Post # 201 My Favorite Sandwich of All Time

December 13, 2013 at 2:37 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 201 My Favorite Sandwich of All Time

My partner/spouse, the PhD, and I like to go out to breakfast on the weekends.  We search out the divest of the dives that we can find.  Conversely, we also look for locally owned spots, neighborhood joints that are a secret to everyone outside of a few blocks.  Since we’ve been here, we’ve found several that we like, but our favorite is a very successful local chain called Beyond Bread.  At its core, it’s a bakery and it specializes in bread.  But when you walk in, you’re in breakfast heaven.  They have all kinds of pastries, rolls, buns, etc. as well as a huge selection of breakfast items and everyday sandwiches.  They make the best BLT I’ve ever had.  And I’ve had a few.

The humble BLT is a delight.  Everyone knows it’s crispy fried bacon, fresh crisp and cooled lettuce, and ripe juicy tomatoes layered on toast with or without mayo.  (My personal preference is without mayo.  If the tomatoes are juicy, you don’t miss the spread.)  But within those parameters, the options are limitless.  On so many of the cooking shows I watch, the BLT has been “reinvented” a buncha buncha times.  I’ve seen the B reinvented as Lobster.  I’ve seen the L reinterpreted as Cole Slaw.

The defining element in a BLT is the B, the bacon.  Bacon comes in so many varieties, it’s hard to know what to use.  The thinner the bacon, the crispier it’s going to be when fried.  However, the flavor of the bacon is changed by the way it’s cured.  If it’s smoked, the flavor of the smoke gets into the bacon and makes it a wondrous delight.  The curing process and the salt used can have an effect on the flavor.  We tried every type of bacon we could get our hands on over several months before we settled on our favorite.  It’s a thick cut, apple wood smoked, brand name escapes me that we get at Sam’s Club at $10 for 4 pounds.  It fries up sizzling hot, crispy, and tasty.   The best.  But it took weeks of forcing ourselves to eat bacon to find the right one.

The vegetables are just as important.  You can use any fresh tomato you have but please be sure to use only ripe juicy tomatoes.  Anything else will disappoint you.  The rich tomato flavor won’t be able to cut through the bacon.  It doesn’t really matter what kind of tomato you use, although I haven’t had a lot of luck with the smaller varieties, cherry, grape, etc.  For the lettuce, you really can use any kind, just don’t shred it.  Use whole or half leaves.  Shredding the lettuce causes it to release water making a soggy sandwich, as well as messy when you bite into it since the shreds fall out or hang out of your mouth making you look like a cow eating grass.  To my way of thinking, the two best lettuces to use are iceberg (that standard round head of lettuce that most people reach for), or romaine (the long leafed lettuce used primarily for Ceaser Salad.)  Both stay crispy when chilled, and stay crispy for a long time.  It’s the crunch factor in the sandwich and is delectable.

The bread holds the package together and you can use whatever bread you want.  I’ve made BLT wraps with flour tortillas.  I’ve used plain bagels to make a meal.  I’ve had BLTs with thick-cut rustic bread.  I’ve made BLTs with my homemade sandwich rolls.  I’ve used plain old store-bought white bread.  I’ve used or eaten practically every bread imaginable.  They’ve all been good.  My favorite is plain bagels.  My second favorite it thick slices of rustic bread.  I know people who define their food so narrowly that if they don’t have sesame seeds on the bun, they won’t eat the burger.  For my case, I won’t eat a PBJ unless the peanut butter is creamy, at room temperature, and I have grape jam that’s fresh from the fridge.  But a BLT, I’ll eat that nearly anyway I can get it.

A close cousin to the BLT is the Club Sandwich which is basically a double decker BLT with extra stuff in it.  It’s good, and I’ll eat them often, as long as they have bacon.   I also eat a lot of other bacon inspired sandwiches, like the basic breakfast sandwich, baconeggandcheese.  Some places like to dress up their BLTs by adding extra stuff like guacamole, or using “exotic” ingredients like mango, or “premium” ingredients like Black Forest Ham.  I’ve tried them, but always come back to just the plain old BLT.

I’ve heard that more vegetarians backslide on bacon than anything else.  I can understand why.

