Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I don't know what I'm gonna do at today's market. I guess I'll have to spend some paper bills since I'm all out of money.

Last week I had the time and foresight to bake up some money and run the muffin money experiment again. With gas prices though the roof, and the economy hurting nearly everyone's pocketbook, I wanted to see if I could get by using just dough. This time I stuffed the wallet with two kinds: fluffy all white, and blue cornmeal bliss. About every other week, for over a year and a half now, I've showed up with some muffins, but more like 6-10 of them that I give to a few folks, or maybe trade a bit here and there. Last week though, with stuffed wallet, I rolled up to the market on my bike as usual, then unloaded before I got mugged by someone looking to take my hard griddled cash. Because, by stuffed, I mean somewhere around 30.

Good thing I brought so much because I gave away at least 8-10 of them before I got any shopping done. I needed tofu and cheese or there would be mutiny at home. I wanted some nice heirlooms for the salad greens we started harvesting, and I wanted another squash variety besides the patty pans in my yard. The torpedo onions are just downright fun, and as far as I'm concerned one of the best deals. I learned this year, if you let them get all sprouty on the kitchen counter, just chuck 'em outside and bury them a bit. Next thing you know you have your own growing outside your window. It's like buying veggies that will never spoil.

Well, gotta keep it short and ride over to the ATM on the way to the market this week!

(Hmmmm, in case the funds are low, maybe I should take a minute to feed the sourdough, so I'm not totally broke at the end of the week.........)

Friday, July 25, 2008

blog eat blog world

Right now, I'm blushing, so thank you Mimi and Kat for causing this current affliction.

Luckily I have a beard and it will go unnoticed by the general public, but my kids know something's up. I went on and explained to them that I feel very happy when my friends in the blogosphere reach out and give me a cyber-hug. I told them how it makes me feel reassured (okay, I might have said "get the warm-fuzzies") when someone tells me that they appreciate me for just who I yam. For me, this jives right in with one of my lifelong lessons; meaning it's time to step up and say thanks.

Thank you dear readers, whoever you may be. I deeply appreciate that you take the time to drop by and have a peek. It encourages me to keep it up. I started this blog nearly two years ago to document the food that was occasionally good, the family life that is always getting better, and to force myself to sit down and write a little something. You see, I've never considered myself a good writer and so I've never taken the time to practice. Deep down, I'm probably one of those people who doesn't consider doing something unless I suspect I'll be good at. Maybe you are this way too. Well, so, with writing this means that way back in High School when a particular english teacher flat out told me that my writing was horrible, I believed her. So why ever practice? Well, it turns out that it is immensely gratifying. Even if you suck.

I can't wait to sit down and write most of the time, but with two kids at my feet it can be impossible to get around to downloading the noise in my head, let alone go ahead and hand the awards that my friends here have bestowed upon me, on to others. And honestly, I haven't been reading more than about 5 entries a week, so I wouldn't know where to start. Often, anything blog related has to wait, and lately this has seemed to be on the order of a week. My ideas stew, getting overcooked (as one might suspect if you tried to really cook a stew for 7 days or longer), leaving me with mushy, bland, oh man we should really experiment with a different voice, kind of post. Or so it can feel. Other times, an idea hits me and it gets uncorked within an hour, usually late at night when I should really be sleeping. But the effect is the same, being that a feeling, recipe, observation, or maybe all three get preserved for a later day and shared with whoever wants to drop by and check it out.

So, thank you, you. Please keep dropping by. If you get the chance and have a moment, say hi. It might take me a week to respond sometimes, but usually I get back to a comment eventually. If you go so far as to give me an award or something, I'll just have to maybe go out and get myself a beer as a little congratulations........(please?)


Thursday, July 17, 2008


Ever gone and picked your own fruit at the farm? It can be an immensely rewarding experience. You see where the food comes from, get a discount per pound, and pick fruit riper than you will find anywhere.

Our first u-pick of the year was cherries. For me, cherries are one of those fruits that I just can't help myself with. Heaven with a pit. I can easily eat a pound a day without too much intestinal distress. Luckily the season is short or someday I'd go bankrupt because of this behavior, that I am sure of. However, this shortness of availability got us thinking about doing some preservation this year. So we started by hitting a farm in Brentwood where you go pick-'em yourself. There were 5 pickers and we hit 13 pounds in no time.

