samhain 2010 and walnut cake

Samhain is here already. [And my computer thinks we went into daylight savings time over night, even though here in the states it's not until next week]

For my practice new year starts tomorrow. I love having many new years to celebrate and I am really looking forward to the day. There will be a ritual remembering our dead this afternoon with sisters and later a festive dinner with my wife. Life is good. Tomorrow starts nanowrimo and the new year. Are you signed up yet? It's not too late. I'll be prepping my ideas in my head for the big start!

This weekend I have been trying to cook out of my pantry as part of my plan to waste less food. I wanted to bake so this is what I ended up with; a small walnut cake with frosting. Not too big, rather hearty and like all of my baking not too sweet.

Walnut Cake based on a recipe from Great British Cooking by Jane Garmey

Heat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 8" round cake pan.

1/2 c butter softened
1/3 c agave nectar
2 eggs, room temp
1 1/4 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 c ground walnuts

-cream the butter and agave nectar together
-add the eggs one at time and mix
-sift the flour and baking powder together
-add to the butter mixture
-stir in the ground walnuts
-spread in the greased cake pan
-and bake 20-25 minutes until a knife to the center comes out clean

Remove from oven to a wire rack and remove from pan after 5 minutes. Cool completely then frost. The frosting I used was a cooked 7 minute frosting with palm sugar instead of white sugar. Half of a typical recipe is enough for this small cake. But I could also see a cream cheese frosting being yummy on this or perhaps a chocolate frosting.

I hope everyone has a glorious Samhain and enjoys some cake if that's your thing.
Samhain Mhaith!

CSA 2010 and food

Our CSA ended this month and I have been thinking a lot about food in general. Our CSA is awesome and it was a really good year with lots of yummy veggies [the watermelon was inedible] but even though we dropped down to every other week it was SO MUCH FOOD.

I remember being in India and seeing the camps of people living on rock heaps right outside of the office building. And there was nothing you could do. There wasn't even a place for people to grow food for themselves.

Fast forward a year plus and I get so much food in my CSA every other week that I end up forgetting what I have and then it spoils and I end up throwing it away. It is really hard to not beat myself up over this.

What can be done? I try to feel grateful every day for all the blessings I have which include so many choices, so much food. I try to be conscious that food is important, I don't want it to be convenient and easy all the time. I want to put effort into giving my family and myself the energy to live our lives. I want to be aware and remember all those who have so much less. But still food goes to waste.

So even though I am busy, even though I get tired I am going to put extra effort into keeping track of the food we have and thinking about how to use it or store it for the future. I am going to try to make it a priority.

I have a head of broccoli yellowing in the fridge right now and soup is coming. If anyone has any ideas about how to make this easier I would love to hear them.

celebration at Travail

I am having a rare conjunction of energy + thought, Quick, direct it to the blog immediately!

Wednesday my wife and I were treated to a fabulous dinner at Travail. They don't have website as far as I can tell so here is a link to a recent review.

Go ahead and read it if you want, I'll wait. Or not, whatever you feel comfortable doing.

Ok, if you read that review I need to make a clarification to it. Don't get stuck on the idea that you can get their 'ideal meal' when you go to Travail. The menu changes constantly, completely. What is listed on the chalkboard the night you go [lucky you] will be entirely different from the menu that is talked about in this article.

Anyway onto my 'review'. Travail was splendid. The 4 of us all got different dishes and we were all happy. The portions are on the small side [for the States], so if you arrive there starving do not hesitate to start with a salad or order something as a side as well as your main course. Or share the dessert tasting with the table, you'll have room for it and it's pretty amazing.

Be sure to not make assumptions about what your food will be, either let them surprise you and be ready to roll or ask. The cook/servers are happy to talk to you about the food. They are happy to discuss the wine as well. I had the Marietta old vine and it was exquisite. The beet salad lovely and the agnolotti sublime. They were stuffed with parsnips, marscarpone and and parmesan. I wish I could described what happened when I bit into one of them, but I can't find the words. foodgasm.

Foie Gras is locally sourced and cage free, my writing partner who had said it was the best she has ever tasted. It was served with chocolate, cranberries, cashews and looked as beautiful as it tasted. The italian sausage sandwhich was lovely as were the fries and the scallops were enjoyed. I couldn't get all the details of the dishes at that end of the table.

