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It's about food, restaurants, recipes and just plain eating.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rat Tat Toodley!

The title of this post comes from a few old Three Stooges shorts where they chanted "rat-tat-toodley, day-day"!  I don't recall why, just the chant.  Here is a link to one - the chant comes in about 5:59.

I was preparing my favorite zucchini the other day and was prompted to blog about it.  As I was preparing it was I thinking of ratatouille, that classic dish of eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, onions and what have you that is so romantic and so . . . unpalatable.  I don't know why - I love the idea of ratatouille, I just don't like actually eating it.  It's not the eggplant - I love Moroccan Eggplant salad.  It's not the tomatoes, love those.  Onions?  They appear in practically every dish I make.  Zucchini?  Nope!  Like it cooked or raw.  It's just that combination of vegetables and the preparation of that particular dish that puts me off.

But I do love zucchini cooked this way.  The first time I had it we were on a weekend trip through Canada.  I say it was Goderich, the Man maintains it was Kitchener/Waterloo.  No matter.  We had dinner in a hotel restaurant and roast lamb with mint sauce was on the menu, accompanied by "Yorkshire Pudding" (read popover) and veg.  The veg was zucchini prepared with tomato, garlic and olive oil.  I pondered as I enjoyed my zucchini and decided I could make this at home.  Come on, it's easy.  You'll see.

Scrub and trim enough zucchini (one small one per person is about right) and tomatoes (either a small to medium tomato or several cherry or grape tomatoes per serving).  Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise, then into slices about one half inch thick on the diagonal.  They should be chunky.  Cut the tomato into chunks or cut cherry tomatoes in half.  Smash a clove or so of garlic.

Now add a glug of nice olive oil to a skillet big enough to hold all the vegetables in a single layer - you want them to sear,  not steam.  Heat the oil and toss in the garlic along with a hefty pinch of crushed red chili pepper flakes.  Add the zucchini and tomatoes and a fat pinch of salt and a generous grinding of black pepper and go to town.  Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium - high heat until sizzling and zucchini is tantalizingly brown.  The tomatoes will soften and exude their juices.  As it cooks away everything will be gilded with tomato-ey goodness.

Taste and adjust seasonings.  Serve with, oh, say, lamb chops or roast lamb (or chicken, beef, pork or whatever else you are having that day).  Think of ratatouille, and of how much better this is!

Quotable quotes; in the category Try Everything But Eat Only What You Like!

"What? No! You're in Paris now, baby! My town! No brother of mine eats rejecta-menta in my town!"

Remy, to Emile, when he discovers Emile eating some sort of wrapper - from the 2007 film Ratatouille

Thursday, November 8, 2012

It May Not Be Aauthentic But It's Good!

Beef Stroganoff is one of those dishes that should, in my humble opinion, be way easier to make than it is.  My mother-in-law makes a version using ground beef and cream of chicken soup.  'Nuff said.  But I found a way to make quick 'n easy Stroganoff using leftovers and a little ingenuity.  My recipe is also a way to use up leftover steak or roast beef, assuming you have any.  Here's how I do it.

Slice the leftover beef/steak into thin strips and set aside.  Also slice a little onion and some mushrooms (or open a can of mushrooms.  Any that you don't use can be saved for spaghetti sauce or pizza).  Saute the onion and mushroom in a little butter and/or olive oil.

Meanwhile, prepare egg noodles (or rice if you prefer) in a separate pan.

Now open a packet of brown gravy mix.  You know, the kind that comes in an envelope and is in the grocery store aisle with the instant spaghetti sauce or chili or taco seasoning mix.  It usually calls for a cup of water.  I like to mix half the water with the powder mix in a small bowl or measuring cup, then add it to the pan and stir in the remaining water.  Add this right to the pan with the onion & mushrooms.  When the gravy starts to bubble and thicken you can add the beef to heat it through.

Taste for seasonings.  You should not need additional salt but you might want some black pepper.  Just before serving stir in a few spoonfuls of sour cream and serve over hot egg noodles.

Easy, quick and tasty!

Quotable quotes; in the category Maybe So But Please Don't Add Any To My Stroganoff!

"Mustard's no good without roast beef."  Chico Marx

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tomato Tomah-to

I buy tomatoes at the grocery store nearly every week, when they are on special, which is usually every week.  As can be expected these grocery store specimens are grown elsewhere, picked green, gassed and shipped and arrive at the market pale, anemic, tasteless.
I put them in a bowl on the kitchen counter (never NEVER put a tomato in the fridge - it's a crime on par with removing the tag from a mattress).  After a few days the tomatoes become red but not necessarily flavorful.

A friend has a farm.  Often he posts pictures of the farm, the garden, their chickens, for others to enjoy.  This week he gave me a bag with a cucumber, a bell pepper, and ripe jalapeno pepper and a beautiful red ripe tomato.  I put the tomato in the bowl.  I added the grocery store tomatoes to the bowl.

Did I say they ripened in a few days?  Try a few hours!  I am certain the grocery store tomatoes were so embarrassed and ashamed to be in the company of the genuine farm-grown, vine-ripened tomato that they blushed and turned red right then and there.  My friend says it might be peer pressure.

