Posts Tagged ‘Michael Weisblat’

A Sauce for Stress

Friday, August 13th, 2010

We hope Mother Jan will soon be back to her normal form.

 
I don’t usually reprint old recipes of mine OR spend much of a blog post linking to another blog. But some weeks are a little crazy—and this has been a crazy week for me!
 
As we were getting ready to move my mother out of Daffodil Cottage a few days ago she fell and hurt her back. Add to that injury the stress of selling a house and a minor infection, and we have ended up with one sick mother.
 
Yesterday the doctor suggested it might be time to move her into a wheelchair. (Mother Jan was understandably NOT very excited about this idea. Her gait improved almost immediately!)
 
A couple of things are getting us through this stressful time. First, we never lose our sense of humor. Even when Jan is a little out of things (as she has been a lot in the past few days) she finds time to laugh.
 
Second, we have family around. My young nephew Michael in particular is a joy. He has just started his own blog, My World by Michael. It is officially hosted by me since apparently 10 year olds aren’t allowed to have blogs.
 
Michael’s current post, “Swimming in the Dam at Singing Brook Farm,” is charming. It reminds me of my own recent post comparing our country surroundings to The Trip to Bountiful.
 
He dwells on the experience of plunging into our cold dam water, on the sights and sounds of nature, and on the cuteness and doggyness of our cockapoo, Truffle.
 
Check out his post. It’s short and very sweet!
 
Meanwhile, here is a short and sweet recipe from my Pudding Hollow Cookbook.
 
When we called the doctor to ask for advice about my mother, one of the first things he suggested was that she eat plenty of ice cream to help her bones heal. Michael immediately volunteered to help.
 
We tried to keep things healthy by consuming frozen yogurt instead of ice cream. And then we ruined the whole healthy idea by covering the yogurt with this sauce. It made everyone smile, however, even our invalid.
 
Merry Lion Hot Fudge Sauce
 
Ingredients:
 
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tablespoon sweet butter
5 ounces evaporated milk (a small can)
1 teaspoon vanilla
 
Instructions:
 
Combine the sugar and cocoa in a saucepan and heat them until they are warm to the touch. (This is the only tricky part of the recipe; make sure you stir them, or they’ll burn!)
 
When they’re hot but not melting, add the butter and the evaporated milk. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 1 minute. 

Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. You’re ready to have a sundae party! Serves 8. 

Michael can make a toy out of just about anything.

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Let Them Eat Birthday Cake (Part I)

Monday, May 17th, 2010

 
I think I can speak for the entire Weisblat family when I say that we have had enough cake in the past week or so to last for several months.
 
My nephew Michael turned ten on Thursday. Naturally, a birthday cake was in order.
 
We ended up making a number of cakes—two identical cakes for his official party the previous weekend (he had invited quite a number of guests), a similar cake for the actual birthday, and cupcakes for his classmates at school.
 
None of them was hard to make individually—but en masse they pretty much exhausted us.
 
I do not want to talk about calories here. I will say that we have bought and used a HUGE amount of butter, eggs, flour, and sugar of late. Luckily, the birthday boy and his friends ate most of the cake(s)—and they were very happy indeed.
 
I’m starting with the cupcake recipe because, frankly, I’m not sure I can write with equanimity yet about the main event—a chocolate, marshmallow-filled cake in the shape of a Washington Capitals hockey puck!
 
The cupcakes were made with one of my very favorite cake recipes—a simple yellow cake that takes less work than a mix (well, almost). It’s the Platonic ideal of a yellow cake.
 
This old-fashioned combination is called “1-2-3-4” because it takes a cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 3 cups of flour, and four eggs.
 
If you want only 24 cupcakes (or a 9-by-13 sheet or 2 8-inch rounds), you may reduce the recipe by a quarter to 2-1/2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 3/4 cup butter, and so forth. Be sure to adjust baking times if you change pan sizes. You can probably get 3 8-inch rounds with this version, if you want a high and lovely cake!
 
