Friday, August 26, 2016

Olympic Food Part 1 - "The Kraft Official U.S. Training Table Cookbook (1992)" & "The Best Traditional Recipes of Greek Cooking" - summer salads

Date I made these recipes:  August 14, 2016

Kraft Official U.S. Olympic Training Table Cookbook (1992 Olympics) by Kraft Creative Kitchens
Published by Kraft General Foods
© 1992
Purchased at BCPA (Bloomington [MN] Crime Prevention Association) annual sale
Recipe:  Decathlon Macaroni Salad – p. 35

The Best Traditional Recipes of Greek Cooking  (New Edition) by Dimitri Haitalis
Publisher unknown (self-published?)
© 2000
Purchased at an estate sale
Recipe:  Country Greek Salad (Salta Horiatiki) – p. 48

"When my baby.  When my baby smiles at me I go to Rio.  De Janeiro.  My oh me oh..."
(from the song, I Go To Rio)

Folks, here are two words that always warm my heart: "Summer" and "Olympics. "   Even though our summer is running short on time, I do love warm weather and love sports so this is the best of both worlds.

Except that technically, it's winter in Brazil, this year's host country.  I think we need to redefine "winter" though because apparently, those poor souls are freezing to death down there right now in 86 degree temperatures.  Life is so cruel. 

And so with the onset of the Olympics, my mind turns once again to what food(s) to make to celebrate these "thrill of victory, the agony of defeat" moments (apologies to ABC's Wide World of Sports for stealing their line.)

But first, of course, let's talk about the sporting events.  I'll start!

Gymnastics:  In many ways, watching gymnastics is a little like watching a horror movie i.e. "I. can't. watch."  These men and women are just flying through the air ("with the greatest of ease...") and I fear for them every time they land back on planet earth. 

And the balance beam?  Well that's just insane.  In junior high, our PE teacher brought out a balance beam that was all of two inches (maybe) off the floor for us to try out and right then and there, I knew gymnastics was not for me as moving on that thing is harder then it looks.  That mini beam (the gymnastic equivalent of a Shetland pony) was as close as we all got to experiencing gymnastics and that is just fine by me.  No need for the parents to stock up on leotards or shore up my life insurance/disability policies.

But speaking of gymnastics, I'll have you know I did a mean dismount from my couch to the living room floor several times during our Olympic viewing.  Per my husband:  "Nailed it!"

Track and Field:  in 6th grade, my school participated in track and field exercises and there went another event to scratch off my "To Do" list.

Look, I can run (barely) but I cannot run a decent Olympic time, nor a world record time, nor any time really.  And when you look at the times posted by the men and women in the track portion of our program, it's best that I stick to my regularly-scheduled laziness and leave it up to the Olympic professionals.  That said, I do excel in walking.

As to other Olympic track and events, oh please:  I would likely stab myself with my own javelin, break the pole in the pole vault, and cause serious injury to myself and others in the shot put.  I tried hurdles a couple of times and ended up wearing a hurdle like I would wear a cowl neck so that was the end of that.

Equestrian:  Although I've ridden smaller ponies and quarter horses in my day, I have never been on a full-size horse nor do I intend to (they scare me).  And so being on a horse and jumping over things like water hazards and poles and cement mixers (wait—I was mixing that up with monster truck rallies) and whatnot (it's like being on a golf course, only not), is out.  But my gosh, the sight of those beautiful horses clearing the hazards in the jumping event is outstanding. 

 I watched a lot of volleyball and basketball during the Olympics but again, these are not the sports for me.  I would no doubt sustain a permanent crick in my neck from volleyball and as to basketball, let's say  that while in gym class, I "traveled" more miles on the court than I probably did on any of my family road trips.  And I am really, really bad at shooting hoops.  Really.  And so, we must scratch those.

Which brings us to the one sport I do well and that has the smallest probability for injury: swimming

I may have mentioned before that I was on my high school swim team for the two short years it was in existence, but it's worth another looksee, is it not?  Besides, I'll only be talking about it every four years or so.

So.  After Title IX was enacted, my school formed a bunch of women's sports teams of which swimming was one.  By the way, the purpose of Title IX was to guarantee an equal opportunity to participate in college sports.  But many schools, high school and college, decided to go whole hog and set up women's sports teams.  Not that they funded them, mind you, they just created them.  Like a lot of teams, we got next to zero money, zero uniforms and with my tennis team, carpooled to meets.  We've come a long way, baby, yet not far enough.

 Anyway, since our school was old, our pool was also old and non-regulation which made for interesting swim practices as we had to swim at least twice the laps to ensure we could swim the regulation length of other school's pools.  And since our pool had a shallow end, we could not practice flip turns and so got permission to do a modified turn during meets.  I actually learned how to do a flip turn in, of all places, a pool at a motel (not hotel) in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where my family and I stayed if we went down for the weekend.

