Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Seventeen Cookbook" - Sloppy Joes - Seventeen Magazine and Say Yes to the Dress Goes to the Prom!

Date I made this recipe:  June 11, 2017

The Seventeen Cookbook by the Editors of Seventeen Magazine
Published by The Macmillan Company
© 1964
Purchased at Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, NYC
Recipe:  Sloppy Joes – p. 60

Those of us of a certain age will likely remember reading Seventeen Magazine cover-to-cover, taking note of the current fashion (ugly as it was), dating tips, life tips and well, tips in general to help us all navigate through our teenage years.

I have to say that I was a little surprised this magazine was still in publication but then again, it's not like I've looked for it on the newsstand.  If Brownies can "fly up" to be Junior Girl Scouts, then Seventeen Magazine readers can fly up to read Vogue and other more adult-oriented fashion magazines. I do believe this is an unofficial life rule.

I've had this cookbook for a while now but was never really prompted to cook from it until I saw "Say Yes to the Prom," that aired on TLC in April.  This special event show was a take-off of the very popular "Say Yes to the Dress," that airs on the same channel.  I'm constantly amazed at how many people, including me, "confess" to watching "Say Yes to the Dress" and am almost always amused by the fact that these friends and I share the same sense of horror at what some women consider to be appropriate bridal wear.  Hint:  "If it looks like a nightgown, it is a nightgown.  Just put it down, honey, just put it down."

Happily, "Say Yes to the Prom" did not go the way of the bridal show.  In this special episode, 50 high school students were given the opportunity to select a prom dress with assistance from Aya Kanai, Seventeen Magazine's Fashion Director, designer Betsy Johnson and Monte Durham from "Say Yes to the Dress – Atlanta."  All of these kids were deserving in some way and were thrilled with their dress selections.  It was a total feel-good moment, sans the usual family infighting that happens on the bridal show. Also missing was the reveal of the "over your budget" (by a country mile) price tags that make this gal blink in double-time and that was refreshing!

As to my prom, I didn't go but before you get all "awww" on me, let me tell you why.  My school had only a Junior-Senior prom and to the best of my recollection most, but not all, of the people who attended were going together, otherwise known as going steady, or, if you will, in a "committed high school relationship."  The Christmas Hop however, was another story all together.

The Christmas Hop has been a mainstay at my school for well over 60 years (perhaps even closer to 70).  I remember seeing "Hop" photos in a lot of the older year books that were stored in the high school library and just loved looking at Hop fashions over the years.

The Hop was the biggest deal on the planet even though it was a Sadie Hawkins dance which is to say the women asked the men, and I think it was open to all high schoolers but cannot remember. (I think the junior high students pulled [serving] punch duty.)  I do know that attendance far exceeded the prom as nobody wanted to be left out of The Hop as it was "The" social event of the year.

The Hop was held in the cafeteria/gymnasium of Central School, the elementary school next to our combined junior high and high school and it was packed to the rafters with attendees.  If memory serves, this was held in early December which was really a bad time of year to hold a formal dance because of the high probability of snow or a snow storm, but who cared?  Most of us women attending wore boots beneath our evening gowns and changed into sandals in the parking lot because that was what you did.

The flower shops in my hometown were never as busy as when they were preparing Hop corsages and boutonnieres to match your dress which of course, you looked high and low for.  Velvet was in as were "granny" dresses and please do recall folks that this was the 70's and also that what goes around, comes around because nowadays, all of that is fashionable again, why Lord, why?

The first year I went to the Hop was my junior year and I asked not only the shyest guy in our class but also the future valedictorian.   I wore a light green dress that was very simple and was also affordable.  He wore – and I love this – red checkered pants, a red jacket, a white bow tie and either a red or a blue shirt, I cannot recall.  We definitely took our holiday theme seriously.

The second year I attended, I asked the class salutatorian (see a pattern here?) and dressed in a light blue sleeveless dress with a dark blue velvet jacket with a light blue ruffle.  I could gag at the thought of it really, but such is life; the green dress the year before was way better.  My date dressed in blue to match my dress although I cannot recall if that was deliberate or not.

To make the whole look really, really awful (mine, not his), I decided to go to the beauty salon and have them roller set my hair under the premise (and I was not wrong) that it would help straighten out my naturally wavy hair.  This one-off look was never seen on me again as it didn't quite work as I expected it to.  That said, it was usual and customary for my female classmates to have their hair curled for the big event.

So to recap, I had this bad hair, a dress I hated and which seem to accentuate the fact that I had gained weight during the summer before my senior year (lost it all before graduation but alas, too late for senior photos) and to make it all worse, I wore gold-rimmed aviator glasses.

Let that just sink in for a minute.  I mean, the look was not at all uncommon back then but yeesh, people.  Yeesh!  And not only were they ugly glasses but for the first time since I got them in 6th grade, I wore them for a Hop photo.

Why did I do that?  Why?  I NEVER wore my glasses in photos, not ever.  Even in childhood vacation pictures, you will be hard-pressed to find photos of me wearing my glasses and so there I was all dolled up on Hop night and I had to go and ruin my no-glasses streak and it has bothered me ever since.  (As an aside, after I sold my childhood home, I brought back a ton of childhood photos and a best friend kept exclaiming that "they don't look like you."  She finally figured out why:  I never wore my glasses and I almost never smiled because my teeth were crooked and I was self-conscious.)

Still, the fact that I attended the Hop with my friends was fun even if my date the second year spent most of his time romancing a friend of mine who had just broken up with her boyfriend.  Let the pity party begin!

Since my hometown was short on restaurants (the town was tiny), nobody really got together beforehand to go out to dinner and only the second year did my friends and I gather afterwards.  And for the record, there was absolutely no such thing as a limousine in the town so you could forget that noise.  Things were pretty simple back then and we managed to have a ton of fun without all of today's prom accoutrements and accompanying expenses.

The nearby town of Marquette, Michigan though, was much bigger and their high school had a huge spring prom and I know this because my trial run as hostess at the Garden Room restaurant was on prom night.

I was going to college at Northern Michigan University in Marquette and needed a new summer job before starting my senior year. My summer job the previous year was at Montgomery Wards Repair Service and we do not have time here to discuss the horror that was that job, nor does it have anything to do with Prom so there it is.

