Orange Pound Cake

The smell was intoxicating. We couldn't wait for this to cool, so we cut off a couple of hot slices. When right out of the oven, the cake isn't as dense as a normal pound cake. It was very good, with a distinct orange flavor, but a proper pound cake needs time to set up.

A couple of months ago I posted my Lemon Pound Cake recipe.
I have been experimenting again. After searching for an orange cake recipe, I thought of my lemon pound cake and realized it was time to try an orange twist on this tried and true recipe. There's not much difference, except a little psychology thrown in- food coloring.

350 degrees

Grease and flour TUBE PAN- a bundt pan is too small.

Mix together
Rind of one orange
Pulp of one orange- remove seeds and skin
Include any juice gleaned from the orange.
3 sticks salted butter - room temperature
3 cups of sugar
6 large eggs - room temperature

In a separate bowl, combine
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

Add half of flour mixture to butter mixture.
Mix thoroughly.
Then add
1 cup full fat sour cream
Mix thoroughly.
Add the remaining flour and mix well.

Add 4 tsp orange extract
plus 4 drops red food coloring
and 4 drops orange food coloring

This will give it a hint of color. It will reinforce the orange flavoring. Color added really does influence people's perceptions of flavor. This is not a creamsicle orange flavored cake. It is a fragrant, delicately flavored cake and the color serves to enhance the orange taste.

Mix well.

Add cake mix to prepared pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour 10 minutes.

For the best cake texture, the true southern method requires that the cake cool completely on a wire rack. Then it is wrapped completely in AL foil overnight and served the next day. Rewrap with foil to keep the moisture in.

The crust
Any pound cake lover knows the top must have a firm, almost crisp "top crust". Don't leave a cake in the oven thinking that you'll pull it out when the crust is perfect. If you wait that long, you'll lose moistness and with the thickness of a pound cake, that's a bad thing. It'll leave you reaching for the water to choke it down. The crust will crisp as it cools. Only when it is completely cool, should it be wrapped in AL foil. Wrapped warm, any heat will be trapped otherwise and you end up peeling the cake off the paper and losing the crispness of the top crust.

ORANGE GLAZE (optional)
1 tsp fresh orange rind
3 tbsp orange juice
The pulp added variety adds a nice texture.
Just enough confectioners sugar to make a thin glaze. Add a 1/4 cup at a time paring down to a tbsp at a time to reach your perfect consistency. A drop of orange juice if you need to thin it.
The glaze should be a side, offered to each person separately with their cake slice. You don't want to ruin the crust and each person has a difference tolerance for added sweetness. A creamer makes a great server for the glaze.

Aloo Gobi

Once again I've grabbed a recipe, researched it, and tweaked it to make it my own.

(Indian spiced potato & cauliflower)

1/4 stick margarine
1/2 sweet onion finely chopped

After the onion is translucent, add
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp ginger paste
2 tsp minced garlic

Cook 2-3 minutes, just long enough for the garlic to cook but not burn.

1 can diced tomatoes with juice
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed small
1/3 - 1/2 head of cauliflower

If you use frozen cauliflower, add the cauliflower about ten minutes after the potatoes. Frozen will break up if cooked too long.
1 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala or 1 tsp chole masala
1 tsp chili powder

Add just enough water to cover the mix.
Cook 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are done. This means you have to add water to keep it going.

1 to 1 1/2 tsp salt as the dish finishes and mix well.

The end batch should be thick, sticking to the potatoes and cauliflower. You want the potatoes to cook through but maintain their shape.

With the potato in the dish, don't serve over rice. Rather, have a side of bread (naan).

Dekalb Farmer's Market

We went shopping at the Dekalb Farmer's Market this weekend. I got some great deals on spices.

Crushed red pepper 0.77 4oz
Caraway seed 0.77 5 oz
Ground Coriander 0.63 5oz
Parsley Flakes 0.49 1 oz
Dill Seed 0.60 5 oz
Poppy Seed 0.72 5 oz
Chives Dried 0.40 1oz
Whole Cloves 1.92 5 oz
Cinnamon 1.00 8.5oz
Fennel Seed 0.65 4oz
Dried Pepperment 0.48 1oz
Dried Spearmint 0.39 1oz
Curry Powder 1.12 4 oz
Chili Powder 1.12 5oz
White Pepper 3.02 10oz
Mustard Seed 0.90 7oz
Imitation Bacon Bits 0.55 4oz

The beauty of a place like Dekalb FM is the choice available compared to the local grocery stores like Publix and Kroger. When you do find some of these spices, the prices are outrageous. And forget about a WalMart having anything outside the basics.

The produce at DFM is unlike anything sold by even the local organic farmers collectives and farmer's market. As an international community, Atlanta caters to the diverse global tastes of its diaspora populations.

