Friday, December 31, 2004

Weekend Joke

This doctor always got really stressed out at work. So every day on his way home, he'd stop and see his friend Dick the bartender. Dick would know the doctor was coming, and he'd have an almond daiquiri ready for him. The doctor would come in and have his almond daiquiri and go home. One day Dick ran out of almonds, and he thought, "Well, the doctor won't know the difference." So he cut up a hickory nut and made a daiquiri with it. When the doctor came by, Dick put the drink in front of him. The doctor took a sip and said, "Is this an almond daiquiri, Dick?" And Dick said, "No, it's a hickory daiquiri, Doc."

Thoughts for Food

Reality check: you can never, ever, use weight loss to solve problems that are not related to your weight. At your goal weight or not, you still have to live with yourself and deal with your problems. You will still have the same husband, the same job, the same kids, and the same life. Losing weight is not a cure for life.
Phillip C. McGraw, The Ultimate Weight Solution: The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom, 2003

For Good Luck, Celebrate the New Year With...


... grapes? If you're Spanish, yes! Here are some other food traditions to get the new year off to a good start.

For Long Life:
  • Shrimp because the curved back resembles the stature of an elderly person - Japan
To Bring Money:
  • Black-eyed peas (resembling coins) and collard greens (cash) - American South
  • Lentils (coins) - Italy
  • Steamed dumplings (resemble gold nuggets) - Northern Chinese
  • Pork (for prosperity) - France
For Good Luck:
  • Eat one grate at each stroke of midnight for every month of the new year - Spain
  • Figs, dates, and honey - ancient Romans
  • Lasagne - Sicilians
  • Vasilopita (a cake with lots of nuts and a coin baked inside) - Greece
To Fulfill Wishes:
  • Herring (make a wish as you swallow) - Denmark (boiled), Poland (pickled), Japanese (roe)
For Good Health:
  • Pancakes - France
For Love:
  • An orange - Italy
Source: Chow magazine
What will we do? We'll stick with that old favorite, champagne, on New Year's Eve and a family chosen favorite for New Year's Day. We're sadly untraditional that way.

Didja Know?

During World War II, bakers in the United States were ordered to stop selling sliced bread for the duration of the war on January 18, 1943. Only whole loaves were made available to the public. It was never explained how this action helped the war effort.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

News Flash: Eating More Fruit and Veggies Helps You Lose Weight

Nothing new in that info but maybe understanding the logic behind it will help reinforce those habits ... even if you don't want to lose weight eating more produce is always a good goal for general health reasons. Better more fruit and veggies than Slimfast!

"Calories count, no matter what you read in the press. The laws of thermodynamics have not been reversed."

With respect to weight gain and loss, the laws of thermodynamics can be translated: Calories consumed must be used or they will be stored as body fat. The body does not waste energy, no matter what its source. When people are placed on carefully controlled diets, the amount of fat in the diet has little effect on weight loss, Dr. Rolls reported ...

"People tend to eat a consistent weight of food," Dr. Rolls has found. When consuming a calorie-dense food high in fat, people are likely to eat more calories just to get in a satisfying amount of food.

What increases food volume without adding calories? You guessed it: water. And what foods naturally contain the most water? Fruits and vegetables.

"People given the message to eat more fruits and vegetables lost significantly more weight than those told to eat less fat," Dr. Rolls said. "Advice to eat more is a lot more effective than advice to eat less."

Dallas Morning News (free registration required)

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Gettin' Crabby

Over the last couple of years, low-crab diets have been all the rage. Every product under the sun now seems to have a low-crab version. Who knew tortillas had crabs in them to begin with?

Frankly I don't get it. Why demonize this crustacean? Crabs and their kin have fed humanity for probably a thousand million years. It just goes to show how silly people can be. Melissa and I decided to thumb our nose at low-crab zealots and do a series of high-crab dinners.

