Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Insecurity in the Kitchen

Hello everybody!  The Fresh Pioneer is back!

   I'm such a fan (NOT) of change, I thought we'd try recipes a little off the beaten track... for me. Maybe not for you.

  Which brings me to the title of the post: Insecurity In the Kitchen.

 Edna comes from this era, I believe.
Now, even though she's a mixer of steel and advocates never letting them see you sweat (or smell your engine smoking), there's still an itty bitty bit of a pleaser left in her. I know this because I found her this way...
Now, we all love a good cookbook, but I'd never actually seen her beater-deep in the pages of such a thing. Poetry, yes. Romance, every day! But a 50's 'Joys of Jello'? Hmmmm.... Was it the Marine giving her insecurity issues? I needed to sit and ponder, but I was a bit busy.
I'd picked up a Rocket Grill for super cheap and was SO excited to make panini sandwiches. Ok, I may have talked about it a few times. Maybe even twenty. It just never occured to me that Edna would consider this sleek little grill any sort of competition.
I bought it at a yard sale for $8 but when I got it home, I realized our ancient kitchen didn't have the right plug in near the counters. Rocky would have to heat up on the floor. Near the toddlers. Ugh. So, I had to take an older kid off laundry duty and plant him near the grill, for safety. He's obviously enjoying the break with his new Rick Riordan book.
I heard a strange whimpering sound and turned to see this... Edna reading the Joy of Cooking. Things were serious. She had real issues. But I was busy assembling the sandwiches and just didn't have time to reassure her. I looked at her and thought...

And then the grill broke. Seriously. It got really, really, really hot, but the two grill parts were stuck together!!!!!! No paninis!! 
There was a shout of triumph from Edna. Which was quickly covered by a cough...

Insecurity from Edna?? I mean, no comparison!!!

Edna or Rocky? Edna, no contest.

Especially since Rocky turned out to be 8 bucks worth of unsafe heating equipment that smelled a lot like somebody else's dinner.
But then, I realized, if the President of France gets insecure about being vertically challenged, I guess I can understand a little jealousy.

 So, I said, 'Edna, Dearest, let's make something fun. I've got just the book for you!'
She was ALL SMILES!!! We cracked it open immediately!

 She wanted this one: Watergate Cake with Impeachment Frosting. It's election year and Edna is quite political.
I voted for the Kentucky Bourbon Cake because... well, obviously, it's got BOURBON in it. Yuuuuummmmmm. Except I had no bourbon.
We both thought this sounded quite intriguing: Not-for-Children Gingerbread Bundt Cake. But that wouldn't be possible in the zoo that is my house.

In the end, we decided on trying out a very difficult frosting recipe. Because no matter if Edna is a little insecure and I'm a complete kitchen FAIL, together we can make good things.

So, MARSHMALLOW FROSTING was on the menu.

   Our chickens are on strike. My sister just 'happened' to come by with 3 cartons of farm fresh eggs. She's got an inside line to Somebody Important and apparently that Somebody wants me to cook marshmallow frosting.

Here are 4 egg whites. Edna said to just hold the yolk gently in my hand and let the whites drip through. No chance of a punctured yolk. Ugh. Yuck. And it worked. Here are the yolks and the whites. (We did hire a lawyer, Ruthy. It was a permanent separation.)
Combine one cup of sugar,
 1/4 tsp cream of tartar (which always makes me think of warriors on small horses),
1/2 cup water.
Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 2 minutes. Then put in the candy thermometer...
WAIT! You don't have a candy thermometer???
Yeah, I didn't either until a little while ago when my sister said there was no way to cook without one.
 (P.S. My mother said without a thermometer you can use this method to find the softball stage:
Drop a ball of the boiling sugar water in a cup of cold water. If it balls up, and you can roll it between your fingers [IN THE WATER, NOT DIRECTLY FROM THE PAN] then it's softball. When it drops to the bottom and makes a small rock- hardball.)
We're heading for softball, which is 242F on the thermometer.
It took about 10 minutes.
Combine the egg whites in a mixer bowl with a whisk attachement. Edna just rolled her eyes (I mean, beaters) and said it was fine. So, in they went with 1/8 tsp of salt.

