Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ear Worm Wednesday! Sunshine on a Stick!

I spontaneously bust out this one and the cheese one pretty often. Pootie hates it.

I loved Timer. I don't care if the guys who came up with him were on drugs and he looks like a little fatty tumor with legs.

I tried to do this once when I was a kid. My plastic wrap didn't behave the way Timer's did. It wouldn't stick to the plastic ice cube tray, and when I tried to "carefully poke the toothpicks through the plastic", it just mooshed the plastic down in the juice. And our freezer wasn't empty, so some of it sloshed out trying to cram it in there. So much for the mess being a minimum.

Dad bought me a popsicle mold, though, so it was all good. (And we used Kool-Aid.)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pam Anderson's Tamale Pie and (kind of) a Cookbook Review

Pam Anderson and her girls, Maggy and Sharon, are some of the nicest people I've ever not met. They are friendly, open, and run a rocking web site at Check it out. My feelings won't be hurt if you don't come back here. I don't blame you.

Pam's latest cookbook, Perfect One-Dish Dinners: All you Need for Easy Get-Togethers, came out recently, and I snagged a copy immediately. She has said that as she's gotten older, she finds herself leaning toward simpler, lower-fuss fare for company - exactly the direction I'm leaning. I've been hosting dinners at 305 (and our previous domociles) for 20 years now, and I guess I'm old and tired. I no longer get as big a kick out of spending an entire day preparing a multi-course, intimidating Wonder Meal. I'd much rather prepare something less time-consuming and get on with other things. Like my blog, or practicing Radiohead songs on my ukulele. For that, this book is perfect.

Also, now that we're entering the kayak camping season, (please, let it cool off soon), we need some new one-dish meals that we can make ahead, vacuum seal and freeze solid for reheating at the campsite. Again, for that, this book is perfect.

And, here's our weather today.
over 9 inches of rain by 6:00 PM

And for that, this book is perfect.

Look how warm and inviting!

I've already made the Coq au Vin Blanc, and it was wonderful. That one is definitely going in our kayak camping arsenal.

Pam thoughtfully provides easy appetizers, salads, and dessert recipes to accompany each main dish, as well as easier suggestions for all if you really want to strip it down to basics. I haven't seen a clunker in the lot. Not that I'd expect to, of course. She's a professional. And an excellent one, at that.

Tonight, given the weather, I thought I'd give the Tamale Pie a whirl.

It has simple ingredients, most of which I have around here in some form. I got started putting it together about 5:30. I'm not posting the recipe here, because I think you should go buy this book. Unless you are someone I purchase Christmas gifts for, in which case, you should have stopped reading a couple of sentences ago.

On a side note, I opened my utensil drawer and look what I found? Guess who put the dishes away last time?


In his defense, he came in and turned the handles round for me. That's my sweet Pootie!
I made a couple of modifications based on what I had and my own predilections. I don't think Pam would care. I didn't have canned olives - we had the ginormous tub of Kalamata olives from Costco, so I used those. And Pam suggests if you want onions on this, to chop them and put them on top raw. Uh... no. I just can't do it. So I sauteed them. Once everything for the tamale pie was mixed together - ground turkey, olives, green chilies, salsa, onion, and pinto beans, I mixed up the cornmeal mush.

It starts out like this...

And rapidly changes to this.
Then it's a matter of putting the whole thing together and topping it with cheddar cheese. I used lowfat. No, of course it's not as good as regular.

I finished about 5:45. And I'd done a load of laundry and fed Dinky while the turkey was browning. This beauty goes in the oven and comes out like this:

Although Pam's looks better, of course.

I served ours over lettuce, for a kind of taco salad-ish effect, because I didn't feel like making a separate one. No, it was not gross. It was good. Don't be rude.

Definitely add this cookbook to your shopping list, wish list, Christmas list, whatever - get it. All of the meals in here are company-worthy, and you'll spend less time in the kitchen and more with your company. Or writing your blog. Or playing your Ukulele.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mustard Maple Glazed Hens, Cocktails and Old Neighbors

This is an old bad picture, taken with my point and shoot. Not that it would have been better with the new camera...

Heather and Walt used to live next door to us. Then they had babies and moved. We like to think it had to do with wanting cul de sacs and such and not that they were afraid of the influence we would have on their offspring. They come over and eat dinner every once in a while to keep from hurting our feelings. They're nice like that.

I'm pretending it's fall outside, so despite the fact that it's still stinkin' hot, I decided on a fall-like menu.

Cocktails: The Parker

Maple-Mustard Glazed Hens
Roasted Sweet and Russet Potatoes
Asparagus with Ginger

We had the whole 60s vibe going, with some Sinatra playing, a fancy cocktail, company for dinner, and me in pearls and a pair of pumps and a pretty dress. Well, OK, so I was wearing flip flops and a Captain Caveman t-shirt. I can't really pull off "elegance". Not on my person, anyway. Food and accompaniments, I can handle.

