What happened?

16 10 2009

Whoa! I just fell off the face of the earth!

Not really, but life has taken a turn and I’ve become a part-time Whatcom resident. Keith and I have embarked on the [ad]venture of taking over his parents’ candy shop and cafe up in Birch Bay. It’s pretty much the off season right now, but we have a lot of work to do behind the scenes.

Follow along at The CShop blog!

20th Century Cake

19 06 2009

From a box no less. What the heck is the world coming to?

Inspired by my pantry “shelf of shame” where items that should have been rotated out long ago reside, Jonathan Bloom’s Wasted Food blog, and Sharon Astyk’s Independence Days Challenge Item #4 (Reduce Waste) and #7 (Eat the Food), and Keith’s insistence that we could just drown it in ice cream and booze, I assembled this:

That, dear readers, is an authentic box of cake mix that has somehow resided in the nether reaches of my baking pantry since 1995! I do not know how it got there, who bought it, or why I’ve moved it, but there it is. Well, it was. It’s residency permit in my house has expired!

I’ve never made a box cake mix before. I’ve certainly baked plenty of cakes, but haven’t ever been compelled to buy a box of sugar, flour, powdered oil, leavener, salt and a plethora of chemicals to do so. Whoever first came up with the idea of boxing the cheapest ingredients of a cake, printing an incredibly convoluted rebus of a recipe and slapping on a professional food stylists’ image of cake on the front and charging whatever it costs for maybe 50 cents worth of stuff must be a rich man by now.

Hey, propylene glycol is in shampoo too!

The instructions alone are enough to scare anyone off baking. It’s not that it’s hard, it’s just hard to read and follow. Hard for me anyway. I think they’re intentionally written so that this simple task of mixing things together is made complex so as to infer that baking a real cake must be really difficult. The ingredients are a real turn off for me too. Of course, this thing is so old that it doesn’t have any of the ubiquitous corn syrup solids. Small win.

So after I checked the Duncan Hines website to make sure that I wouldn’t be poisoning myself due to the advanced age of the product, I checked inside for evidence of bugs or rodents. Even though the leavener might be aged over the years, nothing else had wanted to eat it either. Drat!

Forging ahead, I gathered up my mise. Cleverly, Croesus Duncan Hines, has the poor housewife furnish all the expensive bits such as 3 eggs. I didn’t have any vegetable oil except olive so I melted a mixture of butter, coconut oil and some Spectrum shortening. During my research, I’d read some recipes that had suggested a dollop of sour cream. Didn’t have any of that either, but yogurt could stand in. What else? Oh yes, water. These mixes are so handy, just add water … and eggs and oil and …

While I was meddling, I decided to add in strawberry jam hoping to cover up the chemical tinge. I read that one on the interwebs too. I also added in a shy teaspoon of baking soda and baking powder to ensure a rise. The batter was a bit lumpy, caking agents age as well, I suppose, but behaved. Since I didn’t have nor want frosting, I decided on the Bundt format.

Because of the extra moisture in the jam, it took longer than 32 – 37 minutes to bake. I think I hit the snooze button on the timer 4 or 5 times before my tester came out clean.

The verdict? A bit sweet since mixes make up in sugar what they lack in flavor and I added the jam. The crumb is a bit holey, but that was my fault for overbeating. I got a little overzealous since I hadn’t used my hand mixer in ages.

I think a little rum and ice cream should make it go down just fine. Maybe there’s even some vintage pudding mix around for a cheater’s trifle. ๐Ÿ˜‰

BBA #5

18 06 2009
Casatiello - a brioche dough flavored with salami and provolone

Casatiello - a brioche dough flavored with salami and provolone

BBA #4

8 06 2009
Cinnamon buns made with Poor Mans Brioche

Cinnamon buns made with Poor Man's Brioche

Independence Days #4-6

8 06 2009

I don’t want to post only challenge updates so this one is a roundup. ๐Ÿ™‚


Seeded Silver rib and Rainbow chards, arugula, Chantenay carrots, assorted mustard greens, Wautoma cucumbers (pickling), Bullโ€™s blood and Chiogga beets, Bloomsdale savoy spinach, broccoli raab, rutabagas and parsnips. Nasturtiums, hollyhocks and marigolds.