Derrick at An Obsession with Food gets serious about low-crab fanatics ... and then gets serious about a whole lotta crab cookin'. (Also, that "angry eyes" caption just killed me ... love to find other Toy Story 2 fanatics out there.) martha, martha, aren't you on that low-crab diet?

Dinner at Veracruz

Frasier: What's the one thing better than an exquisite meal? An exquisite meal with one tiny flaw we can pick at all evening.
Niles: Quite right. To impossible standards!

We went to dinner with friends and there was not even one tiny flaw to pick at. This tiny restaurant is on the edge of the Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff. Tom and I hadn't been to this area before and found it charming and eclectic. What else can you say about an area that has a shop (ifs ands & butts) carrying only cigarettes, cigars and specialty soda pop? For the details, go here.

Monkey's Been Busy in the Kitchen

I never cared too much for pannetone but watching Monkey turn this one into a delicious bread pudding (for which I care a great deal!) might make me buy one just to try the recipe.

UPDATE: For those who do care for pannetone, Deb at In My Kitchen has an in-depth report about her own adventures in baking one for Christmas (believe me, she really threw her heart into this!).

Kitchen Essential

butter bell

This is the best thing going for keeping butter soft without refrigeration. It works even in the middle of a Dallas summer, although I do change the water every day or so when it is hot outside. You pack the butter into the "bell" part while the other section is about 1/4 full of water. The water creates an airtight seal around the bell when both pieces are together. Thanks to the butter bell we always have soft butter for our bread! I have seen these available at King Arthur Flour, Sur la Table, and Butter Bell, the original purveyors.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Bananas - Is There Anything They Can't Do?


Part II about that amazing wonder fruit, the banana.

Blood Pressure: This unique tropical fruit is extremely high in potassium yet low in salt, making it the perfect way to beat high blood pressure. So much so, the US Food and Drug Administration has just allowed the banana industry to make official claims for the fruit's ability to reduce the risk of blood pressure and stroke.

Brain Power: 200 students at a Twickenham (Middlesex) school were helped through their exams this year by eating bananas at breakfast, break, and lunch in a bid to boost their brain power. Research has shown that the potassium-packed fruit can assist learning by making pupils more alert.

Constipation: High in fiber, including bananas in the diet can help restore normal bowel action, helping to overcome the problem without resorting to laxatives.

Hangovers: One of the quickest ways of curing a hangover is to make a banana milkshake, sweetened with honey. The banana calms the stomach and, with the help of the honey, builds up depleted blood sugar levels, while the milk soothes and re-hydrates your system.

Monday, December 27, 2004

What a Bargain!


Just back from Borders where I found this book on their bargain table for $10. I see that Amazon has it listed for $50 new and $20 used. It has the DK-style layout that I love (just grown up picture books, don't ya know?) and seems really complete. Woohoo!

Under the Tree

Santa was very good to the Glad Gastronome this year:
  • A waffle maker that makes 4 waffles at one time (on my list for a couple of years). It is so annoying to make one waffle at a time for several people and try to have everyone be able to sit down together for a meal.

  • New oven mitts, with a lovely cow design.

  • The Slow Cooker Ready and Waiting Cookbook by Rick Rodgers. Now I can quit checking this out of the library repeatedly.

  • Salsa sampler bowls ... a total surprise but perfect as I had planned Mexican food for tonight. I can think of a LOT of other uses for this.

All wonderful gifts and they'll get a good workout in the year to come.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Weekend Joke

This guy goes into a restaurant for a Christmas breakfast while in his hometown for the holidays. After looking over the menu he says, "I'll just have the eggs Benedict."

His order comes a little while later, and it's served on a big, shiny hubcap. He asks the waiter, "What's with the hubcap?"

The waiter sings, "O, there's no plate like chrome for the hollandaise!"

