Post # 216 Guest Blogger Mary P.

January 31, 2014 at 2:57 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 216 Guest Blogger Mary P.

Today, we have guest blogger Mary P writing for us.  She has written guest posts in the past, and will hopefully continue in the future.  I’ve known Mary for many years, and she has a unique, quirky, and fun sense of humor when it comes to life, her family, and raising her boys.  Despite the challenges that hit her daily, she rise above them and maintains a sane balance that keeps her family on an even keel.  She’s just a lot of fun.

Before we get on with Mary’s post, I want to talk briefly about something that happened in Utah earlier this week.  It left me with such a sense of outrage that I felt I had to share it on my FB page, and here with you.  I hope you will all take the time to make sure this story is known all over the country, and that something gets done about it.

Earlier this week, 40+ grade school children had their lunches taken away from them because their parents owed money to the school’s lunch program.  Now, to their credit, the schools then gave the children milk and fruit so they wouldn’t go without lunch that day.  However, the way this played out was that the kids went through the lunch line, got their lunch, presented their cards for payment, sat down at tables, and then had their trays taken from them in front of their classmates.  The food was then THROWN AWAY rather than allowed to be eaten.  The school district said they had tried for two days to contact the parents whose accounts were in arrears be in some cases (I’m guessing 40+ cases) were unable to establish that contact.  The district’s child nutrition manager decided on Wednesday morning that the best way to handle the situation was to take the food away from the children rather than try to involve the parents.

You know how I feel about hunger, and about child hunger most importantly.  That this callous act could be perpetrated in our country in this day and age, is reprehensible and totally indefensible.  The story has been reported on The Daily Beast, CNN, HuffPo, and a multitude of other news sites and is gaining some momentum.  I hope this person is taught how completely inappropriate their actions and decisions were.  I just wish I could have ten minutes with them to discuss it.  There is a link below leading to the initial article that I read if you want to learn more about the incident.

Okay, my soapbox is withdrawn (although my anger is not), so on to the post!

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Fusion Cuisine

I always find it slightly amusing when “Fusion Cuisine” is seen as trendy and new.  Finding a restaurant that specializes in it often means you’ll pay a premium price, too.  My view on “fusion” is quite different and simple.

It’s frugal.

My kids are a little weird.  They love Indian, Thai and Korean food in addition to the typical tacos, mac & cheese, spaghetti and meatloaf menu that many kids eat.  My husband loves Mediterranean  and southern food.  This means a lot of seemingly random and not necessarily matching ingredients and little bits of leftovers that don’t traditionally go together. Enter in the need to be inventive and come up with dinner from small bits of food that will go to waste unless I find some way to make it all work together.

Last week we had flatbread pizzas and vegetable soup.

This doesn’t sound like “fusion.”  Ginger miso vegetable soup with your choice of bulgogi pizza or conejo con cebolla (trans. “rabbit with onion”) pizza?  Fusion.  Not to mention delicious and a way to make a cohesive meal everyone will like.

I always have pizza dough made for this very reason.  ¼ cup of food is not a dinner.  But spread it on a pizza crust and suddenly it’s plenty.  The recipe I usually use will make two very thin crust hand tossed pizzas.

 For the rabbit pizza:

I stretched and oiled the crust and placed in on a preheated stone that was dusted with cornmeal.   I mixed a small amount of jarred spaghetti sauce with the onion, garlic, and tomato slurry that is served as part of conejo con cebolla and spread it over the crust.  Then spread chunks of meat that I had previously separated from the bones.  I added slices of roasted honeyed carrots from a previous evening and topped the whole thing with thin slices of mozzarella.  I placed it in the oven and cooked it at 375 for 20 minutes.

For the bulgogi pizza:

I stretched and oiled the crust and placed it on a second preheated stone that was dusted with cornmeal.   I used a small amount of jarred alfredo sauce as the base and added the slices of leftover bulgogi as will as some sliced mushrooms, and green onions and then topped that with thin slices of mozzarella.  It was also placed in the oven and cooked at 375 for 20 minutes.

The vegetable soup:

I had a box of Ginger Miso broth from Trader Joe’s, which I used as my base.  I had gone through my crisper drawer and my freezer to find the one inch of daikon radish; remaining sliced mushroom, green onion, and honeyed  carrot that didn’t fit on the pizzas; and 4 tablespoons of frozen peas.  I julienned the remaining radish and placed it and the carrot in the bottom of the bowls.  Then I heated four soup bowls worth of broth on the stove with the peas, mushroom, and green onions already added.  When it was hot, I poured it in the bowls.