I used to work in an office building with a cafeteria on its first floor.  There was a sandwich station which made the big fat hefty sandwiches on whatever bread you chose.  For a long time, one of their selections was the BLT.  Now, the ladies who worked the sandwich station were all friendly, smiling ladies, anxious to make your sandwich the way you wanted it.  (They had a killer egg salad, by the way, that usually sold out thirty minutes after opening.)  English was not their first language, but they seldom had any difficulty communicating with their customers.  However, they had a script they followed to make certain they offered their customers all the options available.  I always smiled and laughed to myself when, after ordering the BLT, they inevitably asked “Would you like lettuce and tomato with that?”

That just sort of defines a BLT, doesn’t it?  Enjoy!




Post # 200 (!) More Food Funnies

December 11, 2013 at 7:18 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

There’s a lot going on in the household today that is taking my attention elsewhere.  So to “celebrate” my 200th post, I’ve got a lot of food funnies for you again.  I’ll update much later today, or early tomorrow to let you know what is going on.  Enjoy!

I sometimes like to relax with my food:

food funnies 7

And other times I like to play with my food:

food funnies 8

Calvin always knows what he wants:

food funnies 9

As does Snoopy:

food funnies 10

There’s nothing like a soaking in a hot tub:

food funnies 11

I’ve broken a diet more times than I can count.  Usually with M&Ms:

food funnies 12

Vegan Lobster:

food funnies 13

Actually that looks pretty good!

Maxine is wise beyond words:

food funnies 14

And Cookie Monster has the right idea:

food funnies 15

Hope you enjoyed the funnies.  Look for updates later!

UPDATE:  Okay, here’s the promised update.  For the last several years, Partner/Spouse has been school amassing an impressive number of degrees in nursing.  He has a bachelors’, two Masters, and as of tonight, his PhD is assured.  He gave his presentation (basically his oral defense of his dissertation) which was accepted by his degree panel.  Not only was it accepted, but the panel told him his subject and research was so important that they would co-author with him on his dissertation and have it published in two major medical journals, one at a national level, the other at a global level.  He gave his presentation here at home, via the internet, etc. while I made certain that all humans and animals were either absent or silent.  When it was over, we enjoyed a quiet glass of champagne before alerting everyone to the good news.  He now has his DNP, Doctorate of Nurse Practioner, which is the highest that can be attained in his chosen career.  At this point, if he decides to stay in nursing, he can either become a Chief Nurse or set up a private practice.  If he chose, he could go to medical school for two years, do an internship, and become a medical doctor.  The path he’s chosen, however, is to join with University this upcoming semester in a tenured position to create and teach the University level course needed to attain the degrees he already has.  I’m as proud of him as I can, almost as if I got the degrees myself.


Post # 199 Best Butter Cookies

December 9, 2013 at 1:28 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 199 Best Butter Cookies

Okay, so it’s coming up on the BIG holiday season.  It’s the one where when you invite people to your house for the festivities, you want them to feel welcome, and part of the family.  You want to be certain that they are comfortable, well fed, and sated.  But way down deep, admit it, you want them be impressed with your efforts.  You want them to acknowledge, even just to themselves, that you’ve done a good job.  It doesn’t matter that the turkey is the same turkey they can get at any restaurant; it doesn’t matter that the warmth and color and decoration are the standard for the holiday.  You want them to know that somewhere deep inside there is something special about your family tradition, about your efforts.  These cookies will do that.

Paula Deen always said “It’s better with butter.”  She wasn’t wrong.  These butter cookies are not only easy, they can be a base for bunches of other cookies.  Way back in the day, I used to make batches of these and put them in the freezer.  When I was pressed for time, I’d thaw them out and make whatever kind I felt like.

Basic Recipe:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Stir in the egg and vanilla, then mix in the flour.  Shape into a log, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate thirty to sixty minutes.  Cut into 1/2 inch rounds and place on a treated cookie sheet.  Bake at 325 for 15 minutes until the edges are brown.  Cool and eat.

These cookies are great just by themselves, but you can add a ton of things to them and turn them into other kinds of cookies.

