Thursday, September 24, 2009

(Tonic) Water of the Gods

So, remember when we bought the Penguin to make sparkley water? The main impulse-to-buy was because I had come across the technique for making Tonic Syrup (the base for tonic water) and wanted to try concocting :-)

I love tonic water - most often drinking it with nothing but a slice of citrus, all through the summer. Oh, I admit to splashing gin in there after 4:30 some days, but I really could drink tonic water everyday! I became a tonic water snob - disdaining cheap supermarket brands for interesting (and expensive!) boutique brands... finally ending up understanding that this obsession must mean it's time to make it myself...

After reading several "cocktail" blogs (and there are at least as many of those as there are knitting blogs!!) it was clear that there were as many ways to create tonic water as there were cooks; the only constant was an infusion of powdered cinchona bark in water. Then, I realized that the most difficult step was going to be acquiring the Cinchona Bark powder (aka: Quinine Bark) as it's not readily available at Walgreens. Cinchona is the magic, bitter ingredient that inhibits muscle cramps, fever, and the mosquito-born virus, malaria. I ended up ordering it from here.

Cinchona belongs to the Rubiacae family which also includes coffee and gardenias! It is believed to have gotten its name from the Countess of Chinchon, wife of the Spanish Viceroy of Peru, who in 1638 fell desperately ill with malaria. Fortunately, she was cured using the ancient herbal remedy of "quinquina" bark, and in her honor, the tree was named Cinchona (Hobhouse,1987).

While playing in the kitchen, here's what I came up with:
In a 4 -5 qt pot on the stove, combine the following:
  • 4 c. filtered (and vitalized!) water
  • 1/4 c. cinchona bark powder
  • 1/4 c. citric acid (another internet order, which I had because we used it to make fizzy bath balls a few years ago!)
  • zest & juice of 1 lime +1 lemon +1 orange
  • 1 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 tbs slightly crushed juniper berries
  • 2 1/2 dropperfuls - maybe a tbs. - of (my sister-in-laws best!) Bitters

Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and let simmer 20 minutes or so. Your house will smell delicious! Remove from heat, let cool down! and strain. The cinchona powder is very fine, so I poured all this into my French Press pot, let it settle a few minutes before plunging to strain it, while I washed out the cooking pot and put it back on the stove with
  • 4 c. organic cane sugar
Pour the cinchona infusion over the sugar in the pot. Bring it back to a boil, and simmer until the sugar is dissolved. My first batch simmered enough to "jell" a bit, but it is still "tasty woo" as Jonathan declares!

To make Tonic Water:
  • 1 oz. tonic syrup + 3 oz. sparkley water

Sunday, September 20, 2009

HealthCare for None, Education for All: Can YOU spot the irony?!

If they can't recognize spelling errors, how can we expect that they can recognize other errors in thought?!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

All for One and One for All, Healthcare for AMERICA!

Margeret and Helen said it so well in their blog today:
On September 12, 2001 everyone was an American. There were no Blue States and no Red States. There were no Black Americans and no White Americans. There were no Europeans, no Asians, no Hispanics, no Africans… The world was standing with America against the evil that is terrorism. The globe was united like never before. And what did our President do when given that moment? He told us all to go shopping while he and his buddies planned a war. And 8 years later the 9-12 project has been reduced to a movement of no Blacks, no Hispanics, no Asians… just 78,000 white people who can’t spell.

And here's a bit of Anne Lammont's recent comment in the LA Times
I am afraid there has been a misunderstanding since that election in 2008, during which 66,882,230 Americans cast their votes for you. Perhaps one of your trusted advisors has given you bum information. Maybe they told you that we voted for you -- walked, marched, prayed, fund-raised and knocked on doors for you -- because we hoped you would try to reunite the country. Of the total votes cast that long-ago November day, I'm guessing that about 1,575 people wanted you to try to reconcile the toxic bipartisanship that culminated in those Sarah Palin rallies.

The other 66,880,655 of us wanted universal healthcare.

Go read the rest of their comments - you'll get a chuckle out of Margaret & Helen- but they are serious. And Anne, well, she's gotten me down on my knees praying with my whole spirit that President Obama have the courage to do this "right" for America.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

we can't afford to wait

What more could anyone say?
It was a lovely last weekend at the lake... Flathead Lake! At the Big Arm Campground, there were only a handful of tenters, and every spot got it's own lake edge "beach" - here's Pippin, dreaming of his Pirate Past-lives.....

