Friday, November 29, 2013

"Apple Betty & Sloppy Joe - Stirring Up the Past with Family Recipes and Stories (Wisconsin family cookbook)" - Sloppy Joes

Date I made this recipe:  November 24, 2013 (Packers v. Vikings, Game #2)

Apple Betty & Sloppy Joe - Stirring Up the Past with Family Recipes and Stories by Susan Sanvidge, Diane Sanvidge Seckar, Jean Sanvidge Wouters, and Julie Sanvidge Florence from Oshkosh, Wisconsin
Published by:  Wisconsin Historical Society Press (
ISBN:  978-0-87020-386-2
Recipe:  Sloppy Joes (Naturally!) - p. 157-158

And they're back!  For the second time this football season, my Green Back Packers played the Minnesota Vikings in Lambeau Field.  Although I am running short on Wisconsin-related cookbooks, I'm not down yet and so finally decided to make something from this fun cookbook to honor the occasion. 

I've had this book for quite some time but held back a bit from using it because I think I was waiting for something that said "Packers" or "football" to jump out at me.  I have such high expectations for my Wisconsin cookbooks, don't I?  But when that didn't happen, I settled for the very neutral and not-even-football-related Sloppy Joe recipe.

As it turned out, this was perhaps the best course of action.  The Packers looked pretty good out of the blocks but then just lacked energy through the first three quarters.  I got worried.  And when I get worried, I do what my family has always done when it gets tense watching the Packers - change the channel.  (Which didn't work so well in the early years of Packers football when we only had one channel...but whatever).  Yes folks, we change the channel to avoid throwing things at the TV (in this case, an iron--and yes, some of us still iron) with the hopes that if we don't breathe down their necks and over-coach (it happens), the team will improve.  My husband cracks up when I do this and in fact, commented this time around that the team probably said "Verme changed the channel...let's DO this!" 

I am not alone in this craziness;  my brother changes the channel as well and several other people I know leave the room.  So there.  When you are a rabid Packers fan, you have to have your strategies. 

At any rate, it worked!  Down by 16 points, the Packers came roaring back under the (please stay with me) backup to the backup to the backup to quarterback Aaron Rodgers.  Aaron has a broken collarbone.  Seneca Wallace was his backup but he's out with a groin injury.  Scott Tolzein is his backup and he was struggling after the first quarter.  That left Matt Flynn to come in and rally the troops.  If you are a Packers fan (and why wouldn't you be?), you'll know that Matt was backup to Aaron a few years ago, and then got traded and life in the trade after-world did not go well.  Fans started chanting "Bring Back Flynn" as soon as Aaron went down and Flynn was available but these things take time, kids.  But now he's back, and he almost saved the day.

I say "almost" because we managed to tie the Vikings and forced the game into overtime. And we went up by three after kicking a field goal but according to new NFL rules, a field goal isn't good enough; to win in OT, you must get a touchdown.  So we got a field goal, then the Vikings got a field goal.  Then we got another and they got another and the game was tied and overtime ran out of time and per the new rules, the game stayed a tie.

I have to tell you, this was kind of deflating.  I'm used to watching college ball where the overtimes are ridiculous but then again, this isn't college ball.  So the Vikings, who blew the lead, slunk off the field.  The Packers did the same.  Packer Nation went "Huh."  Vikings fans also went "Huh." In the end, it wasn't a win but it wasn't a loss.  It was what it was...whatever it was.  And so perhaps the "neutral" Sloppy Joes helped out after all?  And I do hope all the sisters who wrote this cookbook were watching from the wilds of Oshkosh (B'Gosh!), Wisconsin.  Although one should never assume anybody living in Wisconsin is a Packers fan, statistics will show that this is a very reasonable and in fact, very mathematically, correct assumption.

I don't know the exact age of these sisters but they must be close to my age, if not a bit older, because the recipes they include in this cookbook are pretty close to what I grew up eating.  And I think my favorite chapter from this book is the Salads chapter that included the priceless subtitle "Yes, Jell-O is a salad."  (You knew this, right?  Please tell me you knew this.) In my house, and theirs, Jell-O salad accompanied just about every meal and my mother had special Jell-O salads for special occasions such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.  In fact, so inspired am I by this chapter that I think I'm going to haul out her Jell-O molds and get cracking, just in time for the holidays.  Included in this cookbook (and similar to ones in my mom's collection) are such delights as "Carrot Pineapple Jell-O Salad;" "Lime Cottage Cheese Salad;" and "Cranberry Relish Mold."  Sigh. I am having quite the blissful walk down memory lane right now.