Back to Basics

Particularly popular in southern Europe, this confection is made with sugar or honey, roasted nuts (such as almonds, walnuts, pistachios or hazelnuts) and sometimes chopped candied fruit. It can be chewy or hard and is variously colored. White nougat is made with beaten egg white and is therefore softer. Brown nougat is made with caramelized sugar and, in addition to being a darker color, is normally firmer in texture.
The New Food Lover's Companion (2nd ed.) by Sharon Tyler Herbst

Thought for Food

If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.
Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas


There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn't believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavor, size and cheapness were the themes of universal admiration. Eded out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs. Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of a bone upon the dish) they hadn't ate it all at last! Yet every one had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows.
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

May your Christmas celebration be as thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated by one and all.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Joyful Anticipation of the Coming Celebration


Then up rose Mrs. Cratchit, Cratchit's wife, dressed out but poorly in a twice-turned gown, but brave in ribbons, which are cheap, and make a goodly show for sixpence; and she laid the cloth, assisted by Belinda Cratchit, second of her daughters, also brave in ribbons; while Master Peter Cratchit plunged a fork into the saucepan of potatoes, and getting the corners of his monstrous shirt collar (Bob's private property, conferred upon his son and heir in honor of the day) into his mouth, rejoiced to find himself so gallantly attired, and yearned to show his linen in the fashionable Parks. And now the two smaller Cratchits, boy and girl, came tearing in, screaming that outside the baker's they had smelled the goose, and known it for their own; and basking in luxurious thoughts of sage in onion, these young Cratchits danced about the table, and exalted Master Peter Cratchit to the skies, while he (not proud, although his collars nearly choked him) blew the fire, until the slow potatoes, bubbling up, knocked loudly at the saucepan-lid to be let out and peeled.

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Thursday, December 23, 2004

As American As Apple Pie

APPLE PIE: An American Story by John T. Edge

John T. Edge continues the series about iconic American food that he began with Fried Chicken. Charming and informative as ever, Edge travels the country interviewing all and sundry in search of the perfect apple pie. This is the same formula that kept me riveted in Fried Chicken but halfway through this book my interest waned. I suspect this is not Edge's fault but more due to the fact that I have a lukewarm interest in apple pie at best (again unlike fried chicken which, evidently, I can read about all day).

I found myself wanting to hear about other kinds of pie. This brought up vague memories of another book which sent me to the library where I found just what I was looking for, American Pie. If nothing else, I'm glad I read Apple Pie because I rediscovered that book. More about that later as I am rereading it now. In the meantime, if you have a love of apple pie, you may well enjoy this book. I am looking forward to the other books projected for the series ... about hamburgers and donuts.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Amazing Baking Girl

Rose has been baking like a fiend getting ready for Christmas. Thank heavens, because I have made one batch of cookies (Amaretti). Hannah made Mexican Wedding Cakes (she has the touch and, besides, she took the batch Rose made last week to her Ancient Philosophy class for a party).

Rose has made Sugar Cookies, Peanut Butter Bears, Chocolate Biscotti, Gingersnaps, Buckeyes, some sort of delicious chocolate cookie and some gingerbread cookies that none of us like. After we got past the Gingersnaps I told her to just please herself and I've been to the store two days in a row buying things like corn syrup and coconut.

We also planned fudge and peanut brittle using the recipes in Short & Sweet. Rose learned that if you are not careful with condensed milk it burns to the bottom of the pan so thoroughly that it will take 3 people more than two days of occasional scrubbing to clean it up. Every so often one of us will walk by and grab the steel wool to do a little work on the pan. We have a large clear patch in the middle but there's still plenty of scrubbing ... we are gonna be well conditioned by the time this is through!

Bananas - Is There Anything They Can't Do?


First in an occasional series on an apparently miraculous fruit...

Instant Energy: Containing three natural sugars - sucrose, fructose and glucose combined with fiber, a banana gives an instant, sustained and substantial boost of energy. Research has proven that just two bananas provide enough energy for a strenuous 90-minute workout.

Depression: According to a recent survey amongst people suffering from depression, many felt much better after eating a banana. This is because bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier.