  • Substitute almond extract for the vanilla, and press almond flakes into the top of the cookie before baking.
  • Frost with your favorite icing
  • Press crushed peppermint candy into the top of the cookie before baking
  • Add cocoa to the batter to make chocolate butter cookies
  • Add crushed pecans to the batter to make pecan sandies
  • Press decorative sprinkles into the top of the cookie before baking
  • Sprinkle the cookie with cinnamon sugar before baking
  • Press turbinado sugar into the top of the cookie before baking

Well, a short post today, but one in time for the holiday.  Enjoy the cookies!

Post # 198 Melissa D’

December 6, 2013 at 1:20 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I’ve written about various chefs in this blog in the past.  Remember The Two Fat Ladies?  Well, today I’m writing about a FoodNetwork Star winner from a few seasons ago, Melissa D’ Arabian.  I’ve always thought of her as Melissa D so that’s how I’ll refer to her.

First, here’s what she looks like:


She’s always looked like that, with different hair styles.  She’s married for several years and has several children.  When she was on Food Network Star, her style and her show was about cooking for her family on a budget and as nutritious as possible while not being boring.  She was up against several chef/owners, sous chefs, classically trained chefs, as a home cook who’d never had any formal training.  At that time, she was the first on the Food Network to embrace that.  No formal training was unheard of on food competition.  That’s changed, of course, and just recently on Chopped, there was a woman who said her alma mater was the Food Network, her graduation was appearing on Chopped, and her diploma would be the $10,000 check if she won.  She won, and I expect we’ll see more of her because of her great personality.

Melissa D won her season against all the classically trained chefs in large part because of her personality, too.  Melissa D is a mom; she’s approachable; she’s bright and witty; and she’s beautiful with looks that come across on camera like the lens has been airbrushed.  In addition, her cooking style, and her cooking tips are the kinds of things that most people turn to the television show for.  They gave her a show called $10 Meals that lasted several seasons.  She also wrote a hot selling cookbook by the same name.  The show’s been cancelled, but I expect there will be others coming soon.

Some of her tips were so easy and straightforward that I used them just as they were without any refinement on my part.  For instance, here’s her Four-Step Process for any sauce.

  1. Fry any protein of your choice in a pan with one tablespoon of oil and any seasonings you like.  Fry completely and don’t worry if brown bits form on the pan.  Remove protein from pan.  (I used chicken the first time, but it works for anything.)
  2. Deglaze the pan with any flavorful liquid of your choice, such as wine, stock, milk, water.  Use a wooden spatula to loosen the brown bits, also called fond.  These are concentrated bits of flavor and not to be ignored.
  3. Simmer the liquid until it’s reduced to a syrupy consistency.  Keep stirring to avoid burning.
  4. Turn off the heat and add one or two tablespoons of butter.  Stir the butter into the sauce to give it a silky look and another depth of flavor.

The sauce can then be spooned over the protein and served with rice, potatoes, etc.

I’ve done this so many times, it’s now one of my go-to techniques and I can do it in my sleep.

One of our favorite Melissa D recipes is Sirloin Steak with Chimichurri Sauce.  So easy.  Take a bunch of fresh cilantro leaves, a bunch of fresh parsley leaves, juice from one lemon, one small onion finely chopped, a tsp of white wine vinegar, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and one clove of garlic and process it in a blender or a food processor until coarsely ground.  Slowly add 1/3 cup of olive oil until sauce is smooth.  Let stand for 30 minutes.  Cook steaks in whatever way you like and serve hot with Chimichurri sauce poured over top.  Totally YUM!

The final recipe I’m going to share is Lemon Fettuccine, which we had with dinner last night.  I served it as a side dish, but with a little tweaking, it could easily be a main dish.  Again, since Melissa is a working mom with a household to run, the recipe is so easy it’s almost laughable.  Melissa used angel hair pasta, but I never have luck with that so I used fettuccine.

Boil the correct amount of pasta for the number of people being served.  While the pasta is boiling, heat one tablespoon of olive oil and two tablespoons of butter in a large skillet.  When the butter is completely melted and foaming has subsided (that foaming is water in the butter evaporating), add the juice of one lemon that has been strained so there is no pulp or seeds.  Keep the mixture on VERY low heat to stay warm until pasta is ready.  When pasta is ready, turn off heat to the lemon sauce.  Drain the pasta, reserving a quarter cup of pasta water, then put pasta in the skillet.  Toss the pasta so it is thoroughly coated with lemon sauce.  Add a little pasta water if needed to make the sauce stick better.  Move the pasta to a warm serving dish and sprinkle with parmesan cheese, zest of one lemon, and parsley flakes.  Serve immediately.

lemon fettuccine

I served this last night as part of a big meal.  I made chicken breast baked with bacon bits, corn in butter sauce, steamed brussels sprouts, and poached white fish with a butter dill sauce.  There was also homemade bread for anyone who wanted it, but no one did.