Quotable quotes; in the category Tomato, Tomah-to, Potato, Potah-to!

"I want to go back to Brazil, get married, have lots of kids, and just be a couch tomato."  Ana Beatriz Barros, Brazilian Model

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Wasting Away

A friend was telling us about a "recipe" for something she called a Redneck Margarita.  I googled the name but could not find the exact recipe she gave us.  It was unique because there were only four ingredients and the same quantity of each.  She further told us we could leave any leftovers in a pitcher in the fridge and it would last a couple days.  Not sure I believe that - not the lasting part, the leftover part.  Why would there be anything leftover???

So here is the recipe.  I think it fits right in with my recent theme of easy & fast.  Don't blink.  It probably takes less time to make than it does to write it down.

1 can (12 oz) frozen limeade mix
1 can (12 oz) beer
1 can (12 oz) 7-Up or lemon lime soda
12 oz tequila (use the limeade container to measure).

That's it.  Stir it up (or for slushy margaritas put it in a blender with some ice) and serve over crushed ice or ice cubes in glasses.  Garnish with lime slices or little paper umbrellas if you have time, and if you have room in the glass.


Quotable quotes; in the category Well Just Don't Waste The Lemons!

"If life gives you limes, make margaritas."  Jimmy Buffet

Saturday, September 22, 2012


So I have been reading through my Greek cookbook.  Our newspaper has one of those columns where readers write in asking for their favorite recipe handed down from their great grandmother which they lost when they moved - you know the type - and someone wrote in asking for an "authentic" recipe for Tzatziki sauce.  I copied the recipe from my book and sent it in.  It should be authentic and it comes from one of our local Greek restaurants.  I like to send recipes in to the newspaper.

The Tzatziki is easy - peel and shred some cucumbers into yogurt with a dribble of vinegar, some minced spearmint & green onion, a bit of sugar, salt & pepper.  Chill and serve.

But then I found a "recipe" that was even easier!  Anyone who has eaten lamb chops or other meats in a Greek restaurant knows you need bread to sop up the pan drippings.  Here's how to replicate that delicious "sauce" at home.

Once you have removed your cooked lamb chops, pork chops, chicken or what have you from the skillet, squeeze the juice of a whole lemon into the pan.  Add about a half cup of boiling water.  Stir vigorously to scrape up all the browned on bits from the pan, simmer to let the sauce reduce a bit and season with salt and pepper to taste.  That's it!  Easy, delicious, authentic, what more could you ask for? 

Quotable quotes; in the category So That's Where That Comes From!

"But darlin', when a woman has a husband and you've got none, why should she take advice from you, even if you can quote Balzac and Shakespeare and all them other hi-falutin' Greeks?"

Mrs. Paroo, Marion's mother.  Piano Lesson/If You Don't Mind My Sayin' So from The Music Man by Meredith Willson

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I Say Potato

I love potatoes.  Mashed, fried, French fried, boiled with butter and parsley and perhaps best of all, roasted.  I love the way they get brown and crusty and the way the skins get crackly.  Trouble is, I am the only one in the house that likes them.  The Man tolerates them but does not appreciate their golden goodness, their crisped edges or their wholesome skin-included goodness.  Consequently I either don't make them or I make too many and often toss the leftovers (I have not yet found a perfect way to prepare leftover potatoes).

But last night I had an inspiration.  I knew I would be making roasted chicken and I wanted to make potatoes with it.  I thought of only cooking a couple, then I decided to cook the usual number and to try making potato salad from the leftover potatoes.

I used red potatoes and new, white potatoes, both with thin skins.  I scrubbed and quartered them, added them to the roasting pan with the chicken, dribbled a little olive oil over them (okay, I confess - I cheated and sprayed them with vegetable oil spray) and sprinkled seasonings - salt, pepper, salt free seasoning blend - and popped them in the oven.  After an hour or so the chicken was done and the potatoes were delicious and browned, tender inside and crusty outside.

Later, I cut the remaining potato pieces into smaller chunks and tossed them with some dill and sweet pickle relish and some mustard (pickle juice is also excellent but I did not have an open jar and would still have had to mince some pickle).  I seasoned with a little more salt & pepper and added diced celery, a couple blobs of mayonnaise, tossed, and set it in the fridge.

It's good.  The potatoes, while tender, are a bit firmer than if they had been boiled, and the roasted flavor comes trhough.  It's similar to but different from other potato salads.  Try this and add your own touches.

Quotable quotes; in the category I Don't Know, They May Solve Some Of  Mine. . . . And I'm Willing To Try!

"It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes."  Douglas Adams, English writer, humorist.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Even Easier!

A few weeks ago I posted a few of my favorite EASY recipes.  Well since then I found another one.  I believe in sharing so here it is.

 I had bought bananas.  For some reason I keep buying bananas when they are on sale, even though I really don't like to eat bananas.  Inevitably they get to the point where I no longer want to eat them at all.  I like them when they are bright yellow and maybe just getting one or two dark spots.  After that, well, no thank you.  But instead of throwing them away I stick them in the freezer.  Then when I want to make banana bread I thaw them and mash them and I am all set.

