Crazed Chef Craves Squash (really!)

Things have been a little hectic here in the Meadballs kitchen. Big news is that I am finally certified. This seemed liked the hugest hurdle back in the spring. But when the day finally came on Friday, Aug. 4, it really was just he beginning. Because of three things:

  • Most of my pots and pans didn’t work with induction. So I had to buy new ones.
  • I have to wash dishes now. (Dishwasher not in the budget).
  • The ventilation project wasn’t totally finished.

The last is probably the biggest issue because it is August. And while it has been pretty chill so far, it isn’t all that cool in my basement digs with three fridges, two freezers, two ovens, and three induction cooktops going. Sometimes all at once. So the electrician returned to install a big fan, some vents in the ductwork and a cooler for the wine room. As a result, my shiny new kitchen is a mess of dust, dirt, power saws, and electrical things. It is loud and dirty. So I haven’t been in the kitchen much since I picked up my lovely certificate.

But, never fear, it should all be done by tomorrow morning and I’ll be cooking away. If you have signed up for my newsletter – there is a sign-up on this website – you will find the specials for next week. They will also be posted on the Meadballs Meals facebook page. Order by e-mailing marnie@meadballs.com, messaging me on Facebook, or by texting 814.470.8688. Orders need to be received by Sunday at noon for Monday delivery.

In the meantime, I’ve been in my home kitchen working with what to do with a truckload of yellow squash. I love this bread with blueberries. Don’t skip the glaze, it makes the cake and helps keep it fresh.

Print Recipe
Lemonade Blueberry Squash Bread
Course breakfast, dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
loaves
Ingredients
Course breakfast, dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
loaves
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 2 regular loaf pans.
  2. Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl.
  3. In another large or medium bowl, combine melted butter and sugar. Add lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla. Whisk in eggs.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry. Mix thoroughly.
  5. Add squash and stir just to blend. Toss blueberries with the remaining flour. Add to mixture.
  6. Pour into prepared pans and bake at 325 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes.
  7. Allow the pan to cool; remove the bread and place top down on a serving plate.
  8. In the meantime, make the glaze by combining all the ingredients and mixing until smooth. Pour over top of bread.
  9. Serve.
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Binging on British TV for Baking Inspiration

The progress of creating a food business have many odd twists and turns. As I gear up for a July launch of Meadballs – my farm to your table dinner service – I have different avenues to pursue for both inspiration and boredom.

Sometimes the two are intertwined.

Starting  a business, even a simple one with a sole proprietorship, requires some tedious work. It’s not all shopping, chopping, and Bakewell Tarts (more on that in a minute). It started in the fall when I took the Erie County Department of Health food safety course, and subsequent exam, to become certified. The point is not to learn the basics of the restaurant business, but to learn the basics of not harming your customers. Quite rightly, there is a lot of focus on hand washing, cooking foods to proper temperatures, and the proper heating, cooling, and refrigeration techniques.

Kudos to the Health Department because this could all have been deadly dull. But the instructor was most engaging. And you’ll be happy to hear that I passed with the high school equivalent of an A.

In the months since then, there have been papers to file with the Pennsylvania Department of State to register the business, kitchens to check out because you can’t cook food to sell in your home kitchen (some states you can get a cottage kitchen license), suppliers to check out, etc.

Some of this happens while I sit on the computer scrolling through rules, regs, and pricing of product. It’s rather dull work, so the television is often on in the background. Lately the BBC series priest-detective “Father Brown,” based on the short stories of G.K. Chesterton, has been my Netflix pick of choice. It’s set in a rural English parish in the late 1950s. Aside from the mystery in each episode, there is also a fair amount about English country life during that period, especially the church fetes, flower shows, bake sales, and the like. I’m fascinated by tea – I think it’s a right proper thing to do. I’m not into the beans-on-toast sort, but the ones with cakes.

In the summers, there are strawberry scones, fruit crisps, and the like. But during the late spring, before anything starts to produce, there are cakes make with preserves. One episode included something called a Bakewell Tart, which the “Great British Bake Off” featured on several episodes. I only know this because I had never heard of a Bakewell Tart, so I Googled it. And found several recipes on BBC.

Essentially, it is a shortbread crust, topped with a bit of jam (raspberry is the preferred, but some have gone so far as to use – gasp – cherry), and then a frangipane, which is not marzipan. Similar, in that it is almond and sugar based, but it also has butter and eggs.