PMS: Forget the pills - eat a banana. The vitamin B6 it contains regulates blood glucose levels, which can affect your mood.

Anemia: High in iron, bananas can stimulate the production of hemoglobin in the blood and so helps in cases of anemia.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Overnight French Toast Casserole

This is for my dear friend Cyndie. I made it for a retreat that we provided breakfast for and then we munched the leftovers later. I'm glad she liked it enough to want to serve it on Christmas morning!

The recipe is from Desperation Entertaining. The original calls for 1-1/2 cups orange juice but my family didn't like it in the trial run so I substituted milk which is what I put in the recipe below. I also added the sugar.

Step 1:
Cooking Oil Spray
1 large loaf (1 pound) Italian-style or French-style bread, cut into bite-sized cubes
Spray a 13 x 9 -inch baking dish with cooking oil spray. Place bread cubes in pan.

Step 2:
6 large eggs
1-1/2 cups half-and-half
1-1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick butter)
3/4 (3 onces) chopped pecans, walnuts or almonds

Maple syrup for serving

Bread eggs into a large bowl and whisk well. Whisk in the half-and-half, milk, and cinnamon until well combined. Pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes. Press the bread cubes down into the egg mixture. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours. The casserole can be refrigerated, covered, at this point for up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Place butter in a 2-cup or larger glass measure, cover with a paper towel, and microwave on high until melted, about 45 seconds. Uncover casserole and press down the bread cubes already in it to moisten. Sprinkle the nuts over the bread cube mixture. Drizzle melted butter over all.

Bake, uncovered, until lightly browned on top, about 35 minutes. Let rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting it into squares and serving. Pass syrup at table to drizzle on top.

Serves 8.

Christmas Goodies

Julie M. (yes, one of the gang of Julies and a blog-sistah in the kitchen) has added some Christmas goodies to Illuminated Culinarity. Rush right over for Christmas Candy and Nutmeg Logs (which have me quite intrigued). I'm glad she put the photo ... I almost can taste them!


Wandering around Half Price Books this weekend I came across two great deals. The first was Matt Martinez' Culinary Frontier ... a book I'd been looking for ever since checking it out of the library and falling in love with the simplicity of his techniques. I discovered it after the book was out of print and I guess a lot of people liked it because buying a used copy was going to set me back over $40. Not gonna happen ... and the library has the book, right? Except then, the library lost their copy so I'd been searching ever since. The copy I snatched up was $12.95. Yep. So the binding was a little broken right behind the title page, who cared? Not me!

The second great find was a pristine copy of American Pie which I'd been rereading for $6 ... at least the library still had a copy of this one. After the above experience of finding I can't count on the library to keep MY favorite cookbooks I have changed my policy. If I like a cookbook enough to reread or re-cook out of one then I buy it ... not trusting to cruel fate any more. Anyway, I foresee pies in the future for 2005.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Holiday Food Ideas When You're Short on Time or Money

A couple of weeks ago The Dallas Morning News moved their food section to Saturday. In the process they improved it considerably with more stories, book reviews and information. I really liked some of the ideas in this story about handling holiday food and homemade gifts with dwindling resources (free registration required).

We won't tell if you won't

They're going to know if you serve frozen lasagna. They might not care, though, especially if you put enough butter and garlic on the garlic bread. You can also borrow a trick from food stylist Karen Elizabeth Watts:

Pretend It's Homemade Lasagna: Buy your choice of frozen lasagna. Find a "real" pan that it will fit in. Spray the pan with nonstick spray and spread bottom with 1/2 cup or so of spaghetti sauce. You can use homemade, bottled or canned, or dress up store-bought with extra herbs, sauteed onions and garlic or crumbled cooked Italian sausage. Pop the frozen lasagna from its pan and place it on top of the sauce in the prepared pan. Top it with 2 cups of cheese, then top with an additional 1 ½ cups of sauce. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, then cover the plastic wrap tightly with foil. Bake according to original directions. Take credit for finished product.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Back to Basics