Mmm . . . No.
I have a fabulous recipe for banana bread.  Unfortunately, it is in a cookbook that I have misplaced.  No problem!  A box of banana bread mix in the pantry will do the trick (incidentally I have also added mashed banana to cake mixes to make a banana bread that is very good).

I read the instructions.  They are about the same as the Cranberry bread last time.  This time I had milk so I chose to make the muffins.  I thawed one of my frozen bananas (they were on sale a few weeks ago) and checked the box.  Whaddaya know - it says I can add mashed banana for additional flavor.  It also says I can add chopped nuts or chocolate chips. 

Chopped nuts would be a delicious addition and I love chopped nuts in banana bread or muffins.  But Mr. is not around and I hate chopping nuts so . . . guess what.  Chocolate Chips are also suggested.  I know I have a bag in the cupboard, right behind the package of wild rice and the jar of barley.  Personally, I cannot stand those frozen bananas that are dipped in melted chocolate.  But that's no reason to be close minded.  A little chocolate can be a beautiful thing.

Banana Chocolate Muffins:  Prepare banana bread or muffin mix according to package directions, adding a mashed banana and about a half cup of semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips.  Pour into prepared bread pan or paper lined muffin tins.  If you are daring, scatter a few more chocolate chips over the top and bake according to package directions.  My  mix said it would make a dozen muffins but I actually got fourteen!

Optional:  cool completely, then combine about 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar with a spoonful of milk or cream and stir until smooth.  If too thick add a few drops of milk or water.  If too thin add a bit more sugar.  Spread a little dollop onto each muffin or the loaf of bread.  Enjoy for breakfast, dessert or as a snack.

Quotable quotes; in the category Orange You Glad I Didn't Say . . .

"The adjective is the banana peel of the parts of speech."
Clifton Paul Fadiman, American author, radio and television personality

Thursday, August 30, 2012

No Matter The Weather Ya Still Gotta Eat!

Summer will be over soon.  I hate it when people say summer is over and it's still not even September.  Summer doesn't really end until the middle of September.  Actually, summer WEATHER doesn't end until sometimes the end of October.  I hate hot weather.  This year has been particularly hot and beastly.

But there is something I like about summer and that's the macaroni & tuna salad my mom used to make.  Don't get me wrong, I understand this is a completely trashy dish but it's also one of those dishes you can make early in the day (or the day before) when it's a little cooler and stick in the fridge so you don't have to heat up the kitchen in the afternoon when it's usually hotter.

My mom used to serve this with little French bread rolls or sometimes, if we were really lucky, potato chips.  We had six kids in our family.  A large bag of potato chips lasted about as long as it took to start opening the bag.  The idea of buying two was not considered.

I like to make this the way my mom did, adding chopped celery and thinly sliced radishes.  The man prefers it without the veg so that's the way I usually make it now.  We had this a couple weeks ago.  I will probably make it again in the next couple days as it is going back up into the 90s AGAIN for the ba-jillionth time this summer.  Make this and if there is a breeze enjoy it on the porch, deck or patio.  Otherwise eat inside with the A/C on, or at least a fan set to "high".

Mom's Trashy Tuna Summer Salad

1 box (1 lb.) shell macaroni (or your favorite shape - I prefer shells)
2 cans tuna - 6 to 7 oz. each
2 - 3 hard cooked eggs
Green pimento stuffed olives, about 1/2 - 1 cup
Mayonnaise, about 1/2 - 1 cup
Fresh or dried herbs (basil, oregano, dill, tarragon, thyme)
salt & pepper
Optional:  minced celery, sliced green onion, sliced radishes, cayenne or red pepper flakes or Tabasco sauce

Cook macaroni per package instructions.  Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water, drain again.
Drain the liquid from the tuna and flake it into a large bowl.
Slice the green olives thinly.
Slice hard cooked eggs into chunks, wedges or slices.
Combine the macaroni with the tuna, herbs, salt and pepper and hot pepper, the minced vegetables and about half the eggs.  Stir in mayonnaise to taste until the salad is as creamy as you wish.  Place in serving bowl and garnish the top with additional egg pieces and a sprinkling of paprika.  Chill thoroughly and serve with potato chips or small rolls & butter. Good with iced tea.

For the two of us I usually use a half box of macaroni and a single can of tuna.  This is usually enough for our supper and for a lunch or two the next day.  Adjust these amounts according to how many people you will be serving.

Quotable quotes; in the category Food Is About As Real As It Gets!

"I refuse to believe that trading recipes is silly.  Tuna fish casserole is at least as real as corporate stock."  Barbara G. Harrison, journalist & essayist

Sunday, August 19, 2012

More Easy

Wow!  I just made this up on the spot the other night.  Of course, if you don't have these things in the fridge the answer is still easy - use something else!  I was using stuff up that I had opened a few days before and wanted to use before it had to be tossed.  I love salads made with grape tomatoes and I love slicing them on the diagonal.  They look prettier that way.  The vodka in the dressing is a bonus.

Spur-of-the-moment Tomato Salad

Slice grape or cherry tomatoes in half on the diagonal (they look prettier) until you have about a cup, or until you have enough, or until you have used them all up.

