Tag Archives: family

The Nostalgia of Christmas and Family and A Farewell

Up late one night I was delighted to find one of my favorite movies on television, 84 Charing Cross Road. The book is truly one of my favorites, and Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins do a stellar job in bringing my beloved novel to life.

In one scene, it’s Christmas time and a lovely cathedral in London is performing Handel’s Messiah by a beautiful choir. Suddenly I was transported back to Christmases past.

We used to all live here in San Francisco. My sister lived on Pacific Heights, my parents had that lovely flat on Russian Hill, which I still think of as my permanent address as it was since I was 15, years before my parents moved in.

Family friends lived there for years, the Days, and they proffered me the use of their mailing address so I could register for school and for the use of their 6 foot bathtub since the luxury of a long bubble bath was much needed by a teenager while Mom and I were living on the boat.

Meantime, Mom married my darling stepdad and I graduated from high school and left home to my first apartment with my beau. When the Days moved to DC and my parents moved into the flat it really felt like we were all coming home. I lived nearby in various apartments on Russian Hill and then later on Cathedral Hill to be closer to the Opera House.

December in SF is pretty mild, weather-wise. The air is snappy and chilly, the buildings along the Embarcadero and all over town are outlined in white lights, the top of the Transamerica Pyramid glows with a color shifting laser light that I can see from my winter-grime streaked windows. One building has a giant bow in lights along the roof somewhere on the slopes of Nob Hill that is a favorite, and my building’s owners decorate the Art Deco lobby with Christmas decorations and wreathes.

My parents and I would sometime go together to Fort Mason to the Guardian’s tree sale in one of the piers to get our Christmas trees, then back to my parent’s flat (home) for supper and hot buttered rum with Trader Vic’s mix and those chocolate schoolboy cookies.

Some years, I would take my laundry cart to the tree lot on the corner of Van Ness and Filbert and push a tree up, up, up that great hill to my apartment to collapse on the couch, sticky with sap, to drink very boozy eggnog while my cat snuffled around the pine boughs.

Either way, my stepdad would come over and help me get the tree in the stand and make sure it was up straight, and we would have a little scotch and soda to congratulate ourselves on the fine job.

I would shop and shop for pantry ingredients and cook up a variety of gifts for Christmas. I would sit on the couch with a tray on a triangular table in front of the TV and zest piles of lemons to make a decadent lemon curd. The recipe was from the beloved Cafe Beaujolais in Mendocino where visited with my father when we used to see each other. It called for 14 whole eggs and 6 yolks and a pound and a half of butter and took a long time stirring over a double boiler with a wooden spoon to turn into thick and creamy and tangy lemon curd.

I spooned the finished pale yellow curd into pretty jars topped with circles of Christmas fabric from the fabric store on Polk Street and secured with ribbons or with sparkly wrapping paper and hand drawn stickers. My mom and sister loved this lemon curd especially and I always had enough leftover to make a tiny fruit tarts for myself for a decadent tea on a weekend of hard cooking.

Our dear neighbor Peggy Baldwin, the most chic and sophisticated lady with her red hair in a sleek bob, gave me a set of mini loaf pans and her recipe for zucchini pineapple bread one year. This gift along with an inspiring edition of Gourmet Magazine spurred a new tradition of my baking dozens of savory and sweet mini loaves for gifts. I scoured the city looking for cellophane wrap to package them up with bows of satin ribbon.

Another Christmas staple was trays and trays of peanut brittle. It was so much fun to make, using my largest stock pot cooking the sugar and peanuts until they were the perfect hue and temperature, testing the sugar the way Grandma taught me with a bowl of ice water and her old teal painted wooden handled sugar thermometer as a backup. A poof of baking soda caused the seething hot mass to bubble up perilously close to the top of the pot, to be calmed with soothing butter and a dash of vanilla extract and poured out onto pans to cool and harden. My sister taught me to make candy but I could never recreate her wondrous chocolate topped toffee and stuck with the simpler brittle.

My stepdad would always give us pounds of Sees Candy, stashed under the Christmas tree for Christmas, and we would reach for those before even starting in on our homemade candies.

Later, I was granted the honor of the recipe of Ken’s daughter in law’s mother’s recipe for shortbread. Margaret Golbranson was a fine and true Scottish lady, as is her daughter Una, with whom I grew as fond as a sister. Margaret’s recipe came from her great Aunt Violet and it was one of the few recipes she brought from home in Scotland. Una would give my stepdad a tin of shortbread each year and I would too because there was never enough. Una’s batches were of course far superior to mine but Margaret approved of my efforts anyway.

I would set aside a Saturday in November and hike down the hill to Ghirardelli Square to watch their tree lighting ceremony, then grab a crab to take home for dinner and an Irish Coffee from the Buena Vista to fortify myself for the hike back up the hill. My parents and sister and I would walk around the neighborhood admiring the Christmas decorations on display, and would drive around in the Marina, our old home stomping grounds, to see our former neighbor’s decorations. Mom and I would make a trip downtown to shop and look at the store windows.

My parents attended St. Luke’s church, where they were married, and were members of their very fine choir. The choir performed many beautiful concerts at various venues around town and even recorded albums. It was one of the finest music programs in the city and their Christmas concerts were beautiful.

My sister and I were not raised to attend church but we loved hearing our parents and our choir family sing, so we would don our Christmas wool dresses and skirts, warm coats decorated with Christmas jewelry and meet up in the pews to hear the concert on Christmas Eve at 10 pm. The church was lit with tall white tapers and pretty decorations. Floyd Dade, the church caretaker, would give us big hugs and remind us not to sit on the ends of the pews under the candles as they dripped. The Trompette à Chamade would sound and the choir would start their procession singing out greatly, Mom and Ken would see us in the pews and smile and nod with glistening eyes as they passed by along with our family friends. It is hard to believe the church is 150 years old this year.

After the Christmas service and concert we would pile into the car and head out to the outer Richmond district to the Blomberg’s house, our dearest friends, for a party given for the choir. Sue decorated her house adorably and made a lavish spread with classic displays of silver, crystal and fine china holding her exquisite fare, lit by candelabra and tapers everywhere. Sue is an elegant hostess and this late night party was quite a great bash. We would take turns warming by the fireplace sipping hot oyster stew out of glass mugs or crystal cups of Bill’s famous eggnog. The punch bowl that had the boozy eggnog was decorated with a red bow. Bill’s annual masterpiece had eggs and whipping cream, eggnog ice cream from Mitchell’s, and who knows what other magical things went into this rich concoction.