In the Meat Chapter, Spamwiches are listed right next to the Sloppy Joe recipe and although mom never made these sandwiches, we certainly ate our fair share of Spam back in the day.  Once again, these gals and I are simpatico when it comes to family food. 

I can't recall if I ever mentioned in previous blog posts the one day a few years back that I had an incredible craving for a Sloppy Joe but if not, here's my story (and I'm sticking to it):  I was working on a legal project in downtown Minneapolis, and for whatever reason, I started to crave a Sloppy Joe.  I mean really crave as in I wanted one right now, period.  But where to find one? 

I called around several restaurants that served comfort food but nobody had Sloppy Joes on the menu.  In desperation, I asked several co-workers if anybody knew of any place downtown that served them.  Nobody knew.  I was crushed but what can you do?

But oh miracle of miracles, a few days later, a Jewish deli, located in the Minneapolis Skyway system not far from my office (skyways are indoor walkways) had a sign advertising their sandwich special of the day - Sloppy Joes.

And Jesus wept.  And I wept.  And it was good.

I don't know what it is Sloppy Joes that triggered such a strong craving that day but it did and so when opportunity knocked, I made it for the game.  And it too, was good.  The only thing I muffed was that the sisters recommended serving it on old-fashioned store-bought hamburger buns and we bought hamburger buns but they were of the whole wheat variety and this was wrong, people, wrong.  Here's why:  white bread soaks up all the grease, turning your bread orange AND allows you to squish the Sloppy Joe into a tight little square.  Our whole wheat buns did not.  We were foolish and for this we apologize; it won't happen again. 

Sloppy Joes (serving side not indicated but it calls for 4 pounds of ground beef so you might want to cut the recipe in half)
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons butter
4 pounds ground beef
1 bottle (14 ounces) ketchup
1 cup water
1/2 finely chopped celery
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
hamburger buns

In a small frying pan, saute onions in butter until transparent.  Brown the ground beef gently in a large stainless steel frying pan until no pink is left, breaking down the chunks as you are moving the meat around.  Drain off excess fat.  Add the sauteed onions (do not drain off the butter).  Combine the rest of the ingredients and stir into browned meat.  Cover and simmer on medium heat, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes.  Serve on store-bought hamburger buns.  (Author's note:  This recipe can be made ahead and reheated.  It's one of those recipes that tastes better on the second day.)

Friday, November 22, 2013

"Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals by Sara Moulton" - Sausage, Lentil. and Spinach Stew

Date I made this recipe:  November 16, 2013

Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals by Sara Moulton (of the Food Network)
Published by:  Broadway Books
ISBN:  0-7679-1689-X
Recipe:  Sausage, Lentils and Spinach Stew - p. 173

Earlier last week, I got around to watching a DVR recording of the Food Network's 20th anniversary show and I must say, it's hard to believe it's been 20 years.  Still, when you watch some of the clips of the earlier shows, you can see the difference between the new, fledgling network ("Food Network?  What?") with really abysmal kitchen sets and little-known stars, like today's featured cookbook author, Sara Moulton,  to the huge it is today. 

Prior to joining the Food Network Family, Sara built up a lot of street cred in the culinary world (cooking with Julia Child, anybody?), but she, along with other soon-to-be TV powerhouses, Emeril Lagasse and Mario Batali, were virtual unknowns when the Food Network started. Sara's easy, comfortable show, Cooking Live (later followed by Sara's Secret) though, was an instant hit as she explained her way through endless cooking demonstrations, making every recipe seem imminently achievable.  Sara was featured on the Food Network's birthday show and said that she was told early on to keep smiling all the time, no matter what happened on the show, and that smile caught on.  But I also remember her telling folks that as her popularity grew, so did the minor critiques, such as "You touched your nose with your finger after making that pie."  Eh, the devil is in the details, right? (I will go on record as saying that aside from seeing some chefs "double-dip,"- ew- I am not that watchful.)