Prior to my trial run at the Garden Room, I spent two weeks working for pennies on the dollar at a local Big Boy restaurant before deciding I was simply not Big Boy material and so set my sights on one of my family's favorite restaurants, the Garden Room

The Garden Room was a family favorite because the owner, Dorothy, and her family owned also a few other restaurants in town, one of which was the site of my parent's wedding brunch.  The food was fabulous and unlike Big Boy which was stuck in a mall, this restaurant overlooked Lake Superior and it was gorgeous.

So I went in one day and pitched my services to Dorothy who then asked if I could come in that Saturday for a trial run as hostess (which I loved better than waitressing) and I said sure, and then when I got there, she said "Oh, by the way, it's prom night."

Good to know.

So I survived that and managed to seat all the prom attendees without incident and I was then hired FT for the summer.  I have to say that it was somewhat amusing to seat students who were just a few years younger than me but "them's the breaks!"

Now then, returning our attention to The Seventeen Cookbook, in the early years of formal dances, it was usual and customary for one of the attendees to throw a dinner party the night of the big dance (although not in my town) and the dinner party menu usually had something "fancy" on it like Beef Stroganoff or steak and twice-baked potatoes and I was leaning heavily toward the stroganoff for my ode to prom until my husband decided he wanted the Sloppy Joes.  (He didn't attend prom, either.)

What can I say?  One cannot go wrong with Sloppy Joes even though I doubt anyone would have served them on prom night because they were, well – sloppy! (Can I just say that on prom night at the Garden Room, almost everybody used their napkins as a bib lest the outfit be ruined which would be horrible and unncessary!)  Since Andy and I ate this "prom night" food in our casual summer clothes, we didn't care what happened and so why not Sloppy Joes?

I know that in some parts, it is usual and customary to add a cream of "something" soup to a Sloppy Joe mix (or Chicken Gumbo or Chicken and Stars) but I never found a recipe calling for the soup until now.  In addition to the soup, you'll add chili sauce and prepared mustard, the combination of which made me feel like I was eating a burger instead of a Sloppy Joe but it was good so why quibble?

And so here we are, many moons past prom and all my reminiscing that went with it, but it doesn't matter because Sloppy Joes are great any time, anywhere, prom or no prom, Hop or no Hop! Enjoy!

Sloppy Joes – makes 12
2 tablespoons butter or other fat
2 lbs. ground beef chuck
1 cup chopped onion
2 cans cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
½ cup chili sauce
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
¼ teaspoon black pepper
12 hamburger buns, toasted and buttered

Melt butter in a large skillet.  Add beef and onion, cook, stirring until broken up and well-browned.  Add soup and seasonings; simmer for about ten minutes to blend, stirring occasionally.  Serve by ladling mixture onto hot hamburger buns.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

"The First Official Law Enforcement Cookbook" - purchased at, and made in honor of, the Bloomington (MN) Crime Prevention Association's annual Book'Em Sale!

Date I made this recipe:  June 5, 2017 – Bloomington (MN) Crime Prevention Association's (BCPA) annual Book 'Em Sale

The First Official Law Enforcement Cookbook Compiled by Nadine E. Anderberg
Published by R&E Publishers
ISBN: 1-56875-063-3; © 1993
Purchased at:  a previous BCPA Sale, of course!
Recipe:  Crockpot Ribs – p. 52 – recipe contributed by Ted Vastine – Chief of Police, Chadron, Nebraska

Folks, you cannot believe how giddy I get when the first of June rolls around because that means it's time for the BCPA's annual book sale.  The sale kicks off the first Saturday of June and runs for two weeks, giving me plenty of time to stock up on used cookbooks.

I've lost track of how it came to pass that I found out about this sale but I've been going for years now and I tell you what, if you live in the area and you like books in general, this is the place you need to be as they have rows and rows and rows of books in every category you can imagine.

Since this is not my first rodeo, let me tell you the drill:  every year, the BCPA finds an empty store front in the Bloomington area and starts accepting donations around April 1st so that by preview day – this year, Friday night, June 2 – you have tons of books from which to choose at prices that make you cry coming in at anywhere between $.50 and $2.00.  On the very last day, everything is half-price.

When you walk in the door, you can grab a few grocery bags from the volunteers or, if you are me, come in with several cloth bags with a plan to grab more if necessary and yes, it has been necessary to go back to my car.  In many ways, I feel like a rank amateur with my cloth bags because other people come armed (and dangerous) with rolling suitcases and even the metal book racks used at places like Barnes and Noble.  Talk about being prepared!

On the first full day of the sale which is always a Saturday (Friday night is preview night but you have to pay admission) and the last day of the sale (also a Saturday), you can check your book-filled bags at a bag check where they will total up your purchases to get you through the checkout line fast.  Such a nice touch!  The checkout line is long on that very first day so plan accordingly.

And if you go be sure to bring either cash or your checkbook as they don't yet accept credit cards.  I tell you what, I feel like I'm sending a kid off to a first day of school:  "Do you have your tote bags?  Your checkbook?  Okay then son, off you go!"

Finally, I make sure my Dropbox app on my phone contains the latest and most updated cookbook list since I now refer to that while I'm perusing the section.  Back in the early days, I had to print out my lists which took some doing and so hooray for going paperless!  I've broken out my entire spreadsheet into sections so that I can look quickly at my list to decide Yeah or Nay.  I am not alone in my list-keeping as I often see other people with phones out looking through different sections of personal interest to them.  

That said, I think it would amaze you to learn that I have a very good sense of my collection – all 2,440 books (and counting) –and usually know without looking whether or not I have already a book I'm considering  In all my years of collecting, I've only accidentally purchased a book I already own maybe 4-5 times and that was during the days of the paper lists.  Yes, I am that good!

Since I'm sale veteran, I know where everything is laid out and make a beeline to the  cookbook section where everything has been broken out by category e.g. small appliance cooking, international cooking (all types of ethnic cookbooks), canning, cookies, casseroles, well-known cookbook authors and the like.  It normally takes me less than a minute to start filling one of my bags and it is not atypical of me to walk out with over 20 books at a time.

Most years, I return at least once if not twice to do a sweep for "new" books that have been donated between visits as they accept donations practically until the very end. 

If previous years, I've walked away with one full set of Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cooking cookbooks and this year, waltzed out with a bunch of Southern Living cookbooks for a mere $5.00.  Although I have some of the Southern Living cookbooks in this set, it was cheaper for me to buy the entire set and then donate the ones that I already own.  Out of the 20 books in the box, 13 are staying put and 8 are duplicates but why quibble when the whole thing cost pennies on the dollar?

The great thing about this sale is that I manage to find the most interesting/hilarious/long-sought after books ever, and it amused me to no end to find this cookbook about law enforcement at a law enforcement book sale!

