No matter where you are on this planet, we share similar circumstances of staying at home because of a pandemic. I am quite fortunate to have my job as an educator at the university. We are working at home! I sit, perched, on a tall stool in my kitchen participating in virtual meetings and virtual teaching. My favorite place in the house continues to be the kitchen. This is my creative spot. I get great vibes in my kitchen environment. Before the pandemic, people gathered in my kitchen, though it’s quite small for someone who loves to cook. We have lived in this house only since the previous May. My former house had three ovens for my baking, and it had more room, but a similar kitchen space. I have but one oven and cooking range in this house. I am not deterred, however. I manage to cook at least once a day, but usually two times. We will sample a few of my dishes of late but first, a digression.
Another great thing about this house is that it has magnificent windows! I have placed bird feeders and bird baths in my back yard with great views of the birds, and my yard list is growing quickly. My featured photo, though blurry, is a Carolina Wren that frequents the feeders and bath. I heard a barred owl last night. That’s a new one for me, now that I live on the east side of the 100th meridian. Now, for the food.
Yesterday morning for breakfast, we had avocado toast topped with Brisling, a.k.a. bristling, sardines, packed in two layers. We came upon this idea from the chef and food scientist, Alton Brown. I’m not crazy about his method, so I changed it up a bit.
One ripe avocado serves two open faced toasts. I use dense, seed bread, toasted.
Mash one ripe avocado. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and mix with fresh lime juice.
Mix two tablespoons (225g) of Sherry Vinegar (I prefer that from Spain. Not sure if it comes from any other place!) in with the sardines, being careful not to break up the tiny, delicate, nutrient-packed, North Atlantic fishes!
After you toast the bread, assemble your food. Spread the avocado mixture on the toasted bread. Then lay the sardines side-by-side (head to tail, though there is no head!) on the bread. It is a nutrient-dense breakfast, and you will be set for a full morning! We had a nice cup of coffee with our toasts! Here’s the picture.
Speaking of dense foods, here’s a cake with a dense crumb! First, I must tell you a back story. Back in the 1970s, when slow cookers first arrived on the kitchen scene, one of the manufacturers produced a cake pan for the slow cooker. It makes these wonderful, little dense cakes, which work best for chocolate cakes. I don’t think white cakes do too well, unless you’re wanting a pound cake!
I was in the right place at the right time when I received the cake pan. At an estate sale auction, a man had given the winning bid for a kitchen and housewares lot. He looked at the cake pan with a puzzled expression on his face. I asked him if he knew the identity of the thing in his hand. He said, “No!” I told him that it was a cake pan. He said, “Here, take it!” The rest is history.
There is a recipe for a chocolate cake which uses mayonnaise. That makes the perfect, dense, chocolate cake. Usually, I cut the cake in two so that I have a two-layered cake. In baking/cooking this cake you are “flying blindly,” because you cannot look at it. Your sense of smell will tell you when it’s done, which is usually about 2.5 to three hours with the slow cooker set on “high.” You could likely do the same cooking process with a tin coffee can, assuming you won’t find this cake pan.
This is the cake pan and how it fits into the slow cooker:
Here’s the recipe:
Butter and dust with flour one cake insert for slow cooker (or that tin coffee can), and set aside.
For the Cake:
2 cups (250g) of all-purpose wheat flour
1.5 cups (300g) white sugar
6 TBS (36g) cocoa powder
1 teaspoon (5.69g) baking soda
1 teaspoon (5.69g) salt
Mix all the dry ingredients to blend. Then add blended wet ingredients.
1 large egg
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup (236.59 mL) hot water (not boiling). This activates the baking soda, salt, and egg as the leavening agents.
Add vanilla to taste. Pour the batter into your cake pan or coffee can.
Bake, covered, in your slow cooker on high for 2-3 hours. I usually check after 2.5 hours.
Once you take it out of the cooker, invert it on a wire rack to cool. Slice through at the equator of the cake for a two-layer cake, and frost with your favorite cream cheese frosting. It’s yummy!
Finally, I have to tell you about a virtual cocktail party that I had, recently, with two of my co-workers. We had made it a practice to meet up after work on Fridays to share a drink and a snack previously. In this new format of social distancing, we decided to have a virtual cocktail party. I will only give their initials. “T” was having jelly beans and a glass of Bourbon. “M” enjoyed a shot of vodka and some fresh tamales, made by a friend. I “went all out” and enjoyed Icelandic caviar atop a corn biscuit and sour cream. Usually, I would have baked small corn muffins for this, but I found these wonderful little corn biscuits on sale. I chased it with a small shot of vodka in a chilled glass. We talked about work for a while, but mostly the conversations centered on the future of our lives with family, work, and other social and familial worries. The important thing is to stay connected one way or another with out meeting face-to-face with those you esteem and love. Cheers to you!
I think we will emerge strong from this pandemic. Remember to distance from others, wash your hands, and don’t touch your face! Thank you for reading.