Thursday, March 14, 2013

Some things are worth the wait

It might be time to rename this "Bernice the delinquent chicken's blog" but that doesn't quite roll of the tongue, does it.  A few friends have reminded me that it was time for Bernice to get typing again, but between work, travel, and everything else (like a chance to see my kids!), it just didn't happen.  But sometime, just sometimes, it's worth waiting around for a little while to be rewarded with something pretty awesome.

At least that's what I kept telling myself as I waited and waited for a friend (who shall remain anonymous in the blog, but will be instantly recognizable to all who know her) to provide me the famed recipe for her mother's incredible orange cake.  It wasn't a state secret or the like, as her mother readily rattled off a list of ingredients and vague directions after all the tasters swooned and begged for the recipe.  But, I didn't think to write it down then and there, because after all, I just needed to visit my dear colleague, and voila, the recipe would appear!  Or maybe not, since it took about a year and a publish shaming on Facebook to make the recipe appear.  Despite the travails, it was worth it, and I highly recommend the addition of Cointreau to make it even more amazing.  If possible, make this cake at the peak of orange season (which reminds me, I should try this with the blood oranges right now, yum!).  However, when I overzealously picked oranges from a friend's tree, I still got rave reviews on my "lemon" cake.

Lest you wait as long as I did, here is the recipe for:

The Long-Awaited Orange Cake (or should I call it Patience Orange Cake?)
  • 5 large juice oranges
    • Zest from 2 of the oranges
  • 75 grams butter, softened
  • 150 grams sugar (plus extra for the syrup)
  • 3 eggs
  • 150 grams flour
  • 1 pack (2 tsp) baking powder
Yes, that really is all that's in this thing (unless you go for the Cointreau!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8"x8" pan.

Zest two of the oranges and set aside.  Juice the two oranges, separately (so you have two bowls with the juice of one orange each).  

Mix the flour and baking power together.  In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar. When well blended, add the eggs, and then the flour and baking powder mix.  Add orange zest and the juice of one of the oranges.

Bake 20-25 minutes until knife comes out clean.  While the cake is baking, juice the three remaining oranges and add juice along with three tablespoons of sugar to a saucepan and simmer until thickened and slightly syrupy (if using Cointreau or another liqueur, reduce the sugar and add to taste, or desired level of sobriety).

As soon as you remove the cake from the oven, pour the remaining juice of one orange over the cake, and then pour the syrup over the cake as well.  Let it cool and fully absorb all the yummy goodness.  You won't have to worry about leftovers!

Variations on a theme:  
My husband made a gluten-free version with a GF baking mix, then topped it with fresh fruit and whipped cream.  

I have much more to write, but I'm almost out of battery, in both computer and body.  So that's all for recipes tonight.  Next time, I'll update you on the Paleo Poultry experiment.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Pudding Pie love

My initial intent with this blog was to go back, and in some sort of chronological order, write about recipes past (and post 9/14).  But, today at least, that's out the window.

Remember my reference to $100 pudding?  Yes, I may be the owner of the world's most expensive Jell-O Cook and Serve pudding, and I probably have enough to last until my daughter leaves for college.  Not long after we arrived in Tunis, and I started learning of the wonders of Amazon (more on that in another post, but Amazon is our savior), I thought about making my friend Andrea's famous Pudding Pie.  It's delicious, easy, old-school, and renders my son quiet for longer than anything else I know.  But, it requires pudding, and although I'm normally a proponent of making everything from scratch, doing so would remove the "easy" part.  So, I went to Amazon and ordered a case each of butterscotch and chocolate Cook and Serve pudding, and hit "Order Now", and then happily went about my business, dreaming of future pudding pies.  That was all fine and good, until the next day when my husband asked why I shipped two boxes of pudding mix, plus some other various items, to our former address in California.

But, I was in luck!  Because some very good friends moved into the house we had rented in California...yay!  So, she lovingly took those Amazon purchases and headed down to the post office and sent them on to Tunisia, and then sent me the bill.  I think it was $135.  Pudding is heavy.  Two cases of pudding is very heavy.  That was the most expensive free shipping I've ever received.

