Monday, December 29, 2008

2008 Best Blog Discoveries ...

Here's the food blog entry that made my list. You can see the entire list here.
smitten kitchen: Deb almost always seems interested in recipes that interest me also. I probably have tried more of her recipes than from any other cooking blog except Homesick Texan. Her commentary is that of a cooking pal and her adjustments to recipes are intelligent. For those who enjoy cooking photography, her visuals do as much as the written word to draw one into the recipes. Recent samplings include: pizza with broccoli rabe and roasted onions, gramercy tavern’s gingerbread, braised beef short ribs, potato pancakes and even better grasshopper brownies.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The House That Rose Built -- Updated

The recipe came from Nick Malgieri's "Cookies Unlimited" and the scraps from the house were truly delicious. We are going to a Christmas party tonight at Tom's mother's place since his brothers will all be in town. Rose wanted to make this for this little kids to eat. They may have to fight us for some of it.

And the Aftermath
Yes, it tasted as good as it looked.

Sparkling Water, Anyone?

Santa was so good to me and brought so many riches ... Crabtree & Evelyn soap and lotion, the second season of 30 Rock, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog dvd ... and much more.

The biggie though came from Tom.

The Soda Club fountain jet which allows me to make my favorite orange flavored sparkling water whenever I want. Woohoo! He splurged on a big scale so we have many flavors as well as cola samples to try. The diet root beer was pronounced adequate but with a flavoring amount adjustment needed for the next batch. (I see it all was gone within a few hours anyway.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Bit of Gingerbread for Your Ears

I have a narration that appeared today on PodCastle ... a delightful bit of flash fiction called Through the Cooking Glass. It's themed for Christmas and isn't very long so give it a listen!
Rated PG. Contains the wafting smell of gingerbread.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Daybook ... Meanwhile-style

Edited from my main daybook post to give y'all the food facts and only the food facts. To see what else I'm reading, listening to, watching, knitting and more just drop over there.

Cooking: Curried Beef with Potatoes and Peas ... so good I made it twice in the last two weeks. Next up will be Turkey Bone Gumbo that Sara Roahen kindly sent me the recipe for. I'm having to break it up into steps as I never have all the hours in one day that a true gumbo needs.

Talking: Serve the People: a Stir-Fried Journey Through China ... the lagniappe offered over at Forgotten Classics.

  • Just finished the above-mentioned Serve the People.
  • Getting ready to dive into Eating India.
Listening: it's a toss-up.
  • Christmas music, especially the newly purchased Tony Bennett's "A Swingin' Christmas." iTunes had a song from it as last week's free download and it was pretty good. Tony's no Dino, but good enough and Count Basie's band backing him up sealed the deal. Plus look at that cover. So good in so many ways.

  • The Catholic Foodie ... yes, you read that right. Catholicism and Food. Two of my favorite things ... in a podcast from Jeff Young. He's only on episode two but I'm likin' it so far. Also, he has some good stuff on his blog. The story about the baked potatoes cracked me up! Here's a tip from James Beard that has never sent me wrong ... one hour at 450 degrees, Jeff. Not 350.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Curried Beef with Potatoes and Peas

Thanksgiving left me all cooked out and we lived on leftovers from that and other recent meals for several days.

However, this dish, which is Cooking Light's version of an Indian dish called Tori Keema, appealed to me so much that I made it twice within the last two weeks. It is easy, savory, and quick ... all highly appealing qualities whether faced with feast cooking recovery or a mid-week meal.

I have rearranged the cooking instructions somewhat to only use one pan. I also use more oil than they call for, though the as little as possible needed to get the job done.

Start some rice cooking before you put this on and you'll have a great dinner with little effort.

Curried Beef with Potatoes and Peas

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

1 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled red potatoes (I always use a baking potato)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound ground round
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup frozen green peas
1 cup chicken broth
2-1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 tablespoon mango chutney, such as Major Grey (don't sweat this if you don't have any)
1 teaspoon salt (my amount, not CL's)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add potato, cook 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to bowl.

2. Cook beef and onion in skillet over medium-high heat until browned; stir to crumble. Stir in peas.

3. Add potatoes, curry powder and broth; cook 2 minutes. Add chutney, salt and pepper; simmer 1 minute. Sprinkle with cilantro, if desired. Yield: 4 servings.

Friday, November 28, 2008

I Don't Like Chick Flicks Either ...

In further interesting blog analysis quiz developments, Gender Analyzer is 54% positive that this blog is written by a ...


Which we know is ... 100% right.

However the additional comment points out that the writing is quite gender neutral, which might account for the fact that both my other blogs crossed the line strongly as being written by a ... man.

Welcome to Your ISTJ - The Duty Fulfillers Blog

I finally took that Typealyzer's test which analyzes the blog writing of this ENTJ person.

ISTJ - The Duty Fulfillers

The responsible and hardworking type. They are especially attuned to the details of life and are careful about getting the facts right. Conservative by nature they are often reluctant to take any risks whatsoever.

The Duty Fulfillers are happy to be let alone and to be able to work in their own pace. They know what they have to do and how to do it.
Interestingly, the writing at Happy Catholic is INTP - The Thinkers while Forgotten Classic's author writing shows ISTP - The Mechanics. Once again, we see that analysis can only handle so much complexity.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The "Funny Bone" in Our Thanksgiving Menu

Here's an idea I'm going to try this year, based on a recipe in (of all places) the Wall Street Journal.

Bake 4 medium sweet potatoes. Whip with a can of coconut milk and 2 t. of brown sugar.

I can play around with sweet potato recipes because only Rose will try them and she's not married to any particular way of fixing them since I've always goofed around with them.

Ok, it's just a touch more complicated, so here's the actual recipe. I'm making a half recipe. At least I think I am. It's darned hard to tell what "medium" is in sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potatoes Kittichai

Serves 8
Preparation: 5 minutes
Cooking: 65 to 80 minutes

8 medium sweet potatoes
2 cups coconut milk, approximately
1 tablespoon light brown sugar (optional)
1 cinnamon stick
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Set the sweet potatoes in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. After 20 minutes, perforate the potatoes in several places to prevent bursting. They are done when they can be easily pierced with a fork all the way through their thickest part.

  • Let cool, then peel. Cut up roughly and process two or three at a time until smooth. Transfer to a large saucepan.

  • Bring the coconut milk to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes with the cinnamon stick and, if you are using it, the brown sugar. Strain and whisk into the sweet potato purée. (We think the brown sugar distracts from the suave and original mixture of sweet potato and coconut milk. Without it, the purée is truer to its vegetable roots, so to speak.) Add the coconut milk a cup at a time until you get the consistency you like. We use the whole amount, which yields an unctuous but light purée, with a consistency similar to Chef Joël Robuchon's legendary butter-rich mashed potatoes.

  • Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and reheat just before serving.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I've Grown Accustomed to Shopping for Only Two ...

Certainly that is the case when it concerns my grocery shopping. Both girls are coming home for Thanksgiving break and when I read over my list, combined with necessary Thanksgiving feast supplies, it looked to me as if I were preparing for an army to descend upon us.

