Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Recipes of Old

As time goes on, we become immersed in the lives we have created for ourselves. Families grow up, children become adults, babies are born, and so on. This has been the case with the paternal side of my family for quite some time. My uncles are becoming grandparents. The family is expanding. The one exception we have to this is the holidays. Each Christmas Eve my dad and his brothers gather their families together to eat and drink and to be generally merry. It gives us a chance to celebrate and catch up with each other. So much happens in one year of life.

My uncles usually host this Christmas Eve event; and they pass the hosting responsibilities back and forth with each year. This year, however, my dad stepped in and offered to host. He hasn't hosted the party in 10 years. Momentous indeed! Of course I offered to bake the cookies, and bake the cookies I did! Dad had in mind a family recipe for cherry cookies that had been handed down to him from my late Grandma Butch. The cherry cookie is like a thumbprint cookie, with lots of butter, a little sugar, and some orange and lemon zest... oh yes, and a bright red candied cherry crown! This recipe, along with her Hungarian Nut Roll, are the only two "secret family recipes" that I know of. Grandma Butch was neither Hungarian nor a cherry; her family's heritage was mainly Polish and Russian... close enough!

So this was my first time making these little guys and the result was a delicate, buttery, citrusy, nutty cherry cookie... if you can imagine ;) And the taste was so freaking familiar! It reminded me of times forgotten. I love and am intrigued by ability of taste and smell to arouse memories and feelings of nostalgia. So many times those senses can say much more than words or pictures. They are unbiased and uninfluenced and they are completely our own.

zest of orange and lemon (LOTS)

chilling the dough (very important)

finished product: delicious

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you!!!

~Meg

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Baklava Baby!

It's December, the month when I make trays of divine baklava. 

Baklava is a nut-filled multi-layered pastry that is believed to have originated in Turkey.  My cursory search for the etymological origins of the word baklava resulted in varied and debated answers.  One suggestion is that the word baklava is derived from the Farsi for "many leaves," while Wikipedia documents that Paul Buell argues the word comes from the Mongolian root for "tie up, wrap up, pile up."  

Tie up, Wrap up, Pile up sounds eerily similar to Bell Biv DeVoe's verse in their hit Do Me!, Smack it up, flip it, rub it down. . " Hmmm, Bell Biv DeVaklava anyone?

You won't believe me until you taste it, but my baklava leaves a sweet lacquer on the inside of your mouth that you can continue to tongue hours after eating.  While the flavor gives a coat to your throat, the baklava won't clog your arteries with a waxen fat because I use extra virgin olive oil in lieu of butter.  This oil variation, which is healthier and easier than using traditional butter, is found in Gil Marks' The World of Jewish Desserts cookbook:  "Instead of brushing each layer of phyllo with butter, cut the unbaked baklava into diamonds all the way through, drizzle with 1 cup vegetable oil (I use extra virgin olive oil), and let stand for 10 minutes before baking."

Photos from my endeavors:

Coarsely chopped almonds with a bit of cardamom and cinnamon, but no sugar, comprise the first of two layers of nuts.


While you drizzle the olive oil, pout your mouth as if it's full of plump, ripe olives that will be juiced by the mastication of your large or tiny teeth.


The oil seeps into the creases of the cut sheets of dough the same way that any liquid will find a fold, whether in skin or soil.  The oil drenched pan of baklava is baked at 350 degrees for approximately 35 minutes.
After removing from the heat of the oven, a honey syrup is poured over the baklava.  As the cool syrup hits the hot pastry, a buzz of bees sizzles from the pan and mellifluous unlearned words hive your mind. 

This picture makes my mouth dew.  The transparent pastry with glistening beads of spiced syrup are fodder for poetry and stories that wouldn't be appropriate to post here, but will likely include the words skin, spit, seep, bud, soak, and of course the every-sexy crunch.

Enjoy the sweet nuts of the Season, and tell us your favorite Holiday treat!

~ Trilety

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gatherings Are Great for New Recipes

Trying out new recipes (your own or already existing) is one thing that makes the holidays fun for this bird. Of course we can do this anytime during the year, but this is the time people start gathering and eating and enjoying each other's company. This is that time when our spirits are up and the temperatures are low and there is no better way to satiate these occurrences than with copious amounts of comfort food and confections, warm drinks and libations. 

One recipe that I came across and really just had to try out was Peppermint Merengue Kisses. Oh yes. I did not create this on my own. I found it in a magazine I had purchased but it sounded like a wonderful treat that I could make for my neighbors' party last Saturday; another guinea pig opportunity!

I'm not a huge fan of merengue but of course the photo of the finished product in the magazine I had purchased made the sugary treats look amazing. I fell for it. Also, I have not personally worked with merengue much and thought it might be sort of a pain in the neck. Although I read over the recipe and it seemed simple enough, I remained skeptical. I grew increasingly pleased as I finished each step. What a simple, easy and delicious recipe! Bonus: now I am more confident in my merengue skills.
 
I looked online and found the same recipe at the magazine website and the link is below. I'll say that it seems like it would be easy to create some great variations on this as well. Also, there is a lot of white sugar in these and if I make them again, I may try cutting the sugar in half or replacing it with a different sweetener such as agave nectar...

http://www.bhg.com/recipe/cookies/chocolate-peppermint-meringue-kisses/


Happy holiday baking!!!

~Meg


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Baking & Decorating

We're a few days into the month of December, and this means it's time to bake and decorate for the holidays.  I decorate like I bake; simply and with good taste.  Well, simply at least.  An artificial tree with black limbs and large blue sequin leaves is put up instead of a thirsty cut evergreen, and a nativity scene completes the decorating scheme.  I'm a believer that you don't have to be a believer to enjoy a creatively constructed nativity scene, plus what else am I going to do with the manger that built I in fifth grade?

