Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tuesday's poem: Freshen the Flowers, She Said by Mary Oliver

Freshen the Flowers, She Said

So I put them in the sink, for the cool porcelain
  was tender,
and took out the tattered and cut each stem
  on a slant,
trimmed the black and raggy leaves, and set them all-
  roses, delphiniums, daises, iris, lilies,
and more whose names I don't know, in bright new water-
  gave them

a bounce upward at the end to let them take
  their own choice of position, the wheels, the spurs,
the little sheds of the buds. It took, to do this,
  perhaps fifteen minutes.
Fifteen minutes of music
  with nothing playing.

(picture taken in Paris, May 2012, by my husband)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tuesday's poem: let it go by e.e. cummings

let it go-the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise-let it go it
was sworn to

let them go-the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers-you must let them go they
were born
                to go

let all go-the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things-let all go
       so comes love

- e.e. cummings

Monday, April 8, 2013

chocolate tanker brownies

A friend recently gifted me with a 1 pound solid hunk of chocolate. It was not a massive chocolate bar or post-Easter chocolate bunny, but rather a monster hunk of chocolate from a chocolate tanker truck. Yes, it turns out that those enormous tanker trucks sometimes seen on freeways not only carry milk and other liquids, but also occasionally pure milk chocolate (!) As the story was related to me, when this chocolate tanker truck made it's delivery and pumped out all the goods, the tanker remnants were up for grabs. The driver, a friend of my friend, hauled them out. My friend ended up with some 5 plus pounds of it and bequeathed me a portion.

I am delighted by this story for many reasons. Beyond the sheer willy-wonka quality of it (chocolate being pumped out of a truck!) is this idea of a resource being shared. Being raised in a small subsistence community in southeast Alaska, a regular part of life was gathering and sharing goods (salmon, berries, etc.). I like to think of my hunk of chocolate in a similar (big city) way and am so pleased that it found it's way to me.

It is a wonderful problem to have too much chocolate. For a couple of cool late winter evenings, I whipped up mugs of decadent hot chocolate. This still left the large majority of chocolate and I decided the perfect home for it was in Ina Garten's outrageous brownies.

As I get older, I learn that almost all of what my mother said to me growing up is completely true. The one glaring exception to this is her advice on brownies. My mother (a former home economics teacher, skilled baker and all-around resourceful person) advised me that making brownies from scratch was not worth it. She said that all baked goods are best when homemade, with the glaring exception of brownies. As a result, for years, I made box mix brownies. (To be clear, I did dress them up by studding with gorgeous hazelnuts, but yes, I confess to box mix brownies.)

My big sister was the first one to shatter this falsehood. On one of our rambling weekend phone calls she shared she had made Ina's outrageous brownies and they were, in fact, outrageously good. I countered with 'but Mom says it's not worth making your own brownies' and my sister assured me these were worth it.

So, I made the outrageous brownies and the spell was broken. The chocolatey depth of them is ridiculous. I think it is owing to the fact that they contain over 2 pounds of chocolate but only 1 1/4 cup of flour. These brownies are not messing around. And a tanker truck full of chocolate is not messing around either and therefore, these two belong together.

chocolate tanker brownies

1 pound unsalted butter
1 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
6 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups chopped walnuts (optional)

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 12x18x1-inch baking sheet.

2) Melt together the butter, 1 pound of chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. Allow to cool slightly.

3) In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.

4) In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture.

5) Toss the walnuts (if using) and 12 ounces of chocolate chips in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup of flour, then add them to the chocolate batter (tossing in flour first helps to keep them from sinking to the bottom of the pan). Pour into the baking sheet.

6) Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for about 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake! Allow to cool thoroughly, refrigerate, and cut into 20 large squares. (20 squares would be enormous brownies. I get about double that out of this batch.)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

sunflower cookies

(My apologies for dropping off for the past few weeks. Daily life ramped up a bit and the truth is, I missed sharing my little stories and pictures. I keep up this space because blogging is a nice reflective exercise for me. I very much look forward to hearing from friends and readers. Thank you for sticking with me.)

This is a cookie recipe from my mother. In the recesses of childhood memory I can see her pull a roll of this dough from the bottom drawer of our freezer. My older sister re-introduced me to the cookies a few years back and everyone I share them with genuinely loves them. It is a beautiful brown sugar oatmeal chewy cookie with amped up nutty flavor from the sunflower seeds. It is such a basic, simple cookie but the combination of oats and seeds is kind of addicting.

The pictured batch was baked up after one heck of day- the kind of day that leaves you stumbling exhausted and graceless through the front door, just relieved for the quiet of home. When days are rough like that, I long for the methodical rhythm of kitchen tasks, the comfort of familiar smells and tastes. Sometimes the kindest thing you can do for yourself is make some cookies.

sunflower cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups quick oats
1 cup unsalted sunflower seeds

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs and vanilla.

3) Add flour, salt, baking soda, and oats. Add 1 cup unsalted sunflower seeds. (I stir the seeds in by hand. Helps avoid overworking the dough.)

4) Form into long rolls (1 1/2" thick) and wrap in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour. (plastic wrap or parchment paper works).

5) Slice into 3/4" thick pieces and place on ungreased cookie sheet.

6) Bake on parchment paper lined cookie sheets and bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. After removing from oven, allow cookies to cool briefly on sheet before transferring to cooling racks.

7) Enjoy! These cookies are so very good served warm with an icy cold glass of milk but will also keep   for several days, stored in an air tight container.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tuesday's poem: Of What Surrounds Me by Mary Oliver

Whatever it is I am saying, I always
  need a leaf or a flower, if not an
entire field. As for sky, I am so wildly
  in love with each day's inventions, cool blue
or cat gray or full
  of the ships of clouds, I simply can't
say whatever it is I am saying without
  at least one skyful. That leaves water, a
creek, or a well, river or ocean, it has to be
  there. For the heart to be there. For the pen
to be poised. For the idea to come.

- Mary Oliver

The above photos were taken two weeks ago during a visit with my sisters to lovely Fairhaven, Washington.