Not that they eat so much, after all. But it is doubling my usual shopping which I finally had gotten used to cutting down to size for two and, it must be faced, that there are some things which they consume more of than we do. For instance, my old habits of buying 2-3 gallons of milk weekly, instead of the current 1/2 gallon ...

However, the extra scurrying and buying and laying in of provisions makes me feel celebratory in advance. That is a nice thing and no doubt about it.

Also, I was at the store when I suddenly realized that I will have the perfect chance to try out Sara Roahen's recipe for Turkey Bone Gumbo. She very kindly sent an email and then some of her recipes after reading my review of her book. I probably will have to freeze the carcass and make it the weekend after as Hannah has requested Mexican food and my family's tradition of chef salad (with turkey, blue cheese dressing and crumbled bacon ... mmmm, crumbled bacon ....) must be satisfied before they return to college next Sunday. However, the prospect of trying out that recipe is exciting also. (Y'all know that sometimes it takes very little to get me going ...)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thanksgiving Menu

This year I'm not making anything new. These, for us, represent the perfect versions of their oeuvre.

It is strictly our favorites with the only variations allowed being in the cranberry relish and sweet potatoes ... and that is only because I am the only one who eats them. Our day-after-Thanksgiving meal also is mandated by tradition. Chef salad featuring turkey (of course), blue cheese dressing and crumbled bacon (the real thing please!) on top. Mmmmmm, crumbled bacon ...

Here are a few links to recipes I've posted before and am reposting that we'll have at the feast.

Holiday Central
Ok, not my recipes but O Chef must answer just about every question you could think of there ... including any that my "short-hand" recipes may leave you with!

Herbed Thanksgiving Stuffing
This is the best stuffing ever and cooks in a slow cooker. I have made this five times now and never been disappointed. It really frees up the oven for other things and, if you happen to have a problem with sticking your hand up a turkey (no problemo here) then you're set free from that as well.

Skillet Cornbread
If you happen to like cornbread stuffing (which I do not), you may want to make this for your base. I've never found a better recipe.

Pecan Topped Sweet Potato Casserole
This was new for Thanksgiving last year and it was delicious.

Cranberry Ginger Relish
I made this last year. Then I made another recipe when that ran out ... and then another. Well, you get the idea.

Perfect Piecrust
This is not a misnomer. Very easy and very delicious. It is long but that is to give detailed directions. You can't go wrong with this.

Pecan Pie
This is non-negotiable. Gotta have it.

Pumpkin Pie

Are you allowed to have Thanksgiving without this? Or watch the Cowboys play without having some? Nope.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Do these turkeys get any bigger?

Then there’s the time a lady was picking through the frozen turkeys at the grocery store, but couldn’t find one big enough for her family. She asked a stock boy, “Do these turkeys get any bigger?” The stock boy replied, “No ma’am, they’re dead.”
Talking turkey with the Butterball Help Line ... Coffee Klatch has a hilarious round up of true stories from the hardworking help-line staff.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Keep Seeing References to How To Manage a Meatless Thanksgiving

First of all, what are these people? Communists?

Secondly, if a vegetarian can't find plenty of delicious vegetable dishes at a standard Thanksgiving feast then they're just not trying hard enough.

Or not going to the right house. C'mon by ... we'll fix you up.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pasta with Parmigiano-Regianno

Following up yesterday's simple pasta dish comes one that is even simpler and quite as good in its own humble way. I used to make it regularly but had forgotten it over time as happens if one cooks for a long enough time.

Then I read Michael Ruhlman's article, The Fallacy of the Quick-and-Easy Cookbook. He isn't talking about what we might usually think of as quick-and-easy but excoriating those who publish cookbooks under the conceit that one might duplicate high cuisine with little effort in the home kitchen. Go read, but here's a little taste to whet your appetite ...
What I’m criticizing here is the conceit of this cookbook, and all others that claim to make refined cuisine simple for the home. It makes me crazy not because it’s fundamentally a lie, though that’s never a good thing, but rather because publishers don’t seem to recognize that it’s a lie, and they want to keep on telling it to us.

Can you imagine a book called The French Laundry Cookbook Made Simple? Such food would cease to be French Laundry food.

At the end he gives a recipe for one of the simplest of dishes that is truly delicious, provided one has good ingredients. I include it here not only to jog my memory occasionally but to make it available to Hannah and Rose as it is the perfect college student meal and can feed several people heartily.

It is simple, fairly economical, and can be either enjoyed as a main dish with salad or as a side dish accompanying a straight forward meat dish such as grilled chicken.

Pasta with Parmigiano-Regianno

Kosher salt as needed
1 pound dried pasta
4 ounces/1 stick of butter cut into four pieces (I used 1/2 stick butter which was plenty)
1 cup coarsely and freshly grated, excellent Parmigiano-Regianno

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (salted, meaning that it tastes nicely seasoned). Place a large oven proof bowl in your oven and turn the oven to 200 degrees F. Drop the pasta in the water and cook it just until it’s tender, then drain it. Remove the bowl from the oven and toss the butter and pasta in the bowl until the butter is melted and the pasta is evenly coated with the butter. Taste the pasta. If it needs more salt, add it now (remember that the cheese you’re about to add is salty). Divide the pasta among four to six bowls and sprinkle each with the Regianno. Serve with a delicious red wine.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pasta Baked with Bechamel and Parmigiano

I made this for a sick friend the other day (and kept some for us as well). It was posted in 2005 and that's too long ago, just for those who, like me, don't look through the archives often enough. So I'm reposting it below. This is simple, economical, and delicious. That's a too-rare combination. Give it a try.

Late in getting this up here but better late than never. I hadn't made this for years. It is one of those things that I just "forgot" to make but I'll remember from now on because everyone loved it. We had this for Ash Wednesday and the leftovers on Friday. This regional dish is perfect for those meatless Lenten Fridays or just as comfort food. It is a universal pleaser that makes a similar but nice change from the standard Macaroni and Cheese or Tuna Casserole.

This is from Trattoria Cooking by Biba Caggiano. I just love this book. Not only does Biba write in such an enthusiastic way about Italian food and trattorias, but the recipes generally are simple and they always work. The nutmeg may sound strange but don't skip it. My mother always put a pinch of nutmeg into a white sauce, which is what bechamel is, and it adds just a little something delicious.

For the bechamel sauce
3 cups milk
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
5 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt

To complete the dish
1 pound rigatoni (I use whatever shape looks good or I have around)
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

To prepare the bechamel sauce, heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat. (I do this in the microwave.) Melt the butter in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. When the butter foams, add the flour. Lower the heat to medium-low and stir the mixture with a wooden spoon. Cook and stir about 2 minutes, without letting the flour brown.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the milk all at once. Mix energetically to prevent lumps. Put the saucepan back over low heat, season with salt, and cook gently, mixing constantly, until the sauce has a medium-thick consistency, 3-5 minutes. If the sauce is too thick, stir in a bit more milk. If the sauce is too thin, cook it a little longer. Cover the pan and set aside until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Butter a baking pan generously. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and the rigatoni. Cook, uncovered, over high heat until almost done.