If you have a green onion or two in the fridge, slice them thinly and add to the tomatoes.  Or use a regular onion.  I like to rinse and drain after slicing to rinse off some of the "hot".

If you have half a can of garbanzo beans in the fridge, add a few spoonfuls (or all of them).  If not, add something else like black olives or chunks of feta cheese.

If you have half a jar of marinated artichoke hearts in the fridge, add some or all of them.  If not, add something else like sliced zucchini or cucumber.  Add some (or all) of the marinade too.  If it's not tart enough add a little vinegar or lemon juice (or just add some homemade or bottled vinaigrette).  Add a splash of vodka too.

If you have a bay tree and you have just pruned it (I did) add a few leaves, crushed or sliced.  Don't eat them - they're not basil!  If you don't have any fresh bay leaves add some basil or oregano.

Add a generous grinding of black pepper and a pinch of salt, along with a dash of crushed red pepper flakes.  Chill in the fridge and serve with your sandwich for lunch, or with corn on the cob for supper.

Quotable quotes; in the category If It's Not Balanced What Good Is It?

"Food is an important part of a balanced diet".  Fran Lebowitz

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

It's So Easy!

I love things that are easy.  I especially love things that are easy AND offer rewards greater than the effort required.  Like simple art projects requiring few steps and minimal supplies, or recipes that call for a few ingredients but taste great.

Some of my favorites are Spinach Dip and Artichoke Dip.  I have blogged about these before at MadKnews but there is no reason not to reprise them here.

My father-in-law loves spinach dip.  I make it with Mrs. Grass vegetable soup mix.  Most recipes seem to call for the Knorr mix but I prefer the Mrs. Grass.  It's made by Wyler's now but it's the same great taste.  The recipe is on the box but here's how I make it.

Thaw a 10 oz. package of frozen chopped spinach and squeeze out all the water.  Combine the spinach with a cup each of mayonnaise and sour cream (go ahead and use low fat or fat free versions).  Add a package of Mrs. Grass Vegetable Soup mix and a few green onions, sliced very thin.  Stir to combine thoroughly, cover and put it in the fridge over night.  You can serve it in a hollowed out loaf of bread or just put it in a bowl.  I like to cut up bagels (and the bread from the hollowed out loaf) and things like mini pumpernickel bread stix or French bread chunks.

Another favorite is Artichoke dip.  I have seen recipes that include countless ingredients - everything from curry powder to garlic to paprika.  My version has three ingredients.  You won't even have to write it down - don't blink or you'll miss it.

Drain and coarsely chop a 14 oz can of artichoke hearts in brine (not the marinated ones that come in a jar).  Combine with a cup each of mayonnaise and grated Parmesan cheese.  Don't use your expensive cheese here, just get a box of the stuff you ate as a kid.  You don't even have to buy the brand name in the green box, get the cheap store brand.  Spread this mixture in a shallow baking dish and bake at 350f about 25 minutes until brown and bubbly.  Serve this with sliced French bread or wedges of Pita bread.  It's delicious and stupid easy.

Here is my latest creation.  Blueberries have been on sale the last few weeks and I keep buying them and sticking them in the freezer (mother-in-law hint for freezing blueberries; rinse and dry completely then pop them in a plastic container, like the ones you get your take-out won ton oup in, and put a folded piece of paper towel and the lid on top.  They'll last for months in the freezer).

I also had a box of Cranberry bread mix.  Light bulb moment - why not add some blueberries to the Cranberry bread mix?????  Why not indeed!  My mix called for water, oil and eggs.  For some reason milk was required to make the muffin version.  I was out of milk so I opted for the bread version.

Mix according to package directions.  Gently stir in about a half a cup or so of blueberries.  Pour into a bread pan greased according to package directions.  Scatter a few more berries on top and  sprinkle with some granulated or turbinado sugar (Sugar In The Raw) and bake as directed.

That's it!  One extra ingredient, a few minutes prep (takes longer to wash the bowl and spoon) and you have a unique berry bread that will have people begging for the recipe!  Tell them you'll have to ask your Great-Aunt to write it out for you, don't give it away.  I mean, a girl has to have some secrets, right?

Quotable Quotes; in the category What Works For Fame Ought To Work For Dinner!

"I'm an instant star.  Just add water and stir."  David Bowie

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thanksgiving All Year Long!

Who could forget Mrs. Grass chicken noodle soup?  The one that contained the "Golden Nugget".  This was a little egg shaped ball of hydrolyzed vegetable proteins and oils that gave the soup it's rich, chicken-y flavor.  The flavor packet helped too, adding huge amounts of salt along with some other seasonings.

My mom used to buy Mrs. Grass at the A&P and we always had it in the house.  It was one of those foods (in the days before pizza rolls, hot pockets and microwave french fries) that we could help ourselves to any time we were hungry.  And it was fun to watch the "golden nugget" melt as the soup cooked.

Mrs. Grass used to come in a double pack.  The box was actually two boxes that snapped apart.  Seemed like a bargain - you were getting two for the price of one.  Nowadays I think it usually comes in a foil envelope or a single box.  Today, the Mrs. Grass soup line is manufactured by Wyler's.  No matter, I think I have some at home and last time I made it the taste was the same as I remembered.

