Athena Magazine

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Yeah! Easy Rice Pudding February 26, 2009

Filed under: Domestic Goddess,Food is Good — rebmas03 @ 2:57 am
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Rice pudding for company

Rice pudding for company

By Julia Pantoga

 

 

Here’s something easy to do with leftover rice—it works with the rice leftover from your Chinese take-out order, or the rice you have left over from last night’s dinner. Rice pudding can be dressed up in cups with some fresh berries and nuts for guests or spooned right out of the casserole dish into a bowl for breakfast (which is what I do). It’s mostly eggs, rice and milk—doesn’t that sound breakfast-y?

 

 

 

 

Easy Rice Pudding

2 eggs
2 cups milk (I use whole milk)
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups cooked rice
½ cup raisins
ground nutmeg

1. Heat oven to 325°.

2. In an ungreased (music to my ears) 1.5 quart casserole dish, beat eggs.

3. Add next five ingredients in the order listed, beating lightly after each addition.

4. Add raisins. Don’t stir, they will sink.

5. Sprinkle nutmeg on top.

6. Bake for 60 min. or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Rachel Ray Never Has These Problems.  I had a friend coming over for lunch in 1 hour and I was planning to serve rice pudding for dessert. Since I had yet to mix the ingredients, you can do the math and figure that I was already running late. I really love rice pudding, so all morning I was thinking about the rice pudding and looking forward to eating it. I followed steps 1-3 above (you’ll note that the rice is the last item on the list). Committed to rice pudding now, I took my leftover rice out of the fridge (which I remembered as only a few days old, but I obviously remembered wrong) and it was moldy. I had no choice but to throw it out and make a new pot of rice. My garbage can was full, so I had to take out the garbage before I could throw out the moldy rice. I’m sure that when Rachel Ray makes those 30-minute meals, she never pulls moldy rice out of her refrigerator, leading to more dishes to wash and trash to take out.  I love RR, but even she would have to admit that she and I live in completely different worlds.

Everyone makes rice differently. Here’s how I make 3 cups of rice: In your pot dump 1 cup of rice, 2 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of oil (Any oil will do. For main dishes I usually use olive oil; for desserts, I usually use sesame oil). Cover and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook until the rice is done, about 30 minutes.

Making rice is easy

Making rice is easy

 

Get Ready for Valentine’s Day with Pretty Easy Cookies! February 11, 2009

tray-of-valentines-cookiesBy Julia Pantoga

Someday, the domestic goddess will have a staff and her days of making roll-out cookies for holidays will end. Until then, the dg will don her Valentine’s Day tiara, open a bottle of beer, take out her rolling pin and make cookies at her kitchen table the same way that she tells you to do it.

essential-valentines-day-cookie-making-suppliesI went through all the details of these cookies with you before the winter holidays, so I’ll refer you to my previous columns: Holiday Prep: The Easiest Holiday Cookies Ever, Parts 1, 2 and 3 and tell you what to do differently for Valentine’s Day. The first difference is that you will use heart-shaped cookie cutters. Wilton has a great set of six different sizes of the exact same heart . Having the same shape in different sizes will give you more creative opportunities when you get to decorating.

Make the same frosting, but this time you need only three colors: light pink, white and dark red. White, you will have; light pink is made by putting a small amount of red dye in white frosting, and dark red is made with several drops of red dye and one drop of blue dye (be careful with the blue, or your frosting will turn out black).

more-valentines-day-cookie-making-suppliesThe technique for decorating heart cookies is the same one I used for my Christmas trees in December. Frost each heart with light pink frosting. Paint a few strokes of dark red on each heart. Paint a few of the small hearts plain white or dark red. While the frosting is still wet, decorate the large heart cookies with the small ones.

Remember, on Sunday or Monday, go to your local craft sale and stock up on 75% off Valentines Day merchandise for next year. Keep in mind that anything you find in a solid color (red, white, silver, gold) can be used for other holidays.

 

Start Your V-Day Cookie Dough Now February 8, 2009

heart1Domestic Goddess Reminder: Next Saturday is Valentines Day. I’ll have a cookie-making post on Tuesday. If you are going to make heart-shaped cutout sugar cookies (as I am in this column), use the recipe from my column, “The Easiest Holiday Cookies Ever! Part One,” to make your dough and freeze it this weekend.

 

Helping a Pre-Teen Clean a Room

Filed under: Athena at Home,Domestic Goddess — rebmas03 @ 3:27 am
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skull-and-crossbones2By Julia Pantoga

Last month, I had the great experience of helping my 11-year-old nephew clean his room. Maybe you think that it would have been more fun to take my nephew to the fair, but I was much happier helping him clean his room.

 

 

 

 

Here’s a list of advantages to helping him clean his room over taking him to the fair:

1. It was less expensive (by far).

2. I got to focus on nothing but him and his life for two hours.

3. None of his siblings were “jealous” of our alone time.

4. We accomplished something important to him.

If you were to look at the “before” and “after” (no photos, to protect his privacy), you might suspect that I actually cleaned his room for him. Not true. For most of two hours, I sat in a chair with a garbage bag and bossed him around.

