Sunday, June 25, 2017

"Rachael Ray Top 30 30-Minute Meals - Guy Food" - Triple-A Pasta: Spinach Pasta with Asparagus, Artichoke, and Arugula - Father's Day 2017

Date I made this recipe:  June 18, 2017 – Father's Day

Rachael Ray Top 30 30-Minute Meals – Guy Food by Rachael Ray
Published by Lake Isle Press, Inc.
© 2005
Purchased at Arc's Value Village Thrift Stores, Richfield, MN
Recipe:  Triple-A Pasta:  Spinach Pasta with Asparagus, Artichoke, and Arugula – p. 30-31

So today is Father's Day and I thought I was all set and ready to go with a recipe from this Rachael Ray cookbook, Guy Food, when I changed my mind and made something else instead.

Note to self:  Should have stuck with the original plan, Stan!

When I bought this cookbook, I flagged the recipe for "Outside-In Bacon Cheeseburgers with Green Onion Mayo."  My dad loved rare burgers and steaks and this was not a rare burger.  Still, I though this was something he would have enjoyed so I put the book aside and then was all set to prepare a shopping list when I hesitated and as the saying goes "(S)He who hesitates is lost."

Translation:  I made a boo-boo. 

Andy and I have inadvertently been consuming a lot of meat lately and I thought I should perhaps lighten things up just this once, particularly since I made a beef stew the day before.  And so I veered instead toward the pasta recipe, especially since it contained asparagus; my dad loved asparagus.

And it was "fine" as in "nothing to write home to father about" and this bummed me out.  Further, this is not what I am used to with a Rachael Ray recipe.  Yes, the gal's perkiness drives me up the wall, but her recipes have usually been spot on.  This one leaned toward being bland. I don't "do" bland.  Worse, the lemon zest took over the dish and so all we tasted was lemon which was not a bad flavor but not what I expected.   Frankly, the entire time I was making it, I wanted to kick it up a notch with something but as always, made the recipe as written and then pondered options thereafter.

Options 1:  some red pepper flakes.  Options 2: other Italian spices that would go well with asparagus, arugula and artichokes.  Option 3:  I briefly contemplated using fresh artichokes but didn't because I've never made them before and they take some time to prep.  Frankly, I don't think the [canned] artichokes did much for the recipe.  Option 4: add some poached chicken breasts.  Option 5: load it up with some shredded Parmesan cheese?

That day, I went with Option 5 plus I added more salt and pepper and that brought the flavor up a bit (as did overnight refrigeration of the leftovers) but harrumph, I still want more from this dish like maybe an Alfredo sauce.  Or maybe more white wine?  Couldn't hurt, might help!

Now the burger (which I stupidly passed up) was not the only item of interest as there were recipes for "Manly Manny's Chili," "Blackened Chicken Pizza," "Grilled Mahi-Mahi Fillets," and "Tenderloin Steaks with Gorgonzola," all of which sounded good but since I had decided to reroute with the pasta, pasta it was.  Like I said, it wasn't bad but I think there's some tweaking to be done to turn this from just "meh" into "mah-ve-lous!"

As to next year's Father's Day, I'm going back to meat, final answer!

Triple-A Pasta:  Spinach Pasta with Asparagus, Artichoke, and Arugula – serves 4
12 ounces spinach fettuccine, dried or fresh, cooked until al dente
Extra-virgin olive oil, a drizzle
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large or 2 medium shallots, finely chopped
½ cup white wine
1 pound thin fresh asparagus spears, trimmed and cut on angle into bite-size pieces
1 cup broth, chicken or vegetable
1 can (14 ounces) artichoke hearts in water, drained and chopped
24 leaves fresh arugula, torn or coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons zest from 1 large lemon (grate skin, not the white part)
Coarse salt and black pepper, to taste
A handful chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, to garnish

Drain pasta well and drizzle with oil to keep from sticking.  Set aside.

Heat a large, deep skillet over medium heat.  Add butter and olive oil to pan and heat until butter is melted.  Add shallots and sauté, 3 minutes.  Add wine and reduce liquid by half, about 2 minutes more.  Add asparagus bits, cover, and cook, 3 or 4 minutes.  Then uncover, adding broth and artichokes to pan.  Heat artichokes through and add cooked pasta.  Sprinkle with arugula.  Toss ingredients until arugula wilts.  Season with lemon zest, salt and pepper, and parsley, to taste.

