Hogswatch Night?

We are celebrating the season’s holiday early this year — not on the 21st or 22nd as usual.  We need to accommodate the work schedules of my two sons.  We decided this was the year to tell consumerism to take a leap off a steep cliff!  So this evening we will watch “The Hogfather” and “quaff” beer and/or mead and enjoy lights and holiday sweets.  Tomorrow, Monday morning, they will rise to fresh baked rolls and a platter of cold meats and cheese to nibble upon.  We will open presents — each of us will have one gift total.

In early afternoon, I will return to the kitchen and bake dinner’s main course — a proper pork pie that would do Sir Terry Pratchett’s Diskworld Hogswatch Night proud!


Esme’s Hogswatch Pork Pie


*If you choose to make this in a springform pan to get more the British tall unsupported side crust appearance?  Increase amounts by 1/3 more to make sufficient pastry and add an egg yolk in lieu of part of the water to make a stronger, richer crust.

2 c. organic white wheat flour  and

2/3 c whole wheat flour

(If gluten is an issue, you may use gluten free flours, but most of those make SUCH a soft disintegrating pastry — I recommend trying spelt flour instead for ALL the flour)

1 T. sugar

1 tsp salt (use less if using salted butter)

1/4 – 1/3 icy water, 1 T of which is lemon juice

3/4 c butter (absolutely NO margarine!)

Mix the flours, salt, and sugar.  Now cut the slightly softened butter into the flour with a pastry blender until it resembles a mess of sandy crumbs.  Stir in the cold water and lemon juice, mixing very well with a sturdy fork.  When the dough is well mixed enough to form a firm ball, divide it in two —one side slightly larger.

I roll the larger piece out in a large round, I do it between layers of wax paper to save my sanity and make transfer to pie dish easy!    I use a large glass pie pan —about 10″ across; once the pie crust is nestled in and the edges curled in ready to meet the top crust, set it aside.  Roll out the top crust and leave it resting ‘twixt the wax paper until you need it.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Now, the Filling:

*for extra special pie – use wild boar (bribe a hunter or engage yourself?!)

1/3 pound of (pepper encrusted?) bacon, cut into tiny pieces

1 lb good ham, diced into 1/2″ cubes, with most fat removed

1 lb ground lean pork (I use pork loin or sirloin and grind my own)

1 lb good pork sausage, chopped

1 medium sweet onion, finely minced

(1/2 ounce dried mixed mushrooms, reduced to a powder in the blender or spice grinder – optional)

2 T mixed herbs: parsley, thyme, rosemary, and safe (equal amounts of each)

1 tsp of Scappi’s Sweet (a spice blend I duplicate from a medieval recipe) OR 1/4 tsp each cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and ginger — not the same, but quite sufficient

1 1/4 – 2  c beef broth

1 egg white and 1/2 an egg yolk…slightly beaten (Or 2 -3 Tbsp flour)

1/2 egg yolk mixed with 1 T cold water

First of all, get a large, preferably iron, skillet and fry the bacon morsels till done, but not crispy.  Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.  Immediately put the onion to cook in the bacon fat.  (Guard the bacon against kitchen thieves, drawn by the already delectible smell!)  When the onion is tender and beginning to brown, put it into a blender with the broth and completely liquify the onion.

Brown the ground pork in the remnants of bacon fat in the pan after removing the cooked onion, stir in the ham cubes and put the bacon back in the skillet.  Stir in the herbs and the spices.  Turn off the heat of the stove.  Add the liquified onion in broth and stir well, stir in the powdered dried mushrooms.  Mix well to blend all flavors!  Now very rapidly stir in the egg white and half yolk mixture, fast enough that it does not cook atop the still warm meat!  This is to thicken the broth, if you prefer, stir in a couple tablespoons of flour into the ground pork and chopped sausage before you add the broth.  Then you have a more usual flour thickened gravy

Spoon the filling into the bottom pie crust, cover with the top crust sealing the edges together and crimping them decoratively together!  Cut slits in the top for steam escape.

Use a kitchen brush to cover the top with the yolk-water eggwash, this will make the pie attractively shiny and brown.

Place in 400 degree oven and bake for 15 minutes.   Lower the oven temperature to 375 and bake about 30- 40 minutes more until crust is done and pie is steaming hot! Serve warm (or just at room temp) with beer and a favorite vegetable!

*the picture is from last year.  This year I am doing the taller sided springform for a more “British” looking pie.

From the Land of Never Bloody Mind!

img_3607…or how to make very costly, pretty birdfeed.  Aren’t those biscotti pretty?  Maybe the birds will think so?  Because they taste like crap.

