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  • The Seven Links

    There is a game going around the Blogging world called Seven Links.  Basically there are 7 questions, that you answer using previous posts of yours. My dear friend Lizzy over at That Skinny Chick Can Bake tagged me, so here I go (grumble, grumble, grumble)! 
    Before I start, I must say I was really not sure I was happy about this tag. But in retrospect, it’s been very cathartic. It let’s me see how my blog has progressed, how may new people I have met, where I want to improve, etc.
    So, we’ll have to change that grumble, to a thanks, LIZZY!
    1.  Most Beautiful Post: I would say from a culinary standpoint, the Frico Cups I made for the Daring Bakers Edible Containers was the most beautiful.
    2.  Most Popular Post: Surprising to me the Flour Tortillas was the second most popular post.  The first was the Homemade Vanilla that you’ll see in No. 5.
    3.  Most Controversial Post:  I am fortunate enough to say I don’t have one!
    4. The Most Helpful Post: Wooden Spoon Butter – wonderful treatment for all your wooden kitchen toys as well as cutting board. This actually could have gone under No. 7 as well – not getting the attention it deserved. This stuff is an absolute necessity if you’re mean to your wooden kitchen gadgets!
    5.  Post that was surprisingly successful:   Homemade Vanilla – how surprised was I that this has had the most hits. It doesn’t hurt that FoodBuzz picked this as one of its flavors of the month postings!

    6.  Post that did not get the attention it deserved: My Mom’s Italian Bread – I thought it was great and the photos were terrific, but it didn’t seem to get much attention! So hard to tell what will ever get attention, isn’t it?

    7.  Post you are most proud of: To me, my Grandma Rosie’s Ravioli  is my most beautiful post, but that is purely from a content perspective. I have wanted to try this recipe of my Great Grandmother’s for a long time. It’s Tommy’s favorite, and it as his 21st birthday.

    There are 2 rules.  1 link per category.  And to tag 5 other bloggers.  Here are my 5:
    JamieAnne – A Dash of Domestic
    Danielle – Hugs & Cookies
    And from a purely honorary standpoint (mis you, love you, always) –

    Pavlova with Strawberries and Raspberries

    I think sometimes I get so caught up in life and work and cooking and laundry and cook-alongs I want to keep up with (very unsuccessfully, I might add) and every day cooking and blogging and, of course, my silly dog, that photos of recipes I tried get lost in the shuffle.

    Such was the case with my son Tommy’s birthday cake. Yes, I know, I know, his birthday was in March and it is now July. And I know I did a spectacular post for his birthday dinner of Grandma Rosie’s Ravioli – and one would think that would have been enough cooking for one day but nooooooooooo – he wanted a pavlova for dessert.

    Not being one tp deny my darling son any culinary request, I turned to the Domestic Goddess herself for help. Nigella Lawson’s pavlova recipes are terrific – though they really are basically all the same with a different fruit or adding some cocoa powder to make a chocolate pav. This particular version is adapted from How to Be a Domestic Goddess‘ Christmas Pavlova.

    Not that I am trying to diminish the wonderfulness of MOI, but this recipe is so simple it isn’t even funny! It looks so spectacular and elegant no one would guess the simplicity in the process.

    • 8 large egg whites
    • pinch of salt
    • 500 g (17.5 oz) superfine sugar
    • 1 tablespoon corn starch
    • 2 teaspoons vinegar
    • 500 mL (2 cups) whipping or double cream
    • Strawberries
    • Raspberries

    NOTE: The eggs should be at room temperature. This step makes all the difference in the world. Leave them out for a few hours before separating the eggs. Use the egg yolks for a creme brulee or a pudding.

    Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and draw an 8-inch (20 cm) circle on the paper with a kitchen pencil. Turn the paper over so the pencil markings will not be against your pavlova.

    NOTE: You really can just do this free form. Those of you who know me already know I am a bit kooky about things like this. If you tell me in a recipe I should do it, then gosh darn it I am going to do it – at least the first time!

