spaghetti, originally uploaded by bananagranola.

bananagranola says:

"pumpkin, onion, bouillon cube, fresh cream (soy), salt, black pepper, olive oil, bacon, haricot beans, shimeji mushrooms, parsley"

This looks great!

Welcome Great Pumpkin

Welcome Great Pumpkin, originally uploaded by anadelmann.

It's pumpkin day!

Photo note:

"There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin."
(Linus in the Peanuts’ “It’s the great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”)

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dinner Guest: Me, a poem by Langston Hughes

Okay, while this in no way reflects our wonderful evening last night, it *is* a poem about being a dinner guest. . .

Dinner Guest: Me by Langston Hughes

Dinner Guest: Me

I know I am
The Negro Problem
Being wined and dined,
Answering the usual questions
That come to white mind
Which seeks demurely
To Probe in polite way
The why and wherewithal
Of darkness U.S.A.--
Wondering how things got this way
In current democratic night,
Murmuring gently
Over fraises du bois,
"I'm so ashamed of being white."

The lobster is delicious,
The wine divine,
And center of attention
At the damask table, mine.
To be a Problem on
Park Avenue at eight
Is not so bad.
Solutions to the Problem,
Of course, wait.

Langston Hughes


Inviting a Friend to Dinner

(After Ben Johnson)

When you are next in town, I would be honored, sir,
if you would dine with me. I have a small place,
a little shabby perhaps, but cosy. The lamps
glow soft and warm, and with the curtains drawn,
you’d think you were in some New York or Paris bistro.

I would serve you something humble first,
home-made hummus, say, with warmed bread,
salad from the local farmer’s market, tasty
green beans, roast chicken, with peach
and honey sauce, rice—and wine, of course.

For dessert, I would offer my apple pie with cream.
And I would have Schubert playing, something quiet and sweet,
with a touch of sadness, to remind us of all life’s delicacies.
And I could read to you, or sing, or we could both sing,
or you could recite poems over cognac or coffee or tea.

And we could talk, of extraordinary or ordinary things.
For there is something to be said for the quiet, daily ritual
of breaking bread, for the discussion a meal engenders—
nothing fancy, neither food nor talk, just the old
stories, the old good-natured teasing between friends.

I don’t think Horace or Homer and his Odysseus
would disagree that at such moments people
are at their best, that spirited conversation over lunch,
or dinner or tea, or even breakfast, may be the essence
of humanity. Sir, let’s put this theory to the test.

--Charlotte Innes

That Evening at Dinner by David Ferry

Another "dinner" poem, and a different experience:

That Evening at Dinner by David Ferry : The Poetry Foundation [poem] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.

That Evening at Dinner

by David Ferry

By the last few times we saw her it was clear
That things were different. When you tried to help her
Get out of the car or get from the car to the door
Or across the apartment house hall to the elevator
There was a new sense of heaviness
Or of inertia in the body. It wasn’t
That she was less willing to be helped to walk
But that the walking itself had become less willing.
Maybe the stupid demogorgon blind
Recalcitrance of body, resentful of the laws
Of mind and spirit, was getting its own back now,
Or maybe a new and subtle, alien,
Intelligence of body was obedient now
To other laws: “Weight is the measure of
The force with which a body is drawn downward
To the center of the earth”; “Inertia is
The tendency of a body to resist
Proceeding to its fate in any way
Other than that determined for itself.”

That evening, at the Bromells’ apartment, after
She had been carried up through the rational structure
By articulate stages, floor after flashing floor,
And after we helped her get across the hall,
And get across the room to a chair, somehow
We got her seated in a chair that was placed
A little too far away from the nearest table,
At the edge of the abyss, and there she sat,
Exposed, her body the object of our attention—
The heaviness of it, the helpless graceless leg,
The thick stocking, the leg brace, the medical shoe.