Each year the manger scene is a little different, and the variations serve as a reminder of the stochasticity of our lives. Here's the 2011 manger scene.


This year, the baby Jesus, or baby purple elephant rather, has two Moms.

But the balance of the characters remains the same, with the three wise men hovering a polite distance from the bathtub cradle, and donkey and horse providing snorts and nays that puncture the quiet like starlight.


Next year, I may follow in the astoundingly imaginative footsteps of Alex Branch, a friend of Richard's, and bake a bread baby for the nativity scene!



Be creative with your decorating and baking! Make cookies that taste of frankincense, knit scarves from hair!  Or, simply slow down, enjoy the season, interact with art, and maybe bake some bread babies!

~ Trilety

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cookies for Idris

I've just completed two batches of cookies for a special event. Idris Goodwin is a performing artist living in Iowa City. I first met him at the Om Center where he was performing a year and a half ago. His poetry, set to back beats, is amazing. I know that 'amazing' isn't very descriptive but that's what it is. His themes range from his life growing up to current social issues in the US.

After that initial performance and upon meeting Idris, I revealed to him that Trilety and I were starting up Two Birds Bakery. His excitement for us, two women he had never met before, was unexpected and flattering.

Two Birds Bakery sells exclusively through the Nebraska Food Co-op right now but as a personal gift and with my own resources, I wanted to bake Mr. Goodwin some goodies to satiate his audience during his performance tonight at the House of Loom.

This bird is willing to to a cookie favor here and there for now, especially for an avid cookie fan like Idris. However, I'm looking forward to Two Birds Bakery moving forward. Our dreams of working out of our own kitchen space, as mentioned in the previous 'Dream' post, will allow us to reach the whole community. They ain't tasted nothin' yet!

~Meg

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dreams

I recently attended a Conversational Chairs event at Joslyn Art Museum.  Each of the ten conversation stations included two chairs, for two participants, and an envelope that held a question to be discussed, or ignored - depending on your interest.  My partner at the first conversation station was Tim Guthrie, someone I'd heard of but not met.  

The question our envelope held was, "What do you dream?"  We chose to speak on the dreams that are the thrilling, entertaining, and sometimes disturbing link to our subconscious activity.  He dreams in visual detail of houses that are not his, and I dream of straining my limbs through a pearly, viscous lake.  We then talked on Duchamp.  Our 8 minute timer announced that it was time to move to the next station, and all before we could talk on the figurative nature of dreams.  

A few nights back, I dreamed I was stuck in traffic between a garbage truck and a cement truck.  Then I found myself barefoot on a bike rolling slowly until the pedals broke off.  My phone, whenever a call was placed or received, broke in two.  I told a friend that the dream, if interpreted on the obvious surface level, seemed to indicate I was stuck.  He asked if I felt stuck in the dream.  And I replied that, in fact I didn't feel stuck so much as thwarted, frustrated, slowThat, he said, was the meaning of the dream.  

Well, soon my dreams may find me feeling fast or excited, rather than blockaded and irritable.  Because after a year of baking in our homes, selling our items exclusively through the Nebraska Food Co-operative, and searching for shared kitchen space, these Two Birds decided to look into outfitting our own licensed kitchen!  Our current plan is for a small kitchen for our own baking, rather than a bakery that serves customers on site.  This is a big decision, and one that brings with it the possibility for even bigger dreams.  

We've contacted the Douglas County Health Department and were directed to read the Construction Guidelines prior to meeting with potential contractors.

We will keep you updated on our progress, but as a teaser, take a look at the location we are hoping to locate our kitchen!  And feel free to pass along any advice; we live with open ears and open eyes!

~ Trilety

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Special Birthday Post

We all have traditions, whether they be age-old family rituals or something new and special that starts by happenstance. People have traditions for holidays, vacations, and even for their savored Saturday mornings (i.e. chocolate chip pancakes and Saturday morning cartoons). I freaking love traditions! I love that they exist.

For instance, my birthdays growing up always came with a cake from my Dad from a particular Omaha bakery called Pettit's Pastry. In fact, my two brothers also received these special confections on their birthdays. It was our little family tradition, started by my father. The cakes were usually a chocolate and white marble swirl with buter-cream frosting. They were airbrushed with food coloring and/or adorned with little plastic decorations and Dad always made sure to choose a cake decorated to reflect our interest at the time. For me, such cakes included "Disney's Little Mermaid" cake, a horse and rider cake, a happy face cake, and a rainbow unicorn cake (pictured below).

my brother's 14th birthday

my 7th birthday

The Pettit's tradition ended for my brothers and I sometime in each of our high school careers. We didn't wonder about it or mourn the loss much. The cakes just sort of stopped coming and that seemed fine. Like most things, the life span of traditions also vary. And although they do come to an end at some point, they are always remembered.

My thirtieth birthday is coming up this Saturday. I may have outgrown the Pettit's tradition that my dad started ago, but I still love me some cake!

~Meg


Monday, November 7, 2011

The Sage Tongue



Last week, Meg posted about pumpkin, and what goes better with a little orange gourd than sage?   
Sage grows in my garden, though I don't necessarily grow it, and fall finds me harvesting the plant and hanging it to dry in the back hallway.

Common Sage (Salvia officinalis) has a long history and many uses.  
 