Our allotment was gorged on during the ride home and what was left we washed, pitted and began drying. Beginning with at least 1/400th of a ton, the resulting bag was puny and a bit depressing to behold. Hmmm, maybe next time we'll buy the dried cherries. Don't get me wrong, these are the tastiest dried cherries I think I've ever had, but the time involved in producing them is maddening. How much you ask? Go ahead and give it a try!

But there is a bright side. One of those hair-brained ideas hit me and it worked out for the better. You see, last year I ran a few brewing experiments with fruit in a porter. Blackberry and peach it was. Both turned out nice, but the blackberry was the winner. This year I thought hey, I can do a porter with cherries! Only, because I wasn't sure whether to do it with dried or wet cherries, I just had to get scientific about it, and do both. Mmmmm, beer and science. No wait, cherries, beer and science. Now we're talking! Man, I love experimenting with brewing alcohol! So when a batch of high gravity porter that was already under experimentation finished fermenting, I pulled some out of the big carboy and put a few gallons on fresh pitted cherries, and another gallon on dried pitted cherries. After a few weeks with the fruit re-fermenting, the whole lot was bottled and ready for conditioning.

When we finally sampled the porter it was a hit. Nice and roasty, malty indeed, belgian yeasty, and really dark. Then we tried the cherry versions........
Why the hell aren't more people doing Belgian style cherry porters?
Beats me. I guess I'll be pondering that one as I empty each bottle.

The cherries added a nice red hue to an already almost black beer. It made me think trappist. The flavor is subtle, but there. It helps knowing what it is though. I think the dried version has a touch more fruit in the nose. This picture sucks, so please trust me, this was one pretty beer. And I tell you (h)what: this beer is good!

Oh, and did I ever mention I used to want to be a monk?

With all the cherry success, we moved onto blueberries. We didn't pick any though. Wanted to but didn't research a place. We didn't dry any, but many fresh handfuls and loads of jam came from the bounty. Then a friend, intuiting our need to pick berries told us about a place to pick your own olallieberries. Or as I like to spell them Ol'-la-la-berries.

We ventured down the San Mateo County coast to a farm on top of a bluff next to the beach. Acres and acres of berries awaited us. Like the cherries, if you picked ten pounds or more, the bulk rate was 2 bucks a pound. Good thing, because we brought willing fingers and hungry mouths. We even managed to not get eaten alive by all the spiders that were protecting the vines. Perhaps the froggy boots scared the helpful vine dwellers away. (I need to get me a pair of those.) The sun broke, we filled our box nearly half way and then made our way back to the scales. We hit near 12 pounds and called it a day.

Back at the monkey ranch we enlisted the help of the big momma jam queen. She busted out two batches, a pie, and had some left over to give a few away. In the name of science I had to try an olallieberry next to a blackberry. We have some blackberries out back so I went and collected a few from the rampant growth on our shed. Side by side, the raspberry component of the ol' la-la berry was very noticeable. I smiled thinking of how the jamming and baking occurred within twelve hours of the berries being picked, so to say we preserved our fruit at the peak of ripeness would be rather accurate. It was, however, bedtime when the pie was coming out of the oven. Since ol' la-la berry flavored napalm inside an all butter crust, right before hitting the sheets ain't our idea of a night cap, the pie sat out on the counter for a long cooling rest.

The next morning the pie stared up at me, looking all delicious. I got out a few bowls and started to savor the moment, thinking that this will be a highlight to remember, one representing a moment that will likely never be forgotten. One that you truly love being a parent for.
"Hey kids, guess what?"
"Are we going to the zoo daddy?"
"Well, no, uh......even better. I hope." (I murmur)
"We're going to Disneyland?"
"No, we're not going anywhere sweetie. I'm talking about breakfast. You see, this morning we are going to have pie for breakfast!"
"Because Mommy made one last night, and it's not gonna get any better. That, and it's filled with fresh fruit that is good for you. In fact, it has berries that you picked in it!"
I look down at the monkeys and see dual looks of bewilderment. The older, her face a bit contorted with trying to think exactly what she is doing this very moment to deserve this occasion and therefore how she can possibly duplicate it in the future, while the younger is more primal, thinking with his belly and pointing to his chair, saying "ha-da, ha-da!" in anticipation of a bite of the pie on the counter that he can surely smell a thousand times better than I can.
I serve up and we scarf down.
This pie was killer.
Thank you honey. (Big momma jam queen.)
Did I say I wanted to be a monk once? Because, I have the best wife ever, so like, no way.