Suggested Musical Accompaniment
This was a weeknight, and I do have a day-job that doesn't involve Sinatra and cocktails, so I picked a menu that was quick and easy. Prep start time 5:00. The chicken is one of my favorites for fall, the potatoes and asparagus were prepped lickety split, and I was out of the kitchen playing Freecell and reading The Bloggess and Hyperbole and a Half putting on my pearls and some lipstick and doing some last-minute house spiffying by 5:31.

The chicken marinates in a mixture of mustard, maple syrup and some spices. Then I just put them on a foil and parchment lined roasting pan and they sat and waited for the grill to heat up.

I didn't get a picture of them cooked. They look like this, only browner.
You can take the marinade and boil it down and turn it into a very nice sauce. Which I did. The potatoes were just one large sweet potato and one large russet potato, chopped into large chunks, tossed in olive oil and salt and pepper, and roasted at 400F for about 35 minutes. The asparagus I simply steamed, then topped with sauteed minced garlic, ginger and some soy sauce.   The Parker is the cocktail I chose for the evening. It's summery enough to handle the actual weather we're having, rather than the pretend weather I created for dinner. It's a close approximation of a cocktail we had in New York City years ago when we were visiting with my in-laws. We stayed at the Algonquin and had drinks in the downstairs bar a couple of times. What a cool place.

A long time ago in a bar far, far away...
The Parker was named after Dorothy Parker, and near as we can figure it, it's 1 part vodka, 1/2 part chambord and the juice of half a lemon. It's close enough. Pootie is actually drinking one of the Algonquin's daquaris in that picture. This is The Parker.

This is Pootie playing Cafeteria Worker in the Algonquin hotel room with the shower cap.

We don't get out of the house much.

Anyway, I had a Parker ready for Heather to try out when they arrived. She liked it. Walt stuck with beer.

The hens went on a 400F grill for about 40 minutes and they were ready. Roasting things, in my book, is the way to go for a fast, low-fuss dinner. And judging by the plates when dinner was over, everything was received well. Yep, ply them with enough booze and food, and people will come see you!

Hey. It works for me.

Here's the .pdf of the chicken, if you'd like to try it.

Cheers, y'all!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ear Worm Wednesday!

One of my favorite ways to annoy Pootie is to spontaneously break into a commercial jingle from the 70s (or early 80s). He REALLY hates that. And I think he's secretly ashamed of my encylcopedic  knowledge of something so utterly useless. But I don't think of anything with THAT kind of POWER to ANNOY as useless! Even as I type this, Pootie is saying "Do I need to call the 70s Jingle Police and have them come and arrest you???"


So in the interest of nostalgia, (because I'll eat my hat if anyone under the age of 30 is reading this blog - and I'm being age-generous), I give you Ear Worm Wednesday! Where I will share the food jingles of the 70s and 80s until I run out. Which is going to be a long, long, time. So strap yourselves in, you fellow teetery geezers, and let's relive some of the awesomeness. (I'm going to point out here that Valley Girl was an 80s movie and totally had the rad vernacular that has carried over into my 14 year-old nephew's generation. To the max! Whether he believes me or not, his friends did not invent 'gnarly' OR 'dude'.)

Hungry Jack Biscuits

We DID eat us some Hungry Jack Biscuits when I was growing up. Dad would make homemade ones that were delicious - they tasted different just about every time - but we also had the canned variety, and sometimes they were Hungry Jack. I liked them! And that carried over into my 20s, when I was married and poor and thin and could eat whatever I wanted without visible ramifications. (I said visible. I know they weren't good for me. And I said I was poor.) We'd have sausage biscuits for dinner once every couple of months. MAN they were good.

Anyway, we have a friend named Jack. And sometimes when he and Beth come over for dinner, I ask him if he's hungry. And then, I sing.

Heh, heh, heh.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Salad with Honey-Chipotle Chicken and Sweet Potatoes

This is a good "transition" meal for the end of summer (please, lord, soon). It's a salad, but has enough fall flavor to satisfy my totally-sick-of-basil-and-tomato palate. It's a little involved, but then, I find that to be true of most salads. Lots of chopping and prepping separate ingredients. No matter, though. It was good and hearty and perfect for the temperature (still in the stinkin' 80s).

First, dice (large) a peeled sweet potato, dump them in a bowl, drizzle them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and add about 3 chopped chipotle chiles.

This is what I use for chipotle chiles.

I used my fingers to mush up the chilis, and I got it all over the label. The can didn't come like this. My friend Ben and I wish they'd sell the Adobo sauce separately. That's good stuff even without the chilis.

Toss that all around with the potatoes until they're well coated, then put them on a parchment-lined roasting pan.