Now, after soft peaks have formed, you'll take the sugar mixture that's been getting to 242F and slowly add it in. Timing is everything. So if the sugar mixture isn't ready, you don't want to whip the egg whites to FIRM PEAKS (which is where we were headed with this) and let them sit.
 They will not wait.
No patience.
So, soft peaks, watching the thermometer, then quick into firm peaks, then add the sugar mix.
A note: I'm sure you're all aware how HOT that stuff is. But just in case... be careful. This isn't a kid-friendly recipe. To eat, yes. Not to make.

After about 5 minutes of mixing on high, it should look like this. Edna was enjoying the workout. I was drooling. At this point add 2 tsp vanilla.
To be used immediately!
 Which means this:
Now, that's bound to make any insecurities just fade away.

 Here's to friends, working together, and kicking your negative inner voice in the knee!

Until next time!

IMPORTANT: This is just a small note for those who have seen the devastation from Hurricane Sandy and would like to donate to the small organizations on the ground. This news comes from Mary Curry, who has spent days trying to fill the gaps in the hardest hit neighborhoods. The donations to these sites go directly to the groups working person to person. Of course, all prayers are needed!!

"The other effort that I know of is for a specific location in Red Hook, Brooklyn. They were one of the first and hardest hit areas in Brooklyn. Their page is very slow to load but donations are through paypal.

Also, this group - Masbia - is a nonprofit that has been providing hot meals for people in the shelters.
They've been trying to accomodate the needs of seniors with special dietary needs in the big shelter in my neighborhood. It's really sad - 600+ seniors evacuated from nursing homes and Bellevue.

Right now we're trying to buy and donate specific items requested like cleaning supplies, diapers, batteries, etc. and making meals whenever requested. It's so hard to see what's needed between local relief efforts and the big fed and city donations. The variety of items needed is so varied, everything from adult diapers and underwear to blankets and warm clothes to cleaning supplies, etc. I figure since we're here, we can do the immediate need kind of donations and people further away who want to help can make the online donations."
-- Mary Curry

Thanks again everybody and have a wonderful Wednesday! 


  1. That's one stunning cupcake!!! Seriously wedding gorgeous. Tell Edna she really impressed me!

    Question, though. Doesn't the hot sugar cook the egg whites??!

    Thanks, Mary, for the info and links!

  2. Missy, I think that sicne the hot sugar is 242F and it's added to the egg whites and mixed until they cool (the bowl outside should be cool to the touch) it means the egg whites are safe to eat. From what I read a few days ago in the same book, if the egg whites reach 140F they don't have to be refrigerated and can be left for 3 days out of the fridge SAFELY.

    Cool, huh?

    Anyway, the cupcake was a pale blue, to match the doodads, but my toddler made a PURPLE one. It was... really, really, red purple. Apparently tasted fine. :O

    1. I was actually more worried about scrambling the eggs! LOL I guess if you do it gradually, it tempers them.

  3. Thanks for providing a smile and ways to help! That is what we all need.

    Peace, Julie

  4. Julie, we all need some CUPCAKES!

    And for you and Christina, gluten free is on the menu. :D

  5. Goof morning, Virginia,

    My daughter-in-Ireland was my cupcake Queen, until she decided to go vegan. Now she makes vegan cupcakes - except that she's not making any cupcakes here :( but she is learning all about bread and jam-making in Ireland.

    Love your marshmallow frosting. It's very tempting.

    And this -

    Here's to friends, working together, and kicking your negative inner voice in the knee!


    Thanks for posting those links, Virginia. I'm sure there are plenty of other worthy groups. Those just happen to be two that I know are on the ground providing meals and support every day.

    1. My college roomate was my cupcake queen and I have vivid memories of key lime cupcakes... they were amazing!

      There was a very nice vegan dessert book I saw in the library. Will have to mark down the title!

      And Mary, you know those friends working together are you and Julie... You don't show my inner negative voice any mercy and for that I'm thankful.

