Monday, September 01, 2014


Yesterday, my eldest child went off to college.   Like others in my position, I'm vacillating between "How can this be happening already?" and "It's so great she's out on her own!".    I am really excited for her, because I loved my college years so much, although I expect our experiences will probably be different.   Jane is an art major at Eastern Michigan University, one of  the oldest colleges in Michigan, beautiful historic buildings.   I was an engineering major at Michigan Tech, and while located in the beautiful upper peninsula, the architecture is sometimes lacking....

Scherzer Hall (photo by Andrew Jameson)
 home to the Art Department at EMU

Smith MEEM Building aka "the Brick Dick"
home of the Mechanical Engineering Dept. at MTU

She has drawing and studio art classes, I had calculus and chemistry.  I can remember strolling through the campus in the fall, enjoying the foliage and listening to Simon and Garfunkel on a Sunday afternoon as a freshman.   I can also remember not getting along too well with my roommates, both farm girls and med tech majors from mid Michigan who loved .38 Special and professed to hate Detroit, and always borrowed my clothes without asking. At the time, MTU was proud of the fact that 3/4 of the freshman class would not survive the rigors of our education and wouldn't make it to graduation.    So I learned that roommates come and go, and many did go....I moved out in late fall to live with another girl down the hall that was also an engineering major and a much nicer person.   I can remember the dorm food - my favorite was something called "Fireman's Casserole"  which was a hot dish that featured ground beef and elbow macaroni in what must have been a cream of mushroom soup sauce.    Being that MTU was in the Upper Peninsula, we also had pasties every Wednesday...which I still love today.

College started my formative years as a cook - I had been cooking dinner for my family since I was in 8th grade when my mom went back to work, but our menu was very limited because my mother was a fussy eater.   It was during my college years that I learned what I really liked to cook and eat.    During my vegetarian era (doesn't every college student have one???) I liked to cook out of 
Jane Brody's Good Food Book or my sorority sisters and I had something called "Supper Club" where we used to take turns cooking for each other, and I would try my hand at recipes I clipped from the Milwaukee Journal or SELF.   Looking back at some of the recipes from those days, my collection included:

  • Jack's Balls - this was a Kentucky Bourbon Ball recipe made with copious amounts of Jack Daniels, our sorority drink.  I might try this recipe from Amada Hesser these days
  • Caramel Brownies made with a box of German Chocolate cake mix and Kraft Caramels.  These days, I'd make the Zingerman's Buenos Aires Brownies recipe.  
  • Cow Plops - i.e. chocolate oatmeal no bake cookies.  I still make these when I need a quick chocolate fix
  • Mrs. Field's Cookies - allegedly the original recipe that passed around on xerox copies.  It's how you shared recipes before the internet. Here's a copy of that chain letter
  • Pickled Eggs - a U.P. bar room treat
  • F&(*^&)ing Dip - our sorority's take on 7 layer dip
I can remember making a New Orleans style dinner for Mardi Gras for a gang of friends.  Another time we pressed apple cider at our house on Quincy Hill.   My friend Ray was a fabulous cook (still is) and we would get together for cooking projects like fondue or herb stuffed lake trout straight from Lake Superior.    I sure hope Jane has as many fond cooking memories as I do from my college days.  Wonder what she will be making....

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Thai Style Chicken with Basil and my favorite food podcasts

Most every morning I go jogging  - I really don't enjoy running all that much, but I find it is the most efficient form of exercise there is....I can do it just about anywhere and I don't need any special equipment.   If I don't exercise first thing in the morning, it won't happen.   One thing I do to keep it more interesting is to listen to cooking podcasts.   Currently I am enjoying listening to:

NPR Food Podcast - Recipes, interviews and the story behind your favorite foods from Morning Edition, All Things Considered and other award-winning NPR programs.

Earth Eats - from Indiana Public Radio, it features lots of Midwest local food information and recipes

Edible Radio - I enjoy most everything on this feature of the local food magazine Edible, but I especially like "Blue Plate Special".

The Splendid Table - I've always liked Lynn Rosetto Kasper's radio show, but I am rarely not busy during it's broadcast time here on our radio station, so I can catch up listening to the podcasts

America's Test Kitchen Radio - Hosted by Christopher Kimball, it's like a radio version of his show on PBS.

It was while listening to ATK Radio one morning that I found this recipe to use up the abundance of basil I have in my garden this year.   One can eat only so much pesto.  The tomatoes might not like the cool summer we've been having, but the herbs have been loving it!  In addition to the basil, I've got oregano that is the size of a small shrub and thyme that is overflowing it's container. I've got to find some way to use all that up, but for the basil, I've made this recipe several times and it is just delicious.

Thai Style Chicken with Basil
(my take on America's Test Kitchen's recipe)

2 cups fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
3 medium garlic cloves, peeled
3 serrano chiles, stemmed
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 t. (or more) red pepper flakes

Process 1 cup basil leaves, garlic, and chiles in food processor until finely chopped, 6 to 10 one-second pulses, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula once during processing. Transfer 1 tablespoon basil mixture to small bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon fish sauce, oyster sauce, vinegar, and sugar; set aside. Transfer remaining basil mixture to 12-inch heavy-bottomed nonstick skillet. Do not wash food processor bowl.  Pulse chicken and 1 tablespoon fish sauce in food processor until meat is chopped into -approximate 1/4-inch pieces, six to eight 1-second pulses. Don't go too far or it will turn into ground chicken.  Stir shallots and oil into basil mixture in skillet. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until garlic and shallots are golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Add chicken, increase heat to medium, and cook, stirring and breaking up chicken with a wooden spoon, until only traces of pink remain, 2 to 4 minutes. Add reserved basil-fish sauce mixture and continue to cook, stirring constantly until chicken is no longer pink, about 1 minute. Stir in remaining cup basil leaves and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until basil is wilted, 30 to 60 seconds. Serve over hot rice.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Currant Jelly

I was given a gift of currants from a work friend - he has an awesome garden and had a surplus, so I stopped by his house on Thursday to pick some.  I've never made anything with currants and actually have never really made jelly....only once I made a May Wine jelly...but  that doesn't really count.  A few years ago, I bought a jelly bag, but I never had occasion to use it.   Now was the time!!

I stemmed the's debateable whether you need to do that or not.  For every lb of currants, you need to add 1/2 cup of water and heat it for about 30 minutes, mashing with a potato masher.   Then you strain....I had about 6 lb of fruit, and it made about 6 cups of juice.  Let it strain for about 6 hours.  If it's cloudy (mine was) strain it twice.  DO NOT SQUEEZE THE BAG! That will make it even more cloudy.  Making the jelly was super easy.....for each cup of juice, add one cup of sugar.   Here's how mine came out:

Currant Jelly
makes about 6 half pints

6 c. currant juice
6 cups sugar

Heat juice and sugar until sugar is dissolved.  Turn up the heat to medium high, and boil, stirring occasionally, until you hit the gel temp of 220F.   Add to half pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space, and process for 10 minutes.  couldn't be easier, and I actually LOVE THE TASTE! I think currrant jelly is my new favorite.  very tangy and beautiful.  I can't wait to plant some currant bushes myself.

I tried out the new Ball Platinum Jar just to see how they would look and I think they will be great for gift giving.    Lovely!