Sunday, January 30, 2011

Julie and Julia and soubise

I finally got around watching the movie "Julie and Julia" last night.   While many food bloggers went to the theatre to see it, I waited for it to show free on cable, and that was a mistake.   I waited because I wasn't a huge fan of the book....but this is a rare example of the movie being far, far better than the book.   It was wonderful - of course, Meryl Streep is perfect and Amy Adams actually made Julie Powell a likable person.   But what I didn't expect is how much I loved all the clothes and home furnishings and the kitchens.   I would have loved to see this movie on the big screen!

I could go on for a whole blog post about what is wrong with Julie Powell's writing, (read the reviews of her subsequent book Cleaving for more details) but instead I will focus on what I liked regarding her first book.   And that is thank goodness, her long suffering husband came up with the idea of her cooking her way through MTAOFC and blogging about it.    (I hope he writes a book some day - sounds like he has some great ideas!)  Without his suggestion, she wouldn't have wrote her blog, got her book deal and wrote a book that inspired me to buy "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and become a fan of Julia Child.    I can't say that every recipe is a winner in MTAOFC - like Julie Powell, I can't understand why anyone would eat aspic, for example.  The beauty of MTAOFC is that it is wonderful to read, like a novel.  It sat on my nightstand for months.  It made me want to visit France.

I have never been a huge fan of Nora Ephron's movies.."When Harry Met Sally" was okay, but I really didn't like "You've Got Mail" or "Sleepless in Seattle" (which both seem like the same movie to me)...but I have loved her books, especially Crazy Salad.   But Julie and Julia is the exception.   It's beautifully filmed - how did she manage to make Meryl Streep look so tall?  As I said before, I loved the clothes and I am really not a clothes kind of gal.   Judith Jones, Julia Child's editor, has said that her writer felt that Julia Powell's blog was "a stunt" and she felt that it made her look less serious than she was.    (By the way, I really loved Judith Jones' memoir The Tenth Muse which also spent lots of time on my nightstand, too)     I think the movie did a great job of highlighting that setback for Julie Powell, although I wonder if she handled that as graciously in real life as her character did in the movie, given her temperament.  I wondered if Julia Child would have liked the movie as much as I did, and I found Judith Jones' blog post on the subject  that suggests she might. 

One of the few recipes I have ever cooked from MTAOFC is soubise, which is a cheese, rice and onion casserole. The recipe in the book is a bit more fussy than this version.  It's worth hauling the food processor out for....I use half and half instead of the heavy cream called out in the original, because I have it on hand.   Any negative affect of all the fat in this dish is surely counteracted by all the onions...they are just as good for you as garlic.   Plus, Julia Child lived to 2 days shy of her 92nd year.  Bon appetit!


1/2 c rice
4 T butter
2 pounds onions
1/2 t salt
pepper to taste
1/4 c half and half
1/2 c grated gruyere cheese

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and boil the rice for exactly 5 minutes. Drain immediately. Peel the onions and thinly slice in a food processor. Melt the butter in a stove and oven-safe casserole and briefly saute the onions. Stir the rice and seasonings. Cover and bake at 300 degrees for an hour, stirring once or twice while cooking. Remove from the oven, stir in the cream and cheese, and taste and correct the seasonings.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Spice Rack Challenge February: Citrus

When ohbriggsy suggested citrus, I thought, why not?  Tis the season for fresh....

Dried citrus rinds and preserved citrus have long been used as spices.  Shoot, I am currently drinking a vodka and tonic with a twist of lime! I have some dried orange rind and lemon rind in my larder....what kind of citrus do you have lurking about?  Dried or fresh rinds, or preserved works for this month's challenge.  I want to hear about your latest creation.    Post your recipe featuring citrus starting Feb. 12...deadline is February 18.   I will post a round up of your work here on February 23.   Can't wait to see what you come up with.....for a complete list of who is participating in the Spice Rack Challenge and what it on the tab above.  

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Spice Rack Challenge Rosemary Round Up

I wasn't quite sure who would find my Spice Rack Challenge and sign up....imagine my surprise when I ended up with 35 blogs signed up for the first month.  Did you ever notice that cookbooks are never indexed by herbs and spices?  I think that's too bad.   When I am done with my challenge, I am hoping to have a list by herb or spice of specific recipes.  This month's challenge was rosemary....and I am sure impressed with the recipes I have gotten in response.