However, I can now make Pudding Pie with abandon, although I haven't for some reason (might have something to do with no kids around), but that pudding will darn-sure move with us to our next post.  I note with glee that the box lists a "best before" date, not an "expiration" date.

Without much further ado, here is the immensely complicated and intricate recipe for
Andrea's Pudding Pie:

Please note:  the originator of this recipe (who I think got it from her mother) contends that the best pudding to use is My-T-Fine pudding, only found in the northeastern corners of the US.  I've mostly lived at more southern latitudes without My-T-Fine distribution channels, so Jell-O brand works quite well.  Maybe one day I'll even try this from scratch!

-1 box Butterscotch Cook and Serve Pudding  (really, do everyone a favor and don't try this with instant.  It's 5 minutes of your life that you'll greatly appreciate later)
-1 box Chocolate Cook and Serve Pudding (ditto on note above).
-Milk (for the pudding mix, obviously)
-Graham crackers (or, if you life in Tunisia, 4-cereals Saidana cookies)
-Whipped Cream, very lightly sweetened (the real stuff, no Cool Whip allowed in this blog).

Yup, that's the entirety of the recipe list.  Now, for putting it together:
Use an 8x8" square dish (this recipe easily doubles by the way) and put a layer of graham crackers at the bottom.

Cook the puddings, separately of course.   Once the chocolate is done, pour it over the graham crackers.  Put another layer of graham crackers on top of the chocolate (and try not to burn yourself like I have often done), and then pour the butterscotch on top of that.  Let it cool on the counter, then cover and put in the fridge.  It's best to put it in the night before, as it needs a good 1/2 day at least to set up.

Hang in there, you're nearly done.

When you're about ready to serve, or head out to your party, whip the cream, but don't over-sweeten as the pudding is already sweet.  Spread over the pudding, and crumble more graham crackers on top for some crunch.  For a final flair, dust some cocoa powder on top.

You won't have to worry about leftovers.

Another note about the originator of this recipe:  She is an amazing chef and currently works alongside her husband as personal chefs to bazillionaires.  I love ALL her food, but this might just be my favorite recipe of hers!  And now you can say you're making fancy chef recipes!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Hoarding, expat style

Chances are, you don't have 5 1/2 bottles of wheat germ in your pantry.  I do.  I also have 1 1/2 large bags of pine nuts, 12 boxes of veggie-burgers, 1/2 a box of turkey bacon, a few dozen bags of frozen fruit, 4 bags of stone-ground get the idea.  Not, I'm not a Doomsdayer or a contender for an A&E reality show, but I am living in a place where Goldfish trade as currency.  Show up with a pork product, and you are an instant rock-star.  Welcome to the world of Expat Hoarders.

Make no mistake, there is no shortage of good and fresh food available in Tunisia (wine too!), but if you want peanut butter, you're out of luck.  Same for pecans, cheese that melts, GOOD coffee (Tunisians drink a lot of coffee, but it's truly terrible), and a lot of other items of the first world.  As a result, each trip abroad involves strategic food purchases and transportation.  Essentially, we become food mules, albeit without actually having to disguise the "product" as fake boobs or stuff it into balloons to be swallowed.  Getting an airline ticket with an allowance for TWO checked bags is a cause for celebration, traveling with children means one bag per child (and they don't need that much room), and you always fly with extra bags that can be carried on if needed.  The food transport opportunities are greatly increased during the summer months due to less clothing requirements, but chocolate does not fare well.  Conversely, wintertime is a great time to fly with cheese.  Word of caution:  if you find amazing cheese at a Parisian market, do not attempt to carry it on board.  No, it's not your fellow travelers you have to worry about, it's the security nazis who determine that a certain cheese is just squishy enough to pose a danger to all aboard.  I nearly cried as I once watched a security screener take my freshly purchased Compt é to the trash can, ignoring my pleas for cheese clemency.  It wasn't pretty.  Don't do it, just check the cheese.

At this point you may be wondering why the eccentricities of Expat Hoarders has anything to do with this blog.  Well, it's a matter of supply and demand.  Pre-September 14, we made steady progress through our cornmeal collection and tablespoon by tablespoon, our 6 boxes of vital wheat gluten.  However, on September 16, there were suddenly three less tummies to fill, including one pecan-crazed toddler.  The result was a pantry and freezer full of random items in unusually large quantities, all needing to be used up.  Exacerbating this problem was the subsequent kitchen clean-outs and pack-ups for colleagues and friends that wouldn't be coming back.  While I will happily discard or give away junk-food, I can't in good consciousness waste good, usable food.  Consequently, my quinoa collection doubled and I'm unlikely to run out of baking powder before 2018.