My mom used to make a wonderful dish she called Tetrazzini.  Though she may have made it sometimes with chicken, it was almost always made with leftover turkey and was sure to be on the menu in the days following Thanksgiving as we demolished the 22 lb. monsters she liked to buy.  A family of 8 requires a large turkey.

Mom did not buy turkey only at Thanksgiving.  Often, turkeys were placed on sale throughout the year.  Mom always bought one.  A turkey made for a great meal for a family that was always hungry, and the amount of leftovers was ample.  There's a lotta good eating on a turkey.

Of course, if it was not Thanksgiving mom did not usually go all out with the side dishes.  Indeed, even at Thanksgiving our table groaned less than those of others who might have roast pork or ham in addition to turkey, two or more kinds of stuffing, and side dishes galore.  Our meal usually consisted of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy; canned cranberry sauce, mom's "succotash" (corn and lima beans - no sauce), sweet potatoes (which only mom liked) and a relish tray of black & green olives, celery and carrot sticks, radishes cut with a cross hatch design and trimmed green onions which we dipped in Miracle Whip (I guess it was cheaper than mayonnaise).

Still, we all enjoyed our holiday meal and the turkey sandwiches, turkey hash and especially the turkey tetrazzini which was sure to follow.  My brother, sister and I have been emailing back and forth for some time trying to remember how to make mom's tetrazzini.  Some time before she passed on I did ask her how to make it, then my notes disappeared into the black hole that is my recipe collection.  Luckily, I had written them in one of my many books and was able to find them. 

Incidentally, it is said that tetrazzini was a dish created for the hefty opera singer, Luisa Tetrazzini, to help her trim her considerable bulk.  Most tetrazzini recipes incorporate a creamy sauce or at least a can of cream of something soup.  Not likely to appear on anyone's menu of "light" dishes.  Mom's was not like that at all.  As far as we recall it contained only the broth, parmesan cheese, maybe a little butter and the noodles and turkey.  Which inclines me to believe hers is the more authentic version.  Google some recipes and give them a try, then compare them to this.

Mom's Turkey Tetrazzini
Vermicelli, angel hair pasta, thin spaghetti, thin egg noodles,
whichever you prefer or have on hand.
1 or 2 packages Mrs. Grass Chicken Noodle Soup mix
Leftover turkey shredded or cut in chunks
canned or fresh mushrooms (optional)
sliced green pimento stuffed olives
grated parmesan cheese (the kind that comes in a cardboard box, NOT the name brand)
butter or margarine
milk (optional)
oregano, basil, garlic powder, ground black pepper

Prepare the soup broth using the flavor/seasoning packet from the soup mix and the noodles, adding additional noodles, spaghetti etc.  Cook until just al dente.  Vary the amounts according to how many people will be eating.  Drain the noodles, reserving the broth.  Find another use for the nugget.

Combine the cooked noodles with olives and mushrooms (fresh mushrooms can be sauteed in butter or margarine - my sis says it has to be margarine as we never had butter - canned mushrooms can be used as is).  You can also add a little butter or margarine if you wish, and the turkey.  Moisten with some of the reserved broth (and milk, optional) and season with herbs.  Add quite a bit of the grated parmesan cheese.  Stir to combine and turn into a casserole or baking dish large enough to hold it.

Bake at 350 for about 40 - 50 minutes until bubbly and golden brown.  You may wish to add additional broth/milk if it seems to dry.  Serve with additional cheese.

That's about it.  Of course, if you like, you can sprinkle the top with some fine bread crumbs, french fried onions or crushed potato chips in the last 5 - 10 minutes of baking for a crunchy topping but mom never did.

Now that I have unearthed this recipe I am going to make tetrazzini.  As soon as I have any leftover turkey.  Happy Thanksgiving, no matter what time of year it is!

Quotable quotes; in the category Grammar Schmammar, I'm Singin' Here!

"To sing on the stage - that's the one life for me.  My figure's just like Tetrazzini!"  Art is Calling For Me from "The Enchantress"; Victor Herbert

Monday, July 16, 2012

By Bread Alone . . .

I love fresh bread.  Who doesn't?  When I was younger my mom used to buy frozen bread dough.  All you had to do was let it thaw, rise and bake it in the oven and you had a delicious loaf of hot, fresh bread.  A little butter (margarine in those days) and heaven was imminent.

My mom had a set of those Pyrex mixing bowls.  Hers were in shades of yellow and brown and had a design of onions and garlic, as I recall.  Those bowls could be baked in, like a casserole, mixed in and served in.  She used the biggest bowl for virtually everything - spaghetti, salads, you name it.  With six kids in the family a giant bowl of spaghetti was a necessity.

One of my favorite uses for the bowl was her famous double loaf of bread.  She would take a loaf of white bread and a loaf of dark rye, let them thaw in the bowl, sprinkle the top with sesame or poppy seeds and bake them together.  The result was a huge round loaf of two-toned bread.  Break them apart and slice your favorite for bread and butter or for sandwiches.

