Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Fall Fun: The First Fall Family Weekend

I wasn't posting, but, oh, were we having fun!

Gommie and Pop arrived here on Friday, just before the kids got home early from school.  They were all so excited to see each other, as I had been a bit earlier.


As usual, there was some show-and-tell when my parents arrived, this time in the form of watching the school musical on DVD, pointing out the kids in each scene, commenting on the whole experience.  Almost as good as being there in person!


Then we went out to dinner at a local place, with artichoke dip, fresh bread, steak, chicken, mussels, meatloaf, hamburgers, profiteroles, bread pudding, creme brulee.  A nice feast!


I think they even squeezed in a couple of games of checkers, with Sis roundly beating Gommie a few times--Pop managed to win against her, finally.



Saturday brought our usual round of kung fu, followed by a special performance at a local festival.  The festival was very small and local, but Gommie and Pop were so glad to get to see Bud perform.  He did his tong bei (first form), spear, and 9-chain routines as part of the larger team performance.  I just love watching him fly through the air!  We did a few of the activities--Gommie got a red flower painted on her cheek; I watched a calligrapher at work.  We all made "snow skin" Singapore mooncakes, which are bright white.  They are made of a pre-cooked dough of glutinous rice flower, coconut milk, with sweet bean paste in the middle--you make a ball and then stamp it with a symbolic decoration.  (See here for a similar recipe.)  It's a lot like mochi, though the woman in charge of the activity balked at the suggestion, saying, "The Chinese invented mochi, not the Japanese."  We walked the beach for a bit and then had a quick lunch of dumplings, shumai, scallion pancakes, and egg rolls.


Then we went out for ice cream!  Not your usual ice cream but the popular new nitrogen-frozen one that's all the rage around here.  Pop and I got the bourbon breakfast one, which is quite boozy.


For dinner, Mama made a delicious pork shoulder in her pressure cooker.  Yes, hers.  I am a bit wary of the steaming, squeaking thing.  But the dinner, with sides of roasted sweet potatoes and also broccoli, was delicious--and the first homecooked meal Gommie and Pop had eaten in 2+ weeks!


Sunday was church, a discussion and celebration of "accounting" of Rosh Hashanah.  I don't remember the exact context, but my favorite part was about those who yell loudly because they feel as if they aren't heard, literally and figuratively.  How true is that!  I see it here at home, in online discussions of local issues, on the national stage from both politicians and their supporters.  It seems like we have a rash of many people trying to communicate without many feeling heard.


And then it was time for Applepalooza!!  I was so excited that my folks could be here for our usually annual party for the first time.   And also for the first time, none of my usual playgroup friends could come; they were missed.  Still, we had our great neighbors and bus route friends, plus more from the community and church.  It was a great group, with lots of good conversation and delicious food, as usual:  apple rosettes, honey apple quiche, apple pie, caramel apples, old-fashioned apple cake with brown sugar frosting, cupcakes, doughnuts, mulled cider, and some fall beers.  Plus Pop's spicy homemade salsa!  The adults chatted around the fire pit, while the kids played--the younger ones in the dirt or on the swingset, the older ones running around playing zombie tag and climbing trees.  It was all going so well, until, simultaneously, a child was smacked in the head by the seesaw and the low dogwood branch the kids were sitting on it the tree cracked.  We confirmed the tree kids were fine while fetching an ice pack for the crying little one.  Soon, all was right again, though Pop later cut the branch off the tree.  The dogwood has some rot, so it's not surprising, but it was a lovely branch.  Still, I'm so glad no one was hurt.



Sis rushed off to speed skating after the party, with Gommie and Pop watching her race around the ice in her impressive "skin suit," made of kevlar for her protection.  She's still a beginner, of course, trying to learn the crossover and such, but she loves it and tried very hard.  We had Italian for dinner, with Sis inhaling a whole entree after her three-hour workout.




Monday was a school holiday and our rest time, though Mama had to go to work.  We sat at home, playing games like checkers and MarioKart.  Pop tried his had a few times at it, finally mastering the controls so that he didn't come in last.  Gommie and I tangled tiles. We watched "Speechless," which Gommie enjoyed.  Pop cut down the branch.   They all went swimming at the hotel. We even practiced flipping bottles, which apparently is the new craze; I didn't even know about it til I read a Boston Globe article, but the kids say it had already been banned at school.  Gommie got down on the floor and was flipping water bottles with the best of them.  Bud had piano and Sis had horseback riding; Pop and Gommie went to the horses, happy to see Sis riding Pooh, as well as grooming him and taking care of the tack.   We nibbled on Applepalooza leftovers until we made our own pizzas for dinner.  (And had some grumpiness with the kids, Mama, and me--if Gommie and Pop wanted a taste of our schedule--with all of our activities and such, they got it and a few of some of our breakdowns when we're tired.)  It was also Gommie and Pop's 54th wedding anniversary!  And as Gommie told the kids, without their marriage, the kids wouldn't be here.  True enough.  We cheered their long marriage.  


Today, Mama is at work, the kids are at school, Gommie and Pop are headed to the Adirondacks or somewhere, and I am at home still fighting this cold.  It wasn't goodbye--we'll see them in Vermont for another wonderful, long weekend.


-=-=-=-=-=-=-


King Arthur's Old-Fashioned Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting--it was fantastic!