Durian, watercress, jerusalem artichokes, papayas, mangos, drumstick, fenugreek, fresh figs are but a small sample of the produce offerings. Canned and dried items, sweets freshly made or from around the world, breads, cookies and muffins, fresh juices, dozens of cheeses, and for the meat eaters, fresh seafood and more.

Definitely worth a couple of hours in the car with the kids.

Dan Barker Quotes

"Faith is a cop-out. If the only way you can accept an assertion is by faith, then you are conceding that it can’t be taken on its own merits."

"The very concept of sin comes from the bible. Christianity offers to solve a problem of its own making! Would you be thankful to a person who cut you with a knife in order to sell you a bandage?"

"Not thinking critically, I assumed that the "successful" prayers were proof that God answers prayer while the failures were proof that there was something wrong with me."

"How happy can you be when you think every action and thought is being monitored by a judgmental ghost?"

"I have something to say to the religionist who feels atheists never say anything positive: You are an intelligent human being. Your life is valuable for its own sake. You are not second-class in the universe, deriving meaning and purpose from some other mind. You are not inherently evil--you are inherently human, possessing the positive rational potential to help make this a world of morality, peace and joy. Trust yourself."

"You can cite a hundred references to show that the biblical God is a bloodthirsty tyrant, but if they can dig up two or three verses that say "God is love," they will claim that you are taking things out of context!"

"I do understand what love is, and that is one of the reasons I can never again be a Christian. Love is not self denial. Love is not blood and suffering. Love is not murdering your son to appease your own vanity. Love is not hatred or wrath, consigning billions of people to eternal torture because they have offended your ego or disobeyed your rules. Love is not obedience, conformity, or submission. It is a counterfeit love that is contingent upon authority, punishment, or reward. True love is respect and admiration, compassion and kindness, freely given by a healthy, unafraid human being."

-Dan Barker, "Losing Faith in Faith", 1992

Too funny

The Sun is really not terribly impressed by the turn of events as the UK deals with a hung Parliament. It's front page headline is
"Squatter holed up in No 10" over a picture of Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
"Man, 59 refuses to leave house in Downing Street"
is the paper's take on Mr Brown's decision to use his constitutional right to stay on as PM.

Spinach Dal

The ingredients for the soup. Yes, that's a baking powder container holding my salt. It's so much easier to measure and no salt is lost.

Spinach Dal
1 cup chana dal
This is the chunkier split dal.(Almost twice the thickness of split peas.)
The paper thin split dal is worthless if you want a thick option on the soup. The thicker dal also soaks up the water and flavor better.

Boil until almost done.

3/4 vidalia (sweet) onion
4 tsp minced garlic
1 cup frozen chopped spinach

Cook until onions are soft. The dal should be fully cooked by now.

1 TSP turmeric
2 TSP chili powder
1 TSP ground ginger
(a one inch knob minced fresh is so much better and hotter but I never seem to have any on hand.
2 tsp chana masala
1 tsp garam masala

Cook 10 minutes more

Add 1 tsp salt. Taste and add 1/2 tsp more if it suits your taste.

**For those seeking serious burn,
finely chop 2 green chilis.
I bought a handful of small green chilis and strung them to dry. As they dried, the colors changed and some are green, some red, some a mix. All seem to have increased in heat the longer they dry. Simmer.

Top with chopped cilantro (coriander leaves) if desired.

I recommend adding the chilis after the salt tasting because one can't correctly judge the salt after the hot chilis are added.

NOTE: As with all my soups, I never measure the water, adding as I see fit. Some like a thin dal; my husband wants a dal to hand ladle with naan. To each their own.
Taste as you go along. Experiment and have fun. Open your sinuses!
Remember to allow time for the flavors to infuse. A dal should simmer.
The picture above shows where I have cooked this dal down to half to thicken it.

AN EXTRA KICK- To accomodate my husband's palate, I add 2 heaping TBSP of garlic chutney. His sandalwood soap helps offset all the garlic oozing from his pores for the next couple of days.

Discworld v. Dr Who

This from Terry Pratchett in SFX magazine.

I wish I could hate Doctor Who.

I was there at the beginning, chums, the very beginning, when the world was monochrome, and pretty grainy monochrome at that. I remember arguing at school about the tune, particularly how long you should go bumdy bum bumdy bum bumdy bum bumdy bum before you got on to the woooooooeeeeeee bumdidy bum bit.

