Friday, July 31, 2009

Monkeying Around the Kitchen with The King and Sara

Late last week, I was catching up on the never ending task of clearing my RSS Reader. I admit I had a two fold purpose for this: downsizing my reads/culling dead links and looking for something fun, interesting yet easy to bake for the office on Monday.

I was doing this while watching some stupid show about whiny people in Miami on Bravo (too lazy to turn the channel) and chatting with my bud, Sara on Skype (I call it multi-tasking but I think the almost-twenty-something intern in the office calls this entering the 21st Century) when I saw that the gals in the test kitchen at King Arthur Flour had made Monkey Bread (aka Pull Apart Bread aka Bubble Bread). A quick send of the KA link to Sara, a "OMG!! Yummmmm" back from Sara, a simulataneous "Let's bake that together" reply, and I had a date on Sunday with my wife.

Sunday was one of those hot, stormy and steamy days we seem to be having in the last part of July here in Connecticut and Sara is dealing with in British Columbia. She was already a bit ahead of me as I was running late from a morning 9 holes at the golf club that seemed to drag on forever, especially when you are digging through thigh high weeds for your ball as many times as I was. By the time I got going, her Monkey Bread was ready to go in the oven.

We chatted while I made the dough. I decided to make whole wheat Monkey Bread, partly because I have been on a how to incorporate more whole grains into my baking kick lately and partly because it was time to turn over the whole wheat flour before it goes rancid in the heat.

After making the dough and letting it rise, which it did in record time because of the heat, I divided it into little chunks

Whole Wheat Monkey Bread Balls

rolled the chunks into little balls, dipping the balls into water and then cinnamon and sugar, and placing the dough balls into a 8" deep sided casserole dish

Monkey Bread Balls Ready to Rise
to rise. The recipe calls for an 8" cake pan but all mine were dirty from testing a German Chocolate cake recipe earlier in the weekend.

I did the final rise in the fridge overnight because I wanted to bake the Monkey Bread in the morning so it would be warm and gooey when I took it into the office. Just like the dough, the monkey bread rose nicely in the fridge.

Monkey Bread Balls Risen

In the morning, I pulled the dough out of the fridge to come to room temperature, baked it, and flipped it out onto a dish to take to work,

Whole Wheat Monkey Bread

sprinkling some more cinnamon and sugar on top to melt while the bread cooled a bit.

I do have two little beefs with the King Arthur recipe as written. Don't read too much in my beefs either because I still love their flour and recipes but even the King can sometimes go a bit astray.

First, if you add all the flour, the way the recipe says to, you will get too stiff a dough. Both Sara and I experienced the same result and had to add a little more water to our doughs; a bit more than an 1/8th a cup. If this was true on a humid and moist day in the middle of the summer, it would be worse on a dry winter day, when I typically have to add a bit more water to my doughs. Additionally, since I was using whole wheat flour, which typically results in a stickier dough, even with small amounts, I was surprised how dry the dough was. There was no way the dough would have been supple enough after rising to make the dough balls.

Just to check and make sure it wasn't me, I made the dough again in the middle of the week to verify if it was the liquid/flour ratio in the recipe or distraction on our part because we were giggling and all that other nonsense Sara and I do when we get together to bake. This time I cranked the AC to get the humidity in the kitchen down to a normal 52% and I used the regular AP flour called for in the recipe. I also let the dough rest for 10 minutes to fully absorb the liquid. I had the same result, stiff dough that wouldn't take the rest of the flour without adding more water.

My other problem was with the amount of cinnamon and sugar that the recipe makes. I had to make more when I still had five dough balls to coat. That probably was me more than the recipe though because I really coated my dough balls with cinnamon and sugar. I still didn't have enough to put a lot of extra in the pan to make a good gooey coating. If I made this recipe again, I'd triple the amount.

And I will be making the recipe again because it was huge hit in the office.

Have you ever seen those video clips in nature shows of a feeding frenzy of sharks?

If so , you will know what the kitchenette at the office looked like when I pulled the foil off the plate. The Monkey Bread was gone before I could even get my computer started. Everyone enjoyed the cinnamon and sugary balls and one person even asked when I was going to make it again.

Soon, very soon, I promise...

Whole Wheat Monkey Bread

adapted from King Arthur's Baker's Banter blog

You can make this either by hand or in a stand mixer with the dough hook.