Drain the pasta and place it in the baking dish. Season the bechamel with the nutmeg and mix to combine. Add the bechamel to the pasta and mix well. (I put everything back into the pot that the pasta cooked in and mix it there. This baking dish technique is pretty messy.) Sprinkle the pasta with the parmigiano and dot with the butter. Bake until cheese is melted and pasta has a nice golden color, 12-15 minutes. Serve hot. Makes 4-6 servings.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Beef-Sauced Hot Lettuce Salad

From Beyond the Great Wall, another of the wonderful books by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. This is a warm salad from Inner Mongolia which the authors posit may be a fusion dish of some kind, possibly with a Russian influence.

I turned it into a main dish by the simple expediency of serving it with rice. Oh, so very good ... and it looked just like the picture in the book. It will not only make your taste buds sit up and sing but will be easy on the budget as well.

Beef-Sauced Hot Lettuce Salad

About 4 packed cups coarsely torn romaine lettuce

1 tablespoon peanut oil or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1/2 pound (1 packed cup) ground beef
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon soy sauce, or to taste
1 tablespoon Jinjiang (black rice) vinegar, or to taste
1/2 cup warm water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water
1/2 teaspoon roasted sesame oil

Place the lettuce in a wide salad bowl or serving dish and set aside.

Place a wok or heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. toss in the garlic and stir-fry for 10 seconds, then add the ginger. Stir-fry over medium-high to medium heat until slightly softened and starting to turn color. Add the meat and use your spatula to break it up so there are no lumps at all, then add the salt and stir-fry until most of the meat has changed color. Add the soy sauce and vinegar and stir to blend. Add the warm water and stir to blend. (The dressing can be prepared ahead to this point and set aside for up to 20 minutes. When you are ready to proceed, bring to a boil.)

While the dressing mixture is coming to a boil, place the cornstarch in a small cup or bowl and stir in the cold water to make a smooth paste. Once the liquid is bubbling in the pan, give the cornstarch mixture a final stir, add to the pan, and stir for about 1 minute, the liquid will thicken and become smoother. Taste for salt, and add a little salt or soy sauce if you wish. Add the sesame oil and stir once,then pour onto the lettuce. Immediately toss the salad to expose all the greens to the hot dressing. Serve Immediately (or see Note).

Serves 4 as a salad or side dish.

Note on Texture: If you use romaine lettuce, the salad will have good crunch as well as some wilted softer textures when you first serve it. We love the contrast. If you prefer a softer texture, either let the salad stand for 5 minutes before serving it, to give the greens more time to soften in the warm dressing, or use leaf lettuce instead of romaine.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Email Notice

We had a huge server crash yesterday and among other major things, one thing that went down was email.

If you have sent me an email in the last week or so and had been waiting for an answer or to see a notice posted, etc., please be aware that it has been lost to me for good. If I answered since yesterday afternoon then I've got your communication.

Feel free to resend. I am getting emails now, but can't answer them from home for the time being. I'll probably set up another account but am waiting to see how things are going in picking through the wreckage.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Product Review: "Silk" Apples

As the 20+ varieties of apples come in at the Central Market, I get new varieties to try out. One such was the Silk apple which was described as having a wonderfully smooth texture and delicious flavor. They looked like Golden Delicious to me which I am not fond of, preferring a good amount of tartness to offset the sweetness. Sadly, this is also how I felt the Silk apple tasted ... insipidly sweet.

I mentioned this likeness to Tom at lunch while handing him over his third Silk apple of the week.

He said, "I thought maybe they were just bred by someone who doesn't like apples."


You know, next time, he could speak up earlier ... I can make applesauce with any kind of apple and get that tartness in there with some lemon juice.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Best Simple Chili

By popular demand, I am reposting this which I ran in 2004 (that seems so long ago!). This is not too spicy as long as you are not using really hot chili powder.

Just remember ... no beans. As we discovered on vacation one time, we have raised the girls to be good Texans in that respect. "No beans," Rose said sharply. "Chili should never have beans and that is that."
Because you need something to have with the Skillet Cornbread, here's my favorite chili recipe. I found this in Matt Martinez' Culinary Frontier, one of the best Tex-Mex cookbooks ever. I almost always have to adjust seasonings but I can live with that because he has the easiest techniques I have ever found to replace the usual ones found in Mexican cookbooks.

From Matt Martinez's Culinary Frontier. I'm pretty sure I increased the seasonings in this but otherwise it is his recipe.

Step 1:
1 pound ground beef
3-4 tablespoons chili powder
1-2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 cloves minced garlic
2-3 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
4 tablespoons chopped onion
Brown the meat, then drain most of the fat. Add all the seasonings, garlic and onion and saute for 2 minutes.

Step 2:
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups water
2-4 tablespoons cornmeal
Add tomatoes and water, and simmer uncovered until tender, about 1 hour or more, until the meat reaches the desired tenderness. (If the chili seems too soupy, mix the cornmeal with a little water and mix it into the chili. Simmer for 15 minutes to thicken.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Thoughts for Food

From my quote journal.
A salesman who travels southern Georgia and Alabama was told of a boarding house in a small town in his territory that had great food. One day he saw some cars parked outside of a house that looked right and went in. There were about ten people sitting at a big dining table heaped with food. He took an empty chair. He was a chatty type, and so were they. They passed the platters, and he ate his fill. When he stood up and asked the lady at the head of the table how much he owed her, she said, "Oh, you don't owe anything. This is a private home. We home you enjoyed your dinner.
Gail Greenblatt, quoted in A Gracious Plenty

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Weekend Joke

A young man was visiting his brother and sister-in-law for Christmas dinner. As he arrived at their house he found his young nephew, Mikey, helping them bake some cupcakes.

After they were done, his sister-in-law allowed Mikey to put the icing on. When the boy had finished, he brought them to the table.

"The cupcakes look delicious, Mike." his uncle said. He took a bite and said, "Mikey these are so good."

As he finished cupcake and took another, he again complimented his little nephew. "The cupcakes look beautiful, Mikey," his uncle said. "How did you get the icing so neat?"

His nephew replied, "It was easy. I just licked them."

The uncle turned pale. He pointed to the plate of cupcakes. "You licked all of these?"

Mikey replied, "Well no. After a while my tongue got tired, and I got the dog to help."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Thoughts for Food

From my quote journal.
We had a kettle; we let it leak:
Our not repairing made it worse.
We haven't had any tea for a week...
The bottom is out of the Universe.

Rudyard Kipling

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Weekend Joke

Three cooks, one from Kentucky, one from California and one from Oregon were sitting on a park bench passing the time. Suddenly, the cook from Kentucky reaches under the bench and drags out a new bottle of bourbon, takes a big swig, tosses the bottle into the air and shoots it with a pistol.

"What did you do that for?" asks the cook from California.

"We got lots of bourbon in Kentucky" was the reply.

Next the cook from California takes out a bottle of fine wine, takes a huge swig, throws the bottle into the air and shoots it with a pistol.

"What did you do that for?" asks the cook from Oregon.

"We got lots of wine in California" was the reply.

The cook from Oregon takes out a bottle of Henry's Private Reserve beer, takes a humongous swig and shoots the cook from California.