Etymology
Sage, in French, is recorded as meaning wise, or of profound wisdom, and Salvia is from the Latin meaning save, or health. 
Physicality:  
Being a lover of tongues, I was pleased to read this in the 1970 edition of Helen Morgenthau Fox’s Gardening with Herbs for Flavor and Fragrance:  “Ibn Baither says the Greek name for the plant means camel’s tongue, and the oval leaves terminating in a point, with their glandular uneven surface covered with a fine network, do resemble the tongue of some animal.” 
If you wet a fresh sage leaf, and caress it across your neck, you will easily be convinced that your flesh is being licked - seriously, try it.
Lore: 
Sage is said to prolong life, strengthen the memory, and prosper in the garden of a domineering wife.
Uses
If you live in Omaha, are a friend of mine, and mention you have a sore throat, it is likely you’ve then received a bit of fresh sage from me with directions on how to make a medicinal tea from it.  My trusty Country Doctor’s Book of Folk Remedies & Healing Wisdom explains that sage is “. . . a strong astringent, and it also contains anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial aromatic oils. . . .It is a common remedy for sore throat in the professional medical herbalism of Europe and North America.  It is an approved medicine for sore throats in Germany.”
The Country Doctor recommends placing 1 tablespoon of sage leaf in a cup, filling it with boiling water, and letting it stand until reaching room temperature and then gargling with 1/4 cup dose three to four times a day. 
You can also dice up the sage leaf and steep it – covered – for at least five minutes and then drink it as a tea.  A variety of preparations for medicinal sage teas and tinctures abound, so research it for yourself, and don’t drink sage tea if pregnant.
Poetry of Sage:
Fox, in her description of sage flowers, poeticizes the sensuality of the bloom:
Two strongly marked white spots on the lower lip are surrounded by a dark lavender patch. The style is whitish; the stigma two-parted at the tip, blue-purple, and curves out from the hooded upper lip; and the four stamens are whitish with golden anthers; the four sepals are brownish, pointed, ribbed, and hairy. 

As Meg continues to create new muffin flavors, it may not be long before we have a savory pumpkin muffin with a fried sage crumble topping!
~ Trilety


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pumpkin is Appropriate

The Pumpkin Tide 
by Richard Brautigan 


I saw thousands of pumpkins last night
come floating in on the tide,
bumping up against the rocks and
rolling up on the beaches;
it must be Halloween in the sea.


One of my favorite poems. 


The pumpkin is our national symbol of the autumn harvest. A plump, round winter squash that gives us jack-o'lanterns and, when cooked, it gives us delicious and healthful dishes. Foods made with pumpkin range from sweet to savory: Pumpkin pie, of course, and pumpkin seeds, as well as pumpkin cakes, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin ravioli and pumpkin soup. 


Although pumpkins are native to North America, they are now grown on every continent except Antarctica... I suppose that makes sense. It's a little to cold there. International cuisine includes a Chinese dish in which the leaves of pumpkins are served in soups, and in Thailand pumpkins are steamed with custard inside to serve as a dessert. 


You can find much more information on pumpkins at various websites such as wikipedia and the University of Illinois of all places. 


These two birds don't have pumpkin on the menu right now but who knows what the future holds!


~Meg



Sunday, October 23, 2011

Stories for Children

I used to write stories for children.  While they were not published, I did receive a few ceremonial rejection letters in 1997.

Two of my favorite stories were Persnickety Fickety Foo Jones - The Man Who Couldn't Stop Singing and Dancing and The Booger Who Lived on My Leg.  

Persnickety Fickety Foo Jones was a gangly guy who went to the cobbler and the baker for help with his ailment that presented itself in constant dance and perpetual song.  The cobbler built him shoes of concrete and stubbornness, and the baker built a cake of peanut butter and bubblegum, both in an attempt to keep Persnickety's feet stuck and lips shut. 

The "Booger" story was a tale of independence when Sammy the Booger, who was wiped on the leg of the girl who pulled him from her nose, didn't want to leave the luxury of flesh as all the boogers before him had done.  And why would he? Sammy enjoyed attending school, playing with the dog, and taking baths.  Soon, though, he packed a bag of snacks and hopped from a knee to descend into a life full of new friends, of the Booger sort, and new adventures.  

Books for kids need, or at least benefit from, illustrations.  Meg was asked by the President of the Nebraska Food Co-operative's Board of Directors to draw up a couple of illustrations for a marketing brochure that will be targeted to families.  And once I saw the contour drawings (below) I thought to myself that maybe along with baking, Meg and I should dive into the book industry, or at least the coloring book world! 



So, what baking related stories for children would you most like to read? I'm sure Meg can manage to provide a visual narrative that will make kids high on hunger.  Here are some initial possibilities:

The Half Baked Muffin - A story about why if you don't get enough sleep, then your brain will be soft and no one will want to eat you.

The Muffin in Pleats - A story of two muffins; the girl who is praised for the pleats in her skirt, and the boy who bucks fashion trends by wearing pleats in his pants. (See, a lot of muffin liners are pleated!)

The Muffin with One Too Many Chips (or Berries, or Nuts) - A story of deformities, or a story about what to do when you have too much, or too many people, on your plate.

The Cookie Who Refused to Crumble - A story of learning that admitting your mistakes will make you an easier to digest person.  

What stories do you think we should write?

~ Trilety

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bacon and Cooking Bacon

So, I generally don't eat meat, but these Two Birds know that people have a great fondness for it and to each his own of course. I will gladly cook some locally produced meat products for others. Bacon is no exception. That is no secret. It's full of flavor and has a nice texture when cooked just right. But how does one cook bacon just right?

