Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Time to hit the bars...

It's been an odd year so far for weather....I don't think we had extremes in winter, nor in spring this year in the Pacific NW, except for the length.....spring bit into summer for close to a full month, so we really didn't see much sun until July. That meant that stuff that was supposed to grow died from drowning, or grew so pitifully that it never caught up...the Oregonian Food Day did a big article on how to use your green tomatoes, and I bet it really pissed off those who picked em all right before we got this freakin indian summer! It is what it is, but it's definitely turning to fall. Nights are cooling off, leaves are falling, and it's almost October...what a gyp.

Summer is my favorite season, I just like the sunshine and blue skies against the backdrop of green trees - how can you NOT like that? I think I get seasonal affective disorder too...that would explain the bitchy during the darker months, but you'll have to think of another reason for the summer ones, haha. But there are things I like about fall too, don't get me wrong. Where I work there are tons of little tiny maple trees, with little tiny leaves, and they are amazing shades of yellow, orange, red and brown that just don't quit...this morning I walked through them all damp with dew, and on my way out tonight I got to crunch them 'cause they dried out and curled up and they sounded like potato chips. I didn't even mind that they were all over my car...I just drove really fast to blow them all off.

I also like fall food - no one really wants to cook or bake in a hot kitchen (as Denice knows oh too well), so we do a lot of bbq, grilling and even sandwiches to avoid getting all hot and bothered. But soon it will cool off, and I for one love to hang out in a warm kitchen that smells yummy - fall is full of flavors and spices that totally turn me and turkey and pot roast, oh my! Stuffing and cookies and chicken pot pie! Yes, these are a few of my favorite things, and one of the best, and something I always crack out for both my and my sweetie's co-workers are the smash hit Pumpkin Bars. They will not be ignored, Dan; people on diets will curse me with pumpkin scented breath, diabetics will shake ever so slightly while their blood sugar spikes as they lick the frosting off their fingers, vegans will break their own hippie code and deny the egg that lies can't say no to a pumpkin bar, it's just not possible. So enjoy this FREAKIN EASY recipe, and be prepared to be offered indecent proposals from all who draw near - they are definitely a Top Ten favorite of my loyal "taste testers"!

Pumpkin Bars (such an unassuming name for manna from the heavens)

1 C. vegetable oil (YES, I DID SAY ONE CUP)
4 eggs
2 C. sugar
2 C. pumpkin (from a can unless you're Martha Stewart or Amish)
2 C. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (yes, it does need more than cinnamon)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350; grease a 15x10 jelly roll pan (those big cookie sheets from Costco). Cream together oil, eggs and sugar, add pumpkin and mix well. Add dry ingredients and vanilla and beat until smooth. Pour into prepared pan and bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean or center springs back when pressed lightly. You can't screw it up, it's never happened in the history of the universe. Let cool completely.

Cream Cheese Icing

6 oz. cream cheese, softened
5 T. butter, soft
3 to 3-3/4 C. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 T. milk, or as needed

Beat cream cheese and butter together, add 3 C. of powdered sugar and vanilla and beat well. If it needs to be thicker, add up to 3/4 C. more sugar, and if you need to thin it down at all add a little milk.

Spread icing over entire uncut pan, then cut into bars or squares of your choosing and size. I like to cut around the edges first and pull all those ones out of the pan - it gives you more room to cut the center and all those edge scraps that are useless to anyone....except, perhaps your dog (wink, wink). I usually decorate them with a candy corn on each one - not everyone likes them, but it's fun to have candy corn spitting contests and it keeps the plastic wrap from ripping all the frosting off when you get them to work. Like anyone cares...there are people I work with who would clothesline their gramma to lick off my saran wrap.

Enjoy my ridiculously simple yet drop dead moist, spicy and creamy fall offering, and do not bitch if your pants don't fit for a couple days - no one told you to eat seven of them, you piglet.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Wrapped in memories...with mustard

Food memories can be so deceptive - especially when they are from childhood. School lunches, for instance. When your family is poor, and I mean poor back when that didn't entitle you to a free hot lunch, cafeteria lunches were like dining at a 4 star restaurant. The snooty waiter was represented by an old lady (I realize now that "old" was probably 30 something) in a hair net, uniform and white shoes, the fine china by an indestructible tray most likely made of bakelite, and a cozy table with candles and flowers by a cafeteria table with attached benches that folded out from the wall. The atmosphere was further enhanced by a giant gray garbage can at the end of each table, where you were instructed to scrape the remains of your meal before bussing your own tray - classy.

I doubt I had more than a handful of hot lunches in my elementary career, but they were memorable....there is nothing that haunts me quite as much as the memory of a wiener wrap, still hot and with a stripe of mustard on the INSIDE of that big square wrapper of bread - it was my FAVORITE. Pizza was good, anytime they had mashed potatoes and gravy, and the chicken days....apparently back in my day, the school lunch program was, shall we say, creative in the kind of food they could serve to small children.

Chicken day was my lucky day - I was and still am a huge fan of chicken skin. I know it's gross, but I love it - I think the day is gone that I could find a niche for deep fried chips made with it, but I can still dream, can't I? The most memorable part of it was that they served probably every other child a chicken back...yes, the back. The piece of chicken that has virtually no meat on it, included the big fatty tail, and a generous helping of skin. The kids who ate a hot lunch every day shunned it, would never DREAM of eating something with a tail attached, so I usually got a couple extra - occasionally including a "GRRROOOOOSSSSS...she's EATING it!!!" - to each her own, I say.

I've never tried to duplicate the wiener wrap of my childhood, I know I would fail miserably. So I keep it tucked away as a yummy memory of a big puffy roll with what was probably a good old fashioned "snouts and tail" hot dog nestled within, and most likely the high point of the day it was eaten. Food can be like that - things you eat when you were a kid are attached to other memories, and they just aren't the same when you're an adult. Case in point? Scooter pies. Nirvana as a kid.....nothing but a soggy cookie, nasty marshmallow and waxy fake chocolate on the outside as an adult. You can't go back....I've tried.

But you can move forward, and I have coveted a white veggie lasagna that a caterer makes at my work from time to time, but I have asked her for recipes before and she will not share (and which is why she doesn't get any of my cookies), so I made my own. It's uber cheesy, was faster and easier than traditional lasagna to make, and there's no meat in could put chicken in it if you want, but it doesn't need it a bit - had it for dinner with a beautiful salad and a sourdough baguette hot from the oven - it was perfect! And don't be afraid, lasagna is not hard to make - it just takes a little longer than ripping the top off a frozen box of Stouffers and tossing it in the microwave. Trust me, your tummy will thank you!