Stick those in the oven at 400F for about 30 - 35 minutes.

While the potatoes are roasting, turn on the grill to high (two burners) to heat. (You can use the oven if you'd rather - same temperature as the potatoes.) Place four chicken thighs on a foil and parchment lined pan. Salt and pepper the chicken thighs, then brush with honey and top with some chopped chipotle peppers. I used bone-in thighs with skin because that's what I had, but I'd have preferred boneless skinless thighs.

Stick the pan on the grill, or put it in the oven with the potatoes. Bone-in are going to take a little longer - about 40- 45 minutes. Boneless will be about 30 - 35.

While the chicken and potatoes are cooking, chop a small yellow onion. Sautee it in a little olive oil until it's translucent, then add 1 cup of corn and 1 sliced red jalapeno.

Simmer that until the corn is done. I used frozen, so about 10 minutes.

At this point, you can shred some lettuce and add other vegetables. I chopped some heart of palm and some cilantro. I would definitely have added avocado if we'd had any, so I'm including that in the printable recipe below.

Shred the chicken, and assemble the salad. I dressed ours with buttermilk dressing to cut some of the heat from the chipotle and the jalapeno.

It was still pretty hot, but good. Here's the .pdf version for printing.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Kitchen Conversations: My Utensil Drawer

Pootie and I were emptying the dishwasher the other day.

Me: Listen, I know this is going to make me sound really picky...

Pootie: What?

Me: Well, you know, I'm left-handed. And I have to make all kinds of accomodations for living in a right-handed world...

Pootie: Yes. So is President Obama. You should ask him how he adapts.

Me: Is he? I didn't know that. Or if I did, I didn't remember.

Pootie: Yes. He is. Hey, you know what the First Family wears to bed?

Me: What?

Pootie: Obama-jamas!

Me: That's really terrible. Don't go on the road with that one.

Pootie: heh heh heh

Me: Back to my utensil drawer.

Pootie: What?

Me: My utensil drawer.

Pootie: How old IS that wooden spoon?

Me: I got it when we got married, so 20 years. It's my favorite.

Pootie: I can tell. There's not much left of it. Looks like you've put it in the blender.

Me: I did once. Back to my utensil drawer. I know this is going to make me sound really picky, but I'm left-handed. And I'm pretty much the main cook here in the kitchen. This drawer is right next to the stove, and when I open it, I grab stuff out of it with my LEFT HAND. It would be really nice if I didn't have to grab it, then turn it around and fiddle with it. Would you mind just putting things in this drawer  with the handles pointing to the left?

Pootie: Yeah, you're right.

Me: Thank you, that will make my life easier.

Pootie: No, you're right. That does make you sound really picky.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Chicken Pootie-nesca

While we were on vacation, we ate at a really good Italian place in Bryson City - Pasqualino's. Pootie loved it. He ordered Chicken Puttanesca and spent the rest of the evening (and a couple of days after that) talking about eating "chicken for hors".(that's how we spell it around 305 - long story). He begged me to make it for him once we got back, so I threw together a reasonable facsimile the other night and he was happy. It took very little time, and I had everything we needed in the pantry, so this is a good last-minute dinner.

I started off by taking out my hostilities on a couple of boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

I like them better pounded flat. They're more tender that way.

Then I salted and peppered them and pan-seared them in a little olive oil.

While the chicken is cooking, get out your anchovies

Trust me. You won't even know they're there. But you WILL know if they're not.

Drain them and chop up the whole tin.

Sautee one onion, diced, then add about 1/2 cup of chopped olives, a can of tomato sauce, 1/4 cup of capers, the chopped anchovies, and a couple of cloves of garlic, minced. Add a generous pinch of red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Add about 1/4 tsp. of baking soda. That takes the edge off the tomato sauce and makes it nice and mellow.

While that's simmering, boil some pasta - I used fettuccine, because it's what I had. And hey, here's a note about pasta. Salt the water, please. A good amount. Not just a token pinch to humor me. It really gives the pasta great flavor. I use probably 4 Tbs. of kosher salt in my big stockpot. If you're using whole grain or whole wheat pasta, use about half that much salt. It seems to suck more in.

Put the chicken into the sauce to warm it. When the pasta is done, drain it and serve topped with the chicken and sauce.

Here's a .pdf version, but you probably don't even need a recipe. It's one of those throw-together dishes that takes about half an hour.

Even hors deserve to eat well.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Food Books

I come from a family of readers. Voracious ones. My mom always, always, always has a book she’s reading. Dad pretty much does, too.

My dad and mom. Hey!

Ditto my husband.

Read, read, read. Always reading.

