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A Not So Proper English Crumble September 1, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Food, Recipes.
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crumble

My friend Cathy and I made this blackberry/peach crumble with only one emergency email to England for advice.

To my mind, heaven on earth is a piece of pie for breakfast. So when I went to Suffolk, England last May for a week, I was only too happy to find a gooseberry crumble waiting on the counter with my name on it.

Americans are more familiar with fruit cobbler, or a fool, or a grunt, depending on what region of the country you live in.  I’d never even heard of a crumble, but dang it was good!  My friend Lesley showed me how to make one –  a rhubarb crumble, which is the hands down favorite in England. According to her, all school girls in England learn to make a “proper” crumble. So when they talk about passing their “A” levels, they’re talking about being able to make “A” proper crumble.

When I was back visiting my friend Cathy in Kansas City, we decided to see if we make one ourselves with some blackberries from Cathy’s garden and peaches. It was delicious and her family devoured it (with a little help from me).

A Not-So-Proper English Crumble

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

The Filling
4 c. of fruit (pretty much the same as you’d use for a pie) Strawberry/rhubarb is a sure combination
1/4 to 1/2 c. sugar (rhubarb requires more – I tend to go light on the sugar)
If you’re so inclined, you can put a squirt of lemon juice in or a pinch of cinnamon.
Mix and put in an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 ceramic dish.

For the crumble:
1 cup flour
3 oz. butter straight from the fridge, the colder the better.
3 oz. sugar
pinch of salt
1  handful or  1/4 to 1/3 cup of uncooked oatmeal

To make the crumble:  Cut butter into squares and combine with flour. The key is to work quickly while the butter is cold. Work out the butter lumps using your thumb and index and middle fingers. It’s sort of a “show me the money gesture.” Keep your ring finger and pinky out of the action.

Stir the  sugar into the mix and add a scoop of oatmeal. I used half a packet of instant oatmeal with flax the other day. Lesley used muesli cereal.

Sprinkle the crumble on top of the fruit, but don’t tap it down. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes. It will turn just slightly golden. It’s great served with vanilla ice cream, but I like it best the next day. There’s no day after that cause it’s all gone. Enjoy!

Killer Christmas Cookies December 23, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Food, Holidays.
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cookies3

In the beginning there was butter, sugar, and an egg. And these simple ingredients begat Christmas Cookies. Or to put an evolutionary twist on it, while YOUR ancestors began life in a primordial chemical soup, MINE did their oozing in primordial cookie dough. And as soon as my people (as in, I’ll have my people call your people) were able to crawl onto land and stand upright, they began making Christmas cookies. The End (or almost).

I thought I’d post one of my recipes for Christmas cookies. The cookies in the photo were baked by a student’s mother. They were too beautiful to eat, but I ate them anyway. I took a picture of them first though, because just like Dexter, I like to keep a trophy of my “kills.”

My all-time favorite recipe for the holidays are the Pecan Puffs from Joy of Cooking. My cookbook automatically falls open to this grease-stained page. The cookies are billed as “rich and devastating.”  Say no more.

Pecan Puffs

This recipe makes about forty 1  1/2 inch balls, but since I’m one of those people who loves to eat cookie dough, I’ve taken to always making a double recipe.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Beat until soft:                      1/2  c. butter

Add and blend until creamy:                          2 T. of sugar +  1 t. vanilla

Blend in the food processor, but not TOO much                 1 cup pecans

Add                                                                           1 cup of Cake Flour

Note:  I’m usually too lazy to go out and buy Cake Flour so measure 1 cup regular flour less 2 T. (per the Joy of Cooking Substitutions page)  

Stir the pecans and the flour into the butter mixture. Roll the dough into small balls. Place the balls on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes. (Don’t expect them to look brown. While they are still hot, roll them in confectioners’ sugar. Lick your fingers and you’re done!

Coke for Breakfast August 12, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Food, Health.
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When my computer starts up in the morning, my husband likes to say, “That’s Jan booting up.” When I snap open the can of Coke that’s part of my not-so-balanced breakfast, he adds, “There’s the second sound that tells me she’s alive!” It’s pathetic, I know, but I’m a creature of habit. Besides, I’m a third generation Coca-Cola drinker.

I never knew my dad’s mom, as she died when he was a teenager. But he inherited her sterling silver coffee urn and liked to tell how she kept it filled with Coca-Cola. I thought this might have been because back then, it WAS the real thing. But Wikipedia set me straight. Although the formula for Coca-Cola was originally intended as a patent medicine (and did once contain an estimated 9 mg. of cocaine per glass), the “real thing” was removed in 1903. So my grandmother wasn’t a junkie – not unless that’s what YOU call someone who enjoys a Coke for breakfast. (For additional “Cokelore,” click here.)

The other story that was oft repeated about my grandmother was what happened when her daughter, after an argument, announced she was leaving home. My grandmother said, if that were the case, her daughter would leave the same way she arrived. She then proceeded to strip her naked and shove her out the front door. I think I would have had a lot more in common with my grandmother than just our love of Coca-Cola.

My mother liked to drink Coke. But once she switched to diet, I had no choice but to disown her. There’s only so much one can take and I don’t do diet. Really, my highly evolved taste buds can taste the difference.

When I was growing up, you could order a cherry Coke at the soda fountain and watch them squirt in the cherry syrup. It’s not the same in a can, so I don’t do Cherry Coke either. My friend, Kristina, likes to tease me that I’m old school as I’m the only one at school who keeps a Coca-Cola Classic in the fridge. At least I don’t have to worry about anyone else drinking it.

I actually drank Dr. Pepper for years. But after I was pregnant, I developed a craving for Coke. We were living in New York City when New Coke was introduced on April 23, 1985. This was a red letter date, as all dates pertaining to Coca-Cola are “red letter” dates. My taste buds knew instantly that New Coke was just a sad-ass version of Pepsi. What I loved about Coca-Cola was its battery acid tang.

Disgusted, I switched back to Dr. Pepper and cultivated a friendship with a woman whose husband managed the Gramercy Park Hotel, because the hotel had a stockpile of “old” Coke. It was like Prohibition, only the stakes were higher. When the New Coke fiasco ended (a little less than three months later on July 10th), old Coke was re-christened Coca-Cola Classic. Ah! It was back to my daily 14 ounces of sugar, caramel syrup, and caffeine – which I personally think deserves its own category on the food pyramid.

Yeah, I’ve heard all the stories about how, if you put a metal spoon in a glass of Coke overnight, it will be eaten away by the morning. But, I have an iron-clad stomach and am of the opinion that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. So I take take my Coke like I take my vitamins – once a day.