Here’s the progression of what we did: The Lecture. I sat with Sam on his bed and told him what I’m sure his mother (my sister) has told him hundreds of times, “This is your private space; you should be proud of it. Every time you come in this room, you should be happy to do so and you should easily find anything in this room. Your younger siblings look up to you; if you set an example of keeping your room neat, they will keep their rooms neat, too.” Etc., etc. You get the picture.

I followed up the lecture by laughing with him about the sign he could put on his door (he has his own room) to keep the space private (“Keep Out!” with a drawing of a skull and crossbones, for example—well, that’s not the way I would put it, but he is an 11-year-old boy).

broom2Preparation. Before we started, we got set up for some serious room cleaning. First we found a blank sheet of paper and a pen and cleared a place for them on his desk. We would use this paper to write a list that he could share with his mother of the things he needed to keep his room clean. The first item on the list was a “Keep Out” sign for his door.

Next we looked around the room and identified what big containers we would need. This is a variation on the “three container” advice I gave you in one of my first columns, “Order = Calm, Part 3, Down To Business!” We needed much bigger containers though: 1) for garbage 2) for dirty clothes and 3) for things that belong to his brother.

I sent Sam for a yard-size garbage bag. He didn’t have a hamper, so we decided to throw dirty clothes in the hall for now and add “hamper” to his list. He already had a basket started for his brother’s things, so we used what was familiar (THAT was good practice. If his brother and his things are in his room often, he should keep a basket in his room of his brother’s stuff.)

Cleaning. This part was the most miraculous and the most fun. As I’ve said before, while Sam cleaned, I pretty much sat in a chair and held the garbage bag. My method was simple: “Don’t waste energy moving around.”

We made an exception for clothes that needed to be hung up, but, for the most part, when Sam was working on one part of his room (like the top of his desk), I didn’t let him move from that area. For example, if he encountered something on his desk that belonged in his closet, I had him put it on the floor somewhere in the direction of his closet and stay put at his desk, rather than walking over to his closet.

My job was to take care of the three big containers and the various piles. Sam would crawl under his bed and hand me things and say, “garbage,” “laundry, “brother” or “closet.”

Of course we eventually needed far more than three containers. But we kept at it for almost two hours and, by the end, (if you closed the closet door), the room was clean indeed.

Encouraging Note. The final step I took was when I was left alone in his room. I left him an encouraging note with:

1. A repeat of the lecture (This is your private space; treat it with pride).

2. Reminders of the tasks he had left to do (show his mom the list we made, clean his closet, go through his desk drawers).

3. Tips for keeping his room clean (clothes never go on the floor—they are either clean and get put away or they are dirty and go in the laundry, make your bed EVERY DAY, nothing goes under your bed unless you are storing it there).

I loved that I had the opportunity to be so helpful—certainly for a week or two for Sam and his mom, but maybe, just maybe, for the long term too. I guess what I’m trying to remind you is that it isn’t housekeeping skills that make you a domestic goddess; it’s using the skills that you do have to be truly helpful. That’s why I’m certain that we all have the capability to be domestic goddesses.

 

Scrumptious Hot Cocoa January 29, 2009

Filed under: Domestic Goddess,Food is Good — rebmas03 @ 1:34 am
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By Julia Pantoga

serving-hot-cocoaFor the past month I’ve been on the road, visiting family. Along the way, I did plenty of domestic-goddess things including making a cake with three young children, “helping” a pre-teen clean his room (which mostly consisted of me sitting in a chair and bossing him around for two hours), making dinner with my nine year old niece, washing and chopping vegetables (several people enjoyed having someone around who loves to chop so much). One thing I didn’t do though, is write any of these columns.

Now I’m back home making hot cocoa for friends that are helping me shovel out my car from the snowstorm we had this morning. It is common these days to mix the chocolate sugar that you buy in the grocery store with skim milk and call it hot cocoa. I grew up making hot cocoa from scratch though, and from what I hear from my friends, it is something different entirely. Besides the recipe below, one tip I have is to quadruple the syrup portion of the recipe, use only one portion for the current batch of hot cocoa and keep the rest in a jar in the refrigerator, so that you’re ready for any hot cocoa emergency that pops up. I received fancy cocoa, cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg as gifts for Christmas, so I expect the batch today to be awesome!

saving-syrupHomemade Hot Cocoa

Syrup
Note: Cocoa and cinnamon don’t mix well with milk, so it is essential to do this step independently from adding the milk (you can only imagine what store bought brands do to the cocoa to cause it to dissolve so easily in milk).

3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (this adds quite a bite; you may wish to use even less; but if you use your hands to add a pinch, be sure to wash them thoroughly before you touch your eye.)
Pinch salt
2 tablespoons whole milk (if you have heavy cream, or even half-and-half, for this, use it! The higher the fat content, the better)
½ teaspoon vanilla
dry-ingredients11.    Measure the first six dry ingredients into a sauce pot. Blend together thoroughly. Remember, if you are using a non-stick pan, you must not scratch the non-stick surface with metal utensils. Use a wooden or plastic spoon or a plastic whisk (not only are scratched pans unsightly, you don’t want that toxic non-stick coating in your food.)

