Saturday, December 22, 2007

Cranberry-Pecan Pound Cake

My family's Christmas dinner is tonight. In a couple of hours I will go over to my mother's house and begin to help her with the food. Doing so, is tradition. Right now I'm waiting for the beeps that will let me know that my Cranberry-Pecan Pound Cake is done. This is the third cake of the day. The first and second refused to come out of my highly decorative, fluted, non-stick Bundt pan even though I buttered it liberally. Don't you just love non-stick pans that give you all kinds of false confidence.

No matter, I'm sure this one will be perfect and my children and husband got to snack on the less than perfect first cake and I have another less than perfect cake for the freezer where it will stay until all signs of sugar glut have vanished. Then I will thaw the cake and be a hero.

I love this cake. It is a perfect balance of sweet and tart, creamy and crunchy, and the bright yellow of the cake is offset by the red of the cranberries and the light brown of the crust is a beauty to behold. We have ambrosia every Christmas and this cake, with its hint of orange, creates a lovely backdrop for the once a year food of the Gods. What's more, it reminds me of Ms Gladys who was the librarian when I was in junior high and high school. She made books and the library cool because she talked to us, not as children, but as people. Anyway, in the last years of her life I visited her each Christmas bearing a smaller version of this cake. She loved it and any time I saw her during the year she mentioned the cake. I suppose I should have kept her in constant supply, but I did make sure she had a small cake each Christmas.

Cranberry Pecan Pound Cake

1 cup Pecans -- chopped
1 ½ cups Cranberries -- coarsely chopped
2 cups Sugar
1 cup Butter -- room temperature
5 lg Eggs
¼ cup Sour Cream
¼ cup Orange Juice
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Orange Peel -- grated
1 ¼ cup Flour, All Purpose
1 cup Flour, Cake
½ tsp Salt
Sugar, Powdered

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter and flour 2 1/2 quart tube cake pan. Place pecans on cookie sheet and bake until lightly colored and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Cool. Coarsely chop cranberries.

Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy, scrapping sides of bowl once. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in sour cream, then juice, vanilla and orange peel. Sift all purpose flour, cake flour and salt together. With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients to egg mixture and stop when all flour has been added. Mix by hand until just combined. Fold in pecans and cranberries. Pour batter into prepared cake pan. Tap pan on counter to release any air bubbles. Bake until tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Cool cake in pan 10 minutes. Turn out onto rack and cool completely. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 and up to 3 days. Cake may be frozen up to 1 month. Dust cake lightly with powdered sugar before serving.

*****Instead of the orange juice you can use orange liqueur. I have never used cake flour in this recipe, only my standard King Arthur Unbleached. Don't expect a bright yellow color unless you use yard bird eggs.
Tonight, I'll make a private toast to Ms Gladys and all the other librarians who make it cool to read while tasting her favorite cake.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


We've got more than a few cats. In fact, I am embarrassed to tally (2+1 +3 +2 + 3 +1 or Tux + Big Puff (Buchoochus) + Out of Focus + Dinghy + Rocky + McSquizzy + Tar Baby + Stub + Zilla + Dumpling + BarBar + Bumble Bee) the figure because speaking the number would make it real. The other thing that makes it real is the tally of vet bills for spaying and neutering. Ouch.

Rubber Dinghy, the cat pictured at right(photo credit goes to K, my budding photographer son), is one of six cats who has reached his six month birthday. I just called to make the appointments and the receptionist had that voice - you know the one, I've used it myself - that indicates that we don't do our part in the spaying and neutering war. She must be new, because our charts show lots of neutering. We've even neutered cats who don't belong to us if they stuck around more than a few days. Anyway because of the voice, I made sure to mention we were a dumping place for kittens and that all of the kittens weren't produced here by our failure to neuter.

Now, why did I feel compelled to share that information? What difference does it make what that girl thinks? Perhaps, she wasn't even thinking what I thought she was thinking. Perhaps she was already tallying the bill and was rendered speechless. Yet, I didn't want anyone to think I was responsible for all those kittens, so said more than required. Do y'all do that (say more than is required to preserve your image or assuage some deep seated guilt) - not just about cats, but about anything?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Chase

I've written frequently about how much I enjoy keeping chickens. I love to watch them set and maintain their social order. I love to watch the roosters act just like human men so I can make derogatory comments about the less evolved species (Unfortunately there was this article claiming men evolve faster so I'll have to choose my audience carefully. Of course, the article also claimed men are simpler creatures, therefore able to evolve faster so perhaps I can change my angle). And I love to eat eggs and chicken.

But sometimes quirks of nature, timing, and luck create circumstances that stretch that loving relationship to the breaking point. Remember this half breed, orphaned rooster, Sport? Well, he grew. He matured, you know, sexually. Guess what? He still thinks he is a cat, if you know what I mean. When I first looked out the window and saw him attempting the impossible, I laughed. Now, neither the cats nor I find him amusing in the least. You see, he has a few other bad habits.

