Monday, August 26, 2013

Retro Range Baking - 7 Up Cake

This recipe has been around as long as I can remember, but it always brings to mind those last hot days of summer when my Mom would make this when we'd have a cookout with the neighbors.  The kids would all line up for a big slice while the adults had a small piece along with a slice of whole  "grown ups only" watermelon that someone had injected with vodka.  The kids had a great time, the adults, especially after cake and a couple slices of watermelon, had a stupendous time.
We usually had 7-Up in the house in the summers.   I don't think I saw a Coke my entire childhood except for the one my kindergarten teacher dissolved someones tooth in by way of example.   Water or milk were the usual beverages, with KoolAid a summer treat for us.  But sometimes for family gatherings there would be these chilled green glass bottles of 7-Up there in the big cooler of ice along with the Hamms.

I hadn't had it since I was a kid when I ran across the recipe again, adding a bit of lemon zest and mellowing out the  "pucker up" tart glaze a bit with milk and lemon extract instead of straight sugar and lemon juice.  It was a nice change, yet still a very familiar taste, just as good as I remembered.

It's an incredibly moist, tender crumb, and the outside gets this nice little crunchy bite around the edges from long slow baking at a lower temperature. 

3 sticks salted butter
3 cups sugar
5  extra large eggs (at room temperature)
2 Tablespoons lemon extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 cups of all purpose flower
3/4 cup 7-Up

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp milk
2 tsp lemon extract
a splash of 7-Up  (until you get the consistency you want, start with 1/2 tsp. and go from there)

Preheat oven to 325 F.  In a large bowl, cream butter for about 3 minutes with a hand or stand mixer on medium high to high. Add in the sugar (about 1/4 of the total at a time) and beat for additional 17 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as it mixes. (Yes, you heard me, 20 minutes total). Add eggs, one at a time, beating a minute after each one (the mixture will look VERY fluffy). Add lemon extract, lemon zest and the flour, one cup at a time, mixing on low or by hand just enough to combine (don't over beat once the flour is added).

Gently fold in the 7-Up and pour into a greased 12 cup Bundt cake pan and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes  to 1 hour and 15 minutes (or until a thin knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.  (check at 50-60 minutes, this cake is easy to over bake).

Cool and glaze.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Blog Meet - Scotch Eggs and Flying Prairie Dogs

It was the Indy 1500 Gun and Knife Show, the perfect time for an Indy blog meet.  Everyone has been very busy, lots of travel and many of us bouncing around the landscape like tumbleweeds.  But Tam coordinated time and place and got the word out to meet up at the Brewpub after the gun show .(The gun show is "no photos" but as always, they put on a great event and everyone who attended enjoyed it).

It was at our favorite place, the Broad Ripple Brew Pub, and there were a lot of familiar faces and a new one. Fellow Hoosier Jeff from JB on the Rocks joined the fun and he was certainly a great fit in the group.  He brought everyone bumper stickers.

Oh, this is so cool. Thanks JB, it was great to finally met you.
click on any picture to enlarge

And Nathan B., otherwise known as Fuzzy Curmudgeon, brought something for long time blog meet Hostess Roberta X,  a really cool poster.  Roberta has an awesome collection of antique typewriters at home, a couple of which I've typed on at 50 wpm with gusts to 65.
In attendance (seen from the six  o'clock position of the table going clockwise): 

Roberta X , my empty chair,  Engineering JohnsonThe Jack . Nathan B,  Old Grouch, and there past a table of two guys that were between us for a few minutes until we got the whole block of tables,  Rich, Rich's big bro,  P., Og, Jeff, Kerry (non blogger, local shooter and long time attendee), and today's hostess Tam,

The craft brewed beers and the root beers were ice cold and hot food would soon follow. More than one person ordered the brisket sandwich with bacon.
Of course, someone always orders the Scotch Eggs, a BR Brewpub specialty.
But they weren't the only appetizer to hit the table.  There was also chicken tenders, wings, the cheese crock and the giant soft pretzel with Hoosier made stone ground mustard.
Boy, that brisket with bacon looks tasty.  But so were the little individual pizzas.
I had a veggie one with chopped fresh garlic added and Tam went for olives, feta and jalapenos.
The conversation and laughter flowed as quickly as the cold drinks.  With this group, there is no telling where the conversations will go, but within earshot of my end of the table it involved, not just books and food and recent shooty gatherings but:

The engineering of an automatic Prarie Dog Launcher (Pull!) and .308.