When the eyelids began to droop and people got tired playing the baby grand piano and singing carols we would head home to get some sleep before Christmas Day, stopping for an embarrassing smooch from whoever caught us under the mistletoe.

Christmas Day was invariable sunny and bright but cold like a refrigerated apple. I would load up my laundry cart with my goodies and other Christmas gifts and head over to Larkin Street.

Mom always baked orange sweet rolls served with lots of strong coffee and bacon or sausages, stollen and Ken would blend up Ramos fizzes for a bit of the hair of the dog.

We would open our Christmas stockings first, filled with candy, nuts in their shells and gifts from Santa and Mrs Claus, all secretly filled by their ‘elves’, meaning Mom, my sis and me. The gifts under the tree would be opened and we would admire them and the view of the bay outside, classical music or Christmas carols would be playing on the stereo and the floor was littered with paper, ribbons and decorations.

We had a tradition of reusing some gift decorations so it was always a treat to see one of the old family favorites on your own gift that year. They were carefully set aside for the next year during the Great Clean Up of the holiday debris. Ken would always don a bow on his shirt or on the top of his head, until one of us would notice and break out in the giggles.

After cooking together for dinner, reading our Christmas books and sucking on a candy cane or two, the cannon in the Presidio would blow and Ken would make cocktails. The Blombergs would arrive for dinner and sometimes we would have other guests, such as our dear neighbor Peggy, my boyfriend (except for the Jewish one who always camped out in my apartment eating Chinese until I returned) or other family friends who didn’t have a place to go. We would have Christmas gifts again and Sue heated up the leftover oyster stew from Christmas Eve to sip with our drinks as we watched the sunset through the Golden Gate Bridge. Dinners were always grand affairs and ended with Christmas crackers, telling jokes and donning the tissue crowns that came inside the crackers.

My family moved away about ten years ago and I would trek out to my parents new home in the Sierra foothills for a holiday break and Christmas at their cottage, which was tucked into a hollow filled with oak trees and quail.

We would always have crab on Christmas Eve and listen to the local PBS radio station play Amal and the Night Visitors, play Spite and Malice on the card table set up in front of the stone fireplace, warming ourselves with a toasty fire.

My elaborate baked gifts stopped then as they wouldn’t survive the train trip or long car rides, but I always made shortbread and sometimes candied ginger for Ken, they were his favorites. We cooked elaborate Christmas dinners for just the four of us. Sometimes I would bring up my cat Pogo or my sister would bring up her two fluffy white cats. They were fun to watch, exploring under the Christmas tree or watching the plethora of birds outside and “helping” with the ribbons on the gifts and the great unwrapping party.

Over all the years it was a comfortable feeling of family being together, enjoying our company, cooking and playing cards, watching football or PBS, sneaking off for naps and long walks and depleting the vast amount of chocolate desserts, the holidays were a pleasant time.

Last year my stepdad became suddenly and severely ill with dementia and we didn’t decorate the house for Christmas. It was an odd holiday with just my parents and me trying not to freak out over this horrible illness and the severe and breathtaking worry over what would happen next. I roasted a duck brought up from my local butcher in the city a day after Christmas because my stepdad was really under the weather on Christmas Day.

Shortly thereafter, he was admitted to the hospital for an infection, then he was transferred to a dreadful nursing home where his dementia made him non-responsive. By May, he was allowed to go home for hospice care, almost immediately he began to improve, although we knew it wouldn’t last.

At Ken’s 92nd birthday party in July he was having a good day but he didn’t really know who we all were and he was very tired. He took a turn for the worse in November and then, suddenly, on Veterans Day, he was gone. He was taking a nap and slipped away. I am so glad he was able to be at home that he loved so much, with my mom who he loved even more. I was with a dear friend, recuperating from whooping cough, too sick to travel yet.

Sometimes people talk about the passing of a loved one as a mercy, and I understand this, Ken hated this illness and he was tired of it. I am grateful his ordeal is over and that a fine tenor has joined the choir with St. Peter.

I wrote about my memories of my stepdad on my Facebook page. I can’t bear to repeat those thoughts here. He was a wonderful man, he was my dad and friend.

A friend Sean wrote about the anniversary of the loss of his brother and said, “Life is not about what we’ve lost, but what we keep. Every memory, no matter how it’s retained, is a treasure.” Mom re-read my blog this last week and remarked how happy she was that I wrote so much about our family. I have been re-reading my writing too and I am grateful I have chronicled our happy times together here.

I can’t imagine how the holidays are going to be this year. All I know is that I want to give my mom all the hugs I can. Being together is the greatest gift and I am truly thankful,

My 2011 “Did It’” List

My friend Luna Raven recently posted her 2011 “Did It” List, inspired by one of her friends and I love all the things she got done this year.  Thus inspired I thought I should join the club and write about my accomplishments too.

I went to Mushroom Camp and  learned to mordant yarn and fabric and then dye it using foraged mushrooms.
Green shimmery stems!The red gilled dernacybe makes a gorgeous pinkAmazing spectrum of hues from mushroom dyesRed-Gilles Dermocybes with alum mordant make this coppery hue

I found my first candy cap mushroom in the redwood forests up in Sonoma.
My first mushroom foray, a candycap!

I attended the Fancy Food Show and scored twelve pounds of amazing blue cheese. (no picture, we ate it all!)

I discovered some amazing ramen places, including my current favorite, pork and corn butter ramen at Ramen Club.
*Ridiculous* dinner w @equan55 - butter ramen

I treated myself to some incredible yarn at Stitches West and have actually knitted up a few garments.
Zontee spotting!!The results of our card knitting class! Lorna Miserphoto.JPGChacha shawl

I gathered up all my courage and borrowed lots of courage from friends and had surgery to repair my shoulder from a tragic high fiving injury when we won the World Series in 2011.Two months later I did not listen to my doctors orders and returned to work a month early, which is why one should not make important decisions while taking pain medication!  Major life lesson learned!  (Is that technically an accomplishment?)
The *right* shoulder
(note to the surgeon)

I am still in physical therapy due to yet another accident while riding MUNI.  My  accomplishment there is patience and learning to follow directions and care for myself, and, even though it’s embarrassing, sit in the disabled seats on the bus.

I got to visit with my dearest childhood friend three times! ((Lovi!!))
Me & my BFFGurlzphoto.JPG

My friends and I made ten different kinds of macaroni and cheese on my birthday at a huge blowout party, and we almost ate them all!
Mac'n cheese blowout - in progressMy dear friends...