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http://www.thedailybeast.com/cheats/2014/01/30/utah-hijacks-40-kids-lunches.html?utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_campaign=cheatsheet_afternoon&cid=newsletter%3Bemail%3Bcheatsheet_afternoon&utm_term=Cheat%20Sheet

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Post # 215 Makin’ the Donuts

January 29, 2014 at 2:53 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

When I was in grade school, I read a series of stories whose main character was kid about my age named Homer Price who lived in a small town and suffered through hilarious misadventures with his crazy uncle and several friends.  I was thrilled in the sixth grade to be in a class play based on one of my favorite Homer Price stories that involved a donut machine and a lost diamond ring.  We handed out plain cake donuts to everyone in the auditorium with a fake diamond ring jammed in one of them.  The person who found it was supposed to bring it to the stage so the play could continue.  We had a lot of donuts leftover and my class ate them all.  It started a life-long fondness for the fried dough rings.

Don’t misunderstand.  We’d eaten donuts before.  My mom loved them as much as all us kids did.  Mom was a great one for variety so we had chocolate donuts, powdered sugar donuts, cinnamon sugar donuts, toasted coconut donuts, peanut donuts, iced donuts, sprinkled donuts, and just about every other kind of donut in every color there was.  We had only had plain donuts if they were included in a variety pack, and then only if the “better” ones were gone.

There’s something about fried dough I find irresistible.  Waaaay back in the misty yester-years, Wesson oil had a commercial where they took a loaf of unsliced bread, cut the crusts off, and plopped it into a pan of hot oil until it formed another crust.  The point of the commercial was to show how little oil was absorbed by the bread in its second “cooking”.  Every time I saw that ad, I wanted some of that bread.  It seems like deep frying releases some kind of flavor component that makes food taste better.  The Roy Biggin’s Rule of Party Catering was “If it’s green, it’s trouble.  If it’s fried, get double.”  That is so true.  I live in the region of Indian Fry Bread and the Indian Taco.  When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for the county fair every year because that was the only time I could get it.  Things change.  I learned how to make it myself.  Then I moved back to Ariz and found I could have it any day in just about any restaurant.  Fried dough is wonderful.

But I’m Homer Simpson when it comes to donuts.  Regular readers of this blog know that I’ve been on the search for a recipe for a good, old fashioned, plain donut.  I was hoping to find one that did not involve frying.  A few days ago, I came to the conclusion that fried dough would be a good thing, and I narrowed down my search to a recipe that looked promising.  It’s a two step process:  make the dough and chill for several hours, then roll out and fry.  I made the dough which was very easy on Monday evening, then rolled out and fried it up on Tuesday morning, which was a little more problematic.  I cooled them, then put chocolate frosting on some, and cream cheese frosting on some, and left the donut holes plain, and about a dozen or so plain.  Here’s the result:

donuts

The glass was a present for Christmas from FiL and is a restaurant quality dome to keep things covered in an airtight container.  I use it all the time for baked goods.  The donuts that are in there were all that was left.  And at the time of this writing, there are less than a dozen still remaining.  By tomorrow, I don’t think there will be any.  The iced ones were good, but the plain were outstanding.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening melted and cooled but still liquid
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, or 1 jumbo egg
  • 1 cup canned evaporated milk (not condensed milk, it’s different)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 cups AP flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp mace
  • 1 tsp salt

Using a mixer (don’t try this by hand), blend the shortening and sugar together until sugar is dissolved.  Add the two eggs one at a time until well blended.  Add the milk and vanilla and mix until light and frothy.  Add the dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly blended.  Remove from bowl and wrap with plastic wrap.  Chill for at least four hours or overnight.  Heat vegetable oil in a heavy pan to 375.  Roll the dough on a floured surface to 1/2 inch thick.  Cut out 2 inch donuts the best way you can (I have a donut cutter that I searched high and low for and finally found in the cookware section of a very large Ace hardware store.  I also have a set of round cookie cutters that go from 3 inch round to 1/2 inch round.  Two of these would do the trick, also.)  Once the oil is hot enough, place as many donuts in the oil as you can without crowding them.  Cook for a minute or so until the bottom side turns brown.  Turn over and cook for another minute or so.  Fry the donut holes, or re-roll them for more donuts.  Total cooking time should not exceed 3 1/2 minutes.  Drain on a rack over paper towels.  Cool for ten minutes then ice them or sprinkle them or just eat them.