Why an all terrain Roomba equipped with a motion sensing paint ball critter dispersal unit might take care of those backyard raccoons (Roberta:  "uh Tam, why are the raccoons blue?")

Of course, then I had that mental image in my head of a bunch of racoons with blue painted faces storming Roseholme Cottage shouting "Freedom!", before the Roomba chases them off again.
We also discussed the difference between Scotch eggs and Scotch Yokes and why,  if our pets had opposable thumbs, there would be a nationwide bacon shortage.

And finally,  what people would wear, if a hundred years from now folks went to some futuristic version of a Renaissance Fest type activity and the attendees were dressed up like us. (Picture it, someone in the future finds all the really awful tactical gear you somehow got and didn't use and will wear it because it LOOKS authentic.)

Future attendee:  "What are you?"

The Jack - "Hi, I'm a blogger!".

Before we headed out, everyone gathered outside to chat a little bit more and enjoy the beautiful Indy sunshine.  It was great to see you all, and thanks to Tam for rounding us up for a wonderful day.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Cardamom Bread - Part of This Complete Plunder

One can't plunder on an empty stomach.

When I'm out at Dad's, I make it a point to go into the "big city", often taking the long way on the ferry to get there. I enjoy the ride, it brings back a lot of memories of trips made back and forth here, some good, some painful, yet all, part of an abundant past.

Oh, look, trapped on the ferry with the Snap On Tool Truck.  Score!!!
Once I get to town (ok, I only bought two things), I do a little wandering.  Having such a high population of Scandanavian folks, there are some really incredible bakeries in the area, including this one.
These are made from scratch every morning.  It's always fun to get a couple and some of their good coffee and just go sit along the river and watch the seals (no, not the Navy kind).
But, excellent bakeries aside, no one makes cardamom bread like my Mom and Grandma did. Grandma immigrated from Sweden at age 18 and after moving to Minnesota, married a Norwegian logger from an immigrant North Dakota family, eventually settling in Montana, where my Dad's parents homesteaded.  The rest is wonderful family history comprised of bad puns, gun poweder and baking powder biscuits..

From them I inherited an appreciate of certain recipes that just say "home", if only to me.  Liver sausage, those baking powder biscuits, a recipe from 1900 called only "Killum Quicks",  pork with potato pancakes and lingonberry sauce and apple pie cake, baked in a pie pan and served with ice cream. But when I visit, I always make sure Dad has a loaf  of cardamom bread to tear apart with a bit of butter and some good coffee.  The recipe is not Mom's, as it was never written down, but this adaption comes close.
Green and black cardamom are used as flavorings in both food and drink, as cooking spices and as a medicine. Cardamom has a strong, unique taste, with an intensely aromatic, resinous fragrance. The smell while it bakes is just incredible.

Green cardamom is one of the most expensive spices by weight but little is needed to impart the flavor. Ground Cardamom can be found in any spice aisle at the grocery (though I get mine at Penzeys).  If you wish to buy and use whole Cardamom seeds for more intense flavor, a generally accepted equivalent is 10 pods equals 1 and 1/2 teaspoon of the ground. If you buy the pods, store them whole, because once the seeds are exposed or ground, they quickly lose their flavor.