So, while filling out the latest form from the state (Department of Revenue, for sales tax collection), I popped a Bakewell Tart into the oven.

And here, dear readers, is the recipe. In a couple of months, I hope to give you an actual sample instead of just this virtual one. I do have to tell you – it is divine. And I might just have to tart it up when cherry season comes!

Until then – toodle pip!

Marnie

marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Bakewell Tart
Course dessert
Cuisine American, British
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American, British
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. To make the pastry, measure the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter (and salt, if needed) with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the water, mixing to form a soft dough.
  2. Press dough into a tart pan with a removable bottom. Refrigerate 30 minutes or overnight.
  3. When ready to bake, heat oven to 400 degrees (F).
  4. Bake pastry for about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Spread with jam.
  5. Melt the butter in a pan, take off the heat and then stir in the sugar. Add (salt, if using) ground almonds, egg, and almond extract. Pour over crust. Sprinkle over the flaked almonds.
  6. Bake for about 35 minutes. If the almonds brown too quickly, cover loosely with foil to prevent them burning. Remove tart from oven to cool.
  7. Put powdered sugar into a bowl. Stir in extract. If the mixture is too thick to drizzle over tart, add water, 1 teaspoon at a time.
  8. Drizzle icing over top. Or place icing into a zip-top baggie with one corner snipped off, and pipe the icing over the top.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from several recipes on http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes

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Is There a Santa in the House?

I miss Santa. He wielded so much power in December. All you had to do was utter his name and behavior would suddenly improve. A simple, “Santa’s watching” reduced complaints, hustled out the door, fed the dog, and generally meant peace on Earth.

Not that my daughter is a hellion. She is a smart, funny, well-behaved … teenager. And, for now, she talks to me. And sometimes she listens. She’s got this tell, though, when she stops. You know, when she’s there physically, but mentally all she hears is “blah, blah, blah.” So then I say something outrageous, like condom, and suddenly she is present again. “Marn,” she will moan.

I’m not fond of the “Marn” thing to my face. I still don’t call my mother by her name to her face. I do sometimes call her “Didi,” which is the approved name for the grandkids to call her. But I remember when I was her age and we started calling all the moms by their names among ourselves. I’m a child of the 60s, so we generally didn’t call them by their first names to their faces.

Teens push boundaries. There are kids in her class who are having sex, smoking weed, harming themselves, bullying others, and generally acting like teens act. There’s a reason why – anthropologically speaking. At this age they push away because, throughout history, this is the age when they struck out on their own. Some sources insist they push away because they know they will be pushed out. There are days when I think they were shoved because of their behavior.

In any case, we know a lot more about teen brains now. And, in this country at least, we don’t marry our 14-year-olds off anymore. We understand their brains – and behavior – aren’t fully developed until their 20s. Mark Twain may not have known the science behind it, but I’ve always loved this quote:

“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”

All of this brings me back to Santa and why I miss him. He is a gift to parents for about 1 month. Some parents may haul Santa out in July, but I always reserved him for the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. You could abdicate all discipline to Santa. I didn’t have to threaten. I just has to say, “Santa.” Immediately, whatever behavior was aggravating at the time disappeared. It really was a gift.

Sure, there was some work around it. Hiding presents. Making sure there was different wrapping paper for Santa presents. Altering handwriting. Dodging the “Is Santa real” question as she got a little older. “I don’t know, honey, what do you think?” worked for a while.

Now I have to parent 365 days out of the year. Like I said, she’s a really good kid. She knows where the presents are hidden and she doesn’t look. She wants the joy of opening on Christmas morning. Indeed, the real reason she held on to Santa for as long as she did was a fear that the present pile would be diminished if Santa wasn’t carrying the financial burden anymore. (I love the logic of kids.)

But this morning, when it was 11 degrees outside, and she had no hat, no mittens, no boots, and just a fleece jacket … despite nagging all week about it … I really just wanted to say “Santa” and have her magically put on a hat, mittens, and her down coat.

Santa can’t do that anymore. And I can’t stuff her into a snowsuit (although I wasn’t particularly adept at that past age 3 anyway). So Santa must be content with filling her stocking with more hats and gloves, and hope that brain of hers – so smart in so many ways – will register that Santa really is watching out.

