I make myself one cup of coffee five days a week. Not “a coffee” - a mug of Yuban. I don’t drink lattes or anything that ends in “ppucino.” Sodas only at PTO meetings, once a month. It’s not that I’m a Thou Shalt Not purist, because I eat and drink other crap; I’m just too cheap to pay for that stuff, and I know how bad all of those things are for me. Besides, if I’m gonna shell out bucks for beverages I could approximate in my own home, it had better be alcohol in a fancy setting.
Once a year, in early spring, I take the drive of shame to the McDonalds drive-up window and order this.
A shamrock shake - or, as I prefer to think of it, the Shamerock Shake. Unmistakably green and fluffy in a clear cup - when did THAT happen? - so I can’t pretend it’s an iced tea, to my great shame.
There is nothing about this drink I can defend. Not its ingredients, its purveyor, and certainly not its nutritional value. But I still want one. One.
You might think that with a chip on my shoulder this big I could handle the subsequent walk of shame from my car to the door of my office, but you’d be wrong, because there next to my parking space was a huge pickup, backed into the space, with a man and woman inside. The engine was running. I was suddenly self-conscious of my Shamerock Shake. What if they see me? They’ll KNOW. I should have been wondering why a couple were idling their pickup in the parking lot, watching the doors of the building, and I am wondering that now, but then? Only concerned with juggling my keys and papers and purse and this fluffy green nonsense.
Did you know that when a thick green shake tips over in a purse, some actual liquid seeps out? I didn’t either.
I made it into the building, where I enjoyed my shake, alone, feeling a mixture of guilt and satisfaction. Then I cleaned my purse.
It’s a good thing I won’t eat McRib sandwiches. My purse would not survive.
(Photo used by permission from Piccolo Namek)
One of the true joys of working outside the home, in a comfortable, air conditioned office, is the office kitchen. Clean and tiny, almost entirely devoid of food or useful utensils, it is a haven.
I stash my lunch in the huge empty refrigerator, so white inside it almost blinds me when I open the door to retrieve my Trader Joe’s salad or Greek yogurt. Behind the can of Yuban lurks my own personal peanut butter. Crunchy natural peanut butter is not part of my household shopping list, since no one at home but me would eat it. But here in my office kitchen I have a new little jar of it; yet unopened, it waits upside down for the day the yogurt is gone and I’m still hungry.
Today’s the day.
One of life’s tiny pleasures is opening a new jar of peanut butter and being the first one to dunk a spoon. Once the jar is half gone, however, its charms have faded as I wonder who’s been opening the lid when I’m not looking – at least that’s how it is at my home, which I share with children who are tall enough to rummage through the cupboards for snacks. But here in my office kitchen there’s no risk of anyone dipping grimy fingers into it because J— doesn’t eat processed foods and R— seems to eat only fruit and coffee. In any case, I’m sure they will expect that I double-dip with a licked spoon, and they’ll stay far away from my own personal peanut butter. And, even though I never, ever do that, today I just might.
(All photos by Sara Remington, and recklessly stolen from The Wild Table web site)
Fooleryland needs a Holiday Gift Guide, don't you think? So here is my first FOOLHOGG entry. This is sure to go viral.
Chas now has a published author in his family. And, because I married Chas, I can claim chef Sarah Scott as part of my family. See how I did that?
Sarah is a chef in the Napa Valley, and I've written about her before, which, you know, feel free to go read. Here's her photo*:
For over a year Sarah has been working on the book The Wild Table: Seasonal Foraged Food and Recipes with Connie Green, who is this lady:
Connie Green is an expert in the field of foraging wild foods -- from all over North America, I understand -- which she then ships to famous chefs. Sarah Scott created the recipes using these foods. The resulting collaborative cookbook features over 100 recipes using mushrooms, berries, and other stuff that grows beside the road treats. I have ordered one for my brother Chef Bocci (who never reads my blog so this won't be a give-away) and one for myself for Chas to give me for Christmas. Yep. Easier that way.
Check out their web site** if you need a gift for an adventurous, creative soul. Or for someone like me, who likes to pretend she's adventurous and creative.