At work between herself and us there was
A new principle of social awkwardness
And skillfulness required of each of us.
Our tones of voice in this easy conversation
Were instruments of marvelous finesse,
Measuring and maintaining with exactitude
“The fact or condition of the difference
There was between us, both in space and time.”

Her smiling made her look as if she had
Just then tasted something delicious, the charm
Her courtesy attributed to her friends.

This decent elegant fellow human being
Was seated in virtue, character, disability,
Behind her the order of the ranged bookshelves,
The windows monitored by Venetian blinds—
“These can be raised or lowered; numerous slats,
Horizontally arranged, and parallel,
Which can be tilted so as to admit
Precisely the desired light or air.”

We were all her friends, Maggie, and Bill, and Anne,
And I, and the nice Boston Brahmin elderly man
Named Duncan, utterly friendly and benign.
And of course it wasn’t whether or not the world
Was benign but whether it looked at her too much.
She wasn’t “painfully shy” but just the same
I wouldn’t be surprised if there had been
Painfulness in her shyness earlier on,
Say at dancing school. Like others, though, she had
Survived her childhood somehow. Nor do I mean
She was unhappy. Maybe more or less so
Before her marriage. One had the sense of trips
Arranged, committees, concerts, baffled courage
Living it through, giving it order and style.
And one had the sense of the late marriage as of
Two bafflements inventing the sense they made
Together. The marriage seemed, to the outside world,
And probably was, radiant and triumphant,
And I think that one could almost certainly say
That during the last, heroic, phase of things,
After his death, and after the stroke, she had
By force of character and careful management,
Maintained a certain degree of happiness.

The books there on the bookshelves told their stories,
Line after line, all of them evenly spaced,
And spaces between the words. You could fall through the spaces.
In one of the books Dr. Johnson told the story:
“In the scale of being, wherever it begins,
Or ends, there are chasms infinitely deep;
Infinite vacuities ... For surely,
Nothing can so disturb the passions, or
Perplex the intellects of man so much,
As the disruption of this union with
Visible nature, separation from all
That has delighted or engaged him, a change
Not only of the place but of the manner
Of his being, an entrance into a state
Not simply which he knows not, but perhaps
A state he has not faculties to know.”

The dinner was delicious, fresh greens, and reds,
And yellows, produce of the season due,
And fish from the nearby sea; and there were also
Ashes to be eaten, and dirt to drink.

It must be Wednesday. . .

And it was. Now it's Thursday. It seems the post I never made made its way into publication. And for that, I apologize.

Yesterday was a full day, with a friend from two states away coming to visit. We sat by the woodstove and talked and caught up as best as three can, and I broke away into the kitchen, only feet away, to make dinner: roast beef pan-browned with onion and peppercorns, then oven-baked in chicken broth. Very simple. I would however, have added a bay leaf to the pot, and some cloves of garlic, but I was out of garlic (a crime, I know), and didn't want to disturb the conversation by going outside to pick the bay leaf. It was still pretty tasty, in all its simple-ness.

To go with, we had mashed potatoes and oven-baked acorn squash, with a pat of butter added half way through, and a touch of brown sugar on each half, near the end of the baking. And while I created a gravy from the juice of the roast, the asparagus steamed.

> My method for making gravy: Mix melted butter and flour in a measuring cup until well blended. Since I had no fat drippings in the roast pan (having cooked it in chicken broth): Add little by little some of the juice from the roast pot, then pour into a warm skillet. I sometimes pour this roux-of-sorts through a strainer in case there are still some solids, and this for me prevents lumps in the gravy. Finish in the pan as normal.

* * *

So while this was going on, the fire was heating the house, it began to rain, and the pumpkin breads cooled on the counter. And a sure-fire method for not-worrying about the doneness of the roast? Sit down to a slide show of a recent Alaska trip/cruise. By then end of that, the asparagus can steam while the potatoes are mashed and the gravy made. The roast was done. We sat down to eat, and the evening was good.