I can't even begin to tell you everything that was in the dessert tasting, here is a random list of what I can remember. Doughnuts, nutella, coffee sauce, vanilla creme, cheese cake mousse, apples, plums, plum cake, lemon curd, cookies, brownies, white chocolate and dark chocolate mousse and more. I can't eat sugar and I was still impressed and entertained.

All in all it is well worth your time to visit Travail.

Some caveats: At this point in time Travail does not take reservations. If it's crowded, and I think it's always crowded, there is very little room for waiting. There is a bar area from which you can stare at the lucky diners. This will get worse as the weather gets bad; when it gets too cold to spill over to the outside. We went on a Wednesday night for this very reason and still waited 45-60 minutes. But we were prepared and it did not mar our enjoyment.

Also the room bounces the sound around a lot and with all those people waiting, there is a lot of noise, if you have anyone HOH in your group they will have issues.

If neither one of those things bothers you then you are ready for some fabulous food.
Buon appetito!

wrapping up the week at random

Another week of stunning autumn weather. I can't even count how many days this has been going on anymore but it has been blissful.

This week I got a couple of bike rides in and enjoyed them immensely. As I rode west down the greenway I realized it was for the first time this year. Some lovely plantings had been made. Between having my bike stolen last spring and working on the running thing I just didn't have time for bike rides. I'm looking forward to getting more riding done in the nice weather that is coming up.

I attempted Bird's nest pudding with some of my apples, no recipe to share yet. The oddest thing happened it was not sweet enough. It is so rare that something is not sweet enough for me! I'll have to work on the recipe quite a bit more, it needs major tweaking.

I tried to bring order back to the chaos of my work after taking a week off. Rather dispiriting. I was able to blog which was lovely. My friend who had the stroke agreed to go back on medication again, hopefully it will last. I had breakfast with a friend and tomorrow I return back to English Country dancing. I have ideas for this years nanowrimo.

I hope you all had nice weeks as well.

a tale of apple dumplings

Remember my fabulous visit to the orchard last month? I brought many apples home with me. Both Cortland and Haralson, two of my favorites. This week I decided to do cook something new [for me] and made apple dumplings. In the past I have always talked myself out of making these for some reason and certainly I had issues. But if you are looking for something low sugar, scrumptious, rich and seasonal they will be perfect.

The first issue was my pastry. The last two times I made pastry it was oddly wet, so determined to not have it be too wet, yep you guessed it, it was very dry and crumbly. I basically had to mold the dough all around the apple. I think that this is the reason why the cooked apples expanded through the crust in a very fluffy fashion. Although as soon as they were removed from the oven the apple sank back in a very disarming way.

I indulged myself by making a larded WW flour, pie crust as my pastry, but these work with any type of pastry. Make your favorite and don't tell me if it's pre made or made with shortening, we all have our illusions we try to maintain.

All taste testers said they were yummy, which I guess is the most important part. Perhaps I'll do bird's nest pudding next time and not have any pastry worries.

EB's Apple Dumplings

-4 peeled, cored apples
-1/8 c of palm sugar [perhaps more to taste]
-1/2 c softened butter [you may not use it all]
-1/2 c agave nectar
-1/2 c water
cinnamon and nutmeg

-Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

-Heat the agave nectar, water, dash of cinnamon and 2T of butter to a simmer for 2 minutes.
-Remove syrup from heat.

-Roll out pastry into a circle big enough to fold up and cover the apple
-Place apple upright in the center of the pastry
-Place a small spoonful of butter and a spoonful of palm sugar into the center of your apple.
-Sprinkle apple with cinnamon and nutmeg.
-Lift edges of pastry and cover your apple, use water as needed to make pastry seal
-Place in an oven safe dish and brush dumpling with the syrup.
-Make the other dumplings in the same manner.
-Bake 10 minutes then brush all dumplings with syrup again.
-Turn down oven to 325 degrees and keep baking dumplings.
-Every 10 minutes brush dumplings with syrup

-Remove from oven after 30 minutes of baking at 325 degrees.

-Serve with heavy cream, whipped cream, creme fraiche, ice cream [maybe cinnamon]
-Make a tasty breakfast the next morning, you know I saved one for that.

Enjoy even if they burst.

The Third Second One

Another October is rapidly passing and that means it's time for us to celebrate our Canadian wedding anniversary.

Although we have many loving thoughts of our first wedding with our family and friends which I believe is ever fixed in people's minds by the heat wave that year. [Though it sounds like some have fond memories of the cake and polenta entree as well, both excellent.]

