6 or 8: plates, bowls, mugs, glasses, cutlery, on and on. Two too many or two too little?
Who are some of your (and ones that especially appeal to the littles) favorite newer illustrators? For books/reprints that came out within the last ten years or so? By this I mean, what are some illustrated books the children you know or own can't get enough of? I know all about Lauren Child, but I'm out of practice, otherwise. Any help in this area would be hugely, hugely appreciated.
After the outdoor ceremony, where impromptu acapella karaoke is performed and fireflies are caught and palmed by well-behaved children wearing all natural fibers, and your groom kisses you and announces that he loves your perfume and your best friend chimes in with "Oh, she never wears perfume, that's just her. She just emits that scent. Biochemistry!". And after the reception, where one by one, quietly, with supreme respect and honor for your new union, each of your exes approaches you and either verbally tells you, or else in the form of song lyrics or letters or collages, how sad he is that he isn't the one who gets to spend the rest of his life with you.
After all of that, someone gets tired of Paul McCartney's dedication and serenade and puts '4-EVA' by Trick Daddy on, using her iPod which is hooked up to someone's vegetable-oil burning Benz's sound system and you get drunk enough you spill malt liquor down the front of your perfect dress, but it doesn't matter.
It's that lovely.
So I did it. I haven't tasted them yet, we still might all die of some horrifying mistake I made during the process, but let's hope we don't, because I think these are going to be really, really good.
After researching, coming across articles and information beyond my wildest, I decided tonight was the night to at least try some business out. I wasn't too worried about my lack of supplies, beyond cherries, because almost every single recipe was for non-sealed cherries, with directions pointing out that basic sanitation and the cold, dark shelves of a calibrated refrigerator were more than enough to keep your boozy little lushes happy for at least three months, and on and on according to a few user comments and blog entries I read. While almost all recipes called for Cognac, or another decent brandy, I found a canning website that mentioned other liquor combinations and trusted this completely, like it was a Girl Scout Troop Leader, or a grandma who knows how to lie really well.
"Um, right. 'Liver Spots' mean truth, in several different languages and at least one local dialect."
Here's where I point out that the only alcohol, besides Kaluha, Baileys, red and white wine that we had was a half bottle of Jose Cuervo. So I was basically turning Google out, until it showed me what I wanted. Yeah, yeah. LIKE THAT. Tequila. Great. Excellent. Who knew!
Earlier, I had gone through my fridge and emptied out 3/4 scraped jars of jam and a large bottle of Maraschinos, because and I will state this again and again, I did not plan on sealing my jars and therefore didn't need to worry about reusing lids. If you do plan on sealing your jars, please follow all proper, sanctioned guides and food safety rules. I am absolving myself of all responsibility, seriously. We're totally of age here, and if you're not, if you're ten and wandering around the internet searching for 'Cherries' and 'Alcohol', this is not the website your parents hope you don't find.
After sterilizing them in my dishwasher, lids too, and the tongs I planned to use, I swirled together the following over medium-high heat.
1/2 + 1 TBS granulated white sugar
1/2 cup water
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
Seeds and pod from 1/4 vanilla bean
Once it was clear and bubbling, I added the cherries. I was dumb, and didn't measure -- I worked off of what I thought would fill my two chosen, small-ish jars. I would say maybe 3 or 4 very heaping cups (to work with the proportions of syrup listed above), which I washed (do this in a bowl, to see if any float, a website I looked at pointed out that floaters could be hiding worms), and trimmed the stems slightly. But I did not pit.
The cherries bubbled for five minutes, maybe a little less. They should be just burnished and glossy, but not soft or mushy. Then, using tongs, I dropped them one by one (along with a cinnamon stick, inserted halfway, and a few cloves for each jar) into the jars. Once they were filled, I poured the hot syrup 'evenly' between the two, filling each one to their halfway mark. The jars were topped off to the brim with tequila, lids screwed very, very tightly on, turned upside down once or twice and left alone to cool. Even if the lids re-seal or ping, I have to plead with you to not trust them, keep the cherries in the fridge despite this false security.
So there we go. A little spice for your evening. Next, with my remaining jars, I plan to repeat this but with brandy and some strips of orange zest, a whole vanilla bean, and a thicker syrup. The trees outside are dripping with little Italian prunes, and pears are ripening in this ridiculous heat (broken today by flat grey skies and thunderclaps that split sleep in two, waking me up at seven on the dot), so I'd like to experiment with those backyard fruits. And as fun as this was, I'd like to try some real canning, before summer is over, and if it isn't already too late for most fruits. I know nothing about this area of food, but it makes me really, really excited to learn.
We're about to get real boozy, real soon. I've got two giant bags of dark sweet Washington cherries that are humming. And what do you do with that sort of burden? I really want to make Tracy's tart, but only if there are enough of those little tarty globes left after my main plan, which is to liquor them up right quick.
