Monday, April 9, 2012

Kitchen Screwups: From Disaster to Delicious!

On Easter Eve (that's the Saturday before Easter) I awoke feeling like I had been hit by a truck. I really didn't want to get out of bed — I was sniffly, achy, and really sleepy. But I had to...we'd promised the Boy that we'd attend an Easter Egg Drop (Eggs dropped from a helicopter, really). It was early, cold, and windy, and I was grumpy. Not a good combination, for sure. Not even the magic of coffee was helping.

After two hours in sub-zero weather (ok, it just felt like that) we came home, I collapsed on the couch and after some loving attention from my boys, I eventually dozed off...all the while mentally tracking the numerous things I needed to get done before Easter.

Besides dyeing eggs, organizing dinner, and making other "child-related preparations," I wanted to make cupcakes for Easter dessert. I had something like this in mind:
Cute, right?

Cute, supplies on hand, easy to do. Or so one would think. (One who was thinking clearly, would think.)

I awoke from my all-day nap, groggy and congested as ever, but decided to get to work. It had to be done now or else it would never get done. 

I melted chocolate and spread it on a cookie sheet to firm. I diligently sifted dry ingredients: flour, salt, baking powder, sugar. Then mixed the wet ingredients: butter, eggs, vanilla, milk. I found my favorite natural paper cupcake liners and used the last of them in my vintage cupcake pans. Vintage might be going too far. I've had them since we got married...25 years. Is that vintage or just old?

I carefully blended the wet and dry together,  following directions exactly. I measured out portions so each liner was 2/3 full. And gently placed them in the preheated oven, spacing them out so they would cook evenly.

Within 2 minutes I knew there was something wrong. I heard sizzles and spatters. Not supposed to happen. Opening the oven I took notice of a few overflowing cups. I know I didn't overfill them. So it wasn't a great big deal, right? Closing the door, I allowed my old friend Denial to take over. They'll finish out fine, let it go. 

Another minute or two...Uh oh, now I started smelling smoke. Smoke?! Opening the door again, I thrust an empty cookie sheet under the bottom rack to catch dripping batter. That should fix it. Denial again. Hmph.

See the smoky haze in the background? It got worse!
I meandered over to the dining room table to watch the Boy dyeing eggs. Husband was taking pictures and suddenly said, "Oh My God, look at that!" Smoke was billowing, yes billowing, from the stove. We scattered across the house throwing open doors and windows (It was 30 degrees outside by that time) and pulling down smoke alarms off the walls. I can't stand it when they blare out "Hey lady, you're burning something!" At least it sounds like that to me. 

Then I opened the oven door to this:
There are no words for this...

So denial didn't work, darn it! I pulled the whole mess out of the oven. Husband joked that I would be getting some brand new cupcake pans. But I was determined that all my effort, failure that it was, would result in something edible.

I peeled every bit of cake I could get out and off those pans and dumped it into a bowl. And stared at the mess of crumbs. Now what? Wracking my brain, I seemed to remember something about mushed up cake being used for cake balls. That's it! I'll make cake balls.

"Husband, could you run down to Rutter's and get a can of cake frosting?" "Really, you're going to buy cake frosting?"(I didn't want to waste real buttercream if this, too, was a failure) So he did run to Rutter's. And bought orange juice, too, for which I was so grateful. My, that man must love me!

While he was at Rutter's I scribbled across the recipe page in my Betty Crocker cookbook, "DO NOT USE!!!" God forbid someone else tried this horrid recipe. Don't they test these things?

I added half a can of frosting to the crumbs and stirred it in well. Then, using my hands, rolled out balls of cake/frosting mixture, plopped them on a cookie sheet and popped them in the fridge to solidify. I removed the previously melted, now firm, chocolate from the fridge, broke it up and melted it once again. Once the cake was firm, using two forks, I dipped it into the chocolate then returned the tray of balls to the fridge.

And finally, I turned my attention to cleaning up the enormous mess: crumbs and chocolate everywhere. Burnt crud on the inside of the oven, all over my pans, all over the floor. Sink filled with gross, soggy cake. Ugh. I scrubbed and swept and scrubbed some more. Then turned on the oven's self cleaning function to finish off anything left in unreachable corners. While the stove was doing it's thing, and keeping the house a toasty temperature, I read over the recipe again. It's a basic yellow cake recipe...supposed to be easy. Where did it go wrong? Oh my, it called for 3 teaspoons of baking powder, not 3 tablespoons. Mea Culpa. And a Happy Easter to All!

