Monday, December 28, 2009

Cognac balls are a tasty gift

I should have written this post a month ago, when all you cooks were scouring the Internet for tasty holiday treats to make and share. You'll just have to tuck this thought away for next year. Or make them for New Year's Eve!

I got a little bag of these cognac sugar plums from my friend (and fabulous artist) Mai Wyn last year and they were so very sinfully tasty. I begged the recipe from her this year and started making batches of my own.

The original recipe is from "The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook." Mai Wyn leaves out the candied cherries, and so do I. They're not necessary.
Here's what you need:
  • 2.5 cups of ground-up vanilla wafers (a regular Nabisco box like you see here has a little more than you need. The box of organic wafers from Whole Foods will have a little less than you need and make you mad. If you want organic, get two boxes.)
  • 1 cup of ground-up pecans
  • 6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup of sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 1/3 cup cognac
Start off by putting the chocolate in a double boiler to melt. Just put a metal bowl or pot over another pot with a couple inches of water in the bottom. Bring the water to a boil and then turn the heat way down. The chocolate will melt slowly without burning.

While the chocolate is melting, grind up the cookies and the pecans separately in a food processor. (You could use a rolling pin and mallet if you are food processor-less.) Also set out a bowl of sugar for dusting and a platter or container to put the finished balls on.

Once the chocolate is melted, stir in the corn syrup, the sugar and the cognac. Mix it all together, then add the cookie meal and pecans and mix thoroughly.

Now you'll need to work quickly, because the cooler the mix gets, the less it wants to stick together. If you can have a helper handle the dusting part, so much the better. But it's doable on your own.

Just grab a pinch of the mixture and roll it between your palms to make a ball. The mixture is surprisingly unsticky on your palms. I started out making really small, bite-sized balls, but that was too time-consuming, so the next batches were larger. About the size of a Superball.

Roll a bunch and drop them into the bowl of sugar, then push them around in the sugar to coat them. Remember, you need to work fast.

This recipe makes between 90 and 110 balls, depending on how big you make them. Store them in an airtight container. They get better with age.
If you are making up gift bags, figure on at least 15-20 balls per bag. Less just looks stingy. You can buy food-safe cellophane bags online or at places like The Container Store. I attach ribbons to a twist-tie rather than around the bag itself, so you can easily open and close the bag without having to cut the ribbon off.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

What is it? No. 32

Can you guess what this is? I'll bet many of you can! Click on the photo to see if you guessed right!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Snow. Again.

Looks to be about a foot. The 6 inches I shoveled last night was too wet for the snowblower, but I'll give that a shot today. (Once I get out of my PJs.)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Monday, November 02, 2009

Sit-stay training

They really want to get those squirrels!

Roasted pumpkin seeds

Usually I roast my seeds with olive oil and a dash of Worcestershire sauce, but I was out of the latter, so I experimented with ghee and bacon salt. Tasty!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Where have all the children gone?

This is not a random sampling of trick-or-treaters.
These six are the only trick-or-treaters I saw last night.

We used to range far and wide, with groups of kids pointing each other to the best candy. "That house there has full-sized candy bars!" "The blue house on the next street has popcorn balls!" If there were parents out, they were only with the littlest kids.

When we were older, we'd trick-or-treat for Unicef, with those clever little folding boxes for collecting pennies, because begging for candy was for babies. But you know we were really in it for the candy, too.

Maybe it's still like that in other neighborhoods, other towns. Did you get many visitors?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Special thanks to Linda, whose garden yielded up this big boy.
I always seem to leave it until the last minute. But I always carve the same thing, with minor variations, so it never takes long.
Bring on the kids!

T-shirt weather again

60 degrees and sunny. all the snow is going away fast.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Snow day

My trusty De Smet Farm Insurance Co. of South Dakota yardstick from the Brown County fair showed 17 inches on the patio table this morning. And it's still snowing. It's a good insulator for the hive:
Jackson thinks the snow is dandy.
Lucy, not so much. Not only is it too deep ...
... Jackson already has a size and weight advantage. In the snow, Lucy just gets buried.
So Lucy spends a lot of time standing by the back door, hoping I'll let her back in to her snug bed.

Hey! says Jackson, Snow has a flavor!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Now over a foot

Sorry for the crummy cellphone pic. I should go out and take better ones. But I just spent an hour snowblowing and shoveling. That's after doing the same at noon. And likely again tomorrow morning. We're supposed to get about 18 inches.

You may recall that I bought a snowblower from a neighbor in January but never got to use it. It's getting a workout now!