I celebrated one year at my new job and I am still loving every day. It was great to have health insurance, medical leave and understanding coworkers while I heal. I am so lucky!
Deflating the monkeyphoto.JPGphoto.JPGphoto.JPG

I went to San Diego on the most hilarious girls road trip to BlogHer – the Road Trip of Happiness!
Here it is, on a 20" plate, fried chicken BennieEeek! It's *so* big! @whats4dinnermomGetting reading for #KUYH Party @rubydw is thirsty!Tasering @domesticvalerie while waiting for brekkies is just rude @lunaraven13

I relearned how to embroider after taking a great class from Princess Animal and finished my first sampler.
photo.JPG

I knitted my 26th pair of socks and learned how to darn them.
Skew socks in Alchemy's Juniper sock- Summertime BluesLast view, fun heel stripes, love this pattern!Finished my Twisted socks from @knittydotcomForgotten arts: darning socks (done!)

I created a new diet of bacon, chocolate, beef, wine and cocktails, bread and cheese because of weird food allergy/sensitivities – I’m doing just fine on it, it’s not privation that’s for sure!
Vegan chocolate cake ~ Wacky cake ~ with bourbon ganache. Thanks mOmIt's business time...Mmm lardons - thanks @nueskes @inyaku !

I launched a new blog – The Inadvertent Redhead – as an outlet for my non-food related talents, and I love it! And yes, I’m still a redhead!
Irish coffee #2 at the Buena Vistaaaahhhhphoto.PNG

Because of my blog and social media I was invited to a multitude of wonderful parties and events and I feel so privileged to have these opportunities and to know so many wonderful writers, cooks, chefs, photographers, stylists and artistan food producers from many genres.
Chef Corey Lee of BenuSour Flour

Despite all the challenges and sadnesses of this year it has been a really good one and I am looking forward to many fun things in 2012.

I am most especially looking forward to another year with my wonderful family.
Ken and Barbie

Here’s to health and happiness ahead!
Cheers my friends!

Mac’n Cheese Blowout

Plate #1

Last year sometime over a haze of bourbon on ice and pimento cheese G___ and I were extolling the joys of mac’n cheese and the conversation grew to jovial boasting.

“My mother’s mac’n cheese is the best ever, you know.”

“Oh really, *my* mac’n cheese is the best I have ever had, and you know I’m picky.”

“Well, I don’t like to say, but *my* mac’n cheese is even better than my mother’s!”

The gauntlet was down and we toasted each other merrily.

For months we discussed that we needed to have a mac’n cheese throwdown, or at the very least a dinner where we made excessive amounts of mac’n cheese and had lots of people over to consume it.

A year plus later we finally scheduled the date and last weekend that date was upon us.

G___ very kindly offered to do all of the shopping and our guests were confirmed to arrive at 4:00 pm.  I arrived around Noonish, apron in hand along with a few special secret ingredients, and by 1:00 pm the kitchen was steamy and redolent with cheese.

We had a “grate” time, or, I should say, we grated and grated mounds and mounds of cheese:

  • Tillamook sharp cheddar
  • Smoked fontina
  • Gouda
  • Amish blue cheese
  • Cabot sharp white cheddar
  • Longhorn cheddar
  • Laura Chenel goat
  • Gruyere
  • Extra sharp aged cheddar

I prepared my mother’s béchamel.  This béchamel is quite special and I wrote about it previously.  One essential step necessary to its successful preparation is to sing to the sauce while it is being stirred.

“Bechamel, béchamel mucho….”, I crooned and gave the wooden spoon a spin, “each time you cling to my spoon I taste cheese divine…”
(My apologies to Consuelo Velasquez.)
My béchamel

G___ made two versions of mac’n cheese, and I also made two versions:

In addition, and to be fair to our childhood memories, we also made Kraft’s Macaroni & Cheese and Annie’s Natural Mac & Cheese, purely as a control group.

Our menu was rounded out by a lovely sliced tomato salad with goat cheese crumbles and balsamic vinaigrette, and an abundant green salad with spiced walnuts and feta.
Picnik collage

So back to the kitchen…

The buffet table was laden with casseroles and the dry pasta so that we knew the destination for each batch.

My béchamel finally had simmered and was sung to enough and the mounds of delicious cheese were folded in, pots of boiling water and melting butter bubbled on stove.
Pots bubbling away

Panko breadcrumbs were tossed with various concoctions and the parsley was chopped.  A pot of custard was prepared and more bowls were filled with grated cheese.  I burned my hand and my first aid was ice (externally) and bourbon (internally); such good friends.  Serving spoons, cutlery and glassware were arranged.  Shirts changed, hair combed and lipstick applied, we were ready!

Picnik collage

It was quite the feast of mac’n cheese.  The aromas emanating from the kitchen were intoxicating as was the variety of roses and reds being poured.  As we called our friends to the buffet table I recited the history of macaroni and cheese from the internet.  Did you know it was probably originated by the Romans, and the French in pre-Revolution times?  Also our beloved Benjamin Franklin introduced macaroni to the new USA, as most of us know, but no one in our group sang “Yankee Doodle Dandy”.

Our guests lined up and dug in.

Picnik collage

Each plate was a work of art.
We chose not to disclose which dish was which and asked for a ranking.  The favorites were:

  1. G___’s experiment, which was roughly a mound of various cheeses melted into half and half with some delicious seasonings, stirred into the cooked pasta and then topped with bread crumbs and smoked paprika and broiled until golden.
  2. My mushroomy mac’n cheese with my regular cheese sauce, the pasta tossed in truffle oil and then sautéed mushrooms mixed in with the cheese sauce, truffle salt mixed in the breadcrumb mixture.
  3. G___’s mother’s mac’n cheese, because of the thick cheesy crust.  It’s cooked pasta with all of the longhorn cheddar piled on top, then the custard poured over and baked until bubbly and golden.
  4. My regular mac’n cheese topped with heirloom tomato slices then breadcrumbs on top. If I had the extra sharp white cheddar that I normally use I think this batch would have had the usual zing but this batch was milder in taste.

For those of you who were curious, the Kraft won out between the commercial brands because it was creamier.  The Annie’s seemed really dry, despite using whole milk and butter.  The Kraft, however, was frightening to make, once the powdered sauce mix was mixed with the milk it expanded and thickened as it sat, like some strange orange blob-like creature!

The spread

Despite all of the richness from our dinner, we still felt the need for a little dessert, homemade ginger cake with caramel sauce and two ice creams.
The ginger cake

We all agreed we must try this mac’n cheese blowout again, perhaps sooner than once a year, and continue our experiments with cheeses, toppings and methods. What are your favorites?

