Tag Archives: food

Top Five: Sandwich fixin’s

If you had to make the perfect sandwich with five fixin’s (not including condiments, you can add those extra) what would be on it?

My perfect five-fixin’ sandwich:

  1. gouda cheese
  2. avocado
  3. bacon
  4. cucumber
  5. super-thinly-sliced red onion

I’d add a bit of mayonnaise.

Okay, great, now I’m hungry!!!

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49er Fantasy

No, not the football team.  Euw.

The miner kind of 49ers.

I’m from California, and the Gold Rush of 1849 has always been one of my most favorite periods in history.

The other day my daughter and I were watching a documentary of the pioneers and the Gold Rush.  It told the story of a family who went west to seek their fortune.  Usually men went without their wives and children and just hoped to make a bunch of money to bring home, or send for their families later.  But this family took off together.

When they arrived, the lady found that the miners would pay five dollars to have a meal cooked by a woman, which of course was a lot of money back then.  Well, maybe not to a guy who just found a bunch of gold nuggets in a creek and has blown phenomenal amounts of cash on booze and prostitutes.  Five bucks for a “home cooked” meal would be nothing.

But anyway, these miners had gone so long without being fed by their womenfolk, not to mention even seeing a woman up close, that she was greatly appreciated.  So much so that she was able to open a restaurant and make a tidy living off her culinary skills.

Now I know that some people fantasize about being Eddie Van Halen, or Angelina Jolie, or maybe even Bill Gates.  Having fame, fortune and glory is a commonplace desire.  But I haven’t felt as envious of anyone’s life as I felt hearing about this woman feeding all those men, winning their innocent affections and being compensated handsomely.  

I imagine, being her, I would feel like the most beneficent goddess mother, appeasing the boys’ stomachs and comforting their loneliness (she had her husband there, so I’m assuming that she was relatively safe from untoward advances.  Either way, nothing inappropriate figures into this particular fantasy of mine!)  They would adore me, looking up at me with their sad, scruffy, hungry puppy dog faces as I set before them some stew and biscuits still hot from the oven.  It would fill their bellies and warm their hearts and their homesickness wouldn’t sting quite so badly for just those few moments.  After their many months of perilous journeying, miserable gold panning, lousy food and rough male company, just the swishing of my clean skirts as I went to fetch the coffee would be like music to their ears.

Silly, I know.  But if a person’s fantasies reveal their essence, then I am all about food, earning a good living and being an adored mother-figure.  

I can live with that.

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Repost: Thanksgiving Ingrate

Okay, since y’all didn’t disown me the last time I pulled a fast one like this, I’m going to do it ONE MORE TIME.  (All caps means it’s a promise!)

Thanksgiving Ingrate

Americans love to get presents and be the center of attention, which is probably why most of us claim our birthday as our favorite holiday. Thanksgiving is also near the top of the list because it brings together four of the greatest joys in life: feasting, family, a four day weekend and, of course, football. It is a day which allows us to cure momentarily our chronic case of the gimmees and just be grateful for what we already have.

Despite Thanksgiving’s huge popularity, there are a few Americans who, though their hearts may swell patriotic and their stomachs appreciate the traditional meal, nevertheless harbor a secret resentment toward the beloved Turkey Day – I speak of those late November birthday babies.

Oh, we are a sorry bunch. When next year’s calendar comes out we must look ahead to see how close the fateful day comes to impinging on our specialness. If Congress had just left the date of Thanksgiving in the early fall, as it was when the Pilgrims originally celebrated it with the Wampanoag Tribe in 1621, we of the November 22nd through 28th set could be guaranteed chocolate cake instead of pumpkin pie with candles. If they’d just left well enough alone when Colonial Governor John Belcher declared Thanksgiving be November 12th in 1730, or when President George Washington proclaimed in 1789 that Thanksgiving be observed on the 26th of November, more of us could consistently have pizza for our special birthday dinner instead of green beans and cranberry sauce. Admittedly, even with such arrangements there would still be some whiners among us. But there would be far fewer and most importantly, I, being born on the 24th, wouldn’t be in their midst.

Our annual “birthday roulette” began in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln established that Thanksgiving be celebrated annually on the last Thursday of November. This custom held until 1939, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in an effort to stimulate an American economy still reeling from the Great Depression, declared that Thanksgiving should always be celebrated on the next to last Thursday of November, thereby giving Christmas shoppers an extra week to spend money. Some states protested, refusing in 1940 to go along with FDR’s “Franksgiving” celebration. (It should be noted that Texas, not wanting to be rude, decided to make a holiday of both weeks.) In 1941, Congress compromised by declaring Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday of November, which is sometimes the last Thursday, sometimes the next to last. Either way, it always threatens to land on my special day.