* * *

I said on Facebook yesterday that I need more time. I am becoming antsy about writing more, and am thankful that this year's Poem-A-Day challenge is nearing. The month of November one writes a poem a day - or - by the last day of November, one has a poem for every day of the month. Loosely translated: one might not actually write a poem every day, but one makes up for it on other days. Like Lent, this is incentive to write daily. (I have used Lent as a time to take on daily writing if I haven't been good about it, and the work often draws from what's going on during that time, especially as we head into Holy Week.)

* * *

I didn't post my Wednesday poem, so I'll go looking for one, and it'll show up soon enough. Think of it as a bonus for today, a way to lengthen the love. In my family birthdays are celebrated on the day, but the bigger celebrations were held on Sundays, and sometimes a party on Saturday as well. I think Birthday Week is a better way to handle the situation, making sure you include everyone.

It's fall today, with rain and wind and leaves leaving trees. It's Thursday, and I'm off now to find a poem.

Note: this post is doing double duty, appearing also on After Artist's Way - Portrait of a Sometimes Poet.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sushi Cake II

Sushi Cake II, originally uploaded by Whipped Bakeshop.


Photo note:

"Sushi cake 2.0. Spiced carrot ginger cake with cream cheese icing. Covered with fondant and details made of sugar paste (chopsticks, soy sauce bowl, prawn, tamago (egg), flowers) and fondant (nori, bamboo edging, wasabi, pickled ginger rose). Coconut "rice."

Too pretty to eat? NO WAY!

30th Birthday Cake

30th Birthday Cake, originally uploaded by neviepiecakes.

Wow. . . so when I turn 50, I could go for a cake like this!

Here is the photographer's note:

"This was a three tiered cake. The bottom layer was lemon, the middle was vanilla with strawberry jam and the top was chocolate mud with ganache. The cookie on top was vanilla. I hand painted the roses and details. This was my first painted cake and I'm really pleased with how it came out. It was for my husbands step-sister as our birthday present to her. She was really pleased with it and didn't want to cut it, so went home from her party with roughly 70 portions of cake!"

Pumpkin Pecan Muffins - from Cookus Interruptus

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Too Much Information/Too Many Ingredients or, Of Viruses and Apple Chutney or, I'm Baaack in the Kitchen Agaaain

(This post also appears on After Artist's Way - Portrait of a Sometimes Poet, another blog of mine.)

* * * * *

That's how I'm feeling today.


Mostly because of all of this business surrounding the swine flu, or H1N1, as we are calling it in effort at political correctness. My son has diabetes, and I have asthma, so neither of us can be vaccinated until the shots become available. Reason: the flu mist contains live virus, and the shot form, the killed virus. What with all of the news and hubbub these days, I think we probably all know that.

So, the two of us elected to miss a Halloween dress-up/local band party last night. I don't know who was the more disappointed, but after DH pointed out that 90 % of people showing up in local clinics of late are there because of this virus. And I concluded that if anything were to happen to DS, I'd never forgive myself. We stayed home - DS, to watch the newly released dvd of Transformers, and me, to can chutney with a friend.

So, this canning thing. It started out as an innocent endeavor, somewhere around 1:30 or 2 in the afternoon. I'd made some Indian Apple Chutney two weekends before, and all went quite well. DF and I tried a new recipe yesterday - this one with tomato paste in it. While I sliced cucumbers to make a quite batch of dill pickles, DF prepared the ingredients for the chutney.

The pickling went very well, except for the fact that I needed to make a touch more syrup to complete a 6th jar, but no matter. They look great, with one grape leaf at the bottom, one clove of garlic and teaspoon of dill seeds (I'd forgotten the dill heads and the Missouri Health Extensions said this was a doable substitute: 3 tsp. dill seeds to 3 heads of fresh dill).

Once I was in the canning stages, DF headed home briefly to let the dogs run. When she came back, I'd dumped the cut and chopped ingredients into the pot and was moving on to adding the liquids.

