For those of you who don’t know, the website was down this past week because some icky person in the Ukraine decided to attack it. Nearly 800,000 hits overwhelmed the server and ‘kablam’ – it crashed. Thankfully, a very kind and humorous man at Fatcow.com, the company that hosts this site, spend hours on the phone with me and determined that we had experienced a DOS hit – that’s Denial Of Service for those of you who are computer illiterate. I can say that with a straight face because I’d never heard of it either!!! This man, Chris from Tempe, AZ, took me through a not-so-fascinating, and totally more than I ever wanted to know, trail of logs, files, websites and computerese to discover the IP address that was creating havoc. He was very excited when he found it. He admitted that it does not take much to thrill him. But he then mumbled to himself and me, over the phone, that he was going to look up his favorite website to see if he could trace the addess.
While listening to him mumble, I could hear computer keys typing an then Chris said, “Oh no!! My favorite website is down.” “It must be catching,” I said. But Chris replied, “Not to worry! Every good nerd has a backup site!” This man is comfortable in his own skin!
He took me to this backup site and, ‘voila’, we could see where the IP address had been given out – from a company in the Netherlands. I typed the address into their search engine and bingo!! The address had been given to somebody in the Ukraine. So, somebody in this far off country is not a nice person!
Be that as it may, I am getting on with normal and moving on to appreciate the more simple things in life, like my strawberries. What a bumper crop we are having! Not one, single deformed berry has appeared. No bug bites, no slug bites and no bird bites. This spring has been so awesome that the strawberries have really flourished.
I love picking strawberries. They are so friendly! No stickers and no spines, they are just fun to pick. And as I pick, I am constantly thanking God for these amazing, beautiful little jewels. They are so red that it just amazes my artist eye. And as that artist, I realize that it is obvious that God knew what He was doing because he nestled these pretty ruby gems beneath deep, green leaves, knowing that these complimentary colors just bounce off of each other. As you can tell, I love my strawberries. Strawberry Jam will be in the works this afternoon!
By the way, does anybody know what kind of plant this is? It is in my flower bed and I love it. I would like to see if I can find some more, but have no clue what it is!!
UPDATE: Thanks to reader, Cindy, for helping me identify this beautiful flower. It is a broadleaf Penstemon – Penstemon ovatus. The Penstemon is native to Oklahoma. Pretty neat. Thanks, Cindy!!
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Archive for April, 2012
As is usual for out in the country, the internet has been down for a few days and my I-phone has served for emergency web surfing. Yes, there is such a thing as emergency web surfing. One must bare one’s soul on Facebook and email or life comes to a screeching halt! And yes, I do know the definition of addiction. But the I-Phone is no substitute for a laptop when it comes to blog work.
And speaking of baring souls, I guess I’ll have to come clean and admit that I can really make a mess of things. Yep. I have done some really dumb things in my life, but I’ll have to say that last week proved that I can top even the dumbest things I’ve done.
On Friday, my daughter and her husband asked us to babysit for our little 4 1/2 month old granddaughter so that they could go to a banquet. At 3 in the afternoon, I gathered supplies at their house, placed diaper bag and gear into my car and snapped the carseat, little granddaughter snugly harnessed, into the base which is in the back seat. I tossed my keys into the front driver’s seat to have both hands free and arranged everything to my satisfaction. Aiming to run around to the driver’s side, I slammed the back door shut, only to hear a sickening “click” as my car locked all of the doors with a, “See? Who’s in control NOW, sucker!!”
I freaked. It was cool outside, but the sun was shining directly onto the back of my hatchback and so I knew that it was going to get warm really fast in the car. I ran up the steps of my daughter’s front porch and started pounding on the door to catch her before she got into the shower.
Now, there is one thing that I have come to realize about grandmotherhood. Your grandchild isn’t your child and so there’s this feeling of extra, extra, extra responsibility that goes with the title of ‘grandparent’. I didn’t even think about the fact that my daughter might tell me that I’m an imbecile or that I shouldn’t even HAVE keys to a car in the first place. My only thought was focused on my poor little grandbaby locked in my child-eating car.
It was at the moment my daughter opened the door and was quizically assessing my panicked face that I had the humbling feeling that I would definitely be dropping in my daughter’s admiration of my intelligence. I explained what had happened. Without a word, she was quickly on the phone with a locksmith. Well, did you know that locksmiths don’t unlock cars with babies in them? Something about liability. If they don’t get there on time, then they are liable. The locksmith told my daughter to call 911. Next, I heard her tell the situation to the 911 operator and as she hung up the phone, I could hear the wail of sirens in the distance. Pretty fast!