Joy To The World, And A Great Bowl of Soup

I was happily ensconced with my family over the holidays and we celebrated a wonderful Christmas with way too much food and dare I say too much football?

To help offset the three pounds of butter we used for our dinners, a new historical *low* I might add, I made a healthy lunch of butternut squash soup for Christmas eve.

We have been visiting the local grocery store up here in the country daily, and on Christmas eve, two times. The store was established in 1852 as a stagecoach stop and owned by the family continuously. They have the nicest staff. Since my stepdad shops every day he, and by extension, we are well known. It is expected that you chat with the grocer, the butcher and everyone else. It is the country after all! I was joking with the clerk about the massive butternut squashes they have in the product department, they easily weigh 7 pounds.

“My stepdad called it Junior.” I laughed as I cradled it in my arms, “Junior is going in the soup pot today!”

The clerk told me she had always wanted to cook one but was afraid of trying. I told her how easy it was and that I would write about it for her. So, Carol, this is for you!

I make this soup a lot during squash season and never thought it worth writing about until talking with Carol. I can now see by looking at this giant squash how intimidating it could be to someone. But in reality, once you get the beast cut into half, it is no work at all. The soup is quite basic, albeit delicious, and can be quite versatile flavorwise by adding a few different spices or aromatics.

First off, tackling the large squash: give it a good wash and dry, then lay it down on the cutting board and with your biggest knife cut off the stem. Off with Junior’s head! Then, split it down the middle and use an ice cream scoop to eviscerate the seeds. The oven was already hot at 400 F and I had put some foil on a cookie sheet and spread some oil around. The squash halves got plunked onto the foil cut side down, and into the oven for 45 – 60 minutes.

Meanwhile I did my manicure and watched some (more) football with my stepdad.

An hour later, I took the tray out of the oven and stuck the squash with a fork. The tines slid right through with no resistance. The skin was browned a little here and there and was puckery in places. I returned to watch another quarter of the game while the squash cooled. Piece of cake!

At this juncture you can scrape out the squash into a bowl, add butter and salt and pepper and stir well with a fork and eat. Or, you can use the meat in a variety of other preparations, such as a casserole with pasta and breadcrumbs (and bacon), as a filling with ricotta for ravioli, in the dough for gnocci, or my embarrassingly simple soup. As you can see this squash preparation takes little skill or cooking talent, you just need a bit if courage to cut the huge thing open, then the rest is easy. You can use this method with any kind of squash, including pumpkin. I prefer cooking it cut side down as it ensures the meat stays tender and moist. If you want to have a glazed squash, you can turn it over after 30 minutes, add some butter, brown sugar, salt and pepper and bake for the remaining 15 minutes or so until it is tender.

But back to the soup, in a large pot I put a pat of butter, a chopped onion and some chopped fresh ginger and let that saute until the onion was tender, about 10 minutes. I used a big spoon and scooped the squash out of its skin and added it to the pot.

I went out the garden and cut a sprig of rosemary, and back in the kitchen tossed it in with a bay leaf and a sprinkle of sweet curry powder onto the squash. Everything was topped off with 8 cups of chicken stock, I gave it a vigorous stir and resumed keeping my stepdad company while knitting a sweater in the family room.

Thirty minutes later the soup looked like this:

I used the immersion blender to smooth it out, this time finally remembering to remove the bay leaf first, and lunch was ready. I dished it out into warm soup bowls and topped each one with a hefty dollop of sour cream as a sprinkle of chives. We were still eating the Funions so I added some along side the soup bowl as well.

We tucked into our hearty soup and listened to the rain ping on the roof. Chatting about this and that, mostly about that, we whiled away the afternoon decorating the house and the tree for Christmas, satiated with good company and good soup.

I hope you give take home a “Junior” of your own this winter for the soup pot.

(recipe here)

Rainy Day Waffles

There’s nothing finer than waking up on a Saturday morning hearing the rain pitter-patter on the roof, the faint tinkling of wind chimes from the front porch and the smell of coffee. Burrowing under the covers I savor the quiet moment then remember mOm is making waffles. Out of bed I leap!

It’s so dark out from the rain that the Christmas lights are still on. After some reviving coffee mOm starts the waffles.

“It’s a new recipe, and it has weird things in them, like seltzer water and dried buttermilk. They get crispy outside but stay nice inside.”

Okay, Mom, I am sold!

Our family waffle iron is a treasure. You may recall that I’ve mentioned we are inordinately fond of our kitchen appliances? This old waffle iron with real Bakelite handles was at a friend’s cabin in Brooktrails. A visit there always meant bucolic views, lazing on the deck in summer or in front of the Benjamin Franklin stove in winter and waffles for breakfast. When our friends sold the cabin we asked if we could have the waffle iron. I also received a sprig from the giant Christmas cactus, which had the most gorgeous blooms. It is still thriving in my kitchen but has never bloomed, despite all the many moves I have had. I think it needs higher elevations. My Mom’s cuttings have also thrived but they bloom for her, but we are at 1,300 feet here.

Behold, the waffle iron:

It’s the Cadillac of waffle irons, or perhaps a Lamborghini…. Covet, covet…

On Thanksgiving eve I roasted quince that I picked up from the McEvoy Ranch booth at the Ferry Building along with a gigantic Lisbon lemon. I sliced the quince with cranberries and grapes, which we used for our T-Day salad, and the leftovers were transformed into a warm compote for our waffles this morning.

Prepare yourself, waffle porn…

Melty with butter…

Boysenberry syrup, mmm.

I slathered mine with butter and then spooned the rosy quince on top and added extra buttery syrup on top, and promptly ate it. Fortunately my stepdad’s waffle was ready for her closeup.

They sure don’t last long though… Sadness…

We slowly consumed the local paper and dozed in front of the college football games playing in the snow. I am about to get going on finishing a pretty sweater in kid mohair yarn in the palest lavender hue, only 2/3 left to go for the last piece! And more potato butter buns are rising in the kitchen. What else can a gal do on a rainy day?

Roasted Quince

1# quince, I had 2 huge ones, peeled, cored and sliced into wedges
1 c whole grapes, or 1/2 c raisins
1/2 c dried cranberries
1/2 c sugar – or I used 1 c ginger syrup left over from making candied ginger
1 tsp minced ginger (omit if using ginger syrup)
Pinch salt
1 lemon, zested and juiced
A pat of butter
Water

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Place fruit in a casserole large enough to hold everything in one layer. Sprinkle over sugar, lemon zest and juice, syrup (if using) and water to come up halfway up the sides of the fruit. Top with the butter. Bake for an hour and watch the magic happen. The quince will turn from apple-colored to a rosy, light salmon color. Bake until the quince is tender when forked and the syrup is thickened.