*I showed this to the girls and asked if they remembered meeting cousin Sarah for lunch in the Napa Valley. Sparky asked, "How old is she? Is she 30?" (She really did, Sarah.)
**This is not a review because I have not even seen the book yet. Nor was this in any way a sponsored post. I'm just pushy and like to associate myself with winners.
Start with vegetables, pretty much.
My cousins are visiting and, while they're not exactly vegans, they tend toward veganism. Being a dyed-in-the-wool, Card-Carrying Omnivore, this is a difficult concept for me. What do you mean, NO EGGS?
You're looking at the genesis of dinner. It wasn't inspired, but it went fairly well, and no one has died of food poisoning . . . yet. Talk to me Monday.
Today, class, we shall make ice cream. Yes we will, and there will be no cooking it, and no sniveling about salmonella, either. We like our eggs RAW in our ice cream here in Fooleryland.
First, you'll need a few things. Get your "Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book."
Turn to pages 28-29, the Sweet Cream Bases pages. This is all you need to know about making ice cream. With this you can make anything, but you'll need vanilla, too. I prefer Sweet Cream Base #1.
It helps to have random car keys, some old batteries and a Tiffen filter, apparently. Do you have your ice cream freezer? I like the old Rival that I bought at K-Mart years ago for about $25. I don't think you can improve upon it, so don't spend a fortune. You will also need salt -- table salt, if you have the Rival model, rock salt for some other models -- and a bag of ice (not pictured; I'm counting on your collective imaginations).
Let's assemble your ingredients. I was making two batches this day; ignore the photo because everything was doubled.
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups heavy or whipping cream
1 cup milk
2 tsp. real vanilla
First, get a big whisk and whisk the eggs in a big mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. We call this the "snot in a bowl" stage, which is even worse if it were just egg whites. Everybody say EWWWWWWWWW.
Whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. When a problem comes along, you must whisk it . . . It will be thick and yellow and gluey. Everybody say MMMMMMMMMM.
Pour in the cream and milk and whisk to blend. Now this is important: VANILLA. Even when I make fruit ice creams, I add vanilla, though only half as much. 2 teaspoons will make you everybody's friend and you don't need chocolate or sprinkles or NUTHIN'. REAL VANILLA, BABY.
Pour the batter (which will be thin, like a melted milkshake) into the ice cream maker canister, and push the ice cream paddle into place. (Not gonna go into this too deeply because every brand's paddle is different.)
Put the canister lid on tight and put it into the bucket. Now comes the fun part: alternate ice and table salt, ice and table salt, until the ice bucket is pretty full. Hurry, though; your ice cream will start to freeze and it'll get stuck if you don't shake a leg.
Pop the motor onto the top, clamp it down and plug it in. It should start to turn that canister right away. The noise will be unbearable, so have a glass of courage, but you must be within earshot of the thing as it churns. Why? because after 20 minutes or so, when the ice cream is almost done, the motor will begin slogging. All of a sudden it will stop turning -- it's literally frozen stopped -- and you need to unplug it quick before you burn out the motor.
Don't freak out; it's not half as scary as I make it sound. I'm a drama queen.
Get that canister out quick, pull out the paddle and get the ice cream served or into the freezer.
YOU GET TO LICK THE PADDLE -- I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH, PEOPLE. Do not let urchins con you out of your divine right.
That's it, you did it! But read up beforehand if you decide to make a flavored ice cream, as there is some special prep, especially for fruit. Makes one generous quart, or enough to get you through one episode of "Mad Men." Maybe.
We meet for lunch maybe four or five times a year, Richard and I, and I have never yet taken a photo of my food. But years of blogging emboldens a person. Out came the camera.
And there was this.
Now don't worry, this story ends happily, and no hunky firemen were called. Well, mostly happily.
These keep in an air-tight container in the refrigerator, but don't expect them to last long.
Reprinted with Permission from Lunch Lessons by Ann Cooper and Lisa M. Holmes (HarperCollins, 2006).
First, the ingredients, followed by Ron's instructions and my notes in orange type, and photos. For the full unvarnished recipe from Ron, click here.