It was all new in those days. In fact I was there twice. It was talked about so much in the following week that the BBC had to air it again on the next Saturday before showing the second episode. There was a huge amount of interest even though the Daleks hadn’t turned up yet. It suffered, of course, from early Star Trek syndrome, where you find yourself either in a room with a few flashing lights in it, or a gravel pit. But it was fun while it lasted. The world filled up with other things, up to and including getting an education, a job and a girlfriend – in that order. I saw the occasional episode in which, generally speaking, the world was attacked by teapots. Various Doctors came and went while I had to live in the big world which didn’t wobble, but had far more reasons for hiding under the sofa.

I was vaguely aware of the arrival of K-9, a hilariously dreadful prop in the Doctor Who tradition, and I saw enough to realise that the Doctor was beginning to engage more with the planet, possibly because Earth is cheaper.

And then suddenly it all changed. We had a couple of Doctors who were “street”, at least by BBC standards, and what looked like very good, very well-thought-out sets and effects. I still preferred Torchwood, though, which tried so hard and came up with some memorable episodes, of which “Small Worlds” (the one about fairies) sticks most in the mind. It was clever.

So once again I became a believer and have been watching right up to the most recent episode. Regrettably I’m an older believer and noticed something. It’s this; Doctor Who is ludicrous and it breaks most of the laws of narrative.

It’s a law – well at least a guideline – in writing plays that if somebody is going to be killed with an axe in the third act, then the axe should be visible hanging on the wall in the first act, and, for the hard of thinking, should be the subject of a line of dialogue that would go something like “you shouldn’t leave that around, it could do someone a mischief.” On planet Earth it’s generally taken for granted that it’s a bad thing to introduce into a narrative some last-minute solution that was totally unexpected and unheralded. At least in the old westerns you did know that there was such a thing as the cavalry and so the cavalry turning up was likely. Indeed, if the cavalry were on their way in your average western movie you were generally given a few cutaway shots of them galloping, just to remind you what was happening.

The unexpected, unadvertised solution which kisses it all better is known as a deus ex machina – literally, a god from the machine. And a god from the machine is what the Doctor now is. A decent detective story provides you with enough tantalising information to allow you to make a stab at a solution before the famous detective struts his stuff in the library. Doctor Who replaces this with speed, fast talking, and what appears to be that wonderful element “makeitupasyougalongeum”. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I would dare try to jump-start a spaceship that looks like the Titanic by diving it into the atmosphere… but I have to forgive the Doctor that, because it was hilariously funny.

People say Doctor Who is science fiction. At least people who don’t know what science fiction is, say that Doctor Who is science fiction. Star Trek approaches science fiction. The horribly titled Star Cops which ran all too briefly on the BBC in the 1980s was the genuine pure quill of science fiction, unbelievable in some aspects but nevertheless pretty much about the possible. Indeed, several of its episodes relied on the laws of physics for their effect (I’m particularly thinking of the episode “Conversations With The Dead”). It had a following, but never caught on in a big way. It was clever, and well thought out. Doctor Who on the other hand had an episode wherein people’s surplus body fat turns into little waddling creatures. I’m not sure how old you have to be to come up with an idea like that. The Doctor himself has in recent years been built up into an amalgam of Mother Teresa, Jesus Christ (I laughed my socks off during the Titanic episode when two golden angels lifted the Doctor heavenwards) and Tinkerbell. There is nothing he doesn’t know, and nothing he can’t do. He is now becoming God, given that the position is vacant. Earth is protected, we are told, and not by Torchwood, who are human and therefore not very competent. Perhaps they should start transmitting the programme on Sundays.

And yet, I will watch again next week because it is pure professionally-written entertainment, even if it helps sometimes if you leave your brain on a hook by the door. It’s funny, light-hearted, knows when to use pathos and capable of wonderful moments; I remember the face of David Tennant as the Doctor watching some public schoolboys machine-gunning a bunch of walking scarecrows (a reversion to the cheaper monsters of earlier incarnations) and we know that he knows that the First World War is only just around the corner where the scarecrows are for real. And I remember too, “The Empty Child” – I never once hid from the Daleks but the Empty Child was almost a back of the sofa moment.

It’s no good, I’ll go with the Doctor, even if those Ood look as if they should have been confronted by Tom Baker. After all, when you’ve had your moan you have to admit that it is very, very entertaining, with its heart in the right place, even if its head is often in orbit around Jupiter. I just wish that it was not classified as science fiction. Much has been written about the plausibility or otherwise of the Star Trek universe, but it is possible to imagine at least some of the concepts becoming real. But the sonic screwdriver? I don’t think so. Doctor Who’s science is pixel thin. I’m sorry about this, but I just don’t think that you can instantly transport a whole hospital onto the moon without all of the windows blowing out. Oh! You use a force field, do you?! And there’s the trouble; one sentence makes it all okay. But it’s fun and occasionally wonderful, as in the episodes “Blink”, “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood”.

It’s too late for me. I might shout at the screen again, but I will be watching on Saturday. Besides he now has a kissogram girl for his sidekick, so things can only get better.