***NOTE:  A few of things to pay attention to.  First, the oil must be hot enough otherwise the dough will just absorb the oil and you’ll end up with crispy fried oil sponges.  Second, the oil must be deep enough for the donuts to float without touching the bottom of the pan.  I used one of my trusty cast iron skillets but the donuts expanded and got too dark on the bottoms where they touched the cast iron.  Third, fresh nutmeg is the key to this recipe, and to the whole “old fashioned” donut mystique.  It’s the flavor that makes it good.  Mace is good, but can be omitted.  Mace is the outer coating of the nutmeg and adds a depth of flavor.

So now that I know what I’m looking for in donut recipes, I’ve decided two things.  I’m going to continue experimenting with recipes (like I’d ever stop) until I find the “perfect” recipe.  And I’m going to finally invest in a real electric deep fryer.  I know that deep frying isn’t good for you, and I don’t intend to start deep frying everything, although I know people who do.  But with the amount of frying that I’m now doing, it just makes sense to do it right.  And stop burning my bottoms.

Enjoy!

Post # 214 Rigo’s in Tucson

January 27, 2014 at 12:25 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I hate mariachi bands.  Once, several years ago (have you noticed how many of my stories happened several years ago?), I was working in a computer store at a mall.  One week they were celebrating Mexican Heritage and on Saturday they had a mariachi band about ten feet from the front of my store.  Ten feet.  That’s not very far away.  It was a seven piece band, and four of them were out of tune.  They started playing loudly and badly.  I know music, and I like music of all kinds.  I didn’t like this.  Even the vocals were bad, full of ululating cries and missed notes.  It was impossible to tell which songs they were playing because I don’t think they knew which songs they were playing.  It didn’t sound like they were all playing the same song at the same time.  One of my customers sympathized and said, “I feel sorry for you.  At least I can leave.”

This weekend was busy and hectic for both of us.  By noon on Sunday, we both wanted to get out for a little while to relax and unwind.  We started heading west to go into a part of the city we don’t usually frequent.  We weren’t looking for anything in particular, just roaming around, maybe have lunch somewhere.

“Hey!  Let’s head back and go to that Mexican restaurant we like so much!”  Partner/Spouse said.  We followed thought with deed, pulled a U-turn, and chugged away.  After a few mis-turns, we ended up on the correct street.  But we had a choice.  There was a restaurant directly across the street and to the left, and the place we were heading for a few blocks to the right.  We’ve always liked trying new places so we headed across the street and slightly to the left.  We had to wait for a dog to finish crossing the entry to the parking lot first, but made our way to the only vacant spot in the parking lot.  We were there walking to the front door of Rigo’s Restaurant Fine Mexican Food.  We entered and were immediately hit with the blaring notes of a mariachi band!  I almost turned around.

We asked the hostess of we could sit outside, but they weren’t set up for outside service.  It was a medium-sized place but there was no escaping the live music and I resigned myself to a lunch with no conversation.  They have a large menu selection with the standards, but it included some things I’d never heard of.

Our waitress was a doll.  She was a smiling, happy, mom-type who seemed to take real pleasure in her work.  The first thing she said was how much she loved our t-shirts.  Partner/Spouse was wearing a Batman logo and I was wearing on that said “Bazinga!”  She brought our drink orders which were colas even though they had wine on the menu and I was tempted to have a glass.  Next time I will.  They also had a full line of beers, domestic and Mexican, as well as the classics, lemonade, tea, horchata, and (oddly) clamato.  Go figure.

Partner/Spouse ordered a carne asada burrito with a side of rice.  I ordered a topopo salad with carne asada.

topopo salad

Everyone knows what a topopo salad is now, right?  The thing that sets it apart from a regular taco salad is it’s built in layers and the bottom layer is refried beans!  Yummy!

We ordered a quesadilla as an appetizer.  Partner/Spouse asked for a plain quesadilla and our happy friendly waitress suggested green chilies with it.  What an amazing flavor!  The quesadilla was grilled, crispy, melted cheese throughout, and large enough to feed four people.  And cheap!  With the chips and salsa and quesadilla, it was way more than enough, and we still had our main meals coming!

Through it all, the mariachi band was playing, and people were clapping, and something strange happened.  I heard mariachi music that was the best music I’d heard!  It was so good I turned in my seat several times to see who was singing!  They were great!  The harmonies blended perfectly.  The voices were perfectly matched.  The lead singer was professional quality and could hold a note unwavering and in tune for as long as the song required.  If they’d had CDs available, I’d have bought one right then.  I was way more than impressed.