Traditional winter holiday cakes made with an assortment of candied fruit and fruit rind, nuts, spices and usually liquor or brand. Fruitcakes can have a moderate amount of cake surrounding the chunky ingredients, or only enough to hold the fruits and nuts together. Dark fruitcakes are generally made with molasses or brown sugar and dark liquor such as bourbon. Dark-colored fruits and nuts, such as prunes, dates, raisins and walnuts, may also contribute to the blend. Light fruitcakes are generally made with granulated sugar or light corn syrup and light ingredients such as almonds, dried apricots, golden raisins, etc. Fruitcakes are baked slowly and, after cooling, usually covered in cheesecloth moistened with liquor or brandy and tightly wrapped in foil. Stored in this manner, they have tremendous staying power, and providing they are occasionally remoistened, can be kept for years.
The New Food Lover's Companion (2nd ed.)
by Sharon Tyler Herbst

Thoughts to Cook By

A lot of people have never really had the chance to taste a decent apple pie, but after a minute's sensual reflection will know positively what they would expect if they did. They can taste it on their mind's tongue...
M.F.K. Fisher

Weekend Joke

A young snail decided that he wanted to buy himself a sporty car with all the amenities.

He went into a dealership that specialized in sports cars and selected one with everything that he had always wanted..

As the salesman was finishing the special order form, the snail said, "There's one thing more. I want a large letter S on each side of the car."

The salesman said, "We can do that with no problem. Would you mind telling me why?"

The snail replied, "No, not at all. When I drive down the street I want to hear people say, 'Look at that little S car go!"

Friday, December 17, 2004

Christmas Menu

My friend, Marlene, was pondering what to do for Christmas instead of the "same old turkey." This is where my mother's famous dislike of turkey comes in handy. It never occurs to me to have one for Christmas because we always went with different luxuries depending on my parents' whim of the moment ... such as prime rib, thick steaks, well you get the idea.

My suggestions were based on the usual "luxury" dishes that I do twice a year, for Christmas and Easter. The main dish may change. As a matter of fact I'm considering double smoked ham or grilled pork chops at this point. However, the side dishes rarely change because I hardly ever get them and they are my favorites. Here is the backbone basic menu.

Christmas Day Dinner
Grilled, Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Mustard Marinade
Jalapeño Spinach
Potatoes Gratin
Potato Rolls
Salad with Spicy Caesar Dressing

For dessert? Lots and lots and lots of cookies!

Creamed Jalapeño Spinach

From Home Cooking by Lori Colwin.

(Serves eight)

1. Cook two packages of frozen spinach. Drain, reserving one cup of liquid, and chop fine.

2. Melt four tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and add two tablespoons of flour. Blend and cook a little. Do not brown.

3. Add two tablespoons of chopped onion and 1 clove of minced garlic.

4. Add one cup of spinach liquid slowly, then add 1/2 cup of evaporated milk (I use regular milk here), some fresh black pepper, 3/4 teaspoon of celery salt and six ounces of Monterey Jack cheese cut into cubes. Add one or more chopped jalapeños, either fresh or from the jar. (I use 6 ounces of Jalapeño Jack Cheese instead of the regular cheese and chopped pepper. It is what was called for in the original recipe and Colwin adapted it because she couldn't get jalapeño cheese.) Then add the spinach and cook until all is blended.

5. Turn into a buttered casserole topped with buttered bread crumbs and bake for about 45 minutes at 300°.

Mustard Coating and Marinade for Roast and Broiled Lamb and Kabobs

From The Way to Cook by Julia Child. I spread this all over a butterflied leg of lamb and refrigerate overnight before grilling it.

2 large cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs Dijon-style prepared mustard
1 Tbs soy sauce
1-1/2 tsp. fragrant ground rosemary, thyme, or oregano
2 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup olive or peanut oil

Purée the garlic into a small bowl (I put it through a press) and mash to a paste with the salt. Whisk in the mustard, soy, herbs, lemon juice, and then the oil, to make a mayonnaise-like cream.