2/3 cup of water
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp instant yeast
1/2 cup AP flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 1/2 cup sugar
4 Tbsp cinnamon (I used two types, Mexican and Vietnamese)

Place water, oil, egg, salt, sugar and yeast in large bowl or bowl for stand mixer. Stir to combine.

Add 1/2 cup of AP flour and 1 cup of whole wheat flour, reserving 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour to add as needed when kneading. If you are using a stand mixer, use the dough hook to combine this flour or if by hand, you will probably need to switch to your hand to finish combining the AP flour and the 1 cup of whole wheat flour.

Knead the dough for about 5 - 7 minutes until a soft and supple dough is formed.

Place in a large, greased container to rise until double, about 30 - 45 minutes on a warm day or about an hour on a cooler day.

Gently punch down risen dough and divide into little chunks dough, about 1 1/2" in diameter. Roll into ball form, dip into water and then coat with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Sprinkle any remaining cinnamon and sugar over the dough balls, reserving about 3 Tbsp to sprinkle on top after baking.

Place coated dough into a greased 8" deep cake pan or casserole dish. Cover and let rise until it is really puffy and almost to the top of the pan.

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes in a 350 degree pre-heated oven or until the internal temperature of the bread is 190 degrees.

Remove from pan by tipping pan upside down on a plate. Sprinkle remaining cinnamon and sugar on top to melt while the bread cools a bit.

Allow the bread to cool for about 10 minutes before serving because the hot cinnamon and sugar coating will be extremely hot and could burn.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I Got the Blight!

It was a sad day in my garden yesterday. I had to pull up and destroy my Tennessee tomato plants


last night after getting home from playing a round of golf at Oak Hills Golf Club.

The Northeast and Midwest tomato plants have been fighting off Late Blight all season. Late Blight is the fungus that caused the Irish Potato Famine. Late Blight can affect any of the nightshade family plants like potatoes and tomatoes. It rots the fruit of the plants from the inside out and causes the plants to wilt and die. It most often strikes during really cool and wet springs and summers and this year definitely qualifies for that.

Unfortunately, despite my best efforts to protect my tomato plants by treating them with anti-fungal powders and keeping my eye out for any signs of the blight, it took hold in my Tennessee plants. They were fine on Saturday but by Monday I noticed the tell tale sign of large black rotten spots on the bottom of some of the fruit.


So, after picking off the small tomatoes that weren't showing any sign of rot to make fried green tomatoes for dinner,


I uprooted the plants, stuffed them in black garbage bags and left them lying out where they will cook inside the bags during the day today. Apparently cooking the plant kills the disease and will prevent it from being spread. You can't compost these plants so I have to throw out the bag with the rest of the garbage.

Luckily, so far, the two plants Weedhopper picked up for me at a local plant sale aren't showing any signs of blight yet. I have my fingers crossed as both have lots of fruit on them.

I suspect that farm fresh tomatoes are going to be in short supply all over the eastern part of the country this summer.

So, enjoy any red ones you get. They are going to have to last us until next summer...

Update on Wednesday 7/29: Today's New York Times food section has a good article on the late blight and how it will effect prices and possible affect the potato crop too.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Golf and Waffles?

I'm baking with Sara today. We haven't baked together for a long time because of our schedules and a few other things going on in her life. It's great to be with my bestest friend again. I won't tell you what we're baking but when you see it early next week, I'm pretty sure you will be planning a baking session of your own.

I played an early round of golf at South Pine Creek this morning before meeting up with Sara on Skype. South Pine is a sweet little nine hole course. I shot a 40, not great on a Par 3 course shot but I did have some good drives and few nice chip shots. I also had one great sixteen foot putt on the 9th.

On the way home, I stopped at the Sherwood Diner in Westport for breakfast. I had some waffles and side of turkey sausage links. The waffles were great but I'm still searching for the best breakfast turkey sausage links.

Speaking of golf and waffles, it appears one of my favorite golfers, Phil Mickelson, is getting into the waffle business. Phil and two of his business partners have bid on SouthEast Waffles, the bankrupt Tennessee based franchisee for The Waffle House. SouthEast Waffles operates quite a few of the Waffle Houses on my way down to Bristol, TN from NYC. So, this is good news because their bid includes the offer to renovate quite a few of them.

Maybe they'll even re-open the one in Stephens City, VA. That was my 1/3 way down to Bristol stop off and a good place to get out of the car for a stretch of the legs.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Jesperson's: 106 Years of Pie in Petoskey

One of the places that I always make sure I get to when I visit my folks in Northern Michigan is Jesperson's in downtown Petoskey.