I used extra virgin olive oil, which has a lower scorch point than other oils, so next time I will turn my heat lower than medium. I never stopped stirring it; it passed oak color halfway through and went straight to mahogany, but it didn't scorch.
Here was my ale choice. It's blurry because I drank the rest of it. Also, I cut the Tabasco to about a teaspoon, which was plenty spicy enough for my family.
I used two cans of chicken stock, about 28 oz. total.
Okay, this is important. If you don't use a bouguet garni, and I didn't because I'm just not French enough, call your brother the chef and ask him how much ground herbs to use. He'll say "to taste," which Laurie heard as "½ teaspoon each of basil and thyme, and ¼ teaspoon oregano." It was perfect. BUT! Don't add this until the last 20 minutes of cooking! You can just cool your jets and get back to the hard stuff.
Let's talk about how to use that hour, shall we? You could check your e-mail. You could sample more of the Celebration Ale . . .
. . . but you're not going to. You're going to de-vein those nasty shrimps. Unless you were lucky enough to purchase them de-veined (unlikely), you probably bought a bag of frozen shrimp. Measure out a couple of cups of them into a colander; put them into the sink and run cold water over them. You gotta strip the poo tube right out of those dudes or you'll be eating poo. Use a paring knife and slice right down their bellies stem to stern, then scrape the poo tube out. You'll recognize it; it's brown. I'm sure Julia Child or Jacques Pepin or ANYBODY could give you a better tutorial than this, but if not? Call me. I'll walk you through it.
This is also the point at which I added the herbs -- remember them? -- and the salt and pepper. Easy on the salt; the sausage adds a lot already.
It WAS good, Ron -- thank you SO much! And next time I'll start the process at 2:30 instead of 4:00. I'll double the recipe because it's really good as leftovers, and I'll listen to Beausoleil and Harry Shearer the whole time.
(Original photo stolen from mforbes321 on Flickr)
Neither of my grandmothers were marvelous cooks, though both had specialties that they cooked very well. My father's mother, Gertrude, made the best beef stew in my memory, but my favorite recipe from her kitchen was tamale pie. My own mother made it once in a while and it was one of my favorite dinners. It tastes nothing like tamales -- nothing! -- but it's pretty easy and delicious and can be customized easily, so it's aces in my book. Here is the straight recipe as hand-written for me by Mom, in a recipe book (I think it was a hint to hurry up and learn how to cook and settle down, already):
Grandma's* Tamale Pie
Cook meat until done but not browned. Add onion, garlic, and bell pepper; mix well. Transfer to a greased casserole dish [just guessing: 2-3 quart round is what Mom and Grandma and I always use].
In a measuring cup mix milk and corn meal; stir well and dump into casserole. Mix chili powder with a little water and add. Add the remainder of the ingredients, mixing well.
Bake at 350˚F about 45 minutes. Can be refrigerated and reheated.
Okay, I wouldn't be Laurie if I didn't mess with stuff. Here's how I have changed it (in bold):
Laurie's Tamale Pie
Mix it all up as in the recipe above, but I take it out of the oven after 45 minutes, stir it all up, and cook it a few minutes longer. Then I take it out of the oven, stir it again, put a lid on it and let it sit for about 20 minutes. Seems to be more even this way, with all of the different textures.
(Photo stolen from these guys)
*The Grandma here refers to "Grandma's Spanish Pepper," which is one of the ingredients and is probably the source of this recipe. I like to think it refers to my Grandma, however, so humor me.
(Photo stolen from this site)
There was a bag of fresh-picked peaches hanging on my kitchen door knob the other morning. Thanks, Mom.
As a full-time member of the work force, a part-time blogger and an ISN'T IT BEDTIME YET parent, I have no time to dedicate to a garden, and have subsequently become the beneficiary of other peoples' Farmer Brown instincts. Ask me how much squash I have in my refrigerator right now. Go on, ask me.
It struck me as I washed the luminous fuzzy fruits that this wouldn't have happened in my grandparents' time. There was no such thing as "extra food" when my parents were kids. You grew what you ate and you ate what you grew, and what you couldn't eat was not wasted, it was preserved.
