Kettle Corn Lite

I recently broke what I consider to be the cardinal rule of weekend parenting. When the kid naps, rest. This past Sunday, when Frankie napped, I mowed the lawn. In fact, I figured out that my lawn mower (it's a crappy manual push thing) can be adjusted and I mowed it AGAIN. If my lawn were a 14-year old that just had its hair cut, it wouldn't have gone to school the next day. It was mowed that short. Needless, I was a bit tired and settled in for a rest once I sheared my lawn. My rest lasted a good 5 minutes before she woke up.

What in the hell does this have to do with kettle corn?

A while back, I described a method of making my own kettle corn using a funky popcorn popper. Turns out it's even easier, better, lighter in calories and finally - this is where it relates to parenting - is a treat that will keep a toddler in place for more than 35 seconds.

Kettle Corn
My instrument of choice this time: a non stick 3 1/2 quart deep sauce pan. I poured in enough vegetable oil to almost cover the bottom and two test kernels, put the flame on the highest setting on the stove top and covered it. Waiting for the test kernels to pop, I prepared a 1/4 cup of kernels (generic stuff, white corn) and poured over this about a tablespoon of sugar. When the test kernels popped, I dumped in the 1/4 cup measure of kernels and sugar. When the popping commenced, I gently jostled the pan while holding the lid on (to let the unpopped kernels go back to the bottom). Within about 20 or seconds, the popping ceased, I removed the lid and dumped the fluffy nuggets of goodness into a bowl and lightly salted them. Once cooled, the kid and I had our treat. That other gizmo is very cool but kind of silly for this application.


Elephant Ears

Last night, Trish got the urge to make some Elephant Ears. Having just received a trial size sample of some instant active dry yeast from a co-worker (thanks Larry), it seemed like a good place to put it to use. Trish made the dough, I shaped them and she cooked them - all while keeping the kid from harm's way. It's a really slack dough, almost batter-like. In the first image are the balls of dough that were separated and patted into ca. 6" discs. Had to use a ton of flour to work with these things or they'd stick. Then, we dropped them in the Fry Baby and finally coated them with cinnamon and sugar. Frankie absolutely loved them. They were a little like donuts, the delicate kind - not the crunchy cake ones. They were incredibly tasty and MUCH better than we'd had at the state fair. Yes, they're a tad high fat so we won't be doing these often, but it was a fun activity. And, yes, Suzi-q got her share too. And some of Frankie's as well.



We live in Columbus, OH. Not Sicily. But, a few doors down, a Sicilian neighbor of ours works quite hard to take care of his fig tree, which originated in Sicily. The first crop was harvested last night and we were among the few lucky recipients of the bounty. Trish and Frankie love them. Depicted is one of the figs cut in half. They're purple on the outside, soft, very ripe and sweet. They are heavenly.

I found a site called Adriano's Figtrees, Etc.; it's a site about cultivating fig trees in northern climates. According this site, I think the fig we generously received is called a Bifara (Italian Purple, A large sweet fig with strawberry pulp). My neighbor's going to give me a sprig to start my own. In the meantime, I'll be reading on their care and cultivation. These are too good not to have every year.


Crushed Grains

A few years ago I bought what I thought was a grain mill at a homebrew store. I wanted a mill with knurled wheels that could crush grain. This device does that but it was completely inappropriate for malted barley and its related cousins. Basically, the wheels are too close and it crushes the grain too much, almost into flour.

I found another grain mill for beer malts but kept this one anyway. Someone later informed me it's called a flaker (rather than a mill). It's got a few thickness settings and eventually gets the grains crushed into a very coarse powder. Shown here is a collection of rye berries, wheat berries and flax seed that have been crushed (several times through the finest setting). I can do several hundred grams in about 10 minutes. It's strictly low output. To make some really grainy breads, I substitute 1/3 of the total amount of flour with whole grain. I'll show you an example in the next post.


Parmesan Herbed Biscuits

The other night, while preparing our usual meal in 20 minutes or less, I really had a desire for some fresh bread but just hadn't enough time. Then I thought about the possibility of biscuits. We usually have biscuits for breakfast but I changed a few things to bring them into the savory dinner realm. I made a small batch that had grated parmesan and dried oregano. Including preheating the oven, I think they took about 25 minutes. It's not a good photo but they look pretty cool. The dark flecks are browned cheese I believe.

Parmesan Herbed Biscuits
Makes four biscuits.

1 cup self-rise flour (contains salt and b. powder)
1/4 cup sweet butter
milk, ca. 1/3 cup
parmesan reggiano, grated, 1/4 cup
dried oregano, 1 T

The oven is preheated to 450F. Butter is cut into self rise flour and the resulting powder is mixed with cheese and herbs. This is mixed with milk using a wooden spoon until all the solids form into a single mass. This is dumped onto the counter and kneaded a few times, squashed into a 7-8" disc and cut into 4 pieces and placed on a parchment-lined sheet. The biscuits are then painted with additional milk and baked till brown, about 15 minutes. Yum.


Box Wine?

Sometime ago I posted my opinion on a box wine I tasted. This month, Consumer Reports ran a piece on these brews and I thought I'd give them another evaluation - at least on paper. I searched a bunch of food/wine blogs looking for some reviews. I like blogs because for some topics, an opinion from an amateur is useful. You're never going to get a pompous wine expert to admit, if it were the case that a box wine was palatable.

Finally, I found this review by food writer Carol Emert at the San Francisco Chronicle (NO registration required!) and she seemed to like a few she sampled (and she also hated the Franzia I sampled sometime ago). A recommended wine was 2002 Hardys Stamp of Australia South Eastern Australia Merlot. I thought I'd try to hunt this one down to use for Lenn's Wine Blogging Day. It's a non-US merlot and dirt cheap. I'll keep you posted on my findings.

Also, I contacted Ms. Emert at the SFChronicle and she said she's soon doing a follow-up piece on box wines. I look forward to it.