Jesperson's Restaurant Petoskey Michigan

For 106 years the same family has been serving simple home cooked from scratch food to locals and tourists alike.

jesperson's menu and history

Hemingway is said to have been a daily visitor to the counter when he visited the family home at Walloon Lake. Basically open for lunch only on most days with people typically standing two and three deep waiting for a table or a spot at the counter but the wait is worth every minute.

During the winter I love to order a bowl of their chicken noodle soup filled with big thick noodles and big pieces of chicken or the spicy chili made with chunks of beef and tomatoes. But the one thing I always order is the grilled ham salad sandwich on dark rye.

jesperson's grilled ham salad sandwich

My mom almost always orders the sandwich that I've only ever seen at Jesperson's, the grilled swiss and dill on rye.

jesperson's grilled swiss dill sandwich

One of these days I'm going to ask for a grilled swiss, dill and ham salad sandwich. I'm thinking that would be a great combo.

The one thing on the menu that makes Jesperson's a must eat at place in Northern Michigan is its pies. Trust me when I tell you, before you order your lunch, you better order your slice of pie. Many a time before I learned the secret, I would hear the pie selection and not order my slice only to have the pie gone when it came time for dessert. After missing out on their mile high meringue pies

jesperson's lemon meringue pie

one time too many, I got smart and even before the waitress tells us the daily lunch special, I will have my pie ordered.

Jesperson's makes everything for their pies from scratch, including the crust and fillings. They use local fruits for their pies so some of the flavors like peach and strawberry-rhubarb are only available when the fruit is ripe in the Northern Michigan orchards. Luckily, since Michigan is the captial of pie cherries, they are available almost year round in some form so you can normally get cherry pie even when there are three feet of snow on the ground.

On the day I was in Petoskey this last trip to find the tahini for the Bread Baking Babe bread last month, they had chocolate cream pie, strawberry-rhubarb (another of my favorites), cherry-berry (the pie that put Jesperson's on the map), banana cream, lemon meringue, coconut cream, blueberry, and peach.

After we finished lunch, Sarah, our bubbly and super friendly waitress, brought my mom, dad and I our pies.

Waitress Sarah at Jesperson's with our Pie!

My dad ordered the still warm banana cream pie.

jesperson's banana cream pie

My mom ordered coconut cream pie.

jesperson' s coconut cream pie

And, I ordered cherry-berry pie ala mode

jesperson's cherryberry pie

with the ice cream on the side so I could take a really nice picture of how deep red the filling of the pie is with its combo of whole berry cherries, raspberries, and strawberries.

We also ordered a whole chocolate cream pie to take home for dinner that evening. Of course it was gone before I thought to take a picture.

I'm heading back home in a few weeks to enjoy a bit more of summer, get some golf in with my dad and Uncle Billy, and generally just hang out on the deck catching some sun (I hope). You can bet that at least one lunch will be at Jesperson's.

I may just have to order only pie for lunch...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pasta and Par

You've probably noticed the long lapse between posts here lately.

Normally, I would blame that on my job and my business and personal travel schedule but that just isn't the case this time around. You see, I've been bit by a bug; the golf bug.

Clubs and Balls before Practice

I used to play quite a bit in my late 20's. I was never any good. I'd write "10" on the scorecard for each hole and be on my way, hacking and slashing my way through nine or eighteen holes. It wasn't that I couldn't putt the ball into the hole, I just couldn't drive the ball off the tee.

It would take me six or eight shots to get the green. Once I got to the green, I could normally get the ball into the hole in two, must have been all that putt-putt growing up. My score didn't matter because I enjoyed getting out and walking the course.

When I was home in Michigan two weeks ago, my dad and I played nine holes and all the fun I used to have when I played came rushing back. I couldn't wait to get home and start playing again. Once home, I scoured Craigslist for a set of woman's clubs and found a barely used set of Square Two ladies clubs less than two years old

My New Golf Clubs

and promptly hit the driving range.

Driving Range at Belmont's Golf in Ridgefield, CT

I've decided to take lessons with a pro to get help with my swing, grip and generally not develop any bad habits. That way maybe, just maybe, I can hit the ball further than ten feet off the tee.

I somehow suspect that is going to take lots and lots of practice with quite a few balls.