"What did you do that for?" asks the cook from Kentucky.

"We got lots of Californians in Oregon" was the reply.

Fine Art Friday - a day late

A Peeled Clementine by Duane Keiser

Pumpkin Bread Pudding?

Bread pudding made with challah bread, pumpkin, spices, half and half ... and then topped with a caramel sauce?

Oh, I am there, especially when I consider that I was trying to figure out what to make for Monday's book club. Could be time to get pumpkin-ish! And The Anchoress has it spelled out for us.

Friday, October 17, 2008

"Where are the Dallas food bloggers?"

This was the question that Jessie had when we were introduced at a party last weekend ... "You and Jessie need to talk. She's a food blogger!"

Indeed Jessie is a food blogger and much above the level that is held to around here. For one thing, she takes the most gorgeous photos of the results after she cooks. That makes Body and Soul Food a glorious and informative place to visit.

For instance, the above photo is the first time I've ever seen anything to interest me in anything cooked in "Crazy Water" though I've read many a recipe in Italian cookbooks for such a thing.

I don't know where the Dallas food bloggers are ... there must be others. (Actually I just came across this Foodbuzz listing so that answers one question.)

However, I'm very glad to have met Jessie and to have her lovely and delicious-looking blog to browse. Go check it out.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Thoughts for Food

From my quote journal.
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

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Weekend Joke

A wife was making a breakfast of fried eggs for her husband.

Suddenly her husband burst into the kitchen. "Careful ... CAREFUL! Put in some more butter! Oh my GOSH! You're cooking too many at once. TOO MANY! Turn them! TURN THEM NOW! We need more butter. Oh my GOSH! WHERE are we going to get MORE BUTTER? They're going to STICK! Careful ... CAREFUL! I said be CAREFUL! You NEVER listen to me when you're cooking! Never! Turn them! Hurry up! Are you CRAZY? Have you LOST your mind? Don't forget to salt them. You know you always forget to salt them. Use the salt. USE THE SALT! THE SALT!"

The wife stared at him. "What the hell is wrong with you? You think I don't know how to fry a couple of eggs?"

The husband calmly replied, "I wanted to show you what it feels like when I'm driving with you in the car."

Friday, October 10, 2008

I am increasingly approving of The Nutrition Diva

She is part of the Quick & Dirty Tips podcasting family. I enjoy several of those podcasts as a matter of fact.

What makes me point out The Nutrition Diva? She uses common sense. And science.

I like that.

For instance, I had fallen prey to high fructose hysteria (to my shame, as I now realize) and she helped shake me into common sense (emphasis added):
... As is so often the case, a little chemistry helps makes things a lot clearer. Table sugar, or sucrose, is actually made up of two types of sugar molecules; it’s about equal parts glucose and fructose.

Regular corn syrup, the kind that you can buy on the grocery store, has a different profile. It’s much lower in fructose than table sugar. You heard me correctly: Corn syrup is naturally quite low in fructose. And that makes it a poor substitute for table sugar. Things made with regular corn syrup don’t taste the same as things made with table sugar.

The breakthrough for food manufacturers came when they figured out how to produce a corn syrup that was higher in fructose. High-fructose corn syrup actually has about the same amount of fructose as regular table sugar—making it a viable alternative for food processing. Because corn syrup is so much cheaper than cane sugar, manufacturers quickly adopted it and high-fructose corn syrup has largely replaced cane sugar in manufactured foods.

But here’s what gets lost in the high-fructose hysteria: Foods and drinks made with high-fructose corn syrup are, in general, no higher in fructose than foods made with regular sugar. But they are cheaper. ...
Or this bit of information about how much water to drink? Now, this one I knew. But it was refreshing to hear a little known bit of information being brought to light through a venue that is fairly popular (or so I'd bet):
... I bet you’ve heard it said that you need to drink at least eight glasses of water a day in order to stay properly hydrated. Perhaps you’ve also read that by the time you feel thirsty you’re already in an advanced state of dehydration, or that most of us are chronically dehydrated. Chances are also good that you’ve been told that drinking caffeinated beverages like tea and coffee cause you to lose more fluid than you take in.

What would you say if I told you that all of these widely held truths are little more than urban legends?

I can almost hear your shocked expressions! The dehydration myth has become so firmly entrenched in our collective consciousness that it may indeed come as a surprise to learn that there is very little scientific support for any of these notions. ...

You don't have to listen to the podcast if you'd rather read. Full transcripts are available for each show.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Now Serving Hot Links

My Family's Noodle Kugel
From Smitten Kitchen. I've never been attracted to noodle puddings but this looks darned good. Also, Smitten Kitchen is where I found that fantastic Iced Coffee recipe as well as this Majestic and Moist Honey Cake recipe which wowed a group of people at our house earlier this week. (Rita, that's the recipe you asked for...) So, yes, I trust her.

Butter, Part 1
Finishing up the amazingly complete five part series about olive oil, Just Food Now turns their attention to butter. Great writing, interesting photos, and recipes. Dive in!

A Home Cooked Japanese Lunch
What do the Japanese really eat at home? Go along with World Foodie Guide and find out.

In Search of West Texas Asado
No, not carne asada. That's what Homesick Texan thought too but found out differently. I have to say those photos and that recipe look darned good. That may be some football kinda food for our near future...

The Scent of a Kitchen
Tigers & Strawberries is musing on this subject. I, myself, am partial to the smell of Chinese food ... good thing that I don't let it bother me that a stir-fry scent lingers until the next day. This is one I am going to muse further about myself.

Monday, October 06, 2008

100 Days of Holidays

Better Homes and Gardens has just launched 100 Days of Holidays.
  • more than 400 new slide shows
  • free recipes, craft projects, and decorating ideas
  • 100 daily email newsletters
  • 50 new how to videos
  • five fun new interactive tools
  • three online courses
  • new photo contests
I have been a fan of Better Homes and Gardens' Christmas cookie magazines and recipes for many, many years.

I wish I'd have had their website around when I was trying to come up with ways to fulfill our girls' Halloween costume ideas. One year, Hannah was Medusa. Now that takes some ingenuity!

If you check out their holiday section you can find not only costume ideas but recipes for some very clever Halloween goodies. Which all takes me back to the year that Rose made "brain" cookies. You know, if you use enough black food coloring, a garlic press, and some cookie dough ... you can come up with grayish brains with nice, gooey green frosting on top. Ugh! Everyone loved them!

Of course, the website will be moving on through the holiday season as the days whip by. I highly recommend this spot for those last-minute (or even planned) family necessities as Halloween parties, Thanksgiving celebrations, and Christmas gift needs pop up. What's best of all is that a craft-hating person like me can do most of these pretty easily.

Check it out.

(You do have to sign up, but it is free. When it goes to the second window that wants all your contact info, if you don't want to give it then you can just back out. You're still signed up and get access.)

Thoughts for Food

From my quote journal.
“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”
A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Weekend Joke

Did you hear that in New York the Stop and Shop grocery chain merged with the A&P?

Now it's called the Stop & P.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Fine Art Friday

Churros in Barcelona from one of my very favorite photographers, Barcelona Photoblog.

