Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Ballad of Gladys the Turtle - a Child's Song.

At least eight or more years ago, my family was still living in Chicago.  Every summer we went up to the Wisconsin Northwoods, to boat and fish and kayak all over the nearest lake.  One summer Nicole, Brandon, and I got our dad to take us tubing as long as we could stand.  Long enough to burn the backs of our legs, and long enough to figure out how to link arms so we wouldn't fly off the tube raft every time Dad made a tight turn.  My mom had to hang over the back of the boat so she could see our hand signs for faster, slow down, this is good, and STOP!

About an hour into one day, the three of us began belting out songs over the roar of the boat and the crash of water.  Nobody in the boat could hear us, we could barely hear ourselves!  We sang whatever we wanted.  At some point we began to sing this song.  It began with a turtle, who lived in a zoo.  The tune is vaguely familiar, but I can’t place it. 

I've tried looking this song up online, but there’s nothing.  There’s a poem about a turtle that lives in a box, but the resemblance ends there.

Somehow we created a new child's song, meant to be sung ad infinitum, with only a few variations to keep it fun and to get the singers to sing it ad infinitum until ad nauseam.  But that’s the point of these songs in the first place, right?

I've named it after my Grandmother, Gladys. 

The Ballad of Gladys the Turtle
There once was a turtle
She lived in a zoo
She lived to the grand age of
Two fifty two
Her name was Gladys,
Her grandpa gave her that name
He once told her a story
And I’ll tell it the same:

There once was a turtle
He lived in a zoo
He lived to the grand age of
Two forty two
His name was (any male name)
His grandma gave him that name
She once told him a story
And I’ll tell it the same:

(And repeat in perpetuum, alternating gender, and age starting in first verse from 252 to 242, 232, 222, 292, 282, 272, 262, 252, and loop).  The only thing that stay constant is first turtle is female and lived to 252, and that the turtle in each verse is named by their grandparent of opposing gender.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Intense Rice Pudding With Brandied Raisins

Intense Rice Pudding with Brandied Raisins
Very loosely adapted from SmittenKitchen and Brown-Eyed Baker.

Thick, creamy rice pudding with an intense cinnamon vanilla hit.  For extra kick, steep cinnamon sticks and vanilla extract in the milk the night before.  The raisins are plumped up in warm brandy, and add a nice heady touch to the cozy pudding.  Talk about comfort food!  You’ll want to save the brandy you soaked the raisins in – it’s just as delicious as this pudding is, if in much smaller quantities.

Rice Pudding (makes lots of servings)
8 cups 2% milk (best as a single jug)
1 cup Arborio rice
¾ cups granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 bay leaf
2 short cinnamon sticks
1 whole clove
Vanilla extract
Powdered cinnamon
Brandied Raisins
½ cup raisins
¼ cup of 3:1 ratio of golden raisins : craisins
Enough brandy to cover the raisins (don’t use fancy brandy)

  1. The night before you make the pudding, open up the milk jug, slip in one whole clove, one to two 3-inch cinnamon sticks, and a healthy glug of vanilla extract (3 tbl).  Shake well.
  2.  Make the Brandied Raisins before you begin making the pudding.  (See below)
  3.  Combine sugar and rice in a large saucepan.  Pour the milk in through a strainer and remove the clove.  Make sure you have some room between the top of the milk and the rim of the saucepan, as the milk will froth up some.  Add the bay leaf and cinnamon sticks to the mix.  Sprinkle a little ground cinnamon in.
  4. Bring it to a gentle boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom.  Simmer for 40-60 minutes.  You will need to stir constantly for the last twenty minutes to prevent milk scum from forming.  You will know it’s done when it is almost as thick as porridge. 
  5. Remove cinnamon sticks and bay leaf.  Take off heat immediately and stir in more vanilla to taste.
  6.  Plating

a.       Serve in small individual bowls.
b.      Spoon a small amount of brandy raisins on the bottom, cover with a few spoonfuls of pudding.  Spoon a few more raisins on top, then cover with more pudding.  Sprinkle a little cinnamon as garnish.  Serve with dessert spoons.  Lick the bowls clean
Refrigerate in tupperware containers for up to a week.  It won’t last that long, believe me.  Makes a decadent breakfast, but do you really think you can resist?
Brandied Raisins
  1.  Add the raisin mix to a very small saucepan.
  2.  Pour in just enough brandy to cover the raisins.
  3. Bring brandy to a boil and take off heat immediately.  Cover and reserve for later
  4.  Once the pudding is done, strain the raisins from the brandy.  Save the brandy to drink later like a dessert appertiff – it tastes like heady liquid raisins!

