Thursday, April 25, 2013

Kate Miller 20: Cooking and Recipes

Good food + good company = good times.

20. Cooking and Recipes
            Kate was definitely getting her energy back. She hadn’t even realized she had been so tired, but now she was actually looking forward to an entire afternoon of cooking and baking. A month ago, the mere thought of baking a cake would have made her crawl back in bed for a long nap. Of course, there was the added benefit of company—not to cook for, but to cook with.
            “Well, Bettina,” Kate hugged her sister-in-law and asked her hesitantly, “there’s lots of cooking we could do today. Would you like to help?” Kate remembered how she had started learning the fun of cooking with friends when she was a freshman in college. Maybe now was Bettina’s turn. She certainly appreciated good food, and that’s always a good starting place.
            “Yes!” Bettina replied enthusiastically. She jumped up and washed her hands.
            Kate loved it when Bettina spoke in exclamations. Her sister-in-law was thin and strong and perky; inevitably reminding her either of the quick, cute chipmunk that lived underneath their porch, or a lively, energetic, happy, puppy dog (though vastly superior for her not being one, since Kate, though she appreciated their cuteness, didn’t much care for dogs in general.)
             For today, their project was lots of side dishes. First up was broccoli salad: so easy it was impossible to mess up, and so yummy that Kate (when eating alone) had at least once made it her main dish instead of a side. Of course, who can resist anything with a pound of bacon…? Bettina chopped broccoli and bacon while Kate made the dressing and grated cheese. Kate, as usual, stuck her finger in the mixture and raised it to her lips.
             “Mmmm, try that!” she ordered. Bettina took the cup of sugary/vinegary dressing.
            “Wow!” Another exclamation. “That’s great!”
             Kate grinned. So far, so good. Bettina was a fun an lively companion in the kitchen. Next was slightly more complicated, vastly more time intensive, and also so amazing that one could make it (though not advised) a main course: Pretzel bread.
            Pretzel bread was a new discovery. Ever since Kate had heard about this recipe from her friend, Louise, she had made it every few weeks, sometimes for friends and company, and it was always a hit. Bettina had never made any kind of bread from scratch, and Kate wanted her to see how easy it could be. She walked her through each step, demonstrating, but letting her do it on her own. The most difficult part was the kneading, but Bettina eventually got the technique, and soon they were waiting for the bread to rise.
“Well!” said Kate, still surprised at how energetic she was feeling, “The bread will rise for an hour, and that gives us just enough time to whip up some lemon cake.” The night before, Kate had mentioned that she had some leftover lemon-cream cheese frosting in the fridge…so obviously, there was a call for lemon cake. This, while it certainly didn’t take the time of the bread to rise twice and bake, was the most complicated of the three dishes. It was a usual dry ingredients/wet ingredients affair, but requiring the separation of eggs, and the later whipping and folding in of the egg whites.
They had a late afternoon snack of fresh pretzel bread, and as they all took seconds, Mom Miller said enthusiastically, "You know, I think bread might be my favorite food." Kate's heart and tummy were both warm. She was having so much fun and learning so much about her new family!
Everything turned out fabulous, and that night at dinner, between the seven at the table, the bread, the broccoli salad and the twelve pieces of cake were all demolished. Not a crumb remained. Kate hugged Bettina again. “What a fun day!” she sighed. “It’s so great having someone to cook with.”
Bettina smiled and said cheerfully, “I think I could live here and eat good food and read all your books all day long.” (She had already finished four novels that Kate had shoved in front of her.)
“And welcome!” Kate replied emphatically.

Broccoli Salad
2-3 large heads of fresh broccoli (with or without stems, chopped into small pieces
1/2 large red onion
1 lb bacon, cooked and chopped into pieces
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

1tbs sugar dissolved in...
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 cup mayonaisse  

Combine all salad ingredients. Combine dressing ingredients, making sure to dissolve the sugar in the vinegar before you add the mayo. Pour the dressing over the veggies and mix together--such simple deliciousness! 

Lemon Cake (Kate doubled this recipe, which is originally for 6 small cakes in ramekins) 
7 tbs butter, slightly softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg separated
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
2 tsp lemon zest
1/4 cup milk
juice from half a lemon

Cream butter and sugar, then add the egg yolk and vanilla and whisk. Add flour, lemon zest, and baking powder, and fold together (don't beat.) Add milk and lemon juice and stir well. Whisk egg with clean beaters till it is light and fluffy, and then fold it into the cake, carefully, trying not to let the bubbles collapse too much. Bake about 30 min at 350F.

*link to pretzel bread recipe: 

One of four loaves of pretzel bread
The lemon cake--YUM!

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