Transplanted Kuri and Delicata squashes, Brandywine and Green Grape tomatoes, Purple tomatilloes and cauliflower.

See My Garden Journal for more gardening details.

Harvest & Preserve

Another 2 pounds of rhubarb frozen plus some made into a flip cake along with some frozen berries. Fireweed and some other wild greens for salad. Also made a salad of errant raabs, overwintered chard, asparagus and Claytonia. Horseradish leaf on burgers.

Keith picked 6 quarts of salmonberries that I froze on cookie sheets. Dehydrated some oyster mushrooms that he found on a fallen alder. Dehydrated lovage.

Prepare and Store

Been baking up a storm so freezing some bread for later.

Keith has filled up the woodshed with enough wood for winter! This is a great milestone for him this early in the season. Now he’ll be able to get ahead for the next winter.


The outside freezer is nearly empty! I’ll be moving the last stragglers over and defrosting soon. I cleaned the pumphouse/root cellar so it’s ready to be filled although we’ll be painting the floor yet.


Saved the hot oil from a jar of pickled peppers for mixing into foliar feed in the garden. It has the dual benefit of being hot so it’ll act as a pest repellant and will help the foliar feed to adhere. The oil is soybean or I’d be saving it for cooking.

Dog Days

6 06 2009
Dax on deck

Dax on deck

We had a great 3 days sailing and hiking around Sucia Island! Click on Dax for the rest of the photos on Flickr.

I’ve caught up with work and most of my sleep, had scintillating discussion at our monthly Saukrates Cafe, did most of the laundry, watered the garden, planted out some of the overgrown transplants, and generally played catch up around here. Blogging will resume shortly.

But first, the dog story.

We did not leave her lying in the middle of road, drown while attempting to rescue her from the river or any of the other crazy variations of the tale that flew around the Upriver grapevine! ๐Ÿ™‚

Usually Maija stays with Dave & Julie when we can’t take her, but this time she had hurt herself launching after a bobcat scent trail and was pretty gimped up. Clancy’s a pretty energetic dog and Maija loves to play with him and the kids so we decided we’d try to enforce her taking it easy and leave her with Dave & Sharon. Chance & Louie are a bit more mellow and they’d be separated part of the day as they were inside and Maija was outside while Dave & Sharon were at work. After all, she never wanders and she was too sore to do so. We thought.

Apparently Maija took it upon herself to go two doors down and visit Shuksan, Billie and Sarah over at Rebecca & Andy’s. This didn’t actually involve proper socializing as Maija was shy and just laid in the road instead! Rebecca returned Maija over to Dave & Sharon’s, but then Maija came back the next day since Dave & Sharon were unaware of her daytime wanderings, but this time she wouldn’t move! Poor Rebecca spent her time trying to get Maija out of the road, calling around to find out where we were, and finally Julie came over and Maija hopped right in to her car. At least she was now out of the road, but where the heck were we?

Maija had no collar (she’d been swimming), was limping (although this is fairly normal), and no one was answering any of the phones! Keith’s cell phone display is broken and his battery was dead so that was turned off while we were out on the boat. Mine was off too. No one answered at home, of course. Luckily we called Dave as we were rounding Point Whitehorn. We gave the iron genny a bit more juice since the wind had died and started home as quickly as we could. 4 hours later we picked up Maija and heard all about it.

We’re still hearing about it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The great thing about this fiasco is that it truly highlights why it’s so nice to live in a small community like this one. Everyone only had parts of the story, but they all came together to help us out. Maija was cared for and now everyone has a story to tell. At least Jason assures me that it won’t be in the next issue of the paper.

Maija the instigator

Maija the instigator

Meanwhile I have a batch of “thank you” dog cookies to bake and distribute with bottles of wine. I can’t wait to hear what else has been happening while we were gone.

BBA #3

30 05 2009



The best bagels to be had, outside of your own kitchen of course, are at The Bagelry up in Bellingham.