Monday, May 08, 2017

Signs and Seasons



"Uh oh....Venus in Pisces....not a pretty sight!" sighed Margaret, one of my college friends who was consulting her astrological charts regarding my love life.  "What does that mean?" I asked.  "Venus in Pisces means you will forever be unlucky in love" she said, shaking her head.  "The best thing you can do is look for a Gemini or another Aquarius and see if that works", she proclaimed with a sad finality.   I wondered how I could have such a bad prognosis when we were supposedly living in the Age of Aquarius.....  and I am an Aquarius...isn't that supposed to be good?



Flash forward 30 years later, and I do think I was lucky in love, as I've been married to the same man for almost 25 years. Perhaps it worked out because he is another Aquarius, like Margaret suggested?  Otherwise, I haven't paid much attention to my astrology, but I was intrigued when the good people at Harper Collins asked me to review a new cookbook they sent to me, Signs and Seasons.

I had my family over for dinner yesterday, and consulted the book to determine what I should make.   The recipes are organized by star sign (seasonally) which is fine, but I wasn't sure if I was supposed to make Aquarian recipes because that's what I am, or Taurus recipes because we are in Taurus right now.   My daughter, currently pursuing a BFA, noted that the artwork is beautiful in this book.  Indeed, one of the authors, Amy Zerner is an award winning artist.  The recipes looked promising, they are written by John Okas, a personal chef in the Hamptons.  I saw a recipe for peas, but forgot to mark the page, and couldn't find it later.  I checked the index under "peas" and it wasn't there.   The book needs a better index.   I was trying to remember if  I was looking in the Taurus section, so I looked up "Taurus" in the index and there was nothing there! No listing at all for Taurus.  I looked in Aquarius....nothing there either.  I wondered if my confusion must be happening because Mercury is in retrograde.   Finally,  I started paging through the book and eventually found the recipe I remembered.....it was for "snap peas" .   And it was in Gemini, not in Taurus!  Oh well.

I didn't have any snap peas, but I made this recipe instead with green peas, and everyone loved it.  Here's how I did it:

Sesame Green Peas

3 T sesame oil
1 lb frozen peas
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T sesame seeds
2 T soy sauce

Heat the oil in a large skillet, and when hot, add peas, garlic and sesame seeds and stir fry until pease are hot, about 5 minutes.  Dress with soy sauce.

Since I'm not seriously into astrology, I don't think I can comment much on the writing.   The artwork in the book is lovely and the recipes look promising    I wish the book had a better index and food photography.    I think this book would make a great gift for a person that is really into their star sign.


Sunday, May 07, 2017

Tart Lemon Cake with Fresh Lemon Frosting


I have been a part of a great online community on facebook called Michigan Tech Parents because my son is a student there.  Everyone is so supportive and I have made some new friends on the list.   Last weekend, the students came home for the summer, and parents were talking about the food they were planning on making.   One mom said she was making a lemon cake and I adore lemon, so I asked her for the recipe.   She kindly posted pictures of her handwritten recipe for me to try.  It was delicious.   I tweaked a few things, and here is how I did it:

Tart Lemon Cake


1 c. (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 c. granulated sugar
4 c. all purpose flour
1.5 t. baking soda
1 t. granulated salt
6 lemons
4 eggs
1 c. milk

Preheat oven to 350 F. Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar.   In another bowl, mix together the flour, salt and soda with a fork.  Using a lemon zester (I love my Microplane) zest the lemons until you have 4 tablespoons. then juice the lemons.   I like to use a lemon squeezer for this.....you should have 1/2 cup.   If not, add water to make a half cup.   Divide the zest and juice in half and reserve the remaining for the frosting.     In a small bowl. whisk the eggs until the whites and yolks are well mixed, add 1/4 cup lemon juice, 2 T. zest and the milk and mix well.  

Add half the dry mixture and half the liquid to the the mixer bowl with the creamed sugar and butter, and mix well.  Scrape down the sides and add remaining dry mixture and and lquid.   Mix until well incorporated.   The mixture will be thick.  

Grease and flour 2 9" cake pans.  Using a spatula, divide the batter into both pans and vigorously tap the pans on the counter until level.   Bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack 15 minutes, then remove from pans and continue cooling on wire rack.

Fresh Lemon Frosting
(you will need to make 2 batches)

2/3 c. softened butter
9 c. powdered sugar
half of reserved lemon juice mixture
half of the reserved lemon zest
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1/4 c. milk (approximately)

In a stand mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar.   Add lemon juice and zest and mix until creamy.  Add enough milk to make a softer icing for piping,   Make up second batch.  Frost using a Wilton 1M tip as described in my other blog post.   It really is pretty easy.....I'm not a great cake decorator but the big tip doesn't require much precision.

I really liked this recipe....I think next time I make it, I'll make it with the cream cheese frosting in my other post.   Thank you fellow MTU parent Cindy for the inspiration!  My family loved this cake.  

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Rhubarb Custard Pie

This is my second year of donating a "Pie of the Month" to my church's annual silent auction.   For this month,  I tried a new recipe for rhubarb custard pie.   I really enjoyed Beth Howard's book Making Piece: love, life and pie and her cookbook Ms. American Pie.   I've always fantasized about opening some kind of pie emporium like Linda Hundt and her Sweetie-Licious Pie Cafe in DeWitt.  But the fact is, when I retire, I really don't want to be responsible for anything.   Making a pie once a month is good enough for me.  

I'm usually a rhubarb purist......no strawberry in my rhubarb, thanks.   But Beth Howard's rhubarb custard pie sounded really good to me today, so I made 2 pies.....one for us and one for the  Pie of the Month Club winner Liz.   Here's how I made it:

Rhubarb Custard Pie

For the crust:  one double crust Vodka Pie Crust recipe

For the filling

1.5 c. sugar
1/4 c. flour
1 t cinnamon
3 eggs
5 cups (or thereabouts) fresh rhubarb, chopped in 1/4 inch slices

1 beaten egg, to brush on top of crust

Prepare the pie crust.  To make the filling, combine sugar, flour and cinnamon in a large bowl.   Beat eggs and mix with dry ingredients.  Add rhubarb and pour into crush.  Cover with top crust and brush with beaten egg.   Bake at 425F for 20 minutes and then turn down temp to 375 and bake for 30 minutes longer.   

Happy spring!  Enjoy!!!