Serve immediately with crusty bread.  Fresh sliced melon makes a simple and wonderful accompaniment to this meal.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

"The Watergate Cookbook" - CREEP Stew (CREEP was the Committee to Re-Elect the President - Richard Nixon) - Made for the 45th anniversary of the Watergate break-in

Date I made this recipe:  June 27, 2017 – 45th anniversary of the Watergate Break In

The Watergate Cookbook (Or, Who's in the Soup?) by The Committee to Write the Cookbook
Published by The New Lone Star Press
© 1973
Purchased at St. Croix Booksellers, Stillwater, MN
Recipe:  CREEP Stew – p. 37

Let's start out with some definitions that will be important for you to know as you move forward through this cookbook blog post:

  • CREEP [stew]:  Committee to Re-Elect the President, not to be confused with the authors who formed the Committee to Write the Cookbook.
  •  The President in Question:  Richard Milhous Nixon, aka "Tricky Dick."
  •  Watergate: Wikipedia's definition of Watergate is "a major political scandal that occurred in the United States in the 1970's, following a break-in at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate office complex on June 17, 1972, and President Nixon's administration's attempted cover-up of its involvement."  Personally, I think saying "major" scandal is and understatement was Watergate was a monumental event that changed this country.
 In the interest of fair warning, prepare to be schooled on all things Watergate.  In fact, think of this as an episode of Jeopardy where every category is named "Watergate" or and episode of Who Wants to be a Millionaire where every question that comes up is Watergate-related.  Feel free to phone a friend! (By the way, one of my favorite episodes of Cheers was when Cliff Clavin appeared on Jeopardy and every category was that postman's dream.)

There were many memorable (and sometimes sad) events of my youth:  JFK's assassination, MLK's assassination, Bobby Kennedy's assassination, Woodstock, Kent State, the Vietnam War and Watergate.  The Senate Watergate Committee hearings, held after evidence showed that Nixon's administration was heavily involved in the above-referenced break-in, were compelling such that I spent hours and hours in front of the TV set with my mother, watching and learning about all that had taken place.

My mom was a housewife, or if you'd rather, a "stay-at-home-mom," who did her ironing in the afternoon, usually watching several soap operas while she did so. Yes, I said "ironing."  I know it's a foreign term for some of you but my mom ironed everything from my dad's undershirts and handkerchiefs because that was what women back then did.  They ironed and sometimes starched the hell out of everything because it was important to them that we all looked good. These days, I break out my iron once, maybe twice a year just to keep the cobwebs off.

Now then, my mom was not exactly a soap opera fan but it helped break up the monotony of ironing so why not? And then all three networks (only three back then) began interrupting our regularly-scheduled programming to broadcast the hearings and well, those hearings were better than the soaps and so it was a win-win for all.

And so there we were, glued to the set which is something considering it was summer and therefore nice out.  Neither one of us had a particular interest in government affairs before this,  but watching almost all of Nixon's administration testify to wrong-doings and cover-ups were just too much to pass up.  To this day, I can still see my mom gasping with incredulity over what she was hearing: "Oh Ann Mar-ieee, can you believe this?"  Nope, couldn't.

And now, let's talk about what happened and what brought us to the interruption of our regularly-scheduled soaps.  I've tried to be as brief as possible as the event timeline was pretty long and pretty involved with lots and lots of players.  You should know that Nixon's presidency and the Vietnam War coincided as that will play out in our story, starting with the item that kicked everything off:  the Pentagon Papers.

In 1971, psychiatrist Daniel Ellsberg, a former defense analyst who came to oppose the war, leaked what became known as the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times.  These papers contained information about the DOD's (Department of Defense) secret activities in the Vietnam War.  Months later, White House operatives broke into Ellsberg's office to "plug the leaks," [of classified information] earning them the nickname, "White House Plumbers." 

