Schmaltz from the Mustard Guy

Jeff & I talked about his possible conversion to Judaism, before and after our wedding.

He bought The Jewish Book of Why, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. By the end of those he knew more than I did about the history of Judaism. Which wasn’t that surprising. The Sunday school snippets I had studied 30 years prior, hadn’t stuck well, and was mostly lost due to our non-practicing dynamic.

Jeff studied The Joy of Yiddish that had come along with me in my book collection. I told him that was a mostly lost language, but he thought it would be fun to be able to throw terms at and around with my dad. He threw them at me, too. Those had stuck well, go figure.

I came home one day and found Jeff reading 1,000 Jewish Recipes… like a text book. Cover to cover. He did that with every cookbook. I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone else who read cookbooks like Jeff.

I mentioned that I was surprised he’d done that. I wanted to know why he didn’t just pick a recipe and make something.  Jeff answered, “Well, you should never do something without knowing why you’re doing it. Might not come out right.” He always wanted to know why. Why do you add this after that? Why should you use this ingredient instead of that? In this case, he was looking for the history behind the recipes. So, he could learn a little more.

Let me tell you, Jeff made a mean rye bread and amazing latkes. Cooking was one of Jeff’s passion hobbies. He subscribed to cooking magazines, bought cookbooks, and visited many online recipe sites.

I definitely benefitted from that. He’d cook and I’d clean up, except when something shot up out of the food processor or mixing bowl. In that case (or those cases), Jeff was in charge of cleaning the ceiling and cabinet doors.

Years later, Jeff discovered a new vendor to help supply our store. He was tremendously excited. He emailed me and then he called me to make sure I saw the email. He couldn’t wait until I got home to tell me that he’d found us schmaltz supplier.

Schmaltz, if you are unfamiliar with the term, is gathered chicken or goose fat gathered from previous cookings. It’s a staple iin traditional Jewish cooking. Much the same as pig rendered southern lard.

We went to an Ann Arbor temple a few sporatic Friday nights. We’d stay in Ann Arbor after work, and have dinner before. We went to the Passover service and the Rosh Hashanah service. He enjoyed both, especially the shofar blowing.

The more he learned, the more aware became of similarities in our religions. He took the time to explain them to me. I knew very little about his, except for vague notions of Christmas and Easter and that their bible was very different.

We stopped going because it was getting more difficult to get there. Jeff’s work hours depended upon delivery assignments, and Friday nights were busy.

I’m still amazed that Jeff would even consider converting, so he could share Judaism with me. I never asked him to, and I never considered converting to Christianity.

But, truly, based on how things turned out, I know the reason he never got that far.

Quote for the Week:

2017-01-03-at-the-intersection-of-love-and-schmaltz-jakorte

Bonus: still makes me giggle…

 

2017-01-03-schmaltz-email-jakorte

 

Mugged and Gone

Still thinking about how I want to go.

Honeymoon? Snippets? Yeah, I’m gonna need a minute.

In the meantime: Cake

I don’t make cake.

I don’t make cake, because I’ll eat cake. Whole cakes. I don’t usually frost them, but a eating a whole unfrosted cake is still not a good idea. Even if it takes me 3 days of breakfast, lunch and dinner with not much else.

Don’t start with the cupcake theory. Cupcakes only make it seem like you’re eating less. Mostly because I sit down and eat one, decide I need another, and count off 25 steps to and from the couch. 50 steps round trip on my Fitbit. At least that burns a calorie or two, right?

Don’t even mention freezing suggestions. I’ve packaged cake slices to be frozen. It turns out I’m not averse to eating a slice of frozen cake. Directly from the freezer. No frosting, no defrosting, at all.

I’ve frozen unsliced cake remnants, since the slice thing was still too accessible. Guess what? Frozen cake isn’t that hard to slice. Just takes some heavy leaning on the knife. Tests my balance, too, so I must be strengthening my core.

A recent thunderous Saturday evening, I craved… cake.

I had almost everything I needed to bake a cake. Except butter. Or rather, I didn’t have enough butter: none in the freezer and half a stick in the fridge.