2.    Add one tablespoon of the milk. Mix thoroughly into a course paste.
smooth-syrup
3.    Add the vanilla and 2nd tablespoon of milk. Mix thoroughly into a thick syrup. Make sure the syrup is smooth (has no lumps) before storing it or using it in Hot Cocoa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Cocoa
Syrup (recipe above)
4 cups whole milk
For garnish: chocolate sprinkles, whipped cream, wafer cookies, homemade marshmallows

With the syrup in the sauce pan, add ½ cup of the milk. Mix the syrup and the milk thoroughly before adding the next ½ cup of milk. Mix thoroughly again, then add the remaining 3 cups of milk. Heat gently, stirring often. Be careful here, you want to heat the milk, not boil it. When hot, use a molinillo (Mexican Hot Cocoa Whisk)l to create a froth and make the mixture creamier. Serve and garnish (if you must, I don’t; this hot cocoa stands on its own).

my-molinillo.

 

Holiday Prep: Easiest Holiday Cookies Ever, Part 3 December 19, 2008

holiday-cookies1

By Julia Pantoga, resident domestic goddess

Finally! We are in the last phase of our holiday cookie project: Decorating the Cookies (For reference, the first two steps were making the dough and rolling and baking cookies).

Don’t call the kids in yet. There’s still some set up you’ll want to do before you have young ones underfoot.

The first step to decorating cookies is to make frosting:  a lot of it. I make 4 cups of it for 4 dozen cookies,
(which is my yield from the recipe I gave you back in October in Easiest Holiday Cookies Ever – Part 1)  Cookie frosting has only two ingredients:  confectioner’s sugar and milk. The ratio is 1 ½ teaspoons of milk for every cup of confectioners sugar.  Be careful working with the confectioner’s sugar—it can really be a mess. Wear your apron and whenever you pour it from one container to another, try not to spill (good luck with that, I’ve been handling the stuff for decades and I still make a mess with it).

Divide your frosting into several small bowls and color each using the deluxe food coloring that I recommended that you buy in Easiest Holiday Cookies – Part 1. Don’t forget to set at least a cup of your frosting aside to use whenever you need white frosting. You can see from the photo below that I forgot to do that and had to go back later to make more frosting.

several-colors-of-frosting

Once you have your frosting made and the confectioner’s sugar is put away, call the kids! Remember, the thickest cookies and the ones with the fewest appendages will be the easiest to handle. To the extent that you can control which cookies little ones select to work on, direct them towards the thickest cookies.

Another thing you should have picked up at the decorating store back in October was a small, angled and tapered spatula and paintbrushes for icing your cookies. As you may recall, I’m not crazy about decorating cookies—so instead of painstakingly applying detail to each one, I try to get the entire job done as quickly as possible. Here’s what I do (I’m using my Christmas tree cookies for this example):

1.     Pour about one teaspoon of base color frosting to each cookie. You may need to thin the frosting a little bit for this step—use milk, added ¼ teaspoon at a time. For my Christmas tree project, the base color was medium green.
2.    Use your spatula to spread the frosting over the entire cookie.
3.    While the frosting is still wet, decorate the edges with small candies.
4.    Choose a darker color and apply light brush strokes to the top of each cookie. For my Christmas trees, I used dark blue-green.
lots-of-christmas-trees(You’ll see this whole process again when I post my Valentine’s Day column, except the cookies will be shaped like hearts and the frosting colors will be pink and dark red.)

I decorate all of my cookies either painting solid colors or using this “gesso” painting process.  The only other technique I use is to sometimes put a smaller cookie of the same shape on a larger cookie.  If you insist on using other decorating materials on your cookies, make sure that everything dries eventually.  Gel decorating products are beautiful, but the if the gel doesn’t dry, you end up with ridiculously fragile smeared cookies.

The cookies at the top of this essay were decorated by a professional artist friend of mine and the cookies below were decorated entirely by yours truly.

finished-cookies

 

Holiday Prep: Stunningly Beautiful and Delicious Drink December 18, 2008

By Julia Pantoga, resident domestic goddess

finished-cranberry-vodkaI used to try to give this one away for gifts, but by the time I found bottles to use for giving it away, my friends and I had already made history of it.  Basically, it’s vodka marinated for 10 days with orange peels and cranberries.  The vanilla in the cranberry mixture makes it taste vaguely like cherries.  I serve it “neat” (with no garnishment), but it can be served mixed with tonic water, ice and a lime garnish.

Here’s the step-by-step:
1.     Combine 1 lb. cranberries, 1 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the berries burst, about 5 minutes.
2.    Wash and peel 2 oranges.  Cut peels into strips.
3.    Pour 1 bottle (750 ml) of vodka over orange peels and cooled cranberry mixture in airtight container.  After 10 days, strain into a clean bottle.  Store in refrigerator.
cranberry-vodka-marinatingAt left, marinating vodka-cranberry mix.