Archive for May, 2008

May 28 2008

Memorial Weekend.

Published by under Holiday Magic,Outdoors

The Man and I had a rather busy holiday weekend, contrary to our normal holiday weekends, which consist of sitting around and not doing anything.  On Saturday, we headed out to J-bird’s for a full day of tree planting mayhem.  She and her husband had ordered a whole lot of rather large trees that had to be put into the ground. Luckily, they live on a farm and so have lots of heavy machinery on hand.  I didn’t get to use any of the machinery, which is probably best for everyone.  I had a hard enough time with my shovel.

We had to cut and run at around 7 PM, though, because we were supposed to be a D– and C–’s for a fire.  We were a little late, and a little dirty, but no one seemed to care.  C– let me ride her horse a bit, which I love to do.  We didn’t stay as late as we might have, since I was pretty bushed from the day of tree-haulin’ we had put in.  We got home around midnight or so.

Sunday we drove all over the town, looking for the one elusive garden center or greenhouse that sold blueberry bushes.  My standby greenhouse for trees and shrubs was closed for the holiday, so that meant a lot of searching.  We finally found them at the enormous greenhouse several miles away, and that place was PACKED.  They give you wagons to pull around and put your plants in, and people were not being careful or considerate with their wagons.  Lots of bumping into people and standing around in the middle of a row, daydreaming.  I wanted to ram them, so it’s a good thing The Man took our wagon away from me.

Monday we had to go BACK out to more garden centers, looking for dirt, peat moss, and a soil pH tester.  Then back home with our spoils to plant the blueberries, plant the annuals in the planter box, and hide the new soaker hose in the berm.  I think that soaker hose is going to be a good investment.  I really didn’t want to have to stand out there for hours watering that berm.  This I can just hook up, turn on, and let it go.

I’m really glad we got those bushes planted, though.  Fruit bushes/trees take so long to mature and give any significant amount of fruit, that the sooner you get them in, the better.  I eventually want a little fruit bush plantation over there.  The next thing to go in will be currant bushes.  If you have any to sell on the cheap, I’m buying.

3 responses so far

May 21 2008

Quick and Dirty: Rhubarb Pie

Published by under Recipes

Rhubarb is in season, and that means if you go into your local supermarket (or to your local sister’s house), you’re probably going to see it featured front and center in the produce section. Rhubarb is not to everyone’s taste, but it has enough of a following that if you are on the hook for a dessert or something for your Memorial Day Shenanigans, a rhubarb pie is a low-fuss option. Especially if you don’t make your own pie crust. Like me. Because I suck at pie crust.

So, you’re going to need:

  • 5-6 good sized stalks of rhubarb. You’re going to want to end up with 6 cups of rhubarb pieces, and I find that this number of stalks will get you there. Look for stalks that are relatively thick, and don’t have too many crusty spots on them. Ideally, the outside should be smooth and have a nice sheen to it.
  • 2 pre-made pie crusts. They’re in the refrigerated section, near the canned biscuits.
  • 2 – 2 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 9-inch pie pan
  • Preheat your oven to 425°F (218°C).

Begin by washing your rhubarb and trimming off the ends. Then cut the stalks into 1-inch pieces – yeah, they look big and thick, but they’ll cook down. You’re going to need to have 6 cups of chopped rhubarb. Set aside your rhubarb pieces and get out a big mixing bowl. Put your sugar and flour in the bowl and mix it together.

Now, put one of your pie crusts into your pan and work it down so it’s snug. Put half of the rhubarb in it, then sprinkle half of the flour/sugar mix on top.  Add in the rest of the rhubarb, and then the rest of the flour/sugar. Don’t be worried if the filling is above the edge of your pan a bit, remember, it will cook down. Dot the top of the filling with the butter.

Once you’ve got all your filling settled and your butter dotted, put your top crust on and pinch the edges of the two crusts closed. If you’re the lady in my Betty Crocker cookbook, this is where you embellish the edge with twee little cutouts of leaves or a nice braid of dough, but if you’re me, this is where you press the edges with the tines of a fork and call it good. You also need to cut a few slits in your top crust so steam can escape. No need to make these huge, just a few little cuts will do the job.

You probably also want to cover the edges of your pie with tin foil (pain in the ass) or a nifty pie crust shield (usually costs only about $4.00). You’ll remove your foil or shield in the last 5 minutes of cooking so your edges can brown up. I neglected to cover my edges because I am Frazzle Brained Sally today, so mine are all dark. The pie’s still good, though!

Before you stick your pie in the oven, you could also give the top crust a LIGHT dusting of sugar. This will not only sweeten the crust, but make attractive sparkles. I normally do this, but see above re: Frazzle Brain Sally.

OK, time to bake. Stick your pie in the oven and bake it for about 55 minutes, or until the filling is oozing up out of the slits in the top crust. Remove and cool on a wire rack. Don’t cut into it while it’s warm! Let it cool and give the filling time to set up and do it’s filling best.

Once cool, you can wrap the pie in aluminum foil and freeze it, if you’re someone who likes to hoard pies against the threat of cold winter nights. Once you’re ready to eat, pop the frozen pie (minus the foil wrapping) in a 400°F (204°C) oven for 20 minutes. Let the pie cool for 30 minutes to 1 hour before eating.

One response so far

May 19 2008

New look, same content.