Now Serving Hot Links

'Tis the Season for ... Squash!
How To has everything you need to know about cooking squash. With their usual thoroughness, they not only have photos and techniques but plenty of links to recipes.

Chinese Milk Scandal
Jen is in China with little ones ... looking into the scoop on the milk scandal has her needing a chemist.

What Real Hunger Means
Silk Road Gourmet has a sobering look at places in the world where stealing a handful of rice means the difference between life and death. She goes much further than the usual facile comparisons between the "haves" and "have nots" to consider how our society looks at food also. Well worth reading.

Slashfood Flickr Pool
I didn't know this existed! Glorious food photography from all over the internet.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Worth a Thousand Words

green tomatoes with yellow pot, fork and spoon by Marissa Verechia
Click through on the link above to reach her blog, pilgrim's breakfast, and see more wonderful art.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A Simple Khmer Stir-Fry ... With Lots and Lots of Ginger

Reading Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia I was irresistibly drawn to this recipe which they described as being one where the ginger is both a flavoring and a vegetable. Let's see ... about two cups of matchstick cut ginger. Oy veh! That would either kill you or cure you it seemed to me.

This I had to try.

It was absolutely delicious. Clearly it wouldn't do to serve it to those who didn't like ginger but the flavors balanced out so well that we never felt overwhelmed. Don't get me wrong. There was plenty of ginger and it was plenty hot ... but oh, so very good.

I also liked the fact that it used catfish. I like catfish ... both for the flavor and the low, low price compared to other fish.

Stir-Fried Fish with Ginger
[traey cha k'nye -- Cambodia]

1 pound fish fillets (catfish, snapper, or any other firm-fleshed fish)
1/2 pound ginger, preferably young ginger
3 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
1/4 cup minced shallots
4 scallions, trimmed, smashed flat with the side of a cleaver, sliced lengthwise in half and then cut into 2-inch lengths (I didn't have any on hand)
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Slice the fish fillets into strips about 2 inches long and less than 1/2 inch thick. Peel the ginger, then cut into fine matchstick-length julienne (this is most easily done by cutting thin slices, then stacking these to cut them into matchsticks.) You should have about 2 cups, loosely packed.

Heat a wok over medium-high heat. (I would just use a big skillet if that's what you have.) Add the oil and, when it is hot, add the ginger.

When the ginger is starting to turn golden, after about 3 minutes, toss in the shallots. Stir-fry until the ginger is golden-brown, 2 to 4 minutes.

Toss in the scallions, reserving a few shreds for garnish, and stir-fry briefly, pressing the scallions against the hot wok to sear them.

Add the sliced fish and stir-fry gently for 1 minute, using your spatula to separate the slices and to expose them all to the hot wok.

Add the fish sauce, sugar, and salt, stir gently, and cook for 3 minutes, or until the fish is just cooked through.

Add the lime juice, taste and adjust the seasonings if you wish, and turn out onto a platter. Garnish with the reserved scallion shreds and serve hot.

Serves: 4. Serve with rice, a clear soup, and a fresh tasting salad.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Genetically Engineered Farm Animals and the FDA

The government said it will start considering proposals to sell genetically engineered animals as food, a move that could lead to faster growing fish, cattle that can resist mad cow disease, or perhaps heart-healthier eggs laid by a new breed of chicken.

The Food and Drug Administration issued a proposed legal framework for how it would resolve such questions as whether the altered animals are safe for human consumption and pose no serious environmental risks. FDA officials said they are focusing on animals that will be used as food, or to produce medications that would then be consumed by people or other animals.
Ok, that's bad enough from my point of view.

But then you get this.
... the FDA does not plan to require in all cases that genetically engineered meat, poultry and fish be labeled as such for consumers.

"They are talking about pigs that are going to have mouse genes in them, and this is not going to be labeled?" said Jean Halloran, director of food policy for Consumers Union. "We are close to speechless on this."
Why no labels? Because then people would know what not to buy. Who would that hurt? The Frankensteins who are pushing genetically engineered animals on the public.

So the government is allowing them to slip one over on the public. Colluding in it, as a matter of fact. I know I'm old fashioned but whatever happened to the idea that the government is there to serve the people?

Right. I know. That's a laugh riot.

That whole issue is what we saw begin when the government refused to let milk suppliers label whether or not their product contained rBGH. I wound up going over to organic milk then.

Well, I buy some organic things already so this will just make the push complete, I suppose. But what about restaurants? What kind of eggs will they be buying? Or beef?

Now that's gonna be an interesting dilemma.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Thought for Food

i like to take a few moments to watch the leaves undulate with the grace of mermaids in the darkening tea, my nose is delighted with the enticing exotic aroma of equatorial fruits and oriental teas. i clear my mind and become one with this zen experience.
Do we really become one with our tea? A nice reminder to slow down and smell the tea leaves...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Newest Obsession: Iced Coffee

About 4:00 in the afternoon, I need a caffeine fix. In the summer it tends to be iced tea but my favorite is a cup of coffee. Not being a Starbucks junky (yep, we're cheap that way) the idea of iced coffee never occurred to me. That is, until I read Smitten Kitchen's caffeine-fueled raves about the recipe she'd found in the New York Times.

It was just the sort of gimmicky thing that appealed to me. So simple. Let the grounds steep in water for 12 hours, drain, mix with an equal amount of water, and then adjust flavor to taste with sugar and/or milk ... and add ice. Could it really work?

I got caught up in an intensive discussion with a Central Market coffee lover who kept digressing to urge me to buy special "toddy" equipment at a certain website and then looked grave when I refused. You know, all I really wanted was to know what number to set the coffee grinder on to get a "coarse grind. I finally emerged, triumphant, with my #8 ground coffee and sallied homeward to begin the Great Experiment.

The result?

Heaven in a glass.

So heavenly, in fact, that I am having to severely restrict myself to one glass daily. Does it taste like Starbucks? I have no way of knowing. But it is absolutely delicious.

Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee
Time: 5 minutes, plus 12 hours’ resting

1/3 cup ground coffee (medium-coarse grind is best)
Milk (optional).

1. In a jar, stir together coffee and 1 1/2 cups water. Cover and let rest at room temperature overnight or 12 hours.

2. Strain twice through a coffee filter, a fine-mesh sieve or a sieve lined with cheesecloth. In a tall glass filled with ice, mix equal parts coffee concentrate and water, or to taste. If desired, add milk. (I also like a little sugar mixed with the coffee mixture before pouring it over ice.)

Yield: Two drinks.

NOTE: To make hot coffee, dilute concentrate one-to-one with water and heat in the microwave.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Amazing Taste Seasonings Live Up to Their Name

Ignore the fact that the packaging is not "upscale."

Ignore the fact that their promotional materials say things like, "Amazing Taste packets cost only $0.99 and season 2-4 lbs. of protein." (Protein? Mmmm, now that sounds appetizing.)

Just focus on the name. Amazing Taste. It is actually accurate.

I was surprised to receive a generous sampling of seasonings after agreeing to try their products. They have a wide variety which go from specific meats like Beef to specific dishes like Chili to a trendy spice combination like Malibu.