I didn't tune in to the very early years of the Food Network as it really flew under my radar at the time, but just a year or so after it started, I started watching Sara's show.  Watching Sara was like watching my mom in the kitchen - always warm and reassuring - whereas Emeril Lagasse was "dad" - lots of energy (lots), lots of volume, lots of just everything but with an end (cooking) result that tasted great.  And then there was Mario who we won't go into who took Emeril's catch phrase "Kick it up a notch" to a whole new level with Italian cooking. 

My money though, was always on Sara.  And when I met her to have her sign this cookbook, she was just as nice and welcoming in person as she is on TV.  I like that. I may have a big personality (I'm told) in public but in my kitchen, I enjoy my quiet time with my ingredients making my meal.

In the Twin Cities area, Sara has a twin in Lucia Watson, owner of the eponymous restaurant, Lucia's, in the Uptown area of Minneapolis and author of my favorite cookbook (out of 1800+) Savoring the Seasons of the Northern Heartland.  I've mentioned this before but I'll say it again - I love Lucia.  She is my hero.  She is to the Midwest what Sara Moulton is to the east coast:  determined, engaging and brilliantly talented - a  person who just quietly rises to the forefront before anyone knows what hit them. 

The Twin Cities just celebrated its third annual Charlie Awards - restaurant awards honoring those individuals who stand out in the industry, ranging from Outstanding Food Truck Item to Outstanding Bartender to Outstanding Restaurant Design.  It's a very fun event and I was tickled pink, maybe even joyous, to see Lucia honored with a (culinary) Charlie Lifetime Achievement Award.  It could not have gone to a more deserving person.  I am also pretty pumped on her behalf that she, a female chef and restaurateur, won in the third year of these award shows.  That's got to mean something, right? Right - girl power!    (By the way, Sara Moulton was a 2012 James Beard Award Nominee in the Best Media Personality Category.) 

The dish I selected from Sara's cookbook, Sausages, Lentils and Spinach Stew, is one I could also easily see Lucia making and serving in her restaurant so I think it's rather cosmic that I selected this dish and made it the night before the Charlie Awards ceremony.  I told some friends that I suppose I could have substituted chicken sausage for Italian sausage except it offended the Sicilian in me, but a friend emailed back and said that those sausages are often overloaded with salt.  Good call then.  I'm not a fan of large amounts of salt and I have a problem with sausages that aren't pork - it just doesn't seem natural. (And it isn't but we don't have time to go there.)

At any rate, aside from the sausage, this is a pretty healthy dish, loaded with all good things including warm fuzzies.  These days, you can catch Sara Moulton on her PBS show, Sara's Weeknight Meals (check local listings for program information) and you can always make a run for the Uptown area of Minneapolis to catch Lucia Watson in action - Lucia's, 1432 W. 31st St. and for heaven's sake, don't forget to stop at her store, Lucia's To Go (next to her restaurant) for incredible edibles to take home.

Enjoy everyone!

Sausage, Lentil and Spinach Stew - Makes 4 servings
1 pound Italian sweet or hot sausages, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 medium carrot, chopped (1/2 cup)
2 garlic cloves, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
1 sprig rinsed and dried fresh oregano and 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 Turkish bay leaf
Two 14- or 14 1/2 ounce cans chicken broth or 3 1/2 cups Chicken Stock (Sara's recipe for chicken stock is on page 32)
8 ounces dried lentils (about 1 cup), sorted and rinsed
One 5-ounce package rinsed baby spinach
Kosher salt and freshly milled black pepper

Combine the sausages and 1/4 inch water in large saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove the lid and cook until all the water has evaporated and the sausage has browned lightly.  (Ann's Note:  I wish she would have indicated how long it was going to take until all the water evaporated because it seemed like it took forever.  I finally helped the process along by pouring out most of the water and the letting what remained cook down.)

Increase the heat to medium; add the onion, carrot, garlic, oregano, and bay leaf to the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the broth and the lentils and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to low; cook, partially covered, until the lentils are just tender, 30 to 35 minutes.  Add the spinach and cook over medium heat until it is wilted.  Discard the bay leaf and oregano sprig and add salt and pepper to taste.  Add water and reheat if stew is too thick (or add more broth if you want to turn this into a soup).