So, like anyone else with a problem to solve, I Googled it.  "Rhubarb recipes," "pine-nut recipes," "cornmeal recipes" (this was surprisingly disappointing, turns out you mostly just make cornbread with it), "cheerios recipes" (I still have 4 boxes).  As a result, many of the recipes I've made recently I've found on-line, and it's been rather fun to try new things and flavor combos I would have never thought of on my own.  Plus, if I was cooking from a book, it takes too long to write down the recipe, but it's quite easy to just copy and paste a link to share on here.  So, the consumption journey continues, one $100 carton of butterscotch pudding at a time (an early and expensive lesson in too-quick-Amazon-one-click-shopping, but I'll leave that story for another time).

Happy Hoarding,

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Let the blogging commence!

I've finally done it, I've joined the blogo-sphere.  It two minutes to set this thing up, and then a lot longer to de-link it from my primary email address, but here I am.  I started this blog as a way to share the "fruits" of my labors borne out of my need to do something to keep from going crazy or too depressed.

I've finally realized that I'm  "stress-baker."  Fortunately, I'm much less of "stress-eater," although there is a certain inevitability of increased consumption when yummy stuff is lying around.  This tendency first manifested when I was about 12 or 13 years old and was had to spend my first night alone in our house.  Before my dad left, I was self-assured and confident, but the minute he was gone, all the noises got louder and scarier and I had to do something.  I went to the kitchen, which was pitifully bare, save for a few eggs and lemons and what-not.  The result was a lemon meringue pie.  I wasn't a particularly big fan of lemon meringue, but it was about the only thing I could figure out to make.  And it was good!  It got rave reviews the next day, and a stress-baker was born.

When my family was evacuated, I was left behind in a place that had been turned upside down and none of us knew what was next.  I was still amped up on adrenaline but couldn't go anywhere, including work, and I couldn't look at any of my kids' stuff without falling apart.  What I did have at my disposal was a very well-stocked pantry (thanks to a recent stock-up, just in case things got dicey..ha!), and a lot of time.  We needed to have an office meeting at a house, and I suddenly had people to feed!  It was a perfect storm.

Due to an abundance of frozen berries, the first recipe was:

I don't think I made any adjustments to the recipe, but I likely cut back on the sugar as I almost always do.  It turned out great and will definitely be a means to finish up more berries in the freezer.

With that, I also made an old favorite, Oatmeal Scones from the Joy of Cooking (if there is only one cookbook to buy, this would be the one!).  I think I actually had some of Tunisia's amazing dates on hand, so I used dates, but any dried fruit will do.  I thing I love about this recipe is the lack of a need to cut in butter (a real pain in the a**, and I don't have a food processor here).  These scones are perfect for a brunch or afternoon tea.

Oatmeal Scones with Raisins or Dates
Joy of Cooking, 1997 edition

Position rack in center of the oven, preheat to 450F

Whisk together in large bowl:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 TB baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Stir in, using fingers if necessary to separate the fruit:
1 1/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup raisins or chopped dates

Whisk together, then add all at once:
1 lg egg
1 stick unsalted butter, melted (the recipe calls for 1 1/4 sticks, but one is more than enough)
1/3 cup milk

Mix until just moistened, batter will be sticky.  Transfer to lightly floured surface and pat into a 8" round, about 3/4" thick.  Cut into 8-12 wedges and transfer to an ungreased baking sheet, placing the pieces about 1/2" apart.  Bake until lightly browned 10-12 minutes.  Let cool on a rack, or serve warm. Delicious either way.

This initial baking spurt didn't get to last too long, as that night I was on a plane to Germany, where I stayed for 10 days.  Bernice came along, although I'm sorry to report that she was not on her best behavior, drinking whisky and flying down the hall of the hotel.  But I hope you'll excuse her, it was a stressful time.

Next time, Expat Hoarders...