Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Apple Puff Pancake

All night the wind rattled our windows and we could hear the last of the leaves ticking against the screens and whirling up the street. Hopefully the north wind will take them to another part of town. It was still chilly and blustery this morning. Just right for making an Apple Puff Pancake with some of the apples that have been languishing on the counter. Before I even dressed I peeled the apples and tossed them in a cast iron skillet with butter and brown sugar. Leaving the temp on low and the oven turned up, I ran upstairs to shower. When I came back they were starting to caramelize, but not fall apart. It only took about two minutes to mix the batter and pour over the apples. Another 20 minutes while I made a grocery list, put away dishes, and it was ready to pull out of the oven, crusty brown around the edges, little poofed hills and valleys across the center. It’s supposed to be two servings, but I divided it into thirds, (Denis, Anita and I)  we thanked God and ate it all. Great way to start the day. Hope renewed for all mankind. Okay. For here. For the moment.

Apple Puff Pancake in Cast Iron
(Serves 2-3)
Heat oven to 450 degrees.
Melt 3 T. butter in cast iron skillet (I use my smaller 9 inch Dutch oven) Make sure the sides are oiled, too.
3 apples, peeled, sliced
¼ c. brown sugar
½ t. cinnamon
Stir together and cook on medium to low heat for 10-12 minutes or until the apples begin to soften and caramelize.
2 eggs
¾ cup milk
½ t. salt
1 T. sugar
¾ c. flour
Whisk eggs and milk. Add flour, sugar and salt and whisk just until smooth. Pour over apples and bake for 15-20 minutes or until top is puffy and edges are browned. If it doesn’t puff, it’s still yummy. Drizzle with a little maple syrup. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Take this body

Today I had an hour between appointments so I stopped home before I went to 12th Street Dental Clinic. It seemed a good idea when I set them up one after the other. Go to the surgeon get a few basal cells removed, no problem, then get over to the dentist. It wasn’t like I was getting a mastectomy, but the incision was a little larger than I expected. And having loaded needles stuck in your nose is not the little “pinch” they promise. Then came the yanking and hitting a squirter followed by the  smell of grilled flesh and what with the lidocaine not being quite enough, I left feeling more disheveled than usual. It wasn’t a big deal, of course, but it was starting to smart. I wanted to call my dentist and say I need to cancel, because I just had a basil cell carcinoma removed from my outside left nostril which would be like saying the dog ate my homework. The thought of the hygienist resting her vacuum pumps and tooth polishers on my face made me want to throw up. However, I can imagine dental people teaching you a lesson the next time you do show up, clinking their tools on your nerves and popping the drill under your tongue, so I actually drove over to the office to cancel. Luckily the stitches were still oozing and I hoped they would add credibility to my story. I’ll bet they think I’m a piece of work.

The stitches hitched up my left nostril so I look a little like Jack Nicholson with a sneer. Hoping it’s not permanent.

This timing of this is Providential, really. Possibly a tiny joke God has sent me. This weekend Denis and I will be at Zion Church in Lincoln, NB where we will each be speaking. My topic is body image and living with disfigurement, which is a serious matter. Offering my/our “our bodies as a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1) is a daily effort and grows more interesting by the year. That God desires not only our hearts and minds, but our bodies, too, is a compelling argument for accepting them as they are with all their imperfections and corruptions.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Toilets and apple tarts

Yesterday afternoon the dripping of the valve behind the toilet finally became serious enough for my husband to tackle it with tools and new parts. We’ve been placing plastic food containers and towels beneath the pipe coming out of the wall to catch the flow and they were no longer a match. Denis can tolerate a good deal of dripping, but when I asked if we needed to set the alarm to empty it during the night, it caused a flurry of twisting and pushing at the spigot. Magically, it quit only to resume in the morning. Denis is very gifted for explaining theology conundrums, mysterious doctrines of faith, you know, that sort of thing, including movie plots and camera angles. So as things go, plumbing problems and mechanical failures are not the happy friends they are to some.