Garlic Rosemary Goat Cheese thinking out loud 
I've had this recipe before - it's a winner!  Almost posted it myself.  Great for a party.

Maple Walnuts with Rosemary and Orange  artic garden studio.
Our friend in Anchorage reminds us that rosemary and orange are recommended aromatherapy for seasonal affective disorder.   It's currently a balmy 4 F in Ann Arbor....I think I need some kind of therapy, stat!

Gussied Up Olives knit and nosh
 We are jealous that you can open up a window and snip some rosemary.   (see view below) Wish we lived closer so we could sample some more of your party faves!

Rosemary Walnuts  a million grandmas 
A great recipe from a great author, Laurie Colwin.  She died too young!

Rosemary Olive Foccacia oh briggsy
Love your canning scars in the picture! So glad you posted this recipe looks like a real winner.   Plus you get bonus points for posting a song about does grow where my rosemary grows indeed!

Vegetarian Main Dishes/Side Dishes

Vegetable Stew with Rosemary and Garlic  nerd meets kitchen
Another fabulous option for wintry dinners.  I will make it on Fridays in Lent.  Love the new blog!

Beet Roesti with Rosemary backyard farms
What the world needs now is more beet recipes.  I can't wait to try this one!

Rosemary Fried Apples dog hill kitchen
It'd a good thing baby Penny is a good sleeper because we got two rosemary recipes out of her momma this month.    This one would be great with chicken or pork.   Don't forget her Creamless Celery Soup with Rosemary.   Even the celery haters love it!

Winter Salads with a Bunch of Crackers prospect:the pantry
A veritable plethora of rosemary recipes. Great way to satisfy winter cravings for something fresh.

Rosemary and Sun Dried Tomato Foccacia put a lid on it
How does a woman with a one month old baby find time to bake?  Check this out....looks wonderful!

Rosemary Tomato Cannelini Beans snowflake kitchen
This recipe is great for vegetarians or add some meat as suggested for carnivores. 

Baby Turnips with Garlic and Rosemary motherskitchen
Tasty and made in the microwave. So easy!

Meat and Poultry

Rosemary Chipotle Steak Sandwiches good food michigan.
Great dinner idea for the next time we need of something quick.  

Orange Rosemary Chicken jonski blogski  offers up a great way to use up past it's prime citrus you might have lurking around your fruitbowl.

Rosemary and Parmesan Pork Loin la germaine organisee 
Cheese and rosemary are a great combination.

Savory Lamb Stew una buona forchetta
Love reading your writing about cooking!  Glad to see you back at the console.

Pork Roast alpaca farm mom
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme...just like the song.  And the story of how we met.   You get bonus points for using "cacaphony" and the "V word" all in a food blogging post.  


Rosemary Scented Butter Cookies eating floyd
From chowhound maven Morwen  Sweet + savory + buttery = YUM

Naan  fruitcake or nuts
I love Marie Catrib's restaurant in Grand Rapids, too, and your rosemary naan looks delicious.  Can't wait to try it!

Rosemary Lemon Shortbread grow and resist
I can't decide if I like your recipes that work or don't work better.  You crack me up! Keep 'em coming

Rosemary Apple Tart - a million grandmas
Two recipes in one month?  You go, girl!

Rosemary Tea Bread  intellectual relish
A sweet savory combo that sounds delish.

Rosemary Pudding  just another day on the farm 
Inventive use for rosemary!  Can't wait to try it.

Rosemary Lemon Muffins notes from a country girl living in the city
A great multitasker...check out her pasta and and her marmalade from other ventures listed on the post.

Rosemary and Sea Salt Crackers chez hates
I think you're being too hard on yourself...homemade is always better than Costco.

Preserved Lemons with Rosemary tales from the house on the corner
Looks beautiful, but as you said, not a USDA canning safe recipe - store in the fridge instead to be completely food safe.