I googled cake or cookies without butter. The most popular substitution offered was vegetable oil. I don’t stock vegetable oil in my cupboard. I do stock olive oil and I’ve even heard of Olive Oil Cake. I’ve heard they taste of olive oil.

I also have a jug of sometime solidified / sometimes liquefied coconut oil. I just didn’t like the idea of a cake tasting  too faintly like coconut.

A cake should either be totally coconut or not. I did have ½ a bag of unsweetened flaked coconut. In the freezer. Which would require defrosting and then toasting. Last time I toasted coconut was a disaster.

I let it go a little too long and ended up having to take my fairly new, now black smoke spewing toaster oven outside. I left it on a garden table long enough to let it cool down enough to open the door and remove the charcoal contents. I wasn’t quite in the mood for that much work.

This got me thinking about single serve cake. Mug cakes. Cake in a cup. Cake for one. Whatever it’s called, most required only one tablespoon of butter.

Chocolate mug cake calls for cocoa. Of course. Without any, I was momentarily thwarted, until I saw the sidebar listing variations.

Banana cake! I could do that! Even better, the recipe seemed reasonably healthy… for cake.

I altered the ingredients slightly. Not just for the sake of tweaking, but because 3 tablespoons of brown sugar seemed like a lot for one serving of cake. I only used one tablespoon.  Maybe next time, I’ll cut that down to ½.

I used water instead of milk. I had milk. Just call me a calorie cutting aficionado.

I didn’t mix it or make it in a mug. I used my Pyrex measuring cup. I wasn’t sure about the microwavibility of my rag-tag promotional mugs. As it turns out, I think a 12 ounce cup would have overflowed and make a monstrous mess of my microwave.

Since I was still thinking about chocolate, I threw on 8 semi-sweet chips. Yes, I counted them. Why, I don’t know.

Cooking time was listed as 1 minute, adding 10 seconds until it seemed done. One minute went by: nope. Add 10 seconds. Nope, not even close. Add 1 minute. Yep!

It was good, and so super hot that it needed more than a minute and some major fork hole poking, to convince me I could try again.

The beautiful thing was, when it was gone, it was gone.

I’d have to go through the whole process again to make another one. My counter was filled with just as many containers as it would have been if I had baked a true cake. I was just using minuscule amount of each. I really didn’t need another one, anyway.

I’ll unhumbly admit I had another brilliant thought. Why not pre-measure and create little packets of the dry ingredients to make it easier? So next time I craved cake, I’d already be halfway there.

I thought better of that. A little reaching and grabbing and transporting ingredients meant I’d be moving, And I’d be making it way too easy. Cake shouldn’t be a daily affair.

PS. I truly believe it could serve 2 easily. It’s dense and moist and yummy and just a few bites can satisfy the craving. And then, it’s gone!

Knabbled Cake in a Cup:

1 mashed banana

1 egg

3 tbsp flour

1 tbsp melted butter

1 tbsp water

½ tbsp brown sugar

½ tsp baking powder

8 semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional, of course.)

Original Recipe: Banana Bread Mug Cake

2016-10-11-banana-mug-cake-jakorte-with-hyperlink

 

Not a Pictures Kinda Gal

Easy. Truly it was going to be eeaasyyyyy.

Pop the top on the Tastefully Simple simple Almond Pound Cake box. Melt some butter, add some milk, stir.

Lovingly lump into my beautiful green specifically purposed Tastefully Simple ceramic loaf pan, bake; be done.

Unless you’re me, and you’re thinking that newly gifted, untested convection oven could bake this cake up better than the rickety electric contraption that came along with the condo as one of those something-is-better-than-nothing “for now” appliances.

Unless, you carefully view the pictorial instructions, and surmise the obvious, which as time goes by becomes obviously wrong.

Unless, you’re baking without bifocals and can’t quite see through the shiny new-knob glare that you’ve chosen toast/bake instead of turbo.

Unless, you can’t figure why the center seems a bit spongier than previous packaged efforts.

Unless, you decide it just needs to cool and set, invert and discover all of the above at once.

I did not end up with a luscious loaf. I didn’t even end up with cake.

