Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Mattapoisett Diner

An new old, or old new diner just reopened in town and the natives are wild over it. Wild. Apparently the previous owners veered too far away from the diner theme. Tsk tsk.

As I tend to reserve my eating out for exotic cuisine not in the little hamlets here, I can't say as I have an opinion, though it made for a good story to write up for the paper...more importantly it is a great place to take pictures...the vintage vibe with the aluminum doors and swirling pleather topped seats. Pretty cool.

Owner extraordinaire of the business, not the building.

Changing of the sign.

One of hundreds of post (or maybe pre) war prefab diners.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Sorghum caramel corn: unrefined sugary goodness

"You should have a cooking blog. You really should have a cooking blog. I bet you could quit your day job if you had a cooking blog..." quote source, my friends.

The thing is, I don't think it's that easy. Who are these fantastic food bloggers who make enough money to sit at home cooking food day in and day out...taking well lit photographs on rustic wooden surfaces and constantly trying out new recipes that come out practically perfect all the time? 

Here are questions that need to be asked, along with how in the heck are all these people seemingly making dinner at 3 p.m. in the afternoon when the light is just perfect (or are they just much better at manipulating lighting than I am? Because if not, then they eat really early or eat really cold food.) Where do they find the mouths to eat all of this stuff? I halve almost every recipe I make and I still have leftovers for a freakin' week in my tiny, tiny hasn't gotten it's B.A. fridge. And, how do they have the money or energy to try out all these new recipes which must inevitably fail or not be worth repeating a good 25% of the time? 


But you came here for some caramel corn...and as I had some daylight hours the other day and some people who would eat this stuff, I manipulated the heck out of a little recipe I saw and made my first ever batch of caramel corn with a touch of southern charm...much like myself. 

I made mine with no refined sugars and you couldn't even tell! Bam! Take that. I even used organic popcorn...that cost like $3.50 at the local health food store for what appears to be a lifetime supply as this recipe barely made a dent in said organic popcorn....

Anywho, get a movie ready (in an hour cause that's how long it's going to take to make this, but I promise you won't be disappointed if you can follow directions all all) and get popping. Ba dum ching!

 Hola, organic popcorn. I started off with a 1/2 a cup and popped it in a medium saucepan (larger wouldn't hurt) with a generous tablespoon of coconut oil. Feel free to use butter or an air popper.

 Voila! Ze popcorn! (And a rustic background. Awesome.)

Down with corn syrup. Up with brown rice syrup, it does so compliment my skin tone. More importantly I think it has a more smooth, buttery taste. You shan't miss the corn syrup.

 Sorghum. The stuff of my childhood...and with the invention of internet shopping, of my adulthood. If you haven't been introduced yet, pick some up on Amazon or somewhere with less drones. It's a molasses-type of syrup from an old world type of grain. It's got a softer flavor than molasses, but use non-Blackstrap molasses if it's all you've got.

 I hate taking pictures of things boiling, but you have to give the people what they want. Butter and the syrups combine to make the caramel. Don't be afraid of that last word there, it's easy unless you turn the heat up too high and then go mow the lawn.

This is like a fat guy in a little suit, but I don't have larger bowls so I shuffled the caramel around with the popped corn and then...
 ...spread it out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (less cooked sugar to wrassle later.)

After removing it from the oven, I quickly formed it into balls, but next time I would leave it all individual like. It's much easier to eat the entire batch that way without noticing.

Sorghum caramel corn

½ cup freshly popped popcorn
1 cup unrefined cane sugar
½ cup brown rice syrup
1/3 cup unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons sorghum (or molasses, not blackstrap)
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

Follow the instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 250°.
2. Line a large jelly roll pan with parchment paper (or live on the edge and lightly grease the pan sans paper.)
3. Combine sugar, syrups, and butter in a medium saucepan. Bring it to a boil over MEDIUM HEAT. Once boiling, cook for 5 minutes, stirring once.
4. Remove caramel from the heat and stir in vanilla, baking soda, and salt.
5. Pour caramel in a slow stream over the popcorn and stir to coat. Don’t worry if it doesn’t all get perfectly coated. Spread the sticky popcorn into the pan. Bake at 250° for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, which will help distribute the caramel more evenly.
6. Remove from oven. If making the caramel corn into balls, let it cool for a few minutes (but not too long) and then form into balls, crushing it together a little to get it to stick. It will be hot so be careful and work fast. Maybe try some clean rubber kitchen gloves if your hands are too sensitive to the heat. Alternately, just stir up the large clumps and eat it like regular ol’ movie caramel corn. It will cool in about 15 minutes. Eat it hot or store it in an airtight container for about a week.

I might play around with the quantity of rice syrup to sorghum to get more of the flavor in there, but as is, this stuff is perfection. It’s so good no one will believe you made it yourself, but if you touched it too soon after it came out of the oven, you can show them your scars.

Monday, March 3, 2014

I been tagging stuff

I'm the worst when it comes to preparing really nicely wrapped packages and I never include a card. I write for a living and I do not write thoughtful cards or cards at all. The irony does not escape me.

Just after Christmas, I decided, hey I have no reason to give anyone a gift for months...this seems like a good time to make gift tags. See, I have these folders (2 or 3 not 40) bursting with pages from magazines, old cards, and other pieces of paper that have interesting photos and graphics on them that I plan to use 'one day.'

I'm done with the 'one day' philosophy. It's all gonna burn, right? So, just as I've been attempting to use up the bursting bin of fabric I brought up here from Mississippi (there's still one or two at the homestead), I've been looking around and trying to be creative with all this crap I saved to be creative with....

Hence, gift tags. Pretty stinking cool ones, too. If you get one on a package, you'll probably throw the package away and keep the tag. They're that great. 

I even documented the process so you too can use up all those pieces of paper you tuck away like some crafty John Nash.

What you need:
A plastic milk jug (well washed)
A big fat glue stick
An exacto knife
Interesting snippets of paper

Step one: Take the old milk jug and fashion yourself a tag template. I'm sure you can find some online you could trace. I just winged it. There are, of course, tag shaped punches you can buy at a craft store, but those take up more space and are not in keeping with my whole repurposing thing here. The virtue of the plastic jug tag is you can see through it and line up the image on the paper perfectly.

Step two: Grab some paper with cool graphics, prints, words. Maps look great, those pieces of wrapping paper you irrationally saved, postcards and ads from art galleries are really cool as well.

Step three: Pick a piece of paper out!  (Maybe this didn't need to be it's own step.) The plastic is thick enough that cutting out the tag with your exacto knife should not result in cutting into the template.

Step four: Use your big fat glue stick to paste the paper cutouts onto cardstock and then cut around them. Last, but not least, punch a whole in the top so you can string them around your presents. (How much do you love that little bird on the right? I want to squeeze it.

And now, you too can have an obscene amount of very useful gift tags.