Thursday, November 24, 2016

Wheat Berries, Barley and Brown Rice

I love barley, and so I tried this recipe from Good Food From Mrs. Sundberg's Kitchen by Holly Harden, who was Garrison Keillor's editor and writes a great blog The View from Mrs. Sundberg's Window which is very Lake Wobegon in style and tone, which I like.   I do prefer the music on the new Prairie Home Companion with Chris Thiele, but I miss Lake Wobegon.     Her cookbook doesn't have a ton of recipes that I'd be interested in making, but this one caught my eye.   It's pretty simple....and it is something you can make when you are going to be near the kitchen for an hour doing something else.

Wheat Berries, Barley and Brown Rice

1/2 c. wheat berries
1/2 c. barley
1 T. vegetable oil
1 t. salt
1.2 c. brown rice

Boil the wheat and the barley in a bot with the salt and the oil in 4 cups of water for 30 minutes.   Add the brown rice and cook another 30 minutes.   Freeze in ziplock bags.   This is good to use with meat and vegetables and sauces and you don't have a lot of time.   It could also be made into a grain salad.  

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Husky Cupcakes

My son will turn 19 on Monday, so I decided to try to make cupcakes decorated like husky dogs, because he goes to Michigan Tech and they are the Huskies. My friend Christine came over to help me....we figured we'd make it work out or it would be epic Pinterest fail worthy.

Michigan Tech Mascot
Blizzard T. Husky

I saw these cupcakes first on the Michigan Tech Parents Facebook group, and I decided to give it a try, even though I'm not very skilled yet at cake decorating.   I can decorate cookies pretty well with royal icing, but have only tried to decorate cakes a few times.

Doing a little googling, I quickly determined I needed to get a Wilton grass tip....I ordered 2 so I could have 1 for gray and one for white fur.

I was pretty sure I wasn't going to want to pipe the blue eyes, but luckily I found some blue candy eyes for sale on Amazon.    I baked a dozen chocolate cupcakes using this Martha Stewart recipe, then I had to figure out what kind of icing to use.   I didn't want to use shortening, because I didn't care if my husky fur was a little off white.   Also, I wasn't sure on the consistency for the grass tip.  It seemed to work out better a little stiffer than medium consistency.   Here is how I ended up making the icing....

Buttercream Icing

1 1/2 cup unsalted butter (3 sticks),
6 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
up to 4 tablespoons milk or half and half

Beat butter for a few minutes with a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Add powdered sugar a cup at a time and turn your mixer on the lowest speed, until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and 2 tablespoons of milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add remaining milk 1 tablespoons at a time. 

I used mini marshmallows cut in half diagonally for the ears.   I tinted about a 1/4 cup icing pink for the tongue and another 1/4 cup black for the nose and piping, which I did with a Wilton #3 tip.   It might work a little better to make these 2 colors a little thinner for better piping.    I split the rest of the icing in half and tinted one part gray and left the other off white.  

I think they came out pretty good!  The grass tip is very forgiving....thank goodness.

A Pack of Huskies

Can't wait to celebrate his birthday on Monday when he gets home from deer hunting!  Happy birthday Eddie!

Monday, November 14, 2016

I Survived Thanksgiving Drive '85

I am one of the MTU students that survived one of the most harrowing drives back to school in 1985.  Here's my story... it's a long one that gets better every time I tell it. I left Detroit Sunday morning with my friend Pete who was from Chicago. We were juniors. He was in Detroit to buy a used Audi from a friend; it had a stick shift and was really sporty. Pete had also just broken his leg and had a cast. but there was no way he was going to let me drive his new (to him) car. We were also ferrying a tank full of PIRANHAS in the back seat for one of his fraternity brothers aquarium. The blizzard hit about the time we got to Gaylord or so...word was they were going to close the Mackinac Bridge because of the wind, but when we got there, they let us on. It was swaying like one of those pirate ship carnival rides! We made it to the other side and wanted to get out and kiss the ground but we couldn't. We had to press on because of the PIRANHAS....if we stopped, we were afraid they would freeze to death. They are a warm water Amazonian fish; being smart engineers we reckoned they couldn't handle the cold. Ever so brilliant, we pressed on...decided to take the southern US2 route given the weather. It was a slow couldn't see where the road was. Pete's leg was cramping up from all the downshifting, but he didn't want me to drive his car. We slowed down to make the turn at 117 and a car that was behind us plowed into a snow drift to avoid rear ending us. He couldn't see us! Conveniently, as is typical of the U.P. , there was an open bar up ahead. We decided to stop and let Pete stretch his casted leg and and partake in a beverage to "steel ourselves" for the rest of the trip. Of course, we left the car running and the heat on for the PIRANHAS. The bartender told us the state police were closing all the roads and so we better get going if we were going to make it. So off we went again. Eventually, there was no seeing out of the windshield; the wiper blades had long frozen over so I had to roll down the passenger window to watch the tree line (just like a winter road rally) to figure out where the road was. I navigated, he steered. We limped along the Seney Stretch, made it through MQT with no sign of the police so we kept going. The PIRANHAS, after all, etc. When we hit Keweenaw Bay, Superior was washing over the were frozen to the road. (see carsickle picture shown above) We dared not slow down for fear the same would happen to us. We rolled into Houghton about 19 hours after we started (should have been a 10 hour drive). I crawled on my hands and knees up to the front door, the snow was so deep. I was shocked to find that I was the first one back! About an hour later, my sorority sister Jenny arrived in her VW Golf. She and I shoveled a car sized parking spot for her car, you can't leave a car on Houghton streets in winter and we didn't want her to get towed. We watched the sun come up as we shoveled. We were the only ones out of 20 in our house that made it back. Word came that school was canceled, so we we went to the Doghouse to celebrate. In case you were wondering THE PIRANHAS SURVIVED.