(Photo stolen from these guys)
I grew up in the shadow of a home economics teacher. Not only is Mom a good cook, but she has also been very resourceful all of her life. She usually had a summer/fall garden, and therefore, she has canned a lot of food over the years. Tomatoes and peaches, mostly, but she would often buy a lug of fruit (or we would go to a U-Pick orchard and pick them ourselves) to make applesauce and apple butter, canned pears, cherries, and all kinds of jams and jellies.
I do not can. I do have lots of preserves, however, and they all look like this:
(Photo stolen from these guys)
So my generation may grow food, but we certainly can't eat all of the squash and cucumbers the plants produce. I am currently on THREE down-lists from abundant gardens of non-canning gardeners. We eat a lot of steamed zucchini. I make zucchini bread when vegetables start falling out of the refrigerator. I put zucchini in my homemade marinara sauce and tamale pie, in Glop -- I've even put it into meatloaf. But canning food?
No can do.
(Original photo stolen from this site)
So, anybody out there have any good canning stories? Please share!
Please check out my other blog, Reasonably Educated Bumpkins, for Part 2 of this story, due up soon.
(Photo stolen from this site)
Köttbullar are Swedish meatballs. I grew up loving them, but didn't realize that the ones I thought were Swedish were really quite American. My Mormor and my mom each changed the recipe to use readily available American products, like Campbell's soup. But MAN OH MAN if you ever need to take a main dish to a pot luck, the Americanized köttbullar are the ones to take. Mom used to bring them to our school potlucks, and we kids never got through the line fast enough to get a meatball before they'd been decimated by throngs of hungry potluck-ers. I am really not kidding.
If you can make a meatloaf you can make these. Here is the Betty Crocker-ized version, which makes plenty for six normal people (good luck with rounding up a few of those):
Preheat oven to 350˚F.
Mix soups and water together in a bowl; set aside. This is the gravy and will be used last.
Mix all remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Don't be a wuss -- take off your rings and mix it with your hands! It's almost impossible unless you use your bare hands.
Form meatballs about the size of golf balls and place tightly into an oblong baking pan (about 9 x 13"). You may want to pop the meatballs into the oven for 10-15 minutes without gravy, and pour off any fat that bakes out before covering them with gravy. I use a lower fat ground beef and there isn't any fat to pour off that early in the baking. Cover the meatballs in gravy and bake for 45 minutes. Test one meatball for doneness; they may need more time, especially if you have made them larger than golf ball size.
Serve as is or over rice or -- if you REALLY want your guy to give you a foot rub and a back rub and a new car -- over mashed potatoes. This is heart attack food, right here.
Tip: When meatballs come out of the oven, take five minutes to spoon out as much fat as you can before it mixes with the gravy. Your cardiologist will thank you.
Now, for a REAL recipe for Swedish meatballs, which are smaller, drier and fried in butter rather than baked, then served with lingonberries (I'm not making this up), try this link. It looks a lot like my Mormor's Swedish recipe which was shelved in favor of the American one. No, I haven't tried it yet; Yes, I plan to. As soon as I figure out where to get lingonberries.
(Photo stolen from this site)
Have you made it through the first layer of See's Valentine Candy yet? No? Well, put it down and go check out this link because you're going to want to make this Right. Now.
(Photo stolen from the article at Bon Appetit)
Have I made it yet? Um, well, no, actually, I haven't, but I have a very good reason.
I am a LAME-O. On file.
But I will make that apple crisp. And actually? There are a lot more recipes in the March 2009 issue of Bon Appétit that are equally compelling and which I will be attempting, because they are from the very able, talented, likable and funny chef Sarah Patterson Scott, who is Chas's cousin, and it is my duty and pleasure to brag up the heck out of a family member whose success has absolutely NOTHING to do with me.
(Photo stolen with the blessing of Jim at www.napaman.com)*
Sarah has worked for years bridging the two worlds of food and wine, working for wineries -- most notably that of Robert Mondavi, Sr. -- creating and pairing food with their wines. Now stop and go back and read that sentence again. Hellooo, working with food and wine? Who do I talk to about THAT job?
And the other reason I'll be trying some of these recipes is self-evident: caramel.