When I took my fruit out, the syrup wasn’t as thick as I like so I used a slotted spoon to pull out the fruit and I cooked down the syrup in a small pan until it was reduced until a thicker syrup.

For the salad, I used the whole slices.

For the compote, I chopped the quince, added a 1/4 tsp of Ceylon cinnamon and a few squirts of agave (or honey). I heated it up in the micro for three minutes (or in a 300 F oven for 20 minutes – just for you Laura S).

I will ask mOm if I can post her waffle recipe, fingers crossed!

A Very Thankful Thanksgiving

My ancestor came to this land 390 years ago. Half the colony died that first winter. Can you imagine how sad that must have been, after that long journey with all of the hardships, to finally arrive only to lose so many. The first Thanksgiving, so it is said, was celebrated after surviving a year with a harvest. Our family in this century like to celebrate our being together after much time apart and cook a killer meal. Most of the fun is being together in the kitchen with gentle jostling and teasing, collaborating and handing off tasks seamlessly, and many tastings. A common refrain is, “Are you sure that has enough salt, let me try that again!”

As a special treat this year I purchased a Happy Thanksgiving produce box from Happy Girl Farms, my first experience with them, and hauled all the produce up on the train in a duffle roller bag, also filled with wine. Of course one wheel on the bag broke as I was leaving my apartment and I had to drag that beast around like a mobster hauling a dead body, woof, what a long trip!

It was quite the adventure in what one would consider a relatively simple task of picking up the produce box. I was given an address saying there would be prominent signage near a gate in a fence of a lovely home in Castro Heights. I took a taxi after work; it was 5:30 pm and already inky dark outside. In a dimly lit street, the taxi driver said that he thought a long dark fence was the right one. Thankfully I had a tiny flashlight on my house keys and turned it on and headed towards the fence. On the fence near eye level was a quarter-sized sticker that said Happy Girl Farms, visible only after illuminating it with my tiny light. I saw a door in the fence and pushed it open, saw below me a foot-plus drop down to a dirt slope, and three boxes lying on the dirt. I carefully stepped down and promptly slid on the mud (it had rained heavily that day) and slid to a tall shrub straight below me. I grabbed at it, wrenching my shoulder injured previously from the tragic high-fiving incident at the World Series celebrations. I badly scratched and punctured my hand from the 1″ spines from the shrub which turned out to be a bougainvillea bush! But I prevented myself running into it by a fraction of an inch with my face or falling in the mud. Swearing loudly, I retrieved my keys and baby flashlight from the ground and looked around for the clipboard as instructed in the email but didn’t see anything. There was one large produce box, opened to the elements, so I peeked inside and saw some of the veggies listed on my receipt. I heaved the box off the dirt and transversed the slippery hill up to the gate and sidewalk in the pitch black dark. I managed to lift the box up to the sidewalk level. As I hauled myself out some pedestrians walked by almost knocking me back inside the gate down the slope but one man grabbed my arm to steady me. Whew. Thoroughly shaken, muddy and bleeding, I stood there for a moment, and the cab driver came over and said, “Are you okay??” He helped me into the cab and loaded the muddy box in the back, and drove me home. I called Dirty Girl and got voicemail, then rang up my mommy and whined about the things I do for fresh produce! The cab driver handed me a paper towel to staunch the bleeding and wipe up some of the mud; either it was a kindness on his part or a defensive measure to keep his hack clean. Once home, cleaned up and disinfected, ice pack on my shoulder and a glass of wine consumed (for medicinal purposes), I received a call back from a rep at Happy Girl Farms. The guy informed me that I actually came on the wrong night, despite their email confirmation that clearly said the pick up day was Tuesday. He said something about their having computer problems and asked me to check the box. I did and found that many items listed on their receipt were not in the box. He again mentioned it wasn’t my box, and so I offered to forward him their email to me. He said I could keep the box (how generous!!) and I felt rather exasperated at this point and retorted, “Look, I’m leaving tomorrow at 5 am. If you want to come by tonight and pick up this box and give me *my* box, I would be really happy with that.” After hemming and hawing a bit he said he’d refund me a portion of the price and next time they would put some flashlights in that yard. I think I will pass on using this pick up place on the premise of preserving my health from a broken ankle or bougainvillea-related flesh shredding, and spare the homeowner any litigious opportunities. Ah, the adventures of supporting local farms.

On a positive note, all of the product was fantastic. We have apples, pears, garlic and onions, carrots and parsnips, bunches of herbs, a variety of potatoes, celery and some squash. Once safely at the parents, we stashed it all in the garage and got ready for our Thanksgiving Eve dinner.

We talked about the Big Day menu while feasting on our usual Dungeness crab, sourdough bread schlepped from the city, mOm’s Louis dressing and iceberg lettuce wedges, augmented by crisp-tender asparagus spears. Truly though, any excuse to eat crab is a welcome one. Or Louis sauce. That sauce rocks!

Thanksgiving morning dawned with the fiery blaze of the liquid amber tree and frost everywhere, a brisk 32 degrees.

Just WOW. What a tree!

After lots of coffee and toasted Acme sourdough bread and butter, we hopped to work in the kitchen and I posted the menu and to-dos for each menu item on the fridge.

Our Menu:
o Dry brined turkey roasted with bacon and sage
o Granny’s “Aunt Emma’s” dressing
o Giblet gravy
o Mashed potatoes
o Potato butter buns
o Roasted whole onions
o Carrot and parsnip coins in a beef-butter reduction
o Green salad with roasted quince, pomegranate, pecans and goat cheese, with a quince syrup white wine vinaigrette
o Pumpkin chiffon pie

Mom started with the pie crust. I loved mOm’s comment, “If this pie pan could talk… It is older than you and has seen many pies.”

I started the brown sauce, part two of the three-part gravy process, and prepped the veggies and fruits for the dressing. My sis made the dressing while Mom made the filling for the pumpkin pie elbow-to-elbow with me as I prepared the dough for the potato buns. I love these buns, we all love these buns, in fact, I plan to make more tomorrow. Can you see why?

Everything was going so smoothly, we had time to take a break, take a nap and knit (just me). Around 3:30 pm we put in the turkey, and three and a half hours later the turkey was done!

Mmmm, bacon..