A year later, several individuals were arrested for trying to electronically bug the offices of the DNC (Democratic National Committee) located in the Watergate Hotel. Nixon planned to use that information to take down the Democratic party in the next election (1972). These individuals were tied to CREEP, The Committee to Re-Elect the President and today's stew is named for them!  Nixon was re-elected in November of 1972 but this proved to be the beginning of the end for him, especially after the Senate formed the Senate Watergate Committee and then broadcast their investigative hearings.

Eventually, most of Nixon's aides were arrested and charged with all kinds of illegal activity connected with the President's quest for re-election.  In fact, if you were alive back then, you might know this song - "The CREEP" also known as "Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell, and Dean" and I shall talk about all these men in a moment but first, let me tell you that I bought that 45 when it came out and wish I still had it as it would be a collector's item.  As my dad would always say "Story of my life, a day late and a dollar short."

Now then, here's what you need to know about Haldeman, Ehlichman, Mitchell and Dean (And by the way, the song is really catchy—listen to it!).

  • H.R. Haldeman – Nixon's Chief of Staff – served 18 months for conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury.

  • John Ehrlichman – counsel and Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs – also spent 18 months in prison for the same crimes as Haldeman.

  • John Mitchell – Nixon's Attorney General.  His wife, Martha, was probably more well-known than he was as she was quite the colorful character who spoke out about a lot of things including the state of affairs in the Beltway.  John served 19 months for various crimes.

  • John Dean – This man captured my attention and the nation's as he was essentially the man who brought Nixon down.  Dean was Nixon's White House Counsel who became the key witness for the prosecution in the hearings.  I must confess that most of my time was spent watching him testify as he was just a golden boy – young and handsome with his beautiful wife, Maureen (Mo), by his side.  His testimony before the Senate Watergate Committee was compelling.

So these were the key players in this saga but I would be remiss in my duty as a blogger if I did not mention Rose Mary Wood's, Nixon's secretary, not because she was involved in this per se, but because of the way she accidentally/on purpose erased five minutes of an 18.5 minute gap in a Nixon recording.  Her excuse was rather preposterous, earning the act a press nickname, the "Rose Mary Stretch."  Please Google this so you can see what I am talking about as it was hilarious and quite unbelievable, even to a teenager.

So everybody testified and after the Senate was done with hearings, the evidence was passed on to the House Judiciary Committee who then passed the first of three articles of impeachment for obstruction of justice.  Nixon resigned before the full House voted on impeachment, the first president ever to do so, and Vice President Gerald R. Ford became president.  Ford then pardoned Nixon and that set off another firestorm as many felt cheated out of full resolution of this issue.  After watching the hearings for weeks, I can say honestly that  now I know how a jury feels after a plea deal is announced after weeks of listening to testimony.

This concludes a not-so-brief history of Watergate.  In 1976, the movie All The President's Men came out starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and it took us through the investigation of the cover-up of the Watergate break in, the introduction of Deep Throat (an informant) whose identify was only made public about a decade ago, and who gave Woodward and Bernstein the valuable advice to "follow the money," (the garage scene still creeps me out), and the ultimate fall of the House of Nixon.  It remains one of my favorite movies.

This very tongue-in-cheek cookbook was written by a group of friends who formed the Committee to Write the Cookbook in response to the Watergate scandal.  Many of the recipes are named for key players in the Watergate scandal, mostly from Nixon's "side" but with a few other's thrown in for good measure.  Once again, I had my trusty phone by my side as I was perusing this book so I could look up all the names listed (and there were several), and although it took a while, I considered it a good historical refresher after 45 years!

Since the Table of Contents is vast, and my "who's who" explanations go long, I'm going to talk about the recipe now and then if you are interested, you can read up on all the players at the end of the blog. I recommend it because I love history, plus it makes for great cocktail party conversation, but if you don't wish to, that's okay. 

Despite some pretty hilariously-named recipes, I kept it simple and went with CREEP (Committee to Re-Elect the President) Stew.  It was a great stew although I wish I would have seen at the beginning the tiny little note that said all recipes serve 5-7 people as I would have cut the recipe in half.  Good thing we like leftovers.

