Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

World-Building Through Cheese

September 17, 2018

Cheesehenge

The local paper ran an article about cheese not being the source of all evil for anyone worrying about cardiovascular issues. My inner cheese-hound yipped and yapped and chased its tail, because I adore cheese but there is a history of heart disease on both sides of the family. While rescuing my recipes for cheeseballs, cheese sauces, fondues, savory pastries, souffles, and quiches from the dusty corners of the cookbook shelf, I thought of how I’ve used food in my sci fi stories. Ann Anastasio and I have featured food in each book of the Chenille series. We’ve also made a subplot out of Earth foods that are similar to products on our imaginary planet, Schtatik. Reading the article about cheese reminded me of all the nutrition advice I’ve followed only to be told later that the studies were wrong, which illustrated a hole in my world-building. When I think of what my aliens might eat, I’ve always envisioned their diets as an ideal, or bound by ritual. I don’t think I’ve ever given my aliens a chance to cheat on their diets, or indulge in comfort food, or visit the junk food aisle in their groceries. I’ve never even considered what their groceries would look like. Ever. From now on, however, I’m going to spend a little time imagining what my aliens think they should eat as well as what they do eat, and why it matters. World-building through cheese – yeah, that’s a thing now.

Random Notes On Writing and Life

September 10, 2018

 

Sometimes finishing the book helps. I started reading The Art of Character by David Corbett, then got slowed down in the middle. The exercises are wonderful, but not exactly what I needed at the time. Continuing to read brought me to this passage: “As you launch your characters through the gauntlet of want and conflict, you will see this in your own life, suffer the scars, feel the tension of consequence like a wind humming through you. You will find yourself in your words, if you work honestly and deeply.” This is what I was getting at in last Monday’s blog, just not as eloquently.

Save stuff. I have saved this puzzle holder for years, even when it was obvious we would not be putting together another jigsaw puzzle ever. Guess what makes a perfect holder for antique maps that my husband inherited from his grandfather? Guess who feels incredibly vindicated?

Buy the good chocolate, then eat it. There really isn’t much more to add.

Writing Down The Dates

May 14, 2018

I was a history major in college, as were most of my roommates. We threw dinner parties to commemorate important dates. The Chicago Fire, the invasion of Poland, Pearl Harbor Day, Armistice Day – anything that came close enough to a free weekend so we had time to cook.

Dates and food are still important to me. I once made Cheesehenge Fondue for a summer solstice. As a writer, however, I want to do more. My friend and fellow writer Marlene Dotterer published her wonderful alternate history The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking. I started writing a story that is set in World War I. While the 100th anniversary of the end of that war is fast approaching, the end of that story is not.

I decided part of my trouble was pulling myself out of the “what-does-this-date-mean-to-me?” role. Separating my ego from my words is job number one for getting a story written. One of these days, the right story for the right date will reveal itself. Until then, bring on the cookbooks. There’s always another anniversary to celebrate.

Experiments for Pi Day

March 14, 2018

My husband asked for pecan pie to celebrate 3/14, Pi Day. I have a great recipe, because it’s easy – when you have all the ingredients. When you don’t, well, how else should one celebrate a made-up math holiday than by experimenting?

The pie for Pi Day

First, I had some Trefoil Girl Scout cookies that needed eating and not entirely by me, which is a problem because I’m the only one who really likes those cookies. I decided to make the crust from them, which worked fine except I ended up with more cookie crumbs than required. My experiment was to add a little more butter and use them all. It worked. Then I discovered I didn’t have corn syrup for the filling, so I used molasses. That made the filling a little bitter, so I added chocolate chips – and more butter. Heaven only knows what the calorie count is, but the pie tastes good. That’s all that matters with cooking experiments.

The same is true of quilting experiments. I took Peggy Martin‘s Jelly-roll Jive workshop on Sunday, only instead of a jelly-roll I brought some 2 1/2″ strips from my stash. I chose from the not-quite-scraps drawer, those pieces too large to go in the scrap bag but too small to make an entire quilt. I figured if I got a decent block out of it, great; if not, I hadn’t lost much.

Perhaps I’ll call this Blueberry and Pecan

Turns out I got a great five blocks. I made four blocks from blue and beige fabric. My first thought was to make a traditional 4-block medallion wall-hanging, but turning it on point is more interesting. I’m not sure how I’ll fill it out, but that’s an experiment for another day.

A second experiment for another day is this last block that I made from fat quarters I bought in New Mexico. I have enough fabric of a similar nature to make a small wall-hanging, and a boatload of beads that might find a home on the piece.