I love looking at the mixture of apples, garlic, onions, raisins and spices in the pot before it cooks. Fresh and vibrant. Then the softening phase, where the liquids begin to be absorbed, the apples release their juices, the raisins plump. There is nothing like the pungent scent of chutney in progress, vinegar, tomato paste, sugar and spices filling the kitchen, the living room, the upstairs hallway. Even our bedroom.

The chutney continued to cook, but lo and behold, it was too watery. It didn't seem to be thickening the way a good chutney should. So, we let it simmer while we cooked chicken curry (which we sat down to eat with spaghetti squash and cucumber salad). And when we were done, the dishes still on the table, we checked the chutney pot to find it still not thickened, the fruit softening beyond the the chunky stage. In an effort to coax it into shape, we busily chopped more apples, added more onions and raisins. DF needed to return home to care for her dogs, and I said not to worry - I was sure the chutney was just about ready to can.

After she left, I added more apples from my crisper (where we store the Liberties from our tree). Now the mix of apples was more diverse - two or three kinds from her trees, and these Liberties from ours. There was a half onion left, so I added that, and the rest of the tomato paste. Already the (now sauce) was beginning to thicken. I tested for flavor, added more cumin, cayenne, ginger, and another half cup of sugar. At around 9 pm, I pronounced it ready to can.

At 10:17, three batches later, no lids un-sealed, I went to bed. On the counter: 25 containers of chutney: about 32 cups worth.

* * * * *

Really, I *did* have the little jar of applesauce I'd been saving for the vicar on the table. Trouble is, it's still there. Next Sunday! All Saints Day - the day I also need to remember to bring photos of my grandparents to add to the table of those whom it is important never to forget.

* * * * *

This morning at church, I learned that even the regular flu shots are hard to come by. I've had both DD and DS vaccinated, just not myself and DH. And as I type, my skin is prickling, DS is very tired (with a high glucose reading), and DD is wiped out and feeling crummy, too. DH appears to be fine, knock on wood.

This morning at church, I also had some of the best brownies I've had in a long time. At coffee hour, I made it my mission to track down the baker and interrogate her until I wrested the recipe from her. It was actually a lot easier than all that. I found her in the kitchen, the empty (and quite large) platter awaiting washing. She confessed she used a Ghirardelli brownie *mix* and topped them with a simple butter and cocoa icing (homemade). We agreed that when using good chocolate, you can't go too wrong, and these are very very heavenly. Oh, and I should mention that this dear baker added a little bit of cinnamon to her icing, which made them all the more special.

* * * * *

I swore today was going to be a writing day. A reading day. But it has been more of a trouble-shooting day. A day to listen, a day to figure out why, after downloading and installing both Photoshop CS3 and CS4 neither of them want to cooperate. Is it a Snow Leopard thing? First, CS3 refused to open, and then, when we tried installing the trial version of CS4, it didn't like the photos we tried dropping into it. To make a long and boring story short, I'm waiting for an answer from the folks I *bought* CS3 from, and DS finally did get something usable from CS4.

Tomorrow, after work, I am determined to do a little writing/revising. Maybe something about chutney, about pickles brining in dill and grape leaves. Nothing whatsoever about Photoshop woes, and definitely not a word about H1N1.

I'll let you know how that goes.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Pizza Night

It's interesting what you can make with what's on hand. I didn't feel like venturing out to the store today, so just opened the fridge to see what might work. I found fresh mozzarella that need using up, some Red Hook sausage, a half can of olives, sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil. In a basket, one large white onion.

Here are the results:

For this one, I added sun-dried tomatoes soaked in olive oil, two minutes before pulling out of the oven.

Pizza with Red Hook sausage. This has a great flavor - first pan-fried, then sliced for the pizza. Add lightly sauteed onions, broken olives, oregano on a thin bed of organic pizza sauce. The crust? Home-made, of course.

This one has pine nuts, sauteed onions, slivers of lightly sauteed garlic, broken olives, oregano, feta cheese.