Although I don't normally change up too much with a recipe, I did in this case.  First, instead of buying and dealing with small, white onions, I bought one whole white onion and diced it up instead.   I also eliminated the mushrooms as the Cub [grocery store] I was at is a smaller store and didn't sell mushrooms by the each and I didn't want an entire packet.

Also gone was the meat glaze because Cub didn't have what I was looking for and besides, only a tiny amount was required, and I ditched the small amount of tomato puree required in favor of a small amount of tomato paste that I "cut" with some beef broth.

As to the directive to "flame" the brandy, I was using a deep stew pot and didn't want to risk burning myself again with that directive so I skipped it and let the mixture simmer in the brandy the entire time.  Talk about delicious!

So here you go, one recipe for CREEP Stew and a whole education about the 45th anniversary of the Watergate Break-In.  My, how time has flown!  Once again, let me remind you Jeopardy and Who Wants to Be A Millionaire fans as well as history and politics buffs, that drinks and details are being served on the lido deck.  Kidding.  Once again, let me remind you all that recipe [name]samples from the Table of Contents and commentary can be found at the end of the recipe recap.

CREEP Stew – serves 5-7
4 large white mushrooms
3 T. butter
3 T. oil
1 ½ lbs top sirloin
¼ cup brandy
12 white onions
6 carrots, sliced
6 small parsnips
1 celery heart quartered
1 zucchini sliced
½ tsp tomato puree
1 tsp meat glaze
3 T. flour
1 ½ cup stock
¼ cup red wine
1 bay leaf

Cut the meat up into stew pieces. Brown the meat in butter and oil and pour in the brandy, then flame.  Remove the meat. Add onions, carrots, parsnips, celery to the oil and brown slightly.  Remove vegetables, set aside.  Add the mushrooms and zucchini and cook 3 t0 5 minutes, remove and set aside.  Put the meat back in the pot and add the tomato puree, glaze and flour, stock, red wine and bay leaf.  Cook additional 20 to 30 minutes.  Add mushrooms and zucchini just before serving.  Season to taste.