Since my family is into excess we piled sprinkles on top of the cupcakes—red and blue for the Washington Capitals, of course (we already had white icing).

The birthday boy took cupcake decoration seriously.

 
1-2-3-4 Birthday Cupcakes
 
Ingredients:
 
3 cups flour
2-2/3 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) sweet butter at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1-1/3 cups milk
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 32 cupcake tins with liners.
 
In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until they are light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla, and beat again.
 
Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Pour the batter into your cupcake tins.
 
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cakes pass the toothpick test. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and let cool. Ice with snappy butter icing (see below). Makes 32 cupcakes.
 
Snappy Butter Icing for 1-2-3-4 Cupcakes
 
Ingredients:
 
1-1/2 cups (3 sticks!) sweet butter at room temperature
confectioner’s sugar as needed (I think we used a little less than a pound)
2 teaspoons vanilla
 
Instructions:
 
Cream the butter and add confectioner’s sugar a little at a time until the icing is tasty and spreadable. Beat in the vanilla. Ice your cupcakes, and throw on some birthday sprinkles if you want to. Ices 32 cupcakes generously.
 

Grandmother Jan went to town with the sprinkles.

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Run of the Mill Guacamole (But How I Love That Mill!)

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

 
It’s Cinco de Mayo, and I’m making guacamole.
 
My guacamole isn’t original or trendy. But it’s really, really good. It tastes as fresh as can be. And really what more do you need in guacamole?
 
It’s a dish the boys in my family enjoy making—and eating.
 
I’m sure most readers know this, but in case jalapeño novices are lurking out there I offer a little warning:
 
BE CAREFUL while chopping the jalapeño. Wear gloves if you can; otherwise, just wash your hands as quickly as you can afterward, and be careful not to touch anything that could encounter any part of your body while chopping. These peppers can sting!
 
Tinky’s Guacamole
 
Ingredients:
 
3 scallions (green onions), white and some green parts, chopped (I’ve also been known to use about 2 tablespoons of finely chopped red onion)
1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 small jalapeño pepper (more if you like spicy foods!), with the stem and seeds removed, finely chopped
1 small ripe tomato (optional—only use it if in season), cored and chunked
5 sprigs fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
the juice of 2 limes
3 small, ripe avocados
1 teaspoon salt
 
Instructions:
 
In a 1-quart bowl, combine the scallions, garlic, pepper pieces, tomato (if desired), cilantro, and lime juice.
 
At this point, you may leave the mixture for a few hours. About 15 minutes before you want to eat the guacamole, get out your avocados. Slice them in half lengthwise, stopping at the pits.
 
Separate the avocado halves from the pits, and use a spoon or fork to scoop out the flesh of the avocado. (If there is brown flesh, don’t use it; aim for the light green stuff.) Put the flesh in the bowl with the onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, and lime juice.
 
Mash the avocados into the mixture with a fork, adding the salt as you mash so that it is stirred in. You don’t have to mash them too much; a few chunks add to the flavor.
 
Place the guacamole in a decorative bowl, and serve it with tortilla chips (homemade are the best, but they’re also the most fattening!).
 
Serves 6 to 8.
 
 

From left to right: Alan, Michael, and David mash avocados into guacamole.

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Slightly Spicy Super Popcorn

Friday, February 5th, 2010
From left to right: Jackson, Michael, and Benjamin at the stove

From left to right: Jackson, Michael, and Benjamin at the stove

 
I’m getting ready for Game Day.
 
I’m not a football person; I’ve never actually understood the appeal of this particular sport. I get tennis. I get baseball. I get hockey. I even get golf (a good excuse for walking). I especially get bridge. But guys running up and down the field in those huge pads and jumping on each other…?
 
Nevertheless, as a lover of popular culture I view the NFL’s big display every year. I can’t resist the spectacle of it all—the halftime show, the brand-new ads, the excited if broke fans (the prices on those tickets are scary!).
 