White Cheesy Veggie Lasagna

1 lb. lasagna noodles
1 lb. shredded mozzarella
1-1/4 C. shredded Parmesan

Cheese filling:
1 C. Ricotta
1 C. Cottage cheese
(use any combo of these 2, I prefer this because it's not too sloppy, not too grainy)
2 eggs
Pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper

2 celery ribs, cut in half lengthwise and sliced thinly
1 large carrot, cut in quarters and sliced 1/4"
1 small onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
6 mushrooms, cut in half and sliced 1/4" thick
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
2 C. chicken broth (use veg broth if you are vegetarian)
3/4 C. whipping cream
3/4 C. milk
1/2 C. shredded Parmesan
1 large head of broccoli, cut in small florets and small chunks of stem
TIP: Use whatever kinds of veggies you want - just keep em small and cook them "al dente" as they will continue to cook in the oven

Start a pot of water to boil with a couple generous spoonfuls of salt. While that is heating, melt butter in LARGE skillet, put in celery, carrot, onion, garlic, and cook over medium heat for a few minutes; add mushrooms and continue to saute until onion and celery are tender. Add flour and stir in until all is absorbed, brown just a little for depth of flavor. Add chicken broth and whisk until flour is broken down and it starts to thicken, then add the cream and milk and continue whisking until mixture thickens and boils. Let boil for one minute, then add Parmesan and stir to melt/combine and remove from heat - you should have a nice thick sauce.

When your water comes to a boil, put the lasagna noodles in, two at a time and stir until they soften and are completely submerged - do this until it's all in the pot, then set the timer for 9 minutes (or whatever the box says for "al dente"). Keep will try to stick to each other and the pot if it sits, and will tear if you try to peel it off. When it's time, pour off about a quart of water into a medium saucepan, then dump the rest w/pasta into a strainer and immediately rinse with cold water. I put the pan in the sink and fill it with cold water and dump the pasta back in...let it sit while you finish the sauce.

Put the saucepan with the hot water on the burner, then dump the broccoli in it and boil for 2 minutes. Strain and immediately dump into the sauce, stirring until incorporated. Get a cookie sheet and take the pasta out of the cold water, laying out all the pieces and stacking in the opposite direction so they don't stick together as bad as they dry. Keep all the pieces if any have broken or torn - they can be used if need be.

Mix the ricotta, cottage cheese, eggs, Parmesan and seasonings with a will be kinda soupy, but no worries...the magical eggs will firm it up when it bakes.

Preheat oven to 375, spray a 9x13 pan and put about 3/4 C. of the sauce in the bottom. I picked out all the big chunks of veggies...wanted them on the inside of the layers, but whatever. Put one layer of 3 or 4 noodles in the bottom, cutting the ends off as needed so they are flush with the sides of the pan and overlapping if needed. I did 4 layers of noodles....just do the math to make sure you have enough. TIP: Use the best noodles on the top and bottom - gives you a good base and a pretty top - you can patch the in-between layers if you end up with partial pieces. On the first layer, put 1/3 of the cheese/egg mixture, just drizzle it over and use a fork if you need to spread it out a little. To that add 1/4 of the sauce w/veggies, then 1/4 mozzarella and 1/4 Parmesan. Do it 2 more times: noodles, cheese/egg, sauce, mozzarella, Parmesan, then put the last layer of noodles on top. TIP: when you put a new layer of noodles down, press gently all over to distribute the filling evenly and eliminate air pockets and so it will not end up being above the rim of the pan) Put the rest of the sauce, remaining mozzarella and last of the cheese on top and you're READY tooooo RUUUUUMMMMble!

Tear off a piece of foil and spray the non-shiny side, cover lasagna and put in the center of the oven and bake about 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue to cook another want the cheese melted and a little browning on top. Remove from oven and let stand on a cooling rack for at least 20 minutes before cutting - it needs time to cool and set-up or it will be too sloppy to get out of the pan without falling apart. TIP: You can make it ahead and put in the fridge - it just takes a little longer to bake through. I made it, then the next day covered it with foil and reheated on 375 for about an hour right out of the was FABulous!

OK, I admit....I am pretty sure this was better than the wiener wrap, but back then if you'd put this AND that in front of me, I would've gone for the wiener HANDS DOWN. It's just who I am.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Poulet: Round Deux

I was in a hurry this morning. A big FAT hurry. I stayed up too late, then everytime the alarm went off I slapped the snooze bar and went back to sleep like the dead for 9 minutes. 5 times. Doh. Finally got up, fixed my hair, got my clothes..dammit. Big stain that went unnoticed on my top, had to go find another one. Socks? SOCKS? How is it possible I can't find socks when the last time I bought some I got a dozen pair? That with what I had before should have resulted in socks coming out of my arse, but no....finally found #2 in the bottom of the basket and completed my look that will never appear in Vogue - not even as a "before" picture.

Instead of leisurely enjoying my husband-made veggie sausage and english muffin with coffee, I wolfed it down and commenced to making my lunch so I could fly out the door and be late for work anyway - my speedometer goes up to 160 I think, but I've already been enlightened by my spouse that a ticket for going over 100 mph is 2 grand, and I think they take away your license for a while. And I love my car. No, trying to eat better takes longer than heading to the car with nothing but my purse and the fall back of at least 20 restaurant/fast food joints that I am sick of within 2 miles of my work - leftovers from the night before make it painless, but when there's nothing left over you gotta work at it. But I had chicken...remember the Costco chicken? That and some of the other things I bought culminated in a beautiful and healthy lunch - and saved me 7 bucks and another stained shirt in the process! Yay Costco....

Meal #3

Garden Chicken Sandwich

2-3 oz. roasted chicken breast, sliced
1 slice Tillamook swiss cheese, cut in half
1 small carrot, shredded
1 mushroom, thinly sliced
1 small handful baby spinach
2 thin slices multi-grain artisan bread
Artichoke-Pesto spread (see below)

Spread a tablespoon or so of artichoke pesto spread on each slice of bread, layer chicken, cheese, carrot and spinach on one piece and put the other on top. Cut in half. Eat, perhaps with a nice apple and copious amounts of water - I'm telling you, spinach and water is a colon's best friend - BOOYAH!

Artichoke-Pesto spread

1/2 C. mayonnaise
3 T. pesto
1/2 C. artichoke tapenade (they used to have it at Costco, I found it at Grocery Outlet - if you can't find it, you could use marinated or plain artichoke hearts and just chop them coarsely)

Mix together and keep refrigerated. This stuff is perilously close to artichoke dip, but with a basil kick from the pesto - I think you could easily use it for a veggie dip, or with crackers, or perhaps to use as mortar with french bread slices to build an igloo that you could then eat your way out of. But that would be wrong. So if you do anyway, say an Act of Contrition and get thyself to a confessional as soon as you can move again.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Chicken Roulette

Tonight I went to Costco after work, mostly to pick up a few items I need to add fiber to my diet (don't ask), but also to grab something quick for dinner. I was a machine - steeling myself to concentrate on the task at hand, striding purposefully past desserts that would put me in a sugar coma, meats and deli options that packed a butt-load (literally) of saturated fat, the chips, cookies and candies that were just empty calories screaming my name.