Of course, in 1970, being newly born, I couldn’t care less, but I did manage to ruin my parents’ Thanksgiving. I was born on a Tuesday and, in adherence to the medical wisdom of that era, my mother and I were to be released two days later on Turkey Day. Right in the middle of a football game, my father got the call to come pick us up from the hospital. Originally from Detroit, my Dad is a loyal fan of the Lions, who have played football on Thanksgiving since 1934, a full 32 years before the Dallas Cowboys tried to steal the spotlight by starting their own Thanksgiving game tradition. My mother graciously permitted him to come get us during halftime.

The Lions were playing none other than the Oakland Raiders that year – I was born in Hayward, California, a mere ten miles down the Nimitz Freeway from the Oakland Coliseum (now called “McAfee”). The game was tied at halftime, so it must have been quite a dilemma for my Dad: bring home the new baby, or watch a nail-biter between our hometeams. I like to think he was rewarded for his familial loyalty since the Lions went on to win 28-21.

My mother didn’t fare so well, having missed the feast, though she did get some leftovers. But that’s just not the same as sitting around the table with all the fixings, the all-important centerpiece being a golden roasted turkey. North Carolina contributes greatly to the event, being second only to Minnesota in turkey production with 39 million annually. (There is even a town named Turkey about 70 miles south of Raleigh on Hwy 40.) Those who love sweet potatoes with their bird owe some gratitude to North Carolina for growing 702 million pounds of the tasty tubers, the most of any state and almost twice the amount of the runner-up, California.

Occasionally, people attempt to include some new-fangled culinary innovation in the holiday fare, such as the vegetarian’s “tofurky,” which is tofu sculpted then baked as though it might replace a juicy fowl, and “turducken,” the carnivore’s delight out of Louisiana consisting of a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken. But no matter which new dish enters the scene, we still refuse to turn away from our traditional meal.

Biased as I am by the holiday’s total disregard for my basic civil right to be the Birthday Queen of the Universe, my favorite part of the traditional spread is the appetizers. This is not to disparage my family’s cooking talent; on the contrary, my mother and grandmother are the best cooks around. No, this is to say that when you skip breakfast to try to save your appetite for the big dinner, you’re going to need some serious appetizers. I mean really, when has a turkey ever been ready within three hours of when it was supposed to be done? Those always seem like the three longest hours of my life, as the aroma of slowly roasting bird teases my nostrils and the warm rolls waft waves of irresistible scent that follows me through the house. That appetizer plate with the various deli meats, cheeses and pickled vegetables is the only thing that keeps a person from going mad and eating the couch.

And during our Thanksgiving feast we must be surrounded by our loved ones, who will often travel long distances to celebrate with us. This is all fine and dandy, but try arranging a birthday sleepover under such conditions. As a kid I always knew that for every member of my family that arrived for the holiday, there was one less friend still in town to come over and bring me presents.

So you see, those of us who came into this world within a few days of Thanksgiving do not get a break from the gimmees, and in fact have our special birthday desires so thwarted that we aren’t very grateful for anything.

On the other hand, this uncivilized selfishness never prevents me from thoroughly enjoying the cornucopia of treats that Thanksgiving has to offer. And I’ve decided, this year, I’ll be a big girl about it and hope that the holiday is a truly special day for everyone.

Horton family appetizer plate:

Arrange on serving plate in artistic fashion:
Salami, Black Forest ham, pastrami (cut in triangles)
Sharp cheddar, smoked gouda, Danish fontina (cut in squares)
Black olives, green olives w/pimientos, dill pickle spears, pepperoncini
Contents of a jar of spicy pickled vegetables (cauliflower, carrots, pearl onions, etc.)
Garnish with fancy cut green onions and radishes
Crackers: Triscuits, Wheat Thins, Ritz

This article originally published in
The Lake Magazine November 2007

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Top Five: Thanksgiving fixin’s

Since we are fast approaching the biggest food day of the year (well, for some of us, anyway) I thought it would be fun to get the drool going by listing the top five things we are looking forward to…

Mine are:

  1. gravy
  2. pumpkin pie
  3. green beans with onions and bacon
  4. rolls
  5. appetizer plate eaten while watching football!

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My obsessions

You have to imagine the groovy twangy beat of that Stevie Wonder song from 1972, “Superstition,” playing in the background as you read this, because as soon as I read the word “obsession” this morning and realized I’d been tagged on http://stacybuckeye.wordpress.com/  my brain remixed the song to reflect this topic.

