Monday, August 31, 2009

Mister Update

Mister is eating--finally. The only thing he will eat is poached, skinless chicken breasts with rice and a little Beechnut stage 1 (no onion salt) strained chicken. The first vet had told me that Mister was anemic, with a hematocrit of 30; the ER vet said no way, Mister's hematocrit was 48. I'm absolutely trusting the ER vet. She also told me to dab peanut butter on the pills, and that's working, too. He receives meds at 9 am, 1 pm, 9 pm, 5 am. All different meds, poor little guy. He's still not himself, but he growled and barked at Mr. Tom today. I'm grateful for all of your prayers. The ER vet said it is a miracle that Mister is here. I am counting blessings.
Gollum & Mister

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Foodie Friday

If you are participating in FF this week, please add your info to Mr.Linky. I won't be around at all, as Mister had a reaction to anesthesia and is now in an emergency vet hospital. As yall know, Mister is my heart. I'm just beside myself.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Foodie Friday: Blueberry Muffins

Bandwith made blueberry muffins for his grandma.
A mix, but love was added.
Mother is two weeks post-op, and she's able to move around with her walker. The bad news is, while Dr. Gollum moved our new china cabinet, he smashed his finger. 13 stitches later (and the threat of a possible skin graft), he's in the bed with Mama.
He says the cabinet was definitely NOT WORTH IT.
Mr. Linky awaits your recipe:

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Foodie Friday: Pineapple Upside Down Cake

My mom taught me how to make pineapple upside down cake in a cast iron pan. She's with me right now, while Bandwith and I help her recover from surgery. It's been a rough road for her, but she's doing better every day. She sends her love to all of you. I'm posting an oldie this week, but I hope you enjoy it.

Meanwhile, if you are participating in this week's Foodie Friday, Mr. Linky awaits your recipe. I'm sorry to post early today, but here it is.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake (cooked in cast iron)
When it comes to pineapple-upside down cake, I'm sure there are easier recipes, but I've never tasted one quite this delicious. Maybe it's the cast-iron pan, or maybe it's the beaten egg whites. Whenever I serve this cake, there are never any leftovers.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Meanwhile, over a low flame, melt 1/2 cup unsalted butter in a (pre-seasoned) cast-iron skillet. Spoon in 1 cup (packed) brown sugar. Mix and turn off the heat.

one 20-ounce can pineapple slices (drain, reserving 1/4 c juice)
Maraschino cheerries
pecan halves
Arrange the pineapple slices over the brown sugar mixture. Cut left-over slices in half, and use them to line the sides of the skillet, cut sides facing in. Stick a cherry in the center of every pineapple circle. Press the pecan halves between the pineapple slices.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks (reserve whites in separate bowl)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (real vanilla)

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, then run your hands through it. Or, if you are the finicky sort, use a sifter. Plug in an electric mixer and beat the egg yolks until they are thick. Very slowly, add the sugar. Spoon in the flour, baking powder, and salt mixture. Add the vanilla.

Pour the mixture of egg whites into a deep bowl. Beat them with a mixer on high. When stiff peaks form, stop beating. Using a rubber spatula, fold the whites into the batter. Gently spoon the batter over the pineapple.

Bake 50 minutes.
Remove from the oven and invert, without cooling, onto a serving platter.
Yield: 12 servings

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Foodie Friday: How to Season Cast Iron

Welcome to Foodie Friday. I'm posting an oldie--"How to Season Cast Iron," as my mom is having surgery today. If you are participating in FF this week, simply add your info to Mr. Linky:

How To Season Cast Iron Cookware (the Gollum Way):
All of my relatives had at least one cast iron skillet. The skillet was the color of unlit charcoal, with a slick, hard finish. It was either left on top of the stove or stored in the oven.

I never questioned my relatives about their cookware. I knew that the pans, like our food and our men, were "well seasoned"; as for the patina that Mama treasured so much I assumed the pans had been bought that way.