Once we had a choir bake sale.  Mom had bread dough in the freezer and allowed me to take two loaves.  When I arrived at the sale the loaves were purchased immediately - by one of the choir members, who treated everybody to hot bread for breakfast.

My niece recently made a facebook post asking if anyone had a bread machine.  I guess she was just soliciting feedback on how they worked and whether owners actually used them.  I took it to mean she was in the market and set about finding one for her.  I invited her over to try out the machine and to take it home, should she want to.

Turns out she just wanted the info.  Now I am the proud owner of a bread machine.  Not a problem.  It also turns out the machine seems to work better than the one I had 20 years ago.  One exception, the little beater/paddle sticks fast in the baked loaf which did not happen on my old machine - but the old machine did not bake two great loaves the first time out so . . . . .

I decided I better make a couple loaves before the niece came over just to be sure all was in working order.  The two loaves I tried were both successful with a lovely interior and nice crust.  I used one of the recipes in the guide book, with some necessary modifications, and here is my recipe for a tasty loaf.  You will need a package of 7 or 9 grain hot cereal.  It's like oatmeal but also contains wheat, rye, barley and other grains.  This is not instant or quick-cook.  Look for a cereal that calls for about 2 - 4 times as much water as cereal and about 30 minutes cooking time.  Or just use rolled oats.

You may also want oat bran, wheat germ, ground flax seed or chia seeds (I used both).

Following your bread machine's instructions for the proper order, add the following:

6 - 8 oz water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons honey or molasses
1 1/2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened (or use oil)
1/2 cup multi grain hot cereal (not cooked)
2 1/2 cups bread flour (all purpose flour can also be used) * see note
1 1/2 tablespoons oat bran, ground flax seed, wheat germ or chia seed
1 1/2 tablespoons dry milk powder * see note
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

* you can add about 1/2 - 1 cup whole wheat or whole grain flour in place of some of the bread flour; you can also add a little milk in place of some of the water instead of the milk powder.  Save any extra water to add, if necessary, as the bread mixes.

Select the regular bread cycle and the medium crust (if available) and turn on the  machine.  After five minutes peek inside and if the dough has not formed a ball and appears dry add a little water, no more than a tablespoon at a time.  If it appears wet add a little flour, no more than a tablespoon at a time.  Check again in five minutes to ensure the dough has formed a nice ball.

Remove when cool and remove the mixing paddle, if necessary.  Allow to cool.

Now everybody knows that bread is best fresh out of the oven so wait about 20 minutes or so and then slice off one side of the loaf.  This will remove the crust end and make for nicer sandwich slices later AND you get a bonus - a hot slice of fresh bread.  Spread with sweet butter and enjoy!

Alas, neither of the machines I own are manufactured any more but it seems you can still buy bread machines in a wide range of prices and functionality.  I suggest you do your research and find a machine that will meet your needs.  Better yet, find someone who has grown tired of their machine and take it off their hands!

Quotable quotes; in the category I Bet I'd Like It Even Better With Butter!

"I like reality.  It tastes like bread."  Jean Anouilh, French dramatist

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tiffin Is As Tiffin Does

So I have branched off from my bento box collecting to include tiffins.  According to some minimal research a tiffin is to India as a bento is to Japan.  The word can mean both the container and the food within.

Seems in India there are tiffin wallahs who pick up the freshly packed tiffins from the homes and deliver them to the workers in their offices.  They work with such speed and accuracy it's a mystery how the proper tiffin is delivered to the right person, and they arrive fresh and hot.  Since the tiffin is not insulated this can be important.

These are the first tiffins I have added to my bento collection. I bought them from Cost Plus World Market. The round one is probably large enough to hold a fairly substantial lunch of rice, a few pieces of meat, fish or tofu, and a selection of side dishes and salads, held in those little silicone cups so popular with bento lovers. 

The rectangle one is much smaller, not much bigger than a 3 x 5 card an only a couple inches deep.  It might be large enough to hold a snack, a lunch for a very young child or perhaps a muffin or a few pancakes, sausages and some fruit and yogurt for a "brown bag" breakfast.  It would also make a good companion for a smaller bento, one that's not quite big enough to carry all that you need for your lunch.

But I must admit both are extremely cute and that is the real criterion, no?  So now I have to get my act together and get some bento or tiffin appropriate foods on the menu and put these little guys to work.  If I pack anything especially delicious or photogenic I'll be sure to let you know.

Quotable quotes; in the category  Put THAT in your lexicon and speak it!

"Or just be intelligent and Nigella about it."   Lalita Iyer in a June 2, 2012 Times of India article about the health minister's demand for nutritious lunches for school children.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fruit Cocktail

As a child, I loved fruit cocktail.  It was one of those treat foods - the kind I might get in a restaurant or when mom decided a meal needed a little something extra.  My favorite part of the fruit cocktail was the little half grape dyed red so it could stand in for a Maraschino cherry.  I think I was an adult before I realized it was a grape and not a cherry at all.  No matter, it was all good.

Fruit cocktail comes in many quality variations.  More expensive brands feature evenly cut fruit and the cherry is often a real cherry.  Cheaper brands substitute the dyed grape.  The cheapest brands have oddly shaped cuts of fruit in a watery syrup. 