A minute later, the biggest, shiniest, reddest fire truck roared into place in front of my daughter’s house (which is in a neighborhood of many, many nosy neighbors) and I would say that the entire fire department unloaded from the vehicle. I am thinking that they all wanted to see what the dumb, old broad looked like who would lock a precious baby in a car. Using a wedge and this thing that looked like a blood pressure checker, they pried the door of my nearly new car about 1/2″ apart and pushed a rod down to the locking mechanism to push on the unlock symbol. Click. Simple as that.
My dear granddaughter, hair starting to mat against her head from sweat, was staring at her stuffed cow, blowing bubbles through her tiny lips and carrying on a conversation that only she could understand. When one of the firemen opened the back door, she grinned at him, face all lit up, as if to say, “You having fun too?!” He commented on what a happy baby she is and that she is awfully cute. We think so. I tried to pay him (he didn’t want a hug) but he said that this was just part of the job. Our heroes rode off in their bright red chariot as we waved them on. I am sure that the neighbors still wonder what that was all about.
I have learned a new truth. The only people who can retrieve babies from locked cars are firemen. And firemen do it all the time because there are more idiots around than just me! Other people have automatic door locks too and their cars like to show them who’s boss too! I feel so much better. But I will never let my keys off of my person ever again!!
Of course, cooking always strokes my wounded self-esteem and so I decided to do a little inventing to really make myself feel intelligent again. Mr. Fix-It had read about a rosemary-ginger seasoned salmon filet, grilled to perfection at some restaurant and as I could see his mouth watering as he tried to tell me about it, I decided that I might as well take a stab at my own version. I had a number of wild Alaskan salmon filets and so I thawed them and set to work throwing together a savory seasoning to rub onto the surfaces of the fish steaks. About a half an hour later, I had sampled a tiny taste of my mixture and decided it was perfect. It worked great as a rub and the charcoaled filets were perfection if I do say so myself! And Mr. Fix-It said they were too. He was a happy camper. This rub would work great on chicken as well. So if you would like to try something with a fresh and different flavor, here is the rub that I threw together.
3 Tbsp garlic powder
3 Tbsp any bottled garlic and herb mix (I used Frontier’s Garlic and Herb)
3 Tbsp paprika
3 Tbsp dried onion flakes
3 Tbsp dried rosemary
2 Tbsp ground ginger
3 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp salt
Process first 6 ingredients in the blender until a powder. Add salt and sugar and mix thoroughly. Place in airtight container. Use as rub on fish or chicken, coating both sides, and charcoal.
Ginger and Rosemary make this rub taste so unique
Grinding all of the ingredients, except for the salt and sugar which are added after grinding, makes a uniform rub that can be easily sprinkled and rubbed into the meat.
I’ve been posting some hand-written recipes in my grandmother’s 1931 issue of the Rumford Cookbook as I am trying them out, myself. It is just too neat to see my grandmother’s penmanship on favorite recipes and to know that I am mixing what she used to mix up for her family, including my dad and my Aunt Lois.
In my last post, I gave you a little tidbit of my father’s memories as recorded in his book, Sailing Down The River Of Memories. I thought that I would post a few more of those memories here, that I thought you might enjoy:
“We churned our own butter. Lois and Dad liked the buttermilk, but I never developed the taste for it. We never used Oleo margarine (called Oleo) although we sold it in the store. During the thirties, oleo came in a clear sack and looked like white shortening because the butter industry had a law passed to keep it from being colored yellow and looking like butter. A small package of yellow food dye was included in the package. The oleo had to be kneaded with the dye until it turned yellow. Sometimes a person didn’t do a good job kneading it because there would be reddish-yellow streaks throughout the oleo. Some mothers didn’t take the time to color it so it looked as if they were serving lard. As I said, we had butter to go with Mom’s jellies and jams as well as wild honey. I don’t remember anyone in the community with a bee hive, but Dad or some farmer might find a bee tree down by the river that they cut down and then divided the honey among friends. Wild honey was dark, strong and delicious on hot biscuits…
Mom was a woman ahead of her time. During the summer of 1940, she got the idea of freezing strawberries so she wrapped a couple of quarts in waxed butcher paper and put them in the ice cream freezer [at the store]. Then, she served them for Christmas. Why was this ahead of her time? Because frozen food didn’t come to the rest of the country until 1945 when frozen orange juice and Swanson and Sons frozen chicken and turkey came to market. People really thought she was smart. Oh yes, one winter we put some snow balls in the freezer and had a snow ball fight the next summer. Unfortunately, they got icy and never thawed out, so they sort of hurt when we got hit…
Eating in a restaurant was a big event because we didn’t do it very often, but when we did, we went to family types, not the more expensive ones. Dad and I ate at the stockyards where we took cows and hogs. We ate at the ‘dime store’ such as Woolworth or Kresses or Newberry when Mom took us to Joplin. My favorite was the ‘blue plate special’. It was sliced roast beef on a slice of bread with mashed potatoes covered with gravy, slaw and a coke. A real special was a three-decker club sandwich at the Crown Drugstore. Man, was that good. Down at Pawhuska we went to a pig stand for pork bar-b-que and limeaid or coke…The first fast food place I remember was in Joplin out on Seventh and Maiden Lane during the late 1930′s. It was called “Chicken in the Rough” and had a logo of a rooster with a golf club. We got a paper plate with fried chicken, shoe string potatoes, a dish of honey and hot rolls. We sat in the car and ate it with our fingers which is why it was called “in the rough”. The Checkerboard Cafe’ with the outside walls painted red and black like a checkerboard was noted for coney islands. We sometimes ate at Chili King who served the best chili but he would not serve milk to drink because according to him, it would make a person sick. Oh yes, we did not drink milk when we had fish either. Why? Because. That was explanation enough!”