Life is not always a success.  Though I’ve been cooking for about fifty years, I still occasionally mess up royally.  Perhaps because I fell for what might be a boondoggle:  “monk fruit” sweetener, instead of half the sugar.  I read the recipe from a Costco cookbook — for pistachio cranberry biscotti, you see?

I love biscotti and make them every solstice season.  They were, at first, the “grown up cookie” that kids ignored — meaning there were some LEFT for the grown ups!  I really do relish the crunchy, barely sweet dunk into coffee.  I enjoy them morning after morning.

But, I thought I’d be smart and make them less caloric.  Bad idea.  Very bad idea.  For whatever reason, the use of the monk fruit “sugar substitute” turned the normally soft dough into something more closely resembling pasta dough!  And there was no sweet taste at all, even with sweetened dried cranberries adding to the sugar content!

So this morning, the neighborhood crows will get a nutty, fruit-filled treat with whole grain flour and egg protein.  It is not an artificial sweetener, like aspartame, so I don’t fear feeding it to wildlife.  But hey, from our failures we learn, right?  A fresh, soft, pliable batch was popped into the oven right on the heels of failure!

Never try to make cookies virtuous!  Never!


Traditions? And Manners, Thanks!

axial-tiltI don’t believe in meaningless traditions.  Traditions are those things for holiday times — or normal times — that give comfort and healing peace.  So, like the bedtime rituals of toddlers, designed to make sleep a pleasant thing for all; I feel traditions should serve those who enact them.  I bake cookies, too; but not those I don’t want to eat!

We have a lot of traditions here!  Decorating the house is a big one for the winter holiday — the winter’s solstice here.  It was difficult this year, but now, each evening we sit in the glow of holiday lights and I time my breathing to the ticking of the cuckoo clock till I feel myself back in control.  Some people find a bedtime story a comfort even in adulthood.  This is a worried season, this might be an answer for you, too?

I am out and about little at this season.  I shop well in advance for the small bit of shopping we do.  I bake my own treats with a few notable exceptions (German lebkuchen) so I don’t need to haunt the grocery store, either.  And yet, there is always the question of manners, isn’t there?

Since the election,there has been a lot of shouting that “Now we can say Merry Christmas again, damn it!”  Ah, well, I don’t recall seeing anyone drawn and quartered for saying that ever.  Did I miss something?  Am I actually now allowed (until the Inauguration?) to simply pull out my battle axe and behead anyone who says “Merry Christmas” to me instead of “Blessed Solstice”?  Cause damn, I could use a bit of murder, death, kill to relieve tension right about now.

Ah, but we have a tradition of manners, too.  (Alas?)  If someone says to me, smiling, “Merry Christmas!” I smile back and say “The same to you.” or “And Happy New Year.”  If, however, as happened once or thrice last year?  Someone narrows their eyes in a parking lot and snarls, aggressively with no smile, “Merry CHRISTMAS!?”  Well, then I am going to try to make their head spin ala Linda Blair.  I smile and say something back like “God Yul!” or “Blessed Solstice!” and of course, they are totally bent out of shape.

I will respond to strangers in exactly the way they respond to me.  Nice people, mannered people will be treated with manners.  Assholes will be offered a perfectly mannered response tailored to MY beliefs.  I even send a few cards each year that say “Merry Christmas” when I know that is what the recipient is celebrating.  My fellow pagans, theistic or non, get “Blessed Solstice” cards.  The occasional Jewish friend gets greetings for their winter holiday, and even Kwanzaa is in some of my cards.

I consider it an obnoxious assumption to say anything more precise than “Happy Holidays” to strangers — it at best neglects the specific winter holiday special to them and at worst insists that they should follow MY holiday beliefs.  Like people insisting a secular business like Starbucks MUST mention Christmas, well, gee, write your own little Merry-What-the-Fuck-EVER on your cup and quit acting like spoilt toddlers having tantrums.

Because yes, I’ve a bucket of coal for your un-mannered stockings.  Also, what?  Were you raised by rabid fascist hyenas?


Gratitude, 9 and 10 August

FullSizeRenderYesterday…hmmm, what was I grateful for that is not a repeat? Alcoholic pain relief has already been used, I think. Most of my pain issues revolve around old damage in my neck, nerves pinched by stenosis that eventually accompanies all spinal fusion operations. But now and again, my lower back decides to have painful little non-Boston-non-tea parties with my nerve endings.