Bacon can be fried, microwaved, boiled and baked. My mother used to microwave it using one of those fancy-shmancy bacon cookers. My grandmother would fry it. Generally I don't recommend boiling it. I only mentioned it because I have added it to soups. But I have learned through a few good sources and some trial and error that baking it results in even cooking and a really nice and consistent crisp texture. It is the crispy bacon bits that make our Two Strips and a Short Stack muffin so good. Limp, soft, or chewy bacon bits would not be good. They would be kind of gross.

I always prepare by cooking the bacon (which is purchased locally from the Nebraska Food Co-op) in mass quantity the day before I do my baking so that it has ample time to cool down. It is much safer to chop up bacon when it is not hot and greasy. Ok, makes sense.

If you want crispy easy bacon, do this:

1. preheat your oven to 425.
2. optional: prep a small cookie sheet by covering it with foil. This allows for easy clean-up. Also, the cookie sheet should have a lip around the edge so that the grease produced does not drip off of the cookie sheet.
3. Lay the uncooked bacon strips flat on the cookie sheet. They should lay side-by-side. It doesn't matter too much if they touch or even overlap a little bit.
4. Put the pan in the preheated oven and bake for about 7 minutes, then rotate the pan 90 degrees and bake for 4 to 10 minutes more, until all bacon strips are a nice deep brown. (The time will depend on the amount of bacon you are cooking)
5. Promptly transfer the cooked bacon strips from the cookie sheet to a towel-lined or paper towel-lined plate. This allows the grease to drain and the bacon will crisp up nicely.
6. After the cooked bacon has cooled, store it in the fridge or freezer in an airtight container.

this bacon is ready to go into the oven

Is there anything I'm missing? I wonder if there are more ways to cook bacon...

~Meg

Monday, October 10, 2011

Let's Communicate

"Communication is key," or so I've heard.  But a key to what exactly? A key to understanding? A key to camaraderie? A key to love?  Having been always a bit more intrigued by the key than the lock, I just enjoy the process of communicating.  

But even with my love of writing and talking, sometimes my mouth is so full of words that I think they are teeth; and I must just swallow and digest.  These days, when I feel no desire to speak or write, is when I communicate through my eyes, my fingers, or food.  

Say I am feeling melancholy, I will bake something with a bit of lemon around the edges.  And if I'm happy, I will bake muffins bursting with blueberries that stain your tongue like the memory of a love yet to come.  If I am angry, I will run and then I will come home and enjoy the exercise afterglow while baking a cookie of the peanut butter variety.

Today, I'm having a day where I need to choose an alternative form of communication, and while I can't yet give taste through the Internet, I will speak via photographs of stumbled upon signs, both painted and printed. 


Cuts and burns can come in the kitchen, and I have been stitched up three times.  But burns don't only come from baking, they can come from experience too.  You can endure a burn from love or loss, but it will become shiny and taut and look like a splotch of paint on your arm and soon you will think, "I would go again into the jaw of that dinosaur, and I would feed it muffins until his belly was full and he had no need to eat me."  But we know the truth; it feels good to be devoured.  Isn't that what this sign says to you?  Maybe I'm getting my words back.


They may say "don't," but I say "do."  Yes, risk the break or confiscation of the snow globe for the joy of the imagination contained in its viscous liquid orb.  Do!


Actually, this is advice I would follow.  However, being that the sign is on the container that will soon be hoisted off the ground, it doesn't really do that determinedly oblivious guy any good unless he saw the sign prior to the lifting.  So, instead of reading every dumpster you pass, just make sure to always look up - there's much to see up there besides the bottom of boxes.  

This says it all. . . . Living. . . follow this sign first - always.  

And lest I forget this is the blog of a couple of baking birds, check out the Nebraska Food Co-op as they've made some great changes to the website that make shopping and becoming a member a much easier process.  Plus, it's the one place you can get our baked goods until we find some certified kitchen space. . . . speaking of which. .  . stay tuned!

~ Trilety

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Camping and Cupcakes

October 1st! Today is Satid's birthday (he's my main squeeze). OH I love birthdays and I LOVE the fall and I double-love fall birthdays!!!

For the last couple years we have opted to stay at home for Satid's birthday. We'd have a gathering of friends and I would make a cake for him. His favorite is 'strawberry wedding cake', which is a fluffy white cake with whipped cream frosting and fresh strawberries. It's a bit like strawberry shortcake, but much more decadent, if you can imagine.

This year we are going camping! Well... 'car camping', which is different from camping in that we'll drive to a campground, park the car at the campsite and unload and set up camp right there. It allows us to bring coolers and heavy stuff that would not be appropriate for any other camping expedition. It also allows me to bake up and bring along a bunch of cupcakes for Satid!

I used the white cake mix and made a really yummy cream cheese frosting for the topping. I also bought a bag of those high fructose corn syrup-filled mellowcreme pumpkins to decorate the cupcakes.

I know, I know. Tsk tsk and shame on me for providing such an unhealthy baked good for my man and our friends. I don't usually use the box mixes, but in the case of a fluffy white cake request, I obliged. I have great recipes for chocolate and yellow and pumpkin cakes, but have not yet perfected the fluffy white cake. I do feel a little guilty... but not too guilty. All I can say is that today is a very special for a very special man and he can have whatever he wants. Love love love!!!

fluffy white Satid birthday cupcakes


~Meg

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The New Yeast

These two birds bake quick breads, rather than yeast breads.  Quick breads are baked goods leavened with an agent other than the micro-organism yeast.  

