REVISED REVISITED GINGERBREAD – THE JANUARY RECIPE

It has been cold and really nasty out. Garry went out and unasked, shoveled the walk again. This was very brave considering the near zero temperature.

I decided to warm him up with gingerbread. I thought I had everything, but I turned out to be 1/4 cup short of molasses and I decided to use my mixer instead of beating it by hand with a wooden spoon. I think it’s less complicated and less messy using a spoon, but this certainly produced a much smoother batter. Which took an extra 10 minutes to bake.

Was it the beating that did it? Extra air in the batter? Maybe the eggs were too big? 


The NEW REVISED RECIPE for GINGERBREAD

This a very fine, old-fashioned recipe. I bake it in a loaf pan in a counter-top electric oven and it takes between 40 and 50 minutes at 370 to 375 degrees.  You can use a regular baking pan and a standard full-size oven, but you will probably need to change the oven temperature to whatever works in your oven. Hopefully, you know your oven and whether it should be turned up or down.

This is not a difficult recipe. It pretty much always comes out well, even if you make mistakes. It can take as long as 50 minutes or as few as 42 and sometimes. I’m not sure what makes the difference.

Baking is like that. When I baked bread, I always had to check and make sure it was done, even when I baked the loaf in the same oven using an identical recipe to the previous time. Ovens don’t always seem to run exactly the same from use to use — or maybe there are tiny differences in the way you prepare something that changes something ineffable in the batter.

I should have taken the pictures before I lopped off two big pieces, but it was hot and it smelled SO good …

I think the batch I made today took 50 minutes (a little more?), about 8 minutes more than last time and for the final 10 minutes, I had to turn the temperature up higher.

Identical never really is, you know. Ovens running at the same temperature may not really be exactly the same each time … which is why owning an oven thermometer is a good idea. I had one, but it died and I haven’t gotten around to replacing it. In any case, I don’t think it would work in the mini-oven.

Also, flour varies from use to use, even when it all came in the same bag. Eggs are different sizes. Mixing versus beating changes things. This use, the molasses seemed thinner, though it came in the same bottle as the last batch. Room temperature? Take your best guess.

I check for doneness by pressing lightly on the top. If it springs immediately back, it’s done. If not, it goes back in the oven and damn the recipe. Also, look to see if the edges have pulled away from the pan — another sign of whatever it is being fully baked. I don’t use toothpicks to check for doneness because sometimes, poking deflates it. I know that’s what cookbooks recommend, but it doesn’t work for me.

2-1/2 cups flour (sift or not, I don’t sift.)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Optional: 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup melted butter or other shortening (I use corn oil)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup molasses
1 cup very hot water (not boiling) from the tap.

Note: I ran short of molasses and used 1/4 cup of Vermont maple syrup to make up the difference. The result is delicious. Maybe that’s why it took longer to bake?

I put everything in together then mix or beat it. It honestly doesn’t seem to make much difference how you do it, but beaten using a mixer produces a smoother batter. And seems to take a longer to bake.

Pour it in either a greased loaf pan or a Teflon loaf pan. I’m a dedicated Teflon user and I’m not sure if a greased pan would change baking time … but I do know you need to use a slightly hotter oven if you’re using a glass dish.

Preheat the oven before you bake. That does make a difference. A big difference.

Serve it hot or cold, it’s good any way you eat it.  Anything left over will go great with coffee in the morning.  Traditionally, it’s served with honey butter, but it’s delicious alone. The smell of it as it bakes gets every nose in the house twitching. Especially the dogs.

I should mention this is not the kind of gingerbread out of which you build houses, though I suppose you could fiddle with the recipe and see how it goes.

This gingerbread is for eating.

WHAT CAN I SAY ABOUT FUNNELS?

Funnels? I’ve got funnels. I’ve got three funnels in my closet. They are kitchen-style funnels. Pretty small. Medium. Larger. That’s pretty much what there is to say about funnels, unless perhaps you are a manufacturer of funnels. Then maybe it’s a much bigger deal.

Graphic funnels

I use them in the kitchen to transfer spices from bags to bottles. Yes, world, I buy spices in bulk, at least the ones I use the most.

Pen drawing of funnels

These are my artistic impressions of funnels. All three funnels. Showing also spices which I will, at some point in the future, pour through one or another funnel into a jar with a label on it.

Funnels ala Rembrandt, if he had his own funnels — in my kitchen

Otherwise, I don’t have anything to say about funnels. On the positive side of this conversation, if you think pictures are worth at least 1000 words, this is a 3,000 word article. About funnels.

HOME-BOUND ODDBALLS

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: January 7, 2018


Face and feature by wire

It has been really cold around these parts, though beginning tomorrow, it’s supposed to warm up. So although today is minus something or other, by next Friday it will be a lovely, springlike 50 and the entire world will be a mass of sucking mud.

Taken to show Judy where her lovely diorama is located on my living room wall, it also made an interesting photo

I haven’t been doing much shooting and Garry’s pictures simply don’t fit into the oddball category. I think he deserves some kind of “frozen fingers” award for actually taking pictures in one of our more brutal patches of winter.

Let me retract my previous statement. Garry came in and from the staircase, took an entertaining portrait of me, my computer, and the winter living room.

So my oddballs are less odd than local. I’ve been inside. In this weather, people with heart valve replacements and asthma are cordially invited to stay home. Which is where I’ve been. Home.