Terry Pratchett

History of art

Hearing prayer shuts off believers' brain activity

When some religiously devout people hear a charismatic healer speak the word of god , the regions of their brains involved in skeptical thinking and vigilance appear to shut down. Uffe Schjødt of Aarhus University in Denmark and his colleagues scanned the brains of Pentecostalists while they listened to recorded prayers from non-Christians, "ordinary" Christians, and a healer. The brain activity changed only in response to prayers they were told came from the healer. According to Schjødt, the same deactivation may occur in response to the words of physicians, parents, politicians, and other charismatic leaders. The researchers published their results in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

From New Scientist:
Parts of the prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortices, which play key roles in vigilance and scepticism when judging the truth and importance of what people say, were deactivated when the subjects listened to a supposed healer. Activity diminished to a lesser extent when the speaker was supposedly a normal Christian.

Schjødt says that this explains why certain individuals can gain influence over others, and concludes that their ability to do so depends heavily on preconceived notions of their authority and trustworthiness.

Too funny

Laszlo Thoth's bank has a security procedure that uses customer-created questions and answers. When you call the bank, the customer service rep asks you the question, and you provide the answer. Here are some sample Q&A's that Thoth and his readers came up with.

Q: Need any weed? Grass? Kind bud? Shrooms?
A: No thanks hippie, I'd just like to do some banking.
Q: What the hell is your fucking problem, sir?
A: This is completely inappropriate and I'd like to speak to your supervisor.

Q: Are you really who you say you are?
A: No, I am a Russian identity thief.

Q: Your voice is really turning me on.
A: I like where this is going. Tell me more.

Q: Do you know the answer to your secret question?
A: I'm sorry, I'm having trouble hearing you. Can you repeat that?

Q: The Penis shoots Seeds, and makes new Life to poison the Earth with a plague of men.
A: Go forth, and kill. Zardoz has spoken.

Q: I've been embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from my employer, and I don't care who knows it.
A: It's a good thing they're recording this call, because I'm going to have to report you.

Q: For the remainder of this conversation, "How can I help you today?" actually means "Would you like to buy some mescaline?" Do you understand?
A: I understand completely.

Chana Masala & Chunky Raita

It's not reasonable to drive an hour or two for good Indian food so I've started experimenting. Today it's Chana Masala- spicy chick peas.

Once again I've found a recipe and adapted it for my tastes.

Serves 4-6

One pan- a deep saute pan

Make the raita ahead of time. Recipe below.

Start the rice in the microwave before starting this and both will finish about the same time

Basmati for 4
1 cup of rice plus 3 cups of water for 20 minutes in a regular power microwave yields a perfect, no hassle batch of rice.
This formula will not work for brown rice.


Saute slowly
1/2 stick margarine
3/4 vidalia (sweet) onion finely chopped

2 tsp miced garlic after the onion has cooked a while

When the onion is translucent, add

1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
6 tablespoons chopped tomatoes
(I used canned diced tomatoes)
1 cup water
2 15-ounce can chickpeas
, rinsed and drained
Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to a simmer
Then add
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon chana (chloe) masala*
1/4 tsp cardamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 tsp lemon juice
1 teaspoon ginger powdered
(fresh ginger will yield a hotter batch, try a scant 1/2 tsp fresh ginger instead of powdered)

*Garam masala is more commonly found and can be used, however, eliminate the cardamon. I don't like the Garam masala because I think it's a bit too sweet and the cinnamon hint is distracting.

Remove about a cup of chick peas, mash and return to the pan.
Simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed. You want to create a thick sauce. The mash helps it reach this point. If the sauce isn't thickening, use a fork to mash a little more of the chick peas.

This can be served over rice, preferable if the sauce is a little thin.

Or try papads to scoop up a thickened version.

You must try my
CHUNKY RAITA over the chana masala. Make ahead to allow the flavors to infuse.

Mix together
16 oz plain yogurt

Grate 1 whole cucumber, medium or large. Peel if waxed. Include the juice when you add the cucumber to the mix.

1 stalk green onion. Cut the green part into tiny circles.
*Mince the white part and set aside for the true onion lovers for topping.

1 or 2 small roma tomato. Dice and add, including juice and seed.

1/2 tsp cumin ground

1/2 tsp cayenne
or 1 tsp chili powder will do if you fear the hotter stuff

1 heaping TBSP mint chutney or 2-3 tbsp fresh mint or 2 tbsp dried mint, if nothing else is available.
The mint chutney is preferable because most are made with a "bite".

Some raita purists argue that mint chutney should be separate from raita. I admit my raita does cheat by adding the coolness of the mint to the coolness of the yogurt but it is well worth a taste.