Sunday, December 20, 2009

How to Soothe a Baby...

...When you're:

4 years old-- Scrunch up face and sing-song 3 inches from baby's face "heeeyyy, babybabybabybaby! It's okay, it's okay, it's okay!"

8 years old-- Insist that you're old enough to comfort the baby. Gaining possession of said baby, bounce her like a rag doll. Upon receiving further instruction, proceed to bounce baby stiffly, while trying to support her head.

12 years old-- Call out "Mom, can you get the baby to quit crying? I'm on the phone!"

16 years old-- Walk bawling baby hopelessly through the house, hoping the pay is worth this.

20 years old-- Mutter something about how cute she is and hand baby hastily back to her mother.

24 years old-- Bounce her stiffly while trying to support her head and wondering if she can wait to nurse until you get home

28 years old-- Bounce baby expertly, while swaying, swooping and talking on the phone to your sister.

32 years old-- Hand her to your older child and instruct her in the art of head-holding whilst bouncing. ...Rescue baby and resume bouncing expertly while cooking dinner.

36 years old-- Demonstrate how to properly bounce a wailing baby, then hand her back to her mother.

40 years old-- Become oblivious to everything but the fact that your teenager is using her newest electrical device in the church service.

44 years old-- Grin at all the wailing babies you come across, thinking wistfully of when your kids were babies.

48 years old-- Start hoping for grandchildren to bounce.

This is based loosely on my own time line. I started kinda young... I was thrilled to share my bouncing skills with another (even younger!) mama this morning. It obviously got me thinking.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Persimmon Pudding: The foodstuff of Legend

In order to teach you how to make persimmon pudding, you must first be given the answer to this all important question: When are persimmons ripe?

I started my quest with this seemingly simple question several weeks ago. Little did I know what an epic experience it would become. My Aunt Gail, who has been quoted without permission, wrote me a useful, albeit avant-garde answer:

"They are ripe when they are puddles of orange goop that can be scraped up off of the ground. haha. How I get ripe persimmons is by first picking up the ones on the ground that look good. They will be soft. Then, like Steve said, give the tree a gentle shake. If it is a big tree, one can throw sticks at the branches and that will knock off the ripe persimmons (Mom and I did that on the Mville courthouse lawn with Auntie Carol. I think Carol was a bit embarrassed...). You can also pick them. If they practically fall off in your hand they are ripe. Of course, tasting is a good way too. Just squish one a bit and touch it to your tongue. It may have a bit of a bite but overall should taste sweet. If your tongue shrivels up, it is not ripe!"

Because I know this post is gonna be as epic as my persimmon experience has been, I'll go ahead and include the wiki information, which is less avant-garde, and less useful:

"Commercially, there are generally two types of persimmon fruit: astringent and non-astringent.

The heart-shaped Hachiya is the most common variety of astringent persimmon. Astringent persimmons contain very high levels of soluble tannins and are unpalatable if eaten before softening. The astringency of tannins is removed through ripening by exposure to light over several days, wrapping the fruit in paper... This bletting process is sometimes jump-started by exposing the fruit to cold or frost which hastens cellular wall breakdown...

The non-astringent persimmon is squat like a tomato and is most commonly sold as fuyu. Non-astringent persimmons are not actually free of tannins as the term suggests, but rather are far less astringent before ripening, and lose more of their tannic quality sooner. Non-astringent persimmons may be consumed when still very firm to very very soft."

These are Fuyu persimmons. These are not the kind I used for most of my pudding. I used Hachiya persimmons, but I forgot to take pictures of them. They are the same color, only slightly smaller and more pointy at the end. I had to wait for a long, long time for them to get soft and ripe enough to use. Poor Edie burned her throat when she took a bite of one before it was ripe. When they're ripe, they feel like water balloons. Don't try taking a bite unless they seem to be in imminent danger of bursting. The Fuyu persimmons aren't dangerous, but they are harder to pulp properly.

This is persimmon pulp. 2 cups of Hachiya persimmon pulp. Some purists will say you must take off all the skin and take out all the seeds before pulping persimmons in the blender or a food processor. I think I took off most of the skin and took out...mmm...probably all of the seeds. But it was easy. They're very soft and squishy.

I mixed the pulp together with a bunch of flour, milk, sugar and a couple of eggs. I tossed in some baking soda, baking powder, and spices. I mixed it. I thought I could avoid having to wash my beaters and just whisk it by hand...but I ended up having to wash my beaters and my whisk. Dang.

Uh, I should probably mention that once everything was all mixed up, it looked really gross. Really. The picture doesn't really do the grossness justice. Just warning you.

Alas, I poured the cake-like mixture/goop into an ungreased 9 x 13 baking dish and sprinkled nutmeg on top because I'm a nutmeg freak. It's true.

Then the waiting began. 70 minutes. SEVENTY minutes. This was gonna be a long wait...

So I decided to have a little breakfast while I waited...

But that didn't take very long. Not nearly long enough. So I turned my attention to my tea cupboard.

I know. It's a crying shame, everything all stuffed in there. I stumbled across my newest hot chocolate experiment. You should really try it. The dark chocolate version will change your life in a good way.