I was so proud of myself for walking away with only two somewhat regrettable choices - butter and prime sirloin steak. I don't think I can ever go without butter, I just need to learn how to use it for good vs. evil - a small amount to keep fish from sticking to the pan, to add color and flavor to a simple bechamel (white sauce or roux), to help emulsify pan juices from chicken, wine and vegetables into a silky sauce that will pack a punch when drizzled over garlic roasted mashed potatoes made with yogurt instead of sour cream. We will not mention cookies, pound cake or any kind of icing. But I am thinking about them. And you need a little red meat once in a while - I believe a small portion once a week should satisfy my inner carnivore and keep me from going completely pasty like my Polish foremothers.

So I ended up with 2 roasted chickens, 1 big tub of baby spinach, two loaves of multigrain artisan bread, a bag of whole wheat tortillas, a huge bag of baby red spuds, veggie sausage patties and a 6 pack of frozen OJ. My gut doctor shook his finger at me when I told him I had sausage for breakfast - I had to shake my head when he asked "Low fat? Vegetarian? Turkey?" - he's a nice guy, but a sausage nazi apparently. My daughter made me try veggie sausage and I found it surprisingly un-nauseating...I have a secret plan to make gravy with it, just can't yet decide what I'll be ladling it over that's whole grain and low fat.

So my evil plan begins....see how many interesting and delicious meals I can whip up with this bulk bounty...using as little fat, sugar and processed crap as possible. And this ain't gonna be that weirdo lady on Create who's head is a little too big, wears tons of makeup and dresses like a Tyra Banks reject, and that I suspect keeps her size minus 3 figure by talking to Ralph on the Big White Telephone. Nope, just good food that's a skosh better for you than the usual. Now I just hope our son doesn't figure out the combination to the fridge....

Meal #1:

My Big not-so-fat Greek wraps

1-1/2 chicken breasts, cut into slices or chunks (from roasted chicken)
2 -3 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 cucumber, peeled, quartered and sliced
1/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped coarsley (optional)
1 tomato (more if you like), cut in half and sliced thin
Baby Spinach....I dunno, a couple big handfuls or so?

1/2 C. Best Foods mayo (another thing I will just have to limit...)
3 T. pesto

4 Whole wheat tortillas

Mix mayo and pesto together; warm tortillas in microwave, about 15 seconds for one, 20 for two. Put a tablespoon or so of pesto mayo on tortilla, spread out but not too close to the edges. Put 1/4 of the chicken breast down the center of each tortilla, then 1/4 feta, cucumber, olives, tomato and then a heap of spinach on each. Roll tightly and secure with a toothpick. That's it - serve it with chips, or maybe some fruit or veggies....I won't judge.

Meal #2

Salad of the Greek Gods (I made one for me because I was kinda full after deconstructing the chickens...)

Fresh baby spinach, a couple handfuls (I like to use a pasta bowl)
1/2 roasted chicken breast, cut in chunks
2 T. crumbled feta cheese
Cucumber slices as above
Kalamata olives, chopped coarsely (optional)
Tomato slices or chunks

Pesto mayonnaise (as above)
1 T. buttermilk, or as much as you need to make your preferred dressing consistency

Assemble salad as listed, drizzle with dressing and serve with whole grain wheat bread with a LITTLE butter.

So yeah, it feels like a cheat - but anything that makes my colon happy will make me happy....and I think spinach might do the trick. Now let's see what I can come up with tomorrow - I have 10 lbs of baby reds that are all eyeballin' me....

Saturday, September 18, 2010

So was Underdog at the first Thanksgiving?

They said on the news this was the last weekend of summer, which is a prompt for Mother Nature to dump a record amount of rain in as short a period of time as possible in Oregon. Funny thing is, the temp hasn't gone down that much, so we have this nasty, sloppy, FAT rain all day long, but it's still hovering around 70 degrees. Sheesh, make up your mind - the best way to protect yourself is to dress in shorts or capris, slip a pair of rubbers (haha, GRAMMA rubbers!) over your flip flops and carry a golf umbrella. Sure you look stupid, but you won't be melting from the humidity and sweating through your Secret, right?

I wore a sweater to church tonight and thought I was going to pass out it was so warm...but I didn't want to take it off for fear my shirt would stick to it and I would end up with it stuck on my head with my black bra out there for everyone to see since we sit up front in "no one wants to get that close to God-ville" If they only knew I do it so I don't look at all the people in front of me and imagine what kinds of un-Christian things they've been up to...that and if they have a hairbrush or know that their shirt tags are hanging out for everyone to see they wear a size XL Old Navy 100% cotton machine wash cold tumble dry low iron as needed hoodie. Or that their cute little girl in the Hello Kitty dress picks her nose and wipes the boogers on the back of her brother's shirt.

But yeah, Thanksgiving is coming...maybe not next weekend, but soon, and to a family near you. So what do you want to hear about that? Hilarious stories of past Thanksgivings? Special dishes made with love that went oh-so-wrong? Maybe some family traditions so you can see that we are just a different kind of weird and that most people don't resemble the fakey Thanksgiving feasts they show you on TV and in movies? Or maybe you're a Jehovah's Witness and don't want to hear anything about it - I'm open to anything, just let me know! (OK, I lied...if you're a JW, I will make sure the Title is Thanksgiving-ey so you don't have to sin by accidentally reading it, but I'm still gonna write about it). Wait, I think that's just Christmas and Easter and birthdays...sorry if I am ignorant, but when you're raised by far, FAR right Catholics, you really aren't encouraged to research other religions, otherwise you might be tempted by churches with cushions on the pews and no kneelers, the absence of confessionals and a laid back attitude about making it to church EVERY Sunday (or whatever your holy day of the week is) without bursting into flame.

If you think back to my first post, it might give you a hint on one specialty - I am almost ALWAYS in charge of pies. And someone who shall remain nameless (Shannon), commented this week that some pie "fact" was from Marie Callendar, who knows EVERYTHING about pies....well my response to that is she might know everything about pies (NOT), but she sure didn't pass that along to those who make 'em for her. She sold her not very good pies are made by machines and put in boxes and sold in supermarket freezers, not in a cozy, warm and floury kitchen with a fancy wooden rolling pin with ball bearings from Williams Sonoma and the thump of bass from the stereo playing classic rock in the next room.

So let me know if there's anything you want to hear about - I have personally attended at least 49 Thanksgivings, and can dish a LOT of dirt....let the stuffing fly, and the pumpkin pie hit the fan!

Momma Moose

Friday, September 17, 2010

Food that makes you go MmmMMmmmMMmm...(slightly naughtier than usual)

I was looking over my blogs and thinking maybe I'm stretching you past your "wanna give a sh**" point with some of these recipes...I mean, just because the hot sizzle of meat in a smoking pan gives me a shiver, the seductive blast of homemade pumpkin pie essence hitting me in the face when I open the oven curls my hair/toes AND fogs up my specs, and the silky texture of a sweet, smooth and delicately flavored buttercream icing rolling around on my tongue makes me...ooooohhh...uh...wait, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, just because I get off on cooking doesn't mean everyone does, and sometimes you just want to order a pizza and eat it right out of the box. I understand, I really do.

