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Night Owls July 16, 2010

Posted by alwaysjan in Personal.
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From September until the end of June, I’m up with the chickens (though chickens in LA tend to sleep in to get their beauty rest).  But come summer, I revert to being a night owl.  Oh, I still get up at 6 a.m. to feed the dogs and slop the hog.  I drink a Coke and spew toast crumbs on my keyboard, while I check my email.  But then I go back to bed – because I can.

In the summer, my mantra is, “Things to do – get dressed by 2.”  Today was a triple-digit day, temperature wise, which only served to remind me why it’s ridiculous to be up and about during daylight hours.  I’m blessed to have a son still living at home, who’s also a night owl.  There are no small children to care for.  The silence in the crypt house during the day is only punctuated by the incessant barking of the dogs.  But it’s too dang hot to even yell at them.  I just can’t get up the energy.

It’s like when we lived outside Seattle.  My son Ian, who’s a bona fide sun bunny, swore there was a coffee bar on every corner because people were trying to get up enough energy to kill themselves, but never could.  That’s basically how I feel about summer and the heat.  It’s best to lay low.

When I first moved to California, I worked the night shift at CBS typing scripts for TV shows – 6 p.m. until 2 a.m. or sometimes 4 a.m.  I felt out of sync with the rest of the world.  I remember walking into a supermarket at 4 a.m. and seeing the Christmas trees for sale outside.  At a gut level I knew there was something terribly wrong with this picture.  But, then I was still in culture shock after having moved from the Midwest.

Last night, to celebrate my finally turning in ALL of the coursework for my master’s degree, we had the neighbors over.  They brought nephews and nieces and their friends who’d moved to LA only days earlier from Georgia and Virginia.  Although the day had been uggy hot, it cooled down and we sat outside under the chandelier (my husband has a silver one rigged up to slide along a wire – Phantom of the Opera style). We swilled sangria and laughed ourselves silly.

I loved that these newcomers were so bedazzled by a typical Los Angeles night. And the best part? The night was still young.  Summer has begun!

A Not So Proper English Crumble September 1, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Food, Recipes.
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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!

Summer Means Sangria July 27, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Recipes.
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sangria My first experience with sangria put me off the stuff for 20 years. My college roommates, Mary and Elisse, mixed up a batch in the bathtub of our apartment for a party. It was either one very small bathtub or one very big party. Gallons of cheap jug wine with apples bobbing and orange slices floating on top. What was that subtle aftertaste – Ajax? But my husband Richard makes killer sangria, which is what you get to drink if you come to my house. Richard’s one of those people who doesn’t need a recipe. A little bit of this. A little bit of that. He’s an alchemist in the kitchen. Since I do need a recipe, when he made sangria the other night, I made him stop and measure everything he was “throwing” into the mix. According to Richard, the exact amounts aren’t all that important “because alcohol covers up any indiscretions.”  He also said when it comes to ingredients, the cheaper the better. We tried the sangria at Gus’s Barbecue the other night, and I dare say it was just a notch above Richard’s. But my alchemist quickly figured out they’d added some Southern Comfort, though the waitress said she’s wasn’t allowed to tell what was in it. So that’s the newest addition to the recipe and it rocks. One pitcher serves 6 (at two glasses apiece). The pitcher goes fast, so you might want to have ingredients for more than one batch.
Richard’s Sangria also known as “Jan-gria!”
1  bottle red wine (cheaper the better)
2 oz. Triple Sec
2 oz. brandy
1 oz. Southern Comfort
10 oz. seltzer
2 oranges
1 apple
1/3 c. sugar
fresh mint (optional, but it’s dang good)
Directions:  In a cup, combine 1/3 c. sugar and 1/3 c. water.  Put in microwave until sugar dissolves and forms “simple syrup.”  Add to pitcher along with the juice from 1 orange (seeds removed), brandy, Triple Sec, Southern Comfort, red wine, and seltzer. Slice 1 orange, then cut slices into quarters Slice 1 apple, cutting away midsection with seeds Add fruit, lots of ice, and a sprig of fresh mint.  Enjoy! Photo Credit:  Jan Marshall