XL Basket of Range Balls

Last night, after work, I played nine holes at a local public links course. I was paired with two other single players, both pretty good golfers, one who had a 12 handicap. I warned them both that I was just learning and if they wanted, I'd drive, pick up my ball, take two strokes, and play long ball.

They said not to worry. That everyone had started out "hacking" their way around a course and since we were the last group starting that unless I got really frustrated, to just play my game. They were patient when I shanked the ball at the first tee, helped me find my ball when I put it in the deep rough, and applauded me when I two putted the par 4 third hole.

I only had to play long ball on one hole and even had some pretty decent drives. When we ended up at the clubhouse after nine holes, I bought them both a beer while we tallied our cards. Much to my surprise, I broke 70!

I had a 69 on the nine holes. I even had two pars, the 4th hole where I made a great putt and the 7th hole where I drove the ball over 80 yards straight down the fairway. Both the guys were great and even said that they'd play with me again. I left the course with a smile a mile wide. It was the best round of golf I've ever played.

I got home after dark, and even though it was a bit late, I decided to celebrate my great nine holes with a pasta dish made with five simple ingredients: penne, turkey Italian sausage, pasta sauce, cheese, and fresh basil from my garden.

Par 5 Pantry Pasta

I washed it down with a nice red wine from Spain.

Sitting down to watch a reply of last year's US Open on Golf Channel while I ate my dinner, I realized that while I may never break 100 on eighteen holes of golf, I was glad I had picked the game up again.

Mark Twain just might be wrong about golf being a good walk spoiled...

Par Five Pasta

1 cup penne or ziti
1 1/2 links of Turkey Italian Sausage, sweet
1/3 cup prepared pasta sauce
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup shredded cheese

Bring to boil 2 cups of salted water in a 2 quart sauce pan. Add penne and cook for 12 - 14 minutes or until al dente.

Remove sausage from its casing and while pasta is cooking, in a non stick skillet, break up and cook sausage throughly.

Drain pasta, reserving about 1 oz of the pasta water. Return pasta to the sauce pan, add pasta sauce, cooked sausage, and enough reserved pasta water to thoroughly coat the pasta with sauce.

Place pasta and sausage in a pasta bowl, toss with chopped basil and top with shredded cheese.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Coconut Cupcake Smack-Down

Ding, ding, ding....

Welcome to the First Food Smack-Down on The Sour Dough!

In this corner, weighing 1.2 ounces dressed in vanilla bean buttercream frosting and toasted coconut,


The Bon Appetit Coconut Cupcake.

And in this corner, weighing 1.3 ounces dressed coconut cream cheese frosting,


The Barefoot Contessa Coconut Cupcake.

If I had to pick one flavor of cupcakes that I could eat a whole dozen of in one sitting it would be coconut. Over the years I've probably baked a couple hundred coconut cupcakes and there is only one recipe I've ever used, Ina Garten's (The Barefoot Contessa). Her coconut cupcakes are the gold standard by which all other coconut cupcakes are compared.

On Monday while catching up with some of my friends blogs in my reader I noticed my good friend, Ivonne had baked coconut cupcakes for her regular Magazine Monday feature, Coconut Cupcakes. The recipe she used was from the April 2009 Bon Appetit and called for reduced coconut milk.

I'm not going to go into too much detail about reduced coconut milk. You can read about it in the link for the Bon Appetit coconut cupcakes. But, I will tell you this: I will never NOT have reduced coconut milk in my fridge ever again.

Anyways, after reading Ivonne's post, I left a cheeky comment about comparing head to head the Bon Apetit cupcakes against the Barefoot Contessa's and a few hours later Ivonne wrote back with one sentence, "Let's do it!".

Thus was born the food smack-down between Bon Appetit's Coconut Cupcake versus Ina Garten's Coconut Cupcake.


On Sunday, Ivonne and I got together on Skype and baked coconut cupcakes. Both recipes came together easy and after making the reduced coconut milk called for in the Bon Apetit recipe, my house smelled like a massive bottle of suntan oil had exploded all over the place.

If I had to choose based on batter alone, I would have said the Bon Apetit cupcake was the hands down winner. It was creamy and loaded with coconut flavor. I did miss the flaked coconut that the Ina Garten recipe.

After baking, I found the Bon Appetit cupcakes browned quicker than the Ina Garten. I also noticed that the Bon Appetit cake, while moister had a more subtle coconut flavor. I like the over top coconut flavor in the Barefoot Contessa cupcakes when they are baked. It was a surpising actually that the Bon Appetit cupcakes coconut flavor so strong in the batter tamed when baked.