  6. Virginia, I love Edna. She's a hard worker and aims to please. I'm pretty sure my grandmother was close friends with one of Edna's cousins. They hung out all the time. And I remember being devastated when grandma put Eunice in a yard sale instead of passing her along to me.

    Love that purty cupcake too. The blue edible pearls are a perfect touch. Gorgeous.

    1. Mindy, congratulations on your daughter's engagement!!!

      And yes, if you remember, the edible pearls were also the crazy dots on the monster cake. Edna has really improved my game.

      I don't know if I would have minded if I'd seen my grandmother tossing out an Edna. I just didn't know better. But I do NOW. :)

  7. VIRGINIA!!!!!! You and Edna need to bake a celebration cake. Did you see the RT Nominations for best first books of 2012?????!!!!!

    I'm grinning like a fool in Georgia!! Congrats!!!

    1. Congrats to you, too! I have wonderful company!!!

      I do believe cake is in order.

    2. Missy, you should be grinning!!!! Congratulations!!!!!!!

      Woo Hoo for you and Virginia and Jessica!

  8. Oh, what a bee-yoo-tiful cupcake! Drop dead gorgeous! Edna has outdone herself!

    She has nothing to fear from other kitchen appliances. She's the queen of the kitchen :)

    And it's time to CELEBRATE! Both Missy and Virginia got RT nominations!!!!!

    1. I know, but just like us, sometimes she loses sight of her own worth and needs a friend to bring her back in line. :)

      And can you believe all the familiar names on that page? Fun, fun!

    2. Jan, thanks! It's been a fun day. I've been on cloud 9. :)

  9. All this celebration is sending me for something sweet. And since I don't have any gorgeous cupcakes around, I believe I'm going to hit the ice cream! Mayfield Blueberry Cream Pie. It's to die for! (probably literally, since it's full fat, but we won't go there). :)

    1. Ooooooh! That sounds wonderful!! and I was just looking for high fiber, low fat, fresh recipes... So we can party now and be good next week. :D

  10. Another wonderful column, Virginia, thanks! I am usually too insecure about my cooking to go for the "cooked frosting method," but this makes it seem easy and I might give it a try.

    Congrats on your RT nomination! What a thrill!


  11. Thank you, Piper!

    About that frosting... maybe the women of the 50's had seven hands, I don't know. But this was pretty stinking hard.

    Then again, I don't make frosting so what do I know! Have your son help you coordinate the whipping and the watching the thermometer. He'd probably think it was a great project... especially the eating part. :D

  12. Well wooohooo to Virginia and Missy! Definitely reason to celebrate with cake!

    And can I start an Edna fan club? Puleeeeze!!!! She deserves her own facebook page too. And maybe you two could cowrite another RT winner? Let's see...hunky hero, dutiful but somewhat detached, thinks he's helping speed his grandma along to downsizing so that she can move into an easy care condo by holding a garage sale. In a mix up Grandma's heriloom mixer (gasp) ends up on the curb. Enter heroine...maybe single mum, pinching pennies never thinking for a second that she could ever afford such a culinary gem. She whisks (snicker, get the pun?) Edna away for a paltry sum and everyone lives happily ever after...or would if Grams didn't have a coniption over Edna's disappearance. Chagrined hero has to track Edna, and consequently heroine, down and try to get Edna back. Can't you just hear Edna whispering sweet encouragement and lovelorn advice to the hapless heroine?

    Sorry been a long day and I'm feeling a bit campy! Give Edna a hug for me. :-)

    1. Okay, that is the coolest Edna romance I've ever heard/ thought of!!!!! LOVE.

      And I just read a Chet and Bernie mystery, where the whole book is in the POV of the dog... So I think every other chapter shold be Edna's POV. :D

  13. Oh, and thank you for the information about the hurricane victims. I've been praying and feeling inadequate.Now there's something concrete I can do.

    1. Thank you for being willing to help! And the big orgs are working, too, it's just hard for everyone to do everything. I love that we can help our neighbors... acorss th country.