Published by under Computing

Yeah, it’s a new theme.  I actually liked the old one except it was apparently not playing well with my stats widget due to some line of php code that was all anti-social and “I’m going to wear black and smoke cigarettes behind the gym ALL BY MYSELF.”  Since I don’t know anything about the social behaviors of php, I just shot that theme in the head and buried in the backyard.  This new one better mind its p’s and q’s, that’s all I’ve got to say.

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May 17 2008

Did someone say chocolate cake?

Published by under Recipes

I’ve tried to make chocolate cake from scratch only once before. It was a total flop – literally. There was a deep, uncooked valley in the middle of the cake, and the edges were pretty ugly to look at. Pockmarked would be the best way to describe the appearance. I decided that chocolate cake is meant to come out of a box and said “never again!”

That is, until today, when I wanted something chocolately and good, but had almost nothing in the house to work with. No baker’s chocolate, no cake mix, no candy bars, no chocolate chips. I did, however, have baking cocoa, so I dug out my recipe books to see what I could find.

This recipe actually comes off the back of the Hershey’s Cocoa box, with one exception: I used buttermilk instead of regular milk. I’d like to tell you it’s because of flavor, or acidity, or some pastry chef kind of reasoning, but the truth is that I had buttermilk and I didn’t have regular milk. I know! What kind of house is this?

Anyway, this cake is pretty easy. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

Preheat your oven to 350°F (about 176°C) and find your favorite baking pan. I used a 13x9x2 because I no longer have two usable round pans (one was commandeered to catch leaks during an ill-fated plumbing project). I also am not terribly fond of making layer cakes. I sprayed my pan with Baker’s Joy, which is much easier than greasing and flouring, but if you are out of Baker’s Joy, then you must grease and flour your pans. I’m sorry.

Get your sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and combine them in a large mixing bowl. I just mixed it up with a spoon until it looked consistent, but if you wanted to sift it together, I’m not going to stop you. I just didn’t feel like being that fussy. I mixed the dry ingredients in the bowl for my stand mixer, because I don’t do hand mixing unless I have no choice.

Once your dry ingredients are blended, add in all the wet ingredients EXCEPT for the boiling water. Mix everything on medium speed for two minutes. Now would be a good time to boil some water, if you haven’t already. You know what would be good for that? An electric kettle. You know what I don’t have? An electric kettle. Someday.

Once the stuff in your mixing bowl is done, turn the speed down to low (or Stir, if your mixer has that setting) and slowly stir in the boiling water. This will make your batter pretty runny, but that’s what is supposed to happen, so have no fear. Keep it mixing until the consistency is. . . consistent. Then pour the batter into your pan(s). Make sure you scrape the bowl to get it all out!

Bake your rounds for 30-35 minutes, or bake a 13x9x2 pan for 40-45 minutes. Use the toothpick test to check for doneness (toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean). Remove from the oven and cool on racks. If you’re using rounds, cool on the racks for 10 minutes, then remove from the pans to cool completely on the racks. For the one-panners out there, just cool it in the pan on the rack.

Once the cake is completely cool, you can frost it with your favorite frosting. Sure, you COULD go out and buy pre-made frosting, but if you made the cake from scratch you might as well make the frosting from scratch as well, right?

Usually, I frost my cakes with some variation of buttercream, but as I mentioned, I didn’t have any milk. Or confectioner’s sugar, for that matter. That led me BACK to my cookbooks for a frosting recipe that only needed things I had on hand. I found a recipe for Seven-Minute Frosting, which fit the bill. I’d never heard of Seven-Minute Frosting before, and it needed to be cooked, but I figured what the hey. You only live once.

Do you know what Seven-Minute Frosting is? Marshmallow. Why does no one tell me these things? Not that marshmallow is bad, it’s just a little disconcerting to see the ingredients in your mixing bowl turn into a confection that you were not expecting. If I had made a yellow cake, this might have been a disaster, but chocolate and marshmallow? Sign me up.

To make Seven-Minute Frosting (aka marshmallow), you will need:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar (or, 2 tsps. light colored corn syrup)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • a hand mixer
  • a double-boiler, or a pot and mixing bowl that fit together well enough that the bottom of the bowl will not touch the water in the pot when placed on top.

Start by putting your egg whites, sugar, water, and cream of tartar (or corn syrup) in the mixing bowl (or top of your double-boiler). Mix on high speed with a hand mixer for 30 seconds. Then, place over boiling water (make sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water). Cook, beating constantly on high speed, for seven minutes or until stiff peaks form. Remember, stiff peaks wobble but they don’t fall down.

Remove from heat. Add vanilla. Beat for another 2 or 3 minutes or until it is think enough to spread. You’ll notice the mix getting nice and shiny, almost like satin. That’s when I got suspicious and stuck my finger in for a taste. Marshmallow!

OM NOM NOM

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May 15 2008

Annoyances.

Published by under Computing,House Renovs

Two annoying things regarding WordPress: 1) It seems like whenever I update a version, two days later another update comes out and I have to do the whole thing again.  It really pisses me off.  And 2) My WordPress Stats plugin barfed for some reason and is no longer recording stats.  I made all the changes recommended in the FAQ, but it still isn’t working.

One annoying thing not regarding WordPress: the window guy NEVER SHOWED UP last night.  How fucking retarded is that?  He cancels the first appointment due to his poor scheduling abilities, and then never shows up for the reschedule.  How hard is it to call and say “not going to be able to make it”?  Pretty hard, apparently.  Now I have to reschedule with the store and request someone who doesn’t have his head up his ass.

5 responses so far

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