While looking for another recipe, I noticed an addition to my savory album that I didn't really know much about until recently - sometimes I forget where I get my stuff from because I look at recipes EVERYWHERE. Cookbooks of course, online natch, magazines, newspapers, grocery store, TV, food containers...they're EVERYWHERE! So yeah, I decided for some unknown reason to make my own coney sauce. The real deal....I grew up eating chili dogs that were just a hot dog with canned chili on top w/cheese and onions. Chili with beans, which I found out later was a a real bowl of Texas Red, beans should be nowhere near a decent, dog-fearing weiner. And I heartily agree after having some of this on my dog....I almost died it was so good. Imagine the perfect hot dog, and the ultimate sloppy joe doing something totally inappropriate and you get the's a sloppy dog that you will wear on your shirt with PRIDE. Dang, now I'm hungry.

Coney Island Sauce

1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped fine
2 Tbsp. yellow mustard (save the foo-foo mustard for your MOM)
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. Worchestershire (NOT pho-ne-tic, it's pronounced "WHOOSH-sti-shure"you noobs)
1 tsp. garlic salt (if you don't have it, I'm sure you will figure out a substitute)
1/4 C. tomato sauce
1/4 C. ketchup, Heinz not the other crappy stuff...for cryin out loud yes it matters
Tabasco to taste - and I mean you should be able to taste something BESIDES Tabasco

Brown ground beef in large skillet with onion, use potato masher or back of a fork to smash it up really fine. When the onions are soft and translucent (that's semi-clear in case you really are a noob), drain the fat off. I like to tilt the pan and tear off paper towels willy-nilly, crumple slightly and put them in the pool of fat on the down side of the pan. Keep adding and mashing it down with the utensil until they are completely saturated and the fat is all gone, then toss in the trash (Makes a good fire in the burn barrel and teases the dogs to no end, win-win).

Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer 10-20 minutes, adjusting to your own taste if you really want to mess with perfection. Cook your dogs how you like, pop em in a bun and dress em or leave em nekkid, then COVER THEM WITH CONEY SAUCE and get it ON! You may not use a utensil to eat them, nor what falls off on your plate, face, shirt or small children or pets running around underfoot....this is a God-given delicacy and must be eaten au-naturel. Take that however you want, I ain't forkin' around. And don't send me your dry cleaning bill, I won't pay it - I highly recommend cruising your spouse/sibling/child's closet and borrowing a shirt right before dinner on this one.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Currying favor

Hmm, guess what's cookin' tonight? Yup, something I didn't even know I liked until my friend Tina introduced me to Thai food. I love Tina - she is all about food and has no bias against any kind except fish...she says she will not eat anything that swims in the ocean. Or any other kind of water. I tease her because she eats stuff with fish sauce in it, but that's because I'm mean...she so doesn't deserve that. Because she took me to my first Pho restaurant, and taught me how to say it so other Asian people don't hear me and rank me out in their native language saying things like "That stupid girl, she probably doesn't know the difference between Pad Thai and Pad ke mao" But I do - it's "Fu", just like the bad word without the ck. And pad ke mao has wider noodles and no yucky bean sprouts, so there.

One of our family favorites came to me in a 1/2 hour infomercial about PDX - they do a couple recipes from local restaurants, and that day it was Typhoon. I was intrigued...I had had Massaman Curry before, and it looked pretty simple to make - I went online and printed the recipe out. I've gotten tips and hints from lots of places, and will share my product picks with you...but don't worry too much about brands at first tho, just try it with what you can find - I started with lots of substitutions because I didn't have it all, and it was still delicious! And I will give you a heat indicator on a scale of 1-10....I am a wuss and can usually only take a 2 or 3, but this is one I will eat fire for - sooooo good!

Massaman Curry with Pork

1-2 lbs. pork, cut in 1" cubes (you can use chicken, just go with thighs)
1 T. oil
2-4 T. red curry paste (orange tub, Mae Ploy)
1 can coconut milk (Mae Ploy - it is the best)

5 T. tamarind/Nuoc me chua sauce (green label, blue lid - thick like ketchup)
1/3-1/2 C. fish sauce- SALTY! (Tina says use the kind with 3 crabs on the label)
1-2 cakes palm sugar (each one maybe 1/4 C. - they are cute little disks)
2 C. hot water (add more if it's too thick or too concentrated)

1 onion, cut in 1-2" chunks
3 carrots, peeled and cut in chunks
6 small or 3 medium red potatoes, washed & cut in chunks

Cooked jasmine rice
Roasted salted peanuts

Heat very large skillet or dutch oven, add oil and as much curry paste as you dare: on a scale of 1 being ketchup and 10 being hellfire:
1.5 Tbs=2
2 Tbs=4
3 Tbs.=8
4 Tbs=permanently scarred tastebuds and fireflies in your peripheral vision

Heat while mashing with wooden paddle or spoon until you start to cough violently, then turn on the fan and add the pork. Cook, stirring until it starts to brown, then add just the thick part of the coconut milk (if it is separate, otherwise dump half of it in) and scrape the bottom and let boil away for a few minutes. Add remaining coconut milk and rest of sauce ingredients, stir and keep cooking until the sugar has melted, then add the vegetables.

Turn heat down to a simmer and cook for about an hour uncovered, or until liquid has reduced by about half and the pork is tender. Serve this beautifully fragrant and spicy stew over a large scoop of jasmine rice, topping with a handful of peanuts, and don't forget to have a big pitcher of ice water on doesn't really help with the fire, but it'll at least replenish the fluid your body will be expelling in the form of sweat and tears....hopefully nothing else.

Oh, and I never measure rice anymore, Tina showed me how she does it and it always works: Put rice in your pot, fill with cold water and stir with your hand, tilt pan and pour out most of the water, then rinse again. Put pot on flat surface, add enough water to level the rice, then put your ring finger just on the top of the rice and fill with cold water until it reaches the first joint of that finger. It always cooks perfectly, no matter how big or small your hands are, or how much rice you're cooking...I SWEAR! Thanks Tina, now I never have to search for that stupid little rice cup that came with my steamer!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Do you trust me?

I am going to share something that will likely make a large percentage of you go "Ewwwwww", but if you like ANY kind of fish, including stick form, I'm certain you will LOVE this if you just give it a try (OK, not including canned tuna).

But first, a thank-you to God for a beautiful sight out my kitchen window this morning. While fetching my recipe binder (savory, not sweet) for this recipe (and ps, I don't use it when I make it I've done it so many times I go on auto-pilot), I glanced out the windows over my sink and saw our Mimosa (Japanese Silk) tree illuminated by a golden pool of sunlight. I love this tree, but got a bit more than I expected when we found it at Beaverton Farmer's Market years ago.