I even watch most of the game itself although I try not to listen to the “experts” as they blather on and on about it.
 
I don’t plan a huge menu for Super Bowl Sunday, but I do like to make something special in honor of this annual sports fest. I originally thought of making nachos for Sunday. I love nachos: they’re salty and fatty and satisfying and versatile (you can put just about anything you have in the house into them!).
 
After looking at the elegant, creative nachos in Wednesday’s Washington Post, however, I abandoned the nacho plan. I didn’t need the shame: my nachos were going to be pedestrian in contrast. And actually my family didn’t need the calories.
 
Instead I decided to spice up a little popcorn. I love popcorn almost as much as I love nachos. It’s flavorful. It’s cheap. And it can be made with relatively little fat (although I draw the line at air popping; the kernels need SOME fat).
 
My nephew Michael had a snow day from school on Wednesday so I enlisted him and his friends Benjamin and Jackson to help pop the corn.
 
Popcorn is a great project for kids as long as they are careful (which our boys were) and adults are supervising. (I know you can’t see us in the pictures, but there were three of us in the room!)
 
I decided to work with Indian spices. The first batch of popcorn we tried went a little overboard in the spice department: we threw in cumin, turmeric, garam masala, curry powder, paprika, and red pepper flakes as well as salt.
 
Michael ate one handful and went running through the house shouting “Water! Water!” The other two boys just kept their distance and laughed.
 
I tried it myself and found it spicy (although not overly so) and a little too busy in terms of flavors.
 
The second batch used the combination of flavors below. Its subcontinental flavor was subtle rather than “in your face”—perfect for young (or timid) football fans. It should complement rather than overwhelm any other munchies we consume as we watch the Saints and the Colts battle it out.
 
Enjoy the popcorn—and the halftime show—and the commercials. If you must, even enjoy the game!
 
spicy popcorn web
 
Tinky’s Indian Corn
 
Here are a few hints before I start:
 
Check with your guests about allergies before you make your popcorn. Peanut oil is ideal for popping the corn, but canola will do if someone has a peanut allergy.
 
Popcorn pops best in a cheap, not-too-thick pan. Put away the Le Creuset and the All-Clad if you’re lucky enough to have them and get out an old aluminum pot. By the time the fancy pots heat up the popcorn will burn. A wok with a lid works very nicely.
 
The lid should be on your pot (so the popcorn doesn’t pop right out and hit you) but the pot should have a little room to breathe. Keep the lid slightly ajar so that steam can escape. Place one hand on the lid as you shake the pot with the other hand so the lid will stay in position.
 
To make your own popcorn salt (I got this hint from watching Alton Brown: thanks, Mr. Brown!) put kosher salt in a small food processor and pulse it 10 to 12 times.
 
Ingredients:
 
enough peanut or canola oil to line the bottom of your pot (3 to 4 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon popcorn salt (a tiny bit more if you must)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 cup popping corn
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
 
Instructions:
 
Place the oil, the salt, the cumin seeds, and 1 kernel of popcorn in your pot and stir to combine. Put the pot over fairly high heat (see above remark about the lid) and start moving the pot gently back and forth over the burner.
 
When the initial popcorn kernel pops add the remaining popcorn, the turmeric, and the curry powder. Stir to combine and return the pot to the heat. Continue shaking. In a little while you will be rewarded with the sound of popping corn.
 
Listen carefully. (This was the hardest part of the whole recipe for the boys, who have the enthusiasm of youth and like to talk loudly through most activities.)
 
When the popping subsides enough so that you hear a pop only every few seconds remove the pot from the heat and pour the popcorn into a bowl.
 
Serve the popcorn immediately or cool the popcorn and then store it in a sealed plastic bag for up to a week.
 
Makes just under 2 quarts.
 
BY THE WAY, if you’re looking for a few more Super Bowl ideas, here are a few suitable posts:
 
Mexican Chicken Pizza
 
Apple-Sage Cheese Spread
 
BOLTs (in honor of the COLTs)
 
Red Beans & Rice (in honor of the Saints)
 
 
(Courtesy of ebay--I can't afford the darn things myself!)