A quick aside on the word "quick" and my adoration for it.  Say this word a few times in a row and enjoy the "O" shaped form by your lips and the whispered click that settles in the back of your throat.  "Quick" is a good word in the mouth.  But, if you are close to my age, then the word "quick" brings back fond memories of listening to Two Beats Off by Fugazi, and cutting the nail to the quick.  Formally referred to as the hypnychium, the quick of the nail is sensitive and should be handled gently, or nibbled tenderly.  

Meg and I don't discriminate against yeast, and we don't apotheosize the quick breads, it just panned out this way.  Yeast leavened breads are romantic though.  Yeast, according to Wikipedia, ". . . are probably one of the earliest domesticated organisms." It's sweet to think of the capitulation of yeast to mankind, as if they relinquished their wild nature to our desire for the way they expand dough with a breath of carbon dioxide.  Yeast inflates breads with a pneuma that confirms their spirit; their alive nature.  

Yeast, however, are receiving a synthetic makeover as researchers recently replaced yeast chromosomes with artificial DNA.  Scientific American and New Scientist provide intriguing detail and potential consequences of this breakthrough.  

Do you think the future holds breads baked with artificial yeast, and if so will we feel and taste the difference on our tongues?  Will our souls know the pneuma is now artificial, or will our bellies win out and choose to consume and digest no matter the origin?  I don't know, but I'm looking forward to what's to come.   

~ Trilety

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Blue Apron Muffin

Trilety is right. Names are important. They determine a lot about our perception of ourselves, of others, and of the world. She talked about changing her name in the last post.

I too have wanted to change my name. When I met my first best friend, Jessica, I imagined what life would be like if that were my name. What would I be like? I even wrote the name 'Jessica' on a few belongings of mine to try it out. But in the end, it didn't feel right. A few years later, after watching the Disney movie The Little Mermaid for the first time, I wanted desperately to change my name to Ariel after the main character. I loved that movie! I was in third grade and I was borderline obsessed... okay, well I was completely obsessed. I loved that the main character had red hair like me. Again, I imagined what life would be like if I were named Ariel. And once again I came to the conclusion that the name did not suit me. As I am told, my name, Megan, was popular at the time I was born. It has no big story or family ties, but it is mine. And if I were to change it, I would feel as though I were abandoning an old friend. So I decided to keep it.

Thanks for all who responded to our call for suggestions. Megan- I agree that Fromage Bleu Pommes is super cool and fancy. However, we have decided on another name from Trilety's list: the Blue Apron Muffin. Although I do not own a blue apron, I feel like the name suits this muffin very well.

~Meg

Monday, September 12, 2011

Choosing A Name

Names create us, or at least they are one finger on the many hands that build us into the people we are.  How different would I, or my life, be if I grew up with another name?  It was believed by my mother's doctor that I would be born a boy.  But I was gifted a gender of female; a sort of inside-out version of man.  Or is Man simply an inside out version of Woman?  Both can be true.  The name originally chosen for me, LeRoy, had to be rethought because of my genitalia.  After 7 days, and a hospital bracelet and birth announcements that celebrated my name as Fred, I was finally named Trilety.  My name was a mouthful as a kid, and drew attention to a little girl who thought she wanted to be incognito but never acted in a way that could ensure that.  At about the age of 6, I changed my name to Rachel.  I was pleased for the people who obliged to call me by new name, but just as pleased I didn't stick with it. Trilety is a name with a history and meaning.  I am named for my paternal great-grandmother, Helen Trilety, who was as tall as I am short.  She was strong and powerful.  She was much loved, and loved much.  

Names are important.  

We need a name for the new Apple-Gorgonzola-Toasted-Walnut muffin.  I have found, while helping with the naming process, (of books and stories, no one has yet let me help them name their pet or child) that a good exercise is to throw out a long list of names, crazy or dull, and eliminate and choose from there.  That's how we came up with the name Two Birds - it came from a list of 50 other possible names.  

Anyone have a favorite from the options below?

The French
Blue Waldorf
Blue Astoria
The Bavaria
The French Farmhouse Muffin
Pommes-Walnut
Fromage bleu Pommes
The Gorg!
The Gorgon!
Little Blue Maiden
Blue Apple
Blue Nut!
Dinner Bell
The Rustic Nut
The Rustic Apple
Suppertime Muffin
Don't Be Blue, Eat my Muffin
Don't Be Blue, Eat my Apple
Don't Be Blue, Eat my. . . 
The Nutty Apple
Apple Tree Muffin
Blue Apron Muffin
French Intestine (I'm going to write a poem/story with this title, so please, nobody choose this name)
Le Muffin
Miss Megan
Meg's French Muffin
Bavarian Belly Muffin

Don't forget to suggest your own name. . . we'll give you a few free Apple-Gorgonzola-Toasted-Walnut Muffins!


~ Trilety

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Muffin Without a Name

Our newest muffin creation is the Apple-Gorgonzola-Toasted Walnut muffin. I know it sounds like a lot. Well, it is a lot. A lot of crazy yummy goodness!! I first mentioned it a few posts back when I introduced it as an experiment. Since then, it's undergone a few minor changes and viola!

This new muffin is a wonderful balance of flavors and textures with sweet apples baked in the batter, as well as some nuts and cheese to compliment. Squirrels would totally love this muffin!

So, the dilemma is that the new muffin is currently lacking a super sexy... or just plain clever name. Some words I have been tossing around are 'rustic' and 'dinner bell', words like that because it is super hearty and might actually stick to your ribs.

Do you have any suggestions?

~Meg

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Poems of Fruit, and Vegetables, and Bread

As Summer slowly, oh so slowly, loosens its grip on the season and gives itself to Autumn, I've been reading poetry.  Beyond Love, and War, poets write about Food.  Turning only to a few books that move around my living room, rather than searching the digitized texts that exist online, I offer a few food poems for your enjoyment.