A winter living room

STREETS PAVED WITH GOLD

A Different Road, by Rich Paschall


There are many people, especially those who live in third world countries I presume, who live in poverty, can not get a good education or good job, have infrastructure in need of building or repair, and have government leaders who only take care of the rich and those with special interests.  They have little hope of something better in their own country so they dream of going elsewhere.  If they can get a passport, a visa and enough money, many still aspire to travel to the USA.  When they arrive, all but the lucky few will eventually discover that they have moved to a country where many live in poverty, can not get a good education or good job, have infrastructure in need of building or repair, and have government leaders who only take care of the rich and those with special interests.  In fact U.N. Envoy Philip Alston (Australian) found things to be quite bleak. “The American dream, he says, is an ‘American illusion’.” (as reported on NRP.org).

another world

Once they have arrived, these immigrants can not turn around and go back.  They have sold everything and come with just a suitcase or two of clothes and memories.  Right wing nationalists will tell them to go home, but there is no home to return to.  They have already given up everything.  The only choice is to try to make the best of it.  Many will eventually succeed. Some will stay and struggle. Some will return to a land they had hope to give up forever.

These immigrants certainly did not expect the streets to be paved with gold, but they certainly felt the standard of living was high and almost everyone had instant success.  Life was just one large party where everyone dressed in good clothes, ate well and enjoyed the good life.  Some friends of mine who have come from other countries tell me that friends back home still believe in the great American Dream even when relatives who live here tell them it is not so.  What fuels this “streets paved with gold” thinking?  Why does anyone think someplace else is better if relatives say it is not? Do they not hear the discouraging comments of our right-wing politicians?

Paved with gold?

Anyone can see the road that they walk on
Is paved in gold
And it’s always summer
They’ll never get cold
They’ll never get hungry
They’ll never get old and grey

The Grass Is Greener:  If you live in an area where the prospects are bleak, it may seem logical to believe that life must be better somewhere else.  Your heart and mind may tell you, “This can not be all there is.”  From there you may make plans to travel to a place where life will be better.  It seems to be in our nature to believe in “the grass is greener somewhere else”, especially if you have no grass at all.

Depression and Hope: It is certainly depressing to live in a community, and in fact a country, where there is little hope to get ahead in society.  If you struggle to get enough food for your meager existence, then going elsewhere is the logical response.  If the US offers hope to you, then that may be your destination of choice.  But why do people see USA as the place to go?  What continues to fuel the belief for many that everyone lives on easy street in America?

Television:  Many successful American television shows are broadcast all over the world.  I watched The Simpsons in Spanish in Colombia, but there were also a variety of comedies and dramas.  Would “Friends” give you a good idea of what life is like in America?  Would any of the other long running comedies or dramas show an accurate picture?  Do the police procedurals, as many now call them, reassure people since the bad guy is always caught?  People are not living in poverty or struggling to get by in these shows.

Music Videos: For younger people there seems to be an endless supply of music videos in Spanish as well as English showing the non stop dance party.  Beautiful young people in fashionable clothes are dancing on rooftops and beaches, across New York City, Miami and Los Angeles and living the good life.  Everything must be good as everyone seems to be having fun.

These random thoughts of mine are supported by more than the anecdotal evidence provided by the tales of my neighbors.  If you live in or near a large US Metropolitan area, you can hear many stories that are the same if you care to listen.  As far back as Benjamin Franklin, people “have formed, through ignorance, mistaken ideas and expectations of what is to be obtained there.”  We have disappointed immigrants from the beginning, and their stories are always being told.

The sad stories of those who travel here are also the disappointments for many of us.  The wealthy class may get ahead through inheritance and connections, while the rest struggle.  At present, the government promotes the idea that the rich should get richer, as in the previously failed promise that the money in the pockets of the rich will somehow benefit all.  This trickle down nonsense is not portrayed in the American television shows and music videos playing in other countries.

Sources: The Way by Fastball, lyrics by Tony Scalzo, https://www.azlyrics.com
America Has Been Disappointing Immigrants For A Long Time by Jared Favole, https://medium.com
U.N. Investigator On Extreme Poverty Issues A Grim Report — On The U.S.” by Sasha Ingper, www.npr.org
U.S. students’ academic achievement still lags that of their peers in many other countries,” February 15, 2017, http://www.pewresearch.org

Also read: What international test scores reveal about American education,” Louis Serino, 

 

A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE – SQUARE

SQUARE PIX LIKE OLD TIMEY BROWNIE PHOTOS


I know it’s not popular now, but when I was a  kid, we all had Brownie cameras and all the pictures were square. I got pretty tired of square pictures after a few decades.

All squared away.

I find it amusing that they’ve come back!

Square, because I liked the way it looked sliced and diced
Duke by the squarish window

All trimmed to square!

SNOW DAYS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Everyone loves a snow day. There are many days, as a retired couple, that we don’t leave the house. But somehow it feels different when the snow is falling and the wind is howling and we can’t go out. It feels different knowing that millions of other people are also hunkering down at home in their sweat pants and furry slippers.

We lit our first fire of the season. I love the smell, the sounds and the sight of a crackling fire in our quaint stone fireplace. Fires make me feel safe, happy and cozy.

I sat on the sofa with my two dogs, a blanket over me to keep me warm and fuzzy. Then we got to watch the dogs joyfully playing in the snow, obsessively eating it (the yard is one giant snow cone for them), and crazily tearing around in it. We had to laugh at their antics. After their chilling excursions into the back yard, they would come blasting into the house through the doggie door, bounding into the family room and shaking off the snow from their bodies. But the snow stayed a little while longer on their noses so we could get another laugh out of them! So cute!

Sitting at the kitchen table, reading and drinking coffee feels special when I can look out at the blankets of snow covering the yard and the layers of ice covering the stream. Everything is quiet and peaceful. It makes me feel centered and at peace. Cold, but Zen.

I love snow days!