Happy Random Almost Halloween

It is Friday.  Thank gawd.

As much as I love him, if the dog wakes me up tomorrow morning at 5:30 a.m. barking because our absolutely ANAL paper delivery person walks up to each and every front porch and lovingly places each and every copy of the Podunk Suppository in the exact middle of each and every front porch mat, I will strangle him.  Or the paper delivery person.  Whatever happened to just throwing vaguely in the direction of our house as you drive/ride your bicycle past?

I had lots of comments about the Trick-or-Treating traditions here in Podunk, and I’m glad to report that yes, they will allow the kids to Trick-or-Treat on Halloween.  It’ll still be between 3 and 5 p.m. in the afternoon, but it will be on Halloween.  The Young One, who hasn’t gone out the last two years, will go this year, but not for candy – he will be collecting donations for Unicef.  I am so proud of this kid I can barely express it, but it means I have to go out and find him a costume, like, NOW.

Tuesday Jolly and Little Guy will be here!  WOO-HOO!  I dragged poor Beloved into Babies R Us last week, and we sort of got carried away…

Baby Stuff

More Baby Stuff

And More Baby Stuff

What??  They’re going to be here for a whole week; we wouldn’t want the poor kid to get bored.  No, I don’t care that he’s only 2 1/2 months old – my grandson WILL NOT BE BORED.

Yesterday evening while I was waiting for Beloved to come home from the office (oh, we just love those clients on the west coast who schedule conference calls at 3 p.m. their time) and the oven to warm up for the meatloaf, I grabbed my camera and Scooter and I took a stroll around the block.  I got an interesting shot or two of the last of the fall foliage on our street, but more importantly, I got the dog to be still for more than a fraction of a second.

Scooter 1

Scooter 2

Scooter 3

Scooter 4

I was just tickled; he usually tries to lick the camera when I take his picture.  I’m afraid I’m rather stuck on the little critter, but he really is a handsome animal (and yes, those are Grateful Dead dancing bears on his collar).

Have a lovely weekend, y’all, and a safe and fun Halloween!

Apple Upside-Down Cake

Apple Upside Down CakeYou’d think I’d be tired of posting recipes after last week, but nope.  They give me an easy out I love recipes.

Beloved is not all that crazy about pies, and even less enthusiastic about fruit pies.  He likes cake.  However, apples are dirt cheap this time of year and if you’re not putting them in a pie, well – you put them in cake (besides, we’ll be eating apple pie when Jolly comes to visit next week since it’s her all-time favorite dessert).  If you put them in THIS cake, you will spend lots of time cursing me for ruining your diet again saying “yum, yum.”

BECAUSE YUM, YUM.

And also because, well, the strudel recipe I was considering was a wee bit intimidating.  Which doesn’t mean I won’t make it, it just means I’ll have to hyperventilate into a paper bag beforehand and I didn’t have one handy when I originally read the recipe.

Anyhoo.

This is a very sweet and tender butter cake, so use firm, tart cooking apples (Granny Smith, Newton Pippin, etc.) for the topping.  Refrigerate leftovers, but bring the cake to room temperature for 15 – to 30 minutes before eating; butter cakes are difficult to slice and have a dense texture when refrigerated.

Note:  a “scant” measurement is just a little less; fill the measuring cup or spoon just a tad bit less than completely full.

Apple Upside Down Cake

serves 8 to 10

3 1/4 cups tart cooking apples; peeled, cored and sliced about 1/4 inch thick (about 2 large apples)

scant 1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

3 large egg yolks, at room temperature

1/2 cup sour cream

1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups bleached, all-purpose flour, sifted into the cup and leveled off

scant 1 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Grease a 9″ round cake pan; line the bottom with parchment paper and grease that as well.

In a medium bowl, toss the apples, cinnamon and brown sugar together; allow the mixture to sit for at least 30 minutes, but no longer than 1 1/2 hours.  Drain the apples, reserving the liquid, and arrange or spread them in the bottom of the cake pan.

In a small, heavy saucepan, heat the reserved liquid from the apples over medium-high heat, bringing it to a boil.  Swirl the mixture, but do not stir, for about 5 minutes or until the mixture reduces by about half, thickens and is a nice amber color.  Swirl the 4 tablespoons of butter in until melted, then pour evenly over the apples in the cake pan.  Set aside.

Place a rack in the lower third, then preheat the oven to 350° F.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl if using a hand mixer), cream the softened (9 tablespoons) butter with the sugar at medium speed until fluffy and lightened in color.  Beat the egg yolks in, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Beat in the sour cream and vanilla until smooth.

On low speed (or by hand, if not using a stand mixer), stir in the flour mixture in three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition, until just incorporated.  There should be no lumps, but do not overmix.  Resist the temptation to eat the batter straight from the bowl (yeah, it’s THAT good) and spread it over the apples in the cake pan.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown and a wire tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Remove the cake from the oven and place on a wire cake rack for 5 minutes.  Run a thin, flexible metal spatula between the cake and the sides of the pan to loosen it, and carefully invert the cake onto a serving plate; leave the pan in place for 1 or 2 minutes before lifting it off.  If the parchment still covers the apples, carefully peel it off.  If any of the apple slices have stuck to the pan, use the spatula to place them back on the cake.

Serve warm or at room temperature; sprinkle with toasted walnuts, if desired.

Halloween, What Has Happened To You?

GhostThe Spin Cycle this week is all about Halloween.  This is re-posted from last year and pretty much sums up how I feel about this particular holiday.