Potato Gratin

I have no clue where I got this recipe but it is strikingly like one that we had at a sidewalk café in Paris when we took Hannah and Rose in 2001. That restaurant was a wonderful introduction to French food for the girls, not to mention that they got to see the tradition of taking your dog into a restaurant. We also will never forget the young man who sat near us and dropped practically every utensil in reach while knocking things over with his elbows when picking them up.

Step 1:
2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled, very thinly sliced
Layer half in a buttered 6-cup shallow baking dish.

Step 2:
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 cup grated Gruyere
Combine. Sprinkle half over potatoes.

Step 3:

1 cup heavy cream
Sprinkle half over cheese.

Step 4:
Sprinkle over cream.

Repeat layers. Bake uncovered at 350° for 50-60 minutes until gratin is crisp and golden on top.

This Calls for Potato Salad!

Barney Gumble:
All I wanted to tell you about was this new barbecue joint.
Homer Simpson:
Ooooooo barbecue!
Barney Gumble:
It's called Greasy Joe's Bottomless Barbecue Pit! Oooo, ooo, I can still taste the sauce between my fingers. And are you ready for this? It's all you can eat!
Homer Simpson:
This is like some beautiful dream.
Barney Gumble:
Homer Simpson:
Marge honey, I've got five words to say to you: Greasy Joe's Bottomless Bar-B-Q Pit.
Homer, remember you promised you'd try to limit pork to 6 servings a week.
Homer Simpson:
Marge, I'm only human. Now look, here's what we're gonna do. We'll unload the kids on Patty and Selma Saturday night, and then we'll eat until they kick us out of the place. Just like old times!

Chris just gave us three racks of ribs and a huge bottle full of bbq sauce from his brother's Atlanta bbq place, Fox Bros. BBQ, where he supplies deprived Atlantans with real Texas style bbq. All I could do at this point was taste the sauce and, oh boy, are we in for a treat! Time to get busy making cole slaw and potato salad for the feast we're gonna have tomorrow.

Of General Interest ...

... over at Happy Catholic (the "mother ship" blog). It's all happenin' in the comments boxes for these posts about:

Thursday, December 16, 2004

My Kind of Science

My hero, Harold McGee, makes the science of cooking actually interesting in On Food and Cooking. I didn't realize it's been 20 years but can't wait to get the new edition and read all 878 pages!

The original explained in lay terms, with illustrations and whimsical anecdotes, why eggs solidify when heated, why green vegetables lose their vibrant color when cooked, why apples turn brown when cut, why the freshest fish smells like plant leaves and the science behind so many other food mysteries.

The new one does that and more.

The original was 684 pages; the new one is 878. The section on chocolate is three times longer than in the original book.

Seafood, which merited about one paragraph in the original, now spans 70 pages. And while the original was a bit Eurocentric, the new one is much more global.

"It used to be that when people had questions, I could just refer them to a page in the book. But the day came that I couldn't do that any more," says McGee, 53. "I had to address this new, greater demand for information."

Via Too Many Chefs.

Mmmmmmm, Cheesecake

My dear parents sent us a cheesecake sampler from Harry and David's.


Doesn't it look good? Well it tastes good too ... at least the chocolate cheesecake that I shared with Rose last night was delicious. In fact, the caramel (?) cheesecake was so good that Hannah's friend, Addison, not only agreed to taste it (thereby overcoming a lifelong loathing of the concept) but it converted him as he ate every bite.

We'll just skip over the "of course, my cheesecake is better" muscle flexing, especially since my fabulous cheesecake recipe is my mom's, who sent this to us! If you can't have homemade cheesecake, this does seem to be the next best thing.

Thanks Mom and Dad! *muffled by a mouth full of cheesecake*

Ain't It the Truth?