I decorated da boid with strips of bacon and fresh sage leaves. The little onions roasted happily under the roasting rack. Everyone was liberally slathered with butter.

My sis gently tossed and arranged the salad, I dolloped spoonfuls of butter and sour cream onto the mashed potatoes, and mom made the gravy. There was liberal sampling going on. Bliss.

This gravy is so good, you could eat it like soup.

The carrots and parsnips were perfectly done, not mushy but toothsome, cooked with beef stock and butter and reduced to a syrupy glaze.

The potatoes were creamy and showered with parsley and a lake of butter. Mmmm, butter….

The table looked so festive. My sis put a cinammon-spiced cranberry sauce in her pretty Spode turkey dish, with the spoon in a compromising position. Squawk!!!

I tried carving the turkey this year, and overfilled a platter to the point of ridiculousness with the juicy meat. And bacon.

Every single dish was outstanding. I poured an ’09 Serenade from Casa Rondeña in New Mexico (a Gewürztraminer/Reisling blend) and an ’06 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stags Leap (a lovely gift from the winery, thank you!!). We filled out plates to match our hearts filled with love, and were too full for pie! Desultory conversation followed and then bed, with blissful turkey dreams.

Today was the culmination of a year-long dream, pumpkin pie and coffee for breakfast (and a few leftover buns slathered with butter) and the leftover turkey sandwich. And a nap. We traded stories all afternoon, about family history, and country and city living oddities. It is so delightful to relax with my family and get to know them better, year after year.

What a great holiday we had, and tonight we get to do it all over again, the only work involved will be gentle reheating!

I’m off to go hang up the outdoor Christmas lights now with my sis, with my stepdad’s supervision, another post-turkey day tradition.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Naughty but Nice

There is nothing more decadent than a bowl of homemade ice cream, especially chocolate ice cream.

Chocolate ice cream

A few months ago then a major online retailer offered a Cuisinart ice cream machine for $30 out the door, despite being very cash-poor at that time I pounced on it, and a brand new fire engine red machine was all mine! We have had possibly one of the coldest summers since 1938 and so my pretty machine has been slumbering away under a corner of my dining room.

Finally, a bit of warm weather arrived coinciding with a visit from my dear sister. She has been making the most amazing sounding ice creams for the past few years and has frequently tortured me with tales of Mexican chocolate, chile and chocolate, lemon custard and bing cherry ice creams.

After a chummy pajama day together I dusted off the pristine Cuisinart box and put the insert into my freezer. I was delighted (shocked) that it actually fit in there, given that I have probably the city’s cruddiest appliances in the current location of The Roost.

Under my sister’s expert tutelage I prepared a chocolate custard ice cream using our Mom’s vanilla custard base recipe.

As kids, mom would make fantastic ice creams in the old fashioned ice cream maker. She would fill the tall metal cylinder with luscious bases and our dad would layer the barrel of the maker with crushed ice and rock salt. Then, my sis and I and our friends would take over turning the crank handle round and round until we couldn’t turn it any more. We were always incredulous when dad would take over and like a hot knife through butter he would turn the handle a dozen times swiftly. Mom would check the consistency of the ice cream and then swaddle the maker, freshly filled with ice and salt, in our beach towels and newspaper to harden off the batch. The combination of the rock salt to ice creates a lower temperature which helps the ice cream freeze. Water with a higher salinity remains liquid under colder temperatures so as the ice melts in the ice cream churn it is colder than regular ice slush thus creating ideal ice cream making conditions.

In what seemed like an eternity, the ice cream maker would be unveiled and the frosted cylinder heaved out of the salty slush, gently toweled off, and the clear plastic lid would be pried off. Out came the metal paddle into our waiting paws, ready to slurp off the ice cream that adhered to the edges. Ah, heaven!!! It was always, without fail, the best ice cream ever on the planet.

My sis and I revised all of these memories, including the time mom made mint chocolate chip ice cream with large chocolate chips which were frozen like rocks in the ice cream. We all had bowls littered with chips at the bottom, then when they came to temperature we devoured them with our fingers.

With my sis’s supervision and encouragement, and some great advice from Neal Gottlieb of Three Twins fame (thanks Neal!), I scalded the cream and then melted 100% cacao mass into the cream with some vanilla paste, then dribbled in the beaten egg yolks, sugar and a tiny bit of flour and whisked it well. I cooked the custard slowly until it was extremely thick and rich, and then let it chill off in the fridge while we took yet another nap. I love pajama days!

It was getting close to dinner time and I preheated the oven for our roast loin of lamb marinated with rosemary and black garlic. While the lamb was coming to room temperature and the oven warmed up, I pulled out the ice cream base and began the final preparations.

The custard had set up into the best, thickest pudding you could ever imagine. Just dipping out a spoonful left a distinct hole, and it was impossible to shake it off the spoon. Yum!ice cream base collage

I added a dash of espresso from our morning caffeine jolt and a good slosh of creme de cacao, a liqueur that had been languishing in the liquor closet for years, which made me wonder why on earth hadn’t I been using it more all of this time? Then, I added a full cup of Strauss heavy whipping cream, and we had a taste. Wow. Just like when preparing a cold soup, you must “over season” ice cream bases as the cold dampens the flavors. I added a touch more liqueur and pulled out the ice cream cylinder from the freezer and set things in motion.

The directions say the ice cream maker takes up to 30 minutes to finish churning the ice cream, which comes out the consistency of a soft serve. If the cylinder is properly frozen, per my expert sister, you can freeze two batches of ice cream in the cylinder. For my first attempt however, I just make 3 cups of base and it did take almost exactly 30 minutes.

ice cream churning collage

When the ice cream begins to mound up on the beater and leave a hump of ice cream on the side it is finished churning. True enough, 30 minutes later my first batch of ice cream was done.

I pulled out the beater and almost all of the ice cream came out with it.
finished ice cream collage

I scraped it into a freezer proof bowl and then with a wooden spatula scooped out the rest of the ice cream frozen to the sides and bottom of the cylinder. Then, just like when we were kids, we cleaned off the churn with greedy slurping sounds and then repaired to the sink to wash off the chocolate smears from our hands and faces.

The ice cream went into the freezer to harden and we turned our attentions to dinner. The lamb loin was quickly roasted in a hot oven while I made a fast salad of lemon tarragon vinaigrette, local greens and a lemon cucumber. Earlier in the day I made some ratatouille with yellow squash, slow roasted tomatoes and lots of garlic, added goat cheese and baked some feta and artichoke ravioli in the sauce (recipes to be shared another day).

