dry spell

I did it!
I dried tomatoes, peppers, and apples.
The apples are particularly amazing. And it was so easy ... I've become a fan of the kitchen-appliances-that-do-ALL-the-work-for-you. One blissful evening, I had the bread machine clonking, the dehydrator whirring, and the crock pot bubbling all at once ... it was a good night. I have, however, fallen down on my job of actually cooking. With a husband that's been in class three nights a week until at least 9:00, three weekends in a row of travel, and friends to hang out with, we've been living on favorite standbys like burritos, homemade rhymeswithsmile nachos (my husband's specialty!), quesadillas, homemade pizza, and crock pot soups. So, no real adventurous cooking to speak of. But I do have a few things on the horizon, including roasted Delicata squash, granola, and a cake that has mashed potatoes in it. It's coming, I promise.


new reads

I've started (re)reading Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, which is one of the most revolutionary things I've ever put in my brain (not quite competing with the gospels, Romans 8 and the idea of grace, but still mind-boggling). I read this for the first time last fall, and am rereading it for my book club (!) that will meet the first Monday in November.
Some things I love about this book:
- Pollan urges readers to embrace FOOD, and be hesitant about manufactured food-like substances blasted with invisible nutrients. Adios, Doritos (I will miss you!) ... Butter, potatos, cream - hurrah!
- At the end of the book (and here I'm giving it away), Pollan gives some guidelines about how to shop for and eat food. My favorite is this: "Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food" (p 144). Think about it. Sorry, kiddos, but the gogurt has to go. It wasn't around when Great-Grandmother Dillingham was on the planet.
- Finally, Pollan has an easy-to-read style that is just ... easy to read. It doesn't read like a nutritionist textbook. If anything, it's the anti-nutritionist non-textbook. I like his style. I don't know how else to describe it. You should read it for yourself.
Book #2, in the list of Books That I Checked Out From The Library But Still Haven't Opened:
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It is in my possession. And highly recommended by numerous friends (I confess that I have actually recommended it as recently as this weekend to friends, even though I've not yet read it). I'm excited about it though, as it is about Kingsolver's move to a farm in southwest Virginia (!) where she and her family vow to only live on what they can grow or buy locally (as in eggs, meat, and cheese) for one year. Can't wait to read that one in connection with In Defense of Food.



Mother's Biscuits
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. baking powder
Butter (glorious butter!): probably 6 tablespoons + extra for topping
1/4 to 1/3 c. milk
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Combine flour, salt, and baking powder. Cut in butter until thoroughly mixed. (I like to use my fingers at this stage, instead of a fork, because then I can flatten and press the butter into the flour mixture instead of chopping it in.)
Add milk, starting with just 1/4 c. and increasing by tablespoons to get the right consistency. You should get a biscuit dough that is somewhat stiff, can round up rather nicely on a spoon, but is not so dry as to still have flour left in the bowl.
Sprinkle flour on a counter and turn out the dough. Pat into a circle-ish form, about 1 inch thick. Cut little bits of butter and spread them on the dough (easier said than done, unless the butter is at room temperature). Don't worry if you have butter globs. It'll melt eventuallly.
Fold the dough over onto itself. Pat out again. Butter it again. Fold over one more time, pat out again to about the same thickness (1 inch or so) and cut biscuits (I do not have a biscuit cutter so I use a handy juice glass. A small tin can could work too. I should just go get the biscuit cutter, I know ... it'd make things so easy!)
Place biscuits on a cookie sheet* (or pie pan, or whatever), butter each one (AGAIN!) and bake at 450 for 10-15 minutes.
*I like my biscuits like I like my friends - cuddly and all up in each others' business - I place the middle one, then all the ones around it touching that middle one, then gather up the scraps left over on the counter to make one or two more funky biscuits for the outskirts. I'm biased to placing biscuits this way, but of course if you wanted to separate your biscuits you can place them in nice rows on a cookie sheet and get an equally tasty result.
Do you remember when I went on and on about finding the perfect black dress for all my summer occasions?
Well. You know that I found it. It was perfect. simple. black. awesome. comfortable. and Cindi's.
Summer may be over.
But I am so not over that dress.
A good lbd (little black dress) is hard to come by.
So some friends and I did a little bit of sharing ...
I wore it to one dinner and two weddings: me and Dixie
It got worn to three OTHER weddings by Mary, Andrea, and Cindi.
Mary and the red shoes

Andrea and Tim

Cindi and Kurt
lbd. little black dress.
it will make more appearances, I promise.


Chocolate for Rachel

Frances Jones Cocoa Cake 2 c. sugar 1/2 c. shortening 1/2 tsp. salt 2 eggs 2/3 c. cocoa 1 tsp. vanilla 1/2 c. buttermilk (make your own: put 1 1/2 tsp. vinegar or lemon juice in the 1/2 c. measure, then add milk up to the top. Let it sit for a minute or two - the acid sours the milk and it starts to curdle a little bit) 1/2 tsp. baking soda 2 c. flour 1 c. hot water Mix sugar, shortening, and salt. Add unbeaten eggs, one at a time, stirring after each addition. Add cocoa and vanilla and stir. Add baking soda to buttermilk*. Add flour alternately with buttermilk mixture to the sugar/shortening mixture. Add hot water and stir. Pour into greased pan (I've used a 9x13pan, a Bundt pan, and 2 8-inch round cake pans. It's your call). Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. *Remember elementary school science project volcanoes? If you make your own buttermilk as I suggested above with vinegar in milk, I ... um ... advise you to transfer the 1/2 c. of milk to a larger measuring cup before adding baking soda, or you'll have a mini-Mt. Vesuvius on your counter. Not that this has EVER happened to me. This is my "fall-back-perfect-every-time" chocolate cake recipe. It's moist and fluffy. And delicious. And easy! And chocolatey. It's one of those cakes where you eat a piece and don't feel weighted down by all that you just ate - it's that amazing. I wanted to post it for my friend Rachel, who is living and teaching with her husband in Guatemala, where access to certain ingredients can be tricky sometimes. Aah, jungle living! Viva el 3rd world! If anyone knows of any resources for her ... like, let's say you know a good cookbook that doesn't use many pre-packaged ingredients, or a website she might like to look at, leave it in the comments and she'll see it. This recipe came to me from a mission guesthouse in Ogbomoso, Nigeria, called Frances Jones Memorial House. The cooks there used to turn out the most amazing desserts (well, entire meals, really) and this one was always a favorite. And since today is Nigeria's 49th Independence Day, it's only fitting that this recipe is from there. Happy chocolate, Rachel!