Saturday, February 28, 2015

Ginger Crumb Cake

This recipe comes from a book titled The World in Your Teacup by Lisa Boalt Richardson and Lauren Rubenstein. The publisher I work for published this book (although I'm fairly certain it's out of print now) and I was told that a reader complained about this particular recipe, so I thought I'd try it and see where the trouble was. I won't keep you in suspense--there wasn't any trouble, except that the amount of baking time needed to be longer than what was in the book. A lot longer. But aside from that little difficulty, it's a delightful, quick and easy cake recipe, and I recommend you give the recipe a try.

Here's what you'll get to eat:

Ginger Crumb Cake

Here's the recipe, not exactly as it's written in the book, but very close.

Ginger Crumb Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulate sugar
1/2 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup cold butter (1 stick), cut into small pieces
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
2 T. dark molasses
1 tsp.  vanilla
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 x 8-inch baking dish; set aside.

Combine the flour, sugar, ginger, and cinnamon. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter until mixtures resembles coarse cornmeal. Take out 1 cup of the mixture and set aside for topping.

Add baking soda, salt, egg, molasses, vanilla, and buttermilk to the remaining mixture. Mix well using a large wooden spoon or electric mixer. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the reserved crumb mixture evenly over the top and bake for about 30 minutes or until the cake is set. (I baked mine for 32 minutes and it came out great.) Serve warm with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Homemade Multipurpose Cleaner--A Simple Vinegar and Citrus Spray

Before I get started, I just want to say that it's a very sad state of affairs that my floors got cleaned today only because I'm writing a blog post on clean floors. <Sigh...> But such is life at my house. I spend a lot of time writing, and it's just so darned easy to put off a thorough cleaning of the Lilliputian Cottage when I get to have to earn my keep writing books. But the cold hard truth is that I'd probably find some other excuse to keep me from the boring (to me, at least) task of housecleaning. I'd much rather cook or bake, or talk about cooking and baking--hence, my various cookbooks. One thing that can usually tempt me to actually clean something around here is using a new product. But because I hate spending money for said products, I usually just use my homemade, tried and true potions. Which usually consist of vinegar or baking soda. I'm a minimalist. So this latest concoction is worth noting.

I've been seeing a lot of posts recently for orange-peel infused vinegar. It looked simple, with ingredients that are readily available and relatively inexpensive. That's right down my ally, so of course I had to try it.

But why go to the effort? I could think of several reasons:
  • Although I love the smell of vinegar, I know that some people think the odor is off-putting, so one of the things I wanted to test was, could the orange peels somehow counteract--or at least lessen--the vinegar smell?

  • Vinegar diluted with warm water is such a great floor cleaner. But wouldn't it be nice to use orange-infused vinegar and leave behind that nice citrus smell? I thought it would be worth a try. (Although I want to say here that the vinegar smell goes away once my floors are dry.)

  • Ants don't like citrus. In fact, some people strew their citrus peelings around the base of their homes (outside) to deter ants. So I wondered if this vinegar might not be a natural, nontoxic ant deterrent that could be used inside--even on surfaces where food is prepared. It would be cool to spray where ants were known to travel and see if they hightailed it to somewhere else.

  • A lot of wood cleaners/conditioners have orange as an ingredient. So why couldn't I use this concoction to clean and condition my wood cabinets? It sure seemed worth a try.
So I commenced making the vinegar. First I bought some oranges. I peeled them and stuck the peels into a pint-and-a-half jar. Next, I poured in regular white vinegar to cover...right up to the top of the jar with about 1/2-inch headspace. I'd recommend that you use a quart jar so you get more infused vinegar for your efforts. I used the smaller jar because I realized in a hurry that it takes quite a few oranges to get enough peel to fill the jar up. (In my experiment, I used about 5 pretty darned big oranges.) And since I was still in the experimental stages, my well-honed sense of frugality just couldn't conscience making any more in case it was a bust.

Orange peels and vinegar, "percolating" on my kitchen counter
I let the filled jar sit covered on my kitchen counter for a week. Didn't do a thing. Just let it sit.

Next, I strained the vinegar, pressing down on the peels as I poured so I'd get every last bit of citrusy vinegary goodness. Remember that I used a pint-and-a-half canning jar? After straining, I ended up with about 2/3 of a pint of orange vinegar:
Orange infused vinegar. Note the rich color.

Now for using it!

1) The infused vinegar definitely had a citrus scent. Very citrus, in fact. That was a good start.

2) Now here's where the floor cleaning comes in. I decided to wash my floors. I use this kind of mop:
My mop. Made by Cedar.
It works like a Swiffer, but frugal me couldn't stand all the use-it-once-and-throw-it-away mentality that goes along with owning a Swiffer. This mop uses a reusable container for the cleaner and the microfiber mop head is machine washable. The trigger that releases the spray doesn't use batteries. Very low-tech. My kind of tool. Love the thing. (Well as much as you can love a cleaning implement.)