Thursday, November 14, 2013

The L.L. Bean Book of 'New' New England Cookery - Celery, Carrot, and Wild Rice Soup

Date I made this recipe:  November 10, 2013

The L. L. Bean book of New New England Cookery by Judith and Evan Jones
Published by:  Random House
ISBN:  0-394-54456-0
Recipe:  Celery, Carrot, and Wild Rice Soup - p. 49

Oh, the fickleness of fall.  The week before last, the weather was somewhat warm so I made a dish from a Hawaiian cookbook.  But this week, we are back to cloudy and gloomy and so forget the warm-weather food and just give me something "warm."  And so...soup!

I must confess that this recipe selection was sort of a setup - a regional "throw down" if you will.  To my mind, there's no way another state's or region's wild rice soup is going to beat out Minnesota's famous wild rice soup and while this recipe was good, it wasn't "ours."  The New England soup utilizes yogurt, a surprisingly nice addition to the soup, but it did not make it smooth and rich like the Minnesota version that usually relies on cream (and lots of it).  I also added chicken to the New England soup recipe because self-respecting Minnesotan (even an adopted one like me) would make a wild rice soup without chicken or ham.  Period.  Heck, Byerly's grocery store adds slivered almonds to their wild rice soup.  I didn't go that far so whew- no almonds were harmed in the making of this version.

Still, I shouldn't knock this soup as it was quite delicious and a whole lot heart-healthier than the Minnesota version and yet, as we slide into the cold months of the year, I'm not sure anybody is thinking about their hearts, instead focusing on "hearty" with a "y."  (Pun intended).

As to the cookbook, this is quite the tome but I wouldn't expect anything less from authors Judith Jones and (the late) Evan Jones.  In addition to writing cookbooks, Judith is a master cookbook editor, editing, among other things, Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  She is also responsible for "rescuing" (Anne Frank's) The Diary of a Young Girl from the rejection pile, an act for which I thank her mightily as that book made an indelible impression on me when I was a young girl.

Judith's husband, Evan Jones, was no slouch in the writing/editing department, either.  Jones' last book was Epicurean Delight, a biography of James Bear, a book I read a long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away!).  In one of those "small world" moments, it turns out that Evan Jones was a native of Minnesota and there I was making a wild rice soup. 

Judith and Evan also co-authored a couple of cookbooks about bread, something that would have gone nicely with the soup but alas, I do not own one of their bread books and even if I did, we are likely talking about my efforts looking and tasting like a doorstop.  I have not had much success in that area.

Besides the wild rice soup recipe, I was toying with making something with cranberries as that is practically regional berry of honor in New England (blueberries likely come a close second) but we are so close to Thanksgiving that I decided to pass and make soup instead.  Still, the recipe I passed up - Pot Roast with Cranberries and Horseradish (p. 194) is haunting me so I may just have to up and make it sometime soon. 

This soup takes next to no time to make, something I appreciate more and more with my busy schedule, and if you use a mini Cuisinart like I did, the vegetable chopping takes no time which frees you up to watch your favorite football team play (and keeps knives out of your hands - very important during a game).

Celery, Carrot and Wild Rice Soup - serves 4
8 ribs celery
2 tablespoons safflower oil
4 scallions
1/2 tablespoon flour
2 medium carrots, grated
4 cups chicken or beef stock, heated
1 cup cooked wild rice
1/2 cup plain yogurt
3 tablespoons grated cheddar

Trim the celery and chop fine.  Heat the oil and stir in the celery, cooking, covered, for 5 minutes.  Chop the scallions, including the tender greens, and stir into the celery and oil.  Cook 1 minute, stir in the flour, and continue cooking 1 minute more, stirring.  Add the grated carrots, whisk in the hot stock, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes.   Stir in the wild rice and bring the soup to a boil.  Fold in the yogurt.  Serve with grated cheese.

Ann's Note:  I poached two packages of chicken tenders then chopped them and added them to the soup after it was done.  Yummy!