I also love to read, but my tastes lean toward non-fiction. (Faulkner, Orson Scott Card and JK Rowling aside.) My Pootie is a history man. Got his MA in Nautical History. He teaches history at the local community college. He lives and breathes nautical history and WWII history. It, shall we say, permeates our household like that comforting, musty, library odor. I love, love, love, colonial history (US, I mean) and biographies from that time period. But what I love the most?

Food History.

Now all three of you lovely readers are sitting there and saying “Good lord, no WONDER they have to pay people to be their friends!” It’s true. I’d say our cocktail conversation isn’t scintillating. I have no idea who Justin Beiber is, I don’t know anything about the Jersey Shore Housewives or whoever they are, and I’ve never read anything by Dean Koontz. I’m sorry. This is my current reading pile:

I’ve read Food in History before – I’m on my second go-through right now. My sweet Steamboat Poppy had a little chew on it. He had a thing about books that smelled like our hands. Caused us some frustration to be sure. Now I just look at it and sigh.

But let’s cut to the chase! If you’re still with me, you’re saying “Oh, Andie! What have you read!? What should I read??”

Here’s my own personal list of Food Books I’ve read and my take on them, plus a couple I’ve got waiting in the wings. Not all are history, but most are. If you have any you’d recommend, I would love to give Amazon even more of my money, so leave a comment!

Food in History by Rea Tannehill
I’ve read this twice and use it as a frequent reference manual. She starts before recorded history and goes on up to present day. This is an excellent overview of food and its importance to civilization as well as how different foods regionalized over history.

A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage
I loved this! Beer, wine, booze, coffee, tea and Coke and how they shaped the world.

An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage
Another one I stick with Food in History. Very good overview and well-written. I love Tom Standage.

The United States of Arugula by David Kamp
A recent history of how we went from a nation of culinary rubes (more or less) to a food-obsessed country in a couple or three generations. Loved this one too.

A History of Cooks and Cooking by Michael Symons
Honestly, I haven’t finished this one. I don’t care for his writing style. It’s cluttered with footnotes and is a clunky read. It seems more like a collection of quotes than a narrative. I’ll probably come back to it at some point, but right now it’s been tossed aside.

The Food of a Younger Land by Mark Kurlansky
Love, love, love Kurlasnky. He is such an engaging writer. This a sampling of writings from The Federal Writer’s project started by FDR as part of the WPA.

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky
Love, love, love Kurlansky, and love, love, love salt. This one mineral has played a huge role in world history. This book was fascinating.

The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman
I honestly only toyed with becoming a chef once, very long ago, and quickly abandoned that thought when I found out how hard I’d have to work. I’m lazy. And this book reinforced for me that I made the right decision. But getting inside the Culinary Institute of America was fun.

The Soul of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman
The saga continues. Ruhlman is a compelling writer. I enjoyed this read.

The Reach of Chef by Michael Ruhlman
It rounded out the set well.

Ratio by Michael Ruhlman
More a reference than a sit-down-and read, this gives common formulas for things like pie crust.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
An oldie but a goodie. I know enough chefs and I’ve read enough to know that this isn’t how all restaurants work, but it was a scandalous good time!

My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'Homme
Oh, how I love Julia Child, and this book reads like she’s sitting there just talking about her time in France. Don’t get me started on the movie. I wish they’d made the whole thing about her and left Julie Powell out of it. She just comes across as a narcissist. (Powell, not Child.)

Life Is Meals by James and Kay Salter
This is just a little book of days – a collection of anecdotes, a smattering of recipes, etc. It’s a nice bedside book. Some of it is a little pretentious, some a little too precious, but overall it’s nice.

Ones I have, but haven’t got to yet:
How to Cook a Wolf by MFK Fisher

The Art of Eating by MFK Fisher

Catching Fire by Michael Symons

Sweetness and Power by Sidney W.Mintz

The Elements of Cooking by Michael Ruhlman

So what are yours? Any I’m missing that I have to read?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Beach Picnic and just a plain old pasta salad

We live at the beach.

Not on the beach, mind you. We live in town. Sandwiched between the Cape Fear River

And Wrightsville Beach

Here's the thing. Sometimes we forget we live at the beach.

I know, right?

But after a while, we look up and say "Hey, it's September, and we've been to the beach twice since May. Or was it once?"

Then we say, "How about a beach picnic?"

So I put together something disgracefully simple. Like a chicken pasta salad.

I'll scrounge the last of the basil from the garden and chop it.

Chop some shallots

Saute them, of course.

Grill some chicken

Chop up some olives

And some other stuff, like cucumbers and maybe some cherry tomatoes or whatever is around

Mix up a little mediterranean dressing and throw the whole lot together with some cooked pasta and some feta cheese.

Then pack it up and get in the car and drive fifteen whole minutes.

And set up our chairs and get some sand on our feet

And watch the ocean

And eat dinner there. Where it's more about the view than the food. Because good lord, we live at the beach!

Sometimes we just forget.