Now. To can or not to can? I've never done it before, and almost all the recipes I'm basing my plan on mention that you can keep the jars of boozy fruit in the fridge, no problems, for up to a year. But part of me really wants to make these shelf stable, and it would be ridiculous if I could gives those suckers out for gifts this holiday season. Thoughts? Advice? Have you made these before? Would a "spicy" version be dumb, with nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon? To pit or not to pit? De-stem?
I think that one of the good things I can do, with very little warning, is throw together a choice lasagna. I enjoy it, for one, which means I take care and time in selecting good ingredients, making sure everything is 'ready' before even sliding it in the oven. And two, I believe in layered flavors. Radical, I get it. I know. The future is here and it just pissed in your car. You can kick it out now, on this highway, or you can take a deep breath and let it tell you all about the Freegan movement.
But I think that lasagna is one of those things that can make people angry, if it isn't what they're expecting. My youngest sister has strict ideas concerning layered pasta dishes. I don't know why, I don't know what layered pasta dishes did to her locker, but she's ready to testify in peer court. I know my lasagnas of times past are in the clear, because she's eaten them willingly, but not without letting me know how they've let her down. Most of the time her complaints have no structure, but they have passion behind them, and they eventually boil down to "It doesn't look like Teen Movie Lasagna," meaning I've included spinach, and not enough cheese, and rarely use meat. When I do, it's turkey, and not the golden, coconut-scented limbs of Zac Efron, so I can understand the disappointment.
Most of the time I throw surprises between each layer. Last time, popcorn kernals and foreign coins. Texture. Fiber. Fear. But in honor of my youngest sibling, who is getting ready to start college, I made a lasagna that heaved with cheese, savory meats, plural, and a layer of fluffy, spiced ricotta. No green, anywhere, besides the flutter of torn basil that I scattered right before serving. The sharp, green anise flavor cut through the richness, and it was a delicious meal on a cloudy August day.
If you're a fan of sauce-y lasagna, feel free to double the tomato sauce portion of the recipe, which will leave you plenty of plain sauce to drip between layers, or serve on the side. As it is, this is a compact, dignified structure. I hope it pleases you.
Ridiculous Lasagna For People Who Love Meat
1 box Barilla No-Bake Lasagna noodles
1 28 ounce can tomato puree
3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, diced (divide into two parts)
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup minced parsley
3-4 tablespoons torn fresh basil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound lean ground beef (or turkey)
1/2 pound ground pork
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 large ball fresh mozzarella
2 cups grated mozzarella
3 cups good-quality ricotta cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup grated/ground Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated mozzarella
Fresh basil, to garnish
In a medium saucepan, melt butter until foamy and add half of the diced onion. Saute until translucent, then grate (using a microplane, but if you don't have one, just mince really well) the garlic over the top. Stir, lower the heat to medium-low and pour in the tomato puree. If it's an especially thick batch, add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water. Stir well, season with pepper (and salt, if it needs it), and simmer for up to half an hour. Right before serving/assembling, add the parsley and basil.
Meanwhile, in another saucepan, brown the pork, remaining onion and beef, chopping with a wooden spoon to break up any large clumps. Drain off any fat, and then grate a clove of garlic over the mixture, add the red pepper flakes, season with salt and pepper and turn heat to low.
Reserve 1 cup of the tomato sauce, and add the rest to the meat mixture.
Now turn to the Ricotta, dump it into a mixing bowl and slop together with the eggs, Parmesan, mozzarella, garlic, parsley, basil, salt and pepper. Stir well, set aside.
Pour a kettle of hot water over the lasagna noodles -- I usually pour the water into a 9x13 dish and slip each noodle in one by one. Let soften for ten minutes. You can preheat your oven to 350 F, too, if you like.
Now, in the bottom of another 9x13 (a little smaller, a little larger, you'll be fine) dish, pour the reserved plain tomato sauce and spread evenly over the bottom. Set down a layer of three or so noodles, then top with a cup or so of meat mixture. Dollop with the Ricotta mixture, spreading slightly, and sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan. Repeat, repeat, repeat, stopping only when you've begun to run out of things. Make sure the final layer is meat/sauce, and top with slices of fresh mozzarella and sprinkle with Parmesan. If you like, you can dab the top with a bit of softened butter.
Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, until piping hot, golden brown, and probably sputtering madly. Remove, carefully, from the oven and cool for 10 minutes. Scatter with torn basil, and serve that business UP.
Note: Something I like to do, often, is sub out the ricotta mixture for a bechamel sauce -- my standard, completely offensive one is 3 cups whole milk, which is warmed with a bay leaf, two smashed garlic cloves, fresh nutmeg (use less then you would if grating it in at the last minute, like two scrapes across the microplane), then streamed into a gold roux (melt two tablespoons of butter until foamy, add two tablespoons flour and whisk until golden and slightly nutty smelling) and whisked until smooth and lump-free. Season to taste with salt and white pepper, and sometimes, only sometimes, add 1/2 a cup of Parmesan cheese to it. Layer that over the meat mixture, and use instead of mozzarella on the final layer. It is delicious and decadent, like any good substitute.