Friday, November 8, 2013

"The New Cuisine of Hawaii - Recipes from the Twelve Celebrated Chefs of Hawaii Regional Cuisine" - Stir-Fried Chicken Satay with Rice Noodles

 Date I made this recipe:  November 3, 2013

The New Cuisine of Hawaii - Recipes from the Twelve Celebrated Chefs of Hawaii Regional Cuisine by Janice Wald Henderson
Published by:  Villard Books
ISBN:  0-679-42529-2
Recipe:  Stir-Fried Chicken Satay with Rice Noodles - p. 50 (Recipe by Chef Jean-Marie Josselin)

A little while ago, I wrote about how one of my kitchen adventures turned into my own version of the Food Network Show, Iron Chef America.  Today is round two at my house and tonight's secret ingredient is...rice noodles!  (Let's all take a moment to ooh and aah, just like the contestants on the show do).

A while back, Trader Joe's, a store that just keeps on giving, carrying products I never would have thought about buying if they hadn't told me to, featured these rice noodles in the refrigerator section.  I bought them, put them in my own refrigerator, and then went on a hunt for a recipe containing rice noodles.  Surely with a recipe collection as vast as mine, containing several Asian cookbooks, I would find a recipe right away, but no.  Lucky for me, these noodles had a long "shelf" life, ending this coming Thursday (well, not "ending" ending but that was the suggested "use by date"). 

In the end, it turned out to be a case of good timing that I waited so long because I ended up using one of the used cookbooks I acquired on a recent trip to Hawaii provided just the recipe - Stir-Fried Chicken Satay with Rice Noodles.  And so whew--right there in print was the secret ingredient - rice noodles.  You have no idea how hard that was because most of the other cookbooks listed every other noodles but rice noodles or listed rice itself but not the noodles.  So...success.

What almost derailed me from making this though, was the other secret ingredient:  red Thai curry paste.  I must say, the combination of Thai + curry scares me.  I expected it to be tongue-blistering hot but then again, the other ingredient, coconut milk, provides a balancing cooling effect.  So there was that.  And the peanut butter in the sauce definitely smoothes things over (hahahaha).  The result was a wonderfully rich and not-too-hot satay sauce.  I loved it.

But alas, the rice noodles did not fill me with love or even affection...or anything closely resembling either of the above.  For this I blame myself:   Instead of following the recipe instructions, I followed the package directions to the "t" and the package cooking time and the recipe cooking time differed by a minute. And in retrospect, I should have known that a 2-minute cooking time was too much.  We ended up with a soggy, messy glob of noodles prompting me to suggest to Andy that we eat the satay sauce leftovers with rice this time around.  Rice, I can cook:  rice noodles?  Apparently not so much!

As to the "new" cuisine of Hawaii, of which this recipe is a part, happily, this cuisine is no longer new as our 11-day sampling vacation proved to me and my husband.  Many more Hawaiian chefs are making their marks in the culinary world, and a couple of Food Network shows have had Hawaiian chefs as contestants.  In fact, we ate at Next Food Network Star's Ippy Aiona's restaurant on the Big Island (and got photos--he is as nice in person as he was on TV).  So that's a big plus.  But the way was paved by the twelve chefs from this book so let's discuss:

Alan Wong - once cooked for President Obama; now owns three restaurants in Oahu and Maui.
Amy Ferguson Ota - once cooked with Julia Child (be still my heart); now runs a catering business in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island. 
Beverly Gannon - owner of the Hali'imalie General Store (we've eaten there) on Maui and other of a cookbook by the same name.  Hers was one of the first cookbooks I used for my blog.
Gary Strehl - has moved back to the mainland and continues in his role as general manager/executive chef for several high-end hotel groups.
George Mavrothalassitis - born in Provence, Chef "Mavro" is chef/proprietor of Chef Mavro's, a fine dining restaurant in Honolulu.
Jean-Marie Josselin - after venturing out to the mainland to open a restaurant in Las Vegas, Chef Josselin returned to Hawaii to Kauai to operate Josselin's Tapas Bar and Grill.  Had we known of him when were in Kauai, we would have stopped in for a bite but alas, I shipped this book, purchased in Hilo, Hawaii, before we stopped over in Kauai for a few days before returning to Minneapolis.  Oh well--next time.
Mark Ellman - This guy is busy!  In addition to a few restaurants in Maui, he owns/operates nine Maui Taco stands in three different Hawaiian Islands.  (Not that we ate at his stand, but we could not get over the wide variety of taco stands seen on all the islands.  Who knew?)
Peter Merriman - I only had to wait 10 years to eat at Peter Merriman's "original" Merriman's Restaurant on the Big Island (Waimea) but it was well worth it.  For whatever reason, I was aware of Peter Merriman the first time I went to the Big Island in 1997 and his reputation has grown exponentially since then.  Merriman pretty much started the local food movement on the Big I and has not strayed from that notion one iota, as evidenced by his "island-grown" notations on most of his restaurant items.  Trust me when I tell you to get the locally raised grass-fed beef filet.  "Sublime" is the word that comes to mind.  Absolutely sublime.
Philippe Padovani - The sad news is that Phlippe had a restaurant, then closed it, then reopened then closed it.  Alors.  But the good news is that he is now making chocolates in Honolulu.  That said, let me just say that all Hawaiian islands seem to love to make and sell chocolates, but people, I inadvertently left a Caramello bar in my purse in Kauai and despite the fact that I took my purse everywhere, it melted all over the place and I had quite the mess.  Do not however, let this deter you from a purchase:  instead, exercise caution!
Roger Dikon - Here's another chef who moved around a bit after a long stint of chefing in Hawaii only to return once again.  He is currently living in Honolulu
Roy Yamaguchi - Having eaten at two of Roy's restaurants in Maui and the Big Island (and waved at him while driving by his restaurant on Kauai), I feel like I know the guy but alas, have never met him.  Born in Japan, Roy has been busy building a restaurant empire with restaurants all over Hawaii as well as in Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada and Texas.  Everything we've eaten is outstanding but Roy's Chocolate SoufflĂ© (a/k/a Molten Lava Cake) is memorable.
Sam Choy - I've been hearing about Sam Choy for years but didn't see much of him and then overnight, he was on all these Food Network shows.  Sam's restaurant, Kai Lanai, is located in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island.  We drove past it but alas, didn't have time to stop.  Next trip!

All told, I think that's a pretty impressive set of biographies of these chefs who paved the way for Hawaii to become a powerhouse in the culinary world.  And I'm really pleased that I've eaten in a few of their establishments and eaten well, my friends.  It is not for nothing that several people on this list have been nominated for or received James Beard Awards.  Let's hope they continue to impress.

And now for our recipe - aloha!

Stir-Fried Chicken Satay with Rice Noodles - 4 servings
1 1/2 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk
3 tablespoons red Thai curry paste
1 teaspoon tumeric
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 cup natural-style peanut butter
1/3 cup chopped roasted peanuts
1/4 cup (or more) water
12 basil leaves, julienned
Noodles and Chicken
1 package (6 ounces) rice noodles (mai fun)
4 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon peeled, minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced
1 small carrot, julienned
1/2 cup snow peas, strings removed
1/2 cup sliced bok choy

For the sauce:  Bring the coconut milk to a simmer in a heavy, medium saucepan.  Add the red curry paste, tumeric and curry powder and mix well.  Whisk in the peanut butter, roasted peanuts, 1/4 cup of water and the basil.  season to taste with salt.  (Can be prepared 1 day ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.  Bring to room temperature before using, thinning with more water if necessary.)

For noodles and chicken:  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the noodles and cook until just tender, about 1 minute.  (Ann's Note:  the package said 1 1/2 to 2 minutes and as previously noted, 2 minutes will get you rice paste.)  Drain; return the noodles to the pot.  Add 1 tablespoon of oil and toss well.  Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in a wok over high heat.  Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for 15 seconds.  Add the chicken and stir-fry until almost cooked through, about 3 minutes.  Add the carrot and stir-fry 1 minute.  Add 2 cups of sauce and cook to heat through.  Mound the rice noodles on plates.  Top with chicken sauce and serve.

Ann's Note:  Chef Jean-Marie Josselin recommends serving a sweeter wine to soothe the palate from the curry sauce.  Either a German Riesling or an American Gewurztraminer will do the trick if you like white wine.  For red, (which he didn't recommend), I think a fruity merlot is probably your best bet.  For the record, I had neither but instead opted for my favorite beverage, a martini.  If anything helps cool down the hotness of curry sauce, it's gin.  But that could just be me....

Monday, November 4, 2013

"Great Pumpkin Cookbook" (Peanuts characters) - Great Pumpkin Cake for Halloween

Date I made this recipe:  October 31, 2013 - Halloween!