It is my guess that fruit cocktail is one of those products that uses up bits left from other more desirable things, like canned whole or half peaches, pears, pineapple rings etc.  Rather than toss them they mix them together and label them "fruit cocktail" thus getting another product from leftovers that might otherwise be wasted.  The cheaper (read "commercial" or "institutional") brands don't bother with the dyed grape.  Their customers are not expecting nor likely interested in a Maraschino cherry.

My husband had knee replacement surgery 10 days ago and is now in an inpatient place for daily physical and occupational therapy.  I visit him daily, usually at meal times.  Fruit cocktail has been on his meal tray several times.  Today, he ordered a tray for me and we each had "meat loaf", mashed "potatoes", yellow wax beans and, you guessed it, fruit cocktail (minus cherry or dyed grape).  I ate my entire meal and puzzled over the fruit cocktail, what it was about it that made it so special to me as a child.

I guess it was just because it was something different -  something we did not have every day.  And that little half grape, dyed red, bravely doing its best to make one believe it was a Maraschino cherry - well you gotta admire anything or anyone with that kind of nerve, that's all I have to say.

You can open a can of fruit cocktail if you want an old fashioned treat. Better yet, dice some canned or fresh fruit - peaches, pears, pineapple, even oranges, apples, melon and banana. Combine a handful of fresh mint with equal parts lemon, orange and/or lime juice in the blender, about a tablespoon or two of each, and whirl until combined. Pour this dressing over the fruit chunks, toss well and chill until serving.

Quotable Quotes; in the category My God, Man, Just What Do You Think This Is?

"It's a cuppa tea, not a bloody fruit salad!"  My husband's toy soldier friend Len Taylor, whom we visited at his home in Wales, upon being asked by me for a slice of lemon for my tea.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What's That Picutre?

Do you like my blog picture?  In my mind I call it Burger Bird.  It's an ATC (Artist's Trading Card).  I posted about ATCs on my madKnews blog.  They are little cards, the size of a baseball trading card, created by artists.  They can be mini collages, paintings, or whatever the artists wants to do.

This one was made from a piece torn from the Sunday Funny Papers.  The hamburger and bird were cut from various magazines and pasted on.  I finished the card with dots from a silver paint pen.  I thought it would make a good illustration for a food blog and besides, it was about the only food themed pic I had in my library so . . . Just so you know this is also one of my favorite ATCs.

Sometimes I call the bird Fred after the cockatoo from the TV show Baretta.  I think Fred is dancing on his burger.

Quotable Quotes; in the category If You Don't Like The Salad Try The Matisse!

"Cooking is an art, but you eat it too."
Marcella Hazan, cookbook author

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Let Them Eat Bread!

Some time ago I made the collossal mistake of buying a 44 lb. bag of flour. Well, it was on sale and the price was great. But let me warn you that unless you bake a lot of bread or pizza or biscuits or something (from scratch) that requires flour, a 44 lb. bag of flour lasts a l - o - o - o - n - g time. LONG time!

I worried that little critters would get into the flour (they didn't) but as a preemptive strike, I brought home from the in-law's several large multi-gallon plastic ice cream containers in which to store flour. This was because I had run out of large glass and plastic containers of my own and still had easily more than half a bagful to store. (Incidentally, in Shipshewana, IN, I saw lovely sewing baskets made from these ice cream tubs by the Amish ladies).

I filled 3 1/2 of these containers as well as a couple 5 gallon jars and several 1 gallon jars with flour. I had flour coming out the proverbial wazoo as it were.

Occasionally I would make a pizza or a loaf of bread. Unfortunately, these recipes use only 2 - 3 cups flour each. Do you know how many cups of flour are in a 44 lb. bag? Neither do I. But I do know it's a lotta flour!

Lately I have been making pizza and bread more frequently, sometimes as often as once a week. Eureka! I emptied one of the ice cream tubs and a second tub is nearly empty. Another round of bread and/or pizza on the weekend should take care of that one too. Maybe I should start thinking about making a sewing basket or two . . . . or three . . . . or more !

The way I make bread is to mix up a rather wet dough early in the day and then leave it to rise all day long, poking it down occasionally. I hear this develops more flavor than the usual one or two risings most recipes seem to call for. Making the dough a day or two before and keeping it in the fridge is another flavor aid. I do whatever I have time for (whenever I remember to do it).

Here is the latest bread, which was quite a success.

I measured 3/4 cup liquid of which about 2/3 was warm water and 1/3 was milk. To this I added about a packet or a little less of yeast (I don't really measure - this time I came close) along with a tablespoon of honey and a small handful of flour.

After a while I added a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil and an egg and beat this well. Then I started adding flour, probably about 2 - 3 cups, and a hefty pinch of salt. I kept stirring in the flour about 1/2 cup at a time until the dough was soft but not very sticky.

I grabbed my can of no-stick vegetable spray and sprayed the inside of the bowl, hoisting the dough out of the way with my spoon to spray the entire bowl. I also sprayed a sheet of plastic wrap (okay, it was a plastic bag from the grocery store that contained fruit or vegetable, torn open). I placed the oiled plastic down onto the dough, tucking in the edges, and set it aside to rise all day. When I went in the kitchen I checked, and if it was rising I dimpled the surface with my fingers to press it down again, gently.