And now for our Table of Contents
  • Soups includes:
    • "Nixon's Perfectly Clear Consommé" (Nixon was known for saying "Let me be perfectly clear" when he was not, in fact, clear. Nixon also said "I am not a crook" and well sure, it was a defense, but not a winning one.)
    • "Liddy's Clam-Up Chowder" (G. Gordon Liddy was a Nixon "henchman" as dubbed by the press.)
  • Green and Leafy includes:
    • "Haldeman's Cold Crew Cut Platter" (H. R. Haldeman was known for his military-style crew cut.  He was one of Nixon's key "henchmen.")
    • Margruder's Dandy Ly-in Salad (Jeb Magruder was another "henchman.")
  • Waterfriends includes:
    • "Rebozo's Key West Red Snapper" (Bebe Rebozo was Nixon friend and confidant who lived in Key Biscane, Florida.  I recall a lot of discussion about "Bebe Rebozo's yacht" and I thought at the time that it might be nice to have a yacht but probably not the greatest thing to be Bebe Rebozo!)
    • "C-aught I-n the A-ct" (subtitled "something smells fishy') fish fillets; the CIA was also involved in pre-Watergate shenanigans.
  • As For the Birds includes:
    • "[John] Mitchell's Cooked Goose with Stuffing" – ha! (Mitchell was the Attorney General of the United States.)
    • "Muskie's Pigeon Pie" (Edmund Muskie from Maine was a U.S. Senator and later, Secretary of State under Jimmy Carter.  Muskie was a Democratic front-runner in the 1972 election primaries until the release of The Canuk Letter disparaging Muskie by CREEP.  Need I tell you the election did not go well for him?)
  • Cover-Up Dishes includes:
    • "Cox's In-Peach Chicken" (Archibald Cox was a Special Prosecutor who was fired during the Watergate scandal by Richard Nixon.)
    • "CREEP (Committee to Re-Elect the President) Stew," today's featured dish.)
  • Double Entrees includes"
    • "Martha's [Mitchell's] Sweet and Sour Tongue" (ha!)
    • "Baker's Shake and Bake" (Tennessee Republican, Senator Howard Baker, was Vice Chair of the Senate Watergate Committee. He is best known for asking "What did the president know, and when did he know it?"  By the way, when looking up Howard Baker, I was reminded that Fred Thompson, who most of you know from Law & Order, was also on the committee as the second senator from Tennessee.)
  • Accomplicements includes:
    • "Richardson's Boston Baked Beans" (Elliot Richardson served several positions in Nixon's cabinet.  When he served as the U.S. Attorney General, he resigned rather than obey Nixon's order to fire Special Prosecutor, Archibald Cox.)
    • "Hunt's Stewed Tomatoes"  (E. Howard Hunt served in the CIA and was one of the "plumbers" during the Watergate break-in and yikes, we share the same birthday month and year!)
  • Rolling in the Dough includes:
    • "Nixon's Hot Crossed Wire Buns with Tapping (icing)" (This is self-explanatory.)
    • "Vesco's Off-Shore Sour Dough Bread" (Robert Vesco was investigated for, and charged with embezzlement, after some money he helped himself to ended up in Nixon's CREEP funds.  After fleeing the country, Vesco resisted extradition back to the U.S. and even got Costa Rica to pass a law – Vesco's law – preventing extradition.  He was also a drug smuggler.  What a guy!)
  • Heavies includes:
    • "Segretti Spaghetti" (Donald Segretti was a political operative for CREEP – Committee to Re-Elect the President.)
    • "Hunt's Hush Puppies"  (As stated above, E. Howard Hunt was the worst kind of plumber!)
  • Just Desserts includes:
    • "Odle's Strudel" (Robert Odle was the former Director of CREEP and was the first to testify to the committee's organizational structure.)
    • "Ziegler's Zabaione" (Ron Ziegler was Nixon's White House Press Secretary.)
  • Hearty Sandwiches includes:
    • "Russo's Pentagon Pizzas" (Anthony Russo was a reporter who reported on the CIA's systematic torture of enemy combatants during the Vietnam War.)
    • "Baldwin's Hoo-Joe Franks in Bacon" (Alfred Baldwin was a former FBI agent who monitored the electronic bugs planted in DNC headquarters.)
  • Wake-Er Uppers includes:
    • "Reisner's Rice Pudding" (Robert Reisner was Jeb Magruder's assistant. I chuckled when I read that he "successfully hid from the FBI investigators" and so his testimony could not be included in a Justice Department report. Not that this is funny, you understand, and yet it is.)
    • "Strachan's Breakfast for Champions" (Gordon C. Strachan was H.R. Haldeman's assistant; Haldeman was Chief of Staff.)
  • Tidbits to Wet Your Appetite includes:
    • "Kleindienst Curry Dip" (Richard Kleindienst was Nixon's Attorney General for less than a year.  He also pled guilty to a crime in a peripheral scandal.)
    • "Montoya's Refried Beans" (Joseph Montoya was a Democrat from New Mexico who served on the Senate Watergate Committee.)
  • In the Drink includes:
    • "Inouye's Hawaiian Punch" (Daniel Inouye (D) from Hawaii also served on the Senate Watergate Committee.)
    • "Sloans' Fifths" (Hugh Sloan, Jr. was CREEPS's treasurer. After learning about the "plumbers," Sloan resigned and became a trusted source for Woodward and Bernstein's Washington Post articles.")

There!  Don't you feel too cool for school?  I do.  Although I knew several of the people listed above, I still looked up all names listed and as you can see, it is vast.  I only wish the cookbook authors would have compiled such a list for the back of the book as that would have saved my big, long, and involved trip down memory lane.

On a related note, I mentioned much earlier that the Vietnam War was part of my childhood, and just like Watergate, I was glued to the set every night waiting for updates.  The U.S. pulled out all troops in 1975 and I watched the airlift of American personnel and Vietnamese refugees unfold on TV.  At any rate, someone on Facebook today posted a Vietnam War Quiz that only 2% of the population gets right, and also a quiz to see if you could distinguish facts and events from WWI and WWII.  I did really well in the W's quiz and I'll have you know that I got 87% right on my Vietnam War quiz ("You scored 87% You are a General!")!  I minored in History in college and also grew up with the Vietnam War so there you go.



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!