There are 362 pages of memories, geneologies and photographs for us to cherish! And as I posted last time, one of the recipes that my father mentions as a favorite, was my grandmother’s Red Devil Food Cake. I found it in the tattered pages of the Rumford Cookbook, written quickly and precisely. However, there are no baking instructions at all! I had to elaborate on my own. In looking in our family cookbook, I saw that my Aunt Lois also included this recipe and with the note, “(The cake I learned to bake as a child and it was served often at family get togethers)…Note: There are no baking instructions included in my recipe”
So here is the recipe and my decision to bake the cake layers at 350º for 20-25 minutes.
1/2 cup sour cream, lard or butter
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp soda
4 Tbsp Cocoa
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk
1/2 cup boiling water
chopped pecans (optional)
Sift together flour and soda and set aside.
Place sour cream, butter or lard into a mixing bowl. I decided to try sour cream. Next time I am going to try butter.
Cream until smooth
In a mixing cup, place cocoa and whisk as 1/2 cup boiling water is slowly added to dissolve. When the mixture is nice and smooth, add to the creamed mixture.
Add flour/soda mixture and stir and then add buttermilk or sour milk. You can sour milk by adding 1 tbsp vinegar into a mixing cup and then pour 3/4 cup milk into the vinegar. Allow to stand for 20 minutes and it will curdle. Pour out 1/2 of the thickest curds.
Add one egg and mix until batter is smooth and uniform
Add vanilla and mix. Unlike the batter in the last cake recipe, this batter is runny. My dad and his family also referred to it as “gravy cake”.
Divide the batter between two greased and floured cake pans. Bake at 350º for 20 – 25 minutes. Use a toothpick to check for doneness at 20 minutes to make sure you do not over bake. Invert pans onto cooling racks and allow to cool completely. Ice with recipe in the last post or use your own. Sprinkle with chopped pecans.
Here’s something neat. I am keeping the cake in my Grandmother T’s cake keeper in which she used to house the same confection! And generations of cooks continue on!
I know, I’m side-tracked as usual. I’m supposed to be showing you another cake recipe, but Mr. Fix-It has discovered something that is so cool that I had to share. We have fruit trees – peach, nectarine and a variety of apples. Every year, Mr. Fix-It has tried everything on the market to keep the nasty fruit-ruining moths from using the fruit as incubators for their icky, squiggly progeny. Every year, we have these lovely big peaches and nectarines, only to have them deflate on being picked or covered with gross brown sections.
I have no clue where Mr. Fix-It found the recipe, but find it he did, and, as the wonderful, independent man that he is, made up a batch of the liquid himself. He gathered some plastic bottles, cut holes in them, filled them and hung them in the trees. We were both sceptical at first, but oh wow!! Those bottles have been FULL to the top of the liquid with dead moths that never made it to the flowers or fruit and Mr. Fix-It has now made up two more batches of “pesticide” to refill the bottles. I took photos of the most recent fill and already there were moths in the bottles. Ick.
And so, we are thrilled and can’t wait to get some normal fruit this year!! I figure those of you in the north are just getting blooms on the trees and so maybe I posted this in time. Those of us in the south have trees that are already full of fruit. The bottles go into the trees as they bloom and stay in the trees as the fruit forms.
Moth Killer Recipe
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup molasses
1/8 tsp ammonia
5 cups of water
Mix ingredients together into a container that pours. On a plastic pop, water, syrup or any large type of plastic bottle, cut a rectangle approximately 3″ by 5″ just below the spout with the top of the cut at the spot where the bottle curves up to the spout. Put about 3″ of mixture into your bottle and cut two holes in the top to run a wire through to hang in the tree. Hang one bottle per tree for regular sized fruit trees. Put two in a large tree. Pour out and add more mixture when the bottle is full of moths.