Later on, Zuzu took over squirrel patrol so he could catch a sunny nap.
It was Jon's mom's birthday, so Cindy and Denny came down from Dayton for the evening for a taco dinner and a campfire - oh, AND the new Willie Nelson Album was a hit :-)

Jon got another picture of me knitting this trip.... I loved looking straight up into this grandmother tree overhead...

Isn't this just serene looking?!

But earlier, Jon insisted that he could park the trailer on a special rock out cropping... look what happened:

It teetered and tottered and I rather spittily insisted that he NOT move until we figured out how to fix it. He insisted that we photograph his accomplishment (below) before re-positioning it so that we could get in and out without rolling the whole thing into the lake!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Chocolate Huckleberry Cake overcomes the Far Right!

Note for Mr. Joe Wilson - #37th in the world! I bet this just makes you soooo proud. Who's the real liar, Mr. Heckler?!

I always say, if they won't shut-up, shove some cake in their mouths! And you know what, even though I would bake the cake for our President, he would willingly share the cake with everyone, because he's just that nice a guy :-)

After watching PRESIDENT Obama's speech yesterday ( on 09-09-09!) inspiring us to actually do something radically constructive about the health (insurance) care delivery in the U.S. I wanted to bake him a cake!

How about... the Best Chocolate Huckleberry Cake in the World?
Start with 2 Buttermilk Dark Chocolate layers:

Make the Fluffy Ganache (using a pound of dark dark chocolate!)

sprinkle handfuls of fresh-picked Huckleberries in between the layers!!!

finish frosting the cake- and Here it is!

Chocolate-Huckleberry Cake
adapted, with glee, from Cooks Magazine
For the Cake:
1 1/2 sticks butter - softened, + extra for greasing the pans
1 3/4 c. flour (I use a whole grain soft-white flour grown here "Wheat Montana")
4 ounces (4 squares) unsweetened chocolate
1/4 c. heaped, dark coca powder
1/2 c. hot water
1 3/4 c. raw cane sugar
1 tsp., more or less, salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 c. buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 large eggs, + 2 lg. egg yolks
Pre-heat the oven to 350.
Using sof butter, grease 2 9 inch cake pans, and dust them with some cocoa powder (this helps avoid unsightly white spots on your cake when you make chocolate cakes!). Set aside. Combine the chocolate squares, cocoa powder and hot water in heat proof bowl and either microwave for 15-20 seconds or place over simmering pot of water for 2 minutes or so, to melt. Add 1/2 c. sugar and stir until glossy, then set aside to cool a bit.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. In another small bowl (or measuring cup!) combine buttermilk and vanilla. Using the mixer, whisk eggs & yolks to combine, add 1 1/4 c. sugar and whisk on high until light yellow and fluffy - 2-3 minutes (I never used to take the time to get to the "light and fluffy" stage - but when you do take the time, it perceptibly lightens the cake!)
Add the cooled chocolate mixture to the egg/sugar mixture, and mix on medium until thouroughly incorporated. Add softened butter, 1 tbs. at a time, and mix after each addition.. again, it's time that helps create the glorious nature of this cake! Finally, add about 1/3 of the flour mixture, then 1/2 the buttermilk, mixing after each addition... again with the flour and again with the buttermilk. When all is well mixturated, take a spatula and fold it over a few times, then pour it into the 2 cake pans, and smooth the tops.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes. Cool in pans for 15 minutes, then invert onto a rack to cool completely ( an hour or so) before frosting.

For the Frosting:
Grate 16 ounces (yes, 1 pound!) of dark semi- or bitter-sweet chocolate. I used Guittard for this cake, but the giant Trader Joes' bar can work well here!
8 tbs. (1 stick) butter
1/3 c. sugar
2 tbs. organic corn syrup (no GMOs for us!) or alternately, organic (sugar) cane syrup
pinch of good salt
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 c. heavy ("whipping") cream

Heat butter in a bowl set over a small sauce pan of simmering water (or in the microwave for 10-15 seconds). Add sugar, syrup, vanilla, salt and stir until sugar is dissolved. (If using the microwave, you may need to heat it for another 10-15 seconds to melt the sugar) Add the grated chocolate and stir until incorporated.

In a clean mixer bowl, pour chocolate mixture, add cream and stir again. Set bowl over ice bath (larger bowl with ice cubes and cold water) and stir to cool until frosting begins to harden against side of the bowl (about 70 degrees if you want to take its temperature). Take the bowl off the ice bath, and using mixer, beat on med-high until light and fluffy, and smooth (1 -2 minutes).