The recipes in this cookbook were "Contributed by People in Law Enforcement Agencies of the United States," whose jobs ranged from secretary to dispatcher to patrol officer to chief of police from agencies around the country.

This book's Table of Contents is pretty small by comparison to other cookbooks, but many of the recipes sounded really good.  Your choices are:
  • Breads
  • Casseroles
  • Desserts
  • Main Dishes
  • Sandwiches
  • Side Dishes
  • The Final Chapter:  If All Else Fails i.e. a word about donuts!
 Recipes I considered were "Pizza Casserole" – p. 26, "Baked Chicken and Rice" – p. 45, "Sloppy Joes" – p. 80, "Gas Blast" (a baked bean dish) submitted by an officer from Bloomington, MN – p. 57, and don't hate me – "Grape-Blueberry Jell-O Salad" – p. 38.  All these (and more) were good but I wanted something really easy and so made today's Crockpot Ribs.

Now shocking as it may seem, Andy and I are not necessarily fans of ribs, barbecued or other and so instead of buying a regular rack of ribs for this recipe, I decided – after consultation with two butchers – to go with country ribs i.e. all meat, no bones.  I think they came five to a package which would have been fine had we not loved them so!  These were really good although be warned that you will not need the full 5-6 hours of cooking time.  I think ours were ready to go after about two hours but I kept them in on High for 2 hours and Low for 1 hour and that was plenty of time.  In fact, my only complaint was that I probably left them in too long as they were almost on the dry side.

Still, this was one of the easiest things I made in a long time and cleanup was a breeze but then again, I expect that from crockpot cooking – no fuss, no muss, no hovering over the stove to make sure things are "going well."  Nope, you just put the whole thing in the crockpot and let it do its thing.

If you are local, the BCPA sale ends Saturday, June 17th and trust me when I say I there are still plenty of cookbooks (and other books) for you to browse.  This year's sale is located at 494 and The Shoppes at Lyndale near Pet Smart and Best Buy.  Hope you find something fun – I sure did!

Crockpot Ribs – serves 4-6 – prep time 5-6 hours – submitted by Ted Vastine, Chief of Police, Chandron, Nebraska (as of 1993)
3-5 pound ribs
½ cup catsup
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons grated onion
2 tablespoons vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Tabasco sauce to taste.

Put ribs in bottom of crockpot and cover with ingredients.  Cook on high for 5-6 hours.

(Ann's Note:  Easiest instructions ever!  Mad props for that.  If you are making half the recipe though, cook on high for 2 hours and then check.  If you want to cook them some more, I suggest lowering your temperature to Low and then check after a half hour.  I let mine cook at Low for about another 60 minutes which was almost too long—not that anyone complained about them!)

Monday, June 5, 2017

$266 Million Winning Lottery Recipes - L & L Hawaiian Barbecue Cookbook - Memorial Day

Date I made this recipe:  May 29, 2017 – Memorial Day

$266 Million Winning Lottery Recipes – L & L Hawaiian Barbecue Cookbook by Eddie Flores, Jr.
Published by L & L Franchise Inc.
ISBN: 10: 1-56647-988-6; copyright 2012
Purchased at Hilo Bay Books, Hilo, Hawaii
Recipe:  Macaroni Salad – p. 119

"On May 6, 2010, Gilbert Cisneros bought a lottery ticket at the L & L Hawaiian Barbecue Restaurant in Pico Rivera, California and won $266 million dollars, one of the largest mega million lottery jackpots in history."

What McDonald's is to the mainland, L & L Hawaiian Barbecue is to Hawaii which is to say that it is everywhere, space permitting.  Yet despite the fact that it is everywhere,  it took us until our last trip there (2016) to finally get around to trying it while we were out roaming around the Big Island.  I can't recall exactly where except I believe we were down around the southern tip which puts us somewhere around Naalehu. 

I'll just say this about that:  our bad. 

The thing about fast food places in Hawaii is that they are often customized to include local favorites.  Years ago, for example, on my first trip to Hawaii, a friend and I stopped at a local McDonald's and were amused to find sashimi on the menu.  Sashimi is raw fish or meat that is sliced into thin pieces.  That McDonald's also carried sushi long before it became all the rage.

Similarly, L & L's carry a mix of everything you could ever want to eat in Hawaii:  barbecue (Hawaiian style), saimin (similar to ramen), a loco moco (white rice, beef patty, and a egg that is topped by brown gravy – we love this), and a Hawaiian plate lunch.

A plate lunch is a somewhat hilarious platter of two scoops of rice, one scoop of macaroni salad, and a fried or grilled protein (fried fish, grilled beef, etc.).  Never ever would I have thought of putting that combo together (or the loco moco, for that matter), but it works for us.  It is said to have evolved from the Japanese bento box and that makes sense when you think about the rice and the fish or meat, but not necessarily the macaroni salad.  Still, who am I to argue with tradition!

Although I cannot recall what we had that day at L & L, what we had was surprisingly good for fast food.  When it came down to choosing a recipe from this cookbook then, it was really challenging because I was hungry for everything.  In the running was the "Hawaiian Huli Huli Chicken" (p. 31), "Kalua Pork (p. 57) and "Hawaiian Barbecue Sauce" (p. 103) until I settled on the macaroni salad.

Your table of contents is pretty extensive and let me just say right now that if you are in the mood for SPAM®, and why wouldn't you be, it's in there as SPAM® Musubi in the Pork Category.  Musubi is barbecued SPAM® served on rice that is wrapped in nori (seaweed).  Yes, I know, it may sound horrible to some of you and it's not like I tried it but Hawaiians love their SPAM® and I mean LOVE and so it should not surprise anyone that it shows up on menus and in island cookbooks.

Should you not like SPAM®, here are other categories that might interest you:
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Seafood
  • Vegetables
  • Healthy Plates
  • Soup & Sauces
  • Others (fried rice, macaroni salad)
  • Desserts

Okay then, let's talk about the macaroni salad.  This recipe is likely not what you were expecting but this recipe, or one that is similar, is a staple of the plate lunch and so there it is.  It calls for very few ingredients of which shredded carrots is the main one and so it's easy to prepare and serve. As far as taste though, it leans toward being a little bland so you may want to amp things up a bit and add some other seasonings besides salt and white pepper. I rather liked it but then again, I am a sucker for a plate lunch macaroni salad.

And now, without further ado, I give you a plate lunch macaroni salad.

