My Blog List

Monday, January 30, 2012

Food Trivia

Since I bought a sentimental pack of Twinkies lately, I was interested in an "Eat this, not this" episode on the TODAY show this morning. Eating two bags of potato chips is equivalent to eating nine Twinkies. I doubt we should eat either.
On an episode of "Restaurant Impossible," Robert Irvine made an easy fast appetizer: in a cake pan (that's what it looked like) layer shreadded cheese of your choice, seasoned ground meat, lettuce and tomato, and top with crisp potato chips. Put another cake pan on top and invert; broil and serve hot. The combination that would come to most people's minds is cheddar and taco seasoning for the meat (at least in Texas), but I think perhaps a good Gruyere and some basil and thyme for the meat, plus salt and pepper of course. Plan to try it sometime. On the other hand, using pimiento cheese might be good (see below).
This weekend I tried some recipes that had caught my eye in recent magazines. One was a different pimiento cheese--not much mayonnaise but Worcestershire, dry mustard, vinegar, celery seeds,salt and pepper, hot sauce, pimientos and shredded cheddar of course. Full bodied and good. Find it in the February issue of Southern Living. My neighbors came for a drink and to try it last night, and Susan said, "Pimiento cheese is your lateest crush, isn't it?"
Finaly I made a curry/mango chicken salad with mayonnaise, yogurt, apple chutney, water chestnuts (I left them out) green onions and chicken. Find it also in the new Southern Living. The recipe calls for serving the salad in fluted cups made by molding prepared pie crusts over brioche molds--you have a lot of those on hand, don't you? I don't, and I didn't do it. The chicken was good but so different from the chicken salad I usually eat that I'm not sure I'll do it again.
I'm always a bit unsure what to do with chutney, but here's an appetizer I really like:

Soften six ounces of cream cheese (I use low fat)
add 1 cup grated cheddar
1 Tbsp. dry sherry
1/2 t. curry
Pinch salt
2 green onions

Chill thoroughly. When ready to serve, spread 8 oz. chutney on top and offer crackers. Really good.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Oops moments in the kitchen

Tonight I had company for dinner, a couple I've know for over forty years. We had a wonderful visit, and they enjoyed the entree--polenta and corn topped by sausage (should be chorizo but I can't go that hot) and sauteed tomatoes and feta. But when I was cleaning the kitchen, I found all that feta I'd forgotten to put on top of the casserole. I guess they didn't know what they were missing.
Do you have Oops moments in the kitchen? I have a lot of them. I remember once when  Colin insisted I make homemade rolls according to my mother's recipe. We were having Thanksgiving dinner with his in-laws. I made them--but left out the baking soda and baking powder, and they were awful.
My mom was famous for serving an elegant dinner for guests--and then finding the celery/pickle/olive tray on the back porch after dinner.
We all do it. I am prone to experiment on guests, so this week I made a chili that sounded good. I doubled the recipe--and ended up with half of it left. The recipe intrigued me because the spices included cocoa powder and cinnamon along with chile powder and coriander. Also in the recipe was orange juice. As I made it, I could see chiliheads all over Texas if not the world wringing their hands in despair. And well they should have. The tomato puree was way too much--my chili tasted like ground beef in tomato puree. I diluted it with a bottle of Shiner Bock, which did partially redeem it but not totally. One guest took a bite and immediately said, "Cinnamon?" So much for subtle flavors. When I do my chili book, I'll classify this under "Chili that is not chili.' My guests are still raving about it, but I wasn't much on it, couldn't eat it the next night.
Although I (modestly) consider myself a good cook, I make mistakes all the time. I burn things in the oven--particularly rolls and cookies and pizza. I remember once I burned something on the bottom, pulled it out, and announced that I had burned it to a fare-thee-well. My nephew hasn't forgotten that phrase yet and throws it at me occasionally. I leave ingredients out of a recipe--fortunately, like tonight, most people can't tell, though my oldest child, Colin, would occasionally ask, "Mom, did you follow the recipe on this?"
I guess I've decided that if you don't make mistakes in the kitchen, you're not having any fun cooking--and for me, that's what it's all about.
How about you? What great "Ooops" moments in the kitchen do you remember. Share, please.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