In a nod to Meg's most recent post about banana bread, I offer a poem by Marco Altamirano.  I found this book of poems at the Maple Street Bookshop while visiting New Orleans.

Soggy Bananas
this poem is about soggy bananas. 
but this poem is about other things too
although the bananas are soggy
mush in bags

soggy banana, you tube of gooey life,
here is my boyish squeeze
watch you bleed. 

This next poem, by Robert Louis Stevenson, is also the name of a contemporary dessert of white bread, margarine, and sprinkles.   When bacon finds its way to my house, then so will this cavity inducing dessert.  But, it sure is pretty!

Fairy Bread
Come up here, O dusty feet!
Here is fairy bread to eat.
Here in my retiring room,
Children, you may dine
On the golden smell of broom
And the shade of pine;
And when you have eaten well,
Fairy stories hear and tell.

 Sometimes food isn't in the title of the poem, but it's imperative in its embedding, as in Lisa Chen's poem below:


Luna
Outside Luna, a coloratura of unnamed birds warbles, perforating the sky, blue sulk-drop dissolving in the mouth.  Ahead of us, dust rises from a landslide.  We stall in a line of vehicles.  The proprietor of the soda stand leans over the counter, working something between his teeth.  He watches his girls approach us, their baskets of Chiclets and peanuts balanced against their hips.  How they sway, indifferent yet curious, fingering the pull-string change purses around their necks.  In the green skins of their limes, each girl had carved the initials of her own true love, R for Rodrigo, J for Juarez. 
The first verse of Fruits & Vegetables, the title poem of Erica Jong's first book of poetry, goes as such:

1
Goodbye, he waved, entering the apple.
That red siren, 
whose white flesh turns brown
with prolonged exposure to the air,
opened her perfect cheeks to receive him.
She took him in.
The garden revolved
in her glossy patinas of skin.
Goodbye.
And lastly, what post of poetry would be complete without Richard Brautigan?

Cooks Together
Pauline and Al together cooked an early dinner that we had late in the afternoon.  It was very hot outside, so they prepared something light.  They made a potato salad that somehow ended up having a lot of carrots in it.
Poets adore carrots! 

Do you have a favorite food poem?

~ Trilety




Sunday, August 21, 2011

I'm Bananas for Bread!

This week, while putting two more over-ripe bananas into the freezer, I realized that my stock was piling up. Do you know what that means??? Yes, it's time to make banana bread! Bananas that have been frozen are the best for banana bread. The freezing process leaves them nice and black and slimy, and will give the bread superb flavor and lots of moisture.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

I always dump a cup-full of semisweet chocolate chips or cinnamon chips into my batter. These sweeties turn this traditional breakfast goodie into a dessert, to be eaten alone or put into a mug and topped with vanilla ice-cream. So good!

Until the age of 10 or so, I had no clue that chocolate chips could be paired so perfectly with banana bread. I remember the first time I tried it. It was while I was in elementary school, maybe 4th or 5th grade... One of my classmates invited me over to her home after school. Her mother had made banana bread... with chocolate chips! What?! Yes!

I went straight home and informed my mother of this amazing discovery. Mom already made the best banana bread as far as I was concerned, but without chocolate chips. That's when everything changed. The next time she made her bread, she added chocolate chips to her own recipe. My brothers and I loved it. We still do. In fact, my older brother Jason closes his remembering eyes and smile fondly while recounting the bread our mom made. This was one of a few traditional foods in my home growing up, and I am happy to keep it going.

Do you have any food traditions, either currently or from your past?

~Meg

Monday, August 15, 2011

Another Man's Muffin


The Biathlete - Pre Eat
It may seem arrogant, or self congratulatory, but when I bite into a muffin baked by these Two Birds, I actually exclaim with praise, "I love our Muffins!!"  But some mornings, if you peek through the plate glass window of Blue Line Coffee (49th & Underwood, Omaha NE), you will find me nibbling away at another man's muffin.  Pleats of paper will be pulled away from the sides of a freshly baked muffin and my fingers will be sticky for minutes.  Many of my mornings have begun at Blue Line with the biathlete muffin; a vegan, carrot, raisin muffin.  Normally, I'm not a girl who enjoys a warm muffin, but there are times when the burst of a swollen, hot raisin can be a dangerous risk that I'm willing to take.  

Chris McClellan, proprietor of Blue Line, makes these sweet, mean muffins.  He's a bit of baked good himself, as Elisabeth just told him the other day that he's like a French baguette; crusty on the outside and chewy and warm on the inside.  We should all appreciate the crust of someone, because it's the barriers to the chew that make the taste more delightful.  Oh, and that reminds me, the biathletes with the deep hued, crunchy tops are my favorites, and all the lovely baristas (Kristin, Leslie, Rachel, Cora, and Katie) know this, so as they gingerly slip a pair of tongs into the bakery case, they don't even need to be told that I like my muffins on the dark side.  

Stop into Blue Line sometime for a coffee and a muffin, and make conversation with Chris.  For those of you who don't know him, check Chris out in the video for the Mynabirds song, "Numbers Don't Lie" - it's a strangely accurate depiction of his real life persona. 

Go ahead, put another local muffin your mouth!

~ Trilety
 

Monday, August 8, 2011

August and Cupcakes...

It's August. This time of year in the midwest is hot and sticky. As my dad would say, the snakes hang straight down from tree branches just to catch a little breeze. 