I washed my floors by pouring in about 3 tablespoons of the vinegar into the mop container and then filling the rest of the container with hot water. (By the looks of the container, I guesstimate that it holds about 2+ cups total.) Even diluted, it smelled of citrus. Promising!

And then I went to town on the Lilliputian Cottage floors. Here is a picture of the results:
Can you see how nice and shiny my floor is? Trust me, it is. My opinion is that my floors really are shinier than when I use vinegar alone. I think the oil from the orange peels made a (slight) difference, and I'll definitely use it again for floor cleaning.

3) Next I turned my attention to my grimy oven and kitchen cupboards. Here I wasn't so impressed. It didn't seem to make any difference to me. I still had to get out my toothbrush and scrub along the edges where there's molding(don't know if that's the right word).
My shadow is in the lower right corner, but this is a very clean cupboard!
I used the vinegar diluted and then tried again using it full strength. Still no discernible difference that I could tell. Rats! I was hoping to find a wood conditioner--maybe I'll work on that idea next. But this go-round wasn't it. Still, I had that underlying citrus scent to make me happy as I scrubbed and wiped, so it wasn't a total waste of oranges.

3) Regarding using this as an ant deterrent, I don't currently have ants inside the house, but I was positive I could scare some up outside, so outside I trekked. But I'd forgotten about my chickens. They obviously like ants for dinner because it further dawned on me that I haven't even had an ant problem on the chicken side of my house since they took up residence more than two years ago, and that's been the only place where I've had an ant issue inside my house (which I'm pretty sure is because it's the kitchen side of things and the ants smell the possibility of food and come marching in). So does it work? I'm not really sure. But I've read where people say it works, so here's hoping.

Bottom line: I won't be buying oranges just to get the peels from them to make this stuff. But if/when I buy oranges on sale in the future, I'll probably whip up a batch of orange infused oil to use on my floors. But then again, I may not, because like I said at the start of this post, I don't mind the smell of vinegar at all. But it sure did spit shine my floors...

Well that's it for today. Would I recommend making orange infused vinegar? Yes, I think I would. Unfortunately, it's not the fabulous, almost miraculous cleaner I was hoping for, but then again, what is? We still need to use a bit of muscle to get things clean. But the citrus scent, and the satisfaction of knowing that you made it yourself, might just be enough to get you scrubbing. It did for me.

I pray you and your loved ones are having smooth sailing currently. There are so many folks that are hurting, even as they (must) go about their days, making a living and taking care of their responsibilities. Pray for them and reach out to someone today. Be generous with your smiles and kind words and make someone's day a bit brighter.


Saturday, February 7, 2015

Don't Say Yuck Before You Try It--Tofu Enchiladas Are Surprisingly Delicious!

Let me cut right to the chase. You don't need to like tofu to like the recipe I'm about to share with you.

Oddly enough, I ate this as a kid (which was way before most people had even heard of tofu), and I loved it. Still do. And I'm quite serious when I say that you'll love it too. I have made this recipe for unsuspecting guests and served it up without telling them what was in it, and they always liked it. But I'm not slow-witted, so I always waited until their plates were empty before I spilled the beans. (Soy beans, that it!)

You can make this dish two ways: either fry the corn tortillas individually and roll them around the filling, or lay the tortillas in a casserole and make layers. Mama always made the fry-and-roll version, but I make mine like a layered casserole so I save on the oil it takes to fry. It doesn't take away from the flavor at all, and I figure it's healthier for me in the long run.

Here's the recipe:

Tofu Enchiladas

1 small onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-1 tsp. cumin
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 block tofu, drained (I use firm)
corn tortillas (about 6-8)
1 small can green chili salsa or salsa verde
1 can tomato sauce
Cheddar cheese, shredded (approx.1/2-3/4 cup)

Sauté onion and garlic in small amount of butter or oil. Season with salt, cumin, and soy sauce. Add diced or slightly mashed block of tofu. Heat through a few minutes but don't overcook.

For Sauce: Heat together the salsa and tomato sauce.

Fry tortillas in oil, but don't make them hard--they must be limp in order to roll. Fill with tofu mixture and roll up. Place them in a baking dish, pour tomato sauce mixture over enchiladas, top with shredded cheese and place in 350 degree oven until thoroughly heated and cheese has melted.

Or do what I do: Spoon a bit of tomato sauce mixture in bottom of a baking dish. Add a layer of tortillas, all of the tofu mixture, a bit of the cheese, and then another layer of tortillas. Pour tomato sauce mixture over the top and add the remaining cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until heated through and cheese is bubbly.

Don't be shy about trying these. They are an interesting and incredibly tasty combination of flavors that work well together. And do like I do--don't tell your family or friends what it is until they've licked their plates clean and proclaimed you a fantastic cook!

Blessings to you and yours and happy cooking,