A Slice of Fruit Cake

10/05/2005

Wednesday

Hmmm. Maybe I should include a broader “slice of life” here more often. I’m thinking my typical angst is wearing thin. It sure gets old to me, so I can only imagine what it does to a reader.

I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of my internet time looking for recipes, cooking tips and gadgets. I even started reading a cooking blog and realized it may become my next writing frontier, especially since the whole advice bit seems to be unpopular.

I want to make one thing perfectly clear: as a chore, I dislike cooking. Cooking for the unapppreciative mob that is my family sucks the fun right out of the whole experience. It becomes drudgery. They don’t like my home made pecan waffles, they want *Eggos*! They don’t like my home made pizza, they want *Tombstone*. They don’t like my homemade bread, they want the stuff that’s sat in the store for days. They don’t want biscuits and gravy made from scratch, they want *Toaster Scrambles*. What the hell is wrong with these people? I’m trying to find ways to save money and improve our health (generally speaking) and they all prefer expensive, processed crap.

Okay, I didn’t set out to do a rant on my family’s dysfunctional eating habits. If I want to rant, I can find lots more fun things to cover. But back to food and me. Specifically, me buying, growing, cooking and eating it. Arwyn and the boys just eat it. For Arwyn, “cooking” mostly consists of taking it out of a wrapper and toasting it or heating it in a microwave or oven. Or pouring milk on it.

Sorry, I’m ranting again.

Okay, so as a chore, cooking sucks. However, there are times when it’s okay. While my kids seem to prefer Tombstone, they do enjoy making the pizzas, mainly patting and squishing the dough. In his defense, Thomas will eat almost any pizza but he gets super excited about making it. He wants to be in on every phase, from the dough to the sauce to the toppings. If I’m baking, the boys are right there. I’ll occasionally let them dump, pour and stir but they are mostly entertained by the process of flour and eggs becoming cookies, cakes and other stuff they like. And keeping young kids entertained is a challenge. Getting them involved in the process is a constructive form of entertainment.

I know quite a few dads that cook, but very few that bake. If cooking is applied chemistry, baking is akin to rocket science. I suppose there are still guys out there who think baking is “women’s work.” Quite a few women think that, too. But for now, keep your stereotypes to yourself. As every military man knows, the chow hall has more effect on morale than any other single entity or factor.

Today’s project was Fruitcake. I’ve never made it before and have never really seen it made. I don’t know if I’ve even eaten it more than 3 times in my life. And I’m not even sure if I like it. I like all the stuff in it. Or most of the stuff in mine. I went fairly light on the candied fruit and stuck with the dried sort. Problem is, all those dried fruits and nuts are mostly one color; brown. There’s light brown (light raisins), reddish brown (craisins), dark brown (dates), almost blackened brown (dried currants), and light with a brownish hue (slivered almonds)…you get the idea. The candied fruit adds a bit extra to festive-ize the color, but the flavor of those things is too much, at least for me. So I tried to cut back on that a bit. But maybe not enough. We’ll see in a couple months. They looked surprisingly edible once they came out of the oven. I wrapped and bagged them and they are sitting in an obscure, top-most part of the pantry to cure for 6+ weeks.

The idea behind this project was to have some things for Christmas that wouldn’t cause our already perilous financial position to totally hemorrage. So far, that grand baking experiment has been successful. I’ll give a cake a proper try on Thanksgiving. I’m thinking of experimenting with caramel corn and cookie/brownie mixes. I liked the fruitcake concept because I could start early.

I’m also open to other Christmas gifts that can save us from the poor house and might have a fun factor in them. We always do suger cookies and the boys like decorating them for the holidays.

My baking skills are adequate. I like looking at several recipes for the same thing in order to see any trends. For instance, I looked at dozens of fruitcake recipes. What I discovered was that I could substitute whatever nuts or fruits I wanted as long as the weight was kept constant. Or that fruit juice can be used instead of rum and brandy.

They may still end up as door stops, but least they’ll have a nice look to them.