When I was ready to bake I sprayed a bread pan (I hear it's fun to use a coffee can or other appropriately sized can, greased and sprinkled with cornmeal). I nudged the dough onto the plastic, oiled my hands and rolled the dough into a loaf shape, plopped it in the pan and covered with the plastic again, setting it aside to rise.

I preheated the oven to 375 or 400 f (can't remember), slashed at the top of the loaf with a sharp knife and baked the bread about 30 - 40 minutes until it was nicely golden. Brushing the top with milk before baking, or with melted butter after, would have been a good thing but I could not be bothered.

The hardest thing about baking bread is allowing it to cool. But truly, it's better that way. It will slice nicely and keep well. If you just cannot stand the wait, make a little extra dough and bake a small loaf that you can dig into right away. There is nothing, and I do mean nothing, like bread fresh from the oven with butter melting into it. Enjoy!

Quotable Quotes; in the category Is It Soup Yet?

"Mr. Braddock: Ben, this whole idea sounds pretty half-baked.
Benjamin: Oh, it's not. It's completely baked."

From the film "The Graduate"

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Oh! Bento!

I love bento.

Let me rephrase that.

I love the idea of bento.

I say that because even though I have been steadfastly collecting bento boxes, bento books, bento recipes and other bento related accessories, I don't make and eat bento as often as I'd like.

Some years ago a bento mania was apparently unleashed.  Moms make darling animal and cartoon character bento for their kids' school lunches.  Loving wives prepare exquisite bento for their spouses.  People tired of the old sandwich and apple brown bag routine or the ever more expensive soup/salad lunch out have turned to bento.  Those looking for imaginative ways to cut calories have discovered bento (there is a popular belief that the size of the bento box indicates the general number of calories it contains). 

Bento web sites abound.  Some of my favorites are Just Bento, Lunch in a Box and the aptly named My Lunch Can Beat Up Your Lunch.

For a while I was bento crazy and committed to bringing a filling, nutritious bento for my workaday lunch.  I even learned to make a tamagoyaki (Japanese omelet) using a single egg.  This morsel is my favorite item in virtually every bento I have prepared.

Alas, now I can barely drag myself out of bed in the morning let alone exercise for 20 minutes then prepare a bento lunch in addition to showering, dressing and all the other tasks necessary to getting out of the house in the morning.

Perhaps I need to just buck up and recreate those habits.  A perusal of many of the bento sites proves that with planning and advance preparation, the last minute stuff can be taken care of fairly quickly in the morning.  It's just a matter of being prepared and committed.
The other day I made myself a bento lunch.  I did not have a lot on hand but I thought the carrot, celery and leek stir fry would be good over rice.  Actually, I put it over quinoa and Israeli couscous and it was not bad.  I think it would have been better had I stirred a little dressing or teriyaki sauce into the grains.

The vegetables were diced leeks with thinly sliced carrot and celery, cooked in a bit of sesame oil with a dribble of soy sauce and mirin at the end, and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.  The broccoli was blanched for a minute in boiling water and refreshed in cold water, then drained.  I vigorously shook off all the excess water to be sure my bento did not get soggy.  I stirred a little chili seasoning into a dab of mayonnaise to make a dip for the broccoli.

The one egg tamagoyaki filled in the corner (my favorite) and the best part was, I cooked it in the same pan as the vegetables, after they were done.  I love washing fewer dishes.

This bento was packed in a child's bento box which I purchased at a "Hello Kitty" store in the perimeter of our local Asian Super H Mart.  In case you do not know (I didn't) each of these characters has their own name.  I bought this box because the proprietress would not allow me to leave without making a purchase and insisted she would give me a discount.  I think this one was half off the original price.  It has a kid sized fork and spoon in a recess in the lid.  Cute but not very functional for an adult.  I prefer chopsticks anyway.

The vegetables were tasty.  Maybe next time I'll add some sliced mushrooms.  A few pieces of grilled chicken or grilled tofu would be a great addition to this bento, and maybe some cucumber or cabbage pickles. 

If I decide to forgo an extra 20 minutes of sleep, get up to exercise, make a bento and carry my coffee to work instead of enjoying it in front of a mindless early morning TV show I'll be sure to let you know.  Until then, konnichiwa!

Quotable Quotes; in the category It Sounds Good In Any Language!

"It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like 'What about lunch?'"

A. A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

And I'll Fry If I Want To!

I have come to the conclusion that my madKnews blog is becoming food/eating/restaurant/recipe heavy.  Not that there's anything wrong with that, but if I want to be discovered by the mysterious "them" who are always looking for "The Next Big Thing" they are not likely to find it in a blog named madKnews - only friends and family know the genesis of that name.  This way, "them" can find my food blog easily and offer me a cook book deal.  You'll tell them where to find me, won't you?  Thanks.

I promise, more food discussions, restaurant reviews and recipes are on their way.

Quotable Quotes; in the category Let's Have Fun! 

"Food should be fun."  Thomas Keller, American chef, restaurateur & cookbook writer.