Our Canadian wedding is special for other reasons. Getting married outside in a garden, the ease of the legal side, the beauty of a whole country acknowledging our right to marry who we love. The incredible kindness of strangers. All wonderful.

We both had to work all day so we went out to celebrate with dinner. Fittingly we used a gift card we got as a wedding present for Salut. The celebration with my wife was lovely. The wine, a white bordeaux, was delicious. The duck confit was nice but extremely salty as was the bread. The ham and eggs on my croque madame just so so, I don't think they source local high quality pork. They are famous for their pomme frites, but again, I have had better. Also the food sat very heavily on both our digestions. Oh well. My wife really did enjoy her hangar steak however and noted that she enjoyed coming there for lunch for the better prices.

I don't really want to dis them, there wasn't anything really horrible but it just wasn't my thing in general. In fact half of their menu is steaks and hamburgers. Perhaps they are trying to be more american/kid friendly?
Their desserts, which we did not try, were huge.

With so many favorite places to eat and so many I want to try I won't be heading back to Salut's any time quickly. But for some people it's probably the perfect mix of accessible french/american food. The restaurant was crowded for a Tuesday. For the same price point I would rather try here next time.

Still it was a lovely time to celebrate.

so hard

We are back from vacation. I could babble on about the perfect weather, the friends that visited, the golden woods, my running, the dharma talks I listened to, and the way leaves falling sounded like wings flapping.

In all my autumns, which I have loved, I have never heard falling leaves sound like that.

But all I can really think about is how badly my friend who had the stroke is doing. It's hard and I am sad. We visited her last week. We had time for the 3 hour drive thanks to vacation. She can't speak. She can form some words but they are not the words she is trying to say. She can't verbally communicate at all but she spent the entire visit trying to do so.

Then she had another meltdown over the weekend. She wants to go home but can't. She keeps attempting to do stuff and falling. She is refusing her medication. [as a nurse she knows exactly what it is] She has at least one more clot in her leg but she is refusing treatment for it.

She didn't seem suicidal to me when I visited but I have to wonder.

She seems to have excellent comprehension but perhaps her judgment/understanding was impaired by the massive stroke because well... let's just say its bad.

I'm trying to stay with all this discomfort and I guess I am facing up to the very real overwhelming possibility that my friend may not make it.

So the hard. and I am sad. Lots of sad.

third first one

I can hardly believe that our third wedding anniversary is here. In some ways it went so fast and in some ways it seems like it was just yesterday all the family was in town.

We are having a brilliant week with the perfect autumn weather we were hoping for back in 2007. The woods are stunning with a carpet of gold stretching out under the brilliant trees. The sky and the lake are incredible shades of blue.

I look around at the beauty and feel luckier than ever. My wife is someone I really do enjoy more and more most days. I feel rested and full and grateful for our health and lives in general. I am so happy we got married 3 years ago and that so many of you were around to witness or hear about it. [If you weren't there is always the archives]

I hope that everyone out there has something to be happy about today.

nature refreshment

We are having beautiful autumn weather and I forgot my camera. Of course forgetting your camera does not negate the weather but it does make it hard to take pictures.

I am finding the glowing leaves healing. I had a nice time running yesterday and on the days I don't run, I walk. I have room in my brain to think. For instance I realized that I need to pick out a new cell phone. But I don't feel overwhelmed or depressed about this, I feel rather excited, like I have energy to think about it.

It looks like this settled gorgeous weather is with us for a week. I feel so fortunate. I was really looking forward to writing posts as well but my slow brain seems to have forgotten everything I was thinking of saying. Perhaps next time I will be more eloquent?

a break is coming

All next week in fact. I have the whole week off from work and I really need it. I plan to write, run, laugh, knit, cook perhaps do a little painting and completely luxuriate in this most fabulous of seasons and months; October!

This may mean that little blogging gets done or I may feel moved to blog a lot. Heck if I can get it to work I may even post pictures. My wife has time off as well which does not happen too often and we will be celebrating an important day together next week.

I try to not live my time in the future. There are a lot of wonderful things right now but it's a bit hard to remember. I try to turn my mind away from the worry of work and my friend who is trying to recover from her stroke and has a blood clot in her leg. It is a bit uphill.

Still I can look at my front locust tree turning to gold against the blue of a perfect October sky and something eases in my chest. I can feel fed and here for a minute. I can remember it's my eldest sister's birthday and feel lucky in love and family.

I hope it's a splendid day where you are.