When he called me in to help, he was on his knees, pads on, reaching under the base with a pliers and a wrench. There was a new part in the tank and I was supposed to hold it in place as he bolted it down from the outside. It kept slipping from my grasp and his, too. He was grunting and saying things under his breath a little. I think he was trying to hold the vocab down so that I wouldn’t point out this was character building or he should have read his Bible today. I kept that thought to myself. Good call, right? Instead, I decided right then I’d needed to make the apple tart recipe he’d seen in the latest Food & Wine and thrust in my face last night when we were in bed and I was trying to work a Sudoku. After a good deal of effort it seems like the toilet finally got fixed. Though we can’t be sure. He says we might be sitting on a bomb that will geyser up any second. I was thinking I’ve always wanted a bidet, but I believe it’s aiming the wrong direction. I didn’t mention that either. So we’ll see.

I did go down to the kitchen to use the Honey Golds that have been sitting on the counter for a few days. They turned out to be just right for this recipe. They are sweet, crisp and hold their shape when baked. The crust was supposed to chill in the fridge for at least an hour, but this was a pressing need, so I skipped that part. It took a little longer for me to make than a pie because you need to take the time to arrange the apple slices in concentric circles, and I’m not used to such preciseness. When complete with the edges folding casually over the top it looked quite beautiful. I hoped the result would be good. I kept checking on it, turned the oven down a bit because it looked like it was getting pretty brown on the bottom and I was anxious because there was a lot of liquid in the center from the apple juice, I left it in the oven longer. Gradually it thickened and by the time it came out and set for awhile, it was moist, but not sloppy. The crust was buttery and thick and flaky and crunchy. Denis happily munched his piece and said he’d like it again sometime. But I was the one swooning. I liked it so well that this morning I made a quick trip to the coffee shop to deliver two pieces to our favorite barista. To my dismay there were three people working, but Darcy said, oh, that’s okay, I’ll eat them both myself.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Yes ma'am

Pour a glass of wine and call the kids in to help you make supper and turn on the music. Elizabeth Mitchell has just released a new album for children: Sunny Day. I’ve often given earlier cds as baby gifts this one will be no exception. The acoustic simplicity and inclusion of little voices make it more than appealing - even for adults. Perfect! Go here where the Smithsonian has posted a free track and take a look at the music video  "John, The Rabbit."  (I can’t get it to load here.) Yes, ma’am.  

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Please go here

I’m often thankless and miserly in faith forgetting where Christ dwells – with the poorest and most afflicted among us. I am pierced by this child, Asher. Reminded of God’s great love and presence with “the least of these, my brothers and sisters.” And by inference, his dwelling with each child who wants him, even me.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Wild Jelly

I’ve been thinking about wild grape jelly – remembering past years when I foraged along the river, looking for the telltale vines that twine ash trees and young elms, spying dark clusters of grapes. Denis finally pushed me from imagining to doing. He thinks there’s nothing like the intensity of wild grapey-ness made into jelly and spread on a toasted bagel. I understand; the flavor tastes original. As if the sweet tang and shining deep purple hearken back to how God made grape jelly when the world began. Kraft and Welchs can’t compare.

I thought it might be too late in the season, but last Saturday Anita and I picked enough to make one batch of jelly. Along the Zumbro River on the Mayowood Trail we nearly missed them. We craned our necks, searching, pulling the high vines toward us, grasping for hidden bunches of tiny sour grapes. They’re so diminutive and sparse that unless you knew, you’d think they were no more edible than bb gun ammo. Jelly is not difficult to make. We used one packet of Certo (which we probably didn’t need at all because there is so much fruit pectin in wild grapes) and the recipe for cooked jelly which comes in the box. After we washed and picked through the grapes, removing dead leaves and insects, we threw them in a stainless steel stock pot – grapes, seeds, stems and all. I added half cup of water to get them going, brought it to a boil, mushed them up with a potato masher to break out the juice and cooked them about 15 minutes. We poured everything through a pasta strainer to get out the major debris. Then the fun part – putting it in a bag (made long ago from an old cotton pillow case), hanging it from a cabinet handle and letting the juice drain out. When it became a slow drip, I used gloves to squeeze the rest. That gave us the juice and from there we followed the recipe. Just sugar and Certo. After a raging boil, the hot liquid was poured into sterilized glass, lidded and capped. Seven small jars.

The searching, gathering, cooking, pouring. As many times as I’ve witnessed from bitterness to jewel colors and sweet results, it surprises me. A satisfying pleasure. How can it be, why should it be ours? Another mysterious transformation waiting for the right combination, the right time.