I hope all your experiments go well today and every day.

Luck and wisdom!

Happy Garlic Day

April 19, 2017

According to my food holiday calendar, today is Garlic Day.

A decorative member of the garlic family

In honor of this made-up celebration, here are my favorite garlic recipes:

Garlic and Sage Chips

1 tablespoon – 1 stick of butter (depending on how decadent you feel)

1 tsp olive oil

3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced REALLY thin (basically shaved)

1/8 cup fresh, whole sage leaves

salt

Melt the butter over medium heat in a frying pan. Stir in the olive oil. Turn up the heat to high and spread the garlic slices/shavings evenly in the pan. After about 30 seconds, stir in the sage leaves and salt. Fry until garlic is golden brown, stirring often. The garlic chips can turn into garlic charcoal in the blink of an eye, so stay alert. Use the chips as a topping for baked potatoes, salad, soup, or Brie.

Garlic and Split Pea Soup Base

1 small onion, chopped

1 tsp olive oil

10 cloves garlic, peeled

1 pound yellow split peas

4 cups water

salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onions in the olive oil in a medium-size pot. I prefer my onions to be nearly caramelized, but you can stop when they are translucent, or even leave them a little crunchy. Add the garlic cloves, and cook for another minute or two. Add the yellow split peas and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook until split peas are soft (about 20 minutes). Add salt and pepper to taste. You can strain the liquid and use as a clear soup base, or puree the lot for a creamier soup base. This is a great substitute for chicken stock when you are cooking for your vegetarian friends.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

5 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered

8 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped in half

1 tablespoon butter

cream

salt

Put the potatoes and garlic in a medium pot and add cold water to just cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are mashable. Some people like a little substance to their mashed potatoes, others want it to be as smooth as yogurt, so you get to decide what done is. Drain the potatoes, put into a bowl, toss in the butter and mash away. Add cream until you like the consistency (or you start freaking out about your arteries). Salt to taste.

The proper keeper for those who really love their garlic

Luck and wisdom!

Where The Buffalo Roam

April 6, 2016

Since I didn’t have a plan for the embroidery on my buffalo collage, I put the threads and a couple of pattern books next to my place on the couch. When I watched TV, I also picked up my needle and thread. Hey, if buffalo can roam, so can my stitching. This is what I had by the end of the week.

Lani Longshore buffalo collage

Most of the stitches came from one of my crazy quilt pattern books.

The stencil is probably an auroch, but that's close enough for me

The stencil is probably an auroch, but that’s close enough for me

The backing comes from leftover pieces in my collection of High Plains and Southwest fabric.

Lani Longshore collage backing

I might add more embroidery later, but for now I’m auditioning beads in my new sorting container, which is the carry-out shell from the really cool cupcake place downtown, Cake Delight. When I finally finish the piece, I’m heading back there for my celebration treat.

Lani Longshore beads

Luck and wisdom!

Donut Day

June 3, 2015

My trusted made-up food holiday calendar says June 2 is National Donut Day. Who am I to disagree?

A mixed dozen - perhaps a metaphor, perhaps just dessert

A mixed dozen – perhaps a metaphor, perhaps just dessert

I even felt that I deserved a donut or two, since I finished the row quilt top.

Lani Longshore row quilt

The best part was getting down to the bottom of the fabric pile and finding just enough of this blue for the final row.

Lani Longshore row quilt detail

I used every bit – there are no scraps to bedevil me. Sing hallelujah!

As I was separating the fabric I didn’t use in this top into new collections, I noticed a kit for sun printing fabric. Heaven knows how old it is. I have a vague memory of buying it years ago at a silent auction. I’ve moved it around the sewing room every since, waiting for the perfect project. This week I decided there is no such thing as the perfect project, and who knew if the prepared fabric would react in the sun anyway? I gathered up a few objects and put the whole lot out on the patio.

Doilies and vases, forks and scissors, whatever I could grab

Doilies and vases, forks and scissors, whatever I could grab

When I ran out of stuff to put on the squares, I used the weeds growing between the pavers.

Using weeds for art beats pulling them any day

Using weeds for art beats pulling them any day

Wonder of wonders, the stuff still worked.

A salad fork and a spatula

A salad fork and a spatula

It even worked with my beaded wire reindeer.

My Christmas reindeer in blue

My Christmas reindeer in blue

Yes, I now have another collection of fabric waiting for a project, but the squares take up a lot less room than the kit. Reason enough to celebrate with another donut.

Luck and wisdom!