Macaroni Salad – serves 5 to 6 people
½ gallon of water
1 pound macaroni
½ cup of onion (diced)
½ cup of carrot (shredded)
3 cups of mayonnaise
½ teaspoon of white pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 small can of oil based tuna (drained)

Put water into a pot and bring to a boil.  Put macaroni into the pot and boil for 12 minutes or until cooked.  (Ann's Note:  It's probably easier to follow the cooking times on the box.)
Drain water and cool macaroni thoroughly.  Combine all remaining ingredients and chill for at least one hour.

"The Weekend Cookbook" - Baked Bean Casserole - Memorial Day

Date I made this recipe:  May 29, 2017 – Memorial Day

The Weekend Cookbook by Jeanne Adams
Published by Hewitt House
© 1970
Purchased at Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks - NYC
Recipe:  Baked Bean Casserole – p. 37

Is there a better time than a long weekend to pull out The Weekend Cookbook?  Nope, don't think so! 

Is there a better excuse to make yet another baked bean casserole than Memorial Day?  Nope, don't think so either!

Although Andy isn't as fond of baked beans as I am, I feel compelled to make them for one of the summer holidays and he eats them without complaint.  That said, I try not to push the envelope too far and so typically substitute my favorite accompaniment, potato salad, with something else.

These baked beans were super easy and were not doctored up like most baked bean recipes I've made (including my mom's) but I liked that it was no fuss, no muss.  You simply open two cans of baked beans/pork and beans, add some sliced onion and sliced tomato and bake.  What I like is that this then leaves you open to engaging in other Memorial Day activities, assuming it doesn't rain.

Although the author doesn't list specifically recipes for various holidays, she does break out her table of contents by seasons as follows:

  • Summer Weekends:  Friday Dinners; Saturday Breakfasts; Saturday Lunches; Saturday Dinners; Sunday Breakfasts; Sunday Lunches.  (Apparently nobody eats Sunday dinner?)
  • Summer Picnic
  • Three-Day Summer Weekend
  • Four-Day Summer Weekend
  • Providing for a Working Husband (Well, this is rather sexist but we can given the woman a break because she wrote this in 1970 when women were generally either absent or invisible in the workplace.)
  • Fall Weekends: Friday Dinners; Saturday Breakfasts; Saturday Lunches; Saturday Dinners; Sunday Brunch; Sunday Lunches.  (Again, cooking on Sunday nights is apparently out of the question. Also notice that one has brunch on fall Sunday's, not "breakfast")
  • Winter Weekends: Friday Dinners; Saturday Breakfasts; Saturday Lunches; Saturday Dinners; Saturday Night Smorgasbord; Sunday Breakfasts; Sunday Lunches.  (Saturday Night Smorgasbords?  No.  Where I grew up, smorgasbords went mostly hand in hand with a Friday Fish Fry.  Some places served them on Saturday but these would be your rogue restaurateurs.)
  • Three-Day Winter Weekend
  • Spring Weekends: Friday Dinners; Saturday Breakfast; Saturday Lunches; Saturday Dinners; Sunday Breakfasts; Sunday Lunches
  • Hors d'Oeuvres
 I was hoping to find a recipe in the "Summer Picnic" or "Three-Day Summer Weekend" category (even though summer doesn't arrive until June 21st, but that didn't happen but the baked beans recipe came from the "Summer Weekend" chapter so that was close enough.  I pondered a few other recipes like Ratatouille but that just didn't seem right for Memorial Day. 

For those of you who are menu-challenged, the book provides you with countless menus so you have an idea of what other items make good accompaniments to your main dishes.  The menu containing the "Baked Bean Casserole," for example, suggested you serve it with "Cold sliced Baked Ham," "Sliced Cucumbers," "Rye Bread," and Frozen Éclairs.   Of course, you are not beholden to using frozen éclairs if fresh ones are available.

My menu was very different than the one suggested in the book as I made bleu cheese hamburgers (see my National Hamburger Day post), the beans, a macaroni salad (see my post from the L&L Hawaiian Cook Book) as is usual and customary.  I even threw in a shrimp cocktail from the Martha's Got Nuthin' On Me cookbook to round out our Memorial Day observance.

One final note:  This cookbook does not list any yields but based on the ingredients, I'd say you have plenty of baked beans to serve 6-8 people

Baked Bean Casserole – serving size unknown
2 jars New England-style baked beans
1 large onion, sliced
2 large tomatoes, sliced ½ inch thick
Salt, pepper

Empty one jar of beans into a casserole.  Separate the onion slices into rings and arrange on top of the beans.  Add the other jar of beans to the casserole and cover with sliced tomatoes, overlapping if necessary.  Salt and pepper, then bake uncovered in a 375° oven for 20 minutes, or until thoroughly heated.

Ann's Notes:  The author likely intended that you use B&M Baked Beans but I was shopping at Trade Joe's and they had their own brand of baked beans and so I used theirs.  And not that I've shopped regularly for these things, but Trader Joe's price was very reasonable – about $1.30 a can – and you can't beat that!

"The Hamburger Cookbook" - Bleu Cheese Burgers - in observance of National Hamburger Day

Date I made this recipe:  May 29, 2017 – the day after National Hamburger Day

The Hamburger Cookbook (paperback) by Ethel Mayer
Published by Ventura Associates
© 1981
Purchased at BCPA (Bloomington Crime Prevention Association) Annual Sale
Recipe:  Bleu Cheese Burgers – p. 64

Well shut the front door, it's National Hamburger Day – hooray!

Once again, yet another "Who knew" food "holiday" was upon us and once again I was prepared with this tiny paperback book – The Hamburger Cookbook.

Lest you think that I can find easily these books when I need them, let me tell you that all my books are catalogued in an Excel and so all I need to do (in theory) is search for some key words like – in this case – "Hamburger" and then I can see what I have.  I think this book with "hamburger" in the title, may have been the only one I have not cooked from yet.  Time to restock!

Although I'm pretty sure that National Hamburger Day is all about burgers in buns, it is not against the law to cook something else with hamburger in it and this book gives us a wide range of options in these categories:
  • Loaves for Loafers – includes meatloaf recipes
  • Case That Casserole – includes hamburger casserole recipes
  • Serve It In One Dish – includes dishes containing hamburger that aren't necessarily casseroles e.g. stuffed tomatoes
  • Shades of the Lord of Sandwich! – includes traditional burgers as well as a couple Sloppy Joe recipes
  • You're in the Dough – includes things like pasties and meat dumplings
  • Department of Interior Surprises – includes recipes for things stuffed with burgers and burgers stuffed with things!
  • Soup's On – includes soups that contain hamburger
  • Meat Balls Galore – includes meatball recipes
  • Lamburgers – apparently, lamb rates its own chapter!
 I must say that I chuckled at the inclusion of lamburgers because lamb isn't exactly ground hamburger, now is it?

