Thursday, December 18, 2008

First Day of Christmas Break

I am all finished with finals, so today was my first day of Christmas vacation. I couldn't be happier to have some downtime. Plus, I'll only be a part-time student next semester, so I hope I won't be so stressed out! I'm looking forward to getting more reading done, as well. Recently I finished The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan and The Black Dudley Murder by Margery Allingham. I recommend The Omnivore's Dilemma to absolutely everyone. It is fascinating and it will make you see the need for change in the way we produce food. The Black Dudley Murder was my fun reading (1930s, British, right up my alley).

I've also been watching The First Churchills (from Masterpiece Theatre) from Netflix. One of the reviewers on Netflix called it "creaky" (it was taped, not filmed, in 1969) and said they must have spent the majority of the budget on wigs. I have to admit it's true, but I had a good time anyway. You'd probably have to have a prior interest in the period (the courts of Charles II, James II, William & Mary, and Anne) to sit through all twelve episodes, though. I watched all of them (are you surprised?). I also did a little internet research and found out that John Churchill's post of Master of the Rolls was previously held by your old friend and mine, Sir Harbottle Grimston. Also interesting to note, the actor who played John Churchill, John Neville, had a small part in The Fifth Element (which Paul and I watched last night) and the actor who played Charles II (James Villiers) was Baron de Batz in The Scarlet Pimpernel (which I watch very often!).
John Churchill 1st Duke of Marlborough and Sarah Duchess of Marlborough with Their Children by Johann Closterman
John Churchill 1st Duke of Marlborough and Sarah Duchess of Marlborough with Their Children

Also on the Restoration front, I listened to In Our Time this afternoon while cleaning the living room (my life is so glamorous). The topic was The Great Fire of London and the link to listen is here.

Let's remain in the realm of the costume drama for a moment longer while I discuss another film I've seen recently, Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon. I'm still trying to figure out what I think about it. I can, without any hesitation, say that it is one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen. The cinematography is amazing, it's all filmed on location (at places like Castle Howard and Sanssouci, no less), the costumes are awesome, and I loved the score. However, some of the acting is sub-par and the film is three hours long. I'll leave you to decide for yourselves. Here's the trailer:

I lack a cute transition, so here's the bit about cooking. I spent much of Sunday making three quiches from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I made two Quiche aux lardons (Quiche lorraine in the book but I don't parboil the bacon because I love its smoky taste) and one Quiche aux champignons (Mushroom quiche). I subsequently wrapped up all the slices and froze them so I have lunch or dinner available for a looong time (18 slices of quiche!).
Also in the easy-to-freeze department:

Blueberry Muffin-Scones (taste mostly like a scone baked in a muffin tin)

(I adapted this from James Beard's Blueberry Muffins in The Fireside Cookbook)

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder (preferably without aluminum)
3 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup blueberries (if using frozen, don't defrost)
Sanding sugar, for a finishing touch

Pre-heat oven to 400 F. Put small saucepan over medium-low heat and put butter in to melt (be careful not to burn it). In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Aerate with a wisk. In a small bowl, beat the egg then mix the milk into it; mix with dry ingredients (a wooden spoon works best). Add melted butter to mixture and combine. Mixture will resemble cookie batter. Then, fold in blueberries. Use the wrapper from the butter to grease the 12-muffin tin and use an ice cream scoop to fill the tins. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes (22 in my oven). When muffin-scones come out of the oven, sprinkle them with the sanding sugar and let cool. Enjoy!

Yield: 12 muffins


Note: I usually double this recipe, wrap the muffins in tin foil (it's reusable!), place them in a freezer bag (also reusable!) and put them into the freezer. I get out muffins for breakfast the night before to defrost on the counter. This works really well.

Here are a couple photos of The Fireside Cookbook, which I bought the last time we were at Watermark Books. We actually ate dinner there tonight, as well. Yummy! And then when we got home, Paul knocked a bottle of port onto the kitchen tile. I was really glad I wasn't the one who did it this time! I think we're going to have to wear shoes in the kitchen for a while... Oh, and don't feel bad about the port. It was crappy port anyway.

Finally, we are coming to the end of this long-winded blog post. Here's the only decent photo (Tyrone is not a very good photographer but we love him anyway) from our courthouse nuptials that some of you (you know who you are) have been asking for. Paul and I promise we will get professional photos taken. Sometime.

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