Chocolate

March 18, 2015

Easter candy – it is more dangerous than Christmas or Halloween candy because it comes in chocolate and pretty colors. I thought nothing could tempt me more until I read about Ariel Segall. When she was at MIT she founded the Laboratory for Chocolate Science, a student club. When she graduated, she started a part-time chocolate business, Dark Matter Chocolate Laboratory. She makes chocolate Daleks, people. Then I remembered The Chocolate Vault, which doesn’t make chocolate Dahleks, but you can get a chocolate submarine on a stick.

I’m not a candy maker, but I do collect candy fabric. This stack is waiting for piecing inspiration.

Lani Longshore chocoate fabric

In the meantime, I made a small landscape quilt inspired by a pendant.

Lani Longshore landscape

I have several other large beads, pendants and assorted embellishments that might be useful for landscapes, so this may be a new series for me (to add to all the others I hope to finish in my copious free time).

Luck and wisdom!

Pi Day and The Bribery School of Living

March 11, 2015

My second favorite holiday is this Saturday. It’s the Pi Day of the Century – 3/14/15. Yes, it’s a made-up math day, and it only works in countries that put the month first, but that’s part of the charm. We will have pie, and because I am a life-long practitioner of the Bribery School of Living, I don’t even have to make it.

When the kids were little, I discovered that bringing pizza home after spending all day at the Amador Valley Quilters monthly meeting made everyone so much happier. Even when I don’t go to the meeting, the second Saturday of the month is pizza day. Even when we are out of town, the second Saturday of the month is pizza day. So, we will have pizza pie on Pi Day, and all will be very well.

Here’s how the Bribery School works – when you have to make yourself or someone else do a hard thing, make sure there is a reward for completing the job. The kids would behave when I ran errands all morning because they could count on doing something fun in the afternoon. Sometimes the difference between finishing an unpleasant task and not is knowing there’s a treat waiting. Also, when you can’t face the job regardless of the bribe, you know it is time to get some help.

Lani Longshore beading project

The beading project that has been part of my bribe for the bathroom remodel is going well. I may not be able to lift it before long, but it’s shiny and pretty and I like it.

Lani Longshore bathroom remodel

The remodel is almost done. Everything but the shower is in place. For now, I’m counting this as a victory.

Luck and wisdom!

Seasonal Petulance

November 26, 2014

This time of year I sink into my own slough of despair, and revel in seasonal petulance. The holidays are too crowded, too commercial, too costly. Whine, whine, whine. I guess the universe got sick of listening to me kvetch, because – try as I might to be grouchy – I have been surrounded by kindness and love. “Self,” I said, “get over yourself.”

A pie crust in waiting

A pie crust in waiting

The first thing I decided to do was give myself permission to celebrate all the holidays in order. Thanksgiving comes first, and I am extraordinarily thankful for my grandmother’s never-fail pie crust recipe.

Original Recipe

2 cups flour

1 cup butter

1 egg, beaten

2 teaspoons vinegar

4 teaspoons cold water

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Sift dry ingredients together, then cut in the butter. Gradually add the egg and vinegar. Pour water over dough and mix.

My Version

2 cups flour

1 cup butter

1 egg, beaten with 3 teaspoons vinegar (cider or sweet balsamic for a sweet pie, white wine for a savory pie)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Put the butter and flour into a food processor and pulse until mixture resembles corn flour. Add baking powder and salt; pulse a couple of times. Add egg/vinegar mixture. Blend until smooth. You will need to heavily flour the board and pin when rolling out the dough.

The start of my personal, private Advent calendar

The start of my personal, private Advent calendar

Next comes Advent, which for me means the little calendars with numbered boxes and chocolate prizes. The bad news is this year I missed out on my favorite one – they sold out before I even put it on the shopping list. The good news is, I made my own version with all those mint tins I’ve been saving, and some leftover holiday trims.

Lani Longshore Christmas ornaments

Next comes the Ceremony of the Tree. My daughter has decorated the tree for years, but she won’t be home until spring. I was all set to skip the tree, when I remembered the new ornaments a friend gave me. My daughter has her own favorite ornaments, so this year I’ll put up my new ones and some of the older ones that have been buried at the bottom of the storage box.

Lani Longshore Christmas card

I don’t write the Christmas letter until Christmas day. The cards get sent out sometime between Boxing Day and Epiphany. This tradition stays.

Lani Longshore Christmas fabric

Last is the Time of Forgetting. This is the celebration of discovering you’re a day late and a present short. It’s not the best tradition, but it’s one with a long history in my house. I guess it stays, too.

May your season of holidays – whichever ones you celebrate – be joyous.

Luck and wisdom!