Cake

  • 2 1/3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon + 1/4 teaspoon each ground ginger and ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups peeled, cored, chopped apple, about 1 1/3 pounds whole apples 
  • 1 cup diced toasted walnuts or pecans (we skipped these and added more apples)

Frosting

  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 


Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour a 9" x 13" pan.
To make the cake: Mix all of the ingredients except the apples and nuts in a large bowl.
Beat until well combined; the mixture will be very stiff, and may even be crumbly.
Add the apples and nuts, and mix until the apples release some of their juice and the stiff mixture becomes a thick batter, somewhere between cookie dough and brownie batter in consistency.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan, smoothing it with your wet fingers.
Bake the cake for 45 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few wet crumbs clinging to it.
Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a rack to cool completely; don't remove the cake from the pan.
To make the frosting: Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar and salt and cook, stirring, until the sugar melts.
Add the milk, bring to a boil, and pour into a mixing bowl to cool for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, stir in the confectioners' sugar and vanilla. Beat well; if the mixture appears too thin, add more confectioners' sugar. Spread on the cake while frosting is still warm.
Yield: about 2 dozen servings.

    Tips from our bakers

    • To toast nuts, place them in a single layer in a cake pan. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 6 to 9 minutes, until they're golden brown and smell "toasty."
    • To guarantee lump-free frosting, sift confectioners' sugar before adding to the butter mixture. Usually all the lumps disappear as you beat the frosting; but to guarantee no lumps at all, sift the sugar first.




    1. Apple Rosettes
      • 1-2 sheets puff pastry
      • 1/4 cup cream cheese
      • 3 tbsp sugar
      • cinnamon
      • 1 apple
      • 1 tbsp lemon juice
      • 3 tbsp water

      • Take out the core and thinly slice the apple.
      • Combine the apple slices with lemon juice and water in a bowl and microwave 3 minutes. Cool the bowl in some ice water. Pat dry the apple slices of excess moisture and set aside.
      • Roll out the puff pastry and cut into 4 even strips. 
      • Spread cream cheese and sprinkle on sugar onto the puff pastry strips. 
      • Arrange the apple slices and sprinkle cinnamon on top.
      • Fold the pastry puff in half lengthwise and roll them up. Place in greased muffin tins.
    Bake for 40 minutes at 375 degrees F.
    Miss CA



    Homemade Caramel Apples--made by a friend's daughter, via Land of Lakes
    1 cup finely chopped peanuts, optional
    1/2 cup butter
    2 cups brown sugar
    1 cup corn syrup
    dash salt
    14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    10 tart apples, washed and dried

    Butter waxed paper; set aside. 

    Place peanuts into bowl. Set aside.
    Melt butter in 2-quart saucepan; add brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 10-12 minutes or until mixture comes to a full boil. Stir in sweetened condensed milk. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, 20-25 minutes or until small amount of mixture dropped into ice water forms a firm ball or candy thermometer reaches 245°F.  Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.
    Dip apples into caramel mixture. Dip 1 end of each apple into peanuts. Place onto prepared waxed paper.








    Pop's Spicy Salsa

    can of diced tomatoes
    onion
    cilantro
    jalapenos (without seeds)
    black pepper

    In blender, mix tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and jalapenos. Pour into dish and cover top with black pepper.  Stir.  Serve with tortilla chips.
    Pop


    Pizza Dough--this is Mark Bittman's recipe, essentially the same as the one the girls did at their overnight
    • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, or more as needed, plus more for kneading
    • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
    • 2 teaspoons salt, plus more for sprinkling
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as necessary

    1. Put the 3 cups flour, yeast, 2 teaspoons salt and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a food processor. Turn the machine on and add 1 cup water through the feed tube. Process until the mixture forms a slightly sticky ball, about 30 seconds. If the mixture is too dry, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time and process for 5 to 10 seconds after each addition. If the mixture refuses to come together, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time and process until it does.
    2. Rub a little olive oil or sprinkle a little flour onto your hands and shape the dough into a ball; wrap in plastic. Let rest at room temperature until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours. Or, if time is tight, let it rest at least 20 minutes before proceeding. Or refrigerate for several hours, deflating if necessary if it threatens to burst the plastic. (Or divide in half, wrap each ball in plastic, slip into a plastic bag and freeze.) Let it return to room temperature before proceeding.
    3. Reshape the dough into a ball and cut in half, forming 2 balls. (From here on, use olive oil if you're cooking on baking sheets, flour if on a pizza stone.) Put them on a lightly floured surface (a pizza peel is ideal), sprinkle with flour and cover with plastic wrap; or brush then with a bit of oil and place on a lightly oiled sheet. Let rest for about 20 minutes, while you heat the oven to 500 degrees.
    4. Press a dough ball into a 1/2-inch-thick flat round, adding flour or oil to the work surface as necessary. Press or roll the dough until it's as thin as you can make it; let it rest a bit if it becomes too elastic. (Patience is your friend here.) You can do two baking sheets at once, or one after another, as you'll have to if using a peel. If doing the latter, slide the dough from the peel onto the stone.
    5. Sprinkle the pizzas with olive oil (just a little), salt and rosemary. Bake for at least 10 minutes, perhaps rotating once, until the crust is crisp. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

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