Perfectly sated, we watched silly scifi movies with snarky commentary and then bolted upright from our perches on the couch and chair and said, “Hey, we can have ice cream now!”

I pulled the ice cream out of the freezer to soften a bit before scooping. It was a beautiful sight. It scooped out just like the best premium grocery store ice cream and the first taste was divine. Rich, chocolately, enough butterfat on the roof of the mouth, the espresso accentuated the chocolate and the slight boozey component of the liqueur really came through. This is not your average ice chocolate ice cream! And, the best part was that we made it together, and it was a snap to do.

ice cream done collage

Funny thing though, some folks on Twitter asked me if I thought it was worth the effort to make ice cream at home. After a face-palm I tried to elucidate why I bother making *anything* at home. Sure, you can go to Costco and buy a great roasted chicken for $10, or buy Three Twins ice cream at their shop (or for a few lucky people, in the grocery store) and you know the product will be fantastic. I think this “why bother” attitude is what is pervasively destroying people’s will to learn to cook or do anything by hand. The sense of pride and accomplishment knowing you have successfully roasted a chicken or made your own ice cream *is totally* worth the effort. And, that effort really isn’t all that much work either. It is simple to scald some cream and take five minutes to make a custard base. It took no work at all to plug in the machine and let it do its thing for thirty minutes. How hard is it to rub a chicken with herbs and butter and toss it in the oven for an hour or so? Michael Ruhlman wrote a great post about this a few months ago. Why do so many people think this is hard? I think it is more of an issue of laziness and lack of confidence. Because I had a mom who cooked meals at home, who was not afraid to try new things, and a sister who leveraged this and took her cooking experiments above and beyond this gave me the confidence in the kitchen. My sister used to make eclairs with pastry cream filling after school, how many teens do that now?

It made me a bit sad but this feeling passed as I sucked the last of the ice cream off my spoon then surreptitiously licked the bowl clean. Like people who feel the need to summit mountains or ride a 300 mile bike race, I am my own iron man in the kitchen. I will make my own food and have fun in the process. The best part is that I get to enjoy and savor the outcome, like my first batch of chocolate ice cream.

I Saw You Today

I saw you today
after being apart for two years.
You looked so at peace
and so horribly still.

I prefer to think of you in my minds eye
“Hi sweetie, it’s me’” and make that funny kissy face
like you were too macho to kiss me
but secretly you liked it.

I saw your daughter today
so tall and so poised
You would have been proud
she was amazing
Were you there?
I didn’t feel your presence at all.

You would have been impressed
all the people who showed up to honor you
The church was so full
full of tears.

Anton said great things for you
You know, despite your not being close to him as a man
he was crying and remembering
how you forgave him
for breaking your front teeth
when you were 10!
so glad you got them fixed so nicely
your happy smile was that much more joyful.

I saw your picture at the ball game with John and Fred
your smile was so nice
hard to see you with her but then
I thought you wanted to be with her
and you were smiling.

I saw you today
through your family’s eyes
you were just who you were
no bullshit and a real man
Everyone loves you so much
Hope you really knew this
when you were alive.

Some of your friends said it
For a while we were all living in a golden age
all of our wonderful parties and outings and events
We did that together
but people came together because of you
when you were not doing well and stopped
people really noticed
they missed you
You were the glue that held so many people together.

I know we were not meant to be
I wanted to grow old with you, remember?
Denise said that today too
I wept even harder
It was so true.
Did you mean it
when you said you were not going to live long
I thought you were negative
but perhaps you really knew

I saw you today
despite all the bad things we went through
I will work harder to see you in the light of our happy times
I will see you sitting in your chair
feet up on the table
chewing that purple cigar bubble gum
the fireplace crackling
you laughing (or cursing) away at the tv
and teasing me and Natalie

I have missed those days and nights so much, Marc,
when we were a family
I mourn the loss of our good times
knowing you aren’t 20 miles away
having some port and checking the scores
I hope you are finally at peace now
no longer angry or sad
finally hanging out with your dad.

Mouthwash Cake

When I was a child I was always underfoot in the kitchen, at first playing with the Tupperware cupboard or hiding under the cutting board, then later asking mOm question after question or helping stir or peel carrots and potatoes.

By age 7, mOm gave me samples of sugar and salt to examine under my microscope and explained the scientific mechanics of how cooking worked.

We baked together, turning out cakes, cupcakes and muffins, and my favorite – brownies. I learned how to measure, mix and fold, how to pour, scrape and spread. When mOm took an advanced cake decorating class her baking took an incredible turn. We would spend hours with cookie sheets, boxes of tips, frosting nails and a big pot of buttercream frosting and practiced swirls, whorls, scalloped edging, roses, vines and basketweaves. We made royal icing flowers to be added to future cakes and decorated individual sugar cubes for an elegant accompaniment to a lady’s coffee service. We molded sugar and egg whites into massive hollow Easter dioramas filled with grass made from dyed coconut, Easter candy and flowers. And bunnies.

I was the envy of every kid on the block with my gorgeous, better-than-a-bakery decorated birthday cakes. Valentines Day and Christmas cookies were edible works of art, and the Halloween cupcakes were things of legend: arching black cats, grinning Jack O’Lanterns, scary witches with warty noses and ghosts that you could almost hear wailing, “Wooooo!!!”

The culmination of our baking was the Bicentennial block party. Instead of everyone celebrating with fireworks and sparklers in our own backyards as per usual, the block got permission from the city to close the street and we had an all day/all night (almost) celebration of our great country’s 200th birthday.

There were sack races, water balloon tosses, a parade of all of us kiddies on our bikes or trikes, rollerskates and strollers. All the moms contributed gorgeous dishes for a potluck and the dads rolled out the grills to the sidewalk and fired up the coals. We had a costume contest and I won 3rd place! When it was finally dark enough everyone lit off their fireworks in the *front* yard! The culmination of the party for us kids, besides the sparklers and piccolo Petes and growing cinder worms, was dessert.

Mom made a huge flag cake. It was so large she borrowed a commercial oven at a bakery to bake the cake. It seemed as big as a standard flag to me, acres and acres of rippling red and white stripes, and sparking white stars against that perfect blue field. It fed absolutely everybody and more and it was delicious!

Watching and helping my mom gave me loads of confidence in the kitchen. Seeing her look at a picture in a Wilton book and then reproduce it was a revelation. I would point to a picture and ask, “Can you do this?”, and then watch, wide-eyed, as she made it come to life with her cool hands and deft manipulations with the pastry bag.