I ended up with a bowl of cakey-marzipan-like mush with a thin, broken caramelized crunch crust, and deep panic.

For some reason I don’t panic at panic and excel necessary rapid fire solutions. SMH, I devise another split-process easy plan and a half. This one involves entering all baking ingredients on hand into the Google search box, and squishing all of the cake-flop, including the pinnacle-ly correct crust, into an oiled Bundt pan, and pressing firmly with a baggie-d hand. The search determines my remaining options are Honey Cake or Brown Sugar Cake. Comforted by back-up plan knowledge, the attempt to recook seems reasonable.

Back into the wonderful countertop, this time on turbo and without the crumb pan beneath the baking pan. Hey, that’s what the drawings demonstrated. Toast with the pan under the rack. Bake with the pan above the rack. I lightbulbed that if I wasn’t using that particular pan to bake in, I should put the one I am using directly on the rack, and not inside the other pan sitting on top of the rack.

20 turbo minutes later, I have a dense, thick, appropriately moist and dry almond circular tube-shaped 2″ tube of a brick confection. It smells awesome. Because of the brand, it will reliably taste awesome. It’s ugly as all get-out, but I’m soldiering on.

Cooled and flipped into a purple pie plate, it’s not that bad. At least, it’s not as bad as I was envisioning. I have no idea what will happen when whoever has the honor to cut it, does.

I’m bringing along honey and caramel and gold-colored ice-sugar hoping to distract with abstract criss-crossing and edible glitter. I’m leaning toward the honey, for past traditions that still run deep through my heart. I’m not sure it will get the go-head vote, but I do think it’s the best choice and won’t over-power that deep almond sponge.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

I am not above trying to salvage a cake.

What people don’t know won’t hurt them.

It may however, make them laugh, and if you can make them laugh, then that’s the way to go.

I’m not a pictures kinda gal. Give me instructions, please.

Quote for the Week:

Don’t you think if it was intuitive 04 21 2015

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

Baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar, eggs, honey: http://www.supercook.com/#/recipes/All%2520recipes

Mmmm: https://www.tastefullysimple.com/ (If you are interested, I have an awesome consultant.)

Cake Boss weighs in on Convection: http://on.aol.com/video/the–cake-boss–on-convection-oven-baking-versus-regular-oven-baking-517849014

 

Hack-Do

Minimalism is still working its way into my life.

A few chickens didn’t make the move with me. A few more are teetering on making some thrift store shopper happy.
It’s only partially about space. There’s something that feels accomplished in letting go. I like my things. I also know that they were hiding behind the rain patterned door glass in the hutch for the past two years. They made me happy when I was looking for something useful. When the cabinet closed again, we went on living separate lives.

At some point, everything needs to be evalu-packed. Withholding was based on two criteria:
First, do I plan on using this in the next week or two?
Second, could I live without it for a week or two?

Necessary retrievement was based on worth factors. Was it worth it to unseal, paw through, and re-seal every box until I found what I needed? Was it worth it to appropriately bundle sweater, socks over socks, boots, hat, scarf, gloves, do a two-way, twenty yard dash through -22 degrees and potentially painful sneet?

As a first-time home-owner, I was firmly unimpressed by the numerous, slightly-to-majorly ridiculous hacks in place.
As a recent mover, I may have come to understand. Make-do is a mantra. Hack is a solution.

My first hack innocently occurred when I realized that the tuna salad fixings I had lugged over to the condo to save the hassle of extra winter traverse weren’t going to do me any good without a can-opener. Good thing I was a Girl Scout. One million (exaggeration) bottle opener punches sort of did the trick. I was able to mostly drain the water off. Another half-a-million (exaggeration) and the can was open enough to begin the pry. Using a knife to pull tiny chunks of what was supposed to be lunch that might take until dinner to complete tuna was risky to my knuckles and insulting to my stamina. I would win that battle. I have the pictures to prove it.