Our family had lunch with Sarah in the Napa Valley last month. She told us that she and a partner are working on a cookbook, which I will also be shamelessly plugging once it comes out, so fair warning.
Go check out Bon Appétit and leave Sarah a comment!
*Thanks for the photo goes to Jim White at Napaman.com, a beautiful blog and a great place to browse if you love wine, food, good photos, the Napa Valley, and pretending you understand anything fancier than Two Buck Chuck.
My cooking has been described as
makes a turd
But perhaps the definitive description of my cooking style is
I insist on doing things the hard way. Well, not difficult, really, so much as TIME-CONSUMING. But just between you and me? I really love making stuff from scratch, from whole foods.* Even if I could get the results in a jar in one-tenth the time, I wouldn't want to.
So today I am making pasta sauce. It's really easy and there is no real recipe, which is a bonus. But I'll still tell you about it, because you're gonna need an excuse to listen to "Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me" or "Le Show" on NPR next weekend, and here's your excuse: you've got FOOD to make!
Foolery's Extra-Chunky Marinara Sauce, Sort Of
Tools you'll need:
Ingredients, most of which are entirely negotiable:
Cooking the Sauce
Drizzle a little olive oil in your pot -- maybe two or three times around the bottom? Coupla tablespoons, maybe, but I have no idea. Brown your meat of choice. If you have chosen ground beef and/or sausage, you'll want to drain the liquid off and give it to your skinny pets, (if you have any skinny pets) because this is PURE FLAVOR JUICE, which means, of course, FAT. Restrain yourself.
To the browned meat add all vegetables but no herbs, spices, sugar or wine (yet). Get that sucker bubbling, then turn your heat down, maybe to about 2 on a scale of 10, so the sauce continues to bubble and simmer just a little.
Add a bay leaf if you have one. I don't know why. I think it may be a trick.
Pour in some wine. Some? Maybe a cup? Add a smattering of sugar. Could be about a half teaspoon. Less is more, but you need a bit of sugar to cut the acid from the tomatoes and the sour from the herbs, I think. If someone has a better answer about why we put sugar in, lemme have it.
Let this simmer for anywhere from half an hour to three hours. I'm serious. I've done both, and while cooking it longer results in bigger flavor, I still sort of like the freshness of a short-cooked sauce. It's always better the second day, anyway. Use your judgment.
What I really like to do is cook it in the middle of the day, then turn it off at this point and let it stand for a couple of hours before I heat it up again and season it. I'm sure my brother the chef would be HORRIFIED at that, and all of you health department types, please disregard what I just typed. It's probably not ideal for food safety, but it's GREAT for letting the flavors commingle a bit. Then I put in the herbs.
Seasoning the Sauce
I use thyme, basil, rosemary, oregano, parsley, and alfalfa. Just kidding about the alfalfa -- seeing who's still awake. I stink at measurements, but again, less is more. Too much and your sauce tastes like lawn clippings. If you must measure, start with 1/4 teaspoon, or even less. This is where the all-important tasting spoon comes into play. Stir that pot up and take a taste -- need more? Try a little more oregano and basil. Parsley is really just to keep the dried parsley people in business, God bless 'em. About right? maybe a bit bland? Before you reach for more herbs, give it a shake of salt and pepper -- one tiny shake of cayenne if you're adventurous -- and taste it again. Oh, and remember to wash your tasting spoon between tastings. Or not; you're probably alone in your kitchen and those skinny pets won't tell.
Once you're pretty sure you have the herbs right, add salt and pepper. Go easy on the salt but don't skimp on the pepper.
This sauce is not particularly tomato-y because it's so chunky. That suits my family as we're not big on red sauce. You may want to use more tomato sauce and some tomato paste if you like really tomato-y sauce. Also? Don't forget to fish out the bay leaf!
This makes a huge amount, as you might imagine. I ladle it over my pasta, mix it up, and then bag the rest in a gallon-sized freezer Zip-Loc. Works great for lasagna later on.
Serve with a salad or something, but there are enough vegetables in this to choke a bunny, so it could almost be a one-pot meal. As for beverages, I suggest this
but avoid this
unless you, too, want to be horizontal and blurry.