Great Pumpkin Cookbook - No Tricks...Just Treats (Peanuts Comic Strip):  Cartoons by Charles M. Schulz; Recipes by June Dutton
Published by:  Determined Products, Inc.
© 1990; 1981 (Peanuts copyright held by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)
Recipe:  Great Pumpkin Cake - p. 31

There is nothing I love more than a good, all-purpose line, something from a movie, TV show, or song that just summarizes everything.  In this case, the best line out of the classic TV cartoon, "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" is this:  "I got a rock."

In this TV cartoon, poor, hapless Charlie Brown goes trick-or-treating with his friends and afterwards, they compare notes:  "I got five pieces of candy!"  "I got a chocolate bar!"  "I got a quarter!"  And then... (Charlie Brown)"I got a rock."  No matter where they go or what they do, Charlie Brown ends up with a rock. This clearly, is a metaphor for life's trials and tribulations and is a line I quote often.  In fact, it works on so many levels of daily life, it's ridiculous.  Let's look at some examples:

Co-worker A:  "I got a promotion"
Co-worker B:  "I'm so happy for you because I get to move up in your slot."
You (the un-promoted):  "I got a rock."

Or there's this scenario:
Co-worker A:  "I got a raise!"
Co-worker B:  "I got a raise, too!"
You (the un-raised):  "I got a rock."

Or this one on Valentine's Day:
Friend A (no longer friend): "I got engaged on Valentine's Day.  Look at my ring!"  (While you simme...r)
Friend B (also no longer a friend):  "He delivered flowers to my work, then took me out for a fabulous dinner at "Chez Overpriced" and then gave me specially-made truffles from cocoa beans he had flown in from South America!"
You (the un-Valentined):  "I got a rock."

Do you see how easy this is?  There is not one situation in life to which "I got a rock" does not apply.  Let me tell you, that Charles M. Schulz guy was quite a genius!  Oh, and there's that comic strip things of his too, that I heard did really well.  (PS--Charles was from St. Paul--practically a neighbor!).

Out of all the Peanuts TV specials that appeared over the years (most notably, the other favorite - A Charlie Brown Christmas) none have tickled me more than "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown."  And it's pretty much due to that one fabulous line.  Who would have thunk?

So when I saw this cookbook - Great Pumpkin Cookbook -  on Etsy (talk about feeling like you hit the Halloween candy Mother Lode), I had to have it and then as soon as I had it, I promptly put a note on my calendar to cook from it on Halloween.  And so sure enough, I made Great Pumpkin Cake and it was fabulous and so fun and fitting for a day I usually hate (too many Halloween's spent bundled up in winter coats kills a mood; kills it). 

This cake is really moist, something I wasn't expecting, such that you can eat it without the whipped cream frosting...and I have been eating it without the frosting.  And eating it, and eating it and....

And so I'm happy to report that when it came to this cookbook, I did not "get a rock."  But I'm telling you--try out my suggestion some time in work and social situations and see if it doesn't just summarize everything.  It does - trust me.  But as to whether or not you'll see the Great Pumpkin rise up out of the pumpkin patch?  Well.....

Great Pumpkin Cake (makes a 9 x 13 x 2 cake)
1 stick soft butter
1 - 1/4 cups sugar      
2 eggs
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon soda  
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 cup canned pumpkin (Note: 1 cup not 1 can)
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped pecans     

1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.  Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs, beating well after each addition.  Sift flour with dry ingredients.  Combine pumpkin and milk.  Add sifted ingredients alternately with pumpkin mixture to butter and sugar.  Stir in nuts.  Pour into a greased 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan.  Bake about 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean.  Cool.  Top with whipped cream to which sugar and vanilla have been added, or with vanilla ice cream.

*I purchased this book on Esty:  Chelle's Kitchen -


Friday, November 1, 2013

"John Madden's Ultimate Tailgating" - Award-Winning Chili for the Packers Vikings Game

Date I made this recipe:  October 27, 2013 (Packers v. Vikings, round 1)

John Madden's Ultimate Tailgating by John Madden with Peter Kaminsky
Published by:  Viking (Oh Lord, I just realized why I should not have used this book - Viking [Press]?  Forgive me, Packers, I did not know what I was doing...)
ISBN:  0-670-88098-1
Recipe:  Award-Winning Chili - p. 109

So, you all watched the game last night, right?  What do you mean, "No?"  Well, all right, maybe you are not a big fan of football or a big fan of either teams (perish the thought that you are not a Packers fan), or even John Madden (again, how is that possible?) but hopefully you are a fan of cookbooks, cooking and/or chili.  There has to be something in that combination that fits, right?  Right.

