Friday, March 29, 2013

Mid Pesach Lament

I miss bread, specifically toast.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lemon Angel Pie

Lemon Angel Pie by Teckelcar
Lemon Angel Pie, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
This year for the community Seder I wanted to make a non-chocolate dessert. Passover friendly chocolate desserts are easy, for years I've brought my flour less chocolate tort. Chocolate is easy, but it has been done to death.

So I hauled out my go to cook book for Passover, Something Different for Passover by Zell Schulman, and started flipping through the dessert pages. About two thirds the way in the section I found a likely candidate, Lemon Angel Pie. I had all the ingredients on hand and it looked easy.

Normally I would link to the recipe, but the lone version (of the hundreds of variations out there on the web) I could find attributed to her was quite different from the one I used. So here it is:

Lemon Angel Pie

Crust
1/2 cup of egg whites (4 large eggs), room temperature
1 teaspoon of vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups sugar

Filling
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 tablespoons potato starch
Dash of salt
1 1/4 cups ice water
4 slightly beaten egg yolks
grated peel of 2 lemons
6 tablespoons lemon juice*
2 tablespoons of butter or margarine**

1. Preheat oven to 250 F. Grease a 9 inch pie plate.

2. With an electric mixer, beat egg whites at medium speed until they are frothy. Add vinegar and vanilla and turn mixer to high. When eggs begin to hold a soft peak or  whn you see lines from the beaters in the egg whites, begin to add the sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time. Beat thoroughly after each addition. Continue until all the sugar has been added and the egg whites are very stiff and glossy.

3. Spread the meringue into the pie plate, building up the sides and leaving the center flattened for the filling. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on cake rack for 1 hour.

4. While the meringue is baking,*** make the filling. Combine sugar, potiao starch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Gradually add ice water. Stir in egg yolks, lemon peel, and lemon juice. Cook and stir over medium heat until bubbly. Boil only one minute- no longer!

5. Remove from heat and stir in butter.margerine. let cool 15 to 20 minutes.

6. Fill meringue shell, and garnish with toasted coconut or toasted almonds.****

* I didn't bother to measure, I just used all the juice from the two lemons.

**I used margerine since the Seder was a meat meal.

***It's better to make the filling as the meringue is cooling.

****I skipped the toppings.

The pie is delicious and was a huge hit. One gentleman thanked me for using real lemons. The only thing I might change is to cut back a bit on the sugar. The pis is very much worth making.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Artist of the Week: Self Propelled

Nate by Teckelcar
Nate, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
Nate is this week's artist.

This picture is from last summer. The kids and Meryl were lighting sparklers and I was happily taking pictures of all the excitement. I like the far off gaze in his eyes. Nate is completely unaware of me and the camera, caught up in the moment.

As for the art, well it is another school project.

Nate's assignment was to construct a self propelled vehicle that could carry a modest payloads. One trip to the hobby store later Nate had the bulk of his building materials, from balsa wood to the propeller.
car by Teckelcar
car, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
The propeller, which came from a wooden plane kit, was a bit tricky. The original  rubber band was rather weak. I bought  more rubber bands for  Nate and he quickly switched them out. The end result was amazing, the car actually moves.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Broken

Broken by Teckelcar
Broken, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
And this was the aftermath of our late spring snow. A few cuts with a saw and the bush was fine. It needed to be pruned back from the house and the snow got the job started.

As for the snow, it is mostly gone. A classic southern snowstorm.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

It' Beginning to Look a lot like Pesach

three inches by Teckelcar
three inches, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
Title shamelessly stolen from Meryl Yourish.

Yes, that is a ruler in the snow and it really is measuring out 3 inches. I knew we were going to get some sort of big weather today, but this is far beyond what I expected.