This frosting is melt-in-your-mouht wonderful, but will harden up in the fridge later - almost like the center of a truffle!

I just threw in huckleberries between the layers- about a cup or so. Next time, if I had extra, I would consider putting another cup or so in the cake batter before baking.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Worldly Things, and a Blessing for All Time

Food for Life....

Did you know that if you eat the RIGHT kind of chocolate you increase the odds of preventing skin cancer! - fortunately for us "foodies" Callebut is frequently in the cupboard!

Lifelong learning.....

About the furor over PRESIDENT (just reminding you, he IS the President - some people seem to have forgotten this already!) Obama's speech to School Kids this next week, I have a few things to say.

Firstly, Just about every President in past 30 years has given a similar speech (Bush 43's speech might not be seen as so inspirational) Here's a little "helping people remember" news video:

Secondly, I believe that much of the Neo-Conservative back-lash we are seeing right now, is because there is rampant, unacknowledged RACISM still operating in our country. Think about it - when people say (or yell, as is happening more frequently!) that they "want their country back" or "he's not my president, and I don't have to listen to him" it is quite possible that they are saying "I don't want a BLACK guy in the WHITE House". Author Tim Wise has written an article (and a book) that helps explain the "Psychology of the racist Right" in the same powerful way that George Lakoff helped explain the way the Right has co-opted language and derailed the conversation.

Lastly, good teachers everywhere are appalled by the politicization of the annual Back-to-School-Presidential-Speech. Here's just one of thousands of editorials that appeared this week, written by teachers and school administrators who support kids staying in school, working hard, and thoughtfuly listening to an important grown-up's views about education! As Arianna Huffington said in her blog this Sunday, " The last sitting president to address students across the nation was George H.W. Bush. During that speech, he issued a challenge to "revolutionize American education" and conduct "a crusade for excellence." Can you imagine what Glenn Beck would do with "revolutionize" and "crusade" coming out of Obama's mouth?"

Medicare for All, part IV:

Please, sign the Petition to the President calling for a Public Option that asks that the Public Option NOT be "optional" in the Health care reform work going on in Washington D.C. right now.
There are millions of reasons why we need HealthCare for All NOW, and only a small, but increasingly strident and threatening conservative "clot" that wants to intimidate the vast majority of us who are asking for, and willing to stand up for, real reform that helps individual Americans. Don't let the few ruin it, once again, for the many.

Daily Blessing:
from Julian of Norwich, one of my favorite mystical Christian writers (c. 1400) who prayed “Ah, good Lord, how could all things be well, because of the great harm which has come through sin to your creatures?”.

This was God’s response to her: “And so our good Lord answered all the questions and doubts which I could raise, saying most comfortingly: I make all things well, and I can make all things well, and I shall make all things well, and I will make all things well; and you will see for yourself that every kind of thing will be well. … And in these words God wishes us to be enclosed in rest and peace.” Julian’s words teach us that whatever happens, somebody bigger than either you or I is in charge of the cosmos. The storms may rage, we may feel we are sinking, but Jesus our Lord will always be there. Julian also wrote:

“He did not say ‘You shall not be tempest-tossed, you shall not be work-weary, you shall not be discomforted’. But he did say, ‘You shall not be overcome.’ God wants us to heed these words so that we shall always be strong in trust, both in sorrow and in joy.”

All will be Well
All will be Well
All manner of Things will be Well

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Reason enough to reform our present Health Care Situation

"I don''t have health insurance, can't afford it! If I get hurt, my friends and family all know what to do - shove me in the car, put it in neutral, and let it run downhill.If all goes well, I am covered by the car insurance and I can go to the hospital!"

Overheard at tonight's Vigil for Health Care Reform in Missoula.

Dear Senators Baucus and Tester, and Representative Rehberg - Please do what's RIGHT, what is MORAL, what is COMPASSIONATE, what helps every single person in this nation from the unborn to the elderly.

If you have taken $$ from the opposition, smile brightly and tell them thank you- you'll use those resources to do WHAT IS RIGHT FOR OUR COUNTRY, and pass a Health Care Reform bill that includes a PUBLIC OPTION now.

I would be happy to write those thank you notes for you if you are too busy PASSING REFORM that makes it possible for average people to feel PROUD of our country.

Just do it. You know you want to.