After considering, briefly, going all rogue and making something other than a hamburger, I stuck to the script and made these yummy Bleu Cheese Burgers.  We love blue cheese in this house and so it seemed pretty fitting.

This turned out to be a great choice for National Hamburger Day but I must say that once again, the cooking instructions gave us pause because we weren't sure if we were to stuff this burger with the cheese or not; you'll see why below.  Andy decided on "or not" and so he broiled as directed and they were very yummy.   We also cut the recipe in half as is usual and customary and ended up with 4 good-sized burgers instead of 6; a full recipe makes 12.

This then, concludes our observance of National Hamburger Day with one confession and that is that we made them the day after National Hamburger Day.  I know, right?  The thing is though, the next day was Memorial Day and so why not make a picnic out of it?  So we did and so check my blog for two side dish posts, one for baked beans and the other for a macaroni salad.


Bleu Cheese Burgers – yield 12 half buns, or 2 portions per person
1 pound ground chuck
1 medium onion, chopped very fine
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon Accent
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
¼ cup tomato sauce or ¼ cup chili sauce
6 hamburger buns
6 tablespoons soft butter or margarine
½ cup Bleu cheese mixed in ½ cup mayonnaise

Mix the ground meat, onion, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, Accent, mustard and tomato/chili sauce very thoroughly.  Set aside to allow the flavors to blend.  This meat mixture can be made several hours before serving, or even the day before.

Butter the hamburger bun halves and place under the broiler until they are toasted a golden brown.

Place 1 heaping tablespoon of the cheese and mayonnaise mixture in the center of each bun half.  Form the meat into ½" thick patties the size of the buns; place the meat patty over the Bleu cheese mixture.  Press the edges of each patty so that the cheese mixture is completely sealed inside.  Put under the broiler for 15 minutes, or until the meat is completely browned.  Serve piping hot.  Ann's Note:  What you're basically making here is an open-face sandwich.  The burgers are not stuffed but rather, the burger patty is stretched to the edge of the bun so as to seal in the bleu cheese and mayo mixture.  It took us a minute to figure this out during which time, I ranted once again about confusing cooking instructions!  I also questioned the 15 minute broiling time but when you think of it, stuffed burgers, like Minnesota's famous Jucy Lucy[1], are cooked longer so that you don't end up with raw burger surrounding the napalm melted cheese inside.

This will yield 12 half buns, or 2 portions per person.

[1] A Jucy Lucy is a burger that is stuffed with cheese.  Depending on who you ask, it originated at either Matt's Bar or the 5-8 Club, both located in Minneapolis.  It is an awesome thing to eat but do be careful because the cheese is really, really hot, such that you are warned to let it cool or suffer the consequences!

"Martha's Got Nuthin' On Me" - Papa's Shrimp Cocktail - a tongue-in-cheek ode to Martha Stewart and her "fields"

Date I made this recipe:  May 30, 2017 –a tongue-in-cheek ode to Martha Stewart and her "fields."

Martha's Got Nothin' On Me by Dish & Flow
Published by Left Field Ink
ISBN: 0-9664737-0-1; © 1998
Recipe:  Papa's Shrimp Cocktails – p. 41

I often remark that I have a cookbook for everything and I swear, this one was just waiting for me to find it just after I had myself a little hilarious rant about Martha Stewart on Facebook

Frequent readers know that I have a love/hate relationship with Ms. Stewart (hereinafter "Real Martha.")  While I appreciate some of her recipes and her cookbooks, she is just a tad precocious, especially when it comes to the "to-do" calendar she calls "Martha's Month," featured in her magazine, Martha Stewart Living.

I think we can all agree that most of Real Martha's to-do's in no way resemble the average persons.  Plus, let's not kid ourselves:  Real Martha has "people" to do these things for her.  ("People. People who need people....are the luckiest people....in the world.....")

This then, is my Facebook post from May 25th which set off the hilarious responses listed below.  You should know that I included a photo of "Martha's Month" from the June issue and some comments below reference Real Martha's other to-do's:

"So while I was waiting to get my hair cut, I looked through Martha Stewart Living and...sigh.  I have a love/hate relationship with this woman and today the needle moved toward "hate."  Why?  Even though you may not be able to read this, please note that on 6/5, her to-do is "mow fields."  Not lawn, or even "field" singular but "fields" plural.  For the record, Andy and I have a lawn and he mows it because I don't mow (allergies).  Martha likely doesn't mow either, but likely not due to allergies.  No, someone like Martha has people to do that for her.  People who need people...And fields. Plural."

Then the replies started:
Ann B:  I came to respect her when she made homekeeping respectable again.  But she does have staff.  I think most everything is easier with staff.
Me:  If I could afford "people," trust me, I'd have "people."  I specifically want someone to dust This Old House and I would be happy.  A friend of mine became a fan when she learned that Martha grew her own grass for her Easter baskets. Might have also smoked some as well.  Just sayin'... (Ann's Note: I got a few chuckles from that one.)

Bonnie M:  "The peasants tend the fields."
Me:  "They do indeed.  They will also be busy on the 15th [of June] planting the SECOND crop of beets.  I mean really Martha, like one crop of beets isn't sufficient?"

Annette K: "A whole day to clean outdoor light fixtures?  I could clean my one outdoor light fixture in two minutes."
Me: "I don't "do" outdoor fixtures.  Please, they're outdoors, they get rained on and snowed on and that's "clean" enough for moi.  But Martha likely has a billion outdoor fixtures so she would [have her people] dedicate an entire day to cleaning them."
Annette K:  "You'll notice I said 'could' clean."

Jeff H:  "Ann, the solution is within your grasp.  Simply rename Andy "People," and then on 6/5 in your calendar write "Have people mow the field."  Then it should be easier to relate to Martha's Calendar."
Me:  "Well that's hilarious!  But don't forget, it's field(s), not field.  Of course, we have to first find ourselves a lone field and then figure out how to double it.  As always, Martha complicates everything!"
Jen R:  "Ann Verme, front yard is field 1 and back yard is field 2...fields, there you go."
Me:  "And now I can sleep at night.  As always, thanks Jen!"