I grew up in a big old house in SW Portland, a house that was built around 1900 that had a scary basement, a huge yard that was awesome for playing hide and seek with the neighbor kids, and many kinds of trees, including a Japanese Silk. It was in the front corner of the yard, and it was my favorite - under 10' tall, a beautiful umbrella of bright green and silky fern-like leaves that would fold inward at night, and in the summer it would bloom with pretty pink tassel-like flowers - it was quite short, so it was easy to climb up into the fork of the trunk and pretend I was under my own giant umbrella. Loved that tree....

Speeding ahead to many years later, while dragging my better half once again through farmers market much to his distaste, I spotted what appeared to be a mimosa at a vendor who was selling fairly large potted trees out of his big farm truck. Amazingly it was only 15 bucks, so I snapped one up and proudly followed my pack mule out of market while he lugged the 5 gallon bucket with a tree coming out of it to take home to our already tree-filled yard. Once home, the debate began...where to put it? Hmm...this will require some thought.

5 years later, we moved. And with us went the now just a stick in a 5 gallon bucket of dirt. Yup, you guessed it - we never planted it, and each year it would lose a branch, become a bit more spindly, and never grew more than a couple inches taller all that time. But we were hopeful so we threw it in the moving van and brought it to our new home. Which was in the forest. With not a lot of sun. So after a couple more years (trust me, there were good reasons), we finally found the perfect spot and planted it in the middle of the ONLY sunny spot we have on our property. A stick, right in the middle of a big oval patch of dirt, looked very lonely. So I planted tea roses in an arc around it. It started to grow...and grow....and GROW. It is now roughly 20 feet tall, and has an umbrella that I could park at least 2 cars under for total's a friggin monster. But I still love it even tho I had to move the roses because they stopped growing with no sun, and I have to carve branches off the underside of it so it doesn't whack you in the face when you mow the "lawn". And it only took about 15 years, but a couple years ago it actually started to bloom....and I just read that it's considered a stage II invasive plant in Florida. Oops!

So finally to the point - here is my recipe (actually Rubio's) for fish tacos...REALLY, TRUST ME!

Rubio's Fish Tacos

Rubio's is a chain in the San Diego area - a lady I used to work with (and miss) said she used to live there, and when friends would come up to visit her, they had to bring her some Rubio's on the plane....that is true taco love!

1 lb. white fish, cod, pollack or whatever your fave is (I love tilapia) cut into small hand-sized fillets (or even half that width)

1 C. flour
1 tsp. garlic powder
Fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 C. beer (I'm a rebel and use Porter, but SOME think that's too "beery" - whiners)

1/2 C. mayonnaise
1/2 C. plain yogurt

Salsa: (it's really more like pico de gallo)
1 clove garlic, minced
6 ripe roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 onion, minced
2 T. cilantro, minced
2 jalepeno's, seeded and minced
1-1/2 tsp. salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Juice of one lime

12 corn tortillas, as fresh as you can get 'em
1 small head green cabbage, thinly shredded
Lime wedges
Grated mexican cheese

Mix sauce ingredients until smooth, set aside. Mix salsa ingredients, also set aside. Heat large skillet with vegetable oil to 375 (not quite smoking hot). Whisk batter ingredients until smooth, dredge fish in flour (you can add a little salt) and shake off excess, then dip in batter and put in hot oil until crispy and brown. The fish will start to spit when it's done - it doesn't take more than a few minutes. Drain on paper towels and continue to cook fish until it's all done. Heat tortillas on a dry skillet or griddle, put cheese, piece of fish, white sauce, salsa and cabbage on it, squeeze a lime wedge on it if you really like lime and go to TOWN. I like to use an extension cord and put the griddle on the table, and have someone who is tolerant of interruptions man the tortilla station as we need 'em....or I suppose you could use one of those tortilla warmer thingies, but I think ours was styrofoam and something bad happened to it, and this is like Benihana's South.

Now for the good news...hate to mess with cooking fish? Someone brought fish taco fixin's to a potluck at work, and they used *gasp* FISHSTICKS. I decided to try it because the taco meat looked gross, and it was amazingly edible....and it put fish tacos further up on the list of "things I won't make more often that every millenium because they're a pain in the ass". You may also use store bought salsa (Walt hates fresh salsa because he's a giant baby about onions), and I have also seen it done with lettuce, but why bother if you're just going to screw it up? Go with the flow, and altho the sauce may seem odd, it makes the whole thing SING. "Under the Sea" if I'm not mistaken. You could also use broiled or grilled fish if you would rather look like an eel than a halibut, but it's fish.....c'mon.

We have also made it with flour tortillas and refried beans for a fish burrito- but I am more about the corn and less about beans on this...altho a nicely toasted flour tortilla is a thing of wonder that cries out to be violated with cheese for a inter-taco snack. OH...those giant bags of Ultimate fish sticks (GOOD fishsticks made w/fillets, not minced...unless that's the only kind you like, are you 8?) at Costco are to DIE for, and that bag will last for quite a few batches of tacos. I'm pretty sure I was Pancho Villa or Santa Ana in a past life...if I believed in that crap. Ole.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Your wish is my command....

My last post jogged the memory of my sister-in-law to come up with a wish for the Brown Derby Burger recipe....she may not know it, but my husband worked there and made a ton of them, and still remembers! Pretty good for a guy who can't tell right from left or remember to lift up the seat, eh?

Now for a history lesson that illustrates the "7 degrees of Kevin Bacon". That is the concept that you can name any actor, and connect him/her to Kevin Bacon through no more than 7 different movies, and which I refuse to clarify because of the margaritas. The Brown Derby was a restaurant in the tiny hamlet of Banks Oregon that served the people of that community for many years. I say many because I really don't know how long - it was there when my family moved there in 1973, was there when my husband was a kid, and with different ownership and a few slack periods, lasted until the late 90's or early 2000's until the last owner gave up the ghost and sold it to a contractor company that now shares it's space with a church.

When I moved to Banks in '73, it was still owned by an older couple and it still had a shuffleboard and was probably pretty close to it's original design. My sister worked as a waitress for a short time, then my mom got a job there as a bartender. A new owner had taken over, and Ed decided to make it a bit more upscale....for the 70's and Banks that meant putting in a nicer dining room and separating it completely from the bar area. It was classy....they used big wooden spools for the tables and made the menus out of pieces of wood shaped like a derby hat with a menu shellacked to both sides. And they had stuff like Creme's Supreme (chicken in parchment w/cream sauce?) and Banana's Foster and some kind of steak bits with mushrooms....all delicious, but I think the bigger draw was the signature Brown Derby Burger. It was a Big Mac with class....the home made fries with the skin still on the potatoes was the icing on the cake - I never heard of ANYONE who didn't like the Derby Burger.

I did not meet my husband at the Derby, but he worked there when my mom did....he was a dishwasher, and had some cook duties, mostly when the cook (not our family friend Father Jim, he came later) was on break or possibly hanging out in the bar with a cold one or 5. I think Walt was only 15 or 16 at the time, and I am a year younger...heck, he could have been working the night I went there on my first date with one of his best friends - I recall only that my date thought I was adorable because I ate like a bird while he wolfed down an entire Derby burger and fries by himself...boys are so gullible. I only went out with him once, and had to dump him when I realized he was a bit too experienced for me...I was a good girl back then.