Oh, and as you can see, the hive is well-insulated. Inside there, the bees are clustered in a ball that also encompasses several sheets of comb. The bees on the outside are tightly packed together while inside the ball they're more loose. They vibrate their wing muscles to create heat -- a constant 98 degrees. They're heating just the cluster; the rest of the hive may be warmer than outside, but not as warm as the bees themselves.

As they consume their stores, the cluster will move across the combs, with bees on the outside passing honey to the inside. They should have plenty to survive the winter, since I didn't take any.

Hard core

Six inches of snow and more on the way.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Delicious Diwali

Well, I blew it. With Mom visiting, I just couldn't manage to keep up with the daily blogging. But I've been having a good time, anyway! Yesterday we went to Manisha's for a Diwali dinner. Jen was there and took awesome pics. Manisha made a fabulous spread, to which Teri contribute pomegranate mimosas, Nichole added punjab potatoes and cauliflower and I brought chivda. Mom had the bright idea to bring soan papdi, which is a super-tasty flaky sweet. I'd introduced her to it the week before. We laughed when we found out Manisha had bought some for the party, too.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Full day

This is what you get when I can't think of anything coherent – a random selection of cell phone photos from my day. It started with a nice long walk and then lunch at Lucile's, where I indulged in the oh-so-tasty rice pudding porridge, artfully drizzled with raspberry coulis and currants.
Then some Asian grocery shopping, where I often take pictures of things I don't recognize so I can look them up later. Nagaimo root is Chinese yam, according to the Wikipedia entry and has some interesting history (check out the "non-food uses").

I was buying fish sauce, mint, cilantro and shallots to make a recipe from the September Cook's Illustrated that Mom wanted to try, Thai pork lettuce wraps.

Beeb came by with Lannie and Leo to see how they would get along with Lucy and Jackson (they last met when Jackson was a puppy). They got along fine, and Beeb stayed for dinner.
I was whining about the lettuce wrap recipe because it requires you to make your own ground pork and grind your own rice flour, which is so typical of Cook's. But it turned out stellar. You should try it sometime.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Whole Cat

That's the name of a store on Pearl Street that carries everything you could want for your feline friends. They also carry dog food, including the fancy stuff the poodles eat (which costs twice as much as Sophie's food and gets consumed twice as fast, there being two of them).

I was in there the other day and remarked that I didn't see any cats around. "Oh, they're probably out back in their habitat." Well, I had to go see that. Potted plants, stuff to climb on, and a "den" with a heating pad inside. It's a wonder I ever see the cats in the store at all.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Washout

Household appliances seem to know when it's the optimum (i.e. worst) time to fail. In this case, it was the washing machine cringing before the onslaught of laundry day, when I had about five loads lined up and the time to process it all.

Instead, I was on the phone to a repairman to come find out why the darn thing wasn't spinning.

One $25 coupler and $100 of labor and service call charges later, I was back in business. I had no idea you could just undo a couple of screws to remove the entire casing from the front! It gave me the opportunity to clean all the grime from under the edges and around the drum, at least. The repairman said I was pretty lucky to get 12 years of washing out of that machine without repairs, and now should have many years more.

In South Dakota I would leave my stuff washing at the laundromat and go run errands. A couple of times I came back late and found someone had folded it! Here I would not be so lucky.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Casualty of greed

When I last reported on the "mansion home" for sale In April 2008 (!) after first noting it in August 2007, the price had been dropped from $1.15 million to $999,800.

Later I saw they'd dropped it to the high $800s (failed to take a pic, though).

I took the picture above with my cellphone on Aug. 1 of the door plastered with warning noticed from the city to clean up the weeds and trash in the yard or face a $200 fine. There was also a note from an enterprising soul offering to do it for $20. Which I'm guessing didn't happen, since a city crew showed up the next day.

The For Sale sign is long gone, so I'm guessing the place is mired in foreclosure now.

I would feel more sorry for the builders, who I think did a nice job with the design, if they hadn't been asking such a ludicrous price to begin with. Being way overpriced even before the market imploded means someone will now get it for a song, most likely, and all the subcontractors who worked on it will go begging.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Land of the lost

Most of the lost/found pet signs around here are of the ordinary variety, but sometimes they're unusual (remember Zoozoo the quaker parrot?).
I imagine whoever found this little guy was rather surprised.

I found a ferret once, myself; it was galumphing around the hall in my dorm in the middle of the night. I put a sign on the front door and went to bed, leaving the ferret to explore my room. When I woke up, he was curled around my feet under the covers. His owner called me a short time later, much relieved.

This one's a tale of outrage:
Someone "adopted" Comet the beagle puppy, then turned around and tried to make a profit on him. Grrr.

This one made me laugh:
I sure hope they got their Buzzkill back!