Ahhh...that's much better. Everything's back in order. What's that? You're wondering why I only have three teacups to drink all that tea and hot chocolate with? Don't worry. The rest of them are right overhead.

Yes, I did arrange them for the picture. Yes, you can get your own adorable snowman mug at Dollar General for a sweet buck.What that's you say? You're getting bored waiting for the persimmon pudding to finish baking? Yeah, you and me both. Okay, we'll zoom to the end.

Oh, it's a good thing. Make absolutely sure you have your whipped cream at the ready, as this stuff just doesn't taste complete without it. You might also want to put some on top of your hot chocolate.

By the way, "pudding" is a HUGE misnomer, unless you're British and accustomed to figgy pudding, bread pudding, and the like.

Yes, I know you're all clamoring for the recipe. I will generously include both the recipe I used and the one my grandmother used when I was growing up. Make sure you don't cover your persimmon pudding with any kind of air-tight plastic wrap or it will get really gooey on the bottom. It's still good that way, but I thought I'd warn y'all in case gooey is not what you're going for.

  • Ripe persimmons (enough to make 2 cups of persimmon pulp)
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
  • Whipped cream
X Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the skin and seeds from the persimmons and puree the pulp in a blender or food processor. In a large bowl, combine the pulp, milk, sugar, eggs, flour, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla extract, and cinnamon until well mixed. Stir in the chopped nuts, if desired. Pour the mixture into an ungreased 9- by 13-inch baking pan and bake for 70 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve warm with whipped cream. Serves 8.

Grandma Inman's Persimmon Pudding:

1 cup persimmon pulp
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
3 eggs
3 heaping teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup melted margarine
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp all spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
(note from Grandma)
If you don't have all the spices, you probably won't know the difference.

Mix, then bake-- 9 x 9 pan -- 1 hour @ 375

Serve with whipped cream.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

An Addict's Confession

There are a few of you who know exactly what to expect from this post. But for the rest of you who are now a little worried about me, let me hasten to explain: my addiction is milk.

But not just any milk. Kroger milk. 2% Kroger milk. (The blue kind.)

Oh, don't forget the half and half for my tea. Once you've started adding half and half to your tea, you can't really go back to milk. My mother taught me that.

Isn't it beautiful? Yes, I did take pictures of milk while I was shopping.

I'm sure you're all wondering a few things:
1) Why are you so addicted to milk?
2) Why is there so much milk in your cart?
3) Why, if you love the blue kind so much, is there also red in your cart?
4) How do you store so much milk in your refrigerator?

Well, to clear things up a bit:
1) I don't know why I'm so addicted to milk. Growing up, my whole family drank a lot of milk. The five of us would go through about a gallon a day. I seem to be the only one who has carried the obsession into adulthood though, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because of a traumatic preschool field trip to a dairy farm. At the end of the tour, we were served warm chocolate chip cookies, which of course are immediately devoured by preschoolers. After devouring, we then craved milk. Of course. And what better to drink than warm, fresh-from-the-cow milk, right? Yuck. No. No, no, no. But when you've just devoured gooey chocolate chip cookies, you really have no choice. Especially if you're a preschooler. So I drank. And it was gross.
And ever since I've had an issue with any milk that isn't ice cold, from a plastic carton, and of a very particular taste. Every once in a while, I even reject a gallon of Kroger 2% if it tastes like what I've come to term "The Bad Milk." Not to say that it's spoiled. I can just tell a difference and I don't like it at. all. I can drink it if I plug my nose. Let's just suffice it to say that I don't drink milk anywhere other than at home. If I come to your house for dinner, I'm probably drinking water.

2) The main reason I have 8 gallons of milk in my cart is because that's about how much milk we drink in a week at my house. And I don't like to run out of milk. I can't run out. Well, I could, but it wouldn't be pretty. I've been known to send Matt out late at night or first thing in the morning because I must have milk with breakfast. A frequent question at our house is "Do you have enough milk for...(the morning, dinner, the day, etc.)?
The other reason I have so much milk in my cart is because I am greedy with my milk. I've been known to deny milk to guests, children, and my husband if I deem that there might not be enough for me later. On these occasions, I generally have decided that I probably care more about the milk than they do. This, however, flies in the face of my other tendencies, which are very hospitable and generous. So to avoid the inner conflict, we've started buying milk in large quantities. Doing this has also cut down on the amount of ribbing I receive from my loved ones about my insane milk greediness.

3) I have red milk (aka whole milk) in my cart because I have young, lanky children. It's good for their developing brain and I keep hoping it'll help them bulk up a bit. Often Matt drinks whole milk if he's worried he'll take too much 2% and therefore leave me with not enough for breakfast. Poor Matt. Luckily, I've heard that whole milk is delicious. I'm not willing to try it though. It sounds a bit thick and thick is reminiscent of cows. Half and half is different because it's mixed with tea, thus diluting the texture. I knew you'd ask.

4) We store the extra milk in my special milk refrigerator in the garage. No, we didn't buy it for that purpose. Actually, we didn't buy it at all. It's Matt's mom's old fridge. But don't think it doesn't turn my heart over with love when I see it packed to the gills with 8 gallons of milk.

It's a beautiful thing.