There's No Joy in Foodville Tonight

Two pieces of news have been all over the internet today: the closing of the Dublin (Texas) Dr Pepper plant and the bankruptcy filing of Hostess, which threatens that iconic American snack, Twinkies. Twinkies were created in Schiller Park, Illinois in the 1930s by a baker who realized that machines used to make strawberry cream-filled shortcakes sat idle when strawberries were out of season. He adapted the machines to make the well-known snack cake filled with banana cream. During World War II bananas were rationed and vanilla cream was substituted. Bananas returned off and on until 2007 when the banana filling become permanent.
When was the last time you ate a Twinkie? I probably haven't eaten one since high school, but the mere thought of the disappearing made me want to rush out and buy one. Hmmm. I wonder if the stores are having a run on Twinkies? And DingDongs?
Heard the story that Twinkies never go stale have a shelf life of 25 years? Not so. They are good for twenty-five days, but some stores have signs that say Twinkies never stay on their shelf more than ten days
You can find lots of information about Twinkies on Google, including nutritional information.
And then there's Dublin DP--a local tragedyin Texas. A pharmacist in Waco who doubled as a soda jerk created the formula for the fruity soft drink when he noticed the bouquet of several fruit flavors blended together. The drink was known as a Waco and the name later changed to Dr Pepper--no period after Dr so that it won't be mistaken for medicine. The company went national in the 1930s and developed distribution franchises.
Baylor University maintains a strong link with Dr Pepper, having been given one of the original buildings. Every Tuesday Baylor holds a Dr Pepper happy hour and serves Dr Pepper peanut butter brittle alongside the drink.
Do you know what 10-2-4 means? When researach discovered that sugar boosts energy, the then-head of Dr Pepper advocated drinking it at ten, two and four to maintain alertness and efficiency.
The bottling plant in Dublin has distributed to its district for 120 years, and four generations of Kloster family members have owned and/or managed and/or worked for the company. Today the Dublin district includes six counties. The distinction of Dublin Dr Pepper is that when the corporations owning DP switched from sugar to the cheaper corn syrup for sweetness, the Dublin plant stayed with sugar and bottled its product in old-fashioned glass bottles. The small town considers it "their" plant and much emotion is involved with its sale to the Snapple corporation. Snapple has promised to continue to produce a cane-sweetened drink in old-fashioned glass bottles, but Dubliners will tell you it won't be the same. Fourteen people lost their jobs, and for the Klosters it was the bitter end of a family tradition.
Haven't heard what will happen to Doc's Soda Shop and the adjacent Dr Pepper Museum and Gift Shop  in Dublin. Over the years, the Dr Pepper company used an amazing variety of gimmicks and gadgets to publicize the drink, and examples of most of them are in this museum. Yes, Dr Pepper is a sentimental subject in Dublin and for Texans. It's "our" drink.
Unfortunately, it's another case of corporate profit motives triumphing over tradition and sentiment.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fondue comes around again

Remember the '70s when trendy restaurants served cheese and beef fondue and, for dessert, rich chocolate fondue into which you dipped cubes of angel food cake and fresh fruit? I remember once ordering it when my ex- and I sat at a two-top and being told they didn't serve it at small tables--go figure on that one! But I also remember a restaurant called The Melting Pot that served nothing but various fondues--now long gone, along with a lot of other trends.
We all know that fondue has come around again, after several years of being ignored, although few restaurants offer it. But I see recipes here and there. I was casting about for something that would seem like a special treat to a five-year-old so we could have our own New Year's Eve party, and the idea of fondue came to me. But I wasn't sure he'd like Gruyere and Emmenthal, and they're awfully expensive to experiment with on a child. So I searched the web and came up with a fondue made with cheddar. Whoever posted it said it was  specifical favorite of his children.
I got Jacob's mom to bring her fondue pot--sure, I have one but where?  The fondue was a hit--Jacob ate and ate but even then, there was leftovers. The next day, I offered it to him for lunch but he would have none of it unless I got out the pot and did it the proper way. I put it in a heat-proof glass dish, even got out the forks, but he was not in a Happy New Year mood. I enjoyed it. But the first day back to school, I'm sure he was the only kindergartner at his school who asked for and got fondue (with Ritz crackers by now) for an after-school snack. I snuck a couple of bites myself.