In the ongoing research these birds are doing in the realm of small business and bakeries specifically, I've been perusing some bakery blogs of it. It's fun and interesting to see what other bakeries are doing. I didn't come across many cookie and muffin sites, but did discover many many cupcake blogs. Yikes! I love cupcakes. I do. I love the idea of a cake in a cup; just my size, just for me. And maybe that is the appeal for most people. When you order a humongous cake for an event, you have to worry about cutting it into slices, serving it on plates with forks and napkins, and also finding a space large enough in the fridge to store the leftovers. Cupcakes seem so easy in comparison. No need for cutting, no plates or forks necessary. Plus you can find lots of little places to put the leftover cupcakes; just shove one here and one over there and maybe a few in the vegetable drawer. Easy! 

Well, Two Birds isn't really into cupcakes. I mean, I do like them. They are delicious and fun to look at. People get really creative with them, which I love. But there are so many cupcake makers out there. We'll stick to our cookies and muffins.

So Omaha has a few bakeries devoted to the creation of cupcakes... Yay Omaha!

1. Cupcake Island

2. Jones Brothers Cupcakes

3. Bliss Bakery

4. Leslie Elizabeth Creative Innovations

5. Cuppy Cakes

Lemon Custard Cupcakes
Happy Cupcake-ing!

~Meg


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Magic!

Two weeks ago, we put out a request for you to name our new cookie.  Thanks to everyone who submitted such informative, clever, and funny suggestions!  And the new name of the cookie formerly known as the Vegan-Flourless-Peanut-Butter-Chocolate-Chip-Cookie is. . . . . .  Peanut Butter Copperfields, the name suggested by Richard - here's his magical and mindful reasoning below:

These cookies are called Copperfields.

You told me what the trick was going to be beforehand: vegan, flourless, and low on sugar. I was skeptical. I kept looking for the wires. I kept looking for the mirrors or the body double. But after three bags of these cookies I am still amazed at how it's done. They're possibly the tastiest cookies you've ever had.

That's some epic prestidigitation. I've never been so exhilarated by a disbelievable absence.

It's like David Copperfield making the Statue of Liberty disappear in your mouth.

Also consider variations, such as "The Chocolate Chip Copperfield" or "Peanut Butter Copperfields." 

  
Did we choose this name because it is catchy, creative, and accurate? Or was it chosen out of some sort of psychological capitulation to his initial, declarative sentence: These cookies are called Copperfields.  Either way; Thank You Richard Penner!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It's hot and humid here in Omaha.  My skin thrills me with the way it weeps, or maybe salivates, to keep me cool.  As a person who just started using air conditioning three years ago, I still feel guilty about being cool in my house, let alone the guilt that can accompany baking cookies in the middle of a sweaty afternoon.  But there resides in the sky a star whose bulk can burn skin and soil, but if harnessed gently, can also bake a cookie.  Today, I pulled out my sun oven and baked a batch of Peanut Butter Copperfields on the back patio. 
Ten minutes In. . .

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Savory Experiment

The thought of a savory muffin is appealing to me. It is a less sweet breakfast option that is still delicious with a coffee or tea accompaniment.

While looking through an old cooking magazine last month, I came across a recipe that offered the flavors of Bleu cheese, walnuts, and apples in the form of a tart. Oh my goodness that sounds goooood! And my mouth began to water at the thought of the combination of flavors: savory, nutty and sweet. Inspiration!!!

I want to include these flavors in a muffin! Or perhaps I should call it a biscuit? So I 've been experimenting over the past two weeks, adding those same ingredients to my own muffin recipe. In the first batch, I omitted the sugar from my muffin recipe altogether and added a bit more flour to compensate, plus the Bleu cheese, walnuts (toasted) and apples. However, I found the outcome to be too dry. Maybe the fact that I omitted the sugar didn't actually mean I had to compensate with flour. So, in the next batch I added just a few tablespoons of sugar and took out the flour that I had added in the previous batch. That worked much better! And another thing, should I put sugar on top? Sprinkling the tops of muffins with a little Turbinado sugar gives them a yummy sugar crust and a lovely glistening appearance. Trilety suggested a honey glaze to top these savory muffins/biscuits; a touch of sweetness doesn't always mean cane sugar is necessary. She uses other natural sweeteners in her baked goods, such as honey, molasses, and maple syrup. So I'll try the honey glaze! Brilliant! I love experimenting and I love it when things come together.

So, it's clear that I am quite excited about this idea. Does anyone share my enthusiasm?

~Meg



Sunday, July 17, 2011

Name this Cookie!

It may say a lot about me when I divulge how excited I become when something of mine is put on a tongue, and the reply is closed eyes, a sigh, and an exclamation of sweetness.  This scenario occurred a few years ago when my friend, David Prince, put one of my vegan-flourless-peanut-butter-chocolate-chip cookies in his mouth.  Since that day, I bake this cookie for him whenever he passes through town, and have even sent a batch or two when he was working hard at a residency.  I don’t discriminate against my own gender though, so this vegan-flourless-peanut-butter-chocolate-chip-cookie is also the favorite of Elisabeth.  She even has the recipe.  But I only gave it to her because she is a stellar secret-keeper, and she’s also terribly persuasive, so I knew I’d likely end up tied to a chair (in the Tuesday afternoon way, not the Friday night way) and spilling my ingredients and instructions anyway.  If you know you’ll eventually give it up, then give it up quick. . .unless of course it’s a Friday night type of thing. . then I recommend anticipation. 
Anyway, back to the cookie, which for the balance of this post I will refer to by an acronym; VFPBCCC.  Or even better, VFPBC3.  These Two Birds didn't include the VFPBC3 in our original cookie lineup.  While last in Seattle, Elisabeth asked why this was so.  I explained that it was my only cookie recipe that did not use any natural sweeteners, and it had ¾ cup of organic brown sugar in it!  That amount of sugar would be alright for loved ones who had power over me to demand the types of cookies I bake, but not for unsuspecting customers who don’t need that amount of sugar in their cookie

A Sugar Aside: I used to be a fan of granulated sugar before I knew about the processing and ill effects.  I imagined living my days in a sugar cube castle with white walls that were streaked in pink from a tongue that bled after licking grains all day.