About five years ago my inherited tool collection was whittled. I couldn’t imagine ever needing 10 clamps, so I kept one, and never used it. This move, I could have used 10 clamps, and of course, couldn’t find that one I kept for no other reason than “maybe.” Lifting counter tops were the problem. Previously unknown because the counter was weighted with weighty chicken canisters, I was able to use the unpacked jars and some slate table tiles to hot the top to the base while the glue dried. The peeling sides, though, called for that one, I repeat, elusive clamp (which also remains unfound, as of yet.)

I’m not sure where the #imakemyselflaugh idea popped up from, but suddenly there I was gazing down at my own hack-handywork, feeling the brag. I just needed a little prop for leverage. I forked it. Thoroughly self-impressed, I have demonstrative pictures.
I lost the lid to my Gatorade – a leftover requirement from the bad soup fiasco. It’s possible I could have refiled through the garbage, but would risking nails, and splintery pieces of wood, shards of glass, sticky un-packing-ed tape, and pan-fulls of fine dust debris. But I had plastic wrap, and I had recently seen a rubber-band. Not the most impressive hack, but notable for the fact that it was another hack.

I asked the movers to remove a six-spot outlet cover from the wall, so that the bed could press against it. I rethought that after they left. Open outlet socket, bed sheets, covers… electrical hazard. I moved a board between the two, angled to not touch, just hover. I found a new cover, 45 cents and a lovely shade a bright-white to match the interior trim, but forgot the assembled bed is almost unmovable. It’s a struggle for two, and I was just one, with a screwdriver that could not and would not be angled in to secure those tiny screws. Even the computer tools were unfit. A toothpick was too wide. I needed something thin and metal and bend able – a cake tester would do it. I have the daring hack documented.

I tossed the ingredients for an overly simple, dietary restricted, impossible pie into the one mixing bowl reserved. For some reason, aka #imakemyselflaugh, I packed away the pie plate, but kept the Bundt pan handy. Yes, I used it. Yes, it cooked fine. In fact, it was beautifully guest servable. I preserved the image for my future cookbook.

The defining get-around-it came from the need for cleanliness without mess. I came up with a way to hack the plumber’s hack. You know, the one where a 58” shower was set into a 60” space. You know, the insult of the ugly wall bump-out that was supposed to, you know, “fix” it. You know, the completely un-functional eyesore, that couldn’t hold a curtain rod, wasn’t fore-ing a stud, and wasn’t plumb, anyway. Short-term more expensive, glass doors resolved. I made sure I ordered the 58” size. I made sure I ordered the fine rain glass. When the home improvement store shipped the ensemble, it came with a note that due to the size of the shower, installation would require… a hack. Luckily, and rather blessedly, too, I had been steered to a contractor who knew what-the he was doing.

Tonight, I’m cushioned on the couch, laptop propped on a pillow, enjoying the orangy-blueish sunset strata through an unobstructed window that gets more noticeably breezy at night. Recycled curtains were hung to cut down the draft, because the super-glued blinds support broke loose. Came down when I pulled the rise cord. Yep. Hacked.

PS: sneet is not a typo- it’s that awful Michigan semi solid snow that it bordering on sleet, because, it too is freezing it’s…. limbs off.
PSS: what-the is not a typo – I’m still actively trying not to curse, but, yeah, sometimes the kitten’s delicate ears do get a bit warm.

Quote for the Week:

Make-do is a mantra March 17 2015

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

M.I.T says “hack”: http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/a-short-history-of-hack

I am not alone: http://1000lifehacks.com/

Impossible: Hack as you will – http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/product-recipes/bisquick-recipes/bisquick-impossibly-easy-pie-recipes

Pesto, Bingo

Some sales are harder to resist than others. Take for example, Kroger’s recent super deal on packaged spinach: 3 bags for $5.00.

In an unusually realistic move for me, I recognized that I would not be eating that much spinach in one week.

I could surely go through one bag in a week, but three? Not likely.

I supposed I could spike my consumption rate to a bag and a half within seven days by successfully incorporating spinach into at least two out of three meals a day.

Truly, I could probably find some way to the stuff even more of the stuff in if I reclassified it as an acceptable breakfast item. I already add 1 oz of cheese, and sometimes 1 tablespoon of pre-cooked crumbled bacon to my morning oatmeal. Why not spinach, too? As interesting as that thought was, it seemed a little ridiculous… even to me.