This morning was my turn to drive the car pool to Sunday school. As I waited outside with the other parents for our children to be released the weather was the hot topic of conversation. There was a cold biting wind that smelled of snow, and my elbow had been bothering me this morning. 30 years ago I broke it, just knocked the end off the ulna and there is, literally, a three inch wood screw in there. When big storm systems are moving into the area I get twinges of pain in my elbow.

So anyhoodle I knew we were in for it.

Front yard by Teckelcar
Front yard, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
 The rain and sleet started around noon and the weather steadily worsened as the temperature dropped. By midafternoon it had switched to snow and was falling heavily. At around 5:30 pm this was the view of our front yard. This is the biggest snow fall we have gotten this year and of course school was declared closed for Monday around 7.

So yay! We get to reveal in our last bits of bread before Passover comes tomorrow night. I foresee a big pot of pasta for lunch.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Shoot Me: Breaking Rules

I'm not much on the whole rules of photography. Some like, like the rule thirds and providing a line for the eye to follow result in stronger compositions. Others, like not shooting into the sun, are broken all the time.

I picked this one, which was actually a mistake, because I loved the result. It was windy while I was trying to take pictures of the snowy flowers and I was having quite a time battling with auto-focus on my little point and shoot. Instead of a pretty flower filled with snowflakes I got a rather dramatic abstract of a flower framed by beautiful bare branches.

I think my original idea was good, but I think this so-called mistake is better. I guess I'm breaking some rule on focus and the priority of various elements of the picture, but some times it pays to be different.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spring Snow

cherry blossum snow 4 by Teckelcar
cherry blossum snow 4, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
We got a bit of a surprise this morning. The day started with a leaden sky, very cold, with a damp wind. At around a quarter to eight it started to snow.

I didn't believe it at first, but soon the flakes were falling fast and thick. A light dusting of snow covered the yard. An hour later it was time to go to the bus stop and by then the snow had tapered off. I made sure I had my camera for the morning walk because I knew the snow would not last.

The dogs were put off by the cold and wet, so the walk was very short. I had no complaints as this gave me more time to take pictures before it was all gone.  In fact  a couple of hours later and all the snow was gone.

If you click on the picture you can see the whole set of pictures I took.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Artist of the Week: Ecosystem Cube II

Rebecca by Teckelcar
Rebecca, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
This week's artist is the rather thoughtful looking Rebecca. It took quite a few tries to get this picture. In every other one she would turn at the last second and mug for the camera. This was the last one I took and she finally tired of the game.At least she was willing to be photographed, I know those days are numbered.

Anyhoodle one of the interesting things about school aged twins is that although they are in different classrooms they eventually end up doing the same projects. A few weeks ago I posted Max's Ecosystem Cube, now it is Miss Rebecca's turn.

Eco Cube by Teckelcar
Eco Cube, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
The biggest difference between the two projects is color.

Rebecca loves color. The more color the better and she is very bold in her use of said color. She loves to draw and she wants it to be noticed. If you want to see all six sides of the cube, click on the picture. The picture here is part of the full set of pictures.

Her cube is all about ponds. Like Max, Rebecca illustrated topics such as Human Impact, Life cycles, and so on. She put a fair amount of effort into it, but some of it was at the last second. It was due on a Monday and she planned to finish it over the weekend. Saturday and Sunday came and went, on Monday morning it dawned on her that she has completely forgotten. There was a huge panic and I talked her down and gave her the option to be driven to school. Rebecca was able to pull herself together and was just able to finish it before class.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Baking With Julia- Mocha Chocolate Chips

Mocha Chocolate Chips by Teckelcar
Mocha Chocolate Chips, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
This week's Baking with Julia challenge is Mocha Chocolate Chips. As always there is a full run down over at the challenge's host blog, Galettista. Now on to the cookies.

One baker commented that this recipe was pretty close to the Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie recipe, and by gum she was right. Shave off a 1/4 of flour and add apricots, extra chocolate, and coffee from the Tollhouse cookies and there go. Which made this week's baking dead easy for me.