AKA's Tomato Sauce

            Some tomato sauces are ridiculously heavy.  Sometimes we don’t want vodka in our sauces either.  This sauce is light but tomatoey, and the bacon lends a meaty edge without being overpowering.  Crank up the flavor by roasting the tomatoes, slowly sautéing the onions until caramelized, and cooking the bacon til crispy.  The food processor will do the rest of the work.  Then season to your own taste.  You can adjust the proportions of tomatoes to onions to bacon as you like, depending on how strong you want to tomato taste to be.
Use this on pasta, as pizza sauce, and with pre-breaded chicken breasts to make super easy chicken parmesan!

2 lbs tomatoes, sliced in 1/8 in slices
8.5 oz onion thinly sliced
4-6 slices of bacon
3 cloves garlic minced
2 tbl bacon fat drippings
2 tbl olive oil
½ tsp salt
1 ¼ tsp chopped rosemary
Black pepper
Shake of nutmeg
Two shakes of white pepper
Shake of paprika

  1. Heat the oven to 450F.  Line two baking pans with parchment paper and grease with cooking spray or olive oil. 
  2. Wash the tomatoes and slice into 1/8” slices.  I find a serrated knife works best.
  3.  Lay the tomato slices out in a single layer.  Season with salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Roast for 16-20 minutes.  You’ll know they’re done when the smallest pieces are starting to blacken around the edges and all pieces are noticeably reduced.  When done, allow to cool, and then transfer into the food processor with a flat spatula.
  4.  Cook the bacon until crispy however you usually do it.  I bake them in the oven at 400F for 12 minutes on a foil-lined pan.  Pour the drippings into a cup and save! 
  5. Pat the bacon dry, cut up with a scissors into small pieces into the food processor.
  6. Slice the onion into thin slices, about 1/16” thin, no longer than 2” long.
  7.  Melt the bacon fat and olive oil in a large skillet.  Make sure you have a lid for the skillet.  When the fat is hot, add the onions, minced garlic, and ½ tsp of salt.  Stir to coat the pieces, then reduce the heat to low and cover.   Cook for 40-55 minutes, stirring every 4-5 minutes, until the onions are caramelized and limp.  3 minutes before you’re done, add the chopped rosemary and cook at medium heat, then remove from heat and allow to cool slightly, 3 minutes.
  8.  When the onions have cooled, scrape them and any juices into the food processor.
  9.  Run the food processor until the sauce is smooth.  Taste and if it’s not tomatoey enough, you may add some tomato paste to taste.
  10. Salt to taste.  Shake in some white pepper, paprika, and nutmeg, but be conservative.  Pulse to mix seasonings in.  Adjust spices to taste. 
  11.  Done!  Yum!  

Sakecello Highball


A light drink, the sake cuts the sweetness of the limoncello and adds a slightly floral note.

½ packet of Crystal Lite lemonade mix
2.5 oz limoncello
2.5 oz sake
Half a glass of ice

8 oz of cold water

Baked Apple With Creamy Calvados

Baked Apple with Creamy Calvados

(Makes 2 servings, about 260 calories each)

 2 gala apples
1oz Calvados brandy
1/8 tsp Modena balsamic vinegar
16 almonds
 2 tb Chobani vanilla nonfat Greek yogurt
 Nonstick cooking spray

  1. Preheat oven to 425^ degrees F.  You should arrange the top rack near but not tight against the top of the oven.
  2. Spray a ceramic baking dish with nonstick spray.
  3. Core and cut up apples into thick chunks.  Don’t peel.  Place apple chunks peel down, in a single layer.  It’s fine to crowd.
  4.  Sprinkle a dusting of cinnamon over the chunks and put the dish in the oven.
  5.  Bake the apples for 30-35 min, until the apples are soft, and a fork pierces the flesh with ease.
  6. While the apples are baking, toast the almonds.  Heat a small skillet with raised edges over medium heat and then add the almonds.  Keep an eye on them and shake the skillet lightly every twenty seconds or so to move them around.  Don’t take your eyes away.  When they start to get a slightly darker brown, and you can smell them, take off heat and spill onto a smooth dry towel. 
  7.  Fold the towel around the almonds (so you can crush them without losing any pieces), lay over a cutting board and use a mallet or a bowl bottom to crush the almonds into pieces.
  8. When the apples are down, take out of the oven and use a spoon to transfer equally between two deep soup/cereal bowls.
  9. Pour 1oz of the Calvados and a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar into the baking dish, scrape around with a spatula to deglaze the dish.  Pour off into a small cup and let stand.  It will thicken slightly.  (I like to use the same measuring cup I used to measure the Calvados).
  10. Toss each bowl of apples with a tablespoon of the vanilla greek yogurt until the pieces are evenly coated.
  11. Sprinkle with the almond bits.
  12.  Pour half of the deglazed Calvados sauce onto each bowl, sprinkle a little more cinnamon on top, and enjoy!