In my Mom's Swedish/Norwegian kitchen it was used as a flavoring in waffles, cookies, many Nordic breads and even her bacon pancakes.. Cardamom bread is most commonly served around Christmas, and I believe is Finnish in origin (known as "pulla)  but in our household, we enjoy it on any chill morning when family gathers.

click to enlarge, I know you want to
Cardamom Bread

There's a reason none of the low carb diets were written by Scandinavian folks.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Cultured Lab - An Evening with Barkley

Every week, in addition to his walks, if it's not pouring or too hot for anyone wearing a fur coat, Barkley and I head out.  We have a couple places where I can throw a toy and he can safely run off leash for a while in safety.  If it's hot out he gets to go to the creek, sometimes with friends.
Afterwards on those trips, if it's just he and I, we will make a stop on our way home for a frozen yogurt. He waits in the car while I dash in and come out with two red bowls.  He gets a little dab of vanilla in a big snoot sized bowl.  He is usually trying to snoot it through the two front seats before I'm even in the truck and then drags the empty container into the back when he's done.
I was driving past the place while running errands the other night and decided to stop and get one. Though, if I'd gotten one for Barkley too,  it would have been completely melted when I got home.  Sorry, buddy.

I felt kind of bad, he's been in the house all day long without company.  There's no telling what kind of mischief he can get into if he's too unoccupied..

Sorting my laundry (hey look, this has tooth sized holes in it, better throw it out).

Bacon Profiling

Or playing secret Black Lab fantasy games.
I am Bored.  Prepare to be assimilated.

But no matter what, he's always waiting for me with a bit happy Lab grin on his face and a wagging tail, just happy to see me.

When I got home, I set my empty yogurt container in the kitchen as I walked in, to toss in the trash when I got settled.

I expecting to be greeted by Mr. Happy Lab, who is usually waiting on the couch in the next room for me.
This was NOT Mr. Happy Lab.  Not only does he spot the empty yogurt dish, he, apparently, can count to two.
Come on Barkley, let's go.  It's been a long day but what's 15 miles to the gallon for your best friend.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Slippery Black Lab

Barkley has few bad habits, the primary one being stealing soft footware and undies (as frequent visitors Miss D and Midwest Chick can tell you).  Leave something on the floor while you're gone, slippers you  kicked under the console while watching Dr. Who the night before, tennis shoes by the back door, he won't touch themUntil there is someone to watch (or it's 4 am and you have to go to work and you're running late) 

So, for  my readers over 50 (including my good friend Guffaw in AZ) who may remember a show from the 60's about a dophin,(and those younger who saw it in syndication) my apology for the earworm. 
He's got her slipper, slipper, faster than lightning,
Now you can see, he's smarter than she
And we know slipper, is dropped in a blunder
to lie there-under, under the TV

Everyone loves the king of the fleas,
Ever so kind and gentle is he,
Tricks he will do when footwear appears
And how they give chase when he's near!

He's got her slipper, slipper,  faster than lightning,
now you can see, he's smarter than she
And we know slipper, is dropped in a blunder
to lie there-under, under the TV!


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Posts From the Road - Something Blued

Something old
Something new
Something borrowed
Something blued
Blue is good, in a fine blued firearm, or perhaps in the form of blue cornmeal.  Many of you probably haven't noticed the bag of cornmeal that's blue colored in the bulk grain aisle, but you've likely tried one of the blue tortilla chips out there.  I'd picked up a bag of Bob's Red Mill Blue Cornmeal and on Sunday morning early decided to try my hand with a batch.  I tweaked the recipe on the bag a bit, and the results were beyond my expectation.
OK, it looks like a slab of cement with molasses on it, but boy, is this good.

Blue cornmeal is typically a medium grind meal made from blue corn, with a flavor that is both sweeter and more intense than regular cornmeal.  It's not really pure blue but consists of coarse flecks of lapis against lavender-hued slate. Color wise, it doesn't make for a particularly attractive dish, but it makes a delicious one.  It's used in lesser known Southwest dishes such as piki bread (a wafer thin bread of the Hopi) and chaqueque (porridge) as well as other more traditional recipes (and incredible tortilla chips).