I normally add only 2 cups of flour so it was just like making my tried and true chocolate chip cookies. Of course I didn't follow the recipe perfectly. I don't like apricots so I substituted white chocolate chips, I didn't feel chopping chocolate so I used regular chocolate chips, and I baked them at 375 instead of 350.

They came out marvelous.

I only used 2 tablespoons of instant coffee because all I had was instant espresso powder and I did not want to go overboard. I think next time I go for three, a stronger coffee flavor would have been nice. I also will leave out the extra 1/2 pound of chips, it was just too much. This is the first time that my substituting chocolate for an unwanted ingredient, apricots in this case, did not work out. Interestingly a fair number of bakers had an issue with the cookies spreading too much, but that is never a problem for me. These are delightful cookies and will do the mocha variation again.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Shakespeare With Fries

When commercialization goes a little too far.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Croissants Redux

croissants by Teckelcar
croissants, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
I finally got around to using the remaining half of the croissant dough I made a week and a half ago. I knew we had early mornings all weekend long and I wouldn't be able to make a nice treat before we all scattered each day. All I had to do was roll out the dough, shape the croissants and let them rise 3 hours before baking.

I had a better idea of what I was doing and this time around my croissants were much nicer. They all puffed up, had deliciously buttery flaky layers, and were much more consistent in size. I even went a little wild and added chocolate in the middle. You can't see it, but all the croissants in the picture had a small handful of chocolate chips added to the middle.The chips made for a mighty fine addition to something that was all ready good.

Rebecca wants me to make these once a month.

Friday, March 15, 2013

EATAPETA 2013

yummycow by Teckelcar
yummycow, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
Today is Eat a Tasty Animal for PETA day. I made this drawing a few years ago for EATAPETA and decided to bring yummy cow back this year. Meryl describes what this is all about best, so head on over to her place.

In the mean time, I celebrated in style. The day started off with what my children call a mom mcmuffin, half an toasted and buttered English muffin topped with fried Canadian bacon, cheese, and a fried egg. Three species exploited in one shot, booyah!

Then for lunch I had a lovely salad with some leftover pulled barbeque beef.

Dinner was chicken piccata  served with rice pilaf and broccoli. It was a lovely dinner that had the requisite tasty animal.

Nothing particularly exotic was served this year, but it was all very much enjoyed.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pumpkin Pi

pumpkin pi by Teckelcar
pumpkin pi, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
Happy pi day!

I didn't actually make a pie this year, I'm a bit baked out from last week. The pi(e) featured here is from last year.

However we did indulge in pie goodness. I picked up some mini snack pies from the store, one for each child. The pies are reasonably priced with the added bonus that I could get different pies to suit each child. For dinner we had pizza pie and all is circular in the world.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Artist of the Week: Superior with Honor

Jacob by Teckelcar
Jacob, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
This week's artist is Jacob and his high school's Wind Symphony.

Last weekend was the annual concert assessment. Middle and High schools across our district perform three pieces of music before three judges. Each judge scores the bands on a scale of one to five with one being superior. Then each band goes before another judge foe a sight reading. The director has seven minutes to organize the students to perform a new to the piece. As with the performance, the sight reading to judged on the same one to five scale.

The assessment is a very big deal, the directors select music that is graded by the Virginia Band and Orchestra Directors' Association. The grading goes from I (the easiest) on up to at least VI (that's the highest I've seen). It's a tricky balance, the band director wants to challenge their students, but not overly so. Our school is at about a grade IV to grade V, next year we should be a solid V.

Everybody wants a superior rating and this year it's doubly so for Jacob's high school. This past fall the marching band earned a very hard won superior rating. If a high school's music program earns a superior in both wind and marching they become a Virginia Honor Band. So you can imagine the tension going in. Happily they did a solid performance and earned ones all across the board.

Below is their performance of "Beacon of Polaris" by Gary P. Gilroy.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cock-a-Leekie-soup

This past week I achieved the hat trick of dinner, three dinners for six people from one chicken.