Here is my obsession… BOWbowpbowpBOW-buh-bowpbowp…”

Problem is, you could cut and paste Stacy’s post and it would quite nicely represent my own situation (changing the name “Jason” to “Richard” would be the biggest edit).  So in order to avoid being a copycat, I am going to have to change it up a little.  Instead of organizing by number of years old (yet another similarity!) I’m just going to riff on a few big fat categories.

Food

Chocolate, for openers.  And closers too, thank you very much.  As I always say, if it doesn’t have chocolate in it, it doesn’t really count as a treat.  

Seafood.  Fish tacos, shrimp scampi, crab louie, poached salmon with a buttery pesto sauce.  Oooo baby.  If it’s been extracted from the stinky polluted swill that is our modern day ocean and served with rice pilaf, then count me in.

Coffee.  ‘Nuff said.

Eating out.  I know it is an addiction which involves spending too much money that is, quite literally, flushed down the crapper, but I crave going out to eat.  I love not having to cook it (though I do love cooking, I just need the occasional respite), feeling taken care of, even if it’s for a price, and best of all, not having to clean up after it, dirty dishes being my nemesis.

Eating with my family.  Due to my husband’s current work schedule, I’ve pretty much had to give up this obsession, but it still means a lot to me.  Sure, after hours of making a special meal and laying it out in a lovely way on the table for the whole family to enjoy, the event inevitably ends with one kid refusing to eat the squishy looking side dish and the baby howling for attention and one of the older kids yapping ad nauseum about some goofball thing that happened at school that doesn’t even sound like it was funny to have actually been there for.  But somewhere in the midst of it all, I always have a lucid moment where I rise above all the squalling and complaining and appreciate that we all happen to be in the same place at the same time and that this is why I bothered getting up this morning.

Books

If you took all the books I’d ever owned and laid them end to end, it would reach the moon.  Or at least Cleveland.  Okay, probably only up the street, but you get the angle I’m going for.

I currently own a paltry two bookcases worth, which does not accurately represent my deep love for these items.  I love the way they smell, the way an old heavy hardbound opens into the palm of your hand and submits to your penetrating gaze, the way a new paperback waits with intact, unbent spine for me to be the first to devour its words.  

I love to hold a reference book and imagine that I hold the key to an entire subject, that simply by possessing it I become the ultimate master of whole kingdoms of human knowledge.

I love to fall so deeply into a fictional tale that the world around me becomes laughably irrelevant and the only thing that matters any more is the bright tunnel that leads me on into the author’s imagination.

I love to fall so deeply in love with a character that I genuinely miss them when I close the book for the final time, the bittersweet joy of having made the acquaintance of a fabulous personality about whom I will never learn more, but who must wait in passive silence for me to deign to visit again when I reread the book.

“The power!!!”  *cue lightening and thunder*  “The awesome power!!!”

Kids

I suppose you could say they are my driving obsession… driving them to the park, to the library…

I could go on forever about them, but one of them is in desperate need of a diaper change and another hasn’t stopped hounding me since I began this post to hurry up and finish so he can play on the internet.  

So I will wrap up this category quickly by saying that however satisfying it is to eat a great plate of tortellini alfredo, to take that first sip of coffee in the morning or to find ten hardbound books of “Asterix” at the thrift store for a quarter a piece, hearing my kids laugh tops them all.  

 

To continue the tag, I invite el burro and Kelly to blog about their obsessions/addictions.

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The Wary Eater’s Field Guide to Tofu

In today’s health- and weight-conscious society, where the often disparaged tofu waits on the sidelines for the chance to demonstrate its delightful dietary dynamo, an introduction is needed for people who don’t know about the positive aspects of tofu but have heard that it is kryptonite to the taste buds.  I am certain that with a bit of hands-on, or rather “teeth-on,” exploration of this little-understood and much maligned food, their culinary horizons will be expanded to encompass the enviable opportunity to pompously exclaim, “You’ve NEVER eaten tofu?  How sad…”



Titles I considered:
 “Tofu – One Woman’s Quest for Calcium”


“Tofu – Not as Disgusting as You Think!”


“Tofu – Eat It or You Don’t Get Any Ice Cream!”



Tofu is a cool food we got from the Chinese, who have eaten it for thousands of years without ever feeling the need to ridicule each other about it. They refer to it as “the meat without bones;” in fact, it was first developed as a meat substitute for the Buddhist monks who are strict vegetarians. Tofu is a relatively inexpensive, highly digestible protein that has no cholesterol, is low in calories, high in calcium and also provides iron. People will complain that it is high in fat while stuffing the last of a quart of ice cream into their mouths. The truth is, a person eating a healthy diet is not going to max out on fat intake by enjoying a tofu entrée.