I examined the ingredients of several packets before trying them and puzzled over the inclusion of wheat flour, rice flour, tapioca starch, and such like. Suddenly the light dawned. These were there to enhance browning or texture, just as I would do when first sprinkling seasoning and then dredging in flour before browning. I saw nothing that was "code" for MSG or hidden salt. Reassured, I proceeded.

Looking around the internet, I see that I was not the only one looking at ingredients. Simple Daily Recipes went a step further when trying these out.
Before I even opened them, I had my friend Kim, a licensed dietitian, take a look at them. She was very impressed with the list of healthy ingredients used in the seasonings.
After I tried out the seasoning for chicken I was both surprised and impressed. I rubbed some of the seasoning into chicken breasts and then browned them in a little olive oil. The result was an attractively browned, tasty but subtly flavored chicken breast.

A very good beginning.

I had chuckled at the Fajita seasoning packets ... I mean we are in Texas after all ... but then thought I'd give it the acid test. I rubbed it generously over more chicken breasts, Tom grilled them, and ... we pronounced them good, very good. Again, there was a subtle flavor. Nothing obvious, but just enough to enhance the flavor of the meat and make it meld harmoniously with the other ingredients we were popping into flour tortillas.

As a side note, Tom was grilling other, unflavored chicken breasts that I was going to use later in the week. He said that he was wondering why the fajita chicken was browning so beautifully while the other pieces were pallid and uncooked looking. Just a little thing called Amazing Taste, I believe.

Again we were quite impressed.

The Steak House and Pork seasonings are not quite as subtle, but they surely are savory and delicious. When you want a stronger pop of flavor, they filled the bill but without leaving any chemical aftertaste or adding too much salt.

These are winners. When they run out, I'll be picking up more, perhaps in their handy shakers.

Check out locations or buy Amazing Taste here.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Fine Art Friday

La Chevre et Le Chou from Paris Daily Photo

Not content to merely give us this charming photo from Paris, of all the unlikely-seeming places, he tells us a bit of background as well.
No, it's not usual to come across a goat and a cabbage in the middle of Paris ! I simply spotted this cute little scene in front of a restaurant in the 15th arrondissement (235 bis rue Saint Charles more precisely) called La chèvre et le chou (the goat and the cabbage). The funny part - well, if you're interested in improving your French - is that this name is also a pretty common expression that we use when we're in a situation where we have to please two opposite parties. I believe the translation in English would be "To have one's cake and eat it too".
Anyone who loves Paris as I do but gets there very rarely (also, sadly, as I do) will really enjoy this blogger's photos and comments.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Spicy Cucumber Salad with Peanuts

From Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2002. This is a Thai-ish dish that gets rave reviews even from cucumber haters. It went perfectly with the grilled salmon and the Creamy Horseradish Potato Salad on Labor Day. Even if you find yourself without peanuts as I did the last time I made it, it is sweet and spicy and ... crunchilicious!

Spicy Cucumber Salad with Peanuts

1-1/2 pounds cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced (about 4 cups
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1 tablespoon chopped dry-roasted peanuts

1. Place cucumber slices in a colander, sprinkle with salt. Toss well. Drain 1 hour. Place cucumber slices on several layers of paper towels, cover with additional paper towels. Let stand 5 minutes, pressing down occasionally. Rinse and pat dry.

2. Combine vinegar, water, sugar, and red pepper in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cook until reduced to 1/3 cup (about 10 minutes). Remove vinegar reduction from heat; cool. Stir in onion. Combine cucumbers and vinegar reduction in a medium bowl. Toss well. Sprinkle with peanuts. Yield 4 servings.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Creamy Horseradish Potato Salad

From the pages of last year's June Gourmet, which I don't buy that often but yielded this tangy, delicious, and simple potato salad. It went perfectly with the grilled salmon we had yesterday. Mmmm, I love horseradish!

I used Yukon Gold medium sized potatoes, peeled after they were cooked and sliced them thickly.

I actually bought chives to put in this but would have been just as happy with chopped green onions or red onion.

Creamy Horseradish Potato Salad

Serves 6.

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons bottled white horseradish, not drained
1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
3 pounds cooked small (2-inch) boiling potatoes, cooled to room temperature and quartered

Whisk together dressing ingredients. Stir in chives and potatoes to coat.

8 Easy Inexpensive Meals for College Students

Four options for those without kitchens and four for those with them.

SlashFood's story is tailor-made for Hannah and Rose ... oh, and all those other college students I know! I think their options for kitchens are more practical than the others but that's just me.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Now Serving Hot Links

Repeat After Me, Food is Not a Moral Issue
Michael Phelps is going to endorse Frosted Flakes. The food police object. (story here) Sheez. One more time, people. It ain't the food. It's what you do with it. I like this comment:
After all, when it comes to figuring out what's good for you, whom are you going to believe, a pasty-faced "nutrutionist" or a guy who can swim faster than a motorboat?
Butter Sculpture Gallery

Amazing work is being done in butter these days. Serious Eats has a nice round up of photos.

Wine Spectator Gives Fake Restaurant Award of Excellence
Looks like a certain publication has really taken their eye off the ball.
[Robin] Goldstein, the author of The Wine Trials has a posting up on his new website describing how he invented a restaurant name, Osteria l’Intrepido, a riff on “fearless.” Then he typed up a menu (”a fun amalgamation of somewhat bumbling nouvelle-Italian recipes”) and then put together a wine list, and submitted both to Wine Spectator–along with the $250 fee. The list was approved and given an Award of Excellence.
The best part is that Mr. Goldstein included "the lowest-scoring Italian wines in Wine Spectator over the past 20 years."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Wow, Bob's Sauce Really Is All Purpose!

I was in the mood for some salad dressing made with balsamic vinegar. I saw the bottle of Bob's All Purpose Sauce and thought, "Hey, that was kind of strong, and a bit sweet, and had a reddish tinge. It might be like a sassy French dressing if I tossed some in.

I did.

And, lo, it was good.

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons virgin olive oil (I use Colavita ... the price is right and the taste is dandy)
A dash of Bob's (not sure how big a dash ... less than a tablespoon)

Whisk together, toss with salad greens for four.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Guess Why We Had Waffles for Dinner Last Night?

Homer: Why do you mock me, God?!

Marge: Homer, that's not God, that's a waffle Bart tossed up there last week.

(she gets a broom and scrapes the waffle off the ceiling, then leaves)

Homer: I know I should not eat thee ... but ... (chomp) ... Mmm, sacre-licious.

We saw that episode a few days ago and Hannah and Rose both began longing for waffles. Though none wound up on the ceiling, thank goodness. I used a basic recipe, similar to this one.

This was called to mind as I read through this article which my friend Tammy, knowing me so well, about 25 lessons we can learn from The Simpsons about cheap, healthy eating. Enjoy!

Pacman Sugar Cookies

Both funny and creative! See how to make them at Snack or Die. Via Miss Cellania.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Product Review: Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce

We're not big steak sauce users in our family.

Truth to tell, we don't even own a bottle of steak sauce. So I guess you could say that we generally ignore the product altogether. Not from dislike. We just never think of it.