  14. ok - where are the marshmallows?! I don't see any marshmallows added. and what IS added looks like too much work!

    btw I finished your book a few days ago! liked it of course! :-) I was afraid it'd make me want to volunteer in ahelter but it's more work than I realized and I'd never have survived finger painting *shudder*! I still shudder over the time I brought glitter and glue stick for a Sunday school project - the parents were NOT happy with me either and I'm not sure the glitter ever came up off that carpet. Needless to say I wasn't good with kids but hey a small church is sometimes desparate..


    1. Susanna, I'm sure the kids loved you even if the parents didn't like glitter! :)

    2. Oh, boy, Susanna!! Glitter is the WORST! And I worked as a children's librarian and hated when some mom would get so excited about the craft she made a mess. So, I'm always the one trying to keep the mess in check and some other sweet person is having a great time!

      And the marshmallows... that's how they get made! Surprise!

    3. P.S. The shelters I've worked in have tons of different jobs, from sorting clothing donated to stocking the pantry with donated foods to kitchen work to outdoor clean up. There's always something for everyone!

    4. so if you took that frosting and rolled it up into balls you'd end up with marshmallows?

      I'm not sure the kids liked me - I'm just not a hands-on kid person - now a dog is another thing entirely - I can usually relate to a lab or big friendly dog..but not kids. I'm usually one who'll send a check vs being hands-on. never been too comfortable around them though with my friend having a 4 yr old I'm learning a bit more whenver I see them which is about 4-5 times a year. I chickened out with the halloween decorations - she doesn't mind messy stuff so I'm always buying him something messy like finger paints but I ended up slapping face stickers on the pumpkins with him instead of doing the mr potato head or the painting kit. but if I'd been in her place in the book I'd have been covered in the stuff and like a big kid myself most likely! :-) and having fun!
      I think the church ended up with tile floors after enough glitter incidents though they're probably back to carpet again by now (since I'm gone!)


    5. Raising hand in air.... messy craft maker here. Sigh.

      Virginia, do you HATE me?????? Please say no.

      This frosting used to be called Seven-minute frosting in the old cookbooks I have... I used to just love staring at the pic in an old Betty Crocker cookbook that had a white cake with this frosting on it. It was so stinkin' CLEAN looking!!! Like melt-in-your-mouth amazingly clean.

      We started making it but I added lemon pie filling between the layers. Now I had fluffy white (kind of pain in the neck to make but so worth it!!!) frosting, lemon pie filling and tender white cake.

      This frosting (oops, also called White Mountain frosting, in another cookbook...) is like the be-all, end-all of amazing frostings. And they've never been able to put it in a can... It's that special!

      Virginia, this is so awesome and while I'm glad Edna won out, I never once doubted her tenacity.

      But your Rocket Grill cracked me up. I bought several old waffle makers at garage sales.

      With cloth covered cords.


      Now I've got a Belgian waffle maker... Christmas gift from kid.... and a regular one, modern and easy to clean... Christmas gift from kid. Which is a surprise, kind of, because they inherit a LOT OF MONEY if we die in a fire.

      Really, they have the amount all worked out and it's kind of staggering and frightening. If that happens, check the kid who bought the safe appliances FIRST, because they may be a red herring to throw us off-track!

    6. Ruthy, I know those black and white-dotted, cloth covered cords! We have some of those, too!

      And my husband says if our house burns down that means we get a new one and new stuff.

      What he really means is that all my crazy art and repurposed doors into furniture is gone and we'd have to buy normal, store-bought stuff.

      If this place burns, I'm pointing my finger at him.

    7. P.S. This recipe had a frosting with lemon curd in it! Sounds wonderful!!

  15. I make this frosting all the time. It is a bit labor intensive, but oh so worth it. Since I'm not a big fan of buttercream (I usually scrape it off), this is my go to when I need to frost a cake.

    To anonymous: it really just tastes like marshmallows, but has no similar properties to marshmallows.

    Btw, when Virginia says USE IMMEDIATELY she's not kidding. For lack of a better way to describe it, it melts. You can forestall that a bit by refrigeration, but not for long. :)