From my in-box. (If anyone knows the credit for this, let me know and I'll link it.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Oranges Sampler

In an attempt to add some fresh element to our dinner, I served an orange "tasting" of clementines, red naval oranges, and blood oranges. The regular oranges just didn't look good at the store so I got a few of these varieties to see if any were universally pleasing.

Universally pleasing? Puhleeez! Hannah and I favored the blood oranges as they were tart and we are grapefruit lovers (no sugar added, thanks). Tom preferred the red naval oranges as they really tasted just like regular ones. Everyone liked the clementines fine but no one thought they were worth rushing out and buying a whole crate as I read about foodies doing every year at this time. Truthfully, they were fuller flavored than the red navals but just too sweet for me.

Rose passed on any tasting as she informed us that she, "doesn't care for citrus." Wait a minute ... what about the leftover limeade from margarita making? "Well, except for lemons and limes ..."

Our true favorites are the heirloom oranges from California. They have that perfect sweet/tart combination. Also usually good are the stem and leaf oranges. I don't know what variety they are but they are worth any extra price because I can't keep up with the demand at home. It must not be the season for either one yet but when it is I'll be ready.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

I'm Not Crazy About Pocky But This Seems About Right

You Are Milk Pocky

Your attitude: caring and charming
Smooth and silkly... invigorating and natural.
You are like comfort food for the soul.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Why the Name?

This started off as a place to send people from the blog where I "live" when I mentioned recipes. It seemed like fun to fix it up and keep it going when a few other of my blogging pals did the same. So I needed a name. Penni came up with this:
okay julie - here's your new title (i just thought of it - call it a Godbreeze, if you will):

happy gastronome.

you can thank me later :)

(actually, if you like it, i think it suits you - the definition is a connoisseur of good food and drink; a gourmet...)
She's right, it does work for me. A daughter of gourmets and former "foodie" myself, I will always look for the best even if it's only a hot dog. That's why I have kids who won't eat Oscar Mayer bologna, but will patiently wait until I have time to go to Kuby's. Now, that doesn't stop me from using cream of mushroom soup, but that's another story ... I said I am a "former" foodie, remember?

Then Rose, tied it into the "mother" blog (Happy Catholic ... not always happy but always happy to be Catholic) with "Glad" and the descriptor. Thank heavens I had a creative team for this!

DMN Cookie Contest Winners

Every year the Dallas Morning News sponsors a cookie contest with all proceeds going to charity. There were some pretty good looking cookies this year. There's a great selection and variety because DMN gives the top three recipes in each category: Bar, Easy. Family Recipe, Decadent, and Decorated.

I liked the looks of:
  • Easy Lemon Mint Cookies (minus the mint)
  • Cranberry-Date Crumb Bars
  • Pryaniki Russian-style Cookies
Rose was intrigued by:
  • Chewy Angel Cookies
  • Caramel Cheesy Cookies (what a relief to see the "cheese" is cream cheese)
  • A Quiet Little Mexican Bar
  • Chocolate Candy Bar Cookies
I can see that she's her mother's daughter though. Two of the recipes call for beginning with a cake mix and she already was plotting how to get around that part with original ingredients. I don't know if that's possible in these recipes but it'll be interesting, and hopefully delicious, watching her try!

Looking for Monkey at the Central Market

i've been discovered! i frequent both the dallas central market and the plano location depending on my shopping needs. i'll be counting on you to help hoist one of the tasty holiday pannetone's into my shopping trolley.

We're going to keep our eyes peeled for Monkey when we're shopping every week. Those pannetone can be heavy lifting for a cute, little Monkey.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Thai-Style Stir-Fried Chicken

From Cooking Light magazine ... maybe the most recent issue (?). This is a quick recipe that should only take 40 minutes and actually MIGHT have taken 40 minutes if I had checked the time. If it took longer it was because I didn't have any pre-sliced mushrooms or pre-chopped carrots. It still was pretty quick and easy though. Really delicious and authentic tasting but next time I'm using only half the red curry paste. I'm still breathing flames!