Here's the recipe I used although I halved it:

1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. flour
2 c. milk
1/2 tsp. salt
Dash pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 c. sliced green onion
2-1/2 c. shedded Wisconsin sharp cheese (I actually used Tillamook, from Oregon)

Melt the butter, stir in flour, salt and pepper, garlic powder, and add milk a bit at a time, stirring well,  to make a white sauce. Add the green onion (I left them out because Jacob's dad has a thing about "little green things" and I was afraid he'd passed it on, but the onion would add a good flavor and look colorful). Stir until melted. Serve in fondue pot with chunks of crusty bread. I think what makes it so good is the rich garlic taste, but I'd take this another time over the fancy Gruyere/Emmenthal version.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The most unusual holiday dish

My impartial panel of judges--who are admittedly kind of skittish eaters--have chosen Bebe Bahnsen's chittlin's stuffed with sour cream. Not sure what chittlin's are? Properly, they're called chitterlings, and they are the intestines of a pig, cleaned and stuffed. In this country, they are both a southern and African American tradition, part of "soul food" cooking. They must be thoroughly cleaned and rinsed several times before they are boiled or stewed for several hours. Some cooks put a half an onion in the pot to soften the possible unpleasant odor. Sometimes chittlin's are battered and fried after stewing, served with vinegar and hot sauce.
Bebe sends the following recipe:
Thaw 10 lbs. cleaned chitterlings; examine each for foreign matter and discard; run under cold water. Soak in to cold water baths. If the second doesn't  yield clear water, soak again.
Place in a six quart pot and fill with cold water. Bring to a boil, then add 1 roughly chopped onion, 2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. minced garlic, and 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes. Simmer 3-4 hours. Serve with spaghetti or turnip greens, and pass the vinegar or hot sauce.
Bebe's mom said that sutffed with sour cream these outdo the best turkey.
Bebe, email me your address ( and I'll send a copy of Skeleton in a Dead Space. But also, could you clarify how you can stuff chittlin's?
Other interesting entries I got include apple pudding and dried corn from Norma Huss. The corn is Copes dried corn, not available everywhere. It involves soaking in cold water and then cooking. Norma, I'd love to know why dried is better than fresh and what Copes corn is.
And turkey with apple/sourcream dressing, German red cabbage, butternut squash casserole, giblet gravy and a pear almond tart. Here's the recipe for German red cabbage:
Deutsches Rotkohl (Weight Watchers version)
1 small red cabbage finely shredded
1 medium red onion, thinly slices
1/4 c. wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
handful of dried cranberries
Pre-heat oven to 450. In a covered pan, mix vinegar, brown sugar and ground cloves. Add shredded cabbage, onions, and dried cranberries Cover and bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and toss cabbage to mix. Return to oven and bake for 40 minutes. Remove and check seasonings--add a little salt if needed. If more liquid is needed, add a little red wine and stir again. It should be a dark red, slightly caramelized, and flavorful.  Thanks to Suzanne Barrett for this one.
A personal opinion: with German blood in my veins, I'm sure I much prefer the red cabbage to the chittlin's.! Sorry, Bebe. I can eat a lot of offal--liver in several forms, kidneys--but I think chittlin's may be beyond me. But they are the most unusual and thus the winner of this admittedly small contest.
Happy eating in 2012!