It's "grittier" than regular corn meal and has a more earthy aroma. This brand, compared to my stocked cornmeal, has 3 times the fiber and 50% more protein with slightly bit more non saturated fat, making for a filling side dish or light meal in itself for breakfast.

It was slightly more course in texture, though with this recipe, very moist.  I was also sweeter without adding extra sugar, with an almost nutty undertone to it.  The edges, like any good cornbread, baked up nice, golden and crunchy.  Served with molasses and butter, this made for a dandy breakfast and I'm looking forward to trying some other things with the remainder of the bag.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Boris and Natasha Didn't Take the Day Off

h/t to Marty, my favorite Canadian Squirrel

So neither can we.

I'll be back soon (or at least a saved post will be)
 - B.

Monday, August 12, 2013

It's Nice to Know your Vises - Weekend with Friends

Birthday weekend has passed (thanks everyone for the well wishes both on and off line).  It's going to be hard to go back to work tomorrow.  For my family, and those friends in other cities  I can best share the day in photos.

It started with Popovers for brunch. 
Then it was off to Half Priced Books.
The model railway book has a section on making relays out of wood, iron wire and electromagnets (hmmm evil basement lab experiment #126).

I got to pick where we'd have "birthday dinner" before some folks had to go back to work early Monday.  I'd heard about this place from so many, including an episode of "Man vs Food" where Adam said "best Meatloaf and Pie ever!" Gray Brothers Cafeteria. It's not your typical cafeteria. It's done up like a old world restaurant with lots of dark wood, stained glass and fireplaces. The food? Amish Buffet meets Southern Home cooking.
They serve you, on plates like Grandma had and will give you generous servings (the guy in front of me had three pieces of chicken including a breast the size of a small raccoon).  I went for two small pieces of chicken and a few side dishes.  Best fried chicken I have ever had, and the sides were all from scratch delicious. (I couldn't finish the big chunk of homemade bread but it was great).
Here's another platter from our group.
It's just 5 minutes south of the Indianapolis Airport and Interstate 70  in Mooresville, Indiana if you are traveling through the state.

Afterwards, there was  a gander at some old cars
Then back on home to visit and relax.

For me!??

Hand knitted Cammo slippers from a trap shooting gal friend I cross paths with professionally.
A book presented with "not that you need it".  Cool!  I'll let someone here guess what it is.
And, the present that any self respecting Ninja Gal would want.  A leather garter belt with adjustable garter and knives, hand made by Partner in Grime. 
For you never know when  the special occasion might arise where you might need a proper garter belt.

Now it's time to just relax and have fun.  There's always board games around here. 

*#^&!  Well THAT was a short game. 

Check out the box.  Notice anything unusual on the aircraft carrier under the fighter jets?

Tam: "Are those taildraggers on there?"

Evening was a few adult beverages and some of our favorite Law Enforcement and Forensic shows ("That's NOT the inferior nasal conchae!) before heading off to sleep in  my new slippers.
The following day, it was Girl's Day Out. I made sure the Birthday goodies were put away where Barkley couldn't get them and then it was time to feast and frolic with the Mongolian hordes! Thanks Tam!
Our food is on the grill.
After yesterday, I went for healthy with a sauce of  Mongolian Ginger Sauce, Teriyaki and extra Cayenne. Crispy, Crunchy, Savory, Spicy all together with brown rice and tortillas to make wraps.  Yum!

Then it was off to explore Woodcraft.  It's a little off the beaten path, but oh so much fun with a friendly, knowledgeable staff and lots of unique supplies.  Just the shop equipment alone was worth it.

See, I told you there would be planes involved.
Too soon, it was time to head home.  Huck was quietly waiting at Roseholme Cottage, as I knew Barkley would be when I arrived home.
Birthdays are great, but it's the little adventures throughout the year, the ones done without expectation or fuss that are the most fun.  Especially when you can hang with the folks that know all your vises and love you anyway.
Thank you everyone for all your well wishes and for my friends, for being there through so many years and adventures.