Mr. Fix-It used a pop bottle for a peach tree
A syrup bottle goes in one of the apple trees.
This bottle had just been filled the evening before, for the third round of fluid. Previous rounds had been dumped because there were so many moths in the liquid. Already, new moths were caught. Isn’t that amazing?
Previously, I showed you photographs of the worn and ragged Rumford Cookbook that served as my grandmother’s journal and recipe collection. She evidently never cooked out of the book, but used it to record family events and geneologies and favorite recipes which consisted almost totally of desserts! Now I know where I get my sweet tooth.
It is a precious thing to have this book with my grandmother’s writing scribbled throughout, but to make it even more special, my father, who will be 84 on July 4th, wrote a book about his early life in Missouri and his experiences in Germany during the WWII era and it includes the story of the Rumford Cookbook. Dad’s book is a volume of memories that I can pass on to my grandchildren and great-grandchildren in a way that my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles will never be forgotten. They will always be alive in words and photographs.
Here is an exerpt from the book that I thought you might enjoy:
According to the old saw, some people eat to live, meaning they aren’t particular about what they eat or how it is prepared. Well, I think it is fair to say my family “lived to eat.” We enjoyed food!! It may not have been prepared in a fancy way, but it was fixed with love. Don’t ask me why but the folks said “fixed” instead of “prepared” as in “I’ll have supper fixed directly.” Mom, Grandmother Hightower and other members of the family prided themselves on being good cooks and well they should. Light rolls were high and light. Fried catfish was crisp on the outside and moist on the inside. Steak was tender enough to cut with a fork. And who could stop with just one piece of red devil’s food cake with fudge icing?
1/2 cp butter
2 cups sugar
5 tsps cocoa
1 cup mashed potatoes
2 eggs, separated (beat whites to fluffy)
1/2 cup milk (I used half and half)
2 tsps vanilla
1 cup nuts
2 1/2 cup flour
4 tsp baking powder
2 squares chocolate
2 cups sugar
2 tbsps syrup (I assume Karo White but I used plain old pancake syrup and it was great)
1/2 cup milk (I used half and half)
2 sticks butter
1 tsp vanilla
powdered sugar to thicken if needed
Cream sugar and butter until fluffy
Separate eggs and place egg whites into a bowl to be whipped.
Add yolks to the sugar and butter mixture and mix
Add potatoes and beat
Add cocoa and milk and mix thoroughly
And nuts..I used English walnuts, but pecans would be great too.
Add the flour that is mixed with the baking powder. Now here, I will caution that because of all of the different flour types, the 2 1/2 cups may be too much with certain types. If you grind your own wheat and are using a soft, white wheat pastry flour, you will definitely not need the full amount. I suggest that you add the flour 1/2 to 1 cup at a time until the consistency is smooth and not too dry. This batter is not a thin batter like we are used to with boxed cakes. It is almost the consistency of whipped icing.
Beat the egg whites until stiff and fluffy
Fold in the egg whites with a spatula by gently turning the batter over on top of the whites again and again until the egg whites are incorporated into the batter.
Divide the batter equally between two greased and floured 9″ round cake pans. Bake in a preheated 350º oven for 30 – 35 minutes. Test with a toothpick or sharp knife to make sure it comes out clean. DO NOT OVERBAKE. Check at 30 minutes and if it is not quite done add a minute at a time.
Invert cakes onto cooling racks and allow to cool
Meanwhile, place two squares of Baker’s Chocolate into a 1 1/2 quart saucepan.
Add sugar and milk or half and half and stir, with a whisk, over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Turn up the heat and, continually stirring, as the chocolate melts and the mixture comes to a low boil.
Stop stirring mixture and allow to boil for 2 full minutes.
Remove from heat and add butters and vanilla. Stir until butter is melted and incorporated. Cool until the icing becomes hard. Stir to whip to spreadable consistency. If you want a thicker spread then you feel you are getting, add powdered sugar, 1/4 of a cup at a time until you reach the consistency you want.
I like to place my bottom layer of the cake onto a piece of wax paper. Then, I can slide the cake onto a cake plate after I am finished icing, for a nice, clean look. Ice the top of the bottom layer of the cake with a thick layer. Place the top layer of the cake onto the bottom layer and make sure they are centered on top of one another.
Ice the tops and the sides of the cake
Garnish with a strawberry or chocolate shavings.
Of course, I had to use my vintage cake cutter that I found at an antique store. It is just like the one that I grew up with that my mom used to cut her cakes. It beats a knife to smithereens!! The cake is tasty, especially with strawberries and the longer it sits, the more most it seems to get. Next time, I’ll do the Red Devil Food Cake that Dad talked about and we will see what it is like!