For two years during my sophomore and junior years, we managed to cobble together a group of swimmers and somehow managed to do respectfully well against bigger schools (Class A or B to our "barely" C) and against bigger athletes.  But then the school decided to close the pool and so we became "the swim team that wasn't" and that ended that.  (Happily, women's sports is now thriving at my old alma mater.)

Since everybody and their mother on a swim team normally prefers the freestyle events, our coach had to divvy us up between the other swim strokes and so I was assigned the backstroke.  I didn't mind it and was actually not half bad at it, but I was always happy to be a part of the 4 x 100 freestyle relay, swum toward the end of our swim meets. 

And so fast forward to this Olympics when I found myself at the edge of my seat instead of the edge of the pool, cheering on American swimmers to the finish line.  Their winning times put mine to shame as they normally did in two or more laps what I did in one but let me remind you that was eons ago and "times" have actually changed!

Also, and this is not necessarily a bragging point, swimming in a green pool or a green dive tank may have been new to most Rio Olympians but not new to me.  Our pool was so old it often had filter problems causing (green) algae blooms, and no amount of complaining to our PE teachers got us out of the swimming portion of our PE class.  Ew.  Double ew.  But hey, I am still standing today, no worse for the wear (I think???)

And so to the recipes!  Since the weather has been on the warmish side, I decided to make up a few salads, one from the Kraft Official U.S. Olympic Training Table Cookbook, and the other, a Greek salad, from a Greek cookbook as a nod to the country that held the very first Olympics – Opa!

The Kraft cookbook (really, more of a booklet) is interesting because it was printed in 1992 when the summer and the winter Olympics were held in the same year and so it featured athletes and recipes from both winter and summer sports.  In 1994 though, the winter Olympics were held separately, starting the trend we now see of summer and winter games alternating every two years.  The last winter Olympics were held in 2014 and in 2018 will be held in Korea and then in China in 2022. (Wow—that number gave me pause!)  The next summer Olympics then, will be in 2020 in Tokyo.  So there you have it, and please mark your calendars accordingly.

Although the Kraft Olympic cookbook features summer and winter sports, it seems slightly skewed to summer sports (again—who doesn't love summer?).  Marathon runner, Joan Benoit, is featured on the cover, and track and field star, Valerie Brisco (now Valerie Brisco-Hooks) (200 and 400-meter run), is pictured inside as is U.S. diver, Ellen McGrath Owen. Featured winter sports athletes were  ice skating star, Kristi Yamaguchi, skier Bill Hudson, and speed skater, Bonnie Blair.  And recipes in this book were often given the name of one of the Olympic events, such as "Pole Vault Pepper Steak" or my featured recipe, "Decathlon Macaroni Salad."

This cookbook was fun.  A little outdated, of course, but fun.   And of course, all recipes are heavy on Kraft products usage:  Velveeta lives on! And they are also on the healthy side (Velveeta excepted) as you would expect but that's okay.  My sport – couch-sitting -  (the least-talked about Olympic sport ever) still requires me to keep an eye toward healthy meals as I get in shape for my every-four-years (two with the winter rotation) Olympic trials.  I do so hope I make the team next time – finger's crossed!

The recipes in the Greek cookbook were also medal-worthy even though I only selected one.  In hot contention for a while was "Macaroni with Leeks in the Oven" (p. 99) but that "in the oven" part disqualified it.  Just before I made these recipes, I returned from a very fun but very hot and humid family wedding in Galveston, Texas and I was in no mood to bake anything.  This, of course, left out a lot more recipes in this book but this Greek Salad was refreshing as all get out and paired well with the Decathlon Macaroni Salad.

So here you go, part 1 of 3 of my celebration of the Rio Olympics.

Decathlon Macaroni Salad – makes 8 servings
1 package (14 ounces) KRAFT Deluxe Macaroni & Cheese Dinner
½ cup finely chopped celery
½ cup chopped green bell pepper
1/3 cup KRAFT Real Mayonnaise
¼ cup sliced green onions
2 tablespoons CLAUSSEN Fresh Pickle Relish, drained (Ann's Note:  the recipe doesn't say whether to use dill pickle relish or sweet pickle relish.  I used dill this time around.)
2 tablespoons chopped red bell pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
Dash salt

Prepare Dinner as directed on package.  Add remaining ingredients; mix lightly.  Refrigerate.

Ann's Note:  This dish was almost too crunchy for me!  I liked all the chopped ingredients but it was hard to pick up the other flavors like the mac and cheese.

Country Greek Salad – 5 to 6 servings
3-4 tomatoes
2 medium-sized cucumbers
1 onion, sliced (Ann's Note:  I used white onion that I had on hand)
150 grams (5 oz) black olives
2 medium-sized green peppers, finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons vinegar
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
200 grams (7 oz) Feta cheese

Wash and slice the tomatoes in quarters and place them in a bowl.  Add the cucumber, sliced, the peppers and the black olives.  Dress the salad with the vinegar, the olive oil, salt and oregano.  Add the Feta cheese, cut into chunks and serve.

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