However, I received a very nice email a week or two ago offering some of Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce to try out. Never being one to look a gift horse in the mouth I promptly agreed and a few days later received two bottles.

Intrigued, I immediately bought some ground chuck and we grilled burgers, one pound of meat seasoned with 1 tablespoon of sauce.

Everyone agreed, even picky Hannah, that the burgers had a certain ineffable deliciousness that they had never had before.

So far, so good.

Next I was making Hamburger and Rice ... a favorite in our household for all its extreme simplicity ... and thought I'd try out a tablespoon of Bob's Sauce in there.

The consensus was that it provided an enriching flavor which slightly changed the overall feel of the dish but that everyone approved.

I am going to be trying out Country Bob's All Purpose sauce some more. For one thing, I am extremely interested in their Swiss Steak recipe. I noticed that they use all fresh ingredients in their recipes for the most part ... and this one has plenty of mushrooms. Mmmmm, mushrooms. I imagine that some of Bob's Sauce is going to make it a very flavorsome dish indeed.

Red Cooked Beef

This originally was from a food newsletter that I subscribed to. I can't remember the name of the newsletter now, however, immediately recognized it as a sort of variation of Chinese Red Cooked Beef and thus I dubbed it in our household.

I do remember that it was made with round steak. It never seemed to me that round steak held up to the long simmering time so I changed it to chuck.

Other than that, it is unchanged. Simply scrumptious for a winter day I must say. I post it now so that y'all have a frame of reference for my Hamburger and Rice recipe.

Step 1:
2 pound chuck steak, in 1” cubes
2 tablespoons oil
Brown beef over high heat. Remove meat and juices to a bowl.

Step 2:
2 large onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping tablespoon sugar
Cook onions with garlic and sugar until golden. Push onions to the side. Dump meat back into pan and pile onions over it.

Step 3:
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
Add soy sauce and water (enough for the meat to simmer in). Let meat simmer, covered, until tender (1½-2 hours). When tender, uncover pan and cook a little more to thicken and intensify juices.

Hamburger and Rice

It is somewhat embarrassing to admit that this is one of my kids' favorite dishes and one of the very few that I created myself. It is a bastardization of Red Cooked Beef which developed as I was cooking weeknight meals and didn't have time to go the whole nine yards on the original ... which is also much loved in our household.

Step 1:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, pressed
In a large nonstick skillet cook until softened.

Step 2:
1 pound ground round
Add and sauté, until lightly browned.

Step 3:
1 tablespoon flour
Soy sauce
2 cups chicken broth
Sprinkle in flour and stir to combine. Sprinkle in lots of soy sauce, then stir in broth fully. Simmer until mixture thickens slightly. Correct seasoning. Serve over rice.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I Forgot How Good This Is ...

Got back from Chicago and the first thing I made was Stir Fried Noodles with Shrimp, Chiles, and Lime ... Heavens to Betsy, I'd forgotten how good that is. Not that hard either. It was like a tango in my mouth.

Likewise with this Kao Mok Gai ... or Thai Style Chicken and Rice. I made it last night and the ginger in the rice just sang.

If you're looking for something new and interesting, but not too difficult, give these a try.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Now Serving Hot Links ...

  • Everything's coming up ... tomatoes ... at How To Cook. From types to freezing to peeling to which canned ones to buy ... an amazing resource.

  • Dispatches from Afghanistan Sam: How to Buy, Slaughter and Spit-Roast a Sheep ... I think that title pretty much says it all. With photos. Enjoy!

  • What do the Chinese really eat at home? World Foodie Guide clues us in with Cantonese Home Cooking. That Chicken and Potato Stew looks pretty good and I have printed it out to try.

  • How Local Can You Realistically Go? Barbara at Tigers & Strawberries has a wonderful example of how to take a down-to-earth look at your meals before patting yourself on the back for local buying. Also an interesting report of farmers' efforts to provide more basic foods locally.

  • Nuts Online ... Siggy reports:
    Great quality. Third order and stuff is top notch.

    The coffees are great as well.

    I just rec'd 300 bucks worth of stuff- -worth every penny and way better and cheaper than whole foods type stores.

    The sun dried tomatoes are what I imagine your cinammon buns taste like.
    That flatterer! But I am going to check out this resource.

Friday, July 04, 2008

God Bless America, Land That I Love

Happy birthday, USA!


To those who are not Americans, I like the way that podcaster B.J. Harrison says it (as with so many other things he says):
I know that many of my listeners are not American, and to them I wish joy and freedom of the glorious land which they call home. How wonderful to have a day to celebrate independence. To me, independence proclaims our ability to choose right from wrong, and denotes a celebration for the right choices we make. These are the things that give us freedom. May we all rejoice in the freedoms we enjoy, and in the freedoms we create.
Here are 10 good ways to celebrate American freedom.
3) Walk around your house enjoying the lack of soldiers

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Now Serving Hot Links ...

The Chocolate Apothecary is opening in Dallas. Can I get a prescription filled for chocolate truffles?

Corn Fritter Casserole -- this sounds fantastic and not too sweet which is what I always hate about such dishes.

Fried Pies ... Texas style! Mmmmm, mmmmm, good!

Thomasstriezeln ... what the heck? That is a dish to be cooked for St. Thomas's (the original "doubting" Thomas's feast day ... which is July 3). You know, I have that cookbook, Cooking with the Saints. But do I use it? Nope. Catholic Cuisine is inspiring me to dust it off and actually cook from it.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Gimme a Moon Pie and a RC

A little bit of food-ish history over at Forgotten Classics, my podcast.

Quick Look at a Good Book

The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper: Recipes, Stories, and Opinions from Public Radio's Award-Winning Food Show by Lynne Rosetto Kasper and Sally Schneider****

In spite of my complaints about some of the absolute worst book design I've ever seen, the content is very good (which just annoys me more about the design). I haven't made anything from this yet but definitely will. One word of warning: this book title may make you think that it is all one needs to know about the "basics" of cooking supper. Not so. It is an interesting mix of basic information with some extremely sophisticated taste combinations that may be intimidating to a beginning cook. Which is probably exactly why so many cooks are raving about it.

This was one of the books I read in June ... the rest of the list is here.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Holy Chuckwagon, What a Cookbook!*

I have been very privileged to read Legends of a Range Cook, a cookbook that is in the process of being submitted to a publisher ... and was blown away by it. We know the photographer and while I have always admired his prowess this book highlights it in an amazing way that makes the reader feel as if they were dropped into the middle of the Old West.

How to describe it?

Here is what they say at their site:
This cookbook is the real deal. It isn't written by a historian or a researcher or a cowboy cook wanna be. Legends of a Range Cook is written by a true trail cook whose life's work has been keeping working cowhands happy after a long, hard day with a hot, satisfying meal. Red Cloud Wolverton's recipes are seasoned with memorable stories of the challenges of cooking on the range. Hugh Beebower's photography and the panoramic layout transport the reader into The Real West.
It is a gorgeous coffee table book (check out the photography at the site link above), a fascinating look at the real world of cooking on the range, a book of interesting stories told about his experiences by a seasoned range cook, and a primer on how to recreate this cooking for yourself whether in your kitchen or on the range.