1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons red curry paste
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces (I used boneless thighs)
Combine everything in a zip-top plastic bag. Marinate 15 minutes in the refrigerator.

1-1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided (I might have used more than this ... I didn't measure, just splashed a bit in).
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrot
1 (8-ounce package presliced mushrooms
Remove chicken from bag, reserving marinade. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add chicken stir-fry 4 minutes. remove chicken from pan; keep warm. Add remaining oil to pan. Add onion and carrot; stir-fry 2 minutes. Add mushrooms; stir-fry 3 minutes.

1/2 cup light coconut milk
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
Add reserved marinade, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add coconut milk and fish sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 1 minute. Stir in chicken and salt; cook 1 minute.

1 cup fresh bean sprouts
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Remove chicken to dish, top with bean sprouts and cilantro. Serve with rice noodles (or regular noodles or rice or whatever you like to put a saucy dish over).

Place 6 ounces thin rice vermicelli (thin rice noodles) in a large bowl, cover with boiling water. Let stand 20 minutes. Drain, serve chicken over noodles. (I put the noodles in a large Italian pasta bowl, poured the chicken over the top and sprinkled with the sprouts and cilantro. Very pretty it was too!)

Serves 4. (Serving size: 1 cup chicken, 1/4 cup sprouts, and 1 T cilantro)

CALORIES 271 (28% from fate); FAT 8.4 g (sat 2.2g, mono 1.6g, poly 3.4g); PROTEIN 29.7g; CARB 19.6g; CHOL 66mg; IRON 2.2mg; SODIUM 767mg; CALC 43mg)

Monday, December 06, 2004

Peruvian Food Anyone?

Both girls babysat on Saturday night so Tom and I had a date! He picked out a new place from The Weekend Guide that is a mom and pop Peruvian restaurant. I have to admit that never would have occurred to me but it was delicious, although they do have a propensity to garnish with sliced hard boiled eggs that was rather odd. When I came home and began looking around in my Foods of the World: Latin American Cooking at the chapter on Peru I found the hard boiled egg thing is totally accurate. However, there were no guinea pigs on the menu (a Peruvian mainstay). So how authentic is this place? Although as Tom pointed out, they might have a bit of trouble trying to put guinea pigs on their menu.


I kicked off our Christmas cookie season by whipping up a batch of Amaretti. Absurdly simple, these are some of my favorites ... basically meringue cookies with ground almonds mixed in. I'm not usually fond of meringues but love these so they had to go into the freezer ASAP otherwise we wouldn't have had many left. For some reason meringue cookies always seem intimidating but luckily Hannah went to a friend's house with my main cookie cookbook so I was thrown back on making these ... mmmmmm, good and easy. Try them

This recipe came from my mother and I'm not sure what cookbook it came from. However, it is not too different from other such recipes I've seen ... except it is a great deal simpler than some.

Step 1:
2 large egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Beat egg whites until foamy, gradually beat in sugar and almond extract. Continue beating for several minutes until whites form very stiff, shiny peaks.

Step 2:
2 cups (8 ounces) finely ground, blanched almonds
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Stir in almonds and cornstarch until well combined.

Drop generous tablespoon of batter into small mounds about 2" apart on parchment-lined, baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 17-22 minutes until firm and lightly browned. Cool on wire racks. Makes 30 cookies.

Chewy Variation:
Beat egg whites with a fork until broken up and slightly frothy. Stir in sugar until combined; then mix in remaining ingredients (and 1/4-1/2 teaspoon optional cardamom if desired) to make very stiff paste.

With moistened hands, form scant tablespoons of paste into 11/4" balls. Arrange 2" apart on baking sheets. Use moistened fingertips to flatten each ball slightly. Bake at 325° for 15-20 minutes or until firm and very lightly browned. Cool on wire racks. These are like traditional macaroons.