Elisabeth laughed abruptly at my reply about too much sugar in a cookie.  As she exited the kitchen, with her lovely chin over her shoulder, she looked back to me and said, “Then just reduce the sugar.” An epiphany! It hadn’t occurred to me.  The cookie seemed good as is.

So, three batches of  VFPBC3 later, I managed to reduce the sugar from ¾ cup to ½ cup.  They were then tested.  Richard’s vote was for the least amount of sugar, and Elisabeth is quoted as saying: "As a devotee of the first incarnation of the cookie, I was aghast when Trilety said she thought it was just too sweet. Why take a perfectly delightful healthy-ish cookie and make it healthier? After trying the new, lower sugar version, I was thrilled to discover I could hardly discern a difference. The rich peanut butter flavor may even get to shine a bit brighter in the new version. More, please!"
 Long story short, these Two Birds plan on adding the VFPBC3 to our roster, but first we need a name!! Take the next two weeks to send us Cookie Names, or post them below, and we’ll announce the Winner and the Prize on 31 July 2011.  
Regis already suggested this cookie, or at least a cookie, be named the Soundbite (which I love)!  What are your suggestions???
~ Trilety




Saturday, July 9, 2011

Northern California Travel

Vacation was great! On Tuesday I got back from Arcata/Eureka California; that is Humboldt County for those of you who might be more familiar with that reference.
Mom shipped out there in September and decided to ship herself back to the midwest. In exchange for helping her drive the long way back to Omaha, I got a plane ride and short visit with precious friends whom I don't get to see often. Done deal!

A view of the recent flooding of the Missouri River. 





















While in Humboldt County, there were several important stops to make: the Redwood Forrest and the Pacific Ocean...
This is me, hugging a tree. Mmmmmm!





















So, I did visit a few of my favorite restaurants/bakeries as well...
There's Renata's Creperie in Arcata where I had a breakfast crepe stuffed with egg and basil and garlic and topped with a dollop of sour cream. Delicious!
And I also stopped into Ramone's, a bakery and coffee shop hat is favored by the locals. I actually used to work there! It's a big production bakery that makes everything under the sun: croissants, sourdough bread, tarts, tortes, cookies, pies, cheesecakes, muffins, coffeecake, and beautiful wedding cakes. Wow. I tell you what, Wow!
 40-quart mixer at Ramone's. Holy mass quantity cookies!

















And after the visit was over, it was down to business- the business of driving 1800 miles over a period of 3 days. Yeesh

Out of the Cascades and on to Reno
















Salt Flats in Utah
















My personal favorite, Wyoming and it's sky
















Back in Nebraska. I love you, trees!
















If you have the time to drive instead of fly to your destination, do it! The US is a vast array of landscapes and colors. Photographs don't hold a candle to the real thing... sort of like our muffins and cookies!

~Meg

Monday, July 4, 2011

Bird on Vacation

It's my fourteenth, and last day in Seattle.  A firework show is sure to entertain over Lake Union with the Olympic Mountains as a backdrop.  Only a bit of my trip has been devoted to baking, so here's a quick picture tour for those of you who have yet to visit this amazing city. 

Clouds made of the sea, and pink with insulation hues, greeted me on my first morning in Seattle. <left>

Elisabeth was an art fair vendor at the Redmond Town Center Sidewalk Sale & Art Fair, so the first four days of my trip was spent in the safe and clean city of Redmond, Washington where the leaves appear lacquered in an attempt to repel dust. <right - check out her site by clicking on her name to enter into a giveaway>






While I didn't do much baking, I did voyeuristically watch others bake.  If you walk by Le Fournil in the morning, you can see aesthetically pleasing men rolling dough and stacking skin-thin layers of ham onto sticky croissant squares. <left>












For two years, Elisabeth and I have talked about going on the Theo Chocolate tour in the Fremont neighborhood.  We finally took the tour and sampled myriad flavors of chocolate and confections.  But the best part of the tour; the attire!








Another tour I recommend is the Underground Tour which I enjoyed with Julie.  We also took a trek through the Sweater Tree Forest.



But the best tours, are ones given by dear friends.  Without rain, Regis took us on a tour of the details and design of downtown Seattle.  We touched terracotta and rode an elevator, complete with operator, to the top of Smith Tower where Mt. Rainier showed itself off like a woman usually kept behind a curtain. 













The one day I baked was devoted to a sugar-reduction experiment.  Three batches of vegan-flourless-peanut-butter-chocolate-chip-cookies with three separate amounts of sugar were baked and the least amount won out!


Since arriving in Seattle, I've eaten Thai food and street food, but my favorite way of consuming calories is to watch other people eat.  Confession, Richard wasn't the only one to consume a veggie-chipolte-dog with a "squirt" of cream cheese.  


While this bird was in Seattle, the other Bird was in California, so I can't wait to hear about her trip.  And for those of you who prefer mental meanderings about baking rather than traveling, stay tuned as we always have batter filled dreams to share about our future!

~ Trilety