There are many ways to season cast iron, but the main formula seems to be vegetable oil plus heat plus time equals patina. It's basic kitchen chemistry. The multiple oilings, when combined with heat, fill in the microscopic "pits" in the cast iron. Over time, these pits harden, producing a smooth, black surface.

The oil creates a barrier, preventing oxygen from reaching the iron and causing rust. It also forms a virtually non stick surface. The more you use your pan, the more it will blacken. And cooking in cast iron is healthy--it's a sneaky source of dietary iron.
Cast iron has man virtues, but seasoning isn't one of them. It requires time, oil, and a hot oven. Store-bought pans come with instructions, but they skip over the important parts, like, it's not going to happen in a day. Be prepared to spend time with your new pan.

The seasoning is acquired slowly. You will have to "oil and bake" for many hours, when your time and schedule allow you to cook an empty pan. :-) You are serving up nothing; not only that, you will wonder how many centuries it will take before your pan acquires a rich, black patina.

How To Season A Cast-Iron Pan
Step 1: wash the pan in soapy water.
Be sure to use a scouring pad. This will remove the protective coating that inhibits rust. The is the one and ONLY time your skillet will touch soap.
Step 2: dry the pan. (I love easy steps.)
Step 3. Grease your pan.
This is not the time to be sloppy or fainthearted. Finicky souls use a pastry brush; earthy people prefer to grease with their fingers. Me, I use a scrunched up paper towel that's been doused in oil. I have also just poured oil directly into the pan, about 2 teaspoons, then swished it around with a paper napkin.

I take the paper towel and rub it all around the inside of the skillet. Cast iron is somewhat porous, and it will absorb the oil. Get into every crevice. The motto of seasoning cast iron is less is more--thin coats are best.
I don't oil the outside of the pan, but some people do.
Now is a good time to discuss oil. The type is debatable--some cooks use safflower, others prefer Crisco, or even lard. I have talked to people who won't use oil, claiming it leaves a residue. My mother has used olive oil. I've had the best results with peanut oil (it has no flavor and it's stable at high temperatures).

Don't use butter.
Remember to use small amounts or your skillet might develop sticky splotches. Some cooks believe that this gummy stage is the beginning of the curing process, but there's a difference in coats. A slightly tacky, amber sheen means you're making progress, but a sticky sediment means that you've used too much oil.
Step 4: Bake
Put the pan in a 275-degree oven for about five hours, periodically checking to see if you need another coat of oil. Think of it as a slow layering, the way an artist layers colors on a canvas.

Cooks also disagree about temperatures and baking times. I have tried everything. A small amount of smoking occurred at temperatures over 400 degrees however, in about three hours my pans were noticeably darker. Paul Prudhomme cures his new pans with low heat, about 225 degrees, leaving them to bake for hours.

The best pans, of course, come from relatives or garage sales, although you can still find them in antique malls.
After a couple of five-hour sessions, you'll begin to notice a metamorphosis. You'll know when you are making progress: Your pan will acquire a thin hard layer; it resembles shellac--shiny and transparent, the color of caramel flavoring, and faintly tacky.
I hate to tell you, but one or two hours of "curing" won't create a black, non-stick pan. Six hours won't do it, either. It takes about 10 sessions.
During the curing process, the oil hardens to a varnish-like finish. The pan loses its steel-gray color and turns progressively browner until it finally attains the famous black "crust."
I like the way an empty, slow-cooking pan smells--old fashioned and metallic,, the way water smells when it trickles from an iron pump. The aroma reminds me of meals past and present, a whole heritage of women who conjure food for their loved ones. If you don't like the aroma of baked iron, you can close off your kitchen, open a window, or burn a vanilla-bean candle.
Achieving patina takes the patience of a saint and the finesse of a landscape painter. Try to think of it as an adventure.
Step 5:
After the pan cools, wipe it down with the barest coat of oil. Do this every time you use the pan for the first year. A paper towel patted down over the skillet seems to inhibit rust in humid areas.
Of course, you can cheat and buy a new fangled cast iron pan--and you can buy them in adorable shapes

and in designer colors--plus, they don't require seasoning.