D.

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6 Responses to A Slice of Fruit Cake

  1. Dewdrop says:

    My husband cooks on school days which coincide with the days I work longer hours (Mon and Tues). He does tend towards easy, quick and prepared (if we have anything like that in the cupboards). He very, very occasionally bakes, maybe 3 times a year in total – and usually a light fruit cake which is mostly quite tasty. I’m the main ‘cooker’ (as my youngest son used to say “you’re a good cooker mummy!”) and yes I do agree it can become very laborious and feel like pure drudgery sometimes. I try and make most things myself, when I have the time, and make just about all the cakes we eat ourselves, myself. It’s time consuming but can be very rewarding, and I do enjoy trying new recipes. It certainly saves time using prepackaged crap, but I really think it’s healthier generally and much tastier (usually!) to cook homemade foods. Shame your wife can’t get into cookery a bit more than she does. Good luck with the fruit cakes!!! 🙂

  2. cassee says:

    i can’t believe they like the fake stuff better????!!!!

  3. stephanie says:

    to cut back on costs at christmas, I put together homemade gift baskets for family, friends, anyone I needed a gift for one year…. we put homemade hot chocolate mixes, which were fun for kiddo to help mix this big tub of powdery stuff and know it would become great hot chocolate…. I learned how to make peanut brittle, which is relatively inexpensive, bought plastic spoons and dipped them in melted chocolate chips and presented them as ‘coffee spoons’, they went over big time and cost all of $5, spoons included… I bought one giant tub of the flavored popcorns and broke it down into small bags to go into each gift basket… a small jar of apple butter, which is really just a couple of big bags of apples, another affordable addition…. we added cookies also, but having so many other things, didn’t have to make as many cookies and run up the cost…you can find recipes for chocolate truffles that are mostly bagged chocolate chips and those are messy fun for kids to help make…

    one year I went to a uniform supply store and bought 10 plain white aprons for $20… a couple of jars of fabric paint and kiddo’s imagination… you then have a homemade gift from a child to toss into the basket…

    it’s also easy to check off one item every couple of weeks and the costs doesn’t hit you all at once right at xmas…. can add things like pine cones and twigs that kids can help collect and decorate the baskets… plain simple non glass ornaments can be found at a dollar store… a few paints and kids can decorate an ornament for people they know or it can be added to the basket… you can also find great little holiday bags to put the foods in at a dollar store… very affordable and makes it look good… small canning jars are cheap at hardware stores believe it or not… lol

  4. ~ anne says:

    wow stephanie has some great ideas for gifts at christmas or any other time of the year! i actually prefer those kind of gifts myself.

    another thing that you can do for family members is a framed family portrait. if you have a digital camera and a good printer you could even do it yourself. if not, all the department stores will soon be cranking out those coupons for picture packages. frames can be picked up at either yard sales or walmart always has some plain ones for 2 or 3 for $5. it is easy to dress them up a bit with paint or stain.

    baked goods or hand made ornaments always make neat gifts as well.

    ~anne

  5. Katie says:

    You could try your hand at fudge, I’m an Alton Brown/Good Eats fan so here’s his recipe: Chocolate Fudge.

    Another gift idea is homemade jam. It’s so much easier than you think and people love it. I use frozen fruit, just defrost a bit and measure like regular fruit, all the preparation is done for you (and it’s usually cheaper and best for off season fruit). The suguar may seem outrageous (like 7 cups to 6 cups of strawberries) but it’s necessary to “set.” After all the canning supplies are bought, the cost averages to $1 a jar. Another Good Eats recipe: Spiced Blueberry Jam

  6. Digger Jones says:

    Wow! Great ideas! Thanks!

    As I say in my latest, I’ve got the Carmel Corn thing mastered pretty well so that will definitely be going out.

    arwyn never bakes but will occasionaly try to handle a dinner. Especially if her mom is around. I suspect she would try to put on a more domestic front if my mom were living closer.

    D.

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