So here you go Pam - you will probably faint dead away when you realize how many calories are in this monstrosity, but I suppose if you had JUST these for Thanksgiving you'd come out ahead...but only by a few. And light a candle in a cheesy glass restaurant candle holder for the good ol' Brown Derby....she is missed!

Brown Derby Burgers

1 hamburger bun with sesame seeds, toasted
1 piece of white sandwich bread, corners cut off to make it an octagon and toasted
1000 Island dressing
Hamburger patty, cooked to order
1 slice American cheese
1 slice ham, warmed in a skillet
1 slice processed Swiss cheese
Wilted onion (slice onion VERY thin and put them aside until they get limp)
Shredded lettuce
Thinly sliced tomato

Assemble as follows:

Bottom bun
1000 Island
American cheese
Swiss (fake)
1000 Island
Top bun

Walt recalls they cut it in half and put a giant frilly toothpick through each half...that's what I remember, but my rememberer isn't what it used to be. And he says a pickle was served on the side and I KNOW that's right...gotta love the pickle.

So there you go - my sister, my mom, my husband, Father Jim and the owners son (no, not Kevin're missing the point) who I slapped so hard in high school because he grabbed my boob in the hallway that his glasses flew off and broke against a locker all worked there and helped create wonderful and weird memories - fix yourself a Derby burger and think about the good old days!

Drunken blogging

Yup, after a long 3.4 day workweek, I decided that the best thing to do was to head home to Casa de Moose and whip out some classic margaritas for my bad self. It's been a rough ride, this short little week, probably due to a hormonal imbalance, a bit of seasonal affective disorder and the fact that last weekend turned out to be genuinely "labor" intensive...not sure why they made it the focus of a holiday. Really, why do we celebrate the fact that we have to go somewhere and slave for someone else 5 days a week year after year, or alternatively (for the half of us that know what real pain is) have your body betray you and contort itself in inhumane and ridiculously painful ways to expel another human being? But I digress...I am quite sh**faced and have something to share.

Today I got home from said labor (the first one, not the second), and put my purse in it's rightful place, then checked the phone for messages. While I listened to what turned out to be dead air, I happened to glance at the tuxedo bag hanging from the china hutch (well of course it goes there....where else would you put a tuxedo bag?) and noticed the bold imprint of white on black "A $20 late fee will be assessed for every day passed the due date tuxedo is returned". In the neat little vinyl pocket the printout label with my son's name on it indicated a due date of 9/8. Two day prior. REALLY? After a mini phone call/lecture about being responsible, then a call to the tux shop, I fled the house, tuxedo bag in tow and hoped for the best.

Arriving 20 minutes later, a pleasant young woman took the bag, scanned the label and, looking at me with a complete poker face, announced the obvious...two days late. My only and very weak excuse? A button fell off and he was going to sew it back on, and he didn't realize it was due back the next day. No face indicated that the terms were gone over with all tuxedo renters when they order....DUH. She then took pity on me and said she would split it with me....20 bucks and it would go away. I accepted gracefully, then called my son in the car and told him he OWES ME BIGTIME...he sounded sorry.

Went to the store after and sat in the parking lot, fighting the urge to sob uncontrollably, and called my husband. I didn't marry him for nothing - he had me laughing shortly, and I realized that it was water under the bridge, no big deal, and that I would forget about it shortly. Picked up a few things for dinner, then headed home.

I was on the highway, midway between two exits when I spotted it - a sunflower, only about 2 feet tall, but with at least 4 bobbing miniature faces, growing despite the traffic whizzing by unrelentingly, the toxic fumes it ingests daily, and only the water and sunshine God give it in the median right next to the gravel shoulder in the center. It made me smile. And made me stop thinking negative thoughts, if only for a few minutes. And reminded me that I needed to get some tequila. Thank you made my day. Here is my recipe for margarita's....I like 'em on the rocks because 1. I'm lazy; 2. I don't like ice cream headaches.

Brown Derby (Banks Oregon, not the one in LA) Margaritas

1 oz. tequila (I like Jose gold)
1 oz. sweet and sour mix
1/2 oz. Rose's Lime Juice
1/4 oz. Triple Sec
Lime wedges

Mix tequila, sweet and sour, lime juice and triple sec, pour over crushed ice in a 2 cup measuring cup or a shaker; rub lime wedge on rim of glass and dip in salt (or not if you like the nastiness of tequila straight up), pour mixed drink into glass with or without ice (your choice) and squeeze lime in and throw wedge in glass. Serve with a straw or not...I lick some salt off the rim, then drink out of the straw. I like straws. My mom used to be bartender at the Derby, and she liked to put a little OJ in with it...that's good too if you have it. And if you really want to, you can put it all in the blender and make it a slushy frozen margarita...but then you have to wash the blender and you WILL get an ice cream headache. Unless you can drink it without it touching the roof of your mouth. I double-dog dare you....

I can no longer feel the outside of my skin, so I'm going to go finish the pitcher....happy weekend!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What the h*** is that?

I called my main squeeze while on my way to work today (he doesn't have to be at work until 10, and I am sooooooo jealous) and asked him to take some form of protein out of the freezer for dinner. Told him what I remembered we had, but said "Don't matter, whatever sounds good is fine". Fast forward to 5:30pm, me standing in the kitchen looking at a 1# chub of ground turkey sitting in a tiny puddle of thawed out frost sitting forlornly on the counter. Fast forward again to me, sitting in front of the TV with no shoes, an ice tea spoon, and the last of the jar of Nutella, absently watching Rachel and Ross have another fight not realizing they will end up together, even if just for the last few minutes of the final episode ever. Fast forward again to me sitting here, looking at the taskmistress facebook and perusing a friend's (only on fb, never met him before) photos of his party where they all dressed up and acted out the movie Titanic in his living room...haha, they were hilarious!

I realize, after the pix of course, that it's getting late and I haven't decided on dinner yet. My daughter's IM box pops up, and I chat idly with her for a few minutes, discussing her hub's recent snack of raw garlic and how he keeps trying to kiss her, all the while knowing that chub ain't gettin' any more cooked. I sign off with a heart and a ttyl, and head off to the kitchen to see what I can see. After a quick inspection of what needs to be used up and what randomness the pantry holds, I decide to make some soup...not just any soup, but some lucious, hearty and stick to your ribs soup that will go down in history as the BEST SOUP EVER, and it will be GOOD FOR YOU. YESSSSSSSSSS!

So here goes...this is another UN-recipe, one that I didn't measure a damn thing, but it matters not a whit - you can fuss with it all you want, it's still going to be DELICIOSO!