With my best bud, Margo, one Saint Patrick’s Day I decided I would just go ahead and make my first cake. I pulled out the Old Redoubtable – Joy of Cooking.

I set to work while Margo perched on the kitchen stool. The KitchenAid, tons of measuring cups, mounds of spoons and mixing bowls were pressed into action. There was flour and batter and frosting everywhere, I remember having to use half a bottle of Mop N Glow on the floor to get the stickiness up.

If only I had a picture of this creation… Please imagine a white layer cake with white buttercream frosting and green shamrocks and borders. Naturally, I flavored the frosting with lots of mint extract, because to my little baker’s brain, mint tasted green. It was lumpy and childishly piped, but I was 8 and thought it was simply gorgeous.

How perfectly dreadful it must have been, tasting like mouthwash! But my family never let on and ate it with gusto, if I recall correctly. I was so proud. And now, in hindsight, I feel so grateful to my family for their kindness and encouragement.

My next attempt at cooking for my family was much more successful, and edible. Stay tuned next Monday!

A World of My Imagination

One of my enduring happy childhood memories is watching Gene Wilder sing “Pure imagination” in the dark, sticky, dome-like movie theater south of here. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a pivotal movie in my littlehood, and the memory of watching Gene’s crinkly blue eyes and wild hair and groovy clothes while he strolled around his garden of confections clings hard to my subconscious. Hearing him sing this song during a current television commercial brought all those memories flooding back.

My wish then was that such a place was real, where red licorice ropes dripped from trees like Spanish moss, where daffy down dillies were actually tea cups of nectar and where the murky Delta water was a river of chocolate.

Seeing that scene in the movie made me feel safe and comfortable, deep down inside somewhere, with a sense that nothing could get at me or scare me or disrupt my innocence – just me and a giant meringue and jelly-filled mushroom and a suspension of time. The movie was just like the book, only better, and I wanted to crawl through the screen and nestle inside.

After-wards, my world seemed somehow lacking. The colors were murkier, not Technicolor, and the honeysuckle flower I sipped was sweet but not what I imagined. I wanted Gene Wilder’s twinkly eyes to look down on me forever, to take me away from “all this”‘. I had forgotten this feeling, this intense longing, my wish for a safe, happy place, until I heard that song on the television. Every time I hear it now, my heart lightens and for a moment I forget reality and feel uplifted.

I had the great pleasure of meeting and talking to Gene Wilder at a screening of Young Frankenstein. I brought my beloved copy of his novel, “My French Whore” and we chatted a bit. He looked just the same, just a bit grayer and more tired, but then so are we all. It is such an odd phenomenon to feel an emotional connection to an actor who was portraying a fictional character, to a man who won’t ever remember me but whose face is burned into my synapses.

Thinking of Gene and that lovely song brought back another memory I had forgotten. My maternal grandmother didn’t do much in the kitchen, but when I came to visit her and Grandpa as a young child she would always make a point to make me a special Angels food cake. She was not much of a cook. When my mOm was a little girl she had to do most of the cooking or do without, and when Grandpa was home from the Navy he loved to cook. Grandpa taught me quite a few handy things, which I will share with you sometime. But Grandma would cook once in a while and she would make candy occasionally too. She made the most marvelous divinity for my sister, and occasionally, very occasionally, my sis would share a piece. What heaven that little bite of candy was, airy and yet chewy, filled with nuts and so sweet. I think that Grandma’s divinity is why I love Sees Candy’s nougats so much.

I well remember her bread and butter pickles and watermelon rind pickles, and how silly I thought it was that she wanted me to save her the watermelon rinds, until I had a jar of what she had put up.

When I was a little older, I apparently was asking Grandma (and everybody) how to cook things even then, and she shared a few of her recipes with me. She would send me Hallmark cards with recipe cards tucked inside, her cramped, spiky handwritten, closely covered recipe cards with things I have yet to try – peppermint sticks, Swedish fried twists, fruitcake. These recipes, a gold cross pendant and a 70′s color scheme crocheted afghan are all I have to remember Grandma by. Sadly, the secret of her divinity and pickles are lost forever but my sister and I will always have it in our memories.

I haven’t seen anything like Grandma’s Chocolate Mint Sticks any where else, and here it is, just as she wrote it, on both sides of two recipe cards.

Chocolate Mint Sticks

CHOCOLATE MINT STICKS

2 oz (2 squares) unsweetened chocolate (Grandma used Baker’s chocolate)
1/4 lb (1 stick) unsalted butter
pinch of salt
1 c granulated sugar
2 oz (generous 1/2 c) walnuts, cut or broken into medium size pieces
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 c all purpose flour
fine breadcrumbs

Adjust a rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven. Preheat to 350 F. Butter a 9″ square cake-pan, dust it with fine breadcrumbs. Invert pan to shake out excess. This has a tendency to stick to pan; using crumbs prevents this)

Melt chocolate and butter in top of a small double-boiler over hot H2O on med-heat. Stir until smooth. Remove to of dbl boiler – set aside to cool slightly.

In small bowl of electric mixer beat eggs until foamy. Beat in salt, vanilla and sugar. Add chocolate mixture (may still be be warm) and beat to mix. On low speed, add flour, scraping bowl with rubber spatula and beating only until mixed. Stir in the nuts.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and spread it to make smooth layer. Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out.

Remove from oven. Cool in pan.

Prepare Mint Icing as follows:

MINT ICING:

2 T butter, room temp (unsalted)
1 T (or few drops or more) heavy cream
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1 c sifted confectioners sugar

Place all ingredients in small bowl of electric mixer; beat until smooth. It should be thick mixture, not runny. Spread evently over cake in pan. Will be a thin layer.

Place in refrigerator for 5 minutes – no longer.

Prepare glaze as follows:

GLAZE

1 oz (1 square) unsweetened chocolate (Grandma used Baker’s chocolate)
1 T butter (unsalted)

Melt chocolate and butter in top of a small double boiler over hot H2O on medium heat – stir until smooth. Pour hot glaze onto chilled icing and quickly tilt pan in all directions to cover icing completely with glaze – very thin layer, just barely enough to cover. Don’t worry if icing shows through in small spots.

Refrigerate 1/2 hour until glaze looks dull. Cut around cake to loosen edges from pan. Cut in half and then in bars.

May freeze and then serve from freezer.

Makes 32 small bars

I will be thinking of Grandma and Gene as I nibble these, and wish I was sitting on a candy lawn with my cup of tea and the soft splashing of the chocolate waterfall nearby.