Preservation aside, this was at least inspired by it in a round about way. The day after the picked and purchased berry rush, I just had to make something with the remaining quark I had. Thinking of the blackberries in the yard I got down to work. The recipe was identical to a previous effort, except for the fruit. These were no farm berries, but with regard to ripe fruit and freshness preserved, I didn't have to drive anywhere, which is always good. At most, within 10 minutes these berries were mixed in the pan and being slid into an oven. Ol' la-la berries may be simply divine and preserved in jam to enjoy later, but blackberries are growing wild nearly everywhere and are free.

It's summer and the fruit is popping! Get out there and preserve something!

Monday, July 07, 2008

bittersweet tart

Ahhhhhh.........this bittersweet thing we call life. How do you deal with it sometimes?

Like today, let's have a little look see into the life of a Monkey Wrangler, on what is turning into one of those classic days in the stay at home repertoire to remember for a long time........

Big girl was watching an early morning program and was being unresponsive to me asking her something. Meanwhile, little dude was downstairs mangling something of hers, making enough noise to make it obvious. When I threatened Big girl that I'd turn off the TV if I didn't get a response, it was met with an unresponse. I turned it off and suggested we do something else. There was absolutely no protest and she stayed put staring off into who knows what. Within about 43 seconds, she was up and walking about the house and starting to grunt and whine a bit. Within another minute she was saying "Daddy.............I don't want to throw up!" over and over, while pacing figure eights around the two tables downstairs again and again. "Daddy, now I have to go poop!" she mutters and I think, oh crap, here we go..........

We make it upstairs and I assist her. As well as hold her hair out of the bowl she is clutching on her lap, should she need to hurl. The little bro' unit comes crawling in, then gets into a squat position and stands up. He takes a few steps at us near the toilet. Usually big sis' would be having a major conniption fit about him being anywhere near the bathroom while she's in it. Today though, nothing. She stares through him. He is like a fly in the room. Besides our being in the bathroom under such conditions, I know she's sick when she pays no mind to what her brother is about to get into and/or destroy of hers.

Ahhhh, the bittersweetness of parenting. I'm holding onto one kid who is shivering uncontrollably and dry heaving while the other is showing his newfound skill and making day two of being an upright homo sapien. I laugh at myself for a second, being in the midst of all this.
Then it hits me.
This is only Monday.

Well, at least yesterday I got something done. I got to use some lemon quark in a new way for me, in a dessert I've been imagining for well over a year now. And I had the immense fortune that it incorporated a few of Carl's peaches. Making it was bittersweet though. The peaches were the rarest I'll have this year, for on Saturday the 5th when I saw Carl and he had a few peaches, he said "yeah, these are the only ones for the year..........today." I gasped, I was so excited. I bought half a dozen. (I would have bought more, but I wanted others to have a chance at the few boxes he had.) Then I came home and nearly cried thinking of the bittersweetness of it all. How these would be my only fresh peach this year from my favorite king of peaches.

Then again, if that is one of my big worries for the year, then I surely have it really, really good. Dry heaves, shivers, giggling while walking and all.

But, like, jeez, I do wish it were Tuesday already..........if you are having a similar day, make yourself one of these:


1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 stick of damn good butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar

1/2 pint lemon quark
2 large eggs
3 of the rarest peaches you can find, preferably one you will not have for at least another year. This is essential.

cut the butter into the flour after you have mixed the sugar into it. like, duh. pat this into a 9x9 pan or something oval and smallish. bake it at 350 for about ten minutes. when this is just showing a hint of golden, pull it out and cool for a bit. meanwhile, put the leftover 4th of July booze down and crack a few eggs into a bowl. slop in the quark and mix thoroughly. skin your peaches and cut into slices. if they are clingstone, place the pit in your mouth and suck the stubborn, hard to get stuff off. do not put this part with the slices. pour the egg and quark mixture over the crusty thing and place slices of peaches all over the top. put it into the oven, still at 350 for another 25 of so minutes. well, maybe 18, maybe 33, who knows, learn to pay attention........eat the whole thing yourself and try not to cry.