Enjoy the holiday season

XOXOXO

marnie

Marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

Print Recipe
Rollout Sugar Cookies
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 9 minutes
Passive Time 2 hours or overnight
Servings
dozen
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 9 minutes
Passive Time 2 hours or overnight
Servings
dozen
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. To make the dough: Beat the butter and sugar until light, fluffy, and pale yellow. Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  2. With the mixer on low, slowly add the vanilla and almond extracts, and mix until combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Slowly add dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  4. Divide dough in half. Place each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. Pull wrap around each half and gently shape into a flat disc. Chill overnight.
  5. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
  6. To shape and bake: Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll approximately 1/4" to 1/2" thick on a flour and sugar dusted surface. Cut out cookies. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You can reroll scraps once or twice to use up the cookie dough.
  7. Bake the cookies for approximately 8 to 10 minutes, until they just barely start to turn golden on the edges. Remove from the oven and cool completely before decorating.
  8. To make the icing: In a large bowl, add powdered sugar, egg whites, salt, and lemon juice. Beat with an electric mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment on medium until it is white and thick. This is what you will use to pipe around the edges of the cookies using a pastry bag and plain tip. Once you have finished piping around the edges of the cookies, let it dry for about an hour. In the meantime, you can tint and thin out the icing using either another egg white or water to flood between the piped edges. You want the consistency to be that of maple syrup. I use a paste color to tint the icing, if you are using liquid tint, don't finish thinning out the icing until you have achieved the color you want. Once you finish flooding the cookies with icing, allow to dry for 24 hours before adding any other tint - like for eyes or mouths (or else it bleeds into the white icing).
Recipe Notes
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Tell-All Tuesday: What Does a Blogger Do?

Today, I am sitting here drinking day-old coffee, reheated, and munching on ginger cookies. The coffee is still better than anything I can get at most restaurants. The ginger cookies are part of my baking marathon from Sunday and Monday.

That doesn’t answer what a blogger does. Mainly because every blogger is a little bit different. It’s the same as in the news business. Every reporter has his or her own routine. I knew one reporter who had to wipe off his desk, line all his pens and pencils up in order, and then begin to write. Another kept apples lined up on his desk, and ate his way through them during the day. I used to smoke. It would take at least 1 cigarette before I could start a story, and then I would smoke my way through half a pack to finish it. When smoking was banned, I was afraid I’d never be able to write a story again.

I could. And I did. I developed other writing tics. I would walk around a lot. Sometimes I played loud dance music in my earbuds, while bouncing on a chair ball at my desk. I had a drawer filled with chocolates.

When I left the corporate world, I set up a desk at home. It’s a dedicated writing space. I live in a two-bedroom condo with a teen daughter, so there’s not a lot of spare room. I could have put my spot in the basement, but I need natural light and a window to work. My desk is a lot neater now, mainly because it is visible from just about every part of the condo, except the bedrooms. I still like to walk around a lot. I try not to have the TV on, but sometimes I like the company.

Even though I write about food and travel, I don’t watch the Food Network or the Travel channel. I used to love the Food Network, but the transformation into competitive cooking doesn’t feed my soul. I will sometimes tune into Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) because I would like to be her. Although not really. Marriage and I don’t agree. I’m not a Hamptons kind of girl. I could never figure out the coded language of the super wealthy, whether it was cocktail conversation or wearing the right sandals. I’ve been called refreshing, which I did figure out was code for she doesn’t fit in.

But I do like her recipes. They work, unlike Martha Stewart’s, which I always have trouble with. I’m working my way through a fourth revision of a muffin recipe of hers that I SOOOO want to work. It will. Although I will be sporting a muffin top until I get it right and can stop eating the rejects.

But I’m still not answering what a blogger does.

We share. Sometimes we share personal stories of parenting, recipes, dating, vacations, fashion, beauty, etc. These are like online diaries. Some write for money, blogging about products or services. Some mix the two, ideally telling you that they are writing about this particular mascara or retirement planning community because they are compensated for it. That’s usually when you see the “sponsored” label.

For those who aren’t paid to push a product, like me, blogging is like “Living Out Loud,” to borrow from a book title by Anna Quindlen. In the ancient pre-Internet days, newspapers picked certain people to write about particular topics. They are columnists. And their audience was the typical newspaper reader. Women were assigned, primarily, to the LifeStyle sections until Quindlen came around.  She won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1992 for her New York Times column, Public and Private.