My mother had a story of her own regarding Thanksgiving Drive '85. You see, there were no cell phones then and the storm was big news all over the country. (Here's an article in the LA Times about it) She watched the news and then promptly flipped out. She called the Michigan State Police and asked them to find me...she told them her daughter was somewhere enroute from Detroit and Houghton and they needed to track me down. My mother was a force to be reckoned with and would not take no for an answer from anyone. The MSP told her that I would be okay because all of the roads were closed and and the bridge was closed. She wasn't buying it...she wanted them to send a state trooper out to look for me. I think they told her they would (probably just to get her off the phone) send a car out right away. I did call her when I got there finally, even though it was "long distance" and already Monday morning and full rates applied. (In those days I was only allowed to call home on Saturday mornings before 8 am, because the long distance rates were 60% less during non peak hours) She was relieved to know I was safe and I was mortified that she called the cops. If she were still alive right now she'd be having the last laugh on me for sure.

Every MTU student in the 80s has their own story to tell....I wanted to document mine here.

Commemorate T Shirt

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Pasty Making 2016

Pasty making is something I almost always get around to doing in November.   Thanks to the United Autoworkers and my generous employer, I get Veteran's Day off.  It used to be moved around to get it closer to the opening of firearm deer season in Michigan (which is November 15)  but now we are celebrating it on Veteran's Day proper, which I think is good.    I got this pasty recipe from my best friend Alison who got it from her ex mother-in-law who was from Hancock.   We often joke that the 3 best things she got out of that marriage were her 2 sons and this pasty recipe.  She and I used to get together and make pasties for the freezer every year on our day off.    Looking over the years, I see that we made 52 pasties in 2008, 79 pasties in 2009 and 80 pasties in 2013.  Sadly, she has moved away and my kids are away at college so we don't do it anymore in November.

Last year, I got together in January to make some pasties with a group of girlfriends that wanted to learn how....and I realize now that I never blogged about it.   Here we are:

I think I only made 8 for myself last year, as it was just for us two.   Even though I still have 3 of those left in my freezer, I decided I needed to make pasties again this Veteran's Day.  It was destiny because last weekend I was at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market wearing an MTU hoodie and I spied a big basket of freshly dug rutabagas that were huge for only $1 each.  I told the farmer that this was a sign from God that I needed to make pasties, and he noticed my sweatshirt and pointed to his hat....he was sporting an MTU ball cap!  He said his daughter was a senior at my alma mater (and home to the Upper Peninsula's finest pasties) and I told him that my son was there and that my husband and I also went there.      I've never had a freshly dug rutabaga before and it was way easier to dice and peel than the wax covered ones I normally buy at the grocery store.

a fresh 'baga

My daughter stopped home in the morning to witness part of  the pasty making, She's taking a class at EMU about food history and was tasked to write about food history and she remembered our annual pasty making affairs.  It's funny what the kids remember from their youth! When she was in middle school, she refused to eat pasties anymore, so I was surprised she wanted to document this effort.  She said she wanted to write about how we learned about pasties as MTU students and it became a food tradition for our family.   Jane is always on different food kicks, she went through the obligatory vegetarian phase every teen goes through, she then was making microwave brownies in a mug, and now her latest is taking in nutrition by drinking some kind of soy product made into a shake.   I asked her if she wanted me to make her some pasties too, and I was surprised when she said "Yes"!  Maybe pasties now sounded good to her after having to drink Soylent for a while.  She said she didn't like them in 6th grade because they didn't have enough seasoning in them but would like to try them again, and suggested adding some curry powder so I did that for a couple, just to see how it would taste.   Why not?

Andy said that my pasties were too small last year, so this year I made 10 giant ones instead of 15 regular sized.   I'll give the curried pasties to Jane for her freezer and I'll send Eddie back up to the Keweenaw with some for  his freezer, too.   I called Alison to let her know I was making pasties and she is going to make some for her new husband and his daughter too,   The tradition lives on!