Check back here later this week to find out what the February challenge will be!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Faith, hope and love and difficult conversations

Given that this is a food blog, I don't write about religion much.  But a couple things happened in the past week that made me want to write about my faith.  I guess I should say I am a devout Catholic....although since I don't fit the stereotypical image of one, sometimes that mantle is difficult to wear.   For example, I swear a lot, I am a strong supporter of womens rights,  I am a scientist and not prone to look for miracles, etc.   This past year,  I wasn't finding my usual inspiration that I normally get from church.   I was starting to wonder what is the point of it all?   In fact, I was starting to feel a little persecuted about my faith - constantly trying to explain why someone like me would even go to church was wearing on me.  My carpool partner is Lutheran, and she is dating a Catholic, and so every morning, I am put in the position of having to defend my faith while she tries to reason out all sorts of things about her Lutheran beliefs and Catholic beliefs.  Then, like many people these days, a woman in my book club is dabbling in Buddhism, and so anything that is Christian is fodder for her criticism.  (example: her recent facebook status update:   "Faith, hope, and love" is overrated. Going with "tolerance, patience, and compassion" instead.).  I guess even among Buddhists, there is no one more outspoken and sure of their faith than the newly converted.   As a result, every book club meeting discussion usually involves me having to defend my faith in some way.  I am getting so very tired of it.   My kids don't want to go to church anymore and it's a battle every week to get them in the car.  We have a new music director at our church and so we have more new cantors than we did in the past, so my opportunities to sing at church were reduced.   All in all, church wasn't cutting it for me anymore.   So I just decided to pray about it, and a couple miracles happened.     I prayed for compassion, patience and tolerance, even though I am not a Buddhist, I figure that those things are the way to faith, hope and love so why not? 

Then, all of a sudden, I heard the song "Hey Jude" on the radio and it reminded me that I can play that song on the guitar and if I want to sing more, maybe I should dust it off and play it.   There are more oppotunities to sing than just at church.   I'll do that before today is out - I aksed my old guitar teacher to hold me accountable to that.   He just facebooked me to check in.   Then, at the end of the last book club meeting, one of the women confided in me that she loves the Catholic church and wants to come back to it and wasn't sure how.   I told her she could start coming with me.  Then, my neighbors dad died and I was asked to sing at his funeral and the music selected was very touching to me, and I got to sing with a new accompanist who was great and fun to work with and offered me some new insights on singing.   The Catholic funeral is such a beautiful ceremony....there wasn't a dry eye in the house when our priest sang  In Paridisum. Then second edition of a book I totally adore arrived as a gift from one of the authors I became friendly with (thank you Sheila) - it's called Difficult Conversations - How to Discuss What Matters Most.   This book was life changing to me when I first read it years ago.   It dawned on me that I have been avoiding some difficult conversations and it was time to read it again and start anew.    

Granted, these little miracles weren't the lightning bolt signs from God I was looking for...but St. Terese reminds us that we need to work for God's love  "little ways".  Yeah, so what if our Catholic devotion to the saints seems odd to many.   I'm grateful for the little miracles this Sunday morning.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Spice Rack Challenge: Baby Turnips with Rosemary

I bought some baby turnips at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market a couple weeks ago....they must be a hoophouse friendly crop...with the thought of pickling them a la Momofuku, but I never got around to it.   In a hurry to make a side for dinner the other night, I found them rolling around in the bottom of the crisper drawer.   So I decided to make them with some rosemary, garlic and olive oil and this dish was a complete hit at our house.  My son ate 2 helpings!

Baby Turnips with Rosemary

1 lb. baby turnips, trimmed.  Cut larger ones in half
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 T fresh rosemary leaves (or 1/2 T. dried)
2 T olive oil
kosher salt

Put all ingredients in a microwave safe dish and stir until oil coats all the turnips.  Cover with a lid and leave a vent and cook on HIGH for 5 minutes.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Busy Woman's Red Beans and Rice

I love red beans and rice - when Mr. Moms Kitchen and I were newly betrothed, I used to buy packages of Mahatma Red Beans and Rice and cook it up with some kielbasa on days when I thought I was too busy to cook.  I did think I was busy, I guess.   I worked 50  hours a week, did a lot of volunteer work, was going to night school to get my MBA.  Little did I know that how busy I was barely compared to how busy I am now....still working those hours and parenting 2 teens that can't drive yet.   My schedule is currently like a Swiss watch, and I am trying to eat locally when I can.  Michigan is internationally known as an excellent supplier of high quality dry beans. The climate, with rich, well drained, loamy soil, moderate daytime temperatures, and cool evenings are suited for bean cultivation.. Over half of Michigan beans are exported throughout the world.  So, I decided I needed a practical recipe to make red beans and rice that would let me get them on the table in 30 minutes using local beans.   Plus, I was thinking homemade would give me more fiber than the paltry 6g per servingand less sodium than the 64%  daily allowance (whopping 1780 mg) in the prepared mix.