(Courtesy of ebay--I can't afford the darn things myself!)

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Popovers and a Story for Groundhog Day

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

The Problem web

 
We have made it to winter’s midpoint! Poised between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox, February 2 is Candlemas. This ancient holiday celebrates the longer and brighter hours of daylight we now notice and enjoy.
 
Traditional foods for Candlemas usually contain grain of some sort, in celebration of the stirrings of crops deep beneath the still frozen ground. These foods are also often round and golden to mimic the sun.
 
Last night my family and I enjoyed a winter treat that nicely embodies those criteria—popovers. SOMEWHERE I have my grandmother’s recipe for cheese popovers; I recall that she gently folded 1/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese into her popovers. We had these at Christmas, and they were lovely.
 
I couldn’t find that recipe this week so instead I used the basic popover formula shared by most cookbooks I have on my shelf, a proportion of 1 cup of of milk and 1 of flour to 2 eggs.
 
Instead of folding the cheese in, I tried sprinkling a bit of cheddar on top of the popover batter. Alas, it fell in a bit, making little holes in most of my popovers. They were still awfully tasty, however, so I wasn’t upset.
 
The recipe appears below. Before we get to it, however, here is a story that celebrates another name for February 2, Groundhog Day. As you know, on this day the groundhog is alleged to wake up from hibernation and peer out of its den to look for its shadow.
 
If the shadow is visible (that is, if the day is sunny), winter will last another six weeks. If not, spring will come early.
 
Where I live in Massachusetts we are ALWAYS guaranteed another six weeks of winter (at least!) on February 2. The holiday retains its appeal, however, and my nephew Michael certainly enjoyed writing about it.
 
He also enjoyed eating the popovers.
 
eatpopweb
 
THE PROBLEM
by Michael Weisblat
 
This is a story of how two groundhogs get mad at each other, fight each other, and fix their problem.
 
One day in a hole two groundhogs are so peaceful and happy. Their names are Michael and Collin.
 
Collin said, “It’s almost Groundhog Day. Who will go up?”
 
Michael answered, “Me. I want to go up!”
 
Collin said, “No, I want to go up!”
 
They both started to argue about who would go first. Then Michael had an idea. “Let’s make the hole of our house wider. Then we could pop out at the same time.”
 
So that’s what they did. They lived happily ever after.
 
THE END
 
P.S. They did not see their shadow.
 
Whether or not you see your shadow today, I hope you enjoy this recipe. Happy Groundhog Day (and Candlemas)………
 
popoversweb
 
Cheese Popovers
 
Ingredients:
 
1 cup milk at room temperature
2 eggs at room temperature
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (use a little more if you wish, but don’t overdo!)
 
Instructions:
 
In a bowl vigorously whisk together the milk, eggs, and melted butter. Stir in the flour, salt, and pepper. If you wish to add the cheese now, do so gently. Let the mixture sit for 1/2 hour.
 
While the batter is resting preheat the oven to 450 degrees and lightly butter the insides of 9 muffin tins. When the oven has preheated place the tins on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven for a minute or two to preheat.
 
Take the sheet out and quickly fill the muffin tins with the batter. If you have not yet added the cheese, put a small amount in the center of each muffin tin. If you are using a set of 12 muffin tins, be sure to pour a little water in the empty tins to keep them from burning.
 
Put the filled muffin tins back in the oven and bake the popovers for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake the popovers until they are brown and firm and nicely puffed up—15 to 20 minutes.
 
Do NOT open the oven door to look at the popovers until 15 minutes have passed—unless of course you smell something burning horribly! (This should NOT happen unless your oven thermostat is way off.) If you do, your popovers won’t pop over.
 
Remove the popovers from the oven and serve immediately. Makes 9 popovers.
 
Cheesy Popovers

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