Post # 194 Cookbookin’

November 25, 2013 at 12:37 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again many times before I pass through the veil, an old saying of my mom’s “Anyone who can read can cook.”  She bought me my first cookbook for Christmas one year, mostly because she didn’t want to give up hers.  She had one.  It was the ring notebook style, and was Better Homes and Gardens.  It had a section for everything.  I read every recipe in it, probably memorized them too.

Nowadays, I chuckle at that.  One cookbook.  Of course, she had a good memory and her mother’s memories.  Back in the day, recipes were handed down and usually never written.  Now, you can find cookbooks for any style, region, or ingredient.  There are cookbooks designed to help you lose weight, lower your cholesterol, get your heart into tip top shape, and improve your love life.  Every celebrity chef has at least one cookbook to their name, and most have half a dozen.

I collect cookbooks.  It’s like a sickness.  I don’t buy them willy nilly, although I used to.  I take a couple of minutes to browse through them and decide if I really need yet another cookbook to teach me Irish Pub cooking or how to treat Mexican ingredients.  The differences in most of them are in the titles of the recipes, not in the techniques, ingredients, or results.  I’ve seen some that use the same stock photos.  If you take a glance at the photo at the top of the blog, that’s just a very very small representation of the number of cookbooks I have.  Part of it is that I love books.  The other part is that I really love cookbooks.  Since we’ve moved back to Arizona, our house is so small I don’t have room for all our books.  During our first month here, I went through all our books and was brutal about what was kept and what was donated.  We got rid of about 50% of our books, donated them to Goodwill.  My cookbook collection was annihilated.  I culled an entire bookcase full down to one shelf.  Those I kept were either 100% utilitarian, or had rank sentimental value.  Everything else went away.

I was surprised at some of the things I had.  I’m a big fan of regional cooking, as long as someone else is doing the cooking.  I like fried catfish, but I don’t want my house to smell like a fish fry.  A Polish hotdog with sauerkraut is wonderful, but who keeps all those ingredients on hand?  Still, I love to read about them, and learn the techniques and special ingredients that go into it.  Roux for Gumbo isn’t a mystery to me, although I’d be terrified to cook it so long that it takes on the very dark, almost burned color necessary for proper gumbo.  Sourdough starter is easy, but we don’t eat enough bread to warrant our own sourdough jar.  And while the idea of drinking mead is romantic and exotic, I’m not going to take the weeks necessary to make a good jug of mead.

On the other hand, in my Arizona Cookbook, I found three recipes for Indian Frybread, and one of them is starred.  I must have tried all three and starred the one I liked best.  In my Diabetes Cookbook, a page is folded back on the Chile con Carne recipe and I know I’ve made that one from memory many times.  My Best Cakes cookbook has a bookmark in the recipe for the World’s Best Yellow Cake.  It really is the best yellow cake I’ve ever tasted.  I vividly remember the first time I tried the recipe and my ex-wife and I stood there eating batter from the bowl with the biggest spoons we could find and shoving each other out of the way in an effort to get more.  It was that good.  The cake was wonderful too.

I kept a whole series of “cookbooks” from various state and national parks which memorialized the “old ways” for cooking.  Recipes were of the “dress out a buffalo, then stew the leg” variety.  However, I did get many very good ideas from them.  I once had a collection of half a dozen jars in the fridge of fruit juice concentrates that could be added to water, wine, or milk to make delicious drinks.  Also, making “natural” carbonated drinks with vinegar and baking soda combined with other highly flavored ingredients to mask the flavor of vinegar and baking soda.  I never tried that one, what with Pepsi being so available and all.

I kept the cookbooks for drying foods since I have a food dehydrator in the cupboard and the zombie apocalypse will soon be on us.  Years ago, when I was a volunteer big brother, my little brother and I made fruit leather in the dehydrator by mixing apple sauce with pureed berries and spreading it out on the sheets with nut crumbles on top.  He like them a lot.  Mostly, I make beef jerky, but occasionally I dry some vegetables to make soup flavoring.  I also dry out jalapenos or other peppers to flavor things.

I kept one cookbook called The Mediterranean Cookbook which give recipes by the region since the sea is very large.  It also has some of the most spectacular photography I’ve ever seen of the area.  It was a Christmas present from a good friend so for lots of reasons, I keep it around although I’ve never made a single recipe from it.

I have one regional cookbook that partner/spouse got for me the weekend we held our private commitment ceremony.  The B&B we were staying at on an island just off the east coast of the U.S. served a wonderful breakfast casserole made in muffin tins.  We asked the owner for the recipe, but he said that since he didn’t own it, he could only give it to us by selling us the Virginia B&B Cookbook.  So we bought it and the recipe was in it.  So we made it often and doctored it up because, well, that’s what we do.

Here it is and I hope you enjoy it!

  • 32 oz package frozen hash browns, thawed
  • 1 can cream of celery soup
  • 16 oz sour cream
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 5 tablespoons soft butter
  • 2-3 drop Tabasco sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped green chili, canned or fresh
  • 6 strips bacon fried and crumbed OR 1/2 cup finely diced ham OR 1/2 cup cooked sausage OR all of them

Preheat your oven to 325.  Combine all ingredients and spread evenly in as many muffin tins as it takes.  Bake 45 minutes and serve warm.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Have you ever added eggs to this?

    • Not when I’m baking it, unless it’s in a casserole dish. Tim adds eggs when he does this as a skillet dish. I’m also thinking fresh pico de gallo would be great!


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