Tuesday, December 26, 2006


My friend Phil talked me into trying posole. A New Mexican native who's half Polish and half Mexican, he is a coworker that I can count on to accompany me on many an obscure shopping trip on our lunch hour. A couple weeks ago, we went to John H King Used Books in Detroit and the Mexicantown area of Detroit to go grocery shopping. We went to Honey Bee Market to get our giant white corn. This is where I got my nifty "Our Lady of Guadelupe" calendar! Phil says that posole is a traditional Christmas dish his grandma makes. I followed a recipe suggested at http://4obsessions.blogspot.com/2005/12/more-than-sum-of-its-parts.html. Here's how I made it:

1 lb. pkg giant white corn, soaked over night
8 c. water
2 lb pork tenderloin cut into 1 inch chunks
2 t dried oregano
2 chipotle in adobe sauce, cut into pieces
2 T ground cumin
2 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 T minced garlic
juice of 2 limes
1 T salt
ground pepper to taste
4 T chopped cilantro
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained

Toppings (any or all of the following): more chopped cilantro, avocado chunks, grated sharp cheddar cheese
1. Drain corn and put in a crock pot. Add 8 c. water, plus pork, oregano, chipotle, cumin, onion, garlic, lime, salt and pepper. Turn heat low. Cook 8-10 hrs. covered until pork is falling apart
2. About 15 minutes before serving, add tomatoes and heat through
3. Stir in chopped cilantro just before serving. Ladle into bowls and let diners customize their bowl with the assorted toppings

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Low Points Cookies

Okay, for those of us that have been on the WW points program, it can be hard to find a sweet treat that has a low "point" value. WW publishes the point value of foods, but for engineers who can't stand looking up things in a table and have an overwhelming need to describe what we do with math, we like to calculate points in our heads.

Points are calculated per serving by figuring out how many calories, grams of fat and fiber are in it. I understand the formula is patented by WW, but I have figured it out by my own personal nerdly interpolation, geek that I am. By my estimates, there's 1 point for every 50 calories, plus 1 point additional for every 12 grams of fat, minus almost 1 point per 4 grams of fiber.

I used to buy meringues at Meijer because they were a good low point option, but they stopped selling them. So I am going to try making them, based on this recipe (which I modified slightly) that I read about in the AA News this week. Six cookies would be 1 pt., by my estimates.

Chocolate Meringues
Makes 84 cookies

4 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Adjust oven racks to divide oven in thirds, then preheat to 250F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In the bowl of a mixer, combine egg whites, cream of tartar and salt. Beat on medium until frothy, about two minutes. Increase speed to medium-high and add sugar in a slow, steady stream. Beat egg whites until they hold stiff peaks, about 10 minutes. Add vanilla and beat until thoroughly combined. Decrease speed to low and mix in cocoa until just combined.
Transfer meringue to a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch opening and without a tip. Alternatively, use a large plastic bag and cut off one corner. Onto prepared baking sheets, pipe peaked mounds about 1 inch in diameter and 11/2 inches apart. Bake for 30 minutes, then switch baking sheets from one shelf to the other. Bake for another 20 to 25 minutes or until meringues are dry. Turn off oven, open it a crack and allow meringues to dry and crisp in the oven for an hour.

Approximate nutritional content per serving (2 cookies):
Calories..................................... 21
Fat........................................... 0 g
Dietary fiber............................ 0 g

Shrimp on Christmas Eve

At our house, we eat seafood on Christmas Eve, except my daughter, who doesn't like it. She gets to pick something different, and this year, she has selected her current favorite, beef flavor ramen noodles. (to each her own!) My son loves smoked trout from Monahans. I'm thinking this year, we'll go big on shrimp. Here's another recipe featured in the AA News that I am going to try tomorrow:

1 lemon
1 navel orange
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
30 medium shrimp, peeled and veins removed

Zest the lemon and half of the orange and place the zest in a medium bowl. Peel both pieces of fruit, then finely chop half of each. Placed the chopped fruit in the bowl with the zest and reserving the remaining halves.
To the bowl, add the oil, garlic, black pepper and pepper flakes. Mix well. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Cover and marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, or refrigerated overnight.
Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Remove the shrimp from the marinade, allowing bits of citrus to stick. Discard the marinade. Season the shrimp lightly with salt and grill until opaque and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.
Use the reserved halves of lemon and orange to squeeze a bit of juice over the shrimp just before serving. Makes 10 three-piece servings.

Awesome Brussels Sprouts

Lately, the AA News food section hasn't really excited me, but this week, there were a few recipes I can't wait to try! First is this one from eve: the restaurant. I have eaten these sprouts there and they are terrific. I'm going to make them tonight for a dish to pass at my brother's house.