So yesterday, I was grateful for what we call my “Minoan Bra”. It is actually a spring-loaded black spandex snap-crotched shoulder-strapped sort of modern pull-on corset. It holds my lower back immobile and doesn’t let the muscle spasms pull my spinal column out of whack. At the risk of too much info, I will say, we call it the Minoan Bra because it IS braless and pops my tits out “loud and proud” like a Minoan fresco on an ancient wall! Is it wrong that the Minotaur husband is always a bit more than his usual attentive self when my lower back is acting up?

FullSizeRender 2Today, I am grateful for space. Space to keep all the sundry kitchen stuff for old school cooking. Because that lets me occasionally go nuts with oven stuff on a cloudy summer day. Like today, making little mini-pies of my patent creation: mango-blueberry pies. the mini-pies are SUCH a bother anyhow with pressing in the shortcrust pastry by hand, that I made a mace-cardamom scented crumb topping. These will go, tomorrow, as slightly belated “First Harvest” gifts to my German lady pals! The often tiny kitchens and glass topped cooktops I see in new houses simply don’t have room to store cooking gear to do what I call “real cooking”!

Friday’s Sloppy Solace _ Let Me Eat Cake

Tomorrow my day will be eaten in what I have decided is my final stint of civic duty as a Democratic voter of Washington State – the Congressional District Caucus** is tomorrow. I am not looking forward to it. The venues seem to always be rented for four to six hours for a process that takes 7 to 12 – or pity me, more hours to complete.  So a frantic quality that evokes anger and shouting in everyone ensues as it becomes apparent that the time will be surpassed and the rent will rise in 15 minute increments or so.

FullSizeRenderSo, since we will take food and drink to not fall down in exhaustion and low blood sugar? I baked a cake.  Kind of messy glaze/icing job, eh?  I am concerned with taste and portability of slices, however, not pretty.

I “pinned” the recipe from here.  But everyone knows I can’t leave “well enough” alone, right?

So in the recipe, my changes were as follows:

Instead of 3 c all purpose flour, I used 2 c Immaculate Organic All-purpose Flour and 1 c white whole wheat flour

Instead of 2 1/2 c sugar, I used 1 c sugar and 1 c Monkfruit in the Raw baking sugar replacement

Instead of 5 1/2 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, I used what I had: 2 3 oz 70% cocoa chocolate bars

Instead of jarred peanut butter?  I used 3/4 c PB2 (the fat-free dry peanut butter powder) and about 2 T of whey ( or use milk)

Instead of milk, I did use 1 1/4 c whey, saved from our Greek yoghurt making.

In the messy glaze, I used about 1 1/2 c cornstarch free powdered sugar and 1/2 c PB2 and then some water and cream to the desired consistency to pour over hot cake!

Is it healthy?  Not really, but the un-health is mitigated somewhat and I used pretty clean ingredients.  Slices of this will make tomorrow more bearable after sandwiches with black sourdough rye bread!

See, if Democratic caucus rooms were still cigars and scotch, I wouldn’t NEED to be a-baking solace for myself….

**Now,  a word to the pundits and politicians telling Bernie Sanders to cash in his chips and shut up.  (And the same is doubtless being said to delegates like myself.)  I am so not sorry we are not making it easy for Hillary Clinton to announce herself the next President of the USA.  But, a bit of truth for you all: That is not how it works, folks: The democratic process allows for caucus and primary activities ALL THE WAY TO THE NATIONAL CONVENTION.  

So get over yourselves.  One reason I am going and voting for Sanders is that I am a DELEGATE; I was elected to be the voice of others and will NOT countermand their will for my own OR anyone else’s will. (For the record, when I “ran” to be elected, I stated I would stand with Sanders all the way to the Convention; but that if he did not have the delegates to be the candidate, my own personal vote would support Clinton in her run for the White House.) Sanders supporters want their voices to be heard; the fact that the Clinton camp is acting snarky, snarly and as if we are all some sort of deluded nitwits for having the opinions such as:

Money  is NOT free speech

Corporations are NOT people

If Europe can provide health care and education at public cost, how can America claim to the the “greatest nation on earth” and NOT do the same?

It is time for the Democratic Party to stop moving as far right as Eisenhower and get back to some progressive polices!

That yes, in fact we all HAVE met wars we definitely did NOT like and we don’t want more of them, based on fear flogging, lies, and profits for war mongers.

So unknot your panties, unclutch your pearls and remember we are all supposed to be on the same side AFTER the National Convention, NOT BEFORE.  And IF we are not on the same side after the National Convention?  It just might be because Clinton’s advocates are acting about as ill mannered, snarky, and asinine as people screaming Trump’s name and it pisses us Sanders advocates off!  Do not poke this bear tomorrow.  I will eat my cake and have yours, too.FullSizeRender