First up was my basic roast chicken, it was a large bird and we didn't even come close to finishing it. A few days later I stripped off the dark meat and with the leftover gravy I made a chicken pot pie. Today I stripped the remaining white meat and used the carcass to make the stock for cock-a-leekie soup. The meat was added back to the finished stock and thus the bird was completely used up.

The recipe for the soup I got from the book "Ruhlman's Twenty," an excellent book that teaches you 20 basic techniques and has 100 recipes. I requested it when my mom was wondering what to get me and it is just as good as I thought it would be. I highly recommend it for any cook.

I will not post the recipe here and I can't find his version on the web, but I can tell you it is a very simple chicken soup with leeks. Rebecca has been begging for me to make matzo ball soup, however passover is coming up and I told her she'll get her fill soon enough.. This soup filled the bill and used up the last of my roasted chicken. The boys were less than thrilled with soup for dinner, so I mollified them with grilled cheese sandwiches. Sadly there is no picture since it was all gobbled up.

I like it when I can get more than one meal out of a bird.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Fork

Touching little movie about how love can endure.

 How very odd, at first it would not embed.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

One More Picture

spring snow by Teckelcar
spring snow, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
This is my last picture from our little weather incident last Wednesday.

I love taking pictures of flowers in the snow. There is something wonderful of the bright splash of color in the stark white. The poor little daffodil is bowed under the weight of the snow piled on top.

The next day the snow was gone and the daffodils were no worse for wear.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Colorful

colorful by Teckelcar
colorful, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
At one point during the big not so snowy snow storm I went outside to shovel and take pictures.

The shoveling wasn't a big deal and if I didn't care if the front steps and deck would be icy from the snow melt refreezing I wouldn't bother. But I do care and I was once thanked by the UPS driver for being among the tiny minority that keep their front steps ice free. So off I went to remove slushy snow from the walkways.

When I was all done shoveling I glanced at my sleeve and noticed the clumpy wet stuff that was passing itself as snow. I love the colors and the contrast to the bright white of the falling chunks of snow.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

The Perfect Southern Snow Storm

We had a wee bit of a storm yesterday and, at least by my house, it was the perfect southern snow storm. It snowed all day, shutting down schools and bringing things to a grinding halt.

snowy day by Teckelcar
snowy day, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
By mid-morning a soft blanket of snow covered the house and yard. The flakes came down fast and furious, yet the snow peaked at 1 1/2 inches and never got any deeper. It was well above freezing and as the day wore on the new snow fall could not keep up with the snow melting.

This morning we awake to clear roads and a bare yard. Here and there you could find snow, mostly where it had been piled up. The schools had a two hour delayed start and then everything was back to normal in my neck of the woods.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Artist of the Week: Ecosystem Cube

Max in blue by Teckelcar
Max in blue, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
Well I tried to post last night, but it was a huge struggle just getting the pictures up and I just plain threw in the towel and went to bed.

Anyway, Max is the artist in all his wrapping paper glory. I don't exactly remember why he was wearing the wrapper paper, possibly a disguise featuring a beard? All I can do is put it down to the mysteries of the eleven year old mind. The end result, however, is a very silly picture and the wrapping paper really brings out the blue in his eyes.

As for the art, it was a school project focusing on an ecosystem. Each side would detail a different aspect of  the ecosystem, from adaptations, life cycles, human impact, and so on. Each side has illustrations depicting the various aspects and a few lines of text.

cube by Teckelcar
cube, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
Max's cube is all about swamps.

I've always loved swamps. I found them to be fascinating places teeming with life. Across the road from our house there was a smallish pond chock full of frogs that was bordered by a swamp. I spent hours in there scrambling along the downed trees. So I can certainly understand why he picked a swamp, that and the whole turtle thing.