Red Hook pizza, detail:

Carbs: about 25-20 per 1/8 pizza. This is a good thing for those in our household with Type 1 diabetes. One could even split one dough three ways, and strive for an even thinner crust by rolling out with a pin.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Halloween sugar cookies

Halloween sugar cookies, originally uploaded by rsvpscakes.

Photo note:

"Halloween theme sugar cookies, lemon flavored cookie and icing. cream cheese rolled sugar frosting embossed with edge of cookie cutter to make lines."

Veggies and Dip, Halloween Style

party 7 web, originally uploaded by Tammy Mitchell.

Pirate Party Table Decor

old pirate, originally uploaded by artzy38.

Photographer's note:

"found this old pirate in a basket...hahaha"

Halloween Party Candy

party 27 web, originally uploaded by Tammy Mitchell.


party idea

party idea, originally uploaded by swelldesigner.

This is another wonderfully creative idea - a whole new way of looking at veggies and dip!

Photographer's note:

"This is a pretty easy idea that gets lots of kudos. Basically you cut up all your veggies (you don't have to cut up carrots, just use the baby ones) and then insert them into your styrofoam head. I got mine at the Halloween superstore. I did cute out a hole in the top for the dip to rest in. It was super easy to do.

I'm pretty sure I found this online somewhere, but I'm not sure where. I think it's a super swell idea!!!"

Me, too.

Rest in Peas

Rest in Peas, originally uploaded by ginparis2002.

Very creative, and a great way to eat your peas.

Photo note:

"um, Peace. Halloween party food."

No bones about it! Halloween cookies

Great Halloween party ideas!

Photo note:

"We had a prehistoric Halloween party! Rollable cream cheese frosting over sugar cookies."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Making the Yoghurt

Yesterday I made yoghurt. It's really not a difficult process, and takes about 30 minutes or so to prepare.

What you need for a 2 quart batch of yoghurt, (my Yogourmet makes up to 2 quarts at a time) :

7 Cups 1 or 2% milk
1 Cup non-fat milk powder
1 pkg gelatin (optional)
1 Cup plain yoghurt of choice (I use Nancy's or Greek God's non-fat)

Hardware needed:

  • A pot or double boiler large enough to hold 2 qts. of milk
  • If you don't have a double boiler, you will need another pot slightly larger than the first one, with water in the bottom.
  • Long wooden spoon
  • Cup measure
  • Thermometer that goes at least to 190 degrees
  • Good whisk or egg beater
  • A fine mesh sieve
  • And, in this case, one 2 qt. capacity Yogourmet bowl and incubator
Here's my process:

Measure and pour milk into pot or double boiler. Burner set on high, heat to between 180 - 190 degrees. Stir regularly. It is important that you use (or create) a double boiler to prevent scorching:

When temperature is reached, remove from heat and let cool to around 108 - 112. To expedite cooling, place pot in cold water until desired temp. is reached.

Now mix in the powdered milk and, if you choose, the packet of gelatin. Mix very well, either using a whisk and some high arm power, or a good egg beater. I use the egg beater and mix to a froth.

Add the cup of plain yoghurt,

and beat again until smooth and frothy.

This step is very important to ensure a smooth, non-lumpy yoghurt! You will need to pour the warm mixture through a sieve once or twice to remove any clumps of powdered milk and/or gelatin:

Pour into the 2 qt. yoghurt bowl, and cap tightly.

Now, pour a little room-temperature water (for a 2 qt. batch fill to top vertical line) into the incubator:

Place capped bowl into the incubator:

Plug it in and let sit until firm and tasty. I usually start my yogurt in the morning and let incubate 12 hours, or start it before bed, and put in the fridge in the morning (12 hours).

Refrigerate for at least 5 hours, until chilled, and enjoy with your favorite fruit, honey or granola.

Crazy Hair Woman Resurfaces After Too Much Time in the Kitchen

Red Maple and Stone Wall, originally uploaded by Gary Tompkins.