I started with a recipe from Lucinda Scala Quinn's Mad Hungry cookbook.   I totally love this is great and every recipe in it is a winner.   I regularly make Lucinda's blueberry muffins for breakfast.  I wanted to modify her recipe so I could make it when I truly AM BUSY when I get home from work and have 45 minutes to cook and eat before it's off to the races again to take the cherubs to music lessons, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, drama club, anime club, ski club, religious education, etc.   Here's what I came up with....


Serves 6 main dish servings

Ahead of time
1 lb. Michigan dried red kidney beans (or 2 15 oz cans drained)

On the day you are cooking it:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 celery stalks, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 red or green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
A couple of leftover pieces of fried bacon
2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce, plus more for serving
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf, crushed
1 lb kielbasa, cut into 6 inch pieces then again lengthwise
1 cup water

For the rice
1 cup white rice
1.5 cups water

Whenever you have time, make the beans.  I like the quick method: In a large pot, add 3 cups of hot water to each cup of beans (or 6 cups for each pound.) Bring to a boil and cook the beans at medium heat for 2 minutes. Cover the pot and let the beans stand for 1 hour. Drain and rinse the beans, and simmer for 1-2 hours until tender.   Freeze them until ready to use. 

On the day you are cooking, take the beans out of the freezer to thaw in the morning.
Heat a large pot. Swirl in the oil. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic and saute until soft and lightly caramelized, 11 to 12 minutes.   Add the bacon, Tabasco sauce, salt, thyme, and bay leaf.  Add kielbasa and cooked until browned.    Add the beans and water and continue to cook until the beans are soft and tender, about 30 minutes.

Here's the easiest way in the world to make rice....pefect every time....put rice and water in a tall microwave safe container with a vented lid.   Heat for 4 minutes on HIGH and 12 minutes on DEFROST.   Fluff with a fork. 

Serve beans over rice with a side of kielbasa. 

Nutrition notes....per serving, the red beans and rice recipe yields 21g fiber vs. the 6 g in the prepared mix.  Plus, it only has 640 mg per serving of sodium. 

Saturday, January 01, 2011


Christmas break is almost's pouring rain here and the temperature reads 50 F on my kitchen window thermometer.  It's time to call uppon Heikki Lunta, the Finnish snow god.   Back in the 70s, a radio station in Hancock WMPL (pronounced "wimple") employee named Dave Riutta penned the ditty  "Heikki Lunta's Snow Dance Song" (For those not familiar with Finnish, the name is pronounced HAY-key LOON-ta.) to inspire snow to  fall to support a local snowmobile race.  The song worked - TOO WELL! (for more wonderful history about this song, check out this great U.P. musc blog Rock and Roll Graffiti)  There was a huge snow storm that day.   Pouring rain on New Year's Day just isn't right.  We need Heikki Lunta here in Ann Arbor.

To inspire Heikki to come visit, I tried my hand at making Finnish pancakes, or Pannukakku, for breakfast this morning.   Pannukakku is like a German Dutch Baby style pancake - it gets puffy in the oven.   It's traditionally served sprinkled with powdered sugar and warm thimbleberry jam.   Thimbleberries are a northern Michigan wild fruit that taste like raspberries, so if you don't have the good fortune of having some of your own thimbleberry jam on hand, order some from the monks that live at the tip of the Keweenaw at Jampot or substitute some raspberry jam heated up to make it syrupy.

Here's how I made them this morning....they are surprisingly easy to make.  They'd be great to make on a school morning.  I'm thinking of making them when I cook for SELMA later this month.

Pannukakku - serves 8 people or 4 super hungry people

1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 c whole milk
6 eggs
1 T. sugar
1 t. salt

Preheat oven to 400 F, and place a 13X9 pan in it while it is heating. In a blender, mix all ingredients except the butter until it is well blended.   Put a couple tablespoons of butter into the hot pan, and brush the pan with the melted butter.   Add blender mixture, and bake for 20 - 25 minutes until pancake is puffy and golden.  It will deflate when it's taken out of the oven.   Serve sprinkled with powdered sugar (looks like snow, Heikki!) and warm jam or maple syrup.