    Beat the egg whites and salt with the whisk attachment of a stand mixer or an electric beater until thick soft peaks form. Beat in the sugar, a scattered spoonful or two at a time, until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Sprinkle over the cornstarch, vinegar and rosewater, and gently fold into the meringue.

    Pour the meringue into the middle of the circle . Using a spatula, roughly flatten the top and smooth the sides.

    Place in the preheated oven and immediately turn down the temperature to 300°. Bake for 1 3/4 hours, during which time the meringue will puff up. Turn off the heat, open the door and leave to cool sitting in the oven — it should be left to cool in the oven until shortly before serving, or alternately it can be cooked ahead of time and stored in an airtight container for a week or so.

    While the pavlova is cooking, wash, hull, and slice the strawberries. Sprinkle a little sugar over the berries. Wash the raspberries and set 1/2 aside. The other half add to a small pot, over a low flame until they breakdown and release their juice and begins to thicken.

    NOTE: I strained this. I don’t like seeds. If the seeds don’t bother you, skip this step.

    Whip the whipping  cream until thick and airy but not stiff. Once completely cooled, remove the meringue from the oven, gently move to a large flat-bottomed serving plate, removing the parchment paper. Make sure the flat side is on the serving plate. Pile on the whipped cream. Neatness does not count here.  It’s messy appearance is part of its charm.

    Scatter the strawberries and raspberries over the whipped cream.  Drizzle some of the raspberry syrup over the berries. Dive in!

    I love the berries with the squishy marshmallow of the pavlova. I could probably just eat the entire pavlova alone. Meringue has always been one of my favorite things. Enjoy!

    Wooden Spoon Butter

    I love wooden utensils. I have a collection that I have bought all over the world, been given as gifts from friends and one from my Grandmother’s kitchen. Each time I use them I am reminded of the place I bought it or the person that gave it to me or my darling Grandmother.

    But, I am a beast. Truly, I am. Just ask my precious collection of wooden spoons, wooden forks, wooden spatulas, wooden cutting boards. I am sure I have caught them trying to escape.

    I use them constantly. I leave them sitting in pots of liquid. I leave them sitting in the sink getting all kinds of ick poured on them. I leave them sitting across hot pots and pans. They get poured on, steamed, stirred, scorched and burned regularly.

    And you may want to avert your eyes here, I have even put them in the dishwasher.

    Recently I have become the proud owner of a couple of beautiful wooden utensils from Kitchen Carvers (can you say spurtle?) and one from Thibeault’s Table (thank you Linda) – these have never been in the dishwasher, but, still, they do take a beating.

    While reading a post over at Food in Jars, I came across a recipe for spoon butter. Thinking this would be something yummy to put on toast, I kept reading and then became enthralled with a recipe for a wood conditioning ‘butter’ for my poor, abused and neglected wooden treasures. Marisa had found the recipe over at 3191 Miles Apart.

    I am telling you, this is ingenious.

    This was something that had to be done, if for no other reason than to help my wooden implements know that they truly are loved.

    To start, you need 1/4 pound of beeswax, 16 oz of mineral oil and a quart sized jar.

    There is some debate over using mineral oil for this process. They do make a mineral oil in a food grade so you might want to hunt that down, or try Amazon, they have it. I bought the mineral oil at IKEA (I can hear my friend Rick gasping). Jojoba oil works too. My health food store carried the beeswax.

    Off we go to resuscitate my spoons.

    Place a quart-sized jar in a small saucepan and fill it about a third of the way up with water. Put the beeswax in the jar and bring it to a good simmer.

    As it is melting, drizzle in the contents of a 16 ounce bottle of mineral oil. They should emulsify on their own, use a wooden implement to stir it together if it needs a bit of help.

    Take your jar out of the water bath, allow to cool and it’s ready to use. It will be a thick consistency.

    To treat the wood, you may want to sand surfaces that are stained or nubbly with fine grit sandpaper.  Then – and this is the icky part for me – dip your hand into the spoon oil and rub into the wood.

    Allow the wood to sit and absorb the oil for anywhere from a few hours to a few days, then buff dry with a clean cloth. That’s it!

    I did the same for my cutting boards and wooden rolling pins! And after all this, my hands felt great too!