Alec S:  "I could get by with "stocking up on summer wines"... (Ann's Note:  So could I!)

My friends are nothing if not amusing and creative. I bet Real Martha never thought of some of this stuff!  That said, Real Martha pays attention to details whereas these Martha Wannabes did not.  None of the recipes in the cooked contained a yield, something that absolutely drives me nuts.  Could I make some assumptions based on the amount of ingredients called for?  Yes, but why?  Real Martha would never do that to me.  Or Real Martha's people.  Just sayin'.

Also irksome is that the Table of Contents is filled with cute little chapter names such as "Rabbit Food," "Udder Decadence," and "Flo's Corner" which are all well and good except they don't list what recipes are contained in each one.  This is not good.  Real Martha is frowning.

Although my usual MO is to make main dishes, this time around I was more interested in Appetizers and so selected the shrimp cocktail and folks, let me just say that we were "in the weeds" before we even got started.
The recipe contains all of six ingredients:  Bay Shrimp; cocktail sauce; diced celery; 1 tsp horseradish;  ½ tsp dry mustard, and 2 dashes of black pepper.  We are not told how much shrimp to buy nor how much cocktail sauce to use, but we are told in the narrative that you need ¼ cup of diced celery in the bottom of each shrimp cocktail glass (I used far less).  Since I was serving this with some other food, I didn't want to stuff myself with too much shrimp and so out of the half pound I purchased, I gave us four shrimp each for this serving and we still had some left over.

Now that I figured out the shrimp and the celery, I turned my attention to the sauce which needed some adjustment.  Since the authors didn't say how much sauce to use, I used about a quarter of the bottle, maybe even less.  I was loathe though, to add the amount of horseradish called for in the recipe because shrimp sauce contains horseradish so I adjusted the amount to ½ tablespoon.  I also cut the mustard and pepper in half.  The result was still nasal-clearing so I'm glad I made that call because too much of a good thing like horseradish is still too much. Real Martha would be the first one to say that an excess of horseradish is not in fact, a "good thing."  Real Martha loves "good things."

By the way, should I have scalded my esophagus, Real Martha probably has a cure for that, likely involving planting a large garden of fresh herbs to be used in some fancy schmancy poultice or something because that is what Real Martha does.  Real Martha also pronounces the "h" in "herbs" and she is the only one to do that but then again, this is what separates Real Martha from the Martha Wannabes.

Now you may be asking yourself why I didn't just wait until June 5th to make this dish as an homage to Real Martha, but keep in mind "I'll" be moving the field(s) that day and won't have time to cook so it's now or never.  Enjoy!

Papa's Shrimp Cocktail- serving size unknown
Bay Shrimp (Ann's Note:  I purchased a half pound – about 20 shrimp)
Cocktail Sauce (Ann's Note:  I used about a quarter of the bottle)
[1/4 cup diced celery per serving]
1 teaspoon horseradish
½ teaspoon dry mustard
2 dashes of black pepper

Prepare a shrimp cocktail for each guest.  Any type of glass will do as long as it's not too tall.  Special shrimp cocktail glasses are the best, though.  If you have some, add some crushed ice to the bottom glass, then place the cocktail glass inside.

Place about ¼ cup of diced celery at the bottom of each shrimp cocktail glass.  Top with shrimp.

Mix cocktail sauce and seasonings.  Spoon on top of shrimp.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

"My Mother's Secret Recipe File - More than 125 Treasured Recipes From The Mothers Of Our Great Chefs - Sweet 'n' Smoky Chicken - Mother's Day 2017

Date I made this recipe:  May 14, 2017 – Mother's Day

Mom's Secret Recipe File – More than 125 Treasured Recipes from the Mothers of Our Great Chefs, edited by Chris Styler ("A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book is being donated to the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children")
Published by Hyperion
ISBN:  1-4013-+0754-X; © 2004
Recipe:  Sweet 'n' Smoky Chicken – p. 207 (submitted by chicken magnate, Jim Perdue)

Ann's Note:  I had another recipe on deck for Mother's Day, a Caramel Cake from the cookbook/essay  In My Mother's Kitchen.  Alas, while on my third attempt to make caramel for the caramel sauce, I burned my left hand something fierce and one week later, have not been back in the kitchen at all.  Since I am still in pain (burn is infected), I shall turn my back on the recipe but will talk about the book at the end of the blog.

All right then, this Mother's Day, I had a couple of options in front of me and so finally decided upon the chicken recipe that was really good and a caramel cake that sounded good but is still unmade because of my kitchen accident.  I must say, this will forever be a memorable Mother's Day for me for all the wrong reasons!

Let's focus on the positive and talk about the cookbook Mom's Secret Recipe File.  There is a lot to like in this cookbook and I was challenged to select just one recipe.  Thirty three "celebrity" chefs submitted recipes for this endeavor to aid the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children (how apt for Mother's Day), and they include:  Lidia Matticchio Bastianich; Jaques Pepin; Marcus Samuellson; Anthony Bourdain and Nieglla Lawson.  What the Table of Contents didn't include, and which irked, was a list of recipes submitted by all these glorious personnel.  I hate that.  It's a small thing, but would it have killed someone – anyone – to put a name and then some bullet-point mentions of the recipes at the front of the book?  Rhetorical question, no need to answer!

Here were some of the recipes up for consideration:
  • The Perfect Chocolate Dessert – p. 24-25 from Barbara Kafka
  • Spinach and Sun-dried Tomato Strata – p. 67-68 from (editor) Chris Styler
  • Spoon Bread with Smithfield Ham and Cheddar Cheese – p. 122 from Chris Schlessinger
  • Mushroom-Barley Soup – p. 177 from Mollie Katzen
  • Poppy Seed Cake with Lemon Glaze – p. 251-252 from Susan Feniger
 Don't these all sound delicious?  Seeing as how I had just cooked from Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen for Earth Day, I eliminated that recipe.  I would have loved to have made the "Poppy Seed Cake with Lemon Glaze "recipe as that was my wedding cake, but this was Mother's Day not Ann and Anniversary's Day (May 18th) so that was out.

So there I was debating about the merits of one of these over the others when I looked through the book again and well, the answer was so obvious to me that I can't even believe I overlooked it the first time:  Sweet 'N' Smoky Chicken.

The backstory:  When my mom turned 80, I made her a homemade birthday card (mini scrapbook) of things that made me think of her and one section was called something like "Jobs my mother could have had."  Included in that was the job of an FDA meat inspector because my mother's fear of germs, especially salmonella from chicken, made her scrub the crap out her kitchen lest we all fall victim to such a terrible illness.  In no way, shape, or form, was my mother going to be responsible for her children's food illnesses, no sir!