Momma Moose's MAXIstrone

1 lb. ground turkey
2 stalks celery, cut in chunks
1/2 onion, chopped randomly
1 carrot, cut in half circles
2 T. butter

Put this in dutch oven and start cooking. I put in the turkey, then the veggies, then threw in the butter because it was sticking and the olive oil decanter was empty. It still stuck, but butter gives flavor so who cares? I cooked that and stirred, scraping the big chunks off the bottom for a few minutes. The "fond" (the stuff stuck on the bottom) was brown but not black, and just WAITING for me to use it to my advantage.....muuuwaaaahhhaahhhaahhaaa! Next, I added:

1 can diced tomatoes, juice and all
3 cans hot water
1/2 can red wine
1 can tomato juice (I use the fake V-8), or you could use an 8 oz. can sauce and one of water
1-2 T. beef soup mix or bullion
1.5 cups of corn (a total guess, I buy big bags and just dumped some in)
Ground rosemary, thyme and garlic powder

Bring to a boil, and scrape the bottom until it all comes off - it will break down in the liquid and make your soup extra special good. Taste it, and add more wine, water, spices...whatever floats your boat. You want to let this boil (turn it down a little) and let the flavors come ALIVE....I would say to cook it for about 30 minutes. Then add:

1/4 head cabbage, chopped (it's a universal sweetener...I am compelled to put it in soup)
1 can cannelini beans (love, Love, LOVE EM! (white kidney beans/no tough skins)

Bring to a boil and cook about 5 minutes. Then add:

1/4 head cauliflower, cut in chunks
1 can pasta....a little more if it's bigger like bow ties, but whatever sounds good

Boil about 5 minutes, then add:

1/2 each small zucchini and yellow squash, cut in thick slices and quartered

Boil for about 10 minutes or until pasta is tender.

Ladle into a pasta or soup bowl, grate some fresh parmesan over the top and ENJOY with some nice warm bread if you got my #1 son would probly say, "that's some GOOOOOOD sh**"!

ps, #2 son proclaims he doesn't like soup, but he ate it and just said "That's some GOOOOD soup!"

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Closet romantic alert...

I was reading a post from Pioneer Woman (she is my personal hero), and she gave up some tips on blog writing that I thought were valid points and worthy of examination. I was surprised at how many of her suggestions I already do - but then since I admire her personal flair, it stands to reason I would try to emulate it, right? The point is that she said we should try to blog daily, to put a piece of yourself out there regularly, and to branch out and try new things - and I'm pretty sure she didn't mean just different kinds of the same thing - Moroccan cuisine, cooking outdoors or even advanced deep-frying all sound good, but if I try to blog a new recipe every day I'll get bored and run out of stuff toot sweet. So there you go - if you start seeing non-food weirdness on here, settle down and don't get your panties in a will always be the main attraction, but I got more side shows than a traveling circus baby, so be prepared.

My son's BFFs were married yesterday in a lovely ceremony in a botanical garden, and although I could have stayed in the kitchen and gotten the food ready for the instant the ceremony was over, I instead elected to grab my sweetie, then take him out (haha, didja get that?) to watch a truly unique and beautiful wedding. My son was the best man, the bride's sister the maid of honor, another friend was the minister, yet another made all the beer and wine for the event. Other friends made the cake, did the flowers, took the pictures, and everyone contributed to the potluck wedding feast - it was an amazing outpouring of love for their special day.

The ceremony took place outdoors, and no surprise, after the long run of beautiful weather, Oregon "sunshine" prevailed....but as luck and probably worries that some of us old folks might melt in it, the mother of the groom had a large canopy put up to keep the guests dry. Which we fully appreciated, and used to great advantage, but that did not detract from the actual ceremony itself, in which the bride, groom, attendants and minister enacted under a beautiful arbor in a very slight drizzle. The minister lit incense, then announced that a "ring warming" ceremony would commence - the rings were passed from guest to guest, allowing them to channel their wishes, love and good thoughts to the couple through them, and he continued the ceremony while we did so.

The bride and groom wrote their own vows; heartfelt, honest and bringing many to tears with it's thoughtfulness and conviction - I believe with every ounce of my being that they truly are kindred spirits, and will always be together. Then the gift of the rings, the "I do's" and a kiss, and they were off down the aisle and through the gardens, guests waving bamboo sticks with ribbons attached in what was perhaps the sweetest send-off I've ever seen. Traditional? No. Romantic and inspired? Absolutely.

The photographer was mostly unobtrusive, and I wonder if I am going to be featured in the wedding album rubbing the very hairy leg of the brewmeister (he rolled up his pants because the hems were wet, then proceeded to show off his "wolfman genes" and asked if anyone wanted to touch it. Of course I did..wouldn't you?); or perhaps "delicately schvitzing" (translation: sweating like a hog) in the kitchen of the sauna that house was last night. And I kind of hope that I am - real memories should be natural and not staged or made-up is life and those are the moments that stick with us.

My only regrets were not participating in the "photo booth"....I LOVED that idea, and I think a lot of fun was had with it. The photographer set up a camera and a backdrop, and they brought a large collection of props, hats, fake beards etc, and invited all to go have fun with it - we forgot until we were leaving, and when I say "we" I mean ME....I most likely would have needed a tranquilizer dart to get Walt in there - he reserves most of his silliness just for me. I like to crack it out regularly, makes me feel less old.

The other regret? Not snagging a huge piece of cake to take home - I would not have put it under my pillow because I already have my own soulmate, and he would have undoubtedly waited for me to fall asleep and eaten it get to know someone after 31 years together. No, I would have eaten it myself, and thought about the love that went into it, and what a wonderful day that inspired it....then I would have licked the chai buttercream (O..M..G..) off my fingers and said thank you to God for cake, and weddings, and love, and for making my kids so special that they attract other equally special people that want to share their lives with us. Burp. I mean AMEN!

And CONGRATULATIONS Joey and Kira, it really was the best day so far!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Romance is in the air...or is that Patchouli?

I have a lot of stuff to do this weekend, and nothing at all - I realize that sounds ridiculously impossible, but it's true. It's labor day weekend, and we never make plans....neither one of us likes crowds, and since most people like to GO SOMEWHERE on holiday weekends, we figure staying home is "meant to be". Cutting firewood is one focus, working at a funeral lunch another, and making sure we are prepared for Tuesday will also be on the list.

My youngest son's best friends are getting married Tuesday afternoon (Congratulations Kira & Joey!), and are bucking convention at every turn. They made their own invitations, which were creative and lovely, the ceremony will be in a garden, sans shoes, and the dinner is potluck. I love the idea of a potluck reception - food cooked with love to share in a celebration of the same, but the only thing that threw me is that everyone was asked to bring a specific COLOR of food. I've reached crunch time and still am not sure what I'm going to color is what I can only describe as "coral", and as I assume there will be cake, dessert ideas are out.

Salmon has come to mind, and I've thought about making a salmon spread w/cucumbers and crackers, but not sure if I can attain that color without artificial means. So I'm still thinking. But I do have a delish recipe for a "Torta", which is a formed savory spread for crackers or veggies that would totally make a great appetizer...if only the cranberries were replaced with something coral colored. But you can make it, and it's a SNAP....and it was totally stolen from Rising Sun Farms, who used to sample their sun dried tomato torta at the Beaverton Farmer's Market when I was working a booth for Mike and Debbie's. They have quite a variety you can buy online, but are ridiculously expensive and I had everything to make this one so it's become a favorite of mine.