When our meals arrived, the carne asada burrito was huge.  It was a giant flour tortilla stuffed with grilled beef and nothing else.  I prefer a burrito that has beans and cheese as a base, and meats thrown in if I feel like it.  This isn’t the way Partner/Spouse likes them.  So for him, the burrito was perfect; a great big old meat sandwich that he could spoon pico de gallo onto. My salad was a perfect delight.  Layered with beans, meat, lettuce, tomato, cheese and topped with scoops of sour cream, guacamole, and fresh pico de gallo.  I managed to finish half of it but I wanted to continue.

I was familiar with everything on the menu except one item, Calabacitas.  Never afraid to ask, the waitress explained that it was a squash like zucchini that they deep fry with a corn meal batter.  I didn’t try it, but I am going to have some next time we go.  And we are going again.  The band stopped playing just before we finished.  I was kind of sorry to see them go.  They were so good.  When I told my sister about them later, she told me that our town holds a world championship mariachi contest every year and even the high school bands are wonderful.  Rigo’s has one item on the menu that I’m going to have to try just from the description.  It’s called Shrimp Fantasia.  It consists of six jumbo shrimps wrapped in bacon and grilled till done.  Can’t wait!

Enjoy!

Post # 213 Epic Bad Idea

January 24, 2014 at 11:45 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 213 Epic Bad Idea

Once in a while, as I wander through the interwebz, I come across things that are truly bad ideas.  I once posted some Spam recipes here that were awe-inspiring in their scope of bad idea-dom.  Well, today I ran across an old magazine ad that I had to share in that spirit.tumblr_mvew5crzXz1rd8p0ro1_500

This one is so bad, it makes my mind shy away from it.  And the fact that it’s being served in an elegant and classy soup tureen just makes it more so.  It’s basically a melted American cheese and hot dog soup.  With a few sautéed vegetables thrown in.  Truly bad.  The mind reels.

Hungry anyone?

Using condensed soup as a base for other soups or casseroles is not inherently bad, and I’ll share a really good one in a moment.  Some of the more popular soups are cream of mushroom, cream of celery, cream of broccoli, etc.  My mom once made a spaghetti sauce following instructions from a friend that used cans of cream of tomato, cream of mushroom, and a bunch of herbs.  Didn’t really taste all that good, but it did make a kind of spaghetti sauce.

Years later, that recipe had bubbled away in the realms of my subconscious, and I came up with a fast and quick Italian recipe that I use occasionally when I’m short on time.

Start a large of water to boiling for fettuccine.   I like to use a thicker pasta for this.  While that’s getting itself ready, empty 2 cans of cream of chicken soup and one can of cream of celery soup into a medium sauce pan.  Add a half-cup of water and one tablespoon of Italian spice mix and mix thoroughly.  Heat to boiling and let simmer until pasta is ready.  When pasta is done, drain but do not rinse.  Put pasta in a bowl, and put hot soup over the pasta.  Toss to coat, and sprinkle with parmesan.  Serve hot.

Easy peasy.  Tasty, filling, cheap, and quick.  Couldn’t ask for much more.

Enjoy!

Post # 212 It’s Turkey Taco Time!

January 22, 2014 at 10:02 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

{sung to the tune of Tarara Boomdeay}

It’s Turkey Taco Time!  It’s Turkey Taco Time!  It’s Turkey Taco Time!  It’s Turkey Taco Time!

Okay, so I’m no song writer.  Whaddaya want for free?

We had turkey tacos tonight and boy were they good!  I had three large strips of turkey breast that I marinated in pineapple juice, olive oil, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, and lime juice.  I left it in the marinade for two hours, then grilled them on a hot grill until it was cooked completely through and had great char marks on the outside.  While it was cooking and resting, I made saffron rice (from a kit; c’mon, few of us have saffron in the pantry) and prepped the rest of the filling for the tacos.  I had a bowl of grated cheddar cheese, chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, fresh salsa, and fresh pico de gallo.  When it had cooled enough to handle, I chopped the turkey into small pieces.  I heated flour tortillas on an iron skillet, set out plates, and called everyone to dinner.

I made three tacos, with turkey, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and pico de gallo.  A bowl of rice on the side.

Partner/Spouse made three burritos with rice, turkey, salsa, and pico de gallo.

FiL made a taco salad with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, turkey, pico de gallo, salsa, and raspberry vinaigrette.  Rice on the side.

Same ingredients, three different meals.  Totally cool.  I’m stuffed.

Later, gators!

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