And finally, personal outrage:
I know Patch well, as he is always running loose. His owner cultivates a macho Buffalo Bill persona, complete with cowboy hat, goatee and cowboy boots. He refuses to get the dog neutered. And I've seen him kick the dog. He's an asshole.

Twice I'd been involved in returning Patch to his home. I swore to myself that the third time I'd take him to the shelter instead.

Of course, Patch showed up again, this time at my house, a mile from his. And of course it was right as I was running out the door and didn't have any options for locking him up safely while I was gone.

I put him in my car and took him home. I was so hopping mad I really let Bill have it. Seriously, I was yelling. "Look, I don't care what kind of macho man you think you are, get the goddamn dog neutered and fix your goddamn fence so he can't get out! He's going to get hit by a car or start a fight and get picked up by the cops and that will be the end of him and it will be your fault."

All Bill could do was mumble and make some lame excuses (seriously, he said, "Patch has already been hit by a car; he's smart enough to stay away from cars now." Me: "Bullshit! He may be smart but he's a dog.")

Later I heard from the gals at the coffee shop (where Patch has also been declared canine non grata), that Bill had declared he was getting the dog neutered and microchipped. So maybe my tirade penetrated his thick, macho skull.

Lost pets seem to find me a lot (witness Charlie the Pomeranian.) Have you had any lost pet adventures?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Harrassed

I heard a commotion of crows across the street, so I went out to investigate.
When crows are yelling like this, you can be pretty sure there's a raptor around.

Sure enough, this fellow or gal had just downed a pigeon. Not sure what variety he/she is; likely a Cooper's or sharp-shinned hawk.
So much for dining in peace.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ready or not

Winter is here.
Probably not for good, but this is one heck of an early warning. It's 20 degrees out and a light snow is falling, spelling the end of the annuals. When it warms up again next week, I'll pull out the cosmos and pile them at the end of the garden. Last year I left them in a heap by the gate and didn't get around to dumping them for a couple weeks, resulting this year in a big, vigorous stand of them in that spot. Instant flower bed! So this year I'll do the same next to the beehives.

Jackson thinks the snow is pretty neat. He came out and bounced around while Lucy stayed snuggled up in her bed.
I'll drag them out for a walk later and then make a pan of lasagna with the mystery squash from my garden.

Stay warm!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Bring on the brrrrrrr

It's snowing to the west and north of here but the flakes are not falling in town yet. I had hoped to get more done today while it was nice out but my car was in the shop. The funny smell when the engine was hot was coming from a ripped axle boot. That, plus new rear brake pads and the 60,000 mile service set me back mucho dinero.

When I got the car back, I hustled over to Home Despot to pick up furnace filters. I've got two furnaces, one in the basement and one in the attic. Before I can use the attic furnace, I have to winterize the swamp cooler and swap out the ductwork that they share. Always an adventure. Good thing I'm not afraid of heights.

The outdoor taps are all disconnected now, too.

Oh, and I made more chivda.

How are you getting ready for winter?

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Good eats

Jonathan and Barb at Mile High Eater gave me the heads up that Chef Eric Skokan (above) of the Black Cat in Boulder has been invited to cook at the James Beard House on Oct. 13, which is a nice honor. There's an article about it in the Daily Camera.

Mom and I had an awesome meal at the Black Cat last November for First Bite Boulder, seated right in front of the kitchen where we could see all the action.

I didn't get great pictures of the food, alas (too dim), but it sure was fun watching it being made.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

I can see the future

When I was a kid, everyone called me "Sally" because I was so very much like my mother's younger sister in speech and mannerisms. She didn't even live nearby, so the connection was clearly genetic. For a while I even speculated that I was the result of a youthful indiscretion on Sally's part and given to her sister to raise.

As I grew, though, it became obvious that I am my mother's daughter. Those who saw us together would remark at our resemblance. When we traveled together in China, Mom was tickled that people thought she was my sister. She has always looked young for her age.

As I grow older myself, I am gratified to see what the future holds for me when I look at my mom. If the resemblance continues to hold true, people will look twice when I claim my senior citizen discount.

And I'll still be chasing seagulls on the beach.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Sandhill cranes

Click on this picture to see it larger.
When I was in Wisconsin in August, someone mentioned they'd seen some sandhill cranes in a particular area, so Mom and I had our eyes peeled. We spotted a few flying one evening, and the next saw more. I have photos of little specks in the sky. They looked bigger in person, and prehistoric, with their huge, slow flapping wings.

We were so focused on looking up that we almost drove right past this group. The sun was setting behind them, so my pictures didn't turn out great. But it was pretty awesome to see these big birds in their natural habitat.