Besides, marathoning spinach would, at most, only deplete somewhere close to just shy of two bags.

Inevitably, I would run into a slime situation. I know this from experience culled purchasing romaine in multiply-packed bundles of three or more.

The likelihood of successfully chomping through the bargain load, was looking dismal.

Steaming and freezing fresh greens has never produced an effect I would enthusiastically eat.

I found simple instructions for freezing without blanching at the site listed below.

But, what really caught my eye was the pureed spinach.  I thought it was pesto, and got pretty excited. It wasn’t, but a way over-excited revised search for spinach pesto yielded recipes in many shades of green; some with basil, some without.

I chose to go with. Mostly, because the pep of basil would be missed; but also because I just couldn’t consider calling it a pesto if there wasn’t any.

I also chose to skip the pine nuts. Partly because I so focused on the spinach I forgot to buy some. Partly because I was too lazy to trek out to the market again, and partly because I could never regret a little less fat.

Admittedly, kiboshing a key ingredient was a gamble along the lines of playing only one bingo card while the rest of the place is jam packed with players playing no less than four. If it’s not a good one, you’re pretty much limited, and there won’t be any options for saving your game. Still, I felt I would be able to offset the loss by using top-notch Romano, which I conveniently had on hand. Romano is my golden-chip, go-to fixer. If anything isn’t quite up to par, adding a little taste-bud glitter of this glorious cheese makes it palatable. Because not every meal is a rousing success, I’ve managed to save quite a few really-shouldn’t-even-make-it-to-my-dinner-plate disasters with this method of disguise. Because, waste not, want not.

Spinach improv has taught me learned a few interesting things.

When changing a recipe from 1 cup of leaf greens to 3 cups of leafy greens the natural result will be heavier and pastier than a light, delicate pesto.

I’m not disappointed. In fact, I think it will be more adaptable that way. Still, at the time, I had two recipe’s worth of super-bright pseudo pesto to preserve somehow. Most sites recommended use of an ice cube tray. I’ve found it to be tried and true with extra tomato sauce, chicken broth, or even pureed watermelon.

I now have a dozen cute little, big-on-taste, thick and tasty spinach pesto cubes. I will use them all.

I’ve been kicking around a few ideas. Others I’ve already experimented with.

I added one just-made tablespoon of Spinach Pesto to one tablespoon of bottled Kraft Sweet & Complex Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing. It was nice and mellow, and didn’t override or clash with my dinner-sized baked chicken and spinach salad.

I also envision creaming a defrosted cube with sour cream or naturally sour Greek yogurt for a snappy, savory dip. I suspect spooning over chicken before baking, will be lovely. I’m growing fonder of an oven baked, crispy chicken wing scenario. A water-thinned drizzle will perk up the plain things.

I’d like to try it on rosemary crackers with a sprinkling of additional cheese, or as an unusual sandwich condiment. I’ve seen rational suggestions recommending adding a cube to tomato or Alfredo sauce before warming.

Of course, it would make an awesome plain-old bread dip –paired with a little splash fresh olive oil, a squirt of lemon, and cracked black pepper.

There you have it, and here’s what you have to know to succeed at kitchen bingo:

Only take advantage of sales that make sense.

Do what you can, with what you have.

Fix it up with cheese, if necessary.

Adapt. Create. Enjoy!

.

Quote for the week:

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”

― Julia Child

 Enjoy this week’s discovery links:

Blanch-less Freeze: http://momonamission.me/how-to-freeze-fresh-spinach-2-ways/

Spinach’s surprising benefits and drawbacks: http://n-h-metclub.blogspot.com/2012/08/pros-and-cons-of-daily-spinach-diet.html

Julia Child: A Little Advice on Cooking and a Lot More on Important Stuff: http://leitesculinaria.com/76678/writings-interview-with-julia-child.html

Happily Romano: http://www.food.com/library/romano-cheese-496

Adapt Create Enjoy  05 03 2014

(Click to enlarge recipe)

Spinach Pesto Adapt Create Enjoy  05 03 2014(Click to enlarge recipe)