And this is why if you came over to our house when she made chicken, you'd see her scrubbing away on her cutting board (a wooden cutting board no less) with Comet cleaner afterwards, followed by a ton of dish soap and hot water until she was assured that whatever might be lurking or fixin' to lurk was dead and gone.  I used to tease her about it to no end until I started cooking and lets just say the apple does not fall from the tree.

Given her rigorous efforts to ensure nothing wicked this way came during prep, it should come as no surprise to learn that if raw chicken was the enemy, undercooked chicken was kitchen Armageddon!  If she cooked the chicken, it sometimes bordered on overdone, something that irked my father to no end.  Dad was a wildlife research biologist and a very practical scientist, whose efforts to try to persuade my mom that "It's fine," failed and failed miserably as did "Some gut bacteria is good." 

When my father cooked the chicken, which he did on a tiny Hibachi grill using his own (and fabulous) BBQ sauce, my mother was all over him with her nagging:  "Are you sure it's cooked?  Well did you check?  Well check it again?"  (Note:  This was often before microwaves saved the day.)

Finally my dad had enough and so he wrote on a Post-it that remained on the refrigerator until the day they both died, "Don't overcook the chicken!" 

And this is how this phrase became the running joke in our household.  Let me just say that it didn't end there though as she moved on to steak and hamburger.  My dad (and I) love a rare steak and I mean rare and I also appreciate a rare burger which really, if you think about it, it steak tartare with a little char.  My mother, fearing total contamination, made my father broil her steak or burger to medium if not medium well and wow, that was a source of contention!

"Ah, come on, honey, you're ruining the meat!," dad would bellow.  "I am not."  "It'll be fine, you won't die."  "Well, I might!" (You should know that whereas my dad often sounded like Star Wars character, Chewbacca when he bellowed, my mother had the daintiest of voices sort of like Minnie Mouse, making the whole exchange even funnier.)

And on and on and on they went but it was adorable.  I am happy to report that my dad usually got his way when it came to his steak (a beautiful sirloin that my mom would "special order" – on sale, always on sale – from the butcher) but had to give it all up when it came to the chicken which is as it should be.

This chicken recipe was delicious, but what really sold the deal was the very last instruction to use a meat thermometer to check the temperature (180°F in the thickest part of the thigh) which was bloody brilliant even though today's chefs and home cooks say "Of course."  Back in the day when my family's chicken-cooking efforts were at an all-time high (60's and 70's), nobody thought to use a meat thermometer and we sure didn't have the internet to fill us on advisable temperatures nor a microwave to cook it further, so it was pretty much eyeball the sucker and hope for the best!

The other day I talked to my brother about the hilarity of all this and we both marveled that nobody in my family ever got sick from undercooked steak or chicken.  Not once because really, with my mother, would the germs even dare?  Nope! 

Here then, is a very good chicken recipe that was "perfectly cooked" and would no doubt have made my mom (and dad) happy this Mother's Day!

Sweet 'n' Smoky Chicken – makes 4 servings
1 large onion, sliced
1 whole Perdue fresh young chicken (about 4 pounds), cut into serving pieces, or 4 pounds of your preferred chicken part (Ann's Note:  I used two chicken breasts for half this recipe.)
2 teaspoons hickory-smoked salt (Ann's Note:  you can make this at home by mixing liquid smoke with sea salt and then letting it dry.  I used 1 teaspoon of sea salt and then a few drops of liquid smoke.)
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ cup ketchup
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons prepared mustard

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Scatter the onion slices over the bottom of a shallow baking pan.  Place the chicken in a single layer, skin side up, on top of the onion.  Sprinkle with the salt and pepper.  Stir the ketchup, maple syrup, vinegar, and mustard together in a small bowl and pour over chicken.  Bake, uncovered, until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh registers 180°F.  (Ann's note:  if you are using chicken breasts, insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the breast.)

And now a word about the book I didn't use and the recipe I didn't make.  In My Mother's Kitchen is an essay with recipes.  The book's subtitle is "Writers on Love, Cooking, and Family," and while the essays were great, the recipes were scarce.  I  counted 12 but I'm not sure it's correct as there is no way to cross check; neither the Table of Contents or the Index listed the recipe names.

I had been wanting to make a caramel cake for some time and thought it would go well with the chicken.  In theory, this is correct, in practice, this is now a cake that I will never bake because of my burn.  And not that I want to lecture you on kitchen safety, but one week after the incident, my hand still hurts like hell.  It was such a stupid – nearly comical – event but one with lasting ramifications!  So if you decided you want to attempt caramel for this cake at home, please be careful out there.

Should you want to see the recipe for yourself, here's the information:
In My Mother's Kitchen – Writers on Love, Cooking, and Family – With contributions from Ruth Reichel, M F. K. Fisher, Maya Angelou, Julie Sahni, Joyce White, and Nigel Slater.
Published by Chamberlain Brothers
ISBN: 1-59609-209-2; © 2006
Recipe (that I didn't make):  Maya Angelou's Caramel Cake – p. 22-23, included in her essay titled "The Assurance of Caramel Cake."

Alternatively, it's also included in Hallelujah! The Welcome Table by Maya Angelou.  I have not cooked from her book(s) yet (I have two) although they are always " on my list."

Monday, May 22, 2017

"Rosa Mexicano- A Culinary Autobiography With Recipes" - Guacamole for Cinco de Mayo!

Date I made this recipe:  May 5, 2017 – Cinco de Mayo!

Rosa Mexicano – A Culinary Autobiography with 60 Recipes by Josefina Howard
Published by Viking
ISBN: 0-670-87047-9; © 1998
Recipe:  Guacamole En Molcajete –  ("Guacamole made in a molcajete," a Mexican mortar and pestle) – p. 127

Note:  Rosa Mexicano is a Mexican restaurant that originated in NYC.

I absolutely love the movie, When Harry Met Sally.  Love it.  One of the many scenes that cracks me up is – no, not the deli scene –when Harry and Sally are talking about reading books.  "When I die, I always read the last page first. That way, in case I die before I finish, I know how it ends." [Harry to Sally]

I always check out the last page first as well but not because I might die.  No, I read it (skim it actually) so I know if it's worth my time to read it.  Yes, I know, call me crazy, but that is how I roll.