I love Halloween.  In fact, everyone in my family loves it, and it was my mother’s favorite holiday, probably because it was the one time of the year she had a legitimate excuse to buy bags and bags of bite-sized Snickers and Almond Joys for at least a month – and all on sale.  Our family always went all-out for Halloween, decorating the house and front porch within an inch of our lives for the benefit of trick-or-treaters, while dressing up like extras from Night of the Living Dead when we gave out candy.  Because you know there’s nothing like making a 3-year-old in a bed sheet wet his pants while he runs back to his mother, traumatized to the point where years of therapy become necessary.

One year, when my grandparents were decorating for the Big Event, my grandfather decided a noose would be the perfect addition – just what they needed to create the right kind of ambiance.  However, he didn’t take two important factors into consideration:  the fact their porch was four feet off of the ground and the stupidity of kids in general.  Yes, some moron of a darling child stuck his stupid head through the stupid noose and lept off the porch.  Don’t worry, he was fine, although my grandparents needed a stiff drink afterwards – and they didn’t drink.  I suppose you could say it was a fitting payback for all of those 3-year-olds in bed sheets.  It was also the end of the noose as decor.

Halloween was so much fun when I was a kid – we began to anticipate it as soon as school let back in.  By the first of October, things were reaching a fever pitch as we began to plan our costumes and plot out our trick-or-treat routes.  I don’t think I knew a kid whose parents actually bought them a costume; no siree, we put those puppies together ourselves, begging and borrowing anything we could get from our parents, relatives, siblings and friends.  At one point I was so tickled with my costume that I went trick-or-treating as Harpo Marx for three years straight.  Nor did I ever own one of those silly plastic pumpkins to carry my candy around in – I by golly took a king-sized pillow case.

When I was a kid, we could actually wear our costumes to school on The Big Day.  When we got home, we pestered our moms relentlessly to COOK DINNER because we knew we weren’t stepping foot out that front door until we’d at least made a pretense of eating.  Then we’d converge on the neighborhood – the one we actually lived in, thank you very much – and went to every single house.  We met our friends and compared costumes and swapped treats and stayed up late and made ourselves sick on candy and it was wonderful.

By the time I had children things were starting to change – we NEVER let them trick-or-treat by themselves, we checked their candy before they were allowed to eat it (some hospitals even offered to x-ray it to make sure nothing was lurking in it that wasn’t supposed to be there), we only went to houses that had the porch lights on, and there were zealously religious households that blared Christian music and handed out tracts telling us how we were all going burn in Hell for allowing our kids to dress up like a Ghostbuster and a ballerina and have a little fun.  We knew people who took their kids to “rich” neighborhoods so they could get “good” candy – some of these neighborhoods were so overwhelmed by people from all over the place that no one could drive a car on the streets and some even had to have police come out to direct pedestrian traffic.  But it was still Halloween, and still fun.

We don’t decorate now that we’re in Ohio, although we can – and do – program the doorbell to scream for a month.  We give out candy, although the trick-or-treaters are few and far between.  Why?  Because they have completely bastardized the damn holiday, that’s why.  Here in Podunk, kids don’t trick-or-treat on Halloween – they trick-or-treat between 3 and 5 in the afternoon on the Sunday BEFORE Halloween.  It’s horrible.  Atrocious. Disgusting.  Pathetic.  It’s downright un-American.

It’s just no fun anymore.

Autumn in Ohio’s Farmlands

No RTT today; I’ve got one started, but I just haven’t had time to do the whole thing justice so it will just have to wait until next week.  We are VERY busy; lots going on at work this week and then Jolly and Little Guy will be in town visiting for about 10 days next week.  Right now I’m so tired I can barely stay awake (as I write this Monday night).

However, one day last week, Beloved (who can tell when I’m going stir crazy) suggested I take the afternoon off from work and take my camera for a spin in the country, which I did gladly.  Because, y’all, Autumn in Ohio’s farmlands can be a breathtaking sight.

Autumn in Ohio Farmlands

Autumn in Ohio Farmlands Again

Cornstalks

In a Graveyard

Driveway and Lamppost

Brown and Gold

Things Are Looking Up

Field O Grass

Have a lovely Autumn day, y’all.

O Monday, You Are Always There For Me

Well, the Sushi Bar suffered a major network outage this morning when “a backbone router went bad in the Mzima network center.”   Thank you so much, Web Host Guy, for that completely confusing clear and concise explanation of why I could not blog or email all morning long and was forced to do actual work.

Oh, woe is me, woe is me.

Anyhoo, my planned post for today – a recipe for Apple Upside Down Cake (you’d think after last week I’d be sick of posting recipes…you’d be wrong (’cause this cake is like to DIE for)) – had to be rescheduled and I now have to finish that actual work I started, so you get this brief description of Sunday afternoon.

Beloved and I drove out and about locally, trying to get some photos of the last fall foliage here in northeast Ohio.  Alas, most of it was gone, but it was a lovely day for a drive and we still got some good pictures.  While framing this shot:

Art Gallery

An old train depot turned into an art gallery

this drove up:

Ambulance

A retro ambulance

It appeared to be fully functional as an ambulance; there was a stretcher in the back and what appeared to be some modern medical equipment.

At first, I just stood there, waiting for the light to change so I could get my shot, but after a few seconds, I thought what the heck, and snapped a picture.  I waited a couple of more seconds, then snapped another one.  Then I just started snapping pictures right and left and the driver started laughing at me.

I shrugged – “Hey, it’s a cool ambulance.”

The driver gave me a thumbs-up – “That’s fine – snap away!”

Then the light changed; I mouthed the words “THANK YOU” at him and he gave me a friendly little salute as he drove away.

There are definitely some perks to this whole “small town America” stuff.