The difference is bloggers have no built-in audience, like a newspaper has with its subscribers. So we sit at our desks, or on our couches, or in our beds, and write into space. Then we push publish. Sometimes we get comments. Sometimes not.

So, to answer the question of what is a blogger, the answer is we are writers. Like most writers, we fall into different categories: cooking, self-help, memoir, sports, etc. Some of us are more successful than others financially. Some of us are better than others.

But none of us have to rely on a white middle-aged guy in a corner office deciding whether we have something to say. Anyone with an e-mail account and some basic Web skills can become a blogger. Ultimately, it’s the readers/followers who decide if we have something to say.

I joined a group recently of women entrepreneurs. We meet every week in small groups, and twice a month in a larger group. We are the Black Diamond Divas, part of the Coffee Club Divas started and run by Heidi Parr-Kerner. I have accountability partners now – women to talk to. I asked them to give me some feedback. One of the suggestions was to try adding themes to my writing. So Sunday is Sunday Suppers now. Tuesday will be a Tell-All day, to give you more about the person and motivation behind this blog. I am working on an idea for the third blog of the week, but don’t have it down yet. All will have a recipe.

Today’s is about ginger. (Writer trick – tying this back to the lede paragraph). I’m a ginger fiend. I like it in teas, cookies, kombucha, cookies, and cake. The pickled ginger that comes with sushi is among the many reasons I order it. If you don’t eat yours, I might not be polite enough to ask before nabbing it with my chopsticks.

I love this time of year when I have every reason to make gingerbread cakes. My daughter isn’t as big a fan, but she does love cream cheese frosting. So I combined the two, along with some spiced pears   that I had in the fridge from another blog post last month.

I’ve included the recipe I made for ginger cake from Fine Cooking.  But, in all honesty, I love the King Arthur Flour Gingerbread Cake and Cookie mix, which is on sale right now. Plus, spend there is a promotion if you spend $50 , you get shipping for $3.95 (normally $10 or more).

Happy baking

XOXOXO

Marnie

Marnie@MarnieMeadMedia.com

Print Recipe
Ginger Cake Trifle
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour or overnight
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour or overnight
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8-inch square cake pan, or line with aluminum foil or parchment (have a small overhang) that is coated in cooking spray. If you line the pan, then you can just pull the cake out once it is baked and cooled.
  2. Whisk flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, cloves, and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed using an electric mixer (hand or stand) until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add both sugars and beat on medium speed until well combined. With mixer on low speed, add molasses. Slowly add one-third of dry ingredients and combine until just mixed. Add one-third of the buttermilk and mix to combine. Repeat until you have used all the dry ingredients and the buttermilk. Do not over beat. Scape into baking pan.
  4. Bake in center of oven until a toothpick comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let the cake cool completely in the pan. Remove from pan and cut into small cubes.
  5. In the meantime make the Cream Cheese Whipped Cream by whipping the cream cheese in a small bowl until soft and fluffy.
  6. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer (stand or hand) to whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Scrape in the cream cheese and continue whipping on high speed until it forms stiff peaks. Beat in the sugar and vanilla. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  7. I had some spiced pears, http://meadballs.com/recipe/fall-pairs-well-with-pears/, in the fridge and used these as well. Or you can add some leftover cranberry sauce.
  8. To assemble, put a cube of cake in the bottom of a glass or cover the bottom of a trifle dish with gingerbread cubes. Put a dollop or two of Cream Cheese Whipped Cream in the glass, or cover cake with dollops in trifle dish. If you desire, add a layer of spiced pear or some cranberry, then repeat until you are at the top of your glass serving dish.
  9. This will make 4 to 8 servings, depending on the size of your glass. I used very large red wine glasses, so it made 4, with leftovers.
Recipe Notes

NOTE: I used 1 tablespoon gingerbread spice mixture instead of the ginger, cinnamon, cloves.

Adapted from theKitchn.com and FineCooking.com

To make the spiced pears, peel pears, cut in half and core. Place into a pot that has come to a simmer with:

Cook for about 10 minutes, or until soft but not falling apart. Remove from syrup, reserving it. Slice or dice pears you are using. Any you are not can be stored in a glass jar with the syrup.

 

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