And this is why I'm going to cut to the chase tell you how this recipe ended:  It. Was. Awesome!  Awesome!  I've made a lot of guacamole in my day, including a very good pomegranate "guac," but this one was the best of the bunch.

It was so good that Andy keep exclaiming (with his mouth full) "This is so good!  This is just so good!"  He finally had to stop himself from eating the entire bowl because yes, it was that good.

The best thing about this dish though, was that it was so damned easy and when you see the ingredient list you'll say "Of course," but you know, some guacamole recipes have gotten so out of hand that this recipe is a good reminder to keep it simple.  Here's what it in it:  white onion, serrano chiles, cilantro, salt, avocado, tomato, the end.

And now, dear reader, let's see how we got here.

Although I have not long owned this cookbook, I have been aware of the Rosa Mexicano restaurant for some time.  In fact, as I was writing this blog post, I wondered (and not for the first time), whether this was the same Mexican restaurant I and a friend dined at in NYC many years ago (as in 20 years ago), but after doing my due diligence, I'm going to have to say "no."

Here's the thing:  The friend that I dined with has always lived on the Upper West Side, usually in the "80's" and so we usually crawl around that neighborhood when it comes to dining out.  Of the restaurant's four locations, only one is within spitting distance and that is the one at Lincoln Center but Lincoln Center is in the 60's whereas we definitely dined further uptown. It's important to note that in "NYC-speak," the "60's," means that the address is somewhere between 60th Street and 69th Street and not today's high temperature.  Further, when you give an address, you then add things like "between Broadway and Amsterdam," or "at Columbus Circle" so that people know approximately where it is without having to get all the specifics.  And so in conclusion, her restaurant's Lincoln Center address is several  blocks south or where we normally dine and that is why I ruled it out. 

Then there's the decor and while I realize that most restaurants do some kind of redecorating over the course of time, the interior photos on her website look absolutely nothing like the place I remembered so that made me suspicious.

Then there's the menu which I checked out online, and again, even accounting for the time lapse between now and then, nothing rang a bell.  I remember distinctly that wherever it was we dined had pozole on the menu and I ordered it (first time ever – I was intrigued) but didn't like it.  Hominy is like a giant corn kernel only not and it just didn't do anything for me.  This cookbook contains a recipe for Pozole on p. 101, but no way was I going to make recipe because when you see that you are to start making the broth with 1 pig's head and 6 pig's feet, you know you have bigger problems that the size of your corn kernels!

At any rate, based on the above evidence (such as it is), I concluded that I did not in fact dine in a Rosa Mexicano restaurant in NYC some 20 years ago.  Nor did I dine at the one that opened (and then closed) in Minneapolis.  Too many restaurants, not enough time.

Happily, many restaurant owners these days publish cookbooks so that we rank amateur chefs can have at it at home.  I tend to stick to easy recipes with ingredients that I hope we all, wherever we live, can acquire easily, and that don't take up too much prep or cooking time.

This is why I hate to say that while I appreciate good Mexican food, I don't often make it at home because it often requires more work or more ingredients than I a comfortable handling. 

Take for example, the recipe for "Black Mole Xico with Chicken" (p. 262) that called for 30 ingredients including 2 types of chiles and 3 kinds of nuts.  While the recipe looked fantastic, I was fatigued just looking at it and so passed on that.

I considered also both Mexican red rice and green rice but whereas the mole was very involved, these were almost too basic.  I mean anybody and everybody can make these dishes, si?  Si!

For the longest time, "Grits with Pork and Tomatoes" (p. 38) was on deck but then I read through it again and discovered that I was to "reserve the pork for another use."  What?  I love pork and just couldn't see using it elsewhere so that was out.  Also?  What "other use" could there possibly be for cooked pork except to eat it with the recipe in question!  Even funnier?  Once you make the sauce and the grits, you are to serve it with shredded chicken.  Ha!  Hahahahaha, stop it, "you're killing me!"

After considering a few other recipes that look good and that didn't require hours in the kitchen or millions of dollars worth of ingredients, I decided to "Kiss" (Keep It Simple, Stupid), and "make up" with the guacamole recipe and I am glad I did.  I know some people do not like avocado or cilantro but if you do like them, and we do, then this is the recipe for you.

Before I get to the recipe details, let me remind you that this cookbook is really an autobiography that includes some recipes and so rather than review the Table of Contents with you like I often do, I'll just endorse the cookbook as I think you are bound to find something you like even if it isn't the guacamole.

And on that note, and several weeks after Cinco de Mayo, here we go:  Rosa Mexicano's [Holy!] Guacamole En Molcajete!

Guacamole En Molcajete – serves 2
Ann's Note:  a molcajete is a stone mortar and pestle that is used to grind and mix the ingredients.  I do not have one so I skipped that part and the earth did not open to swallow me up so there you go.
3 tablespoons chopped white onion
½ teaspoon chopped serrano chiles (Ann's Note:  I had several frozen jalapeno chiles on hand so used that instead of serrano)
1 ½ teaspoons finely chopped cilantro
½ teaspoon salt
1 ripe Hass avocado
1 small vine-ripened tomato sliced in half, horizontally.  Cut out the stem, scoop out the seeds and center with a spoon, and chop

In a small bowl, thoroughly mash 1 tablespoon chopped onion, the serrano chiles, ½ teaspoon cilantro, and salt with the back of a wooden spoon until it is a juicy paste.  Ann's Note:  I whirled this around in my mini-food processor. Although it didn't quite make a paste as we know it, it diced and mixed the ingredients into tiny pieces and that is what you are aiming for.

Ann's Note:  The next step is to peel then chop the avocado.  You can follow the instructions below, or you can buy yourself an Avocado Slicer made by Trudeau and your life will be so much easier.  This lone tool allows you to slice the avocado open, remove the pit, and remove and slice the avocado "meat" inside.  It's perfect and far less messy than doing it by hand.  But if you are a purist then: Holding the avocado in the palm of your hand, cut the avocado in the palm of your hand, cut the avocado in half lengthwise around the pit with a paring knife.  Twist the top half of the avocado to separate the halves.  Carefully hit the pit with the edge of a sharp knife and twist to remove the see.  Slice it lengthwise into approximately ¼-inch strips and then across to form a grid.  Scoop the avocado out with a spoon next to the skin.  Place in a bowl with the paste.

Stir thoroughly to coat with the paste.  Add the remaining onion, remaining cilantro, and the tomato, and gently fold to incorporate all the ingredients.  Add more chopped serrano chiles and salt to taste.

Serve with freshly made tortilla chips or corn tortillas.