People also whine that tofu is “tasteless,” but this is precisely what gives it its versatility. It can be mixed with seasonings and baked into all kinds of shapes like “meatballs,” “meatloaf,” and “burgers,” or sautéed with just about any kind of sauce.

 It can even be used in a variety of desserts.

If it helps, think of it as eating beans – tofu is simply processed soybeans where the curd is mixed with a coagulant so it sticks together in a block like soft cheese. Picture refried beans out of a can… it doesn’t look so much like pinto beans as like brown goo, but people enjoy it. So don’t think “weird,” think “bean.”



I understand firsthand the deeply entrenched resistance to eating tofu; it has been a running gag in American culture for so long that even my own daughter is prejudiced. She’ll eat it disguised as a tofu burger or hot dog, but the other day I had her taste a really obvious piece that I had sautéed until crispy in oil and soy sauce (I only had to pay her a dollar), and she concluded, “It tastes pretty good, except I hate tofu.”



So for folks who are similarly wary of trying tofu, I highly recommend starting out with the aforementioned burgers and hot dogs. These can often be found in the frozen food section of a major grocery store, though it may be necessary to venture out to a health food store, especially in a region whose specialty dish is spelled “B-B-Q.” The burger and hot dog shapes lend credibility through their superstar status in American tradition and thus are a better bet that they’ll take the first bite if you’re going for the bait and switch approach with the kids (this technique also works on your own inner child): “Here, eat this… do you like it? It’s tofu.”



When you’re bored of this game and are ready to make a meal using raw tofu (I promise it’s far less disgusting than handling a slab of bloody meat), I recommend starting with recipes that lend themselves to best-selling vegetarian cookbook author Mollie Katzen’s wise advice on how to serve tofu to children (this includes disdainful spouses, by the way): “Lots of ketchup!!!” This harkens back to the previous suggestion of “make it at least vaguely recognizable as something they’ve managed to choke down before.” I find that “crispy with ketchup” fits the bill.



First, the intrepid chef must find the ingredient. Clever places tofu will hide: in the refrigerated section near the eggs or in the produce department near those over-priced lettuce mixes. It might be necessary to ask a store employee. I promise they won’t laugh, unless of course they don’t carry it, in which case the correct move is to laugh self-righteously back at them and say, “You don’t carry TOFU?!? This IS the 21st century, you know!” and flounce out of the store. It will be fun.



So, having scored some bean curd (buy a pound of “firm” for this), proceed to the kitchen, heat up a non-stick frying pan to medium-high, cover the bottom of the pan with about two tablespoons of vegetable oil and, while it’s getting hot, cut the tofu into “chicken-strip” sized slices. Sometimes I like to get fancy by dipping each slice in beaten egg and then in seasoned bread crumbs before cooking. Fry for about three to five minutes on one side, add some soy sauce (about a tablespoon), then flip them and sauté the other side until they are golden brown.  More soy sauce can then be added, to taste, or even teriyaki, peanut or BBQ sauce… the possibilities are endless.  The kids, of course, are liable to want ketchup.

Another easy and delicious dish can be made by crumbling the tofu, mixing in some salt and pepper and adding some minced onions, bell peppers, and/or mushrooms before sautéing (a pinch of turmeric will make it look yellow like scrambled eggs.) Just make sure the tofu is cooked until good and crispy, and a bit salty, so it goes with all the ketchup. Or try adding grated cheese and salsa after cooking for a “huevos rancheros” deal.



Mollie Katzen also suggests tricking kids by sneaking mashed tofu into mashed potatoes. This ruse may work for tiny kids who don’t know any better, or for kids who play video games with one hand and eat with the other. But most people unmask snuck food eventually, and then they’ll probably hate tofu just for spite. An honest approach is best – “It’s not your usual dead cow, I know, but it’s what I cooked, so eat it or you don’t get any ice cream.”



Freezing tofu first gives it a more meaty texture when used in any of the above recipes. They say this preparation makes the tofu a great substitute for ground beef or cubed chicken in common recipes. As far as “meat-substitute” goes, however, I find the best bet is just to make friends with a new food. The only way tofu could ever satisfy a hankering for charred flesh is if a person were a Buddhist monk. So just give it a chance as its own individual foodstuff.



And enjoy!

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Yummy!

Here is how the bread turned out.  We haven’t quality controlled it yet, I figure we will wait and eat it with the roast and veggies tonight.

See, I really am nutty enough to celebrate my lucky number!

When I told the kids I was making “8 bread” they all thought I said “ape bread” and proceeded to jump around making ape noises for the next hour.  (Actually, I think I still hear them at it!)

I didn’t want to disappoint them, so I took half the dough and made this:

Yes, I know, it looks more like a cow, but what can you do…

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