This is what happens to a pan after washing it in soapy water.
** Never soak, never scour! A full sink of soapy water will undo years of care.
** Never wash in the dishwasher--it will rust the pan and remove the seasoning.
** Until your pan is well seasoned try not to cook sticky things--sometimes this causes setbacks.

**the acidity in tomatoes can have ghastly consequences in cast iron, unless you are using other ingredients, like in a stew or spaghetti sauce.

Large, coarse salt acts as a gentle abrasive, and helps keep your cast iron "bump" free.
**Clean with a little hot water and a nylon pad, sanding the surface gently.
**After cleaning, dry the pan thoroughly. For the first year, keep it lightly oiled. Store in a dry place. (I keep mine in the oven.) It will tend to collect dust and cat hairs.
**If scrubbing is needed, sprinkle sea or kosher salt into the skillet. Use a Tuffy pad to gently scour.
**For heinous messes, heat the pan, adding a bit of water. Use a Tuffy scrubber, and salt, if necessary. Dry, then set in a warm oven.

Remember that cast-iron cookery is part art, part science. New pans may come and go, but your skillet has a colorful history: iron was an ancient culinary tool. Pat yourself on the back because you've been patient; you've fretted and coddled and oiled and baked. Remember that you aren't just cooking supper in your cast iron--you are continuing to season it. You are also creating an heirloom, a piece of culinary history to pass down through the generations.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Sideboard With Five Personalities

Here's another decorating re-run from 2008. Hope you enjoy it!
I love playing house. Few things are more satisfying than ripping apart one tablescape and creating a new one.When we moved in, I made a silk arrangement for the sideboard. Then I called it a day.

Next, I made a fall arrangement--very traditional, and it worked with my Noah's Ark Syndrome--the uncontrollable urge to decorate in twos.

I don't have a hutch or china cabinet, and I missed seeing my dishes.[Note: Now I do! I just have to move it to my house!] So I used them in a vignette. This is my favorite. I love anything with dogs.

Here's an early spring look with Ironstone and white pottery:


I put together tulips and green apples when I posted the room on RMS.

Here are some Gollumy Bloopers:
I couldn't stop adding stuff. :-) Had a wonderful time, though.

Christmas 06

I tried everything on the wall beside the sideboard, and it only looked crowded. So Mr. Tom hung the art. I'm looking for a low chest to put under it.

I'm prowling for new ideas.I like the way this is slightly off center. It's fresh and striking. The parrot tulips are gorgeous.

Three vases on the dining table look great. This fall, I'm planting tulips in Mr. Gollum's garden.

inspiration photo credit: House Beautiful

A Note About Foodie will go live Thursday, 8PM. See you there!

Monday, August 3, 2009

One Year Ago Today: The Powder Room

When we were building the house, the very first thing I had to select was plumbing. And, according to my builder and the lady at the plumbing store, there was no going back. No wishy-washyness. I settled on a Kohler sink. It didn't work with my color scheme, but I was mad about the little animals etched into the basin.

Time passed. I picked out slate for the floor and walls (1/2 slate, 1/2 paint).

A faux finisher silver-leafed the ceiling.

The space was really tight, but my cabinet maker created a cute, little cabinet, which was painted about 4 colors, starting with the slate blue of the sink, then getting progressively lighter, with touch of silver. The granite was a remnant that I dug out of a stack.

The faucet is Kohler--very simple. I love watching the water flow down. Several people at RMS had worried that the water splashed out, but it's just my bad photography that made it look this way.

Since the room was already full of drama, it didn't need "decorating." I only hung a picture, added a hand towel, and placed 2 topiaries on the counter. But first, I had to rescue the topiaries, because my husband had put them in his truck and was headed to the dump.

(from August 4, 2008, Designs by Gollum)