"Red Maple and Stone Wall - Acer Rubrum"

* * *

This morning, at 6:50 am, I turned off the alarm. My good intentions of getting to bed early so as to wake up fresh aren't working. Something (PBS's Latin Music USA, a sink full of dirty dishes, a good book of poetry) always seems to lure me into the depths of the eleven-o'clock hour, and the next thing I know, it's morning.

A rainy morning, not too dark, and still full of color. I know the winds are coming and the trees won't be able to hold on to their true colors for very much longer.

Which is probably a good thing.

It seems that now it's all I can do to stay on the road properly when I'm driving. Savage Plants, a nursery near our home, has the most amazing row of trees that glow crimson in any weather, and I'm not altogether sure why more accidents don't occur on our road this time of year. The reader board for Savage reads : "Fairview Flame, and Yes, we have them." Or something like that. I tell you, a row of these will knock your socks off.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Boy and Egg - a poem

Boy and Egg

Every few minutes, he wants
to march the trail of flattened rye grass
back to the house of muttering
hens. He too could make
a bed in hay. Yesterday the egg so fresh
it felt hot in his hand and he pressed it
to his ear while the other children
laughed and ran with a ball, leaving him,
so little yet, too forgetful in games,
ready to cry if the ball brushed him,
riveted to the secret of birds
caught up inside his fist,
not ready to give it over
to the refrigerator
or the rest of the day.

--Naomi Shihab Nye

Halloween Salad Servers

P9142692, originally uploaded by blackthorne56.

These are great! Nice photo, too. This photographer says"

"OK! So the hands aren't vintage, or even more than a day old from the store. They are from Target and are in the Halloween section, but they are food grade cast metal serving utensils, like salad servers and the like, and only $9.99. I had to buy them."

Halloween Relish Tray

Halloween Relish Tray , originally uploaded by methodini.

This is a great idea -

"A view of my Day of the Dead relish tray featuring jack o'lantern peppers. Taken Nov. 2008."

Halloween Peppers Closeup

Halloween Peppers Closeup, originally uploaded by methodini.

This photographer says:

"I hollowed out some sweet peppers and carved them into jack o'lanterns and then filled them with olives, pickled green beans, and pickled carrots among other things. Very easy and it came out looking good. Taken Nov. 2008."

Party decorations and food

Worth the work! This will make a great party setting.

Photo note:

"We spent all day Thursday decorating! I spent all day Friday before the party cooking!"

Halloween cupcakes at Union Square Whole Foods

Photo note:

"See Cupcakes Take the Cake for more cupcake photos, news, and information."

Halloween Muffin Tin Dinner

Halloween Muffin Tin Dinner, originally uploaded by jojoebi.

Oh my! These are effective!

Photographer's note:

"severed fingers

make 3 slices in the mini sausages then boil until cooked. remove the top of the finger, stick the nail in (yellow pepper) using a dab of ketchup and place in some ketchup for display"


eggs 1, originally uploaded by Le Silly.

Photo note:

"For our Halloween party I made Chinese Teas eggs. We called them "Rotten Eggs" to be more fitting with the spooky, gross sort of Halloween atmosphere. I forgot to photograph the other foods i made, but i also made "edible dirt" (crushed oreos layered with chocolate pudding in a flowerpot), and shortbread "Witches finger" cookies."

Halloween Dinner

Halloween Dinner, originally uploaded by treedork.

The presentation is nice, the colors inviting . . .

Photo note:

"Some brain food for Halloween dinner.

#209 in Explore, October 31, 2006"

Halloween Party Food/drinks

Halloween Party Food/drinks, originally uploaded by Dot D.

Okay, now that cracker dip looks a little scary. . .

Photo link:


Finger Food

Finger Food, originally uploaded by –archangel–.

This photographer says:

"Lady finger cookies, always a big hit!
Recipe I used can be found here: www.britta.com/HW/HWr.html#fingers."

Foods to Love, Words to Savor

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