They have gone to the trouble to layout and hand produce several copies, one of which I got to take home but didn't have time to cook from. However, I can tell you that I am scheming to get my hands on one again so I can give some of these recipes a whirl.

Interestingly, Hugh tells me that he has cooked extensively from them and they are both simple and delicious ... as one would expect since they would have been produced from a chuckwagon and yet needed to keep hungry cowboys satisfied at the end of a long day. In fact, one of my favorite stories in the book is about the time when there was a range cook (not Red Cloud Wolverton) who severely neglected his duties in that area.

There is a spot on the site where you can submit some contact info so that you will be informed when the book comes out. Of course, I'll also keep y'all updated on any publishing news.

All photography is the property of Hugh Beebower and copyrighted by him. Used by permission.

Fair Disclosure
Our company laid out the web site for the cookbook. However no business connection would ever make me feel that I had to give a glowing endorsement or any endorsement at all for that matter. Like the cookbook, my endorsements are the real deal. I want this book published ... so that I can buy one! And give one to my parents, and to my sister, and to my brother ... well, you get the idea.

* With apologies to the original King Kong movie which contains one of my very favorite lines, "Holy mackerel, what a show!"

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

East-West Spaghetti and Meatballs

This is from my cookbook of choice for the week, Easy Family Recipes from a Chinese-American Childhood by Ken Hom. I always try to pick a different one from my embarrassingly large collection of cookbooks for each week. Do I always manage to cook from it? Depends on how busy it is during the week. This week ... so far, so good.

I absolutely love this cookbook. Not only is it a treasure trove of reminiscences about growing up as a first generation Chinese American but so far it has worked every time. Yes you read that right. Every time. I wish that wasn't such a shock but I have learned through sad experience that however much I love Jean Anderson's cookbooks there is a 50-75% success factor in any recipe I pick of hers.

This is a variation on Lionhead Meatballs that Hom's mother served often. We found it to be a wonderfully light and refreshing take on spaghetti and meatballs. The water chestnuts chopped into the meat mixture were a brilliant addition, adding just a bit of crunch but not a "water chestnut-ish" flavor which both daughters reject out of hand.

I had a few problems since I used ground bison and it tends to get rather dense. It probably would work just as described below with regular hamburger ... or even a nice meatloaf mix. Also it wasn't until typing this recipe that I realized I shouldn't have just chopped up all that garlic and cooked it with the onions and ginger. Oops! It was delicious that way though.

I chose not to saute the meatballs first, not wanting the splatter and another pan dirtied. (I know, I know, but our dishwasher hasn't been working for months, ok?) I formed the meatballs and gently put them in the sauce to simmer. They were wonderful. However, I would have liked more sauce to meatball ratio and wound up chopping up my meatballs and mixing them in the sauce on my plate. So did everyone else when it came down to that. Next time (and there WILL be a next time) I will make a variation where I just pinch off little bits of the meat mixture into the sauce to simmer.

Serves 4

Tomato Sauce
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped red onions
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed (oops!)
2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
4 cups canned crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 pound ground beef
1 egg white
2 tablespoons cold water
1/2 pound fresh water chestnuts, peeled and coarsely chopped, or 6 ounces canned, chopped (for the rest of us)
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Potato starch, for dusting
4 tablespoons peanut oil

1 pound Italian spaghetti

Heat a heavy saucepan and swirl in the olive oil. When it is hot, toss in the onions, garlic, and ginger and cook for 2 minutes over medium heat. Then dump in the tomatoes, sugar, salt, and pepper, lower the heat, cover, simmer for 20 minutes and set aside.

Put the beef in a food processor and mix with the egg white and cold water for 1 minute. The mixture should be light and fluffy. Do not use a blender, which would make the mixture too dense. Then toss in the water chestnuts, soy sauces, rice wine, five-spice powder, sugar, salt, and pepper and mix for another 30 seconds. The mixture should be slightly coarse, with bits of the water chestnuts adding texture.

Divide the mixture into 16 equal parts and roll each part into a large meatball. Dust each meatball with the potato starch. Heat a wok until it is hot, then swirl in 2 tablespoons of the peanut oil. When the oil is hot and slightly smoking, drop in half of the meatballs, turn the heat down, and slowly brown the meatballs. Swirl in the additional 2 tablespoons of oil and fry the remaining meat balls. Drain them on paper towels.

Place the meatballs in the cooked tomato sauce, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package instructions or according to your taste and drain well.

Arrange the pasta on a platter, lay the meatballs on top, pour the sauce over the dish and serve at once.

Now Serving Hot Links ...

An Oyster with an Eye from Blogging in Paris. And she's right ... it does look as if an eye is peeking out at us!

The Right Beer for PB&J
And they all rejoiced ... yes it does exist!

Chocolate Mint Panna Cotta
From A Foodie Froggy in Paris comes one of my favorite flavor combinations ... and the photos just make me want one even more.

10 Foods Named After People
2. Salisbury steak was invented by Dr. James H. Salisbury. He thought that fruits and veggies were bad for humans and caused heart disease, tumors, mental illness, tuberculosis and all kinds of horrible ailments. He invented the Salisbury steak (which is really just hamburger steak) to convince people to change their diet to mostly meat.
From Mental Floss blog ... an interesting list.

There's Something to Those Big Irish Breakfasts
The only time I ever lost weight on vacation was on a trip to Ireland, where we stayed at different B&B’s almost every night. The “big Irish breakfast” was wonderful, every day, and we ate it all - cereal or porridge, black bread with butter, yogurt with berries, eggs, sausage, bacon, potatoes and fried tomatoes and lots of coffee with cream. It would keep us quite filled and energetic until supper (I don’t believe we ever ate lunch, although we took a break each day for a Guinness and some days for gelato), and supper was fairly light - a bit of fresh fish and veggies or the like.
The Anchoress's experience backs up a new study talking about the best way to eat ... read it at her place.

With Beans Comes Rice
I usually pass up the rice at Mexican restaurants. Let's face it, they use it as an inexpensive filler and rarely lavish the time or care needed to make it delicious. In fact, along with the tortilla chips and salsa, that is one of my tests to see just how much a restaurant cares. Confusingly, my favorite Tex-Mex place, Mariano's, falls very far short of the mark in this category ... on the salsa front as well as the rice ... while still turning out some very good dishes otherwise. Homesick Texan gives us the low-down on how to produce the real thing ourselves.

Fried Catfish Japanese Style
Tigers & Strawberries has a new favorite way with catfish. You guessed it. She uses Panko instead of breadcrumbs. Which leaves me asking ... am I the only person on the planet who has repeatedly tried Panko for breading and not fallen in love with them? In fact, found that they soaked up oil, didn't brown, and just didn't make that big a difference? Must be ... I'm probably doing something wrong but I've never had any problems with plain old breadcrumbs.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Fine Art Friday

Some of the delicious art I've found at some of my favorite places this week. Click on the title links to see more of these artists' work.

PB&J No. 8 by James Neil Hollingsworth

Gale's Restaurant by Belinda Del Pesco

Pasta of the Day by Edward B. Gordon

More art is on exhibit at Happy Catholic and Forgotten Classics