Chopped and Sautéed Brussels Sprouts
4 cups Brussels sprouts, base removed and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon extra virgin
olive oil
1 Roma tomato, diced
2 to 3 tablespoons butter
11/2 teaspoons kosher salt, preferably Diamond brand
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Prepare ice bath (to stop Brussels sprouts from overcooking) and set aside.
2. Bring pot of salted water to a boil and blanch Brussels sprouts for about 1 minute.
3. Quickly strain Brussels sprouts and place in ice bath to shock.
4. When Brussels sprouts are completely cooled, strain again and dry well on towels.
5. Sauté Brussels sprouts and tomatoes briefly with a small amount of olive oil in large sauté pan over medium-high heat.
6. Add butter and stir to combine until just melted but still creamy. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and remove quickly from heat. Serves 4.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Update on the kids crafts

Okay, so there's no snow, only rain....so we didn't do the snowball throwing contest. But the mitten craft was terrific. Thanks to all who helped.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Snowball Throwing Contest

We need snow for this winter party game - we need to ask Heikki Lunta for help here. If not, we will improvise with styrofoam snowballs indoors. Another idea from Family Fun.

WHAT IT IS: A snowball-throwing contest featuring a large bull's-eye target created in the snow
WHAT YOU NEED: Food coloring, spray bottles, sticks with flags

This colorful bull's-eye target is stomped out a flat circle in the snow, then we'll draw rings with spray bottles filled with food coloring and water. Each section's point value was indicated by a numbered flag on a stick. Each kid will get 3 tries

Sweater Mittens

This is an idea from Family Fun Magazine. We will be making these for the 5th grade winter party this week.

These mittens -- made from old sweaters that have been "felted" (shrunken into a dense, nonraveling material). We will also make stocking shapes. Each kid will make one in class.

Old wool sweater (use only 100 percent wool; tight weaves work especially well)
Paper and pencil
Pins and scissors
Tapestry or yarn needle

Time needed: Afternoon or Evening
1. Wash the sweater in the hot cycle of your washer three or four times with regular detergent. Then pop the sweater into the drier for about 45 minutes, or until it shrinks and becomes feltlike in texture. Certain sweaters shrink better than others, and the drying time will vary depending on the sweater's thickness.

2. To make a mitten template, trace around one of your (or your child's) mittens, leaving an extra inch or so around the edge for sewing. Pin the template onto the felted fabric, then cut out four matching mitten shapes.

3. Pin two of the mitten sides together. Using a contrasting color of yarn, stitch around the edges (a blanket stitch, as used here, looks especially nice).

If you don't have any old wool sweaters, check at a local thrift shop (they rarely charge more than two or three dollars per sweater). Keep an eye out for old Fair Isles; the intricate patterns shrink into pretty designs.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Books I like about cooking...and some I don't!

Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell. It's about a young woman who spends a year cooking every recipe in Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". It is the book version of a blog she kept of the experience. Very funny!

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin. Laurie Colwin wrote in a way that makes you want to cook something. She was a columnist for Gourmet, and she died young at 48.

Speaking of Gourmet, I loved everything Ruth Reichl has written, especially
Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table . It describes her coming of age with food and love and motherhood. She now edits Gourmet.

Pot on the Fire: Further Confessions of a Renegade Cook by John Thorne and Matt Lewis Thorne. They can really write beautifully about simple foods.

Books about food I wanted to like more than I actually did:

"Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany" by Bill Buford is about working in a restaurant and it was really whiny and uninspiring.  I think that Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain covers the subject of working in a restaurant better.

The Raw and the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourmand by Jim Harrison. I don't know why I didn't like it, but I didn't. He is a Michigander and an excellent writer. Anyone like it?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Brownies - the Magic Kind....

Zingerman's Magic Brownies

13 T butter
6.5 oz unsweetened chocolate
1.5 C cake or all purpose flour
3/4 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
4 eggs
2 C sugar
1.25 t vanilla
1 C coarse chopped walnuts, toasted

Grease a 13x9x2 inch baking pan. Preheat oven to 325. In a heavy small saucepan, heat the butter and chocolate over low heat, stirring, till chocolate is melted and smooth; set aside to cool. In a small bowl sift together flour, baking powder and salt. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar with an electric mixer on high speed for 5 minutes or till light yellow and fluffy, scraping side of the bowl occasionally. Add cooled chocolate mixture and vanilla. Beat on low speed until combined. Add flour mixture; beat on low speed until combined, scraping sides of bowl. Stir in walnuts. Spread batter in pan. Bake 30 minutes or until brownies appear set. Cool in pan on wire rack; cut into bars.

The Anti Christmas Cookie

Here's a cookie recipe that doesn't taste anything like Christmas - it tastes like a pina colada. Because it's different than the usual fare, I guarantee it will be snatched up first off of your holiday cookie tray. This recipe made me a finalist in the 2006 Detroit Free Press Holiday Cookie Contest.

Key Lime Bars

3/4 cup granulated sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter softened
2 cups quick OR old fashioned oats, uncooked
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup fresh key lime juice
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 (3 1/2-ounce) jar macadamia nuts, chopped (about 3/4 cup)

Heat oven to 350ºF. Lightly spray 13 x 9-inch metal baking pan with cooking spray.
In large bowl, beat sugar and butter until creamy. Add combined oats, flour and salt; mix until crumbly. Reserve 1 cup oat mixture for topping; Press remaining oat mixture onto bottom of baking pan. Bake 10 minutes. Transfer to wire rack

In same bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk, sour cream, lime juice, mix well. Pour evenly over crust. In medium bowl, combine reserved oat mixture with coconut and nuts; mix well. Sprinkle evenly over filling, patting gently.

Bake 30 to 34 minutes or until topping is light golden brown. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars. Store tightly covered in refrigerator.

Makes 32 bars.