I think the Ina Garten cream cheese frosting was the clear winner of the two. I'm sorry but you add coconut to cream cheese frosting and you can bury me in a huge vat of that stuff!

Not wanting to be the only arbitrator of which cupcake reigned supreme, I took a batch of each into the office. The office winner was the Bon Appetit cupcake by a 3 to 1 margin. Everyone liked the moistness of the cupcake and the toasted coconut and most found the coconut taste in the Barefoot Contessa version "overpowering". Weedhopper liked Ina's the best, declaring the coconut in the frosting and the frosting better. He said he wouldn't refuse either though.

Lastly, I had a final judge, a coconut cupcake specialist taste the two cupcakes. Ms. B, like myself, has always held Ina's coconut cupcake up as the ultimate and best coconut cupcake. She is familiar with my version of the Barefoot Contessa coconut cupcake and was more than happy to be ultimate taster.

Without telling her which cupcake was which, I had her taste the two samples. Her decision?

Bon Appetit but the Ina Garten frosting.

Hmm, maybe she's on to something there. Do I smell Coconut Cupcake Smack-Down Part II in the air?

Bon Appetit Cupcake with Barefoot Contessa Frosting anyone...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bread Baking Babes in Beruit?

This month, our host kitchen was the lovely Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies and she had us make Sukkar bi Tahin or Beruit Tahini Rolls.

BBB logo july 2009

Because of these little wound up sesame paste infused addicting yeast rolls, I've made a most eye-opening discovery: every culture has its own version of a cinnamon roll. I've also reacquainted myself with that old adage don't judge a book by its cover. You see, I was skeptical when I first saw this recipe (Sorry Natashya).

I'm not a big sesame fan. The smell of tosting sesame seeds makes me gag and I hate the texture of the seeds when I bite into them. Heck, I even make the poor sushi chef at the place I eat lunch at two times a week leave off the sesame seeds from my spicy tuna roll. Since this recipe relies on tahani, a paste made entirely of ground sesame seeds, I was pretty sure I wouldn't really like the taste of these. Further, because I was going to have to make these while I was in Michigan on vacation, I was darn sure my culinary challenged family in Northern Michigan wouldn't like them either.

Then there was the little problem of finding tahani in B$% F@#$ Northern Michigan. Now, the far reaches of the Lower Pennisula are becoming a bit more worldly in the offerings of hard to find international ingredients in the local market. Heck, they even have a whole aisle now called "International Food" in my folks supermarket. Sure, a full third of the aisle is dedicated to Old El Paso, La Choy, and Prego but they also have digestive cookies from the UK, pickled eggs from Poland, and for some reason all the Kosher food there too. The last time I was home I even found black bean paste to make some pot stickers. But, I knew they wouldn't have tahani.

Luckily, on one of the days I was home before heading out on the sailboat, I made a trip into Petoskey to stock up on some gourmet provisions at Symon's General Store, the first and probably best stocked gourmet food store in far Northern Michigan. Sure enough, they had some tahani in the Jiffy peanut butter jar size container. Hmm, what was I going to do with all that tahani?

Brain kicked in and next thing you know, I'm planning on not only making these for my family but also for the crew of the sailboat. Crazy. Just plain crazy, I know. But, what the hay, I was on vacation and part of my plan was to have a good time in the galley.

Once I had the tahani, the rest of the recipe was pretty easy. The dough took no time at all and even in the damp, cool galley rose pretty nicely. I did have to resort to the place the dough in the microwave to keep it out drafts instead of the little galley oven because I was using the oven at the same time to roast some veggies. Otherwise, it was just like making a big cinnamon roll you flatten. Instead of sesame seeds on top of the roll, I brushed the top with a simple syrup I made for mixed drinks.

I served the rolls warm with strong tea for a mid afternoon break on a blustery day when we dropped anchor in the lee side of the Keweenaw Pennisula to wait out some rather gusty winds before making our run to Isle Royale. They were a hit. The tahani/sugar filling added just a mildly sweet taste to the roll and the simple syrup had baked the outer part of the roll sweet and crisp.

The only other little problem I faced on the sailboat was there wasn't a cooling rack big enough to hold all the rolls when they were finished baking. So, I improvised and used the steaming basket insert to hold four of the eight rolls I made.

beruit tahani swirls

I also had a lot of left over tahani/sugar filling. That didn't last long as the three guys used it like peanut butter on anything they could find to spread it on.

