What’s In a Name?

Good question.

I’ve known that my mom was unusually short of breath and dizzy for the better part of two years. I’ve known that every time I take her to the emergency room, they are alarmed at her pulse oxygen level. I’ve known that she’s fallen more than once, and that the dizziness is a likely contributing factor. I’ve known that she has smoked for more than 60 years, and that all of these things are probably related.

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Gather Ye Rosebuds

Yesterday, I didn’t make myself lunch. I got some good news during the morning (I went to the doctor and got caught up on all my general health screenings after more than two years without going to the doctor, because I lost faith in my primary care doc and then I took my sweet time replacing her. Although I had been warned that my blood pressure was starting to be a problem, it came in under the wire for hypertension, and the prediabetes that is probably only a matter of time, given my family history, isn’t yet bad enough that they’re going to force medication, given that I’m serious about lifestyle modification.) Anyway, the last of the tests came in clear. That, combined with a cancelled afternoon meeting sent me out for lunch, even though it was a busy day. I had a nice lunch (though a little disappointingly salty, which is hard to say about a salad), and on the way back to the office, had the irresistible urge to stop for ice cream. I’ve been really careful about calories lately, so I tried hard to resist, but I kept being prodded toward ice cream. I gave in and stopped, at some trouble (the first two places I stopped were busts.)

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Here’s the Thing

There are a lot of things I like about the idea that there might be a flirtation developing at Toastmasters (I have nothing to report on this, BTW— he wasn’t at this week’s meeting.) He’s nice, handsome, interesting, and I’d be highly complimented. It might not be— he might have felt a non-romantic connection, or might be trying to encourage me, since he sees that I’m taking on a leadership role in the club— a role he himself has held. I know for sure he’s a nice guy, and he hasn’t done anything overtly romantic, just expressed a continuing warmth of interest somewhat greater than I’d expect from a network contact. I’m for sure trying not to let my imagination run away with me. With that said, his warmth hasn’t been of the “good for you for stepping up” variety— it’s been of the “that took a lot of guts” and the “I admire what you did there,” variety— something just a little more personal.

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Recipe Review: Onion Jam

One of the highlights of my week is “The Splendid Table” podcast. I’m not a saver of new things— if I get a cool new shirt, I wear it pretty quickly, possibly because Mom is a “save it for a special occasion” person, and I don’t like to have a bunch of things with the tags still on them. But I save “The Splendid Table” to savor. Early on, I’d happen to listen to it on Saturdays when I was taking the pooch to physical therapy, and it was such a nice, meditative, nourishing in the best sense, experience. So now, I save it for Saturdays, as part of my ritual.

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Recipe Innovations: Brown Butter Cherry Vanilla Cake

Remember the cherry-lime coffee cake?

I found myself with part of a bag of cherries I needed to use or lose. I thought about making the cherry-lime cake, but felt like I wanted to go another way with it.

I thought and thought about what way to skew it, and came up with cherry-vanilla. I liked the idea of the bourbon-based vanilla in with the cherries. I thought and thought about a bright note to call out of the richness, but kept coming up with rich notes to add. Almonds. Brown butter. Cinnamon.

I settled on brown butter. I needed sweetness and thought through honey, the agave the recipe calls for, sugar. I settled on brown sugar. If I’m going to be unapologetic, might as well go all the way. I substituted it for the white sugar in the recipe, too.

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I washed and pitted the cherries while the butter browned. Once the butter was browned, I added a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar, stirred it while the sugar dissolved, and then added the cherries. Once the cherries softened, I added a jealous glug of the homemade vanilla and let it cook down for a minute or two.

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I removed it from the burner and let it cool a little, so that it wouldn’t cook the eggs when I added it all to the dry ingredients. When it had cooled for a few minutes, I added the almond milk to the warm skillet, to cool it more quickly. I scrambled the eggs separately and added them and the sourdough once the cherry mixture cooled enough.

I baked the cake much as I did last time, and the batter, despite less acid, was nearly as active as the last time. It rises much more than my regular sourdough coffee cake.

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It’s a tasty cake, with a strong flavor of browned butter and lots of toothsome cherries. The vanilla could have been stronger, but it’s there, and subtle. Not overly sweet, moist.

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I think Mom is working on picking a fight with me, so she said that it was firmer than she thought it would be, but it’s not in the least firm (as cakes go). She also called it “interesting.” For a woman who expects praise for every single thing she does (she asks me how the iced tea is every time she makes a pitcher— iced tea doesn’t vary much from pitcher to pitcher, given that we use the same ratio of hot water to tea bags), she can be somewhat sparse with her thanks and feedback given that I bake her at least one thing from scratch nearly every week (which replaces something far less special that she’d buy off the clearance bakery rack), and make her several fairly labor intensive meals. But fighting with her is not a great use of my energy.

My only objection to it is that it’s just a little more subtle than I’d like it to be. I feel like I’d add more vanilla. I think you could add cocoa to it and have something pretty special. I’m wondering about a little orange or lemon zest— not a lot, just a little something bright, added with the cherries, to provide a bit of differentiation between the rich, dark flavors. I think cinnamon, ginger, or cardamom could work that way, too.  Let me know if you try it, and what you think!