Until next time, 'bye for now from the M.A.T. Bistro!**
*Okay, this includes canned tomatoes and dried spices from jars, and I don't kill any livestock, press my own wine or dig my own salt. But other than that . . .
**So named by my friend Gubby, who is used to my cooking, and insists that "Bistro" adds the class that "Cafe" just doesn't have.
(Does this seem funny to anyone else?)
It's time. It's way past time, actually, but that's water under the bridge. I need to lose some weight and I need to get serious about it.
List of diets I have tried over the years: TOPS, NutriSystem, the -Ose Diet (I made that one up, but it worked), The Zone Diet.
TOPS was Take Off Pounds Sensibly. My grandmother and her sister went religiously for something like 30 years. I don't think they ever lost more than five pounds. It could have been the snacks they brought to the meetings, but I'm not sure. I didn't lose anything because it wasn't really my idea and I HATED the social aspect of it.
I lost 20 pounds on NutriSystem, and never once managed to eat all of the food they mandated I eat in a day. (Looking back now I find that ludicrous. Bring it on, I can eat it.) I hated the food, but it did work. It took me a couple of years to put the weight back on, which I did in Maui, and because I didn't exercise and had turned 21 and discovered cocktails.
The -Ose Diet was on the heels of the NutriSystem diet. I just didn't eat anything that ended in -ose -- glucose, sucrose, fructose, lactose, or maltose. I'm only exaggerating a tiny bit; I scanned labels religiously and would not eat anything containing any of those things. I shunned almost all packaged food, fruit, cereals, and any kind of sugar, and ate only oatmeal, vegetables and meat. It worked great, and I would have lost more, except that I got chicken pox and was lucky to be able to eat anything at all for three weeks. Then I moved to Maui, and we all know what happened then . . .
The Zone Diet was a great idea. It was Chas's idea, and he bought Dr. Barry Sears's books and read them. I didn't even crack the covers. "We should do this," said Chas, who had ballooned up to 180 from his perfect 172. Jeez, you'd think he was the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, the way he panicked.
I didn't lose any weight on The Zone Diet, but we ate very healthy meals, and we were working out a lot, so I was getting leaner and stronger and more muscular. I had just exchanged walking for jogging, when I started being easily exhausted by my short little run . . . and figured out that I was pregnant. So much for the Zone Diet, although we retained our very healthy eating habits.
For a while.
So here it is eight years later, and I have become the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Woman. Whatever, close enough. I haven't worked out in ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha oh that's a good one ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha years. Most pizza dough is in better shape than I am.
So it's time to pick a new diet plan. My criteria:
Hmmmmmmm. You know, The Cactus Diet has some good points -- no, wait, I've got it:
Foolery's Corn Diet
This is not to say that I will eat nothing but corn, although there would be an undeniable visual aspect to that . . . no, I will shun corn. Sounds easy, right?
Go read a food label. Any label, it hardly matters. I'll wait.
(whistling . . . whistling . . . )
Okay, did you find corn on the label? I thought so. Modified corn starch? Corn oil? Corn syrup? Corn sweetener? It's in EVERYTHING. Unless you buy European packaged foods, in which case there is NO corn added, because they don't grow or process corn in Europe. Here in the U.S. the ultra-powerful Archer Daniels Midland company processes corn, though, and as a result the cheap and (until recently) plentiful corn has been put into EVERYTHING Americans eat, and some things we don't. But enough of that.
Avoiding corn means no soda, no candy, no processed sweets of any kind, UNLESS I have a jones that bad that I resort to making it myself, which is okay once in a while. This diet was the only way I could possibly justify keeping wine in the mix. I'll just cut out all that corn whiskey I was drinking.
So how did I cheat already? Well. I was going to start today, but since we were all home together at breakfast and no one was rushing off anywhere I made homemade Pancakes The Hard Way, but discovered that Chas had used all of the real maple syrup last week without telling me. Yes, I used the Aunt Jemima, so sue me.
Oh, I forgot the most important criterion for any diet:
And if you think Gubby hasn't already told me that the Foolery Corn Diet is crazy, it's YOU who are crazy.