The second time I made the rolls for my family, I cut back on the amount of filling I made and topped the rolls with a mixture of brown and white sugar. Much to my surprise, even my brother's super and I mean super picky son who won't eat anything that is brown liked them. I already have a request to make him some when I visit my brother and his family in the fall.

You can join us as a Bread Baking Buddy this month by baking the Sukkar bi Tahin (recipe below), blogging about it, and then emailing Natashya by August 1. She'll send you a nice badge for your blog and include your post in a round up.

If you want to see a whole bunch more of the Babes delicious buns (NO, not those types of buns...sheesh), go check out my fellow Babes over there on the side bar.

Sukkar bi Tahin - Beirut Tahini Swirls
Home Baking, The Artful Mix of Flour and Tradition Around the World
Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
Makes 6 golden brown, flaky textured coiled rounds, about 6 inches wide, filled with sesame paste and sugar.

1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
About 2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp olive oil

3/4 cup tahini
3/4 cup sugar

In a medium bowl, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water. Stir in one cup of the flour, then add the sugar and oil and stir in. Incorporate a second cup of flour, then turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, or until smooth.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise for 2 to 3 hours, until doubled in volume.

Meanwhile, place a baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles, if you have them, (or a baking sheet) on the middle oven rack and preheat the oven to 375 F. Mix together the tahini and sugar and stir until smooth. Set aside.

Cut the dough into 6 equal pieces. Work with 3 at a time, keeping the others covered. Flatten each out on a lightly floured surface, then roll each out to a rectangle about 5 inches by 10 inches. Spread the top surface with 2 1/2 tablespoons of the filling mixture, spreading it almost to the edges. Roll up the rectangle from a long side into a cylinder, which will stretch as you roll to about 20 inches long. Anchor one end and coil the bread around itself, then tuck the end in. Flatten with the palm of your hand, then set aside, covered, while you fill and shape the other 2 rectangles.

Return to the first coil and roll out gently with a rolling pin. Roll the other 2 out a little and then return to the first one and roll it out a little more thinly, and so on, until you have rolled each to a round about 6 to 7 inches in diameter. A little filling may leak out—don’t worry, just leave it.

Place the breads on the hot baking stone or tiles (or baking sheet) and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and flaky. Transfer to a rack to cool.Shape and bake the remaining 3 pieces of dough. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I have made these twice so far, once according to the original recipe, and once with whole wheat flour and brown sugar. I have to admit, I liked the original best. I will try once more with a combination of both.
These can be made in an afternoon, and once you have tried them you will want to make them again!

*Tahini is a paste of ground sesame seeds. It can be found in health food stores, Middle Eastern markets and some grocery stores. It is a common ingredient in hummus, and is gaining in popularity in most parts of the world. It must be refrigerated after opening.

** My tahini has been out since I bought it two weeks ago and even made a trip home in a box that the USPS just delivered to me. It seems to be fine without refrigeration. I made hummus with it last night and I'm still alive (so far). But I suspect that like any nut based spread, it would go rancid if not used quickly. So, use your own judgment about the fridge.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Weekend Cat Blogging: Mom Went on a Sailing Trip and All I Got Was This Lousy Mouse

We're hosting Weekend Cat Blogging again this weekend and, as usual, Mom is nowhere to be found because she is out in the nice bright sun hitting these stupid little white balls with a big stick at another stick that pokes out from a dumb hole far, far, far away from where she tries to hit the stupid little white ball and inventing new ways to add the phrase "G#$ D!#$ It!" to the beginning of every sentence .

Meaning, I'm left holding the bag or in this case


the catnip filled mouse she brought back for me from her vacation sailing trip and her three day business trip to Florida.

Mom had a great time on her sailing vacation across Lake Superior. She said despite the fact that the weather wasn't perfect and it was a bit cooler than they would have liked, it was really nice to be so far away from civilization that the cellphone didn't work and the only communication with the outside world was the marine radio and the AM/FM radio in the galley.

Unfortunately, Mom also had a camera malfunction. The little card that goes into her digital camera can't be found on her computer and the camera doesn't seem to know it has a 10GB memory card. She did get some pictures on the internal memory off the camera though. She needs a new digital camera if you ask me.

So, until she either figures out how to get all the great pictures of her trip off or gets some pictures from her friends, she can't show you the galley kitchen she cooked in or the big, big freighter that Mama Breadchick's next door neighbor is the steward on.

