Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Triple Ginger Bars

I spent the day in the kitchen today, my favorite way to spend time. :)

I made cornbread, then cornbread dressing; also vanilla mashed sweet potatoes, and a pumpkin pie. The Brussels sprouts are trimmed and ready to roast, the hazelnuts toasted and chopped to be sprinkled on top before serving. Pumpkin scones, for Friday's breakfast, are in the freezer. We're all ready to take our part of the feast to our friend's house tomorrow.

At the last minute, I decided to make Triple Ginger Bars which are featured in the November 2011 issue of Better Homes & Gardens. Even though loaded with butter, I made the recipe according to the directions because it's a holiday! Anyway, for some reason the cake sunk quite badly in the center. Then the glaze was poured over. It cascaded down the edges and puddled in the center. As the glaze cooled, I tried to pull it up over to the edges and was only moderately successful. At a last desperate attempt to cover the wrinkled glaze and salvage the bars, I covered the surface with ground, toasted hazelnuts.

It worked, somewhat. After cutting, some of the bars had the distinct contours of a beginner ski-slope.

Oh well, I shall serve them with the best side facing outward.

Despite their appearance, these were really good. You have to like ginger a lot to appreciate them, though, because they are just filled with that nippy spice. I didn't have any fresh ginger, so I subbed 3 Tablespoons of finely-chopped crystallized ginger. Very good. I just don't know what I did wrong that would cause them fall in the center, and because of that I probably will not make them again.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Reynolds Wrap Pan Lining Paper

Yesterday my friend Jenni joined me in our Holiday Baking Day and we cranked out several dozen of each of 7 varieties of cookies. :) I hope to get them all posted in the next week or so.

But this post is a warning.

I bought Reynolds Wrap Pan Liner Paper because I couldn't find plain ol' parchment and it was horrible. The edges of the paper curled up and over and embedded themselves in the baked goods on the edges of the cookie sheet.

For another recipe, the parchment was to go over the edge of the pan to facilitate removal of the bars. The "pan lining paper" curled up and over and into the bars on two sides. Note the ridges on the bottom pan after removing the paper:

My husband didn't mind because he then got to eat the imperfect cookies/ bars. I minded because these are for gift trays/ baskets and I couldn't use them since they were not pretty.

Just a warning! I'll be returning the amount not used. :(

Monday, November 14, 2011

Restoring old wood windows, and not cooking...

Somehow, cooking has become lost for me lately since our autumn has been so very busy. Poor Jack has had so many dinners of grilled chicken breasts with whatever sauce I had in the refrigerator, some veggies, and a baked potato that I do not need to write about my cooking. Yes, there are a few times in the past several weeks where I actually had the time to make a decent dinner, but these were few and also were already-tried recipes that I have previously posted.

We don’t eat much prepared food and I was at a loss as to what to buy to make meals easier. I did purchase a veggie lasagna at TJs but have yet to try it. I can only thank Trader Joe and his barbeque sauces, Indian simmer sauces, and items like butternut squash ravioli, frozen roasted corn and frozen roasted bell pepper & onion combos. At least I wasn’t opening a can of corn.

I shall blog today about windows, because that is what has consumed my time over the past weeks. We live in a 144-year-old home that is constructed of brick and has the original wooden windows. Can anyone think of a more energy-inefficient type of window, other than a single sheet of plastic wrap? No? I didn’t think so. But Jack is an architect, and he is very preservation-minded, so replacing the original wooden windows with nice, tight, energy-efficient ones was not even considered. Yes, we would rather freeze than compromise on our historical home!

Well, no, not me but I had to go along with it. And build up a nice collection of heavy sweaters and thick blankets.

Many years ago, when I was much younger and full of energy (*sigh*), I worked my way around this large house, repairing windows, replacing broken or cracked glass, scraping and painting, and caulking the he** out of each window. They are as energy-efficient as they can be under the circumstances (and those are the circumstances of historical preservation).

Alas, even though I bought the “best” paint and the “best” of the other materials, I will never be done with keeping these windows looking decent. Every fall, depending on time available, I get to work on the windows.

This year, another job had been added. We have a huge barn (this used to be a dairy farm, even after 30 years the inside of the barn smells faintly of cows. Not a bad thing at all.), and a contractor arrived to replace part of the roof that was damaged in a storm last winter. The barn is set away from the house, and not very visible from the house because of the trees, so I’ve not paid much attention to it in the last few years because it’s basically a grossly oversized storage unit. But once the roof was replaced (and looking very nice) and new windows are going to be installed in the very-high dormers, I looked critically at the windows on the barn ground level and was dismayed at the shape they were in. Window panes were missing and boarded over, sills rotting, a couple of the windows were literally falling out of the clay tile blocks which surrounded them. So we asked the contractor to price replacing all of the windows. He could not find an inexpensive replacement window that Jack approved of, and the best he could come up with were vinyl windows that would have cost us $8000. For the barn. The storage barn!

I don’t know why I didn’t expect this, but Jack then suggested that perhaps I restore the barn windows.

Initially, as we stood in the barnyard looking at the worst side of windows, I considered throwing something at him; perhaps a chunk of tile that had fallen from underneath a rotting windowsill. But I resisted the urge and considered the cost savings. In addition to my very valuable time, a couple of gallons of paint, a case or two of caulk, a huge bottle of wood-glue would be all that would be necessary to preserve these windows for a little while longer. And we could use that $8000 for more visible restoration work around our home. So I began.

Three weeks later I have completed 6 of the very worst of the windows. Because I worked though our lovely Indian summer, even though we will have a couple of days here and there in the next few weeks that will be warm-ish and dry, I have quit until Spring. There is holiday stuff to plan and do!

Here is a closeup of one of the worst windows, a day or two into the process (I didn’t start taking photos right away). The broken panes had been removed, the muntins repaired or replaced, the loose paint scraped off:

And several days afterward replacing and glazing the glass panes, caulking, priming and painting with the resulting "new" window. I should have cleaned the glass but that was extra work, not necessary, and it is a barn. ;)

I’m obviously not a carpenter. Rebuilding those little “muntins” between the glass panes was, well, a pain. But they look nice, and I can only hope that they will not deteriorate too much before we are able to sell this place to a nice, historically-sensitive person who will use the barn for more than storage and will love the farm as we do. Then Jack and I can move to the retirement condo where I will have a large kitchen with brand-spanking new appliances and a small yard. There are some days where I feel as though this cannot happen soon enough!