And they were edible, too. Disaster fixed.
Happy Easter from the Boy and his mama.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Silk Dyeing Easter Eggs

We have been saving our Leghorn chicken's white eggs for two weeks now. Our other birds lay green-blue eggs, but we wanted the white ones for Easter egg dyeing. We usually do the normal food coloring/vinegar dye bath, with periodic experimentation with a few natural dyes. We always try a few supplemental methods, like using white wax crayons to draw designs, tie dyeing, or making botanical prints. This year, we played with silk dyeing. 

Our first task was to save white eggs. I went to the store thinking to maybe buy a dozen, but they were all marked with little pink date stamps. Each egg. Weird. When did chickens start laying eggs with date stamps? But I wanted to decorate the eggs, so they won't work for me. We only have one Leghorn, so it took awhile to gather a dozen white eggs. 12 days to be exact! Fresh eggs are very hard to peel, but by collecting over two weeks the eggs should be ok to boil and peel.

Second task: gather printed silk items that we don't mind trashing. I have a few silk scarves, but didn't want to ruin them so we headed out to the Salvation Army one Wednesday (1/2 price day). We each selected our "favorite" silk ties from the plethora of choices. It's amazing to think that people really wore some of those things, and no surprise they were donated away...thank you donors! We narrowed it down to a bare handful and headed home with our purchases.

Time to gather supplies!
Raw Eggs
Silk cloth that can be cut up (Note: 100% silk only)
White fabric such as an old sheet or pillowcase
Pot of water
Twist Ties
Paper or cloth towels
Vegetable Oil (optional)

Now the fun began. Dyeing!

Uncle Fester and his tie collection.
We sorted our ties to examine their colors and patterns, discussing the merits of each and predicting the outcomes of each color.

Each tie was opened up, liner fabric and tags removed.

We cut the fabric to fit around the egg and had to decide if we wanted the twist tie to go at the top or the side. It depends on how your eggs will be displayed. In a carton, put the twist tie at the narrow end. In a bowl on their side, put the twist tie on the long side.
Wrapping the egg tightly, we twisted the tie in place.

When the dozen were all wrapped, we then wrapped each egg in a white piece of fabric and twist tied in place.

Fill a pot with water and add 1/4 c vinegar.
Add the eggs and turn the heat on. We were surprised that the eggs floated, I guess it's the air bubbles in the fabric pouches. So I placed a glass lid on top of the eggs to hold them down.

Wait for the water to boil. Boil gently for 20 minutes.
Remove from water, drain, and cool.

Unwrap and marvel at the beauty!

You can rub a bit of veg oil on each egg to make them shiny, if you want. We didn't because we will save our two favorite eggs and let the insides dry out. (We have eggs from the Boy's Kindergarten years on up.) If you rub them with oil, the moisture can't evaporate. If you wish to save eggs, don't close them up in a carton...let the moisture evaporate! You end up with an egg that rattles like a gourd.

Note: My dear friend Alice tried this method and was rather disappointed. She added more vinegar to her water and said subsequent batches resulted in brighter colors. We'll give that a try next year. Thanks Alice! 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Potatoes in the garden

Planting time is here. Even though the weather has been fantastically warm, I've been holding off on putting anything into the ground. Potatoes, onions, strawberries, elderberries, lettuces, spinach, and leeks — all piling up in the sun porch. 

I usually put the potatoes, onions and greens in around the 15th of April. But the warm days finally got to me, and the Purple Viking potatoes went in yesterday. 

Oh how I love potatoes! They're like little treasures just biding their time, until August's drying winds withering the stems and leaves signal time to dig! And then I go, on hands and knees, unearthing troves of earthly gems. Great big "peelers" and tiny, bantam-egg fryers. Pounds and pounds spread upon the picnic table to dry in the warm shade. The excitement of weighing the bounty and calculating my seed to harvest ratio.

Those little golden nuggets of potato goodness kept us going all winter. And that was with Husband making fried potatoes nearly every weekend. Plus nurturing our family's love of mashed potatoes. I think we could have them every night and everyone would be quite happy. Usually we run out of potatoes in December, but our supply amazingly made it to February. This year's goal is to make it to spring!

Today we will plant one of the other varieties: Bintje, Colorado Rose, or Rio Grande. And I will bring the greens out to harden off. I do love gardening time! Yay spring!