They shared adjoining locks at the Soo Locks with the neighbor's boat and Mom and the neighbor had a nice chat over the deck railings while the neighbor's boat was lowered so it could go on Lake Huron and Mom's boat was raised so it could go on Lake Superior. It was fun to see the looks on the tourists watching from the veiwing stands because compared to the big boat, Mom's 38 foot sailboat was really tiny.

Once out in Lake Superior Mom made good use of the galley but not the grill because it rained almost every day, especially when it was close to dinner time. Mom also said the oven was funny to work in because she had to bake things in shifts it was so tiny, even tinier than the one she has here!

One night Mom made a complete foil dinner in the oven


of spicy mini ground turkey meatloafs, potatoes with carrots,


and those braised greens with bacon she wrote about here. Everyone loved the turkey meatloaf because mom used cumin, smoked chipolte chile powder, and some jalapeno juice in them.


For dessert, Mom made a simple bowl of fresh berries with a splash of cointreau and demerara sugar sprinkled on top.


Another big hit on the sailboat was a polenta crusted ratatouille tart


Mom saw on her friend, Patricia's blog, Technicolor Kitchen, right before she left for her vacation. She oven roasted the veggies and served it with a big lettuce salad made with heirloom Black Seeded Simpson lettuce picked up at the farmer's market in the Soo.

The crust was a bit crumbly Mom said so she is going to play with it this week because she is making the tart on Monday to take to work all week as lunch.

Mom even baked bread a few times while on the boat, including making the BBA bagels! She did those once they made it to Isle Royale becasue the boat wasn't rocking too much and she could use a bigger oven on the boat moored next to them, a big 60' powerboat with a full kitchen. She shared some of the bagels with the people on that boat and they said they were the best bagels they had ever had except for ones they got in NYC!

Mom says she will have a catch up post for the BBA Challenge really soon because she also made the Poor Man's Brioche while on her vacation. Mom is real glad that the BBA Challenge is at your own pace because with her travel schedule the past two months, she hasn't had the time to bake once a week.

One other bread Mom made while on vacation but not on the sail boat was the Bread Baking Babes bread of the month. Not to give anything away, Mom said that she wasn't sure that her family in Michigan would like the bread but was really happy everyone LOVED it.

On one of the days while Mom was on vacation, someone in her office called her about a business trip she needed to go on the day after she got home from Michigan. They were one day out of Whitefish Bay and on deck enjoying a pocket of sunshine when someone heard a cellphone ringing. Mom said the wind was blowing just right because she had half a bar on her cellphone. The person from her office was a bit surprised that she was someplace without cellphone coverage and internet.

Mom said she was surprised her cellphone even worked! It didn't work for long because they got cut off but it must have worked long enough because when Mom got home her airline tickets and everything for her Florida trip were waiting for her.

Anyways, Mom didn't get home until 9pm on Tuesday night this past week and had to be on another airplane at 11am on Wednesday morning to go to Florida. Needless to say, this didn't make me very happy and I showed her how unhappy I was by jumping into her suitcase while she was trying to pack her bag with nice clean business clothes


and grooming myself all over her favorite brown business suit


so she could take some cat hair with her. Pretty funny of me huh?!

You can tell Mom travels a lot by all the tore off plane side baggage claim tickets on her suitcase.

Mom was even more surprised when she got back from Florida and she saw how big her tomato plants


and the rest of her garden and grown, especially the tomato plant from Tennessee which is shoulder high. She found a few tomatoes starting to grow on the Tennessee plant.


Even if the humans don't like all the rain we've had in June and July, Mom's garden sure does!

Well, I can't think of anything else you need to know about what Mom has been up to except to say she is really glad to be home for the rest of the month and excited about getting back into the kitchen to bake some more of the BBA breads she's missed and putter with a few recipes she's testing and to catch up with all her friends on the internet and in person.

She knows she owes a few of you some emails to tell you how fantastic your breads are looking and she has a post about a family restaurant in Northern Michigan that makes the best pie ever. She also wants to tell you about some new bread bakers she is really proud of and has been meaning to write about forever.

If you want to join in Weekend Cat Blogging this weekend, just leave us a link on the comments. If you want to check out what all the kitties have been up to this past week, check back on Sunday evening to visit the links left by everyone!

And now I have to nap with my new mouse


because writing this post has been exhausting....