So Melissa D comes through with the tasty, inexpensive, impressive, and EASY dishes that can be counted on.  Hope you enjoy the recipes.  Let me know if you try any of them.

Post # 197 Veggie Tales (with apologies to the cartoon)

December 4, 2013 at 1:18 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 197 Veggie Tales (with apologies to the cartoon)

I’ve often said I’m the world’s worst vegetarian because I like bacon and steak too much.  Wrap a vegetable in bacon and fry it up, serve it next to a medium-rare steak and I’m a happy camper!  But I know that eating vegetarian is a lot healthier than not, and I like vegetables.  I just can’t eat meatless for very long.  However, there are lots of ways to eat meatless and not notice it.

Pizza is the best way.  Have a vegetable pizza with loads of toppings and extra cheese and you’ll never notice there’s no meat on it.  And pizza, when it’s done right, can be one of the healthiest things you eat.  Unless you’re making it yourself, you won’t have any control over what goes into the crust.  The crust is really the worst part of the pizza for you.  So order thin crust, if you can.  I personally don’t like thin crust because I don’t want crunchy pizza.  But I also don’t like pizza that’s so thick with crust I feel like I’m eating red dough.  Try not to order the thickest crust they have.  And don’t order all the crust tricks, like cheese in, or pizza sticks, etc.  It’s just a way to fill you up with little nutritional value.  However, the tomato sauce on the pizza is excellent!  Tomatoes are so good for you, even ketchup can be considered a health food.  Except when it’s on french fries, but that’s another story.  I find that too much sauce burns my mouth and makes the top of the pizza slippery so I usually order half-sauce.  Tons of vegetable, or just one, no meat makes this healthier.  Then cheese.  But the cheeses they use for pizza tend to be better than “standard” cheeses.  So I order double cheese.

Burritos are another good way to be vegetarian.  That thin flexible wafer of flour and water wrapped around rice and beans and cheese or whatever other combo you like can hardly be beat.  Add some good fresh pico de gallo and you will never miss the meat that isn’t there.  With different beans, cooked different ways, and different rices cooked in different ways with different seasonings, the combinations for burritos are almost endless.  I’m salivating just thinking about it.

On a similar note, spring rolls are also a tasty alternative.  And best, they’re DEEP FRIED!  No meat in these things, but so flavorful and crispy, you wouldn’t know it.

There are various levels of vegetarianism from the occasional practitioner (me) to full on vegan (them.)  A vegetarian eats primarily vegetables with some animal products, eggs and cheese for instance.  Vegans eat no animal products at all, only vegetables.  You can get all the nutrition you need as long as you’re careful about what you eat.  You can also eat breads and other baked goods, like cakes and cookies and pies, you just have to use different ingredients and techniques.  I’ve had some of those products.  Some taste very good and you’d never miss the butter and eggs.  Some taste like mud.  I used to own a book that promised to take you from caveman carnivore to full vegetarian in three months if you followed their plan and recipes.  It was standard stuff.  You eliminate beef for a couple of weeks.  When you’re used to that, you eliminate pork, etc.  The last thing you eliminate is fish.  As you eliminate dishes, you add their vegetarian substitutes.  I never followed it, but I can see the sense of it.

The biggest concern I have with being a vegetarian is the high likelihood of missing out on protein and the nutrients they contain.  Vegetarians have to be very careful about getting complete proteins and iron, as well as other trace vitamins and minerals.  These can be found when eating things in combination, rice and beans being the most well known.  Most vegetarians I know also take supplements.  The biggest thing to be aware of with being a vegetarian is that nutrition becomes a total, almost holistic, topic, not just a specific meal topic.

I prefer being the occasional practitioner rather than full-on.  I go as many as three days eating meatless, then the urge for a greasy cheeseburger overcomes me.  I have a friend who often says “I’m a vegetarian not so much because I like animals but that I hate plants.”


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