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

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"