So we'll skip over the part about the game (except it was kind of delicious how the Packers pulled together and the Vikings fell apart) and talk about John Madden.  And so a tutorial:

According to Wikipedia, former NFL Coach, John Madden was born in Austin, Minnesota.  I will not hold that against him seeing as how he did not grow up here (and therefore had no reason to be a Vikings fan); the family moved to CA when John was young.  Madden eventually became head coach of the Oakland Raiders and in a hilarious twist of fate, his Raiders went on to beat the Minnesota Vikings 32-14 in the 1977 Super Bowl, the only time the Vikings have ever been to the big show...and based on their playing this year, it's going to be a long while before they repeat that appearance.  As I told some Vikings fan friends today, Packer Nation completely understand the angst of losing, seeing as how the years from 1967 to 1996 are nothing to write home to mother about.  "Painful" is the word that comes to mind but since this is a cookbook blog, moving on...

Big J retired shortly after that Super Bowl win and went on to be a sports commentator for many years, retiring from that gig in 2008.  Say what you will about the guy, but he was a memorable presence on TV and totally cracked me up.  I rather miss him, especially when compared to today's sports analysts, most of whom drive me up the proverbial wall with their comments.  Take yesterday's Packers Vikings game.  So okay, the Vikings caught a break and ran back the opening kickoff for a touchdown.  Then the Packers got the ball and on the very first possession of the game, I heard "Well, the Packers are going to have to make some adjustments."  Note the time people:  we were two minutes into the game.  This is not "analysis," this is evidenced by the fact that the Packers dominated the game and never punted the ball the entire night.  Not once the entire night.  And yes, Bob Costas, I'm talking to you!!!

So at any rate, I miss Madden.  Lucky for us, John wrote today's cookbook, John Madden's Ultimate Tailgate, and so all is well with the world.  Although let me be clear:  if I was to tailgate, it would not be outside the Metrodome (where the Vikings currently play) along with, oh what--a dozen Vikings fans who still believe in their team, wearing fake goldilocks braids and horn helmets.  No.  I would however, be totally up for tailgating in my Packers cheesehead along with thousands of Packers fans outside Lambeau.   This I would do (and nearly have done but we would have had to crash a tailgate already in progress and that would have been rude...or would it?)

As you might imagine, there are a lot of BBQ/grill recipes in this book and a lot of recipes to feed a crowd, but I selected today's chili in part because I like chicken chili, could easily cut down the recipe and, with the addition of green chili and yellow and white Colby/Monterey Jack cheese, it instantly became a Packers dish - ta da!  And this, of course, is exactly why we won!

Now, unlike John Madden, I cannot exactly say this was "award-winning" but it was pretty darned good.  I was missing a spice though--maybe just some salt or maybe something else but that was my own personal preference.

And now the search is on for a rematch recipe when the Vikings travel to Lambeau Field on November 24th.  Can't wait--mama wants a pre-Thanksgiving Day present!  Go Pack Go!!

Award-Winning Chili - serves 8 to 10 (we cut the recipe in half)
2 pounds boneless chicken breast
cold water
1 T. olive oil
2 medium onions chopped
4 garlic cloves
Two 4-ounce cans chopped green chilies
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 pounds cooked great northern beans (follow directions on package--I used canned beans)
4 cups chicken stock or broth
20 ounces Monterey Jack cheese (grated)
sour cream
Jalapeno peppers, chopped

Put the chicken in large saucepan.  Add cold water.  Bring to a simmer.  Cook until tender.

Remove chicken, discard water.  In same pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions, cook until translucent.  Stir in garlic, chilies, cumin, and cayenne pepper.  SautĂ© for 2 to 3 minutes.

Shred chicken by hand and combine with beans, stock, and 12 ounces of cheese.  Simmer 15 minutes.

Ladle into large bowls.  Top with 1 ounce of cheese.  Serve with a side of sour cream and chopped jalapeno peppers.