First and foremost of Sport's bad habits is that he won't roost in the chicken coop. He has decided to roost in the cedar tree right outside my bedroom window. He started roosting there soon after the mama cat rejected him because of, you know, his newly acquired passion. Because he has chosen not to roost in the coop, we have no control over his comings and goings, food, or safety - not to mention, noise level. When roosters get older, they crow. They crow a lot - not just when the sun rises, but when the wind rattles the tin on the house, a car makes too much noise going down the road, when they sense danger, and to get attention. Sport crows incessantly at night, usually starting around 2 a.m. After a few nights of 2 a.m. crowing, Mr. W and I decided Sport had to go.

Each year we eat all the roosters except two who are carefully chosen for genetic traits we wish to accentuate in our flocks. We had a few late summer roosters who were slated for the dinner table, so we decided to go ahead and harvest them, and Sport the Loud. Honestly, I have a difficult time with the actual harvest, but can pluck and clean a bird with amazing efficiency, so I let my husband go out first and take care of the nasty business, then I join him do the rest. On the morning of the scheduled harvest, I waited my typical 15 to 20 minutes inside the house, then tromped outside expecting to get right to work.

Instead I saw a flashlight in the barn. I called out, "Mr. W what are you doing?"

"I'm trying to do what we planned to do," he called out in an annoyed voice.

"But, why are you in the barn?," I asked in a forced cheerful voice.

"One of the roosters got away and I'm trying to catch it." Understatement of the year. If a rooster is loose in the barn the chances of catching it are almost nothing.

He walked back toward the house with one rooster under his arm and a flashlight in the other hand. I mentioned that it would be impossible to catch anything since he didn't have a spare hand. I offered to hold the rooster he had in his arm while he caught the other. He caught sight of the rooster on the cattle gap and since chickens don't see that well (so we thought) in the dark, he thought he would be able to catch it there. The rooster obviously has no dark induced balance or sight problems because he negotiated the bars with aplomb, whereas the humans almost broke their necks. The chase continued for about an hour and a half until the sun arose and the other chickens awoke. We let the other roosters free and vowed to take care of business the following morning.

The following morning was a comical repeat of our chase and failure. We vowed to lure the rooster into the coop, or garden, or the shed, or .... anywhere he could be caught, but to no avail. The rooster was always one step ahead, all day. That night we vowed to capture the rooster as he was climbing to his roost in the cedar tree. Sport would climb the wood pile to reach the lowest branch and Mr. W would be waiting for him. The rooster then would fly to the ground and run around the house. After a while, Sport would try again and again and again. We gave up. That night the rooster mocked us all night with his incessant crowing and we arose early with a newly created plan. Mr. W would shoot the rooster with a rifle. The rooster hopped out of that tree as soon as Mr. W opened the screen door and Mr. W chased the rooster around the house with his rifle. I see visions of Elmer Fudd here. Sport never stayed still enough for Mr. W to get a shot, though he fired twice. We harvested the other roosters that morning, deciding to give Sport a reprieve until a new plan is formed.

My sister spent last Saturday night here. After being awakened at 2 a.m. by Sport's caustic crow, she said she would put the capture and harvest of that crazed rooster on the top of her list.

Sport is still on the lam. We are still in pursuit.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Excuses, Excuses

Forgive me, for I have been negligent. Twenty days have passed since my last blog entry.

I think every member of my family who reads my blog has asked me why I haven't posted. My aunt even called my mother to get the scoop. My mother even suggested that if I have no intention of writing then I should at least tell every one so they will not continue to expect. m~ has emailed, asking what is happening. Zilla's post, though I'm sure she wasn't speaking directly to me, made me feel obligated to entertain since we are not yet in the grips of winter.

Here are my excuses. In the past 20 days:
  1. I have produced and packaged 20 dozen pieces of biscotti.
  2. I have produced dozens of frosted sugar cookie stockings for the Nutcracker soldiers and Chinese, complete with cute personalized gift tags.
  3. I have created and printed Christmas cards for 4 people for a total of 475 cards and mine are not even the cutest, so I won't get the best Christmas card award(a sister competition) this year.
  4. I have dipped candles until my right arm is sore.
  5. I have moved and stacked wood for the fireplaces until my back is sore.
  6. I have made chicken soup for a sick friend. I had to clean the rooster first.
  7. I have eaten so much sugar that I feel lethargic and unable to complete sentences.
  8. I have finished my Christmas shopping, well almost.
  9. My washing machine quit while completely full of water. They had to order a part.
  10. I have produced enough cupcakes and multi-colored royal icing for an entire cub scout pack Christmas party.
  11. I have a job that sometimes takes more time than scheduled.
  12. I cleaned my kitchen and even tossed some four year old food magazines.
  13. My husband decided now would be a good time to finish the bathroom (the only bathroom in the house so far) only three years after we moved here and two weeks from Christmas.
Though I promised an amusing post today, it'll have to wait until tomorrow. Am I forgiven?