I loved this on crackers, then once used an errant celery stick that escaped from a crudite platter to scoop some up and now I like to serve it with both - childhood memories of licking the cream cheese, peanut butter and cheese (from those tiny jars we used for drinking glasses) out of celery stix makes me lonesome for the days when my guilt didn't make me eat that green, stringy "U" of crunchy grossness. So give it a try, and skip the celery if you want - I promise I won't judge you, only if you don't at least try a LITTLE bite before you lick it clean and stuff it between your sister's couch cushions.

Cranberry, Hazelnut & Gorgonzola Torta

2-8oz. boxes cream cheese, softened
3 T. butter
1/2 can pear halves, drained and chopped (approx. 1/2 Cup)
2-4 oz. crumbled gorgonzola cheese (It can get strong - how much do you like gorgonzola?)
1/2 Cup coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts (you could also use pecans)
1 to 1.5 Cups dried cranberries

Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Put chopped pears on several layers of paper towels, fold or roll up and squeeze as much juice out as possible. Fold pears and gorgonzola into cheese/butter mixture. Line a round cake pan with two layers of plastic wrap in an "X", pressing wrap against the sides of the pan and making sure that the whole inside of the pan is covered. Sprinkle nuts over the bottom evenly, then sprinkle cranberries over that until you can no longer see the bottom of the pan. Carefully (once you drop a blob, you can't really move it) drop blobs of the cheese mixture evenly all over the nuts and cranberries until it's all in there. Use the spatula to gently press the blobs together into an even layer covering all the nuts/cranberries, then put another sheet of plastic over the top and press down carefully with your hands to pack it evenly and with no air gaps over all. Fold all the plastic edges over the top, make sure it's covered completely and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

When you are ready to put it out for guests, unwrap the top, folding all plastic back and away from the top, then center your serving plate over the top of the pan, and while holding both the plate and pan together, carefully flip it over and remove the pan. Carefully peel the plastic off the torta, peeling from the outside to the center, and wipe any drips that may have occured from edge of plate. It should look like a beautiful cheesecake with jewel-like cranberries all over the top - it really is a thing of beauty! Serve with bigger crackers that will hold a butt-load without breaking, and some celery sticks from the INSIDE of the bunch that you cut diagonally about the length of your ring finger. Well, unless you're Wilt Chamberlain-ish, or perhaps had a farming accident that involved a milking machine, your ring finger and a cow now called "Hannibal".

My boss suggested that I add an index to my blog so if someone was looking for a particular category of recipes that it could be more easily found. And since I was already wondering if I could do that, and am pretty sure she didn't ask so she did not have to suffer the indignity of reading stupid posts she has no interest in, I figured out how all by myself and made it happen. Not sure if it works....guess I should have tried it before yammering on about it, but anyone who knows me came to the realization long ago ago that trying to shut me up is fruitless. So check it out, I will when I'm done and will issue an apology if it doesn't work...I refined that particular skill today at work. SOB emails.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cussing creatively

So when I was a kid, swearing was verboten - I believe we were told it was a mortal sin, for which we would end up in the aforementioned "Hell's Kitchen" filled with spiders, dirty dishes and mom's liver. I think I occasionally heard "damn" uttered by my parents, but rarely, and nothing else unless it was used in the context of a funny story (like when my dad was in elementary school and was asked by the nuns to spell "shirt" and he forgot the r). We also were told that saying a word LIKE a swear word was just as bad, like one of mom's relatives that said "cheese and crackers" instead of J.C. - I was once threatened with a taste of bar soap when I was caught playing behind the couch repeating "chit" over and over. My saving grace was a carefully crafted look of total innocence and a parent who probably didn't feel like putting me in a headlock for a lava tongue bath.

My dad was a rebel, however, and devised a few words that weren't really swear words, but a little more technical - we would giggle ourselves silly saying buttocks (but my dad pronounced it BEWTOX so it was much funnier), "Buns" and "Fruiter" instead of fart (and if fart really is a dirty word I'm probably going to hell...). We became quite artful in name calling without tasting soap, and I find "Fruiter Head" much more satisfying than the real thing. Which brings me to my offering today, not because it causes fruiters, or has anything to do with your bum, but because the word "Chowderhead" always makes me giggle a little.

This last weekend was spent at a place I called "Happy Camp" with a bunch of friends from work, and we had a really good time - nothing organized, just a lot of doing whatever we felt like, eating great food and just letting it all hang was pretty relaxing. The house we rented was was on Happy Camp Road in Netarts Oregon, and was one row of houses back from Netarts Bay, but up on pillars and with a gorgeous 3rd story view of the bay/ocean. Check it out at and you can see beautiful pix that will still not do it justice.

But I digress - we decided not to go out, but since I was jonesin' for clam chowder, I made a flyin trip into Tillamook and got the goods to make it homemade - it got rave reviews, so I'm sharing it with you as I made it Sunday....ahoy matey, clams and potatoes dead ahead, make sure ye got yer garlic bread fer a flotation device!

Happy Camp Chowder

5 red potatoes, peeled and cut in 1" chunks
2 cans minced clams, including juice
Fresh ground pepper
2 ribs celery, sliced very thin including tops
1/2 large onion, diced
2-6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped or sliced thin OR 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
4 slices bacon, cut in 1/4" strips
1 T. butter
1/3 C. flour
2 C. heavy cream (you can use 2 cans evap milk or 1/2 & 1/2...won't be as rich)
2-4 clam cans water
Salt to taste

Put potatoes, clams with juice and 2 clam cans of water (or enough to just cover spuds) and some pepper and a couple pinches of salt in a stockpot or dutch oven, put on high heat and bring to boil, turn down to medium or so water still bubbles and cook about 10-12 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender.

While potatoes are cooking, put bacon in large frying pan and cook over med high until it starts to release it's fat, add celery, onion,garlic and butter and saute until onion is soft. Stir in flour until all is absorbed, continue to cook until flour starts to brown just a little. Add cream all at once and whisk until forms a smooth sauce. Add a can or two of hot water if it gets too thick - or some of the water/broth in with the potatoes if you want it really chunky. Let sauce boil one minute, then dump into pot with cooked potatoes and clams and stir well. Add salt/pepper to taste, and simmer a little while if you like it thicker.

I serve this with cheese bread - cut thick slices of french bread, use french rolls or texas toast, just spread with butter, sprinkle with garlic powder and any kind of grated parmesan and broil until golden brown. Or a nice loaf of any kind of bread warmed in the oven with lots of real butter...or if you really have to, you could use crackers, but they're SO boring. Unless you drag each oyster cracker through the new cube of butter on the plate until your mom takes it away so she can do it herself when she's alone...yes Mom, I learned that trick from YOU. But whatever you decide to eat with it, the important part is the soup - enjoy the crisp fall weather with a steamin' potful, ya chowderheads!