Max did some very nice illustrations and put a great deal of thought into the project. I didn't know it was to become a cube until the day he brought the finished project home. He got a solid B, mostly due to the fact he forgot to add a couple of elements. I think next time he will read the rubric a little more carefully.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Baking With Julia- Croissants

rolling out by Teckelcar
rolling out, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
This week's Baking with Julia challenge was croissants and miracle of miracles I actually completed it on time!

 For a full rundown on how to make this time consuming yet delicious treat head on over to Girl + Food = Love.

Now lets get down to brass tacks. Croissants are very involved and take a solid two days to make. I was aware of this and started making mine on Saturday. I spent a lot of time wielding my rolling pins and figured at least one of them deserved to be featured. For the bulk of the rolling I used my marble rolling pin, meanwhile my wooden pin got the honor of whacking at the dough to distribute the butter.

Sunday was a bust, so I did most of the work on Monday, leaving the final rolling and proofing for today.

croissants by Teckelcar
croissants, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
I finshed making them at round 2:30 pm today, allowing just enough time for them to cool down and be ready for afternoon snack when the kids get home.These little beauties were a big hit with my crowd. My biggest problem was their size, they started out far too small. My dough wasn't very stretchy and seems that I cut my triangles too small. I only used half the dough so the next batch will be a bit nicer looking now that I have a feel for the whole process.

They are very good, but I'm not sure I'll be investing so much time in them again. They are tasty, just not two days of rolling dough tasty.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Cat-Friend vs Dog-Friend

An all too accurate portrayal of dogs and cats.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

You Sly Dog

You Sly Dog by Teckelcar
You Sly Dog, a photo by Teckelcar on Flickr.
John looks like he is up to no good in this picture. It's that sly glance he has.

For the most part he is a model citizen, but if there is food within reach.... It's gone. He likes chocolate in particular and I know it is very bad for him. Poor Rebecca  keeps losing her candy stash to his predations. You wouldn't think he could reach very far, but you would be mistaken. Anything along a table's edge is fair game. He can rear up on this hind legs and, combined with his long snoot, can reach a good  three feet.

John is not very tall, but he is very clever.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Really

An open letter to the rather grim faced woman driving the white Lexus SUV.

I get it, you are in a hurry to get your precious snowflake to school this morning. But really, do you need to crowd me so much that I can't see your front license plate? I dubbed you a proctologist, much to my 14 year old son's amusement.

You spent a good ten minutes riding the bumper of my minivan on a curvy narrow road that threads through the most rural part of the county. A road that I regularly see deer, chickens, guinea hens, wild turkeys, and pheasant dot the shoulder with the occasional fox and possum. I once had a hawk almost smack into my windshield as it flew up from some road kill. It's wing tips brushed against the windscreen as I slammed on the brakes to avoid it.

And yes, this is the same road that commonly has tractors puttering along from field to field, bringing traffic to a crawl in the early morning hours. A road that has a serious accident about once a month.

So I'm not sorry that I decided to maintain a safe distance from the car in front of me. You know in case either of us has to hit the brakes when the unexpected happens. In fact I widened the distance so
A) you might pass me
B) if the unexpected happens I have a bit more room to maneuver.

I was very happy when you turned off the main road. However the joy was tempered with the knowledge that you were just using an alternative route to bypass me. I told my son that odds are we were going to the same place and that your route was longer and had a lower speed limit. Theoretically I would arrive before you, assuming you went the posted speed limit.

Ha! You following the speed limit. Your only limit would be if you encountered another driver.

Okay I do admit you just got in front of me when our two routes converged, but that was only due to my not challenging the oncoming traffic at the intersection and cutting off the other drivers at the intersection. I did however tuck my minivan right behind you at a safe distance as you rode the bumper of your latest victim.

Big woo, you got in front of me.

The one positive aspect was tat you provided an excellent teaching moment for my 14 year old son. I explained how dangerous your actions were. I was not too concerned about our safety since we were in a minivan that roughly equals the mass of your Lexus. If you did rear end us we would survive. You, however, might not.